Saturday, March 5, 2011

What does a Shepherd mean to a Christian?

Psalms Chapter 23 New International Version

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Ok first off there is several points of confusion here on Thunderf00t's video. Thunderf00t may be a brilliant scientist/educator but he is sadly ignorant on the teachings of Christianity. Ignorant is not intended as an insult. Ignorance is simply a lack of understanding of something. For example I am ignorant of how to repair a car. In fact I am ignorant of anything to do with tools. I am ignorant of the German language.

Thunderf00t does not understand Christian teaching. One good place to start would be a church. I am actually amazed at how many atheists who have not taken the time to learn about something before they criticise it. Go to a church and do something a bit more productive than hold some Jesus Crackers hostage.

The problem with Thunderf00t's analysis of Psalm 23 is his misunderstanding of what a Shepherd was back in the days of the Bible. He demonstrates this by playing this clip from The Simpsons

Now in this clip it shows the modern meat industry. The meat industry in America today no longer requires a shepherd to care for and protect the animal. Instead animals are confined their entire life.

Nevermind the obvious fact that the Shepherd in Psalm 23 is leading his sheep out of the path of destruction. Honestly did he even read the rest of the passage?

Now because we are referring to the Christian interpretation of Psalms 23 I would like to refer you to the New Testament where Jesus is quoted as saying,
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it." (John Chapter 10:11 New International Version)

Now to truly understand this you need to read this passage in context. So here it is

John Chapter 10 in full from the New International Version

1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Now in the Gospels of Mathew and John you can see Jesus address the Pharassies many times. If you want to learn more about who the Pharassies were here is an interesting read: In a nutshell they were very knowledgeable about the Old Testament laws and regulations but Jesus viewed them as being more focused on following the law than worshiping God. (It is also important to note that in the majority of Christian thought, Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. (John 1:1 and John 1:14 which tells us that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with
God and the Word was God and that the Word was made flesh and walked among us)

So from this we can interpret this chapter to mean that Jesus considered the Pharasees to be like the thief who would attempt to lead his followers astray. He corrected them in examples such as Mathew 15 or Mathew 23 More info about Jesus and the Pharasees can be found here

Jesus viewed himself as the Good Shepherd, someone who will protect his flock with his very life from all who would harm them. That is how Christians view their Lord. To the Christian, their Shepherd is someone they can trust and depend on to never desert them no matter how hard life gets.

Now lets compare husbandry from the days of the Bible to the factory farming scenario that Thunderf00t presented. First, their was no cages to keep them in for their entire life. The animals had to be brought to where the food is, there was no feeding machines to keep them fed and watered. Furthermore, animals had to be transported with a shepherd and probably a dog or two. Larger transports required more people to control and herd the animals in the direction you wanted them to go to.

A shepherd would have to bring the animals to fresh land to graze upon, and water to drink. Most pastors and priests have given a sermon describing how sheep were cared for back in Bible days. At my old church it was brought up at Easter every few years. This article is very similar to a Sermon given by my old pastor. Most likely they used the same source material or Bible commentaries to produce it.

If you don't want to take the time to read the article here it is in a nutshell. Sheep are vunerable and they need a protector. Likewise humans are vunerable to attack but God has promised us that he will not give us more than what we can handle

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 New International Verson

Second, sheep have a strong herd instinct. They will follow the leader even if it leads to their destruction. Third (you would think this would be a contradiction) is that sheep always wander off and get lost. The fourth point is on their own they have no sense of direction.

Thus a shepherd in Bible times would always have to keep an eye out for the one sheep who got lost.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke Chapter 15 New International Version)

Whereas in the Meat Industry that Thunderf00t provided there is no care or concern for the well being of the animals required because they are locked in cages their entire life until they are slaughtered. Now of course in Bible times they consumed meat as well, However it was understood even in the days of King David that the shephard was the protector of the sheep. He was responsible for each one and ensured their safety and nurishment.

Now lets move on to Thunderf00t's second point. Do Christians rely on Jesus so much that they abdicate all personal responsibility, and look toward Jesus as their nanny?

Far from it. First lets consider the Parable of the Tallents as told by Jesus. Mathew Chapter 25. The New International Version translates the Greek to read Bag of Gold which is far more understandable.

The Parable of the Bags of Gold
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Right here Jesus is clearly telling us to be responsible with the things God has given us. At the time of judgement we will be accountable for what we have done on Earth, that brings me to my next passage.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians Chapter 5:10 New International Version)

Christians are taught to take responsibility, they expect to be judged for their actions here on this world. According to the Bible, our purpose is not to be cared for in pertuity as a baby. Rather it is to grow and mature and more importantly to obey God.

13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes Chapter 12:13-14 New International Version)

Now what is important to this passage is the author of Ecclesiastes. Not much is known about him other than it is written by someone claiming to be the son of David. Some attribute this to King Solomon who authored some other books in the Bible. is a great resource on Bible history and who wrote and did not write parts of the bible

The reason why this is important is because David is generally attributed to be the author of most of the Psalms in the book of Psalms. Another factor to remember is that David WAS a shepherd before he was anointed King. 1 Samuel 16

Many times when the word shepherd appears in the Bible you can almost always replace it with the word protector. A butcher just would not fit. Now of course eventually the actual sheep are led to the slaughterhouse, however that is not the case with Jesus and his flock. The aim of Jesus is to lead his flock to Heaven.

In conclusion, Thunderf00t is a great person and I do enjoy most of his videos. However, he really needs to take a few months and attend an actual church. Spend some time with some real Christians and learn how they think. People like GodGunsGutsGlory are not representative of the Christian faith, and sadly because people like him are what we are used to dealing with here on YouTube, we get a skewed sense of what a Christian really is.

Most Christians are not evil bastards filled with hate and rage. If you want to learn more about Christianity, log off the internet and attend a few Sunday Schools. Attend a few prayer meetings. Listen to some sermons on your MP3. Don't waste your time watching those on the TV, they are just out for money. Go to an actual church if you want to learn about the Bible and Christianity.