Puritan Reforormisms not so pure after all

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Troy

Puritan Board Freshman
Question 36: The Will of God vs. the Will of Man in Salvation

(Gospel Dialogue, CFP, 106-109, Watchman Nee)

How do you reconcile "nor of the will of man" (John 1.13) with "he that will" (Rev. 22.17) in regard to eternal life?

Answer:

To this agelong question theologians hold opposite views. Some maintain that our salvation is purely a matter of man's will, others insist that our salvation is wholly a matter of God's will. Let us acknowledge, however, that God's truth often has two sides. If we are not careful we can easily become unbalanced. People usually tend to go to extremes.

Is salvation entirely a matter of man's will or a matter of God's will? Actually both wills are involved. Had it not been God's will to save, no one could be saved. But at the same time God's will is of no avail if man himself is not willing. God is willing, yet man too must be willing. "How often would I have gathered thy children together", said the Lord Jesus, "even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (Luke 13.34) This is the two sides of God's truth. Both must be willing; to have only the one side will not be successful. If we wish to know the truth we must not hold on to only one side. In tempting the Lord Jesus Satan said this to Him: "For it is written"; but the Lord's answer was this: "Again it is written" (Matt. 4.6,7). True, it is written, but attention should also be paid to the again it is written. It is not adequate to just lay hold of a verse or a few verses and try to prove one side of the truth, for there may be many other verses which will prove the other side of the truth. For example, to say that a Christian once saved is forever saved is to declare but one side of the truth. For at the same time, if a Christian after he is saved should keep on sinning without exercising any repentance, he will most certainly be punished. Though he will not be punished with the second death itself, nevertheless, as the Scripture says, he will "be hurt of the second death" (Rev. 2.11). Let us recognize that this too is truth.

People will ask why on the one hand the Bible says "he that will, let him take the water of life freely" and "whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life", and on the other hand it says that one's salvation is predestinated by God? Someone has answered this question quite well. This person's answer runs something like this: On the outside of the door of heaven there is written the words "Whosoever will may come" (Rev. 22.17) and hence whosoever wills to do so may enter. But upon entering through the door of heaven he looks back and sees written on the inside of the door: "Chosen from before the foundation of the earth" (Eph. 1.4). Such a reply shows the two sides of God's truth. And our own experience indeed bears this out. At the moment of believing, belief is all which is required. Yet having believed, one reminisces why he is saved whereas many others who are far better than he are not saved. He acknowledges that he is ignorant and cannot explain. He can only say that his salvation is predestinated by God.

Whosoever believes shall be saved. This is the word to unbelievers. But God's election-God's predestination-is the word for believers. It will be unwise, if not a grave error, if the word for believers is spoken to unbelievers. Please note, for instance, that it was to the disciples that the Lord asserted: "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15.16). These words should therefore not be told to unbelievers.

Once a theological student went to see a servant of God, asking: "I find the Bible saying that man's salvation is predestinated by God. Yet as I am preaching, I look at someone's face and conclude that God has not predestinated him to be saved. What, then, will happen if I do persuade that one to get saved?" The servant of God wisely answered: "You go and preach. And if you persuade anyone to be saved, then he must have indeed been predestinated by God."

We ought to realize that the reason why God tells the believers that they are predestinated to be saved is for the purpose of arousing in them a heart of gratitude such as might be expressed by some believer in the following way: "Many are still unsaved; and yet here I am, saved. I can only say that God has chosen me out of the tens of thousands. Hallelujah! I am saved, not because of my merit but because of God himself. I can do nothing but thank and praise Him!"

Hence we may answer that the words in Revelation 22.17 are spoken to unbelievers. And in this way shall the truth be balanced.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Hey Troy, thanks for stopping by. It's always good to be reminded that we have a lot of work to do and that there is a mountain of truth suppressing going on while we pursue the light of God's Word.

While you're here you might read through the Westminster Confession that, though it is a sub-standard, you may find edification in it's attempt to present a clear and concise summary of the great doctrines of scripture.

