Weighed Down With False Doctrine

By Joy A. and L.L. (Don) Veinot

We must admit that doing research on, or writing about, a weight-loss program, is not something that had previously crossed our minds. That is until Monday and Tuesday, August 22 and 23. On those dates, we received between 25-30 e-mails and phone calls regarding one program in particularthe Weigh Down Workshop, and its leaderGwen Shamblin. Several discerning women had found some odd statements by Shamblin on the Weigh Down Workshop web-site that upset them, and they called to see what information we might have on the subject.

We immediately surfed over to her web-site to check it out. What we found disturbed us greatly.1 After speaking with Gwen personally and finding her theology to be greatly in error (and not simply a problem with wording), we set about spreading the word via e-mail lists and radio broadcasts, etc. The response has been huge. As of this writing, we have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from distressed or confused people needing the information we have gleaned from our telephone discussion with Shamblin, from her web-site, her books, and e-mail updates she sends to her WDW coordinators, and to those who visit her web-site.

The Diet Craze

So many today want to be thin, because thin is in. It seems "thinliness" is next to Godliness  J As all of our readers are undoubtedly aware, there are gazillions of weight-loss programs available today. All of these programs seem to work to some degree for some people. The key to success with these various plans seems to hinge upon whether a particular person can follow the prescribed diet. How long can the dieter stand to eat meat without potatoesor potatoes without meat, bread without butteror butter without bread?

Some of these programs are extremely complicated, while others take the work out of dieting by offering prepared meals. Some rely heavily on exercise, while others promise no exercise is needed because the Guinea pig, er, I mean, dieter, is told he or she can rely on metabolism-raising "energy" drops or pills to burn off that excess fat. Every diet, however, seems to have its championing "guru," who explains why their program is the right plan for everyone. High-protein diets come and go, high-carb diets do the same. Some count calories, others count fat grams, while the diet gurus happily count the money pouring into their bank accounts.

We have been told that weight-loss books are the third most popular book category, raking in millions of dollars from folks desperate to lose that extra poundage. It is no exaggeration to note that we are obsessed with our weightto the point that millions of Americans (especially young girls) suffer with various eating disorders resulting from the quest for bodily perfection. Most Americans have tried at least some of these programs, and most of us have been disappointed in the end. Some folks lose weight and keep it off, its true; but many more of us lose some and gain back most within a short period of time.

This is not to say there is something inherently wrong with trying to lose weight and be as physically fit as possible. Nonetheless, as the Apostle Paul points out, bodily discipline is only of little benefit compared to "weightier" matters of true godlinesswhich entails holding to sound doctrine. After warning the flock that "in the latter days, some would follow false teachers and forsake the faith," Paul says in 1Timothy 4:6 that holding to sound doctrine is the discipline that truly matters, since it does not pass away with this life but builds into the life to come.

" For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds, promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8)

Who cares about doctrine, anyway

Gwen seems confident that modern Christians, women in particular, do not agree with Paul. She seems to believe this current uproar about her denial of the Trinity is but a minor doctrinal flap that will not harm her ministry in the long run, because " People dont care about this, Shamblin told CT. They dont care about the Trinity. This is going to pass. What the women want is weight loss. "2 Girls just wanna have fun 

Gwens confident statement is, of course, a terrible slap in the face to Christian womanhood. Happily, though, we are finding she has badly underestimated the depth of "the sisters" devotion to "the faith once delivered"it has been Christian women overwhelmingly that have led the charge to expose Shamblins false views on the Trinity doctrine.3

The Weigh Down Guru

The Weigh Down Workshop has been an extremely popular program among Christianscurrently there are 30-35,000 workshops (mostly in churches), in over 60 denominations in 70 countries around the world. But who is Gwen Shamblin? According to her bio, she "is a registered dietitian with a masters degree in food and nutrition, and was a full-time faculty member at the University of Memphis for five years. She worked as a nutritionist for the state health department and has focused her consulting practice in the area of weight control since 1980. In 1986 she founded Weigh Down Workshop, Inc. "4

In 1992, Shamblin began distributing audio and video cassettes, and also workbooks of her program. Twenty churches signed up almost immediately. The program quickly crossed denominational lines and throughout 1992 it added about 20 churches per month. By January of 1993, this number grew to 60 per month and the secular media started to pay attention. Over the next several years, Gwen was featured in a number of major periodicals and newspapers, such as Womans Day, the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Self, USA Today, and National Enquirer. In 1997 her first book, The Weigh Down Diet, was published by Doubleday and sold more than a million copies. Soon she appeared on Hard Copy, A Current Affair, James Robison, The 700 Club, ABCs The View, 20/20, and Larry King Live. She gained international renown by being interviewed on foreign media outlets. In 1998, she launched a second program called Out of Egypt to deal with other addictions.

