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Author Topic: Using the term 'Father _____'  (Read 1642 times) Average Rating: 0
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thismanisdan
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« on: June 16, 2009, 12:40:11 AM »

 I just need a little bit of clarity on the tradition of calling priests 'Father _____'. I came across a passage in Matthew that i'm sure many of you are familiar with that kind of made me think.

Matthew 23:8-10 (King James Version)

 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.


Now I am I taking this verse out of context? What exactly was Christ getting at when He stated this. Was it mainly that we need to be careful who we are really worshiping so as not to drift from the maker of all things? It's kind of a fuzzy area for me I apologize.
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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2009, 01:06:45 AM »

I just need a little bit of clarity on the tradition of calling priests 'Father _____'. I came across a passage in Matthew that i'm sure many of you are familiar with that kind of made me think.

Matthew 23:8-10 (King James Version)

 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.


Now I am I taking this verse out of context? What exactly was Christ getting at when He stated this. Was it mainly that we need to be careful who we are really worshiping so as not to drift from the maker of all things? It's kind of a fuzzy area for me I apologize.

Not to get too polemical, but the reference is something like restricting the title "Holy Father" to the Pope (which means "Father," and has been restricted by the Vatican to its bishop), with all that that entails.

It can't mean what is often claimed, i.e. can't call priests that, because if it did you couldn't call your father, father, and would make gibberish of the commandment "Honor thy father...."

As to the meaning, think I Corin. 4:15 "For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers:
for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel"
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2009, 01:34:44 AM »

Hi Dan.  Welcome to the forum.  Smiley

No need to apologise.  We all have questions about belief at one time or another.

IMHO, the argument used by some Protestants that cites Matthew 23 as "proof" that clergy are not to be called Father, taken to its logical conclusion,would mean that you and I are not allowed to call our male parents 'father", since our Lord is insisting in this text that we should "call no one on earth [our] father."  This is a radically literal reading of the text that leaves no room for us to read between the lines and discern what Jesus is really saying to us.

My impression is that the Lord is warning us against idolatry in this text.  Earthly fathers, teachers, shepherds, whatever, are only truly these things insofar as they show forth the only true father, teacher etc., that being God.   But think about it.  For small children, parents are the direct link to God.  For them, their mother and father represent God to them, or even are God to them.  It is an awesome responsibility to be a parent, for sure, because it is up to them to reveal the only true parent of the human race to their children, the Holy Trinity.   It is easy for families to fall into idolatrous traps and worship flawed parental figures.  This false worship does no honour to the parent or to the children, since it cuts them off from humanity's true parent.  But, If this above mentioned Protestant argument were to be used, Christians would not be allowed to call our parents "mom" and "dad", in order to safeguard against this kind of thing.  I think you might agree that this would be a bit extreme.  I have no problem calling my priest "Father."  I know that, as an earthly father, he falls short of the glory of God and that he struggles to reveal the true fatherhood  of  God to his  parishoners.  But I know a similar thing about my dad, and I will not stop calling him "father" either.   I hope that this answer  is of some help to you. 
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« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2009, 01:38:56 AM »

Yes thank you guys for your input on this. I kind of figured it wasn't meant literally as with much of what Jesus spoke. It's good to get an orthodox perspective on it.
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« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2009, 05:19:02 AM »

Deuteronomy 17:9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:
Deuteronomy 17:10 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:
Deuteronomy 17:11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.

