Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 1 - Shame and Fear??

In the Introduction of this series, I looked at Gen. 1-2 and observed that while living in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had no need at all for clothing. However, after the Fall and banishment from Eden, God clothed Adam and Eve with no fanfare and no explanation or mandate.

Despite the fact that God did not tell us why He clothed our first parents, many are confident that God’s purpose for clothing them was to prevent or minimize lust since—it is assumed—humans can no longer experience nudity in purity after the Fall.

The very first effort at clothing is found in the account of the Fall. Adam and Eve crafted their own clothing.

Leafy Loin Coverings…

It is only a few verses after “naked and unashamed” was declared (Gen. 2:25) that we read the story of how “unashamed” was lost and problem of nakedness was “fixed” (Gen. 3:1-14).

It’s pretty clear that Adam and Eve’s purpose for clothing at that moment was to address two problems: Shame, and Fear. In point of fact, “shame” is never actually mentioned in the text except when the pair were described as UN-ashamed. However, I count that sufficient to conclude that shame was evidently part of their experience.

It is also worth noting that Adam and Eve were not satisfied with the leafy loin coverings that hid their genitals… for they also ran and literally hid themselves entirely from God. When God called to Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9), Adam’s answer was that “I was afraid because I was naked…”

We might at this point be tempted to conclude that the first biblical purpose for clothing is to address our sense of shame and fear… as that surely was the reason that Adam gave for clothing himself and hiding. However, that would be stopping our analysis too soon, for we also must take into account that God had something to say about Adam’s actions… “Who told you that you were naked?”

Is that an affirmation… or is it a rebuke?

Personally, I hear God saying to Adam, “What makes you think that the way I made you is the problem at all?” This understanding is further supported by the fact that God didn’t wait for an answer, but immediately got to the real problem by asking “Have you eaten from the tree…?” (Gen. 3:11)

No, God’s response was not affirmation. Consequently, we can reach this conclusion:

Observation #1
Addressing shame and fear is not a Scripturally valid purpose for clothing.

If God did not approve of clothing to address shame and fear in Adam and Eve (after the fall), He does not approve of those reasons for clothing for us today. The correct response to Shame and Fear is to run  to the God of Mercy and Love… just as we are. That’s true today; it was true after the first sin.

If anyone disagrees with my conclusion that fear and/or shame are not valid purposes for clothing, I’ve addressed further implications of the idea in my Epilogue to this series.

Divinely Designed Duds…

The next incidence of clothing is in Gen. 3:21 when God Himself makes coats of skin for Adam and Eve. Oddly enough, the text does not tell us what prompted God to do so. As already noted, many assume that it is because of the need for clothing to promote sexual purity. But since that is not found in the text, we should leave that idea on the table until we find some sort of affirmation in the rest of the Scriptures that this actually is a Scripturally sound purpose for clothing.

However, before we leave this story, it should be noted that whatever God’s purpose was in clothing Adam and Eve, it cannot have been because He was contradicting His rebuke in Gen. 3:11. In other words, God’s purpose for clothing them was not to address their fear or shame.

— Matthew Neal

This article Series:

The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Introduction
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 1 – Shame and Fear??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 2 – Clothing as Currency
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 3 – Sign of Position
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 4 – Communicate About the Person
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 5 – Gender Distinction?
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 6 – Warmth and Protection
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 7 – Controlling Lust??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Conclusion
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Epilogue

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