Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lust is a Secondary Issue!

Note… I did not say lust was an “unimportant” issue!

But it is secondary to the question of the biblical morality of social nudity… which is the primary issue.

Here’s why this is important…

  • If God forbids social nudity, then the question of “lust” is moot. Even if there is no lust involved, social nudity would still be unrighteous all by itself.
  • If, on the other hand, social nudity is not forbidden by God, then we must address the issue of lust (which clearly is forbidden by God).

The implications of these observations should be pretty clear:

  • It means that if we are addressing the biblical position on social nudity, we must answer that question before we discuss the role of lust and how it should inform our practice.
  • It means that in any discussion about the morality of social nudity, if someone invokes the “lust” argument in their attempt to establish a divine prohibition of nudity, they have inadvertently admitted that there is no stand-alone divine injunction against social nudity in the bible.
  • It also means that if the attempt to establish a prohibition against nudity is based solely on the “lust” factor, then we must also conclude that if the lust factor can be mitigated, then God would not disapprove of socially nude context.

Indeed, that third point is actually where most people end up in practice, for few have a moral objection to a woman going to a male doctor, even though she may be nude in his presence. We expect the doctor to act with professional decorum, treating her body with dignity and without any lust in his own heart. Consequently, since there is no lust, the nudity is permissible.

But, that reality (that point three is how we truly live) is not acknowledged by the proponents of the nudity taboo. They typically say that “medical necessity” is a morally acceptable exception, but that in all other cases, nudity around anyone other than one’s own spouse is forbidden.

(As an aside here, I have often suggested that if the nudity “exception” could be found in the Bible, then it would make the case against nudity much stronger, even in the absence of a clear prohibition of social nudity. However, both the prohibition AND the exception are missing in the Bible. See my related post, You Can’t Have it Both Ways)

You Want to Talk about “Lust”?

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. “Lust” IS a worthwhile topic to address as a naturist. Sometime in the future I expect  to do so here in my blog.

However, if we’re discussing the morality of Social Nudity, then I’m not going to talk about “lust” with you unless you first admit that there’s no specific Biblical prohibition on social nudity itself… irrespective of the “lust” component. Make the case that the Bible forbids social nudity and your point is granted.

If you must talk about “lust” in order to make a case against social nudity, then you are by default, admitting that the Bible does not overtly prohibit social nudity. But in so doing, you must also grant that when lust is not a factor, then the nudity is not sinful. To claim otherwise is not logically consistent.

Perhaps it is possible to make a case that lust is impossible to to avoid when mixed-gender nudity is present, therefore all social nudity results in sin. But that’s a very different assertion than the claim that God prohibits of social nudity in and of itself! Lust is as secondary consideration.

The “Debate”

Some years ago, John Kundert of the Fig Leaf Forum once entered into a formal debate with Pastor Mark Roberts regarding Mr. Robert’s assertion that “Social nudism is condemned by the Bible as sinful.”

At the very beginning of the debate, Mr. Roberts immediately invoked the issue of “lust” and asserted that Mr. Kundert could not ensure that lust did not happen in the context of social nudity. In light of what I’ve just explained in this blog post, it must be concluded that Mr. Roberts was, in essence, already conceding defeat in the debate, for he could not support his stated assertion from the Scriptures alone. Rather, was compelled to invoke the “lust” issue in an effort to support his position from the very start.

(You can read the entire debate here.)

Lust is clearly sin according to God’s word. As such, it is absolutely a very important issue. But if one claims that the Bible specifically forbids social nudity, that claim must be demonstrated without invoking the “lust” argument.

— Matthew Neal

For related posts, see:

You Can’t Have it Both Ways

Naturist by Biblical Conviction??? – Part 1 - Part 2Part 3

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Noah’s Nakedness… What Really Happened?

I’m taking a quick break from the responses to Mr. John Piper in order to address
a question raised by a reader in the “
Sound Off” post.


