Is There a Doctor in the House?

A recent internet article degenerated when one of the posters called a well-known and much loved professor by his first name. Some who know the professor personally took offense that someone would have the audacity to call an esteemed professor by his first name. Really, has it come to this? I do not know the professor in question well although I have met him on several occasions and always called him Dr. ___ out of respect.  I’m not sure the professor himself really cares that much what people call him. more


It just seemed odd to me that some considered it disrespectful to refer to the man by his first name.  People have at times asked me what to call me. I confess I like the sound of Dr. Davis. Has a nice ring to it. Where I work in prison on my day job and as a volunteer chaplain at a major Philadelphia hospital expecting/hoping  to be called doctor would be confusing to patients and personnel alike. Most people mostly call me Steve, Pastor Steve, Brother Steve or Chaplain Davis (has a nice sound to it).  I probably get called some other things but not to my face. And when asked if I’m a doctor I reply that I am but not the kind that can help them in the way they think they need help.


Respect is not found in or conferred by a title. Concern for what people call us focuses on ourselves and our image.  Concern for how we address others shows respect whether we use titles or not. I have no problem using Dr. ____ with men older than me who have earned their doctorate and have made significant contributions. If I am then invited to use the first name then I will do so although with some people Dr. ____ seems right. When I studied under Paul Hiebert and David Hesselgrave  I couldn’t bring myself to call them Paul and Dave. But I do get a little annoyed when men with “conferred” doctorates introduce themselves as such, have their business cards, web site, and letterheads emblazoned with Dr. ____and want others to call them Dr. In most of those cases I can’t spit “Dr.” out.


What’s the point and does the gospel speak to this? Jesus said “call no man your father” (Matt. 23:9) and I’ve often heard that inveighed against those using “Father” as a title (although I get called that often at the hospital :-)).  He also said “neither be called instructors” (v.10) all in a context of serving and humbling oneself contrasted with the Pharisees who loved “being called ‘rabbi’ by others.”  No matter how hard I try to have people call me Steve, some are not comfortable with that and at some point you let it go. Yet in gospel community titles shouldn’t matter, shouldn’t be demanded by others, shouldn’t bend people out of shape, and if offered should be done so voluntarily. And the reason Jesus gives is that we “are all brothers” (v. 8).


Further, while we respect the biblical admonition to give honor and tribute to those to whom it is due, we also recognize that the gospel brings us into union with Christ and with other believers. In this union there is one head, Christ, and many family members. We are enamored only with Christ, recognizing that whatever giftedness or role we have in the body that distinguishes us, is His gracious gift. So, though we can appreciate the diversity of gifts, we never elevate the possessor of those gifts, and we worship the Giver of those gifts. The gospel prevents us from ever being caught up in our own importance and from being diminished by a distorted view of the importance of others. The gospel brings us to our knees together on level ground at the foot of the cross singing, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain."




One Response to “Is There a Doctor in the House?”

  1. Amen. When calling someone by his own name becomes a problem, you can bet there are some serious issues going on underneath.

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