Monday, May 23, 2016


Protestants often bring up the honorary title that Catholics give the pope: Holy Father.
They call this title blasphemous, because they claim it is specifically the name of God and it should never be used as a title for man.

While my emotions may agree, a very easy look into scripture proves my feelings utterly wrong. God has always lavished honor on His creatures by giving them His name or His titles.

Let's start with the first—most glaring, scriptural objection: 


What did Jesus mean when He said in Matthew 23: 9, "call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven?" 

It sounds simple enough, and yet, we can be assured Jesus was not being literal. A literal interpretation would be unreasonable and mean Jesus is warning us to refrain from calling our biological male parent "father." And taken at its most literal, it would mean that we could call females on earth father. 

Was Jesus meaning that we should title no one father? If so we Americans who give that title to our Founding Fathers are doing wrong. Yet, it cannot mean that we are not to give anyone the title of father on earth, for Jesus and His Apostles used it as a title for the patriarchs. (See Luke 16's parable of Lazarus, John 8: 56, Acts 7: 2, Romans 4: 12; 9:10 , James 2:21.) Even Paul said that he was the spiritual father of the churches he set up. I Cor. 4: 15. 

So what was Jesus meaning?

At this time, Israel was splintered into many warring theological factions such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. Each referred to their theological founding rabbi as "father." Israel's little denominations were using the title "Father" for purposes of setting themselves above others. As did the early Christians who said, 

"I am of Apollos" and "I am of Paul" etc. Jesus was speaking against setting one group above another by who you title your father.

In essence, Jesus is reminding the people that God is the father and He is the one who places His authorities on earth. Starting with the fact that we don't get to decide our biological fathers, neither do we get to decide who our spiritual authorities are. God alone, as our chief shepherd gets to appoint His earthly shepherds and He alone gives the title of father to those He chooses. This was Jesus showing His disciples that unity under their Father in Heaven was way more important than having little sects under theological fathers. (See Matthew 23:9)

Since Catholics believe that God appointed the pope as His spiritual authority on earth, Jesus would never be warning His people against referring to the pope as "father" anymore than He was telling the Jews not to refer to Abraham as "Father Abraham." 

The unnerving part is that Catholics call the Pope Holy Father. Whew. That cannot possibly be right. It should make all of us shiver with spiritual fear to use that title, of course. But what if, stunningly, God actually wants us to call His authority by His title?

What does scripture reveal to His creation taking His Name?


There is only one place in scripture where the phrase "Holy Father" occurs. 
I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. John 17:11
The rest of the time Christ refers to His Father without the word holy. In fact, when Jesus gives us the way to pray to His Father, He does not tell us to call Him Holy Father but simply father: "Our Father, who art in heaven."

So Christ did not give us an example nor mandate to call Him that. Therefore, Protestants restricting that title to God, is not based in scripture. In fact, the Greek word for holy (hagios) is not exclusively used for the Godhead, but also for Christians. 

Saints share the holiness of hagios in many verses such as: Rom. 1:9; 11:16; 12:13; I Pe. 1: 15-15; Rev. 8:3; 11:18. We share His holiness. Even the word "holy" is used by God's Holy Word! So this holiness is not exclusively for God's title. 

Is it really our humbleness that wants to create extra-biblical dictates against using the word holy for Christians? Because, it seems the Bible is not against it. 

Let's do some more digging: 


The literal translation of the Archangel Michael's name is "He who is like God." Some translators, uncomfortable with that, have switched it to what they believe is a more humble rendering, "Who is like God?" However, that still leaves the prophet calling the angel Michael in Daniel 10: 13, 21 the "Great Prince." Such an exalted title that the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists believe the archangel to be Christ. So Michael takes a descriptive name of God.

But it is not just Michael. The Archangel Gabriel's name seems to be literally translated, "Man of God," another title for Christ, or "Strength of God."

God's supernatural beings often have "el" or God in their names. This parallels the titles given to God in scripture which also include "el." Why would God allow this? Why would He allow Himself to be called El-Shaddai which is a disputed description title perhaps meaning, "Destroyer Lord" or "Lord of the mountain," or "Lord of Completeness/Enough." And also allow His creatures to take His own titles? 

A misunderstanding of God often creates confusion about names.

Michael and Gabriel bear the name of God showing that they are God's creation. It would be silly to confuse a

Chrysler car with its maker Walter Chrysler, or call the car egotistical for taking its maker's name. It was created to reflect the genius of its maker. The maker wishes His name intimately connected to His creation.


