Wednesday, May 27, 2015

God Doesn’t Like RED! (the Failure of “Guilty-By-Association”)

Weird post title?

I agree.

No, I don’t really believe that God doesn’t like red. Quite the opposite, actually.

But… if I am careless (and biased) in my approach to biblical interpretation, I can make a pretty strong case from the Bible that God doesn’t like red. He might even hate it!
“Guilty-By-Association”?
Ask a preacher about what God thinks about nakedness, and you’ll almost always hear, “Throughout the Bible, you’ll find nakedness associated with shame. Therefore, nakedness is shameful and wrong.” In other words, Nakedness is Guilty-by-Association.

To start with, it’s worth observing that they will not point you to any Scripture passage which simply and clearly condemns nudity. In fact we can make quite a list of “rules” about nudity that are not found in the bible.

There is…
  • No verse that forbids you to see others naked.
  • No verse that warns you against allowing anyone to see you naked.
The “exceptions” are missing, too.
  • No verse that says you can see your spouse naked.
  • No verse that says doctors are permitted to see their patients naked.
  • No verse that says how young your child may be and still see you naked.
Why don’t they just point to such a verse that forbids public nudity? Simply because there isn’t one.
So, they have to utilize the next best thing… the Guilty-by-Association argument.
“Guilty-by-Association” on Trial
OK… let me say up front that I don’t believe “guilty by association” is any proof of “guilt” at all. Scripture interpretations based on “Guilty-by-Association” are false. I know of no teaching about moral standards—accepted among biblical Christians as doctrinally sound—which is based solely on the “guilty by association” argument.

Wait… I know of one… the argument against social nudity. That’s the only one.

But if “Guilty-by-Association” is not accepted for any other moral teaching, why is it accepted for this one issue? Is “Guilty-by-Association” actually is a sound interpretational means to discern God’s moral perspective on a matter?

If “Guilty-by-Association” is a valid way to interpret the Bible, then God hates RED. And I can prove it!

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God Hates RED!

A survey of the Bible shows how the color red is associated with sin or sinfulness.
In the Old Testament:
  • Isa. 1:18 - “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
    • Obviously, God wants us to know that sin is associated with the color red, for He repeats Himself, comparing sin to scarlet AND crimson.
  • Numbers 19:1-10 – This law calls for the slaughter of a Red Heifer for the sin of the Israelites. The entire animal was to be burned (no eating any part of it) along with some red cloth.
    • The priest who performed the sacrifice was to be considered unclean. Being unclean is obviously not a good thing.
    • Likewise, the one who gathered up the ashes after it was burned was to be considered unclean.
  • Proverbs 23:31 – “Do not look on the wine when it is red…”
    • God’s disdain for the color even extends to what we drink.
  • Genesis 25:25  - “Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.”
    • Later in his life, Esau sold his birthright for some red stuff.” (Genesis 25:30)
    • No wonder God says in Malachi 1:3, “I have hated Esau.”
In the New Testament:
  • Matthew 6:13 – Jesus said, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’
    • Bad weather is associated with the color red.
  • Rev. 6:4 – “And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.”
    • The Second Horseman of the Apocalypse, sitting on a red horse, bringing war, and death.
  • Rev. 12:3“Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.”
    • This perhaps the most damning verse of all, for red is the color of the Dragon… Satan himself!
So, in the scriptures, we see a consistent pattern of the color red being associated with sin, sinfulness, Satan, or other bad things. This is how we can know that God hates RED.
It’s Innate!
This is something that God has built into every person, too. Think of these facts about how we respond to the color red in our lives:
  • We naturally recoil at the sight of blood, which is red.
  • When someone gets very angry, we describe them as “seeing red.”
  • If our financial ledgers have a negative balance, we are “in the red.”
  • We use red to tell people to STOP!! And no one likes to be told to stop.
  • Red is the sign for danger.
  • Red is color of destructive fire.
  • Women painted with red lipstick are a source of temptation to lust for men.
It’s easy to see why red has a negative meaning in human society; this is directly the result of the fact that God hates RED!

The Christian who wishes to live a life pleasing to God will judiciously eliminate red from his or her life.

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STOP!!

Everything I’ve just written about how God hates the color red is utter poppycock.

Pure rubbish.

Terrible, terrible interpretation.

