Church Attire – Human Tradition or Biblical Principle?

The Underground Church

illinoisguy

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One big issue nowadays in the IFB literature that I receive is the emphasis on the need to honor God by dressing up for church in our "Sunday best." However, Paul (1 Timothy 2:9), James (James 3:1-4) and Peter (1 Peter 3:3) all appear to actually discourage the wearing of "Sunday best" in church. They were dealing with a culture where the churches had rich people as well as lower class folks, even slaves, who could not afford "Sunday best," and the Apostles didn't want the rich to unnecessarily show off their wealth in an ostentatious manner, which might make the poor feel unwelcome in church. Church history books have references to poor people in Europe and America in the 19th Century who could not afford to dress up in suits and ties so they stayed away from church. I think that is the kind of problem that the Apostles were trying to avoid.

As for Bob Russell's "odd emphasis on baptism," he appears to be affiliated with the Campbellites (Christian Church, Churches of Christ, Restoration Movement). They believe that water baptism by immersion is a requirement for salvation, which would explain his odd emphasis on getting baptized. Years ago in the factory I had a buddy who was Campbellite and we would sometimes have friendly theological debates over the roar of the machinery. I asked him, "What if a person gets saved out in the desert?" and he smiled and said, "Better start digging for water!"
 

Walt

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One big issue nowadays in the IFB literature that I receive is the emphasis on the need to honor God by dressing up for church in our "Sunday best." However, Paul (1 Timothy 2:9), James (James 3:1-4) and Peter (1 Peter 3:3) all appear to actually discourage the wearing of "Sunday best" in church. They were dealing with a culture where the churches had rich people as well as lower class folks, even slaves, who could not afford "Sunday best," and the Apostles didn't want the rich to unnecessarily show off their wealth in an ostentatious manner, which might make the poor feel unwelcome in church. Church history books have references to poor people in Europe and America in the 19th Century who could not afford to dress up in suits and ties so they stayed away from church. I think that is the kind of problem that the Apostles were trying to avoid.

As for Bob Russell's "odd emphasis on baptism," he appears to be affiliated with the Campbellites (Christian Church, Churches of Christ, Restoration Movement). They believe that water baptism by immersion is a requirement for salvation, which would explain his odd emphasis on getting baptized. Years ago in the factory I had a buddy who was Campbellite and we would sometimes have friendly theological debates over the roar of the machinery. I asked him, "What if a person gets saved out in the desert?" and he smiled and said, "Better start digging for water!"
I think the point (at least in James) is NOT that we shouldn't dress up, but that we shouldn't treat the well-dressed any differently that those who are not as well-dressed.

1 Peter 3:3 is discussing the way women dress in general, not necessarily at church, so I don't think that passage is relevant. Ditto for 1 Tim 2:9. The James reference is incorrect; it should be James 2:1-4, not James 3. It seems to be the primary passage about treating people only on how they are dressed; there is nothing that condemns the man for dressing well (but it should not be ostentatiously).

It has long (at least in Western culture for hundreds of years) a understanding that "dressing up" is showing respect for a person, occasion, or place, and that seems to be the basis for what used to be called "Sunday best".

There is not, as far as I know, an explicit command to "dress your best" when attending church, but there may be principles.
 

Ransom

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"Dressing up" for church was a non-starter. People didn't have a closet full of clothes to wear until the mid-19th century when mass production made them affordable. (The clothes hanger wasn't invented until the 1860s.) They typically had two sets of clothing, one for work (that got dirty and worn out), and one for doing business in town, say (that was kept neat and clean).

It was the Industrial Revolution that made "Sunday best" possible: since a machine could make good-quality clothing, the new middle class could distinguish itself from the peasants by dressing up in richer-looking clothes. Churches initially resisted people coming to meetings in "Sunday best," for the same reason James resisted showing favoritism to rich people dressed in fine clothes: one's choice of fashion has always been a way to flaunt your weatlh.

Ironically, the current trend in evangelical churches toward more casual dress is a kind of return to the "old paths."
 

ALAYMAN

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Ironically, the current trend in evangelical churches toward more casual dress is a kind of return to the "old paths."
Beat me to it.

In addition, without getting verbose, those who want to major on the minors (ie, incessantly or disproportionately focusing on "dress standards", rather than simply appropriateness/modesty) typically focus many other hobby horse topics that ought to be left to the liberty of the believer.
 

brianb

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The last time I heard anything about dressing up in church it was on that Wretched program. There's less of an emphasis on how to dress even in IFB churches. Just dress modestly (which I think can include not fashionably sloppy - wear regular jeans if you like not this other stuff trying to look cool - just look normal).
 

Twisted

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LOL! So now wearing jeans with holes, wearing your shirt tails-out and tennis shoes is a return to the "old paths". <snicker>
 

brianb

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LOL! So now wearing jeans with holes, wearing your shirt tails-out and tennis shoes is a return to the "old paths". <snicker>
I said nothing of the sort. I just think this idea of wearing a suit and tie being the only way to dress scripturally is ignorant. Some of the most conservative Christians I know don't dress like that - just shirt and pants - the women still wear dresses though. And in other countries it is the style to wear the shirt tails out but that doesn't apply here. There's room for cultural differences when reasonable.
 

