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Losing Baptism: How the “Meaningful Symbol” view of Headcovering undermines Christian Symbolism

The “Meaningful Symbol” view teaches that we can replace the “headcovering” in 1 Corinthians 11 with a different symbol and still be faithful to the passage. We believe that if this hermeneutic is embraced, we may lose precious doctrines like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

This video is based on an article we wrote here.

Jeremy Gardiner

Jeremy is the founder of the Head Covering Movement and the author of Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times. He is a member of Fellowship Baptist Church and a student at Moody Bible Institute. He lives in Alberta, Canada with his wife and five young children. Jeremy is also the founder and operator of Gospel eBooks, a popular website that provides alerts for free and discounted Christian e-books.
Jeremy Gardiner

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Jamie Carter

Scripture says to greet one another with a holy kiss. Some cultures still do great one another with kisses, yet not all do. Mine, for instance, uses a hand shake for a greeting. So we do not obey the Bible literally or unanimously, but we do symbolically. Does the meaning change with each different kind of greeting? No. Does it lose it’s witness when I shake hands with a with person from a kissing greeting culture? No. Just because there is no unanimous practice it does not mean the symbol of wishing the person you’re greeting well isn’t the unanimous understood greeting.

However, some cultures do head cover and not all of them for the same reasons. All too often the testimonies from this site mention how Christian women have been mistaken for being Muslim. What are the Muslim reasons for head covering? Does that communicate to men and women outside of the church that we believe the same thing if we take up the same practice? If the symbol is for the church and in the church, then there’s no symbol to communicate to those outside of it.

What are you to teach outsiders anyway? “We believe that a head covering is a symbol of women submitting to men and that all women should wear it, but only certain women (wives) should submit to certain men (their husbands) because of the angels.” Now flip that for a moment, if you came across a religion where all men had to wear an article of clothing to represent that they secondary in status but equal in nature to women who didn’t have to wear anything to show that they were primary in status but equal in nature to men, would you sign up for that? Add to that the belief that being born male means you would never be allowed to preach but could help out in the nursery to your heart’s content because the Bible says that fathers are to teach their children.

My God isn’t the God that checks each person’s gender or outward appearance at the door and assigns them where to go and what to do – he’s always looked to a person’s heart. He’s not just talking about the organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies, but the essence of our being, our spirits … our souls – which have no gender. I would argue that this makes men and women completely equal and their roles in the church interchangeable. He sees value in each and every one of us as we are – not as we look like as we wear symbols or symbolically not wear symbols. He had a whole system set in the Old Testament where outward symbols led only into inward disobedience (Isaiah 29:13). He’s flipped the tables to where inward obedience does not need outward symbols. When you inwardly love God, no outward symbol can show how much.

Amy Rohrer

Oops. I “thumbed-up” this without meaning to. Not sure I agree with this comment.

Jamie Carter

It’s okay, I won’t take it personally. We all believe in the same Jesus and that’s what matters.

Susanne Berg

In Christ we are all equal, “For as many of you that have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ” (Gal.3:27, 28 KJV).
However, in our gatherings there is to be God ordained order and our roles as men and women are not interchangeable. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14: 34 KJV). “Let your women keep silence in the churches … they are commanded to be under obedience …” (1Cor. 14:34 KJV). The reason we are to be orderly in our gatherings is that ” … we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses … ” (Heb. 12:1 KJV). “For this cause ought the woman have power on her head because of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:10 KJV). Both the angelic host of God and those evil spirits that are trying to do us in are witnesses in our gatherings and it matters greatly to them whether we are orderly or not and a woman’s head covering speaks of obedience both to God and man. Not to be obedient is to be in rebellion and “… rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubborness as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 16:23 KJV). “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 16:22 KJV).
It is true that God looks to our hearts but our hearts will never be right with God unless we all, both men and women, learn to be obedient to the one we call “Lord” for “… he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Ph’p 2:8 KJV).

Jamie Carter

One thing I’ve seen in the Bible is how easily something meant for the good of God’s followers can easily be turned into an idol that ultimately harms them. I remember the story of the bronze serpent used to cure the Israelites that wandered through the wilderness of poison, but only a few generations later, that serpent was lifted up as an idol and was summarily destroyed. What was a temporary cure became a permanent stumbling block. When God set up the temple system, it was to make people right with him, but it was a temporary solution and even then God complained that their hearts were far from him even though they said the right words and fulfilled the actions he had ordered. All things have their time. Perhaps it was God himself that put the pieces into place that ultimately ended the practice of head covering after so many thousands of years. It had long ceased to be a spiritual practice or symbol and had become an empty tradition of a weekly fashion show. If God really did end it, then there’s no bringing it back unless he allows it. Likewise, I believe that God’s order was a temporary solution. Now that women are fully educated (and sometimes more educated than their husbands), it does not make sense to silence them because they’re female. Nor would it make sense to silence the husband because he knows less than his wife does. That order is not a permanent construction and should not be used as Christianity’s ‘bronze serpent’, nor should the order of family be another ‘bronze serpent’. Worshiping something God did or made more than worshiping God himself is also rebellion against God.

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