Archive for the ‘McCraneyism’ Category

Shawn McCraney Doesn’t Understand Contradictions

by Isaac Farley
This article has taken an unusually long time to write – even for me, someone who hasn’t updated his supposedly monthly demonology series in nearly 12 months. The reason for my delay is that this is a monstrous topic and I’ve found myself doing way more research than intended and I wanted to include more detail than what has made it in but several rounds of editing have put this thing on a diet.

Origin story
I was casually reading over Facebook one morning before work when I came across a post in a Utah Christian group. The post warned members about a new “Shawnite tactic” whereby using a website called CheckMyChurch.org McCraneyism was aiming to cast doubt on the validity of different mainstream Christian congregations. I started looking into the website. My first thought was that, given his post-2013 track record, if it was associated with Shawn McCraney it was going to be a complete mess!

Well, it turns out that in one of his webcasts, McCraney made an off-handed comment about how there should be a website that rates of all congregations as good or bad based on his standards of what qualifies as a good church. One of his followers, a woman by the name of Sarah Young took his comment to heart and has started this website that is in question. Young claims to be doing “unbiased and biblical reviews” but it doesn’t take much to find that none of this is true. The framework by which she is rating churches is McCraneyism a sub-biblical-at-best and the false doctrinal system taught by McCraney at worst. Moreover, and on top of that, this women doesn’t even visit the congregations that she is rating. Seeing the clear problems with this tactic I had a fun idea to do a “church check” on the “church” that Young associates herself with – Shawn McCraney’s church, C.A.M.P.U.S. But first I took the egalitarian move of requesting that CheckmyChruch.org review the congregation that I myself attend: Living Faith Discipleship Community, in Ogden, Utah.

Flawed Methodology and Broken Theology
The “Quick Check” review of my congregation went online in early May (editor’s note, a full review was later published on the CheckMyChurch website in August 2019) and I will not directly be responding to it here. Rather I will be discussing Ms. Young’s methodology as a whole and interacting with an exchange we had in the comments of her review. You can read my full comments to Ms. Young here. I will simplify it here for the sake of word count.

A March 5, 2019 screenshot of the CheckMyChurch website “About Us” page that directly links them to Shawn McCraney’s Church C.A.M.P.U.S. As you can see, they even go so far as to promote their church here. This information was deleted from the page after word got out that CheckMyChurch was, in reality, nothing more than a Shawnite initiative to impose their flawed, unbiblical ecclesiology onto other churches.

Me to Young
‘I didn’t physically attend the […] service at Living Faith Discipleship Community’”

Stop. This should be your whole review. How can you “review” something you know nothing about and have never experienced?

Let me review the next Avengers movie for you but I haven’t actually seen it I’m only going to quote reviews I found online. Nonsense.”

Young to Me
“What more could I possibly do besides physically attend an entire service..”

Oh, by the way,  it’s my understanding that according to Ms. Young’s most recent newsletter to CMC subscribers that she finally has left her home for one of these reviews. Good for her, this is an improvement in methodology. If she keeps it up will remain to be seen. Let’s hope that she does.

Now, remember there is a lot of context around her above comments. Please go read the whole exchange. Again, here is the link to it.

In the end, knowing that I was in the process of writing this review I did not reply to Ms. Young’s comment because I didn’t need a pre-emptive flame war. I know for a fact that she will find this post and for that reason let me share what I would have said to her then if the situation had been different:

Me hypothetically and rhetorically to Young
(again, this is what I was tempted to say at the time but didn’t – so I’m saying it now)
Ms. Young you are propping yourself above everyone else, acting like you are the sole arbiter of truth, you presume that you know better than anyone else what makes a church biblical and not.

Your ego is large and for that, I’d expect you to have the common courtesy to walk in the building before you wash your hands of it. It seems to me that God always sent the prophets to places that need truth (eg Jonah and Nineveh). If I was to write a review of C.A.M.P.U.S. my starting point would be walking up to Shawn McCraney, shaking his hand and introducing myself.

And that’s exactly what I did on Mar 31, 2019.

The Check
The remainder of this article is format to match, as closely as possible, how Ms. Young does her CMC reviews in order to maintain an even playing field as well as an equivalent methodology. 

WEBSITE REVIEW
Logging on to the C.A.M.P.U.S. website, I was able to navigate to the bottom of the page and find the address and service times. This is all I needed from the website and will not need to go into as much detail as someone who is only, essentially, reviewing church websites.

THE MEETING
It feels very strange to be writing an article criticizing Shawn McCraney because I once looked up to him as a pastor figure. I used to regularly watch him on television back in the day. Most of what I know about Mormonism came from the original Heart of the Matter program. In fact, way before there was a WalkingChristian.com I was a contributor to a now-defunct website known as SCAEMinistries. The first article I wrote for them covered was “A Critique of Mormon Cosmology” which was largely based on what I learned from Shawn’s TV program.

I was watching when he got kicked off the air for criticizing the Evangelical Church. Then I kind of forgot about him for a time and was reminded of him when Dr. James White (my favorite Calvinist) on his webcast commented on a scandal that had been going on right under my nose. Shawn McCraney had come out publicly and denied the doctrine of the trinity. After debating many real theologians, apologists, and people who care about Shawn he kept going down the same wrong road and found himself way out in the spiritual wilderness. Today he holds to unbiblical teachings – up to and including the heresy of modalism – and is, therefore, a false teacher. (very detailed links provided below).

When I made it down to C.A.M.P.U.S. meeting hall Mr. McCraney was the first one to pull up and I immediately walked up to his car. I offered him my hand and said “You’re Shawn. I used to watch you on TV. I’m Isaac and I came down to check your church.” We talked for a brief moment before entering the building.

OBSERVATIONS
Upon entering and grabbing a coffee and a bagel I talked with a few of the congregants for about 20 minutes. One of the members is openly bisexual and continuing to engage in this blatantly immoral behavior relative to the sexual ethics taught in the Bible. Several C.A.M.P.U.S. members told this person they were proud of their decision.

Meanwhile, off in the corner, Shawn was talking loudly with other members about how he had gotten drunk that Saturday night and “drunk texting” people. Getting drunk is a sin (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20; 29–32; Isaiah 5:22, Ephesians 5:18) and pastors are called to a higher standard (James 3:1).

Another member told me she loved C.A.M.P.U.S because it was an accepting place to be she said she looked at many denominations and couldn’t accept their “Patrichal bull ****” (her words) and finally closed with “I absolutely will not and could never be part of a church that doesn’t accept homosexuality.”

Everyone was very nice and easy to talk to and you could tell their (over) emphasis on love is genuine and that they intend well. When it was time for the service I sat down with coffee in hand.

Worship Service
Mr. McCraney introduced the service and welcomed the first time guests, me and my associate included. Then they launched into the worship segment, for which they play a pre-recorded song that is simply the words of the day’s passage set to music. So, for example, if the passage for consideration on the day is 2 Corinthians 13 – which in this case it actually was – they will listen to the chapter sung to music three times and have a moment of silence to reflect on its meaning before the sermon is preached. I actually thought this was really great, all things considered. It’s no secret that I am a fan of a certain Christian movement that started in China and this practice of scripture-hymns reminded me a lot of prayer-reading as observed by the Chinese believers.

Let me just say as an aside, just because a false teacher or controversial personality originates a practice doesn’t mean the practice is necessarily false, that is the genetic fallacy. So even if Mike Bickel of the International House of Prayer, Witness Lee (founder of the Local Church Movement), or Shawn McCraney teach prayer-reading or scripture-hymns doesn’t mean it’s a fruitless practice. And I thought this worship method was actually pretty cool.

Sermon
Oh boy, this has been one of the most complicated things I’ve ever had to write. On the way back home after our visit, my associate and I attempted to untangle McCraney’s muddle mess of a sermon we just had the displeasure of sitting through. The only thought running through my head was “Shawn McCraney doesn’t understand the law of non-contradiction.” McCraney is like someone who went through brain surgery and had the two halves of his brain disconnected, one half controls one side of his mouth and the other side controls the rest of his mouth and they both try to speak at the same time. His views make no sense when you try to use them to build a house on the rock – the pieces do not fit together and I can’t understand how he and his followers cannot see this.

Imagine my sense of vindication when I went back and looked at the actual scholars who have interacted with and tried to correct Shawn have noted the same thing that I did. Dr. James White, for example, provides these comments in an episode of Radio Free Geneva from September 20, 2018, @10:39: “I mean there’s a huge amount of confusion in Shawn’s teaching there’s no question about that but … To use the word ‘confused’ for Shawn McCraney is the understatement of the century.”

Or consider this comment from a former follower of Shawn known as “Brother Thomas” shared this insight in a series of blog articles on his direct, first-hand experience, at C.A.M.P.U.S.:  “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 “Brother Thomas” blogsite, February 13, 2015)

Before I interact with his sermon I think the greatest contribution that I could possibly make on this topic, is to try and explain to Shawn and all his potential followers what exactly the law of noncontradiction is. Please know I’m not a professional philosopher unlike my colleague Gil Sanders. So I am a dummy trying to dumb this down even further. Here we go.

An amusing, real-world example of the confusion and insanity that ensues from violating the Law of Non-Contradiction.

A contradiction is a term used in the study of logic to describe hypothetical situations when two opposing things are true at the same time and in the same way. For example, if it is raining in Salt Lake City at 12:05 PM on July 2 and it is sunny with a high of 99 in Salt Lake City at 12:05 PM on July 2 cannot both be true at the same time. There is no possible way. In the same way, the old question can God (who is all-powerful) make a rock so big He can’t lift it. This is a meaningless sentence, you’re essentially asking “can God do something He cannot do?” It’s just words that can have no meaning in objective reality.

Likewise, Shawn, many of the things you believe contradict other things you believe, and therefore you’re theology doesn’t work – you do not believe reality. Why does it matter? Well God is the truth is He not? So if we worship He who is the truth then we must love truth in all ways, shapes, and forms. Contradictions cannot be the truth. It is literally, physically, and ontologically impossible to confirm a contradiction. When John writes that “The Word was with God and the Word was God.” The word — word in Greek is ‘logos’ and it means logic, reason as well as word. This means God by his nature is reasonable and logical because he is the Word and the Word is logic. So God’s true scripture teaches us that God Himself is logic by his nature. So the truth and the doctrines that He reveals to us MUST be logical, otherwise, they are not from Him and they are not true. Now that this is out of the way. Let’s get on with it…

In the video above Shawn first begins interacting with 2 Cor 13 @10:11. Regarding verses 1-2 he provides the following comments.

”This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. Remember Paul was a jew of jews, he’s citing the old testament and for some reason, he is citing this passage […] about witnesses. It’s obvious Paul has been to Corinth once before so he has resolved to going [TO] them a second time. He says this is the third time I’m coming to you, the third time I’m trying to get to you and he suddenly cites this passage out of Deut 19:15. Now, we don’t know why he cites this passage here.”

@13:09 into the video I must pause and say this with all respect and kindness possible… But Shawn what are you smoking, friend? How clear can it be what Paul means? He says “I’m coming to you a third time and like the Scripture says let two or three witnesses establish a truth.” You claiming that scholars don’t know what Paul means by this and spending several minutes postulating all the possible explanations is just flat out dumb. don’t know how it could be any clearer that Paul considers his first visit and teaching at Corinth to be the first witness, his second visit to be the second witnesses, and this final visit to be the last witnesses necessary to establish what he’s saying as true. He’s clearly about to repeat something he’s already said to them and so he cites the Old Testament as a way of validating his third visit and third teaching. Dear reader, I hope the meaning of this passage is as clear to you as it is to me.

@14:11 while still trying to explain verse 1 Shawn makes the off-handed remark that “That apostolic discipline was for them in that age. We don’t have apostolic discipline now except by the Word that we read and the Spirit in our hearts.” Hold this comment in your mind for later.

Editorial commentary on Shawn McCraney’s June 4, 2019, HOTM 2.0 announcement to rebrand and relaunch his show for the third time since its debut in 2005.

Shawn spends the next several minutes responding to verse 2 saying that it was the job of the apostles to discipline the church and keep it together in that day and age. He talks about how one of the ways they did this is by ex-communication aka not having fellowship with people who are willful hypocrites. @18:03 he says “we have some churches today that insist on doing this. The reason it doesn’t work today is that if I excommunicate [someone] from this church … all he’s going to do is he’s going to leave and he’s going to go to Calvary Chapel across the street and if they don’t want him he’ll go down the street to the next one.”

