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As most of our readers know, MCOI is a mission to cults and non-Christian religions. In the early days we never envisioned having to research, write and warn believers about false and/or harmful teaching gaining ground within the church. Early on, however, we began receiving calls about Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a popular teacher and his teaching that had invaded many churches and garnered a very large following. As we researched this phenomenon, we realized we had to make a difficult decision. If we don’t see the need or have the integrity to address false teachers and teachings within the church, why address false teaching outside of the church? It seems futile to try to block OUTSIDE waves from sinking a ship if someone or many people INSIDE the ship are drilling huge holes in its hull. And though we never sought to go in this direction, we could not just sit by as Christians and churches were being taken captive by false teachers.

After several years of research, and meetings with Bill Gothard and his leadership, where he proved to be recalcitrant, we published A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life.1The paperback is available directly from MCOI upon request. A donation of $15.00 or more would be appreciated One of the issues we addressed was his teaching on dietary restrictions. In Gothard World, there was to be no eating of pork or shellfish, and people must also “bake God’s bread God’s way.” Gothard even included God’s alleged biblical recipe for making the “right” bread. How had he come to these conclusions? Simple. He abandoned historical-grammatical context and went in search of Bible passages that supported or could be distorted to seemingly support his ideas.

OK, so what? What’s wrong with people deciding to give up shellfish and pork and baking bread in whatever way they chose? The problem is that they were not free to choose — they were deceived. Mandatory dietary “choices,” along with control over many other personal decisions — how to dress, who to listen to — were taken out of their hands and put into the hands of Bill Gothard under the claim that these mandates were from God and are not optional for true Christians. It took many Christians away from the simplicity of faith in Christ and robbed from them the freedom we have in Christ. To those who followed Gothard, it created a sense of great spiritual superiority over other Christians, dividing families and churches, deeply hurting many people, and destroying the faith of many. In other words, he had created a harmful cult-like group within Christianity, as authoritarian and destructive in many ways as the JWs or other cults outside the church. Even as we worked on that project, however, we never envisioned having to write about yet more diet or dietary programs.

Enter Gwen Shamblin in August of 2000, when we began receiving calls and emails looking for information about her. Gwen was the founder and supreme leader/teacher of Weigh Down Workshop, whose program was in over thirty-thousand churches across sixty denominations! Thomas Nelson Publishers — who most Christians probably saw as reliable — handled her runaway bestseller, Rise Above, selling over a quarter of a million copies. After reviewing her website, which cast doubt upon the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, we called Gwen. She confirmed that we had accurately grasped her teaching on doctrine. According to her, these doctrines were all false. After we issued a press release explaining the problems with Shamblin and her Weigh Down Workshop, Christianity Today called her to confirm what we had posted. She agreed that what we had written was accurate but then pooh-poohed the importance of the Trinity, Deity of Christ, etc., stating that “Women don’t care about doctrine — they just want to lose weight.” It turned out that statement was the downfall of her ministry. When C.T. posted her response, the mad rush to return her materials began. Our first of four articles on her was “Weighed Down with False Doctrine.” It also had become apparent that Shamblin was at least as authoritarian as Gothard and outside cults. She called herself a prophet and taught that the entire church at large, which ironically had facilitated her success and made her very wealthy, was “Egypt,” a counterfeit, and that one must leave “the church” — whatever church one was attending — and come to her newly minted one true Christian Church that teaches the “one true gospel,” the gospel of salvation by works. We term that option SLAVATION, since it enslaves whoever takes that road.

In 2002, another “biblical” dietary plan, the Halleluia Diet, was brought to our attention. We responded with, “Halleluia! Another Diet.” In performing our due diligence, our associate Randall Birtell called the creator of the Halleluia Diet, George Malkmus, twice to discuss his out-of-context use of the Word of God. After that, we didn’t have much occasion to review material by diet teachers for the next nine years.

