A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

The Teaching that a Husband/Father is a Priest to His Family is Unbiblical and Promotes Abuse (Part 6)

This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other.  [The London Confession of Faith]

Lest anyone think that Sam Waldron’s teaching that a man is priest in his home is a rare aberration, we call your attention to the very same notion being taught by John Fesko. Dr. Fesko is Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, California. Dr. Fesko is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He has served on two committees appointed by the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Dr. Fesko teaches that a husband/father is prophet, priest, and king to his family. Here is what he says (see the full article at http://www.genevaopc.org/articles/theology/93-every-father-a-prophet-priest-and-king.html )–

It was John Calvin in the 16th century that first gathered together the doctrinal truths that Christ is the prophet, priest, and king, par excellence.  Calvin called this trio of roles the munus triplex, or the threefold office.  The idea behind the munus triplex is that all of the Old Testament offices ultimately point to and is fulfilled in Christ.  For example, Moses was one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament (Deut. 34.10).  It was his job to reveal the knowledge of God to Israel (e.g. Exo. 7.1ff).  In his role as a prophet Moses ultimately points to Christ (Acts 3.22ff).  Christ, for example, spoke as the prophet when He gave the true meaning of the Law over and against the misinterpretations of the Scribes and Pharisees in His Sermon on the Mount (e.g. Matt. 5.21-22).  In like manner the High Priest was supposed to go into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and make a sacrifice on behalf of the people of Israel to atone for their sins (Lev. 16).  The role of the High Priest is ultimately fulfilled in Christ as the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek who has entered the heavenly Holy of Holies and intercedes for the people of God (Heb. 8-10).  The same pattern holds true for the Old Testament office of King.  It was King David, for example, that ultimately points forward to Christ in His role as the King of Kings (e.g. Ezek. 37.24ff).  Again, these Old Testament offices of prophet, priest, and king find their ultimate fulfillment and significance in the person and work of Christ.  Now, in what way does this doctrine impact our day-in and day-out living?

The munus triplex has practical implications for every believer because all of us are supposed to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8.29).  This means that all of us should ask ourselves how we reflect each of these offices in our daily lives.  The munus triplex, however, has special implications for fathers.  God has ordained that man, or husbands, are supposed to be the spiritual heads of their families (1 Cor. 11.3ff; cf. Gen. 2).  We find this pattern, for example, in Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians: “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph. 5.24).  The analogy is that the husband is representative of Christ and the woman is representative of the church.  This means, then, just as Christ fulfills the roles of prophet, priest, and king for the church, the husband must fulfill these roles to his wife and of course his family.

As Fesko continues in his article, he identifies certain things that a father and husband is to do as ministry to his family. Good things such as praying for them, teaching them from Scripture and so on. But the problem remains. Fesko, like Waldron, puts the husband/father in a special category of priesthood, special in the sense that it is unique to him and not to his wife or children. He makes the illogical jump from Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King to the husband/father being the same to his wife and children.

It is certainly fine to encourage fathers to pray for their families and to not be passive in respect to their learning the knowledge of God. But no good can come from inventing doctrines that are foreign to God’s Word, and such is the case here. This teaching is unbiblical and it will be used by abusers as a divine authorization to lord it over their wife and family.  We reject this teaching.

(go to Part 5 of this series)

26 Comments

  1. The munus triplex has practical implications for every believer because all of us are supposed to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8.29). This means that all of us should ask ourselves how we reflect each of these offices in our daily lives.

    You know….

    And from a Doctor of theology no less. And look where he ends up! Why does no one see that following this single point of divergence from sound doctrine will land you so far off course you won’t even know how to return? Here it is. Right here. Just stop right here and fix your course before you go any further.

    I just don’t even know what to say. Conformed to His image does not mean conformed to His offices! What’s next? Are we to be made Lord and Christ too? Perhaps being partakers of the divine nature makes us deity? Why not? If you can do this….

    Good grief. 😦

    • yes that seemingly small leap from “image of Christ” to “fulfilling the offices of Christ in another believers’ life” – astounding. Hey can I get a doctorate too?

