Friday, December 16, 2005

Redefining Priests

There is a movement afoot to redefine the work of priests, and to re-institute priests into Protestant churches. This process of re-introducing priests should not surprise us much since movements exist to make the Lord’s Supper an actually sacrificial meal that contains objective grace. Priests may then be needed to dispense such a meal. The task begins by reworking the role of the OT priest. Rev. Barach explains what he believes was the role of the priests in the Old Testament.

What were the duties of priests in the Old Covenant? They don't exactly appear to be mediators. As Leithart has shown, priests were primarily housekeepers. They cooked God's food, guarded access to God's house, made sure the house was lit, smelled nice, had bread on the table, was kept clean, and worked to see that God's people (who are also God's house, represented by the tabernacle and temple) were taught, kept clean, and so forth. Priests are God's chefs, guards, housekeepers: servants in His royal retinue.

Does anything appear to be missing to you? Can anyone think of a duty of the priests that is not listed? Making sacrifices perhaps? I do believe that the job of overseeing sacrifices is included by Rev. Barach in calling them God’s chefs, but the omission of making sacrifices is glaring. Especially since this appears to be the main focus of their job in the OT. They made daily sacrifices, morning and evening. They made special sacrifices on holy days. The Bible concentrates on this aspect of the priest much more than it does their making the temple of the Lord smell nice. Rev. Barach’s refusal to recognize the job of making sacrifices as the primary role for priests helps explain why he cannot see how priests were mediators. Although, in another article, he recognizes that Christ as our priests gives us access to God, the Holy of Holies, which only High Priests could do prior to Christ. After noting this is the sense of Hebrews 10:19-22 and I Peter 2:5, he continues to tell us;

But some people are priests in a special sense. Pastors are a special sort of priest, servants appointed by God to teach, to proclaim God's Word, to help us carry out our calling as God's priests.

Elsewhere he includes serving the Lord’s Supper as part of the role of this new special priesthood called pastors. It should be noted that Rev. Barach freely admits his debt to Peter Leithart and his book Priesthood of the Plebes, and James Jordan and his book From Bread to Wine.

Some of you may be asking, ‘what is the big deal?’ Here is my concern with such a movement. Barach has downplayed the sacrificial role of the priests, but not eliminated it. He has focused upon the housekeeping role, but misapplied it. And I believe he has confused the office of prophet and priest. First, if Rev. Barach really wanted to say the priests were housekeepers, and maintained the physical appearance and working order of the temple, then the modern day priests would be deacons, not pastors. Who is charged with making sure bread is on the table of the new temple of God, the people of the church? Acts 6 makes clear that it is the deacons, not the apostles. Second, Rev. Barach has denied a mediatorial role of priests. They offered sacrifices day and night, and on special days including the Day of Atonement. This was the priests mediating with God via the sacrifices that they alone could make. This job is officially finished because of the work of Christ. Third, Barach’s definition of the role of pastors seems to be all about teaching and preaching. This job is more associated with the office of prophet than that of priest.

This last reason shows my fear of what is really at stake in this debate. The new emphasis and re-definition of priest to make it seem as if pastors are the continuation of priests will make pastors mediators and give to them the job that is finished by Christ. Only the pastor/priest will be able to offer the Lord’s Supper which will now be viewed as a sacrifice, as the priests of old did with sacrifices. This by the way is what the Roman view of priests contains. Only the pastor/priests will be able to open the presence of God for us by having sole authority over worship in the church. James Jordan includes "organizes/disciplines the people for worship" as a job of the priest on page 11 of his book according to Barach’s article. Only the pastor/priest will be able to dispense pardon for the people. See Peter Liethart’s. series of articles about Liturgical worship and the role of absolution by the pastor/priest.
The Bible is clear that we all have access to him because he is our only mediator. He is the only sacrifice, and he is the only one who forgives sins. These things belong to him alone, and the priesthood of Aaron prefigured His work. The Reformed Confessions are clear as well. See WCF chapter 8, Larger Catechism 36-45, and HC 12-19, 29-30. This subtle new twist is no harmless thing. It leads down a road that the Church abandoned during the Reformation.


Anonymous said...

Oh my, a movement is afoot! Sounds scary to me. And, of course, anybody who dares to return to a classical Reformed position on the place of pastors in the Sunday service is headed down the road to Rome. This is idiocy. Just plain stupid. May as well accuse the Westminster divines of leading us all down the road to Rome. They plainly linked OT priests with NT pastors. Go here for a little sanity:

Lee said...

Mr. Anonymous,

Return to a classical reformed position? Give me a break. See the new post for my thoughts or Rev. Horne's article. If all you have for arguments is calling me stupid and throwing out absurdities, then I am disappointed. I would love some actual arguments, so that responses can be made, and discussion occur. I hope to hear more from you soon.


Andrew McIntyre said...

The nature of the pastoral office is the issue. Thus, anyone who shoves it aside as lunacy to include it as a topic of discussion, obviously does not understand the ramifications of ecclesiology.