William Branham and the nature of God

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This article is one in a series of studies on William Branham and the Trinity - you are currently on the topic that is in bold:

This is a summary of William Branham's teaching on the Godhead and also contains links to articles on various doctrines taught by William Branham with respect to the nature of God.

Godhead means “the nature of God”[1], but is usually a term for “what” God is, rather than “who” God is. At its greatest depth, knowing about someone is much less rewarding that knowing someone. Still, it is a start.

We do not spend time in this article highlighting the problems with William Branham's beliefs. That discussion is contained in other articles in this series, which can be accessed from the links at the top of the page and attempt to point out specific problem areas with William Branham's belief system. . The purpose of this article is simply to highlight what he believed.

What did William Braham believe and teach?

William Branham initially believed in the doctrine of the Trinity. However, he eventually came to believe that the doctrine of the Trinity was completely false. He also rejected Oneness theology. So what did he believe?

The problem is that if there is no Trinity, where does that leave Jesus? Here are the choices:

  1. Jesus is a lower god. (Arianism)
  2. Jesus is another god. (Tri-theism)
  3. Jesus is not really the Son of God but is God the Father (Sabellianism or Oneness)
  4. Jesus is just a man and was not deity. (Nestorianism)

These points clearly answer the question, “If the Trinity is not true, then where does that leave Jesus?” It leaves Jesus as a false Jesus. This should establish why the Trinity is an essential of the faith and cannot be denied by anyone who calls themselves a Christian. It is good to point these out to someone who says the doctrine of the Trinity is not essential or primary.

Let's examine closely what William Branham taught.

William Branham believed in the Trinity initially

William Branham was ordained as an exhorter in the Pentecostal Baptist Church (see article on Roy Davis) and, early in his ministry, believed in the Trinity as evidenced by the following:

And now, there are those sitting here who are feeble this afternoon, that's in need of physical healing. And we have chosen these few words to read from Thine. And may the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, come in now, the Promise, the Comforter, that You said You would send. And He would take the things of God and would show them to us.[2]
Truly, we're not much in this world, we're looked down upon, but, God, we believe we're accepted in Christ Jesus, and He in return, has give us the Holy Ghost. We love Him, that great, third Person of the Trinity Who burns through our hearts. And we love Him. O Holy Spirit, I thank You for Your Divine leading...[3]
The same God the Father was made manifest in flesh, and now in the Holy Spirit. That's the reason the baptism is in the Name of Father, Son, Holy Ghost (See?) the Trinity--the Trinity, not three gods, but three persons in one God...[4]

In his early ministry, William Branham was very inclusive and extended open arms to both Trinitarians and Oneness believers (see the vision of the Plum and Apple Trees.

In his sermon, The Godhead Explained, William Branham tells of when he was confronted by ministers of both the Assemblies of God (Trinitarian) and the United Pentecostal Church (Oneness) and forced to clearly define his doctrine. At the end of their discussion, William Branham had both representatives acknowledge that the other had the Holy Spirit. He then explained his method of baptism, which both representatives accepted. In this same sermon, William Branham tells of another confrontation with a UPC minister. This minister said "You know what we are going to do? We are drawing a little ring and drawing you right out of our circle." William Branham responded, "If you draw me out, I will draw you back in."

While William Branham's view of the Godhead was hard to accurately pin down, he did appear to have changed his beliefs fundamentally on this subject in 1958, as his last reference to a Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead was in March 1958. He gradually became less and less tolerant of the Trinitarian view until he eventually classified anyone that believed in the Trinity doctrine as a non-Christian:

I said, "Then you have to refuse Jesus Christ, for He is the revelation of God, God revealed in human flesh." Unless you see it, you're lost. Jesus said, "Except you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." He is the revelation of God, the Spirit of God revealed in human form. If you can't believe that, you're lost. You put Him a third person, second person, or any other person besides God, you're lost. "Except you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." A revelation! [5]

Both Trinitarian and Oneness believers were wrong

William Branham's teachings on the Godhead were all over the map. As a result, this is one of the areas that most message believers apply the doctrine of Progressive Revelation.

William Branham stated many times that both the Oneness and Trinitarians were wrong and that the truth was somewhere in between.

Notice, the Book written... When this angel finishes all these loose-end ministries that through the battle they fought, Luther fought, and Wesley fought, and the Pentecostals fought, but there's coming one, says the Bible, that in the days of his sounding, all these mysteries... The Oneness run off on Jesus' Name. The Trinity went off on Father, Son, Holy Ghost, just like they did at the Nicaea Council: same thing. They both was wrong. But now, in the middle of the road, in the Scriptures lays out the truth. [6]
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. [7]

Jesus Christ was a created being

William Branham also taught that Jesus Christ was part of God's creation:

He was God manifested in a flesh of His creative Son. See? Now, that's, God created the Son. [8]

This belief was originally taught by a man named Arius who was born in North Africa around 256 A.D. Arius became a church leader in Alexandria, Egypt and taught that Jesus was created. If Jesus was created by God the Father then there was a time when Jesus did not exist. This doctrine of Arius, referred to as Arianism spread and caused the church split into two groups.[9]

A detailed discussion of the heresy of Arianism can be found in our article on the subject.

