Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holy, Holy Orders

I have had this catechism quote sitting on deck for a bit, but after Gene's post on TurretinFan's Holy Water debate I thought I would post it:

"In the first place, then, the faithful should be shown how great is the dignity and excellence of this Sacrament considered in its highest degree, the priesthood.

Bishops and priests being, as they are, God's interpreters and ambassadors, empowered in His name to teach mankind the divine law and the rules of conduct, and holding, as they do, His place on earth, it is evident that no nobler function than theirs can be imagined. Justly, therefore, are they called not only Angels, but even gods, because of the fact that they exercise in our midst the power and prerogatives of the immortal God.

In all ages, priests have been held in the highest honour; yet the priests of the New Testament far exceed all others. For the power of consecrating and offering the body and blood of our Lord and of forgiving sins, which has been conferred on them, not only has nothing equal or like to it on earth, but even surpasses human reason and understanding.

And as our Saviour was sent by His Father, and as the Apostles and disciples were sent into the whole world by Christ our Lord, so priests are daily sent with the same powers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the body of Christ."

-
Catechism Of Trent

10 comments:

Mike Burgess said...

Carrie, your quote from the catechism reminded me of a few passages from my Reformed background in exposition of the Scriptures and the Westminster standards. First, from James Durham’s exposition of Revelation: “A man's Gift, is the great differencing Character of a Call, though it be not of itself, constitutive of a Call, that is, that one be in some measure... apt to teach: this being infallibly true, that whom the Lord designs for any employment in His House, if it were but to make Curtains, Sockets, etc. to the Ark, He will some way fit, and make them suitable to it: and this is as the Seal whereby He evinceth [constrains and establishes] in the hearts of Hearers, that he who treats, is His Authorized Ambassador. Yea, were it not thus, there would be no need of the trial of Gifts, enjoined, I Cor. 14.29, 31. which being in extraordinary gifted Prophets, it's much more to be respected in ordinary Ministers…”

And second, from Richard Baxter’s treatise on the Reformed Pastor: “Convince them [parishioners] what a contradiction it is to be a Christian, and yet to refuse to learn; for what is a Christian but a disciple of Christ? And how can he be a disciple of Christ, that refuseth to be taught by him And he that refuseth to be taught by his ministers, refuseth to be taught by him; for Christ will not come down from heaven again to teach them by his own mouth, but hath appointed his ministers to keep school and teach them under him. To say, therefore, that they will not be taught by his ministers, is to say, they will not be taught by Christ; and that is to say, they will not be his disciples, or no Christians. Make them understand that it is not an arbitrary business of our own devising and imposing; but that necessity is laid upon us, and that if we look not to every member of the flock according to our ability, they may perish in their iniquity; but their blood will be required at our hand. Show them that it is God, and not we, who is the contriver and imposer of the work; and that therefore they blame God more than us in accusing it. Ask them, would they be so cruel to their minister as to wish him to cast away his own soul, knowingly and wilfully, for fear of troubling them by trying to hinder their damnation? Acquaint them fully with the nature of the ministerial office, and the Church’s need of it;…”

Striking, I'd say.

Carrie said...

Mike,

Maybe I am missing your point. Where do your Reformed authors say anything like "Justly, therefore, are they called not only Angels, but even gods" or "yet the priests of the New Testament far exceed all others"?

Mike Burgess said...

Carrie,
Um, Durham says it is "infallibly true" that God makes his pastors "fit" and "suitable" so much so that they are "His authorized Ambassadors," and more to be respected than the inspired Prophets.

Baxter said that pastors hold the place of Christ and are to be listened to as one listens to Christ, since Christ will not give up His place in Heaven until the Parousia. He calls them Christ. He also says to teach parishioners that it is God who "impose[s]" the work of the teachings that call them to repentance and obedience, and that the words of the pastors are the words of God. This is how the Reformed parishioners were taught to view their pastors: as His authorized ambassadors, as Himself, as Christ. Did you read the citations? Please, by all means, go to the sources. There, and elsewhere (including from the lips of every Reformed Pastor I ever sat under) you will find such florid language and then some. It is a commonplace among Reformed people that the teaching elder (duly called and ordained) proclaims the Word infallibly, and that God speaks through the teaching elder. I can't tell you the number of occasions I have heard such stuff.

Mike Burgess said...

From the Presbyterian Church in America's Book of Order:
"8-1. This office is one of dignity and usefulness. The man who fills it has
in Scripture different titles expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop or pastor. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house and Kingdom of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he
expounds the Word, and by sound doctrine both exhorts and convinces the
gainsayer, he is termed teacher. These titles do not indicate different grades of office, but all describe one and the same office. 8-2. He that fills this office should possess a competency of human
learning and be blameless in life, sound in the faith and apt to teach. He
should exhibit a sobriety and holiness of life becoming the Gospel. He
should rule his own house well and should have a good report of them that
are outside the Church.
8-3. It belongs to those in the office of elder, both severally and jointly, to watch diligently over the flock committed to his charge, that no corruption of doctrine or of morals enter therein."

Who is "blameless" but God? Who else exhibits "holiness of life becoming of the Gospel?"

Continuing:

"8-5. When a man is called to labor as a teaching elder, it belongs to his
order, in addition to those functions he shares with all other elders, to feed the flock by reading, expounding and preaching the Word of God and to
administer the Sacraments. As he is sent to declare the will of God to
sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is
termed ambassador. As he bears glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed evangelist. As he stands to proclaim the Gospel, he is termed preacher. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God."

"Dispenser of the manifold grace of God." Seems I have heard a rattle and a rumble about the attribution of such a title to Mary from these same Reformed men, and how only Christ is the dispenser of His grace.

