Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
The eleventh chapter of first Corinthians was the subject of a recent radio talk by a gospel preacher. He made the usual remark that the matter of women cutting their hair is “just a custom” and told them to shingle which most of them would do anyhow, if they wanted to. But it is a pity for preachers to encourage women now to do the thing that Paul told women then not to do. This same preacher was heard to tell an audience in a large church, where the elders were trying to curb worldliness, that it would be quite all right for them to attend certain movies if they would take him along! It is worse than a pity for preachers to thus encourage conduct in young people that needs restraint instead-it is a tragedy.
The eleventh to the fourteenth chapters of first Corinthians belong to one essay. Part one is a discussion of certain elements of divine worship. Part two is instructions on how to appear before God in worship. Part three proves the province of spiritual gifts and the use of supernatural endowments. The apostle’s conclusion is “that the things I write unto you are the commandments of God.” Years ago when “bobbed hair” came into vogue M. C. Kurfees gave a scholarly exegesis of 1 Cor. 11 setting forth the principle back of the customs referred to which makes it a sin for Christian woman to shear their hair. Lipscomb and Sewell answered some questions sustaining the same idea on 1 Cor. 11. In fact, no gospel preacher thought that 1 Cor. 11 was “just a custom,” which allowed women to shingle their hair, until women in the church began to do it.
Woman’s hair is not the subject of the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, but the incidental reference to it certainly does not contain instruction, or even permission, for her to shingle it. After discussing the artificial covering of the head—the veil—and plainly saying that a woman’s head must be covered when she presents herself before God in worship, the apostle then referred, incidentally, to woman’s hair as her natural adornment; and is her glory. The Christian woman has her divine covering-the hair. “It is given to her for a covering.” God gave it to her, and Paul did not say that cuttng it off is “just a custom.” He said, “we have no such cusom.” There is a wide difference in saying that a thing is “just a custom” and in saying, “we have no such custom.” Yet those preachers who are wont to encourage women to cut their hair (whose wives perhaps have already done so) nonchalantly remark “its just a custom”!
Whatever may be said of customs, Jewish or pagan, the fact remains that Paul’s collateral reference to the hair declares that it is woman’s natural adornment and God-given glory, a divine principle, indeed, that custom cannot change. Her natural hair is her glory. Her modest skirts are her dignity. With her glory cut off on one end and her dignity on the other-some modern preacher will have to finish the picture, the writer is speechless. Such an attitude does not comport with the pious admonitions of Paul and Peter to Christian women concerning modesty and sobriety in matters pertaining to dress.
The divine sphere of Christian woman ascends to the sublime. For her to follow after the vanities of style, paint the face, rouge the lips, bob the hair, and withal, dress after the latest fashion, is to step down from the throne of her glory to occupy a mere pedestal of fickle fashion. God give us more Christian women who regard favor with God higher than fashion with the world, and fewer preachers who lend encouragement to disrespect for things divine by the prattle “its just a custom-go ahead and bob it.”