Dress, Manners, and the Created Order

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Stephen Clark’s book Man and Woman in Christ has been an excellent read. Near the end of the book he summarizes his conclusions from his study. One point is that Christians should use cultural expressions to express the role differences between men and women. Most societies throughout history, including Western society, have had ways of distinguishing between men and women and their roles. This was done in many ways, but primarily through different modes of dress and manners. Manners here would include what was done and said between men and women. An example my wife just read was how in the Civil War South women did not discuss their pregnancies in front of men. When they became visibly pregnant they stopped going out into society as well. Whatever we think of the practice, it was a way of women distinguishing themselves from men.

In our society there has been a breakdown of differences between men and women. (That sentence is like saying the Titanic was a ship that sunk.) There are coed bathrooms to go along with co-ed dorm rooms. Women can be firefighters, policemen, boxers, wrestlers, soldiers, pastors, football players, and presidents. Add to this the sexual confusion seen in sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuals, transgender, divorce, and abortion and we see a society that has lost any vision of the distinct, glorious, God-ordained differences between men and women. Therefore it is not a surprise that we have tossed aside cultural expressions of those differences. I want to briefly explore how we have done this in dress and manners.

Clothing for men and women has become more uniform. Can you imagine a store with male and female employees requiring their female employees to wear skirts? That thought experiment is enough to show how far we have come. Many movies depict women in pants and military style tank tops just like men wear. Men wear skinny jeans,which are basically yoga pants with buttons. There are still masculine and feminine clothes. But our culture does not demand or expect that. For example, a girl could wear a nice dress to school, but she should just as easily wear masculine clothes. Her hair could be long or short. Feminine dress has become an individual expression instead of a cultural expectation and norm. Many women dress feminine, not because they are women, but because it is an expression of their personal desires. There is no norm, just me dressing in whatever way makes me happy.

But the loss of manners, which distinguish men from women, is more pronounced that the uniformity of dress. Men used to open doors for women, give their seats up for women, wait for women, speak with careful respect to women, avoid certain topics when speaking with women, not lay their hands on women, etc. Men were careful about what they said in front of the ladies. Now we talk to them just like they are one of the guys. Men and woman playing each other in sports would have been unthinkable. Now it is normal. Men and women sharing bathrooms. We have flattened out the differences between men and women. Do we have any normal, social manners where we distinguish men from women?

There is no Biblical command that says, “Open doors for ladies.” However, it is a cultural expression of a Biblical truth: Women and men are different and are to be treated differently. We don’t have to necessarily hang on to opening doors for women. The problem is  that we have jettisoned our fathers’ cultural expressions of role differences without replacing them with new ones. Therefore we are left with little non-verbal language by which we say, “Men and women are different.”

Here is why many complementarians are so feeble in their attempt to hold back the cultural tide of egalitarianism. They believe that men and women are different. But they refuse to allow that truth to impact life in concrete ways. Women can’t be pastors and men should lead in the home….sorta, kinda, almost. But in most places they throw up their hands and say, “Who knows where the line is between men and women’s dress?”  “Is it really wrong for a woman to teach men in church when it isn’t the Sunday morning sermon?” When complementarians think women can be cops, bust drug dealers, and get in firefights they have lost the battle.

There are many people, including some Christians, who do not think there is much of a difference between men and women. They are happy that these walls have been broken down. These people are in rebellion against the created order.

But for those of us who still think men and women were created by God for distinct, glorious roles, then cultural expressions of these differences are necessary. Here I offer two suggestions. Dress in a way that says, “I am a man.” Or “I am a woman.” I am not saying women can’t wear pants or jeans. Nor am I saying that men must wear camo. But make sure your dress fits your sex. There is a lot of freedom here. I am not encouraging a return to all women or men wearing the same thing. I am encouraging men and women to wear clothes that distinguish them from the other sex. We are generally better at this than we are at the second point.

Second, we should bring back distinct ways of treating the opposite sex. The men are primarily responsible for this. We should open doors for the ladies, wait to sit until they are seated, not speak of certain things in front of them, smoke our cigars outside, run late night errands instead of sending our wives into the darkness, rise when they enter the room, protect our ladies physically and spiritually, pull out their chairs, put on their coats, etc. In short, we should find (or recover?) ways of saying, “Men are different from women.” Ladies should let men do this. Many ladies hate having a man give up his seat for them. Why? We don’t have to do all of these and we can create other cultural expressions. But for Christians who think men and women are different we need to have a cultural language that defies the egalitarian ethic of the world we live in. It is not enough to preach from the pulpit or write in books that men and women are different. We must reflect this truth in homes, churches, and communities in actions that say men and women are different.

Originally posted in August 2014, but there are some revisions to this re-post. 

