Home > Brandenburg, Culture, Standards > Culture Decay—The Attack on Standards

Culture Decay—The Attack on Standards

March 25, 2008

Have you looked at and compared the crowds that gather for a blue-state candidate or a red-state candidate? I’m not talking about race and ethnicity. Remove that from your thoughts and this discussion. I’m only referring to how they appear in dress and decorum. To make it more simple—notice the difference in the look of a Hillary crowd versus a Huckabee crowd (this is not an endorsement for either of these candidates or world views). By observation it is obvious that these two groups have different standards. Culture shock if they attended the other’s rally. Does this matter? Do the differences mean anything?

We can go further with this comparison. Look at this earlier female golfing attire (and here), early female tennis player (and here), early female cyclists, and then early female swimmers. Have the standards of dress changed? Are we better now? These men were watching a baseball game. Why have things become more casual all around? Is there an underlying philosophical reason? Are we better off with the new standard?


Standard fare today on standards is that they are nasty ole additions to Scripture. I ask myself, “Why didn’t the godly people, who loved the Word of God, not recognize that the standards they implemented weren’t actually biblical?” Corollary: “Were they that much spiritual dunces?” Also, “How could there have been such a widespread conspiracy to get especially young people to do things, i.e. keep standards, that were so detrimental to their lives?” I contend that the standard bearers’ spiritual and biblical elevators did go all the way to the top. They did have a clue.

We have a regular attack on standards today not just in evangelicalism (typical), but also in professing fundamentalism (here, here, here, and here). Are they trying to help us? Have we really been duped by modern day Pharisees? Is the world a more godly place with their new found influence? Or are they actually contemporary Mr. Worldly-Wises who can’t say “no” to their worldly lusts?

“Standard” isn’t an English word found in the English translation of Scripture, so to argue a proposition that standards are good and necessary and that obliterating them decays a Christian culture, we should define the term. The free dictionary online says that a standard is: “a. A degree or level of requirement, excellence, or attainment. b. A requirement of moral conduct. Often used in the plural.”

When we talk about standards, we are talking about institutional application of biblical principles and commands. The two Scriptural institutions are the family and the church, but today there are schools you can add to that. Families have standards—“call if you’ll be late,” “put back what you got out,” “elbows off the table,” “answer when spoken to,” and “you’ll wear a tie on Sunday.” Churches have standards—“no faithful attendance; no choir,” “no tie; no usher,” “no evangelism; no teaching,” “alcohol; no membership,” “divorce; no deacon,” “no haircut; no leadership,” and “movie theater; no leadership.”

Defenders of Christian culture or personal holiness have taken these standards from direct statements or applications from principles. For instance, you might recognize that “divorce; no deacon” comes from 1 Timothy 3. Many evangelicals will argue against that. “No haircut, no leadership” comes from 1 Corinthians 11. No one with whom I fellowship uses standards as a means of justification or sanctification (Romans 3:20; Galatians 5:1-4). We have many explanations for standards that are found in 1 Corinthians 6-10 in Paul’s discussion on the proper use of liberties. We are to flee idolatry and flee fornication. Do we apply these with track shoes? We aren’t to get close to sin, thinking that we will stand and not fall. Romans 13 and 14 give more principles. This is how these verses have been applied or obeyed for centuries.

The Attack on Standards

Evangelicals and fundamentalists combat these standards by many different means. Sometimes they use Scripture. Jeroboam used Scripture to support erecting his idols at Dan and Bethel. Who did he quote? He cited Aaron when Aaron defended his building of the golden calf. Normally, they will attack personally and speculate motives. They say that you are trying to sanctify by works. They claim that you want to impress people out of pride. They say that you are working at conforming everybody into something that you’re comfortable with. They say that it is legalism and not grace. Most often today, they say that you are just making these standards up without biblical support.

Recently, over at a bastion of post-standard fundamentalism, SharperIron, Stephen Davis, an associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Lansdale, PA (home of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the National Leadership Conferences) wrote:

Yet in my opinion and observation, Fundamentalism’s commitment to the authority of Scripture often attaches itself to interpretations and positions on issues to which scriptural authority cannot be legitimately attached. . . . [O]ne finds great diversity due in part to the level of certainty that is accorded to the application of Scripture to issues that are far removed from the fundamentals of the faith. These applications on a host of issues from standards to music to Bible versions to eschatological distinctives have helped create a fractured Fundamentalism.

That is the common criticism for personal and cultural separation based on standards. A lot of what Davis wrote, I agree with, and especially this:

I will not allow a movement to define me and to choose my battles. The Word stands above every movement and every culture in every time and in all places. To that sacred and timeless Word and to its Author we must yield and give our allegiance.

This is why I don’t consider myself to be a fundamentalist. However, I will defend fundamentalism when it is attacked for upholding standards of personal holiness. Places like Calvary in Lansdale still practice mixed swimming, which includes men and women stripping down to something sometimes less modest than underwear. In my experience with the Lansdale type cross-section of professing Christianity, I have found that they consider a standard against mixed swimming to be one of these “illegitimate applications of Scripture.” One of the detriments of being a fundamentalist is the initial concept that certain teachings of Scripture are already relegated to something less than a fundamental. In this case, mixed nudity doesn’t count as a violation of a fundamental, so it should be ignored as a matter of separation. And most of the traditional brand of fundamentalists (the Bob Jones, Detroit, Maranatha, Northland, Central axis) do ignore this. That’s why I like Davis’ last quote (read it again to see if you like it). We’ll do just what Scripture says and not worry about whether traditional fundamentalists will agree with us (they won’t).

I’m sure many of these men don’t like that I am saying that they are supporting nudity or maybe better ‘Christian nudist retreats.’ If they don’t support it, then why don’t they separate over it? Are they really uncertain as to whether it is wrong? Maybe not. I do believe it is interesting that these fundamentalists will regularly coddle up to men like C. J. Mahaney of Together for the Gospel, when his church this year is putting on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Last year they put on Godspell. The latter is of the same type of show as the blasphemous Webber musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, which had opened on broadway a year earlier. Perhaps they could rename their fellowship, Together for the Godspell.

When fundamentalist Dave Doran got together with them last year, he reported:

In many respects, it was one of the most spiritually beneficial conferences I’ve attended the message by John Piper alone was worth the time and cost of the conference.

John Piper doesn’t have trouble with the standards of the pastor of Mars Hill church in the Seattle, WA area, Mark Driscoll. This mixture could make things confusing couldn’t it? Isn’t this the reason why we separate ecclesiastically (churches separate) over issues of personal holiness? The evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t have these standards of personal holiness over which they will separate, and so they have an incredible lack of discernment. This causes many to stumble.

The most common text I hear quoted as a Scriptural refutation of standards is Mark 7:7:

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Believers have not historically relied on this verse in contradiction to standards of personal holiness. God expects us to apply Scripture to our life and standards are the way. As a means of seeing how that believers have applied Scripture to life, and not considered legalistic, take a look at William Gouge’s Of Domestical Duties (1622). Gouge has a several page section in which he shows that a biblical practice would be a mother nursing her infant children. Most evangelicals and many fundamentalists would call this legalism.

As a result of these kinds of attacks on standards, churches lose their Christian culture, looking, acting, and sounding like the world. The churches of today look more and more like the blue crowd compared to the red crowd they once did. Some may say that this either doesn’t matter or it’s actually good. What do they do with Zephaniah 1:8?

And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

Dressing in “strange apparel” was to dress like the world. God would punish those of His people who wore worldly clothes. He expected them to be distinct. Distinctiveness was holiness. This verse alone is a proof text for standards. This is also the historic position on this verse (and here). God expects believers to have personal standards of holiness. Zephaniah 1:8 doesn’t explain what “strange apparel” was. They were to know. They obviously did know. They were going to be punished for something that they knew and were supposed to practice. God hasn’t changed on this, even if we have.

The Relationship to 2 Timothy 3:2

I’ve been relating the cultural decay to the last days. One last expression of the times of apostacy is that men shall be “lovers of pleasure.” Men want their way. They want their creature comforts. On the other hand, Jesus said that His way was self-denial. The rich young man in Matthew 19 said he wanted eternal life, but he couldn’t give up his things. Jesus described His way in Luke 9:58:

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Those following Christ shouldn’t expect to have anywhere to lay their heads. That’s not what people want to hear today. And because people want what they want, churches market themselves to pleasure-loving people. It’s no wonder that they don’t like standards and scramble to find verses to avoid them. They even present a kind of Christian hedonism (these articles are against it). The evangelical, John Piper, has popularized a form of Christian hedonism, and he states the first point in his book, Desiring God (p. 23):

1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience; it is good, not sinful. 2. We should never try to resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.

