Author Topic: Why do Anabaptists reject a Ministerial Priesthood? Why do Orthodox claim one?  (Read 3265 times)

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Offline Riddikulus

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I hope it's ok to do this, but below, I have included an online chat between two friends of mine - one Catholic, one Anabaptist. I have edited the conversation only to make it easier to read.

The discussion centres on the ministerial priesthood, and though it originated on a Catholic Forum of which we are all members, my Anabaptist friend has included the Orthodox in his points. I would be grateful if our more learned members could clarify the Orthodox claims regarding the ministerial priesthood.

God be with us all.

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A: Exactly why do Anabaptists reject the idea of a ministerial priesthood?
J:  In a nutshell - we don't think it is mentioned in the New Testament and it appears late in the Patristics - after the third century. Early Anabaptists typically referred to the first three centuries as being a prime source for apostolic tradition.
A: Doesn't Saint Ignatius of Antioch deal with bishops & presbyters?
J: Yes, but he does not mention priests. Even Anabaptists recognise bishops and presbyters, but the presbyter in Ignatius is not a priest. Later Greek usage made the presbyter a priest - and then retrojected that later meaning back into the earlier text
A: Presbyter means elder.
J: Yes, presbyter indeed means elder but that does not make a presbyter a priest.
A: Hieros is a priest. St Paul speaks of his ministry to the gentiles as priestly; when he says that he uses hieros.
J:  Yes, hieros is nowhere used of either the bishop or the presbyter in the New Testament or early patristic literature. Christians have a priestly role, but that is not an argument for a ministerial priesthood. The first record of hieros to designate the presbyter does not occur until the mid-third century.
A:  It is an example of the NT using hieros for an apostle, isn’t it?
J:  Yes, and hieros and its cognates are used of Christians generally - but that is still not an argument for a ministerial priesthood. The presbyter replicates the structure of the synagogue where the elders had oversight of the synagogue - it is borrowed directly from that structure into the primitive church.  And the Timothy letters refer to elders, both male and female. I don't think a ministerial priesthood is necessarily incompatible with the Christian faith.
A: I don’t find that convincing, because (1) Christian priesthood is hieros, (2) Saint Paul speaks of his ministry of the gospel as a hieros, (3) some Christians serve as presbyters which is a ministerial role, (4) presiding in the Eucharist is a presbyterial role, (5) the Eucharist is seen as sacrificial very very early, (6) the hieros serves at altars whereon sacrifice is made and the presbyter is the one making the sacrifice.
J: Most of your argument relies on retrojection, since there is not a single mention of any Christian priesthood in the New Testament apart from the general priesthood of all believers - trying to argue from the general to the non-mention of a specific is illicit. And that some Christians serve as presbyters in a ministerial role is also not documented in the New Testament either. Again this is an argument from retrojection.
A: NT usage is not determinative on this issue because as you say, it is not widely used in the NT at all
J: it is not even widely used - it is never used period
A: It is used by Saint Paul of himself
J: And that the Eucharist has sacrificial overtones does not mean that it entails a sacrificing priesthood. That Paul uses it does not mean he identifies himself as part of a ministerial priesthood - he does not for instance in any of his list, list a priest as one of the offices of the church.
A: Not a convincing argument.
J: I don't find your arguments convincing either. You are retrojecting rather than taking the New Testament and early patristic literature in their historical sense. You retroject later usage back into earlier texts - which is anachronistic.
A: The NT is not the sole source for Christian beliefs.
J:  I never said it was, but the early patristic literature does not support your arguments either - except by recourse to retrojection.
A:  The NT says little about this aspect of Christian community & worship because the NT says rather little about the details of Christian worship. Tradition, however, says rather more about Christian worship.
J: That is indeed correct - but that still does not alter the witness of early Patristic literature.
A: Tradition does identify ministerial priesthood quite early
J:  After the third century
A: Which is early
J:  Early, but not apostolic
A: While the church is still under persecution
J: Again, still not apostolic
J: Now if the Orthodox and Catholic argument wishes to claim that it follows the logic of the New Testament and early patristic thought, then I would have no issue with the idea, but the Orthodox and Catholic claim something quite different.
A: I am presuming that you have some working definition of apostolic?
J: Namely, that it is apostolic because it is directly instituted by Christ himself.  In other words, the Catholic/Orthodox claim is that Jesus himself instituted the apostles as priests
A: So a priestly ministry is not instituted by Christ?
J: Correct - it is not. At best, it is a subsequent development. Which I have no problem with - but Catholics and Orthodox flatly refuse to admit that.
A: The catechism observes "Christians share in the priesthood of Christ" and Christ's priesthood is sacrificial; that there are those among Christians who minster to other Christians; and some minister in the gospel, some "on tables" in a deaconal work, some preside at the meetings. What exactly, in your opinion, is missing? Aren’t those who minister by presiding in the meeting ministerial priests acting as Christ in the matter of consecrating the Eucharist?
J: What is missing is the claim that it is an intrinsic part of the church (viz that it is directly instituted by Christ) rather than it is a function that has been instituted at some point because it somehow serves the good of the church (whether it does is another issue - I think it does not necessarily do so for both ecclesial and Trinitarian reasons)
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Offline ignatius

