CHRISTIAN STANDARDS - Article by PASTOR JOE CREWS

The subject of Christian standards is probably one of the most neglected doctrines in the modern church. Very little is in print today that can provide even elementary instruction in this vital area. Only a few small books or tracts have attempted to deal with the basic and practical principles which should distinguish the Christian life from that of the world. The reason for this reluctance to write on these specifics of Christian conduct probably rests upon two fears: First, the fear of offending the rather large majority of church members who are living far below the biblical standard. Second, the fear of being labelled as judgmental, legalistic, holier-than-thou, and lacking in the personal, love-relationship with Christ. We are forced to recognise that these fears have often been justified. There has been too much written in the spirit of pharisaism. Satan has exploited the vocal, fanatical views of a very few and has used them to intimidate those who would write temperately on the subject. And too often, in his special hatred of this truth, Satan has caused many in the church to look upon any discussion of Christian standards as extremist and improper. These factors have combined to create a dearth of material on this subject. For this reason, if for no other, a tremendous need exists for educating the church on balanced biblical principles of conduct--principles that conflict in no way with the concepts of righteousness by faith which should underlie the lifestyle of every tree Christian. We also must concede that little should need to be said on this subject. After all, the actions are not the means of gaining salvation. We are saved by grace through faith and not by merit of works, obedience, or outward conduct on our part. Any overemphasis on these external things could be easily misinterpreted as a denial of justification by faith. Obviously, at the time of this writing no such overemphasis exists on a denominational level. Only occasional lone voices are heard on this subject. On the other hand, there is a spectacular resurgence of preaching on the doctrine of righteousness by faith, which is the way it should be. When preached in its true setting the greatest need of the church today is to know more about the experiential relationship of justification and sanctification. But in presenting those deep spiritual truths of salvation nothing should be said to downgrade the importance of obedience. Some seem almost incapable of maintaining the beautiful balance between faith and works. But this is so important and necessary! To misunderstand either grace or works is to stultify the experience and thwart the personal witness. Some may object that a book like this is not needed, because the outward conduct is a natural, spontaneous outgrowth of conversion to Christ. Therefore, the life will automatically produce the fruit of tree obedience and righteousness. But is this totally tree? It is true that the actions spring from the internal attitude of conversion, but instruction is needed for the most committed Christian. Many converted people keep Sunday and smoke cigarettes simply because no one has explained to them the biblical objections to those actions. Are we being legalistic in teaching them to change their conduct on the basis of the Word of God? Then could it be wrong to talk about other areas of outward conduct which might need harmonising with the Bible? One final observation should be made before you begin reading the pages which follow. The doctrine of Christian standards is for spiritual people only. This book is not written for the unconverted. Indeed, it will appear only as a lot of foolishness to the worldly class. Please do not take the things which are presented in this book and seek to impose them upon your unregenerate family or friends. Especially are we counselled against forcing dress standards on those who are not converted. Listen to this warning: "You cannot possibly change the heart. To get up a different style of dress will not do it. The difficulty is, the church needs converting daily .... Those who venture to disobey the plainest statements of inspiration will not heed any human efforts made to induce them to wear a plain, neat, unadorned, proper dress .... To those who are making self their idol nothing in the line of human tests should be presented, for it would only give them an excuse for making the final plunge into apostasy." Our Health Message, pp. 429-430. Apply the principles of this book to your own life. Some of them have seldom been seen in print before. Restrain the impulse to call them fanatical until you have read the entire book and have asked God to show you what to do about them in the fading light of earth's last sunset. OUR ENEMY--THE WORLD The world today is in an incredible state of flux and change. Traditional views and values have been altered and almost reversed within a relatively short time. Under the numbing influence of television and the highly mobile electronic media, minds have been manipulated, thought patterns set up, and decisions dictated. And most of the millions so influenced are almost oblivious to the powerful artificial agencies which were used to change their minds and their morals. There is no question whatsoever that Satan is pulling the strings and directing the subtle forces which are designed to destroy us spiritually. Under the hypnotising influence of these forces, Christian minds have been just as successfully brainwashed as those of the most unregenerate sinner. Our only safety is to recognise the clever camouflages of the enemy. A thousand disguised death traps have been planted all around us. Almost imperceptibly our thinking has been affected by what we see and hear. Spiritual convictions have softened and disappeared altogether. The fine sensitivity to sin has been blunted by incessant exposure to the apparent innocent influences of our baited society. In the Scriptures these assault weapons of Satan are referred to simply as "the world." And no one can say that we have not been warned against their demoralising effect. Paul, James, and John all wrote with dramatic urgency about the dangers of collaborating with the world: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:15, 16. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." James 4:4. "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." John 15:19. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing;, and I will receive you." 2 Corinthians 6:17. "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titus 2:14. These writers had an inspired obsession to expose the deadly error of mingling together the sacred and profane. They are saying to us with one voice, "Don't love the world. You are not of the world. Come out of the world and be a peculiar and separated people." These texts are not to be construed as orders to leave the physical occupation of the world. Obviously, they are warnings against certain influences, customs, and ideas which would be highly detrimental to the Christian way of life. Furthermore, Jesus Himself indicated that things of the world would appear completely innocent in the eyes of men. He laid down an eternal principle when He spoke these words to the Pharisees: "For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Luke 16:15. Study that statement carefully. Christ is saying that the most honoured, respected things in society will be the greatest enemy of the truth. He is saying that His people would have to stand on the opposite side from the prevailing practices of the world. True Christians will have to reject the lifestyle which will be the accepted, approved norm for all the rest of the world. Do we have any idea what is involved in taking such a position? It is not easy to stand against the sincere, articulate opinions of popular national figures. And then there will be full support from the great church systems to give even more credence to the things which are "highly esteemed among men." This wrong way of life will be so patently taken for granted that any deviation will be looked upon as stupid and irrational. E. G. White explains it thus: "When we reach the standard that the Lord would have us reach, worldlings will regard Seventh-day Adventists as odd, singular, strait-laced extremists.'' Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 289. This brings us to another most important question: What effect will all of these glamorised, disguised approaches have upon the remnant church? The studied purpose of our great enemy is to make sin appear unobjectionable, and if possible, to infiltrate the camp of the saints. The one great citadel of strength, the last bulwark of defence which stands against the lawless one, is the seed of the woman. According to Revelation 12:17, "The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Satan hates the law of God. He hates the Sabbath. And he hates those who stand in the gap, upholding the validity of that law. Down through the centuries the devil has devised special weapons to use against the people of God. Those weapons have varied from generation to generation. Often the sharp edge of persecution was turned against the little remnant who stood loyal to the commandments of God. Persecution and the death sentence will come into the picture again as a desperate devil unleashes the worst that he has against the true church. He knows this is the life or death encounter which will settle the issues of the great controversy for all eternity. This time he will overlook no advantage. Relying upon the psychological expertise of 6,000 years' experience of trying to bend the human mind, he has initiated a softening-up operational plan against the people he hates. That plan consists of gradually weakening the spiritual defences of Seventh-day Adventists through worldly compromise. This will be the ultimate weapon which Satan has cleverly designed to undermine the faith of every member of the remnant church. How successful will it be? How many will be shaken out in the approaching crisis because they yielded to the things of the world? We don't have to wonder. The answer has been given over and over in the Spirit of Prophecy. It is a sickening answer, and we would like to believe it is not true. But read it and marvel: "I would say that we are living in a most solemn time. In the last vision given me, I was shown the startling fact that but a small portion of those who now profess the truth _ will be sanctified by it and be saved. Many will get above the simplicity of the work. They will conform to the world, cherish idols, and become spiritually dead." Testimonies, Vol. 1, pp. 608-609. How incredible! The great majority of those who now rejoice in the truth will give up their faith and be lost. They will be lost because they "conform to the world." Satan's insidious, innocent-appearing, highly esteemed lifestyle will disarm them, weaken them, and finally destroy them. Another statement is even more specific: "The great proportion of those who now appear genuine will prove to be base metal." Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 136. The softening-up strategy of the enemy is clearly described by E. G. White in these words: "The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The observance of the false sabbath will be urged upon us. The contest will be between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will then yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. At that time the gold will be separated from the dross. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliance will then go out in darkness. Those who have assumed the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed with Christ's righteousness, will then appear in the shame of their own nakedness." Prophets and Kings, p. 188. Don't miss the line which describes the reason for this mass apostasy. "Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will then yield to the powers that be." Not only will the majority be shaken out of the church they will actually turn against their former brethren and become bitter enemies of the truth. "As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead the souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath keepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents for Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them." The Great Controversy, p. 608. Again we are fascinated by the expression, "By uniting with the world ... they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side." Notice that it is a preparation work---"They are prepared ..." Here again is revealed the fantastic psychological program of Satan to break down moral barriers. Worldly compromise. Worldly conformity. "The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld, must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith, and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 278. The words "worldly conformity" spring out at us again from this statement. Repeatedly we have been warned about this massive attack of Satan through worldliness. Yet, we hear so very little about this particular subject. Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists have been blinded to this operational plan of the evil one. Some of our people have been led to believe that it is legalistic to make any kind of issue over standards and lifestyles. To them it is "quibbling" and judgmental. This is surely the way Satan would have them feel. They talk and think much about the final test over the true Sabbath, but fail to see how the outcome of the test is being determined right now. Says Ellen White: "Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mould and preparing for the Mark of the Beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God, and purifying their souls by obeying the truth-these are receiving the heavenly mould and preparing for the Seal of God in their foreheads." Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 216. The mark of the beast will be enforced. Every soul will have to go to the side of the true Sabbath or the counterfeit, Sunday. Seventh-day Adventists will face the death sentence for their faith. And, tragically, the majority will not be able to stand in the crisis. They will prove disloyal because of earlier compromise and vacillation over Christian standards. By yielding gradually to worldly custom and fashion their strength of will and decision will be so diluted that they cannot endure the test. And this compromise is going on right now! This very moment the great majority of our fellow church members are bending toward the world to such a degree that they will be lost when the mark is enforced. Here's the question that bothers me: Am I bending with them? How can I be sure that I'm not following the drift which will bring on the great shaking in the church? What cleverly disguised, diabolical method has Satan employed to blind the eyes of so many of God's people that they will finally choose the world over the truth? It must surely be the polished masterpiece of all the deceptive plans he has ever used against the saints. The people who have been noted for their high standards will be tricked into yielding up their separated lifestyle. The average Adventist today would indignantly deny that he is being worldly. The majority of our members would express full assurance that they will not give up their faith, even in the face of death. Yet we have just read that they will! What does this mean? It means that most of our members are caught up in worldliness and don't even realise it. They are indulging in dangerous compromise and think it is perfectly innocent and acceptable. They have been so blinded that they cannot recognise the worldly things they are doing. Why can they not see their involvement with the world? Because the lowering of standards was so gradual that none realised what was happening. The devil's scheme is not to make the church suddenly abandon its historic position against the flesh and the world. He is far too clever to think we will make any public announcement that it's all right to go to movies, wear makeup and jewellery, or drink tea and coffee. But Satan knows how the mind operates under the power of suggestion and association. With infinite patience he introduces pictures, words, ideas, and practices that cannot be condemned per se. In fact, many of Satan's "innocent" devices are not only highly esteemed among men, but have some commendable qualities and features. A perfect example of such a device is television. And how many of us have heard convincing arguments for the fine news, documentaries, and religious programming. No one can say that the TV console in the living room is an evil thing in itself. Taken by itself it is a fine piece of furniture and a source of good information. Then begins the masterful process of psychological assault in which Satan is unexcelled. Very slowly the discriminations are dulled by glimpses and snatches of borderline comedy, violence, etc. The mind adjusts to the new level of input, and almost imperceptibly begins to tolerate the changing quality of sight and sound. Two inspired statements will help us see how the work of the enemy develops: "Satan will insinuate himself by little wedges, which widen as they make a place for themselves. The specious devices of Satan will be brought into the special work of God at this time." Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 21. "The work of the enemy is not abrupt .... It is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle. It begins in apparently small things." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 718. How important it is to recognise the direction in which we are being led by any particular influence. The manner in which quail are often trapped provides a parallel to Satan's tactics. Wheat is placed several feet from the spot where a snare is triggered to spring shut on the quail. At first the birds approach the good wheat with some obvious apprehension, but because there is no danger in view their fears are allayed. The next day the wheat is placed a bit nearer to the snare, and the birds are less wary of the scattered grain. Day after day, the wheat is placed just a little bit closer to the trap, until the quail are completely confident that there is nothing dangerous about the fine wheat. Then, of course, the grain is placed inside the snare, and the birds still come. Innocently they trust the good food to remain good, and a safe feast to remain safe. Then the trap is sprung. I'm not contending that quails should stop eating wheat or that Christians should cease all good activities. The point is that we should be cautious enough to consider the direction in which we are being led and be willing to give up even the "good" things if they are taking us in a direction of spiritual danger. Can good things lead in the wrong direction? Indeed they can. Christians are led to give up their high standards by degrees, often by a completely innocent-looking process. This is the way compromise has always slipped into the church. Satan introduces an activity which is only slightly objectionable. In fact, it might be very hard to define exactly why the action isn't good. And because the deviation is so tiny no one really wants to make an issue over it. Some faithful members of the church feel uncomfortable about the matter but are reluctant to say anything for fear of being called fanatical. They decide to wait until there is a larger issue before they take a strong stand. Unfortunately, there will never be a larger issue. The devil makes certain that all the steps of compromise are very small. He knows that hardly anyone would have the courage to make any sustained objection to the minute degree of digression. Once upon a time, the devil's favourite argument was, "Everybody else is doing it." Although the young people still use that one occasionally, a new term is currently being tossed about to justify worldly conformity: "A little bit is all right." The dress is just a little bit too short. The drink contains only a little bit of caffeine. The TV program shows only a little bit of violence. The wedding ring is only a small one, and the cosmetics add just a little bit of colour. We could go on and on. We can't seem to learn the lesson of Lot as he left Sodom. Most of his family had refused to leave the doomed city. He had lost everything he owned by choosing to live in that wicked environment--his home, wealth, and lovely daughters. But when the angels urged him to flee into the mountains, he begged for permission to move into another city! And his rationalisation was, "Is it not a little one?" Genesis 19:20. How could he do that? Surely Lot had learned that the cities had almost destroyed him. Since the day he "pitched his tent toward Sodom" the family had inched almost imperceptibly toward involvement with the corrupt society of the inner city. Little by little the transition was made from borderline neutrality to tongue-in-cheek participation. When Lot pleaded to live in yet another city, he was demonstrating dramatically how gradual compromise can blind the senses and distort the judgement. How many in the modem church have long ago pitched their tent toward Sodom? How many have taken that first, easily justified step toward compromise? And how many fellow Christians felt uneasy about it but had not the courage to raise a warning? Later, what happened? Those desensitised Christians began to defend the progressive drift of lowering standards by the same argument, "Is it not a little one?" Does this not explain how worldliness has crept even into the remnant church? For example: How did the miniskirt abomination become such a familiar sight in Seventh-day Adventist churches on Sabbath morning? Sister White explains how it happened with the hoop skirts in another generation, and you can see how Satan used the same subtlety to introduce the miniskirt. "The power of example is great. Sister A ventures to wear small hoops. Sister B says: It is not worse for me to wear hoops than for Sister A, and she wears them a little larger. Sister C imitates the example of Sister A and B, and wears her hoops a little larger than A and B, but all contend that their hoops are small." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 278. Does that sound familiar? Girls and ladies alike in the remnant church began to inch up in their hemlines. If the knee length was all fight, then what was wrong with half an inch above the knee? If it was modest at a half-inch above, then how could another haft-inch make it immodest? Why was so little said about it in protest? Because every stage of the leavening process was too small to stir an alarm. Not even the ministry realised what was really taking place. Many dared speak out, but they were quickly silenced by charges of having an evil mind. Very few continued to blow the trumpet of warning against the growing violation of modesty. How can we explain the blanket of silence that often attends these specious intrusions of the world? Apparently much of it is rooted in the fear of offending. "I saw that individuals would rise up against the plain testimonies. It does not suit their natural feelings. They would choose to have smooth things spoken unto them, and have peace cried in their ears. I view the church in a more dangerous condition than they ever have been. Experimental religion is known by but a few. The shaking must soon take place to purify the church. "Preachers should have no scruples to preach the truth as it is found in God's Word. Let the truth out. I have been shown that why ministers have not been more successful, they are afraid of hurting feelings, fearful of not being courteous, and they lower the standard of troth and conceal if possible the peculiarity of our faith. I saw that God could not make such successful. The truth must be made pointed, and the necessity of a decision urged. And as false shepherds are crying, Peace, and are preaching smooth things, the servants of God must cry aloud and spare not, and leave the result with God." Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, pp. 284-285. "By some there is a shunning of the living testimony. Cutting truths must not be shunned. It needs something besides theory to reach hearts now. It needs the stirring testimony to alarm and arouse; that will stir the enemy's subjects, and then honest souls will be led to decide for the truth. There has been and still is with some a disposition to have everything move on very smoothly. They see no necessity of straight testimony. "Sins exist in the church that God hates, but they are scarcely touched for fear of making enemies. Opposition has risen in the church to plain testimony. Some will not bear it. They wish smooth things spoken unto them. And if the wrongs of individuals are touched, they complain of severity, and sympathise with those in the wrong .... When the church departs from God they despise the plain testimony, and complain of severity and harshness. It is a sad evidence of the lukewarm state of the church." Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, pp. 283-284. The great need is for courageous ministers who will speak boldly about right and wrong. The pastor who truly loves his flock and his God will not hesitate to call sin by its right name in every discourse. Straightforward preaching which creates concern over wrongdoing is the most genuine demonstration of true love. Such men will weep much over their flock and with their flock, but they will not withhold the message which can heal and restore. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together made this significant statement: "Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin." A paragraph from the book Patriarchs and Prophets has influenced my own ministry more than any other thing I have read outside of the Bible. Its solemn message has burned in my soul from the first time I read it soon after ordination. It applies equally to parents as well as to pastors. So, for me it has double impact. "Those who have too little courage to reprove wrong, or who through indolence or lack of interest make no earnest effort to purify the family or the church of God, are held accountable for the evil that may result from the neglect of duty. We are just as responsible for evils that we might have checked in others by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if the acts had been our own." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 578. Don't miss the thrust of that statement. If I am afraid to blow the trumpet and warn God's people of approaching spiritual danger, and they are led into sin as a consequence, then I will be held as accountable for those sins as if they were my own. I don't want to answer for the sins of others. That's one reason I am writing this book. Too few are hearing about the covert tactics of our great enemy to break down the strength of the church today. The only way we are going to stop this worldly encroachment is to draw a line somewhere, and stand on it. The nibbling away of our standards will continue until we muster the courage to resist the first compromise. Mrs. White said, "The distance is widening between Christ and His people, and lessening between them and the world." Spiritual Gifts, Vol. IV, p. 68. Again she wrote: "Our only safety is to stand as God's peculiar people. We must not yield one inch to the customs and fashions of this degenerate age, but stand in moral independence, making no compromise with its corrupt and idolatrous practices." Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 78. It will be our purpose in the following chapters to study certain large areas of Christian standards which Satan has made the special focus of his plan of creeping compromise. IS NUDITY MODEST? The dress question has probably been the most sensitive area in which to draw lines based upon biblical principle. Disagreement over definition of terms has frightened many ministers away from the subject. What is modesty and immodesty? Other concerned church spokesmen have been troubled by the angry charge of liberals that dress critics themselves are obsessed with evil minds. Some have even made a gross misapplication of righteousness by faith and have taken the position that any discussion of external conduct constitutes a legalistic denial of Christ's imputed righteousness. Does this subject merit a few specific observations? Has it been overemphasised? How many books have rolled from our church presses on the subject? No one can say that it has suffered from overexposure. Hardly a tract or leaflet has expounded on the matter, and few of our books give it any appreciable recognition as a spiritual problem. But is it spiritual problem? Listen to this statement from Testimonies, Vol. 4, p. 647: "Fashion is deteriorating the intellect and eating out the spirituality of our people.Obedience to fashion is pervading our Seventh-day Adventist churches, and is doing more than any other power to separate our people from God." If this could be said of the dress problem over a hundred years ago, what could be said about it in these days of unisex, the bikini, and toplessness? Although the miniskirt comes and goes on the fashion scene, there will always be an element of nudity in prevailing styles that needs to be recognised as immodest and unchristian. Lest some should quibble over that word "modesty" let us not try to define it precisely here. But there can be no debate over the fact that anything which hurts a fellow Christian is wrong. And certainly any kind of dress which causes our fellowman to commit sin must be classified as wrong. Then let us be honest enough to admit that the exposed human body is quite capable of stirring up sin in both thought and action. Too many have acted very naïvely toward this mushrooming problem of nudity. It is time to speak very plainly so that both men and women understand the true nature of this evil. Ann Landers printed this letter in her column at the height of the miniskirt craze several years ago: "Dear Ann Landers: "Here's a message from a dirty old man--age 22. I'm a college senior and the point of view I express here reflects the thinking of a lot of guys. There is nothing so ludicrous as a chick in a thigh-high mini, sitting on a chair or sofa, tugging at her skirt, trying to pull it down to cover her status of respectability. She blushes ten shades of red and asks with eyes big as saucers, 'Am I sitting all right?' Or, 'Is anything showing?' "If they don't want anything to show, why don't they buy a skirt with some material in it? More than once I've gotten a dirty look because I was caught popping an eyeball. "Please tell the Great Pretenders who feign insult to come off it. The reason why they go half naked is because they want to create a little unrest. Tell them that act should have been cancelled when they accepted the hike of the hem and said 'to Blank' with decency." Many women have brushed aside criticism of their short dresses by blaming everything on the dirty old men with their evil thoughts. But is that the basic fault? Some months ago I received a telephone call while holding an evangelistic series in the state of Texas. A barber who listened to my daily radio program wanted a personal interview in my motel room. Being a Catholic he did not feel free to attend the public service, but he indicated on the phone that he desperately needed some spiritual counsel. This man turned out to be a wonderful Christian gentleman. He spoke of his great desire to be saved and to live a godly life. Then he confided the problem. Mini-skirted women came into his barber shop day by day. He prayed and struggled to keep his thoughts pure. With tears in his eyes he asked me, "Is God going to destroy me because I cannot always keep my thoughts clean and holy? Please tell me what to do. I want to be saved and I want to keep my mind upon God, but how can I do it with these half-dressed women before my eyes?" I felt sorry for that barber. He was wrestling with the same problem that every Christian man and boy has to face. It is not confined to "dirty old men." Every man, woman, and child in the world has a carnal nature by birth. But the male struggle to keep the thoughts straight is based upon more than the fleshly nature. It is rooted in the fact that God created men with a completely different sexual makeup than women. God made man in the beginning with a very sensitive sexual nature that could be quickly aroused by the sight of female nudity. Woman, on the other hand, was created with a sexual nature which would not be so easily stirred, especially by sight. She was made to be more responsive to touch and tenderness. Her more subtle sexuality could be drawn out by the physical attentions involved in the conjugal relationship. God gave man his emotional sex nature for the purpose of making marriage more pleasurable and happy. The husband was to be the aggressive one in the relationship. Under this beautiful plan of God, the sex instinct of both husband and wife could be lawfully stirred. But mark this: God never intended for man's sex emotions to be stimulated outside the marriage chamber. And in order to protect him God placed within the woman a delicate sense of modest reserve, so that she would not expose her body except to her own husband. The plan was perfect, but it has broken down in one area. Satan has managed to destroy to a very great extent that inherent modesty with which the Creator endowed womanhood. Under the growing curse of transgression, women have thrown off the moral restraints. Uninhibited nudity or provocative haft-dress has become the accepted norm of modern fashion. On every side, the Christian, as well as the non-Christian, is forced to look upon scenes of nakedness which are utterly foreign to the original plan of the Creator. What has been the effect of this perverted order of things? It has produced a sex-saturated society whose moral qualities just about match those of the antediluvians. Jesus said, "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Matthew 24:37. And what were the conditions of Noah's day which would be duplicated in the end of time? Genesis 6:5 says that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." We have only to look at the sorry state of today's entertainment and communication media to know how fully this prophecy has been fulfilled. Pornography has been legitimatise. The