Thursday, 30 May 2019

Answering the Accusations of the LGBT Movement

In recent decades in Western countries, people have increasingly turned away from biblical values on sexuality and gender. LGBT attitudes have now become part of the mainstream.

Those of us who say that homosexual practice is morally wrong are now very much in the minority, at least in most Western countries. Similarly, those who say that people have no human right to identify with the gender of their choosing are also becoming fewer in number.

In the midst of all this, Christians often come under fire for their beliefs. From time to time, for example, in interviews you will see Bible-believing Christians being challenged on LGBT issues. Usually, these Christians seem to be on the back foot as they are questioned. They often seem quite apologetic, and sometimes even a bit embarrassed, for holding the views they do.

I have never personally come under attack in this way from the LGBT movement, and I have a lot of sympathy for my brothers and sisters who experience hostility and hatred for standing up for Christian values.

Nevertheless, when I see interviews like these, I often find myself wishing that Christians did a better job of defending the faith. I also often wish that they were more prepared to call a spade a spade and that they wouldn’t be so reluctant to cause offence. Basically, I think there are much better answers to accusations from the LGBT movement than are usually given.

In what follows, I will list some of the standard accusations that this movement makes against Christians, and then I will give the reply that I would want to give if I were personally accused in these ways. I hope that readers of this article will find what I say useful and then might be a bit better prepared to deal with accusations they may face.

The answers that I will give are quite short ones, and I don’t for a moment pretend that they cover matters fully. But I think that each answer contains some useful ideas.

There will be a certain amount of overlap between the answers, since the accusations also overlap.

Without further ado, then, let’s begin.


There is nothing unnatural about homosexuality, and you shouldn’t claim that there is.


If by “natural” you mean the way things are, then obviously homosexuality exists, so in that respect it isn’t unnatural. But under that definition we would also have to say that paedophilia isn’t unnatural, since it is also something that exists. And I expect that you, like me, would want to describe paedophilia as unnatural.

So, we do better to define something as natural when it fits with how God has designed things. And it should be obvious that homosexuality does not fit with how human beings are designed. Physically, the male body is obviously designed to fit together sexually with the female body, and not with another male body. Similarly, females are clearly not designed to have sexual relations with females.

If someone insists on denying this, I find it hard to believe that they are being as honest as they can be. The Bible talks in Romans 1:18 about people who suppress the truth. I would suggest that those, or at least the vast majority of those, who claim that there is nothing unnatural about homosexuality are guilty of suppressing the truth. Deep down, I think their consciences are not clear and they know that what they are saying is not true. Homosexuality so obviously contradicts the way people are designed.


It is well documented that homosexuality exists in animals. So this shows that it is a natural thing in humans too.


Again, it depends what you mean by natural. If you mean the way things are, then yes, homosexuality in animals is natural. However, if you mean how things were designed to be, then I would certainly reject the idea that homosexuality in animals is natural.

According to Christian teaching, our world is in a kind of half broken state. I think that people tend to relate strongly to this idea. There is clearly great evil in our world, yet also great beauty.

The animal world is also something that is partially broken. And homosexuality among animals is one aspect of what has gone wrong.

Because animals are not moral creatures, they can’t be blamed for acting out their homosexuality. But humans, as moral creatures, can be blamed for this.


You are homophobic.


Usually when people use the term “homophobic,” they mean more than one thing by it. They usually seem to regard a homophobe as all of the following:

(1) Someone who (wrongly) says that homosexual orientation is a problem.

(2) Someone who (wrongly) says that homosexual practice is morally wrong.

(3) Someone who discriminates against homosexuals.

(4) Someone who hates homosexuals.

It is very confusing to use one label to mean several different things, especially when these things don’t necessarily go together.

I don’t accept the label “homophobic” for myself, for two reasons. First, the term suggests a bad attitude towards homosexuals and homosexuality, and I don’t accept that my attitude is bad. And second, the above list of points only partially corresponds to my attitude to homosexuals.

Let me comment briefly on each point.

On point (1), I certainly do say that homosexual orientation is a problem, just as the Bible teaches in Romans 1:26.

