The New Barely There Modesty

There seems to be this weird new drift in the concept of Christian modesty. Perhaps it’s just a non-theology reaction to truly poor theology; but, whatever it is, it’s growing…especially in the “relevant” crowd. In other words, the people who seem to support this new “barely there modesty” concept rarely use Scripture to defend or support their ideas. They just ramble on about legalism, uptight Christians, and a loose, self-styled “liberty” that pushes holiness into the ambiguous zone and redefines modesty into oblivion.

I recently read a disturbing article by a pastor who verbally rolled his eyes at Christian modesty. In his blog post, he was responding in protest to Jessica Rey’s video about the history of the bikini. I’m hoping his attitude doesn’t reflect a trend, but after the defensive attitudes I observed when Soul Surfer was released, I have to wonder.

This “relevant” pastor (who is also a husband and father) was basically saying it shouldn’t matter what anyone wears (or doesn’t wear) swimming, and that he loves the fact that most women at the beach “feel comfortable” enough to parade around in front of him and other men in their bikinis.

He goes on to talk about his wife’s “black and gold bikini,” which he admits leaves “little to the imagination”…as well as her “double D’s” (as he refers to what’s “hidden by those triangles of fabric”). He extolls her right to display herself at the beach, while condemning any man who may be tempted to lust after her in response. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to mind the thought of his own daughters being gawked at. He says:

“There were several women I noticed as beautiful that caught my eye. Observing these pretty, God-created beings brought a smile to my face as I imagined my own daughters grown up, laughing and strutting down a beach such as this, blissfully enjoying the beauty they’ve been blessed with.”

Sadly, Isaiah 3:16 kept coming to mind. He also described the way one of the “most stunning women” on the beach that day couldn’t seem to keep her red bikini bottom up, as she innocently romped in the water. Seriously. And he wasn’t complaining. Rather he was using her as an opportunity to brag about his effortless self-control, exposing, if nothing else, his spiritual snobbery.

This young pastor was trying to make a point that, though he noticed plenty of half-naked women around, he was never tempted to lust after them—that men who do so are behaving like “animals” and that we should all just relax and enjoy the “beauty of God’s creation” (i.e. one another’s near-naked bodies) without getting hung up on how much breast or back sides we’re forced to view.

On one hand, he is right; a mature, Christian man should have the self-control and focus to be unexpectedly faced with a naked woman without lusting after. Lust is a heart issue and there is no room for blame when it comes to our own sin. A man should respect his wife enough (as well as women in general, clothed or naked) to guard his thoughts.

But to say that we women have no responsibility to use discretion in how we dress around others is immature thinking. To imply that public nakedness is no big deal is to ignore Scripture and the Christian’s call to chastity. And it’s unloving. But what’s love got to do with it, right?

If I force you and your husband to participate in my nakedness by publicly parading myself, the only person I’m loving is me. I’m satisfying my own comfort, convenience, or desire for attention. I could care less how it affects you. And if I blog about the freedom I have to offend you, I’m rubbing your nose in it too. But, hey, it’s my Christian liberty, dontcha know?

“Saying that those who pursue modesty are ‘uncomfortable with their bodies’ or ‘ashamed of their sexuality’ is comparable to saying that I am uncomfortable with my expensive silverware because I refuse to use it to feed the pet mouse. Just as my valuable silver is too precious to put to common use, so the treasure of the human body should be too valuable to use in any but the appropriate context.” – Robin Phillips

Modesty isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about legalism, rules, hiding, fear, body shame, or uptight-ism. Since modesty is included in our call to be chaste, it’s about covering our nakedness in public (which the Bible actually does present as shameful), so that we might represent Him honorably before the world. It’s about hallowing His name.

“The nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.” (Ezekiel 36:23)

It’s about selflessness. It’s about honoring marriage. And beyond that, ladies, it’s about love—loving our brothers and their wives. After all, modesty promotes friendship in women; and, when we remove the awkwardness of sexual immodesty, it promotes a relaxed, comfortable friendship with our brothers as well.

The “barely there modesty” philosophy is not even consistent. How many women would stand around in their “me-oh-mys” in front of an open window where a bunch of construction workers were on lunch break at the house across the street? But these same women will wear the equivalent of their underwear in front of a crowd on the beach or at the pool.

