CALL NO MAN FATHER

Those of us in the more traditional communions have an affinity to call our clergy "father". This reviles the fundamentalist and they go running to their Bibles and shout, "call no man father". So, do we disobey a direct commandment from Christ with such a practice? This can be answered by applying B.S.H. #1, #2, #3, #4, and#5. First let's look at the verse.

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Matthew 23:9

If I take the verse as our friends interpret it, then I could call no man father on earth including my own dad. But would that not make scripture contradict? For one, I am to honor my father and mother (Ephesians 6:2). If I cannot acknowledge my father as my father, would I not be disobeying that commandment? I could not call him father and thus not honor him as such. Also, the apostles while they wrote the scriptures would have disobeyed this commandment for they called Abraham and Isaac their father. (Luke 1:73, Acts 7:2, Romans 4:1,4:12,4:16,9:10, James 2:21). Jesus himself would have disobeyed his own commandment at (John 8:56). Hmmm. Paul would be disobedient when he calls himself "father."  (Philippians: 2:22, I Thessalonians 2:11).

Take another look at Matthew 23:9 and notice that the King James has it as "your father" and not just "father," as it appears in some of the more modern translations. Green's literal translation has it "the father of you" four words not just one, but rightly translated "Your Father", a more personal way of addressing God. I donít call my father on the phone and say "hello my father" I just say "hello father". There is a difference. Likewise when I say the Lords prayer I don't say "Father who art in heaven" I say "My (Our) Father who art in heaven."

Next, letís look at the verse in context.

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, the scribes and the Pharisees sit in Mosesí seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on menís shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ: and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:1

The problem addressed here is the feeding of the Pharisees egos, and if my calling any man any title that feeds his ego and thus abets in his straying from God, I should quit. And if any address that is given to me feeds my ego, I should ask that it stop. This can well be applied to the fundamentalist today. The so-called common terms used to address their leadership in and with themselves become titles of honor. If I call someone "elder, or pastor" it can just as easily feed their ego as if I called them "father".

In the early Church, the churches met in houses. (Acts 8:3, Romans 16:5, I Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2) It would have been natural for the Church to meet in the presiding elderís house, and that this man would be a father of faithful children. (I Timothy 3:4-5) His children would have called him "father" and possibly as a term of endearment, so could others in the congregation, for his role would that of a father. This could easily have been accepted and became universal in the Church of Christ. Thus we have it today, not an abomination against "Our Father" but an address of respect given to an elder (I Timothy 5:1).