by Fred W. Anson
“He [Shawn McCraney] does not realize that the people who are showing him the greatest love are the people who are warning him, ‘You’re goin’ down the wrong road!”
James White, March 6th, 2014
“Let angry people endure the backlash of their own anger;
if you try to make it better, you’ll only make it worse.”
Proverbs 19:19 (The Message)
In part one and part two of this series we focused on Shawn McCraney’s increasingly troubling behavior – up to and including teaching the ancient heresy of modalism. Unfortunately, his behavior has had a negative ripple effect on others – and that will be the focus of the concluding article in this series.
Q: Why are some Christians saying that Mr. McCraney isn’t fit to teach Christian doctrine and/or lead a church?
A: He not only doesn’t meet all the qualifications set forth in the Bible for church leaders but has consistently violated many of them while in ministry.
Please consider the following from the Apostle Paul:
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
— 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)
Let’s break this down shall we? Paul said, “He must not be a recent convert.” Shawn McCraney entered public ministry far too early. As I observed in my 2008 review of “I Was a Born Again Mormon”:
“I found the theological foundation that he presented in this book theologically immature, theoretical, idealistic, and with the exception of his life story, not really fleshed in the real world over time and over a broad sampling of Mormons. In the end this section is problematic and, and it could have been predicted that it would become chum for criticism of Shawn and the movement.
In hindsight I wish that Shawn had slowed down and taken more time to fully develop the Born Again Mormon model and Theology before shooting it like a scud missile into the Morridor.
This was a situation where time was on his side! After all Shawn was voluntarily excommunicated from the LDS Church in 2003 yet after only two years he published a book and launched a Utah based television program. 5-years later he launched a Para-Church Bible Study and Fellowship. All this while juggling a secular “day job”, marriage, and family in Southern California!
Further, when we consider that Paul was prepared for 14-years from the Damascus road experience (Acts 9:1-31) until his first missionary journey (starting in Acts 13), and Jesus was “prepared” for 30-years before he began His public ministry, the lack of wisdom of this “quick to market” ministry decision comes into focus.”
(Anson, Fred W., “Book Review: I Was a Born Again Mormon”)
Sound familiar? Six years later we’re simply seeing the same pattern repeat only with Shawn McCraney displaying the same theological immaturity, unrealistic idealism, and loose cannon theorizing in his post-January 2013 broadcasts on American Evangelicalism.
And in regard to “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, … not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” one need only ask one simple question: Have you ever seen Shawn’s show? As Rob Sivulka noted well in a recent article:
“Shawn later said in the evening [that is, Inquisition 2014] that he describes himself as a “wild ass” from the book of Job. He said, “That’s how he has made me. Don’t like it? Freaking turn the channel or go to another church. I don’t care! I don’t care about your thoughts on your YouTubes. I don’t care. I care about people and coming to know the truth” (55). (I was thinking of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” song while Shawn was making this “wild ass” claim about himself.) Shawn should have given me the same benefit of the doubt about caring for LDS in that moment when he found out about me once stomping on the LDS scripture. Furthermore, if Shawn is a wild ass, then how is he a model of winsome behavior toward LDS? Shawn acted like he never offends his LDS audience. However, the fact of the matter is that he hangs up on LDS, yells at and talks over them, pretends like he is falling asleep on boring callers, uses offensive language, etc., etc.”
(Sivulka, Rob, “The “Inquisition” of Shawn McCraney—What the Heck Was That?”)
And on the infamous January 1, 2013 “Price of Truth” Shawn not only acknowledged his rudeness but bragged about it as if it were an asset rather than a liability:
“… we have not held back at all [on Mormons and Mormonism], admittedly I have been rude. I have been acerbic. I have cut you off, I’ve hung up on you. I have called you out. I have mocked your leaders to no end. I have no respect for them. I have done all sorts of things that have abraded you to cause you to try to see the religious idiocy behind the machine called ‘Mormonism’… (25:02-25:30)
But as of tonight at least for 2013, we are done with Mormonism, all of it together… when it comes to my presentation beginning next week I am going to go after another group. I’m going to go after that group with the same amount of tenacity, the same amount of rudeness, the same amount of indifference to people’s feelings…(25:49-26:21)
That group is primarily going to be American Evangelical Christianity. We’re going to go after it’s politicking. We are going to go after it’s demands. We are going to after it’s culture. We are going to go after it’s doctrine relative to what the Bible says. I am going to hold back nothing in my terms of investigating what traditional and contemporary, American, Evangelical Christianity has heaped upon people.” (27:07-27:39)
(McCraney, Shawn; “The Price of Truth”; air date: January 1, 2013)
Candidly, I was never happy with some of the behavior that Mr. McCraney displayed on his TV Show – although at the time I excused it in the hope that he would eventually calm down as he matured as a Christian. However, this presumption on my part was based on the belief that Shawn was accountable to more mature and established Christians in a local church that he was knit into, and that he was being discipled by a good Pastor. I now say to my shame that I was wrong on all counts.
(click to zoom)
Q: Aren’t you aware that Shawn always tells his supporters to “go to the word” (the Bible) and check everything he says out?
