Branhamism (William M. Branham)

A movement centered around the controversial teachings of a mid-20th century faith healer, deemed a blend of divine revelation and esoteric doctrine.

William Marrion Branham, born in 1909 in Burkesville, Kentucky, emerged as a significant figure in the post-World War II healing revival, positioning himself as a prophet akin to Elijah, destined to herald Christ’s second coming. Branham’s teachings, later termed Branhamism by observers, diverged notably from mainstream Pentecostal and Charismatic thought, incorporating elements of Calvinist and Arminian doctrines, a unique interpretation of dispensationalism, and Branham’s own eschatological beliefs. His acceptance of the restoration doctrine was evident during the healing revival. However, post-revival, his teachings took controversial turns, including racial theories like the serpent seed and anti-denominational stances, which likened church membership to bearing the mark of the beast. Despite facing accusations of fraud, embellishing stories for his audience, and legal troubles, including tax evasion, Branham’s ministry reported significant conversions, claiming over one million conversions throughout his career. Branham’s life was marked by early mystical experiences and a stringent adherence to moral codes he claimed were divinely imposed. Despite his early life of poverty and later legal and financial challenges, Branham developed a significant following, with his sermons considered oral scripture by his most ardent supporters, forming a cult of personality around him until his death in 1965 following a car accident​​.

Branhamism is recognized for its adherence to the teachings of William Branham, who followers claim was the last prophet in fulfillment of Malachi 4:5. Branham’s ministry, starting in 1946, was characterized by his role as a faith healer, his claims of receiving divine visions and revelations, and the controversial doctrines he introduced over time. His teachings have been linked to the Latter Rain Movement, which he influenced significantly. Branham taught against denominationalism, asserting that those within traditional church denominations bore the mark of the beast. Branhamites, or Message Believers as they prefer to be called, continue to disseminate his teachings, which include distinctive doctrines like modalism, baptism in Jesus’ name only, the serpent seed doctrine, annihilationism, and an unusual emphasis on Branham’s prophetic role in the end times. Branham’s death in 1965 led some followers to anticipate his resurrection, a belief that has since evolved among various groups that adhere to his teachings in different ways, ranging from those who equate Branham with Christ to those who view his recorded messages as their sole spiritual instruction​​.

Branhamism, though a term not favored by its adherents, outlines a complex belief system that interweaves Branham’s personal revelations with a critical view of established Christian doctrine. It underscores a movement that, despite or because of its controversies, has maintained a presence in the religious landscape, reflective of its founder’s profound impact on his followers and critics alike​​.

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