A Covering

Whether a woman should cover her head in public or not has often been a topic of debate in the church; the practice was evidently common in ancient societies, and is still observed in some more traditional cultures. God does address the topic in Scripture, but not so clearly that we might be dogmatic about it, hence the debate.

As a guiding principle, we should observe that God has defined sin in His Law, and He has explicitly commanded us not to add to it (De 4:2); so, we shouldn’t expect God to authorize anyone in the New Testament to change the definition of sin by adding new commands; only to provide commentary, to help us see more clearly what He intended from the beginning.

So, when God focuses on head coverings, we should note that He doesn’t point us back to any specific command in Torah; He opens by stating the roles of men and women in relation to Himself and each other: Christ is the head of every man; and the head of the woman is the man. (1Co 11:3)

This evidently implies that a man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head (4); it also implies that when a woman prays or prophesies with her head uncovered she dishonors her head. (5a) What exactly is implied here, why is it implied, and how do we know this?

What we feel when a woman is made bald (involuntarily) tells us all we need to know here (5a) — there’s something unnatural about it. When it’s considered a shame for a woman to be bald, or to have all her hair shaved off (6), in any way that’s different than for a man, we’re admitting we know this principle organically.

We know from the Creation story (Ge 1:27) that men should not cover their heads: they’re made in God’s direct image (7a); women should cover their heads because they’re made in the image of man, or indirectly in God’s image. (7b) The Creation account further reinforces this concept in the fact that Man was not made from Woman, but Woman was made from Man (8), and since Woman was made expressly for Man, and not vice versa. (9)

In other words, the details of Creation imply that [1] women have a different role in the home and society than men do, [2] that this role is a submissive, supportive, helpful one (Ge 2:18), and [3] that it’s appropriate for women to reflect this  role difference symbolically by covering their heads in public. (10)

This does not mean men are better than, superior to, or more valuable than women; their mutual interdependency proves this. (11-12)

So there’s a natural law, evident to all in tune with Creation: women should cover themselves in public (13), and that men should not. For example, nature itself teaches us that when a man covers his head with long hair he brings shame on himself. (14) However, the opposite is true for a woman; when she covers herself with long hair it’s a glory to her; her hair is given to her as a natural covering. (15)

How we maintain our hair is thus the primary way we reflect God’s design here, and the biblical text plainly states this — so, technically, this has nothing to do with a material covering over the hair. Mandating that women cover their hair with a material covering at any time doesn’t stand up to scripture: it isn’t commanded in Torah, it isn’t clearly inferred here, and it isn’t explicitly discussed anywhere else in Scripture.

Further, as far as the biblical standard is concerned, how long men and women should generally try to keep their hair, or what style they should use to represent this role difference before God, is evidently cultural since no particular hair length or style is specified in scripture. Apart from those who are overtly defying, blending or reversing biblical roles, what do people in any given culture perceive to be a natural or appropriate hair length and style for each sex? This is the only guide we have, and it’s subjective and relative for a reason; as it is with the types of clothes which further distinguish the sexes (De 22:5), this is determined by culture.

All this said, it’s clear that we might adorn ourselves with headwear in ways which accentuate our appearance. In doing so we ought to apply the same principle; we differentiate ourselves in our respective roles by  how we treat the place in our bodies where we consciously reside, in our minds or heads. Ornamental or symbolic coverings should evidently be treated much like hair; for men, not covering more of the scalp and neck than where the hair is naturally growing as a covering of the skin, and larger, longer coverings for women.

For example, the priestly headgear required by God in the service of the tabernacle seems to follow this pattern: the mitre, crown (Ex 29:16) and bonnets (28:40a) weren’t shameful for the men to wear, but were glorious and beautiful. (40b) They didn’t violate this principle even in spirit; the style evidently covered little more than where hair naturally covers the scalp.

