An Open Letter to Owen Jorgensen
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This article is one in a series relating to "Supernatural: The Life of William Branham" - you are currently on the topic that is in bold:
- A Review of "Supernatural: The Life of William Branham" By O. Jorgensen
- Owen Jorgensen's attempt to respond to critics of William Branham
- Our Response to Owen Jorgensen's defense of the Message
- Luca Freeman's letter to Owen Jorgensen
Recently, Owen Jorgensen, the author of Supernatural: The Life of William Branham wrote a response to those who criticize William Branham's ministry. This is is a response to his letter from Luca Freeman, a former Message believer (the complete text of his letter can be found here).
First Things First
It is hardly surprising that Owen Jorgenson has written a defense of William Branham, and in doing so, a defense of his own book, Supernatural: The Life of William Branham.
Writing a book is hard work; writing a biography—even more so. By Mr. Jorgenson’s own account, he spent twenty-five years on the project. One cannot invest that much time and energy in something without forming an enduring emotional bond. Couple that with the intense scrutiny that William Branham’s ministry has been under recently, and it would have been more surprising if we had not yet heard from Owen Jorgenson. Author William Zinsser once said: “To defend what you have written is but a sign that you are alive.”
However, understanding another man’s position is hardly the same as endorsing it. After carefully reading Mr. Jorgenson’s essay several times, it is my view that its central argument is biblically untenable, and—in light of more fundamental issues—largely irrelevant. As his essay has gained significant traction within message circles of late—touted as solid validation for The Message and a potent rebuttal against its critics—it is important that its arguments be properly addressed, and though I foster no illusions that my objections will be well-received, I remain compelled to respond, trusting that some number of eyes, ears, and hearts might be opened to the simple beauty of truth, and refreshed by the God who authors it.
Consequently the expressed purpose of this response is to consider and understand Mr. Jorgenson’s defense, and then, to carefully illustrate its deficiencies via the scriptures. It should be noted, that an effective rebuttal requires an unabashed willingness to expose error. Often, that mandates direct speech and pointed observations. This should not be confused with a lack of civility or respect. It is not my intent to personally attack, ridicule, or otherwise disparage Owen Jorgenson.
To his credit, Mr. Jorgenson gets to his central argument quite quickly. After the introductory paragraph and a quote, he states:
- One could go many directions with explaining William Branham’s extraordinary life, including how he fits into dozens of scriptures. But here I would like to present one very basic idea. Nicodemus said to Jesus, “We know you are a teacher sent from God because no man could do these things unless God was with him.” If that was true for Jesus, why wouldn’t it be true for someone else who did similar miracles in Jesus’ name?”
So then, Mr. Jorgenson’s thesis can be stated: William Branham was a teacher sent from God because he performed similar miracles in Jesus’ name. All of Mr. Jorgenson’s ensuing points assume his thesis is true, and then seeks to place William Branham squarely within its parameters, namely:
- The most important question one must ask is HOW did he do it? (discernment & healing.)
- The critics’ natural and supernatural theories for HOW he did it can all be refuted.
- Therefore the miracles were authentically supernatural, and of God.
- God wouldn't allow him such divine gifts, while teaching false doctrine.
- Therefore, his teaching was true.
- Therefore, William Branham was clearly vindicated of God and one should confidently follow him and his teaching.
Mr. Jorgenson also inserts a couple of stray points [for example, that William Branham fulfilled various scriptures] which do not fit within the scope of his thesis, and which he doesn’t even attempt to support biblically or factually. For brevity and clarity, I will not be addressing those points.
A scriptural basis?
Mr. Jorgenson’s presentation of “one very basic idea” seeks to establish a clear scriptural correlation between Nicodemus’ recognition of Jesus as a teacher sent from God and our recognition of William Branham as a teacher sent from God.
Before we explore the merits of this correlation, let's read the biblical passage that contains his thesis:
- Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
- Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Verse 2 (in bold) is clearly the foundation for Owen Jorgenson’s defense of William Branham. Why then, would I quote the first twenty one verses of the chapter? To illustrate the first flaw in this defense: extracting an isolated verse from its context in order to serve some purpose other than that intended by its author. Even a casual reading of this passage reveals that John’s inclusion of this conversation has little, if anything, to do with Nicodemus’ observation. Jesus not only fails to affirm Nicodemus for his recognition of signs and wonders, but ignores his statement altogether, choosing instead to instruct Nicodemus on the importance of the new birth and gives a beautiful description of the gospel.
