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