God bless you richly in your study and I pray the lights will come on for you soon. :pilgrim:
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Hello Troy

A quick admin note: accoding to the PB rules, you need to include a signature line. Visit the info forums to review the requirements and purposes for the board. Thanks. If you need guidance in setting up your profile, just send a message to one of the Moderators. They will be glad to help.

In your post, the 'someone' W.N. refers to making the statement about the doorway with two messages--one inside, one outside--was Spurgeon. He most certainly stood selfconsciously within the Puritan tradition, something clearly brought out in his book, [i:73dde9f875]Commenting on Commentaries,[/i:73dde9f875] and elsewhere in his preaching and writing.

Your title/subject line is certainly an attention-getter. It is a bit cryptic also. Do you mean that you understand Puritan/Reformed theology to be lacking something important? If you do, what is it, and on what basis do you argue this point?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Meg,
There's probably more than one [i:bd8eacd15a]issue[/i:bd8eacd15a] here, as the Troy's title and the web-site excerpt Josh located implies. But until Troy responds there isn't much to interact with except for W. Nee's words (we don't even know if the excerpt is faithful to Troy's present thinking unless he acknowledges it).

W. Nee would not generally be classified as a writer in the Reformed tradition, although [i:bd8eacd15a]in the above citation[/i:bd8eacd15a] he says several things that are generally consistent with Reformed (i.e. Puritan) theology. And that is true whenever someone writes or speaks or thinks in a genuinely [i:bd8eacd15a]biblical[/i:bd8eacd15a] fashion. What's lacking in W. Nee, generally, is a biblical Systematic that controls his theology. What's present in his theology is a mystical tinge. Both of these elements put him in a different camp.

But its not even possible to tell whether Troy finds himself in agreement with W. Nee, or in disagreement. Or if he is reading W. Nee with a certain 'take'--that is through the lens of a non-Reformed theology, but with a general attitude that approves of W. Nee as a Bible teacher (and thinks this quote is somehow anti-Puritan). We just don't have enough information to judge.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
While we're waiting for Troy to respond, I was wondering if anybody could provide more information about Watchman Nee and his theology. My only exposure to him was years ago shortly after I was saved. I read a book of his called "Sit, Stand, Walk". I can't remember much about the book's content now, but it seems like when I read it, that it contained practical information about living the Christian life, based on the book of Ephesians.

Anyway, I'm just curious what "camp" he would fit into.
 

panicbird

Puritan Board Freshman
Here is what the Realms of Faith website says of Nee:
Watchman Nee (1903-1972) - broadly evangelical dispensationalism. A Chinese evangelist who came to America in the 1930s. Nee had no formal training but spent more than a third of his income on theology books. He warned against the influence of charismatics but had a mystical approach to spirituality. He also wrote strongly on substitutionary atonement. Nee spent his last twenty years imprisoned by the Communists. Unfortunateley, his successor Witness Lee led his organization into heresy. Titles: [i:a98271a6cf]The Latent Power of the Soul[/i:a98271a6cf]; [i:a98271a6cf]The Normal Christian Life[/i:a98271a6cf]; [i:a98271a6cf]Release of the Spirit[/i:a98271a6cf]; [i:a98271a6cf]Spiritual Authority[/i:a98271a6cf].
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Watchamn Nee is a mystic that had allot of flakey doctrine. He is not worth the time. There are far better books on Christian Spirituality to read than that of a mystic.

I don't think Troy is coming back, personally. I think it was a one time post to stir us up.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Lon and Matthew,
Thanks for your feedback on Watchman Nee. My curiousity is satisfied.

[quote:414afc11bc="Matthew"]There are far better books on Christian Spirituality to read than that of a mystic. [/quote:414afc11bc]

One thing good about being a slow reader is you're forced to be very selective in what you read. I'm reading Calvin's Institutes now and after that I'll probably try and tackle Witsius' [i:414afc11bc]Economy of the Covenants[/i:414afc11bc]. We won't have to worry about Nee's influence on me anytime soon.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
And bob, not to discourage you, but by your selections you will be reading slowly two good books for a very very long time. :D
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
[quote:106de7dc48="Ianterrell"]And bob, not to discourage you, but by your selections you will be reading slowly two good books for a very very long time. :D[/quote:106de7dc48]

That was rather discouraging, in an encouraging sort of way. :D
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Well, we probably need to interact with this post so that others are not led astray by it. The criticisms that this is classic arminianism are true no doubt. But lets get into the article.


