Friday, August 24, 2007


Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was a Chinese church leader. He spent the last twenty years of his life in prison, as Christians were (and continue to be) severely persecuted by the Communists in China. The Normal Christian Life was originally published in 1957 from a collection of Nee's spoken messages and magazine articles.

The Normal Christian Life is a Romans-centered exposition of what Christian living should be. The key verse of the entire work is Romans 6:6: "We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin."

This book is refreshingly well-reasoned, and Nee's explanations are simple and his illustrations are good and helpful. Nee brings a eternal perspective (and I like anything with an eternal perspective) to the work of Christ. He has a good theology of sin and the sin nature. He also has some interesting insights on baptism.

Nee deals with some basic yet fundamental and sometimes misunderstood concepts. Freedom from the sin nature, for example, is something a lot of Christians (including Lutherans, of whom I am the worst) neglect, don't understand, or refute.

A lot of Nee's message seems extreme. It certainly is, but the real question is, is it correct? I have never read any meaningful work on Christian living that was one hundred percent doctrinally correct. But most of what Nee has to say is sound, and more often than not, his principles are valid where his specific applications might not be.

This is a great book for Christians who are just getting by – those who are "truly saved and yet bound by sin," as Nee says. Nee's is a Christianity of deep and powerful faith. He takes almost for granted a level of faith that most Christians do not have or strive for.

One thing, and I include this as an interesting aside rather than a knock on Nee: when Nee discusses Romans 7:24 ("Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?") he uses as an example the old Roman tradition punishing murderers by binding the corpses of their victims to them hand to hand and foot to foot (Nee was not the first to use this illustration, nor was he the last). Well, this set off all my urban legend alarms. I did some research and found no evidence whatsoever that this ever happened. It certainly doesn't seem in line with Roman attitudes toward punishment, particularly of capital crimes.

But I do not wish this to be held against Nee that the good of his message should be overlooked. This is an excellent treatise on how Christianity "works". To those interested in the manifold fullness of Christian living, this book must be