Saturday, January 19, 2013

Call no man father?

You know how people get stirred up whenever I mention chanting or incense -- now don't shoot off a comment yet -- well, I can only imagine the brouhaha that would ensure if I said that I think the proper term for congregants toward their Pastor is Father.  So I won't actually say it and you do not need to rush to the keyboard to rebut my post.

In case you cannot help yourself, I will defer to the ever concise and clear thinking and pen of my brother LCMS Pastor, Father Heath Curtis....  What he said!

HT to Gottesdienst Online...

Call no man father...the definitive post

I am honestly surprised at how often Gottesdienst is called upon to defend our editorial practice of referring to clergyman as Father. I'm also not a little surprised at the direction from which the questions come. But one thing almost all of the questions have in common is a quoting of Matthew 23:9-10   "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ."
Fair enough: let's get a post up that covers all the Biblical ground and be done with it. You can link your questioning friends, neighbors, and Fathers here. So how did this title develop in the Church with this clear statement from Jesus? Doesn't calling a pastor Father violate it? 
Let's examine what Jesus says. It's an absolute statement: call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. The statement is either literal and means "call no human being on earth by the term father" or it is in some sense figurative, with the figure in the word "call," that is, "realize that no man on earth is really your father, even though you have many fathers on earth, for there is only One True Father." 
Well, if it's the former then how is it that we all call our fathers father? How does one justify that in light of Jesus' statement? "Call no man father" does not make room for biological exceptions. That is, if there is a figure here it certainly can't be in the negative particle because the whole force of the statement is most obviously aimed at earthly, biological fathers. There is no way the statement means "Call your dad father but nobody else." 
So the figure is obviously in the word "call:" realize that some words we use towards men are used only in shadowy ways because they belong to God. To "call" something by name in the Bible has great importance. Think of all those name changes in the Bible: God calls a thing what it is. To name something is supposed to directly speak of its essence. But when we call our earthly fathers father we just can't be using words that way. Our fathers are shadows, reflections, images (often poor ones) of the ultimate reality. We could just as well say that no wife should call her husband husband because there is only One Husband who is in heaven, Christ the Lord. Or, no one ought to call the lords in the House of Lords lords because there is only One Lord. In every case we are not thereby calling for some silly undoing of plain speech (let's make up a new word we can call our, I mean maleparent), but for a realization that God is the reality and things down here are the shadow.
And, indeed, it is clear from the rest of the New Testament that "father" was already a term used in this shadowy sense:
1 Corinthians 4:15   For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Philemon 1:10  I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.
Philippians 2:22  But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12  For you know how, like a father with his children,  12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
1 Timothy 5:1-2  Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers,  2 older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.
So there you go: St. Paul, speaking in the Spirit, uses the term father in reference to men on earth, specifically to preachers vis a vis their parishioners. QED


Timothy C. Schenks said...

Many people equate the use of "Father" with sacerdotalism, i.e. that strange indelible quality or superpower that Roman Catholic priests have from their ordination that enables them to transform the bread and wine in the body and blood of Christ. That's why you're not going to be able to reclaim that word.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Timothy's conclusion to his observation. The reason Lutherans have for not wishing to refer to their clergy as "Father" is simply because it smacks of Romanism, beyond the understanding of the Sacrament. It is for the same reason that many Lutherans balk at the idea of making the Sign of the Cross, using the word "Catholic" in the Creeds, etc. It is pure and simple ignorance fueled by prejudice, the same which causes them to misquote Matthew xiii.9-10.

Anonymous said...

Matthew xxiii.9-10, that is.

Timothy C. Schenks said...

Then again, many Lutherans (me) make the sign of the Cross.

We use the word "Christian" in the Creeds because the English translation used the German version, not the Latin.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous. Most Lutherans are just anti-Catholic. The term "father" is considered RC; hence, the phobia.

Growing up in a LCMS church and grade school, it would have been greatly frowned upon if we made the sign of the cross or called our pastor father. Likewise, private confession was never taught or discussed - too RC. I realize this is changing in some Lutheran churches but is clearly not the norm.


Unknown said...

Lutherans are Romaphobics, plain and simple. IF anyone tries to reclaim the historic practice of the church, he is automatically deemed fit for excommunication. That is fact.

And the German translation of the Creed is fundamentally flawed. The Latin and, even more preferred, the Greek should be translated into English directly not from going from Greek to Latin to German to English.

Janis Williams said...

Fr. Peters,

It's what I call you (mostly-sometimes I slip into pastor-but then, I grew up Baptist).