A few thoughts, 1) this passage is not about ex-communication. 2) if ex-communication is taught in the scripture as proper church practice then it is our obligation to God to follow His word regardless of our modern 21st-century environment 3) I have been saying for years now that Biblically speaking there is one church in every city. The Church in our community is made out of the churches in our community. The bride of Jesus is the Community of communities and we need to be doing a better job of getting on the same page with clear issues of sin and work together more often to help counsel and edify our whole city not just the 10 people in our Sunday school class. /soapbox.

@18:33 “We don’t have apostolic authority keeping the bride together anymore and so this is no longer effective in a non-apostolic church. Which is why we don’t take it just it was part of the NT church and do it now.” Yes, we do still have apostolic authority Shawn, it’s called the Bible. Sure we can disagree on secondary issues but if the Bible is the true word of the Living God then if we seek to honor Him and handle his word properly then believers should agree on 98% of things.

In a comment on verses 3-4, @21:20 he said, “Now these are apostolic words to believers at that time so to get what he’s meaning is really tough.” Shawn if the words of Paul have no relevance to us today then what in God’s green earth are you doing? Why are you standing up there “teaching”? Didn’t you yourself say that the Word is binding on us today when you called it our “apostolic authority” back @14:11 but every time it says something you don’t want to believe, you claim “it’s cultural and not for us today.” This is the height of stupidity my friend.

I’m being 100% honest with this question I’m about to ask Shawn and if you happen to read this I’d love to hear your answer in the comments or via email or whatever. Here’s the question, how do you know that Jesus died for your sins? Will you answer it’s in the Bible? Because what’s stopping someone from telling you that “That was cultural for the church, on that day. We in the modern day have no hope.” This problem gets even worse when we take into account that you’re a hyper-Preterist who believes the church stopped existing around 70 AD when the second temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. In that context, the case gets even stronger that Salvation and the Gospel were only for people living in the Roman Empire in the first century CE. Your view of the Bible, Shawn, cuts off the branch you’re sitting on. Your only way out is to contradict yourself…. but as we know now contradictions cannot exist.

@23:03 Shawn says some good stuff about how Jesus was a man – so weak he couldn’t even carry his own cross. God didn’t give us a superman. He came as an ordinary man. These are good comments.

A satirical take on the actual words of Shawn McCraney from the June 4, 2019, HOTM 2.0 broadcast.

Commenting on verse 4, @24:30 Shawn says “…’we also are weak in him’ Now I’d like to apply that to you but I can’t because Paul is talking about the apostles, ‘also’ and ‘we’ he’s talking about the Apostles himself included not the general population.”

OK again my friends I want to be as kind as possible but this is just more abject stupidity. What exactly about this passage gives you any indication that Paul is talking about the apostles only in verse 4? Is verse 5, literally the very next sentence not addressed to the ‘general populace?’ so I can’t understand Shawn’s thinking on this whatsoever. Again Shawn is taking a verse and saying it only applies to one group of people at one time in history. So I have to ask again if it has no relevance to you today, why exactly are you even ‘teaching’ this passage? Here’s an even more direct question, how much of the Bible is for us today? Can you put a percentage to it? I’m assuming you’d say all of the Old Testament is out, so there goes 85% of all of Scripture. And you keep chopping pieces out of the New Testament. So really what does have practical application for us today? Is it just the gospels? Or are you one of those that say Jesus was teaching law to people under the Mosiac Law? In which case is just the passion story for us today? These are questions that you need to answer.

@26:12 Shawn shows his true self with this comment, “But for this reason what he (Jesus) accomplished on our behalf, in fact, I think he accomplished for behalf of the whole world.”

Again friends… I’m at a loss to respond to this sophomoric statement. Shawn is a universalist – a position which is so clearly and obviously not Biblical that it’s incredible that people even try to push it. Again I have to say to you Shawn if the whole world will be saved why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s the point? Why did you devote so much of your post LDS life trying to convince Mormons of the truth of Christianity? You contradict yourself in thought, word, and deed.

For several minutes Shawn goes on somewhat of a tangent and quotes Philippians 2. My only comment here is @31:09 he says ” that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So we see that relationship again, in and through God the father working all this in and through Jesus his only son to accomplish for us on our behalf…”

Shawn doesn’t believe the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet he quotes this passage that clearly shows the Father is called God, and the son being called Lord (read God) and but they are not the same person because they interact. And then Shawn goes on to talk about the “relationship” between the Father and Son. Shawn, are you contradicting yourself again?

Shawn spends some time talking about how we know what we know while commenting on verse 5. I have no comments on this section.

@42:04 Shawn makes the passing comment “The latter-day was Jesus day those were the true latter days we’re not in them now.”

Shawn is a hyper-preterist. He believes the whole book of Revelation has been fulfilled before the year 70 AD. You have to really wonder why Shawn even bothers with the Bible if he believes even all the future stuff was “for them in that age.” Utter stupidity.

@42:45 Shawn affirms a version of the doctrine of Assurance. I like John Wesley and I can agree with Shawn’s comments on this.

@43:26 Shawn says “…if hell exists…”

So in the midst of talking about how we can be sure of what we know to be true he also questions a doctrine clearly taught in scripture. Contradictions abound with this one.

OK, enough I’m ending @45:00 just a little before two thirds into the sermon. You folks should get the point by now. Let’s move on to my final score…..

Final Ratings
I won’t call them a cult, as others have, but Shawn is without a doubt a heretic and needs to read the Bible a lot slower and try to break down some of the big words.

Final Recomendation
Never Attend unless you’re writing a church check!

Issac Farley is the founder and chief contributor of the WalkingChristian website. This article was originally published on his website on August 10, 2019. It has been edited from the original to enhance clarity and legibility. It has been republished here with the kind permission and approval of the author. 

APPENDIX: UPDATE AND PUBLICATION NOTES
The CheckMyChurch rebuttal to the above article, including further comment interaction between WalkingChristian founder Isaac Farley and CheckMyChurch founder Sarah Young,  can be read here.

The “Where It All Began” section of the Check My Church website About page as of May 10, 2020.

Also of interest is Ms. Young’s April 2019 review of Shawn McCraney’s church CAMPUS – which is glowing, at times even gushing, while simultaneously downplaying or ignoring the heresies and error that’s taught there. It can be read here. In addition, a second review was published in October 2019 and can be read here.

These reviews are also noteworthy because she not only doesn’t deny her relationship to Mr. McCraney and his church in them, she speaks with a warm affinity toward them in both. The second review is basically nothing more an apologetic for why her relationship with CAMPUS and Mr. McCraney (and by implication Mr. McCraney’s heretical teachings and error) are really no big deal and should be ignored.

The timing of this second review appearing shortly after Mr. Farley’s challenging review was originally published in August 2019 was interesting then and it’s interesting now.  That’s probably because Mr. Farley’s review made quite a splash and, no doubt, put more unwanted attention on the issue of the Check My Church website at a time when the initial wave of criticism was slowly starting to subside.

The reader may also find it of interest to know that when her affiliation with Mr. McCraney and his church was initially publicly questioned by her critics after the inception of the Check My Church website, steps were taken to distance herself from both. Thus, the tight relationship with McCraneyism that was originally “out there” and plain on the Check My Church website was simply quietly redacted and tucked away in the first CAMPUS review instead.

Probably the most telling evidence of this was the elimination of either in the website’s original “About” page. To that point, a screenshot from March 5, 2019, can be seen in the Isaac Farley article above. Now compare and contrast that to how the same page on the Check My Church website read as of this time of writing (May 10, 2020) with only the following passing reference to anything Shawn McCraney or Shawnite:

“… when our pastor, Shawn McCraney, came up with the same exact idea, we knew it had to be a good one. What are the chances, right? So, here we are. Checking every church, so you don’t have to.”
(see provided screenshot)

It’s just more proof that if the history of McCraneyism has shown us anything it’s that Shawn McCraney and his disciples simply can not be trusted, isn’t it?

Finally, it’s important to note that in May 2020, Sarah Young published a letter of apology on the Check My Church website that concluded as follows:

There are wolves in our local churches, dear Christians, but our approach of writing opinionated reviews of local churches wasn’t working the way we intended, and it was having a negative impact at the same time. We are not the judge or authority on what makes churches good or bad, but we do have a passion for defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ, defending God’s sheep against wolves (especially those in sheep’s clothing), and telling the truth for God’s glory, but always in love. As it turns out, that love wasn’t showing. Now, we hope it will.
(Sarah Leann Young, “CMC Announcement & Apology Letter”, May 10, 2020)

Sounds good, doesn’t it? However, the fact remains that Sarah Young is still a member of a heretical cult judging other churches by their heretical cult standards. Her Check My Church website remains the relative equivalent of a Mormon starting a Church Checking website that’s based on the standards of the LdS Church using Floyd Weston’s “17-Points of the True Church”.

The apology letter and change in methodology has done nothing to address or change any of that.  Therefore, Isaac Farley’s article is just as relevant today as it was a year ago – perhaps even more so.  Check My Church has just been rebranded and repackaged to appear softer and less polemic, that’s it. The Check My Church website remains a snare rather than an aid, benefit, or an edifying service to the Body of Christ. Yellow warning tape and orange cones have now been put up around this disaster, just as Beggar’s Bread did so with the burgeoning cult of McCraneyism back in 2013. What you, dear reader, do with it is entirely up to you. Choose wisely.
— Fred W. Anson, Publishing Editor

The following article was written a few days after the December 19th, 2017 Heart of the Matter program aired. However, after seeking the Godly counsel, it was determined that it was best to just let Mr. McCraney have the last public word while still holding this article in reserve in the off-chance it should ever be needed again. It was, very correctly, pointed out to me that Shawn McCraney thrives on tit-for-tat responses – they embolden him rather than giving him pause or making him reflect. Since, unlike Shawn McCraney, I choose to walk as a man accountable – as scripture mandates. So, I yielded to this wisdom from my brothers in the Lord.

That was then, this is now. Recent events have made it abundantly clear that is article is needed more now than it was then.  I think that once you read it, you will agree. –Author. 

(click to zoom)

by Fred W. Anson
Well, I’ve just found out that I’m a Pharisee. Boy, am I surprised!

It all started when I put the above post up on Facebook. Now before you proceed any further, please note that the question being asked was: “Thoughts on this? Which Jesus, in your opinion, does Shawn McCraney teach?” It was not, “I think that Shawn McCraney teaches everything on the right, don’t you?” This is an important distinction because I was genuinely interested in how people would respond to the question. In the end, other than one response (and several personal attacks for asking the question) I got “crickets” on the content of this graph.

Yet despite the tepid response to the graphic,  Shawn McCraney still devoted an entire show to it. This, as we found out when the show aired, was based on the assumption that the Pharisee behind this insidious post (me) and the chart accompanying it (done by some anonymous person who I don’t know) were created to trip him up and snare him. It was the typical vain, paranoid, evil suspicion-laden fare that we now see served up weekly on HOTM 2.0 and non-stop by McCraneyism 2.0.

He claimed that the chart contains weasel words. I can find none.

He claimed that the chart was deliberately designed to catch him in his words – the way that Pharisees did with Jesus. Well, I didn’t produce the chart and I don’t know who did. In fact, I seriously doubt that the chart creator has even heard of Shawn McCraney since so few people outside of Mormon Studies have.

He claimed that this was just more evidence of the lengths that the Pharisees will go to oppose needed change and reform – the way that the Pharisees did with Jesus. Oh, you didn’t know that Shawn McCraney is the new Luther, a catalyst for much-needed Reform in the modern American Church? Neither did I, in fact neither have most people since, again, so few people have even heard of him let alone his allegedly new radical message of reform – and those who have heard, have denounced it as error and heresy.

He used the bullet points on the chart that don’t apply to him (such as “Born as a man who was promoted to deity”, “Gives you health, wealth, and happy feelings”, “Offends the world with the truth”) to compensate for those that do (such as . . . well, pretty much the rest of them). This is known as an Inconsistent Comparison fallacy, and by the way, it’s a form of manipulation.

