Q: Why do you call Jesus Christ Yahshua?
A: Yahshua is the way we understand the name of Jesus to be pronounced in Hebrew. When the angel in Matthew 1:21 announced to our Master's Hebrew mother the name of her Hebrew son, it was a Hebrew name. Out of respect for the One who sent that angel, we want to use that name.
The exact Hebrew spelling and pronunciation of our Master's name is not an article of our faith. In other words, merely spelling or pronouncing His name this way or that is not what makes a person a true believer. But we have done some research on the subject, and this is what we found: Jesus is the English version of the Greek word Ιησους (pronounced approximately as "YAY-soos"). Ιησους is a transliteration -- an attempt to represent the sounds of one language with the alphabet of another language. It is the traditional Greek transliteration for the Hebrew name that is usually rendered Joshua in English.
This Hebrew name has two different forms, but both are transliterated by this word Ιησους in the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Old Testament. As to how these Hebrew words were originally pronounced, we have little evidence. Hebrew was written without vowels, and those who spoke the language already knew how to sound the words. Most readers of Hebrew today rely on the work of the Masoretes -- scribes who introduced a system of dots and dashes above and below Hebrew letters to indicate what vowel sounds to make. But the Masoretes lived during the 6th to 10th century AD, and very likely had a different pronunciation than that used in earlier centuries. We understand that they introduced different vowels into words containing the sacred name of the Creator in order to conceal its pronunciation, to guard against taking His name in vain.
It is clear, however, that the Creator's name is pronounced YAH, as in the familiar expression "halleluyah" ("praise YAH"). It is also clear that this sacred syllable is contained in our Master's name, because John 17:11 says, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name -- the name you gave me." Therefore, since the name of the Father is contained in the Son's name, it seems that our Master's name was pronounced either as Yahoshua or Yahshua. The shorter form, Yahshua, seems to be closest to the usual English transliteration Joshua.
Q: Why do all your men wear beards and tie their hair back?
A: Our men have beards because men were created with facial hair. It is normal and natural for a man to have a beard. Besides, it is not fitting for a priest to crop his hair or to grow long, effeminate locks. In ancient Israel both unbound hair and a shaved head were public signs of mourning or some uncleanness. It is priestly for a man to bind his hair at the back of the neck and keep it trimmed as indicated in Ezekiel 44:20: "They shall not shave their heads nor let their hair hang loose, but they shall keep their hair trimmed." Priests are concerned about pleasing their Creator rather than chasing after the latest fashions.
Q: Why do your women dress the way they do?
A: Our women wear the clothes they do because of their desire to be modest.
Q: What does a person have to do if he wants to visit one of your communities?
A: Anyone who is sincerely interested in our life can visit our communities without making any further commitment. As long as a person respects our ways, he is welcome to stay in one of our homes and share in the normal life there. We expect visitors to participate in our social life and to ask questions about whatever interests them. We don't charge anyone to stay with us. On the contrary, we enjoy offering hospitality to any who come through our doors.
Q: Do you have one leader who lives off the labor of everyone else?
A: No, there is no special class of leadership in our midst, or those who live by a different standard from the rest of us. All of our needs are met from the same common purse, and none of us receives a salary. All those in positions of authority have daily responsibilities and share in simple chores (housecleaning, yard care, washing dishes, etc.). Our leaders hold themselves to the command of our Master that rulers in the Community are to be servants of the people, not overlords.
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves." (Luke 22:25-27)
Q: Why are you called the Twelve Tribes?
A: The fact that we are called the Twelve Tribes has nothing to do with mystical tribalism, as in the beliefs of the Mormons, the Rastafarians, or British Israelism. Rather, we are speaking of people actually dwelling together in unity, living a tribal life in twelve different geographical areas on the earth, so as to be a demonstration of how God has always wanted His people to live.
Q: Are you a cult?
A: If you mean a weird, dangerous, or oppressive religious group, no.
One dictionary definition of a cult is: "a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist..." Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary (1996).
So who is to say what is false, unorthodox, or extremist? When a person uses the word cult he usually means some group he fears or dislikes. While we are, from time to time, called a cult, we are not false, unorthodox, or extremist. We do nothing other than what the words of the Bible have always called for as a reasonable response to God's love in sending His Son.
When some say cult they mean a closed religious society dominated by its leader(s) with an oppressive set of rules, with an anti-social agenda. As for us, the doors of our homes and hearts are open all the time. We are human beings experiencing the full range of joys and sorrows that real people always have. Our common life goes far beyond what one leader or a group of leaders might contain or control. It is the product of many sincere people working and believing together.
Q: Do you watch TV?
A: No, we do not have TV sets in our homes, nor do we think it is healthy for our children to watch them. We see human relationships as the central focus of our lives; we are learning on a daily basis to be friends and pay attention to each other's real needs. TV would be a distraction and would be detrimental to learning, loving, and being "normal."
Q: How many are in your group?
A: Worldwide we probably number somewhere between two and three thousand, including men, women, and children. But we do not keep count or take a census.
Q: What keeps you all together?
A: We stay together because of the power of our Master Yahshua's sacrifice. His death in our place makes it possible for each of us to be forgiven and to forgive others. So the things that usually alienate people from one another don't have to divide us. Because our Master saved us from a life of alienation, loneliness, and sin, we love Him and want to do His will. We express our devotion to Him by submitting to each other. That mutual respect and affection makes unity possible. Our desire is to follow Him, be like Him, and give all that we have to bringing about His purpose. This is our common goal, and love compels us to make sure our fellow disciples have the encouragement they need to make it.
Q: Do you say that you are the only ones who are saved?
