Conservative Views Vs. Legalism

By Lynne Yohnk

I have never had an issue with a person having strong personal convictions regarding certain issues such as dress and hair. I believe that the scripture says that we need to respect another Christian’s personal beliefs and not try and make them change who they are or what they believe. This isn’t to say that we should not have our own beliefs and speak or write on them. It simply means that we should respect another’s right to have their own.

The Bible says that “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind”. Romans 14:5

I believe there is a difference between conservative views and legalism. In this article, I hope to clearly differentiate between the two. A true conservative is one who will hold certain views no matter what. It is a heart issue and something deeply believed. A true conservative does not judge another based on these personally held views. For example, a conservative may strongly believe that they themselves shouldn’t have a television set but a conservative will also feel that it is a personal choice and that others are free to do as they choose. Legalism, on the other hand, demands conformity to a set of rules regardless of circumstance. Legalism judges and condemns others for having a differing viewpoint. Legalism judges another’s spirituality based on whether or not they conform to things that are not clearly biblical.

Many of the standards in the United Pentecostal Church are not clearly defined as sin in the Bible. We have, for example, Deut. 22:5 “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so are an abomination to the Lord.” This scripture clearly defines a principle, that we should not wear clothing of the opposite sex but it does not state in any way that a woman cannot wear pants. (In actuality, nowhere in the articles of faith or position papers of the United Pentecostal Church does it state this. It is an oral tradition. The position papers mention a distinction between a man and woman without specifically mentioning pants or skirts.) So there is a clear principle in the scripture about not cross-dressing but the scripture does not define this in the same way that the United Pentecostal Church does by oral tradition.

The UPC will often state that it is the same principle as a dress code at work and none of us have an issue with that, so why have an issue with a church dress code? The fact is that if it were simply a church dress code, I couldn’t find fault with it. But it is not a simple dress code. The reason I say this is because it is made into much more than a dress code when people make statements about one’s salvation when they do not adhere. This makes the dress code into a salvational and legalistic issue rather than a simple dress code and opinion about how to apply scripture.

Again, there is a difference between a conservative view and a legalistic one. How many times have we heard it said, “Standards are not salvational”? This is often said, but then we heard these phrases right behind it:

“She is wearing pants again. She backslid.” This is a judgment about one’s salvation because of the wearing of pants.

“She trimmed her hair. We know that trimming hair is a lack of submission and is rebellion and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” This makes a woman trimming her hair the same as witchcraft when 1 Cor. 11 talks about long hair but simply does not clearly state that a woman cutting her hair is sinning.

“Women who wear make-up are like Jezebel.” Jezebel was a very wicked woman. This judges a woman to be wicked simply because she wears make-up.

“The first thing a woman does when she backslides is trim her hair.” This puts a woman who trims her hair into a backslid condition.

I offer the following quotes from the following authors as evidence of legalism rather than conservatism:

“In applying the foregoing concepts, we can draw several important biblical principles and make practical applications for today... Men should not wear attire that is distinctively female, which for Western clothing means dresses and skirts. Women should not wear attire that is distinctively male, which for Western clothing means trousers, slacks or pants.” (Practical Holiness: A Second Look, David K. Bernard, pg. 173) Here D.K. Bernard defines pants as distinctively male when the vast majority in our society would not do so. I am fine with a person having a personal conviction on these matters but in my opinion it crosses a line when someone decides to define things for a whole society when the definition goes against the majority opinion in society.

“This young woman had long hair but persisted in trimming it despite what was taught. She opened her home for an invasion of the enemy because she lifted the covering through her disobedience. Before long her husband fell into adultery with a girl in their neighborhood. Their lives were shattered and their ministry was completely ruined. The spirit of vanity had caused her to become more concerned about the appearance of her split ends than her obedience to God.” (Power Before the Throne, Ruth Rieder, pg. 69) Ms. Rieder talks in her book about why she thinks it is biblical for a woman to not trim her hair, offering her opinion but little evidence. She says that a woman who trimmed her hair was opening her household to a spirit, which in turn caused her husband to commit adultery. Even if it were biblical for a woman to not trim her hair, I think blaming the wife, when the husband is clearly to blame, is off base. The reason I say this is legalistic is that it is simply not clear in the Bible that a woman is not to cut her hair, nor does it state in any way that if a woman cuts her hair she is opening up her family to spirits that she shouldn't. I believe that scripturally the man is the protector and not the woman's hair.

“Do not listen to the modern day prophets of Baal and the beauty parlor owned by Jezebel. She will tell you to paint your face, cut your hair, and be immodest, but where did she end up? The dogs ate her bones and licked up her polluted, wicked blood, after she fell down from a window in which she was preening herself for all the world to see.” (A Call to Holiness, Joy Haney, pg. 165) The guilt that these types of words place on a woman if she desires a little lip gloss or to be rid of split ends can be devastating. All this and yet the Bible nowhere specifically says that it is evil for women to wear make-up. If Jezebel wearing make-up makes it evil, there are many, many things that must also be evil that UPC’ers think are fine using this type of thought process. (Read my article The 55 Mile An Hour Church for a demonstration.)

Women are sometimes attracted to standards for the same reasons that men are: control. If, as Ruth Rieder says, we can control our men through our long hair, it is indeed an attractive thing. Women are given many reasons for holding to standards. Ruth Rieder demonstrated one in her book and here are some more:

Here a woman’s authority and power and some control over her life are offered through long, uncut hair: “The woman’s authority from God is symbolized by her personal glory- her long, uncut hair... the entire spectra of God’s glory on earth is clouded when women cut their hair.” (pgs. 24, 25) "Women have always sought control... by inverting God’s principles, they obtained more evil power... Women do not need the use of perversion to manipulate their surroundings. For God has given holy women a way to control their environment without sin.” (pgs. 27, 28) “Yet, many in-between women are not in control of their situations simply because they are ignorant of God’s endowment.” (pg. 29) (Guardians of His Glory, Gary and Linda Reed) I find these statements amazing. Women can control their environment by not cutting their hair??? Where in the Bible does it say this? But it can be very appealing to a woman who feels her life is spinning out of control.

“God designed it to prevent certain moral evils such as the blurring of sexual roles and homosexuality.” (Practical Holiness: A Second Look, D.K. Bernard, pg. 179) Here, D.K. Bernard is writing about why women should wear dresses in our society and addressing the objections to it. I don’t know if D.K. Bernard is aware that he is effectively saying that if a woman does not agree with his definitions of Deut. 22:5 that she is refusing to prevent these certain moral evils in our society.

Women in the UPC are taught that if they cut their hair they are rebellious and not submissive and are hindering the angels from working in the earth. They are taught if they wear make-up they are like Jezebel and want to seduce men. They are taught if they wear pants that they are helping homosexuality to gain ground in America. All this is very heavy stuff. Women are also taught that through obedience to these teachings that they can control many things.

Again, I am fine with personal conviction but personal conviction does not need guilt and condemnation and judgment of others. I believe the Bible teaches principles...that women should not portray themselves in the manner of a man, not cross-dress, and not be seductive and a Christian woman should be modest. But I feel that these teachings above are additional to what the Bible teaches.

“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?" Col. 2:20-22

This writing is the copyright of Lynne Yohnk and was posted with her permission. Additional articles may be viewed here. Her email address is if you wish to write. Please let her know if you appreciate her writings!

Page added February 23, 2006


August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2016 by Lois E. Gibson
Contents of this web site and all original works are copyright - All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of the owner.

Shop at our Amazon store! This website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to