Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas and Naturism

What has naturism in common with Christmas?

Or what significance is there in Christmas to naturism?

My thoughts on this question sprung out of a quotation I read from Pastor David L. Hatton. I quoted it to close my post, Just What DOES God Think about My Body, but now I’ll comment further.

The highest compliment ever paid to the entire physical human body, and the clearest commentary on its decency, dignity and sacred worth, is the bodily manifestation of God's Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, in truly 'human' flesh by His Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension and predicted Second Coming: a truly “human-friendly faith” (DLH)

The commonality between Christmas and naturism is in the dignity with which naturists view the human body, and the dignity of the body as affirmed by the incarnation.

And Christmas is significant to naturism because it allowed us to see God in human flesh. The human body is not evil, indecent, nor defiling… not to God, not to ourselves, and not to any around us. God literally allowed Himself to be seen in an unclad human body. This was no sin or indignity to God, nor should it be for any of us.

In case you’re thinking that God only allowed that to happen while Christ was a baby, I would challenge you to think again (I did not originate the following statements, but I recognized their truth, so I’ll pass them on here).

Consider this… some of the most significant events in Christ’s life were moments when He was without clothing:

  • At His birth, like every other child ever born, our very first glimpse of God in the flesh was that of a naked child. This is biologically undeniable.
  • At Christ’s baptism, He was almost certainly baptized according to the Jewish practice of baptism which was (and still is) called the mikveh. For both practical and religious reasons, the mikveh was and is performed while the one being baptized is completely unclothed (even jewelry and braided hair are not permitted). This is historically verifiable.
  • At the washing of the disciples’ feet, Jesus laid aside His “clothes.” The Greek term used (himation) is plural and is used in other passages to indicate all of a person’s clothing. While we are told that He “girded” Himself with the towel, this was not the girding “around” (Prefix: peri- meaning “around” – periz┼Źnnymi), but a putting on which required passing “through” (Prefix: dia- meaning “through” – diaz┼Źnnymi). The most natural way to carry a towel you intend to use on someone’s feet is over one’s shoulders, not around the waist. Jesus probably just made a loop with the towel through which he passed His head. This is exegetically verifiable and logically sensible.   
  • At Christ’s crucifixion, the One who was called “King of the Jews” was hung up for all to see… and the mark of His Jewishness — His circumcised penis — was in plain view. The Romans crucified their convicts without any clothing. Any clothing they had of any value was confiscated and claimed by the soldiers carrying out the execution. The Scriptures tell us clearly that in Christ’s case, they did just that. This is historically and biblically undeniable.
  • When Jesus rose from the dead, the Bible tells us clearly that He left the grave clothes behind in the tomb. When Mary Magdalene encountered Him outside the tomb, she mistook Him for a gardener. This mistake can only be adequately explained if we understand that gardeners worked unclothed to avoid soiling their clothing, and Jesus was still unclothed after the resurrection. This is biblically and logically tenable.

These points are not listed here as a “defense” of naturism. They are presented as a reminder that our Savior — while fully God — was fully human. The dignity of deity embodied in human form. This dignity was undiminished while unclothed, and was not augmented while clothed. How better for us to see and know this than for God to allow us such a real and personal experience of His unadorned humanity?

The incarnation was God’s plan from eternity past, and it was fulfilled at His birth. Our God is now with us… EMMANUEL. Visible, tangible, in a very human body. A short 33 years thereafter, that same human body bore our sins. Thanks be to God!

May you rejoice in our Savior’s human birth this season.

Merry Christmas!

Matthew Neal

Friday, September 25, 2009

Naturist by Biblical Conviction??? — [Part 3]

“There is absolutely no way I could see beautiful women naked and not lust.
Those were the words of “Shea” in my email conversation regarding Christians and naturism.

For most people, I suspect that the mere thought of mixed gender nudity would conjure up all sorts of sexually charged imaginations. They assume that the willingness to be seen naked by someone is also an invitation to have sexual relations with them, either mentally or in the flesh. Therefore, they conclude, morally upright Christians will only view the nudity of—or be seen nude by—the one with whom they may righteously have sexual relations.

The exception is, of course, if they must be seen naked by someone who is providing medical or parental care.

(Does it bother anyone that neither the “rule” nor the “exception” is found in God’s Word? Hmmm... I smell another blog post there...)

In this series of posts, I’ve been talking about why my naturism is not just a preference, but rather an expression of Biblical Convictions. This is Part 3, so if you have not already read both Part 1, and Part 2, I would urge you to do so before reading this one.

I’ve already presented 4 reasons explaining why I am a Naturist by Biblical Conviction. I have two more in this post.

Before I share them, let me reiterate that in no way do I consider Naturism to be a license to cast away God’s clear teaching that sexual union is for marriage only. Furthermore, I affirm Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-28 regarding lust; Naturism is not an excuse to engage in mental adultery.

But if you’re like Shea, whom I quoted above, you’re pretty sure that for any man, just seeing a beautiful woman naked will lead inexorably to lust. Obviously, therefore, the best way to prevent lust is to make sure that we see no nudity except that of our own spouse.

Makes sense, right?

The problem is, it’s dead wrong.

And that leads me to my next reason...
Reason #5 - Avoiding the sight of nudity is of no value at all in restraining lust.
Yes, you read that right.

I know it’s true because God said it is true.

It’s found in Colossians 2:20-23
20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:

21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?

22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.

23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Man-made rules lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Since the prohibition against nudity for the sake of controlling lust is a man-made “command,” then we can be absolutely positive that it has no value at all in restraining lust. None!

In case some might say, “Well, doesn’t it make sense that if I struggle with lusting after womens bodies, I shouldnt allow myself to see them?” Indeed, that does make sense. It absolutely has the “appearance of wisdom.” But as you can see from God’s clear teaching in this passage, that doesn’t matter. It simply won’t work.

You could put it this way... if avoiding nudity truly helped us to curb lust at all, then God would be a liar.

God is no liar. His words are true. Man-made rules are utterly useless in the control of lust.

It would be easy to point out the many indications of this in our lives and in our culture, but I’ll just make one observation...

It is no mere coincidence that a society with the most pervasive taboos against nudity in the world is also the world’s biggest consumer of pornography.

I’m talking about the United States, of course.

And we pride ourselves on our Christian heritage, to boot. All the pervasive Christianity in our social fabric hasn’t helped a bit. Statistics show that at least 50% of Christian men admit to a struggle with pornography. The real number is likely much higher than that.

I would wager that even among the most “conservative” Christians, the percentages are no better, and likely worse... because they are most committed to—and dependent upon—“the rule.”

There is not nearly enough space here to explain why such a prohibition not only fails to abate lust, but actually makes it worse, but let me give one example.

There is a book that has swept the churches of our nation called Every Man’s Battle. In that book, the author encourages men to practice “bouncing their eyes.” This means that every time a man sees something on TV, print, or in real life which might entice him sexually, he should quickly avert his eyes.

The man committed to this practice will be “bouncing his eyes” for the rest of his life, for he will never be able to escape such images and sights for very long in this world.

Furthermore, he will have to maintain a constant vigilance to always be on the lookout for a potential lust-inducing sight! He must train himself to never allow his potential for lust to be out of his mind. He literally must have a mental focus on lust at all times!

And he will never learn to have anything except a lustful response to what he sees.

Here’s the problem... When a man chooses to avert his eyes from a woman or an image to avoid lust, he is actually reaffirming the place of lust in his own heart. Lustfulness is presumed to be “natural,” so it remains entrenched in the heart while its presence is blamed on external objects, persons, or images.

Jesus Christ was fully human. In truth, He still is. Jesus did not, nor does He now “bounce His eyes” at the sight of a woman’s body.

If you want to be Christ-like, don’t bounce your eyes... control your thoughts instead. “Bouncing the eyes” is not a fruit of the Spirit; self-control is.

I have to point out another Scripture passage here. This time, the words of Jesus, Himself. They’re from Mark 7:14-23.
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”
This is for all of us in “the crowd.” He really wants us to understand this...

Nothing outside a man can make a man unclean. And “nothing” means... Nothing! Nothing edible, and nothing visible. Either way, it is something outside of us. When it enters us—by mouth or by eye—it cannot make us unclean.
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 ”Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
Jesus’ disciples didn’t get it. We today don’t get it, either. We still think that something outside of us can defile us simply by entering into us.

Note here that Jesus gives both a truth (nothing outside a man can defile), and an application of the truth (food cannot defile you). Jesus did not intend for this to be the only possible application. This is abundantly clear from the list of sins Jesus mentions next that do defile us. They are not a list of sins commonly associated with food.
20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
I have highlighted in red the sins in the list which we could associate with sexual sin or lust. Jesus is teaching that even these sins come from within... not from outside us!

Jesus couldn’t be more clear here. Lustful thoughts and actions do not arise from what we allow ourselves to see. If excluding all nudity from our sight was the key to avoiding sexual sin in our hearts, then Jesus would be a liar.

Jesus is no liar. His words are true. What we see never produces impurity within our hearts.

As one friend of mine put it, when we refrain from lust by controlling what we see, we are only suppressing impurity, we are not conquering it. When we lust after what we see, we are only revealing the impurity that already exists in our hearts.

God’s Word is clear. Any man-made rule for controlling lust is bound to fail, and nothing that I see can cause me to lust.

These are my biblical convictions.

And finally...
Reason #6 -I have no obligation to bow to the opinions of others.
I have been told by people who profess to be committed followers of Christ that what I believe is false and what I practice is sin. They have literally taken actions against me which could have cost me my livelihood because I would not submit to their declaration that I am in sin. These same Christians now look down upon me and have little regard for me, my beliefs, or my Christian walk.
  • Should I lay aside my beliefs because many (or even most) Christians condemn my practices as contrary to God’s moral law?
  • Should I quit my practice of naturism because I could face more mistreatment or ostracization if it were to become known to others in my social/church circles?
  • Should I reject what I have learned from God’s Word in order to maintain peace and “unity” within my extended family?
In all cases, No.

Why? Because of the teaching of God’s Word in Proverbs 29:25...
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
If I make the important decisions in my life on the basis of what other people think about my decisions, it will be a snare for me. I will be voluntarily giving up my freedom in Christ and submitting to bondage.

But if I stand firm in the truth as I believe God has revealed it to me from His Word, I must trust Him for the consequences. He is more than able to keep me safe, no matter what others may say or do against me.

As I write this here today, I can testify that God has been true to His promise. His provisions for me and my family through all the opposition we have faced have been astounding to me. He has kept us safe. He has proved faithful to us, in spite of the opposition of others.

