At game night this week I was informed that a friend of mine who is not religious is considering becoming a Jehovah’s Witness.
I live across the street from 3 generations of Jehovah’s Witness, they are some of the nicest people in the neighborhood and their imminent departure in my opinion is a huge loss to the entire block.
That doesn’t mean to say that theologically they aren’t out there, they ARE, but having the theology right is small comfort if you don’t follow through.
I’m a little torn about it because I know enough about the theology to see the gaping holes, and they have the weakness of all protestant sects in terms of history, origins of the bible and the church fathers. But my friend is not very religious and in the 30 years I’ve known him never has been, maybe he needs to walk before he runs.
But when I asked him about it, and made my own objections to the theology known, he came back with the “Catholic use of Father” business. No offense to my pal but that old chestnut is pretty weak.
“But the real question is: In doing this, did Jesus intend for his words in verse 9 to be understood literally? Or was he speaking in a figurative way? If he did mean them literally, of course, then you’re absolutely correct in your assertion, and we Catholics should stop calling priests ‘Father’ immediately!
“However, it seems to me that if Jesus did intend a literal interpretation, then he certainly would have followed his own rule. That sounds reasonable, does it not? He wouldn’t have given his disciples (and all of us) a commandment—not to call anyone on earth ‘father’—that he didn’t intend to keep himself.
“But you see, when we examine the wider context of this verse (i.e., the rest of the New Testament), what we find is that Jesus did not observe this rule himself! For example, in this very same chapter of Matthew (in verses 30 and 32 to be exact), Jesus uses the word “father” to refer to men here on earth! Speaking to the scribes and Pharisees in verse 30, our Lord says, ‘And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Then, in verse 32, he says, ‘Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.’
He then points to a few other points in the new testament where this takes place:
“Jesus did the same thing at other times in his ministry: he referred to people on this earth as ‘fathers’. Just read your King James Version and see!
“And so did the writers of the New Testament! St. John, for example, addresses ‘fathers’ more than once in the second chapter of his first letter.
“St. Paul calls Abraham ‘the father of us all’ in chapter 4 of his letter to the Romans. And then, in 1 Corinthians 4, he goes so far as to speak of himself as a father—a spiritual father—to the Corinthian people. Can you imagine? Of course, that makes perfect sense to every Catholic, because St. Paul was a priest! As a priest, he was a spiritual father to all the people in the various churches he founded.
“The bottom line is this: If Jesus intended a literal interpretation to his words, ‘Call no one on earth your father’, and if violating the words of Jesus is a sin, then you’re forced into a position where you have to say that Jesus himself sinned! You also have to say that St. John and St. Paul sinned when they wrote the words of Sacred Scripture.
Bottom line: This is a bogus argument!
My friend is a great guy. I’ve known him since we were about 15. He is a fine fellow and he will be no less fine if he decided to become a Jehovah’s witness. I’m proud to call him my friend today and I’ll be no less proud to so till the day we die!