Saturday, July 11, 2009

Priesthood, Pastor, and People

The Lutheran Church - Canada (LCC) has published a doctrinal paper called Pastor and People Together in Christ's Church. It addresses the nagging question among LCMS Lutherans (and their descendants, such as the LCC) as to the relationship between the clergy and the laity.

Overall, the paper is excellent. It weaves together Scripture, the Lutheran confessions, and historical practice - especially in the more recent Lutheran experience of North America - and draws conclusions, offers criticisms, and points forward to a proper corrective against both clericalism and anticlericalism.

There is one aspect of the paper, however, where the authors adopt a peculiar way of speaking about the clergy/laity relationship that is, I believe, sectarian and unhelpful. This has to do with the use of the word "priest."

In the Old Testament, the priesthood was a hereditary office held by men from the tribe of Levi. Their job was to minister in the tabernacle/temple mainly through the offering of sacrifices. Of course, those priestly sacrifices were rendered obsolete, or more accurately perhaps, fulfilled, by the oblation of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. That all-availing sacrifice marked the end of the Levitical priesthood.

And yet, the Christian Church traditionally uses the term "priest" to describe the New Testament office of the ministry. The vast majority of Christians on the planet today employ the term "priest" in this fashion: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and many Lutherans around the world.

In fact, the term "priest" is the most common term for office of the holy ministry in the Lutheran confessions, and is commonly used by Lutherans outside of Germany and the United States - particularly in those Lutheran church bodies that were able (unlike the Germans) to retain or recover traditional church polity (such as the Scandinavian, Baltic, and Russian Lutherans, as well as African Lutherans who were initially evangelized by the Scandinavians). Unlike in Germany, the early Swedish Lutherans were able to retain the traditional church structure of consecrated bishops and ordained priests (which is, incidentally, the preferred form of polity as expressed by the Book of Concord).

So, it is simply Germano- and/or North Americano-centrism to say "Today [pastor] has become our favourite term." The "our" must be understood as "Canadian Lutheran" or "North American Lutheran" or "Protestant" rather than speaking for all Lutherans. Indeed, the LCMS and the LCC are both in full fellowship with Lutheran bodies that shamelessly use the word "priest" in their hymnals and service books.

In fact, German and North American Lutherans have drunk so deeply from this well that one will often read theological writings by English- and German-speaking Lutherans where the term "priesthood" is used to mean the laity alone! Lutherans will speak about the office of the ministry as opposed to the priesthood and vice versa. This is a sectarian, if not ghettoizing vocabulary. It would be confusing (at best) if it were read by Christians of any other historic confession, not to mention by many Lutherans around the world.

Part of the justification of this use of "priesthood" to apply to the laity as opposed to the clergy stems from a narrow reading of 1 Peter 2:9:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
The line of reasoning is that in the Old Testament, the priests were only the hereditary temple priests, and the laypeople had no priesthood. But by virtue of the New Testament, since Christ is our High Priest, and since all have direct access to God the Father, now all baptized Christians are "royal priests" (Greek: basileion hierateuma). Hence the old restrictive "clerical" priesthood has given way to a universal priesthood of believers.

And since this priesthood is a priesthood of the laity, so the line of reasoning goes, the clergy no longer have a priesthood. It is as though their priesthood as baptized Christians is sucked out of them through the laying on of hands at ordination - hence the use of the term "priesthood" among many Lutherans to the exclusion of the ordained ministry!

Now, there is some truth in the above. All Christians are indeed priests. They are to offer themselves as sacrifices, to pray for others, and they indeed have direct access to God and are welcome in the sanctuary of the Lord's Presence.

But this is not an Old Testament/New Testament distinction as many seem to assume. Were the laypeople in Old Testament times also priests? According to Exodus 19:6, yes:
"and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests (Greek: basileion hierateuma) and a holy nation."
Notice that the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament for Exodus 19:6 uses the same words as the 1 Peter 2:9. The "priesthood of believers" existed in the Old Testament even as it does in the New - even side-by-side with the clerical priesthood.

Even though the laity of the Old Testament did not share in the ordained ministry of the Levitical priests, they still had a priesthood by virtue of being God's holy people, beholden to gather in a congregation, pray, and offer their own lives sacrificially - through their service, their tithes, and their leading of holy lives.

