Question 12 (ABM) - A Biblical Perspective on William Branham's Lies
The following are a series of questions and answers between one of our editors (referred to as BTS) and an anonymous Branham minister (referred to as ABM). This series of Q&A relates to William Branham's credibility. The full text of this question and its answer is below.
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Question 12 (ABM) - A Biblical Perspective on William Branham's Lies
In the answers to some of my previous questions, you indicated that prophets in the Old Testament had lied or were guilty of behavior that would not normally be associated with the Spirit of God. These examples were given as justification that William Branham could repeatedly lie but that this in itself would not preclude him from being considered a prophet of God.
I would like to present the biblical perspective on your view and would welcome your comments.
Does the Old Testament prohibit lying?
What does the Old Testament teach about prophets lying?
Even the canonical prophets resorted at times to unethical deeds, such as Hosea’s marriage to a whore (Hos. 1:2–3) and Jeremiah’s lie to the officials. Other scholars have defended Jeremiah, justifying the deceit in one way or another. On the other hand, in the view of scholars who believe Jer. 38:14–28 to be a parallel tradition to the text of Jer. 37:17–21, Jeremiah was telling the truth, for he did indeed entreat the king not to send him back to the house of the scribe Jonathan (37:20). Jeremiah’s response to the officials “has the advantage of being both convincing and true.” However, considering ch. 38 to be the chronological sequel to ch. 37, recounting an event other than (and later than) that described in ch. 37, Jeremiah is not, formally speaking, telling an outright lie: he is simply telling the officials what he said to the king— albeit at a previous meeting. Common to all these cases is that the prophet has not uttered an outright lie, but employed a technique of telling a half-truth (Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and Jeremiah) or using ambiguity (Elisha). Formally speaking, therefore, one might say that he has not told a lie, although his intention was undoubtedly to mislead another person.
There are other examples that we could refer to but, I think the examples above allow us to draw some conclusions.
Does the New Testament prohibit lying?
Eph. 4:25 - Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (NIV)
In Ephesians 4:25 putting off falsehood and speaking the truth are linked to all being “members of one body,” and lying is rooted in an attempt to gain advantage over others. It therefore is at odds with Christian love even though Christians have been known to concoct lies to deceive others (see Acts 5:1–11). (David Garland, Colossians and Philemon, The NIV Application Commentary, p. 205–206.
Col 3:9 - Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices… (NIV)
Paul forbids Christians from lying to one another because he is pre-eminently concerned in this context with the health of the Christian community—not because it is permissible for Christians to lie to non-Christians. (Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, p. 265.
1 Tim. 1:8-10 - We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious... and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. “Liars and perjurers” take up the matter of deceptive speech, first indicating the general activity, then presenting a specific example of it. The term “liar” describes one who speaks in a deceptive manner. It is clear that lying is contrary to sound doctrine and should never occur in the pulpit.
Rev. 21:8 - But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (NIV)
Rev. 22:15 - Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (ESV)
Those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, and all liars are to be excluded along with the dogs. To love and practice falsehood is to be totally devoid of truthfulness. These have become like their leader, Satan, “who leads the whole world astray” (Rev 12:9)
“Liars” are often condemned (Rev 2:2; Rev 3:9; Rev 14:5; Rev 16:13; Rev 19:20; Rev 20:10; Rev 21:27; Rev 22:15). They are the direct antithesis of God and Christ, who are characterized by “truth” (Rev 3:7, 14; Rev 15:3; Rev 16:7; Rev 19:2, 11). The phrase here “and all liars” in Rev 21:8 makes this a summarizing formula linked to John 8:44, where we read that the devil has been a liar “from the beginning.” In this sense, lying is “a perversion of everything that is true and valid“ (opposite of Rev 21:5). (Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 408.)
ABM, you stated in one of your responses - "Peter denied the Lord Jesus. Did that negate the calling on his life?” It didn’t but you are looking at this from the wrong perspective. Jesus told Peter, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32 - KJV). You are looking at Peter under the old covenant. But his denial of Jesus was not repeated after the Day of Pentecost.
Are there any examples of apostles, prophets or Christian leaders lying in the New Testament after the coming of the Holy Spirit?
No! In fact, we are warned that heresy comes through liars: The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they’ve lost their capacity for truth. (The Message Bible)
Additionally, teachers are warned in James 3:1 that they are to be especially careful because they will be judged more harshly: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (ESV). In fact, the first twelve verses of the chapter is a warning about how we are to speak, with the emphasis that teachers in the body of Christ must pay particular attention to what they say. William Branham must be held to that standard.
Paul states clearly in 2 Cor. 4:2 that “we reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.” (NLT)
Based on Paul’s teachings, what William Branham did in lying over the pulpit is UNACCEPTABLE and must be REJECTED.
Paul even addresses the issue of someone lying to make God look better: Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say — “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just! (Rom. 3:7-8, NIV)
Those who practice lying in an effort to make God look better are to be CONDEMNED. Thus William Branham’s conduct is that unbecoming of a man of God.
