Calling Priests “Mister” Instead of “Father”

Q: A Fundamentalist I know refuses to show priests the courtesy of calling priests “Father” and always refers to them as “Mister,” citing Matthew 23:8 (“Call no man your ‘father'”).

A: Well, if that’s the way he takes Matthew 23:8 then he is in violation of Matthew 23:10, which says, “Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.” If he is calling priests (or anybody else) “Mister” then he has a problem because “Mister” is just another form of the word “Master” (arising around 1545). He can check a dictionary on that.

Point out to him that if, contrary to the example of the apostles referring to themselves as the spiritual fathers of those under their care (1 Cor. 4:14-15, 2 Cor. 12:14, Phil. 2:22, Philem. 10), whom they regarded as their spiritual children (1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:2, 18, 2 Tim. 2:2, 2 Tim. 2:1), the title “Father” is strictly forbidden then the term “Mister” is equally forbidden by Matthew 23.

Given the apostolic example, however, we know that what Jesus was really forbidding was treating ministers as if they were gurus who are never wrong and so can run your life for you. That is what is behind his statements on regarding people as both fathers and masters. He had no problem with the concept of spiritual fatherhood itself, as the examples of his apostles shows.

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