Romans 2:19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
Romans 2:20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
Romans 2:21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
Romans 2:23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

Deuteronomy 17:17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
Deuteronomy 17:18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
Deuteronomy 17:19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
Deuteronomy 17:20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

This refers to the the pharisees and scribes who forgot the righteouss of God and turnt away from His ways , and walk after their lusts to multiply their gold and silver , to have high ranks , to be called Rabbi . Because of their turning away from the Law their hearts got lifted above their brethen. They like to be praised by people , and give titles to thereselves.Those who do not serve the people and who don`t care about the purposes of the people , who don`t care about people but only for themselves , serving their own purposes.Everything they do do it for there own purposes to be good for them , to be higher and higher, to be seen like people of God and give themselves titles of godly nature.To be seen as gods by people or as close as there can be to God , when in fact they are far. Serving the purpose of their earthly existence and trying to have the highest ranks there can be.Those who attract others to be like them , forgetting the kingdom of God and walking after their lusts.Putting burdens on people wich they don`t accomplish and wich are not that important. Forgeting the importance of mercy  truth . That is why for them the word has been said : I desire mercy and no sacrifice. Putting aside mercy truth and justice for other things wich are not that crucial.This refers at their teachings and advices , as Jesus. Teaching them to keep and do things whithout meaning , irrelevant , teachings of man and putting aside the teaching of God. For this Jesus said don`t call no one Rabbi or Father. Because of giving them titles of high ranks they rise above their brethen, asking praise from people instead of asking it from God. This is shown by those who like to be seen like gods on earth and who give themselves titles of God.For this Jesus said that , so that we understand that every priest , bishop is for the people , to serve people , not vice-versa.For this He said , who wants to be greater , let him be the servant of all.
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« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2009, 06:01:25 AM »

thismanisdan,

Welcome to the forum. This article might be helpful for you.

Call No Man Father
By Fr. Richard Ballew

Several decades have passed since Bing Crosby donned clerical garb and portrayed on the screen a role which would endear him to many even to this day-Father O'Malley. Somewhat earlier in our century, one of the great humanitarians of our time, Father Flanagan, founded Boys Town in Nebraska. The home became a nationally known refuge for homeless boys. In many ways, Mother Teresa of India is his contemporary female counterpart in caring for the poor and downtrodden of her adopted land. But what are we to make of these titles? We admire the work and character of these people, but does not the Bible issue the command to call no man "father"? Certain statements made by Jesus have often been the basis of great controversy, both inside and outside the Church. His saying, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven",' has proven to be no exception.

AT ISSUE IS INTERPRETATION
Some Protestant interpreters are sure that Jesus is warning here against addressing Church leaders as "father". They, of course, are interpreting "father" in this Scripture to mean, "spiritual father". Therefore, they refuse to call their clergymen "father", preferring instead such titles as "pastor", "reverend", or perhaps even "brother". At the outset, therefore, let me point out that "spiritual father" is an interpretation of the Lord's statement rather than what He actually said. Mind you, I am not denying the need for interpretation of Scripture. Instead, I am pointing out that the Lord said "father", not "spiritual father". What is at issue here? Simply this: taken at face value, Jesus' warning against calling any man "father" would not only seem to rule out calling a clergyman "father" , it would also keep us from using that title for earthly fathers and grandfathers, ancient Church fathers, or even city fathers, would it not? For in reality, the Lord's statement, as it appears in the text, is that only one Person is ever to be called "father", namely, our Father who is in heaven. But is Christ's saying to be taken at face value? If so, several other passages in the Bible are immediately in conflict, including some statements by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. To the church at Corinth he wrote, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel".2 Does not Paul claim to be the spiritual father of the Corinthians--"Father Paul", if you please? Furthermore, he boldly refers to his spiritual ancestry as "our fathers".3 And he did address earthly fathers in Colosse in this way: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged".4 It would appear the Apostle Paul certainly did not interpret the Lord Jesus Christ's words to mean only One was to be called "father", that is, the heavenly Father. In addition to this, when the rich man saw Abraham in heaven with Lazarus in his bosom, and addressed him as "Father Abraham", Abraham's response was not, "Do you not realize that only God the Father is to be called `father?" Rather, he replied, "Son, remember..".5 Instances like the above could be multiplied from Scripture to show that a great many people are acknowledged to be "fathers".