Twisted

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I said nothing of the sort. I just think this idea of wearing a suit and tie being the only way to dress scripturally is ignorant. Some of the most conservative Christians I know don't dress like that - just shirt and pants - the women still wear dresses though. And in other countries it is the style to wear the shirt tails out but that doesn't apply here. There's room for cultural differences when reasonable.
Oh, I'm sorry, I thought we were talking about the good 'ol USA, not what they wear in China. In AMERICA, people dress ON PURPOSE. (Yes, there are exceptions, I'm sure). When you choose to dress DOWN, it's on purpose. It's to make a statement. The question is: What statement are you making and who are you making it for?

Please don't waste our time telling us that preachers who look like bums, dressed to clean out their garage, aren't making a STATEMENT. And I'll take a giant leap and proclaim that the STATEMENT they are making does NOT lead to holiness or a separated life or being Christlike.

YES, I AM JUDGING their motives. And we see the fruit of it.
 

voicecrying

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I've always worn jeans to services - even in my IFBX days. For work, I had to wear business casual, and I would always say that you wouldn't expect a mechanic to wear his work clothes to services, so why should I? :D
 

voicecrying

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Please don't waste our time telling us that preachers who look like bums, dressed to clean out their garage, aren't making a STATEMENT. And I'll take a giant leap and proclaim that the STATEMENT they are making does NOT lead to holiness or a separated life or being Christlike.

YES, I AM JUDGING their motives. And we see the fruit of it.
I'll take a giant leap and proclaim that wearing a $1,000 suit on Sunday does NOT lead to holiness or being Christlike - it might lead to a separated life though ("us four and no more").
 

brianb

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Oh, I'm sorry, I thought we were talking about the good 'ol USA, not what they wear in China. In AMERICA, people dress ON PURPOSE. (Yes, there are exceptions, I'm sure). When you choose to dress DOWN, it's on purpose. It's to make a statement. The question is: What statement are you making and who are you making it for?

Please don't waste our time telling us that preachers who look like bums, dressed to clean out their garage, aren't making a STATEMENT. And I'll take a giant leap and proclaim that the STATEMENT they are making does NOT lead to holiness or a separated life or being Christlike.

YES, I AM JUDGING their motives. And we see the fruit of it.
Please note the part where I said "that doesn't apply here". People in Africa or Asia don't have to wear what westerners wear and vise versa. The question is what does the Bible say. We know Peter didn't wear a suit and tie but what did he wear? Did people have separate clothes back in the first century set aside for church? The only thing the Bible seems to say to men regarding clothes is (other than that we should wear them and not be naked or nearly naked) not to wear a head covering in 1 Corinthians. It doesn't say men should wear "purple" like royalty did or even something close to that. If you wanted to be really scripturally literal why not white linen robes?
 

Tarheel Baptist

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Oh, I'm sorry, I thought we were talking about the good 'ol USA, not what they wear in China. In AMERICA, people dress ON PURPOSE. (Yes, there are exceptions, I'm sure). When you choose to dress DOWN, it's on purpose. It's to make a statement. The question is: What statement are you making and who are you making it for?

Please don't waste our time telling us that preachers who look like bums, dressed to clean out their garage, aren't making a STATEMENT. And I'll take a giant leap and proclaim that the STATEMENT they are making does NOT lead to holiness or a separated life or being Christlike.

YES, I AM JUDGING their motives. And we see the fruit of it.
Yes we do/did!
Jack Schaap ALWAYS wore a suit!
Haymaaaannnnnnn!
 

ALAYMAN

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Oh, I'm sorry, I thought we were talking about the good 'ol USA, not what they wear in China. In AMERICA, people dress ON PURPOSE. (Yes, there are exceptions, I'm sure). When you choose to dress DOWN, it's on purpose. It's to make a statement. The question is: What statement are you making and who are you making it for?

Please don't waste our time telling us that preachers who look like bums, dressed to clean out their garage, aren't making a STATEMENT. And I'll take a giant leap and proclaim that the STATEMENT they are making does NOT lead to holiness or a separated life or being Christlike.

YES, I AM JUDGING their motives. And we see the fruit of it.

This fits the bill for what I was referencing in my last post regarding majoring on the minors. When we get preoccupied with externals or any other particular adiaphora, we're missing the boat of what the Bible emphasizes ("these things ought ye to have done, but not to the detriment of these other things"...judgment, mercy, and faith).
 

Ransom

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Yes we do/did!
Jack Schaap ALWAYS wore a suit!
Haymaaaannnnnnn!
Dang. And they put him away for 12 years, too. Should have knocked half that sentence off for being appropriately dressed while fiddling with underage girls.
 

brianb

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Just so you know I wear a suit (and tie) and always have with the exception of times when I forgot the tie. However if I was to attend a church where most of the congregation wore business casual I would wear that. I would probably never go to a church where the congregation including the pastors were too casual but I don't know any IFB churches like that any ways where they wear jeans with rips or holes or skinny jeans and I don't think I've seen wrinkled shirts (that's kind of a no-no in any public setting at least where I am).
 

Twisted

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But we do now because it's the way back to the "old paths".

Don't these hypocrites know how they dress in China to go to the store?


 
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