Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Christ Forbids Calling Religious Leaders "Father"

It is sad to see in so-called Protestant churches like the Anglican church that in some quarters the fashion has been resurrected of referring to ‘clergymen’ as “Father”. Christ's prohibition against this is abundantly clear:

“The scribes and the Pharisees… love… to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven… But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matt. 23)

Some argue from Paul's use of the term "father", e.g. 1 Cor.4:14-15, that this practice is allowed, but it is one thing for Paul to consider himself as a father to his spiritual children, and it is another to append the title as Christ condemned.

Paul never called himself, nor was referred to as “Father Paul”. If you love your spiritual children in a fatherly way, and they love you as a father, then that is all good, but Christ doesn’t want you or others to call you, “Father so-and-so”.

“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 manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21)

(See also here and here.)


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Anonymous Anonymous said...


I respect your stance on this issue, however, I disagree. I have written a post. Please let me know what you think.

Monday, August 04, 2008 8:43:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...


Thank you for giving me your thoughts on this issue. I understand the situation in which you have found yourself. I am not ignorant of what it is like dealing with Romanists, given that I grew up with Romanists, have always had friends that are Romanist, studied with Romanists and work with Romanists.

Nevertheless, Christ’s command is clear, and no additional Scripture leads to any other behaviour. We must beware lest pragmatism causes us to rebel against God’s commandments, and we seek to justify ourselves in our behaviour. I have been reading about Saul in my morning devotions, and his behaviour reminds me of this pragmatism. I urge you to read about this behaviour that led to his rejection by God.

People may be offended by our obedience to Christ, and may even accuse us of hating them because of it. I know of a number of former Papists and Jews who are accused of hating their family because they have turned to Christ. We know from the context of the rest of Scripture that it is this “hating” that Christ refers to in the passage you quoted, for we are urged to love our parents, whether believing or unbelieving, and indeed we are called to love our enemies.

Christ calls us specifically not to address religious leaders as “father”. Such behaviour would have offended the Rabbis of Christ’s day. Did that bother Him? Did that stop the early Christians from obeying Him? Did any of them think that it would get in the way of evangelising? Did they worry about offending them? If so, then there never would have been a time or context when this commandment applied. Their situation is no different from your own.

Such a testimony for the truth can open the eyes of the blind to the falseness of their religion, e.g. Romanist 'priests' may consider that their false religion says on the one hand that the Bible is infallible, and yet on the other it contradicts the Bible in so many areas, particularly fundamental areas.

Again, like Robert, you bring in the other uses of the term. Christ specifically mentioned religious leaders. He did not mention natural fathers, ancestors or old men. The context of the rest of Scripture tells us that these other uses are acceptable, but there is no contradiction here, or any lessening of the commandment. Does the Scripture ever use the name “father” as a title for a religious leader? No, it does not. If you called the apostle Paul “Father Paul”, he would have rebuked you, I have no doubt.

Joel, I again sympathise with your position, but I ask you from the love of Christ (because I know that you are amenable to the command of God), consider whether you have not allowed yourself to be deceived in the past and have fallen into pragmatism. I am not your judge or master, Christ is. You do not stand or fall before me, but I am bound out of love for Christ and for you to exhort you to repentance.

Again, the command is clear and specific.

Saturday, August 09, 2008 12:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Christ's prohibition absolute? Didn't the apostle John call his readers "little children", and didn't Paul call Timothy "my son". Moreover, we are also told to call no man teacher/master, yet elsewhere in Scripture men are called teacher/master. It would appear that what Christ is saying is that a man is not to be blindly followed. This is not justifying Romanism, but only saying that we should not take a text out of context.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008 3:02:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Daniel, we should not take the text out of context, but we should not apply external contexts that are not relevant.

Jesus is not dealing with older Christians using terms of endearment toward those younger in the faith, no more than he is dealing with Paul thinking he is the spiritual father of various people.

The text is specifically dealing with the use of the terms “Rabbi” and “Father” by teachers. This practice has a tendency to puff-up, so Jesus specifically prohibits it to deliver his people from sin.

We should take passages in context, but we should not abuse context as Papists and other Pharisees do to justify disobedience of clear commands.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008 7:31:00 pm  

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