Question 23 (ABM) - Can we ignore the plain reading of Deuteronomy 18:20-22?

From BelieveTheSign

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 prophetic ministry. The full text of this question and its answer is below.

Click on the links to go to a specific question or a different subject area. You are currently on the topic below that is in bold:

Complete list of questions

Q&A relating to William Branham's Credibility

Q&A relating to William Branham's Doctrine

Q&A on the current status of the "message"

Question 1 - The Municipal Bridge vision

Question 2 - The Billy Graham Prophecy

Question 3 - The Brown Bear Vision

Question 4 - The Roosevelt prophecy

Question 5 - The coming of the Lord

Question 16 - The Vision of the Plum and Apple Trees

Question 17 - The Mystery of the Empty Cornerstone

Question 19 - The Marilyn Monroe vision/prophecy

Question 20 - The Vision of the Meetings in South Africa

Question 22 - Are there any true prophecies that were clearly fulfilled?

Question 23 - Can we ignore the plain reading of Deuteronomy 18:20-22?

Question 23 -Can we ignore the plain reading of Deuteronomy 18:20-22?

Dear ABM,

There are some issues in your most recent response that I will follow up with at a later date. I am aware of the street preachers in Ontario as I know one of them personally. In my view they are mentally unbalanced.

I respect you not wanting to compromise your anonymity and am not asking you to do so.

This is a follow-on to question 21 & 22 but deals with the scriptural problem of the failure of William Branham's prophecies.

God speaks plainly about the status of a prophet in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 18:19-22:

I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. (NIV)

Speaking in the name of the Lord when God did not really speak was a capital offense.

William Branham agreed with this when he stated:

...here was the test of a prophet: if a prophet prophesied, and that what he said come to pass, then hear him. But if it don't come to pass, then God hasn't spoke. That's all. So don't--don't fear him. That's right. "If there be one among you who's spiritual or a prophet, I, the Lord God, will make myself known unto him in visions, speak to him in dreams. And if it comes to pass, then I--that's Me speaking." Sure, God ain't going to lie. You know He can't lie there's nothing in Him to lie. (62-0407 - The Signs Of His Coming)

According to the Old Testament, a prophet was to be heard and obeyed. To ignore the word of a prophet would lead to divine judgment - God would hold the disobedient to account.

Given the serious nature of failure to obey the prophetic word, it is critical to distinguish between true and false prophecy. In addition, the criminal nature of false prophecy is stressed by the imposition of capital punishment for the offender.

But in order to know whether to obey the word of a prophet, and in order to condemn a false prophet, criteria was laid out to differentiate between true and false prophets. In some cases the distinction was easy - when a prophet spoke in the name of other gods, he was not only a false prophet, but he was also guilty of breaking the first commandment, and therefore was deserving of the death penalty. Since he is a fraud, you need not be afraid to punish him or to ignore him completely.

The more difficult case would be that in which a prophet actually spoke his own words, but claimed to be speaking the words of God, and therefore—among other crimes—was guilty of gross presumption. Since the people would rely on the instructions of prophets for vital matters, they needed criteria for identifying prophets that were not truly from God.

The criteria for distinguishing the true words of God are expressed very succinctly in two clauses:

(a) The word is not true — the word supposedly spoken by God through the prophet was not in accord with the word of God already revealed and it was therefore automatically suspect, or
(b) It did not come to pass — this is where the prophetic words were predictive in nature. Discerning the truth of the words would lie in their fulfillment or lack thereof.

The criteria represent the means by which a prophet gained his reputation as a true prophet and spokesman of the Lord. The failure of a prediction to materialize would show the prophet to be false. However, people could hardly suspend judgment about the authenticity of every prophecy until its outcome was clear. Those who received instructions from a prophet had to decide immediately whether or not to follow them. So in practice, the credibility of a prophet could only be tested in the long run, after he or she had established a record of accurate or inaccurate predictions.

