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Clothes and Jesus

I have been observing another web log conversation that has included the triumphant boast that the attendees of one particular church still come in grunge, flip-flops, tattoos, body piercing, etc. It seems to me that anyone with any sense of societal influences would know that the grunge culture itself has identified its own clothing as a statement against the establishment, as statement of rebellion. I am just puritanical enough to hope that my church would change people enough to make them want to change their clothes if it symbolized something evil in God’s eyes. And rebellion, by the way, is evil.

If I have misrepresented the one church I am thinking of, I haven’t misrepresented others – some who read this article, in fact.

There are two extremes when it comes to clothing. There is the one extreme that is pharisaical. It assumes that spirituality is somehow guaranteed by the way one dresses. It requires a standard and it allows for judgmentalism. The other extreme is irreverence and indifference. The one is stupidly narrow. It assumes that spirituality and the way one dresses are mutually dependant. The other is just stupid. It assumes that spirituality and they way one dresses are completely isolated. It is this extreme that I shall challenge first.

Why boast that your converts still wear grunge? Why celebrate that people who have seen Jesus still come with desecrated temples? Isn’t grunge reported to be the statement of rebellion by their own apostles? It’s obvious that what we have here is just another case of what I call “evangelistic myopia” (explained in another article about to be unleashed from my ruminations, but in short it is the suggestion that evangelicals celebrate success way too soon). I think the ministry that fails to affect its hearers over time with a sense of the dignity and glory of God so much that little modifications in dress are never seen is, in fact, not a ministry to brag about. I won’t belabor my point by including the many quotes from the Puritans in support of this statement. Suffice it to say that most of my readers love the Puritans as I do, so this should mean something.

Peter – that loving, bumbling, impetuous, and refreshingly-transparent servant – in one hasty action teaches us something about clothes and Christ. Having so miserably failed his Lord, he had taken to his old career when, after a night of more failure, he and his partners all heard the familiar voice. “Therefore the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.” Peter, in all of his impetuosity, zeal, and hunger, remembered to grab his clothes. It was the LORD, after all, that he was so anxious to see.

The theme of so many churches has become more than Come Just As You Are. That’s the Gospel spirit, and I would readily admit that many evangelicals (i.e. Fundamentalists) need to apply this theme to their ministries. But “Come just as you are” is just that – an invitation to come. It doesn’t imply that after coming you won’t change. It doesn’t say “keep coming just as you are – unchanged”. Come just as you are, yes, but remember that He is Who He is. And since I can already hear my flip-flop friends reminding, I concede that the change is first and foremost internal. But, I insist with 2000 years of Church history behind me that true submission to Christ’s Lordship will have an impact on everything – including the shirt on my back!

Our problem is that we limit evangelism to attraction. Or, if we are more sincere about biblicity, we may expect changes from the conspicuously evil patterns. But evangelism is more than just attraction. And we must remember the oft-repeated axiom that what attracts them is what keeps them. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I have already seen these kind of ministries disappoint their own converts after a time. When, after many years at the Christian party, they suddenly awaken to the fact that it is now time to grow up and their church hasn’t helped them do it, they are hurt. We have a couple in our church right now that illustrates that very principle. The church that brought them to Jesus with all of its excitement and music has left them immature and unprepared for real, socially-impacting life. By their own confession they have said they don’t want to raise their children in the same shallow ministry that God used to save them. Simply put, the church that is functioning best is the one that is not only working to save this generation, but the next generation. And that might mean telling them that the way they dress matters.

Now, I am the first to rip off my tie. God forbid that a string of cloth interfere with the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have made my point to the clothes police in our church in blunt terms: no thanks. Thank God they have desisted. Pharisees are a hindrance to the gospel. My conservative church is radical enough to be accused of being “neo” because I don’t wear ties on Sunday nights. (I blush that our circles are that ignorant). So, I certainly can’t be called a legalistic clothes policeman. Far from it. Fundamentalist that I am, I could care less if men wear shorts and if the ladies want to wear modest pants to church. Some do.

I would warmly welcome the person in grunge attire into my church. I know our church would do the same without hesitation. But we also know that over time our humble admiration of Jesus, our Savior, will cause them to eventually feel shame to come before His presence wearing any symbol of rebellion. We are very patient. It may take a long time, but you will never hear us boast about the fact that our people are so casual about our Lord that they have never thrown off the symbols of rebellion and blushed at the desecration of their temples by tattoos and excessive piercing.

However, I weary a little bit at the puffing of churches and ministries that flaunt a casual approach to worship, as if the comfort and culture of the individual is the ultimate standard. I have a real problem with that because I am most comfortable almost naked, yet I don’t mind if even the most enlightened brethren take issue with my comfort. But I also retain the right to take issue with the brother or sister who should be eating meat and exercising the senses to discern both good and evil by now, but is still only comfortable in symbols of rebellion. Grunge, my friends, by all accounts – particularly the grunge society itself – is a statement of rebellion. How can you boast that your people haven’t changed their clothes since they got saved? Call me fuddy-duddy, narrow-minded, bigoted. I happen to work with the dregs of sin myself. I have seen prostitutes, homosexuals, and druggies come to Jesus and be totally transformed. I have wrestled down drunks that I love, hugged the homosexuals that I love, pleaded with the adulterers that I love, cried with the punks that I love, and sat up at night with the suicidal addicts that I love. I abhor the thought that any of them should for one second think that the way they dress will affect their standing with God and me. God’s love (and I hope, mine) is unconditional. But I have noticed that when they heard “It is the Lord” from someone that loves the Lord as John did, they tend to grab their clothes before they make the leap. For while they may have said to Him as Peter did on an earlier occasion, “Depart from me”, now that they have grown to love Him a little bit more things are different. They are at least semi-conscious that even though Jesus’ look penetrates into the depths of their heart, they can at least pay Him the respect of putting on appropriate clothing. He has, after all, loved them so much He sticks with them even though they fail Him over and over again. Putting it simply, clothes are not about making us look good, but making Him look good.

Some Fundamentalist emphasize clothes ad nauseum, suggesting that it is about our testimony and our reputation. Our spirituality. Other evangelicals forget that while their criticisms of our phariseeism are accurate, clothes are also about respect for others. And I would exhort my open-minded friends that it is sheer fantasy to pretend that one does not emphasize clothes where people abound with grunge attire, pierced bodies, and tattoos. There is nothing that more flagrantly screams, “I’m obsessed with externals!” then grunge, pierced bodies, and tattoos! Come on, folks! Let’s be real. A true view of Christ will admit to the necessary result of outward change. It amazes me that so many of you are self-declared lovers of the Puritans, but you have no problem whatsoever with the worldly dress of your congregations. Apparently you aren’t reading the Puritans. They happened to believe that there was a close tie between the heart and the wardrobe. Ironically, the punk/grunge/rock culture believes it too. I know the punk/grunge/rock culture. They are very aware of their clothes and it is naïveté to think otherwise. If they are really seeing the glory of Jesus, they will want to repudiate the culture their clothes endorse.

