Quote of the Week

The “Quote of the Week” this week comes from an animated discussion on this blog. Several women are discussing with several men the issues of modesty. Hurrah to all! I tend to lean toward the perspective of Joy and Karyn in this particular thread (and that’s not because they are huge tithers in my church), but because I think the following quote states so well what I think is the problem in the way the subject of modesty is addressed. Kudos, Joy!

Modesty cannot be reduced to a Men Are from Mars; Women Are from Venus mentality, Mr. Regal. The reading of many books might contribute to, but they cannot provide, a lasting resolution to the issue. Yes, women and men do think differently and operate according to different priorities; but implying that learnin’ them women what it is they jest cain’t seem ta git thru thar haids about how we men jest suffer so on account of ‘em is not the answer, either.

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19 Responses

  1. Too bad I didn’t really provide what the answer is, though. =(

    Maybe I was trying not to steal your thunder for the forthcoming “Part II” post?

    I don’t want to say you’re preaching to the choir, but in all fairness to the men in the discussion, we women who have commented so far are (I hope!) not real representative of the type of person whose enigmatic disparity between creed and conduct is such a source of confusion. There are, unfortunately, a lot of “good Christian girls” out there who seem to (a) have no concept of truly biblical ornamentation and worth, (b) have no concept of their effects on men, or (c) have no concern thereto.

    How can supposedly-guileless missteps in modesty can continually occur in spite of good teaching and in spite of provided resources is as puzzling to me as James’ question of how a fountain can send forth both sweet water and bitter.

    And I am so a “huge tither!”
    (In spirit, anyway.)

  2. Just when I was trying to have discretion and was starting to believe that continuing these discussions was pretty pointless, you came to the rescue, Joy. 🙂
    “How can supposedly-guileless missteps in modesty can continually occur in spite of good teaching and in spite of provided resources…” I guess we both know the answer to that, Joy. 🙂 Women are sinners just like men. I’d so much rather have it openly admitted and dealt with that I am a sinner than have it implied that I am stupid.

  3. exactly.

  4. Oh, dear. You don’t know how hard it has been for the feminist in me to read these posts and not chime in. For one thing, y’all sound so much smarter that the average human. It is intimidating.

    Well, modesty, hmmm. I was brought up in legalistic society, but thankfully with parents who weren’t. I couldn’t wear pants to my church or Christian school, but I could wear them at home or whenever I was out wherever.

    The truth of the matter is that my mother was one of those “guileless” women who actually didn’t have any idea that what she wore was exciting to men. She and my dad used to joke about a “black sweater” she wore in Bible College when they would meet for prayer meeting. My dad said it was really hard to concentrate on the unsaved people in Africa when mom was sitting just five feet away in “that” sweater innocently praying for the unsaved. After they began dating and eventually got married, dad told mom, and she was just shocked and embarrassed as that turned out to be her favorite sweater. She wore it all the time. She felt horrible about all the males she may have corrupted and used it as a cautionary tale to her daughter.

    I, on the other had, was an extremely overweight teenager, so my main concern were clothes that would fit and be somewhat in style. I didn’t worry about modesty, as no one of the male persuasion was looking my way, anyway. My clothes were modest in the way that a tent is modest. Anyway, after I lost weight in college and began dating, I remembered my mom’s black sweater. For a while I dressed more “racy” than I ever had, mostly to show off my svelte new figure.

    I realized after a few months that those clothes and the effect they had on the men around me was actually insulting to me as a woman. I had worth inside, and if a man wanted me, I wanted it to be for my mind, my personality and who I was on the inside. I wouldn’t have “that” body forever, and I wanted him to love me when I was old/overweight/gray/whatever. So, I developed my own personal code of modesty. Of course I wanted to look nice (and did), but I stopped flaunting.

    After my husband and I got married, he explained the lust-of-the-flesh temptations that men face on a minute-by-minute basis. I was amazed. He told me that any man who said he wasn’t tempted by l-o-t-f was a liar. He also told me that a woman could wear the biggest, baggiest dress in the history of the world, and men would still get excited, just by the merest hint of what she might be hiding under there. He admitted it is difficult to be faced with in-your-face temptations through billboards on the tollway, magazine covers at work and ads on television, but the fact of the matter is that women, by God’s design, are attractive to men. I am in no way suggesting that women should dress however they want and expect men to just deal with it. However, the whole area that has been neglected in these posts is a man’s ongoing responsibility TO control HIS l-o-t-f without shifting the blame onto women and the way they dress. I guess I’m just wondering when you were all going to be talking about that. I mean, we’re all in this together. We all face l-o-t-f and have to learn to deal with it, right? So, basically, women try to dress modestly, and men try to rein it in – right? Or am I off-base? Sorry to bring the conversation more down-to-earth, but I just had to ask.

