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Engage The Faith Q&A: Headship and Head Covering

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  • Q&A: Headship and Head Covering

  • Timothy Miller

    August 24, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    Hello, THF Community.

    The Historic Faith is excited to announce an upcoming Engage The Faith: Teacher Q&A Forum! This is your opportunity to ask Finny Kuruvilla questions about his recent course, ”Headship and Head Covering: Interpreting 1 Corinthians 11 in the 21st Century.” Teaching on headship and head covering evokes a lot of practical questions, so be sure to take the course and join in the discussion.

    Here is how the forum will work. Post your question on this board before August 27th (Thursday) or subscribe to see questions posted by others. On the 27th, Finny will respond to as many questions as possible on the discussion board.

    For Christ and the Church,
    Timothy with The Historic Faith team

  • Simon Isaksson

    August 24, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Hello & Jesus bless you.

    I have a question for the teacher Finny; How did the early Church overall see the passages (1 Cor 14:34-35) about woman keeping completely quiet in the churches? Did they take this literally as that there was a strict headship to be kept when coming together? Peace in Christ /Simon

    • Finny Kuruvilla

      August 27, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      Dear Simon,

      Yes, you correctly described the early church position. There seems to be an essential unity of thought regarding the headcovering, men teaching and leading, marital headship, etc. If you would like to read the references for yourself, I’d highly recommend David Bercot’s “Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs” which has compiled the direct quotes from the early church on this subject and many more. I’ve benefitted very much from that book as a springboard for research.

  • Coleen Barnhart

    August 24, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    Hi! My question for the Headship & Headcovering Q&A is this: What is a good, concise answer to give a stranger on the street who is curious about this practice when I don’t have time to explain it all?

    • Finny Kuruvilla

      August 27, 2020 at 12:32 pm

      Dear Coleen,

      What a great and practical question! I believe that there are many valid answers here and much of this will be finding something that you are comfortable with and fits your communication style. That being said, my wife and I have chosen to say something like, “We practice the headcovering because we are Christians and the Bible commands it in 1 Corinthians 11. Are you familiar with that passage?” Sometimes those short answers are best. For those people who are curious, that will be enough to spark a great conversation! We’ve had many over the years.

      Keeping it high-level and general is best I believe, because many people will be wanting to put you into a box of a particular “tradition” which frees them up to not consider the practice for themselves. Saying, “it’s what Christians do and it’s what the Bible teaches” is far better than some answers I’ve heard such as “I was raised Mennonite” or “It’s what my church teaches” because it better encourages others to consider the claims of the NT for their own lives.

      May God give us all boldness and wisdom.

      • Coleen Barnhart

        August 31, 2020 at 11:01 am

        That is very helpful advice! Thank you!

  • Flo Mason

    August 25, 2020 at 7:06 am


    My question is- how do you cover in face of opposition? When your family does not believe in the practice.

    • Finny Kuruvilla

      August 27, 2020 at 12:49 pm

      Dear Flo,

      Occasionally we will get questions from countries like China where it is very difficult to practice the headcovering for concern of being thought a Muslim and being aggressively persecuted by the government. Without knowing the specifics of your situation, I will make a few general remarks that I hope to be useful.

      First, I believe that we should strive to practice the headcovering as much as we can, but I believe that God works with us mercifully within the bounds of what might be feasible for our situation. I do believe that the heart behind our deeds is paramount. For example, some women are ashamed of the headcovering and will wear a baseball hat or something else to try to obey the command without appearing too obvious. That doesn’t feel healthy. But in China, for example, if someone genuinely wanted to wear a headcovering, but felt that a some kind of hat would be less conspicuous while traveling, I would have no problem with that. She would be doing so for a different reason, not rooted in shame.

      Many of the sisters in our church are not from Anabaptist background and have received a lot of family ridicule for their choices. But they have stood their ground and the family eventually became more accepting. I’ve noted often that it’s the first year that is the most difficult. Perhaps it would be useful to have them share their experiences via video sometime as a way to encourage others?

  • Casey Burns

    August 25, 2020 at 7:52 am

    Grace and peace brothers and sisters.

    I am persuaded that the head covering is a rich spiritual tradition handed down by the apostles, and that it represents important principles of empowering submission, spiritual covering and modesty, but I struggle with some practical questions, including the following:

    1. Brother Finny explains that “praying and prophesying” is a merism to support his position that a woman is to wear a head covering throughout the day in all of her daily activities rather than just when she is praying, prophesying, or otherwise engaging in spiritual activities. Though I am still seeking discernment on this from the Lord, it makes sense to me. That said, does this same merism principle apply to men so that men are never to wear hats or otherwise cover their heads? Are there exceptions to this, and if so, what is the biblical basis for the exceptions?
    2. 1 Corinthians 11 prescribes that a woman is to cover her head. I understand that the Greek word translated as “woman” may also be translated as or refer to a “wife”. So, does the head covering apply only to the married woman but not the unmarried woman, especially considering that this passage is in the context of a husband and wife headship relationship? If it applies to married as well as unmarried women, what is its application to young ladies who have not attained a marrying age and level of maturity? Honestly, to me there is a beauty and testimony of even unmarried young ladies wearing a head covering because of what it represents, but as I, as a husband and father, consider incorporating this into the life of my family, I don’t want to go beyond scripture to place an undue burden on my daughters (ages 12 and 14).
    3. My 14 year old daughter asks what encouragement you would give to a young lady like herself who desires to wear a head covering in a culture that rejects doing so.

