TRUTH

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Witness Lee & the "Recovery Version" Bible

WITNESS LEE (1905-1997), LIVING STREAM MINISTRY &
THE NEW TESTAMENT "RECOVERY VERSION" BIBLE
Reviewed by Dale Brown

Chinese founder Witness Lee’s ministry is an extreme offshoot of the work started in China by Watchman Nee. Lee found his way to Los Angeles where his "local church" movement has its headquarters. Outside some of the peculiar English language used in the Recovery Version Bible it is the vast commentary by Witness Lee that presents the most concern. Often there is three quarters of a page of commentary on less than a quarter page of Biblical text. This gives one the impression that the Biblical text cannot be understood without viewing it through the lens of an interpreter, namely Witness Lee. First one must realize what Lee and his followers mean by "Recovery." This is not a twelve step program. When Dr. Walter Martin wrote about Lee and his theology in his book The New Cults (back in the early 80’s) he noted that the "Lord’s Recovery" was another word for Lee’s movement which described all other churches as off shoots of Babylon, the Catholic church. No mention is made of any other problematic religious systems such as Hinduism, or of Islam which makes up over one fifth of the worlds population. This type of language still appears in the commentary of the Recovery Version. So in essence "recovery" means to recover the global church from Catholic apostasy. And of course Lee and his ministry Living Stream is the means by which to accomplish this. Members of the movement have softened a bit regarding their criticism of other churches yet problems remain. They have a history of authoritarian control which has even been called brain washing by some.

Dr. Walter Martin was careful to point out that Lee’s teaching, though a problem, was not on the same level as the more obvious cults such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. A number of other ministries that address questionable religious groups or cults have been challenged by Lee’s Living Stream Ministry in court. The latest being Harvest House for comments by Ankerberg and Weldon in one of their books on cults.

RECOVERY COMMENTARY PECULIARITIES

With the Recovery often citing Greek as an authority the average Christian is left unequipped to investigate the reliability of the Recovery Version scholarship. One can easily be overwhelmed. Some problems however stand out quite clearly in plain English to those who are familiar with traditional orthodoxy.

Sin and Satan according to Lee
The Recovery commentary claims that God did not create flesh and that Satan is sin. "Satan injected himself into it (the flesh) at the fall." Commentary on Rom. 7:21 states that, "This must be the evil life, nature, and character of Satan himself, who is the indwelling sin in us. When sin is dormant within us, it is merely sin, but when it is aroused in us by our willing to do the good, it becomes ‘the evil‘." ". . .sin is a person, the embodiment of Satan, and is living and acting within us." In Lee's book "The Holy Word for Morning Revival" (Dispensing of the Divine Trinity, 2009) on page 162 he claims "Hence to put off the old man is to put off Satan." The Recovery commentary on Matthew 16:23 claims that "When we are setting our mind not on the things of God but on the things of men, we become Satan..."
The Bible however teaches that the fallen angel known as Satan is a person, and sin is transgression of God’s law, either by omission or commission. Though Satan or his demons may possess man Satan is not sin nor the "old man".

Recovery - "Sin existed before the law was given, but it was not manifested to man or charged to his account by God." (Commentary on Rom. 5:13) What does Lee do with Cain who not only sinned before the law was given but was also judged for that sin?

Modalism
Though there has been plenty of past criticism regarding Lee’s modalistic view of the Godhead the Recovery Version continues with a mixed bag of rhetoric on the Trinity, much of which is very problematic. Some of it comes across as the deification of man and the church. Regarding Jesus, Lee claims "Second, He took the step of death and resurrection to be transfigured into the Spirit that He might impart Himself into His believers . . ." "He became the Spirit to be everything and do everything for the completion of God’s building." "Hence, this Triune God—the Father in the Son and the Son as the Spirit—dispenses Himself into us to be our portion that we may enjoy Him as our everything in His divine trinity."

In reference to the Triune God the commentary at the end of Philippians 4:23 states, "Therefore, this is altogether a matter of the union and mingling of the processed Triune God, who has become the all-inclusive, life-giving Spirit, and the spirit of us, the tripartite men, who are being transformed by such a Spirit. We must live and act in our wonderful spirit by the Triune God as wonderful Spirit. Only then can we experience the enjoy the Triune God, who was processed through incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, as the inexhaustibly sufficient grace and thus become His fullness, His expression."

