Against Clericalism through the Priesthood of Jesus Christ

Clericalism ought to be anathema. Whether that be Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, there is no High Priest save Jesus Christ. And yet, whether it be cult of personality, cult of Rome, cult of Alexandria, whatever iteration of the church we might be looking at, clericalism and its elevation of certain people as “authorities” in the church is present. A major premise of the Protestant Reformation was that clericalism goes immediately awry insofar that said clerics are merely human, and fallen human to boot. What God always already knew was that if the church was going to obtain, it would first have to obtain in His free choice to be one with and for us in Jesus Christ. With Him as the anchor of the church, of our souls, no matter what happens, no matter what inner or outer forces attempt to thwart His church, it shan’t prevail since He, Himself, the Theanthropos is the very ground and esse of His church; indeed as that has taken formation, and continuously does as event, in the glorified and vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ.

Tom Greggs offers a good word contra clericalism as he cites Blumhardt:

In the Reformation time a cry for this Zion arose in Luther’s soul. He sought a people freely surrendered to God’s grace, without self-righteous works, and in this he was right. But what must we say? The clerical element still muddied up the stream of the Reformation. Too many human beings wanted to rule. But Zion is not like this. God’s Zion is the fellowship of where Christ rules.[1]

The author to the Hebrews gets into this matter in the following way:

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,

“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”;

just as He says also in another passage,

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.[2]

The old was merely a type, gaining any reality it had from its antitype. Christ’s priesthood, of the Melchizedekian order was archetypal priesthood, such that the Aaronic and Levitic priests were given priesthood only insofar as their priesthood gave way to its reality in Christ’s.

On analogy, this remains the reality. When ecclesial structures re-iterate what has already and finally been iterated in the office of Christ’s eternal priesthood, these are bad ecclesial structures (just as any tradition that nullifies the Word of God is bad tradition). The reduction, as Blumhardt rightly points out, with reference to Luther, is that either ‘Christ rules’ His church, or hirelings do, as they attempt to supplant and impose themselves, and their sense of self-authority and importance on the body of the risen Christ. Semper Reformanda


[1] Blumhardt, Action in Waiting, 82 cited by Tom Greggs, Dogmatic Ecclesiology: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church: Volume One (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2019), 161.

[2] Hebrews 5:1-10, NASB95.

3 thoughts on “Against Clericalism through the Priesthood of Jesus Christ

  1. I set out a theses some years ago: “The Bible is true, and the institutional church is a fraud”. I backed it up on video from Scripture, but for some reason not one in the institutional church is willing to engage me on that. What has become clear is that if someone comes to the same conclusion I have, we can abandon the institution, but NOT abandon the people. James 1:27 has become my focus. My life is not to sit in front of an authority behind a pulpit, but to visit the widow down the street. She is worth my time.


  2. John, that’s too extreme, and not what I’m saying. Christ established pastors/teachers for His Church. Just because some abuse that position doesn’t mean you walk away from the whole thing.


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