Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #45: “Call No Man Father”

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”

24 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #45: “Call No Man Father”

  1. Hi, Papa Tom! I agree with you about Broussard being blinded to the RCCs own Pharisaical clergy! I had to laugh when I saw the title of this chapter. Because of my own LONG history with my dad I am SO thankful for the examples the Bible gives of great, godly men being horrifically terrible fathers. Pope Francis is an altogether different kind of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad father. The Pope is showing how only God is good in character, word and action. I would love to know Broussard’s thoughts and subsequent spin on Francis and same sex civil unions! Praying with you that RCC adherents will come to a true saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for all of the good comments, Mandy! Yup, the RC clerics relish being addressed as “father,” but they’re leading their followers to a Christ-less eternity with a false gospel. Yes, I would like to hear Broussard’s take on this latest Francis controversy, but I’m confident he would try to spin it as I see several RC apologists are doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen Tom. I love reading your posts. As someone who is an Ex- Greek Catholic Orthodox. As my own walk with Christ grew and continues to grow. After I reached the age of reason, as I like to call it for myself. I refuse to call those in the priesthood “father”. God is my only Father, he appointed my biological earthly father as his representative per se to raise me on earth for him. I will say reverends, and monsignor to those in the priesthood… Have a blessed day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your encouragement and support, Paula! The temptation to abuse the ministerial office is so great as we’ve seen from history. I pray that the Lord raises up more pastors and evangelists to preach the genuine Gospel of grace – there’s so many “ministers” preaching a counterfeit gospel these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good, Tom. While I admit to never really looking into a good understanding, it has long bothered me about using the title “father” for not only RCC, but Episcopalian “priests.”

    As a culture, we do indeed like titles, which probably means we like honor brought upon us; we like to hold certain people in places of honor, too, perhaps elevating us at the same time.

    It seems to me the title “doctor” among some Christian ministers is the same as father for Roman and Anglican Catholic clergy.

    Keep up the good work. Keep looking up.

    L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Wil! Yes, there’s always a temptation to exalt ourselves and others. I started out as a new believer in the independent fundamental Baptist movement and I was amazed that almost all of the big-name pastors had “Dr.” appended to their names. Of course, they were honorary doctorates for the most part.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Answering your comment in my post: My day is well, wow you are at 14 K steps while I’m at 1,551 only. Going to do sermon prep here at my parents place but got all caught up with my kids and parents lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom this is a nuanced post. Nuanced answer. You are right there’s not a total absolute ban but if there’s a reason for the ban of the use of the title that parallel the Pharisees we see it in much of Romanism today. Good pot

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! I appreciate the encouragement. I have seen believers take a very unnuanced view on “call no man father,” which doesn’t hold water Biblically as Broussard points out. Yup, it’s so ironic that Broussard criticizes the Pharisees and scribes in the context of Matthew 23 when his Catholic prelates took/take the hypocrisy to an even greater extreme.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Crissy. Yes, I again prayed for Mr. Broussard. I am inclined to be angry with him after these weekly “jousts,” but he is blinded to the Gospel as I once was.
      Thank you and a hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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