Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quotes and Comments #5

He that is not open to conviction,

is not qualified for discussion.

— Richard Whately —

In other words…
If anyone is unwilling to be convinced by clear evidence to affirm a position contrary to the one they start with, they will never be honest enough with truth to engage in productive dialog.


I recently posted an extensive rebuttal to Ted Slater’s blog post about nudity. Mr. Slater had made an attempt to use the Bible to assign shame or sin to all public nudity, with the assumption (or presumption) that such was the perspective of God Himself.

I made a point to contact Mr. Slater personally in order to see if he had had occasion to revise his view, and if not, to allow him a chance to interact with me directly in reference to my rebuttal.

At first, I hoped for a very congenial and open discussion. However, I’m sad to report that while the discussion was friendly enough, he was (in my opinion) never truly open to allowing his view to be honestly challenged. He simply assumed that his position was correct and mine was in error.

He was NOT open to “conviction.”

Three different times in the course of our email dialog, I stated or reaffirmed that I was ready and willing to change my perspective on social nudity if I was shown solid biblical evidence that I was mistaken. At least once, I asked him if he held that same readiness to change his own position if it was shown to be wrong. He never once gave even the slightest hint that he was willing to do so.

I also laid out a series of seven conservative principles of hermeneutics (“hermeneutics” prescribes an objective and consistent approach to Scripture interpretation) as “starting points” for our discussion. These principles had nothing to do specifically with nudity, only with how we approach our study of the Scriptures for any moral issue (Posted HERE).

I asked Mr. Slater to affirm those hermeneutical principles as valid and trustworthy guides to discerning Scriptural truth, but he simply ignored them. I asked him again, and then finally a third time. Each time, he resorted to making comments that had no real bearing on the topic at hand, ultimately only casting aspersions upon my character.

… So he was not qualified for discussion

Finally, he refused to continue the discussion, citing me as the one unwilling to be convinced by the biblical evidence… despite the fact that I had carefully answered every question he had asked me, and responded fully to every objection he raised to my position.

Meanwhile, he did not answer one question that I posed to him, and my entire rebuttal was never given any substantial response. So, in a sense, he disqualified himself from the discussion, for he never truly entered into it.

Bonus Quote:

The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.

— Pope John Paul II —

Those who hold the “majority” view often feel no need to honestly reexamine their position. Rather than address real challenges to their beliefs, they feel that they only need to reject the opposing viewpoint as self-evidently incorrect.

They may also feel justified in making disparaging remarks about the character of the person bringing the challenge. Another tactic that is invoked is falsely aligning the opposing belief with obviously incorrect doctrines or ideas… instead of addressing the real issue head on with a cogent argument.

Perhaps when the evidence doesn’t actually support the majority opinion, such strategies are the only ones left available to its adherents.

The truth is never afraid of a challenge. But those who cling to the “nudity-taboo” sure appear to be.

Honoring my promise…

Everything that I’ve described here is accurate; this is how Mr. Slater responded to my efforts to discuss this issue with him. I have compiled the entire email dialog into a document which demonstrates that fact. However, Mr. Slater seemed to object when I told him that I intended to make it available to my readers, so I promised him that I would not publish it without his permission.

I did ask for his permission to publish the dialog, but he has not returned my emails even to give me a “yes” or a “no.” I suspect that he is now blocking my email address.

Mr. Slater, if you’re reading this and you feel that I have misrepresented your part in our dialog, please let me know and I’ll post the compilation so my readers may decide for themselves. Or if you prefer, give your own version on your own blog; I’d be happy to link to it from here.

Reminded… again…

Once again… I am reminded that only the Lord’s work in someone’s heart can expose the lies that our culture and the church have embraced regarding the true nature of our bodies; only He can reveal the falseness of the sexualized view of human nudity which empowers pornography and sexual bondage. No amount of discussion, argument, or careful biblical exegesis alone will ever break the bondage.

Once again, I am reminded that I am not smart enough, logical enough, or persuasive enough to convince anyone of the truth in these matters. I think it was an error for me to contact Mr. Slater… if I am really honest about my proud heart, I thought that this time… I might be able to convince someone by reason alone.

Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. Not this time. Not ever.

This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer(Mark 9:28-29)

So… let us pray.

Lord Jesus, it is Your glory that is at stake, for the image that the church rejects is Your own. It is the beauty of Your Bride that is at stake, for the rejection of Your image in our bodies has led untold numbers of Your followers into all manner of sexual impurity. Please, Lord, shatter the lies that enslaves your people; set them free by truth. May Satan’s first insult of Your image in human flesh be forever rejected by those who confess Your Name. — Amen.

— Matthew Neal

See also: Starting Points for Discussion

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quotes and Comments #4

Father, forgive them;

for they know not what they do.

— Spoken by a naked man being persecuted by clothed religious people —

NOTE: This post is not in any way a defense of naturism… it is simply an encouragement to those who are naturists and are being criticized or persecuted for their practice and beliefs.

Jesus’ words above (Luke 23:34 - KJV) are an appropriate model to keep in mind for those of us who live by and speak out for a different view of human nudity than is typically taught in the church today.

Yes, I know “nudity” is not what this this verse is in the Bible to teach us… but the application of its real meaning in our lives still fits. We will face persecution from those who believe that we are a threat to the consensus of religious belief. That part shouldn’t surprise us, however… Jesus and Paul both ensured us that it would happen when we follow the truth.

(But don’t make the mistake of assuming that the experience of persecution is “proof” of “right-ness”… stupidity can bring persecution, too!)

People who hold a pornographic view of the body (the view which regards the sexual impact of the body as the driver for our decisions about clothing) are quick to oppose and/or attack anyone who does not uphold that false view.

As a result, we can expect to experience a great deal of pain and rejection—sadly—even (or especially) from those who profess to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not question their salvation or their motivations; I know that they mean well. However, we still have to endure the persecution.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Rom. 12:14)

If that’s happening to you, be generous with your forgiveness… As difficult as it may be, it is the way of Christ.