I want to stress, however, that I believe that every human being has many problems of various kinds. We are all damaged in many ways. So it would be absurd for me to look down on someone who has homosexual orientation. I don’t personally have that problem, but I have a multitude of other problems, as we all do.

On point (2), I certainly do say that homosexual practice is morally wrong, just as the Bible teaches in a number of places, e.g., in Romans 1:26-27.

However, I have committed plenty of sins in my own life. So the last thing I will do is look down on anyone who is guilty of homosexual practice.

On point (3), I am, firstly, firmly against discriminating against someone because they have homosexual orientation. There are many people with this orientation who accept that they have a problem and fight hard against it. There is a world of difference between someone in this category and someone who freely engages in homosexual practice. I am nothing but sympathetic to those with homosexual orientation who admit that they have a problem.

Secondly, as regards people who engage in homosexual practice, things are more complicated. I certainly don’t accept that I “discriminate,” since that word suggests that my attitude is bad, and I don’t accept that it is bad. Yet I do believe that sometimes it is right to take account of the fact that a person is a practising homosexual.

As a Christian, I am called to act in love towards everyone, regardless of what they do. And I think that in the vast majority of situations love would mean treating a practising homosexual in the same way that I would treat anyone else. But occasionally it may be appropriate to make a distinction for one reason or another.

For example, if an openly practising homosexual wanted to teach children in some capacity, I would see their sexual practice as a big black mark against them. Children need to be protected from harm, and taught right from wrong, including that homosexual practice is bad. Whether, at the end of the day, I would conclude that this person shouldn’t in fact teach children would depend on how many black marks other potential teachers might have against them.

On point (4), I absolutely reject all hatred for homosexuals, whether they are practising or not. As I have said, the Christian life is one of loving everyone despite their sins, just as Jesus loves me despite the bad things I have done. But love is sometimes tough. Sometimes it means criticising people for what they do or believe.

It is actually very ironic that Christians like myself are accused of hatred, since, not only are we opposed to all hatred, but those who falsely accuse us of hatred often seem to hate us with a passion. The amount of hatred in Western countries that is directed towards Christians like me for what we say on sexuality and gender is enormous. The militant LGBT lobby is now a significant hate group in this part of the world.

Nor is it just the LGBT lobby. Even among mainstream Westerners, Christians are often the objects of a great deal of hatred.

It is notable that many who claim to be against all hatred seem to forget that they are against this when they have no sympathy with the views of a group of people who are hated. If they are sympathetic to the beliefs of people who are hated, they (rightly) condemn hatred strongly. Yet if they are not sympathetic, their opposition to hatred disappears, and in many cases they become haters themselves. This sort of double standards is very common in Western countries today.


You say that gay people will go to hell. That’s hate if ever I heard it.


First, it is those who practise homosexuality who are on track for hell. I certainly do not say that having homosexual orientation means that someone is heading there.

Second, this is not an idea that I have invented. The Bible very clearly teaches that those who practise homosexuality are on the road to hell (e.g., Romans 1:26-27; 2:5-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9). I am simply repeating what it says.

Third, anyone who wilfully and unrepentantly practises sin of any kind is on track for hell. So it’s not as if I am singling out homosexual practice. This is just one sin among many.

Fourth, I don’t delight in the prospect of anyone going to hell. So this isn’t something I say with any relish.

Fifth, it is absolutely not hate for me to say what I say on this point. Look at it from my perspective. I believe sincerely that those who engage in homosexual practice are on the road to hell. I don’t want them to go there. So, by warning people I am doing what I believe is best to help them avoid great suffering in the future. It should be obvious that there is no hate in this. To warn people of impending danger is really an act of love.


You are so cruel when you say that gay people aren’t allowed to love each other.


I do sympathise with people who feel affection that is wrong to express. However, it is far more important to submit to God’s created order. To perform homosexual acts is to massively insult him, and this must take priority over how we feel.

Besides, I am not writing as someone who is happily married and knows nothing of the difficulty of living a single life. I am now over 50 and I have always been single, and, like most single people, I find it hard to live this way.


