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  • Title:

    Criticism of Organized Christianity

    Summary:

    Harvest House and its authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon sought to make the local churches repulsive in the eyes of the Christian public using out-of-context quotation and misrepresenting our Scripture-based rejection of unbiblical teachings, practices and institutions as a rejection of fellow believers and of the faith. In doing so, they pervert Witness Lee’s plea for recovery to the biblical standards of life, service, and testimony among Christians.

    Criticism of Organized Christianity

    Harvest House Publishers and its authors, John Ankerberg and John Weldon, have endeavored to make Living Stream Ministry and the local churches repulsive in the eyes of the Christian public by portraying us as anti-Christian, that is, against Christians and against the faith. They create this deception by placing our words in a foreign context, making our Scripture-based rejection of unbiblical teachings, practices and institutions appear as though it is a rejection of Christian believers and of the faith. The perpetration of this falsehood is an exercise in hypocrisy, as their own books claim that the church today is filled with occultism, is sick, and has compromised the truth of the gospel. Furthermore, some of Harvest House’s own writers echo the core of our critique of the state of the church today. Instead of truthfully presenting or responding to that critique, Harvest House and its authors have instead chosen to expand upon their misrepresentations in the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR) by completely distorting our teaching in postings on the Harvest House corporate Web site and documents filed with the courts. Such disregard for the truth is shameful, particularly for Christians, and even more so because they were provided with thorough documentation of their distortions in 2001.

    Some of our writings address three categories of unbiblical teachings, practices and institutions that damage the life, function and oneness of Christians today. However, our writings emphasize much more the three fundamental Scriptural remedies needed in order for the Lord to recover:

    1. the normal Christian experience of the unsearchable riches of Christ as our life (Eph. 3:8; Col. 3:4),
    2. the proper and mutual functioning of all the members of His Body (1 Cor. 14:26; Rom. 12:5-8), and
    3. the testimony of Christ’s one Body (Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:13; John 17:21-23).

    “The Lord’s Recovery”

    It is in this context that we use the term the Lord’s recovery, both in the sense of what the Lord is seeking to recover among His believers and His move among men to do so. The categories of unbiblical teachings, practices and institutions we address can be summarized as:

    1. Substitutes that distract the believers from Christ as their life and first love and replace Him as the preeminent one in their lives. These substitutes can include even seemingly good things such as man-made philosophy and religion, a misplaced emphasis on spiritual gifts and ethical and social causes, and a “Christianity” of mere doctrinal knowledge, forms and rituals.
    2. The clergy-laity system that distorts the function of a small number of “trained professionals” and at the same time nullifies the proper spiritual function of the vast majority of believers, effectively paralyzing the Body of Christ; and
    3. Divisions, seen in the plethora of sects, parties and denominations, which damage the oneness of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 1:10, 13) contrary to Christ’s own prayer: “That they all may be one.that the world may believe” (John 17:21).

    The recovery of the normal Christian life, the functioning of all His members in mutuality, and the testimony of His Body in practicality are central to our ministry. This recovery is described in brief in the following passage:

    God is moving in these days to recover. What is the way of His recovery? I believe many of us would like to be in that way. It is just in these three things: 1) the recovery of Christ as life and everything to us, 2) the recovery of the functions of all the members, and 3) the recovery of the proper unity. Not until these three things are recovered among us will we have a proper and adequate church life. There must be a group of believers who realize and experience Christ as their life and content and will take no substitute. Not one member of this group would be a clergyman or a layman. They are all living, functioning members of Christ. And all of them have abandoned the denominations, sects and divisions and come to meet on the ground of oneness to practice the proper unity. If there is such a group there is a real expression of the Body of Christ and there the enemy and all his work are put to shame.1

    While it is true that we reject the many things that have been added to the purity of the divine revelation in the Bible, we receive all believers in Christ as our brothers, as the following statement makes clear:

    From the very beginning we realized that despite the divisions, organizations, and traditions, there were a great number of genuine Christians scattered in these divisions. We saw that the Lord’s Body comprises all these genuine believers. Even in the Catholic Church we saw a number of genuine believers, and we also considered them as members of the church and as our dear brothers and sisters. On the one hand, we began to meet by ourselves and we fully realized that the dear, genuine believers who were scattered in the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations were our brothers. We recognized them and we loved them. We realized that the Lord’s Body as the church of God did not only comprise us but also all the genuine believers, of which we were a small part.2

    From this it should be evident that Harvest House and the authors of the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR) misrepresent our standing regarding our fellow believers in Christ.

    Misrepresentations and Hypocrisy

    We specifically corrected ECNR‘s misrepresentations concerning our attitude toward fellow believers in an attachment to our letter to Harvest House, Ankerberg, and Weldon in November 2001. Ignoring the contents of that letter, Harvest House intensified its campaign to cast us as being against Christians and against the faith. In 2006 John Ankerberg declared on a Point of View broadcast:

    They claim that they are opposed to orthodox Christianity and you have to be in their church to be saved…

    This statement is quite simply untrue. It betrays either ignorance or dishonesty. Thus, Harvest House and its authors twist our opposition to unscriptural deviations from the pattern of the church in the Bible into a rejection of the common faith of all believers. Their feigned outrage is all the more puzzling considering the fact that Harvest House Publishers, John Ankerberg and John Weldon are well known for strong statements critical of Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Catholicism. In subsequent articles on this topic, we will consider:


    Notes:

    1Witness Lee, Satan’s Strategy Against the Church (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1993), pp. 9-10.

    2Witness Lee, Elders’ Training, Book 4: Other Crucial Matters Concerning the Practice of the Lord’s Recovery (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry,1985), pp. 123-124.