A Covering

Since the woman who wrote me about this had for a long time postponed doing so for lack of courage; since I hesitate answering her in this column for lack of courage; since the former is a Calvin alumna who has struggled with this problem for years and always comes to the same conclusion; since I too, over the years, have been convinced in my heart that her conclusion is the true one; but since the flood of opinion and practice among us contradicts our conclusion, not only, but since most of those nearest and dearest to us also reject this conclusion at least in practice since none of our leaders seem to take this conclusion seriously, I can justify facing this problem only on the ground that we must he willing to seek to know what the Bible says about any matter that troubles us, whether that he a matter of primary or of secondary significance, or whether the matter he acceptable or unacceptable.

I am sure that neither of us thinks herself better than those who differ from us on this question. Many of those who differ may he far better Christians than we are. That we cannot and may not judge. Our concern is to know what the Bible says so that we can do what the Bible says. Our interest is objectively to consider what we believe the Holy Spirit is teaching us about this matter through Paul. Belief in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures necessitates our as king what does I Corinthians 11:6 teach us?

My inquirer is not concerned about what people say or think or do, but about what God actually says in His Word. That, you must admit, must ever be our primary concern irrespective of culture, habit, or style.

I too must seek to face every issue in that way. We may not make God’s teachings fit our thinking or practice, hut must ever strive to make our thinking and practice fit God’s teachings. Contrary to our proud. sinful. feminine nature as that may seem, we should not dare to do otherwise.

The question is, What does I Corinthians 11:6 mean? We quote it in context: “Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. But 1 would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the bead of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, disbonoreth his head. Rut every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonoreth her head; for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn; but if it is a shame for woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled. For a man indeed ought not to have his head veiled, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: hut the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man; for neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man; for this cause ought the woman to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels” (I Cor. 11:2–10).    

To help us face this problem we must look at the context of vs. 6. In doing so we must remember that Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. Carefully observe:

The head of Christ is God (vs. 3),

The head of every man is Christ (vs. 3).

The head of every woman is the man (vs. 3).

Notice that even Christ in His human nature is subject to God the Father. As such He counted not His being on an equality with God a thing to he grasped, hut emptied Himself. Imagine what humiliation that represents! Then notice that every man is subject to the Christ. Finally note that subject to the man is the woman.

Since this is a clearly Godordained order of subordination, we may not blame this arrangement to man nor may man make light of his God-ordained position as head of the woman. In the church, mall is the head of the woman. Note! it says, head of the woman,” that is “the woman” married or unmarried. For women to rebel for being subordinate to man in God-ordained areas, is really active rebellion against God, our Maker. Such rebellion is not primarily rebellion against the man hut against the Creator, and, in the case of Christians, also against the Savior of both the man and the woman.

Please dont blame the man for an arrangement God ordained, namely, that according to creation the married woman is under the authority of her husband, and that according to redemption there is, to he sure, in one sense no difference between male and female, namely, that as God is the head of Christ mediatorially so Christ is the head of man and man is the head of the woman.

Wouldn’t it seem dishonest to read anything else, into this passage, like it or not? This arrangement must the woman not only accept, to be true to God, but so must the man. For mall to abdicate his position in this arrangement may he interpreted as a sign of humility but it actually is a form of rebellion against God, either wittingly or unwittingly.

In an age when human beings want equal rights. want to do as they please, this emphasis on subordination in certain relationships is considered preposterous, a monstrosity, traditionalistic, anti-cultural—a view that justifies rebellion. The new hermeneutics comes to the aid of such by adjusting the Bible to fit the thinking of 20th century man, instead of fitting the 20th century man to the Bible (against which principle Dr. C. Vos so strongly warns in one of his books).

In this passage of Scripture we are taught that there are two areas in which the man is the head of the woman, namely, in the home and in the church. Creationally man is the head because man is not of the woman but the woman of the man. Man is not created for the woman hut the woman for the man. This bespeaks for the woman a secondary not a primary position. This, however, need not spell inferiority. A son, although subordinate to his parents, is not necessarily inferior to his parents. The woman, although not necessarily inferior to the man is, nevertheless, in the God-ordained areas of home and church subordinate to him.