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Grace and Peace,

Point 1.) Priesthood of Believers...

Point 2.) They believe if the 'finished' work of our Lord (i.e High Priest) on the Cross...

Or so I am told.  :D
St Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.): “I think then that the one goal of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the churches who have at different times and in diverse manners divided from one another.”

Offline DennyB

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Biblical Support for a Ministerial Priesthood
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2007, 04:05:07 AM »
Acts 6:7 (NIV)


"So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

Maybe I'm reaching here,but if this is saying that many in the Levitical Priesthood became Christians,would they ceese being Priests? Would they ceese serving in the Temple? Many Christians were worshiping in the Temple,and since the veil was rent into the Holy of Holies,they now move on to a greater role in the Temple,since the High Priest now resides in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. 


Jewish Liturgy is now fullfilled in the New Covenant,The Levitical Priesthood is now fullfilled in a New Priesthood that has been instituted by Christ himself.


They no longer have to offer the blood of the passover lamb as a sacrifice,but they can now offer the body and blood of Christ,in the bread and wine!!
« Last Edit: December 03, 2007, 04:17:57 AM by DennyB »

Offline ignatius

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Re: Biblical Support for a Ministerial Priesthood
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2007, 10:28:31 AM »
Acts 6:7 (NIV)


"So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

Maybe I'm reaching here,but if this is saying that many in the Levitical Priesthood became Christians,would they ceese being Priests? Would they ceese serving in the Temple? Many Christians were worshiping in the Temple,and since the veil was rent into the Holy of Holies,they now move on to a greater role in the Temple,since the High Priest now resides in Heaven at the right hand of the Father.

Grace and Peace DennyB,

I haven't replied to your post for some time because I was concerned that my advocacy of the Baptist position might cause some to stray from the True Way.

Quote
Jewish Liturgy is now fullfilled in the New Covenant, The Levitical Priesthood is now fullfilled in a New Priesthood that has been instituted by Christ himself.

Baptists believe in the "Priesthood of ALL Believers" not unlike how the Orthodox believe that the 'Deposit of Faith' rests within the Body of Believers and not only within the Bishops. All are 'equal' in Christ and none are above one another. When the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies split... Baptists believe that this ceased the separation of God and Man and curtailed the need for a Formal Priesthood. The Levitical Priesthood would have simply joined the Body of Believers and ceased their role of Formal Intercessors between God and Man due to the completed work of our High Priest Jesus Christ.

Quote
They no longer have to offer the blood of the passover lamb as a sacrifice,but they can now offer the body and blood of Christ, in the bread and wine!!

Well, I'm sure you are aware that Baptist see no need for further sacrifices and thus no need for a Priesthood outside our High Priest Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. They honestly look at this as either the work of later Judaizers or the integration of pagan priesthood's into Christianity by later pagans.
St Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.): “I think then that the one goal of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the churches who have at different times and in diverse manners divided from one another.”

