Significance of This Text for Today's WorldIt should be hard to justify this conclusion by now, since Dr. Schreiner himself has even proved that Paul is asking for women to cover their heads. Surely we are to obey Paul even 2000 years after his time.
The significance of this text for the twentieth century must be examined briefly. Am I suggesting that women return to wearing coverings or veils? No. *
We must distinguish between the fundamental principle that underlies a text and the application of that principle in a specific culture. The fundamental principle is that the sexes, although equal, are also different. God has ordained that men have the responsibility to lead, while women have a complementary and supportive role. More specifically, if women pray and prophesy in church, they should do so under the authority of male headship.The statements here are true enough but are based on other parts of the Bible than 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. This is simply not "the fundamental principle" of Paul's exhortation about the head covering. That the sexes are different, that men are to lead and women support is all quite true but not Paul's point in this passage. The fundamental principle is the hierarchy of headship as ordained by God and the meaning of the literal head in that connection. The hierarchy of headship includes Christ to God and man to Christ (verse 3) which eliminates the idea that it's strictly about sex roles, and in fact it's not about roles, behavior, attitudes, at all.
Now, in the first century, failure to wear a covering sent a signal to the congregation that a woman was rejecting the authority of male leadership. Paul was concerned about head coverings only because of the message they sent to people in that culture.
This is simply not so. No such "signal" or "message" was sent because there was no single "culture" in the church, and no uniform meaning to covering or uncovering the head among the various cultures represented. It had nothing to do with masculine and feminine appearance or roles because both men and women covered and uncovered their heads for different reasons in different cultural contexts. Paul was concerned about head coverings because they represent the hierarchy of authority established by God Himself, authority being represented by the literal head of the person. The man's head is to be uncovered because he is the glory of Christ, and Christ's glory is to be displayed in the worship service, while the man's glory (the woman) is to be concealed so as not to compete with Christ's glory. It may take reading the passage over and over but then it should be clear that this is what Paul is saying.
Again, Paul nowhere mentions or even implies that any existing custom has anything to do with his requirement of the head covering, and again, as a matter of fact there IS no existing custom that represents exactly what he is requiring. He speaks always and only from the point of view of God's own requirements, including the God-given sense from "nature" that women's hair should be long and a man's short or shorter (which apparently in some cultures and certainly in our own day has been lost to our conscience), and that this God-given sense of the woman's long hair as a natural covering shows the need for the action of adding a covering over the head.
Paul is teaching the church something given by the Holy Spirit to the apostles that is a brand-new concept in the world, given to God's people alone.
Today, except in certain religious groups, if a woman fails to wear a head covering while praying or prophesying, no one thinks she is in rebellion. Lack of head coverings sends no message at all in our culture.Again, it ALSO "sent no message" in Paul's time.
And again, what anyone "thinks" is irrelevant, and no "message is sent" because we've lost the ability to read any such message. We are to learn something new from Paul, not depend on our fallible sense of what's right and wrong about this.
Nevertheless, that does not mean that this text does not apply to our culture. The principle still stands that women should pray and prophesy in a manner that makes it clear that they submit to male leadership.Again, while submission to male leadership is not completely irrelevant, it is not what the passage is about. It's about acknowledging God's order of authority established for His Creation, and this acknowledgment is also required so that the watching angels will not be offended, as they most certainly must be offended now at the cavalier way God's order is ignored. It's a simple external demonstration that this hierarchy is recognized and honored. While there's plenty in the Bible to teach us that submission to authority as a matter of the heart and demeanor is also required, in this passage that is not the point, the point is only that the head of the woman MUST be covered in order to honor God's ordinances, and the head of the man MUST be uncovered.
There is no need for a deep searching of the conscience about this. There is no need for delicately leaving it to a woman's spiritual intuition to accept or reject it. It is something that was taught by Paul and should be taught now by the leaders of the churches as an ordinance binding upon all who attend worship. The better they teach it the better it will be understood and the more likely that conscience will be engaged, but just as we don't require a man to understand all the spiritual reasoning behind the baring of his head in worship, and just as we don't require a deep understanding of most of the commands in scripture for that matter before we are to obey them, there is also no need to require that we fully understand this commandment either. Of course, given the fact that there has been such confusion and contention about it for so long, it would be only prudent for there to be a protracted period of preaching and studying the passage by a congregation before the practice is enforced by the church leadership. But the point is that this particular teaching is much more about external order than about heart obedience.
