the Spirit Watch
The Trinity Studies:
An Analysis Of Gwen Shamblin's "Essence Of God" Statement
Part 1: "The Essence Of God"
by Rafael D. Martinez, Co-Director, Spiritwatch Ministries
In their Frequently Asked Questions section of their website, Remnant Fellowship has provided several detailed articles that define their positions about God, Christ, salvation, Western culture, the nature of the Church, current affairs and church history. Each article would appear to have been written, from the internal evidence found in them, by one author and it is very likely it was Gwen Shamblin, Remnant’s self-proclaimed “prophet” and leader. The verbiage, tenor and literary style of the work sounds like a transcript of one of her audio or video teaching presentations. There are expressions and arguments made in the documents that very closely resemble those Shamblin makes in her book Rise Above, and much of them are also found in the official Remnant Resource handbook issued to all RF members. For this reason, as well as the established and unchallenged position she has as the leader over virtually the entire Remnant Fellowship movement, we can safely conclude that she is the author of the articles on RF’s “official” position, that is to say, whatever she compels her Remnant constituency to believe.
Of all her writings, however, the major point we want to look at now relates to Gwen Shamblin’s unorthodox and heretical positions on the nature of God. The historical and orthodox position of the Christian Faith is that there is one God who has eternally existed in three equally divine persons Scripture reveals as a Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit. This is what has come to be known as the doctrine of the Trinity, that God has revealed himself as Triune in nature – one God eternally revealed as three distinct and almighty personalities who have been working throughout history revealing the will and nature of God in various ways. Shamblin has long ago rejected this belief as a perversion of what she believes is the “true” revelation of God’s nature: since the launch of her sect in 1999 and her very public repudiation of the doctrine of the Trinity in 2000, she has found herself having to continually address the enormous controversy it engendered.
It is difficult to understate how profoundly pivotal this became in Remnant history. Scarcely had Shamblin’s departure from the Christian orthodoxy became fixed in Christian opinion then she began her 2001 national tours that were nothing less than heavy handed recruitment events for her movement, on the heels of the release of her Weigh Down Advanced course. Both the tours and her WDA curricula were filled with her judgmental preaching, her hatred for Christian churches and her strident call to abandon family and friends for Remnant. The response of the church was clear: both Remnant and Shamblin encountered a wholesale and massive rejection from the Christian community it attempted to coopt throughout the rest of that year and into 2002. Tens of thousands of church-based WDW chapters were shut down, church leaders publically identified Shamblin’s polarizing theology as extreme and abusive, and most of Shamblin’s market vanished within a matter of months leaving only a small handful of her followers standing with her.
Her bold and impudent rhetoric about the Trinity is perhaps what brought the most negative and damaging impact to Remnant at a crucial stage of its launch, and Remnant members were faced with the first great trial of their newfound and misguided faith. It became just another of many opportunities Shamblin exploited to further deepen the divisive control over the hearts and minds of her new flock. She had already enchanted hundreds of recruits with her black and white worldview that drew many to initially to leave their churches and pervert their family relationships for the sake of Shamblin’s call to “total obedience” and “purity.” Hence, the Trinity issue undoubtedly became the first “wake up” call outside Remnant to the world about the true nature of her religion and the first major call to arms for her Remnant constituency to stand for their newfound faith. Shamblin’s well known rhetoric over a “calling out” by God of the “true remnant” was given a powerful reinforcement as she took this rejection to be a persecution for her stand on “the truth.” It became one of the first of many experiences she led her cult to view as God’s testing He permitted to ensure that they remained faithful to His “message”.
Read how Shamblin places such “persecution” firmly in the context she wants Remnant to view it; this is taken from the Remnant Resource notebook, authored sometime between 2001 and 2002:
“We are to expect opposition and persecution from the world. .. All followers who make God the one and only sovereign Lord will be persecuted by the masses on the wide highway, the masses who love multiple gods. .. You will eventually see that these attacks are beautiful, for the flaming arrows just help you put your armor on and keep it on (Ephesians 6:10-18). What Satan has meant for bad, God means for good – the old Genesis 50:20 rule. .. Why does God allow this continual attack at the beginning of your decision to make Him Lord of every area of your life? It is simply to test your heart for more idols. Your heart is being examined to see if you love your spouse more than your Creator, your children more than your Creator, or your friends more than your Creator. .. God is truly separating us out from the pagan-like ‘Christian movement.’”
Never mind that the “persecution” was from tens of thousands of earnest Christians defending the Faith as defined by Scripture! It was all just a work of Satan! That easy demonization of alternative viewpoints was just the first of many Gwen did to cowardly sidestep serious interaction or discussion at all with her controversial teaching (a tactic used by most every cult leader I’ve ever seen to stand serious face to face discussion with Christian leaders).
