Gwen Shamblin is a registered dietitian and has experience as an instructor of nutrition at Memphis State University. She is the author of the popular, but controvesial, Weigh Down Diet
In recent years, Shamblin has been in the news for her adamant rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity
- one of the central doctrines
of the Christian faith.
Shamblin is the founder of Remnant Fellowship, a church that - due to its rejection of a key doctrine of the Christian faith - must be considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity
Sociologically, Remnant Fellowship has cultic characteristics
Remnant Fellowship and Gwen Shamblin have also been in the news in relation to the beating death of an 8 year-old boy:
A suburban Atlanta couple was sentenced Tuesday to life plus 30 years in prison in the beating death of their 8-year-old son, a case that prompted authorities to raid the family’s church because it supports corporal punishment.
Prosecutors said Joseph and Sonya Smith beat their son Josef, locked him in a wooden box and confined him to a closet for hours at a time before he died in October 2003.
In June, 1998, Charisma stated:
Unquestionably, the hottest Christian weight-loss program in churches right now is Weigh Down Workshop, founded in 1986 by Gwen Shamblin. It wasn't until 1992 that Shamblin began taking the program to churches.
Today, Weigh Down employs a staff of 80 and has been used in more than 17,000 churches around the world. Shamblin's recent book, The Weigh Down Diet (Doubleday), has sold more than 400,000 copies.
Source: Losing Pounds For God, Charisma, June, 1998
She's the author of a new book, The Weigh Down Diet, which teaches that "head hunger," the urge to eat even when the body doesn't need food, is really a "spiritual hunger." (Sample chapter: "Isn't Broccoli Righteous and Häagen-Dazs a Sin?") Weight loss the Shamblin way is a matter of "substituting God for food."
Source: A godly approach to weight loss, U.S. News & World Report, May 5, 1997
The Theological Controversy
In recent years, Shamblin has got into hot water for her un-Biblical
views on the doctrine of the Trinity
- one of the central teachings
of the Christian
On the Trinity, Francis J. Beckwith
The Christian doctrine
of the Trinity is part of every major creed in the history of Christendom. It can be defined in the following way: In the nature of the one God there are three centers of consciousness, which we call persons, and these three are equal. Though the term ''trinity'' is not found in the Bible, the doctrine is nevertheless taught there. ''Trinity'' is merely the term employed by theologians and church historians in order to describe the phenomena of God they find in the Bible.
The doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at in much the same way as a scientific theory. A scientific theory, for the most part, is a reasoned explanation of observed (or unobserved, in some cases) phenomena in the natural world. Analogously, the doctrine of the Trinity is a reasoned explanation of what we observe to be the phenomena of God in the Bible. Church fathers, councils, denominations, etc. have been so overwhelmed with the evidence for the trinity in the scripture that there has been a universal creedal acknowledgement in church history. The argument behind the doctrine can be put this way:
- Premise 1:
The Bible teaches that there is only one God.
- Premise 2:
The Bible teaches that there are three distinct persons called God, known as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So, the three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - are the one God.
George Smeaton highlights the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity to the Christian faith:
As this doctrine is believed on the one hand or challenged on the other, Christian life is found to be affected at its roots and over all its extent. Every doctrine is run up to it; every privilege and duty hangs on it... However a man may begin his career of error, the general issue is that the doctrine of the Trinity, proving an unexpected check or insurmountable obstacle in the carrying out of his opinions, has to be modified or pushed aside; and he comes to be against the Trinity because he has found it was against him.
Given the central importance of the doctrine of the Trinity to the Christian faith, any significant deviation from this doctrine is considered to be an heretical
position. With this in mind, on Sept. 8, 2002, ChristianityToday.com
Christians had earlier
found fault with the Weigh Down Diet because it places no restrictions on what types of foods participants may eat (CT, Sept. 4, p. 50). Apologists
and church leaders are now asking whether founder Gwen Shamblin holds heretical
views of the Trinity, based on her comments on the Weigh Down Web site
The controversy intensified after Shamblin posted a weekly e-mail communique to her followers on Aug. 10. ''As a ministry, we believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit,'' Shamblin wrote. ''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.''
Since then, Shamblin has been removed from the Women of Faith Web site, several influential evangelical churches have dropped her program, and some key employees have left. On Wednesday, Thomas Nelson canceled publication of Shamblin's new book, Out of Egypt
, scheduled to ship to bookstores in late September.