  2. IamMyBeloved's

    Again, it would have to mean that only the man fulfills his calling to Christ as a Christian and the woman is somewhere out there needing the man to answer for her before God. It is a good way to deceive women into believing that they are not responsible for their own sin! In the original sin, Eve tried to place blame for her own sin, just as the man did. This is a good way to let her escape, but I personally believe this false teaching is just meant to empower the man further over his subjects. They take an ounce of truth and mix it with a lie. This teaching just gives man more power to be independent of God. I mean if he is the proohet, king and priest of the home, who within that home needs Jesus? Bahumbug, I say -bahumbug!

  3. Carmen S.

    Pastor Crippen, you know that you need to write another book, right? 🙂

    • Right? 🙂

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, I hear you guys:) Actually Barbara and I have been trying but there is never enough time. We have really wanted to find a volunteer to go through all the blog articles, categorize them, and then we would bring them together into chapters and, with commenters’ permission, even incorporate some of the comments into the chapters as live illustrations.

      • Jeff Crippen

        WITHOUT plagiarism! Ha! In fact I suppose we would want to credit as author something like “By, a whole bunch of Christians who have been abused and are getting really angry about it!”

    • Jeff Crippen

      And thanks to Carmen, by the way, for pointing out John Fesko’s father-as-priest article to me. As she noted, it is important for us to realize that this false teaching of an unbiblical priesthood is being taught by highly respected people in very influential positions in seminaries such as Westminster.

    • Anon Reader

      I think he just did.

  4. Kameron

    I came across this same idea reading Doug Wilson’s “Reforming Marriage” where he states that men are to get their identity from Christ and women are to get their identity from men. Such utter nonsense.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Kameron – Yes, Wilson pushes this drivel as well. We cleared all Wilson books out of our church library quite a number of years ago.

    • Unbelievable! Is this application of scripture supporting Wilson’s incorrect exegesis biased on man being created first? God created both man and woman equal in His image. This truth in and of it self should surely alert a discerning reader that man is abusing his power/authoritative role if he ever suppresses or oppresses his wife let alone desires for her to loose herself/identity to him!! For goodness sake Eve was created to complement her husband therefore she could not have been finding her identity in Adam. Eve usurping her husband’s role and Adams abdication of his role was the whole cause of the fall. Love of self rather than God led to the first sin! Dangerous statement to make.

  5. Brenda R

    Will the insanity ever stop?????

  6. Dr. Fesko is Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, California. Dr. Fesko is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He has served on two committees appointed by the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

    Westminster Seminary is a highly respected institution. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is also, so far as I am aware. The other men in these institutions are giving a pass to Dr Fesko’s wrong teaching. The senior watchmen are asleep and it is up to the lowly, like the survivors at this blog, to blow the whistle and rattle the cage.

  7. Okay I’ve just read the entire article by Fesko and I’m going to head off an objection that Fesko or his followers might raise to Jeff’s post. Here is the rest of the article, the part that Jeff C did not quote above:

    Fathers, do you fulfill the role of a prophet to your family? Do you instruct your wife and children in the Word of God? Do you read the Word of God to your children? Do you model the Word of God for your children in your living? Fathers, do you intercede on behalf of your family as a priest? Granted, only Christ can offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin on behalf of the church. This, however, is not the only function of a priest. Just like Christ offered up His high priestly prayer of intercession on behalf of the church (John 17.1ff) do you intercede in prayer on behalf of your family? Fathers, do you “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5.25)? Fathers, do you rule your households like a tyrant or as in the same manner that Christ our King rules over us? Christ our King humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant, was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2.7-8). Are you a servant-king to your family?

    Do we now see the practical relevance of the munus triplex? This doctrine has the practical implication that every father should be a prophet, priest, and king to his family. Fathers, meditate upon these truths this Father’s Day and ask God that He would enable you to fulfill the munus triplex to your family each day. Lastly, just one parting thought—if we ever think that doctrine has no practical implications, chances are we have never given the doctrine any serious thought.

