Thursday 30 August 2012

Do Christians need priests?


I think this question has been terribly destructive in the history of Christianity - as have many other questions relating to what is necessary.

The human mind is dichotomizing - it is either/or - it is in favour of one thing or another - it never can hold a balance or state of indifference for long, especially when pressed.

Early Protestants seem to have loathed the way that the corrupt church (of many corrupt men) seemed to use its 'monopoly' over the sacraments as spiritual blackmail.

Perhaps this is why there is such a strange ambivalence among so many modern Protestants concerning the Eucharist/ Mass/ Lord's Supper/ Divine Liturgy - and with respect to priests, and especially bishops.

The hostility towards priests can only get worse as the corruption of modern priests and bishops becomes more extreme, and more obviously opposed to real Christianity and active against real Christianity.

None of this is cheerful; current and future Christians must expect to be living in a state of continual uncertainty and concern - and the clarity we all crave is not to be had, yet we must act decisively in our own lives, because the alternatives are so opposed that no compromise is conceivable.

So, we need to be utterly intransigent on core matters, yet all kinds of factors conspire to obscure what those core factors really are: on the one hand corrupt priests who zealously serve evil, on the other hand spiritual pride, whim, worldliness.

To be part of an evil bureaucracy at one extreme, at the other to be a freelance agent of evil.

We must seek to walk the middle way which is not a compromise but true: guided by what we seek rather than subordinating ourselves to devoted worldly support of what a dying world happens to have on offer this week.



Chris said...

Well, at one level we are all priests: we are a chosen people, a royal preisthood, a people chosen by God.

But we are called for different kinds of service. We need leaders who are dedicated to prayer and the ministry of the word.

If I can play word games for a second, a presbyter (elder) or leader needs to meet certain qualifications. They are listed in Scripture as Paul guided both Timothy and Titus in what to look for.

There also seems to be some kind of apostolic affirmation by appointing such people. Within that there are certain traditions (such as the RC wanting all priests to be celibate).

Their job was to continue what the apostles had done. Like preach. Daily. Meet for meals, and meet for communion. Frequently. (Calvin recommended this should be weekly as he thought that was the practice of the apostles -- and the quarterly tradition of presbyterians is probably too infrequent).

The word priest implies an intermediary, and as a Reformed I would say Christ is our priest. But the other roles that clergy fulfil existed in the roles of elders and deacons from the very beginning.

josh said...

What do the past few centuries demonstrate more clearly than the fact that men need good shepherds.

sykes.1 said...

If St. Augustine is correct about the fallen state of Man, then one has to expect that the Church will be lead by a mixture of Saints, Monsters and those struggling with temptation. To expect only Saints in the priesthood is a heretical and unChristian position.

The priesthood comes from the laity and has all the laity's problems and gifts.

Wurmbrand said...

My understanding of this subject is informed by the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions.

1.The office of the holy ministry is of divine institution. No one may preach or administer the Sacrament of the Altar in the absence of a call to the ministry. (NB What constitutes "preaching" may be narrowly understood as public proclamation from the pulpit. It is not as though lay people may not lead Bible studies.) This call comes from the congregation, but is typically confirmed by the installation of the pastor at a church with the involvement of several brother pastors. A bishop could do this.

2.Although the holy ministry was instituted by God, the threefold form that developed (deacon, priest, bishop -- with perhaps archbishops and patriarchs or metropolitans) is not of the essence of the ministry. It is one form that the ministry may take, and, where the Gospel is being served by it, is a good one; but it is not a sine qua non.

So the Lutheran Confessions, from the point of view of the radical Reformation, are far too "Catholic," while from a Roman Catholic or Orthodox point of view the Lutheran understanding is probably too Protestant.

However, Lutherans believe that their understanding of the matter is guided by the Bible and informed by ancient Church authority. For example, it was, I believe, St. Jerome himself (probably among others) who said that the distinction between priest and bishop is not of divine but of human origin.

A corollary of the Lutheran understanding is that faithful Christians who have been under the authority of intransigent false teachers are not obliged to remain with them. Here the Lord's remark about the false teachers of His own day -- "Leave them" -- still applies. It is the Gospel that matters most -- in the form of the preached word and in the form of the Sacrament. In each, forgiveness of sin is truly given for Christ's sake to penitent sinners.

This differs from a now common idea about the Lord's Supper, that it is to be a means whereby professed Christians of greatly varying beliefs may gather at the "table of the Lord" and "celebrate" their "unity in diversity."

Anonymous said...

My Church is deliciously low: one pastor leads us in singing, prayer, and collective repentance, another explains a passage of scripture to us, and then we line up and random members of the Church serve Communion to us.

I take comfort in the fact that the one part of the service where Christ has specifically promised to joins us is the one that isn't in the hands of professional clergy. It could be any old jackass, provided they're a baptized member. I love this!

We need trained, responsible leaders to teach, but we don't need anyone to stand between us and the Father. That's Christ's role.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anonymous (you need a pseudonym)

- On the other hand, I doubt whether Communion means anything like as much to the members of your church as it does to 'Catholics' - or does so much to sustain them in this life.

The Eucharist *can* be a daily miracle and a glimpse of heaven - - and for some Catholics, some of the time, it is.

To regard Holy Communion as something we have to do because Jesus said we had to do it, is scripturally accurate, but the act can be much more.