Hats Off

David Burchard Christian Ethics, Exposition 8 Comments

My friend is married to a wonderfully godly girl. Today he asked me to spell out my position on headcoverings from 1 Corinthians 11, a directly relevant question for him to be sharp on as he leads his family.

The starting point is recognizing that Paul is not giving culturally limited instructions in 1 Corinthians 11. He makes that clear as day at the beginning and end of the passage in question. As in all the churches…this is the apostolic tradition…if you disagree you are being sinfully contentious.

Next, the passage calls men to have short hair and women to have long hair. It says that a man is disgraced by long hair, a woman disgraced by short hair.

Additionally, her head is to be covered in the context of us speaking to God and God speaking to us. Today, that means in times of prayer and Bible teaching/preaching. If she won’t do that, she is so shamed that she might as well cut her hair short. Her head to be uniquely covered in that unique context, his head is to be uncovered, i.e. no Carhart, Condor, or Billabong hats, in the same context.

Now, my friend is an astute man; and he’s not going to believe something just because someone says it convincingly. He is rightly a Berean. So, he followed up with this question: “Can you explain why you’re able to confidently say that headcoverings are to be worn in the presence of prayer and preaching of God’s Word?” This means distinct from the personal practice of prayer or prophecy, which is the obvious and immediate statement of the text. When he asks specifically about the presence, that includes the practice, but extends beyond it to also referring to being in a group where prayer and/or preaching is happening.

Here’s my answer, firstly addressing being in the presence of prayer, secondly addressing being in the presence of Bible teaching.

On prayer:

Let’s say we’ve gotten together to pray for something. We can make the hypothetical at church for ease of explanation. A lady isn’t the one up front praying at church. Instead, the pastor is up front, mic’d, and praying for the sick and elderly of the congregation. What is each member doing while the pastor prays? What is each woman doing? Why does everyone say, “Amen” at the end? Is it not because the members, men and women, are praying with the pastor, and so say, “I agree”?

If that is sound thinking, then a lady will always be praying when she is in the presence of true, faithful, God-directed prayer. I don’t want her to cover her head during pagan prayer, because the difference is behavior is an easy way to make a point about what she thinks of the charade. She has no respect for it.

On preaching:

No woman on earth is today prophesying. The gift is no longer given. But the prophetic ministry continues in a second-hand way, like we see in Ephesians 4. God spoke to his people through prophecy. Today, God speaks to us through the preached Word. It is my contention that women are to cover their heads when the Word is preached because of my understanding of the logic of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians.

Women are the glory of mankind (not a hard case to make, known to be true by all men, the reason our heart rates go up when a beautiful woman is in our presence). This truth literally reaches its apex in her long, flowing hair. That’s why we naturally know long, flowing hair is beautiful. It is the crown of woman’s glorying man.

That in no way contradicts what Paul says about head coverings showing submission. Submission is interconnected with her glorying man. I’d argue that those are inseparable ideas.

Her hair actually, therefore, draws attention to man, to his glory. Though God always speaks (Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl), when He speaks in special revelation, nowadays through the preaching of his Word, back in the day through prophecy, etc., all attention is to be Godward.

When Scripture is preached, when it’s taught, there is a consecrated space, when God specially speaks to us through His Word. And so, it is to be entered reverently and, for women, with headcoverings and, for men, with no hats.

Comments 8

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      Potentially. I appreciate such opportunities. Who are you? How’d you come across my blog? Why do you want to debate? What’s your goal? What would the specific question be? Thanks for reaching out, Amanda.

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    1. Hi David! We have a mutual friend, Maggie Turner, who told me about you and your writing. It has been refreshing and encouraging to read some of your blogs. I’ve only read a few but I love what I’ve read. What do you do in Scotland? Have you written about modesty, women at home caring for their families, or parents discipling their children? Thank you so very much for what you do. It is great to know that there are young men who are zealous for the truth. Thank you for your reply!

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        Kerri, that’s an encouraging note to read. It seriously helps young men press on in zeal for the truth when there are women encouraging them to do so. Maggie is a wonderful woman. I’m glad you have her as a friend.

        I’m an intern/pastoral assistant at Lochee Baptist Chapel in Dundee.

        I’ve not yet written much on modesty, women at home caring for their families, parents discipling children, but I expect to do so sometime in the future. I particularly appreciate the work of men like Douglas Wilson and Tim Bayly in those areas.

        My sermon on 1 Timothy 5 touches on the domestic duties of women, but, for various reasons, doesn’t go into many details.

        My article on women’s ministry pertains to modesty, but not in the clothing sense.

  2. I will certainly pray for your internship. What led you to Scotland? Is that now your home or will you come back to the US? I like Doug Wilson a lot, but never listened to Tim Bayly. I will have to check him out. I’ve been teaching my children the Scriptures and we talk a lot about the roles of men and women. It feels as though I am in an uphill battle. I don’t know many young men who will be as bold for the truth as you, so please don’t stop! We need more men like you, so please, keep up the fantastic work, write a book, keep pressing on!!! And thank you for doing so!

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      Thank you for the prayers, sister. I need each one. I don’t know what is next. I’m at least here for another year, Lord willing. And then I’ll have to see. Wherever I end up, I want to be involved in pastoring, writing, and Christian education.

      Yes, you do have an uphill battle on your hands, ma’am. But it is a glorious one. And hills are meant to be climbed.

      I do intend to press on, though costs have and will continue to come. In regards to a book, I’m not convinced that I am presently fit for the task. There are some uniquely gifted for writing useful books at a young age. Whether from fear or wisdom, I do not think I am one such writer. I do believe that one of the sweet gifts of the winter season of life is an ability to understand the world in which you’ve lived for decades, and write with grit and sense about it for those still in the spring, summer, and fall.

      But, what do I know? My grandfathers are in Paradise, and their books that never were would have been worth reading.

      For now, I’m content to write this blog. Few read it, but whatever use God puts it to is an honor beyond my desert.

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