Who Should See You Naked? More on Nudity vs. Modesty

Last week I answered a reader’s question about “au naturale” destinations in the context of her marriage. And I unwittingly set off a maelstrom of comments about whether public nudity itself is unbiblical. You may ask why I didn’t anticipate such a result, but I was thinking of the whole thing in terms of marriage and not so much a debate between the “Biblical naturists” and the modesty mainstream.

But since I was the one who wrote in answer to “Are ‘Au Naturale’ Destinations Okay?”: “My quick answer is no, it’s not okay biblically,” referencing 1 Corinthians 7:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 . . . I suppose I invited those who disagree to speak up. And they did.

Comment BubbleI did not post all of these comments last week because I wanted that post to remain focused on MARRIAGE. That’s what I write about — not the theology behind why we wear clothes. However, in fairness to the commenters, I decided to print their comments this week. Warning: This post is long because there were a lot of comments. Here’s what came to my inbox regarding this issue:

___________________

mamarachael: For once, J, I think I disagree. I think that ‘nudity’ is culturally bound. No one can walk into an African tribe, or Papua tribe and tell them that they are wrong and sinful for not wearing bits of fabric that cover all *those* parts. Now, to say that, as Americans, it not advisable — that different. You quoted the very passage I thought of… — all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. And the arguments you present are good and solid towards why it isn’t beneficial, but I don’t think you can say its not ‘Biblical’.

Glad you tackled this topic!

Anonymous: It is biblical.. That’s why god covered Adam and eve up when they felt the guilt of being naked… Says it in the bible..

Paul Byerly: Ah yes, the cultural gambit. Frankly I don’t think it has any bareing (sorry!) since we are not talking about a man who grew up with nudity all around. Our sexuality is mostly formed even before puberty, and by the time a man is an adult he is beyond having the mind he’d have if he’d been seeing naked women daily for his entire life.

Can a man see women naked and not get aroused? That depends on how you define aroused. If he was hooked up to an MRI I assure you his brain would show activation due to those naked women. Is that why he wants to go to a nude beach? Beats me, maybe it’s not, but that does not change the face he will see bits and pieces and will be effected by that.

Anonymous Man: I don’t think nude beaches require nudity, I think they just permit it. If the two of you go together, he can get nude and you can stay comfortably covered up. As long as his intention is not to pursue relations with anyone else, I think the experience can be a fun and honorable one for both of you. That said, if you can find a private place to be naked together, he will likely come out ahead of the game anyway.

Anonymous: “From a man’s perspective, No, it is not possible to go to a nude beach and not look at the nude women. It really is that simple. Most men, I think, go to nude beaches for the purpose of seeing the women sans swimsuits. As well, many of the women at such beaches are young and have trim figures that men, being visually oriented beings, cannot help looking at and, yes, lusting after.”

The only nude beach I’ve ever encountered was populated mostly by old, fat men. Lust was the last thing on my mind – it was more like “pass the eye bleach, thanks”

ALL OF THE ABOVE WERE PUBLISHED. THEN…

John Anderson: I’m sorry but most of the replies I see here are just knee jerk reactions and neither well reasoned or researched from the Bible. Go back and reread the Garden of Eden account in Genesis again carefully. The second sin after eating the fruit was not being naked but rather attempting to hide from God as if that were even possible. God did not condemn them for being naked but rather asked who told them they were naked. Also note that God did not initially clothe Adam and Eve but rather gave them better quality garments than the makeshift leaves.

Anonymous: Look at you, Gods saved and enlightened people, yet still so full of fear and confusion…
Jesus came to our little planet to show us what is important to God (like, that we love and embrace each other) and what isn’t (like, taking the scripture too literally and sticking to the rules of the Torah). Yes, it is true that the Bible tells the story of Adam and Eve committing the original sin and then being ashamed of themselves; and in a sort of psychosomatic reaction, also of their bodies. Instead of curing this trauma and helping them to again regard as natural what is natural, He was worried about them and just wanted to have them out of the garden (with the other tree’s fruits still untested), so He just put some fur on them. And anyway, as we humans got to know by now, this story of His is and always was metaphorical.
We all have a body. In fact, the human body is the only thing we all truly have in common. It is Gods gift to us, and even though it may look strange to our eyes, we know that we are beautiful in the eyes of God. With the possible exception of wearing a Nazi t-shirt, He doesn’t really care about our garments.
Our body is the one thing we all have in common, and so it should be natural for us to know what they look like in all their diversity, to be used to seeing them; and with God’s love in our eyes, we should not find reason to insult each other based on how they look or raise expectations based on how they look.
Yes, we are fallen, and we are clothed, but the first is not the reason for the second.
Seeing each other, and being used to seeing each other, can be a great step towards understanding Gods love for His creation. Nudity purifies the spirit.
My own experience: I am Christian (and male, for the sexists among you). I went to a nude beach the first time as a young adult, partly worried whether I would see fat old men there or hot young women, not yet figured out what would be the lesser evil. Yes, I looked at them. Here’s what I saw:
Persons. Children of God.
Go there with your husband, and, just to respect the place, get naked. Sit down together. Ask your husband to look around and tell you what he sees. Then take a look around for yourself. Try to look past the hair and skin and all those shapes that appear strange to you just because you’re fallen and you’re not used to seeing them. And with God’s help, you will begin to understand.