The criteria for establishing whether a prophetic word (prediction) is true or false are stated negatively, as it cannot be reversed to imply that if a prophet’s word came true, he was necessarily a true prophet for that reason alone (Deut 13:1–5). The test for matters which the prophet said would come to pass in his lifetime is fulfillment during the lifetime of that prophet.

Over the course of a prophet’s ministry, in matters important and less significant, the character of a prophet as a true spokesman of God would begin to emerge clearly. And equally, false prophets would be discredited and then dealt with under the law.

This is what happened in the ministry of the prophet Samuel, In 1 Samuel 3:19-20, the Bible says:

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.

Micaiah declared that his claim to speak for the Lord would be disproved if his prediction of Ahab’s death in battle did not come true. We also see this in the case of Moses. Even when he disobeyed God, God still confirmed the word of Moses because Moses was a prophet:

He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Nu 20:10–12)

Even in disobedience, God backed up the words of Moses.

But he failed to do that for William Branham.

Petty silliness?

You have referred to our concern with several of William Branham's failed prophecies as "petty silliness."

We must disagree. When William Branham claims to be a prophet, states that God spoke to him, and then the prophecy fails, this is a serious problem. It is not silly and it is not petty!

William Branham said that the Brown Bear vision was "Thus Saith The Lord."

Your best defense of this failed prophecy was "this will be fulfilled when Bro. Branham is resurrected."

With respect, how would Deut 18:19-22 ever have had application if a prophet could state that his vision had not failed but would be fulfilled by him after the resurrection. I am of the view that such explanations (and we have heard them previously) are completely opposed to scripture. There is ZERO basis in scripture for this. "It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. (Heb 9:27)

The basic assumption, the presupposition of those in the message, the thing that you believe is true without having any proof, is that William Branham is a prophet. But we actually stopped and said to ourselves - "Can we prove William Branham to be a prophet, based on the facts alone, without any presuppositions?"

We tried to prove the message to be correct but ran into so many problems that we were forced to conclude, on the basis of the facts alone, that William Branham was not a prophet (opposite to what he claimed). We did not want to arrive at that conclusion. Leaving the message cost us the majority of our friends. It was not something that we did lightly.

When we started our examination of the message, there were no problems on our "problem shelf." But three years into our research, we had encountered so many major problems that there were problems falling off the shelf. The shelf was full and we left the message.

Given the choice between friends and the truth, I chose to follow the truth, even though I knew it would cost me virtually all of my friends.

Bad or misinterpretation?

William Branham stood under the municipal bridge in Jeffersonville and pointed out to Pearry Green the section of the bridge that fell into the river. Pearry Green related this story to me himself and when I questioned him as to the historical probllems with William Branham's statement, he exclaimed, "The prophet of God would not have lied to me."

But what he related to Pearry Green was a lie.

How can I trust William Branham's biblical interpretation when he can't even interpret a vision that he said God supernaturally gave him. How can I trust a man to help me find the truth when he lied to a man about a vision that God supposedly showed him and was part of his vindication as a prophet?

I can't!

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias has been defined as “the tendency to selectively search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions or hypotheses.” This bias may be manifested in a number of ways.

First, people will search for and gather information selectively. Psychological experiments have found that people tend to test their hypotheses in a one-sided way, by searching for evidence that is consistent with their current line of thinking. Rather than working through all the available evidence, people tend to focus on information that supports their preexisting hypothesis or belief. The other side of this tendency is that people give less attention to or discredit information that does not support their pre-existing views.

Confirmation bias may also be displayed in people’s tendency to interpret evidence in a way that supports their preexisting position. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to the handling of ambiguous information; psychological studies have shown that people are more likely to interpret ambiguous evidence as confirming their preexisting beliefs than disconfirming of them. It can also be seen in the way that people tend to take hypothesis-confirming data at face value, while subjecting disconfirming data to considerable scrutiny.

