Ovis Cum Pastor

“Ovis Cum Pastor”

“Ovis cum pastor” is Latin for ‘Sheep with Shepherd.’

Sheep are significant throughout the bible. They are teaching tools. They signify people and their need for guidance, as a flock of sheep needs a shepherd.

The man here where’s a tab collar. He is a priest. He holds ideas of sheep and shepherds in his mind.

In the background, a cross stands on the floor near the window, not hung on the wall. In its place, we find the eye of the sheep-man, elevated, gaze aligned vertically with the vaulted ceiling and horizontally with the open window. He is looking out over the cross.

The difference between sheep and goats is sheep tend to stay with the herd, and goats tend to wander.

Subjective & Objective Morality:

This is a fascinating topic. It is heavily nuanced and difficult to orient yourself to, but I believe I have distilled it down to its basics.

Subjective morality is a sense of right and wrong based on our personal opinion. What we feel is good and bad.

One person can feel that murder is good.

Another can feel that murder is bad. 

Objective morality is the evaluation of right and wrong by a group of people. It can be argued that this is still subjective, however, once a goal is set, morality becomes Objective towards the goal. In this case, the goal is well-being. 

The consequences of our opinions and actions in human life reveal truths about what is right and wrong. These truths over time, inform us collectively about what is moral. General morality, then is the summation of the group and its cooperation in living together to foster well-being.

This is morality functioning in a secular sense.

Theist Objective Morality is morality that the religious regard as God-given, or the nature of God. In this case, it is ‘universal right and wrong’ outside human opinion, either individual or collective. This morality removes the evaluation of moral consequences away from people and claims that good and bad are God’s law.

When Hitler killed 6 million Jews, theistic morality considered this bad because it was counter to God’s judgement of goodness.

When Hitler killed 6 million Jews, Secular morality considered this bad because it was devastating to humanity and well-being. 

So, the first example is a defiance of God; the second is a defiance of the well-being of people.

This becomes a philosophical question of where you feel the origin of right and wrong better serves us. If confronted with the graves of 6 million people, brutally and senselessly murdered, does it seem reasonable to appeal to God to determine that it was terrible? Or is it within our purview as a species to assess this as bad on our own?

Theists have strong opinions on this matter. And perhaps it is worth a look at what the Bible considers moral to gain insight into their point of view.

The Ten Commandments is the obvious starting point. One thing you will notice right away is their common sense. Rules that would be evident regardless of any religious decree naturally sussed out as part of a history of social togetherness.
Here they are: 

Honour your father and mother. 

Good idea.

You Shall not murder

Good idea.

You shall not commit adultery. 

Good idea. 

You shall not steal, 

Good idea.

You shall not covet. 

Good idea.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. 

Do not slander, bribe or lie to your neighbour; good idea.

There are a few more left, but I wanted to separate them because they seem more like threats of compliance than suggestions on how to live. They are: 

You shall have no other gods before me.

This speaks of ‘imaginary’ gods, which sounds a little intolerant of other people’s beliefs in a modern context.

You shall make no idols.

Do not carve the likeness of anything that is in heaven. I wonder if this applies to art in general, like paintings too?
The religious have carved thousands of statues and painted numerous scenes to depict things from heaven, so this seems like one commandment that has been routinely overlooked.

You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain

Name-calling is not nice, but we all go through it in our lives. It helps us to grow as individuals and shows us that what we do not like, others won’t as well. So perhaps there is a lesson here in a roundabout way, but besides this, it sounds a little threatening.

Keep the sabbath day holy

God commands us to pause and recognize his creative work. OK, a little conceited, but I’ll take a day to rest, no problem.

I will consider the Ten Commandments as the short list of God’s Theist Objective Morality. If you’re looking for the long list, the bible itself would be this.  So let’s look at some other examples: 

1 Timothy 2:12 – a woman should never assume authority over a man. 

Comment: well, this was a few thousand years ago: thankfully, we have come far from this point of view. Perhaps not far enough in some estimations. 