I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a story that was covered in Sunday School, but I was sure familiar with it. I’d probably read it for myself as a boy and it made a lasting impression on me.

I’m talking about the story of Noah and what happened when one of his sons saw him naked… and believe me, it put the fear in me to ever see my own dad naked. At those rare times we might have been in a campground shower together, I was intentionally looking the other way when my dad took off his shorts. I sure didn’t want to be cursed like Ham was in the bible… just for seeing his dad naked.

That response to my father’s nudity persisted throughout my life.

Fast forward to about five years ago, and I find myself startled that there are Christian naturists… who claim that the Bible does not forbid us to be unclothed with others in a social context. When I could not quickly and easily refute their claims, it launched for me a rather intense study of God’s word on the topic.

It wasn’t long before I realized that the passages I had always assumed to prohibit social nudity actually did not, but I was still bugged in the back of my mind about the story of Noah. It had so shaped my attitude towards my father’s nudity that I knew I would have to revisit this story and assess my understanding of it before I could ever accept naturism as being morally pure, biblically speaking.

So, rather than rest in the interpretation of a pre-teen boy as being accurate, I looked at the passage again to see what it really said.


The story is found in Gen 9:20-25. Here it is in full:

20 Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard.

21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.

22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.

23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness.

24When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.

25 So he said,
        "Cursed be Canaan;
        A servant of servants
        He shall be to his brothers."

The first question we need to address here is this…What does this passage teach us?

In order to answer that, we first need to make some observations about it and consider their implications, else we may try to “see” things which are not there, or miss things that are.

There are many, many observations that could be made, of course, but I’m only going to highlight some that I believe are of special significance when we are trying to discern God’s moral truth about nakedness.

  • This is a narrative passage; it is not a legal (law-giving) section of the Scriptures. It tells what happened, but it does not establish any sort of moral code.
    • Consequently, we cannot use this passage to establish some sort of moral rule for righteousness. We may find that it illustrates teaching found elsewhere in the Bible, but it cannot establish a doctrine from it.
    • For example, the Bible never tells us that we may not see our parents naked or else we will suffer a curse. This story of Noah and his sons cannot be forced to establish such a teaching, since it really is only narrative.
    • By contrast, however, the Bible teaches very clearly that we should honor our parents (Exo. 20:12). The command carries a promise of blessing when obeyed. What’s more, Deut. 27:16 promises a curse for those who fail to honor their parents.
      • Clearly, the story of Noah in Gen 9 illustrates these biblical laws perfectly… however, it does not establish them!
      • A passage cannot illustrate a command that does not exist elsewhere in the Bible. To establish a narrative as an illustration of Biblical truth, we must first locate where in the Bible that truth is declared.
  • While we know that the story is true (because it is part of God’s Word), within the account itself, we find no divine commentary! God describes the historical event, but He does not give His “perspective” on the event; He does not tell us what we should learn, or what we should emulate.
    • Consequently, we must be careful not to presume to know the mind of the Lord on the matter, or we may find that we are putting forth our own human thoughts and attributing them to God (see Isa. 55:9)!
    • Consider the story of Gideon and his setting out a fleece before the Lord (Judges 6:36-40). One might be tempted to read the story and see how God responded to Gideon’s “testing” of the Lord and conclude that this is how we should respond to the Lord, too. However, a little pondering of the story will reveal that Gideon’s actions really revealed his lack of faith, not his possession of it! God had told Gideon that he would prevail, but Gideon did not take God at His word! God’s graciousness towards such unbelief is His own prerogative, but it certainly would be suspect if we concluded that since God answered Gideon’s requests that He wants us to place the same sort of requests before Him ourselves!
    • I’ve heard it put this way… Narrative is not Imperative. Narrative without Imperative is not Normative.
      • In other words, a biblical story does not constitute a divine command. If the story has no divine command included, we cannot consider that story’s presence in the pages of Scripture to be a moral guide for our lives.
      • It is not for us to declare that “this or that” story in the Bible must be emulated when God has not told us to do so!
      • For an example of a narrative that contains a command, read about the creation of Eve in Gen. 2:21-24. The story is related in verses 21-23. A clear command follows in verse 24!
  • The story of Noah and his son’s teaches us very little about our lives or even Biblical history. The only enduring reality that we can know for sure from this passage is when, why, and how the people of Canaan were cursed by God. In my opinion, no other conclusion is exegetically justifiable.

