Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The objection from Paul as Pharisee Pt. 1

Here is a comment I made at Suzie's Blog (Apostle of Revelation 12) where she has a series of posts about Paul's supposed Pharisaism. I wasn't going to post this, just hold onto it, but her answer is such a masterpiece of presumptuously using one part of scripture against another I think I'll post it after all. (Actually, there is SO much weirdness at that blog the head covering is the least of it).

Those who oppose the head covering on supposedly scriptural grounds (hair length, culture-bound symbols for headship or femininity) aren't really any better than Suzie at respecting scripture as it takes a fair amount of twisting to arrive at their interpretations also.

One thing I could say in favor of her argument for my purposes here is that she does not dispute that the passage does require a literal cloth head covering, which she then goes on to dismiss by claiming Paul was reverting to legalism in requiring it -- requiring something physical. Of course long hair is also physical and in fact any token that might meet the cultural requirement would also have to be physical. Those who claim the covering implies an interchangeable cultural symbol -- of headship or femininity -- also don't deny that it really is a literal cloth covering Paul had in mind.

There's no end to the cleverness possible in doing away with it, but surely it ought to be clear just WHAT we're doing away with -- a literal cloth head covering.

So on to the blog exchange:
Faith said...If you think only nuns ever covered their heads you are out of touch with history (not to mention that you are out of touch with Paul, scripture and the Holy Spirit if you make Paul the source of convent life).

There are drawings on the walls of the catacombs of Rome (where early Christians hid from the Roman persecutions) illustrating women praying in standing position with upraised arms with a large piece of cloth draped over their heads.

Then Tertullian in the 2nd or 3rd century or so wrote objecting to the flimsy little pieces of cloth so many women put on their heads in the various churches, saying that did not meet the requirement of 1 Cor 11:2-16, but commended the Corinthian church of his time, the church to whom Paul had addressed that teaching a century or two earlier, for their women wearing the right sort of covering, something substantial that really did cover the head.

It was taken to excess --perhaps-- when women began covering their heads at all times in the West, at least when out in public, but often at home as well -- those little lacy frilled white caps of the 18th century for instance -- which you can see in paintings down through the centuries and in many costume film productions. This WAS done in obedience to Paul's directive -- meaning that is how the churches of Christendom ALL understood that passage up until very recent times.

If you think this is merely a Catholic thing, think again. The many Bible-believing proto-Protestant groups that separated themselves from the Catholic church, such as the Waldensians who had to go into hiding in the mountains and were still hunted down and killed from time to time down through the centuries, were very strict about the head covering based on their own reading of the Bible in reaction against the Catholic suppression of the Bible. Calvin read the passage in the same way. Many Pietist groups that split off from the Protestant Reformation through genuine Spirit-led Revival required that the women be covered. The "babushka" or scarf some elderly women still wear in rural Russia derives from this Bible-based practice.

You are arguing from a very modern Western and apparently feminist point of view. But then of course perhaps you are the only one in the churches who ever gets anything right?
AUGUST 2, 2011 9:31 PM
(You can read her post that I am answering at the link above). She answers:
Suzie Q said...
Respectfully, regarding head coverings, you miss the whole point. When people are in the flesh, they see things according to the flesh and focus upon this world and the flesh. We are complete in Christ.

You see, it is natural minded to think that we need a "physical covering". The Holy Spirit is upon our heads today. When people are carnal, they want something physical.
No, I didn't miss the point. By sketching out the history of its acceptance by the church through the centuries, including those who were persecuted for their faith and others obviously Spirit-led I would have expected to pre-empt such a presumption as to continue to argue that the head covering is a "natural-minded" or carnal concept, but Suzie doesn't mind accusing all Christians of this, starting with Paul who gave five arguments for it which had nothing to do with "want[ing] something physical."

It was Paul who wrote most pointedly about the conflicts between law and grace and flesh and spirit, yet Suzie is not above accusing him of reverting to his Pharisaic past and forgetting the very teachings for which he is best known, which among other things inspired Luther and began the Protestant Reformation.

The rule that we are to submit to scripture and not judge scripture (about which she even quoted Augustine at one point) doesn't stop her from putting her own judgment of what is carnal/fleshly above Paul's. If Paul advocated a literal physical head covering, the true humble biblical interpretation is that HE did not regard it as a carnal concern contradicting grace, therefore we are also to understand it as compatible with grace.

