Friday, November 12, 2010

The Meaning of “Nakedness” – Part 1

What does nakedness mean?

That by itself might be a worthwhile question for discussion, but it would likely be very difficult to nail down. Doctors would respond very differently than pornographers. Indigenous jungle tribes would respond very differently than Western Christians. However, this post is not about that topic. I’ll restate the question above this way:

What does the term “nakedness” mean in the Old Testament?

Most of the passages speaking to nakedness of any sort are found in the Old Testament, and it is within its pages that most Bible teachers today draw their conclusions about what God thinks about nakedness.

If we really want to know what God’s perspective is towards nudity, it stands to reason that we must correctly understand the words He chose to use when He inspired the biblical authors to write the Scriptural texts. 

OT Words Describing Nakedness

Here’s a very brief overview of the three primary terms referencing nakedness in the Old Testament:

Those that know more than tell me that all three of these words have their basis in the same root Hebrew Word, but their biblical usage seems to indicate slightly different shades of meaning.

Without going into an exhaustive demonstration of their usage, I can state very definitively that the first two terms are never described by God as shameful. For personal examination of these words, you can see a listing of everywhere these words appear in the Hebrew text by clicking the links after each word above.

Essentially every passage where nakedness is considered “shameful” by God in the OT text, the Hebrew word used is ervah. Consequently, this is the word we most need to ensure that is correctly understood; if we hold a faulty definition of this word, then interpretations drawn from passages containing the word will very likely be faulty as well. And since we need to correctly understand God’s view of nakedness, it is of central importance that we understand the biblical definition of ervah.

A Full Word Study on ervah — A Summary of My Findings

There is not room in this blog post to present such a study, but I have researched it and prepared a full document of the word study that I will link you to at the conclusion of this post. Here, I will only summarize my findings. If anyone disagrees with my conclusions, I would strongly urge you to carefully examine the full document to discern if and where I may have erred. If you find something, I welcome discussion and/or correction.

Part 1 - The Natural Meaning

The natural etymological meaning of ervah is exactly that to which it is generally translated in English—“nakedness”—which simply is the state of being unclothed. Therefore, my starting point for my study was to assume this definition.

The word ervah appears 54 times in the OT. I examined every instance to see if the natural meaning of the word made sense in every case. My assumption was that if the natural meaning made sense, there would be no need to look any further for a clearer definition.

In some instances, the natural meaning did make sense in the passage. For example:

“Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness [ervah] of his father, and told his two brothers outside.” (Gen. 9:22)

In this and a few other verses, the word “nakedness” communicates a very understandable and straightforward meaning.

However, the majority passages seemed a little unclear with the natural meaning. The words themselves made enough sense, but God’s intended meaning leaves us puzzled. For example:

“Then Saul’s anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness [ervah]?’” (1 Sam. 20:30)

The words make sense, but what could Jonathan’s kindness towards David possibly have to do with the nakedness of his mother?

Finally, some passages using ervah made little or no sense at all when using the natural meaning of the word. In several such cases, the translators didn’t even bother using “nakedness” to translate ervah; instead, they used a different word that made more sense in the context. This by itself is evidence that the natural meaning of the Hebrew word was not what the original author had in mind. Here’s an example (using “nakedness” where ervah appears rather than the word “indecency” which the NASB translators used):

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some nakedness [ervah] in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce… (Deut. 24:1)

When a man marries a woman, it is to be expected that he would see her naked thereafter. Yet this law deals with a case when a man finds “nakedness” in his new wife and decides to divorce her as a result. Clearly, in this passage, the natural meaning of ervah cannot be an accurate definition of the word. There must be something else that he’s finding there.

Conclusion to Part 1

The purpose of Part 1 was to examine the natural meaning of the word ervah to discern if it adequately satisfies the various passages where the word is used. In my opinion, the natural meaning of ervah (meaning “nakedness” or simply being “without clothes”) does not sufficiently satisfy the usage of the word in many of the passages where it appears in the Hebrew text.

Therefore the word must have connotations beyond the natural meaning, or else it must have two or more distinct definitions.

In my next blog post, Part 2 – the Connotations, I will examine the possibility that there are consistent connotations in the Scriptural usage of ervah in order to craft a more clear and biblical definition of the word. If such connotations can be discerned, then it can and should inform our interpretation of any Scripture where it appears.

To reiterate… until we know for sure what ervah means, we cannot be confident that we know God’s perspective on nakedness.

— Matthew Neal

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This blog post is a summary of part 1 of the full word study on ervah. The complete document may be downloaded here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Stuff of Fantasies…

Why is it that most Christian men assume that if a man goes to a naturist resort, he’s doing it to look at all the naked women?

Of course, I don’t know the answer empirically since I’ve never asked anyone else, but I have my own theory…

Been there, done that…

Before I became a naturist, I struggled like so many others with fantasies about naked women.

Having been raised in a very conservative Christian home, I never ever saw my mother unclothed. And since I had no sisters, I never even saw any female unclothed as a small child. Once puberty hit and I began to have interest in the fairer gender, I still had essentially no idea what the nude female body really looked like.

I used to look at Mark Eden ads (a bust line enhancement product) in my grandmother’s magazines, or look through the lingerie pictures in that big ol’ J. C. Penney catalog. As I looked at them, sometimes I would just wish and wish that they would take off what little they were wearing so I could see their bodies completely unclothed. Of course, they never did.

The ultimate opportunity!

Everyone’s heard about “nudist colonies” where people (including women!!) go completely naked all the time! Imagine that!! You can bet I fantasized about finding a knot-hole in the fence around such a place so that I could look in and see this marvelous yet forbidden sight!

But as a maturing Christian young man, this was not an acceptable fantasy for me to dwell on. Nudity was about sex, and I was saving myself for my future wife. To even imagine seeing other women naked was mental adultery (Matthew 5:27-28) because I could not have a sexual relationship with them. Seeing someone naked was equivalent to experiencing them sexually. To desire to see them naked was nothing less than sinful lust. Right?

The Obvious “Conclusion.”

So… any thoughts about ever seeing the naked people at a “nudist colony” are forever and always associated with lust. That was sure clear to me. Only the lustful and ungodly would even think about such a place. Certainly no godly Christian man would ever contemplate going to a place where everyone was unclothed.

 

Am I alone in thinking this way?

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s ever thought about a nudist venue this way. I think just about every young man has been intrigued by the very idea that there might be places where all the women are naked. Whether he’s indulged it or rejected it, the notion captured his attention. And those who have become committed Christians and have purposely determined that they wanted to be sexually pure before God have dutifully repented of their lustful desires to see it.

Whether he indulged in fantasies about seeing nudists as a young man or not, he now guards against fantasies about any sort of social nudity. And since he knows what seeing naked women would mean in his own heart, he’s quite sure that every other man responds the same way… and every other Christian man should reject social nudity for the same reasons that he himself has. Righteousness demands it!

The “Conclusion” is not in question…

Nobody ever bothers to question that conclusion according to Scripture. Consequently, if any man claiming to be a Christian attends a naturist resort (they’re not called “nudist colonies”), most other Christian men would dismiss that man as one who is in obvious sin rather than take into account the rest of his life, conduct, and character.

They “know” that man is in sin because the only time they themselves have ever imagined looking on naked women at a “nudist colony” was when they themselves were indulging in lustful fantasies!

It’s easier to condemn another man’s actions than to question one’s own assumptions.

 

Morality is not based on Fantasies.

Yes, going to a place where all the women are naked is the stuff of fantasies. Probably every young man has had such fantasies…

But morality is not based on fantasy, it’s based upon TRUTH!

The truth is this:

  • A naturist resort is not a sexual context (or it’s not truly naturist!).
  • Seeing someone naked is not equivalent to experiencing that person sexually.
  • Even if you expected it to be a sexual turn-on, after a very short time watching a mixed bag of people doing very non-sexual thing unclothed, you’d find it very sexually boring.

And then there’s the Biblical truth about it:

  • The Bible never tells us that we can never be around or see other people naked.
  • Jesus didn’t say that to look at a woman was mental adultery, He said that it was looking at her “with lust.” (Matthew 5:27-28) There’s a huge difference… Ask any doctor.
  • Social nudity was originally God’s idea… and ideal. In the beginning, Adam and Eve “were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)
  • God never rescinded that ideal. There’s no command in Genesis 3:21 or anywhere else in all the Bible that requires us to be clothed in order to be pleasing to Him.