Another myth concerning the priesthood of believers is that this was a rediscovery of Martin Luther, that the Roman Catholic Church did not, and does not, recognize the priesthood of the laity. This is simply not true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the priesthood of the laity. No traditional church body denies that all Christians bear a priestly office. And furthermore, the use of 1 Peter 2:9 as a theological linchpin to undermine the priestly role of ministers is just not done in the Lutheran confessions. In fact, 1 Peter 2:9 is only invoked once in the Book of Concord (Tr 69) which is addressed well in the LCC's paper.

The word "priest" is the most commonly-employed term in the Book of Concord for the office of the holy ministry. To call the use of the term "improper" is to condemn the Lutheran confessions themselves - not to mention centuries of pious Christian writings. It is important for laypeople to know, for example, if they read a copy of John Chrysostom's On the Priesthood, it is about ministers, not laypeople. It is equally important that they understand that the word "priest" used in the Augsburg Confession does not refer to the laity. We do no favors by introducing sectarian terminology. Of course, we English-speaking Lutherans have done much to confuse the laity with misused terms - such as "elder" - a term that is used Biblically as ordained pastor as opposed to lay assistants.

For there is a priestly component to the pastoral ministry - one that works with, not against, the priestly component to the laity. This is confirmed by St. Paul in Romans 15:16, where he refers to himself as:

"a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service (Greek: hierourgounta) of the gospel of God."

Interestingly, the LCC paper makes no mention of this scriptural passage in which St. Paul explicitly applies the word "priest" to the work of the pastoral ministry! The King James Version (and its updated descendant, the NKJV) translate this passage with no mention to "priestly service" - opting instead for "ministry" - perhaps owing to the battle between Catholic and Puritan factions in England in the 17th century.

I believe it is helpful to retain the use of the word "priest" for the pastoral office - not in order to displace other fine descriptive (and also Biblical) words like pastor and minister, and certainly not in any desire to diminish the priestly office of the laity. Rather, it befits pastors to see themselves in a priestly office. They are not hirelings, not functionaries - but like St. Paul, are offering "priestly service" to the people. They offer their lives in a sacrificial way. They handle holy things at the altar. They offer a sacrifice liturgically as well - not a propitious sacrifice to forgive sins, but rather leading the people in a sacrifice of praise and in offering the incense of prayer before the throne-room of heaven.

In this sense, the Levitical priesthood has changed forms, and a part of it does live on in the apostolic ministry.

In Isaiah 40:1-2, the prophet is writing to the people of Judah in the future, in their time of exile. He opens this part of his preaching with a call to preachers to proclaim the Gospel:
"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins."
The Septuagint clarifies to whom God is giving these instructions, beginning in verse 2: "Priests (Greek: hiereis), speak..." And notice that in the time of exile, even though there was no temple and no temple sacrifices, the priesthood was not abolished. Rather their ministry changed from one of sacrificial offering to one of preaching the Gospel. They were to "speak" (Greek: lalesate, a word typically interpreted in the New Testament not merely as ordinary conversation, but as preaching) to the "people" (Greek: laon, from which we get the word "laity") that her "warfare is ended" and that her "iniquity is pardoned." The forgiveness of sins in this case was not something carried out by the hands of the priest, but by his mouth. And it was not effected through an offered lamb, but rather through the divine pardon of The Offered Lamb to be communicated by the priest to the people.

This preaching priesthood prefigures the New Testament office of pastor. For he doesn't offer a lamb as an oblation at the altar, but rather distributes the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb to the people at the altar. The post-temple priest also "speaks" a proclamation of "comfort" to the laity, to the people.

The Ancient Christian Commentary has several entries in which the church fathers understood the word "priest" in the Septuagint's rendering of Isaiah 40:2 to be applicable to Christian preachers of the Gospel: bishops and priests in the pastoral office.

The vast majority of Christians since, and today, understand the priestly role of the pastor. It isn't something to be discarded because of alleged confusion with the Levitical priesthood any more than we ought to cease using the term "priesthood" to apply to the laity for this same reason.

In giving pastoral care to my flock, I sometimes refer to myself as the parish priest. I have episcopal oversight and eldership over my congregation. I also tell the laypeople - especially the fathers - that they too are priests - exercising spiritual oversight and eldership over their families. The two priesthoods are similar, and yet they are distinct in many ways. And, as the LCC paper makes clear, Christ is ultimately the Head of both orders of priesthood.

