Head coverings – yea or nay?

Reforming My Mind has a post linking to some mp3 sermons on head coverings (1 Cor. 11:1-16) . I listened to one by R.C. Sproul, “To Cover or Not to Cover”. Some thoughts…

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  • There are commands in the Bible that are difficult to interpret and when you find this you also find significantly sized groups which represent the competing positions. For example, there are groups which baptize infants and groups which only baptize adults. There are seemingly good arguments for both positions and that is why you find groups which reflect both ends of the spectrum in practice.
  • I believe the command for women to wear head coverings is just such a command. There are arguments for and against interpreting the relevant passage as being presently applicable. However, in this case the number of groups which presently encourage the wearing of head coverings and the number of women who actually practice this is astonishingly small.
  • I say astonishingly small because I believe that if a thousand people untainted by modern culture and scholarship were to study the relevant passages that more than half would come out in support of head coverings. Maybe I am wrong and it would be significantly less, but the present reality is that this number is probably less than 2% at best (astonishing).
  • This leads me to think that very few Christians have ever really struggled with these verses. Instead they have taken their queues from the culture or simply done what is easiest which is to look around and do what everyone else is doing.
  • R.C. implies that the rejection of head coverings is historically recent and coincided with cultural shifts in views of the roles of men and women. This affirms the statement that we are taking our queues from the culture.
  • Not going to dwell here but I think there is some applicability that can be made here in regards to forms of dress and which are and are not appropriate for worship for both men and women.
  • I am certain (if I were a women) I would be compelled to wear a head covering during worship. This would not be an easy thing to do given no one else within our present circle does. I believe that the pressure to conform within the church is even greater on this particular issue than the pressure which comes from outside the church. That is a shame.
  • How should the church handle this particular issue? I think churches should be clear that these passages are not perhaps as “clear” as our modern practices reflect. They should encourage men and women to reevaluate Paul’s commands and give them the freedom to comply as they are led to do so. The site of a women wearing a head covering should not be the cause of gasps and stares.

My wife and I discussed this topic at lunch today and a few more thoughts came up which I am adding below to the original post.

  • Until today I thought “hair” could equal “head covering”. I can’t believe I missed this before but verse 6 makes this idea impossible. If head covering meant hair it would read “For if a woman will not cover her head (with hair), she should cut off her hair.” This does not effect the cultural argument against head coverings but it is still a mistake to read it this way and once I cleared that up I had to deal with argument of culturally relevancy. In the past I avoided the argument because I assumed it did not matter as long as woman had a tad more hair than G.I. Jane.
  • We (Christians) tend to dismiss what we think to be small things in the Bible. The cultural argument against head coverings focuses on the sizable implications head coverings might have had within the Corinthian church and argue that no such implications are relevant today. I don’t agree.  As a mental exercise try imagining a world in which you wake up tomorrow and most Christian woman begin to wear head coverings (at least during worship). This would draw scorn from the world. We would be mocked on late night TV. Oprah would interview psychologists about the negative effects head coverings have on self esteem. Many women would perhaps refuse to wear them because of the shame it brings, not from those within the church but from the culture. In fact I am sure many would refuse to step foot into any church which even adhered to such a practice. We would see a return to more modest standards of dress (in church at least). A head covering is not only a symbol of submission but a symbol of modesty. It marks the wearer publicly as one of God’s children. The cultural argument for head coverings is as strong today as it was in the days of Paul.
  • Another thought exercise here. I encourage you to try to imagine as you read that Paul handed down a copy of these commands to Timothy. They eventually end up in the hands of Timothy’s grandson and on his deathbed he bequeaths the them to you. The purpose here is to try to connect you in time to the author of these texts. It is harder to be convinced by the cultural argument if you can see that there isn’t really that vast difference between 100 years and 2000 years. My thinking is that if the scenario above were true I would have a greater inclination to believe the commands were still presently applicable.
  • Where do you need to go to find woman wearing head coverings? Your best chance is going to be some Fundamentalists, a few very Reformed folk, or the Anabaptists (like the Amish). If you think about these groups one aspect that they have in common is that typically make attempts to reject the influence of the culture. This is evidence that instead of actually being convicted by scripture we are actually”taking our queues from the culture”.

