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The universal priesthood or the priesthood of all believers is a concept in some branches of Christianity which denies the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Derived from the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale, it became prominent as a tenet of Protestant Christian doctrine, and the exact meaning of the belief and its implications vary widely among denominations.
Martin Luther, was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.
William Tyndale was an English scholar who became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known for his (incomplete) translation of the Bible into English.
Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.
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The universal priesthood is a foundational concept of Protestantism.While Martin Luther did not use the exact phrase "priesthood of all believers", he adduces a general priesthood in Christendom in his 1520 To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation in order to dismiss the medieval view that Christians in the present life were to be divided into two classes: "spiritual" and "secular". He put forward the doctrine that all baptized Christians are "priests" and "spiritual" in the sight of God:
To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation is the first of three tracts written by Martin Luther in 1520. In this work, he defined for the first time the signature doctrines of the priesthood of all believers and the two kingdoms. The work was written in the vernacular language German and not in Latin.
Secularity is the state of being separate from religion, or of not being exclusively allied with or against any particular religion. Historically, the word secular was not related or linked to religion, but was a freestanding term in Latin which would relate to any mundane endeavour. However, the term, saecula saeculorum as found in the New Testament in the Vulgate translation of the original Koine Greek phrase "εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων", e.g. at Galatians 1:5, was used in the early Christian church, in the doxologies, to denote the coming and going of the ages, the grant of eternal life, and the long duration of created things from their beginning to forever and ever. The idea of a dichotomy between religion and the secular originated in the European Enlightenment. Furthermore, since religion and secular are both Western concepts that were formed under the influence of Christian theology, other cultures do not necessarily have words or concepts that resemble or are equivalent to them. In many cultures, "little conceptual or practical distinction is made between 'natural' and 'supernatural' phenomena" and the very notions of religious and nonreligious dissolve into unimportance, nonexistence, or unawareness, especially since people have beliefs in other supernatural or spiritual things irrespective of belief in God or gods.
Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.
That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, "You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom," and Revelation [5:10], "Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings."
Two months later Luther would write in his On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520):
Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church was the second of the three major treatises published by Martin Luther in 1520, coming after the Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation and before On the Freedom of a Christian. It was a theological treatise, and as such was published in Latin as well as German, the language in which the treatises were written.
How then if they are forced to admit that we are all equally priests, as many of us as are baptized, and by this way we truly are; while to them is committed only the Ministry (ministerium) and consented to by us (nostro consensu)? If they recognize this they would know that they have no right to exercise power over us (ius imperii, in what has not been committed to them) except insofar as we may have granted it to them, for thus it says in 1 Peter 2, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a priestly kingdom." In this way we are all priests, as many of us as are Christians. There are indeed priests whom we call ministers. They are chosen from among us, and who do everything in our name. That is a priesthood which is nothing else than the Ministry. Thus 1 Corinthians 4:1: "No one should regard us as anything else than ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God."
The Bible passage considered to be the basis of this belief is the First Epistle of Peter, 2:9:
The First Epistle of Peter, usually referred to simply as First Peter and often written 1 Peter, is a book of the New Testament. The author presents himself as Peter the Apostle, and, following Roman Catholic tradition, the epistle has been held to have been written during his time as Bishop of Rome or Bishop of Antioch, though neither title is used in the epistle. The text of the letter states that it was written from Babylon. The letter is addressed to various churches in Asia Minor suffering religious persecution.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
(This New Living Translation version reflects the Protestant view, as the universal "royal priesthood" from the Bible Luther cites above has been changed to individual "royal priests".)
Other relevant Scripture passages include Exodus 19:5–6, First Peter 2:4–8, Book of Revelation 1:4–6, 5:6–10, 20:6 and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
In ancient Israel, priests acted as mediators between God and people. They ministered according to God's instruction and they offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. Once a year, the high priest would enter the holiest part of the temple and offer a sacrifice for the sins of all the people, including all the priests.
Although many religions use priests, most Protestant faiths reject the idea of a priesthood as a group that is spiritually distinct from lay people. They typically employ professional clergy who perform many of the same functions as priests such as clarifying doctrine, administering communion, performing baptisms, marriages, etc. In many instances, Protestants see professional clergy as servants acting on behalf of the local believers. This is in contrast to the priest, whom some Protestants see as having a distinct authority and spiritual role different from that of ordinary believers. British Quakers (Society of Friends) and US and African Quakers in some cases, have no priests and no order of service. God can speak through any person present; and any planned service is at risk of getting in God's way; hence the bulk of the observance is in silence.