The four gospels are written in typical ancient Greco-Roman biographical style. They were divinely inspired to leave us with a historical account of the life of Jesus. Unless specifically affirmed by Jesus, there is simply no biblical warrant for taking the recorded words from some other character in these accounts and attempting to draw some sort prophetic insight or profound truism from them. To base an entire defense of a man’s ministry on a single sentence from the mouth of Nicodemus — a sentence which has little bearing even on the passage in which it is contained — makes for a razor thin biblical foundation. This type of scriptural interpretation is reckless and inevitably leads to error, as it does here.
Despite this flawed use of scripture, I am certainly prepared to accept the premise that Jesus did indeed perform many signs and wonders, and that Nicodemus recognized that God was with him. So then, is that compelling enough to infer that if William Branham also performed signs and wonders in Jesus name, then God is also with him? And if that is true within the context of physical healing, then is that also enough to infer correct teaching? And if so, is it then also enough to vindicate any and all claims he (or others) may have made?
But what else does the Bible say?
There is no better way to answer these questions, than to turn to the very words of Jesus in the book of Matthew:
- On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
- “ For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
And the apostle Paul:
- The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders...
Please note that these scriptures do not necessarily indicate that William Branham falls within these categories, nor is it my intent to imply as much, but they do necessarily show the complete disconnect between Mr. Jorgenson’s thesis and the actual teaching of scripture.
These passages not only show that his core argument is seriously flawed, but also specifically address one of Mr. Jorgenson’s supporting points, which was that Satan would not sanction anyone performing miracles for the expressed purpose of lifting up Jesus. In Matthew 7, Jesus deals directly with this false assumption, going so far as to say that many would call him Lord and point to prophecies, exorcisms, and other mighty works they had performed in the name of Jesus! And as William Branham himself pointed out, Jesus didn’t contest their claims, or call them liars. By Owen Jorgenson’s reasoning, all of these men would have been recognized as vindicated servants of God. Remember his thesis sentence?
Nicodemus said to Jesus, “We know you are a teacher sent from God because no man could do these things unless God was with him.” If that was true for Jesus, why wouldn't it be true for someone else who did similar miracles in Jesus’ name?”
A false measuring stick?
Well, why wouldn't it be true? The clear answer is: because the bible does not leave room for such a measuring stick. Countless times, I have heard some form of the argument that the miracles were just too compelling, and nobody could do what Bro. Branham could do, etc. Not only does the bible render that correlation irrelevant as it relates to his ministry, his position, and the very existence of a group called The Message—distinct and separate from the overall body of born-again Christians—but it appears that William Branham himself also disagreed with this reasoning:
A lot of people are trying to say, "Oh, this is a great man of God. You ought to see the great miracles." Why, devils heal—devils go out and perform things like that. I know witches that goes out and things like that, has a apron around her like that, and they put money in; she takes hair out of the back of her head, winds it in blood and throws it in… And them people are, honest people are believing… It's not that man; it's them people believing they're approaching God through the witch.
- Didn't Jesus say, "Many will come to Me in that day and say, 'I've had great healing campaigns'"? That's not a sign. It's a sign we're at the end. Didn't Jesus say in Matthew the 24th chapter about the 24th verse too, 24:24… And He said, "False prophets will rise in the last days and show great signs insomuch that they would deceive the very elected if it was possible." But the elected is standing on the Word. They know what a true sign is.
As the core thesis, and therefore, the entire foundation of Mr. Jorgenson’s argument is demonstrably false, it is not necessary to address each of his points individually. To do so lends credibility to a theory that has been thoroughly debunked. In addition, each of his supporting points — as I have shown in the opening segment — aren’t really supporting points at all, as each assumes his thesis is valid, and then each subsequent point assumes the one before, in succession. Consequently, debunking the thesis is tantamount to pulling out the bottom block in the stack. It all comes crashing down. Nevertheless, there are a few salient points worth making, outside of his core argument.
Should we follow every faith healer?
Mr. Jorgenson asserted a number of times that the most important question one can ask regarding William Brahnam’s ministry is How did he do it?(the miraculous) Much of the content of his essay is dedicated to debunking critics’ answers to that question. It should now be clear that this is certainly not the most important question to ask regarding William Branham. If it were, then we would be required to ask the same of every faith healer, and then be compelled to follow them.. all of them! What if their teachings are contradictory one to another? Do you see the quandary?
In light of Jesus’ warnings, it becomes largely irrelevant how he did it.
The most important question to ask regarding William Branham is: Are the claims made about him biblically supported and true? Is he Elijah the prophet? The 7th angel? The Laodicean messenger? Am I supposed to be looking for any of those things? All of them? Do they all represent the same person? ..or a person at all? It is utterly disingenuous to claim that “he never said those things about himself.”