— Matthew Neal

See also: Quotes and Comments — #1

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Thoughtful Response to Mr. Piper – Part 3

This is Part 3 of my response to John Piper’s article on nakedness which I quoted in full in The “Traditional” Christian View of Nakedness). A reader asked me to respond to it. My first action was to highlight in red the portions of the article I considered to be biblically indefensible and in error.

I was busy posting my responses to this reader’s questions about Mr. Piper’s article when I got sidetracked and posted some other things. I had finished Part 1 and Part 2, but haven’t gotten around to the third and final part until now. My apologies for the delay.

Once again, the reader’s questions pertaining to those “red” sections from Mr. Piper’s article are in green below. My responses follow.


Apart from the text I have some basic broad questions as well. The main ones are 1.) How can post-Fall man (or woman) attain a sense of purity and godliness while being naked? If the original reaction to nudity was shame, why should ours be any different?

By that same logic, I could ask this: “If the original reaction to the opportunity to sin was to go ahead and sin, why should ours be any different?” As you can see, “original reaction” (particularly after sin arrived on the scene) is not a sufficient basis for prescribing God will for our reaction to be today.

However, to be perfectly accurate... the “original reaction” to nudity was “shame-free” (Genesis 2:25). And the pre-fall reality really should continue to be our post-fall ideal (more on that in a moment)!

You would be amazed how easy it is to be naked with a sense of purity and godliness in God’s presence—it was God’s original design, after all! Let me pose some thought questions to you:

  • Is there any part of your body that you need to hide from God’s sight?
  • Does clothing commend us to God at all??
  • Are you somehow too “impure” when you’re taking a shower to sing songs of praise and worship? Stated another way, will God not accept worship from a naked person?
  • Is God somehow offended if you have a chat with him while you’re exposed and “on the throne” in the bathroom?

You see, it is WE who make the naked state “incompatible” with godliness and an offense to the Almighty… not God! In truth, your question is actually reflective of what Adam thought when he felt that he must hide from God… that his nudity was no longer acceptable in God’s presence!

Think about the three facets of relationships we all live with and what they were like in the Garden:

  1. Before the fall, man lived in right relationship with God. It was broken at the fall.
  2. Before the fall, the man lived in a right relationship with his wife. It was broken at the fall.
  3. Before the fall, the man lived in right relationship to himself (no shame!). It was broken at the fall.

Christ died and rose again to redeem us from ALL the brokenness of the fall. He didn’t go “2 for 3,” overcoming the first two points but coming up short on the third. No, our redemption truly includes all three points. It had to be that way, because the pre-fall reality is and always has been the post-fall ideal. Dare we claim anything different?

  1. We may struggle to live in right relationship to God, but we should continue to pursue Him passionately.
  2. We may struggle to live in right relationship with our spouses, but we should continue to pursue them with all our hearts.
  3. We may struggle to live free from shame of any kind, so we should just give in to it and convince ourselves that we can never get there so don’t even try. Everyone since Adam has been ashamed of their nakedness, so there’s no use trying to live differently.

Does that fatalistic resignation sound right to you? Nope. Not to me, either. But that’s what our formal theological position essentially tells us is the truth. Can you find it anywhere in the Bible? Does Gen. 3 tell us that?

The irony is that of the three broken relationships, the easiest one to experientially restore is the the third one… at least as it pertains to body-shame (other types of shame have other sources). If we simply stop relying on our clothing to protect us from that shame, we will find that in shedding the clothes, we shed our body-shame along with them! To those still bound by body-shame, no words could sound more idiotic. But for those released from that shame, these words ring astoundingly true! There really are some things that can only be comprehended by experience!

In case you’re wondering about the “pre-fall reality” being the “post-fall ideal,” read Matthew 19:4-6. Jesus basically says that for marriage, the pre-fall reality is still the post-fall ideal. He quotes Gen 2:24 to make His point. Is there any Scriptural basis to think that Jesus would affirm verse 24 in a post-fall world, but reject verse 25?


2.) How does Naturism integrate the biblical principles of modesty?

The “biblical principles of modesty” that you reference is—at very best—a moving target. If the Bible really is clear on the matter, why is there so much disagreement in Christendom about how to define it?

Scripturally, if you’re thinking about 1 Tim. 2:9-10, are you sure that the “modesty” that’s preached today to “make sure ‘this and that’ are adequately covered” is what Paul had in mind? “Modesty” has more than one meaning even in English. I can address this particular passage more if you want, but I’ll say this… the kind of “modesty” talked about in the American church today is not taught in the Scriptures (for a detailed treatment of 1 Tim. 2:9-10, read this paper).

To help you see just how indefinable “modesty” really is, consider these questions:

  • Exactly what body parts should a woman keep covered (or a man, for that matter)?
    • Where is that found in the Scriptures?
  • Why should the beauty of the face be “permitted” but the beauty of the breasts (created to feed babies!!) be immoral to view?
  • If seeing more skin incites lust, why not cover it all? (It would seem that some expressions of Islam have embraced that logic! see The Objectification of Women – Part 1 / Part 2)

Here’s another point to explore… do some research about the history and practice of baptism in the early church. It was done nude. Don’t take my word for it… research it yourself! How does that historical reality (practiced when 1 Tim 2 was written) square with today’s ideas about the “biblical principles of modesty”? (see Nude Baptism in the Early Church? You Decide.)

One last perspective to consider… C. S. Lewis addressed the topic of modesty in his book, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 5 – Sexual Morality). Mr. Lewis demonstrates how “modesty” is really only a social construct, when the true moral issue regarding sexual behavior is “chastity.” One particularly significant quote is this: “I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it…” I encourage all my readers to read his words in context so that you can see that I have not taken them out of his intended context.

