The Lifetime Network premiered their film, “Gwen Shamblin: Starving for Salvation,” on February 4, 2023. It was more a docu-drama than a documentary and was generally based on Gwen Shamblin’s life from the time she started the Weigh Down Workshop until her fairly recent death in a plane crash. The timeline of events seemed a bit “off” to us, and the main reason behind the collapse of the cult was not clearly presented. Perhaps that is merely the result of trying to squeeze too much of an 8-year story into a 2-hour program.
MCOI was the ministry that originally exposed Shamblin’s false teaching, and we were able to help unwind many who left the group. The primary collapse of her popularity in churches was due to her denial of the deity of Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Our first knowledge of Gwen Shamblin began with someone calling us to ask if Gwen’s stand on these bedrock doctrines was correct. Having never heard of Gwen Shamblin and Weigh Down Workshop, the first order of business was for us to verify her teaching on these issues with Gwen herself, which we did by phone. She was very open in her denial of these important doctrines, and we published her responses in a press release. Christianity Today picked up the story and also called Gwen. She verified our report and scoffed at the significance, stating that “Women don’t care about doctrine; they just want to lose weight.” Once C.T. posted her claim, women around the nation began contacting us to find out how to get Weigh Down Workshop out of their churches. At the time, she was teaching in over 30,000 churches across sixty denominations – with more than a million followers. After a very short time, her group dwindled to under 500. So much for her arrogant dismissal of Christian women!1For more information, you might read, Weighed Down with False Doctrine and Weigh Down Workshop a Cult?
We often receive phone calls and emails with questions about teachings that challenge the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Often, these questions come from those who are trying to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses – who also deny the deity of Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity, and salvation by grace through faith alone, as well as the physical resurrection of Christ. These are the essential truths of the Gospel and are articulated and reiterated in Romans 10:9-13, 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 for example.2For more info on JWs, see “Should You Believe in the Watchtower or Is Jesus Christ Almighty God?,” “The Not So Strange Tale of Two Jehovahs” or “In the Beginning was Michael” for starters
This past week we received an email from someone who had listened to a radio interview with Don. The challenge was:I pose you a question you won’t want to answer. Luke 9:35, “This is my chosen Son,” was changed by the Textus Receptus (Bible version) to “This is my beloved Son” to match Matthew 17 and Mark 9, “This is my Beloved Son.” The pattern of Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9 is found in what God says of Abraham’s relationship to Isaac in Genesis 22.
Was Jesus chosen by God? If yes, then Jesus was an eternal angel promoted to YHWH. He was God from the beginning-John 1. He is the Begotten God – John 1:18 NASB.
Ramifications. [It] is so much easier to call me a heretic rather than pastors losing their jobs if they come to believe like I do. And the believers will lose faith because they were taught that Jesus was always God.
“This is my beloved Son” was replaced with “This is my chosen Son” before Arius, or Arius would not have believed that Jesus didn’t preexist His conception. Pity the churchmen who changed this verse leading to the deaths and exiles of truth seekers by the Church and confusion among the church members.3Arius was an early denier of the co-eternal existence of the Son with the Father in the 3rd century, AD, who caused a major disturbance in the unity of the early church, pitting his followers against the other early “church fathers,” resulting in the First Council of Nicea
The challenge contains five claims:
- He suggested that we at MCOI would not dare to respond to his critique – with a later suggestion that was due to fear of losing our jobs.
- He stated that there had been a deliberate word change in Luke 9:35 from “chosen” to “beloved.” Allegedly, this word change was done to teach that the second person of the Trinity was eternally God – instead of supporting the supposedly true “fact” that Jesus had been merely chosen to be promoted from angel status to God’s chosen Messiah.
- This word switch from “chosen” to ‘beloved” was a deliberate corruption of the text, changed in the Textus Receptus to promote the idea that Jesus was God.
- Because he was aware of this change, Arius rejected the preexistence of the Son prior to the incarnation.
- In effect, changing the word led to “the deaths and exiles of truth seekers by the Church.”
As you might expect, however, we did respond. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I took the time to appreciate his email and “questions” and began my response midway through his brief dissertation by answering his contention that the word “chosen” was replaced by “beloved” before the Arian controversy, which is supposedly why Arius rejected the deity of the Son.
It may be that the writer’s remarks were poorly worded and that he is uninformed about Church history. In actuality, Arius did believe the Son preexisted His incarnation as the Son of God. His contention was that Jesus was subordinate to the Father, as any son is to his father. Also, in his view. the Son must have been created at some point (since he was begotten) and, therefore, lesser than the uncreated and eternal Father.
