Saturday, October 6, 2007

A theological pet peeve

There is something simple and fundamental that too many people forget. An office conveys responsibility and duty and authority - it does not convey ability. For example - let us say that I am made a deputy of the Lahoma Police department. I would have authority and duty, I would have new responsibilities - but being deputized would not suddenly improve my ability to run after criminals or fire a weapon or even investigate. The abilities are. . . what I have. Now, I could get training - but I'd still be who I am.

Whoever gets elected president gets new duties and authorities - but his or her abilities don't change. If you get hitched, you don't suddenly have new abilities. An Officer in the military has duties, but that doesn't mean he has the ability to rightly carry them out. He had better have them already, or he'll be a bad officer.

Likewise the Office of the Public Ministry. Pastors have been placed into an office - not granted super powers. Call and ordination convey responsibilities and authority, not an innate ability to perform. Otherwise there'd be no need for Timothy to take care on who he lays hands on - otherwise there would no need for there to be qualifications.

Why do I bring this up? Every Christian has access and the ability to use God's Word. The power is proper to the Word - it is Christ's power so the Body of Christ possesses. Every Christian has the ability to forgive sins.

Now, some are worried that this might diminish respect for the Office of the Public Ministry - if everyone can forgive sins - why do we need pastors? Just because you have an ability it doesn't mean that you have the right or ought to exercise that ability.

My favorite, slightly coarse example. 15 year old daughter comes home and announces that she is pregnant. Now, sex outside of marriage is not right - it is not proper, it shouldn't be done - but pregnancy isn't a result of the estate of marriage - it's a result of sex. However, sex should only occur within that estate - but sex outside of that estate isn't somehow powerless.

While all might have the ability to forgive sins and speak the Gospel - not all are given to do this publicly. Not everyone is called to be a pastor and teacher - not everyone is called to be made available specifically to provide forgiveness to people who (apart from his office) would have been strangers.

Is there a lack of respect for the OPM? Eh, perhaps, perhaps. In some places, yes. But you don't build the correct respect for an office by claiming it has power intrinsic to it that it doesn't. You build respect by showing the importance and uniqueness of that office. And too many folks forget that.


William Weedon said...

Oh, dear. It sounds to me like you might be one of those troublesome folks called LUTHERANS. ;)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I'm glad some people recognize this as Lutheran. Seriously people - READ more Luther.

Past Elder said...

Maybe it's because I'm an RC convert, but it amazes me that people would recognise anything ELSE as Lutheran!