Rather than speak of "the ministry" vs. "the priesthood," maybe a more healthy and less sectarian manner of speaking would be to speak about the "priesthood of the baptized" and the "priesthood of the ministry" working together under the Priesthood of Christ.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

You write, "I believe it is helpful to retain the use of the word "priest" for the pastoral office - not in order to displace other fine descriptive (and also Biblical) words like pastor and minister, and certainly not in any desire to diminish the priestly office of the laity."

But here is the problem - in the English non-Roman Catholic/Non-Eastern vocabulary "priest" isn't something to be retained, it is something that would have to be reintroduced. You make reference to how even at the time of the writing of the King James Bible there was a move away from the term "priest".

Moreover, you note that in Sweden the term is retained - where the episcopal structure is maintained. Whether we like it or not, there is a connotation of an episcopal system attached to the word which makes its use foreign in a system without that set up (just as the word "bishop" is now foreign - though I would argue that you and I are much more accurately to be called "bishop" rather than "priest" - for we both have our own altars and are responsible for confirmations).

While the term priest (and also bishop) can be used beneficially I'm not certain of the benefit that would be gained by reintroducing them as the common language, especially in a non-classical episcopal system.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Fr. Hollywood, I enjoyed your post. I think that the OT priesthood is more typical of the NT Office of Pastor even than the Prophetic office. The real problem is the use of the term laity I think. This is unbiblical language. So is "clergy." So because we use unbiblical terms and categories, we have this problem of "professional church workers" (a.k.a. commissioned ministers) who are not "clergy" but neither are they considered "laity" because they have professional training. I think we should just dump the terms altogether and stick with Biblical language. If this Sunday's Gospel says anything about methods in the Kingdom of God, it shows that what works in the kingdom of men does not necessarily hold true in the Kingdom of heaven.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

Whether it is retained or re-introduced makes no difference. In many of our parishes just having communion every Sunday or the sign of the cross has to be "re-introduced." So if the word priest has to be "re-introduced" - not a problem.

And, even in the C of E, although it was ravaged by the anticlerical Puritans (just as Lutheranism was ravaged by anti-clerical Pietists), the word "priest" was once again dusted off thanks to the Oxford Movement.

Furthermore, of you want people to be conversant in the Lutheran confessions (as well as the plethora of pre-Reformation theology, including the early church fathers) you will already be "re-introducing" the term.

And I think it is healthy for both laity and clergy to see their roles within their respective priesthoods. You can't do that without using "the p-word."

What I find silly is the way it is done in the LCMS - where the laity are priests and the pastors are not. There is no explanation for this Alice in Wonderland terminology, other than naked anti-clericalism, Protestant theology, and pietism.

It should also be pointed out that the Lutheran world is much smaller than it was only a decade ago. We are in fellowship with many new churches around the world, and are in talks with many others. It is not uncommon to see mitered bishops and diagonally-stoled deacons in synodical and seminary publications these days. I think this is a healthy dose of fresh air - as the LCMS has been far too isolated and inbred for our own good.

The Internet has had a great part in bringing Lutherans together around the world.

What I find of dubious value is the retention of sectarian terminology which is exactly backward from that of the rest of historic Christianity - including many historic Lutheran bodies. I think that this kind of adoption of Protestant terminology and approach to ritual has been disastrous for North American Lutherans.

Terminology does matter, as we who are forced to contend with postmodernism are painfully aware.

My advice: just toss in the word "priest" every now and then in your sermons. Refer to the Book of Concord and the fathers - without apologizing or wringing your hands every time words like "Mass" and "Catholic" and "priest" appear. We have nothing to be embarrassed about. You know, like the slogan says: "Dare to be Lutheran."

It takes a little audacity (from Latin "audeo" - to dare), but the lay people aren't as fragile and stupid as they are often portrayed to be. We need not protect the "royal priesthood" from the fact that they are Lutherans - true Evangelical Catholics.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dear Larry,

There is a certain amount of effort involved in re-introducing anything - be a term or a practice. There is energy expended in reintroducing every Sunday communion, for example, or Private Confession and Absolution. While I see the immediate benefit of those two, I'm not sure I see the benefit of using the word "priest" (nor do I see anything wrong with it, mind you - just to be clear).