A: We are absolutely convinced that our beliefs are the truth, our practices are the way, and our culture is the life that the Creator wants to fill the earth. Of course, we do not endorse beliefs and practices that are contrary to ours. In former times, every group, especially every religion, openly professed such confidence in their convictions. In this era of multiculturalism, however, it is generally accepted that everyone has equal access to God and to the truth regardless of what they believe or practice. Therefore it seems arrogant for any group to say, "We have the truth." But we do not believe that the path to God is a bunch of mutually contradictory beliefs and lifestyles. We believe that God is One and that He has one standard for His people, which is recorded in the Bible.
As disciples, we are devoted to learning what this standard is and putting it into practice. We believe all of God's people will desire to do this, also. They will be gathered as one people and will seek to obey that one standard. While we do expect to grow in our understanding of what that standard is, we do not expect that there will be more than one standard or more than one people of God.
Q: How does a person join your group?
A: Joining the Community is not merely a matter of changing your address. And there is certainly a lot more to it than just accepting a set of religious ideas, or even getting your name on a membership roll. First of all, you need to hear the message we proclaim about our Master. It would also be good for you to visit one of our Communities and see the life that results from that message. If what we say and what you see causes you to realize your need for our Master to save you, and when you are ready to trust Him with your life, then you would publicly declare your intentions. When we recognize faith in you, we will take you to the water and baptize you for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit. That is how you join us. The Holy Spirit makes you a member of Messiah's Body on earth. You will then have a new life -- not just a mystical "new life in Christ" that is substantially the same as your old life, but an actual new life -- with new friends, a new job, a new way of dressing and wearing your hair, a new address, and most importantly, a new Master, who will direct every aspect of your life.
Q: Why do you say there are righteous people who don't believe in Christ? Doesn't the Bible say, "There is none righteous, no, not one"?
A: In comparison with the righteousness of the Eternal God, there is no one who measures up. However, God makes a distinction between those people who daily live to do what is right according to their consciences and those who give their consciences little or no heed. He calls the first group the righteous and has a place prepared for them in eternity.1 Those who refuse to do what they know to be right are what He calls the wicked or unjust, and they too have a place prepared for them in eternity.2
People the Bible calls righteous on account of their deeds include Abel,3 Noah,4 Lot,5 Job,6 and Cornelius.7 None of these men were of the seed of Abraham, or made the sin offerings required by the Law of Moses, or had entered the New Covenant by the blood of Yahshua.
Q: How is a person saved?
A: Romans 10:13 says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." So, if you sincerely call on His name you will be saved. But, of course, no one would call on Him unless they had put their trust in Him, as the next sentence in Romans 10:14 says, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?" And Romans 10:14 says further, "And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
There is no scriptural basis for anyone to get saved just by reading a tract, or even the Bible, for that matter. A real, live, flesh-and-blood "preacher" must proclaim the message, for as Romans 10:17 says, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message..."
But Romans 10:15 makes it clear that not just any preacher is adequate for the job, for it says, "And how can they preach unless they are sent?" And God will not send those who are concerned about the opinion of men, but only those who will speak His unadulterated message, as our Master made clear in John 7:18, "He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the One who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him." That unadulterated message consists of the word of Messiah, Himself, as Romans 10:17 says, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Messiah."
This is the road to salvation, pure and simple: a man, sent by God, not interested in his own glory, proclaims the very words of Messiah, explaining what He requires of those who wish to follow Him. The hearer accepts the message, puts his entire trust in the One whose words were preached to him, and calls upon Him for salvation.
Q: Are you saved by grace through faith, or do you have to do something to be saved?
A: No one is saved by his own efforts, but we do not see how someone can have faith in the Son of God and not do what He said. Faith in Yahshua means trusting in His power to save us. If we surrender to Him and call on His name in the waters of baptism, He gives us the power to obey Him -- to forsake houses, lands, family ties, and even our own personal welfare, and to love one another as He loved us.8 That is why the Scriptures speak of "obeying" the Gospel.9 He calls us to rid ourselves of things that would hinder us from loving the way He loved. Any "salvation" that doesn't produce the "works" of simple obedience and loving as our Master loved is exposed as a fraud by the Apostle James when He says, "Faith without works is dead."10
Q: If you are forgiven and saved by grace, why do you have to live in community?
A: Although eternal life is a free gift, our loving Creator only gives it to those who are willing to do His will and live entirely for Him.11 This is the meaning of repentance, not just to quit stealing and fornicating, or even to stop smoking and drinking, but to no longer live for oneself in any way. This complete surrender of self-life leaves a person needy and vulnerable, absolutely incompatible with the self-centered society of this present evil age. Community creates a place where love's demands are endless, where the message of the cross becomes practical, making possible selfless people willing to love those around them. The needy vulnerable ones find over and over again the reality of God's love coming to them through their brothers and sisters, all the while they are giving out the same. It is only in true community that we are able to become just like our Master and Teacher, Yahshua.
Q: Do you say that a person has to give up everything to have eternal life?
A: Yes, we do, because that is what our Master said, and we are not ashamed of His words.12 Someone asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"13 After finding out that the man had religious conviction and a high moral standard, Yahshua answered, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."14 When a disciple remarked, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You,"15 our Master replied, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life."16
So, you see, eternal life results from a gospel that people actually leave possessions and relationships for. Obeying such a message leaves a person with no doubt that he is repenting from his selfish, sinful existence, because he gives up his own life and everything he has. Giving up all is the normal outcome of obeying the gospel, for it brings you out of the kingdom of darkness where everyone lives for self (as the Prince of Darkness does) and into the Kingdom of God where you live no longer for yourself, "but for Him who died and rose again on your behalf."17 Only a person who loves living under the evil one's rule18 would refuse our Master's gracious offer of eternal life, as Yahshua Himself said: "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal."19
Q: What do you mean by saying there are three eternal destinies?
