The Normal Christian Life, by Watchman Nee
It is worthwhile to read a book like this even where (as is the case), there is much in this book with which I disagree. It can be of great value, especially after one has read a book by an author that one enjoys, to read a book that one thinks less fondly of, to remember that a great many people (many of whom write books) have very different views of the Bible, and that someone who believes in the importance of having a strong Christian walk as this author does can still adopt very antinomian theology as a way of trying to demonstrate his credibility as a mainstream Christian author. And it is understandable that an author like Watchman Nee, even one whose bona fides would already be secure given his biography, would want to be viewed as a mainstream Christian rather than trying to point out the more difficult but biblical position that believers will obey God’s law if they are truly called by Him, not because of their own efforts but because of God dwelling within them, and God will not lead people to break His law. Unfortunately, such a thing is not popular to write.
This particular book doesn’t feel as cohesive as the author’s masterpiece, although it ends up being a commentary of much of Romans (although, admittedly, not so much Roman’s uncompromising beginning). The author talks about the blood of Christ and the Cross of Christ, writes about knowing and reckoning/counting, talks about the divide of the Cross. He writes about the path of progress, eternal purposes, and the Holy Spirit. He discusses the meaning and value of Romans seven by viewing the law as a terrible thing in that it reminds us of how wicked we are so that we can repent and never have to worry about it ever again. He writes about the path of progress of walking in the Spirit, talks about how we are one body in Christ, and talks about the soul life. In about two hundred pages of material overall he also manages to talk about how we bear the cross and also discusses the goal of the Gospel, leading this reader at least to wonder if this particular book was not titled in error. The author can hardly be blamed for writing a book that is different than readers would expect given its title, after all.
That isn’t to say that the author cannot be blamed for his mistaken understanding of the law of God and the way that it is written in the hearts and minds of believers. Mainstream Christianity has been running from the implications of God’s law at least as early as the Epistle of Barnabas and this author is far from unusual in that. More pleasantly, there are at least some aspects of this book that are worth celebrating and that can easily be enjoyed, not least of which is the author’s rich discussion of his own experience with believers in China, and the way that his witness to their struggles and their lives allows his own experience and their own, a different perspective than many readers have, to be visible. Indeed, if this book is worth reading at all, it is for the point of view that it represents rather than its contents, as the author clearly doesn’t have a great understanding of Romans and what it means for believers. All of this is certainly not surprising–for how could he learn Paul with teachers such as he had–but it is disappointing all the same.