Archive for the ‘Born Again Mormon Movement’ Category

We Agree with Moroni 8--18

“God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”
Moroni 8:18

There was a time when Mormons agreed with Moroni 8:18. As Mormon historian Thomas G. Alexander writes, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.”1

Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
Psalm 90:2 (JST)

“Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”
Isaiah 43:10 (JST)

“I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.”
Isaiah 44:6 (JST)

Doctrine and Covenants
In what was originally read to Church membership as the “Articles and Covenants of the Church,” D&C 20:17 spoke of the God who was always the same unchangeable God: “By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God…” D&C 76:4 spoke of this same God: “From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail…”

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of D&C from 1835-1921 agreed with the Book of Mormon that God is a spirit (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53.) Click on image to zoom and read.

The Lectures on Faith, which was a canonized part of D&C from 1835-1921 agreed with the Bible and the Book of Mormon that God is an eternal, unchanging, triune Being (from the fifth Lecture on Faith, page 53). Click on image to zoom and read.

Lectures on Faith
In what was originally a part of Mormon scripture, Lecture 3 of the Lectures on Faith taught, “A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes” is “…necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.” It goes on to quote the word of God, Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” The lecture then goes on to say that, “he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday today and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.”

Book of Mormon
This echoes Mosiah 3:5, which speaks of “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity…” Moroni 7:22 also speaks of “God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting…” A chapter later we learn in Moroni 8:18 that “God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.” Other passages in the Book of Mormon also reaffirm God’s eternal, unchangeable nature:

“For behold, I am god; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 27:23

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
2 Nephi 29:9

“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever , and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?”
Mormon 9:9

“And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchanging Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”
Mormon 9:19

Mormonism Radically Changed
The Book of Mormon was published in March of 1830. Fourteen years later, Mormon theology had dramatically changed. On April 7, 1844, Joseph Smith preached his famous King Follett Discourse. In it he taught:

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…

It is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some; but they are simple…

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you…2

Lorenzo Snow summarized the big idea that further developed like this: “As man is God once was, and as God is man may be.”

Since then, Mormonism has never been the same. Mormons now radically re-interpret verses like Moroni 8:18 and essentially reject the original teaching that God was unchangeably God from all eternity to all eternity. Mormons are now even in disarray and confusion over whether Heavenly Father was once a sinful mortal.3

Again, Mormonism has apostatized from its own Book of Mormon, and now Christians—who don’t even believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture—agree with Moroni 8:18 more than Mormons do. It is a verse that we Christians profoundly wish Mormons would agree with. It is far more important of an issue than tithing, baptism, priesthood authority, or whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet. It concerns an eternal truth of the fundamental nature of God.

NOTES
1 Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology.” Sunstone 5:4; July-August 1980

2 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345. On June 16, 1844, Smith went on to teach that Heavenly Father has his own Heavenly Father (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 473-479). Also see Ensign, April 1971 and May 1971.

3 See http://GodNeverSinned.com

JST = The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (aka “The Inspired Version”)

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fric-et-foi

Dr. Gene “God’s Angry Man” Scott

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”
– Romans 16:17 (ESV)

by Lowell Johnson
Up to 2014 I had watched almost every episode of Heart of the Matter show. I had enjoyed host Shawn McCraney’s ability to reach Mormons through his boisterous and challenging personality. At times, he reminded me of the late Dr. Gene Scott (1929 – 2005) who was labeled “God’s Angry Man”. Dr. Scott was a cigar chomping profane television preacher who disdained modern Christianity and arrogantly would point out perceived flaws. He was a Stanford educated man who seemed to be theologically sound when he was a young pastor. However, when he began TV preaching and rerunning his shows 24/7 on several UHF stations, many heresies were taught. Those who are too young to have see Dr. Scott on broadcast television can still find him on YouTube and featured in Werner Herzog‘s 1981 documentary film “God’s Angry Man”.

Sadly, starting in early 2014 Shawn began showing signs of becoming the next Dr. Gene Scott. Like Dr. Scott, Shawn had cussed on the air and yelled at the callers while looking directly at the television camera. However, it was Shawn’s evolution into a heresy embracing TV preacher that reminded me more and more of Dr. Scott of whom the Christian Research Institute said in 1994:

During the last few years, Scott has become more and more outrageous and offensive. His appearance, increasingly unkempt and outlandish, deliberately offends societal standards of propriety (compare Paul’s lifestyle 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). His language is crude, abusive, and profane, clearly violating God’s standards for Christians (Ephesians 4:29-31; 5:4; Colossians 3:8)…

he also dabbles in pyramidology and seems to promote a variation of the erroneous Anglo-Israelism doctrine. (CRI has information on both of these aberrational teachings.) In any case, a Christian ministry must be evaluated on the basis of both doctrine and practice; in the area of practice, Scott’s ministry cannot, in our opinion, be considered acceptably Christian.
— CRI Statement on Gene Scott, 1994

I had always found Shawn to be a fairly intelligent and entertaining individual, so the last time I was in Utah in 2012 for the Manti Temple Pageant (two years before all this) I was able to spend a Sunday worshiping with and listening to his teaching at his teaching fellowship known as C.A.M.P.U.S. During that time I found Shawn’s teaching from the Bible to be orthodox. I left the gathering feeling refreshed and ready to share Jesus with the lost in Manti, Utah.

Much has changed since that Sunday in June of 2012. On the February 11th, 2014 episode 381 of Heart of The Matter, Shawn spent the majority of the show attacking the Trinity. He said his study of God’s Word brought him to this conclusion. However, he also used several outside sources to justify why he has had a change of heart – including some sources from heretical groups like Oneness Pentecostals. Several people immediately took to the phone, to email, and to the internet to express concerns (see the Beggar’s Bread Position and Policy Statement on McCraneyism for links).

I was one of them. Before any of this happened, and because of comments he made on the previous show on February 4th, 2014 (episode 380), I had sent an email to Shawn asking if he was rejecting the Trinity Shawn graciously sent me a reply telling me to keep watching the shows and offered to send me his notes with book references when he was done. He did not really answer my questions, but I thought that I could wait to see where he was heading. So I was deeply saddened when he spent the majority of the next show (the episode 381 that I mentioned before) attacking the Trinity using arguments that could have just as easily been made by a Jehovah’s Witness (see Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Trinity: A Christian Perspective by Patrick Zukeran).

He even suggested that one reason the Trinity wasn’t valid because the word “Trinity” could not be found in the Bible. This is true, but it doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t teach the Trinity. The word “Bible” isn’t in the Bible, but it doesn’t stop us from calling it the Bible (see The word Trinity is not found in the Bible by Matt Slick). Essentially Shawn was teaching the ancient heresy of modalism which teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different modes or aspects of one person, God, who is perceived by as three different “personas” or “modes” to the believer, rather than being one being, God, consisting of three distinct persons within the Godhead. As Shawn put it (starting at 25:48) in that 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.

Episode 393 White Board_edited

In true Gene Scott tradition, Shawn McCraney has shown a fondness for busy marker boards.

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)

Simply put, that’s modalism. No matter how much you deny, spin, or try to talk your way around it, that’s just the way it is. Sure, it may be Openess Pentecostal style non-sequential modalism, but it’s still modalism all the same. As they say, “If it looks like a duck, has duck feathers, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck” – insisting that it’s not, no matter how many times you say it, doesn’t change that fact!

Now, in the past Shawn had played pranks on his show (see Shawn Becomes A Mormon Again). However, his teachings on the nature of God didn’t give any indication that he was cleverly pranking his audience in order to further strengthen their acceptance of the Trinity. Rather, he seemed, much like the late Dr. Gene Scott, to passionately believe everything that he was teaching. Still, maybe, just maybe, I thought at the time, it was all just a well really executed, poker faced, “gotcha!”

DrGeneScottWhiteboard

A classic busy Gene Scott marker board.

And I was persuaded that Shawn wasn’t the next Dr. Gene Scott, or that he had actually become a modalist, when on February 25th, 2014 (episode 383) he had Rob Bowman from the Institute for Religious Research on the show. Shawn was very humble on the show and admitted he could have been clearer on his points in the previous shows. I even apologized to Shawn via private email for doubting him and then publicly apologized for doing so on my blogsite. Shawn accepted my apology, I thought that my prayers had been answered, and I moved on – content that all was right with the world once again.

And I was wrong, dead wrong!

After Rob Bowman left town Shawn not only continued to teach the heresy of modalism (while all the time denying that he was) but went on to embrace and teach even more heretical doctrines. So on March 18th, 2014, just after episode 386 aired and just a few weeks after his appearance on Heart on the Matter, Rob Bowman had no choice but to finally publicly declare Shawn’s teachings heretical:

Shawn asserted that he doesn’t like the term Trinity and doesn’t like saying there were three persons before creation. Apparently saying there are three persons now is fine (at one point Shawn said this himself). If so, then the term “person” is not itself the problem; the problem is substantive, not merely semantic. But if God was once not three persons and now he is three persons, then the fundamental nature of God has changed. That implication creates all sorts of theological mischief. This is not comparable to God becoming a man, in which God’s nature remains the same but he assumes human nature (the union of two natures in the one person); Shawn’s idea amounts to God changing the divine nature.

I was hoping that Shawn would move closer to the position he continues to cite in his defense, the “eternal Word” form of Trinitarianism espoused by Walter Martin. That at least would still be orthodox. Instead, in my estimation he has if anything moved further away from it, though he continues to make statements that do not fit neatly into the monarchian or modalist system. Without making any judgment about Shawn as a believer or Christian, and with the hope that he may still change or correct what he has been teaching, I regretfully think that at present what he is articulating about the doctrine of God is heresy.