He starts with man’s longing to be happy. What verse teaches this? Um. (Crickets.) Mark 7:7 anyone? This idea in particular satisfies man’s fleshly desire to gratify himself. As a result of these kinds of philosophies, evangelicalism is full of worldliness.

Low standards or high standards can result from legalism. Grace doesn’t contradict man’s happiness, but it centers on the pleasure of God. It doesn’t make provision for the flesh. It won’t always deliver us if we walk near the edge of the moral cliff. Grace will build a fence there. It won’t make it easier for the flesh. It teaches us to deny ungodliness and lust. Standards graciously apply Scripture. They protect the distinct, holy culture of the Christian.

  1. March 25, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Very interesting post, with lots to think about. As my wife and I try to find modest swim wear for our children, the topic of standards routinely comes up. The biggest question is then, whose makes the standard?

    Yeah, I know you will say Scripture. And I agree. However, in areas that are not clear (e.g. dresses v. pants, length of dress, length of sleves on dress, etc.) who makes the call? Just some thoughts that come to my mind over these issues.

    I want to clarify that I agree our culture in America has allowed standards to drop, especially in the Church.

  2. March 25, 2008 at 9:16 am

    I am always amazed at the SI crowd on issues like this. On the one hand, they demand a certain “professionalism” and adherence to a “higher standard” when exhorting one another concerning our websites, brochures, blogs, etc. Then, they call us “legalists” for daring to set a “higher standard” than the world.

    Are we a different people or not? Are Christians supposed to fit in? Are we to seek happiness? Are we to seek the happiness of our friends and loved ones? Or, are we supposed to exalt the Holy One of Israel and His standards.

    One thing I say to our church congregation about the standards for choir, etc. is this: “Even if our standard is higher than necessary, is not God worthy of a higher standard in our dress and demeanor?”

  3. March 25, 2008 at 9:25 am


    Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you’re willing to consider this. So many won’t today. Certain points are clear. I believe length of dress is clear if you look closely at Isaiah 47:1-3. It is obvious that at one time covering the woman’s thighs and breasts was a historic position.

    Regarding sleeves and such, I believe you are correct that we might not make a church standard, only a home standard, and for the purpose of honoring God principly.

    I haven’t brought up the dress vs. pants issue, because we would go off on that one standard, but I think a church can make that call legitimately and not be legalistic, since Deut. 22:5 and 1 Cor. 11 deal with distinctions in gender.


    I agree with your comment.

    For anyone reading, I’m going to be gone for big chunks of time this week, but I will come through to comment when I can.

  4. March 25, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Art: I’m not sure what the SI crowd is, but was wondering if you could elaborate as to your view related to the choir issue. FWIW, my church has no choir, so this question is merely meant to dialogue on the standards issue.

    I see your angle on the standards within your church, and I can agree that you have the right/responsibility to set such standards. However, what if the church next door has different standards? Either higher or lower, doesn’t matter. That’s the heart of this post, as I see it, and where I get a bit bogged down. How do we translate standards from one gathering of believers to another, or even to the culture at large?

    This post has really got the old wheels turning today!

  5. March 25, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Kent: Thank you for the feedback. I like the distinction between the Church standard v. Family standard. That can be very helpful.

    I wonder, though, if what you are really advocating are Church minimums rather than standards? From the length of dress issue, I can see where you get the “standard” for covering thighs and breasts. I agree and would advocate the same. However, after the thighs and breasts are covered, there are still areas that many would argue should also be covered.

    This is where, IMHO, advocating for a “minimum” comes in (and I realize this may all be semantics). Maybe I am being too picky, but I really am trying to get a grip on this. Once we agree on thigh coverage, then where do we set the standard? Knee length, calf length, ankle length? I would argue that the church standard is thigh covered, but the family standard is what the family decides; hence the use of church minimum.

    I guess some of it comes back to what I asked Art. If one church sets a standard, what if another church has a different standard? Yeah, I know – – there is only One standard, but we are still imperfect, finite beings, and prone to mistakes.

    Prolly a lot of typing to say nothing. 🙂 I appreciate the post.

  6. Anvil
    March 25, 2008 at 10:40 am


    Does your choir wear robes? If they just wear dresses/suits, are they not just fitting in with the world? After all those items are also the world’s dress (e.g. in a business setting, or even for funerals, weddings, etc.), even if different from the totally casual/grunge look. How are suits/dresses a higher (or different) standard from the world? The only distinction you are making is which part of the fallen culture you are similar to — are you exemplifying the man on the street, or are you looking like that part of the culture obsessed with “dress for success” and greed? Are the non-regenerate in the red-state crowds really less “worldly” than the blue state crowds? They still fit in with those around them — they just pick a different worldly crowd to be like.

  7. March 25, 2008 at 11:11 am


    The “SI crowd” to which I referred is the group of “young fundamentalists” you will find on the blog, “Sharper Iron”. While I empathize with their wanting to divest themselves of some of the foolishness of “Fundamentalism”, they seem to run full-force into the “what’s the big deal about standards” crowd.

    In our choir, along with membership requirements, i.e. attendance, tithing, etc., there are also dress standards. The men are to wear a suit jacket and tie, and the women are to wear at least knee-length skirts or dresses with modest tops. This is for decorum, modesty, and to set a “higher standard.”

    There is very little I can do about a church which has lower standards than ours. Quite frankly, I don’t have a right to bother in their affairs. I think we sometimes worry too much about what others may or may not be doing. My family is going to follow the standards I set down according to God’s leading, or at least my understanding of it. The church I pastor follows the same pattern. I don’t care about convincing another pastor that I am right. I will let God deal with that.

  8. March 25, 2008 at 11:16 am


    Is there a “new evangelical” cliche that you do not use? In our culture, the United States of America in 2008, it is still considered ultra-respectful and extra-special to dress in a suit or tie to show honor to someone or some event. We are honoring the Lord Jesus Christ when we sing, and we are to show that in a tangible, viewable way.

    Kent is the one who commented on the “red state/blue state” difference. I just think that it is insightful.

    Even if I am picking “a different worldly crowd to be like”, I would rather be like those in the world who take things seriously and show respect for some things.

    But, God made us free so that we can look like bums and act like the world, I guess…

  9. Anvil
    March 25, 2008 at 2:54 pm


    Actually, I attend a “platform standards” church (and I sing in the choir), so I understand the point of view used by those who dress up (and I can certainly submit to the church standards, even if I don’t entirely agree with all the justifications given), and I do think it looks nice to have people on the platform dressed nicely. We also don’t use CCM/CWM-type music, nor are we new-evangelical in any way (unless you count the fact that we are neither KJVO nor LCO as being “new-evangelical”), and unlike Pastor Brandenburg, we would claim the term “fundamental,” as flawed as that term may be.

    My point is that “dressing up” to be on the platform may indeed show seriousness/respect in some ways, but it does not really separate us from how the world dresses or appears. They wear suits, and they wear casual shirts/slacks. You ask “Are we a different people or not? Are Christians supposed to fit in?” I don’t see how suits and dresses make us not fit in. We might look “dressed up” to some, but we won’t appear to be “different people.” You are right that dressed up, we won’t “look like bums,” but we are still dressing just like the world does. I don’t see the justification for calling those who allow choir members to be casually (even though modestly) dressed “worldly.”

  10. March 25, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    The message of the New Testament is/has always been PECULIAR. The word means “special or one’s own.” These days it has developed into a connotation that Christians are to be “odd or eccentric”. I don’t fins that in the Bible at all. We as a Christian people by nature and culture will be different but we do not have to conform to the oddities of culture like punk rockers or Hare Kirshnas. The Spirit of God living in me will make me peculiar enough. I want to dress right even if the business man wears a “power suit” by the world’s standards. There is still something to be said for decency and decorum and respect in the house of God. The culture defines it, not you or me. To maintain this we must be modest in our appearance so as not to offend the lost and dying world.

    Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

  11. March 25, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Anvil, I would say that the issue of dress is not a matter of separation so much as communication. What we wear does communicate something about what we are doing. I could worship the Lord in blue jeans and an old T-shirt (and have done so in a camp context), but generally speaking I want to communicate the worth of God by dressing more formally in worship, especially in leadership roles. (At the same time, I think that when I am sitting in the pew it isn’t necessary to wear a coat and tie at every event.)

    Anyway, I think you are conflating two different issues when you ask whether our more formal dress is imitating the world. I suppose those preaching standards use the same kind of language (don’t dress down, that’s worldly). I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it. It’s not a matter of separation but communication.

    Does that make sense? Does it help any?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  12. March 25, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    My belief, Maritus, that is with Scriptural support, a church can and should advocate a standard, including of modesty. We don’t have liberty to cause disunity in a church and unity is based on belief, practice, and application of Scripture. Other churches may have different standards than we do and that may be a reason to break fellowship with them for the sake of our own belief and practice, but I believe each church has the authority from God to come to those unifying doctrines and practices. This is what we do as a church, so we have amazing, wonderful unity. And not only is it not legalistic, but it doesn’t feel that way.