I must never deny what God has revealed to be true because of the opinions or actions of others against me.

This is my biblical conviction.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is much more that I could say, but with this I close this series on Naturist by Biblical Conviction.

Once again, let me give the bottom line for me in reference to these last two convictions.

You can see that they are convictions about truth, not about clothing. My convictions have to do with what I believe to be biblically true, not about a desire—or any sort of requirement—that we be unclothed.

Because I hold these things to be biblical truths, I have to ask myself—as we all must in the face of God’s Word—how do I live consistent with these truths?

For me, to profess these things to be true but continue to live in a perpetual state of being clothed would be logically inconsistent.
  • The only way I know of to actively reject the idea that avoidance of nudity guards against lust is to embrace the expression of nudity without lust. To claim that what I see cannot cause lust while continuing to carefully avoid nudity to avoid lust is simply double-minded.
  • The only way I know of to express trust in God rather than the fear of man is to actively choose to live contrary to the opinions of others when my study of God’s Word leads me to do so... no matter the consequences. To be unwilling to stand for truth when threatened by others is to give up my freedom in Christ. Nothing is worth that price.
I have biblical convictions about what is true. I have chosen to be a naturist in order to express and live those truths.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Martin Luther was a man who faced mortal threats against his own person because of his beliefs. He was specifically denounced as a heretic by the established church. He was put on trial and commanded to renounce his writings and recant his beliefs. He stood before a host of men who were against him.

In that moment, he spoke one short paragraph—which has since become legendary.

While I am no “Martin Luther” nor have I faced what he faced, his words do resonate in my heart. I close this series with those words, in hopes that in some measure, I can make them my own.

“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” — Martin Luther, April 18, 1521

Friday, September 18, 2009

Naturist by Biblical Conviction??? — [Part 2]

Most Christians probably believe that being a naturist is a sin against God. Others might only believe it's a lifestyle choice... “to each his own” they might say.

But for me, I am a naturist because I am a follower of Christ, and I believe that truths I have come to know from God’s Word have led me to intentionally practice naturism. I am a Naturist by Biblical Conviction.

And such a claim deserves an explanation.

It is my intention in the post to tell why I am willing to claim that my practice of naturism is the fruit of a biblical conviction. I have several reasons.

In Part 1 of this series of posts, I gave the first two reasons that my biblical convictions have led me to practice naturism (if you have not read it yet, please do, since what I write here is a continuation of what I wrote there).

In the introduction to my previous post, I repudiated the notion that naturism is about sexual titillation. My third reason and conviction speaks further to that issue.

Reason #3 - It is shameful to consider the unclothed human form to be primarily sexual in nature and impact.
This reason is related to the first one, that God created us in His image (Gen 1:26-27). The most significant observation we can make about the nude human form is that it displays a visible likeness of the invisible God! God’s self-portrait is unveiled. Each and every person reveals a unique version of that image, each one personally crafted by the Master Artist.

In the modern cultural mindset, we have completely abandoned that recognition and we have replaced it with the shameful notion that a body’s shape is significant only for its sexual impact! Instead of seeing the Glory of the Eternal Creator on display, we only assess the impact of the sight on our own libido. We literally evaluate God’s image on the basis of how the sight of it stirs up sexual desires!

This is a great and horrific shame!

Mind you, I’m not talking about the pornographers here... I’m talking about Christians!!

I have no reason to expect those who do not know the Creator to treat His creation with honor, but it saddens me deeply that those who profess to know Him harbor the same false mindset as the pornographers.

You see, we as Christians demand that the body be covered for the purpose of preventing sexual lust. This very “rule” assumes that seeing an uncovered human body will have sexual impact... and that this is the only impact it can have!

If it’s not yet clear why I consider this such a shameful perspective, allow me to illustrate with another meaningful emblem.

Like so many of you, I love my country. Therefore the flag which represents my country commands tremendous respect in my heart. The thought of someone burning it irks me. Know the feeling?

Imagine for a moment that someone took the flag that I love and used it as a wash rag to clean their car. I would think (and probably say!) “What’s wrong with you?? Don’t you know what that flag stands for??? Don’t you love the country that flag stands for? How can you use the emblem of our country as if it’s just a rag?”

It’s not that we don’t need rags to wash things, but treating a flag as if it’s just another piece of fabric is an insult to the country that flag stands for.

It’s not that sexual activity is a bad thing (it is wonderful in its place, of course), but treating the naked body as if the sight of it is just a precursor to sexual activity is an insult to the God that body reveals.

The Bible does not teach or endorse such a view.

This is my biblical conviction.

Reason #4 - The prohibition of nudity is a man-made rule which we have no moral obligation to follow.
There is not space under this point to “prove” the truth of this statement. Indeed, demonstrating its truth is the ultimate aim of this entire blog. However, I will address one very commonly used Scripture that many people settle on as “proof” that God intends for us to be clothed.
Gen. 3:21 “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”
That’s the verse that many people depend upon, including the man from GotQuestions.org with whom I had a discussion concerning his post regarding social nudity (posted here).

What I have quoted above is all the Bible says about the event. Notice the things missing from this passage:
  • No stated purpose for the clothing.
  • No command that Adam and Eve remain clothed.
  • No “exception clause” for man and wife.
If we were to take this passage as a mandate for clothing, then we cannot avoid the conclusion that we must keep clothed with our spouses even when no one else is around, for that is the very context where God gave the “mandate.”

If it were a mandate, then Adam and Eve would have had to:
  • Understand that the purpose is to abate sexual lust, even though inappropriate lust was not a reality in their world yet.
  • Understand that the “mandate” will not really need to be followed until children were born.
  • Understand that husband and wife were exempt from the requirement when it was just the two of them.
All of this, they had to understand without the benefit of God explaining it to them. In like manner, we today have to read all of these things into the passage because God “neglected” to include it. By definition, that is what is called eisegesis, and we cannot attempt to interpret Scripture that way.

This is just one passage that is used to declare that it is God’s will that people always be clothed around anyone but their spouse. However, the passage simply cannot bear the weight of the interpretation laid upon it.

Every other passage similarly used also collapses under the weight of the man-made rule it has been put forth to support.

(If anyone knows of a passage they believe supports the notion that social nudity is against God’s moral law, please write us here and I will address it respectfully and in detail.)

So, if the prohibition against nudity is not found in Scripture, then we must conclude that it is a man-made rule. And if a man-made rule, Scripture teaches us that we have no moral obligation to follow it. In fact, Paul’s words in Col 2:20-23 actually encourage us in the opposite direction!

Without any doubt, we must follow God’s moral laws, but we must not submit to man-made rules of righteousness.

We dare not speak falsely about God that He has declared a moral absolute when He actually has not. We cannot presume to know the mind of God on an issue which He could have addressed clearly in Scripture but did not.

No, we have no obligation to follow the false rules of righteousness put forth by men, no matter how they have the “appearance of wisdom” (Col. 2:23).

Indeed, like Paul, we should openly renounce them and encourage others to reject them as well (Col 2:20-23, Gal. 3:1-7, Gal 5:1-8)

This is my biblical conviction.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m still not done, so I’ll write more in Part 3.

Again, however, to close out this post, let me give the bottom line for me in reference to these convictions.

You can see that they are convictions about truth, not about clothing. My convictions have to do with what I believe to be biblically true, not about a desire—or any sort of requirement—that we be unclothed.

Because I hold these things to be biblical truths, I have to ask myself—as we all must in the face of God’s Word—how do I live consistent with these truths?

For me, to profess these things to be true but continue to live in a perpetual state of being clothed would be logically inconsistent.

  • The only way I know of to combat the notion that nudity is only a precursor to sexual expression is to experience nudity with others when sex is not part of the social equation. Limiting my nudity to contexts where sexual expression is morally permitted only affirms the shameful view of our bodies.
  • The only way I know of to truly reject man-made rules is to intentionally live contrary to them. Jesus Himself openly refused to follow the man-made religious rules of His day. To claim to reject the rules, but continue to follow them at all times is not credible.
I have biblical convictions about what is true. I have chosen to be a naturist in order to express and live those truths.

More convictions to come in Part 3.

Matthew Neal

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Naturist by Biblical Conviction??? — [Part 1]

Yep. That’s me.

If you read my profile page, you’ll see that I close my description of myself with those words.

Startling words—I suspect—for just about any Christian in America, and probably most Christians elsewhere, too.

So, perhaps I should explain why for me, it’s not just a preference, hobby, fad, or fetish. It is my response to God’s Word... it’s how I am embracing and applying God’s truth to my life.

Now, before anyone jumps to unwarranted conclusions (already too late for some, no doubt), let me start by clearing the air about what I dont mean by that.

I do NOT mean that I think...
  • Everyone should be a naturist.
  • I’ll just go naked all day every day.
  • It is God’s will that we live in a perpetually naked society.
  • Clothing has no place.
  • Sexual conduct has any place outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage (1 man/1 woman).
A few words about that last point first... Naturism is not an excuse to engage in extramarital sexual activities. It is not for the purpose of voyeurism or exhibitionism. It simply is not about sexual titillation. Those who pursue naturism for those reasons are not true naturists and they do not represent me, my actions, nor my beliefs.

Now that that’s out of the way...

It is my intention in the post to tell why I am willing to claim that my practice of naturism is the fruit of a biblical conviction. I have several reasons.
Reason #1 - Being ashamed to allow my body to be seen is an insult to the One who stamped His own likeness there.
We as human beings are—by God’s own declaration—created in His image. My study of the Hebrew word translated “image” in Gen. 1:26-27 reveals that every time the word appears in the Old Testament, it refers to a visible representation. Consequently, I am forced by the rules of biblical interpretation to accept that meaning here as well. I cannot fully grasp or explain how a God who is Spirit can also have a shape that can be represented physically, but neither can I deny it. I simply have to accept the plain meaning of God’s Word.

That’s worth its own blog post another time... but for now, let me continue.

If I had a photograph of my beautiful wife in my wallet, my home, or my office, but I was fearful of it actually being seen, so I always kept it draped or hidden, wouldn't you think that I was somehow ashamed of my wife’s looks? If I refused to ever let anyone see what she looks like, would not my wife rightly believe that I was ashamed of her? Would it not be an insult to her?

If—as I believe—our bodies are actually self-portraits of the Almighty, then can you see how our embarrassment over allowing it to ever be seen exactly as He made it would be an insult to Him?

