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To cover or not to cover, that is the question

Discussion in 'Semper Reformanda' started by abacabb3, Aug 4, 2014.

  1. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Being that is is popping up in another thread, I figured I'd bring it here.

    The issue of "head coverings" to me is so important, because it appears to me rather simple: the Scripture commands regulations for it as it does for the Lord's Supper, speaking in turn during a church service, the appointment of ruling elders (whatever shape this takes is a matter of debate) and other Church ordinances that generally don't get conflated with "legalism."

    My question to those who think the practice should be ignored is this: on what consistent hermeneutical grounds should we do this in light of taking the Lord's Supper, which is discussed in the same chapter of 1 Cor 11?

    Usually, when something is orthodoxy for almost 20 centuries, it better be explicit in the Scripture that the "orthodoxy" is wrong, because otherwise it shows a complete lack of faith in the promises of God that the Spirit will lead us into all truth, and that apparently the Holy Spirit was asleep at the wheel on this one for so long.

    Does anyone wish to defend a modern interpretation of head coverings for men and women, or is everyone here a traditionalist on this one?
     
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  2. stenerson

    stenerson Newbie

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    The "modern" interpretation is the only one I heard, to be honest, until recently. I heard an RC Sproul podcast on it. The church I went to a couple years back had a lady that always used a covering, one of those lacey veils. But that family was into some Hebrew roots doctrines. Example they never said Jesus (and insisted that their children not use that term) but said Yeshua.
     
  3. bbbbbbb

    bbbbbbb Guest

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    I fully believe that a man ought not to cover his head in the meeting of the church.

    The obvious implication, then, is that a woman ought to cover her head, as Paul admonished in I Cor. 11:1-15.

    To attempt to eradicate the use of a head covering in this passage is to reduce it to utter absurdity.

    I attend a church where the majority of women cover their heads in various ways. For years, the headcovering used was a small lace doily. The reason for it was to differentiate our ladies from those of a rival denomination who use hats. What a sad thing divisiveness and pride is when it enters into what is, in actuality, not a major issue.
     
  4. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    I go to a regular reformed baptist church and the issue actually came up. I find it interesting that the issue was hardly debated not even explicitly, and our pastor stopped teaching on it because it was impossible to teach a position against the traditional understanding, yet at the same time teach the perspicuity of Scripture and the importance of centuries of church tradition weighing in on matters of dispute.

    I actually am to a degree depressed about the sway the new position has, simply because it has so little Scriptural and traditional support. The same sort of wrong application of "historical context" and "literary context" can be used to justify that egalitarianism is preferable to traditional gender roles, or homosexuality is not a sin, or any other position though not explicitly found in the Scripture or in church tradition that can be argued on such questionable grounds.

    As I was referring to in part in the other thread, even the history they invoke is easy for an 8th grader with wikipedia to disprove. FOr example, Wayne Grudem and other non-traditional commentators on the subject argue that the head covering was the universal sign in Rome that a woman is betrothed, equivalent to today's wedding ring. The problem is, other than wearing a veil during a wedding ceremony (like today) a Roman woman was no more compelled to wear something on her head back then any more than a woman is today. Evidence for this can be said in the paintings that survived the volcanic eruption in Pompeii. Tons of uncovered women busy in pictures doing work and other things.

    It's not only wrong about the Roman Empire, but it is wrong about Greek culture and it goes against Tertullian's late second century observations on the subject that "the majority of Churches keep their virgins covered" (On the Veiling of Virgins," CHapter 2). So, it has nothing to do with being married and nothing to do with culture. As Paul himself wrote, "If anyone wishes to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God" (1 Cor 11:16). The Church at this time covered from Rome, to Greece, to Libya, to Syria, and arguably more far flung spots in the east. Obviously, the churchly practice was in force in a plethora of different societies, which did not have one uniform style of clothing and decorum.

    However, why does the average Christian even need to know all of this stuff? Is the Scripture in any way unclear in which we should ignore this teaching? How does it give God more glory to ignore it?
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
  5. JM

    JM Absolute Predestinarian Supporter

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    Interesting conundrum. I find myself in the same position when discussing the use of instruments in worship. The modern understanding has been the only one I considered until about 5 years ago. When I looked into it the church never used instruments, argued against their use and yet...we have churches filled with every kind of instrument under the sun.

    jm
     
  6. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    What kind of instruments? Where does the Bible forbid them? Or, are you arguing, we should praise the Lord with the Lyre but not a synthesizer or something?
     
  7. JM

    JM Absolute Predestinarian Supporter

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    I really don't have an polemic formulated and rely on others to do the arguing for me. :) Most a cappella (in the manner of the chapel) proponents would say David was given inspiration/revelation by God to include those instruments in worship. It was given by divine command to include them. If you look at church history you simply do not find congregations using instruments until the Roman Catholic Church did in their cathedrals.

