I clearly remember how I felt as someone confronted me during a conversation on the phone. At first, I was a little hot in the face, but by the time our conversation was over, I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I could barely even say, “Goodbye.” Actually, I didn’t have a chance to, because the other person hung up on me. My hands were trembling uncontrollably. I wanted to cry. Thankfully, that discussion was completely unrelated to head covering. But, it could have been.
The thought of having to explain why we cover to fellow church-goers, family, or friends can make us nervous. In my experience, very few people have approached me about head covering. However, the question still lingers: What if more did? What would I say? Many head covering women have probably had that same feeling. In this article, I’d like to suggest a few ways we can prepare ourselves for those conversations — while honoring God and maintaining our peace.
Realistically, talking about head covering & biblical roles for men and women isn’t much different than talking about any other aspect of the Christian faith. We will always encounter people whose beliefs are not exactly the same as ours, whether non-believers or believers. No matter what the topic of discussion is, we can apply the same principles.
The late Francis A. Schaeffer, a famous evangelical philosopher of the twentieth century, wrote this about communicating with those who have different beliefs than we do:Read more
Christian head covering is not a new belief. It is a practice with a long history that has been largely forgotten in the 21st century. Similar to the Reformers of years past, the goal of each generation of reformers is not to invent new doctrines, but to re-discover the old ones.
The 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon helped do this for the Doctrines of Grace, also known as Reformed theology. Although this system of Protestant beliefs was the dominant view during the Puritan age in England, during Spurgeon’s time it was a minority (and largely-forgotten) position. Steven Lawson explains the situation:
When Charles Spurgeon burst onto the scene in the mid-19th century, he appeared heralding the doctrines of sovereign grace. At that time, Calvinism was no longer the dominant theology in England, as it had been in Puritan times. Instead, the doctrines of grace were becoming obscured from public view, cast aside as dusty and archaic relics of primitive 16th-century Europe. Victorian England had come of age, it was supposed, and its philosophers championed the autonomy of man, not the sovereignty of God. The teaching of the Reformation had all but faded from the evangelical scene. But rather than becoming infatuated with the current theological fads, Spurgeon chose to stay true to the old paths, those laid out in Scripture long ago, including the teachings of sovereign grace. He said: “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.” (Lawson 37-38) 1) Lawson, Steven J. The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon. Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012.
Spurgeon is affectionately honored as the “Prince of Preachers,” not because he was a clever man who devised new theological fads, but because of his bold proclamation of doctrinal truths that had been forgotten in his generation. It is easy for the people of God to forget. We take the Lord’s supper regularly “in remembrance of [Jesus]” (1 Cor. 11:24 ESV) — because we are prone to forget. Every generation must take up the task of teaching Christian beliefs afresh, so that they will not be lost to the pages of history.
In Spurgeon’s day, the practice of head covering was not an abandoned doctrine but something that was commonplace. Referring to his own church, he wrote:
The reason why our sisters appear in the House of God with their heads covered is ‘because of the angels.’ The apostle says that a woman is to have a covering upon her head because of the angels, since the angels are present in the assembly and they mark every act of indecorum, and therefore everything is to be conducted with decency and order in the presence of the angelic spirits. (Spurgeon 98) 2) Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. Spurgeon’s Sermons on Angels. Kregel Academic, 1996.
Charles Spurgeon had a profound impact in both Christian theology and practice. Partly due to his influence, Reformed theology is more widely accepted nowadays. While the same cannot be said for the practice of head covering (yet!), the same principle applies. We must follow Spurgeon’s example by “[staying] true to the old paths, those laid out in Scripture long ago” (Lawson 38). 3) Lawson, Steven J. The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon. Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012.
↑ Lawson, Steven J. The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon. Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012.
↑ Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. Spurgeon’s Sermons on Angels. Kregel Academic, 1996.
↑ Lawson, Steven J. The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon. Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012.
Editor’s Note: The Head Covering Movement team is made up of men and women from various denominations and does not endorse a specific style or form of worship as a core tenet of HCM. This article is intended to describe a worship philosophy that arose during the Protestant Reformation, which is helpful to consider as it challenges us to rely on Scripture as our guide for all of life and helps us to see why the practice of head covering is appropriate for Christian worship everywhere.
Imagine you were given the opportunity to meet the Queen of England. It’s likely you wouldn’t wing it, arriving in your favorite comfy outfit to share some personal stories about your family dog. Instead, you’d probably study to find out what you are supposed to do when you were in her presence. Likewise, we should be thoughtful as to how we enter God’s presence in worship as a church body. During the Protestant Reformation (roughly 1517-1648), one of five key doctrines to emerge was sola scriptura, which is Latin for “Scripture alone.” This means that the Bible is our source of truth and provides our only infallible rule of faith and practice. This doctrine guards against elevating church tradition, personal experience, or reason to an equal level of authority with God’s revealed will in the Bible.
