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

9 comments:

J F said...

Not to "pile-on" the "Everman's Battle" but...

I have those same problems with it that you do. I did some internet searches and ran across this. It amazes how quickly we abandon (or forget) grace, especially God's grace and re-adopt rules or works based faith.

Thank you for your contributions here.

David said...

E. Stanley Jones was not a naturist by in means although many things he said fit well with the moral philosophy of traditional naturism. About a sexualized view of the body and a "bouncing your eyes" mentality, I think his comments on Matthew 5:27-28 are particularly pertinent: "Jesus stands for reverence for the personality of the woman. In one place it is said of Jesus, "He laid his hands upon her: and immediately she was made straight." When the hands of a good deal of modern teaching are laid on woman, immediately she is made crooked. Jesus insisted that she not be a means to a man's ends, but that she is an end in herself, and must be treated as such. Looking on her as a sex-being and that alone is adulterous thinking. The whole of the purdah* idea, while ostensibly to protect the purity of the woman, looks on woman only as a creature of sex, and is therefore essentially adulterous in its thinking. The holiest among the Pharisees were called "the bleeding Pharisees." They went around with their eyes on the ground, lest they look on a woman, and as they were constantly bumping against trees and posts and walls, they had bleeding foreheads—hence holy. How sane and yet how severe Jesus was! He lifted up men's eyes to look frankly at life, but in that freedom there was the restraint of an inner purity.
— E. Stanley Jones in The Christ of the Mount (Abandon: Nashville, 1981), p. 148-149.
*("purdah" is the Hindu and Islamic custom of keeping women fully covered with clothing and apart from the rest of society)

Boyd Allen said...

I notice that when Jesus told men to not "look upon a woman to lust after her" did two things.
One, he did not tell us we cannot look upon a woman. He just told us not to look up her to lust after her.
Second, he did not qualify the woman and her state of dress (or lack of). It was a directive on men to control how they think about and view women.

boyd allen
Christian Naturism Blog

taterschmidt said...

This is a great article as are the two before it. I am impressed with your research and praise God that more people actually 'study' and not just 'read' the Bible. One thing that I'd add, though: you say averting your eyes isn't conquering lust, but merely suppressing it. What do you think of Matthew 5:29-30? If someone is incapable of avoiding lust in such a setting as social nudity, do you believe that it would not be better to just avoid that situation altogether, at least just temporarily (for spiritual strengthening)? I would interpret that Jesus had implied that gouging your eye or removing your hand covered both physical and mental imagery, or merely used it as a metaphor to describe all actions. I also believe that He implied that maiming yourself was less of a consequence than being sent to hell (Matthew 10:28). This is my understanding and not my projected implication of Scripture.

I don't disagree with you about biblical views on nudity, I am simply curious about your take on these verses on the subject of uncontrollable lust (Matthew 5:29-30). May God's will bless!

Matthew Neal said...

Taterschmidt,

Thanks for you kind comments.

About Matthew 5:29-30... Let's make a few observations about what Jesus says...

First of all, we have to take note of the fact in verse 28 that Jesus did not say that "looking" at a woman was the problem, but looking "with lust" was the problem. So if we start with that fact, it will inform our understanding of verse 29.

Secondly, are we really to believe that Jesus is recommending self-mutilation as a means of pursuing righteousness? I don't think so. In reality, neither the gouging of an eye and the cutting off of a hand would really have any sure impact on the avoidance of sin. I can look with lust at a woman with one eye as easily as with two. Any sinful activity that I could do with one hand, I could do with the other.

Furthermore, Jesus made it pretty clear in Mark 7 that nothing outside a man can defile him by going into him. Nothing eaten, nothing seen (either way, it's outside going in). Rather, He told us that defilement comes from the heart. And we're certainly not told to rip our hearts out!

Finally, Paul notes that one of the hallmarks of a man-made (false) "rules of righteousness" is that they include "severe treatment of the body" (Col. 2:23). Such rules and pursuit of righteousness is not of God.