This year (2000), Thomas Nelson Publishers published Shamblins second book, Rise Above. It was launched with a 25-city publishing tour with expected sales of 2,000,000. Currently, this book has sold over 185,000 copies.5 The cost of the workshop is $103.00 for a first-time participant with a $50.00 additional fee for a second family member. Over 1,000,000 people have taken or are currently taking her workshop. All in all, the money pouring in to Weigh Downs coffers is probably enough to make a televangelist jealous. J

No Pain, All GainMove Over Richard Simmons

Why is her program so popular? In a day of very confusing diet regimens, Gwens program seems uncomplicated by contrast. Exercise, which just happens to be a very unpopular feature of dieting to most people, is said (by Gwen) to be completely unnecessary to your dietary success and is, indeed, harmful, since it causes you to focus on yourself instead of God. Counting calories or grams, another onerous component of many diets, is said to focus the dieters attention on food instead of on God. Either way, God is getting shortchanged while youDiane and Danny Dieterare merely getting frustrated.

Gwens premise is simpleif your relationship with God is right, you will not be overweight, and you will also effortlessly conquer other addictions and relationship problems. On the surface, that sounds like a very good thing. After all, Christianity is about being redeemed from the sin which separates us from God, and cultivating, in the years that remain, an intimate relationship with the wonderful God Who saved us. Could any program promising to help Christians build that relationship be harmful to anyone?

Give The Pastors A Bit Of A Break

In all fairness, most pastors and church leaders probably did not even consider that Gwen and her Weigh Down Workshop would be teaching any kind of theology to their flocksmuch less heretical theology. Were guessing that, to most pastors and church leaders, WDW was "just a diet thing." If their people were losing weight and discovered a closer relationship with God in the process, well, all the better. And, how bad could WDW be, since after all, the program was in 30,000 churches in 60 denominations in 70 countries, featured on the 700 Club, and published by Thomas Nelson. In short, Gwen had the Evangelical imprimaturshe must be okay. We Evangelicals do tend to let down our guard and simply trust folks who are trusted by other Evangelical Christians. We dont follow a Pope, but we do sometimes follow each other into folly.

Without assigning blame, however, it has become apparent that, despite her expanding popularity in Christian circles, all is not well as far as Shamblins doctrinal soundness is concerned. A few discerning people who were taking or leading the workshops began looking at the material a little closer and wondering, "Where is the gospel of GRACE in all of this?" "Why does she mention Jesus so little?" and "Why, when she talks about God, does she generally refer only to the Father, but rarely the Son?" It wouldnt be long before these "Bereans" got their answer, which brings us to the here and now.

The Phones Start Ringing

In mid-August, WDW changed the "Statement of Faith" on their web-site, and that is when our concerned calls and e-mails started pouring in. The new Statement of Faith denies the doctrine of the Trinityone of the fundamentals of the historic Christian faith.

We quote WDWs Statement of Faith directly from their web-site:

"As a ministry, we believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. However, the Bible does not use the word "trinity," and our feeling is that the word "trinity" implies equality in leadership, or shared Lordship. It is clear that the scriptures teach that Jesus is the Son of God and that God sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not send God anywhere. God is clearly the Head. Note this passage from 1 Corinthians 15:27-28: "For he has put everything under his feet. Now when it says that everything has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." Therefore, we feel that we grieve Jesus when we do not watch our words and their meaningespecially a word not found in either the Old or New Testament, writings that span centuries of Gods inspired word. If God had wanted us to refer to Himself, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as the "trinity," He would not have left this word completely out of the Bible."6

This statement, both its content and wording, set off alarm bells in us (familiar as we are with cultic doctrine), because it sounds much more like Jehovahs Witness argumentation than Orthodox Christian doctrine. After spending a fair amount of time reviewing her web-site, we called Gwen Shamblin on Wednesday, August 23. We had hoped that, perhaps, Gwens statements reflected mere ignorance on the subjectthat she might have been employing imprecise or incorrect language without understanding the issues involved. We hoped we might be able to persuade her to correct her statement before we were forced to sound the alarm. Certainly, we reasoned, she had not intended to deny a fundamental teaching that the church universal (as well as all the churches that sponsor her workshops) holds as a cardinal doctrine. Sadly, our conversation only confirmed that Gwen is even more deeply entrenched in heresy than we had surmised from her web-site pronouncements, and she is not at all open to reexamining her position.

In our discussion, Gwen categorically denied the doctrine of the Trinity, asserting that it is "unbiblical." As quoted above in her web-site statement, she repeated to us her specious argument that "the word Trinity is not found in the Bible," which is a common straw-man argument employed by anti-Trinitarians. The argument implies, of course, that if the word is not found in the Bible, the concept must be "man-made." We responded by pointing out there are many valid theological terms that are not found in the Bible, for the very good reason that the Bible is not a theology book. For example, the word "Bible" is not found in the Bible, but the term is not unbiblical. As Anton Hein points out:

"A person who claims the doctrine of the Trinity is false because the word "Trinity" is not found in Scripture is as foolish as someone who claims 3= inches, or, say, 5< centimeters do not exist because his ruler only shows whole numbers. The doctrine of the Trinity is presented in Scripture clearly enough for spiritual people to recognize, and solidly enough for unspiritual people to stumble over."7

After acknowledging our argument was valid,8 Gwen insisted the doctrine of the Trinity is a pagan doctrine brought into the church in the third century. This, of course, is yet another familiar argument employed by JWs and other cult groups to deny the Trinity and shows Gwens abysmal ignorance of both Biblical teaching and Church history.

