Monday, September 22, 2008

Are you vexed or riled? Overscrupulous or Unscrupulous?

I read from the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament today, and found this quote related to 1 Corinthians, "The complexity of 11:2–16 continues to vex modern interpreters, and its comments about women rile many modern readers." I am definitely in the camp of the vexed ("annoyed, worried" -Oxford English Concise Dictionary).

I started by reading the passage and looking for the plain meaning.

~~~Please, before reading my post further, read the passage for yourself and look for the plain meaning. I've posted it on the left side of this page.~~~

To me,
the plain meaning is quite clear: women must wear coverings on their heads while they pray or prophecy, and men should not. Then I asked, "But why?" and, "Could I be missing something?"

Question #1: "Why?"
Paul's letter--
fully inspired by God--gives some reasons in this passage.
1. Wives who pray without their physical heads covered dishonor their authoritative heads, that is, their husbands.
2. The creation order--woman was made from man and for him.
3. "Because of the angels." (I'll get back to that later, trust me!)
4. An analogy between natural and spiritual coverings--long hair is becoming to a woman, not to a man.
5. This is the practice of other local church bodies.

On to Question #2: "Am I missing something?"
I've heard before that headcoverings were culturally appropriate in the time Paul wrote, but we don't need to worry about them now. However, my plain reading tells me that this doesn't look too cultural. Maybe the part about other churches is, but there are 4 other reasons I read before that reason. I began studying, then, other people's interpretations of the passage using Logos Bible Software's Libronix Digital Library System. (If I sound like a commercial for them at any point, it's because I really love it that much!)

I started by searching all of the Bibliotheca Sacra journals which mention headcoverings, and then went on to the Westminster Theological Journals. The arguments I read for the practice being merely cultural were greatly overshadowed in my opinion by the reasons other authors gave for its application in the Church today. Tonight, I have looked through the Libronix resources (categorized alphabetically) from 1 Corinthians: A Commentary through Bibliotheca Sacra which mention "head" and "covering" in close proximity. That's a lot of clicking, skimming, and reading! (There are 1390 'hits' in the resources I have available from titles which begin with numbers-A-Z.)

This post is becoming quite lengthy, but I will close by sharing part of an article by R.C. Sproul, which was published in the Evangelical Review of Theology, Vol. 2, No. 1, April 1978.

"What if, after careful consideration of a Biblical mandate, we remain uncertain as to the question of its character as principle or custom? If we must decide to treat it one way or the other but have no conclusive means to make the decision, what can we do? Here the Biblical principle of humility can be helpful. The issue is simple—would it be better to treat a possible custom as a principle and be guilty of being overscrupulous in our design to obey God; or would it be better to treat a possible principle as a custom and be guilty of being unscrupulous in demoting a transcendent requirement of God to the level of a mere human convention? I hope the answer is obvious."

That pretty much sums up where I'm at right now. Vexed and possibly overscrupulous.
Until later... Sandi

1 comment:

Lisa said...

As conservatives, we do tend to feel safer if we "miss to the right" rather than the "left". But, as our pastor so often warns us, we dare not miss at all! Jesus came down pretty hard on the Pharisees, who were REALLY good at missing to the right. They just totally missed the point altogether! It does make an interesting topic to ponder, doesn't it! I'll add some more comments as you post. :)

How much thought have you put into this issue?