Speaking of fallacies, this episode was full of Mr. McCraney’s favorite fallacy: The Tu Quoque (aka “You too!” or “Appeal to Hypocrisy”) in which he claimed again, again, and again that it was not he, but all those Pharisees out who were guilty of the behavior and teaching on the right side of the chart.

Further, in this episode, we saw the same kind of doublespeak that has become a Shawn McCraney staple. For example, he claimed that he has never taught a Jesus who disregarded repentance of sin, yet this is the same guy who just a few years ago was condemning Christian churches that insist that homosexuals must repent of a sin that the Bible not only condemns as an abomination (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) but states is symptomatic of a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28). Mr. McCraney regularly focuses on the Jesus who says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,” but consistently ignores the Jesus who says, “Go, and sin no more.” (see John 8:1-11)

He boasts about the fact that he leads a church doesn’t confront or attempt to correct the sin its midst, yet he denies that he teaches a Jesus who condones and never corrects people’s sin.

He rails against churches that preach obedience then tells us that he doesn’t teach a Jesus who gives suggestions not commandments.

He’s the same person who teaches the false teaching of universalism (ultimately everyone gets saved, hell isn’t eternal) but still claims that he does in fact, teach a Jesus who warns of sin, judgment, and hell.

After, it’s all about love, isn’t it? Wasn’t Jesus more interested in love than righteous obedience according to Mr. Craney? Isn’t that what we’ve been told time after time?

He claims to preach a Jesus of righteousness but irresponsibly publicly rails against other Pastors and Christians, often getting his facts wrong and spreading untrue and malicious gossip. Further, he insists on an uneven playing field by requiring those he disagrees with to come debate him on his show rather than engaging them on neutral turf. Case in point: Since this chart was presented on Facebook, why didn’t he just address it there?

Even more incredibly he claimed in this show that he has never taught a Jesus that exalts signs, wonders, and mysticism above God’s word – or a Jesus that exalts emotion, experience, and opinion above sound doctrine. Yet the Jesus that he teaches rejects Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) as the final authority for Christ’s Church in favor of what Mr. McCraney calls “Subjective Christianity” – a feeling and experience based system whereby one’s subjective inner witness within you trumps all other authority, up to and including the words of the Bible.

In the end, this is all Post-Modern to the hilt, isn’t it? After all, isn’t the core paradigm of Post-Modernism that since there is no absolute truth one is free to construct whatever “reality” works for them? In Post-Modernism, the deception is that are no God-given boundaries and lines that one should drive between if you want to live and flourish. It’s the serpent, hissing ever so seductively that one can kick God off the throne, not die, and decide for yourself what’s good and what’s evil. (Genesis 3:4-6) You’re on the throne and if it looks good, feels good, and tastes good, it is good, right? You decide – you’re on the throne, it’s all about you and your opinions.

Hence, Post-Modernism underlies the unifying principle and railing cry of McCraneyism that appeals the most to fallen humanity’s deepest desires: You can believe whatever you want to and still call it Christianity.

How this is teaching a Jesus who exalts God’s will over your own is anyone’s guess.

Friends, after listening to Shawn McCraney railing against this “Pharisee” (and all those other “Pharisees” out there I might add) and this chart for close to an hour I’m more convinced than ever that he teaches both Post-Modern Christianity and a Post-Modern Jesus. Shawn will decide for himself what’s Christianity and what isn’t. And he’ll tell you that you should do the same.

And if you disagree with each other, 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy, and anyone else who dares challenge you? It’s cool, it’s all good!

This is not the Biblical Jesus or Biblical Christianity, this is the Church of Post-Modernism.

Please click on the above image to watch the HOTM 2.0 broadcast that this article was written in response to. 

 

 

 

by Jason Wallace
I’ve been asked why I bother to respond to Shawn McCraney. In Shawn’s mind, I’m attacking him from jealousy, since he describes me as a “Salieri” to his “Mozart.” Despite Shawn’s high opinion of himself, I don’t see him as a genius, but a boastful, ignorant man who calls the God of the Bible a “monster.” I feel compelled to defend the God I love. I have also been encouraged to see people credit my witness in helping them abandon Shawn’s cult for Biblical churches. But there is another reason that I believe it’s important to respond to Shawn – he is the poster boy for the “Church of Anti-Mormonism.”

Because Mormonism is the majority faith in Utah, it shapes how even non-Mormons think about religion. Mormons have church membership, leadership, calls to holiness, Sabbaths, tithing, and a traditional form of worship. Non-Mormons often reject all of these. Many embrace a “personal relationship with Jesus,” divorced from a visible church. Since Mormons have authoritarian leadership, non-Mormons often stress a radical individualism without personal accountability. Since LDS equate holiness with avoiding coffee and alcohol, non-Mormons tend to downplay any holiness in favor of “freedom in Christ.” Since the Mormons have a Sabbath, any Sabbath must be legalism. Since Mormons use tithes to control access to the temple, all tithing must be rejected. Since Mormons sing traditional hymns, worship must be a rock concert with laser lights and smoke machines for it to be “real.”

Mormons worship another god and follow another gospel, but this does not mean everything they do must be wrong. They are a counterfeit church that bears at least some resemblance to Christ’s true Church. People in the New Testament were baptized not just into Christ, but into a visible church, which Jesus commanded them to hear (Matthew 18:17). Just because Mormon leaders lord themselves over their people, that doesn’t mean there is no leadership in the church. Jesus had his apostles ordain elders in every city (Titus 1:5). The elders were not to lord themselves over the people (1 Peter 5:3), but the people were to submit to them (Hebrews 13:17). Holiness is not found in “touch not, taste not (Colossians 2:21),” but it does involve keeping ourselves from sexual immorality (Acts 15:20) and keeping ourselves unspotted by the world (James 1:27). Freedom in Christ involves not only justification (freedom from the guilt of sin), but sanctification (freedom from the power of sin). Just because the Pharisees and Mormons abused the Sabbath and tithing doesn’t invalidate them. The Sabbath was supposed to be a delight (Isaiah 58:13). Jesus condemned the Pharisees for tithing of the smallest spices and neglecting the weightier matters of the law, but he said, “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matthew 23:23).” Worship is not only in spirit and truth (John 4:24) but with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

Shawn is simply an extreme, “grunge” version of what defines a lot of non-Mormon religion in Utah. He seems to recognize that his Christianity isn’t really Biblical. I think that helps explain his full preterism. By claiming that the Second Coming was in 70 A.D., he can ignore anything that conflicts with his totally “spiritual” religion. All these things passed away with the Second Coming. By attacking “Sola Scriptura,” he can also add new revelations that allow him to redefine things according to his desires. The irony is that in the end, McCraney’s “Church of Anti-Mormonism” ends up looking a lot like Mormonism.

Not all of the “Church of Anti-Mormonism” is as radical as Shawn, but it is so clearly unbiblical that it helps Mormons justify staying in Mormonism. Instead of overreacting against Mormonism, we need to proclaim the whole counsel of God – a Jesus who saves us in our sins, but also from them – the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Please click on the above image to watch the HOTM 2.0 broadcast that this article was written in response to. 

McCraneyism 2.0

Introduction: On this past Tuesday, November 7th, Shawn McCraney engaged in a long personal attack on a much beloved and iconic Mormon Studies figure: Sandra Tanner. Before reading Pastor Jason Wallace’s response to Shawn below it’s recommended that you click on the video below this intro and watch this attack first hand so you can put Pastor Wallace analysis and critique into its historical context. This will also help you fully appreciate how vitriolic, biased, imbalanced, over the top, and unfair Mr. McCraney’s attack on Ms. Tanner really was. — Editor

by Jason Wallace
Out of my great respect for Sandra Tanner, I hesitate to relate this, but many people do not realize how far Shawn McCraney has gone in attacking Biblical Christianity.

Last night, Shawn dedicated a show to “going after a sacred cow that has been impervious to Christian scrutiny for 40 years. . . 50 years”: Sandra Tanner. What are her great sins that deserve such public rebuke? She “attacked his person” when she privately described him as “an irresponsible leader.” She also “hangs out with Calvinists,” refusing to join him in publicly denouncing the God who sends people to an eternal Hell as “a monster.”

In order to make sense of Shawn, you need to recognize his double standard. He can describe pastors generally and by name as wolves and money-hungry charlatans, but he immediately qualifies that by saying he loves us all as brothers. This supposedly makes everything he says okay. If someone responds to what he says, they’re “attacking his person.” When he denounces people by name on his Internet podcast, that’s different from someone responding to it on the Internet. He’s brave, but we’re supposedly cowards. It’s striking that you can say almost anything about God, and Shawn seems fine with that, but if you dare say that Shawn is wrong, that is the highest blasphemy. Shawn can say Shawn is wrong, but no one else can.

Shawn has a new theme with which he opens his show; he presents himself as a new Martin Luther.* The reality is that Shawn is the antithesis of Luther. Martin Luther was a brilliant scholar who had no fear to debate his opponents. Shawn won’t debate James White at all and only allows critics who challenge him to do so on his terms. Martin Luther was a reformer, recognizing that the church of his day had wandered not just from the Scriptures, but from the historic faith of the church. Shawn isn’t a Reformer, but a Restorationist. He essentially argues for a great apostasy and claims he’s restoring the Holy Spirit to the church. Martin Luther argued for Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Shawn puts his private revelations above Scripture. Luther disagreed with Shawn on Hell, the Second Coming, and the nature of the church. The reality is that Shawn has far more in common with the enemies of Luther, the Zwickau Prophets, than with Luther.

Shawn may take my attempts to love even my enemies as cowardice, but I want to make clear that I go much further than Sandra. Shawn is not just an irresponsible leader; he is a heretic. He is not my brother in Christ. Jesus said if anyone won’t hear the church, they are to be treated as a heathen and a tax collector (Matthew 18). Shawn refuses to hear any church anywhere. Simply saying he is a Christian doesn’t make Thomas Monson one, nor does it make Shawn one.

People need to recognize that Shawn has essentially repackaged Mormonism. He claims all the churches are wrong. All their creeds are “heinous.” The God of historic Christianity is “a monster” (a claim also made by Joseph Smith). Pastors are all in it for the money (cf.”hirelings of Satan”). There was a great apostasy, but now he’s restoring the Spirit. He claims to have the “best approach to Christianity on the face of the earth” (cf. “only true and living church upon the face of the earth”). Shawn is labeling his show “Heart of the Matter 2.0.” The reality is that he is presenting Mormonism 2.0. He is not the new Luther, but the new Joseph Smith. He uses a few bad churches to condemn all churches. He may not have temples and tithing, but he makes people feel pious in their hatred. He helps them rationalize all this as love while breathing out contempt.

Shawn has called me a coward for denouncing his teachings on the Internet, while “boldly” denouncing me on the Internet. I will gladly confront him in person whenever he likes. I could not care less what he says about “my person,” but I will defend the glory of the Jesus of the Bible with everything in me. Instead of picking on Sandra Tanner in absentia, how about we argue this out face to face?

* Editor’s note click on the image below to see this new, referred show intro. 

A meme based on Shawn McCraney’s new show intro for HOTM 2.0. Click on image to view the full video.

Final

A caution to Ex-Mormon Christians.
19th Century Restorationist Revival Meeting

19th Century Restorationist Revival Meeting

by Fred W. Anson
Most Mormons are surprised to find out that the Restoration that they think is unique to their church isn’t unique at all. In actual fact, as he had a tendency to do, Joseph Smith plagiarized “The Restoration” from contemporary sources. In this case his major source was a 19th Century Restorationist movement that began in 1801 in Cane Ridge, Kentucky.