As Watchman Nee put it,
We must not frustrate God's government by God's grace.
The head covering is a creation ordinance which applies to all of us, relating to the creation of Adam before Eve, and recognizing it is a matter of orderly government while we are on this earth, it is not part of the Mosaic Law. Paul presents it as required by the creation of man and woman with man as head over the woman, Marriage as the permanent uniting of two (of the opposite sex of course) into one flesh is another creation ordinance. This didn't cease with the New Testament.

Had Paul made such an error as Suzie suggests, the Holy Spirit would have led him to recognize it eventually and correct it, and that would have been reported in scripture just as Peter's bondage to the Old Testament food laws was reported as corrected by a vision from God. Scripture is God's word. It records human errors but it doesn't leave such errors uncorrected where they could become the basis for Christian teachings down the centuries.
Take for example the matter of circumcision. Circumcision of the foreskin is a representation of the cutting away of the sinful nature.
Yes, it is, and Paul taught on that as well as the head covering. Paul saw no contradiction. You are at fault for making one up.
Colossians 2:10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
In requiring circumcision, ppl were missing the whole point. We are circumcised in our hearts in Christ through the putting off of the physical body. We have been made a new creation. We are spirit not flesh.

Physical circumcision of the OT was a sign and seal of what was to come in Christ.
Colossians 2:16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Everything that pertains to the OT and pertains to the physical representations of what was to come -- is found in reality in Christ.

Just as circumcision was a shadow of things to come, the reality is found in Christ. We are complete in Christ. The sign and seal of physical circumcision was a representation of the cutting away of the physical body which is wrought in salvation in Christ.

In Christ, the body is literally put to death and we are raised with Jesus in newness of life. We are born of the Spirit and are spirit not flesh.
Christians know this, there is no need to quote it at such length. The point is that there is no contradiction here with the head covering although you insist that there is. If there were Paul would have eventually recognized it and so would the Church down the centuries, but instead we find Paul insisting upon it as apostolic practice in all the churches (1 Cor 11:16) and no other apostle objecting, while theologians down the centuries have also affirmed it. Apparently Suzie would say they are all carnal, while only she has the Holy Spirit; even Paul himself is carnal according to her although he is the one who hammered out the very concepts she is embracing. The arrogance is breathtaking really.
This is the principle of why it is wrong to require males to be circumcised. In requiring males to be circumcised, one is turning away from the spiritual reality of what has been done in Christ at the spiritual level. One is actually denying the reality of salvation having been occurred, having lost contact with the Head -- having lost sight of the spiritual reality that is in Christ in salvation... that we have become a new creation, holy, blameless in Him.
NOBODY has a problem with this concept, Suzie. Luther elaborated it at great length in his study of Galatians for one thing. But Luther had no problem with the head covering. Oh, I guess he was carnal too even though he was such a great expositor of grace.
It is the same exact principle as applied to head coverings. Head coverings in the OT may have been a representation of something. However, we are complete in Christ. We have put off the body of flesh and have become spirit in Christ. We cannot go back to wearing head coverings, without turning away from the knowledge of the spiritual reality that is found in Christ.
To the extent there is truth in what you are saying it applies to the world to come, but now we are still in this body and still on this earth. There is nothing carnal about the head covering, hard as you are working to make it so. Scripture is so abounding in teachings on grace such a thing would never have escaped.
There were those Christians in the day of Paul who "could not see this" in relation to male circumcision. They believed that persons would have to be circumcised -- because it was necessary in the OT. Paul proved them wrong stating correct principles. Paul also states that even Sabbaths and new moons and all of these things are not significant today. Because everything today is about what Jesus has done and who we are in Him -- this spiritual reality found in Christ in which we are a new creation. "All that matters is a new creation."

Clearly, the saints in the church who thought males must be circumcised were not spiritually minded enough to know that we are complete in Christ. They wanted to return to the old patterns. But, Paul rebuked them for this and turned them back to Christ. Were all who were thus tempted not truly born-again?? I'm quite certain there were born-again Christians who just were weak in the flesh and wanted to try to serve God by the old letter of the law rather than by the Spirit. Saints are not yet perfected in their minds and in the strength of their faith to simply look solely to Jesus and know the truth and be transformed as Paul instructs in Galatians 3.
All this is true but irrelevant to the head covering issue, to which you and only you are applying it. If it had any relevance to that question scripture would have addressed it. You are willing to tear apart scripture in order to elevate your own misunderstanding.

Be alerted that I may come back and comment further on this. There are at least two more parts of this to come, which of course will simply carry on the same repetitive theme but it seems to need the airing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This objector to the head covering accuses Paul of violating his own teachings about grace versus law

The arguments against the head covering I dealt with in my research on this subject were all from within the Bible-believing church. I didn't try to deal with the feminist arguments.

