Does A Woman Really Need A Head Covering?
The Myth of the Spiritual Covering
We have another interesting article for you from our Arise E-Newsletter from Christians for Biblical Equality. This should clear up the subject of whether a woman needs a man to be her spiritual head - covering? We received this fine artcle from a young lady scholar from Christians For Biblical Equality. Her name is Lisa Baumert, a former theological intern at CBE, who is a graduate of Wheaton College and is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Whether woman need a head covering needs to be continually be addressed because there are some Churches that think women are not fit to lead, teach,or prophesy. So let's see what Lisa has to say from her research on this subject of a man as a woman's "spiritual head covering"! Does it really exist?
Lisa says, The term "spiritual covering" has been made popular in the past twenty years, although its idea and practice have existed within the church much longer. This teaching can take several different forms, but at its roots, the message that women need a male "spiritual covering" comes from a belief that some how the Bible forbides women from ministering publically. According to this teaching, women act contrary to the will of God when they preach or teach within the church - especially if there are men in the audience. Futhermore, according to the teaching of women's "spiritual covering," it is only appropriate for women to participate in Christian ministry if they are properly "covered," or in other words, under the authority of a male who is present. Thus, men must provide oversight of all women's service in the church - even women's Bible studies and prayer groups. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11 are often interpreted to support this premise. However, when examined, we find that his intention was in fact completely unrelated to these assumptions.
To understand the teachings of "spiritual head covering," it is important to know why Paul was encouraging women to cover their heads in 1 Corinthians 11. Jewish faith, from which Christianity derieved, was characterized by extensive, specific, and strict rules and laws. These rules and laws guided the actions of Jewish believers and distinguished them from the larger world. For Jews, these laws were necessary and important aspects of faith, for being in right relation with God.
Jesus taught however, that those who follow him no longer needed to obey laws; instead, righteousness was based on faith. As early Christian believers abandoned many of their traditional Jewish customs, their newly expressed freedom proved controversial for early Christians. Paul wanted those who had stopped practicing the customs of the Jewish faith to live in accord with those who maintained the laws of Judaism.
Paul's concern for the church in 1 Corinthians, therefore, is unity and mutual love. "I have the right to do anything but not everything is constructive," he says in 1 Corinthians10:23-24, "no one should seek their own good, but the good of others." By asking these women to cover their heads while they worshiped, Paul was encouraging respect for the religious and social culture around them,and to create harmony in the church. This is why in 1 Corinthians 11:13, Paul says, "Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?" Paul is asking them to consider how their actions were affecting all believers as well as the wider culture's perception of the Christian faith.
Scholars believe that Paul was specifically addressing the practices of a religious cult of his day. the women of Dionysus, a popular cult in Corinth at this time, were known to let their hair down to "prophesy" or pray, and were also known for their sexual promiscuity. Tthis long, untamed hair was often associated with sexual immorality; Paul did not want the church to be associated with the immoral activities of this cult.
Lisa goes on to say, moreover, because praying with an uncovered head had sexual connotations at that time, the reputations of these women's husbands were at stake. Paul was reminding these women that because they were married, they had an obligation to respect and honor their husbands in the way that they worshiped.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul was not setting forth universal norms for Christian dress, and he was not prohibiting women from teaching within the church. Paul was not saying that women could not pray and preach apart from the authority of their husbands or fathers, and he was not telling women that they must have a spiritual authority over them. Paul's concern was unity and respect in the church. In actuality, this passage affirms women's ability to publically prophesying, praying, and teaching in the church.
So we see that in Lisa's article Paul was being reasonable about how women should present themselves before others in the Greek community by not copying the hair style of the pagan ladies from the Temple of Artemus. There was also something that men where to do. Paul scolds men for having long hair for their covering in 1 Corinthians 11:7. All in all the customs of that day and age were different than what we have today. Paul also said there were no such customs in the church but it was to show respect for others that Christians should shine as lights to their communities, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Matthew 5:14-16. There is nothing said about a man being a "spiritual covering" for a woman in those verses.
Lisa continues to teach us that Jesus taught that the structures of human power often do not reflect the ordering of God's Kingdom. Central to this teaching, she says, are the ideas that "anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and servant of all"(Mark 9:35) and 'For whoever is least among you all is the greatest ", Luke 9;48. Jesus' life reflected this understanding of power. He incorporated women in his ministry, and chose to use them as integral parts of his redemptive activity on earth. He tangibly demonstrated that the ordering of God's kingdom is different from the way society structures itself, and that in the Kingdom of God, the formerly powerful are often the powerless. Jesus taught and showed that mutual love and self-giving, rather that hierachy and male-only leadership, are the true ideals of Christian life.
Jesus endorsed a radical approach to leadership; leaders and authorities in the church are to be servants. Spiritual leadership is about serving others so that the church might be well organized and peacefull. In 1 Peter 5:2-3, Paul encourages the leaders of the churches to be "Eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." Thus, the idea of a spiritual covering" is incongruent with Scripture's understanding of servant leadership within the church.
Also significant for our discusion of woman's "spiritual head covering" is the guarantee Jesus made that nothing stand between us and God. This was the purpose of Jesus incarnation-to unite us unconditionally to God. Jesus death and resurrection signaled the removal of all ritual and sacrifice which Jewish tradition required in order to relate to God. We are now able to relate to God in intimate and real ways, regardless of our race , class, or gender. Jesus is our priest and spiritual covering.
The teaching of women's "spiritual covering" has important implications for how we interpret the Bible, how we structure our churches and our homes, how we view ourselves, and how we relate to God and others. It is important to discuss the practical, and unfortunately detrimental, implications of this teaching.
First and most importantly,the idea of a "spiritual covering" denies women their full and free relationship with God. When women need a male spiritual authority they cannot relate to God as intended. This teaching implies that women cannot fully bear the image of God alone. In some cases, spiritual, emotional, and even physical abuse occurs as a result of men having power over women. Women's understandings of themselves and God are obscured, and they cannot fully realize the freedom of the Gospel.
Secondly, when the teaching of "spiritual covering" is practiced in the church, women's gifts are denied and wasted. Service within the church should not be determined by gender, but by personal strengths and gifting. The teaching of "spiritual covering" establishes arbitary and unbiblical standards inhibit the effectiveness of its mission.
Finally, the teaching of a "spiritual covering" distorts the truth of the gospel and reduces the meaning of Jesus. Christ came to set us free from rules and rituals of the law; there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, man nor woman. We are all one in Christ - Galatians 3:28, and we all have been given the ability to relate fully and freely to God. Through the Holy Spirit, we all have been empowered to proclaim Christ's love. To deny this is to deny the message of the Gospel and the.life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
The freedom we have through Christ Jesus means that all Christians can fully and freely relate to God. God alone, and not men, confirms the ability and right of women to approach God and teach and lead others. The true "covering" of women, and of all believers, is the blood of Jesus Christ.
Wow, what a tremendous article to be able to give everyone from this Holy Spirit inspired young lady. We should be glad that CBE can produce such fine young ladies like Lisa. Don't ever think you can't be impowered to do like wise . As Paul was inspired to write in 1 Corinhians 2:4-5,10 > And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. But God reveals these things to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searchth all things, yea the deep things of God. Amen.
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