The Early Church "Paganized" the Faith

What Gwen is probably alluding to is the fourth-century (325 AD) Council of Nicea. Anti-Trinitarians like Gwen often argue that since the doctrine was codified at that time, the early church fathers just grabbed the concept out of either pagan tradition or thin air. This simply is not true. The Council was called to combat Arius who arose with the heretical idea that Christ was a created being brought into existence by the Father at some point in time. At Nicea, the church merely formalized (put in writing) what the Church had been teaching up to that time in order to expose Arius false view. For the first three centuries, there was no argument about Jesus deityall Christians believed He was Godso there was no need to formally declare it to be so. It was only when the doctrine was challenged by Arius and those with him that it became necessary to codify the teaching and work out the exact language that would best explain precisely what the Bible taught (and the church believed) about the relationship between the Father and the Son. They didnt make up the concept, but the language used to identify the concept.9

Aside from the Biblical passages that reveal Jesus is indeed God, the early church Fathers (such as Justin Martyr) believed that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels was YWHW or Jehovah of the Old Testament long before the Council of Nicea. In his Dialogue With Trypho, Justin Martyr devotes his entire argument to Jesus being YHWH. Trypho, like Gwen, struggled with this:

"And Trypho said, You endeavor to prove an incredible and well-nigh impossible thing; [namely], that God endured to be born and become man. "10

Justin responds using the LXX or Septuagint translation:

" This very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and dying "11

And far from the idea that the Trinity doctrine was made-up at the Nicean Council in 325, we find that, as early as the late second century in a dialog with Praxeas, Tertullian wrote,

"If the number of the Trinity also offends you, as if it were not connected to simple unity, I ask you how it is possible for a Being who is merely and absolutely One and Singular, to speak in plural phrase, saying, Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness; whereas He ought to have said, Let me make man in my own image and after my own likeness  "12

Many times those who deny the doctrine of the Trinity do so because it doesnt fit their worldly idea of what Gods nature must be like if we are to "understand" Him perfectly. The thinking is that if they cannot fully understand the nature of God as it is revealed in Scripture, they are free to reject some portion of that revelation. God must, above all, "make sense" to their rational minds. Because human beings are singular, personal beings, a tri-personal being doesnt "make sense" and must be rejected. But much confusion is avoided when we recognize God is not just like usHe is a whole different "life form," so to speak. His nature doesnt have to follow our rules. It also helps to have a working knowledge of hermeneuticsthe methodology of scriptural interpretation. We want to understand what the writer of the text in question meant by what he said, rather than force our own understanding onto the text.

Lack of Understanding

Gwen asked me, "When you get to heaven, will you see one person on one throne or two persons on two thrones?" This question exposes a lack of understanding of the Bibles use of a literary technique known as anthropomorphic language. When Scripture speaks of Christ sitting at the "right hand of God," it is not teaching that Christ is sitting in a physical location, next to the Fathers physical "right hand," attached to the Fathers physical body, sitting on a physical throne. The Scripture is speaking in human terms (anthropomorphism) describing the Sons position of authority as the Fathers "right-hand man." To be at someones right hand, then, is to be in a position of power.

God the Father is Spirit and does not have a physical body (John 4:23-24), but believing that God is a finite being is yet another heresy Gwen apparently shares to some extent with the Jehovahs Witnesses, Mormons and other groups. God, according to the "finite god" view, is like a really big manvery powerful but limited by space and time constraints. He exists in a physical location, has a body, doesnt know everything, cannot be everywhere at once, and is not all-powerful.13 In her book Rise Above, she writes about God the Father:

"God is so good-looking, so athletic, so powerful, and so charming that upon first sight, we would all immediately bow down and adore Him. So He made Himself invisible to make the contest a little more fair. On top of that, He is such a humble gentleman that He took us to Egypt and allowed us to meet His rival face-to-face."14

It seems the finite god she portrays is also limited in knowledge:

"He is going to let us "date around"  thats plan A  so we can appreciate what a great choice He is. But unfortunately, some of His children  in fact, a lot of His children  have lost their focus and become distracted, and therefore found their hearts enslaved to Egypt, with no idea of how to get out of this relationship. This was not part of Plan A. So God had to resort to Plan B: a duel  a boxing match  a fight."15

Interestingly, those who reject it often label the Trinity doctrine a pagan teaching, but it is truly the "finite god" view that comes directly from pagan sources. For example, the Greco-Roman gods, such as Zeus, Apollos, and Thor, were very much like the god of the JWs and the Mormons. The gods of the pantheon had bodies and many characteristics of mortal men and women. This undeniably made their gods easier to identify with than the Holy and unique triune God of the Bible, but they were nevertheless false gods. YHWH in Exodus 3:14 reveals His name to Moses as "I AM that I AM." Jesus revealed Himself to be that same person when he told the Pharisees in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I AM, which is why they immediately picked up stones to execute Him for blasphemy." God is what He iswe must accept Him as He has revealed Himself to be in His word.