I would wholeheartedly agree that we should be familiar with the term, that it shouldn't sound strange - that when we read the Ancient writers we understand what a priest is (although I would contend that "priest" itself seems to be a later affectation and that Bishop-Presbyter/Elder-Deacon is the oldest - I think there is much more explanation needed about the term "Elder" rather than "priest"). But this is a matter of recognizing a word, not having it be the main term we use ourselves. I'm not sure of what the benefit in that would be.

There is some value, I would suppose, in trying to get a uniform terminology throughout world Lutheranism, but I don't know how much. As for how a person lives out his "priesthood" - well, that is using "priest" in a term that both (if Rev. Beisel will forgive the terms used) laity and clergy have applied to them. Frankly, if you wish to talk about duties, I think the term "vocation" is the best - what have you been called by God to do.

So it's not a matter of a lack of audacity (although I think gruff adage I learned at Sem remains wise - "Genetlemen, whatever you do don't call the Mass the Mass; it just confuses people and gets them upset") - but rather simply a matter of questioning the value - especially when I am not a "priest" because I do not serve an altar at the discretion of my bishop.

Like Luther, I tend to think that the term priest as applied to clergy of the NT is. . . unfortunate at best (page 13 of the paper you linked to references this). Let us be familiar with it, know its many uses, not be a ashamed of it - and if we get there, that is good enough for me.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I just haven't found there to be much "effort." I mean, you just start using the term. If someone asks about it, you answer the question. That's why we make the big buck. ;-)

In fact, "priest" is less effort - only one syllable.

Seriously, though, I find there is great value in using historic catholic terminology. It sets a tone that we aren't a sect or a cult with a tenuous connection at best to the ancient church. We are in catholic continuity with the apostles and the fathers.

In fact, surrendering these terms is Romanizing - for it yields to Rome their contention that our "communion services" are not Masses, our "ministers" are not priests, and that our "Lutheran Church" is not catholic. In claiming these terms, we are confessing *contra Romam*.

The words we use are important. If we talk, look, and act like Baptists - our theology and practice will tilt that way. But if our Lutheran confessions are to be a living part of our faith, than we ought not be ashamed of the terms that we find there (which would indeed be scandalous to a Baptist or Pentecostal Christian).

Acceptance of catholic terminology opens the door to the restoration of other salutary catholic practices that we have lost over time (as you mention, weekly Mass, private confession, etc.).

Besides, it's nice to not have to waste 8 minutes of sermon time every Trinity Sunday practically apologizing for using the word "catholic" in the Creed.

My approach is to use "the c-word" in my sermon, without apology, explanation, or blushing. If we can confess it, we can make use of the term. Ditto with regard to the term "priest." If it's in the confessions, it's fair game.

It's like crossing yourself. You don't stop the Divine Service every time you do it and offer up a lecture about it. We are called to lead by example.

Forty years ago, instead of the term "priest" we might have been discussing the use of albs (and you might have been writing the exact same thing about it being too much effort to introduce with no benefit). Twenty years ago, we might have been having the same discussion about imposing ashes on Ash Wednesday.

But in restoring a catholic and historic ethos in our preaching, teaching, and writing makes all of those other "battles" much easier.

Thank God there are men willing to do what they are routinely told can't be done. otherwise, we would all be wearing Geneva gowns, not crossing ourselves, and have no crucifixes at the altar. Someone has to do the heavy lifting. Someone has to take the chance.

I do things at my parish on a regular basis that professors routinely told us we could *never* do. And frankly, that attitude shows very little faith in the laity. The new clericalism in the LCMS is pastors using the words "Mass" and "priest" with each other, like naughty little code words that we all whisper to one another - all the while being afraid to use the same words in front of our congregations.

Maybe the term "priest" being used for pastors is "unfortunate." But that is something you will have to take up with St. Paul and the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16). If it is "unfortunate" as a description of pastors, than it must be equally "unfortunate" to be applied to the laity.

Finally, if you are a bishop (and yes, you are, *de jure divino*) than you are also a priest. Every bishop is also a priest - whether or not you have a bishop overseeing you or not. What makes a man a priest (presbyter) is ordination, not the kind of polity he finds himself under.

FB, SSP said...

"What makes a man a priest (presbyter) is ordination, not the kind of polity he finds himself under."

Isn't it the Divine Call, ratified among the Church through Ordination?

Floyd Bass, SSP

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Floyd:

"Ordination" is a shorthand way of saying just that. The word "ordain" literally means "to be placed into the order of."