In 2011, Pastor Rick Warren unveiled his Danial Plan diet with Swedenborgian Dr. Oz and Dr. Amen. Dr Amen also promotes the Buddhist practice of Tantric Sex with T.J. Bartel in Create More Passion Tonight: Uniting Ancient Wisdom and Modern Brain Science as well as other Tantric teachers. Dr. Amen also recommends a form of Hindu meditation Kirtan Kriya which is explained online. We are forced to consider a theoretically “Christian diet” based on the pooled beliefs of such a spiritual alliance a “jumping of the proverbial shark.”

Recently, a new dietary gospel has been brought to our attention with the claim, “Jesus did NOT Eat Meat. Go VEGAN! By Chapman Chen.” Initially, as with the previous offerings of “Bible-based” diet plans and dietary mandates, we would have preferred not to really comment on this one. Diet preferences are individual and personal. Two apologists with whom we work closely are vegetarians, and we are aware that some very solid believers opt for Veganism,2See, “Vegan Vs Vegetarian: Whats The Difference but these choices are a matter of personal preference, not a biblical mandate. Why address this if it is simply a matter of choice? That is simple. According to Chapman Chen, it isn’t at all a matter of choice. Jesus was a Vegan and forbid the eating of any meat.

As we look through his biblical claims, it is important to remember the first rule of biblical interpretation:

  • A Text — what we are reading
  • Without a Context — Who wrote it, when was it written, how would it have been understood at the time it was written
  • Is a Pretext — Something that may sound true but is patently false

Having the historical-grammatical context in mind as we deal with any document, including the Bible, is important. In a short article like this (well, shorter than a book, at least), we won’t look at every Bible passage he uses, but how Chen mangles the few we review here, he pretty much does to all, and there are many. His fallacy is that he begins with a theology he already holds to and works to conform Scripture to his view instead of allowing the word of God to inform his view. In cases where he finds it difficult to twist the text to his liking, he simply claims that the manuscripts are corrupt — and goes on to present “the truth” we would see if only we had non-corrupt manuscripts. This is a very convenient technique, one that Joseph Smith Jr. practiced when he founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In cult circles, indeed, there is “nothing new under the sun.” As our Señor Researcher Ron Henzel points out, we would long ago have run out of heresies if they were not recycled with such regularity.

The context of the gospel accounts is Jewish. Jesus, the Messiah, was Jewish, in fact, a very orthodox Jewish Rabbi. He hand-selected his twelve Jewish disciples to appoint as Apostles that will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28) In his article, “Jesus did NOT Eat Meat. Go VEGAN! By Chapman Chen” Chapman Chen claims Jesus, this First Century, orthodox Jewish Rabbi:

Jesus did not eat lamb at Passover for he deliberately held the Last Supper before Passover (John 13).3In addressing the timing and events of the Last Supper and Passover meal, Ted Cabal et al., comment in the The Apologetics Study Bible beginning with John 31:1: “If it was just before the Passover feast in verse 1, did John intend for the meal of verse 2 to be a different one from the Passover? Probably not. Verse 1 is a small paragraph that functions as a headline over all of chapters 13—17. Verse 2 then describes the very Passover meal that had just been mentioned. Not only did various details match the accounts from the other Gospels that are more clearly based on Passover, but only on that night would anyone have imagined that Judas was leaving to give something for the poor (v. 29). The feast lasted for a week, so he could also have needed to buy more provisions (v. 29).

13:2—17 Only John describes the foot washing; only the other Gospels present Jesus’ words over the bread and the cup. But both fit neatly together as part of the same meal, a Jewish Passover feast, which Jesus reinterpreted as symbolizing His upcoming, self-giving death for the sins of humanity. -Ted Cabal et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith; Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007, 1599.