Anonymous: First, the cultural argument is weak, at best. In many cultures it’s legal and permissible to kill for any whim. Does that also mean that we, as Americans, can go kill? NO! The bible sites many times about modesty and proper attire. Even in most African tribes (and I am guessing you are referring to the more secluded tribes) cover up their junk.

In many cultures extra marital affairs are acceptable but does it make it right?

Seriously? We are going to site bathing on rooftops or outside as a basis for supporting an argument for PUBLIC nudity? Please read the story of David and Bathsheba again.

The Bible is very specific that they were clothed because they were ashamed. God said, “Who told you, you were naked?” He didn’t say, “OMG, you are naked now.” He killed to cover because they were ashamed, not because they were magically naked all of the sudden. Sin made nakedness shameful which is why in most parts of the world, even secluded tribes not touched by other cultures still cover their “junk”.

J. makes a very compelling and Biblically accurate point to which those who can argue her points really need to look internally as to whether they are living out Philippians 4:8.

It’s not prudish, it’s obedience!

Anonymous: I will also go out and say that most couples I talk to that enjoy public nude beaches also struggle in the areas of pornography and dabbling in other unhealthy, extra-marital activities. It’s a slippery slope that no married person should be “dabbling” in.

Anonymous: The look without touching ridiculous argument is like being on a no-sweets diet and filling your entire house with sweets. It’s irresponsible and demonstrates a willingness to put one to the test just to see how close you can get before you go too far.

It shows a lack of judgement at best. While you claim you didn’t look, you can’t keep others from looking and lusting after you which makes you a stumbling block. Sure, a pair of jeans can also be a stumbling block to some but nudity most definitely is a stumbling block to most! It’s the last step before sexual intercourse is possible.

It’s shameful that Christians are willing to try and defend public nudity to justify their own inability to deny their flesh.

Honestly, we can all do better than this! While I have researched private beaches that allow nudity for my husband and I to share, public nudity has never even been an option because there’s not enough molesting of scripture that can justify a desire to show off something that should only be shared with my husband.

Bob Horrocks: “Who told you you were naked” God asked. He didn’t. He was fine with it – He invented it. He told Isaiah to do it publicly for 3 years. The Holy Spirit came on Saul and he prophesied, lying down naked, such that people said “Is Saul also among the prophets” because that was what they did. You are reading the Bible culturally not Biblically. Jesus would have been baptised naked – that’s how they did it then. The Church baptised the early Christians naked for the first 400 years at least. Who told them they were naked? Only one other around at the time and he’s been laughing ever since at the way he’s managed to sexualize the image of God reflected in our bodies. He’s laughing all the way from hell. A wholesome scriptural view of the body is the best way to counter pornography, the sex industry and lustful behaviour (clothes never stopped lust) Anyone who’s been in a nudist/naturist environment knows that simple nakedness is not a turn on nor is it an invitation to lust – in fact it’s very ordinary.

Matt: Their nudity was absolutely NOT a sin. How could it be when God created them that way (calling them good) and never ordered them to cover themselves? Their first sin was eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Their second sin was being ashamed of their nudity. Their third sin was trying to hide their nudity. God saw nothing wrong with their nudity when He created them, so in your opinion, either God created something bad from the start, or He created something he thought was good then changed His mind. Either of those two options is far more heretical than saying that God approves of nudity.

Matt: Their sin was NOT being nude. How could it be when God created them that way and called them “good”? Their first sin was eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Their second sin was being ashamed of their nudity. Their third sin was trying to hide their nudity from God.

To claim that God sees nudity as sinful requires you to first claim that He created something sinful and called it good, or to claim that He created something good and then changed His mind and declared it sinful. Either of those options require you to subscribe to heretical beliefs about God (either that He creates evil or that His will changes over time).

Matt: I think you’ve been looking at too many pictures of nude beaches online and have never actually been to one. Your description of the women there sounds like what people ASSUME from looking at commercial “nudist” sites online. Of course those sites are only going to depict the “ideal” women there, and often the “ideal” men as well.

The fact is that people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and races go to nude beaches. Some are “attractive”, some aren’t, but they are not their to gratify your lustful urges, they are there to enjoy nature the way that God intended us to enjoy it. My bumper sticker says it all: “God created nudists, sinners created clothes”. If you can’t understand that, let me spell it out for you: God created Adam and Eve nude and they lived that way until they sinned by eating the fruit. Their next two sins were to be ashamed of what God created (their nude bodies) and to make clothing for themselves to try to hid their nudity from God. FYI, the original Hebrew word for the clothes they made literally translates as loincloth, so Eve was still topless after they left Eden. The classical images of Eve with leaves over her breasts are therefore wrong.