Scripture Guides Us
A primary purpose of God’s Word is the self-disclosure of Himself to His people. This includes how we are to worship Him with our lives, and how we worship Him in corporate worship—our time gathered with other believers on the Lord’s Day. Two primary schools of thought emerged during the Reformation: the earliest Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, applied sola scriptura to worship by saying that anything which may be edifying is permissible in gathered worship if it is not forbidden in Scripture: “I condemn no ceremony except such as are opposed to the gospel; all the rest I leave intact within the church.” 1) Tanner, Craig. “NPW vs. RPW.” Avoiding Evil, 2004, http://www.tbcsullivan.com/avoidingevil/2004/03/05/npw-vs-rpw/.
This became known as the “Normative Principle of Worship” and is the prevailing approach to corporate worship in North American churches. Essentially it states that Scripture makes clear things we should not do in worship; that is, we should avoid anything obviously sinful. Many faithful Christians adhere to this worship philosophy, seeking to legitimately honor God’s Word in their worship by not violating God’s commands during their times of gathered worship.
However, another view became much more widely held among the “Reformed” (Protestant non-Lutheran) groups. It was eventually known as the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW). This concept also applied sola scriptura, but instead of asking what we may do in gathered worship, it states Scripture is sufficient to tell us what we shoulddo in worship. This principle states that God, through His Word, commands certain distinct elements for corporate worship, such as singing, praying, and preaching. 2) The key elements of corporate worship laid out in God’s Word are reading the Bible (1 Tim. 4:13); preaching the Bible (2 Tim. 4:2); singing the Bible (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) — Psalms and other songs that accurately reflect the teaching of Scripture; prayer (Matt. 21:13), and administration of the two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38–39; 1 Cor. 11:23–26). Some would also include a few other elements like taking offerings (1 Cor 16:2) and installing church officers (Acts 6:1-6). The above biblically-prescribed church service elements are clearly spelled out within many of Christianity’s historical creeds.
Any additional elements not found in Scripture must be left out. (Full disclosure: I, the writer of this article, subscribe to this view.) There may be some variation in how the elements are executed (sermon length, number of songs, etc.), but the actual service components are those which are prescribed in Scripture.
The basis for this principle is that God is perfect, holy, and transcendent beyond our imagining; we are redeemed-yet-flawed created beings and cannot rightly come up with how we ought to enter His presence in worship. Instead, we must worship God together on His terms, according to His guidelines made known in His Word — especially through Jesus’ teachings, the apostles’ writings, and New Testament church practice carried out under apostolic oversight. The Regulative Principle emphasizes that we must not add to or take away from God’s Word 3)Deut. 4:2, Deut. 12:32, Rev. 22:18-19.
and “that worship is of God, by God, and for God.” 4) Hyde, Daniel. “What Is the Regulative Principle of Worship?” Ligonier, 2017, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-regulative-principle-worship/.
↑ Tanner, Craig. “NPW vs. RPW.” Avoiding Evil, 2004, http://www.tbcsullivan.com/avoidingevil/2004/03/05/npw-vs-rpw/.
↑ The key elements of corporate worship laid out in God’s Word are reading the Bible (1 Tim. 4:13); preaching the Bible (2 Tim. 4:2); singing the Bible (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) — Psalms and other songs that accurately reflect the teaching of Scripture; prayer (Matt. 21:13), and administration of the two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38–39; 1 Cor. 11:23–26). Some would also include a few other elements like taking offerings (1 Cor 16:2) and installing church officers (Acts 6:1-6). The above biblically-prescribed church service elements are clearly spelled out within many of Christianity’s historical creeds.
For some of us, submission may be unfamiliar — not because the term is foreign, but because the concept is unclear. In many marriages, it’s not common for the husband to ask his wife to “obey” him in anything particular. So, it can be hard for the wife to objectively gauge whether or not she is really being submissive as the Bible says wives should be.
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18 KJV; see also Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1).
Since biblical head covering represents the woman’s acceptance of the man’s headship (leadership), it helps to have a clear idea of how to apply that concept practically.
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God… For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-9 KJV).
Though there are wives who have husbands with demanding personalities, there are others who have husbands with very laid-back, relaxed attitudes. This article is meant for those wives, as advice in how to honor their easy-going husbands. That’s exactly the type of man my husband is.
“Am I A Submissive Wife?”
The other day, I asked my husband (only a little apprehensively), “Am I a submissive wife?” His response was right to the point… and I’ll tell you what it was in a moment. But first, I’d like to share with you what the word submission implies, to him.
In his mind, this word carries with it some negative connotations: slaves submit to their masters, and animals submit to their owners. The image of a groveling, spiritless creature always pops up in his imagination, largely as a result of his cultural upbringing. However, my husband has never expected me to act like his slave nor does he ever want us to interact in that way. He wants me to be his wife.
