Sunday, October 20, 2013

Your Biggest Scriptural Challenge to Naturism…

I’m a Christian Naturist

If you’ve been following this blog over the years, you know that I’ve not only claimed to be a Christian Naturist, but also a Naturist By Biblical Conviction.

Of course, having been raised like just about every other Christian in the United States, I was taught from childhood that social nudity was forbidden by God and that only in the context of marriage (or the doctor’s office) was it permitted to allow our unclothed bodies to be seen by anyone of the opposite gender.

When I first considered the claims of so-called “Christian Naturists” (which seemed an oxymoron at first), I had to evaluate them in light of the teachings of Scripture. And there were a bunch of Scriptures that I “knew” taught against social nudity.

The Scripture Test

Because I believe the Scriptures are inspired by God, I believe that they are true and authoritative. Consequently, my evaluation of naturism began by seeking to discern what God had revealed about His perspective on nudity. Whatever God revealed about the issue, that’s what I wanted my position to be.

And let me be very clear… My approach to Scripture on this matter was never to defend naturism, but rather to know what the Bible really teaches. And if that ever means my long-held views must be laid aside, then that’s what I’m committed to do.

So… when I began my study, I purposed to look at every passage that mentioned or implied nudity. I especially focused on those passages which had always been put forth to “prove” that God forbade social or casual nudity. I reexamined them to discern if we had been correct in our interpretation of them as it applies to the nudity issue.

I Was Quite Surprised…

To my surprise, not just one or two of the “anti-nudity” Scriptures turned out to be misinterpreted or misapplied, but every last one of them had been!

In other words, when I examined each and every passage that has been used to support a claim that social nudity is wrong, not a single one of them—when correctly and honestly interpreted—could satisfactorily justify a moral absolute that forbids social or casual nudity.

Some Passages Are More Challenging Than Others

As I pursued this study of God’s perspective on nudity, there certainly were some passages that seemed to be more antagonistic towards nudity than others, and as such, they presented more of a challenge to work through and discern if that’s really what they were teaching us.

I suspect that I’m not alone here in this observation… So, I’m asking you as my readers…

What’s been the most troubling or difficult passage of Scripture for you in reference to the practice of naturism by a Christian who wants to live in harmony with God’s Word?

  • Maybe you’re an naturist already, but there’s one passage that’s still bugging you… Let me know and I’ll tell you what I have concluded on it.
  • Maybe you’re just considering naturism, but you still can’t reconcile the practice with one or two verses in the Bible… Let me know what they are and I’ll share with you my perspective on them.
  • Maybe you’re still pretty sure I’m dead wrong on my interpretation of the Scriptures in regards to nudity… tell me which passage or passages you believe most clearly and conclusively prove me wrong, and I’ll show you why I believe they have been misinterpreted and misapplied. If you still disagree, you are then invited to answer back. I always welcome honest dialog!

Everyone Points to a Different Scripture…

One of the interesting things I’ve observed over the past 7 or so years since I became a naturist is that those who oppose it “on Scriptural grounds” never seem to be in agreement on which Scripture most most clearly demonstrates that nudity is wrong. One person will stand immovably on one passage, while the next person is absolutely convinced that some other passage is “all the proof they need.”

To me, this underscores the fact that there simply IS no scripture passage that clearly teaches against social nudity… else everyone would automatically present the same passage. Consider these questions on morality and where we turn to declare God’s mind on the issue:

See what I mean? We’ve been sold on the idea that nudity MUST BE forbidden in the Bible. And Everyone knows it, so we don’t need a specific passage that actually SAYS SO! If you need one to give to someone, just pick the one you like best. One is as good as the next… provided you don’t evaluate it very carefully.

Nonetheless, I welcome anyone who wishes to hear where I stand on the passage they find most difficult for naturists to “dodge.” And I promise… I won’t dodge!

It’s Been a Dry Spell for The Biblical Naturist.

I haven’t written on this blog recently… and it’s pretty much because I’ve addressed all the topics I set out to cover when I began the blog. So, I need some direction from you—the readers—to tell me what you’d like for me to cover next.

