Archive for the ‘Priesthood of Believers’ Category

Paradigm Puzzle for Jason Stellman

April 25, 2013

Jason Stellman has claimed that one of his attractions to the Roman religion was that allegedly the Biblical authors said things that someone with a Reformed paradigm would not say. Actually, he’s being anachronistic. There are certain things Reformed pastors wouldn’t say, because of heresies that have arisen since the time of the apostles (such as papalism) and because of misinterpretations of Biblical passages, such as those related to perseverance.

I’m persuaded that Stellman will perceive particular passages to be puzzling for his present paradigm.  For example, I’m sure Stellman realizes that in Roman Catholicism the Eucharist is central. For example:

Eucharist and Priests: The Eucharist is central to the ministry of priests and it is by means of the Eucharist that “they are in communion with Christ the head, and leading others into this communion” (Ad Gentes, 39). The missionary activity of the Church is about the extension of communion through the building up, day by day of the body of Christ.

(source)

This should be obvious as well from the title of the blog of Stellman’s pals, “Called to Communion.” But what is the central aspect of the ministry of Christian elders? Check out the description in Acts:

Acts 6:2-4
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

The word and prayer are the central aspects.

And again, in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

Here the emphasis is on word and doctrine, as well as on administrative ability.

And again, in Titus 1:

Titus 1:1-9
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; to Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Notice again the emphasis on the word and doctrine, as well as the emphasis on moral rectitude.

And again in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:1-7
This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Again, teaching aptitude and administrative ability (together with exemplary moral status) are the focus.

In fact, while the Lord’s supper (and Baptism) are important, they are not closely linked with the roles of bishops/elders in Scripture. While typically these sacraments are administered by elders in Reformed churches, this is not because the Scriptures require it. It is a matter of order in the church, rather than a matter of absolute necessity. For example, Philip (one of the proto-deacons) baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.

In Roman Catholicism, the priests/bishops must administer the Eucharist, because they are priests. That is not the paradigm of the New Testament. The elders/bishops are never referred to as priests. Indeed, in the New Testament properly the only priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. In a sense, we are all priests, but properly it is only the Lord. He is the only mediator between God and man, which necessarily excludes a priestly class.

But Stellman claims that the Roman Catholic paradigm better explains the New Testament. I’m not persuaded.

-TurretinFan

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Garry Wills – Why Priests? – Introduction

February 25, 2013

Dr. Garry Wills is a lay Roman Catholic. His PhD in classics is from Yale (1961) and he taught history for 18 years at Johns Hopkins University. The Los Angeles Times describes him as “American Catholicism’s most formidable law scholar,” and the New York Times describes him as “One of the country’s most distinguished intellectuals.” Wills’ “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America,” won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1993. In 2008, John L. Allen, Jr. described Wills as “perhaps the most distinguished Catholic intellectual in America over the last 50 years” in the National Catholic Reporter. His writings generally focus on historical topics, many of them on the intersection of history and religion. (I wonder if calling him a “Roman Catholic Darryl Hart” would be taken as the mutual compliment it would be intended to be?)

Some think that the dwindling number of priests can be remedied by the addition of women priests, or married priests, or openly gay priests. In fact, the real solution is: no priests. It should not be difficult to imagine a Christianity without priests. Read carefully through the entire New Testament and you will not find an individual human priest mentioned in the Christian communities (only Jewish priests in service to the Temple). Only one book of the New Testament, the Letter to Hebrews, mentions an individual priest, and he is unique — Jesus. He has no followers in that office, according to the Letter.

It is not surprising, then, that some Protestant communities are able to be good Christians without having any priests. Some priests of my youth mocked them for that reason. They said a Protestant ceremony was just a town meeting, without the sacramental consecration and consumption of the body and blood of Jesus. When I was told one of my pastors that I had admired the sermon of a visiting priest, he said I should not be looking to have my ears ticked, like some Protestant, but should concentrate on the mystery of the Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, he was implying, we would have no religion at all.

(Why Priests, Introduction, p. 2)

Gary Wills’ proposal is going to be shocking to traditionalist Roman Catholics, partly because it would require a radical change in Roman Catholicism, and partly because that radical change would like the Reformation, at least as to a substantial part of its ecclesiology (his position was compared to that of Luther in the New York Times).

We hold to the priesthood of believers, and maintain that Christians have direct access to God through the sole mediation of Christ. Thus, we reject the idea of merely human priests, affirming instead the apostolic model of a church without priests.

Wills’ proposal is one that is surprisingly ecumenical. While there would still be certain issues regarding worship that would need to be addressed, removal of the priesthood would be a major stepping stone toward Roman Catholicism being in ecumenical union with “Protestants.”

Will Will’s proposal be adopted? It seems unlikely. Those in power in Rome have every vested interest in maintaining the structures of power that require a priesthood.