    PS – Hello to David Deets – The sheep to my Little Bo Peep in the kindergarten play at Rockford Baptist.

    Ann-Marie Trotter Soderstrom

  5. There is no doubt that the subject of modesty and the subject of lust are somewhat integrated. That’s obvious because of the discussion following my first post on the subject of modesty. However, I am inclined to think that even if you have a eunuch and an ugly woman in the same room modesty is still a relevant issue, although lust may not as likely. Therefore, I think the best way to approach the subject of modesty is desist from telling women to start dressing “compassionately” for the poor struggling men who cannot control their thoughts. I concur with Ann-Marie who suggested that some men are going to lust no matter how a woman dresses and that the issue in that case is their lust, not the woman’s real or imagined immodesty.

    So (in an attempt to answer AnnMarie), I agree that the subject of lust ought to be addressed, but I am suggesting that the subject of modesty need not be as tightly connected to men’s thought lives as both Kevins have suggested in the thread.

    I am very eager to post the following parts to the subject, but I am discombobulated by the addition of 6 children to my schedule. Being used to parenting only 1, I don’t have the experience of Pastor Subra who fathers 13. This week watching over these children has been delightful, but I have gotten very little done but to survive.

    And for that I am grateful.

  6. Glad you’re reading and talking, A-M! Chime, chime, chime!

    Pastor, I saw your note about “camp ministry” and I started praying all the more earnestly for all involved parties. You’re not putting those kids through Bob-Land Boot Camp, are you?!

  7. The whole discussion of modesty has taken place largely on a human level (i.e. how a woman’s dress affects a man’s thoughts, etc.). Thus the conclusions derived from such a premise are subject to the particular person’s sensibilities (or lack thereof).
    I would suggest that the basic Biblical definition of modesty would be that we dress in such a way as to not draw attention away from our God whom we are supposed to live to draw attention to. The issue is NOT the thoughts of men (how much skin or “movement” do my clothes emphasize and thus “cause” improper thoughts among people of the male gender. Rather the issue is does how I dress (do my jewelry, hair, etc) call attention to my God or to myself? The passages that speak directly to this issue clearly point us in this direction. The issue is that my attitudes reveal my love for the Lord and that my clothing does nothing to distract from that truth. When I dress for “show” or “attraction” I am reflecting that Christ is not first in my thoughts and focus.
    The other issues (the thoughts of men, etc.) will all fall into place when the first love is properly reflected.
    If we don’t do it this way the conversation is unduly unending!
    JET

  8. Wholeheartedly agreed, JET. But be warned: it is dangerous, ill-advised, some in certain circles would say, to leave such choices “only” to the litmus test of love for God and His Bride, in spite of Romans 14 and Romans 15. After all, we might be forced thereby to place more trust in the Holy Spirit for the work of sanctification, and we might be called upon to rigorously submit ourselves to the discipleship of the Word as He rakes and rehauls our “inner man,” working holiness from the inside out.

    That’s way harder than our default recourses. As Piper writes in a recent book,

    I was freed by the doctrine [that God is most honored in us when we find our joy in Him] to pursue that knowledge and that joy with all my heart. And then, to my dismay, I discovered that it is not an easy doctrine. Out of the blue, as it were, I realized that the bar had been raised. Manageable, duty-defined, decision-oriented, willpower Christianity now seemed easy, and real Christianity had become impossible. The emotions — or affections, as former generations called them — which I was now free to enjoy, proved to be beyond my reach. The Christian life became impossible. That is, it became supernatural. ~ John Piper (“How Christian Living Became Impossible,” p. 14 of When I Don’t Desire God)

    Yes, I agree with you. I just hope you’re aware of what you’re really suggesting! We do need an alternative to man-centered measuring sticks, opinions and nuances of opinions and ruffled feathers and tattered baggage and crumpled DO’s/DONT’s lists ad nauseam!

    What you’re describing, on the other hand, JET, is impossible — the concept of flinging ourselves and all lesser loves at the mercy of absolute, irresolute, divine Truth. Truth that must saturate our lives in every aspect, permeating everything with its applications, truly ad infinitum. That kind of Christian living you’re describing is impossible. That is, it’s supernatural.

    Man! Bless God for His grace.

  9. JET said:

    “I would suggest that the basic Biblical definition of modesty would be that we dress in such a way as to not draw attention away from our God whom we are supposed to live to draw attention to.”

