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…


Unknown said...

Where does it say in the Bible that it is ok to see your spouse naked? I've wondered about this and people saying it's ok for medical staff to see people naked, but I've been unable to find it. Of course I have no problem with it, just wondering if it actually in the Bible.

See you at CNC.

Jerry Sledge

P.S. This does not have to be posted. Edit as you see fit.

Matthew Neal said...

Hey, Jerry.

As you know, of course, it would be ludicrous to suggest that a man should never see his own wife unclothed... even though the Bible does not ever specifically say that he may.

Interestingly, if the Bible did say that a man was allowed to see his wife's body, or if it did say that doctors could see their patients' bodies, then it would, by implication, be teaching that others may not see anyone but their own spouse. In other words, the presence of clear “exceptions” in Scripture would give added weight to the notion that God prohibits non-spousal nudity.

However, not only is the prohibition missing, all of the exceptions are missing as well. The only way to come to the conclusion that God forbids non-spousal nudity is to fabricate the notion, for there is no support for it in Scripture.

To be fair, of course, many will disagree with that statement. Anyone who believes that the sight of the nude human body is by nature a sexual experience will insist that nudity be limited to those contexts where sexual expression is Scripturally condoned, i.e. marriage. But that claim takes them right back to the quandary expressed in this post: if that understanding were true, then how could we offer exceptions to individuals simply because they have a diploma hanging on their wall?

Thanks for writing. For the record, I cannot edit any comments... I can only approve or deny them. Otherwise, it would allow the blog owner to make people's comments whatever they wanted them to be... even putting their own words in their mouths!


Anonymous said...

Hello Matthew,

This is an interesting post, thanks. I would like to know where in your blog posts you address the Biblical hurdle. I am fully convinced about social nudity but my wife rejects it on biblical principles. Do you have a blog post that addresses the Biblical hurdle? I must confess that I have not read all your posts yet - so if you could direct me that would be great. Thanks!


Matthew Neal said...

Hey, Norm. Thanks for writing.

First of all, let me urge you to approach this issue with your wife first and foremost with prayer. I've learned that unless God works in someone's heart, the lies that have taken root in our culture and in the church regarding our bodies will not give way. At the first sign that things are getting tense in your discussion with her... STOP... your words will not change her mind or heart. Instead, take it to the Lord and ask him to work. You'll be amazed what he will do.

Secondly, you might want to review the articles at with your wife. It is not naturist and instead, it talks about overcoming the pornographic mindset that leads to bondage to porn. It might provide a good biblical foundation for your discussion about the body without it being about social nudity.

Next, I suggest that you simply read through all the blog posts on The Biblical Naturist. Start at the beginning or jump around and read what catches your eye. A LOT of them address the "biblical hurdles" and pretty much, I've systematically addressed all the hurdles that I've ever heard about. I honestly ran out of things to write about! If you have some specific issues you want to address first, let me know (use the email contact above-right if you would rather correspond personally) and I'll point you to the posts that address them.

Having said that, let me guess what one of them will be... the "cause a brother to stumble" argument is very often thrown around... so after you read through the MCAG articles, you might want to read through the series here called "You Can't Do That!"

That series is not at all about naturism, but about being biblically accurate with what "stumbling" really means.

Keep me posted on how it goes.

-- Matt