Looking back I am somewhat glad I was raised as a Welshman
in England under the influence of the Church of England during my
school hours and a Congregational church each Sunday morning. For
when it comes to the issue of such things as card playing, movie
theatre going, playing a musical instrument, dancing, dress and
makeup, I was taught very little about them in any way from the
Bible. They were subjects that did not seem to be on the
upper-most priority lists of the ministers, deacons, and
leaders(religious teachers) within those two church
organizations. So I was not brainwashed either way to accept the
"do" or "not do" of such things in my Christian life.
I was taught the Bible, and did read much of it during those
first 18 years of my life under the above churches with their
teachers. I can remember many things we discussed in Sunday
school class as a teenager, many things about life and Christian
ethics and morality, but the right or the wrong of things like
card playing, dancing, and makeup never came up. Some would say
the Church of England and the Congregational church had broad
liberal ways, and so that is why the above issues were "none
I really could not say, maybe so and maybe not so. I do know
that I read and studied my Bible in a serious way. I was left to
figure out from my reading of the scriptures, for myself, the
Christian perspective on such topics as dancing and makeup.
I could see very easily from the world around me that
sometimes dancing could be sinful, that sometimes going to see
certain movies could be sinful, that putting on makeup for the
wrong reason could be sinful, even the playing and performing of
music could be done from the wrong motive with a wrong desire
behind it. I could easily see that Satan was into just about
everything to twist and pervert it if he could. But I never
thought that the moving picture of and by itself was sin. I never
thought of my guitar as sin per se. I never thought of my mother
who used a moderate amount of makeup as an evil person because
she did. Nor did I think it was sinful for my parents to sit and
play card games at times, or go out dancing together, but I could
see that some wanted to dance with the opposite sex just for the
lust of it.
Personally I thought I had a pretty good balance on such
things, and that, from a young person who seriously read and
studied his Bible each day.
Then I came to Canada in 1961 at the age of 18. It was not
long before I was invited by my landlord to attend his Baptist
church. This was my first exposure to North American
"fundamentalism." Never heard of it before. Oh, I remember
seeing Billy Graham on British TV in the 50's. Was impressed to a
point, but really nothing I had not been already exposed to from
my Bible reading. He preached Christ and Him crucified.
Wanted people to accept Him as their personal savior, which I had
already done. So to me personally Billy G. was no big deal.
Now for the first time in my life I became aware of some,
what I considered strange and funny things from these
funnymentalists, as I sometimes now call them. Oh, I could see a
lot of sincere Christianity in their lives and some of their
beliefs, but now I was being told that card playing was of the
devil. That going to the movie theatre period, was evil. That
dancing, even square dancing was sinful(and being somewhat of a
cowboy guy I wanted to learn to square dance - looked to be great
fun). As for makeup, well that was really bad stuff for the
girls, but I remember they did wear high heeled shoes. Even
playing a musical instrument was to be done if you only played
"religious" music with it. I thought there goes my "swing" and
"boogie-woogie" playing on my guitar. If you could sing, well
your voice was now only for singing "church" songs. There went
my country yodelling and western tunes, had to send them packing
on the mule train over the sage brush.
I really had a struggle with all that for a while. Even went
to the Lord in prayer about it, seriously I did. Said: "Father I
have read and studied your word for 12 years now, from the age of
six. I have talked to you as a habit, asked for your help and
guidance in many things, wanted to grow in your truths, and
understand what is pleasing to you in all areas of living.
Father I just cannot see that playing a little 'boogie' on my
guitar, or singing and yodelling a country song, is sin per se. I
can see where Satan can turn anything into sin, but to go and see
a wholesome inspiring movie at the movie house, or one that is
just clean enjoyable fun, is wrong or sin, I do not see it. I
cannot see where playing cards is of and by itself sin. I do not
see where the moderate use of makeup for women is sin either.
Please show me if such things are wrong."
I spent many months meditating on all that, while I
continued to search the scriptures. I did not find in word or in
the Spirit where God told me that such things were sin and evil
per se. So I continued to play boogie-woogie on my guitar, sing
a country yodel song, go to the movie theatre now and then, play
a game of cards with friends once in a while, and I did learn to
Coming to Canada I was exposed to different groups of
people, some national and ethnical, others were different
religious group types. One such group, that believed in
living off by themselves and keeping out of the normal world as
much as possible was a group called the "Hutterites." I soon
learned about some of their beliefs. They dressed in black
because anything colorful was not of God. The world was not of
God so you had to stay away from it, live apart from it. Cars and
the like were not natural so they did not have any. TV was
certainly of the devil, and so was the radio, not permitted. And
many other such things they thought were sin or not righteous.
A big stress put on the physical as to what was holy and
what was unholy, based upon what? Verses from the Bible? No! The
ideas of men who claimed they were in touch with God, had some
special line of communication with Him. And because they were His
private called out ones in the whole world, they and their ideas
had to be correct, so they thought and so they taught.
It was all quite an education. North America is indeed like
no other place on the face of this good green earth.
The Church of God has not been without its problems in these
physical matters over the last 100 years or more. Many Sabbath
keeping groups have come up with what they consider is sin in the
physical realm of things.
Ralph Woodrow, a 7th Day Sabbath observer, came into the
church ministry at the age of 18. He had spent many years
visiting, preaching, teaching, in various churches
around North America, 18 years to be exact, when at the age of 36
he finished writing and published a small 61 page book called
"Women's Adornment - What Does the Bible Really Say."
