Who: Watchman Nee, Chinese church leader and teacher. In addition to serving tirelessly in the Chinese church, he was an extremely prolific translator, and a huge quantity of his talks were transcribed into books. (See our post: Who is Watchman Nee?)
Overview: Watchman Nee takes literally the Scripture about “dividing soul from spirit.” Several of Nee’s books teach that man is composed of body, soul and spirit—but God only inhabits spirit. Nee, along with G. H. Pember and a few others, taught that the human soul (not spirit) has true supernatural powers which are demonstrated in cult and occult practices. He believed that as a result of the Fall, man’s “soul power” was latent, yet open to provocation and exploitation by demonic forces. As examples, he cites stories of people seeing events from a distance, reading another thoughts, or healing themselves using only positive thinking. He sees these as true—though human—miracles that will only increase in the end times. Nee warns Christians against practices that could bring out “psychic” power, rather than the true spiritual power of the Holy Spirit.
Meat: Nee’s explanation of the practices of Christian Science and similar cults seems spot-on. The Bible is very specific about true miracles falsely worked in the end times by the Antichrist and his servants. This has at least two applications: 1. We should not assume that all miracles are false if they are not worked in the name of Christ; the devil has his miracles too. 2. We should test even miracles that are worked in the church. We should never allow Christian workers that have miracles, but do not honor Christ; and we should take care what means we employ in praying for miracles. Power for miracles is not a valid end in itself, if it is not submitted to the will of the Father.
Bones: Nee’s warnings are probably overdrawn here and can lead to imbalance. For instance, he warns against praying “towards” people so that we don’t focus on healing them by psychic aspects, rather than by the Holy Spirit. But the New Testament talks all the way through about the laying on of hands, and doesn’t provide any special warnings about this. He seems to be giving human influence a little too much credit.
I think that Nee’s warnings about revival are very pertinent. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t try to remove my “soul” from worship; that seems unreasonable, even impossible. Rather, I would try to focus on the Lord, and not on creating a certain kind of feeling in those I am serving, whether by preaching or leading worship. I would also avoid revivalists who preach to create a feeling, rather than a conviction.
Quotes: “If Adam was capable of managing the earth, his prowess was most certainly superior to ours today.” (p. 5)
“All who develop their soul power [i.e. psychic power] cannot avoid being contacted and used by the evil spirit.” (p. 15)
“The meditations of many people are simply a kind of psychic operation. Not so with the Christian faith. … We can know Him in our intuition, regardless what our feeling may be.” (p. 31)
“Whoever aims at better and deeper work ought not to speak of power. Our responsibility is to fall into the earth and die. … What we need is not greater power but deeper death.” (p. 52)