Well, I had thought I’d finished this series, when this strange coincidence happened. You see, Tim Archer posted an article about how to dress for church called “How should we then dress?” On the same day, Mike Adams posted a column on the same question, called “Sunday’s Breast.” Adams writes,
But last Sunday at church I was slightly embarrassed in front of my guests. The source of my embarrassment was all of the women who came to the service dressed like they had been out at a bar. A lot of these women know that they can meet higher quality men at church than at a bar. But some don’t have enough sense to change clothes after making the transition from a bar to a church sanctuary.
One of the worst offenders was seated one row in front of us. She wasn’t like all of the other women who were content merely to show their breasts. She had to wear a dress that was thin enough to let the whole congregation know she wears thong underwear. It was even more disturbing than the 13-year olds who wear torn Daisy Dukes instead of wearing a bra.
When women come to church dressed like this they seldom stop to think that a recovering sex addict might be in the congregation. And they seldom stop to think that there are married men in the congregation who are struggling with lust issues. The church should be a place where men can come to seek help as they battle these temptations. It’s a shame that some of the temptations are following them into the church and pulling up a chair right beside them.
You’ll be surprised to learn that I disagree with Adams. To explain why, I need to tell a story.
Several years ago, our teen minister was planning a Bible camp for the teens. The mothers of the teenage girls asked the minister to meet with them to help with the planning. When he arrived, one said, “We need to decide what our girls should wear when swmming.”
The minister said, “Whatever they wear at the club or at the neighborhood pool.”
“Oh, no,” a mother said. “We’re going to have to go buy some one-piece swimsuits. They have some really cute …”
The minister interrupted. “Are your daughters Christians?”
“Yes,” the mothers responded, somewhat abashed.
“Then they’re Christians at the club and in your backyard and at the neighborhood pool. Since they dress like Christians there, they can wear what they wear there at Bible camp. It’s all the same!”
The mothers looked at him as though he had a third eye — as something strange and foreign and even a bit frightful. “Well, we really need to decide this, and we think French cuts …”
The youth minister stood and said, “I’ll not be part of any conversation based on the idea that girls in my youth program can dress one way when away from church and another way when among Christians. It’s wrong. They are followers of Jesus wherever they go, and they have to dress as Christians wherever they go.” And he left.
The mothers continued their discussions and came to terms on what the girls should wear at Bible camp. They then went shopping with their daughters.
Adams wrote, “The church should be a place where men can come to seek help as they battle these temptations.” The church exists wherever Christians may be. Christians dress modestly and with consideration for the temptations they may provoke — everywhere, all the time. We don’t go to church. We are the church. The church goes with us wherever we go. There is only one standard.
One last point. Have you ever been in class or heard a sermon that argued that 1 Tim 2 is about how to act in church?
(1 Tim 2:8-12) I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
The argument is made to suggest that women only have to be submissive to men in church. After all, men only pray in church and women only dress modestly in church. Okay, that’s not really how the argument goes. Rather, it’s just argued that verses 8-10 are plainly about the assembly, but that argument implicitly assumes that we only pray and dress modestly (and get angry and dispute) at church and not in other contexts. And it’s dead wrong.
Therefore, the proper exegesis of verses 11 – 12 is that women must submit to men (or more correctly, wives to husbands) everywhere, all the time. And this is how it was uniformly interpreted until well into the 20th Century.
The solution to the riddle of women having authority over men is not found in limiting the command to church — unless we want to limit modesty and prayer to church. The solution is found in recognizing that the way the submission of wives to husbands found in Genesis 2 plays out in practice varies from culture to culture, time to time. After all, we readily see that what is modest and the posture for prayer also varies from culture to culture, time to time. (More detail on this argument may be found at Buried Talents).
The point is this. When we buy into the idea that there are different notions of modesty for church and for high school, for church camp and the neighborhood pool, we are teaching our daughters that they live by one rule at church and another in the world — and that they need only act as Christians at church. And it allows us to impose some false standards on our wives and daughters at church that we’d never consider imposing elsewhere. It’s wrong and very unhealthy in many ways.