Pastor President?

A Facebook colleague shared an article that takes issue with a recent article by Bryan Fischer, a radio host for American Family Radio, who argues that the President of the United States is essentially a pastor.  Rather than address the blog my friend linked to,  read Fischer’s article.    It’s definitely worth talking about.  

Fischer uses Romans 13 to argue that leaders are basically ministers.  He pulls on the Greek to support his position, indicating that Paul utilizes the same word in Romans 13 to describe our leaders as he uses in other passages to describe deacons of the church.  With this argument in place, Fischer goes on to claim that holders of public office must be held to Biblical standards for their selection to office.  While he implies any elected official, he seems to be particularly focused on the office of President.  And, as you get towards the end of the article, it seems he’s concerned in particular about one GOP candidate for President, but does not name him.  
First of all, we need to take Romans 13 seriously (as we should all of Scripture).  If we aren’t going to treat it as the Word of God that has rule over our lives so that our opinions and ideas must be altered to conform with it wherever we seem to differ, then there’s no point in even beginning this discussion.  As is often the case, the authority of Scripture is our starting point.  Fischer is taking it seriously.  So so I.  So should you.  But that doesn’t mean we’re all going to wind up with the same conclusions.  Not because there aren’t good and proper conclusions to arrive at, but because we’re all broken and tend to see things in a fractured way, which is why we should look at things together to help make sure we’re on the right track.
Romans 13 is instructive about the nature of public office.  As I pray every Sunday in worship, the power of our elected and appointed officials derives ultimately from God.  It may be expressed through our votes, but there is no power or authority aside from God’s.  Biblical Christians confess that one day, this will be made obvious and clear to everyone.
Fischer’s next move is problematic.  He assumes that because St. Paul uses the same Greek word in Romans 13 that he does in other passages that describe a role in the Church, that this is a logical argument that an elected official is a form of church office.  I am not a Greek scholar by any means, but I’m going to argue that the word in question is used because it refers to the nature of the position, not the essence of the position.  
Diakonos is not a church term.  It is a Greek word that Paul uses in some of his letters, and which the Church has seen fit to maintain as the source for a Church position title – Deacon.  But Paul did not invent the word, nor did the Holy Spirit.  It is not essentially a Christian word.  The word literally means a servant or attendant.  It makes sense that our officials are servants of God – whether or not they know or acknowledge it – since their power comes from him.  Likewise, the position of Deacon in most Christian settings is ultimately a position of service to the Church and to the people of God.  The nature of the word diakonos is that it describes someone who serves, and the context of that service may vary.  One can be a diagnose in a secular setting or in a religious one.  In either setting, the essence of the diakonos is one of service.  The particular nature of that service may vary by context.   
Since Paul was writing about pagan Roman governing authorities, he clearly wasn’t implying that these leaders are held to the same standards as Christians.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5 about this important distinction that routinely confuses Christians and non-Christians alike:  we don’t hold non-Christians to Christian standards, judging them for their failure to conform.  That is not our job.  Of course a non-Christian is not going to live by Christian standards!  
So, a diakonos in public office is not the same thing, essentially, as a diakonos in the Church, even though the same word in ancient Greek can be used to describe them both, since it describes the nature of the position (one of servanthood, even in a position of authority), not it’s essential function.   Clear as mud?
Secondly, Fischer confuses the issue of vocation.  He assumes that since public officials are servants of God, their vocational requirements must be the same.  He ignores the fact that their vocational duties are quite different.  He doesn’t seem to think that our President should be preaching in a Church or baptizing people.  Yet he feels that the same requirements for these tasks should be applied to the President as well.  Problematic.  
Luther’s doctrine of vocation clarifies this muddy mess.  We all serve God, but we serve God in different ways and capacities.  The pastor serves God and mankind in one way.  The President of the United States of America serves God and mankind in a distinctly different one.  Fischer seems to be confusing the idea of a ‘priesthood of all believers’, assuming that we all do essentially the same thing.  Or that we could do the same thing.  Or perhaps even that we should do the same thing.  
This is certainly not Scriptural.  Those who lead God’s people in the service of his Church have one set of vocational requirements.  These requirements are simply reflections of the same rules and norms that all Christians are called to live by.  It’s just that failure in these rules and norms are grounds for second thoughts on calling someone to the Office of Public Ministry.  All people sin, and all sin is equal, but all sin is not treated equally here on earth, and we have to distinguish at times, drawing a line between what can or can’t (or should or shouldn’t, or might or mightn’t) be ‘acceptable’ based on a person’s vocation.
It is helpful to recall that God was quite able to use pagan leaders of the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires to accomplish his ends (the punishment and release of his people).  How does this guide our concerns as we vote?  It makes my head hurt, frankly!
So the President of the United States is not called to the same vocational requirements as the pastor of a congregation.  They should both be fulfilling those requirements – as should we all!  But Paul lays out the requirements in 1 Timothy 3 for a church leader.  The requirements incumbent upon all human beings as creations of God are stated in Exodus 20 and throughout Scripture.  It’s not as though the pastor is called to fulfill these standards and nobody else is.  We are all called to fulfill them.  But a pastor’s vocational role may depend upon being able to do so.  Not necessarily so for other vocations.
Finally, Fischer’s argument regarding marriage as problematic.  He makes the assertion that Paul’s requirements for a minister in 1 Timothy 3 mean one person, married only and always, to one other person of the opposite sex.  And while I readily agree with the first and third conditions, the middle one – which is Fischer’s main point – is hardly a slam-dunk from the text.  But that gets us far afield, very quickly, so I’ll not pursue that further in this post.  
In summary, Fischer is mistaken on the issue of vocation and on how
to draw conclusions based on specific words.  Just as Paul was not urging the Roman Christians to revolt in favor of a Christian emperor, so we are not being enjoined by Romans 13 to only acknowledge or elect Christian rulers.  The much harder teaching going on in Romans 13 is that our obedience is not solely based on the faith of our rulers.  Just as the Roman Christians, we must be prepared to be obedient unto death, sort of like Jesus, oddly enough, if our faith clashes with our ruling authorities.  It doesn’t mean that our faith is wrong, it just means that our faith has become incredibly more difficult.
More thoughts?

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