A: Every human being will spend eternity in one of three places. Most Christians have been told about a heavenly reward for those who believed in the Savior, and an eternal punishment for everyone else. But few have noticed the many Biblical passages that speak of an eternal reward for those who do what is right even though they did not have an opportunity to believe in the Savior. Very simply, there is a place where the good people will be rewarded, a place where the bad people will suffer their punishment, and a place where disciples will help the Creator govern and care for the good people.
All human beings fall into one of three categories: they are either wicked, righteous, or holy. A place has been prepared where each category will spend eternity. These places are their eternal destinies.
Not all those in the first category are alike. Some wicked people wallow in moral degradation, and are known as the filthy. Other wicked people seem to have high moral standards, yet they manipulate and exploit their fellow man for their own benefit. These are called the unjust. All the wicked have this in common, though: they willfully disobey their consciences and harm other people in pursuit of their own selfish desires. When they are raised from the dead and judged for how they lived their lives, their place in eternity will be in what the Bible calls a sea of fire and burning sulfur -- a second, unending death.
Those in the second category, known as the righteous, choose to listen to their consciences. They usually do what they know is right, and when they fail, they are full of remorse and they strive to make up for their errors. These righteous people will also be raised from the dead and judged according to their deeds. They will be awarded a second, unending life. In the eternal age they will populate the earth, and then the universe, with nation upon nation of undying human beings.
The third category is made up of people who were not satisfied with their lives, whether they were on the path of the wicked or the path of the righteous. When these people heard how they could start all over in a new life, devoted to their Creator as disciples of the Messiah, Yahshua, they considered it good news. They forsook their old lives and became part of a special people -- the holy -- reserved and dedicated only to doing the will of their Creator. The sacrifice of Yahshua paid for their sins, and their eternal destiny was settled without having to wait to be judged for all their deeds. They will spend eternity as part of what the Bible calls the Holy City, ruling with Messiah over all the nations of the universe.
Q: Does your group have a religious exemption from paying taxes?
A: No, we pay property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes just as everyone else does. It is against our religious beliefs to evade taxes. The Bible commands us to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7). Besides, since we use some of the facilities and services that are supported by taxes, we think we ought to pay a share of them. We don't feel as if we deserve a free ride just because we have religious convictions.
Q: Do you believe in separation of church and state?
A: Absolutely. It is not the business of our religion to control the civil government, and it is not the business of the civil government to control our religion. Whenever religion and politics have mixed in history, those with minority beliefs were deprived of their liberty, their property, and even their lives. We do not, however, believe in the separation of conscience and state. This is why we pray that those in authority would rule in accord with "natural law" (their own knowledge of good and evil).
Q: Do you participate in local civic events?
A: Yes, whenever we have something to contribute, we do. This participation has included laboring on local building projects, volunteer work with the fire department and rescue squads, providing first aid services and instruction, attendance at local government meetings, village festivals, etc.
Q: Do you vote?
A: It is not our practice to vote or to seek public office. Although we respect the people in democratic nations who are compelled by their conscience to cast their vote on certain issues, our Master Yahshua made it very clear that His kingdom is not of this world.20 As members of His "royal priesthood and holy nation"21 we are called instead to pray for those in positions of authority.22 Since our hope is not in this world or the governments of this world, we avoid getting entangled in politics.23
Q: Do you believe it is wrong to fight for your country?
A: No, we do not believe it is wrong for citizens to defend their homeland against foreign invasion. But since we in the Community are disciples of Yahshua, we have been called to demonstrate the life of the age to come. In that age, "they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and neither will they learn war."24 For this reason, we do not study or practice war now.
Our Master said to Peter when he took up the sword to defend Him, "Stop, no more of this!"25 He also told Pilate at His trial, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm" (John 18:36). We take these passages as a clear indication that we as disciples are not to fight in the wars of this world or use the weapons of this world.
Q: Do you obey the laws of the land?
A: The Word of God commands us to obey earthly authorities because He established them to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good.26 Of course we obey such authorities.
Q: Doesn't your leader teach members to lie to courts, police, or other public officials?
A: No. The following quotation, supposedly taken from our teachings, has been published in a number of places [Eugene Spriggs is speaking]: "Our definition of lying means the intentional deception of those who have a right to know. Are we obligated to tell the Devil the truth? Do the courts have a right to know what you know? Not telling the truth to someone who doesn't deserve to know the truth isn't lying."
The accusation is that we choose to deceive courts, officials, and others when it suits our purposes. Here is what we have to say in response:
We teach Biblical morality. The Bible does not require that the truth must be told to evil men to aid them in harming the innocent. Who would condemn a man for hiding a Jew from the Nazis and telling the Gestapo that he did not know where the Jew had gone? Examples from the Bible of withholding information that would cause harm to the innocent include the following:
Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons." But Samuel said, "How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.'" (1 Samuel 16:1-2)
Was God guilty of telling Shemuel to lie?
You with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt, and you will say to him, "The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God." (Exodus 3:18)
Did not Moses, under the influence and instigation of God, deliberately mislead Pharaoh when he concealed his real intention? Was God then guilty of lying?27
The king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land." But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it came about when it was time to shut the gate, at dark that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them." (Joshua 2:3-6)
But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof. Was Rahab a liar or a woman of faith? Did the officials have a right to know where the spies were?
Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live." But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this, and let the male children live?" The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them." So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong.(Exodus 1:15-20)
Did the Hebrew midwives sin by concealing the truth from Pharaoh?
Judge for yourselves. Here is what we actually taught about lying. As you can see, it upholds cooperating with authorities in the pursuit of justice:
Our definition of lying means the intentional deception of those who have a right to know. They need to know for the sake of justice and righteousness -- then we are obligated to tell them the truth... Moses, Rahab, Samuel -- did they have the obligation to tell the devil the truth? Are we obligated to tell the devil the truth? Do the courts have the right to know what you know? And what will the outcome be? ...Telling the truth may cause serious harm to an innocent party. Such intentional deception may be moral and must be determined by judging whether someone has a moral right to know the truth for justice sake.
