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Author Topic: Matthew 23:9; "call no one father...." question  (Read 1254 times) Average Rating: 0
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leap of faith
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« on: June 17, 2011, 06:10:50 PM »

As a catechumen recognizing the earthly authorities given to me, this is a question that I would normally ask my priest.  However, I cannot reach him at the moment, so I turn to the members of OC.net for guidance as this question has been posed to me once again and I fear my response is not in keeping with the Orthodox Church.  Even while a Protestant I never had an issue with using the title of "Father" for a priest, I have been asked this question many times since it has become common knowledge that I'm converting to Orthodoxy.  When I read the scriptural reference they provide of Matthew 23 and place it back into the entirety of its context, I see a warning against hypocrisy and a prideful or "God-like" elevation of one in authority or self-elevation, by public behavior or adding to God's direction.  I recognize that I have but one Abba, Our Father, and He alone receives that level of reverence and worship.  For those who attempt to use this scripture against the priests' title of "Father," how do you respond?  Also, I have attempted to research the origin of the title, but have yet to find an Orthodox source.  Can anyone provide me with information or point me in the right direction?  Thank you so very much!

Edited to add:  It dawned on me after I posted that I had accidentally edited out the most important part of my thoughts regarding that scripture!  Most importantly, isn't this telling us that all knowledge and understanding comes from God and that we are to adhere to HIS teachings, neither adding to nor subtracting from the fullness of knowledge which has been given to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit?  In reality, it isn't about a "title" at all, but a warning against the traditions of man?
« Last Edit: June 17, 2011, 06:32:05 PM by leap of faith » Logged
JamesRottnek
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2011, 06:47:01 PM »

This article from the Antiochians is very good:

http://www.antiochian.org/node/19193
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2011, 07:06:35 PM »

Thank you!  I will absolutely read it.  I returned to the scripture following my post and something amazing lifted out at me once again.  Christ, speaking, specifies 3 titles telling us that we have no other teacher than The Teacher, no father but our Father, and no instructor but our Instructor, the Messiah.  Is this not His indication of the Trinity, in the Holy Spirit, our Heavenly Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ?  In a true attempt to step away from individual interpretation and lean onto the traditions of Holy Orthodoxy, I don't mean to apply my own meaning....but what I'm seeing, if correct, is Christ Himself teaching the Triune God.  If so, how sad that it has been emptied of its meaning by heterodoxy in an attempt to undermine Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2011, 07:48:48 PM »

I didn't read the article, skimmed it.

In short, it is in only virtue that God is the Father of His Son Jesus Christ that all other relations which we label as paternal are capable. When we refer to our dad or Priest as Father, we do so theomorphically. God ain't a Father anthropomorphically.

Our referring to men as fathers in light of the full revelation of the relationship between God the Father and His Son are we capable of beginning to fully understand what we mean by that relationship. And these earthly paternal relationships point toward and help reveal theomorphically what true Fatherhood is.

Through Christ's Divine Revelation on the Cross and in his Resurrection we truly become sons of the Father and should keep in mind that God the Father is source of all paternal relationships and to the degree those relationships are fully human and divine they help us understand our proper relationship as sons of God the Father.

I should probably delete this post. I am in chocolate malt coma.





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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2011, 07:55:11 PM »

Thank you!  I will absolutely read it.  I returned to the scripture following my post and something amazing lifted out at me once again.  Christ, speaking, specifies 3 titles telling us that we have no other teacher than The Teacher, no father but our Father, and no instructor but our Instructor, the Messiah.  Is this not His indication of the Trinity, in the Holy Spirit, our Heavenly Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ?  In a true attempt to step away from individual interpretation and lean onto the traditions of Holy Orthodoxy, I don't mean to apply my own meaning....but what I'm seeing, if correct, is Christ Himself teaching the Triune God.  If so, how sad that it has been emptied of its meaning by heterodoxy in an attempt to undermine Orthodoxy.

Again, I think this is a matter of ontology.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to be suckered into believing our Scripture talks about God anthropomorphically. This is not Judaism and it ain't Christianity.

We believe in a living God, Triune in Eternal Personal Relation. One of those Persons became flesh.

The Christian God ain't anthropomorphic. We are theomorphic. We in short are made in God's image and likeness. And all that is human and divine in us finds its ultimate perfection and source ontologically in the Trinity.

So Christ is The Teacher. The Master. God is The Father. It is in virtue that God is these things that we to can be. Not all of us can be all these things, but we are because God is.

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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2011, 08:57:44 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ!

We've had this discussion several times here already, and probably showing up as "related topics" at the bottom of this page.  I will only add this:

I also grew up terrified even to call priests "Father", and when I could be at my close friend's house who was Catholic and the priest came by, I would make a point to call him "Mister" rather than "Father"

As I came to Orthodox as an adult, I naturally carried the same sentiments and it was very hard for those words to slip off my tongue.  But the Spirit mellowed my misunderstanding in time through prayer.  I want you to know that I respect your feelings, from your perspective and current understanding this is a reasonable conclusion. However, know that the Bible and the Gospels are deeper than the ocean and take a lifetime to comprehend with the Soul, so don't let yourself get to caught up in any interpretations you have, because they will grow as you grow.  Seek the Spirit and also consult the experts when it comes to the Scriptures. 

