William Branham and the Trinity Doctrine

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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:

William Branham:

  1. believed the doctrine of the Trinity from the start of his ministry until 1958;
  2. rejected the doctrine of the Trinity sometime in 1958

While William Branham initally accepted and taught the doctrine of the Trinity, in the latter stages of his ministry (1958-1965) he could not accept the concept of three persons in the Godhead. This appears to have been the result of both his lazy theology and his desire to be seen as a prophet that was restoring long-forgotten truths to the church. His argument against the Trinity is referred to as a "straw man" argument, in that he constructs what he thinks Trinitarians believe (but which in fact they deny vehemently) and then attacks that incorrect view.

Now we find in the Scripture that many people teaches that, "three personalities in the Godhead." So, you cannot have a personality without being a person. It takes a person to make a personality.
...You cannot be a person without being a personality. And if you're a personality, you are one personality to yourself. You're a separate, individual being." [1]

William Branham's rejection of the Trinity is not based on scripture, it is not based on sound reasoning and it is not based on what the church has historically taught. He simply rejected it out of hand because he did not take the time to understand the concepts.

A doctrine about the Godhead cannot be refuted simply because it "doesn't make sense". The doctrine of the Trinity was not adopted by the church because it "makes sense". It is considered orthodox because that is what comes our of considering the totality of scripture:

A. There is one God
B. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God
C. The three are distinct.

All heresies relating to the Godhead are the result of attempting a "simpler" explanation by removing either A, B, or C above - the result being polytheism, Arianism, or Modalism - all of which must necessarily ignore something in scripture. Much like the concept of eternity, the Trinity is difficult to wrap our heads around, but even harder to debunk with honest, responsible review of scripture.

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]
Now, of course, we people today, we believe that there’s three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost is the three persons of the one true God. It’s three offices, not three Gods. But that same… Listen now, we think that was ridiculous in the Catholic church, but we brought it right down here at Pentecost and tore yourselves to pieces with it—set up another organization, started something else.[5]

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! [6]

William Branham's flawed view of history

William Branham believed that prior to the Council of Nicea, which met in 325 A.D., the doctrine of the Trinity did not exist. However, his understanding was wrong. He also incorrectly believed that the Nicene Council made a determination between the doctrine of the Trinity and Oneness. The actual dispute was between the doctrine of the Trinity and Arianism, a belief that Jesus was a created being.

The problem that non-Trinitiarians must address from a historical context is that no significant leader in the Christian church in the last 1700 years has been non-Trinitarian. They all believed and stood for the doctrine of the Trinity.

William Branham's Flawed Critique of the Trinity

William Branham's arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity can be referred to as "straw man" arguments:

They also state, "God, according to the Bible, is not just one person, but He is three persons in one God. That is the great mystery of the Trinity". It sure is. How can three persons be in one God? Not only is there no Bible for it, but it shows even a lack of intelligent reasoning. Three distinct persons, though identical substance, make three gods, or language has lost its meaning entirely.[7]
Satan is a liar and the father of lies, and whenever he comes with any light it is still a lie. He is a murderer. And his doctrine of the trinity has destroyed the multitudes and will destroy until Jesus comes.[8]
Therefore, if any Trinitarian here would just let yourself loose a minute, you can see that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not three Gods. It's three attributes of the same God. See, it's expression. Father, He was, wanted to be a Father. He was a Father, He was a Son, and He is the Holy Ghost. And the Father and the Holy Ghost is the same Spirit. Don't you see? You get it? [Congregation says, "Amen."--Ed.] Not three gods. The devil has told you them things, to make an idolater out of you. See? [9]

A straw man argument is when someone establishes a position, claims it is the opponent’s position, and then attacks it, when it is not, in fact, the opponent’s position at all.[10]

The straw man fallacy was so named because of the ease with which a straw image can be knocked down as opposed to a real man made of bone and muscle. A straw man may be an extreme or exaggerated version of another’s position or an oversimplification of it. It is always easier to dispose of an exaggerated or simplistic argument than a well-balanced and substantive argument.