I look forward to hearing from you!

— Matthew Neal


jochanaan said...

You pretty much know where I stand, Matthew. I've been a practicing naturist for ten years now, and by experience, I have come to believe that it is not just innocent, but beneficial to everyone, especially Christians who may be troubled by fears of lust, addictions to pornography or body issues. But there is one passage that sometimes troubles me: Exodus 28:42-43. This passage not only speaks of not showing nakedness, at least while acting as a priest, but mentions the possibility of death if the precept is not kept. I have my own views on this, but what have you discerned about this passage?

Matthew Neal said...

Hey, Jochanaan. Good to hear from you again.

That passage was one of the "big ones" for me personally when I first considered the nudity issue biblically 7 years ago.

Briefly, I first observe that the term "nakedness" must have specifically to do with the genitals, since there was no way that a priest would ever be considered "naked" if he failed to wear the breaches but wore everything else that God prescribed for the priest to wear.

But if we were to conclude from that observation that God dislikes exposed genitals, it raises all sorts of unanswerable questions like "Why was this command specified as only for the Aaronic Priests?" Or, "Why did God command that the sign of the Abrahamic covenant be circumcision... on the very body part that the priests were to make sure were covered?"

I think the correct answer as to why God gave this command is found by following two different lines of thought:

1. The implications of the Hebrew term ervah (nakedness), which seem to always indicate some sort of active use of the genitals in a sexual way.

2. The fact that the pagan worship of the Canaanites (whom they were about to displace in the promised land when this law was given) included orgiastic/sexual rituals.

Putting these two pieces together, you can postulate that the command was given to ensure that the worship of YHWH was never to be sexual in nature... or even perceived that way. The priestly garments included breaches that would very effectively keep even involuntary sexual responses from being exposed during worship.

Yes, that's speculative, but I believe it's a fair speculation based on the historical context and the word study on "nakedness." And it relieves of being forced to entertain other questions that are impossible to reconcile reasonably. Those questions boil down to variations of this question: If God really doesn't like simple nudity, why didn't he ever tell ALL the people of Israel that?

For a much more complete treatment of the term ervah, I suggest you download and read this study:

Nakedness in the OT.

Also, you might want to read this article about the Inconceivable Omission (that God simply forgot to tell us to avoid nudity).

-- Matt

Matthew Neal said...

Incidentally, Johanaan, that article about "Nakedness in the OT" does specifically consider and address the passage you asked about.


Unknown said...

Hi Matthew, Completely agree. I used to be a major contributor to the Christian Naturist website and only left because the same questions kept cropping up again and again.
It was good to see Jochanan contributing, we used to share together on the Christian Naturist website, so we are known to each other .
It was a long road for me back in the late 90's to bring myself to the mind and heart set that nudity was right, and thanks to Father God and His use of the Christian Naturist website, I became fully convinced in mind and heart that naturism CANNOT be condemned only by the most severe twisting of Scripture.

Every blessing


North Wales

jochanaan said...

Hello, David! You're referring to the "Christian Naturist Village," yes? I stay there precisely because these questions keep being asked, usually by folks new to the concept of Christian naturism. Somehow I hope to be part of this slow, nearly secret growth of understanding about nudity and the Bible.

Jasen said...

My problem is not with the concept of social nudity. I believe the Bible makes it clear God intended for us to be naked, and that culturally within Biblical times there was plenty of public nudity that God could have condemned if He'd wanted to but did not, and all the other things your blog so richly explores.

However... Romans 13 tells us to submit to authority, and Romans 14:19 "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."

I believe (and I can't put my hand on a nice collection of verses to back it up at the moment) that we are instructed to live at peace within our culture in so far as that culture does not directly contradict God's Word. If I lived in India, I would wear pajamas. If I lived in the Middle East, I would wear a beard. If I lived with a tribe in the Amazon, I'd most likely wear next to nothing (I'd at least give it a try and see how my soft body would handle such exposure).

