According to the 17th and 18th century Reformed theologian Francis Turretin, the seventh commandment includes prohibitions against “all unchaste obscenity” existing in the heart and manifesting itself in “obscene words and immodest gestures.” He adds,
We do not doubt that under these are contained the painting of the face and the loose and lascivious dress of the body, when lewdness flows from the soul into the clothing, from the conscience to the surface: dances and lascivious motions, demoralizing scenic representations and stage plays (usual now); intoxication, habitual drunkenness, gluttony and the like (which are so many different allurements and incentives to this kind of illicit intercourse). It is certain that all these are comprehended under this interdict, since they are frequently condemned in the Scripture as characterizing the heathen and the children of this world (Rom. 13:12, 13; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 1 Jn. 2:15, 16). They are wrong for Christians to indulge in, who ought not to be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2), but are bound to regulate their whole lives in accordance with sobriety, temperance, modesty and holiness (Tit. 2:12; Rom. 13:13).
I’m not quite ready to tell my wife not to paint her face any more, but it is worth considering how Turretin’s view of Christian living compares with that of his heirs today. So before we criticize the fundamentalists for being overzealous in their application of the Scriptures to the lives of the faithful, we should at least acknowledge:
- that some Christians have been struggling to follow with specific application the spirit of God’s word for many centuries,
- that some Christians did not look at the outward actions of people as an indifferent matter,
- that some Christians did find the outward actions of people to be representative of the inward disposition of the heart, and
- that heretofore such application was seen as the sober call of Christ to greater conformity to true holiness and obedience to the Scriptures.
See Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrace Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1994), 11.18.5 (2:121).