Why does everyone seem give up the things we should be claiming as ours? Romaphobia can be as bad as the other phobia with which it rhymes. If we surrender to ecclesiastical correctness, we are "wimps" just like those who surrender to political correctness, aren't we?

Carl Vehse said...

"Call no man father" does not make room for biological exceptions.

To the contrary, the Scriptural context of our Lord's command makes it clear that Jesus is not talking about biological fathers.

The lame argument about not making room for biological exceptions is just one indication of the Tiber-splashing spindoctors trying to tapdance around our Lord's command.

And this is not the first time that warnings have been sounded about Missouri Synod pastors sprinkling Romish titles on their business cards, church and blogs sites, bulletins, and in Hyper-Euro-Lutheran get-togethers.

An April, 2002, article "Preus Steps Out at the 2002 ACL Meeting," reports:

"Lutheran Church Missouri Synod First Vice President Daniel Preus was the guest speaker at the Association of Confessional Lutherans (ACL) meeting in Chicago on Friday, April 5, 2002

"Preus spoke on Lutheran identity and drew a number of lines in the sand.

"Preus explained that the Lutheran Church is the most correct expression of the Christian faith. Other Christians have salvation, but the most correct definition of a Christian in this world, after the Reformation, is a "Lutheran."

"Preus described much of so-called 'contemporary worship' as being little more than market-driven entertainment, promoted by CEO's. Up to this point, he was preaching to the ACL choir.

"Preus then began to condemn the inappropriate language used by high-church Lutherans, such as the word 'Mass' instead of 'worship service' and 'Father' instead of 'pastor.' He warned his listeners not to get too close to the Catholic Church. The hyper-euro-Lutherans were not pleased....

"The question remains as to whether Preus can at the same time afford to alienate those who follow the rubrics of American business in their worship services and those who have made ordination and clergy hierarchy the fourth means of grace."

Anonymous said...

First thing that popped in to my head (and my husband's when I mentioned this)? Why do you want to be called Father...What does it say that Pastor doesn't?


Anonymous said...

Another thought. Pr Curtis, do you think we are in error if we use the term Pastor instead of father?


Rev. Weinkauf said...

Apparently Luther, Chemnitz, and our Lutheran fathers were mistaken to refer to the Mass and allowed all to call them Father. Perhaps Luther, Chemnitz weren't true Lutherans. Can we please fix these error then in the Book of Concord.

Rev. Weinkauf said...

Is it Scripturally correct to use the term Father for pastors? Yes.

Can we use the term Father today as Lutherans without misleading the uninformed and indifferent (among Lutherans and non-Lutherans) that we don't accept the errors of Rome? No.

Some Lutherans use it because it is Scriptural and historical. I'd like to use it but it is not worth the false ideas, with the baggage of Roman errors it would generate. Rather stick with doctrinal matters and still have a proper, high view of the OHM our Lord created.

Anonymous said...

Do some LCMS pastors crave to become Roman Catholic priests? Remember Father Neuhaus? Why not be happy with rediscovering the kind of Lutheranism that we had during the time of Walther? That should be enough.

We should not be worried that Lutherans will somehow become more "Catholic." We should fear that Lutherans have become Evangelicals. Good thing that increasing numbers of people are realizing that Rick Warren is a fraud.

More fun about Roman Catholics:

John said...

Reverend/Pastor/Father Peters,

OK, just PLEASE do not request that you be called Reverend/Pastor/Father Larry.

Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Weinkauf: Apparently Luther, Chemnitz, and our Lutheran fathers were mistaken to refer to the Mass and allowed all to call them Father. Perhaps Luther, Chemnitz weren't true Lutherans.
A Lutheran should accept, in their context, the plain words of our Lord Jesus, before we accept that Luther and other Lutheran theologians were without sin and infallible in all they ever wrote or said.
The adornment of the title, “Father” by pastors in the Missouri Synod on themselves or others, and even to synodical corporate executives, flaunts our Lord Jesus’ command in Matthew 23:9. Enthusiasts of such Romish titles do little more than eisegete our Lord's command into some pious opinion in the manner of Capt. Barbossa’s interpretation of the pirates’ code of parlay: “More what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Well, Reverend; it seems that you fell for your ecumenism with Catholics and Orthodox, quite needlessly.

Anonymous said...

Please do not muck up the conversation by pulling in Luther, Chemnitz, et. al., but do feel free liberally to quote Preus...

Timothy C. Schenks said...

Anonymous, if they're quoting (Dr. Robert) Preus, then they're quoting Luther, Chemnitz, etc.

Carl Vehse said...

