What is the difference between principle and standard and how does this apply to modesty?


Could you explain the following for me, please? Basically, I would like for you to tell me what the difference between a "principle" and a "standard" is and give me your take on a sermon. The preacher is basically saying that Christians can't use the Old Testament to bind standards of clothing on Christians today. I sharply disagree with this, in part because I have read your articles on modesty and I agree with the Scriptures you have used to establish a definite line for acceptable clothing in public.  

He stated:

The “fruit of the Spirit” as found in Galatians 5:22ff.  What specific standards are given relative to the applications of these characteristics?  “None” is the correct response, and yet everyone recognizes the propriety of preaching on these topics- even in the absence of specific standards of application.  

The absence of a standard for that which is “too tight” and therefore deemed “immodest”.  Proponents of this logic are responsible to provide a standard here as well or quit preaching on this aspect of immodesty.  If not, why not?  Where is the consistency? 

I endeavor, and hopefully succeed in so doing, to preach principles where principles are taught and standards where standards are taught within the scope of the New Testament.  “Modesty” is a principle just like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (or “generously” or “bountifully” or “cheerfully” from 1 Corinthians 16:1ff; II Corinthians 8,9). But we cannot establish absolute standards where none are given!

In addition, the preacher also says that brethren who use the Isaiah 47 for a standard are inconsistent in their application because we don't bind the veil today. I would argue that Paul loosed it in I Corinthians 11 (although I know you don't agree with that view).

I continue to appreciate the articles you have here at the web site. I thank you in advance for your scriptural response.


When people wish to make an argument based on the difference of definition between two words, it is best to head to the dictionary to find out what those words mean.

a basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct;
a rule or standard especially of good behavior
a basic truth or law or assumption
rule of personal conduct
a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated
criterion: the ideal in terms of which something can be judged
established or well-known or widely recognized as a model of authority or excellence

Often we turn to the Greek and Hebrew to show how words translated into English were used in the original language, but we can't in this particular case because neither "principle" or "standard" are used in the Bible to describe types of authority. ("Standard" appears in the Old Testament in reference to a battle flag only.) It is not that we can't talk about these matters, but I want you to see that we are starting out with a distinction created by a man, not one found established by the Scriptures.

But really, what is being argued is that standards of modesty cannot be defined because modesty is "too hard" to define. Therefore, except in extreme cases, you can't say something is immodest. This false reasoning is covered in the lesson "Reviling What They Do Not Understand." Can modesty be defined? The answer is "yes." We only use the New Testament to establish the laws under which we live, one of which is that we are to dress modestly. But we can use the entire Bible to help us define and illustrate what is meant when a law is given. "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).

I read through his lesson and he listed verses commonly used to define what is nakedness (not modesty).

"Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, take off the skirt, uncover the thigh, pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, and I will not arbitrate with a man" (Isaiah 47:2-3).

What was uncovered that caused them to be called "naked?" It was uncovering the thighs. For a woman in this era to be seen without a veil was also considered shameful and so was mentioned.

"so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt" (Isaiah 20:4).

Exposed buttocks was also called shameful.

"And if you say in your heart, "Why have these things come upon me?" For the greatness of your iniquity Your skirts have been uncovered, Your heels made bare. ... Therefore I will uncover your skirts over your face, That your shame may appear" (Jeremiah 13:22).

Removal or lifting of what covers the bottom half, the skirts, was a cause of shame, along with being forced to walk barefooted -- an indication of slavery.

"And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs" (Exodus 28:42).

What should be seen is a pattern. The exposure of the genital region of the body was called "nakedness" and was considered shameful. Included in this region was the buttocks and the thighs. But again, these verses do not define modesty, they define what is beyond immodest -- nakedness.

What was sad is that while giving lip-service to the truth that God expects Christians to be modest, he simultaneously claims that modesty cannot be defined and therefore cannot be bound. Thus, whether he realizes it or not, he is claiming that God gave a law which cannot be understood -- contradicting "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). Not once does he attempt to define modesty in his lesson. I assume that is because he doesn't want this bound upon him or those he knows in any way.