    I agree. This gets to the heart of my first point: the ambassadorial obligation. Hopefully, I’ll be able to expand on that point next week.

  10. This is almost humorous. First, Bob, I am ashamed of you for exalting rhetoric over reason. Read your other post if you want the context.

    Second, Karyn and Joy, how is it that the suggestion that you don’t understand everything perfectly implies that you are stupid? Even Ann-Marie has said that she did not initially understand what her racy dress was doing. Do you think she was stupid? I don’t. And whoever said that women weren’t sinners? You seem to be reading things that aren’t written anywhere here.

    Third, Ann-Marie, you provide an excellent example of what I encouraged in the other post. Your husband explained to you things that you did not before understand (at least not as well as you did after his explanation). You are definitely “on-base,” but the discussion was about “modesty” rather than resisting the lust of the flesh. Resisting would be a good topic, it just wasn’t the one under discussion. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Jonathan, I don’t disagree entirely with what you are saying, how could I? You really haven’t said much of anything. What does it mean to dress in a way that draws attention to God? You mention, “passages that speak directly to this issue,” but you don’t say what they are (how convenient–you don’t have to defend your exegesis). As for your optimism about all other things just falling into place, I must point out that that is not what Paul believed about the meat issue in 1Cor8.

    Joy, let me jab for a minute–someone as good at rhetoric as you are must be used to it. You are back to using the trump card. Only this time it is the “Piper trumps all reason and argument card.” One thing I will volunteer about myself is that, though I appreciate much of what John has to say, I don’t recognize the trumping value of that card (I’ve seen it thrown around a lot). Neither should you. Speaking of ad nauseum; how many times is he going to rewrite the same book under different titles?

  11. OK, Mr. Regal. Again. Concerns that are communication-related, but now also bordering on character-related. This one might have even breached the “anger” threshold. =}

    Are you seriously saying you are “ashamed of” and amazed that Pastor “fell for” my rhetoric?! A pastor whom, as far as I know, you’ve never met, on whose blog you are corresponding regularly and lengthily without first establishing any kind of introduction beyond the willingness to append a first and last name?

    News: I’ve never been trained in “rhetoric,” Mr. Regal. It’s not something I craft out for you, intentionally, not something I’m apparently very good at avoiding even if I choose to comply with remonstrants. Here’s how I write: I figure if something is simple enough that I can understand it and illustrate it, then it must be pretty black and white. Honestly, that is the premise from which I operate.

    Trump card — that’s interesting. Particularly your term “Piper trumps all reason and argument card,” since I’m not following whatsoever what rationale and argumentation you perceive me to be attempting to trump with Dr. Piper’s excerpt? I was poking a little bit of fun at the mentality that standards-list-makers seem to think that we can eliminate modesty issues with stipulations such as wearing culottes over snow-pants on skiing trips. I know that is not your mentality, so I’m having a hard time understanding why it offends you that I employed “rhetoric” yet again. And how was the quote/”card” at all inappropriate? To me, it seems like sound, biblically-supportable thought whose sentiments I echo, in exultation of the grace of God! And to me, it seems like an appropriate insert into a conversation where we’re all getting just a little bit dazed at the magnanimity of the issue!

    Jab away at me. I’m deserving (somewhere along the line) and can take it. As for jabbing at Piper and Bixby, you might consider some pause. At least I’ve met Dr. Piper in person and seen the evidence of his authenticity and reaped benefits from his ministry’s longevity, as it’s been bearing fruit by God’s grace for over last twenty years. I know nothing of who you are, nothing of your authenticity, nothing of your genuine heartset, nothing of your testimony, nothing of your ministry.

    I would think twice before insulting the intellect or the thought process of a man of God with whom you’re apparently unaquainted, particularly doing so in a public forum. Especially since it’s very likely that he took my “rhetoric” in the context of knowing all of me and understood it to be what it was — an attempt at levity and clarity. You don’t know me, either. I’m fine with the jabbing, but I do fail to see the point or profit of it? It truly does call into question your motives and self-perception. What drives you to pick at straws? to feel shame on my pastor’s account? to automatically (because I’ve quoted him one time) assume that I’m a blind Piperite deliberately playing an irrelevant “trump” card to “trump” a comment I was actually agreeing with? What did you have for breakfast today? I mean, really?

  12. Uh, Kevin… Pastor Tillman literally boiled the whole issue down to a succinct and clear statement. From a pastoral perspective, I think that is good.