Defining the Trinity

Before going further, it behooves us to define the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Using the terms "nature or being" as meaning "genus, sort or essence" and "person" as meaning "character;" the true definition, constantly misstated and twisted by heretical teachers, is as follows

Within the nature of the one true God, there exist three equal and eternal persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Trinitarians do not believe in three gods, nor do we believe the three persons of the godhead are merely different modes or manifestations of the same person. The Father is not the Sonthe Son is not the Holy Spirit.

Jesus the Firstborn

In response to Gwens question about the number of thrones16 in heaven, we asked her if, in her view, the Father and Son are two separate beings. Her immediate reply was "Absolutely!" She then turned to Colossians 1:15 and asserted that since Jesus is here called the "first-born of all creation" he came into existence at a point in time. This would in effect mean Jesus is merely a created being, the first creation of God the Father. Again, Colossians 1:15 is another favorite verse employed (and twisted) by JWs and other anti-Trinitarians to lower Christ to the status of a mere creature.

At this point, we must ask how is it Gwen unerringly chooses the exact verses and arguments used by heretical groups to buttress her position? It has taken the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society over a century to perfect their Scripture-twisting techniques to promote their heretical dogmas. Are we to believe Gwen came up with these exact same arguments all on her ownwithout being influenced in some way by one or more of the heretical groups that have been around for awhile? In any case, judging by her bedfellows, Gwen is keeping very bad company indeed.

Having said that though, lets examine the verse (Colossians 1:15) Gwen citeswhy IS Jesus called the "firstborn?" What does it mean? Right off the bat, we can easily prove it does not mean "first-created" without even turning a page! Jesus never had a beginning, and He created all things that ever came into being as the passage clearly goes on to state.

"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things have been created by Him and for Him." (Colossians 1:16-17)

John 1:3 adds to this by saying,

"All things came into existence by Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being."

These two passages alone make it very clear: IF Jesus is a creature who came into existence at some point in time, he would have had to have created Himself!

So, what does the phrase "firstborn of all creation" mean if it has no reference to Jesus coming into existence at some point in time? As we explained to Gwen, the term "first-born" is a title denoting that Jesus Christ is the One who has the right to rule over creation. (Why? Because He created it!)

Biblical usage of the term "firstborn" has to do with preeminencethe one with the right to rule. It is a title, station or position. For example: in Exodus 4:22, even though Israel was not the first nation to come into existence, God calls His chosen people the "first-born." David was likewise called the "first-born" in Psalm 89:27, even though he was the youngestthe last-born son of Jesse. We find in 1Chronicles 5:1 that the title or position, "first-born" can be lost or forfeited to another. Rueben lost his rightful pre-eminent position in the family of Israel (his "first-born-ness," if you will) due to evil behavior. Esau sold his birthright as the "first-born" to his younger brother Jacob for a pot of stew. By comparing Genesis 41:51-52 to Jeremiah 31:9, we see that Manasseh was the first born of Josephs sons, but later God calls Ephraim the "first-born."

The entire teaching of Colossians is communicating the preeminence of Christ over all of creation. He existed before anything was created, and when everything WAS created, He created it!

The Jesus-plus Plan

The Bible teaches people are saved by Gods grace alone, (Eph. 2:9) through faith alone in Christ alone, apart from works or human effort. Salvation is a GIFT (Rom. 6:23). Praise God! J Sadly, like all cults and pseudo-Christian groups, Gwen ridicules this teaching as "cheap grace" which supposedly gives people license to sin.

And, like all cults and psuedo-Christian groups, Gwens salvation scheme, as laid out in her writings, could rightly be called "the Jesus-plus plan." It is a works-centered salvation where the sacrificial death of Jesus will only be applied to those who perform the right types and amounts of works. The "right types and amounts" differ from cult to cult, but the core idea is the same.

Working Hard For Eternal Life

Gwens idea of salvation involves earning Gods approval by our own Herculean efforts. In her view, grace is cheapworks are what matter! In her archived e-mail #22 and audio tape #4 from the Out of Egypt series, she talks about the book of James and concludes, "So you see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." Here again, Gwen finds herself in bad company.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (along with numerous other "works-for-salvation" groups) misuses the Bible book of James in exactly the same way as she does to convince their hapless adherents they must continually try to earn Gods favor by continuously proving their "loyalty" to Him. Its a hamsters wheel of a liferound and round and round you go friend, and you better not slow down, and dont even think about stopping for a rest.