Indeed, I believe that Satan’s suggestion to Adam and Eve that their nakedness was a problem (I believe Satan was the “who” of “who told you...?” in Gen. 3:11), was precisely for the purpose of insulting the Creator! Satan—the envious angel who himself wanted to be “like God”—influenced a fallen Adam and Eve to be ashamed of the one thing that was the mark of image-bearing which Satan himself did not possess... their bodies! (I’m not saying that’s all there is to image-bearing, but it’s the only one we have which Satan does not!)

If I am unwilling to allow someone to see my unclothed body, it reveals that I have very low esteem for the Artist or the artistry of His self-portrait imprinted there.

This is my biblical conviction.

Reason #2 - God’s design for humanity was that we be “naked and unashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)
It is inescapable that God’s original design for human society was that people would live together without the moral need for clothing. More importantly to my point, however, is that it was His intent that they be completely unashamed of their naked bodies.

The point is not that God delighted in the nudity of the first couple (although I believe He did), but that it pleased Him that they were in no way ashamed of their nudity! And for sure, being naked was no sin against His character or His moral law.

I am not saying that God wants you and me to always be naked, I am saying that God wants you and me to not be ashamed of our bodies or fearful of allowing them to be seen by others! And I’m saying that nudity is no sin against God.

Nowhere in the Bible does God command clothing of all people. Nowhere is “naked and unashamed” rescinded as a Godly ideal. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that we must cover our bodies to prevent lust (as if it truly worked...). Nowhere are we ever told that it is impossible in a fallen world to be free of the personal body-shame that steals "naked and unashamed" from us.

In case you believe that pre-fall realities are not to be pursued at all in this fallen world, I will remind you of three relationships that existed pre-Fall:
  • Perfect relationship with God. (walking with God)
  • Perfect relationship with spouse. (the two were “one flesh”)
  • Perfect relationship with self. (“naked and unashamed”)
All three relationships were damaged at the Fall. We have been reeling under the repercussions of that loss ever since.

But God’s ideal has not changed. He still desires that we walk in fellowship with Him. He still desires that husband and wife are "one" in spirit, soul, and flesh. And He still desires for us to be free from shame, even while naked.

Most people will quickly jump up and say, “But we live in a fallen world!!”

Indeed we do. But since when does that invalidate God’s ideal?
  • Does that mean that we should not try to walk with God?
  • Does that mean we should not try to have a healthy relationship with our spouses?
  • Does that mean that we should embrace shame as the irrevocable birth defect of all humanity?
In all cases, No!

What part of the Fall did Jesus not redeem me from?

God’s pre-fall ideal for humanity is still His ideal for us today. Even Jesus Himself, when asked about the legality of divorce, quoted the pre-fall command in Gen. 2:24 as the basis for His answer regarding God’s persistent ideal for post-fall marriage permanence.

The very next verse describes the first couple as “naked and unashamed.”

Would anyone suggest that Jesus would have accepted Gen. 2:24 as worthy of pursuit in a fallen world, but not Gen. 2:25?

I will not.

This is my biblical conviction.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m not done yet, but this post is already long. I’ll write more in Part 2 (and Part 3?).

But to close this post out, let me give the bottom line for me in reference to these convictions.

You can see that they are convictions about truth, not about clothing. My convictions have to do with what I believe to be biblically true, not about a desire—or any sort of requirement—that we be unclothed.

Because I hold these things to be biblical truths, I have to ask myself—as we all must in the face of God’s Word—how do I live consistent with these truths?

For me, to profess these things to be true but continue to live in a perpetual state of being clothed would be logically inconsistent.
  • The only way I know of to express the belief that my body is made in God’s image—by God’s hands, for God’s glory—is to cease being unwilling for others to see it as if my own dignity would be damaged as a result. It is no indignity to allow God’s image to be seen.
  • The only way I know of to pursue God’s ideal that I have the freedom in my heart to be “naked and unashamed” is to actually make an effort to practice it. To claim to be unashamed while judiciously keeping covered is simply not credible.
I have biblical convictions about what is true. I have chosen to be a naturist in order to express and live those truths.

More convictions to come in Part 2.

Matthew Neal

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Surprising Admission!

I was fascinated that my email “debate” with Bob about nude baptism generated more response than anything else I had written to date!

That made me think about posting another dialogue I had with the “Answer-Man” from another Christian site. At the site, GotQuestions?org, there is a page which addresses the following question:

Can a Christian be a nudist? What does the Bible say about nudity?

I read the article, of course, and found that it was not convincing. So I wrote to them about it. The discussion that ensued is included below.

The interplay requires a little bit of contextual explanation here because I chose a different approach when I first started the conversation. Let me explain:

Instead of simply challenging him as his opponent, I only referred to myself in the 3rd person. I did not just try to point out all of the weaknesses in his argument, I simply told him that I didn’t think his argument would convince a brother who was a naturist, and I asked him if he could make his case any stronger.

In truth, I was actually representing myself as I was while investigating the issue before I became a naturist. I honestly wanted to know if his case against social nudity could be made stronger, so I gave him the chance to do that proactively, rather than challenging him point by point so that his response would be reactive instead.

The result was that he did not argue with me as with an “enemy,” but rather he treated me as a friend, for he assumed that I agreed with him, and that I was only facing the challenge from another brother.

I believe that this engendered a greater degree of honesty in his responses to me than he would have afforded me had I revealed that I was the Christian Naturist that I was referring to.

I also used a different name, but I have replaced it with “Matthew” for its publication here in the Blog.

Again, this is a long post, but I didn’t want to put all the emails in separate posts. Like the last one, I’ve tried to format it so that it’s easy to follow. The legend is as follows:


Blue = My words.
Red=His words.
Black = quotations from external sources

Can a Christian be a nudist? What does the Bible say about nudity?


Here is what I wrote in my first email:

I just read the following article:

Can a Christian be a nudist? What does the Bible say about nudity?

I found your answers to be too weak to convince a brother who believes that it is not biblically wrong for a Christian to be a nudist.

Allow me to share with you what his response would be to your statements:

Answer: There is nothing essentially sinful about nudity (Genesis 2:25). Adam and Eve did not realize they were naked until after the Fall (Genesis 3:7-11). Before the Fall, they were naked, and it was good (Genesis 1:31).

To all of this, he would agree

Sin is what caused nakedness to become a problem. Sin introduced lust, immorality, and perversion into the human race.

Again, to this he would essentially agree. But he does not believe that sin made nakedness evil, only that sin perverted the way mankind sometimes views nakedness. He would note however, that sexual “lust, immorality and perversion” are not found in the account of the Fall at all.

As a result, we can no longer look at a nude person of the opposite sex in a pure manner.


This he would claim is absolutely false. Otherwise, it would be impossible for godly Christian doctors to serve their patients. It would also mean that men could not bathe or care for their daughters and women could not bathe and care for their sons. In like manner, no one could care for aging and debilitated parents of the opposite gender.

He would claim that if doctors can live above such a response, anyone can.

How would you answer him?

God made clothing for Adam and Eve to resolve this problem (Genesis 3:21).

This brother would point out that this claim is without any basis in the text. He correctly points out that God did not tell us why He gave Adam and Eve clothing. And since lust is nowhere in the context, he would see your assertion as eisegesis.

If God approved of nakedness, He would have simply told them that being naked was okay, and they did not need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.

This man would find this statement very presumptive, declaring to know what God would or would not do. Furthermore, if God had made such a statement, we would conclude that nudity was a sign of righteousness, which it is not. He believes that God is neutral about nudity and therefore did not express intent one way or the other.

The fact that God clothed Adam and Eve indicates that God expects us to be clothed.

This brother points out that if this were the case, then it must also be concluded that God does not intend for husbands and wives to be naked with each other, for that is the context in which God gave this “command.” If husband/wife are to be excluded from a clothing requirement, then the exclusion is missing. But above all, he would point out that there is no command given, and a simple narrative cannot be considered an imperative.

Nude beaches, nudist colonies, and all other forms of public nudity are not honoring to God. A Christian should definitely not be involved in nudist “activities.”

These concluding statements, of course, are based upon all your assertions made up to this point. If the assertions are weak or invalid, then of course, the conclusion cannot be trusted either.

Can you make any stronger case than that which you’ve provided?

Thank you for you time.

Matthew

I quickly received the following response:


Answered by: Shane

Answer: Matthew, you gave me several items that your friend would claim we are not interpreting Scripture correctly, but you did not tell us how He would interpret those passages, without eisegesis. If we are reading them incorrectly, your friend needs to give us his alternate explanation and understanding. He can’t just say “You’re wrong, that’s eisegesis!” without giving a different interpretation.

My second email



Shane, thank you for your quick response.

I’m sure I could get you his responses directly if you wanted.

I do have an issue with your last statement, however, You said,

“He can’t just say,‘You’re wrong, that’s eisegesis!’ without giving you a different interpretation.”

First of all, I don’t believe that’s true. We all must know how to recognize eisegesis even if we are not yet sure what the correct interpretation of a passage yet is. Wouldn’t you agree? For example, if I’m studying any given passage of Scripture, I have to guard against “reading into” the text anything that isn’t there. Otherwise, I might come to a faulty interpretation. This is important quite independently of -- and prior to -- having another interpretation to compare to.

Secondly, I related to you his objection to your statement about claiming that God provided clothing in order to “resolve” the problem of lust, immorality and perversion when none of those things are mentioned anywhere in the text. That’s his basis for claiming that this is eisegesis, and it’ a point with which I can’t argue. It isn’t in the context at all. I was asking you how you know that is indeed what God was doing.

I have to tell you that when I first ran into a committed and bible-believing Christian who believed that social nudity was not forbidden by God, I thought he was nuts. But when I interacted with what he said, I discovered that here was a brother who loved Jesus Christ as much as I, who loved the truth of God’s Word as much as I, who cared deeply that it be correctly exegeted as I do, and who was honest and careful with exactly what God did and did not say in His Word.

I also quickly discovered that many of the things I had always assumed to be true about the Gen. 1-3 account of the creation and the Fall simply were not found in the text. I found that I could not exegetically defend the position which I had held all my life even to my own satisfaction. This is why I raised the question with you, for your statement basically reflected what I had been raised to believe. Do you have any more exegetical basis for that interpretation than I had?

Perhaps I could boil down my questions to two main queries:

1. How can you be certain that God’s purpose for covering was to address sexual lust, immorality and perversion?

2. On what Scriptural basis can you claim that “we can no longer look at a nude person of the opposite sex in a pure manner”?

Thank you for your attention!

Matthew

His second response:

Matthew,

Before we proceed any further, I’d really like to hear your friend’s answers. You ask, “How can you be certain that God’s purpose for covering was to address sexual lust, immorality and perversion?” I ask, “If not to prevent lust, what was God’s purpose for covering nakedness?”