William Branham and Nestorianism

Nestorianism is basically the doctrine that Jesus existed as two persons, the man Jesus and the divine Son of God, rather than as a unified person. William Branham's teaching on the nature of Christ was clearly tainted by Nestorianism. It is even more clearly developed in the teachings of Lee Vayle.

God was in Him. He was a man, but He was a—a dual Person. One, He was a man; the Spirit in Him was God.[10]
The Spirit left Him, in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had to die, a man. Remember, friends, He didn’t have to do that. That was God. God anointed that flesh, which was human flesh. And He didn’t…If He’d a went up there, as God, He’d have never died that kind of death; can’t kill God. But He didn’t have to do it.[11]

These comments by William Branham are clearly heretical. Jesus was no less God when he died on the cross than in any other point in his life. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man.

The Nestorian heresy, from the 5th century, effectively holds Jesus as having two persons as well as two natures in Christ. But if this were so, then when Christ sacrificed his life on the cross, it was not the person who is also divine, the Son of God, who died for us. In this case, the atoning sacrifice of Christ would have no divine value and could not be efficacious for our sins. Only if one and the same person, who is both God and man, dies on the cross for our sin can we be saved. For unless Jesus is both God and man he cannot reconcile God and man. But the Bible says clearly, “there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Since Christ is one Who (person) with two Whats (natures), whenever one question is asked about him it must be separated into two questions, one applying to each nature. For example, did he get tired? Answer: as God, no; as man, yes. Did Christ get hungry? In his divine nature, no; in his human nature, yes. Did Christ die? In his human nature, he did die. But in his divine nature he did not die. The person who died was the God-man, but his Godness did not die.

When this same logic is applied to other theological questions raised by Muslims it yields the same kind of answer. Did Jesus know everything? As God he did, since God is omniscient. But as man Jesus said he did not know the time of his second coming (Matt. 24:36), and as a child he didn’t know everything, since “he increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). Another often asked question is: Could Jesus sin? The answer is the same: as God he could not have sinned; as man he could have sinned (but he didn’t). God cannot sin. For example, the Bible says “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18; cf. Titus 1:2). Yet Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). That is to say, while he never sinned (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 1:19; 1 John 3:3), he was really tempted and, therefore, it was possible for him to sin. Otherwise, his temptation would have been a charade. Jesus possessed the power of free choice, which means that whatever moral choice he made, he could have done otherwise. This means that when he chose not to sin (which was always), he could have sinned (but did not) as man.[12]

Branhamism and Swedenborgianism

When you distill everything down, it appears that William Branham taught a view of the Godhead that was similar to that taught by Emmanual Swedenborg. The New Church (as followers of Emmanual Swedenborg have branded themselves) make the following claim about the Godhead:

There are not three gods, nor three persons in one God, but rather one God with three aspects to His being. Just as we all have a soul, a body and the actions of our lives (and are one person), so it is with God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are names given for the soul, body and activity of the Lord God Jesus Christ.[13]

William Branham taught the same doctrine with regards to the Godhead:

Now, remember, you’re in a cycle of three, but you’re one person. Like Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, cycle of three, but one Person. …And you are: body, spirit, and soul. Now, the outside body has five inlets to it, to contact your earthly home: see, taste, feel, smell, and hear. The inside, which is a spirit, it has five senses: conscience, and love, and so forth. But the inside of that, the soul, has one thing. That’s where you live. ~ William Branham, Sermon: Works is Faith Expressed, November 26, 1965
Jesus is the Name. And the Name was placed in a Man; not a church, not a denomination, not a creed, but a Man. He chose to place His Name in Jesus Christ. Now we find out that then He becomes the place of God’s worship, where you worship Him. ~ William Branham, Sermon: God’s Chosen Place of Worship, February 20, 1965

Swedenborg was also very against the teachings of the Trinity, as follows:

"The Church is now in so ruinous a state, that there are scarce any traces left of its ancient glory. And this has come to pass, in consequence of their dividing the Divine Trinity into three persons, each of which is declared to be God and Lord. This is the true source of all Atheism in the world. ...The Nicene and Athanasian ...doctrine concerning the Trinity, have given birth to a faith which has entirely overturned the Christian Church. ...He that confirmith himself in a plurality of Gods, by a plurality of persons, becomes like a statue formed with movable joing, in the midst of which Satan stands and speaks through its mouth. ...A Trinity of Divine Persons existing before the creation of the world, is a Trinity of Gods. ...The Lord received his soul from Jehovah, and the divinity of the Father was the Lord’s soul. ...The passion of the cross was the final temptation which the Lord endured as the Grand Prophet; and it was the means of the glorification of his humanity; that is, of its union with the divinity of the Father. ...God is one, in essence and person, and Jesus Christ is He.” (Emmanuel Swedenborg)

