Misquoting and Misrepresentation
The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.
From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man – Appendix
Testimonies from the Churches
In the past few weeks the Bible Answer Man has attacked Witness Lee and the local churches and falsely accused them of all kinds of heretical teachings. At the heart of his opposition is a number of quotations and misquotations of Witness Lee that he claims have never been answered. In fact, the items he has attacked have been answered and analyzed in detail in the last month, publicly, in The Register. In responding to these false accusations, many questions have been posed to him in return by people in the local churches, questions which he has been unable to answer except in traditional formulistic teachings that skirt the real questions.
Apparently ignoring everything that has been written, the Bible Answer Man continues to air the same attack week after week. The quotes that he uses are consistently isolated from the context in which they were written and often given meanings never intended by the writer. Since the average listener has no way to check the context, it must be assumed that it is a fair representation of Witness Lee’s point of view. It is often quite the contrary. Whether this comes from poor research or a deliberate effort, only the Bible Answer Man knows.
A prime example of this has occurred repeatedly in the past weeks in the “four in one” quotation from Witness Lee’s The Practical Expression of the Church. Again on Saturday, October 29, 1977, the Bible Answer Man misquoted this passage and gave it a false interpretation to make Witness Lee teach “extreme heresy.” Although he quotes with arrogant confidence on the air, anyone who “does their homework” will find that what was supposedly quoted bears only the faintest similarity to what actually appears on page 43. It is no quote at all of that page – as you can see by comparing the Bible Answer Man’s “quote” with the entire context of page 43.
Bible Answer Man: “Let me give you a quotation here, ‘Today the Lord whom we enjoy is that Spirit and the Spirit is the very Triune God.’ So the Holy Spirit has become God now. Christ has become the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is the Triune God. Again, they are now four in one. Notice that? Four in one, the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body. Capital “B.” The Body is the church. Can you listen to that?”
Caller: “That seems to be what they are driving at.”
Bible Answer Man: “That is what they are driving at. And that came directly from Witness Lee’s pamphlet, The Practical Expression of the Church in 1970 and it is on page 43. In case there are local church people listening, your leader has contradicted the Scriptures and taught a heresy, a grave heresy. And that heresy is that there are now four, not three, the Father, the Son, the Spirit and the Body. Now that is absolute heresy. The Father becomes the Son, the Son becomes the Spirit, the Spirit becomes the church. Where are we now? This is pure nonsense.”
Not only has he totally misquoted this point, but he puts upon the misquote an interpretation that is an even worse error. To be inaccurate can be attributed to sloppiness. However, when the Bible Answer Man gives the quote a meaning not even suggested by the passage, one needs to stretch the imagination to believe it was a mere error in research. It is upon this kind of “research” that the foundation of his charges of heresy rests.
The two sentences are properly quoted as follows:
The Father is in the Son, the Son is in the Spirit, and the Spirit is now in the Body. They are now four in one: the Father, the Son, the Spirit and the Body.
Do these sentences mean the church is now in the Godhead? Absolutely not! To determine the meaning of any isolated sentences, you must consider the context in which they appear.
The first hint of the context is the title of the chapter. Chapter Five is entitled, “The Oneness of the Church.” The context of this discussion is not the nature or components of the Godhead, rather the nature of the oneness of the church. What is this oneness? The portion in question is in a section headed, “The Unity of the Spirit.” So one might expect that the oneness of the church is related to the unity of the Spirit. Reading on, we find the third paragraph begins, “The oneness of the church is nothing but the Triune God, the very God in three Persons dispensed into us for the forming of the Body” [Italics supplied for emphasis]. Here you have the triune God in three Persons forming the body. One works on the other – subject and object. Are they four parts of the Godhead? Of course not! They are two distinct things. Immediately following the quote in question, the text says, “How is all of this possible? How can the Triune God be one with the Body? It is only by faith and baptism.” Does it sound like the body is part of the Godhead? Does the Son have to have faith and be baptized to be one with the Father and Spirit? Ridiculous! Obviously, he is speaking of something besides the oneness among the members of the Godhead. The context rules out the Bible Answer Man’s interpretation.
Then, what does it mean? Obviously, the Bible Answer Man doesn’t understand. Once again, his shortage of sight on the subjective side of biblical truth is exposed.
The point of this section is obvious to anyone with experience of the real oneness of the body. The oneness of the church is the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3). This “unity of the Spirit” is just the experience of the Spirit in the members of the body. When we live in the Spirit, we also know the Father and the Son. The oneness They enjoy is in the Spirit and, when we the members of the body partake of the Spirit, we experience that same oneness. That oneness is the unity of the Spirit. It is experienced by the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in the Godhead and it is also experienced by us as members of the Body. So, we are four in one unity. This is exactly what the Lord prayed for in John 17:21-22, “That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.” The oneness of the believers here is “even as” the very oneness of the Godhead – this must be the unity of the Spirit spoken of in Ephesians 4. John 17:22 continues: “And the glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one” (NASV). Our oneness in the body is just the experience in the Spirit of the oneness enjoyed by the Triune God! In this we are four in one. This in no way can be taken to mean that we are a part of the Godhead. It is a pity that the Bible Answer Man, not understanding this deep and subjective truth, would impose upon it his own interpretation, which is foreign to the context, and misuse it to accuse us of heresy. This is just one example of the irresponsible twisting of the Bible Answer Man.
We feel grateful and thankful to our Father that we could experience such oneness – the very oneness of the Triune God. This oneness is far more than doctrinal agreement or mere organizational unity. This oneness is the sweet, enjoyable result of the experience of the Spirit. How precious is this oneness! With the psalmist (Psa. 133) we praise the Lord for the enjoyment of such oneness!
This is the first of five articles in this series.