A Word of Caution on Watchman Nee and R.C. Sproul
As a young Christian I purchased and read Watchman Nee’s two famous books – ‘The Normal Christian Life’ and another one titled – ‘Sit, Walk, Stand’. For some reason I did not finish reading these books. This in spite of being an ardent reader of all kinds of theology in my younger days.
Watchman Nee was an Arminian without doubt. But he was an OSAS Arminian. Now what in the world is OSAS Arminian, you ask? Simple – Once Saved Always Saved Arminian!
Please read and ponder the following quotes by Nee very carefully–
“Whatever the church binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever the church looses on earth will be loosed in heaven. This is a very important principle: today God works through the church. God cannot do anything at will; He has to do everything through the church. Without going through the church, God cannot do anything. Brothers and sisters, this is a very sober principle. God cannot do anything by Himself today. There is a free will besides His will. If this will does not cooperate with Him, He cannot do anything. The amount of power that the church has expresses the amount of power that God has because His power is expressed through the church. God has placed Himself in the church. The height and extent that the church reaches is the height and extent that God’s power reaches. If the power of the church is small and restricted, God cannot express the height or extensiveness of His power”.
“God wants to do many things on earth today. But He must have the church stand on His side before He can accomplish these things through the church. God cannot do what He wants to do by Himself; He has to do it with the cooperation of the church. The church is the means through which God expresses Himself. Let me repeat: the church is like a water tap. If the tap is small, the amount of water flowing through the tap will not be great, even if there is as much water as the Yangtze River. God truly wants to work in heaven, but He has to wait for the earth to move before He can work. There are many things that God wants to bind in heaven, and there are many things that God wants to loose in heaven. God wants to see many people, objects, and things contrary to Him bound, and He wants to see many spiritual, valuable, beneficial, and holy things that are of Him loosed. The question is whether or not there are men on earth to bind what God wants to bind and loose what God wants to loose. He wants the earth to control heaven. God wants the church to control heaven.
Brothers and sisters, have you seen this? There is a power in the church which puts God’s power under its control. It can allow God to do what He wants to do, and it can stop God from doing what He wants to do.
Hence, if the church decides to consider a man a Gentile, God in heaven will consider him a Gentile also. If the church considers a man a tax collector, God in heaven will consider him a tax collector also. In other words, God will do in heaven what the church does on earth. If the church considers a brother a Gentile and a tax collector, God in heaven will consider the same brother a Gentile and a tax collector”.
[The above are excerpts from “The Prayer Ministry of the Church – Watchman Nee]
Surely the God of Watchman Nee is not the God you and I worship! As Herman Hoeksema profoundly states, “An anxious and pleading God, whose power is limited, and whose hands may be tied by the proud and stubborn sinner, who is less than dust of the balance, is no God, but a miserable idol!
Mr. Nee emphasized a great deal on prayer to the point where he believed that the Church controlled Heaven and not the other way round. This is very akin to the ‘Word-faith’ movement of Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts, that God is some sort of a genie waiting to be let loose to fulfill our pleas, of course through prayer. The heretic Hagin went so far as to say that you don’t even need to pray it, but just say it! His favorite verse was –
“For verily I say unto you, whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith”. (not prayeth) [Mark 11:23]
But Spurgeon was right when he reminded us –
“There is a limit to the doctrine of the prayer of faith. We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for. We know that we sometimes ask, and do not receive, because we ask amiss. If we ask for that which is not promised–if we run counter to the spirit which the Lord would have us cultivate–if we ask contrary to His will, or to the decrees of His providence–if we ask merely for the gratification of our own ease, and without an eye to His glory, we must not expect that we shall receive”. [Spurgeon daily Evening May 19]
Watchman Nee once said –
‘If I place a piece of paper in a book and burn the book, where is the piece of paper?’ No prize for saying that it has gone, as it has been burned as well. In like manner, believers have been placed ‘in Christ’, so that whatever has happened to Christ has also happened them. When Jesus died and rose again, so did we spiritually, and never again will God see a believer as anything other than a new creation ‘in Christ Jesus’. We are forever united and joined to Christ and His history is our history”!
This is an amazing statement coming from an Arminian. This would have been commendable had he faithfully preached all the five points of the Reformed Faith as they are taught in the Word of God rather than preach what seemed more agreeable to his feelings and plausible to his understanding. In modifying and denying the harsher and controversial doctrines of Calvinism he has developed a theology that is inconsistent and contradictory. Having denied the doctrine of ‘Total Depravity’ and ‘Limited Atonement’ Mr. Nee’s illustrious and profound teachings on the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ amounts to nothing but sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
It is a contradiction to contend for the free-will of fallen man and yet at the same time the eternal security of the believer. They both cannot be true. Jesus taught that our will is determined by our nature. He said “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” [Mt 7:17,18]. The tree is not free to produce good or bad fruit at random but is governed by its nature. But, if according to the Watchman Nee, the fallen, depraved sinner is free to choose God and holiness against his nature, then there can be no guarantee that the believer who has partaken of the Divine nature will cease to choose that which is evil in the life to come.
In fact a person whose will is “free” would be a dangerous associate even in heaven; for his acts would be irrational and we would have no way of knowing what he might do under any conditions. That which guarantees the permanence of the states of the saved and the lost in the next world, is the fact that volition’s are a true expression of the person’s nature. The born-again child of God will forever continue to choose that which is holy and good because his nature (heart) has been changed and God has made as it were the tree good and its fruit good’ [Matt.12:33]. Whereas the wicked, after the restraining influences of the Holy Spirit are withdrawn, become bold, defiant, blasphemous, and sin with an irremediable obstinacy.
