Moderator - Good afternoon. This boadcast will take our listeners out into territory that has been the center of controversy in the past. In some Christian circles it has almost become something that is no longer talked about. We are going to talk about Christian appearance, or how Christians should present themselves to the world. This includes how they dress. With me in the studio is Dr Ford, Dean of the Seminary Extension Center located in Buchanan. We will be putting him on the hotseat today.
Dr. Ford, does the Bible have a standard about how Christians should appear to the world?
Response - Yes indeed, brother Boling the Bible does have a standard that tells us how Christians should appear before the world, and it is tied to the standard of how Christians should conduct themselves in the world. I would like to make a point clear before you ask me the next question however. Other religions have standards of dress and conduct as well. The Christian standard is far different from the standards of these false religions, and I would like to make that clear before we concentrate on Christianity.
Moderator - Go ahead Dr. Ford. We do not want to get through this broadcast and leave unclear ideas in the minds of our listeners if we can help it.
Response - Let me use the example of Islam to illustrate the difference between Christianity and other religions when it comes to how Christians should appear in the world. In Islam you have a standard of dress that is part of the religion. The standard of dress is based on the clothing that was worn in the region of Arabia in the 7th century A.D.. This standard of dress is inflexible and remains the same no matter the climatic or other conditions that exist wherever the religion goes. The standard of dress is also based on prejudicial values that makes women less human and valuable in their god's eyes than men. When you see an Islamic garbed in Western dress, he or she is inappropriately attired for the religion they claim to believe in. There religion has no place for compromise or reason in its standard. This is a far cry from the Christian standard.
Moderator - That is very interesting, but I do not think that most people know what the Christian standard is. Do you think this is so?
Yes, I do, up to a point. I think that when genuine Christians get too far away from what the Lord approves in either their standard of dress or their conduct, the Holy Spirit reproves them as it grieves within them. The absence of some conviction about how we appear to the world is evidence of a person either not being a Christian or having gone so far in sin that their conscience is seared as with a hot iron.
But having said that let me say this. There will be people listening to the broadcast today who will say what we talk about is fine for some if they feel convicted about it, but they have not been convicted.. They will say the Holy Spirit has not convicted them about their appearance so they do not need to change anything. People sometimes confuse their conscience for the Holy Spirit. We are talking about two separate things. One comes from within the person, the other comes from God.
The conscience of a person is in league with the heart to some extent in every person and the individual heart is carnal. Just because you do not "feel" convicted, that is you are not conscience stricken on a matter, does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not grieved with what you are doing.
I am convinced that many pastors have been either negligent or cowardly in their responsability to formally educate the people they are responible for in what constitutes both Christian dress and deportment. This is why I would say that most people do not know what the Christian standard is. It has not been formally held up to them in the proclamation of the Word from the pulpit or the teaching of the Word that takes place in Bible studies.
Moderator - So why do you think that people have not been told what the Christian standard is?
There has been a serious change that has taken place in preaching over the past fifty or sixty years. One of the indications of this is what has happened in Christian teaching concerning the issue of dress or how we physically appear before the world.
Part of the current problem began to really show up with the hippy movement as young people began to reject the standards and norms of past generations. The problem continued as the mini-skirt came into being. Few people remember but some women were actually arrested for wearing mini-skirts in public. Then, this was followed by other excesses of undress such as what was called hot pants. Nowadays it seems that people could just about walk down the street in thongs and shower shoes and they would not get arrested. That was the problem in the world, but the problem in Christianity was compromise in the churches.
Moderator - What do you mean compromise in the churches?
Churches began to compromise more and more on all sorts of things. The trend actually began in other countries and was imported over time into the United States. Then American society as a whole began to be influenced more and more by the excesses of Hollywood beginning in the thirties and forties. That was the time when the style of dress became such things as the flapper style. Music changed radically and the whole society began to degenerate.
The church surrendered its standard for faith and practice when it began to make compromises on such things as what the true Word of God was. It further compromised by accepting the pseudo science of the day as truer than the literal truth of God's Word. A trend called theistic evolution placed the statements of scientists above the authority of Holy Writ. In such an atmosphere of accomadation with the world the church began its decline spiritually, and as it declined in spiritual power it also declined in the eyes of the world. Even people whose names were written on church rolls adopted a new anti-Scripture way of thinking, acting, and dressing. By the time after World War II, when we entered the 1950's and 60's things had really gotten bad.
