Whenever the issue comes up, I feel that all it causes me is grief. The non-believer is not the one who takes issue, he finds Christianity strange to begin with. It is the believer who takes issue.
Again, last evening, I have been called to task to give a reasoning behind what I believe to be the soundest interpretation behind Biblical topics on dress and decorum.
The insinuation that following such teachings is “legalism” came up, but there was a slightly different angle put on it. To summarize his position, it is that two different Christians can “legitimately” try to be obedient to the passage, but their obedience can look much different.
Now, on first glance this is true. For example, while the only way a man can not cover his head when praying or prophesying is to just have nothing on his head, there is a fair degree of freedom in how a woman applies the passage. The type of head covering is not defined, the amount of hair that sneaks out from under it is not specified for us, and other matters such as these.
However, what I find hard to stomach is that we can be obedient to a passage and in practice blatantly contradict its plain meaning. How can one legitimately apply the passage, but then cover his head when praying or keep hers uncovered? Any such assertions that one is applying the passage is contradicted by their behavior.
So, in order for those who oppose head coverings to be free from hypocrisy, they would have to maintain that the simplest interpretation to the passage is incorrect, and that another interpretation is more honoring to God and consistent with other teachings in Scripture.
This is why I always go back to hermeneutics when discussing this issue. The problem is not simply that people are not dressing the right way. That may be a problem for a lot of Christians who simply ignore the passage as “old fashioned” or who have never read it. Those people aside, the real problem is Christians who approach Scripture as the word of God and believe in its overall clarity, but when approaching this topic all of the sudden change their approach to how they would apply a given passage.
Hence, their hermeneutic is inconsistent.
For example, later in the same chapter of 1 Cor 11 the Lord’s Supper is spoken of. I am not aware of any serious interpreters of the Bible that would do away with the Lord’s Supper or change the elements to related concoctions, such as cookies and grape soda. Why? Because the simplest way to apply the passage is to follow what it says. Generally, there are no constraints on attaining the necessary ingredients and the ordinance can be followed without major problems.
Then we have mainstream conservative churches that won’t allow women to hold offices, but ignore head coverings. Their reasoning behind male headship is simple. The Scripture speaks of male headship and states that women teaching religion to men is equivalent to having authority over them, which is unacceptable. So, the way this topic is interpreted and approached by them is to take what is said in the Scripture as straight forward. Their application of the Scripture is to simply be being obedient to what the passages clearly state about the matter.
But, then we have the issues of dress and head coverings! There is nothing confusing about what is written. For example, “don’t wear gold” or “men must not have their heads covered” are not complicated admonishments. Then, why do we approach these passages in a fashion that instead of accepting the reasoning given within the passages themselves and take them at face value, we all of the sudden bring in historical context or essentially accuse the teachings of Peter and Paul of being legalistic like the Pharisees? Wouldn’t Peter and Paul know better how to apply these passages than us?
And, if they tell us how to apply it, why is it less obedient for the Christian to do what it says, understanding why the passage says that he or she ought to do it?
The latter question is particularly important to me. If the reason I am given has no specific Biblical justification concerning how ignoring the passage or doing it differently than it says shows greater obedience to God, it appears rather clear to me that such an interpretation is not of God. And apart from the grace of God, we cannot apply the Scripture or walk according to His ways.