William Branham alleged that the doctrine of the Trinity was unbiblical because it teaches three Gods. However, this objection is a straw man because, in fact, the doctrine of the Trinity affirms the existence of only one God.[11]

William Branham also criticized Oneness theology by saying "you get off the wrong track when you try to think that God is one like your finger is one. He can't be His Own Father."[12] If Jesus could not be his own father, then it is difficult to see how William Branham could reject the doctrine of the Trinity.

It is important to notice that William Branham's critique of the doctrine of the Trinity is not backed up by a lot of scripture. So first, he misrepresented the doctrine of the Trinity through a straw man argument (no Trinitarian believes in three Gods), and then critiqued his own misrepresentation of the Trinity.

Three Gods?

William Branham's primary argument against the Trinity was a logical fallacy referred to as "a straw man".

 
A misleading impression of the Trinity (by Fridolin Leiber) as "person" does not mean "individual". Don't try to paint God (or take pictures of lights and claim it's God) and think you're going to get it right.
A man come to me the other night to show me where I was wrong, or to talking about the trinity. I got thousands of good trinity friends. They're in that Babylon. I got a lot of Oneness friends in that Babylon, too. See? But what happened? He said, "It's terminology, Brother Branham. You believe in the trinity?"
I said, "Certainly." I said, "I'll take your word: terminology." I said, "How do you believe it?"
He said, "I believe in one God."
I say, "You do well." See?
He said, "I believe there's one God, and three persons in the Godhead."
I said, "Aren't you a--a student of BIOLA?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Sounds like it." I said, "That don't speak very good for your education." I said, "Three persons, and one God?" I said, "According to Webster, there, it has to be a personality before it can be a person. You believe in three gods, mister." You cannot be a person without being a personality, 'cause it takes a personality to make a person.[13]

William Branham clearly understood that the doctrine of the Trinity did not teach that there were three gods but chose to ignore the reasons for this position. Instead of focusing on the reasons that the church had adopted this position for millienia, he chose to reject it simply on the basis that it didn't make sense to him.

However, his position disagrees with all of the great spiritual men of the church that preceded him, and he chose to ignore them as well:

A Defense of the Trinity by historical Christian figures

The following are a few well known Christian figures through history that have defended the Trinity doctrine in very clear terms:

Martin Luther

The evangelist clearly differentiates between the Word and the Person of the Father. He stresses the fact that the Word was a Person distinct from the Person of the Father, with whom He was. He was entirely separate from the Father. John wishes to say: “The Word, who was in the beginning, was not alone but was with God.” Just as if I should say: “He was with me; he sits at my table; he is my companion.” This would imply that I am speaking of another, that there are two of us; I alone do not constitute a companion. Thus we read here: “The Word was with God.”
According to reason, this would mean that the Word is something different from God. Therefore he continues and drives home his point: “And God was the Word.” He does so, in order to forestall any attempt to separate the Word from God, that is, the Son from the Father, in view of the statement: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” Now this gives the impression and sounds as if there were more than one. “You are right,” he says, “inasmuch as you distinguish between the Person of God and the Person of the Word, since God is one Person and the Word is another. Despite this, the Word, i.e., the Son, is and remains eternal and true God together with the Father.”
Our reason makes an entirely different deduction and says: “If you insist that the Word is with God, then are there two Gods?” Therefore St. John wants the three Persons distinguished from one another within the one divine essence. And then he joins Them together again in order to avoid the impression that They are divided into three Gods, and in order to stress that there is only one God: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by whom all things were made. It is as if St. John were to say: “I wish to preach of a Word who became flesh but who was with God and beside God from the beginning. He could not be elsewhere than with God, since no creature existed as yet. It is true, I make mention of two, namely, God and the Word, i.e., the Father and the Son. But this Word was with God, yet not as a separate, distinct God; no, He was the true, eternal God, of one essence with the Father, equal in might and glory. The distinction is that the Father is one Person, and the Son is another Person. Although the latter is a different Person, He is nevertheless the same God as the Father. Although there are two of Them, yet the Son remains the one true God with the Father. The two Persons are distinguished thus: It is the Father who speaks; the other Person, the Son, is spoken.”
There are two distinct Persons; and still there is one single, eternal, natural God. The Holy Spirit is likewise a Person, apart from the Father and the Son; and at the same time the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one divine essence and remain one God, three Persons in the one divine essence. Therefore the Holy Trinity must be spoken of correctly and accurately: The Word, which is the Son, and God the Father are two Persons but nevertheless one God; and the Holy Spirit is another Person in the Godhead, as we shall see later.[14]