We call our priests Father in an almost familial manner, it is not to "elevate" them above us in any way.  They do not lord over us in these titles, as a father neither lords over his family.  If anything, it is the opposite, as a father almost slaves away to care for the needs economic, psychological and spiritual of his family, so to do our priests sacrifice their very lives for the needs of their parish.  We then venerate them more as surrogate earthly fathers than as substitutes for our Heavenly Father.  However, in the context of that Scripture, there were cults at the time of our Lord which venerated human beings as temporal possessions of God, and as such, assumed the Divine titles, which our Lord forbid.  Examine the other threads and comments for in depth studies of what the Church teaches in regards to the meaning of Matthew 23..

Stay Blessed,
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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2011, 09:31:36 PM »

I appreciate all of the replies and have bookmarked the link given.  With so much to learn, I prefer giving recommended links to my questioners when possible.  Thankfully, this was one hurdle that I never had to jump...especially when I met our priest for the first time.  I also found the commentary of St. John Chrysostom's on this particular passage in "The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox."  This is the very reason I bought this book and use it to properly conform my thinking in the daily scripture reading.  Then, a blonde moment, and I failed to check the concordance prior to posting. It would have been so much easier to have come to Orthodoxy knowing nothing than to have to unlearn so much, as I was more studious than your average 50 yr. old Methodist! Ugh!! Lesson learned!  Again, I appreciate the guidance.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2011, 09:32:29 PM by leap of faith » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2011, 09:33:13 PM »

First, no one confuses their priest with God the Father.

As far as "biblical" commands, a literal reading of Matt 19:17, Mark 10:18, and Luke 18:19 would seem to imply that it is wrong and forbidden to call Jesus "good" and claim that He is "God".
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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2011, 09:12:13 PM »

Sometimes we allow ourselves to be suckered into believing our Scripture talks about God anthropomorphically. This is not Judaism and it ain't Christianity.

We believe in a living God, Triune in Eternal Personal Relation. One of those Persons became flesh.

The Christian God ain't anthropomorphic. We are theomorphic.

I think this is a piercing and important insight, thank you for it!

Would it be wrong of me to say that sometimes when people say the scripture is speaking about God "anthropomoprhically", it really is? eg: God "searching" for Adam in the garden, apparently not knowing where to find him.

Fundamentally, God is a person and our own personhood is a result of being made in his divine image. That doesn't mean the stuff in the scripture about God having hands and feet and a face and a back are to be understood literally. Am I understanding you correctly?
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« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2011, 09:15:00 PM »

I know this is a narky and unhelpful reply, but honestly, when such people stop calling their biological fathers, "father", I will consider re-evaulating how I address my priest. Until then ...
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2011, 09:19:19 PM »

Jesus refers to Abraham as "Father Abraham" in one of the parables. The expression "Avram Avinu," or "Abraham our father," is still used by pious Jews today as a sign of respect. They are not mixing him up with God the Father- rather, he is like a "father figure" to them. It is also similar to the way U.S. historians do for George Washington when they call "the father of our country." They aren't talking about him literally being everybody's parent. It means Washington was an important statesman and person of influence.

Jesus couldn't be contradicting himself, could he?  Wink Of course not. If he did, we'd all have taken the word 'father' out of the dictionary... and I wouldn't know what to say about the man who's married to my mother.  Cheesy

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« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2011, 10:43:47 PM »

I confess that, even when I was a Methodist, I rolled my eyes at this "point," understanding that it was yet another example of lifting a "one-liner" out of context to justify a chosen position. I received a response from my spiritual father and he brought it around for me in a unique way, helping me to further understand the topic reading from St John Chrysostom I had found earlier.  

He wrote: "There is a creative tension inherent in the words of the God-man Jesus Christ. Here, as elsewhere, the temptation is to collapse the tension, to reduce "the words of eternal life" to something that our created, mortal minds can encompass and control. Protestants tend to collapse the tension in one way, the scribes and Pharisees in another.

The scribes and Pharisees, like the poor, are with us always. They correspond to those who can't wait to have a bishop's hands laid upon their heads so that they might be addressed as "Father" by their fellow men, just as the scribes and Pharisees of old loved to be called by men "Rabbi, Rabbi."  

You are familiar with the reductionism of the Protestants.

As you discovered through your resourceful investigation, the solution of St John Golden-mouth is much tougher than either of those solutions. He doesn't permit himself to collapse the tension between the Lord's clear words and the Church's universal practice, already well-established in his time. Rather, he lets it stand in all its inconvenience to accuse us, if need be, and bring us to repentance. Indeed, these words ought to make everyone tremble in fear, both those who would dare to address someone on earth as "Father" despite the Lord's plain words, and those who would accept to be so called.

