The Great Non-Charismatic Trump Card

Those who know me know I am a charismatic-continuationist. For me, at least with where I am heading in this article, this boils down to mainly two things: 1) I am committed to the reality that all gifts of the Spirit are still available to the church today and 2) I also come from a church perspective and heritage that has traditionally emphasised the importance of the times when the church gathers together in its varying ways.

But, I am also a teacher-theologian at heart. Not the most esteemed by any means. But the ministry gift of teacher seems to be the greatest measure of gifting in my calling in God.

Knowing this fact, I am continually thinking through the in’s and out’s of charismatic-continuationist perspectives and experiences. Sometimes the analysation can kick into overload.

Yet, the odd thing is that I have also experienced some very ecstatic things in my life (not always personally, though sometimes, but also with regards to others in various gatherings). I’ve reached a point in my life where nothing really shocks me. I think there are definitely some general guidelines we must take to heart as we gather together, and as a shepherd within a local church context I do consider my role of protection quite important and sobering. But, at least for me, I believe 1 Cor 14:33 has turned into the great non-charismatic trump card for many – For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. Continue reading

On Man Being Created Before Woman

One of the more hotly debated topics within the church today is that of the role of women. Depending on what church background you come from, there are varying views within the discussion. But the two major views are summed up with the words complementarianism and egalitarianism.

I have summarised these 2 views before, but here they are again:

The Complementarian View

In the structure of the home, this theological viewpoint sees a mutual and complementary role existing between husband and wife, but the man still carries the lead, or ‘headship’, role. Within society in general, it is completely acceptable for women to hold jobs outside the home. In regards to roles within the church, women are normally allowed to function in ministry opportunities and other responsibilities. But, with reference to oversight and leadership, women are to be in submission to men. Thus, in this view, women can be given the freedom to lead such things as children’s ministries, women’s ministries, as well as serving in other ministry areas. But, and this is where we have varying views within a major view, it is possible that complementarians will either a) not allow women to teach men nor be in leadership or b) allow women to preach/teach with men in the context, but they are not to exercise authority in any main leadership role.

The Egalitarian View

Advocates of the egalitarian view do not believe men and women are identical in all matters, for there are definitely some differences between the two sexes (hence, why some might argue that they believe in complementary roles). But egalitarians believe that both sexes are capable of equal standing in both the home and the church. Specifically, within the church, women should be given complete freedom in expressing their gifts and callings in God, and this extends into leadership roles, even if that leadership role includes overseeing men.

As a side note, I use the words ‘capable of’ in the egalitarian explanation because I believe no one should inherently argue for leadership (male or female), as this is a God gifting, calling and anointing for service. One who believes leadership is their right will fail miserably (check out John 13:3-5).

If you haven’t guessed, I fall in line more with the egalitarian view, though, as I mentioned above, I could argue for complementarianism because men and women carry distinguishable differences simply through our physical creation, but also as we realise different people are given different callings, giftings and ministries by God. Continue reading

The Role of Women – Head Coverings?

After moving through multiple biblical passages while discussing the role of women, as well as two more recent ‘topical’ posts, I take up another commonly discussed issue that arises within the dialogue about the role of women. Such an issue is that of head coverings found in 1 Cor 11:2-16.

Actually, what I notice at times is that, just as many might decide to sidestep discussion about gifts of the Spirit, due to possibly not knowing how to approach the topic today and in light of the full canon of Scripture, so too can people sidestep possible contentious discussion that might arise from the issue of head coverings. There not sure what to do with the passage found in Corinthians.

I mean, really, how do we approach this topic? It’s quite clear that 1 Corinthians 11 teaches such a practise should be done. But much of the church today does not hold to this particular practise. What to do?

I am also quite aware that, at least within some Pentecostal and charismatic churches, some teach this specific practise should be done in an attempt to provide for possible greater experiences during the church’s gathered worship. This is centred around the end phrase of vs10 – ‘because of the angels’. Thus, with an attempt to be obedient to the plain reading of the text and to encourage greater worship gatherings, it has been required that women wear head coverings when praying or prophesying in the public gatherings of the church.

But, as with all doctrinal and practical issues, there are a few points that need to be carefully considered from this passage and the greater context before jumping to any foregone conclusions.

1) Not Dealing with Submission to Husband

Unfortunately, many have seen vs10 teaching that a head covering is a sign, or symbol, to show that the wife is under the authority of and submitted to her husband. But is this what head coverings is about? Let’s look at the rendering of vs10 in the ESV:

That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

First of all, I believe that, if we say this verse teaches male authority over female, then we are imposing something upon the text.

