KB: "On the pants/skirt, I don't think the position gets explained exegetically and historically well enough, but your position will fail exegetically and historically"
A few weeks ago on the former fundies blog, I demonstrated that your argument for this is not exegetical, it's circular. I'm not going to get into it here, but your argument for "the male article" is strictly a cultural determination and not a biblical one, yet you say that the culture used to hold to a biblical standard which can't be found anywhere in the Bible concerning the definite male article.
As you can see, he pulled a quote from my comment (I'm "KB") and then addressed it. I want to deal with this idea that my position on designed gender distinction is not exegetical. Of course I believe he's wrong. I think it does show a blind spot in how to exegete and then apply scripture that is common in many evangelicals and fundamentalists.
A Model for Exegesis in Passages that Require Second Premise Application
Ephesians 4:29 reads: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." When we make application of that command, that imperative, we can see it in this logical syllogism:
Major Premise: Corrupt communication is disobedience to God's Word, that is, sin.
Minor Premise: #&$%@*# is corrupt communication.
Conclusion: Therefore, #&$%@*# is disobedience to God's Word, that is, sin.
Paul did not tell us what corrupt communication was. When he wrote that passage in the first century, the English language didn't exist. So we must apply this passage culturally. We would assume that there is English language that is corrupt communication. If we cannot make that assumption, then we cannot apply this passage and it is meaningless to us. We know that is not the case. I'm going to guess that Will thinks that there are English words that Paul would be referring to "in principle" in this verse, words that we should be expected by the verse to refrain from communicating. Does Will disregard it because of a "cultural determination?" I doubt it. Does he dismiss the verse because it is a "circular argument?" Again, I strongly doubt it. So that's what makes his little diatribe a totally moot point.
When we make application of scripture, we must often use second premise arguments. That is not a circular argument. It says that there are certain truths in the real world to which scripture is referring. Let's now show how this works with Deuteronomy 22:5. But first, let's read the verse:
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.
Here's a syllogism that comes from the verse:
Major Premise: A woman who wears a designated male-only article is an abomination to God,
Minor Premise: Pants or trousers are a designated male-only article.
Conclusion: A woman who wears pants or trousers is an abomination to God.
I'm dealing only with Will's criticism, the so-called cultural one. (I want to limit the comment section to discussion only about this particular point, so I won't publish comments that are off this narrow aspect.) Quite a few verses in the Bible require application within a culture. That doesn't make the interpretation of those verses less exegetical. We've got to apply scripture within our culture. That doesn't take away from the meaning or the authority of the Bible in those issues.
What About Culture on Designed Gender Distinction?
The position that the culture determines what are the male-only and female-only articles of clothing is the historic position. You'll see it word for word in seventeenth century Puritan Vincent Alsop's "The Sinfulness of Strange Apparel." Women don't have on the male garment and men don't wear the female articles of clothing.
Even though culture makes the application, the purpose of this prohibition in Deuteronomy 22:5 relates to God's created design as seen in Genesis 1:26-27. There we see God created man in His image, male and female He created them. The image of God is seen in both male and female. The distinctions between the two make up the image of God in man. This is how God's image is represented by man, by distinctions between male and female.
Every culture and people are responsible to keep Deuteronomy 22:5. You can see this in the words "all that do." In every instance these words are found together (in the Hebrew too), they refer to all of mankind, any nation or people. This one grammatical point says that this wasn't only an Israelite regulation.
In 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 Paul expects the Corinthians to keep a culturally designed distinction between male and female with the head-covering. We can see in Isaiah 47:2-3 that the absence of a head-covering for Babylonian women ("uncovered locks") was a shame unto them. In 1 Corinthians 11, not having the head-covering was a shame to a Corinthian like the shorn or shaved head was significant of a prostitute. This is obviously a culturally related issue, because in our culture, the shaved female head does not portray a prostitute. It did in Corinth.
This criticism usually centers on the dress that was worn by men and women when Israel received this law. Most say that men and women both wore robes. Perhaps they did. The Bible doesn't say. What is ironic about this criticism is that the Bible doesn't tell us what the male or female garments were.
For the sake of dealing with this criticism, however, let's say that there was a male robe and a female robe. I think there were. The point of Deuteronomy 22:5 was that there the robes were designed differently. How were they different? There may have been colors that must be kept different, ornamentation that must remain peculiar to each robe, perhaps the actual type of material, the girdle, the sleeve length, and more. We don't know what those distinctions were. The point of Deuteronomy 22:5 is that they were designed distinct, not sameness.
For centuries in our culture, the unique male garment, which was public and constant, for the purpose of distinction, was the pants or trousers. The woman distinguished herself from the man with the skirt or dress. When women began wearing pants or trousers, the distinction was not replaced, but removed. Women began wearing pants at the expense of the distinction, not for distinction.
For arguments sake, let's say that now both men and women both wore pants, like we are saying that in Old Testament Israel, they both wore robes. Some would argue that since they both wore robes, we can both wear pants. That makes some sense at first glance. However, the point of Deuteronomy 22:5 was that there was a male-only robe that was distinct from a female-only robe. The woman would not put on the man's robe and the man would not put on the woman's robe. This did not relate to size differences or even fit (tightness or looseness), but some clear, public, designed distinctions that made them purposefully different. That has not occurred with pants. The point of pants was to remove the distinction.
Our culture has not replaced the distinct female garment, the dress, with a new one, pants. Men wear pants. Now women wear pants. Some will say, "But women wear women's pants." But no distinctions have been designed in women's pants for the purposes of obeying God's requirement in Deuteronomy 22:5. We haven't said as a culture or as Christians, "Well, women's pants shall always have the zipper on the side." Or, "Women's pants must always be of a pastel color and men's pants must always be either dark brown, blue, or black." We have made no distinctions between the two. Sure, women will wear pants that are more feminine looking---in color, in embroidery, or unfortunately in tightness---but these are not designed distinctions. Women can and do wear pants the same color, material, embroidery, and sewing as men.
Again, the point of pants on women was to remove the distinction. This attacked the image of God in men. This attacked God's design. That's why the person who does so is an abomination to God. It is a personal insult to God. This should be a serious issue to Christians. It should be about God and not about fitting in with the world.
Is There Something Non-Cultural In the Argument?
At the end of Job, God speaks directly to Job. In two places, Job 38:3 and 40:7, God says this to Job:
Gird up now thy loins like a man.
God says that only men gird their loins. What is "girding your loins?" Men wore a robe. Only men girded their robe. Men had a belt, a girdle around their waist (in the loin area). When they would do manly activity, they would pull up the center of the robe and tuck it into their girdle so that they could function as a man.
The loins are between the legs. Only men would pull a garment up to the loins. Pants permanently girded the male garment. The new expertise and skill and technology in sewing allowed for pants to be made, so that men could have their garments permanently girded. This way men could ride a horse, jump over barriers, and run much more easily.
"Gird up your loins like a man" means nothing to us in Job if we don't understand what that practice meant. God said that this girding was a unique male activity or appearance. We should at least understand from this text that God wants these distinctions in appearance.
How Should We Determine Our Position On Issues?
When we take a position on an issue we start with interpretation of the appropriate passages. Then we investigate as to whether this is a historical position. Have Christians believed like this in the past? In other words, is it a private interpretation? It shouldn't be. If it is a non-historic position, great scriptural exegesis should overturn it. Then we make an application of the passage on the issue.
What I have found with this issue of designed gender distinctions is that those who do not take the male pants and female dress position do not spend any time on exegesis themselves. They are not curious as to what the historical position is. All I've seen them do is take pot shots at those who take the same position as I do and usually ridicule.
I would hope to see critics study the passages and history. I would expect them to interact with the multitude of commentaries that take the same position as I do. They don't. That should be tell-tale to anyone who is attempting to sort out his position. Pot shots and ridicule should not be respected as a way to deal with any issue.
Who Would Make the Decision to Replace the Distinctions?
When these cultural changes occur, it should be a big deal. It was when women started wearing pants. If there were distinctly female pants, who would decide that had occurred? The culture would. So has it? It hasn't. Why not? The culture isn't interested in distinctions. That was the point for allowing the distinction to disappear.
What our culture has done in allowing this distinction to be removed is something unique in the history of mankind. Secularists believe that mankind has been here millions of years. We've actually been here around 6000 years. Men have believed in a creator or a designer. We have moved away from that belief as a culture. We have left the concept of a designer so it is no wonder that it doesn't matter if we reflect design any more in our culture. When Christians do not obey Deuteronomy 22:5, they are supporting this false idea that there is no design for humanity.
Our culture isn't going to decide to replace old distinctions with new ones. For that reason, on this issue, Christians can't follow the culture. We must go back to the distinctions that were removed. Those were pants for men and dresses for women.