Separating the Messenger from the Message
The Message & the Messenger are One
It is a cornerstone piece of Message theology that “the message and the messenger are one”. William Branham said it very clearly himself, and so – that’s easy to conclude. So when either the “messenger” or the “message” go wrong, what is a person supposed to do? Are they therefore both wrong?
For me, I know that when I would find something in the message that would appear confused (or wrong), I would turn my head away to look at the messenger. And then I would remind myself how wonderful he was – and the error I found would fade. Or when I would see something wrong with messenger, I would turn my head and look at the message. And then I would remind myself how wonderful it was – and the shortcomings I found would fade.
These are silly questions and ponderings to me – but I’m just throwing out some thoughts that a person might run into when realizing there are issues. These mind games have a tendency to rage on.
Allowing Error to Be Error
One of the hardest things to do is to allow error to be error. I’ve heard the most amazing things from people who refuse to even acknowledge the fragment of possibility of anything wrong. People often defend the humanity of William Branham by saying what really should be said: he is just a man. I applaud anyone who, while in the message, comes to the concession. Because, truly, that IS a concession. There are people who would smack you for allowing William Branham to be ‘just a man’.
While I was in the Message, I was able to admit that William Branham was just a man prone to mistakes. However, that justification for mistakes became more difficult as the problems accumulated. William Branham spent an EXTRAORDINARY amount of time using stories to ‘vindicate’ himself, with the explicit purpose that we would believe what he was preaching. He constantly referred to past events, supernatural evidence, his perfect track record. The intention was clear; we were supposed to believe. So how do we dismiss the errors of the man (failed prophecy, visions, lies, etc) and yet still elevate the teaching as being without error?
That’s where it can become even more difficult. Sure, the man is weak and infallible, but the Message was given from God to restore us back to perfection – right? I hear that more and more from Message Believers – that William Branham was a man, but his teaching was true.
As it taken Him four thousand years to make this Masterpiece; now He’s been, for nearly two thousand years making another Masterpiece, a Bride for Christ, another Masterpiece. In so doing it, He does it by His never-changing method, the same way He made the Masterpiece; His Word. That’s the way He makes His Masterpieces, because He can only be a perfect Masterpiece when It’s the perfect Word. Any dirt, trash, injections, it’ll break. 64-0705 – The Masterpiece
Rev. William Marrion Branham
A quote like this makes it difficult to accept any possibility of error in William Branham – because all the eggs are in the Branham basket. We effectively have to tout the phrase “The Message and the Messenger are one” with a massive asterix. What is really meant is – the believer HAS TO believe the Message and the Messengers – because to accept one is to accept the other.
This is where I come to my point. People follow the message and the messenger with the highest of devotion because they look to things they deem “right” – and attribute it to William Branham. To lose William Branham is to lose their holiness, godliness, faith, devotion, testimony, salvation, and so on. Is it William Branham that gives you those things?
Separating the Message and the Messenger
If you can come to a place where you separate the Message and the Messenger, something interesting happens. You can actually evaluate the merit of each on their own accord. This is exactly what happened in my journey. I didn’t leave the Message convinced against the teaching – although I had many concerns and questions. The reason I had questions was because I was first able to separate the authority of William Branham from the equation. If he was wrong or he was dishonest, then I ought to be able to acknowledge that and act accordingly. By separating William Branham from the Message, it allowed me to look honestly at his claims, his track record, his methods.
Consequently, after doing much reading and heartfelt searching, I didn’t believe that he was being truthful. I wasn’t trying to hate him, or destroy his reputation – I was just weighing everything that I was learning. One question I had to ask myself was; if this was my pastor, would I be able to sit there knowing that the stories he was sharing were not accurate? Would I be able to devote my life to his leadership if, despite obvious manipulation and misrepresentation of facts, I could see that he was pushing, pushing, pushing people to throw down their thinking and just believe everything he was saying? For me, the answer was unequivocally NO.
So if I wouldn’t give my pastor that leeway, why would I give that to a man making even larger claims over my life? Furthermore, when looking at the larger scale and the impact he was having on lives world wide, how could I endorse it? With all integrity, I couldn’t.
Once I pulled William Branham away from the teaching – I could, for the first time in my life, look at WHAT HE SAID with a critical mind. I wasn’t TRYING to disagree with him or be critical. But it was necessary, and it was something I should have done a long time ago. To not think critically, it is no different than any group that has a figurehead “prophet leader” (Ron Hubbard & Scientology, Sun Myung Moon & Mooneism, Joseph Smith & Mormonism, Charles Taze Russell & Jehovah’s Witness, Herbert Armstrong & The Church of God, etc). Once the figure is given absolute authority in the foundation of the group, everything hinges upon that. To question the figurehead is to question your faith itself. All of these operate under the same principle – that the Message and the Messenger are tied.
When you’ve given years and years to it…when you’ve buried family members while rejoicing for their faithfulness towards it….when you’ve raised children under it’s weight….it’s embarrassing, humiliating, heart wrenching, infuriating, unthinkable to express a hint of doubt. Now imagine actually admitted – it was wrong.
Faith & Christian Ethics are Not Exclusive to the Message
To believe in modesty and holiness, to believe in Jesus Christ, to believe in miracles, to desire to serve God with passion – all of these things are found outside of William Branham’s teaching. You need not reject the things which are valuable to your faith and understanding. But you have the freedom without William Branham to think and to seek – and to appreciate the faith of other people without condescending thoughts and sorrow for their ‘blindness’. Your presentation of the Gospel will not come with a hidden hook – that you must ALSO believe William Branham is the prophet in order to qualify for brideship. You can realize the hook is the Gospel, and only the Gospel.
Whether you admit it or not, the Message has defined for you what you SHOULD be thinking about the world and other Christians. It affects everything – absolutely everything in your life. It’s all tied to William Branham’s opinion. I, for one, am SO thankful that I no longer use the filter of William Branham’s opinion to define how to understand the world around me – and the way I treat people.