Eastern Lightning books
Eastern Lightning has produced more than 30 religious books.1 The author of most, if not all, of these books purports to be Christ and the Almighty God. Usually the author talks about God in the third person but sometimes uses the first person. One cannot be positive, but it seems likely that much of the writings originated with Yang Xiangbin. The 2012 CCTV report says that after completing his one cult tract (“Preaching the Word”), Zhao Weishan was looking hard for more cult material to use, and it also says that Yang was good at writing “sophistical” (歪理) essays.2 The Christian writer Zhang Dakai detects a woman’s tone in the writing.3 I think there may be something to this. I found it remarkable how insistent the author was on emphasizing that God was “cute” (可爱). Zhang Dakai also believes there would have been plenty of followers to help polish and produce the finished works.4
Key doctrinal deviation
As mentioned previously, Eastern Lightning denies the Trinity and subscribes to a completely modalistic view of God.
Leaving the Holy Spirit out of things for a minute, a purely common sense objection to complete modalism is that any person—believer or unbeliever—reading the New Testament gospels would see that Jesus and the Father are represented as two different persons. No one could honestly see them as the same entity. Jesus says he is sent by the Father (see e.g., John 5:37) and he prays to the Father (see e.g., John 17), and he always speaks of the Father as though he is a separate person.
How does Eastern Lightning answer this objection? They say that when Jesus speaks of the Father he is merely speaking from a human perspective. When he prays to the Father, he does so from the perspective of a created being (“耶稣当时祷告时称天上的神为父，只是站在一个受造的人的角度上称呼的”).5
This is remarkably similar to Witness Lee’s argument concerning the same issue. In Concerning the Triune God, Witness Lee addresses the question in the following way:
if you say the Son is the Father, then how could the Son pray to the Father? The Lord of hosts is both the Sender and the One sent. Since the Lord of hosts is both the Sender and the Sent One, why could it not be that the Lord is the Son who prays and also the Father who listens to the praying? The Father who listens to the praying is the Son who prays; and the Son who prays is also the Father who listens to the prayer.6
This is clearly at variance with any kind of normal reading of the New Testament accounts.
(Of course, unlike Eastern Lightning, Witness Lee maintained that the Father and Son are “eternally distinct.”7)
Some other false teachings
|Topic||Eastern Lightning statements||Scripture refutation|
|The Bible||“Nowadays you don’t have to read the Bible because there’s nothing new in the Bible. It’s obsolete.”8
|The Cross||“He [Jesus] came only to complete the work of redemption, but he did not come to do the work of perfection. So only half of God’s work was completedthe work of redemption was finished. This was only half of the project in the overall plan.”9||
|The place of Jesus||“People think God comes to heal the sick, cast out demons, work miracles and give material blessings. God is doing the work of judgment and punishment to eradicate this stuff from people’s thinking, to let people know God’s reality and God’s normality, to eradicate the image of Jesus from people’s hearts and let God’s new image possess people.”10 (my emphasis)||“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.” (Heb. 13:8-9a) (my emphasis)|
(A look at Eastern Lightning eschatolgy can be found here.)
To sum up, around 1993 a member of the cult that worshipped Witness Lee as the “Christ of the End Times” started a new cult that replaced Witness Lee with a young Chinese woman named Yang Xiangbin. The basic idea is pretty similar.
The cult has grown at a tremendous rate in China. It has also been active in Hong Kong, and there have been some reports of activity among Chinese Christians in the West. My personal feeling, though, is that Eastern Lightning will never gain much traction outside of China. I think its ideas and the way they are expressed find a resonance among certain groups in China but will not have much impact on groups outside China. To take just one example, the idea that Christ had to return to China first because Chinese are the worst people on earth will sound ludicrous to most Westerners. But to the Chinese ear it may not sound quite so absurd. Harsh criticism of the Chinese people has a long tradition in China as a respected patriotic activity.
In any case, the cult has had a devastating impact on many, many churches and families across China. I believe that Eastern Lightning, like every other cult, is a Satanic attempt to divert people from the true gospel. While many have joined out of altruistic motives, they have been led astray. It is my hope and prayer that this article might help somebody see the cult for what it is and turn back to our true Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
1 China Anti-Cult Association, Shipo xiejiao “quannengshen” “” [Seeing through the “Almighty God” cult], video, 29:17, http://zt.kaiwind.com/a/qns/shipin/2013/0124/284.html. Much of the cult’s material can be read online at its various websites.
2 Wang Zaihua, “Quannengshenjiao mudi shi tuifan zhengfu jian ‘shen de guodu'” “” [The goal of the Church of the Almighty God is to overthrow the government and establish “The Kingdom of God”], http://hb.people.com.cn/BIG5/n/2012/1222/c194083-17903485-1.html.
3 Zhang also says that some Eastern Lightning followers who have personally seen the “Female Christ” have talked with him about her personality, hobbies and habits. Zhang Dakai, Pouxi xiejiao zuzhi “Dongfang shandian” “” [Analyzing the cult “Eastern Lightning”], 8.
4 Ibid., 18.
5“Does the Triune God Exist?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh (Selected Pieces), http://en.kingdomsalvation.org/shenhua-122.html”Hua zai roushen xianxian” xuanpian , http://www.hidden-advent.org/kingdom-selection-052.html. Both accessed on February 28, 2014. All of the Eastern Lightning quotations used in this article appear in the Eastern Lightning book The Scroll Opened by the Lamb, which I obtained in China. For the convenience of the reader, citations in this article provide url addresses for identical passages found in other publications on Eastern Lightning websites rather than giving page numbers in my copy of The Scroll Opened by the Lamb. (Gaoyang zhankai de shujuan [The scroll opened by the lamb] ([Probably China]: Quannengshen jiaohui [The Church of the Almighty God], not before 2003).)
6 Witness Lee, Concerning the Triune GodThe Father, the Son and the Spirit (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1973), under “The Son Who Prays Is the Father Who Listens,” http://www.ministrybooks.org/alphabetical.cfm.
7 See “A Statement Concerning the Teachings of the Local Churches,” http://lctestimony.org/StatementOfTeachings.html.
8 My translation. The Chinese is: “.” “A Statement About the Bible (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh (Selected Pieces), https://www.godfootsteps.org/en/books/40078.html”Hua zai roushen xianxian” xuanpian , http://www.hidden-advent.org/kingdom-selection-091.html. Both accessed February 28, 2014.
9 My translation. The Chinese is: “.” “Work and Entering In (4)” in Selected Pieces from the Word Appears in the Flesh, https://www.godfootsteps.org/en/books/80085.htmlHua zai roushen xianxian , http://www.kingdomsalvation.org/selection/selection-085-01.html. Both accessed February 28, 2014.
10 My translation. The Chinese is: “.” “Knowledge About God’s Present Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh (Selected Pieces), https://www.godfootsteps.org/en/books/40048.htmlHua zai roushen xianxian (xuanpian) , http://www.hidden-advent.org/shenhua-138.html. Both accessed February 28, 2014.
William Bennett is a US attorney and Hong Kong solicitor who has lived with his family in Hong Kong and the China mainland for a combined 23 years.View Full Bio