This isn’t the only problem. At the end, in response to another caller, Shawn affirmed universal reconciliation, a doctrine that is really a form of universalism under a different name. Although Shawn claimed this wasn’t universal salvation, he referred the caller to the website tentmaker.org, which clearly teaches universal salvation. “The Bible, correctly translated teaches Jesus Christ, the Chosen One of our heavenly Father will save the whole world.” The website also appears to endorse the idea that the devil and his fallen angels will also eventually be saved, but apparently not in this age. Shawn seemingly didn’t agree with that view, but he wasn’t completely clear on the issue. In any case, universal salvation is also heresy.”
(click to read source)

Yet despite all attempts at private and public correction of his heretical teachings, Shawn continued this attack on the Trinity. Again, his initial attack started with the previously mentioned February 4th, 2014 episode 380 and continued in some form or fashion in subsequent broadcasts all the way up to episode 392 on April 29th 2014. Further, he regularly affirmed his rejection of the Trinity on other shows (particularly in the Q&A segments) and in his ministry newsletters.

And if his rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t enough, later in 2014 (see Heart of the Matter episodes 419-425) Shawn validated Rob Bowman’s March 18th, 2014 concerns that he was holding to a form of  universal salvation when he taught that there is a possibility that Eternal Damnation and hell may not be as eternal as we think. Shawn claimed that he wasn’t teaching universalism because he doesn’t believe all roads lead to Heaven. However, he still seemed to be suggesting that everyone seems to get some kind of glory through Jesus, even those in hell. Ironically, this view is very similar in some ways to the Latter-day Saint “three degrees of glory” doctrine. But whether it is or not, it’s still heretical as Mr. Bowman stated clearly in his earlier public statement.

But all this was just the prequel to the bomb that dropped on the October 6th, 2015 Heart of the Matter broadcast (episode 466 starting at 28:46) in which Shawn McCraney publicly announced that he was a “committed modalist”. Here’s the video and official HOTM transcript of that announcement:

At this point I will publicly admit that I am a committed modalist but refuse the Trinitarians pejorative that claims I err by “confounding the persons.”

I would reply they err by creating “three persons deserving worship” rather than the one true and living God deserving it alone.

In Smith’s life modalism was a popular alternative to trinitarianism but the differences are not easily observed by most Christians then or even today.

I can’t tell you how many people who are devout followers of Christ who cannot articulate the fundamentals of creedal trinitarianism and who typically, when asked to define their beliefs on the subject describe modalist thinking instead.

Anyway, the main difference between modalists and Trinitarians is Trinitarians label Father, Son and Holy Spirit “persons” and modalists label them all expressions or manifestations of the One God.

In reality, modalists do not deny three in one – they simply do not see the three as individual entities entirely separate from each other.

Also, there are differences between sabellian modalism – which says that the Father became the son and the son became the Holy Spirit and plain modalism which asserts that God manifested Himself in and through the Son and in and through the Holy Spirit.

I am certainly of the later form.

But Love and I had the wit to win, and

We drew a circle that took him in.
(Episode 466: Ontology of God – Part 1, from the official HOTM transcription; bolding and redding added for emphasis)

So it’s now clear that Shawn McCraney has gone from being a church pastor to being a cult leader. Pray for Shawn and all the Shawnites in his fledgling McCraneyism movement because they are proudly (even militantly) turning from the biblical Jesus and embracing heresy. You see, I don’t believe that Shawn has to end up, like the late Dr. Gene Scott did – the butt of jokes and a precautionary tale of what could have been for the Kingdom of God. My God answers prayers.

hqdefault

Tearing a page from the Dr. Gene Scott playbook, Shawn McCraney rails from the pulpit against American Evangelicalism at the April 22, 2013 Concerned Christians conference.
(click to watch video)

About the Author
Lowell Johnson
Lowell Johnson was an active Mormon for almost 12 years before realizing, while teaching a Mormon history class for the Oklahoma University LDS Institute, that Mormon history and doctrine was ever evolving. At this time he withdrew from his calling as the Elder’s Quorum President and returned his temple recommend. After investigating other religions, mainly SGI Buddhism, he gave his life to the Jesus of the Bible. He hasn’t regretted his decision ever since. He is a flawed Christian whose head gets in the way of his heart at times, but knows that Jesus is the only way to Eternal Salvation. Thus he is now a soundly saved Ex-Mormon.

This article was originally published on the “The Reflections & Ruminations Of A Soundly Saved Ex-Mormon” website on February 13th, 2014. This updated and expanded edition has been published here with the permission of the author.

Corrections:
As originally published, this article stated that “Like Dr. Scott, Shawn had… exhibited frustrations with the crew when technical difficulties would arise.” Shawn McCraney contacted the author and explained that he uses only technical difficulties for comedic fodder and only mock berates his staff when they arise. The author agrees with this explanation. Therefore, this claim has been deleted from the article. Our apologies to Mr. McCraney for any misunderstanding that it’s original inclusion may have caused. — Editor (2015-12-04)  

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McCraneyism

“The bottom line of the whole thing is that Shawn wants to be able to teach whatever he feels like at any given moment, call it “real” Christianity . . . and never have to answer for it.”
Brother Thomas, February 13, 2015

The Short Version
McCraneyism (the system of doctrine and theology taught by Shawn McCraney, and the community that surrounds it) for the purposes of this website will be treated like a Mormon splinter group. That is, no proselytizing for it will be allowed, and it’s heretical teachings will be publicly exposed and denounced as deemed appropriate here. What follows explains the reasoning behind this position. Please read it in full before commenting and/or contacting us with any questions or concerns.

The Long Version
The Dilemma
Since the issue of the false teachings of Shawn McCraney and his McCraneyism movement continue to be an issue it was felt that better clarification and group boundaries from this website on the issue needed to be given.

This is a difficult issue since we all saw the good fruit that Shawn McCraney bore through his Heart of the Matter program prior to January 2013 – that was the time period when Shawn McCraney focused exclusively on the errors of Mormonism. We recognize and appreciate the fact that many of this website’s Ex-Mormon readers wouldn’t have left Mormonism and began their transition into Biblical Christianity had it not been for Mr. McCraney’s good work during this period. However, that was then, this is now.

The Current Problem
Starting in 2013 Mr. McCraney began teaching error and in some cases heresy. Ironically, while the content of those teachings are different, in concept they are the same as what Joseph Smith taught. Specifically:

  • That Christian churches who adhere to historic Christian orthodoxy are wrong.
  • Their creeds are an abomination in God’s sight.
  • Their professors are all corrupt and motivated by things other than the truth.
  • They’re treating Shawn’s communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, even saying it may be of the devil.
  • As a result, there’s prejudice against Shawn among these corrupt, self-interested professors of religion.
  • And that all the above is the cause of a great persecution of Shawn.
  • Further, his circumstances in life are such as to make Shawn of no real consequence in the world.
  • Yet despite all this men of high standing are taking notice sufficient to excite the public mind against him.
  • But Shawn has an inner witness that he can’t deny, lest he offend God and come under condemnation.
  • And so he continues to bring forth new revelations week after week after week.

Sound familiar? Yes, the above list uses Joseph Smith’s 1838 First Vision account as the template in describing Shawn’s basic, recurring message but it does so because the shoe fits. Therefore, this assessment is particularly astute and to the point:

… a former Mormon, he is mainly targeting other former Mormons and disaffected Mormons. Without a ‘nod to Joseph,’ he is playing on their ingrained prejudices and leading them into another counterfeit of Biblical Christianity. Mormonism is often categorized as a Christian cult, because it primarily targets those from a Christian background. You don’t see many Mormons trying to evangelize Muslims. Similarly, Shawn is targeting those from a Mormon background. This is why I would loosely call it a Mormon splinter group.
(Jason Wallace in the “Evangelicals Discussing Mormonism” Facebook Group)[1]

Even his familiar recurring exhortation to, “Don’t trust me – read the Bible for yourself and see if this is true!” mirrors Mormonism:

I have heard many followers of Shawn say they don’t agree with Shawn on some things, but they aren’t worried because he tells them not to trust him, but check out the Bible for themselves. This sounds good, until you recognize that Shawn mocks and ridicules every pastor who says he’s teaching error. Though he may allow latitude in individual beliefs, he cannot tolerate any public disagreement with him. Critics are accused of “character assassination.” The subtle pressure in such a community is to conform. Would a false teacher invite someone to test them from the Bible? Most have; Brigham Young said in 1873, “I say to the whole world, receive the truth, no matter who presents it to you. Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test” (Journal of Discourses 16:46).[2]

The Heresies
In addition, in February 2014 with his rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity Shawn McCraney crossed the line from “concerning” to “heretical”. Since then he has gone on to teach several other heresies including Universalism and Full Preterism.[3] The best short summation of the errors and heresies of McCraneyism to date is Jason Wallace’s article, “McCraney-ism”.

