Watchman Nee

M. Irons

A theology professor at Hainan University in China sent us the following email in September, 2006:

Subject: Watchman Nee did the same thing

Dear Assembly people,

My name is Dana Roberts and I am currently working on my third book on Watchman Nee. The first book, Understanding Watchman Nee, praised him as a fine Christian but did not agree with his interpretations of man and the church. Last year I was asked by the publisher to do a new edition. In looking at Chinese sources I found evidence of what had only been hinted at. Nee had misused church money and he had at least two affairs with people in the church. This second book, The Secrets of Watchman Nee, was neutral and told readers that you must read any writer or preacher with caution.

Within months of publication I received a call from a woman who was the youth leader and Sunday School Superintendent of Nee's church in Shanghai. She had been present at Nee's trial in 1956. [One of the charges brought against him was licentiousness.] Nee had affairs with two girls she knew in the church. I have also talked to Nee's lawyer. Nee freely admitted it because the police found the pictures.

Why didn't the girls leave? Because they believed that all other churches were evil, and they made a pact to confess to God and stay in his true church. Does this sound familiar?

I am leaving for Shanghai tomorrow and will gather the last information.

One must always remember that Jesus prayed for the unity of the church. There is no true church. All churches that are really churches are justified by faith, rely upon the authority of Scripture and follow some basic instructions that were first formulated in the Apostle's Creed. After that, Christians ought to follow the example of the early synagogue and respectfully discuss it among ourselves without being puffed up with theological vanities.

--Dana Roberts, M.A., M.T.S.

Haikou City, Hainan Island, China

In Shanghai Mr. Roberts spoke with Watchman Nee's personal secretary, with the judge at his trial, and with local church members who had remained in the country after the revolution. He felt confident that these people knew the truth.

Book coverHe said that there are a number of Chinese sources written by eyewitnesses, including the most recent, The Unforgettable Memoirs - My Life, Shanghai Local Church, and Watchman Nee, by Lucy M. Hsu, M.D. The back cover of the book says, "At sixteen, Lily made her way to the church on Hardoon Road, Shanghai....In this book, Dr. Hsu, a retired pediatric neurologist, rights a straightforward accout of her eight-year experience in the church. Her faith nearly ended as the private life of Watchman Nee was exposed in 1956..." A reviewer brings out the author's perception that Nee felt great shame about his ongoing adultery, and because of it he did not often partake in the Lord's supper.

Watchman Nee and George Geftakys both taught the carnal vs. spiritual Christian dichotomy, split rapture, and local gathering, learned from the Plymouth Brethren, and T. Austin-Sparks. But it was their doctrines of sinless perfection and the role of intuition, learned from Jesse Penn-Lewis and Madame Guyon, that opened a door for the possibility of immorality by elevating intuition above reason and the plain teaching of scripture.

Nee states these teachings very clearly in his book, The Spiritual Man:

Intuition is the sensing organ of the human spirit. The knowledge which comes to us without any help from the mind, emotion or volition comes intuitively. The revelations of God and all the movements of the Holy Spirit are known to the believer through his intuition.1

Spiritual life is maintained simply by heeding the direction of the spirit's intuition. The believer will wait quietly for the voice of the Holy Spirit to be heard in his spirit, intuitively. Upon hearing the inner voice he rises up to work, obeying the direction of intuition.2

Self-deception was further enabled by Nee's teaching on the possibility of reaching a state of sinless perfection.

When a believer has experienced the practical treatment of the Cross, he finally arrives at a pure life. His soulish life has been terminated and the Lord has granted him a pure, restful, true and believing spiritual life. That which is soulish has been destroyed, but that which is spiritual has been established.3

Kristin's story on this website shows these teachings at work in G. Geftakys. Once intuition is elevated above scripture, restraints are lifted. But in contrast to Watchman Nee's attitude of shame, the doctrine of sinless perfection allows a narcissist with an inflated ego to be convinced he is beyond sin, and that an adulterous relationship is "spiritual".

1The Spiritual Man, Vol. I, p. 32
2Ibid. Vol. I, p. 149
3Ibid. Vol. II, p. 195

For more on Watchman Nee, see Wikipedia, Apologetics Index, and Watchman Nee and the Little Flock Movement in Maoist China.

For more on perfectionism, see On Perfectionism, by Dave Sable, and these two excerpts from B. B. Warfield's book, On Perfectionism - Is God's Grace Suspended until We Act? and The Two Natures.

Comments from readers

January 2007, Tom Maddux:   Here is a quote taken from Watchman Nee's Two Principles of Conduct:

One of the most serious misconceptions among the children of God is that actions are determined by right and wrong. They do what their eyes tell them is right; they do what their background tells them is right; they do what their years of experience tell them is right. For a Christian, every decision should be based on the inner life, and that is something totally different from all else. I yearn that you should come to see that a Christian should arrive at no decision other than that which is dictated by life. If the life within you rises to do a thing, then it is right for you to do it: if the life within shrinks back when you advance, then you should immediately call a halt.

Notice that Nee taught that "...If the life within you rises to do a thing, then it is right for you to do it." Need we inquire further for GG's justification for his adulteries? Am I exaggerating?

Nee also says:

What is Christianity? Christianity is a matter of life. If you are a Christian, then you posses a new life; and when you have to decide on a course of action, you do not ask, Would it be right to do this? You ask, If I do this, how will it affect my inner life? How will that new life within me react to this?

It is a most amazing thing that the objective of so many Christians is only conformity to an external standard, though what God has given us by new birth is not a lot of new rules and regulations to which we are required to conform. He has not brought us to a new Sinai and given us a new set of commandments with their “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not.”

Christianity does not require that we investigate the rights and wrongs of alternative courses of action, but that we test the reaction of the divine life to any proposed course. As a Christian you now possess the life of Christ, and it is the reactions of His life that you have to consider.

If, when you contemplate any move, there is a rise of life within you to make that move, if there is a positive response from the inner life, if there is “the anointing” within (See I John 2:20,27), then you can confidently pursue the proposed course. The inner life has indicated that. But if, when you contemplate a certain move, the inner life begins to languish, then you may know that the move you contemplated should be avoided, however commendable it may seem to be.

Notice especially that Nee said, "Christianity does not require that we investigate the rights and wrongs of alternative courses of action, but that we test the reaction of the divine life to any proposed course."  In other words if you feel like doing it, do it. According to Nee, principle of "life" overrules good and evil.

I once asked GG about this booklet by Nee. I asked him, "Is this true?" His reply was equivocal..."Let's not make a man an offender for a word." He didn't say yes...and he didn't say no. Now I think I know why.

Back to Top