These statements are so similar to William Branham's tapes, that it makes you wonder whether the angel that appeared to William Branham was the same angel that appeared to Emmanuel Swedenborg. Or more likely, that William Branham again simply plagiarized his teachings:

...all who believe in the Trinity are possessed of the devil; that the Nicene Creed gave "birth to a faith which has entirely overturned the Christian church."[14]

Swedenborg's statements above were all presented to John Wesley. His conclusion on these doctrines is as follows:

“The grand error which we learn from [this] whole work is, that there are not three persons in one God. …Notwithstanding all [these] new revelations, I believe, according to the old one, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit; and these three are one” For the term ‘person’ I contend not. I know no better: If any does, let him use it. …No there is not a word in all the Bible concerning any such union of the humanity of Christ with the divinity of the Father. He was then glorified, when he was received again into the glory which he had before the world began. …what heaps of absurdity are here! Only fit to have a place in Orlando Furioso. …Blasphemy, joined with consummate nonsense."[15]

Lee Vayle, who edited William Branham's book "The Church Ages" held that the mystery of the seven seals was the restoration of the correct teaching of the Godhead. If this doctrine of Lee Vayle's is correct, then the correct teaching on the Godhead was actually restored 300 years earlier by Emmanuel Swedenborg and had nothing to do with William Branham.

John Wesley also wrote:

"O my brethren, let none of you that fear God recommend such a writer any more; much less labor to make the deadly poison palatable, by sweetening it with all care! All his folly and nonsense we may excuse; but not his making God a liar; not his contradicting, in so open and flagrant a manner, the whole oracles of God! True, his tales are often exceeding lively, and as entertaining as the tales of... the fairies! But I dare not give up my Bible for them; and I must give up one or the other. If the preceding extracts are from God, then the Bible is only a fable! But if all Scriptures are given by inspiration of God, then let these dreams sink into the pit from whence they came."[16]

The Godhead and Respect

William Branham relates a vision he had of a "Pentecostal kitten". When petted the animal against the fur, it would spit and become extremely upset. What is interesting about this vision is that it is a better description of message followers (and ministers in particular), than it is of Pentecostals today.

In the past, some Christians in positions of power have persecuted heretics (or anyone who disagrees with their own favourite doctrine). But persecuting heretics is as spiritual as stoning the good Samaritan. The treatment of the Cathars at the hands of the Catholics, most notably in the massacre in Beziers in 1209 A.D., is a historic example of this persecution.

The Apostle Paul wrote about people who "hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1). He describes people who understand the Godhead correctly, but still choose to live a life of corruption. Paul’s final description of these individuals is ‘unmerciful’, which is an apt description of Arnaud-Amaury, the Catholic ambassador to the Cathars of Bezier, who declared “Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own.”

Jesus taught that only those who had a pure heart would see God (Matthew 5:8). So even though what we are describing is heresy, there is no need to stone or persecute Branhamites. What there is a need for is to be merciful.


Footnotes

  1. The following Greek words are translated into English as Godhead:
    Greek Translation Reference
    Theiotes, Divine nature. (Strongs Greek Lexicon #2305), "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" (Romans 1:20)
    Theios Divine (Strongs Greek Lexicon #2304) "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." (Acts 17:29)
    Theotes Deity i.e. the state of being God (Strongs Greek Lexicon #2320) "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9)
  2. THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS ERIE.PA 51-0729A
  3. EARLY SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES HAMMOND.IN 52-0713A
  4. THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST CHICAGO.IL 53-0829
  5. THE ANOINTED ONES AT THE END TIME JEFF.IN 65-0725M
  6. William Branham, December 30, 1962, Sign of the End
  7. William Branham, August 4, 1963, Calling Jesus on the Scene
  8. William Branham, August 4, 1963, Calling Jesus on the Scene
  9. Alton Gansky, 60 People Who Shaped the Church: Learning from Sinners, Saints, Rogues, and Heroes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014).
  10. William Marrion Branham, 59-1129 - Let Us See God
  11. William Marrion Branham, 65-0418M - It Is The Rising Of The Sun, para. 241
  12. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 274–275.
  13. Excerpt from the website of The New Church - newchurch.org/get-answers/spiritual-concepts/who-is-god/who-is-god-the-new-church-perspective/
  14. 'Thomas C. Oden, John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity, A Plain Exposition on His Teaching on Christian Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994
  15. Thoughts on the writings of Baron Swedenborg, by John Wesley, Wakefield, May 8, 1782.
  16. Thoughts on the writings of Baron Swedenborg, by John Wesley, Wakefield, May 8, 1782.


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