That movement (now known as the “Stone-Campbell Movement”) was already an established subset of the Second Great Awakening and was going great guns long before Joseph Smith was even born in 1805. Further, even that American 19th Century restorationist movement had ideological and theological roots going back hundreds of years and crossing continents, cultures, and countries:

Christian primitivism, also described as restorationism, is the belief that Christianity should be restored along the lines of what is known about the apostolic early church, which restorationists see as the search for a more pure and more ancient form of the religion. Fundamentally, this vision seeks to correct faults or deficiencies [in the church] by appealing to the primitive church as a normative model.1

Essentially any group that claims that they have restored something that was lost from primitive Christianity is restorationist. That can range from the addition of a particular rite or belief to the rejection of a particular practice or doctrine. In other words, anything that “restores” the church via addition or subtraction to it’s primitive, apostolic state is restorationist. Does this sound familiar? Can anyone think of any church that believes or does this? Well, I could fill an entire article with just a list of the name of such groups since they’re as common as crickets and more are forming all the time. As the Wikipedia article on Christian Restorationism explains:

The term “restorationism” is sometimes used more specifically as a synonym for the [19th Cenutry] American Restoration Movement. The term is also used by more recent groups, describing their goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some [20th Century] anti-denominational Charismatic Restorationists, which arose in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In comparable terms, earlier primitivist movements, including the [15th Century] Hussites, [16th Century] Anabaptists, [19th Century] Landmarkists, [16-17th Century] Puritans, and the [12th Century] Waldensians have been described as examples of restorationism, as have many Seventh-day Sabbatarians.2

And just as most believing, practicing Mormons are oblivious to the reality that Latter Day Saint restorationism is just one of many various and sundry flavors of Christian primitivism, so are most Ex-Mormons. So it’s only natural that Ex-Mormons are going to feel some draw toward Restorationism since it’s what Mormons (particularly Born Into the Covenant Mormons) know best. Restorationist is how they’re been conditioned to think and feel about the Christian Church in general – it’s their comfort zone. There’s really no surprise here is there?

However, I would ask our Ex-Mormon friends to consider fully the dangers of continuing to uncritically think like a restorationist. Please consider this:

At least two disastrous consequences can be expected to result from a zealous embrace of restorationist philosophy. First, it easily leads to a spirit of exclusivism and arrogance, not to mention error. The natural outcome of believing one’s own group has the corner on the truth is the despising of all others who claim the name of Christ, seeing them as apostates, or worse, tools of the devil. No spirit of Christian unity can survive such a mindset. One has only to look at the diverse beliefs that exist among the restorationists themselves, and the resulting animosity that accompanies them, to see the inevitable result of adopting such a belief system. Exclusivism leads to pride, a sin especially abhorred by God (Proverbs 16:5; James 4:6). In addition, exclusivism can provoke delusions of grandeur in its leaders, making possible all manner of erroneous interpretations, not to mention rewriting, of Scripture designed to fit it to the paradigm of the group, without regard for clear and concise biblical scholarship and exegesis.

The second, and far more destructive, result of restorationist philosophy is that it denies God’s ability, or willingness, to preserve the faith “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), rejects His sovereignty over His people, and disavows His plan to bring to pass His will without fail, despite attempts by Satan and his minions to derail it. God did not send His Son to die on the cross for the sins of His people only to allow those same people to lapse into apostasy and languish there for 1800 years. Such a notion is not only absurd, but it defines God as a ruthless and capricious entity, not the loving and merciful Father God we know Him to be. Those who believe God abandoned mankind for centuries because of their unbelief and sin need only to read Romans 3, which makes it clear that even though men are unfaithful, this does not nullify God’s faithfulness. The Holy Spirit is, and always has been, active in the world “convict[ing] the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment” (John 16:8), drawing God’s people from every race, tribe, nation and language to the Savior. In every era, the redeemed of God have responded to His Spirit because that is God’s plan, and it will continue unabated to the day of Christ’s return. Until then, we have the assurance of Jesus Himself that He will be with us “always, even until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).3

An Anti-Christmas Restorationist makes her feelings known.

An Anti-Christmas Restorationist makes her feelings known.

A Practical Example
Another dangerous by-product of Restorationist philosophy can be taking extreme or dogmatic positions on non-essentials of the Christian Faith. To point to just one of many such examples, some Restorationist groups (such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, some Church of Christ groups, etc.) take extreme positions on celebrating some or all holidays – “extreme” as in that they not only don’t recognize or celebrate them, they condemn those who do.

Now let’s be clear: No one denies that the Roman Catholic Church syncretized pagan holidays in creating Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. However, does this really mean that Christians and Churches that observe these holidays are in error or apostate? Thinking critically, couldn’t a counter argument be made that the priests actually took righteous domination over these pagan holidays and redeemed them by “Christianizing” them? As the pastor of a traditional, liturgical Lutheran church noted well in this regard:

Of the major Christian Holy Days, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the high points in the Historic Church Year. On these Holy Days we celebrate God the Father’s gift of His only-begotten Son in the birth of Jesus Christ, we celebrate God the Son’s gift of His life, sufferings, death and resurrection at Passover/Easter, and we celebrate God the Holy Spirit’s gift of calling us to faith and dwelling in us through Word and Sacrament.

These Holy Days are also one of the main fronts in the battle against Christianity by people who wish to undermine Christianity. Part of undermining Christianity means undermining all the claims of Christianity about what the Bible teaches. The historical liturgical practice of the church has been the focal point of the application of Biblical doctrine to the faith and lives of the saints. By discrediting the liturgical practice of the Church the enemies of Christianity try to distract from biblical teaching for that day and discredit that teaching.

This is not to say that these liturgical practices or holiday traditions should be required in any legalistic way. This is to point out that the efforts of those who try to discredit the authenticity of Christian Holy days and seek to scandalize the traditions associated with those days do so to undermine the biblical doctrine the Church teaches through the observance of these Holy Days.

And so any Christian holy day that could be claimed is claimed by the anti-Christian groups. We have seen this with Halloween [which has supplanted Reformation Day on October 31] and we will see it with many other lesser Historic Christian celebrations.4

This isn’t to say that this Lutheran Pastor is entirely right, Restorationist groups completely wrong, or vice versa. As stated previously, choosing to observe or not observe all or a particular holiday is a matter of conscience and personal conviction that has nothing to do with our salvation. This is just as Paul said Colossians 2:16 (NKJV) when he said, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.”

In the end each of us is left to come their own conclusion and life decision on this matter as the “Got Questions” article on this subject states well:

The Bible nowhere instructs Christians to celebrate holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentines Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. This leads some to refrain from observing these celebratory days, even those that are considered Christian holidays. However, at the same time, the Bible does not speak against celebrating holidays.5

We would also remind everyone that since this is a non-essential of the Christian faith, that liberty and charity should prevail toward those who take a position on this subject that differs from our own.

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.

Conclusion
Please don’t think that this article means that Ex-Mormons should never consider or join a restorationist church after leaving Mormonism. I would be a hypocrite were I to say that since I’m a Charismatic Christian – that is, someone whose theology includes a belief that God has supernaturally restored the gifts of the Spirit to the church through various revivals throughout Christian Church history. Further, since the congregation I’m a member of is Charismatic, I am in fact in a restorationist church myself. However, that said, there’s a lot of Charismatic Christianity that I refuse to have anything to do so because it fails to pass biblical scrutiny. Rethink restorationism? Oh trust me, I did, I have, and I still do!6

I’m also speaking from hard experience. My lack of discernment and inability to question Christian restorationism landed me in a Restorationist Mind Control Cult back in the day – and my inability to rethink restorationism kept me there for thirteen years.7 So I’m issuing a hard won caution here: If you’re an Ex-Mormon you need to proceed with caution because many restorationist groups are imbalanced, in error, or heretical. Some are even cults that are very similar to the one that you’ve just left – McCraneyism immediately springs to mind here. So be careful out there – think, think, and then rethink!

Finally, I would suggest that biggest error of Restorationism is the presumption that the original Apostolic Church was pristine, pure, perfect, and problem free. Yet all you have to do is read the New Testament to see that this simply wasn’t the case. So when people say they want to restore the New Testament Church, the logical question is, “Which one?” Corinth? Why would you want to restore that dysfunctional mess? Or maybe Galatia where a false gospel was being taught? What about the Seven Churches of Asia in the Book of Revelation – five of which Christ Himself rebukes? Even the original church of Jerusalem (see Acts 2) was slow to fulfill the Great Commission until God stirred up persecution and goaded them into doing so (see Acts 8).

Can you see how presuming that there has ever been an ideal or perfect Church on earth leads to the false conclusion that there can be a perfect church in our day? After all, if Christ’s Apostles couldn’t do it what makes you think that we can? Wasn’t Paul clear in 1 Corinthians 13:10 that the perfect and complete won’t come until the return of Christ? Wasn’t he clear in Ephesians 5:25-27 that Christ is both preserving and preparing His future bride of Revelation 21:2 (notice, present and future tense not past) to be holy, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish? Perhaps, this rethinker of Restorationism said it best with this challenge:

We should stop idolizing a church era, and start worshiping her Creator. We should stop idolizing the past, and look forward to our future with Jesus. We should recognize that we are on a journey, and our ultimate goal is not to reach the “golden age of the church” but it is to earnestly strive to be like our humble Savior in whatever time, season, or place God has appointed us to be.8

Amen Brother Recovered Restorationist, amen!

1829 Methodist Revival Camp Meeting

1829 Methodist Revival Camp Meeting

NOTES
1 Wikipedia, “Restorationism”
2 Ibid
3 “What is Restorationism?”, GotQuestions.org website
4 “Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Christmas”
5 “Should a Christian celebrate holidays?”, GotQuestions.org website. And I would encourage the reader to consider this article in it’s entirety in answering this question for them self.
6 How else does one end up both Reformed and non-cessationist like I am – much to the dismay of both my friends in both camps who just can’t figure that one out. To explain my stance a bit, I could only nod in complete agreement with fellow Charismatic Reformed Christian R.T. Kendall when he wrote:

My position is clear. I describe myself as a Reformed theologian—not only in belief but also in practice. I have to say that for some reason I have often felt last in line as far as signs and wonders are concerned. While others have been slain in the Spirit all around me, my body has remained resolutely upright—like the Statue of Liberty. While members of my family have seen physical healing personally, I have not. It is true that I have spoken in tongues, but you would not find an occasion of that in public. In short: if I am charismatic, I am the least of the brethren.
(R.T. Kendall, “Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives”, Kindle Location 409)

7 See Fred W. Anson, “My Life as a Mind Control Cultist (Part 1)”
8 Yuriy Stasyuk, “12 Reasons Why The Early Church Isn’t the Ideal Church”

Click to read this article - highly recommended for recovering Restorationists!

Click to read this article – highly recommended for recovering Restorationists.

BACK TO TOP

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.

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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.

We also encourage you to consider this short video that does an analysis of the teachings of Shawn McCraney relative to the Bible.

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] A list of the heresies, taught by Mr. McCraney can be found in the December 2018 article, “The Short List of Heresies Taught by Shawn McCraney”. However, 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
“The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Four)”April 2014-October 2016
“HOTM Rebranding Timeline and History”, August 2019

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
“McCraneyism 2.0”, November 2017
“Shawn McCraney and The Church of Anti-Mormonism”, December 2017

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
“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
“The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Three)”, March 2014
“The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Five)”, February 2015
“Dear Michelle”, May 2014
“Shawn McCraney and the Church of Post-Modernism”, March 2018
“The Short List of Heresies Taught by Shawn McCraney”, December 2018

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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Mark Prizant, the moderator (who is supposed to maintain neutral during debate proceedings) gives a supportive hug to Shawn McCraney’s wife immediately after she had ripped into Jason Wallace during the February 3, 2015 debate

The debate moderator (who is supposed to maintain neutral during the proceedings), gives a supportive hug to Shawn McCraney’s wife immediately after she has ripped into Jason Wallace during the February 3, 2015 debate.

by Fred W. Anson

“Listening to Shawn McCraney it’s hard to even recognize any more any meaningful element of Christian truth left in his theology. It’s just sad to watch. It really is.”
James White, February 5th, 2015 [1]

“Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off.
Titus 3:10-11 (The Message)

Parts one and  four of this series provide a timeline of Shawn McCraney’s descent from biblical orthodoxy into heresy. Parts  two  and three provide brief summaries of the issues in a Q&A format. Such summaries are necessary because the issues are complex and the vast amount of information contained in the timelines can be overwhelming. So with that brief introduction, let’s consider some of the more common questions that have arisen recently regarding Shawn McCraney, his teachings, and McCraneyism in general.

Q: Is Shawn McCraney teaching that Jesus returned in 70AD? 
A: Yes.
Starting on August 5th, 2014 in “Episode 406: Has Jesus Returned? – Part 1” Mr. McCraney taught a thirteen part series in which he took position that Christ’s second coming occurred in 70AD via a “spiritual” return. This is known as “Full Preterism”.

