Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The argument that requiring women to cover our heads is legalism

Heard from someone who argued at great length in an email that the idea of a head covering is "legalistic." He quoted numerous Bible verses all demonstrating Paul's arguments against the Law, works righteousness and so on, without ONCE quoting the passage itself that is ABOUT the head covering.

Once you recognize that Paul is indeed recommending that women cover their heads and that men should not, because his arguments are universal and not tied to custom, then calling the argument legalistic is to call Paul legalistic. The very apostle known for his teaching against legalism.

The blindness to this one little bit of scripture is sometimes breathtaking. Its being so misunderstood, misread, and in fact aggressively misread, has just got to be evidence that it is FAR more important than the vast majority are willing to allow. Sure looks to me like the devil is working overtime to obscure it -- to minimize and trivialize it for starters, then to confuse the meanings of every verse in it, and to summon all those verses about legalism against it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another point that ought to show the error of attributing Paul's teaching to his concern for local custom

The idea that local custom in Corinth was the basis for Paul's advocacy that women cover their heads in the assembly is wrong from many angles, but another proof of its wrongness that needs to be recognized is that Paul is ALSO telling men that they are NOT to cover their heads in the assembly. Not enough is made of this aspect of that passage it seems to me, no doubt because there wasn't any contention among the men about the apostle's teaching.

But to take Paul as basing his instruction to the women on custom and culture SHOULD also suggest the same basis for his instruction to the men. But one thing we all know is that Jewish men did and do cover their heads in prayer and worship, and Marlowe's research (link at top of page) shows that Roman men also covered their heads in their religious ceremonies.

Therefore, obviously Paul's teaching CONTRADICTS the customs of the time in relation to men. This ought to be recognized as undermining the idea that he cared one fig for custom at all, but rather was likewise contradicting the culture and customs practiced by some of the women in Corinth.

Clearly Paul was teaching a brand new "custom" which was shared among the apostles, whose authority he appeals to in verse 16, a new practice based on the Creation and God's definition of man and woman as shown in the scripture, brought out by the appearance of the Messiah in fulfillment of prophecy and exclusive to the Christian churches.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bad Hermeneutics: Culture and Custom in Corinth

Because of my ongoing dealings about the book The Harbinger I've begun listening to an audio series on Reformed hermeneutics to be sure I'm not missing something. I've heard only the introductory lecture so far.

The reason I'm mentioning it here is that anong other principles of interpretation the speaker refers to the need to understand the cultural context in order to properly interpret some parts of the Bible, and two instances are mentioned, the Book of Ruth and the passage about the head covering in First Corinthians.

That's all that was said. Clearly the speaker accepts the interpretation of that passage by Thomas Schreiner, which is also accepted by John MacArthur and Alister Begg and others. Perhaps it will come up again in the course of the study but meanwhile I felt like responding briefly.

The Book of Ruth describes some customs that were practiced in Israel over three thousand years ago, concerning inheritance, kinship rights and proposal of marriage. To understand fully what is happening between Ruth and Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, and Boaz and other kinsmen to Ruth, it is good (but not essential to the significance of the story) to know something about these customs. We can understand the point of the story without knowing about the customs, we can get instruction in faithfulness for one thing, and we can understand that by marrying Boaz the Moabitess Ruth became one of the progenitors of Jesus Christ, which is the essential reason for the story's being included in the canon, all this without knowing anything about the customs. If we DO know something about them, however, then our understanding of the Messiah's kinship with the believer may be deepened.

But what does a knowledge of customs in Corinth some thousand-plus years later contribute to understanding 1 Corinthians 11:2-16? Supposedly it sheds light on Paul's exhortations that women are to cover their heads when praying and prophesying.

Unlike the Book of Ruth which describes certain customs of the time, no custom is identified in the head covering passage itself as a Corinthian custom. This is a notion that is imposed on it from completely extrabiblical sources.

But the idea that there is an identifiable Corinthian custom of head covering is false anyway (See page at top of this blog for a discussion of ancient dress customs by Michael Marlowe, or go to his site: The Bible Researcher)The interpretation about custom is a lot of mental conjuring really, not anything that deserves to be regarded as a valid hermeneutical approach. There simply was no consistent custom of head covering in Corinth among the Greeks or the Romans. Yet this completely made-up scheme is how the idea of the woman's covering the head became understood as a mere expression of the custom of the time and is supposed to be the basis of Paul's exhortation to cover the head. So because of this notion we get vague recommendations that women are merely to appear "feminine" according to our own customs, which in practical terms means nobody really takes Paul's teaching seriously at all. If all this nonsense derived from Thomas Schreiner's article/chapter on the subject, he's sadly guilty of misleading the churches.

(Just in case: When I find fault with some Christian leader's thinking on a particular subject I NEVER intend to imply anything against the man himself or his Christian character in relation to that topic. I have no reason to doubt that Dr. Schreiner is an excellent gospel teacher and a godly man. I'm only talking about this one article of his where things went very wrong. On this subject of the head covering I kept being amazed at how many of the best and best-known Christian teachers were getting it wrong, and yet that observation was never intended to cast doubt on them personally.)

I also find it interesting that this completely made-up tale about the meaning of the head covering may be preached in a church today in which many of the women, having come out of other churches, are practicing the other common misinterpretation of the passage, that long hair is the head covering, yet neither false idea is given up for the other.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A report on a sad encounter with the popular views on the head covering

Just a brief report that may lead to more posts on this blog after such a long time, but I'm not sure it will.

Recently had an *experience* on a Christian forum where the head covering had been the subject of many threads and I joined in on the latest one. The dominant viewpoint was definitely against the interpretation of a cloth covering but it's hard to say beyond that what the dominant positive interpretation was -- I suppose hair as the covering.

The main thing about those discussions is that very few who were against a cloth covering referred to scripture at all. Many seemed to content themselves with psychoanalyzing those of us who did defend the cloth covering, as if our views were not based on the scripture but on our own subjectivity, saying it's just hard to break a traditional mindset and so on. Well, that hardly applies to me since I came to this subject without any tradition whatsoever. I knew individuals who had all the various interpretations, including a few who wear hats because of tradition, but I had no tradition of my own about it. And I certainly had no DESIRE to cover my head, quite the opposite.

The main theme was of course that the idea of having to cover the head is legalistic. Of course we're Pharisees to have this view. One woman went so far as to attribute it to Satan. Someone also claimed that the Holy Spirit showed him it's hair, and some argued that anyone who thought differently wasn't hearing from the Spirit. Much conjecture off the top of the head, much accusation. Chaos and confusion and the kind of "arguments" that are unanswerable for all the wrong reasons.

When I asked one participant why he kept ignoring my argument that it couldn't be hair because women throughout history always wore their hair long and Paul wouldn't have needed to exhort them to that, his answer was that I was simply wrong because Paul SAID the covering was hair. Another didn't have any problem saying that all Christians in all history could be wrong. And so on and so forth.

Well, I've tried to answer such objections on this blog already. Very little new was said, it was a pretty rancorous discussion despite attempts to keep affirming mutual love of the brethren.

Now another thread is underway on pretty much the same subject but I have no interest in joining it after my other experience. A couple who argued along with me on the first thread have left the forum as well. The usual is happening on the new thread too. The head covering is dismissed as legalistic, the actual scripture isn't addressed, in fact nobody there is arguing for a cloth covering now, what would be the point? Same here. I keep checking in but have no desire to argue when nobody will address the points of the argument anyway.

Pretty discouraging.