Catholic Dogma Answered Scripturally

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The Title, "Father", applied to anyone but God

In answering the indictment that calling priests or church leaders by the title (honorific, office name, position, etc.), "father", the defenders of this practice immediately launch into a long list of verses where someone refers to their fleshly father.  Refering to your biological father as "father" is not condemned by the Bible or even relevant to this indictment.  This criticism comes from Matthew chapter 23.  It includes the Judaic practice of calling teachers, rabbi (master) as well as giving the title "father" to a religious leader.  This is not an interpretation by any stretch of the imagination.  It is a direct quote of the scriptures. 

You should read the warning given by Jesus yourself.  He is speaking of the Pharisees which were the religious leaders of the church.

"For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.  But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, RabbiBut be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethrenAnd call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.  But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.Matthew 23:4-15

This admonishment given by Jesus speaks plainly for itself.  He even explains the definition of the subject of this teaching.  He blatantly condemns the glory-seeking pretenses made by the religious leaders of the day and their use of titles, namely, "Rabbi" which meant "master" in Hebrew.  He is explicitly dealing with terms of religious honor in Judaism.  He thereby indicates the exact context for his statement which refers to religious or ecclesiastical titles.  Jesus was a religious teacher speaking of religious titles.  He goes on to explain that we have One Master and One Father, God.  If that is not clear enough, He elaborates more by stating that the man wishing to be a leader or greater than the rest should, in fact, serve the others in humility.  He even adds a warning that anyone that exalts himself would be degraded or reduced to a lowered state ("abased").

Here I must ask that constantly nagging question, "Who is taking the verse, out of context?"  I present it here completely with the verses before it and those after it.  Can anyone deny the clear meaning that Christ gave it?  He explained and framed what practices He was speaking of (bestowing titles on church leaders, men), those who He was speaking of (church leaders or any believer seeking the glory of men), and what He wanted us to do (acknowledge the Paternity and Lordship of God alone over us).  If you do not see this.  Read it again.  Then, if you reject His teaching, Jesus makes a statement in John about those who reject His teaching and call Him a liar.  (This passage even uses the term, "father" in its spiritual sense used above making it a perfect quote to read in this instance.)  This is another example of Jesus' teachings about church leaders that reject His teachings and seek power over the people.

Jesus said unto them, "If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.  Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
" John 8:42-47

Ouch.  There are other places He reiterates on the fact that we all will do the works of our father, whether of God or the devil.  And what does He say of those that receive His Word?

Jesus answered and said unto him, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.  These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John 14:23-26

Technically, anyone who read the first passage which not only tells us not to call a church leader or teacher, master or rabbi, also instructs us not to call them, father or pater, should need no further proof of the disobedience to Jesus committed in calling a leader, father or rabbi.  Jesus told us not to seek the glory of one another but to be humble knowing we are all equals having the same Master, the same Father, which dwells in heaven.  That is why I see no need to launch into a lexical study of the Greek word, pater, and its usage in all the other places to which a father is referred.  However, it does bring up the issue of authority and lordship.

Jesus gave that long exhortation at the beginning of this article about the religious leaders that were putting unnecessary burdens on the people.  He spoke of those reveling in the praise and servitude of men.  He addresses authority among Christians directly by telling us that no one should usurp spiritual lordship over another.  That Jesus has pointedly explained is blasphemous as "One is your Father, which is in heaven" and therefore anyone claiming for himself the title of "father" of any of you is taking to himself the role of your God.  I guess men are more eager to be exalted than to have to wash our feet as Jesus did for the disciples at the Last Supper to teach them to serve and not lead each other (John 13:1-12).
 

I must cite here other teachings of Jesus on the subject of ecclesial authority in the church.  He is the one who established the church in the Old Testament, and, He who came in the flesh to establish the church under His new Testament which continues to this day.  He explained to the disciples how He wanted the church to conduct itself.  He further says,

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, "Ye know that the
princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great
exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you: but
whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever
will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man
came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a
ransom for many.
"  Matthew 20:25-28


Here He points out that there is to be NO church dominion over the believers.  I do not mean to say that there is no place for bishops and organizational leadership.  However, here we see that the church leaders are given no dominion or lordship over the members.  All are equal.  All answer to each other.  This situation refers to spiritual authority, not organizational authority.  It explains that no one has power over the other members salvation or faith or life.  While a bishop may be called to convene a group of elders to expel a heretic as is defined in Acts and the writings of Paul, they expel the member from the church but do not judge the member or condemn the member to Hell.  The only "authority" of the believer, whether apostle or deacon or bishop, was to warn or rebuke a brother found in error or to have no company with that brother that is overtaken in a fault.  They have no authority over the eternal punishment or salvation of the heretic.  They only have the authority to break company with that heretic until he repents his sin. 

Jesus said above that no Christian was to be venerated or exalted. I have often wondered at how much more kneeling and veneration is made before Catholic clergy and statues than was done before the very God of the universe who came in the Son and walked amongst us to bring us light and life.  There is only ONE dominion, the Dominion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Yet, He ALWAYS humbled Himself though He above ALL others has the right to bear the titles, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Bright and Morning Star, the Prince of Peace and more (in Catholicism I only see these titles used for Mary who was neither deity nor teacher but was the servant of God found in high favor, though, equal to all believers.  In fact, she suffered less for the cause of Christ than the apostles and other martyrs.  Why is she worthy of the sacrilegious attributions of the titles and the very nature of the Christ?



I would suggest that any church that teaches a heresy against the very
sovereignty of God and His Son by attributing His titles, His Glory, His
Honor to a mortal woman should be in fear of the judgment.  We must account
for everyone to which we speak heresy in the name of Jesus.  On that day, I
will stand gladly before the throne of my God and Lord, Jesus with a clear
conscience.  I do not fear for what I speak as I only quote His Word, (which
according to the Apostle John is Jesus).  He will not punish me or find me
unworthy for speaking His Word in truth.  Further, He will tell many who
have cast out demons in His name that He does not know them.



I have no doubt where I stand with my Lord as I pray directly to my Lord and
savior, who is my High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  He sits at
the right hand of the father and has washed my sins away with His blood and
shown His precious blood to the Father to atone for my sins forever.  He
intercedes for me and has cleansed me and made me clean to allow the Holy
Spirit into my heart.  He has healed me more than once of physical illness
and injury.  He has stayed the hand of the death angel more than once and
kept me here.  I sleep well at night and look forward to my death.  All this
has come to me by His Word which I accept and claim through faith.


I fear my God only as I have sinned only against Him and as long as He has
forgiven me through the blood of His Son, I fear no man.  I fear the God who
can destroy the body and the soul in Hell, not any pretender to the Throne
of the Christ.  As Jesus said of the burdens the Pharisees laid on their
followers, it is wrong.  I will not be brought under another set of rules
and laws or authority for I know my Father and answer to Him alone.  If He
rejects me, it is private between me and Him.  I love you.  I pray for you.
It is not fair for you or anyone to be burdened with extraneous practices or
superstitious fears of punishment.  If you do not have confidence of your
destination at death or your Savior remember,  "If the Son therefore shall
make you free, ye shall be free indeed." John 8:36