Men are placed into the order of presbyter apart from the kind of polity they find themselves in.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Divine Call includes ordination/laying on of hands. Notice that in the Bible, no one is ever just "called." Calling always entails sending. "How can the preach unless they are sent?"

Fr. Hollywood--very good points about where we would be now if guys twenty years ago wouldn't have done ________ (you name it). Consider where we would be thirty years from now if we all just said, "Well, since HT is not Synodical, we'll just not support it. No sense in putting forth the effort for something that is not endorsed by the synod."

Where would Christianity be if Luther had just said, "Well, why should I upset the apple cart? Too much effort to do so."? You know the answer.

I'm for using more biblical language all around. I am not against the term "pastor" because it is very christological and very Biblical, if you see Christ as being the true "pastor" of the Church, who sends his ministers to feed his sheep. But interestingly it is only used once I think in the New Testament, (...some to be pastors and teachers).

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

Regarding the term "pastor" (which I agree is biblical and Christological) - it is interesting to note that the latest ESV revision did away with "pastor" in one place in which it occurs in the NT (I think it actually appears twice - but I don't have a concordance in front of me). The latest ESV revision (and I wonder why they can;t just leave it alone!) uses the word "shepherd."

I oppose this change, as "shepherd" in the context of the office of the ministry in the English language (especially in the translation tradition of the KJV that is part of the ESV's lineage) is more correctly understood as "pastor." That is the churchly rendering of poimen in that context.

But nobody asked me. ;-)

Your earlier point about "professional church worker" is spot on. I don't have a problem with the terms "clergy" and "laity" - as they correspond with "preachers" and "hearers." The word "laity" comes from the biblical word "laos" (Greek: people). School teachers and various church offices are valuable "lay" vocations. The word "laity" is an honorable and necessary component of the church. Why a rostered school teacher would not want to be considered "laity" is beyond me (aside from, as the paper points out, a kind of clericalism that idolizes the pastoral ministry to the point of usurping clerical status for the sake of prestige).

"Laity" is a holy vocation and priesthood that should not be shunned by lay people who have churchly vocations.

Eric said...

Fr. Hollywood, as one LCC layman, I agree with your critique.

Past Elder said...

That was one of the main reasons for my leaving WELS for LCMS -- the idea that there is no OHM per se, only the call is of divine origin, and the scope of the call is humanly determined by the calling body, as pastor, teacher, administrator etc.

I could not find that supported in Scripture or the BOC. Just Wauwatosa.

That said, I'm still not that big on running around in garments derived from secular Roman civil authority.

Rosko said...

Priests should also not place themselves apart from the laity, since the laos is the whole of the people of God. That means that every priest is also laity.

Just my .02

William Weedon said...

I might have missed it if someone mentioned it, but in the most virulently anti-Roman of the Lutheran Symbols, the Smalcald Articles, it is surely significant that Luther (and the Lutheran Church with him) in Part III, Article XI says:

"They have neither the authority nor the right to ban marriage and to burden *the divine order of priests* with perpetual celibacy."

Here the ministry is spoken of not merely as an Amt, but as a Stand, an Order within the Church, and further more that divine Order is denominated as "priests."

If the Lutheran Symbols give to our churches their theological vocabulary there simply can be no objection to the term "priest" to refer to the incumbents of the Predigtamt, especially when viewed not so much under the aspect of "Office" but of "Order."

Past Elder said...

I think this is another case where we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

A priest is one who offers a sacrifice. The only priest of the NT is Jesus, and the only sacrifice is the one he offered of himself. The human "priest" as such simply as an instance, a locus, of that one priest and sacrifice, now given on the altar for us.

The RCC actually teaches that too. Then promptly confuses the mass as an act on our part too offered to God, rather than his divine service for us, to us. So we avoid the term priest, to avoid the confusion about priest.

Just like we avoid so much else, like the word "catholic" or the Sign of the Cross. And in the process lose what is catholic to avoid what is Catholic, when the whole idea was to recover what is catholic.

That said, I'm still not that big on Roman collars and mitres and crosiers and stuff. The OHM by whatever name was there before all those external trappings and does not depend on them.

Although, walking into an ice cream parlour in a cassock with wife and kid, oh hell yes! Wish I were young enough to pull it off, and say "Relax, we're Lutherans, the real catholics".

Phil said...

