Are Message believers Christians? Can an ex-Message believer who rejects the Trinity be a Christian? Can a Christian reject the Trinity? These are important questions. They lie at the heart of who is part of the Body of Christ. After all, those who have repented of their sins and put their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins have the most personal relationship with God that is possible. A Christian knows God (John 17:3).
There is such thing as essential Christian doctrine. That is doctrine that one must believe in order to be a Christian. That includes the fact that God is one God, that Jesus died for our sins, and that one can only be saved through faith in Jesus’ work and not our own.
Then there is something else we call secondary essential doctrine. It is doctrine that is just as essential to Christianity as the primary essential doctrines. However, one can be saved without having a clear understanding of secondary essential doctrines. Such a doctrine is the Trinity. A person can be saved after hearing the gospel and not understand that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity. Such was the case with the thief on the cross.
So, can a Message believer who believes that Jesus died for his sins, yet doesn’t believe in the Trinity, be a Christian? Should we consider him a fellow believer? That depends. Although a person cannot be saved without a clear understanding of essential Christian doctrine, he could be saved without a clear understanding of a secondary essential Christian doctrine like the Trinity. However, once a person has professed their faith in Jesus, if he is taught about the Triune nature of God and continues to reject the Trinity (rejection of the Trinity is an integral part of William Branham's Message), then that shows that he probably was not saved, and should therefore not be considered a Christian. A saving relationship with God includes an understanding of who the Father is, who the Son is, and who the Holy Spirit is. In other words, one can be saved without understanding the Triune nature of God, but one should not be considered a fellow believer in Christ if such a person continues to reject the doctrine of the Trinity after learning about it. That is why Message believers are not to be considered fellow believers. That is why those who leave the Message yet continue to reject the Trinity should also be considered non-Christian. It isn’t enough to convince a Message believer that he is in a cult and needs to leave WMB’s false system. They need to be evangelized and taught about the true gospel, the Deity of the man, Jesus Christ, and the ultimate revelation of the Triune nature of God.
This topic has gotten me into a bit of trouble with many ex-Message believers (exMBs). A few close friends at our forum have distanced themselves from me because of the stance I have taken in defense of the Trinity doctrine being a defining element of what it means to be a Christian. Christians who hold to orthodox biblical teaching have no problem identifying the Jehovah’s Witnesses (who reject the Deity of Jesus Christ) as non-Christian. We have no problem identifying Mormons (who believe in the Deity of Jesus, yet also believe in a plurality of gods) as being non-Christian. Things get a bit touchier when we talk about Oneness Pentecostals (who believe in the Deity of Jesus, yet fail to make the distinction between Him and the persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit) presumably because of their similarity to Trinitarian Pentecostals in other areas of otherwise orthodox teaching. Should we consider Oneness Pentecostals (OP) as Christians? They seem so Christian in many ways, including their belief of the Deity of Jesus. But then again, so do the Mormons. The problem is, OPs don’t know Yahweh for Who He has revealed Himself to His bride, the Church. They reject the revelation of Himself as a Trinity. The Triune nature of God isn’t new. God has always been a Trinity. What is new (as of Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection) is that God has established the most personal relationship possible between Himself and His Church in revealing His Triune nature to us. To reject God for Who He has shown Himself to be is to reject Him for Who He is. That’s why OPs cannot be Christian—they worship the wrong god and reject the True.
Message believers in general hold to the same Unitarian understanding of God as the OPs. They believe that Jesus was a human being whose body God used to reveal Himself through. Although Oneness Pentecostals believe that the man, Jesus, is the person of God in flesh, WMB taught that the man Jesus was a separate person who yielded his body to God’s use during his 3 year ministry. Sometimes He was only a man, at others He was God Himself using the man’s body. In other words, He was only God as long as God was living in and working through His body. Many MBs don't understand that. What they do understand is that WMB taught that the Trinity doctrine was inspired by Satan. They reject the revelation that God is one in Being, yet three in Persons. WMB said that the Trinitarian view, though defining itself as the belief in one God, is in reality the belief in "three gods, or language has lost its meaning entirely."