Moderator - But I have heard of churches during those days which held very strict standards of dress and so forth.
Response - Yes, there were some churches that did try to hold to a standard of dress and sometimes even of deportment. But the problem of compromise is that when you begin to compromise there is really no place to stop. And the churches had already begun to compromise. There were a number of preachers who tried to sound an alarm about what was going on, but often they were tunnel visioned in what they saw as the real problem. Sure there was an increasing problem in dress and deportment but the real problem was largely ignored. The real problem was the sinful attitudes and rebellion within. The signs were the things going on in how people looked and acted.
Let us get something straight. Many of the writers of booklets in those days that spoke on the increasing state of paganization and how people looked were right on. One of those booklets titled "Skimpy Skirts and Hippy Hair" was certainly correct in its condemnation of how people looked and acted. But the problem was not the externals but the internals. A lot of time churches that tried to hold up a standard made the mistake of focusing on the externals and not trying to convert men's hearts.
You have no doubt heard the stories about how some churches turned people away because of their manner of dress or haircut?
Moderator - Yes, I have. What do you think about not letting people come into the church because of the way they were dressed?
Response - When you are talking about lost people coming into the church, you expect them to come into the church looking like lost people. That is what they are. If they have a genuine conversion experience then it is reasonable that you will subsequently see them beginning to change the way they dress as well as the way they live their lives.People who continue to look and act like the world likely have never come to Christ in repentance that leads to salvation.
Moderator - So you are saying you would not turn someone away from the church because of the way they were dressed?
No, I did not say that. If someone comes to the church genuinely seeking the truth you expect them to show up looking like what their current condition is. A lost person. I remember a friend telling me about a young woman who came into their church wearing a very short mini-skirt. She came seeking and that morning, in spite of her mini-skirt she found the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. She came down in tears when the invitation was given and literally hit her knees at the altar. When she did her dress came up over her buttocks and exposed her legs and panties. My friend told me that one of the deacons, without missing a beat, threw his jacket across her backside covering her up so no one would be distracted . Maybe that is a good reason for deacons to weat suitcoats to the church.
If a person is coming into the church with the intent of being a distraction, you can tell that pretty quickly as well. For instance, a young woman coming into the church with a mesh dress or a see through blouse did not get dressed to go out seeking after God. She got dressed to try to draw all eyes toward her. The young man who comes into the church in tight shorts that outline genitalia, or wearing some obscene slogan on his shirt, did not come into the church to seek after God. He came for a purpose of attraction that was ungodly. When a person comes into the assembly of the faithful with a dishonest motive you not only have the right but the obligation to ask them to leave. ( I think the person asking them to leave should also be witnessing to them as well. But back to the point)
In fact, if such a person were to resist me, determined to create a scene, I would help them to leave rather than to allow them to disrupt the House of God. Entry into the house of God is not a right, it is a privilege. It is not a public building. And, even public buildings often have restrictions on how a person can be attired and how they must conduct themselves when they come in.
I would remove anyone who tried to disrupt what the church assembles to do, and that is worship God. If we are to have our service disrupted, we might as well have it disrupted as we set the house in order. We have seen all sort of disruptions from homosexuals and people who were acting out in other ways in recent years. Why we have even had people from some charismatic groups come into mainline churches and try to disrupt things by making a show, by standing up and supposedly speaking in tongues. Those kinds of actions do not come from the Spirit of God. I think people who let anybody come into their church and cause a disruption owe an apology to the Lord Jesus Christ who drove the moneychangers from the Temple when they misused the purpose the Temple was supposed to serve.
Now let me say this. I do not expect a person who is lost to necessarily come to church looking like a Christian ought to, but I have to admit that sometimes these come to church looking more like a Christian than people who say they are saved. Christians really should have more care about how they appear. I have actually seen females get into choir lofts and reveal panties or too much cleavage when they were supposed to be singing praises unto God. This should not happen. I once went to a church to preach where the pastor warned me ahead of time about a woman who came to church every Sunday and set spraddle legged on the front pew. I do not know why he put up with it. But the issue we are addressing is not just about what is taking place in the church. The thing is, that when it comes to dress and deportment the Christian should not only have a care about how they come to church, they should give some thought about how they go out in the world every day.
