Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In defense of dudes wearing dresses

I read an interesting and fun post at Evangel (and that is getting more and more rare, that blog has degenerated into a theological version of fight club with loads of weird posts from a Lutheran guy). The post was a defense of the wearing of vestments, something that I have little use for. Whimsically titled Sartorial Eye for the Clerical Guy the comment section is really the interesting part.

Whether it is a Roman "pope" wearing lavish robes or an Orthodox cleric with a crown or a Protestant minister wearing vestments, it all serves the same purpose: drawing a visible distinction between one set of believers (the ministers) and another set (the laity). Allegedly it is a sign of the "office", but I am afraid there isn't much support for that. I like what one commenter said: What external sign of their office did Jesus and the apostles wear, other than a towel wrapped around the waist of the Savior while He humbly washed the feet of the apostles? It is a striking contrast to think on the one hand of our Savior setting aside His outer garment and girding Himself with a towel to serve His disciples and on the other hand men who dress up in finery while claiming to be bringing glory to God through their opulence and prideful attire. God doesn't need dudes in dresses, fancy buildings or any of the other worldly and costly accoutrement that we fill our churches with (at great expense) allegedly to bring glory to God.

This comes down to one central point. Nowhere do we see a defense of clerical robes in the New Testament via example or command or principle. Quite the contrary, we see that wearing clerical garb creates an unbiblical distinction between classes of believers. That may explain why defenders of vestments invariably turn to the Old Testament for support while failing to recognize that we are not Old Testament national Israel but the church, the people of God and in the church we have but one High Priest and His raiment is exceedingly glorious, putting to shame the filthy rags of man and his self-exalting holy attire.

It strikes me that the wearing of vestments is falling into the same sort of trap we see in many places in the church, misapplying an Old Covenant type to the reality of the New Covenant church. The ceremonial robes worn by the priests in the Old Testament were symbolic of the priests being set apart. As the New Testament makes abundantly clear, that old and inferior priesthood has been done away with in the person of Jesus Christ and His office as our great High Priest.

I guess we could just chuckle and brush it off as just a quaint tradition in the church like so many other traditions we hold to. I have a hard time with that. Traditions are fine in the gathering of the church so long as they don’t interfere or negate the teachings of the New Testament regarding the church. All too often we see traditions in the church being used to divide believers: vestments, titles, stages and pulpits. All of these have the double whammy of having no Scriptural support and simultaneously working against what we see and are taught in the Scriptures. If your ministry is based on your titles and offices and garments, what value is that for the Body of Christ?

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