2 Chronicles 7: 14, "if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

We often think of being "called by my name" as God calling us. As if His name is calling us. However, it can also be understood in some instances as His people, nation, house and temple as bearing his name. See: 2 Sam. 12: 28; I King 8: 43; Isaiah 41:25, Jeremiah 7: 10, 11, 14, 30; Jer. 25: 29; Jer. 42: 34; Jer. 43: 15.

And we can see this in the very name of Israel, for the most literal and direct translation of the Hebrew, YisraŹ¾el  is "God struggles" with a victorious connotations giving it the authority: God struggles and dominates. The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford U. Press) concludes that Israel is directly translated best as "God rules." Again, just as God has many different titles in the Old Testament that describe Him, He gives his people one of His own titles. 

King David astonishes readers even today when in Psalms 82: 6 he writes that God does not shy away from proclaiming, "You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High."

God is not afraid of us having His name. It is we who are afraid.


We see this in another instance in the Covenant code in the book of Exodus. Israel's judges are directly called one of God's most holy names, Elohim. This is truly God's name. It is not a description or a title. It is in the plural form but literally means simply, "God." And God does not limit His name to just Himself.

But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, [Elohim] and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property…. both parties are to bring their cases before the judges [Elohim]. The one whom the judges [Elohim] declare guilty must pay back double to the other. Ex. 22: 8-9 

The KJV aslo has Elohim translated as "judges, kings or prophets" in Exodus 4: 16, 21:6; I Samuel 28:13.


God has always allowed His people to take His name. As Christians we all bear the name of Christ because the label Christians comes from the Roman nickname for "little Christs." 

We see Christ giving His title to His leaders in the New Testament. He, as the Chief Shepherd, entitles His leaders as shepherds. 

It is most shocking to readers today when Jesus inquired of the Pharisees, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods?' " John 10: 34. If you look at the context of this verse, Jesus was being accused of blasphemy by claiming that He and the Father were one.  To counter this accusation He does not soften or retract the statement. No, he goes back to the Old Testament (Ps. 82:6) to show that claiming oneship with God is not blasphemy. In fact, God's very word calls us gods! This is not a blasphemous claim but a claim of family unity.

As if that isn't shocking enough, let's take it up a notch. (1)


Many Christians, read and reread Genesis 4: 16 to try and understand it. Many translations soften the wording so as to mellow the impact. But the most direct and literal translations cannot be denied. Moses is told by God at the burning bush that his brother Aaron will be Moses' spokesperson, but Moses will be Elohim [God] to Aaron.

He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. NIV Ex. 4: 16 

(See the RSV, KJV, OJB, NIV as well as the Tyndale.)

And if the leader of the people of God in the Old Testament can be called by the holy name Elohim, how much more can His leaders in the New Covenant. 


Throughout the Old Testament God is called "Rock." This is His title. And yet Christ gives it to Simon in Matthew 16: 18.

Of course this is very uncomfortable for us, who are sinners. We recoil at the thought of someone taking God's name. And yet, like a Bridegroom gives his name to his Bride, so God gives us His name. That does not make us God anymore than it makes the woman the same as the man when they become one flesh. Giving us His title is God bringing us into unity with Him. It is astonishing. It is supernatural and it should make us feel uncomfortable as well as overjoyed.


God is always uplifting us. Think about Jesus giving us the Lord's Prayer. We cannot make the mistake of believing that when Jesus gives us the privilege of calling God, "Our Father" that he is bringing God down to our level. No, he is wildly elevating the great nature of the human father. He is not just revealing who the Father in Heaven is, but He is revealing who we are! 

These scriptural revelations do not tell us that we are blasphemous for taking on Christ's name but how wonderful God is to be always reminding us that we are in His image.

The Protestant objection that we cannot use the title "Holy Father" is a construct of man and not of God. God is the one who brings us up to Him. 

His sovereignty is not diminished or harmed by God giving us glory and honor. Indeed it is His love for us that brings us into His very presence and He desires us to be co-heirs with Christ and sit on eternal thrones. It increases His glory when we are glorified. The Father wants us to take His name. This is shown over and over in scripture. He freely gives it to His angels, His Covenant people and judges and leaders.

His name is our name, and yet there is only one warning to us, found in Exodus 20. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain."

That reveals all to us that He trusts us with something so full of awe. We are His Body, we are His Bride, we are His sons and daughters. He gives us His precious name, and we should indeed take it with trembling lips. This should humble us as we carefully and with great awe live as co-heirs with Christ. All who see us will be seeing Him.

And that is especially a grave warning to the Holy Father sitting on the See of Peter. The Word of God does not condemn His taking  the name "Holy Father" but that he not take it in vain. 

(1) Throughout the centuries, it has been understood that it is not blasphemy to call a king or queen, "Your Majesty" or to a ruler "My Lord." People can and do make distinctions in these titles for humans and for God.  

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