Did William Branham Teach Oneness?

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The majority of message church believe the Oneness doctrine.

The Oneness doctrine is a non-Trinitarian view of the The Godhead. It is the fundamental belief of a minority of Pentecostal denominations and most churches that follow William Branham. However, those message churches that follow the teachings of Lee Vayle have a view of the Godhead that is a mixture of several heretical teachings that originated well over 1,000 year ago, namely Nestorianism, Arianism, and Adoptionism. Prior to the 20th century, the Christian church referred to the Oneness doctrine as Sabellianism, Patripassianism, Modalism or modalistic monarchianism.

An important question to consider

In Ephesians 1:17, Paul refers to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory."[1]

If Jesus and the Father are one and the same, who is the God of Jesus that Paul is referring to?

William Branham and the Oneness doctrine

On close examination, William Branham was incredibly confused in his understanding of God. He tried to hold himself out as believing something that was between Oneness and the Trinity. At times, he sounded like a Oneness preacher and at other times, like a Nestorian, a teacher of Arianism or an Adoptionist. As a result, some of his followers, in particular the followers of Lee Vayle, believe that Jesus was not God but a created being (Arianism) with a dual nature (Nestorianism). This doctrine is referred to in a derogatory manner by some message followers as the doctrine of the "Twinity".

Notwithstanding his statements to the contrary, the majority of the followers of William Branham believe that he fundamentally taught a Oneness view of the Godhead and would, therefore, be considered adherents to Oneness theology.

William Branham often said statements such as, “God is not one like your finger” (Sermon: Lord, Show us the Father, Sept 7, 1953). This appears to be directed at doctrines he was hearing among the people at the time, even though this is not the current doctrine of Oneness Pentecostals, such as the United Pentecostal Church. Websites such as FatherJesus.com are evidence of this extreme Oneness view that Jesus is God the Father. In contrast, William Branham taught that there is a threefold being to God, but God is not three individuals nor so singular that the Son of God is God the Father.

I do not believe that Jesus could be His own father. I believe that Jesus had a Father, and that was God. But God dwelled and tabernacled in this body called Jesus, and He was Emmanuel: God with us. And there's no other God besides this God. He is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And the Name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost... Father: the Lord, Son: Jesus, Holy Ghost: Logos, Spirit of God. Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Lord Jesus Christ; that's Him. And in Him dwelled the Fullness of the Godhead bodily. (William Branham, Sermon: Q&A, June 28, 1959)

William Branham referred to "Lord Jesus Christ" as the name of God, and that it was what Jesus referred to when he said people should be baptized in "the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", which were the titles of God. But this isn't right. For example, "Christ" is a title. It means "Messaiah" or "anointed one", while "Holy Spirit" is the best name form the Spirit of God that can be found. "Lord" also reflects the authority of Jesus. But referring to "Lord" as "Father" both removes authority from Jesus, and removes his identity as the Son of God.

Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is Lord, and Jesus is God. The basis for those statements can all be found in scripture. Saying that Holy Spirit is a title and that Christ is the Name is not scriptural. And saying that "Abba" is impersonal is like telling a child that she must call her father by his given name. William Branham's doctrine of the Godhead sacrifices the relationship that God has with man.

Unitarianism versus Oneness

There are many who confuse the terms unitarian and Oneness. This is because both essentially believe that God can only exist as a single "unit," or monad. He cannot be divided into separate parts, or a plurality of "persons" and still exist as a whole deity. Although unitarians and Oneness are similar in the belief that there is not a plurality of persons in the Godhead, unitarians believe that Jesus was only a moral authority whereas the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ is essential to Oneness doctrine.

In Oneness theology there is an existential distinction, where God in the incarnation comes to exist in Christ in complete human existence and continues to exist as God eternally as Spirit ("Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" - Matthew 1:23).

Monarchianism

Monarchianism refers to a movement in the second and third centuries that attempted to safeguard monotheism and the unity (mono-archē = “one source”) of the Godhead. Monarchianism denied any kind of difference in reality of the Son and the Spirit as separate from the Father. The first form of monarchianism was referred to as "patripassianism", which derived from the Greek words patēr (father) and paschō (to suffer). The term refers to an early type of modalism that suggested that the one God (the Father) became incarnate in the form of the Son, was born of a virgin and suffered and died on the cross.

From this, two distinct forms of monarchianism developed:

1. Adoptionist, or dynamic monarchianism, which understood Jesus as merely a prophet filled with the Spirit and thus “adopted” by God; and
2. Modalism (modalistic monarchianism or Sabellianism), which viewed Jesus as one of the modes through which the one God reveals himself to us.[2]

Oneness/Modalist Theology

The majority of message churches would be considered modalist or oneness in their view of the Godhead.

They believe in the one God, and the complete and full deity of Jesus Christ. Oneness Pentecostals reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Oneness Pentecostals maintain that the Judeo-Christian God is not three separate and distinct Persons, but is exclusively one God without any internal distinctions of persons, a belief based in part on a biblical passage found in Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."

