We’ve seen this one before. Tim Challies applies the skin test to movies to argue against watching a performance that involves bare breasts:
What would it take for you to be okay with your wife participating in that scene? Would you send her off to work tomorrow knowing that she would be topless for hours at a time, that she would be rolling around on a bed with another man as a crew looked on, as they adjusted the lighting, as they practiced different angles, as the director instructed her, “No, put your hands there. Move in that way…” She would not be having sex with him, but she would be doing her best to act like it, to make others believe it. She would be taking all she knows of the movements, the motion, the pleasure of sex with you and imitating it with this other man. Wife, what would it take for you to be okay with your husband stripping her and kissing her and carrying her to bed? My guess is that you cannot imagine any scenario in which that would be tolerable, in which that would be moral and right. Now hold onto that conviction for a moment.
Why exactly is this a slam dunk?
Consider women who serve as physicians and examine men’s private parts (among others) for a living. Why doesn’t the skin test apply to careers in medicine? Heck, what about nurses who bathe men in hospital beds?
And it’s not just a question of exposed flesh. If we made comfort with-what-the-missus does a standard for engaging with the world, what do we do with a woman who is a defense attorney and represents people she knows to be guilty before the law? Or for those complimentarians out there, what do you do when your wife serves in the military? Leave the OPC?
The point is that we all have different standards for different levels of engaging the world. When my wife comes before session, either I recuse myself because I am going to have to relate to her as an elder rather than as her husband, or I put on a different vocational hat. Same goes for when I enter the voting booth. I don’t use the same standard for a political candidate that I do either for a wife or for a minister.
Life comes with different standards. For pietists that concession is the road to hypocrisy. For Old Lifers, it’s just life on planet earth between Christ’s advents.