Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Does the Bible Ever Condone Social Nudity?

In my previous post (Asking the Right Question – Part 2), I took two questions to trial to discern which question was the correct one to ask when approaching the issue of God’s attitude towards Social Nudity. The two questions were:

#1: Where does the Bible ever condone social nudity?

#2: Where does the Bible ever condemn social nudity?

The first question – used here as the title of this post – was found to have incorrect presuppositions and therefore not trustworthy to find a valid answer.

Initially, we suggested that the answer to both questions was “Nowhere.” But then I promised to tackle the first question and see if I could indeed demonstrate an affirmative answer.

There are several passages that Christian Naturists have consistently used to try and show that the Bible condones social nudity, but generally, they are all renounced by non-naturists for a variety of reasons. Here’s a quick review of such passages and their rebuttals off the top of my head.

  • Socially Nude Setting: Adam and Eve, were created and lived nude in the Garden (Gen. 1-2). There they were described as “naked and unashamed” (Gen. 2:25) and all of creation – including the nude couple – was pronounced “very good.” by the Creator (Gen. 1:31). In other words, social nudity was God’s original intent.

    • Rebuttal: That was all before the fall into sin. Mankind can no longer look upon nakedness in innocence. Furthermore, God Himself provided clothing to address their need to keep their nakedness covered thereafter.

(Note: I do not find this rebuttal convincing, and I would normally be happy to expose its flaws, but that’s not the purpose of this post, so I’ll resist the urge... for now...)


  • Socially Nude Setting: King Saul came under the influence of the Spirit of God and stripped naked while prophesying before Samuel and the “company of the prophets” (1 Sam. 19:20-24). His nakedness among the prophets did not create a stir among his kingdom subjects except to wonder if he had changed occupations. Evidently, they were accustomed to seeing nude prophets, because they noted that Saul was acting like a prophet. Social nudity among the godliest servants of God was completely acceptable.

    • Rebuttal: Saul was not acting on his own accord here, and he had a history of being demonized. God struck him here with a form of insanity... that’s why he stripped naked. Besides, there’s no indication that there were any women who saw him.

(Update: for a more complete answer to this rebuttal, see Unclothed and in His Right Mind.)
 

  • Socially Nude Setting: Peter fished naked in the boat after Jesus’ resurrection (John 21:3-7). It is quite unlikely that he alone was naked. More likely, this was the customary way for all fishermen to do a rather dirty job that would be very hard on what little clothing they possessed (see the photo below). He—and probably they—were nude in a boat within sight (and earshot) of land. This is social nudity in a working environment.

    • Rebuttal: It only tells us that Peter was naked. But even if it was more than just he, it was still only men, and this was not a recreational social setting. Furthermore, when Peter swam to shore to meet the Lord, he knew very well that he dare not meet Jesus naked.

I found the picture above in a Bible-History book in my church library. It is a 2nd or 3rd century stone relief showing three boats and their sailors battling a rough sea. Note that all of the sailors are completely nude. Click the picture to see it full size.


  • Socially Nude Setting: When the author of the book of Hebrews seeks to communicate to us the importance of being completely committed to “victory” in our Christian lives (Heb. 12:1), he invokes the mental image of a culturally relevant sporting event to illustrate his point. It is documented historical fact that the runners in the Greek “Olympic” races ran nude. The author suggests that we lay aside the sin which could entangle us, just as (or so it seems) the runners lay aside all the clothing which could entangle them while running. It is a clear reference to a socially nude context, and it is used as a positive illustration.

    • Rebuttal: It doesn’t say that the runners were nude and that’s not the point anyway. Nudity is not even mentioned in the passage, and neither are the Greek Olympics. This is not at all condoning social nudity.


Those are not all, but those are the primary offerings in support of social nudity in the Bible, along with their common rebuttals. None seem to be sufficiently convincing to the non-naturist Christian, and evidently the nay-sayers are satisfied with the rebuttals.

