Article Summary:

An historical overview of the controversy surrounding Walter Martin’s criticisms of the teaching of Witness Lee and the local churches.

Answers to the Bible Answer Man—Introduction to the 1994 Edition

On October 2, 1977, Walter Martin, “The Bible Answer Man,” criticized Witness Lee and the local churches in a lecture at Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim, California. Because of the public nature of his talk, members of the local churches wrote responses that were published as advertisements in The Santa Ana Register (now The Orange County Register). The current Bible Answer Man and President of the Christian Research Institute (CRI), Hank Hanegraaff, was not a party to that controversy. After a six-year primary research project under Hanegraaff’s oversight, CRI withdrew its earlier criticisms of Witness Lee and the local churches and recognized them as representing authentic New Testament Christianity (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The articles published in response to Martin’s criticisms are included on this site because they address important points of truth; because some of Martin’s criticisms of the local churches still circulate, particularly on the Internet; and because these responses are part of the local churches’ history of attempts to correct misrepresentations of their beliefs and practices.

From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man (Vol. 1)

This book is the republication of a series of articles first published in The Orange County Register on October 8 and 15, 1977. They were answers to an attack made by Walter Martin, who called himself “the Bible Answer Man.” Martin made this attack against Witness Lee and “the Local Church” in a lecture given at Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim, California on October 2, 1977. The tape of that lecture, entitled Witness Lee and the Local Church, is still in circulation today. This book again publishes the answers to that tape.

These responses were first published in a public forum because of the wide influence of Melodyland in Southern California and Martin’s national radio audience. These original articles sparked a media conflict as Martin increased his attack through his radio program. The churches continued to answer Martin and challenged the truth of his statements through purchased space in the newspaper. Beginning with these responses and continuing for twenty-two weeks, the churches answered with twenty-one separate responses. The present book is only the two initial responses which directly answered the charges made in the Melodyland meeting. The Bible Answer Man was answered, challenged, exposed, and publicly embarrassed. In spite of all the articles, he refused to acknowledge the truth—that his organization, Christian Research Institute (CRI), had misrepresented and falsely accused Witness Lee and the churches that follow his ministry.

The media exchange of 1977, however, was not the beginning of the conflict between CRI and the local churches. Three years earlier, CRI-related people had begun to harass the local churches. They published two tracts in 1975 and 1976, leafleted a local church meeting, held public seminars against our teaching, attacked on the radio, and personally counseled people to leave the churches. All of this was done before they ever made an official approach to the leaders of the local churches to confirm their conclusions or to give those leaders a chance to explain their views. In short, they acted as attacking opposers, not scholarly researchers.

Before the events of 1977, those in the local churches had already made several attempts to correct the errors of the CRI authors. This was done both in person and in writing. In each case the response was confrontational arrogance that eliminated any true fellowship or even proper discussion. Thus, a pattern developed of attacking while ignoring the protests from the churches that what CRI circulated did not reflect what the churches really believed.

In early 1977 Walter Martin was publicly confronted by representatives of the local churches. They again insisted that the CRI statements did not reflect the churches’ beliefs and offered to discuss the problems with him. Martin issued an apology to Witness Lee and suspended all CRI writings concerning Witness Lee and “the Local Church” until such discussion could take place. Based upon that apology and the suspending of the tracts, Witness Lee met with Walter Martin in February 1977.

The two agreed to stop all publications until Martin could come to an adequate understanding of the true beliefs of the local churches, through mutual fellowship. Martin was offered complete cooperation for his research. That agreement was broken about a week later when one of Martin’s research associates resumed the attack upon the churches through letters from CRI. Witness Lee insisted that the agreement could be continued only if Martin dealt with the infractions. Martin answered in the old CRI mode—by renewing the attack. Of course, Martin ignored the fact that the research which he agreed should be done had, in fact, never been done.

Martin’s response to the canceled agreement was the source of the meeting at Melodyland and the tape that is still sold today by CRI [Note: This is no longer true as a result of more recent dialogues with CRI leadership]. Martin admitted on the tape that he relied mainly upon his youthful assistants. He repeated their old accusations, which by then had already been refuted. He endorsed a book, The Mindbenders, that proved to be so blatantly biased and false that it was later retracted with apology by its publisher. Martin’s tape displayed a lack of understanding of the Bible, theology, and church history. At the same time, it was steeped in the sarcastic arrogance that was Martin’s trademark.

All of these shortcomings are developed in the following articles. The result should have been predictable. I never heard the Bible Answer Man admit error. On one program, after discovering he had condemned one of Billy Graham’s writings, he calmly said he would straighten him out the next time he saw him! After all, he was the Bible Answer Man. Thus the challenge and embarrassment of the media conflict only hardened Martin’s line of attack. He ignored the detailed responses of the local churches in the newspaper. (The titles of the twenty-one responses are listed in the appendix.) Instead of answering the challenges of the local churches, Martin simply repeated the falsehood that we would not deal with the issues!

In January 1978, CRI published The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church. Although the charges in this new booklet had already been addressed and answered, it was published as if the churches had never made a response. The final four articles in the series of newspaper responses, listed in the appendix, were direct answers to their new publication. True to form, CRI also ignored these responses. In 1980 Martin published The New Cults. The people at CRI have been repeatedly advised that what they are circulating concerning Witness Lee and “the Local Church” is not true. They have ignored this from 1975 until today [i.e., 1994].

The new Bible Answer Man continues the CRI tradition. In April of 1993 he rejected an appeal from representatives from the local churches to publicly examine the truth or falsehood of CRI’s critical publications. Almost simultaneously with that rejection, he sent a new attacking letter to an inquirer about the church. In 1994 he continues to attack on the radio, repeating the same old errors that have been challenged and corrected.

This book is not for CRI. This book is for the innocent people who have been affected by CRI’s stubborn opposition. It is not for those who believe that anything published in the name of Christian research must be true. It is not for those who appreciate sarcasm above scholarship or for those who are comfortable in the traditions of man. Rather, it is for those who love God’s Word above all and have the hunger and nobility of the Bereans, who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

In order to preserve their historical value, no changes have been made in the content of the articles from 1977. The articles have been rearranged by subject in order to facilitate study. The categories, listed in the table of contents, reflect the main areas of misrepresentation in CRI’s attacks. Since the charge was made that those in the local churches were theologically uneducated and confused Christians, the educational credentials of the authors were given in the original articles. These have not been retained in this printing. Suffice it to say that of the thirteen authors of these articles, eleven have a bachelor’s degree, four have a master’s degree, and ten have seminary training. The authors’ names have been deleted.

May the Lord reward all who read this book with the truth concerning Himself and His purpose on earth.

Anaheim, California
March 1994

Copyright © 1994 Living Stream, Anaheim, CA, USA. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.

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