So there you go: St. Paul, speaking in the Spirit, uses the term father in reference to men on earth, specifically to preachers vis a vis their parishioners. QED

To the contrary, not at all! It is as ridiculous as claiming on the basis of 1 Thess. 2:7, that St. Paul, speaking in the Spirit, directed the Thessalonians to address him with the honorific title of “Mother” or “Nurse.”

More seriously: In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul uses the term "father" as a reminder that he established the church in Corinth, analogous to referring to a person as the "the father of a country" or "the father of a city." In the verses to the Philippians, Paul is not directing them to use the honorific title of “Father” for Timothy, whom he is planning to send to them, but rather describing the “as a son with his father” relationship between Timothy and Paul. And Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his caring relationship when he was with them as a father with his children, not that they had been directed to address him with the title, “Father Paul,” in person or by letter.

In his letter to Timothy telling him how he should behave toward the “presbuteros” (elder, pastor) Paul use the verb, “parakaleo” (implore, beseech, plead with) combined with the phrase, “hos pater” (in the manner or like a father). Paul tells Timothy not to rebuke or upbraid, but there is no command to use the honorific title of “Father” in addressing such leaders.

And in Philemon 1:10, Paul does not use the word, “pater” (Father) at all! The word Paul uses is a form of “gennao” (beget, conceive). And in vs 16 and 20 Paul considers himself to be a brother to Philemon and Onesimus. It’s eisegetic nonsense to claim v. 10 as evidence Paul was employing the honorific title of “Father Paul” or indicating others were to address him with such a title.

Pastor Peters said...

See, I knew this would stir the pot... next time I will mention either chanting or incense and that will get things going as well...

Oh well, permit me this moment of fun as we meander our way through the weightier things of church and state...

Pastor Peters

John said...

You know, pastors are also educated by their flocks!

I know of a shepherd who neither wore a collar nor chanted prior to his current call. The Divine Service is greatly enhanced when he chants.

JFDK said...

I had hoped to find some honest actually Scriptural reasoning. Instead, I find the same kind of lazy tap-dancing and "Nah nah, how about dad!" that RCs throw at me.

What is the context in which Jesus says: "Call no man father"? It is one of position; one of status. Jesus is speaking of those who lord it over others and elevate themselves, as the pharisees and sadducees did. They enjoyed the titles and honors that others bestowed upon them, and THIS is what Jesus speaks out against! Teachers are not elevated above their flock. They are not on some kind of higher level (as the father-son-relationship signifies.
"Rabbi", "Father", "Teacher" were titles of authority; of lordship. Not just descriptive terms indicating function within the community.

This is, after all, the passage in which Jesus most strongly rebukes those people who claim all this about themselves. He rebukes them for their abuses of authority, their abuse of hospitality, their lack of devotion to God.
This ins the context in which Jesus says: "Call no man father". It is plain as day that it isn't about "You cannot say that the man who sired you is your father". He obviously is, in the physical sense! This isn't even in the picture! What IS in the picture, is titles of nobility, of superiority. THAT is what Jesus is against, and THAT's why calling pastors "father" is wrong. They're not. They're helpers, guides, and called by the congregation, confirmed by Ordination, they ARE ministers of God, called by Him to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments. They are not "fathers", Rabbis, teachers, etc. They are servants, like everyone else.

karl said...

Pastor (Rabbi? Father? Instructor?) Peters,

I enjoyed reading your thoughts and the lively discussion that followed! Could it be that Jesus, knowing that each of us may have different weaknesses or be at different places, gave this as a warning against pride? For example, you said, aptly, "We could just as well say that no wife should call her husband husband because there is only One Husband who is in heaven, Christ the Lord." Obviously, as you stated, quite a silly idea. Now contrast this with a ridiculous, blasphemous hyperbole which I just made up - a wife calling her husband Christ, just because he is supposed to love her, well, like Christ! The obvious difference is that in general use, the title "husband" usually refers to a sinful mortal while "Christ" always refers to Jesus. The word "father" is trickier, because it is often used for blood lineage, discipleship lineage (this is you!), and God. Before Jesus's ministry, it had to mean the first or the latter. It does seem there is a new meaning to the word, unless I am conflating discipleship lineage with holiness (I don't think so, but please weigh in).

Refer to 1 Corinthians 8. Jesus command in Matthew 23 was two-fold, both to the lay-person and the rabbi. In 1 Corinthians, his command is to the "stronger" in faith. Nominally that is the person in role of pastor, but in some cases (age, experience, wisdom, former pastors, missionaries, who knows), not. Is it likely there are pastors who wear the title "Father" improperly? If so, is that enough of a reason to ruin all the fun for the rest of the pastors? You tell me! :)

Karl (IANAP)