The garments that we make to cover our bodies, must be such as may express the virtues of our minds; specially the virtues of Modesty, Frugality, Shame-facedness. They should be as a book written with text letters, wherein, at the first, any man may read the graces that be in the heart. (William Perkins). Do clothes that scream rebellion and individualism express the virtue of submission to a Glorified Lord? I think not.

We may have goofed up in some areas. This is true. I am ashamed of the shameful things we have done. We have practically turned culottes into a sacrament. I think God will forgive us. But our concern about clothing is rooted in common, Biblical sense. We repent of our excesses, our pietistic phariseeism. But we are not afraid of the facts: clothes say something. And I come to Jesus not just with the speech of my lips, but with the speech of my attire.

Recently a young man with an attitude toward his fundamentalist heritage accused me of being an externalist when I suggested different alterations in his lifestyle so as to help him be delivered from the throes of his sexual perversions. I fired back at him that if he wanted to thumb his nose at me as a narrow-minded, uneducated fundamentalists because I was looking for an outward manifestation of his supposed discipleship in the realm of things and clothes, fine. But then he should also do the same to Jesus who asked the rich, young ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, THEN – and only then – was he invited to follow Him. Yikes! That sounds Fundamentalist! That sounds Puritanical! It definitely does not sound like anything we would hear from the liberated ex-Fundamentalists who tend to classify all outward changes as legalism.

It is a fact of life that the ministry that has begun to see Jesus as He is will not always be comfortable as they are. And, it borders on a weird sort of evangelical gnosticism to suggest that externals are totally unrelated to the internal. Yet that seems to have become the philosophy of many evangelical churches today.

I don’t know what Peter thought. Maybe something like this:

It’s just a fisherman’s cloak. Dirty, wet, smelly. But when I come before the Lord who loves me, Jesus of Nazareth, I would rather wear it then wear nothing. I would rather wear the symbol of my work than by my nakedness symbolize my disregard for the majesty of His Person. Hurry! Put it on! Dive! It is the LORD!


31 Responses

  1. Whoa! So tell me, Pastor Bob, what do you really think about the issue! Yours is a legitimate cry for the Biblical center. Preach on.

  2. Pastor Bixby, this is striking at the heart of what I’m wondering.

    We’re told to keep ourselves unstained from the world, to not be conformed to the world.

    But the trouble seems to be, what is “the world”? It’s always changing.

    For example, you talked about grunge being a clothing style of rebellion. I had never heard that before. To me, grunge is a worldly fashion that I don’t personally like, so I don’t wear it. Maybe during hippy time everyone knew they were rebelling and their clothing was a sign of that. But now, so much of that style has just filtered into the culture to become a natural part of our lives (and economy). Many kids now don’t understand the history behind it, so rebellion isn’t necessarily in their minds when they wear whatever it is.

    Like music– the drum rhythms. That used to be clearly rock and roll. But today, it’s all infiltrated into many things, so it’s not so clearly associated with rock and roll. Christians use them, too, now.

    I guess that’s the question. How does a believer keep himself unstained from the world? What’s worldly in one believer’s mind is different from what’s worldly in another believer’s mind. Some Christian leaders try to teach “systems of worldliness,” I guess you could call it. Like men who preach messages on music and drums and lyrics and fashions. Yes, there’s a place for that, but often, they are defining worldliness in ways that are subjective and constantly shifting in a culture.

    In myself, I even experience this constant shift. When these certain little hair clippy things came out, I wouldn’t wear them myself because to me, they were worldly. But to other sisters, they weren’t. And now, they’re normal for me, and I wear them, and it’s not a sin in my conscience. And goatees. To me, a few years back, those were associated with the world. But I know brothers who have them. At first, I was shocked that they would wear facial hair in such an apparently worldly style. But I can’t judge them, because it was worldly in MY MIND, not theirs. And now, it’s normal for me. I don’t associate it with the world anymore. Music: my standards have greatly fluxuated over the last 10 years, as to what, to me, is worldly and with what I can worship the Lord.

    Here in Ukraine, I do things that believers in my circle have labeled “worldly.” I have bangs in my hair, I have hair cut up to my shoulders. I have a perm. I wear perfume sometimes. I even (gasp!) wear a touch of makeup sometimes! To them, they could consider me a horrible person that is immature and needs a lot of growing. But that is exactly what I think about THEM for being sticklers on these little issues!! And for their sakes, I do defer on a lot of issues– like not wearing jewelry, wearing red clothing, etc. And they do things (like mixed swimming and wearing bikinis) that I think are TERRIBLE! (sigh, it goes on and on . . . )

    So anyway, these grunge people in church. Maybe in never occurs to them that their dress is anti-establishment. Maybe it’s just how they dress; it’s neutral to them– let’s just suppose it is.(This is the bottom-line question.) In God’s mind, are they being worldly? If worldliness is actually a matter of thinking (e.g., rebellion) and expressed though our creativity (music, dress, art), what changes when the person becomes a believer? What does GOD want them to change? Yes, He wants their thinking changed. But what happens to those subjective areas?

    We want them to wear clothes like ours now, to listen to music without drums, and to express God the way we do. But what if they can wear grunge and it’s not associated with rebellion? or they can wear a goatee and it’s not worldly in their minds? or they can listen to music with more drums than we’re comfortable with and it’s not sensual or whatever to them? What does God want them to do? That is what I wrestle with.

  3. or perhaps the real question is: What is conformity? What is it that stains us?

  4. Bob, though you were trying to be sensitive in not naming names, you’ve openly made judgements against and negative assumptions about your brothers in Christ, about a church that you’ve probably never visited, a church that is thriving and bringing glory to Jesus in a cultural context different from yours.

    Having been part of that blog, I know that you are referring to Wendy’s comment about Mars Hill Church in Seattle (http://www.marshillchurch.com/ ). Having attended this church for four months–I would still be there if I hadn’t moved–I can quite firmly declare that you have missed the boat in this case. Think what you want of them and me, but I honestly believe Mars Hill is one of the finest and healthiest churches in West, if not the entirity of the nation. Most of us as churches and individuals would do well to learn from their example.

