#STRask: June 9, 2016

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Published on 06/09/2016

Host: Greg Koukl

Greg talks about head coverings, people in heaven praying on our behalf, and open theism.


  • What are we to make of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 regarding head coverings? What is the culture of the time?
  • Do people in heaven pray on our behalf?
  • Is open theism heretical?


Melinda: How come you’re not dancing anymore?

Greg: Well, I was kind of waving my hand to the rhythm. I wanted to try to get my strike right when the ding happened right at the end of the music. I haven’t quite got it yet, but...

Melinda: If you really want a challenge you should try to do the ding when it dings your question, when you’ve gone over four minutes.

Greg: Oh well, okay. I don’t know exactly when she’s starting the timer. I start mine too.

Melinda: Well, this is STR Ask podcast #STRAsk. I’m Melinda.

Greg: I thought you were going to say this is the ding podcast.

Melinda: No. We could do that.

Greg: Ding.

Melinda: I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl.

Greg: The ding.

Melinda: I am not.

Greg: Actually I said the ding right after...

Melinda: You put a ding in charge of your show?

Greg: No, but also said ding right after you said my name. See, you didn’t catch that. Anyway, let’s go on.

Melinda: Okay, you’re the ding? Anyways, so if you’re the ding we shouldn’t have you on here answering questions.

Greg: Who’s the dong? The ding dong.

Melinda: All right. So this is the crazy podcast, short podcast, short answers for people short on time. You give us your questions on Twitter using #STRAsk. Here’s the first question from Rollerberry. “What are we to make of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 regarding head coverings?”

Greg: You know what? I hate it when people ask this question. That is because I can’t give a coherent response to this. I will tell you what I know. When I say not coherent, I can’t give a conclusive response to this.

Melinda: Well, no, nobody can. You gave a, I mean I was thinking because actually a couple weeks ago in answering something else I thought you gave a coherent answer.

Greg: Well, that applies to here and this has to do with, what’s the passage in, 11...

Melinda: 1 Corinthian 11:1-16.

Greg: Okay, well it covers more than just head coverings. It talks about long hair and short hair. “Does not even nature itself teach you that if man has long hair it is dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair it is glory to her for her hair is given to her for a covering.” This is one of those things that I can give you an answer, this is the answer that I have heard that seems to relate in a significant way to the cultural circumstances right there, but I don’t know how to make sense of it in light of all of the verses in the passage, okay?

My understanding, this is in Corinth where this, well it was in the Corinthian letter here, and so you have temple prostitution. Apparently, as I understand it, the temple prostitutes had shaved hair or short hair. This was something that everyone was aware of. Consequently, Paul’s argument here is what you don’t want to do, if I can extract the general principle, what you don’t want to do is you don’t want to be mistaken by your garb for an immoral person, like a prostitute.

Then he says, “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a dishonor to him.” I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t make sense out of that statement because I don’t know anything about nature that would somehow dictate that. The irony is that almost every movie with Jesus in it, Jesus has long hair. The actor does is what I mean. I’m curious, it just occurred to me, I wonder what the Shroud of Turin if anything suggests about the length of Jesus’ hair.

Melinda: I think it shows...

Greg: Of the hair of the person in the shroud, which I have good reason to believe is actually Jesus Himself.

Melinda: Yeah, it seems to me my impression of it is kind of the movie style.

Greg: Style, longer, yeah.

Melinda: Because I’ve seen other pictures of Jesus, a picture of Him very recently and it’s tight, curly hair.

Greg: It would be hard to image that these men went to the barber shop on a regular basis to keep their hair short. It’s just inconvenient living in that period of time.

Melinda: Of course short and long are somewhat relative.

Greg: Relative, right. Anyway, I don’t know. This is the only place where it’s mentioned. My general rule is if something is vague and mentioned once as kind of a practice, it’s similar to another show, an earlier show where we made the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive. Of course this is prescriptive for that local congregation.

Paul was saying hey look it, don’t do that. Do this. I don’t have a sense that Paul is making a directive that is meant to cover everyone, but again, when I was a kid women always wore hats to church.