    I hardly think that my agreement with Joy or Karyn is an exultation of rhetoric over reason. Rather, I’m inclined to think that reason has dominated except, perhaps, in your long, drawn out, and condescending diatribes. Your posts illustrate perfectly why the discussion of modesty becomes so complicated. The way you present men is as if we are one giant hormone that is completely victimized by the titillating dress of airheaded bimbos who, though they must be held accountable to God for our guilty consciences, still do not have the brains or spiritual capacity to put on clothes without the official nod of a patronizing male. I resent your characterization of men and their sxl appetites as much as the ladies seem to resent your characterization of their inability to get it.

    In the fourteen years of my married life I have never had to tell my wife not to wear something because it was immodest. And while I will grant that there is an element of education that must occur, modesty is still a spiritual instinct that a godly woman will develop as she matures in Christ.

    I would suggest to you that you at least pretend some respect to the women on this blog or desist from posting. They are godly, spiritually-minded, and – uhm – modest. JET is a pastor (I don’t know him). But I highly doubt he is going to go online to just say nothing at all as you pompously declared. If the rest of us got it and you didn’t, I’d reflect upon the remote possibility that you are the one (not us) who is out of joint.

  13. Bob,

    Did you read the context of your selection for quote of the week? Kevin Subra, Melanie, and even Joy herself attested that it was a misrepresentation of what I had argued. The reason I am surprised is that I always knew you to be a thinker. It is simply not helpful or even honest to showcase such an admitted misrepresentation of another’s view.

    Karyn, Joy and you are the only ones who found what I argued to be condescending. And I think you know just as well as Joy does that my presentation was not as you characterize it. You also know that I do not disrespect women. And, except you, no one has called anyone else’s character into question in this post. Even though Joy was not pleased by what I said, she did not stoop to the kind of name calling you have.

    Jonathan dismissed the entire argument without replacing it with anything substantial. Tell us how what he said really replaces the need for honest discussion of the rest. If we are to take honoring God seriously in this issue, I argue that we must consider the rest. We cannot leave it vague and etherial.

    Perhaps I am “out of joint,” Bob, but that is not a matter of “majority rules.” Explain biblically or logically how I am wrong. That hasn’t been done yet, but I’m listening.

    Of course you are ruler of this domain, and you may banish me any time you like. But I urge you not to use autocratic power to end all discussion. You will be setting a very bad example for your people if you do.

    Let’s talk.

  14. Let me respond!
    Passages (not given so I don’t have to defend my exegesis . . .) – specifically I am referring to I Timothy 2:9-15 and I Peter 3:1-7.
    As to the “not having said much of anything . . .” Let me briefly expand. My usually problem is that I say far more than is necessary . . . a problem that I see is not unique to myself! 🙂
    Modesty in the NT deals with being neat, orderly and unspectacular. The common understanding of the word is to dress or behave in such a way as to not draw undue attention to oneself. It is possible to be loud and thus immodest. This is the reason that the scriptures require the quiet spirit.
    The word glorify in the NT means to cause others to have the correct or positive opinion of whatever it is you are “glorifying.” In this case to put the two thoughts together is to say that for modesty to prevail (dare I say, godly?) the woman is to dress and behave in a given culture so as to direct others to the proper opinion of her God and NOT to draw attention (either through loud behavior, ostentatious jewelry, or clothing that directs the attention uduly to her body)to herself.
    The concern here is that unless we find this anchor point we will quickly lose our balance. On one side we will drive off the road trying to avoid every fetish of every twisted male mind and start teaching that open toed shoes are wrong (as some do) because some men “get off” on women’s toes. On the other side we will tend to go off the road into the other ditch by saying, as many ‘Christian’ postmodernists do, “That it is all relative and none of it matters anyway.” Either extreme neglects the balance offered when the woman truly seeks to represent her Lord in her culture.
    I guess some have suggested that this issue is a “meat offered to idols” issue. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. The scripture speaks directly to the matter and when applied with a well orbed Biblical understanding the application really shouldn’t be all that difficult or controversial. Except, perhaps, for those who simply don’t like glorifying God.
    Or is that too simplistic?
    JET

  15. Jonathan,

    Your expansion is very helpful. I agree with everything you say except where you say that 1Cor 8 doesn’t apply. I completely agree with your assesment of what the NT says about modesty. As I pointed out in the other thread, that implies decency in dress, but doesn’t specifically deal with the issue. That is one reason why discussions about the subject are necessary–the Bible doesn’t give us specific directives.

    You seem to be using “glorify God” as a cliche. Though you will find as many views on modesty as there are Christians, I doubt you can find one Christian who says that glorifying God is not important. We all agree that glorifying God is important, but the question of how we must live our lives in order to do that is not always simple.