Since the original 2005 authoring of these critiques, Shamblin has directed changes to those sections of her website that contain the FAQ and her decidedly antitrinitarian position. The web-based presentation of her doctrinal positions has been a fluid thing as well. Her initial 2000 statement on the Trinity was pressed into service on the then newly launched Remnant Fellowship website as the basis of an expanded 2002 article entitled "THE ESSENCE OF GOD" published there as her response to the firestorm of criticism she encountered from pastors, apologists and laity alike. This statement, along with the FAQ's about Remnant, has been displayed several ways on the Remnant site as the years have gone by and can be seen in it's present form here, presaged by a glowing self-representation of Remnant as a "Church Full Of Praise For God". The article is, to this day, Shamblin’s most serious attempt at answering her critics and allaying the questions her flock needed answered concerning her heretical view of the nature of God, a discourse that captures the true essence of Gwen Shamblin's divisive rejection of Biblical Christianity like no other. It is a long and convoluted treatise that must not be overlooked by discerning people seeking to know the truth behind the abusive spirituality of Remnant Fellowship.
You can see how many revisions Shamblin has put this material through by clicking here on an Internet archive website and exploring for yourself.
Gwen's doctrine of God has directly impacted how she developed her Weigh Down philosophy and Remnant Fellowship theology, to grasp how her Remnant church has become a cultic church movement. Gwen Shamblin's public religion is little more than a legalistic personality cult centered around her unbiblical ideals. This is the primary reason why these articles have been offered as a response to her dogma. I used her 2004 version of her position on the Trinity that you can read here for the article series you are now about to explore.
For all of the apparent light she claims to have on this most fundamental of questions about God, she only provides confusion, error and outright heresy that rightly identifies her as a false teacher. Therefore, as we start this study on her erroneous views of God, we will find ourselves needing to explore several issues at once involving a variety of subjects, with Bible study being among them. Shamblin prefaces her discussion with one of the many diagrams she uses throughout her teaching to illustrate her positions. This one is called “Essence Of God,” and is an attempt to lay out her views of who God is. This is viewable on the website article, but must be described here to grasp her argument: it gives great insight into her thinking that we must keep in mind (the image below is an older one used in the past on her website).
A large block entitled “YHWH – The Great I AM” is at the top of the diagram. Beneath it to the left is a large arrow pointing to the block. This arrow is accompanied by a caption that reads “God is our Father. As Creator, He is also referenced to as Husband, Defender, king, etc.” Beneath the large block to the right are a series of downward pointing arrows beneath which are smaller blocks labeled, in a hierarchical order “Jesus”, “Man” and “Children.”
And next to each of the arrows are more captions which are apparently are defining these stages of hierarchy starting with the large block entitled “YHWH – The Great I AM”: “God is Jesus’ Father. Jesus is His only Son.” “Jesus” has as a caption “Jesus is firstborn of the Father, Messiah, Lord-Master-Teacher, also the Groom of the Bride and referenced to as our brother since he is also god’s Son.” The block “Man” has a caption reading “Humans can be our earthly fathers. When we call a man ‘father’ this does not make him God the Father. Likewise, when the Bible uses one of many descriptive references of Jesus – such as ‘Father’ – it does not make him YHWH.”
Here is the first concrete depiction of how Shamblin’s concept of God is laid out. As we know, Shamblin’s rejection of the Biblical revelation of God as Triune is a matter of record, but her long and rambling “statement” she released in 2000 raised far more questions than answers. We will touch on these as we go through Shamblin’s RF website adaptation of them but the most glaring of them now becomes apparent and must be first addressed.
What Does Gwen Really Believe - Short Version, Please?
For all of her public posturing over the nature of God, where can you find a clear statement by Gwen Shamblin on the “essence of God” actually found in her writings or teachings? The graphic sets forth only a bare outline of what she appears to believe and adds even more questions to the collection. In reading what she has gone on record about concerning her belief about God, one may seek in vain to find a plain, concise definition of just what “the essence of God” actually is. Her usage of the impressive sounding theological term “essence” is rather contrived, implying that she has defined an inerrant understanding of the nature of God’s being for us. However, her conclusions are never summarized so that we may grasp easily just what her views actually are. As we will see, she reaches for a Christian theology book to set forth what she believes the orthodox teaching on the Trinity is, but instead prefers to leave her followers to “dig for this wisdom” as she puts it in subsequent pages. This is a clever way to avoid questions and the burden of proof that she rashly claims and leaves it up to her followers to figure it all out. For one who can confidently say “the invisible God has become very visible to me over the years” (2), her views are cryptic, almost mystical and remain a well-hidden puzzle.
From what we know about Shamblin’s claims, there is One True God, one she claims to be “YHWH – The Great I AM.” She calls him Creator and looks to references in Scripture as Husband, Defender and King. Jesus is the only Son of God, she says, and He is “firstborn of the Father, Messiah” etc. As is well known, Shamblin’s view is that there is a hierarchy of power and authority over which God is supreme and Christ’s sonship a divine order that relegates him to a subordinate position. But most telling is that the Holy Spirit is completely and mysteriously absent from this diagram. While Shamblin’s writings and preachings are replete with references to the “Holy Spirit,” there is none here. And that omission alone is incredibly significant. The clear implication is that Shamblin wants attention focused on the positional relationship between God the Father and His Son as we consider “the essence of God.” That alone raises several serious questions we will discuss shortly.