OTHER TITLES
But let us not stop here. For after saying only "One is your Father", Jesus proceeded to declare, "And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ".6 Yet He Himself acknowledged Nicodemus to be a "teacher of Israel".7 And in the church at Antioch certain men were called "prophets and teachers".8 Then again, the Apostle Paul not only recognized teachers as gifts of God to the Church,9 but he also did not hesitate to call himself "a teacher of the Gentiles".10 Furthermore, in this present day, almost all of us have at one time or another called certain people Sunday School teachers. The discussion thus goes far beyond any Protestant-Catholic lines. Therefore, in saying we should call no one "father" and "teacher", except God the Father and Christ Himself, the Lord Jesus appears not to be taking issue with the use of these particular titles in and of themselves. The context of the passage gives us the interpretive key we are looking for. In this "call no man father" passage, our Lord is contending with certain rabbis of His day who were using these specific titles to accomplish their own ends. And had these same apostate rabbis been using other titles, such as "reverend" and "pastor", Jesus, it seems to me, would have said of these as well, "Call no one reverend or pastor".

WHAT DID THE RABBIS MEAN?
To what ends, therefore, were the rabbis using the titles "father" and "teacher"? The answer revolves around at least two critical areas of leadership: teaching and personal character. Consider first the teaching of these particular rabbis. They had begun their teaching at the right place, the Law of Moses. Said Jesus, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat".11 Moses' Law was the true tradition. God had given it to Israel through Moses. The rabbis' responsibility was to preserve that tradition and faithfully pass it on to the next generation. All too often, however, a rabbi would add his own grain of wisdom to the true tradition, thereby clouding it. Instead of passing down the sacred deposit along with the true interpretations of that deposit, he would add his own private interpretation. In turn his disciples, like their teacher, would, after becoming rabbis, do the same thing. (Some things never change, do they!) The final outcome of all this was a tradition of men that made the true Mosaic tradition of no effect. To these very rabbis Jesus said, "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men",12 and again, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition . . . making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down".13 The summation of their private interpretations did in fact "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men".14

JESUS' CASE FOR TRUE TRADITION
In order to cut through all this tradition of men that had made the Mosaic tradition of no effect, and to bring people back to the truth, Jesus told His disciples, "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'"15 In other words, He was telling them not to use their positions as fathers and teachers as an opportunity to build disciples around their own private opinions. For to do so would only serve to "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men".16 Instead, with the coming of Christ, these rabbis-and indeed all who would teach God's Word-are to hand down faithfully the true tradition of only one Rabbi: Christ Himself. The Bible, through the pen of the Apostle John, calls this particular tradition "the doctrine of Christ".17 In fact, this is why the specific teaching of the Twelve became known as "the apostles' doctrine".18 Since their time, successive generations of fathers and teachers in the Church have handed down and guarded the apostolic doctrine concerning Christ very carefully, for it represents the true interpretation of Holy Scripture. This faithfulness to true Christian doctrine, by the way, can especially be seen in the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church, held between the fourth and eighth centuries. It behooves anyone who claims to be a teacher of Christ's doctrine to be faithful to the apostles' doctrine handed down in those Councils. Otherwise he runs the risk of inserting his own "private interpretation".19 While it is true that all teachers of Christ's doctrine must begin at the right place, namely, the Holy Scriptures, it is also true that they should give the correct and true interpretation of Holy Scripture as passed down by holy and godly teachers and fathers of the Church, especially in the Seven Councils. Why are the Seven Ecumenical Councils so important? Because they point out what the Church universally held to be the true teaching concerning the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. They are faithful to what the Holy Scriptures teach concerning the one true Rabbi and Teacher, Jesus Christ. Teachers and fathers who teach private interpretations contrary to the doctrine of Christ as taught in the Seven Ecumenical Councils should not, I believe, be recognized as true teachers and fathers.

