Cultural irrelevance of Christian head covering practice

A fair number of objections to the modern day practice of head coverings as taught by Paul assert that the practice is culturally irrelevant today and that therefore we can and should ignore Paul’s instructions about head coverings.

Ironically the same premise of this line of objection, namely that the head covering is culturally irrelevant and not applicable as such, applies to New Testament times as well.

What I mean is that the Christian head covering as taught by Paul was irrelevant to all cultures in which the church found itself.

To be sure some cultures (by no means all) used a head covering on either men or women but they did so for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with the meaning that Paul attached to such a symbol.

The Christian head covering (on a woman especially) was a symbol to publicly acknowledge and declare oneself to be under submission to God and His order of authority. It held up, through a visible symbol on the head, God’s order of authority within the church.

Absolutely no culture around any church anywhere understood the head covering to mean that!

Furthermore no culture had their women put on such a head covering only while praying to the Christian God or speaking in His name (i.e. prophecying).

The significance of the head covering practice as taught by Paul was absolutely unique to the “culture” of Christianity within the church.

If a newcomer came into an assembly of the church he or she may have seen a head covering on the women during certain activities such as praying or prophecying but they would have been clueless as to it’s Christian significance without being taught what Paul taught the Corinthians.

The cultural irrelevance of the Christian head covering in New Testament times made it neccessary that newcomers to the church needed to be taught what Paul taught as to it’s Christian significance.

Cultural irrelevance was not used as an excuse to disobey God’s clear instructions on the proper use of a head covering as taught by Paul. At least not during New Testament times within the churches and for many centuries afterward (the practice of Christian head covering was generally dropped only in the last hundred years or so at about the same time that feminism began to make encroachments into the church as an acceptable philosophy).

If the cultural irrelevance of Christian head coverings did not stop the New Testament Christians from its practice neither should it stop us in our day and age when head coverings are also irrelevant (though to a greater degree of course).

The cultural irrelevance is different today in that most unbelieving cultures, at least in North America, do not use a head covering at all whereas in New Testament times some (but again not all) cultures sorrounding the church used head coverings in some form.

But just as the cultural irrelevance of the Christian covering was overcome in the minds of newcomers through teaching on it’s significance and proper use within the church so likewise any measure of cultural irrelevance today can be overcome through proper teaching to newcomers.

The Christian head covering only means anything within the church. It has no application or equivalent in unbelieving circles (at least as to it’s significance and it’s proper application if not also in it’s external appearance as a cloth on the head).

It’s significance and proper use within the church is something that had to be taught and is not something that a newcomer could have picked up by it’s outward similarity to an existing cultural practice of putting something on the head (of women especially).

Likwise today. The Christian practice of head coverings must be taught.

The Christian practice is not a complicated thing. It is really rather simple. Just follow Paul’s teaching on it’s proper practice and in light of it’s Christian significance.

We complicate things (and reveal ourselves to be ignorant of the underlying reasons for the Christian practice of head coverings and it’s cultural irrelevance as such if not outright disobedient) when we require cultural relevance as a condition of our obedience to what is written in the Word about head coverings.


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