Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Thoughtful Response to Mr. Piper – Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post (The “Traditional” Christian View of Nakedness – Part 1), a reader pointed me to John Piper’s article about nakedness and I reposted it in its entirety, only highlighting in red the portions that I felt were not biblically defensible, and actually incorrect. This was also the first piece I sent to my correspondent.

He then wrote me back with his response to the passages I had highlighted in red with questions pertaining to those sections. Below are my answers to his questions as they relate to Mr. Piper’s article. His questions are in green and my responses follow.



Q. What do you attribute Adam and Eve’s shame to?

I think a better question is... “To what did Adam and Eve attribute their shame?” And the next question is, “Were they correct?” They certainly acted shamefully, and they certainly felt shame, but does it make sense that nudity suddenly became shameful when it was not shameful just a moment before?

Obviously God had no problem with their nudity before the fall... Did God’s perspective change when they sinned, or did their own? A little thought about the event reveals that their shame was actually misplaced. They had no need to cover their genitals (what did their genitals have to do with their sin?)... they needed to run in repentance and fall before their Maker to seek forgiveness and restoration... all the while still naked as He had made them. Their body shame was a actually a false shame, and as a result they applied their efforts to an incorrect (and sinful) response!


Q. You highlighted “I deserve to be shamed.” Are you rejecting the link between Adam’s nudity and shame?

Yes, I am rejecting that idea. Surely Adam felt the shame and placed it on his own nudity, but was he thinking clearly at that moment? His shame should have been on his actions, not on his physical attributes. Remember Who had personally crafted his genitals... to whom then was it an insult when Adam was ashamed of one of the body parts given to him by the God Who loved him? (more on that in later posts)


Q. Are you rejecting the implication that if Adam felt shame in his nudity that we should too? Or are you rejecting it for another reason?

Being ashamed of his nudity is not the only thing that Adam did after he sinned...

  • he also hid from God.
  • He also blamed his wife and ultimately God.
  • He evidently did not truly repent, even when confronted by God.

Would you accept the implication that because Adam hid from God, that we should too? Would you accept the suggestion that because Adam blamed his wife for his own sin that we should too? How then can you accept the idea that because Adam was ashamed of his nudity, that we should be, too? Does that really make sense? (Did Adam do anything right immediately after he sinned?)


Q. In the eighth paragraph you highlighted “The simple, open nakedness of innocence now feels inconsistent with the guilty person that I am. I feel ashamed.” Why do you disagree with this/what alternate explanation would you give?

Think about this... Adam had just sinned. He now has, for the first time in his life, a sinful nature. He is now the proud possessor of a depraved mind. He had no idea what had just invaded his intellect, and he had no idea how to battle it.

Now you and I, we’ve lived with this reality all our lives. Furthermore, because we are learning to listen to the indwelling Spirit instead, we are (hopefully) making headway towards following the promptings of God instead of our sin nature. Furthermore, we have learned some of the ways of our enemy and we know that he’s really a liar; we know that he’s out to destroy us so we are not ignorant of his schemes as Adam was.

How much of all this did Adam understand immediately after that moment of sin? Any of it? We understand all these things at least to some degree in our own lives, yet we still struggle to walk according to the truth! What chance did Adam have?

Mr. Piper’s analysis implies that Adam understood guilt, that he understood and could accurately trace the source of shame in his own heart, and that he correctly ascertained that covering his own genitals would make everything better.

No, I don’t think Adam understood any of that about himself or why he felt as he did. I don’t think he yet realized that Satan had deceived him and Eve or that he needed to stop listening to him. And no, I don’t think Satan stopped talking or influencing them as soon as they took their bite of the fruit. I think Adam suddenly experienced the horrific absence of God in his heart for the very first time; I believe that he was desperate to do something... anything... to make that feeling go away.

Meanwhile, Satan was not finished deceiving them nor making other suggestions about what to do. “You’re naked!” he might have said! What would “naked” have meant to them, anyway? There never had been “clothed,” so how could there be “naked”? Satan had to actually invent the very concept that their natural state (as God created them) was a problem! (God’s question to Adam in Gen. 3:11, “Who told you that you were naked?” clearly implicates Satan as the one who informed them of their nakedness.)

One more detail to point out, by the way... did you notice in your reading that Adam never claimed to feel shame? In fact, the only place that “shame” is mentioned is in Gen. 2:25, before the fall... declaring that they felt NO shame. Thereafter, Adam claimed to be motivated by “fear.” Now... why do we emphasize the rightness of “shame” but not talk about the “fear”?