Some exMBs believe that since MBs have been taught that 3 persons equals three gods, they never received a true understanding of the Trinity doctrine in order to reject it. In other words, they rejected a straw man presentation of God, not the true Trinitarian view. Therefore, they could be non-Trinitarian "Christians" for years and not be held responsible for rejecting the Trinity. However, the problem is that they believe the Trinity doctrine entails the worship of 3 gods even when they know that's not what Trinitarians believe they're doing. William Branham's view of God was deliberately anti-Trinitarian. He made it a point to teach his followers that 3 persons in one God was a satanic. That is a central component of the Message. MBs and exMBs who remain non-Trinitarian are knowingly anti-Trinitarian, which defines them as non-Christian.
Here’s something to think about: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are Christians. Mormons believe they are Christians. Oneness Pentecostals believe they are Christians. And MBs believe they are Christians. Yet all these cults reject God’s biblical revelation of His own ontology (that is, His nature of being). They don’t just believe in God differently than classical Christianity; they believe He is different in His very nature of being. They reject God as a Triune Being in favor of believing in a god that Christians don’t believe in.
So why do I get into so much trouble with so many exMBs when I say that MBs should not be considered Christians? I believe it’s because so many of them thought they were Christians while they were MBs. And even after they left the Message and embraced the Trinity doctrine, they never acknowledged to themselves that they did not believe in the God of Christianity when they were MBs. Therefore, after leaving the Message, they continue to consider MBs as born again believers. They consider exMBs who leave the Message but retain their false view of God as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, even though their Jesus is as unbiblical in nature as the Mormons’ Jesus or the JWs’ Jesus. ExMBs see my stance on orthodox Christian Theology as a personal attack on their own beliefs and the beliefs of so many of their MB and exMB friends and loved ones who continue to reject Trinitarian Theology.
In addition, my exMB friends will accuse me of being a judge of anti-Trinitarians’ hearts in saying that MBs aren’t Christians and that no Christian could be a MB. In a sense, that’s true, but I realize that I am no judge of any individual’s heart. But I can judge their fruit, and if their fruit consists of a continuous denial of the Christian Trinity, I can only assume they are not true Christians, or at least not consider them to be. That isn't to judge their hearts. It's making an assessment of their spiritial identification based on their own testimony of who they say Jesus, the Son of Man, is.
I believe a MB can be saved without a clear understanding of the Trinity doctrine. But a Message believer or exMB who continues to reject the Trinity doctrine should not be considered a fellow believer in Christ simply because they don’t believe in the Jesus of Christianity. My exMB friends may disagree with me on that point, but they are also in disagreement with historical Christianity and the Bible itself.
A well known anti-Message ministry quotes Christian theologian Roger Olson who once said,
“My life experiences… have led me to think that the doctrine of the Trinity, although extremely important as a landmark, if not a pillar, of Christian doctrine, is not essential to being Christian. But I suspect that if I could get any real Christian who claims not to believe in the Trinity alone in a room, one-on-one, for an hour long conversation about the matter I could convert them to belief in it." This is the view that many exMBs hold to. They believe that the Trinity doctrine is expendable in one's personal Christian faith. The doctrine of the Trinity is seen as an optional teaching that one can convince someone else into believing, but isn't necessary to accept in order to be considered a Christian. That view exalts human autonomy and negates God's sovereign will to reveal Himself to whom He pleases (see Matthew 11:27; Matthew 16:17; John 17:3; John 14:26; John 15:26).
(see "Must You Believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity to Be a Christian?")
They don’t believe the Trinity doctrine is revealed truth, but deduced truth based on revealed biblical teaching; that is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each God, and there is only one God. In other words, they might say the Triune nature of God is essential Christian truth, but the knowledge of the Trinity doctrine is not essential to be believed by Christians who cannot accept the notion that three distinct persons can be one God in essence. The problem with that is, if one rejects what God is, they are rejecting who God is.
