Why So Many Positions?
The reader may have observed that it has been necessary to deal with many different positions which brethren hold concerning the head coverings. These positions are very different from one another. Some say that there was a universal custom making it necessary for women to cover their heads when in public. Others say that is absolutely wrong—the custom was only at Corinth. Some maintain that there is only one covering in the passage, and the covering is long hair. Others make it clear that this is an untenable position. Some contend that the only covering in the passage is hair. And a recent position is that the verses apply only to women who had spiritual gifts, and since God does not give gifts today women and men do not have to follow the instructions of 1 Corinthians 11.
Yet though these people have different understandings of 1 Corinthians 11, they all agree that the instructions given by Paul in this chapter do not apply today. These brethren, while having completely different understandings of the passage, are happy with one another. It seems that as long as there is agreement that women do not have to cover their heads in worship, whatever reasoning takes a person there is all right!
One brother wrote to me:
The one thought that occurred to me for the first time as I watched you “systematically” deal with argument after argument against the woman’s injunction to wear a covering is this: The liberals must be right – we do need a new hermeneutic! (I say this with tongue firmly implanted in cheek!). Look at this situation. Here are a series of arguments Paul puts clearly forward to support his argument of Lordship and headship. Our brethren take issue with different individual arguments to convince themselves, and others, that a woman need not wear a covering. One argues that it was just a local custom, another says “no it was more than a local custom” but argues that it only applies during the exercise of spiritual gifts, another doesn’t accept the custom or gifts argument but argues that the only covering under consideration was hair, and so on and so forth. The disturbing thing is that our brethren don’t even agree on which of their negative arguments apply and when. And so the “custom” arguer may not accept the validity of the “spiritual gifts” arguer. The “hair” arguer may not accept the validity of the “custom” arguer, and so on and so on.
The fact that the brethren who are taking the negative position can not even agree on the validity of a uniform negative argument(s) indicates to me that the negative is in complete disarray. Why? This suggests to me very strongly that the negative is NOT being motivated so much by Biblical truth, injunction, and careful hermeneutic application but are being driven by doctrinal predisposition or a cultural prejudice. If this is not the case then what is the explanation that a group of brethren, all holding to the essential same Biblical basis of hermeneutics can not even come up with anywhere near a consistent negative case? It seems to me in stepping back and looking at the big picture of negative argumentation that it represents a “casting about” to try to find some avenue to make the passage mean what we want it to mean rather than what it clearly states. I’m not really trying to impugn any particular position or any one’s motives in particular. But the fact that those who are teaching against the covering cannot even come close to a consistent negative set of arguments must give one pause to think in considering the motivation and overall validity of the negative position.
If the reader has read the chapter What the Early Christians Believed About the Head Covering, which is the transcript of a cassette sermon by David Bercot, you will have noticed that he addresses this question. One thing that Mr. Bercot said is:
Actually this is all part of a larger pattern that emerged in the 19th century. Today we often think of women’s lib or the feminist movement as something that started in the 60’s. No it didn’t start in the 1960’s, it started back in the early 1800’s. And the result of that movement that has swept both through politics and through the church is that churches have basically gone through the scriptures and nullified every single commandment that applies to women alone or particularly to women.
We in the church of the Lord are certainly not immune to peer pressure. The world is against anything which will show that woman is to be in subjection to man. Though we teach that the woman is to be in subjection, it very well may be that the pressure of the world is influencing how we deal with the instructions of the head coverings.
May God help us all to be striving to determine God’s will, regardless of the pressure of the world.