On Women and Head Coverings

I find it interesting that is pretty clear that women should wear head coverings when praying or prophesying, yet in Western culture, the overwhelming majority of women do not obey this. Compared to African cultures, and the churches I’ve been to over there, the overwhelming majority of women do obey this. Now why would that be, especially if prior to the ’50s, women in the US did wear head coverings. Is it culture? Or is there something more seditious going on?

Counting Culture

I’m reminded of C S Lewis’ comments on the issue of morals across cultures. He talks about cultures where women walk around topless without shame. They’re simply raised that way and don’t think two seconds about it, yet if a white woman were to walk topless into their midst, I daresay they’d tell her to cover up. Now why would that be? Unless we want to believe that it’s perfectly acceptable for morals and sin to change definitions from culture to culture (something I firmly believe Christians are obligated to reject), we have only 2 options:

A) Like all other women, they should feel shame, but their conscience is seared from birth.

B) All other women should not feel shame. It’s perfectly ok for women to be topless. Some cultures just don’t like it, and enshrine it in a false sense of morals.

Because I don’t see room in the Bible for arbitrary & changing definitions of morality, I’m compelled to go with “A” and conclude that their conscience is seared so that they don’t even know that what they’re doing is wrong – they can’t hear nature trying to teach them that it’s a shame to be topless. Since the Bible endorses the concept of a seared conscience (), my next question is this: in what way is my conscience seared? Because somewhere, somehow, I guarantee you it is! That’s where my Brothers and Sisters come into play, helping me see logs in my eyes and helping me in the process of sanctification ().

And if I see my Brothers or Sisters with seared consciences, should I say something? Rest assured – I have better things to do than trot through my town as the Seared Conscience Sheriff. But if the topic comes up of its own accord … can the Godly remain silent? ().

Searing

There are several reasons why I invoke the idea of ‘seared conscience’ on this particular topic. In an honest study of the passage, I’m hard pressed to see how anyone can conclude that it’s ok for women to discard head coverings. Here are the most common objections I’ve heard, and here’s why they don’t fly:

Objection 1: “Paul wanted them to cover up so they wouldn’t look like bald temple prostitutes.”
+ This is total eisegesis! Paul makes no mention whatsoever of Corinthian culture or bald prostitutes. Neither can we.
+ Paul closes the section by ending all further discussion on the issue: “If anyone wants to bicker about this subject, we have NO other teaching – nor do any of the churches of God!” (v16). This means that this headcovering principle was *not at all* limited to Corinth. All the churches of God in every 1st century culture (Rome, Jerusalem, Galatia, Antioch, etc) honored this teaching.

Objection 2: “We don’t do that. It’s different now.”
+ As followers of Christ, our job is to find out what the Bible says and obey it. To pick and choose what we will obey is diametrically opposed to the call of Christ.
+ What, pray tell, has changed? [I’ve never received an answer on this question] Morals don’t change. The Bible doesn’t change. Angels don’t change. Cultures change, but .. we’re not supposed to blindly follow culture.

Objection 3: “Hair is a covering. We don’t need to add an additional one if we don’t want to.”
+ So why did all women cover up with scarves and veils, even in the OT? Clearly they understood the topic quite differently.
+ If it’s a covering for women, then it’s a covering for men – and men are not to have their heads covered. By this line of thinking, men should shave their heads before praying and prophesying.
+ If hair was a sufficient covering, then Paul would have merely rebuked the women who wanted to be bald and told them to grow their hair out, and this is precisely what he didn’t do.
* Caveat: I don’t know why modern Jewish men cover their heads when praying. Did they cover up in the OT? NT? Dunno. They had hats/turbans as part of their priestly garb, and surely they prayed while officiating sacrifices. So I dunno!

Objection 4: “I’m submissive in my heart. That is enough, and God looks on the heart.”
+ Paul isn’t talking about hearts, he’s talking about heads. So when discussing this passage, we can’t talk about hearts – we have to talk about heads.
+ Is it possible to disobey an external command yet be compliant on the internal command?
+ Is there any other command in the Bible where we can obey in our hearts, but not with our hands, and think we’re satisfying the requirement at hand? Baptism? Communion? The Ten Commandments? Etc? The answer is obvious.
+ A quick word to the wise… when the Bible uses the phrase “..but God looks on the heart”, the meaning is that Man looks at the outside and is pleased, but God looks at the heart and is displeased (, , , etc). In other words, this phrase is commonly used by Christians in the exact opposite way of how the Bible uses it. Just sayin’…