Why is this so hard to accept when our Lord thought His being on an equality with God not a thing to he grasped but emptied Himself taking the form of a servant? “Every act on the part of a woman which denies her position as a woman under the headship of man is an arrogation that brings her dishonor” (Lenski).

Because woman is mans glory she is to have her head covered, her hair being the natural covering of her head, and she is to have an additional covering in the church assembly of God’s people to show her subordination to man who is her head, the man, in turn, being uncovered to show his subordination to Christ who is his head. All this because man is God‘s image and glory, while the woman is man’s glory (vs. 7).

Isn’t the hair sufficient as a covering also in this circumstance? Calvin comments: “Should anyone now object, that her hair is enough, as being a natural covering, Paul says that it is not, for it is such a covering as requires another thing to be made use of for covering it.” Paul calls it being veiled or covered. Women convinced that this covering requires another thing besides the hair, wear another thing besides the hair—it may be a veil, a scarf, a prayer-cap, a hat or some other covering. The style of covering would seem a matter of culture, the fact of a covering a matter of principle.

Although Dr. F. W. Grosheide believes that a woman should never appear in public with her head uncovered, such commentators as Calvin and Lenski believe this principle only to apply to public worship. In Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown we read: “The woman was made by God mediately through the man, who was, as it were, a veil or medium placed between her and God and therefore [she] should wear the veil or head covering in public worship, in acknowledgment of this subordination to man in the order of creation . . . The man being made immediately by God as his glory, has no veil between himself and God.”

Calvin says that beginning with I Corinthians 11:2, Paul is instructing the Corinthians as to “what decorum ought to be observed in the sacred assemblies.” “Much,” he says, “depends upon decorum . . . to accustom our minds to propriety; . . . it holds especially as to sacred things.” Calvin further remarks that Paul “prescribes some things that are connected with public order, by which sacred assemblies are rendered honorable.” Since all Scripture is inspired of God we must realize that it is God who “prescribes some things that are connected with public order, by which sacred assemblies are rendered honorable.”

God is interested in proper decorum in sacred assemblies. ‘Ve must look upon I Corinthians 11:2–16 as part of God‘s Word to us. We have no right to limit its meaning to the culture of that day. Even the angels are interested in proper decorum in sacred assemblies (I Cor. 11:10). “Angels who are present at our Christian assemblies delight in the orderly subordination of the several ranks of God’s worshippers in their respective places, the outward demeanor and dress of the latter being indicative of the inward humility which angels know to be most pleasing to their common Lord” (I Cor. 4:9; Eph. 8:10; Ecclcs. 5:6) (J., F., and Brown).

Don‘t you think that the feminine decorum of many men publicly shouts abdication of their God-ordained position in relation to women, whereas the masculine decorum of many women publicly shouts their ignorance or even rebellion against their God-glorifying subordination to man in home and church?

Those of us women who believe that women should wear a covering in public worship may be accused of straining at a gnat. I can imagine the condescending smiles, the amazement at our naivite and ignorance, the considering our view horribly outdated, etc. If so, let those of us who think this way make sure that we cannot be accused of swallowing a camel. Let us make sure that we are not guilty of appearing righteous outwardly but being hypocritical inwardly.

Let those who accuse us of swallowing a gnat also make sure that they themselves are not swallowing camels. Let it be our mutual desire in all things, the great and the small, to do the will of God. After all, if the covered head of the woman symbolizes the proper relation of the woman to man in the church, as the uncovered head of the man symbolizes the man’s relation to the Christ, is it such a small matter? Since Jesus in all things pleased the Father, so let us seek in all things to please our heavenly Father.

Johanna Timmer of Holland, Michigan, the writer of this article, is in charge of the department, REFORMED WOMEN SPEAK.