And it’s because I’ve invoked the “Guilty-by-Association” argument.
“Guilty-By-Association” Fails the Test
Let’s look at how bad it is and why it’s so wrong.
  1. I was prooftexting. I searched for and cherry-picked verses that I could somehow twist into supporting my pre-determined conclusion. If it didn’t support my point, I skipped it.
  2. And that brings me to my next error… there were many references to red in the Bible that are NOT associated with sin or anything bad. So if red is not always associated with sin or bad things, the color itself cannot be the issue!
  3. I lifted the passages completely out of context. I quoted only that portion which I deemed to support my conclusion. Esau was not rejected by God because he had red hair. The red sky at night (as opposed to the morning) indicated good weather to come. There were four horsemen, each on a different color horse.
  4. I focused on the color to the exclusion of any other part of each passage, making it sound like the color was THE reason the text indicated anything sinful or bad.
  5. I paid no attention at all to the fact that there are multiple words that are translated as “red” in the Bible. They are not all used the same way.
  6. I completely ignored the fact that red is a natural color found abundantly in creation… utilized to great beauty in the natural (and very good!) world!
  7. Finally, NONE of the passage were in ANY way given to us to communicate God’s attitude towards the color red!
This is how you make a point using the “Guilty-by-Association” argument. And it is all wrong.
God knows how to declare His standards of conduct. His clear words of moral absolutes are found throughout the Bible. When God doesn’t clearly call something sin or forbid it, then we must not presume to “add it in” using a spurious or false argument to support it.

Nakedness is not a new thing among humans. It is simply inconceivable that God would have failed to clearly state his will regarding nakedness if He really did wish to forbid it (see Inconceivable Omission).

Let’s review how those who use “Guilty-by-Association” make the same sort of errors that I made trying to prove that God hates red…
  1. They use prooftexting. I have seen many people simply list Scripture references rather than present clear interpretation of those verses based on the context. If they do quote a verse, they never present it in its context. When I respond to such folks, I take the scripture reference they’ve given me and quote it back to them in its full context (with an explanation of what it really means), I simply get no reply back! Prooftexting always fails the test of careful and honest exegesis.
  2. There ARE verses in the Bible that present nakedness without any shame or sin associated! Sadly, many of them have been translated out of the English language Bible (See Squeamish Translating) so that the references to nudity that remain in the English translations are mostly negative (Seriously...see Squeamish Translating)! Studying the matter by consulting the original languages reveals this bias against nudity and deals a blow to the “Guilty-by-Association” effort. The fact is, unless all occasions of nudity are equally “shameful,” we cannot conclude that the nakedness is the de facto source of the shame.
  3. Passages about nudity are often lifted out of context. Most notably is the teaching against incest in Leviticus 18… which uses the euphemism “uncover the nakedness of…” for incest (since there is no Hebrew word for “incest”). The phrase absolutely and unequivocally refers to having sexual relations with a close (“blood”) relative (reiterated 4 times in the passage… see Lev. 18:6, 12-13, 17) . Yet those who have pre-determined that the Bible forbids social nudity do not hesitate to rip that phrase in Leviticus 18 right out of its context in their attempt to declare social nudity to be immoral (see also The Meaning of Nakedness).
  4. Opponents of social nudity regularly quote passages of Scripture that deal with nakedness and shame and they invariably assign the shame to the nakedness rather than the behavior of the “shamed” person. The truth is this… every time there’s shame associated with nakedness, there is ALSO a description of the person’s shameful and sinful behavior! It is indefensible to focus on one aspect of an account and presume that it alone is the source for the shame related in the text.
  5. There are a number of words in the Old Testament that refer to a person being without clothes. Here’s another very significant FACT about nakedness in the Bible… of all the Hebrew words that reference nudity, only ONE (ervah) is ever associated with sin and shame! That observation by itself should tell us that simple nudity is not the moral problem Bible people seem to want it to be (see The Meaning of Nakedness).
  6. Opponents of social nudity conveniently ignore the fact that God created Adam and Eve (and all of the other creatures in the world) to live naked and unashamed. It was so significant to His “very good” creation that it merited a special mention in Genesis 2:25. This very positive attitude about His naked creation—expressed by the One who cannot change—is completely ignored and/or discounted. God didn’t change His attitude about the naked human form… people did! (see Who Hates Nudity… God or Satan?)
  7. Finally, there’s not ONE passage in all the Bible expressly given to us in order to inform us of God’s moral view of nakedness (with the possible exception of Genesis 2:25, which affirms the goodness of nakedness). Therefore, each and every passage cherry-picked to make a guilty-by-association argument against nakedness is a passage that was not given to us for that purpose! Again, if God wanted to tell us what His moral opinion is about simple nudity, He could have, and He would have. But He didn’t.
We Must Not Be Hermeneutically Lazy
Yes, we can all see that there are passages where nakedness and shame are closely associated. But nothing is “Guilty-by-Association” when we study the Bible to determine moral truth. Not even for nakedness. It is simply irresponsible and lazy if someone is willing to accept superficial conclusions about nudity based solely on the Guilty-by-Association argument.