So then, when men wear a hood to keep from freezing in the bitter cold, or from burning in the sun, do they violate this principle in spirit? Since this type of clothing isn’t symbolic but more practical — and the context here is clearly symbolic — I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t a violation of God’s pattern in any sense.

And finally, what about the Nazarites, men who didn’t cut their hair for long periods; some never felt a razor their whole lives. (Jdg 13:5) No problem: long hair can be wrapped up in a turban and kept off the neck and shoulders in public – it need not be a shameful covering simply because it’s long.

In matters which are not clearly specified in scripture, let’s study it out for ourselves until we’re convinced of what’s right for us (Ro 14:5), being careful to follow God’s precepts as best we can without rigidly imposing new regulations on others, but each pursuing alignment with God according to our own conscience. (Ro 14:22)

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Divers Weights

Being biased is not the same has having a strong opinion; favoring one position above another doesn’t mean we’re biased. If that were true, then the more facts we understood the more biased and unfair we’d be.

Bias indicates a pre-disposition to hold a point of view regardless of the facts, to fail to be objective and fair, and to apply rules and principles consistently; it’s deciding to manage a conflict with a pre-determined outcome in mind, and to only accept facts or arguments which support a particular agenda.

For example, to engage in a flat-earth debate we need not be neutral on the topic to be unbiased, or even dispassionate; we simply need to remain objective, and consider all available facts in a consistent and rigorous manner. Even if we’ve already proven the earth is a sphere using mathematics and undisputed scientific facts, we can still be fair as long as we carefully consider the opposing view and evaluate it with logic and reason.

But bias is dishonesty incarnate; it’s like having two different sets of weights depending on whether we’re buying or selling, and choosing the set which favors us in each commercial exchange. This is an abomination to God (Pr 20:10); He explicitly forbids this (De 25:13-14) because it strikes at the very root of common civility. As society degenerates into this kind of dishonesty and selfishness the integrity of both personal and professional relationships deteriorates. Democracies can’t function this way, only dictatorships: we must either control ourselves, or be controlled by others.

Bias can be hard to see in ourselves; we might not be aware of some of our biases (we call them unconscious). We can be biased even when we’re right, even when we are very well informed, if we’re threatened by opposing points of view and refuse to give them a fair hearing. But we can easily perceive bias in others when they’re unwilling to treat our own position fairly; as it is in most matters of moral judgement, we recognize moral failure in others much more easily than we can see it in ourselves. (Mt 7:3)

So, if we wish to become consistently unbiased and objective, and to heal our own unconscious biases, we must be willing to let others challenge us, and to carefully consider counter positions in their strongest possible form. We can be wrong and not know it, and we can be holding the right position for the wrong reason, or with weak or insufficient evidence. Those who disagree with us are generally able to see our bias more easily than we can, and they can point it out.

Even when we’re fully convinced, we need to love the truth enough to be willing to change our minds, to try our best to see things from a different perspective, and to adjust and improve our position if it turns out we’re the least bit misinformed. We shouldn’t be afraid to listen intently, and to course correct when any aspect of our understanding is shown to be weak or amiss. It’s how we learn and grow, and it’s why opposing views are so incredibly valuable; we can learn something from anyone, even when they’re wrong.

Bias is particularly damaging in news media, which provide a vital service in keeping a civil society informed, providing access to new information and differing points of view. Media bias is evident when a news source consistently applies a double standard: dismissing evidence and/or cherry picking facts to align with a particular agenda. When stories are consistently spun to align with a pre-determined narrative, it’s no longer journalism … it’s propaganda, undermining objectivity and promoting dishonesty and bias in the culture.

Bias in politics is similarly destructive; when one side of the isle becomes biased, they tempt their opponents to do the same for self-preservation: we naturally feel vulnerable when the other side never admits to being wrong and only we do. Yet when both parties become entrenched in bias they enflame each other in dishonesty and destroy meaningful discourse, leading to incivility, and ultimately violence or divorce — the breakdown of civilization itself.

