Monday, August 9, 2010

Emergence of the Individual

TEXT: John 10: 1-5

" VERILY, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the
sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth
his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the
sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know
not the voice of strangers. "

     Martin Luther turned this into a powerful argument for Protestantism.  His grasping of this passage in part was that the sheep must judge whether or not the voice they follow is that of their Good Shepherd.  Luther's reasoning was that this being the case, every man must have the right to read the Bible for themselves, decide & pass judgment upon the edicts of pope & church, the voice of the Shepherd being the higher authority.  If such edicts be from that higher authority, then they should follow; if they be the voice of strangers, then flee.  "For a hat of pearls & a staff of silver does not make a shepherd or a bishop, but his office does depend on his care of the sheep," ie the rights of government are derived from the authority of the governed.  He saw this authority of the individual to "knock all edicts of all the papists & all the councils to the ground" as divinely bestowed, never to be rescinded.  He saw it also in Christ's warning in Mt 7:15 to beware wolves in sheep's clothing ie we, the people, have the right to judge our leaders, spiritual or otherwise.  If we are obliged to follow whatever authority would pretend to lead us, be they shepherd or wolf, then we have not the authority to judge & Christ's warning would be in vain for we would have no option to act upon our judgment.

     This is a hard argument to break.  It formed one of the cornerstones for recognition of each individual's right to pass such judgments as "endowed by their Creator."  Though Martin Luther explicitly stated that removal of this "sword" from the papacy by the people must not be by force, by its full flowering in the 18th century, the concept of the individual under God would overturn the interests of states with revolutions in the America's & Europe.  Human society would be forever changed by a whole strain of thought extending from the acts initiated by one man's interpretation of one Bible verse.

     So must it ever be, for without this kind of fundamental, over riding foundation of higher authority, there can be no human rights.

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