So, how do you judge? Is it immoral to withhold information in order to protect the innocent? Those who quote isolated sentences from our teachings to prove a point, while not quoting others that reveal the proper context, are withholding information. Is it moral to withhold information in order to slander the innocent?
Q: Some people feel that members of the Community have no respect for the laws of the land. They say that you don't recognize the authority of governing officials. Is this true?
A: Those who are in the Community are the most governed people on earth. We are totally submitted to the government of Yahweh, our God. We love government and we love authority. We understand government and authority. Our desire is to give honor to whom honor is due, and respect to whom respect is due. For the sake of our God we submit ourselves to civil authority. We want to represent Him accurately. He is for authority. This is why we pray for the countries in which we live, and for their leaders. We know that government is established for the purpose of punishing those who practice evil and rewarding those who do good.28 And so we understand authority. We do recognize authority, and we also recognize when people do not have authority.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: Well, for example, when troopers invaded our homes carrying warrants without any names on them, we knew it was illegal. When they photographed our children without a judge's order (in violation of their own laws), we sensed that something was wrong. When they searched our property without allowing us to watch them, we told them they were not abiding by the law.
Q: You are referring to the raid of June 22, 1984?
A: Yes, we knew it was an unlawful action from the beginning.
Q: But how did you know? Are you experts in the law?
A: No, but since when does a person have to be an expert in the law in order to recognize what is right and what is wrong? Has the legal system of the American democracy gotten totally out of the hands of the people? We knew that the purpose for which government exists is to punish evildoers and reward those who do good, so if we are doing good and the state comes against us, we know something is wrong with the state's actions.
Q: Isn't that the same as saying that you are above the law?
A: Of course not! We aren't saying that we personally are "above the law." We are just saying that there is a standard that is greater and higher than any law man can make. All human laws must be judged by that higher standard, the standard of divinely established laws. Anyone who has a working conscience is in harmony with these divine laws.
Q: So are you saying that if you are going by your conscience then the government can't tell you what to do?
A: As long as a person's conscience is good and in harmony with the Word of God, then the government doesn't need to tell him what to do. He will already be doing what is lawful.
Q: But, isn't that just your own opinion, based on your religious beliefs?
A: No, it is a fact recognized by the very Constitution of the United States, and defined even more clearly by the Vermont Constitution, which states:
...all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences and understandings, as in their opinion shall be regulated by the Word of God ... no authority can, or ought to be vested in, or assumed by, any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or in any manner control the rights of conscience, in the free exercise of religious worship.
The men who framed the Vermont Constitution recognized that the Almighty God, in His Holy Word, had established certain standards that, if a man lived by them, he would fulfill all good and reasonable human laws. And so, to protect the rights of men to live by God's laws, this foundational human law (the Constitution) was enacted. So, when any power whatever tries in any manner to control or in any case interfere with our obeying our conscience (as regulated by His Word), the law says it has no authority. This is the clear and simple statement of Vermont's most basic law. It really is the law and not just some lofty, philosophical essay. If you go against that law you are undermining the foundation of that human government.
Q: But the Constitution only applies to worship. How can you generalize it to apply to your whole life?
A: Even according to the dictionary, worship is far more than just singing songs, giving speeches, or performing ceremonies. It encompasses reverent love, allegiance, ardent devotion, adoration, honor, respect, etc. And the definition of worship according to the Bible, or Word of God, is even more encompassing (as expressed in Romans 12:1) -- "to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." So, worship according to our conscience, and as regulated by the Word of God, involves our giving our entire life to Him in ardent devotion, allegiance, adoration, etc. Therefore our life is legally upheld by the Constitution, not just because of this definition of worship, but also because there is nothing wrong with our life.
Q: But people can take the Bible and make it justify anything! If the government lets you do whatever you think the Bible says, then doesn't it have to do the same for every crazy religion that comes down the pike?
A: On the contrary, you can't make the Bible justify everything. You can lie about what the Bible says, you can ignore parts of it, but you can't make it justify lawlessness. It doesn't condone murder, sexual perversion, theft, lying, adultery, cruelty, revenge, slander, greed, oppression of the poor, witchcraft, or disrespect towards parents. The government doesn't have to let people do things like slander people or kill unborn babies under the guise of "constitutional rights." Only a corrupt government would condemn people who train their children and support people who abort their children.
Q: But doesn't recognizing or making special provision for your religion and your Scriptures violate the separation of Church and State?
A: Not any more than our stopping at a stop sign violates it. We in the Community recognize a good law when we see one. We honor it. In the same way, the Vermont government and all governments need to recognize and honor the good laws and good government of our God in His Community. This doesn't violate the separation; rather, it promotes it.
Q: Still, what makes you think that the laws of your religion are higher than the laws of this country?
A: Look, if the legislature passed a law saying that there was to be no attraction of objects to the earth and no falling down of people, animals, or things without state approval, they would be pretty silly, wouldn't they? The law of gravity -- a divinely established law -- is older and greater than man's laws. It would not be right for the police to come and take away your cow, your firewood, or your basketball because the government had not granted you a permit to practice gravitation. It is foolish to think that man's law is supreme. In the same way, men and women have been producing babies, raising them up to be adults, and training them to follow in the ways of their parents, for as long as humanity has existed. It is the natural right of a father to reproduce human beings from his own seed and raise them up in his image -- putting into them everything that he is. This natural law is mirrored in the animal kingdom, and our Creator's law in the Scriptures is in total harmony with His natural law. Only men's modern legislation is in discord. Modern man's new idea is that the impersonal state bureaucracy is better qualified to train children than parents, no matter what nature and God's Word have to say about it. So, then, are we the arrogant ones when we say that we need no government interference with the training of our children?
