Christian Relaunch


Clericalism is the belief that some men are entitled to voluntary obedience.

"To the priests the proper place has been appointed, and on Levites their proper services have been imposed. The layman is bound by the ordinances for the laity. Let each one of us, brethren, be well pleasing to God in his own rank."

Clement of Rome, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians 40:5, c.96 CE.

Anticlericalism is the belief that no man is entitled to voluntary obedience.

"Be not called guides, for you have one guide, the anointed one."

Matthew 23:10. (The root sense of kathegetes is guidance.)

Clericalism is the Christianoid form of Cultism.

For a general description of Cultism, visit "No man should encroach" in our Creed and find "Authoritarianism" there.

Clericalists generally invoke either tradition or charisma.

Tradition was invoked by Clement and his successors. Traditionalist Clericalism has usually been Sacramentalist. Sometimes it appeals to Apostolic Succession.

"[The synod, intending that] the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Ecclesia; which ... Christ ... promulgated ... as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the apostles themselves, the holy ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; [the Synod] receives and venerates, with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books both of the old and of the new testament ... as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the holy ghost, and preserved in the catholic ecclesia by a continuous succession."

Council of Trent, Session 4 (1546). This is the earliest extant documentation of the clergy-laity distinction among Christianoids. Clement assumes that the Authoritarianism of the law of Moses was a positive feature of friendship with God, to be maintained in Christianity. In fact, like the rest of that law, it was a concession to "the hardness of their hearts", superseded by Christ.

Charisma was invoked, for instance, by the "Shepherding Movement".

"Let us watch and pray for apostles to be raised up -- they are the gifts of the ascended Christ. Let us recognise and submit to them as they appear, together with all those set apart by God to lead in his church."

John Noble, First Apostles Last Apostles (early 1970's CE).

"Clericalism" originally denoted the Papist clergy's influence on the regime in France before 1789 (and participation in that regime, as epitomised by Cardinal Richelieu). I extend it to cover all Christianoid forms of Cultism.

Clericalism is not always explicit about "clergy" and "laity". The pretension to authority constitutes it, however conveyed. Sometimes it is conveyed by nods and winks and skafliknizophobia (fear of boat-rocking).

The Magisterial Protestants opposed papal Clericalism chiefly because it underpinned Meritorialism.

"There is but one thing that we have to believe, namely, what Scripture teaches."

Martin Luther in the Leipzig Debate (1519). On this point at least (he was selective in the matter) Luther rejected Clericalism; his view on this was later expressed by others in the formula "from scripture alone" (sola scriptura), that became known as "the third sola", or "the formal principle of the Reformation" (sola fide being the material principle). As I understand it, therefore, sola scriptura need not imply scriptural inerrancy, only that we are to grasp the gospel for ourselves, aided by its earliest extant expressions, independently of any privileged experts.

The Radical Protestants went further, opposing Authoritarianism in general.

"Should a shepherd do something worthy of reprimand, nothing shall be done with him without the voice of two or three witnesses. If they sin they shall be publicly reprimanded, so that others might fear."

Michael Sattler and others, Schleitheim Confession, 1527.

Back to "Christian" Authoritarianism.