Also, in regards to doctors examining / operating on a naked person, that is different. There is no comparison between a doctor seeing a person naked in the privacy of an office and a grown man or woman walking around naked in public.

I would also be interested in how your friend views adults appearing nude before children.

I would also be interested in how your friend responds to the fact that most governments outlaw public nudity, and the Bible commands us to obey the government.

Shea

GotQuestions.org

My third email:


Shea (and/or Shane),

Thanks for writing.

I’m sorry to say this, but I’m pretty disappointed in your answer. It sounds to me like you’d rather take shots at someone else’s position than defend reasonable questions against your own.

I’ve always believed that truth is not afraid of an honest challenge. In my opinion, if you do hold the truth, you’re not acting like it. I don’t mean to be harsh, but that is a standard I hold myself to, and I respect it greatly when I see it in others.

Before we proceed any further, I’d really like to hear your friend’s answers. You ask, “How can you be certain that God’s purpose for covering was to address sexual lust, immorality and perversion?” I ask, “If not to prevent lust, what was God’s purpose for covering nakedness?”

Let me answer by showing you why I could not use that approach to defend the position I grew up with.

1. I can’t justify adding “lust, etc.” to the text where it does not appear. By definition, that’s eisegesis. To this point, you still have not shown me why this would be a valid claim. “What else could it be??” is not a valid proof.

2. Your question itself betrays that you believe you already know the answer, for even your question about what the Scripture means adds to what the Scripture says. Let me explain.


Perhaps it’s a fine point, but in truth, your question presumes that God was “covering nakedness” on purpose... as if “nakedness” was the issue. But again, that’s not in the text. It only says “He clothed them.” If I were to examine the Scriptural purposes of clothing, would I find that the only purpose for clothing was to cover the genitals and prevent lust? No, I wouldn’t. So if even the whole body of Scripture offers more than one reason for clothing (warmth seems to be a major theme), why would I have to conclude that in this case, it was only the “lust” factor and not a “warmth” factor? Since neither are mentioned, what basis do we have to claim one is right over the other? So far as I can tell, either explanation might be reasonable, but neither is exegetically mandated.

But you claim that it was for lust without being willing to offer any other Scriptural basis for your claim.

I’m sorry, I can’t be satisfied with that for an argument, and I know that the guy I’ve been talking about wouldn’t respect it, either.

Also, in regards to doctors examining / operating on a naked person, that is different. There is no comparison between a doctor seeing a person naked in the privacy of an office and a grown man or woman walking around naked in public.

But your statement was that “we can no longer look at a nude person of the opposite sex in a pure manner.”

That is not a “qualified” statement. You presented it as if it were incontrovertible. If that statement is true universally, it is true for doctors as well. If it is not true for doctors, then how can it be an adequate basis for declaring moral absolutes? We cannot afford to descend into situational ethics just to preserve what might be actually be a man-made rule, can we?

Does God really have one standard for doctors and another for the rest of the human race? Isn’t that essentially what you are suggesting? Is that biblical? I suppose that if there was a verse that specifically exempted doctors from God’s laws regarding nudity, it would make a stronger case for the assertion that “the rest of us” have to abide by a different standard. If there is such an exemption in the Bible, I’d like to see it.

I would also be interested in how your friend views adults appearing nude before children.

I would also be interested in how your friend responds to the fact that most governments outlaw public nudity, and the Bible commands us to obey the government.

I will let you ask him yourself if you are willing to interact with him personally.

But, honestly, I was asking you to answer my questions in support of your own assertions; I did not write to ask you to tear apart a friend’s. I want to know how you know Scripturally and exegetically that you are correct, not why you think someone else is wrong.

Thank you for your time.

Matthew

His third response:


Matthew,

I am sorry you are disappointed, but you are the one who is trying to get me to answer something. If you want me to answer your question, do you not have to “play by my rules”?

I am in a similar place as you on this issue. I cannot produce an explicit biblically solid case against nakedness. That is why I am asking these questions. I want to know if they can be answered from the nudist’s perspective. “To keep them warm” is just as much “eisegesis” as “to prevent lust.”

Sincerely in Christ,

Shea

GotQuestions.org


Well, there’s an amazingly candid admission! “I cannot produce an explicit biblically solid case against nakedness.” !!!

What is perhaps even more amazing is the fact that while he admitted that reality, he’s still absolutely certain that he knows the mind of God on the matter anyway!

Oh, well... Back to the discourse (I couldn’t help but comment about that... sorry).

My fourth email:



Thank you. This answer was much better!

I am sorry you are disappointed, but you are the one who is trying to get me to answer something. If you want me to answer your question, do you not have to “play by my rules”?

Pardon me, but find a lot of irony in that statement. Your website says this: “GotQuestions?org The Bible has the answers, we’ll find them for you!”

As I see it, your posted “rules” are for me to have a question. Your rule is to “find answers.”

I am in a similar place as you on this issue. I cannot produce an explicit biblically solid case against nakedness.

I really appreciate this honesty.

That is why I am asking these questions.

I appreciate you admitting this, too. I would have appreciated it even more on the first email, however.

I want to know if they can be answered from the nudist’s perspective. “To keep them warm” is just as much “eisegesis” as “to prevent lust.”

The guy I’m talking about would agree that it is “speculation” to suggest that God gave A&E clothing for warmth (since any suggestion is speculation because God didn’t spell it out for us), but he does find basis in the Biblical text itself to reject the “lust” reason and embrace the more mundane “warmth/protection” idea, as you will see below.

(When something is not clear from Scripture, “speculation” says “it’s possible that...” where “eisegesis” just declares, “this is because...”)

Here are his main points on the creation/fall story:

1. God created mankind in His own image. This is a very high honor. The implications of this truth are far-reaching. Among other things, it suggests that Satan might have a strong motive to hate humanity, body, soul, and spirit.

2. Before for the Fall, nudity wasn’t a problem. It could even be surmised that a nude society was God’s design and intent. He suggests that if the Fall had not occurred, that men and women could have lived perpetually in a naked society without having any problem with lust, even though they would see many nude bodies of the opposite gender. At very least, there’s no indication at all that this would not have been true for there is no hint of nakedness being an issue with God or man until after the Fall. Of course, we can’t know because it didn’t happen that way.

3. Three words after “naked and unashamed,” (Gen 1:25) we are introduced to Satan in the form of the “serpent” (Gen. 2:1). This could suggest that the introduction of shame (and the discomfort with nakedness) might have come by his agency. More on this in a minute.

4. After eating the fruit, they “knew they were naked” (how? more on that, too). At this moment, they were now the “proud owners” of a depraved mind. Thereafter, we are told that they made three other choices: A) The covered themselves. B) They hid from God, and C) they deflected the blame for their disobedience. All would agree that B) & C) were sin, but most still assume that A)was natural and right.

5. God addressed all three of those actions with B) “Where are you?”, A) “Who told you...?”, and C) “What have you done?” None of these can be considered affirmation. And their correct response would have been to simply come to God (no hiding) exactly as He made them (not clothed), and confessed their sin (not blaming others). In other words, all three responses were wrong—actions springing from a sinful heart.

6. Their shame for their bodies was misplaced. Their sin had nothing to do with sex or with their bodies, it had to do with choosing their own way instead of God’s. It had to do with listening to and obeying a voice other than God’s. They should have been ashamed of their choice, not their bodies. Therefore, their body-shame was inappropriate and indefensible... and certainly not God’s will.

7. As to “how” they knew of their nakedness, God specifically asked Adam that question by saying, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen3:11). No answer is given, so we have to use deduction. Of the 5 possibilities (Adam, Eve, God, Satan, or “no one”), only “Satan” and “No one” can be considered viable. The “No one” answer assumes that they were informed by the act of eating the fruit. But since God knew exactly how they knew they were naked, it is safe to assume that He formed the question with the real answer in mind. Therefore, since God used a personal pronoun (“who”) and an active verb (“told”) in the question, it should point us to an answer that included personal agency. The only “person” who could be the answer to God’s question then is Satan. He was present, active, and surely had motive.The fruit was not personal, nor could it act in any way.

8. If that deduction is accurate, then it means that Adam and Eve’s concern over their naked state was a result of their listening to Satan rather than God. God’s question in Gen. 3:11 gives strong evidence that this is so.

9. So, when we get to Gen. 3:21, we find that God clothes Adam and Eve without saying one word about why He did so. We can only speculate as to His reason, but it would not be sensible to presume that this action was in conflict with God’s disapproval as expressed in Gen 3:11.

10. There is no lust anywhere in the entire account. Furthermore, there was no possibility of inappropriate lust at that moment since the only two people in the world at the time were married. The idea that the clothing was for controlling lust is completely foreign to the context.

11. The clothing of Adam and Eve came immediately after the curse, and immediately before the banishment from the Garden. Therefore, it is incontrovertible that they were going to be living in a different environment than the one that had been crafted specifically for them. There would now be thorns which could harm the body, and conceivably, a more hostile climate temperature-wise. Therefore, there are clues in the account which would suggest that the provision of clothing was a gracious act of God to provide warmth and protection rather than some preventative.

12. Gen. 3:21 tells us that God clothed them and nothing more. There is no command concerning clothing given even for Adam and Eve, let alone the rest of us. Exegetically, a narrative does not constitute an imperative. If this account did constitute an imperative to remain clothed,then we would also be forced to conclude that God did not want husbands and wives to be naked with each other either, since that was the context where God provided the clothing.

This does not represent everything that he believes from this text, but it’s a reasonable summary as it relates to the issues we’ve been talking about.

For the record, this brother has declared that he did not come to these conclusions in order to support his views on social nudity, but rather, he first studied the scriptures and reached these conclusion. Only then did he reject the nudity taboo as a man-made convention. In other words, his personal practices did not change until he had thoroughly studied the matter from the Bible.

Do you have any responses to this perspective?

Thanks again for your time and attention. Again, I very much appreciated the honest response.

Matthew

His fourth response:


Matthew,

Perhaps there is no conclusively strong argument to be made against nudity exclusively from the Bible. There may be better biblically-based arguments that we are just not aware of. Whatever the case, it cannot be argued that the Bible is FOR public nudity either. Other than the case of Isaiah prophesying naked, there is no instance in the Bible of nakedness being presented as anything but shameful, embarrassing, a situation to avoid.

1 Corinthians 12:23 states that our “unpresentable” parts are to be treated with special modesty. How does your friend respond to that? 1 Timothy 2:9 instructs women to dress modestly...how can nudity in any sense be considered modest?

