Wednesday, June 07, 2006

1 Corinthians 11 and Headcoverings

Below is from a post of mine taken from the Puritainboard. I don't suspect many will or wish to respond so I thought I'd bring it over here:

Headcoverings and the RPNA's position paper

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

This topic has been coming up often in my circles of interest. I see the strength of the arguments on both sides of the debate (viewed as cultural practice to the Corinthians OR to be practiced by all churches for all times as part of proper worship).

The RPNA (the Reformed Presbytery in North America) has an "Official Presbyterial Paper" found here.

Many that take the "cultural" position refer to the washing of the feet and holy kiss practices for support of their view that head coverings are cultural. Even this position paper mentions them here.

Words in italics are from the paper regarding foot washing and a holy kiss:

…Although the Lord authorized his disciples to wash the feet of others, as an appropriate act in their cultural context, we do not believe that in our society we are presently under an obligation to practice that specific cultural custom. We recognize there is a moral principle (of selfless service) that stands behind that cultural practice which we must continue to exemplify in our lives as Christ’s ministers and disciples. The Lord here illustrates the moral duty incumbent upon all who rule in His Church to be the greatest servants of all in caring for others. The actual practice of foot washing had cultural significance to those living in the ancient world, but it has no real significance to those living in the Western world of the twenty-first century. Perhaps our closest cultural equivalent to foot washing presently is offering refreshments and hospitality to guests who visit in our homes.

But we also acknowledge that we are not universally bound to the alterable, cultural custom of foot washing, but rather to the unalterable, moral principle of service. So likewise, we acknowledge that men and women are not universally bound to the alterable, cultural custom of uncovering and covering their heads, but rather to the unalterable, moral principle of lawful male headship under Christ and respectful female submission in the Lord within the assemblies of the Church.

But there is something that continually comes to my mind when hearing this particular line of argumentation. In the 2 cases of foot washing and holy kissing, the paper acknowledges a cultural “replacement” (so to speak) sign or practice that signifies the moral principal being taught. “…our closest cultural equivalent to foot washing presently is offering refreshments and hospitality to guests who visit in our homes.” Agreed. This is a cultural custom, in modern times, which is the same in principle to foot washing during Apostolic times.

Likewise, a holy kiss today “…would likely be a holy handshake or perhaps a holy embrace…Again, we do not understand that we are bound by this specific cultural custom, although we would understand that the moral principle (of Christian love) that lies behind that practice does in fact continue as an obligation. So likewise, we acknowledge that men and women are not universally bound to the alterable, cultural custom of uncovering and covering their heads, but rather to the unalterable, moral principle of lawful authority and submission within the Church. Like the foot washing example, I agree.

But here is my question: What visible, tangible practice or custom is done today to signify the moral principle of lawful male headship under Christ and respectful female submission in the Lord within the assemblies of the Church? What has “replaced” the head covering?

We know what has “replaced” the foot washing and holy kiss custom as mentioned above. (note: I don’t mean “replaced” to be taken negatively). But what has replaced the head covering custom?

How would one, Christian or otherwise, observe the biblical practice of a visible sign of authority over the woman? If it is not a covering (because of our culture) then what is it? Or, what should it be? It seems to me that when the Apostle calls for a visible sign of authority or power upon the (woman’s) head, he is mandating that it ought to be immediately apparent to the observer of the rightful order of things.

My questions can be compacted into one: What modern day, culturally specific custom is expressing this absolute moral principle of submission and authority in the Church?


At 6/09/2006 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though it isn't considered "stylish" or even "convenient" to the rest of the world, the answer to your question is quite simply, hats and/or scarves. And I as a Godly woman, chosing to honor my husband and Father in heaven, am proud to wear one as a symbol of authority on my head.

At 6/10/2006 7:28 PM, Blogger CDM said...

Thanks again for posting. Very insightful. I can't comment much now but I'll post a link to some very fine articles on headcoverings.

And a few audio sermons courtesy of

Scroll down under "Church Doctrine" and you'll find 6 articles on headcoverings.

Follow this link for audio sermons by Rev. Brian Schwertley:

It's a 2 part series. Here is the other one:

BTW, I've been at my new pipe for a month or so now. Like McDonald's I'm lovin' it.

Thanks for your advice, catch you later.

At 6/11/2006 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A specifc response to the RPNA paper is currently being serialised on There are four posts up already and more to come. The Author is Rev David Silversides of Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland

At 6/12/2006 11:12 AM, Blogger CDM said...

Excellent gavin. Thanks for the heads up.

At 8/04/2006 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still undecided about the headcovering issue...while at first (second, third....) glance it's clear that the early church headcovering ordinance demonstrated the outward sign that symbolizes inner submission for wives to their husbands and for the angels to witness...the early Christian church had some major challenges to break away from Judiasm and begin the Christian church...setting up church order...usage of gifts...leadership functions...roles of men and women...which included men wearing togas and sandles...deacons (men) serving tables...feasting with too much wine, at times, foot washingings... on and on and on...

