This article has taken an unusually long time to write – even for me, someone who hasn’t updated his supposedly monthly demonology series in nearly 12 months. The reason for my delay being that this is a monstrous topic and I’ve found myself doing way more research than intended and I wanted to include more detail than what has made it in but several rounds of editing has put this thing on a diet.
I was casually reading over facebook one morning before work when I came across a post in a Utah Christian group. The post warned members about a new “McCraney-ite tact” by using a website called checkMyChurch.org to cast doubt on the validity of different congregations. I started looking into the website and obviously if it was associated with Shawn McCraney it was going to be a complete mess. In one of his webcasts, McCraney made an off handed comment about how there should be a website that rates of all congregations as good or bad based on his standards. One of his followers, a woman by the name of Sarah Young took his comment to heart and has started this website that is in question. Young claims to be doing “unbiased and biblical reviews” but it doesn’t take much to find that none of this is true. The framework by which she is rating churches is McCraneyism a sub-biblical-at-best doctrinal system taught by McCraney. Moreover this women doesn’t even VISIT the congregations that she is rating. Seeing the clear problems with this tactic I had a fun idea to do a “church check” on the “church” that Young associates herself with. But first I took the egalitarian move of requesting CheckmyChruch.org review the congregation that I myself attend in Ogden, UT.
Flawed Methodology and Broken Theology
The review of my congregation went online in early May and I will not be responding to it here. Rather I will be discussing Ms. Young’s methodology as a whole and interacting with an exchange we had in the comments of her review. You can read my full comments to Ms. Young here. I will simplify it here for the sake of word count.
Me to Young: “‘I didn’t physically attend the […] service at Living Faith Discipleship Community’ Stop. This should be your whole review. How can you “review” something you know nothing about and have never experienced?
Let me review the next Avengers movie for you but I haven’t actually seen it I’m only going to quote reviews I found online. Nonsense.”
Young to Me: “What more could I possibly do besides physically attend an entire service..” Remember there is a lot of context around her comment. Please go read the whole exchange.
Knowing that I was in the process of writing this review I did not reply to Ms. Young’s comment because I didn’t need a flame war at the time. I know for a fact that she will find this post and for that reason let me share what I would have said to her then.
Me Hypothetically to Young: Ms. Young, you are propping yourself above everyone else, acting like you are the sole arbiter of truth, you presume that you know better than anyone else what makes a church biblical and not. Your ego is large and for that I’d expect you to have the common courtesy to walk in the building before you wash your hands of it. It seems to me that God always sent the prophets to places that need truth (eg Jonah and Nineveh). If I was to write a review of C.A.M.P.U.S. MY STARTING POINT would be walking up to Shawn McCraney, shaking his hand and introducing myself.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Now it’s my understanding that according to Ms. Young’s most recent newsletter to CMC subscribers that she finally has left her home for one of these reviews. Good for her, this is an improvement in methodology. If she keeps it up will remain to be seen.
To be cute I will break the rest of this writing down into subgroups in a similar way to CMC reviews.
Logging on to the C.A.M.P.U.S. website, I was able to navigate to the bottom of the page and find the address and service times. This is all I needed from the website and will not need to go into as much detail as someone who is only, essentially, reviewing church websites.
It feels very strange to be writing an article criticising Shawn McCraney because I once look up to him as a pastor-type figure. Yes, I used to watch him on TV. Most of what I know about Mormonism came from the original Heart of the Matter program. In fact waaay before there was a WalkingChristian.com I was a contributor to a website known as SCAEMinistries, the first topic I wrote on for them was “A Critique of Mormon Cosmology.” which was largely based on what I learned about the topic from Shawn’s program. I was watching when he got kicked off TV for criticising church. Then I kind of forgot about him for a time and was reminded of him when Dr. James White (my favorite Calvinist) on his webcast commented on a scandal that had been going on right under my nose. Shawn McCraney had come out publicly and denied the doctrine of the trinity. After debate with many real theologians, apologists and people who care about Shawn he kept going down the same road and found himself way out in the spiritual wilderness. Today he holds to very not Biblical teachings and is therefore a false teacher. (very detailed links provided below).
