Question About John 10 and “Personal Dimensions of Faith”

I’m majoring in theology at a Catholic university and am having a difficult time with an assigned question. Is this question appropriate within the context of John 10 at all?

“Describe the ways in which the personal dimension of faith, as response to a personal God, is expressed in John 10.”

I have read several articles here on Catholic Answers that have lead me to believe that the “personal relationship theology” isn’t scriptural. Eric Sammons’ article “Jesus Isn’t Your Buddy” particularly states this. Also, USCCB has unending footnotes at the end of each chapter of Scripture that help the reader to understand the context of specific sentences/verses, and in no way does any of John 10 seem to be applicable to a personal dimension of faith.

Have I misunderstood this question all together?

IMO, you haven’t misunderstood the question; you seem to think the question isn’t valid, though.

FWIW, I think the question is valid and I’m wondering why you’re majoring in theology if you think it’s not valid. Theology is about getting to know God better, and if you think we’re not supposed to (or can’t) have a personal relationship with Him, then why study theology?

Just curious. Sorry if my question makes you uncomfortable.

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Yes, it is.

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No, I think you’re just approaching it from the wrong direction.

Maybe you should read up on shepherds and sheep. Does the shepherd know each sheep individually – its personality, its health, its strengths and weaknesses? Do the sheep know their shepherd and follow his voice?

I’ll admit that I don’t know much about sheep, but I read The Alchemist, a work of fiction by Paulo Coelho. Highly recommended for your major, by the way. From his description, it is very much like a personal relationship.

But don’t take my word for it. Do your own research on sheep and shepherds.

I’m asking about how this applies to John 10 within its historical context. The good shepherd/bad shepherd theme isn’t necessarily referring to any kind of personal relationship, but more of a challenge to the Pharisees. I’m not sure why you would ask me why I’m studying theology at all by asking how the context of John 10 can help me answer this question, and a lot of responses to this have been very rude with no intention of helping me. Nothing about what I said implied I didn’t believe a personal relationship with Jesus was attainable; it implied that just because Scripture implies one theme doesn’t mean it fits its proper context…which is the way the Church tells us it should be read.

I’m no theologian so I’m not sure what this means, historical context.

Jesus says I know my sheep. My sheep know me. Sounds like a personal relationship. Jesus comes across as a personal God here.

I would suggest that the personal dimension is not primary in John 10, but that it is present. I think what you’re struggling with is that it’s not the first thing that jumps out at you, and I’d agree. Or maybe the “personal” is more “interpersonal”/“amongst” persons versus what tend to think of when I hear personal, which is “you-and-me.”

Good for you.

and am having a difficult time with an assigned question. Is this question appropriate within the context of John 10 at all?

“Describe the ways in which the personal dimension of faith, as response to a personal God, is expressed in John 10.”

I’d have to break this down.

First, what is the personal dimension of faith? In my opinion, unless they are talking about “the Faith” meaning, “the Religion”, it is entirely personal. There is no other dimension of faith other than personal. How many dimensions do they claim are in the individual act of trusting and believing that God is good and a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him?

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Next, what do they mean by personal faith as a response to a personal God? Faith is personal, so personal faith is redundant as explained above.

God is a person. So, He is personal.

Is there a question about whether or not God is personal?

Jesus Christ is representing Himself and the Father as a personal God seeking the welfare of each and everyone of His Sheep. That is the equivalent of a father seeking the welfare of his family. There is nothing more personal.

I have read several articles here on Catholic Answers that have lead me to believe that the “personal relationship theology” isn’t scriptural…

Don’t know anything about that. If I read any Catholic article which said that, I’d have to challenge it.

Also, USCCB has unending footnotes at the end of each chapter of Scripture that help the reader to understand the context of specific sentences/verses, and in no way does any of John 10 seem to be applicable to a personal dimension of faith.

Can you link some to support what you mean?

Have I misunderstood this question all together?

I need more context. Did they say anything before they asked the question? They didn’t just give you that out of the blue, did they?

As a community…

That would be “the Faith”, as in the “Religion” or “Church”. Corporate faith is a religious community.

You are correct. There is a communal aspect to faith. We love one another, we build faith in one another, we cooperate in God’s plan, we bring out the best in each other. But we do so as a community of individuals, a community of separate persons.

I understood @De_Maria’s statement in a simpler way. We do not believe collectively. We believe individually. Each of us receives that grace, makes that choice, and has that relationship.

@Jmjmk, now to bring it back to your question, consider the difference between sheep and sunflower seeds. Every sunflower seed is unique, but the farmer does not know or care about any one seed. The seeds are only meaningful to him collectively. If one seed fell out of his truck, he would not notice. If one-twentieth (5%) of his seeds were lost on the way to market, he might be disappointed but not heartbroken.

It’s different with sheep, and it’s different with us. The shepherd knows each sheep individually. He knows its life history, its mother, its behavior, how much wool it produces, how it gets along with the other sheep, how much help it needs. If one sheep wanders off, a good shepherd notices and looks for the lost sheep, and rejoices when it is found. That is the metaphor for God who loves us not collectively, and not only communally, but personally.

P.S. An interesting video about sunflower seeds, their uniqueness, and their collectivity…

It’s in the Cathecism…

The various articles one finds at CAF tend to be apologetical in nature, and when they discuss the “personal relationship theology” they do so against some specific Evangelical varieties that reduce the salvific act to a solely individual context: there is next to no room for the Church, for local communities of believers, etc.

The question you have been given uses the adjective “personal” in - from my perspective - a general and topic way to refer to the interaction between God and individuals.

However, I am not sure how the question that you were offered would be readily situated in a historical context (as you mentioned in your previous post). You could possibly discuss v 30-39 in the context of an individual’s participation in divine life (within the relationship of the Father and the Son) and how such divine sonship of believers was such a radical departure from historical Second Temple Judaism. But that can be a muddy and not uncomplicated analysis.

If we are to discard the historical context and analyse John 10 on a more general basis, you could examine v 1–21 from the perspective of sanctification (or deficiation/theosis) and what its nature is for individuals. In particular, v 17 has a strong kenotic element which can furnish much discussion on the self-emptying of Jesus on the cross as a necessary “exemplar” for individual believers (i.e. self-emptying of the will, the desire to control, “passions”, etc.).

Where in the Catechism?..

We shouldn t do his homework…
But …start with the Crede.
You’ll get it.

“Personal dimension” and “Personal God

Not a "personal relationship - which can still be appropriate within Catholic Theology - it just cannot be separated from the totality of theology.

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