Offline DennyB

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Re: Biblical Support for a Ministerial Priesthood
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2007, 10:28:02 AM »
Grace and Peace DennyB,

I haven't replied to your post for some time because I was concerned that my advocacy of the Baptist position might cause some to stray from the True Way.

Baptists believe in the "Priesthood of ALL Believers" not unlike how the Orthodox believe that the 'Deposit of Faith' rests within the Body of Believers and not only within the Bishops. All are 'equal' in Christ and none are above one another. When the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies split... Baptists believe that this ceased the separation of God and Man and curtailed the need for a Formal Priesthood. The Levitical Priesthood would have simply joined the Body of Believers and ceased their role of Formal Intercessors between God and Man due to the completed work of our High Priest Jesus Christ.

Well, I'm sure you are aware that Baptist see no need for further sacrifices and thus no need for a Priesthood outside our High Priest Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. They honestly look at this as either the work of later Judaizers or the integration of pagan priesthood's into Christianity by later pagans.

I don't want it to be said that I don't believe in the "Priesthood of ALL believers".  The entire nation of Israel was called a "royal priesthood",but much like the errors of Korah and his followers,many Protestants have fallen into this error!!!

Offline Credo.InDeum

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Re: Biblical Support for a Ministerial Priesthood
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2008, 02:35:29 PM »
Baptists believe in the "Priesthood of ALL Believers" not unlike how the Orthodox believe that the 'Deposit of Faith' rests within the Body of Believers and not only within the Bishops. All are 'equal' in Christ and none are above one another. When the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies split... Baptists believe that this ceased the separation of God and Man and curtailed the need for a Formal Priesthood. The Levitical Priesthood would have simply joined the Body of Believers and ceased their role of Formal Intercessors between God and Man due to the completed work of our High Priest Jesus Christ.

The person designated as J in the discussion is an Anabaptist not a Baptist.

Baptists are dissenting Protestants who adopted a particular kind of ecclesiology and a theology of conversion that led them to think that only people who can make a credible profession of faith are to be baptised - the position is called credobaptism.

Anabaptists on the other hand arose at the same time as the protestant revolt & reformation but were not really a part of the Protestant movement. They were in fact persecuted by Protestants and also by Catholics. There were several kind of Anabaptists but none of them were precursors of the Baptists.

Anabaptists believe in separation of Church from state, pacifism, credobaptism, some accept a complete canon of scripture rather than the short list accepted by Protestants. There's a whole lot of interesting material available in books about Anabaptists; one such volume is called A CONTEMPORATY ANABAPTIST THEOLOGY written by THOMAS N. FINGER

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Offline ignatius

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Re: Biblical Support for a Ministerial Priesthood
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2008, 11:34:35 PM »
The person designated as J in the discussion is an Anabaptist not a Baptist.

Baptists are dissenting Protestants who adopted a particular kind of ecclesiology and a theology of conversion that led them to think that only people who can make a credible profession of faith are to be baptised - the position is called credobaptism.

Anabaptists on the other hand arose at the same time as the protestant revolt & reformation but were not really a part of the Protestant movement. They were in fact persecuted by Protestants and also by Catholics. There were several kind of Anabaptists but none of them were precursors of the Baptists.

I see. So what would be your response if I said that I don't see a real objective distinction between these two groups as you've defined them.

So, exactly 'what is different between Baptists and Anabaptists'? The 'Extreme Protestant Groups' which manifested after the reformation did cause a reaction from Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, etc. I don't see the distinction you propose between these two groups.

Quote
Anabaptists believe in separation of Church from state, pacifism, credobaptism, some accept a complete canon of scripture rather than the short list accepted by Protestants. There's a whole lot of interesting material available in books about Anabaptists; one such volume is called A CONTEMPORATY ANABAPTIST THEOLOGY written by THOMAS N. FINGER

Show me a Baptist who doesn't believe in separation of church and state?

The first criticism of infant baptism was Tertullian...
St Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.): “I think then that the one goal of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the churches who have at different times and in diverse manners divided from one another.”

