The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Two)

Posted: March 2, 2014 in Born Again Mormon Movement, McCraneyism, Mormon Studies, Shawn McCraney, Theology

by Fred W. Anson
In the previous article in this series I gave a brief overview of these trials making every effort to simply report as dispassionately as possible without providing any analysis. However, this story is so complex and nuanced that, frankly, it’s hard to make sense of it without deconstructing the issues and history beneath it and trying to sort it all out. Here’s my take on the controversy.

Q: Has Shawn McCraney taught heresy?
A: Yes.
On the February 11, 2014 Heart of the Matter (Episode 381: God – Part 2) Mr. McCraney made the following statement (starting at 25:48 in the broadcast):

“One God. Always only and forever only one God. A monotheist God. He has manifested Himself in all sorts of means and ways to man.

He has appeared as fire.
Spoken as a still small voice.
As clouds, and mist, and wind, and an assortment of other ways.

Were they all God? Yes. Manifestations of One God Were they manifestations of more than one God? No.

One monotheistic God.

Did this God manifest Himself in spirit?

Yes. The second verse in the first chapter of Genesis says:

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Hey, listen up – this single monotheistic God also manifested Himself in . . . flesh.

That’s all. Not a new second or third “person” of the singular God co equal with the other persons. Just another manifestation of the single God.

Jesus said it plainly to Philip:

“If you have seen me, you’ve seen the father.”

The Greek word for see in this passage is Horao and is better understood as Jesus saying:

“If you have discerned me, Philip, and not literally seen (which is the Greek word blepo).

That’s all I’m saying. The Spirit – God. One with God. From God, of God, and just God. Jesus – God. One with God. From God, of God – God. Holy Spirit God.

The only deal about God being “a or the Father” is in relation to Him having a Son in flesh.

He was not a Father until He manifested Himself as the Son.

It’s all really no more complicated than this:

“God is one who manifests Himself in a bunch of different ways. If the manifestation is from God, then the manifestation is God, and is sent by the One God to teach us of Him.”

So where did all this stuff about three persons, co-equal, co-eternal, comprising the one true God come from?

Stupid men who want formulae, who love control.”
(the above transcription is from the official Heart of the Matter website http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/)

That, dear reader, is pure unadulterated modalism, and it’s heretical.* He denied that it was modalism before he said it and he’s denied it repeatedly since.  However, pick your cliche:

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck . . .
If the shoe fits . . .
If you’ve made your bed . . .

Modalism by any other name, and no matter how much rhetoric, back spin, and wordsmithing you pile on top of it, is still modalism. Period.

wear-your-modalism[1]

The classic modalist’s example: Water. To be accurately depict the Trinity, the water would have to co-exist as ice, liquid and cloud eternally, distinctly, and simultaneously. Thus this analogy is a fatally flawed illustration that in the end (pun intended) muddies the water and leads to heresy.


Now I understand that since that episode Shawn has claimed that what he taught there was fully compatible with the orthodox Trinitarian view but, simply put, it isn’t. Further, not only has he has yet to recant this teaching, but both in private and public meetings (such as the February 20, 2014 Heart of the Matter episode; INQUISITION 2014 – The Term “Trinity”) he has reiterated and affirmed this stance. For example as Rob Sivulka notes in his report and analysis of Inquisition 2014:

“Shawn clearly does say at one point in the debate that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “are three persons from eternity” (1:43:26, emphasis added).

However, just nine minutes later, Shawn goes on to clearly contradict this. At 1:52:28, a questioner from the audience, James Thompson, asks Shawn, “Would you also say that there are three distinct persons?” Shawn replies, “No.” James asks, “How would you prefer to describe the distinction that you see in Scripture?” Shawn says, “Word and Spirit,” and then in response to my question, “So the Word wasn’t a person then?,” he said, “Not a person, it was the Word.” I asked, “And the Word didn’t have a consciousness?,” and Shawn replied, “It didn’t have a body and a beard either.” I asked, “Okay, but you don’t believe they are different in their identities, so the Father is not different in his identity from the Son.” Shawn said, “When the Son became flesh, when his Word became flesh, yes.” I asked, “Okay, but not before any creation?,” and Shawn simply said, “It was God. …It’s the word ‘person’ were hanging up on here. That’s the word the Nicene Creed used. John himself called him the Logos, not a person. That’s my distinction” (1:55:45ff).