But there is another passage which condones social nudity... in my opinion, more strongly than any I’ve already presented. Perhaps there will be adequate “rebuttal” to satisfy those unwilling to accept social nudity, but I’ll present it nonetheless, for it is Scripture.

Let me start this way...

What does the Bible say about physical exercise? The passage that comes to mind for me is 1 Tim. 4:8. Let me quote it here in the NIV:

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

The other versions are worth looking at by way of comparison, but the NIV here captures the idea that there is indeed some value in physical training or exercise. I’m quick to point out that this verse teaches that it is nowhere near as valuable as godliness – and that is the point of this passage – but there is still an acknowledgment of value in physical exercise.

On that point, I doubt any would disagree. I don’t think anyone would suggest that we should pursue godliness to the exclusion of exercise. Certainly this verse does not teach that exercise is in conflict with godliness. Both are valuable, godliness is more so.

Now that that point is agreed upon, let’s look at the Greek terms used here.

The word here translated “training” (or in the KJV, “exercise”) is the Greek word gymnasia. You will see the relationship with our English word, “gymnasium.” Those who are familiar with Greek will also see that it is based upon the Greek word, gymnos, which is the NT word for “naked.”

If we look at the definition of these Greek words found at BlueLetterBible.org, we find that gymnasia is a noun, and its first definition is given as “the exercise of the body in a palaestra or school of athletics.” It comes from the verb, gymnazo, which is defined as “to exercise naked (in a palaestra or school of athletics).” And as I already mentioned, both of these words are based on the Greek word, gymnos, meaning “naked.”

A little historical snooping will reveal that the palaestra was the wide open field (larger than a football field) within the walls of the ancient gymnasiums which were a central part of Hellenistic culture and life in NT times. As the name implies, nudity was the norm in the gymnasiums for men and for women.

Every major Greek city in the first century had a gymnasium... even Jerusalem (built in 175 B.C, it was in active use while Jesus roamed the streets of Jerusalem!).

Here’s my point... the gymnasium was where people went to exercise in the first century. And exercise in the gymnasium was always done in the nude. Nudity was so closely related to exercise that the word for "exercise" in Greek reflects the fact that it was practiced naked.

We cannot see that in the English translation. But that does not change the fact that the word God used to affirm exercise is a word that would clearly denote a naked activity to any Greek reader.

I would like to coin a word to help us see and hear in English what this would have sounded like to the original audience of the NT. I would suggest nudercise,” meaning “to exercise naked” just like the original Greek term used in the Bible. Just like in the Greek, I've used a word denoting nudity as the foundation for this new word for "exercise."

So, let’s read the passage in English again, only this time with the more culturally accurate new word in the place of “training” or “exercise.”

For physical nudercise is of some value, but godliness has value for all things...

The nudercising Paul had in mind was the activity that happened down at the local nudenasium, for that’s where everyone went to nudercise.

Again, to even mention “exercise” in Greek was to invoke the concept of nudity, much like I did in the verse and paragraph above.

Since this is the case, we can conclude that the words of Paul in 1 Tim 4:8 are an affirmation of value in a socially nude activity. Paul was – quite literally – condoning social nudity.

Was that Paul’s primary point? No, it wasn’t.

Was Paul even thinking about affirming social nudity when he wrote that? No, he wasn’t.

But at the same time, he invoked a word overtly referring to social nude activity without so much as batting an eye. And he certainly did not offer any sort of disclaimer or warning to avoid the gymnos part of the gymnasia. He simply affirmed the value of a socially nude activity – almost in passing – while making a more significant spiritual point.

God never does command social nudity. Nudity is certainly not ever promoted as a measure of righteousness (neither is staying dressed!). But here in Paul’s words to Timothy we see a passing reference to social nudity in a positive light. Not so strong that we would be compelled to strip here and now, but clear enough for us to know that God has no qualms about our chaste involvement in socially nude activities.

Will this convince the antagonist? I doubt it.

Will it enlighten the seeker? I hope so.

Perhaps for all of us, it will give visibility into some nuances of God’s Word that we’ve never seen before.