Lets address this issue in the book of James and what the quoted passage means before moving on. First of all, we must clarify termsdoes the word "justification" mean the same thing wherever it is used? No. Like many Biblical terms, its meaning is determined by the context in which it is used. To be "justified" does, of course, mean "to declare righteous" in some Biblical places where it is used but certainly not all of them.

The book of Romans, for example, chapter 3, verse 4, speaks of God Himself being "justified" when He was "judged," yet God has never had to be "declared righteous" by some higher authority in order to gain salvation, as we indeed must. This verse is speaking of God being judged by men and being "justified," proved right and righteous, in the eyes or opinion of men. Here in James the word has that same application of being proved righteous, and being shown by their actions to be righteous. It also has the idea of having our human righteousness proved to be of benefit or "useful, vital, alive" to others in a practical way. If our faith has no works, it is indeed "dead" or useless to a brother or sister who is hungry or in need of shelter. Without going into great detail here, the context of James is justification before men, not before God. This fits well with Pauls statement in Romans, chapter four, when he says that if works did indeed justify anyone (even Abraham), such "justification" would not mean justification before God.

"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say" AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." (Romans 4:1-5)17

Gwens Bible-Plus Plan

Many cults are what we call pseudo-Christian groups, in that they use Christian wording in their presentations and even seem to promote regular Bible reading. In so doing, many Christians are caught off guard, and do not recognize these wolves in sheeps clothing. (See attached article on page 15.) Of course, such "Bible study" is really more or less a guided tour through such passages as can be twisted to propagate the cults doctrine. The group leaders interpretation of the Bible is what is really important and must be gleaned from their material (which is required reading) and which, in effect, sits on top of the Bible.

The Mormon Church uses the King James Version of the Bible and even gives them away, but the Bible alone will not teach you the truth. For that, you need the Book of Mormon and the other "scriptures" of the Latter-day Saints. The LDS Eighth Article of Faith states they accept the Bible "insofar as it is translated correctly." They also accept the Book of Mormon and other Mormon books as scripture, but without this qualifying statement.

Jehovahs Witnesses are required to read and study their Bible, but they are taught that they cannot hope to understand it without the "help" of their boys in Brooklyn. To stay in "the truth" (as they term it), one must read all their publications and believe all that one reads.

Gwens misuse of James is only the beginning building block in her works/salvation house. She seeks to tie an individuals salvation, his or her hope of being "born again," to repetitiously reading and devotedly absorbing "Gods word," by which we presume that she means the Bible, AND her material and workshops. Such fidelity to Gods word and her material, she claims, will cause one to be "born again."

"After conceiving this truth, stay in Gods Word, and stay in your workbook, the tapes, the videos, and the class, all the while continuing to ignore the lies and letting this truth grow. Repeat it every day, all the time. Believe it, and after five weeks you will have been born again of Holy Seed."18

"Born again of Holy Seed?"Somehow we doubt the Apostle Peter had the Weigh Down Workshop in mind when he penned those words in 1 Peter 1:23. See how Gwen seems to promote the Bible while twisting and destroying its life-giving message? And she uses Christian terminology (born again) while obviously changing its meaning to suit her fancy.

True Prophet or False?

On what basis does Gwen make such astounding and disturbing claims about her prominent role in the salvation of others? Shamblin considers herself a prophetess  She says,

"I feel like I have the same calling that Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah, and Micah all had " 19

"How and why this message has been left out of the most basic church teaching is a mystery, but in many ways, we now have an opportunity to go back and plant the Good News inside both non-Christians AND the lukewarm pew-warmers that we all have in our own churches. In other words, this is true evangelism and true missionary work, and all of you are planting true holy seeds. "20

With incredible hubris, she tells her followers,

"You need to be able to take this message back to other people, because we are turning Gods church and kingdom around in the year 2000."21

Will the "true remnant" please stand up

The remnant of faithful Israel, spoken of in the Bible (about true Jewish Israelites, we maintain) has really gotten around in recent centuries. Adventists of all stripes, from the 1800s and forward, consider themselves to be that faithful remnant, as do the Jehovahs Witnesses and other pseudo-Christian sects. All of them have believed themselves to be "restoring true Christianity" to the world after it was "lost" by the big bad church at some point in Christian history. Gwen looks to be jumping into that leaky rowboat hoping to restore that "true remnant" just one more time. Our question is: Who is going to tell the others? J Will they leave their "true remnant" to join Gwens? Stay tuned 

Gwens Remnant Arising

In order to facilitate their mission of "evangelizing the church," three couples (Gwen Shamblin, Joe Langsdon, their spouses, and another couple) started a church called Remnant Fellowship about 18 months ago. It started out as a Bible study and has grown to a fellowship of about 80 people. When we called Weigh Down Workshop to talk with Gwen, option five on her answering machine was offering information about this new entityRemnant Fellowship. Our curiosity aroused, we left a message requesting informationJoe Langsdon returned our call. According to Mr. Langsdon, not only does Remnant Fellowship share the phone system with WDW; the newly formed group meets in the WDW warehouse.