Ultimately, for me, it comes down to an issue of conscience. There is absolutely no way I could see beautiful women naked and not lust. There is absolutely no way I can see adults being naked in front of children being anything but a perversion. The whole desire to be seen in public naked, to me, seems like a perverted disorder.

Even if there is not a conclusive biblical case against it, I am grateful that modern governments outlaw public nudity, and I am grateful that the Bible instructs us to obey the laws of the government.

Sincerely in Christ,

Shea

GotQuestions.org

My fifth email:

Thanks for writing back.

I have to say that I was hoping for a more thoughtful response to the 12 points I delivered last time. Be that as it may, I’d like to respond to your statements below.

Perhaps there is no conclusively strong argument to be made against nudity exclusively from the Bible. There may be better biblically-based arguments that we are just not aware of. Whatever the case, it cannot be argued that the Bible is FOR public nudity either.

Doesn’t Galatians give us strong warnings against submitting to man-made rules for righteousness? And if the Bible is neutral on the subject, shouldn’t we be neutral as well?

If God had extolled living naked, wouldn’t we be tempted to make nakedness a mark of righteousness? But it’s not. If living naked was evil, isn’t it inconceivable that God would neglect to mention that?

If God intended neutrality on the subject, isn’t it more likely that we would find silence on the matter?

Other than the case of Isaiah prophesying naked, there is no instance in the Bible of nakedness being presented as anything but shameful, embarassing, a situation to avoid.

I’m not sure we can so easily dismiss the account of Isaiah.

Nor can we make the sweeping statement that you just made about nakedness. I’ve heard that declaration many times before, but I have not found it to be as easily defensible as we might assume.

Have you ever examined every place “naked” or “nakedness” or the state of undress is actually mentioned in the Bible? I have. And what I’ve found is that wherever there is nakedness AND shame, there is also some other activity that is very clearly shameful.

And Isaiah’s story is not the only “innocent” nakedness to be found in the Bible. King Saul was overcome by the Spirit of God and laid down naked, prophesying with Samuel and the other prophets all night. The people certainly took note of it, too! They were not shocked at his nudity, but surprised by his change in occupation. The implication is that nudity among the prophets must not have been very uncommon. Isaiah’s nakedness was mostly likely notable because it persisted for three years unbroken in duration.

1 Corinthians 12:23 states that our “unpresentable” parts are to be treated with special modesty. How does your friend respond to that?

I would suggest that you examine the Greek on that one. “Unpresentable” is really a very “interpretive” translation. The word really means “uncomely” as the KJV translates it. It simply means that the part is not that pretty to look at, not that it must be hidden. For some people, their noses or ears or hands are “uncomely,” but we would never say that for that reason alone, they should be hidden.

1 Timothy 2:9 instructs women to dress modestly...how can nudity in any sense be considered modest?

That was a very important verse to me and I’ve studied its meaning in depth. My discovery is that the verse has been very poorly translated. “Adorn” and “modest” (from the KJV) are both based upon the word “kosmos” which means “order.” The word translated “apparel” is not a piece of clothing at all, but the noun form of a verb that in Acts 19:35 & 36 is translated “quiet” “appeased” or “calm” depending on the translation. How can the noun form of such a verb be a simple garment of some kind?

I can point you to an article explaining why it is a mistranslation, and what would be a more suitable translation. The author has posted it online, so you can read it by following this link. It’s certainly not written to defend nudism, but it does show that the traditional understanding of that passage is mistaken.

Regarding modesty, I read something from C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” not long ago which spoke to the nature of “modesty.” This is the opening of his chapter on “Sexual Morality.”

We must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity. The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of “modesty” (in one sense of that word); i.e. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes.

A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally “modest,” proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste).

...I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my own lifetime as a good thing.

If “modesty” is culturally derived, how can it be a Biblical standard?

Ultimately, for me, it comes down to an issue of conscience. There is absolutely no way I could see beautiful women naked and not lust.

Your inability to see God’s beautiful artistry on display without having wicked thoughts is not a reflection of the nature of what you see, but of the depravity of your own heart, and your unwillingness to view it as God does. If you desire to be Christlike, do you believe that Jesus would (and does) have to look away from a beautiful woman, no matter what she is or is not wearing?

Forgive me for coming on so strong here, but in this matter, I’m quite convinced... Jesus told us clearly that it was not anything outside a man going into him which defiled him, but that which comes out of him! (Mark 7:14-22) Whether it goes in his eyes or his mouth, it’s still on the outside going in, and it cannot defile him.

There is absolutely no way I can see adults being naked in front of children being anything but a perversion. The whole desire to be seen in public naked, to me, seems like a perverted disorder.

Here again, I ask you, can you defend your stance that being naked in front of Children is a real biblical concern, or is it your cultural bias? Are you really willing to hold on to “absolute standards” which you cannot defend biblically? Personally, I am not willing to do that. Even if letting go of such false standards forces me to accept something I would rather not accept.

Also, have you ever examined the philosophy and motivations which undergird nudism? I was quite surprised to discover that it was not about exhibitionism, voyeurism, or sexual license. You might be judging its practitioners unjustly.

Even if there is not a conclusive biblical case against it, I am grateful that modern governments outlaw public nudity, and I am grateful that the Bible instructs us to obey the laws of the government.

Indeed the Bible instructs us to obey the laws of the government. And I suspect that most nudists abide by those laws with great consistency. But the laws do not totally forbid nudism, it only restricts it to places where it can be exercised without offending others.

As you can see, I’ve done a lot of my own study. I’ve reached the conclusion that most (if not all) of the objections to nudism I’ve always heard are a lot less biblical than I would have guessed. When I found your statement on your website, I was intrigued and was curious how you would defend them when I had concluded that I could not.

I was hoping that when I gave you what this brother believes, you would be able to demonstrate where it was weak or mistaken, if indeed it was in error. Perhaps he is not mistaken after all.

Thanks for your time.

Matthew

His final response:


Matthew,

To be honest, I am tired of arguing this with you. I am absolutely convinced that public nudity is not God’s will. Nothing you, or your friend, could say would convince me otherwise. Only God could change my mind, so if you think my mind needs to be changed, ask God to change it.

Nowhere in the Law are the Israelites instructed to be nude in public.

Nowhere in the Gospels did Jesus instruct people to abandon their shame and go naked in public.

Nowhere in the Epistles do the Apostles instruct or encourage people to be naked.

If nakedness is such a good thing, and if fear to be naked is such a bad thing, surely God’s Word would have corrected our thinking or given some kind of instruction. It does not. Whatever the reason God clothed Adam and Eve, He clothed them, and nowhere instructed them to remove the clothing. Without any biblical instruction whatever on the value of nudity, I am going to follow God’s example with Adam and Eve and clothe myself.

I will not be responding to any further of your emails on this issue. Again, if you think my mind needs to be changed, pray for me.

Sincerely in Christ,

Shea

GotQuestions.org

My final email:


To be honest, I am tired of arguing this with you.

I wasn’t arguing. I asked you to biblically defend your position.

I am absolutely convinced that public nudity is not God’s will. Nothing you, or your friend, could say would convince me otherwise. Only God could change my mind, so if you think my mind needs to be changed, ask God to change it.

So what you’re saying is that you are willing to hold on to moral absolutes that God has not declared. Why should you require God to show you something is not true which He has not ever
declared to be true.

Nowhere in the Law are the Israelites instructed to be nude in public.

And, as you admitted, nowhere in the Law does God command the Israelites to always be clothed in public. Pretty inconceivable, actually, considering that every person who has ever lived has had to face the question, “What do I do with my nudity?”

Nowhere in the Gospels did Jesus instruct people to abandon their shame and go naked in public.

Au contraire... In Matthew 5:40, Jesus said, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” People didn’t wear much more than that. Women certainly did not wear bras. So if people had actually followed Jesus’ command, then they would have been significantly underdressed, if not completely naked. Evidently, that was not a concern for Jesus.

Nowhere in the Epistles do the Apostles instruct or encourage people to be naked.

Once again, not true. In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul tells Timothy, “For physical training is of some value...” If you check the Greek word used by Paul (here translated “physical training”), you’ll see that it is the word “Gumnadzo” which of course, is based on the Greek word for “naked” and it referred to the exercise that was engaged in at the Greek/Roman Gymnasiums, where nudity was the norm, hence the name, “Gymnasium”

If nakedness is such a good thing, and if fear to be naked is such a bad thing, surely God’s Word would have corrected our thinking or given some kind of instruction. It does not. Whatever the reason God clothed Adam and Eve, He clothed them, and nowhere instructed them to remove the clothing. Without any biblical instruction whatever on the value of nudity, I am going to follow God’s example with Adam and Eve and clothe myself.

Again, you are willing to accept a narrative as a command? Do you ever take off your clothes with your wife? If you do, then you are not being faithful to God’s Word, for He nowhere told Adam that he could allow his wife to see him naked.

I will not be responding to any further of your emails on this issue. Again, if you think my mind needs to be changed, pray for me.

For the record, I did not ask you to respond to my last email.

And what I think doesn’t matter a bit... what matters is if God wants you to change your mind. I get the impression that you’re not willing to even consider an alternative opinion.

I am reminded of this qoute:

“We routinely disqualify testimony that would plead for extenuation. That is, we are so persuaded of the rightness of our judgement as to invalidate evidence that does not confirm us in it. Nothing that deserves to be called truth could ever be arrived at by such means.” - Marilynne Robinson.

One last historical point to think about...

Did you know that for 350 years after Pentecost, all Christian Baptisms were performed nude? Whether you believe it or not, it’s true. You can research it on your own. Shouldn’t that historical fact inform your understanding of the NT position on nudity? You need not answer me, but you should have an answer.

I pray the Lord opens your mind to truth.

Matthew

As always, I welcome your comments.

Matthew Neal

Friday, August 14, 2009

He Didn’t Hear a Word I Said...

Well, my email debate opponent (from my last post) was good to his word!

He published an entirely new article taking on the notion of Nude Baptism to “debunk” it. You can find it here: Did Real Christians Practice Nude Baptism?

Interestingly enough, he only spouted the same arguments that he attempted to use with me.

The most disturbing thing I saw there was that he completely ignored my refutation of his misuse of Scripture to demonstrate that nudity was wrong. He didn’t even try to strengthen his presentation of those passages! He just misused them again!

Oh, well...

Helping people overcome the deeply held belief that our bodies are principally sexual objects — and that men (in particular) are incapable of responding to the sight of a nude body with anything other than lust — is nigh on an impossible task.

In fact, I have concluded that unless the Lord does a work in someone’s heart to soften it to the truth, the best articulated truth will still fail to convince those so committed to defending the deception.

