RSS Feed

The Bad Shepherd

Posted on

I was recently offered this verse from scripture by a christian friend.

Matthew 18:12-14 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

This verse tells us that God is our good shepherd. That he watches us closely, cares immensely for us, and he is all-powerful, all-loving, and perfectly good. This was my response:

If someone who can’t be stopped is trying to save every individual person in the world, and billions of those people are NOT saved, then how is that someone unstoppable? The words say he is not willing that any should perish. But they perish.

If a shepherd had a flock of 7 billion sheep (number of people worldwide) , and he had them enclosed within a gate where they could not escape his sight, and he returned in the evening with about 2.1 billion sheep… (number of Christians worldwide.) is he a good shepherd, or a bad shepherd?

Let’s say no one ever sees him. The farmer just opens the gate in the morning, believing the shepherd will come, the sheep leave, presumably with him. The 2.1 billion remaining sheep return in the evening. 4.9 billion of them gone and lost. The next day you talk to the farmer and he gushes about the greatness of the shepherd who has lost 3/4th s of his flock. He tells you the story of opening the gate and of the great loss, and continues to praise the greatness of the shepherd. Would you start to wonder if that shepherd is real?

Let’s say you were curious so you wandered out to the field, and as you walked the path you saw sheep. Dead. Eaten by wolves. Broken upon rocks after falling off a cliff. Snatched up by birds of prey. They are almost literally everywhere. So many sheep. The streams are nearly clogged with sheep who wandered in and drowned. Some still limp along, lost in the forest, bleating for help.

This is what I’ve seen. I can draw two conclusions. One is that the shepherd is a bad shepherd. That he is ambivalent towards the sheep, and outright malevolent towards them. You could argue easily that he hates them.

The other is that the farmer may be a good man, but he is mistaken. There is no shepherd. You mentioned the other day that I was disrespectful towards god. Out of the two choices I have above, I have chosen the one that is MOST respectful towards him.

Just my thoughts,

-John

Those were my thoughts. Now I’d love to hear yours. Christians and Non-Christians, what are your thoughts on the verse? What are your thoughts on my response?

-John with an H

Advertisements

About John Hammon

I'm 34, I like pop-culture, sports, and history.

17 responses »

  1. The Good Shepherd could save us all … if everyone chose to cooperate/chose to be willing to be saved. By ‘saved’ I mean in the mainstream Christian sense. The operative word in the shepherd description is ‘Good’. Why would anyone choose to object to goodness itself or be disparaging about the embodiment of that goodness in the person of Jesus? Imperfect humans inevitably fall short of the standard and we need to be forgiven: ‘saved’. To be willing to be shepherded. The parabolic teachings of Jesus Christ of which the parable of the good shepherd is a part acknowledge our need for time to change. We can let them change us for the better with time. If everyone lived His way it would be a better world? Of course there would still be suffering and I leave the qualified Theologians to explain that one. I think that it is to do with the reality that in an imperfect universe it is inevitable. So is it better to exist in such a universe or not to have existed at all? We need room for our imperfections in order to exist as only God is imperfect. St Bernard said: ‘Life is only for love, time only that we may find God.’ I understand frustration at the misery and injustice in the world and have been through the ‘why isn’t God listening?’ thing myself. I think He is but His answer is a very big answer to a very big problem: the answer being the cross which Christians, I for one, believe is the gate to a suffering-free existence.

    Reply
    • Firstwarrior,
      First, thanks for commenting! We appreciate and invite your participation here. While we have a major problem with gods, we definitely want to show respect to people, regardless of viewpoint.

      There is tremendous suffering in the world. It’s hard to say what god, were he to exist, should or should not do, but I have a problem when he allows his flock to scatter the way that it has, and to suffer and then to die, and the explanation for that is so convoluted that it takes a theologian to explain. And that fact, and the problem of pain drive millions of people (or helps to drive them) away from the hypothetical god, myself included. Occam’s Razor would suggest that we’re better off acknowledging that these are major holes in the story, rather than accept that there’s a reason for this massive, heart-breaking, problematic issue, but it takes a PHD to explain.

      “Why would anyone choose to object to goodness itself or be disparaging about the embodiment of that goodness in the person of Jesus?” Simply put, because we believe it’s a lie. It’s a little like if a politician were to promise us all one million dollars apiece on his election to the presidency. You would ask “Why would anyone turn that down?” and I would respond, because it’s a lie. It’s a promise that’s impossible to fulfill. And therefore the goodness is no goodness at all. It’s a distraction from the real goodness. The people and the world around us. That would be my perspective, anyway.