Clearly the attitude and the demeanor with which a woman prays and prophesies will be one indication of whether she is humble and submissive. The principle enunciated here should be applied in a variety of ways given the diversity of the human situation.As I say above, this is not the point of the teaching here. Demeanor and attitude are not Paul's topic. Humility and submission are not Paul's topic. He covers all that elsewhere but not in this context and to keep introducing it here is to confuse Paul's meaning. (As evidenced by this very article). And there is not a variety of ways Paul's requirement can be obeyed, there is only one way and that is by covering the female head and uncovering the male head.
Moreover, both men and women today should dress so that they do not look like the opposite sex. Confusion of the sexes is contrary to the God-given sense that the sexes are distinct. For example, it would be wrong for a twentieth-century American male to wear a dress in public. It would violate his masculinity. Everything within a man would cry out against doing this because it would violate his appropriate sense of what it means to be a man. The point is not that women should not wear jeans or pants, but that in every culture there are certain kinds of adornment which become culturally acceptable norms of dress for men and women.Again, this is not what the passage is about. Paul is not concerned about culture and he's not talking about masculinity and femininity per se, and there is not the shadow of a hint that the Corinthian congregation suffered in any way from the sexes failing to dress in a way that was appropriate to their sex. Nor is that really a problem in today's churches either if you think about it. The whole idea is a nonissue, a red herring. Problems with dress in today's churches are generally about immodesty, or you might even say a little TOO much display of the differences between the sexes so to speak. In any case Paul would have had no reason to dwell at such length on such a nonissue. He took so much time and gave so many arguments because he was trying to teach something people did not then and do not now intuitively understand -- that the human head represents personal authority and must be either concealed or displayed according to God's order.
Finally, we should note that there is a connection forged in this passage between femininity and the proper submission of women to men. The women in Corinth, by prophesying without a head covering, were sending a signal that they were no longer submitting to male authority.I know I'm belaboring the point but it does come up in response to what Dr. Schreiner is saying, and I do have the feeling that it needs repeating even if it's tedious.
Again, there was nothing in the cultures of the time to determine this supposed "signal" but the rebellion would have been first of all against Paul and the apostles, since Paul had apparently already given the requirement before and they clearly weren't all obeying it and some were apparently contentious about it. Some of it may simply have been that they didn't understand it. This may be why Paul spends so much time mustering the reasoning for it, so that they would understand it. Perhaps some of the rebellion had a feminist motive, perhaps based on a misplaced notion of the equality of the sexes before God, or perhaps in reaction against some heavyhanded male chauvinism of the sort that needed the care Paul took to show that feminine inferiority was not implied. But it is known that a couple centuries later Tertullian could commend the Corinthian church above all the other churches for the way the women there obeyed this directive about covering the head in his time.
Paul sees this problem as severe because the arrogation of male leadership roles by women ultimately dissolves the distinction between men and women.This is probably true but it has nothing to do with the passage about the head covering.
Thus, this text speaks volumes to our culture today, because one of the problems with women taking full leadership is that it inevitably involves a collapsing of the distinctions between the sexes.Unfortunately if the text relates to this current problem at all it may far more likely be due to the fact that nobody requires women to cover their heads in church! If Dr. Schreiner thinks it is about women's not dressing in a feminine enough way, why is it that he gives no examples of this as a general fault in today's churches? Well, he can't because it is NOT a general fault in today's churches. What IS a fault in today's churches is that women -- all women or most women -- don't cover their heads!
And this is bound to have repercussions on the general spiritual health of the churches.
It is hardly surprising, as the example of the Evangelical Woman’s Caucus demonstrates, that one of the next steps is to accept lesbianism.Well, by giving a wrong interpretation of this text and not requiring women to cover their heads in worship, ironically you are feeding a root of the very kind of disorder that is being lamented here. It's not about feminine dress as such (and some lesbians dress in a very feminine way too), it's about honoring God's order by covering the female head. If God's order of authority is not honored in the covering of the woman's head and her glorious hair, that may very well open the door for the dishonoring of God's authority in other ways, even ultimately to the reversal of the sex roles and the acceptance of sexual perversion. Sin begets sin. Sin is judgment for sin.
The text is not about feminine dress and to make that mistake is only to perpetuate the REAL flouting of God's order in rejecting the head covering, that is very likely to be one of the spiritual roots of sexual disorder in general.