    Thank you, and may God’s grace and peace in Christ abound to each of you.

    • Finny Kuruvilla

      August 27, 2020 at 1:04 pm

      Dear Casey,

      I feel your heart in your message and resonate with you my brother!

      1. On men, there is a symmetric principle that is described in the earlier verses of 1 Cor 11. The men are to keep their heads uncovered during prayer and prophecy as much as the women are to keep their heads covered. Thus, I advocate that the men should have their heads uncovered as much as women covered. For this reason, I would discourage hat-wearing by men, unless required for their job (surgeon, construction worker, etc.) or inclement weather. Far too often I observe men wearing hats for no particular reason which I don’t find terribly consistent with 1 Cor 11. May we not have a double standard!

      2. See below response I made to Jeremy Martin. I would advocate unmarried ladies wearing the headcovering as described below. Being part of a community where this is done broadly is a great help in that direction.

      3. To your 14 year old daughter, permit me make a couple of encouragements. First, if she ever feels ridicule from it, she should take comfort from one of my favorite verses on this subject, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). This is a way to bring down the Spirit of God upon her! Second, there are few things more beautiful to God and to godly brothers in the Lord than a woman who joyfully embraces this practice. Those of us who have wrestled through it find incredibly winsome. By making such a stand in such a world, she is lifting up the family structure. Finally, she is taking her place among the great women of history who have been known for their boldness in following God. I was just reading in Exodus last week about the boldness of Shiphrah, Puah, Moses’ mother, and Miriam who saved a nation with their courageous deeds in following God. May your daughter stand among such glorious company in the cloud of witnesses!

  • Calvin Frey

    August 25, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Good morning, and God Bless You,

    I have just recently subscribed to Historic Faith and am excited to engage in these courses and discussions.

    I am excited to hear Finny expound on 1 Cor. 11.

    I have recently been called to the role of pastor at our church, and a common conversation among younger people is “what is a practical application of this portion of scripture”?

    Our congregation is Anabaptist/Mennonite and has historically practiced this doctrine in one way or another, so the question is not so much “should we practice it” but “how should we practice it”? I am fully aware that often the question is being asked in a somewhat selfish way where the ladies may want to cover as little of their hair as possible, or in as fashionable a way as possible.

    How do you respond to someone that verbally says they want to practice the doctrine of the Head Covering, but they clearly make it as small or as hidden as possible? Is there a way to have a conversation about form/size of the head covering or should a leader in a church only teach the principle and not talk about practical application?

    Are we really following 1 Cor. 11 if the Head Covering is as small as possible and hardly covers any hair?

    Thanks in advance, I am looking forward to this discussion!

    • Justin Zehr

      August 26, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Calvin,

      Hope to meet you some day. I’m at a sister church – Grace Mennonite Fellowship. I really just wanted to say God bless you in your new calling as a spiritual/church leader. I also want to bless you for having the courage to address this subject and ask these questions. Looking forward to this engagement with bro. Finny!

      -Justin Zehr

  • Casey Burns

    August 25, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Above in my question 2) I stated that I do not want to put an undue burden on my daughters. That does not accurately state what I intended. Rather, I do not want to impose a tradition of men on my daughters (ages 12 and 14); rather, I want the covering of the head to be a life-giving matter for them, as well as an outward expression of what is in their hearts.

  • Jason Althoff

    August 25, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    1 Corinthians 11:15

    “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for [her] hair is given her for a covering [G4018].”

    “Covering” (Strong’s G4018) = 1) a covering thrown around, A) a wrapper, B) a mantle; veilπεριβόλαιον peribólaion, per-ib-ol’-ah-yon; neuter of a presumed derivative of G4016; something thrown around one, i.e. a mantle, veil:—covering, vesture.

    This was not covered in detail during the course other than I believe Finny states that “Paul uses a different word here than he uses anywhere else”. Which is significant, yet was not explored fully. An exhaustive treatment would need to cover this aspect.

    As can be see from the definitions, the point of the verse is not that the hair itself can serve as a covering, as the hair does not itself by its nature (worn down) suffice as a head covering. The point is that the hair is given as covering when it is “thrown around” and “wrapped” on top of the head (more grammar can be shown to this effect).