And for those who would like to get fully up to speed (or review) how and when Shawn McCraney went from Christian orthodoxy to Christian heretic please consider these resources:

Timeline Articles and Podcasts
(the long version)
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part One)January 2013-March 2014
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Four)April 2014-May 2016

Jason Wallace interviewed by Nic Laughter, “Zany McCraney”, Christian Utah podcast, March 25, 2016
(covers the entire period from Shawn McCraney’s arrival in Utah in 2005 to March 2016) 

Summation and Editorial Articles
(the short “bite sized” version)
Lowell Johnson, Is Shawn McCraney Auditioning To Be The Next Dr. Gene Scott? November 2015

Jason Wallace, “McCraney-ism”, March 2015

Rob Bowman, “Shawn McCraney Against the Personhood of the Holy Spirit” April 2014

Cory Anderson, “A Pastor’s Appeal to Shawn McCraney”March 2014

Rob Sivulka, “Shawn McCraney is a Heretic and Needs Adult Supervision”, February 2014
Rob Sivulka, “The “Inquisition” of Shawn McCraney—What the Heck Was That?”February 2014

Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Two), March 2014
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Three), March 2014
Fred W. Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Five), February 2015
Fred W. Anson, “Dear Michelle”, May 2014

Finally, I want to give a special recommendation to the body of work from Brother Thomas. He is a recovered Shawnite who began to sense problems in Shawn’s teaching, theology and behavior around late 2012. An eyewitness to Shawn McCraney’s transition from orthodoxy to heresy, he wrote about it as things went from good to bad to even worse.

He has produced such a rich, prolific, and insightful analysis of Shawn’s descent from orthodoxy into heresy that I recommend that the reader consider his blog articles from oldest to newest as they act as a kind of “insider’s view” into the development of McCraneyism in much the same way early Mormon documents do Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Click here for a link to his articles on Shawn McCraney and McCraneyism from newest to oldest.

But Brother Thomas is one of the fortunate ones. Unfortunately, our observation of the behavior of Shawn’s remaining followers over several months and situations is that they act and think exactly like Mormons except that they’re now in a new group and religion. The behavior is so similar in fact, that in many of their arguments one need only substitute “Joseph Smith” for “Shawn McCraney”, “Mormon Church” for “CAMPUS”, and “the church teaches” for “Shawn teaches” and you have exactly the same arguments that Latter-day Saints use in defending Mormonism.  This includes a heavy use of labeling, name calling, villainizing, marginalizing, and ad-homineming of critics. Thus we have seen the warning  in “Dear Michelle” fulfilled in real life:[4]

The reason why we former cultists are so prone to this type of error Michelle is because the past – whether we realize it or not – feels comfortable to us. As a result we’re drawn to the old and familiar like a moth to a flame – so we tend to be same moth, new flame.

Same moth, new flame.

Same moth, new flame.

Summary and Conclusion
As a result of the above, McCraneyism (the system of doctrine and theology taught by Shawn McCraney, and the Shawnite community that surrounds it) for the purposes of this website will be treated like a Mormon splinter group. That is, no proselytizing for it will be allowed, and its heretical teachings will be publicly exposed and denounced as deemed appropriate by this website.

Please note that we’re not singling McCraneyism out here: ANY and ALL Mormon splinter groups will receive the same treatment be they the Community of Christ, the various RLDS splinter groups, Christopher Nemelka’s group, Matthew Gill’s group, the Strangites, Bickertonites, or any of the other close to 200 such Latter Day Saint groups currently in existence.[5]

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this policy please contact us. The contact information is on this website’s “About” page.

Thank you.

NOTES
[1] From Fred Anson, “Dear Michelle”

[2] From Jason Wallace, “McCraney-ism”

[3] See Fred Anson, “The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Five)”  also see Jason Wallace “McCraney-ism”

[4] Op cit, Anson, “Dear Michelle”

[5] See Wikipedia, “Sects in the Latter Day Saint movement”, also see Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration (A History of the Latter Day Saint Movement)”

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney in a Heart of the Matter broadcast from 2014

Appendix A: Shawn McCraney Responds
When an earlier version of this Position and Policy Statement was adopted by two Facebook groups in March 2015 Shawn McCraney addressed it on the March 11, 2015 Heart of the Matter broadcast (that is, Episode 436: Sola Scriptura – Part 2). The following response was posted on the both the HOTM.tv website page for the episode (where it was initially deleted – a repost was done on March 18th, 2015) and YouTube page (where the initial post is currently still up):

In this Heart of the Matter broadcast (@00:02:45) Shawn McCraney issued a statement regarding the recent Position and Policy Statement on McCraneyism which was posted on at least two Facebook groups.

I would ask the reader to first read the FULL VERSION of this statement (see https://www.facebook.com/groups/MormonInfo.org/10153152763992938/) and then watch Mr. McCraney’s public statement (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v_59QXwHAg#t=2m45s) before proceeding further.

Now please consider the following regarding Mr. McCraney’s public response to this statement:

1) He misrepresented the arguments that are being leveled at he and the McCraneyism movement.

2) He failed to address the substance of those arguments.

3) His statement, “Jesus is God in flesh – the Word uncreated” is too broad and general to be accepted as fully “orthodox”. As worded, this confession could refer to the heretical modalism that McCraney teaches, a number of other heretical stances on the nature of God, and/or biblically orthodox Christology. In summary, it fails because of its imprecision.

4) His statement “The Holy Spirit as God in spirit” is skewed to the heretical – especially given the fact that he has taught on the Holy Spirit as an “it” or a “force” rather than a person.

5) He has never apologized for or renounced the content of his heretical teachings, merely the delivery.

6) The errors of his teachings have been addressed from the Bible on the Beggar’s Bread website, on Brother Thomas’ blogsite and elsewhere many, many, many times. However, Mr. McCraney continues to hold to and teach them. The problem isn’t that his error hasn’t been exposed and addressed from the Bible, the problem is that Mr. Craney refuses to listen.

In fact, in 2014 a world renowned and widely respected theologian even flew out to Utah at his own expense to correct Shawn on the heresy he was teaching. These face-to-face sessions were done over the course of several days and this too, ultimately, was to no avail.

In conclusion, Mr. McCraney’s statement was exactly the same kind of spin doctored, obfuscation that we see from the LdS Church and other Mormon splinter groups.

Further, Mr. McCraney engaged in the classic Mormon tactic of using Christian terminology but changing the underlying meaning in this statement.

There is, therefore, no need to withdraw the charge. In fact, Mr. McCraney’s statement actually confirmed it’s validity and veracity.

Thank you.

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OLGH-Holy-Spirit-Stained-Glass-001-crop

“The Fire of God”, Artist and location unknown

by Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Shawn McCraney is a former Mormon who identifies himself as a born-again Christian but who denies the doctrine of the Trinity. He has a weekly TV broadcast called Heart of the Matter that airs from Salt Lake City. On the programs that aired April 22 and 29, 2014, he laid out several objections to the Trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit as a person. This article originated as a response to McCraney sent to him the day following the first of those broadcasts by email (to which he has so far not responded).

McCraney’s Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
In his TV lecture, McCraney compared God’s eternal nature of being God, his Logos (Word), and his Pneuma(Spirit) to man’s being body, soul, and spirit. Such an analogy is clearly monarchian: it characterizes God as a single person with three aspects of his being. (Monarchianism, also known as modalism, is the heresy that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely three modes or manifestations of a solitary divine Being.) According to McCraney, before the Fall, those three aspects were really difficult to distinguish from one another (even for God?), and likewise man’s three aspects were so fully integrated as one that they could hardly be distinguished. Before the Fall, there was no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When man fell, God, in order to save us, divided or splintered himself into three, becoming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (apparently not right away, since on McCraney’s view there was no Son until the Incarnation). In this new, sharp threeness God acted to redeem us in order to restore us to full integration as body-soul-spirit beings in the new birth. All of this sounds very much like monarchianism, but then McCraney threw in the comment that God, his Logos, and his Pneuma had relationships with each other before creation, though what those were McCraney said he doesn’t know. As he has done every time I have heard him, McCraney contradicted himself. God, the Logos, and the Pneuma cannot have relationships with one another if they are simply different aspects of the one God, like a man’s body, soul, and spirit.

Now, the above doctrine was problematic enough, but at least in some of what McCraney said one could optimistically hope that he viewed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as genuinely distinct, as each someone in relationship with the other two, and therefore as largely orthodox in substance even if he rejects orthodox theological terms. At one point in that broadcast he even referred to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “three persons,” though only after creation, not before it. However, in his most recent lecture he moved even further away from orthodox, biblical doctrine. The Holy Spirit, he claimed, is simply God’s power or presence, an “it,” just a way of describing God expressing his presence or power. He claimed this to be true in both the Old and New Testaments. Sadly, there is no way this can be salvaged as anything but heretical.

Shawn McCraney on the April 22, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast referenced in this article.

The Holy Spirit is the Power of God
McCraney asserted, “The Holy Spirit is the power, the dunamis, of God. Scripture talks about it being the power of God.” Yes, Scripture does talk about the Holy Spirit as the power of God. It also calls God “the power of God” (Luke 22:69) and refers to Christ as “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Does that make God or Christ impersonal? Of course not. This is a bad argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Pneuma (“Spirit”) Is Neuter
McCraney also argued—and this was his main point—that pneuma is neuter and that the Greek New Testament uses neuter pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit. On this basis, McCraney concluded that the Holy Spirit is not a person, because “it’s an it.” Well, if pneuma is neuter and if neuter means “it’s an it,” as he claimed, then McCraney has just proved that God is an it! After all, Jesus said, “God is pneuma” (John 4:24). Notice that this is the second argument he used against the personhood of the Holy Spirit that, if applied consistently, would disprove the personhood of God as well.

