Home > Brandenburg, Complementarianism, Feminism > The Seriousness of the Symbolism for Male Headship (part two)

The Seriousness of the Symbolism for Male Headship (part two)

November 22, 2007

“Scorched-earth” is a military strategy of devastating all land and buildings in the course of advancing or retreating troops so as to leave nothing salvageable to the enemy. The strategy transfers to other types of endeavors, including legal defense, the goal being to discredit the prosecution and its investigation in every way possible so as to create reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury. This scheme was used by the O. J. Simpson lawyers to win that infamous murder case. As they say, he got away with murder. Scorched-earth is very often also what pants-on-women proponents use to defend their position. I found a proof-text for their methodology.Rolling Eyes

And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

They don’t have to offer a single explanation themselves for Deuteronomy 22:5 or 1 Corinthians 11, but they must cause enough doubt in the teachings of these texts to allow whatever kind of dress they want to have. They present seventeen kwabillion different other possibilities that the passages could say. They find almost everyone that offers a different meaning than what a majority historically have said. The scorched-earther is looking to cause reasonable doubt.

After the scorched-earthers are done inducing the doubt, then, “you know, it really is not something clearly taught in Scripture, so we need to give latitude to disagreeing Christians, look for unity, try to avoid dissension among the brethren, prunes are good for you, the gravitational force of the earth, and what about dem Cubs?” And on top of that, “snicker, snicker,” and “ROFL” (where’d they pick up how to scoff?). And “do you really believe that?” When they face God? Well, they’re saved already, and a lot of people believe just like them, and how could God expect me to practice something that is so unclear?

They’ve got their bases covered. Will it fool God? Of course not, but that’s not the point with traditions and vain philosophies anyway. They’re to supply credible replacements for obedience and enough built-in excuses to make them look orthodox.

Problem: we can spend decades obliterating what a passage says to do, but we’re still required to obey it, because man shall live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4). And by the time we pass our fraudulent beliefs and practices down to our children, they’ll still be responsible to obey what God said too, even though we’ve made it exceedingly more difficult for them with our massive cover-up.

The Position of the Scorched-Earthers (like they say it)

  • Deuteronomy 22:5 is ceremonial law, something we don’t keep today, any more than we refrain from wearing “a garment of. . . . woolen and linen together” (v. 11). Big smiles and periodic mad scientist laugh.Laughing Out Loud
  • The “thing that pertaineth unto a man” is armor and “man” is a “soldier.” I’m against women wearing military stuff! (Not actually in real life because we’ve got two enlisted women on our prayer list that have different shaped and sized camoflauge.)
  • You’re a fundamentalist, aren’t you?!?! (“Um, n..) Thought so!! Well, well, you’re like that!! (“Like w…”) Legalistic!!
  • The passage is like telling us that men and women are to look different. I, chuckle, don’t think, chuckle, that you would say that, bigger chuckle, my wife and I, giggle, look like each other, repeated giggles, when we both wear pants.
  • Women wear hats and socks!!
  • Scottish men wear kilts!!
  • Barry Bonds wears an earring! I dare you to tell him he looks like a woman!!! (Long, loud hyena laughter)
  • It’s not saying that! (“Saying what?”) Whatever it is that you are saying that it’s saying? (“I haven’t said yet.”) It doesn’t matter; it isn’t.
  • Both men and women wore robes in Bible times, so as long as she has on women’s pants, then she’s all set. (“How do you know they’re women’s pants?”) They have a different size and cut. (“You mean they’re tighter?”) No, just cut different in the hips, you know, because women have different hips than men. (“Fascinating. And so what if a woman put on a pair of loose fitting men’s pants, does that violate the verse?”) Well. I guess it would, so she probably shouldn’t do that. (“And that’s what an abomination to God is?”). But they both wore robes. That’s my point.
  • Men who teach women-wear-pants have treated women badly.
  • Women started wearing pants during World War 1 when they worked in the factories. They were more comfortable.
  • Everyone wears underwear!
  • You’re not going to say that John MacArthur, John Piper, Bob Jones, Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Mark Dever, Larry Oats, and Tim Jordan are, well, all an abomination to God are you?
  • The Caananites utilized transvetitism in their worship and God was forbidding Canaanite worship by saying this.
  • Moses and Paul both were chauvenists!
  • This is forbidding homosexual-type cross-dressing.
  • You’re making a major issue out of something that is minor. That’s only in the Bible one time!
  • You just want to keep women bare-foot and pregant!
  • Men who believe like you do have called women “whores!”
  • A lot of women’s skirts are much more immodest than pants!
  • Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart!
  • My grandmother wears pants and she’s the most Godly woman I know!
  • You use the King James!