Some other observations raise difficult and perhaps unanswerable questions:

  • Was Noah wrong to be unclothed in His own tent?
  • If this is a passage about “nakedness,” why is it that it was not the one who was naked who was cursed?
  • If Ham was the one who dishonored his father, why is it that Ham’s son was cursed instead?
  • Given the fact that the Hebrew word ervah (translated “nakedness”) seems to very consistently signify sexual activity rather than simple nudity, could it be that there was some sort of sexual component implied in the story that we don’t see in the English translation? (for a careful treatment of this subject, see “The Meaning of “Nakedness” – Part 1” and the full article upon which it is based)

These questions reveal that there is much about this story that we do not know… seemingly pertinent details which God chose not to reveal. This fact underscores the folly of presuming to discern moral absolutes from the account. We simply do not know enough about what actually happened.

The conclusion that I have reached on this passage is that it cannot be interpreted to be any sort of divine prohibition of simple nudity, or the establishment of a curse for one who sees his own father naked.

How many years did I live under the fear of a curse based on a very faulty understanding of this passage? I don’t know, but I’m free from that fear now!

— Matthew Neal

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Thoughtful Response to Mr. Piper – Part 2

This is Part 2 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. the reader wrote me back with questions pertaining to those sections. Below are my answers to his questions as they relate to Mr. Piper’s article. His questions are in green and my responses follow.


I’ve briefly reexamined Genesis 1-3 and have a some broad introductory questions both from the text and others as far as moral implications of the Naturist lifestyle. Gen. 3:7 reads “Then the eyes of both  of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (NASB)” Hermeneutically this seems to be a cause and effect event. They saw they were naked and in response to this awareness they made loin coverings for themselves. Good hermeneutics would ask why.

Alright… this deserves a pretty thorough response… I’ll try to keep it succinct…

The simple reading of the account sounds like they ate the fruit and then “all of a sudden,” they realized, “Oh, my!! We’re NAKED!!!” But is that accurate? (Did you ever wonder why Eve didn’t know that she was naked until Adam had eaten, too?)

Well, I would ask you to also take into account the question asked by the Omniscient One just 4 verses later… Who told you that you were naked?…” The question itself suggests that there was a person involved in their eyes being “opened.” Of course, God already knew the answer to His question, so it is safe to assume that the way He phrased the question was in keeping with what He already knew the answer to be!

Add to the mix the fact that Satan was in the area and was actively involved in the events that had just happened. Did he just stop speaking as soon as Eve took her bite? Don’t we generally assume that since nothing more is recorded, he said nothing more? But is that in keeping with what we know about him?

I believe the text supports an interpretation that once Adam and Eve sinned and were then under the dominion and influence of Satan, that it was he who invented the idea of “naked” and suggested that they cover themselves.

Regarding the answer to God’s question, “Who told you…,” there were only 4 “who’s” that it could have been: God, Adam, Eve, and Satan. Clearly it wasn’t God. Adam evidently didn’t tell himself. If it was Eve, then who told Eve? That leaves Satan.

But did Satan have any motivation to induce shame in Adam and Eve about their own bodies? For the answer to that question, we should first consider what we know about Satan…

We know that Satan was created as a sinless angel (Ezek. 28:14-15). We know that his heart was lifted up with pride because of his beauty and that he wanted to be “like the Most High” (Isa. 12-14 — That’s the critically important truth here). As a result of that pride, he was cast down.