As it turns out, “Guilty-by-Association” is the only argument that’s ever been available for use against social nudity, so it’s the only one that anyone has ever heard. It’s been repeated so frequently that no one ever pays attention to the fact that very foundation of the argument is false. Nor do they bother to examine its conclusions and put them under honest hermeneutical scrutiny.

“Guilty-by-Association” is false. It is always false. And it’s high time that solid and trustworthy teachers of the Bible be honest enough about it to lay it aside… even if it means giving up their opposition to nudity.


— Matthew Neal

16 comments:

Bill said...

Amen! Well said. If you ever turn this site's content into a book, I want several copies. I'm very close to going naked at home around my wife and children and shutter to think of the (very likely) negative reaction, but I'm in a fix because I don't want my silence on this issue to contribute to the darkness and twisted thinking that prevails. Pray for me, and I'll take any advice you can give.

Matthew Neal said...

Bill, thanks for your encouraging comment!

I believe that God is raising up people who are going to impact the Kingdom of God regarding the sinful and false attitude about nudity that the church has been fiercely clinging to for centuries now. The false understanding of our bodies' meaning has led directly to the proliferation of pornography and sexual addictions of all sorts... in our culture and within the church.

Furthermore, that false, pornographic, view of nudity (which hyper-modesty actually is!) has left us without convincing answers to our cultures wholesale rejecting of morality. It has also left us with no compelling answer to the gender confusion issues that have swept the world like a tidal wave in the last 10 years or so.

So, I encourage you be actively change how you live in your home. I made that change in our home some 8 years ago, and now all my teen & 20-something kids are VERY grateful for how I raised them.

I do encourage you to not simply start "acting weird" at home, but sit your children down and explain to them that you are convinced by God's Word that there's no part of the body that we should consider bad or shameful, therefore, there's no part of anyone's body that we should fear to be seen or to see. Consequently, there will no longer be any rules in your home about being unclothed at any time, day or night. And to live the truth yourself, you will be spending time at home without clothing simply for the comfort of it.

You see, it's not about just doing what you feel like, it's about rejecting a lie that our culture (and the church) has promoted, and actively living contrary to it.

I do urge you to make this change only with the agreement of your wife, even if she isn't fully on board yet. For me and my wife, we discussed and prayed about it for a while before we finally decided together to "change the rules."

I hope that helps!

— Matt

Bill said...

My wife is the one who will be most against it. That's why I'm so scared. And my teenage daughters would be very uncomfortable. And my teenage son, who agrees philosophically (I've discussed many of your articles with him), will probably think I've gone too far. I could lose my family over this and they're a great family. That's why I've made no changes.

Matthew Neal said...

Then my counsel to you is this...

Wait... and Pray...

And as you have opportunity, talk it through with your wife.

I have learned two things about this topic:

1. if God does not do the work to break the hold of the lie in someone's heart, the lie WILL NOT give way.

2. God CAN and WILL respond to prayer that He work in the hearts of those close to us. I could tell you some pretty startling stories about how God has worked in my own wife's and daughter's hearts!

Since this is a battle between the lie and the truth, it is a battle between the father of lies and the God of Truth! It is literally a spiritual battle. Don't lose site of that, and don't think that you can win it by your cleverness or strength of argument. It won't happen; there's so much more at stake.

That said, there's nothing wrong with utilizing resources that will spur discussion. let me recommend to you a site that's written by women for women... that addresses the cultural obsession we have with the sexualization of breasts.

oo7b.com!

It's worth reading all the way through together.

Bathe everything in prayer and trust God to do miracles in your family.

— Matt

Bill said...

Thank you. I will pray. I've done a little bit of praying about this, but nothing much in relation to the magnitude of the issue. I'll take your advice and pour my energy into prayer rather than trying to convince anyone. God bless!

Matthew Neal said...

Hey, Bill. One more site you really should be thoroughly familiar with is MyChainsAreGone.org. While it addresses addiction to pornography, it's really about having a godly and biblical view of the body.

