More than 70 evangelical Christian scholars and ministry leaders from seven nations have signed an unprecedented open letter to the leadership of the “local churches” and Living Stream Ministry.


This letter is a public appeal to disavow and withdraw controversial statements made by their founder, Witness Lee, on the doctrine of God and the doctrine of man. The letter also asks the “local churches” and Living Stream to renounce statements made by Lee that denigrate evangelical Christian denominations and organizations. Finally, the letter appeals to the leadership of the “local churches” and Living Stream to discontinue their use of lawsuits and threatened litigation against Christian individuals and organizations to answer criticisms or resolve disputes.

 

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Norman Geisler and
Ron Rhodes to the Christian Research Journal defense of Witness Lee’s theology

Jump to a specific part of letter:

• On the Nature of God

• On the Nature of Humanity

• On the Legitimacy of
Evangelical Churches and Denominations

• On Lawsuits and Evangelical Christians

• Signers

 

An Open Letter
To the Leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the "Local Churches"

Living Stream Ministry and the "local churches" (also known as The Lord's Recovery), both founded by the late Witness Lee, have been involved for decades in legal and theological controversies with noted Christian institutions and leaders. In light of this history of litigation and conflict, we the undersigned make this public appeal.

Because the following statements by Witness Lee appear to contradict or compromise essential doctrines of the Christian faith, we respectfully call on the leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the "local churches" to disavow and cease to publish these and similar declarations:

On the Nature of God

"The Son is called the Father; so the Son must be the Father. We must realize this fact. There are some who say that He is called the Father, but He is not really the Father. But how could He be called the Father and yet not be the Father?... In the place where no man can approach Him (I Tim. 6:16), God is the Father. When He comes forth to manifest Himself, He is the Son. So, a Son is given, yet His name is called 'The everlasting Father.' This very Son who has been given to us is the very Father."

Witness Lee, The All-Inclusive Spirit of Christ
(Los Angeles: The Stream Publishers, 1969), pp. 4-5

"...the entire Godhead, the Triune God, became flesh."

Witness Lee, God's New Testament Economy
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1986), p. 230


"The traditional explanation of the Trinity is grossly inadequate and borders on tritheism. When the Spirit of God is joined with us, God is not left behind, nor does Christ remain on the throne. This is the impression Christianity gives. They think of the Father as one Person, sending the Son, another Person, to accomplish redemption, after which the Son sends the Spirit, yet another Person. The Spirit, in traditional thinking, comes into the believers, while the Father and Son are left on the throne. When believers pray, they are taught to bow before the Father and pray in the name of the Son. To split the Godhead into these separate Persons is not the revelation of the Bible...."

Witness Lee, Life Messages
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1979), p. 164

"THE SON IS THE FATHER, AND THE SON IS ALSO THE SPIRIT.... and the Lord Jesus who is the Son is also the Eternal Father. Our Lord is the Son, and He is also the Father. Hallelujah!"

Witness Lee, Concerning the Triune God
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1973), pp. 18-19


"Therefore, it is clear: The Lord Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and He is the very God. He is also the Lord. He is the Father, the Son, the Spirit, the Mighty God, and the Lord."

Witness Lee, The Clear Scriptural Revelation
Concerning the Triune God

www.contendingforthefaith.org/responses/booklets/triune.html

"The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are not three separate persons or three Gods; they are one God, one reality, one person."

Witness Lee, The Triune God to Be Life to the Tripartite Man
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1970), p. 48


On the Nature of Humanity

"Christ is of two natures, the human and the divine, and we are the same: we are of the human nature, but covered with the divine. He is the God-man, and we are the God-men. He is the ark made of wood covered with gold, and we are the boards made of wood covered with gold. In number we are different, but in nature we are exactly the same."

Witness Lee, The All-Inclusive Christ
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 5th ed. 1989), p. 103


"God can say to His believers, 'I am divine and human,' and His believers can reply, 'Praise You, Lord. You are divine and human, and we are human and divine.'"