A: I am. I’m also aware that all Christian cults say the same thing.
However, in a cult, if one’s interpretation of the Bible varies from the leader’s then your status in the group is in jeopardy. For example the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and the Local Church will all tell you to “go the word” but if your interpretation doesn’t match the “right” interpretation – meaning the one from The Watchtower Society, Ellen G. White, or Witness Lee, depending on which of these three groups that you’re in – then you’re in trouble.
And if one needs proof that Shawn McCraney is trying to establish himself and his interpretation as the only right one for the only true church, one need only watch his TV show.
So this is nothing new – just the uninformed repeating history yet again!
Q: Why weren’t Evangelicals this critical of Shawn when his focus was on Mormonism rather than Evangelicalism?
A: Mr. McCraney is a subject matter expert on Mormonism, but he’s ignorant when it comes to orthodox, mainstream Christianity in general and Evangelicalism in particular.
Mr. McCraney had the benefit of a lifetime of experience in Mormonism and was deeply immersed in the history, theology, issues, controversies, and continuing conversations within modern Mormon culture. Thus, despite his all deficiencies, when he focused on Mormonism he was informed, insightful, and effective.
On the other hand, it’s apparent from his books and shows that when it comes to modern Evangelicalism he’s an ignorant fool – so ignorant and so foolish, in fact, that he’s embarrassing himself and doesn’t even seem to know it. Thus, respected Theologian Rob Bowman was absolutely spot on when he offered Shawn the following advice:
“A little knowledge about the biblical languages and doctrinal subjects, garnered haphazardly from questionable sources, used inconsistently to support what you have already think you know, is not a good thing. It is not ‘loving the Lord your God with all your mind.’ As a teacher, you, like I, will be held to a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Let some of us help you. Set aside your planned series of lectures on the nature of God for now. Pursue a sound, well-informed understanding of what Scripture teaches through the God-given ministry of other teachers. Refocus your ministry on what you do so well: reaching out to lost, confused Mormons with the wonderful gift of the new birth through faith in Jesus Christ alone.”
(Bowman, Rob; public Facebook review of the 3/4/2014 Heart of the Matter “God Part 3” broadcast)
Q: Those who attend CAMPUS and support Shawn McCraney seem to be getting some criticism too – what’s up with that?
A: Many of them are acting more like members of a cult than anything else.
For better or for worse the teaching of heresy by Mr. McCraney has exposed just how spiritually immature, theologically ungrounded, and discernment challenged many of those who follow and support Shawn McCraney’s ministry are.
For example, not only did many, if not most, of his supporters not bat an eye when Mr. McCraney overtly taught heresy on February 11th, 2014 (see part 2 for an analysis of what was said and why it’s heresy) they have fiercely continued to defend Mr. McCraney’s modern repackaging of modalism. In fact, most couldn’t even see what or why there was a fuss over such a “small” matter like errantly teaching the nature of a god other than the One that’s revealed Himself in the Bible. This is, to me, an obvious indicator of the glaring lack of theological depth in this group – not to mention its inability to discern error.
Further, when evidence has been presented to them in support of the Trinity and against modalism by more mature, discerning, theologically grounded Christians, it has typically been ignored or spun into a defense for why their leader had done nothing wrong and how that they – aka “the accusers” to use Shawn’s label for his critics – are the real problem here.
But perhaps the greatest indicator of the general lack of spiritual immaturity and theological understanding among the “Shawnites” (a term I will now use going forward as shorthand for “ardent, impassioned supporters of Shawn McCraney”) is their inability to distinguish between the essentials (the Deity of Christ, Salvation by Grace, Resurrection of Christ, the Gospel, and Monotheism – see “The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith” by Matt Slick) and everything else.
For example, many Shawnites will dismiss you out of hand as in error if they find out that you’re either a Calvinist or believe in tithing. Yet these aren’t essential doctrines of the faith and Christians can and will disagree on them – it’s really no big deal. However, I think that we would all agree that getting the nature of God right is essential isn’t it? As the late Walter Martin said well:
“The ultimate test of whether something is Christian. If you are corrupt in your doctrine of God and the person, nature, and work of Jesus Christ… it doesn’t make any difference where else you’re right. You are not Christian. If you have the wrong God, the wrong Redeemer, you’re lost. That has been the message of the Christian Church historically.”
(Martin, Walter; Opening Debate Argument, 1987)
Further, choosing to dismiss other Christians over non-essentials is not only silly but unBiblical. As the Apostle Paul said:
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
— Romans 14:1-8 (ESV)
Q: Is this why some Christians calling Mr. McCraney a cult leader?
A: Yes, he and many Shawnites are acting like cultists.
Q: Can’t we all just get along – isn’t this a divisive and embarrassing public spectacle?
A: Well, it was Shawn McCraney who divided himself and his followers off from orthodox, mainstream Christianity wasn’t it?
And yes, we could just ignore Shawn’s false teachings and unrighteous behavior but one must ask: What’s more important looking good or standing for truth? If standing for truth in the long run means that we have to endure some embarrassment in the short run, then I’m willing to be embarrassed. How about you?