To get back to your question of how Naturism integrates the “Biblical principle of modesty,” I would first summarize 1 Tim. 2:9-10 to say that Paul does not want us (women specifically) to use clothing or jewelry or hairstyles (or our bodies, I would suggest) to draw attention to ourselves. But in an environment where everyone is nude, “how much skin showing” is not an issue. No one is using clothing or their bodies to attract attention to themselves (or shouldn’t be, for that would be immodest!). No one is teasingly showing “a little bit more".” Everyone is simply who they really are. Everyone is “dressed” the same. In all honesty, I believe that kind of context exemplifies true biblical modesty more than just about any clothed gathering can!

Our society really does know the truth about how clothing can be used to distinguish people from one another and to allow one person to attract attention to themselves… that’s why some secondary schools have decided to require uniforms rather than allowing the kids to wear whatever they want! It puts all the students on an equal plane in reference to clothing. Well, so does social nudity.


3.) If you truly and wholly embrace Naturism, why not be naked all the time? Not that I think you should or that it would be appropriate, but if you think it’s best how do you decide when to do it or not to do it. (I realize that you are a Christian first, and this is more of a devil’s advocate question, but it definitely comes up in the general conversation).

Being a naturist does not equate to being stupid! If my body needs protection from cold or power tools, I’ll put some clothes on!

There are also laws that we have an obligation to obey. Then there is the issue of deference; I have no desire to needlessly offend those around me.

But the real heart issue is this... Am I ashamed of God’s image being seen in my body? Well, I’m not any more! I don’t care who sees me… at least for my own sake… I care who sees me only for their sakes, so that I will not be forcing them to see me if they would rather not.

There might be a place and time to “educate” people, but right now, it’s probably not the best strategy for changing people’s attitudes about God’s image in all of our bodies.


The other thing I wanted to address was something you mentioned in your opening paragraphs to the whole email. For one thing, I was wondering why 300 years was the number you mentioned. Is there a rich heritage of Naturists in Christian History that I’ve never heard of before?

As an offshoot of this I can’t help but go to the hermeneutical principle of looking at the history of interpretation of other godly men and women. Not that humans are infallible, but if we are going to say that the generally accepted position that wearing clothes is a good thing is mistaken, there should be a pretty good reason, and preferably not an argument from the Bible’s silence.

I’m all for questioning and seeking to be in accordance with God but there should be a point where we align with historical Christianity or recognize that the topic in question is a matter of Christian liberty.

That’s a very good point. It should counsel us to be very careful and reticent to simply lay aside theological understandings that have been accepted for a long time. I affirm that.

However, in the scope of all church history, the last 300 years is only a very small part (15%!). The fact of the matter is that our modern obsession with clothing was not even possible until the industrial revolution when the weaving of cloth became mechanized.

The idea that someone should never be seen naked wasn’t even “the rule” for Western societies until colonization found so-called “inferior” races that lived entirely without clothing and we “civilized” people were certainly “not like those ‘naked savages’!!” (I have heard but not been able to confirm this claim historically, yet I strongly suspect it is true). Unless I’m mistaken on this point, it means that our insistence on avoiding nudity really has its roots in a cultural—perhaps even racial—pride.

Cover are for “The Old Testament Through 100 Masterpieces of Art”Nudity in sacred art was no problem at all until the last 300 years or so (check out a book at the public library called, The Old Testament Through 100 masterworks of Art... you’ll be surprised how much nudity was used!). Imagine a Christian artist today being commissioned to paint a biblical theme that included nudity!

Bathing suits as we know them today didn’t even exist several hundred years ago. But should we assume that no one ever swam? Or isn’t it more likely that they swam the same way they bathed... in public, at the river... with no concern for who might see them?

And as I mentioned above, the fact that the early Church originally practiced nude baptism should also inform our understanding of the Church’s “historical” view of nudity.

Yes, we should consider historical understanding when we consider theological issues, but not just the last 300 years! The fact is that the nudity taboo written into the theological moral code of the church today is relatively recent. It is not founded in the Scriptures, and it is not founded on reason. It is founded only on relatively recent tradition and a very false view of the meaning of our bodies!


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

There may be other portions of Mr. Piper’s article that another reader may feel that I have not adequately addressed. If so, I welcome comments to this post with those questions and I’ll be happy to address them either as additional comments to this post, or, if warranted, a “Part 4” for this series.

— Matthew Neal

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When is Nudity OK for a Christian?

