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 Every Father a Prophet, Priest, and King) —
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.
Posts in this series
Part 6: Is this post.