Monday, August 09, 2010

A quick thought on Christian liberty

In the prior two posts on the wearing of wedding rings, a question came up. Given the frequent declarations that we are no longer under the law, shouldn’t matters like modest dress, external adornment, headcovering, submission, etc. be considered matters of Christian liberty? Further, since many of the “restrictions” apply to one gender and not the other, doesn’t Galatians 3:28 mean that these gender distinctions are irrelevant under the New Covenant?

Here is my concern regarding the application of liberty to these passages. We are not under the law to be made right with God, that is clear from Scripture and there is no difference from a salvation standpoint whether one is a woman or a man, a Jew or a gentile, slave or free. Praise God for that! Yet the same apostle who wrote Galatians, i.e. Paul, wrote in many other places to command we do certain things and to restrict others. If Paul thought these things were irrelevant, why did he write about them so frequently and with such fervor? He seems to be wasting time and ink if he wrote these things but didn’t think it mattered one way or the other.

A woman is not saved by covering her head nor she is unsaved by not covering. A woman is not unsaved by teaching or holding authority over a man. A man is not saved by loving his wife as Christ loved the church. Yet all of these commands tell us how we who are saved should live. I read 1 Corinthians 11 and don’t see this as a salvation issue but I do see it as an obedience issue. As followers of Christ, it is our desire to live according to His commandments and the commands of Paul in the words of Holy Writ carry the force of commands from God. We need to carefully exegete the passages in question so that we don’t fall into the trap of wooden literalism or become focused on a legalistic demeanor that sees piety in external obedience, but we do need to treat these passages seriously and as a follower of Christ we should strive to live them out because in doing so we show our love for our Lord who has saved us.

Liberty is not license.


James said...

well said...

I suppose I always get caught up discerning the line between obedience and liberty though. Same for the command of baptism, does it undo salvation?? What is rejection of an imperative say about the one who claims to love Christ and yet does not keep his commandments?

Eric Holcombe said...

There are three things our liberty should not be:

1. A stumbling block to a weaker brother. 1 Cor. 8:9

2. A cloke for maliciousness. 1 Peter 2:16

3. An occasion to the flesh. Gal. 5:13

On headcoverings, how do you men interpret 1 Cor. 11:15? Do you consider a woman's hair to be given as a covering for her as this verse states?

Mark said...


I am glad you made this a separate post. I have thought a lot about this issue since your last post, and have some thoughts, or at least a thought. I see a pattern in scripture of things that are "prescribed", whether it be prayer, fasting, giving, head covering, etc. Each of these things has behind it a deeper spiritual meaning or purpose, beyond just the surface of the mandate. I suspect that there is a beautiful, deep spiritual truth behind the head covering issue, a truth that would not be demeaning to our sisters in Christ, but rather liberating. I think this issue is hard as Americans, because we've lost the understanding of the separate functions of the sexes, and have equated the traditionally female tasks as being less important than male tasks. Are my wife's tasks of cooking and cleaning in the home, caring for our son, etc. any less important than me going to my job every day? No, and in fact they are probably more so. We have lost the ability to see the difference in roles as part of God's wonderful design, and instead equate it with chauvinism. Like other aspects of the kingdom, it will take time for the body mature to where this truth is rediscovered by the body at large. In the meantime, I think it is an issue that needs to be given a lot of grace, as too often in the past men have lorded it over the women, playing the "submit yourself woman, submit" card, without laying down their lives for their wives. The result of this, combined with our cultural "advances", (i.e. women's lib), is a nation of women who are gun-shy to "submit" to a man, because they've only seen abuses of that relationship. Maybe the whole women's lib movement wouldn't have happened if men had properly valued their wives all along? I don't know. All I know is that somewhere along the line we've "lost the plot", and we need time for the Spirit to work in our minds and hearts to bring us back to His truth. I will say that my mind still rebels against the head covering idea, but that doesn't really mean anything. I really need to read it for myself! Either way its a good discussion, and I hope my sisters in Christ will not take offense.

Arthur Sido said...


Very valid points. I don't think my wife finds headcovering to be repressive at all, in fact she and many other women who cover, came to the conclusion that she should do so before I did! I thought she was crazy when she brought it up until I studied it out. You hit the nail on the head, the headcovering issue and submission in general is lost in the cultural morass of Americana.

Arthur Sido said...

Eric, I interpret 1 Corinthians 11:15 in light of the greater argument made in 1 Corinthians 11: 2-15 which I believe does not indicate that a woman's hair is her covering but that a actual "symbol of authority" ought to be on her head (verse 10) The form of that is not specified, some women wear mantillas, some wear bonnets or veils and some wear specific headcoverings made for that purpose. I would also hold that this is true not just during "church services" but at any time a woman prays.

Eric Holcombe said...


Thanks for your response. I too believe this could not be for the meeting only. For if the women are to have this covering when they pray or prophesy (at a minimum), but are also to keep silent in the churches, how could they silently prophesy in the meeting?

If the form of the symbol of authority is not specified but it is called a covering, and verse 11 clearly says a woman's long hair is given her for a covering, then what different covering is her hair supposed to be considering this is mentioned in the same context?

There sure is a lot of discussion of hair, its length (men also), shaving and shorn in discussion of the "covering".

Thanks for reasoning with me. I think you know we do not practice the use of head coverings, but I am seeking to discuss this with you in earnest to see if I am in error.

Arthur Sido said...


I think the key verse that negates this being about hair comes in verse 6:

For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.

So if he meant her hair was her covering, he would be saying if a wife will not have long hair then she should cut her hair short which doesn't make any sense. What is clear is that he is saying is that if a woman will not cover her hair, it is shameful and she might as well also cut her hair short which is also shameful. It is apparent that Paul is speaking of two different things, a woman's hair and a covering.

Eric Holcombe said...

But Paul also clearly states in v 15 that her long hair is a covering and a glory to her. A covering serving what purpose and why mention this at all if this is not about hair?

Do you agree with the ESV footnote on this passage, regarding the translation of the Greek as woman and/or wife (depending on context) and that wearing of a veil was a sign of being married?

Could this turn into an argument for wedding rings?

Arthur Sido said...


Sorry, I forgot to reply to you. I don't see wedding rings as a suitable substitute because the wearing of the ring doesn't carry the same meaning as the headcovering. As far as her hair, it has been argued that because a woman's long hair is given to her as her glory, the covering of her hair is reflective of the relationship between men and women. See verse 7 for a hint:

For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.

Men shouldn't cover their heads but a woman is the glory of man, so you can see the contrast between the husband/wife relationship and a woman's long hair being her own glory. That is a clumsy explanation of it I know. I think we need to read verse 15 in conjunction with the entire argument which is clearly, in my opinion, calling for a woman to cover her head beyond merely long hair.