[quote:a5d49690df="Troy"]Question 36: The Will of God vs. the Will of Man in Salvation

(Gospel Dialogue, CFP, 106-109, Watchman Nee)

How do you reconcile "nor of the will of man" (John 1.13) with "he that will" (Rev. 22.17) in regard to eternal life?

Answer:

To this agelong question theologians hold opposite views. Some maintain that our salvation is purely a matter of man's will, others insist that our salvation is wholly a matter of God's will. Let us acknowledge, however, that God's truth often has two sides. If we are not careful we can easily become unbalanced. People usually tend to go to extremes. [/quote:a5d49690df]

This aspect can be misleading as it seems to imply the sides are contradictory. It is true that there may be different perspectives from which to interpret passages, as is the case here. The most important perspectives in our interpreting Scripture is knowing when to reading something as the revealed will of God, which man is obligated morally to obey, and the will of decree, or God's secret will which man is not obligated to obey (Duet. 29:29). But no matter what the perspective, there are no contradictions in truth.

[quote:a5d49690df] Is salvation entirely a matter of man's will or a matter of God's will? Actually both wills are involved. Had it not been God's will to save, no one could be saved. But at the same time God's will is of no avail if man himself is not willing. God is willing, yet man too must be willing. "How often would I have gathered thy children together", said the Lord Jesus, "even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (Luke 13.34) This is the two sides of God's truth. Both must be willing; to have only the one side will not be successful. If we wish to know the truth we must not hold on to only one side. [/quote:a5d49690df]
Here again we have the false dilemma. Two contradictory sides. God must be willing. Man must be willing. These statements maybe true by themselves in seperate contexts, but when taken to mean that man's salvation depend upon both in the same way, then we are left with a contradiction. What is missing is the Scriptural resolution to this problem. God is willing to save, and hence sovereignly elects and works in his elect to come to faith and makes them willing to come. "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Phil 2:13.

[quote:a5d49690df]
In tempting the Lord Jesus Satan said this to Him: "For it is written"; but the Lord's answer was this: "Again it is written" (Matt. 4.6,7). True, it is written, but attention should also be paid to the again it is written. It is not adequate to just lay hold of a verse or a few verses and try to prove one side of the truth, for there may be many other verses which will prove the other side of the truth. For example, to say that a Christian once saved is forever saved is to declare but one side of the truth. For at the same time, if a Christian after he is saved should keep on sinning without exercising any repentance, he will most certainly be punished. Though he will not be punished with the second death itself, nevertheless, as the Scripture says, he will "be hurt of the second death" (Rev. 2.11). Let us recognize that this too is truth. [/quote:a5d49690df]
Again, another false dilemma. You do not have truth by keeping both contradictory sides. You keep the truth by resolving the conflict with Scripture. Those whom posess true faith endure because God's grace endures in them. Those who continue to live in sin show that they possessed no saving grace at all. God given faith produces fruit (Eph. 2:8-10). No fruit, then no true faith (James 2).
[quote:a5d49690df]
People will ask why on the one hand the Bible says "he that will, let him take the water of life freely" and "whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life", and on the other hand it says that one's salvation is predestinated by God? Someone has answered this question quite well. This person's answer runs something like this: On the outside of the door of heaven there is written the words "Whosoever will may come" (Rev. 22.17) and hence whosoever wills to do so may enter. But upon entering through the door of heaven he looks back and sees written on the inside of the door: "Chosen from before the foundation of the earth" (Eph. 1.4). Such a reply shows the two sides of God's truth. And our own experience indeed bears this out. At the moment of believing, belief is all which is required. Yet having believed, one reminisces why he is saved whereas many others who are far better than he are not saved. He acknowledges that he is ignorant and cannot explain. He can only say that his salvation is predestinated by God. [/quote:a5d49690df]
We may not be able to explain this, but God already has explained it for us in the Scriptures. As noted above, we are made willing by the Spirit to come to Christ and take of the water of life. The offer of salvation is made to all, an dthe promise is true to all. Whomever wills may take of the water of life. The promise is sincere to all who hear it. BUt only those whose hearts have been renewed by grace will desire to respond. As God speaks through His Word publically, the Spirit works in the hearts of the elect secretly bringing them to submission. Christ raising Lazurus from the dead is a perfect illustration of this. Why should Christ tell a dead man to get up? It's seems irrational to be talking to a dead person who has no ability in himself to even hear Christ let alone get up. But the resolution is found in the Person of Christ. The same Jesus who commanded Lazuras to rise, also gave Lazurus the ability to rise at the same time.

