Friday, June 09, 2006

On obeying wicked pastors

Christ the Lord commands obedience even to WICKED pastors: Upon the chair of Moses have sitten the scribes and Pharisees: all things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works do ye not, for they say and do not. — Matthew 23:2–3

Moses sat to give counsel to the people who came to him to inquire of God, and he made them know the statutes of God and His laws (Exodus 18). Generally speaking, the scribes and the Pharisees had authority as experts in and lovers of the law, while the Sadducees controlled the priesthood and represented the Temple. Thus, by a rough parallel, the Pharisees would be Traditionalists whose learning is true and should be obeyed but who do not practice what they preach (some lack charity), while the Sadducees would be more like certain bishops, whose authority comes solely from their position (some lack knowledge as well as charity). The ignorant Sadducees said that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit, while the knowledgeable Pharisees confessed all three (Acts 23:8). Jesus often berated “the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” who indeed eventually joined against him; in the verses quoted, however, he spoke of the scribes and the Pharisees, not the hierarchy. Jesus did pay the Temple tax, not because he felt bound to do so (“the sons are free”), but to avoid scandalizing his followers; and besides, the Temple was his Father’s house, whatever the current management. This did not prevent him from trying to clean house when he came to the Temple, which made the chief priests as well as the scribes seek to destroy him.

In secular terms, the scribes are lawyers who can tell you what the law is but don’t necessarily follow it. Or they are like judges who consider themselves above the law. A pastor may or may not be an expert in Church or God’s law. He may just be following the orders of his bishop, who may also not know the law, or may be disregarding it.

Thus Matt 23:2–3 is not a command to obey wicked pastors. Obedience to pastors is subject to the limitations of the fourth commandment.


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