John Calvin

Sabellius says that the Father, Son, and Spirit, indicate some distinction in God. Say, they are three, and he will bawl out that you are making three Gods. Say, that there is a Trinity of Persons in one Divine essence, you will only express in one word what the Scriptures say, and stop his empty prattle. Should any be so superstitiously precise as not to tolerate these terms, still do their worst, they will not be able to deny that when one is spoken of, a unity of substance must be understood, and when three in one essence, the persons in this Trinity are denoted. When this is confessed without equivocations we dwell not on words. But I was long ago made aware, and, indeed, on more than one occasion, that those who contend pertinaciously about words are tainted with some hidden poison; and, therefore, that it is more expedient to provoke them purposely, than to court their favour by speaking obscurely.
For it is absurd to imagine that our doctrine gives any ground for alleging that we establish a quaternion of gods. They falsely and calumniously ascribe to us the figment of their own brain, as if we virtually held that three persons emanate from one essence, whereas it is plain, from our writings, that we do not disjoin the persons from the essence, but interpose a distinction between the persons residing in it. If the persons were separated from the essence, there might be some plausibility in their argument; as in this way there would be a trinity of Gods, not of persons comprehended in one God. This affords an answer to their futile question—whether or not the essence concurs in forming the Trinity; as if we imagined that three Gods were derived from it. Their objection, that there would thus be a Trinity without a God, originates in the same absurdity. Although the essence does not contribute to the distinction, as if it were a part or member, the persons are not without it, or external to it; for the Father, if he were not God, could not be the Father; nor could the Son possibly be Son unless he were God. We say, then, that the Godhead is absolutely of itself. And hence also we hold that the Son, regarded as God, and without reference to person, is also of himself; though we also say that, regarded as Son, he is of the Father. Thus his essence is without beginning, while his person has its beginning in God.[15]

John & Charles Wesley

In the three Divine Persons we acknowledge a distinction established upon Scripture authority; but, holding the unity of substance in the Godhead, we protest against tritheism, or the notion of three Gods, and confine our worship to the one Supreme.[16]
To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, who yet are not three Gods, but One, revered by all His host... [17]

Charles Spurgeon

I no more believe in three Gods than I believe in thirty gods. There is but one God to me, and therefore I am in that sense a Unitarian, and Socinians have no right to the name merely because they deny the Godhead of our Lord Jesus. We believe Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be one God; but Jesus Christ is God, and whosoever casts that truth away casts away eternal life. How can he enter into heaven if he does not know Christ as the everlasting Son of the Father? He must be God, since he has promised to be in ten thousand places at one time, and no mere man could do that.[18]

Quotes of William Branham

William Branham believed the doctrine of the Trinity:

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, one… three gods… One person in three dispensations. See?[19]
God does everything in threes. He wrote three Bibles. He had three comings of Christ. There is three dispensations of grace. There's three persons in the Godhead, three manifestations of the one Person in the Godhead, rather. And all those things. See?[20]
Anyone that knows God, and knows His Bible, know that those three are One. Not three gods, one God, manifested in three persons.[21]