 

 

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22 Responses to Head coverings – yea or nay?

  1. pistolpete says:

    One of the teenagers in our church has been led to wear a head-covering after a searching and faithful study of Scripture. She is literally the only woman I’ve seen in our town (or even county) who wears one. She gets a lot of stares and strange questions, but handles them beautifully. I greatly admire her conviction.

  2. Christine says:

    I cover full time, at first my husband was not comfortable about it but after some compromise we came to an agreement if the covering were a little more modern instead of the plain veil he would be ok. I think some of the issues are , that most people think that to be a christian and wear a headcovering you have to look like a mennonite or that you are from little house on the prairie. This is not true and can prevent people from following a wonderfull command. I wish that it could be said that a covering is a covering God loves you just the way you are and modesty is not limited to one style of clothing HOWEVER there is a big difference between modern and modest and just modern.

  3. Jean says:

    I wear a headcovering full time. I work in the world and live 20 miles outside of New York City. I love the idea that the headcovering represents modesty. I never thought of it that way. Since God has changed me from the inside out, the headcovering was a revelation that came from the Holy Spirit, and time and time again, I have seen God opening doors for women who choose this path….

  4. […] Now before you scoff recall it isn’t hard to make the case for head coverings (see my post here on that sticky subject), Michael might have a pretty good […]

  5. And don’t forget the angels, which is the main reason I think. Consider Genesis 6. Derek Prince did a good teaching letter called Because of the Angels which touched on this. Andrew

  6. […] more on this when I have time and commenting on the chapter. I have written about the topic before here. I am 99% convinced that Paul’s inspired commands are still relevant, perhaps more relevant […]

  7. muta says:

    im still searching the issue concerning head covering. And sometimes it gets confusing because both sides of the argument seem to have relevant points. To insist on head covering as not being cultural isnt it the same as insisting that we greet each other with a holy kiss?

  8. ‘To insist on head covering as not being cultural isnt it the same as insisting that we greet each other with a holy kiss?’

    One difference is that there is a lot of teaching on why head covering is essential whereas the exhortation to greet one another with a kiss sounds more like an expression of his love for them and assumes a mutual affection that may not always be present in our churches. Having experienced this practice in a monastery during the daily breaking of bread – at the point in their liturgy which is called the peace – I think it is actually a divine commandment and should be re-introduced – but slowly since it will no doubt be a shock to the system.

  9. Submission And Covering go together
    So many times many do not see this go’es together.

    When we cover our head, We submit to the order that GOD has called us to.We will study the word together, And seek the truth on these matters

    So many are new to covering, And feel discouraged.And need to be encouraged to keep covering, For they are on the right track.Some feel all alone, And do not have friends who cover.
    This group is to encourage one another in the word to keep pressing on. For GOD is in control. And we are not to grow weary, Of doing what is right.Gal-6-9, there is so much to learn from the word.

    • Leigh says:

      Thank you for saying this. I pray that I do not become discouraged. I have only been covering for 2weeks. And no one I know covers. I dont even see anyone who covers. It will be interesting to see what happens when I go to church. No one said anything at my bible study. One of my friends knows that I am covering and she was very encouraging. I am sure satan will attempt to discourage me since I am just beginning on this wonderful journey. It is truly amazing how God works and reveals His word to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. I truly believe there will be more christian women who will be covering because the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully.

      God Bless

  10. […] Headcoverings – Yea or Nay? (with links to audio sermons near the top) […]

  11. Rob says:

    This is an issue I’ve been researching and you provided an excellent summary of Sproul on the issue. I agree with some of the comments that it goes together with submission.

  12. Leigh says:

    This is such an encourgement as the Lord had drawn me to study 1 Cor 11. I have been studying for about a week and am convicted and called to cover.I have no idea how I missed this scripture. Discussions that I have heard on it were that it was for that time and not for now. Through my study, covering is for today and all time. I am so excited that the Lord has revealed this to me by His word through HIs Spirit. I am a tad nervous as no one I know covers, but I am going to follow the Lord in obedience on this. It really is a beautiful thing when you study what covering means and what Paul is saying. I believe the Lord is revealing this to the body of Christ.

