Monday, January 17, 2011

More on Clothing

I found this quote on another blog. I'm trusting that it is legit. How sad is it when worldly designers understand the heart better than those who have God's word!

Adornment is never anything except a reflection of the heart. ~ Coco Chanel

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fashionable or Unfashionable - Is That Really the Question?

Recently a young Christian lady blogged the following:

"So just chill out. And remember its (sic) ok to wear clothes that look cute to you. Remember its (sic) just clothes."

This statement came at the end of a blog post where she asserted that people who try not to be concerned about fashion will be more obsessed with fashion that those who follow the trends. Her main point seems to be that the most important concern a woman should have while shopping or dressing is the cuteness factor. As if God's word has nothing to say whatsoever about clothing and we are, therefore, free to make our own rules. But, is this true? Is God's word devoid of instruction in attire? Let us examine the Scriptures to see whether these things be so.

Is our clothing EVER "just clothes?" Way back in Deuteronomy (way back in terms of being near the beginning of the Bible and way back in terms of time) we find this:

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 22:5

It sounds like there are certain clothing choices about which God has a very strong opinion. When we see the word "abomination" we ought to sit up and take notice. So I would like to warn my young friend that even if it is cute, cross dressing is a no-no.

Another verse which seems instructive on the matter of dress is Proverbs 7:10 which says:

And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart

Interestingly, the author doesn't seem to think we need an explanation for what constitutes the "attire of an harlot". In Solomon's day, as in ours, it's pretty self explanatory. They don't dress in uniforms with a "harlot" tag on one breast and "Bambi" on the other. Perhaps we've seen prostitutes in our towns? Perhaps in movies? Short skirts, lace stockings, high-heeled shoes, shirts that reveal cleavage? Perhaps if my young friend's attire could cause her to be mistaken for a harlot she should reconsider her choices? But then again, being mistaken for a harlot isn't a sin, is it? Besides, lace stockings coupled with short skirts are cute!

But the Old Testament is so... well... old. Does the New Testament have anything to say about clothing? How about 1 Timothy 2:9-10?

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

So when it comes to adorning, women's apparel should be modest. Each woman is going to have to test that out in the mirror when she gets dressed, it can't be confined to a list of do's and don'ts. "Modest" is explained a bit in the parts following. Is the woman shamefaced and sober as she shops or dresses? Is the focus of her adornment to draw attention to her hair, her jewelry or the finery of her clothing? If so, then she is not modest. And at the very end of the passage Paul says that instead of being immodest she should be adorned with good works. It almost sounds as if being immodest and doing good works are mutually exclusive. Perhaps that is because a woman can't do much work of any type, good or otherwise, while she's attired like a harlot?

Paul also told Titus to tell the older women to instruct the young on a whole host of womanly concerns.

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:4-5

I'm not sure how chaste a woman can be when her clothing leaves nothing to the imagination. Even if her behavior is technically chaste, she is suggesting otherwise and certainly shouldn't be offended if some young man attempts to accept what appears to be her offer. And here is another one of those scary, pay attention this is important words; women who are not chaste cause the word of God to be blasphemed
Now, either Peter and Paul were comparing notes before they wrote about how Christian woman should dress, or God really wants us to put some thought into this. How else can we explain how they use such similar language?

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 1 Peter 3:3-4

So a woman should be noticed because she is decorated by a meek and quiet spirit, not by flashy outward adornments. And apparently God himself SEES this? And it is valuable to Him? God cares how women dress and behave within their clothing? It doesn't seem that He desires "cute". "Cute" is corruptible. The spirit is eternal, adorn yourself there.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What is Marriage?

Returning to the subject which constituted the impetus behind this entire blog, the following question is posed:

What is Marriage?

Here are the two fundamental elements of every marriage:

1. The Declaration - One having the authority to do so declares that the woman is given in marriage to the particular man.

2. The Taking - The man takes the woman to wife by consummating the marriage with her, becoming "one flesh" in a physical manner.

When these two events occur, in that order, a man and woman become husband and wife. Absolutely nothing else is needed. While a marriage may be surrounded with many other customs and rituals, none of those will make two people any MORE married, and the absence of superfluous customs or rituals does not make two people any less married.

These two essential elements apply to every earthly marriage as well as to the marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church.

Perhaps there can be endless debate over who qualifies as an "authority" for the first element, and whether a universal definition can be established for certain is a valid question. But it IS a certainty that without a declaration by an authority there is no marriage. Likewise, without the consummation, no marriage is established.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Thoughts on Betrothal - Who has a Say-So?