 

I dare you…

If you’re reading this and are still convinced that I’m wrong, then I know for sure that you’ve never personally been to a naturist resort. So… I dare you to go. Take your clothes off and participate (don’t go as a voyeur). Only then do you have any basis upon which to tell me how “sinful” and “sexual” social nudity is.

But you won’t… because there’s nothing like a dose of reality to dispel the fantasies.

— Matthew Neal

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Objectification of Women – Part 2

So, gentlemen… how much of a woman’s body has to be covered before you can look at her without lust?

How you answer will tell us how much—and what parts—of a woman’s body you objectify.

Is it her breasts? Her legs? Her butt? Her belly? All of the above?

Let Me Be Very Honest with You…

For many years, I objectified women’s breasts as a sexual turn-on. So long as they were covered, I did not have a problem with lustful thoughts when I saw and/or interacted with a woman. But if I ever saw them exposed (even if only partially), it was “automatic” sexual thoughts and arousal.

Even in my sexual relationship with my wife, I tended to focus on her breasts as a trigger for my arousal and fulfillment. In other words, I was objectifying my own wife. When we entered into the sex act, I ceased interacting with the person who is my wife (with whom I share a deep relationship), and started using her as a sex object for my own sexual satisfaction.

Dare I look upon any woman as if the sight of her breasts trumps her personhood? No woman deserves that… not even my wife!

Sex is, at its core, about relationship. God established this in Gen. 2:24 when He said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” The “one flesh” sexual union is divinely decreed as a physical expression of the newly established marriage relationship.

To be sure, a woman’s body is visually attractive, but her body is an expression of her person. To define any part of a woman’s body according to its sexual impact upon us is to objectify her body and demean her personhood!

Wouldn’t every woman rather know that it was her real self that attracted and aroused her husband, not just her body parts? Wouldn’t that be more honoring and fulfilling relationally… for husband and wife?

Men, if there is any part of a woman’s body to which you only have a sexual response, then you are objectifying that part of the woman. If you objectify any part of a woman, you objectify the woman, for she is a whole person… spirit, soul, and body.

In Part 1 of this series, I addressed the societal objectification of women and their bodies. Here in Part 2, I am asking you to ponder the personal objectification of women’s bodies in your own heart.

There may be little or no hope for a wholesale transformation of society in this matter. However, if we are willing to take a hard look within our own hearts and minds—and endeavor to address what we discern there—we will find that the truth really does have the power to transform us. A woman’s body parts are not about sex. They are beautiful expressions of the person that God created her to be. We must appreciate the beauty without divorcing it from the complete person she is. When we do, we will finally be innocent of the objectification of women.

So… What Does This Have to Do with Naturism?

First of all, as I pointed out in Part 1, naturists—probably more consistently than any other definable group—do not objectify women’s bodies. They simply do not consider a sexual response to the sight of a woman’s body to be appropriate in a social context, let alone “automatic.” They treat every woman—no matter the size or shape of her body—with acceptance, dignity, and respect. To become a naturist, you must lay aside the objectification in your own heart.

Secondly, if a man never sees any nudity except in a sexual context, it may prove very difficult for him to really break free from the body-part/sexual-response association in his mind. However, the very experience of social nudity (which is not a sexual context) will very quickly cast out the false expectations of a sexual response to the mere sight of a woman’s unclothed body. There is probably no quicker cure.

If, for whatever reason, real social nudity is not possible for you to experience, then at very least spend as much time as possible with your own wife—both of you naked—when sex is not on the agenda. Grow accustomed to relating to her as a person non-sexually even while you can see every inch of her body. You’ll find that it’s really not that difficult. And have no fear that you will not be able to “perform” if you get “too accustomed” to seeing her naked… when you’re both in the mood for sex, relational arousal beats visual arousal any day!

A Higher Calling

Of all people in the world, we as Christian men should be leading the way… treating women with their true God-given dignity. Let us repent of our sin and conquer it in our own hearts. Let us train our sons (and daughters) to honor all women… refusing to be swayed or infected by our culture’s objectifying pattern of thoughts and responses. And let us demonstrate to the church of our Lord Jesus Christ that there is a more godly and biblical understanding of our bodies than that which our church tradition has taught us.

— Matthew Neal

P.S. Don’t ever refer to any woman as “hot.” It’s a term of objectification. It has no place in the vocabulary of a godly man.

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See also:

The Objectification of Women - Part 1

Naturist by Biblical Conviction

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quotes and Comments #3

He had discovered a great law of human action,

without knowing it - namely, that in order to make

a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary

to make the thing difficult to obtain.

— Mark Twain—

You remember the story, right? Tom Sawyer has to whitewash his Aunt Polly’s fence on a Saturday morning when he had planned all sorts of other activities. When one of his friends happen by, he pretends that whitewashing is a great and wonderful privilege to get to do!

“I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it's got to be done,” Tom says to the first hapless boy who comes to jeer at him. Moments later, Ben Rogers is doing Tom’s job… the first of a non-stop lineup of boys who insisted that they be given a chance, too… even paying him to let them do it!

“He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while—plenty of company—and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.” (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Chapter 2)

It is right at this point in the the story that the quotation above is found. It capsulizes this very significant human reality…

    To make someone covet something, just make it hard to obtain!

We laugh at Tom’s cunning pretence and the gullibility of all his friends who fell for it. But therein is an important truth about us all. In light of my most recent post, The Objectification of Women – Part 1, I thought this quote was imminently appropriate. Let me explain…

An Exquisite Beauty

Women are—by God’s fabulous design—wonderfully beautiful. For years (and long before I became a naturist) I have held the opinion that the naked female body is the most beautiful thing God made in all of creation.

God is aesthetic… He loves and creates beauty. Humans, who are made in God’s likeness, reflect that aesthetic nature; we are attracted to beauty.

Unlike the task of whitewashing a fence, the beauty of a woman is intrinsically attractive to us all. It is natural and pleasing to see. That beauty, by itself, does not incite lust. It is—like all other beauty—attractive to the human eye. And it should—like all other beauty—prompt us to admire the one who crafted the beautiful sight!

But what if we never get the chance to actually see it? What if we are told that its only permitted on a very limited basis? What if that sight is very “hard to obtain”?

Hiding Women’s Beauty Leads to Lust.

If the chance to whitewash a fence can be coveted because of its inaccessibility to a young man, how much more will lust be ignited when the inaccessible object is something of genuine beauty?

When Muslims make the beauty of a woman’s face “hard to obtain” by keeping it covered from sight, they cause men to “covet” or lust after women’s faces.

When Indians make the beauty of a woman’s legs and ankles “hard to obtain” by keeping them covered from sight, they cause men to “covet” or lust after women’s ankles.

When we in America judiciously ensure that every woman keeps any sight of the beauty of her breasts and buttocks “hard to obtain” by covering them, we also ensure that men will “covet” or lust after women’s breasts and buttocks.

Frank Exposure Defeats Lust

One of Tom Sawyer’s opening lines to his first victim was, “Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

Herein is the key to Tom’s success… by hinting that whitewashing was a rare and exciting opportunity, he drew the fellow into wanting it for himself.

If Ben Rogers had ever been assigned the sorry duty of whitewashing his own fence, he never would have fallen for Tom’s pretense. Frank exposure to the truth of how much work it really is to paint a fence would have made him immune to any ideas to the contrary!

In like manner, boys who are exposed to the natural female form in non-sexual contexts will know the truth that seeing a woman’s unclothed form is not a “big deal,” and that the incident, by itself, is not a sexual experience at all. They will not fall for pornography’s offer of a rare and special experience (seeing a woman’s body) nor its pretense about how “sexual” that experience is.

But make it very difficult to ever see a woman’s body, and those boys will be ripe for lust… and ripe for falling into pornography’s distorted ideas about the meaning of that beauty.

Let’s Not Fall for the Pretense Anymore.

Tom Sawyer understood this reality, and he used it to con others into doing his work.

Satan understands this reality, too, and he’s used it very successfully to con countless men and women into doing relationships and sex his way.

In both cases, the allure is based on a lie. It’s time to open our eyes to the truth. We’ve been whitewashing Satan’s fence far too long.