Q. One thing that made me very curious was your highlighting of the parenthetical statement “as there apparently was blood shed in the killing of the animals of the skins” What would make you think that there was no blood shed?

Read the text again. It doesn’t mention anything about any animal shedding it’s blood. Did it happen? Possibly. Was it the first sacrifice for sin? (and this is really why I highlighted it... most people teach that it is...). Most likely not! Here’s why I say this:

A sacrifice for sin is not something that simply happens every day like the sun coming up. It is for a specific purpose and how it is carried out matters. See if you don’t agree with these biblical observations about sacrifices that were not true in this case:

  • Sacrifices require repentance on the part of the sinner.
    • Is there any evidence that Adam and Eve repented? We can’t know what we were not told, of course, but the data we have in the text would lead us to the opposite conclusion.
  • Sacrifices were carried out by the hand of the sinner himself.
    • Where in all of the Bible was a sacrifice performed by the hand of God? Part of the idea of a sacrifice is that I must by my own hand take the life of the one dying in my stead.
  • Sacrifices are a picture and foreshadowing of Christ’s work on the cross.
    • Nowhere in ALL the Bible is this event referenced as the prototype sacrifice for sin. Think about that for a minute... the first sacrifice in all of the Bible, yet it never warrants another mention? It’s not even referred to as a sacrifice in the Genesis narrative itself.
    • Contrast that narrative with the story of the Passover lamb... that sacrifice gets LOTS of airtime throughout the Bible, from Exodus to Revelation!

So... was there blood shed for the “skins”? Perhaps. Was it a “first sacrifice” or a picture of Christ? I don’t think so. That’s why I highlighted that comment. It hints at what I believe is a very flimsy interpretation which seems to be almost universally accepted as true.


This concludes Part 1 of my response to Mr. Piper’s article and the questions raised by the brother who brought it to my attention. I’ll continue with the questions and my answers in Part 2 & Part 3.

— Matthew Neal


CKin said...

Matthew, Can I suggest you might ought to be a little less digmatic about whether God offered the first sacrifice or not? There are innumerable sermons and writings on this throughout the entirety of Christian history, and I also believe it a beautiful story of God's grace and provision. Surely you believe what God did in making them clothes was an act of grace and love for them, even if it was not technically a sacrifice for sin, don't you?

Here are some points to ponder: Why shouldn't God offer the very first sacrifice? How else might he teach man what sacrifice means? Didn't God kill, by his own hand, all the firstborn of Egypt to set his people free? The Passover itself was most certainly God making the sacrifice with his own Hand. At least this is a parable and foreshadowing of Christ. Didn't Abel, Adam's son, offer the actual first sacrifice, even tho it wasn't called a sacrifice per se. Perhaps it was his response to the earlier sacrifice God has made.

Finally, there are oblique references to the sacrifice in Gn 3: I'm thinking mainly of Paul's exhortation, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ."

Your several assertions that "no where does the Bible say" are correct. Even so, I personally DO see God "sacrificing" an animal in Gn 3 to help out Adam and Eve get on in a fallen world where their bodies were (at times) really going to NEED clothes.

I'm a naturist like you, a student of the Bible and a follower of Jesus Christ. We don't have to disembowel thousands of great Christian sermons which interpret God's killing an animal as a sacrifice just to strike down the false interpretation that God thereby demanded them to cover up their nakedness.

Matthew Neal said...


Thanks for writing. I don't mean to be so "dogmatic" about the issue, but I do believe it underscores the fact that too often, we read into the Scriptures things that simply are not there! I did not mention the issue to strike down the false interpretation about God requiring clothing, but simply because I believe it's too weak to defend.

The reasons I don't believe it was a sacrifice are laid out above so I don't need to repeat them, of course, but I will reiterate that the very fact that the Bible makes so *little* of the event to me is too significant to ignore.

Without any doubt, it makes a beautiful and poetic picture (which preachers have expounded for years), but that by itself does not make it true.

(Perhaps like the story of the boy who "gave" his lunch to Jesus to share with the multitudes? I believe he was an entrepreneur rather than an humanitarian! That doesn't sit well with people who've made the application of "Give what you have to Jesus, and He'll multiply it" based on that story!)

Regarding the first-born in Egypt... that was not sacrifice, that was judgment. Regarding Passover, the foreshadowing of Christ was imaged by the lamb sacrificed by the hand of the Israelites, not the boys struck down by the hand of God. For this reason, Jesus was called "The Lamb of God."

