Navigate / search

What’s More Important Than Head Covering?

What's More Important Than Head Covering?
[Guest Author: This article was written by David Phillips. If you’re interested in guest writing for the Head Covering Movement, please contact us.]

Introduction

“Religious headcoverings” is one of those topics that can trigger a variety of strong emotions & opinions.

Some folks are adamantly against the use of headcoverings for themselves and others. And some folks make headcovering the defining feature of their faith, such that wearing a headcovering becomes part of their identity.

Some churches practice headcovering due to a strong denominational tradition or a careful study of Scripture. But other churches consider headcovering to be so irrelevant that it’s not even worth a serious consideration of the passage that promotes it (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).

So where is the balance?

The Bigger Issue

I serve in full-time ministry and I see 1 Corinthians 11 as being applicable today — but I rarely bring up the topic of headcovering with others. Why? Because there are dozens of theological truths that have greater importance. As presented in Scripture, the Christian walk includes so much more than the practice of headcovering.

And yet we must always seek to be balanced. Part of the reason I’ve invested many hours researching & writing about Christian headcovering is because there is an overall imbalance to correct. Compared to the other biblical symbols & practices, headcovering hasn’t received sufficient teaching in Christian circles, coverage in modern Christian literature, and follow-through in Christian society.

What’s More Important

However, when something is out of balance, it can be tempting to over-correct. Therefore, it is important to remember that there are many things that deserve more of our passion than headcovering. Here are some of them…

1. The Other Two Biblical Symbols: The Lord’s Supper & Baptism.  A few chapters after explaining the practice of headcovering, the Apostle Paul reviews the Gospel. He states that the Gospel is of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3ff), which is a very significant & exclusive statement.

Among the symbolic practices (or “ordinances“) found in Scripture, we have two that point directly to the Gospel. Specifically, the Lord’s Supper (or “Communion”) symbolizes what Christ did on the cross (dying as a sacrificial penalty for our sins). Baptism represents our response (as we profess faith and publicly identify ourselves with Jesus).

So, while headcovering can be considered a biblical “ordinance” (1 Corinthians 11:2ff, KJV) along with baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the Gospel-related symbols are more significant.1) Along the same lines, note that Paul’s consequence for not wearing a headcovering is nowhere near as severe as the possible consequences for dishonoring the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:6, 27-30). Headcovering symbolizes truths that are important to understand (see next section), but the truths behind Communion are so important that without them we are eternally separated from God.

2. The Meaning Behind the Symbol.  By definition, any symbol is less important than what it symbolizes. For example, my wedding ring is less important than my marriage. Baptism is less important than being saved. My flag is less important than my country. And headcovering is less important than “God’s glory” and “biblical marriage roles.”

Put another way, employing a symbol (such as a wedding ring or a flag) shows our devotion to what the symbol stands for.  Any significance that the symbol has is due only to the original significance of whatever it symbolizes. We should be a bigger supporter for what’s behind the symbol than for the symbol itself.

When the reverse happens, legalism is following close behind. And practicing the symbol without practicing what it symbolizes is hypocrisy.

This all becomes even more clear when we take it one step further… I can be saved without being baptized. If I lose my wedding ring, I’m still married. A country doesn’t need a flag in order to be a country.  And so the husband is still the “head” even if he wears a hat while he prays. His wife can still be following his lead, even if she doesn’t wear a headcovering.

Of course, this doesn’t imply that the symbol has no value.  I wouldn’t dream of throwing away my wedding ring. Likewise, Paul says that it’s a “disgrace” for men & women to ignore his God-inspired headcovering commands (1 Corinthians 11:4-5). It’s just that the principles behind the headcovering are more important than the headcovering itself.

3. Orthodoxy & Orthopraxy.  Not every topic & command in the Bible is equal (Matthew 5:19, 23:23). There are some that play a more central role in our lives, and a great number of other biblical doctrines & practices are more important than headcovering. Jesus taught us that “loving God” is the “first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38, NIV). “Loving others” is ranked second (Matthew 22:39). Similarly, if the Gospel is of “first importance,” then spreading it (the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20) is surely one of the most important things we can do.

Beliefs such as “the Bible is true” and “God loves me” and “Jesus is God’s Son” are much more foundational, eternal, and life-changing than Paul’s command that “she should cover her head.”

Conclusions

In the grand scheme of things, are Paul’s instructions about headcovering really even worth concerning ourselves with?