— Matthew Neal

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See also:

The Objectification of Women – Part 1

(If you have not already done so, please read the Introduction to the Quotes and Comments.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Objectification of Women – Part 1

Women are sexually objectified in our world today.

I doubt anyone would contradict that statement… although far too many choose to participate and indulge in the objectification rather than make any effort to refrain from or oppose it.

For the purpose of this post, I will take it for granted that people who wish to respect human dignity do not want to sexually objectify women. With that assumption so stated, I would like to make some observations about the sexual objectification of women in our world today.

Let me first define what I mean by “objectification” or “sexual objectification”…

Objectification is the perspective, or mind-set, that…

  • assigns sexual meaning to the woman or certain elements of her body.
  • focuses sexual attention on the woman or her body parts.
  • considers the assigned sexual meaning to be the primary (or only) meaning found in her body or body parts.
  • assumes that a sexual response is the only response a man can or will have to seeing the objectified woman. Said another way, seeing her body incites impure lust in a man’s heart.

In short, objectification sees the woman as principally a sexual object.

Objectification by Muslimsburka pair walking

To the Muslim mind, it would appear, every last bit of a woman’s natural beauty is a danger to a man’s moral purity. Consequently, for the most extreme expressions of Islam, every inch of her body must be covered in order for her to avoid being a sexual temptation to men.

burka face1Even the face is considered a danger. A woman’s God-given beauty—no matter which portion of it is seen—will cause a man to lust.

So, evidently, the answer is to so completely hide a woman’s beauty that when seen, she appears to be nothing more than a walking pillar of draped cloth.

Would anyone disagree that this is an egregious example of the sexual objectification of women? No part of her is safe to be seen; every part of her is sexualized.

Of course, that is the extreme even in the Muslim world. But among Christians, some are not far removed from this extreme. I’ll demonstrate that in a momet, but first, consider this example from the nation of India.

Objectification in India (a First-hand Account)191644

A few years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to India to do some Christian ministry through music. While there, one of the women on our team was asked to make sure that she kept her ankles covered. The man who asked her was from the Indian Christian Ministry that was hosting us during our ministry tour.

The outfit she was wearing was much like the one you see here… a rather normal looking dress, but with matching pants that cover the legs… and ankles.

Evidently, for the Indian man, he can safely see a woman’s face or arms, but seeing any part of her legs triggers a lustful response.

This sexualized view of a woman’s ankles is an artificially assigned meaning. It is not intrinsic to the nature of a woman’s ankles. While it caught my Indian brother’s attention enough to warrant action to “correct,” I myself was completely unaware that her ankles were exposed. To my American mind, the ankles had no sexual meaning at all. Seeing them was not a sexual event for me at all… but it must have been so for him.

So in India, they do not sexually objectify the face or arms, but the body and legs are a danger to a man’s purity.

An Observation…

Here in America, we look at these examples of sexual objectification and find them silly and overly prudish. We don’t see any reason that a woman must cover her face and we count it demeaning to a woman to demand it of her. We don’t see any reason to hide the ankles, and find that requirement to be senseless because we do not assign sexual meaning to them.

But there’s something very important to realize as we ponder these first two examples: whatever body parts someone insists on being covered, those are the parts that they are sexually objectifying. The logic is simple: if a body part is not considered “sexual,” it need not be covered at all.

Stated more simply… That which we cover, we objectify.

I’m not talking about valid reasons to cover the body for warmth or protection… I’m talking about parts of the body that we insist on covering for “moral” reasons; those parts of the body we believe will cause lust if they are seen by the opposite sex.

Why do the Muslims cover the face? Because they have assigned sexual meaning to it and so concluded that the sight of a woman’s beautiful face will incite lust in men.

Why do the Indians cover the ankles? Because they have assigned sexual meaning to them and so concluded that the sight of a woman’s ankles will incite lust in men.

Objectification in the American Church

The most “fundamentalist” Christians in America are among the worst to sexually objectify women.

They have a sincere desire to live in righteousness and purity before God. But they have determined that seeing the body of a woman will inevitably lead men to lust. The more of her body that is seen, the more likely the lustful response.005swimsuits

So, since they firmly believe that women are called by God to be “modest” (1 Tim 2:9 has nothing to do with how much skin is covered! See Rightly Dividing 1 Timothy 2:9), even swimwear cannot leave any skin above the knees or below the neck exposed.

The “swimsuits” seen at right are the result (wholesomewear.com). I wouldn’t bat an eye at these “dresses” if I saw them worn to church on Sunday morning! I can’t imagine how miserable they would be to actually swim in.

Oddly enough, These Christians count the most beautiful part of a woman’s body (her face) safe to be seen by any man. But the rest of her body—from neck to knees—is considered to be a spiritual danger to men. Because they have assigned sexual meaning to these parts of her body, they believe that they will always cause a sexual response in men at their very sight.

This is the sexual objectification of women.

modest 1 piece 7Non-fundamentalist churches are certainly less extreme in the details of their standards for attire, but ultimately we have to conclude that by the same measures we’ve been using for the previous examples, they also objectify women.

Most such churches have no problem with women wearing a “modest” 1-piece bathing suit in mixed company. They may even hold an all-church swimming party at the city pool where everyone in the church is invited. It is not presumed that men will lust after the women in such suits, even though breast cleavage may be visible and the entire length of the thighs can be seen.bikini 8

Some such churches may not break a sweat even if some of the women wear “sensible” bikinis. After all, the belly isn’t really “sexual” is it? Everyone knows that the real issues are the breasts and the pubic region, right? These are the parts that cannot be seen without producing a sexual response in men… or so it is believed.

“As long as the breasts are covered and at least shorts are worn, then the man alone is responsible if he lusts after the woman’s body. But if she exposes any more, she is to blame.” Maybe no one actually says that, but they often act as if it were true.

This is certainly less radical than fundamentalists’ view, but this too objectifies those parts believed to be “sexual” and thus in need of covering.

NOTE: As you continue reading, you will see yet more “revealing” images of women. I provide them here not to titillate but to illustrate. As you look at them, I urge you to really see them rather than just react to them. Please do not continue looking at these images if you cannot do so without lust.

For a PDF version of this article without the images found below please open this link: The_Objectification_of_Women_Part_1_less_images.pdf

Objectification in Culture

In many cases, the objectification of specific body parts of both genders is formally and legally codified.

Laws and ordinances exist in our state and local governments which mandate that a woman may not be seen topless in public places. Provided her nipples are covered, however, she is considered to be within the law. Likewise, both men and women are not permitted to be seen in public without some sort of covering upon their loins and buttocks.

Almost no one seems to disagree with the assessment that these are indeed the body parts which produce the “automatic” sexual response in others when seen. Oddly enough, in this perspective, Christians find themselves in agreement with the rest of our culture… including pornographers! This fact alone should give us cause to reexamine our assumptions!

I’ll state it plainly…

On these points, Christians and the pornography industry agree:

  • Seeing the breasts of a woman is sexually exciting for a man.
  • Seeing the uncovered pubic or buttocks regions of either gender is sexually exciting to the opposite gender (or even to the same gender).

Note here that the difference between the culture and the church is not in how they view these body parts, only in how they encourage people to react to them. The world says “Indulge!” and the church says, “Flee!" but the core belief about the nature of the body is identical!

Most Christians insist that these body parts remained covered at all times except with a doctor or one’s own spouse. They do so from an honest and genuine desire to live a sexually pure and holy life before God. Nonetheless, they still objectify the woman’s body. “Because the body is sexual,” they would say, “cover it!”bikini

Our culture at large, on the other hand, tends to encourage and reward the use of the sexualized body parts to emphasize their sexual nature and invite sexual interest. Looking again at bathing suits, you can see from the images here that the point is not to conceal, but to tantalizingly reveal, while at the same time maintaining minimal “legal” covering on the primary “points of interest.” Without a doubt, they objectify the woman’s body. “Because the body is sexual,” they would say, “flaunt it!”

By covering the breasts (or at least the nipples), we actually end up emphasizing them and assigning artificial (and false) meaning to them… i.e. that they are sexual (breasts are not sexual, they are maternal). The specific covering of the nipples ultimately invites the observer to focus one_pieceattention on the breasts and nipples. The exposure of most of the breast but not the nipple ignites the imagination to ponder that which is still hidden.

