Objection: Symbol to prevent advertising of availability as a potential wife

This objection says that head coverings were a unique symbol of authority over married women to the early church. A symbol that no longer applies since it’s New Testament era symbolism is no longer relevant.

One Christian put it this way “head coverings were a symbol of authority for married women to their husbands, of which there is much evidence, and that to walk around church, praying and prophesying (which inevitably draws attention to oneself) without that recognized symbol of marriage, was basically advertising one’s “availability” which was tantamount to adultery (according to Christ’s teaching on lust) or just rejecting the marital authority of one’s spouse, which wasn’t fitting for the church whose spouse is Christ.”

This objection is an example of biblical interpretation by extra-biblical assumption.

The assumption in this objection is that Paul taught what he did about head coverings as a way to get women, married women, to cover their heads to avoid men in the church assembly viewing them as being available as potential spouses.

And that since this symbol no longer means that a woman is married in our modern day culture, that we can therefore ignore Paul’s teaching and ignore the need to have women cover their heads in an assembly of the church.

We embrace an extra-biblical assumption, that Paul wrote what he wrote to prevent Corinthian women from looking available, and then based on that assumption conclude that the symbol of a head covering is no longer of any value at all and that we can therefore ignore the Bible’s teaching on head coverings!

Paul said nothing about needing to cover up for the reason stated in this objection! Indeed his explicitly declared reasons for covering up have absolutely not one thing to do with the reasons indicated in this objection!

That alone should be enough to completely disregard this objection as being a a valid objection to the modern day application of Paul’s teaching.

I mean imagine the following scenario to show how ridiculous this objection is…

A father tells his son that he wants him to mow the grass so that the landlord’s wish might be respected to have a neat looking lawn on the house they are renting. As the son goes outside to get started he embraces the assumption that his father’s real reason for telling him to cut the grass is to have a better relationship with the landlord and concludes that since his dad and the landlord already have a good relationship that there is no longer a need to cut the grass! The son goes off to play and leaves the lawnmower in the middle of the yard.

What would we think of the son going off to play while ignoring the father’s wish that he cut the grass based on his assumption regarding why the father told him to cut the grass and taking it upon himself to conclude that based on that assumption that the grass no longer need cutting?

Would that son not be deemed to be acting in disobedience? As deserving of a spanking or at the very least a reprimand from the father for his disobedience?

Of course he would!

If you were the father and that was your son you would not hesitate to consider him disobedient!

And yet…the church of today, through this objection, ignores God’s instructions through Paul regarding the proper practice of head coverings by embracing assumptions as to God’s real reasons (and undeclared reasons I should add) for inspiring Paul to say what he said. The church takes it upon itself to ignore God’s command since the assumed reason (in this case having women not declare themselves available and the cultural irrelevance of the head covering symbol) is deemed to make obedience unnecessary!

Should we Christians not likewise be deemed to be acting in disobedience? As deserving of God’s discipline and rebuke or at the very least a correction for our lack of obedience?

We need to be consistent here.

If a son would be considered to be disobedient for using faulty assumptions to ignore his father’s command then so are we, who embrace this objection as a reason to ignore Paul’s teaching on head coverings.

If we are not disobedient then neither is a son who ignore his father’s command for the reasons stated in my imagined scenario.

We turn obedience on it’s head and make it willy nilly subject to the whims of the one being commanded when we ignore what is written for reasons that are not even implied in the Father’s command to us.

If that is not enough for you, who embrace this objection, consider the following…

Paul said that a woman should wear a head covering, in part, for the sake of angels watching.

What does that have to do with not advertising one’s availability through the wearing of a head covering?

Women are exhorted to wear a head covering while praying or prophecying (their being liberty to not wear such when not engaging in these two activities…assuming of course that you are willing to stick to what is written).

Are we to believe, based on this objection, that it’s okay for married women to not wear a head covering, and thus allow themselves to be seen as available, when they are not praying or prophecying?

Oh…you say that they should wear a head covering at all times during the assembly of the church!

Where does it say that?