It contains 6 chapters. They are:
1. Should Women Wear Slacks?
2. Should Women Wear Jewelry?
3. Should Women Use Cosmetics?
4. Should Women Wear Head-Coverings?
5. Should Women Cut Their Hair?
6. Women's Modest Apparel.
I would like to give you some of his last chapter - chapter
6 - Women's Modest Apparel.
Though it may sound strange to say, the Bible does not give an
inflexible or uniform clothing code. It does not specify any
certain color - people in the Bible wore clothing of different
colors. As to style, various robe-type garments were worn, but no
certain style of clothing is commanded. As to material,
originally God made "coats of skins" to cloth Adam and Eve, but
this did not mean all people from then on must wear only leather!
Garments made from different materials are mentioned in the
We are told, however, that women should "adorn themselves in
modest apparel"(1 Tim.2:9). What, then, is modest apparel? Does
this mean, as some have taught, that a woman cannot wear short
sleeves? How long must a woman's skirt be? Where does
modesty begin or end? One inch below the knee or an inch above?
Some churches make rules about the length of a woman's skirt. One
church set a certain number of inches above the floor as a
maximum. It didn't seem to matter that some women were shorter,
some taller than others! All skirts had to come within the given
number of inches from the floor!..........
As to sleeves, some believe a woman must always wear long sleeves
so that her elbows are covered. But are exposed elbows really so
erotically stimulating that men might be tempted to lust?.......I
have wondered why those who insist that knees and elbows must
be covered at all times do not require a face covering also.
After all, would not a pretty face be more attractive than a pair
of knees or elbows? Do not misunderstand. I believe in standards
of decency. But when big issues are made about non-essential
points, people are driven to a legalism that hinders an effective
Christian testimony. I am opposed to the extremism.
Ideas about "modesty" have varied greatly in different countries.
In old China, exposure of the upper-class women's tiny feet was
regarded as most indecent. They were considered the most sexually
stimulating parts of the body. Virgin goddesses were sometimes
portrayed with shoes, even when otherwise stark naked. In early
Japan, a woman's eyebrows were considered as among her greatest
charms. Some husbands would shave their brides' eyebrows off in
an attempt to make them unattractive to other men........In
Mohammedan countries where women must cover their faces with
veils, a woman's first reaction might be to cover her face,
rather than her body, if suddenly surprised while
unclothed........What might be proper or practical clothing in
Hawaii, would be impractical and out of place in Alaska. What one
might wear to work in the yard would not generally be what he
would wear to church. What one might wear to swim in would
not be practical for shopping, etc.........I spoke once to a
group that felt all their women should dress the way women did in
about 1900, fix their hair by styles of that time, etc......By so
doing this, they were actually drawing more attention to the
"outward man" than if they wore clothing similar to other women
of the time. By dressing in clothes radically different than
others, they defeated the very thing they supposed they were
accomplishing. Even plain or out of date clothes can be worn with
vanity - the very drabness or difference draws attention to the
outward person, not the inner man.
How strict must we be? Must we lock ourselves away in total
silence - lest we speak a wrong word? There have been monks who
have gone for years without uttering a word.
Did this make them more holy? ........Some in an attempt to be
holy even castrated themselves, one notable example being
Origen.......Even in our time, some become so strict they are
driven to foolish extremes. The Bible is against making an idol
or image to bow down to it(Exodus 20:4,5). but some, completely
mis-applying this verse, will not allow their children to have a
doll or stuffed toy......Some will not allow their picture taken.
I know people who have destroyed all of their photographs.....One
sect considers the mirror an invention of the devil. A person
looking into it makes an image.......One woman was against soda
pop because the Bible says not to use strong drink! There have
been people who would not eat potatoes, because the word
"potatoes" does not appear in the Bible! And in ways that are
sometimes just as inconsistent, men have made a series of
"don'ts" for women. Don't wear lipstick. Don't wear short
sleeves. Don't cut your hair. Don't wear slacks. Don't wear
Where, then, do we draw the line? On what basis should standards
be measured? I can only say that as Christians we should turn our
eyes upon Jesus.......
Considering the relative nature of modesty, seeing the
inconsistency to which strict over- emphasis on the
non-essentials points has led, and weighing all of this in the
light of the total spirit and example of Jesus, I think that
certain conclusions are apparent. The wisdom of a balanced view
seems clear. We should avoid the extremes, seeking rather
the CENTER of God's will. We need not wear rags to be holy, nor
do we need to have the most expensive clothes money can buy. It
is possible for a person through the use of make-up, jewelry, or
some forms of clothing to appear too flashy. But the other
extreme, a dull and drab appearance, is not a requirement for the
Clothes can be worn too tight - and draw attention. By the same
token, the continual wearing of baggy clothes can also be made a
display. The balanced Christian view - of all of the things that
we have mentioned in this book - seems clearly to be that we
should dress according to the custom of our time and country -
with a sense of decency and wisdom.
Let us take a stand for the high standards of the gospel, let us
stand firm for honesty, fairness, kindness, integrity, and love;
let us practice holiness, but let it be "true holiness" from the
heart, not a false holiness as that of the Pharisees. Let us
never confuse the overall objectives of Christianity with petty
points of men's traditions, remembering that "the kingdom of God
is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in
the holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).
In essentials, then, let there be unity; in non-essentials,
liberty; and in all things, charity.
end of quote
Ralph Woodrow's book can be obtain by writing to him at: P.O.Box
124, Riverside, CA 92502.
To be continued