++++++++++++

I am indebted to the author of FollowTheRabbi.com, Ray Vander Laan, for much of the historical research which led me to discover this passage and its implication regarding social nudity. Just to be clear, Ray Vander Laan is not a naturist. He simply does accurate historical research for the express purpose of helping us understand the Scriptures better.

I would especially recommend the article on Hellenism: Center of the Universe for its eye-opening explanation of the influence Hellenism had in the first century. It also reveals the central role which the Gymnasiums played in public life while the NT was being written (they were also the universities of the day!).

I’ll close with a quote from that article... the very paragraph that turned on this lightbulb for me (emphasis mine).

The Bible does not mention the gymnasium though it was a significant institution of from 300 B.C. until well beyond the New Testament time. Paul hints at its existence in his letter to his friend Timothy writing, “For physical training is of some value...” (1 Tim. 4:8). The expression “physical training” is based on the Greek root word for gymnasium. In addition he used metaphors (1 Cor. 9:24-27boxing and physical training; Gal. 2:2 — running; Gal. 5:7 — running; Phil. 2:16 — running) activities taught in the gymnasium and not in the synagogue school of the religious Jews.


Matthew Neal

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Asking the Right Question — Part 2.

My last post (What DOES God think about my body?) opened with the idea that many people ask the wrong question, so they tend to get the wrong answer.

Well, this is the same song, second verse.

When it comes to the question of social nudity, most people approach God’s Word asking this question:

“Where in the Bible does it ever condone social nudity??”

But that may not be the right question. An alternative question would be:

“Where in the Bible does it ever condemn social nudity??”

Interestingly enough, the honest answer to both questions is probably “Nowhere.” God never prescribes nor prohibits social nudity.

It is no surprise that non-naturists ask the first question, while naturists ask the second one. The result is, of course, that both feel their position is vindicated by the obvious answer – “Nowhere” – because it affirms them in their beliefs.

But simple logic tells us that both cannot be correct, for the two conclusions are diametrically opposed to one another. One of the parties is asking the wrong question. Naturally then, that party is also getting the wrong answer.

Let’s put the questions on trial... and see which one proves to be the impostor.

Question Number 1... Tell us your presuppositions!

  • I presume that if God does not condone something, He must condemn it.

  • I presume that if most people believe something is wrong, that it must be wrong unless the Bible tells us otherwise.

Question Number 2... Tell us your presuppositions!

  • I presume that God has revealed to us those things which are offensive to him.

  • I presume that the measure of moral absolutes is not the opinion of the majority, but the express revelation of God.

Are there any witnesses?

Question Number 2 responds... “I have a witness, your Honor.”

Question Number 2... You may call your witness.

I call Pastor Charles Swindoll to the stand. Tell us, Mr. Swindoll, How can we know if something is morally wrong from our study of the Scriptures?

  • Nothing that is not specifically designated as evil in Scripture is evil — but rather a matter of one’s personal preference or taste.” (commenting on Romans 14:13-18 in his book The Grace Awakening, Word Publishing, 1990 – p. 167)

Question Number 1... Have you any witness?

I have no witness, your Honor.

Ok, I have to break character here and apologize to those who support Question Number 1 as the correct question. I acknowledge here that I do not know of any credible bible teacher who would support the presuppositions which undergird Question Number 1. And I’m unwilling to fabricate one which would surely be seen as a “Straw Man.” Honestly, I would welcome the responses from anyone who would wish to bring a witness in support of it. Having said that... I return to the “trial.”

The Judge has issued a ruling:

Question Number 1 has been found wanting. It is the opinion of the court that the burden of proof must lay with the one who claims that God is offended by a practice, not on those who claim God’s neutrality on the practice.

Furthermore, the court would reject any claim that the Bible is silent on the issue of social nudity because nudity was not an issue in Bible times. Every human being that has ever lived has had to face the question of how to treat his or her own nudity. The notion that God simply neglected to inform humanity that they must always keep their bodies covered is simply not credible.

