Category Archives: Woman, the glory of man

Fifth aspect of woman, from 1 Cor. 11:7

Joe, the Plumber II

Esolen’s second essay on Joe the Plumber’s encounter with a media-babe is now online.  Enjoy.

Esolen highlights but does not mention or expound directly the fact that at the heart of masculinity is unadorned, uncultivated dirt.  That is the first and most direct reason given in Holy Writ for his creation – to cultivate the dirt (cf. Genesis 2:5).  This aspect of his origin appears today in the things Esolen discusses about authentic men:

[Joe the Plumber] was about to handle hard, sometimes apparently intractable, materials, things that don’t oblige our utopian dreams.  The iron pipe does not condescend to political correctness.  It won’t say, “I see that I should move into place no matter who or what is lugging me, because that would be the democratic thing to do.”  There’s a bracing reality in such things as iron, or earth, or even PVC, not to mention water, that wondrous bringer of life that can bring ruin, too, if it’s not under control. 

Man’s raison d’etre is uncultivated dirt, to cultivate it and bring forth from it what could not be without cultivation.  Woman’s raison d’etre (according to Genesis) is the man, already functioning in a stewardship, responsible to God for the Garden.  Her being from him and for him goes a very long way to account for the distinctives of men over against women and their relationship to one another.



Filed under Man, the glory of God, Woman, the glory of man

What’s in a Name?

Mother knows best!Anthony Esolen over at the Touchstone blog Mere Comments ponders  the way we name things and how this affects our perception of what is named, particularly when speaking of women in marriage and family. His meditation was launched by a friend’s lament that among women she encountered at a school reunion, she was the only “stay-at-home-mom.” Esolen first notes that this term “… seems to describe somebody who lacks the imagination to do anything other than stay at home.” He goes on to consider the senses attached to homemaker, house-wife, and mother, as terms used to denote the nature or vocation of women today. He concludes by reflecting on the term hook-up, used commonly today for what a previous generation would have called fornicating.

What Esolen considers here goes beyond simple words. Try using Google  or Live Search  to search for images associated with the terms housewife or homemaker. Be sure to set the sexual filters provided by these search engines engaged.

As you scan the results, you’ll see one strata of images such as the ones in this blog. Homemaker or housewife often find graphical representation that signifies that they are archaic callings, antique avocations, redolent with sights, sounds, styles, and activities of an era half a century or more in the past. And, most such images of housewife and homemaker are rendered in a way that is graphically condescending or patronizing.

Now, what do you suppose happens when a married woman who devotes herself to her husband’s and children’s well-being fills out an application for credit, or a bank account, or an application for insurance, or any of the multiple forms the public schools insist parents fill out. Invariably, there’s a blank line labeled “Occupation.” Read the comments to Esolen’s blog to learn what some women think when confronted with this blank on an application.

There was one ray of hope down in the comments of Esolen’s blog. One woman commented:

I never liked home-maker” because … it makes me feel guilty: it evokes images of a peaceful, orderly haven presided over by a serene woman, with smells of something baking wafting from the kitchen …

In her situation, evidently, seven children contributed to a different effect. But, I cheered because in her mind, at least, was the notion that “homemaker” – at least in its ideal expression – is a serene woman, presiding over an orderly haven. It reminded me immediately of what Paul sets before older women to teach younger wives, and I think this particular woman may find herself one day achieving what looks to her, from the trenches, as a presently unrealized goal.

To get there, she will need to keep that serene woman and her peaceful haven clearly in her mind.  The world despises such women and seeks to redefine the term homemaker for all of us.  


Filed under Feminism, Woman, the glory of man

May the Faithfully Departed Rest in Peace

Tom’s and Priscilla’s thoughtfulness on the 10th Anniversary of Cheska’s death.

Anniversaries are odd things.  At 3:05 this afternoon, on this date, ten years ago, my third daughter Francesca Louise died at the age of  nine years, five months, and 25 days.  We had learned of her brainstem tumor 468 days before, on January 9, 1996. 

This anniversary should be no different from any others like it, except that it is further removed from the Ur-event than previous anniversaries, and less removed from the anniversaries to come. But, the Lord seems to have thought anniversaries are important (e.g. the annual cycle of the feasts of the LORD in the Law), and that groups of anniversaries may be noteworthy  as well (e.g. the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee, a Sabbath of sabbatical years).  So, perhaps, the first decade after Cheska’s death is worth noting for the reason that it is a decade, and the first decade at that.