Here are some more thoughts I posted on betrothal over on an internet discussion forum for Christian women:

I do not believe that the Bible requires, recommends or commands that either the groom or the bride approve of the marriage. I believe that it is completely moral and scripturally acceptable for fathers to arrange a marriage. While I don't have any particular verses to back this up, since it is not possible to prove a negative, I do have some principles gleaned from the betrothal of Christ and the Church that leads me to that belief.

What I see in Scripture is that we have no say in whether or not we are chosen. We are chosen both by Christ and by the Father, according to what Jesus and Paul tell us. Because Jesus and the Father are one, it is sometimes difficult to translate directly their roles into earthly situations. Sometimes God is behaving as a Father, sometimes as a Son, sometimes as a brother, sometimes as a friend, etc. He uses all of those roles to teach us things about Himself and they can't always be cut out and separated so that we can see exactly how WE should behave as a father, son, brother, friend, etc.

So, God the Father, acting in the role as our Father, betrothed us to His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid the price for the bride and has therefore entered into a covenant to marry her. Christ and the Church are not yet married, but have entered into an unbreakable betrothal covenant, and when He marries His bride, the covenant will be fulfilled. She cannot remove herself from the betrothal, nor did she have any say in being placed into the betrothal.

Because earthly marriage is supposed to be a picture of the marriage of Christ and the Church, the process by which those marriages come about should also be a picture, or rather that process is a part of the complete picture of what God is doing in regards to finding a bride for his Son and building a Kingdom. To ignore the process is to miss much of the purpose for God giving us the picture in order for us to understand Him better and to know Him more. Every thing that God has done in history so far IS the process! The marriage hasn't happened yet, only the betrothal, and even that isn't complete as more are being added to the bride. (And it seems that more will continue to be added right up to the moment that Jesus comes for the bride)

I realize that many (I think most) of the ladies here do not embrace reformed theology that teaches that God alone is responsible for saving us and that we have no part in it and no choice. Since that is what I believe, it forms very heavily my beliefs about earthly marriage.

Scripture gives some examples, but no direct commands. In the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, we see that Isaac had no say at all in who was chosen for him. And Rebekah also did not have a choice. The deal was made by her relatives.

Genesis 24:51
1Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the LORD hath spoken

I will also address the "Well, that's just cultural" argument before it arises. :D

This practice (of marriages being arranged or the very least approved by the fathers) has existed in every culture, ancient and modern, up until perhaps 200 years ago or less. The change in western cultures to women choosing their own husbands was based on a turning away from the biblical teaching on authority, not on any new discovery of some sort of God-given right to do what you please. God not only endorses and embraces the betrothal system for His own family, He established it before the foundation of the world. If it was good enough for his only begotten son, it's good enough for my sons and daughters.

From a purely pragmatic view (which wouldn't matter a hill of beans if it contradicted Scripture, but is worth noting nonetheless) the modern, western method of finding a spouse has been nothing short of disastrous for families and for women in particular. To quote a non-Christian who occasionally stumbles onto some truth, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, "I don't support arranged marriage. But concerning most of the women who call my show; their parents couldn't possibly have picked worse husbands for these ladies than whom they chose for themselves!"

As a side note, in our household, we will allow a veto from a daughter. While we don't believe it is required, we don't want to add any more difficulties to her sinful mind when the tough times come. As in, we don't want satan handing her the argument (lie) that she doesn't have to obey this husband because she didn't even want to marry him in the first place.

What is Betrothal?

Below is the response I gave on an internet discussion forum to the question, "What is the difference between courtship and betrothal?"

Betrothal is not a "process" so much as it is an event and statement of the status of relationship between two people.

So if I ask how are you related to that man over there, you might answer, He IS my father, or he IS my brother, or he IS my husband, or, in the case of betrothal, he IS my espoused husband. Betrothal creates a relationship between two people. It begins with a covenant, historically and biblically between the groom/husband and the father of the bride. The covenant is fulfilled when the husband returns and takes the bride to wife.

There is no reference in Scripture of which I'm aware where the marriage is a covenant. The marriage is the fulfillment of the Betrothal covenant.

Betrothal has nothing to do with a couple getting to know each other and that is not a necessary element of it. In many cultures and in the accounts in the Bible, there is no "relating" going on between betrothed people. They "get to know each other" AFTER the marriage.

It was not uncommon for the bride price to include jewels, so we see betrothed women having been adorned with rings and bracelets. These would have served to let others know that a woman was taken. In ancient cultures a single woman would never adorn herself with jewels (unless she was a harlot). It served much the same purpose as our culture's engagement ring. Once a maiden was betrothed, her "status" was different, even though she would continue to live in her father's house and function pretty much the same as other single women until her husband came for her. There was no dating or courtship.