    When we prove all things, we must look at what each expression of our culture communicates. We hold fast to the ones that match up with Scripture. When Paul was converted, he didn’t stop doing every single thing he did before he was saved. God sanctified certain aspects of his life. People can attend our services and dress casually. We welcome them, but we aren’t gearing our services for the lost or the worldly. We have a God-centered philosophy that thinks of His pleasure first. We don’t always accomplish that, but it is our constant direction.

    I don’t separate from other churches because they have different standards than us. I separate from them for Scriptural reasons—if that is because of an unscriptural standard, then we do, but not without due process. We give people an opportunity for change. I would want the same for me. I find that a lack of due process occurs in every sector of evangelicalism and fundamentalism—that isn’t closeted to one particular group. I grew up on fundamentalism, however, and I do find it rampant among fundamentalists.


    I believe that the Spirit of God will make me peculiar enough, so that if I’m not peculiar enough, then I must be disobeying the Holy Spirit. We have to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). Our church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3), so the Holy Spirit through the Word of God and in our church will help us to see what that is. I also believe the Holy Spirit gives us discernment to judge when others are worldly and not personally holy or distinct.

  13. March 26, 2008 at 6:11 am

    “This verse alone is a proof text for standards.”

    At least you are admitting that you are proof-texting. I can roll with that.

    “God expects believers to have personal standards of holiness. Zephaniah 1:8 doesn’t explain what “strange apparel” was. They were to know.”

    I’m glad we have the NT to clear this up for us. God’s standard is modesty (1 Timothy 2:9).

  14. Christian Markle
    March 26, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Brother Brandenburg,

    I remember distinctly a message preached back in my teen years on Isaiah 47:1-3. It sounded really good; I had not seen that passage before even though I grew up in a church and family where we had standards that would have reflected what was being preached. A more recent review of this passage though drew out a question that maybe you can answer for me:

    If we are to take the exposure of the leg/thigh as immodest or equal to nakedness (“make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.3 Thy nakedness shall be uncovered”), what about the phrase just previous to this quote (“uncover thy locks”)? Would this be an argument that a woman without a headcovering is naked?

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  15. March 26, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Brother Markle,

    You should look at a post in the archives about head-covering. I think the New Testament explains the differences. The use of Isa 47:1-3 is imperative to understanding the issue of modesty.

  16. Christian Markle
    March 26, 2008 at 9:55 am

    You should look at a post in the archives about head-covering. I think the New Testament explains the differences.

    I believe, I am familiar with the texts and arguments from the NT (Although, I admit I have not read the articles in the archives; a link to a specific article might be helpful).

    The use of Isa 47:1-3 is imperative to understanding the issue of modesty.

    I am just wondering if we believe that this passages informs (and as you say is imperative to) our view of modesty, should we not allow it to inform (and be imperative to) our view of headcoverings as well. At what point in the context do we see a dividing between the exposure of the leg/thigh as nakedness and the exposure of the hair (locks) as nakedness as well?

    Please understand, I am not attempting to argue for miniskirts, but I am concerned about consistent exegetical use of Scripture. Of course, I may be talking to those who do demand the use of a headcovering for ladies in church (one NT conclusion), but I am not sure many have argued that the lack of a headcovering at all times is nakedness. Nor do I know of any (I admit this could be my limited exposure) Christians who demand that all the hair of a woman be covered at all times. Maybe we have been missing something in the text.

    To be even more clear as to what I am driving at. I believe that the standard of knee length skirts on women is a great standard, but I question whether this passage is its best support.

    I am all for standards — I just want us to work hard not to abuse scripture as we attempt to biblically support our standards.

    For His Glory,
    Christian Markle

  17. March 26, 2008 at 10:33 am


    The link you asked for is:

    The comments section is where the discussion about head-covering took place. I would argue that a shaved head on a woman is also an unnatural embarrassment and akin to nakedness. But, that is another topic.

    I preach that women are to have long hair and men to have short hair. I believe the standard is just as viable as a dress standard for public service in the local assembly.

    I don’t believe anyone is trying to use only Isa 47:1-3 as the basis of “knee-length” skirts. The issue in the New Testament is modesty, and I believe this passage explains why we have those standards. A knee-length skirt is not necessarily modest, if it is form-fitting. A tope can cover everything, but can still be immodest. This is just the starting point.

    I like to put it this way to my church people. There is no godly, uplifting, spiritual, or profitable reason for me to see any of your wife’s body from her neck to her knees. I would add that I don’t need to know the shape of anyone’s wife’s body either.

  18. Anvil
    March 26, 2008 at 11:01 am


    First, I am attempting to “de-conflate” the two ideas. The article brought up the idea that our generations’ dressing down (as opposed to the examples provided, including wearing coat & tie to the ball game) is an example of worldliness. I’m trying to explore how that is so. I see how dressing down *may, possibly* be indicative of other issues, but I don’t see how it is *necessarily* related. Further, when you understand a bit about how many people wanted to give the picture that they were somehow part of a “higher strata” because they could afford to wear really nice clothes to the ball game, compared to others who just had to do the best they could, you can see plenty of worldliness portrayed in that type of “one-upsmanship.”

    In Pastor Brandenburg’s response to me, he wrote: “People can attend our services and dress casually. We welcome them, but we aren’t gearing our services for the lost or the worldly.” I would agree that church services are not geared toward the lost or worldly, but those two sentences seem to be implying that “dressing casually” is equivalent to “lost” or “worldly.” I don’t agree.

    I would agree with you that dressing up should be about communication rather than separation, but it seems to me that the communication from dressing up, while it *could* come across as “communicating the worth of God,” at least to those in the know, it could also come across as showing that we have enough money to dress that way, or worse, as “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like other men are … or even as this publican.” Having talked to a number of people who are uncomfortable visiting church, it’s not clear to me that the communication of the “worth of God,” is nearly as unambiguous as all that. I have to admit that I am, let’s say, undecided as to what I think about the “dress down” trend. I suppose it *could* be a sign of people “loving pleasure.” I think it’s just as likely that it’s a sign of not “putting on airs,” and just trying be “a normal person,” especially depending on the circles in which one may be ministering. I don’t see a lot of scriptural evidence that a group consisting of a carpenter, a bunch of fishermen, and a couple of men who may have had more means going out of their way to “dress up,” even when visiting (and speaking in) the temple.

  19. Christian Markle
    March 26, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Brother Dunham,

    I would agree greatly with what you said in your most recent post. My question though is about the following statement:

    I don’t believe anyone is trying to use only Isa 47:1-3 as the basis of “knee-length” skirts. The issue in the New Testament is modesty, and I believe this passage explains why we have those standards.

    How do you believe this passage answers the question of why we have those standards”? Or better still, what would be the exegetical interpretation of Isa 47:1-3 that feeds application to modest apparel in our churches and individual lives and what makes it imperative to the discussion of modesty?

    For His Glory,
    Christian Markle

  20. Christian Markle
    March 26, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Brother Dunham,


    The link you asked for is:

    Thank you for the link.


  21. March 26, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Bro. Markle,

    Is grinding the millstone also nakedness? All of these descriptions are a shame to the woman who pictures Babylon in Is 47. However, her nakedness is seen in uncovering the thigh and making bare the leg.

    Is your argument that since we have something about uncovering the locks, and that is not nakedness, then we can’t count the uncovered thigh as nakedness either?

    A common sense reading says that the nakedness is related to the pulling up of the dress (baring the leg) which uncovers the thigh of the woman and that this was nakedness. The woman is shamed by this as well as her unveiling (due to the loss of distinction) and the grinding at the mill (because of its servitude).

  22. March 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm


    Thanks for coming over and commenting. The 1 Timothy passage doesn’t mention strange apparel. And it is dealing with women’s apparel when they were gathering for worship. It was immodest related to extravagance.

    The Zephaniah passage is talking about dressing like pagan, that smacks of the fashion of this world system. We can know what that is. Proverbs mentions the “attire of a harlot.” Where in the NT do you find out what that is? Or does that assume we know? Of course we know, just like we know what worldly dress is.

    Regarding your rhetoric on “proof text,” that is all it is, empty rhetoric. I wish I could respect it, but it is obvious that you are using sarcasm (“at least you are admitting”—you knew I wasn’t admitting to “proof texting,” with the assumption of taking a passage out of context). You didn’t answer anything with your 1 Timothy 2:9 passage, which you proceeded to take out of context. The violations in Zephaniah were also men, not women. Let’s care about what God wants instead of utilizing mere rhetorical devices for the sake of turf-protection. You can’t fool God with this kind of tactic.