Objection 5: “It’s a cultural expression of submission. We observe the issue of submission, but we don’t demonstrate submission that way these days in our culture.”
+ Personally, I think this is the strongest reason to not wear head coverings. However, it makes two very powerful assumptions that should not be easily glossed over:
Assumption A: “Unlike the issue of topless women, showing submission w/o a head covering *is* a flexible thing from culture to culture. We do it at our discretion. It’s not a moral issue.”
Response A: I hope you’re right. There is no way to demonstrate that this is not a moral issue one way or the other .. and so far, such thinking runs against the grain of what we see spelled out in the Bible.
Assumption B: “The 1st Century Church covered up “because of the Angels”, but angels don’t care about head coverings any more.”
Response B: I hope you’re right. You’ll forgive me if I say that this strikes me as highly unlikely.

Objection 6: “It’d cause a disruption!”
+ Proceed with caution. After all, this reasoning cuts both ways. God may use your obedience to cause those around you to ask for a reason for your faith and be turned to obedience.

Objection 7: “My husband has considered the issue and doesn’t want me to.”
+ Tell him to talk to me.
Totally kidding, folks!!! Oddly enough, I think would be a strong artument in favor of this. I don’t like it much, but I gotta do something with , so…

Again – we need to point out that none of the 4 reasons Paul lay out have any bearing whatsoever on culture.
So if we use culture as an out, something’s not right.

Cover Up

Now let’s look at a few reasons why women should wear head coverings:

– The Bible says to. All things being equal, if we approach the Bible looking for ways to love God through our obedience ( ; , etc “If you love Me, you will obey Me”), shouldn’t this settle the question once and for all?

– If we think there’s an acceptable alternative, we might want to carefully consider Paul’s final word on the subject:  “If anyone intends to quarrel about this, we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God.”  (). In other words, all churches everywhere in the 1st Century required head coverings on women (and there were lots of different cultures back then!)

– It used to be the common practice of the majority of women everywhere, even in the US, up until the 50s and 60s. What changed? (Feminism?? All the more reason we should reject the idea of not wearing headcoverings)

– Did you notice how many women were wearing head coverings (hats) at Prince Williams’ wedding? Almost all of them. Fashion statements? Perhaps. Vestiges of an ancient, natural, God-honoring practice? Likely.

– Next time you’re at a ballgame and someone prays, if the men take off their hats, they do so out of obedience (influence?) to . So I suppose that instead of just taking off their hats, they should be handing their hats to their wives. Quid pro quo.

Or maybe I’m missing something.

Thoughts?


11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (ESV)


4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (ESV)


7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (ESV)


33:1 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. (ESV)


But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (ESV)


15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause. (ESV)


27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (ESV)


30:1 Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

“If a woman vows a vow to the Lord and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her.

“If she marries a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the Lord will forgive her. (But any vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, anything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.) 10 And if she vowed in her husband’s house or bound herself by a pledge with an oath, 11 and her husband heard of it and said nothing to her and did not oppose her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 But if her husband makes them null and void on the day that he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows or concerning her pledge of herself shall not stand. Her husband has made them void, and the Lord will forgive her. 13 Any vow and any binding oath to afflict herself, her husband may establish, or her husband may make void. 14 But if her husband says nothing to her from day to day, then he establishes all her vows or all her pledges that are upon her. He has established them, because he said nothing to her on the day that he heard of them. 15 But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity.”

16 These are the statutes that the Lord commanded Moses about a man and his wife and about a father and his daughter while she is in her youth within her father’s house. (ESV)


30:1 Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

“If a woman vows a vow to the Lord and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her.

“If she marries a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the Lord will forgive her. (But any vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, anything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.) 10 And if she vowed in her husband’s house or bound herself by a pledge with an oath, 11 and her husband heard of it and said nothing to her and did not oppose her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 But if her husband makes them null and void on the day that he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows or concerning her pledge of herself shall not stand. Her husband has made them void, and the Lord will forgive her. 13 Any vow and any binding oath to afflict herself, her husband may establish, or her husband may make void. 14 But if her husband says nothing to her from day to day, then he establishes all her vows or all her pledges that are upon her. He has established them, because he said nothing to her on the day that he heard of them. 15 But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity.”

16 These are the statutes that the Lord commanded Moses about a man and his wife and about a father and his daughter while she is in her youth within her father’s house. (ESV)


15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (ESV)


10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (ESV)


16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (ESV)


11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (ESV)

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