Head Coverings (1 Corinthians 11)

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  • Post published:February 10, 2021

As a single man, the two topics that don’t really concern me that much are head coverings and divorce-remarriage. I just didn’t want to waste time studying a topic that doesn’t really affect me that much, so I didn’t really bother. I took the default position: “You can wear it if you want to, but it’s not a big deal. No need to fight or divide over it.” This is usually the position people take by default when they don’t know much about a particular topic.

Then one night, I visited The Head Covering Movement—A site I visited many times before, but thought to myself, “this whole topic is a little too complicated and too confusing.” So I just never bothered with it—But this particular night was different because I was in the process of learning more about angels. So I scrolled through the page and noticed a post “Because of the Angels” by Bryan Peters. I clicked on it and listened to the first part. Initially, my intention was just to learn more about angels. I had no interest in learning about head coverings, so I listened all the way through and realized that the spirit of this age doesn’t want people to dig deeper into this topic on head coverings, and for the first time I actually heard the other side of the debate!

After going through the resources on that site, taking notes and mapping things out, I am now fully convinced that head coverings are for today. Why don’t people look into this? There are many reasons, but I’ll share mine:

  1. I was told, or I thought, that it’s complicated, and it’s not black and white. You have to dig into history (who has time for that?) and listen to experts/scholars etc… if you really want to get to the bottom of it.
  2. It’s cultural. Just like how the holy kiss is cultural.
  3. Hair is the covering.

It was #1 that discouraged me from looking into it. But what I didn’t realize is that experts and scholars don’t all agree on this! In fact, by going outside of the Bible, you will be even more confused. If you go outside of the Bible, who will you believe? Which scholar will you side with, and why? Do we just pick and choose? When I think about how singles are viewed in churches here in the West, it dawned on me that it’s about “pragmatism.” Have you ever asked yourself why there isn’t that much (if any) single pastors? (I don’t know of one in my city). Do you know of any single Christian leading a Bible study/group in your church? Why is that? Why is it always the married man that is chosen? The answer is: Pragmatism. We have come to trust in the wisdom of man. We don’t want any scandal in the churches, yet the majority of scandals that have happened involved married pastor/leader. How ironic. If churches are quick to turn away a single man, even though he’s fully qualified for the position, because of fear, then it’s not that difficult to see that many will have a hard time with head coverings because it will disrupt how things are to be conducted and structured in the church. Many people will leave if they’re told that head coverings are for today. I can say a lot more on this, but I’ll let you figure this one out. Below I will share a discussion I had recently on Gab.

Objection: Hair is her covering (1 Corinthians 11:15)

If all we have is verse 15, then yes, it does sound like the hair is her covering [in the house of God]. However, that would be a major contradiction in light of what Paul says in the other verses of the same chapter if hair is what he’s talking about. We need to keep in mind here that we’re talking about coming together to worship in the house of God. Take verse 4 for example, “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.” Paul isn’t talking about physical hair here, otherwise every man who enters the house of God needs to shave his head. “his head” refers to the man’s literal head. And in the second half of verse 4, “his head” refers to Christ. If a man covers his literal head, he dishonors Christ who is the head of him (the man). In other words, don’t wear a hat or any form of covering when entering the church if you’re a man. This is indisputable.

This is where you need to stand back and pause, and observe carefully. Most people would have a problem with a man coming to church with a hat on, and they would make a big deal out of that, but says nothing when a woman doesn’t. Why the inconsistency? If head covering is a cultural thing, why does it matter whether the man covers or not?

Men don’t need to wear a head covering. But can they have long hair? I hope you’re seeing that there are two things going on here. The first is when we come together to worship. The second is what we are as man and woman: Man should have short hair and woman long. It is not a sin for a woman to focus on her hair, to beautify it, to look after it and take good care of it. She doesn’t need to cover it outside of church. It is her glory! She should not be ashamed of it. It is what makes her distinct from the man. On the other hand, the man should not have long hair. What we see now in society is the reverse and confusions. Men are having long hair, and women short. Paul asks in verse 13, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” His answer is in verse 6! Not that far from verse 4 I just brought up. So what Paul says about the man also applies to the woman (v.4-6). That’s why you have to ask: Why the inconsistency: Men must not wear hat, but women can do whatever.

Back to verse 13, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” Verse 14-15, “Does not even nature itself not teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her as a covering.”

Basically what Paul is saying, If you disagree with my teaching that a man must not cover and woman ought to have her covered, then look at nature itself. God gave woman long hair as her natural covering, and man none.

“Hair is a woman’s glory and beauty, and, incidentally, that is exactly the reason why the Word of God tells the woman to cover her head when she comes into the presence of the Lord. When she comes in before Him whose glory fills the heavens, to join with His worshipping people, she is to cover her own glory that no one’s attention may be distracted but fixed on Christ Himself.” —Harry Ironside

“God thought he was conferring a delightful gift on women when he gave them long, beautiful hair. It is a glory for them. How rightly it draws attention and compels admiration – but not when we are in the presence of God. Etiquette, let alone spirituality and love for the Saviour, would lead a woman to veil her own glory so as not to distract attention from his.” —Dr. David Gooding (Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Greek at Queen’s University – Belfast)

Paul says, “Look, if you still disagree with me, the most obvious thing to do is to look at how things are. Look at the way men and women are in the world as they go about their lives. Look outside the church context for a minute. Do men cover their heads with their hair? No, they cut it short. Male hormones naturally cause men’s hair to thin or disappear altogether, but it’s not a problem. Women do the opposite. Women just naturally wear their hair long, they use it to adorn themselves, and even their hormones are designed for that – to let them grow longer hair for a longer period of time.” Now it’s a given that what qualifies as short or long hair is culturally determined, but history bears this out. In whatever culture we look at, respectable men almost always have shorter hair than women and growing their hair long is usually a sign of rebellion. There are few times and places where this isn’t true, our current culture being one of them. But why is it like that today? Because we’ve drifted [so far] from the biblical design for men and women that people have become utterly confused. —Rev. William Klock

Objection: We have no such practice (1 Corinthians 11:16)

If “we have no such practice” is referring to the covering itself, then why would Paul praised them in verse 2 but then rebuked them in verse 16? Either Paul was confused or we’re not reading him correctly. Verse 2 is to be contrasted with verse 17. From verse 2 to 16 Paul is arguing for head covering. Starting on verse 17, he gets into the Lord’s Supper.

Verse 2: “[Now I praise you] because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I handed them down to you.”

Verse 17: “Now in giving this next instruction [I do not praise you], because you come together not for the better, but for the worse.”

With head covering, most of them were doing well and he praised them for it, but with the Lord’s Supper there were great divisions and he did not praise them. Now, to the few who objected to head covering, Paul said (quoting NLT for clarity): “But if anyone wants to argue about this, I simply say that we have no other custom than this, and neither do God’s other churches.”

NKJV: “if any man seem to be contentious…”
NASB: “if anyone is inclined to be contentious…”

This is where we need to turn to Scriptures and allow it to interpret itself. From the same book (Corinthians):

1 Corinthians 3:18, “Let no one deceive himself, [if anyone among you seems] to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.”

1 Corinthians 8:2, “And [if anyone thinks] that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.”

1 Corinthians 14:37, “[If anyone thinks] himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”

In the book of first Corinthians, it appears that whenever you see something along this line: “if anyone thinks” it usually means that they’re wrong. If anyone thinks head covering is not for today, then simply put: they’re wrong about that. The churches [plural] of God have no other custom than the one Paul is arguing for from v.2 to 15.

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