When women wear such bathing suits or other clothing for the purpose of calling sexual attention to themselves by highlighting certain body parts with their clothing, they are objectifying themselves, and inviting their own objectification by those that see them.

Providing Fertile Ground for Pornography

Since both Christians and the rest of culture at large have agreed to keep the breasts, pubic region, and buttocks covered, the pornographers can capitalize on that restriction and use it to sell us something we otherwise never have occasion to see: the fabulous beauty found in the unclothed feminine form.

Make no mistake… it is the prudery of our culture that facilitates and empowers pornography.

God never intended for feminine beauty to be always hidden. In fact, when we read the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2, we discover instead that God’s original design was for mankind to live completely un-clothed! While the man and woman stood before Him fully naked, God looked on all of creation and pronounced it “very good” (Gen 1:31). If sin had not entered the world, men would have been exposed to naked female beauty throughout the day—every day—within human society.

But we’re fallen now and can no longer look upon a woman’s body without lust!”

The pornographers are delighted for you to continue believing that, but it’s a lie.

A survey of the entire Bible will show that God never tells a man that he may not observe the naked beauty of any woman except his own wife. Never are women commanded to keep “this” or “that” body part covered for the sake of sexual purity or to prevent lust in men.

Why is it that in the church today, we are so convinced that keeping body parts covered is God’s will for us… when He never told us to do so?

These rules are entirely man-made… and they sexually objectify women!

We, in our own dubious “wisdom,” have assigned sexual meaning to a woman’s body parts. Then, we’ve created rules for righteousness based on the assigned meaning. The result is a false standard of righteousness based on man’s wisdom rather than God’s Word. And—for the record—the rules don’t work (see Col. 2:30-32 for God’s definitive statement on the utter uselessness of man-made rules of righteousness).

We Experience What We Expect

I suppose that many a man would testify that his own experience (and the experience of every man he knows) has demonstrated conclusively that men really are “automatically” aroused at the sight of a woman’s body. And, as everyone “knows,” the breasts and buttocks are the only real triggers.

“What about the ankles?”

Those don’t produce the sexual response, right? Perhaps that’s what most men would say… but what about the Indian man? “Yes, the ankles incite lust, too.” he might say. “They also need to be covered. I know… because I’ve experienced it.”

“What about the face?”

Of course, the face doesn’t incite lust… or does it? Ask the Muslim man. “Yes! Absolutely! The face of my wife must be covered or other men will lust after her!” And if he were honest enough to admit it, he would claim to know this for sure, because he himself is tempted to lust after other women when he sees their faces!

Think about it…

  • If in a Muslim culture, every woman is covered head to toe to counter lust, then if any one woman appeared with face uncovered, every man’s eyes would be drawn to gaze at her beauty! And because his beliefs so dictate, every man would expect and experience lust at the sight.
  • In an Indian culture, if every woman’s legs are covered to her feet, then the one woman whose pants reveal her ankles will be noticeable to every man who sees her. Because the sight is so rare, it produces a visceral response in him that he interprets as sexual.
  • In a Fundamentalist Christian context, if every woman wears a high neck blouse and a skirt that reaches mid-calf, then the woman who wears a V-neck blouse (showing some cleavage perhaps) and a knee-length skirt will be a scandal in the church and every man will have to work very hard to avert his eyes from the “lustful sight.”
  • In Society-at-Large, if every woman dutifully wears pants and a top of at least some sort, then the woman who goes topless or nude will attract the attention of every man within sight. Because it’s expected, each man will either indulge the sight for lust or turn away to avoid lust.

In each case, the lustful response is expected—and experienced—whenever a man sees some portion of feminine beauty that is always otherwise hidden from his view. That which he expects to lust after, he does lust after. This is why the Muslim, the Indian, the Christian, and the average Joe all find their beliefs about what feminine body parts incite lust to be confirmed in their own experiences. Their expectations are self-fulfilling.

Their standards for lust do not align with each other, so they can’t all be right. Yet, in each case, he thinks his perspective is vindicated because whatever the man believes will incite lust in his own heart… does. Conversely, whatever he has concluded will not incite lust, doesn’t! No, they can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong!

Here is the truth:

  • To believe that something will incite lust is to sexually objectify it.
  • That which we believe will incite lust, we require to be covered.
  • Consequently, whatever we insist on being covered, we sexually objectify.

And, that which we sexually objectify will incite lust in us when we see it.

Naturists do NOT Objectify Women!

Since to require the covering of a body part is to objectify it, it follows logically that the only way to ensure that no part of a woman’s body is sexually objectified is to completely reject the claim that any part of a woman’s body must be covered. This, in fact, is the belief and practice of naturists.

Think about it…

  • At a Naturist Resort, if every woman is fully nude, then… well… then what? There’s nothing hidden. Nothing more to reveal. Nothing more to imagine. No body part is emphasized by its “need” for covering. There’s no one enticingly showing “just a little more” and men are not expected to lust (it’s pretty rude). There’s no expectation in a man’s heart and mind that he will lust at what he sees, so he does not “automatically” do so.

We do not objectify that which we do not cover!

This is not to say at all that Naturists have become blind to the magnificent beauty God built into the woman’s body! Of course they notice it! Of course they appreciate it! The fact is, only those that do not objectify the body can truly appreciate its beauty for what it really is… God’s handiwork. And the Christian Naturist—above all—can see the reflection of God’s image there (Gen. 1:26-27) and turn his or her admiration into praise to God.

(Fine artists and medical professionals also know and experience the non-objectifying exposure to full female nudity. See the links at the end of this post for more information.)

So, I invite you now to see the following images differently than perhaps you normally would. Notice that by the full exposure of the body, there is nothing emphasized. The breasts are simply a part of the woman’s entire person. The pubic region turns out to be a rather insignificant part of the whole. The overwhelming total impact is of exquisite beauty. This beauty reflects the glory of God! It is not for anyone’s selfish indulgence!

chaste nude 1

 found at www.debenport.com/mm.html
chaste nude 2found at www.debenport.com/mm.html

chaste nude painting

“A Pompeian Bath” by John William Godward. Found at hoocher.com/John_William_Godward/John_William_Godward.htm

What is true of the woman is also true of the man. This magnificent work by Michelangelo frankly includes the male genitals without apology, without emphasis, and without fear. They are simply a part of the man… every man, in fact. We need not fear nor despise their exposure. At Creation, our Father hand sculpted each and every part of the man’s body from the clay. And His work was… and is still…  “very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

David_by_Michelangelo

“David” by Michelangelo

Closing Comments

As odd as it may seem to our culture today, and especially within Christendom, we should counter the sexual objectification of the human body not by covering it judiciously, but by its frank and honorable exposure.

Every boy among us who grows up seeing the beauty of women’s faces on a daily basis, learns to observe that beauty without objectifying it. If every boy grew up seeing the loveliness of female nudity on a daily basis, he would learn to observe that even the female body’s beauty without objectifying it.

Is there any other strategy in our culture today that offers any real hope for such a God-honoring perspective of humanity? Is there any other way to combat the objectification of women?  I don’t believe there is. We will never defeat the objectification of women in our culture until we first expel it from our own hearts.

Oh, Creator God, in Whose image we are all made, please make it so… Amen.

— Matthew Neal

Recommended Links:

  • ART: Gordon College, a Christian college in Wenham, MA, offers (or offered) an art major that included the study of the nude. They posted a very powerful statement explaining their reasons for doing so. That statement can be found here.
  • Another good article: A Christian Perspective on Nudity in Art
  • Pastor David L. Hatton is an active pastor and an obstetric nurse. He came face to face with full female nudity in his medical profession and discovered that the “automatic” sexual response to seeing a woman’s body was a false expectation. Read his story here: “My View on Nakedness”
  • 007b.com is a website written by women and for women to promote breastfeeding, the natural God-intended design for breasts. In the process it clearly exposes the falseness of breast-obsession/breast-taboo that pervades our culture.

See also related posts:

The Objectification of Women – Part 2

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

Just What DOES God Think About My Body?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quotes and Comments #2

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.

— Edward Abbey —

Truth may be its own reward, but sometimes that “reward” comes at a price. Even so, the truth is still better than that which is false. After all, the God of truth always sides with truth… while the delusion will always be in alliance with the father of lies.