"That said, I'm still not that big on running around in garments derived from secular Roman civil authority."

Like stoles?

A lot of what's considered Roman is simply just Western. I'd be more worried about Western Rite Lutheran pastors donning Eastern Rite vestments than those of their own heritage. Things belong in their right place--the indicators of the Office don't create the Office, but I think you could say in a way that the Office created those indicators so that it would be recognized as itself.

William Weedon said...

One more thought: on the opposing of the ministry to the laity, much mischief has been wrought in our circles by a notoriously bad rendering of the Latin "super" in Tractatus 11 where it is translated as above. The Church is above the ministry. It makes no sense precisely because the ministry is also part of the Church. The German points the way: "the Church is more than the ministers." Then it all comes clear...

Past Elder said...

Yes like stoles. It's nothing but the scarf worn by Roman magistrates, appropriated by the church when clerics began to occupy civil office too. Dress it up, call it a pallium or an omophorion, same deal.

The mitre is an appropriation of headgear of the Byzantine court. Call it a kamilaukion, same deal.

The maniple is a napkin. The "clerical collar" is a sweatband.

The Office created those indicators the more it confused itself with something else.

We don't need them. That is not to say we should not have them, but to say, in having them we ought to remember we do not need them, they are entirely external to the Office, derive from situations centuries past, and the regular dress of a modern professional would do just fine as well and maybe look less like just another on the world's stage of funny clothes on guys doing stuff they think is right and from God.

Anonymous said...

(although I would contend that "priest" itself seems to be a later affectation and that Bishop-Presbyter/Elder-Deacon is the oldest - I think there is much more explanation needed about the term "Elder" rather than "priest").

I was always taught that "presbyter" (i.e., "elder") is not the same term as "priest" --the Latin, sacerdos and the Greek, hiereus have different connotations of one who sacrifices, which crept back into the Roman Mass after the early centuries.

I'm not sure that reintroducing the term "priest" would even accomplish what we hope for -- look at the mess that is the Church of Sweden, the Church of England and the downward spiral of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. Some of the most heterdox Christian bodies have all the smells, bells and hierarchical terminology.

I value historic catholic Christianity -- The Sign of the Cross, the crucifix, the sacraments, the liturgy, but not necessarily as expressed in their Roman forms which came later.

I am still suspicious that the paradigm of priesthood -- even in its Levitical sense -- snuck through the back door as the church moved into the Greco-Roman world with its many pagan priests and the accomodation of the barbarians that began to live inside the Roman Empire.

Just learned that the Episcopal Church in the U.S. has cancelled the three-year moratorium on calling gay bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury, of course, is powerless to do anything about it, as usual.


Anonymous said...

Forgot to add, that one of my favorite paradigms for a Lutheran pastor is that of the seelsorger.


Past Elder said...

Just for fun, Wiki the article "priest". It's pretty good, and also has a picture of a "Lutheran priest in clerical clothing".

Anonymous said...

No! NO! The Lutheran "priest" -- it can't be! That face looks awfully familiar!

On the other hand:

The position of a Kohen's hands when he raises them to bless a Jewish congregation

Who knew that Mr. Spock had a vocation prior to Star Trek!!


Anonymous said...

Having seen it firsthand I am also compelled to make a comment about the "priesthood of the laity" in the Roman Catholic Church. This is something that has swung to extremes. Back in my husband's day (and he grew up in the pre-VII church) the laity were for the most part invisible. Clericalism was heavy in the RC. Now, it's almost pitiful to see how the "lay ecclesial ministers", "lectors" and "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist" run the show while poor Father so and so sits in his chair as a spectator. From the sublime to the ridiculous.

I was a member in an RC parish where the priest actually sat back and allowed all the "lay" Eucharistic ministers to distribute the Eucharist while he watched. I found out later he is quite sympathetic to women's ordination.

Just as in the LCMS, there are now various subcultures existing in the RC. As Past Elder has pointed out so well on other occasions, it will be very interesting to see what happens when the first pope is elected who has no memory of the RC prior to the Second Vatican Council.


Father Hollywood said...

Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments.

Yes, Christine, the word "priest" comes into English through the Greek "presbuteros" - which means "elder" - sort of along the lines of "senator" - a person given the respect of a father-figure by virtue of his office (even as the Roman Senators were addressed as "pater.")