The Oneness doctrine was wrong:

Now, of course, we people today, we believe that there’s three, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost is the three persons of the one true God. It’s three offices, not three Gods. But that same… Listen now, we think that was ridiculous in the Catholic church, but we brought it right down here at Pentecost and tore yourselves to pieces with it—set up another organization, started something else.
Instead of coming like brethren with brotherly love and with unity, the first one begin to see the—that the three Persons of the Godhead was in one Person, Christ Jesus; He was the manifestation of God in flesh, not another man. And then you set up and got the little dogmatic idea of the oneness, so-called. Then you started on that, begin to harp on it, and you made God one like your finger, one, and you know that’s wrong. You better scholars know better than that. But what was it? It was because the palmerworm begin to eat first. Instead of setting and reasoning together when I come into the factions of the Pentecostals they set a table bigger than that, with their heads around, “You go this, and you can’t go to this. You preach for them, you can’t preach for me.”
I said, “We are brethren. Absolutely.”
And if the Oneness faction hadn’t have went off to one side, and made an issue out of it, and would’ve stayed with their brethren, and let the Holy Ghost anoint them, that thing would’ve never spattered and broke up brotherhood the way it did. But what happened? The locusts begin to fly. It broke up brotherhood. You had to have a little unity of your own. Unity is not an isolated thing, brethren. Unity is for the whole body of Christ.[22]
And you Oneness brethren, many of you get off the wrong track when you try to think that God is one like your finger is one. He can't be His Own Father. He can't be.[23]

William Branham believed both Trinitarian and Oneness were wrong:

Now, there is a group of people, call themselves the “Oneness” or the “Jesus Only.” I don’t agree with them upon their theory. Neither do I agree—agree with that trinitarian group that says that there are three different Gods, the extreme of the trinitarian. But I believe that the three, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is One, that they are three offices of one God. He lived in the Fatherhood, in the Pillar of Fire; He lived in the Sonship, in Jesus Christ; and He lives now in the Holy Ghost, in His Church. The same Lord Jesus that was made flesh and dwelt among us, is with us this day, among us, in the form of the Holy Spirit.[24]

William Branham incorrectly believed that the doctrine of the Trinity did not exist prior to 325 A.D.:

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.[25]

William Branham incorrectly believed that the Nicene council pitted Trinitarians against Oneness believers:

Now, at the Nicene Council, they come to two great decisions. On the…Oh, many of them in that day of the early church fathers, they had two extreme views. One of them was a triune God, a trinitarian. And the other one was a—a one God. And they both come into existence and went out on two straight limbs, out like that. The triunity became a place of a three-god person. The oneness became a unitarian, just as far wrong as the other one was.
...And in the Nicene Council, to do this, in order to do this, they had to take a trinity, because in the Roman world they had many gods. They prayed to their dead ancestors. I’ve got the history right here where we can quote it. See? They prayed to their dead ancestors. That’s the reason they have Saint Cecelia, and Saint Marcus, and saint, saint, saint, saint, saint, saint.[26]
That issue come up at the Nicene Council. Both sides went to seed; when the Catholic church took the extreme trinitarian side, and the other one went to unitarian, and both sides went out. Exactly right, because men had something to do into it.[27]

Trinitarianism is of the Devil:

