Why don't (most) Protestants consider Christian ministers to be priests?


#1

IF we grant these four things:

  • The Eucharist has always been understood to be a sacrifice in some sense.

  • The minister/pastor/presbyter has always been/usually is the one to preside at the Eucharist (even in Protestant churches)

  • All Christians are priests

  • But not all Christians are ordained ministers.

This is not some airtight argument. But taking these points together, why do Protestant traditions usually not consider Christian ministers to be priests (different from the “priesthood of believers”)?


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#2

Because they largely don’t believe in the Real Presence. They don’t believe the Eucharist to be a sacrifice, so they don’t believe that they need priests to offer it.


#3

I understand that most Protestants don’t consider the Eucharist to be a sacrifice in the sense of making present the one sacrifice of Christ. But I thought at least some admitted to the Eucharist being a sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving, etc.

Maybe not.


#4

They do consider their ministers to be fully ordained but they just don’t call them priests


#5

But not ordained to the priesthood. Though I suppose some Anglicans would say so.


#6

Basically if you’re a Protestant you have no knowledge of valid ordination. Your pastor goes to theological college or wherever they go and take holy orders and you accept that this is valid


#7

We would dispute this. But the bottom line for us is two-fold: 1) as you rightly ascertained we do not view the sacrament of the altar as a sacrifice; 2) we look particularly to the book of Hebrews which makes the case that Christ is the eternal high priest who is always before the Father making intercession on our behalf and that his death provided the finished and completed atonement for our sins.


#8

we look particularly to the book of Hebrews which makes the case that Christ is the eternal high priest who is always before the Father making intercession on our behalf and that his death provided the finished and completed atonement for our sins.

For what it’s worth, Catholics wouldn’t disagree with this assessment.


#9

Depends on whom you ask. Have seen several priests making the opposite claim during their homilies.


#10

Given this understanding, what does the common priesthood of all believers mean to you? The question might be more generally, what does the concept of priesthood after the Ascension mean to you?


#11

I think you answered your own question. Most of the non-Anglican/Lutheran Christian groups don’t see their versions of the Eucharist as having that sacrificial nature that Catholics, EO, Anglicans and Lutherans do.


#12

They may be trying to counter the Protestant misunderstanding. I’m not sure. But the bottom line is what the Church officially teaches. And that is this: The Priest and the Eucharist are not needed to accomplish our redemption — anymore than Baptism or the act of Faith is (for the Protestant as well as the Catholic).

The Eucharist is another means of application of the eternal fruits of Christ’s redemption. As you say, Christ is eternally making intercession for us. The Book of Revelation depicts him as the slain lamb. The Eucharistic liturgy is none other than the participation of the heavenly “liturgy,” if we can call it that.

We must stress that the Eucharist is not another sacrifice for our redemption. It is the offering of bread and wine that Christ returns as his own Resurrected presence.


#13

Well, if I am correct, then most Protestants still understand the Eucharist to be a sacrifice in SOME* sense. Is this true or not?

The early Church didn’t have an elaborate theology just yet, but they were remarkably unanimous that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. We get this from the earliest post-New Testament writings, from the Didache and Clement’s letter, for example. As well as Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr.

They don’t go into detail, but they do identify the Eucharist as the New Covenant sacrifice.


#14

Because there are two different types of “priest”

The priesthood of all believers, that is all who are validly baptized as explained in CCC 1258 and 1546 is one.

The Priesthood of Holy Orders that is passed on through the laying of hands of a Bishop who is part of an unbroken line of Apostolic Secession (I’d begin at CCC 1575 ish and read from there).


#15

Right, but most Protestant would acknowledge some sense of ordination. They are aware of bishops and presbyters in the New Testament as much as Catholics are. They just don’t say they’re priests – at least not other than the universal priesthood of believers.


#16

Well, the Baptist church I went to hardly even had Holy Communion. That church has done Holy Communion once in, like, two years now? To “keep it special.” I’m not even sure what the pastor of my old Baptist church believes about Holy Communion. I’m pretty sure that, at one of the very few past Communion services I’ve been to, I heard him say “I really believe this is the body and blood. I don’t believe it’s a symbol”.

Also, I’ve quite commonly heard that “we don’t have priests because now we can go directly to God ourselves.” “Priest” in my Baptist church was almost a bad word, because to everyone inside, it meant “going to a mediator to get to God instead of going directly to God ourselves”. Like how they did in the Old Testament.


#17

Also, I’ve quite commonly heard that “we don’t have priests because now we can go directly to God ourselves.” “Priest” in my Baptist church was almost a bad word, because to everyone inside, it meant “going to a mediator to get to God instead of going directly to God ourselves”. Like how they did in the Old Testament.

I wish we were consistent with this kind of thinking. Every local church has a pastor, or ministers, and they act as mediators in some sense. If they didn’t have any special responsibility, for the larger church, then I guess they’d be regular congregants!

Usually the objection is related to Confession: I don’t need to confess my sins to another man! (Well, actually, Scripture commands that we do. See James 5). But anyway, that’s besides the issue of whether or not the Eucharist is a sacrifice, which is usually not the typical objection most Protestants have.

And yet it’s the key reason why Christian presbyters were understood to be sacrificial “priests,” in the first place. The priesthood and Eucharist went hand in hand. Though the power to forgive sins is also related.


#18

Two answers that are frequently met on any website where Catholics regularly interact with Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and others:

  • As you note in your third bullet, all Christians are priests. Therefore there is no Biblical authority for a separate category of ordained priests.

  • In the NT, the Greek word for priest, hiereus, is only ever ever used for the Temple priests or kohanim, never in connection with Christian worship.

Both these arguments seem to me weak, unconvincing, and easily answered. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of educated, intelligent Protestants who seriously uphold one or the other or both at once.


#19

It is because we believe that the office of priest was done away with in the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant the priest performed the ritual sacrifices, were the only ones who could enter the Holy of Holies (at certain times), and were the go between (mediators) between the people of Israel and God.

In the new covenant Christ sacrifice was the final sacrifice for our sins and Christ is the only mediator between God and Man. And we, as a priesthood of believers, all have direct access to the throne of Grace and therefore do not need a “priest” to give us access to the grace of God.

We do however, believe that God calls and equips/gifts some to be pastors and teachers and leaders. They are not priest because their role is not to mediate between us and God by performing rituals and making sacrifices. Their job is to encourage and teach us to grow in faith and love as we seek after the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (edit to add) and oversee the day to day business of the (local) church.

And while, traditionally, the pastor and deacons/elders serve the Lord’s Supper in a gathering of the church and perform baptisms. It is also acceptable and in some cases encouraged for parents to have the Lord’s Supper at home with their family or for a Bible Study group to have the Lord’s supper with the participants in the group serving each other. Also, in many churches I’ve attended a parent or grandparent baptizes their children/grandchildren.

So Evangelical pastors are priest but not any more so than any other follower of Christ.


#20

It is also acceptable and in some cases encouraged for parents to have the Lord’s Supper at home with their family or for a Bible Study group to have the Lord’s supper with the participants in the group serving each other.

Perhaps this is only the smaller Evangelical tradition? Luther wouldn’t have had it this way.

Remember that the vast majority of Christians in history (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, i.e., apostolic traditions reaching back to the Early Church) have associated the Eucharist with the priesthood. Just a thought to keep in mind!


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