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Dressed to Kill: Thinking Biblically About Modest & Immodest Clothing by Robert G. Spinney

Weighing in at only 29 pages, Dr. Robert Spinney’s booklet Dressed to Kill:Thinking Biblically About Modest & Immodest Clothing is a short and sweet manifesto on modesty. I liked the way that Dr. Spinney addressed the issues of modesty and immodesty from a historical and theological perspective. And, no wonder. Dr. Spinney, “…graduated Cum Laude in an honors major in 1983 with a B.A. in Government and History from Harvard University and has received the M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Vanderbilt University”  Even so, it was an easy read for me (ergo- anyone can read it).

Dr. Spinney’s gentle, yet serious tone made reading this booklet an eye-opening and educational experience for me. Perhaps, a wee-bit hyper-sensitive (I think that phrase is oxymoronic- but you know what I mean) to legalism, the manner in which he communicated his message was almost as important-to me-as the content of it. And, as I mentioned, I thought the manner was short and sweet- the way I think exhortation-type material should be written: to the point and to the heart.

No less, the content of the booklet was not lacking. He covered all the bases of Biblical dress and then some. He started with an interesting historical account of President Thomas Jefferson’s real life ideology that “clothing sends messages” (p.2); and then he progressed systematically through, what I call, a theology of modesty. In all, he keeps the main thing- the main thing. That is; his real concern is the glory of God, the holiness of God’s people, and the simplicity of the Gospel. Here is an excerpt from the final pages of the book:

“A booklet like this must never suggest that wearing the right clothing makes one right with God. Religious duties and moral behavior are never the power of God unto salvation. Luke 2:30 reports that when an aged Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, he proclaimed that his eyes were seeing God’s salvation— not that he was obeying lifestyle rules that comprised God’s salvation. Salvation is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in the prescriptions of some list” (p.28).

The mantra of the booklet is “Too much, Too Little, Too Tight.” With those six little words, he gives the Christian an accurate gauge by which she (or he) can measure her (or his) modesty level. He addresses the issue of modesty with men’s clothing, as well as, women’s clothing. He addresses androgynous dressing from a godly- but not rigidly so, perspective (i.e., he isn’t a “women wear dresses only man”). And, he even addresses the clothing of the Goth sub-culture in America (pp.18-19). Through it all, his humble heart is evident and his love for God obvious. Before getting into the practical applications of what is appropriate clothing and what is not appropriate clothing, he writes:

“Nevertheless, only God’s principles are perfect and morally binding, while my personal applications of those principles may be incorrect. God’s Word is infallible, but my applications of His Word are not. Immodest clothing is a problem, but it is also a problem if I go beyond the inspired Word of God and require men to obey my uninspired applications.” (p. 18)

While I did find the booklet to be one of the most helpful resources that I have read on the issue of modesty and immodesty, it is only right that I acknowledge Dr. Spinney did not have women primarily in mind when he wrote it. He is clear:

“The message in this booklet is aimed primarily at husbands and fathers, who are the God-ordained leaders of families.” (p. 4)

In my defense, I was already four pages in when I read that statement, so I just kept going. I couldn’t help myself. When I start a book, I just have to finish it. I wasn’t trying to be like Sarah eavesdropping on Abraham and the Lord’s conversation in Genesis 18:10. After reading the book, I do not think that he wrote that statement to say “M-Y-O-B” to his sisters in Christ, but it seems that he wrote it as a battle cry to his brothers in Christ. He wants men to recognize and respond to the call of God on their lives to be the men that God has called them to be in their own homes, with their own wives, and with their own daughters.  Even so, my husband did read the booklet, and as usual, he said in four words what has taken me, in this book-review, over 800 words to say, “This book is beautiful.”

You can buy Dressed to Kill: Thinking Biblically About Modest & Immodest Clothing for $2.50 online at Tulip Books.