Is the Message a Cult?
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This article is one in a series on the Message of William Branham - you are currently in the article that is in bold:
- What is the Message of William Branham?
- Is the Message a Cult?
- The Sub-Sects of the Message
- The Theology of the Message
- Are followers of William Branham Christians?
- What is the Fruit of the Message?
- The Message Dress Code
Some people refer to the followers of William Branham as "Branhamites" or members of the Branham cult. But is the message really a cult?
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.
Do you want to understand the Message? Here are a list of important terms.
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.
Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader
The following lists are taken from the Cult Education Institute:
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
- No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
- There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
- Followers feel they can never be "good enough".
- The group/leader is always right.
- The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader
- Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
- Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
- Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
- Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
- Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
- Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
- A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
- Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
- Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
- Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
Ten signs of a safe group/leader
- A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
- A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
- A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
- A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
- A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
- A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
- A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
- A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
- A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
- A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.
How do cult members act?
It's quite common for the followers of William Branham to claim that he simply pointed them to Jesus Christ. But if this is true, why does the focus remain on William Branham? In fact, why is he still in the equation at all?
If a preacher or an acquaintance shared the Biblical Gospel with you, leading you to Christ, this person would simply be a sign post pointing you to Biblical salvation. They would not be an integral part of your walk with God.
William Branham's followers claim that he was just a sign post pointing them in the right direction, yet they deem him necessary in their walk with God. If William Branham is essential in your walk with Christ, he didn't truly point you to Christ, he pointed you to himself and claimed it was Christ. He didn't point you to the Bible, he became your Bible.
Anything between you and God is an idol. William Branham perfectly fits the description of an idol and his follows are oblivious to it. This is the silent deception within a cult - the Cult leader is essential to his faithful followers. Everything revolves around him, not Jesus Christ. Every "truth" comes directly from him, not your Bible. This is one of the subtle powers of spiritual abuse.
Even in the face of blatant Scriptural error, cult members cling desperately to their cult leader. They refuse to consider that something might be amiss in their paradigm of Christianity. They cannot bear the thought that their "prophet" might have lead them astray.
Why aren't William Branham's followers willing to consider all the facts proving him wrong? The spiritual paralysis of the message movement makes it very difficult for them to look into the issues with his teachings. These issues are not simply a slip of the tongue, these are serious issues that must be addressed, i.e., lies, fictitious vindications, failed prophecies, unscriptural teachings.
Observing message believers attempt to justify the presence of everything "Branham" in their lives, without admitting he is an idol in their heart, is both sad and troubling. Sad because we fully understand the brainwashing that goes on in the message, and troubling because it's so difficult to break that cycle.
Can you say goodbye to William Branham and move fully into Jesus Christ? If not, then he did not truly lead you to Jesus Christ.
William Branham's message is greater than 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, is this, in fact, the case? We would ask followers of William Branham to answer the following questions:
- Do you believe that William Branham was one of the greatest prophets of all time?
- Do you believe that 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?
- Is there anything that William Branham taught that disagreed with the Bible?
- Do you believe (as William Branham taught) 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.
- Do you believe that "the message is Jesus Christ"?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you are actually putting William Branham's message above the Bible, whether you admit it or not. How can we say that?
- Virtually all message believers 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. This statement in and of itself is puts William Branham's message above the Bible.
- A message believer does not have the option of disagreeing with William Branham, except possibly in respect of a relatively few minor issues.
- Some message followers believe that to the extent that William Branham did make any significant errors, 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. But almost all message believers would agree that William Branham did not make any doctrinal errors
- If presented with a clear teaching in the Bible that disagrees with William Branham, message followers will always accept William Branham's teaching and never that of the Bible.
As a result, it is clear that followers of William Branham hold his teachings above that of the Bible.
In the Psalms 138:2, David says:
- I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
Anyone that exalts William Branham or his message above the Bible goes against God himself.
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.
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:
The message is in addition to the Bible
Conclusion: The message is something in addition to the Bible
Here is proof from William Branham's own lips:
- 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.
But the proper approach is this:
- If we once get above our Bibles, and cease making the written Word of God sole rule both as to faith and practice, we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion, and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Our blessed Lord, though He had the Spirit of God without measure, yet always was governed by, and fought the devil with, 'It is written.'
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:
- Matthew 17:11
- The Fulfillment of Malachi 4:5
- Enoch being the seventh from Adam
- Reading between the lines
- God only deals with one prophet at a time
- The Importance of a Seven-Lettered Name
Other doctrines were simply incorrect if a person reads the Bible in an honest fashion:
- The Serpent's Seed
- Michael the Archangel
- His Lazy Theology
- Enoch was a type of the wise virgin, and Noah was a type of the foolish virgin
- Illegitimate children cannot be part of the rapture.
- Christians that were required to believe Satanic doctrine
- If your wife cuts her hair, you can divorce her.
- A man can remarry after divorce but a woman can't
- Capernaum is under the sea
- John never wept because there was no one worthy to open the book- he was weeping for joy.
- Three holy words of the Bible
- His reasons for rejecting of Eternal Sonship
- The difference in meaning of Eternal vs. Everlasting
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.
Quotes of William Branham
Based on William Branham's own words, the message as it currently exists is a cult:
- But if you've sold your inheritance, if you sold out and done these things… What am I saying? Return back. If you joined up with some cult that tries to keep you away from fellowship with other brethren, leave the thing. This is jubilee. Amen. I feel religious. Return. Return. This is jubilee. Don't let it pass by. Remember, don't let it pass by.
William Branham appeared to be afraid that people would think that he was starting a cult:
- There had to come forth, must come forth; God ordained it so, that there must come forth, them Seven Seals must be opened. It was supposed to be done in this Laodicean age. And I think, beyond any shadow of doubt… Not as we brag; we have no brag, only on Jesus Christ; none of us. We only brag on Jesus Christ. But we are thankful with the… for the privilege of knowing by any… beyond any shadow of doubt, God has chose us in this last days, and has proven it by the signs in the Heavens and in the earth; and every one of them coming right straight back to the Word, to prove that it's so, this age that we live in, the Message and how It is. We're not a cult. We're not a bunch of fanatics. We are servants of God, that's been called by the Holy Ghost. You'll have all kinds of names tacked to you, but that don't mean it's so.
- 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.
- David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10–13 (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), 128.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ps 138:2.
- Numbers 12:1
- POWER.OF.TRANSFORMATION_ PRESCOTT.AZ 65-1031M
- George Whitefield
- William Branham, 62-1122 - Return And Jubilee, para. 71
- William Branham, 65-1031M - Power Of Transformation, para. 125