    As Anne mentioned above, not everything assumed or stated to be a sign of rebellion IS a sign of rebellion to those within the cultural unit. Certainly not ten years after the original fad. Being new to the area, last Spring I commented on my assumptions about grunge to my roommate (currently an active member at Mars Hill). Drew is a strong and mature believer and continues to grow at the church. His family lives across Puget Sound in a small town, so he’s been familiar with the greater Seattle area for many years. He said that what the entertainment industry promoted as “grunge” was simply what pretty much everyone in area was wearing at the time: flannel, baggier pants and jackets, wool caps, earthy colors. In the sense that Seattle likes to do its own thing and doesn’t care much about national fads, I suppose you could call it “rebellion.” Mostly it was “practical” because of the unpredictable weather in the area, which shifts between cold and wet, cold and drizzly, and cold and raining all day and night from mid-September through mid-April. Flannel was warm. The hats were warm. Baggy kept wet fabric away from your skin.

    Regarding the church itself, Mars Hill is excellent at “come as you are” but “leave a new person.” The church leaders wear nice clothes (not suits or ties–you’ll hardly see a suit in the high-class business districts of Seattle) and try to set a positive standard and example in dress. Dress among the congregation is not particularly “grungy,” though the music does lean that way (the Seattle ideal of good music is a garage band with thought-provoking lyrics). The pastors do not preach about clothing because they know that clothing is secondary and fashions are passing. They preach about Jesus. They sing about Jesus. Had Jesus made a big deal about fashion, they would preach about it. He did not, and neither do they. They are one of the most Gospel-centric congregations I have ever had the privilege of observing. As the preaching normally works through books of the Bible, I’m sure they will hit on fashion-aspects sometime since it does come up, particularly in the Pentatuch. The leadership does often mention and live out concepts of modesty, and the people follow them well.

    So why is there still evidence of a grunge and punk culture at services? Because the elders openly estimate that up to 60% of those who regularly come to services are not yet committed believers. They have a strong work among the two major universities in Seattle: the University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University. They reach out to the city’s large and progressive arts communities. They do not force emotional conversions. They have genuine concern for people. Their difference from the community is not in physical details but is internal and relational (the internal working itself out in each believer’s life, and therefore external). They preach Jesus and trust and pray that he will do his work.

    And he does.

    Having come from a background where dress is a priority, I understand the desire to honor God by wearing nice clothing to services. I’ve often heard the example used of wearing one’s best when coming into the presence of royalty. That’s a good thought. But I also gained a new perspective on the topic one of my last weeks in Seattle. I was talking about different church backgrounds and experiences with Lisa, my roommate’s girlfriend, who has been a believer for roughly a year now and who is growing incredibly at Mars Hill. She said that when she was a teenager she would sometimes go to church with friends and their families, but she always hated the perceived hyprocrisy of seeing all the “normal” people dressing up and acting like they had everything together on Sundays. She said that she doesn’t want to have to think about her clothes when she comes to worship God. She wants to be comfortable so she can forget about herself and think about him unimpeded (humility?). She said that all week long she has to wear fancy clothes for work and worry that everything is just right. She doesn’t want Sunday to be “a fashion show” because that would shift the emphasis from God to the people.

    I would summarize her thoughts and my observation by saying that some view God strictly as King while others see his Fatherly aspects much more strongly. If fancy clothes help you understand God and love him, then wear them! If you can better contemplate, worship and come to him in comfortable clothes, then fine. Fabric does not send people to Hell. Our opinions about clothing should not drive people away from life.

  5. Please don’t tell me the harsh criticisms can go only one way. I thought we were intellectually honest. . .Anyway, I didn’t do the naming and many of my readers don’t cross over into the other web log domain and would have not known anything about it. Also, I did admit the possibility of misrepresenting the church I was thinking of. I admit that I was thinking of Mars Hill because of the recent comments on the web log and I knew some of you might read it, so I’m not offended that this irritated you. I accept your privilege and right to defend yourselves and I praise the Lord that souls are being brought to Jesus. However, I am not misrepresenting a mindset that is currently out there and though I am a Fundamentalist I do have a head on my shoulders (believe it or not), I am fairly current on trends, and I think I have more experience than you do with cultures of many different sorts. Evangelicalism is wrong to roll over and play dead to culture is one point I’ll develop further on in this conversation. But, let’s get this settled first – I am disappointed that we young intellectuals can huff and puff at Fundamentalism, but the first criticism going the other way and bang! You reacted like the Fundamentalists that you are so disgusted with, Jon. Shame on you. Be the open-minded intellectual that you seem to think everyone else in the world is except those of us who aren’t ashamed to be Fundamentalists. Praise the Lord if you prove me wrong. But I haven’t even begun to give my arguments.

    I’ll answer both yours and Anne’s as time permits in the hope that those who are brave enough will be able to get something from this conversation. In the meantime, I will pray that God prospers Mars Hill for His glory and that God will mercifully teach me what He has taught you, for I am sure I have much to learn. Forgive me for unnecessary offense.

    But I’ll also stick to my guns. I’ve got a point, and you all need to start thinking about it. It seems like there is a lot of confusion on the issue of culture and worldliness. Let’s talk about it. I’m one Fundy that has thought about it.

  6. Interesting article, though perhaps a little weak in some of its reasoning. Then very thoughtful and interesting comments by Anne(?) and Jonathan. But what’s with the response here by Pastor Bob? You’re awfully defensive…are you allowed to disagree with this church in Seattle but nobody is allowed to disagree with you? This Jonathan guy took the time to respond thoughtfully to your little article, then you rip him for doing it. You say you “haven’t even begun to give my arguments.” Isn’t that what you just spent a couple thousand words doing? If you’re going to post arguments like this, at least be ready for some discussion and don’t assume that your view is right just by virtue of your having your own little weblog (which I notice has had a grand total of 31 visitors since it started, though you speak of “my readers” like its some huge group). Anyway, maybe this is a little harsh, but as a new visitor who was told this might be a blog worth reading, I’m disappointed.

  7. One note: not about the actual article but about the comment (dare I say barb? 😉 about the low readership of this weblog.

    I’m the one responsible for the technical side of this (and about 20 other) weblogs. The counters are currently not fully functional (i.e. the numbers are wrong). Until I can put time into getting them working correctly, I’ll remove the ones that aren’t counting correctly soon.

    From some server-side stats that I’m able to see, this weblog actually has quite a high readership (especially considering the recent silence for several weeks) — about 15-20 unique visitors per day (much better than a lot of other weblogs out there :-).

    Finally, on my own personal weblog I simply delete all comments left by people who leave fake email addresses regardless of the nature of the comment (noemail@yahoo.com as listed in the previous comment). If you wish to make remarks (and especially if you wish to disagree with the author of the weblog ;-), have the courage to leave your email address.

  8. Well, I guess I’m just feeling like some logical dissection. I’ll just take the shortest comment first as my time’s somewhat limited.

