Disagreeing Brethren

By Amber


Much has happened since writing my last post, but here’s a partial update and a wonderful excerpt that I found profoundly relevant.

I had intended on taking a break from Facebook this week so that I could devote more undivided attention to study, however it turns out that logging on and scrolling the news feed was too easy(surprise!), so I have temporarily deactivated my account.

I’ve been studying quite a bit of my Bible, as well as various books. I’ve actually just finished an eye-opening book by Paul K. Williams entitled The Headcoverings of 1 Corinthians 11 (stay tuned for an article on it ;)), which I simply must recommend to everyone. I’ll probably end up summarizing it in a later post, but one of his final chapters was incredibly helpful and in light of some recent differences, I thought it would be relevant to post:

“It has been the usual practice in churches of Christ for brethren who disagree on the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 to worship and work together without distinction. Preachers who believe that women should cover their heads in worship work together with preachers who do not and women who cover their heads sit next to women with bare heads in the assembly. And I believe this is the correct thing to do.

…However, to those of us who have studied carefully and come to the conclusion that it is God’s will for women to cover their heads in worship, this is not a matter of liberty or free choice. It is a matter of God’s will.

…I do not know the entire answer concerning fellowship, and I doubt that anyone else does. I know that the consequences of refusing fellowship whenever we conscientiously disagree over the application of the Bible teaching will soon be a fragmenting too horrendous to think about.

I also think that those things where we have tacitly agreed to disagree and remain in fellowship are things which require a good many inferences, sometimes not necessary inferences. These things do not seem as clear as other matters. Thus we continue to try to teach one another and leave the judging to God. I think this is right. It seems the only practical course.

However this has resulted in brethren thinking that the questions on which we differ without breaking fellowship are not important. Instead of there being careful Bible study on those questions, they are dismissed because brethren differ and still get along. I have tried to get thoughtful articles on the head covering published by a leading brotherhood journal, but it has not been possible. Apparently brethren do not want to upset things. And I think this is a very bad attitude.

Brethren, we need to study, and we need to study questions wherein we differ. We must study in a brotherly way, with love for the truth and love for one another. But we must remember that God will hold us responsible for how we handle the truth. We must not stifle controversy when it is for the purpose of finding the truth.

Therefore, let us tolerate and work together with brethren who differ on these questions, while at the same time being willing to study and teach that the truth may always prevail.”

(partial excerpt)


12 thoughts on “Disagreeing Brethren

  1. I was not aware this passage was such a controversy in the church! I’m curious what your post about this man’s book will be because it seems fairly clear to me that Paul is saying it’s dishonorable for a woman to shave her head and I don’t see how anyone could argue that it’s not!

    • Oh, oh, oh! He is talking about veil coverings—I *have* heard that interpretation before, although, never in the context of controversy…very intriguing. Now I’m even more curious because it *sounds* like he takes the veil covering interpretation rather seriously…

      • Haha, that passage has always confused me and I’ve generally settled to believe that he meant long hair is the covering. I’ll try to write a post but I seriously MUST recommend this book if you’re interested: he takes a look at each of the arguments, what history reveals and the practices of the early church as well as just dissecting the actual verses and it’s sooo informative, but also simple. Sometimes doctrinal arguments get so convoluted that I come out understanding less than I did going in, but that definitely wasn’t the case with this book. :)

      • The points they use about the hair, Corinthian culture/prostitutes and modern society are all addressed in the book – those are prevalent reasons for why it doesn’t apply today, but they actually contradict history (and he provides resources to back up his claims). I’ll try to write on it, but I don’t know when. All I can say is he kind of obliterated any argument for the head covering not applying today.

      • REALLY?! That’s interesting…I’m skeptical only because my own reading of it really lends itself to hair, and I’m always wary of people who “study” scripture and come out with overly-complicated interpretations of it. God’s Word is plain so it makes me nervous when things get studied and end up producing an interpretation that is counter to a long-standing one.

        Not necessarily saying he’s wrong, mind you. But I’m wary, albeit intrigued! :)

      • Oh, I know what you mean. But, considering it wasn’t until the 1800s that the practice declined and the 1900s (with the feminist movement), that the headcovering became basically obsolete, I think it’s worth reconsidering. Facts like that make me question just who started making things overly complicated first…

  2. Some things I consider to fall under the umbrella of Custom thus not of doctrinal importance. Admittedly, though, I do struggle with some things pushed by the church as doctrine. I will hot on some of these issues on my blog in the future.

  3. Some things I consider to fall under the umbrella of Custom thus not of doctrinal importance. Admittedly, though, I do struggle with some things pushed by the church as doctrine. I will hit on some of these issues on my blog in the future.


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