Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel
“A useful resource and not a legalistic, culture-bound list.”
– Paul Tripp, pastor, conference speaker, and author
“Breaks new ground…I heartily recommend this.”
– Jerry Bridges, author, The Pursuit of Holiness
“A thoughtful framework to help us come to a grace-based, gospel-grounded understanding of modesty…a great tool.”
– Mary Kassian, author, Girls Gone Wise
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Description & Excerpts..SHARE..
Uh oh, another book on modesty. And look, here’s a surprise…it’s written by men.
Is that sort of what you’re thinking? If so, we want to assure you that this book is different. We promise.
When it comes to discussions of modesty among Christians, the problems you have probably experienced and the challenges we face as authors have the same root: expectations based on experience. Christians have come to associate any discussion of modesty as necessarily involving a certain focus and vocabulary. We just know that words like “spaghetti straps” and “bikinis” will very quickly become part of the conversation. Maybe even “head coverings.” And when a man is the speaker or the author or the one leading the discussion? That’s when women, in particular, often brace themselves, fearing an assault on their fashion sense and wondering if they are about the be blamed for all male struggles with sexual lust. Does he think I have to be ugly to be godly?
We know this is a problem. We’ve read those books, heard those sermons, attended those small groups, and reviewed those pamphlets.
And we are just as perplexed and frustrated as you are.
That’s why we knew from the start that this book had to be different. In the pages that follow, we are not going to focus on your wardrobe. In a sense, we don’t even care about your wardrobe. But we care a great deal about your heart, and that is true whether you’re a man or a woman. We want to see your heart so gripped by the gospel of grace that modesty becomes beautiful and desirable to you, not just in your wardrobe but in all of life. We want you to understand that modesty isn’t just motivated by the gospel, it’s an entailment of the gospel—it flows naturally from a solid grasp of the gospel.
About the Authors
R W Glenn is an author and the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN. He has written Drive By Theology, Drive By Church History, and The Biggest Question for Wretched Radio and Television, and in 2012 Shepherd Press will release his book, Crucifying Morality: How the Teaching of Jesus Destroys Religion. His sermons and lectures may be downloaded from Solid Food Media.
Tim Challies is a pastor, blogger, author, book reviewer, and co-founder of Cruciform Press. His websites include Challies.com and DiscerningReader.com. Tim has written The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, published by Crossway, and The Next Story, published by Zondervan.
endorsements & reviews..SHARE..
“It is so refreshing to have a book on modesty that is a useful resource and not a legalistic, culture-bound list that leaves you a bit paranoid and guilty. No, this book is different. Its counsel on modesty is not rooted in rules, but in the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That grace alone is able to get at the heart of the problem of modesty, which is the heart. In a culture where immodesty is the accepted norm, Glenn and Challies have given us help that every Christian desperately needs.”
Paul Tripp, pastor, conference speaker, and author
“How short is too short? How tight is too tight? Glenn and Challies don’t say. But they do provide a thoughtful framework to help us come to a grace-based, gospel-grounded understanding of modesty that extends beyond mere clothing. They uphold a vision for modesty that’s both beautiful and desirable — and not only for gals, but for guys too! This book is a great tool to help you wrestle with the practical question of what and what not to wear.”
Mary A. Kassian, Author, Girls Gone Wise
“The authors of Modest break new ground in their treatment of this difficult subject. It is a healthy antidote to the prevailing views, which tend toward either legalism or antinomianism, by grounding the whole subject in the gospel. I heartily recommend this book.”
Jerry Bridges, Author, The Pursuit of Holiness
“As a Christian who lives in a diverse global city, I need this book. Every day I make conscious decisions regarding modesty as well as commit unintentional cultural faux pas. What does the gospel have to say about these things? I need the love of Christ to shape how I think about modesty in all of life; it’s not just about bikinis and burqas. The authors discuss how a biblical perspective on modesty delves into the depths of the human heart and applies the life-giving good news of the gospel. Modest is wonderfully edifying, encouraging, and practical.”
Gloria Furman lives in Dubai with her husband, a pastor, and their children. She is the author of Glimpses of Grace: Applying the Gospel in Your Home (Crossway, 2013) and regularly contributes to the Domestic Kingdom blog.
“It was the best $5.45 I’ve spent this month and a modest price at that.”
I’ve never thought so hard about a review and it is to this books credit that I am doing so. The book Modest has given cause for me to take seriously not just my dress and appearance but also my words, actions, and everyday conduct for the sake of gospel modesty. Therefore, I measure the very words I pen this evening for the sake of gospel modesty and an accurate representation of these writer’s prose. I suppose that was Challies and Glenn’s intent.
