Last night I posted a contribution to the discussion that Toby Sumpter kicked off, and there is already a need for a quick follow-up. I said that reasonable Christians ought not to be discussing this, and someone asked if I thought there was no such thing as responsible discussion on the topic. I said this:
“There is a good discussion to be had on the topic of how to apply the apostles’ requirements for women and their dress. And you are having that discussion. Go, fight, win. But there is no discussion to be had on whether to apply the apostles’ instructions. In other words, a robust Q&A about Toby’s posts is completely in order. Outrage and dismay simply disqualify those who exhibit it.”
Serious Christians read their Bibles, and they take to heart the warnings that are found there. And it is of course the case that the worldliness I was discussing in yesterday’s post can be found thick on the ground in respectable country clubs, and not just in espresso bars in Portland. The point is that thoughtful Christians have always considered the temptation to worldliness to be a formidable concern. They do not dismiss it with a wave of the hand. And of course the temptation to worldliness exists whatever subculture you might inhabit.
That said, it is much easier to identify when the person concerned is attempting to be unique, outlandish, or preposterous. When a woman is consumed with a desire to be the most beautiful one at the president’s reception, the worldliness is certainly there, but it is located down in the compartment of heart motives. But when a woman wears a dog collar, neon hair, and a tattoo that says “demon spawn,” this is a declaration of desperate and overt loyalty to worldliness—a world that is about to devour her. This accounts for the wide disparity we see between the beautiful women in magazines with exotic hair colors (having the kind of beauty that would require a lot more than that to wreck), and the actual results that you see at the mall or grocery store.
And juxtapose something else as well. Here are two scriptural citations with the observations following, and you should readily see that the convictions and commitments represented belong to two distinct worlds entirely.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3–4, ESV).
“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, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (1 Timothy 2:9–10, ESV).
“I know women of all ages who wear tattoos, who cut their hair, who dye their hair, who pierce their noses, their lips, and their bellybuttons. They do it for a whole host of different reasons, some meaningful, some not so much. I think it’s safe to say that most of these women are not trying to send a message, but are simply having some legitimate fun with color and creativity and individuality, just because they can (and as believing Christians, they certainly can).”
Notice that no attempt is made even to try to make personal adornment a matter of personal obedience. The need for “creativity and individuality” is not a mandate we can find in the New Testament—but we do find mandates on personal adornment. Right? How does the exhortation to do your own thing, paint your own colors, be your own me, make your own individual statement do anything but demonstrate that the exhortations are exegetically derived from a false set of scriptures?
Whatever subculture a Christian woman finds herself in, she has a responsibility to adorn herself in obedience. There are many legitimate questions, and some difficult ones, for women who are making this attempt. But it is no help at all to solicit counsel, advice and input from those who are not making the attempt at all, and who believe that expressions of support for making the attempt are legalistic and abusive.
Try to imagine a woman with a neon butch cut, asking her roommates this question: “But does this say modesty and self-control? Because if it doesn’t line up with a gentle and quiet spirit, I am not having anything to do with it.” Heh.
So I am not one who believes that Scripture bans women from using make-up, highlights, hair dye, or jewelry. Not at all. But I believe that every Christian woman needs to be using the mirror of the Word right alongside her regular mirror. Worldliness can seep in at every crack, as the apostles of the Lord Jesus repeatedly warned you.
But there is a world of difference, pun intended, between a woman who is actively trying to get the guys to gawk, and a woman who sees her responsibility to be attractive without attracting the wrong kind of attention. And a woman in the latter category certainly has the liberty to say, as a friend of ours once said, “When the barn needs painting, you paint the barn.”