Melinda: You were Catholic.

Greg: I was Catholic, right.

Melinda: Lutherans didn’t.

Greg: Men always took their hats off. Even today, now, nowadays when I go to the kids’ chapel I’m wearing like a baseball cap or a fishing cap or something and I take the cap off when I’m in chapel.

Melinda: Because you’re a gentleman.

Greg: It’s just it’s in our culture. It’s a way of signifying respect in that environment. That was pretty much right on the ding, right?

Melinda: That was really good.

Greg: Pretty close.

Melinda: You didn’t point your finger to point to it.

Greg: No, I didn’t do that. It’s just a verbal simultaneity.

Melinda: Okay. Next question comes from Whelsh64. “Do people in heaven pray on our behalf?”

Greg: Well, I was going to say I have no reason to believe that.

Melinda: Why are you hesitating then?

Greg: Well, I’m hesitating because I’m wondering if there’s something in the book of Revelation that signifies...No, I don’t think there is. There is a petition of the saints, the blood of the saints that is going up to heaven and the saints in heaven are watching since we have so great a cloud of witnesses. This is Hebrews 12 in the beginning. In Hebrews 11 is this great chapter on the great men and women of faith in the Old Testament, so these people of faith in the Old Testament now gone, now with the Lord are witnesses of what’s happening here.

We’re encouraged to run with endurance our race just like they ran with endurance their race. There seems to be a conscious awareness of what’s going on down here on earth, but I don’t have any sense from the Scriptures that the saints intervene for us. I know this is a practice of Catholics. It really bothers me actually because what ends up happening, and I was raised Catholic so I know a little bit about the practice of Catholics.

What ends up happening is that more attention is given to the saints that is prayer and some level of homage given to the saints to intercede on our behalf because they have more pull because they’re up there with God than there is praying in Jesus’ name to the Father. It seems to me Jesus has the most pull. If we’re to be praying to the Father in Jesus’ name as Jesus Himself told us to do, then that’s the right thing to do. Not wasting our time calling on the dead which the book of Deuteronomy directly prohibits.

Melinda: The New Testament does say Jesus is interceding on our behalf in heaven, so He’s the one person who is.

Greg: Right, and the Holy Spirit as well. Yeah, I just don’t see the biblical basis for that and I do see genuine harm that has come from it. I know, I knew I should say, people that were...I’m choosing my words carefully, more in love with Mary or more in love with some patron saint than they were with Jesus. It was obvious to talk to them.

Melinda: Now you mentioned Hebrews 11 and the cloud of witnesses. You said that they’re aware of what’s going on. Does it actually say that or is...

Greg: Well, they’re the witnesses. That’s the impression I get from that.

Melinda: I guess, I mean I would have to look at the passage closer. You’re looking at it. I thought these cloud of witnesses, it’s their lives that are witnesses to us about faith and walking the walk in Jesus.

Greg: Yeah. It says “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also as they did lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” I’m wondering in what sense are they witnesses? Were their lives in chapter 11 witnessing to their faithfulness or...

Melinda: That’s what I assumed because he gives all of these examples.

Greg: Yeah, I never thought of that before.

Melinda: I never thought of your way of it.

Greg: That meaning never occurred to me. The meaning that occurred to me is that we have all these examples and we are to follow their example because they are part of the gallery that are surrounding us witnessing what we’re doing. I think the word witness then has, it makes more sense in that way in the sense that they are just the individuals that are up there and their faith is a witness to us I guess. Is that what you mean?

Melinda: Yeah, but...

Greg: Oh, all done.

Melinda: That’s a limit on you, not me. I’m the host.

Greg: That sounded like...There’s a Monty Python skit that’s like that. Sorry.

Melinda: There’s always a Monty Python skit. Well, but you don’t think they’re actually surrounding us anyways? In fact you were just saying they’re up there in heaven.

Greg: Right.

