Saturday, December 13, 2008

A question from a reader and an answer from me. :)

Question: "There is also the consideration at the end of the text where it reads that 'For long hair is given to her as a covering' hmmm??"

My answer:
Paul is appealing here to the very nature of being a 'lady' as another reason for women to cover their heads to pray. In all of the cultures I know of, women wear their hair longer than the men of the same culture. You might think, "Yeah, maybe you have long hair, but what about Sinéad O'Connor?" Well, she's not the norm, is she? Neither is Bill Choisser, whose website says men with long hair constitute 2-3% of the adult male popluation in the USA. In the 1960's-1970's hippie culture, when more men wore their hair long (at least longer than they do now), women usually wore their hair longer, at least from what I can tell--I wasn't born until '79!

From a less cultural standpoint, the hair given to women as a covering cannot be the covering required for prayer because of the rest of the passage. If hair was the only covering Paul was talking about, then a couple of his other points wouldn't make sense.

1. Men are told to pray with their heads uncovered in the sentence just after women are told to cover their heads for prayer. If hair was the only necessary covering for women, but men are to have their heads uncovered, then each man trying to obey God would shave his head before each prayer.

2. If the consequence for a woman's refusal to cover her head is to have her hair cut or shaved off, she apparently has hair which was - until the time of her refusal to "cover" - covering her head. So if the hair was the covering, there would be no 'refusal' because she would be automatically obeying.

3. It was at A Pilgrim's Ponderings that I recently read Paul's (not the apostle *smile*, but a former pastor) thoughts about automatic obedience. It occurs to me, too, that there really are no other commands of God which we are, as he puts it, "naturally endowed to obey." Considering hair as the only covering necessary for a woman in prayer seems inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

AN UPDATE ON MY CURRENT PRACTICE: I have been covering my head still in nearly every (not in the shower or the dentist's chair) prayer situation. A couple of times recently I've been 'prayed on' (or was it 'preyed on?') when I wasn't expecting it. I didn't have my scarf anywhere nearby and wasn't wearing a hood. But, in a couple of cases, I had my husband's hand. So I asked him to put it on my head. I figured that it was better than nothing. Also, since a main reason to wear a covering is to show submission to my husband, I decided his hand would help show that better than my hand and better than nothing. A couple of other times I have put my own hand on top of my head and find it awkward, but I feel like it's also better than nothing.

Hopefully in my next post I'll be able to tell you about wearing my scarf in front (as in, "on the stage") of the whole church and at a ladies' tea.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Current Practice, Overscrupulous, & Because of the Angels

We have been extremely busy preparing to leave the country, but I feel like I need to post an update. I know that there are some comments here which I haven't answered yet, but I plan to do that in my next post. I apologize for not having time for more now, but I am grateful for your interest in the subject and my thoughts.

MY CURRENT PRACTICE: I have been covering my head with a scarf (which happens to be from the Middle East) whenever I pray, unless I'm wearing a shirt or sweater with a hood, in which case I use that as a covering. My husband asked me after I'd worn a hood on Monday how I had decided it was a proper covering, and I explained that I was going by a quote from Tertullian which had caught my attention:

"For some, with their turbans and woollen bands, do not veil their head, but bind it up; protected, indeed, in front, but, where the head properly lies, bare. Others are to a certain extent covered over the region of the brain with linen coifs of small dimensions— I suppose for fear of pressing the head— and not reaching quite to the ears. If they are so weak in their hearing as not to be able to hear through a covering, I pity them. Let them know that the whole head constitutes the woman. Its limits and boundaries reach as far as the place where the robe begins. The region of the veil is co-extensive with the space covered by the hair when unbound; in order that the necks too may be encircled. "

So, since the hood covers as much of my head as my hair does (sometimes more, since it often covers my ears), I decided it would "count". Also, I thought through the issue of "the angels" and also the fact that my wearing a covering on my head to pray shows others that I understand my role as a woman. Then I considered that a hood is not completely unusual and that I am often very cold. So, then, would wearing a hood for prayer show my heart's desire to show submission? Yes, I think it does, since I put it on my head for prayers and take it down directly after.

OVERSCRUPULOUS? In my last post, I discussed the possibility that I am being "Overscrupulous", and today I must say that I don't think I am. Today I was listening to a Sunday School teaching by the pastor of our church and I think he made a great point about the passage: 1 Corinthians was written by Paul to the church which he intended to visit.
  • 1 Cor. 11:34, "And when I come I will give further directions."
  • 1 Cor. 16:5-7 "After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.").
Therefore, the instructions contained in the letter were the issues which Paul thought were most essential for the people to know before his arrival and further teaching. So, I'm definitely not ready to ignore the instructions he wrote through inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.

BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS Also, in my last post, I promised to get back to the phrase "because of the angels" used in 1 Cor. 11:10. As I discussed it with my husband earlier today, we talked about the fact that it is truly a mystery and that I don't think we'll ever fully understand what it means.