The short story goes like this …

Cheska was the third of four daughters.  Her older sisters were hard-charging, bigger than life presences whose normal sibling rivalry contributed a constant syncopation to our domestic rhythms.  Aunt Kathy gave Cheska’s younger sister the nickname “Fun, Incorporated.”  Contrary to all this, Cheska’s demeanor was melancholic, serious, often pessimistic, early on aware of the Fall, the Curse, and all the woes that attend these features of the universe. 

Who’d have guessed that the Lord would have laid that trial on her small-boned frame?  But, there it was, in an MRI on January 9, 1996.  I should have guessed from the neuro-opthamologist’s manner that something horrid was afoot, as he told me “Your daughter has a pontine glioma.  You should consult a neuro-surgeon as soon as possible.” He said this, as I look back on it, with the tone appropriate for what the neuro-surgeon did tell me a couple of hours later.  “These things do not heal.  There is nothing I can do for your daughter.”  So, on that momentous day, our family set out on a 15 month, 12 day adventure to deposit Cheska at the gates of heaven, to depart from her until it’s our turn to pass through that portal. 

Mother, Father, and Cheska — a headstone in Waxahachie City CemeteryThat she was in Christ is an abiding comfort and provides a shining hope.  But, from another angle, her trial – unusual (at least in our expectations) for an eight-year old – has meaning only because she was a Christian.  Indeed, her youth, the monstrous calamity facing her, the near-inevitability of the outcome, the inexorable deterioration of her mobility over the months, the squalid humiliation of her final hours – the sheer enormity of it all pointed to issues far grander, much deeper, and necessarily other than a worrying, whiney eight-year old girl in a small Texas town. 

For us and for everyone watching us, the issue was necessarily Christ Himself and the veracity of His words.  The gospel itself was laid squarely on the table, and we alongside it, for everyone in our town, in our parish, throughout our extended family, and throughout the network of thousands of friends and acquaintances that come with over a decade of vocational ministry.  “Come to me, you who are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  How does that fit with what faced Cheska for almost 16 months?

We know the answers now, and they’re more than will fit into this blog.  So, I’ll skip to the end, and let Cheska provide her own testimony, in her own words, and by her own hand – her left hand, since her right hand (the dominant one) was by the time of this testimony, paralyzed.  In the last few weeks of her life, she set about writing small poems and she illustrated them as best she could with her weakened muscles and her severely marred vision.  

In previous years, on the anniversary of her death I have passed the exact moment sitting in an Anglican chapel that now bears her name.  It was in this chapel that she continued to worship all throughout her illness, even when she had to be physically assisted to the communion rail.  Her last Eucharist in this chapel was Easter Sunday. She was buried in that Easter outfit three weeks later.

 On this tenth anniversary of her death, however, I’ve decided to post this blog and four of her poems as evidence of Christ’s saving work in her soul.

 Cheska’s illustration of “God, God, Hear my cry”

God God

God, God in the sky,
Hold my hand, and hear my cry.

Sometimes, Lord, I wish to die.
I know that’s wrong, so I will try
To live my life, although it’s tough.
Lord I think I’ve had enough.

Lord I ask that You’d heal me.
This tumor’s got me by the knee.

God, my heart’s about to bust.
So please come down and live with us!


Cheska’s illustration of “To My Fuzzy Daddy on his 50th Birthday”

To My Fuzzy Daddy
On  His 50th Birthday

I’m in a yucky hospital,
Where Id really like not to be,
‘Cause all they do is stick you,
Very uncomfortably.

Then it’s time for medicine,
I guess it’s for the best,
But let me tell you something,
It doesn’t give you much rest.

Oh no! Here comes the chemo!
They stuff it in my body.
I guess it’s time to see my Friend,
His name is Mr. Potty.


Cheska’s illustration of “Test Sting”

Test Sting

Jesus loves me,
I can see.
He hates this test sting,
so does me.
He doesn’t test me
to make me sad,
make me mope,
make me mad.

He gives me tests
to check my heart,
to see if it is extra smart,
to see if it really believes in Him.
Lord, I hope this makes You grin:

I believe in you will all my might,
and wish to hug you extra tight.

Cheska three weeks before her home-going

Till This Goes Away

When I get to feeling that this will never go away,
I always find my Mommy, and we go and pray.

And, when I’m sad and lonely, and feeling most depressed,
We always find the Bible, lay down, and read, and rest.