    Fesko grants that “only Christ can offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin on behalf of the church.” Thus he’s careful to avoid the heresy that a husband can atone for sin. But his assertion that a father is be a priest to his family by interceding in prayer for them is going beyond the bible: both father/husband and mother/wife should intercede in prayer on behalf of their family — the priesthood of all believers means that all believers are to offer up prayers of intercession. There is no biblical reason why men in particular need to be reminded to pray for their families.

    There is a reason why men in particular may need to be reminded to pray for others, but it is a reason based on practical experience, not doctrine. Experience shows us that many men in churches need to be told to act like Christians because they are not doing so, they are just being self absorbed and self serving. Underneath it all, some of these men may not even be regenerate which means they do not have the law of God written on their hearts.

    If someone wants to exhort churchgoing men to behave as Christians in their families, that’s fine; but it is wrong to give an extra-biblical (and abuser entitling) reason for men to behave like Christians in their families.

    There is another part of the above quote that I want to address. Fesko says ‘Fathers, do you “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5.25)? Fathers, do you rule your households like a tyrant or as in the same manner that Christ our King rules over us? Christ our King humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant, was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2.7-8). Are you a servant-king to your family?’

    He tells husbands not to rule like tyrants in their homes, and with that we can agree. But there is no need for him to bring in the Kingly office of Christ when making this point. Ephesians 5:25 simply tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church; it does not tell husbands to love their wives as Christ the King loved the church. There is no mention or even allusion to Christ’s kingly office in that verse or even in the surrounding context, unless you count the phrase present the church to himself in splendour (v. 27) as an allusion to his Kingship — but that is a stretch because the phrase is more suggestive of the Christ-groom/church-bride analogy.

    • ask God that He would enable you to fulfill the munus triplex to your family each day.

      There is only One who fulfills the munus triplex and that is Christ. No other human has occupied all 3 offices. Some have done 2 but no one has done 3. It has not suddenly become God’s will for men (or women for that matter) to “fulfill the munus triplex.” I cannot understand why he thinks he needs to teach this. It isn’t to get men to be better fathers and husbands. You can simply show them the verses that instruct them in the how to’s of that — the practical aspects he is concerned about. God does not give such instructions in order that men might fulfill the munus triplex to their families. It is to display His character.

      This is a burden to the entire church (men too) God did not put on her. I do not think the long term effects of this are going to be blessing but bad fruit in a whole lot of ways.

    • The fact that he acknowledges the husband can’t atone for sin is meaningless. If the husband is some kind of special intercessor for his family, above and beyond normal Christian intercession, then he can cut off his family’s access to Christ’s atonement, by design (power play to get the wife and children to behave) and maybe even by negligence (sin on his part). Doing it by design would essentially amount to a sort of parallel to excommunication, so we remain only a step or two removed from Doug Phillips’ position. Fesko’s caveat, isn’t one.

    • Excellent critique of the article posted above! Thank you for your comments.

  8. thepersistentwidow

    Here we have another impossible situation in the making. What is a wife to do if the husband is teaching heretical doctrine and requires her to submit to it? Should she submit to her husband’s priesthood or Christ’s? A believer is duty bound to call out false teaching. Does Dr. Fesko have a plan for that such as church intervention? Can the husband be disciplined for being a false teacher in his home?

    • Brenda R

      Another can of worms just opened Widow. False teaching leads to more false teaching.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Good points, PW – For myself, if a wife came to me and our elders and demonstrated that her husband was teaching heresy in the family, that man would be subject to church discipline for sure. By heresy, of course, I don’t mean secondary issues like pre-trib rapture or something. I mean if he started teaching a plainly false gospel to the family, denying the deity of Christ and so on. Of course that would be an easy one to deal with. False teaching though so often comes wrapped up in more clever disguises, like – “I am your prophet, priest, and king! Hear me, look to me, and obey me!”

  9. Lacie

    Stay away from the OPC. The one I just left last fall promoted Doug Wilson’s book Fidelity as a book every man, with an emphasis on Every, should have.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Lacie. We took all of Wilson’s books out of our church library years ago. No one should be recommending his writings to anyone.

  10. Lacie

    I should not rule out every OPC as there is a good one in Newberg OR where the pastor would never fall for this stuff. He has too much common sense!

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