The commentary on Philippians 3:21 says, "In His salvation God first regenerated our spirit (John 3:6), now is transforming our soul (Rom. 12:2), and consummately will transfigure our body, making us the same as Christ in all three parts of our being." In "Dispencing of the Divine Trinity" (pg 16) we read "Having been regenerated by Christ, we have become a part of Him, and now we are the same as He is - divinely human and humanly divine." On page 9 "Since we, the believers in Christ, participate in God's divinity, we are gods". This sounds a bit like Mormonism. Satan's lie that we can become gods got us thrown out of the garden of Eden.
Lee teaches a form of recovery elitism, "We are not here to carry on an ordinary Christian work." (Dispensing of the Divine Trinity pg. 33) And because Paul said he was the least of all the saints Lee claims "This indicates that Paul was even smaller than we are." (pg.33) "Unless we know God's economy, we will not understand the Bible." (pg. 17) God's elite "economy" is something that Lee speaks much of.

Though many involved with Living Stream Ministry may have a heart for God and many are likely Christians, the commentary in the Recovery Bible and Lee's books introduces much confusion. The incarnation and the Trinity is hard enough to define much less grasp without adding Lee’s misleading commentary. Within the nature of the one God, there are three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One did not become the other. All three have coexisted for eternity. Man on the other hand, like Satan, is simply a created being.
 
Murray Grindlay has compiled quite a list of questionable translation problems and weird language used in the text of the Recovery Version Bible.
www.bible-researcher.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9a76n-xzqg

11 comments:

  1. Dale,

    Thank you for your review of this Bible version. I recently received this Bible for free after ordering online. I have read the "traditional orthodoxy" Bibles and I am always interested in studying more. I did a search and this is how I came across your blog review which is very detailed.

    Again, thank you. I think I will not bother with reading it as a whole and just use it for future reference if needed.

    Sincerely - Christopher

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  2. I would suggest you read this book and you will understand better.
    http://www.ministrybooks.org/books.cfm?id=%23%27%2DK%2F%0A

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  3. Dear Dale,

    1. Thank you for your comments on the Recovery Version.

    2. In fact, I have just bought a Chinese edition of this bible the day before in the Christian Books Fair in Hong Kong.

    3. You have quoted the comments made by Dr Walter Martin, a renowned American theologian. I have read Dr Martin's books, and I believe him.

    4. Same as one of your comentator, I will only use the Recovery Bible as another reference, and NOT to treat it as "the standard".

    5. Thanks again,

    Dr Peter Lam, Hong Kong, October 18, 2010.

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    1. Dr. Walter Martin is the founder of CRI now led by Hank Hanegraaff. Mr. Hanegraaff has done a extensive study of Witness Lee and found Dr. Martin's findings erroneous. See Mr. Hanegraaff's comments on Witness Lee www.equip.org/tag/witness-lee

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  4. Thank you for this post... my pastor and I have been working on a mission project for local homeless and I ordered this free Bible... I received it today and did not recognize the version as one I had ever seen so I decided to do some online research. I am glad I came across your page. I was troubled by the extensive commentary. Thank you again.

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  5. With much of this review based on Dr. Martin's research, it may be appropriate to update it with his predecessors' recent reconsideration of this group and their admission that they, including Dr. Martin, were wrong: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/we-were-wrong-2/

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  6. It reverences sin in this world coming from within a person tru Satan's spiritual dominance over a person who is not walking in the holy spirit of of God.
    As interesting as it presense itself, it can deter one from getting the guidance from the Holy Spirit himself. When we study and meditate on the word ourselves, being filled with the Spirit, which will show us all truth, then it's uncomfortable to accept any man's interpretation which is unable to penetrate the heart, even unto bone and marrow. Walk always in the Spirit that you may be able ward off the wales of the devil. I think this what is meant when the bible says about men preaching another gospel.


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  7. You do not understand the context of this sentence: "Sin existed before the law was given, but it was not manifested to man or charged to his account by God." (Commentary on Rom. 5:13). Witness Lee meant the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses could not charge anybody before the law was given. That is why Ap. Paul mentioned 'from Adam until Moses' (Romans 5:14). Your comment about Cain is not make sense. Please read always the context.

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  8. You did not understand the context of the, Romans 7:21 and following commentary of Witness Lee. The Recovery commentary does not claims that God did not create flesh and that Satan is sin. Please read carefully: “This must be evil life, nature, and character of Satan himself, who is the indwelling sin in us”. This is absolutely true because Hebrew word ‘Satan’ mean ‘the adversary’. Bible say there is a seed of devil and seed of God. Satan/Serpent deceived Eve. And he is doing this with other people. The result of deception is a weak mind, and weak body. Ap. Paul was living with God, but he still fought with sin in his body who affect his mind from time to time because of the degraded nature and Satan’s attack (Romans 7:21; 2 Corinth. 12:7). You can see that ap. Peter has been called as an adversary by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 16:23. The right translation is ‘But He (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me, Satan!”. Did you notice that He said this to PETER? In the ancient world when the follower made mistake the teacher was telling to him ‘Get behind Me’. It was mean that this person still does need to learn from the teacher because of different point of view. Peter had a wrong point of view and that is why he was the adversary. Commentary to Romans 7:21 RV, 1999 does not say: "Satan injected himself into it (the flesh) at the fall." I do not see this in my copy of this translation. You wrote as well: “The Bible however teaches that the fallen angel known as Satan is a person, and sin is transgression of God’s law, either by omission or commission. Though Satan or his demons may possess man Satan is not sin nor the "old man"”. Of course you have right, and the same point of you is in Isaiah 14:12 in RV commentary (see Isaiah 14:12 RV).

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  9. You wrote: “Though there has been plenty of past criticism regarding Lee’s modalistic view of the Godhead the Recovery Version continues with a mixed bag of rhetoric on the Trinity, much of which is very problematic.”. I do not agree with you. The recovery version does not contain any modalistic point of view. First point is there is few different modalistic conceptions and called as a heresy but Lee is not following those concepts. You wrote: “Some of it comes across as the deification of man and the church”. This is not true. You wrote: “Lee claims "Second, He took the step of death and resurrection to be transfigured into the Spirit that He might impart Himself into His believers . . .". I would like to see the source of this quote, but as you know Jesus transformed from human body into spiritual body (1 Corinth. 15:45-49). Jesus is a human in spiritual human body (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinth 15:45-49). It goes on: "He became the Spirit to be everything and do everything for the completion of God’s building." This is true, see: Luke 24:49; John 16:13; Acts 2:1-4; Revelation 5:6 compare with Rev. 1:14. This Spirit of God is come from the God Father through Son straight to his earthly messengers by the angels-Spirit (Rev. 1:1-2; 1:20; 5:6). This Spirit has been sent into presbyters as an angels (messengers of the churches)-Revelation 1:14; Rev. 2:1. It goes on: "Hence, this Triune God—the Father in the Son and the Son as the Spirit—dispenses Himself into us to be our portion that we may enjoy Him as our everything in His divine trinity.". This is true because Jesus as a Spirit is coming through Angels (Rev. 5:6; John 16:13). That is why Spirit cannot speak by himself, but only in the name of Jesus, because Jesus is inside the angels and after that inside us (Gal. 2:20; Revelation. 5:6; John 16:13). You can sin against Holy Ghost if you refuse angels which are send by Jesus from God, because Spirit of God Father sent through Spirit of Son was in Paul, because this is the same Spirit (Revel. 3:20). The same way as Paul we can accept the Spirit of God tobe inside us (Gal. 2:20). Revelation 3:21; 1 John 3:9 say that God is giving as part of Himself-a ‘seed’ greek ‘sperma’.

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  10. Dear author.

    I think that your criticism that Witness Lee's teachings of the Trinity can introduce modalistic confusion might be true. However, the more I think of modalism, I think modalism was just the best attempt of a genuine believer to think of the Trinity in the Bible at least as a metaphor. The bible does say the Son is called the Eternal Father, and the Last Adam became a life-giving spirit. If Witness Lee is saying that the Son is identical to Father or to the Holy Spirit because He is the Eternal Father and the Life-Giving Spirit, who can really argue with him? In the gospel of John, when Jesus promised the coming of the comforter, He also added "I will come to you." This does sound like the Spirit coming to believers as the Comforter would be Jesus himself, but disciples were still before the physical presence of Jesus at that time and would not be able to understand Jesus' direct way of speaking. So I think even Jesus was doing his best to explain such a deep mystery with his usual way of metaphorically speaking. Later, you see after the synoptic gospels the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the Lord Spirit which is identified as Christ (whenever hearts turn to Christ... now the Lord is Spirit, this is from the Lord Spirit, 2 Corinthians). It does seem like that Jesus is the Spirit. In a sense the Spirit and Jesus are distinguishable, but they are also identical. Augustine defined the Trinity that God is one in essence but three in person. I do not think this kind of metaphysical way of speaking has less danger of misunderstanding the mystery of the Trinity. What does he really mean by 'one in essence' or 'three in person'? How does it really differ from Modalism he wanted to oppose? It seems so called orthodox understanding of the Trinity is also quite full of empty metaphysical (idle) chatter. After I realized this, I really did not condemn modalism harshly. That guy was doing his best job.

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