Moderator - So Christian dress and Christian deportment are tied together, and Christian dress in the world as well as the church is important?
Yes. That is right. I will give you an example of what I mean. I was in the Walmart parking lot in Bremen the other day and I saw two men getting out of a vehicle. Both looked like they had come from working even though they had children with them. I did not have much trouble with that, sometimes we need to do things hurriedly. But one caught my attention because he was a rather portly fellow wearing his pants down almost off his hips in the style some adopt these days. You know, where they look like their pants will hit their knees at any minute. In fact, if he had not been hitching them up every once in a while, they would have.
I tried to make an excuse for him like maybe he had lost a lot of weight. But then, if that was his problem why didn't he make sure he had on a belt or suspenders? If I was too poor to have a belt, I think I could find myself a piece of rope or twine. I would do something to keep my pants up. Now the reason all this thinking was going on was because they had on the back of their vehicle a fish with a cross in it, a Christian symbol. So, I admit I was trying to make excuses for him. I noticed he had a bumper sticker on the back of the car that said, "Don't Pass." I moved closer so I could read the fine print thinking it was probably some remark about chewing tobacco. I discovered that the bumper sticker said something Christian oriented.
Now anyone seeing that scene could not see any difference in how those men presented themselves and how a great many other people in the world do. I guarantee you that people in the world will be critical of things they see in someone with some pretence to Christianity that they take for granted or accept from people who are part of the world. Frankly, I would wish those people would either change the way they show themselves to the world or take the Christian symbols off their vehicle.
Being a man I usually notice the excesses of women even more than I do men, but to be politically correct, I thought I would use what I had seen in a man as my example.
Moderator - Who do you think are the worse offenders in dress and deportment, men or women?
There was a time when I would have said that women were the worse offenders in dress and men were the worse offenders in deportment. But the lines between the sexes have become so blurred with the feminization of men and masculinization of women that it is hard to make such a distinction. Of course a woman with a foul mouth is more shocking to a man than a man with a potty mouth is, and a woman who dresses like she is selling herself is more quickly noticed by a man than a man who has no modesty is noticed by a man. But the truth is people of both genders have gotten pretty bad and that is true inside the church and without.
You know there was a time when real men would not speak with any kind of rude language in front of a woman out of respect for women. In fact if some man was rude enough to act badly in front of a lady, some gentleman would quickly correct such bad conduct. Women do not receive such respect from men today, even from men who would not think of speaking rudely in front of them. Why is that? Simply because women have surrendered the respect once given them by men by their actions. Every woman today has to win the respect of men individually by showing they are different from the general run of females. I have often said we have many males but few men. It is also true to say we have many females but few women as the Bible defines a woman.
Moderator - Christian used to dress a lot more conservatively that is true, and they wore less makeup.
Yes, they did. A great many people did not use makeup to begin with because they could not afford it and some denominations did look down on wearing makeup, considering those who did so as having the spirit of a Jezebel. The thought was that only harlots or whores wore makeup to attract men to sin with them. They misunderstood the Scripture that they interpreted as forbidding makeup and jewelry. The Scripture did not forbid those things, but pointed out the adornments of a meek and quiet spirit were better. There is a difference between some simple adornment or a little makeup to make for a pleasant appearance and the adornment worn by pagans or people plying the ancient trade of prostitution. One of the things I noticed about some of the denominations that forbade makeup and jewelry to women was that the men in those groups sometimes looked like they were dressed as the saying goes "to the nines," while they kept the women drably attired. I have observed that male birds are colorful to attract female birds. Perhaps some of the men who will not let their women dress up a bit and put on a dab of makeup while they put on an expensive suit and hang a colorful hanky out their coat pocket think they are birds. Some birds mate for life, and all mankind is supposed to. So men why are you trying to attract while you keep your women dressed plainly?
Moderator - So you do not think wearing makeup is bad?