What about the claim that “begotten” was changed to “chosen” in the Textus Receptus? I ran the question by one of our associates, Dr. Ron V. Huggins, who in addition to reading Greek and Hebrew and is well-versed in church history. The first point to note is that the Textus Receptus is the Greek New Testament completed by Erasmus in 1516. Even if our challenger can read Greek, Hebrew, and or Latin, it seems highly doubtful that he consulted 16th-century editions of the Greek New Testament done by Erasmus. By “Textus Receptus,” we are guessing the writer may have meant the translation of the 1611 King James Bible from the Textus, which would also be quite difficult to read, since English has changed dramatically between 1611 and now. Even so, we agreed that his claim of a word change is true. True but meaningless, not at all making the point he is trying so hard to make. In the transfiguration account, the King James Bible uses “beloved” rather than “chosen.” It seems likely Luke originally had this in his version of the Transfiguration story. However, two things should be noted here. 1) Luke did use the word “beloved” at Christ’s baptism (Luke 3:22), and 2) The books of Matthew and Mark are obviously inspired Scripture as well, and both of them used the word “beloved” at both the transfiguration and the baptism.
In addition, the fact that Jesus is called the chosen has nothing to do with whether He is an angel or not. Hebrews 11:17 states:
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten (monogenes) son.”
The writer of Hebrews is the same person who specifically and emphatically denies that Jesus was an angel in chapter one of Hebrews.
In considering our critic’s claim that the word “chosen” Son was replaced with “beloved” before the Arian heresy, causing Arius to believe that Jesus did not preexist His conception,” Dr. Huggins stated:
“the reading ‘chosen’ is well attested both before and after the time of Arius both in the Greek and Latin manuscripts. Further, this passage has nothing to do with the question of Jesus’s preexistence prior to the incarnation. The passages persuaded Arius of the preexistence of Christ even before “time.”
Arius did not believe the Son of God always existed but was begotten/made by God the Father before “time.” Time itself is a product of creation and is measured by the movements of the cosmos.
These kinds of textual changes happen quite often in manuscripts where scribes, perhaps inadvertently, write down an expression more familiar to them from similar passages. We can see it today as we look at Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer in the KJV versus more modern translations as they compare various manuscript copies for their translations. None of them affect any major or minor essential doctrine of the faith.
The suggestion that this passage in Luke was intentionally changed and served as a basis for persecuting “truth seekers” lacks any historical evidence, especially in light of a serious time issue that the critic seems completely unaware of. The Arian Heresy was about 325 AD – or about 1200 years before the Textus Receptus came into existence!
It is always unwise to build a doctrine based on one verse that may be used or understood out of context, but far more misguided is the basing of a serious doctrine upon one contested word.
The early church dealt with various similar heresies in the first century. For example, the opening of John’s gospel was written to refute a growing heresy in the first century called Docetism and made three essential points in the first eighteen verses which bear on this discussion.
John began by pointing back to a Jewish text about “the beginning,” in Genesis chapter 1, in his opening lines of the gospel of John. Whenever the beginning was, John asserts, the Second person of the Trinity already existed.
John states the Second person of the Trinity created everything that is created, and if He didn’t create it, then it isn’t created. That would utterly exclude the possibility that the Son Himself was created. (John 1:3) If the Son was created, He would have had to have created Himself, but one cannot create oneself before one exists! 4We discuss this issue in an article about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “In the Beginning was Michael”
Third, the Second person of the Trinity incarnated and took on “flesh” (John 1:14), a physical human body and human nature. He was and will always remain both fully human and fully God (1 Timothy 2:5).
It is also interesting that the Scriptures do not declare that we must confess that the “Father is YHWH” to be saved. (The Father is YHWH, but we need not confess that truth to be saved.) Yet Paul teaches we must confess that “Jesus is YHWH” to be saved! In Paul’s argument in Romans 10:9-13, Paul quotes and applies Joel 2:32 to Christ:
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD, (YHWH) shall be saved.”
In other words, to gain salvation, everyone must call upon the name of Jesus, recognizing He is YHWH. No mere angel need apply!Ω
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|↑1||For more information, you might read, Weighed Down with False Doctrine and Weigh Down Workshop a Cult?|
|↑2||For more info on JWs, see “Should You Believe in the Watchtower or Is Jesus Christ Almighty God?,” “The Not So Strange Tale of Two Jehovahs” or “In the Beginning was Michael” for starters|
|↑3||Arius was an early denier of the co-eternal existence of the Son with the Father in the 3rd century, AD, who caused a major disturbance in the unity of the early church, pitting his followers against the other early “church fathers,” resulting in the First Council of Nicea|
|↑4||We discuss this issue in an article about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “In the Beginning was Michael”|