Has Noah's Ark Been Found?

Fox News  reported in an article yesterday that  Noah’s Ark may have been found on a Turkish mountaintop? The article reports that:
“A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers say wooden remains they have discovered on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey are the remains of Noah’s Ark”.

The group claims that carbon dating proves that samples of the relic are 4,800 years old, meaning they date to around the same time the ark was afloat. Yeung Wing-Cheung, from the Noah’s Ark Ministries International research team that made the discovery, said: “It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it.” I read a book back in the 1980’s called, “In Search of Noah’s Ark.” The photos in it were Loch Ness Monster-ish, fuzzy, out of focus, far away, etc. I was not a believer.  Since then, there have been several other groups claiming that they have found it as well. I remain skeptical that it is actually the real deal (though I’d love to be wrong on this one). If it is the Ark, it will prove to be one of the most significant discoveries of all time.

Several people have said that it would impact the hearts and lives of many unbelievers. Really? Do we think that such a discovery will suddenly awaken the hearts of sinful men and women the world over? If it is the genuine article, it will strengthen the believer’s faith, but I doubt that it will set afoot the mass conversion of souls. Scripture tells us otherwise. Luke 16:31 “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead“. The same principle stands for the discovery of the Ark, I think. The unbelieving heart will always find an excuse not to believe on Christ until such a time the Holy Spirit, by the means of grace, makes them believe.

You can read the article here.

Has Noah’s Ark Been Found?

Fox News  reported in an article yesterday that  Noah’s Ark may have been found on a Turkish mountaintop? The article reports that:
“A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers say wooden remains they have discovered on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey are the remains of Noah’s Ark”.

The group claims that carbon dating proves that samples of the relic are 4,800 years old, meaning they date to around the same time the ark was afloat. Yeung Wing-Cheung, from the Noah’s Ark Ministries International research team that made the discovery, said: “It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it.” I read a book back in the 1980’s called, “In Search of Noah’s Ark.” The photos in it were Loch Ness Monster-ish, fuzzy, out of focus, far away, etc. I was not a believer.  Since then, there have been several other groups claiming that they have found it as well. I remain skeptical that it is actually the real deal (though I’d love to be wrong on this one). If it is the Ark, it will prove to be one of the most significant discoveries of all time.

Several people have said that it would impact the hearts and lives of many unbelievers. Really? Do we think that such a discovery will suddenly awaken the hearts of sinful men and women the world over? If it is the genuine article, it will strengthen the believer’s faith, but I doubt that it will set afoot the mass conversion of souls. Scripture tells us otherwise. Luke 16:31 “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead“. The same principle stands for the discovery of the Ark, I think. The unbelieving heart will always find an excuse not to believe on Christ until such a time the Holy Spirit, by the means of grace, makes them believe.

You can read the article here.

When Pastors' Kids Go Bad

We’ve all heard the stories of pastor’s children walking away from the faith. I remember reading a true story many years ago of a pastor sitting in his car, weeping for his 17-year-old son. This man was the pastor of a very large Baptist congregation in the mid-west. The congregation had grown from 120 souls to over 1100 in just under a decade. The congregation has just moved into a multi-million dollar facility, and as a gift, they gave the minister the new parsonage, title and all, as a thank you gift. The pastor himself was a charismatic personality, who’s excitement for the gospel often spilled over into the congregation. They had new programs, many church leaders, and a passion for the lost that few churches possessed. Outwardly speaking, this pastor had every reason to rejoice. But there he sat, weeping for his wayward son. He later confessed, “I would trade every trapping of my success for an opportunity to live my life over again. I would have spend more time with my children.” His children were now all grown, and almost all of them had left the God of their father. This story could be told countless times over in other towns and cities all over North America.

We all know that Pastor’s Kids (PK’s) are sinners like everybody else. We know as well that the child that leaves the faith, while surprising us, does not surprise God. Yet we cannot minimize the fact that there are often human elements that can be pointed to that, from our lateral perspective, have contributed to this sad event. As a father of 8, two of them now teenagers, I often stare at them, wondering what I can do to minimize the potential of this ever happening to us. First I can pray for them, pleading the promises of the gospel. I can be faithful in family worship, teaching their hearts and minds about sin, repentance and faith. But is there more that can be done? What contributes to some defections in PK’s. Here are my thoughts.