All-Nudist.com: With all due respect, there are many ways to interpret God’s instructions in the Bible and not all of them manage to find sin in innocent natural behavior. As you have able to discover God’s Plan for hot, steamy sexual intimacy in the Good Book, so have many others found Biblical justification for enjoying simple, wholesome nudity with their family and friends.

‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ is excellent advice for someone who, as a woman, cannot possibly speak for men when describing their feelings in a socially nude situation yet does so anyway. As one so obviously fixated with sex, as this website attests, it is understandable that you would see everything in sexual terms, but not everyone does.

In addition to offering debatable interpretations of Biblical passages in support of your agenda, perhaps you would like to encourage discussion by directing your readers to visit these religious websites of various faiths. That is, if you believe your homespun theology/psychology can stand up to the combined wisdom of those who have read good things where you have found only sin.

Anonymous: No God made them clothes so that they would be protected from the harshness of the elements outside of Eden.

Anonymous: From a man’s perspective here. I say it is, for me at least possible to go to a nude beach without ‘lusting’ after women for a couple of reasons… Firstly Nudism/naturism is non-sexual, only our culture has learned to associate nudity with sex which is not how it should be, the human body is a natural part of us. Secondly I see women as people and not objects to be desired, I’m much more enamored by a woman’s good soul than I am by a woman’s body because that otherwise would make me shallow and coarse. I would also like to state, from a historical standpoint it was likely that all fishermen in the sea of Galilee in Biblical times were working nude. I would also like to state, that if things we did caused other people to fall into sin, then we would do nothing, not even tell people about our beliefs because that causes people to fall into sin.

Bryan: I have to wonder how much of a difference sitting on the beach with a pair of trunks on versus wearing nothing at all? Sunburn in all the wrong places, is what I’m guessing.

I agree with you J, keep the nudity between the husband and wife. If I was in a small group with this man, I’d have to say he’s looking for more than toasting his buns (I couldn’t resist). I have serious doubts about him keeping his eyes to himself. That’s difficult enough at any old beach or water park you dare visit these days.

Phil Yeager: I strongly believe that modesty is important. I just don’t think there’s anything particularly modest about a swimsuit. Bathing suits and and lingerie are sold to make women more attractive, not less. Just look at the ads.

I also think that you and the Bible have different ideas about modesty. Timothy 2:9 states that modest women should adorn themselves “not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes…”, but no mention of skin. David was punished, but did anything happen to Bathsheba? …and don’t get me started on Isaiah 20…

God’s creation has been perverted by the pornographers, the lingerie salesman, the fashion industry, the cosmetic companies, and now the plastic surgeons. I think that there’s something deeply wrong with that. The reason that some Christian naturists get so passionate, is that for them, it’s like trying to throw the money changers out of the temple.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for at least reading my comment. Maybe you’ll even find it it in your heart to let it go through?

AS YOU CAN SEE, I DID NOT MERELY BLOCK THOSE COMMENTS THAT DISAGREED WITH ME. I did edit out links to other websites. (I’m sorry if some of it is hard to follow, but my blog doesn’t make it very clear which comments were in reply to which other comments.)

___________________

I stand by my initial statement that public nudity is not a right or wise choice for Christians. Without debating Eden, fig leaves, and animal skins, I think that applying Christian principles brings us to the conclusion that such practices are not beneficial to those involved. (I’m tempted to also answer the charges of fishing and baptizing naked in the New Testament, but maybe an informed reader will do that instead.)

I’m not impressed anymore with the question of “How far is too far?” The better question is How can I use my body and my life to glorify God? Then you have to answer that question for yourself.

If you wish to comment on this issue, go right ahead. Please, however, keep to these parameters:

No personal attacks. Disagree as you wish, but no name calling or questioning someone’s motives (God knows the heart). Personal attacks don’t further your argument, and they don’t reflect the tone I want to maintain among readers of my blog.

No links to other sites. I don’t have time to look them all up, and I reserve my right to protect my blog from becoming an advertising site for contradictory viewpoints or products.

Comments will be closed in the next two weeks. My focus on this blog is marriage and sexuality. There are ample forums to discuss the nudity/modesty issue if you wish to go there. Thus, I am time-limiting the comments to this post, so that I can move on to the subjects I really write about.

Now answering the question “Who Should See You Naked?” Certainly, your spouse is the first answer. But I had a male obstetrician for years, and he was my favorite gynecology doctor. Do I think he could look at my hoo-ha without lusting? Of course. So can we impersonalize the human body? Indeed. There are plenty of caregivers for the young and the elderly and medical professionals who demonstrate daily that we can approach the human body in a non-sexual way.

However, God created us as sexual beings. We have innate, built-in responses to viewing the naked body. Yes, our culture affects what gets our attention, but if God wanted us to see each other naked, where is the command? Where is the example? Where is the nudist colony in the Bible? Outside of a husband and wife in a garden before the first sin, it doesn’t exist. I stand by my assertion that few people should see you naked: your spouse, your same-gender family members, perhaps a few close same-gender friends, doctors, and medical caregivers. (Maybe the lady who does your spray tan or wax job.)

