written by Sister Jessica Roldan
Last night, I watched Steven Anderson’s sermon “Head Coverings in Light of the Bible” for the first time. For several months I had been planning to view it, but hadn’t felt quite up to the agitation I suspected would result.
Sadly, it was all I expected, and more. Pastor Anderson does not believe in headcovering, but thinks that long hair is all a woman needs to “cover” her while praying or prophesying. He believes that, and adamantly so.
I did not appreciate his approach. He referred to the revered Christian veil in a mocking tone, calling it a “bonnet,” a “coffee filter,” and a “sombrero” which elicited laughs from his congregation; it seems to me he did this intentionally. He also stated that headcovering is a false doctrine, basically equating it with heresy. He finished by warning of the dangers of immodestly drawing attention to oneself by wearing a headcovering.
At least he acknowledged that headcovering is a spreading, popular movement! So much so, in fact, that he felt compelled to caution his congregation against it.
The video was hard for me to watch, but I managed to get through the whole thing. The hardest part about it was that I have watched another video sermon by him on the topic of birth control, and on which I agreed with him completely. It was a great message, and I respected his boldness in addressing that controversial issue.
However, I did not feel the same way after viewing his sermon on headcovering. One of the points (among many) which I found intriguing at the same time I found it disappointing, was his insistence on disregarding the Greek and focusing mainly on the English.
Well, the New Testament was not originally written in English. It seems logical to me that if we want to acquire a deeper understanding of the meaning of a text, it would certainly be useful to consult a Greek word dictionary! Sometimes meaning can be lost across translation; this is something I can relate to as a bilingual English/Spanish speaker.
I know that those who translated the Bible into English tried their best, but at the same time I am able to admit that English has limitations. I have heard that the Greek language actually has more words (thousands more?) than English, and because of that, it has greater flexibility for communicating complex ideas. But, we are restricted to our own, English word forms. (By the way, I am not KJV only, which he staunchly is.)
However, I think he is right in emphasizing the importance of doing our best to understand the basic English meaning before diving into the Greek, and of letting the Bible interpret itself.
Therefore, that is what I will now attempt to do, in my own simple way. Let’s look at the English, and do our best to make sense of it.
1 Corinthians 11
1Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.Up to here, I have no disagreement with Pastor Anderson in his interpretation.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
Basic English: if a man has his head covered–in other words, there is something on top of it–he dishonors Christ, his spiritual head. When I say that something is covered, I always mean that there is something concealing what is beneath. I cover my bed with a blanket. I cover my walls with paint. I cover my pasta with sauce. Covered = on top of.
Having his head covered means that there is something on top of, concealing, his head. What would that be? The obvious answer is: a piece of cloth, since that is what I think of first with my English-speaking brain.
However, even if by some great stretch it was not a cloth and was his hair instead, then it would have to mean that for him to have any hair at all would be dishonorable, since hair covers the head. The text doesn’t say ” having his neck covered,” or “having his back covered”; that is what it should say if long hair were the issue, since long hair doesn’t only cover the head, but the neck and maybe even the back, too.
But, it says, “having his head covered,” so it is the head which is in question, and even very short hair still covers the head. So, if the covering is the hair, then men need to shave it all off, so their heads won’t be covered.
Another point worthy of consideration: why is it that “praying or prophesying” are specifically mentioned? Because if it is a shame for a man to have long hair (and it is, as pointed out later in the passage), then it would be a shame for him all the time! Why are we not told instead, “every man at church, at work, at home, or on the street, having long hair, dishonors his head”?
It seems clear to me that the reason praying or prophesying are pinpointed is because we are meant to understand that the covering is something removable, something that is only intended for certain times and not for others. A man cannot shave his head for praying or prophesying and then grow it all back when he’s done. Either he’s shaved all the time, or he’s not. It’s an all-the-time deal.
5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
Now for the woman. If she prays or prophesies with her head uncovered she dishonors her head, the man. When I read the word uncovered, I immediately think of something not on top of. So, if my table is uncovered, it doesn’t have a tablecloth on it. If my shoulders are uncovered, it’s because I didn’t put on a shirt with sleeves.
What does the text mean when it says that if she will not be covered, let her also be shorn? In basic English that is the same as saying, “if she won’t put something on top of her head, like a cloth, let her hair be cut off, too.” But, if hair were the covering, this verse wouldn’t make sense, since it would read, “if she won’t grow her hair long, then let her cut her hair short.” How can she cut her hair off if it’s already cut off?
If her head is uncovered, it is “even all one as if” she were shaven. In everyday English as if doesn’t mean “exactly the same as”; it means “like,” “similar to,” “kind of close.” If her head is uncovered, it’s similar to having her head shaved or her hair cut short.
Similar to, but not the same as, because having short hair and being uncovered are not the same thing. It is shameful to have her hair cut short, to have it shaved, or to have it uncovered by not placing a cloth over it while praying or prophesying; those things may be equally shameful (or close to it), but they are notidentical actions.
In the video, Pastor Anderson makes it a big point to “prove” that being shorn and being shaven are the same thing. I think his logic runs like this: If the hair is the covering, then not being covered means having short hair; so, when the text says to “let her also be shorn,” it cannot mean having her hair cut short since by his interpretation it is already cut short, so we should understand the word “shorn” to be synonymous with “shaven.”
We should assume that it is saying that a woman with already short hair should also be shaven, as an added level of shame; in other words, she should just go ahead and shave it all off to bring things to their logical conclusion. So, short hair is shaved off and becomes no hair.
He wants it to look like the only matter in view is whether she has long hair or short, and if she has short hair, that she should shave it off; he’s trying to take the cloth covering out of the equation. He is forced to interpret “shorn” as being the same as “shaven” since to interpret it as “cut short” would cause his reasoning to fall apart; his interpretation would no longer make sense.