    I don't want to derail the thread. As you were folks...

    jm
     
  8. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Actually, let's pursue this a little. I think there is a difference between the traditional headcovering and the traditional music schools.

    The head covering group has both the preponderance of tradition and Scripture. The music "traditionalists" appear to have no Scripture, if not a contradiction of Scripture, and some tradition (and not the last 1,000 years probably).

    This is why it is important not to ignore tradition and be informed by it, but not forsake the Scripture in favor of the traditions of men. Unless convinced by a Scriptural imperative, an anti-musical instrument regulation appears legalistic because its a rule that does not draw specifically from the Scripture.
     
  9. JM

    JM Absolute Predestinarian Supporter

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    I'll repeat what I wrote above...I really don't have an polemic formulated and rely on others to do the arguing for me. :)

    The quips sound about the same. "No scripture, you're a legalist..."

    Actually, someone who has formed a polemic or interested in arguing with you would use scripture. The first half of the Bible does talk about this issue and since the last half of the Bible doesn't mention instruments at all they would argue the issue wasn't reopened.

    Well, ya see, that's where we would disagree. From my reading and study I would say the early church absolutely did not use instruments in worship. I would also say instruments were used around 1,000 and again 1,200 by a few, very few Roman churches. The Eastern Orthodox rejected it as an innovation and so did most Roman bishoprics. The Eastern Orthodox still refuse to use instruments during worship. All Reformed churches, all Anabaptist and most of the Lutheran churches rejected instruments until about 150 years ago. As a Reformed or Particular Baptist I would agree with the Regulative Principle of Worship which essentially states that if scripture doesn't command it, we should do it.

    We need to be careful here with terms like legalist, legalistic and legalism. Legalism makes Christ a half saviour, He does all he can and we do the rest. That is not my position or the position of anyone I have read on the subject of head covering or a capella singing during worship. I'm not a pietist. I do not believe a cappella singing makes me holier or better, than other Christians. Like you I am a scripturalist who struggles to worship God the Father through Jesus Christ according to the word of God. I'm not saying you must worship God as I do against your conscience.

    Yours in the Lord,

    jm
     
  10. JM

    JM Absolute Predestinarian Supporter

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    I started a thread here a while if you want to keep this thread on track. Perhaps someone else will jump in.
     
  11. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Music aside, the issue is how we address an issue that is specifically laid out without equivocation and with a uniform tradition. I think you would agree, that the issue of head coverings and the Lord's Supper are addressed a lot more specifically and authoritatively in Scripture than music. I suppose what I am looking for in this thread is a consistent hermeneutic in how one would not follow the principles set out in 1 Cor 11.

    I think you would agree that a ban on music is inferred from Scripture. However, if anything, a ban on men wearing hats when praying would be predicated upon at the very least a far too literal reading of Scripture. So my question would be, on what grounds is following the head covering regulations "too literal" while doing the same with the Lord's Supper isn't?
     
  12. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    My answer would be that head covering is by its nature cultural. Paul sees it as a sign of relationships between men and women and Christ. The details are subject to debate: long hair or covering, what do the angels have to do with anything? But the most plausible suggestion seems to me that a decent woman in that culture covered her head, and an uncovered head suggested a libertine. What does this have to do with men being the head? Part of decency is a proper relationship between the genders. Indecent women wouldn’t have had that.

    Imagine carrying this out in a culture where no one had ever heard of hats, or one where everyone covered their head to keep warm. Paul speaks of “nature.” In an arctic climate nature would suggest that both men and women would be covered. To me the sensible approach is to decide what you think the implication was for Paul and make sure the sign is consistent with that in your culture. Today, decent women in the US don’t necessarily cover their heads. Indeed for many people, wearing a hat seems ostentatious, and in some situations, impolite. I would expect that Christians of both genders would dress in a manner that is decent within their culture.

    Note the ending of the passage. Paul’s ultimate argument if pushed is “well, that’s our custom.”

    I would say the same thing about communion. As far as I know, communal meals are universal among humans. Bread and wine are common across cultures, but not in all. In a culture that's never seen wheat, I'd use something that was a staple there.

    Indeed even now there are variations in the elements. Many churches use grape juice. Many churches use a weird plastic thing that may have wheat in it but isn't in any reasonable sense bread.

    There's room for judgement here. I'd generally stick as close as possible to the original sign. But when the result is sufficiently jolting that it has the wrong associations, it makes sense to consider changing it.
     
  13. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    1. Do you have proof for this contention?
    2. Is it the will of God that His revealed Scriptures require the study of secular history in order to be adequately understood an applied?
     