Whatever Shawn’s god turns out to be (I’m not even sure Shawn knows), it’s clear that he is still a heretic for rejecting that God eternally existed in three distinct centers of consciousness, egos, identities, or persons (whatever term you want to use). This is the crux of the whole debate, not that Shawn was being vilified for rejecting the term “Trinity.”’
( Rob Sivulka, “The ‘Inquisition’ of Shawn McCraney – What the Heck was That?”)

As theologian Rob Bowman explained in his February 26, 2014 statement on his Facebook page regarding his private meetings with Mr. McCraney:

“Some of the things Shawn has been teaching are in error, and it is important that he come to see that and make the necessary corrections. As a teacher, he is answerable to God and is held to a stricter standard with regard to what he says than other believers (James 3:1). Some of the things he said can even be fairly labeled as heretical, though he has also said things that contradicted those seemingly heretical statements.”

And later, in a post on the MormonInfo.org/JosephLied.com Facebook page Mr. Bowman corrected a poster who stated that he had exonerated Mr. McCraney of heresy:

“To clarify, as I said in my post on my own page, in my estimation Shawn has made conflicting statements, some of which could be described as heretical but others of which are orthodox. Thus it is difficult to neatly pigeon-hole Shawn’s position. Moreover, he seems to have already moved at least somewhat away from his most objectionable formulations. I’m therefore of the opinion that we should simply watch to see how things develop, with the hope that his teaching will become more consistently orthodox.”

So in the end, yes, Shawn McCraney did teach heresy. The question of whether he will continue to do so or not remains unanswered at this point – as does the question of whether he will recant and renounce those heresies.

Q: Why didn’t Mr. McCraney’s critics follow the “Matthew 18 Formula” and present their grievances privately rather than just exposing and denouncing his errant teachings publicly before speaking to him?
A: Several did speak with Mr. McCraney in private and he refused to listen.
Many more attempted to meet privately with Mr. McCraney but he refused, telling them to present their grievances at Inquisition 2014 instead.

Further, as renowned theologian D.A. Carson notes:
“The sin described in the context of Matt 18:15–17 takes place on the small scale of what transpires in a local church (which is certainly what is envisaged in the words “tell it to the church”). It is not talking about a widely circulated publication designed to turn large numbers of people in many parts of the world away from historic confessionalism. This latter sort of sin is very public and is already doing damage; it needs to be confronted and its damage undone in an equally public way. This is quite different from, say, the situation where a believer discovers that a brother has been breaking his marriage vows by sleeping with someone other than his wife, and goes to him privately, then with one other, in the hope of bringing about genuine repentance and contrition, and only then brings the matter to the church.

To put the matter differently, the impression one derives from reading Matt 18 is that the sin in question is not, at first, publicly noticed (unlike the publication of a foolish but influential book). It is relatively private, noticed by one or two believers, yet serious enough to be brought to the attention of the church if the offender refuses to turn away from it. By contrast, when NT writers have to deal with false teaching, another note is struck: the godly elder “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9 NIV).”
(D.A. Carson, “Editorial On Abusing Matthew 18”)

Finally, I think it’s important to note that in more than one private meeting Mr. McCraney reiterated his modalistic stance and was told to his face that what he had just articulated was in fact that ancient heresy.  Yet he remained resolute and determined in his error.

So whatever else Mr. McCraney may say going forward, he can’t say that he wasn’t told the truth – and on a number of occasions to boot!

Q: If Shawn McCraney recants his heretical teaching and apologizes for them will that satisfy and silence his critics?
A: I would like to say, “Yes, absolutely!”, but the more realistic answer is, “Probably not.”
Sadly, Shawn McCraney has a pattern of publicly apologizing only to revert to the same behavior shortly thereafter.

For example, on January 23rd, 2013, Shawn issued a public apology for his behavior on the now infamous January 1st, 2013 “The Price of Truth” Heart of the Matter episode which, in part, said:

“I apologize for my tone. In speaking to the Body (no matter how off-putting I find some activities going on within it today) I am (from the Word commanded to use kindness (1st Peter 3:15). I was not kind. Being in sinful flesh (Romans 7) I failed. Please forgive me. I completely accept responsibility for my sinful demeanor and also the end-result resulting from it.”
(Shawn McCraney, UPDATE-Wednesday January 23rd 2013)

He then went on to engage in exactly the same behavior in the Heart of the Matter broadcasts that followed.

