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A Short History of the Wearing of Clerical Collars in the Presbyterian Tradition

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By Contributing Scholar, Timothy LeCroy

Introduction
There does not seem to have been any distinctive everyday dress for Christian pastors up until the 6th century or so. Clergy simply wore what was common, yet muted, modest, and tasteful, in keeping with their office. In time, however, the dress of pastors remained rather conservative, as it is wont to do, while the dress of lay people changed more rapidly. The result was that the dress of Christian pastors became distinct from the laity and thus that clothing began to be invested (no pun intended) with meaning.

Skipping ahead, due to the increasing acceptance of lay scholars in the new universities, the Fourth Lateran council (1215) mandated a distinctive dress for clergy so that they could be distinguished when about town. This attire became known as the vestis talaris or the cassock. Lay academics would wear an open front robe with a lirripium or hood. It is interesting to note that both modern day academic and clerical garb stems from the same Medieval origin.

Councils of the Roman Catholic church after the time of the Reformation stipulated that the common everyday attire for priests should be the cassock. Up until the middle of the 20th century, this was the common street clothes attire for Roman Catholic priests. The origin of the clerical collar does not stem from the attire of Roman priests. Its genesis is of Protestant origin.

The Origin of Reformed Clerical Dress
In the time of the Reformation, many of the Reformed wanted to distance themselves from what was perceived as Roman clerical attire. Thus many of the clergy took up the attire of academics in their daily dress or wore no distinctive clothing whatsoever. Yet over time the desire for the clergy to wear a distinctive uniform returned to the Reformed churches. What they began to do, beginning in the 17th century as far as I can tell, is to begin to wear a neck scarf, called a cravat, tied around the neck to resemble a yoke. Thus common dignified attire was worn by the pastor, supplementing it with this clerical cravat. This style can be seen in many of our famous Reformed divines, one of the more famous of whom being Charles Hodge.

ImageCharles Hodge pictured with clerical cravat

When Reformed pastors would enter the pulpit, they would add what is known as a “preaching tab” or “neck band” to their clerical dress. This type of dress is nearly ubiquitous among 17th and 18th century Reformed pastors. Here are a few examples:

ImageJonathan Edwards featuring clerical cravat and preaching tabs

ImageGeorge Whitfield

ImageJohn Owen – 17th century Reformed pastor

In the following picture we see more clearly the use of both the clerical cravat and the inserted preaching tabs by one Thomas Chalmers.

ImageThomas Chalmers, 19th century. Notice both the cravat and tabs clearly visible.

The reader will note that the men depicted here were of great eminence as Reformed pastors and theologians. They are all well known for their commitment to Reformed theology and biblical teaching and practice. These are not obscure men who sported clerical attire.

One might ask whether this sort of attire was universal among the Reformed. The answer is, no. Upon perusing several portraits included in the Presbyterian Encyclopedia of 1880, published by Presbyterian Publishing Co. of Philadelphia, I found that there was diversity of clerical attire chosen by Presbyterian pastors of the 19th century. Some wore clerical cravats. Some wore what looks like a modern rabat with a collarette (a black vest which closes at the top with a bit of white collar revealed all around). Others wore bow ties or neck ties. The conclusion to be drawn is that in the Presbyterian tradition, there has been diversity of clerical dress without any type enforced over the other.

Another objection that might be raised is whether or not this neck band or cravat, such as we see Charles Hodge wearing, was in any way distinctive clerical garb. Several 19thcentury sources reveal that these cravats were, in fact, considered distinctive clerical garb. The following quote is from a 19th century source called The Domestic Annals of Scotland, Volume 3:

In the austerity of feeling which reigned through the Presbyterian Church on its reestablishment there had been but little disposition to assume a clerical uniform or any peculiar pulpit vestments. It is reported that when the noble commissioner of one of the first General Assemblies was found fault with by the brethren for wearing a scarlet cloak he told them he thought it as indecent for them to appear in gray cloaks and cravats. When Mr. Calamy visited Scotland in 1709 he was surprised to find the clergy generally preaching in neckcloths and coloured cloaks. We find at the date here marginally noted that the synod of Dumfries was anxious to see a reform in these respects. The synod – so runs their record – “considering that it’s a thing very decent and suitable so it hath been the practice of ministers in this kirk formerly to wear black gowns in the pulpit and for ordinary to make use of bands do therefore by their act recommend it to all their brethren within their bounds to keep up that custome and to study gravitie in their apparel and every manner of way.”