Though this pastor/blogger seems to think he is a spiritual giant, I would guess it is more likely that he, like so many in our culture, has desensitized himself to nakedness by freely and regularly exposing himself to it.

“When a thing is enclosed, the mind does not willingly regard it as common.” – C.S. Lewis

How sad. A woman’s naked body is supposed to elicit more than a yawn from a man. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. But, like any of God’s gifts, freely revealing the intimate parts of our bodies to one another is supposed to be enjoyed within the boundaries that God has generously provided—in this case, within the oneness of marriage.

As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. Proverbs 5:19

Keep your eyes on your own wife. And women, concentrate on satisfying your own husband…privately.

And that goes for guys too. We ladies aren’t immune to lust or distraction, and nakedness goes both ways. But, remember, it’s not always about lust; sometimes it’s simply about dignity. So keep your shirt on! Literally.

I love exposing my nakedness…to my husband. And I love enjoying his nakedness too! Shocked? You shouldn’t be. But you should be shocked if I decide to take it all off at the beach.

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled… (Hebrews 13:4)

It is good and right for a man to be excited by the body of his wife. But, if society manages to desensitize him by making nudity and sexuality common place (perhaps even boring), then the attack on marriage is subtly effective. God intended nudity to stir a reaction in us within marriage; we are wonderfully created to be sensitive to it. As nudity becomes common, and sexuality becomes almost mundane, it robs marriage of what is glorious.

CLICK HERE to download a free PDF of Jeff Pollard’s Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America

While some of this may sound like my personal opinion, I plan to post more soon about why I believe God has indeed given us a few specifics on what parts of our bodies he wants both men and women to cover in public.

“In his book The Sexual Revolution, Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) described the means for achieving a society without any external sexual morals, “a free society” that “would not put any obstacles in the path of the gratification of the natural needs.” The road to the sexual utopia he advocated lay in first getting rid of the shyness and embarrassment surrounding sex. In particular, Reich believed that before traditional morality could be completely vanquished, a society must be achieved where people “should lose their shyness to expose…erotically important parts of their bodies.” Reich attempted to facilitate this by asking his clients to remove all their clothes during his psychotherapy sessions.

“Reich would be pleased if he could see a European summer today, which is more in keeping with his ideal than what we find in brothels. In a brothel, women have overcome the natural shyness surrounding erotically important parts of their bodies in order to advertise sex; on a sunny beach, scores of women can be seen who have overcome this natural shyness with no thought of sex at all. Indeed, by refusing to explicitly acknowledge the erotic implications of minimalistic attire, we are approaching Reich’s ideal of a society in which shyness has been overcome and flattened of its innate potency.

“Reich looked forward to a time in which sexuality would be treated as something merely common. “Profane” best describes Reich’s ideal and its realization in contemporary realization, given that the term originally meant “to treat as common.” Part 5 The Disenchanting of SexRobin Phillips

A few negative connotations of public nakedness in Scripture:

You shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs. Exodus 28:42

Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it. Exodus 20:26

“Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen…” Isaiah 47:3

“You have uncovered yourself to those other than Me… you have loved their bed, where you saw their nudity.” Isaiah 57:8:

“She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness. Then I alienated Myself from her…” (Ezekiel 23:18)

“The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry.” (Ezekiel 23:29)

“[I] will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand. (Hosea 2:9–10)

“Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts; “I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame.” (Nahum 3:5)

“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness!” (Habakkuk 2:15)

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed…” (Revelation 3:18)

Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame (Revelation 16:15).

