Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Inconceivable Omission…

Daily Decision
I went to church this morning.
After my shower, I had to pick out something to wear. Once I got to church, a simple glance around confirmed that every other person there had faced the same decision.
It’s a decision that we’re very accustomed to… we all make it every day. We’re naked when we step out of the shower, but we can’t go out and about in that condition, so we have to decide what clothes we’re going to put on.
What to Wear… How To Decide….
But on what basis do we make that decision?
Wow… there are probably a gazillion different cultural or “personal experience” answers to that question… but there is one answer that will NOT be among them! That answer is:
     “I’ll just wear what the Bible tells me to wear.”
The Bible never gives us any instructions about what to wear. Did you realize that? Wait… I take that back… it tells women who are under authority to wear head-coverings while praying in public (1 Cor. 11:5-6)… but that’s not exactly about covering our nakedness. Aside from that verse, however, there’s nothing.
Let me restate it this way…
     The Bible never tells us what clothes to wear, when to wear them, or what body part to cover.
Yes, it tells specific people to wear specific things at specific times, but there’s no general command that applies to all people at all times. There are no guidelines provided. There are no standards of “godly” attire in the Bible.
What about “Biblical Modesty”? That’s in the Bible!
No, it’s not at least not like in the way everyone seems to believe. Modesty is always an attitude of the heart; it is never the presence or absence of clothing on certain body parts.
1 Timothy 2:9—the only passage in all the Bible that one could possibly use to promote the false “biblical modesty” notion—does not tell anyone to get and stay dressed, nor does it tell us which body parts must be covered to satisfy “biblical modesty.”
Paul’s instructions actually tell women what not to wear. His concern is not about the amount of skin on display, but rather the amount of wealth on display (read the text again… I’m not making this up).
There are millions of horribly immodest (“designer-dressed” to impress) women (and men) in churches all across America every Sunday. Yet, in direct disobedience to James 2:1-7, such immodesty is often applauded and rewarded with preferential treatment and tacit or public acknowledgment of the person’s importance or position in the church.
So… if anything, truly biblical “modesty” instructs us in what not to wear; it is certainly not—and never was—a command to wear something.
(I encourage anyone who disagrees to explore this issue further. Read Rightly Dividing 1 Timothy 2:9 and C. S. Lewis’ chapter on “Sexual Morality” from his book, Mere Christianity—available online here).
What Shall I Do with My Nudity?
Every human being who has ever lived on this planet has had to answer—every day(!)this question: “What shall I do with my naked body?”
We all have assumed that the correct answer is “Cover it up!”… but that answer is not found in the Bible.
We have all assumed that we must cover our genitals, but that’s not found in the Bible, either.
We’ve all believed that we are not permitted to be seen naked by anyone other than our own spouse, but that’s not in the Bible…
Oh, and we take it for granted that it’s OK for our doctors to see or even touch our genitals, but… well… that’s not in the Bible, either.
And, of course, all the ladies must keep their breasts out of the sight of other men… everyone knows that, right? So it doesn’t actually need to be in the Bible (and, of course, it isn’t).
See the pattern here?
Why Isn’t It There?
If everyone who has ever lived needed to know how to righteously respond to his or her own nudity, why don’t we find anything in the Bible that gives us the instructions we need?
It is a rather Inconceivable Omission… but is there any reasonable explanation?
Could it be…
  • God just forgot to include it? After all, there’s a lot of other important information in the Bible, too. 
    • Covering up our bodies really is necessary to live righteously, but God just neglected to include those instructions in the Bible. We just have to be smart enough to “figure it out.” Right?
Wrong. The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 1:3 that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. God did give us everything… including all the instructions we will ever need to live a godly life. If God didn’t give it, we don’t really need it.
Could it be…
  • Everyone just knows and does it naturally? After all, the Bible never tells us to breathe, either!
    • Some things are so instinctual and automatic that there’s no reason for God to give us special instructions to do that which we do naturally. Right?