A brief overview of Full Preterism  is as follows;

Preterism denies the future prophetic quality of the book of Revelation. The preterist movement essentially teaches that all the end-times prophecies of the New Testament were fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans attacked and destroyed Jerusalem. Preterism teaches that every event normally associated with the end times—Christ’s second coming, the tribulation, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment—has already happened. (In the case of the final judgment, it still in the process of being fulfilled.) Jesus’ return to earth was a “spiritual” return, not a physical one.[2]

Now, please consider these excerpts from what Mr. McCraney taught during this series:

At this we have to ask if all the prophesy of the Old Testament have been fulfilled? In Luke 21:22 Jesus, in describing the end of Jerusalem says: “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”

If all was fulfilled, then we can say that prophesies of the restitution of all things were fulfilled too. And since Jesus would return when the restitution of all things would occur we can say that His return was at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
(Episode 417: Has Jesus Returned? – Part 12, from the official HOTM transcription)

(click to zoom)

(click to zoom)

I would suggest in 70 AD, when Jesus returned in the clouds with judgment that at this time all who were in the prison part of hell stood before the Great White Throne of God to determine if their names were written in the Lamb’s book of Life, and those whose names were not included were cast into the lake of fire.

That was the state of all who died before Christ and went to the prison part of sheol.

As an aside, I would suggest that with everything being wrapped up with the house of Israel in 70 AD – including God dealing with those in prison, that now all people individually process through a similar system after life.

Believers go straight to paradise by His grace through faith. And those who die without faith go to hell (for a period of time) they are released and judged by the Lamb’s book of life and some escape experiencing the Lake of Fire but others do not, and again, this all occurs on a case by case basis.
(Episode 416: Has Jesus Returned? – Part 11, from the official HOTM transcription)

And there is no doubt that Shawn McCraney is teaching Full Preterism, he acknowledged it publicly at the end of the series:

So there it is – my estimation of when the Bible says Jesus would return.

Thirteen segments. I want to thank all the brave preterist’s who have endured countless attacks and dismissals for their work in this area.

These people include my brothers Don Preston, Glenn Hill, all who contribute to the preterist archives online, my dear brother Mark Payzant, the support of my wife and family who too have had to challenge many of their long held notions to clearly see the forest for the trees.
(Episode 418: Has Jesus Returned? – Part 13, from the official HOTM transcription)

Q: Is Shawn McCraney teaching that hell isn’t eternal and that those who are unbelievers in this life can be reconciled to God after death? 
A: Yes.
Immediately following the series on Full Preterism, starting on November 11, 2014 with “Episode 419: Eternal Punishment – Part 1” Mr. McCraney taught a six part series in which he taught what he is calling “Total Reconciliation”.

Here are some key excerpts from these shows:

The idea that once a person dies the hope, and chance, the ability to change is lost and that people are forever relegated to an eternity of punishment has never made sense to me relative to how the Bible describes God and the love that He is.

As a human Dad, a weak evil father of three daughters, I comprehend punishment and discipline, I understand allowing troubled children to run their course and to leave them to their own devices. I get letting my children make a mess of things in order to let them learn and turn and grow and change.

But the idea of ever turning from a child completely is totally foreign to my thinking. And if I am able and/or willing (by God’s grace) to forgive and receive all people no matter what they have said or done or believes wouldn’t God almighty be infinitely more willing and capable?
(Episode 423: Eternal Punishment – Part 4, from the official HOTM transcription)

Rogier_van_der_Weyden_-_The_Last_Judgment_Polyptych_-_WGA25625

Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464), “The Last Judgment”, Polyptych (click to zoom)

Could it be that reprobate believers, at death, enter the smelly bottomless pit as a means to purge or teach or help them reflect upon their lives? To wonder of their fate? To cause them to cry out to Jesus as I’m sure Jonah cried out to God to be delivered out of the belly of the great fish?

And can we imagine the joy such failed believers would experience after coming out of the pit and then standing before the great white throne to hear that their name HAS, in fact, always been included in the Lamb’s book of life?

I cannot figure out any other reason for who has been in hell to have their name written in the Lamb’s book of life other than they had at one time truly believed on the Lamb . . . unless unbelievers names who call out to Jesus while in hell are added to the Lambs book of life – which in the end support my argument for Total Reconciliation even more.

In either case I would suggest that we are witnessing God reconciling people after this life by having some who have experienced hell being saved from the Lake of Fire.
(Episode 424: Eternal Punishment – Part 5, from the official HOTM transcription)

Q: OK, so what’s the big deal? Neither of these seem so bad to me.  
A: Both Universalism and Full Preterism contradict the bible and can lead to other error.
Universalism is heretical if it teaches that that there’s another way to be saved other than by faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. To be clear this isn’t what Shawn McCraney isn’t teaching but it has been asserted by some that the form of universalism that he’s teaching is leaning precariously close to such a stance.

Universalism is deterministic. If salvation is universal and automatic, then ultimately there is no free will. Your eternity is “determined” whether you like it or not. (It’s no accident that Eastern religions that teach there is no hell, also teach that there is no free will.) Thus, universalism violates individual free will. C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ And those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’ All that are in Hell, choose it.” If hell is for those who choose it, then by saving everyone God violates our free will. And, there are many other problems with universalism as former pastor and Christian author Mike Duran notes:

  • Universalism is not Just.  If evil is not judged, then how is Justice served? If someone does not want to go to heaven, is it just to make them? Do Satan, Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa deserve the same future? Or do Universalists deny Justice?
  • Universalism violates individual free will. C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ And those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’ All that are in Hell, choose it.” If hell is for those who choose it, then by saving everyone God violates our free will.
  • Universalism soft pedals, reinterprets, and/or denies the basic teachings of Jesus about hell. Jesus spoke about hell more than any other figure in the Bible. Example: “…so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 12:40-42 NIV). Or, “Then he (the Son of Man) will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41 NIV). And many other verses.
  • Universalism soft pedals, reinterprets, and/or denies the basic teachings of Scripture about hell. Debate usually targets words and concepts employed in Hebrew and in Greek. Nevertheless, the New Testament is adamant about a Final Judgment where “the dead were judged according to what they had done” (Rev. 20:12) and some are thrown into a “lake of fire” where “they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (vs. 10).  (See The Importance of Hell by Tim Keller for a good summary of these last two points.)
  • Universalism eliminates the need to accept Christ. Even though Jesus cited the need for people to believe in Him, if everyone gets saved, why bother? Universalists ultimately believe there is no need for a person to follow Christ. Even blasphemy cannot damn someone, so why bow to the Nazarene?
  • Universalism is deterministic. If salvation is universal and automatic, then ultimately there is no free will. Your eternity is “determined” whether you like it or not. (It’s no accident that Eastern religions that teach there is no hell, also teach that there is no free will.)
  • Universalism distorts the love of God. Love without justice is not true love, it is permissiveness. Peter Kreeft writes, “Hell is due more to love than justice. Love created free persons who could choose hell… The fires of hell are made of the love of God.”
  • Universalism strips the Gospel of its power. If everyone goes to heaven, exactly what is the Good News of the Gospel and why do people need it? Better News (at least from the Universalist’s perspective) is that you don’t need the Good News to be saved.
  • Universalism can give someone a false sense of security. If you’re going to be saved no matter what, there is no need for accountability, repentance, faith, or moral effort of any sort. You are eternally untouchable and have nothing to fear. Love wins, so why worry?
  • Universalism can have eternal, irreversible ramifications for its adherents if it is not true. Similar to Pascal’s Wager, I am better off living as if Universalism WAS NOT true and being proved wrong, than living as if Universalism WAS true, and being proved wrong. In the first count I will still be saved, in the second count I will not.
  • Universalism leads to religious and moral indifference. If everyone gets saved no matter how they act, then why act morally, why perform good deeds, why strive to be just or compassionate? The Universalist’s motto could be, “Do what thou wilt.”
  • Universalism undermines the uniqueness of Christianity. If everyone goes to heaven, then the road is NOT narrow, like Christ taught (Matt. 7:13-14). Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Scientologists, Satanists, even Atheists, will all be saved. So what compelling reason is there for Christianity?
  • Universalism eliminates the need for evangelism. If everyone goes to heaven, then Christians should apologize to the world and bring all our missionaries home. What is the purpose of turning someone from paganism, mysticism, satanism, or cannibalism, if love wins?[3]
Universalism

“Universalism” by David Duarte (click to zoom)

And, no, the irony of an ExMormon teaching that the dead can get a second chance after they’ve died hasn’t been lost on many of Shawn’s critics. Some have even joked on social media that he’ll be teaching proxy baptism for the dead next. As discussed in last year’s “Dear Michelle” article, Mr. McCraney’s theology is looking more and more like nothing more than a recycled form of Mormonism.

And Full Preterism has been weighed in the balance of Christian History and found wanting as well:

The problems with [full] preterism are many. For one thing, God’s covenant with Israel is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:33–36), and there will be a future restoration of Israel (Isaiah 11:12). The apostle Paul warned against those who, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, teach falsely “that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:17–18). And Jesus’ mention of  “this generation” should be taken to mean the generation that is alive to see the beginning of the events described in Matthew 24.

Eschatology is a complex subject, and the Bible’s use of apocalyptic imagery to relate many prophecies has led to a variety of interpretations of end-time events. There is room for some disagreement within Christianity regarding these things. However, full preterism has some serious flaws in that it denies the physical reality of Christ’s second coming and downplays the dreadful nature of the tribulation by restricting that event to the fall of Jerusalem.[4]

Q: You said that those teachings “can lead to other error”. What do you mean?  
A: The Full Preterist tendency to hyper-spiritualize things, I believe, has lead Shawn McCraney into the heresy of gnosticism.
To anyone who has watched Mr. McCraney on Heart of the Matter lately this will sound familiar:

Gnosticism is based on a mystical, intuitive, subjective, inward, emotional approach to truth which is not new at all. It is very old, going back in some form to the Garden of Eden, where Satan questioned God and the words He spoke and convinced Adam and Eve to reject them and accept a lie. He does the same thing today as he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He still calls God and the Bible into question and catches in his web those who are either naïve and scripturally uninformed or who are seeking some personal revelation to make them feel special, unique, and superior to others. (bolding added for emphasis) [5]

Now, consider that in light of this excerpt from Mr. McCraney’s recent teachings:

God primarily related to the Nation of Israel, and then through the promised Messiah, and then His chosen apostles physically and that once Jesus came [in 70AD] and heaped judgment on Jerusalem  (while saving the Church in that day) that God now relates to the world spiritually.

In other words, today Christ’s kingdom is spiritual and it is known and perceived by the Spirit – and not the things of the flesh.

When viewed in this manner we begin to see how the baptisms that John the baptist performed were so utterly inferior to the baptism of the Spirit (and of fire that Jesus would bring) that it caused the baptist to admit that he wasn’t worthy to even tie the man’s shoes.

The Bible, pure and simple, is a history of this physical economy but sprinkled through the New Testament narrative are passages that directly speak to this ultimate end of the Kingdom of God living and abiding in the heart of the individual and not in brick and mortar edifices under flesh and blood authority.
(Episode 430: The Bible – Part 3, from the official HOTM transcription. Bolding in original, brackets added for context clarification)

And if the reader has any lingering doubt that Mr. McCraney is teaching pure, unadulterated gnosticism, I would refer them to the series on the Bible starting with the January 13th, 2015 “Episode 428: The Bible – Part 1” broadcast. Just compare what he’s teaching in that series with the description above and see if they match.

Q: Aren’t Christians supposed to love everyone? So why are critics criticizing Jed (who is a member of Shawn’s church) for asking Pastor Jason Wallace if he loved him?  
A: Because it was clearly an agenda driven, pot stirring setup.
This event occurred @1:28:41 in the February 3rd, 2015 debate between Pastor Jason Wallace and Shawn McCraney. Before proceeding please watch it for yourself by clicking here.

First, there’s nothing new here
As both the moderator Mark Payzant and Shawn McCraney stated well before he took the mic, Jed is trouble. He is a known pot stirrer, instigator, and provocateur. Further, both the question and the behavior was inappropriate given the setting and context. This was a formal debate not a soapbox for Jed the Shawnite to advance his personal agenda before a worldwide audience on. You will notice, for example, how Jed first rallied public opinion via show of hands demagoguery and then turned on Jason whipping those sympathetic to his agenda into a frenzy. In other words, Jed got exactly what he wanted.