Q: But do you have to be so inflexible? Hasn't Vermont passed the most liberal education laws in the country, just to accommodate people like you? Can't you express a little gratitude and compromise a bit?
A: Vermont used to have a truancy law that said, in effect, that all children must attend state schools unless they are receiving an equivalent education. The Community was just being established here at that time, and so some of our children were attending the state school. Then we began to see that our responsibility to our God and to our children was to provide them with a better education than the one they were receiving at the state school by training them ourselves. So we removed them from the state school and began working to remedy some of the problems they had picked up in the government education.
In keeping with the regulations at that time, the children were not absent without cause (they were absent with cause), and were receiving a better education. But the state still took us to court, because the local school had reported our children as truant.
The court ruled, very logically, that if the state wanted to charge us with not providing an equivalent education, they needed to establish a standard of what an equivalent education was, first. Of course, if they established a standard, they themselves would have to meet up to it in their own government schools. For some reason, they chose not to do this, but established instead four arbitrary categories into which all education in Vermont must fall: 1) state school, 2) state-approved private school, 3) approved home study, 4) reporting school. The new legislation didn't establish a standard for education, it just rewrote the law so as to give state officials the power to arbitrarily judge any individual's education without subjecting state schools to the same judgment. For some reason, they failed to create a category that fit what we were already doing.
If we were doing something wrong or harmful, we could see the point of being more flexible. But, since our children have only benefited from being taken out of the state educational system, we see no point in putting them back into it. This is a matter of our conscience as regulated by the Word of God, and the state, by its most basic law, has no authority to interfere in this case.
Q: But doesn't the state have a legitimate interest in knowing whether its citizens are being educated or not?
A: Yes, that would be a legitimate interest, and we would have no problem with informing a state representative of the fact that our children are learning to read, write, spell, do math, read maps, understand the natural world, etc. We would have no problem with such a human being meeting our children and observing the wonderful atmosphere in which their young minds are being trained. But, from the beginning, the state has not shown an interest in knowing, but rather in controlling. Since the fruit of state-controlled education has proven to be so rotten, even in our own children that were subjected to it in the past, we have no desire for our children's training to be controlled by that same educational system now.
Q: But don't you see that government control is for your protection? What would happen if everyone did what you were doing and picked what laws they would obey?
A: We understand the reason for tight government control. Stricter and more detailed laws are being made all the time because the moral fiber of the nation is steadily eroding. More government control is needed for people who have no self-control. The fact is that people everywhere pick the laws they will obey. Millions of people violate the speed limit, cheat on their taxes, and defy entire volumes of legislation that the courts do not bother to enforce.
Don't you see the desperate condition of mankind? We in the Community are not going to bring in lawlessness by obeying our consciences. Lawlessness is already in; it is everywhere, especially in the government. Men don't have enough light in their own souls to make just decisions anymore. They think that their own interpretation of existing human law is the standard. They suppress the truth that there is a higher standard upon which human laws must be based.
The Community is made up of those who live by that higher standard. Yahshua said that His followers are the light of the world. We are bringing in the solution to lawlessness, not the problem. We can hardly imagine what would happen if everybody lived as we do, but several policemen that we know continually tell us that they wish everybody respected the laws as much as we do.
Q: So you don't think that everyone living by his own conscience would create chaos and anarchy?
A: People who ask that question don't realize that everyone already lives by their own conscience, and most people's consciences are bad. That's why there is already so much anarchy. A bad conscience causes a person to go along with bad laws like government-controlled childcare. The whole human basis for authority and government in the first place is the right of a parent to rule over his own child, to care for that child and direct his affairs. Laws or government programs that go against this fundamental human right are the things that promote anarchy. We are not saying that people should live by a bad conscience. We are saying that we have a right to live according to the good conscience that our God has given us. We used to be anarchistic, living by our bad consciences, but we have been rescued from darkness and chaos and given a conscience that works.
Q: All of what you say sounds very reasonable, but aren't you really contradicting what the Bible says about obeying the government? Don't most Christians feel that the United States government is ordained by God and that it is the duty of believers to defend it, support it, and obey it?
A: There is one passage in the Bible that, taken by itself, would seem to support this feeling. Romans 13:1-2 says, in one translation, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed it will receive condemnation upon themselves." Based on this scripture, most Evangelical Christians have been preaching that all civil government is ordained by God and must be obeyed. This would be a true teaching if all civil government always punished evil and always rewarded good, as government is supposed to do, according to 1 Peter 2:14 and Romans 13:3-4. But what about the good German Christians who obeyed, supported, and defended Hitler's civil government, even killing American soldiers, many of whom were their fellow Christians, in the process?
Q: How can you even use that example? The Nazi government was obviously evil; they exterminated the Jews.
A: Yes, their evil is obvious to us, now. But it wasn't so obvious to the German Christians then. That's how Hitler got elected. He was a socialist with lots of government programs to benefit the German people. The Germans were passive because of a bad conscience just as Americans are today, except that Americans are more passive.
But the point is this: you can only honor those who are honorable. Was the American nation conceived in sin? Did Washington, Jefferson, and other founding fathers contradict the Bible when they declared independence from King George III? If all civil government must be obeyed, as Evangelical Bible teachers claim, then Americans (especially Christians) need to repent for the Revolution and submit again as a colony to the rule of England.
Q: Surely you're not saying that the American government is just as evil as the Nazi government, are you?
A: No. Many of the freedoms of the United States Constitution have not yet eroded away. There are still many provisions in the laws of this country to check the power of corrupt men. And we are very grateful for these freedoms and for these checks and balances. But all these legal safeguards are only as good as the hearts of the people. If the people don't have a passion for justice, if they sit around passively accepting "the way things are," then the government will express the corruption that is in the people's hearts. America does not express this corruption to the same extent that Nazi Germany did -- yet.
