Posts Tagged ‘god-shepherd-sheep’

The Blurred Distinction Between God and "God’s servant" in UBF

January 7, 2004

There have been a couple of rather heated internet discussions lately initiated by one UBF person defending UBF’s “marriage by faith” practice and by another UBF person (apparently a German) defending the notion that one’s UBF shepherd should be allowed to “interfere” in ANY area of one’s life. A common thread in both discussions that I’ve latched onto is this muddling or blurring of the distinction between God’s will and “God’s servant’s” will in UBF. This blurring isn’t just something I’m pulling out of thin air, but it’s something I have personal experience of, and it’s also something that’s ever present in the writings of UBF defenders (though they inexplicably deny it). It could be that this blurred distinction between God’s will and a leader’s will is so ingrained in these UBF defenders that they don’t know even recognize it in their own arguments and defenses. After all, they do this sort of blurring in sogam after sogam after sogam. Possible scenario:

UBF defender writes: One who says to one’s UBF SHEPHERD, “I must obey God rather than men,” respects one’s own opinion more than GOD’S will.

You write: One’s UBF SHEPHERD should not interfere or meddle in certain areas of one’s life.
UBF defender responds: What areas of one’s life should one not surrender to GOD?

You write: What if one’s UBF SHEPHERD directs one to do something immoral or illegal or unethical?
UBF defender responds: GOD’s will and commands often seemed hard to understand and accept in the Bible. Isn’t everything that happens GOD’S will? Doesn’t everything that happens happen according to GOD’S will? Now then, is there any direction, from say a UBF SHEPHERD, that would make you say this CANNOT be GOD’S will?

Or you write: What if one’s UBF SHEPHERD directs one to do something immoral or illegal or unethical?
UBF defender responds: GOD is above mere morality and ethics.

You write: You know, you seem to blur the distinction between a UBF shepherd’s will and God’s will, between a UBF shepherd’s direction and God’s command. It’s a bit troubling.
UBF defender bristles: I did no such thing. Where did I write that?

Anyway, a couple of my replies in these discussions:

Author: Joe
Subject: Re: ubf marriage is about controlling and being controlled
In reply to: John ‘s message, “Re: ubf marriage is not what you think it is” on 03:43:06 12/28/03 Sun

>The
>choice of man is not always to be trusted. Adam chose
>to eat the forbidden fruit but he did not chose his
>wife, God did. “[T]he sons of God saw that the
>daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any
>of them they chose” (Gen. 6:2) and “[t]he LORD saw how
>great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and
>that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart
>was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that
>he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled
>with pain.” (Gen. 6:5-6)

With bits of scripture abuse and twisting like this, the UBF member arrives at the desired conclusion that people, even Christians, making their own life decisions and choices is a bad thing, and therefore, they need “help” and “shepherding.” The UBF member accepts and uses various euphemisms such as “finding God’s will for their life” or “obeying God” or “giving one’s marriage to God.” But it is another subtle twist; when they say “God,” they in actuality mean “servant of God,” which in turns means one’s UBF shepherd or UBF chapter director. It turns into a classic use of long-debunked and -rejected shepherding/discipling principles. And we all know that this control of people’s lives by their “spiritual superiors” in UBF is not limited to the realm of marriage.

Author: Joe
Subject: Re: Why mission?
In reply to: christian ‘s message, “Why mission?” on 05:09:37 01/06/04 Tue

>Of course a shepherd, or say, a teacher, should not be
>considered to be God. This is simply wrong and
>everyone believing this will be sooner or later
>disappointed.

A UBF “sheep” does not need to explicitly consider those above him to *BE* God. It’s enough for the UBF sheep to consider those above him to be “God’s servants” for the negative effects of excessive control to become manifest. Now, it should also be noted that the notion of “God’s servants” in UBF is different from what normal, healthy Christians would consider to be servants of God. Normal, healthy Christians, of which there are many, do recognize that there exist people who serve God, but they would never consider those ‘servants of God’ to be the arbiters of God’s will for their lives as UBF people do.