God has given us all we need to live godly lives (2 Peter 1:3). Since God gave us no instructions requiring clothing to live a righteous life, then we have no Scriptural basis to claim that clothing is required for righteousness. God’s intentional silence on the topic speaks volumes.

Question Number 1 presumes that we know God’s mind and will for mankind instinctively. It presumes that the mind of man naturally perceives God’s moral law without God actively communicating it. This is in direct conflict with God’s Word in Isaiah 55:8-9...

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Question Number 1 will not lead us to a trustworthy answer.

However, the court also acknowledges that Question Number 2 is not the end of the discussion; it is simply the right question as we begin an exploration of the topic at hand.

This ruling only allows the discussion to remain open, for there is much more biblical instruction to consider.

Your Honor, may I indulge the court with some further discussion?” (Question Number 2 has spoken)

Question Number 2, what else do you have to add?

I would like the opportunity to address the challenge raised by Question Number 1”

Do you mean to say that you believe that God does condone social nudity in the Bible?

Yes, your Honor, I do. And I believe that I can demonstrate it.”

I was under the impression that it had been agreed that the answer to both questions was “Nowhere.” But now you are claiming you can demonstrate that’s not the case? Sounds like a rather difficult proposition to prove.

I know, your Honor. The English translation of the Bible actually obscures the implications of a passage of Scripture written by the Apostle Paul. However, those implications would have been abundantly clear to the original audience who heard or read the text in Greek.”

Very well. I will grant this petition. Court is adjourned until the next Blog Post.

— Matthew Neal —


Nudity in Early Christianity - Part 1

Frankly, at this point I do not know how many parts this subject will take. I would like to keep it at three but it may easily slip to four or five. Everything depends on how verbose I become when I began to get into the meat of things.

I realize that some of you will wonder why I am approaching the subject of nudity in early Christianity by first presenting principles of how to determine what is consistent with Biblical truth and what isn’t. The reason is that some early Church Fathers disagreed as to whether Christian should partake in public bathing but all agreed to the necessity of being baptized in the nude. Why did they disagree? And how can we — in the 21st century — determine that which is Biblically consistent in our lives and that which is not?

In this first part, I will discuss three principles that need to be accounted for when you are doing any Bible study. In the next blog I will discuss the final two from the list below

Principle 1-There is a difference between exegesis and eisegesis.

Principle 2-There is a difference between biblical interpretation and biblical application.

Principle 3-Culture today is different from culture in biblical times.

Principle 4-Tradition or early writings give insight as to what Christians believed at the time when those traditions began or when the writings were produced. These writings or traditions may or may not be consistent with biblical truths.

Principle 5-Rules tell people how to respond to a particular situation. Principles tell people how to apply biblical truths to the situation so that they are consistent with other biblical truths.

Exegesis and Eisegesis

When people study the Bible, they are looking for biblical truth. The process of finding that truth is known as "exegesis." Exegesis comes from a Greek word meaning, "to lead out of." So when you exegete a particular scriptural passage, you are taking the meaning out of that section of Scripture. Bible study should always start with exegesis of the Scripture passage to find out exactly what it means.

Eisegesis comes from the same Greek word except for the prefix eis-. The Greek prefix eis- means, "to go into." Therefore, eisegesis is an application to your own life and is personal rather than a principle. We can find a good illustration of the difference between the two words in John 21:15-17.

The context of this passage is post resurrection and prior to the ascension. Jesus is speaking to Peter and He asks him three times "do you love me?" Without going into a deep Bible study about the meanings of various words it is obvious that Peter is to protect and nurture the believers after Jesus ascends to heaven. That is the exegesis of the passage.

The eisegesis of the passage could be a number of things. We can say that Jesus was upset with Peter. Another view would be that Jesus had a flock of sheep and wanted Peter to take care of them. A third view might be that only people named Peter could minister in the way that Jesus wanted. You will notice that eisegesis can tend to come up with any number of different "truths" about a particular passage of Scripture. Never is eisegesis an acceptable way to pull biblical truth from the Scriptures, because it is, by definition, infusing external meaning into the Scriptures.