The bottom line is that God is essentially a Trinity because that is the nature of His very Being. His Triune nature is not debatable and it is not a secondary issue in biblical Christian theology. Persons who deny the Triune nature of God are by definition denying that they believe in the same God as Christians. I did not say persons who don’t yet know about the Triune nature of God cannot be Christians (please excuse the triple negative!). But those who repent and are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ will always come to know God as three Persons in one God because that’s who our God is and God reveals Himself to His own!
Mormonism teaches that Jesus is one god among 3. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is not Divine, but a created being of Jehovah. Oneness Pentecostalism teaches that Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit. William Branham taught that Jesus was a specially created, sinless man in whose body God lived and worked through for a time among mankind.
All four of those perceptions of God are wrong. All four are creations of the human imagination. Yet each of these four Jesuses are worshiped and adored by followers who have been told that their eternal salvation is based on their faith in their Jesus. And with their false Jesuses come their respective false gospels. What does the Bible say about those who follow a different Jesus and a different gospel than has been revealed? Paul said that those who believe in a different Jesus are like Eve who was deceived by the serpent:
“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)He said if one follows a different gospel, he is accursed forever:
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8)What happened to Eve after her deception? Why is Paul so concerned that the Corinthians might follow another Jesus or another gospel than he preached? It’s because a false Jesus does not provide salvation. A false Jesus is like an idol that men have carved based on their own imagination of God. An idol cannot save. It has no power to forgive sins. A false Jesus is as effective in leading people to eternal life as the calf of gold the Israelites made and called Yahweh (see WMB’s golden calf). A false Jesus represents a false gospel.
This is why I and many other Bible believing Christians insist that it’s so important that we do not consider Message believers as fellow believers in Christ. Ironically, even many exMBs acknowledge that WMB’s Jesus wrong and his gospel is false, yet they still consider Message believers born again believers in Jesus Christ. Why? Is it because they feel sorry for them? Is it because they don’t want to offend them? Could it be because they think it’s not important what MBs believe about Jesus as long as they look to Him as their Savior?
There is a reason why the Bible places such an emphasis in knowing who Jesus Christ is. It’s because our eternal destiny depends on it. Jesus Himself said, ““Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) Who was He? He certainly wasn’t one of three gods. And He wasn’t an angel named Michael created by Jehovah. Nor was He God the Father. Or a special sinless man named Jesus who gave His body for God’s use so we could relate to a God with skin on.
Who do Message believers say Jesus is? Without exception, Message believers see Jesus as something other than the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, one of 3 distinct, interrelational Persons in the One True God. Message believers do not believe that. They do not believe that God the Father sent His Divine Son to earth to be born a man so that He could live a totally obedient life, fulfilling the Law of God as a man which no son of Adam could ever do. He, being God, died a death on the cross, being abandoned by the Father to pay for the sins of mankind against an infinitely holy God, something that no created being could do. Message believers do not know that Jesus was the Son of God before the Father gave Him to us as a man in order to earn righteousness by His obedience to the Father which we could not do. God as a man died on the cross for the sins of man because we could not pay the price for our sins. Message believers don’t believe that. Jesus, the God-man, imputed our sins to Himself so He could pay our price. Jesus, the God-man, lived a perfectly obedient life and imputed His man-earned righteousness to the rest of us humans, something we could never do. Message believers don’t believe that.
No, Message believers not only do not believe that, but they intentionally reject the work of the Trinity in the redemption of lost sinners. They reject the fact that God sent His eternal Son to earth as a man by the power of the Holy Spirit so that His Son could redeem sinful man by the power of the Holy Spirit and give the back to the Father as a chosen, holy race of men.
Although the knowledge of the theology of the Trinity is not the gospel, and a Message believer can be saved without knowledge of the Triune nature of God, a Message believer or anyone else who knowingly rejects the Tri-personal, Triune God of Christianity has by definition believed in a different Jesus and a different gospel. That’s why Message believers are not Christians. That’s why we should reach out to them as lost souls rather than embrace them as fellow believers.
Compassion for Message believers and exMBs who continue to reject God as 3 Persons in one Being is not demonstrated by treating them as confused Christians. Compassion for them is shown by reaching out to them as lost sinners for God's glory.
For a good article on this subject, see, “Do you have to believe in the Trinity to be a Christian?” by Matt Slick.