He spends much time discussing the meaning of the word “shorn.” However, just as in English, in other languages too, one word can have different uses. So, to “trim the tree” can have at least two different meanings, depending on whether we are talking about a Christmas tree, or a tree out in the garden.
I don’t think he really proves anything, not even with his sheep example: sheep have their hair shorn off, but honestly, it looks to me more of a cutting off than a shaving off. Nowadays they use electric razors, but back then they used shears (or sharp sickle-type knives, am I right?). Shears are scissors. As in, “the stylist used her shears instead of her electrical clipper to trim his hair.” So, being shorn and being shaven are not necessarily the same thing.
He reasons as he does, I think, to avoid the obvious conclusion that one would normally come to: a woman who refuses to put something on her head, like a veil, should either cut her hair short or shave it off altogether. If she will not wear a headcovering, let her also be shorn. There’s nothing fancy about that, it just makes sense.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
Here we see two more reasons for covering. The first reason was given in verse three:
1) God’s design for an authority structure, a hierarchy of roles, a headship order. Now, we are given two further reasons:
2) the need to keep God’s glory (the man) uncovered and to keep man’s glory (the woman, and the woman’s hair) covered; and
3) the creation order (the order and manner in which God created the male and the female.
Here’s my question: what covers up glory? How do you cover up brightness, splendor, radiance? By putting something over it, right? If a woman has long hair, that cannot be a sufficient covering since her hair is still showing, her glory is still shining. She must put something on over her hair in order to conceal her glory.
Additionally, the text says her hair is given her for a covering, not the covering. Pastor Anderson dismisses this point, but I think it’s important.
In normal English, there can be a big difference between the word a and the word the. “I married a man,” and “I married the man,” have more than a little difference in meaning! A woman having long hair is what nature teaches is appropriate, forming an example that sets a precedent for the cloth covering. However, special revelation reveals more detail that nature by itself does not.
Nature forms the supportive, fourth reason for covering. The fifth reason for covering, the angels, is not addressed in the sermon, and neither will I address it here.
A quick note: I usually lump reason number one (hierarchy and headship order) with reason number three (creation order) since I see them as being the same. Perhaps I am wrong to lump them together; I will continue to consider this. There may be a reason they are mentioned separately, and it may have to do with the fact that God’s authority structure seems to have changed some what after Christ’s death and resurrection.
In fact, a whole lot changed after that! We no longer need priests to minister to God for us; even the priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins, which was never adequate, not even for them. Christ formed the bridge for us to have direct access to God.
So, man is not supposed to cover his head to demonstrate the direct relationship there now exists between (believing) mankind and God. Woman, in order to demonstrate the preservation of human roles, covers her head: men and women’s roleshave not changed, but mankind’s relationship with God has.
(I may be in error here on some points, but I need time to think about it. For now, please let me know what you think about it, too; that could help me to clarify this issue for myself.)
Pastor Anderson tries to show that since God commanded the priests to cover up with turbans in the Old Testament, and since what is a dishonor to Christ now would have been a dishonor to Christ then, therefore headcovering is not the real issue here, but hair lengths.
However, after pondering over his reasoning for some time, I think it makes more sense to think that the headcovering practicehas indeed changed since Old Testament times because our relationship to God has changed.
16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
Pastor Anderson does not address this verse. What custom did the churches of God have? History reveals that the churches did not teach the long hair is the coveringview, but they did expect women to place a veil over the top of their heads before coming together for the public assembly of believers.
Their writings confirm this, and multiple paintings attest to it. We can see with our own eyes what their custom was. Any man who contradicts that custom is a contentious man.
It pains me to say this, but many leaders I respect greatly “seem to be contentious” in the area of headcovering. I wish that were not so. Please join me in praying that God would bring the truth to light for them, so they could see this issue clearly and bring their preaching in line with the Bible’s plain teaching.
If you end up watching the video, could you please share your thoughts? What did you think of Pastor Anderson’s objections to headcovering? Did they seem valid to you? Did they not? Why or why not? Thank you for sharing!
Related video (from the Head Covering Movement)
Jeremy Gardiner, Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice For Modern Times, November 12, 2016
Have you ever wondered why some women cover their heads in church, while men remove their hats? Have you thought about what this practice means and where it came from?
It's not something that was picked up from the surrounding culture. Instead, it comes directly from 1 Corinthians 11 (in the Bible) where this practice is explained in surprising depth. In fifteen consecutive verses, the Apostle Paul explains and defends the practice of head covering. He appeals to apostolic tradition, to the created roles of men and women, to angels, to nature, and to the church's exclusive position on this topic.
Though head covering was practiced by the majority of Christians throughout Church history, it is now practiced only by a small minority. However, today many Christians are rediscovering this ancient practice, fueling a resurgence of head covering during church gatherings.
From the founder of the Head Covering Movement comes "Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times."
In this book, Jeremy Gardiner will walk you through the Scriptures so you will see how this symbol beautifully depicts the created differences between men and women. You'll hear the history of head covering, showing that it wasn't until the feminist revolution that this practice fell out of favor in the Western church. The most popular objections (the cultural view, the long hair view, and charges of legalism) are all answered in-depth. Finally, the book addresses practical questions regarding how this is to be carried out.
For too long, head covering has been neglected and stereotyped. Unfair associations with cults, legalism, unsophisticated theology, and frumpiness have turned many people off. We want to move past these stereotypes and into Scripture--because contrary to those views, head covering is biblical, beautiful, and relevant.
This is not some new strange doctrine. This is a practice with an early and long history that is firmly based in the Bible. The rejection of this symbol is new, setting modern generations apart from the majority of believers throughout Church history. It's time we changed that.