Where he is, I once was…
One of my readers pointed me to an article by Ted Slater addressing the question in the title of this blog post. I don’t remember seeing it before, but I thought it worth a response. I understand his position, for where he is, I once was.
Like most good Christian young men, I’d heard all the Scriptures Mr. Slater used and knew exactly why nudity was “forbidden” in the Bible. One day, however, before I became a naturist, I was challenged to reexamining my understanding about nudity. So I looked at every one of the passages referenced. Under close investigation, I found that every last one of those passages failed to uphold the anti-nudity doctrine it had been invoked to support.
Let me assert my final analysis right from the start:
God does NOT tell us in the Bible when nudity is “OK” for a Christian and when it is not. However, the anti-nudity bias behind the “nudity taboo” taught by the church today misuses the Scriptures to create the impression that God objects to nudity in spite of the Bible’s silence on the matter.
Mr. Slater has really done nothing more than present the Biblical “support” from the anti-nudity bias. My task in this blog post is to show how each point is in error, since not one of them stands up under honest scrutiny.
No, this passage doesn’t really mean that.
My pattern for this post will be to quote a portion of Mr. Slater’s the article and then respond. I apologize that my responses are so much longer than the statements that I respond to. It often takes a lot of words to demonstrate how the assumptions behind a few words are invalid. This is especially true when simple Scripture references are used without quoting the verse or examining its context. In such cases, it requires a full explanation of the verse within its actual context to demonstrate how the verse has been misinterpreted.
Comments on several blog posts tell me that this is a hot topic: When and how is it appropriate to include nudity and portrayals of sexual intercourse in various forms of art, specifically film?
The content of Mr. Slater’s article is much more about nudity among people than it is about nudity or sexual intercourse portrayed in art or film. That is likewise where I will focus my responses.
In regards to viewing nudity, it’s clear that there’s a spectrum of appropriateness. On one hand, it may be appropriate for a man to view his wife’s or baby’s unclothed body; at certain times a male physician may be within his right to view a woman’s unclothed body.
The task of proving my opening assertion (in red above) really need go no further, for Mr. Slater has granted my point in his very first paragraph. He says, “There’s a spectrum of appropriateness.” If God has spoken on the matter, there can be no “spectrum.” Interestingly enough, he does not quote scripture to prove this point, but rather he cites culturally accepted “exceptions” in real life (see You Can’t Have it Both Ways for a more thorough treatment of this point).
Furthermore, it is worth noting biblical standards of morality cannot be based on subjective ideas like “appropriateness.” The best approach to this topic should be to start with what the Bible actually says. Mr. Slater has instead started by expressing a cultural assumption… that it really is OK for parents to see their children or doctors to see their patients. Those ideas have to be considered “cultural” because they are nowhere to be found in the Bible.
On the other hand, it’s never appropriate for a man to view a woman other than his wife with lustful desire in his heart, whether she is clothed or unclothed.
Here, Mr. Slater speaks the absolute truth. Lust is forbidden, and the amount of clothing worn by the object of that lust is of no consequence at all. In my opinion, Mr. Slater could have written this sentence (with no “other hand”) and nothing else for the entire article, and it would have been profoundly true.
As soon as we start trying to define some additional “rule” for righteousness which God has not clearly declared in the Bible, we step into legalism. Rather than welcoming that legalism (which is based on human reasoning), we should actively reject it (see Col. 2:20-23).
Perhaps the rightness or wrongness of viewing nude forms has to do with vocation: a husband’s vocation to please his wife, for example, or a physician’s vocation to care for his patients.
There is no evidence for this assertion in the Scriptures. Mr. Slater has invoked another culturally developed notion and suggested that it is (or might be) God’s perspective on nudity for the Christian. There is no concept of “vocation” in the Bible that has any bearing on much of a person’s skin someone is permitted to see.
And perhaps the rightness or wrongness of viewing nude forms also has to do with the heart: viewing a woman lustfully is clearly wrong.
There is no “perhaps” about this statement. this is biblically true… based on the words of Christ Himself (Matthew 5:28). However, like the statement Mr. Slater made in ¶2a above, the nudity or non-nudity of the person being seen makes no difference at all. Jesus did not include any such caveat in His statement to us about lust.
Perhaps Scripture can provide some clarity, some insights into this issue.
Scripture does provide insight, but unfortunately, I believe that the scriptures that follow in Mr. Slater’s article are presumed by him to mean something that they do not. The “insight” drawn from them has actually been infused into them by an anti-nudity bias.
Let me say here that I certainly do not wish to pick on Mr. Slater alone. I fear that what he writes here is very commonly believed. I believed the same once myself. But when I subjected those Scriptures to honest examination, I found that every last one of the Scriptures had been misinterpreted in reference to how the nude form was to be understood.
I know that may seem to be a very haughty claim to make… but I wouldn’t make it if I wasn’t convinced that it is true. Personally, I was astounded as I worked through all these passages, only to find that each one could not support the conclusions they are frequently invoked to support. In every case, my previous understanding turned out to be unsupportable, or simply wrong.
Consequently, I’m not going to hold back. My perspective is that Mr. Slater has listed his Scripture references, offering only a summary of what they mean, and expecting us to take his word for it. However, I find that his summaries are misleading or just plain false.
I’ve made some very strong statements here, and I don’t intend to ask you to just take my word for it. I’ll give you the evidence, you double-check it for yourself, then see if you don’t agree.

