Archive for the ‘Shawn McCraney’ Category

LDS Missionaries Bearing Their Testimony in the Hollywood, CA Ward

LDS Missionaries Bearing Their Testimony in the Hollywood, CA Ward
(click to watch video)

“Bearing testimony is ‘Declarationism’.
And ‘Declarationism’ is the last bastion of the unreasonable fanatic.”

— Lyndon Lamborn, ExMormon Foundation 2008 Conference Keynote

by Fred Anson
Mormon Testimony bearing is the cornerstone of Latter-day Saint (LdS) Theology, culture and experience – it is the “lens” through which the world is perceived – the very core of LdS epistemology.  As composer, free thinking Latter-day Saint, and cultural observer William Call explains:

“A Mormon’s ‘testimony’ feigns certainty via a supposed knowledge that negates real understanding. He who knows ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’ has no need to comprehend, discern, or master . . . Both rank and file Mormons and their leaders are dependent on their testimonies. They cannot question what they already ‘know’ is true. And so it is that a Mormon testimony is more than a denial of life’s uncertainties; it is a denial that a critical evaluation of any kind is effective or necessary so far as discovering religious truth is concerned.”
(William Call, “The Cultural Revolution”; Freethinkers Press, 2000)

It is also the primary means of converting others according to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

“Spoken testimony is the foundation of faith and with written testimony becomes the essence of scripture…
Latter-day Saint missionaries, in particular, rely on testimony bearing, rather than on logic or artifice, to reach their listeners.”
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Testimony Bearing)

Thus Mormon Testimony Bearing does many things including:
1) The Mormon Testimony acts as a “trump card” that over rides logic, reason, even physical evidence. 
Which explains why so many non-Mormons have observed that when trying to reason with Mormons about their religion that any evidence – Biblical, historical, archaeological, scientific, psychological, or otherwise that contradicts their “testimony” gets trumped by it. Others have described trying to use reason and logic with True Believing Mormons as, “like talking to someone behind a wall of glass.” Jerry Benson, a Pastor involved in outreach to Mormons in Southern California describes the phenomenon like this:

“To the Mormon, the ultimate test for truth is an “INNER FEELING” or a “BURNING IN THE BOSOM” which tell him that every facet of Mormonism is true.”1

2) The Mormon Testimony acts as a metaphysical “panic room” that the Latter Day Saint can retreat to should anything get in that unsettles them or causes Cognitive Dissonance.
For those unfamiliar with the term or concept, Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling or stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a fundamental cognitive drive to reduce this dissonance by modifying an existing belief, or rejecting one of the contradictory ideas. Once the Mormon retreats to this “panic room” nothing gets in (like new disturbing evidence) and nothing gets out (like old comfortable beliefs) until the crisis has passed and/or Cognitive Dissonance has dissipated. Again, Jerry Benson:

“When the Mormon is confronted with scripture from the Bible that refutes the teachings of the Mormon Church, or when he is faced with documentation proving the unreliability of the Mormon books of scripture, or when you have shown him a dozen absolute contradictions from Mormon sources, you will probably be treated with ‘THE MORMON TESTIMONY.'”2

3) The Mormon Testimony acts as the active agent in converting others to the Mormon religion.
As President James E. Faust Second Counselor in the First Presidency stated in a March 1997 Ensign article:

“Perhaps we do not always remember that it is the power of the Spirit that carries our testimony into the hearts of others. Our testimony is our own. It cannot be challenged by someone else. It is personal and real to us. But it is the Holy Spirit that gives a similar witness to another.”
(James E. Faust, “First Presidency Message: The Importance of Bearing Testimony”; Ensign, March 1997)

quote-testimony-bearing-is-the-key-to-missionary-work-thomas-s-monson-68-92-05

However, Ex-Mormons – including Returned Missionaries and Stake Mission Presidents – have suggested that quite another force is at work here – human psychology. In fact, these Ex-Mormons assert that one of the LDS Missionary’s core tools – the so-called, “Book of Mormon Challenge” is nothing more than emotional and psychological manipulation. For those of you unfamiliar with “The Book of Mormon Challenge” (also, and often more commonly known as “The Moroni 10 Formula”) it’s as follows:

The Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:2-6: 
And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God] that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

This formula is intermingled with Missionary Coaching as Jerry Benson points out:

“In the Mormon Missionary handbook in the mid 1980’s, “The Uniform System for Teaching Families,” instructions were given to the missionary on how to “bring the people you teach to a knowledge and conviction of the truth” effectively. (Page A-l) “Keep in mind how you want the family to FEEL… help them FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE GOSPEL.” (Page A-l, No. 4)

Further instructions encouraging this FEELING were given:
“As the Spirit confirms to you that those you are teaching are receiving a witness of the Spirit, pause in the discussion and say, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Brown, what you are FEELING right now is the Spirit of the Lord testifying to you that we are teaching you the truth. You are beginning to receive YOUR OWN TESTIMONY of the truthfulness of this message.” (Page A-3, No. 4)

NO LESS THAN 84 DIFFERENT TIMES in the series of missionary lessons given to “Mr. Brown,” the missionaries were instructed to “TESTIFY” of the truthfulness of their message. Over and over and over again, they reinforced virtually every point they make of a personal assurance that it is true–that the Book of Mormon is true, that God did speak to Joseph Smith, that the true church was restored, etc., etc.

Although modern missionary handbooks [editor’s note  “The Uniform System for Teaching Families” was replaced by “Preach My Gospel” in 2005] have removed these embarrassing statements, they are still encouraged to “bear witness” to the truthfulness of their message as they feel the spirits prompting.”3

Benson’s outsider’s voice is joined by a multitude of former Mormons who have analyzed deconstructed this approach to “revelation”.    Consider the cases of Bob McCue (a former Bishop and Stake Mission President, and now an agnostic) and Shawn McCraney (a former Born-into-the-Covenant Mormon, Returned Missionary, Temple Mormon, and now a Born Again Christian). Their methods and styles are as different as these ExMormon men are. McCue, a Canadian Tax Lawyer, has written a series of calm, even toned articles on the Mormonism. Excerpts from his most comprehensive article on the subject of Mormon Testimony Bearing comprises a major part of this paper’s final section.

