The Significance of a Sheepdog for Apologists

logo courtesy Chiara Martinez

I’ve been asked what type of dog is in all the pictures on our Sheepdog Apologetics webpage and Facebook and Twitter pages.  I’ve also been asked if there is a significance to this dog.  This post will briefly look at why this particular breed exemplifies our spirit and goals as apologists.

A Breed Straight Out of the Bible

The breed is an Anatolian Shepherd Dog; in Turkish “choban kopegi” (Shepherds’ Dog).  The Anatolian comes, quite obviously, from Anatolia in modern day Turkey.  This region encompasses most of central Turkey, including the Apostle Paul’s hometown of Tarsus, the churches which Paul’s epistles were addressed to, and the seven churches mentioned in Revelation.

Archeological finds of Assyrian bas-reliefs and carvings from 2,000 BC show that the Anatolian is among the oldest identifiable dog breeds.  Many experts think Job 30:1, and several other Old Testament passages, is referring to Anatolian Shepherds.

Anatolians were introduced to the US in the 1930s through a US Department of Agriculture study to determine the best flock dog for the vital wool industry.  During a state dinner discussion between the Secretary of Agriculture and the Turkish Ambassador, the subject of the study came up.  The Turkish Ambassador proudly proclaimed that Turkey had the best flock dog in the Anatolian Shepherd Dog.  This led to a pair of Anatolians being donated to the US, but war shortages and cost overruns caused the termination of the program and the sale of the dogs.

A Fearless Defender of the Flock

Anatolians are a large muscular breed, prized for their steadfast defense of their flocks against predators, regardless of the size or number of predators.  They historically showed no fear in facing down wolves or even lions in order to protect flocks under their charge.  Anatolians have more recently been used in Africa to deter cheetahs from local shepherds’ livestock, and even as companions for cheetahs raised in captivity.

Unlike other types of herding or livestock guardian dogs, the Anatolian is highly independent and can be left in charge of a flock in the field; working alone or in teams.  Like other herding or protection dogs, the Anatolian is extremely intelligent.  Their independence and intelligence can sometimes make them challenging to train, but their fearless devotion to their flock and shepherd outshine these drawbacks.  Anatolians are not herding dogs, but rather travel with flocks as protectors as they move across the landscape.

Despite their large size, strength, and fearlessness, Anatolians are extremely gentle with members of flocks and families they are tasked with protecting.  Anatolians can fend off lions and then comfort young lambs or goats in their flock.  There are even examples of Anatolians pulling sheep out of deep water (sheep are notoriously poor swimmers).  Anatolians show the same loyalty in protecting their human “flocks”.  They can be just at home alone in the field as curled up at your feet; ready to challenge all threats.

How Are Anatolians Pertinent to Apologetics?

Because of its origin and the traits discussed above the Anatolian Shepherd Dog seemed a perfect “mascot” to represent our mission. 

The first connection to the Anatolian is its birthplace.  The entire area of Anatolia played a major part in the early expansion of the Church.  The Apostles would have been familiar with the Anatolian and its key role in protecting flocks and livelihoods in the region.  As they travelled the roads between Jerusalem and Asia Minor the disciples likely would have observed Anatolians at work protecting flocks.

As apologists we must imitate the steadfastness of Anatolians in defending Scripture and the Church against the “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).  Many times we may find ourselves alone in groups of non-Christians where we have to stand our ground. We may also be called upon to enter the fray when a fellow Christian is battered by questions and beginning to doubt their faith.

When heretical ideas begin to seep into our churches, it may fall to the apologist to recognize them and sound the warning.  The Apostle Paul warned that “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29).  We must fearlessly challenge those that would seek to “devour the flock”.

To match the Anatolian’s intelligence, we should study the truth of Christianity as well as arguments against the Faith.  This intellectual exercise prepares us and gives us confidence to stand in the gap between worldly philosophies and the truth of God’s Word.  We should also be prepared to analyze ideas in light of Scripture and be ready to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6).

These steadfast and intelligent traits lead to the ability to work independently.  We should be self-motivated to learn our job as case makers.  We also need to be able to analyze Scripture and any challenges that may come up.  This independence pertains only to performing apologetic tasks; we must always remain dependent on our Shepherd and His guidance.

The last trait of an Anatolian that apologists must have is their gentle nature. Anatolians will engage threats only with the force required. As apologists we must ensure we are not engaging in order to simply win an argument, but to win a heart to Christ. We are directed by Scripture to carry out our mission “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). 

This means gently helping a fellow Christian work through doubt, just as with challengers to the Faith. The Anatolian uses its presence to deter predators, unless a confrontation is required. Our true model in this case must always be Jesus, who was gentle until stronger methods were required.

As you grow in your role as Christian Case Makers and Sheepdogs, reflect on the traits of the Anatolian Shepherd Dog and draw strength and resolve from their example. But first and foremost, look to the guidance of our Savior and Shepherd to lead you through all situations.

Check out our Resources Page for more information on how to be a Christian Sheepdog. Also, leave a comment below if you have any questions regarding this or any of our blog posts.

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