Here we see several members of the 18th c. Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) having their hackles raised over some ostentatious clergymen wearing scarlet cloaks and cravats. Later they hold a Synod where they decide that they ought to wear black gowns and to make use of neck bands. This paragraph shows us two things: the wearing of cravats was considered to be distinctive clerical garb, and the synod of the kirk decided ultimately that modest use of neckbands was permitted. (There are many more such examples in 19th century sources which can easily be researched on Google Books. I invite the reader to see for himself.) Thus when we see all manner of 17th-19th century Reformed pastors sporting preaching tabs, neck bands, and cravats, we should interpret them to be intentionally sporting distinctive clerical garb. We should also gather that the author of these annals, one Robert Chambers, included this anecdote in his work in order to promote the modest use of bands and clerical garb in his day.

The last bit of history to cover regards the origin of the modern clerical collar. According to several sources, including one cited by the Banner of Truth website (no Romanizing group), the modern clerical collar was invented by a Presbyterian. In the mid 19th century heavily starched detachable collars were in great fashion. This can been seen up through the early part of the 20th century if one has watched any period television shows or movies. If we observe the collar worn by Charles Hodge we can see that at first these collars were not folded down as they are today, but left straight up.

ImageCharles Hodge revisited. Notice the upturned collar protruding from the top of the cravat.

Yet in the mid to late 19th century it became the fashion of the day to turn these collars down. You and I still wear a turned down collar. The origin of the modern clerical collar is simply then to turn or fold the collar down over the clerical cravat, leaving the white cloth exposed in the middle. According to the Glasgow Herald of December 6,1894, the folded down detachable clerical collar was invented by the Rev Dr Donald McLeod, a Presbyterian minister in the Church of Scotland. According to the book Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, “the collar was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric’s everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode.”

Yet two questions arise: how did the clerical collar then fall out of use among Presbyterians and how did it come to be so associated with Roman Catholic priests? The answer is that up until the mid 20th century the prescribed dress for all Roman Catholic priests was the cassock, a full length clerical gown. Yet during the 20th century it became custom for Roman Catholic priests to wear a black suit with a black shirt and clerical collar, which collar they appropriated from Protestant use. Owing to the large number of Roman Catholic priests in some areas, and due to the fact that some sort of everyday clerical dress was mandated for all priests at all times when outside their living quarters, the clerical collar became to be associated more with the Roman Catholic Church than with the Protestant churches. It stands to reason that once again a desire to create distance between the Reformed and Roman Catholics and the increasing desire throughout the 20th century for ministers to dress in more informal ways has led to the fact that barely any Reformed pastor wears any distinctive clerical dress these days, though plenty of examples show that our eminent forbearers desired to do so.

Sources
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, 2003
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, 1996
The Presbyterian Encyclopedia, Alfred Nevin, 1880
Wikipedia: Clerical Collar
Wikipedia: Bands (neck wear)
Wikipedia: Clerical Clothing
Clerical dress and insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry McCloud, 1948
Domestic Annals of Scotland, From the Revolution to the Rebellion of 1745, Robert Chambers, 1861, pp. 147-148.
Google Images
Google Books
Wikimedia Commons
Ken Collins’ Website – Vestments Glossary
Banner of Truth Website
Pastor Garrett Craw’s Blog

Dr. Timothy LeCroy is a Special Contributing Scholar to the Kuyperian Commentary and is the Pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Columbia, MO.

This post originally appeared on Dr. LeCroy’s blog, Vita pastoralis.

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The SCOTUS Decision and the Christian Future

by Uri Brito

Christians are called to be a future-oriented people. This is easy to forget when we see clear judicial reversals of what God has judicially declared. The SCOTUS decision does not change what is, it simply re-enforces that what is is not cherished. When “what-is” is not cherished, people seek out that which is not.

The Creator established a pattern for all of history. He established condemnations attached with those who attempt to usurp that divine pattern (Rom. 1). The pattern which God has created let no man put asunder. Scalia’s dissent brilliantly summarized the undoing of this pattern:

“Some might conclude that this loaf could have used a while longer in the oven. But that would be wrong; it is already overcooked. The most expert care in preparation cannot redeem a bad recipe.”

Untrained cooks are raving about this new recipe. Though overcooked, it is still the flavor of the day. This is the out-working of that very first sin. As C.S. Lewis observed:

Through pride the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every vice, it’s the complete anti-God state of mind.