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney

McCraney, on the other hand hosts a popular Salt Lake City based television program where he has been passionately – even aggressively – outspoken in his criticism of Mormon Testimonies. There was no better example of this than the August 26, 2008 show entitled “By Their Fruits – Part 3 – Revelation Unsupported by Scripture” where @13:01 into the program McCraney slowly and methodologically deconstructs not only how he developed his own Mormon Testimony but the techniques that he and his fellow Missionaries used to induce those investigating the LDS Church into developing a personal Testimony experience.

One of the keys to this proselytizing process, according to McCraney is that if an investigator’s testimony that doesn’t produce the desired result is simply rejected as either “false” or the investigator is told that they didn’t fully meet the requirements of The Moroni 10 Formula – such as praying with real intention or real faith. Therefore, and this can’t be emphasized enough, in Latter-day Saint culture only one result is valid when it comes to Mormon Testimonies!

This moved from abstract to real for me when a Mormon on a now defunct internet discussion board challenged me when I bore my Mormon Testimony which went like  this:

“I would like to bear my testimony.

I have diligently sought God regarding whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true or not. To that end, I have read the Bible and prayed regularly for over 30-years. I have also studied, sought God and prayed about the veracity of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, as well as many other official LDS Church documents. I have felt an intense “burning in my bosom” many, many, many times in my life — in fact, I carry it with me everyday of my life. And it is that which I feel when I testify to this:

I bear witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a man made religion synthesized by Joseph Smith, a false prophet. To that end I also bear witness that all the Mormon “living prophets” that followed Joseph Smith up and until today have been false prophets. Further, I bear witness that the Book of Mormon is a work of non-inspired 19th Century fiction. Finally, I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as well as all it’s splinter groups are non-Christian cults.

Here I stand before God and before men. Thank you for letting me share what I know to be true.”

Ironically, I was only one of five board members who bore similar testimonies as a result of taking “The Book of Mormon Challenge”. Every single one was rejected as “invalid” by the Latter Day Saint thread participants. In the lightly edited board exchange that follows you’ll find my deconstruction of the psychological dynamics underlying the typical Mormon Testimony as well as the typical LDS reaction to it.

LdS:
“When you took the Book of Mormon challenge did you go in skeptical or did you think as I did, “How could this book come from anywhere but God?” That is what I asked myself, and that was the beginning of a revealed testimony which transcends the arguments of Man!”

My Response:
What you’re describing is what’s known as a “presupposition”:

pre-sup-pose
verb (used with object), -posed, -pos-ing.
1. to suppose or assume beforehand; take for granted in advance.
2. (of a thing, condition, or state of affairs) to require or imply as an antecedent condition: An effect presupposes a cause.
(Dictionary.com)

The problem that I see here is that when you took the “Moroni 10 Challenge” you didn’t read the Book of Mormon objectively simply reading and considering the words on the page you presupposed that it was from God and guess what – that’s exactly what you found!

Moroni's Grammatically Correct Promise

This is a known psychological phenomenon called a “gestalt closure” where your mind “closes the loop” with a known recognizable object, desired or predetermined conclusion. This is normal and natural – we all do it. It’s actually it’s an indicator that God is a God of order because He designed our minds to seek out order even in the midst of randomness or even chaos. Here’s an example:

GESTALT PRINCIPLE OF CLOSURE
The Gestalt principle of closure means that the mind is able to derive meaning from objects or pictures that are not perceived in full. For example:

I-m s-re th-t y-u w-ll be a-le to und-rst-nd th-s s-nt-nce

Most people are still able to read, “I am sure that you will be able to understand this sentence”, in the above sentence although nearly 25 percent of the letters have been omitted.

That’s because the mind is quite able to bridge the gaps that were left in the sentence. That’s due to Gestalt Closure. Here’s an example: In the figure above you should see an integrated figure thanks to Gestalt Closure:

Graphic_Closure_Cropped

An example of gestalt closure. The mind bridges the gap to fill in or complete the “white” figure in the middle.

Gestalt Closure and Snapping
However, Gestalt Closure also has a dark side. For example, in Mind Control Cults it’s used to guide the investigator to a “snapped” psychological state as their mind projects into, or brings to closure a predetermined conclusion that they conditioned to “presuppose” by the person in the cult guiding them to “snap”.

Such as, “If you will read the Book of Mormon with an open heart and open mind then I’m sure that you too will see – as we do – that an inspired book like this, revealed to an ignorant, uneducated farm boy, could have ONLY come from God!”

So you dutifully go off and start reading the same Book of Mormon and guess what, you’re sudden struck with the new “reality” is no ignorant, uneducated farm boy could write this great book of inspiration – it could have ONLY come from God!

Yet, others who just read the book without any Mormon preparation think that it’s (take your pick):

What’s the difference? One person reads the book with presuppositions and see inspiration and another takes it at face value and doesn’t. Same book, completely different results.4

LdS:
“For the record (and good laugh) could you please explain, or give us a practical example of a ‘stereotypical Gestalt Closure/Cult Snapping experience?'”

My Response:
Sure let’s look at the infamous ‘Moroni 10 Formula’ that’s at the core of ‘The Book of Mormon Challenge’ shall we?

shutterstock_book_of_mormon-1280x960STEP 1: The “Moroni 10 Formula” is introduced to the Investigator/Born-Into-The-Covenant-Mormon (I/BIC).
Look at the language of the passage it’s quite interesting – note, in particular, the bolded words and especially the bolded and redded words.

Moroni 10
2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

STEP 2:
These instructions implant random patterns into the subconscious of the I/BIC:

This book will open me to “wisdom”. […if it be wisdom in God…]

This this book will open my memory […ye would remember…]

This book will cause me to receive some things. […ye shall receive these things…]

This book will open my “heart” […and ponder it in your hearts.]

If I do the above I will receive something as it says, “And when ye shall receive these things”. Not“if” but “will” – an absolute emphatic.

