A brief introduction to Watchman Nee & the Little Flock Movement

You’ve maybe heard the name “Watchman Nee” before. That’s because he founded one of the largest Christian groups in Chinese history before dying in a Chinese labour camp. Here’s a summary of a longer article on him and his work, with a link to the PDF of the original article: Watchman Nee and the Little Flock Movement in Maoist China

A basic understanding of the place of Watchman Nee and the Little Flock Movement in Chinese history adds some helpful nuance to understanding the relationships between the Party, Chinese Christianity, the TSPM, and Chinese patriotism and anti-foreignism.

2 thoughts on “A brief introduction to Watchman Nee & the Little Flock Movement

  1. There has been a long history of various forms of Christianity trying to gain a foothold in China going back to the Roman Empire. The first was a result of the decision made at the Council of Ephesus in 431 to ban the teaching of Nestorius.

    In the early Christian Church there was a debate about the nature of the Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Ghost)The Monophysites believed Jesus Christ only had one nature and that it was divine. The orthodox view was the Christ had two natures human and divine. However, Nestorious taught that the two natures were subsumed in the one and that in fact Mary was Theotokos or mother of God in Jesus Christ. As both the views of the Monophysites and the Nestorians were later condemned as heretical by the Roman Catholic (or Universal Church) in Rome their followers fled to the East and some entered China during the Sui and Tang Dynasty periods. However believers in both the Monphysite doctrine and that of Nestorious still exist in Iran and most of the Middle East and, especially, Iraq.

    By the time the Jesuit Roman Catholic Priest, Matteo Ricci, arrived in 1601 both Christian sects had become extinct. However, some scholars claim that these Christian sects influenced the development of Mahayana Buddhism in China through making the Buddha a divine being rather than merely a teacher as he was originally regarded.

    However, we must remember there many religions and sects traveled down the Silk Road including the Manicheans, the Zoroastrians and later, the followers of Islam. Then there is the influence of China’s own religious beliefs, Taoism and Confucianism.

    All though he modern followers of all these religions don’t like to admit it, they all tend to influence and intermingle with each other. Many attempts have been made to disentangle them but as the debate still goes on, it’s hard to prove what the original beliefs of each were.

  2. The way I heard it, Nestorius maybe got a bad rap, since most of the information we have on him and his teaching comes from his philosophical and theological opponents. One of our history profs suggested it might be more accurate to describe Alopen (coming to China in 635) as a “so-called Nestorian”.

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