Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More Pastor vs. Priest

Mark Horne has joined the discussion about pastors as the continuation of the OT priesthood. He argues the Westminster Confession does view the office of pastor as the continuation of priests because of Form of Presbyterian Church Government that came out of the Westminster Assembly as because of Larger Catechism Question Q.156, which discusses who should read the Scriptures during worship. He points out that the footnotes show the restriction of lay readers in the Westminster comes from OT references to the law being read publicly by the Levites. Although admitting the footnotes were forced on the Westminster Divines, and that later questions show how the office of pastor is connected to the office of prophet, he claims that the Westminster tradition shows the office of pastor to be the Levitical priestly office in the OT.

Despite Rev. Horne’s reasoning, I believe he has still failed to show that pastors are modern day priests. Nor does he show that many of the Westminster Assembly thought pastors to be modern priests. I think what Rev. Horne has shown is that the office of pastor does not have a one to one correspondence with OT offices, especially with offices whose job dealt with the temple. The NT pastor does read the Bible, which Levites did, proclaims the word, which prophets did, and rules the people, which judges or kings did in the OT. The NT office of pastor is just that, a New Testament office. It does not fit perfectly with any OT office, and we should not force it into such a mold. Rev. Horne has shown that the Westminster Divines thought along these lines by referencing Larger Catechism 156 and 158.

Rev. Horne’s thesis also takes a historical hit when one considers the Puritan tradition in England. The Vestment controversy had roots in what we are discussing now. The Vestiments, robes worn by the clergy, they claimed had a jewish, ie. priestly, origen. Bishop Hooper refused to ever wear them on account of his scruples to the idea of pastors being priests. Despite wearing them for a time, Archbishop Cramner along with Bishops Latimer and Taylor all expressed contempt for them before their deaths. Also Peter the Martyr Vermingly desired the church to be rid of them forever. This is the history of English Church. Despite Horne’s claim to the contrary, it certainly would have been controversial to claim the office of pastor is the OT office of priest.

Another blow to Rev. Horne’s idea is that not every Levite was a priest who sacrificed in the temple. Only the line of Aaron did the sacrificial work. Thus, linking pastors to Levities reading the law is not the same as linking pastors to priests. An important distinction that I fear is blurred in Rev. Horne’s article.

Rev. Horne also links another article of his that I believe is much more helpful. This article is a paper written for the candidates and credential committee of the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the PCA. Here Rev. Horne is much more careful about the Levite/priest distinction, and unconvincingly tries to show how they could be synonymous. Yet, Rev. Horne’s paper shows both another hole in his argument and confirms my fear for where this argument is going. The hole Rev. Horne accidentally exposes is the fact that it is traditionally not reformed to link the office of pastor to the office of priest or Levite. The paper admits that the pastor is generally linked to the office of prophet or even perhaps judges. Yet, of more value is his stated desire in getting the office of pastor linked to the office of priest. He says in his conclusion:

Finally, if we allow that the Levites were the precursors to our pastors, then should we not ask if perhaps Levitical worship provides guidance and principles for pastoral worship?

There it is. Rev. Horne sees not just a redefinition of the office of pastor but of all worship along with it. This allows a weekly communion, and perhaps a more sacrificial view of the Supper. It leads to seeing ministers as mediators of the presence of God. All of which Horne argues for in his paper or in his footnotes.


Andrew McIntyre said...

Arguments over vestments and semantics are not important unless the substance of the office of the Minister is the issue. Some of the more simple vestments carry rich, even Reformed-like symbolism. The word "priest" in English can mean simply "presbyter." However, it appears, although I have not read the papers by Rev. Horne, that the nature of the office is the real issue. A priest is not a mediator unless there is a sacrifice administered. There is no continuing sacrifice without the Roman idea of the sacrament. Thus, although I am loathe to argue over clothing and undefined words, I think your fear is justified.


Anonymous said...

Lee, you say, "Rev. Horne’s thesis also takes a historical hit when one considers the Puritan tradition in England. The Vestment controversy had roots in what we are discussing now. The Vestiments, robes worn by the clergy, they claimed had a jewish, ie. priestly, origen. Bishop Hooper refused to ever wear them on account of his scruples to the idea of pastors being priests."

Do you mean to tell me that you honestly believe that England developed and maintained a Puritan history? There were, undboubtedly, Puritans in England (many who wanted weekly communion and who were indifferent towards the episcopacy and vestments) but they were not the majority position that you claim for England's history. That is far from being true. If you think England's history is the Cromwellian dynasty (which was short-lived) then you have been sold a bag of goods not worth having. Besides the years of Westminsterian history, what have you read? Your tradition brought Civil War to this country and it was your Presbyterian friends who called Charles II back to the throne after exile because of the idiocy of Cromwell'silly son. This doesn't even come close to bringing into account the Elizabethan and Jacobean reigns and the divines living within their time. For you to claim that England's history "IS PURITAN" is false and takes many more historicals hits than what you claim for Rev. Horne. I find it hard to imagine how you so easily forget that most of the divines on the assembly were Church of England. Because there are loud voices against certain practices does not prove your monolithic cliam of Puritanism for the history of the English Church. At the Restoration in 1661/2 made this obvious. Further back, the divines such as Saravia, Hooker, Andrewes, Montague, Bramhall, Forbes, Laud, Thorndike, Taylor, John Johnson, and numerous others makes your claim obsolete. This is not to even include the representatives that James sent to Dort who came back unhappy with the proceedings and when the Civil War began there, and the murders after that meeting, confirmed their unhappy feelings. This is noted in the writings of Davenant. Can you show me historical record where England accepted the Dortian conclusions or established itself as Puritan?

