33. THE RECOVERY HAS A THIRD TESTAMENT OF THE BIBLE (1)
It claims to only care about the Bible, but Witness Lee’s writings (i.e., the interpreted Bible) are read, spoken, and re-taught with biblical authority; these writings are always justifiable and are considered infallible by members.
Published 06/15/2020, Written by Jacob Howard
The Lord’s Recovery has a saying I’ve heard countless times, “The [Recovery] ministry doesn’t replace the Bible; it unlocks the Bible.” What does that mean? Does the Bible require unlocking?
The Bible defines the framework through which Christians view their daily living, their purpose in life, and the world around them. It’s my contention that, for Recovery members, the Recovery writings and teachings redefine major aspects of the Bible, thus redefining major aspects of Christianity. The level of authority that Recovery writings and teachings have within the Recovery is authority reserved only for the Word of God.
Deifying a Person Means Deifying His Teachings
Without Recovery Ministry (or RM, what I’ll use to refer to the Recovery’s publications and writings of Witness Lee and Watchman Nee), the Recovery today would be nothing special.
Recovees (my term for fully-immersed, believing Recovery members) believe in a heretical doctrine called “Minister of the Age” (MOTA) or “Wise Master Builder,” in which Witness Lee was considered the God-ordained minister of his generation. Although Witness Lee died, his teachings remain in print and are circulated throughout the Recovery. The teaching of MOTA gave and continues to give Witness Lee a special, unbiblical authority within the Recovery.
As a result of MOTA, Recovees continually revere and idolize Witness Lee, so much that in 1986, leaders of multiple Recovery churches wrote and signed a letter to him proclaiming their unification around him:
We also agree to follow your leading as the one who has brought us God’s New Testament economy and has led us into its practice. We agree that this leading is indispensable to our oneness and acknowledge the one trumpet in the Lord’s ministry and the one wise master builder among us.WITNESS LEE; ELDERS’ TRAINING, BOOK 8: THE LIFE-PULSE OF THE LORD’S PRESENT MOVE; CHAPTER 10, SECTION 5 (EMBOLDENED EMPHASIS MY OWN)
This letter is the fruit of MOTA.
Without getting too much into the heresy of MOTA here, the Bible has no explicit prescription for MOTA to be in the church (i.e., the Bible doesn’t command, “You shall have one minister in every generation whom God ordains”). Not only that, there’s not even an example in the New Testament of following a specified single person outside of Christ Himself (think 12 Apostles, all ministering at the same time, none better or claiming to be better than the other).
MOTA is purely deification of man and is idolatry.
Witness Lee has authority in the Recovery because Recovees believe God ordained him in a special way. If a person 1) believes in MOTA and 2) believes that Witness Lee was the MOTA, that same person is required by the teaching itself to believe that Lee’s writings have a strong degree of special authority. That special authority is reserved for Scriptures, which means in reality, the Recovery has another testament of the Bible — RM.
Bereans vs. Recovees
The Bible is the lifelong framework through which the Christian should understand everything. God’s Word is the lens through which the Christian views life itself.
As a clear example of Christian nobility in seeking God out in the Scriptures, God’s Word gives us the Bereans. Rather than take Paul at his word, the Bereans sought out the truth in the Scriptures:
11 Now these [Berean] Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.Acts 17:11 (ESV)
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 also makes it clear that the Christian should test everything, including prophesies, and hold fast to what is good. By what standard? By what means can everything be tested? I would argue that the best way for a Christian to test everything is through God’s own Speaking, His Word, by the Spirit of God.
The Berean way, so to speak, is to seek out the truth in the Scriptures.
So what is the Recovee way? What do Recovees do? Do they get into the Scriptures? From my personal experience, yes. Many actually do open their Bible and quote Scripture as a basis for their beliefs. I knew many Recovees who loved the Bible.
But how do Recovees understand or interpret the Bible? Because of the authority RM has in the Recovery, a Recovee’s understanding of the Bible is based on his or her understanding of RM. RM defines the Bible rather than the Bible defining RM.
Recovees have several declarations for how to talk about RM, but the main justification I always heard was, “It unlocks the Bible, but it doesn’t replace the Bible.” Oddly enough, that statement is what I believe to be the reality behind all of the deflecting double-speak: Recovees use RM as a lens through which they view the Bible, which changes the Bible’s meaning.
The “it unlocks the Bible” justification implies that the Bible is locked up and requires a special lens through which to understand it. If that were true, that would be special spiritual knowledge that a Christian could only access outside of the Bible.
A devout Recovee can talk anyone into circles about what RM is to them. But here are two reveal-all questions I would challenge any Recovee to take a hard look at:
- What would your Christian life be like without the Bible?
- What would your Christian life be like without Recovery Ministry?
The answer to number one is obvious. The answer to number two should be that the Christian could live without Recovery Ministry. But because of RM’s authority in the Recovery, no devout Recovee can say they could live their Christian life without RM, at least not honestly.
The Recovery’s Justifications for Recovery Ministry
There are several Recovee justifications that are passed along throughout the Recovery, but they all miss the mark:
- “Other Christians read material from other ministers.”
- Any argument with the premise of “they do it so we can do it too” deserves to be heavily scrutinized.
- A non-Recovery Christian reading from a Christian author, good or bad, has nothing to do with justifying a Recovee for reading material from someone who is presumed by readers to have unique, extra-biblical authority.
- If any single Christian is reading books of ministry whose author teaches a special authority reserved for the Bible (like that of MOTA), then that Christian is wrong and should repent.
- “There’s nothing wrong with getting help.”
- If your help has a foundation of MOTA, that’s not help. That’s idolatry.
- “The ministry unlocks the Bible. It doesn’t replace it.”
- The Bible doesn’t need “unlocking.”
- Christians already have a way to “unlock” the Bible; they have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
- Christians already have a way to “unlock” the Bible; they have the anointing inside of them (1 John 2:27).
- Christians have the Scriptures, which are profitable all on their own (2 Timothy 3:16).
- Christians should check the Scriptures themselves and test everything, holding onto what Scripture proves is good (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
- It’s a no-brainer that nothing can replace the Bible. No genuine Christian needs that to be explained to them. Saying, “RM doesn’t replace the Bible,” is just a cover, a deflection from what RM is to Recovees. MOTA conveys specific authority to the teachings of a single man. RM redefines and adds to the Bible.
Conclusion: RM is the Recovery’s Third Testament of the Bible
Recovees will never say that Recovery Ministry is their third testament to the Bible, at least not explicitly. I never said it, and I even believed that it was just helpful ministry. But a hard look at the 1) position of RM in the Recovery, 2) how Recovees use RM, and 3) how RM affects Recovees’ view of the Bible, all of this in the context of MOTA, is strong evidence that the reality of RM is that it is a third testament of Scripture in the Recovery.