Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How Protestants violate Paul's instructions on married clergy. (1 Timothy 3:2)

Protestants often bring up 1 Timothy 3:2 against Catholicism's rules on married clergy. Protestants say that Paul plainly says a Minister must be married, and thus Catholicism must use "traditions of men" to enforce celibacy to get around Paul's requirement for Church ministry. The irony here is that Catholicism actually does follow Paul's rules, and it is Protestants who pretty blatantly violate them. Let's first take a look at the passage in question and then I'll show why Protestants don't take the Bible as seriously as they think they do.
1 Timothy 3: 2 Therefore an overseer [Pastor/Minister] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
The first thing to note is that Paul is talking about candidates for ordination here, Paul is not talking about those already ordained. This is important because Paul is saying that the married man who seeks ordination must already be married and he must already have children (note the plural). Nothing in this text indicates someone already ordained can still get married later on, and yet Protestants teach someone who is already a Pastor can still do these things after ordination. In fact, Protestant seminaries typically consist of young men studying for ordination, and of these young men a good number of them aren't already married, and an even larger percentage of them don't have children (note the plural) yet. Thus, Protestants are blatantly violating Paul's teaching here, all the while thinking they are following Paul's teaching. So Protestants should be careful when using this verse against Catholicism, because any Protestant seminarian who is not married, or married without more than one child, or even infertile, is thus prohibited from ordination based on their own Protestant logic!
Furthermore, even though Protestantism teaches self-ordination (though they wont admit it), whereby anyone who wants to become a Pastor merely becomes one by their own will, most Protestant Denominations have "requirements" for men to be ordained within their denomination. One of the typical "requirements" is that the man have some formal seminary training, which is typically equivalent to a college degree. That's not a bad thing in itself, but by instituting such "requirements," even though Paul doesn't teach such "requirements," shows that even Protestants admit the Church does have the authority to set down rules and regulations, including on ordinations. Thus, Protestants must stop saying the Catholic Church isn't allowed to set up disciplinary rules and regulations, including those involving ordination (e.g. celibacy requirements). 

The final note I want to make on the Protestant reading of this text is that in verse 6 it says a minister must not be a recent convert, otherwise he could become puffed up with pride and fall into the same condemnation as the devil. We've seen this throughout Church history: someone with lots of zeal energetically converts, and since he's got so much zeal (and possibly popularity), he eventually becomes prideful, then starts to become defiant or dissatisfied, and eventually often falls away from the faith. Many converts even today fall away after a few years. Paul indicates this sin can lead to damnation, yet many Protestants teach salvation cannot be lost, clearly contradicting Paul's teaching here (and elsewhere).
Now for the Catholic reading of this text, which for simplicity sake will be focused on the "husband of one wife" part. So what does "husband of one wife" mean? First of all, it cannot be referring to polygamy, for that wasn't really an issue. And nothing in this text actually indicates a Pastor must have a wife or must have children, especially if the man's wife dies or the couple is infertile - in other words, it is possible for an unmarried man to be a Pastor. This is confirmed by the fact Jesus and the Apostles clearly testify both in their teaching and their own life that going unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom is a noble, even ideal goal, and that marriage hinders Pastoral ministry since being married carries extra distractions away from full devotion to the Lord (1 Cor 7:32-34; Mat 19:10-12). Indeed, it is astonishing that Protestants often say "we just need to focus on Jesus and not all these rules and devotions," and yet celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is virtually non-existent in Protestantism. That right there is a big testimony against Protestantism, that so few of them would give up earthly pleasures for Jesus' sake (or worse yet, mock celibacy and call it impossible). 