For myself, I do not long to return to the days of the junior high locker room where public nudity was not only allowed but expected. My list of who sees me naked is very short. But hey, all the more reason for my hubby to feel special that he has full access to viewing my body.

37 thoughts on “Who Should See You Naked? More on Nudity vs. Modesty

  1. Greg

    My personal opinion is that (like free will vs. predestination) as much as we want and desire to glorify God in this issue, there are numerous cases in real life regarding nudity that we simply can’t answer.

    Nudity does exist multiple times in the Bible, and like it or not, there is no denying that–but the whys and hows are where we could argue until the cows come home, and still not find any answers (this side of heaven anyway). 🙂

    What we do know is that context, culture, and the hearts of the people involved are where those answers lie.

  2. Adam Pohlman

    The best explanation of the reason for clothing was from John Piper in his book, This Momentary Marriage. He explains how we wear clothing among the culture to be a sign of the gospel. Our clothing represents our need for covering and what Christ did to cover us. Clothing also is meant to leave bare the parts of us that communicate the gospel to the world; feet to take the gospel around the world, hands to care for the hurting, and the face which communicates its loving truth.

    In marriage, nudity is good as it represents our full transparency and vulnerability before Christ. We stand before one another fully exposed trusting the other to give grace in our vulnerability.

    To mix up the places of acceptable nudity is to distract from the gospel.

    1. Kristina

      I like this very much. I like John Piper’s teachings a lot.
      I just can’t figure out who has time and why anyone would want to lounge around on a beach with a bunch of naked people who you do not know. Is this time spent glorifying God at all? Is it beneficial to a marriage? I couldn’t imagine planning that vacation. That’s just me I suppose. Seems like a waste of valuable time.

    2. Jasanna Czellar

      I completely agree with this! I really respect John Piper and what he has to say. I agree with the above post too. It’s like an alcoholic going to a bar. It’s unwise. Yes, he may not drink, but it doesn’t mean he’s not tempted. It really does come down to the wisdom issue of it, and how are our lives proclaiming Christ? It is the vulnerable part of us that is between us and our spouse. If we don’t save that for them, then what is there?

    3. Anonymous

      Assuming God calls us to wear clothing, this is beautiful imagery. But we can’t take beautiful imagery that John Piper has come up with as a theological argument for the wearing of clothing. It’s taking sound one-way reasoning, and trying to make it go the other way.

  3. Anonymous

    Does scripture prescribe social nudity? Generally not. But then in The cultures it was written to, it was common, but never commanded against. Co-Ed publi baths were common in new testament times, but never taught against. Isiah was commanded to go nude for three years. Bathsheba was never condemed for bathing outside. In the garden of Eden, adam and eve walked with god in the cool of the night.

    The question, “is it beneficial” is a better one. My wife has found various health benefits. Many have found seeing what real bodies look like, rather than idealized photoshopped ones to be very helpful in dealing with body image issues. Scripture calls us to be in the world, but not of it. To be salt and light. Is it possible to do this in a naturist environment? I believe that if God calls you there, it certainly is.

  4. Anonymous

    Is it possible to keep ones sel pure in a naturist environment? Up till a couple years ago, I assumed it was obviously not. But studying the subject, I was surprised to see morality in this environment far beyond what I would have expected. They have big problems with porn. With sexuality outside of a committed relationship (various ideas on what that means). The experience of those who’ve tried is that sexuality is distinct from nudity (as doctors, nurses, etc. have experienced). That it’s by sexualizing nudity that porn has it’s power. I have experienced this. I’ve found that clothing, designed to enhance someone’s appearance to be more sexual than non-sexualized nudity. (nudity not intended to arouse).

  5. Mrs. C

    I, personally, just do not understand why this is even an argument. I would never, ever, ever in a million years ever want another man to look at my naked body. I am my husband’s and he is mine. Even if you are able to keep from lusting, how do you know that someone else is not lusting over you? Sure, people can still lust after you with you wearing clothes, but I’d much rather have them lust after the wrapping paper than the actual gift inside. Because that gift belongs to my hubby, and no one else. And it’s up to me to protect that gift and save it for him, not give it to the whole world.

    One of the greatest things I’ve ever heard was said to me when I was around 14 years old. I was at a discipleship conference in a classroom with about twenty other girls my age. The male, college-aged worship team was talking to us about dating and modesty. The lead singer spoke up and said something like this, “Listen ladies, what you need to know is that men are very visual. If you truly love your brothers in Christ, then don’t wear clothing that is going to tempt us into lusting after you. Because if you show it, we will look, and it’s very hard to stop the thoughts that come after looking. So be modest. By doing so, you’re not only protecting your purity, but ours as well.”
    As a worship pastor and the secretary of our church, those words have served me very well. I’m not just protecting my purity by covering up, but I’m also protecting my Christian brother’s purity as well.