  23. Christian Markle
    March 26, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Brother Brandenburg,

    Actually, I would suggest that the comment about nakedness may be in addition to what was stated before not a description of it. You must admit that the language in the passage and intent of the passage was not to give a definition of nakedness. This is prophetic and possibly metephorical for the shame that will come on Babylon. It is not instructional on what is and is not nakedness. This is apparently how some would like to use it. “Nakedness” may very well be a description from the previous verse — I actually like drawing the line of modesty here (at the uncovering of the thighs). But for me the passage in question is not clear.

    I can see some might argue the case you suggest above about about the locks being a part of the nakedness. An answer to that might be that we are dealing with a cultural understanding of nakedness — I am not comfortable with that, but I am equally not comfortable with emphasizing something from a text that was most certainly not the original intent of the text and is not really as clear as one might like it to be.

    Just so you are not overly concerned about my position, I would regard Exodus 28:42 as a much better text to accomplish the same goal. I think the intent of the text is more in line with how it is want to be used. It is instructional, it even gives a method to retain modesty and it is intended for men not just ladies.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  24. March 26, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Brother Markle,

    I do appreciate your transparency and your desire to get this right. I understand that we can’t stretch something with a wish to get at a position that fits a kind of cultural desire. I don’t think that I’m doing that. I’m also looking at it in the Hebrew. Maybe you are too, but it doesn’t seem as though you are. In Isaiah 47:1-3, I understand that the passage is not about nakedness, and yet it defines nakedness. I believe that if we had a passage on that subject, we should look to it. I don’t believe that we have that passage in Exodus, but I’ll explain later, why I think it is weaker with regards to covering the thigh.

    We definitely know the verse ending in the Hebrew, because they are marked by accents. On the last or next to last syllable in a Hebrew sentence is silluk, which is followed at the end of the sentence by a soph pasuk, which looks like the English colon, and it indicates the end of the verse by means of the strongest disjunctive. So the “nakedness” is not another part of a list, but the start of a brand new thought. Yes, by word order it is related to the last words of the previous verse, but it is not a continuation of the previous verse.

    On top of that, look at the way the construction differs between vv. 2, 3—V. 2 is a list of imperatives, and then when we start verse three, we get two niphal 3rd person imperfects.

    This is not difficult to see that the nakedness, literally nudity, is related directly to pulling up the dress and uncovering the thighs. All of this was a shame, a reproach, but the latter part of v. 2 is the nakedness of v. 3.

    Regarding Exodus 28:42, the weakness of an argument is whether “unto,” the Hebrew particle ‘ad, means meeting the thigh or covering over the thigh. The best sense is to say that the breeches went from the loins, which is where a belt would go, as far as the thigh, so that it would have covered the priest like underwear. I don’t believe the breeches went to the knees, but where closer to something like boxer shorts. That’s what I gather from the language. And the point of that was just in case someone could look up his robe while he was on the steps.

    In Job, we see that a man was to gird up his loins like a man. If a man pulled up his robe and tucked it into his belt, which was girding, he would have a garment above the knees. That’s why later designs of men’s warrior garments fell above the knees. God had a slightly different standard for men.

    Thanks for the interaction. I’m open to more.

  25. March 27, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    Thank you for posting this article about this subject. Pharisaism is more an attitude than anything else. If a church holds to standards, and they think that the mere fact of holding standards makes them “better” than other children of God, then yes, that is being pharisaical. If a church holds to standards out of a sincere desire to honour and please a holy God, then no, that is NOT pharisaism. One of the great errors in the way of thinking of people like MacArthur, Piper, and their acolytes in Evangelicalism and “Young Fundamentalism” is the way they simply assume that holding to standards in a church necessarily implies the former, rather than the latter.

    What’s ironic, as well, is that by eschewing standards, the “Young Fundamentalists” are actually refuting the sovereignty of God which they claim to hold, as Calvinists. What could demonstrate the actually sovereignty of God over a person’s life than holy living, by keeping oneself unspotted from the world? Yet, the YFs make grace so free that it merely becomes cheap. In the process, they actually do exactly what Scriptures warns us not to do – which is to allow our liberty, given by God’s grace, to become a “cloke of maliciousness” (I Peter 2:16). They allow grace to become an excuse to allow into churches the same types of wickedness that characterise the world.

    What’s even more ironic is that the Calvinist leaders of yore – the Puritans, John Gill, Charles Spurgeon, and the rest – would have nothing to do with the Evangelicals and YFs who profess to adore them today.

  26. Anvil
    March 27, 2008 at 7:37 am


    I think you need to look a little closer at the “Young Fundamentalists.” Then you would see that they are not uniform, and that not all of them are eschewing all standards, though they do expect a clear delineation between what scripture says, and what is claimed by application. If you read at SI, you will certainly find a fairly good number who agree that a pastor and church together have the right to apply scripture and from that, come up with standards that they agree to share as a corporate body. However, the Pharisaism comes into play when those applications and standards are claimed to have equal authority with scripture (or worse, other scriptures are misunderstood, ignored or discounted in order to keep to the application) — either in claiming that those who do not hold them (outside the church body) are sinning, or used in claiming separation from “disobedient” brethren or even “apostates.” That (not the standards themselves) is what Mark 7:7 is all about. Standards are a good thing, but over time they have a tendency to become habit, then tradition, and tradition then takes on a life of its own, just as it did with the Pharisees. Any standards that come about through application (rather than direct scriptural command), cannot, by virtue of the fact that those that are doing the application are themselves subject to the curse of sin, be equivalent to infallible scripture, even though they do (when properly exercised through a local church) still have authority in the life of a believer.

    You are correct that many evangelicals, and even some so-called YFs do not want any standards at all. But it would be incorrect to lump that group together with those who just want application to be kept appropriately separate from scriptural command. Scripture’s commands do not need any re-evaluation, but some applications made at a particular time, and in a particular culture or situation do need such re-evaluation, and it’s not simply a “love of pleasure” that is behind all those who want to constantly evaluate what they are doing in light of what the Bible itself says. Man should live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” not by “the old-time religion that’s good enough for me.”

  27. March 27, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Thanks Titus. Agreed.


    I understand. When we say fundamentalists, we don’t mean “all.” There are many who claim to be fundamentalists who have standards and high ones. I would say that not many have them at SI, and those that do are mainly savaged. I don’t find that they normally answer the arguments. Their arguments with which I’m very familiar operate like this:

    1. Other good men disagree, so you are being too dogmatic. This is a minor issue that you are taking and emphasizing it over the gospel. Hail John Piper.
    2. I like the cape as the symbol of male headship. Snicker, snicker.
    3. You’re not scholarly. You’re basically a nit-wit. You’re laughable. You’re who gives fundamentalism a bad name.
    4. You’re taking that out of context!!! Um, that doesn’t mean that!!!!
    5. I don’t like your tone.
    6. You’re a type A+ and your types believe in pastoral dictatorship, and you won’t warm your hands by the campfire with others, so goodbye.
    7. That’s legalistic.
    8. My! There are still people that believe that!!! Ha!
    9. Moderators, we have here a man who is in the right ditch, and we’re trying to get rid of everyone in the right ditch (crickets on the left ditch unless its someone denying the deity of Christ), so can we please do our job so we can keep balance here and have the kind of fundamentalism that I envision.
    10. Did you say that you used only the KJV?
    11. Thread Closed!!

    I know there are a few that don’t argue that way on SI, but that is mainly it. I would put it at 95% something in my list of 11 above.

  28. bobby
    March 27, 2008 at 9:27 am


    Absolutely correct on SI.

    I would love to see how Jesus would be treated on SI especially when he was warning about dogs, pigs, goats, vipers and such. I’m sure the tone police there would have to make Him a “guest.” Overturning tables wouldn’t go over well either.

  29. March 27, 2008 at 11:13 am


    However, the Pharisaism comes into play when those applications and standards are claimed to have equal authority with scripture (or worse, other scriptures are misunderstood, ignored or discounted in order to keep to the application)

    This is something of a loaded sentence – if taken literally, it would mean that no application of Scripture can ever be made and applied to a believer’s life, since, hey, __fill in blank__ is just an application. This opens up the door to basically ditch any and every application of the Bible to the lives of believers, since everything (no matter how clearly worded) becomes “just your opinion”, and hence, living by it and making judgments from it becomes “Pharisaism”.

    If a standard is derived from Scripture, then it has the authority of Scripture. If, for example, the Bible says that a woman should not wear that which pertains to a man, then that is what it means. Any reasonably competent person ought to be able to figure out what pertains to a man and what pertains to a woman – even though their culture might not be the same culture as that which existed in Bible times. While I understand that there is some margin for differing interpretations in areas where the Bible is more general or ambiguous in its wording, in most cases involving standards which churches use, I believe that a sound, balanced, reasonable exposition of Scripture easily clarifies the bibilicity, and hence the authority, of standards.

  30. March 27, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Why make the uncovering of thigh only a sin for women? It is equally sinful for men.