If you think that…you are not only interpreting the bible by relying on extra-biblical assumption but now you are adding to the mix the inclusion of commands that are not even stated in the text!

All to uphold an objection that results in plain disobedience to the clear instructions of God through Paul!

The head covering instructions of Paul are meant to publicly demonstrate adherence to and respect for God’s order of authority (nothing about needing to avoid looking available anywhere in that).

Assuming for a minute that such a head covering means nothing to today’s culture (which is debatable I should add if one takes the reaction of supposedly Christian women who embrace feminism when in the presence of an obedient woman who applies Paul’s teaching is any indication), there can be little question that a symbol was considered by God to be healthy and good for the church to display on the head of a woman.

If the head covering is to no longer to be the symbol what symbol do we now use?

Or are we prepared to ignore God’s wisdom in instructing us to have the women wear a symbol of authority on their heads?

The authority relationships and how God’s order of authority is to be acknowledged and respected is what Paul had in mind when instructing the Corinthians to apply his instructions about head coverings.

Not being seen as available has nothing to do with that!!

Tell me something.

If you are in a fellowship of Christians do you need a symbol on the head of a woman only while praying or prophecying to tell you when that woman is available as a potential spouse?

If you were a stranger coming into such an assembly you might well come to know who is available or not by the use of such a symbol better. But what about women who felt no need to pray or prophecy during an assembly? What then?

Would it be right to conclude that every woman who you have not seen with a head covering is available such that you could then start approaching them as a potential wife worthy of being courted?

Anybody who would do such a thing based on the simple wearing of a head covering or not would get into conflicts with husbands (and not a few of the women) right quick!

For a symbol to be any good at advertising one’s lack of availability to the men in a church assembly it must be present at all times during the assembly. It must be recognized as a symbol denoting a lack of availability to all.

Any such symbol come to mind?

The ring you say?

What does that symbol have to do with acknowledging and respecting God’s order of authority? What does it have to do with displaying submission before the angels who watch the order of God’s authority being worked out in the church?

Plenty of unbelievers who are nothing if not rebellious and stubborn, just like the angels who fell, wear a wedding ring. Such a modern day symbol means nothing with respect to publicly acknowledging one’s embrace of God’s order of authority before man and angelic beings.

To be sure the ring is a modern day symbol indicating that one is taken in a marital relationship and unavailable but a ring does not meet the requirements for such a symbol underlying Paul’s instructions on head coverings! It only meets the symbol required by the “symbol of availability” objection.

We who hold on to the “symbol of availability” objection let go of the one symbol that works to meet the need indicated by God’s symbol, the head covering, and are left with no symbol at all.

Is that pleasing to the God who deemed it necessary to instruct the Corinthians to use a symbol?

I don’t think so.

Any of you who know the Lord and are willing to embrace God’s instructions on head coverings, without bias against Paul’s teaching, will see the lack of a symbol today as being displeasing to God and unhealthy for the well being of the saints.

Instead of trying to find reasons to disobey the clear instructions, as written, we need to repent and start applying what God says in the Word about head coverings!

We need to encourage obedience and support reasons that lead to obedience instead of continuing the modern day practice within the church of embracing any and every theory, conjecture, assumption, and interpretation that allows us to justify disobedience.

It is better to look for reasons to obey, and err on the side of obedience, than to look for reasons to disobey, and err on the side of rebellious disobedience.

We can safely discount this objection as just plain nonsense. An excuse for disobedience by any other name.

————————————————-

Why the distinction in Paul’s instructions? I mean why did Paul say that women should cover up only when praying or prophesying?

Praying involved an acknowledgement of God as Father (see Matthew 6:9). As the ultimate one from whom all authority descended. Prophesy involved speaking for or in the place of God, the one with ultimate authority. In other words speaking authoritatively about the things of God to interpret the divine will and purpose.

Both of these spiritual activities are connected to the authority relationships spoken of by Paul. When praying we come to God as the ultimate authority. When prophesying we speak as it were in His place to bring edification, exhortation, and consolation (see 1 Corinthians 14:3) and authoritatively so.