Once I receive that “something” I must seek “spiritually”, (not intellectually) as it says, “I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true;”

However, if I want to keep the things that I’ve received my “heart” must be sincere as it says, “. . . and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart . . “

And I have to be intentional or I’ll not only not receive but not keep what I receive, as it says, “. . . with real intent . . . “

So if I don’t receive anything it’s my fault – I wasn’t sincere or intentional enough in my heart.

Or I didn’t have enough “faith”. [. . . having faith in Christ . . .]

But if I’m really sincere and really intentional and really have faith then I will have truth revealed to me, [‘…he will manifest the truth of it unto you . . .

And it will be from God [. . . by the power of the Holy Ghost…]

And if I’m “good” I will acknowledge this “truth”, if I’m “bad” I will “deny” it! [“…whatsoever thing is good is just and true…”]

And if I do deny it, I am denying Jesus Christ Himself! [‘…wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.’]

Again, these random prepositional parts and pieces are called “implants” – they create random but concrete forms so that Gestalt Closure can fill in the gaps via psychological projection.

More examples of how the mind engages in Gestalt Closure.

More examples of the mind gestalts to create a unified whole out of bits and pieces of information.

STEP 3:
So with these implants rolling around their subconscious, the I/BIC trots off to seek this transcendent experience.  And very often they find it . . .

STEP 4:
Then all these, loose, random, implanted patterns work until a recognized pattern merges and concertizes in the conscious mind and “BAM!” the I/BIC “Gestalts” the desired result: An emotional, non-intellectual, irrational witness that Joseph Smith is a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is from God.

OPTIONAL LOOP BACK TO STEP 1:
AND if they don’t receive it, per the Moroni 10 Formula, the I/BIC knows to do it again until they “get it right” and do it with enough. . .

  • Sincerity
  • Intention, and
  • Faith

. . . to achieve Gestalt Closure.  And this step is often done repeatedly until the I/BIC “gets” a Mormon Testimony that they can bear. Even if the Moroni formula isn’t fully understood, or only partially understood, or not understood at all, the I/BIC still has the random implanted thought, “There MUST be something here! The Missionaries/My Parents/My Friend/The Internet/etc. told me that there’s something here so there MUST be!”

The Mormon preparatory technique is a fine example of how to create a situation where Gestalt closure has a high probability of success.

But probably the most telling evidence that The Mormon Testimony is a guided Gestalt event is the uniformity. Sit through the typical (3-hour) “Fast and Testimony” meeting at your local LDS Ward Meeting House and nearly all of the testimonies given will match the following template with only the slightest modification:

“I know that God is our Heavenly Father and He loves us. I know that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth today. I know that this Church is led by a living prophet who receives revelation.”
(“Testimony Glove”, Friend magazine, October 2008)

As Jerry Benson says plainly from years of working with Mormons, “Almost all Mormon testimonies are identical.”5

Were this truly a “personal” testimony rather than a “implanted” testimony based on a corporate template that has been reinforced by Gestalt closure wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect less uniformity and more originality? Just compare and contrast the heartfelt but often rambling, disorganized, fragmented, even confusing testimonies given in Churches, 12-Recovery Groups, even ExMormon groups to the equally heartfelt but neat, concise and formulaic Mormon Testimony and the contrived, induced nature of the latter becomes even more apparent.

LdS:
“You claim that when overwhelmed with evidence, logic and reason, a Mormon will retreat into their testimony like someone retreating into ‘A Panic Room’. This ‘Panic Room’ concept is a crock and just show how truly ignorant and uninformed you really are!”

My Response:
Well, I’m not the only person who’s seen this behavior from Mormons – it’s nearly universal.

When the facts, evidence, and feelings of Cognitive Dissonance get too hard to process Mormons retreat into the “Panic Room” of their “Internal Witness/Testimony” until they feel safe and settled enough to come out again.

I’ve seen it so many times that I’ve lost count – so have many others.

Former LdS Bishop Bob McCue

Former LdS Bishop Bob McCue

From A Former Mormon Bishop
The insight and observations from former Latter-days has been remarkable. Bob McCue (a former Mormon Bishop and Mission Stake Mission President) had far more to say about how this works than I ever have. What follows are excerpts from a lengthy 128-page paper that he wrote on the subject which validates much of the above.

Nowhere is the “saying is believing” paradigm more visible in Mormon culture than in the Mormon custom of “bearing testimony”. Young people who were raised as Mormons but do not “have a testimony” are encouraged to “bear their testimony” until the find it. That is, they should publicly state that they believe Mormonism to be God’s one and only true religion, etc., or that they want to believe this, even if they do not. This is the one of the primary techniques used by missionaries and members of the Mormon Church to “strengthen the faith” of prospective members and young Mormons, including Mormon missionaries who do not yet believe. A large percentage of the Mormon missionaries who started their missionary service with me in 1977 fell into this category.

Mormon Apostle Russell Ballard referred to this practise by telling a story that dates to Brigham Young, near the beginning of Mormonism, that is fair to assume has been told many times since then. He told this story at a Mormon General Conference on October 3, 2004. It is important to note that anything said by a Mormon Apostle at a General Conference is more important than scripture from a Mormon point of view. That is, to the extent that it does not contradict scripture it is on par with it, and to the extent that it contradicts or “clarifies” scripture, the scripture is overridden. Ballard’s remarks were as follows:

My experience throughout the Church leads me to worry that too many of our members’ testimonies linger on “I am thankful” and “I love,” and too few are able to say with humble but sincere clarity, “I know.” As a result, our meetings sometimes lack the testimony-rich, spiritual underpinnings that stir the soul and have meaningful, positive impact on the lives of all those who hear them.

Many years ago Brigham Young told of an early missionary in the Church who was asked to share his testimony with a large group of people. According to President Young, this particular elder “never had been able to say that he knew Joseph [Smith] was a Prophet.” He would have preferred to just say a prayer and leave, but the circumstances made that impossible. So he started to speak, and “as soon as he got out ‘Joseph is a Prophet,’ his tongue was loosened, and he continued talking until near sun-down.”

President Young used this experience to teach that “the Lord pours out His Spirit upon a man, when he testifies that [which] the Lord gives him to testify of” (Millennial Star, supplement, 1853, 30).