      “Imperfect humans inevitably fall short of the standard and we need to be forgiven…” God created us. He also created the Standard. He knew what both were and would become at the beginning of time. This would be like me demanding my son learn to fly and becoming furious with him when he could not. I knew his limitations (God actually could have done something about our sinfulness in the design phase, but chose not to.) and I knew he was incapable of doing what I required of him. He failed. Then I’m supposed to get credit for forgiving him? What are these mindgames I’m playing with my poor son, to set him up as a failure before he’s even born?

      If the cross is the answer to the problem of pain and death, that he created for us, (created the problem, created the solution, so he cleaned up his own mess?) Then why is he only shepherding his beloved sheep to that cross at a success rate of about 2 in every 7 people? The Bible says that we cannot travel so far or sin so much that his love cannot find us. Why is it not finding us? If it’s our wickedness again as the answer, as it so often seems to be in this unfortunate story, then how wicked are we to fail that miserably when he’s trying so hard to find us? And further, why did he in his one crack at creation, create something so miserably wicked that we can’t succeed in this plan he’s set up at a rate of more than 2 for every 7? Isn’t it more likely that something here is flawed? And if something is flawed, isn’t it all flawed?

      And if it’s all flawed… Well, that’s why I think it’s a lie. As I said in the post, I think it being a lie is a more hopeful view of God than if it’s a miserably flawed truth.

      Again, good to hear from you! Sorry I don’t care for your god, but you seem like a fairly pleasant person. Feel free to follow and post as often as you’d like!
      -John with an H

      Reply
      • John What up son? This is boy Terence Gadsden. What you on now with all this????

      • Hey, Terence! I haven’t talked to you in forever, how’ve you been? This is my and Jon’s blog. Our religious views have changed some since college. What’s up with you? Feel free to read up and join the conversation here!

  2. PS That should of course have read ‘…as only God is perfect.’ Sorry about that.

    Reply
    • If I was a more serious-minded person with a flair for the dramatic (and many days I am), I would say this, “There’s a holocaust going on. God orchestrated it. It’s seems important to him for it to occur. Millions of people are dying super horrible damning everlasting deaths. Both God and Christians are standing by and watching. If, it is, as you put it, that ‘we need room for our imperfections as only God is perfect’ and ‘an imperfect world is inevitable’. It seems as you might be edging toward saying God CAN’T make the world perfect because somehow that is logically impossible AND at the same time that he WON’T because it wouldn’t show his greatness/perfection adequately. I’ve heard Calvinists proclaim that they are okay with God creating humans to be flawed, offering them no chances at redemption (read: people who could never have heard of Jesus), and sentencing them to eternal hell as important to show God’s justice and righteousness. Is that your mindset? Just curious.”

      -JWNH

      Reply
  3. Jon with no H here:

    Let’s play the devil’s advocate for the Christians here. I see this verse in context as a simple metaphor for God being happy at having a convert. I think because people don’t really know a lot of shepherds or think about shepherds nowadays so that part of the story is fixated upon. I bet shepherd stories were a lot like cubicle office stories are today. Here’s how I’d retell the story today:

    Jesus: You know that feeling you get when you can’t find your remote, and you leave your NCIS episode and your soft leather couch and you look for it in the kitchen. Thinking you might have left it near the fridge when you went to get salsa?

    (Guy in the Crowd laughs)

    Jesus: (Pointing) This guy knows what I’m talking about! Verily I say unto you, when you turn to God, it’s like finding the remote in the fridge near the spicy mustard.

    Reply
    • First of all, Angel’s advocate needs to be a phrase we incorporate around here.

      Secondly, yeah, I know it’s not the point of the analogy, but the shepherd is a repeated metaphor for god throughout the Bible, and to me anyway, it’s one of the easiest and most graphic ways to illustrate why this is nonsensical. Look at the world, see the flock, judge the shepherd (or lack thereof.)