There are a few important considerations here. First, simply because something isn’t mentioned in one Bible passage does not mean it is not mentioned in a parallel Bible passage. For example, we read about the Passover preparations in Mark 14:12-13:

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him  and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”

Note, this is on the day “when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.” The Passover meal was to be perpetually celebrated — given by God to Moses in Deuteronomy 12:14:

This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

There is a detailed outline of the feast in Deuteronomy 16:1-8 which specified the eating of the sacrificial lamb on the evening it was sacrificed. It is quite explicit that NO “flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning.” The Lord Jesus was fully human AND fully God. It was God (that would be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Who gave this perpetual statute to the Nation of Israel. As an orthodox Jewish Rabbi, the human Jesus would not have failed to carry out the explicit command to the Nation of Israel.

Chen’s next claim is, “Jesus did not sanction meat-eating in Mark 7:15-19.” Here is where historical-grammatical context helps to respond to Chen’s assertion:

“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

Now we have a choice to make. Do we believe Chen’s claim or Mark’s commentary in the inspired, inerrant word of God about what Jesus stated? Chen asserts that Jesus did not sanction eating meat — while Mark said Jesus “declared all foods clean.” In addition, Jesus made this abundantly clear to Peter in Acts 10. The Lord let down a “great sheet” with “all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds of the air” (in this case, previously forbidden non-kosher food sources — NOT the Passover Lamb), and when Peter assured the Lord he has never eaten these unclean meats, the Lord’s response was, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15)

Chen then turns to what is commonly referred to as the miracle of “Five loaves and two fish,” narrated in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:1-14, and states:

Jesus neither condoned the eating of fish nor gave it to the masses (Matthew 14)

He spends a great deal of time in linguistic gymnastics, in an imaginative attempt to get around what the text says. For example, he writes:

in the Greek version of John 6:9, the word for “fish” is ὀψάριον (opsarion), a dried seaweed.

Inventive, but not true. As we double checked the New Testament Greek and looked to sources like Strong’s Concordance, Greek Dictionary we find:

Strong’s Number: G3795
Greek Base Word: ὀψάριον (opsarion)
Usage: Fish
Definition: A relish to other food (as if cooked sauce), i.e., (specially), fish (presumably salted and dried as a condiment).
Detailed definition: Fish.
Derived terms: Neuter of a presumed derivative of the base of G3702.

The derivative of the base is:

Broiled, cooked, i.e., roasted, Greek: ὀπτός (optos)

So, what we have here is fish, either salted and dried, broiled, cooked, or roasted. No seaweed, though. Chen brings his theology to the text and then works to make what he hopes is a convincing case. His claim in Matthew 14 is that  Jesus only broke the bread and did not break and pass out the fish. Why? Because the breaking of the fish was not specifically stated. However, the passage in context tells us what happened:

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (Matthew 14:16-19)

Note, “Bring them here to me.” The word “them” would be the five loaves and the two fish. He took the loaves and two fish and looked up into heaven, and said a blessing. What was blessed? The loaves and two fish. Since both are part of the miracle being conveyed, it isn’t necessary to add that He broke and distributed the fish. That is assumed in the text. The first-century reader of the gospel would understand that, and we should as well.

Chapman Chen doesn’t solely rely on his attempts to distort the text of Scripture but attempts to draw on other historical writings to support his essential idea that Jesus forbids eating meat. He turns to the Gospel of the Ebionites. If you haven’t heard of the Gospel of the Ebionites, that is not surprising. It is an apocryphal gospel, and the early Fathers wrote against the Ebionites as being heretical. We only have seven short quotations, which were included in Panarion by Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403), which, not surprisingly, was a volume concerning heresies and included the heresies of the Ebionites. It is obvious then why Chen appeals to them for support; they were vegetarians.

Chen’s errors, Scripture twisting,4In another article, “Jesus Recommends Urine Therapy!,” Chen claims when Jesus spoke of Living Water, the living water Jesus meant we should drink our urine for health benefits. Chen also contends Solomon that that as well and reliance on heretical teachers of the past renders his work thoroughly unreliable.

There is a great deal in Scripture about our freedom in Christ, including whether we eat meat as part of our diet or if we choose to be vegetarians. I think Paul sums this up well in Colossians 2:16-17:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.Ω

Don and Joy Signature 2

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