    You are right that the discussion can become unbalanced (the toe thing is a new one for me, but a good example). Even though there are dangerous ditches on each side, we must forge ahead, doing everything we can to avoid them. The issue is, in many ways subjective, but that does not mean that it doesn’t matter.

    Actually, I can’t understand how you would think that Paul’s teaching in 1Cor 8 doesn’t relate to this issue. How is it different?

    Thanks for the response.

  16. I have been very interested in following the discussion relating to Pastor Bixby’s posting on modesty, and I look forward to reading future articles on this pertinent subject. It strikes me, however, that the ensuing discussion has danced around–or perhaps missed-a couple of vital points.
    1.I cannot control how other people react to the clothes I wear. They are responsible for exercising Holy Spirit-controlled self discipline.
    2.However, I can, by what I wear, throw a stumblingblock in the path of another person, and if I do so, I sin and bring great dishonor upon my Heavenly Father.
    3.Modesty–or the lack thereof–is a quality or state of being [modest or immodest]. The question of modesty is, therefore, a separate (albeit related) question from that of its influence. I am not immodest merely because a man reacts lustfully . Indeed, I can be immodest even when a Christian gentleman chooses to discipline his reactions and NOT react to my lack of adequate attire.
    4.I agree with JET’s analysis and will take it a step further. There are many principles that should govern my attire, and modesty is but one of them. (For example, I haven’t honored the Lord by covering my body sufficiently so as not to be a stumblingblock, yet dressing in such a bizarre or flamboyant fashion that it distracts and reflects poorly on my Heavenly Father.)

  17. Pastor, perhaps this is a hijack, but both Lyn’s and Brent’s posts provoke me (in a good way) to weigh back into the conversation here. I think they bring some fresh perspective to the table, and they were able to say some things I’m not sure anyone else has.

    1) MODESTY IS MORE THAN MERELY DRESSING DECENTLY.

    Brent reminds us to keep this point in mind with his admission that he’s “troubled at trying to narrow modesty to decency.” I agree with him for a couple of reasons:

    “Decency” appears to be the lowest common denominator for which we could possibly shoot, i.e., what’s considered by our civil government and communities as socially acceptable. Rather, it seems that a biblical view of modesty entails more than merely eschewing what even our pragmatic, secular society would deride as “exhibitionism” or “indecent exposure.”

    “Modesty” as approached in the Bible does seem to comprise a whole lot more than matters of dress. For instance, I wonder whether biblical qualities and fruit of the Spirit — gracious demeanor, meek and quiet spirit, tact, temperance, moderation, the ability to be easily intreated/approachable, love that believes and bears all things, etc. — don’t factor in, not just as reasons for modesty, but as parcel and part of modesty.

    2) MODESTY ISN’T THE ONLY ISSUE THAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED WHEN DRESSING.

    Lyn says this: “There are many principles that should govern my attire, and modesty is but one of them.” I, too, have wondered about this. Whenever he spoke of our church’s dress code policies for teen activities, my former youth pastor would give us an acrostic (“MAT”) that made perfect sense even to our still-maturing minds —

    Modesty

    Were our apparel and appearance choices governed by biblically-derived principles of modesty?

    Appropriateness

    Were our apparel and appearance choices governed by a sense of what would/wouldn’t be appropriate, given the nature of the occasion (funeral? rally? camp? seminar?), the kind of activities in which we’d be involved (horsebackriding? piano accompaniment? water games? formal banquet?), the other people present (their preferences and priorities), etc.

    Testimony

    Were our apparel and appearance choices tempered by a consideration of how Christ/our church/our families/we might be perceived by others on account of us?

    — and they accomplished their purpose pretty well. In addition (to hark back to point #1), I find that the “MAT” acrostic applies to more than just decency in dress. Modesty, Appropriateness, and Testimony are all vital considerations with applications for other areas of our lives, as well.

    Just curious as to whether either of these might play in to where you’re going with “Part 2.” =}

  18. My spirit has been convicted by my overly heated response to Kevin Regal. And (since it was public) I feel a public blog apology is in order.

    Kevin, it is true that I think you seem to talk down to the women, and it irritated me somewhat so I let my fingers fly across the keyboard with a little more heat and spice (i.e. “diatribe”) than I really felt. I actually took no personal offense from anything that you said. However, it was wrong of me to fling out words that way and to demean you. I’m apologizing and would be grateful for your forgivness.

    Bob

  19. Bob,

    All is forgiven. Thank you for the apology.

    You are incorrect to think that I talk down to women. Really, your response seemed like classic ad hominem to me.

    It is, of course, very unlikely that either of us will change the other’s mind about the issue. I’m glad we can disagree agreeably.

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