Thursday, May 24, 2007

Women and Jewelry

As a Lutheran there are issues in Christian living which for me are very neutral and minor, but for others are significant aspects of the Faith. One of those "issues" that surfaced recently in a discussion with a parishioner was the matter of whether women should wear jewelry. The question arose from some comments given by a person new to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. I knew that this faith had strict laws regarding food and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. However, I was unaware, until recently, that they were among those who regarded the wearing of jewelry to be contrary to God's will.

Like the Amish, the appeal to 'plain living' with respect to clothing and adornment stems largely from two passages in the New Testament: , 11 Timothy 2:9, 10 and 1 Peter 3:3, 4. In the first Paul calls upon women, especially in the context of the worshiping assembly, to "adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel," then adding "not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire...." In the second passage Peter writes that wives, in particular, should not let their "outward adorning" be with "braiding of hair, decoration of gold, an the wearing of robes," and then also adds that it should rather be "the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit..."

Now the dilemma - Do Peter and Paul expressly forbid jewelry of any kind? According to people of the Amish and Seventh-Day Adventist traditions, apparently, the answer is yes. But is this a faithful rendering of the apostle's intent?

An axiom of biblical interpretation says that a text without a context is a pretext. In other words, to properly understand a passage of scripture we must understand the context that frames and informs it, otherwise we are simply reading into the passage what we want it to say. Secondly, we must also interpret scripture in light of the whole witness of God's Word. Passages taken alone without the fuller reference of other passages leave us with isolated bits and pieces subject to the whims of personal opinion. As Lutherans are wont to say: Scripture interprets scripture.

So, in light of above, how do we answer this challenge of jewelry and outward adornment in the Christian's life? For starters it would be good to examine other areas where believers were adorned with various jewels or precious metals, and note whether there was any condemnation of the practice. Genesis 24:47, 48 and Genesis 41:42 both provide examples in which Old Testament believers wore "outward" adornment without negative reactions. Isaiah 61:10 reminds us also of the customary practice of brides and grooms to be richly adorned likes kings and queens at their wedding, a picture of the believer as they are adorned in God's sight by his grace and righteousness. In Ezekiel 16:11-13 God says that he himself blessed his people with jewelry and ornaments of precious metals. More verses could be added, but the point is made. A blanket condemnation of such things in the Old Testament is missing.

In Luke 15:22 we read in one of Jesus' parables how the waiting Father welcomes his prodigal son back by putting a ring on his finger and a robe upon him. If such things were forbidden (as per Peter and Paul), would Jesus have used such a picture to illustrate the love of the heavenly Father?

Taken therefore in context, Peter and Paul should be understood as not offering a blanket condemnation or a new "law" against outward adornment, but a corrective to excesses in their time. They both wished to show that the true beauty of a godly woman was not in her fashion or in her rings, but in the humility of faith. Then, as now, women could be given to extremes with regard to their appearance, using it in a spirit of pride and vanity. Yet many women wear jewelry and dress nicely without ever giving such an impression.

The rule is then for the women to adorn themselves "modestly and sensibly." Moderation and humility are the key, not abstinence. Taken out of context it could very well appear that Peter and Paul forbid any outward adornment of jewelry. But, again, that is an "out of context" rendering. Thus, we should not burden women with a new law the scriptures and apostles have not imposed. But, as with all things, we should always encourage a modest and humble spirit in all things.


318@NICE said...

I agree. In the SSPX, are women are required to wear dresses and chapel veils for Mass. Outside of Mass they are not to wear the veils because St. Paul only states that is for worship only.
However, the women are still beautiful and wear jewelry and make up, and even up to date clothing, yet they do it in a modest way.
Just as the Apostle Peter said, it should never be to show off, but it is not forbidden.
There is a way for Christian women to be up with the times and modest at the same time.
Most of the time where there is an issue it is either legalism or rebellion, which are the two extremes that Satan always tempts Christians.
Good post.

D. Engebretson said...

I agree that where there is an issue with this legalism is probably behind much of it, although many in the SDA and Amish traditions would not admit to it.

BTW, forgive my ignorance on this, but what does SSPX stand for? I saw you mention it in a recent blog article over on your site, and I'm curious as to what it stands for.

Pastor E.

318@NICE said...

The SSPX stands for the Society of Pope St. Pius X.
When Vatican II took place, many of the conservative, traditional arch-bishops and bishops were left out of the council. Thus, liberal/modernism took over the Vatican and the product was Vatican II. Also, Vatican II did away with the traditional Latin Mass and presented the Novus Ordo Mass, which opened the door for all kinds of abuses. One arch-bishop opposed the council because it contradicted Vatican I, where St. Pius X declared that the Catholic Church would never partake of modernism, liberalism, or higher criticism. St. Pius X, also had declared that the Traditional Latin Mass would be the only way Catholics would worship God.
In 1989, when liberalism and false ecumenism took over the Catholic Church in an out of control way, two arch-bishops, the most famous of the two, Archbishop Levebre, took matters into their own hands. Canon law states that in the case when Tradition is in danger an Archbishop can consecrate Traditional bishops to preserve Tradition and Truth. This was from the time of the Arian crisis, certain faithful archbishops had consecrated bishops who would keep the true faith, despite the Arians holding five sees. And when the Arian crisis finally ended Tradition was preserved.
JP II, excommunicated archbishop levebre and the four new bishops, but not the priests or the laity that had now formed the Traditional Catholic faith, now known as the Society of Saint Pius X (sspx).
The new Pope is trying to get the SSPX back into full communion with Rome again, but the Liberals, especially those in the secret Freemason soceity called Opus Dei, are opposing it and trying to stomp out the SSPX. However, the SSPX is in 32 countries and is growing more and more everyday.
As a matter of fact I just recently posted some questions and answers from one of the SSPX Bishops, Bishop Williamson who talks about this a little bit.


Christine said...

Dave, you grew up Lutheran and now you are a member of the technically schismatic SSPX? I'm somewhat surprised.

It is my hope that Pope Benedict and future popes will make some headway in implementing the documents of Vatican II as they *really* are.

I guess because I grew up with one Lutheran and one Catholic parent I've always been mystified at how some Catholics get stuck on issues involving Latin, chapel veils, etc. etc. The Catholic Church has always adapted as to how she spreads the Gospel in every change even though the message doesn't change. Even most Orthodox parishes in America use English now instead of Greek, Russian or Church Slavonic.

That some housecleaning needs to be done is beyond doubt, but it amuses me to hear hypertraditional Catholics (and I'm not referring here to you at all) criticize Luther for the Reformation and then put all their eggs into the basket of renegade bishops such as LeFebvre.

Frankly, when I attend Mass with my Catholic relatives at local parishes I'm grateful for some of the changes Vatican II wrought. They were way overdue.

318@NICE said...

Why as a Lutheran would you care if I went from being in full schism in Lutheranism to technically in schism (much debated even in the Vatican) when you yourself are still in full schism by being a Lutheran?
That's like the pot calling the kettle black.
Personally, I don't hold that Lutherans are truly in full schism and neither do I believe that the Orthdox are either.
You're going to find this weird, but maybe you should not being a Lutheran, but I think it is the liberal/modernists in the Catholic Church (those who made Vatican II) that are the ones in schism from the true faith.
You may not agree with that, but there are many things that I do not disagree with Vatican II, that are leading people away from the Truth. And its not really a misreading of what it was supposed to say. Rather, the fruit of Vatican II is because of what it says.
That's why I like the SSPX over the Novus Ordo. That's why I like the Traditional Lutherans and Orthodox over the Novus Ordo.
But I do find it weird to have a Lutheran concerned about the SSPX being in schism. That's just weird.


Christine said...

Dave, as I posted previously I have both Lutheran and Catholic relatives (including a Catholic husband) so I am very much a part of both worlds. That gives me more than enough justification to visit Lutheran and Catholic blogs.

I guess *I* find it somewhat weird to find a self-professed Catholic commenting on a Lutheran blog when that Catholic is himself in schism with the Universal Church. You know very well that Catholics in communion with the Holy See are not supposed to attend Mass at an SSPX liturgy.

And that's where I'll leave it because I don't want to be an annoyance to our kind bloghost.