Offline PeterTheAleut

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Just for context, today's Anabaptists are the Amish and Mennonites and other related groups.  Baptists follow a separate history and tradition.
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Offline ignatius

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Just for context, today's Anabaptists are the Amish and Mennonites and other related groups.  Baptists follow a separate history and tradition.

I live in an area with populations of Mennonites and Baptists and I'm asking what 'substantive' difference does one find with them and your run-of-the-mill Baptists?
St Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.): “I think then that the one goal of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the churches who have at different times and in diverse manners divided from one another.”

Offline Credo.InDeum

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I live in an area with populations of Mennonites and Baptists and I'm asking what 'substantive' difference does one find with them and your run-of-the-mill Baptists?

You'll need to tell us what is meant by substantive before we can tell you which areas of difference would fit.
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Offline ignatius

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You'll need to tell us what is meant by substantive before we can tell you which areas of difference would fit.

Reread your reply #5 and then please share with me what is actually different between those two groups...
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Offline bergschlawiner

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Maybe an explanation of who and what "Anabaptists" are for those of us who are not knowlegeable.  The word "baptist" gets used for so many things, the off-shot of whatever churches the English left in the colonies, the evangelicals in Russia who call themselves "baptists", "southern" and etc. 

Offline SolEX01

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Re: Biblical Support for a Ministerial Priesthood
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2008, 10:20:53 PM »
Quote
A: Exactly why do Anabaptists reject the idea of a ministerial priesthood?
J:  In a nutshell - we don't think it is mentioned in the New Testament and it appears late in the Patristics - after the third century. Early Anabaptists typically referred to the first three centuries as being a prime source for apostolic tradition.

Quote
J: What is missing is the claim that it is an intrinsic part of the church (viz that it is directly instituted by Christ) rather than it is a function that has been instituted at some point because it somehow serves the good of the church (whether it does is another issue - I think it does not necessarily do so for both ecclesial and Trinitarian reasons)

Acts 6:7 (NIV)
"So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

I like citing NKJV and the one line analysis is from the Orthodox Study Bible:

7 Then the Word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

The priests here were Christian converts who had been Jewish priests; they had not necessarily been ordained to the priestly ministry within the Christian Church after their conversion.

The ordaining of the 7 deacons by the Disciples of Christ (who were selected by Christ Himself) in Acts 6:3-6 establishes the Christian Priesthood via Apostolic Succession.  I'm not sure what other scriptural authorities the Anabaptists cite in not having a Ministerial Priesthood.

Offline Credo.InDeum

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Reread your reply #5 and then please share with me what is actually different between those two groups...
Baptists arose around 1605 AD.

Anabaptists arose around 1522 AD.

Baptists are not pacifists, have a paid clergy, accept the shortened list of sacred books that Protestants accept as scripture, have a Congregational form of church government.

Anabaptists are pacifists, usually do not have a paid clergy, some accept the canon as defined by Catholic or Orthodox Christians, have a democratic form of church government.

Baptists are primarily doctrinal in the definition of Christianity.

Anabaptists are primarily praxis oriented in their definition of Christianity.

There are areas of similarity between Anabaptists and Baptists and there are areas of significant difference.
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Offline ignatius

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Baptists arose around 1605 AD.

Anabaptists arose around 1522 AD.

Baptists are not pacifists, have a paid clergy, accept the shortened list of sacred books that Protestants accept as scripture, have a Congregational form of church government.

Anabaptists are pacifists, usually do not have a paid clergy, some accept the canon as defined by Catholic or Orthodox Christians, have a democratic form of church government.

Baptists are primarily doctrinal in the definition of Christianity.

Anabaptists are primarily praxis oriented in their definition of Christianity.

There are areas of similarity between Anabaptists and Baptists and there are areas of significant difference.

I know a lot of Primitive Baptists who would easily fit into your Anabaptist definition. I'm still not buying this 'hard' distinction between the two groups. I could make distinctions between two Catholic Parishes that distinguish them along praxy and doxy as well and it wouldn't mean that they are distinct traditions would it? I would argue that Baptists are an evolutionary branch of the Anabaptists movement during the splintering of the Protestant Reformation.
St Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.): “I think then that the one goal of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the churches who have at different times and in diverse manners divided from one another.”