McCraney also argued that if translators had simply used impersonal pronouns to translate the neuter pronouns referring to the Spirit (it, its, itself, etc.), “the case for the personality of the Holy Spirit, the person, would largely disappear from Christian belief.” That is true only of the most superficial popular way that contemporary English-speaking Christians try to defend the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The KJV often used neuter pronouns when the Greek pronoun was neuter, and the KJV translators and earliest readers were all Trinitarians. They had no trouble seeing the person of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Oddly, McCraney went on immediately to answer his own argument, though he didn’t seem to realize he had done so. He pointed out that languages like Greek commonly assign masculine or feminine gender to nouns that do not denote persons, such as la bicicleta (“the bicycle”) in Spanish. This was apparently his rebuttal to the observation that “Comforter” is masculine in Greek (paraklētos). There’s a problem with that rebuttal, as I will explain below. But his point about nouns having gender is a good observation, but one he did not take far enough. It is also the case that languages can assign “neuter” gender to nouns denoting persons. In German, das Mädchen means “the maiden, the girl,” and obviously denotes a person, yet it is neuter in grammatical form. Similarly, the Greek paidion is grammatically neuter, but it denotes “child,” again referring to a person. Jesus is called a paidion eleven times in the New Testament (Matt. 2:8, 9, 11, 13 [2x], 14, 20 [2x]; Luke 2:17, 27, 40), all in reference to the period of several years after his birth. Matthew uses the neuter pronoun auto (which has nothing to do with cars!) in reference to “the child” Jesus: “Rise, take the child [paidion] and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matt. 2:13 ESV). Here the ESV uses “him” to translate the Greek pronoun auto (as does the KJV also). Luke uses the same pronoun auto in reference to Jesus as paidion twice (Luke 2:28, 40). Translators use masculine pronouns in English to represent neuter pronouns in Greek if the antecedent of the pronoun refers to a person. It’s as simple as that. The argument that neuter nouns or pronouns prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person is another bad argument.

Shawn McCraney on the April 29, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast referenced in this article.

“Holy Spirit” versus “the Holy Spirit”
A third argument McCraney presented was an objection to the use of the definite article “the” in English translations with the title “Holy Spirit.” He asserted that the article is “often added by translators, leading the reader to think that ‘the Holy Spirit’ is referring to a separate person.” Well, there are many places where the Greek has the article in front of the words for “Holy Spirit,” such as Matthew 28:19 (tou hagiou pneumatos), Mark 3:29 (to pneuma to hagion),  John 14:26 (to pneuma to hagion), and quite a few others. (The words tou and to are both forms of the Greek article.) I assume McCraney would agree that the Greek writers of these books were not misleading readers by using the article.

The fact is that Greek uses the article in a different way than English does. We normally use the article in front of what we call titles (the Father, the Messiah, the Lord, the king) but not in front of what we call proper names (Jesus, Peter, Shawn, Rob). Greek doesn’t work that way. Proper names and titles in Greek can occur with or without the article; usage is quite complicated and sometimes little more than a matter of style. The expression “in Christ” in Paul usually does not have the article (en Christō), but of course this doesn’t mean that Christ is something other than a person. And sometimes Paul writes “in the Christ” (en tō Christō), but English versions nearly always omit the article (1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:10, 12, 20).

“Holy Spirit” versus “holy spirit”
McCraney made a big deal of the fact that “Holy Spirit” is never capitalized in the Greek. Apparently, he thinks this is some startling revelation that overturns conventional belief about the Holy Spirit as a person.

The fact is that ancient Greek manuscripts did not “capitalize” anything. It is true that “Holy Spirit” in the Greek manuscripts was not “capitalized.” Neither was “God,” “Christ,” “Jesus,” or “Father.” For that matter, neither was “Peter,” “Paul,” or “Mary” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Ancient Greek manuscripts were written with all block letters, and later a cursive form developed that used what we call lower-case letters. But in biblical times, there was no upper-case and lower-case lettering system.

Of all of McCraney’s arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, this is the worst. It is so bad that it is embarrassing. If ever an example was needed of the value of a basic education in biblical studies for pastors, this is it.

Explaining the “Difficult Verses”
McCraney suggested that it is only “a few comparative difficult verses in the Gospel of John” that seem to refer to the Holy Spirit as a person, and he stated somewhat disparagingly that “those verses are used over and over again to prove that the Spirit is a person.” Later he suggested these could be explained away as personifications, like wisdom in the poetic passage in Proverbs 8. But Jesus was not speaking in poetry in John 14-16, and the same things that Jesus says about the Spirit in John 14-16 are said about Jesus himself by the same author. For example, the noun paraklētos clearly refers to a person, and Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “anotherparaklētos” (John 14:16), meaning another besides himself. In his epistle, John—the same author as the Gospel of John, of course—refers explicitly to Jesus Christ as our paraklētos (1 John 2:1). Paraklētos is not a noun that just happens to be masculine but that normally refers to something impersonal, like la bicicleta (“the bicycle”) happens to be feminine. Paraklētos is a personal noun, denoting someone who provides support, assistance, counsel, agency, mediation, or the like. If McCraney wished to claim that the noun doesn’t refer to the Spirit as a person, this would be something he would need to show exegetically from the context, which he has not done.

Moreover, the case for the personhood of the Holy Spirit does not depend on John 14-16 alone. His personhood can be shown from many other parts of the New Testament, especially the Book of Acts. But John 14-16 is in the Bible and must be taken seriously, not shoehorned into a doctrinal system derived from the superficial observation that the Old Testament doesn’t advance a specific doctrine of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Such an approach denies God the right to unfold his self-revelation in history and in Scripture progressively, as though God should have front-loaded Genesis 1 with a systematic theological exposition.

Is Jesus the Holy Spirit?
McCraney pointed out that Christ and the Spirit are both called Parakletos; both are said to intercede for us (Rom. 8:26, 34), and both are said to have been given to us by God. How these things prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person, I don’t know. If anything they might seem to prove that the Holy Spirit is Jesus. (They don’t. For example, John 14:16 calls the Holy Spirit “another Parakletos,” making it clear that the Holy Spirit is not Jesus but is someone like him.) But McCraney doesn’t (usually) make that claim. At one point, though, McCraney cited 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and concluded that it means that Jesus is the Spirit. If so, then, by McCraney’s own reasoning, either Jesus is not a person or the Holy Spirit is a person.

Conclusion
Many of McCraney’s arguments against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, if applied consistently, would also “disprove” that God the Father is a person, or that Christ is a person. All of his objections to the orthodox doctrine are based on misunderstandings, some of them egregious.

The tragedy is that these errors could easily have been avoided, if McCraney would have listened to sound teachers and studied these things carefully before publicly teaching on matters he doesn’t understand.

Pentecost CORRECTED

“Pentecost”, Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ Kansas City, MO. Artist unknown.

About the Author
Robert M. Bowman Jr. is the Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research. He has been with IRR since 2008. Previously he served as Manager of Apologetics & Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board (2006-2008). For ten years Rob taught graduate courses in apologetics, biblical studies, and religion at Luther Rice University (1994-99) and Biola University (2001-2005). He has also worked with other apologetics and discernment ministries, most notably the Christian Research Institute (1984-91), the Atlanta Christian Apologetics Project (1994-99), and Watchman Fellowship in Alabama (1999-2000). Rob has spoken at over a hundred churches and at some three dozen conferences and debates. He has five years of experience hosting call-in radio talk shows focusing on apologetics, including the nationally famous Bible Answer Man show.

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman earned the M.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, did doctoral studies in Christian Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, and earned his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at South African Theological Seminary. He is the author of roughly 60 articles (e.g., in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Review of Biblical Literature, Christian Research Journal, Moody Monthly, Pastoral Renewal,Mission Frontiers, and Journal of Evangelism and Missions) and 13 books pertaining to apologetics, religion, and biblical theology, including two winners of the Gold Medallion Award, An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World (1997) and Faith Has Its Reasons (2001; 2d ed., 2006). His most recent books are Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (co-authored with Ed Komoszewski, 2007), which received numerous endorsements from such scholars as Ravi Zacharias and Richard Bauckham, and What Mormons Believe (2012).

Rob and his wife, Cathy, have been married since 1981 and have four children, three of them still living at home.

a_logo© 2015 Institute for Religious Research. All rights reserved

This article was originally published on the Institute for Religious Research website. It is republished here with the express written permission of the author. This article is part of a larger series entitled “Bad Arguments against the Personhood of the Holy Spirit” which we encourage the reader to also consider upon completion of this article.

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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[1]

“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.”[2]
(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.

Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it

(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.

unity_liberty_charityFor 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.[3] 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)

IN CONCLUSION:
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.

NOTES:
[1] White, James, “Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”; 1:09:09

[2] 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”)

[3] 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.

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

by Fred W. Anson
January 2013-March 2014
It’s been an interesting few weeks if you’re a Evangelical Christian in Mormon Studies! For those of you who don’t know well known Utah TV personality, and a former Latter-day Saint who is now a Born Again critic of Mormonism, Shawn McCraney has recently been denounced by many in the Evangelical Christian Mormon Studies community as a heretic and even a cult leader.

Here’s the short, cryptic version of what’s happened so far:

January 9, 2013
Shawn McCraney announces that his new emphasis will be the doctrine and culture of the American Evangelical church rather than Mormonism.
(HOTM #EVC 1: The Price of Truth; http://hotm.tv/episodes/evc/1-the-price-of-truth/ )

Throughout the year of 2013 Mr. McCraney critiques a number of non-essential doctrines such as worship styles, preaching styles, fund raising, etc. He also denounces the doctrines of eternal hell, and the Calvinistic theological system raising the hackles of mainstream orthodox Christians.

