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