It would be a good idea to read that site (start with the "articles") through with your wife and/or family.

— Matt

jochanaan said...

Great article! I would even say (borrowing usage from advertising) that it's "inspiRED." :D

Bill said...

Matthew, I'm familiar with both those sites. They've been very helpful to me. I haven't had the courage to show them to my wife yet. I have to balance how important it is for her to understand this and how much of it she could handle at a time. Her tolerance for anything nudity related is very low. We do watch movies that include brief nudity, but if there's a lot of it, she doesn't like it.

Thanks again for the wonderful articles.

Even though I'm on board with the dignity of simple nudity, I sometimes wonder if there's a more elaborate argument that could be made scriptually against it. You and I both know the very silly out-of-context proof texting that is done to try to prove it's wrong.

But there's some concepts in the Bible that can't be put on a bumper sticker. Like the Trinity. It's true, but there's not a single verse, that, by itself alone, proves the Trinity. You have to piece together the facts from verses here and there to come up with the theology of the Trinity. Perhaps there IS some biblical reason that social nudity is wrong, but my problem is that even the scholars who are normally good, descend to guilt-by-association (like you said eloquently in your article). Even in Rushdooney's book about Biblical law where he (at least!) admits that there is no Biblical law against nudity, he goes on to say we should still not go nude because we need to love our spouses, etc. And when you love someone, you shouldn't have to spell out all the rules in detail. So basically, God didn't bother to mention it because it's so obvious! I shake my head sometimes. But I still think that there may be some truth out there. How else could the church as a whole go this long if the argument against social nudity is so flimsey! I mean, think of it, the church as a whole dealt very early on with many heresies, such as gnosticism, deism, Tri-theism (three God's instead of one), Modalism, etc. So how have we gone 2000+ years and not much has been done as a whole by the church to rise up with one voice against the idol of "modesty" and clothes obsession, etc.

After over a year and a half of studying this issue, I'm convinced of the dignity of human nakedness. But why aren't more pastors convinced? Why are the best scholars seemingly blind to this issue? These people love God more than me. They have a more consistent walk of faith. More committed prayer life. They're more sacrifical for their spouse in their marriages. They're kinder. They exhibit more of the fruits of the spirit than I do. How is it that they don't see it. This concerns me because I feel there ought to be more of a conssensus out there. Thankfully, I do attend a church where the elders are sensible enough to know that not all nudity is evil. They would agree that there is such a thing as good nude artwork. And that not all nudity in movies is wrong. And that sex is a righteous gift of God. But when you get down to the practical level of it being OK to skinny dip in mixed company, or go to a nude beach, then everything changes and suddenly it's not wise, etc. Why is there such a disconnect? Sorry for rambling on.

One author that I started to read, but got busy and didn't finish yet, is a not very well known theologian named James B. Jordan. He brings out that in the old testament, the word "feet" is sometimes used as a metaphor for the genitals. I.e. When David cut off the bottom of Kind Saul's garment, I believe the phrasing was that Saul went into a cave to "uncover his feet" which was a jewish eupamism for uncovering the genitals. Evidently, there's other places where "feet" means the genitals. Perhaps you, I, and other people on this site can look into this idea and see if there's something a little more substantive there. I'll try to find a link to that article and send it to you.

God bless.

jochanaan said...

Bill, as a Christian Sabbath-keeper, I understand that it's very possible for the churches to have gotten something wrong for many centuries. (I apologize if I step on any toes here. :) ) There does seem to be a human tendency to add, change and subtract from what was written even when we've been warned against doing so!

Bill said...

For the most part, though, people who differ on the Sabbath issue still consider each other brothers in Christ. Many churches would say that a person who regularly engages in social nudity cannot possibly be a true believer because it's adultery and scripture is clear that anyone who continues unrepentantly as a thief, adulterer, etc. will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Also, just curious, many who hold to a "strict Sabatarian" position are covenantal as opposed to dispensational (I don't know if you're familiar with those terms). Are you? From what I can tell, most on this site are Dispensational. I'm covenantal. I'd be curious what our "demographics" are. Regardless, I believe nudity is considered a "problem" in most churches, regardless of their perspective in other areas.

jochanaan said...

Oh, I'm definitely covenantal, Bill. I was raised in the Seventh Day Baptist denomination, who are very covenantal in their polity and relations with each other, more like a greatly extended family than a hierarchy, and thus understand covenant theology and tend to be wary of dispensationalism. (We are also very democratic and anti-authoritarian, celebrating our differences and affirming that we can "agree to disagree" and still worship and commune as brothers and sisters in Jesus.)