Why do I say such?

In an earlier post on 1 Corinthians 11, I tried to show how some have mistakenly concluded that 1 Cor 11:3 teaches about the authority of man over woman (I suggest reading my article). With such a view concerning vs3, it also makes it quite easy to read such ‘submission theology’ into vs10 with regards to the role of head coverings. But, as I have tried to show, Paul is not emphasising male headship over women in the context of 1 Corinthians 11. Thus, I believe we must also guard against reading such a theological viewpoint into the role of head coverings in vs10. Even if we determine that head coverings must be worn today, such instruction was not given to show that a wife is submitted to her husband, since the larger context is not addressing such.

So what was the purpose of head coverings? Let’s move on to find out.

2) A Sign of Differentiation

Now, what many don’t realise from the reading of the text is that the phrase, ‘a sign of’, is not actually found in the original Greek of vs10 (as the NIV shows).

That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Now it is possible that such a phrase is implied. But I’m not sure this has much of an effect on our understanding of the passage either way. Thus, I maintain the case that the passage is not teaching about a wife’s submission to her husband

But how could the phrase ‘a sign of’ be implied in vs10?

It is obvious that the greater context of vs4-15 does speak of the proper etiquette for women in wearing head coverings, while it is also improper for men to wear such. They are obviously signs, or physical symbols, of what is appropriate for these Corinthian believers.

Consequently, though Paul is not addressing the issue of male authority and women subordination, he does seem to be addressing the reality of gender differentiations. Within the Corinthian culture, the women were to wear head coverings and have longer hair while the men were not to wear head coverings and have shorter hair. It was customary practise of their society.

Now, let me again emphasise that gender differentiations never point to who has authority. The fact that women have been designed to bear children is another gender differentiation, but that does not point to subordination to men. As scholar-theologian, Gordon Fee, says:

‘In the same way Paul argues in 11:2-16 that wives continue to wear the head-covering because it served as a symbol of differentiation between men and women. Although it is often suggested otherwise, this passage has nothing to do with subordination of women to men – a view arrived at by making verse 10 say the opposite of what Paul in fact asserts.’ (Listening to the Spirit in the Text, pp62-63)

But the passage so clearly seems to teach about authority through the head covering, right?

That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

She is to wear [the sign of] authority over her head. But the literal rendition of the Greek would be, ‘a wife ought to have authority over her head’. From this rendering, we see that this does not have to speak about male authority over women. It is hard to determine every minute detail from such passages, but some suggest that the head covering could be a sign of the woman’s authority to prophesy in church (since Paul instructed the women to wear it when they did so, i.e., vs5), or to participate generally in the church assembly.

Thus, what we do know is that the role of head coverings within the context of the Corinthian church was to distinguish gender differences, as well as act as some kind of sign for the woman herself within the gathered church. But it was never to teach who had authority over the other. To suggest such is pushing too much into the context of this Scripture passage.

3) A Cultural Symbol

The final thing to think about is whether head coverings are 1) a cultural command within a specific cultural context or 2) a command for all time for all cultures and peoples. Or, as I shared in a previous post, we need to determine whether this particular instruction falls under our discussion of trajectory theology. No doubt, there will be much disagreement concerning such a discussion, but such must be taken into account.

As I have shared recently (again, read this article for more), many times Paul does address situations within a particular cultural-historical framework, thus leaving us with something that is not to be seen as a command for all time. He spoke into the slavery structure in Eph 6:5-9 without condemning such a practise. He also spoke into the household structure without condemning such in Eph 5:22-24. In both situations, Paul recognised what was set up within the framework of that society and he was not looking to tear it down. Rather, his instructions were how followers of Christ in that day could live faithfully within those prescribed societal structures. But I have concluded that neither slavery nor male ‘headship’ were actually to be commands for all time. Neither is strict adherence to the Sabbath law, literal foot washing, tithing, rules for specific clothing, etc. One more time, I suggest you read this post.

In a patriarchal society of the New Testament era, which is what Paul addressed, it is very obvious that gender distinctions were of great importance. Now, of course, gender distinctions will remain a reality throughout time. We are not called to be androgynous beings. Women give birth, men do not. Women breast-feed their children, men do not. Men can grow out their facial hair to form beards, women cannot. But, again, physical distinctions do not give precedence for the subordination of women to men.

Within the patriarchal culture of Paul’s world, and maybe more specifically in Corinth, women wore head coverings and had long hair to distinguish themselves from their husbands. And the men were not to wear head coverings and were to have shorter hair. This is a very reasonable understanding of the context.