The trouble is that no one recognizes his own delusions; in his own mind, all that he currently believes is filed under “TRUE.” To root out delusions, we must be willing to honestly test our current beliefs.

  • What about the Church’s current understanding regarding social nudity? Truth or Delusion?

For a long time, Christians have simply taken it for granted that nudity around anyone but one’s own spouse is immoral. Since the Bible doesn’t declare this to be so, the only way to biblically support the assertion is to presume that the state of nudity around someone of the opposite gender is tantamount to a sexual invitation. And since sex outside of marriage is forbidden in the Bible, social nudity must be as well.

Since the whole argument hinges on that presumption, let’s ask some basic question about it…

  • Is that notion (that nudity is a sexual invitation) taught in the Bible?
  • If there are “exceptions” to that assumption (parental or medical necessity), are the exceptions found in the Bible?
  • Can we justify granting “exceptions” that are not found in the Bible?
  • Is the sight of nudity really the automatic sexual “turn-on” we’ve been told that it is?

Discerning the answers to these questions is not very hard. But precious few are genuinely willing to submit their assumptions on this issue to honest evaluation.

I simply don’t understand that reticence.

If what we currently believe is true, then what’s the harm in allowing it to be challenged? If it is true, then it will exonerate itself! But if it is not true, shouldn’t we want to know? Would anyone actually prefer to continue believing something that is false?

Would people actually prefer to hold onto a delusion simply because it’s more comfortable than the truth?

Here’s another related quote…

It is easier to find a score of men

wise enough to discover the truth

than to find one intrepid enough,

in the face of opposition, to stand up for it.

— A. A. Hodge —

Correctly answering the questions above is one thing…

Being willing to stand up for the truth you’ve discovered when everyone else is “sure” that you’re wrong… well, that’s quite another.

Since I personally addressed those questions and found the presumption to be in error, I’ve paid a very high price for standing up for the truth. It’s been a cruel truth, but a truth nonetheless.

I have spoken to a number of people important to me who still hold to the belief that non-spousal nudity is wrong. I am quite sure that they all are “wise enough” to discern the correct answers. I am inexpressibly disappointed that none of them have actually been willing to do so.

Why is it so hard for people to do that? Why are so many people seemingly more committed to their current way of thinking than they are to truth?

I am more than willing to submit what I believe to the most stringent critique, provided it is honest and biblically grounded. I have no interest in holding to my current position if it proves false. But neither will I hold to a false position simply to escape “opposition.”

To date, not one of my friends or family have been willing to honestly open God’s Word with me to examine this topic.

I’m ready to put what I now believe to the test. You who believe me wrong… will you do the same?

Matthew Neal

(If you have not already done so, please read the Introduction to the Quotes and Comments.)

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For previous blog posts related to this one, see:

The Unchallenged Belief!

You Can’t Have it Both Ways…

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quotes and Comments — #1

Conventionality is not morality.

Self-righteousness is not religion.

To attack the first is not to assail the last.

— Charlotte Bronte —

Christian Naturism is certainly a blow to “conventionality.” Social nudity is considered (it would seem) by all Christendom to be utterly immoral. It is viewed as an utter rejection of Biblical chastity.

But it’s not.

Christian Naturism directly challenges the spoken or unspoken assumption that “adequately” covering the body and avoiding non-spousal nakedness is a measure of holiness, “modesty,” or righteousness. Those that cover themselves judiciously are upheld as “pure.” Those who would allow strangers to see their unclothed bodies are considered “perverse.”

But they’re not.

Christian Naturism strongly affirms chastity and biblical sexual morality. In fact, I would contend that the practice of naturism will actually promote greater purity in one’s life. I testify before God that it certainly did for me.

Christian Naturism rejects false measures of righteousness regarding clothing, but it affirms the centrality in every believer’s life of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Man-made rules of righteousness (no matter what the issue) are enemies of true righteousness, and we are called to actively reject them (See Gal. 3:1-3 & Col. 2:20-23).

Christian Naturism and those who promote it are accused of rejecting morality and spurning righteousness.

We have rejected…

  • conventional notions about the unclothed body…
  • the covering of the body as a sign of righteousness…

…but we we have not lifted our hands or voices against moral purity or true relationship with God… not in the least.

…To attack the first is not to assail the last.

— Matthew Neal

(If you have not already done so, please read the Introduction to the Quotes and Comments.)

Introduction to “Quotes and Comments”

Stealing from one source is plagiarism.

But stealing from many sources… is research!

— unknown —

I enjoy quotes.

I have an app on my iPod Touch that has over 53,000 quotations from all sorts of people and sources. Often, I will simply read through them to glean their wisdom. Of course, not all the quotes are good, and some are downright false… but there are a number that make me smile or nod in agreement. Those, I mark as “favorites” to come back to later (I now have almost 200 favorites…).

Many of the quotations that capture my attention do so when I consider them in relationship to the issue of naturism—or more specifically—naturism from a biblical Christian perspective.

So, it is from that context that I have decided to write a series of short blog posts, each citing one quotation along with my own comments on it… hence the series name, Quotes and Comments.

Disclaimer

Before I get going on this series, I need to say a few things about it…

  1. I am fully aware that these quotations are not Scripture; I do not present them as such. They do not have authority as God’s revealed Truth. I use them simply because I find them pithy and insightful.
  2. In many cases, I do not know much about the person who originated the quotation. Consequently, I may end up quoting someone with whom I would otherwise disagree on every other topic. My quoting them here is not an endorsement of anything else they say or believe… it is simply a single quotation that I do judge to be true.
  3. In each case, I am not suggesting that the author of the quotation would agree with my position on naturism… or would even approve of my application of their words to the topic. However, it is my own opinion that the quotation is apt for the issue… and that is why I will add my own comments.

These points apply to all the posts in the series. I have included this disclaimer here in the introduction so that I don’t have to repeat it on each and every post.

Having said that, I hope you enjoy the series!

— Matthew Neal

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Quotes and Comments — #1

Monday, April 19, 2010

Naturism and Gender Identity

Can a biblical view of naturism contribute positively to the issues of gender confusion and gender identity in our culture today? I believe that it can. In fact, I believe that naturism has much more to offer towards a healthier understanding of these issues than that which is provided by the traditional view and treatment of our bodies practiced by the church at large.

As with all issues critical to our understanding of ourselves and moral issues, when addressing the issue of “Gender Identity,” we must start with what the Bible says…

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; MALE and FEMALE He created them.” (Gen. 1:26 – NASB, emphasis mine)

There it is. The definitive expression of gender for all humanity—for all time: Male and Female.

Some seem to imagine that that the text should read, “…male and female, gay and lesbian He created them.”

Let’s be clear. God makes no “gays.” He makes no “lesbians.” He makes boys who become men, and he makes girls who become women.

Gender is not determined by tendencies or behavior; it is determined genetically. And our genes can be depended upon to show us clearly by our very physiology that we are either male of female. Every baby ever born has been announced as “It’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!”… there are no other options.

If this is so, why is there so much confusion about gender? There’s no confusion at birth; why should there be any confusion later in life?

Gender Confusion

In our culture, we recognize gender in our babies at their birth by their physical attributes. They either have a penis, or they don’t. But almost immediately, we slap diapers on them and are then compelled to identify their gender artificially.

Nobody likes to go up to a newborn and tell the mother, “Oh, he’s so cute!” only to have embarrassed mother say, “Yes, she is.” (oops!!) And every mother works hard to dress her baby in pink or in blue just to ward off the gender question before it ever gets asked! (Except my mother… she brought me and my two brothers all home from the hospital in a little yellow dress. I have it here in my closet…)

So, by the time our babies are home with us, we have already begun to use an artificial indicator—clothing—to identify gender.

But it gets worse…

As our children grow, we continue to buy “boys’ clothes” or “girls’ clothes.” But when it comes to play time, practicality often demands the more gender-neutral “shorts and T-shirt” with sneakers. Since the clothing distinction is blurred, now we look to other artificial indicators of gender.

Enter “behavior”…

“Boys will be boys” they say. Boys like danger and rough-housing and fighting and sports and adventure and worms. Girls, of course, like softer things and dolls and playing house and cooking and dressing up and having “tea.”