Response - No, wearing makeup or jewelry is not of itself bad. What is bad is ostentation, like some of those preachers you see on television with Rolex watches and rings on every finger setting off their $500 Brooks Brothers suits. When people go to being ostentatious in their appearance, they are trying to draw attention to themselves. As a Christian our desire should be that in everything we do, which includes the clothes we put on, even the way we cut our hair our desire should be to glorify Christ. If something we are doing is not as becometh holiness, then we should not do it.
The issue in Christian dress is not however tied to specific forms of dress but issues of modesty and chastity. Some of the most charming ladies I have met have been those who come from Christian denominations that wear dresses made of simple print fabric and wear little lace bonnets upon their heads. They do not look drab or ugly. They look charming and their modesty has its own appeal. Christians should be chaste c_h_a_s_t_e not chased c_h_a_s_e_d. Too many Christians dress like they are not chaste and want to be chased.
Moderator - Okay so the issue in Christian dress is chasteness or as we usually say today modesty. How do we determine what is modest?
Well, the difference between what is modest today and what was modest 4,000 years ago has not really changed. But when you try to tell people that they buck up and get rebellious. For instance, the Bible says that the thighs are supposed to be covered. The thigh goes to the back of the knee. A woman who wears a dress any shorter than sufficient to keep her thighs covered at all times will sooner or later show a great deal more. That is why I favor dresses that come down to the ankle.
The Bible says that men and women are not supposed to wear what pertains to the opposite sex. This is not just men wearing women's clothes but also women wearing men's clothes. I think that makes it pretty clear that clothing should be gender specific. Though the Bible does not specifically prohibit unisex clothing, I think it is pretty clear that the spirit of the Scripture makes it clear that this is not within the will of God. I think we should be careful how we dress because to fail to do so is an abominable act according to the word of God.
I think tight clothing and revealing clothing also violates the spirit of modesty to be found in the Scripture. Anyone who doubts that needs only to look in the Book of Proverbs to see that principle expounded. Some people have asked me what I thought about women wearing pants suits and such. I have less problems with that than you might think, even though the pantsuit historically was how Hollywood slipped into some other forms of compromise. I do think they should meet three criteria:
1. They should not look like men's clothing.
2. They should not be form fitting, cutting into the crotch or the buttocks (Frankly if most women knew how they looked in such clothing I do not think they would wear them.)
3. The should be worn when the weather makes a need for warmer clothes necessary. (The truth is nice dresses not only look better on a woman. They are also cooler and healthier. a Lot of women who wear pants suits do so even though they suffer from various infections that could be avoided by wearing better and more feminine clothing.)
Moderator - You have been referring to Scripture that is found in the Old Testament. People are often very critical of the teachings of the Old Testament saying they do not apply to Christians today. What do you say to that?
Well, God says He does not change. I suppose we might conclude from that He has not changed His mind on what constitutes modesty between the Old Testament and the New. As one preacher pointed out, people who want to reject one part of the Old Testament because of its condemnation of dress, or homosexuality, or such like will turn right around and want to hold onto some other part they like, like the twenty-third Psalm. While it is true that some things like animal sacrifices do not apply to Christian faith and practice, because the Lord Jesus by His perfect sacrifice fulfilled those requirements entirely for us, it does not follow that other things the Old Testament has to say about how we should live no longer apply.
My position in this matter is certainly strengthened by the New Testament references that seems to affirm these Old Testament principles. You might say that the Old Testament outlines the specifics and the New Testament endorses the teaching. When a person criticizes standards of modest dress based on the argument that they are Old Testament teaching they also demonstrate their ignorance of New Testament Scripture. Unfortunately we have plenty of ignorant people who have set themselves up as spiritual leaders. It is dangerous ground that a man walks on when he does so. One day every man who presents himself as a teacher of the Word will have to account for his teaching, the way he lead people before the throne of God.
Moderator- Well our conversation today has certainly been enlightening. I want to thank you for coming here and talking about this important subject so candidly. I know some people will not appreciate what you have said today.
Response - I want to thank you for allowing me to take a stand on this important subject. I am not worried about what people think about me because of what I say. I am concerned that one day I will have to stand before the Lord and I do not want to have to account to Him on that day for compromising on the truth.
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