      But good joke, which I think is the important thing. Finding the remote in the fridge would be odd. How sinful must that remote be? Or how distant? Is he an Easter Island convert or a farmer who likes to cornhole his livestock? If the latter, I want him out of God’s fridge… Actually, I don’t care if he’s in god’s fridge, I’m not getting any of that food anyway. I assume Satan’s fridge is wall to wall tofu and sprouts. At least in my personal hell anyway… You’d probably enjoy that sort of thing…

      -JWAH

      Reply
  4. I like to think about things very simply because, as u say, it shouldn’t take a PhD in Theology to understand this stuff. I always thought that the parable means that the shepherd loves us all so much that he spends extra time and effort to reach the lost.
    I am guessing you have spent a lot of time in churches where they emphasize the negative aspects of God, the way most churches do. unfortunately, most churches in the world are nothing more than social clubs that people go to out of habit, to meet friends or some other lame reason. Not many people there are real Christians.
    Your paragraph about demanding your son learn to fly–God is up there telling the beings in heaven how good u r, Satan is accusing you. It is really easy to get mixed up because so many preachers stand up in the pulpit and accuse the people. Satan means accuser, that is what his name means and that is what he does. God adores you and forgives you. The whole idea of Christianity is that Jesus (God) loves you so much that he took all the sins you ever did and will do in the future and died so you are not guilty. That is why God is up there adoring you, doting on you and bragging on you.
    In fact in Romans 5:4 it says that God’s love is being poured out on us, like from a big bucket. With the love comes joy and enormous power.
    Romans 1 says everyone, even if they haven’t heard of Jesus can go to heaven if they choose. God will figure that out. It can drive me crazy worrying about it, but none of us need to.
    Yep, i really think u have been to a lot of churches like i have gone to, where the joy and power of God is not there, but the rules and strictness is there. Jesus didn’t like that at all. He said the religious leaders were that way in his day, some still are.
    When u say most are going to hell, yes, that is a terrible thing, but they choose to go there. It doesn’t matter if they have heard about Jesus or not, it is their choice only.
    Just be glad you can choose to go to heaven if you want to. Don’t waste time worrying about those that are going to hell. and for heavens sake, don’t piss God off, he is really powerful and he can punish you if he wants to.
    If you can prove without a shadow of a doubt that there is no hell, then we don’t need to worry about any of it. So far, no one I have talked to can prove it, so i am going to stay on the safe road of belief in Jesus.
    Thanks for your honesty, i love your post.

    Reply
  5. Maybe a very passionate shepherd about everyone in his flock, but deeply misguided that he leave his flock to be in danger, to go find one that got lost.

    And he would probably feel even more stupid, that after retrieving that one sheep, that when he got back the entire flock was guided.

    Like say passionate about job, but deeply misguided and a mixed up setup of priorities.

    I do understand the evangelical context of the scripture, but just wanted to have fun with it in a literal sense.

    Reply
  6. With all due respect, whoever ‘we’ are you seem to be setting your self/selves up as holding the truth in the palm of your hand for all to see, especially those of us who prefer the teachings of Jesus Christ?

    What you are really doing, it seems to me, is inviting an argument, but you don’t seem to make an argument for anything, just state your own position? You might as well just say ‘I (or we) don’t believe in God. We are going to maintain that position no matter what anyone says.’

    I felt you didn’t really listen to my own point of view which is based on faith, ultimately, not reason or argument. I believe that Jesus held the truth in the palm of his hand in the form of the marks of His suffering as it were, though this is just one way of expressing one of the artticles of faith.

    There are warnings against getting involved in meaningless controversies so I will make this my last comment – not because I feel you defeated a contrary argument – I didn’t really argue as such. Rather because of the said warnings and also because I am well founded in my faith and don’t need to justify it to anyone, whereas you seem to be trying to either establish your onw belief incontrovertibly or attack the sincerely held belief based on personal experience of those who witness to it in their millions?

    I respect your opinion as I do that of anyone, and your right to hold it. I will leave you with this thought if I may: I imagine you are a believer in science? Me too, up to a point: yet I know that science has proved itself wrong time and time again with each paradigm.and that which was preached as gospel truth has been revised. Why are people so ready to accept anything that a scientist tells them then – and isn’t it unscientific to make a statement of conclusion where one is not possible based on laboratory tests?

    It is impossbile to conclude scientfically that there is no God – you can’t put God in a testube if you like – in fact more and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that God may well be the only explanation for existence whether we like it or not.

    That doesn’t stop the likes of Richard Dawkins from reaching a conclusion based on what? Or from irresponsibly using his recognition as a scientist as a platform for preaching his own brand of aetheism as though it were gospel truth.

    Go in peace!