As has been repeated, what’s happened in UBF is really nothing new. There have been and still are abuses of shepherding/discipling, wherein teachers and disciplers don’t necessarily become God, but become so authoritarian that they might as well be God.

>But one should also not be tempted to say, that we
>need no gospel workers, no missionaries, no bible
>teachers. Yes, every one can have a direct
>relationship to God. But if this should mean, that he
>shouldn’t go to church and ignore teachings and even
>directives and rebukes from his pastor, saying “i do
>not obey men, i only obey God”,

What church do you go to where a pastor reserves the right give *directives* (orders) to parishoners and expect to be obeyed?

>then I would say this
>is simply hypocritical, such a christian thinks of his
>opinion to be more important than God’s will.

This is quite a stretch in a couple of ways:

(1) A believer who says, “I do not obey men, I obey God” has already stated that they assign great importance to God’s will (“I obey God”). Then who are you to say that they are assigning more importance to their own opinion than God’s will? I’ve seen this plenty of times in UBF, this automatic assumption that disobedience to a human “shepherd” in favor of God is actually rebellion against God and the rejection of God’s will. This is part of what is wrong with UBF.

(2) You’ve magically morphed a pastor’s directive to God’s will (“…ignore teachings…directives and rebukes from his pastor…such a Christian thinks of his opinion to be more important than God’s will”). As has been pointed out, that’s what’s wrong with UBF.

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"Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep."

December 3, 2003

“Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep.” This seems to be how some in North American UBF try to mask UBF’s hierarchical authoritarianism, which begins, at its lowest level, with the one-to-one, shepherd-to-sheep relationship. The Hong brothers, the late Daniel Hong and now Paul Hong, seem to espouse this model for the relationship between “shepherds” and “sheep” in UBF. (Interesting that Paul Hong would be preaching this “sheep=God, shepherd=God” message. The stories of former Toledo UBFers would indicate that he most emphasizes the “Shepherd=God” portion, where “Shepherd=himself.”) Their biblical justification for this comes almost entirely from the Old Testament and focuses mainly on Moses “who spoke for God.” Any reputable Christian teacher or student of the Bible would look at a statement like “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” and reject it at face value as a dangerous teaching and would probably consider its source to be most likely a cult.

There are other problems. If “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep,” then by necessity, Sheep must be a “lesser God” than Shepherd in UBF. If Sheep=God wants to do A and Shepherd=God wants Sheep=God to do B, don’t you have quite a conundrum? After all, they are both “God” to each other. It’s even worse if Sheep=God wants to do A and Shepherd=God wants to do not-A, the opposite. Then what happens? We have “God” opposing “God.” Of course, then UBF “spiritual order” takes effect, and “Sheep is god to a Shepherd, but Shepherd is G-O-D to a sheep.” And if Sheep doesn’t meekly accept it, then “Sheep can just leave!” said the Shepherd. Why not just be honest and admit that the equality implied by “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” simply does not exist in UBF?

Another point: “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” is something that I can’t remember Samuel Lee or Sarah Barry ever saying. In fact, it was more common for Lee to say condescending things like “Sheep are sheep. They only like to eat, graze and mate. They never say thank you.” At least Lee/Barry never gave the illusion that a UBF sheep is “God to a shepherd” or to anyone else. The next generation of UBF leaders like Paul Hong may be even more gifted in the art of doublespeak than Lee/Barry.

See this archived RsqUBF discussion thread for an idea of how the UBF “Shepherd-Sheep” relationship works in reality.

Also see Joachim D.’s account of life in Bonn UBF at http://ubf-info.de/int/bonn/joachimd200105.en.htm, in which we see the “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” principle taken to its ugly conclusion:

Once he (Peter Chang, Bonn UBF head) literally said at the announcements at the end of a meeting: “I am God.” He did not say that he was like God, or that he was God’s servant or God’s representative, but he said, he was God. That was not a slip of the tongue or attribute to his poor German, because right after this statement he deliberately paused, after which he let us decide either to accept this or “go out through the open door now”. At that time no one said a word; all was silent and just stared straight ahead, I did too. In my heart I was shocked and at the same time ashamed to be in a fellowship where the leaders magnifies himself so.