The scriptures are very clear on the issue of government. 1 John 5:19 says, "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one." And Luke 4:5-6 records a conversation in which Satan showed Yahshua all the kingdoms of the world and said, "I will give you all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish." So all the governments of the world are in Satan's power. All are full of lawlessness. There are greater and lesser degrees of corruption. Some governments, like some individuals, may be more refined and have more noble qualities than others, just like some rotten apples may not look as ugly as others. But all human governments, individuals, and rotten apples are corrupt. So the question is, "Are you the kind of person who goes to the store and pays good money for rotten apples? Do you blindly obey corrupt governments?"
Q: It seems as if you are double-minded. If human governments are so corrupt, why do you obey them at all?
A: Because the solution to bad government is not anarchy and lawlessness. The solution is good government. The Community, which represents the Almighty God's heavenly government here on earth, is commanded to show those who are trapped under Satan's power what good government is. And so we obey laws that are in harmony with our God's law, even submitting to lengthy and exasperating court procedures against us, in order that all men, even judges and prosecutors, might escape from the dominion of darkness and have their hearts filled with the light of His love. This is not a double-minded purpose but a single-minded one. Our Sovereign God desires for all men to be saved from destruction, because all men will surely face judgment as to whether they have obeyed His laws. But He desires to give us a conscience that works, so we can obey Him. He wants us to live by that good conscience rather than by the dictates of wicked men.
Q: How are your children educated?
A: In 1979, the parents in our communities came to the conviction that they could no longer send their children to public schools. It was becoming clear to us that our children's training was for a very special purpose, and must take place within the "church" or the community of believers. We have not sent them since, and they never will be enrolled in the public education system. What follows is the stand we took then and continue to take now as we teach our children to love the Lord our God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.29
We train our children in our own homes. We have developed our own curriculum, designed to meet our children's needs. We report our children's educational progress to the state regularly in recognition of their right to know that our children are being educated.
Q: Do you send your children on to college?
A: We do not send our children to college, and we do not think college is a healthy environment, either for learning or social development. We do advocate that our children gain wisdom and skills through community-based apprenticeship and hands-on learning. We encourage their creativity and their ability to communicate well and take initiative. We are training them to be leaders, parents, providers, craftsmen, and teachers. But more importantly, we want them to have good character, to be honest, decent, and loving human beings.
Q: Do you spank your children?
A: Yes. Because we love our children we do spank them. We teach them to listen to what their parents say and to obey their parents and teachers and police officers. When they are disobedient or intentionally hurtful to others we spank them with a small reed-like rod, which stings but does not damage. The rod removes guilt from their soul and trains them to do good. But we do not hit our children in anger, nor with our hand or fist. We specifically teach against such treatment of children. We also know that forced discipline is ineffective. So we do not spank unless our child is ready to receive instruction.
We know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority. The multitude of school shootings in particular points to the potentially terrible consequences of children left to themselves, who are not held accountable for their actions. We believe many of the problems in youth today are caused by the breakdown of parental authority. Proverbs 13:24 says clearly that "he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." We want to love our children as the Scriptures teach.
Those of us who have been around for more than half a century find it ironic that spanking would be considered abuse. We remember a time when spanking had been the norm for training children for countless generations. And the result of such child training was responsible, diligent, respectful human beings with strong moral fiber. But we now live in the days described in Isaiah 5:20 where good is called evil and evil is called good. Sadly, some countries have passed laws that punish those who obey the Scriptures about raising children. We recognize our greater accountability to our Creator, and we will obey His word and love our children. Do the judges and lawmakers really want us to hate our children?
Q: Are your child-rearing practices abusive?
A: Not at all. We teach that parents are to promptly spank their children whenever they disobey. If a parent is faithful to do this, the child sees that discipline is consistent and fair and based on an objective standard. As a result, the child is secure and learns respect. The parent also does not become frustrated or angry with the child. It is only when a parent is frustrated that abuse is likely to occur. A psychologist who studied these practices in connection with a custody case in 1994 found that they are "based on developmentally sound principles of discipline."
Q: Do you use child labor?
A: If "child labor" means putting children to work in oppressive conditions, as a labor force to secure our income, the answer is "no." We do include our children (side by side with their parents) in some of our work activities: caring for farm animals, learning carpentry skills, learning how to fix cars, planting and harvesting, learning to work with their hands. We teach our children proper values, such as diligence, thrift, and hard work.
Q: Are minors allowed to join your group?
A: Sometimes parents do allow their children to join us before they turn 18. If parents do not allow this, we tell interested youth that they must wait until they are of legal age.
Q: Does everyone have his own job?
A: We do not have independent sources of income. As followers of Yahshua we are the Commonwealth of Israel,30 that is, a body of people with one government and a shared economy. We work together as crews and teams and, like the first believers in Jerusalem, remain devoted to fellowship even as we earn income.31 The income we earn is not our own individual means of support but is voluntarily shared to meet whatever the pressing needs of the local community happen to be. Our goal in working together in the businesses we operate is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice. Seeing to it that all have their needs met is a basic part of that justice being expressed.
Q: Where does all the money go?
A: Most of our shared earnings go to pay for housing, property taxes, food, electricity, phone, car insurance, clothing, and health care. Since we are a commonwealth of tribes comprising a nation, we also willingly contribute toward the development of new communities that are not yet self-supporting. As a people we choose to live frugally, and none of us, including our leaders, have property or wealth which we do not voluntarily share.
Q: Do your people collect welfare?
A: No. We do not believe we should take money that the government raises by taxing our neighbors to support us in our voluntary lifestyle. That money is for destitute people who have no means of support and no way to get that means. We believe that our Father in heaven will see to it that we never lack food and clothing.32
Q: Do your members collect social security benefits?