For a woman to do these two things without a head covering was to deny publicly and in a visible way some measure of the authority that God is. It was to approach authority in a way what did not uphold the order of authority taught by Paul. It was to usurp that order of authority and claim for herself a place in that order that God did not give her. A place equal to the place of authority given to her husband over her (who was to pray and prophesy without a head covering).

Furthermore prophesying was done one at a time. Such that attention would have been on the one prophesying exclusively, during the time of prophesying (see 1 Corinthians 14:31).

It is not beyond the bounds of reason to believe that praying was likewise done one at a time and not all at once such that an “Amen” could not have been adequately given as an expression of agreement with what had been prayed (see 1 Corinthians 14:16).

A woman could have participated in a song, or otherwise taken part in the general activities of a church assembly without wearing a head covering in that other activities would not have involved such a direct and visible connection between the one praying or prophesying and God as the ultimate authority. In other words not all spiritual activities would have likewise publicly demonstrated or expressed the will of God as authority to the people of God.

The practice of head coverings as Paul taught it was applied in all the New Testament churches (see 1 Corinthians 11:16). Local customs regarding the use of head coverings in the culture surrounding these churches were all over the place and were by no means consistent. So even if we admit to the possibility that a head covering in Corinth may have been seen as a clear indication that a woman was not available to be married…how does this translate to having the same symbolism be recognized as such in the many other cultures surrounding the various New Testament churches elsewhere? It doesn’t.

Either the practice of the head covering as Paul taught was meant to be practiced as such irrespective of the surrounding cultural norm or else the cultural norm throughout the world, wherever churches were found, was that a woman wearing a head covering was not available as a potential spouse (in order for the premise of this objection to be valid from a cultural standpoint).

We cannot have the practice be relevant only in Corinth while being irrelevant elsewhere since Paul makes it clear that the proper use of a head covering was applied across all the Christian churches in existence at the time he wrote what he did.

Likewise we cannot have the practice be relevant everywhere else (as a symbol of God’s order of authority and for the sake of the angels) while only being relevant in Corinth as a symbol of being taken as a wife (a symbol which can thus be ignored as having been only valid for Corinth in New Testament times).

It’s either one or the other but not both. Culturally relevant as a symbol of being taken (never mind the reasons Paul himself gave for the use of a head covering) everywhere or nowhere. Across all the churches.

Ultimately, regardless of the reason why Paul commanded that a woman be covered only while praying or prophesying, the fact is that he did. Women would have had liberty to be uncovered while doing anything else.

If we see a head covering as being connected with a public demonstration and acknowledgement of the authority relationships involved then such makes perfect. That when one was engaged in doing something that brought the authority aspects of those relationships to the fore, that one had to be covered as a woman, but not otherwise.

Covering up to prevent others from seeing one as available, while an interesting theory, has nothing to do with the reasons Paul himself stated as to why God wanted women to cover up while praying and prophesying and men not. Those reasons had to do with the public recognition of God’s order of authority and with the good effect to be had upon the surrounding angels.

To be sure covering up did in fact indicate that a woman was married but the theory in question falls short of explaining why such women had liberty to be uncovered during activities other than praying or prophesying.

Some might chose to believe that the wedding ring is the corresponding symbol for our time but to say that such a symbol should only be worn while praying or prophesying is quite ridiculous and nonsensical. There is no biblical instruction to do anything else other than wear the symbol that Paul spoke of.

This objection, like many others, border on pure conjecture. It is based on seemingly sound reasoning but on closer inspection shows itself to be without merit.

Paul laid out the reasons why women should wear head coverings. Reasons that have nothing to do with a woman not advertising herself as available. Paul’s reasons have everything to do with public acknowledgement of God’s order of authority and with the affect it has on the angels who watch the saints.

Correct biblical interpretation is not arrived at by coming up with extra-biblical assumptions about what Paul meant to say when what he meant to say is right there in plain English. He said what he meant and meant what he said.

An adherence to faulty assumptions and conjectures that lead us to ignore what God told us to do through Paul is rebellion by any other name.

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