For the most part, I suppose, it works…

But… what about the boy who doesn’t match that “boy” description? What if he likes to cook and doesn’t care for wrestling? What about the girl who is more fascinated by bugs and sports than dolls and dress up? Is he a “momma’s boy” and she a “tomboy”? Do we actually begin to identify the boy with a feminine term and the girl with a masculine term based on preferences and behavior alone?

Preferences and behavior are false measures of gender. Not all males naturally gravitate towards stereotypical “male” behaviors, but they are no less male. Not all females are naturally drawn to “female” behaviors, but they are no less female. When preference or behavior becomes the measure of gender, it will inevitably lead some to gender confusion.

True Gender Identity is found between your legs.

The only reliable measure of gender is right there between your legs. You either have a penis or you have a vagina. Case closed.

Look around you. Half the population has one option, and half has the other. Every person reading this knows which half they belong to. It’s permanently stamped on their physical being.

Except… we can’t look around us and see what the rest of the population has… they’re all covered up!

We have convinced ourselves that those distinguishing body parts are actually “indecent” and unfit to be seen by others. Whether by intent, example, or neglect, we have even taught our children to be ashamed of those specific body parts!

So, not only does the “momma’s boy” wonder why his nature is more “feminine” than “masculine” (based on preference and behavior), the one part of his body that should proclaim to him and everyone else, “I’m a BOY!” is instead treated as shameful, never to be seen by anyone else. No wonder he’s confused!

Clearing up the Confusion

James Dobson has written a book called Bringing Up Boys. While addressing the potential development of homosexuality in boys, he quotes an extended passage written by psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., whom Dr. Dobson considers the foremost authority on the prevention and treatment of homosexuality today.

Dr. Nicolosi mentions the fact that as boys, many of his homosexual clients… “displayed a ‘nonmasculinity’ that set them painfully apart from other boys: unathletic, somewhat passive, unaggressive and uninterested in rough-and-tumble play.” In other words, they became confused because gender identity was measured by behavior instead of their actual physicality.

Among other things that Dr. Nicolosi recommends that a father can do to help his sons to be confirmed in their maleness, he suggests that “He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.” (Both of these quotes can be found online here)

I see this as a very positive step in the right direction. I would even suggest that the openness to see God’s real “measure of gender” can and should extend beyond just seeing “Dad in the shower.” There’s no reason why innocently observing the the gender attributes of brothers, Mom, and sisters cannot be a normal and natural part of home life. All of this would make it abundantly clear to every member of the family which half of humanity they really belong to.

Not a “Cure-All”

No, openness to family nudity is not a “cure-all” for gender confusion and the sexual identity problems that can come as a result. However, it would be a huge step in the right direction if we could actively supplant behavioral gender-identity notions with healthy exposure to the true measure of gender distinction found right in our bodies.

Naturist contexts offer the opportunity to see and experience the clear and unambiguous recognition of males and females. Instead needing to say, “boys will be boys” (behaviorally), one can simply look around and observe that “boys are boys” and “girls are girls.” The confusion is gone.

Or as one friend rather aptly noted…

“There are no transvestites at a naturist resort!”

Matthew Neal

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unclothed and in His Right Mind

Do you remember this story from the Bible? It goes like this…

  • A man is under such deep demonic influence distorting his mind that he is literally a mortal danger to others.
  • One day, however, he comes near a man full of God’s Spirit and power. Instantly, the demonic stronghold in his life is broken.
  • As a result, the formerly demonized man is overcome by the power of God and begins proclaiming the truth of God.
  • One more detail worthy of note… While his mind was under the demonic control, he was fully clothed, but when the power of God’s Spirit controlled his actions, he stripped naked. He was, quite literally…

    …Unclothed, and in his right mind.

Did I get the story right?

I think I did.

If you are thinking that I did not, then you must be thinking of a similar New Testament story found in Luke 8:26-39.

Actually, I’m describing an Old Testament story that is found in 1 Samuel 19:9-24.

  • The demonized man is King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23), and he was influenced by the demon to kill David (1 Samuel 19:9-10)
  • When Saul heard that David was with the prophet Samuel, he himself went to Ramah where Samuel and David were staying. Even as he approached the camp, he was overcome by the power of God (1 Samuel 19:23).
  • In the power of God’s Spirit, Saul began to prophesy, speaking God’s truth (1 Samuel 19:23-24) and much more fully “in his right mind” than he had been before.
  • While under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, Saul stripped naked and remained naked for a full day and night while prophesying with Samuel and the other prophets (1 Samuel 19:24).

Obviously, I told this story in this way to intentionally point out its parallels with the story of demoniac in Luke 8. Here’s why…

Those who try to use Scripture to say that social nudity is wrong are quick to jump on statement found in Luke 8:35 which declares that the demonized man, once healed, was found “clothed and in his right mind.” They then proclaim it as proof that going around naked must be a sign of demonic delusion, but that when one is healed and set free by Christ, it will be evidenced by the rejection of public nudity. In other words, they conclude…

… Demonized and naked — Spirit-filled and clothed.

But that’s not the only story in the Bible about a demonized man and nudity. As I have pointed out, Saul’s story is the exact opposite…

Demonized and clothed — Spirit-filled and naked.

Which story gives us the definitive understanding? Both!! Public Nudity is not evidence for the presence of wicked spirits or of the Spirit of God!

It simply is not honest treatment of God’s Word to attempt to make either passage more important than the other in reference to nudity and the presence of God’s Spirit in a person’s life.

A Few Objections…

Before I close this post, let me address a few likely objections regarding how I have treated the passage in 1 Samuel 19.

  1. Objection: Saul wasn’t fully naked… he probably had on a loincloth.

    Answer:
    The Hebrew word used to describe Saul in 1 Samuel 19:24 is the very same one used to describe Adam and Eve in Gen. 2:25. Adam and Eve were completely naked. The same word is also used in other passages (Job 1:21, Eccl. 5:15) to describe the nakedness of newborn children. Nowhere in the rest of its biblical usage does the word ever refer to anyone who is wearing anything at all. The word means “fully naked.”

  2. Objection: The company of the prophets with Samuel was comprised of men only, and no one else saw him.

    Answer: While it is probable that the prophets were only men, it is clear that Saul was seen by more men than just the other prophets. The reaction to Saul’s prophesying naked for a day was the the reason people were asking, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:24). Had he not been seen by others that day, they would not have wondered such a thing. Of course, I cannot claim that women saw him, but neither can anyone else claim that they did not; the Scriptures do not say either way.

    Interesting Note: It is worth observing that the public sight of a prophet prophesying naked must not have been a notable departure from the norm for prophets, for the people did not wonder why their king was naked, they wondered when he became a prophet!

  3. Objection: Saul was in a trance and was actually out of his mind when this happened. It wasn’t true prophecy, but rather mindless babbling.

    Answer:
    This is the most egregious error of these three objections, for it contradicts the clear words of Scripture. 1 Samuel 19:23 says that “the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying…” The suggestion that this was not truly God’s Spirit at work borders on the blasphemy of attributing to demons that which is actually the work of God.

    (For the record, I did not make up this third “objection”… I’ve actually faced it in discussions with other people!)

It is possible to be naked, yet fully in one’s “right mind.” My purpose for this post is to demonstrate that—for the honest student of the Scriptures—Luke 8 cannot be used to prove otherwise.

Matthew Neal

(This post is in partial fulfillment of my intent to more fully answer the “rebuttals” listed in Does the Bible Ever Condone Social Nudity?)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Redemption, a Work Accomplished by Christ’s Body

As I write this post, it is Saturday evening before Resurrection Day.

My thoughts turn towards our Savior and the salvation He purchased for us by His death, burial, and resurrection. There is no greater work in all of History. There is no more significant event that we celebrate in the Christian year. There is no more personal and life-changing act that has ever been performed by one person on behalf of another. There is no truth more central to our faith than the fact that Jesus died for us, taking our sin away; and physically rose again, Victor over death, and Lord of all Creation.

For this reason, I love holy week, and especially Resurrection Day.

A truth that has captured my attention in recent years has been the fact that in God’s eternal plan, a human body was required to secure our redemption.