Most Protestants today recognize only Christ as a mediator between themselves and God (1 Timothy 2:5). The Epistle to the Hebrews calls Jesus the supreme "high priest," who offered himself as a perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 7:23–28). Protestants believe that through Christ they have been given direct access to God, just like a priest; thus the doctrine is called the priesthood of all believers. God is equally accessible to all the faithful, and every Christian has equal potential to minister for God. This doctrine stands in opposition to the concept of a spiritual aristocracy or hierarchy within Christianity.
The belief in the priesthood of all believers does not preclude order, authority or discipline within congregations or denominational organizations. For example, Lutheranism maintains the biblical doctrine of "the preaching office" or the "office of the holy ministry" established by God in the Christian Church. The Augsburg Confession states:
[From Article 4:] Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us ... [From Article 5:] To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel ... [Article 14:] Concerning church government it is taught that no one should publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper [public] call.
The origins of the doctrine within Protestantism are somewhat obscure. The idea was found in a radical form in Lollard thought. Martin Luther adduced it in his writings for the purpose of reforming the Christian Church, and it became a central tenet of Protestantism.
The doctrine is strongly asserted within Methodism and the Plymouth Brethren movement. Within Methodism it can plausibly be linked to the strong emphasis on social action and political involvement within that denomination, and can be seen in the role of Methodist local preachers and lay speakers in Methodist churches. Within the Plymouth Brethren, the concept is most usually evidenced in the lack of distinction between "clergy" and "laity," the refusal to adopt formal titles such as Reverend or Bishop, the denial of formal ordination, and in some cases the refusal to hire any "professional staff" or paid Christian workers at all. Baptist movements, which generally operate on a form of congregational polity, also lean heavily on this concept. The Laestadian pietist movement has a specific interpretation of the doctrine as one of its solemn rites concerning forgiveness of sins.
The vast majority of Protestants nonetheless draw some distinction between their own ordained ministers and lay people. Pastors and ordained ministers are usually regarded as congregational leaders and theologians who are well versed with Christian liturgy, scripture, church teachings and are qualified to lead worship and preach sermons.
Some groups during the Reformation believed that priesthood authority was still needed, but was lost from the earth. Roger Williams believed, "There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking." Another group, the Seekers, believed that the Roman Catholic Church had lost its authority through corruption and waited for Christ to restore his true church and authority.
Luther's doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers gave laypersons and the clergy equal rights and responsibilities. It had strong, far-reaching consequences both within the Protestant churches and outside of them with respect to the development of distinct political and societal structures.
Luther had the intention to organize the church in such a way as to give the members of a congregation the right to elect a pastor by majority-decision and, if necessary, to dismiss him again.The Lutheran church would get an institutional framework based on the majoritarian principle, the central characteristic of democracy. But mainly due to the strong political and military pressure from the Catholic powers, the developing Lutheran churches in the German territories had to seek the protection of their worldly rulers who turned them into state churches. In the Scandinavian countries, Lutheran state churches were established, too.
Calvin put Luther's intended democratic church polity into effect. The church members elected lay elders from their midst who together with pastors, teachers, and deacons, who were also elected by the parishioners, formed the representative church leadership. To this presbyterian polity, the Huguenots added regional synods and a national synod, whose members, laymen and clergymen alike, were elected by the parishioners as well. This combination of presbyteries and synods was taken over by all Reformed churches, except the Congregationalists, who had no synods.
The Separatist Congregationalists (Pilgrim Fathers) who founded Plymouth Colony in North America in 1620 took the next step in evolving the consequences of Luther's universal priesthood doctrine by combining it with the Federal theology that had been developed by Calvinist theologians, especially Robert Browne, Henry Barrowe, and John Greenwood. On the basis of the Mayflower Compact, a social contract, the Pilgrims applied the principles that guided their congregational democracy also to the administration of the worldly affairs of their community. It was, like Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded by Puritans in 1628, de facto a small democratic, self-governing republic until 1691, when the two colonies were united under a royal governor.Both colonies had a representative political structure and practiced separation of powers. The General Court functioned as the legislative and the judiciary, the annually elected governor and his assistants were the executive branch of government. These Protestants believed that democracy was the will of God. In so doing, they followed Calvin, who had, in order to safeguard the rights and liberties of ordinary people, praised the advantages of democracy and recommended that political power should be distributed among several institutions to minimise its misuse. He had, in effect, advocated separation of powers.