    Reply
    • Firstwarrior,

      I like that we’re having an ongoing conversation. I’d hate for it to end, and I don’t think that this is a “meaningless controversy.” As Jon said, a holocaust is taking place, that your god, if he does exist, is watching, and he seems to find it important. That’s not meaningless. Now, like I said, I like that you’re here and want this and future discussions to continue. But I am about to disagree with you, using reason and logic to make my argument. I’m also going to use humor. If it sounds like mocking, it’s only meant to bring humor to my argument against your argument. Not against you. Now with that said,

      “you seem to be setting your self/selves up as holding the truth in the palm of your hand for all to see, especially those of us who prefer the teachings of Jesus Christ?”

      …This is just a way to make “making an argument.” sound bad. Aren’t we both holding what we believe to be the truth “IN THE PALM OF OUR HANDS!!” up to each other in having a discussion? Isn’t anyone who has a blog holding what we believe to be the truth up for others? Isn’t anyone who comments holding what they believe to be the truth back?

      “but you don’t seem to make an argument for anything, just state your own position?”

      …I thought stating my position and providing evidence (the analogy of the dead sheep, which you can look at the world and see.) and contrasting that to what I know of the theoretical god (which we can read in the bible.) was making an argument.

      “You might as well just say ‘I (or we) don’t believe in God. We are going to maintain that position no matter what anyone says.”

      I don’t believe in gods. What are you basing the “we are going to maintain that argument no matter what anyone says.” upon? Seems like you added that part. I’m open to other’s opinions and invite them.

      “I felt you didn’t really listen to my own point of view which is based on faith, ultimately, not reason or argument.”

      I listened to it, but what would you have me do with it? There are two reasons to hear an argument: To learn from it and augment your own opinion, and to refute it if you disagree. (And to keep the peace, AMIRIGHT, married peoples???) If your point of view as you said isn’t based on reason, only on things you can’t see (the definition of faith.) then how can I learn from your opinion? How can I refute it? You’ve got to come to the table of reason with me if we’re going to help one another. We have to agree upon and play by the same rules. Taste, touch, see, smell, hear. These are the things you and I can both agree on. When you tell me you’re basing your argument on something that you haven’t seen and I haven’t seen, what do I do with that information? How can we connect? We’re having two discussions near each other. Not one discussion with eachother.

      “I am well founded in my faith and don’t need to justify it to anyone, whereas you seem to be trying to either establish your own belief incontrovertibly or attack the sincerely held belief based on personal experience of those who witness to it in their millions?”

      I feel good in my beliefs (not faiths) as well and don’t NEED to justify them, but I enjoy justifying them. Or rather, discussing them with others who agree, and with those like yourself who disagree. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to establish anything or “attack” you. “Attacking” is what any two people are doing when they have a friendly debate in a sense… attacking the argument with your own. But saying “attacking” is a way to make reasoning and logic sound malevolent. I don’t think it’s intentional, but saying that I’m doing the things I’m doing with colorful language like “attack” and “truth in the palm of your hand” isn’t an argument. It’s just painting me “debating you” and “believing what I say and saying it.” with colorful language to try to make me sound like a jackass for doing normal things. But there’s no reason or logic to it.

      And who witnessed what in their millions? If you’re referring to christ, I don’t think he got around to a million people. And thousands of people seeing something doesn’t preclude it from getting twisted up and confused over the course of history. In the same amount of time after the holocaust as the first gospels were written, people started saying that the whole thing didn’t happen and was a myth. A lot of truth can be confused and lost in 50-70 years.

      “I imagine you are a believer in science? Me too, up to a point: yet I know that science has proved itself wrong time and time again with each paradigm.and that which was preached as gospel truth has been revised. Why are people so ready to accept anything that a scientist tells them then – and isn’t it unscientific to make a statement of conclusion where one is not possible based on laboratory tests?”

      Science doesn’t “prove itself wrong,” it evolves. As we learn more, as the evidence grows and changes, it changes. Because it is not forced to adhere to one conclusion and contort the evidence to fill that need, it instead is forced to adhere to the evidence, and thus contorts the conclusions to fill that need. In that way, it reveals the truth in a clearer, more correct way. It’s awesome how it does that. It’s extremely helpful and always getting better and better.

      “– in fact more and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that God may well be the only explanation for existence whether we like it or not.”

      …Wait, but you just said… Aww MAN! I defended science against you and now you’re back on board with it and using it against me!!! Also, no they’re not.