The lesson, I believe, is clear: having a testimony alone is not enough. In fact, when we are truly converted, we cannot be restrained from testifying. And as it was with Apostles and faithful members of old, so is it also our privilege, our duty, and our solemn obligation to “declare the things which [we] know to be true”
(D&C 80:4).

Brothers and sisters, join together with the missionaries in sharing your precious testimony every day, witnessing at every opportunity the glorious message of the Restoration. The fire of your testimony is all that you need in order to introduce the gospel to many more of our Father’s children. Trust in the Lord, and never underestimate the impact your testimony can have upon the lives of others as you bear it with the power of the Spirit. Doubt and fear are tools of Satan. The time has come for all of us to overcome any fear and boldly take every opportunity to share our testimonies of the gospel.

So, Ballard is saying several things. First, Mormons have a duty to say they “know” the Mormon Church is true more often. Second, they should say that even if they don’t believe it is true. Third, they should ignore the feelings of fear and doubt that indicate they do not know the Mormon Church is what it claims to be. And fourth, the act of saying something is true will cause them to “know” that they did not previously know.

And most of all, Ballard is saying that the basic premises of Mormonism are sacred, and hence unquestionable, as far as Mormon leaders are concerned.

I recall being told that story, and others like it, when I was a young person and did not believe that Mormonism was “true”. However, my testimony did not spring from saying things I did not believe. Rather, the dynamics described by the short story “The Missionary” are closer to what I experienced. And so, I was never a fan of the “say it even though you don’t believe it” philosophy that is prevalent within Mormonism.

As noted above, when I served my mission a large percentage of the missionaries who entered Mormon missionary service do not have a “testimony”. It is commonly believed within the Mormon community that young men are sent into the mission field first and foremost for their own good ? that is, to get their own testimony and become firm in the faith. And, they are encouraged to find their testimony by bearing it. That Ballard would say this at a Mormon General conference is not surprising since he has been a key player in the formation of Mormon missionary strategies for decades and has consistently taught this principle in that context at least since I was a missionary in the late 1970s.

Think of how the principles Aronson outlined above would be likely to apply to one of the many Mormon missionaries who starts his missionary service without a testimony. He doesn’t yet have a testimony of his own, and many times each week for two years he stands in public wearing an authoritative looking suit and bears solemn testimony in God’s name with regard to the truthfulness of the Mormon Church. He is not paid to do this. In fact, he knows that he is sacrificing his and his family’s money and time in order to have the privilege of bearing this testimony. So, either what he says is true, or he is a liar (or fool) to have said it. Since few people like to admit that they have been fooled or are a liar, the easiest conclusion to reach is that the statements made must be true. He also knows he is encouraging the people who hear him to make a commitment that will absorb a huge percentage of their lives and will change the course of their lives in dramatic fashion. This situation is calculated to produce the maximum attitudinal change in those young missionaries.

Something similar happens when regular Mormon members bear testimony to their friends and neighbours, and it is intensified if any of those friends become Mormons as well. This is why Mormon leaders like Ballard are constantly after the members to do missionary work with the friends, and to bear their testimonies. That is not to say this is a conscious strategy on the part of Mormon leaders. Rather, there is a strong correlation between members who bear regular testimony and members who remain faithful, hence testimony bearing is encouraged. Cognitive dissonance theory and the principle of insufficient justification in particular provide a cogent explanation as to why this is the case, and it has nothing to do with the truth of Mormonism’s claims. Not surprisingly, a similar strategy works well for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and many other religious groups.

oaksMormon leaders justify the practise of encouraging people to say things that they don’t believe on the basis that those things are certain to be true, so even if the person saying them does not believe them to be true, she is still telling the truth. So, testimony bearing is a fundamental part of the Mormon culture. Each meeting, class, Mormon activity, etc., is opened with prayer. Most Mormon prayers are an implicit bearing of testimony; a certification that the Mormon Church is the Mormon Church’s God’s true Church. From the time they are able to speak their first words, little children are encouraged to utter such prayers. They do so at their meetings on Sunday, and at home on a daily basis with their families. Those occurs both in private, with Mom and Dad initially saying the words for the child, and in public before family members in the home each day and later in larger groups at Church. Formal testimony bearing is part of every lesson presented at Mormon Church or activity, and every speech (talks by Mormons) presented in Church services. Young people, again, begin to give these talks on a regular basis starting at age three or four. They are encouraged to bear their testimony each time they stand up and give a talk. Most adults have teaching responsibilities within the Mormon Church. They also bear their testimony each time they stand before the congregation to teach.

Mormon hymns are another form of testimony bearing. Starting at age 18 months, Mormon children are taught to mouth the words to songs that testify to the truth of the Mormon message. Each week these songs are sung at Mormon worship services for children, teenagers and adults. Mormon are encouraged to sing these songs in their homes during weekly Family Home Evenings and to have them playing in the background at other times.

Once a month, each Mormon congregation has a “fast and testimony” meeting. This is a meeting held at the end of a Sunday on which food and water are abstained from for a period of 24 hours by faithful Mormons. Toward the end of that period, the testimony meeting occurs. Going without food weakens body and the intellect, making it more susceptible to emotional experiences. These meetings are intended to provoke emotional experience. Feelings are shared with regard to the importance of family, community and a part of every testimony is a formula which has been laid down by Church leaders respecting belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the current prophet (whoever he may be) is also God’s only prophet on Earth and that the Mormon Church is the one and only true Church of God on the Earth. No dissenting opinion is permitted. And a steady stream of members approach the pulpit to express their faith in public. It is thought “cute” to have small children to stand up before the congregation to utter the words “I know the Church is true; I know the Book of Mormon is true; etc.” Special, and highly charged testimony meetings are held for teenagers at “Youth Conferences” and other special youth meetings which for many young Mormons is where the first visible glimmers of testimony are felt, and magnified. The short story “The Missionary” explores this process.

The "Testimony Glove" a mnemonic device used in the LdS Church to teach Mormon children how to bear testimony.

The “Testimony Glove” a mnemonic device used in the LdS Church to teach Mormon children how to bear testimony.