Further, unless this situation turns around, it appears that we just might just be watching history repeat itself in another way as well – it will be Joseph Smith all over again just as James White has observed:
“When Joseph Smith started teaching wild, strange, weird stuff in the 1830’s most people looked at him and ignored him. Thought he was . . . I mean there were so many people like that. And to be honest with you, 99% of the people who go flying off the rails end up in a pile of twisted steel someplace and the sands of time covers them over and that’s it.
But sometimes you have a Joseph Smith. And sometimes you have a [Charles Taze] Russell and a [Joseph Franklin] Rutherford. You know if a Smith can end up with a [Brigham] Young and a Russell can end up with a Rutherford how many of millions of people can be influenced thereby and by that blinded from the truth?
Do we have the start of a cult in the Salt Lake Valley? I don’t know. I hope not!”
(White, James, “Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”; 1:03:46)
So where do we go from here? I don’t know. What happens next is largely up to Shawn McCraney and his band of Shawnites isn’t it? And while agreeing wholeheartedly with Rob Bowman’s earlier advice to Shawn (see above), my personal advice remains the same as it was in 2008:
“Were I on the Born Again Mormon advisory board my biggest piece of advice would be this: SLOW DOWN! This is a ministry that got traction quickly, gained speed, and never slowed down. Well, in my opinion, it needs to.
That’s because I see symptoms that the movement has overwhelmed the slow moving, conservative, and resistant to change Morridor creating unnecessary friction, tension, and anger worldwide (when it comes to Mormonism if you threaten Salt Lake City you threaten the entire Mormon Principality – it’s like attacking the Queen Bee in a hive). In my opinion much of the criticism that this movement has suffered has been because in it’s haste it unintentionally runs over people and once they get up they act out their anger, hurt and frustration via very public, often unreasonably harsh and “over the top” criticism.
I think that if the movement would start moving in a slower, more deliberate, more organic, less forced manner these shrill voices will begin diminish over time AND the fruit will slowly mature as they start to RESPOND rather than REACT to the paradigm shift that Shawn and his movement have introduced. Yes, opportunity does indeed knock BUT if you’ve got something that it wants it will wait around or come back later!
In summary, my advice (for what it’s worth) is slow down, be patient, be strategic and think multi-generationally rather than errantly unBiblically, tactically and impulsively. Resist the temptation (though it can be hard) to think, “If it’s to be or not to be, it’s up to me!” No, friends it’s up to God, it’s God’s work not ours. We’re stewards not owners.
The last problem and most important thing to address is ,of course, the theological sticking points that the Born Again Mormon movement has introduced. I’m sure that some would disagree with this but the biggest problem that I see with the Born Again Mormon movement is that the underlying theology wasn’t full formed before the book, TV show and movement was launched.”
(Anson, Fred W., “Book Review: I Was a Born Again Mormon”)
And until Shawn repents and changes course, I offer the same advice to Shawn’s supporters that Utah Pastor Cory Anderson did after his private attempt to correct and reconcile with Shawn McCraney in early March:
“My advice as a pastor: don’t have anything to do with Shawn McCraney. Stay away from him as he is very divisive and doesn’t care. Call him to repentance and that’s it.”
(Anderson, Cory, Facebook Update on Meeting with Shawn McCraney 3/4/2014)
And if that sounds harsh my dear Shawnite friend, I would ask you to open your Bible, turn to the book of Jude, and consider these words in relation to Mr. McCraney’s behavior:
“These men [false teachers] are constant gripers, never satisfied, doing whatever evil they feel like; they are loudmouthed ‘show-offs,’ and when they show respect for others, it is only to get something from them in return.
Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you, that in the last times there would come these scoffers whose whole purpose in life is to enjoy themselves in every evil way imaginable. They stir up arguments; they love the evil things of the world; they do not have the Holy Spirit living in them.”
— Jude 1:16-19 (TLB)
I will also state emphatically to our Shawnite friends that despite Mr. Craney’s ugly caricaturizing and public debasing of modern Evangelicalism, there are many, many, many great churches out there well worth investing your life into. If you’re having trouble finding one just ask (a comment below will do) and we will do everything in our power to help.
And if you are neither Shawn McCraney or a Shawnite, my advice is this: Pray, pray, and then pray again that God moves and turns this tedious, volatile, and unsettlingly situation and shows His glory yet again. Amen.
 White, James, “Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”; 1:09:09
 And as I noted in the footnote for that passage:
“This long disciplining period is even more impacting when you consider that Paul was a disciple of one of the greatest Jewish Teachers of the day – Gamaliel (see Acts 5:33-39) before his conversion. However, he was STILL discipled for 14-years before being called to public ministry. Then think about Jesus’s 30-years of preparation and the wisdom of long term disciplining becomes even more apparent.”
(Anson, Fred W., “Book Review: I Was a Born Again Mormon”)
 Equally silly and unBiblical is choosing to not denounce and/or distance oneself from heretics over essentials – it is simply unBiblical:
2 Corinthians 6 (ESV)
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
1 Timothy 1 (ESV)
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
2 Peter 2 (ESV)
2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
Jude 1 (ESV)
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.