Now take a look at the creation of man and woman. God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Gen. 1:26 In other words, that which Satan longed for in his own pride was freely granted to Adam and Eve at their creation!

One additional piece of the study here for me was the fact that hermeneutically, I had to conclude that the “image” portion of the likeness was actually physical (That’s a whole other topic… see articles: 1 2 3  for an extensive word study that demonstrates this truth).

So… one of the ways that man is “like” God is his very physical form—a sort of self-portrait of the Almighty.

Knowing Satan’s hatred of God and his jealousy of mankind for possessing that which he never could gain (likeness to God), it is very easy to imagine that Satan would have had significant motivation to urge the first humans to be ashamed of their physical bodies, because it was one of the most significant ways they bore God’s likeness. What more potent insult of the Creator could there be? God’s crowning creation ashamed of their Father’s image on their own bodies!

In summary, I believe that Satan is the “Who” of “Who told you…?” I believe that his motivation was to insult God, and to do so, he incited shame in the very ones God had given His likeness to. Admittedly, there is a lot of reading between the lines with this, but no more than any other understanding. And I find it more internally and biblically consistent than the traditional views.


What was the link between their awareness of nudity and the making of loin coverings? Why make loin coverings? Why cover the loins? I would like to hear how you answer these questions.

Here again, since I have concluded that the covering was at the suggestion of Satan, it turns the question to one of, “Why did Satan want them to cover their genitals?”

I have to admit… that one stumped me for a long time. One day, I was reading a systematic theology book and some of the things it said prompted my thinking about this issue… and I believe I arrived at a satisfactory explanation, although I readily admit that it is purely speculative on my part. Yet, I think answers that question while remaining consistent with the biblical facts.

Once again, remember that Satan wants to be “like God,” but cannot be. That honor was placed only upon mankind.

One of the things that only God can do is to create new eternal beings. Only God can call into existence a creature with a soul and spirit that will persist for all time. Satan cannot do that. He never will.

Yet… this very ability is one in which God has allowed humanity to participate! Yes, all animals reproduce sexually, but only humans produce brand new eternal beings! This gift from God, which is an image of His own creative power, is carried out by the sexual organs of the man and the woman… which are found in the loins!

So, shame for body in general and for the reproductive organs in particular… a double insult to God.

Make sense?


Similarly, Gen. 3:10 reads “He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’” Twice, the man (Adam) links nakedness with what appears to be sinful feelings/actions. Why would he fear being naked? What relationship does his nudity have with his, now, sinful state? He directly relates his nudity to fear and then says that that is why he hid himself from God; why? Does this correlate to how we should feel before God today? Why/why not?

Let me ask you this… is shame a virtue? Is shame in any way “godly” (God-like)? Doesn’t shame indicate that something is actually wrong?

Remember again… you’re listening to the man who has just plunged all of humanity into sin. He’s been under the direct influence of Satan himself (not just one of his lesser underlings that you and I have to deal with).

Would you consider Adam’s words here to be prophetic and verbally inspired and therefore true? Our understanding of inspiration simply affirm to us that the account of what Adam said is true… not necessarily the statements that he made.

If indeed Adam was speaking under the immediate influence of Satan, then we should expect that Adam’s words more accurately reflect what Satan wants us to think about our bodies than what God wants us to think!

So, were Adam’s shame and fear an expression of godliness, or were they the results of sin? If Adam had not been in a sinful condition, would he have felt any shame or fear?

No, shame is not God’s will for us. If we have done something shameful, His will is that we humbly repent and find forgiveness and restoration. He certainly does not desire for us to remain in shame!

Finally, given the fact that shame is a direct result of sin and the fall, what part of the fall did Jesus not redeem us from? Did Jesus only die for my soul and spirit? Or did He die for all of me… body, soul, and spirit? When we suggest that it is God’s will for us to feel shame, we are—in effect—denying the power of the cross.