You are so arrogant to tell people that they can’t identify as a man or a woman if that’s what they want to do.


On the contrary, it is those who think they have a right to identify as whatever gender they choose who are guilty of great arrogance. If God has made someone physically male, then that person is a man, both physically and in his core identity. And if he has made someone physically female, that person is a woman, both physically and in her core identity. To deny this is to mess around with God’s creation and thereby to insult him.

What mainstream Western society now believes about transgendering is really remarkable.

If, for example, a man told me that in his true identity he was really a horse, although he was physically a man, I would say that he had some sort of mental illness. I wouldn’t for a moment agree that he really was a horse.

In no way would I look down on this man or want to treat him unkindly. Instead, I would gently but firmly tell him that something had gone wrong in his feelings and thoughts and that he wasn’t really a horse.

Exactly the same is true when a man says that in his identity he is really a woman. Something has gone wrong.

Again, in no way would I look down on a man who said this. But I would tell him that something had gone wrong and that he was a man, not a woman.

To think that people who are physically men are really women is sheer nonsense, and the same goes for those who are physically women and claim to be men. We can’t separate our identity and our physicality in this way.

I do believe that there is one area where there is sometimes a genuine place for a kind of transgendering, and this concerns people who are born as intersexes. This sort of transgendering is not about people having a gender identity that is different from their physical sex. Rather, it is about reversing a mistake that has already been made.

Intersexes are people who are born with both male and female genitals, and apparently about one in 2000 new-born babies falls into this category. Operations are often performed on intersex babies and children to remove one set of genitals. Usually, either the male or female genitals are much more pronounced than the others, so deciding what operation to perform is quite straightforward. In some cases, however, the male and female genitals are about equally developed.

This is a very complex issue. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it seems that sometimes the wrong operation is performed on babies and children. And even when there is no operation, it seems that mistakes are sometimes made regarding what gender the child is raised as.

In cases like these, I do believe that there is a legitimate place for a kind of transgendering. In such cases, this has nothing to do with accepting that there is a difference between physical sex and gender identity. It is simply about correcting a mistake that has already been made.


You hold extreme and deeply offensive views on sexuality and gender identity.


Firstly, you seem to be implying that most people don’t hold views on sexuality and gender identity that many others find extreme and deeply offensive. But that is completely wrong. Everyone holds views on these issues that many others find extreme and very offensive.

For example, take the view that so-called “gay marriage” is a good thing, something that you agree with. It seems to me that most of the world’s population would think that gay marriage is a bad idea. And there must be at least hundreds of millions of people, maybe billions, who find it extreme and deeply offensive.

Even if we think just about my own country, the United Kingdom, I would guess that about 30 per cent of people are against gay marriage. And maybe around 10 per cent would be deeply offended by it. Even if that figure is not accurate, there must be millions of people in the UK who find your views on gay marriage to be extreme and deeply offensive.

So you are completely wrong to think that most people don’t hold views on sexuality and gender that many others find extreme and offensive. And that is true whether we think of the world as a whole or just of the UK. You and many others find my views extreme and offensive, and I and many others find your views extreme and offensive. We are all in the same boat in this respect.

Secondly, it is never my goal to be offensive to people. I get no pleasure from causing offence. However, my big concern is not to offend God, and if that means offending people, then that is what I will do.

This should be your concern too. As things stand, your attitudes to sexuality and gender conflict with God’s created order for human beings. So what you say is deeply offensive to God. You urgently need to alter your views.


It is a fundamental human right for people to have gay relationships or change their gender identity if they want to. You should accept that.


No one has a human right to do anything morally wrong.

At its core, the worldview of mainstream Western society is completely mistaken. In this worldview people are typically seen as standing in the place of ultimate authority with rights to do whatever they want, as long as they don’t cause direct harm to anyone else. In this worldview God is essentially nowhere to be seen.

In reality, God should fill our worldview. Human beings are under his authority with huge obligations to him. We are designed and duty-bound to fit in with his created order. It is not an exaggeration to say that the mainstream Western worldview completely misunderstands what human beings actually are.

No one, then, has a human right to do anything that conflicts with God’s created order. And homosexual practice and transgendering both conflict with this.

Whether people should be given legal rights to do immoral things is a much more complex issue, and will depend on the circumstances. But no one has a human right to do anything morally wrong.


You are so intolerant of gay and transgender people.


The first problem with this accusation is that those who use this label to blame people like me tend to use the words “tolerant,” “intolerant” etc. in a strange way.

Usually in the English language, when we speak about tolerating someone, what we mean is that we put up with that person although we dislike what they do or stand for.

However, those who accuse Christians like me of being intolerant of people in the LGBT movement are not usually suggesting that we don’t put up with these people. Instead, they are really blaming us simply for disliking their values in the first place. If someone dislikes the values of people in the LGBT movement, even if that person puts up with what this movement tries to do, he or she will be accused of intolerance.

When we are accused of being “intolerant,” then, we are really being accused of (wrongly) disliking the values of the LGBT movement.

In response to this accusation, firstly, it is surely true that all human beings dislike the values of many other human beings. And it is just as true that every human being will hold values that many others dislike. So we are all in the same category in this respect. And if we insist on using the word “intolerant” (in an unusual way) to refer to this situation, then we are all intolerant in some ways, both those who support the LGBT movement and those who are against it.

Secondly, it may be true that I dislike and object to more things than most people, but that is because I am acknowledging the rule of almighty God. And for this I make no apology. When someone does something or lives in a way that dishonours God, it is absolutely right to dislike and object to it. I wish that people generally did a lot more of this.


You are wrong not to respect the views of people in the LGBT movement.


Firstly, if you are suggesting that everyone should respect the views of everyone else on matters of sexuality and gender, it should be obvious that people in the LGBT movement typically have no respect at all for what I believe on these issues.

Secondly, I make no apology for not respecting the views of people in this movement. When people support something that is against the will of God, they are supporting something evil. And we should never respect what is evil.

However, I do believe that we should make a clear distinction here between a person and the views that the person holds. We should always respect a person, no matter how bad they are, and I do try to do this. But respecting a person in no way has to mean respecting their views.


I have no time for uncaring, right-wing people like you.


I am not right wing, and I share your concern that people on the right are often quite uncaring. My political views are pretty centrist.

Homosexual practice and transgendering are extremely important moral issues that have to do with insulting God. Essentially these are not issues of the left or right at all.

Have courage

I hope and pray that readers of this article will have found what I have said helpful.

If you are a Christian who is under fire on LGBT issues, know that you are not alone. There are many other brothers and sisters who are being persecuted in this way too.

Don’t be embarrassed or hesitant to stand up for Christian truth. Have courage, even if many people are against you. Remember, one person with God is a majority.

And when you are hated, show love in return (Luke 6:27-29). The Lord will be with you.

See also:

Should Christian Women Cover Their Heads in Public Worship?

In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 the apostle Paul gives instruction on how men and women in the Corinthian church should act when they meet together in worship.

The text is as follows: 
2 Now I praise you because you always remember me and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.  
3 But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. 
4 Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. 6 So if a woman's head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered.  
7 A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God's image and glory, but woman is man's glory. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. 9 And man was not created for woman, but woman for man. 10 This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.  
11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. 12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.  
13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering.  
16 But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)


In this passage one of the main things Paul talks about is head coverings in public worship. He tells the Corinthians that men shouldn’t pray or prophesy with a covered head, and that women shouldn’t do these things with an uncovered head.

Today, a large majority of evangelicals think that what Paul says here doesn’t apply to Christians universally in every culture and every century of the church. They say that in the culture of Corinth in the first century it was appropriate for women and men to cover or not cover their heads as Paul teaches. But they claim that this wouldn’t necessarily be the case in a different cultural context.

A much smaller group of evangelicals claim that Paul’s instruction on head coverings does apply universally to all churches in every century. They say that it is a general principle that in public worship women should cover their heads and men shouldn’t.

In what follows, I will do two things. First, I will argue that Paul’s teaching on head coverings does apply universally to all cultures and every century of the church. And second, I will argue that even though this is a universal principle, it is a mistake to implement it without further consideration.


To begin with, then, we need to ask if what Paul says about head coverings in this passage is a universal principle or just one that is dependent on culture.

We will start by looking at what the passage says about men not covering their heads. The teaching on men is both clearer and shorter than the teaching on women. So it makes sense to begin with this.

Paul first refers to the issue of men not covering their heads in v. 4, where he states: 
Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head.”

In v. 3 Paul has just said that Christ is the head of every man, so “his head” at the end of v. 4 is a reference to Christ, and this phrase may also have a secondary reference to the man’s literal head.

Therefore, in v. 4 Paul is saying that a man who prays or prophesies with a covered head dishonors Christ and possibly also his own literal head as well.

In v. 4, then, Paul says what the result is of a man praying or prophesying with a covered head: it dishonors Christ. However, he gives no reason why doing this dishonors Christ.

However, when we come to v. 7, he does tell us why. Paul says: 
A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God's image and glory . . .”

The argument of those who take the majority evangelical view

Those who claim that Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 about men not covering their heads is something that depends on culture often argue in this way about v. 7:

When Paul says that a man shouldn’t cover his head because he is God’s image and glory, his point is that men should act like men and not like women. In Corinthian culture, to cover the head in worship was a feminine thing to do. It is wrong for a man to act in a feminine way, so in that culture it was wrong for a man to cover his head. If a man did this effeminate thing, he would be failing to live out being the glory of God and would dishonor Christ (v. 4). This means that in v. 7 Paul is not giving a universal principle about men not covering their heads in public worship. Rather, his point is that men should please God by not doing something that the culture they live in finds effeminate.

There are, however, three big problems with this interpretation.

Archaeological evidence

First, there is good archaeological evidence that in Greco-Roman religions of the first century men often did cover their heads while engaged in public worship.

This means that in first century Corinth it is doubtful that men who covered their heads during Christian worship would have been seen as doing something feminine. So it seems unlikely that Paul’s concern in this passage is men acting in an effeminate way.

Too much reading between the lines

Second, to accept the argument given by those who say that not covering the head was about fitting in with culture, we have to do too much reading between the lines.

When Paul says, “A man . . . should not cover his head, because he is God's image and glory,” it is far more natural to take him to mean simply that being God’s image and glory is the direct reason that a man shouldn’t cover his head.

Actually, the reference to men being God’s image here seems to be a kind of aside that doesn’t form part of Paul’s argument. At the end of v. 7 he will say, “but woman is man's glory,” where he notably doesn’t say that woman is man’s image and glory. Paul would, of course, have agreed with Gen. 1:27 that men and women are equally in the image of God. So women are as much God’s image as men, yet Paul makes it clear in this passage that women should cover their heads. Therefore, the real reason Paul is giving in v. 7 for why men shouldn’t cover their heads is surely just that they are God’s glory, not also that they are His image. And it is very natural to take him to mean simply that being God’s glory is the direct reason men shouldn’t cover their heads.

I find it very difficult to believe that the Corinthians would have interpreted him in any other way. This is the interpretation that they would automatically have assumed as they read Paul’s words. To bring in a convoluted argument about culture looks very unnatural and forced, and involves a lot of unnecessary reading between the lines.

The logic of the passage

Third, if we understand Paul to be giving a universal principle, it makes perfect sense of the logic of men not covering and women covering their heads.

As I have noted, at the end of v. 7 Paul says: “but woman is man's glory.”

This clause is surely shorthand for “but a woman should cover her head because she is man’s glory.” That would be a parallel to the instruction on men not covering their heads in the first part of v. 7. And in view of how Paul has given parallel teaching on men and women in verses 4-6, we would expect this to continue in v. 7.

So we should have no hesitation in saying that in v. 7 Paul is teaching two things:

(1) Men shouldn’t cover their heads because they are God’s glory.

(2) Women should cover their heads because they are man’s glory.