    And on a completely different note, I don’t understand why people keep saying that God never condemned Bathsheba for bathing outside. Her adultery lead her to lose a child. Was that not punishment? Sure, God never said (that we know of) “Bathsheba, I condemn you for bathing outside.” But if she had never bathed outside, then David never would have seen her naked and never would have sent for her in the first place. And I’m pretty sure losing a child was just as devastating for her as it was for David…..

    1. Anonymous

      So women are responsible for protecting a man’s purity? Something that hit my wife when I first met her is that I said, “no, I’m responsible for keeping my mind pure”. She had always believed it was her responsibility. This attitude is endemic in muslim cultures. Women are expected to keep everything covered. If a woman gets raped, she’s blamed, and suffers the consequences, while the guy gets off clean. Not cool. Most christians, while being horrified at that, tend to lean in that direction.

      Now don’t get me wrong — I think we do need to be careful to not be doing/wearing things that are intended to provoke lust. What I have found interesting however is the suggestion that it’s the sexualization of nudity that causes the problem in the first place. We’re taught to think that seeing nudity inevitably leads to sex (or at least lust). We’re trained to think that way. Then we wonder why it seems to be so much bigger of a struggle than most other temptations. Where would the porn industry be if we weren’t trained to think this way? (it’s interesting that porn is a much bigger problem in societies that have bigger nudity taboos)

      My personal experience has been that suggestive clothing is far more alluring than the naked body. When my wife is naked (shower/bathing, changing, etc.) it doesn’t get me going at all. It just is. When she puts something special on, it communicates something quite different.

      And it’s a concept we accept in certain situations — we expect our doctors, nurses, etc. see our nudity as a natural part of our body. We assume they can keep their minds in the right place while examining us. Why then do we assume that it’s easy for medical people, while impossible for everyone else?

      The reality I’ve observed is that by de-sexualizing the body, not only medical people, but others as well can have an easier time of keeping our minds pure.

    2. Mrs. C

      You took my words to the extreme. Of course a man is responsible for his own purity. Both men and women have an individual responsibility to keep their thoughts pure and not give into lust. But at the same time, I am also responsible for acting and dressing in a way that does not purposefully cause others around me to stumble. It’s called being responsible.

      As far as de-sexualizing the body goes…yes, people are able to do it. Doctors and nurses are proof of that. And perhaps back in Biblical days more people did walk around naked (I have not researched any of the claims.) But I am talking about America…a country gripped by porn. (And PS: I believe men were created to be very visual (look at Song of Songs), which is why porn is such a big stumbling block. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just how God created them! Women are starting to be very visual as well where they were once mostly emotional. And Satan has these aspects and turned them into something he could use for evil. I’ve never met a man, other than a doctor, who could say he was not turned on by a woman’s naked body…)

      Either way, if I were to go to a nude beach, I do not know who has managed to de-sexualize the body and who has not. That is enough for me to say that there is no way in the world I will ever show anyone my naked body other than my husband. Why in the world would I ever want to take that chance?

      I suppose that if you de-sexualize the body you would have an easier time keeping your mind pure. But quite frankly, I want my husband to be turned on by my body. I love that it drives him nuts when I strip off my clothes and lay next to him on the couch. Why would I want him to de-sexualize my body when my body belongs to him for his pleasure?

  6. Phil Yeager

    So, bathing suits weren’t invented until the18th century; what do you think people wore to their baptisms in biblical times? (That’s an honest question, by the way.)

    1. J

      From my research, it appears that nude baptisms did occur later in early Christianity, but this appears to be an aberration of the original practice. In the 1st century, a loincloth or inner tunic was most likely worn in the water — for both baptisms and fishing. I’m going by what Biblical scholars say on this subject.

    2. FatherOf4

      I would recommend a Google Image Search on Early Christian Baptism or something of similar (the large majority of the artwork from before 400 AD display the baptized naked) In addition, you may also want to refer to the baptismal instructions of Cyril of Jerusalem, Hippolytus of Rome, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. One further point is the origin of baptism (the mikveh) is still performed naked with prohibitions on jewelry and braided hair while in the water.
      There are several pictures of ancient fishermen, both seperately and in a group, in which they (the fishermen) are naked. These also can be found via an image search.

    3. Cherishing My Days

      Someone’s extra-Biblical teachings do not trump Biblical guidelines. I can say whatever I want to say and write it down for prosperity’s sake, but if what I say is not supported by the Bible, then it’s just my opinion/ preference/ tradition. There is no indication in the Word of God that anyone was baptized naked.

    4. FatherOf4

      There is also no indication in the Bible that anyone was baptized clothed. The Bible admittedly is silent on what the appropriate apparel of baptism administration. So this is why we go to extra Biblical sources, to find out a little more of what happened. There is a great discussion in the church on the proper mode of baptism (sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.) The text of the Bible doesn’t tell us this either. Many in the early church thought it was very important though. There is also a discussion on credo-baptism (believer’s baptism) versus pedo-baptism (infant baptism). As the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us this one either. Both of these are worth a study, but irrelevant for this discussion other than an another example of baptismal practices in which the canonized Bible (c 350 AD) is silent.