According to Oneness Pentecostals, God is not a plurality of persons, but does have a plurality of manifestations, roles, titles, attributes, or relationships to man. Oneness statements of faith generally refer to God as "Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in emanation/regeneration" or that God exists in three "manifestations" throughout history. Oneness Christians maintain that there is no fundamental "threeness" to God, and consider it an injustice to speak of God as a "person".

Oneness Pentecostals are often referred to as "Jesus Only." The label arose early on in reference to their insistence on baptizing only in the name of Jesus, but it tends to be used only by the movement's critics today, and is generally disliked by Oneness Pentecostals. "Oneness", "Apostolic" and "Jesus' Name" are adherents' preferred self-designations.[3]

Adoptionist, or dynamic monarchianism

Lee Vayle took the teachings of William Branham and used them to teach his own heretical view of the Godhead, a strange admixture of Nestorianism, Arianism, and Adoptionism. A detailed analysis of Lee Vayle's teachings can be found in our article on the subject.

Concerns with the Oneness doctrine

An extreme Oneness t-shirt from fatherjesus.com

Sabellius was the original proponent of modalism.

Calvin saw Sabellius as having a false belief because he:

counted the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as almost of no importance, arguing that it was not because of any distinction that they were put forward, but that they were diverse attributes of God, of which sort there are very many. If it came to a debate, he was accustomed to confess that he recognized the Father as God, the Son as God, and the Spirit as God; but afterward a way out was found, contending that he had said nothing else than if he had spoken of God as strong, and just, and wise. And so he re-echoed another old song, that the Father is the Son, and the Holy Spirit the Father, without rank, without distinction. [4]

Wording that modalist (and message) believers never use

It is interesting to note that the people that ascribe to the modalist view of the Godhead never use wording like the following when they are talking about God:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.[5]


God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.[6]


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.[7]


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places...[8]


I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him...[9]


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[10]


We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you...[11]


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.[12]


To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...[13]


To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[14]


Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.[15]


Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.[16]


Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.[17]


Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.[18]


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[19]


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy...[20]


...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.[21]


This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.[22]


...according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood...[23]


Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.[24]


To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ...[25]


Why is it that they never refer to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? Could it be that their understanding of the Godhead is incorrect? Could it be an antichrist spirit that denies the Father and the Son?


Quotes of William Branham

William Branham clearly stated that he did not believe the Oneness doctrine on numerous occasions:

And I different agree with the organization of Pentecost that calls the Oneness like your finger is one. That’s wrong. Absolutely, it’s wrong. God… Jesus couldn’t have been His Own Father, and if God is a Man, then Jesus was born sexual desire and not virgin birth. That settles the whole thing. You see? If He’s one like your finger’s one, then what? Then He was His Own daddy. How could He have been? That’s wrong. He had a Father, Jesus did.[26]
Now, the Oneness took it, the oneness group of people, and try to make Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, just one office and one place, and like your finger, one. That’s wrong. God could not…Jesus could not been His Own father. If He was, then He was a…Well, how could He been His Own father?[27]
That’s why we stay at the Branham Tabernacle. That’s why we’re not Assemblies. That’s why we’re not Oneness. That’s why we’re not Jesus Only. That’s why we’re not Methodist. That’s why we’re not Baptist. Just a—a little tabernacle here. We don’t have no denomination at all. We’re free, in Christ. That’s why we stay the way we do. And God has blessed us, God helping us.[28]
A few days ago, when Doctor Lamsa come to me, and never knowed nothing about that, and brought me a picture, which brother’s got it there with him now. Have you got that picture? Have you got the Bible with you, laying there, it’s in your book? All right. There was a picture of the old ancient Hebrew sign of God, just exactly that existed in the days of Job, before the Bible was ever wrote. God in His three attributes, not three gods. One God in three attributes. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three offices that God worked into. Not three gods, three attributes! And there It was.
When that great man, Doctor Lamsa, the translation of the Lamsa Bible, when he said that morning. When I told him that, I said—I said, “What’s that sign?” 122 He said, “That’s God’s ancient sign, in the Hebrew. God, one God in three attributes.” I said, “Such as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?” He stopped, and he set his cup of coffee down, he looked at me. Gene, believe you was there, Leo. Said, “You believe that?” I said, “With all my heart.”
He said, “Last night, standing in your meeting, Brother Branham, I seen that discernment. I’ve never seen it before in America, in my land.” He said, “These American people don’t even know the Bible. Only thing they know is their denomination. They don’t even know where they’re standing.” Said, “They don’t know nothing.” He said, “But when I stood there last night,” said, “I said…” Now, Brother Gene, I just say this with reverence and love and such. He said, “I said, ‘That must be a prophet.’ But when I see that you believe that Father, Son and Holy Ghost was no three gods, it was attributes, then I know that you’re a prophet of God, or it wouldn’t be revealed to you like that.” He said, “That’s a perfect sign.” Said, “I’ve never…” Said, “You’re not oneness?”
I said, “No, sir. I am not the oneness. I believe in God being the Almighty God, and the three attributes are only three offices that the one God lived in.” He said, “Bless your heart!” He said, “Someday you’ll pour your blood upon the earth for that, but,” said, “prophets always die for their cause.” 127 And I said, “So let it be, if it pleases my Lord.” The translation of the Lamsa Bible.[29]
Now, I’m not a… don’t… And I say… And some people say, “He’s a ‘Jesus Only,’” You’re mistaken there. I wouldn’t have that kind of a spirit on me. There that dogmatic, ungodly thing that… No, sir. I’m not Oneness. Not at all. I’m not trinity either. I’m a Christian. I believe in God. I believe in God manifested in three offices. Now His office is in my heart, in your heart. Not another God somewhere else; another God somewhere else; another God somewhere else. That’s as pagan as pagan can be. Never one time was that even thought of until the Nicene Council. Find it in the Bible, or find it in history—till that time. It’s not there.[30]
Now, God cannot be three people, three Gods. Neither can Jesus be His Own Father, in one. See? So, you see, it makes both radically wrong.[31]
In the day that the Pentecostal come out, they got the “Jesus Only” group. Now, that’s wrong, again. How can Jesus be His Own Father? See? So it knocks that out. 176 But there is supposed to be an eagle time come. See? That’s the time It’s to straighten all those mysteries out. See?[32]
There is God, see, not three gods. Oh, how many of you trinitarian people got that mixed up. And how you Oneness people got it mixed up, too, of Him being one like your finger. Uh-huh. See? They, they both of them got it mixed up. See? That’s right. He’s the one God like your finger, one, how could He be His Own Father? See? See, He can’t be His Own Father. And if He had another Father outside of the Holy Spirit, and if God is a man, a person, then He is a…the Holy Spirit was His Father, and God is His Father, Matthew 1, so then He was an illegitimate Child. See? So you can’t make it either way, you, it’s both wrong.[33]
There is where the oneness missed it, there is where the trinity missed it, both sides of the road. But the happy medium is right in between. If God could be His Own Father, if Jesus was His Own Father, He couldn’t be. And if He had another Father besides God, and the Bible said the “Holy Ghost” was His Father, and if they’re two different spirits, He was an illegitimate child. That’s right. Which was the Father of Him, God or the Holy Ghost? You say one and watch how embarrassed you’re going to get. God was His Father. Is that right?[34]