Witness Lee, The Triune God to Be Life to the Tripartite Man
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1990), pp. 51-52


"My burden is to show you clearly that God's economy and plan is to make Himself man and to make us, His created beings, 'God,' so that He is 'man-ized' and we are 'God-ized.' In the end, He and we, we and He, all become God-men.'

Witness Lee, A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1990), p. 54


"We the believers are begotten of God. What is begotten of man is man, and what is begotten of God must be God. We are born of God; hence, in this sense, we are God."

Ibid., p. 53

"Because the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all one with the Body of Christ, we may say that the Triune God is now the 'four-in-one' God.' These four are the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body. The Three of the Divine Trinity cannot be confused or separated, and the four-in-one also cannot be separated or confused."

Ibid., pp. 203-204

On the Legitimacy of Evangelical Churches and Denominations

We decry as inconsistent and unjustifiable the attempts by Living Stream and the "local churches" to gain membership in associations of evangelical churches and ministries while continuing to promote Witness Lee's denigrating characterizations of such churches and ministries as follows:

"The Lord is not building His church in Christendom, which is composed of the apostate Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations. This prophecy is being fulfilled through the Lord's recovery, in which the building of the genuine church is being accomplished."

Witness Lee in The New Testament Recovery Version,
note 184 (Matthew 16:18)
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1991), p. 99
http://online.recoveryversion.org/FootNotes.asp?FNtsID=639

"The apostate church has deviated from the Lord's word and become heretical. The reformed church, though recovered to the Lord's word to some extent, has denied the Lord's name by denominating herself, taking many other names, such as Lutherans, Wesleyan, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. ... To deviate from the Lord's word is apostasy, and to denominate the church by taking any name other than the Lord's is spiritual fornication."

Witness Lee in The New Testament Recovery Version,
note 83 (Revelation 3:8)
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1991), p. 1256
http://online.recoveryversion.org/FootNotes.asp?FNtsID=8759

"I am afraid that a number of us are still under the negative influence of Christendom. We all have to realize that today the Lord is going on and on to fully recover us and bring us fully out of Christendom."

Witness Lee, The History of the Church and the Local Churches
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1991), p. 132

"In every denomination, including the Roman Catholic Church, there are real, saved Christians. They are God's people belonging to the Lord. But the organization of the denominations in which they are is not of God. The denominational organizations have been utilized by Satan to set up his satanic system to destroy God's economy of the proper church life."

Witness Lee, "Message Thirty-Four" in The Life-Study of Genesis
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1987), Vol. 1, p. 464

"We do not care for Christianity, we do not care for Christendom, we do not care for the Roman Catholic church, and we do not care for all the denominations, because in the Bible it says that the great Babylon is fallen. This is a declaration. Christianity is fallen, Christendom is fallen, Catholicism is fallen, and all the denominations are fallen. Hallelujah!"

Witness Lee, The Seven Spirits for the Local Churches
(Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1989), p. 97

"To know God is not adequate. To know Christ is also not adequate. Even to know the church is not adequate. We must go on to know the churches which are local. If we are up-to-date in following the Lord, we will realize that today is the day of the local churches."

Ibid., p. 23

We respectfully call on the leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the "local churches" to disavow and cease to publish these and similar declarations.


On Lawsuits with Evangelical Christians

If the leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the "local churches" regard evangelical Christians as fellow believers, we request that they publicly renounce the use of lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits against evangelical Christians to answer criticisms or resolve conflicts. The New Testament strongly discourages the use of lawsuits to settle disputes among Christians (see 1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

If the leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the "local churches" do not regard evangelical Christian churches, organizations, and ministries as legitimate Christian entities, we ask that they publicly resign their membership in all associations of evangelical churches and ministries.

In either case, we respectfully request that the leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the "local churches" discontinue their practice of using litigation and threatened litigation to answer criticisms or settle disputes with Christian organizations and individuals.