  7. mind-full

    I think it’s impossible to, as an American, “fit into” the culture of other nations. Europeans, by admission and statistics, have a far less godly approach to living. State religion turns people sour on faith, so trying to compare their morals doesn’t work. They tend to have much looser morals than we would, in my experience.

    Marriage isn’t the sacred covenant in European nations, either. Adultery (physical or emotional) is something some cultures not only overlook, but sometimes condone. They don’t always hold their marriages above anything else, and certainly not above themselves. My husband works with many Europeans, and they tend toward selfishness and hedonistic views, and while they are kind, giving and friendly folks, marriage isn’t all that important — financially, it’s cheaper to live with someone than marry, and so they follow their pockets. Economics is more their religion than anything else.

    Perhaps that’s why the lack of swimwear? It’s money-saving to go without? 😉

    1. Cherishing My Days

      Mind-full, I agree with you on different cultures and marriage. I have done some good research on other cultures over the past ten years (mostly about nutrition, but also taken some anthropology classes). If we are arguing that attitudes about nudity are cultural, then we should also compare these other cultures’ attitudes about marriage since that is the context that we are speaking of here on this blog: Christian marriage + public nudity. In my studies, in tribes from warmer climates where at least partial nudity is no big deal, marriage isn’t either. There is wife swapping, adultery, if there even is marriage. So IF Christians believe (I admit to being confused now as to what exactly many Christians believe about marriage and purity) that marriage is to be a monogamous relationship for life, it would be a hard parallel to draw with these clothing optional cultures, because culturally, they do not take God’s institution seriously.

    2. Mrs. C

      I agree. It’s really starting to scare me what “Christians” are saying about marriage and purity……

      We can’t just point to other countries or past Biblical times and say “well they did it so I can too.” We have to look at the full aspect of the culture. Like you said, sure tribes in Africa may accept public nudity. But those same tribes also have hardly no concept or respect for marriage either. And those tribes are also wrapped up in witchcraft…. Yikes.

  8. Anonymous

    The study I’ve done has suggested that nudity may have been common in baptism in the early church. For that matter, seemed to be based on/similar to an existing jewish tradition that was also done nude. With our western sensibilities, we like to think there was at least a loincloth, but a careful examination of history may sugest nudity was the norm.

  9. mamarachael

    So when I first opened this post, I was surprised to see my comment right up top… that never happens to me!

    In the set of comments in the post, I think anonymous #4 had a good point… that we can’t call up on cultural practices to determine what is Biblical. I think its pretty clear that the Bible doesn’t say “thou shalt not be nude before anyone not your spouse.” On the other hand, I think many have made a good point that its just not advisable, especially in our American culture, where *those* parts are so sexualized. I don’t like it, but its just a fact and as Paul argues in Philippians 9, we must become all things to all people… to those that are weak, we must be weak… so we are called to live.

    Again, J, I’m quite impressed with the topics you will tackle and how you handle them and those that disagree. Thanks for being a good roll model!

    1. Cherishing My Days

      But my body belongs to my husband and my husband only. He has sex with “those parts”. They are not culturally sexual, they are universally, biologically sexual. So I won’t take what is his alone and let others in on it. I like that there are secrets that he and I alone share.
      I would really like to see in God’s Word, guidelines for public nudity. I mean, if God thinks it’s ok, when he was very concerned with clothing in so much of the Bible, where is the rescinding of the clothing guidelines? How does one go nude modestly (something most definitely called for)? If public nudity is ok, why did the naked maniac of Gadara immediately get dressed when the demons left him? It was noted that he was naked when he was demon possessed, and that once he was set free he was clothed, sitting a the feet of Jesus, and in his right mind. I mean, jthese concerns are just off the top of my head, but it seems as though a God who thought nudity was ok in public would have said so.

    2. Anonymous

      Yes the bible speaks about modesty. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 is the passage most referred to about dressing modestly. It says “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Notice that when it talks about what one should wear, it makes no mention of clothing, but instead “good deeds”. Many nudists strongly believe that they can be modest while having nothing on. Immodest clothing is specifically designed to draw attention to those parts. But when nude, unless you’re doing other things to draw attention to those parts (which are grounds for being baned for life at most nudist clubs), you just are. People tend to make a lot more eye contact. They tend to have more real conversations.

      There’s definitely a difference between clubs and public nude beaches. In the clubs, there’s generally a high expectation of everyone being non-sexual in public, that’s closely policed. Beaches, because they’re public, are less this way, although some policing still happens.

      Am I suggesting that everyone should do this? Not at all. Merely that I believe Christians can hold tightly to their beliefs, morals, purity in the context of an ethical naturist environment.