On a Pedestal

The truth is, when others sin, they are often forgiven of those sins. But when a PK sins, that sin may be forgiven, but seldom forgotten. PK’s live in a glass house with their parents. Everything that is said or done in that home becomes the talk of the church. Expectations are very high for PK’s because their father is the spiritual leader of the congregation. Many people even subconsciously view PK’s as an extension of the pastor himself, and therefore must be an example for all the congregation. This places incredible pressure on the PK. In many cases they are denied the right to be normal. So the reaction of the PK is often to resent the “perfection mentality”, and rebel against it in many outward ways. This is especially true for sons. The desire to be distinct from the identity of the father often propels the PK in the wrong direction.

PK’s need to be given the freedom to be kids. We cannot ever excuse sin in our children, but PK’s need the same range of grace that all other children enjoy. Some would say we need to lower out expectations. I rather think we need to have realistic expectations.

Suggestions:
1.Never place higher expectations on a PK than you do for your own children. This is a good rule of thumb.
2.Go out of your way to communicate these realistic expectations to the PK’s. It will lessen the inherent pressure of being a pastor’s kid.
3.Don’t ask a PK son if he is going to be a preacher like his father, or a daughter if she is going to marry a preacher. You might not like the answer.

Home Life

No Ear, No Time


Pastors are men who preach, and listen. Yet often while spending large amounts of time listening to others they do not listen very well at home. The bitter feeling often arises that “I am unimportant to my dad.” Or, “These people dominate so much of my father’s time he has no time for us.” The resentment is often directed at the church, not at the father. Again, resentment grows in the PK because there is no distinction between church and family, “our time” with dad, and “the church’s time” with pastor. Often, almost invariably, family time is stolen by the needs of the congregation and the family is expected to pick up the slack.

Suggestions:
1.Pastors should have one day set aside exclusively for his family, the only exceptions being real emergencies (i.e., hospitalization or death).
2.A pastor should take at least 3 weeks off a year and NOT preach elsewhere. He should be with his family in the pew, going fishing, hiking, and spending time just being dad.
3.Elders should monitor this closely, and make every effort to protect the pastor’s time with the family.

My Dad is Stressed

Nothing discourages the PK more about the church than the toll problems can take on the father. Kids see this almost as clearly as the mother, and far clearer than the congregation. “If this is what a church is, then I don’t want to be a part of one”, is often the mentality. More children have been turned off from church because of incidentals that have dominated his time. The pastor has enough on his plate caring for the spiritual wellbeing of the church. He does not need to be brought into silly debates like the speed of the organ or how loud it is, how the offering is taken, or which kids are running around after the service. It is amazing how many times people think that the pastor is the complaint department of the congregation. This, in part are what ruling elders are for.

Suggestion:
1.Only come to the pastor with spiritual problems. Never go to him thinking he is the umpire for every problem in the church. This adds to his stress level and has an adverse effect on the children.

Note to Pastor’s

Our family is a flock within a flock. Our first calling is to be the priest of our home, and care for the souls given to us. Congregations come and go, but our families will remain. 1 Timothy 3:4,5 says that one mark of an elder (also pastor) is that he “ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?).”

Take the same care for the souls of your children as you do for your larger flock. Parents are often the instrument by which a child is brought to saving faith in Christ. Listen to your children, take time for them. And when you see that your time is being dominated inordinately by outside things, speak to your elders and cut back. We can not save our children, but we can certainly reduce the number of outside influences that may impact our children’s view of the Church.

Above all, pray for your children, as I know you do. But more than this, show them that you also are a sinner in need of grace, imperfect, looking to Christ as the author and finisher of your own faith.

When Pastors’ Kids Go Bad

We’ve all heard the stories of pastor’s children walking away from the faith. I remember reading a true story many years ago of a pastor sitting in his car, weeping for his 17-year-old son. This man was the pastor of a very large Baptist congregation in the mid-west. The congregation had grown from 120 souls to over 1100 in just under a decade. The congregation has just moved into a multi-million dollar facility, and as a gift, they gave the minister the new parsonage, title and all, as a thank you gift. The pastor himself was a charismatic personality, who’s excitement for the gospel often spilled over into the congregation. They had new programs, many church leaders, and a passion for the lost that few churches possessed. Outwardly speaking, this pastor had every reason to rejoice. But there he sat, weeping for his wayward son. He later confessed, “I would trade every trapping of my success for an opportunity to live my life over again. I would have spend more time with my children.” His children were now all grown, and almost all of them had left the God of their father. This story could be told countless times over in other towns and cities all over North America.