TV channels are crowded with lewd sex, either implicit or explicit. The world of advertising, and even the daily news commentaries, are sprinkled with profanity and suggestive double-talk. The imagination of modern man seems obsessed with the subject of sex, often deviant and perverted. Homosexuality has not only received the tolerant coexistence which it sought after, but has been given recognition by the majority of psychiatrists as normal sex behaviour. And what about the Christians who are surrounded by this glorification of the flesh? Unfortunately, it has not been left outside the church doors. Slowly the world edged into the remnant church. By degrees the sight of knees and thighs even in the sanctuary began to be tolerated. The sense of outrage disappeared as we got used to the weekly display. What about the Christian men whose inherent sex nature is so easily influenced by this nudity? Do they respond to the external stimuli by thinking evil thoughts and committing mental adultery? By the grace of God true Christians can lay hold of victory, even over the imaginations of the heart. Through submission and prayer any man can claim the power of a pure mind, but the styles of dress make it a more difficult struggle. Jesus made it clear that men are easily led into wrong thinking. He said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Matthew 5:27, 28. And what can be said for the women who dress in such a way that they stimulate this kind of thinking? They are equally guilty before God. For this reason no tree Christian woman, who understands the effect of such a course, will wear the revealing clothes which create such illicit desires. As the dress inches above the knee, the climate of sin is created. For the carnal man, who has not the power of the gospel in his life, there is no chance whatever to resist the temptation. Every miniskirt is fuel which triggers the mind to think the most debased thoughts of which the carnal nature is capable. Christian women should have no share in this kind of enticement. Indeed, the second greatest commandment of Jesus would be violated by such a course. Christ said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' How could a woman wear clothing that was designed to cause her neighbour's husband to commit mental adultery and not be guilty of breaking that law of love? Would she love her neighbour as herself if she wilfully did something to cause her neighbour's husband to sin against his wife and against God? We are dealing here with actions which cause others to sin. Moral issues are directly involved. We are counselled to close every door of temptation. "Our example and influence must be a power on the side of reform. We must abstain from any practice which will blunt the conscience or encourage temptation. We must open no door that will give Satan access to the mind of one human being formed in the image of God." Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 360. Because the female reaction to nudity is so different from that of the male, women often minimise the spiritual problem we are talking about here. Too often their attitude is that men just ought to use more power of serf-control and stifle their mental images. They fail completely to grasp the significant difference which God Himself put into the male nature. That nature cannot be reversed by any human effort or determination. It can be controlled by complete Christian commitment, but Christian women must co-operate in closing the avenues of the soul to temptation. "Our only safety is to be shielded by the grace of God every moment, and not put out our own spiritual eyesight so that we will call evil good, and good, evil. Without hesitation or argument, we must close and guard the avenues of the soul against evil. It will cost us an effort to secure eternal life. It is only by long and persevering effort, sore discipline, and stem conflict, that we shall be over-comers." Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 324. Perhaps we can better understand Satan's way of operating today if we remember some of his classic manoeuvres in the past. In 1 Corinthians 10 we read that the experiences of ancient Israel were written for our admonition and example. Reference is made to their leaving Egypt, journeying through the wilderness, and entering the promised land. There is a direct parallel between God's people then and God's people today. We cannot ignore the fact that Satan's final, win-or-lose-all attack against Israel to keep them from entering the promised land involved the illicit interlude at Baalpeor. The amoral pagan women of Moab swarmed into the camp of Israel with breezy abandon and caused thousands of the men of Israel to fall into sin. God described the scene thus: "For they vex you with their wiles wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor." Numbers 25:18. Is there not a striking parallel with the way Satan is seeking to keep modem Israel from entering the heavenly Canaan? Through the wiles of sexual license stirred up by brazen nudity, a last-ditch effort has already been launched to subvert the moral integrity of the remnant church. In the judgement plague which swept the camp of the Israelites, 24,000 died-24,000 men who were overwhelmed by the exotic beauty of the seductive women, and lost the privilege of entering the promised land. How many thousands of God's people today will be enamoured and destroyed by a duplication of such fleshly lusts? Paul, after reviewing the tragic scene at Baalpeor made this appeal: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:11, 12. Not one man or woman can boast of any great strength against the pervasive glamour of this worldly age. Just as the senses were captivated by the invading beauties of Moab in the camp of Israel, so the homes of modem Israel are being invaded by the dazzling allure of full-colour televised nudity and carnality. Many who think they are standing are sadly compromised already and do not even recognise it. The undress parade of the latest styles and fashions have also breached the spiritual defences of many in the church. Only time and eternity will reveal how many minds have surrendered to the sensual appeal of immodest clothing. We wonder if Baalpeor could have been any more bold in its deliberate assault on the morals of Israel. Note the public boast of Mary Quant, the inventor of the miniskirt. This fashion designer declared that her creation was for the purpose of making sex (illicit) more available in the afternoon. In an interview she was asked what kind of person today's woman wants to be, and she answered, "A sexual creature. She displays her sexuality instead of this coy business of hiding it. Today she dresses to say, 'I am sexy. I like men. I enjoy life.'" Then she made this bold statement: "Miniclothes are symbolic of those girls who want seduce a man." We think the Israelites were n~fve and stupid to fall for Balaam's clever sexual intrigue in days of old, but what can we say for the thousands of Seventh-day Adventist women who blithely donned their miniskirts in the face of Mary Quant's confession? One of the first evidences of Satan-control is the taking off of the clothes. We have proof of that in Luke 8 where the poor demon-filled man was chained in the Gadarene graveyard. The Bible describes him as "a certain man, which had devils long time and ware no clothes." Luke 8:27. Later, when he had been delivered of the legion of evil spirits, he is described as "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind." Verse 35. Evidently his first act upon being set free from Satan's power was to clothe himself again. And the clear implication is that only people not in their fight minds would go around without clothes. Can we conclude that the mass craze for nudity may be based upon modern devil possession? Do the statistics of mental and emotional sickness not support the conclusion also that great numbers of people are not really in their right minds? And these people are being exploited today by Hollywood promoters, smut writers, lewd cultists, and weird designers. They threaten to strip away all modesty and decency from humanity. Their devilish productions constitute a burning insult to the modesty of the human race. Paul Harvey, noted newspaper columnist, cited the alarming coincidence of crime statistics and short skirts. FBI crime files reveal that forcible rape shot upward almost in proportion to the rise of the hemline. The consensus of law enforcement officers in 50 states agreed that there is a correlation between the miniskirt and sex crimes. Of the law enforcement officers who responded to the question, "Does the short skirt invite sex crimes?" 91 percent answered in the affirmative. The view was summed up by the juvenile division commander of one large city when he said, "Some sex crimes are committed by individuals aroused by their sensory perception, and short dresses of some girls could provoke such an attack." A newspaper article from Toronto, Canada, confirms that Canadian police agree with the U.S. report: "'91 percent of Toronto policemen think a woman in a revealing miniskirt is more likely to be a rape victim than is her more modest sister,' a spokesman from the Toronto force said Tuesday. Since 1964, the year the mini was introduced to the female fashion market, rapes have increased by 68 percent in the U.S. and by 90 percent in England," said The Law Officers, a police publication. "Abbreviated costumes are no doubt a factor in offences against women," said Sgt. George Gough of Toronto's Morality Squad. "When a girl in a short skirt is followed by a man after she gets off a street car at night, there isn't much doubt as to what attracted her assailant." Dr. Luchenstein, physician at Tombs Prison in New York City, worked with 170,000 prisoners over a twelve-year period. He said, "The so-called crimes of passion are increasing alarmingly, and will continue to do so... until the principal cause is eliminated. This, it seems to me, is the present style of dress, which, to say the least, is immodest. Immodest dress has a direct bearing on crime incitation, no matter how innocent the wearer may be." Lest any should conclude from this data that the male of the human species is the pawn of uncontrollable urges, let me hasten to say that every individual remains accountable to God on the basis of personal decision. Each man carries the responsibility of sovereign judgement and wilful choice, providing no excuse for transgression of God's law. Finally, we stand or fall not because of the force of temptation, but by the deliberate action of the mind to obey the truth or reject it. The influence of provocative dress habitually prevails over the mind which is not fortified with the Holy Spirit. DOUBLE STANDARD EXPOSED No discussion of modest dress would be complete without touching on the touchy subject of mixed swimming. Only in this area is the miniskirt almost modest by comparison. Here, by the way, we also discover the blind spot in Adventist dress standards. For some strange reason very little has been said or written on this glaring inconsistency in dealing with our young people. While we take only a soft, role-book type of stand on miniskirts, we have taken no official stand at all on the matter of mixed swimming. And even the unofficial views of most of the ministry and members do not seem to bear any consistent correlation with the historic principles we have espoused as a church. Although swimming is one of