An Introduction To A Neglected Doctrine
Head coverings are not a popular doctrine. In fact, that’s quite the understatement. So why would I start a movement based upon it? Do I enjoy controversy? Absolutely not. Looking to be divisive? The opposite. Then what would possess me to do such a thing? The short answer is, because it’s in the Bible. See, if “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16) then all Scripture deserves fair treatment. On top of that, this particular topic is not just mentioned in the Bible, but it’s defended. It’s not just one or two obscure verses but it occupies 15 consecutive verses. We can debate what Paul meant and we can debate how it applies in the 21st century, but the one thing we can’t do is ignore this topic.
Daniel Wallace is one of the leading textual critics and the founder of the “Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts”. To say this brother knows the Greek text well would be quite the understatement. He said this about the “actual head covering” view (the position I’m advocating) which I think many can relate to:
The argument that a real head covering is in view and that such is applicable today is, in some respects, the easiest view to defend exegetically and the hardest to swallow practically. Since it is never safe to abandon one’s conscience regarding the truth of Scripture, I held to this view up until recently. Quite frankly, I did not like it (it is very unpopular today). But I could not, in good conscience, disregard it. 1) Daniel Wallace – What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor 11:2-16 and Does it Apply to Us Today? (2004)
That’s an incredibly honest statement. Because a head covering is a visual symbol, it’s impossible to hide or delay in stating your views. It’s the first doctrine that people know you believe if you meet someone at church, even before you shake their hands. They may be feeling judged just by you wearing one (because they’re not) and you may be thinking that they must be thinking that you’re stuck in the 50’s. To top it off, your pastors or those closest to you may be concerned that you’re embracing legalism. These are real struggles that people face when even contemplating the “actual head covering” view. So suffice it to say, when Dr. Wallace noted that it’s “unpopular today” he has an accurate perception of how well it’s received. When you wear a head covering it forces everyone in your church to deal with the text and some just aren’t ready to.
Daniel Wallace again says:
The real danger, as I see it, is that many Christians simply ignore what this text says because any form of obedience to it is inconvenient. 2) Daniel Wallace – What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor 11:2-16 and Does it Apply to Us Today? (2004)
Now this is not to say that the only reason that people don’t embrace head coverings is fear. Some are persuaded by other interpretations and if convinced by Scripture, would change their minds. I hope that is you and you share my desire to rightly understand everything the Bible says and submit to that. But I’m worried that many read over 1 Corinthians 11, thinking “that can’t mean what I think it says. No one I know wears one and we can’t all be wrong.” Then scurry off to chapter 12, making a mental note to look into it later (which if we’re honest rarely happens). If I described your response, now is that time. We’re going to go deep into the text and wrestle through it together as a community. Don’t worry though, this blog isn’t written to scholars, I wrote it for the average Christian, the layman and laywoman, for you. In the next four posts I’ll be making a positive case for the wearing of an artificial head covering for women while in church. Likewise, I’ll argue that men are commanded to keep a bare head in the same context. I’ll do this by pointing to four reasons that Paul himself gives in 1 Corinthians 11. When I explain those reasons, I won’t be giving as much attention to competing views as this will largely be a positive case. After that I’ll make a case for why head coverings only need to be practiced when the local church is gathered together. Finally, we’ll give attention to your questions and the popular objections.
The Heart of the Matter
Before this post comes to an end I want to bring up a word of caution: make sure your heart is prepared. I figure most people reading this blog either disagree with or don’t know what to make of head coverings, so your guard is probably up. I know, I do it too and it’s not a bad thing really. We’re always in a battle against false teaching and false teachers, so it’s good to be skeptical and keep a guard up, filtering everything through the Word of God. Just make sure you won’t accept any old argument against head coverings because you don’t want it to be true. What will my husband or wife think? What will those in my church think? How will I find a spouse if he/she knows I believe this? The fear of man can be overwhelming, but we must fear God and His commands above men. We must bind ourselves to the text of Scripture and obey no matter how uncomfortable the outcome may be. So if your heart is not ready, make sure you stop and seek the Lord in prayer before moving on. Then when you’re ready give 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 a good read. Please read through this text slowly and become intimately familiar with it. This is the only chapter in the Bible that commands and explains the practice of head coverings, so you must know it well to be a good Berean (Acts 17:11).