Thursday’s Podcast: The Common Priesthood for the Common Good

18th c. Moravian illustration of receiving new brothers
18th century illustration of new brothers joining a Moravian fellowship – Moravian Archives

Like earlier Pietists, Mark and I tend to feel like what we have to suggest isn’t all that new. This episode — like the one before it — we revisited an idea from the Protestant Reformation. Last time, it was sola Scriptura; this week, the common priesthood. (And yes, we talked about why we’re using that version of the ideal, instead of “priesthood of all believers” or other formulations.)

Every Christian is bound not only to offer himself and what he has, his prayer, thanksgiving, good works, alms, etc., but also industriously to study in the Word of the Lord, with the grace that is given him to teach others… to chastise, exhort, convert, and edify them, to observe their life, pray for all, and insofar as possible be concerned about their salvation. (Philipp Spener)

But while I couldn’t hide my delight at talking history for a while, this was mostly a contemporary conversation, as we considered what hinders the expression of anything like a common priesthood in many churches today. (One culprit: Americans acting in church, as so many other places, as consumers.) Most importantly, we suggested that “priesthood” has to do both with one’s experience of God and one’s service to others, and linked the common priesthood to the notion of the common good.

In this vein, I again floated Dale Brown’s idea that Pietist cultural engagement is best understood in terms of Christ the servant of culture, rather than the other five types proposed by Richard Niebuhr. Still not sure this works…

Please feel free to share a comment on that idea, or anything else from the episode, below. As always, you can find The Pietist Schoolman Podcast on iTunes. (Another place you can share your opinion — we could use a few more reviews there…)

Further reading:

Cross-posted at The Christian Humanist

3 thoughts on “Thursday’s Podcast: The Common Priesthood for the Common Good

  1. I like the idea of “Christ the servant of culture.” It allows space to be a force for good in the difficult environment that our culture exists in without being high and mighty. I am wondering a little bit about the connotations of the term, however, in that servants are generally silent or at least obedient. It seems that there is a possibility of running into trouble through failing to speak or act in certain volatile situations if we take the “servant” posture too far. The courageous servant may be needed!

    1. Thanks for the helpful feedback, Stephen! I’ll be writing that chapter in July or August, so this gives me some time to come up with a more complicated metaphor: I think you’re right about the connotations of silence…

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