January 29, 2014
“Jed” a regular attendee (the group eschews “members” or “membership”) of Shawn McCraney CAMPUS ministry (see http://c-a-m-p-u-s.com/ ) calls into Jason Wallace’s Ancient Paths TV Show and presents a idyllic picture of their group of “Christian Anarchists”. In response Jason Wallace challenges Jed from the Bible and then critiques Shawn McCraney’s lack of accountability.
(The Ancient Paths – The Importance of the Visible Church; currently not internet posted)

February 4, 2014
Mr. McCraney responds to Jason Wallace’s public critique by renouncing all forms of ecclesiological accountability except in regard to finances. Shawn then proceeds to renounce the creedal basis of the doctrine of the Trinity calling it, among other things, “garbage” and derived by committee rather than God.
(HOTM Episode #380: God – Part 1; http://hotm.tv/episode-380-god-part-1/ )

A summation video of these two exchanges can be found here:
(“Wallace/McCraney TV Exchange on Accountability”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qYfBlQBUNw)

February 11, 2014
Mr. McCraney claims that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed from pagan sources. He then goes on to teach a form of non-sequential modalism and then denies that what he’s just taught is modalism.
(HOTM Episode #381: God – Part 2; http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/ )

February 12, 2014
Presbyterian Pastor Jason Wallace gives an overview of Shawn McCraney’s unBiblical behavior and shift from historic Christianity orthodoxy since January 2013. Pastor Wallace explains that, per Shawn’s request, he won’t be addressing Shawn’s new view of God until Mr. McCraney gives the additional details and expands on his beliefs on the next HOTM show – as Shawn as has promised both on the air and in private communication.
(The Ancient Paths – Response to Shawn McCraney’s Teachings; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkFNlhYI8PM )

February 17, 2014
Christian Apologist Rob Sivulka of Courageous Christians United publishes a blog article entitled, “Shawn McCraney is a Heretic and Needs Adult Supervision” becoming the first to formally and publicly label Shawn McCraney a heretic.
(see http://www.courageouschristiansunited.org/blog/Shawn-McCraney-is-a-Heretic-and-Needs-Adult-Supervision-48993 )

The “Heart of the Matter with Shawn McCraney” Facebook page purges all critics of Mr. McCraney from the page.  The page owner Derrick Webster (a key figure in Mr. McCraney’s Alathea Ministries) also blocks those critics  from his personal Facebook profile making communication with him via Facebook impossible (Note: Mr. McCraney doesn’t have a Facebook account).
[In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this author was one of those who was purged from the page and blocked by Mr. Webster]

February 18, 2014
Instead of delivering “God – Part 3”, as previously stated and promised, Mr. McCraney remains silent for the entire show. The only voices are those of John updating the viewers on the Monson United Kingdom lawsuit, a few critics, and far more supporters praising Shawn for his “bold stand” in the face of adversity.
(HOTM Episode #382: Silence; http://hotm.tv/episode-382-silence/ )

February 19, 2014
Jason Wallace addresses Shawn McCraney’s behavior and lack of accountability to the visible Church. He also addresses the division that Mr. McCraney is creating in the church through his teachings and behavior. At 25-minutes into this show CAMPUS attendee “Jed” calls in again and is unable to respond cogently and Biblically to Pastor Wallace’s questions regarding how CAMPUS is structured, organized, and run relative to Biblical injunctions and models on church structure and practices.
(The Ancient Paths – Response to Shawn McCraney Part 2; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38DNcJLUjbI#t=00h24m59s)

February 20, 2014
Mr. McCraney hosts a meeting that he and his producers dub “Inquisition 2014” which is video streamed over the internet. Mr. McCraney’s critics are dubbed “Accusers”. Local Utah Pastors attending the event include Jason Wallace, Dale Finley, Bryan Hurlbutt, Cory Anderson, Chip Thompson, and others. Also in attendance was Christian Apologist Rob Sivulka and several others with Utah-based ministries.
(INQUISITION 2014 – The term “trinity”; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS4YzzBjMzk)

The invitation for the February 21, 2014

The invitation for the February 21, 2014 “Open Forum” event at CAMPUS

This event was posted on the internet as an “Open Forum”, but the actual format was a largely passive audience merely observing a highly controlled, staged setting. For example, those that wanted to confront Shawn were told to sign up and sit at the front of the room. These “accusers” were given a combined total of 30 minutes to state their “case”. Further, they were told specifically to only address issues about the the trinity, and were forbidden to bring up any other concerns over any of Shawn’s other controversial teachings and statements (such as accountability, Calvinism, hell, etc). This came as a shock to many in attendance as the “invitation” did not specify such a format, nor limit the topics allowed.

February 21, 2014
Derrick Webster posts the following on the Heart of the Matter With Shawn McCraney Facebook page:

“Message from Shawn McCraney

Dear friends,

As a Christian Ministry dedicated to reflecting the ideals of the King, we want to reiterate that our Facebook page is here to share information relative to the LDS/ Christian debate. We would appreciate it if all the ad hominem attacks were entirely eliminated. When or if any of the comments become venomous or personal our administrator will remove you from participating in this forum. Please remember that we are not “warring against flesh and blood,” but against dark principalities in high places. Speak the truth, but please try to do it in love.”

This story is still unfolding and is far from over. As new developments occur I will add updates to this article as comments.

TonightShawnIsConfronted

Pastor Jason Wallace opens the February 20th “Inquisition 2014” event with a summation of the critic’s case against Shawn McCraney. Please note the “interesting” choice of words in the on-screen captioning.

Coming next: In Part 2 of this series I will present an analysis of the body of evidence as well as the criticism being leveled at Mr. McCraney and explain why I am of the opinion that the criticism and heretic label is justified. I will also present my prayerful hope that Shawn will turn from the heresy of modalism, his unBiblical “Christian Anarchy”, and be restored to a place in the body of Christ where his and his gifts can find their ultimate fulfillment and unique place in God’s purposes and will for this generation.

UPDATES:
February 25, 2014

After having long private discussions with Shawn McCraney, well known and respected Theologian Rob Bowman of the Institute of Religious Research (see http://irr.org/who-we-are ; also see https://irr.org/author/robert-m-bowman-jr ) appears on Heart of the Matter, gives a brief overview of the doctrine of the Trinity and answers questions from Mr. McCraney and his viewers.  The tone and timbre of the show is markedly different than the previous week’s shows.
(Episode 383: Robert M. Bowman Jr. – Director of Research, IRR; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyvo1riNhZI )

February 26, 2014
Rob Bowman issues the following statement on his Facebook page regarding the week’s events:

As announced yesterday, last night I was a guest on Shawn McCraney’s TV program “Heart of the Matter” to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity. In this post I’m going to review what has happened and give my take on where things stand at the moment.

Shawn is a former Mormon who became “born again” while he was still in the LDS Church. He eventually came out, went to pastoral training school, and began a teaching and evangelistic ministry focused on reaching Mormons. That ministry evolved into an informal church that is rather out of the mainstream of evangelical church practice. He published a book entitled “Born Again Mormon” that was later retitled “I Was a Born Again Mormon.” By all accounts Shawn’s ministry has been unusually successful not merely in drawing people out of Mormonism but in leading them to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and to experience the new birth in Christ.

During the past year or so, Shawn has offered up his own views on various doctrinal issues and spoken very critically of various evangelical doctrines and movements. This development came to a head a few weeks ago when he did a couple of programs disparaging the doctrine of the Trinity. Shawn referred to the doctrine as “garbage,” as a man-made doctrine defined as a way of controlling people, and argued that the doctrine is more likely to have originated in paganism from the triads of gods in ancient religions than from the Bible. His alternative explanation at least sounded like a form of modalism, although he insisted it was not.

After discussing the matter with my co-workers at the Institute for Religious Research, I emailed Shawn privately and expressed the desire to meet with him in order to get to know him personally and to discuss doctrine with him. Shawn responded very positively, welcomed the interaction, and we made arrangements. In the meantime, there were some swift and in some cases rather sharp responses to Shawn’s statements online, and this was followed up by a program last Thursday night in which Shawn and some of the local Christian ministry leaders who had criticized Shawn had an unfortunately vitriolic confrontation.

I flew from Grand Rapids to Salt Lake City on Monday and met with Shawn for four hours. We made a very good personal connection, frankly recognizing that we are in temperament and experience radically different kinds of men, and had a good, constructive first discussion of the doctrinal issues. Shawn invited me to be a guest on his program Tuesday night, which I did. We met again today for a few hours and talked some more. I was blessed to have an opportunity to present a solid if brief explanation of the biblical basis of the Trinity and to answer a number of Shawn’s objections in front of his audience. Afterwards I spoke with people in attendance for over an hour, and it appears that the event was helpful.

What was said on last night’s program is of course public knowledge. One thing I said at the end, in response to a caller’s question, is that I consider Shawn a brother in Christ. I stand by that statement, but I also don’t want to be misunderstood. Whether Shawn is a believer, and whether he is a sound teacher, are two different questions. 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. My assessment is that Shawn’s theology is confused and otherwise lacking largely because he has never studied Christian theology at a serious level and because, probably in overreaction to the programmed instruction and extrabiblical texts imposed in Mormonism, he has tried to develop his understanding by reading only the Bible. Reading the Bible without studying works on Christian theology has certainly brought Shawn a lot closer to orthodox Christianity than he was as a Mormon, and it’s certainly a far better extreme. It is, however, an extreme that has kept him from benefiting from the wealth of Christian reflection and teaching on God’s word by those who have studied the Bible for centuries before Shawn or I came along. The result is that some of Shawn’s views are at least heterodox (other than the classical, orthodox Christian doctrines). That having been said, I consider him a brother in Christ because I see evidence that God dramatically changed his life, brought him out of Mormonism, and gave him a genuine appreciation of the grace freely bestowed through the gospel. While I don’t know definitively the state of anyone else’s soul, I am inclined to give someone the benefit of the doubt and to accept him as a brother unless forced to conclude otherwise. And I really do think Shawn is a Christian, saved by God’s grace, even though some of his doctrine is seriously flawed.

