Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Witness Lee and the local churches:
A Personal Testimony Refuted

8. False and Slanderous

False, slanderous accusations calling Witness Lee and the local churches a 'cult'

The same writer who had such a positive initial experience accuses Witness Lee and the local churches of being “too cultic” because of what is “done and taught.” He says that there are things done which are “unbecoming” for the church. We have presented a reasonable definition of cult or cultic earlier but the writer expands the definition. He calls them a local church cult.

 However, the writer points out that while the practices he discusses may seem unusual they are neither unprecedented nor do they constitute a problem. On the contrary, they are indicative of excelling devotion from which the believers as a whole should learn. Such practices include meeting with other believers to sing, pray, and read with mutual sharing, speaking to one another using the Bible directly and commentaries by Witness Lee and Watchman Nee. These practices of Witness Lee and the local churches are not those of a cult but of a spiritual community.

 Specific criticisms by the writer include: 1) very vocal, lively prayer and hymn singing punctuated by the congregations declarations of, “Amen!” 2) calling on the name of the Lord, 3) pray-reading the word, 4) extensive use of hymns written by Witness Lee, 5) celebrating communion weekly, 6) keeping the offering box in a discrete place rather than holding a conspicuous collection, 7) holding conferences and trainings,  8) rejection of a traditional clergy-laity system, 9) corporate living, 10) subtle psychological manipulation with patterns of control and abuse, and 11) having a superior attitude toward other Christians.

 Lively prayer and hymn singing, declarations of “Amen!” calling on the Lord’s name, praying with the word of God, and singing hymns written by a spiritual leader certainly cannot be considered cultic. Otherwise you have to throw out most Christian groups on one count or another. Likewise the frequency of the communion, hidden offerings, educational and inspirational gatherings all fall into a category of things practiced among the believers which may differ from place to place without affecting the standing of that group as Christians. Differences are allowed since these are not the items of the common faith that define those who are Christians. Furthermore, these practices are not characteristics of a cult.

 The rejection of a traditional clergy-laity system cannot be considered cultic. The basic matter among the believers is that at the essential level of being sinners redeemed, forgiven, and regenerated by the Lord every believer is the same; every one is a member of the Lord’s body functioning according to the measure of that member. There certainly is a basis for the rejection of the establishment of what is or has the appearance of a distinct class of clerics who are somehow higher than all of the members. The recognition and practice of this truth varies widely from one group to the next or from one denomination to the next. Nevertheless, there is no ground to call any group practicing without a class of clerics a cult.

To condemn Witness Lee and the local churches as a cult because the young people gather together in corporate living with others as spiritual companions who love the Lord and desire to walk closely with Him is ridiculous. Again, to condemn this practice as cultic cuts a broad swath across many Christian homes, schools, retreats, etc.

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