The Real Versus the Un-real | Real Authority

Roman Catholic Claim

Jesus chose the apostles to be the earthly leaders of the Church. He gave them his own authority to teach and to govern-not as dictators, but as loving pastors and fathers. That is why Catholics call their spiritual leaders "father." In doing so we follow Paul's example: "I became your father in Jesus Christ through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15).
Christian Response

To begin, we note that Paul does not really say he became the Corinthians' father. Rather he says he begat them:
"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, KJV).
This is important, because Paul elsewhere says he travails like a woman in birth pangs for the sake of the Galatians:
"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Galatians 4:19, KJV).
If Roman Catholic priests are to be addressed as "father" because of 1 Corinthians 4:15, let them also be addressed as "mother" on account of Galatians 4:19. But if this reasoning fails for the latter, it must of necessity fail for the former, and we see that Paul assigned no such office or title to himself. "To beget" or "to travail in birth" are metaphors for his ministry of preaching, which leads to our next point. Paul apparently only used this metaphor when he was addressing those to whom he personally ministered:
"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God." 1 Corinthians 2:1, KJV.

"Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first." Galatians 4:13, KJV.
But we note in his letter to the Roman church, such metaphors are absent, for he did not personally preach to them. In fact had never even met them, though he had long desired to:
"Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you... Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles." (Romans 1:10-13, KJV).
Where in Romans does Paul call them "his children" and where does he call himself their mother or father? Nowhere. He simply was not present when they heard the gospel and believed. The Roman Catholic use of 1 Corinthians 4:15 is a classic case of "generalizing the exception." It is like the young child who learns that the next door neighbors are the O'Connors, and concludes confidently that the rest of the families in the neighborhood are the O'Joneses, the O'Smiths and the O'Johnsons. He has taken the exception and made it the rule! So too, have Roman Catholics with 1 Corinthians 4.

Contrarily, the Roman Catholic priest at best, could be called "father" by those to whom he personally preached at their conversion to Roman Catholicism, and while they are calling him "father," let them also call him "mother," lest they ignore the plain implications of Galatians 4:19. And if a Roman priest shudder to be called "mother," then let the title "father" be withheld as well.

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