But now I've heard from someone who argues what is really a feminist position although she may not see it that way; she simply thinks Paul was not qualified to be an apostle, certainly not a writer of God's word. That's a typical stance of an unbeliever, and of feminists who consider themselves to be Christians but refuse to take the Bible as God's word.

I've posted this elsewhere but I realized it belongs on this blog in full as an example of one attitude toward the head covering.

This is to my mind about the most offensive kind of argument possible, an amazing display of sophistry pitting Paul's own teachings against himself in the service of what can only be a mere personal dislike of his writings on the head covering and on women in general.
Paul was NOT PERFECT. Paul made errors in what he said and did, that as you align them with the teaching of the Word -- they don't line up. For example, look at this.

Acts 23 1And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
2And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
3Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
4And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?
5Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

Paul was speaking of the "mindset" as if the priesthood of the old covenant was still in force -- and AS IF the high priest of the OT was still the high priest. But this is not true. Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the second covenant. Paul was not completely renewed in his mind. Paul even wrote the Book of Hebrews declaring the change in priesthood, that Jesus is now the High Priest and Jesus is therefore the Ruler. Yet, in his humanity, Paul was not "in the Spirit" as he spoke giving respect and submission to the outdated priesthood and thus not giving respect and submission to Jesus Christ. It was an error because Paul was not perfect and Paul was not entirely renewed in his mind.

Hebrews 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 7:11If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
12For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
13For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.

The scripture is clear that the priesthood before God CHANGED when Jesus went to the cross and the vail was rent in two, Jesus resurrected, and ascended to the right and of God the Father. The priesthood of the OT was not in effect. The priest who CLAIMED to be the high priest towards whom Paul gave respect was NOT the High Priest in the sight of God -- but rather Jesus Christ was/is the High Priest.

But, Paul, being human and having been a Pharisee of the Pharisee, was much like the Jews who left Israel and kept thinking like slaves of Egypt wanting to go back to be under Pharoah after God having sent Moses to bring them to the Promised Land.

Paul, though the scripture refutes his behavior, kept "thinking" that the high priest of the OT before whom he had appeared -- really WAS the high priest at that time. This is impossible. The high priest of the OT had LOST his place and position when Jesus Christ replaced the first covenant with the second covenant and replaced the high priest of the OT having become the High Priest of the NT in His death, burial, resurrection, ascension to the right hand of God and the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

Paul, basically, was not entirely renewed in his mind and gave up his dominion in Christ by submission to a high priest who had no authority before God... rather Jesus Christ did.

We all make mistakes.

Paul has a habitual "strain" of Pharisaical sin in him "showing through" in which he knows better than to believe that righteousness can be attained by the law, knows better than to believe that the law is still in effect, knows that the only righteousness there is to be gained is through Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God and the High Priest and the Temple of the New Covenant -- by His blood and death burial and resurrection and through faith alone in Jesus by grace alone -- but Paul just "can't get his mind" to think that way 100%.

So, unless you want to denounce Jesus Christ as the High Priest of the New Covenant and return to the law and replace Jesus with a current high priest of the Old Covenant -- we can see that Paul made a mistake there out of human conditioning.

The matter of head coverings is a LIKE ERROR on Paul's part -- perhaps.

Because, spiritually, in Christ, Jesus Christ Himself has become the covering of all saints by the Spirit. What was in the natural is now in the spiritual.

The law was a shadow of things to come but the reality is found in Christ.

When Paul states, "AS the law also states...!!" -- we should be able to see that the old nature of Paul is "showing through". He has not yet "left behind" the law and pressed fully into Christ.

1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

This is why he states in Philippians 3 that he has not yet been made perfect, but is striving to be found fully in Christ having no righteousness that comes from the law but rather in resting fully in faith in Jesus Christ and the righteousness that comes from faith in Christ.

When Paul starts quoting the LAW in relation to women -- wanting them to come under some natural element -- you see that the church resisted him. They would not obey and instead asserted their liberty in Christ.

What Paul is saying about SPIRITUAL COVERING and being under submission to God in Christ and having the HOLY SPIRIT UPON ONE is New Testament theology.
But going back to the law -- and Paul getting so uptight because women weren't wearing natural veils -- friend, that doesn't "line up" with scripture any more than Paul's grovelling before the high priest of the OT (and him forgetting Jesus as the High Priest of the NT in that moment) lines up with scripture and spiritual Kingdom laws, principles and dynamics -- the reality of the Spirit.
I may come back to add some comments later.