Some believe that it is still okay to call men fathers in the ecclesiastical setting because it seems God wants to only primarily “warn men against…recognising…the fatherhood of men as to forget the Fatherhood of God.” (1) However, there is still danger in calling a man a spiritual father because a spiritual leader cannot “father” our spirits, only God can. God literally fathered our spirit. (2) “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are God’s children.” (3) In other words, God, not man, fathers God’s children. If we call a man our spiritual father, we come dangerously close to implying that a man—who is no different than us—has authority, superiority, or command over our spirits.
No matter how much we respect who we believe to be spiritual leaders, we aren’t supposed to call them our spiritual fathers. Calling a religious leader a father takes away the glory and honor due to the Almighty God. God is our Father, and His name is special, sacred, and set apart. (4) Since God is our religious Father, no one deserves similar praise, honor, or glory. Also, Jesus says “call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven.” (5) In other words, we shouldn’t see any human as a spiritual Father or call them as such. Sometimes, spiritual leaders are necessary, but we should see them as “servants” instead of fathers (6). When we see a spiritual leader as a servant, whom he or she serves (God) then becomes the proper focus.
(1) Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
(2) Genesis 2:7
(3) Romans 8:14
(4) Matthew 6:3
(5) Matthew 23:9
(6) Matthew 23:11