I was told more than once that head covering regulations given in 1 Corinthians 11 are not binding upon the conscience of the Christian, because it is not a sacrament. Of course, such an argument can be used to say that almost every admonition in the New Testament does not have to be followed. A short list of these would include admonishments not to be sexually immoral, to submit to your husband, to love your wife as Christ loved the Church, women cannot teach men in church, to abstain from false ascetic practices, and etcetera.

For example, avoiding sexual immorality or false asceticism are for all time ideals for the Christian. They do not take a backseat simply because they are not sacraments ordained by Jesus Christ, and in fact they would be expected from Christians. Because of this, there has to be a more compelling reason than “it is not a sacrament” to ignore the Biblical admonishment.

I debated this topic with an Anglican and delve deeper into the topic in the following:

It’s not an obligatory practice, but you can do it if you want. That’s all you have to keep in mind.

Sure. I also agree that the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are likewise important practices, but not necessary for salvation either. I always recommend holding firmly to the traditions, just as Paul delivered them to us.

Except that the sacraments are not in the same category as OT traditions. They are NOT, in fact, traditions. They were instituted by Christ himself and are channels of Grace and Forgiveness.

I am a reformed baptist so I do not view the sacraments as an exceptional avenue of grace. I see them as rites that are done as a matter of obedience.

The headcovering thing was not that–and we also are freed from the observance of it…

Christ fulfilled the OT Law. Headcoverings has nothing to do with the OT Law so there is no fulfillment of it in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Hence, choosing whether or not to wear a headcovering it is not a matter of Christian freedom any more than it is a matter of Christian freedom to ignore the Biblical injunction that women must not hold the office of elder.

…[Christians have freedom] not from those sacraments or ordinances that were instituted by Christ himself. That‘s how Christianity has looked at the matter since early times.

Again it begs the question, is an admonition said by Paul or Peter (i.e. only men can be elders in a church, homosexuality is a sin, women are to dress in a humble fashion, etc.) somehow less binding on the conscience of the Christian? This is a serious question.

As for how Christians have seen headcoverings since early times, you will find that the vast preponderance have found it an absolutely essential, and not optional, practice. Even Reformation writers which would have otherwise viewed the admonition as cultural, still did not overturn its use. So, you have until very recent times that headcoverings was treated as a requirement. So great a crowd of witnesses cannot be simply ignored.

Paul would have never commended the Corinthians for holding firmly to the traditions he has passed down to them if holding firmly to them was strictly optional and simply a matter of Christian freedom.

Understood. But the rest of the point remains the same, and it’s still important to realize that a mere tradition differs from an ordinance (if you prefer that term) that Christ himself instituted, commanded, personally showed to us by his own example, and the church has always considered essential.

The tradition cannot simply be brushed aside lightly if it has to do with church polity and was considering binding on all the churches of God. Paul, by the Holy Spirit, wrote, “I do not permit a woman to exercise authority over a man” or about head coverings “if anyone wishes to be contentious, we have no other practice nor do the churches of God…”

Paul could have not put it any clearer that the tradition was not optional.

we have the NT instructing us that we are no longer obligated in the matter of days and meats, etc, …and that’s what this headcovering issue is about.

This is not true. People have framed it that way, but it is not the way Paul has approached the matter. It is very telling that the issue of headcoverings is part of the discussion on the Lord’s Supper, because it was considered in such high importance. Paul did not take pains to explain how the tradition is somehow less important than the sacrament, like many would do today. Instead, his clear expectatin is that the practice would be kept just as the Lord’s Supper is.

Day, meats, and etcetera are all references to Jewish Law. We are dead to the Law. However, we are not dead to living according to Spirit, which there is no Law against. Obviously, Paul felt that men not covering their heads in worship was a matter of living according to the Spirit, just as sexual propriety is. Just because sexual propriety is not a sacrament, it does not mean Christians are free to fornicate.

Yes, some of those traditions have survived until recent times–and I’ve already said several times that this one has good symbolism–but when it comes to “must do,” the churches that have discontinued ENFORCING the practice (none has taken a stand against covering one’s head) are obviously saying that they do not consider the tradition to be immutable.

Paul says women “ought” (opheilei) to have a covering on their heads (1 Cor 11:10). Peter speaks that adornment “must not” (estO ouch) be external. So, one can legitimately argue that the Biblical language compelling us to folow headcovering regulations is deliberately more “loosey goosey.”

However, it is not helpful to argue about the verbiage on this one point. Why? Because headcovering is something we ought to do so much, that the entire ancient church did it and the angels actually care that we do it.

In light of the preceding, I think this argument is framed entirely incorrectly. The question is not whether women should cover their heads and men shouldn’t. They most definitely ought to. The question is what exceptions are legitimate. Is culture in of itself a legitimate exception? Is arctic weather, where you can freeze without a covering on one’s head, legitimate? This is what the discussion should be. Not, “Jesus never talked about it and I only listen to the red letters, and that’s when it fits my preconceived notions” sort of thing.

If we frame the question this way, we will find that peoples objections to headcoveirng regulations almost entirely do not spring up from Godly motives, but rather personal preference.

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