Sincerely,

Daniel L. Akin, Ph.D.
President and Professor of Preaching and Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC)

David L. Allen, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Theology; Professor of Preaching; George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry; Director, Center of Expository Preaching, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Ronald B. Allen, Th.D.
Senior Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, TX)

William M. Alnor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, California State University, East Bay (Hayward, California)

John Babler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pastoral Counseling, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Mark L. Bailey, Ph.D.
President and Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, TX)

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics, Knox Seminary (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Deron J. Biles, Ph.D.
Dean of Extension Education Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

D. Jeffrey Bingham, Ph.D.
Department Chair and Professor of Theological Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, TX)

James Bjornstad, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy, Cedarville University (Cedarville, OH)

Darrell L. Bock, Ph.D.
Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, TX)

James A. Borror, Th.D.
Executive Director, Golden Minutes Ministries, Preaching Pastor, El Dorado Park Community Church (Long Beach, CA)

Alan Branch, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Kansas City, MO)

Chad Brand, Ph.D.
Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Associate Dean for Biblical and Theological Studies, Boyce College (Louisville, KY)

Jerry L. Buckner, D.Min.
Adjunct Professor, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; President, Contending for the Faith (Mill Valley, CA)

Theodore J. Cabal, Ph.D.
Professor of Christian Philosophy and Applied Apologetics, The Southern Baptist Seminary (Louisville, KY)

Ergun Caner, Ph.D.
President, Liberty Theological Seminary (Lynchburg, VA)

Paul Carden
Executive Director, The Centers for Apologetics Research (San Juan Capistrano, CA)

Miguel A. Endara, Ph.D.
Professor, Seminario Sudamericano (Quito, Ecuador)

Ronald M. Enroth, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology, Westmont College (Santa Barbara, CA)

Jorge Erdely, Ph.D.
Professor of Historical Theology, Centro de Estudios Teológicos y Sociológicos (Mexico City, Mexico)

James A. Freerksen, Th.D.
Professor of Biblical Studies, Liberty Theological Seminary (Lynchburg, VA)

George Joseph Gatis, Esq., J.D., Th.D., Ph.D.
Director, Graduate School of Church & State, Whitefield Theological Seminary (Lakeland, FL); Chaplain of the Citadel (Charleston, SC)

Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D.
Dean, Southern Evangelical Seminary (Matthews, NC)

Gretchen W. Goldsmith
President/CEO, Rose Publishing, Inc. (Torrance, CA)

Alan W. Gomes, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Theology, Talbot School of Theology (La Mirada, CA)

George Grant, Ph.D.
Director, King’s Meadow Study Center (Franklin, TN)

M. Fred Haltom, Ph.D.
Chair, Biblical Education Division, Professor of Biblical Languages, Central Bible College (Springfield, MO)

Craig S. Hawkins, M.A.
Adjunct Professor, Trinity Graduate School (Calif. Campus); President of Apologetics Information Ministry (Santa Ana, CA)

Don Hawkins, D.Min.
President, Southeastern Bible College (Birmingham, AL)

William Honsberger, M.A., AbD.
Director, Haven Ministries, (Aurora, CO)

H. Wayne House, Th.D., J.D.
Distinguished Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Faith Evangelical Seminary (Tacoma, WA)

Thomas A. Howe, Ph.D.
Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages, Director of the D.Min. Program, Southern Evangelical Seminary (Matthews, NC)

Jerry Johnson, M.A.C.S., M. Phil.
Executive Director, The Apologetics Group (Nashville, TN)

Jerry Johnson, Ph.D.
President, Criswell College (Dallas, TX)

Ken Keathley, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC)

Kevin D. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Gordon R. Lewis, Ph.D.
Senior Professor Emeritus of Christian Philosophy and Theology, Denver Seminary (Littleton, CO)

Kevin Alan Lewis, J.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology and Law, Talbot School of Theology (La Mirada, CA)

Paul R. Martin, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center (Albany, OH)

Tim Martin, M.A.
Adjunct Professor, Moody Bible Institute; Illinois Director, Watchman Fellowship, Inc. (Chicago, IL)

Rev. George A. Mather, M.Div.
Pastor, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (St. George, UT)