Theologically, Shawn’s thinking on the Trinity appears muddled. It is probably in flux, perhaps even more so after our discussions, which may be a step in the right direction. He has agreed that he needs to retract publicly and specifically some egregious critical remarks he made in recent weeks on the subject. His explanations at times seemed modalistic, but as we talked he backed away from those explanations, in particular his description of the Logos (Word) as one of many manifestations of God. Shawn rejects the eternal Sonship of Christ, preferring the formulation of the eternal Word. In this regard he is similar to Walter Martin, but unlike Martin, Shawn is uncomfortable designating the Word as a person. For that matter, he is uncomfortable using the term “persons” at all in reference to God, because of its association in Mormonism with physical human beings. Again, his own background and his focus on reaching Mormons have in his case led to some difficulty in coming to terms with orthodox Christian doctrine. This is a problem that I hope can be overcome as our dialogue continues. Meanwhile, at some point I do plan to make available in written form some responses to specific issues raised by Shawn regarding the Trinity, not to attack him personally but to provide substantive responses for the benefit of Shawn and others. I should mention that I have already told Shawn that I expected to do this, and he was supportive of me doing so.

I would appreciate the prayers of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for what follows. Please pray that Shawn will have constructive meetings with local Christian leaders, including some that have been legitimately concerned about his teachings, and that they will develop respect and trust. Please pray that future discussions between Shawn and me will be fruitful. Please also pray that Shawn will be successful going forward in acknowledging past errors and in developing a sound understanding of the theology of Scripture. All of this will be a process; it will not happen overnight. Please pray with me that everyone involved will listen to one another, be gracious and patient with one another, and be willing to learn and to change and even to repent where needed. And if you have some concerns or grievances with regards to anything I have said, please feel free to come to me with them.
(source: https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202633850543390 )

March 4, 2014
Theologian James White weighs in on recent events surrounding the Shawn McCraney situation in general and Inquisition 2014 in particular. He also addresses the email from him that Shawn presented as an example of how other pastors are trying to threaten and control him on the February 11th Heart of the Matter “God Part 2” broadcast (see http://hotm.tv/episode-381-god-part-2/) presenting a very different version of the back story and context surrounding what was said and why it was said the way it was. This analysis starts at 38:00 into the show. (“Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”)

Shawn McCraney continues his discourse on the nature of God focusing on Christ as “Light”. He also addresses his recent meetings with Rob Bowman as well as some of the criticism that he had been receiving from local Pastors and others.

In response to the broadcast Rob Bowman issues the following statement immediately afterwards:

“This post and thread is for my fellow evangelical Christians. If you are not an evangelical, while I value your friendship, this thread is not for you.

Tonight on his TV program “Heart of the Matter” Shawn McCraney quoted a Facebook post of mine as follows:

“My assessment is that Shawn’s theology is confused and otherwise lacking largely because he has never studied Christian theology at a serious level and because, probably in overreaction to the programmed instruction and extrabiblical texts imposed in Mormonism, he has tried to develop his understanding by reading only the Bible.”

Shawn’s quotation stopped at that point, and his subsequent comments gave the impression that I was criticizing Shawn for not being open to what he characterizes as “man-made” doctrines or theology. But here is what I said next:

“Reading the Bible without studying works on Christian theology has certainly brought Shawn a lot closer to orthodox Christianity than he was as a Mormon, and it’s certainly a far better extreme. It is, however, an extreme that has kept him from benefiting from the wealth of Christian reflection and teaching on God’s word by those who have studied the Bible for centuries before Shawn or I came along.”

You see, the issue is not “man-made” doctrines versus the Bible as the sole authority; the issue is whether it is wise to ignore what can be learned about the Bible from teachers who have devoted their lives to pursuing its truth and sharing what they have found with the rest of the body of Christ. Christians in the twenty-first century are not meant to study the Bible in isolation from other believers, as if they were living on an island and the Bible was the only book available. The Bible itself says that God has given teachers to the church as a needed, important part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). To ignore those teachers, and even to dismiss them as irrelevant in one’s study of the Bible, is to go against the Bible itself.

Of course, all of us who are teachers are fallible and our doctrinal understandings can be mistaken. But this is just as true of Shawn as it is of anyone else. In this regard the choice is not between man-made doctrine and the pure doctrine of the word of God. Rather, it is a choice between the doctrine of one man who thinks he can do it on his own and the doctrine of many men who listen to and learn from each other and from those who have gone before them in the pursuit of understanding the word of God.

In a way, Shawn’s position is even less tenable, because he inconsistently appeals to theologians and intellectuals when it suits his purpose. He justifies his refusal to read serious works of Christian theology while seeing nothing wrong with citing the opinions and interpretations of Walter Martin or John MacArthur or even the Emphatic Diaglott if they happen to agree with his own views. In his attack on the Trinity a few weeks ago, Shawn read a string of quotations that I was able to determine he got from an online article published by a Watchtower splinter group that denies that Jesus is God. I privately challenged him for using that article. Tonight he claimed that he thinks it is fine to read books that critique Mormonism but not to read books that teach Christian theology. But is it all right to read articles that attack Christian theology? I was hoping he would understand the inconsistency of his stance on this question, but he seems to be further entrenched in that position.

I will post something separately on Shawn’s lecture on John 8:12 (I don’t know if that will be tonight or tomorrow). Here I simply need to make it clear that I do not see tonight’s program as representing a step in the right direction.

Shawn, I assume this post will be brought to your attention. I still appreciate your graciousness toward me last week, but I must also remind you that I gave you fair and friendly warning that I would be responding publicly to your teaching when I found it to be unsound—and you said you understood and respected that. Well, here we go. 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.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202669824562718 )

Rob Bowman, Director of Research, Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Director of Research, Institute for Religious Research

March 5, 2014
As promised, Rob Bowman directly addresses the points in Mr. McCraney’s previous night’s lecture on God via the following Facebook post:

“On March 4, 2014, Shawn McCraney gave a lecture (I’m not sure what else to call it) on his TV show Heart of the Matter on the “ontology” of God, apparently a continuation of a series of lectures he is doing giving his own alternative to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. I’d like to share a few observations in response to some things he said. There is more that could be said, but this is all I have time to address for now.

First, let’s be clear that when the Bible speaks of God as “light” or “fire,” this is symbolic language. I think Shawn would agree; at one point he acknowledged that God is not fire in the sense of the combustion of oxygen. It’s important to be clear on this point because sometimes Shawn uses this language as if it is somehow directly denotative of the “ontology” (his term) of God, a description of God’s being or nature. It isn’t. It is figurative language, used to express specific truths about God in his relation to us and our world. So when John says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), this is not a statement of ontology or metaphysical description of God, but an affirmation that God is morally perfect—pure holiness, goodness, truthfulness, and love—totally devoid of sin or evil. Read the next few verses and this becomes obvious: to “walk in darkness” means to live in lies and sin (1 John 1:6-7). The statement that “our God is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24, quoted in Heb. 12:29) was a warning that God, who had revealed himself in the wilderness and at Sinai in terrifying fire, would judge his people in righteous wrath if they chose to rebel against their covenant with him (see Deut. 5:24-26; Heb. 12:25-28).

Perhaps the closest the Bible comes to making a statement of the form “God is…” that describes his being per se is Jesus’ statement, “God is spirit” (John 4:24; “a spirit,” KJV). Although the derivation of _pneuma_ has to do with moving air (breath, wind, etc.), in the Bible it generally loses this physical sense and refers to nonphysical, incorporeal beings like angels (Heb. 1:7) and God. In context Jesus was saying that the time of God being known and worshiped through special, sacred places at specific locations was coming to an end: God would be worshiped “in spirit and truth.” (In this regard Mormonism, with its temples that are supposedly indispensable to fully experience God’s presence and blessing, are a step backwards spiritually and covenantally.)

Another “God is” statement that Shawn mentioned in passing, but set aside, was John’s affirmation that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It’s too bad he didn’t spend some time on this statement. Unlike the descriptions of God as light and fire, to say that God is love is not figurative or metaphorical. It tells us that love is absolutely essential to God’s being. As Christians have reflected on this idea, they have realized that this idea makes perfect sense in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity. The three persons love one another eternally, so that indeed love is very much of the essence of God. The Bible supports this understanding. For example, Jesus said in his long prayer in John 17 that the Father loved him “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This cannot be fairly or plausibly interpreted as proleptic, i.e., as meaning that God anticipated loving Jesus before Jesus came to exist. We know this is not what Jesus means, because at the beginning of the prayer that he had lived in glory alongside the Father before the world was, and he asked the Father to restore him to that glory (17:5). Thus, the Father and the Son (or the Word; it doesn’t matter) have existed distinct from one another since before creation, and the Father has loved the Son all along.

Shawn spent most of the lecture developing verbal connections between Jesus’ statement in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world,” and various other texts, notably Genesis 1:1-5, John 1:1-5, and 2 Peter 1:19. To be frank, I’m not sure how his treatment of these passages clarified his view of the preincarnate Logos. Some of what he said was fine, some of it was not; in some instances I was unclear as to the significance he was deriving from these various texts.