  14. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    This is the purpose of commentaries, to put together information from all sort of sources to help people understand the Scripture.

    Yes. God revealed himself through actions in history. He could have dictated a theology textbook, but he didn't. He gave us a collection of quite varied kinds of literature. That leaves us to draw conclusions. Doing so properly requires judgement and knowledge.

    You don't need a lot of scholarship to know that we are supposed to love God and our neighbor. But to get into details you need to now about both 1st Cent Judaism and the Roman culture.
     
  15. bbbbbbb

    bbbbbbb Guest

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    Actually, this practice extends well beyond the first century and well beyond the Roman culture. In the United States it extended well into the twentieth century in virtually all denominations, including the Presbyterians. My mother, who passed away as a devout Presbyterian in 2010 would never go to church without her head covered. She was hardly concerned about whether or not people considered her to be a libertine. She was much more concerned about God's opinion.
     
  16. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    But that's exactly the point. For Paul it wasn't just a command to see if you obey God. It meant something. That was the whole point of his argument. Dress shows us things about a person's attitudes. That's still true, although the specific conventions have changed. For Paul what covering showed was that they thought about their role with respect to the other gender and God properly, because that was the meaning of that dress in their culture. Paul explains what he expects the head covering to imply, and says that this isn't a symbol he's creating, but it's the natural meaning of that dress.

    But it doesn't mean that anymore, because dress has changed now. Head covering no longer has that kind of meaning. It's become like vestments, a nice Church tradition. Or if you see things legalistically, a way to show that you're obeying God's rules. But at that point it no longer does what Paul wanted it to do.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2014
  17. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    If we concede the point about requiring secular history to properly understand Scripture, I move onto my other point: why is it plausible that it was a matter of propriety in the culture for women to cover their heads and men not to during the time Paul wrote? What is your evidence for this?
     
  18. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Paul's own statement is a good start. But I did look this up in a commentary.

    "The key connection between the need for a head covering (Gk. ἀκατακαλύπτῳ, feminine privative adjective uncovered) and shames (καταισχύνει) finds precise expression in the comments of Aline Rousselle and Dale Martin.144 The wearing of appropriate head covering (such as a hood) denoted respect and respectability. Within the semiotic clothing code of first-century Roman society (see above on Roland Barthes) “a veil or hood constituted a warning: it signified that the wearer was a respectable woman and that no man dare approach her,” i.e., as one potentially or actually sexually “available” (my italics).145 We postpone for the present whether ἀκατακαλύπτῳ may conceivably denote long hair that is “loosed” down the back, since this would generate the very same signal. If Roland Barthes showed that the semiotics of dress is far from trivial, enormous weight is provided by the context of public worship. We recall again, with Murphy-O’Connor and Richard Oster, that an issue about the semiotic signals generated by men at public worship introduces the principle. In vv. 4 (men) and 5 (women) the principle remains the same: self-advertisement, especially if it relates to perceptions of the worship leader as an object of sexual attraction, diverts attention from God who should be the center of undivided attention. To employ a dress code which hints at sexual availability while leading worship is unthinkable."
    [Thiselton, A. C. (2000). The First Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 828–829). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.]

    Paul adds his own content to the meaning of head covering, but the choice of that specific symbol was cultural. Paul says this himself. "Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him."

    "In Paul’s sense of the term, “natural” need not refer to a structure inherent in creation but may include “the state of affairs surrounding a convention” or the quality, property, or nature (Beschaffenheit) of male or female gender and the order, or arrangement, or system of things as they are (die Ordnung der Dinge).250 Unless we take fully into account “the ambivalence of ‘natural,’ ” we shall find insoluble problems with such historical counterexamples as the custom of Spartan warriors of wearing shoulder-length hair.251 Paul simply appeals to “how things are” or “how things are ordered” in the period and context for which he is writing. Judiciously Schrage cites Calvin: “Now he means by ‘natural’ what was accepted by common consent and usage at that time.… For long hair was not always regarded as a disgraceful thing in man.”252 [op cit]

    Here's a fuller quotation from Calvin's commentary to show that this approach is not just some recent thing:

    "Doth not even nature itself. He again sets forth nature as the mistress of decorum, and what was at that time in common use by universal consent and custom—even among the Greeks—he speaks of as being natural, for it was not always reckoned a disgrace for men to have long hair.1 Historical records bear, that in all countries in ancient times, that is, in the first ages, men wore long hair. Hence also the poets, in speaking of the ancients, are accustomed to apply to them the common epithet of unshorn.1 It was not until a late period that barbers began to be employed at Rome—about the time of Africanus the elder. And at the time when Paul wrote these things, the practice of having the hair shorn had not yet come into use in the provinces of Gaul or in Germany. Nay more, it would have been reckoned an unseemly thing for men, no less than for women, to be shorn or shaven; but as in Greece it was reckoned an unbecoming thing for a man to allow his hair to grow long, so that those who did so were remarked as effeminate, he reckons as nature a custom that had come to be confirmed.2"
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
  19. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    The problem with the above assertion, is that it is not true.

