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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Dresses Only--A Biblical Requirement?

This was originally posted 13 January 2004 on my personal blog. I reposted it here on Forbidden Questions on 7 June 2011.

The Fall 2002 issue of the Home School Digest, "The Quarterly Journal for Serious Homeschoolers," included a lengthy (8-page) article in which the author "argued" (in a way) that the Bible teaches women to wear long dresses and to avoid pants; "pants are men's clothing."

I decided to write a response, of sorts.

Why? Because I am concerned about a tendency I think I'm seeing where we Christians seem to use the Scriptures NOT to discover what they really teach (or DON'T teach) but, rather, to figure out ways to justify our own prejudices and preferences. . . .

Letter to the Editor of
Home School Digest
sent via email 7 November 2002

Dear Friends:

I try to conduct my affairs as the Bereans: to "receive the word with all readiness of mind" while searching the Scriptures to see whether a matter is really "so" (Acts 17:11). And so it was with this attitude that I read Dr. Davis' "The Language of the Christian's Clothing" (Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 39-46).

Having examined the Scriptures Dr. Davis references in that article, I believe it is appropriate to warn your readers that, while he proclaims many things that ARE "so," the majority of the content of points 6 through 8--what seemed to be at the center of his presentation--appear to be rather well REFUTED by Scripture. Indeed, they seem well refuted by some of the very Scriptures to which Dr. Davis REFERS but fails to quote in full.

I am thinking, especially, of Exodus 28:42, 39:27-28, Leviticus 6:10, 16:4, and Ezekiel 44:18.

On p. 43 Dr. Davis fails to quote any of these verses but he does quote Cathy Corle to the effect that "God directed for a man to wear pants or breeches and a short haircut." Dr. Davis does not quote Corle concerning where IN SCRIPTURE she believes we might find such directives; nor does he offer any scriptural proofs himself for these claims. But he DOES say that the five passages listed above are the only places in the Bible where the word "breeches" occurs and "[t]he word is always used in relation to men."

By placing these comments in juxtaposition with 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 abomination unto the LORD thy God"--quoted on p. 43 in your magazine), Dr. Davis seems to want us to believe that God Himself teaches us that pants (or "breeches") are uniquely men’s wear not to be worn by women.

If I have interpreted Dr. Davis' intentions correctly, then I believe we need to look at the Scriptures to which he has referred. We should see for ourselves: is this "men ought to wear pants/women ought to wear dresses" teaching truly based on SCRIPTURE?

If you study the referenced passages, I believe you will find it is not. Instead, you will discover that Dr. Davis is "lad[ing] men [and women!] with burdens grievous to be borne," burdens that Dr. Davis himself, when it comes down to it, "touch[es] not . . . with one of [his] fingers" (Luke 11:46).

Will you please join me and be like the Bereans? Will you please turn "to [God’s] law and to [His] testimony" (Isaiah 8:20) and see if these things are really so?


The referenced passages, as Dr. Davis notes, are, indeed, the only ones in which the English word "breeches" appears in the King James Version of the Bible. But if Dr. Davis wants to make these passages teach that all men, and only men, are to wear breeches, then I wonder why he did not go further into these passages' details? Why, for example, did he ignore the point that every one of the referenced passages speaks not merely about "breeches," but about "LINEN breeches"? If we men are to wear breeches in obedience to these passages, shouldn’t we be sure to wear only LINEN breeches? If not, why not?

Further, why does Dr. Davis ignore the fact that the breeches spoken of in these passages are not commanded as OUTER wear, but are to be worn IN ADDITION to--UNDER--a "robe" and "coat" (see Exodus 28:4, 31-35 and 39 for just one series of verses that describe these garments)? They were not to be worn like the pants in a modern man’s suit; they were not to be visible to the eyes of curious bystanders. No. They were to be worn UNDER the outer robe and coat, "upon [the] flesh" (Leviticus 16:4). Put another way, they were what we call "underwear."

So why does it appear that Dr. Davis is willing to expose himself to public view clad in nothing more than a modern man’s suit, wearing upon his lower body the equivalent of what the Bible defines as UNDERWEAR? Why does he not wrap himself in what, to be consistent, he should be telling us are God-mandated outer garments for men?

And how does he dare show on the home page of his website ( photographs of men attired in the equivalent of Biblically-defined UNDERWEAR? [As of July 2011, has been replaced by You can see a photograph of Pastor Davis in equivalent garb on his church's website. --JAH; 7/22/11] Where are the photographs of men wearing the Biblically-mandated robes--the kind of robes with which, Dr. Davis says, true men were taught to "gird up their loins" (p. 43; Job 40:7, etc.)?

Let us go on.