And, till this goes away, though it may take a little while,
I’ll always try my best, to wear a happy smile.


Filed under Woman, the glory of man, Woman, the Lady of Wisdom

Behind the Partition, Under the Veil

Looking forward from behind the partitionI was fascinated to find an article in the online Wall Street Journal’s “Houses of Worship” feature.  Entitled “Prayer Behind the Partition,” it is Lucette Lagnado’s reflections on an ancient Jewish practice of segregating men and women in the meeting of the synagogue.  Commenters at Mere Comments  show that some variation on this practice is found in many expressions of Christianity, so it is not peculiar to conservative Judaism. 

No one commenting on Lagnado’s essay on the partition draws any parallel with Paul’s prescription of the veil in 1 Corinthians 11.  That practice makes just as much a distinction between the sexes during congregational worship as the partition Lagnado speaks about.  And, contrary to what uninformed pastors and teachers are always proclaiming, the veiling custom Paul imposes on the church is NOT a Greco-Roman practice.  Rather it is a peculiarly Jewish custom which Paul imposes on the Greco-Roman Corinthian Church (and all the other churches as well).  That, it seems to me, pretty well puts the kabosh on the notion that the Corinthian passage is “culturally conditioned” – as if to say “it’s irrelevant to us” because “we’re not First Century Corinthians.”

Men up front and leading, women present and participatingAt any rate, both the partition and the veil give tangible, concrete re-enforcement to the general order of the sexes that Paul expounds in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, and 1 Timothy 2:  men up front and leading, women present and participating.

Lagnado surveys the way in which the conflict between resurgent Jewish orthodoxy and trendy Jewish egalitarianism shows up in the implementation (or the rejection) of the partition.  While the resurgence of Jewish Orthodoxy does not reduce to an allegiance to the partition, the partition becomes a tangible expression of Jewish Orthodoxy.

For this reason, a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Whatever else they do, the partition and the veil go far to highlight, exaggerate, and manifest the sexual distinctions between men and women in communal worship.  For that reason, both practices are anathema to a secular and religious culture bent on erasing, so far as it’s possible to do so, these very same sexual differences.   

 It makes me wonder if a resurgence of sexual orthodoxy among Christians will be marked by a return of the veil for women in worship.  Modern complementarians’ professions are flatly compromised by their rejection of the cover for exactly the same reasons that egalitarians generally reject the Bible’s ordering of the sexes:  “It’s all culturally relative,” they say.  “We now live in the egalitarian 21st Century.” 

On this point, I give the award for consistency to the egalitarians.


Filed under Egalitarianism, Uncategorized, Woman, the glory of man

Hair and Worship

Yes, the two are connected, as one quickly learns from Paul’s exhortation on the veiling of women in 1 Corinthians 11.  The issue pops up via Britney Spear’s recent escapades regarding her own hair.

This is really glorious, dontcha think?The Bayly  Brothers Blog takes note of Britney Spears’ shaving her head, as reported at the BBC news site.   In that story, the reporter asks “So why is hair – particularly long hair – viewed as such a defining part of a woman and inextricably linked to femininity?” 

In this question, Pr. Bayly sees an opportunity for evangelism, and cites Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.  And in the comments to their blog, a fellow named Kevin asks:

Can anyone explain to me what verse 10 means? I find this entire passage confusing (the wording is clear, the rationale not quite so clear), however, verse 10 seems to pop up out of no where.

So you don’t have to look it up, verse 10 is where Paul says a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head “because of the angels.”  Kevin is asking what the angels have to do with anything in this passage.  Here’s my answer:

The Larger Context of the Veil

Verse 10 doesn’t make much sense, nor any other isolated verse in this passage, unless it’s taken all together.  The overall context for these verses is the same as for the entire section of the first Corinthian epistle beginning at chapter 11 and running through chapter 14 – viz. the parish assembled for worship. 

Previously, it is been various problems/issues/questions dealing with life among the body generally.  Chapter 11 begins a section of the epistle dealing with disorders during the assembly for worship.  Chapter 11 itself treats two disorders of deportment: the veil and disorder at the Eucharist.

Glory and Shame, Worship and Culture

Within vv. 2-16, Paul treats “glory” and “shame” as they apply to the traditions Paul has delivered to the Corinthians concerning their worship, particularly the veil.  It’s not just that the women were ignoring to veil during worship, their doing so was particularly shameful in that context.