Denominations that follow Oneness Theology

Besides the majority of message believers, there are many Oneness Pentecostal organizations, although their numbers are not significant. Here are a few of the larger ones:

International Denominations

Oneness Pentecostal groups with headquarters in other countries include the United Pentecostal Church of Colombia, an indigenous church and the largest non-Catholic church in the country; the United Pentecostal Church of Australia; the Apostolic Church of the Faith in Christ Jesus, with headquarters in Mexico; the Oneness Pentecostal movement in the former U.S.S.R.; and the True Jesus Church], an indigenous church founded by Chinese Christians on the mainland but whose headquarters is now in Taiwan. At times they have affirmed to be the only true church. There are many smaller organizations (approximately 130 worldwide), independent churches, and charismatic fellowships that are Oneness in doctrine.

In existence is also the Apostolic World Christian Fellowship which has been trying to unite all Oneness Pentecostal denominations in existence through a loose fellowship. There are some Oneness denominations that have refused to join -- for example the United Pentecostal Church.[35]

External links


Footnotes

  1. The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Eph 1:17.
  2. Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 80 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999).
  3. Dr. David K. Bernard, Unmasking Prejudice, Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research
  4. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, 125 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).
  5. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 7:55.
  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 1:9.
  7. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Co 13:14.
  8. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 1:3.
  9. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 1:16–17.
  10. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Php 1:2.
  11. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Col 1:3.
  12. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Col 3:17.
  13. Grace to you and peace. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Th 1:1.
  14. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Th 1:1–2.
  15. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Th 2:16–17.
  16. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Ti 1:2.
  17. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Ti 1:2.
  18. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Tt 1:4.
  19. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Phm 3.
  20. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Pe 1:3.
  21. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 1:3.
  22. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 2:22.
  23. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Pe 1:2.
  24. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Jn 3.
  25. Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jud 1.
  26. William Branham, 53-0907A - Lord, Show Us The Father And It Sufficeth Us
  27. William Branham, 57-0901E - Hebrews, Chapter Four, para. 128
  28. William Branham, 58-0927 - Why Are We Not A Denomination?, para. 194
  29. William Branham, 60-0515E - Adoption #1, para. 121-125
  30. William Branham, 61-0318 - Abraham's Covenant Confirmed, para. 71
  31. William Branham, 61-0425B - The Godhead Explained, para. 131
  32. William Branham, 63-0324M - Questions And Answers On The Seals, para. 175
  33. William Branham, 63-0804E - Calling Jesus On The Scene, para. 44
  34. William Branham, 65-0429B - The Seed Shall Not Be Heir With The Shuck, para. 107
  35. "The Pentecostals", by Walter J. Hollenweger, Professor of Mission at the University of Birmingham


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