So what does form and function tell us about the passages regarding men and women in the church? I think it has several things to say:
- The main question isn’t whether or not Paul intended to write rules for church practice throughout eternity. That’s where we often get sidetracked, either by someone wanting to strictly apply everything they read (these are the ones who are still holding their collection, waiting for Paul to come and take it to Jerusalem) and those who shout “Legalist!” anytime someone tries to teach based on Paul’s instructions to the early church.
- The occasional nature of Paul’s writings doesn’t give us license to ignore what he says. The statement “That’s just cultural” is a meaningless statement. Everything is cultural in one way or another; that is, the Bible uses human language and situations to teach. It uses human culture. We must discern what teachings transcend culture.
- Whatever we decide that Paul was addressing in passages like Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11, we still need to hear his teachings. The function behind the form must be addressed in some way. If women aren’t to wear veils, then how is the same function fulfilled today?
What other thoughts come to your mind when thinking about form and function?