    1. John says “Interesting article, though perhaps a little weak in some of its reasoning.” Ok….fair enough. Where’s the proof/explanation of the weakness?

    2. John states that Pastor Bob’s reply is defensive and stifling to independent thought. However, Pastor Bob finished his reply by stating “Let’s talk about it.” So let’s continue talking.

    3. Mars Hill Church. I know nothing of the church first-hand (visited their website a bit). However, Pastor Bob does state that 1) he’s not singling out a specific church (he doesn’t even mention the church) but is 2) referring to a general mindset which hearing about a church made him think of (note: not the church…hearing something about the church made him think of this).

    Jonathan replies “you’ve openly made judgements against and negative assumptions about your brothers in Christ, about a church that you’ve probably never visited”. That’s specifically what Pastor Bob said he hadn’t done. There seems to be a logical disconnect.

    4. John makes (snide?) remarks about the readership of this weblog. What does that have to do with the intellectual content of the article? This rather feels like someone who has decided he doesn’t like something and needs a cute parting shot.

    5. John leaves a fake email address….hmmm, I think I already addressed this one. 🙂

    Lots more to discuss….but it’s late and I’m sick….so that = time to go to bed. 🙂

    Note: if you respond to my comment, please do me the favor of addressing all points…..not just picking and choosing. Thanks. 🙂

    Disclaimer: I am not a member of Pastor Bob’s church nor have I ever met him personally. I’m simply reading the article and comments and reply as I see it.

  9. P.S. I don’t always wear a tie to church either….but I think there is definite merit to preparing ourselves when we go before God to worship him…..mentally, spiritually & physically (guess dress falls in the last one).

    And no, no hard definitions of what that “preparation” means. Lots to think about….

  10. Woops….I made a mistake. In my comment above (with all the numbered points), I wrote “John” in some spots where I should have written “Jim”. My apologies to Jon. 🙂

  11. “When zeal spends itself about the less essential matters of forms and names, about points in which the wisest and the best have always differed, I would, if I could, lull it fast asleep. How does Christ receive us? Does He wait till we are all exactly of a mind?

    “Does He confine His regards, His grace, His presence, within the wall of a party? Is He the God of the Presbyterians or the Independents only? Do not some amongst you, and some amongst us, know with equal certainty that He has received them? Do not they, do not we, know what it is to taste that He is gracious?…

    “And shall zeal presume to come in with its ifs and its buts, and to build up walls of separation? Yet many true believers are so much under the spirit of self and prejudice that they verily mean to do the Lord’s service by substituting their own commands in the room of His. And they see no harm in saying, ‘You must think and act as I do, subscribe my paper, and worship in my way, or else, though I hope the Lord has received you, I think it my duty to keep my distance from you.'”

    ~ John Newton* (1725-1807)

    “Who will deny that a man may be liberal [as in generous] in his views, give the right hand of fellowship to those who differ from ihim in non-essentials, yea, the heart of love to those of kindred spirit, and yet have an opinion, and a reason for that opinion, on these lesser points?”

    ~ Josiah Bull (1738-1813)

    *(in a letter to a Presbyterian friend, about “the true use of zeal in the great questions of sin and salvation,” as quoted by Josiah Bull in BUT NOW I SEE: THE LIFE OF JOHN NEWTON, pp.273-74)

  12. Let me reiterate. This is not about Mars Hill. My previous remarks were sincere. God bless them. And as to the anonymous “jim”, he made one mistake: I obviously haven’t been defensive. I’ve been offensive! 😉

    Now, I don’t want to talk about Mars Hill. I want to talk about “Clothes and Jesus”. From now on I’ll probably take Andrew’s advice and scratch anonymous entries, but this one made me chuckle!

  13. Pastor Bob, your viewpoint on clothes is far from what the heart of the matter is. The problem with Fundamentalism today is that it has become an idealistic religion. Religion is systematic and idealistic not realistic. People in the world claim a certain religion to identify with a set of views or way of life. I have yet to see a Fundamentalist who is more dedicated towards the cause of reaching lost souls than he is to making church activities intended for the sake of gathering his narrow-minded congregation. What is the point of church? In my mind the reason we have church is for a spiritual breather and refresher. In most sports you have a half time for the players to rest and recooperate. Church is the same concept. Our job as Christians is to be fighting the good fight 7 days a week and we take the 7th day to come to church and be spiritually challenged and refreshed. We need that breather to go out into the world on a daily basis and let them know that they are on their way to hell if they don’t repent. That is first and foremost what God called us to do. Your religion has the view that the church is for Christians only and it’s sort of a club that they all get to attend and feel attatched to. Church makes them feel like they belong to something and can identify with the viewpoints of the other people in that congregation. They don’t challenge themselves to develop their own viewpoints. They listen to what you and others in your same position have to say and assume it’s the truth and never question or contest it. Most Fundamentalists I know stay to themselves and when they do attempt to witness they judge other people by their clothing, piercings, or tattoos. The sad thing is your religion could be the reason people are going to hell instead of being shown the truth of the gospel. Fundamentalists would much rather stay in their own circles and keep their 1950’s point of view, than to venture out into the real world and actually try to understand what happens in the day and age we live in. Keep the standards that your historical leaders have set in place, but for what reason? They are standards set by men not God. God doesn’t look on the outward appearance, he looks at the heart. Can you judge a person’s heart by their clothing? If you say yes, you are stepping into the position of God because He is the only one able to see the heart of that person. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. If we only see the apperance of a person we may never be able to get past that narrowm-minded view. You probably have people in your own congregation that dress modestly and properly according to your churches standards, but their heart could be dead to the things of God. I pray that is not the case, but if you look at the outward appearance and assume everything is ok, then you never find out the matters of their heart. That person could struggle with huge sin problems, but you have never taken the time to speak with them and let the Holy Spirit show you their heart and soul because you assume by their outward appearance that they are growing as a Christian. Tell me who cares about this issue of certain styles of clothing? Name me one other denomination of churches that actually preaches on or addresses this issue in depth and you will have named another denomination that has lost the focus of the Word. If you didn’t think about issues this shallow, more people might actually show up to Fundamentalist churches to listen to the Gospel instead of having to listen to the insane idealistic views about the clothes you put on every day that are necessity to operate in the society we live in. The Bible has the basic view on clothing to remain modest. That doesn’t say that certain styles are bad, it just says to remain modest. So modest to me means that the clothes cover the majority of my body, not revealing things that are meant for your husband or wife. Not all of the world’s styles do that so then comes the right to use discression. God gives us discression on what to do everyday in our lives. SO USE IT!!! Don’t pass your idealistic views onto another generation. Please spare the rest of us Christians the bad rep and just teach people that God gives us discression and He will show us how to use it. Feel free to reply. By the way. Andrew, just because you help with this weblog doesn’t mean you should post stuff on it. You sound like Pastor Bob’s personal cheerleader and should probably find your intellect and develop some of your own viewpoints before posting anything else to this page.