      “It is impossbile to conclude scientfically that there is no God – you can’t put God in a testube if you like –”

      Correct, you can’t prove any negative. You can’t prove that I’m not currently getting a backrub from 13th US President Millard Filmore. Certainly not if I accept it as irrefutable truth and when you present evidence to me to suggest that I’m NOT getting a backrub from Millard Filmore, I find ways to turn that evidence to fit my conclusion. In fact, many scientists are coming to the conclusion that Millard Filmore may well be the only explanation for my increased relaxation and lower body flexibility whether we like it or not.

      “That doesn’t stop the likes of Richard Dawkins from reaching a conclusion based on what?”

      The world that he sees around him. The things he sees, tastes, touches, hears, and smells.

      “Go in peace!”

      You as well! Please don’t mistake my humor or my disagreement as not being glad that you’re here or being unwilling to enjoy a conversation with you. If you were here I’d buy your next beer. Or milk, or Diet Dr. Pepper. Whatever you like.

      …A little lower please, Millard? Ooh. That’s the spot.

      -John with an H.

      Reply
  7. Like I said John, you’re just looking for an argument. Good luck with the blog.

    P.S. by ‘witness’ Christians mean to testify to their own personal experience of the God you don’t believe in. I don’t believe in ‘gods’ either – just the one, and it’s not Richard Dawkins, or science which I think its fair to say has proved itself wrong repeatedly: feel free to think of that as evolving if you like… and they do… or at least the various eminent scientists who Iv’e seen saying so on several recent documentaries do. That’s not argument by the way, that’s just contradicition. Remember the old Monty Python’s argument sketch? That one always really made me laugh.

    Reply
    • You guys are clearly having a ard time seeing eye to eye.

      Reply
    • What does that mean? I’m just looking for an argument? I’m looking for a discussion. That’s the point of most blogs. And argument is just a negative term for discussion. You were also, I presume, looking for a discussion when you posted here, which is a good thing.

      To say that I’m “just looking to argue” is a pretty common way of “bailing out” of a discussion when you’re stuck. I hope you’ll stick in with these discussions and I certainly hope you’ll post more in the future. But when it becomes hard to find a response, don’t bail out, or dismiss what I’m saying… hold your own beliefs accountable to themselves, turn inward, and examine why and what you believe. You’ll be glad you did.

      You’re welcome anytime! Thanks for joining in.
      -John with an H.

      Reply
  8. http://www.lgchurchofchrist.com/The%20Lord%20Is%20My%20Shepherdsedited.doc.pdf

    you are back in the world, with unbelieving friends and some relatives, I hope they would not hurt you again, and find yourself one with the flocks again. there are appointed shepherds of Jesus while he hasn’t back yet. And he likened them to a hireling if they just do a ministry money to the people who needs spiritual guidance and warm love like a real family. But there are authentic shepherds that could be liken to the Master Shepherd and their rewards is great in Heaven. Its a real struggle between the world and Jesus morals. But in the end base on my many experiences the world will love you as long as you hate God and vice versa. We are in the last days, people waxed worst and worst cold. Deceiving and being deceived. Gay marriages! Pornography, pedophilia murders, and eventually the dumb sheep without a shepherd will annihilate this world in the name of war for money! and the likes. I don’t know with you, but i guess I am more safe with a shepherd to look after me, than to go back to the world of hypocrisy where friends of all but a friend of no one.

    Reply
  9. The “Bad Shepherd” I’m referring to isn’t the believers here who hurt other people. That does happen. I’m referring to God himself. He’s a bad shepherd. His sheep get hurt, lost, killed, he will lose, by the Bible’s own admission, MOST of his sheep. That’s a bad shepherd. And it can’t be blamed on the sheep. I’m talking about the “Master Shepherd” you mentioned. He’s bad at shepherding. By a simple analysis of his results, he’s not good at protecting his sheep.

    And you can’t blame the “dumb sheep.” (Why did God create dumb sheep for his most wonderful creation to assuage his loneliness… You’d think he’d make something worth making. I refuse to loathe myself… Christians should consider that. If we’re so loathsome, why did God make us that way? “Hmm… I want a companion. I’m going to make billions of dumb sheep who’ll need my constant hand-holding and supervision.”

    “Gay Marriage!”

    Thanks for posting! But consider my question. If you were lonely, and could create any companion you wanted, would you create a legion dumb, despicable sheep?

    -John with an H.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: