Is head covering a matter of Christian liberty or is it a command that is binding on all Christians?
What is Christian Liberty?
Christian liberty is a Christian’s right to make their own decision on issues that are not commanded by God. With these types of issues there are biblical parameters that limit our choices and biblical principles that should inform our choices, but there is not only one correct answer for all Christians. This idea is taught in Romans 14 where the Apostle Paul says: Read more
Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine, general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, FL.
PRINCIPLE AND CUSTOM
Unless we conclude that all of Scripture is principle and thus binding on all people of all ages, or that all Scripture is local custom with no relevance beyond its immediate historical context, we are forced to establish some categories and guidelines for discerning the difference.
To illustrate the problem let’s see what happens when we hold that everything in Scripture is principle and nothing merely a reflection of local custom. If that is the case, then some radical changes must be made in evangelism if we are going to be obedient to Scripture. Jesus says, “Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way” (Lk 10:4). If we make this text a transcultural principle, then it is time for all evangelists to start preaching in their bare feet! Obviously, the point of this text is not to set down a perennial requirement of barefooted evangelism.
Other matters, however, are not so obvious. Christians remain divided, for example, on the foot-washing rite (see Jn 13:3-17). Is this a perpetual mandate for the church of all ages or a local custom illustrating a principle of humble servanthood? Does the principle remain and the custom vanish in a shoe-wearing culture? Or does the custom remain with the principle regardless of foot apparel?
To see the complexities of the dilemma, let’s examine the famous hair-covering passage of 1 Corinthians 11. The New Revised Standard Version translates this to require a woman to cover her head with a veil when she prophesies. In applying this command to our culture we are faced with four distinct options: Read more
My husband has asked me to not cover my head. I believe it’s a biblical command that I need to obey but I also know it’s supposed to symbolize my submission to him. What should I do?
This is a very difficult situation. I’d like to present two opposing sides to the argument for your consideration. Then I will offer some practical suggestions for working through this issue. Read more
[Series introduction:This post is part of a series that will examine what certain leaders in church history believed about head covering. Their arguments, choice of language and conclusions should not be misconstrued as an endorsement from us. The purpose of this series is to faithfully show what they believe about covering rather than only selectively quoting the parts we agree with.]
John Bunyan (1628-1688) was an English, Baptist, Puritan author and preacher. He is the author of more than 60 books but most famously known for his classic novel, “The Pilgrim’s Progress“. Bunyan’s writings share the same clear and direct style as his immensely popular sermons, which were known to draw crowds of around 3,000 individuals on Sunday.
In 1683 Bunyan published a tract entitled “A Case of Conscience Resolved” dealing with women who segregated themselves and were gathering together privately for worship (with no men present). He was asked for his opinion on this practice and to respond to a Mr. Keach who permitted and defended these womens meetings. In his tract John Bunyan expresses disagreement with the practice and lays out a case for why worship must be men and women together, with men taking the lead.
Near the end of this tract John Bunyan refers to 1 Corinthians 11 several times and sheds light on his understanding of head covering. Read more
The Objection: Head Covering is “majoring in the minors”. It’s taking an obscure passage that’s only mentioned once in the Bible and forming an entire practice out of it. Rather than debating this issue we should be worried about more important things like feeding the poor and sharing the Gospel.
The head covering passage (1 Cor 11:2-16) is often classified under the “obscure” category in Scripture. One theologian said, “head covering here and the man of sin in II Thessalonians are two of the three most obscure passages in the New Testament“. But is that so? This section of Scripture is debatable and there are good objections to the practice that require much thought and study. But obscure? A truly obscure verse is not expanded upon, explained or defended. The meaning cannot be easily discerned because of its vagueness. Good examples of obscure verses are 1 Cor 15:29 (baptism for the dead), 1 Tim 2:15 (women saved through childbearing) and 1 Cor 11:10 (covering “because of the angels”). Now even though there’s an obscure verse in the head covering passage (1 Cor 11:10b), the section as a whole is not. Read more