I had a discussion with a Baptist man, that went something like this…
Baptist Man says: In the Bible-real Bibles, not your added on to Catholic ones, God says we are not to call any man ‘father’ (he then quoted Matthew 23:9 to me…“And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.”). He continued… yet you Roman Catholics do call mere man ‘father’ all the time. Yet another example of manmade doctrines replacing the Word of God! You Catholics have no defense for this and you know it! I dare you or any other Catholic to even try to defend your Church teaching against this clear biblical Word of God!
Dear Baptist Man, why is it you cut the previous and following verses out?? Context, Baptist Man, CONTEXT. You must take ALL of Sacred Scripture IN CONTEXT to have the best understanding. Let’s look at what is actually said in Matthew 23 AND in the complete context of the Bible, shall we?
Matt. 23:9 "And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven."
Call no man "Rabbi".... Verse 8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers."Call no man "father".... verse9 "And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven."Call no man "teacher"... verse10 "Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ."
Now let’s think about this for a moment. Jesus says we are to call no man on earth ‘father’, ‘rabbi’ or ‘teacher’. Do you call Jewish clergy rabbi? How about your Baptist Sunday school teachers? Do you restrict the use of the word ‘teacher’ in your home? Your church? Your denomination? No you don’t, I’ve seen you use those words numerous times over the years. So why pluck out ‘father’ and point your finger at Catholics for something you yourself do? Does that not stink of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees?
It’s time to ask just WHAT is Jesus saying here? Does he actually mean never to refer to anyone as a "father" or "Rabbi" or "teacher"? Does anyone think that is the case? No way!
Of course not! If you go on to read verse 12 we see Jesus is talking about those who EXALT themselves. (hint: this is about the First Commandment)
11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23)
We don't call anyone else "father" as in The Creator, the giver of ALL life. The Father of all things – there is only ONE Father the Creator of all things, yet there are many ‘fathers’ in the world. We have fathers of children…fathers of nations…fathers of organizations. The title ‘father’ for a family, a nation or organization etc., is not wrong. If we made someone else ‘father’ of something belonging to God and God alone it would be a sin, but not the father of a family or nation.
God the Father in Heaven is a jealous God, He forbids us from giving HIS glory to a false god (again, the First Commandment here). That is how we are not to use the word "father" for someone or something else. That’s the key here, giving what belongs to God the Father to someone else. That is God’s Glory, not ours. If a man has a child he does in fact become a ‘father’ to that child. That title ('father') belongs to that man. He has not stolen God’s Glory by siring a child, not at all! And the child is NOT committing a sin if they call their father by the title 'Father'. We don't sin by calling Jewish clergy 'Rabbi' or by calling a school teacher 'teacher' simply because those are their titles. Again, this is about the First Commandment. If we attempt to give God's Glory to another- then we sin.
We have fathers; teachers and Rabbi's but we do not give them the REVERENCE of God the Creator in Heaven. HE is the ultimate Father, ultimate Teacher and ultimate Rabbi. He is the Creator of all. That is God’s Glory, not mans. This Glory belongs to God and we exalt God for it. We don’t exalt men for what God the Father has done. That is forbidden. That is what the Bible warns about. That is what Jesus is saying in Matthew 23 (and other places).
We can take comfort in knowing that calling someone "father" is NOT a sin or wrong because Jesus Christ uses the term "father" dozens of times referring to people's actual parents and "Father" Abraham as the "father" of a nation. (As I mentioned above, this is not a sin. A man becoming the ‘father’ of a nation does NOT in any way attempt to take away God’s Glory) If using the word "father" for someone other than God was wrong, Jesus Christ would not have done it. Jesus is our perfect example.
But let’s not limit ourselves to Matthew 23 alone, let’s look at what else the Bible tells us. In the New Testament we see Paul teaching us that priests are in fact our “fathers” because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is precisely why the Catholic Church refers to her priests as ‘fathers’ – because the Bible tells us so!
1 Cor.4 14 "I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 15Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." (NIV Bible)
Anyone who claims we are not to call a man ‘father’ because of Matthew 23 clearly has no understanding of what Jesus was teaching. It’s all about CONTEXT and knowing the First Commandment. If you pick a verse here and reject a verse there, you will nearly always be wrong. You will be not only deceiving yourself, but also anyone else you share your personal views with.
Remember, that if it were wrong to call someone ‘father’, ‘rabbi’ or ‘teacher’ then Jesus would not have done it, nor would Paul be telling everyone that he (Paul) is in fact their ‘father’ because he's a priest (1 Cor. 4:15). The Gospel teaches that the Church's priests ARE our fathers- not THE Father the Creator, but fathers made so by the Gospel. The Catholic Church teaches exactly what the Bible says and what Jesus taught.