If any further evidence of a personal agenda is needed, please consider the fact that he didn’t also ask the moderator Mark Payzant why he didn’t raise his hand or if he also loved him. After all, like Jason Wallace, Mr. Payzant didn’t raise his hand to any of Jed’s questions. This type of biased, agenda driven manipulative grandstanding is typical for Jed – he has a long history of engaging in it. For example, in the February 20, 2014 “Inquisition 2014” (@1:41:56) you find him stirring the pot in a similar fashion:

And going back even further, on January 29, 2014 he called into Jason Wallace’s Ancient Paths TV Show[6] and presented a idyllic picture of the group of “Christian Anarchists” that he belongs to.  That group is, of course, Shawn McCraney’s pseudo Church, cum Bible Study cum Christian Club, cum “whatever”, known as “CAMPUS” (Christian Anarchists Meeting to Prayerfully Understand Scripture). This call was in response to Jason Wallace’s previous public challenges regarding Shawn McCraney’s lack of accountability as a pastor and bible teacher. That exchange can be seen here:

Simply put, there’s a pattern with Jed’s public behavior and that pattern goes something like this:

“Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions.”
— Proverbs 18:2 (NLT)

Second, Jed’s question was overly simplistic
Let’s define what the bible means by “love”: When boiled down and condensed, the biblical definition is essentially, “Putting the interests of another person before your own”. This is most clearly stated in this passage:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
— John 15:13 (NKJV)

But it can also be seen throughout the New Testament – like in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NKJV) for example:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Further, in the original Greek that the New Testament is written in there are four kinds of love:

  • Storge – familial love (the love of a parent towards offspring or between siblings)
  • Phileo – love between friends (platonic love)
  • Eros – erotic, romantic love (sexual passion)
  • Agape – divine, unconditional love (the love of God for man and of man for God)

fourLoves

And, yes, from the human perspective, the first three require a knowledge of the person in order to love them. The fourth, “agape” does not. The Greek word for love of in 1 Corinthians 13 is “agape”. To illustrate the contrast between the various kinds of love further, there’s an interesting use of two of the Greek words for love in John 21:15-17 (NKJV) that goes like this:

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (phileo) Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love (phileo) Me?”

And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.
(Greek words added in parentheses)

Christ was willing to accept what Peter was willing to give because it was sincere and not hypocritical. Yet Jed and the rest of the Shawnites in the room were demanding something of Jason Wallace that even Christ didn’t demand of His own chief Apostle.

Further, please consider this bible verse: “I loved Jacob and hated Esau.” (Malachi 1:2-3, The Message) The person speaking is God. What kind of “Christian” are we to make of Him? After all, aren’t Christians supposed to love everyone? If Esau had been asking the question to God instead of Jed to Jason and gotten the response that God gives in Malachi would the Shawnites have jumped on God the way that they jumped on Jason?

So Mr. Wallace spoke biblically when he said (@1:32:00), “Do I have a general love for Christians? Yes. But when the question is asked, ‘Do you love me?’ And I don’t even know the person (I’ve talked to Jed for a total of maybe 3-4 minutes in my life) I’m supposed to feel guilty if I don’t have the same love for someone I don’t know as someone I do know?” And Cassidy McCraney, spoke naively when she demanded (@1:32:52), “What do you need to know in order to say that you love him?”

Does Jason Wallace have Jed’s best interests at heart? Yes, I believe he does or he wouldn’t have taken the time and effort to show up at Shawn’s studio and debate him. And what he did was warn Jed and the other Shawnites in attendance and watching worldwide via the internet that they’re following a false teacher and that they’re in a cult. So, yes, in that sense he showed that he loves Jed by his actions. However, does he have “phileo” love for Jed? No, I doubt it because, as he said, he hardly knows him.

Shawnite Jed soapboxing and stirring the pot at Inquisition 2014.

Shawnite Jed soapboxing and stirring the pot at Inquisition 2014. (click to view video)

Therefore, Jason Wallace’s behavior and answer was fully congruent with how Christ said Christians are to practice “agape” love with those that they may not have “storge” or “phileo” love for:[7]

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Luke 6:32-35 (NKJV)

The most unloving thing that Jason Wallace (or any of the critics of Shawn McCraney and McCraneyism) could do would be to let Shawn and his followers continue in heresy and error and say nothing. It’s no different than the love that Christians show Mormons by speaking up against the errors of Joseph Smith and Mormonism.

In my opinion
That’s Jason Wallace, now I’ll speak for myself. Yes, I love Jed with “agape” love in that I have his best interests at heart. This is true of everyone – Christian and non-Christian alike. However, no I don’t have “phileo” love for Jed. First, I don’t know him personally. Second, from what I’ve seen of Jed he’s a hard to (“phileo”) love loose cannon on the deck that fits the description of Titus 3:10 to a “T”:

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.”
Titus 3:10 (NIV)

If the folks at CAMPUS really loved Jed, in my opinion, they would confront him about his public behavior rather than praising him for it. They would challenge him to stop his childish and immature pot stirring – like calling Jason Wallace’s show and picking fights and grandstanding in front of the cameras. In my opinion, if they truly loved Jed they would have talked to him immediately his public antics at first Inquisition 2014 and then again after the recent debate show. And if he didn’t listen then the second half of Titus 3:10 would apply. But no, instead, they continue to give him a soapbox and then praise him when he engages in socially inappropriate – even downright embarrassing – public behavior.

So in the end, and in my opinion, Exhibit A for how little love Shawn and the folks at CAMPUS really have for fellow Christians is Jed. If they truly loved him they would care enough to confront him and challenge him to grow and mature.

CAMPUS member Jed on his soapbox and stirring the pot at the February 3, 2015 debate. (click to view video)

CAMPUS member Jed on his soapbox and stirring the pot at the February 3, 2015 debate. (click to view video)

In the Bible’s opinion
Biblical support for this “care enough to confront” model can be found in 1 Corinthians where Paul reprimands the Corinthian church for failing to judge, confront, and disciple a sexually immoral person. 1 Corinthians 5 (after Paul reprimands them in some pretty harsh terms) ends like this:

“Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’”
— 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NKJV)

Was that harsh? Yes, I think that by today’s standards and the spirit of the age today many would say, “Yes!” However was in the person’s best long term interests wasn’t it? For we see in 2 Corinthians 2:4-8 (NKJV) that the person had repented and was in the process of being restored:

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.

But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

So tell me, was Paul unloving here? Was he a “hater” for reprimanding the leadership in the Corinthian church and pressing them to confront the man who was ensnared in sin – or for demanding that they intervene in a public embarrassment for the Corinthian church? What about Christ who said this in Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV):

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Again for emphasis: “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Essentially Christ is saying that the person should be treated like an unregenerate sinner who’s not a Christian. Is that harsh? However, such treatment is in the person’s best long term interests isn’t it? So tell me, was Christ teaching something that’s unloving? Was He telling His disciples to be “haters”? And I can keep going, this is just a sampling of what the bible says about church discipline and order. Simply put what Shawn McCraney is teaching and what CAMPUS is practicing simply isn’t biblical.

Further, I can speak from experience about how this is supposed to work since I am a recovered alcoholic, drug addict, and the beneficiary of godly church government who cared enough to confront. I am clean and sober today because fellow Christians (including several church leaders) loved me enough to confront me about my addictions. Would it have been more “loving” for them to leave me in self deceit and sin? Would they have been loving me if they’d let me continue to abuse the bible to justify my sinful behavior? Would it have been “agape” to let me drink and smoke myself into an early grave? Would it have been “agape” to let me continue to spew insane rationalizations (some of which were public) as to why I was doing nothing wrong and they were the problem?

The answer is no. That wouldn’t have been “agape” at all!  Thankfully I had Christian brothers and sisters who loved me enough to confront me with the truth so I could get “unstuck” and move higher up and higher into God and His Kingdom.

I just wish Jed did.

“St. Paul Preaching to the Jews in the Synagogue at Damascus,” from Scenes from the Life of St. Paul (mosaic), Byzantine School, 12th century. Duomo, Monreale, Sicily, Italy)

“St. Paul Preaching to the Jews in the Synagogue at Damascus,” from Scenes from the Life of St. Paul (mosaic), Byzantine School, 12th century. Duomo, Monreale, Sicily, Italy (click to zoom)

NOTES
[1] James White, “Radio Free Geneva” broadcast, February 5, 2015 (@04:50-15:27)

[2] “What is the preterist view of the end times?” GotQuestions.com website. Bracketed note added for context clarification.

[3] Mike Duran, “13 Problems with Universalism”, deCompose.com website

[4] Op cit, “What is the preterist view of the end times?”

[5] “What is Christian Gnosticism”, GotQuestions.com website

[6]  Jason Wallace, “The Ancient Paths – The Importance of the Visible Church”; currently not internet posted

[7] The Greek word used throughout Luke 6:32-35 for “love” is “agapate” a derivative of “agape” that means “to love”. (see Strong’s Greek 25)

NOTE: if you have a question about Shawn McCraney’s slide into heresy that wasn’t answered here, please look through parts two  and three of this series, it’s very possible that it may be answered there.

BACK TO TOP

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

An 1890 oil painting of Joseph Smith preaching to the Indians. The painting was commissioned for the Salt Lake Temple and it hung there for over fifty years.

An ongoing series of articles on some common and recurring weak arguments that Christians make against Mormonism.

by Fred W. Anson
The Argument:
“Mormon doctrine was heretical from the very beginning.”

Why It’s Weak:
Exaggeration erodes credibility. Overstatement turns strong arguments into weak ones. This argument is weak because it’s both an exaggeration and an overstatement. It turns early Mormonism into an inaccurate, and untrue, caricature of itself. In actual fact, the historical record shows that what Mormon Church originally believed and taught until around the 1834 pre-Book of Abraham, Kirtland era was largely orthodox and was consistent with what other 19th Century Protestant churches, in general, and Restorationist churches of that time, in particular, were teaching at the time. The heresy came later.

1) The church originally founded by Joseph Smith was largely orthodox.
Like most cults, the church originally founded by Joseph Smith believed and taught the essentials of the Christian faith – albeit with error on non-essential doctrines mixed in. As Mormon Historian Thomas G. Alexander notes:

Early critics primarily attacked Mormons for receiving new revelations and scripture, and for claiming authority, but not for Mormon doctrines, which were quite Protestant…  before about 1835, the LDS doctrines on God and man were quite close to those of contemporary Protestant denominations.