The Answer

For a number of reasons, men who take a position on this like I do often are stereotyped as people who don’t look closely at Scripture. My experience in this debate has been that the women-wear-pants men refuse to look at the actual text to get their position. On these passages, they are shallow and self-serving.

I covered Deuteronomy 22:5 like I do all others and when I did, the words of the verse strongly contradicted my former position, which was that pants were permissible for women, if not the best. What I saw in the text was that “the thing that pertaineth,” was something of distinct design. The assumption was that it was designed within a Godly culture, such as God intended Israel. That thing designed for men alone was not to be worn by women.

The idea within Deuteronomy 22:5 wasn’t that men and women were to look out into the culture and find out what it wore as a guide, so that if the society changed in its practice to something Scripturally indefensible, believers were free to change with it, because this was intended only as a cultural issue. The articles designed for men were not to be worn by women, and vice-versa. The articles had a design. That didn’t mean that you could take the male article, dye it pink, and that then it would be female, or that you could make it more form-fitting and that then it would be female. Of course, when women started wearing pants, they weren’t designing a new article for women. Women were simply taking the male article and wearing it. At first Christians argued against that, and finally they just capitulated. Now they argue for the unisex apparrel.

The woman wearing the male garment is an abomination to God. She rebels against God’s design. The man that wears the female garment also is an abomination to God for the same reason. This conforms to the teaching in Romans 1. At the root of man’s rebellion is his trouble with God as Creator. For that reason, men take on characteristics of women and women of men. They suppress truth in the most basic fashion, worshiping and serving themselves (they’re own comforts, leisure, recreation, fads, purposes) rather than God’s.

The Point of the Symbol

At the root of a refusal of the symbols is a rejection of God’s goodness. God made us and it was good. He made male and female and it was good. We should subject to and trust in that goodness. God knows what is good for us better than what we do. What we think is comfort ultimately will not be if it is in violation of God’s good will.

Families break down when the roles break down. The dress issue is a role issue. God knows that boys and girls grow up learning their roles by what they see. When they don’t see clear support of what God has done, we get role confusion. We now see this chaos all over the United States and the rest of the world. We Christians, God’s salt and light, must let the world see our good works so that men might glorify God in heaven. If we are not willing to praise God’s design on earth, why would the world be interested in His heaven?

  1. Anvil
    November 23, 2007 at 8:53 am

    After reading through all the attempts at distraction from the core argument by claiming those who disagree with your interpretation are not interacting with the scriptures and are simply looking for a reason for their own disobedience (i.e. attempting to make it a question of motivation instead of dealing with the argument itself), I was able to find one new contention in this article that goes to the argument itself, and is something I don’t recall having seen you present before:

    What I saw in the text was that “the thing that pertaineth,” was something of distinct design. The assumption was that it was designed within a Godly culture, such as God intended Israel.

    The first sentence is agreed upon even by those who disagree with your application. The second, however, is what is interesting. I have a couple of questions on this. Does this mean that any article designed by an ungodly culture (how many cultures outside of theocratic Israel [and sometimes not even they] could be considered truly a godly culture?) is not appropriate for either gender? With this assumption, would it even have been possible for those new Christians from the gentile Greek and Roman cultures to have obeyed this scripture without changing their apparel to the Jewish way of dressing? I don’t see any admonition from Paul that would require them to change the way they dressed within their own cultures, except to not throw off the male/female symbols like the head covering you mentioned, and to maintain modesty.

    If this assumption you mention is true, it doesn’t just apply to pants on women — it would also disallow much, if not all, of what is worn today by both genders.