The truth of the matter is, without those claims, there is no Message of The Hour. So either he is… or he isn’t. How do you answer that question? With Biblical answers, the particulars of which are beyond the scope of this response, though I would be happy to engage in that discussion, one that I feel is far more relevant than the current exchange.
Are any of William Branham's teachings harmful?
Mr.Jorgenson asked the question: “What did Br. Branham teach that would harm someone’s soul?” That is an important question, the answers to which would require a separate treatment, if not a book in itself. The answers to that question also adequately answer the important questions I highlighted above. So ask yourself: Did he preach what Paul preached? Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Read your Bible with an honest heart, and see for yourself. Did he point only to Jesus, or to himself? Does his teaching line up with scripture? I would be happy to discuss these vitally important questions with anyone willing to do so.
What about Jorgensen's biography of William Branham?
I would be remiss if I did not also point out again that Mr. Jorgenson wrote Supernatural: The Life of William Branham. This book has been offered by himself and many others as a biography of William Branham’s life. Yet a very large portion of the facts and events contained therein have since been proven inaccurate, misleading, or even outright fiction.
As an author, it is not a crime to write about the life of a man you greatly admire, or even to transcribe the events of his life in accordance with the testimony of the man about whom you are writing. But when the book is marketed and described as a “biography” resulting from twenty five years of research, the standard is — and should be — much higher for factual verification.
The result in this case brings one to an unfortunate choice to make about Mr. Jorgenson’s book:
- Either he was aware of the mountain of “facts” that cannot be made to fit, and chose to ignore them; or
- He was simply unaware of them. The first option calls into question Mr. Jorgenson’s integrity and reliability as a biographer, the second reveals a stark absence of meaningful research.
To quote Brian Tracy...
Finally, it bears notice that Mr. Jorgenson opened with the following quote from Brian Tracy:
- Your beliefs act as a set of filters that screen out information that is inconsistent with them. You do not necessarily believe what you see, but rather you see what you already believe. You reject information that contradicts what you have already decided to believe, whether or not your beliefs, your prejudices, are based on fact or fantasy.
Mr. Jorgenson then goes on to add:
- I agree. It takes effort to be honest and objective. The easy path for people is to filter out any facts that contradict their theories and then they will always feel they are right. I think this is one reason people reject the Message of the Hour.
This combination of quote and comment could not be more ironic.
Mr. Jorgenson fails to recognize that Brian Tracy’s quote perfectly describes the faulty thought process someone might use to cling to a belief system in the face of growing evidence against it, as well as why they would celebrate a paper thin defense such as the one offered by Mr. Jorgenson himself — because it matches what they already believe, so no discernment is applied toward determining if it is actually true — yet the chosen quote does nothing at all to explain why droves of people, would be leaving, leaving what many of them whole-heartedly believed was true, something in which they had their personal identity, their family structure, their social circle, their very life! This behavior is actually antithetical to the premise of Tracy’s quote, and speaks to the power of truth and of the Holy Spirit in a humble heart.
Let us return to John 3 once more, only this time, let’s pay less attention to the words of the Pharisee and instead, turn our attention to the words of our Lord:
- No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
- For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
The word “gospel” simply means “good news”. Jesus found preaching this good news to Nicodemus to be a far more important subject than his own miracles. Paul, Peter, James and many others spent the balance of their lives—and indeed, gave their lives— underlining that same gospel focus. So what about us? Jude instructed his readers to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”. The single word translated “once for all” is the same word Peter uses in 1 Peter 3:18 when he declared that Christ suffered once for sins” It is finished. We rest on that exact same gospel, his work on Calvary and his resurrection. May we stop falling in love with enticing “new” revelations and become consumed by the same passion that drove those early Christians. May we say, as Paul: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
It is my prayer that everyone who reads this, as well as Mr. Jorgenson himself, will take some time of reflection and ask God to examine his heart. Sincerity is not enough. Truth is objective, and when answers are readily available, we are accountable. When your beliefs are challenged, you can be defensive, reactionary and shallow or you can answer.
It is important to remember that objecting to the challenge without actually addressing it, dismissing it out of hand, or even “sitting it on the shelf” is not biblical. Answering the challenge is not only acceptable, it is biblically commanded. (1 Pet 3:15) That doesn’t mean that you will be adequately prepared for each question that arises, but let every honest, God-fearing heart search for the answers with integrity before him, realizing we will all have to give an account someday. And if the search finds us in error, may each one of us have the humility to realize that when uncomfortable truth is discovered, one of two things will result: convenience and comfort will be sacrificed on the altar of truth, or truth will be sacrificed on the altar of comfort and convenience. Don’t be guilty of the latter, friend.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Your brother in Christ & former Message believer,