A: Yes. Social security is different from welfare. It is mandatory group insurance based on premiums paid out of a person's earnings. Although we do not collect welfare, we think those in our midst who spent perhaps many years paying into the Social Security system are entitled to their benefits.
Q: Do you use drugs?
A: No. Drug and alcohol use is an attempt to fill the emptiness and soothe the pain caused by a bad conscience. As the proverb says, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more" (Proverbs 31:6-7). This passage captures very well the darkness some of us have experienced in the past by using drugs and alcohol. Now they have no place in our life because we are forgiven, have the power to forgive others, and lead a rich, full life in the Community.
Q: What role do animals have in the life of the Twelve Tribes?
A: In our communities, animals live under the rule of human beings, as God intended. On our farms we may keep barn cats to deal with rodents, or workhorses to serve us. There we also have chickens, cows, and goats, because we want to eat organic eggs, drink fresh milk, raise our own beef, and make our own yogurt and cheese. Taking the life of an animal for food is a very serious activity, and not something we do lightly, knowing that we will answer to the Creator for how we treat his Creation. We involve our children in every facet of caring for our animals so they can learn to treat all living creatures with respect and kindness.
Q: Do you allow members to have access to medical care?
A: We are very concerned about our health. This is why we place so much emphasis on a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, fresh air, and rest. When we need the services of dentists, doctors, or hospitals, we seek them out.
Medical care is a matter of personal choice based on each person's faith and conviction. While we as a people prefer the simplest and most natural means of healing possible, we do not restrict people's access to medical care, nor do we presume to know just how their healing will come.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas?
A: No. We often give thanks for the amazing birth of our Master in Judea long ago, pondering its many deep meanings. But, like the believers of the early church, we pay no attention to any particular day. The fact that He came as a man is what fills us with awe and hope, not any particular date on the annual calendar.
The modern Christmas holiday is a collection of religious beliefs and cultural practices that have piled up over the centuries. While some of them might have some validity, the frantic materialism we see so often in our day leaves us cold.
We do like to make a special effort during this season to open our homes to those left lonely and dissatisfied by the holiday spirit, so we often have a special meal for guests on such traditional holidays.
Q: Do you hold regular religious services or meetings?
A: We gather every morning and evening to share our hearts and worship and pray. Our dress is somewhat informal compared to most religious meetings, yet is modest and clean. All have freedom to share what they are hearing in their heart from our Father.33 We sing songs and dance Israeli-style folk dances. We pray together at the end of our gatherings and usually have a meal together afterwards. You are welcome to join us at any of these gatherings. Please check with the nearest community for the exact time.
Q: How are leaders chosen?
A: Leaders are chosen because they have administrative gifting and the heart of a shepherd, and their personal life meets the qualifications described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. This is done with the full consent of those whom they will be leading.
Q: How are older people cared for within the Community?
A: Because we live a tribal life (as one large family), older people are always needed. They do not retire, they do not go on welfare, and they do not get stuck in nursing homes. We care for each other within our households.
Q: What is the role of women in the Twelve Tribes?
A: Some are academic teachers. Others teach art or music or apprenticeship courses for our youth. We are writers, bakers, Cafe workers, creators of curriculum, bookkeepers, clothing designers and seamstresses, artist/sign makers, and shopkeepers. Some write poetry and set it to music, others choreograph dances. Many run household kitchens, organizing the serving of home-cooked meals at least three times daily, not to mention hospitality for guests and special gatherings and meetings at a moment's notice. Many do several things along with being wives and mothers. It is according to the need and what each person is able to do. Finally, all are priests, sharing in the work of publicly praying and speaking our Father's word morning and evening, which for us is the highest calling anyone in the Community can aspire to.
Q: Are men and women equal in the Twelve Tribes?
A: Equal, yes. Identical, no. "Man," created in the image of God, is composed of two parts: male and female, as it says in Genesis 1:27. Each has a separate function, like the heart and the head. Both are equally necessary, but they are not interchangable.
Q: Do you share wives along with everything else?
A: No, we uphold the standard of a lifelong marriage covenant between one man and one woman.34 Within this marriage relationship we enjoy sexual intimacy. Outside of the marriage covenant, sexual relations are sin, and we do not approve of or practice sin.
Q: What is your stand on homosexuality?
A: We do not approve of homosexual behavior. We do not regard it as a genetic variation, a valid alternative lifestyle, or a mere psychological quirk. We embrace what the Bible says on this subject without regard for political correctness.
We regard as authoritative Leviticus 18:22,
"You shall not lie [have sexual relations with] a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."
And we see the same prohibition in 1 Corinthians 6:9,
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards nor revilers, nor swindlers shall inherit the kingdom of God."
Q: Are you anti-Semitic?
A: No, we are not. It is amazing that anyone would consider us anti-Semitic when we honor the Sabbath, follow the dietary guidelines in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and have approximately the same proportion of Jews in our Communities as in the general population. We don't hate Jews, we love Jews. Many of us are Jews. Our Master Yahshua and all his apostles were Jews, along with most of His early followers. And all of us in the Community consider ourselves to be the spiritual offspring of Abraham, whether we are physically descended from him or not. Strangely enough, while some call us anti-Semitic, others call us Judaizers. They say we mix Judaism with the New Testament faith because we believe that our Master Yahshua did not abolish the Law of Moses.35
Q: Are you racist?
A: No. Inside the Community, Yahshua's death for our sins removes all hostility between the races. In Him there is no racial distinction. People of every nationality are able to live and function together, doing what they are best able to do. It should come as no surprise when you see Hispanic or black or Jewish leaders in some of our Communities. As disciples, we are not concerned with who is over whom.
Q: Do you follow the Bible, or some other writings?
A: We regard the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments together, as God's Word, and we do not believe He will speak to us now contrary to how He spoke then. The teachers in the Community base their instruction on the Bible, and not on theological commentaries, psychology texts, or self-help guides.