I currently find myself in the USA. And the USA has a deep cultural aversion to social nudity. The roots of such aversion are incidental; it is the custom of where I live. Therefore I restrict my participation in social nudity, and limit my public advocacy for social nudity. Yes, I believe I have freedom to visit the local nudist resort, or to vacation to a nudity accepting place (like St. Martin or Mallorca or Germany). However, I recognize that if word of my being socially nude got back to people in the USA it would most likely damage my testimony. That is challenging.

Is it worth participating in an activity that I have personal freedom and comfort with Scripturally, knowing that the culture I live in condemns such activity?

Matthew Neal said...

Hey, Jasen. Thanks for writing

I started to respond here, but your questions are too big and important to address only here in the comments section.

I'm going to address them in a full blog post. Keep watching

— Matt

Jasen said...

I look forward to your post. Let me throw a few more verses into the mix and share my story.

I've read your series of posts from July 2012 "You Can't Do That!" and commented there, too.
1 Cor 10 is the passage you cite in the final post. Let me toss out a few verses from there:
23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

Romans 14-15 Also says "we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another."

And I'm sure you have access to good cross references and can dig up many other verses.

Now here's my story:
When I lived near Clearwater, FL - near Lutz where several nudist resorts are, and a popular beach tourist destination - an ordinance was put forward seeking to ban thong/T-back swimwear. (I forget if it was a general ballot or if the town council was going to vote). The church I attended put something in the bulletin encouraging members to support this ordinance. Being young and naive, I sent a letter to one of the pastors saying I disagreed with this, that clothing styles vary greatly from place to place and that I had even visited clothing optional beaches and found them to be acceptable. I was immediately removed from my positions of service and told to repent of my acceptance of social nudity or leave the church. (Not just stop participating in social nudity, but to repent of my belief that it's acceptable.) After several meetings with pastors & deacons it was clear their mind was set. And I left the church.

This was extremely difficult and painful. Do I believe they were wrong? Yes and no. They were coming from a culture where skin = sin - both to Christians and non-Christians. Non-Christians may not care that skin is sinful, but they still associate nudity with sexuality - they're just happy to embrace the sexuality, they're under no conviction to avoid it.

So was I wrong to speak up? No. But did I seek my own good? Or knowingly cause offense? Maybe.
Now that I've had that experience am I far more cautious about revealing my naturism? Yes. And is hiding that part of my life acceptable? Hmm... While I believe social nudity is a Good Thing, the vast majority of Christians in the USA do not (I think), and the culture we live in equates nudity and sexuality. Is it worth risking breaking fellowship and harming testimony to enjoy the sun on my buns? That is very challenging.

Matthew Neal said...

Wow, Jasen... Now I'm going to have to write TWO posts!

It'll take me some time... but I'll get there.

-- Matt

Steve VB said...

Matt, looking forward to your response too.

I came to naturism through being challenged on what Scripture said about nudity, so doing some research. I've found your blog to be very helpful in that.

Went to a naturist campground a couple years back (Bare Oaks), and quite enjoyed it. And made friendships with various people there.

See some real ministry opportunity in that environment -- lots of open minded people thinking all sorts of things, but open to thinking about stuff too. A place where Christ's light should be shining brightly.

But the christians we saw there were often fairly quiet about their faith. Because the church isn't comfortable with it, most kept it a secret, with some hardly connecting with other believers at all. Didn't seem like a healthy thing.

We were convicted to tell our church leaders about what we'd discovered, and the heart we had for ministry to that community. Our pastors were more supportive than what I'd expect from most churches. But still not comfortable with it. Their current stance is that we are welcome to be naturists and attend the church. But if we want to be involved in a leadership capacity (my wife is a youth group leader), we need to stop practicing social nudity. Their concern was largely about what parents, grandparents, the community would think if word got out that a nudist was a youth group leader. Has the potential to become a huge distraction from the message of the gospel.

So at present, we're non-practicing naturists. We're teaching the values to our kids, and often naked around the house with our family (our leaders were ok with that). We stay in touch with our naturist friends too via facebook. But we need to put anything beyond that on hold until our church's perspective changes, or God calls us to other things.