When I made it down to the C.A.M.P.U.S. meeting location Mr. McCraney was the first one to pull up and I immediately walked up to his car. I offered him my hand and said “You’re Shawn. I used to watch you on TV. I’m Isaac and I came down to check your church.” We talked for a brief moment before entering the building.
Upon entering and grabbing coffee and a bagel I talked with a few of the congregants for about 20 minutes. One of the members is openly bisexual and looking to practice – other members told this person they were proud of their decision. Off in the corner Shawn was talking loudly with other members about how he had gotten drunk that Saturday night and been “drunk texting” people. Getting drunk is a sin (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20; 29–32; Isaiah 5:22, Ephesians 5:18) and pastors are called to a higher standard (James 3:1) Another member told me she loved C.A.M.P.U.S because it was an accepting place to be she said she looked at many denominations and couldn’t accept their “Patrichal bull ****” (her words) and finally closed with “I absolutely will not and could never be part of a church that doesn’t accept homosexuality.”
Everyone was very nice and easy to talk to and you could tell their (over) emphasis on love is genuine and that they intend well. When it was time for service I sat down with coffee in hand.
Mr. McCraney introduced the service and welcomed the first time guests, myself and my associate included. Then they launched into the worship, for which they play a pre-recorded song that is simply the words of the day’s passage set to music. So if the passage for consideration on that day was 2 Cor 13 – which it actually was – they will listen to the chapter sung to music three times and have a moment of silence to reflect on its meaning before the sermon is preached. I actually thought this was really great all things considered. It’s no secret that I am a fan of a certain Christian movement that started in China and this practice of scripture-hymns reminded me a lot of prayer-reading as observed by the Chinese believers.
Let me just say as an aside, just because a false teacher or controversial personality originates a practice doesn’t mean the practice is necessarily false, that is the genetic fallacy. So even if Mike Bickel, the LCM or Shawn McCraney teach prayer-reading or scripture-hymns doesn’t mean it’s a fruitless practice. And I thought this worship nethod was pretty cool.
Oh boy – this, this has been one of the most complicated things I’ve ever had to write. On the way back home after our visit my associate and I attempted to untangle McCraney’s muddle mess of a sermon we just had the displeasure of sitting through. The only thought running through my head was “Shawn McCraney doesn’t understand the law of non-contradiction.” McCraney is like someone who went through brain surgery and had the two halves of his brain disconnected, one half controls one side of his mouth and the other side controls the rest of his mouth and they both try to speak at the same time. His views make no sense when you try to use them to build a house on the rock – the pieces do not fit together and I can’t understand how he and his followers cannot see this.
Imagine my sense of vindication when I went back and looked at the actual scholars who have interacted with and tried to correct Shawn have noted the same thing that I did. Dr. James White for example provides these comments in an episode of Radio Free Geneva from September 20, 2018 starting at 10:39 “I mean there’s a huge amount of confusion in Shawn’s teaching there’s no question about that but … To use the word ‘confused’ for Shawn McCraney is the understatement of the century.” or another comment from a former follower of Shawn known as Brother Thomas shared this insight in a series of blog articles on the topic, “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
Before I interact his sermon I think the greatest contribution that I could possibly make on this topic, is to try and explain to Shawn and all his potential followers what exactly the law of noncontradiction is. Please know I’m not a professional philosopher unlike my colleague Gil Sanders. So I am a dummy trying to dumb this down even further. Here we go. A contradiction is a term used in the study of logic to describe hypothetical situations when two opposing things are true at the same time and in the same way. Example it is raining in Salt Lake City at 12:05 PM on July 2 and it is sunny with a high of 99 in Salt Lake City at 12:05 PM on July 2 cannot both be true at the same time. There is no possible way. In the same way the old question can God (who is all powerul) make a rock so big He can’t lift it. This is a meaningless sentence, you’re essentially asking “can God do something He cannot do?” It’s just words that can have no meaning in objective reality. Likewise Shawn, many of the things you believe contradict other things you believe and therefore you’re theology doesn’t work – you do not believe reality. Why does it matter? Well God is truth is He not? So if we worship He who is the truth then we must love truth in all ways, shapes and forms. Contradictions cannot be truth. It is literally, physically and ontologically impossible to confirm a contradiction. When John writes that “The word was with God and the Word was God.” The word — word in Greek is ‘logos’ and it means logic, reason as well as word. This means Vod by his nature is reason a d logical because hr is the Word and the Word is logic. So God’s true scripture teaches us that God Himself is logic by his nature. So the truth and the doctrines that He reveals to us MUST be logical, otherwise they are not from Him and they are not true. Now that this is out of the way. Let’s get on with it…
In the video above Shawn first begins interacting with 2 Cor 13 at 10:11. Regarding verses 1-2 he provides the following comments.