THE RABBIS AND PERSONAL CHARACTER
A second critical area of rabbinic leadership with which Jesus was concerned was personal character. He had detected a major flaw in the character of the scribes and Pharisees, a sin that might be called self-exaltation. They were using their position as fathers and teachers among God's people to exalt themselves. They wanted to be sure they received appropriate recognition. In light of this lack of character, Jesus said, "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted".20 Their self-exalting spirit had manifested itself in several ways. First, in hypocrisy: "for they say", said Jesus, "and do not do."21 All talk and no walk. Their talk was cheap because it was totally contradicted by their behavior. In pretense they would make long prayers, but in behavior devour widows' houses.22 They would make oaths, swearing by the gold of the temple rather than by the temple that sanctified the gold, thereby revealing their secret love of money.23 Although they paid tithes of mint, anise, and cummin, which they should have done gladly, they neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith.24 Because they were hypocrites in these and numerous other ways, the Lord summed up His critique by saying, "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.25 Plainly, their "insides" did not match their "outsides" because they were filled up with a self-exalting and self-serving spirit. A second manifestation of their selfexalting spirit was the noticeable lack of actual service on their part. "For", said Jesus, "they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."26 No dirt was to be found under their fingernails. They were simply a group of lazy leaders who wanted to be served rather than to serve. No wonder, then, Jesus said not to be like them, for from God's standpoint, "he who is greatest among you shall be your servant."27 A third manifestation of their self-exalting spirit was self-love, demonstrated by a desire to be seen by men,28 by their love for the best seats at the feasts and in the synagogues,29 and by their love of greetings in the marketplaces, being called by men, "Rabbi, Rabbi."30 This self-love was a clear transgression of the Mosaic Law, which they professed to be keeping. For Moses' entire law could be summed up in the two great commandments, the greatest of which is, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."31 The second greatest is, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."32 Thus, these fathers and teachers were not leading their people into the love of God and neighbor. Quite to the contrary, they were exhibiting a self-exalting, self-serving spirit, filled up with a love for self.

THE VERDICT OF CHRIST
In the face of the stench and shame of the apostasy of these religious leaders, therefore, Jesus commanded His disciples, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven."33 While Father Abraham by his faithfulness deserved the title, as did others of Israel's greats in history, these men had forfeited their role as fathers. They were to cease and desist in their use of the term and, in turn, bow to God Himself as the fountainhead of all fatherhood. And in issuing His warning, Jesus addresses us today with the greatest of all commandments, pointing the fathers and teachers in His Church and those they lead to a primacy of love for God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to a love for one's neighbor.

AND WHAT ARE WE TO DO?
From the beginning of Church history, as was true throughout Israel, those anointed by God for service were called by certain names: "prophet", "teacher" (rabbi in Israel), and "father." In that same spirit, other titles have emerged, such as "reverend", "pastor", "professor" (teacher), or "brother" (for some evangelical pastors and Catholic monks). These designations speak of both warmth and dignity. Just as in our family units there is one who with love is called "father", so in God's household we have honored and will continue to honor those who have brought us to the new birth through our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, what better term for them than "father"? Jesus warned against calling men "father" or "teacher" in order that the leadership of His holy nation would remain pure. Whether bishop, father, teacher, deacon, or pastor, all leaders must remain faithful to the true doctrine of Christ and manifest a personal character befitting godly humility, a humility that leads the Church into the love of God the Holy Trinity and of one's neighbor.

May the Lord have mercy on all of us who lead the flock, regardless of the title we are given.

 
FOOTNOTES
(All Scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the New King James Version.)
1. Matthew 23:9
2. 1 Corinthians 4:15 (New American Standard Version)
3. 1 Corinthians 10:1
4. Colossians 3:21
5. Luke 16:24, 25
6. Matthew 23:10
7. John 3:10
8. Acts 13:1
9. 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11
10. 2 Timothy 1:11
11. Matthew 23:2
12. Mark 7:8
13. Mark 7:9, 13
14. Matthew 23:13
15. Matthew 23:8
16. Matthew 23:13
17. 2 John 9
18. Acts 2:42
19. 2 Peter 1:20
20. Matthew 23:11, 12
21. Matthew 23:3
22. Matthew 23:14
23. Matthew 23:16, 17
24. Matthew 23:23
25. Matthew 23:28
26. Matthew 23:4
27. Matthew 23:11
28. Matthew 23:5
29. Matthew 23:6
30. Matthew 23:7
31. Matthew 22:37
32. Matthew 22:39
33. Matthew 23:9

http://www.protomartyr.org/father.html
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« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2009, 08:45:56 AM »

I know that we have discussed this issue before here - at least its an issue for Protestants.
Some very good answers have been given in this thread as well.

