Question: I've read and enjoyed many of Watchman Nee's books but The Latent Power of the Spirit has me concerned. He says that Adam and Eve originally had soul or mind powers that would seem supernatural to us; that these powers were “immobilized” by the Fall and now lie dormant within us, their descendants; and that the disobedient “release” of these latent powers through occult techniques produces psychic phenomena. What do you think?
Response: We don't believe this particular view of Watchman Nee’s is scriptural. Here is our perspective regarding what the Bible teaches concerning the important subject of psychic power:
1. Man was made in God’s “image” (Gn 1:26-27). An image is reflected in something such as a mirror. Being like a mirror of God’s glory, man was intended to reflect a reality other than his own. It is just as absurd for a man as it would be for a mirror to try to develop a “good self-image”! If the reflection is distorted, it is because the mirror is no longer in a right relationship with the one whose image it is to reflect. There is only one possible solution: to correct this relationship. Self-image and self-acceptance and self-love psychology turns a person to himself rather than to God, where the solution lies. Man is totally dependent upon God, having been created to reflect the character of God, and not some goodness or power of his own. This would seem to argue against any “latent” psychic powers as well.
2. Satan’s promise to Eve that she could “become like God” would have had no meaning to her if she already had godlike powers within herself. Furthermore, we know that this promise was a lie, which would argue against the possibility of such powers being acquired then or now.
3. If Adam, the first man, had psychic powers before he sinned, then surely Jesus, the Second Man, who was without sin, would have displayed these powers, which He did not. He always said that He himself was not doing the works, but His Father was doing them through Him. In John:1:47-51, when Jesus told Nathanael that He had seen him “under the fig tree” when this had been physically impossible, Nathanael acknowledged this as evidence that Jesus was the Son of God. Christ accepted that recognition. He didn’t assure Nathanael that this was a display of “clairvoyance” made possible by the psychic powers that reside in all men. Much less did he encourage Nathanael or anyone else to develop psychic powers, as many church leaders now recommend.
4. The only supernatural powers that Christians are to exhibit are called “gifts of the Spirit.” It is evident that they do not result from some latent power within man that has been awakened, but that man has once again become, through the Holy Spirit, a channel of God’s life and image. Man is like a TV set, a receiver and reflector of content from outside itself. This analogy fits 1 Corinthians:12:7, which calls the display of these miraculous gifts a “manifestation” of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, then, it is not a manifestation of anything that man can call his own.
5. It would follow that the display of supernatural powers by psychics, shamans, etc., that are not gifts of the Spirit coming to man on the conditions of repentance, redemption, faith, and obedience set forth in Scripture, must then be the manifestation of another spirit of a demon, or Satan himself, according to the Bible.
6. The following examples from the Bible illustrate these two possibilities:
a. Samson manifested supernatural power which was clearly not his own. It was not muscular development that enabled him to rip the entire gate and the posts supporting it right out of a city wall and carry it to the top of a hill! This was “spiritual” power displayed through a man, and it came from God.
b. The man possessed with demons in Mark:5:2-13 broke iron chains like thread. Certainly this again was beyond the capability of flesh and blood. It was the manifestation of spiritual power, but in this case from demons.
7. That Satan has great power is evident from the Book of Job. It is also clear that his power can only be displayed upon earth within bounds that God sets in individual cases. No doubt the degree to which a person turns his back upon God and deliberately steps into the occult determines the amount of psychic power that demons can manifest through him and also the control that Satan is able to exert over him.