We have shown repeated examples of William Branham lying over the pulpit and we will provide more. This repeated pattern of unbiblical behaviour must be addressed from a biblical perspective. These were not mere exaggerations or embellishments. They go far beyond that. If a child were to tell the tales that William Branham did, they would simply be described as “lies”.
While there are some examples of prophets telling lies in the Old Testament, these are isolated incidents and are under the old covenant. However, we are no longer under Old Testament law but are in a new covenant. William Branham must be judged using New Testament standards and not those of the old covenant. There are no examples of Christian apostles, prophets or other leaders lying after the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. This point is brought home when Jesus states, "Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matt 11:11 - KJV). The least in the kingdom of heaven (the new covenant) is greater than anyone in the Old Testament, including all the prophets. We are under the new covenant.
There is nothing in the New Testament that would justify, excuse or even tolerate William Branham’s constant lying over the pulpit. He lied to promote himself and to “vindicate” his status as a prophet. His actions disqualify him from any kind of leadership role in the Christian church (prophet or otherwise) based on a plain reading of the New Testament.
I appreciate your research on this subject. I think ultimately this is an issue were we are just going to disagree. I am glad to engage on this point once again though.
You state "These were not mere exaggerations or embellishments. They go far beyond that. If a child were to tell the tales that William Branham did, they would simply be described as “lies”. You also state "He lied to promote himself and to “vindicate” his status as a prophet." I disagree with both of these assessments. The potentially serious issues you have raised which would support this viewpoint all have plausible explanations that would not lead to these conclusions. You have no definitive proof for the most serious of your accusations. I understand why you make such a conclusion. If you believe everything is suspect and a likely hoax, then these are nice comforting conclusions because it allows one to dismiss troubling things that would have to be confronted otherwise. But the thing you run into continually is people are so convinced that what they saw was real, you cannot talk them out of. Could I convince one healed of a birth defect that their healing was imaginary? Or that it was a false prophet by which their healing came?
Indeed there are some areas where it can be proved he embellished things, but these are all of a minor nature and with scriptural precedent. If one believes Bro. Branham was a coming of the Elijah anointing, then one can also accept that he was in the mold of an Old Testament prophet, and not a New Testament prophet, and therefore would hold him to the standards of the Old Testament prophets.
In a review of your quotation of Yael Shemesh, I generally agree with his assessment, and I think he it harmonizes well with my position. I also agree with you that the standard of the New Testament is higher than old. And I agree, his exaggerations are certainly not becoming of the conduct of a minister. On all these points we agree. But where we disagree is on this point: A man who has a personal failing, and who has failed in some things, does not have his calling or the good he has done by the spirit invalidated by the bad. I also disagree that his personal failing in this area is as severe as you believe it to be.
You conclude that there are no examples in the new testament of men having personal failings. I disagree, again there are multiple examples. In Galatians 2:11-14, we find yet another personal failing of Peter. This time after he was converted. His conduct was unbecoming of an apostle, and he was called out for it, and justly so. But did that then negate his calling? Should we then reject the work he did in the name of the Lord? I believe Peter acknowledged his mistake. (Just as Bro. Branham acknowledged his.) Other examples are plentiful if sought. In Acts 15:36-41, Paul and Barnabas have an argument, fail to reconcile, and break company. This is contrary to the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. More serious examples could be found among believers who were not ministers - Ananias and Sapphira, two believers, lied and died as a result. Or perhaps worse, the fornicator in the Corinthian church of which Paul said let his flesh be destroyed, yet his soul shall be saved in the day of Jesus Christ. The principle remains the same - believers can have personal failings. These failings are not without consequences. But the failings do not invalidate the calling placed on them.
Paul again speaks along this line in 1 Cor 3:10-14 were he instructs the care to be taken by minister in their doctrine. He said, (paraphrasing) "Take heed how ye build thereupon, for every man's works shall be tried by fire. The bad will burn up, but the good will remain." You, though, would have us throw out the good, along with the bad. As I am letting you take the lead in the topics to be discussed, we are generally focusing on the bad, or that which is perceived to be bad, but the good is monumental in the case of Bro. Branham. I yet to see a reason to reject it. Read carefully the statements you have quoted from Paul. He indeed calls for us to reject that which wrong, but he never calls on us to reject the good along with the bad.In fact, as I have shown in 1 Cor 3:10-14, Paul believed there are indeed cases of where the results will be mixed.
A simple analysis of 1 Cor 3:16-17 will establish this fact. Paul states: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." We are not the temple of God except the spirit of God be in us. By definition, it would not be possible for us to defile the temple of God, except we be the temple of God. Paul entirely leaves open the possibility (which we see acted out different times in the new testament) whereby a holy ghost filled believer comes up short of standards of the gospel.