But, at the same time, I've seen God do that work in someone’s heart... most notably in my own wife!

Moral of the story, folks?

Pray.

  • If you are a Christian, but not a naturist... Pray.

    Ask God to reveal to you what is true, and what is false. If you really honestly pray for His truth, He will show you. And you may well be surprised by what you learn.

  • If you are a Christian Naturist... Pray.

    No amount of “convincing” you may try to do will ever convince those enslaved to a lie. God can and will open hearts in response to prayer.

  • For anyone else... Pray.

    The God who IS will reveal Himself to those who honestly and sincerely seek to know Him as He is.
The last three years of my life (since I embraced naturism) have been the most difficult and emotionally trying years of my life, without a close second. To this day, I live with the disrespect and scorn of most of my extended family. I told my wife just this morning...

“If it were not true, it wouldn’t be worth it.”

Don’t become a proponent for Christian Naturism if you like the praise of men. Trust me, it’s a really dumb route to popularity...

Matthew Neal

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nude Baptism in the Early Church? You Decide.

The other day, I happened upon an article where the author made a special point of declaring that baptism in the early church was indeed performed with clothes on. Here’s the quote:
Baptism was mostly done out of doors, but sometimes inside, but always by immersion. And clothed.
The special mention of baptism being clothed—and making a special point of it (in case some people thought that it was NOT true)—caught my eye. It told me that the writer was aware of the claims that baptism was indeed performed nude. All the descriptions of baptism from the early church that I had ever read claimed that they were performed nude, if any mention of attire was made at all.
So, I thought I'd write the fellow and ask him about him about his documentation for that claim. What follows is my email conversation with the man. Let me say up front that I really appreciated the respectfulness with which he treated me.
I did not mention that I was a naturist because that was not germaine to the conversation at all. This was all about claims made about historical fact and what documentation there was to support it.
I apologize for the length of this blog post, but I didn't want to put all the emails in separate posts. I've tried to format it so that it's easy to follow. The legend is as follows:
Blue = My words.
Red = His words.
Black = quotations from external sources

Nude Baptism in the Early Church
The Cases For and Against
My first email to him:




Hello.
I happened upon your article about "Baptism" and I was struck by a statement you made which was contrary to what my research has revealed.
Baptism was mostly done out of doors, but sometimes inside, but always by immersion. And clothed.
You claimed that early church baptism was performed clothed. Yet this is contrary to the uniform testimony of the early church fathers who wrote of their practices.
You went on to claim that "Another bizarre practice that some claim used to be involved with "Christianity" was nude baptism."
I recognize that the very idea seems "bizarre" to us in our day and age, but if indeed it was the common practice of the time, then it really no more bizarre than taking the bread and cup and utilizing them to remember a very cruel death. It seems to me that the question of how "strange" the practice was must be answered according to the context of the early church practices, rather than in comparison to today's practices and mores.
You also said:
As the Bible in no way endorses (nor records) nude baptism, the above demonstrates that pagan practices were used for people who professed, but apparently did not understand, Christ.
I don't see how you can conclude that simply because a practice is not mentioned in the Bible, that it "demonstrates" that the practice was pagan.
My understanding is that in the Jewish faith, the practice of the mikveh dates back all the way to the OT law where "washing with water" was a Scriptural requirement in many different circumstances. Tradition confirms that the mikveh was prescribed to be performed nude, even to the point of requiring no jewelry, unbraided hair, and clean fingernails. That tradition continues today, for in the modern mikveh, the Jewish believer still must enter into the waters completely nude.
Among other things, conversion to Judaism required the waters of the mikveh. The baptism of John was almost certainly an expression of the mikveh. If so, then it too would have been performed on nude believers. It is not at all surprising that the early church would also adopt a very Jewish ritual practice for the baptismal rite. Therefore, to say that nude baptism is a "pagan" practice is to simply dismiss the reality of the Jewish tradition of the mikveh and its influence on Christian baptism.
===========
In my research, I came across the following quote, and verified its source as from Robert Robinson's work, "The History of Baptism." I have attached screenshots from Mr. Robinson's book which I found on Googlebooks.
Let it be observed, next, that the primitive Christians baptized naked. Nothing is easier than to give proof of this by quotations from the authentick writings of the men who administered baptism, and who certainly knew in what way the themselves performed it. There is no ancient historical fact better authenticated than this. The evidence doth not go on the meaning of the single word naked; for then a reader might suspect allegory; but on many facts reported, and many reasons assigned for the practice. ...
The reasons assigned for the practice are, that christians ought to put off the old man before they put on a profession of christianity; that as men came naked into the world, so they ought to come naked into the church, for rich men could not enter the kingdom of heaven; that it was an imitation of Christ, who laid aside his glory, and made himself of no reputation for them; and that Adam had forfeited all, and Christians ought to profess to be restored to the enjoyment of all only by Jesus Christ.
That most learned and accurate historian, James Basnage, thanwhom no man understood church history better, said, When artist threw garments over the pictures of the baptized, they consulted the taste of spectators more that the truth of the fact.
This quotation was only one of many that I uncovered in my research. Furthermore, I found a large number of sacred works of art (15+) which represent nude baptisms, including works showing the Lord Jesus being baptized unclothed. These certainly are not inspired or authoritative, but the very idea that so many different artists from different times and traditions would portray baptism as being performed nude is strong confirming evidence that the notion of nude baptism in the early church has its roots in fact. I have included three such images with this email.
If you have evidence that supports your assertions, I would love to see it, for I have no interest in embracing a falsehood as truth. As it stands at this moment, however, I find the documentation that I have uncovered to be more convincing than your claim.
Thank you for your time.
Matthew Neal

Here are the attachments that I mentioned in the email above (click to see full size):



Very quickly, I received the following response:




Dear Matthew:

Thank so much for your email and comments.

In all due respect, however, in your email, you stated
"You claimed that early church baptism was performed clothed. Yet this is contrary to the uniform testimony of the early church fathers who wrote of their practices."

That is simply not true.

It is true that it sometime did happen, but my article admits that. But the EARLY CHRISTIAN writers simply did not do so. While it is true that some apostates mentioned it, that is all.

Do you have an actual early primary source that confirms your assertion? I have read about all the non-Gnostic 2nd century "Christian" writings that have been translated into English and simply have not seen what you are indicating. And as far as proof, I am not particularly interested in modern third person interpretations.

If you have such primary source information, please provide the precise citations as I certainly do not wish that my articles contain errors. But as of now, I have not seen information that suggests that my contention is in error. But if my article is in factual error, I will change it.

Furthermore, I would like to add that the idea of nude baptism would be contrary to the New Testament admonitions against lust and towards modesty. Thus, I do not believe that actual Christians really practiced nude baptism--though again, some who claimed Christ apparently did.

Best regards,

Bob _________
So I composed my next response.




Hello.

Thank you for your prompt reply.

Allow me to respond.
The "early primary sources" I have to offer are as follows:
The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome. If you read down to section 21, you'll see the portion describing the practice. As I understand it, this was written in 217 AD.
Sometime in 400 AD, Theodor of Mopsuestia wrote concerning baptism. His writings on the topic are found here: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/theodore_of_mopsuestia_lordsprayer_02_text.htm You will find the instructions in "Chapter IV," 10th and 11th paragraphs.
Another work, The History Of The Christian Church - Vol II Ante-Nicene Christianity AD 100-325 speaks of nude baptism as a matter of simple fact. http://www.archive.org/stream/historyofthechri009648mbp/historyofthechri009648mbp_djvu.txt The mention of it is found on page 248 in section 70, The Celebration of Baptism. While written more recently, it cites several early church writers and sources.
Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in the 4th century AD. In his work, you can find his descriptions of the rite of Baptism and how it was performed. The text can be found here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.xxiv.html. He assigns tremendous theological significance to baptismal nudity his his writings.
My questions to you are these...
  • Do you have any source where early church fathers ever mentioned and condemned the practice of nude baptism as being a pagan practice?

  • Do you have any early Christian writers who describe how the rite of baptism was performed in the early church which affirm that it was indeed performed clothed?

  • Do you have any explanation for the common incidence of baptisms being portrayed as nude in ancient sacred art? (I've attached some more images, three of which are intended to be portrayals of the baptism of Christ.)
===============
You did not address my point about the mikveh. This article, http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-mikveh/ vouches for the fact that the mikveh is still in use to day, and still requires full nudity.
In this article by Ron Mosley of the Arkansas Institute of Holy Land Studies, we read of the clear heritage of Christian Baptism being found in the Jewish mikveh. http://www.haydid.org/ronimmer.htm (archived). If this is true, then it would not at all be unlikely that they would have adopted the requirement of nudity as well. Indeed, it would seem odd if they had not.
I know that these articles about the mikveh are contemporary articles about ancient practices, but I do believe that they are credible sources... at least credible enough to warrant a further search into the matter.
=============
Regarding Gnosticism, I would argue that the notion that the body is lewd or indecent and cannot be seen is more akin to Gnostic teaching than not. The Gnostics taught that the spirit was good and the body was evil. This teaching today is expressed by excessive prudery and an unbiblical definition of "modesty."
Biblical modesty is not at all about making sure that certain parts (utterly undesignated in the Scriptures) must always be covered, but that clothing must not be used to draw attention to oneself, or for self-aggrandizement. This is the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 2:9. 1 Peter 3:3 teaches exactly the same thing. In neither passage is there any emphasis or definition at all on what must be worn.
I have an article that a pastor I know wrote about 1 Timothy 2 that gives a clear exegetical understanding of the passage within the Scriptural context. It exposes how this passage has been traditionally misunderstood and misapplied. I'd be happy to send it to you if you would like. I'm sure he would appreciate a scholarly review.
===============
You said that nude baptism would be contrary to the NT's admonitions against lust and towards modesty. Aside from 1 Timothy 2:9 (which does not have anything to do with requiring clothing), I know of no other NT passage which teaches at all about modesty in our attire. And I know of no passage anywhere in the NT which defines for us what parts of our body are to be covered.
Regarding lust, Jesus certainly taught against lust, but he did not lay the blame at the feet of the woman at all. It is entirely within the man where lust is born. In fact, Jesus' teaching in Mark 7:18-23 clearly teaches that lust and other sexual sins are not the result of what "enters a man" (by mouth or by eye). Nothing outside a man, Jesus taught, can defile the man, but that which comes from within defiles him.
Is there anything that needs to be corrected in these statements?
I look forward to your response.
Thank you for your time.
Matthew

Here are the attachments that I mentioned in the email above (click to see full size):






Again, his response:




Dear Matthew:

Thank you for your detailed response.

