A common allegation against Bro. William Branham is that he was a woman hater. Critics support their argument by pointing to his support of the doctrine of Outward Holiness and by misinterpreting some statements he made during a sermon on marriage and divorce. In this article we want to examine Bro. Branham’s statements and the context as it related to the era in which he lived.
Bro. Branham was a minister who rose to prominence beginning in the 1940s among Pentecostal Christianity. American society was significantly different in that time than in modern times. Pentecostal Christianity, along with all the churches of the Wesleyan tradition, held and taught the doctrine of Outward Holiness. The moral code associated with Outward Holiness was two centuries old at the time of Bro. Branham and originated in the teachings of John Wesley. The essence of the teaching, is that true believers who had inwardly received Christian Perfection should allow that perfection to be manifested through Outward Holiness. This outward manifestation included taking care to present themselves in a moral, modest and humble way. Care was to be taken to avoid appearing immodest, flashy, or to try and draw attention to oneself through appearance.
In modern times, this moral code associated with Outward Holiness has been largely abandoned by much of Christianity, including many churches who once embraced it. Those who reject it do so claiming it is a form of legalism, stating salvation is by grace through faith alone. While salvation truly is by faith alone, the bible clearly teaches that after receiving salvation, the Lord will sanctify the life of believers through the application of his Word. By receiving and living according to his Word, a believer can be sanctified. John Wesley called this the “second work of grace”. It was not something done by a believer to obtain salvation. Instead, it was another gift given by God to a believer to allow them to live a pure life. He believed when this second work of grace was completed in the life of a believer, they could live a life of Christian Perfection, wherein all of their actions were motivated only by the love of God. The editors of this website are firm believers in this doctrine, as it is scripturally sound, and can be found within the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.
For readers unfamiliar with this teaching, we have included a video of John Wesley’s famous sermon on Christian Perfection. A second sermon by Wesley, entitled “Holiness is not Legalism” can be read here.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a photo to show how Bro. Branham and his family implemented their belief of Outward Holiness.
Not all followers of Bro. Branham’s teachings implement Outward Holiness in the same manner in which Bro. Branham did so in his own family.
Sexual Revolution Reactionary
A key tenant of Outward Holiness is that a person should present themselves modestly and in a manner consistent with the modesty for the society the person lives in. In the days of Bro. Branham, the style of women’s clothing began to change radically. Pants, which had been almost exclusively a masculine garment for 2500 years, began to be worn more frequently by women. Women’s hairstyles also began to change dramatically, with increasing numbers of women beginning to wear hairstyles that were not historically feminine. Women also began to present themselves in increasingly sexualized attire, like mini skirts, short-shorts, halter tops, and the like.
These types of styles (along with other new styles also being taken up by men) were entirely antithetical to the doctrine of Outward Holiness. Such styles caused people to stand out because of the novelty of the their style at the time. Much of polite society at first reviled the changing styles as a form of rebellion. Rebellion was exactly what it was. Ultimately, this was the start of the sexual revolution that became very prominent in the years after Bro. Branham died.
Bro. Branham spoke harshly against people, both men and women, who were taking part in the dramatic rebellion against historic norms. His statements and sentiments were echoed by a large part of Christianity at the time, and he was not out of the mainstream in his views at the time (1940-1950s). In fact, his statements on the topic were representative of broad Christian public consensus on the topic. Men like Billy Graham and Oral Roberts lived through the period of the sexual revolution and modified their views after the sexual revolution changed western culture. Bro. Branham, however, died just as the sexual revolution began.
John Wesley’s teachings of Outward Holiness, as well the biblical teaching of the apostles, had an important component. The standard of moral, modest, humble style was defined by the society in which the believers lived. In other words, the expression of Outward Holiness was variable, not static. Long hair in western society is different than long hair in Polynesian society. Modesty in Chinese society is different than modesty in Libyan society. Bro. Branham understood this, and his views on how to implement outward holiness varied based on the society of the believers. Likewise , he would have modified his views on how to implement outward holiness in western society over time had he lived longer, just like his contemporaries did, and just like the views have moderated among most of those who continue to follow his teachings.
Woman Hater or Immorality Hater?
Bro. Branham did not hate women, he hated immorality. It is important to review his statements in full, because those who allege he hated women usually ignore that he qualified his denunciations by stating it was immoral women, or those involved in the sexual revolution he was targeting with his comments. They do him a disservice by not providing his full quote, and edit out the context. Bro. Branham also condemned wicked and immoral men in the same harsh terms he used to condemned wicked women. Dishonest critics leave out this critical piece of knowledge which would let their readers knows immorality was what Bro. Branham hated.
Bro. Branham believed that people who refused to accept the saving grace of Jesus, and refused to live according to gospel, were in danger of going to Hell or punishment from God. Therefore he viewed discouraging wicked behavior in harsh terms as a deterrent which may preserve someone from destruction. When viewed from that perspective, it can be seen that Bro. Branham’s statements were motivated by love, care, and compassion for people.
Metaphors taken out of context
Of the thousands of sermon’s spoken by Bro. Branham during his 32-year ministry, only three contain statements which critics use to allege he was encouraging spousal abuse or physical violence against women. Critics ignore the far more numerous sermons in which he encouraged happiness in marriage, peaceful homes, treating wives like queens, and honoring women.
Poorly worded metaphors like the ones Bro. Branham used are common in society. Metaphors like “circular firing squad” or “powder keg” do not denote actual bombs or guns, but social situations. A “smackdown” does not mean a physical beating. Someone who says they are “starving” usually just mean they are very hungry. Similiarly, when Bro. Branham says he’d like to “take a two-by-four” to an immoral woman, he is expressing a metaphor and not issuing a command to beat immoral women. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.” Bro. Branham never took such a judgement of the wicked into his own hands.
Bro. Branham was not encouraging spousal abuse. His statements were metaphorical to communicate the seriousness of the sin. Bro. Branham practiced equal opportunity in preaching against the immoral behaviors of both men and women, and taught that all wicked people would perish in Hell.