Wrong. Just look around you… clothing may be pretty common in our culture, but there’s still a LOT of different opinions about nudity! Some may judiciously hide it, but others believe that nudity in art or even recreation is not a problem. Still others use the partial or full exposure of their bodies to tantalize, tempt or titillate. Beyond our own borders and timeframe, the worldwide response to nudity throughout history has been anything but consistent or automatic; some cultures have even lived socially nude almost exclusively.
Could it be…
  • It wasn’t a problem when the Bible was written? After all, the Bible doesn’t tell us that smoking is bad, either.
    • People didn’t even think about going around naked until after the Scriptures had all been written. There are always going to be sins in a modern society that are not addressed in the Bible since those sins didn’t exist in Bible times. Right?
Wrong. The Biblical authors were not unaware of human nakedness; references to nakedness are found throughout the Bible. Furthermore, in New Testament times, one of the significant elements of Greco-Roman culture was the use of the public bath and “gymnasium” (named for the Greek word gymnos, which means “naked”). Every NT author knew about them… there was even an active gymnasium in Jerusalem when Jesus walked its streets (Built or rebuilt by Herod the Great [and this link]. See also  1 Maccabees 1:14).
Every person to whom those authors wrote was familiar with the baths and gymnasiums. Buildings and practices that encouraged and enabled public nudity were cultural cornerstones of the day. Undoubted, most (if not all) of the Gentile believers to whom Paul and other NT authors wrote had actually been to—and participated in the naked activities of—the local gymnasium and/or baths. Yet… those NT authors never warned their audiences to avoid visiting the baths or gymnasiums! (see Hellenism: Center of the Universe and A Day at the Baths)
Could it be…
  • That God has just shown us the “principle” that nudity is shameful? After all, when we read about nudity in the Bible, it’s never a good thing.
    • God doesn’t give us a black and white answer in the Bible to every ethical question. Many times, principles are taught in the Scriptures that we have to apply to our lives in order to make ethical decisions. We know that God wants us to stay clothed because public exposure to nudity is always shameful. Right?
Wrong. To be clear, it is correct that we must make a lot of ethical decisions based upon principle, and so there are many clothing decisions that have to be made that way. But this is not a principle that is being promoted here… we are discussing something which has been put forth as a moral absolute! We have been told that God requires us to be clothed. Principles are never absolute in their application; they are guidelines to point us towards wise choices. Moral absolutes—such as the Ten Commandments—are always directly declared in the Bible.
Furthermore, even principles must be directly declared before we can have full confidence in them. They are stated like: “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24); “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10); or “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov. 22:7). We know the principles are true because God declared them to be true. We each apply them in our own lives (and only our own lives) as the Lord individually leads us. There are no principles declared in the Bible that speak to the nature of nudity, our bodies, or any requirement for clothing.
Finally, the statement that in the Bible, nudity is “never a good thing” is simply in error. 
  • Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness in the Garden was a good thing (Gen. 2:25).
  • Isaiah’s obedience to the Lord and prophesying naked for three years was a good thing (Isa. 20).
  • King Saul’s being overcome by the Spirit of God and prophesying for a day and night naked was a good thing (1 Samuel 19:9-24; see also this article).
  • The nakedness of Jews and Christians as they were baptized (including Jesus) was a good thing (see paragraph How Immersion Was Done in this article).
  • Jesus’ taking his clothes off to wash His disciples’ feet was a good thing (John 13:4-5; see also this article) .
  • Christ leaving all his grave clothes behind in the tomb was a good thing (John 20:6-7).
We simply cannot categorically declare that every instance of nudity in the Bible is “never a good thing.”
(As I demonstrated in this series of articles, “good” and neutral instances of nudity have been systematically translated out of the modern versions of the Scriptures, leaving us with the false impression that nakedness really is always bad.)