Puddlejumper said...

Thank you Matthew for another insightful blog post, and also to Bill and Jochanaan for your comments.

With respect to the whole issue of Christians being naturists, it seems to me that many people (whether they be "lay" or "clergy" - I use the terms in a general sense) fall at the first hurdle so to speak, they read the pre-fall Genesis 2:25 report of Adam and Eve - "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." and assume that post-fall the opposite MUST be true, that if we are naked we MUST be ashamed.

I echo Mathew's comment about God raising up believers who will challenge the Church's ingrained attitude to simple nudity, indeed my own journey from pornography to freedom has been facilitated by this blog and others who have not only taken the time to study the scriptures but have testified to their lives being changed by discovering the truth (in reality discovering the Truth - Jesus who inspired the scriptures in the first place). Finding the truth of the Biblical verses about nakedness has overflowed into discovering new clarity for all parts of my Christian walk.

My prayers are with you all.

Puddlejumper.

Matthew Neal said...

Good to hear from you again, PJ!

As you know by now, it is very short-sighted to see the pre-fall condition of mankind as one thing and assume that after the fall, everything is supposed to be the opposite. The reality is that they ONLY claim that because it allows them to reject "naked and unashamed" as a realistic and proper goal in a post-fall world.

If we were to take that notion to its logical conclusion, we'd have to also conclude that we shouldn't try to walk with God after the fall. Nor should we attempt to live in oneness and harmony with our own spouse.

If we attempt to deny that pre-fall realities are still the post-fall ideal, then we have to wrestle with the fact that Jesus Himself pointed to Gen. 2:24 as the post-fall ideal for marriage (Matt 19:4-5, Mark 10:6-9). Obviously, Jesus did not consider the "opposite" of Gen. 2:24 to be the expected ideal for marriage.

So if Jesus affirmed Gen. 2:24 as an appropriate ideal in a post-fall world, wouldn't he also affirm Gen. 2:25... "naked and unashamed"?

==========

I believe God is raising up voices that will speak the truth to the Kingdom of God in this generation. I'm not sure my generation will ever hear, but I have hopes for my children's generation, who are just now entering adulthood.

PJ, God may be calling you to that purpose. Bill, He might be calling you, too, but allow Him to do the work in your wife, first.

PJ, you are right about the source of this truth... all truth comes from the One who is "The Truth," so when we help people understand the truth about the meaning of our bodies, we are ministering Jesus to them, even if it is not directly about the gospel of salvation.

Pray, pray, pray... that God will raise up more voices, and work in peoples' hearts so that they may hear the truth.

— Matt

artman133 said...

Thank you for your incite, and thank you for sharing. The Biblical perspective regarding social nudity is of great interest to me as I have for a long time seen nudism as something wholesome and good but have not had a clear Scriptural understanding which has caused some internal conflict. having a solid understanding of Gods perspective is benificial in both removing this conflict as well as being able to share with others who are critical or just squemish about the concept (as in our families) the reason for our behavior choices. Severl years ago I got caught up in online porn whilt trying to find some happiness. It was very unrewarding and I did not find joy. But through my searching I came across the naturism movement and realized this was what I had been searching for, it was founded in respect for yourself and others and I found joy......it has taken a few years and much prayer for my wife to enjoy this as well. I am looking forword to spending the rest of our lives togeter as active Christian Naturists, not to cause stumbling blocks to otheres but to live as God intended. Thank you again.

"The key to happiness is to admire without desire"

Jeff Jencks said...

My favorite example of what you're talking about is the story of Noah. I have heard many people say that Canaan was cursed because Noah committed the sin of nudity. What they say doesn't even make sense. If Noah's nudity was the sin, why was Canaan cursed? Why wasn't Noah, or Shem, or anyone else cursed?

Also, these people ignore certain facts. Noah was drunk. He was naked in the privacy of his own tent, not in public. Ham sinned and it is probable that Canaan was involved (although the exact nature of the sin is not described it was at least some form of disrespect ranging from simple mockery all the way up to molesting Noah).

There is no suggestion that Noah sinned by being naked. It is only mentioned to indicate his vulnerability to whatever sin Ham and Canaan did.

Matthew Neal said...

Hey, Jeff. Thanks for writing.

You might want to take a look at my article about the story of Noah...

Noah’s Nakedness… What Really Happened?

— Matt