One more thing about attaching "sacrifice" to the God's clothing of Adam and Eve... If we accept the dubious interpretation that this was a sacrifice to cover their sin, it lends credence to the doubly dubious notion that our bodies are sinful and/or shameful and now require clothing to please God.

I can appreciate your motivation for writing. I know there are many that disagree with me on this point, and, as you point out, it is not germane to the issue of the morality of nudity. And it's certainly not a point I'll go to the wall for!

Thanks again,


CKin said...

You asked: "Where in all of the Bible was a sacrifice performed by the hand of God?" I merely pointed out that God did kill an animal after man's first sin. But no one really interprets it as a sacrifice to atone for sin.

"No where does it say" is surely a powerful argument. But it can also be a misleading one. Jesus taught the resurrection based on Exodus 3:6 (Mt 22:29ff). I assume His interpretation wouldn't pass your muster, simply because a very big idea like resurrection was no where spelled out in the OT?

Anyway, the interpretation wasn't the point, but that you tore down an interpretation Piper didn't posit. He didn't say it was an offering for sin. You misinterpret Piper, it would seem, in your desire to tear him to shreds.

My suggestion was and remains: if you want to be taken seriously as a Bible scholar, you might want to be a little less dogmatic on this one point. You diss a lot of great preachers in rejecting an interpretation that is, as you agree, immaterial.

Matthew Neal said...


God "killing" and God "sacrificing" are two very different things. And I have heard/read many people who consider the animals who evidently dies to provide that clothing as the first "sacrifice."

I don't think I was as dogmatic as you suggest... when I go back and read what I originally wrote, I used phrases like "Most likely not" and "I don't think so." I didn't say the notion was "wrong," I said it was "flimsy interpretation." I didn't say that Piper put that interpretation forward, I said that it "hints at" that interpretation.

When I read what Piper wrote, there's a clear allusion to the notion that the shedding of Christ's blood was foreshadowed by the animal's death. His exact words were:

"He will do it [permanently solve the problem of shame] with the blood of his own Son (as there apparently was blood shed in the killing of the animals of the skins)."

I don't make any claim to being a "Bible Scholar," I only claim to be biblically accurate and logically consistent, so far as I do understand the Bible. I do not mean to "diss" anyone, but if my understanding of something reflects poorly on any other Bible teacher, that is not something I can prevent, nor do I think that I have any obligation to do so. Jesus certainly didn't shy away from saying true things because the recognized teachers taught something different (if anything, it only spurred Him on!).

When I first began to examine naturism, I returned to Gen. 1-3 and purposed to read only what was there, refusing to infuse any understanding that was not found implicitly within the text. I discovered that there were truths there that had never been taught to me. There were also many things that I had always been taught that simply were not there (the idea of the animals being sacrificed was among them). I purposed to fully embrace all that I found in the text, but to lay aside anything not found there.

That's why I stand where I do.


RJ said...

My comment has to do with the coverings that they fashioned for themselves. In the article to which you are responding the author uses the term 'loincloths' and you refer to them covering their genitals. Does the text actually mean this? It has been my understanding that the word which is used means something more like 'aprons' and might actually refer to a whole body covering... They were in a garden and trying to hide from the LORD - isn't it more likely they fashioned a garment from leaves as camouflage? I think it is important that if there is no actual reference to covering genitals that we recognize that they were covering more of their bodies as would be required to hide. I think this changes the focus in an important way.

Matthew Neal said...


Thanks for your note.

I have not done much research on the "aprons" that Adam and Eve clothed themselves with, but that which I have done led me to conclude that "loin coverings" are all they were.

We think of kitchen "aprons" today that are big enough to cover our entire fronts, but I don't think that's what these were.

My take is that these leafy garments only covered the genitals... and that led me to question why. Since I believe it was Satan who coined the term "naked" and convinced Adam that nakedness was a problem, I also think he was the one who suggested which body part needed to be covered. So, the question of "why" actually ends up being addressed by examining what Satan's motivation might be... not Adam's.

I puzzled over it for a long time, but finally concluded that reproduction (literally, the creation of new eternal human souls) was another way we are "like God" which Satan could never match. So not only did he urge shame for our God-like shape, he focused that shame on the organs of God-like creation (pro-creation).

That's all speculation, of course, and since the Scriptures are silent on that particular question, speculation is all anybody can offer. But for me, this explanation offers a more satisfactory answer than all other speculations.

-- Matt