When someone attempts to force a particular subject into the interpretation of a Bible passage, he or she is practicing eisegesis instead of exegesis. For that reason, with the topic at hand, it would be wrong to try to justify nudity just because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that "all things are legal" to him. That passage is speaking about something very different.

Interpretation vs. Application

There is a difference between what you do when you interpret Scripture versus when you apply Scripture to your life. Good application comes only after good interpretation.

Interpretation answers this question: "What did the author intend the original recipients of the book/letter/prophecy/Psalm to understand?" Good Biblical interpretation always relies on an "historical/grammatical" viewpoint of the passage (we'll address what that means in another blog post).

Application, on the other hand, relies on your subjective experience and the leading of the Holy Spirit in your day-to-day Christian walk. Application tends to begin with the words "I" or "we." In contrast, Interpretation should never begin with the word "I."

Examples of interpretation and application are found in 1 Corinthians 6:19. The context of the verse actually starts in chapter 5. Paul is discussing some of the things in which the Corinthian Christians are participating. Verse 19 begins a summary of those 2 chapters.

When I first accepted Christ I was taught the Bible said you should not smoke because 1 Corinthians 6:19 states that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, since smoking anything (this was the 60s and 70s after all) was damaging to my body, any such activity was not allowed, "according to the Bible." This is a perfect example of eisegesis. Since my body was a temple of the Holy Spirit then anything I did in the realm of smoking was "against the rules." While that might be a good application, it is not the correct interpretation of the verse. The interpretation of the verse is specifically focusing on a sexual sin issue in the Corinthian church.

When we begin to look at nudity in the Bible, we must stay in the historical and textual context of the Scripture. If we were going to exegete a particular passage we must remember to view it as those who were receiving it would have viewed it. While we certainly can make an application after exegeting the Scripture, we cannot say something like "the Bible teaches _____" without it specifically teaching that.

Culture Then vs. Culture Today

We live in a culture, which is a utterly different from any time in the Old or New Testament. Very few of us live in an agricultural environment. Very few of us are fishermen or tent makers. I could go on, but the point is that we do not live today as any other Christian has ever lived in history. Each generation is different. Certain things pass from one generation to another, but other things are lost forever because of a lack of functionality or need.

Functional things such as clothing, food, and shelter are predominantly determined by the environment around us. We are the first generation who are able to dramatically change that environment. Air-conditioning, central heat, and electricity have changed not only our habits, but also fundamentally changed our lives and how we view life in general.

I am a fan of the TV show Survivor. The contestants occasionally have to determine the winner by having a tie breaker. They will see who can build a fire the fastest using flint, steel, and straw. If we were back in the 1800’s no one would have held a contest like that. Most people would know how to accomplish the task of building a fire. For some reason in Survivor they don’t know how.

In the same way, we cannot force our current practices and perspectives into a centuries-dead culture. For example, the public bath so common in New Testament times has all but vanished from today's cultures. What the Church Fathers (pre-700 A.D.) said about the bath (some were for and some were against) is no longer directly relevant to our lives. Also, our athletes do not practice without any clothes as the early Greeks did, nor do women today walk around with one breast exposed.

Therefore, Biblical principles must rely on unchanging truth... not culture or public opinion. Naturism must be shown to be acceptable within carefully and correctly discerned Biblical truth... and not just because someone "feels closer to God" when they are naked.

In future blogs I will explore nudity as practiced in early Christianity and see if it is consistent with Biblical truth.

Athanasius

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My trip to Normalcy

The first time I remember being naked around another person (other than my family) was in the 4th grade. I attended a public elementary school where everyone had to "dress out" for gym class. There were obviously two dressing rooms, one for the boys and the other for the girls. The procedure was to go to gym class, change your clothes into your gym outfit and then after class was over; come back, take a shower, and redress for the rest of school. While my memory seems to fade at this point, I think gym was a daily process. It seemed very normal and not the least embarrassing to be taking a shower with other boys. This changing into gym uniforms for gym class and then showering prior to going back regular class was a common event for me all the way through high school.