This book offers a timely and urgent message that I too have been pondering for some time. As a youth pastor, the question of modesty arises with each summer, each trip, and each event. Just today I sent an e-mail to parents and adult leaders concerning the dress code for our high school ministry’s back to school lock in.
The authors of Modest build a framework for understanding this Christian virtue not based on a list of do’s or don’ts but rather based on the gospel. They assert, “When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules.” Rules in itself are not bad. Confusing rule keeping in order to win God’s approval based on our performance and rule keeping as a response to God’s perfect performance acquitting us of judgement, is the risk to be concerned with here. Challies and Glenn tactfully point out, “…efforts at modesty without the gospel are actually anti-gospel because such efforts subtly but steadily communicate that God accepts us on the basis of our performance.” These authors demonstrate from the model of Christ that believers should experience the comfort of forgiveness and the call to righteousness in respects to all Christian virtues, here especially pertaining to modesty.
Later the authors discuss the fine edge of grace that exists when walking in gospel modesty, avoiding legalism, demonization and idolization on one side of grace and antinomianism and divinization on the other side of grace. They wordsmith this delightful picture, “Every Christian wants to live on the corner of Modesty Avenue and Gospel Street, where grace and virtue intersect.”
Glenn and Challies point out that immodesty is simply the fruit of idolatry. They guide the reader through four critical perspectives on idolatry (vanity, violence, vileness, and vindictiveness), summing up the issue in this way, “…your immodesty is the fruit of a tree with an idolatrous root. Your sin against modesty shows you that at heart level you are living for something or someone other than Jesus Christ.”
This brings the reader back to the all important centrality of the gospel in respect to the matter of modesty. “When the gospel controls your modesty, you want to be modest because God sent his son, Jesus, to die for your immodesty, and especially because Jesus willingly died for it.”
There is more to tell about this formative book, but I’ll leave it to be read. I will tell you that though I do not offer you the author’s definition of modesty in this review, you will want to know it and ponder it. They say much about the significance of culture and context that we should all digest, and they honor us with their vulnerability and stories for the sake of conveying a crucial message on modesty.
Meditate on Modesty: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel today! This resource is available at CruciformPress.com. My personal thanks to these fine men who tactfully reflected and wrote on this critical subject. It was the best $5.45 I’ve spent this month and a modest price at that. : )
To all you others, I don’t normally read a book in one day or in one sitting, but it simply read that well. Was that modest? I’m in turmoil and thankful for being in turmoil for the sake of gospel modesty.
Gloria Furman has written an excellent complement to this review on her blog Domestic Kingdom, a blog I highly recommend you adding to your rss feed. Read her post here.
Joey Cochran, jtcochran.com
“Modesty is about more than what we wear.”
Funny. Earlier this month I was commenting on all the kerfuffle about modesty on the internet. I wrote an article about how I think we use the word way too narrowly. And then I open my mailbox to receive Cruciform’s latest book on… drum roll…modesty. It must be the vibe of the month. I was happy to see the subtitle: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel.
R. W. Glenn and Tim Challies begin their book with the important point that modesty is about more than what we wear. They want to focus on the gospel and its implications, rather than give us a list of modesty dos and don’ts. Check plus.
First of all, it’s helpful to define modesty. We keep hearing it looks like this, or it’s notthat, but what does it really mean? After showing the three main entries from the dictionary, Glenn and Challies refer to C.S. Lewis to demonstrate how we mistakenly confuse modesty and chastity. I found this part helpful. The quote they use is one that has always stuck with me after I read it. He refers to modesty as a cultural propriety or decency. The rule of chastity is always the same for a Christian, but modesty changes in accordance with cultural context. The authors make the point that even if we all could agree on what a modest bathing suit looks like, it would still be extremely immodest to wear it to church. In other contexts, you may be abiding by the “codes” of modesty, but are certainly still unchaste–or vise versa. Here is their definition of modesty:
Modesty is that virtue which is respectful of a culture’s rules for appropriate and inappropriate dress, speech, and behavior in a given situation (23).
I wrestled with this definition a little bit. I think that it is true. But, if we are interested in “gospel modesty” as they reiterate, I would maybe have liked them to add two more elements. One is adding our thoughts first in that appropriate/inappropriate given situation. I know that culture cannot see this part of modesty, but as the authors show, the heart is where the virtue or sin begins. I think adding the word “thoughts” to the definition would keep the core teaching of their book at the forefront of our “thinking” on modesty.
Also, such a big part of modesty is humility. If you sum up all three parts of the definition the authors supplied from the dictionary, and others that I have found in my own search, you see that it all adds up to a humble spirit. As Christians, our thoughts, behavior, speech, and dress should all flow from the intimate knowledge we have or our Creator and Redeemer.
My favorite part of this short little 85 page book was Chapter 5, “Why We’re Not Modest”. This chapter is about idolatry. After a mini-lesson on what idolatry is along with its ramifications, the authors give us some helpful alliteration to help us apply the effects of idolatry to our topic of modesty. Sometimes I find alliteration as a teaching tool to be a little forced and cheesy. But I think that Glenn and Challies pulled it off well in this chapter. Idolatry, they say, is vain, violent, vile, and vindictive. I found this to be the most convicting part of the book.
They teach us that “the idolatrous heart believes a lie that idols can actually do something—that they can deliver what we want from them…How vain is our pursuit of idols! They are utterly impotent” (61-62). Your behavior is an indicator of what you are seeking for satisfaction. Is it attention? Approval? Accolades? (Did you notice my clever use of alliteration there?…Dang, I’m so immodest!)
Of course, these idols can’t satisfy us; only Christ can. This is where the violence comes in. We become disillusioned as we indulge our idols, and they leave us hungry. Instead of enjoying God’s blessings in proper stewardship, we begin to dehumanize ourselves and others. “When something or someone becomes more precious to you than Jesus Christ, you begin to become less than human” (64). The authors give us a good reminder: “This idol does not want to bless me—it wants to hurt me and keep me as its slave” (65).
Worse still, idolatry is “vile, in that it utterly offends the Lord” (65). This is the ugliest part—our idolatry exposes our rebellious heart and crass ingratitude to our Creator and Savior. Do you ever think about yourself as vindictive? That is what our idolatrous thoughts and behavior are to our loving God. Ouch.
Let’s face it—when people talk about modesty these days they are usually referring to clothes. But really that is only one dimension of how this virtue is expressed. That bothers me, and it bothers the authors of Modesty. But while they did a healthy job of steering clear of legalism or antinomianism, they mostly talked about the application in clothes. I also think it would have been helpful, especially for younger readers, for them to add a chapter on chastity. Since they distinguished between the two virtues, it would have been beneficial to bring up some issues such as flirting. This is something that our culture may view as harmless, but as Christians we know it can be completely unchaste—no matter how covered up you are. Also, with Challies’ technological expertise, I expected to read about the implications of this virtue in your cyber-behavior. Although modesty and chastity are distinct virtues, they are also very much related when you get to the heart issue. I would have liked to read more about that.
I think the authors steered clear of giving too many examples because they didn’t want to create a legalistic list. But you can still throw in some relevant applications. One way of doing this would be to have questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. With a few modifications, this book could be turned into a good little small group study.
Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian
“Modest is about applying the gospel to modesty in its full biblical scope.”
I’ve never read an entire book devoted to the subject of modesty, but I’ve read several articles and chapters on the subject. These articles and chapters focused on things like bathing suits, movies, wedding dresses, and lipstick.
And none of the articles ever began like this book does:
“In the pages that follow, we will not focus on your wardrobe.”
Challies and Glenn (two guys) have written Modest, a book about modesty for both men and women that does not include measurements for skirt-lengths or lists of movies.
So, then, what is Modest about if not the specific “measurements” of modesty?
Modest is about applying the gospel to modesty in its full biblical scope.
Some may assume the “full biblical scope” means everything from stilettos to head coverings. But the authors of Modest feel that the Bible addresses both men and women and speaks of modesty in regards to speech, behavior, and dress.
Challies and Glenn also provide an extensive discussion about what modesty is not:
“Modesty, apart from the gospel, becomes a self-made religion that can give some appearance of being the genuine article but that is in the end of no value (none!) in our battle with the sinful and inordinate desires of our hearts. If we reduce modesty to certain rules of dress, we are completely separating the concept of modesty from the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a result, we may have the appearance of godliness, but not a whole lot more.”
When I first heard about this book I was particularly interested to read it because of the context in which I live. Many of my friends and neighbors abide by codes of modesty that are both religiously and culturally-based. These codes inform the things they do, wear, and say. And I, as an expatriate living in a host country, try to abide by some of these codes out of love and respect.
A question that I have wrestled with for the four years we have lived here is this: As I seek to demonstrate modesty in this culture what makes my modesty distinctly Christian?
As a Christian, I understand that my choices in modesty have less to do with the rules listed on the sign at the mall and more to do with my love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Above all, I want to please the Lord in everything I do, don’t do, say, don’t say, wear, and don’t wear. For the sake of love for my Lord and my neighbor, I make certain choices in dress and conduct.
I’m thankful for this book because I’ve personally come to a greater appreciation of how my personal behavior and choices are an outflow and entailment of the gospel.
But considering how the gospel motivates our modesty isn’t just for the person who lives in cross-cultural settings- it’s for every Christian.
Gloria Furman, Domestic Kingdom