Yes — because they are an inspired part of Scripture, and are given as a command. Any instruction in the Bible is a weighty matter, since it is given to us by Almighty God. Though “headcovering” isn’t the most central topic in the Bible, obedience is still important because it’s part of how we express our love for God (John 14:15) and because the symbol is meaningful.

And in our contemporary Christian culture, this obedience needs a boost.

However, headcovering is just one part of a much larger picture. The broader view of Christianity also includes the Gospel-oriented symbols, the meaning behind headcovering, and the foundational truths of Scripture. Each of these is more important than headcovering.

The Christian life is a balancing act. May the Lord grant grace to His people to prioritize the most important pursuits “without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).

References

1.
 Along the same lines, note that Paul’s consequence for not wearing a headcovering is nowhere near as severe as the possible consequences for dishonoring the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:6, 27-30).
David Phillips

David Phillips

David is a Bible college graduate and has served in full-time Christian ministry for over a decade. He is the author of Covered Glory and Headcovering Throughout Christian History.
David Phillips

Latest posts by David Phillips (see all)

  • clarinetlaj

    well written and my thoughts exactly :) It IS important because of what it symbolizes and the fact it is in scripture…BUT it is not more important the the bible. Those that cause division over secondary matters like this, but are willing to attend heretical churches (like those that deny the trinity or deity of Christ) in order to attend a “covering church” have put the cart WAY ahead of the horse.

    • Dianne Plourde

      This is true. We cannot place the desire to attend a head covering church above the need for sound doctrine. Unity around the head covering issue can become error very quickly … and I do fully support the idea of head covering and do practice it. I liked this article very much, also, and appreciated the notes on why replacing Christian symbols would be wrong. Thank you all who contribute on this great site! :)

  • Joyce Alice

    Baptism does save. If you look up every occurrence of “baptism” and its related forms (baptize, baptizes, etc) in an exhaustive concordance you will see that’s what is actually in the scripture, in black & white. But a lot of times we can’t see what’s there in God’s Word because of our own preconceived ideas that we’re not even aware we have.

    • Dianne Plourde

      It seems that on this site, other issues, such as whether water baptism is ‘required’ for salvation, should be set aside somewhat, or maybe discussed privately. There are many viewpoints on this site that I do not necessarily agree with, but I try to stick with the subject emphasized – the head covering for Christian women. Yet, I know other doctrines are just as, if not more, important. But on here, it is the head covering we seek to understand, not other teachings. I am grateful that the basic tenets of Christianity are faithfully presented on this site. But I know how fervently we can feel about some truths and how much we want to share them. I don’t mean this as a criticism of Joyce, just wanted to say that many on here have somewhat differing views on such things. I do believe Baptism is an ordinance, though. Whether ‘required’ for full salvation is a slightly different issue. I think if one is truly saved, they will not ‘refuse’ to be baptized. But I also believe that one can be saved fully and not find a church to settle in, and be baptized in, for a long while … yet be saved. I was one of those, over 40 yrs. ago. :)

      • Joyce Alice

        Dianne, I do see your point that this site is about the head covering and not really for going off on tangents; which is why I tried to keep my comment brief, actually. I wanted to go into a lot more detail! However, I think it was ok to bring it up because David Phillips used his view of baptism as part of his reasoning on the importance of the head covering. The various forms of “baptism” occur 115 times in the N.T.; these occurrences being found in 49 passages. I have arranged all these passages onto one letter-size sheet of paper, front & back, so anyone who really wants to study baptism has a clear, organized “birds-eye-view” of everything God’s Word reveals about it. I have put it up on my website http://www.headcoveringwoman.com, which is mostly :) about the head covering, but will have a few other topics as well. The section on baptism is down at the bottom. There is nothing there except just quoted scripture — except I did put in a brief explanation of the “not sent to baptize” passage, 1 Cor. 1:13-17. Some of these passages actually say — in so many words — that baptism saves us, so why do so many religious people believe it doesn’t? I wish somebody would explain that to me. — Sorry, hope I didn’t get too wound up. If any woman is reading this and would like to discuss it on my website, please come on over and we’ll talk! And even if you don’t leave a comment, thanks for looking anyway!

        • Dianne Plourde

          Thank you for taking the time to write back about this subject, Joyce. I will check out your site. I do feel that baptism is very important and often brushed aside (even for inclement weather). I have observed even the Lord’s supper being set aside too often, practiced infrequently. Much to consider. Thank you!