The doctrines of God and man revealed in these sources [the “Book of Commandments” and the “Lectures on Faith”] were not greatly different from those of some of the religious denominations of the time. Marvin Hill has argued that the Mormon doctrine of man in New York contained elements of both Calvinism and Arminianism, though tending toward the latter…

As Marvin Hill and Timothy Smith have argued, much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to that of contemporary Protestant churches. The section on the nature of God in the “Articles and Covenants,” now Doctrine and Covenants 20: 17-28, was similar to the creeds of other churches. In fact, what is now verses 23 and 24 is similar to passages in the Apostles’ Creed.[1]

As aforementioned Religious Historian Timothy L. Smith, a Nazarene scholar, summarized:

The persuasive power of both the new scriptures and of the missionaries who proclaimed and expounded them lay in their confident testimony to beliefs that were central to the biblical culture of the evangelical Protestant sects in both Jacksonian America and early Victorian England. These beliefs seem in the early years, at least, to have also dominated the thought and devotion of the Saints themselves, even when debates with outsiders revolved around their special doctrines of continuing revelation, the gathering of Jews and Saints in the two Jerusalems, and the material nature of all reality, whether human or divine.[2]

In fact, one of the best period evidences of how closely aligned early Mormon doctrine was with the Protestant Christianity is Alexander Campbell’s pointed review of the Book of Mormon in which he notes:

This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in N. York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies – infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man. All these topics are repeatedly alluded to. How much more benevolent and intelligent this American Apostle, than were the holy twelve, and Paul to assist them!!![3]

The reader will note how Campbell attacks the Book of Mormon not on it’s content but, rather, on the author’s pretension to be the ultimate authority deciding for all Christians what’s right and what’s wrong on all these issues through his allegedly divinely inspired book.  In fact, Campbell would have been a fool to attack the content itself since so much of his own Campbellite doctrine could be found in the Book of Mormon.[4] As Thomas G. Alexander summarizes well:

Campbell and others before 1835 objected principally to Mormonism’s claims of authority, modern revelation,  miracles, and communitarianism but not to its doctrines of God and man.[5]

2) Error and heresy slowly overwhelmed Early Mormon’s adherence to historic Christian orthodoxy.
This point was best articulated by Timothy L. Smith who observed:

Several scholars have noted that many doctrines peculiar to the Latter-day Saints, particularly in the years since their settlement in Utah, rest not upon the Book of Mormon but upon the revelations to Joseph Smith which took place after the publication of that volume. Accounts by believers, apostates, and outsiders during the first decade or so of the church’s witness in America and England convince me that the movement would never have gotten off the ground if these unique teachings had constituted its major appeal. [6]

In 1887 this drift was confirmed by Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer who, in denouncing the doctrine LdS Church of his day, squarely placed the blame on Joseph Smith for taking it into error:

We do not indorse the teachings of any of the so-called Mormons or Latter Day Saints, which are in conflict with the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as taught in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. They have departed in a great measure from the faith of the CHURCH OF CHRIST [the name of the Mormon Church until 1834]  from  as it was first established, by heeding revelations given through Joseph Smith, who, after being called of God to translate his sacred word — the Book of Mormon — drifted into many errors and gave many revelations to introduce doctrines, ordinances and offices in the church, which are in conflict with Christ’s teachings.[7]

3) The LdS Church’s dirty little secret: The Book of Mormon discredits modern Mormon Doctrine.
Now that you have an understanding what really happened in Early Mormonism you’re ready for the LdS Church’s dirty little secret:  The Book of Mormon not only doesn’t teach Mormon doctrine, it discredits much of it – as Mormon Researcher Aaron Shafovaloff explains in the following video.

In fact, and as previously noted, the Book of Mormon primarily teaches 19th Century American Restorationism in a way that’s for the most part aligned with historic mainstream Protestant Christian orthodoxy.[8] For example:

  • The Book of Mormon teaches that Jesus is Eternal God. And as such, Christ was neither created or procreated.
  • The Book of Mormon says that God is eternal and unchanging.
  • The Book of Mormon states that God is a Spirit.
  • The Book of Mormon states plainly that there is only one God.
  • The Book of Mormon states plainly that the One God consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – that is, the Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the Trinity (albeit with a strong modalistic skew).
  • The Book of Mormon states that God created via nothing but His word – that is, “ex-nihilo” (out of nothing).
  • The Book of Mormon condemns Polygamy.
  • The Book of Mormon states that there is only heaven and hell.
  • The Book of Mormon denounces universalism as a “false doctrine”.
  • The Book of Mormon repeatedly condemns the type of secret oaths and combinations that are found in the Latter-day Saint Temple Endowment ceremony in the strongest terms.
  • The Book of Mormon denies that there is a second chance to repent and receive the gospel in the next life.
  • The Book of Mormon states that baptism isn’t an absolute requirement for salvation.
  • The Book of Mormon states that man was created by the power of God’s word not procreated by spirit parents.
  • The Book of Mormon makes a clear distinction between men and angels.
  • The Book of Mormon states clearly that Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world on the cross.
  • The Book of Mormon discredits key points of the First Vision.

So if you strip away the baggage of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon origin story you’re left with a piece of Christian literature that’s more akin to “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Screwtape Letters” than “Dianetics”.  In the end it’s very much as  Shawn McCraney described it when he said, “[We] recognize the Book of Mormon as a piece of 19th century literary fiction aimed at teaching Jesus Christ. We reject the story of its origins.”[9]

Why the First Vision isn’t relevant here
Finally, please note that the First Vision isn’t in the Book of Mormon and didn’t make it’s first public appearance until 1838. Further it wasn’t a major factor in Mormon doctrine until it was canonized in 1880. This is well past the 1834-35 date when Mormon doctrine transitioned from being largely orthodox to being heretical. I mention this because many modern Christians erroneously point to the First Vision as proof that early Mormonism was heretical from the beginning when in fact it had no significant role in Mormon thought or theology until much, much, much later – about fifty years later to be precise.[10]

The Stronger Arguments:
By now you may, be wondering, “Well, that all that Mormon History is certainly all very interesting but does it have any practical application?”  Yes, indeed it does – this inside knowledge helps us make make powerful, credibility enhancing arguments that’s supported by a large body of verifiable evidence from Mormon friendly sources.

First Suggested Strong Argument: Don’t despise the Book of Mormon use it 
You knew this was coming didn’t you?  Simply put one of the quickest ways to erode your credibility as a Christian critic of Mormonism is to say that the Book of Mormon is filled with nothing but heresies. Strategically it’s the equivalent of taking out your sidearm, emptying of all it’s bullets and then throwing it away before you hit the front lines. Now please don’t get me wrong, the Book of Mormon still contains a lot of error so one has to proceed with caution and handle it with care – therefore, it should be holstered with the safety on most of the time. But that said, and given the right situation and set of circumstances, it can be a most powerful weapon against modern Mormon error.

For those special situations my article “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine” goes into fuller detail on what modern Latter-day Saint doctrines are discredited by the Book of Mormon and cites passages – with live links to official LdS Church sources to boot.  I would also encourage you to consider using my article entitled, “Mormon Doctrine Not Found in the Book of Mormon” for a list of modern LdS Church doctrines that are conspicuous in their absence from the Book of Mormon – the bulk of which comprise the many errors and many revelations that David Whitmer said Joseph Smith, “used to introduce doctrines, ordinances and offices in the church, which are in conflict with Christ’s teachings”

Another thing to consider in this regard would be to consider participating in “We Agree with Moroni 8:18” day which occurs on August 18th of each year. Participation is easy: On August 18th just post the event video (see below or click here) on social media, blogs, etc. along with something along the lines of, “I agree with Moroni 8:18 – why doesn’t the Mormon Church?” Click here to view the “We agree with Moroni 8:18” webpage for more details.

Second Suggested Strong Argument: “You’re following a false prophet with bogus credentials!”
This should come as no surprise the modern reader since Smith’s prophetic qualifications and credentials have always been the key issues in Early Mormonism.  And let’s make no mistake about it, since The Book of Mormon was Smith’s original prophetic credential it too is still a legitimate target for criticism. The key issue here is how the Book of Mormon is used rather than what it actually says. What if, for example, C.S. Lewis had claimed that the Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy were historically based, divinely inspired scripture and proof of his prophetic credentials and authority to restore the Christian church to it’s original primitive glory? If he had I suspect that the Christian response to Lewis and his work in the 20th century would have been, I suspect, quite similar  to the response Smith received in the 19th Century.  This is despite the fact that Lewis’ works, like the Book of Mormon, are largely doctrinally sound.

Simply put, if Smith’s original prophetic credential (and the one that Mormon Missionaries still use today) falls, so does Smith. And if Smith falls, so does Mormonism.  Even Mormon leaders agree on this point, for example, the tenth president of the LdS Church, Joseph Fielding Smith said:

Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.(bolding added)[11]

The twin issues of Smith’s character and the Book of Mormon were the primary arguments that were made against Mormonism back in the early 1830’s when Mormon doctrine was still largely orthodox. For example, consider how Alexander Campbell opens his scathing 1831 critique of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon…

“Delusions: An Analysis of The Book of Mormon…”
by Alexander Campbell
circa 1832

EVERY age of the world has produced imposters and delusions. Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, and were followed by Pharaoh, his court, and clergy. They for some time supported their pretensions, much to the annoyance of the cause of the Israelites and their leader Moses.

To say nothing of the false prophets of the Jewish age, the diviners, soothsayers, magicians, and all the ministry of idols among the Gentiles, by which the nations were so often deceived, the imposters which have appeared since the Christian era would fill volumes of the most lamentable details ever read.[12]

… and how he closes it:

If there was any thing plausible about Smith, I would say to those who believe him to be a prophet, hear the question which Moses put into the mouth of the Jews, and his answer to it – ‘And if thou say in thine heart, HOW SHALL WE KNOW THE WORD WHICH THE LORD HATH NOT SPOKEN?’ – Does he answer, ‘ASK THE LORD AND HE WILL TELL YOU?’ – Does he say ‘Wait till the day of judgment and you will know?’ Nay, indeed; but – ‘When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken; the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: THOU SHALT NOT BE AFRAID OF HIM.’ Deut.xviii.8. Smith has failed in every instance to verify one of his own sayings.[13]

As Thomas G. Alexander summarizes Campbell’s critique:

Campbell, in his Delusions, An Analysis of the Book of Mormon, lumped Joseph Smith with the false Christs because of his claims to authority and revelation from God, and he objected to some doctrines. He also attacked the sweeping and  authoritative nature of the Book of Mormon with the comment that Joseph Smith conveniently “decides all the great controversies-infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, eternal punishment, [and] who may baptize.” Nevertheless, he recognized, if somewhat backhandedly, that the Book of Mormon spoke to contemporary Christians: “the Nephites, like their fathers for many generations, were good Christians, believers in the doctrines of the Calvinists and Methodists.” Campbell and others before 1835 objected principally to Mormonism’s claims of authority, modern revelation, miracles, and communitarianism but not to its doctrines of God and man.[14]

Even the criticisms of a period ExMormon followed the same pattern:

Ezra Booth, a Methodist both before and after what he called his months of “delusion” as a Mormon convert, criticized at length Joseph Smith’s materialism, his autocratic rule and his claims to miraculous gifts, and noted what he thought was the failure of some of the prophet’s revelations to fit the subsequent facts. But Booth had no complaint at all of Smith’s doctrine of radical obedience to biblical commandments.[15]

“Mormonism Unvailed” by E.D. Howe

And in 1834 E.D. Howe in what’s widely regarded as the first Anti-Mormon book, “Mormonism Unvailed”, consumed 290 pages with essentially the same themes.  Howe even went so far as to obtain and publish affidavits from those who knew Smith and his family prior to the his rise as a prophet so as to expose his lack of qualifications as true prophet and  reveal the character flaws (the “bad fruit”, if you will, in accordance with Matthew 7:15-23) that qualified him as a false one.  Howe had a vested interest in the matter of Joseph Smith and Mormonism: He had lost his wife, sister and niece to them.

And as LdS Historian Marvin S. Hill notes, even in the late 1830’s these were still the dominant criticisms of Mormonism even though by then it had drifted from general orthodoxy and was preaching full blown heresy:

The earliest pamphlets by those opposed to Mormonism s spread in England [which started in 1837] criticized their claims to authority, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith s reputation, and the [1838] Mormon war in Missouri but not doctrinal mysteries.[16]

Throughout history, these issues have anyways been the most common and strongest arguments against Mormonism. Nothing has changed.

Third Suggested Strong Argument: Consider adopting a “reformation not destruction” stance in regard to the LdS Church
Let me ask you something:  How inclined would you be to listen to someone whose goal is the destruction of your church?  If you’re like most people the honest answer is, “Not very, if that!” In fact, a Christian needn’t go further than an atheist discussion board to find out how “receptive” this attitude makes one to listening to anything that someone with such an agenda has to say.

On the other hand, what if the person’s goal is to reform your church so that it’s a better church? While you may still be skeptical of their intentions and motives you would at least be willing to listen.  In this case it would only be the closed minded die-hard defenders of the status quo – be it right or be it wrong – who would tend to take umbrage at such a stance right?[17] But even in those cases even the die-hards would be more inclined to listen to someone who’s trying to be constructive rather than someone who’s destructive right?

So here’s the irony: Relative to the largely orthodox Mormonism taught in early Mormonism the modern LdS Church is in a state of apostasy.  In fact, and even more ironically, just a few years after the formation of the church Joseph Smith had managed to lead his followers into blatant heresy and error. This is clearly what a former member of the First Presidency and his associates stated in the Nauvoo Expositor:

Nauvoo Expositor

The June 7, 1844 of the Nauvoo Expositor. This was the one and only edition of the paper before Mayor Joseph Smith had the printing press and all remaining copies destroyed.