    One example is the wearing of the mitra, which we know was worn by prostitutes:

    "I cannot abide, Quirites, a Rome of Greeks; and yet what fraction of our dregs comes from Greece? The Syrian Orontes has long since poured into the Tiber, bringing with it its lingo and its manners, its flutes and its slanting harp-strings; bringing too the timbrels of the breed, and the trulls who are bidden ply their trade at the Circus. Out upon you, all ye that delight in foreign strumpets with painted headdresses!"

    ite, quibus grata est picta lupa barbara mitra!
    (Juvenal Satire Book 3, verse 66).

    "Mitra" is where we get the word "mitre," or "miter" which is the head covering typical of bishops and such in the RCC an EO churches.

    For what this is worth, none of the above is scholarly research, it is my own original research. Whenever I would follow up on quotations like yours and read their sources, I would find they never quoted primary sources, but rather secondary sources.

    So, we have from a contemporary primary source that the head covering was not always a reflection of respectability, but rather it commonly indicated a prostitute among the Greeks. From my own research, I have found that there were also respectable head coverings, one for example much like a wedding veil that was, just like today, worn during a wedding ceremony.

    Now, the assertion from Christian scholars (but no secular scholars that actually do primary source research ironically) is that the wedding veil was worn all the time by "respectable" married Roman and Greek women.

    The problem is, they don't have evidence of this. In fact, if you take a few minutes to look at contemporary paintings of every day life such as those in Pompeii you would see, aside from all the pictures of couples having sex, that there are a plethora of unveiled women. The same can be said of Greek paintings and pottery. It seems to me that the only people that take issue with this are post 1960s Christian apologists, not secular historians of any era or any Christians before that time.

    So, answer me this: If at the very least there is some doubt that within ancient Rome alone there was a uniform head covering practice connoting respectability, isn't it foolish to negate Scripture for something that is at present not conclusive in historical study?

    Further, Paul says that the Church everywhere had no other practice, which existed throughout the Roman Empire (Greece, Libya, Egypt) and outside the pale of Rome at the time of Paul's writing (Ethiopia, Arabia, Parthia, Armenia, some claim India, etcetera.)

    Are you arguing that all these areas had identical head covering practices in the wider culture, so that Paul was not advocating a Churchly custom but a cultural one instead?

    It appears to me that the only reasonable historical conclusion we can draw is that the physical practice of wearing headcoverings among the ancient church ran contrary to many of the societies the Church penetrated, rather than conforming to the wider societies of the time.

    Yes, the "long hair as headcovering" argument. The problem is, that Paul uses distinctly different words in Greek and internally, the passage discounts the notion:

    Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered (akatakalupton)? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering (peribolaiou).

    The word in the Greek is different for one and the injunction “if you don’t cover your head, then cut all your hair off” doesn’t make any sense unless Paul is only against medium-length hair.

    You need to take your commentary from Thiselton and throw it in the garbage now. Nowhere does the passage refer to this at all, this is made up out of whole cloth.

    Do you have any evidence that is not second hand of this? I just provided two pieces of evidence to the contrary.

    Yes, but this was after Paul made an argument from creation. Paul makes two arguments in favor of head coverings in the passage, one from the divine order of things (1 Cor 11:3, 7-10) and the other from nature, which in effect is arguably a reflection of the divine order of things.

    Just look at verse 7:

    "For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man."

    Paul doesn't say a man ought not to be uncovered because of it being a no-no in wider society. He actually argues it is a creation ordinance.

    This is hundreds of years before the time of Christ and not even relevant to the ancient Greeks of Paul's day.

    To quote Calvin later:

    "Let us therefore carefully mark this passage, that we may not allow ourselves to be carried away with needless disputations, provided at the same time we know how to distinguish contentious persons. For we must not always reckon as contentious the man who does not acquiesce in our decisions, or who ventures to contradict us; but when temper and obstinacy show themselves, let us then say with Paul, that contentions are at variance with the custom of the Church."

    Or, in plain English, don't contradict the teachings of the passage and follow the custom of the Church.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
  20. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    I'm inclined to disagree with this as well. Those who ignore 1 Cor 11:1-16 usually ignore 1 Cor 11:3 in favor of more "modern" gender roles, so I think the head covering remains an apt reminder of God given authority.
     
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