” This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
“Remember Paul was a jew of jews, he’s citing the old testament and for some reason he is citing this passage […] about witnesses. It’s obvious Paul has been to Corinth once before so he has resolved to going [TO] them a second time. He says this is the third time I’m coming to you, the third time I’m trying to get to you and he suddently cites this passage out of Deut 19:15. Now, we don’t know why he cites this passage here.”
At 13:09 into the video I must pause and say this with all respect and kindness possible… But Shawn what are you smoking, friend? How clear can it be what Paul means. He says “I’m coming to you a third time and like the Scripture says let two or three witnesses establish a truth.” You claiming that scholars don’t know what Paul means by this and spending several minutes postulating all the possible explaniations is just flat out dumb. don’t know how it could be any clearer that Paul considers his first visit and teaching at Corinth to be the first witness, his second visit to be the second witnesses and this final visit to be the last witnesses necessary to establish what he’s saying as true. He’s clearly about to repeat something he’s already said to them and so he cites the Old Testament as a way of validating his third visit and third teaching. Dear reader I hope the meaning of this passage is as clear to you as it is to me.
At 14:11 while still trying to explain verse 1 Shawn makes the off-handed remark that “That apostolic discipline was for them in that age. We don’t have apostolic discipline now except by the Word that we read and the Spirit in our hearts.” Hold this comment in your mind for later.
Shawn spends the next several minutes responding to verse 2 saying that it was the job of the apostles to discipline the church and keep it together in that day and age. He talks about how one of the ways they did this is by excommunication aka not having fellowship with people who are willful hypocrites. At 18:03 he says “we have some churches today that insist on doing this. The reason it doesn’t work today is because if I excommunicate [someone] from this church … all he’s going to do is he’s going to leave and he’s going to go to Calvary Chapel across the street and if they don’t want him he’ll go down the street to the next one.”
A few thoughts, 1) this passage is not about excommunication. 2) if excommunication is taught in the scripture as proper church practice then it is our obligation to God to follow His word regardless of our modern 21st century environment 3) I have been saying for years now that Biblically speaking there is one church in every city. The Church in our community is made out of the churches in our community. The bride of Jesus is the Community of communities and we need to be doing a better job of getting on the same page with clear issues of sin and work together more often to help councel and edify our whole city not just the 10 people in our Sunday school class. /soapbox
At 18:33 “We don’t have apostolic authority keeping the bride together anymore and so this is no longer effective in a non-apostolic church. Which is why we don’t take it just it was part of the NT church and do it now.” Yes we do still have apostolic authority Shawn, it’s called the Bible. Sure we can disagree on secondary issues but if the Bible is the true word of the Living God then if we seek to honor Him and handle his word properly then believers should agree on 98% of things.
In comment on verses 3-4 at 21:20 “Now these are apostolic words to believers at that time so to get what he’s meaning is really tough.” Shawn if the words of Paul have no relevance to us today then what in God’s green earth are you doing? Why are you standing up there “teaching”? Didn’t you yourself say that the Word is binding on us today when you called it our “apostilic authority” back at 14:11 but every time it says something you don’t want to believe you claim “it’s cultural and not for us today.” This is the height of stupidity my friend.
