Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Head Coverings - Some Exegetical Analysis of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

I've applied some chevrons to the text of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, to try to emphasize some of the structure:
> Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
>> But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
>>> Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
>>>> But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
>>>>> For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
>>> For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
>>>> For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
(Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.)
>> Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
>>> Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
>>> But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
> But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
Next, let me provide an outline of Paul's comments:
Follow the traditions we give you;
A) Headship explained:
i) Christ is the head of man,
ii) the husband is the head of the wife,
iii) God is the head of Christ;
B) Covering's Relationship to Honor/Glory
i) Male covering dishonors himself;
ii) Female uncovering dishonors herself (reductio from the fact that if she was shaved it would be obviously a disgrace);
iii) Male uncovering displays God's glory;
iv) Female covering displays the male's power to the angels;
(But in the Lord, men and women are equal as they create one another and all are created by God.)
C) Nature Illustrates the Principle of Covering
i) It is a shame for men to have long hair;
ii) It is a glory for women to have long hair;
iii) Hair is a natural covering of the head.
But if the argument from nature doesn't persuade you, suffice that headcovering (for women) and uncovering (for men) is the only custom we have; there is no other custom among the apostles or churches of God
Some general thoughts:

1) Men generally don't tend to have a big problem with obeying the commands of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. After all, this is one of the nicer aspects of being man - getting to typify the glory of God and the headship of Christ.
2) Men are prone to let this go to their heads. That's why the parenthetical about equality in the Lord is there: so we can remember that this headship men have is for this earth only and typifies the headship of God.
3) Men also should keep in mind that this headship comes with typing Christ in other words, such as providing for and sacrificing himself for his wife. (Ephesians 5:25; see also, 1 John 3:16 and Romans 16:4)
4) Women, in this age of feminism, have a problem obeying the commands.
5) Some women have a problem with this custom of showing male headship with an artificial covering, because they have a problem with male headship. This class of women should be encouraged by the parenthetical about equality in the Lord, but ought to endure male headship in this present age.
6) Some women have a problem with this custom of showing male headship with an artificial covering, because they think their natural covering is enough. This may arise from a misunderstanding of Paul's argument from nature. Paul argues that nature itself shows that long hair is bad for men but good for women. Paul is using this to demonstrate that men should not wear artificial coverings and women should. We know this because Paul first argues that if a woman is not covered, she might as well be shorn/shaven. But if he was only referring to natural covering, then his statement makes no sense. "If she does not have long hair, she might as well have short hair" would be a tautology, but Paul is employing a reductio.
7) Some women have a problem with this custom because they believe that the custom is a cultural one. Such a conclusion is not derivable from the text. Paul argues for the custom not based on Corinthian or Graeco-Roman cultural norms, but based on (a) universal apostolic tradition; (b) the principle of headship; (c) the testimony to the angels; and (b) the light of nature. None of these arguments are culturally limited. Moreover, Paul's admonition is not a general statement about life in the surrounding culture, but a specific statement about life in the church ("praying and prophesying").
8) Some women have a problem with this custom because they have heard that a shaved head in Corinth suggested that a woman was a prostitute and that long hair in Corinth suggested that a man was a homosexual. Thus, placed in that context Paul was just telling people not to look like prostitutes and homosexuals. The problems with this kind of argument are as follows:
i) The evidence for the premises about hair length and its significance in Corinth is rather tenuous. If someone wanted to debate this point with me, I would want to see what evidence they had found for the ideas that a shaved head in Corinth suggested that a woman was a prostitute and that long hair in Corinth suggested that a man was a homosexual. But let's assume for the sake of argument that such evidence exists.
ii) The argument from that evidence assumes that all Paul has in mind are natural coverings, not artificial coverings. But Paul has in mind artificial coverings, as explained above.
iii) Given that Paul has in mind artificial coverings, one would expect Paul to say that if a woman is shaven or shorn, she should cover her head artificially - but instead he phrases it the other way around. If she doesn't cover her head artificially, she might as well shave her head. The idea that this would mark her as a prostitute in Corinth would simply enhance Paul's reductio.
iv) The reference to praying/prophesying makes little sense if Paul's point is one about avoiding the appearance of sexual sin. In other words, women should never dress like prostitutes and men should not dress themselves in a way that suggests homosexuality. These are general principles of avoiding the appearance of sin, not anything specific to worship.
v) The discussion of headship seems completely out of place if Paul's point is about avoiding the appearance of sexual immorality.
vi) Conversely, the artificial covering is specifically described as "power on her head."
vii) And as hinted at in (iii), evidence that long hair was associated with homosexuality and shaved heads with prostitution would seem to play well into Paul's argument from the analogy of nature, but Paul does not exclusively rely on that argument, but rather on authoritative tradition.
9) Some women have a problem with this custom because they think it only applies to women in the pulpit, but they are not in the pulpit, so it does not apply to them. But even when there were women prophetesses, women were required to be silent in the church. So, the praying/prophesying is not a short-hand reference to women pastors, but rather broadly to religious worship.
10) Some women are persuaded that the Scriptures say that they should cover their head during public prayer, but are hesitant to do so because they are in the minority in their church. In fact, they might be the only such woman in their church. They fear either ridicule or judgment of their peers. This is a very understandable fear. A head covering does mark out a woman in that context. Still, such women should take encouragement from the fact that the angels observe her as well. By her head covering she is testifying to her submission to her head, and demonstrating to the angels her obedience to Christ our head and to God the the head of Christ. Moreover, she should consider that her testimony may encourage other wives to do the same - perhaps wives who have been reluctant for the same reason. Indeed, this is one visible way in which a woman can fulfill her teaching role as described in Titus 2:5.

In numbers 5-9 above, I've referred to women having a problem with the command. Obviously, a lot of their husbands either join with them or don't object to them. So, there are doubtless men who have a problem with this command as well. Men's issues with the command are less significant to me, because the command is not directed to them. Still, men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of their household, and ought properly to instruct their wives on this issue. Husbands also ought to be understanding of the fact that their wives may feel themselves under peer pressure to conform to whatever the majority of other women in the church are doing - that this will not be easy, and that many Protestant women grew up in churches that had abandoned the this ordinance that Paul delivered to the Corinthians. Be patient, but don't neglect what Paul taught.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ergun Caner Testimony at "Free CD Tracts"

"Free CD Tracts" has posted Ergun Caner's testimony (here). There are links to audio (here) and video (one - two).

All times are approximate and refer to the audio file:
"For the average Muslim it takes seven years to come to faith in Jesus - for me, it was any number of years" (0:30)
If only he would stick to this!

"Finally, my senior year in high school" (1:00)
Was it his senior year or his junior year?

"In every debate that I've done, in every time I've debated Muslims, Sunni, Sufi, Alawite, Shia, every debate I've ever done, this question always comes up from the Muslim, 'what does one man's death have to do with me.'" (5:00)
I would love to see any evidence that Caner has ever debated Muslims from each of those sects.

"Isa bin Allah - Jesus is the son of God" (6:30)
This does not seem to be grammatically correct Arabic.

"In every debate, in every discussion, I have never met one Muslim - not one! - who believes that the Allah of the Koran and Jehovah intimate Adonai God of the Bible are the same god." (10:00)
Again, where are these debates? Moreover, the Koran does claim:
And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.
Surah 29:46 (Pickthall translation)

What is sad about the videos is that they are clearly professionally done. There is even some nice Arabic or Farsi (someone who reads it better than me should be able to say) sub-titling. Moreover, a lot of what Caner has to say is important and valuable for Muslims to hear. If only the dross could be purged so that the testimony could be heard by those who need to hear it! I'd also like for the testimony to mention more about the need for repentance, but I suppose that Caner has not mentioned that, because he believes Muslims are already aware of that.


Monday, September 23, 2013

From Islam to Christianity - Part 1 - Ergun Caner - 2 November 2009

A transcript of a program titled, "From Islam to Christianity - Part 1" by Ergun Caner, dated November 2, 2009, can be found at this link (link). I would love to check the accuracy of the transcript, but it seems to be hard to find original audio of Ergun Caner's presentations these days. Here are some interesting comments attributed to Caner in the transcript:
And in Acts 16 Paul and Silas and Luke they set out on the second missionary journey. The first place they go is my country, Tyrus is on the western shores of Turkey. I'm an eastern Turk, toward the Kurdish regions.
Now, we know that Caner was born in Sweden and came to America as a young boy. But let's set this aside for a moment, to look at some other comments.
Somebody stuck around for me. I came here as a missionary to you. I didn't know Christians. I thought you hated me. Everything I ever learned about American Christianity I learned in the mosque from my imam or from my madrassa, my training center. And so every other place I'd ever lived I lived there as a majority person.
I always lived in a majority Islamic countries. Then I come to America. My father was a muezzin. I'm the oldest of three sons to his wife, this one wife. He had many wives. I came as a faithful and devout Muslim.
Every debate I've ever had with a Muslim, "Oh, you do not understand Islam. Oh, you need to understand the Arabic." What's next? That was my language before English. English is hard.
Notice the claims he makes:

  • that he came "as a missionary."
  • that he "always lived in majority Islamic countries."
  • that his father had "many wives."
  • that he has had enough debates with Muslims to describe them as "every debate."
  • that Arabic was his language before English.

Are any of these claims true? Recall that Caner's "statement" said:
As for the countless other volleys aimed at discrediting the work I do, I am unsure how to respond. If my pronunciation of Arabic phrases is not correct, then I apologize. The language of my lineage is Turkish, not Arabic. Even Arabic dialects differ regionally, such as Jordanian and Egyptian. Indeed, 80% of the Muslim world does not speak Arabic, so I doubt anyone will be fully satisfied at this juncture.
So at the end of your life you've got to be 51 percent righteous to make it into paradise. That's why I had a prayer rug in my locker in high school in Brooklyn, New York and then Columbus, Ohio. I would roll my rug out and five times a day, three times in the high school and then twice other times.
When did Caner go to high school in Brooklyn, NY?
I kept telling him no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Finally he invited me to a revival. And so I walked in to Stelzer Road Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio in full gear with a coat on.
What gear?
They didn't call me names. They didn't call me towel head, camel jockey or sand n*gger. See, I got called that other places.
Kids are mean, but why would they call him any of those names, given that he apparently dressed normally and wasn't an Arab?
I got to do two things as a new believer in Jesus. One, took my keffiyeh off and I told the waitress I was saved. And number two, I ordered every piece of ham - I went home and told my father. I said, "Abi, I am born again. I'm saved." It was November 4, 1982 and it was the last day I saw my father.
Why was Caner wearing keffiyeh? That's not typical for Turkish Muslims. Also, "abi" sounds more like Hebrew "Abba," than like a Turkish word for "father."
In 1991 my Mama got saved. In the baptistry took off her hijab.
Why would his mother have been wearing a hijab? (see discussion here)

This seems to have been something of a "canned" sermon by Dr. Caner. You can see very similar excerpts here (link), from a sermon with the same topic, but preached a few years earlier.