[quote:a5d49690df]
Whosoever believes shall be saved. This is the word to unbelievers. But God's election-God's predestination-is the word for believers. It will be unwise, if not a grave error, if the word for believers is spoken to unbelievers. Please note, for instance, that it was to the disciples that the Lord asserted: "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15.16). These words should therefore not be told to unbelievers. [/quote:a5d49690df]
This is plain nonsense. And even Spurgeon would disagree. Spurgeon, whom this guy quotes above, readily used the doctrine of election as an evangelical tool in his sermons. I read one sermon where Spurgeon basically said (paraphrasing), "there are some here tonight who do not yet believe, but you will because God has chosen you, and there is nothing you can do to resist it." We must preach the whole counsel of God to the unbeliever. We have know reason to hide the truth from them for God may use any of His truth in any way that He pleases. I'm not saying that you have to expound the doctrine of election to the unbeliever, but if he asked about it, then plainly tell him the truth. "Yes, the Bible teaches election, otherwise there would be no way for you to be saved. All are without hope unless God in His mercy chooses to save some from the infinite wrath they deserve, and only God could accomplish that complete and perfect redemption on their behalf." The gospel is nothing more than a moralistic message without the electing love of a sovereign, just, and holy God.

[quote:a5d49690df] Once a theological student went to see a servant of God, asking: "I find the Bible saying that man's salvation is predestinated by God. Yet as I am preaching, I look at someone's face and conclude that God has not predestinated him to be saved. What, then, will happen if I do persuade that one to get saved?" The servant of God wisely answered: "You go and preach. And if you persuade anyone to be saved, then he must have indeed been predestinated by God." [/quote:a5d49690df]
This is just a plain misunderstanding of the doctrine of election. The minister is not the one who decides who is elect or not. God does. The minister preaches the Word and let's God do the rest.

[quote:a5d49690df]
We ought to realize that the reason why God tells the believers that they are predestinated to be saved is for the purpose of arousing in them a heart of gratitude such as might be expressed by some believer in the following way: "Many are still unsaved; and yet here I am, saved. I can only say that God has chosen me out of the tens of thousands. Hallelujah! I am saved, not because of my merit but because of God himself. I can do nothing but thank and praise Him!"
Hence we may answer that the words in Revelation 22.17 are spoken to unbelievers. And in this way shall the truth be balanced.[/quote:a5d49690df]
THere is an element of truth to this. We should be grateful that God has elected us out of his own good pleasure and mercy. But is we "balance" this statment with teh rest of this article then we must conclude that the assurance of salvation is superficial at best because it depends upon the faithfulness of man, for if man decides to rebel, his salvation is lost and this assurance has no weight at all. This assurance described here depends upon the will of man. Thankfully, the Bible does not place our assurance of salvation in our hands, but in the hands of God, who alone if faithful when we are faithless, and who ever keeps His promises. Hence we persevere in the faith not because of our own will, but because God is faithful to keep working that perseverance in us.