    Exodus 28:40-43

  31. Anvil
    March 27, 2008 at 2:25 pm


    I would have to disagree with you that a standard that is “derived from scripture … has the authority of scripture,” except in particular contexts. Even if you are considering only careful exposition (vs. inaccurate or badly-done derivation), we still are not operating under inspiration. That’s not to say such standards have no authority at all, but unlike scriptural commands, they do not apply at all times and in all contexts. That is the same when a preacher declares the Word of God — to the extent that he proclaims what the Word says, his words have derived authority. In fact, if he quotes the Word of God directly and accurately, then what he is saying is, in fact, the Word of God. However, as individual believers, who can approach God directly through Jesus Christ, we have not only the right, but the responsibility to be “Berean” in our approach to what we hear taught, and measure everything said by the Word. When a preacher’s personal application does not match up with the Word, I do not have to consider it as having direct scriptural authority. Obviously, this means we must be careful in our handling of scripture to be sure we are not doing “that which is right in our own eyes.”

    Certainly some applications (like the overused one about cocaine not being directly commanded against in the Bible) are so clear, that I can draw very clear conclusions, since any recreational, non-medical use of that drug (or other similar compounds) will be still be putting me in a state where I am not filled with the Spirit. The main point of contention, of course, between various “camps” of believers in this area concerns which applications are clear enough to be universal, and which aren’t. Good men CAN disagree in some areas without doing damage to God’s word. Obviously, he has only one mind on any particular issue, but if we could always discern each and every one of those perfectly, there would be no need for Romans 14 at all. That passage can be (and often is) overused or misapplied, but there are things to which it does apply, regardless of the actual size of the list.

    To take your example, Deut. 22:5, what the scripture says is exactly what it says, and it applies all the time everywhere. To take a particular application of that (say, no necklaces on men — which may be a good standard in some context) and claim that it is equivalent to scripture (though it may be a valid application for a particular time/place/culture) is in fact violating Mark 7:7. That’s calling a teaching of men a doctrine. If a particular family has such a rule, or a particular church (or even a school or other organization that we have placed ourselves under in authority), then those situations have “derived” authority, that comes from the husband being the head of the home, and the church and it’s leadership being those “that have the rule over you,” or obeying our masters in the flesh. Plus, in its context, it’s clear the derived standard matches the parameters laid out in scripture. But those putting forth the standard have to recognize and must understand and admit that such standards are derived from scripture rather than directly stated. If I have standards for my family and children that are derived from scripture vs. being a standard from a direct command (and I do), it would be wrong for those in my family to violate those standards. However, the scripture gives me no authority (no matter how carefully and well derived from scripture my standards are) to declare that those in other families that do not hold every one of those standards are disobedient, unlike what I could say if a family allows its children to directly disobey them, which goes against a direct scriptural command.

    To be clear, I do believe that standards can be made and applied to a believer’s life, but to claim they are equivalent to scripture (or, depending on the application and the clarity of the scripture on which it is based, binding on all believers everywhere) is to add to the Word of God.

  32. Stephen M Daivs
    March 28, 2008 at 2:33 am

    I noticed your article’s reference to my SI on fundamentalism article. You then commented on mixed swimming at Calvary Baptist in Lansdale. I haven’t been to our camp for a few years but I do recall that when my sons were teenagers there were separate times for guys and girls. There may’ve also been times when girls had to wear shorts and tops over their bahting suit. You may want to check with Pastor Brian Wahlberg, camp pastor bwahlberg@cbs.edu to verify your assertion. I’m not saying you’re wrong but I’d be surprised if the camp practices mixed swimming except maybe among the younger children. Also I believe it’s appropriate for a church to set its own institutional standards in this area but I do not believe it should be a separation issue among Christians. If someone doesn’t want to practice mixed swimming then they shouldn’t frequent places where it’s practiced.

  33. bobby
    March 28, 2008 at 7:47 am


    Note that it was Bereans (plural) that “searched the Scriptures to see if these things were so.” Note that “prove all things” was written to a church body. Note that “try the spirits” was for the group.

    The churches were given these commands. Each NT assembly is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” The believer should be part of a church where the body is studying, preaching, receiving with meekness the preached word, reaching conclusions, and abiding by them. From the Bible I don’t see the lone wolf approach in the New Testament.

    The problem I hace with the YF’s and Evangelicals like the SI gang is that very few conclusions are ever reached. That is NOT what you see going on in the New Testament.

  34. March 28, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Stephen M Daivs said,

    If someone doesn’t want to practice mixed swimming then they shouldn’t frequent places where it’s practiced.

    Wouldn’t that, at least on some level, be separation?

  35. Christian Markle
    March 28, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Brother Brandenburg,

    I see your point in Exodus (no I was not looking at the Hebrew — not that ME looking at HEBREW means anything. I am a handicapped person in Greek, but I am on life support when it comes to the Hebrew :-)) However, despite being Hebrew challenged (to put it mildly) your clues were a help in navigating that one verse. You do appear to be correct that the particle used there translated “unto” does not demand a whole covering of the thigh just that the breeches went from the loins (one part of the anatomy) to the thigh (another part of the anatomy).

    However, I am still not clear how your explanation of Isaiah 47 demands the interpretation you are asserting. I still believe we are reading a passage not intended to be a treaties on modesty as a treaties on modesty. It is not bad to recognize a passages intent and then draw out principles, but this would appear to do damage to the argument. This passage appears to be God’s description of the shame that will come on Babylon by means of metaphor. Nakedness is often used metaphorically in the OT. My understanding is that even when not used metaphorically it is more about shame than sexuality (ie Genesis 3). With this in mind along with the fact that in vs 3 “nakedness” and “shame” are set as Hebrew parallelism. The adverbial usage of gam suggests this to me (but I may be wrong). However, if I am correct, I think we need to see “nakedness” and “shame” as equivalent not two separate issues as you appear to have done earlier (making the “shame” refer to the first in the list and nakedness the second few things in the list). I think (and again I could be wrong) that culturally nakedness might apply to the unveiling as well as the rest and all would have been shameful. But this leaves us with difficulty regarding headcoverings if we desire to make this prescriptive for dress standards across cultural boundaries (of course, I do not disagree that a required distinction does cross cultural boundaries).

    I am honestly having trouble seeing how this passage informs us about universal standards of immodesty (ie length of skirts and dresses). I readily admit to my extreme weakness in the Hebrew, but even your explanation does not clear things up for me. For me it is not clearly a helpful passage, but I am not equipped to discuss this much deeper than I have. I do however appreciate your time and patience to further explain your position.

    For His Glory,
    Christian Markle

  36. March 28, 2008 at 11:59 am


    I’m on the road with my family. We happen to be staying in Nevada next to the Sierra Nevada mtns. for a few days, but we got WIFI for this one day, since we are charged for it. I will check back later after I comment here.

    First, brother Ketchum,

    I explained my Exodus 28 position in comment 30. Thanks. I know of that position. I see the Job texts on girding like a man to contradict that understanding of the term “unto,” which more likely means something different than “over.”

    brother Markle,

    I appreciate you coming over here to comment. I know that we can be direct here, but I would rather have that myself, as long as someone is also open.

    I am open to what you say about Isaiah 47:1-3. Here is my take on why not a lot has been written in commentaries about Isaiah 47. The standards were at least that high for all of history among Christians and even Jews for all time, so it wasn’t an issue. Only recently, the last 75-100 years have we reacted to the standards lowering, which sent us looking to Scripture to see if this was just tradition or whether Scripture dealt with it. It may bother you that commentaries don’t make a point of this in Isaiah 47, I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t enlightening us to a standard of modesty.

    Is shame and nudity parallel? Yes. So, since uncovering the locks was in the list with pulling up the dress and uncovering the thigh, should we define uncovering the locks as nakedness? I don’t have a problem with that. To that culture, because of what a head-covering meant, like we see in 1 Corinthians 11, it was akin to a naked head. That shouldn’t make you see this as a cultural nakedness for uncovering the thigh, i.e. that this is all cultural nakedness. And, cultural nakedness was nakedness. This is nakedness, as seen by God for Babylon in this picture, so it wasn’t just cultural. It was God’s standard.

    brother Davis,

    Thanks for coming over and commenting. I don’t think I’ve ever met you, but I do know Calvary in Lansdale very well for many reasons. First, we had students from the church when I was in college. Second, Dr. Jordan would come and visit and speak at Maranatha when I was there. Then I joined Tim Buck’s church in the summer between my senior year of college and my freshman year of college. I was considering Lansdale for seminary. I went back to Maranatha for several reasons. One of them was mixed swimming. I went to the pastor/preacher boy conference, and among the adults, mixed swimming did occur at Lansdale. Tim Buck’s church also practiced it, for which I was surprised.