Wait, it was God that clothed Adam and Eve after the Fall! That’s for us, too!
No… read Gen. 3 again. God clothed Adam and Eve, but did not even give them a command to stay clothed. There’s simply no command at all that they—or we—must remain clothed!
(see also The Biblical Purpose for Clothing)
I once had a brother in Christ take me to that passage to “show” me that God wanted us to stay clothed. Only after some rather heated discussion did he finally admit that, “Well, the command isn’t actually there.” I said, “Great, now that we agree on that point, let’s look in the Bible to see if there’s anywhere else that God commands us to be clothed.”
As I recall, that was the end of our conversation and his attempt to show me that God commanded clothing. Unfortunately, it was not also the end of his conviction that God does require clothing.
Could It Be… That It Isn’t an Omission After All?
It is utterly inconceivable that God wants us to keep our nakedness covered in public at all times, but simply omitted those instructions in His inspired Word. As I stated before, every person in all of human history has had to deal with their own nudity. Divine instructions on this issue would be critically important and applicable to us all.
The only tenable explanation for the “omission” is that it was not an omission at all! God did not include instructions for “godly attire” simply because clothing was not, is not, and never will be a requirement for righteousness living.
How Dare We?
Despite the fact that instructions concerning any requirement for wearing of clothing are completely missing in the Bible, most Christians in America seem content to “add them in” anyway, claiming that it really is God’s will for us all.
But how dare we presume to know and speak the mind of God on requirements for righteousness when He Himself has chosen to be silent? Is it not a personal insult to the Almighty to suggest that He didn’t quite “get the Scriptures right” or that the inspired Word is “incomplete” or lacking in any way?
Holding A Non-Biblical Conviction
I mentioned in the side-bar above that a brother in Christ was unable to demonstrate that God commands clothing, but he was also unwilling to dismiss his conviction that God does require clothing.
I am astounded how common this reality is among professed Bible-believing Christians. They cannot adequately defend their beliefs about nudity or clothing from the Scriptures, but they hold to their conviction anyway (see: A Surprising Admission).
For my part, I’m simply unwilling to do that. If I can’t conclusively demonstrate from the Bible that God speaks clearly on an issue, I cannot and will not maintain adherence to an absolute position on it.
I have stated and written that I am a “Naturist by Biblical Conviction,” but if you read that work carefully, you’ll see that the convictions are not about “nudity” or “naturism,” but about the fact that I cannot defend—and must reject—the nudity taboo that is assumed and taught in the church today. I cannot reject that taboo and continue to live as if it is right. The only way I know to do that is to actively and intentionally live contrary to it. That is why I am a naturist.
How About You?
  • Can you demonstrate from God’s Word that God is offended by the unclad human form?
  • Can you find any Scripture that commands all people to restrict their nudity to the marriage bed?
  • Can you locate a passage that describes which body parts are in moral need of covering?
  • Can you quote any verse that permits the “exception” of nudity for “medical necessity”?
If you cannot, how do you explain the omission?
— Matthew Neal


Mike D. said...

I completely agree with the article that you posted. The Bible does not condemn naturism, as it is practiced today. One Scripture that people often cite is 1 Thes 5:22, which says avoid the very appearance of evil. That scripture however is largely taken out of context, as the previous verse says "Test all things; hold fast to the good." As Naturists, 1 Thes 5:21 should be the response to much of what passes as Biblical scholarship on nudity today.

Matthew Neal said...

Thanks, Mike.

1 Thes. 5:22 is on my list of Scriptures to address in this blog. It has been horrifically interpreted and applied... In this case, the old KJV has led to those skewed applications and the newer renderings are much more accurate for today's English.


Anonymous said...

Where a lot of people argue is comments such as "uncovering the nakedness of..." in Leviticus and about Noah and his son, who saw "his nakedness". Of course, they depend soley upon the KJV which used "nakedness" instead of "sex" or "Sexual relations". To say King Saul was having sex when he was prophesying naked is silly. They don't read 'This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"'