Both courtship and dating are terms that refer to how a couple get to know one another before marriage. Some families practice them, some don't. Some cultures practice them, some don't. Neither term or practice seems to have any biblical endorsement or prohibition.

It is interesting to me that there is no requirement that the woman/bride be involved in the betrothal. This also contributes to the difference between reformed and non-reformed theology in the sense that the reformed believe that God chooses the bride for his Son and the bride does NOT choose the Son. She is "chosen", whether she wants to be, or not.

Adorning Ourselves

It rarely seems to be an issue in the modern church, whether or not a woman/girl should pierce her body for the purpose of creating places to hang jewelry, although I assume it has been rather hotly contested at various times in church history. Even outside the church it wasn't considered discreet, modest or, dare I say, acceptable until relatively recently. "Relatively" meaning until the 1970's. Today, one would absolutely be accused of being a prude or perhaps even a legalist for suggesting that young ladies should not have their ears pierced and even other facial piercings are obtaining that sacred status of "unassailable." After all, don't ya know, the pastor's wife has a nose piercing, and she's as godly as they come!

I'm going to borrow a line from Highlands Ministries and say, shouldn't we all live "simple, separate and deliberate lives" for the glory of God and for the building of the Kingdom? In being deliberate, shouldn't we ask ourselves, "How will piercing my body and wearing jewelry which draws attention to myself glorify God?" As usual, we shouldn't be asking, "Is it lawful?", but rather, "Is it expedient?"

What follows is something I shared with some other ladies on an internet discussion forum for Christian mothers. The question posed on the forum was this:

Are pierced ears biblical, unbiblical or neutral?

The woman who responded immediately before me said that every reference to earrings in the Bible was "negative", so my comments start out by referencing hers:

I don't agree that piercings in Scripture are always "negative". However, they are always a sign of belonging to someone else. Either in the form of slave/bondservant to master or wife/betrothed woman to husband.

The Scripture says little about the actual "piercing", although rings in/on the face/nose/ears are mentioned (depending upon which translation you consult), it is often assumed that these rings include piercings because it is difficult to imagine how else a person would hang a "ring" on the face/ear/nose. In the case of bondservants, the procedure for doing the piercing is actually mentioned.

When we discuss ear piercings, we are talking about two issues, really, the first being the wearing of jewelry and the second of making holes (permanent alterations) in the human body.

When it comes to jewelry, I find that Scripture pretty much endorses the idea of a man adorning his own wife with jewelry, but does not endorse a woman adorning her SELF with jewelry. The only mentions of a woman adorning herself with jewelry refer to harlots. Otherwise we see a man giving jewelry as betrothal gifts (Isaac to Rebekah, God to Israel (Ezekiel 16) and in Revelation the Bride is adorned for her marriage, in the white robes given by her husband). Jewelry of all types served to testify that a woman was "taken", similar to our own culture's use of an engagement or wedding ring on a certain finger. An earring, in particular was a sign of ownership for both men and women.

We are warned in Scripture not to adorn our outward appearance, in the sense of drawing attention to ourselves. But a wife is her husband's glory and he is free to adorn her for his glory.

As for making holes in the body - it is not forbidden, but what is the purpose? If a woman is putting holes in her body in order to draw attention to her jewelry, is that modest or appropriate? I don't see any difference in piercing a nose or piercing an ear. The differences are merely cultural. If your husband asks you to pierce your ears so that he can adorn your ears with jewels, that is his privilege as a husband. :D

I wish I was not pierced. My parents permitted me to pierce my ears when I was 12, and I did so. My husband does not like jewelry or piercings. But my holes are permanent reminders that I put my own preferences over those of my future husband. :( I don't want my daughters to have any such regrets, and since it's never too late to get a piercing, we have told them that piercing their bodies is an absolute "no" until they are married and the issue is resolved by their husbands.

On a personal note, nothing really Scriptural, but it seems to me that I was saying God made a mistake or forgot something when I decided I needed holes in my earlobes. Didn't God know that I wouldn't fit in with the crowd unless I had something dangling from my ears? In some respects, my attitude was the same as someone who has plastic surgery for vanity reasons. I wasn't pleased with the way God made me and decided to take matters into my own hands. I deeply regret that attitude and the results.

End of my response in the forum

That does a pretty good job of summing up my opinion on the issue. I've discovered that most women, including Christians, will reject any suggestion that we should restrict our behavior in any way. For some reason, to restrict ourselves from doing things which won't send us to hell is to waste the liberty we have in Christ. I must say I reject that notion and it irritates me, as I'm sure my 2 readers have already discovered, for anyone to do anything for the sole reason that we have the LIBERTY to do it. I'm still waiting for the woman who will argue, "I HAD to pierce my ears for the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom!"