  14. I think we may have all been misreading one another’s intentions in this post. I wanted to address a few things in a private e-mail conversation with Bob, but now I feel like I ought to attempt to help with a few fires I inadvertantly caused. This post will have very little to do with the actual topic of “Clothes and Jesus,” but a few things seem to need to be said.

    First of all, I admit that I missed the second paragraph of Bob’s original post: “If I have misrepresented the one church I am thinking of . . . .” I guess that my first post should really have said, “Yes, you did misrepresent them.” Coming from that church and knowing who you were talking about, the words you chose for that first paragraph were pretty inflammatory to me, Bob. I apologize for misreading your intent and causing more trouble than the issue is worth. I meant to defend a group that (obviously) I appreciate a great deal.

    But I must also thank Jim (whom I assume to be the same as James) for his defense of me after the responding post. I had not intended my post to be as vitriolic as it must have sounded, and I was rather hurt by the response. I admit that I have a hard time trusting people who claim the label “Fundamentalist.” And you’re right, Bob, you do have much more cross-cultural experience than I will ever have. I’m sorry that my first response must have sounded like a personal attack. I did not intend it as such, but my opening paragraph did sound that way. It would have been more appropriate in a private e-mail conversation than a public forum. Unfortunately, it’s out in public now.

    But to defend both Andrew and Bob, I’m fairly certain that they mean well. Andrew hosts this blog, so he does have some interest in what’s said. Sometimes things are said more strongly than one feels, and e-mail/blogs are among the worst form of communication for conveying emotion, as this series of posts well proves.

    Again, I’m sorry that my response or wording caused such problems and negative attitudes/assumptions all around.

    Bob, I would like to address a few things in private. Do you have an e-mail address other than the one listed on this page? I’m in a closed country, and while I’m fairly open in my communications, your e-mail address is just a little too touchy for me. Mine is jonhanneman@yahoo.com. If you don’t have a different address, I’d feel better about replying to an address rather than typing it in on my own.

    Again, sorry to all for the problems!

  15. For James and whomever else might profit from it (I did/do)…

    [As for the public, many] are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but
    they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that
    meekness, humility and love are the characteristics of a Christian
    temper. . . . They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from
    such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of
    our arguments. The Scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not
    the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our
    zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may
    think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we
    shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and
    which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not
    carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and
    experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our
    readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to
    their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy
    them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will
    be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer.

    ~ John Newton
    (Works, Vol 1; Banner of Truth, 1985, p. 269f.)

    I don’t know about the rest of the readership, but as I think through these questions and conclusions…some of them quite novel for me…the author’s spirit becomes very important. A caustic and self-defensive tone conveys arrogance and self-righteousness, completely undermining scholarly and spiritual credibility and serving merely as an impetus to turn off / throw out all that speaker was trying to communicate.

    Not to mention that it does nothing to demonstrate I Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4, Philippians 2, etc.

  16. Pastor, I think about church clothes in somewhat similar terms as how I think about raising my hands in a worship service or clapping my hands in a choir number.

    Having grown up in fundamental Baptist circles, I am accustomed to a certain paradigm of what is/isn’t church attire. I have grown and my heart has been enlarged by God to be able to understand others’ viewpoints and the biblical support for those viewpoints. I usually do not notice what others are wearing (almost to a fault). If a church visitor’s attire is so different that it does catch my attention, I simply make a mental note to focus on his heart and welcome him as he is. However, FOR ME, because of my background, etc., I find it difficult to “dress down” too much because it is a distraction for me. Wearing jeans or shorts myself to a service would occupy too much of my attention and by the self-consciousness it would create, it would de-authenticates my motives.

    Those with a true understanding of grace shown to them want to promote graciousness themselves. I believe the non-new-converts segment of our church body is one such example of a group that is accustomed to that certain paradigm and yet gracious enough to accept others’ views and/or ignorance as the case may be. Praise God for a body of believers whose focus is continually in a state of adjustment according to the all-corrective lens of the Bible.

    As for Jesus’ change-wringing impact on a new believer and how Jesus’ Kingship should reign over all of our clothing choices, I would say that we have a sovereign Christ. He will continue to do a good work if He’s started one. His Word makes it clear that the principles of modesty and appropriateness and testimony are a part of the sanctification to which we all should attain…and we set our own personal benchmarks in accordance thereto and in good conscience before Him.

    Do we need to tell new converts a “dress code” in terms of skirts and neckties? No. We need to show them Bible principles and allow them time to come to their own conclusions according to God’s agenda, God’s curriculum, God’s timing. We are indeed not the fourth member of the Trinity. We believe that God will use His written and preached Word to illumine submissive hearts and prick non-submissive ones. We believe that He is bigger than our standards and criteria. We believe that He will major on the majors and minor on the minors when it comes to growing His people up into His image, and we try to follow suit–majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors.

    That’s not to say that individuals in the church shouldn’t encourage one another if, for instance, immodesty becomes a problem that actually offends (as in the biblical sense of offense: ensnares) another member of the assembly. In crisis situations, more specific guidance is correlatively necessary, but even those guidance opportunities are opportunities to point the person to the Word as the rule of our faith and practice (and not point that person to a humanly-derived list of DOs and DON’Ts).

    I’m not going to comment on the grunge stuff particularly, since it’s far outside my realm of experiential nor cerebral knowledge. I know I would sooner be attracted to other styles and lines of clothing, and yet some of those name brands that would tend to attract me (if I were affluent enough to buy) are marketed to appeal to extremely anti-God portions of our society.

    Can I pick/choose from what’s available in stores today? Yes. Does the fact that I purchase a pair of slacks from the same company that sells flimsy tank tops bother me? Not personally. I bought a Mountain Dew last night from a restaurant that would’ve been glad to sell me beer until I was blind drunk. We’re in the world and not of it. Let’s let the incarnate Word and His written counterpart govern our personal clothing choices.

  17. Jon. No hard feelings here whatsoever. I understand the misunderstanding. I was trying to be provocative, so I was expecting some reaction. With that in mind, I should have been even more clear to make sure it did not appear that I was targeting one particular group. I still want to talk about the mindset though.

    Apologies accepted. I’ll drop a line from my other acccount. And thanks for helping put out unnecessary fires. I don’t blame your mistrust of some Fundamentalists, but I hope you know me enough to at least trust me to talk it completely out even though we may not come down on the same side.