And speaking of anti-God state of mind, mainline churches are celebrating today’s ruling with the same enthusiasm as the vocal LBGT community.  The InterFaith Alliance President the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement celebrating today’s Supreme Court decisions:

The enormity of today’s decisions cannot be overstated. The combined impact of these two rulings puts our nation further down the inevitable and proper path towards full marriage equality for the LGBT community. All Americans should rejoice in today’s decisions because they bring us that much closer to fulfilling the promise of our Constitution. I am hopeful that today’s decision striking down DOMA as unconstitutional and overturning the Proposition 8 case on standing will be followed by continued victories in this fight for equality. That a majority of the Court recognized in the DOMA case that this was an issue of equal protection denied is no small victory.

The IRS, on the other hand, is in panic mode. Though nationally distrusted, now it is going to have to create two tax regimes:

One system, for couples in states where same-sex marriage is recognized, will allow gays and lesbians to file their tax returns jointly, exclude them from paying taxes on their spouse’s estate and clear them to contribute together to health savings and flexible spending accounts. The other system, for couples in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage, wouldn’t allow such benefits.

The law does get complicated when the equality trumpet is sounded in a minor key. Ultimately, this is not about civil rights, this is about imposing one right: the right to call evil good and good evil. And these advocates will not rest until their agenda is accepted at a national level. We all know that California has not only bitten the garden fruit, but devoured it. The serpent did not even need subtlety in his argument. However, persuading the nation, that is another story. And as long as there are ten righteous, God will not destroy us.

We are a future-oriented people. And we should always be. Jesus has not relinquished his throne to a perverted Caesar. He is still king of kings and Lord of marriage. His marriage is still to a female bride. And while Hollywood cheers on this ruling, we should be saying “bring it on!” The prophets of Baal may eat well at Jezebel’s table. They may conspire against us and the Lord’s anointed, but when they are finished God will laugh for the future is his.

Uri Brito is the founder of Kuyperian Commentary.

What’s In a Name?

by Peter Jones

Naming is an essential part of the human experience. We all place names on things around us. That is a car. That is a Toyota Sienna minivan. That is a 2001 tan Toyota Sienna minivan with three dents in the hatch. And on and on it goes. We follow after our Creator who named the night, the day, the sun, the moon, and man. But he did not just name things as nouns, he also declared them to be good or very good. After the fall he named things good or bad, righteous or unrighteous. The Scriptures explicitly forbid us from calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). The Christian life is one of naming things correctly.

In our postmodern era, it is hard to hold this line. Our world is a complicated one. Things were simple once, back in the day. But now we have become more aware of the overwhelming complexity of this world. Names used to be so obvious. But we were deceived then. There used to be truth that we could name, but now there are only truths, socially constructed ideas that help us name our various realities.  We used to know a woman from a man. Now is it a woman or man? Who knows? Read more…

10 Bread Symbols In the Bible You Should Know

By Steve Macias

A post about bread? You butter believe it. No bun intended. It’s a Manna-festo. 😉

Bread

Both the Old and New Testaments include lots of references to bread: Jesus was born in the “house of bread” – Bethlehem, bread is central to the ritual Jesus himself prescribes to the church, and even takes a clause in the Lord’s prayer. We “knead” to be familiar with the Bible’s use of bread. (Last pun, I promise.) Symbolism is important because it shapes how we understand God.

“The universe and everything in it symbolizes God. That is, the universe and everything in it points to God. This means that the Christian view of the world is and can only be fundamentally symbolic. The world does not exist for its own sake, but as a revelation of God.” [2]

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What does it take to write well?

Though it is most often attributed to the great sports writer Red Smith, no one knows for sure who first bled this great insight- “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” Like all great metaphors, this one invites us to slow down and examine its many facets.

First, writing hurts. It hurts in part because you are giving up for public view that which courses through your veins. Though we likely all do it to one degree or another in whatever line of work we do, precious few lines of work have such a clear and immediate connection between the product and the producer. It is my own life-blood, and when it is rejected or despised, I am rejected and despised.

Second, it’s just me. Sure it may in involve paper and ink, or cyber-paper and ink, but no one reads for either the paper or the ink. The raw material is me. I am the one manipulating the raw material. I am the one polishing the raw material. It all starts with a blank page and the writer. The page doesn’t bring much to the table.