Melinda: Heaven’s not up there either, so I guess I’ve always took this, they’re part of the Body of Christ, they’re part of the church in that certain sense they’re surrounding us because they’re part of the same body and their lives witnessed to us what it is to run the race.

Greg: Yeah, but it says well, it is figurative language, I understand. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud,” okay? It’s a figurative. “...of witnesses surrounding us...” Again, they are the witnesses. It says they are the witnesses, not the things that they did in their life are a witness to us. Anyway, I just take the metaphoric language to communicate a literal truth that they are there in a certain sense aware of us and now it’s our turn to run our race well like they ran their race. That’s what I would take there. People can read for themselves and see.

Melinda: Yes, they can. Next question.

Greg: Melinda has...

Melinda: Next question comes from Barry Wallace, is open theism heretical? First tell them a little bit about what open theism is.

Greg: I don’t know what that is.

Melinda: It comes out of your four minutes.

Greg: Oh, I better start my counter here. Open theism is the view that God does not know everything that is going to happen in the future. For example, he doesn’t know the free will choices of human beings. There are different theological reasons that people hold this and some philosophical reasons. They would hold, by the way, that God is omniscient which means that God knows everything. They think that God knows everything that it is possible to know. That’s the way they define it.

It’s not possible to know the free will actions of people because that isn’t a thing to know. It hasn’t happened yet. That is not accessible to God. I hope I did the view justice in that definition, but it’s pretty close to that. Now there are a lot of people think this is heretical because it is such a divergence from classical theism and it seems to create a lot of problems. I agree with the idea that it’s a huge divergence. I don’t want to go near that personally. There are a number of evangelicals who have held this. People, ETS people, Evangelical Theological Society.

Melinda: Of course it created a huge controversy there where it had to be addressed.

Greg: Eight years or nine years ago, correct, yeah. There were a lot of people wanted to make this a criterion for being part of ETS, but that never took place. The way I use the word heretic is that it is someone who is outside of the faith because of a false belief that is serious. I believe this is a serious mistake, but I don’t think I’m ready to say that somebody is outside of the faith if they hold this view. Greg Boyd for example, a fairly well known author, is an open theist. He’s one of quite a number. I think it’s mistaken theology.

I think it’s wrong. I think it’s definitely heterodox, I think it’s contrary to orthodoxy, but...Some by the way, would identify the word heresy as something that is severely wrong, but not necessarily something that will keep you out of the faith. Some might call this a heresy on that level. The definition I’m using is a heretical view is one that is so completely...

Melinda: Puts you outside the faith.

Greg: It keeps you outside of the faith. Like if you deny the deity of Christ or the Trinity or the blood atonement and things like that.

Melinda: Now I remember when we were having these discussions at ETS with other people. If you say Jesus, if you say God and Jesus because He’s God too, doesn’t know the future, then that undermines prophesy and then that undermines the inerrancy of Scripture because God can even guarantee therefore the inerrancy of Scripture when it includes prophetic sayings that are to be fulfilled. Just like many, some heterodox views, that view in and of itself may not be heretical, but they’re serious and they very closely lead to conclusions on other things and then do become heretical.

Greg: Yeah, they do begin to undermine orthodoxy in a real significant way. I remember asking Greg Boyd once about when Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer to John there at the Last Supper, was this just an educated guess, you know?

Melinda: Did He know for sure or was He guessing?

Greg: He gave the nod to that. Although what Jesus said is the person who next dips his bread in the sauce there, so it wasn’t just knowing who would betray Him, but that the one who would betray Him would act...

Melinda: An action.

Greg: a certain way in the next moment. These are reasons why I think open theism is false, but it is meant to try and make sense of passages were it appears that God changes His mind.

Melinda: Of course there’s other ways of making sense of that.

Greg: That’s correct. Yes. But that’s where it’s coming from. People are trying to be theologically or biblically consistent. This is why they go down that road.

Melinda: That's it for this week, folks. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Use #STRAsk, the name of the podcast, and you can check out new episodes every Monday and Thursday. I’m Melinda the Enforcer and with Greg Koukl this time for Stand to Reason.