  • Deborah

    Thank you for this article! (I especially appreciated point #2: “The meaning behind the symbol”). I heartily agree that “our contemporary Christian culture needs an obedience boost”.

    I’m not quite sure how I’m personally feeling about this subject. It seems to me that the throwing off of the head covering has played more of a MAJOR role in the degradation of gender distinguished roles in our nation and abroad, and more-greviously in our churches, than we give it credit” for.

    I am reminded of John Calvin’s colorful remarks from long ago, which now actually seems prophetic… “So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show; they will become so brazen that modesty and shame will be no more; in short they will forget the duty of nature…Further, we know that the world takes everything to its own advantage. So, if one has liberty in lesser things, why not do the same with this the same way as with that? And in making such comparisons they will make such a mess that there will be utter chaos. So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, ‘Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?’ And then after that one will plead for something else; ‘Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also bare this and bare that?’ Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard.”

    Surveying the fact that there are now various (so-called) Christian institutions which ordain women as pastors, and even taking into consideration the sad fact that homosexuality (the practicing and sympathizing of) runs rampant in many “churches” now – should we not wonder if this symbol is actually more important than we consider it to be? Furthermore, Christian women, even in the most reformed churches, are commonly cutting off “their glory” and donning immodest attire in worship services, just as Calvin predicted.

    The women’s liberation movement seemed to understand the importance of crushing the headcovering symbol decades ago… and now in 2017, our distinctive “role-lines” are blurred. Maybe it is time we elevate this symbol a bit higher than we do now, for the sake of restoring order… and (v.10) “because of the angels” (that alone seems quite important.) Of course… the burden is most on pastors who recognize this passage as a timeless, transcultural ordinance to preach on it. I’ve been asked not to share my opinion, and I need to submit to the authority of my pastor, but it grieves me when pastors are silent in fear of losing members.

    If someone asks how in the world wearing a headcovering could restore order to the church, well, who knows but God could bless our respect for this symbol – and maybe not in our generation, but we could be a catalyst for the next. Why did He command the Israelites to brush the blood of a lamb on their doorposts before their exodus? Couldn’t He have passed over them without that symbol, of course He could have, but He was pleased to do it by way … of a beautiful symbol.

    PS I’m not disagreeing with this article – sound doctrine is more important, which is why I attend a non-head covering church. I guess I’m just expressing that I think it should be given more “weight” 😉

    • One of the problems with Calvin’s quote is that it uses the “slippery slope” logical fallacy to argue his point. “If we allow women to show their hair, next thing, they will be going topless!” “What will this lead to?” is the reason that the Amish fiercely hang on to their traditions, pointless as they may be in the 21st century.

      The real point is this: will you follow God, or will you follow your own way and desires? If you follow Him, you don’t have to worry about sliding down slippery slopes. If you don’t follow Him from the heart, it doesn’t really matter what your outside looks like.

      And I think that’s what David is trying to say in this article. It’s not that headcovering is unimportant. The point is that headcovering is only one small part of following Jesus, and we need to keep it in perspective.

      Thanks, David, for a good article!

      • Deborah

        I wasn’t disputing, just adding my own thoughts. :) I love Calvin’s quote. When we lose sight on the small things (such as head covering) it is a slippery slope and yes, that seems to be his point – with added shock value. In our churches today, we see cleavage and mini skirts, topless I doubt we will see in our lifetime 😉 but where do we draw the line of acceptable, it starts somewhere and then we push the limits,

    • Dianne Plourde

      I appreciate this comment very much!

  • I agree with this article. I also like Deborah’s comment.

  • Cody Goldsbury

    I’m from a typical church, one that never taught that women must wear head coverings or that men mustn’t wear head coverings. So to me it’s some strange doctrine. I don’t really see the point of symbols because my denomination rejects a vast majority of them so that they do not become idols that stand between us and our worship of God. This page does a good job in explaining the symbols my church tends to accept: http://www.patheos.com/Library/Baptist/Ritual-Worship-Devotion-Symbolism/Symbolism?offset=0&max=1
    To us, not every symbolic act is equal in and of itself. We don’t greet with a kiss, we don’t wash each others’ feet, we don’t wear specific kinds of clothing in specific ways. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are just not on the same level as head-covering.

  • Ruth

    In my experience i had to ask myself the question:What is more important? The headcovering or the praying. I got convicted to cover but felt very sel concious about it and it took a long time to realize that i would be better off to not only cover full time but also pray ‘without ceasing’as the bible says😉

Send this to friend