Just Thinking... about the Priesthood of all Believers


How are the priests in your congregation doing?

As you are aware (I keep talking about it), I'm in a doctoral program at Candler. This semester has started, and we have been tasked with reading Hans Kung's The Church during the first four weeks of class. If you have ever read this very thick book, you know that Kung loves to repeat himself, over and over again. The Church is one of those theological texts that takes a while to get through.

I am finding that each section builds upon each other in getting to the last section that is entitled, "The Offices of the Church". Here Kung brings all the previous chapters together in helping the reader understand how the Church has gotten it wrong all these years. Let me say before I go on that I have not completed the book yet, but only some of this last chapter, so this is just me thinking as I read.

We as the people of God, the Body of Christ, have our priests, our clergy, our mediators, our laity, and a host of other categories in which we place people. Alone, this in itself can be problematic, but beyond that Kung proposes that nowhere in the New Testament do we find the classification of people into clergy and laity. This distinction is a "man-made" creation to help the Church in its work. 

Scripture calls for the priesthood of all believers. 

"The priesthood of all believers consists in the calling of the faithful to witness to God and his will before the world, and to offer up their lives in the service to the world." (Kung, The Church, page 487)

Coming from a Roman Catholic theologian (I'm not sure he would like that title by the way.), this is pretty radical. It is pretty radical for the Church who believes that the power and authority lie in the ordained. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying do away with ordination; I'm still trying to get to an understanding of all that Kung is talking about in his book. 

But, I'm just thinking, for a Church that believes in the priesthood of all believers, how are our congregations of priests doing? Are we living faithful lives? Are the priests in our pews following the will of God? Do these priests offer up their lives in service to the world? This is a tall order for sure and places a great amount of responsibility on those we have called the laity. But wait, we too are priests; all believers, remember? How are we doing in this regard? Are we maybe called to live before those in our congregations as the model of the priest instead of claiming the title of priest or pastor or preacher? 

I must confess that this is not my favorite book. It's tough to get through, but it is causing me much discomfort as well, and I think maybe that's why it's not my favorite theological text.

I'm glad to think alongside you if you should have any opinions or answers as to how we are doing. I pray you find me doing my best as I pray you are doing your best as the priesthood of believers. 

On to more reading,


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