It is also ironic that, though some churches can emphasise the need for head coverings for women, some have never really laid great importance upon the length of one’s hair (for both men and women). And there need be no such overdone weight given to hair length. I believe we would be stepping beyond the constructs of what was intended in the writing of these words of the apostle, Paul.

So, in conclusion, though head coverings pointed to gender differentiation in those days, it did not point to male authority over women (nor does it do so today). Nor should head coverings be viewed as one of the keys to a great worship gathering. To do so is putting a lot of emphasis on one phrase in the Bible – ‘because of the angels’.

If a culture still requires women to wear head coverings as a gender distinction, then it’s perfectly fine for the women to wear such. But this should not be seen as a mandate for all cultures of all times.

Gordon Fee summarises things quite well:

‘Thus, the thrust of this argument is twofold: that the woman should continue with the cultural symbol of differentiation because of the issue of shame – but that this should not be understood to mean subordination, but mutual interdependence in the Lord. The new creation has not removed mutuality and differentiation, but has restored it. In the Lord male and female are both one and different. Thus men and women equally pray and prophesy, the two basic forms of worship in the Christian assembly…but do so as male and female, not as androgynous beings.’ (Listening to the Spirit in the Text, pp64-65)

The Role of Women – 1 Corinthians 11:3

A few months back, I started a larger series on the role of women. I planned to look at the series in four sub-sections, addressing particular biblical passages under each section.

  1. The creation  – Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:18-22; Genesis 3:16
  2. The new creation – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17; Galatians 3:27-29
  3. The church – 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
  4. The home – 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24

I had written 10 articles addressing the first three sections. The links are provided below:

Now, I suppose it is time to share my thoughts on two passages with regards to women and mainly their relationship with their husbands in the home. Two main passages include 1 Corinthians 11:3 and the well-known Ephesians 5:22-24. I’ll start with the 1 Corinthian’s passage.

This passage actually becomes part of the discussion when considering the roles of women in both the church and the home. But I have considered it within this section on ‘the home’ due to the word ‘head’ being found in our English translations. For this section, we shall quote the NIV, as it seems most helpful in dealing with the verse.

Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3)

Those in the complementarian camp see this as one of the main passages speaking about the ‘headship’ role of men. For example:

Before the Fall, God created mankind in His own image as male and female, fully equal in terms of personhood. But in terms of relationship among equals, God established a hierarchy of male leadership and female submission. As is the case within the Godhead, the hierarchy of the relationship does not imply inferiority or superiority. The woman is in no way inferior to the man because she subordinates herself to him than Christ is inferior to God the Father because He subordinates Himself to the Father. So the headship-subordination relationship of the man and woman is evidenced in the original creation order and in the greater order, the nature of the Godhead. (Alexander Strauch. Biblical Eldership, pp61-62)

You can see that many a complementarians have looked to ground their theology on women’s roles in the creation account before the Fall. But I have shown in my articles on Genesis 1 and 2 that such cannot be established. Rather, I believe a lot of it follows a misunderstanding of 1 Tim 2:11-14 and reading that back into the early chapters of Genesis. But let’s move on and deal with the passage at hand.

Defining the Word ‘Head’

Within 1 Cor 11:3, the word, which normally gets translated as head in our English Bibles, is the Greek word kephale. The problem with translating the Greek word, kephale, as head is that we then have to discern what is the specific meaning behind this word. There seem to be two main possibilities of meaning for head:

  • Authority over
  • Source or origin

The authors of Why Not Women?, Cunningham and Hamilton, make some interesting parallels between the old Hebrew and the old Greek. The Hebrew word for head is ro’sh. When ro’sh meant a physical head in a passage in the Hebrew Old Testament, the Greek Septuagint translators chose the Greek word kephale as its translation about 95% of the time. But, when ro’sh meant ‘ruler’ or ‘leader’, the Septuagint normally used another word to translate the Hebrew into Greek. The Septuagint translators decided to use the word kephale for ‘ruler’ or ‘leader’ only about 5% of the time. Therefore, we see that the word kephale, or head, does not usually refer to ruler/authority/leader.

Both authors go on to state:

On the other hand, we find many, many times in ancient literature where head/kephale meant “source” or “origin.” This came from the ancients’ idea that semen, the source of life, was produced in the male brain, which is, of course, located in the head.’ (Why Not Women?, p163)

Consequently, we have two possible translation of 1 Cor 11:3:

  • ‘Now I want you to realise that the authority/leader of every man is Christ, and the authority/leader of a woman is the man, and the authority/leader of Christ is God.’
  • ‘Now I want you to realise that the source/origin of every man is Christ, and the source/origin of a woman is the man, and the source/origin of Christ is God.’

a. The Case for ‘Origins’

Interestingly enough, the word submission is never used in the greater context of 1 Cor 11:2-16. Also, the word authority arises only once in the context, in vs10 (I’ll pick up on head coverings with a future post down the road). Finally, it is also noteworthy that marriage is never mentioned in this passage. Therefore, it is highly possible we are reading into the text concepts that are not even there, especially noting the statistics just mentioned.