That said, there is raw material that feeds the raw material.  I like to think of myself, in terms of my writing, as a pig.  (No doubt I have plenty of critics who would agree.) What I mean is this. A pig takes in copious amounts of stuff, some of it fairly expensive and fine, like pig feed, much of it cheap and base, like scraps from the family table. In God’s good providence, the pig then turns that stuff into something profoundly treasured and dear- bacon. But it takes more than just the consuming to get that done. The pig has to die. In like manner I consume copious amounts of stuff. I read fancy books written by theological giants, and I read blog posts and magazine articles by acerbic wits. But I also take in my surroundings and my circumstance. I am always watching or reading (consuming) or mulling (digesting) or bleeding (giving up the bacon.)

We are often told to write what we know. I would add that writing as bleeding requires that we write what we care about. We can’t expect our readers to invest in that which we are ourselves only mildly interested in.  When we describe our favorite sports team we affirm, “I bleed black and gold.” (Everyone’s favorite teams wear black and gold, right?) When we write we need to be pouring out of us what matters most to us.

Finally, bleeding, or the circulatory system, comes naturally to us. In like manner we should write as we speak. You don’t need to “discover your voice.” You need to understand that your voice is “your voice.” The scary thing about writing is it’s just you. The easy thing is it’s just you. Fake you, affected you, no matter how charming, can never be as good as real you. Use your rhythms, your vocabulary, your diction, your blood.

OK, finally finally. The moment your blood stops flowing you die. With writing it is the same. Write as often as blood is flowing through you. Or to be more clear- write always. On the other hand, know when to stop.

Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr. teaches at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida where he also serves as a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He is a contributing scholar to Kuyperian Commentary.

This article was originally published here.

“Gay Marriage”… A Closer Look at the Rhetoric, Part 1

Guest Post by Ben Rossell
We need to reverse these outdated and unfair laws! My sister steals things because she is a clepto. She was born a clepto and she will die one. For her it’s the same as being tall or fair-skinned. For her, NOT stealing would be unnatural … even borderline immoral! Calling her theft “wrong” is naive, judgmental, and cleptophobic! Why don’t these people understand this! Our nation’s laws and our societal stigmas have persecuted robbers for far too long! I stand on the side of love and equality with my sister and every burglar like her! Stop the ignorance and stop the hatred!

This Holy Week*, our Supreme Court is considering whether sexual acts performed between two people of the same gender is something that the United States has an interest in endorsing so much so that it should officially overturn four centuries of legal precedent on this continent, not to mention millennia of cultural norms and moral consciousness as well as to contradict the uniform historic testimony of each of the three major monotheistic faiths.

It is here we see the chink in Libertarianism’s armor .   Read more…

Slavery, Polygamy, and the Bible

Guest Post by Tim Gallant
Non-Christians (and increasingly, those who self-identify as “Christians”) frequently dismiss biblical ethical norms with a quick “Oh, but the Bible condones slavery and polygamy!”

With, of course, the obvious implication that the Bible’s morals are awfully unreliable. Because it “condoned” things that we find offensive, and that even Christians seem embarrassed about. (We Christians, after all, seem agreed by now that both polygamy and slavery are bad.)

And then, having cast aside the Bible as a reliable guide, we enlightened moderns can take on that role of deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong.

Now, there are several answers to that line of argument, one of which is that the Bible does not simply condone either slavery or polygamy; it regulates them, which is not the same thing.

Moreover, the slavery the Bible countenanced was never based on kidnapping, an offense which in fact carried with the death penalty under the Mosaic law (Exodus 21:16). “Slavery” among fellow Israelites was a form of indentured servitude, and “perpetual slavery” was only countenanced in connection with prisoners of war. Even in their case, the Mosaic law did regulate things to avoid their mistreatment. If a slave ran away, other Israelites were forbidden from assisting in his return (Deuteronomy 23:15); and if a slave’s master seriously harmed him, the slave was automatically authorized to go free (Exodus 21:26). Even a slave wife (concubine) was to be granted freedom if her husband ever diminished her marital rights (Exodus 21:10-11).

But there is much more involved in understanding the Bible’s position regarding both slavery and polygamy than scouring the Mosaic law and ensuring a balanced and proper interpretation of these situations through its case laws—as important an exercise as that indeed is. Read more…

“Easter” Is Not a Bad Word

It is once again the time of year that folks begin to ramp up for Easter. Easter bunnies, Easter egg hunts, and other various trappings are beginning to be ubiquitous. Now, I will be the first to recognize that the secular (and especially corporate) focus on fluffy bunnies, eggs, and the like is an attempt to sterilize the explicit Christian content of Easter, specifically that of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Yet, I would also argue that Christians who wish to push back against that sterilized (if not secularized) view should not abandon these traditional symbols of Easter, but should fully embrace them and refill them with their Christian meaning.