Job made a covenant with his eyes not to “gaze at a virgin.” Habakkuk associates “gazing” at someone’s unclothed body as shameful. There’s something about “gazing” at someone you’re not married to that Scripture considers wrong.
Connecting the word “gaze” in these two passages is an interpretational error. Though the words match in English, they are translated from two different Hebrew words, and the two words do not mean the same thing.
The Hebrew word used in Job 31:1 for “gaze” is better translated in the KJV: “…why then should I think upon a maid?” Job’s covenant may be with the eyes, but the commitment is all about his mind. The word “maid” here actually refers to a virgin. Therefore, we can see that Job is committing to not allow his mind to dwell on a sexually inexperienced woman. He’s not promising to never look at a woman. He’s promising to never look with lust. This is precisely in harmony with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28.
In Habakkuk, The prophet is talking about a person who purposely gets his neighbors (plural) drunk in order to take voyeuristic advantage of them (sounds like watching porn!). Without any doubt, that act IS shameful! But simply seeing someone’s naked body? Is that what this passage is talking about? No, I do not believe it is.
I am troubled that this verse would be referenced without acknowledging the aspect of intentionally getting someone drunk in order to look at them. That detail is critically important to a correct understanding of the passage. Leaving it out gives the incorrect impression that it is shameful anytime one person sees another naked. I trust that its omission was only an oversight or mistake, because leaving it out on purpose would amount to deception.
To directly challenge a comment on another blog post: Scripture does indicate that a woman’s breasts are sexual for men, and not merely for men in “civilized cultures.” Consider Proverbs 5:19 and Song of Solomon 7:6-12 and Ezekiel 23:3,21, for example.
By the same token, we should consider lips sexual, because the bible also acknowledges that kissing is a part of sexual activity.
As Mr. Slater suggests, I have considered these passages. I have found that they do not support what amounts to the sexual objectification of women’s breasts (see for a great culturally relevant site about this topic). I will address each one.
Proverbs 5:19 – Yes, this passage is about sexually enjoying your wife for all your life. But it is also poetry; it uses poetic language. The verse could just as easily read, “let her face/kisses/embrace fill you at all times with delight” and the verse would lose little of its meaning. It just so happens that the breasts are one of the clear gender-identifying attributes of a woman. The term “breasts” works wonderfully as a euphemistic reference to a man’s wife. Add to that the fact that “let her breasts satisfy you…” (NASB) is a clear allusion to the real purpose of breasts to “satisfy” babies, and it is very effectively constructed poetry. Would anyone suggest that the poet’s point that a man should go gaga for his own wife’s breasts instead of her person? I don’t think so. I believe the account is really just saying “Enjoy your own wife!”
Can Proverbs 5:19 be used to support a sexualized view of women’s breasts as being how God wants us to view them? No, it cannot.
Song of Solomon. Granted, the entire book is essentially about sex, so it might be assumed that every time breasts are mentioned, it must be considered a “sexual context.” But is that correct? I don’t think so. Solomon is often simply extolling the beauty of his bride. Yes, among the various parts of her anatomy, he mentions the breasts… but does that mean that breasts are (or should be) primarily sexual to a man? If so, then what about the navel? Or the ears? or her nose or legs (they are all mentioned in the text with essentially equal emphasis)? No, Solomon was extolling every facet of his bride’s beauty… and that included the undeniable and notable beauty of her breasts.
(Incidentally… shouldn’t we take note of the fact that God’s Word includes a rather detailed description of the beauty of a naked woman’s body? Isn’t that instructive? Solomon was inspired by God to help all of us imagine and ponder the naked beauty of his OWN wife!)
Ezekiel 23:3,21 – Obviously here, the breasts are mentioned of as a part of the sexual misconduct of “Oholah” and “Oholibah” who were “sisters” spoken of metaphorically in reference to the unfaithfulness of the sister nations, Israel and Judah.
I think we can all agree that during sex, a woman’s breasts are handled by the man. I believe this passage of Scripture acknowledges that. However, I think we can also agree that there’s probably no part of a woman’s body that is exempt from the same sort of attention. Therefore, I see these two rare verses as simply descriptive of that reality… nothing more. I do not believe they have the power to call out women’s breasts and declare them to be more sexual than any other body part. These passages acknowledge that breasts play a role in sexual interaction, but they do not mean God wants us to view them or treat them that way at all times.
I can’t help but wonder if, before Mr. Slater posted his opinion about these verses supposedly “proving” the “sexual” nature of breasts, he had examined the whole counsel of God’s Word to see how breasts are referenced throughout the Bible. When I was pondering the biblical perspective on breasts, that’s exactly what I did, for I wanted to really understand how the Bible views them. I found that overwhelmingly, the Bible refers to breasts in their God-given design to feed babies. The second most common usage of the term is to simply refer to the front of a person’s chest… male or female! Only in the rare occasions that Mr. Slater quoted can they be construed as “sexual.”
Like the other passages, I find that we have no real biblical basis to consider breasts as primarily sexual, nor any support that God intends for us to view them or respond to them as if they were. Such a conclusion simply is not in harmony with the whole of Scripture, which—incidentally—mentions breasts a lot (I would recommend that same investigation to all my readers).
To further illustrate, let me ask our female readers a couple of questions: If a man not your husband touched your shoulder, that’d probably be all right, right? But if he touched you elsewhere, it would not be all right. If he looks you in the eye, that’s probably all right, right? But if he gazes elsewhere, would you not feel uncomfortable? Of course, because you would feel sexually violated.
Unfortunately, Mr. Slater here invokes the subjective experience of his readers to affirm what is really a culturally understood idea. What’s more, all of his expected readers are members of the very culture that has embraced the sexualized view of breasts that he has articulated. If the very same question were asked in a very different culture—one that does NOT sexualize breasts—he would receive very different answers.
This point is really no proof at all. I fear that it only betrays the fact that genuine biblical proof is actually lacking.
Nakedness is associated with disgrace and shame (Isaiah 47:3, Micah 1:11, Nahum 3:5, Revelation 3:18)
Isa. 47:1-3. This passage is misinterpreted for the simply reason that the verse is lifted out if its context, both culturally and textually. The real meaning is this:
A curse is pronounced against the nation of Babylon using the metaphor of a woman who is a princess (“virgin daughter of Babylon”). From her lofty position, she is literally dethroned, stripped of all her glory, and made to work as a slave girl for others. Because clothing was tremendously expensive in those days, and the poor often had none at all, slaves and other manual laborers worked nude as a matter of course to avoid soiling the one article of clothing they may have owned. There was no real “shame” or “disgrace” for such a person to be seen naked, The “shame” or “disgrace” came from being demoted from the rank of “princess” in a kingdom (with many servants of her own) to that of a lowly slave girl, forced to do manual labor in the nude like all the other peasant/slave girls… that disgrace was huge.
Is this shame and disgrace at simple nudity? No, it is not. The context demonstrates otherwise.
Micah 1:11 – Here again, Nations are being judged. Samaria and Jerusalem will be judged and destroyed for their idolatry and spiritual prostitution. All the buildings will be destroyed down to their foundations. All of the idols will be smashed. This is the prophecy of the coming judgment. But then Micah shifts gears…
Micah himself declares that he himself will go naked… in expression of his own mourning (Micah 1:8 – evidently no sin in that). Furthermore, verse 11 is not a description of judgment by God… instead, Micah is giving a command… telling the people of Shafir to go naked! If the prophet is telling them to do it just as he is doing it, how can anyone conclude that the nakedness itself is wrong? Shouldn’t we rather conclude that the prostitution and idolatry are the real causes of their shame? Micah himself chose to go naked as a public expression of grief and repentance. He called the people to do the same. This is not a shame that can be attributed to nakedness. Their shame is entirely about their sin.
Nahum 3:4-7 – This too is the metaphorical description of the judgment on a nation… this time it’s Nineveh. God describes the nation as having acted as a whore “countless” times to other nations. God then declares that He is against her, promising to pull her skirt over her head (and face, of course) to put her whoring body on public display. He also promised to throw filth on her exposed body in the sight of everyone to make her a “spectacle.” Being publicly punished in such a manner would indeed be very shameful situation. Furthermore, acting as a whore—the sin which prompted this judgment—is also very shameful. There is no basis to read this passage and conclude that for the simple reason that her body was exposed, nakedness was the actual source of the shame.