A variety of other similar examples from within Mormon culture could be described. I do not accuse Mormons of consciously planning to brainwash their children and those who investigate the merits of the Mormon Church; however, the system just described could hardly be better designed for that purpose. Again, I do not accuse Mormons of dishonesty or deceit. There may be a few at the top that are guilty of this, but the vast majority are certainly not.

Other Mormon Behaviours Related to the Principle of Insufficient Justification
Mormon culture includes many other behaviours that are likely to bring the principle of insufficient justification to bear on the creation of belief in the key tenets of the Mormon Church. For example, Mormons go through odd temple rituals that require promises of faithfulness and obedience to be made in front of other members of the community of faith; Mormons act as lay leaders of their congregations and commit enormous amounts of time and effort to Mormonism in this way; Mormons spend two years as full time missionaries while bearing testimony daily and baptizing new members who look up to the missionaries as their literal saviours; Mormons hand out Books of Mormons to their friends and otherwise encourage their friends to join the Mormon Church because it is God?s one and only true Church; and Mormons engage in many other behaviours that are part of Mormon culture and that publicly commit them to the Mormon Church. In each of these cases, the principle of insufficient justification will kick in to make Mormons feel that the Church must be ?true? and otherwise more valuable that it should objectively or rationally seem in their lives. Were this not the case, they were either liars or fools to do and say the things they did, and it is hard for most humans to consider that as a viable alternative.

I engaged in many of the behaviours just indicted while I was a faithful Mormon. The principle of insufficient justification would predict that this behaviour on my part would have created a powerful cognitive dissonance barrier to any information that indicates that the Mormon Church is not “true”. This is because if the Church is not true, I have been either dishonest or foolish by virtue of having done what I did, and I “know” that I am neither dishonest nor foolish! And, as noted in greater detail below, the more important to me is my image as a smart person, the more effective that cognitive dissonance barrier will be.
(excerpted from “Do Smart Mormons Make Mormonism True? And Answers to Other “Tough Gospel Questions” in Reply to a Faithful Mormon Scholar’s Defence of Mormonism”; Bob McCue; June 20, 2004; Version 3)

Holy Bible_Edited

What Does The Bible Say About The Mormon Testimony?
For the Christian, Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (NIV) is as good a description of The Mormon Testimony as you could hope for. It says:

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

Perhaps the most interesting phrase in this Bible passage is, “. . . if the sign or wonder of which he was spoken of takes place . . .” In other words, God, through the human instrument Moses, was saying, “There will be false prophets who can produce signs and wonders!” But then God goes on to explain how you can tell what criteria for veracity you’re to use when you’re confronted with one of these false but able to produce signs and wonders Prophets, “. . . and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,'” God says (paraphrasing), “Regardless of what signs and wonders the prophet produces you are to judge him by his behavior and on the content of his words. Specifically, does this prophet push you toward Me the true God of Israel or does he push you away from Me and toward other gods?” So at the end of the day, the issue with anyone who claims to be a divine prophet isn’t miracles or how the prophet makes you feel, it’s what he says and does – it’s it’s behavior and content not feelings, signs, or wonders!

So I have no doubt that Mormons and Investigators really do feel something when they apply The Moroni 10 Formula. I have no doubt that the infamous Mormon “burning in the bosom” is real. In fact, Christian Apologist and Ex-Mormon Timothy Oliver to this day says that the “burning in the bosom” that he felt as a Mormon was undeniably real! In fact I have felt that same sensation myself and I know for a fact that it’s real! It is a legitimate sign I do not deny or denigrate that fact at all. It is indeed a legitimate wonder. However when we apply the Biblical test these very real, undeniable “signs and wonders” are irrelevant because Joseph Smith:

Folk art painting of Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

Folk art painting of Joseph Smith delivering The King Follett Discourse on April 7, 1844 at Spring General Conference.

  1. Prophesied another God
  2. Prophesied another Jesus
  3. Prophesied another Gospel
  4. Prophesied using Biblical words but changed their meaning
  5. Prophesied new revelations that are not in the Bible and, in fact, are contrary to it

Nowhere was this call to “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” from Smith clearer than in the King Follett Discourse when he said:

I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is. I am going to inquire after God; for I want you all to know Him, and to be familiar with Him; and if I am bringing you to a knowledge of Him, all persecutions against me ought to cease. You will then know that I am His servant; for I speak as one having authority.

I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man.

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.
(“The King Follett Sermon”, Ensign, April 1971, italics added for emphasis)

Though I have had Mormon after Mormon deny it, the content of what Joseph the Prophet preached in the King Follett Discourse was clearly, “‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known).”6 As a result he was clearly a False Prophet. Therefore, the church that he founded are based on false revelations from a False Prophet.  And we have been specifically commanded by God not to join institution that holds to “other” gods. This is called “idolatry” – and dear reader, the Bible is clear what the consequences of following a false prophet into idolatry are dire both in this world and the next. If you have any questions, just see Revelation 21:7&8 which says:

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
(Joseph Smith Translation, italics added)

Conclusion
The Mormon Testimony experience is a real phenomenon. However, applying the Gestalt psychological model to it, the experience and sensations surrounding it are easily explainable. Further, and to review, the Biblical witness is that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. Therefore a Mormon Testimony event is ultimately an emotionally induced psychological experience accompanying a testimony to a false prophet and other gods whom God has commanded His people not to follow. To do so is to take your fate upon yourself.

proper-application-of-the-moroni-10-challengeNOTES:
1 Jerry Benson, “The Mormon Testimony: ‘I Testify to You…’.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 My LdS Brother – who had been “prepped” by my Mormon Uncle – felt the infamous “burning in the bosom while my other brother – who had not been prepped by my Mormon Uncle – just picked it up and read it. He called it, “Like reading a book about a bunch of Jews on the Planet of the Apes.”
5 Op Cit, Jerry Benson.
6 And subsequent Mormon Leaders have further validated this by explicitly acknowledging that the Mormon Church follows another Jesus. Since the Bible is clear that Jesus Christ is God, this Mormon Jesus is also another God.

