A Logical Refutation of Branham’s Message is a book authored by Nathan Rivera which seeks to demonstrate what the author believes are key flaws and issues in the teachings of William Branham. Rivera seems to be a pen name, as we have been unable to find evidence for such a person in the Branham movement. This article is a chapter-by-chapter rebuttal to Rivera’s central arguments.
Fear is the name of the game
In the first chapter of his book, Rivera puts forward an argument that one of the key reasons people believe Bro. Branham’s teachings, or continue to believe them, is because of fear. Specifically, a fear of going to Hell if you do not believe the teachings of Bro. Branham.
This argument is flawed from the start, because Bro. Branham himself taught and made clear that people who did not believe his message could still be saved and be part of the heavenly kingdom. Bro. Branham gave a vision of the Apple and Plum tree early in his ministry where he explained his belief that believers of both the Trinity and Oneness doctrines of the Godhead would be saved – Bro. Branham himself did not accept either of their doctrines of the Godhead.
And now, did you notice, there’s many trinitarian people setting here; there’s many oneness, and there’s many different ones. But how little you would be to fuss about it, because if that part of the vision was true, the other part’s true too. Both fruits was found in the cross. See? Both of them was in the cross, all clustered together, and both plums and pear–or peach, plums and apples rained down on me there: both of them. All found in the cross, because they all believed in God and are filled with the Holy Ghost, and have the Christian works and signs following.
William Branham, Present Stage of My Ministry, September 8, 1962
Bro. Branham even believed that people of other denominations could also be saved without accepting his message and he elaborated on this point in multiple sermons including Questions And Answers #2 (54-0103E) and
Questions And Answers # 1 (64-0823M)
Thus, we can conclude that Rivera’s basic premise in this chapter is incorrect. Failing to accept the teachings of William Branham will not lead directly to Hell; Bro. Branham himself taught it would not. A rejection of Christ and his saving grace, on the other hand, will lead to Hell.
Psychological Barriers that Get in the Way
In the second chapter of Rivera’s book, he explains using the science of Psychological why a believer of any religion finds it difficult to leave their beliefs behind and accept why their core beliefs are faulty or false. He does this by explaining what cognitive dissonance is. In his key argument, he compares being told your religion is false to being told that your father is a murderer. He explains how such a person searches for every possible way to disprove the person making the allegation, even if presented with overwhelming evidence that their father was indeed a murderer.
It is safe to say that a majority of people in the world would find offensive the concept that being told their religion is false is comparable to being told their father is a murderer.
This chapter does not offer any clear reason to reject Bro. Branham and his teachings, it merely demonstrates scientifically why people can find it difficult to change their belief system. Needless to say, these are non-Christian concepts and we reject them as a matter of faith. We believe God has given to every man free will to choose freely what they believe.
In our experience, a majority of the people born and raised in the teachings of William Branham abandon them after reaching adulthood. In fact, the majority of the leading critics against Bro. Branham are such people, which seemingly demonstrates the fallacy of this argument.
There was no cloud on sunset mountain
See also Mystery Cloud
In this chapter, Rivera attempts to prove that Bro. Branham did not actually see a cloud or have an experience on Sunset Mountain on March 8, 1963. He relies primarily on media reports and the account of Dr. McDonald of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who researched a cloud which appeared on February 28, 1963.
We have refuted the claims concerning the cloud in another article. In this article we will deal only with the fallacy of Rivera’s arguments.
He uses the media reports concerning the cloud as the basis of an argument to say that Bro. Branham’s teachings on Seven Seals of Revelation chapter 6 in March 1963 were a fraud. These teachings are of a great importance to Bro. Branham’s followers, and to demonstrate they are false would indeed be a critical blow to his followers.
Rivera’s arguments are faulty though on one key point. Bro. Branham did not rely on the appearance of the cloud or the Life Magazine article to prove his sermons were divinely inspired when he preached them. Instead he relied on a vision he had four months earlier, and a variety of other supernatural events he had experienced.
In June 1963, three months after he had ministered the message, Bro. Branham first became aware of the publication of pictures of the February 28 cloud. It was at that time he showed the pictures to his congregation and linked the cloud to the constellation of angels he saw. So only three months after he had preached his sermons did the image of the cloud first come into the picture. His sermons had already been accepted based on the evidence he had already given and the eyewitness accounts of the men with him when they occurred. The sermons were accepted before anyone even knew the cloud existed. So “proving” that the cloud in the magazine is not the same cloud he saw in March does not disprove the truth of Bro. Branham’s supernatural experience, nor is it directly related to the content of his sermon on the Seven Seals.
Rivera states “without the cloud there really is no Message”. This is completely incorrect. Bro. Branham had been preaching for over thirty years before the cloud. Rivera is drastically overstating the important of the cloud. The editors of this website concede, there are some sects of the Branham movement which place extreme emphasis on the cloud, but most do not. We suspect Rivera is actually from one of the sects that placed a critical emphasis on the cloud. For most of the Branham movement, it is viewed as one of multiple supernatural confirmations of the 1963 sermons preached on the Seven Seals by Bro. Branham.
Core Teachings of the Message Are Borrowed from Clarence Larkin
In his fourth chapter, Rivera argues that elements of Bro. Branham’s teachings are “plagarized” from the Rev. Claren Larkin. Rivera states that Bro. Branham “borrowed Larkin’s ideas, and in many cases mutilated the original ideas into his own versions.”
