Note: The following article should be useful, even if the reader has not read the original article.
I refer to Leslie Scott’s article “Hats in the Church?” and his explanation of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, [STGW No. 312, March 2011].
In these verses neither hats nor church are mentioned. The issue is not just in church, but wherever a woman prays or gives expression to the mind God. The issue is head covering, whether be it beret, hat, scarf, mantilla or other item.
Often a section of Scripture is simple. Difficulties arise when some part of the truth of God does not suit us.
Before Paul deals with their disorderly conduct at the Lord’s Supper, he introduces this teaching as to headship – God’s ordering in creation.
If we look at the chapter 1 Cor. 11, verses 1-16 deal with godly order in a woman praying; verses 17-33 deals with assembly [church] order at the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit reasons from the highest and fundamental principles to support the details. This is the way of teaching in Christianity. We get God’s order in creation: woman’s head, man; man’s head, Christ; Christ’s head, God, in ascending order of authority to God who is supreme. Then we get relations with one another – woman created for the man, and both needing each other; and finally, relations with other created beings – angels.
Wrong interpretations of Scripture are often exposed by something very simple. If the hair is the sufficient covering for a woman when praying, then by that reasoning it follows that a man would need to have his head shaved, because it is a shame for a man to have his head covered when praying or prophesying.
In verse 10, the head covering is a token of the authority under which she stands. “Therefore ought the woman to have authority on her [literally ‘the’] head on account of the angels”. The interpretation of this verse is very unsatisfactory. The writer branches out into his own reason why the angels need to see that head covering. But Ephesians 3:10 tells us succinctly, “ in order that now to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the church the all-various wisdom of God…” Angels are spectators of God’s ways and wisdom, as well as for our care.
Major or Minor issue. Who are we to classify the truth of God into major and minor? We measure things by how they affect us, and that is a wretched standard. The Lord classified things as ‘weighty’ and ‘weightier’ – not major and minor - as we see in Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithes of mint and anise and cumin, and ye have left aside the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and faith: these ye ought to have done and not left those aside”- emphasis mine. For a Jew under the law, such tithing had its place, and was not to be overlooked, even if it was not as glorious as other aspects of God’s revealed mind at that point. But Mr. Scott renders optional the head covering for women praying.
Mr. Scott says that it was a problem local to Corinth. A local problem can be a basis for the unfolding of a universal truth. The Spirit knew that this “cultural” doctrine would gain traction, so Paul wrote this epistle to Corinth and addressed it:
“to the church of God which is in Corinth… with all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours”. This is independent of time and locality. Oh, the wisdom of God!
It is our holy privilege and responsibility to obey all revealed truth - not just the bits that I feel are major.
Mr. Scott tells us to “go with the flow”, don’t stand out. What would have happened if Paul had not withstood Peter to the face in Galatians 2:11-14, when Peter went along with the Judaizers?
Consider the faithfulness displayed by Mordecai who refused to bow down to Haman the Amalekite. His single-handed stand was ultimately rewarded gloriously. He could have said to himself, “It doesn’t matter, Israel is scattered around the provinces of Babylon; nothing will be achieved by me not recognizing this Amalekite”. I could quote many examples.
I agree that we should not “stand out” just to draw attention to self. We can accept local customs where the truth of God is not compromised, e.g., Christian women in the eastern areas of Moldova wear scarves to church, to avoid the “fashion show” effects of hats. If my wife were there, she would wear a scarf rather than a hat out of respect for that custom.
Note the Lord’s approval of the church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:8-11), “… because thou hast a little power, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name”. Keeping His word and not denying His name may not seem much, but when both are given up on every hand, it means everything to Christ.
In verse 15, the veil is discussed. The whole direction of verses 1-15 shows that man made in the image of God has a certain authority or boldness [I can’t think of a better word at present] - head uncovered and hair not long. For a woman, the emphasis is on modesty – somewhat hidden – hence the long hair given in lieu of a veil. It is a “24 x 7” thing. It does not nullify what has gone before in the chapter.
“But if any one think to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the churches of God”, verse 16. The custom refers to contention! If the whole thing were optional, why would the Holy Spirit spend half a chapter to enjoin - and provide the divine reasoning? Nor is it a “Romans 14” choice.
The ignoring of women’s head covering is another sign of the times that we live in, when the roles of men, women and children are out of order. It is not new. Turn to Isaiah 3:9 and12 and note the conditions – “The look of their face doth witness against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom [homosexuality]: they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves”, and in verse 12 Isaiah laments, “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them…” These three things go together. Dr. D James Kennedy of the USA remarked recently: “After we got rid of God in our schoolrooms, the problems with our students changed from chewing gum and running in the hallways, to students murdering each other and their teachers.”
MM March 2011