    3. Cherishing My Days

      According to Biblos.com, which translates words into the original, the words in 1Timothy 2:9-10 have to do with actual clothing. The words are nouns meaning, garments, costumes, clothing. There is no indication that, in the original, those words were meant to figuratively describe the heart. The verse does describe the attitude with which we are to clothe ourselves, which does speak to the heart The original words there mean “orderly, with a sense of shame, with sound mind and with self control”. The verse is talking about actual clothing, and doing so with discretion, self control and a sound mind. A sense of shame is what Adam and Eve had after they sinned and realized they were naked. We do not live in the Garden of Eden. There is sin and shame now. I also found it very interesting that in 1Timothy when women are told to dress discreetly, the “soundness of mind” there comes from the same original Greek word as when the maniac of Gadara was found sitting at the feet of Jesus and “clothed and of sound mind”.

      As far as people feeling like they can be nude AND modest, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. It is not ultimately between me and the nudists whether or not what they are doing is ok in God’s eyes, it is between them and God. I have learned not to trust my feelings. The Bible says the heart is desperately wicked, and not trustworthy. So it is never my feelings or beliefs that matter. What matters is what God says.

    4. FatherOf4

      The etymology of the word modesty has changed since the Victorian era. It comes from the root word modest which means humble, moderate, not vain. It did not mean having certain body parts covered. A study of Timothy will reveal the women were overtly displaying wealth in their dress (“not with braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly apparel”). This attitude of the wealthy being ‘worth more’ in the Church is condemned through out Scripture (James 2), but it is commonplace in this US culture and many others. (The general practice of ‘dressing up for church’/ putting on one’s ‘Sunday Best’ didn’t start until the late 1700s.)
      I do find it interesting Paul doesn’t condemn (and mildly condones) activities which were done in public and naked 2 chapters later.
      I also find it interesting Adam and Eve covered up in Genesis 3 and still had the sense of shame. It’s almost like the physical clothing had no effect on the shame of sin (why would it?). The context and timing of the full skins (immediately before exiting the Garden) seem to indicate the use of clothing for protection from the elements (cold, stones, and thorns.) Indeed, through out Scripture, one never sees clothing used to prevent the lust of others, instead clothing is used as a sign of position (Pr 7, Ge 41), an indication of wealth (Lk 16), a protection against the cold (Dt 24), as collateral for a loan (Ex 22), and a symbol for certain life events (Gen 27)

    5. Cherishing My Days

      Father of 4,
      Queen Victoria has no bearing ancient Greek. The word was set 2000 years ago. Adam and Eve were not permitted to stay in the Garden of Eden after sinning, so their being clothed in animal skins right before leaving the garden is because they had to leave right away. And yes, God’s clothing was more protective than man’s.
      I am still looking for examples of Godly public nudity in the Bible.

    6. FatherOf4

      The Victorian era ~1850 – 1900 changed the meaning of word modesty (I Tim 2), so our understanding of the translated word is different than what is written in Koine Greek.
      So for your requested examples: Adam and Eve (Gen 2), King Saul (I Sam 19), King David? (II Sam 16), Bathsheba (II Sam 23), Isaiah (Is 20), Micah (Micah 1), Jesus (Mt 3, Jn 13, Crucifixion, Jn 20), Peter (Jn 21), Mark (Mk 14, Timothy (I Tim 4), Philemon (slaves were auctioned naked), the early church (as referenced above for both baptisms and baths – there was a Roman bath even in Nazareth).
      This does not include the nakedness of the Israelites (all 2+ mil, who did not have access to indoor plumbing for baths and toilets.)
      At no time is anyone condemned through out scripture for being naked. There are times where other sins or issues would lead to a forced nakedness (and thus the shame) (Isaiah 20, Hosea 2, Amos 2).

    7. J

      I’m going to pop in here and comment on these passages. On a couple of them, I simply couldn’t find the reference you intended. However, you’ve got:
      Adam & Eve – Garden of Eden
      King Saul – prophesied naked
      King David – dancing in a linen ephod?
      Bathsheba – bathing to purify herself from monthly uncleanness
      Isaiah – prophesied naked and barefoot for 3 years
      Micah – says he’ll go around naked
      Jesus – baptism
      Jesus – washing disciples’ feet
      Jesus – at crucifixion
      Jesus – leaves funeral clothing in tomb at raising
      Peter – naked while fishing
      Mark 11 – follower of Jesus is seized and escapes, leaving behind linen garment
      Philemon – slave who would have been auctioned naked

      Some of these are a stretch. There is no indication that Jesus was baptized naked, and Isaiah’s naked prophesy was to make a point about the people’s shame and God’s judgment. Obviously, Bathsheba choosing to perform her mikveh ritual cleansing on her roof did not end well, and surely we aren’t planning to use the cruel crucifixion of Jesus or the practice of slave auctions as role models for public nudity.

      But I agree that King Saul prophesied naked (1 Samuel 19) and Peter was said to be naked while fishing (John 21). I doubt there were women on the boat, but I won’t quibble that.

      For those who continue to be curious, I suggest they start with the Bible itself and then research further, looking for arguments on both sides. I hold fast to my belief that the whole of Scripture and our common sense suggest that we should keep our clothes on most of the time.

      I do, however, appreciate all of the comments here.