Now, my precious brother, I know this is a tape also. Now, don’t get excited. Let me say this with godly love, the hour has approached where I can’t hold still on these things no more, too close to the Coming. See? “Trinitarianism is of the devil!” I say that THUS SAITH THE LORD! Look where it come from. It come from the Nicene Council when the Catholic church become in rulership. The word “trinity” is not even mentioned in the entire Book of the Bible. And as far as three Gods, that’s from hell. There’s one God. That’s exactly right.[28]
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!
...Now denominational brother, set still just a minute. Don’t get up and walk out of the room, back out there on this radio, telephone hook-up. Don’t turn your tape recorder off. Set still just a minute, and listen. You’re born of God, you will. 240 A trinity of frogs! A frog is an animal that always looks backward. He never looks where he’s going; he looks where he’s come from. See? Don’t you see? Where was trinitarianism born at? Remember, “three unclean spirits,” individual spirits. Are you getting it? [Congregation says, “Amen.”—Ed.] 241 Notice, they look back to the Nicaea Council where the trinity doctrine was born at, not in the Bible. There’s no such a thing. They look back to the Nicaea Council at Nicaea, Rome, where the trinity was born at. Notice where they come from. Notice. And the trinity of frogs came out of an old trinity, give birth to a new trinity, their mother. What’d it come out of? A trinity, “the dragon,” see, “the beast,” and “the false prophet.” A trinity, new. For when were these frogs come out? When did it? Notice, they was there all the time, but it wasn’t manifested until between the Sixth and Seventh Vial, just before the Seals opened (Hmm?) to reveal it. “For in the Message of the seventh angel, the mysteries of God would be known,” all these trinitarian things, and false baptisms, and everything was to be made manifest. God help us to see what’s Truth! And not think it’s somebody trying to say something to… 242 I feel that spirit resenting That, you see. I’m not speaking of myself, brother. I’m speaking of the Angel of the Lord that’s in the camp. That’s exactly right.[29]

Arguments of William Branham FOR the doctrine of the Trinity:

But here, remember, there was a Gethsemane conference come one time, when God and His Son had to get together. After all, there was no one else could die for the sins of the world. There was nobody worthy to die, no man.[30]
That's God. God in a trinity is One, and without a trinity He's not God. He can't be manifested any other way.[31]


Footnotes

  1. WHO.IS.THIS.MELCHISEDEC_ JEFF.IN V-5 N-10 SUNDAY_ 65-0221E
  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. William Branham, 57-0309B - I Will Restore, para. 32
  6. THE ANOINTED ONES AT THE END TIME JEFF.IN 65-0725M
  7. THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST - CHURCH.AGE.BOOK CPT.1
  8. PERGAMEAN.CHURCH.AGE - CHURCH.AGE.BOOK CPT.5
  9. CHRIST.IS.THE.MYSTERY.OF.GOD.REVEALED_ JEFF.IN V-3 N-7 SUNDAY_ 63-0728
  10. Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990), 194.
  11. Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 66–67.
  12. 59-0823, Palmerworm, Locust, Cankerworm, Caterpillar
  13. WHO.DO.YOU.SAY.THIS.IS_ PHOENIX.AZ V-6 N-9 SUNDAY_ 64-1227
  14. Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther's Works, Vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 15-16 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).
  15. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).
  16. Charles Wesley, A Short Commentary on the Church Catechism, 16-17 (London: S. Low, 1836).
  17. John Wesley and Charles Wesley, The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley, Volume 2, ed. G. Osborn, 21 (London: Wesleyan-Methodist Conference Office, 1869).
  18. C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XXX, 46 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1884).
  19. 53-0829, The Testimony Of Jesus Christ
  20. 54-1006, Law Or Grace
  21. 56-1207, Gifts
  22. William Branham, 57-0309B - I Will Restore, para. 32-33
  23. 59-0823, Palmerworm, Locust, Cankerworm, Caterpillar
  24. William Branham, 61-0827 - The Message Of Grace, para.37
  25. Wiliam Branham, 61-0318 - Abraham's Covenant Confirmed, para. 71
  26. William Branham, 60-1204M - The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, para. 171, 175
  27. William Branham, 61-0425B - The Godhead Explained, para. 154
  28. William Branham, 61-0108 - Revelation, Chapter Four #3, para. 169
  29. William Branham, 65-0725M - The Anointed Ones At The End Time, para. 55, 239-242
  30. William Branham, 63-0608, Sermon: Conferences
  31. William Branham, 65-0815, And Knoweth It Not


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