-TurretinFan

P.S. I seriously doubt that any of Garry Wills’ books (from his prize winning books, to his least well recognized books, and including this book) has been submitted for nihil obstat or imprimatur. Naturally, a book (like Why Priests?) that argues as one of its main points that there shouldn’t be priests, is not a good candidate for either certification.

Trent vs. Scripture and Tradition on the Priesthood of Believers

March 5, 2012

Trent
Trent asserts:

And if any one affirm, that all Christians indiscriminately are priests of the New Testament … he clearly does nothing but confound the ecclesiastical hierarchy … .

(Session 23, Chapter 4)


Scripture
Scripture declares:

Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Revelation 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

1 Peter 2:5  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Tradition
Trent is also contrary to much of tradition.  I ought to qualify this by pointing out that I do not think that the fathers had some special source of revelation that we do not, such that their works represent Apostolic tradition obtained elsewhere than Scripture.  Still, they are part of our tradition – something that has been handed down to us.

Victorinus (d. circa 303), “Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John,” at Revelation 1:6 (link):

“And He made us a kingdom and priests unto God and His Father.”] That is to say, a Church of all believers; as also the Apostle Peter says: “A holy nation, a royal priesthood.”

Alternative translation (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 1):
And “he has made us a kingdom and priests,” that is, the whole church of the faithful, as the apostle Peter says: “a holy nation, a royal priesthood.”

Apringius of Beja (6th Century), “Explanation of the Revelation by the Most Learned Man, Apringius, Bishop of the Church at Pax [Julia]” at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 25:

And he made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father. Because he suffered and rose from the dead for us, he made us to be a kingdom that we might merit to be priests of God the Father. For he makes us to be a kingdom, since he suffered and rose again. 

Apringius of Beja (6th Century), “Explanation of the Revelation by the Most Learned Man, Apringius, Bishop of the Church at Pax [Julia]” at Revelation 20:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 50:

Indeed, concerning those over whom the second death has no power, it says, they shall be priests of God, and they shall reign with him a thousand years.  All those who shall have been in the congregation of the saints shall be called saints, and they shall be priests of Christ our God, and they shall reign with him in the strength of the cross and in the sovereignty of his might.

Caesarius of Arles (468/470 – 542), “Exposition on the Apocalypse” at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, pp. 63-64):

“He made us,” it says, “to be a kingdom and priests to God.” When it speaks of priests to God, it refers to the whole church, as Saint Peter said: “You are an elect people, a royal priesthood.”

Bede the Venerable (672/673 – 735), “The Exposition of the Apocalypse by Bede the Presbyter” at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 115):

And he made us a kingdom and priests to his God and Father. Since the King of kings and the celestial Priest united us to his own body by offering himself up for us, there is no one of the saints who is spiritually deprived of the office of the priesthood, since everyone is a member of the eternal Priest.

Bede the Venerable (672/673 – 735), “The Exposition of the Apocalypse by Bede the Presbyter” at Revelation 20:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Latin Commentaries on Revelation, p. 179): 

But they shall be saints of God and of Christ.  Another translation reads “they shall be priests of God and of Christ.” However, this is said not only of bishops and presbyters, who are properly called priests in the church.  Rather, just as all are said to be of Christ on account of the mystical chrism, so also all are priests since we are members of the one Priest. Concerning the members of Christ the apostle Peter says, “a holy nation, a royal priesthood.”

Bede the Venerable (672/673 – 735), “Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles” (Cisterian Studies Series: Number 82), Commentary on 1 Peter at 1 Peter 2:5 (p. 84):

Yet when he had said, You are to be built up into the edifice, or, ‘a spiritual house’, he added, A holy priesthood, in order that he may very clearly urge us, being ourselves a holy priesthood, to be built upon the foundation of Christ. Therefore, he calls the entire Church a holy priesthood, a name and office that the house of Aaron alone had under the law, because namely we are all members of the high priest, we all are signed with the oil of gladness; there applies to all what he appends: To offer spiritual sacrificial victims acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Yet he calls our work of alms-giving and prayers spiritual sacrificial victims to distinguish them from the bodily victims under the law.

Oecumenius (Seventh Century), “Commentary on the Apocalypse” at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 5):

To him who loved us and has washed us from our sins by his blood and made for us a kingdom, priests to God and his prophets, to him be glory and power forever and ever Amen.  The arrangement of this saying moves backward from what is last to that which is first. It says, “to him who loved us be glory and power.” For how did he not love us “who gave himself as a ransom” for the life of the world? [And to him be glory] “who has washed us from our sins by his blood.” For he took “the bond that stood against us with its demands and nailed it to the wood of his cross,” paying in full for our sins with his own death and setting us free from transgressions by his blood and healing our disobedience by his submission to death, even the death of the cross.
“He made for us a kingdom.” What benefit is there for us to become “priests to God and his prophets”? That people might be made worthy of these things he makes certain for us the coming kingdom and in the present time procures for us unspeakable glory. This is even greater and more marvelous and noteworthy than the divine gift of his washing away our sins by his own blood, that we who brought nothing for such a gift would be made priests of God and prophets.