Q: Are you a commune?
A: One dictionary definition of "commune" is a group of people living together, sharing property and income. We do in fact live collectively in households. We also work together daily sharing our earnings, our crops, and our vehicles. However, each family preserves its integrity and identity. Typical accommodations for a family include a bedroom for a husband and wife and a bedroom (or bedrooms) for their children. All members of a household share the same kitchen, dining, and living rooms.
The word commune often carries a reputation from the 1960s of being a haven for sexual promiscuity, drug use, and a freewheeling lifestyle of personal independence. We see these practices for what they are: the epitome of selfishness.
Q: Can people leave if they want to?
A: Of course. No one is compelled to stay who does not want to stay. In fact, no one is compelled to join or give up his possessions who does not want to. We are a social order of volunteers. If someone loses his willingness to participate, he is free to go. We do not pressure people to stay in a life that they don't love.
Q: Who is this Gene Spriggs?
A: Gene Spriggs is one of the founders of our Communities. He is a former high school teacher from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who desired to share his sincere beliefs with others who, like himself, longed for a spiritual life corresponding to the actual gospels. He did not have a plan to create or form an international commonwealth of tribes, nor did he foresee an organization of many clans in many locations all sharing a common spirit, united in a common cause. But as the reality of the Twelve Tribes emerged, he knew in his heart that the God of Heaven wanted "a people for His own possession" (1 Peter 2:9). In the Community we know him as "Yoneq" (the Hebrew word for sprig, pronounced as "yow-nake").
Q: If your life is so wonderful, why have the newspapers had such bad things to say about you?
A: Journalists are taught that they must present both sides of every story, regardless of whether they personally believe one side to be a lie. This is called objectivity, but it is actually economics. Readers are drawn to conflict and controversy, for it sells newspapers. False or exaggerated charges are printed because false or exaggerated charges were spoken. And, sadly enough, some people even make a living out of circulating such charges.
Q: So, why are these bad things spoken if they're not true?
A: When people live closely together as in a marriage or family, sometimes they do not treat each other as they should. Our Master apparently knew such things would happen among His disciples, because He commanded them to repeatedly forgive one another. It is a fact of human relationships, however, that those who do not choose to forgive usually do not choose to remain very long with those against whom they bear grudges. It is also true that those who do not forgive find it hard to resist speaking ill of the unforgiven ones. For this reason exaggerated accounts of some of our failures to love and care for one another have come to the attention of the press.
If something you have read has raised genuine questions about our safety, health, or sanity, you are welcome to personally write or visit us and express your concerns. We will be happy to hear you out and respond.
Q: Do you believe the end of the world is at hand?
A: While we do believe that this world is coming to an end, this belief does not lead us to isolate ourselves, to stockpile weapons, or to consider suicide. Instead, it leads us to demonstrate the life that will fill the earth in the next age: a wholesome, peaceful, tribal life.
Q: Do you stockpile weapons?
A: No, we don't have guns, nor even hunting rifles or archery sets. Our Master said in Matthew 26:52, "All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." We have no need to defend ourselves.
Q: Do you break up families?
A: No. Selfishness breaks up families. That is why half the marriages in this country end in divorce. We call people to deny self and follow Yahshua as it says in Luke 9:23. Families who obey His commands do not break up. But if one family member desires to be devoted to Yahshua while the other wants to live for himself, then selfishness will break up that family. That is why our Master said in Matthew 10:34-38, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."
Q: Do you practice mind control?
A: No, we practice self-control. We do not approve of manipulation. And besides, it would be senseless to manipulate people into believing something they don't want to believe, because they would just quit believing it sooner or later. Instead, we share our convictions in a straightforward manner. If sharing our faith causes others to have faith, then they will be controlled by the same love for our Master that we are controlled by.36
Q: Do you put things in your drinks to alter people's mental state?
A: No. We do drink herbal teas such as hibiscus, yerba mate, and peppermint. Although some such herbs may be considered stimulants, we avoid mind-altering substances such as alcoholic beverages.
Q: If a person wants to join you, does he have to give all his things to the group?
A: If a person wants to join us in the Commonwealth of Israel, then he wants to voluntarily share all that he has. Our Master told a story once about a man who found a very valuable pearl. He said that for joy the man sold all that he had and bought that pearl. It is just so for everyone who believes in Yahshua. They are thrilled to find a life worth living and do not hesitate to freely give all that they have and all that they are to meet any pressing need. If a person feels only obligation or pressure about his money or property, he shouldn't give it. Such giving is not from faith. We believe that whatever is done apart from faith is sin.37
Q: If someone leaves your group, can he get his things back, or be reimbursed?
A: Not usually. We do not encourage light or impulsive commitments. If people convince us that they have the faith to forsake all they possess, as the first believers did in Jerusalem, then their property will be put to use for the benefit of the community. We believe such giving will bring no regret.
If later on someone chooses to forsake his covenant, he is free to leave with whatever property he still has in his possession. But if what was freely given has been either used up or spent, then it is gone. To the best of our means we will help such a person leave. But as for his days, months, or years of contribution to our life, there is no getting them back. What he appeared to give in good faith, we used in good faith. It is similar to a person leaving a church after years of attendance and contributions. Such a person wouldn't expect to have his freely given tithes and offerings returned.
Q: Do you believe that God speaks through everyone or just through one leader?
A: God speaks to every human being through the conscience about issues of right and wrong. Beyond this there is a grave danger in any leader (or any individual) thinking that he has an exclusive "pipeline" to God. Our Master said, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst"(Matthew 18:20), and also, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him." (John 14:21). We only have confidence that we have heard from God if we find confirmation in what our brothers say. So you could say that God often speaks to each of us in an audible voice -- the voice of one of our friends who love us.