In all three of these passages, there was nakedness and there was shame. But was the nakedness the source of that shame? In every case, it was not. We must not accept the idea that the unclothed human body is shameful to be seen simply because “shame” and “nakedness” appear in the same Scriptural context.
Rev. 3:17-18 – This passage is admittedly more difficult to grasp. At the very outset, however, we should ask this question: Is this passage intended to teach us the nature of physical nakedness? I think the answer is “no.” Consequently, we should be very careful not to place upon this passage—as seemingly “clear” as it appears to be in associating nakedness with shame—the responsibility of declaring God’s attitude about simple nudity. A careful examination of the passages reveals that the “shameful nakedness” that is being spoken of is spiritual, not physical.
Looking at the text, we see that the Exalted Christ is speaking to the Church of Laodicea. He has nothing good to say about them. They think they’re healthy, proud, rich, sighted, and clothed. Jesus describes them as wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Note… none of these conditions that Jesus is describing are physical; they are all spiritual.
Is it a sin to be poor or blind? No, of course not. Is it a sin to be spiritually poor and blind when you think you’re “just fine”? Yes it is. By the same token, is it any sin to be physically naked? Some may think so, but that cannot be demonstrated from this passage. Spiritual nakedness is sin, to be sure, but this passage is not teaching that physical nakedness is sinful or shameful any more than it’s teaching the physical blindness is shameful.
The real shame of their spiritual nakedness is in the fact that they were not clothed in the righteousness of Christ… According to Jesus’ words, they needed to “buy” their gold and salve and white garments from Him! To be in His presence without such spiritual garments is indeed a very shameful nakedness.
No, not even Rev. 3:17-18 can bear the weight of proving that simple nakedness is intrinsically associated with shame.
I have talked extensively about each passage because in so doing, I believe it is very evident that Mr. Slater’s usage of these passages is not accurate. The only way to make them appear to support an anti-nudity postulate is to pull them out of context and make quick summaries of their meanings that, in truth, cannot be validated by careful and honest study.
Sadly, not only Mr. Slater, but many other well-meaning servants of God have fallen unwittingly into the same error. Because the lie of the nudity-taboo is so deeply entrenched within our cultural fiber, its deceptive presence even within the church’s theology has gone unrecognized. 
…When we see someone who is without clothing, we are not to admire their form, but to cover them (Isaiah 58:7, Ezekiel 18:7, Genesis 9:22-27).
Isa 58:7 & Ezek. 18:7 – Hunger is evidence of a physical need; it is not a moral need. Nakedness is evidence of a physical need; it is not a moral need. In both of these passages, we are told that true righteousness includes meeting the physical needs of the poor and destitute.
An examination of the multiple references to “clothing the naked” in the Scriptures reveals that it’s always about providing them with warmth for their bodies, not protecting them from the embarrassment of being “seen” naked. The fact is that the many iterations of that command demonstrate that in the Biblical culture, seeing naked poor people was relatively common.
We must also understand that at that time, clothing was such a valuable commodity that it could legally be used as collateral for a loan (and it was regulated; see Exo. 22:25-27). As such, it would also be an asset that could be used to barter for food. This would explain why the poor were often naked.
Simply because someone was naked was not reason enough to clothe them… people had to bathe in public throughout the biblical history (imagine the 40 years the Israelites were living in tents in the desert!). Seeing others naked in the normal course of life was probably as ordinary as seeing someone who was hungry.
When we were commanded to feed the hungry, it’s not talking about anyone whom we meet who happens to be hungry at a given moment, but those who are perpetually hungry, with no means to find food. By the same token, clothing the naked is not a matter of clothing any person who happens to be naked at a given moment, but those who are perpetually naked, with no means to get clothing to keep warm.
I’ve already dealt with the story of Noah in-depth in a previous blog post, but I’ll add some additional comments here…
The account of Noah’s drunkenness, nakedness, his son’s actions towards him, and the subsequent curse are one of the mysteries of Scripture. We are told so little about what happened, and we are left with many unanswered questions. There really is very little we can learn about it, and we learn nothing about God’s will on nakedness. Because that passage is narrative, we cannot derive biblical principle from the tale unless God interjects a statement of His will into the account (for example, Gen. 2:18-23 tells a story; it is followed by a command in v24).
Unfortunately, in Gen. 9:20-27, God never speaks. We are not told to imitate or reject anyone’s behavior. Aside from getting drunk and naked, we don’t know what Noah was doing in the tent. We don’t know what Ham really did when he saw his father. We don’t know why Ham’s two brothers responded as they did. We don’t know the cultural mores of the time or the family dynamics or even how many of Noah’s grandchildren were around. We don’t know even why Noah cursed only Ham’s fourth son, Canaan, instead of Ham, the one who had actually wronged him.
  • Can we guess that Shem and Japheth’s actions were more noble than Ham’s? Yes.
  • Are we commanded in this passage to cover nakedness like they did? No.
  • Are we commanded to honor our father as they did? Yes…but not in THIS passage! This story does not even give us a command to honor our father! It only illustrates the command given later in Exodus 20:12!
As to the “admiration” of physical human form, it IS biblical to do so. We’re told straight up that Bathsheba was very beautiful to look at… while she was naked (1 Sam. 11:2 - for the record, there is no condemnation in the Bible for her bathing in view of the palace in the Bible). That’s not David’s take on it, that’s the divine commentary found in the inspired narrative. Rachel was also described in the Bible as beautiful of “form” and face (Gen. 29:17 - she had a nice figure). For that matter, Joseph was described the same way (Gen. 39:6)! And I believe we’ve already discussed Song of Solomon…
God modeled this by clothing Adam and Eve. God did this because He deemed such a gift to be good; not giving such a gift would not be good; therefore it would be bad not to give such a gift; because this gift’s purpose was to cover their unclothed bodies, it follows that it was bad for Adam and Eve to go around with unclothed bodies.
Mr. Slater’s assumption here is that God’s purpose was actually to “cover.” or to “hide” their bodies. This assumption is without any biblical support, and in fact, contradicts the meaning of the immediate context.
God had just rebuked Adam for being concerned about his nakedness… (“covering” it and hiding) in Gen. 3:11. Why then would anyone conclude that God changed His tune and decided that “covering” and hiding the body was a good thing after all… only ten verses later? God’s reason for clothing them (completely missing in the text) cannot be contrary to His reprimand of Adam just a moment before. And there is absolutely no reason to conclude that God’s motivation for the clothing were the same as Adam’s when he sewed together the fig leaves.
A much more realistic explanation (drawn from the immediate context) of why God clothed them is that it was for protection! Why? The ground had been cursed with thorns. The living accommodations (outside the Garden) had just gotten a lot more difficult. When something beautiful and valuable is in danger of being damaged, you cover it for protection, not to hide it from view. When there is no immediate danger, there is no longer a need for the covering.
Would a gift of “protection” be a good gift? Of course it would be. Does it follow that our bodies must wear protection at all times? No, it doesn’t.
Like Mr. Slater, many people jump to the conclusion that because God clothed Adam and Eve, that we must stay clothed, too. But this perspective ignores the obvious implication that, if this account really does amount to a mandate to stay clothed, it must also apply to contexts where it’s just a husband and his wife, for that’s all that there were when this “good” gift (and the implied command) was given.
God again covers nakedness in Ezekiel 16:8. Jesus affirms clothing the unclothed in Matthew 25.
Here again, to understand this reference correctly, one must observe the context in Ezek. 16:1-8. In this metaphorical story, God describes the birth and growth of the nation of Israel… she was cast out at birth, but God cleaned her up and made her grow an prosper, all the way into maturity (breasts and pubic hair have grown). God “passes by” again and determines that it’s time for her to get married, and he’s the one who's going to marry her!
And all this time, she’s been naked with God’s full knowledge and oversight. Probably 16 years old, and never having worn a stitch of clothing. There is not even a hint of shame in the entire account (that comes later… after she was clothed). These years of God-permitted and shame-free nudity are a significant part of the story. Should we just ignore it?