In Rhode Island (1636), Connecticut (1636), and Pennsylvania (1682), Baptist Roger Williams, Congregationalist Thomas Hooker, and Quaker William Penn, respectively, gave the democratic concept another turn by linking it with religious freedom, a basic human right that had its origin also in Luther's theology. In his view, faith in Jesus Christ was the free gift of the Holy Spirit and could therefore not be forced on a person.Williams, Hooker, and Penn adopted Luther's position. Precondition for granting freedom of conscience in their colonies was the separation of state and church. This had been made possible by Luther's separation of the spiritual and the worldly spheres in his doctrine of the two kingdoms. The inseparable combination of democracy with its civil rights on the one hand and religious freedom and other human rights on the other hand became the backbone of the American Declaration of Independence (1776), Constitution, and Bill of Rights. In turn, these documents became models for the constitutions of nations in Europe, Latin America, and other parts of the world, e.g., Japan and South Korea. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) was mainly based on the draft of Marquis de Lafayette, an ardent supporter of the American constitutional principles. These are also echoed in the United Nations Charter and Declaration of Human Rights.
When Lutherans from Germany and Scandinavia emigrated to North America, they took over the church polity based on presbyteries and synods which had been developed by the denominations with Calvinist traditions (for example, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod).In Germany, Lutheran churches established the first presbyteries in the second half of the nineteenth century and, after the downfall of the monarchies in 1918, synods were formed which assumed the task of leading the churches. They are made up of both laypersons and clergy. Since 1919, the Anglican church has also had a synod (National Assembly), which has elected laypersons among its members.
A practical example of the priesthood of all believers may be found in modern Anabaptist churches, such as the Amish, Bruderhof and Hutterites. While these groups appoint leaders, it is held that all members are responsible for the functioning of the church and church meetings. For example, at the Bruderhof, meetings are held with members sitting in a circle, breaking down the tradition of "preacher" and "congregation".
Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and traditional Anglican Christians traditionally believe that 1 Peter 2:9 gives responsibility to all believers for the preservation and propagation of the Gospel and the Church, as distinct from the liturgical and sacramental roles of the ordained priesthood and consecrated episcopate (see apostolic succession). They and other Christians also see the ministerial priesthood as being necessary in accordance with the words of the eucharistic liturgy: "Do this in memory (anamnesis) of me" (Gospel of Luke 22:19–20; First Corinthians 11:23–25).
The dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council specifically highlights the priesthood of all believers. It teaches that the Church's relationship with God is independent of whatever ordination people have received, as evidenced by the guidelines and rubrics for personal prayer when no priest is present. Such Churches have always taught implicitly that a Christian's personal relationship with God is independent of whatever ordination they have received.
Thus, the Catholic Church accepts the 'priesthood of all believers' doctrine – it is not the exclusive domain of Protestantism. This is exemplified in 'chaplet of divine mercy' prayer, in which the individual Christian declares: "Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins..." The primary difference between the teachings of the Catholic Church and those of the (non-Anglican) Protestant churches that reject the ordained priesthood is that the Catholic Church believes in three different types of priests:
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Much of the doctrinal dispute on this matter is caused by the difference between the Greek words ἱερεύς (hiereus meaning "sacred one"; represented in Latin by the word sacerdos) and πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros meaning "one with elderhood"), which are usually both translated in English with the word "priest". The former term refers to the sacrificial ritual leaders of Judaism, the kohanim (כֹּהֲנִים), and to those holding the office of conducting sacrifices in ancient pagan temples, whereas the latter term refers to an acknowledged elder of a community.
The earliest Christianity is not recorded as ever having created an office of hiereus, except to acknowledge Jesus in that role, and as in the Greek of 1 Peter 2:9, to recognize the Church as having it in a collective sense. The New Testament records the role of presbyter or bishop (or episkopos which literally means "overseer") in the earliest Christian churches as the role ordained by the Apostles to the earliest acknowledged leaders of the Church. Saying that all Christians are a "sacred one" (i.e. hiereus) is not to say that each Christian is "one with elderhood" (i.e. presbyteros).
Catholicism often expresses the idea of the priesthood of all baptized Christians in English as the "common" or "universal" priesthood;in parallel, it refers to Catholic clergy as the "ministerial" priesthood. It defends this distinction with the original language of scripture . The Catholic Church holds that the consecration of the eucharist and absolution from sin may only be validly performed by ministerial priests with true apostolic succession . The Orthodox hold a very similar view.
Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.