An interesting example of confirmation bias is the thinking of conspiracy theorists; for example, those who believe that the United States Government was behind the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. These people characteristically focus on the “evidence” that supports their position, and they interpret it in such a way that it fits the conspiracy they have built in their minds. On the other hand, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence effectively concluded that the belief of the CIA and other members of the Western intelligence community that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to the second Gulf War was heavily influenced by confirmation bias.

Researchers have shown that the effect of confirmation bias is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. In both instances, people are more likely to be resistant to change. Therefore, we would expect this bias to be a significant factor when it comes to biblical interpretation or your belief that William Branham was a vindicated prophet, which is often dealing with issues that are emotionally significant and involves deeply-held beliefs.

Confirmation bias influences message believers in a number of ways. When interpreting Deuteronomy 18:19-22, message believers will seek (consciously or unconsciously) to confirm an understanding of the meaning of the passage that will not be negative to William Branham. In other words, they do not approach the text from a neutral standpoint, looking to weigh up all the different possibilities before deciding on the “correct” understanding. Instead, they come at the text from a “slant,” focusing on the textual evidence that supports their preexisting understanding that it could not possibly disqualify William Branham.

Confirmation bias is also evident in our discussion. I will readily admit that I had it when I was "in the message." Message followers have a tendency to search for passages that confirm their preexisting theology (i.e. supporting the message). (The preceding discussion is based on Aaron Chalmers, “The Influence of Cognitive Biases on Biblical Interpretation,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 26, no. 4 (2016): 470–472.)

I do not believe anyone in the message sufficiently objective to understand this. I personally had to deal with this. I did not want to believe that William Branham failed the test of Deut 18:19-22. It is evident in all my discussions with message followers that cognitive bias is present in their view of the scripture as it relates to the message.

This is simply an observation, although I do not believe that you are likely to recognize this.

The tapes have been altered

You stated that "the subsequent spoken word books created from the tapes, did not line up with their (Junior Jackson and Orman Neville's) memory of Branham's sermons or with original recordings of the services which they themselves possessed." The problem is that this cannot be verified and, honestly, we must state that we do not believe this to be true,

The reason we can state this is twofold:

  1. David Mamalis, who threatened Spoken Word Publications (now Voice of God) with legal action over the tapes being in the public domain, published his own set of message books based on the tapes he had. These do not significantly disagree with those that have been published by Jeffersonville.
  2. Neither Junior Jackson or Armand Neville published their set of tapes. It would be quite easy to publish their "version" of the tapes on the internet as MP3 files but this has never been done. As a result, I cannot take this criticism seriously.

As a result, I must conclude that Deuteronomy 18:19-22 requiries William Branham to be viewed as a false prophet.

Disobedience to God

With respect to the vision of the African visions, you stated that:

God can show someone a possible future for them, which is contingent on them obeying him. One example is Moses. In Exodus 3:14-17 God plainly says that he was going to take Moses into the promised land. But he failed to obey God, and God did not fulfill to Moses what he offered. (Was God lying to Moses when said he would take him to the promised land? God did not even mention a contingency when he spoke the promise to Moses.)

With respect, your reading of the passage is entirely incorrect:

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’

God was not speaking to Moses, he was speaking to the people of Israel. And this scripture was fulfilled when Joshua took the nation of Israel into the promised land.

In Moses day, William Branham would have been sentenced to death when he went to the Yukon and the vision failed. He tried to excuse himself that it related to disobedience. But if a prophet could be excused from Deut 18:19-22 by disobedience, how would this scripture ever have been applied?

This is not petty silliness. This is a man who spoke presumptuously in the name of the Lord.

The message interpretation of Deuteronomy 18:19-22 nullifies the word of God, making it of no effect.

Shalom,

BTS

Response from ABM

BTS,

Thank you for your continued dialogue.

Your last email has alot to unpack, so I will respond inline

BTS: There are some issues in your most recent response that I will follow up with at a later date. I am aware of the street preachers in Ontario as I know one of them personally. In my view they are mentally unbalanced.