We all know that Pastor’s Kids (PK’s) are sinners like everybody else. We know as well that the child that leaves the faith, while surprising us, does not surprise God. Yet we cannot minimize the fact that there are often human elements that can be pointed to that, from our lateral perspective, have contributed to this sad event. As a father of 8, two of them now teenagers, I often stare at them, wondering what I can do to minimize the potential of this ever happening to us. First I can pray for them, pleading the promises of the gospel. I can be faithful in family worship, teaching their hearts and minds about sin, repentance and faith. But is there more that can be done? What contributes to some defections in PK’s. Here are my thoughts.

On a Pedestal

The truth is, when others sin, they are often forgiven of those sins. But when a PK sins, that sin may be forgiven, but seldom forgotten. PK’s live in a glass house with their parents. Everything that is said or done in that home becomes the talk of the church. Expectations are very high for PK’s because their father is the spiritual leader of the congregation. Many people even subconsciously view PK’s as an extension of the pastor himself, and therefore must be an example for all the congregation. This places incredible pressure on the PK. In many cases they are denied the right to be normal. So the reaction of the PK is often to resent the “perfection mentality”, and rebel against it in many outward ways. This is especially true for sons. The desire to be distinct from the identity of the father often propels the PK in the wrong direction.

PK’s need to be given the freedom to be kids. We cannot ever excuse sin in our children, but PK’s need the same range of grace that all other children enjoy. Some would say we need to lower out expectations. I rather think we need to have realistic expectations.

Suggestions:
1.Never place higher expectations on a PK than you do for your own children. This is a good rule of thumb.
2.Go out of your way to communicate these realistic expectations to the PK’s. It will lessen the inherent pressure of being a pastor’s kid.
3.Don’t ask a PK son if he is going to be a preacher like his father, or a daughter if she is going to marry a preacher. You might not like the answer.

Home Life

No Ear, No Time


Pastors are men who preach, and listen. Yet often while spending large amounts of time listening to others they do not listen very well at home. The bitter feeling often arises that “I am unimportant to my dad.” Or, “These people dominate so much of my father’s time he has no time for us.” The resentment is often directed at the church, not at the father. Again, resentment grows in the PK because there is no distinction between church and family, “our time” with dad, and “the church’s time” with pastor. Often, almost invariably, family time is stolen by the needs of the congregation and the family is expected to pick up the slack.

Suggestions:
1.Pastors should have one day set aside exclusively for his family, the only exceptions being real emergencies (i.e., hospitalization or death).
2.A pastor should take at least 3 weeks off a year and NOT preach elsewhere. He should be with his family in the pew, going fishing, hiking, and spending time just being dad.
3.Elders should monitor this closely, and make every effort to protect the pastor’s time with the family.

My Dad is Stressed

Nothing discourages the PK more about the church than the toll problems can take on the father. Kids see this almost as clearly as the mother, and far clearer than the congregation. “If this is what a church is, then I don’t want to be a part of one”, is often the mentality. More children have been turned off from church because of incidentals that have dominated his time. The pastor has enough on his plate caring for the spiritual wellbeing of the church. He does not need to be brought into silly debates like the speed of the organ or how loud it is, how the offering is taken, or which kids are running around after the service. It is amazing how many times people think that the pastor is the complaint department of the congregation. This, in part are what ruling elders are for.

Suggestion:
1.Only come to the pastor with spiritual problems. Never go to him thinking he is the umpire for every problem in the church. This adds to his stress level and has an adverse effect on the children.

Note to Pastor’s

Our family is a flock within a flock. Our first calling is to be the priest of our home, and care for the souls given to us. Congregations come and go, but our families will remain. 1 Timothy 3:4,5 says that one mark of an elder (also pastor) is that he “ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?).”

Take the same care for the souls of your children as you do for your larger flock. Parents are often the instrument by which a child is brought to saving faith in Christ. Listen to your children, take time for them. And when you see that your time is being dominated inordinately by outside things, speak to your elders and cut back. We can not save our children, but we can certainly reduce the number of outside influences that may impact our children’s view of the Church.

Above all, pray for your children, as I know you do. But more than this, show them that you also are a sinner in need of grace, imperfect, looking to Christ as the author and finisher of your own faith.

Extemporaneous Preaching

OK, so I have been reading three books on extemporaneous preaching. The subject has always intrigued me, and frightened me at the same time. Up to this point, I have preached about half of my sermon from a manuscript, and half “from the moment” (that is what extempore means). However, recently I have begun to wean myself from my notes. The best I have done is 2 pages. We will see how it goes. So far I like it very much, because it gives me a larger contact point with my congregation. I’m not sure if they have noticed any difference in my preaching, which could be a good thing, or a bad.