What Paul seems quite clearly to mean is that during public worship God’s glory should be on display but man’s glory should be hidden. If a man covers his head, something of God’s glory is being hidden, and this isn’t good during a time of public worship. But if a woman has an uncovered head, something of man’s glory is on display, and this also isn’t good during a time of public worship.

This seems to be the logic of Paul’s argument, and it has nothing at all to do with cultural ways of dressing.

Summing up

For three reasons, then, the idea that Paul’s instruction for men not to cover their heads is a cultural one appears to be incorrect. We do far better to take what he says as a universal principle:

Men shouldn’t cover their heads in public worship because they shouldn’t hide the glory of God (v. 7) and thereby dishonor Christ (v. 4).


Let’s move on now to think about women. Does this passage teach that women covering their heads in public worship is a universal principle or just something that applies in certain cultures?

There are good reasons for believing that it is a universal principle.

The teaching on women corresponds to the teaching on men

To begin with, in this passage Paul’s instruction on women in many respects corresponds to his instruction on men. In other words, the place of head coverings in the life of women is not a separate issue from the place of head coverings in the life of men. These are parts of one and the same topic.

So, given, as we have seen, that there are good reasons to think that the instruction to men is a universal one, we would expect the same to be true of the instruction to women.

Woman as the glory of man

Secondly, the third reason I gave above for why we should take the teaching about men to be universal also applies to women, as I have already noted:

When Paul teaches in v. 7 that a woman should cover her head because she is man’s glory, he quite clearly seems to mean that she should keep man’s glory hidden while the focus is on God in worship. And this has nothing to do with culture.

Nothing in the passage suggests that head coverings are purely cultural

It is important to note too that no part of verses 2-16 should lead us to think that the principle of women covering their heads is anything other than a universal principle.

Verse 10 is probably one of the most difficult verses to interpret in the entire Bible, and debate swirls around it.

Literally, the text in Greek reads: 
“For this reason, the woman ought to have authority on/over her head, because of the angels.”

It is unclear whether Paul is saying that a women should have a head covering as a symbol of authority on her head (as in the Holman translation that I quoted above), or if he means that a woman should take control over what she does with her head. And it is also unclear in what respect the angels are involved.

Importantly for our purposes, however, there is nothing in this verse which suggests that the principle of women covering their heads is merely a cultural one. Nor does anything else in the passage as a whole point in this direction.

Summing up

There are two good reasons, then, for thinking that the principle of women covering their heads in public worship is a universal one. And, although there are difficult interpretive issues in this passage, no part of it suggests that this principle is not universal.

I should say too that I am sure that if women in Western countries today did routinely cover their heads, the number of commentators who claim that Paul’s principle is just a cultural one would be far fewer. I think many have allowed themselves to believe what they want to believe on this topic, instead of allowing Scripture to speak freely.


In view of what we have seen, therefore, it makes sense to think that in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 Paul is giving two universal principles:

(1) When praying or prophesying in public worship, men should not have their heads covered.

(2) When praying or prophesying in public worship, women should have their heads covered.

Of course, many Christians, myself included, will find this teaching more than a little strange. To think that a bare-headed man will somehow enhance the glory of God in worship, while a bare-headed woman will detract from this, is not what most of us would expect the Bible to teach.

However, there are a couple of points to make here.

First, it is much more important for us to know what Scripture teaches than why it teaches it. Knowing why is very helpful and something we should strive for if possible. But it is far more important to know what it is that Scripture tells us to do.

Second, the Bible as a whole seems to teach that there is something deeply spiritual about gender. There is a lot of profound reality connected to gender that goes right to the heart of God’s creation of human beings. There is vastly more to this than mere physical differences. That is why, for example, homosexual practice or so-called transgendering are such grave evils in God’s sight.

And when deep truths are involved, there are bound to be things we find mysterious and difficult to understand.


This brings us to thinking about the place of head coverings today.

In Western countries, of course, it is very rare for Christian men or women to cover their heads in public worship. This means that nearly every man follows Paul’s instruction in this passage. But it also means that nearly every woman doesn’t follow what he says.

In the rest of this article my focus will be on women, since this is where practice conflicts with biblical teaching. We need to ask what God’s will is on this issue. Should women always cover their heads at church services? And how important is this?