Also, consider that the fuller context of vs2-16 speaks of origins:

  • Vs7 – A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. (As a side note, Gordon Fee, in his book, Listening to the Spirit in the Text, remarks that the word glory never refers to subordination in Scripture.)
  • Vs8 – For man did not come from woman, but woman from man.
  • Vs9 – Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
  • Vs11 – In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
  • Vs12 – For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Do we see the consistent message of origins, or source, in the larger context? Paul even takes time to point out that, though woman finds her origins in man, so does man find his origins from woman (see vs12). And the message is summed up well with the words: ‘But everything comes from God.’ It’s quite clear that Paul is addressing origins and source rather than authority and rank.

b. The Ordering of Verse 3

Have you ever noticed the order and flow of vs3?

Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3)

While some believe that vs3 is laying out a hierarchical structure of authority, it is interesting to consider that, if this was Paul’s intention, would he not have chosen a different way to order things? Look at the actual order in vs3:

Every Man/Christ >> Woman/Man >> Christ/God

Knowing the orderly thinking of Paul, it seems that if he were trying to address authority or rank as understood in the complementarian view, he probably would have structured the verse as follows:

God >> Christ >> Men >> Women

c. Shifting From Universal To Specific

We saw in 1 Tim 2:9-15 how Paul shifts from speaking about women (plural) to woman (singular). There is a similar shift in 1 Cor 11:3 as well – from the universal in part A to the specific in part B of the verse. What I mean is this:

  • Vs3, part A – ‘Now I want you to realise that the head of every man is Christ…’
  • Vs3, part B – ‘the head of the woman is man…’ (literally, ‘the head of the woman is the man)
  • Vs3, part C – ‘the head of Christ is God.’

Now we have to ask: What specific man and woman is Paul referring to in part B of vs3? We can probably all guess where this is going. Paul was most likely referring to the man in the beginning, that is Adam, and the woman in the beginning, that is Eve. This is where my suggested translation of kephale comes in. Paul is talking about origins and source.

What Paul is saying is summarised here: The origin and source of every man is Christ, the origin and source of the woman is the man, and the origin and source of Christ is God.

Therefore, the source of the woman is the man, Adam being the source of Eve. Paul was reminding the Corinthians that woman came from man and was, thus, equal to man. Why is this the conclusion? Well, this is what I discussed back in the two parts on Genesis 2:18-22 (part 1; part 2). Paul used the Genesis account to show how men and women have shared origins and are, thus, on equal ground.

And, of course, Christ is the source of every man. Not only that, but God is the source of Christ. Yes, Christ has always existed as the eternal Word. However, in the sense of His incarnation in space and time, the ‘Word became flesh’ and, with such, God was His origin and source (see John 1:1; Luke 1:35).

Therefore, when we note the greater context of the early chapters of Genesis and Paul’s new creation theology, it is highly unlikely that he is teaching about the authority of men over women in the one statement of 1 Cor 11:3. Realising that kephale can be regularly translated as source/origin and that such a translation makes a whole lot of sense within the whole context of 1 Cor 11:2-16, especially vs11-12, I believe Paul is not addressing authority and ‘headship’. Such is foreign to this passage.

Teachings On the Lord’s Supper

The past two weeks at Cornerstone, I have taught a two-part series on the Lord’s Supper, or communion.

During the first week, I looked at four areas in particular: 1) a little background from the Passover, 2) the different terminology surrounding the covenant meal, 3) the four varying views concerning what happens to the bread and wine, and 4) who should participate in this meal.

In the second week, I specifically looked at 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. One important part of the passage we considered is vs27-29, this being misunderstood by quite a few. I also took time to focus on some specifics with regards to the elements: whether the bread must be unleavened (without yeast) and whether the element representing the blood can be fermented (or alcoholic). Finally, I pointed out an interesting mission aspect in regards to the Lord’s Supper.

The two messages can be downloaded at our podcast (message one, message two) or you can download them for free from iTunes. You can also listen to them right here on my blog by clicking the audio icons below.

The Lord’s Supper (Part 1)

The Lord’s Supper (Part 2)