    God Bless all my Sisters in Christ

  13. ou have some good points Ann..Covering is not just in a church thing.. If one Covers it should be in the home, Driving..And so forth… I pray every where…. I believe GOD is very concerned about us obeying the word…. If I thought my hair was just my Covering, That would be enough for me as well…. But I just can not see this view… It says the hair was given for a covering, Not that it is the Covering…. I have been Covering for 21 Years now…. And I am not Amish or Such… It is so easy for so many women to see that the Amish Cover. But when others find out I am not Amish.. They just do not understand… It says Every Woman.. Not just one set…… That is you , And Me….. And I have no clue why so many think that it was just for something way back… There is no way this can be true… Women prayed way back then.. And they still pray today.. It says every woman that prays.. Not every woman way back then…So clear…

  14. […] Headcoverings – Yea or Nay? (with links to audio sermons near the top) […]

  15. […] Headcoverings – Yea or Nay? (with links to audio sermons near the top) […]

  16. The “symbol of authority” in v.10 is for “her head” which as v.3 indicates is her…husband. She should crown his not-so-glorious head, not hide her own glorious covering of hair. https://www.facebook.com/notes/charles-franklin-bernard/head-covering-coronation-a-symbol-of-authority-a-wife-lays-on-her-husband/10150603632407506

    • poststop says:

      Frank,

      One problem I see with her covering being hair is you would have to interpret these verses…

      But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

      as…

      But every woman who prays or prophesies with a shaved head dishonors her husband – it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not have hair, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should have hair.

      Which doesn’t make sense to me. Her hair is a covering, it is her glory, but that glory should have a covering during the worship of the one true God.

      Thanks for taking time to comment here.

      • My understanding of that section is stated as follows:

        5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head [her own, if Paul sees her hair as covering, and/or her husband] uncovered dishonors her head [her husband], since it’s the same as if her own head were shaven! 6 For if a wife will not cover her head [her husband], then she should cut her hair short! But since it’s disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her own head, let her cover her head [her husband].

        I have a fuller translation and explanation at the link I provided that also explains different types of coverings. The woman is given one that was originally derived from man (Adam) but is more glorified than his (as well as other body parts I think). The married man, naturally lacking the ability to grow such glory, needs a covering on his head (which Paul refers to as “her head” six times for reasons I explain) that adds glory (derived from the ground; not a wig of hair) that is, unlike her natural glory covering, authoritative. A crown is “a symbol of authority” in the highest sense of the Greek word translated authority in verse 10.

  17. John says:

    I prayed in the presence of 3 or 4 Christians – ” Lord, there is so much misunderstanding of first Corinthians 11 and 14 – could you please show me what it means?” – Amen
    – Over the next two weeks the or it seemed as if over the next two weeks, the Lord took me through the book of first Corinthians. The first thing I noticed was that it was written to “Babes in Christ” I thought What?! – people who have been teaching in Bible college for 14 years can’t agree on that book! – maybe it’s so simple that the answer is overlooked!
    So after about two weeks I was thinking to myself – Now Nature – Nature – But in Nature the Male Lion has Long Hair!! – and my head felt like a large block of concrete as I said to myself “I can’t get it!!” – then a question came into my mid – “What has Nature given a Woman to cover, that it hasn’t given a Man? [That is with long hair]
    The answer is so simple that a babe in Christ could see it!
    Now go back towards the beginning of the book and see the saying “That no flesh should glory in His presence” – It makes perfect sense that a woman should cover her Glory in the presence of Almighty God – moreover if she doesn’t she should cut her Glory off!!
    Remember that the things that Paul wrote were the commandments of the Lord!!
    Your Brother,
    John.

    • In context, the glory of the flesh has nothing to do with hair, but rather: 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many _wise_ according to the flesh, not many _mighty_, not many _noble_, are called.

  18. Good article – thanks

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