Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next installment, the Catholic apologist continues his section on matters of “Catholic Life and Practice” as he responds to the Biblical injunction to “Call No Man Father.”
Roman Catholics are directed to address their priests as “father.” The head of the RC church is, of course, the pope, which means “father” in Latin (Papa). The most frequently used title for the pope is “Holy Father” (Sancta Papa). Protestants object to these titles and cite the injunction of Jesus Christ in Matthew 23:9:
“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”
Broussard replies to Protestants’ objection with three arguments:
(1) Broussard argues that the Bible elsewhere approvingly uses the word “father” for individuals other than God. Among many other examples, he cites Ephesians 6:2, where Paul quotes the Fifth Commandment (Catholics number it as their fourth commandment), to “Honor your father and mother.” Clearly, the Bible approves of using the title, “father,” in referring to biological fathers. Paul also applies the term, “father,” to himself in the sense of a spiritual father/mentor:
“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 4:15
Broussard presents many other examples where Paul referred to believers as his “child” or “children” (e.g., 1 Timothy 1:2).
Broussard argues that (A) since the Bible elsewhere favorably approves of using “father” to refer to biological dads and to spiritual leaders, then (B) “there must be something else going on” with Jesus’s injunction in Matthew 23:9.
(2) Broussard notes that along with His injunction against using “father,” within the wider context of Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus also instructed his disciples not to take the titles of rabbi/teacher or instructor/master. However, as with “father,” Broussard notes that Scripture favorably uses those terms in other applications (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:7)
(3) Broussard suggests that in Matthew 23, Jesus was not forbidding the use of “father” or those other terms in an absolute sense, but was “using hyperbole to indict the scribes and Pharisees for their pride” and misuse of authority (p. 245). Those men had elevated their traditions and authority above the authority of God and His Word and proudly reveled in their positions of leadership [the irony of Broussard’s argument here is palpable – more on that below]. Read all of Matthew 23 for Jesus’s blistering condemnation of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ religious hypocrisy.
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
I absolutely agree with Broussard’s first two arguments. Jesus was not forbidding the use of “father” and “teacher” in an absolute sense. However, in regards to Broussard’s third argument, he’s so spiritually blind that he doesn’t recognize that the attitudes and behaviors of the scribes and Pharisees condemned by Jesus in Matthew 23 foreshadowed the attitudes and behaviors of Catholic priests and prelates who elevate themselves over Jesus Christ as mediators of salvation – priests as “Alter Christus” and the pope as the “Vicar of Christ.” Holy Father? Such a title is sheer blasphemy. Matthew 23 is a damning indictment of the Roman Catholic clergy, but Broussard is absolutely oblivious. He criticizes the scribes and Pharisees for the exact same practices and attitudes of his beloved Catholic clergy. Catholic clerics weigh souls down with the impossible burden of meriting their salvation. They love the privileges, perquisites, and veneration accorded to them. They love the place of honor at religious ceremonies and public gatherings and the reverential greetings in the marketplaces and being called “Father” (priests) or “Your Excellency” (bishops) or “Your Holiness” (pope). Every born-again, ex-Catholic who reads Matthew 23 is reminded of the Roman Catholic clergy. However, as evil and hypocritical as the scribes and Pharisees were, even they would have been revolted by the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s quest for power, control, and wealth through the centuries.
Did Jesus mean that we should never refer to our earthly father as “father” (Matthew 23:9)?
Next: “It Is Finished”