Donald G. Matzat, D.D.
Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church (Bridgeville, PA)

Bruce B. Miller, Th.M.
Senior Pastor, McKinney Bible Church (McKinney, TX) and Chairman of the Board, Center for Church-Based Training (Richardson, TX)

Craig Vincent Mitchell, PhD.
Assistant professor of Christian Ethics, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

John Warwick Montgomery, Ph.D., Th.D., LL.D.
Barrister-at-Law, England and Wales; Member of the California, District of Columbia, Virginia, Washington State and U.S. Supreme Court Bars; Inscrit au Barreau de Paris, France; Professor Emeritus of Law and Humanities, University of Bedfordshire, England

Ishwaran B. Mudliar, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

David P. Nelson, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President of Academic Administration, Dean of the Faculty, Professor of Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC)

Vladyslav Olkhovksy, Ph.D.
Professor, Institute for Nuclear Research, National Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine (Kiev, Ukraine)

Steven M. Ortiz, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Studies, Director of the Charles C. Tandy Archaeology Museum, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Paige Patterson, Ph.D.
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Edward H. Pauley, Ph.D.
Vice Provost and Professor of Philosophy, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Russell L. Penney, Th.D.
President; Professor of Systematic Theology; Hebron Theological Seminary (Santa Cruz, Bolivia)

Bryce A. Pettit, D.Min.
Retired/Associate Editor, Walter Martin's Cults Reference Bible (Colorado Springs, CO)

Markus Printz, Th.D.
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Theological Institute of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D.
President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus, Western Seminary (Portland, OR)

Mark Rathel, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology, Baptist College of Florida

Ron Rhodes, Th.D.
President, Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries (Frisco, TX)

R. Philip Roberts, Ph.D.
President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Kansas City, MO)

Paulo Romeiro, Ph.D.
Professor, Post-graduate Program in Sciences of Religion, Mackenzie Presbyterian University (São Paulo, Brazil)

Alvin J. Schmidt, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Illinois College (Jacksonville, IL); former Professor and Dean of Graduate Studies, Concordia Theological Seminary (Ft. Wayne, IN)

Alan Kent Scholes, Ph.D.
Associate Director, International School Project, Campus Crusade for Christ (Littleton, CO)

Tim M. Sigler, Ph.D. (cand.)
Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Biblical Studies, Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL)

Robert B. Stewart, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Theology occupying the Greer-Heard Chair of Faith and Culture, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (New Orleans, LA)

R. Alan Streett, Ph.D.
Professor of Evangelism and Pastoral Ministry, Criswell College (Dallas, TX)

Helen Terry Sullivan, Ph.D.
Academic Dean, Arlington Baptist College (Arlington, TX)

Kenneth G. Talbot, Ph.D.
President, Whitefield Theological Seminary (Lakeland, FL)

L.L. (Don) Veinot, Jr.
President, Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR); President, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. (Wonder Lake, IL)

James K. Walker, M.A.
Adjunct Professor, Criswell College; President, Watchman Fellowship, Inc. (Arlington, TX)

James R. White, Th.D.
Adjunct Professor, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; President, Alpha and Omega Ministries (Phoenix, AZ)

Jim Wicker, Ph.D.
Director, Web Based Education and Associate Professor, New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Rev. Luke P. Wilson, M.T.S.
Executive Director, Institute for Religious Research (Grand Rapids, MI)

B. Paul Wolfe, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Biblical Studies and Associate Professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)

Thomas E. Woodward, Ph.D.
Chair, Division of Bible and Theology, Trinity College of Florida (Trinity, FL)

Malcolm B. Yarnell, III, D.Phil.
Director, Center for Theological Research, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX)


Please Note:
• The signers of this document are representing their own personal position. The views expressed are not necessarily those of their institutions, organizations, or employers.
Most of the works cited can be viewed online (in their complete context) at www.ministrybooks.org/alphabetical.cfm
The quotations in each category are just a few of many problematic theological statements by Lee on these and other subjects.