Saturday, 4 December 2010

The sheep hear his voice

November has been a crazy busy month for me, as evidenced by the lack of blog entries. I'll fill you all in on some details when I do the next Relay update, but for now let's continue our look at the issue of whether God promises to regularly communicate to Christians outside of the Bible.

The sheep hear his voice.

There are a number of passages Christians often point to that purportedly show that God's will is regularly made known to us outside of the Bible, through 'promptings of the spirit' or the allignment of circumstances or some other phenomena that needs to be interpreted correctly. One of these passages in John 10:1-5,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."

Because this passage talks about the sheep recognising the shepherd's voice it is said that Christians should expect to hear God's voice regularly in some special way. The problem with using this passage to support the special communication view is that when we see the verse in context, Jesus just isn't talking about how believers ought to discern God's will. This teaching of Jesus occurs in a narrative whereby he has healed a man of blindness on the Sabbath and the religious leaders are angry at him for doing it during this sacred time. They deny that Jesus is doing God's will, whereas the man who was healed recognises that Jesus was doing God's will. Jesus calls the religious leaders blind and then begins this passage, referring to himself as the shepherd. 

The Old Testament used the word shepherd to describe the spiritual leaders of Israel. Mostly likely Jesus is referencing Ezekiel 34:1-12 which speaks of God's anger towards the failings of the religious leaders in truly caring for their flock. God promises that he himself will be their shepherd in the future. Jesus is saying that he is the real shepherd who cares for his flock and his flock recognise him as performing this role, as the blind man did, whereas the false shepards, the religious leaders, do not.

At any rate even if this passage did talk about God's special communication, it is vague, simply talking about the shepherd's voice, not the manner in which this is discerned and so cannot support any particular view of God's regular special communication.

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