So, regardless what the world does, we’re called to be objective: to fairly consider all the evidence available to us, to hear both sides of any conflict completely and thoroughly (Pr 18:13), and to make our determination of right and wrong independently of who the plaintiffs or defendants happen to be, even when it costs us personally. We should look at each matter as well as we can from all sides, listening carefully to our opponents as if they might know something we don’t.

And as we’re making moral judgements we must have an objective moral standard, or measure, by which to discern good from evil, and we must look to it consistently. The only other option is to make up our own morality as we go, but that’s a false way, self-deception (Ja 1:22): we don’t want anyone else doing this.

A reliable moral standard cannot be grounded in public sentiment or personal opinion, for this moves in and out like the tide and changes with the wind; we must be founded on a rock that’s immoveable (Mt 7:24): on the moral law of God Himself. (Ps 119:89)

And we must trust, as we make ourselves vulnerable by retaining our objectivity and conceding when we’re wrong, even when others won’t, that God both just and faithful: He will guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13) and reconcile all things to Himself (Col 1:20), according to His perfect timing, pleasure and will. (Da 4:35) We commit the keeping of our souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1Pe 4:19)

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To Fight

When is it appropriate to engage in combat, to take up arms, to inflict harm? Is there a time to fight? to the death if necessary? Does God require us to be passive in the face of evil and malevolence?

Marine Sgt. Michael Strank

If God ever taught anyone to fight, and He did (Ps 144:1), then there’s a time for fighting, a time for engaging in warfare. (Ec 3:8) When is that, and who should we be willing to fight?

It’s a soldier’s job to fight to the death, and we find many godly soldiers in scripture. (Ac 10:22) What’s unique about soldiers is that they’re under a governor or a king; their combat is subject to civil authority. (Jn 18:36)

In a private context, fighting to defend yourself and loved ones is generally permitted by civil authority; this is common moral understanding and it’s grounded in Torah. (Ex 22:2) Under such conditions it’s right to fight in self-defense, when physical safety is at risk.

But taking up arms to avenge a death (De 19:12), or to put down rioters, looters and anarchists, depends on the attitude of civil authority. Does local government want your assistance? Or at least not disapprove of it? If so, then cooperate as you’re able. If not, stand down, love your enemies and pray for them, seeking their welfare (Mt 5:44), looking to God to intervene with justice in His time. (Ps 119:84)

Herein lies a key difference between Christianity and Islam: Jehovah forbids taking the law — even the divine law — into our own hands (Ro 12:19), and deciding for ourselves when and how to put away evil (Ex 22:3); this is the duty of civil government (Ro 13:4), not the individual. (Ex 20:13) On the other hand, according to Islam, Allah commends killing infidels apart from civil authority, which is what makes Islam so dangerous.

God forbids avenging ourselves and others, righting perceived wrongs on our own, because when we’re offended our judgement is clouded and it’s virtually impossible for us to dispense justice. We can’t know exactly what another person deserves for what they’ve done; this requires knowing their heart and motives, and that’s entirely beyond our reach.

And even if we did know someone’s exact motivation, God has given us little indication how to precisely measure the degree of immorality of any given behavior, or to determine an appropriate ultimate punishment. In fact, God expressly forbids individuals from doing this. (Mt 7:1) His Law only gives civil authority the right to formally assess guilt, and to impose prescribed consequences for specific types of crimes, but even then He’s generally more concerned about cleansing society of willful evil doers (De 17:12) and discouraging rebellion (13) than actually administering justice.

The job of formally righting all wrongs belongs to God Himself, and not to Man (Ro 2:2), and God isn’t doing that just yet (Ec 8:11); He’s prepared a Day in which He’ll begin administring full justice (Ro 2:5-6), and His timing will be perfect.

