Priests, prophets, and kings

Dividuals finds this revealing bit of history:

[Tony] Benn’s mother, Margaret Wedgwood Benn (née Holmes, 1897–1991), was a theologian, feminist and the founder President of the Congregational Federation. She was a member of the League of the Church Militant, which was the predecessor of theMovement for the Ordination of Women; in 1925, she was rebuked by Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for advocating the ordination of women. His mother’s theology had a profound influence on Benn, as she taught him that the stories in the Bible were based around the struggle between the prophets and the kings and that he ought in his life to support the prophets over the kings, who had power, as the prophets taught righteousness.

Dividuals comments

This. Is. Perfect.

I mean, perfect as an example. It is not even about what the actual political ideas or issues are: it is simply that prophets should defeat kings and rule over them, because prophets are righteous and kings are not.  Leftism/liberalism in a nutshell. It is not about ideas. It is about one side, the righteous one, ruling over the other.

Every side necessarily thinks justice is on its side, but I agree that self-righteousness does seem to be a distinct trait of Leftism.

I dislike prophets, even the ones in the Bible.  As I once wrote at the Orthosphere

In other words, prophets are the ones who get to contradict Moses…in fact everybody says that the Old Testament has contradictions, but they’re not bothered by it because they have a rule for resolving them:  prophets trump Moses.

I do have a problem with this, not least because Benedict’s rationalizations for Isaiah et al are so close to those used by sodomy advocates in the Church today…

In some ways the Prophets do anticipate Jesus, but in others the path to Christ is quicker directly through Moses.  A big message of the prophet Ezekiel is personal responsibility–God doesn’t punish people for their ancestors’ sins, and he doesn’t impute anybody’s righteousness to anybody else.  But the point of Christianity is that mankind is punished for the sin of our first parents, and our redemption comes not from our own righteousness but from Jesus Christ’s imputed to us.  To understand this, one is better off starting from Exodus’ punishment of children “to the third and fourth generation”; Ezekiel is something one must get over.  Similarly, everybody likes to admire Isaiah for the scorn he pours out on sacrifice-offering Israelites, saying that God wants justice and good works instead.  How spiritual!  How enlightened!  But the point of Christianity is that we’re not saved by good works, but by a substitutionary sacrifice, and to understand the economy of sacrifice, one is better off reading Leviticus.

More could be said to question this idea of progression in the Old Testament.  It seems clear to me that the Mosaic books have a better sense of symbolism, of spiritual realities apprehended in images rather than intellectual abstractions.  Compare the rich symbolism of the first chapter of Genesis to Ezekiel making a spectacle of himself swinging his sword at his beard clippings…

I prefer a horizontal view of the Old Testament.  Both law and prophets point to the New Testament, both from a roughly equal distance…Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets but could also be said to overcome them, both to an equal degree.  Observance of the Law and prophetic alienation are both obsolete in the New Covenant.  One might say that the Law and prophets form a thesis and antithesis, with Christianity as the synthesis that harmonizes them and supplies what is missing from both.

In fact, I was not being entirely honest in that post.  I disagree with the standard idea that the prophets are spiritually superior to the Mosaic/priestly part of the Old Testament, not because I think the two are actually of equal value, but because I think priestly religion is superior and prophesy is a spiritual deformation.  Christianity fulfills priesthood by building the Church around a perfect sacrifice.  It abolishes prophesy by eliminating the incompletenesses of the Old Covenant which were the only justification for prophetic alienation.

Now, if a “prophetic” role just means speaking God’s law to an errant world, no one could object to it.  Officially, that’s what the Church’s “prophetic” role is supposed to mean.  But notice that this is not how the word is used.  A priest who thinks he is being prophetic is always up to some sort of mischief.  Nobody calls the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage “prophetic” although that fits the definition better than anything the Church says on immigration, health care, or the death penalty, issues where prelates just regurgitate the positions of the Leftist establishment.  One is reminded of the irony of using a narrow definition of “conservatism” to call defenders of Soviet communism “conservatives”.  People tried to do it, but it was always obvious that this was a mistake; it came from using a definition that didn’t correspond to the word’s “real” meaning.

Kings rule.  They maintain the order of the social world.  Priests sanctify the world.  They put the order of the world in a context of eternity.  Prophets are destructive.  They make a conflict between the natural, human world and the supernatural realm.  At best, they are symptoms of problems for kings and priests to solve.

8 Responses

  1. I don’t think you’re being fair to the OT prophets as a whole, here. The general pattern is that the prophets sent to Israel call on the nation to reject the false gods they are prone to worshipping and the false priests and altars that their wicked kings have set up for them in lieu of the true priests at the temple in Jerusalem, while the prophets sent to Judah call on that nation (which has the true temple cult and the true Davidic royal family) to stop oppressing the poor and other crimes of that nature. There didn’t seem to be any obvious emnity between Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor.

    One must also account for the fact that it probably wasn’t obvious to everyone during the OT period who the real prophets were – the kings retained court “prophets” that were mostly pollyannas that blew smoke up their rear ends, but at the same time we have Nathan who was a court prophet but undeniably real. I think these court prophets (or maybe the prophets of Baal and Asher!) are the best match for the “prophets” in our midst today who want to contradict the actual teachings and practice of Christ and His church.

  2. “‘Yet in two ways may a man come with evil tidings. He may be a worker of evil; or he may be such as leaves well alone, and comes only to bring aid in time of need.’ “

  3. @Bonald – I think the question is what is needed for the West here and now in our situation (of corruption of both church and state) – and the answer is prophets, not priests, nor kings (preists and Kings are not doing the job – here and now they are the problem, not the solution) – in the sense of Men inspired by God to interpet his word for a particular time and place. Surely, in all but name, the Pope may be a prophet? And should be – if possible. A true prophet is not, and need not be, perfect nor anything like perfect (David, who we know a lot about, for example) but what he does overall is what most needs doing.

  4. I think the prophet reminds people of what the point of the priests’ and kings’ offices are, when that point seems to be missed.

    God obviously established the sacrifices; yet what He wants, truly, is righteousness. The prophets are pointing out that the sacrifices should be sanctifying the people, not simply be dead rites without power. Yet, compared to the Reality of which they were types, they seemed powerless indeed. What did the Jews profit, from their sacrifices and law? They remained an adulterous and supremely iniquitous people.

    Hence St. Paul, in Hebrews, expresses the Christian fulfilment of both the sacrifice and the prophetic exhortation. This is probably best expressed in the 10th chapter of his letter to the Hebrews. There, both strains of the Old Testament are perfectly fulfilled: the Law and the sacrifices were not able to produce in the people, the holiness and justice that God desired; but Christ, making war upon our estrangement, abolishing the law of sin and making of Himself a perfect sacrifice, has infused in the hearts of the faithful the fullness of the supernatural life and its virtues. In Christ’s Sacrifice alone, has the Victim produced what God desired: real sanctity in the partakers Thereof.

  5. Regarding the liberal prophets’ campaigning for the abolition of capital punishment, including some recent popes, they would do well to remember that we are all blessed that the Romans of Our Lord’s time didn’t subscribe to the notion.

  6. You’re being unfair to the prophets. They were sent by God so you should not speak ill of them.

    The prophets never told people not to observe the Mosaic law, indeed they often called the Jews out on their many violations of it.

    The leftists of today are more like anti-prophets, calling people to abandon the proper the order of things, rather than abandon their false ways.

  7. “In every man sleeps a prophet, and when he wakes there is a little more evil in the world.” — Emil Cioran

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