I looked over your references and none of those you cited were from individuals who held to original Christianity. All of those early individuals had accepted compromises with non-biblical practices. And the earliest one was from the third century. Certain MIthratic and other pagan practices had been adopted by those in Rome by that time (and that worsened in the fourth century).

Now I will try to answer your questions, though you may not agree that my answers fulfill your curiosity.

1) The early Church leaders simply do not have writings of every pagan practice that they condemned. However, if you read my upcoming book, The Beginning and the End of the Christian Church Eras, you will see that many practices that mainstream "Christianity" now accepts were condemned by early "Fathers" yet are still practiced.

The earliest non-biblical writings (second century) that may have been Christian that mention baptism state:

6:2... Let your baptism abide with you as you shield (Ignatius's Letter to Polycarp. J.B. Lightfoot translation).
1:2...truly born of a virgin and baptized by John that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him...8:2 It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love-feast (Ignatius's Letter to the Smyrnaeans. J.B. Lightfoot translation).

18:2 For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary according to a dispensation, of the seed of David but also of the Holy Ghost; and He was born and was baptized that by His passion He might cleanse water (Ignatius's Letter to the Ephesians. J.B. Lightfoot translation).
6:9 But if even such righteous men as these cannot by their righteous deeds deliver their children, with what confidence will we, if we keep not our baptism pure and undefiled, enter into the kingdom of God? Or who will be our advocate, unless we be found having holy and righteous works? (Ancient Christian Sermon, sometimes improperly titled 2 Clement)
Publicly nudity would seem to be inconsistent with the idea of baptism being a shield, pure, and undefiled.

Perhaps I should add that Melito of Sardis mentions Christ's baptism (On the Nature of Christ) and the heretic Irenaeus in his writings does as well, but they are consistent with the previously listed passages.

Again, there is nothing in what appears to be Christian writings that endorse nude baptism in the second century.

2) The only practices that we have recorded are in the Bible, starting with John the Baptist, including his baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3). There is no indication that He removed His clothes, nor is there any biblical indication that anyone ever did.

And that addresses your other point, "You did not address my point about the mikveh. This article, http://www.sinaibrookline.org/page.php/id/1288 vouches for the fact that the mikveh is still in use to day, and still requires full nudity. In this article by Ron Mosley of the Arkansas Institute of Holy Land Studies, we read of the clear heritage of Christian Baptism being found in the Jewish mikveh. http://www.haydid.org/ronimmer.htm If this is true, then it would not at all be unlikely that they would have adopted the requirement of nudity as well. Indeed, it would seem odd if they had not."

There is simply NO indication that Jesus and others were nude when baptized. Thus, whatever Jewish traditions were employed by John the Baptist and Jesus' followers simply did not have removal of clothes.

Furthermore, the reference you provided from Hippolytus 4:11 suggests that the elder and/or deacon may have been nude (I say hints because this is a translation from the Greek and as I do not have the original Greek I can not be totally sure of the translation).

But the Bible indicates that John the Baptist was clothed when he worked:

5 And all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:5-6)
Notice a record of baptism in the New Testament:
36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" 37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:35-39)
The idea of clothes being removed for baptism is completely foreign to scripture.

Also notice the following two accounts:

31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. (Acts 16:30-34)

16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other (1 Corinthians 1:16).
The Old Testament clearly condemns viewing the nakedness of various close relatives (Leviticus 18:6-18), hence it makes no sense that new converts to Christianity violated those admonitions in regards to baptism.

The figurative baptism that Paul refers to about the children of Israel being baptized under a cloud at the time of Moses (I Corinthians 10:1-2) literally did not involve the removal of clothes--the only time massive clothing removal was mentioned in the Bible it was to shame those who had improper practices (Exodus 25:32).

Furthermore, the context related to the "baptism by the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:4-5, 2:1-4) suggests that the Apostles were clothed when this occurred. I would also suggest that when thousands were baptized shortly thereafter (Acts 2:41), that there would have been a massive backlash and outcry if all were baptized nude.

Furthermore, you claimed, "Biblical modesty is not at all about making sure that certain parts (utterly undesignated in the Scriptures) must always be covered, but that clothing must not be used to draw attention to oneself, or for self-aggrandizement. This is the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 2:9. 1 Peter 3:3 teaches exactly the same thing".

Yet, notice a passage that you apparently overlooked:

23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need (1 Corinthians 12:22-24).
Notice that there are parts of the body that are not publicly presentable. Hence, I contend that those who decided to adopt nude baptism were doing so in violation of scripture.

3) Last year, I visited Cappadocia to view some of the claimed earliest "sacred art", and also saw some in Rome in June of this year. In all due respect, there is no such thing as "sacred art".

Idolatry was condemned in the New Testament and the so-called "sacred art" did not start to appear until some time in the third century and was not accepted even by the Greco-Romans until after Constantine in the fourth century.

I recently consulted with a Greek Orthodox scholar who admitted to me that the acceptance of this type of "art" as well as icons was a gradual development and that no such "art" exists in the first or second centuries. Furthermore, the earliest that I have seen (which was in the catacombs) looks about the same as the pagan art associated with pagan burials, thus it is little surprise that some pagan "converts" decided to be buried with some "art" like their ancestors were.

To summarize, the Old Testament and New Testament are opposed to public nudity. The record of scripture never even hints of nude baptism, nor are there any 2nd century writings that I have seen that do.

The fact that the Greco-Roman churches compromised on many matters and apparently temporarily endorsed nude baptism does not mean that it ever was a practice of true Christians.

Best regards,


Bob _________
My next response:




Thank you again for your reply.
Once again, I will respond.
In your first set of quotations, I noted no indication that the mode of baptism included the mention of clothing during the actual baptismal rite.
The reference to baptism abiding "as a shield" is clearly a simile and not a literal reference to a shield. And in truth, baptism (clothed or not) is not about clothing and certainly it is not about a defensive armor. Therefore, that first quote can in no way indicate anything about the mode of baptism.
The second quote seems to me to have no bearing on the issue either.
The third quotation holds forth baptism in purity and without defilement, but that says nothing about the presence or absence of clothing.
In response to that, however, you said, "Publicly nudity would seem to be inconsistent with the idea of baptism being a shield, pure, and undefiled." I would submit to you that your statement only reveals your own bias regarding the nature of the unclad human form, rather than objective truth. Indeed your own words betray the lack of surety of your statement for you said, "would seem." But things which seem to be in our culture today have absolutely no bearing on how things were perceived or the values and practices held in the first century. You said in your first email that you are "not particularly interested in modern third person interpretations." yet in your statement here, are you not depending more on your own perceptions than on historical evidence?
I would assert again that in reality, your statement reflects a very Gnostic view of our bodies, for you are assuming that to see the unclad human form will lead to impurity. In other words, you are treating the body as if it is "evil" while maintaining that the spiritual matters are what is really important.
In response to the mikveh, you said, "There is simply NO indication that Jesus and others were nude when baptized. Thus, whatever Jewish traditions were employed by John the Baptist and Jesus' followers simply did not hve removal of clothes."
I would point out that this is faulty logic, for your statement presumes that if something was not overtly mentioned in the Bible, then it did not happen. I'm rather confident that you would never assert that as actually being true, but that is the force of your argument here.
Equally plausible (if not more so) is that if baptisms were always performed without clothing (the mikveh, and Christian baptism), then to overtly mention it would be utterly unnecessary. We bathe without clothing, and baptism is certainly a picture of bathing, among other things.
You then referenced John the Baptist:
But the Bible indicates that John the Baptist was clothed when he worked:
5 And all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:5-6)
John wore camel's hair, which distinguished him from the tunic/robe that most people wore. That is why it is mentioned here. This passage does not lmean that he wore that always wore that outfit while baptizing any more than it means that he always ate locusts and wild honey while baptizing.
In this and every other account you offered in the NT regarding baptism, I will concur than none specifically mention that those being baptized were nude. But by the very same token, none of them declares that they were not unclothed. Therefore, from the Scripture text itself, we can reach no conclusion whatsoever regarding the clothed state of those being baptized. To do anything else amounts to eisegesis.
Leviticus 18 is not speaking about simple nudity. Any attempt to read it that way will leave the honest reader shaking his head about what some of the verses mean. Contextually, it is impossible to avoid the fact that in every case, sexual activity is assumed. In short, the passage defines and forbids incest. As there is no word in Hebrew for "incest," the phrase "uncover the nakedness of..." was used to reference it. When understood this way, the entire passage makes perfect sense. It simply is not a passage teaching about nakedness, it is teaching about incest.
You mentioned "figurative baptism" in Paul's writings and in the book of Acts. Figurative references are just that. They are not intended to teach about physical realities, therefore, you cannot infer from the fact that the disciples were clothed when baptized by the Holy Spirit that they were also clothed during the rite of water baptism.
Regarding 1 Cor. 12:22-24. I have studied the passage carefully. I have noted that the translation of the Greek word aschemon as "unpresentable" is really quite interpretive. The word is much better translated "uncomely" as the KJV translates it. The word simply means that something is not all that pretty to look at. Some people's noses are not all that pretty, but we don't for that reason require them to be covered from view. Furthermore, the word translated "modesty" in your quotation simply does not mean "modesty" as we use it in English. The KJV again translates the word and its context as "our uncomely [parts] have more abundant comeliness." How that could be translated into something meaning "we keep them covered" is something I cannot comprehend nor defend.
Literally, the text says that the parts of our body that we would naturally consider "dishonorable," we treat as highly honored, and those parts that we might naturally consider "ugly" are treated as if they are very beautiful indeed. We do not insist on beautiful things being covered. Therefore, the suggestion that this passage supports keeping certain parts of our body covered is not fidelity to the text, but rather a "modern third person interpretation." Like you, I have no interest in such interpretations.
No sacred art? Touche. Point taken. However, there is art that intentionally portrays Biblical events and themes. If nothing else, they do reflect the thinking, values, theology, and practices of the time and religious heritage from which they came.
Question, where in the OT and NT is there any clear opposition to public nudity? I know that most people claim that its true, but from my examination of the Words of Scripture, I have not found convincing exegetical evidence for that claim. Where do you find it?
In your summarizing remarks, you said again that the Scriptures never even hint at nude baptism, nor the earliest Christian writings. That I would acknowledge. But I would also acknowledge that they do not contradict the claim, either. So from these observations alone, we can draw no firm conclusion.
Also, while it is apt to note that the Greco-Roman churches contained theological and practical compromise, it would be be inappropriate to take that fact as a proof that everything they practiced was therefore false.
In conclusion, I find in your words no historical evidence that clothing was used in early church baptism, nor have I seen you present any concrete evidence that nude baptism had its source in pagan practices.
In contrast, I have seen the writings of the (admittedly compromised, but not entirely false) church leaders from as late as the 5th century AD which described their practices. I have also found evidence that nude baptism has its roots not in pagan practices, but in Jewish ritual cleansing. Finally, I have encountered cultural evidence from the arts that reveals the apparent belief within the church historically that Jesus was in fact baptized without clothing.
Indeed, I do remain unconvinced that your perspective is more historically accurate than mine. Do you have any more evidence that I should consider?
Thanks again for your time.
Matthew
Here was his next response:




Question, where in the OT and NT is there any clear opposition to public nudity? I know that most people claim that its true, but from my examination of the Words of Scripture, I have not found convincing exegetical evidence for that claim. Where do you find it?...Indeed, I do remain unconvinced that your perspective is more historically accurate than mine. Do you have any more evidence that I should consider?
Dear Matthew:

Again thank you for your detailed response.