Some think that the women were throwing off local Greco-Roman proprieties, but this is not true.  A wealth of literary, statuary, numismatic, and visual representations (frescos and other paintings in homes, temples, and the public square) demonstrate that a covering on women was not an expectation of women generally in Greco-Roman culture. 

On the other hand, it was an expectation of women in Oriental culture, including the Jews, whose women were recognizable in North Africa in the second century because of their veiling in public.  

The point:  When Paul delivered the custom to the Corinthians, and to the rest of the Churches (vs. 16), he was introducing a practice that was counter-cultural to Greco-Roman practices.  The Corinthian women were not throwing off their own culture, they were following it in opposition to what Paul had taught them to do during worship.

Why did Paul prescribe the veil? 

Two reasons.

Reason No. One arises from the purpose of the assembly, namely to give glory to God.  In that context, the humans are not only giving glory, they are someone else’s glory.   Man is God’s glory, woman is man’s glory, and (this is key to avoid confusion), the woman’s long hair is her glory.  In the assembly there are three glories present:  God’s, man’s, and the woman’s.

This woman displays a glory that Spears discarded.But, if the purpose of the assembly is to give glory only to God, then God’s glory should be unveiled, and others’ glory should be veiled.  The veil on the woman’s head covers two glories.  She veils herself (because she is man’s glory), and simultaneously it veils her long hair (because it is her own glory).  The man remains unveiled, because he alone is God’s glory, and so it is appropriate for him to remain unveiled. 

But, humans are not the only ones present when assembly is gathered for worship, and that brings us to reason No. Two:  also present are angels, probably great numbers of them if we are to take our cue from those places in Scripture which describe their multitude in these kinds of settings.  And, while they are unseen by the human worshipers, they nevertheless are part of the assembly and they participate in its purpose.

“Because of the angels” points back, at a minimum, to what Isaiah saw in the Temple and described in Isaiah 6.  Like Elisha’s servant on the mountain, Isaiah’s capacity for visual perception was so altered that he saw what was objectively there, but ordinarily obscured from human sight.  Similarly, when we worship in our assemblies, angels assemble along with us. 

At the end of the preface to the Prayer of Consecration in the Anglican Eucharist, the priest acknowledges the presence of the angels in the assembly.  At this point in the liturgy, the priest sings “Thus with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and singing …”  at which point the congregation joins him to sing the Sanctus et Benedictus: 

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts
Heaven and earth are fully of Thy glory
Glory be to Thee O Lord Most High
Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest!

And, so, to herald their Lord at the beginning of the Eucharist, the saints sing the song of the Seraphim, and the portion of Psalm 118 that  greeted their Lord as He entered Jerusalem as the Son of David.  They are songs that have been heard by the Lord for centuries, sung to him on earth and in heaven, and in heaven by angels long before they were sung by the sons of men in His earthly dwelling places.

And so, it is “meet and right,” as the old Anglicans would put it, for the women to have a mark of authority on her head, because of the angels, creatures whose worship we join,  singing along with them in our worship, whose angelic sensibilities of propriety and rank are shocked in a worship service where any glory but  God’s is improperly on display. 

A couple of things in this passage are clearly matters about which Paul was not addressing himself directly. He did not write this passage to explain what bearing the angels have on the matter of veiling women in worship. For that matter, he did not write the passage in order to expound the meaning of “man, the glory of God,” or “woman, the glory of man.” Angels, man as God’s glory, woman as man’s glory, long hair as the woman’s glory – none of these are the subject of Paul’s exposition. Instead, he brings these concepts into the discussion, which is – to put it as simply as possible – to urge the Corinthian women to veil during worship.

Most teachers in the Church for the past 2000 years point back to Isaiah 6 primarily to validate the idea that the angels are present with men during God’s worship. Many commentators think that Paul also mentions the angels because they are marked by an almost militaristic ordering by rank and hierarchy. This was certainly a familiar idea in the popular angelology of that period of the Jews, and Paul himself seems to endorse this idea in principle by his mentioning of “principalities and powers” six different places in his epistles, including the mention of “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” in Col. 1:16. “Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers” are categories of angelic ranks and hierarchies.

The point: the honoring of rank is a Big Deal Indeed among angels. If, therefore, they are present in our worship, it scandalizes them when man’s glory is displayed unveiled in an assembly where it is the assembly’s purpose to give glory to God.


Filed under Complementarianism, liturgy, Man, the glory of God, Woman, the glory of man