    I talked to Dr. Jordan (E. Robert) about it and he got angry for even bringing it up. I talked to them later about it and it was always looked at as a legalistic criticism. I had not heard that Lansdale had changed in its belief about that, but I would be glad to change what I’ve said and change this article, so I’m thankful for the heads up. That would not change other issues I have theologically with Lansdale, but I would not want to misrepresent them. I agree that this is a local church standard or lack thereof, but that does affect the fellowship that my church has with Lansdale. That doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy from a distance anything that I think you are doing right, including anyone who might be saved through Lansdale’s influence.

    Regarding our relationship to mixed swimming. I don’t have a problem with men and women being in water at the same time. It is the stripping down to the small amount of clothing together that is the problem. For instance, our church gets in the water at the same time while we are at camp, but we wear the same standard of modesty as we do when we are out of the water. We get the same cooling down effect of water, and also have found we can swim that way. We don’t swim where other people are, which is why we bring our camp to remote places where we won’t see other people in swim suits. That area of consistency, you are correct, should be a concern for churches that believe this way. We do practice that consistency.

    Thanks for coming on and commenting.

    Well, I may have missed something and if I have, let me know and I’ll get back to it.

  37. March 28, 2008 at 12:26 pm


    Your argument based upon Mark 7:7 is inapplicable to the cases that are/have been discussed on this thread. First of all, let’s not take the verse out of its context.

    “Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. 5Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:1-9)

    Once we see the context in which v. 7 appears, we can see that what Jesus is decrying is not the application of Scripture, but rather the abrogation of it. Jesus decries the Pharisaical demand that He and His disciples wash their hands and vessels. He then takes them to task for the double offence of ignoring God’s written commands, while likewise replacing them with manmade commands. Why did He do this? Because nowhere in the Law was there a command to wash hands or vessels before eating. There was no portion of the scripture would was even intepretable along that line. It was merely a tradition that arose much later in Jewish culture, most probably during the intertestamental period.

    The standards that so many decry – opposition to worldly music, men’s clothing on women, hair length, etc. – are indeed mentioned in Scripture. God’s Word make statements about them. Music is to be that which both teaches, and also (per the systematic application of the principle of separation from worldliness) that which is not used by the ungodly world system. Rock, jazz, and so forth are creations of a world system specifically (read the history of them sometime) to cater to carnality. And so forth. Teaching standards about these and other things are not “rejecting the commandment of God”, they are the commandment of God.

    Your argument is on a dangerous slippery slope. To you, it is “obvious” that snorting cocaine is a violation of Scripture (and I would agree), even though the Scripture nowhere makes an explicit statement about that drug, or even about narcotics in general. To uphold your position, you have to rely upon an indirect argument from Scripture. You said, “….since any recreational, non-medical use of that drug (or other similar compounds) will be still be putting me in a state where I am not filled with the Spirit”, presumably in allusion to I Corinthians 6:12.

    Now, where will you be, however, when a profession Christian comes along and tells you that their Christian liberty lets them snort cocaine, and that your application of Scripture shown above is just a “tradition of men” and challenges you via Mark 7:7? Having already thrown out the idea that standards based upon the Words of Scripture have the authority of Scripture backing them up, you have no recourse but to agree with this other person – condemning cocaine use is not an authoritative application of Scripture, since you’ve basically made your opinions about what you think are right and wrong be the judge of Scripture, instead of letting the Scripture be the judge of our standards.

    Standards based upon the Words of Scripture – even ones which you disagree with – have the authority of Scripture, since they are applications OF Scripture. The standards do not replace the Scripture, but it does have the authority of Scripture backing them up. To make this point, let us look at the converse of the cocain argument. You’ve already included cocaine use as an application that is so clear from Scripture as to be unassailable as a standard of conduct for a Christian. Yet, you also say that standards do NOT have the authority of Scripture.

    So, would you consider cocaine use to be a sin, then?

    If yes, then you’re agreeing that the standard, the application, has the authority of Scripture, since you’re condemning something as a sin, which is ONLY the prerogative of the Law and the testimonies. The only way that we know what a sin is, is from the Scriptures. Yet, the Scripture says nothing about cocaine, so your condemnation would necessarily be based upon an application of the Scripture.

    Yet, by your arguments above, you have no basis (and therefore no right) to make this judgment.

    I’m sorry, but if patterns of behaviour which are derived from an understanding of Scripture do not have the authority of Scripture, then the Bible is essentially meaningless as a guide for the life of Christians, for anybody who decides they want to justify themselves in any particular area can come along and disregard a command or an example – no matter how seemingly straightforward – all on the basis that somebody else teaching it is just an application, and doesn’t have authority, and trying to act as if it does is just a “tradition of men” and condemned by Mark 7:7.

    I understand that there are some things that are more ambiguous in the Scriptures than in others, and therefore there is more latitude for interpretation (the “derived” standards you mention above). All the same, I approach the issue the way I do because so many times, Christians use this as an excuse to ditch ANY questioning of their behaviour – no matter how direct the Scriptural command may seem – using the exact arguments I’ve delineated above. ANY standard becomes pharisaical. ALL standards become pharisaical. This is applied to most all of the areas of contention which evangelicals and fundamentalists have about standards – music, hair length, women’s clothing, etc. – such that Scriptural injunctions about these issues which are far more straightforward than the one you’ve mentioned about cocaine use are derided as pharisaism.

  38. Christian Markle
    March 28, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Brother Brandenburg,

    Is shame and nudity parallel? Yes. So, since uncovering the locks was in the list with pulling up the dress and uncovering the thigh, should we define uncovering the locks as nakedness? I don’t have a problem with that. To that culture, because of what a head-covering meant, like we see in 1 Corinthians 11Open Link in New Window, it was akin to a naked head. That shouldn’t make you see this as a cultural nakedness for uncovering the thigh, i.e. that this is all cultural nakedness. And, cultural nakedness was nakedness. This is nakedness, as seen by God for Babylon in this picture, so it wasn’t just cultural. It was God’s standard.

    I respect your position on this passage. I thank you again for your time. The experience has been helpful, but I am still not with you on this one. To be direct I see the above explanation as inconsistent. If “shame” and “nakedness” are parallel then we have a great problem with the uncovering-of-the-locks phrase. We have nothing to indicate that one phrase is cultural and the other is universal. They both are described by nakedness and shame. God spoke about both of them with no distinction. This is what makes this passage unhelpful in the discussion of modest standards. I think it may be helpful to use as a standard, but not as a passage to establish an absolute what God calls “nakedness”/immodest nudity as we talk of it today–in our culture and in our time. I know this sounds soft, but I am trying (as I know you are as well) to not say more than the Scriptures say, but make appropriate applications to subjects of modesty.

    I appreciated your comment about commentaries–it had crossed my mind, but I have not even found modern commentaries that suggest what you are suggesting (not that I have lots to choose from).

    I am willing to let this rest until we can come up with more data. I have enjoyed the discussion and look forward (with your permission) to more of the same as God allows. Have a safe trip.

    For His Glory,
    Christian Markle

    P.S. What year were you at Tim Buck’s church?

  39. Anvil
    March 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm


    Actually, I mostly agree with your last post (except for that last swipe at SI and YFs), which may surprise you. If I thought our pastor (for example) was teaching something unscriptural, I would go to him first, and ask him directly about what he meant. If I did not get a satisfactory answer, I would take it (carefully and respectfully) to some of the other church leadership, as when confronting a pastor, we must be careful to have 2 or 3 witnesses, plus, I would want to be sure that I understood him correctly, and that my view which disagreed did not have problems either. I certainly would not want to be a “lone wolf” acting on my own, or divisive in any way. However, that also means I do not just blindly swallow what comes from the pulpit either.

    The church (all members acting together) can be the pillar and ground of truth (when they are Holy Spirit led), but one man, even the pastor, cannot be considered to be the only valid interpreter of truth in the church — otherwise it’s no different than having a mini-pope. In fact, it should be obvious that any one man, including the pastor, can go astray far from the truth. However, as believers, we no longer need any priest to intercede on our behalf — we can go to Jesus Christ directly, and we can read and understand his Word on our own with the Holy Spirit guiding us. Yes, one purpose of the church is to keep any person from going off on his own into some heresy or other error, but that in no way relieves any believer of his responsibility to evaluate every word spoken by the Word itself, especially if it is claimed to be equivalent to scripture.

  40. Anvil
    March 28, 2008 at 1:45 pm


    It will take me a bit to digest and fully reply to your rather lengthy post, but I’m not ignoring it.

    Just quickly, I would say that we will have to disagree on the authority of words of man that are applied from scripture. I do agree that they have authority, but in no way is it equivalent to scripture. My reasoning, no matter how careful and “reasonable,” is still not infallible, and can NEVER, no matter how airtight it appears, be considered to have the same level of scriptural authority as the very Words of God.

