There’s a reason that most folks do not believe that the doctrine of headcovers that is taught in 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16 is meant to be obeyed by the church in these modern times: hardly anybody is teaching it. This doctrine isn’t taught in seminaries, Bible colleges, universities, most churches, in most homes, or by most modern articles, commentaries, or theological books. What they don’t know, they can’t teach. Who is going to research something they’ve been assured no longer applies?
However this was not always the case. The doctrine of headcovers was once widely taught, believed, and applied. It was taught by the church fathers, the reformers, the puritans, the universal church, and many other solid godly men in modern church history such as Gavin Beers and RC Sproul and many others. The importance of headcovering in worship is still taught by much of the non-western church.
That this doctrine was so widely taught throughout church history is irrefutable. So what happened? Why did the church suddenly deny this teaching? Did the church suddenly discover a new doctrine? Some teaching that older men, wiser men, were incapable of discerning?
R.C. Sproul, “The wearing of fabric headcoverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church of Jesus Christ which is “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
In teaching the doctrine of headcovers, Paul appealed to the the creation order. By appealing to the ordinance of creation, “it is totally indefensible to suppose that what is in view and enjoined had only local or temporary relevance. The ordinance of creation is universally and perpetually applicable, as also are the implications for conduct arising therefrom.”
That the doctrine of headcovers was timeless and continually applicable was the normal understanding of 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16 until the advent of feminism is also easily researched and verified.
In 1969, NOW–in an event described as The Great Unveiling and meant to destroy women’s devotion to wearing headcovers in worship–called for women to send in their headcovers to be burned. Feminists hate the doctrine of headccovers because it speaks to God’s created order. Destroy our understanding of God’s creation order and the purpose thereof, and you undermine home and family as well as the church and society. If we’d not done away with headcovers as we did, we’d have a much easier time defending marriage as between man and woman. By undermining headcovers, we opened the pathway to the sexual morass we find ourselves facing and, as a result, undermined our ability to stand against women being considered or installed as leaders in the church in offices such as deacons, pastors, and elders. This is so because when you deny or undermine Scripture in one area, it becomes so much easier to do so in other areas.
Bartel Elshout, “There are a number of Reformed denominations in North America and the Netherlands who now endorse women in church offices. The disturbing fact is that it appears that in some cases the pathway toward this unscriptural position began with the rejection of the teaching of 1 Corinthians 11: 1-16 regarding the divinely mandated use of the woman’s head-covering in public worship. Once the symbol of the head-covering was rejected (along with all of its theological implications), a first step was taken that could ultimately lead toward teaching that women should also be permitted to hold positions of authority in the church as office-bearers.“
Feminism has so affected the home, church, and society that we are often blind to the ways it has poisoned our understanding of truth. Add this to the fact that many churches turn to egalitarians and complementarians to define this Scripture, men such as Gordan Fee, and we end up with a man-centered feminists pleasing view rather than a view that honors the Lord and the intention of His Word.
Yet though Satan has done his best to destroy the doctrine of headcovers, this is a doctrine the church is slowly recovering and one that needs to be recovered to be faithful to God. If this teaching bothers or confuses you (as it once did me), perhaps there is a need for more honest study on your part. There’s many resources available including sermons, older commentaries, books, and writings that shed light on this doctrine. After you’ve read this article, please click and read the articles referenced above and listen to the sermons (highlighted). Here’s my page where we explore the question “Are head coverings biblical?”, if you are interested.
Please don’t dismiss this teaching out of hand. Don’t say “Well, my pastor said, or this book said, or this commentary said..”; rather ask, “What does God say?” and be honest enough to take a serious look to determine it. Recovering a doctrine such as this isn’t easy nor will it easily win you friends. Researching and applying a doctrine such as this, one that is unpopular and gets you labeled a legalist or called judgmental for taking a stand for it, requires much prayer and discernment. I will pray God grants you that for His glory and for the good of the church.
Soli Deo Gloria!
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