Outside of school the only times that I remember being nude in front of someone was at the YMCA swimming pool. The YMCA where I lived serviced a poorer neighborhood. Both boys and girls were allowed in the YMCA and swam in separate swimming pools. Because of the poor neighborhood, everyone was naked in their respective pool. There was no sense of embarrassment and to my knowledge; no one ever had any problems with sexual conduct.

When I was 18 I became a camp counselor at an overnight, all male camp. This camp was on a lake and reasonably remote. The procedure for taking a bath was to go to the lake, jump in to get wet, get out and cover yourself with soap, and then dive in again. The only time this procedure changed was when you had gone on a 3 or 4 day camping trip. Then everyone showered together in a large room with 15 or 20 shower heads coming out of the wall. This procedure was mandated for all who were campers or counselors.

The group to which I was assigned was made up of 7th and 8th graders. One day we took a trip about 20 miles from the camp. We hiked in the woods for about an hour when we came to a stream which was about 8 feet wide. A little way down the stream was a large boulder (20 or 30 feet long in the middle of the stream. The stream flowed over the boulder and like a small waterfall ended in a deep pool. Everyone stripped, soaped up their rear end, and slid down the boulder into the pool of water. There was no embarrassment, shame, or sexual excitement in this activity. It was perfectly normal and natural.

At the age of 19 I was drafted. Needless to say, there was not a lot of privacy while living together in the barracks. 50 men were assigned to the barracks where they showered, used the toilet, and slept in one large room. If there had been any kind of sexual activity the person or persons involved in such activity would have been chastised to the point it would never happen again.

After I was married, I did not participate in any kind of public activity in which nudity was practiced. Later, I became a practicing Christian as did my wife. We unconsciously decided that we would treat nudity in the family as something normal and natural. Nudity was not flaunted but rather if the children saw each other, or my wife and I naked it was not a traumatic event.

A few years ago I went to Europe on a business trip where, having some days off, I was able to go to several beaches. I was surprised but not shocked that one beach was fully nude. I noticed that most of the people there were families with young children. With the exception of one other person I was the only single male on the beach. There were three or four single females there as well. Being naked together seemed very natural and normal.

When I came back to the states I told my wife about the experience she agreed to go to a nudist resort close to where we live. I telephoned the manager of the resort to ensure that it was family oriented. Unfortunately, what he told me turned out not to be true. We left the resort very disappointed and somewhat nervous about having another experience.

I made more telephone calls to resorts in the area determined to give it one more try. The resort we chose to visit was much more family friendly but still had some things that we felt, based on our Christian positions, could not support. Therefore, except for very occasional visits we did not participate in any social nudity at all.

Two years ago we discovered the Christian Nudist Convocation (CNC). We finally found a group that approached Biblical Christianity the same way as we. Each of us view the body as something God has created and something of which we should not be ashamed. The principles of moral purity are enhanced when one recognizes that the body is God's creation and should not be desecrated.

In the next blog I will discuss nudity and early Christianity.

May God bless.

Athanasius

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sound Off - Vol. I

Again, welcome to The Biblical Naturist.

We have invited questions or comments from our readers, but not provided a place to do so besides adding comments after a blog post.

This post is for you.

If you have a question or comment, or challenge, please add it to this post as a comment. Hopefully, we'll take the best questions and toughest challenges and answer them in future blog posts.

In other words, we want you to tell us what you would like for us to address.

Thanks! We look forward to reading you responses!

Matthew Neal

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Just What DOES God Think About My Body?

Usually, if you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer.

I think that most people ask a different question than the one I posed in my title to this post. I suspect the one they generally ask is:

What does God think of nakedness?

It’s a similar question, no doubt, but it’s not the same. And in my view, it’s the wrong question, or at very least, its a secondary question. Let me explain...

“Nakedness,” as a term, refers to the human body in the state of being unclothed. It is the body without anything extra. It is the body by itself, with no non-human elements covering it. Nakedness is the state of a human body plus nothing else. In other words, nakedness is a state which describes the body; it is not the body itself.