This is America, the land of the free, so Gwen and her followers have every right to start their own church  even a heretical one. But the churches that sponsor her workshop need to be aware her agenda is nothing less than to pull their people away from them and place them into her "true church." As we have pointed out, she intends to "evangelize and revolutionize" the church in the year 2000. It is ironic the churches have given her a platform and provided the finances she is now using to steal their members from them.

Judging The Churches

In an e-mail which Joe Langsdon sent out in preparation for an upcoming meeting about the Remnant Fellowship, he asks the WDW coordinators (and other readers) to consider whether other churches out there in their communities are really spiritual.

"While you are pondering about what to do [about leaving your church and joining the Remnant Fellowship], listen to the prayers being offered at local fellowships and what is said at communion or what is emphasized in the sermons in your city or town. Are they truly producing the fruit of total repentance? Are people aware that Jesus warned, "Repent or perish"? Does everyone talk and encourage one another to die to self? Do people really live as if they are excited about total Lordship of Jesus Christ or has church become more of a social club? Is leadership unified over these issues, or is there division?"

Joe is telling the folks to judge their church by WDW criteria to determine if it is everything it should be. Does their church emphasize what Gwen emphasizes in the same way as she does; OR is it just a disunified social club with no one stressing the "total Lordship of Jesus Christ?" ("Total Lordship" as defined, of course, by Gwen.) Do they preach the grace-less "repent or perish" theology of Shamblins, or do they teach what Gwen refers to as "cheap grace"salvation by grace through faith as, incidentally, taught by the Apostle Paul? But then, who is Paul? He never called himself a prophet, and never mentioned weight loss, so maybe he really did not understand true faith.

Now, we agree that Christians ought to be discerningeven or, maybe, especially about what is going on in their own churches; but Gwen & Companys motives are highly suspect since they are seeking to draw folks into their fellowship.

Babylon the Great

One almost universal characteristic of cult groups is their hatred and extremely harsh criticism of the church in general. Gwen is increasingly taking on this characteristic. Her very negative opinion of the churches that are trustingly hosting her workshops is very troublesome to say the least. Says Gwen,

"Most of us have simply created a God that is not found in the Bible, a Jesus that is not to be found in the Word of God, a religious institution that is not found in the book of Acts, and a set of rules that cannot be backed up by Scripture  and we are bowing down to that."22

"We are to rebuild the walls and ruined temple. But we are going to have to wake up and realize that we have been in Babylon. We have actually been sitting in religious institutions that have allowed increasing rebellion to God. So before you can even start rebuilding the temple, most of us are going to have to understand Gods word well enough to know that we have to pack our bags and get out from underneath leadership that has allowed a grace message that gives people a license to sin"23

We dont know of any Bible-teaching, grace-believing churches who give people a "license to sin." We have yet to hear a sermon promoting adultery, stealing, etc., in order to receive more grace. This "come-out-of-Babylon" rant does not reflect a sincere desire to encourage Christian holiness as much as it reflects Gwens utter contempt for the teaching of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone. And here again, Gwen is in bad companyanother characteristic of cults is their propensity to refer to the churches contemptuously as "Babylon," and appeal for folks to leave "her" and come join the "true church." When you remember the book of Revelation teaches "Babylon" is the great whore which God is about to destroy, you get some idea of Gwens feeling for YOU, Pastor.

Question Your Church Leaders

Dont Question Me

Gwens audacity is astoundingon the one hand she strongly encourages her followers to question their church leadership, but they are NOT to question her or Remnant Fellowship! According to Joe Langdons e-mail, questions in the minds of the followers came from Satan:

"I am praying for all of you. I know that Satan is putting questions in your minds, but hold to the good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit quote from Jesus. "

Again, we have heard this many times before. Cults always tell their people that any doubts or questions about their group or its leaders come from Satan himself. Questioning your church, of course, is differentthats just spiritual discernment.

Im From GodBelieve Everything I Say

Gwen tells us we must listen to and follow EVERYTHING she says and not to "arrogantly pick and choose" which teachings strike us as correct.

"The people who have less trouble with the deceitful lies that keep you overeating are the people who watched Weigh Downs Orientation Video and decided for themselves freely from the start that I was a leader from God, so they submitted themselves freely to the teachings on the tapes and followed EVERYTHING. They did not arrogantly pick and choose some of the teachings, but ALL of them, because they knew they were from the Lord "24

Heres a little tip for you, friends. When someone, ANYONE, claims: "Im from God so you have to believe everything I say,"this is your cue to head for the exit! Do not pass go, do not collect $200! If you care at all about your fellow man (and as a Christian you should) as you are leaving say to the person next to you, "Lets get outta here!"

To say it is "arrogant" to "pick and choose" (in other words, THINK about what one is being taught and to decide what to accept or reject) is in, itself, breathtakingly arrogant. Only cult leaders say such things. In fact, thats WHY we call them cult leaders.