Meanwhile, in an act of love and marriage, God “covers” her nakedness… much like Boaz was asked to put his “covering” over Ruth (Ruth 3:9 -  it was a formal request that he care for her and take her as His wife). The picture In Ezekiel is of God’s love and commitment to Israel. It’s not the “correction” of her “shameful” condition. If that were the issue, God could have and should have done it a lot sooner in her life!
Matthew 25:36. This is, again, about clothing those who have no means to clothe themselves, and doing it as unto the Lord. Isn’t it also worth noting that in this passage, Jesus describes Himself as “naked”? If it was a sinful or shameful condition, would he have described Himself that way?
I need to make it clear that the human body is not shameful. It is glorious. But in most cases, uncovering it before others is condemned. Just as, perhaps, interacting inappropriately with the sacred Ark of the Covenant was condemned.
I find this an interesting disclaimer. We have just read 10 paragraphs declaring that nudity is shameful, then we read a contradictory statement saying the the body is actually not shameful. I feel as if we’re being told that the body is NOT shameful, but we should act as if it really IS (or more aptly, “Gnosticism is heresy, but we must live as if it is true”).
Mr. Slater says that “in most cases, uncovering it is condemned.” Yet I have not seen one verse at all that “condemns” the simple uncovering of the body. Sexual misconduct, yes… but never simple non-sexual nudity. The only thing we have been offered as evidence of condemnation is a shaky association of nakedness with shame. Even if that association were valid, association does not equate to condemnation.
I find the connection between unclothed human bodies and the Ark of the Covenant to be a very dubious one, and I do not see that lends any support to Mr. Slater’s claims. Is the Ark ever in all the Scriptures used as a analogy for the body or the body for the Ark? Not to my knowledge.
Scripture is clear that it is wrong to “lie sexually” with someone to whom you’re not married (Leviticus 18:20). The marriage bed is to remain undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). Actors who portray sexual intercourse with someone to whom they’re not married are rejecting both of these principles. By paying money to view these actors, we are facilitating and affirming their ungodly behavior.
Unfortunately, this summary of Leviticus 18 is egregiously in error. The passage defines and prohibits incest (See my blog or article on The Meaning of Nakedness). It’s not about people you’re “not married to,” it’s about “blood relatives.” That specific context is stated four times in this one chapter (Lev. 18:6,12,13,17). Furthermore, Lev. 20:17 says that it’s also wrong to “lie sexually” with someone that you ARE married to… if that “someone” is your sister (compare translations or do a word study, “takes” in this context means “marries”).
I agree with Mr. Slater’s use of Heb. 13:4 and it’s application to sex in film. 
I see plenty of instances in Scripture where viewing unclothed bodies is wrong. Does Scripture ever portray unclothed bodies as right? Hm. Well, maybe. Isaiah “walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign … against Egypt and Cush.” The Lord Himself directly commanded Isaiah to do so in order to indicate the shame these peoples would experience.
I have not yet seen ONE instance in the Bible where the simple sight of unclothed bodies is “wrong.”
Regarding Isaiah, once again, I perceive an intentional avoidance of some obvious implications in this story, Furthermore, I see only a surface treatment of the content of the prophetic message proclaimed by Isaiah’s nakedness.
First of all, God commanded Isaiah to go naked for thee whole years. It was not a shame to Isaiah… he was obeying the Lord. There can be no shame in that. In fact, the Hebrew word used to describe Isaiah as “naked” in Isa. 20:2 is the very same one used to describe Adam and Eve before the fall in Gen. 2:25; this was simple, innocent, shame-free nudity. Would God command Isaiah to sin? Of course not. Therefore, going around naked full-time cannot be considered a sin by itself. This conclusion is impossible to avoid from this account.
Was Isaiah not to be seen? What’s the purpose of a “sign” if it is not seen?
Isaiah’s prophetic message was that the nations of Ethiopia and Egypt would be so totally conquered militarily that their people would be led away just as naked as he himself was.
…to the SHAME of Egypt.” It is instructive to look up the Hebrew word here translated “shame.” It’s not the word for shame at all! Oddly enough, it’s the word for “nakedness”! Evidently, the translators struggled with knowing what “the nakedness of Egypt” meant so that they used the word “shame” instead. This is the only place in ALL the bible which translates the Hebrew word, ervah, as “shame.” I suspect that it is in error (see this word study on The Meaning of Nakedness). Even if the word does signify some sort of shame, it’s not the naked captives to whom that “shame” was applied… it was the nation of Egypt itself. That makes sense, after all; Egypt had just been dealt a crushing military defeat. The people did feel shame, we are told, but not at their own nudity, rather they were ashamed of their home nations (Isa 20:5).
Should passers-by have averted their gaze, like the men of Coventry who refused to look at the Lady Godiva as she rode horseback through their town, naked and humbled, sacrificing her honor for their sake? Yeah, probably.
There are no instructions in all the Bible that tells us to avert our gaze from any naked human we happen to see. “Probably” is not biblical mandate… it is cultural convention.
It’s also likely that Jesus was without clothing as he was hanging on the cross. His garments were divided among those who carried out the crucifixion. This nakedness may have contributed to the shame He experienced on the cross.
Did Jesus ever for one moment on earth have any reason to feel real shame? Jesus was perfect and without sin. Only HE—of all people in the history of the world—could claim to be “naked and unashamed” as purely as the first Adam had been. Shame is always the result of sin. It always indicates that something is wrong in a person’s relationship with God, others, or him/herself. Jesus never sinned and there was never any fault in His relationship to His father. He was never ashamed!
To be sure, those who crucified Him made many efforts to shame Him. THIS is the shame that Jesus “despised,” refusing to allow it to infect his life. He endured it, yes, but it did not touch him.
When considering our naked Savior on the cross and the nature of nakedness, we must not ignore a fact found in the immediate context which has significant bearing on the topic… there were LADIES at the foot of the Cross where He hung naked (John 19:25)! Did these women turn their faces away from Him so as not to see his circumcised penis? Did they lift a hand to block the sight of His genitals so they could look up in His face without viewing that “shameful” part of His body? Was Jesus any less their Lord because his fully naked body was visible for all to see? No, no, no.
There was no sin in Jesus hanging naked exposed to the whole world. There was no sin in those women who stood by Him weeping in His holy and naked presence. They honored Him to His last breath while He died naked for their sins.
It is we today who find Jesus’ naked form on the Cross too “offensive” to view. It is we who dishonor Him by turning our eyes away lest we see His “maleness” exposed on the cross. Jesus hung there without shame for you and for me. Do we dare we deny His work by looking away?
As with Isaiah, Jesus’ humiliation was a display of God’s holy judgment against sin. Like Lady Godiva, He sacrificed His honor for our sake. It had no entertainment value.
Jesus never sacrificed His honor. He was indeed dishonored by men, but men are not the source of true honor. God highly exalted (honored) Him precisely because He endured death on a cross (Phil 2:8-9). Jesus never acted with more true “honor” than the day He “honored His Father” by obedience, even to death on the cross.
Let me make this next statement as graciously as I can, yet without holding back the truth at all…
If we hold fast to a perspective of shame regarding the unclad human form, that perspective will distort our understanding of human embodiment to such a degree that we will mistakenly assign that same shame to the sinless body of our God-incarnate, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This would be a grievous—if not blasphemous—error.
(Note, of course, that the nakedness of neither Isaiah nor Jesus was in any way sexual, but was heartbreakingly shameful and humiliating.)
I reiterate, there was nothing shameful about Isaiah’s obedience, and especially none for Jesus’ obedience. Isaiah was not “humiliated.” Nor was Christ. Though His enemies tried desperately to humiliate Him, they failed to do so.
Remember… Satan lost that day!
The Appearance of Wisdom…
The Bible does NOT tell us when nudity is OK and when it is not. In my view, Mr. Slater’s efforts here in his article fall far short of demonstrating anything to the contrary.
Using man’s wisdom in a culture that sexually objectifies both the male and female bodies, it’s not difficult at all reach the conclusion that the best way to suppress sexual impurity is to hide the “temptations” (our bodies) from view. We have impure thoughts when we see nude bodies; we have pure thoughts when we do not (or so we deceive ourselves into believing). So we make up the rule—the “Nudity-Taboo”—we try to find Scriptures that seem to support the rule, then we declare that “This is God’s will for you!”
Yet, despite the lofty label, it remains a man-made rule.
No matter how firmly we believe that hiding the human form will help us overcome sexual sin, Paul’s words in Col. 2:20-23 cut right through our deception and reveal the folly…