The body is the body whether it is clothed or not. No matter how much clothing someone wears, not one stitch of their clothing will ever be part of his or her body.

Furthermore, nakedness is not a persistent reality. It is a description of the body’s relationship with items of clothing at a moment in time. Someone may be naked at one moment and fully clothed in the next. Indeed, for most people nakedness is a daily transitional reality.

So to ask what God thinks of “nakedness” is to ask what God thinks about a state of a human body in relationship to physical items known as “clothing.” Or more precisely, what He thinks about the state of a human body which is – at a given moment (and temporarily) – unclothed. Ultimately, it is asking what God thinks about something which is completely external to the body itself!

But if you ask that question without first asking, “What does God think about the human body?”, you will likely get the wrong answer. We must never ask about an external state of the body without first having a clear understanding of what God thinks about the human body as it really is.

Consider these questions:

  • What is the value of a diamond that is not set in a gold ring?
  • What value would there be in a pile of dung that has been molded and shaped like clay into a beautiful ceramic vessel?

I dare say that you would still consider the diamond as very valuable. And I hope you would attach very little value to a vessel crafted from dung.

A diamond does not lose its value when it is unadorned. Nor does dung gain much value if it is molded to look like something useful. The real value of these items might be obscured or highlighted by their external presentation, but that presentation will in no way determine their value.

So it must be with our understanding of the human body. Before we can get a clear understanding of God’s perspective towards nakedness (external to the body), we must first ask what God thinks about the human body without any reference to outside adornment.

I’m not sure why, but when exposure to the idea of Christian Naturism compelled me to dig into God’s Word to know God’s mind on the subject, I asked the question in my title rather than the one most people usually ask. In retrospect, I can now see that it was clearly the right question to ask. And I believe it led me to the right answer.

Without going into it all here and now (perhaps another post!), I’ll just summarize that I concluded from God’s Word that God has the highest esteem for the human body. Consider the following:

  • The human body is the only object in all creation given the honor of actually bearing God’s image. (Gen 1:26-27)
  • It’s the only created thing every described in the Bible as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psa. 139:14)
  • It’s the only dwelling place that is ever christened, “The Temple of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 3:16)
  • Having a physical body is such a significant and indispensable aspect of being human that even though we will someday die, God will not allow any of us to spend eternity without a physical body, for every last one of us will be physically raised to life some day.

All of the things I’ve just listed are true of God’s view of our bodies, irrespective of whether they are clothed or not.

I count these truths to be significant and foundational. They must be clear in our minds prior to any discussion about the temporary presence or absence of clothing. Furthermore, any effort to interpret the Scriptures regarding nakedness which ignore (or worse, contradict) these truths, will surely be in error.

But that is precisely why most people still hold an erroneous view of nakedness... they have not asked the right question. They brought their Christian cultural pre-understanding of nakedness to the Bible then proof-texted their way into believing that their understanding is correct. They’ve never fully grasped how valuable the human body actually is in God’s heart, so their conclusions are simply mistaken.

The fact is that if you keep God’s view of our bodies firmly in mind when examining the Scriptures’ teaching on nakedness, the picture that emerges is very different than what we’ve always been taught about nakedness. It turns out that the “shame” usually (and wrongly) associated with simple nakedness is really to be found in the treatment or use of the human body in dishonorable and/or impure ways.

It is indeed shameful to treat God’s image on the human body as if it were insignificant, or lustful, or disgusting, or indecent, or lewd. Yet, this is the view of the unclad human form which has been unwittingly promoted by the Church, particularly in America. That simply is not God’s view of our bodies. It shouldn’t be ours, either.

God thinks my body is pretty valuable, and pretty special. When He looks at me, He even sees some reflection of Himself! I think that’s pretty cool (for the record, He thinks the same thoughts about you!). It’s high time we all started seeing our bodies the way God does.

Let me close by leaving you with these insightful words from Pastor David L. Hatton:

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.”

I welcome your comments or questions.

Matthew Neal.