Now, I cited previously, but did not quote, the following:

6 'None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the LORD. 7 The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover; it is your father's nakedness. 9 The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover. 10 The nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for theirs is your own nakedness. 11 The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father--she is your sister--you shall not uncover her nakedness. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is near of kin to your father. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is near of kin to your mother. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother. You shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law--she is your son's wife--you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, nor shall you take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness. They are near of kin to her. It is wickedness. 18 Nor shall you take a woman as a rival to her sister, to uncover her nakedness while the other is alive. (Leviticus 18:6-18)
And while you may say that this is an admonition only against uncovering nakedness directly (or incest as your last email states), I would submit that it was also an admonition against public nudity.

You are entitled to your own opinion, but should realize that Jesus also taught:

28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28)
Thus, I contend that public nudity by females, which can incite lust, is prohibited.

Furthermore, notice what the Apostles Paul and John wrote:

13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy (Romans 13:13).

16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
Again, you are entitled to your opinion, but you still have failed to cite one scripture, nor actual Christian writer, that condoned nude baptism.

I contend that members of the true Church of God did not participate in nude baptism and that there is no evidence that this ever happened. Hence, while some Greco-Romans did, that does not change my position.

On the other hand, because of our discourse, I probably will expand my section on nude baptism to deal with some of the issues you raised. So in that way, perhaps this has been a profitable exchange.

Best regards,

Bob _________
Then my final email to him.




If I may summarize your points, you claimed that public nudity was forbidden because of two reasons:
  1. 1. Leviticus 18:6-18 speaks not only of incest (which I would understand you to agree with me about), but also of public nakedness of any other kind.

  2. 2. Jesus' teaching that looking at a woman to lust was equivalent to adultery means that public female nudity is forbidden because it can incite lust.
I point out that neither of these passages say that public nudity is forbidden. Let me take them one at a time to demonstrate why that presumption is logically flawed.
  1. 1. If we read Leviticus 18 as literally addressing simple nudity, then we must conclude that it is only the nudity of close relatives that we are not permitted to see. This, of course, is counterintuitive, since in the course of one's lifespan, the ones they are most likely to see unclothed in the natural course of life were those they lived with. They slept in the same room (actually a tent when this passage was written to the Jews). Mothers would see their children throughout their lives. Bathing was done outdoors where the water was. Aged parents would be personally nursed in the home until their deaths.Furthermore, the text in no way forbids the public nudity of men, for in every case, it is specifically declared that it is the nakedness of a woman that is not to be uncovered.If God intended to forbid public nudity, then He could have clearly said in one verse, "You shall not uncover the nakedness of anyone besides your own wife." Case closed. But this is not the command God gave us. Unfortunately, however, it has become the "command" that men preach.God never even hinted that you could not "uncover the nakedness" of anyone who was not a close relative. In almost every case, the very reason given in the text is that you must not uncover the nakedness of ______ because they are a close relative!! If the reason we cannot see the nakedness of someone is because they are closely related to us, then by contrast, those that do not fall into the category of "close relative" must be excluded! Yet your statement insists that they are included. That is not logically defensible.Finally, it is an exegetical mistake to take a phrase which is used over and over in a passage like this and assign it two different meanings... according to our own whim. Otherwise, how could we be confident of which meaning is called for in each verse? As I mentioned before, if we read "uncovering the nakedness of" as a euphemism for "incest" throughout the passage, the passage is absolutely clear and consistent with no need for any contrasting definition. However, if you take the phrase literally, it is impossible to make sense of every verse.It is exegetically irresponsible to assign two distinct meanings to the phrase when one meaning satisfies the context and obvious intent of the passage. Therefore, to suggest that the passage also forbids public nudity is not sound treatment of the text.(For the record, I have studied this passage in detail. I would be happy to provide examples of where the literal meaning of "uncovering nakedness" simply does not make any sense)


  2. 2. Jesus' teaching on lust did not address women at all! However, for the sake of the discussion, I'll ask this... What parts of a woman's beauty must be covered? Does the Bible ever tell us? If her beauty "can incite lust," then shouldn't we respond to that beauty as the orthodox Muslims do, and require our women to cover ALL of their bodies, and especially their faces, which are so beautiful? In such circumstances, you can be sure that even the glimpse of a woman's cheek could incite lust. When we decide that a body part should be covered, we are also deciding which parts incite lust. It is completely subjective and utterly foreign to the Word of God, but it is also self-fulfilling! In essence we have given men permission to lust if they see "too much" of a woman's body, and then inadvertently allow them to blame the woman!
    Is there anything particularly sexually enticing about a woman's mammary glands? God provided them to feed babies, not to cause men to stumble. It is our culture that has defined them so, not God's Word. Interestingly enough, God never told women that men must never see their breasts, or even see them breastfeeding their babies, even though every mother who's ever lived has had to make choices about where they nurse and who sees them. They are forced to make those choices without any guidance at all from God's Word. I submit to you that God did not "forget" or "neglect" to tell women to take such care with their breasts. God must be ambivalent about it. Your presumption that seeing a woman's body "can incite lust" implies three things which are all false: 1. That the presence of clothing mitigates the possibility of a man lusting after a woman. 2. That if a man sees a woman's unclothed body that lust is inevitable (How do godly doctor's do it?). and 3. God is really responsible for our lust, for He's the one who made women so beautiful that men can't help but lust when they see one. Another important issue for you to consider: In the Bible, "lust" and "covetousness" are synonyms. In the OT, the word for "covet" used in the tenth commandment is also used to describe lust (and it is so translated in Proverbs 6:25). In the NT, the word used by Jesus meaning "lust" was used by Paul to quote the commandment against coveting. The question is, why then do we suggest that the solution to "lust" is to avoid seeing a woman's body while the solution to "covetousness" is not taught as attempting to avoid seeing my neighbor's house or his servants or his animals? In all cases, the solution to covetousness is contentment with what God has given to me while rejoicing with my neighbor because of what God has given to him. The solution to covetousness IS the solution to lust.

    Finally, I remind you again of Jesus' words in Mark 7:18-23.
    18"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") 20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"
    Jesus said that "nothing" that enters a man from the outside can defile him. He then applied it to the eating of food, but verse 20 clearly demonstrates that the even the defilements of "evil thoughts," "sexual immorality," "adultery" (mental or otherwise), and "lewdness" all originate INSIDE a man! Therefore we cannot claim that the source of lust is to be found in what a man sees! That is simply not what Jesus was teaching.Jesus addressed the men, not the women. He told them not to lust, he didn't tell the women to cover up. Your claim that Jesus' words forbid female nudity is not exegetically or logically sound.
In your closing statements, you have used a logical fallacy to support your conclusion. You have used circular reasoning to invalidate any evidence contrary to the position you already hold. Here's what I mean.
You state that no member of the "true church of God" participated in nude baptism. At the same time, you acknowledge that there is historical evidence that nude baptisms were practiced. But you have no way to know that these were mutually exclusive! In reality, what you have done is to declare Christians who practiced nude baptism as not part of the true church because they practiced nude baptism!
Or to put it more simply, True Christians didn't baptize nude. Those who did so were not true Christians. We know this because true Christians did not baptize nude.
It is circular reasoning and is not proof of anything because your argument is based upon the presumption of that which are trying to prove!
This also allows you to simply disregard any "evidence" to the contrary that might exist by the simply claim, "They were not part of the true church of God." What is the evidence that they were not? They baptized nude, of course. There is, therefore, no evidence that could ever be valid for you. This in spite of the fact that you have not one shred of historical evidence that "the true church" practiced it any differently. In truth, you don't really need any evidence to support your position when any evidence against your position can be so easily dismissed.
Ultimately, you have offered me nothing of substance to invalidate my understanding about nude baptism which I had before I wrote to you.
Think about it.
Thanks for your time and the very respectful interaction.
Matt

And his final response.




Dear Matthew:

In all due respect, you were the one who originally started this by stating:

You claimed that early church baptism was performed clothed. Yet this is contrary to the uniform testimony of the early church fathers who wrote of their practices.
And my response was that neither the Bible nor writings of actual true Christians supports your contention.

You then wrote the following in your last email:

You state that no member of the "true church of God" participated in nude baptism. At the same time, you acknowledge that there is historical evidence that nude baptisms were practiced. But you have no way to know that these were mutually exclusive! In reality, what you have done is to declare Christians who practiced nude baptism as not part of the true church because they practiced nude baptism!
Or to put it more simply, True Christians didn't baptize nude. Those who did so were not true Christians. We know this because true Christians did not baptize nude.
It is circular reasoning and is not proof of anything because yourargument is based upon the presumption of that which are trying to prove!
In all due respect, it is you who have misunderstood my writings. I am not using circular reasoning.

If you actually read my other writings, I make it perfectly clear who we in the Living Church of God believed were real Christians in the early writings. People such as Polycarp, Melito, Polycrates, etc. And this is based upon our history and doctrines.

All the early writers you cited have ALWAYS been considered apostates by us, hence I did not use the type of circular reasoning that you are accusing me of.

The FACT that the BIBLE NEVER indicates that people were baptized nude, nor DID ANY ONE WE IN LCG CONSIDER to actually be a Christian endorse it, combined with New Testament concepts of modesty is sufficient for us. You want to accept the practices of those we consider to be apostates as proof that we have an erroneous understanding.

Anyway, I do appreciate the detail you attempted, but disagree that the biblical and historical facts support the idea that true Christians practiced nude baptism.

Best regards,


Bob _________

To this last email, I have not responded.

So... what's the verdict? Whose evidence and argument was more compelling?

Feel free to comment.
Matthew Neal