teachings

Shortcomings of an Open Letter (1) – “We Were Wrong”

It’s difficult to admit you’re wrong. Especially if you’re a major Christian organization that claims to be a research institute, like the Christian Research Institute (CRI).

In the following video, Hank and Elliot discuss an Open Letter concerning the Local Churches and how seventy Christian scholars and ministry leaders could be wrong. Elliot describes the early research done by CRI and commented, “That they [the open letter signers] would be wrong only follows since they’re building their conclusions on our original work, and we were wrong.”

The quote in context is:

You see, it was on the basis of our research primarily, that the whole body of literature on the Local Church was built. And the quotations that appear in this open letter, we’re very familiar with, because we unearthed a lot of those. So, to me, that they would be wrong only follows since they’re building their conclusions on our original work. And we were wrong.

Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Man, says:

And Elliot, one of the things that has taken place publicly and is now being roundly disseminated through the internet is an open letter by seventy Christians who are openly asking Witness Lee and his followers; Witness Lee, of course, not alive anymore, but the movement to renounce their heretical teachings. And the first question that always comes to my mind when you see a letter like this is how can seventy Christians be wrong? Particularly on something that these Christians know a lot about, and that is, the nature of God. How could they have missed the import of Witness Lee’s words; such that they’re saying his words are downright heretical?

We Were WrongElliot Miller, Editor in Chief of Christian Research Institute, says:

Well, you know, Hank, when you ask that question, my response is that something that I personally find even more amazing than the idea that seventy Christians (and not just Christians, but many of these people are leading scholars, apologists, thinkers, counter-cult workers) that they could be wrong. To me, it’s even more amazing that I could be wrong. And I was wrong, you see. And so was Gretchen Passantino, our colleague, who worked with me under Walter Martin here in the 1970’s. And who, with her husband, Bob, did the original research on the Local Church movement. They actually wrote the very first critique of it in 1975. You see, it was on the basis of our research primarily, that the whole body of literature on the Local Church was built. And the quotations that appear in this open letter, we’re very familiar with, because we unearthed a lot of those. So, to me, that they would be wrong only follows since they’re building their conclusions on our original work. And we were wrong.

A Brief Affirmation of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee

Here’s another video from the Christian Research Institute’s YouTube channel. During a Bible Answer Man broadcast, Hank Hanegraaff went to the phone lines for open questions. The first is from Scott and concerns the local churches related to the Watchman Nee and Witness Lee movement and their teachings.

Scott says,

Hello. I was wondering if you could tell me what you think about the local churches that are related to the Watchman Nee and Witness Lee movement, including whether or not they just blindly, foolishly follow Watchman Nee and Witness Lee’s teachings.

My favorite quote from Hank Hanegraaff is regarding discernment ministry:

…we live in an age of information overload and therefore it’s important to learn discernment skills so that we can discern between wheat and chaff, heat and light, know that which is true and that which is false because unfortunately today internet lies travel halfway around the world before truth has had the chance to put its boots on.

 

 

downloadHank responds,

Well, they do follow Watchman Nee and Witness Lee’s teachings. But their teachings turn out to be thoroughly orthodox. Certainly I have distinctions or disagreements with the local churches on secondary issues, but when it comes to the essentials of the historic Christian faith we stand shoulder to shoulder. In fact, after a six-year primary research project, which was conducted all over the world, I’ve discovered that these are often the most exemplary Christians that I have encountered in my own Christian walk. So not only do I think that they are thoroughly orthodox when it comes to essential Christian doctrine, I think there’s a lot we can learn from members of the local church in terms of their practice. Practices like pray-reading for example, which becomes a method by which they internalize the Word of God; not only get into the Word of God, but get the Word of God into them. We actually did a six-year, as I just alluded to, research project that ended up in a journal with three words splashed across its cover. Those three words are: We Were Wrong. In the early 90’s and even before, we as an organization, contributed to a fountainhead of misinformation on this group that continues to percolate to this day. And that’s why we thought it very important for us to unequivocally, not only conduct a research project that’s primary research, but also to make this well known so that people would recognize that this is a group of exemplary Christians who are seeking to experience God both in truth and in life, very much like the apostle Paul taught Timothy “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, for if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” In fact, a member within this community of faith, named Elijah has done a lot to sharpen my own thinking when it comes to life and doctrine. It is true that doctrine matters, or truth matters, but life matters as well. Again, these are two tracks that the apostle Paul trained young Timothy to run well on; or to ride well on, to extend the metaphor. We need not only right doctrine, but we also need a life and love corresponding to right doctrine.

Scott responds,

Very good. And is that research available on your website?

To which Hank says,

Yeah, you can get it on the world-wide web at equip.org and there are two articles. One is a complete journal that is devoted to this subject based on our primary research. Another is an article that I did in a subsequent journal and it’s based on an acronym D.I.S.C.E.R.N. and I think this is an important article as well. The reason being is that we live in an age of information overload and therefore it’s important to learn discernment skills so that we can discern between wheat and chaff, heat and light, know that which is true and that which is false because unfortunately today internet lies travel halfway around the world before truth has had the chance to put its boots on.