    Am I reasonably secure in my condemnation of recreational drugs like cocaine from application of scripture? Yes I am. Am I as sure of that as I am of “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”? Not on your life. Does that put me on a slippery slope? I don’t think so, though it is indeed a slope once we get away from God’s direct words. Maybe it looks a little like an inverse parabola, with a small flat spot in the center (a parabola doesn’t really have one of those, but this is just an example). At the top, you are not going to slip when you depend on the Words of God. When you make an application that is very clear from scripture, you are not directly on God’s solid foundation, though your slope is not very slippery. If your application is “no sodas, since they contain substances that could in extremes, be mood altering” (caffeine and sugar), then you are much further away from God’s Words, and in a very slippery area indeed.

    More later.

  41. March 28, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    bro. Christian,

    I was in Tim Buck’s church in 1984 at the age of 18 after graduating from college. If you are familiar with the Bucks, and there’s something you wanted to talk about, email me.

    Regarding what you are saying, and I understand you are done discussing it (it seems), I believe you are making a big leap with dismissing it as a place to give an objective standard of nakedness simply because “uncovering the locks” might also be nakedness. I see it as a shame, or in other words that shame applies to all and nakedness to the things that are nakedness. However, even with your view that they must apply to both, which I don’t believe is a grammatical necessity, I think we could understand how that they are all nakedness. Part of it at least is nakedness. It seems like a stretch to me not to have it mean nakedness.

    So if you can’t be sure in Ex. 28 and you can’t be sure in Is 47, that would mean that we don’t have a standard of nakedness. I think that some would be happy to hear that. Your questioning of Is. 47 probably comes across as independent in your thinking to them and buoy their position. I see this as a clear call. I know I’ve already said that. I’m joined by others. I would wonder if other of our readers see Is.47 as not teaching a definition of nakedness.

  42. March 29, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Perhaps not a definition, but rather a recognition, an acknowledging of what constitutes nakedness. Similar to the way one might say, “Go ahead, stand around when you should be working; clock in early and clock out late; your thieving ways will be exposed… ”

    In other words, this passage is poetic, and while the purpose is not to define nakedness, the passage clearly describes what is happening and calls it nakedness.

    We certainly wouldn’t say that they were making bare the leg and uncovering the thigh, but the nakedness was something else.

  43. Anvil
    March 29, 2008 at 1:33 pm


    I have a couple of comments on what you wrote.

    You wrote: “Because nowhere in the Law was there a command to wash hands or vessels before eating. There was no portion of the scripture would was even intepretable along that line.” I would generally agree that the law did not specify this directly, even in a way that could be interpreted as such, at least as a direct command. Application, however, is a different matter. Please carefully read Leviticus 11. That chapter describes in great detail what things were clean/unclean that they were allowed/not allowed to eat (command). Part of this description includes insects, which are in everything, and would have been so even more in a society without pesticides, roach motels, and so forth. I don’t have room to quote the whole passage, which you can look up as easily as I can, but I will quote four verses here:

    22Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.
    23But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.
    24And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even.
    25And whosoever beareth ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.

    It would absolutely have been a “reasonable” application of this text to require washing hands and vessels before eating. Why? To avoid eating anything unclean (a direct command of God). It is practically impossible in an agrarian area to go a few hours without touching an insect that would have been in the unclean category, whether living, dead, or even as part of the dust that was on their hands (mites). Other verses talk about washing various types of vessels, and earthenware vessels were even to be broken (v. 32-33), if they had touched any dead examples of these unclean creeping things, or even any parts of them. In what way is this any different from a (good) standard of not even entering a part of a bookstore which might have “adult” material in order to avoid temptation? Those making the standard originally presumably had meant only the best — they did not want to break God’s commands about eating unclean things. Still Jesus decries the Pharisees’ demand that people consider their tradition (a not unreasonable application) to be a doctrine.

    The other comment I have is also concerning Mark 7. I would agree with you that the Pharisees were abrogating scripture with their tradition, but that is more clear in the part of the passage you left off, which is certainly a big part of the context:

    10For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
    11But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
    12And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
    13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

    As far as I can tell, the washing was not causing them to abrogate other parts of scripture (though I suppose it could have), but these four verses describe exactly what you are getting at. Would it have been a “reasonable” application to set aside some monies to be used as an offering, and make them “untouchable” with respect to normal household expenses? I would argue that the bulk of scripture definitely encourages that application (and in fact I’d bet that many of us do just that with money we use for special offerings). However, in doing so, they could not go against a direct command “Honor thy mother and father,” in making this application. Of course, it’s not clear from this passage if the Pharisees even ever intended to really give that money to God, or whether they were just “protecting” it. Nonetheless, even if they were intending to give money to God, it was clear it was not to come from funds for which God had already specified a purpose.

    It seems very clear to me that application is indeed in view in this passage. I have never said that application (or standards) are bad things, or that we should throw all of them away, or that they have absolutely no scriptural basis or authority. What I have argued is that they are not the same as scripture, and they we cannot demand that even a “reasonable” application of scripture be seen as having exactly the same authority as scripture itself.

  44. Thomas Ross
    March 30, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Two points.

    1.) I would draw the reader’s attention to the in-depth analysis of Isaiah 47:1-3, which proves that the passage teaches nudity is any exposure of the leg above the knee, at http://thross7.googlepages.com/home. If we aren’t saying that this passage proves it, we can start. Blessed be the Lord for making this standard explicit in His Word.

    2.) I believe in sanctification by works, and do not mind anyone accusing me of it. Justification is not by works, but sanctification is synergistic, by faith and works, and by God working in us to do works, Philippians 2:12-13, by God’s power “work out your own salvation,” Eph 2:10, “created unto good works” (the same kind that do not justify, v. 8-9), etc. In justification we cease from working to believe, Romans 4:5; in sanctification, we, by faith, strive, mortify, submit, war, etc. Sanctification is by works.

    I believe Pastor Brandenburg would share my irritation at the widespread perfectionistic sanctification theologies that permeate fundamentalism and good fundamental Baptist churches, theologies that developed through Wesley’s Methodism and Finney through the Keswick, “higher life,” “deeper life,” “victorious life,” etc. movements. (If you ever read and accepted as true “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” by the Quaker Hannah Whitehall Smith, or adopted the sanctification theology of Andrew Murray—not to say that there are not good things in his books as well, but his theology of sanctification is problematic—etc—or if you believe in a post-justification second blessing, whether you call it a “baptism of the Spirit” or not, etc.; or you say things like, “he got saved at age x, but he surrendered to the Lordship of Christ at age x,” or if you have heard something like, “we are sanctified by faith just like we are justified by faith, since ‘As ye have received Christ Jesus (by faith alone), so walk ye in him (by faith alone),’ when Col 2:6 affirms nothing of the sort (see http://thross7.googlepages.com/home for proof), you have probably been influenced by perfectionism. Speaking of influence—try many of the songs in the more common fundamentalist hymnals—the Trinity Hymnal, Baptist edition, does better in eliminating this, I believe.) B. B. Warfield has some fascinating analysis of the development of perfectionism in his “Studies in Perfectionism,” especially volume 2. (This is not to endorse the deadness—and lack even of genuine conversion—in much of Reformed theology, including Reformed sanctification theology.) The unbiblical elements of the moderate “higher life” type of perfectionism are rarely warned against.

    I will not be likely to have time to say more on Jackhammer in the near future, as I will have a tremendous quantity of “works” to do in the upcoming few weeks. If one wishes to respond to this post, I will, hopefully, eventually respond to you—but it may be a good while—so don’t work for a response, just let go and let one happen, boosting you to a higher plane of knowledge than you have found, your feet planted on higher ground by an instantaneous exercise of faith. Don’t work on it. Surrender in belief it will happen, and instantly attain a growth-free plane.

  45. March 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Very funny last paragraph, Thomas. It got a big chuckle out loud, but no one was here to hear it, so did I make a noise?

    I’m right with you on perfectionism. And I understand your explanation and accept it as given. I don’t want people to be confused, of course, as you don’t, that we believe that we are attempting to rack up merit points. Jesus sanctified Himself by doing the will of the Father. The Word sanctifies us when we do it. I believe that is what you are saying.

  46. April 7, 2008 at 12:31 pm


    Sorry for taking so long to respond. My internet activity usually swings wildly from “inactive” to “very active”, depending on which week it is.

    While I appreciate your arguments, again, they don’t fit the bill as far as addressing what we’re talking about here.