    James has brought up a few things that merit a little response. Forgive me this sarcasm (I am, after all, a mean-spirted Fundamentalist): I’m praying for ‘discression’ to know how to answer someone who challenges the intellect of other people. I am also very humbled that he has graciously invited me to reply on my own weblog. I hope I get the chance to do it soon, but this is actually a side hobby for me. Then eventually we might get back on track.

    James, you say that you don’t know one Fundamentalist that is more “dedicated to the cause of reaching lost souls than he is in making church activities intended for the sake of gathering his narrow-minded congregation”. Let me introduce myself. My name is Bob Bixby. I’m a Fundamentalist. I’m a soul-winner. Just ask the people in my “narrow-minded congregation”. If you are out every single night of the week in evangelistic Bible studies,discipleship, and pastoral visits you might understand how difficult it is to enjoy this weblog conversation as much as I would like.

    Anne’s question is good. I want to get there some time!

  18. Yes, please. Can you just shake hands, be friends, and start talking about my question? It’s the burning question. Here’s a recap . . .

    In God’s mind, are people being conformed to the world when they are expressing (through dress, music, art, whatever) what a segment of “the world” has garnered as theirs? Are they being worldly when, in their own minds, there is no association between what they are doing and “the world”?

    If not, how then can we judge anyone in these subjective areas?

    (And then, how can we know what is subjective and what is absolute?)

  19. You’re right, Anne. We need to evaluate what the biblical definition of worldliness is before we start labeling clothing styles or other culturally-influenced choices as “worldly.”

    I think that I John 2:15-17,

    15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (ESV)

    and Galatians 5:19-21,

    19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    and James 3:15-16,

    15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

    are a GREAT place to start for discerning a revealed-from-God definition of worldliness.

    And examining worldliness’s converses (as revealed by God in His Bible) are also a great way to start defining worldliness itself by pointing up the polarities. For instance, James 3:17-18,

    17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

    and Galatians 5:22-26,

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
    25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

    and I John 4:1-12,

    1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

    are great contrast passages that demonstrate the opposite of a heartset of worldliness. May we all be gentle and easy-to-be-intreated, without partiality and without hypocrisy, as we seek to discover and express and live NON-worldliness as God Himself defines it in His no uncertain, absolute-truth terms.

  20. Wow….it’s amazing how many comments there are on this topic.

    Re “discression” & intellectuallity: some statements seem to have no worthwhile answer in a discussion about a completely separate topic. So therefore on to the next thought.

    Re “conveying tone of voice via the written word” (per Jon Hanneman): yes, I completely agree with this. While it seems almost juvenile, that’s why I use smiley faces (in weblogs and online forums…I’ve gotten over the juvenile feeling). I haven’t found a better way to convey tone of voice other than using an enormous amount of words. :-/

    My previous comments: I was simply trying to point out what seemed to be logical inconsistencies in some of the preceding posts.

    Concerning the actual topic: I agree with the idea….if a person is dressed in a “worldly” or rebellious way when they are saved, I would expect that over time as they mature spiritually (the inner man), their outward appearance (outer man) would conform to the new nature and Spirit that lives within them. If there is not an outward change (in habits, actions and appearance) and the person claims greater maturity (not drinking milk, but wanting to eat meat and/or lead others), it would seem only sensible to question the inward change. While we cannot know another’s inner man, we are told “by their fruit ye shall know them”. Concerning the whole issue of judgment, we’re told not to cast our pearls before swine. That definitely implies the necessity of making judgement as to who the swine are. Thinking about all that in regards to the issue of clothing led me to…..

    Going deeper: defining wordly. In the area of dress, can we define it separate from the other outward areas? i.e. the person’s desire to win other’s to Christ, to study His word, to be in His place (church). This is where I find myself in some ways coming back to Anne’s question and in some agreeement with Jon.

    Jon wrote about grunge dress in the context of Seattle. I was quite interested to hear about the practical realities in Seattle. In the Seattle area it seems quite sensible to dress that way. But outside of Seattle (or that particular climate), those practical realities don’t exist…..and thus people who wear “grunge” do so for other reasons (to identify with Pearl Jam/Kurt Cobain for example). Pastor Bixby, I believe, started his article by specifically stating he was not limiting his arguments to one specific geographical area. It is the “outside of Seattle” areas, where there are not practical realities for certain ways of dress/doing things that are the crux of the issue.

    And so I mentally come to Anne’s question but with an additional facet. To paraphrase Anne, what makes something worldly? (such an old yet new question it seems….but we must find an answer as we are commanded not to be worldly) To expand that, can we consider worldliness solely in the area of dress? There’s a part of me that says we can….but then there are all the “Seattles” which knock down the clean lines of logic.

    And of course (as is often the case), after a great deal of logical meandering, I am reminded how God’s ways are greater than our ways. Our “logic” is but a small subset of his “wisdom”….for which I am very grateful. However, given what relatively “little wisdom” he has seen fit to give us, I think we are amiss if we do not at least seek to exercise it (however painfully) to find His will for our lives.

  21. it’s amazing…

    how many responses there can be to a “little” article about clothing. Penses: Clothes and Jesus I don’t usually get caught up in long weblog discussions of this nature…..but I did this time. And since I wrote a fairly long…

  22. I am preparing a “Clothes and Jesus, Part Two” in the occasional spare minutes that I get, but in the meantime, I’d like to invite you to read an excellent (in my opinion) article by Dr. Peter Masters that I read sometime ago. Just tonight I decided to see if the Metropolitan Tabernacle had posted it on their site, and there it is! I have some more thoughts on clothes, culture, and worldliness, but if you are anxious for a powerful lecture on what worldliness is, check this out. http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Pages/TWO%20KINGDOMS.html

  23. I’ve not taken the time to read the above article that Pastor Bob mentioned (computer problems), but this question has prompted me to do some Bible study on my own, and I’d like to share some thoughts that might help us find a road here.

    I’ve never looked at it this way until now, but when God gave the Law (in the OT), He created/dictated many elements of Israeli culture–clothing, hair, activities, dealing with sickness, sex, childbirth, eating requirements, worship, civil justice, punishments, reconciliation, economy, farming, etc. Because these elements of culture had specific mandates from God assigned to them, they became SPIRITUAL ISSUES.

    Now run to the New Testament, Acts 15. Converted Pharisees are saying that converted Gentiles must be circumcised and obey the Mosaic Law. In one respect, that is saying that they must change many, many elements of their “Gentile” culture to be like Jewish culture. To the Jews, these elemental things were still spiritual issues.

    What happened?

    Well, as we have experienced here already, there was “much debate” (v. 7). :o) Then what? What did they decide that the Gentiles had to do in regards to all these cultural issues?