6 thoughts on “The New Barely There Modesty

  1. This is a very timely post…I just returned from church camp, and this issue of modesty comes up every year. I’m in the ‘older Titus 2 woman’ season, and it’s my desire to help young ladies strive for Biblical womanhood in this culture that promotes love of self. It’s discouraging to feel in the minority on how we should present ourselves as Christian women, and I have learned that this cliche is just not true: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” I have learned that how we present ourselves on the outside must match was is written on our hearts – it’s hypocritical for the two to contradict. It’ about living holy before a perfect God. It involves honest examination of the heart. The pharisees were concerned w/keeping the outside of the cup clean, yet Jesus reminded them that they needed to have both the inside and outside clean, for it brings more glory to God. That’s our chief end, right? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. How is it glorifying to God to be mostly naked and placing the burden and responsibility solely on the guys to guard their hearts? Look at what happened to David and Solomon. They were strong in the Lord, yet foolish women caused them to fall. Why should guys have to be on guard around their own sisters in Christ? How is inviting stumbling glorifying to God? How is it glorifying to think only of yourself when dressing, when the Bible tells us we are to do all things to the glory of God, we are to honor our husbands ALL the days of our lives (that means even before we ever meet him), and that we are to always esteem others as higher than ourselves. I wish someone had told me this stuff when I was a foolish girl who lacked discretion. It’s only by God’s grace that He saw fit to soften my heart in this area, for this has been a major problem in my life (even in my marriage) up until I had a daughter who would soon enter adolescence. I had been conditioned to believe the world’s lies about beauty and femininity. Christian girls are still believing these lies, and I just don’t know what it’s going to take to get them to see that what they define as beautiful isn’t what’s beautiful in God’s eyes. It’s like they honestly don’t feel pretty unless they are drawing attention to their bodies. I have been very cautious as a mom to protect my children from the pop culture and its sometimes blatant as well as subtle messages that constantly contradict the Word of God. STILL, I think my own daughter has been somewhat tainted because these lies are all around us! The modesty issue was a real problem this year at camp, and because of those who may lack a moral compass, and because of lack of discretion from campers, there is a dress code. It’s never followed, and it got ugly one night. They just don’t get it. I love these girls, and when I say things, it’s always in a spirit of love. They are only thinking about themselves, but I know they don’t see it that way (neither did I). I personally hate dress codes because everyone gets caught up in the legalism, like you said. I am already dreading next year because it truly is a heart issue – but it’s getting them to see they have just as much responsibility as the guys is what is making me scratch my head. Making rules does nothing. It’s about changing an entire world view…how do you do THAT?? Do you have any advice in this area?

    Thanks for these posts. They encourage me to keep pressing on in my calling as a Biblical woman in this ungodly culture.


    1. Thanks, Jennifer. He hasn’t published the last few comments I left on his article. He ignores questions and refuses to defend his position from Scripture. Sad. I challenged him to answer Jeremy, who made some very good points. I received information today that reveals there is more to his story. He is definitely a man to avoid. Oh, and it sounds like he is no longer a pastor.

      Here is my answer to Darcy, which he has not approved…


      “am I humble and loving or am I a pretentious snob?”

      That is a VERY good question!

      “To try to take this verse and use it to tell women they need to cover up their bodies is a complete and utter twisting of the scripture…real modesty” has absolutely nothing to do with how many clothes I’m wearing, and everything to do with what I value and how I view myself…”

      Actually, you have it backwards. Modesty is about honoring others, not about how we “value” and “view” ourselves. The whole Gospel is about laying down our lives for others, as Jesus taught.

      Perhaps the problem is that we value and view ourselves TOO highly. Instead of loving one another and putting others first – instead of feeling their pain and meeting their needs – we care only about ourselves and what makes “us” comfortable – what makes “us” feel good. We could care less if we’re hurting others.

      Public nakedness in Scripture is always communicated as a negative thing. Scripture doesn’t have to use the word “modest” to be talking about covering nakedness. In addition, sexual modesty is included in our call to be chaste.

      Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own… (1 Corinthians 13:4–5)

      Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works… (Hebrews 10:24)

      For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

      But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9)

      I see a lot of pride and arrogance here. A lot of people concerned about their own pleasure and comfort and very little (if any) regard for those they may hurt or stumble.

      “Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own.” – John Calvin

      Travis, you are a pastor, as is my husband. I pray that you begin to consider the weight of your responsibility.

      “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6


  2. Excellent response, Stacy. I like the extra point, how even though modesty often does have to do with how we value ourselves..well actually, it almost always does, including the times you pointed out when people value themselves far too highly and want to show it off. And although some people doing so need peptalks, your point that it’s maybe even more often a kick in the shins that’s needed is exactly what our world needs to hear!


  3. Also, frankly I’m glad he’s not a pastor anymore; that’s simply not a position where he belongs. Now he not only will be away from influencing other people, he can focus on any spiritual illnesses he has.


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