Please note a simpler answer: The Greek word translated as "Father" as in God the Father into English is, with some few exceptions) quite a different word from the Greek word also English translated as "Father" as a priest's title.
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« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2009, 09:28:14 AM »

My thanks to the Forum Members who are addressing this issue, so commonly asked by  inquirors to the church. This is the example of following the purpose of the forum. You have provided Concise answers with sources,Great Job!

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« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2009, 10:35:58 AM »

Yes I agree.......when I get responses like all you have given it only encourages me to continue asking questions I have without fear of being judged and criticized. I know I will be sticking around here for some time as I journey through to Orthodoxy. Thank you again.


On a side note I will be attending my first Divine Liturgy on Saturday god-willing. Kind of excited for that.
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« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2009, 01:36:28 PM »

^Divine Liturgy on Saturday?  Is it a major feast on Saturday or does this parish routinely celebrate the Liturgy on other days of the week other than Sundays?

Either way, I hope the experience and true worship of our Lord God in Trinity helps you on your journey.  Welcome to the forum, btw.
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« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2009, 12:25:40 AM »

errr yeah its sunday sorry.....i was really tired this morning when I wrote that. I'm still debating on whether or not it would be good to attend a service in Ancient Greek or just a straight up English service. I don't speak or understand a lick of greek but I figure because orthodoxy stemmed from the east that the tie to an ancient language might enhance the experience.
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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2009, 12:35:05 AM »

errr yeah its sunday sorry.....i was really tired this morning when I wrote that. I'm still debating on whether or not it would be good to attend a service in Ancient Greek or just a straight up English service. I don't speak or understand a lick of greek but I figure because orthodoxy stemmed from the east that the tie to an ancient language might enhance the experience.

Most Greek orthodox parishes will use at least some English....
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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2009, 12:56:26 AM »

 Alright, I guess either way i'll be attended a few different churches.
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« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2009, 04:10:22 AM »

in vain you attain to a service you don`t understand , go to an english service;
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« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2009, 10:29:34 AM »

This is about people who trusts in themselves and take all credit for themselves in front of the people , putting God aside , and taking accreditance for something wich they accomplished with the help of God. In one word forgeting the co-work with God and removing the role of God , exalting themselves with honour being themselves as God or like gods.It`s like people who say : I accomplished all this , I teach all that , I am all this , forgetting how Paul says that only God makes to grow , forgetting that they received something from God , and all accomplished trough God`s help and mercy , and refers to people who take full accreditance for everything,  putting God aside of the things they do.In one word take the place of God.That is what it is refered to "calling yourself teachers" when the only teacher is God , and no one can be taught without God , like people who take full credit for teaching someone , look "what i did" , but you did not do it all by yourself , cause if God did not give you , or if he would not open the heart of your listeners ... It is said in many places The Holy Spirit will speak for you in the NT , and in Exod God says to Moses : I made mouth , I will give you what to say on that hour.Yes it happen with our participation but we only are mobiles of God`s work.This is for call no one on earth "Rabi" or teacher , i figure it out one of this days , i`m sorry for my english.It refers to people who take all the merits for themselves , who eventually manage to depart people from the kingdom of heaven more than enlighten them and taking them closer.Those who like to be praised by men and seek to be praised by people rather more than being praised by God , seeking for their own interest and benefits and not for the interest of God.
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« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2009, 03:27:27 PM »

So, here I am! I found some answers and passages, Paul is...ohh...you've already solved the problem. Undecided
Well, that's awesome! Smiley

This topic is a must-read for Protestants!
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