Should women wear pants or even pantyhose and if so, for others to see.
Should women address the church at any time? For example, is it okay when
we gather and may be asked to share about our favorite scripture.


To the best of my knowledge, the Bible does not mention pants or
pantyhose. In fact, in Bible times, pants had not yet been invented, so
it is not reasonable to expect the Bible writers to weigh in on this
issue. Of course, I am aware that certain Christian groups have made up
rules about women not wearing pants. I have never heard of a prohibition
against pantyhose, but I am sure there is a legalistic group out there
somewhere which would declare the wearing of pantyhose a sin.

The best I can tell, the only conceivable biblical teaching which
could possible be construed so as to argue against the wearing of pants is
in Deuteronomy 22:5, which says, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing,
nor a man women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does
this.” Let me make a couple of comments on this. First of all, this was
a law given on Mt Sinai to the Jews. In general, Christians are not bound
by the Mosaic law. Colossians 2:13-15 unambiguously states that followers
of Jesus, under the New Covenant, are not subject to the Law of Moses.
…”having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was
against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to
the cross.” Further down, Paul specifically declares that the keeping of
New Moons and Sabbaths, as well as circumcision, is not required for
Christians. We cannot have it both ways. Either we are required to keep
the Laws of Moses or we are not. I say that we are not. This includes
the law on the wearing of men’s clothing by women.

I can understand that some might believe that, nevertheless, blatant
cross-gender dressing is something which God would not approve, whether we
are under the Old Covenant or not. I would have to say that there is a
point to be made here. However, if we are going to make up rules and if
we are going to preach certain regulations, we had better be careful that
we are not dragging Old Testament laws into the New Covenant, and that we
are not making up rules where God did not. In Colossians 2:20-23, Paul
condemns the creation of man-made rules and regulations, pointing out that
such rules “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Simply
put, when human beings create non-biblical rules, even out of a sincere
desire to help Christians to be righteous, such actions backfire. The
creation of rules does not help to create righteousness. Bottom line, I
believe that prohibitions against the wearing of pants is not only not
biblically justified, it is damaging to the gospel. I say this because
Paul gives us this principle.

There is a second reason I believe a rule against the wearing of pants by
women is silly. In the year 2006 it is absolutely ridiculous to say that
if a woman wears pants, she is dressing like a man. It would be fair to
say that almost half of the pants worn in Western cultures are worn by
women. How can anyone with a straight face in today’s culture say that
women do not wear pants? It requires a mind of extreme legalism, based on
a mode of dress from one hundred years ago, to declare the wearing of
pants by women to be sinful. I do not believe this rule would have been
appropriate one hundred years ago, given that Old Testamen laws are not
laws under the New Covenant. Even if it were appropriate as a rule one
hundred years ago, to say that wearing of pants is dressing like a man is
ridiculous in a modern context.

About the wearing of panty hose, I am really struggling to imagine the
level of legalism which could lead to this rule. Let me reconstruct the
line of thinking. Wearing of pants by women is sinful because pants are
men’s clothing. Pantyhose is a kind of pants, and, by extention, is also
sinful. Never mind the fact that pantyhose are certainly not men’s
clothing. Whew! That is the legalist’s mind working in overdrive. You
would do well to avoid the counsel of such people.

About women speaking in church, this is a different matter. The New
Testament does speak to the issue of women teaching and having authority
over men. Paul talked about women being in submission in public worship
settings (1 Corinthians 14:34-36). He mentioned that women should not
“teach or have authority over a man.” (1 Timothy 2:11). Therefore, this
is not a matter of obvious legalism. I do not want to discuss the
hermeneutical principles involved in detail here. I believe what is
appropriate is setting-dependent and culture-dependent. I would say that
whatever a woman can do with a proper attitide of submission in public
worship is acceptable. For myself, personally, if a woman is asked in
church to share her favorite scripture with the congregation, it is hard
to see how this would violate the spirit of Paul’s admonition. I do not
have a problem with this at all. There is a grey area on this, but I
would suggest we avoid making hard and fast rules. Yes, I do believe it
is appropriate for a female Christian to share her favorite scripture in
public Christian worship.

John Oakes

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