But having said that, once again, Paul specifically calls the ministry "priesthood" (using the sacrificial term for priest "hieron") in Romans 15:16. Check out the really unambiguous translation according to the NASB.

Now, some might argue that since it only appears once in the Bible it's like a mulligan and doesn't count. But then again, the "royal priesthood" of 1 Peter only shows up once in the NT as well. And yet, as we all know, this has practically become a prooftext in the LCMS to argue that our democratic polity is not only biblical, but required.

And, once again, The term "pastor" used for the ministry only appears twice. It's paucity of use in no way negates its usefulness.

The most common term for the minister/pastor/presbyter in the Lutheran confessions is "priest." It is also the most common term used among all Christians around the world. And, it is a term that is still used to this day by *faithful* Swedes, Finns, Danes, Norwegians, Russians, Kenyans, Sudanese, Latvians, and Lithuanians - amd others.

I think it is a low blow to try to besmirch the term "priest" by attacking it via the apostate Swedish Church - especially when there are many faithful priests in the Church of Sweden proper and in the Missionary Province who have neither repudiated the term priest, nor the Bible and confessions. These are some of the most faithful and courageous Lutherans in the world who may well end up in prison for being so.

And, I do not believe Jesus is the only priest, Past Elder. He is the only "high" priest. For once again, all the baptized are priests - unless St. Peter is also a mulligan. All believers offer their bodies as living sacrifices. All pastors similarly offer themselves as a sacrifice for the sake of their flocks. All husbands are similarly to lay down their lives for their wives.

To be a priest - be it a baptized Christian, a husband, a father, or a pastor - is to be a "lover" - one who lays down his own life as a sacrifice for his beloved. Not for the forgiveness of sin, but rather as a thank offering for the all availing Sacrifice that forgives our sin.

We thank our Lord by the priestly offering of our selves for the sake of the Kingdom and of our neighbor.

I believe we greatly cheapen the Christian life (and reduce it to a list of propositional doctrines) when we overlook this sacrificial aspect of the Christian life. It is no different than the generations of Lutherans who were deprived of the sign of the cross and of the crucifix out of an overreaction against Rome.

If St. Paul calls the holy ministry "priestly service," we should as well.

Past Elder said...

Years ago they used to say that the difference between Catholics and Lutherans is, that the Catholics believe some are priests and everybody is a minister, and the Lutherans believe everybody is a priest and some are ministers.

When I was RC, Lutheranism struck me as a well intentioned but misguided effort to be Catholic without being Catholic. Within that, the whole priest, pastor, minister, whatever thing struck me as what happens when you want to have priests without having priests.

I remember we were told to address EO clergy as "Father" and call them priests, because they are Father and priest as much as ours. We were also told to do the same for Episcopal clergy, but as a mark of respect for their position but remembering they aren't real Fathers or priests.

I agree we've lost much that is ours in a Pietistic reaction to not look "Catholic". What I fear is an equal reaction to look Catholic to avoid being Pietistic. And having come from where they are Catholic, both look kind of silly and not at all what the BOC was getting at for which I became Lutheran.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Christine, the word "priest" comes into English through the Greek "presbuteros" - which means "elder"

Exactly as I was taught.

But having said that, once again, Paul specifically calls the ministry "priesthood" (using the sacrificial term for priest "hieron") in Romans 15:16.

Perfectly acceptable as the royal priesthood offers spiritual sacrifices. Rome, of course, understands sacerdotal ministry as the Sacrifice of the Mass, offered for the living and the dead for the forgiveness of sins which leads to a whole host of other errors, purgatory being only one.

I think it is a low blow to try to besmirch the term "priest" by attacking it via the apostate Swedish Church - especially when there are many faithful priests in the Church of Sweden proper

It is not my intention to cast aspersions on the faithful members of the Church of Sweden. I know how many have suffered for standing firm in their faith. My point was simply that having an hierarchical structure (which I just don't see in the first couple centuries of the church) has not kept the faith as a whole in Sweden, Denmark, England or many other places.

By no means do I insist that a democratic polity is the only one proper to the LCMS and I certainly agree we need to do more to recover our catholicity. I don't see, however, in the current culture of the LCMS that any kind of restoration of a priestly ministry in the sense you are proposing is possible. The Ablaze contingent will cast suspicious eyes on any such effort as attempting to be "Catholic" and the Jesus First and Daystar people won't be too enthusiastic either.