It is also equally important for us to recognize that Shamblin’s inclusion of references to humanity in this diagram is illustrative of a truth that is completely veiled to those not in Remnant Fellowship and who have not gotten the “benefit” of more detailed teaching from her. This is an example of what is known among cult researchers as an “insider doctrine,” a belief that is articulated, defined, and discussed primarily only with the social circles of a cult that incorporates unique and distinctive practices and teachings that are used to provide structure and order to the group itself. This “insider doctrine” is Shamblin’s “authority line” teaching, which essentially sets forth the belief that God has ordained a well-defined power and authority structure in the “true church” modeled entirely from Shamblin’s understanding of the between relationship God and Christ. These “authority lines” must be completely and unquestioningly followed and are describe in RF’s Resource Notebook (accessible only to RF members, denoting the “insider” status of this doctrine):
There were global apostles who went around and started churches and help(ed) select local Shepherds. Satan and his false teachers have led the counterfeit church to believe that apostleship and prophecy were gifts that died out with the first 12 apostles. If that were the case, then how could there be apostles in Paul's day? See Romans 16:7. ..
(from yet another diagram).. Authority Line (See 1 Cor 12:27-30) ..
4. Miracle Workers;
5. Help others
6. Gifts of
7. Tongues – languages
And this concept of Shamblin on “authority lines” extends completely throughout the Remnant worldview. Ex-RF member Heather Patterson’s frank assessment from an old City of Refuge support group e-mail of how this doctrine is acted upon in Remnant cannot be improved upon and I quote it:
“When I was in RF, the line of authority (or order) was complicated at times, but the general idea was as follows:
Within the individual Remnants, there was a leader (either appointed or just the person who started the group). All members in that group were under the authority of the leader of that group. There also seemed to be an unspoken understanding that RF Nashville was above all other Remnants because they had been "doing it" longer and were examples we should follow because they had gotten rid of all of their self and were completely living for God's will.
Total submission was extremely important and basically outlined more of the line of authority (the "plumb line"): children to their parents, wives to their husbands, individual RF members to their leaders, all RF members to Gwen, and ultimately everyone to God...but mostly through the line depending on if you were e.g., a child, a wife, etc.
During my trip to Kokomo, Indiana, for a weekend with the local RF group there, I was informed that because I was a member of RF, I was to correct any members I saw sinning no matter their age or if I knew them or not. Essentially, I was an authority figure over those younger than me and it was my responsibility as a member of God's Remnant to help keep others in line with His will.”
Why is this important? Because in Gwen Shamblin’s mind, her purely human relationships provided for her the key to understanding God’s nature and exclusively in the context of authority structures – not Scripture itself. If you come with away with anything I write about Gwen Shamblin’s view of God in this article, I hope this is it. Shamblin describes herself as having
already experienced being a child UNDER authority of parents, a wife UNDER the authority of a husband, an employee UNDER the authority of employers and a student UNDER the authority of teachers .. on the other hand, I had also experienced being a mother who had authority OVER her children and being an instructor who had authority OVER adults at work. (5)
She seems to take great pride in this, claiming that “God has led me through many experiences since those early days that have helped me to learn about the heart of man and the heart of God” and continues in the book:
.. Looking back on it, I know now that God wants all of us to experience being in authority so that we can know exactly how He feels .. My heart goes out to God, and there have been several times that I have wept with Him over how painful it must be to supervise this wild group of people who have varying levels of devotion down here on earth (ibid, p. 171) .. God gives parent-child, husband-wife, employer-employee and teacher-student relationships to expose and dispose of any undevoted or disloyal characteristics that might surface. Vertical devotion is the key – all the way up the ladder to God himself (p. 174) .. the undevoted person’s heart has wandered to a horizontal – versus vertical – devotion. Oh, it looks religious and godly, but it is actually lethal to all relationships. ‘Horizontal’ is a focus on what man thinks, and ‘vertical’ is a devotion to what God thinks (p. 175) .. There is no such thing as divided devotion, for either you will love the one and hate the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. This has such deep implications for explaining a Promised Land (p. 177).
This “line of authority” teaching explains why Shamblin includes references to “Man” and “Children” in the diagram. It also explains why Shamblin uses her life experiences so frequently and readily in her fulsome God-talk she calls “preaching.” She draws upon her own life experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, and frames her expositions of “truth” on them and not Scripture itself. And this is the “divine genius” all of humanity is meant to follow, the reordering of one’s entire temporal existence and eternal destiny to pattern their life after the proverbs of a middle aged blond dietician’s encounter with life – not the eternal verities of God’s Word.
More to follow --
(1) Remnant Resources, pages 9-11
(2) Rise Above, p. 154
(3) Remnant Resources, page 19:
(4) Testimony of Heather Patterson, e-mail on file
(5) Rise Above, p. 171
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