    Remember – the standards which are in contention today are those which are directly drawn from Scripture. For example, Deut. 22:8 says that a woman shouldn’t wear that which pertains to a man. People can quibble all they want, but the fact remains that throughout Western history, pants have been a defining article of men’s clothing. In Israelite culture, while we think that “they all wore robes”, this is not the case. Men wore a style of “robe” which was very different from what women wore. It could be girded up to allow men to do work which was considered “men’s work” – and that is what the broader “pertaineth to the man” is talking about. Women shouldn’t wear clothing which indicates that she is going to be going about doing the work which pertains to men – i.e. breadwinning, as given by men to do in the primal story of Genesis 3. This is not an extended application of a principle (i.e. a principle derived from another principle), it is directly taught from Scripture. Yes, it may have culturally varying applications (in Israel, women didn’t wear “girdable robes”, in our culture women shouldn’t wear pants, etc.), but the meaning is directly and explicitly clear from the Scripture. THAT is what gives it the authority of Scripture, while the more extended argument about wiping cups to keep out insects would not. This same type of standard, drawn directly from the statement of Scriptures, underlies most of the “contentious” standards which antinomian types don’t like today – hair length, tattoos, rock music, etc. Scripture deals with issues of hair, emulation of the world’s trends, music, etc. directly. One doesn’t have to produce a convoluted argument to try to prove that Scripture says something about these areas – the statements of Scripture are clearly seen, and are therefore as authoritative as is the commandment against murder or adultery. One sins if they break these commandments, and one also sins if a man lets his hair grow long like a woman’s.

    Your arguments from Leviticus 11 and from the Corban in Matthew 7 are not direct statements of Scripture. Scripture nowhere says that the people of God were to wipe cups. While I would agree with your application, and with your suggestion that it would have been a good idea for a faithful man or woman of God to do so as to avoid ritual uncleanness, this example, and the Corban one, are still fundamentally different in their root issue. Hence, you are rather comparing apples to oranges by using them.

  47. April 17, 2008 at 10:24 am

    It’s obvious from this story and resulting comments that this is one of the more sensitive issues out there. Achieving balance is key, and Biblical.

    I am beginning to awake to the onslaught brought about from the world on conservative views/dress/belief. Soon we may well have to be defending our families/children from the things we have become most comfortable with. If I’m not making any sense, you will understand this article a bit better at http://www.overlyactiveslacktivism.blogspot.com

    May God preserve not only our heritage & Biblical standards, but even our very lives.

  48. Anvil
    April 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm


    Now I have to apologize for taking a while. We have had an extremely busy week at work, and when that happens, family and church time take precedence over blogging, as I’m sure you understand.

    It appears we will have to agree to disagree again. I won’t quibble with you over what Deut 22:5 is actually saying, but how it is interpreted is again the issue. It is fairly clear to anyone looking around today that modest female pants are different in style from mens’ pants (as the OT robes were different), both in fit and color, they are not garments that men would use for work, and no real man would be caught dead in them — i.e. they are garments that do not pertain to a man. I agree that you can make an argument, but that is no different than what I did with Corban, and uncleanness. To say that pants (in any form) did not pertain to a woman 100 years ago would have been accurate. That is not accurate today. I am also not trying to excuse those who wear exactly the same clothing as men or tight, immodest clothing. The fact remains that today, there are modest pants that pertain only to women. I’ll stop here on this point, because you and I will be at loggerheads on this, and arguing over this point tends to go on and on. We agree on women not wearing what pertains to men. We don’t agree that the standard of years past must also be the standard today.

    Mens’ hair is another point that will come down to application. We would agree that men shouldn’t have the long hair of a woman. But what does that mean? We have to think long and hard about this. I certainly don’t feel bound to wear a marine haircut simply because some women want to have hair that short. That’s to their shame, not mine. But what about the hair length of say, Luke Skywalker, or Charles Ingalls, to use two fictional characters who did not have womens’ hair, but it would be judged longer than the “traditional fundamentalist cut? Those haircuts would be longer than I am comfortable with, but do they look like womens’ hair? Not to me they don’t. Clearly, given the existence of the Nazarite vows, long hair on a man cannot be sinful of itself — i.e. it is acceptable in some circumstances, otherwise all Nazarites were sinning just by not cutting their hair. It’s clear that the shame that men would have by having long hair must be in relation to something, not because it is absolutely wrong. Men I respect believe it’s for the separation of genders, and I would agree with that. In any case, I again believe that while I would agree with you on men not having long hair, the specifics of our standards could be different.

    My point is the same as it has always been on this thread — you cannot take an application that goes beyond scripture (i.e. men need to have hair no longer than .5”) and declare that it has the authority of scripture. In a particular family, church, or organization, it can have scriptural weight by virtue of the fact that we are to submit ourselves to our masters, but not because that particular standard matches exactly what the Bible is saying.

  49. April 18, 2008 at 1:14 pm


    One Scriptural point that you didn’t deal with in the pants issue, and Titus could easily point out, was the girdable garment. Men’s pants are a version of girding. When women wear pants, they are girding.

    Since this is about applying as well “pertaineth unto a man,” our culture has not recognized men’s pants and women’s pants. Our culture has not made a distinguishing factor like the robe of the OT days. Just answer one question regarding this paragraph and that is: “What is the distinctive aspect of men’s pants versus women’s pants?” You can’t say “men are bigger” or “women are smaller,” because we’re not talking about size of pants. What is the difference? I would want to know so I could even obey your version of Deut. 22:5 for today. By the way, I contend that churches and our culture don’t care. Women just want to wear pants and so they argue in hindsight to justify it. This isn’t about obeying God’s Word, but gratifying lust.

    Since the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27) and the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and churches are to follow leadership (Heb. 13:7, 17; Tit. 2:15; 1 Cor. 11:1), we don’t have liberty to wear our hair different than what the church has set as a standard. You talk about family standards. I believe churches, for the sake of unity, etc., can also make a church standard without being legalistic.

    Thanks for coming over.

  50. Anvil
    April 18, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    I’m not going to get into this too much, as it’s clear that you and I disagree on the specific application of Deut 22:5, and have done so back to at least the time you were still on SI. I could point out that having lace trim around the bottom of the legs as many womens’ pants do today is one styling difference, as well as flower patterns, colors that men generally don’t wear and lots of other “decorations” that adorn many womens’ pants today distinguish them clearly (to men in this country at least) as being feminine in design. I realize that people that take your position will not agree that these differences are as significant as whatever differences would have existed in OT robes. It’s fairly obvious to us what distinguishes mens’ shoes from womens’ as well as what distinguishes shirts, coats, etc. It’s not that hard to figure out for pants, either.

    As to pants always meaning girding, that is something that would have to be shown to be true.

    I will concede a couple of things, however:

    1. I would agree that churches can have standards without being legalistic. I don’t believe I have argued otherwise. But preaching that members who disobey the standard are sinning is quite a bit different from claiming that all believers not following the church standard are also sinning (or gratifying their lusts), which would again be equating the church standard with scripture.

    2. I would also agree that much of what drives people’s viewpoints these days would fall under gratifying lusts. That doesn’t mean that all who believe that pants can also be a woman’s garment fall into this category any more than all of those who don’t see tithing as an NT doctrine must somehow be greedy.

  51. April 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm


    I know that you might think I’m beating this into the ground, and really am not trying to do that. So what you are saying then is that you believe that women that do not wear pants with a frilly or lacy bottom on the cuff of their pants are an abomination to God. I had not heard that this was the standard for women’s pants.

    You know that grammatically it isn’t that they “look different.” If you think that the women’s pants are differentiated from men’s by some sort of obvious frilly lacy bottom, then you would also, it seems, to be consistent, need to say that not having that on the bottom would be an abomination to God. I rarely see the frilly bottoms among women’s dress.

    Regarding girding, in Job, God Himself directly says, “Gird up thy loins as a man.” In other words, men gird, women don’t. Pants came about from girding. They permanently gird in a modest fashion. The pants on a woman mean that a woman is constantly girding.

    Scripture is consistent on these types of things. For instance, only men have breeches in the Bible, and britches come from breeches. I’m not saying that that alone makes the standard, but it agrees with the standard.


  52. Anvil
    April 18, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Pastor Brandenburg,

    I said that the lace bottoms were one styling difference, not that all of the style differences I mentioned must be in any one garment, any more than they must all be in a coat, shirt, shoes, scarf, etc. to designate a garment as feminine. I was simply giving you examples of differences that are used to distinguish between garments for men and garments for women.

    Actually, to be completely consistent, we would also have to reject shirts, shoes, etc. that are too close (like penny loafers, for example, which were worn by both genders at BJ when I was there) if every single clothing piece must have obvious differences other than size.

    I agree that girding as spoken of in the Bible is for men. It’s not as clear to me that pants MUST come from girding. Other cultures have independently developed pants for women while the men wore garments more like robes that they had to gird up or change for warfare.

    Well, feel free to hammer this one more if you must, but we are way down into a particular view of a single standard which is a bit off the topic of attacking all standards. I don’t believe that having a different standard is the same as attacking the validity of all standards. Finally, as you already know, you don’t need to obey my “version” of Deut. 22:5. We will all stand before God and answer for how we obey his Word.

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