…The HARD TRUTH with Dr. Kennedy Musonda, Ph.D.
My series on Papalism started with a debut article entitled Is it biblically correct to call your Pastor Papa? My answer was YES and NO. I defined papalism as an act of calling your Pastor, Bishop, Priest, or Prophet, Papa, or spiritual Father as opposed to papalism in the Roman Catholic Church, which is adherence to or support for the Pope or Papacy.
I have provided biblical evidence and given clear circumstances in which it can applied. I am going to summarize what I have discussed so far before I start providing biblical evidence for the NO answer.
I explained that the word Papa or father in English, comes from a Greek word pater, which means one who imparts life and is committed to it; a progenitor, bringing into being, to pass on the potential for likeness. The word pater also refers to a begetter, originator, one in an intimate relationship.
A begetter is someone who begets (figuratively an originator or creator). To beget, therefore, is to bring a child into existence by process of reproduction. The term progenitor means a person or a thing from which a person, animal, or plant has descended or originates, such as an ancestor or parent.
I later gave scriptures that are used to justify Papalism; calling a man of God as Papa or spiritual father or the man of God calling some or all the church members as spiritual sons and daughters. I did this in the second article.
In the Old Testament, Elisha called Elijah “Father” (2 Kings 2:12); in 2 Kings 6:21 & 13:14, the King of Israel called Elisha “Father.” In both cases, a spiritual father/son relationship is involved. In the New Testament, Paul said, “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). Paul called Titus as his son after the common faith (Tit. 1:4), and he also called Onesimus as the son he begot in his bonds (Phile. 1:10).
To understand the spiritual father/son relationship, I discussed the ancient Jewish Father/son relationship, which is the basis of the spiritual father/son metaphor.
I mentioned that the father/son relationship is so vital that a whole book of Proverbs is dedicated to this relationship (Pro. 1: 8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1; 7:1). I went in details to discuss the responsibility of a father in the Talmud.
A Jewish father was given six responsibilities over his son(s). He was required to (1) circumcise his son; (2) to redeem him [referring to the first-born son, according to in Numbers 18: 15-16]; (3) to teach him Torah (4) to find him a wife; (5) teach him a trade and (6) to teach him to swim (survival skills to protect life since most of the long-distance traveling was by water).
A father, therefore, made a massive investment in the son and not the other way round. Consequently, a son took after the father, not just biologically but also socially, economically, and culturally.
I mentioned in the fourth article that Paul used this pattern of the ancient father/son relationship with Timothy (Philippians 2:22). Like a biological father and the son, Paul had a long-term mentorship relationship with Timothy which lasted for at least a decade.
It was because Timothy had proved his son ship that Paul entrusted him with ambassadorial responsibilities, like a good son would be sent by a father. When Timothy had fully matured, Paul co-authored four books with Timothy – the book of Philippians, Colossians, and first and second Thessalonians (Phil. 1:1; 1; Col. 1:1; The. 1:1 & 2; The. 1:1). Timothy took over pastoral responsibilities after the death of Paul.
What is the conclusion? Is it biblical to call your pastor, priest, prophet, bishop, “Papa” and him calling you spiritual son or daughter? Yes, it is, but only under very limited conditions because calling somebody a spiritual son is not child’s play due to the huge demand placed on the spiritual father.
You can call someone a spiritual son or daughter if you have led him or her to the Lord and/or have invested time and effort in discipline that person otherwise you may be just one of the many instructors (1 Corinthians 4:15).
Second, based on the Jewish culture of father/son relationship, and Paul’s relationship with Timothy, you can only call someone as a spiritual son if you have had a long-term relationship with such a person and have mentored him.
Third, you should have made plans for him to take up significant responsibility in the ministry or take over from you when you retire by age or by death.
Biblical evidence shows that you cannot just call every church member as spiritual son or daughter or call your pastor, father, dad or papa lightly, without fulfilling the above mentioned conditions. The next series of articles will look at reasons for this conclusion and answer the no part of my question: why it is not biblically correct to call a spiritual leader as father (Matthew 23:9), after which I will reconcile the two positions.
Author: Dr. Kennedy Musonda an international development consultant holds a Bachelor and Master of Social Work, a Bachelor of Arts in Theology, a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Ph.D. in Business Administration.
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