  2. November 23, 2007 at 11:20 am

    While I agree with Kent here, I do think that we should sometime attempt a month on culture. How do Christians interact with culture? Can a Christian judge a culture or just accomodate it?

    As Christians, we must beware of falling in with the spirit of our times that calls everything into unanswerable questions. I see no problem with claiming that a question is difficult or that we don’t have the answer right now, but we must admit that for a Christian there is an answer. And if Christ is Lord of all, that would include culture. If He’s Lord of the culture, then he must have some way He wants it to be. We’re either with Him or against Him. There’s no neutral ground.

  3. November 23, 2007 at 11:54 am


    Thank you for interacting with us here on this. Your challenges and questions and comments, to me anyway, indicate that you care about it. It reminds me of the disciples after they couldn’t help the demon-possessed boy when Christ was on the Mt. of Transfiguration—they came to Christ out of continued concern for him. Others refuse to even think about this any more and just play like the ostrich with the head in the sand. If they don’t consider it or think about it, then they don’t need to deal with it. It amazes me at how fast we have eradicated it from the conversation among independent Bible-believing and practicing.

    You’ve written me a couple and I haven’t answered them yet, mainly because I was taking comments one at a time and getting to them. I’ll give an answer here first. First, let me say this—is it possible I’m wrong and that those with the “arguments” above are actually right? I’ve thought about that and, yes, I would change. However, I don’t actually get any satisfying reasons to change, not even close. My excuse-o-meter goes off with what I hear. I hear excuses to compromise and capitulate with the world. I try to think of my own reasons and still don’t find anything, except something that would contribute to dishonor to God and a downward cultural spiral regarding the roles of men and women.

    Now, to what you said, I do believe ungodly cultures can be doing right. I’m going to try to illustrate, but it doesn’t mean I’ve nailed it with an illustration. I like the Russian composers of the 19th century. They weren’t Christians. However, they continued a musical genre that I believe was acceptable based on biblical principles. Not everyone in Victorian England were converted, but they had standards of modesty. The first century Roman empire retained distinct male and female articles. That didn’t sanctify their culture, but it wasn’t a part of the culture from which Christians needed to separate. God could sanctify the head-covering because it was in accordance with His righteous will as found in Deut. 22:5.

    When Paul was converted, he retained much of the old Paul, including all of the old Paul’s OT knowledge and Paul’s logic. He used what he could use as someone transformed in Christ. Some old Paul was chucked and other was sanctified—this is how someone is transformed at conversion.

    The term agape was a secular term before it came into the New Testament. God took the term and sanctified it and it took on a meaning that God used in holy scripture. We can take some of culture and sanctify it. Some we must leave by the wayside. This is called discernment, understanding, wisdom.

    Deut. 22:5 originated with a Godly culture, assuming that people would retain the articles of masculinity and the articles of femininity. One can judge when Deut. 22:5 is being ignored and we are left without them. Christians then need to sanctify the culture as salt and light by obeying the symbols designed into the culture. When culture attempts or succeeds at desigining them out, Christians must retain them out of obedience to God’s Word. This is the story of dresses and pants.

  4. November 24, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Brother Kent,

    My wife and I decided a long time ago that she would wear dresses and skirts and not pants. My daughter is being raised with that same conviction.

    Until your two posts I have more or less discounted the argument in Deut 22:5 on the grounds of “culture”. My argument has been mostly “modesty” as pants accentuate parts of a woman’s body that only her husband needs to know.

    However, you have made me search the Scriptures on this issue more closely. Thanks for that.

  5. December 20, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I know this is a very old post now. It’s so…last month! But I came across an article debating the merits of maternal versus paternal lineages. One Indian fellow was arguing that in India, there are many families and clans that still have female headship and that it works for them. But in his arguments he posted this observation:

    “There is a strong matriarchial tendency in many Maratha clans in India to this day. Maratha women are aggressive and outgoing (more so than other Indian women). They bunch up their saris , wrap them around around their legs and wrap the tail over the backside and tuck it uder the small of their backs, making them more like trousers.”

    The full article and debate is found here: The Shallow Roots of the Human Family Tree (it’s in the discussion below)

    So the pants phenomenon isn’t quite as modern/western as some would like to convince themselves.

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