Independent thinking is a very good thing, sometimes a lifesaving exercise. In the world of cults, it just may keep you from drinking that poisoned Kool-Ade, or it may induce you to allow your injured child to receive a life-saving blood transfusion. Remember, for a moment, those deluded folks who were in the Heavens Gate cult a few years back. What if they had decided it was okay for them to "pick and choose" what to believe of what Applewhite was teaching them. They may have "chosen" to believe there was a spaceship behind the Hale-Bopp comet, while "picking" NOT to believe it was in their best interests to castrate and kill themselves. Cult leaders always discourage "picking and choosing." Its their M.O.* 

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society also does not encourage their folks to pick and choose what to believe of what they are taught by the organization bosses in Brooklyn, NY, but are commanded to submit to these men as if to God Himself, since God supposedly appointed them:

"If we have love for Jehovah and for the organization of his people we shall not be suspicious but shall, as the Bible says, believe all things, all the things that The Watchtower brings out "25

"Recognize and accept this appointment [by Jesus] of the faithful and discreet slave" and be submissive to it."26

"The apostate makes himself a decider of what is true and what is false, of what is good and bad in the way of spiritual food."27

So on the one hand, Gwen wants pastors and other church leaders to be scrutinized and judged; and if their teachings differ from her WDW, they are to be considered part of Babylon and people should pack their bags and leave. Presumably, this "picking and choosing" is not arrogance but Biblical discernment. On the other hand, Gwen is to be seen as "a leader from God" whose teachings should not be questioned"EVERYTHING" she teaches should be followed.

Beware Of False Prophets

In Matthew 7:15 and following Jesus warned, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits." It happens that this passage is the one which Gwen appeals to as validation of her ministry. After all, look at all of the changed lives which have resulted from her program. But is that the fruit to which Jesus is referring to?

Several important things are taught in this passage. First of all, it is not necessary to go looking for false prophets to followthey will come to you! Some will come to your doorothers will come right into your church! Second, these false prophets will be dressed in sheeps clothingthey will LOOK LIKE CHRISTIANS! They will probably be carrying and quoting Bibles (with a twist); and they will probably employ Christian-like terminology, although the definitions will be noticeably "off" to a discerning person.

They will all attempt to point you to the "fruit" of their "changed lives," even though every single cult group can make the same claim. Many JWs and Mormons are clean-living, good and moral people with successful lives and careers. But they are not Christians, just imitations.

One flaw Christians share with all other people is our human tendency to trust what we see with our own eyes. But Jesus has warned us this method will not work to judge false prophets, because the false will LOOK JUST LIKE the true! If they are not a good counterfeit, they will not be very successful at cult leading. A successful cult by default will be one which BEST mimics true Christianity, while denying its core teachings. The fruit of a false prophet is not changed lives or Christian appearance but false prophecies and teachings. So we are to be "fruit inspectors." Does their "fruit" accurately match what the Scriptures teach regarding the nature of God, the nature of salvation, and true discipleship? WDW fails on all counts and Gwen Shamblin, who claims prophetic status, must be judged on this basis as a false prophet. We cant say how she got herewe have no idea if she at one time understood the Gospel and then fell into Galatian and Arian errors, or if she has never really understood the Gospel of Gods grace at all. But we can say with great confidence, regardless of the possible weight-loss benefits of her program and teachings, she is presently proclaiming a false Jesus, a false gospel, and is usurping Gods rightful place by requiring unquestioning obedience to her teachings. What we are witnessing is nothing less than the birth of a cult!

Dont Let Em In The House

A verse commonly misused to discourage believers from witnessing to those in cults and false religions is 2 John 10,

"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting."

John is not telling us to keep non-believers out of our private homes. If that were the case, you couldnt have the Sears deliverymen bring your new refrigerator into your home. Theyd have to leave it outside unless, of course, you knew they were Christians. The historical setting and context help us to understand what John meant. The early church met in homes. (The first known church building dates from about the third century). During that time, there were traveling Christian teachers who would arrive in town and be invited into the local house fellowship to stay for a period of time and teach. In other words, they were given the pulpit to train the early believers. So here, John is instructing the house-church leaders to judge the teachings of these itinerant teachers to determine whether their teachings were true before letting them into the church where they could influence or even destroy the flock.

If it was determined these traveling teachers were false prophets or teachers, they were not to be invited in to stay and teach at the church. Instead of receiving a warm welcome, these false teachers were summarily sent on their way without so much as a fare-thee-well, " do not receive them into your house and do not give him a greeting." This sounds harsh to tolerance-enlightened, modern American ears; but protecting the flock from wolves is very serious business. As the Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders just prior to his leaving,

"Be on guard for yourselves, and for the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the flock of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." (Acts 20:28-30)

Not All Bad News

How can we evaluate this situation? On the one hand, this whole thing saddens us. It is very distressing to find yet another ravenous wolf has crept into the sheep fold, and is intent upon ravaging the flock, and ironically, picking the pockets and the pews of the churches that have unwittingly allowed her in to speak.