As far as Andrew's claim that there is not "continuing sacrifice without the Roman idea of the Sacrament" is painfully misinformed. That happens to be my dissertation topic. The language of Eucharistic Sacrifice is all over the pages of many C of E divines and other Reformers.

Jeffrey (PhD student Durham University, UK)

Andrew Duggan said...

Hasn't British (Scottish/Puritan) Presbyterianism has always been different from the continental? Even in its nth derivative form, such as in the OPC, the pastor's are so far removed or above the people, that they cannot even be members of the same church (congregation). Just as the priests and Levites were separate from the rest of the people so are pastors today. Pastors are members of Presbytery only, never are they members of the of the churches they pastor.

Christ was numbered with the transgressors (cf Isaiah 53) but made himself of no reputation (cf Phillipians 2:7), but modern Presbyterian pastors will not be numbered with their congregations.

Maybe Mr. Horne is just building on an already long practiced pillar of Presbyterian ecclesiology? So rather than just the exposing of the taking of what might be the next logical step, perhaps it might be in order to ask if some of the more cherished aspects of Presbyterian ecclesiology are actually biblical or are they vestiges of Episcopacy?

Lee said...

I believe you have misunderstood my historical claim. I did not say England’s history is Puritan. It certainly is not. What I said was England had a Puritan tradition within it. As you freely admit there were many loud Puritans constituting a tradition for scrupling habits and vestments in England. Rev. Horne’s claim was that it was not controversial to claim the pastor derives itself from the office of priest. This, in my opinion, would have been rejected by the Puritans, thus making it controversial. You yourself indicated that the Cromwellian period, as brief as it may have been, was a Puritan period. This is the period in which the Westminster would have been prepared. It was prepared by a majority of men from the Puritan tradition as Arch Bishop Ussher urged Church of England bishops to not attend. From Cartwright and Hooper (during the reign of Henry 8th) to Baxter and Calamy (during the Restoration of Charles II) there is a long standing set of voices objecting to the vestments on account of their being priestly vestments. This seems to refute the claim of Rev. Horne that it would not have been controversial to relate pastors to priests.

And simply for clarification, I am not a Presbyterian, nor do I subscribe to the Westminster. I am a part of the German Reformed Church, and subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity, so I did not cause any Civil Wars in your country. As for your dissertation it sounds interesting. We can argue whether or not the 39 Articles retains the idea of the Roman sacramental system or not some other day.

Mr. Duggan,

You insight is profound. I admit I had never thought of it before now. I wonder if it is connected to John Knox and his failure to purge episcopacy from the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. I must confess, I do not know, and it would be an interesting topic of research. In the RCUS, a German reformed tradition, ministers are indeed members of the congregations they serve as well as members of Classis. Thus, we are not above our congregations, and have a vote in congregational matters equal with every other member. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

Andrew McIntyre said...


I am not as misinformed as you may deduce from a cursory reading of my comment. I have some Episcopal background myself. I know your arguments for the continuing sacrifice of the eucharist very well. Of course, these arguments would in no way necessitate the kind of priesthood instituted in the Old Covenant. Your watered down Eucharistic sacrifice requires no earthly mediator, at least not essentially. In fact, I would not really take much issue with the more watered down ideas of continuing sacrifice if stated accurately.

Am I wrong to state that the Anglican divines (less the Anglo-Catholics of course) did not seek to derive their priesthood from the Levite institution? Even Rome does not, as they claim to belong to the priesthood of Melchizedek which Hebrews clearly and unambiguously distinguishes completely from the Levite. If we are to claim that "priests" are akin to Levite priests, then you must have a real sacrifice, a continuing sacrifice that is efficacious for salvation. Thus, Christ's work is not finished.

As far as the bloodshed of the rebellion of Cromwell, I agree with you. But, I do not believe that is the point at all. The issue is not politics or the mistakes of zealots. The issue is not clothing, as if the Kingdom of God is about such insignificant things. The issue is whether the modern Christian priesthood derives its origin from the Levite, which, even your better divines, as I said, would deny. The Levites were abolished and rendered completely obsolete by the finished work of our Beloved Lord.

I hope this clears up my position and communicates why I think Horne's position is ecclesiastically dangerous.


Lee said...

Just as an update to the discussions about priest vs. pastor. Rev. Horne has posted concerning the meaning of ‘redefinition’. In his post he claims that one can define dog to a 1st grade class as a warm blooded animal, and then to a 3rd grade class as a mammal and have technically redefined the word. But it is not a real change of meaning. I disagree that redefining the pastor to be a NT priest falls into the analogy he puts forth, but you can read for yourself.
Also, Rev. Myers has a series about the pastor as a priest. These articles may be helpful for those who are wishing to see more about this controversy.