Some people speculate that a fuller explanation includes the facts that: 1) the angels understand the God-ordained roles of men & women, 2) they are watching in our church services (and other places where we pray), and 3) it is important for us to show outwardly that we understand our roles too.

While these reasons make sense, but don't fully explain "because of the angels" to me, the command would still be to cover my head if the Apostle Paul had written, "And there's another really valid reason." So, because he says, "because of the angels, " I obey.

For further thought-provocation, listen to this sermon by Rev. Dr. Timothy A. Williams

Monday, September 22, 2008

Are you vexed or riled? Overscrupulous or Unscrupulous?

I read from the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament today, and found this quote related to 1 Corinthians, "The complexity of 11:2–16 continues to vex modern interpreters, and its comments about women rile many modern readers." I am definitely in the camp of the vexed ("annoyed, worried" -Oxford English Concise Dictionary).

I started by reading the passage and looking for the plain meaning.

~~~Please, before reading my post further, read the passage for yourself and look for the plain meaning. I've posted it on the left side of this page.~~~

To me,
the plain meaning is quite clear: women must wear coverings on their heads while they pray or prophecy, and men should not. Then I asked, "But why?" and, "Could I be missing something?"

Question #1: "Why?"
Paul's letter--
fully inspired by God--gives some reasons in this passage.
1. Wives who pray without their physical heads covered dishonor their authoritative heads, that is, their husbands.
2. The creation order--woman was made from man and for him.
3. "Because of the angels." (I'll get back to that later, trust me!)
4. An analogy between natural and spiritual coverings--long hair is becoming to a woman, not to a man.
5. This is the practice of other local church bodies.

On to Question #2: "Am I missing something?"
I've heard before that headcoverings were culturally appropriate in the time Paul wrote, but we don't need to worry about them now. However, my plain reading tells me that this doesn't look too cultural. Maybe the part about other churches is, but there are 4 other reasons I read before that reason. I began studying, then, other people's interpretations of the passage using Logos Bible Software's Libronix Digital Library System. (If I sound like a commercial for them at any point, it's because I really love it that much!)

I started by searching all of the Bibliotheca Sacra journals which mention headcoverings, and then went on to the Westminster Theological Journals. The arguments I read for the practice being merely cultural were greatly overshadowed in my opinion by the reasons other authors gave for its application in the Church today. Tonight, I have looked through the Libronix resources (categorized alphabetically) from 1 Corinthians: A Commentary through Bibliotheca Sacra which mention "head" and "covering" in close proximity. That's a lot of clicking, skimming, and reading! (There are 1390 'hits' in the resources I have available from titles which begin with numbers-A-Z.)

This post is becoming quite lengthy, but I will close by sharing part of an article by R.C. Sproul, which was published in the Evangelical Review of Theology, Vol. 2, No. 1, April 1978.

"What if, after careful consideration of a Biblical mandate, we remain uncertain as to the question of its character as principle or custom? If we must decide to treat it one way or the other but have no conclusive means to make the decision, what can we do? Here the Biblical principle of humility can be helpful. The issue is simple—would it be better to treat a possible custom as a principle and be guilty of being overscrupulous in our design to obey God; or would it be better to treat a possible principle as a custom and be guilty of being unscrupulous in demoting a transcendent requirement of God to the level of a mere human convention? I hope the answer is obvious."

That pretty much sums up where I'm at right now. Vexed and possibly overscrupulous.
Until later... Sandi

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What started all of this, Sandi?

So, for those of you who know me at all, you know that for the past 28 years, I have prayed in private and public a lot of times, and you've probably never seen me with my head covered with the purpose of obeying 1 Corinthians 11. However, I went to church today and covered my head to sing and pray, as I have done in my missionary training for the previous 4 days.

No, the training center hasn't convinced me, and my husband didn't make me.

About a month ago, my husband and I got into a discussion with another couple about the fact that we, along with most of the church around the world, tend to ignore 1 Cor. 11:2-16. We didn't really have any reason to ignore it, except that we had heard (and remember--I went to plenty of Bible classes in college and he has 2 seminary degrees) it was only culturally applicable to the Corinthians at the time Paul was writing.

Just over a week ago, I was shopping and Ryan decided to read some Scripture. He didn't specifically search for 1 Cor. 11, but that's where he ended up reading. When I returned, he asked me to read it and then tell him what I thought. Whoa. I was surprised with the text, and immediately thought, "OK... Now how can I get out of this?"

My goal here is to share with you my journey of discovering what God wants me (and us, as Christian women) to do in relation to covering our heads while we pray. I want to post somewhat slowly as I learn, and without overwhelming anyone who's reading, but I have to say the posts will come faster now than in the future, since I've already put in many hours researching 1 Cor. 11.

It was not a topic I dove headlong into for fun or because I want to wear something on my head and answer all of the surrounding questions I have, as well as the questions others might raise (and have already raised). It's something I feel compelled to research and study at this point, and to obey my loving Heavenly Father as he teaches me through his word and the scholarship of those who've studied before me.

Join my journey, send me your comments, and learn with me!

How much thought have you put into this issue?