He described it to me this way: “In order to have a good marriage, we need to have good communication. We need to have conversations where we — the both of us — share our opinions respectfully. Even though the Bible says that I’m the leader, I value your input in making decisions for our family.” It’s true: he does like to hear what I think and will sometimes even change his mind about something based on an insight I’ve shared. He respects me. But what about me? Do I respect him?
When I asked him if I was a submissive wife, do you know what his answer was?Read more
As the founder of the Head Covering Movement, I have the privilege of hearing from women (all around the world) as they begin following Paul’s instructions about head covering. Many times, I also hear as women abandon the practice. Starting and stopping, and re-starting then stopping — and then re-starting again — is sometimes common. Many others start covering for a time and later quit, never to return.
Throughout the years, I have noticed several characteristics of those who eventually abandon the practice of head covering. I’d like to share these trends with you so that you can evaluate whether any of them might be part of your life as well.
Lack of Study. There are many women who begin the practice of head covering, but who don’t have a personal conviction based solidly on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. They started covering for the sake of modesty or because someone they respect does it, but not primarily because Scripture teaches it. Further, women who start covering may not be familiar with the reasoning used by those who reject head covering. They’ve never read thoughtful objections to the practice (such as the “cultural view” or the “long hair view”) — so when they are later confronted with those arguments, they are taken aback and start to doubt the practice. One way to help yourself is to study the biblical case for head covering. Also, become familiar with the reasons why people reject head covering and how their objections compare with Scripture.
Mystical Reasons. There are many women who decide to begin head covering due to certain personal experiences — such as a dream, an answer to prayer, a sense of peace (or other emotion), or circumstances that seemed to be more than coincidental. But whenever our behavior is based on subjective experiences, it’s not likely that we’ll continue that behavior very long. Feelings change and experiences can seem to lose their intensity (or even doubted entirely) later on. One way to ensure consistency is to ensure that your reasons for head covering are based on objective truth: the Word of God.
Lacking Community. Many women find themselves as the only one covering in their church and have few people encouraging them in their decision. One of the downsides to holding to a minority practice is that it can often feel very lonely. It can be easy to glance across the Christian landscape and feel like an outcast, even if that’s not how other people view you. I recommend intentionally finding supportive people — those who build you up in your decision and also those who practice head covering with you. If you can’t find them locally, try to find them online.
Covering More Often Than Necessary. A woman’s long hair is her glory (1 Cor 11:15) and is meant to be enjoyed. It is a special gift that God has given to beautify a lady, which is not given to men. Similarly, Proverbs teaches that a man’s glory is his strength (Prov. 20:29). Can you imagine if a man felt obligated to hide his strength, rather than use it? Human glory is a gift which is meant to be on display except when we’re worshiping God (1 Cor 11:2-16). Many women “burn out” on head covering when their beautiful hair is covered more often than necessary. They rightfully miss it. Some cover their heads more often than I believe is Scripturally required (and for them, they should follow the conviction of their conscience). But if you don’t feel that conviction, then you should let your beautiful hair be visible and not cover more often than Scripture teaches.
Not Being Yourself. Sometimes women begin head covering along with a bunch of other practices that were previously foreign to them. They see a woman that they admire and then they imitate her (or the group/culture she’s associated with). Believing in head covering does not mean you need to move to a homestead, wear plain hand-me-down clothes, or burn your jeans while switching to “dresses-only.” When you start covering, do so in a way that fits you as a unique individual. The styles you see others wearing might not be a good fit for you. Perhaps a woman who struggles with vanity decides to no longer use makeup. That’s fine, but new behaviors that might be helpful for some women are not always Scriptural obligations for all women, and might not make sense in your life. Instead, embrace head covering because it is biblical, not because someone you look up to does it.
Legalism. This one is more common among newer Christians. New believers will often make some very radical changes in their lives (usually very good changes), but can also become overly strict in creating various “rules” for their new Christian walk. Those new practices sometimes get joined together (in their minds) with head covering. As they mature in the Christian life and understand their freedom in Christ, they begin to discard the various practices that were connected with their former “legalistic” stage — which can include, unfortunately, head covering. So, it is important to understand what “Christian liberty” is and why head covering does not fall into that category.
Maybe you’ve stopped head covering and you can see yourself in one or more of these situations. If so, can I encourage you to re-start in a different way than before? Go through our guided study of headcovering with an open Bible, and be convinced by the Scriptures about why head covering is for you. Buy some beautiful head coverings that make you smile when you look in the mirror. Try covering for church and maybe a few other distinct times if you feel like it’s helpful (such as your quiet time with the Lord). Let your glorious hair be seen all other times — it is God’s gift to you. Finally, make friends with other women who cover and intentionally encourage one another. If those women aren’t available locally, meet some new friends through our recently-started HCM Community Group.