Sorry, a little long and I'm sure more could be said, but I don't want Troy here to think he can go bragging to his arminian buddies (if that is the case) that we never answered his post but simply chided him for not complying with Board standards. Now we've done both :)
 

pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
More specifics about Watchman Nee -

He was a proponent of the deeper life/crisis experience theology that led to the idea that we grow spiritually in huge spurts instead of by steady progression in grace. These growth spurts are brought on by either a spiritual high experience or a crisis situation that would force an enormous expenditure of faith and emotions.

He taught also the idea of seeking the second blessing, receiving special revelation from the Holy Spirit, striving to reach perfection (holiness/perfectionism), and an ecclesiology that was influenced greatly by the Plymouth Brethren and John Darby - classic dispensationalism with a twist. He taught that only spiritual believers would be raptured but carnal believers would be left in the tribulation to be brought out of carnality through suffering, akin to the catholic doctrine of purgatory.

He was discipled and mentored all of his life by several women with connections to Welsh Methodism and Pentacostalism.

He was certainly not reformed and indeed, not worth reading unless you need to refute his writing.

Phillip
 

SmokingFlax

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have read through this post and its replies with great interest...with good reason as you'll see.

Prior to my coming to the Reformed perspective my understanding of Scripture was IMMENSELY influenced by Watchman Nee. I had read over 30 books attributed to him as well as biographies, etc.
The fact of the matter is that (in my experience) Watchman Nee represents some of the deepest and most profound teachings in Arminian type circles. I know that many here on the board would not regard that last statement as saying very much, but consider the alternatives...Copeland, Hagee, Meyer, Hinn, etc. -you get the picture. At least W. Nee confronts his reader with the necessity to KNOW THE SCRIPTURE on practically every other page -he forces his reader to THINK...which is more than I can say about most other "stuff" I came across from the Arminian camp. When I discovered his writings it was (at the time) as though I had found a measure of truth in an ocean of cheese.

We here on the board need to consider two very important truths:

1) Most Arminians simply do NOT KNOW that they [i:edd0501ea6]are[/i:edd0501ea6] Arminians (or what one is) and embracing a series of doctrines that have been historically condemned as heretical.

2) We have to be VERY thankful to God that by His grace we have (somehow) arrived at the measure of understanding in doctrine that we have. I was [b:edd0501ea6]ten years [/b:edd0501ea6]as a Christian before I even heard of Reformed theology. It is nothing to boast about that (you/we) hold to the doctrines of grace...it is a gift.

With all of that said...

Contra-Mundum's criticism:

"What's lacking in W. Nee, generally, is a biblical Systematic that controls his theology. What's present in his theology is a mystical tinge."

is right on the money!!!

Speaking as someone who is a walking petri-dish experiment for Nee's theology, these are the two areas in my Christian walk that are (as far as I can discern at this point) in most need of being adressed.
Though I could generally tell you the basic content of each book in the Bible, I could not cohesively tie them together in a systematic way -which is one of the great strengths of the reformed tradition (In my humble opinion).
The mysticism thing is,I think, what has caused me the most confusion as a Christian. This why I am now deeply interested in a more correct understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Also, similar to Arthur Pink, Nee tended to draw typologies from the OT that, while intriguing for their inventiveness, were not necessarily always endorsed/expounded by the New Testament revelation.
I believe also that the "spiritual Christian" vs. "carnal Christian" teaching that is making its rounds nowadays probably has a lot to do with Nee's teaching in his [u:edd0501ea6]Spiritual Man [/u:edd0501ea6]books. There is a real nice refutation to the dangers of this doctrine on Matthews web page.

So Troy, if you're still out there, save yourself from 10 years of frustration and consider reading a few reasoned perspectives from the reformed tradition. The fact is, whether you like it or not, it is an historical fact that it is the Reformers and Puritans who have given you the open Word and freedoms you now enjoy. I was once very much in your place and argued from a similar standpoint...Also, you may want to know that Nee was said later in his life to have come to disagree with various teachings which he earlier espoused (in his [u:edd0501ea6]Spiritual Man [/u:edd0501ea6]volumns).

May God give you a greater hunger for truth.
 
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