Think about it…

  • Incarnation:
    Couldn’t God have made a way for salvation without taking on a human body?
    Evidently not, since Jesus came to us, “born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4) just like every one of us. God with us. Wow!
  • Anticipation:
    Couldn’t Jesus have simply declared that we were forgiven?
    Well, He did declare some people “forgiven” during His ministry on earth, but we know from Heb. 9:22 that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Even those declarations must have been given in anticipation of His sacrifice of Himself
  • Substitution:
    Couldn’t Jesus have cleansed us of our sins by allowing an animal to die?
    Here again, Heb. 10:4 states clearly that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” It required a human sacrifice.
  • Propitiation:
    But didn’t Jesus bear our sins in His Spirit?
    No, he actually bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24 & 1 John 2:2). If Jesus had not had a literal human body, we would not have salvation! For this reason He broke the bread and said, “This is my body, given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
  • Intercession:
    But Did Jesus really give His blood to redeem us?
    Yes, Jesus entered the Holy Place in heaven as our High Priest and obtained an “eternal redemption” for us “through His own blood.” (Heb. 9:12
  • Resurrection:
    Was Jesus’ death sufficient to purchase our salvation? 
    Well, as odd as it may sound to say, evidently not. Paul made it clear in 1 Cor. 15:17 that if Jesus had not risen bodily back to life, then we would not have any hope for salvation, and we would still be in our sins!
  • Ascension:
    Does Jesus still have his human body even today?
    He sure didn’t leave it behind! In Acts 1:9-11, we read that Jesus ascended bodily into Heaven. What’s more, the disciples are told that Jesus would someday return in the same way they saw Him go. Jesus will also return bodily to this earth when He comes to reign forever.

This is what Jesus did for you and for me. Thanks be to God!

…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Phil. 2:5-11)

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Biblical Hurdle vs. the Emotional Hurdle


When I first began to examine the issue of nudity from a biblical perspective, one of the most significant set of articles I read were found on the Reject Shame website (the original site is no longer posted, but its content can be found in its entirety HERE). The site primarily speaks of the roots and consequences of body shame. As a prescription for healing of that shame, it promotes body openness within the home, or Family Nudity. Its recommendations regarding Social Nudity outside the home are encouraged merely an extension of the effort to overcome shame at home.

In response to reading these articles, my wife and I discussed at length the issue of nudity in the home. Our discussion and study centered on this question: Is Family Nudity forbidden by God?
While poring over God’s Word to answer that question honestly before we made any changes to “the rules” of our home, it occurred to me that for us to move from “no nudity” to Family Nudity was in one way a very different proposition than moving from Family Nudity to Social Nudity. And this difference is the topic of today’s post.
Two Different Hurdles
Having been raised in very consistent and “conservative” Christian homes, we were both taught that nudity was not to be shared with anyone besides one’s own spouse. The very idea of social nudity was never directly addressed simply because it was so foreign to our Christian home contexts and the beliefs we had about an “appropriate” sense of shame in reference to our bodies. Consequently, as we contemplated the very idea of laying aside the view and practice we had been raised with, I realized that there were two distinct “hurdles” that we would have to “get over” if we were to do so.
  1. The Biblical Hurdle.
    In order to accept and practice any open nudity beyond that experienced between a man and wife, I had to be convinced that—contrary to what I was taught all my life—nudity outside the marriage bedroom was not forbidden in God’s Word. For the Christian who seeks to live his/her life according to God’s revealed truth, such a practice can only be considered if it is not sin before God. Becoming convinced that such nudity is actually not sin is the first and most important hurdle… the Biblical Hurdle.
     
  2. The Emotional Hurdle.
    In order to accept and practice any open nudity beyond that experienced between a man and wife, I had to intentionally choose to act contrary to my entire upbringing. I had to lay aside the very notion that “shame” of my body is ever appropriate, or could be considered a “virtue” at all. I had to be “ok” with being seen naked by others.  For most anyone, this can be an emotionally daunting proposition. Becoming willing to actually do so is therefore the second but much more personal hurdle… the Emotional Hurdle.
The Hurdles and Family Nudity
Changing “the rules” in the home so that nudity is no longer forbidden within the family context is a big decision. Both hurdles come into play. But it seems to me that one of them is, in reality, much bigger than the other.

If Christian parents determine that nudity is going to be permitted in their home, they must first address the Biblical issue and come to the conclusion that such nudity is not sinful. For many and perhaps most Christians, this would be a huge decision and may represent a major departure from their previous understanding and/or the teaching of their own faith tradition.

In contrast to that, the prospect of openness to nudity within the home is really not that big of an emotional struggle. This is due to the simple fact that the parents have already seen their own children unclothed, they may have bathed brothers and sisters together while young, and incidental exposure is a very real possibility in all but the most judiciously “modest” homes. But to change “the rules” so that it no longer needs to be a concern is not a huge emotional hurdle. It is “just family,” after all.

So, to embrace Family Nudity—whatever that means to a family—can a huge Biblical Hurdle, but a relatively minor Emotional Hurdle.
The Hurdles and Social Nudity
Once a family has embraced Family Nudity, the question of practicing Social Nudity is the next logical consideration. Here again, both “hurdles” come into play, but in a very different way than before.

The question of whether nudity can be experienced outside the marriage relationship is again on the table, but in all honesty, it has already been Biblically addressed and answered. Just as there is no Biblical prohibition restricting nudity to the spousal relationship in the home, there is also none that restricts it to family context alone. Consequently, if family nudity has been embraced, there is no Biblical basis to conclude that it must not extend outside the home.

On the other hand, being willing to be seen unclothed by your own flesh and blood is one thing. To allow perfect strangers—or worse, personal friends—to see us naked is quite another matter! The fear of being rejected or ridiculed is often very real, and therefore a huge hurdle. For women especially, this hurdle may be the one that they may believe they could never get over.

Consequently, to embrace Social Nudity (after embracing Family Nudity) is a relatively minor Biblical Hurdle, but a potentially huge Emotional Hurdle.
Jumping the Hurdles
Recognizing the reality and nature of the hurdles helped me in my examination of the issue of family or social nudity from a Biblical perspective. I hope it will help others, too.
  • For the practicing naturist, it could help you discern the different kinds of “hurdles” non-naturist friends or family may be feeling are simply too high to cross.
  • For the seeker who’s considering Family or Social Nudity, it might help you navigate your own “race” so that you can better understand the hurdles you are facing.
  • For the non-naturist, hopefully this article will help you see that there are issues beyond the simple Biblical question of morality that impact how you and others respond to the idea of non-spousal nudity.
Matthew Neal
For more thoughts on the morality of “Non-Spousal Nudity,” see You Can’t Have It Both Ways…

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You can’t have it both ways…

Remember the error of “Situational Ethics”?

It was a much hotter topic when I was younger, but Situational Ethics claim that nothing is always wrong, but rather its morality is determined by the situation. By contrast, the biblical understanding is that if something is morally wrong, then it is always wrong. We cannot consider an activity to be intrinsically sinful, but then give it a pass in certain situations.

I know that issues are rarely as cut and dried as we might like them to be, but if something is an offense to God’s nature and contrary to His design for us, then it is sin no matter when or where it happens. If it is not always an offense to God, then the activity cannot be considered sin by itself. We must instead exercise wisdom—in love—and apply biblical principles to know the godly way to assess a given situation.

“Social Nudity is wrong!” – Moral Absolute or not?

So… what about social nudity? The current view of most Bible-believing Christians seems to be that we must never expose our nudity to anyone of the opposite gender except our own spouse. This is considered a “moral absolute” for the very fact that God has only authorized sexual intimacy between husband and wife, and it is quite “automatic” that when a man sees a naked woman (and to perhaps a lesser degree, when a woman sees a naked man), there will always be a sexual response with sexual desire.

For the purpose of this blog post, I’m not going to directly challenge the portions of that position that I believe are in error (it’s certainly not all in error).

Also, for the purpose of this post, I am going to use the term “non-spousal nudity” in reference to any context outside of marriage where one’s nudity is exposed to someone of the opposite gender.The term “Social Nudity” is more associated with mixed-gender recreational nudity, and I believe the issue at hand has to be more comprehensive than that context alone. Clearly it is also “non-spousal,” but social nudity is a subset of the larger issue.