At first Rivera seems to have never been aware that Bro. Branham had openly told his audiences that he indeed read from Larkin’s materials and incorporated portions into this own messages. But he quotes Bro. Branham’s statements regarding Larkin in his book, so this leads us to believe he is just being dishonest in his allegations. Rather than “mutilating”, Bro. Branham adapted some of Larkin’s teachings. Larkin is not the only author Bro. Branham also read and adapted elements of their teachings. Uriah Smith was also a major influence on Bro. Branham’s eschatological teachings.
Bro. Branham credited Larkin multiple times. Here is one example:
I’m very grateful to Dr. Larkin of his views. I’m grateful to all these great scholars for their views on this. And in reading them, it enlightens me much that I can find places that looks right. But to get the views that I–I thought that I would like to explain.SEVENTY.WEEKS.OF.DANIEL JEFF.IN DA 89-141 61-0806
This chapter presents nothing controversial. Bro. Branham incorporated the teachings of many men, John Wesley, Charles Parham, Martin Luther, and many, many other prominent ministers. To suggest that there is something uniquely wrong by adopting the teachings of Clarence Larkin is nonsensical. Larkin’s dispenstional teachings, particular on the Week of Daniel, have broad acceptance in Charisimatic Christianity.
Branham Was Extremely Unreliable and Error-prone
In this chapter Rivera goes through a variety of opinions of Bro. Branham, many of which are are incorrect and indefensible. They generally revolve around Bro. Branham’s lack of education and limited knowledge of science and history. Bro. Branham did believe he was stating facts with some of the assertions, but ultimately none of the statements have any doctrinal value or impact to the way his teachings are interpreted. They can each easily be treated as parables and the moral of his teaching still understood.
Is this any different than the story told by Jotham in the book of Judges 9:7-15? Jotham explains how the trees held a council and decided which tree they would appoint as their king. We clearly understand this did not actually happen, but from it we can draw out the moral of the story to have understanding.
Rivera only undertakes to debunk one of Bro. Branham’s actual doctrinal teachings in this chapter. We have written a doctrinal defense of the Serpent Seed in another article which can be read in detail. In reading Rivera’s interpretation of Bro. Branham’s teaching on Serpent Seed, we have to wonder if he ever actually heard or understood what Bro. Branham said on the topic. He is clearly taking out of context statements and misrepresenting Bro. Branham.
The Dark Side of the Message
In this chapter, Rivera begins by examining and twisting the sermon Bro. Branham preached entitled Marriage and Divorce. In the sermon, Bro. Branham offered his viewpoints on women who lived immoral sexual lifestyles. Bro. Branham condemned this in very harsh terms. Rivera makes the mistake of taking Bro. Branham’s condemnation of immoral women and saying Bro. Branham was condemning all women. Of course, in the modern world a large percentage of women do live sexually immoral lifestyles (as to do many men). So to many, this distinction is irrelevant. We are left to assume that Rivera does not believe sexual immorality is a sin to be concerned about. If he does, he does say so in his condemnation of Bro. Branham for speaking against it.
In a second section, Rivera attacks Bro. Branham’s teachings on predestination and eternal security. He again seems to not actually know or understand Bro. Branham’s teachings and is making a straw man argument by arguing against a twisted version of the teaching he himself has concocted. We offer a detailed explanation and defense of Bro. Branham’s teachings on this subject in another article.
Rivera ends the chapter with an attack on Bro. Branham’s belief that Christians should live an ascetic and holy lifestyle. Contrary to Rivera’s claims, Bro. Branham never forced this type of a lifestyle on his followers, but he did encourage them to follow it. Rivera seems to look at Bro. Branham’s teachings completely outside of the prism of historical context. Bro. Branham’s views on living a holy lifestyle had very broad acceptance among American Christianity starting in the post-American Civil War era. Wesleyan style holiness and asceticism was widely adopted by the Wesleyan influenced movements like the Nazarene, Wesleyan, Methodist, and Pentecostal movements. Bro. Branham’s teachings are in keeping with the historic teachings on the subject.
As a result, Rivera goes on to compare message churches to North Korea, which is incredibly offensive and untrue. In North Korea people are prisoners who are tortured and killed for refusing to obey their government. Message believers are free to leave, just as Rivera did. He is still alive, so apparently Message churches are not quite as much like North Korea as he claims. Ultimately in this chapter, it begins to become apparent that Rivera simply disagrees with the lifestyle message believers choose to live. Like other critics, it make us wonder if he attacking Bro. Branham because he was disfellowshiped for his own immorality.
A Final Word; and What to Expect from Believers
In the final chapter of his book, Rivera reveals the root of mistaken logic he has been following throughout the book.
The question has been asked over and over again: why do people believe in the Message? And for some of us who were conditioned since birth to believe it, why do we continue to cling to it into adulthood? What’s the coercive factor behind the extraordinary following the Message enjoys despite the numerous contradictions and additions to the Bible and reality the prophet taught? The answer to this question is simple and open for all to see: it‘s because of the supernatural events surrounding the prophet’s entire life. If William Branham was an ordinary preacher with no powers to do anything extraordinary, he would’ve have been dismissed a long time ago by the small number of people who would’ve heard him preach because he most likely wouldn’t even have been heard of beyond his locality.Nathan Rivera
While it is true that miracles drew a great many people, for most of us, it is the marvelous understanding of the bible he taught to us which has held our attraction. If you are going to talk us out of what believe, you will have be able to tear apart our doctrinal beliefs. This is something Rivera has utterly failed to do in his book.