Meanwhile, when it’s time to defend ourselves, we must do so benevolently, in love (1Co 16:14) — using only minimal necessary force to protect ourselves and others from malevolence, all the while esteeming others better than ourselves and praying for those who would abuse us. (Php 2:3) All other forms of strife, wrath and anger are forbidden. (Ep 4:31-32) So, when we find malice lingering in our hearts, harboring a desire to inflict harm or see evil punished (Pr 24:17-18), it’s time to step back and examine ourselves; our wrath does not work God’s righteousness. (Ja 1:20)

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Made Righteous

The brilliance of the Gospel is that God is righteous and just, yet also the justifier of a sinner believing in Jesus. (Ro 3:26)

The key to unlocking this mystery lies in the concept of a Federal Head: by being in an ancestor we inherit their inward nature, and as that nature manifests in our own behavior we also inherit the standing of that ancestor before God. (1Co 15:22) In that sense we all have a federal representative before God; as he stands or falls before God, so do we.

All of us were born in Adam; he’s our common ancestor, and a sinner; when he sinned in the Garden we were there in Him, participating with him in that sinful act, and we died in him when he died. (Ro 5:17)

Not only did we inherit guilt for the original sin by being in our father Adam, we also inherited his evil nature, such that we all start out voluntarily engaging in sinful acts just like he did: we are all made sinners. (Ro 5:19) All of us start out in Adam as children of wrath just like everyone else (Ep 2:3), the god of this world operating in and through us (vs 2) as he pleases. (Jn 8:44a) We each start out this way, with Adam representing us before God as a sinner.

Yet just as we’re initially born sons of Adam, in receiving Christ we become sons of God. (Jn 1:12) This is no more an act on our part than being born physically is; being born of God (vs 13), conceived and begotten by Him according to His own will with the word of truth (Ja 1:18), is an act of God imparting life to us (Ep 2:5), moving us to trust in Him and love Him, as He becomes one with us. (1Co 6:17)

The sons of God are now in Christ, having a new federal Head, no longer in Adam; since Christ has perfect standing before God, so now also do we who believe. (Ro 8:1) Just as we were guilty in Adam’s sin, we are now innocent and pure before God in Christ because of Christ’s obedience, being made the righteousness of God in Him (2Co 5:21), counted perfectly righteous through the perfect obedience of Christ. (Ro 5:19)

Further, as we were all made actual sinners through the offense of Adam, such that we all inherited his evil nature and participated in it through voluntary acts of disobedience, so we who believe in Christ also inherit the holy nature of Christ such that we voluntarily walk in righteousness (Ro 5:19), set apart by the Spirit unto obedience. (1Pe 1:2)

Christ justly becomes our federal Head as we believe in Him, representing us before God and containing us within Himself, because He is willing to die in our place and become our sin when He has no sin of His own. (2Co 5:21) He is punished as a sinner when He is not a sinner; so the justice of God is honored as He justifies believers. In believing on Christ we experience a divine transaction, the exchange of our guilt for His righteousness: God sees the innocent travail of Christ and is satisfied on our behalf. (Is 53:11)

God is not unjust to receive us as righteous, even though we were born in Adam, because we have now been born spiritually into a new federal Representative: Christ Himself; we inherit His perfect righteousness as well as His righteous nature — while Christ becomes an offense to God on our behalf, and suffers everything we deserve for our sin. So, God can be just, and the justifier of anyone who believes in Jesus. (Ro 3:26)

Federal headship is both positional and practical – we recognize our position in Christ through the ongoing transformation of our inward nature into the likeness of Christ by the power of God. (2Co 5:17) Only being made a new creation in Christ can put us in right relationship with God. (Ga 6:15) The one we are in, who represents us before God, either Adam or Christ, and our nature and behavior, disobedient or obedient (Ro 2:6-8) — it all goes together; the one does not exist without the other. (Mt 12:33)

It is of God that we’re in Christ (1Co 1:30); salvation is a miracle we can’t live without. (Mt 19:26) The gospel is simply amazing, something no one could possibly invent: the wisdom of God in a mystery, which He ordained before the world unto our glory, and His. (1Co 2:7)

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