After the conclusion of The God-Men case (Lee v. Duddy) in 1985, one of the expert witnesses who had testified at that trial, Dr. J. Gordon Melton, the Director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and editor of the definitive work The Encyclopedia of American Religions,1 wrote and published An Open Letter Concerning the Local Church, Witness Lee and The God-Men Controversy. Dr. Melton’s review of the controversy generated by The God-Men addresses the following areas:
- The authority of the Bible
- Rationality and use of the mind
The Open Letter expresses Dr. Melton’s concern that The God-Men had seriously misrepresented the teaching of Witness Lee and the local churches. Dr. Melton summarized his study and findings by saying:
Part of my study of the Local Church involved the reading of most of the published writings of Witness Lee and the lengthy depositions of Neil T. Duddy and Brooks Alexander (of SCP). The experience proved among the more painful of my Christian life. As I began to check the quotes of Witness Lee used in Duddy’s book, I found that The God-Men had consistently taken sentences from Lee’s writings and, by placing them in a foreign context, made them to say just the opposite of what Lee intended. This was done while ignoring the plain teachings and affirmations concerning the great truths of the Christian faith found throughout Lee’s writings.
Conclusions and Recommendations
As a result of Dr. Melton’s review, he offered the following conclusions and recommendations:
…I can but conclude that we in the evangelical Christian community have done the Local Church a great wrong and should set about immediately to try and undo as much of the damage as we can. We should begin with our public renunciation of The God-Men and our withdrawal from use of all the articles and pamphlets which we have written based upon it.
In light of the manner in which this book treated Lee, I can only suggest that The God-Men, and the other attacks upon the Local Church derived from it, be discarded…
We believe that any fair-minded person who reads Dr. Melton’s critique will agree with his conclusion, so with his permission, we reproduce the entire text of his Open Letter here.
1 Dr. Melton is currently Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.