Question: What’s With Female Head Coverings?

testmyconvictions asked:
After reading your post on women in the church I have to ask, do you still find the idea of headcoverings to be relevant and applicable to the church today? I know some people that believe women should wear them and some that believe it was a cultural thing and only for the church back then.

Referring to this post about female pastors, submission, and 1 Timothy 2:11. Originally posted here on my Tumblr.

The subtlety of the language here at the top of 1 Corinthians 11 — Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. — suggests that Paul was speaking on a cultural matter. Since the conflict in the Corinthian church was between men and women, he HAD to speak on genders too. 

I believe Paul, as he often does, is making a larger sweeping doctrine with a smaller cultural example.  When he says “Christ is the head of man, man the head of woman,” that’s his main doctrinal statement.  Then he uses the symbols of head coverings as an example.

Paul also does this in reverse.  When he explains how Jesus loved the church and the church submits to Jesus, Paul uses the example of husbands loving wives and wives submitting to husbands (Ephesians 5).  In this case though, when we compare Scripture with Scripture (such as 1 Peter 3), Paul is actually saying both of those are doctrine (Jesus/church and husbands/wives).  But I don’t believe the head coverings is actual doctrine, only tradition.

When Paul mentions women with shaved heads, this would’ve been an abrupt comment because such women were considered to be prostitutes (or former ones).  Again, a cultural example.  The Corinthians were disorderly in every way including the heated conflict between men and women, so Paul harkens back to tradition to restore order. 

Basically: “Remember when y’all ladies did the head covers? To show reverence? Well get back to that.  And dudes: remember when y’all acted like leaders? So don’t be ‘growing your hair long’ trying to confuse people and escape responsibility.  Another thing: women who are disorderly might as well be prostitutes in the house of God. You know, expecting transaction but no real affection with Him.”

Strong words, sure, but Paul also cursed once (Philippians 3) and also told Judaizers to cut off their penises (Galatians 5:12).  So we’d expect Paul to make an unapologetic argument for order in the church.

Last note: if a church wants to do fancy hats because it’s their conviction or preference, then by all means they can do it.  As long as it’s not a plus to salvation.

2 thoughts on “Question: What’s With Female Head Coverings?

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