ABM: I would agree with assessment of them.

BTS: I respect you not wanting to compromise your anonymity and am not asking you to do so.

ABM: Thank you

BTS: This is a follow-on to question 21 & 22 but deals with the scriptural problem of the failure of William Branham's prophecies.

God speaks plainly about the status of a prophet in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 18:19-22:

I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. (NIV)

Speaking in the name of the Lord when God did not really speak was a capital offense.

William Branham agreed with this when he stated:

...here was the test of a prophet: if a prophet prophesied, and that what he said come to pass, then hear him. But if it don't come to pass, then God hasn't spoke. That's all. So don't--don't fear him. That's right. "If there be one among you who's spiritual or a prophet, I, the Lord God, will make myself known unto him in visions, speak to him in dreams. And if it comes to pass, then I--that's Me speaking." Sure, God ain't going to lie. You know He can't lie there's nothing in Him to lie. (62-0407 - The Signs Of His Coming)

According to the Old Testament, a prophet was to be heard and obeyed. To ignore the word of a prophet would lead to divine judgment - God would hold the disobedient to account.

Given the serious nature of failure to obey the prophetic word, it is critical to distinguish between true and false prophecy. In addition, the criminal nature of false prophecy is stressed by the imposition of capital punishment for the offender.

But in order to know whether to obey the word of a prophet, and in order to condemn a false prophet, criteria was laid out to differentiate between true and false prophets. In some cases the distinction was easy - when a prophet spoke in the name of other gods, he was not only a false prophet, but he was also guilty of breaking the first commandment, and therefore was deserving of the death penalty. Since he is a fraud, you need not be afraid to punish him or to ignore him completely.

The more difficult case would be that in which a prophet actually spoke his own words, but claimed to be speaking the words of God, and therefore—among other crimes—was guilty of gross presumption. Since the people would rely on the instructions of prophets for vital matters, they needed criteria for identifying prophets that were not truly from God.

The criteria for distinguishing the true words of God are expressed very succinctly in two clauses:

(a) The word is not true — the word supposedly spoken by God through the prophet was not in accord with the word of God already revealed and it was therefore automatically suspect, or

(b) It did not come to pass — this is where the prophetic words were predictive in nature. Discerning the truth of the words would lie in their fulfillment or lack thereof.

ABM: I agree with everything to this point. I would argue that for a forthtelling prophecy, one needs only to determine if it is true.

BTS: The criteria represent the means by which a prophet gained his reputation as a true prophet and spokesman of the Lord. The failure of a prediction to materialize would show the prophet to be false. However, people could hardly suspend judgment about the authenticity of every prophecy until its outcome was clear. Those who received instructions from a prophet had to decide immediately whether or not to follow them. So in practice, the credibility of a prophet could only be tested in the long run, after he or she had established a record of accurate or inaccurate predictions.

ABM: My position is this: There are numerous forthtelling prophecies that meet the standard for critera (a), they were true. Forthtelling prophecy was the primary use of Bro. Branham's prophetic gift. I am satisfied that there are enough provably accurate forthtelling prophesies that his gift can be accepted as genuine. And if you would accept witnesses who establish some of the foretelling prophecies as before the fact, you could also satisfy point (b).

BTS: The criteria for establishing whether a prophetic word (prediction) is true or false are stated negatively, as it cannot be reversed to imply that if a prophet’s word came true, he was necessarily a true prophet for that reason alone (Deut 13:1–5). The test for matters which the prophet said would come to pass in his lifetime is fulfillment during the lifetime of that prophet.