    Here’s all they ended up doing: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.”

    Out of ALL the Mosaic Law, that was IT! Shew! (vs. 31–“The people read it and were glad for its ENCOURAGING message.”)

    Now, I’m not sure what the cultural deal was with blood and strangled animals, but the immorality part is consistently universal (cf other NT passages & the 10 commandments), and, interestingly for us, the Bible has more to say about the food offered to idols issue (another cultural issue).

    Paul gave believers even more freedom in this matter: if you know the reality that idols don’t exist and you can eat such food with liberty– eat! But if you have a brother who assigns SPIRITUAL VALUE to eating such food– if eating this food is, IN HIS MIND, AN ACT OF WORSHIPPING THOSE IDOLS– then don’t eat for his sake– in case he sees you doing it and eats himself while it is still considered an act of worship to him. (cf. I Cor. 8 & 10)

    I think that’s the heart of this question: idol worship. These elements–food, music, dress– they are able to become SPIRITUAL by what the world does with them, and by what we associate with them in our minds (usually because of our culture). Even though there is only one God, demonically-generated ideas of gods run through the world–through cultures (I Cor. 10:20).

    Repeatedly, believers in the N.T. are told not to worship idols (I Jn. 5:21; I Cor. 10:7,14; I Thess. 1:9; I Cor. 12:2; Acts 15:20).

    THAT is the MAIN ISSUE– what you are worshipping. And the reason that these subjective elements are so hard for us to deal with is that each person is in himself a different culture and each person lives in a different culture and these cultures are always changing.

    So what I may do with a free conscience may be sin in another’s conscience because for them, it’s “worldly;” it’s like worshipping an idol. For example, I like doing Yoga. This activity is associated with certain Eastern religions. However, it is a valid form of exercise (quite strenuous), and I KNOW that those gods do not exist; there is no such thing as those gods. When I do Yoga exercises, in my heart, I can worship God. My conscience is strong here. For another believer, for them to do Yoga would be like performing an act of worship to those gods (or those religions). I would not ask this believer to do Yoga with me.

    Some conclusions:
    1. We can’t judge what a person is worshipping from these subjective elements of dress, music, etc; therefore, we cannot judge the spirituality of another believer based on shallow observations.
    2. These elements will be continually shifting as cultures and individuals change.
    3. The main issue is heart worship.
    4. The purpose of having standards: to express God’s holiness to a particular culture for a particular time period; to help us avoid heart worship of idols; to accomodate weak consciences–our own or a brother’s (though we should all be striving for maturity [i.e., not letting these elemental things become false sin snares]); to encourage new believers and not overburden them with the Law.

    That’s the condensed version of 3 pages of notes 🙂

  24. I’ve read the above discussion with much interest because I recently did a word study on “cosmos” with the goal of establishing a grid for personal evaluation.

    Besides the verses that actually deal with the physical earth, universe, and earth as the scene of human existence, there are many theologically weighted refereces. They seemed to fall into 3 categories.

    (1) The scene of legitimate earthly business
    egs. 1 Corinthians 7:30-31 1 Corinthians 7:33 Matthew 13:22
    **Wordliness can be attachment to the temporal, even the things that may not be itself wicked. Satan tempted Eve with a legitimate desire. The problem is attaching self to things that cannot satisfy. It is a philosophy that says, “I can get by without God.” – from a lecture by David Shumate.

    (2) The scene of human existence which appears as that which opposes God. (This heading is derived from the sheer number of verses that juxtapose God’s system v. the system that appears as hostile to God and his people. I had entered the study skeptical of an entity hostile to God, but its presence is undeniable.)

    (3) The Christian’s relationship to the above hostile entity. egs. John 17:11, 2 Cor 5:19-20; Jas 1:27

    I found the following propositions from the biblical data:
    1. It lies in the power of the evil one.
    2. It will be overcome by God who is greater than it.
    3. It will be condemned, but we will be saved.
    4. It has a “course” and a spirit which guides it.
    5. It does not know the Father.
    6. It does not recognized the Son.
    7. It is convicted by the Spirit.
    8. It has a “spirit” which can be received.
    9. It produces sorrow that leads to death.
    10. It rejects Christ and hates his followers.
    11. It loves its own, but hates believers.
    12. It will give us tribulation.
    13. It has a distinct wisdom that God calls “foolish” and “demonic.”
    14. It has elementary principles (religious) that we are to die to.
    15. It has anti-christ preachers whose message is applauded.
    16. It can “taint” you with its influence.
    17. It can be crucified.
    18. Its advantages are temporal (passing away).

    Here are the results of ruminating upon the three categories.

    The World: the scene of human existence in which condemned and depraved beings under the spiritual oversight of Satan engage in actions hostile to God and pursue the temporal instead of the eternal.

    Worldliness: an improper relationship with the scene of human existence in which condemned and depraved beings under the spiritual oversight of Satan engage in actions hostile to God and pursue the temporal instead of the eternal (specifically, a relationship characterized by joining rather than repudiating those actions which appear as hostile to God, characterized by infatuation with the temporal instead of the eternal, and/or characterized by an appearance of either).

    A grid for self-evaluation:
    Am I (1) . . . joining rather than repudiating actions which appear as hostile to God? (2) . . . infatuated with the temporal instead of the eternal? (3) . . . unwittingly giving the appearance of either?

    ** I realize that #3 is the controversial one. “Appearance of either” is association, a principle drawn from the sheer weight of material showing how antithetical is the “this world” and God’s plan. It helps to think in terms of “jerseys”. Which team is my jersey identifying me with? Many issues cannot be (nor should be) proof-texted (e.g., body piercing). Ask, “Is this ‘jersey’ identifying me with beings hostile to God’s economy?” If so, we should gladly decline to wear it.

  25. Very helpful study. I’ll have to print it off and put it in my files. Your conclusion is much like Master’s when he says, “This is a fundamental of the faith – never to forget the chasm between the two kingdoms.”

  26. I just want restate something that Pastor Bob said that really sums it up (and simplifies it) for me. “Clothes are not about making us look good, but about making Him look good.”

    I have just finished reading a book that has challenged me to make much of God in absolutely every area of my life so that when others see me they are pointed directly to God. The question isn’t whether or not I particularly care for a certian style of clothing, but who am I making much of. Is my clothing about me or about Him? Do I dress in a certain style because “I just like it” or because it is the best way to point people directly to my God? What points best to God is an entirely different question that I don’t even care to address at this time but WOW the Spirit is an awesome gift and walking in Him to make my daily decisions- amazing.

    A wise man 😉 once used this illustration to help broaden my view of worldliness- which it did and has stuck with me.