The same can be said of Christmas. The traditional symbols of Christmas- St. Nick, trees, gifts, feasts- may have been sterilized, secularized, commercialized, and paganized, but that does not change the fact that St. Nick is a real Christian saint, that the Wise Men really offered gifts to the baby Jesus, and that trees and feasts also have their origin in biblical theology. No more should we as Christians abandon these symbols of Christmas than we should abandon the traditional symbols of Easter.

Yet, while I have asserted that the traditional symbols for Easter, including the word “Easter” itself, are Christian in origin, I have not yet substantiated that claim. What is my claim exactly? Well you may have heard that the word “Easter” is of German pagan origin. As a result we Christians sometimes get a little uneasy about using that word. In this post I set out to argue that the word “Easter” is not of pagan origins, and that the word “Easter” itself is actually a Christian metonym for the word “resurrection.”

German Easter Tree Read more…

Is it true that “if you don’t have a conversion story you don’t have a conversion”?

Sure it is. As long as what we mean by “having a conversion story” is broad enough to include, “I have loved and depended on the finished work of Christ as far back as I can remember.” Sadly, it is unlikely this is what people who say such things mean.

There are at least two different kinds of believers. Some are what we call cradle Christians, others might be called crisis Christians. And because both groups are composed of sinners, it is not at all unusual for them to fuss and fight with each other. In the first instance we have those who have been raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They have been taught the things of God from their youth. Indeed they may have been, as John the Baptist appears to have been, converted in their mothers’ wombs. (Remember that even before he was born John lept to be in the presence of Jesus, who likewise was still in utero (Luke 1:41). Remember also that this is not a denial of the need for conversion. Even cradle Christians were once children of their father, the devil.

In the second instance are those who have more dramatic conversion stories. They remember a time not believing, and have in turn experience in that unbelief. That is, it is not uncommon for these folks to be profoundly conscious of their lost state before their conversion, sometimes via a life of peculiar licentiousness, others via the memory of a gnawing emptiness/fear despite a relatively upright lifestyle. These folks are well aware of when they walked out of the darkness into the marvelous light.

The Bible is chock full of both kinds of conversions. Paul’s conversion was rather dramatic, as was that of the thief on the cross. The Philippian jailer, the Ethiopian eunuch both would be able to look back on a particular hour in a particular day and give thanks. Who though in the Bible is a cradle Christian? Virtually every believer in the Old Testament. Indeed one would be hard pressed to even find a conversion at all among the sons of Abraham. David, though conceived in iniquity (Psalm 51:5) trusted from his mother’s breast (Psalm 22:9). While we see many faithful men of God, we do not witness “conversions.” These trusted in the coming work of Christ, and so became the friends of God, even with no conversion stories.

Those who argue that without a conversion story we are not converted are admirably seeking to guard against the danger of presumption that can come from those who grow up in Christian homes. It is all too easy to think of oneself as a heavenly “legacy,” one who is almost due salvation by virtue of being the child of a believer. I appreciate the concern, but fear this kind of language throws the baby out with the baptismal water, and ironically adds works to our faith.

That is, eager to deny that we are saved by baptism (which is a good thing to deny) they then add to the biblical necessity of trusting in the finished work of Christ for salvation this- remembering when you first started to do so. That is, we end up teaching justification by faith plus remembering when your faith started. It is an odd form of the Galatian heresy. Perhaps worse still it makes our perseverance dependent on our memory. I wonder how many people taking this position will one day, in old age, lose their memory, and therefore lose their story and if this claim is true, lose their salvation.

We are not saved from God’s wrath by remembering when we were saved. We are saved by remembering by Whom we are saved, by trusting in His work alone, adding neither the faith of our parents nor our memory of being given that faith.

Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr. teaches at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida where he also serves as a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He is a contributing scholar to Kuyperian Commentary.

This article was originally published here.

Could a New Pope Mean the End of a Celibate Priesthood?

new pope, Pope Francis, Jorge Bergoglio, pontiff, sede vacante

Early in the week, Uri Brito briefly outlined the array of challenges that would face the next pope. Since that time, the white smoke has risen to signal the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the office of Pontiff.

Among the major challenges facing him are the still frequent occurrence or discovery of sexual scandal within the priesthood, and the rising tide of cultural consensus regarding homosexual marriages. For the Roman church as an organization, the sexual misconduct is arguably the more pressing. One solution proffered by a minority within the Roman church has been that priests be allowed to marry.
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