Gen. 3:21 says: “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed” them” This seems to indicate that God was in agreement with their initial impulse to cover up their nakedness. What reason would you have to say otherwise? or what alternate interpretation would you offer? Also, if it was only Adam and Eve, a married couple, and God, why have clothes at all, if not for a moral/theological implication in the clothes? Why cover up at all?

Some great questions here…

  • If God was NOT in agreement with their clothing themselves in Gen. 3:11, why would He then turn around and affirm the action in Gen. 3:21? Isn’t that interpretation at odds with the immediate context? I fear that we have for so long been ashamed of our bodies that we fail to see and feel the harshness of God’s reprimand for their concern over their nakedness! (“Who told you…? Have you eaten…?”) Amazingly, we have turned it around and made God instead say, “I’m proud of you for at least figuring out that you need to cover your nakedness! But let’s talk about that fruit…” (pardon my sarcasm…) This notion simply is not biblically consistent.
  • If I were to ask you to quote the verse that tells us exactly why God clothed them, what would you quote? Nothing, right? If I were to instead ask you to quote me the verse that tells us why God banished them from Eden, what would you quote? Gen. 3:22! There it is… plain as day.
    • Every person who has every lived has to face the question, “What should I wear today?” Knowing God’s will on his purpose for clothing Adam and Eve would seem to be very significant information to guide my clothing choices. Yet, on that point, God offered no explanation.
    • No person on earth today (or anytime since the flood… long before this account was even written!) has had any remote opportunity to enter the Garden of Eden, or even be turned back by the angel with the flaming sword… let alone eat from the tree of life. Yet, for some odd reason, God saw fit to include the minutes from the triune Godhead council to let us know exactly why they weren’t allowed back in.
    • God knew how to explain His actions. He chose not to tell us why He clothed Adam and Eve. He did choose to tell us why they were banished. The only conclusion we can draw from that truth is that we don’t need to know why He gave them the coats of skin! Evidently, knowing why none of us live forever was more important to our lives. Does that square with our theological position on clothing today?
  • Of course, human curiosity is such that we can hardly bear to wonder why God clothed them without trying to come up with a suitable answer. However, I think our cultural commitment to the “normalcy” and “rightness” of body shame has so dulled our minds that we don’t even try to look at the Genesis account to find any alternative answers. Note these observations from the immediate context:
    • They will no longer be living in paradise (we are not told, but it was likely perfect in climate and all other environmental variables).
    • They had just been cursed, and one of the elements of the curse was that there would now be thorns, and hard work. The hostility of their environment had just increased significantly.
    • In the midst of the curse, there was grace… the promise of a Savior (Gen. 3:15). Even in His judgment, God was intentionally gracious!
    • Don’t these realities that are Scripturally undeniable point to a very different answer to the “why” question? Isn’t it possible that the real reason God gave them more durable protection from the thorns and climate was that He was graciously caring for them?
  • Some suggest that God gave them clothing because He knew that now, in the fallen state, clothing would be required to abate lust.
    • Where is “lust” or anything having to do with sexual immorality in the context?
    • Where is there a command to “keep wearing clothes now…”? Were they just supposed to “know” it was a command? Are we?
    • Should husbands and wives be covered even when it’s just the two of them? Were they (and we) supposed to just “understand” that husband/wife are exempt?
    • Where—in ALL of the Bible—do we find a clear statement or reiteration of this “command”? Where might we find any affirmation that clothing actually abates lust?
  • You asked, “Why cover up at all?” but your question itself presumes that the purpose is to “cover up,” as if “covering” from view were the goal!
    • If you own a valuable painting, but you need to move them from one part of town to the other on a truck, you would never think to ask, “Why cover it up at all?” because the reason is obvious… the “covering” would be all about protection of the image, not hiding it from view.
    • Wouldn’t it be silly to ask your question this way, “Why protect it at all?”


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

— Matthew Neal