    Two men arrive at church one Sunday morning. One recently saved is wearing his jeans and a t-shirt, another a long time memeber of the church (and saved) wearing a suit (of course). The new beliver heads straight to the front where he grabs a pew Bible (he didn’t bring one) and with a sweet spirit anxiously anticipates the upcoming time of worship during which he sings praises to his God with a pure and joyful heart of worship.

    The oldtimer on the other hand takes his seat, plops down his massive study Bible and begins to number the wordly appearances of the other man. He prides himself in his appearance and spends most of the service in shock that this man could call himself a Christian and come to church dressed like that.

    Now according to Galatians 5:10-26 who is worldly? This question went straight to my heart as I realized that “worldliness” goes much further then our outward appearence. I realize that we all know this and this discussion is designed to be about those outward appearences of worldliness (which are so important) but I often find myself so caught up in my clothes that I have neglected many worldly attitudes.

    Ultimaltly God must be made much of in our clothing to the same extent He is made much of in our attitude. Both should be considered so that it is never about us but always about Him.

  27. Too many of us are idolaters.
    We worship the god called PREFERENCE (a.k.a. presumption, a.k.a self).
    We cut up God’s grace, trod underfoot Jesus’ blood, and sacrifice our the consciences of our spiritual siblings on the altar of our own short-sighted opinions.

    If anything fits the mold of the admonishments in I Corinthians 4-10 and Romans 14-16, I think it’s the present-day controversies over the extent to which Christians can mingle with and reach their culture as opposed to condoning and imbibing it. That would include these issues of how our clothing and music and where-to-go choices ought to manifest our love for Jesus (if you love Me, keep My commandments) and those who are His (herein will they know you are My disciples, if you love one another).

    Pure religion before God is to exhibit love that sacrifices (loving God with all of our all, loving the household of faith and other “neighbors” like orphans and widows, etc. as we love ourselves) and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. As we seek to remain blemishless in accordance with our union with Christ, we cannot do so if we are soiled through and through with the kind of self-love that characterizes the world and those that are not Christ’s.

  28. I wasn’t accusing any one person per se, nor trying to indicate that these comments lately have been leaning in the wrong direction necessarily. Just wanted to clarify that.

    I meant that “we” as in a lot of us in “our circles” tend to have allowed this to occur. A Scottish Puritan by the name of David Dixon said, “I have taken my good deeds and my bad deeds and thrown them together in a heap and fled from them both to Christ and in Him I have peace.” But many of us have become unwitting Pharisees, focusing primarily on our external self-righteousness and ignoring the fact that there’s no gold in the Fort Knox of our hearts to really back up what we display.

  29. And I think what I’m trying to say about idolizing preferences COULD BE applied to people on both sides of whatever “grey” issue lies on the table at the moment.

    On the one hand, if we elevate our view of what is/isn’t adequate and equate that with God-breathed Scripture, or if we elevate external displays over internal realities, then we have a problem.

    On the other hand, if we would soapbox an issue like women in slacks or no ties at church or CCM or alcohol in moderation and say that if other Christians don’t like it it’s their problem (the “get over it or go elsewhere” mentality), then it is we who have the problem, according to Romans 15. If our personal interpretation/application comes before the cause of Jesus Christ or comes before one of those who are members of His body, then our view has become far too important to us.

    Notice that Paul doesn’t major on who was right or wrong, the weaker or the stronger brother. Whether one of them was more accurate, etc., was not the issue AT ALL.

    How they related to one another and exhibited God was key. But whether their personal preference was best was not key. Their faith-FULL conscience before God was at stake. Their treatment of the body was at stake. But winning the debate? Not the point. To win in that scenario was to obey.

    Whether we’re striving to abstain from sin and keep ourselves unspotted from the world, or whether we’re striving to love God and one another in everything we do (or both!), we should be living to the praise of the glory of God’s grace. NOT to the ridicule of it.

  30. A very interesting conversation! I’ve appreciated the interaction among the participants. I realize the conversation appears to have ended some months ago, but perhaps you’d care to comment on an observation and a related question.

    I find it interesting that no one has yet posted comments in this conversation (none that I noticed, at any rate) on 1Ti 2:9-10, as it seems to provide at some level a model for addressing in the context of the church the issue of clothing:

    (8 for context:) “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifing holy hands without anger or quarreling;
    9 “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
    10 “But with what is proper for women who profess godliness — with good works.” (ESV)

    In citing this passage, I’m not suggesting that we transplant wholesale into our cultural context the particular cultural applications Paul is making here. What seems noteworthy, however, is that Paul is moving beyond the principial level in instructing Timothy. He does give principles — but then he prohibits certain specific violations of the principles (notice the “I desire” (Gr. boulomai) in v. 8, which is generally conceded to express an authoritative apostolic command in this context). As I understand the prohibitions Paul makes, he is firing a broadside against some ostentatious practices in feminine attire in his day: time-consuming and showy hairstyles (incorporating elaborate braiding, gold, and pearls) and costly clothes.

    My questions as to the validity of this passage as a model in the area of clothing and the question of setting “institutional standards” are several:

    1) How much does Paul’s position as an apostle and the inspired nature of Scripture enter into the equation? That is, are Paul’s prohibitions merely a record of something he as an apostle had authority to do, or are they a model for what Christian leaders in general are to do?

    2) Was the epistle a purely private communication to Timothy, or was it meant to be read in the assembly?

    3) (Particularly if the epistle was to Timothy only,) How, practically speaking, was Timothy to bring about the apostolic wish within the context of the church at Ephesus? Was he merely to “preach principles” without mentioning the specific applications Paul had given?

    4) Are there other issues which would bear on the question of whether we can accept this passage as a model for dealing with clothing issues within the church?

    The stubborn fact remains (unless I am misunderstanding the passage) that Paul seems to be setting some very specific guidelines here, not just dealing with things on a principial level.

    Or are we to look at the passage as addressing a “crisis situation” (the epistles are, after all, ad hoc) a la Joy’s previous comment (“In crisis situations, more specific guidance is correlatively necessary, but even those guidance opportunities are opportunities to point the person to the Word as the rule of our faith and practice (and not point that person to a humanly-derived list of DOs and DON’Ts).”)?

    So what do you think? Is it valid to use 1 Timothy 2:9-10 as a model for churchly instruction on clothing, and if so, how do and don’t we use it?

  31. Thanks for reviving the conversation, Chuck. I have actually pondered over some of the same questions and I’m eager to hear yours.

    In the ministries that I have had, I have chosen to preach once a year on the topic of modesty/clothing because, unpopular as it is and as “fundy” as it seems, I’m inclined to think that the 1 Timothy passage sets precedent for all pastors to address the issue. How exactly that must be done is highly debatable.

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