ABM: I come back to an example like Obadiah. I have no evidence he ever made a before the fact prophecy in his lifetime, and I have no evidence any prophecy he made ever has came to pass. By what means can I consider him a prophet? I have to accept he is a prophet because he claimed to be one and other people at the time deemed him to be one. This does stand in contrast to Duet 18:20-22. My interpretation is that Duet 18:20-22 is a mechanism for detecting a false prophet, but it is not a sure proof way to prove a true prophet. Because if we use it to validate a true prophet, then prophets like Obadiah would have to be considered at best a potential prophet and at worst a false prophet. In the case of Elijah the prophet, he never issued any foretelling prophecy on record, and he seems to be completely validated by his forthtelling prophecies. Why can we not validate Bro. Branham in the same way?

BTS: Over the course of a prophet’s ministry, in matters important and less significant, the character of a prophet as a true spokesman of God would begin to emerge clearly. And equally, false prophets would be discredited and then dealt with under the law.

This is what happened in the ministry of the prophet Samuel, In 1 Samuel 3:19-20, the Bible says:

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.

Micaiah declared that his claim to speak for the Lord would be disproved if his prediction of Ahab’s death in battle did not come true. We also see this in the case of Moses. Even when he disobeyed God, God still confirmed the word of Moses because Moses was a prophet:

He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Nu 20:10–12)

Even in disobedience, God backed up the words of Moses.

But he failed to do that for William Branham.

ABM: I disagree. God plainly said to Moses in Exodus 6:8 (or Exodus 3:18) "I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" But after he disobeyed he then said to him "And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered. For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin." Plainly, God failed to bring to pass what he had previously offered without condition.

You mention the prophet Macaiah. Macaiah gave a blatantly false prophesy in 1 Kings 22:13-15. He did it for selfish reasons in order to please men. By your rationale, he should be deemed a false prophet too. Yet you consider him to a be a true prophet. Why is it OK for Macaiah to give a false prophesy and speak presumptuously but not Bro. Branham? (I do no agree Bro. Branham spoke presumptuously.) I again see exceptions in the bible to your interpretation of Duet 18:20-22.

BTS: Petty silliness?

You have referred to our concern with several of William Branham's failed prophecies as "petty silliness."

ABM: Specifically the brown bear vision and the Marilyn Monroe vision.

BTS: We must disagree. When William Branham claims to be a prophet, states that God spoke to him, and then the prophecy fails, this is a serious problem. It is not silly and it is not petty!

William Branham said that the Brown Bear vision was "Thus Saith The Lord."

Your best defense of this failed prophecy was "this will be fulfilled when Bro. Branham is resurrected."

With respect, how would Deut 18:19-22 ever have had application if a prophet could state that his vision had not failed but would be fulfilled by him after the resurrection. I am of the view that such explanations (and we have heard them previously) are completely opposed to scripture. There is ZERO basis in scripture for this. "It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Heb 9:27)

ABM: I go back to the analysis of the exodus. God plainly said to Moses and the children of Isreal "I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" But then God did not bring them to the land. How can this promise of God be fulfilled to Moses until he is resurrected? God cannot lie. This must come to pass at some point. If I accept Bro. Branham's forthtelling prophecies as vindication of his gift, then I have easily 10 to 1 ratio of good prophesies to unfilled prophesies. That is a better rate than most prophet of the bible. The majority of Ezekial, Zechariah, etc, still remain unfulfilled. I feel like we only arrive at this conclusion that Bro. Branham had no good prophecies by ignoring his primary use of the gift. If I could dismiss all his forthtelling prophecies, I would be in agreement with you. I would agree that his foretelling prophecies are tenuous and cause for concern. But when I view his limited and tenous foretelling prophecies in light of the many accurate forthtelling prophecies, it gives me pause and gives me a reason to try and find a plausible way in which the foretelling prophecies can still be fulfilled. (If you wan to call this confirmation bias or cognitive dissonance, that is ok. To me, it is a reasonable position to take after a full review of all the evidence.)

BTS: The basic assumption, the presupposition of those in the message, the thing that you believe is true without having any proof, is that William Branham is a prophet. But we actually stopped and said to ourselves - "Can we prove William Branham to be a prophet, based on the facts alone, without any presuppositions?"

