Question: The church I now attend is embracing some teachings of Watchman Nee. What do you know about him, and especially about his book, The Latent Power of the Soul?
Response: Watchman Nee’s writings, in my opinion, tend toward mysticism and though they contain some helpful insights also contain some dangerous errors. New books by Watchman Nee continued to appear while he was in communist prison in China. Compiled from various sources, they left the reader uncertain as to how accurately they reflected Nee’s true beliefs. The Latent Power of the Soul, however, was apparently put together by Nee himself in 1933. Its basic premise (much like Benny Hinn’s teaching) is that Adam was a superman with abilities at least “a million times” greater than ours (p. 15) and “possessed [of] a hidden ability which made it possible for him to become like God. He was already like him in outward appearance....” (p. 18).
On the contrary, “to become like God” was Satan’s ambition. Man was to be totally dependent upon God for his very breath; and for the new man, Christ is his life. Nor was it in “outward appearance” that Adam was made in the image of God, but morally and spiritually. God does not have a body after which man’s could be modeled. Nee goes on to say that with his fall Adam’s miraculous “power was immobilized. He had not lost this power...it was now buried within him...[and] such power is in every man’s soul...[and] the devil [works] to stir up man’s soul and to release this latent power...in order to gain control over man...the marvelous energy dormant in man’s soul, the release of which...will result in the display of miraculous power even to the attaining of the status of a ‘fairy’ or ‘buddha’....Man’s soul power is Satan’s working instrument, through which he works out his evil end.” (pp. 20-22,33)
Nee warns Christians against what he calls “soul” power. While condemning its use, Nee agrees with the claim of today’s New Agers and parapsychologists that human potential is infinite. That is not true. It was not human potential which empowered the demoniac to snap iron chains, but the legion of demons which possessed him (Mk 5:2-20). Nor did Christ, who as the “second man” and “last Adam” (1 Cor:15:45,47) would have had legitimately every power of the first Adam, ever display what Nee alleges. His miracles were always a demonstration of the fact that He was “God manifest in the flesh” (Jn:1:48- 51; 1 Tm 3:16).