Ten Quotes: Guess Who Edition

Here are ten of my favorite quotes from a book I recently read. Who/what book do you think these quotes came from?

Masculinity and femininity, being elements of the original design, radiate glory. They shine.

If the original distinction is lost-the vital one between men and women-we end up recognizing no distinction in sexual conduct. It is the logical conclusion. If sex has no transcendent meaning, what different does it make who you go to bed with? You can be promiscuous, homosexual, incestuous, bestial, or otherwise perverted. The only lasting sanctions against such behavior are based on the divine man-woman order. 

Four extremely important events [in Genesis 1-2] illuminate where woman stands in relation to man: 1. She was made for man. 2. She was made from man. 3. She was brought to man. 4. She was named by man.  

Continue reading

Where and What, But Not Who?

It has become common, even among conservative Christians, to hold that the restrictions on women teaching and having authority over men in I Timothy 2:11-12 are limited to preaching and in some cases church discipline. Mixed Sunday school classes, small group studies, and church conferences can all have women teaching men and not be in violation of this passage. Pastor Philip Ryken argues this in his commentary on I Timothy 2:11-15. He bases this on the use of the Greek word διδάσκω, which means to teach. Here are some quotes from his commentary on I Timothy 2:12. By the way he titles this section of his commentary “But Not to Preach.”

He says the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-18 means that all “God’s sons and daughters exercise prophetic ministry” which makes “it clear that at least certain kinds of teaching are to be carried out universally within the church.” He does not explain what he means by this, which is odd because in principle no one disagrees. The question is not can women teach in the church. The question is can they teach men. He then notes that Priscilla taught a man and thus it must be okay for women to teach men at least in some circumstances (Acts 18:24-26). Again no clear indication of what these circumstances are.

Then he says (all bold is mine):

There is at least one place where it is not appropriate for women to teach however:in the authoritative proclamation of God’s Word in the context of the public worship of the church…What he [Paul] writes is not intended to govern men and women in every situation, but applies especially to those occasions when the church gathers for the preaching of the Word of God...What the Holy Spirit does not permit women to do is to transmit apostolic doctrine publicly and officially. To put it more simply, the main thing God forbids women to do is preach (or to exercise the doctrinal and disciplinary authority that is tied to the preaching ministry). 

Ryken goes on to link “authority” with teaching, thus restricting the entire phrase “to teach or have authority” to:

Writing of creeds and confessions that summarize Christian doctrine, and also the formulation of church policy on theological issues. The word authentein [authority] hints that church discipline also may be in view. These things are the exclusive work of the elders of the church….to preach is to exercise teaching authority.  

Depending on the discretion of the elders in the church, some other teaching situations may fall under the category of teaching with authority. The training of elders, for example, or classes on fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. But elders are by no means required to teach every  Bible study and Sunday school class in the church. Women and men who are not ordained may teach a wide variety of biblical, historical, and practical subjects (although they should not, in my view, teach confessional doctrine).

Perhaps this is the best place to emphasize that beyond this one biblical restriction, women are at liberty to use their spiritual gifts to their fullest extent in the church.  

Why He is Wrong
“At least one place where it is inappropriate…the main thing God forbids women to do is preach…beyond this one biblical restriction.”

Ryken believes Paul’s restriction on women in I Timothy 2:11-12 is about where they teach (worship) and what they teach (fundamental doctrines), but not who they teach. They can teach mixed Sunday School, Bible studies, and small groups, but what they cannot do is preach at the regular gathering of the saints and they cannot pass on apostolic doctrine in any official way. Ryken’s interpretation falls flats for several reasons.

First, in the text the key is not where they are teaching or what they are teaching, but who they are teaching. Women cannot teach men in the church, which is the subject of Paul’s letter (I Timothy 3:15). Ryken’s commentary on this section of Scripture is a classic exercise in trying to get around in any way possible what the text actually says.

Second, Ryken wants didasko (the Greek word for teach) to mean preaching, as in Sunday morning in the pulpit. But unfortunately for him the word and its derivatives have a wide variety of meanings including teaching from house to house (Acts 20:20), all Christians teaching all Christians (Col. 3:18), older women teaching younger women (Titus 2:3), the whole teaching ministry of the apostles ( Col. 1:28, 2:7),  and what nature teaches us about men having long hair (I Cor. 11:14).  Didasko cannot be restricted to official preaching on Sunday morning. It can include that of course, but it also includes other teaching as well.  More than likely, Paul here is talking about the entire teaching ministry of the church. There is no reason in the passage, I Timothy, or in the use of the word to restrict this the Sunday morning preaching.