ABM: To this I have to say emphatically yes. We can prove he had a true gift of prophecy because we can prove his forthtelling prophecies were accurate. Even Hollenwager established the accuracy of the gift saying he was "impressed by the remarkable accuracy". There are numerous people who attest to it, and I can personally witness to it. But you seem to dismiss this as an act of prophecy in favor of only accepting a foretelling prophecy. Duet 18:20-22 does not require a prophet to give a foretelling prophecy. Forthtelling prophecies can also be validated using the same mechanism.

BTS: We tried to prove the message to be correct but ran into so many problems that we were forced to conclude, on the basis of the facts alone, that William Branham was not a prophet (opposite to what he claimed). We did not want to arrive at that conclusion. Leaving the message cost us the majority of our friends. It was not something that we did lightly.

When we started our examination of the message, there were no problems on our "problem shelf." But three years into our research, we had encountered so many major problems that there were problems falling off the shelf. The shelf was full and we left the message.

Given the choice between friends and the truth, I chose to follow the truth, even though I knew it would cost me virtually all of my friends.

ABM: I am familiar with the sect of the message you exited from. I am all to familiar with the cost of leaving or splits and divisions. You are not the only one to have paid a heavily cost in friendships and relationships. I empathize with you. I have met Byskal at different times, Green, and the others. I know their preaching style and some of the things they believed. I find no surprise that you could find all manner of problems with the way in which they interpreted Bro. Branham's teachings and applied them. From grace to sanctification, from bible prophesy to gifts of the spirit, to even their view of the purpose of Bro. Branham's ministry, I believe they are wrong. They have always been wrong. It is because they accepted Bro. Branham's mistakes as the gospel. There is a dramatically different interpretations to Bro. Branham which is accepted elsewhere in the message, which is more of a middle ground between how Charistimatic's view Bro. Branham and how the core message believer view him. It is far more palatable than how the idolatrous people view him. My personal opinion is that you still probably believe most of the message, (the true message) and that you still probably accept the true doctrines Bro. Branham taught. I believe you have taken the good you can get from it and moved on, leaving the bad behind. Which is exactly the correct thing to do... Which is exactly what some of Bro. Branham's followers have done. Old manna cannot sustain us for fifty years. And we have been preaching that for fifty years. I am not asking you to reply to this point, but if you examine what you believe today, do you truly find that none of what you believe is a result of Bro. Branham's teachings?

BTS: Bad or misinterpretation?

William Branham stood under the municipal bridge in Jeffersonville and pointed out to Pearry Green the section of the bridge that fell into the river. Pearry Green related this story to me himself and when I questioned him as to the historical probllems with William Branham's statement, he exclaimed, "The prophet of God would not have lied to me."

But what he related to Pearry Green was a lie.

How can I trust William Branham's biblical interpretation when he can't even interpret a vision that he said God supernaturally gave him. How can I trust a man to help me find the truth when he lied to a man about a vision that God supposedly showed him and was part of his vindication as a prophet?

I can't!

ABM: I agree with you! 100% agree. We cannot trust a man to show us anything. That is why the bible says to try the spirits to know whether they be of God. The only way we can validate Bro. Branham's teachings is by the word and the only way we can validate his gift is by seeing if it was accurate. His teachings must be substantiated by the bible. If we cannot substantiate them, we do not put them on the shelf. We put them in the trash can. But I can put them in the trash can without having to conclude Bro. Branham was a totally false prophet. I can conclude maybe there are some things he just did not know.

BTS: Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias has been defined as “the tendency to selectively search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions or hypotheses.” This bias may be manifested in a number of ways.

First, people will search for and gather information selectively. Psychological experiments have found that people tend to test their hypotheses in a one-sided way, by searching for evidence that is consistent with their current line of thinking. Rather than working through all the available evidence, people tend to focus on information that supports their preexisting hypothesis or belief. The other side of this tendency is that people give less attention to or discredit information that does not support their pre-existing views.