We do not yet know, of course, how this will shake outhow many people will actually leave their churches and follow Gwen into Remnant Fellowship, where they will find very little grace and learn to deny the Lord Who bought them (2Pet. 2:1). We dont know yet if or how many churches might be divided by this or how many church leaders will be misjudged as being "soft on sin, offering cheap grace. " Only time will tell.

But there is encouraging news to relay. We have been very pleased by the response of many churches and pastors, who immediately cancelled Gwens workshops when they were apprised of the situation. The Christian Communication Network and other Christian organizations have removed Gwen Shamblin from their speaking rosters. Christianity Today magazine, Crosswalk.com, and the Baptist Press have already written pieces exposing her error. Thomas Nelson Publishers cancelled her third book, Out of Egypt, at great cost to themselvesGwen, regardless of her false teachings, has been a very popular author whose books sold very well.

Most gratifying of all, so far, has been the great response of Christian women who have done so much to expose this heresy to as many people as possible as quickly as possible before more damage could be done. Two modern-day heroines of the faith we must mention are Helen Mildenhall and Lynette Hoyboth of Calvary Memorial Church of Oak Park, IL. They are the ones who brought this matter to our attention and spent much time and effort researching Gwens material, and making church leaders and Christian organizations aware of the problem. We honor them for their discernment and perseverance in "contending for the faith once delivered to the saints." (Jude 3)

Also, most of the calls and e-mails we initially received about this issue were from women, which makes it fairly apparent that women DO care about such important doctrines as the Trinity, and are not nearly as shallow as Gwen believes them to be.

This story is still breaking. More and more releases are coming from Gwen everyday, decrying her "persecution," and attempting to defend her views. She is bringing up MANY more issues which we would like to address, so we hope to do a follow-up article in the next Journal.

Love to all,

Don and Joy

 

*Method of Operation

ENDNOTES

1 To Gwen Shamblin, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not co-equal and co-eternal as the church universal believes and teaches. She teaches the Father is the Supreme Deity, Jesus the Son is a separate being who came into existence at a point in time, and the Holy Spirit is Gods will or mind. Her views and argumentation are closer to that of Jehovahs Witnesses than anything resembling the historic Biblical faith.

2 John W. Kennedy with additional reporting by Todd Starnes, "Gwen in the Balance," ChristianityToday.com (http://www.christianityonline.com/ct/2000/136/51.0.html) , p3.

3 We want to express our extreme appreciation to two such womenHelen Mildenhall and Lynette Hoy of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL. Not only were these women some of the first who raised this concern but who also have dedicated countless hours in research, sending out material to churches and individuals as well as keeping their church web-site up to date.

4 Gwen Shamblin, The Weigh Down Diet, Doubleday, 1997, back inside flap.

5 Thomas Nelson Publishers canceled the publication of her next book, Out of Egypt, due to this new information at great expense to themselves. (It was also expected to sell 2,000,000 copies.) We take our hats off to Michael Hyatt and Thomas Nelson for their stand for Orthodoxy in this case.

6 The Weigh Down Workshop web-site, FAQ, question 18, "Does Weigh Down Workshop have a Statement of Faith?" (Underline added for emphasis.)

7 Anton Hein of Apologetics Index (www.apologeticindex.org).

8 Interestingly, after acknowledging her argument does not prove her case, Gwen continues to use the argument to prove her case!

9 The earliest battle about the nature of Christ was for Christians to prove Jesus was also human, as well as God. The Gnostics denied His humanity, because they believed all matter was evil, and therefore, God could not touch matter. So, God sent out emanations from himself. One of those emanations was "Christ" who settled on the man Jesus at His baptism and departed from Him at His crucifixion.

10 Justin Martyr, "Dialogue With Trypho," The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Mi., 1989, vol. 1, p232.

11 Justin Martyr, "Dialogue With Trypho," The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Mi., 1989, vol. 1, p234.

12 Tertullian, "Against Praxeas," The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Mi., 1989, vol. 3, p606.

13 Gwen Shamblin doesnt necessarily subscribe to all of these "finite god" elements.

14 Gwen Shamblin, Rise Above, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, p24-25.

15 Ibid., p25.

16 It should be noted there is but one throneRevelation 22:3 talks about the throne (singular) of God and of the Lamb.

17 Underline added for emphasis.

18 Weigh Down Workshop archived message #34.

19 Weigh Down Workshop archive e-mail #22.

20 Weigh Down Workshop archive e-mail #37.

21 Weigh Down Workshop archive e-mail #15.

22 Weigh Down Workshop archive e-mail #31.

23 Weigh Down Workshop archive e-mail #41 (Underline added for emphasis.)

24 Weigh Down Workshop archive e-mail #29. (All cap emphasis in the original, underline added for emphasis.)

25 Qualified to Be Ministers, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1955, p156.

26 Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p587.

27 Watchtower, August 1, 1980, p20.