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages’”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads”, Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7)

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some sub­stance to what they say”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p. 90; )

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(Bernard P. Brockbank, LdS Seventy, “The Living Christ”, Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26; )

MormonTestimonyBasedOnChurch

(This is the Second Edition of this article. The First Edition was originally published on September 26, 2008 on the now defunct Concerned Christians discussion board)

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A caution to transitioning Ex-Mormon Christians
MormonProtest1

“If your true motivation is not simply hatred of Mormonism… then our plea is simple.”

by Jason Wallace, Pastor, Christ Presbyterian Church, Magna, Utah
Former Mormons recognize that religion doesn’t make someone a Christian. Mormonism may say nice things about Jesus, produce a great deal of sincerity, emotion, and activity, but it is a fraud. Mormons may quote the Bible, but they are selective in their use of it, touting what fits their personal preferences, while ignoring the parts that contradict them.

What many former Mormons don’t seem to recognize is that, in leaving Mormonism, many have embraced a faith that is simply another counterfeit of Biblical Christianity. Their religion may also produce great sincerity, emotion, and activity, but it is often just as selective in its use of the Bible. The gospel gets reduced to Ephesians 2:8-9 and a “personal relationship” with Jesus, that is divorced from the rest of the Bible. Like the Mormons, they bitterly resent anyone pointing them to the parts of the Bible that don’t fit their system and demonize those who challenge them to test their religion from God’s Word.

If your true motivation is not simply hatred of Mormonism, but a real love of Jesus Christ and the truth, then our plea is simple – – hear Jesus and His apostles. Jesus said,

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
— Matthew 7:21-23, KJV

Many Mormons claim that James 2 contradicts Paul in Ephesians 2. They see Paul teaching a “cheap grace” of faith without works. Rather than correcting the Mormon’s view of Ephesians 2, many former Mormons have embraced it and simply ignore what James said.

True conversion involves more than forgiveness of sins; it also involves being given a new heart and the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:36). We are not saved by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but the new birth manifests itself in new life (Romans 6) and in good works (Ephesians 2:10). We are not saved by our works, but they are the fruit of the Spirit within converted Christians.

Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount that many will go to the day of judgment, trusting in their religion and thinking they are right with Jesus, only to discover their religion was a fraud with which they not only fooled others, but also themselves. The Apostle Paul warns,

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
— 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, KJV

"True conversion involves more than forgiveness of sins; it also involves being given a new heart ..."

“True conversion involves more than forgiveness of sins; it also involves being given a new heart …”

Many former Mormons love to quote Paul saying we are no longer under law, but under grace. They use this passage as a club to bludgeon anyone who points out the totality of what Paul said. Jesus said that He never knew those who call Him Lord, but practice iniquity. Just as someone can say they love God and hate their brother (1 John 2:9), people can say they love God and practice iniquity, but both are lies. The Apostle John writes,

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.”
— 1 John 2:3-5, KJV

Over and over, Jesus makes clear that the new birth involves more than mouthing the words to a prayer.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
— Matthew 6:14-15, KJV

“But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
— Matthew 10:33-39, KJV

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
— Matthew 18:15-17, KJV

Mormons can weep as they relate the burning in their bosom and other spiritual experiences, but the Bible shows that they are deceived and worshiping a false god and proclaiming a false gospel. Anti-Mormons can gush as they relate their spiritual experiences, but unless they line up with God’s Word, they are just another fraud.

Having been burned with the legalism and organizational oppression of Mormonism, many former Mormons have embraced a cheap grace that requires them to hear no church anywhere. They do not have to seek reconciliation with other believers (Matthew 18:15-17), and they submit to no elders (Hebrews 13:17).

“Many former Mormons have embraced a cheap grace that requires them to hear no church anywhere.”
Exhibit A: Ex-Mormon Shawn McCraney’s “Christian Anarchist” teachings.

These are not optional matters. Believers in the first century were baptized into a visible church, with real elders (Titus 1). It can be hard to overcome past abuse, but we are not given the option. Jesus asks,

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
— Luke 6:46, KJV

If you refuse to hear the church, Christians are commanded to treat you as an unbeliever; we are to pray for you and be kind to you, but we are to call you to repentance and true faith. Those who pick and choose what they like from the Bible are not Christians. The Apostle John said,

“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:”
— 1 John 1:6, KJV

You may have left Mormonism, with its tithing, temples, and rules, but unless you embrace the Biblical gospel, you’ve simply repackaged the same false gospel in a more palatable form. There is a gospel that involves more than mouthing the words to a prayer and living like the world. It is not a gospel of grace plus works, but a grace that transforms – – the Biblical gospel of a real new birth, with a new heart and the giving of the Holy Spirit. We call you to the gospel in which Jesus nails not only our sinful record, but our stony heart and poisonous life to the cross – – a gospel in which we have his perfect record, loving heart, and Holy Spirit given to sinners like us.

When King Josiah heard the Word of God that had been neglected, he rent his clothes and repented (2 Kings 22). The answer to Phariseeism is not becoming a Saducee, but a Christian. Is the real problem with Mormonism its idolatry or just how it treated you? Will you substitute the Jesus of Joseph Smith with the real Jesus of the Bible, or just a counterfeit of your own imagination? Will you come to Jesus on His terms, or will you hear on the day of judgment, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”?

The-Lone-Ranger_EDITED

“Will you substitute the Jesus of Joseph Smith with the real Jesus of the Bible, or just a counterfeit of your own imagination?”

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fric-et-foi

Dr. Gene “God’s Angry Man” Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One monotheistic God.

Did this God manifest Himself in spirit?

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

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

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

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

Episode 393 White Board_edited

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

Jesus said it plainly to Philip:

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all really no more complicated than this:

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

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

Stupid men who want formulae, who love control.”
(the above transcription is from the official Heart of the Matter website)

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

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

DrGeneScottWhiteboard

A classic busy Gene Scott marker board.

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

And I was wrong, dead wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am certainly of the later form.

But Love and I had the wit to win, and

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

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

hqdefault

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

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

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

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

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McCraneyism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Wallace, “McCraney-ism”, March 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same moth, new flame.

Same moth, new flame.