Third, Ryken wants the content of the teaching to be “apostolic doctrine,” “confessional doctrine,” “church policy on theological issues,” and possibly church discipline. Ryken is not clear about what he means here. Obviously, the whole New Testament is apostolic. But Ryken does not mean that women cannot teach men the Bible. He says later that women can teach men “on a wide variety of biblical, historical, and practical subjects.” According to Ryken, women can teach men the Bible in a public setting. It just can’t be Sunday morning. And they cannot teach the fundamentals of the faith.

However, the word didasko is not limited to fundamental doctrines. Paul’s teaching covers a whole host of “Biblical and practical” subjects that are not creedal or confessional in nature. In I Timothy Paul encourages Timothy to “teach (didasko)” on things like sex, marriage, food, and exercise (I Timothy 4:1-11) and how slaves are supposed to react to masters (I Timothy 6:2).  In Titus, there are false teachers who are “teaching things they ought not to” (Titus 1:11). In response to these false teachers, Paul encourages Titus to  “Speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).” The word “doctrine” is a derivative of didasko. Paul then tells Titus to teach older men, older women, younger women, and younger men about things like wise speech, loving their husbands, being reverent in behavior, being sober minded, and not drinking too much wine.  In other words, sound doctrine includes a lot of practical stuff (Titus 2:1-10). This section ends with an appeal to slaves to be faithful so the doctrine, again a derivative of didasko, of our God may be adorned (Titus 2:10). Some form of the word for teaching is used in Titus 1:9, 11, 2:1, 7, 10.  Paul does not encourage his pastors, Timothy or Titus, to restrict their teaching to the fundamental doctrines of the faith. In other words, teaching includes “Biblical and practical subjects” and therefore Ryken’s assertion that didasko is limited to key doctrines is wrong. I Timothy 2:11-12 does not mean women shouldn’t teach men the fundamentals of the faith. It  means, in the church, women should not teach men at all, whether the subject is fundamental doctrine, other Biblical subjects, or practical subjects.

Ryken’s position has become popular over the years. The restrictions on women teaching men in the church have become lax. We don’t let them in pulpit…just yet. But anywhere else in the church it is often fine for women to teach men.

Ironically Ryken goes on in the next section to say this:

The preceding explanation of I Timothy 2:11-12 (or something close to it) has been the nearly universal understanding of the Christian church. Only in the late twentieth century did it come under relentless attack…The liberal strategy has been to deny the authority of these verses. 

Ryken counts himself among the conservative interpreters. But he isn’t. He is just a softer liberal than the evangelical feminists he mentions later, but his interpretation will eventually gets us in the same mess.The way he limits I Timothy 2:11-12 is exegetically untenable. His restriction of the word didasko is unnecessary and strips the passage of its force. His failure to be clear on what he means provides the necessary wiggle room to look conservative while not sounding too harsh on the fairer sex. This is an interpretative and pastoral failure right at the point where the barbarians are storming the gates. Ryken believes he is preserving the church from the forces of liberal, feminist, Christians. But the reality is he has cracked open the door just enough for them to slip in.

Related Posts
Why a Conservative Interpretation of I Timothy 2:11-12 is Not Enough

I Don’t Want It

Desiring God just posted an article about Holly Holm. She is the woman who beat up Ronda Rousey on Saturday night during a Ultimate Fighting Championship match and sent Rousey to the hospital. One might think that given what the Scriptures teach and Desiring God’s commitment to the Biblical view of women that this article would be decrying the fact that Americans get their jollies by two women beating each other into a bloody pulp in the ring. But no. Instead this article praises Holly Holm for her humility and selflessness.

The article cites Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Ronda Rousey was the arrogant, loud mouthed, braggart, while Holm is the humble woman who overcame all odds. The author ends his article by comparing Holm to Jesus

The UFC now has a new kind of queen on the throne. The reign of this queen will have a fresh flavor, marked by humility and quiet confidence that echoes a true and better king. Such a counter-cultural reign, no doubt, will be underappreciated, even mocked, by the world. It won’t capture the attention and hype of a Rousey reign, but it will leave its mark, and remind us of the path and calling of the true champion.

This is one of the more astounding statements I have seen in print in a long time, especially coming from a conservative, Christian blog. A Christian woman, created by God to nurture and care for children, commanded by God to have “a gentle and quiet spirit,” (I Peter 3:4), created by God to give life, as her mother Eve did (Genesis 3:20, I Timothy 2:15, 5:10, 14, Titus 2:4) and yet here she is praised by a PCA pastor for beating another woman up so bad she had to go to the hospital. She has spent her life beating up other women for pay and somehow she is model for other Christian women?  She is going around kicking other women in the head and somehow she is like Jesus? The article shows how far the church has fallen from the Scriptural view of what women are and who God made them to be. Holly Holm is a Christian. I cannot doubt that and nor should I. But her model of womanhood is so far removed from the Scriptural pattern for females that she should not be praised for what she is doing. 
Here is why those of us who believe in the classic roles of men and women in church, home, and society think so little of many 21st century complementarians. They cannot even get the basics right. Yes, there are gray areas, but this not one of them. Women beating each other to a bloody pulp in a ring for money is not a gray area. Women donning military garb and heading into battle is not a gray area. Women busting down doors to arrest drug dealers is not one of them. Women refusing to marry and have children or marrying and refusing to have children so they can pursue money is not one of them.  Too many complementarians want to push almost every distinction between men and women into the culturally conditioned gray area. When an article like this gets published by a complementarian leaning blog is there any wonder we want to go back to the term “patriarchy.” If this is the fruit of complementarianism then I don’t want it. 