the finest kinds of recreational activity, the modem bathing suit covers much less of the body than the skimpiest microminiskirt. In truth, very little is left to the imagination. If we condemn the miniskirt, if we endorse any kind of modest dress principle, no matter how vague, how could we by any stretch of the imagination condone a bathing suit as acceptable Christian apparel? Surely no one is so blind as to miss this point. Our young people are not blind, and this is one of the reasons they seem not to listen anymore when we talk to them about modesty. They see the double standard that is being practised. It is common practice in our academies to include admonitions in our handbook about modest dress. After that, there may be much or little said about the length of dresses, including low necks, bare backs, and sleevelessness. But in practically all our schools, sometime during the year, the students and teachers go out to some waterfront location, and spend the day playing together in less clothing than is worn by prostitutes who walk the city streets. In fact, if those students and teachers should walk down the main street of any small town wearing their bathing suits they would be refused admission to most business places. They would scandalise even the unconverted community, and risk possible arrest for indecent exposure. And yet we have blindly accepted this kind of dress as suitable for Seventh-day Adventist Christians to wear in mixed company. It is ironic that what the world calls indecent in one location, the church would call modest at another location. Does this make any kind of sense? The place has nothing to do with it--it is the principle. The principle against exposing the body applies on the street, the beach, or in the shopping centre. If you want a shocking example of how this creeping compromise has reduced us to the level of the world around us, take a census of the most popular public beaches in July and August. Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists will be mingling with the vulgar multitude. And by the way, you will find no way to identify them from the haft-clothed atheists, harlots, and thieves who frequent those resorts. All the flesh looks the same. Does the ocean-front location make it modest to shed our clothes? Do we believe that principles of modesty should be applied only at certain times and places? Are male responses to female nudity somehow thrown out of gear during beach parties and swimming socials? I have found many of our members who have asked themselves the same questions, but because no one else seemed to be questioning the activity they went along without saying anything. The general feeling seemed to be that the end probably justifies the means in this case. They are getting fine exercise and having a good time. Others have rationalised that because everyone is in the same state of undress, no one is allowing a big bad thought to come into the head. Also, they get so accustomed to seeing one another half naked that they no longer respond to it. These arguments are not only shallow, but they are untrue. If they were true, then we would have a great case for joining the nudist colony. My convictions against mixed swimming grew in me as I observed the fruits of the practice. As a young intern-minister in Florida, my assignment in one beachside city was to chaperone the youth at their swimming party. I was astounded to see how inhibitions were lowered by the promiscuous mingling of boys and girls in their bathing suits. Physical liberties were taken, and undue familiarities appeared during the games which were played both in and out of the water. I shall never forget one thing I saw that day. It shocked me into taking my first stand against mixed swimming. One of the lady chaperones climbed up on the shoulders of one of the men who was also helping to supervise the activities. She was one of the spiritual leaders in the church and he was a deacon. Her modesty on Sabbath morning was always exemplary. If a breeze should have lifted her skirt even slightly to expose a knee she would have been embarrassed. Yet, I watched in amazement as she sat astride the shoulders of a man who was not her husband, and rode him around in the water, shrieking with laughter, clad in a scanty bathing suit. She seemed to have no sense whatsoever of the impropriety of what she was doing. Right then I decided that if this was the effect of mixed swimming I would have to take the position that it was wrong. During the thirty years since that day, I have seen nothing which has changed my feelings about its evil influence. A while ago I was asked to present these principles of modest dress at a camp meeting. After the meeting, which had occupied two hours in the main auditorium, five young people were waiting to talk to me. The three girls and two boys, all college age, were quite upset by what I had said. The beautiful girl, who seemed to be speaking for all the others, was especially vehement. She said, "How can you say mixed swimming is wrong? We have spent this whole summer with a witnessing team on the Ocean City beach. We spent most of the time in bathing suits, giving Bible studies to other young people on the boardwalk. And this is Tom whom we met there, and he is to be baptised next Sabbath. How can you say we did wrong when we were able to win him for Christ on the beach?" I expressed joy for the young man who was to be baptised, and commended them for leading him to Christ. Then I asked Tom this question: "Tom, in your association with these girls on the beach in their bathing suits, did you ever find evil or impure thoughts coming into your mind because of the way they were dressed?" Tom dropped his head for just a moment, and then answered, "Yes, of course I did." Immediately the girls chorused their dismay. "Why didn't you tell us then?" one of them asked. They seemed genuinely surprised that the boys had not come up to them at the beach to tell them their suits were provocative. They went away that day wiser young women, but do you think they forthwith gave up their custom of mixed bathing? I have found that in most cases the ladies do not change their dress styles even after learning how detrimental their influence. The goddess of fashion is a tyrant ruler, and few are committed enough to yield their darling indulgences, especially when the attire caters to the serf nature. Dr. Harold Shryock gives this counsel to young dating couples: "Avoid mixed swimming. Swimming of itself is a wholesome recreation. But when members of both sexes swim together there is introduced an element of personal display which, for any normal human being, directs the thoughts toward the physical characteristics peculiar to the opposite sex. The effort of mixed swimming is to make commonplace those considerations that, for the Christian, are sacred. Mixed swimming tends to lower personal standards of decorum, making physical familiarity seem less objectionable." The Youth's Instructor, July 19, 1960. In the March 1971 issue of Ministry magazine a letter to the editor was printed which is worthy of wide distribution. The letter was written by Elder Don Hawley, editor of Life and Health magazine. "In the January, 1970, issue of the Ministry, one of our ministers wrote concerning the matter of modesty. He pointed out that our criticism of the miniskirt did not seem to correlate with our complete lack of concern about mixed bathing. He, along with the editors, asked that others express their opinion on the subject, but there has followed a strange silence. "Is it possible that we know intuitively that mixed bathing is not proper, but since it is so universally practised by the church it seems best to ignore the situation? If so, this is a 'head in the sand' approach. No matter how universal some impropriety may be, we still have to answer individually in the judgement. "Perhaps there were those who did have convictions, but who felt it would not be politically expedient to express them. I once heard a conference president downgrade a particular pastor because 'he's rather fanatical; he doesn't believe in mixed bathing.' "We decry the wearing of shorts, the backless back, and plunging neckline, and the miniskirt, pointing out that such people are 'half naked.' But if that person switches to a condition of being three quarters naked ( i.e. into swim wear), then all is well. Apparently if we want to do something badly enough, such as engage in mixed swimming, then the laws of modesty can be temporarily abrogated. "Until a few years ago at least, a person leaving a public beach in swimming attire and walking a block to a shopping area, would risk arrest for' indecent exposure.' Isn't it a bit strange that what the world labels indecent, the church finds acceptable? "In one conference the following regulations are in force during camp meeting: 'Swimmers are requested to use bathing caps and to be properly and modestly dressed going to and from the pool. Street clothes or bathing robes are required.' Think about this for a moment. The unavoidable inference is that once one gets to the pool, it will be all right to wear only bathing attire and be immodestly dressed .... " Some have asked whether E. G. White spoke on the subject of mixed bathing. According to the White Estate there is no record of such counsel. Obviously, the wearing of bikinis and skimpy bathing suits was not any problem under the Victorian aura of the mid-1800s. When I wrote for information on the subject from the White Estate, they sent me a copy of a letter which had been written to someone who had made a similar inquiry. The secretary of the Estate wrote the letter December 8, 1953: "The question of mixed bathing about which you wrote sometime ago is certainly a most difficult one to deal with under present day conditions. Unfortunately we have not a single statement in the writings of Ellen G. White in which the subject is mentioned directly. Conclusions must be based on principles stated in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy rather than on any specific bit of instruction. Of course, this is true of many other subjects concerning which we must make decisions regularly. You asked about my convictions on the matter, so I shall pass them on with some of the statements of principles involved in reaching the conclusions. "In dealing with a good many hundreds of young people during the years of my teaching, I have discovered what you have also found--that, while it may be difficult to hold the line regarding some standards and activities, it is easier to hold than to back up after yielding to pressure to follow a course of action that is not clearly a right one. So far as I can learn, our colleges that have pools are still holding to separate periods for swimming. That is the position recommended by our Missionary Volunteer Department, and I believe the position is a sound one. "You may be interested to know that the Missionary Volunteer Advisory Council, in its meeting just preceding the recent Autumn Council, emphatically reaffirmed its former position that we should not sponsor groups for mixed bathing. While the action does not specify all of the situations involved, the discussion centred in the church and M.V. Society, the school, and the camp. The men felt that circumstances warrant a strong reaffirmation of this point of view. Their observation has been that where some have not followed this course, most unfortunate results have obtained. "You mentioned that our young