L.L. ''Don'' Veinot Jr., president of the apologetics ministry Midwest Christian Outreach
in Lombard, Illinois, received more than two dozen inquiries about Shamblin from Weigh Down workers and coordinators after the Aug. 10 e-mail. Veinot phoned Shamblin after reviewing the Web site, but he says the conversation only confirmed Shamblin's stance that the Trinity is unbiblical
''When I asked about her statement that the Father and Son are two separate beings, her reply was 'absolutely,''' Veinot says. ''Her views are closer to that of Jehovah's Witnesses
than anything resembling the historic biblical faith.''
Veinot believes Shamblin's religious beliefs avoided scrutiny for so long because of the subject matter she teaches. ''Weight loss is not one of the high priorities in apologetics
work,'' he says.
''The material on the Web site makes a distinction between the Father and Son that is heretical,'' Veinot says. ''She is clearly anti-Trinitarian.''
In the same Aug. 10 e-mail--which has since been deleted from the Web site--Shamblin tells followers that Christians grieve Jesus if they adhere to doctrines not found in Scripture. ''If God 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.''
''There are a lot of words that contain biblical concepts that are not in the Bible,'' Veinot notes. ''The word Bible is not in the Bible.''
Thomas C. Oden, professor of theology and ethics at Drew University and former senior editor of Christianity Today, agrees that such a literal argument is ridiculous.
... Oden says Shamblin's views mirror teachings on modalism and subordinationism rejected as heretical by the early church. As leaders in the early church debated their doctrine of God, some were drawn into the different extremes of modalism or subordinationism. Oden says there are a dozen key passages in Scripture on which the Trinitarian doctrine is based. Modalism overemphasizes the oneness of the Godhead at the expense of the three persons, while subordinationism overemphasizes the distinctiveness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the expense of the oneness of their being.
''In the very early Trinitarian controversies, some people said that God reveals himself first in the form of the Father, second in the form of the Son, and third in the form of the Spirit, so that there are three consecutive modes of God's disclosure. It's a denial of the eternity of the Trinity,'' Oden says.
''Subordination was judged to be in error in ancient Christian tradition because it neglected the fact that the eternal God who becomes incarnate in the Son is nothing less than God," Oden says. "In the Incarnation, God submits to our human form without ceasing to be the eternal God.''
Oden says Shamblin fails to comprehend the basic elements of Trinitarian reasoning: ''She just doesn't understand the triune teaching and this puts her in opposition to the ancient teachings shared by Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox.''
Shamblin Remains Unrepentant
Unfortunately, though, it appears that Ms. Shamblin is unfamiliar with the basic principles of Bible interpretation
, or with the essential teachings of the Christian faith
. Over the years, she has remained unrepentant, and continues to defend her views:
Shamblin sent an e-mail
to Weigh Down Workshop participants on Tuesday, September 12 in an attempt to clarify her stance on the Trinity and to urge others to stand with her.
She goes on to outline her belief that understanding Christ's position in the Trinity
is essential to implementation of the lifestyle advocated by Weigh Down.
"The reason all of this is important is that if you do not understand that God is the clear authority and that Jesus was under God's authority, then you will not have a clear picture of what it means to be Christ like. Jesus suffered, obeyed, submitted, denied his will, and made it his food to do the will of the Father."
Later Shamblin writes, "I believe that Jesus and God are two separate beings." She also says that she does not believe that Jesus and God are equal in power and glory, but that "the head of Christ is God." The e-mail also tackles typical Sunday School illustrations about the Trinity, "This picture of God as one being but transforming himself into three forms, like water, ice, and steam, is confusing at best."
At her web site, Ms. Shamblin's current statement regarding the Trinity reads as follows:
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 meaning—especially a word not found in either the Old or New Testament, writings that span centuries of God’s 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.
Of course, Bible interpretion is not based on feelings - as Ms. Shamblin appears to indicate - but rather on sound principles of hermeneutics
According to ChristianityToday.com,
Shamblin's statement of theology posted on her Web site once read, "Where I differ on the teaching in the Trinity that there is EQUALITY in power and glory of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit; rather, I believe it is a clear line of AUTHORITY."
Additional Problem Issues
Aside from Shamblin's heretical theology, there are other problems as well:
In a related development
, Weigh Down faces questions about its handling of employees in connection with Shamblin's theological views and membership at Remnant Fellowship.