20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Allow me to comment on the portions of this passage I have highlighted in red:
  • “Why… do you submit to decrees… commands and teachings of men?”
    • It is vitally important that we make no mistake in identifying which decrees, commands, and teachings are truly of God, and which are actually of men.
    • We must strongly oppose and actively reject the teachings of men.
    • The “nudity-taboo” is one such false rule and it must be rejected.
    • We must only submit to the teachings of God, no matter the cost.
  • Even though they have the “appearance of wisdom”
    • The “nudity-taboo” may make a lot of sense… according to man’s wisdom…
    • But it is still false, because it is not found in God’s Word.
  • These false teachings are most surely a “severe treatment of the body”
    • We recognized psychological abuse as “real” abuse when it’s perpetrated on a person.
    • We have been blind to the reality of the psychological abuse towards the naked human body perpetrated by the nudity-taboo.
    • Such “severe treatment of the body” is a clear confirmation that this “rule” is not of God.
  • The “nudity-taboo” is of “no value against fleshly indulgence.”
    • We have a sure and unfailing guarantee from God that the very goal that we profess as our motivation for the “nudity-taboo” will never be reached. It won’t even help a little bit.
    • If the “nudity-taboo” were of any real and lasting help towards sexual purity, then God’s Word in this passage is not true…
What more is there to say?
— Matthew Neal