people are beyond being shocked by anything they might see in connection with a swimming party. I believe that is true of many of them. One of my great questions is whether we as church leaders should sponsor things that will only serve to foster this tendency to be shock-proof. We must admit that repeated exposures to conscience-deadening influences have brought our young people to the condition in which we find them. Is it not our responsibility to do our best to avoid anything that will continue these influences? Rather than there being more reasons today for going ahead with mixed bathing than in the past, it seems that with the increased freedom of association and almost complete lack of inhibitions on the part of young people the reasons for avoiding more freedom are multiplying. "So far as the argument is concerned that people are so used to seeing immodesty that immodest bathing suits mean nothing to them, I believe that it is entirely fallacious. The Bible instruction is that Christians should be modestly dressed no matter what anyone else does. The fact that many consciences are hardened does not alter basic principles. It would require a rather ingenious individual to invent arguments to prove that the modern version of the bathing suit is 'modest apparel.' While many refuse to admit it, for boys and men to be in close association with girls and women in the near state of nudity that the current bathing suit encourages is a very real source of temptation. All one needs to do is to take a glance at some of the advertising matter for women's bathing suits, to discover that it is the studied purpose of the manufacturers to focus male attention on the female form. For the church to encourage association on this basis is not a soul-winning endeavour. "While it is true that many young people, especially the teenagers, consider us unrealistic in our approach to matters of this sort, that is not a new attitude. My contact with history has left me with the distinct impression that every generation of young people has considered its elders hopelessly out of date. As Christian parents and leaders, God has left it in our hands to teach our youth in such a way that, while they may not fully agree with us at present, the time will come when they will see the wisdom of our course. I have had many young people in later years thank me for prohibitions against which they chafed when they first encountered them. "You mentioned that those who are interested in swimming parties do not support the other social activities of the church. However, if you should inaugurate church sponsored swims, most of these individuals would still not support anything but the swims. They would not immediately gain interest in the other activities just because you had yielded to their urging in this matter. "All this may sound as if I am one of those 'ridiculously unrealistic' persons of whom the young people speak. I assure you that this is not so. It is just that I have lived with young people every day for so many years that I have become exceedingly aware of the results when we yield to some of their unwise urgings. These days we need to place before our young people every incentive for right thinking and acting. Mixed bathing is not such an incentive. "Swimming is one of the best of all exercises, and certainly it is a proper physical activity for Christians when engaged in moderation and under the proper circumstances. If it is the physical benefit that is desired, this object can be gained by our sponsoring swims for young men and young women separately in appropriate places. I greatly miss the opportunity to go swimming as frequently as I would like, because of the difficulty of finding suitable places for the recreation. I know many others who feel the same way, but our young people must learn to take a proper attitude toward denying present pleasures for future benefits. "I sympathise with you in your problem. It is a perennial one in our schools, and I have been trying to cope with it for a dozen years. It seems to me that this is something that must be left as a decision for families to make. If consecrated parents decide that they wish to accompany their children as a family or as a group of families, certainly we should not condemn them, but for the church to sponsor swimming parties of this kind is an entirely different matter." UNISEX Any discussion of dress today would be incomplete without some consideration being given to the topic of unisex. One of the phenomena of our times is the mushrooming growth of look-alike boutiques and hair salons. Unisex shops and signs are appearing all across the country offering exactly the same clothes and hairdos to both men and women. What is the significance of this development? Are there any spiritual dangers inherent in this growing trend? First we need to take note of the astronomical rise in homosexuality in the last few years. America has been literally swamped in a blitz of newspaper and magazine stories about the gay movement, and how it has proudly come out of the closet to demand its rights. Gay marches and demonstrations attract great crowds and wide publicity. Television forums have openly discussed the matter before millions of viewers, with both lesbians and homosexuals taking part. Psychiatry has given formal recognition to the practice as normal sex behaviour. Great Protestant church organisations are not only opening the doors to membership, but are ordaining self-professed homosexuals to the ministry. Churches have been established exclusively for the worship of homosexuals, and some marriages have been performed and publicly registered between two persons of the same sex. Much has been written about the possible causes for this spectacular escalation of a very old perversion. Very few seem to understand exactly why it has made such a sudden resurgence, but I believe we can discover the reasons by examining some parallel social developments which have given explicit encouragement to the gay movement. There is a cause for every effect, and through the centuries of time the same conditions have produced similar results. AH Bible students are acquainted with the strong condemnation of sodomy which is woven throughout both Old and New Testaments. God labels it as one of the worst abominations, a sin which will utterly deprave and destroy. The ancient pagan world was riddled with the vice. The very name is derived from the city of Sodom which harboured a host of militant homosexuals. Paul speaks in Romans 1:26 and 27 of "vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another;, men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet." The reprobate minds "which commit such things are worthy of death," Paul stated in verse 32. The land of Canaan, which the Israelites were to possess, was filled with the perverse iniquity of sodomy or homosexuality. This was one of the reasons God gave such explicit instructions for them not to intermarry or intermingle with the inhabitants of the land. They were to avoid any contaminating contact which could lead Israel to join their debased practices. Furthermore, they were given specific instructions against dressing in a way that could create the climate for committing this sin. "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shah a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." Deuteronomy 22:5. Because sodomy involves a changing of sex roles which is usually accompanied by a pattern of acting and dressing like the opposite sex, God warned His people not to open any door of temptation on this matter. They were to maintain clear lines of distinction between the dress of men and women. The New Testament reaffirms this principle of separation in appearance. Paul wrote, "Doth not even nature itself teach you that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her." 1 Corinthians 11:14, 15. Now we are ready to make some observations about the modem social scene which could explain why we see the alarming rise of homosexuality. If God saw that the blurring of sexual identity could cause problems, then we must admit to having a great problem. We are seeing three factors at work today which have never operated before in human history at the same time. Taken alone, none of these three things would be too impressive. But when we see the combined effect of their influence, it is frightening even to contemplate. The three contemporary conditions are these: (1) The Women's Lib Movement, whose declared purpose is to interchange the roles of men and women in much of our social, economic, and religious life. (2) The pantsuit fashion revolution, which has led the majority of women to abandon the traditional feminine dress styles. (3) The growing tendency of men to dress in frills, with feminine hair styles, and accompanying demasculinisation. This combination of related circumstances has probably been responsible for pushing thousands of borderline homosexuals over the line into perversion. Many of them only needed the little bit of psychotic confusion that the three popular movements thrust upon them. Dr. Charles Winick, professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, is one leading authority who feels that the current vogue for interchangeable clothing is leading us to ultimate disaster. In his provocative book, The New People, he delineates the numerous ways that unisex is desexualising the American people. He believes that even the over-thirty group has been critically affected by the radical changes around them, although they don't fully realise how it is happening. Dr. Winick points out that even the staid business men are edging into patterned, pastelhued shirts and pants. Men's departments are doing a brisk business in jewellery, scented grooming aids, hairpieces, manicures, face creams, and colognes. Hair nets and permanent waves are discreetly labelled with terms like "trainers" and "hair processing? In his book Dr. Winick catalogues several hundred pages of items in our culture that have become neutralised, bland, and consequently boring. For example: Parents are giving more and more interchangeable names to their children such as Kim, Chris, Leslie, Gene, Lee, and Dana. He believes that the blurring of masculine and feminine distinctions is leading our society into deep trouble, because people cannot cope with critical life situations until they are certain of their sexual identity. Unisex clothing is confusing them and creating serious emotional crises for many. Sociologist Winick doesn't care how masculinity and femininity are defined as long as they are clearly defined. "Just about every combination of male and female role-relationships can be healthy and effective except one in which roles are blurred," he wrote in Medical Opinion and Review, a magazine for physicians. With both Bible writers and social experts focusing on unisex clothing as a factor in creating sexual confusion, what should be our own personal attitude toward this spreading vogue? As members of the remnant church we have not been left without guidance on the matter. E.G. White commented on the biblical position in these words: "I was referred to Deuteronomy 22:5: 'The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman' s garment, for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.' ... There is an increasing tendency to have women in their dress and appearance as near like the other sex as possible, and to fashion their dress very much like that of men, but God pronounces it abomination." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 457. Please notice that she called it abomination for women to fashion their dress much like that of men. So the issue for us is no longer whether the clothes are actually those of the opposite sex. They might be created for one sex only, but be fashioned like the opposite sex. Thus the influence could be to push the bisexuals or fringe homosexuals over the line into the confirmed camp. Now the question is raised: Where should the line be drawn between male and female styles of clothing? There seems to be no disagreement about wearing the actual clothing of the opposite sex. It is clearly forbidden. There is apparently much disagreement about the degree of similarity which can exist without becoming an abomination. Many are convinced that the typical pantsuit is already fashioned very much after that of men. But if it is not, how many small changes would it take to put it into the category of being so fashioned? At that point Mrs. White said it would be an abomination. As the pantsuit collars widen and coat styles shift to become more and more masculine, would it be possible to detect the point of transition from stylish to abomination? Each month as the popular pantsuits adapt slightly more to the unisex, Adventist women continue to buy theirs from the styles available. Finally, one small change could place them in the category of being "fashioned very much like that of men." In harmony with his last-day strategy of creeping in by degrees, Satan could lead the remnant church into the unisex camp just as he led so many into the miniskirt scandal. And it would be done in such a way that few would recognise where the little steps were leading. Remember the small hoops of Sister A? In the same innocuous manner the pantsuits of women and the effeminate styles of men could bring weakness and shame to the remnant church. Many sincere Adventists believe that the Spirit of Prophecy condones the pantsuit fashions. The truth is that Mrs. White took the opposite position. She condemned it. The popular American costume of Mrs. White's day is described by her in these words: "It consists of a vest, pants, and a dress resembling a coat and reaching about halfway from the hip to the knee. This dress I have opposed, from what has been shown me, as not in harmony with the Word of God." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 465. In what respect does that dress differ from the modern pantsuit? She was describing almost exactly what we see being worn by the vast majority of women today, except that the dress coat is a bit shorter on today's version. Later Mrs. White described the objections to that particular dress which made it unacceptable. She saw in vision three companies of ladies pass before her. The second group was wearing the dress which she described as the American Costume. Here are her comments: "The dress of the second class which passed before me was in many respects as it should be. The limbs were well clad. They were free from the burdens which the tyrant, Fashion, had imposed upon the first class; but had gone to that extreme in the short dress as to disgust and prejudice good people, and destroy in a great measure their own influence. This is the style and influence of the 'American Costume' taught and worn by many at 'Our Home' in Dansville, New York. It does not reach to the knee. I need not say that this style of dress was shown me to be too short." Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, Vol. 1, p. 73. Now the picture comes into clear focus. The dress which was described as "vest (blouse), pants, and a dress resembling a coat and reaching about halfway from the hip to the knee" was not acceptable because the dress did not reach to the knees. In other words, pants apparently were not objectionable if they were covered by a dress which came at least to the knees. This, of course, pantsuits do not do. So we have no reason to conclude that she would approve of today's version of the American Costume, the pantsuit. She clearly stated "I saw that God's order has been reversed, and His special directions disregarded, by those who adopt the American Costume. I was referred to Deuteronomy 22:5." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 457. It is tree that some of the pantsuit blouses are distinctly feminine in their cut and style, while others are severely masculine. Many fine Christian women defend the wearing of the feminine type, and others who are just as dedicated see no harm in wearing the more masculine. It is not the purpose of this study to designate some line between these two fashions which separate wrong from right. No one, as far as I can tell, would know where such a line should be drawn. Every Adventist sister should weigh the dangers involved in taking the first step that would encourage a unisex trend. Those tiny steps which Satan uses to lead into the snare are often so innocent that they can be defended with righteous enthusiasm. It is truly difficult to debate the argument that pantsuits are more modest than many current dress styles. But in the light of our knowledge about Satan's "modus operandi" and the lesson of the good wheat and quails, we should ask, Where would it lead us? Would it be a step closer to the abomination that Mrs. White referred to? And would it give encouragement to Sister B to make her pantsuit just a little more mannish? And what about Sister C, who would go a step further?--and they, along with every other lady who wears them, all the while protesting they are not wearing masculine clothes at all. COLOURFUL COSMETICS AND JEWELLERY One of the most frequent and mistaken complaints that people make against religion is that it is too restrictive. In this permissive age when all the emphasis seems to be upon "doing your own thing," an unreasonable attitude of self-will has developed. This attitude has even intruded into religion. Church members and non-members seem to be in quest of the same thing: a religion which doesn't interfere with personal rights and freedom. Suspicion is aroused instantly against any doctrine which demands the "giving up" of anything. As this liberal spirit has grown stronger, many church members have turned more and more critical of the high spiritual standards upheld by the church. Obviously embarrassed by the widening gap between the church and the world, and unwilling to meet the social stigma of being a "peculiar" minority, these members have sought to justify their compromise in the area of Christian standards. They often argue that the church is being narrow and legalistic and that many fine people are being discouraged from joining the church by this "arbitrary imposition of rules." If these complaints are valid, then some basic changes surely need to be made in the doctrine of the church. If they are not valid, then we desperately need to know how to present the standards of Christian conduct in their true biblical setting. In other words, we must definitely establish whether these rules were made by God or by the church. We must also find out if they are arbitrary prohibitions or God's loving regulations for our own happiness. In contrast to the popular revolt against any absolute law of individual conduct, we must consider the Bible facts about the Christian life in general and morals in particular. How compatible are these modem demands for personal freedom with the standards of God's Word? Let us suppose that the true biblical position could be presented with all the love and persuasion of an angel from Heaven. Would the troth be easy for anyone to accept? Let's face it. The path to eternal life is not a soft, flowery way of ease. Jesus laid such emphasis upon this in so many texts that we cannot be blind to it. He said, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:14. One of the very first principles of being a Christian is self-denial. Christ said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23. To be a Christian involves complete surrender. Our Lord's parable of the pearl and the merchantman reveals that we must be willing to invest every single thing we have in obtaining that tremendous prize of eternal life. If we allow one thing or one person to come between us and doing the will of Christ, we cannot be saved. Have we been guilty of discounting the price of discipleship so that people will not feel that the path is too narrow and restrictive? Jesus said, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33. The rich young ruler was told by Jesus that he lacked only one thing in his preparation for Heaven, but that one thing he was not willing to do. He would have to surrender his wealth in order to be saved, but he was not willing to give it away. He loved something more than he loved the Lord, and he went away sorrowful and lost. The position of Christ was so strong on this point that He even said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37. Now, I believe that we should search for the kindest, most tactful and loving way to present the claims of Christ to men and women. But I also believe that it will make little difference how it is presented, if individuals have no love for the Lord Jesus. The fault does not lie with the message; some of the fault lies with the preachers in the way they present it, but much of the fault lies in the attitude of the complaining Christian who feels rebellious against the truth because it requires a degree of self-denial. Let me illustrate how personal feelings and attitude can make all the difference in the world. Marriage is the most restrictive experience that any human being can voluntarily assume in this world, aside from his spiritual commitment to Christ. The man promises to surrender many of his former attachments and practices. He yields up his freedom to date other girls, and solemnly binds himself to that one-and-only for the rest of his life. The bride also makes similar restrictive pledges, and agrees to forsake all others in her devotion to the man at her side. The wedding vows are undoubtedly among the most narrow, rigid commitments any human being can make in his lifetime. If restrictions and rules are the cause of so much misery, then weddings should be the most miserable, unhappy experiences for all concerned. But not so! They are the happiest events. Why? Why is the bride so radiant as she stands up to pledge her very life away to the groom? How can the man be so happy to make the promises which will inhibit his activities for the rest of his life? The answer is simple. They love each other. It is their attitude and feeling toward each other that makes the restrictions a joy to accept. Have you ever heard a bride complaining after the ceremony? Probably no one has ever heard her say bitterly, "Now I can't date Jim and Andy anymore. It's not fair. The State is forcing me to be faithful to my husband. This marriage business is too restrictive." No, you've not heard that. Neither have you heard a new bridegroom complaining that he is now compelled to give part of his salary to support his wife. True, the law demands that he do it under penalty of imprisonment, but he is not even conscious of the law. State law is ready to convict the bride if she commits adultery, but she doesn't even think of such a law. They are in love, and love changes everything. They are not being faithful because of fear of punishment. They are being faithful because they want to please the person whom they love so deeply. The most