If Dr. Davis' comments about breeches are the result of handling the Scriptures with integrity, and if such breeches-style clothing on a woman really is an "abomination" because it is "that which pertaineth unto a man" (Deuteronomy 22:5), then why does he not speak forthrightly about the sin of modern breeches-style WOMEN'S underwear--i.e., what in our culture are generally called "panties"? Is he not concerned to warn women against such sins?

And why no exegesis about how both men and women must clothe themselves with underwear that covers "from the loins even unto the thighs" so they will avoid the nakedness of which Exodus 28:42 speaks (according to Dr. Davis), the nakedness of inadequate underwear, the nakedness that is both mentioned and defined in Exodus 28:42 (p. 40 in Dr. Davis' article)?

Moreover, how is it that Dr. Davis turns this Biblical discussion of what is obviously UNDER-breeches into a discussion of "shorts, culottes, dresses, whatever"--OUTER garments--"that stops covering above the knee"?

And why? Why does he make an application to forms of clothing (OUTER clothing) that are NOT discussed in the passage, but makes NO application to that which is directly addressed (the matter of UNDER clothing)?

And there is more.

If Dr. Davis is correct in his interpretation and application of these passages, then I am curious why he ignores the fact that, in the very same passages, the LORD commands us men to wear linen BONNETS (Exodus 28:40, 29:9, 39:28, Leviticus 8:13, and Ezekiel 44:18). And, again, if Dr. Davis is correct in his interpretation, the LORD commands us MEN to wear such bonnets, but NOWHERE does He issue a similar commandment to women.

So why does it appear (from an examination of his photograph) that Dr. Davis fails to obey this command? And why does Dr. Davis not warn women against being conformed to the world in this area (see Romans 12:2)? Why does he fail even to MENTION (much less sound a clarion call) that bonnets are masculine clothing and not to be worn by women?

Similarly with the girdles. If we men--and only men--are supposed to wear breeches, I don’t understand why Dr. Davis ignores the Scripturally-mandated girdles for men (Exodus 28:40, 29:9, Leviticus 8:13). Once more: there is not a single verse in Scripture commanding WOMEN to wear girdles; but we do find these verses where, according to Dr. Davis, MEN are commanded to wear them. So why does Dr. Davis ignore this command? And why does he not warn women against encroaching on this province of masculine clothing?

I believe the answers to all of my questions are one and the same; and that one answer is really quite simple.

I believe the reason Dr. Davis ignores all of these "additional" requirements; the reason he himself refuses to "touch" these commandments with one of his own fingers (i.e., the reason he neither "obeys" nor teaches these commandments), is because as soon as one looks at the subject Scriptures IN CONTEXT, one realizes that they have everything to do with appropriate attire for God’s Old Testament PRIESTS (see, for example, Exodus 28:43, 29:27, Leviticus 6:9-10, 16:3, and Ezekiel 44:15); they have absolutely nothing to say about appropriate attire for "men" in general. Yes, the priests were all men, but the focus of these verses is the PRIESTS' clothing and the PRIESTS' responsibilities. Their focus is not at all upon the distinctions we ought to observe between men’s clothing and women’s clothing.


In sum: rather than suggesting that the Bible "TEACHES" women to wear long dresses (KATASTOLE); rather than suggesting that breeches are for men only; perhaps Dr. Davis and your fine magazine could emphasize and exegete Scriptures that truly teach the more fundamental principles outlined (but hardly explained) in the article's other "points": the need for modesty and humility; the need to conform ourselves to the image of Christ; the need to bring our outer and inner clothing (the clothing of the heart) into conformity one with another; and so forth.

For the glory of Christ among the nations,

John Holzmann

Tuesday, January 6, 2004


This was originally posted 6 January 2004 on my personal blog. I reposted it here on Forbidden Questions on 22 July 2011.

One of those "dirty secrets" that few schools mention, but that ought to be mentioned by all.

People refer to "the" Holocaust as if it were a unique historical event inspired by a solitary madman named Adolf Hitler (may his name forever be disgraced). Of course, this preoccupation with Hitler means that far bloodier tyrants of the 20th Century--Joseph Stalin and Mao Zadong being only the two most infamous--are readily ignored. (It is always unfashionable to offer any forms of apologetics for Nazi Germany; it is rarely unfashionable to forge "explanations" and apologies for Mao and Stalin.)

I am distressed by the historical myopia that would cause us to focus so uniquely on the one man and the one country or culture, that we would ignore other people and other cultures, and, most especially, our own people and our own culture.

You see, Americans and Britons seem to have completely forgotten our own nations' roles in the "scientific" theories that led directly to the events that we know of as "the" Holocaust. Yes, “Christian” America—the United States—set the legal precedents and standards by which Hitler carried out his deadly policies.

In 1916 Scribners published Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race, a defense of the idea that “the Nordic race” is superior to all others. That was followed by, and continued to be published alongside, Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman followed in 1922.1

You should know: these were widely-read “scientific” books of the day. They advocated the application of Darwinian evolutionary “science” in public policy. And so, rather than serving as a Christian “light to the nations,”
The United States became the model for pre-Nazi German racial hygienists after World War I. The Nazis merely applied on a massive scale a program that their liberal predecessors had recommended.2
Does that sound far-fetched—laying Nazi policies at the doorstep of America? Possibly. But consider.

In 1904—only 45 years after Darwin published his famous The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life—a “Station for the Experimental Study of Evolution” was established in the United States with a grant from the Carnegie Institution. In 1910, the Harriman and Rockefeller families contributed a “Eugenics Record Office” to the Station.3

Grant, Stoddard, Henry Fairfield Osborn, the Rockefellers, the Harrimans, and countless other leaders of American opinion, policy and culture, advocated and advanced a public policy of eugenics.

How did this work out in practice?
In 1907, Indiana passed the first compulsory sterilization law in America. States passed laws against marriages between people who were “eugenically unfit.” By the late 1920’s, 28 states had passed compulsory sterilization laws; some 15,000 Americans had been sterilized before 1930. This figure rose by another 15,000 over the next decade. . . . This was also the era of laws against interracial marriage; 30 states passed such laws between 1915 and 1930. . . .

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell (1927), upheld Virginia’s model sterilization law, which was carried out on 19-year-old Carrie Buck. By a vote of 8 to 1, the Court upheld this before the girl was sterilized; her guardian had opposed the action. . . . The Court’s opinion, written by justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, announced: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”4
Notice that every one of these historical events occurred before Hitler came to power and before the German laws against sterilization were stricken from the books.5

Wrote Grant in 1916:
Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.6
And Osborn, president of the Museum of Natural History in New York and professor of zoology at Columbia University, announced at the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held at the Museum of Natural History:
The right of the state to safeguard the character and integrity of the race or races on which its future depends is, to my mind, as incontestable as the right of the state to safeguard the health and morals of its people. As science has enlightened government in the prevention and spread of disease, it must also enlighten government in the prevention of the spread and multiplication of worthless members of society, the spread of feeble-mindedness, of idiocy, and of all moral and intellectual as well as physical diseases.7
Few Christians, and even fewer churches, were willing to speak out against these ideas and governmental policies.

“Buck v. Bell generally stimulated either favorable, cautious, or—most commonly—no comment. Few if any newspapers took notice of the impact of the decision on civil liberties in the United States.”8

1 Both Grant’s work and Stoddard’s Revolt Against Civilization were translated and published in Germany in 1925. Back to article.

2 Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 447. Back to article.

3 Walter Truett Anderson, To Govern Evolution: Further Adventures of the Political Animal (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987), 153, cited in North, op. cit., 445. Back to article.

4 North, op. cit., 446. Back to article.

5 The influence of the eugenics movement in Germany accelerated after Hitler came to power in 1933. Sterilization had been illegal in Germany prior to Hitler; he changed the law in July, 1933. Two million people were ordered sterilized by the Nazis’ Eugenics Courts as eugenically unfit, 1933 to 1945.
In 1939, the year of the “Duty to be Healthy,” the Nazi program of sterilization went to the next phase: “mercy killings” of mentally and physically handicapped people who were incarcerated in hospitals and mental asylums. One estimate is that some 200,000 people were killed in this way during World War II. Physicians superintended the massacre. . . . The Nazis understood in 1939 what the humanist media in the United States had understood in 1922: churches could have become a major threat to their genetic ideal and program of forced sterilization for genetic purposes. As it turned out in both countries, however, churches remained mute on the issue.

—North, op. cit., 447-448. Back to article.

6 Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, 4th ed., revised (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921), 49, quoted in North, op. cit., 444. Back to article.

7 Allan Chase, The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism (New York: Knopf, 1977), 278, quoted in North, op. cit., 448-449. Back to article.

8 Daniel V. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (New York: Knopf, 1985), 112, quoted in North, op. cit., 447.

More on Eliminating the Concept of Purpose in Science

This was originally posted 6 January 2004 on my personal blog. I reposted it here on Forbidden Questions on 22 July 2011.

I mentioned Jacques Barzun's comments about the historical movement that eliminated the concept of purpose in scientific inquiry. Today I was reminded of some more historical data that contributed to the elimination of this concept.

In an audio summary of a recent business book, It’s Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business by Christopher Meyer and Stan Davis, I was startled to hear the following three sentences:
Adam Smith wrote that people follow their own self-interest, which leads to the greatest good for all. Charles Darwin's rule says that species adapt or die. That's the meaning of the term "selective pressure."
I was startled by the obvious juxtaposition of Smith's and Darwin's ideas. But the two ideas mesh perfectly. Isn't Smith's concept of the "'invisible hand' of the marketplace" (in which large-scale public good is the inescapable, unintentional, and wholly unconscious by-product of laissez-faire capitalism) . . . --Isn't that "merely," in the social and economic sphere, what Darwin's concept of "natural selection" is in the scientific/biological sphere?

Now that I think of it, weren't the "social Darwinians" in essence turning Darwin's ideas back to their intellectual and historical predecessor: Adam Smith?

Again: this should have been so obvious. I have considered these ideas before in various ways.
  • Gary North, in Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996) points out that William Jennings Bryan's objections to the teaching of evolution in public schools was motivated not by scientific concerns, per se, but by social concerns:
    [While, on the positive side, Bryan argued that democracy gave taxpayers the right to control how their funds should be used, he argued] that a ruthless hostility to charity was the dark side of Darwinism. Had Darwin’s theory been irrelevant, he said, it would have been harmless. “This hypothesis, however, . . . teaches that Christianity impairs the race physically. That was the first implication at which I revolted [when I read Darwin’s work]. It led me to review the doctrine and reject it entirely” (from William Jennings Bryan, In His Image (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1922), 107). [Bryan] cited the notorious (and morally inescapable) passage in Darwin’s Descent of Man: “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man” (Ibid., 107-108). [Bryan] could have continued to quote from the passage until the end of the paragraph: “It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed” (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (New York: Modern Library, [1871], 501). . . .

    Darwin in the next paragraph wrote that sympathy, “the noblest part of our nature,” leads men to do these racially debilitating things (Ibid., 502). Bryan replied: “Can that doctrine be accepted as scientific when its author admits that we cannot apply it ‘without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature’? On the contrary, civilization is measured by the moral revolt against the cruel doctrine developed by Darwin” (Bryan, op. cit., 109).

    Darwin was taken very seriously by many Progressives on the matter of charity. In her book, The Pivot of Civilization (1922), Margaret Sanger [founder of Planned Parenthood] criticized the inherent cruelty of charity. She insisted that organized efforts to help the poor are the “surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding, and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents, and dependents” (Sanger, op. cit., 108). Such charity must be stopped, she insisted. . . . “If we must have welfare, give it to the rich, not the poor,” she concluded (Ibid., 96). “More children from the fit, less from the unfit: that is the chief issue of birth control” (Sanger, "Birth Control," Birth Control Review (May 1919).

    --From North, op. cit., pp. 453-455.

  • David M. Levy in his fascinating How the Dismal Science Got Its Name (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2002) notes, too, how modern economic theory (i.e., economics post-Smith) interfaced with was borne along by--and bore with it--a social Darwinian view.
I don't know where I want to go from here. Primarily I wanted to make the observation that Smithian economics goes hand-in-hand, intellectually and historically, with evolutionary thought, both biological and social.

I guess I would like to make one more observation, this one coming, too, from the audio tape that inspired my comments here.

I am impressed with how theories of purposeless, "self-organization" (such as Smith's and Darwin's) are being turned to practical ends.

In the audio summary of Meyer's and Davis's It's Alive, I heard the story of a John Deere factory that makes seed planters.
The company uses a computer to create a few random schedules that express the sequence of planters to be built in a digital code made of zeros and ones. That code is a set of instructions, just as DNA carries a set of instructions as "genetic code."

This is possible because of a genetic algorithm. A genetic algorithm is a computer program that simulates the same sort of breeding and evolution that appears to take place in nature. The program can test millions of examples of a production schedule using a simulator. It identifies the schedules that work the best, kills the rest, and then mixes parts of the winning schedules to create new ones. In essence, it breeds new schedules. Then the new ones are tested, and so on. Forty thousand new schedules are tested every night, and the winner is the schedule that runs tomorrow's real-life production on the John Deere factory floor. . . .

In using genetic algorithms to set its factory schedule, John Deere applied two evolutionary concepts. One was the idea of recombination, which is known as breeding in the animal world. The other was to exert selective pressure. . . .

In the John Deere example, a schedule that speeds things up is rewarded by allowing it to breed with other fast schedules. A schedule that is slow dies off without breeding.

The cycle repeats through successive generations, and the agents undergo changes and evolve — in this case, getting faster. In life, the change of one species depends on the change of others. Fast foxes help breed faster rabbits. This is often called co-evolution.

--Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries, Volume 12, No. 7, Section 1, July 2003.