Shawn made an interesting comment regarding John 8:12. He pointed out that the Jewish leaders did not react to Jesus’ statement as if it were blasphemous. Their criticism was that Jesus was testifying to himself and therefore they considered his claim invalid (v. 13). That’s a good observation, but what Shawn thought was the significance of this observation was unclear to me. Looking at the passage historically, Jesus’ statement probably could have been interpreted by the Jews as something less than a claim to deity; they might have thought that Jesus was simply claiming to be the Messiah as the instrument of God’s “light” to the world. For example, they might have understood Jesus to be claiming that he exercised the function of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah; that Servant is described more than once as a “light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6; 49:6; cf. 51:4; 60:3). This is in fact correct; however, only upon reflection concerning all that Jesus said and did would it be understood that he was “the light” to the nations or the world because he was God incarnate.

To understand Jesus’ function as the light of the world to be an indication of his deity in no way resolves the question of whether God is triune. Jesus was not the divine light/fire corked in a bottle of flesh. He was the Son sent from the Father into the world to be the light of life and truth (John 5:23; 6:38-40; 8:12-18; 9:5; 12:46; 16:27-28; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:14). Again, the language of light is figurative, indicating that Jesus’ mission was to bring the light of truth and life to the world. He could do this because he was himself God, perfect in truth, the source of all light and knowledge. The New Testament presents this truth in a consistent context of distinguishing Jesus Christ the Son of God from the one called God the Father.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202675490424361?stream_ref=10 )

March 6, 2014
James White offers a lengthy deconstruction of Shawn McCraney’s teachings on the Trinity in general and the Athanasian Creed in particular.   Mr. White looking directly into the camera and addressing Shawn McCraney directly Mr. White states that Mr. McCraney is uninformed and ignorant on both.  This contents begins 5:24 into the broadcast. (“A Little About Brewton-Parker; the Athanasian Creed; the Flaming Toilet of Death”

March 11, 2014
On his Dividing Line broadcast (starting at 1:05:00) James White deconstructs, analyzes and exposes Shawn McCraney’s “God Part 3” lecture for what it is:  Modalism.  He also states that the reports that he’s getting from the pastors he’s contacted in Utah regarding the situation, “aren’t encouraging.”

On the Heart of the Matter broadcast Shawn McCraney suggests that the reason friction has arisen between he and his critics comes down to a difference of worldviews and personality. He suggests that the latter is manifested in his “Artistic” versus the critic’s “Linear” thinking and approach to the Bible. (Episode 385: Christian Artists)

March 12, 2014
Rob Bowman releases the following article in response to Shawn’s broadcast from the previous evening:

“Shawn McCraney is a former Mormon who became a “born-again” Christian and eventually left Mormonism, received some ministry training through Calvary Chapel, and launched his own ministry in Salt Lake City to evangelize Mormons. In the past few weeks Shawn has gone public on his television show denouncing the term Trinity as “garbage” and explaining his own doctrine of God in ways that have been confused at best. I flew out to Utah to meet with Shawn, had very friendly and enjoyable conversations with him, and appeared on Shawn’s show Heart of the Matter. I also posted a few messages on Facebook regarding the controversy.

On March 11, 2014, Shawn McCraney’s lecture on his TV show was a critical response to his critics, whom he characterized as scholars, theologians, and apologists who impose their exclusively “linear thinking” on the church to rule, control, and dominate. There is a “teachable moment” here because the issues that Shawn’s argument raises have relevance beyond the specific controversy over his teaching.

Shawn professes to value knowledge and the contributions of scholars, but he describes himself as a “Christian artist” who views Christianity in an artistic way that the linear-thinking scholars simply cannot appreciate. But if an “artistic” thinking person can appreciate the “linear” thinking of scholars, why cannot scholars likewise appreciate the “artistic” thinking of people like Shawn? I think they can. But just as people who profess to be scholars can and sometimes do make egregious mistakes, self-described artists who profess to see the world in a fresh and unpredictable way might be fooling themselves. The “Christian artist” label does not excuse Shawn or anyone else from the responsibility of speaking faithfully to the truth. The charge that someone is teaching erroneous doctrine cannot be answered by merely asserting artistic license.

Early in his lecture Shawn asked, “Just how different can a believer be in personality and worldview and still be considered a Christian?” By “worldview” Shawn apparently means the way in which a person views the world, either logically or artistically, although I didn’t catch a definition of the term. The answer to his question, if I understood it correctly, is that believers can be quite different in many ways and still be considered Christians. However, that isn’t the real question here, is it? No one is suggesting that people who are artistic or storytelling or relational or physical in their personal makeup and orientation rather than logical or scholarly cannot be Christians. Most Christians are not intellectually oriented. Believe it or not, we intellectuals noticed that a long time ago. One of the first Christian intellectuals himself commented on that fact, in a passage that Shawn quoted (1 Cor. 1:18-23). Really, we do understand this. That’s not the problem. No, the problem is the content of Shawn’s doctrinal teaching, which at best is unsound and at worst, in the estimation of at least some observers, is heretical. This concern about his teaching is either justified or it is not. How do we tell? Like it or not, we must try to think clearly about the question.

Shawn himself engages in “linear thinking” when he feels comfortable doing so. His lectures are just that, lectures. He has a point he wishes to make, and he presents reasons to support the conclusion he hopes his listeners will accept. Shawn cites the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, appeals to biblical scholars and theologians when he thinks they support his views, and formulates objections to statements made by his critics. He is actually much more capable of engaging in such logical, rational thinking than perhaps people realize and engages in such reasoning far more often than his self-description as a Christian artist would suggest. The appeal to his supposed artistic personality is itself presented as an argument: the logicians are wrong because they overgeneralize from their own experience and preference and don’t recognize that there are different yet equally valid ways of thinking. Which reminds me of the famous observation that there are two kinds of people in the world—those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t. (Sorry.) When Shawn argues, for example, that the Bible presents truth in a grand narrative rather than in a systematic theology, he is presenting an argument based on the very kind of logical, linear thinking he complains is being used against him. That argument is either a sound argument or it is not. The value of the argument can be judged only on the basis of its factual support and logical validity; its value is not aesthetic, creative, artistic, emotive, or relational.

It’s really a matter of the right tool for the job. If we want to stir people’s emotions, touch people’s feelings, or appeal to their intuitive sense, we use art – music, story, drama, soaring speech, visual displays, and so forth. If we want to inform people’s minds, then we present facts in a reasoned manner. If we want to explain a text of the Bible, then we use skills relevant to reading and interpreting texts. This doesn’t mean ignoring non-linear elements of biblical texts. It doesn’t mean running roughshod over symbolic language, emotive appeals by the biblical speakers and writers, or forcing the Bible into overly simplistic and rigid philosophical systems. Sound reading of the Bible appreciates the power of its narratives and the color of its poetry. But the Bible also presents didactic material that calls for careful, reasoned thinking about the subject matter. The epistle to the Romans is a theological treatise, not an Easter drama.

According to Shawn, logic and linear thinking came from the Greeks. I’ve heard this one before. Friends, logic came from God, not from the Greeks. Logic, order, rationality, reason, and coherence are all reflections of the nature of God, just as much as beauty, joy, creativity, and artistry. The Greeks did not invent logic; they came up with a formal system for recognizing and teaching logic.

Shawn emphasizes, fairly enough, that knowledge has value only in the context of love. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1b). Amen. Knowledge without love makes people prideful. A person who claims to know God but is devoid of love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8). Shawn feels that some of his critics have been long on knowledge, or at least in claims to knowledge, but short on love. Perhaps he is right. Yet Shawn also seeks to refute his critics with arguments. Again, perhaps he is right. But there are two issues here: (1) Is Shawn’s doctrine biblically sound? (2) If it isn’t biblically sound, can this point be made in love? It would help if these two questions were kept distinct.

I wish Shawn would discuss whether the category of “heresy” is ever a valid category. If a teacher claims that Jesus did not rise from the dead, is it inappropriate to label this teaching as heresy? Are there any heretics? Shawn says, quite correctly, that Christians should tolerate different views on nonessentials. But what are the essentials and how does one know if something is an essential or not? This is a reasonable question and it requires a reasonable answer, grounded on the teaching of Scripture. Shawn insists that he believes the whole Bible, accepts everything it teaches, and that therefore he should be accepted as a Christian. I view Shawn as a Christian, albeit one whose doctrine is in serious question, but his reasoning here is quite flawed. Jehovah’s Witnesses also insist they believe the whole Bible, accept everything it teaches, and that they are Christians. Is that good enough? Shawn would say, I’m guessing, that they are not really Christians because they deny that Jesus Christ is God. If so, then Shawn is acknowledging the legitimacy of using doctrine to test the claims of those who present themselves as teachers of God’s word. And I assume that Shawn does not think he is being unloving for excluding Mormon teaching from his new television network. Why not? Obviously, he is “imposing” a doctrinal test here, and rightly so. Then is it necessarily unloving or wrong for Christians to express the opinion that Shawn’s denial of the doctrine of the Trinity might be heretical? The question is a valid one, however we answer it.”
(Bowman, Rob, “Shawn McCraney On The Linear Thinking of His Theological Critics”)

March 18, 2014
Drawing from the figure of the cross which somehow transforms into an “X”, which somehow transforms into 3 triangles, (the audio was off for a few minutes while he was developing this concept on the whiteboard) which then somehow comes to represents not just God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) but man (body, soul, spirit). He then uses these figures to develop a new model of two sets of intersecting triangles (one  set for, and one set for man) that he claims represents how God has engaged Himself in the creation, salvation, and sanctification of human kind.  He claims that this Spirit and Bible revealed “artistic” model is just as valid and should be taken just as seriously as any systematic theology from scholars. (Episode 386: It All Starts With “X”)

As Rob Bowman points out in his post-broadcast response to Shawn, what Mr. McCraney has just taught is clearly heresy.  Here is that response:

“Once again I watched Shawn McCraney on his show “Heart of the Matter” tonight. His doctrinal explanation of the nature of God was very disappointing. The audio was off for a few minutes, but apparently Shawn compared God’s eternal nature of being God, his Logos (Word), and his Pneuma (Spirit) to man’s being body, soul, and spirit. Such an analogy is clearly monarchian: it characterizes God as a single person with three aspects of his being. According to Shawn, before the Fall, those three aspects were really difficult to distinguish from one another (even for God?), and likewise man’s three aspects were so fully integrated as one that they could hardly be distinguished. Before the Fall, there was no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When man fell, God, in order to save us, divided or splintered himself into three, becoming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (apparently not right away, since on Shawn’s view there was no Son until the Incarnation). In this new, sharp threeness God acted to redeem us in order to restore us to full integration as body-soul-spirit beings in the new birth.