As for our acquaintance with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we know, no man or set of men can be more thoroughly acquainted with its rise, its organization, and its  history, than we have every reason to believe we are. We all verily believe, and many of us know of a surety, that the religion of the Latter Day Saints, as originally taught by Joseph Smith, which is contained in the Old and New Testaments, Book of Covenants [that is the original 1835 Doctrine & Covenants], and Book of Mormon, is verily true; and that the pure principles set forth in those books, are the immutable and eternal principles of Heaven, and speaks a language which, when spoken in truth and virtue, sinks deep into the heart of every honest man…We are earnestly seeking to explode the vicious principles of Joseph Smith, and those who practice the same abominations and whoredoms; which we verily know are not accordant and consonant with the principles of Jesus Christ and the Apostles; and for that purpose, and with that end in view, with an eye single to the glory of God, we have dared to gird on the armor, and with god at our head, we most solemnly and sincerely declare that the sword of truth shall not depart from the thigh, nor the buckler from the arm, until we can enjoy those glorious privileges which nature’s God and our country’s laws have guarantied to us–freedom of speech, the liberty of the press, and the right to worship God as seemeth us good.[18]

As tempting as it might be to chuckle at the amusing irony of a church that claims that all other other churches (other than theirs of course) need to be restored to their pure, primitive state, actually needs to be restored to it’s pure, primitive state itself, it’s still a fact. Mormons like D. Michael Quinn, Rock WatermanDenver Snuffer, and many others see this clearly and have been lobbying for it for years – though I don’t think that many mainstream Christians would completely agree with their vision of what a truly reformed Mormon Church would or should look like.[19]

And while I know that the idea of a “Reformation not destruction” stance isn’t popular among Christian critics of Mormonism – a fact I found out quickly when I asked for feedback on the concept on social media and promptly got thrown back about a mile by the explosive “Destruction not reformation!” outcries – I would ask the reader to still give the idea some thought and consideration despite how incredible it may sound to you now.  And as you consider the question, I would point you to the precedence of the Quakers, The Shepherding Movement, and the World Wide Church of God churches as examples of full reformations and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka “RLDS”) as an example of partial reformation.[20]

And to those who are still reluctant to consider a “Reformation not destruction” stance I would ask you to consider a few things:

  1. Some at BYU have already taken baby steps toward reform distancing themselves from some Mormonism’s most blasphemous doctrines. They’re also putting a greater emphasis on grace. No, it’s not perfect, and yes, there are still a lot of problems – there is both reason for hope and cause for concern at this point. However, if this trend continues (and if they don’t get excommunicated) this could possibly lead to even greater reform over time;
  2. There are reformers aplenty in the LdS Church right now.  I’ve only mentioned three, there are more. And the engine of internal reformation just seems to be gathering steam. It’s been said that Mormonism is not only emptying out, it’s hollowing out and that, combined with the Neo-Orthodoxy movement within Mormonism, is any indication it looks like we’re in for quite a ride!
  3. If the LdS Church were to fully reform it would be a completely different organization than it is today. Spoken plainly it would cease to exist just as the World Wide Church of God ceased to exist after it became Grace Communion International.  So in a sense one could say that “Reformation of the LdS Church = Destruction of the LdS Church”.  So if you’re really, really, really committed to the destruction of the LdS Church as we know it today perhaps one of the best things you could do to advance your agenda would be to push for reform!

The more things change . . .
For Christians new to Mormon Studies the idea that Mormon doctrine began largely orthodox and then drifted into greater and greater error tends to come as a shock. I understand completely, it was for me too.  Like those first 19th Century Anti-Mormons I was so focused on the character flaws and foibles of the charismatic false prophet Joseph Smith (who in my opinion, Mormon Historian Dan Vogel – who is an ExMormon – has correctly labeled a “pious fraud”) to even consider such a possibility.  After all, how could such a flamboyant, self-serving scoundrel have possibly ever taught anything remotely orthodox, right?

The answer is both simple and complex:  Most Christians cults start out with at the very least a veneer of orthodoxy and slowly drift into greater and greater error. As cult expert Ron Enroth explains:

Most sects [throughout American history have] offered variety rather than aberration, but a few could be categorized as extreme. As with their modern counterparts, they often began with noble aspirations and biblical foundations, but were led astray through human frailty.[21]

Mormonism is no exception to this pattern.  The people who were the first converts to Charles Taze Russell’s Bible Student movement (which later became the Jehovah’s Witnesses), Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, or David Koresh’s Branch Davidian group testified later – as David Whitmer and the dissenting 1844 Mormons did  in the Nauvoo Expositor passages quoted earlier in this paper – that the movement was originally fresh, exciting, pure, and thoroughly Christian – the problems came later. Again, Ron Enroth:

People who have been in close contact over a period of years with some of the pastoral leaders we have discussed have told me that their ministry was far more benign and subdued at the beginning. Gradually, as the pastors became aware of the influence they could exert and the power they could wield, they and their ministries began to change. Consciously or unconsciously, they took advantage of vulnerable people, and convinced them that God had given them, the shepherds, the right to exercise authority over the flock.[22]

And of course, that “authority” typically also includes mandatory new revelations for the flock that depart radically from mainstream, historic, Christian orthodoxy.

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)

… the more they stay the same
Ironically, none of this should come as a surprise to today’s 21th Century Christians in Mormon Studies since we have been watching this very scenario unfold before our very eyes with Shawn McCraney. I won’t belabor this since I’ve written an entire series documenting the descent of Mr. McCraney and his CAMPUS sect into heresy.[23] However, the short version goes like this:

  • From March 2006 through  December 2013 Shawn McCraney, with the exception of a few cringe worthy wrinkle your brow and wonder moments, was aligned with mainstream Christian orthodoxy.
  • From January 2013 to January 2014  he attacked the modern Christian Church on non-essential doctrines (often using uncharitable, inflammatory language) but remained largely aligned with mainstream Christian orthodoxy.  The cringes and wrinkled brows turn into crossed arms, thoughts of deep concern, and some angry frowns.
  • In February 4th 2014  Shawn McCraney renounces all forms of ecclesiastical accountability except in regard to finances. He then proceeds to renounce the essential doctrine of the Trinity calling it, among other things, “garbage”. The first cries of “Heretic!” begin while Christian leaders in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17 privately and publicly attempt to confront and reason Shawn out of his error.
  • Since then, and despite everyone’s efforts, yet more heresy has followed in the wake of McCraney’s rejection of the Trinity. This is not limited to but includes the heresies of modalism, and full preterism. At times it has seemed as if Mr. McCraney has yet to meet a heresy that he doesn’t love![24]

As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Or, if you prefer, “Here we go again!” Or, if you really prefer, “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.”

Summary and Conclusion
Consider this, what if 117-years from now you were still alive and heard critics of Shawn McCraney and McCraneyism giving, “Shawnite doctrine was heretical from the very beginning!” as an argument against it? It wouldn’t be true would it?  It would be an exaggeration wouldn’t it? It would be overstating things wouldn’t it? You would have serious doubts about the credibility of the person making that argument wouldn’t you? A knowledgeable Shawnite could shoot the argument down by simply presenting evidence from the historical record couldn’t they? In fact, you, yourself as a living witness could discredit those critics by simply saying, “I was there and that’s not true – it just wasn’t that simple, it was far more complex and nuanced than that!” couldn’t you?  Maybe, you would even say something like this:

“Exaggeration erodes credibility.  Overstatement turns strong arguments into weak ones. This argument is weak because it’s both an exaggeration and an overstatement. It turns early McCraneyism into an inaccurate, and untrue, caricature of itself. In actual fact, the historical record shows that what Shawn McCraney and those who attended CAMPUS originally believed and taught until around January 2014 was largely orthodox and was consistent with what other 21st Century Protestant churches were teaching at the time. The heresy came later.”

As it is with McCraneyism so it is with Mormonism: Keep your strong arguments strong – don’t exaggerate and don’t overstate. Rather, just speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

KeithWalkerQuote_Edited

NOTES
[1] Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine: From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology” Sunstone 5:4 (July-August 1980) pp.15-17

[2] Timothy L. Smith, “The Book of Mormon in a Biblical Culture” Journal of Mormon History, Volume 7 (1980), p.8

[3] Alexander Campbell,  “Delusions: An analysis of the book of Mormon with an examination of its internal and external evidences, and a refutation of its pretenses to divine authority”, The Millennial Harbinger, February 7, 1831

[4] See Fred W. Anson, “Campbellite Doctrine in The Book of Mormon”, Beggar’s Bread, February 11, 2013; also see Rock Waterman, “The Book Of Mormon Bait & Switch”, and Daymon Smith, “A Cultural History of the Book of Mormon, Volume One: Setting, a Foundation, of Stones to Stumble Over”

[5] Op cit, Thomas G. Alexander, p.18

[6] Op cit, Timothy L. Smith, p.8

[7] David Whitmer, “An Address to All Believers in Christ: By A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon”; Richmond, Missouri (1887), p.4

[8] The list that follows was extrapolated from my article, “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctine”.  A fuller explanation of each of these points can be found there or by using the embedded links I’ve included in the list on key points.

[9] Shawn McCraney, Born Again Mormon: Our Faith, The Book of Mormon (website)

[10] Fred W. Anson, et al,  “A Documented History of the First Vision”

[11] Bruce R. McConkie, compiler, “Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith”, (Bookcraft, 1954), vol. 1, p. 188.

[12] Op cit, Alexander Campbell, p.5

[13] Op cit, Alexander Campbell, p.15

[14] Op cit, Thomas G. Alexander, p.18

[15] Op cit, Timothy L. Smith, p.10

[16] Marvin S. Hill, “The Shaping of the Mormon Mind in New England and New York”,  BYU Studies, Spring 1969, p.371

[17] One need only consider Pope Leo X‘s reaction to Martin Luther in this regard.  Luther’s letter to Pope Leo should, in my opinion, be an example to all reformers of how to respond to the harsh reaction of status quo die-hards.

[18] William Law, et al, “Nauvoo Expositor”, June 7, 1844, p.1

[19] At this point you may be wondering, “Sounds interesting but exactly what kind of  ’reform’ are we talking about? I gave my answer  here: “If I Were Mope [2013 Edition]”.  And I wasn’t the first or the last to offer up a suggested reform model for the LdS Church.  Here are some others to consider:

Mormon Reformation Day 2011 95 LDS Theses

Mormon Reformation Day 2012 95 LDS Theses
Mormon Reformation 95 LDS Theses
Mormon Reformation Day 2013 LDS Theses
95 Theses Against the Claims of the Mormon Church

Finally, I think it’s good to remember that Christians aren’t the only ones pushing for reform in the LdS Church – we have competition.  I’ve already mentioned a few Latter-day Saints who are pushing for reform and, as stated, I seriously doubt that many mainstream Christians would agree with what their view of a reformed LdS Church should look like.  This is even more true of Mormon polygamist leader Ogden Kraut who originally published his 95 Theses back 1975 (click here) and has updated it several times now. Therefore, this author is of the opinion that rather than abdicating or abandoning the Mormon Reformation space we should occupy it (see Luke 19:13, KJV) or at the very least have a distinct presence.

[20] Also see, Fred W. Anson, “Can A Mind Control Cult Reform Itself?”

And to clarify, while I’m pleased that the RLDS has made substantial strides toward mainstream orthodoxy I am hoping and praying that somehow, someday they go further and become fully orthodox. A good step in that direction, in this author’s opinion, would be a denunciation of Joseph Smith as a false prophet and a full decanonization of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

[21] Ron Enroth, “Churches That Abuse”, p.28

[22] Ibid, p.112

[23] See the Beggar’s Bread series on Shawn McCraney, CAMPUS, McCraneyism, and the Shawnite movement for full documentation and supporting evidence:

by Fred W. Anson
The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part One)
The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Two)
The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Three)
The Trial(s) of Shawn McCraney (Part Four)
Dear Michelle

by Cory Anderson
A Pastor’s Appeal to Shawn McCraney

Also related (written during Shawn’s still orthodox but “cringe worthy wrinkle your brow and wonder” period)
Fred W. Anson, Book Review: “I Was A Born Again Mormon”

[24] Shawn McCraney started teaching Full Preterism in August 2014 starting with Heart of the Matter Episode 406: Has Jesus Returned – Part 1.

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