Bro. Branham can be proven to have exaggerated at often, he acknowledged it. But his personal failings do not invalidate the message he brought or the good accomplished through his ministry.
Follow up question
This is a follow-up question to Question 12 which deals with the issue of William Branham's lies.
You misquoted me when you stated, "You conclude that there are no examples in the new testament of men having personal failings."
That was not my conclusion.
I stated that there were no examples of apostles, prophets or Christian leaders lying in the New Testament after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter was in error by not wanting to associate with Gentiles in the presence of Jews. As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul corrected him. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark with them but Paul did not want to have someone accompanying them who had exhibited spiritual immaturity by abandoning them. Later when Mark matured, he became of use to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11), but at the time of the disagreement with Barnabas, Mark was not a leader in the church. The fact that Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement does not indicate moral failing and certainly did not involve lying. Peter also acknowledged Paul's leadership in 2 Peter 3:15. In fact, he referred to Paul's letters as scripture.
Those in the message hold out William Branham to be the equivalent of Paul today. In fact, many would state that he ranks even greater than Paul.
Can you find any indication of one of the apostles lying even once? Is there any record of the apostle Paul exaggerating to the point that William Branham did?
I appreciate that you do not consider William Branham's wild exaggerations to be lies. But that is what they are.
He didn't lie to save someone's life. He was practicing deception... over the pulpit. He presented a false impression. He deliberately caused those in the audience to believe something that was not true.
To repeat myself, Paul CLEARLY addressed the type of falsehood that William Branham engaged in and rejected such behavior as ungodly:
There is a higher standard for those in Christian leadership, particularly when they are ministering. Why did William Branham lie? To make himself look better. To justify his self-proclaimed status as a prophet. This is not acceptable behavior based on the clear meaning of scripture.
Response to follow up question
I offer my apologies for misstating you in Question 12, I clearly overstated your position. I agree with you, there are not examples of ministers of God lying in the new testament. I also agree with you: Paul clearly condemns it.
Allow me to restate my point differently. Lying is in the category of personal failures, just as any number of things are personal failures. And there are clearly personal failings in the life of New Testament Christians. Why would Paul feel it necessary to preach to people to tell them not lie, except it was occurring? Why would Paul feel it necessary to tell them to avoid fornication, except it was occurring? These things were occurring in the church among believers. Ananias and Sapphira are an example of believers who lied.
John speaks to this 1 John 5:16. There is a sin which can occur in the life of a believer which can be forgiven, and there are sins that can occur in the life of believers that will lead to death.
We do indeed disagree about the severity of Bro. Branham's embellishments. So I do not want to belabor the point. In my assessment his exaggerations are minor. I believe that the cases you put forward to prove his embellishments are more than minor are mistaken interpretations of his statements and events and have other correct or equally plausible interpretations that do no lead to your conclusions.
But even if they were not minor personal failings - that alone is not grounds to reject him as a false prophet. It would be enough for him to have to step down from the ministry. That is a far cry different than being a false prophet. The Old Testament if clear: failed prophecy is the grounds to reject a false prophet. The New Testament is clear, the grounds for rejecting someone as a false prophet is that they teach false doctrine contrary to the scripture. Not their own personal failings. So you can chose your standard. I know we disagree on this point as well, but I do not see a way to reject him as a false prophet under either of those criteria. Paul plainly states in 1st Cor that if a man build wood, hay, or stubble, it will burn. But the gold and precious jewels will remain. To label Bro. Branham as a false prophet, we have to conclude that his entire ministry was inspired of Satan. There is far too much good that occurred through his ministry for me to be able to accept that it was all inspired of Satan.
I am not alone in this assessment. Bro. Branham is still highly regarded for his early ministry in charismatic circles. Robert Lairdon summarizes the predominant view of charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity towards Bro. Branham well in his book, "God's Generals". There was and is a broad acceptance of his ministry during the years of the healing revival, and he is viewed as going off track at the end of his ministry. The good is accepted, the bad rejected. I disagree with Lairdon on various points, but his viewpoint is far more prevalent than your own and Lairdon's viewpoint is representative of the broader Charisimatic viewpoint. Mainline denominations completely reject Branham, but they also generally rejected the healing revival. But in Charistimatic Christianity it is a different story.
Your argument to reject Bro. Branham as false prophet is not merely an argument against the Branham movement. It is an argument against mainstream Charismatic Christianity. I hope you can see that. I do not consider myself to be part of the Charismatic movement, but I am well familiar with it and how they view these things. Bro. Branham is still highly regarded for his role in the healing revivals and very widely accepted as a prophet, and remains regularly cited in positive ways on TBN and by many prominent charistimatic ministers.
You state: "Why did William Branham lie? To make himself look better. To justify his self-proclaimed status as a prophet." I understand your rationale, but as we have went along so far, you have not yet produced a compelling lie. Everything so far is explained either a minor embellishment or exaggeration, Bro. Branham just being mistaken, or a misreading of his quotes.