Called to Common Mission (CCM) is an agreement between The Episcopal Church (ECUSA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in the United States, establishing full communion between them. It was ratified by the ELCA in 1999, the ECUSA in 2000, after the narrow failure of a previous agreement. Its principal author on the Episcopal side was theological professor J. Robert Wright. Under the agreement, they recognize the validity of each other's baptisms and ordinations. The agreement provided that the ELCA would accept the historical episcopate and the "threefold ministry" of Bishop - Priest - Deacon with respect to ministers of communicant churches serving ELCA congregations. This provision was opposed by some in the ELCA, which after its founding merger in 1988, held a lengthy study of the ministry which was undertaken with divided opinions. In response to concerns about the meaning of the CCM, synod bishops in the ELCA drafted the Tucson resolution which presented the official ELCA position. It made clear that there is no requirement to ordain deacons or accept their ministry. It also provided assurance that the ELCA did not and was not required by CCM to change its own theological stance.
In the Christian churches, holy orders are ordained ministries such as bishop, priest, or deacon, and the sacrament or rite by which candidates are ordained to those orders. Churches recognizing these orders include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Assyrian, Old Catholic, Independent Catholic and some Lutheran churches. Except for Lutherans and some Anglicans, these churches regard ordination as a sacrament. The Anglo-Catholic tradition within Anglicanism identifies more with the Roman Catholic position about the sacramental nature of ordination.
Sola Scriptura is a theological doctrine held by some Christian denominations that the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.
In Western Christian theology, grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it", "Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.
The five solae of the Protestant Reformation are a foundational set of principles held by theologians and clergy to be central to the doctrine of salvation as taught by the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestantism. Each sola represents a key belief in the Lutheran and Reformed traditions in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. These Reformers claimed that the Catholic Church, especially its head, the Pope, had usurped divine attributes or qualities for the Church and its hierarchy.
In Christian theology, justification is God's act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice.
Sacerdotalism is the belief that propitiatory sacrifices for sin require the intervention of a priest. This system of priesthood is exemplified by the Aaronic priests in the Old Testament.
Catholicity or catholicism is a concept that encompasses the beliefs and practices of numerous Christian denominations, most notably those that describe themselves as Catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed of the First Council of Constantinople in 381: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."
The theology of Martin Luther was instrumental in influencing the Protestant Reformation, specifically topics dealing with Justification by Faith, the relationship between the Law and the Gospel, and various other theological ideas. Although Luther never wrote a "systematic theology" or a "summa" in the style of St. Thomas Aquinas, many of his ideas were systematized in the Lutheran Confessions.
The priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church, comprising the ordained priests or presbyters. The other two orders are the bishops and the deacons. Only men are allowed to receive holy orders, and the church does not allow any transgender people to do so. Church doctrine also sometimes refers to all baptised Catholics as the "common priesthood".
The Evangelical Protestant Church (GCEPC),The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church (LEPC) is a mainline Protestant denomination under the General Conference of Evangelical Protestant Churches headquartered in Cayce-West Columbia, South Carolina, USA.
The Four Marks of the Church, also known as the Attributes of the Church, is a term describing four distinctive adjectives—"one, holy, catholic and apostolic"—of traditional Christian ecclesiology as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed completed at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." This ecumenical creed is today recited in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Church of the East, the Moravian Church, the Lutheran Churches, the Methodist Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, the Anglican Communion and by members of many Reformed Churches.
The Augustana Catholic Church (ACC), formerly the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church (ALCC) and the Evangelical Community Church-Lutheran (ECCL), is an American church in the Lutheran Evangelical Catholic tradition. The ACC says it is unique among Lutheran churches in that it is of both Lutheran and Anglo-Catholic heritage and has also been significantly influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. The church was founded in 1997 by former members of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Its headquarters are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The ACC has long had a policy of seeking union with the Catholic Church and announced in 2011 that it would accept the conditions of Anglicanorum coetibus and join the personal ordinariates as they are established. Later developments on limitations of joining the ordinariate caused the ACC to hold their offer while they established intercommunion with groups such as the Old Roman Catholic Church of North America. The Church claims a membership in excess of 60,000 in 12 countries.
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.
A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a means by which God enacts his grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.
Although the Reformation was a religious movement, it also had a strong impact on all other aspects of life: marriage and family, education, the humanities and sciences, the political and social order, the economy, and the arts.
Criticism of Protestantism covers critiques and questions raised about Protestantism, the Christian tradition which arose out of the Reformation. While critics praise Protestantism's Christ-centered and Bible-centered faith, Protestantism is faced with criticism mainly from the Catholic Church and some Orthodox Churches, although Protestant denominations have also engaged in self-critique and criticized one another.