Consequently, I don't think it is consistent with logic or with Scripture to take these words of Christ literally.

I think Christ's point is that we should take the issue of personal sin in our lives so seriously that we are prepared to take drastic steps to address it. We tend to excuse sin instead... but we would never be so cavalier about cutting off a hand or gouging an eye.

Ultimately, if someone is so committed to overcoming sin that they would ponder such acts, they're committed enough to actually overcome their sin rather than mutilating their own body.

But in answer to your question about it being better to avoid social nudity if they are incapable of avoiding lust... I would suggest that that is never the case. Would anyone ever say that they are incapable of avoiding lust when the see any woman's face? Without any doubt, the face is more beautiful than the rest of her body... it's just that we never see the rest of her body, and we've been taught to interpret the sight of it as a sexual experience.

Seeing someone naked in a socially nude context simply is not a sexual experience. Someone may well imagine that they would be incapable of being in that context without lust, but the reality is that very soon after someone is in the context, they will experience how sexually mundane it really is. Only if someone wanted to treat it sexually would it be so for them.

This is one of the most surprising realities of social nudity. Just read the stories of people who have tried it... they expect it to be difficult, but their experiences consistently defy to their expectations.

— Matthew

Leland said...

I have just finished reading these posts and I am in literal awe of the depth and clarity of expression you have used in explaining your convictions. Many of my own studies and contemplations have touched on the same scriptures and ideas you have expressed, but you have delineated your convictions in an absolutely clear and understandable series. Thank you. Please keep the posts coming!

naturist newbie said...

Thanks for this 3 part series on your biblical conviction regarding naturism. Because of this blog and certain websites regarding naturism, viewing the crown of God's creation in its naked form I have begun on the same path as you. Accepting nudity for what it is, simply nudity and not porn, has actually broken the power of porn in my life. I didn't have an addiction to it, but rather a keen desire to view. Afterwards, I would feel guilt and shame simply viewing the naked form and sometimes porn. (Of course with porn the guilt was warranted). Then there came the repentance, asking for forgiveness, receiving it but only to do it again a week or two later. This truth about nudity has broken that desire, now that I realize that the desire to view the beauty of His creation is natural and honoring to Him. (not porn just to be clear).

My wife has also read this blog and sees the truth of it. Yet this is a direction she is unwilling to take since there are more important issues that need addressing. Her passion is children and christian education that teaches creation as truth and not evolution. Her point is, how does naturism, in our worldview of bringing Christ to the lost, help in doing that? She says that this pursuit is selfish does nothing to draw people to God's kingdom. How would you answer that?

Since embarking on this journey of naturism I can personally say that it has drawn me closer to God. Jesus said, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Therefore, as Paul says, Stand fast therefore in the liberty in which Christ has set you free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage. This I am doing.

I am not ashamed to say that I have chosen this way. I have been a Christian for 46 years. Have a degree in Christian ministry, been a pastor, and as well started a christian charity. Not bragging, just making a point that my desire has always been to serve God with all my heart and this is just the next step in my journey with Him. Praise the Lord.

Klaas

Matthew Neal said...

Thanks for your comments, Klaas.

It sounds like you've discovered and experienced the truths taught at http://mychainsaregone.org ...

Praise God for the truth that sets free!

I believe there is a very good answer to your wife's concerns about how naturism--or more accurately, a biblical understanding of the meaning of our bodies--is of great help in our effort to impact the world for Christ and truth. It is not simply a selfish pursuit to live according to what is biblically true... and there is nothing that will so compellingly draw people to the kingdom of God as those who live contrary to both the values of this world, AND the false man-made "rules of righteousness" that "religious" people have created. Such rules do not bring freedom, but only keep people in bondage.

I could expound on this quite a bit, and I probably should do so in a blog post one of these days... but at the moment, I'm not sure when I could get around to it. Thanks for the idea, though...

-- Matt

Israel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.