Paul rightly saw, as he shows in this text, that there is a direct link between women appropriating leadership and the loss of femininity.Once you get off on a wrong interpretation it just snowballs. Paul is not talking about women "appropriating leadership" in this text, and he is not talking about "the loss of femininity" in this text. Granted the first has been a big problem in the churches for a century or so now, though the second if you're talking about feminine appearance is NOT so clearly a problem. But again, the text is about COVERING THE FEMALE HEAD AND UNCOVERING THE MALE HEAD, PERIOD.
There are always spiritual laws and spiritual forces involved in any matter of obedience. If disobedience reigns in one area of Christian life, that gives an entrance to the flesh, not to mention the evil powers and principalities, to encourage further disobedience. This is a principle of the individual spiritual life and it is most likely therefore also a principle of the corporate spiritual life. What if the devil has succeeded in getting the churches to disregard an essential requirement of God's order, and now is getting even church leadership that is concerned about these very encroachments on God's order to contribute to the very problem they want to correct?
In fact I have a suspicion that IF church leadership of an appreciable number of churches suddenly "got it" and enforced it and women were required to cover their heads in worship, just as men are required to uncover theirs, THEN we might very well start to see some reversal of the other problems involving feminism and sexual deviance encroaching on the churches.
We might even see revival and other evidences of wonderful spiritual growth! (or at least we might see the beginning of a serious soul searching in the fear of God that could uncover other ways the churches have been unwittingly in disobedience, and THEN we'd see a new spiritual light dawning).
It is no accident that Paul addresses the issues of feminine adornment and submission to male leadership in the same passage. In conclusion, we should affirm the participation of women in prayer and prophecy in the church. Their contribution should not be slighted or ignored. Nevertheless, women should participate in these activities with hearts that are submissive to male leadership, and they should dress so that they retain their femininity.Alas, it seems to make sense but unfortunately it doesn't because he's all wrong about what Paul is teaching. Again, it is not about "feminine adornment," and it is not about female "submission to male leadership" and it's not even about the woman's "heart" AT ALL. I'm not even sure women's "participation in prayer and prophecy" SHOULD be affirmed as Dr. Schreiner understands it. If Paul's clear teaching about covering the head is so easily misconstrued and denied, there's no reason to think this part of the passage is rightly understood either.
It may be that in his concern to set the feminists straight he has unwittingly given strength to the very root of the problem he wants to correct.
* [Dr. Schreiner gives this as a footnote here]:
30. The failure to distinguish adequately between what speaks to the first-century
situation and today’s church leads some to the conclusion that women should wear
coverings in church today. Cf. Bruce Waltke, “1 Corinthians 11:2-16: An Interpretation,”Bibliotheca Sacra 135 (1978): 46-57; S. T. Foh, “A Male Leadership View: The Head of the Woman Is the Man,” Women in Ministry: Four Views, ed. B. Clouse and R. G. Clouse (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), pp. 86-87. R. D. Culver, in “Traditional View: Let the Women Keep Silence,” in Clouse and Clouse, pp. 29-32, 48, seems to prefer the wearing of head coverings as well, although he allows some liberty on the question.
Unfortunately Dr. Schreiner has given no basis on which to "distinguish adequately between what speaks to the first-century situation and today's church" and not even a fair justification for thinking in terms of "what speaks to" either situation to begin with. The conclusion that Paul was advocating women's covering their heads is simply the most natural obvious reading of the passage -- and in fact he doesn't deny that, he simply adds the idea that such a covering was culturally conditioned and therefore limited to Paul's time. This is an assumption, an addition to the text. There is absolutely nothing that justifies this idea, certainly not in the text itself, but even in the notions of customary practices of the time he brings to bear on it which are simply not factual. Again, there were at least three cultures represented in the Corinthian church, whose customs differed from the others, therefore there WAS no uniform cultural practice and therefore no uniform meaning to covering the head or not covering it among the members of the Corinthian church. Again, culture and custom are simply irrelevant; Paul is teaching a brand-new practice revealed to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit. I'd also add that Mary Kassian, whose book Women, Creation and the Fall is also published at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, as is the book in which Dr. Schreiner's chapter appears, is one who concludes that Paul would have it that even today women should cover the head, though she doesn't strongly advocate this nevertheless.