The Educational Myth of the Bible Answer Man
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 CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research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here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.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
In recent weeks the Bible Answer Man has repeatedly criticized Witness Lee and berated the local churches for what he considers a lack of theological education. He has implied to the public that this alleged lack of education automatically disqualifies Witness Lee from making reliable theological judgments, and he attempts to negate the local churches’ manifest ability to help people know Christ and practice the church life. Simultaneously, he magnifies his own education and inflates himself to be the Bible Answer Man, who alone has the proper understanding of the Scripture, and stands ready to pass judgment on all who differ from him, whether it be Donald G. Barnhouse, Alexander Hyslop, Paul Billheimer, or Billy Graham. This twentieth century popery has made a mockery of the truth and a god out of knowledge. The educational myth that has been perpetrated upon the public must be exposed.
After the Bible Answer Man attacked Witness Lee and the local churches at Melodyland, the local churches responded to his charges with articles written by no less than five men with theological degrees. The Bible Answer Man bombastically criticized these five men as not qualifying to be a theological voice, while he neglected to tell the public the pitiful truth concerning the theological education of himself and his staff. While claiming to be the theological Rock of Gibraltar, he doesn’t even have a Master’s degree in theology. Although he did attend a seminary, his Master’s degree is from a secular school, New York University. Even more blown out of proportion is his much lauded doctoral degree that actually comes from a non-accredited school in Santa Ana. Furthermore, his title of Professor comes from his tenure at a school that is also not accredited in the eyes of the academic world. It is a pitiful thing that these accomplishments can cause a man to be so proud, professing himself to be the scholar he is not.
Even more pitiful is the theological education of his staff. Of the two persons who have done the majority of his research on the local churches, neither one has earned any theological degree. In fact, one has a four-year degree in comparative literature, and the other has no four-year degree at all! It is really a joke that these three would criticize as inadequate five men with theological degrees!
The Bible Answer Man asked untrained and unqualified people to do his research for him, and the result was what might be expected. The research is shallow in understanding, erroneous in presentation, and is as unscholarly as it is devoid of Christian conscience. It is this pitiful research that has formed the basis of the Bible Answer Man’s attacks. It is no wonder that he refuses to discuss in detail any of his charges with those in the local churches.
On the other hand, Witness Lee and the local churches have responded week after week in the paper with thorough, scholarly, and scriptural articles, written by more than a dozen different men, to defend the truth in the eyes of the public. How could “uneducated” men produce such a volume of clear, logical, and scriptural writing? Nearly everything that has been written has had its source in the light from the Scripture as opened by Witness Lee’s ministry. How could a “theologically uneducated” man know the Bible so well and expound it so thoroughly? Many of us were in scriptural impotence for years in various denominations, some even the students of the Bible Answer Man. Now through the ministry of Witness Lee we have been made strong in the Word, able to write articles that the Bible Answer Man cannot answer. From this “theologically uneducated” man we received what we never got from all the so-called educated men of the Christian world. Furthermore, Watchman Nee’s books have greatly helped Christians throughout the world; yet he never attended any theological school nor received any theological degree. The spirit that condemns Witness Lee and the local churches for being uneducated is the same one that condemned the Lord for being a carpenter’s son and the disciples for being unlearned fishermen. It is the spirit that boasts in its dubious degrees and titles, as the Pharisees did, but rises in rage when someone in need has been healed outside of their jurisdiction. In the local churches we do not care for titles, which exalt position. We only care for holding the reality in love, for the building up of the body of Christ.
Let the Bible Answer Man produce one carefully written article to refute what has been written by the local churches. Let him show the public some men who are his fruit that can defend the faith and know the Word. Let the Bible Answer Man explain why he refuses to talk with the people from the local churches. Let him explain why he cuts people off on the air and keeps on talking to them as if they were still there, even saying, “Thank you for calling,” and “God bless you,” to them after he has long ago cut them off. This is deceit. To whom is he saying good-by? Who is he blessing? Last Saturday night the Bible Answer Man hung up on me three times. If he has the truth, why does he need this kind of tactics? Let him tell why he said that he had explained Romans 8:9-11 to the local church people when in fact he had not. Let him explain why he denied accusing the local churches of changing the text of the Bible when the tape from Melodyland shows exactly the opposite. Let him explain why he gave an audience in the Fresno area the impression that he had talked with Witness Lee for three and a half hours on theology when he knows that he has never talked to Witness Lee on theology. Is this Christian? Is this scholarship? Is this what theological education does for a man?
Is it education that teaches you to mock others, to use wit and sarcasm to tongue-lash people that ask you questions that you cannot answer? Is it education that teaches you to attack other people with impunity and, when they answer back, to accuse them of not having Christian love? Is it education that teaches you to reason that to use radio time to attack fellow Christians is the Lord’s work, but to buy newspaper space to answer is wasting the Lord’s money? The education that produces such results is to be feared. Certainly, even as Eve suffered from eating the tree of knowledge, so also many are suffering to this day. Paul warned us about the knowledge that puffs people up and told us that there is a learning that doesn’t bring people to the knowledge of the truth. Before us today we have a living warning that this very thing is still happening.