St John is saying that, if someone dare allow himself to be called "Father" by his fellow-Christians, then he must be certain to order every aspect of his whole life in absolute reference to "the one Father, He who is in Heaven." Then, having become a perfect icon of the Heavenly Father, only then may he with all humility accept to be so called."  There was more, however, this was the portion that was the meat of his message.  

This probably isn't anything new to most of you, but it was valuable to me because I recognize that St John made no attempt to "justify" the position of The Church.  Rather, he held Her faithful to a higher standard of understanding and living.  No dueling scripture games.  Gee.  There's a thought.

Again, I appreciate each response...even the snarky one, which was merely stating the obvious so I don't qualify it as snarky.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2011, 10:49:21 PM by leap of faith » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2011, 10:58:46 PM »

First, no one confuses their priest with God the Father.

As far as "biblical" commands, a literal reading of Matt 19:17, Mark 10:18, and Luke 18:19 would seem to imply that it is wrong and forbidden to call Jesus "good" and claim that He is "God".
Yes. Mark 10:18 does raise a question about whether Jesus is saying that He is not God.
"And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? No one is good but one, that is God."
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« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2011, 11:24:15 PM »

First, no one confuses their priest with God the Father.

As far as "biblical" commands, a literal reading of Matt 19:17, Mark 10:18, and Luke 18:19 would seem to imply that it is wrong and forbidden to call Jesus "good" and claim that He is "God".
Yes. Mark 10:18 does raise a question about whether Jesus is saying that He is not God.
"And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? No one is good but one, that is God."

But only as a one liner.  They needed to answer the question.  The Lord later spelled out plainly the answer that He and His Father are one.  Thus, the "one" is the Father, together with His Son and His All-Holy Good and life creating Spirit. 
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« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2011, 06:32:52 AM »

First, no one confuses their priest with God the Father.

As far as "biblical" commands, a literal reading of Matt 19:17, Mark 10:18, and Luke 18:19 would seem to imply that it is wrong and forbidden to call Jesus "good" and claim that He is "God".
Yes. Mark 10:18 does raise a question about whether Jesus is saying that He is not God.
"And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? No one is good but one, that is God."

But only as a one liner.  They needed to answer the question.  The Lord later spelled out plainly the answer that He and His Father are one.  Thus, the "one" is the Father, together with His Son and His All-Holy Good and life creating Spirit. 

My point wasn't to question whether or not it is ok to say that Christ is "good" or "God", but to provide an example of what can come as a result of twisting the Lord's words and seriously misrepresenting them.
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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2011, 05:37:10 PM »

First, no one confuses their priest with God the Father.

As far as "biblical" commands, a literal reading of Matt 19:17, Mark 10:18, and Luke 18:19 would seem to imply that it is wrong and forbidden to call Jesus "good" and claim that He is "God".
Yes. Mark 10:18 does raise a question about whether Jesus is saying that He is not God.
"And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? No one is good but one, that is God."

But only as a one liner.  They needed to answer the question.  The Lord later spelled out plainly the answer that He and His Father are one.  Thus, the "one" is the Father, together with His Son and His All-Holy Good and life creating Spirit. 

My point wasn't to question whether or not it is ok to say that Christ is "good" or "God", but to provide an example of what can come as a result of twisting the Lord's words and seriously misrepresenting them.

I understand
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« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2011, 06:19:25 PM »

As a catechumen recognizing the earthly authorities given to me, this is a question that I would normally ask my priest.  However, I cannot reach him at the moment, so I turn to the members of OC.net for guidance as this question has been posed to me once again and I fear my response is not in keeping with the Orthodox Church.  Even while a Protestant I never had an issue with using the title of "Father" for a priest, I have been asked this question many times since it has become common knowledge that I'm converting to Orthodoxy.  When I read the scriptural reference they provide of Matthew 23 and place it back into the entirety of its context, I see a warning against hypocrisy and a prideful or "God-like" elevation of one in authority or self-elevation, by public behavior or adding to God's direction.  I recognize that I have but one Abba, Our Father, and He alone receives that level of reverence and worship.  For those who attempt to use this scripture against the priests' title of "Father," how do you respond?  Also, I have attempted to research the origin of the title, but have yet to find an Orthodox source.  Can anyone provide me with information or point me in the right direction?  Thank you so very much!

Edited to add:  It dawned on me after I posted that I had accidentally edited out the most important part of my thoughts regarding that scripture!  Most importantly, isn't this telling us that all knowledge and understanding comes from God and that we are to adhere to HIS teachings, neither adding to nor subtracting from the fullness of knowledge which has been given to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit?  In reality, it isn't about a "title" at all, but a warning against the traditions of man?

Don't forget what St. Paul said,

1Co 4:14  I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
1Co 4:15  For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
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