“Only the Calvinistic principle that the will is determined by the nature of the person and the inducements presented, reaches a conclusion in harmony with that of Scripture which affirms that “there is a great gulf fixed”, so that none can pass over, — that the states of the saved and the lost alike are permanent”. [Lorraine Boettner]
Again, it is a contradiction to speak of an Unlimited Atonement saying, “Jesus Christ in His death purposed to die as a substitute for everyman” and at the same time contend for the eternal security of the believer. For if Christ is the propitiation for those that are lost equally as much as for those that are saved, then what assurance have we that believers too may not be lost?
“If Christ is the propitiation for those now in hell, what guarantee have I that I may not end in hell? The blood-shedding of the incarnate Son of God is the only thing that can keep anyone out of hell, and if many for whom that precious blood made propitiation are now in that awful place of the damned, then may not that blood prove inefficacious for me! Away with such a God-dishonoring thought”!! [Pink]
The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is stated in the Westminster Confession in the following words: “They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally be saved.” Or in other words we believe that those who once become true Christians cannot totally fall away and be lost—that while they may fall into sin temporarily, they will eventually return and be saved.
This doctrine does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology. The doctrines of Election and Effficacious Grace logically imply the certain salvation of those who receive these blessings. If God has chosen men absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and if His Spirit effectively applies to them the benefits of redemption, the inescapable conclusion is that these persons shall be saved. And, historically, this doctrine has been held by all Calvinists, and denied by practically all Arminians except those Arminians who are termed ‘OSAS Arminians’ like Watchman Nee.
Watchman Nee has the same mindset as some famous Christian Pietists as Madame Guyon, Thomas A. Kempis, John Wesley etc. And as one who loves the Absolute Sovereignty of God and is fully convinced of the Total depravity of man, I wouldn’t want anything to do with such men!
I have not studied much of R.C. Sproul. He appears to be a consistent Calvinist. But there is more to ‘the whole counsel of God’ [Acts 20:27] than just Calvinism!
As Pink reminded us- “When God raises up His servant, equips him and sends him forth to preach, that servant will necessarily preach the Word, and denounce all that is opposed to the world: hence his message is bound to be unpopular, in fact hated by all who are not regenerated”!
Take the Pagan Romish celebration of Christmas for instance. Here is Sproul’s wise counsel on it –
“That question comes up every year at Christmastime. In the first place, there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King.”
I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history. Originally, it was intended to honor, not Mithras or any of the other mystery religion cults, but the birth of our King.
Incidentally, Easter can be traced to Ishtar in the ancient world. But the Christian church coming together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus is hardly something I think would provoke the wrath of God. I wish we had more annual festivals. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, celebrates with great joy the Feast of the Ascension every year. Some Protestant bodies do, but most do not. I wish we would celebrate that great event in the life of Christ when he was raised up into heaven to be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. We celebrate his birth; we celebrate his death. I wish we would also celebrate his coronation”. [Is the celebration of Christmas a Pagan Ritual – R.C. Sproul]
Beloved, what would you do if you heard the preacher say from the Pulpit the above words?! I would puke (throw up) and walk right out of that ‘Church’ and warn others to get out of it!
Incidentally Sproul’s compromising sermons has gathered 1,400 ‘Christians’ and now they are building a new building because it has grown to 1,500. Here is a quote from his website –
“Given our rapid growth and lack of space to expand in our current location, the Session of Saint Andrew’s, after deliberating and reviewing our needs over two years, has unanimously agreed to recommend the purchase of eight acres of land (with parking on approximately six more acres) and to move ahead with plans to construct a new sanctuary seating 1,400 to 1,500 people, plus an all-purpose fellowship hall that will include offices, nursery, classrooms, choir rehearsal area, dining and fellowship space”.
There is a popular saying – “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are”! Concerning the Ministry I would say – “Tell me how many attend your Church and I’ll tell you what you preach”! [2tim 4:3]
R.C. Sproul also sells his tapes and books. Henry Mahan does too! But Brother Mahan makes it very plain that the cost is only for what goes into the making of those tapes and books and not the content! The content if it is the truth at all is God’s property and should not be sold! “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding”. [Prov 23:23].
Buy the truth? Yes, I will buy it, (Hebrew word is ‘ganah’ meaning: acquire, obtain.) I will acquire it, I will receive it, I will accept it; pay whatever price is necessary to obtain it-to lay down the self life, that I might receive it. But then, having received a Word from the Lord, what do I do with it? I do what my Master told me to do – “freely you have received, freely give”! [Mat 10:8]
Men like Sproul charge for the content! i.e. the revelation received from God! This is wrong! There should be no copyright on God’s Word!
This is another reason that the NIV is not of God, for it is copyrighted! Isn’t it amazing that the King James Bible is the ONLY Bible that is not OWNED by men? That’s right! The King James Bible has no COPYRIGHT ownership! Its copyright is the CROWN COPYRIGHT which ALLOWS it to be published by ANYONE, ANYTIME! Without asking ANYBODY for permission! “. . .but the word of God is NOT BOUND.” 2 Timothy 2:9
As one preacher put it, The Gospel and preaching is one beggar sharing his bread with another! And beggars should not sell what they got as beggars!