Confirmation bias may also be displayed in people’s tendency to interpret evidence in a way that supports their preexisting position. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to the handling of ambiguous information; psychological studies have shown that people are more likely to interpret ambiguous evidence as confirming their preexisting beliefs than disconfirming of them. It can also be seen in the way that people tend to take hypothesis-confirming data at face value, while subjecting disconfirming data to considerable scrutiny.

An interesting example of confirmation bias is the thinking of conspiracy theorists; for example, those who believe that the United States Government was behind the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. These people characteristically focus on the “evidence” that supports their position, and they interpret it in such a way that it fits the conspiracy they have built in their minds. On the other hand, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence effectively concluded that the belief of the CIA and other members of the Western intelligence community that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to the second Gulf War was heavily influenced by confirmation bias.

Researchers have shown that the effect of confirmation bias is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. In both instances, people are more likely to be resistant to change. Therefore, we would expect this bias to be a significant factor when it comes to biblical interpretation or your belief that William Branham was a vindicated prophet, which is often dealing with issues that are emotionally significant and involves deeply-held beliefs.

Confirmation bias influences message believers in a number of ways. When interpreting Deuteronomy 18:19-22, message believers will seek (consciously or unconsciously) to confirm an understanding of the meaning of the passage that will not be negative to William Branham. In other words, they do not approach the text from a neutral standpoint, looking to weigh up all the different possibilities before deciding on the “correct” understanding. Instead, they come at the text from a “slant,” focusing on the textual evidence that supports their preexisting understanding that it could not possibly disqualify William Branham.

Confirmation bias is also evident in our discussion. I will readily admit that I had it when I was "in the message." Message followers have a tendency to search for passages that confirm their preexisting theology (i.e. supporting the message). (The preceding discussion is based on Aaron Chalmers, “The Influence of Cognitive Biases on Biblical Interpretation,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 26, no. 4 (2016): 470–472.)

I do not believe anyone in the message sufficiently objective to understand this. I personally had to deal with this. I did not want to believe that William Branham failed the test of Deut 18:19-22. It is evident in all my discussions with message followers that cognitive bias is present in their view of the scripture as it relates to the message.

This is simply an observation, although I do not believe that you are likely to recognize this.

ABM: I understand what you are saying. "Nathan Rivera" was the first to put out this type of thought against message believers. I will actually agree with you. I do indeed go out of my way to try and find a way to prove what I believe to be true. In this life, I truly have no way to prove Jesus is alive in heaven right now seated at the right hand of the father. All I have is the words a man wrote in a book saying it is so and a feeling in my heart that it is true. I believe if there is to be proof of Christ, it has to be proof within myself. I believe I can be living proof that he is real. While others cannot see Jesus, they can see what he has done for me, and that can be proof. When I look at Jesus followers I see all kinds of problems. I see crusaders, inquisitions, I see churches full of sexual abuse. But I do not blame Jesus for that. He taught them better than that. They just twist what he said for their own ends. Jesus said "think not that I am come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword". People have used that to justify violence in the of the Lord. Jesus said "except you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will die". People rejected Jesus because they thought he was talking about cannibalism. But I instead choose to find a way to interpret what he said in a different manner that reconciles with his full teachings. I do the same for Bro. Branham, because I believe he was an authentic minister of Christ. If I find something I cannot reconcile, I reject it, and assume he meant well but failed to communicate it properly.


BTS: The tapes have been altered

You stated that "the subsequent spoken word books created from the tapes, did not line up with their (Junior Jackson and Orman Neville's) memory of Branham's sermons or with original recordings of the services which they themselves possessed." The problem is that this cannot be verified and, honestly, we must state that we do not believe this to be true,

ABM: I agree it cannot be fully verified. The only master copy of some of the altered tapes was in the possession of Leo Mercer... But it can be verified that those men, and others, have alleged the tapes were altered significantly.

BTS: The reason we can state this is twofold: David Mamalis, who threatened Spoken Word Publications (now Voice of God) with legal action over the tapes being in the public domain, published his own set of message books based on the tapes he had. These do not significantly disagree with those that have been published by Jeffersonville.

Neither Junior Jackson or Armand Neville published their set of tapes. It would be quite easy to publish their "version" of the tapes on the internet as MP3 files but this has never been done. As a result, I cannot take this criticism seriously. ABM: I would not use this argument to try and say a given prophecy was altered (though perhaps it was inserted on tape at a different time than originally given). I am not aware of any prophecy that was altered. My statement on this point was in regards to some statements in 1956 which were time sensitive in nature. David Mamalis's collection of original tapes is very small, he was primarily using many of the same source tapes VGR used, a large portion of which came from Leo Mercer. Neville died in 1974, so his ability to do much was limited. Jackson did not issue corrected tapes, but he did issue in his magazine a written list of the tapes he knew were altered and a description of the alterations that were made. He claimed to have accurate original tapes too.

BTS: As a result, I must conclude that Deuteronomy 18:19-22 requires William Branham to be viewed as a false prophet.

ABM: You have the freedom to make that conclusion.

BTS: Disobedience to God

With respect to the vision of the African visions, you stated that:

God can show someone a possible future for them, which is contingent on them obeying him. One example is Moses. In Exodus 3:14-17 God plainly says that he was going to take Moses into the promised land. But he failed to obey God, and God did not fulfill to Moses what he offered. (Was God lying to Moses when said he would take him to the promised land? God did not even mention a contingency when he spoke the promise to Moses.)

With respect, your reading of the passage is entirely incorrect:

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’

God was not speaking to Moses, he was speaking to the people of Israel. And this scripture was fulfilled when Joshua took the nation of Israel into the promised land.

ABM: I think we are going to continue to disagree on this point. I could say you are doing the same thing you suggest I am doing. Finding a way to interpret the scripture to meet your goal. God did not say "Say the people of Israel who are yet to be born" and he did not say "Say to the elders of Israel, I will take your descendants..." or "I will bring your descendants to the land..." He said you, and this people the and pointing to those to whom he was speaking. It was a personal promise to the individuals he was speaking to.

BTS: In Moses day, William Branham would have been sentenced to death when he went to the Yukon and the vision failed. He tried to excuse himself that it related to disobedience. But if a prophet could be excused from Deut 18:19-22 by disobedience, how would this scripture ever have been applied?

ABM: Disobedience is not an adequate excuse for the total failure of a prophecy. But is an adequate "excuse" for its deferred fulfillment. There are multiple examples of this in the scripture, as the example with Moses.

BTS: This is not petty silliness. This is a man who spoke presumptuously in the name of the Lord.

ABM: I think the Marylin Monroe issue is silly because the nature of the prophecy makes it impossible to prove it actually failed to come to pass. I think the Brown Bear vision issue is silly because we cannot definitively prove that it failed to come to pass. Thus, I cannot hang my judgement that he spoke presumptuously on either of those two prophecies. I do not see how they advance your case in a solid way, and thus I judge the issue silly. The closest you come is the South Africa meetings vision, which I do not call silly. That is more serious, but has a plausible explanation.

BTS: The message interpretation of Deuteronomy 18:19-22 nullifies the word of God, making it of no effect

ABM: This conclusion is only reached if you reject the possibility of future fulfillment. I can understand why you reject that possibility and thus arrive at the conclusion. I however see a potential future fulfillment, and arrive at a different conclusion.

I do not feel we are going to change each others opinion on this subject, but I think we have both well stated our position. I appreciate your position and do not condemn you for it.

I appreciate the time you are taking to correspond with me. You are proving yourself a fair person, and I appreciate that. I see you are trying to judge things by the Bible, and I have a great respect for that. I hope you likewise are finding value in our communications.

Kind regards,

ABM


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