A Plea to Flee

The obliteration of the sexes marches on, at least in one Illinois town. Palatine High School District 211, the largest in the state of Illinois, was cited by federal officials for not allowing a student who “was born male, but identifies as a female” to use the women’s locker room at the school. What is amazing is how much has already been done to “accommodate” transgender students including: changing names, changing gender records, and providing access to the bathroom of the identified gender. In other words, boys who identify as girls already use the girls’ restroom.   The school offered to let him/her use a privacy curtain in the girls’ locker room. But that was not enough. The ACLU representative said, “She had to go down long hallway to the other bathroom, she noticed she was singled out, it didn’t make her feel part of the team.” She/He wanted full access to the girls’ locker room as well. And she will get it. The US Dept. of Education is going to make this happen. You will tolerate us, accommodate us, and bow down and do what we say.

Here is the end of rejecting God’s created order. A person creates their own reality. Who cares if you have male reproductive organs. You can still be a woman. Who cares if your skin is white you can still “self-identify” as black. Reality is pliable.

But of course, this encroaches on other people’s realities. My reality says that a guy, as in someone who has a penis, should shower with the guys. But my reality apparently isn’t as good as the reality which says naked or mostly naked women should be subjected to a naked or mostly naked man because in his head he identifies as a woman. Their reality will win. You will bend the knee.

And so here we are.  Our grandparents’ common sense is now not only rejected, but considered heresy. What are those of us who still think men should use the men’s locker room supposed to do?

A Plea to Pastors
Pastors, teach creation order. Teach that men and women are different and that is a wonderful, delightful, joyful thing. Teach that women were created by God to be wives and mothers. Teach that marriage is not just about free sex, but about children. Teach men to lead, provide, protect, defend, and love their wives.  Encourage parents to raise their sons to be men and daughters to be women. Do not flatten it all out so gender is irrelevant. If you do that, you have lost. We must preach and teach the basics once again. Reject feminism and egalitarianism in all its forms. It is a parasite that will eat up your people. And if you don’t want to do this or don’t have the courage to do it then at least get out.

Pastors, be prepared for a generation that will be sexually broken, confused, and guilty. By the time they graduate high school most of them will have had numerous sexual encounters, been exposed to hard core pornography (including the women), many of them will have been sexually abused or raped, some will have had abortions, some will have sent naked pictures of themselves, and some will have had same sex encounters, thoughts, or indoctrination. Include in this all the false thinking that has been pumped into them and this generation has been gutted sexually. The sexual revolution has done its work. It is easy in a culture so twisted to get caught up in the particulars. How will I handle this or that situation? We should think those things through and read up on them where we can. But the longer I am in ministry the more I have come to trust the basics. So while the problems may be deeper than previous generations the answers are the same. Justification by faith in Christ. God’s Word as the final authority. Regular worship and fellowship with the saints. Growth in holiness. Marriage for most. Forgiveness and obedience. Sexual purity in all stages of life. God’s sovereignty over all things. The answers to the sins of our generation are the same they have always been.

A Encouragement to Flee
Parents, if your children are in public school please pull them out. Not every public school is this bad. But if you think your children can spend twelve years of their lives being taught that gender is a social construct and come out thinking biblically you are wrong.

Christian teachers, I encourage you to abandon the public school system as well. I had many good Christian teachers in my public high school. But the time has come to let the dead bury the dead. Why would you want to be a part of system that denies God and the world he has made? If kids come out learning how to read, but think girls and boys are basically the same have we really educated them? I know Christian public school teachers want to honor Christ in their vocation. And I know it would be a sacrifice to leave that vocation. But Christ has said that whatever we leave for his name in this life will be rewarded in the life to come. Why continue as a teacher when the Department of Education insists on hanging millstones around the necks of our children?

Finally, I urge any Christians in churches where the pastors are not speaking out biblically and regularly on the major cultural issues of our day, such as sodomy, abortion, feminism, fornication, etc. to leave. If you are in a church that is silent on these matters, encourages grace, but not holiness, does not discipline its members for major sins, thinks homosexuality is fine, has women elders, or has other women leaders that are teaching men then get out and get out now.