All of this sounds very much like monarchianism, but then Shawn threw in the comment that God, his Logos, and his Pneuma had relationships with each other before creation, though what those were Shawn said he doesn’t know. As he has done every time I have heard him, Shawn contradicted himself. God, the Logos, and the Pneuma cannot have relationships with one another if they are simply different aspects of the one God, like my body, soul, and spirit (or like they should be!).

In response to a caller, Shawn asserted that Jesus was not himself the “I am”; the “I am” was God fully indwelling him. Jesus is the flesh; God is the divine being dwelling in or housed in the flesh. Yet Shawn also wants to say that Jesus is God. This same incoherence is common in one wing of Oneness Pentecostal theology. Biblically and in orthodox Christian doctrine, Jesus is not simply the flesh; rather, Jesus is the *person* who is both God and man, the eternal Logos-Son who assumed full human nature. True, he was not called “Jesus” before the Incarnation, but that really misses the point: the person we call Jesus was in existence from eternity past, not as a separate entity or being (let alone one in a “spirit body” as Shawn described, perhaps conflating his criticisms of the Trinity and Mormon doctrine), but as a distinct person who was one God with the Father (and the Holy Spirit) (John 1:1-3; 13:1, 3; 16:28; 17:5, 24).

Shawn asserted that he doesn’t like the term Trinity and doesn’t like saying there were three persons before creation. Apparently saying there are three persons now is fine (at one point Shawn said this himself). If so, then the term “person” is not itself the problem; the problem is substantive, not merely semantic. But if God was once not three persons and now he is three persons, then the fundamental nature of God has changed. That implication creates all sorts of theological mischief. This is not comparable to God becoming a man, in which God’s nature remains the same but he assumes human nature (the union of two natures in the one person); Shawn’s idea amounts to God changing the divine nature.

I was hoping that Shawn would move closer to the position he continues to cite in his defense, the “eternal Word” form of Trinitarianism espoused by Walter Martin. That at least would still be orthodox. Instead, in my estimation he has if anything moved further away from it, though he continues to make statements that do not fit neatly into the monarchian or modalist system. Without making any judgment about Shawn as a believer or Christian, and with the hope that he may still change or correct what he has been teaching, I regretfully think that at present what he is articulating about the doctrine of God is heresy.

This isn’t the only problem. At the end, in response to another caller, Shawn affirmed universal reconciliation, a doctrine that is really a form of universalism under a different name. Although Shawn claimed this wasn’t universal salvation, he referred the caller to the website tentmaker.org, which clearly teaches universal salvation. “The Bible, correctly translated teaches Jesus Christ, the Chosen One of our heavenly Father will save the whole world.” The website also appears to endorse the idea that the devil and his fallen angels will also eventually be saved, but apparently not in this age. Shawn seemingly didn’t agree with that view, but he wasn’t completely clear on the issue. In any case, universal salvation is also heresy.”
(see https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202754135350435?stream_ref=10)

March 25, 2014
Shawn begins what he promises will be a multi-part series on the Holy Spirit.  Without going into too much detail he claims that both the LdS Church and Trinitarian Churches are in error and not teaching what the Bible does regarding the Holy Spirit.  He promises to offer a truly Biblical perspective on the Holy Spirit in the coming weeks that the viewers may find completely new and different.

March  27, 2014
Theologian Rob Bowman issues two statements regarding the March 25th Heart of the Matter lecture. The first states:

“I was busy Tuesday night when Shawn McCraney did his weekly TV show “Heart of the Matter,” and this is my first opportunity to comment.

Shawn spent some time discussing Hebrews 13:8, arguing that it could not have been true about Christ until his resurrection. Before that, he was changing — becoming flesh, dying, and rising from the dead.  Makes sense, right?

Well. Hebrews 13:8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same [hO AUTOS] yesterday and today and forever.” There is only *one* other verse in the New Testament in which someone is said to be hO AUTOS, “the same.” That’s Hebrews 1:12, part of a quotation in 1:10-12 from Psalm 102:25-27 (101:26-28 in the Greek Septuagint):

“And,
‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same [hO AUTOS],
and your years will have no end.'”
(Heb. 1:10-12 ESV)

In the context of Hebrews 1, this is one of a series of OT [Old Testament] quotations that the author says show the Son (Jesus Christ) to be superior to the angels (vv. 4-13). Thus, Hebrews 1:12 is referring to the “Son” (v. 2) as being the one who is “the same” (hO AUTOS). And it does not mean that he is the same only now that he has died and risen from the dead, but that he is the one who made the world and who remains unchanged even as the universe itself wears out (vv. 10-11).

These two affirmations about the Son, Jesus Christ, come near the beginning and the end of the book of Hebrews. They function like a set of bookends. Once this is understood, Hebrews 13:8 clearly must be taken as an affirmation that Jesus Christ is the unchanging Creator, the one absolutely dependable and reliable Reality in a world of constant change and uncertainty. Notice that this is affirmed of the Son (1:1-2, 10-12) and of Jesus Christ (13:8). The Son is eternal, the Maker of all things. That’s who Jesus Christ is.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202807297279450 )

And the second statement explains:

“On Tuesday night’s “Heart of the Matter,” Shawn McCraney claimed that “one of our modern-day theologians” told him that in Trinitarian theology the Father and the Son have the same kind of relationship as an earthly father and son.

I’m pretty sure he was referring to me. (Shawn hasn’t talked to a lot of theologians.)

For the record, what I told Shawn was that Trinitarian theology regards the designations “Father” and “Son” for the first two persons of the Trinity, given to us in the New Testament, as meaning that the relationship between the First and Second Persons is *analogous* to the relationship between an earthly father and son. I was quite clear that it was *not* the “same” relationship. Of course, I was also clear that God the Father did not sire or procreate God the Son, as in Mormonism. Trinitarianism denies that the Son owes his existence to a procreative or generative act of the Father. The Son is eternal, absolute deity. He never came into existence at all. He did not “become” the Father’s “Son” in the same way, or even a similar way, as an earthly son becomes his father’s son, because God the Son never “became” the Son. He has always been God the Son.

I confess to being rather unhappy to hear Shawn make this statement. This isn’t the first time he has appealed to something I said out of context for his own purposes (though in this instance he did not mention me by name). It makes it seem that he was listening for things he could find objectionable or for things he could use to defend his view, rather than listening in order to learn something.”
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202807394081870 )

March 28, 2014
Rob Bowman issues the following general statement regarding Shawn McCraney’s continuing anti-Trinitarianism:

“Shawn McCraney constantly argues against the Trinitarian view of Jesus by pointing out that Jesus wasn’t called Jesus until he became a human being. Before that, Shawn argues, he wasn’t Jesus, or the Christ, or the Son; he was just God, the Word. But the NT refers to the preincarnate person in question by all three of those designations. It is true that the Word received the name Jesus in history at his birth, but the person called “Jesus” existed and was active in creation and history prior to his incarnation.

1. Jesus: The preincarnate Word is called Jesus in the best reading of Jude 5: “Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that Jesus [most versions say, “the Lord”], who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Many of the earliest manuscripts actually say “Jesus” instead of “the Lord” in verse 5, and this is most likely the original reading. Ed Komoszewski and I give three reasons for this conclusion in our book  “Putting Jesus in His Place”, 98-99.

2. Christ: Paul referred to the preincarnate Word as “Christ” twice in 1 Corinthians 10: ““For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ…. We must not put Christ [many versions have “the Lord” here] to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents” (1 Cor. 10:4, 9). In the first reference to Christ, there is no textual difficulty. In the second, there is significant debate, but the reading “Christ” is probably correct. See endnote 6 on page 312 of  “Putting Jesus in His Place”. For comments on the whole passage in context, see page 95.

3. Son: The preincarnate Word is called the “Son” in several passages of the NT, including Colossians 1:12-20 and Hebrews 1:1-3, both of which speak of the Son as active in the creation of the world. On this point, see especially chapter 15 of  “Putting Jesus in His Place”.’
(source = https://www.facebook.com/ApolojediMaster/posts/10202812378726483 )

This timeline of events is continued here
(please click on the work “here” above)