Oecumenius (7th Century), “Commentary on the Apocalypse” at Revelation 20:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 90):

The faithful, it says, “shall be priests of God and of Christ.” For all the faithful were appointed priests of the word of the gospel, and concerning these the prophet, playing the prophetic lyre, said, “You will make them princes over all the earth.”

Andrew of Caesarea (563 – 637), “Commentary on the Apocalypse,” Book I, Chapter 1 at Revelation 1:6 (Ancient Christian Texts, Greek Commentaries on Revelation, p. 116):

To him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us kings and priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.It is fitting, he says, to give glory to him who through his love has freed us from the chains of death and has washed us from the filth of sin by the outpouring of his life-giving blood and water and has made us a royal priesthood bringing to the Father the living sacrifice of a reasonable service, rather than the sacrifice of irrational beasts.

Augustine (354 – 430), City of God, Book 17, Chapter 5 (link)

What then does he say who comes to worship the priest of God, even the Priest who is God? “Put me into one part of Thy priesthood, to eat bread.” I do not wish to be set in the honor of my fathers, which is none; put me in a part of Thy priesthood. For “I have chosen to be mean in Thine house;”1020 I desire to be a member, no matter what, or how small, of Thy priesthood. By the priesthood he here means the people itself, of which He is the Priest who is the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.1021 This people the Apostle Peter calls “a holy people, a royal priesthood.”

Augustine (354 – 430), Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm 132, Section 20 (link):

“I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing” (ver. 16). We are now at the end of the Psalm; attend for a short space, Beloved. “I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall rejoice and sing.” Who is our salvation, save our Christ? What meaneth, therefore, “I will clothe her priests with salvation”? “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”

Augustine (354 – 430), Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book 22, Chapter 89 (link):

As He saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God.” Here Paul applies the prophecy to the Gentiles. So also Peter, writing to the Gentiles, without naming the prophet, borrows his expressions when he says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye might show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” From this it is plain that the words of the prophet, “And the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured for multitude,” and the words immediately following, “And it shall be that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there they shall be called the children of the living God,” do not apply to that Israel which is after the flesh, but to that of which the apostle says to the Gentiles, “Ye therefore are the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise.”

Jerome (347 – 420), The Dialogue Against the Luciferians (link):

I will answer you in your own words. If a layman confesses his error, how is it he continues a layman? Let him lay aside his lay-priesthood, that is, his baptism, and I grant pardon to the penitent. For it is written “He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father.” And again, “A holy nation, a royal priesthood, an elect race.” Everything which is forbidden to a Christian, is forbidden to both bishop and layman. He who does penance condemns his former life. If a penitent bishop may not continue what he was, neither may a penitent layman remain in that state on account of which he confesses himself a penitent.

Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus (c. 150 – c.215) (via the Latin translation of Cassiodorus, c. 490 – c. 583), Comments on 1 Peter 2:9 (link)

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.”3727 That we are a chosen race by the election of God is abundantly clear. He says royal, because we are called to sovereignty and belong to Christ; and priesthood on account of the oblation which is made by prayers and instructions, by which are gained the souls which are offered to God.

Leo the Great (c. 391 or 400 – 461), Sermon 24, Section 6 (On the Feast of the Nativity, IV) (link):

But you, dearly beloved, whom I address in no less earnest terms than those of the blessed Apostle Peter, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” built upon the impregnable rock, Christ, and joined to the Lord our Saviour by His true assumption of our flesh, remain firm in that Faith, which you have professed before many witnesses, and in which you were reborn through water and the Holy Ghost, and received the anointing of salvation, and the seal of eternal life.

Leo the Great (c. 391 or 400 – 461), Book of Pastoral Rule, “Of the Life of the Pastor,” Chapter 3 (link):

With gold and blue, purple also is mingled: which means, that the priest’s heart, while hoping for the high things which he preaches, should repress in itself even the suggestions of vice, and as it were in virtue of a royal power, rebut them, in that he has regard ever to the nobility of inward regeneration, and by his manners guards his right to the robe of the heavenly kingdom. For it is of this nobility of the spirit that it is said through Peter, Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. ii. 9).

Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225), De Exhortatione Castitatis (writing as a Montanist against second marriages for laymen), 7:

… Are not we laymen priests also? It is written: ‘He hath also made us a kingdom and priests to God and his Father.’ The difference between the Order and the people is due to the authority of the church and the consecration of their rank by the reservation of a special bench for the order. Thus where there is no bench of clergy you offer and baptize and are your own sole priest. For where there are three, there is a church, though they be laymen. Therefore if you have the rights to a priest in your own person when necessity arises, you ought likewise to have the discipline of a priest, where it is necessary to exercise his rights. …

So, which will and should you accept?  Trent’s bold claim or the seemingly consistent testimony both of Scripture and the fathers? 

 – TurretinFan


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