And then on the July 7, 2013 “Time To Change” Heart of the Matter broadcast Mr. McCraney once again apologized for his behavior.  He then proceeded to engage in exactly the same behavior that he’d apologized for – twice. Further, his behavior ultimately got even worse – which takes us to where we are now.

As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” At this point, Shawn will need to not only rebuild the trust bridges that he’s burned but will need to show some consistency in terms of changed behavior – that is, “the fruit of repentance”. And Christians aren’t being unreasonable by expecting this, since it’s not only common sense but Biblical. For proof of the latter, one need only consider the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians regarding the issues that he addressed in his first letter to the Church at Corinth: He clearly wasn’t content with merely words, he was clear that he expected ongoing and steadfastly changed behavior.

And while we anxiously pray for and await Shawn McCraney’s public denunciation of his prior heresies, we even more anxiously await a substantive and lasting change of behavior.

There’s been a lot of ink (or if you prefer “pixels”) spilled over former Mormon Shawn McCraney’s recent conflicts and challenges with fellow Christians and I’m sure that there will be a whole lot more spilled before it’s over. In Part Three of this series, we will consider the impact of Shawn McCraney’s false teachings and bad behavior on others.

*  for a primer on the heresy of modalism, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabellianism 
for a primer on the orthodox view of the Trinity see http://carm.org/what-trinity

An accurate depiction of Trinitarianism

An accurate depiction of the Trinity: One Being, God, co-existing eternally and simultaneously as three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

Comments
  1. And if you need a little humor after that (and a fuller explanation of the caption about how using the water analogy to explain the Trinity leads to modalism to boot!) try this:

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  2. The article contains the following Q&A combination:
    Q: Why didn’t Mr. McCraney’s critics follow the “Matthew 18 Formula” and present their grievances privately rather than just exposing and denouncing his errant teachings publicly before speaking to him?
    A: Several did speak with Mr. McCraney in private and he refused to listen.

    On March 4th, Utah Pastor Cory Anderson attempted a private meeting with Mr. McCraney and this was the result:

    “Hello everyone, I want to give you an update regarding my meeting with Shawn McCraney.

    Things went well initially and then he started attacking me over teaching tithing and got in my face pointed at me called me to repent and became unbelievably obnoxious. He had people looking at us wondering what was going on. He went after this because his assessment of 10 of the biggest churches in the valley are all about money. He wanted to know where I was at. I told him that Christian people have a difference of opinion about this subject but I personally believe in tithing.

    I don’t know what to say other than Shawn is an ungodly man. He made it clear that he will be talking about me on his show tonight.

    I came to him and attempted to be full of grace and truth and love and treat him as a brother, and give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his misstatements about the doctrine of the Trinity.

    When I spoke to him regarding what I perceived as ungodly character displayed on his show, he justified his behavior and sees nothing wrong with what he does. He acknowledged he is fleshly, and yet went on to act as if he did not need to repent of his behavior. He simply said that’s the way I Yamin God chooses to use me that way.

    I am shocked!!!

    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.

    He made it clear he is going to talk about me I his show as being a money grabber and a hypocrite.

    In my departure I told him that I will be watching the show to see that he does the right thing and repents of his teaching and his behavior and he told me to shut up!

    I wish I had the whole thing on video so you could see how hard I worked at being a gracious man with him and how he came out and attacked. However, if you’ve watched his show you know that he does that all the time.

    Very sad.”
    (source = https://www.facebook.com/groups/MormonInfo.org/permalink/10152296096122938/?stream_ref=2 )

    Sadly, this meeting was typical of the type of behavior that others have reported from their attempts to reason, correct, and challenge Mr. McCraney in private. We thank Cory Anderson for his courage in making this account public and for giving Beggar’s Bread permission to repost it here.

    [NOTE: This meeting was referenced in the “Jeff from West Jordan, Utah” call on the 3/4/2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast. As of this date, this show has not been Internet posted]

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  3. […] Fred W. Anson The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part One) The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Two) The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Three) The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Four) Dear […]

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  4. […] provide a timeline of Shawn McCraney’s descent from biblical orthodoxy into heresy. Parts  two  and three provide brief summaries of the issues in a Q&A format. Such summaries are necessary […]

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  5. […] W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Two) Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Three) Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) […]

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