"Anyone who leaves is labeled a devil," Carney said. "She orders them not to speak or fellowship with those who leave the ministry. There is a spirit of fear."
Carney said the atmosphere at Weigh Down is extremely difficult: "It's very exclusive. There is a lot of fear and there is a lot of redefining of scriptural terms."
As reports have surfaced
this week that at least 35 Weigh Down Workshop employees were coerced to leave their jobs after they refused to attend a church formed by Weigh Down founder Gwen Shamblin, Shamblin has stepped-up defense for her dieting program and theology.
Shamblin told Baptist Press she would not comment about former employees because her company is a privately-held corporation, but questions regarding the circumstances under which at least 35 Weigh Down employees left the company remain.
Anita Pillow, a member of Park Avenue Baptist Church and a single mother, told Baptist Press she was fired because she would not attend Remnant Fellowship, a church formed by Shamblin and her husband in 1999.
And Pillow may not be the only employee who was fired or forced to resign from Weigh Down Workshop because of the Remnant Fellowship issue. A former high-ranking executive at Weigh Down told Baptist Press that at least 35 employees were pressured into resigning from the ministry because they would not join Shamblin's church and two others were fired.
The executive, who asked not to be identified, said even he was pressured to be a part of Shamblin's church.
While no lawsuits have been filed, several former employees told Baptist Press they have retained legal counsel. For people like Pillow, it's a matter of getting their severance pay and moving on with their lives.
All the students
surveyed agreed with the Workshop's basic tenet that moderate food quantity intake is an important aspect of weight management, but beyond that, some found the program's philosophy wanting.
The Workshop says that some 60 denominations are cheering "amen" to its prescriptions, but officials declined to specify what denominations make up that endorsement list, citing only an unspecified Unitarian church and a single Roman Catholic Church. Mrs. Shamblin and her husband, David (Weigh Down's CEO), joined a number of families last year that withdrew from their respective churches to form what they refer to as Remnant Fellowship. There are no pastors, no elders, no deacons, and no church officials of any other kind.
Christ Community Church, of Carmel, Ind., initially hosted a Workshop, but discontinued the program after becoming uncomfortable with Weigh Down theology. Diane Gaskins, a former women's counselor with the Biblical Counseling Center of Carmel, Ind., expressed concern with what she feels is the Workshop's association of fat with theological fatheadness: "[Martin] Luther was a chunk. [C.S.] Lewis was a chunk. Am I to believe that I'm more spiritual than these chunky saints because I'm skinnier?"
The Birth of a Cult?
by Gregory Koukl
A Response to Gwen Shamblin
by Midwest Christian Outreach
NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Is it a ministry or just big business?
NewsChannel 5, July 2001
The "Great" Commission of Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship
Adam Brooks reveals the inner workings of Remnant Fellowship.
Gwen Shamblin's Belief About The Trinity - A Rebuttal
by William Dicks. Can also be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document
, in which case will need need this Greek font
Gwen Shamblin's New Jerusalem
Christianity Today, Dec. 9, 2002
Is Gwen Shamblin (Weigh Down Workshop)'s Remnant Fellowship a Cult?
by Probe Ministries
Testimony by Ex-Members
A powerful testimony of life inside - and after - Remmnant Fellowship.
Watchman Responds "An Open Letter to Gwen Shamblin Regarding the Doctrine of the Trinity"
A Watchman Fellowship
article by Robert Bowman
The Weigh and the Truth
ChristianityToday.com, Aug. 25, 2000 "Christian dieting programs—like Gwen Shamblin's Weigh Down Diet— help believers pray off the pounds. But what deeper messages are they sending about faith and fitness?"
'Judge Us by Our Fruits'
ChristianityToday.com, Aug. 25, 2000. "The founder of Weigh Down responds to her critics."
Weigh Down, Weigh Off?
WORLD, July 1, 2000. Examines the program's claims, and, in passing, notes some philosophical and theological concerns.
Weighed Down With False Doctrine
by Joy and Don Veinot, of Midwest Christian Outreach
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Midwest Christian Outreach
(Contra) Indepth reports
(Contra) Includes sveral indepth articles on Shamblin and her organizations
(Pro) Official site.
The Weigh Down Worshop
Gwen Shamblin's official web site
The Weigh Down Workshop Controversy
Lynette Hoy's excellent collection of links, articles, and news items. Includes quotes by Ms. Shamblin.