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

[4] Op cit, Anson, “Dear Michelle”

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

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney in a Heart of the Matter broadcast from 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

“The Fire of God”, Artist and location unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pentecost CORRECTED

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

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

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research

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

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

a_logo© 2015 Institute for Religious Research. All rights reserved

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

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McCraney-ismby Jason Wallace
Many former Mormons have escaped the institution, but not the mindset of Mormonism. All their lives, they have been fed stories of how bad other churches are. Protestant pastors have been caricatured at the Mormon Miracle Pageant and in endless stories they have heard from their youth. After years of being told all other churches are wrong, many LDS simply add Mormonism to the list of false churches and embrace atheism. They abandon the claims of the LDS church to truth, but they blindly accept all its criticisms of the Bible and other churches as true. They breathe out contempt for Christianity with the old fervor of Brigham Young and Parley Pratt.

Though the vast majority of those who abandon Mormonism try to convince themselves there is no God, some recognize that they cannot escape His reality. They see the foolishness of an atheism that pretends to find meaning and value in a world devoid of purpose. They instead read the Bible and see an explanation for the world before them. Man is capable of greatness and perversity – – Bach and Hitler, DaVinci and Stalin. They discover that the world was created good, but it has been corrupted through sin.

In that same Bible, they find the one who has come to undo the Fall of man and reconcile sinful men to a holy God – – Jesus Christ. They hear His words and recognize their truth. The problem is that all too often, they do not recognize that they still carry with them the prejudices that were inculcated in them from youth. They view the Bible, Jesus, and His church through “Mormon glasses.” It is into this confusion that Shawn McCraney has stepped. He has been the instrument of helping many people see the errors of Mormonism, but in its place he is teaching a Jesus who plays to these prejudices, but is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney

Shawn McCraney is a passionate and charismatic man. These traits led to him being thrust into public ministry with very little experience. He has publicly stated that he had only attended five Evangelical worship services in his life before being offered an Evangelical television ministry. He had never even been baptized outside the Mormon church. Evangelicalism’s fascination with “star converts” pushed Shawn into the spotlight without proper preparation. His denunciations of Mormonism and promotion of a vague “personal relationship” with Jesus was considered orthodox enough for his promoters.

Over time, Shawn’s theology has become more clear and more developed. He claims all churches are wrong and all their creeds are “heinous.” He claims that the church has been blinded by “the physical” for 1800 years, but now he is helping usher in a new “spiritual” understanding of Christianity. He denounces churches as trying to insert themselves between the believer and God, and denounces pastors as motivated by pride and greed, while being blinded to the Spirit by their “scholarship.”

Despite Shawn’s rejection of many of the trappings of Mormonism, he has kept much of what made it popular in its founding. The early LDS made people feel pious in their contempt of educated pastors. Instead of “theology,” the LDS claimed to offer direct, personal experiences of God. Christianity was presented as a dark chaos of conflicting opinions. Something new was needed that would unite everyone. The Bible was appealed to, but was subject to what they considered the direct witness of the Spirit. This allowed them to ignore what they wanted from the Bible, while using it to attack their critics. In place of “doctrines of men,” the Mormons offered a vague, personal spirituality and a community that did not make the traditional demands upon them. Over time, Mormonism’s demands became much higher, but they were not so high in the beginning.

Many former LDS have a great personal loyalty to Shawn, because he is the one who opened their eyes to the errors of Mormonism. He offers them acceptance and community when they have lost both from the LDS. This loyalty leads them to ignore the hypocrisy of Shawn denouncing others in the harshest terms, but then playing the victim when someone responds. No one was trying to force Shawn to use the term “Trinity.” He took it upon himself to go on television and denounce the doctrine as “heinous” and “garbage.” He claimed it was rooted in “polytheistic paganism.” When I responded by saying that Shawn was teaching “grave error,” Shawn claimed I would kill him if I could and I would burn him at the stake. None of this was true. Rather than admitting that he had attacked the concept of the Trinity, Shawn tried to claim the whole issue was over “the use of an unbiblical term.” Just as the LDS claim never to attack anyone, many of Shawn’s followers see any response to his charges as “attacking Shawn.”

Shawn McCraney on the set of his Heart of the Matter television show.

Shawn McCraney on the set of his Heart of the Matter television show.

I named this review “McCraney-ism” because Shawn seeks to dismiss everyone who has gone before him as holding to an “-ism” or being an “-ist.” He, on the other hand, rejects all labels. This allows him to savage others’ beliefs, but then claim he is only attacking the “-ism.” When someone challenges his public teachings, he claims they are attacking “his person.” The reality is that Shawn is promoting a system of doctrine, an “-ism,” as much as anyone else.

Shawn has repeatedly tried to hang the label of Calvinist on me. I hold to the doctrines of grace held by Calvin, Luther, and all the Protestant reformers, but I have been hesitant to embrace what Shawn has described as “Calvinism.” He said of the doctrine that he has “not seen a bigger pile of garbage since the King Follett Discourse.” He says “Mormons and Biblical Christians” are united in their rejection of Calvinism’s “insane doctrine.”

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).

Shawn dismisses everyone else’s interpretation of the Bible as the “doctrines of men,” while he is just “sharing” what he sees. This plays to the prejudices of former Mormons and others who feel burned by “traditional” churches, but it is misleading. In a recent episode, Shawn asked, “. . . who do I think I am that I could actually spit in the wind of 1800 years plus of religious tradition and biblical scholars and learned men and women and suggest that they have been misled in the way they have applied the Bible to doing Christian life? I don’t know who I am when it comes to this. I might be crazy. I might be a fool. I might be inspired. I’m not sure. But I can say this is how it comes together for me. This is how when I sit down and read it, this is what speaks to me, and I’m going to be true to that. If I’m crazy, discover that and don’t listen to me, If I’m wrong in spots, you can call me out on it and go on and love me, or you can choose to fight it. But just understand I pray to God that it’s from Him and not Satan, who gives me the perspectives, and sometimes I don’t know . . .” This is disarming on the surface, but if heaven and hell are at stake, would he still be teaching others if he wasn’t convinced what he was saying was true? Shawn claims he’s “wrong 90% of the time,” but that doesn’t stop him from denouncing what the Bible teaches and demonizing churches and pastors. It also doesn’t stop him from demonizing the attempts of his critics to specify those errors.