Those who just assume that Paul’s instruction should be implemented

From what I have read, most Christians who (rightly) accept that Paul’s instruction to women on head coverings is a universal one just assume that Christians should implement this teaching. In their view, the Bible teaches that women should cover their heads in public worship, so that’s what women should do, end of story.

Not so simple

I believe that things are not so simple. The fact that Scripture teaches a universal principle doesn’t necessarily mean that the principle should always be implemented.

I am not for a moment suggesting that there are times when we shouldn’t do the will of God. Rather, my point is that just because a universal principle is given in the Bible, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is always God’s will for the principle to be put into effect. Exceptional situations do arise.

Examples of exceptional situations

Nearly every Christian would agree that there are some exceptional situations when biblical principles should not be followed.

For example, the Bible teaches that God has designed sexual relations only for marriage (e.g., Gen. 2:24; 1 Cor. 7:9; Heb. 13:4). This is a universal principle, not one that depends on culture.

Yet there are exceptional situations when it is surely not a sin for a person to have sex outside marriage. For example, if, tragically, a woman is raped at knifepoint and told that she will be killed unless she cooperates, we shouldn’t hesitate to say that she commits no sin when she does so.

Similarly, Scripture teaches that people shouldn’t lie (e.g., Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9), and this is another universal principle. Yet Scripture also contains several examples of lies that are apparently told in the will of God, in various extreme circumstances (e.g., Exod. 1:15-20; 1 Sam. 19:11-17; 2 Sam. 17:17-20).

We shouldn’t think that every single universal principle in the Bible must always be followed no matter what. Life is more complicated than that.

Exceptional situations and head coverings

It is true that the examples of not following universal principles that I have just given involve extreme situations. Nevertheless, it makes sense to think that there might also sometimes be less extreme situations when it is right not to follow a biblical principle. Some biblical principles are much more important than others. And if a principle is not of first importance, it seems reasonable to believe that even in non-extreme circumstances it might sometimes be God’s will for the principle not to be followed.

As a general rule, the more often a topic is referred to in Scripture, the more important it is, and 1 Cor. 11:2-16 is the only passage that tells Christian women to cover their heads. It therefore makes sense to think that the principle of women covering their heads in public worship is not among the most important biblical principles.

As I ponder this issue, it seems to me that God is probably often content for a woman not to wear a covering.

If a woman in a Western country chooses to cover her head for public worship, she will probably be the only woman at that service who does so.

However, most of us find it very embarrassing to be dressed differently from everyone around us. So a woman who did this on her own would probably find it a difficult and distressing thing to do. And it is likely that this would be her experience time after time.

Of course, as Christians we need to pick up our crosses every day and follow the Lord (Luke 9:23). Christian discipleship is costly and painful.

Nevertheless, each of us has a finite amount of strength. Sometimes we need to pick and choose our fights. There is only so much God calls us to endure.

I find it difficult to believe that it is often the will of God for a woman to cover her head if she gets very embarrassed about doing this. She would probably not look forward to worship services, and, if this happens, it seems to me that more is lost than gained by the covering. I really don’t think that this issue is important enough to warrant a woman going through embarrassment and distress on a regular basis.

There are plenty of moral issues that are important enough to warrant this, but I find it hard to believe that covering the head is one of them.

Those who are not embarrassed

Although most women would find it very embarrassing to be the only one covering her head in a worship service, this is not true for every woman. Some are not that bothered by it. In such cases, I think it is probably good for women to cover their heads.

I am not completely sure about this, however, because I have some concerns about the impact head coverings might have on visitors to churches. We should want non-Christian visitors to attend our worship services (1 Cor. 14:22-25). And I am concerned that if many women covered their heads, non-Christian women in Western countries might be put off attending.

On the one hand, then, it is good for women to cover their heads. But on the other hand, we don’t want to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of non-Christians visiting. I think the first of these points is probably the more important one, but I am not confident about that.

Anyway, each Christian woman would need to seek God personally in prayer for insight on how she should act.

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