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to your responses to Jasen's comment's. That is my current mental battle as well, I agree that I am a nudist, yet, I have issue accounting for my beliefs in Christ and naturism that do not conflict with the basis of 'do no harm' (if you get my drift).
I raised my children as Christian first and they know my beliefs in naturism... I have dodged the bullet so far but not much longer I fear.
I await your next posts with great anticipation. Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in seeing some discussion on circumcision. This, too, in my opinion would provide significant evidence of Biblical exposure.

Matthew Neal said...

Hey, "Anonymous"... thanks for the comment.

As it so happens, I have a question from another reader that has to do with that topic... I just haven't gotten to it yet.

Stay tuned... I'll write my thoughts on the topic, soon.

— Matt

Puddlejumper said...

Hello Matthew, I really appreciate your blog, it has been a big part in God freeing me from pornography addiction. One comment my wife often replies with when I talk about getting involved in social naturism is "I do not want to make another stumble". You have already adressed some of this in your comments on Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 but not (as far as I recall) the Matthew 18 vv6-7 and parallel passages. My own feeling is that these gospel passages are talking about non-belivers who deliberatly cause believers to sin rather than Paul's writings addressed to believers' freedom. I would appreciate your thoughts on these verses from the gospels and also what you understand from Paul's comment in 1 Cor. 8 v.13 where he says "..he will never eat meat again..." rather than qualifiying his argument with something like "...I will not eat meat in a weak brother's presence...".

Thanks again for all your blog posts.


Matthew Neal said...


Thanks for your kind comments and your questions.

Praise the Lord for the freedom from pornography that you've found... I too was astounded to find that by embracing what the Bible really teaches about the unclad human form that I would be set free from a lifetime of struggle with porn.

Of course, "Naturism" is not the "cure" for pornography... TRUTH is. It just so happens that the truths that set us free from porn also also give us the freedom to practice social nudity.

This means that naturism becomes a very tangible way of changing how you live in order to live in alignment with the truth. And it is only when we actually live in alignment with the truth that we are set free by that truth as Jesus declared in John 8:32.

I will get to your very important questions in a fresh blog post soon.

— Matt

Matthew Neal said...

Hey, Puddlejumper,

took me a while, but I finally did get to your question.

I hope you get a chance to read it.


Me said...

What about liviticus 18? It says do not show the nakedness to your sister or brother and on and on. This is the biggest thing that worries me about doing that. I like the idea but my family doesn't allow it. But maybe if i have my own family. Please answer my question

Matthew Neal said...

Hi, "Me."

Thanks for writing.

The short answer to your question is this... There is very little disagreement with the conclusion that Lev. 18 exists to define and prohibit incest. There was no Hebrew word for "incest," so this phrase, "uncover the nakedness of..." was used as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. The passage tells us clearly which relationships should be classified as "incest," and the reason given multiple times in the passage itself was that the person was some sort of "close relative."

If you read this passage in any of the modern translations, you can see that the translators are all in agreement that the phrase "uncover the nakedness of" was referring to sexual activity, as they uniformly translated as "have sexual relations with..." or something equivalent.

If the passage really were talking about simple nudity between family members, then we would have to conclude that the ONLY people we are not permitted to be naked around are close relatives! The passage itself very specifically limits its application to that context.

The word translated "nakedness" in Leviticus 18 is the Hebrew word ervah. My study of that word has revealed that it is the only word in the OT that addresses nakedness that seems to also imply sexual activity. In fact, that sort of usage is so consistent (as in Lev. 18) that we can generally presume that meaning in almost every case where it is used in the OT. You can read the details of that study here: Nakedness in the OT. That paper directly addresses the Lev. 18 passage, so you will find more info about it there.

One more interesting point to make about Lev. 18... when that law was given, remember that the Israelites were wandering in the desert, and all the families lived together in tents. Now how realistic is it to imagine that this passage was written to prohibit people from within a family from ever even seeing each other naked? What about bathing? That had to be at public bodies of water... and nakedness would have abounded there. It's an odd thing that such occasions for public and family nudity were never addressed in the Law.

I hope this helps. Feel free to follow up with any more questions.

This is a well-known enough passage that I should probably dedicate a blog post to it directly at some point.

— Matt