I intend in this blog to investigate whether the claim is consistently applied by those who profess it as a moral absolute. In each of the situations described below, I observe that the supposed “moral absolute” is not applied by those who believe that non-spousal nudity is wrong.

Situation 1a: Family — Children being seen by their parents.

I know of no one who would claim that a child cannot be seen naked by his or her parents. It’s no problem for a woman to change the diaper of her son, nor is it a problem for a man to change the diaper of his daughter.

Some might consider it silly to even mention this situation, but I do so to simply point out that it is a “situation” where the “moral absolute” does not apply in the minds of Christians who believe that non-spousal nudity is otherwise wrong.

Situation 1b: Family — Parents being seen by their young children.

While children are still nursing, of course, the boys will regularly see and touch their mother’s breasts. Beyond that, of course, would any mother really be hesitant to change clothes in front of her baby boys?

The natural response to this observation would probably be, “For crying out loud [uh, no pun intended…], they’re only babies!”

An appropriate response, no doubt, but it also underscores and confirms exactly what I wish to point out… here is another “situation” to which the “moral absolute” does not apply.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone who holds the view that non-spousal nudity is wrong would extend that prohibition to the two contexts that I have spelled out above, but for most, there would come a time in the child’s development that they make an intentional “shift” and begin to invoke the prohibition. That very fact underscores my claim that within a family we apply the “absolute” in some situations, but ignore it in others. Scripture gives no guidance on when (or if) that should happen.

Situation 2: Medical necessity.

It can certainly happen with a female doctor and a male patient, but it’s typically an issue with male doctors and female patients, so that’s how I’ll address it.

When a woman visits a male gynecologist, the exam often includes an examination of her entire body. He may never see her fully nude, but he will specifically uncover and examine the parts of her body that are normally covered by her underwear. Not only will they be exposed to his view, but he will also touch them with his hands.

Of course, his purposes are not sexual in the least (or he could go to jail!), nor is it the woman’s intent to express her sexuality when she disrobes before him. Clearly, the purpose and motivation of both doctor and patient have nothing to do with sexual misconduct, so this activity is not considered immoral by most Christians.

I would agree, of course. But it constitutes another “situation” to which few apply the “moral absolute” forbidding the exposure of the naked body to someone other than one’s own spouse.

Situation 3: Elderly care.

My mother died some years ago of cancer. As her health faded, she eventually could not move from her bed. Any bathing that she needed had to be in the form of a “bed-bath.” My wife once had the opportunity to honor my mother by serving her that way.

One day more recently, I asked my father if he thought it would have been improper if the situation had called for me to perform a bed-bath on my ailing mother. He said that he would not consider that to be forbidden.

Maybe others would disagree, but my father is a conservative pastor who does not agree with me regarding naturism. Yet in this situation, he would not have applied the “moral absolute” which would forbid me to see my mother’s naked body. It amounts to another “situation” exception.

Situation 4: Nudity in Art

Perhaps many Christians would discount the moral neutrality of nudity in art, considering it simply the ancient form of pornography used before our current media forms existed. But the reality is that unless we altogether cast aside the visual arts as a valid discipline, we cannot avoid the presence of nudity in art as a significant facet of cultural and art history.

Serious students of art (and shouldn’t there be some Christians who are?) simply cannot ignore such a prominent area of study spanning the entirety of human and art history. The consensus among art teachers and practitioners is that if you can master the representation of the undraped human form, you can draw/paint/sculpt anything. For this reason, courses in figure studies are a required for art majors in every secular university art program in the world…

But what about Christian college and university art programs? Must they settle for some lesser means of accomplishing the same goal? Should they use a model in a bikini instead? Indeed, some do.

One Christian College has very thoughtfully and purposefully crossed “the line;” they use nude models for their figure studies classes.

A bold move, no doubt – and not one without its critics. I invite you to read their reasoning in the public statement they posted explaining why they took that position. You can find it at Art Policy On Nude Models (Gordon College).

Regardless of what you may think about their reasons, this once again underscores the fact that there exists an inconsistency in the Christian community regarding the “moral absolute” forbidding non-spousal nudity. If we are to reject nudity in art, then we must also reject much of our cultural artistic heritage throughout our history and around the world.

Some Christians are unwilling to do that.

You can’t have it both ways…

God’s true “Moral Absolutes” are exactly that… absolute. They are not subject to “situational” application based upon human wisdom or reasoning. They either apply in all situations, or they are not absolute at all.

So, either the “moral absolute” against non-spousal nudity is false, or we need to apply it to parents, doctors, and artists as well. We cannot say that it’s a moral absolute, but then allow for “situational” exceptions according to our own evaluation of the context. You can’t have it both ways.

To even suggest that doctors and parents should not be permitted to see their patients and children is ludicrous, of course. Consequently, we must conclude that the exposure of our nudity to someone other than our own spouse cannot be intrinsically unethical. Rather, it must be governed situationally by principle rather than moral absolute.

What is the principle?

What is the Scripture principle that we can apply equally to all the situations I’ve listed above… and any others that we may need to consider? What kind of measure could be use that would allow non-spousal nudity in the home and for healthcare, yet forbid it when the nudity is pornographic and sinful?

The primary principle has to be found in the Scriptural instructions that govern sexual conduct. Therefore, the proper assessment of a situation will focus on the attitudes and actions of the people involved, not on the presence or absence of body exposure.

Clearly, for parents and doctors, if there is any sexual motivation or misconduct, we will correctly find those guilty of such things at fault rather than the mere fact that nudity is present.

Likewise, in art, it is not the simple portrayal of an undraped human form which renders an image as inappropriate, but rather the intent of the artist to incite sexual response from the viewer. Or, as is often the case in our culture, it is the sin of the observer if he/she objectifies an innocent portrayal of the human body and responds with sexual lust.

Let me restate it this way:

If a child/patient/artist exposes nudity for the purpose of inciting an illicit sexual response, it is wrong. If a parent/doctor/observer sexually objectifies the innocent nudity that they see, that is also wrong. If neither party treats the nudity as a sexual expression, then there is no sin in the nudity by itself.

This is the principle that needs to be applied to whatever situation arises.

Who gets to determine the “situation”?

But what about naturism (recreational non-spousal “social” nudity)? Can’t we apply the same principle in that situation?

If doctors/parents/artists can be around nudity without sexual misconduct, who is to say that naturists cannot? If patients/children/models can expose their own nudity without any intent to arouse sexual responses in others, why must anyone assume that the motives of naturists are impure?

Are personal/health care and artistry the only valid contexts for the experience of nudity? Are recreation and relaxation summarily disqualified from being pursued free of clothing?

Certainly, in any context it cannot be guaranteed that all who expose their own nudity or observe the nudity of others will do so in a pure manner. However, this fact does not by itself disqualify the context. If it did, then we would have to disqualify male doctors from treating female patients, and fathers from caring for their daughters… it is a sad reality that both of these contexts have been abused.

The principle must be applied fairly and equally to the motivations and actions of the individuals involved, regardless of context. Those that violate the principle of sexual purity are the ones to be faulted, not the context itself.

Chaste Non-Spousal Nudity

Perhaps one of the most surprising things I learned when I first looked into the claims of Christian Naturists was the fact that in the main, naturists (Christian or otherwise) subscribe to and uphold high moral standards in reference to sexual conduct in naturist settings. For example:

  • Responsible resort owners actively screen their membership and guests for any history of sexual misconduct and refuse them entrance. They respond swiftly to eject from the resort anyone who violates their sexual conduct policies.
  • AANR and TNS clearly promote family-oriented social nudity and refuse association with resorts that cater to prurient interests.
  • Naturists themselves are intolerant of those that pursue social nudity with sexual motivation of any sort and they have no interest in putting their own bodies on “display” for voyeurs.

In other words, I have found this to be true:

Naturism can be practiced without violating the biblical principle of sexual purity.

I have observed and experienced this truth first hand. I would not be a naturist if this were not so.

Conclusion

As biblical Christians—naturist or not—we cannot make the mistake of calling anything a “moral absolute” when it is not clearly discernable in God’s Word. When we do find an “absolute” in Scripture, we must treat it as such—without exceptions in its application based on human reasoning. If there is not a relevant absolute, then every situation must be evaluated according to biblical principle. This requires us to do the hard work it takes to fully understand the principle and apply it with wisdom.

Matthew Neal