I have found out recently that whenever you mention extemporaneous preaching to others, especially to others in the ministry, you are often met with some serious cautions such as, “Extemporaneous preaching lacks direction. It is less doctrinal. You will find yourself falling into the same rut, saying the same thing over and over”, etc. But what I have come to discover is many people confuse extemporaneous preaching with impromptu preaching. There is a big difference. Impromptu preaching is preaching on the spot, off the top of your head with no preparation, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide you. I am opposed to this practice as a model based on 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. I think this is mysticism plain and simple. However extemporaneous preaching is not of this species, not at all.

In each and every book I am reading on the subject, the message is the same: a sermon with little or no script notes needs to be as well developed and meticulously crafted as the full writ sermon. It will require the same amount of original language work, commentary discovery, and direct application as any other sermon, week in and week out. I have discovered, both by research and practice, that there is no substantive difference in preparation of an extemporaneous sermon than in a written. Dispel the myth! The difference is in the delivery.

So what are the advantages of preaching in this way? Here is what I have learned so far.

Augustine’s dictum about the gospel sums it up well: Veritas pateat, veritas placeat, veritas moveat. “Make the truth plain, make it pleasing, make it moving.” When Christ preached, it is said that the common people hear him gladly (Mark 12:37). There was something warm, engaging, and true in Christ’s words that made Him compelling. If history has taught us anything on the subject it is this: that the best extemporaneous preachers were popular, not just because of “what” they said but “how” they said it. I think people are naturally drawn to someone that is not reading, but is looking. Why is it that President Obama uses the TelePrompTer? Because even the world knows that a speech that is spoken to the eyes, is more believable and engaging that one read from notes.

At this point one will say “but not all extemporaneous preachers were as successful as these men.” True, but the same can be said of those that preach from the full manuscript. Both sides can produce monuments of disaster. But this does not remove the benefits of the practiced discipline of note-less sermons. Dr. Webb, in his book Preaching Without Notes insists, “One can move people by reading or speaking from notes, but one cannot move them very far.” I am in no way arguing that everyone must preach this way. I don’t even know yet if I should. But why is this aspect of homiletics no longer encouraged in our seminaries when it reflects such a large portion of preaching successfully in the past? As Dr. Carrick of GPTS points out in his wonderful lecture The Extemporaneous Mode of Preaching, it was the moderates or libertines in the Church of Scotland that began to preach from full manuscripts in the 1700’s, making the sermon more academic and less applicatory. The conservatives, or evangelicals resisted it as long as they could, but eventually the full manuscript became the new standard. Perhaps we should be thinking of making it an elective taught by a fine modern extemporaneous preacher. Dr. David P. Murray?  I’d take the course.

Much more could be written on the subject. For instance, there are several different kinds of extemporaneous preaching (no notes, outline, partial manuscript, etc). But before I go any further, I have more to learn myself, both cerebrally and experimentally.  I would encourage you all to listen to the lecture of Dr. Carrick linked above.

The books I am reading on this subject?

Preaching Without Notes by Joseph M. Webb.

Extemporaneous Preaching by W.G.T Shedd

Hints on Extemporaneous Preaching by Henry Ware .

Also read, My Heart for Thy Cause (Borgman), Preaching and Preachers (Lloyd-Jones), Lectures to My Students (Spurgeon), Thoughts on Preaching (J.W. Alexander), and Homiletics and Pastoral Theology (Shedd), Evangelical Eloquence (Dabney).

Now I don't Feel so Bad

I never dread walking into my study, but I do dread others walking in. The reason is, it is a mess. It’s almost as bad as my colleague Eric Moerdyk’s in Abbotsford (Sorry Eric). 🙂

But after seeing this never before picture of Albert Einstein’s desk, I don’t feel so bad.

Now I don’t Feel so Bad

I never dread walking into my study, but I do dread others walking in. The reason is, it is a mess. It’s almost as bad as my colleague Eric Moerdyk’s in Abbotsford (Sorry Eric). 🙂

But after seeing this never before picture of Albert Einstein’s desk, I don’t feel so bad.

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No Such Custom- Part 2

Keep The Ordinances

Click here for Part-1

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”.

