Monday, January 18, 2010

Should Pastors Wear Special Clothing? Part 1

Let’s talk. Here is my view. Perhaps you have a different one and would be willing to interact with me on this.

I’m against Pastors wearing special clothing. That’s pretty simple isn’t it? Okay, let me explain a bit. First, I can find no Scriptural precedent for Christian pastors dressing differently than any other Christian. All Christians are priests of the most high God (1 Pet. 2:9) and Jesus is our High Priest (Heb 7). It is true that Paul says that he acted in a priestly service on behalf of the Gentiles (Rom. 15:16), but in the context he is doing exactly what all Christians are supposed to do in their roles as priests. We are all supposed to be ministering as priests to those around us. So, if we are to wear special clothing because we are priests, then all Christians should wear special clothing, not just pastors.

Second, the argument I keep hearing, that clerical garb is part of the historic Reformed church, is simply uninformed. The historic Reformed church did not wear clerical garb. According to Abraham Kuyper (Our Worship, p. 58-64), when the pastors left the Roman Church they could not wear the uniform of the church so they wore what they had, which was academic gowns. “But that robe was not a clerical costume, not an ecclesiastical gown, but a very simply robe that every educated person then wore.” So, from the earliest days the pastors wore robes, but they were academic robes, not clerical robes. Then, as the suits and haircuts moved into the church and men thought it was stylish to wear clothing that distinguished them from the rank and file, the assumption was that these academic robes were actually clerical robes.

Kuyper goes on to say that each time pastors changed what they wore it was because of styles in either academia changing or fashion in society changing. Then, as always happens, the church fell behind the times with regard to style. What they wore appeared to be somehow holy, when in reality it was simply out of step with the rest of the world. But Kuyper’s point was that what the pastors wore, historically, had nothing to do with thinking they were wearing clerical garb, they were simply dressing like they dressed as academics.

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