1 Samuel 15:3 – “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

Comment: the Amalekites were seen as the enemy of the Christians. The problem here (despite the genocide) is the command to kill contradicts Matthew 5:44 – ‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,’. Matthew also says in 5:48 – ‘Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Exodus 22:18 – A witch thou dost not keep alive. 

Comment: Again, another commandment of death. However, the verse does not outline how a witch is to be determined, only that all witches must die.

Genesis 22: 9-12 – God commands Abraham to kill his son Isaac. Apparently a test of Abraham’s faith, one that he intended to carry out but then was stopped at the last moment by an angel. God then rewards Abraham’s loyalty by declaring that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars. 

Comment: Consider for a moment what Abraham must have had to process mentally to bring himself to kill his son. And then to be stopped just before committing the act with what amounts to a ‘just kidding’ moment. Could this be an accurate example of God’s moral refinement?  

Exodus 21 – generally outlines rules on how to own and abuse slaves. 

Comment: Christian apologists argue that slavery in the old world was a way for impoverished people to make a living, as there was no social welfare as we have now. This is cited as “indentured servitude”. In the Bible, slavery is meant as a god-given labour contract to be honoured for a 6-year period after which the Slave is allowed to go free. Simply stated, the ownership of people is immoral.

Exodus 21:4 – “If his master gives him (the slave) a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.”

Comment:  This is manipulative. Of course, a man would not leave his wife and children. So if the slave owner allows his slave to start a family, this increases his holdings permanently.

Exodus 21:5 – “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges (or god). He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.”

Comment: Again, ownership of people is immoral. It seems the word of God here gives the divine right to the wealthy to own people—a way to increase their holdings without breaking a covenant with god.

Exodus 21:20-21 – “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.”

Comment: It is argued that god was making concessions to an already established slave market. If God is omnipotent, why not add an 11th commandment not to allow slave ownership? It seems like these passages in the Bible have been written by corrupt people to allow ancient rulers the right to do bad things. Torture and ownership of people is immoral.

Ephesians 5:22-23 – wives are commanded to submit to their husbands, as they would the lord. As the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church.

Comment: No comment needed here.

Matthew 5:28 – Jesus has stated that looking at a woman lustfully is equal to the act of adultery itself. And that cutting away a hand or gouging out an eye is suitable penance. 

Comment: This passage is very concerning. Whoever wrote this verse did not consider that a bachelor could be doing the lusting, which is not adulterous, but rather the very natural fact of sexual attraction, the impetus to relationships.

Deuteronomy 28:15 –  “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:”

Comment: A part of the chapter outlines what can only be an extortion of allegiance. An allegiance you are to accept or else you are made to suffer the most heinous abuses, which are;

  • (verse 53) If you disgrace your faith in god, you will be forced to eat your children
  • (verse 21) Threat of death by plagues.  
  • (verse 27) threat of festering sores that will itch and cannot be cured.
  • (verse 28) Affliction of madness, blindness and confusion.
  • (verse 30) Your wife will be raped by other men (Hopefully single men of that would be adulterous action, breaking  his own objective morality as outlined in  Matthew 5:28)
  • (verse 41) You will have sons and daughters that will be taken from you and made captive. 
  • (verse 59) Threat of prolonged disasters and lingering illness 
  • (verse 61) Even disasters and illnesses not known will be brought to you until you perish from them.
  • (verse 65) Threats of an anxious mind, weary from longing, and a despairing heart

To command reverence from others through threats is to use extortion and fear to control people. If the Bible accurately accounts for the moral standard humanity should base itself on, I have to say some philosophical points need to be cleared up. In short, it has me questioning whether there is any value in the idea of theist objective morality.  

Yes, we have done bad things to our species, both inside and outside religion. However, generally, we have improved upon a fundamental basis of morality. 

So I believe a proper basis for morality is grounded in humanitarian ideals, despite our idiosyncrasies. If anything, our idiosyncrasies give us the occasion to reflect and better determine how we can change to live together better.