CAMPUS member Jed on his soapbox.

“Do you love me?” Shawnite Jed stirring the post at the February 3rd, 2015 debate between Jason Wallace and Shawn McCraney.

Shawn claims all his critics care about is doctrine, but he cares about love and people. When I appeared on Heart of the Matter, one of his group asked “how many of you here love me,” I didn’t raise my hand. Since the immediate context was Shawn asking if I counted him as a Christian brother, I understood the question in that context and did not raise my hand since I did not really know the man. This was immediately interpreted in the worst possible light and Shawn later claimed that I choose not to love people. He says he thinks it’s unbiblical, but he “respects” my right to do so. I have tried to make clear that I love my neighbors and even my enemies, but I do not love them in the same way I love those of the household of faith. Love is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling for all people everywhere. I show love even to those who mock everything I stand for, including Shawn. I tried to correct him privately over 7 years ago. I have prayed for him for years. I have repeatedly tried to respond fairly and in love to Shawn’s denunciations. I have tried to speak the truth in love, but all that some of his group can see is hate when any criticisms are offered. Their own hatred of their critics seems to escape them.

What makes others’ interpretation of the Bible better than Shawn’s? The Bible is not unclear, and Shawn stands against the united witness of nearly 2,000 years of Christians on basic issues. Many of these Christians, unlike Shawn, could read the Bible in its original languages. These Christians also allow the Bible to interpret the Bible; they don’t impose a meaning on the texts that allows them to ignore passages that contradict them. They don’t let their conception of the love of God trump clear teachings about the wrath of God. Shawn seems to realize the Bible does not really support some of his new teachings, so he is attacking the inerrancy of the Bible as “crazy.” He is pitting the subjective testimony of the Spirit in you against the objective witness in the Bible. For those who recognized that a burning in their bosom was no assurance of truth, this should be troubling. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Scriptures and cannot contradict them.

Rob Bowman lecturing on the February 25, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast

Theologian  Rob Bowman flew to Utah at his own expense in an attempt to help Shawn McCraney turn from the heresy he was starting to teach in early 2014.

Why does all this matter? First, Shawn is presenting a different Jesus. He has stated that the Lake of Fire is in the presence of Jesus, so unless Jesus has some sadistic pleasure in torturing people, sinners must be ultimately reconciled to Him. He ignores that in Revelation 14, those who receive the Mark of the Beast are tormented “in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.” Shawn says he will not follow a God who creates people He knows are going to an eternal Hell. Since this is the only God seen in Scripture by Calvinists, Arminians, Catholics, Orthodox, and practically everyone in church history, this should be seen as a problem. Shawn has taken the truth that God is love and used it to undermine anything that does not fit his idea of love.

The Jesus that Shawn presents is also a failure. His Holy Spirit apparently failed to lead the church into truth until now. His Second Coming in 70 A.D. (according to Shawn) failed to end the curse or to crush the head of the serpent. Shawn leaves open a “third coming,” but says there’s nothing about it in the Bible. Shawn’s Jesus also fails to resurrect our physical bodies, which makes Acts 17 and 1 Corinthians 15 nonsensical.

Second, Shawn is giving false assurance to unbelievers. He tells them if they have a “personal relationship” with Jesus they’re right with Him, and if they’re wrong, Hell is only temporary. Jesus does offer us a personal relationship, but He also warns us of those who draw near to Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. Shawn does not answer the warnings in 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5 of those who profess faith but exhibit sins that show their hearts are unchanged. Jesus indwells His people. They are not free from sin in this life, but there are sins from which they are freed. Shawn uses James 2:10 to dismiss the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 6 and Galatians 5. All sins are worthy of Hell, but there are sins, such as the continued practice of homosexuality, that demonstrate someone has been given over by God to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:24).

Shawn McCraney and Utah Pastor, Jason Wallace at Inquisition 2014.

Shawn McCraney and Utah Pastor, Jason Wallace at Inquisition 2014.

Finally, Shawn is robbing Christians of the means God has appointed for their edification. There are churches out there that are no better than the Mormon church, but that does not mean there are none who tremble at God’s Word. As Joseph Smith before him, Shawn tends to paint all churches with the same brush to confuse and frustrate people, so that he can offer an alternative. He plays on the divisions to make people give up on the idea of finding a true church. The irony is that most of these divisions are the work of others like him.

We need more than the community Shawn offers. Shawn says no one can tell someone else they are in sin, because if we’re going to talk righteousness, “you damn well better be righteous.” This is not what Jesus commanded. He established a visible church and said if a professing Christian would not hear it, they were to treated as “a heathen and a tax collector.” This does not mean they are hated, but that they are prayed for and called to repentance. Our Lord, through the Apostle Paul, commands his church to judge a man who married his father’s wife and not to eat with him as a brother in Christ. This was an expression of love that Shawn rejects, and it led to his repentance and restoration.

Many former Mormons tend to view any accountability in the context of how they have been abused. Biblical elders are commanded not to lord themselves over the congregation; they are to be the servants of all. They are warned they will have to give account to God (Hebrews 13:17) for having kept watch over His people.

The Apostle Paul called out Hymenaeus, Alexander the Coppersmith, and a host of others by name for their errors. Shawn is presenting a different Jesus and a different gospel. My plea to you is to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and search the Scriptures for yourself. Brigham Young made the invitation, because he knew most people wouldn’t really test what he was telling them. I plead with you to read the Bible for yourself.

It is not enough to be against Mormonism. It is not enough to substitute new lies for old. It is not enough to claim a personal relationship with Jesus while refusing to do the most basic things he tells us. In the pages of God’s Word, you will find the truths rejected by Joseph Smith and Shawn McCraney, but embraced by countless saints who sealed their faith with their blood. You will find a Jesus far more glorious, and a gospel far more awesome. You will find the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

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About the Author
Jason Wallace is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Magna, Utah. He is also the host of “The Ancient Paths” television program.

(This article was originally published on the GospelUtah.org website. It has been republished here with their permission)

BACK TO TOP

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.

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