From the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's Book of Order:

"5. Nevertheless, church government is a valid and authentic jurisdiction to which Christians are commanded to submit themselves. Therefore the decisions of church officers when properly rendered and if in accord with the Word of God 'are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word' (Confession of Faith, XXXI, 2)."

The teaching of the elders is to be considered "an ordinance of God," as long as it is in accord with the Word of God. And guess who gets to decide what accords with the Word of God?

Carrie said...

Did you read the citations?

I did read them, but did not come to the conclusions that you did.

In the first citation I see "that whom the Lord designs for any employment in His House, if it were but to make Curtains, Sockets, etc. to the Ark, He will some way fit, and make them suitable to it" - I am not sure why you are limited that statement to just pastors. Anyway, I do not have an issue with "ambassador", that is a biblical term.

For the second citation, again, I don't see the conclusions you are drawing. Pastors are gifted by God to teach. Being appointed by God to the office of pastor/elder is not the same as "gods" or taking the "place of Christ" (used in the post after this one).

I am not a Presbyterian so I can't really comment on the other quotes although I see no problem with them. I do not see the role of Presby minister the same as an RC priest.

And guess who gets to decide what accords with the Word of God?

The believer. Where is the RC priest allowed to be held accountable to the Word of God by the laity?

Turretinfan said...

Let me preface this with:

1Ti 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

1Ti 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

Mike, I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. 1 Timothy 5, and the various Presby confessions, books of order, etc. do properly accord honor to the hoary heads of the elders. Nevertheless, they are a far cry from making those who serve as pastors "vicars of Christ" "gods" or the like, or extoling them in anything close to what we see in the passage Carrie cited.

Yes, Presbyterians are not religious anarchists. We have elders whose job it is to teach, and we have to respect them, listen to them, honor them, and not rashly charge them.

On the other hand, they are not priests. We have one priest, and he has already sat down. Those who pretend to offer Christ in loco Christi do not do so with his authority or approval.

Our elders do not confect a god from bread, but instead feed the flock of Christ with the word.

-Turretinfan

Mike Burgess said...

Apparently Carrie missed the reference to John 10:34ff. That's a biblical reference to ponder, as is its antecedent in Psalm 81 (82 in your version). To whom was Jesus condoning the appelation being accorded? God? No.

As to "ambassador," this is akin to "angel," translated messenger. "Apostle," sent one. I was pointing out tremendous -- indeed, verbatim -- similarities between the portion of Trent's catechism and the Westminster Standards, various Presbyterian official works, and the exposition of Scripture and the standards by renowned Reformed divines. You may feel as free as you wish to not draw the same conclusions I did. I think the verbiage speaks for itself.

The admonition Baxter gives ministers (that they remind parishioners whom the ministers are reproving that it is God reproving, etc.) was plain enough. The equation of hearing Christ and hearing His ministers was plain enough.


@TF,
Mike, I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. 1 Timothy 5, and the various Presby confessions, books of order, etc. do properly accord honor to the hoary heads of the elders. Nevertheless, they are a far cry from making those who serve as pastors "vicars of Christ" "gods" or the like, or extoling them in anything close to what we see in the passage Carrie cited.

I was pointing out the identical language I was taught when I was Reformed about the correct attitude to have toward those whom He has given authority. The Presbyterians were right to use such language, as it is Scriptural and proper.

On the other hand, they are not priests. We have one priest, and he has already sat down. Those who pretend to offer Christ in loco Christi do not do so with his authority or approval.

Our elders do not confect a god from bread, but instead feed the flock of Christ with the word.


I do not wish to hijack Carrie's thread or abuse my welcome here, perhaps you could start a thread at your site on this topic? I'd love to discuss it.

Hidden One said...

Fact is, Mike's quotations (to a former "Presby") seem to be very similar to Carrie's quotation, albeit phrased according the varying thoelogical dialects. That is to say, that priests of the NT far exceed all others is self-evident when one agrees with the doctrines of the Real Presence and Apostolic Succession. Carrie, you must nto realize the theological impact of believing in the Real Presence via transubstantiation and Apostolic Succession.

When you find me an OT prophet who with prayers and ordination by the grace of God caused the very body of blood of Jesus Christ to be made manifest under the appearance of bread and wine (or any other appearance), let me know.

Elijah is said to be a great prophet because his prayers brought down a pillar of fire. My priest's prayers bring about the manifestation of the body and blood of Christ. When that doctrine is understood, it is self-evident that the Catholics logically believe that it is the NT priest who is superior to the priests and prophets before. (And due to the lack of these certain doctrines, respect of Calvinist pastors relies on other reasonings.)

Further, in reference to priests being called "gods" - Jesus Christ Himself once reminded a bunch of Jews that Scripture itself likens men unto gods.

In short, the "gods" reference is effectively immaterial, and to attack the idea that "priests of the New Testament far exceed all others" requires the previous destruction of the doctrines regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Were they removed from Catholic theology, the priest would hold a nigh-identical position to that of a Calvinist pastor subject to the quotes Mike provided. Your real quibble, as I understand it, isn't (or shouldn't) be with the fact that we respect our priests, but with the doctrines of transubstantiation, the Real Presence, Apostolic Succession, etc.

Carrie said...

Mike,

I think you will be hard-pressed to find a Protestant version of this:

"Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest -- always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, "Go in peace; I pardon you." Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

…If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place."

-Saint John Vianney

phatcatholic said...

In case anyone is interested, here's a link to the section of the Roman Catechism that contains the quotation that Carrie provided:

http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/trent/tsacr-o.htm

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic