Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Beauty of Modesty

David and Diane Vaughan. The Beauty of Modesty: Cultivating Virtue in the Face of a Vulgar Culture. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2005.

The issue of modesty is an important one for our churches today. Barry Maxwell a couple of months ago provided a helpful post on this issue in our churches and homes. At about the same time as Barry’s post I was reading this book by the Vaughans. I had first encountered David Vaughan through his excellent book on Patrick Henry. I was interested to see what he and his wife had to say on modesty and I was not disappointed.

This is an excellent, careful, biblical book that would be good to make available to the families at your church. The book develops in three parts: “The Need for Modesty”, “The Nature of Modesty”, and “The Nurture of Modesty.” They root this virtue solidly in the biblical teaching of holiness as a proper outworking of the gospel. There is no mere moralism here; rather there is exposition and exhortation to applying the gospel to all of life, to living purely unto God and to being aware of how our behavior impacts others.

The fact that there is too little difference between the modesty of the church and the world is a compromise of the gospel. The Vaughans write:
“If immodesty is the incarnation of a pagan worldview, then why are we seeing so much immodesty among Christians? ...The answer is that we are experiencing the cultural captivity of the church.” 39

“…what we are witnessing is a sweeping secularization of the church in her very mind and morals.” 44

“Modesty matters because it is an expression of our worldview and a measure of our sanctification.” 46

This is so true.
The book then discusses the need to be shaped by biblical truths and discusses in much detail the role of parents, particularly fathers, in training children in understanding the value and message of modesty. Along the way this is then a great book simply on parenting. I recommend this book highly.

In closing here are a few other representative quotes:

“In light of the value God places on marriage and fidelity, immodesty is no small sin. It is not simply a silly and vain form of self-display. It is a snare to serious sin.” 80

“When it comes to finding a man, no attention is better than the wrong attention….A modest woman, on the other hand, is not only communicating her respect for the institution of marriage, she is also telling all would-be suitors that she is not cheap.” 81

“… in teaching holiness we will be restoring modesty, for holiness is its soil.” 155

“an immodest worshiper is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms. . . . It is a frightening thought, but if a woman comes to church dressed to get attention, then she is competing with Christ.” 157-158


Anonymous said...

Dr.V.N. - Mary Mohler writes an excellent article on modesty. You can download through navigation from Southern's website or googling her. I have had beeb asked to teach some classes on this subject previously and found her to be helpful. I look forward to reading this book. J. Markham and I were talking and we both agreed that the issue of modesty has increasingly become more important and vital to us now that we're married. t.doan

Joel Maners said...

Great post Ray. What I don't understand is why we limit the discussions concerning modesty to issues of sexuality and appearance. All the while we breast beat ourselves at sporting events and talk about how "we're number one" and so on. Wouldn't a little modesty be in order there as well? There are other issues as well. Why don't we broaden the discussion of modesty?

Ray Van Neste said...

WE do need to address the point you made as well though most people probably place it under the concept 'humility' though of course it is modesty as well. My boys and I do also talk a lot about the self-agrandizement we so often see in sporting events.

But a book cannot be faulted for not addressing everything, and certainly the realm of sexuality and appearancce is one that needs serious addressing in our day.