"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
Recently I read most of a book about the Holy Trinity. I have a great interest in the doctrine and, saw the book for sale amid a trove of fascinating reading. At the time I had cash burning a hole in my pocket, so I picked up the book with an interesting title.
The money had hardly left my hands before I regretted the loss. The author explores an outlandish theory about the Trinitarian mystery. God, it seems, evolved out of a pre-god process or principle called "the law of three." So, apparently, God was born of a pre-existing spiritual machinery of desires, anxieties and explosive stresses. It sounds vaguely like the evolution of Marduk, the ancient warlike Assyrian god.
The author's agenda is both to explain the traditional teaching about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (which she says no one understands) and to assure her readers that "everything is process."
I don't think this lady entered the sheepfold through the gate. The gate in this case is Scripture. Without the solid testimony of the Bible, belief in God becomes a fun park of fantasies without rational principles or historical foundations. Unlike a family fight, anyone can join for the price of admission.
Last week, during a lively discussion on Just About Everything, someone in my family asked me about Noah's Ark and what it means in the Bible. (Here in Kentucky a group of ardent Christians has created a theme park with "an exact replica" of that mythological boat.) I had to admit that no one should read these ancient texts without an authoritative guide.
Most people readily admit we need an authority in most of our decisions. We need laws and lawyers, taxes and tax consultants, proven knowledge and experts. But, in matters of religion, the same people rebel against authorities, declaring they can spiritually interpret the Bible without help from others; or, if they accept authorities it will be the authorities they agree with. They decide which shepherd comes through the gate or over the fence.
Every year, on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we hear a gospel about shepherds and sheep. We confess that we need God to send us the Good Shepherd, and we need the Holy Spirit to assign our pastors. We pray that our traditional structures of religious authorities -- Pope, Bishops, Priests -- are rooted solidly in the apostolic tradition. They're not flying by the seat of their pants; they're not making it up as they go. They're certainly not explaining the inexplicable or unscrewing the inscrutable.
The history of Christianity is saturated with sad stories of unworthy shepherds who misused their authority to serve their ungodly desires. Too often, leadership was too weak to protect the innocent, except when its strength was overbearing. We must pray intensely for God's wisdom to guide our shepherds who guide us through these confusing, difficult times.