Most commentators believe this verse actually belongs to the preceding chapter, the closing arguments of the doctrinal outline set out in chapter 10, and not to chapter 11. Paul is moving now from doctrine to practice, from what is to be believed to what is to be done. Others argue that this verse is in its proper place because Paul is making a transition from one theme to another yet desires to keep uniformity of focus. Whichever be the case, there is something to be gained by looking at this verse for its abiding direction and instruction. Paul is exhorting the Corinthian Church to follow him as he follows Christ. In other words, he is not asking the Corinthians to do something that he does not do himself. The word “follower” in verse one in the Greek is mimetes, where you might recognize the English word mime. It means to imitate, or to copy. Paul has used this word before in this letter in 4:16 “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me“. It goes without saying that Paul is asking for his example to be copied in doctrine, worship, and practice. He is in effect saying, “Do as I am doing. Follow my pattern, imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”


What first strikes the reader here is the word “remember”. We need to keep in mind that this was not the first letter Paul had written to Corinth. In chapter 5 verse 9 we read, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators“. Paul had communicated to Corinth at least once before, how they were to conduct themselves in the Church. Here he is drawing them back to his original instruction to remember him in all things, and keep the ordinances as he delivered them the first time. So this is a review for the Church at Corinth. Evidently some paid close attention to Paul’s first instruction, and others did not. The result was while Paul was absent, some had challenged his teaching on several things, not the least of which was head coverings, and the observation of the Lord’s Supper. So Paul dovetail’s two more abuses in the Church, placing them both under the common heading of “ordinances”. In doing so, Paul emphasis is that these two subjects were precious to Paul because they were precious to Christ. Remember the logical chain in this chapter; “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”.

Have you ever wondered why the subject of head coverings is mentioned in the same chapter as the Lord’s Supper? If this was a doctrine relegated to the sphere of liberty of conscience, as many contend, why not place it in the chapter on meat sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8)? It would seem to fit better in a chapter that states, “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse” (verse 8). He could have said, “But head coverings commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we wear, are we the better; neither, if we wear not, are we the worse”. But he did not do this. The reason is self-evident by the word Paul uses in verse 2 of chapter 11, “ordinances”. Before we look further at the word ordinances, it would be good to look at some of the smaller words Paul uses in building up to it. Our purpose is not to be laborious, but rather to be exhaustive. Isaiah’s words are fitting, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:9,10). Having previously removed the modern opinion that this was a mere Corinthian custom, we can build a case based on the parts, to prove the whole.

The apostle does not begin his instruction on head coverings with a reminder of some of the things he has already taught, but all of them. “[R]remember me in all things“, says Paul, the lesser, as well as the greater items of faith. This is best demonstrated by Paul’s choice of words mnaomai mou pas,Remember me in all things” (v.2). What stands out the most in this phrase is the emphasis on the totality of what has been delivered. The phrase in the Greek carries with it, “things individual as well as collective; each, every, any, and all the parts comprising the whole”. If this is the case, then this passage cannot be painted with the broad brush of male headship or ontological order but must be looked upon in all of its consummate parts. The directive is, “Remember even the details of the ordinances I am about to restate to you. Do not neglect the parts in relation to the whole.” True, this passage is about order and headship in the economy of the Church, but that truth must not be the altar upon which the details are sacrificed. This is more clearly demonstrated by the word “keep” in the same verse, “remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances”. Keep here in the original is a mariners term referring to the front of a ship. It literally means, “To hold back, from going away. To check a ship’s headway; to hold or head the ship.” Paul is saying here, “Do not forget even the small details when observing what I have delivered to you. By keeping the details, the Church maintains course and will sail straight.” We can begin to see now that this passage is dealing with more that an umbrella doctrine like male headship. It is dealing with a doctrine that is to be kept in its entirety without taking anything away from its parts. What then are we to remember in detail, and not neglect? What two things are we to keep without wavering? The same two things that the Church has kept for 2000 years, the ordinances of Holy Supper an head coverings. If we will take this chapter as an authority on one of these ordinances (Holy Supper), we must take them on both (head coverings).

The words “ordinances” and “delivered” in verse 2 are the noun and verb forms of the same Greek word, meaning “to ‘deliver” or “transmit”. Verse 2 could also read, “keep the deliveries, as I delivered them to you”. The verb form is also found in verse 23, “for I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread …”. The same verb form is also used when referring to the gospel in chapter 15:1-3 “I declare unto you the gospel … for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received”. Head covering observance, Holy Supper, and the gospel are all apostolic ordinances given to the Church by Jesus Christ, transmitted from the apostles in both written form and by verbal declaration.

One of the main duties of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was to communicate to the Churches the commands of the Lord. Paul received the gospel directly, “the gospel which was preached of me is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ,”(Galatians 1:12). It is commonly believed that Paul received the substance of his apostolic message shortly after his conversion in Acts 9 when he, “went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Galatians 1:17). What he learned in Christ’s school, he delivered to Corinth when he founded the church there as recorded in Acts 18:1,11 “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; … and he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” The other apostles received instruction about the gospel and the Lord’s supper before Christ died, and they probably received the head covering ordinance right after Jesus’ resurrection when he “through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen, … being seen of them forty days” (Acts 1:2,3) The reason for this assertion is Paul did not set up all the Churches of the known world, yet he contends in verse 16 that all other Churches observe the ordinance of head coverings except Corinth (See: No Such Custom-Part 1).

The word ordinances could also be accurately translated traditions. The translators of the Authorized Version chose the equally acceptable word ordinances, to steer away from the Roman Catholic doctrine of the equality of tradition with verbal, plenary inspiration. The word itself has to do with the body of precepts delivered either by word of mouth or in writing. They are doctrines of the Church, and must be both believed and obeyed as given from Christ Himself. Why is it we have no problem applying this understanding to the doctrine of Holy Supper, but we stumble over it when it comes to head coverings? Paul is saying here that they are both to be understood principally on the same foundation, that is divine injunction. In the case of Holy Supper, Paul will appeal to Christ’s own example as its foundation as an ordinance. When speaking about head coverings, Paul will appeal not to custom, but to 4 governing criteria: Christ’s headship (v.3), creation (v. 8,9), the angels (v. 10), and common sense (v. 14). In this way, Paul is establishing the ordinance upon proofs that have nothing to do with custom, and timeless principles which makes this ordinance as lasting and abiding as Holy Supper. To quote Sproul once more, “Nowhere does (Paul) give cultural reasons for his teaching, i.e. abusive practices of a pagan society that placed prostitutes with shorn heads in the temple. Paul points back to God’s established order in nature. Whenever a teaching in Scripture refers to ‘creation ordinances’, that teaching is binding for all cultures in all ages…” (From ‘Table Talk’ Devotional Guide for June 17-24, 1996, pp. 36-43.).

I hope we are beginning to see the exegetical grounds for the practice of head coverings. Next time, Lord willing, we will look at the 4 governing criteria of this ordinance.

No Such Custom Part 1

The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture, also called the perspicuity of Scripture, teaches that the meaning of a text is not hidden by unknown elements, but can clearly be understood by the ordinary reader. This is consistent with our Reformed heritage that has always taught that ordinary people who come to the Word of God in faith and humility, will be able to understand what the Bible teaches, even if some passages are more difficult. During the Dark Ages, the Roman Catholic Church wanted to keep the elements of understanding the Word within the confines of the Magisterium, Papacy, and Church dogma. They wrongfully insisted that to rightly understand what a particular text meant, you must abandon the text and seek its understanding through Mother Rome, who alone could decide the meaning of the Bible. The Reformers flatly rejected that any outside element could interpret Holy Writ. Our forbearer’s taught that all one needed was a Bible, a ready mind, and a willing heart, aided by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) was not just a rallying cry for our forefathers, it was the very axiom for understanding the Scriptures. Perspicuity, or the clarity of scripture remains a key element in comprehending the Word of God. When we deviate from this foundational principle, and allow outside elements (dogma, current culture, history, or circumstance) to muddy the waters of perspicuity, the grip on once tightly held beliefs begins to loosen, and before long, we are charting new territory based on interpretive elements found outside the Word of God.

In the last 100 years, a 2000 year old doctrine, has been all but removed from most Reformed churches, by a single controlling element- culture. The doctrine abandoned was the use of head coverings in public worship.

The fact remains that even 50 years ago, it mattered very little what Church you attended (Baptist, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, or Reformed), all women wore a head covering in public worship. Yet today there are hardly any congregations in Western Culture that practice this with any degree of consistency, if they practice it at all. When you ask the question “Why don’t you believe wearing a head covering is biblical?”, you are met with a uniform answer, “Because it was a cultural practice, and our culture no longer requires a head covering.” The question must be answered then, are head coverings cultural, or are they a requirement for corporate worship? This short paper will attempt to answer that question.

The Exposition

I want to begin at the end. Often, when this subject is discussed, the greatest weight of argument is found at the end of Paul’s writing on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. It is verse 16 that everyone seems to remember. So we will begin there.

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God(1 Corinthians 11:16).

After 15 verses of sound argument, many people think that Paul quite happily contradicted himself in reference to head coverings. Is this what he was doing? Was he saying in the prior 15 verses, “Women should wear head coverings in public worship, and then turn an about-face and say, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God? Paul is far too much of a logician to do such a thing.

The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, brings to an end the first of two ordinancesin this chapter by insisting that if any in the Corinthian Church have a disagreement with the ordinance of head coverings, the greater Church of Christ does not. By these words, he is insisting that strife over this practice, while it was very real in Corinth, is unheard of in all other Churches at that time.

Contentious” in the Greek is the word philoneikos, which is a compound of philoslove”, and nikos, “strife”. It literally means, “to be fond of strife. At this point, some will say, “See, Paul is saying that to insist that a woman wear a head covering in the Church is to engender strife in the Church.” This however is not the case. Paul is arguing for the exact opposite. He is saying, “Those that argue against the ordinance are the ones engendering strife.” If we can put it another way, he is saying, “If anyone is fond of strife over not wearing head coverings, he stands alone in this, as all the other Churches use head covering in public worship.” If he was not saying this, then why did he waste so much ink, and laborious thought in the last 15 verses? Why did he tell the Corinthians to keep the ordinances (Holy Supper and Head Coverings) delivered to them if he was saying at the end of it all, “don’t keep them.” It makes no exegetical sense whatsoever and is against sound reasoning. No other Church that Paul knew of was having a problem with this doctrine besides Corinth.

Have you ever wondered why the use of head coverings has been the common and undisputed practice of the Church for 2000 years in every denomination we could mention? It is because the interpretation given above is the uniform understanding of this passage through all of Christian history. Here are a few quotes from some of our forefathers on verse 16.

Early Church Father Chrysostom. Homily 26 On the Veiling of Women.

Thou seest that some obeyed, whom he praises; and others disobeyed, whom he corrects by what comes afterwards, saying, “Now if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom.” (ver. 16.) For if after some had done well but others disobeyed, he had included all in his accusation, he would both have made the one sort bolder, and have caused the others to become more remiss.

It is then contentiousness to oppose these things, and not any exercise of reason. Notwithstanding, even thus it is a measured sort of rebuke which he adopts, to fill them the more with self-reproach; which in truth rendered his saying the more severe. “For we,” saith he, “have no such custom,” so as to contend and to strive and to oppose ourselves. And he stopped not even here, but also added, “neither the Churches of God;” signifying that they resist and oppose themselves to the whole world by not yielding.

John Calvin

But if any man seem. A contentious person is one whose humor inclines him to stir up disputes, and does not care what becomes of the truth. Of this description are all who, without any necessity, abolish good and useful customs — raise disputes respecting matters that are not doubtful — who do not yield to reasonings — who cannot endure that any one should be above them… For we must not always reckon as contentious the man who does not acquiesce in our decisions, or who ventures to contradict us; but when temper and obstinacy show themselves, let us then say with Paul, that contentions are at variance with the custom of the Church (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:16).

Scottish Divine David Dickson

If any perhaps should not bee moved by these Arguments, but should contend, the Apostle opposeth to their contentious Apologies, the received and established custome of the Jews, and the rest of the Churches: Other Churches have no such custome, that women should bee present at publick assemblies, with their heads uncovered, and the man with his head covered: Therefore your custome not agreeing with decency, either according to natural use, or of the Churches, is altogether unseemly (David Dickson’s Commentaries on the Epistles. Printed 1659. Chapter 11, Seventh Article Concerning Order and Decency).

Westminster Divine, Mathew Poole

We have no such custom, of woman’s praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered, or men’s praying or prophesying with their heads covered; or we have no such custom of contending these little frivolous things (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:16).

John Gill

That is, if anyone will not be satisfied with reasons given, for men’s praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered, and women’s praying and prophesying with their heads covered; but will go on to raise objections, and continue carping and cavilling, showing that they contend not for truth, but victory, can they but obtain it any way; for my part, as if the apostle should say, I shall not think it worth my while to continue the dispute any longer; enough has been said to satisfy any wise and good man, anyone that is serious, thoughtful, and modest; and shall only add,

we have no such custom, nor the churches of God;

meaning, either that men should appear covered, and women uncovered in public service, and which should have some weight with all those that have any regard to churches and their examples; or that men should be indulged in a captious and contentious spirit.

Adam Clarke

If any person sets himself up as a wrangler-puts himself forward as a defender of such points, that a woman may pray or teach with her head uncovered, and that a man may, without reproach, have long hair; let him know that we have no such custom as either, nor are they sanctioned by any of the Churches of God, whether among the Jews or the Gentiles (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:16).

Geneva Notes on the Bible

Against those who are stubbornly contentious we have to oppose this, that the churches of God are not contentious(Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:16).

The point of these early quotes (which are only a sampling) is to prove the uniform understanding of Paul’s conclusion on the matter before he moves on to Holy Supper. No forefather ever contended that Paul was saying, “But we have no such head covering customs in the Church.” By removing the argument that Paul was saying that a woman does not need to wear a head covering based on verse 16, allows for us to look at the proper meaning of the previous 15 verses. It is clear that Paul was saying “If you contend that the practice of head coverings is not an ordinance of God, you stand alone in the Churches of Christ.”

The Cultural Element Removed

Spurgeon once said, “We shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God’s grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible” (“The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining it”, in An All-round Ministry, p. 318.).

One hundred years ago there was still no contention in the Church over the ordinance of head coverings. Now there is. What happened? The Church began to adjust the Bible to the age. Post World War I Christianity looks very different that what it looked like previously. As the somber mood of World War I replaced the frivolity of the turn of the century, women replaced men in factories as their husbands and sons defended freedom. This event, coupled with the rising movement of feminism in general society led to a slow but steady deterioration between distinctions among the sexes. Is it coincidence that head coverings in Churches began to decrease at the same time feminism began its rise? Add to this mix, the paradigm shift in theology as European Enlightenment Rationalism became prominent in many seminaries across the continent, and you get the perfect recipe for change. And not reformational change either, but libertarian. No longer was the Bible a book above reproach after the Great War, but now it was being questioned as to its authenticity, veracity, and authority. The Bible was scrutinized and analyzed with tools once foreign to the Church, rationalism and cultural influences. The Bible soon became a wax nose to be manipulated and conformed to the higher thought of enlightened scholars, all of which were bent on removing God from society.

During this time in history a novel idea was set before the Church about head coverings. For the first time, perspicuity took a back seat to human critical analysis, cultural influences, and authorial background and intent. Sola Scriptura had been replaced. In the case of head coverings, even though Paul never makes any reference to the culture of the day in the chapter before us, the understanding of Corinthian culture becomes the controlling element of the text. Therein lies the rub. When we allow closely held beliefs to be determined by historical/cultural circumstances, we do something to the very nature of plenary, verbal, inspiration.  In rhetoric, an illustration can support an argument, but it can never be the argument. Likewise, a text can have cultural or historical elements in it, but this never alters the doctrine. The doctrine (which is the argument) is immovable, though times and circumstances change (the illustration).

R.C. Sproul speaks clearly to this subject,

It is one thing to seek a more lucid understanding of the biblical content by investigating the cultural situation of the first century; it is quite another to interpret the New Testament as if it were merely an echo of the first-century culture. To do so would be to fail to account for the serious conflict the church experienced as it confronted the first-century world. Christians were not thrown to the lions for their penchant for conformity.

Some very subtle means of relativizing the text occur when we read into the text cultural considerations that ought not to be there. For example, with respect to the hair-covering issue in Corinth, numerous commentators on the Epistle point out that the local sign of the prostitute in Corinth was the uncovered head. Therefore, the argument runs, the reason why Paul wanted women to cover their heads was to avoid a scandalous appearance of Christian women in the external guise of prostitutes.

Later he goes on to say,

What is wrong with this kind of speculation? The basic problem here is that our reconstructed knowledge of first-century Corinth has led us to supply Paul with a rationale that is foreign to the one he gives himself. In a word, we are not only putting words into the apostle’s mouth, but we are ignoring words that are there. If Paul merely told women in Corinth to cover their heads and gave no rationale for such instruction, we would be strongly inclined to supply it via our cultural knowledge. In this case, however, Paul provides a rationale which is based on an appeal to creation, not to the custom of Corinthian harlots. We must be careful not to let our zeal for knowledge of the culture obscure what is actually said. To subordinate Paul’s stated reason to our speculatively conceived reason is to slander the apostle and turn exegesis into eisogesis.

The creation ordinances are indicators of the transcultural principle. If any biblical principles transcend local customary limits, they are the appeals drawn from creation. I hope the answer is obvious.

Dr. Sproul is keeping the clarity of scripture in view over any other possible controlling element. So let us keep this in mind as we look at the subject of head coverings, beginning at the first verse,

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Click here for Part-2