I’m being 100% honest with this question I’m about to ask Shawn and if you happen to read this I’d love to hear your answer in the comments or via email or whatever. Here’s the question, how do you know that Jesus died for your sins? Will you answer it’s in the Bible? Because what’s stopping someone from telling you that “That was cultural for the church in that day. We on the modern day have no hope.” This problems gets even worse when we take into account that you’re a hyper-Preterist who believes the church stopped existing around 70 AD when the second temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. In that context the case gets even stronger that Salvation and the Gospel was only for people living in the Roman Empire in the first century CE. Your view of the Bible, Shawn, cuts off the branch you’re sitting on. You’re only way out is to contradict yourself…. but as we know now contradictions cannot exist.
At 23:03 Shawn says some good stuff about how Jesus was a man – so weak he couldn’t even carry his own cross. God didn’t give us a super man. He came as an ordinary man. These are good comments.
Commenting on V4 at 24:30 Shawn says “…’we also are weak in him’ Now I’d like to apply that to you but I can’t because Paul is talking about the apostles, ‘also’ and ‘we’ he’s talking about the Apostles himself included not the general population.” OK again my friends I want to be as kind as possible but this is just more abject stupidity. What exactly about this passage gives you any indication that Paul is talking about the apostles only in verse 4? Is verse 5, literally the very next sentence not addressed to the ‘general populace?’ so I can’t understand Shawn’s thinking on this whatsoever. Again Shawn is taking a verse and saying it only applies to one group of people at one time in history. So I have to ask again, if it has no relevance to you today, why exactly are you even ‘teaching’ this passage? Here’s an even more direct question, how much of the Bible IS for us today? Can you put a percentage to it? I’m assuming you’d say all of the Old Testament is out, so there goes 85% of all of Scripture. And you keep chopping pieces out of the New Testament. So really what does have practical application for us today. Is it just the gospels? Or are you one of those that say Jesus was teaching law to people under law. In which case is just the passion story for us today? These are questions that you need to answer.
At 26:12 Shawn shows his true self with this comment, “But for this rea Shawn is a univerasalist a position which is so clearly and obviously not Biblical that it’s incredible that people try to push it. Again I have to say to you Shawn if the whole world will be saved why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s the point? Why did you devote so much of your post LDS life trying to convince Mormons of the truth of Christanity? You contradict yourself in thought, word and deed.
For several minutes Shawn goes on somewhat of a tangent and quotes Philippians 2. My only comment here is at 31:09 he says ” that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So we see that relationship again, in and through God the father working all this in and through Jesus his only son to accomplish for us on our behalf…”
Shawn doesn’t believe the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet he quotes this passge that clearly shows the Father being called God, and the son being called Lord (read God) and but they are not the same person because they interact. And then Shawn goes on to talk about the “relationship” between the Father and Son. Shawn, are you contradictiong yourself again?
Shawn spends some time talking about how we know what we know while commenting on verse 5. I have no comments on this section.
At 42:04 Shawn makes the passing comment “The latter day was Jesus day those were the true latter days we’re not in them now.” Shawn is a hyper-preterist. He believes the whole book of Revelation was fulfilled before the year 70 AD. You have to really wonder why Shawn even bothers with the Bible if he believes even all the future stuff was “for them in that age.” Utter stupidity.
At 42:45 Shawn affirms a version of the doctrine of Assurance. I like John Wesley and I can agree with Shawn’s comments on this.
At 43:26 Shawn says “…if hell exists…” so in the midst of talking about how we can be sure of what we know to be true he also questions a doctine clearly taught in scripture. Contradictions abound with this one.
OK enough I’m ending at 45:00 just a little before two thirds into the sermon. You folks should get the point by now. Let’s move on to my final score…..
I won’t call them a cult like others have. But Shawn is without a doubt a heretic and needs to read the Bible a lot slower and try to break down some of the big words.
Final Recommendation: Never Attend unless you’re writing a church check!