    In this view, all verses on the topic can be harmonized, including verse 14 concerning how it is possible that long hair for a man can be a shame to him. If the man “throws around” and uses the hair as a “wrapping” (when praying and prophesying), this to him is a shame. Why? Because that arrangement is considered a head covering, and man is not to wear one during these activities.

    Disclaimer: This is not a response negating an external fabric head covering. Those certainly suffice also, but those do nothing to negate the use of the hair as a sufficient head covering when arranged as such.

    Note: Consider any situation where an external head covering is not available where one might be needed or desired. God has provided her all she needs to be able to accommodate the honoring of her headship and Christ.

    To the Question: What are Finny’s thoughts concerning this Greek term, the use of the hair for a head covering (women), and not usIng the hair for a head covering (men).

  • Jeremy Martin

    August 27, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Often when a topic like Biblical manhood and womanhood and/or the modern day application of headcovering is brought up, the response is “that is your interpretation” or “This is a minor issue, many other modern day Christians are not doing this, so I will be fine to also not do it.” In my opinion, a powerful counterpoint to this is the universal interpretation and application from the apostles, early church leaders, middle ages, reformation and up they the 1800’s. A Methodist named Adam Clark in the 1800’s, according to my info, was the first to suggest that short or shaved hair on women had something to do with prostitutes on Corinth. This brings up the question “Was the entire Christian Church (Roman Catholic, Eastern orthodox, Protestant, church of the east, Coptic, St Thomas Christians in India) wrong for 1800 years about this?” Maybe if the entire Christian Church was wrong on Biblical manhood and womenhood and head covering, maybe it is also wrong on marriage, or (fill in the blank)” This at least causes some thought and concern to some who dismiss this issue as unimportant. A book titled “Headcovering throughout Church History” by David Phillips has a good summary of quotes by Martin Luther, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Jerome, John Bunyan, John Edwards, Roger Williams, Charles Spurgeon, and R C Sproul. We disagree with many positions of these, listed, but they are highly regarded by many today.

  • Jeremy Martin

    August 27, 2020 at 10:53 am

    Often publishers if Christian teaching materials will focus on things that all Protestants or evangelicals agree. This leaves out loving our enemies and head covering. What teaching materials are available to teach young teens or young adults these doctrines and applications in a class or devotional setting?

  • Jeremy Martin

    August 27, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Another question: The command to cover or not cover during praying and prophesying appears to apply to men and women. When is the best time to encourage boys and girls to consider applying this teaching? As soon as they make a profession of faith and they or others think of them as a man or woman? After baptism and reception into a body of believers? Another time?

    • Finny Kuruvilla

      August 27, 2020 at 12:24 pm

      Dear Jeremy,

      You should take consolation that this very question was a matter of debate in the early church and is discussed by Tertullian in his book “On the Veiling of Virgins.” He discusses the debate and describes how different churches in different geographies answer this question. He basically concludes that the answer is puberty. This is largely because he reads in 1 Cor 11 an argument from modesty (I mentioned in my talk this line of reasoning which can be unpacked from verse 10). Modesty, particularly with sexual overtones, becomes more important after puberty, hence his conclusion of puberty.

      I personally appreciate his logic and generally agree. We don’t have our children dress modestly beginning at baptism–we build that increasingly into their lives as they mature. Certainly by baptism, I would hope that our children are strong on this subject by that point. I would also say that there are some dangers with beginning a headcovering at baptism. It can cause undue pressure on the young woman to “fit in” with her peers and seek baptism for the wrong reason. Seeing the headcovering as a more akin to a way of life helps to diminish that unhealthy pressure.

      Finally, having seen the fruits of this gentle on-ramp to these practices as the child matures, I can say that it becomes a quite natural and beautiful transition. I’ve seen this a number of times in our church.

      God bless you!

  • Linda Amendt

    August 27, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Hello. I hear of how beings the head covering shows submission to the man, if a Husband requires his wife not to veil her head, she should submit to him and this beings the head covering has to do with submission. I’d be interested in hearing I’d be interested in hearingHF insights on this idea. I don’t want to be judge mental of others obeying their husbands in this way. I’ve always thought I would die for this ordinance. Also I have never heard before, go being raised in believing the head covering was essential, That the head covering is a type or picture of the veil Christ And his submission to God. Someone challenged me on this after I said what I had thought I had heard It said in the second sermon. I would like to study it more but I have no idea where to start. It makes sense that there is a deeper meaning but how was Jesus Christ veiled? Was he unveiled through his death and resurrection and the temple veil being rent? And his glory being revealed? Maybe this concept ties in with my previous question… that it’s not just about submission to a woman’s father and or husband…? It thrills me to think of this being true. Thank you and God bless you all.

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