Is the Message a Cult?

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Some people refer to the followers of William Branham as "Branhamites" or members of the Branham cult. But are they?

What is a cult?

A “cult” has been defined as a religious group founded by and built upon the teachings of a religious leader whose authority is viewed as being equal to or greater than the Bible and whose teachings are in opposition to the doctrines of biblical and historic Christianity.

The crucial part of the above definition of the word cult is, “whose authority is viewed as being equal to or greater than the Bible.” The founder of the cult is viewed as being a “prophet” or “prophetess” of God. Since he or she is the “voice of God,” the person’s teachings are authoritative. Thus the cult is based solely upon the religious authority of the founder. Everything depends on the validity of that authority.

The issue of religious authority is the most basic problem one encounters when witnessing to a cultist. While the child of God looks to the Scriptures as the ultimate standard by which to decide religious truth, the cultist looks to his leader to decide the truth for him. As long as the Christian and the cultist are looking to different religious authorities, there is no common ground between them where they can begin.[1]

Cults either ignore the Bible altogether, or they say, ‘Ah yes, the Bible gives us the truth, but if you really want to understand the Bible, you must interpret it in the light of this revelation which has come to us’. In speaking thus, of course, they resemble Roman Catholicism which also claims this extra authority, this extra understanding, this further revelation. And in practice, whatever lip-service they may pay to the Scriptures, the real authority is this other... this extra... this new... this direct revelation that has been given.[2]

William Branham's message > the Bible

It is clear that some followers of William Branham believe that he was Jesus Christ. Many followers of William Branham put his sermons above that of the Bible because they believe that he was infallible. These groups would include most of the followers of Joseph Branham.

But some message believers say:

...I have never put Brother Branham's teachings above the Bible! He told us that the Bible is our absolute and that is what I believe.

While such people may think that they place the Bible above William Branham's teaching, this is in fact not the case. In fact, the opposite is true. William Branham's message ALWAYS trumps the Bible. Why? Because here is what they actually believe:

  1. William Branham was one of the greatest prophets of all time, if not the greatest. Exactly how great he was may vary between message believers BUT, at the very least, they will state that William Branham was one of the seven church age messengers and, therefore, at least the equal of Paul the Apostle. In addition, they generally believe that his ministry as the Seventh Angel puts him in a league above all the other church age messengers.
  2. As the seventh angel, William Branham could not make any significant doctrinal errors because the purpose of his ministry was to reveal all of the hidden mysteries of God. As a result of this, a message believer does not have the option of disagreeing with William Branham, except possibly in respect of a relatively few, small issues.
  3. To the extent that you can prove that William Branham did make a significant error, they believe that God corrected him before he died. This has resulted in the doctrine of Progressive Revelation, which basically states that if William Branham taught different things about a subject, one should rely on his last teaching on the issue.
  4. Message believers hold that the only true evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is believing the Word for your hour. This refers specifically to the teachings of William Branham. As a result, if you think that William Branham's message has any significant errors, to a message believer this proves that you don't have the Holy Spirit. But if you believe what William Branham taught, then you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  5. We have heard message believers state on many occasions that "the message is Jesus Christ". This statement in and of itself is puts William Branham's message above the Bible.
  6. That William Branham's teachings are above that of the Bible in the eyes of his followers is clear. If presented with a clear teaching in the Bible that disagrees with William Branham, they will always accept William Branham's teaching and never that of the Bible.

So the answer is "YES", the followers of William Branham hold his teachings above that of the Bible.

Examples of the Bible taking a back seat to William Branham

In a well known racist diatribe, Donny Reagan, the pastor of Happy Valley Church of Jesus Christ, stated publicly in a sermon that if Moses was alive today, he would have to follow William Branham's message. This comment clearly shows that Donny Reagan holds William Branham's message as superseding the Bible. He specifically makes this comment in respect of William Branham's teaching that biracial marriages are contrary to God's plan.

But what does the Bible say about biracial marriages?

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.[3]

A Cushite is from Cush, a region south of Ethiopia, where the people are known for their black skin. We know this because of Jeremiah 13:23: "Can the Ethiopian [the same Hebrew word translated "Cushite" in Numbers 12:1] change his skin or the leopard his spots?""

In response to Miriam’s criticism, God does not get angry at Moses; he gets angry at Miriam. Then God strikes Miriam with leprosy. Why? Consider this possibility. In God’s anger at Miriam, Moses’ sister, God says in effect, "You like being light-skinned Miriam? I’ll make you light-skinned." So we read, "When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow" (Num. 12:10)

God says not a critical word against Moses for marrying a black Cushite woman.

So according to the Bible, there is no proscription on biracial marriages. William Branham preached against them. Donny Reagan's comments thus prove that he holds William Branham's message as a higher authority than the Bible.

The following video is a look at interracial marriages from a Biblical perspective by John Piper:

<mediaplayer width='800' height='600'>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq0Mg8QOXlM</mediaplayer>

The message is in addition to the Bible

Conclusion: The message is something in addition to the Bible

If you believe the message of the Bible, and the present Message of the day, a vindication of It; the reason you are sitting here, because you were predestinated to set here. You wouldn't have been here, otherwise; you would have been on the street, maybe drunk, some of you; and some of you out here and running around with some other man's wife; and you women out, married, and running around with some other women's husband, or something like that. See, but you were predestinated to be here. See, you can't help it. You have a Father, He is God, and you were a seed.[4]

Are William Branham's teaching in opposition to Biblical Christianity?

We believe that some message believers are Christians. This is because some message churches do believe in and teach the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the only means for the forgiveness of sins. However, that does not mean that the message represents true or restored Christianity.

To the extent that William Branham preached doctrines that agreed with the Bible, his teachings are acceptable. However, he did disagree with true Biblical Christianity in a number of significant areas.

Many of these false doctrines actually were solely designed to point to himself as being God's supreme prophet for the end time:

Other doctrines were simply incorrect if a person reads the Bible in an honest fashion:

Finally, William Branham's teaching on the Godhead were very strange:

  • In some ways, his teachings were most similar to those of Emmanual Swedenborg
  • In some of his teachings, his view of the Godhead seems to be a form of modalistic monarchianism. As a result, many message churches effectively espouse the "oneness" view of the Godhead.
  • But some of his teaching also leans toward an Adoptionist view of the Godhead. Followers of Lee Vayle's have essentially espoused this view (which some refer to derisively as the "Twinity" doctrine).

Again the answer is "YES", William Branham's teachings contain significant Biblical errors.

As a result of the above, it is clear that "message believers" are members of a cult.


Footnotes

  1. Robert A. Morey, How to Answer a Mormon: Practical Guidelines for What to Expect and What to Reply When the Mormons Come to Your Door (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1983), 12–13.
  2. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10–13 (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), 128.
  3. Numbers 12:1
  4. POWER.OF.TRANSFORMATION_ PRESCOTT.AZ 65-1031M


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