Some of those things were clearly don't wear togas and sandles to church (at least not togas)...nor do they carry their swords... or follow the exact instructions how Jesus said to go out and evangelize... always two by two...and wearing... whatever???

Some of the early church instructions no longer are relevant, i.e., how/when to use spiritual gifts... tongues...interpretations but were necessary as signs to unbelievers for those times and necessary until the Bible was completed (tongues during corporate worship).... What signs do we use now for unbelievers?

Even though the spiritual gifts were necessary and needed orderly instructions for those times to get the church built/developing, Paul still emphasized the greater gift of love even though the early Christians were making a big deal about their spiritual gifts... likewise, I'm not fully convinced that the outward veiling that was necessary then to demonstrate wifely submission remained relevant as the church developed because the principle of submission is the heart attidute that the veil only symbolized for the early church that was mixed with Jews and Gentiles. They probably had lots of confusion about what to do and not do...traditions/ordinances to break/change to bring the new church through its infancy stages. The developed church...or mature wife/husband should know the responsibility of headship and submission, as intended by the Lord, and not have the same outward "need" for it today, as the church should be much more developed and mature to teach the inward qualities of submission that are outwardly demonstrated by a man assuming his mature masculinity toward his wife (servant leader) and his wife functioning in mature femininity in church and in the home (honor, respect, submission).

So I tend to lean toward the previous commentor made that the behaviors would be the outward sign of submission, just as Jesus' behaviors were an outward sign of a servant leader by washing his disciples' feet and many other qualities. Do the men wash the feet of their brothers now as a sign of their leadership? No, but if they are mature Christians, they will demonstrate a genuine servant-leader attitude of the heart with their brothers, wives, children, etc., that is demonstrated by outward behaviors.

Likewise, a woman will demonstrate her submissive heart agreement by her quiet, chaste behaviors... honoring and respecting her husband...and operating in the roles God's designed for her to demonstrate in the home and how/where she might help her husband with his provisional responsibilities (income).

I definitely agree that the feminism perversion that has crept into the church has/is doing great damage to God's design for men and women. However, I'm not convinced that veiling a woman's head will address the real issues, which I believe to be rooted in a negligence from the leaders to teach the Biblical roles of men and women, and outright disobedience from men to focus on and apply their God-given roles and "lead" women to function in their God-given roles, and disobedience from women to submit to their husband's leadership. I also blame the older women in the church (including myself) when we neglect to teach the younger women how to love their husbands and their children, as we are directed to do in Titus. That would go a long way to support a pastor's teaching on submission.

Okay...that's enough rambling for the moment...quite obviously I am not basing my thoughts from studying but simply sharing how I think about head coverings at the moment....keep studying and teaching me...I am so appreciative of how you encourage me to study to find out the writer's intent, rather than what "we" finite beings "think" something means.

Before I close, though, I must say that I tend to see something written in God's word and question why the church is no longer doing it. Therefore, I remain very open to learning more about this.

At 8/05/2006 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


"The way I have responded to that question is this: who outside your tight little circle (remember, I am in much the same circle) would recognize it as submission to authority instead of just being weird?"

How about the Angels... verse 10
How about God... verses 3-5

At 8/07/2006 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, my brother, you rock!
I don't think it could've been said better.

Thunderscott- I do understand that you're not pointing fingers. Let me respectfully respond...

The bottom line is that I don't wear it to be "more spiritual", or to look like a "better wife or mother", I wear it because scripture commands it. And I would never judge anyone who is unaware (like most women today) of what scripture teaches on certain things, or women who do not understand. I too was in that very same boat recently on this issue, and I'm sure I fit that category on many other issues as well. We're all growing and learning.

It wasn't until recently that I was absolutely convinced of it either. I however have been wearing a head covering for several months now. I would much rather do something slightly inconvenient, and err on the safe side than to rebel and refuse simply because I don't prefer it.

I also would like to point out that I NEVER do things for others recognition. I could care less if not one person on this earth recognizes what my head covering is for. God does, and that is what matters to me at the end of every day. I live for Christ and not for man.

Also, I have to respectfully disagree with your response on behavior being the replacement for head coverings. I don't believe that behavior could be recognized by anyone outside of the tight circles that we live in either. In just the same way we wear a wedding ring as a sign or marriage, would it be appropriate or acceptable for a husband or wife to decide that they don't care to wear their wedding band? Taking it off permanently, all the while claiming that they only need to exhibit the behavior of married people? Am I wrong to assume that most of us would be offended if our spouse came to us and announced that he/she wasn’t going to wear a ring anymore because they don’t prefer to? I personally would be.

It’s hard for me to escape my womanly desire to argue and/or ramble, so let me just end with this- My husband believes it to be correct, so whether I like it or not, agree/disagree, I will obey.


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