miserable men and women in this world are the ones who are married and no longer love each other. Here is almost literally hell on earth. They chafe and complain about the restrictions and impositions upon them. Similarly, the unhappiest church members in ail the world are those who are married to Christ through baptism, and yet do not love Him. They are often bitterly blaming the church and their instructors for imposing upon them their narrow, restrictive religion. But is it the religion or the pastors who are at fault? The sad fact is that those people have never entered the personal love-relationship which is the cornerstone of all true religion. Many of them have learned the right texts for the Bible study course and are quite able to explain the order of last-day events, but they have had no personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Somewhere, and perhaps everywhere, along the lines of the indoctrination they were not taught, or did not choose to accept, the true basis of heart religion. It is not a set of rules or a list of doctrines, but a deeply personal involvement in a love affair with the man Jesus Christ. The difficulty with millions of Christians is their motive for being church members. They have a fire-escape religion. They do certain things only because they are afraid of the fire at the end of the road. They serve the Lord fearfully because they tremble at the thought of being cast into the lake of fire. No wonder they are long-faced and miserable! What a perversion of the truth! Christians should be the happiest people in the world--happier even than the newlyweds as they leave the wedding chapel! The Christian should love the Lord even more than husband or wife. Do you think a home could be happy if the wife prepared her husband's favourite dish each day because she feared he might divorce her? Earthly relationships would collapse under this strain. She prepares that dish because she loves her husband and wants to please him. When his wife's birthday approaches, a loving, Christian husband often watches and listens for an indication of what his wife would like to have. And usually she doesn't have to hit him over the head to let him know! He gladly buys her the gift because he loves her and wants to please her. In the same way the Christian will be searching the Bible daily to discover ways of pleasing the Lord. He will constantly be looking for signs and indications of how to please the One he loves supremely. In the Twentieth Century translation of the Bible we read these words, "Always be trying to find out what best pleases the Lord." Ephesians 5:10. What a motto for every Christian! Indeed this is the supreme desire of those who love the Lord sincerely. No wonder Christ summarised the first table of the law in these words: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matthew 22:37, 38. The real reason some Christians chafe and complain about the rules and the strictness is because they have only enough religion to make them miserable. The scope of their Christian "experience" is based upon a constant struggle to live up to the rules---an effort to keep the law. Now certainly there is nothing wrong with obeying the commandments of God any more than there is with a husband obeying the state law to support his wife. But if the demands of the law are the only reason for obeying it, then something is seriously wrong with the Christian and with the husband. Love lifts the legal load and makes delightful what could be a burden and strain. A mother of three boys was having a terrible struggle trying to enforce the laws of good grooming and cleanliness. Like most little boys these three resisted the rules about washing ears, combing hair, and shining shoes. It was a daily battle which Mother won only through the long arm of authority and force. But one day the oldest boy, in his early teens, walked out of his room looking the model of impeccable neatness. Every hair seemed to be in exactly the right place, and the shoes below the well-turned cuff were shining to perfection. The mother almost fainted. Hardly able to suppress her surprise and delight, she wisely decided to wait and watch for the answer to this turn of events. The solution to the puzzle was not long in coming. The very next day Mother learned that a new family had moved in down the block, and there was a girl in the family. Perhaps the girl had not seen Johnny, but he had already seen her and it had profoundly affected him. We'll not say that it was love which changed his attitude toward the laws of good grooming, but he definitely wasn't cleaning up from fear of mother's enforcement any longer. The point is that the Christian life is not composed of just "do's' and"don'ts." There are restrictions, to be sure, in this spiritual marriage, just as there are in physical marriage. But those restrictions are imposed by love which seeks always and ever to please the object of the affections. Those Christians who are in love with Christ are exuberant, beaming witnesses that this is the way of tree happiness. Unfortunately, there is a larger group of church members who are miserably enduring what should be blissfully enjoyed. They are bitter and complaining about not being able to eat what they please or dress as they wish to. They blame the church for their being forced to "give up" so many things. Their religion seems much like the man with a headache. He didn't want to cut off his head but it hurt him to keep it. Their joyless attitude seems to assume that their religion is the product of some committee of gloomy preachers bent on including all the prohibitive rules that could make men, women, and young people unhappy. But is this true? What about the spiritual principles which make up the doctrine which we call Christian standards? Is it an arbitrary church law that one should not attend the theatre? Is it God's decision or man's decision that dancing is improper for a Christian? And what about the use of colourful cosmetics and jewellery-is it pleasing to God or displeasing? The truth is that every point of our faith and doctrine should be based soundly upon the principle of doing God's will as revealed in the Bible. Love for Him will always provoke the question, How can I always be trying to find out what best pleases the Lord? The answer to that question is found in scores of Bible texts which give indications and clear signals on how to please Him rather than ourselves. This is the only really relevant question concerning any activity or practice. What does God think about it? It doesn't matter what this preacher or that preacher thinks of it, or what this church or that church believes about it. The great, all-important question is this: Is it pleasing or displeasing to the Lord? If we find texts which reveal that God doesn't approve, there should be no further debate with the genuine Christian. We love Him too much to risk displeasing Him. Our delight should be to find and execute those things that please the One we love, and to eliminate from our lives those things that displease Him. When people are in love they do not need to threaten each other or lay down ultimatums. They constantly search for ways to show their love and to please one another. Those who fulfil the first and great command of Christ will not feel it a burden to obey. God is searching for those who will be sensitive to the slightest indication of His will. He is not pleased by those who must be constantly prodded into line by fear of punishment. God says: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." Psalm 32:8, 9. Many Christians are "bit-and-bridle" followers. They respond only to threats, and obey because of fear of punishment. God says, "I want you to be corrected by a look from me." Only those who love Him supremely and are watching for indications of His pleasure will recognise the loving glance of correction. Searching the Bible with one purpose--to discover what pleases Him---they will immediately obey the slightest revelation of His will. This is the essence of true Christianity--ordering every level of life in harmony with His revealed will, because of love. With this little background on how to make love the motivating factor in setting up Christian standards, we are now prepared to illustrate how the principle operates in practice. Although any one of the "conduct" standards of the church could be used, let us choose one which has evoked considerable complaint-colourful cosmetics and jewellery. Multitudes of sincere members have laid aside the use of these artificial adornments "because the church says so." This is a poor reason for doing anything in the Christian life. It is hoped that the reading of this chapter will cause explanations about arbitrary church rules on the subject to give way to personal conviction based on loving and pleasing the Lord. Repeatedly, pastors have faced the questions: "What is wrong with my little wedding ring? Do you think God will leave me out of Heaven just because I wear this bit of jewellery?" My own heart has been dismayed and troubled on many occasions over this negative approach to Christianity. Please note what the question implies. The questioner is obviously seeking to know how much he can get by with, and still make it to Heaven. His attitude reflects a legalistic desire to do only the things which are laid down as divine "do-it-or-else" laws. But this approach is wrong, wrong, wrong! The true Christian will not ask, "How much do I have to do in order to remain a child of God?" but rather, "How much can I do to please Jesus whom I love?" This is the positive approach based on seeking God's will on the questions and loving Him enough to obey His will happily as revealed in the Bible. Once this open-hearted, loving premise is accepted it remains only to search through the Scripture to find indications of God's will concerning the use of colourful cosmetics and ornaments. This we shall now proceed to do. In Genesis 35:1-4, Jacob was told by God to take his family to Bethel where they were to be presented at the altar of the Lord. This was a very sacred spot to Jacob---the place of his conversion in earlier days, after seeing the heavenly ladder in his dream. But before they could be consecrated at that holy spot, Jacob told his household to "put away the strange gods that are among you." Verse 2. Apparently the family had picked up some of the heathen customs in their tarrying in the land. There were certain objects which had to be laid aside before they went up to the altar, because they were pagan objects. Please notice, in verse 4, what these objects were: "And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all the earrings which were in their ears: and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem." In Judges 8:24 we are assured that earrings were worn by those who were Ishmaelites. The context strongly implies that they wore the ornaments as a mark of their apostasy from the true God. The thirtyfourth chapter of Genesis reveals that Jacob's sons had committed some grievous sins, and Jacob was coming before God to make a solemn atonement for them and for his family. It was a time of heart-searching and repentance. Everything was done to make wrongs fight and to open the way for God's blessing to come upon them. The custom of wearing heathen ornaments was given up, along with the strange gods. The earrings were laid aside. Under similar circumstances a reformation took place in Exodus 33:1-6.
Post a Comment

Popular Posts