With polygamy and a wife requirement ruled out, what is left? Catholic tradition has understood the "husband of one wife" text as saying a candidate cannot have been re-married if he was already married and first wife has died. And this is the only interpretation that makes sense, which I'll now explain further. The reason why he cannot be re-married is because, once ordained, celibacy becomes the norm, as now the Pastor shifts his focus more on God and less on sex and family. Thus, even if (currently) married, a Pastor is called to be celibate. So indeed, married clergy isn't really a problem for Catholicism - the catch is that it's celibacy within marriage. But since celibacy within marriage is not so easy, this means it's better not to be married at all. A man who gets re-married indicates that he is too attached to worldly pleasures, and thus Paul says he isn't fit for Priestly ministry. It isn't wrong to desire a wife, but having sufficient detachment to earthly goods is a requirement - which is why even today a married man's wife must be on board with him becoming a Priest or Deacon, because his focus is really going to shift away from her. Those advocating married sex within Priestly ministry have broken with this Apostolic custom Paul is teaching here, which is also testified to by many Church Fathers and Councils (see THIS LINK for Patristic quotes). 
I'll conclude by quoting some further supporting Biblical texts on the matter. First, Paul tells married couples among the laity, "do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer" (1 Cor 7:5). Paul is speaking within marriage here, saying that sexual intimacy can be a strong distraction to Christian duties like prayer, which is why Paul is encouraging building self-control here by encouraging periodic continence. The unmarried Pastor doesn't have this "distraction" at all. Second, later in the same Epistle to Timothy quoted at the start of this post, Paul says: 
1 Timothy 5: 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works...11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.
Here, Paul is speaking of widowed women being enrolled among Church life, which was basically taking celibate vows as a nun. Yes, that's what this verse is teaching: Consecrated Women taking religious vows to serve within the Church. Paul says here that a widow "must be the wife of one husband," which is similar wording to that of 1 Timothy 3:2! Paul cannot be saying a widow has to be married, for by definition a widow was a married woman! Thus, Paul must be saying something else, which he explains in verses 11ff. Paul says young widows should not take religious vows to serve in the Church, since they will likely still be desiring a second husband. Paul says they "incur condemnation," but this cannot simply be for re-marrying, as there is nothing intrinsically wrong with re-marriage. Rather, it can only be forbidden if the woman has taken a vow of celibacy, hence why desiring a husband would be braking that vow, and thus worthy of condemnation. This confirms the "husband of one wife" interpretation above, in which a candidate for Pastor cannot be desiring a second wife if his first wife dies. In other words, re-marriage is forbidden for those trying to shift their focus away from earthly pleasures and onto full-time special dedication to the Lord.
While Catholicism has always allowed married clergy, even to this day, there's a good reason why the Church has set up regulations from the even Apostolic times heavily discouraging the practice. Isn't it ironic how Protestants try to use the Bible against Catholicism only to have that very same verse turned around on them and condemn them? That's my favorite type of apologetics.


Mark Thimesch said...

Awesome job, Nick

Do you ever contribute to Called To Communion website?

Nick said...

Hello Mark,

Thanks for the kind words!

I have often posted in the comments section on Called To Communion, but I've not written any of their articles. They haven't posted much in the way of new articles for the past few years, but it would be nice if they would. I've asked Bryan about writing a Logizomai article and he said he would look into it.

roman catholic 4 dummies said...

People who quote Paul and as he says in 1cor 2 or romans 15 19 who doesn't have signs and miracle's in their ministry .
Are just repeating a human commentary taught by someone spiritually religious and dead.
Or as Paul said in 1 cor 14 25. Prophecy their hearts.
As most catholics can not.

Unknown said...

I think it would be nice if you could devote some of your writing skills to benefit the starving children of India or the orphans being raped in Romania.

Michael Curran said...

I'm not certain why my profile lists unknown. My name is Michael Curran PhD. I worry more about what Christ said. Don`t get me wrong, Paul's stuff is incredible but you should know that it's not for you to tell me what I believe is wrong, with personalized minucha that can be rebutted by so many other parts of scripture.
You should simply show me by how you live or write. If it's simply tit for tat, I'm not interested. I'm going to go raise some money for those suffering now, with my wife. I pray you find peace in Him. Really, I do. In Christ, Dr. Curran

Nick said...

Well, this blog is for discussing theology, so if you're interested in charitable works then you're probably in the wrong place.

Of course, both charitable works and correct theology are important, and going with one or the other isn't enough. This is why the less-than-saintly lives of the Reformers is a testimony against them, regardless of how "right" their theology was. The fact nobody holds up Luther as a model of sanctity, and indeed sweep his lifestyle under the rug, is a huge blow against Protestantism and its origins.

Since Paul was commissioned by Jesus, this means Paul holds the authority of Jesus when teaching. So if you don't want to follow a teaching of Paul, it's the equivalent of rejecting Christ Himself ("he who hears you, hears me"). Focusing on charitable works to the exclusion of correct doctrine means you've abandoned the Gospel for social work, which I don't think is your intention, but still.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree.