Every single sentence of the Bible has a meaning that must be understood and applies to Christians today in one or more ways. This includes every sentence in 1 Corinthians 11. In 1 Cor 11.2-16 Paul teaches that the Father is the authority of the Son, and that husbands are the authority of wives, and that women should cover their heads in the worship service.
In 21st century America, specifically, Hawaii (where I live), I still believe the Father is the authority over the Son and that husbands are the authority of wives. But I do not believe women should cover their heads in worship. I think they are free to do it if they want, but I do not believe they are required. Why? Am I simply picking and choosing?
Here is what I think is happening in that text: Paul is giving a specific application of Scriptural principles to the church in Corinth in AD 60(ish). We all understand this. I would tell any teacher at our church that they need to figure out what the universal principle in a passage is, and then, find possible applications for our current culture/place/time. We simply have an inspired example of that. If we believe that it is right to find relevant applications for our people today, wouldn’t it make sense that we would see examples in the Bible of this?
Where else do we see this? I think you see it in the same book of 1 Corinthians when Paul talks about food sacrificed to idols. Refraining from food sacrificed to idols is the specific application of a principle about loving those with weak consciences. Refraining from food is not the universal principle!
I think you also see applications being mentioned in things like holy kisses. I also was struck by another example today in Romans 13. Paul says all Christians must submit to governing authorities. A specific application he comes up with in Romans 13.6 is paying taxes. Universal principle=submission. Specific application=pay taxes. Those who live in the U.S. might feel like paying taxes is a universal principle that must always be obeyed. But what if you lived in Qatar or the Cayman Islands, where individual taxes are very different, if even non-existent (from my limited understanding). Might Christians there be having the same conversation we are having about head coverings? “How come you apply 1 Tim 2 (women cannot teach) but you don’t apply taxes? I know our government doesn’t require us to pay taxes but Paul says ‘for this reason you pay taxes’!” Getting the point?
I believe I am the one with the consistent hermeneutic (philosophy of interpretation). We must read, think, meditate, pray hard and pore over every text to really understand what is happening. If you do these things, it might make perfect sense why you could walk into a Kailua Baptist Church service and find men leading the church while women sing and pray and even prophesy (read Scripture?) with all kinds of different hairstyles.
I believe the Bible teaches that Christians must only marry Christians, that there may be cases that arise where separation/divorce is acceptable, and that remarriage is only acceptable and profitable in the case of widows/widowers. Some of the key texts are Genesis 2.24, Deuteronomy 24.1-4, Matthew 19.4-6, Luke 16.18, and 1 Corinthians 7. It is in the context of that teaching that I understand the phrase “one-woman man” when Paul lists the qualifications of overseers/elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 (as well as Titus 1). If Jesus and Paul intended to teach that one man and one woman are united by God until God ends the marriage in death, then “one-woman man” is not so obscure of a phrase.
Andreas Kostenberger, a great trustworthy scholar, has written a fine book called God, Marriage, and Family: rebuilding the biblical foundation. He would disagree with me. He is a scholar. I am not. But I have been a little disappointed to find that he has not addressed some of the strongest nuances of the differing views on this phrase. In other words, I think he addresses all the differing views generally, but not any one specifically. And by doing that, there are arguments from the other angles that could be missed (not necessarily a weakness in his writing, but just a disappointment for what I am wrestling with).
He has strong reasons for interpreting “one-woman man” to mean “faithful husband.” But here are some arguments against three of his reasons in particular:
- He says that Paul could have said “never been divorced” (or against me, “never been remarried”) instead of “one-woman man” (which everyone agrees can be translated “husband of one wife”), but could not Paul have said “faithful husband” as well?
- He rightly argues that “one-woman man” is not Paul’s prohibition of polygamy. But then he argues that it could very well be a prohibition of having concubines, which he says was common. I think the text of the NT screams silently against that as being a common practice among Christians. Plus, as with other qualifications, would having concubines be acceptable for any Christian? Not every Christian must be apt to teach, but no Christian could have ever been ok to have a concubine.
- He also seems to assume that men or women who had a spouse die, and then remarried, have become people who have had more than one spouse. He would say in my view, that should disqualify widowers who remarry. But I say again, what if the biblical view in general on divorce and remarriage is that a Christian’s marriage only ends when God ends it in death? You are a “one-woman man” if you only remarry after your first spouse dies. If she is alive when you remarry, you are a “two-woman man”, obviously.
My goal is not mainly to argue about divorce and remarriage in general, but only to show how my view of “one-woman man” makes sense. I tire of Christians making fun of me for that. I desire to take these texts seriously, and would love for a little more unity to happen in this area by God’s grace, and I think that ONLY happens through conversations like these.