Should Anyone Be Called “Reverend”?

Q: A Fundamentalist minister I know said ministers should not be called “Reverend” because in the King James Version that term is only used once in the Bible and then as a description of God’s name (Ps. 111:9). How do you respond?

A: This objection is just silly. Not only does it hinge on the use of terms in the King James Version, but it ignores the fact that there are a lot of individual terms that appear in the Bible only once, and some of them are in passages which apply them to God. This does not mean that in every day life we may only use those terms in connection with God. We don’t have to build a wall around these single-use terms in our language.

The term “Reverend” does not mean that a person is equal with God or possessing divine attributes or even that he is to be revered for anything intrinsic to himself. A person bearing the title “Reverend” may, in fact, be a thorough scoundrel. The title simply indicates that a person holds a position for which reverence is to be shown (as he has chosen to devote his full time to ministry in serving God), whether or not he is a worthy occupant of that position.

Reverencing another human being is something that is clearly indicated in Scripture. One will note that in 2 Samuel 9:6 Mephibosheth does reverence to King David, as does Bathsheba in 1 Kings 1:31. In Hebrews 12:9, children are said to revere their fathers, and in Ephesians 5:33, wives are instructed to revere there husbands. All of this is true and proper regardless of whether the husband or father or king (or mother or wife or queen) is a scoundrel or a saint. It is the office that the person occupies that is revered, not anything intrinsic to the person.

The problem about the title “Reverend” is a case of scrupulosity due to a overly legalistic reading Scripture which operates on the premise that if something isn’t commanded or stated (e.g., “Thou shalt call men ‘Reverend'”) then it is prohibited. This is contrary to the basic principle of all law: That which is not prohibited is permitted.

Finally, Scripture requires us to show reverence for validly ordained ministers (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:12-13, Heb. 13:17; cf. Exodus 28:2), and since they are to be shown reverence, it is thus perfectly appropriate to call them “Reverend.”

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