Questions and Answers with a Message Minister
On September 12, 2020, the first-ever English language debate between a message pastor (Jesse Smith of Akron, OH) and an ex-message Christian (Rod Bergen from the Off The Shelf podcast) took place. The discussion was moderated by Jay Cox and Tim Kraus.
We were contacted in late 2018 by a message minister who has agreed to answer our questions with respect to the message. He has asked to remain anonymous which we respect. In the Q&A, we refer to our editor as BTS and the anonymous Branham minister as ABM. Below is a complete list of the questions from BTS and ABM's responses as well as the terms on which we have agreed to discuss the message of William Branham. Click on the specific link to go to the question we posed to him and his answer to our question.
We also entered into a series of Q&A's with a second Branham minister who also agreed to the basic agreement to dialogue as outlined below. This second Branham minister (referred to a BM2) is of the Progressive Revelation subsect of the message. Our Q&A's with BM2 can be found here.
Complete List of Questions and Answers with ABM
Click on the link to go to the specific question and answer. You are currently on the topic that is in bold:
Our agreement to engage in a dialogue
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. For some years you, among others, have been publishing many facts concerning William Branham which many people have found disturbing and had led to much consternation in part of the Branham movement. I have over the past few years, carefully read your material, along with the more recent material of John Collins and Peter Duyzer. In my heart I have just observed and only answered questions from the believers as they have arisen.
I am writing to make an offer to you. You have sought someone of high position within the Branham movement to openly discuss in an honest manner the claims you have made against Bro. Branham and the message. I am offering to engage with you if we can come to agreeable terms.
First I wish to remain anonymous. I will say that I live in Jeffersonville, Indiana area and you will find few people living who have more knowledge of Branham, his teachings, and the Branham movement that I. I do not speak on behalf of the Branham movement. You well know that no one can do that. But as a minister, I do believe I speak on behalf of the gospel of Christ. You would know my name if I revealed it to you.
I am taking you at your word that you interested in honest dialogue, and that you are a honest man who will abide by his word. I propose the following terms, which you may suggest to amend:
- All communication will be conducted by email, unless otherwise agreed.
- I will address in an honest, thoughtful, logical, reasonable, (and most importantly) scriptural way any issue you wish to present.
- You will only present issue related directly to Bro. Branham, his doctrine, or his message.
- You will present your issues in the form of a question.
- You will present your issues one at a time and allow me up to one week to respond, unless otherwise agreed to
- We will both refrain from personal attacks
- We are both free to openly publish our correspondence
- Any published correspondence will be published in full and without modification.
- If you ask a foolish question, I am permitted to give you a foolish answer.
- We both agree that the bible is the final authority on any scriptural or doctrinal question
Outside of these proposed terms, it would be my hope you would focus on issues central to your rejection of Branham and the Message, and not on peripheral things which ultimately have no bearing on the ultimate question. That question being: Was William Branham a true servant of God whose teaching should be accepted, or was he something less which should be rejected?
I look forward to your reply,
A Message Minister
Dear Mr. ABM (I'm not sure what else to call you),
I am very interested in entering a dialogue with you about the message.
I appreciate that you cannot speak on behalf of the message. There are far too many sects within the message to allow anyone to do that. I would disagree with you that you speak on behalf of the gospel of Christ. The only thing that you can do is speak from your understanding of the Bible. My sincerely held view is that William Branham distorted the Gospel of Christ by mixing law and grace, something that we are warned against by Paul in the book of Galatians. I expect that is only one of many areas with respect to which we disagree.
Regarding your rules of engagement, I would propose that we agree to the following:
- The terms of the discussion, as outlined below, can be changed by mutual agreement.
- In our written communication we will refer to each other as:
- “BelieveTheSign” or "BTS"; and
- "Anonymous Branham Minister" or “ABM".
- We agree to keep each other’s identity anonymous.
- All communication will be conducted by email.
- ABM will address in an honest, thoughtful, logical, reasonable, and (most importantly) scriptural way any issue BTS wishes to present.
- BTS will only present issues related directly to William Branham, his prophecies, credibility, doctrine, or teachings.
- BTS will present issues in the form of a question.
- Such questions may be framed in terms of facts, statements, quotes of William Branham and other relevant information which will be presented as background information to ensure the question is properly understood.
- BTS will present issues one at a time and allow ABM up to one week to respond.
- BTS may ask follow up questions which derive from any previous questions or flow from ABM’s answer to any particular question.
- Both parties agree to refrain from ad hominem attacks.
- Both parties are free to openly publish the correspondence.
- Any published correspondence will be published in full and without modification.
- Excerpts from the correspondence may be separately published provided that:
- The excerpts are properly punctuated to indicate the portions of the discussion that have been omitted; and
- a link to the total correspondence is provided to ensure that readers may verify the context, if desired.
- If BTS presents a question which ABM believes to be foolish; ABM is permitted to ask for clarification and point out the reasons why the question as originally stated should not be answered.
- If ABM provides an answer which BTS believes to be fatuitous or illogical, BTS is permitted to engage in a critique of why the answer appears to be flawed, provided that such critique must be framed as a question to which ABM may respond.
- The basis of all discussion should be:
- 1 Peter 3:15 – “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...”; and
- 2 Timothy 2:24-25 – “…the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…”
- Both parties agree that the Bible is the final authority on any scriptural or doctrinal question.
I have no intention of asking foolish questions and expect that you have no desire to provide foolish answers. But misunderstandings do occur, particularly when communication involving significant differences in opinion is not conducted in person but rather through email. As a result, where a question seems to be problematic, asking for clarification is the preferred route, rather than assuming the question is foolish. I will attempt to do the same where an answer seems lacking in logic.
Finally, I try to live as a true follower of Jesus, although I am not always completely successful in this. I will attempt to be open and honest in all our discussions. I assume you will do the same. We should also be free to point out when we think that the other person has breached this basic understanding or any of the terms of our agreement.
Please let me know if my amendments to your proposed “rules of engagement” are acceptable and whether you have any further amendments.
A BTS Editor
I also think we should amend the question which you posed: Was William Branham a true servant of God whose teaching should be accepted or was he something less which should be rejected?
To the extent that William Branham taught was clearly expressed in the Bible, I have no problem with his teachings. The problem is that he held himself out to be more than an evangelist or pastor, he believed and taught (although generally this was done in an indirect fashion) that he was a true prophet of God and the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5, Rev. 10:7 and was the messenger to the Laodicean church age.
As a result, I believe a better question that we should look to ultimately answer the following question: Was William Branham the messenger to the Laodicean church age, a true prophet of God who fulfilled Malachi 4:5, Rev. 10:7, and whose teaching must be accepted, or may his teachings be rejected without significant consequence?
I have reviewed your suggested changes to the terms, and I accept. I look forward to having a constructive dialog with you. You are free to send the first issue you would like to address. The more specific the issue, the quicker I will be able to respond.