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“What about I Cor. 11? Should women really cover their heads? I’ve heard this command dismissed as a cultural thing, but should it still be obeyed today?”
Part two of a two-part answer:
Last week we concluded that the specific instructions in this text are not necessarily binding today. The cultural context of the people to whom Paul wrote clearly shaped what he said to those people in that place at that time.
Nevertheless, a word of caution is called for at this point.
Resorting too readily to treating a passage as “culturally conditioned” (and thereby declaring its specificity “irrelevant” for today) risks diminishing the seriousness with which we regard the Bible.
If the Scripture is inspired (and I believe it is), then we must treat all of it with respect and integrity.
Recognized interpretive guidelines which include seeking to understand the author’s intent and the situation of the recipients also require that we resist reading our personal agenda or presuppositions “into” the text, making it say what we want it to say.
We interpret each text in light of the whole Bible and avoid building a full-blown theology or practice on just one verse or passage. In every passage we look for the universal truth(s) that are relevant in all times and places.
I Cor. 11:1-16 is a great place to practice these hermeneutical (interpretive) principles. Paul’s “arguments” from theology, customary practices, nature and the order of creation are aimed at reminding his readers that they are a part of something bigger than themselves and that they are accountable to God above all else.
There in Corinth, Paul warned the people against getting caught up in their personal agenda, forgetting that they are to be very different from the world around them and moving too quickly to free themselves from the old ways.
His highest priority—to win people to Christ—transcended any impulse to effect bold change (I Cor. 10:31-33).