    8. FatherOf4

      As discussed in an earlier post there is no Biblical indication of what Jesus was or was not wearing during his Baptism. To venture an educated guess, we must examine extra-Biblical sources.
      The one missed, I Timothy 4, is a little harder to find. I Tim 4:8 KJV [For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.] Exercise (gymnasia [G1129]) would normally be done at the palaestra. Gymnasia is from the root word gymnazō [G1128] which means – to exercise naked (in a palaestra or school of athletics)]. This is source of the prefix gymnos from which we get the word gymnasium. Thus it’s literal meaning is a place for naked exercise (I do not recommend trying this at the local YMCA.) It was usually connected with the local public bath (which Christians also used.) Jesus had healed an invalid at one (John 5).
      One reference I didn’t mention was Isaiah’s instruction on fasting. Isaiah 58:7 instructs to give shelter to the homeless, food to the hungry, and clothes to the naked. While most interpret the next phrase to mean take care of your extended family, it can also mean not to hide yourself from your genitalia. While the idea of taking care of one’s extended family is Biblical, I don’t see how it necessarily fits in with the rest passage, nor does it fit in with the increasing parallelism of the verse. Take the homeless in (no sacrifice), Feed the hungry your dinner (limited sacrifice), Give the naked your clothes, even the ones you are wearing (larger sacrifice) This idea fits with the poetry style in Psalms and other ancient poetry.
      I know of several naturists, who became a naturist out of their Biblical conviction.

  10. Kristi

    I think it’s a little more simple than most of the answers we’ve reached here. First, I think true humility, modesty, love, faith, etc…actually begins, and ends, in the heart. You can be modest all day long in your dress, but if your heart wants every man in the room to check you out, you’re not modest according to God. Period. I think we very often get hung up on the exterior when God is primarily concerned with the interior. However, in OUR culture, if you see a woman walking around “nekkid”, you can assume she’s mentally ill or gets paid for it. Simple as that.

    I DO think culture plays some part in our discussion, although culture plays NO part in Biblical truths. Do I think the woman in the African jungle looks at her breasts with the same view as I, an American woman, look at mine? Nope. I sure don’t. Do I believe that either of our views are “sinful”? I don’t think so. She views hers that are in public view of her tribe as “normal”. No sexual intent there at all. I’d die a slow death if someone stuck me in that position out of the clear blue sky! She’d also probably loathe my bra and clothing. Such are our cultures and with hearts humbled in love, we don’t get to judge her(or him) simply because her culture is different than ours.

    With all that being said, it’s laughable to suggest that we’ve “sexualized” the body and that if we’d just get our minds out of the gutter we’d see being naked is “normal”. Please. We have SEX with our bodies AND our minds. Unless you did grow up in a tribe that views swinging breasts and…er…swinging guy parts as normal every day life, then you DO view the body as a sexual outlet. To suggest otherwise certainly feels disingenuous to me. Since I can only think and function as an American Christian woman, there’s no way I’d ever willingly go naked in front of another man that wasn’t MY man.

    1. Cherishing My Days

      Hmmmm…..I sure hope I did not come across as “judgmental” with my observation that tribes that frequently go naked do not have Christian values when it comes to marriage. Not a judgement. A fact. There are many tribes that treat women as possessions too. Not a judgement. A fact. Honestly, I don’t know whether these women see their breasts the same sexual way we do ours, or if they do and, because they do not have Biblical views on sexuality, do not think it a big deal that they are out for all to see. That certainly is cultural. God loves these people the same way He loves us, so I’m not “better” because I cover up my body. You are right–that would be a Pharisee-like attitude and gains me nothing with God. BUT he is the God of all and does not change. Anyone that gets saved is supposed to live life the way He wants. Of the missionaries I have heard speak, when people in these tribes get saved, they start dressing more modestly. Is that a requirement for salvation? Absolutely not! Do I have any right to demand that of anyone? No way! It’s all God. It’s what HE wants that matters. It just seems obvious that the God of “let her breast satisfy you all the days of your life”, who is speaking of a private act between husband and wife, is also talking about breasts that are covered for everyone but the woman and her husband.

    2. Anonymous

      I find it interesting the focus on breasts here. It seems to me that while some private parts could be considered primarily of a sexual nature, I think it’s a mistake that breasts fall in that category. Biologically speaking, a woman’s breasts are primarily for feeding babies. Men do have them too. Their’s are just not as big, and are non-functional. Our society has sexualized them to the point that nursing has all sorts of stigmas around it now.

  11. Cherishing My Days

    The Song of Solomon mentions breasts by name eight times in eight chapters (probably much more in figurative language). “let her breasts satisfy you at all times” was used in a sexual way. To say breasts are simply utilitarian is simplistic. Yes, they provide nutrition for babies, but in Isaiah, God also says they are for comfort (“comforted at your mother’s breasts”). As a woman who is currently breastfeeding a three year old and a 21 month old, I am very aware of all the functions of breasts. I am hardly a prude about breastfeeding and have an activist mindset about breastfeeding rights. As a woman who has nursed seven babies, I know that the comfort aspect of breastfeeding is a huge part of nursing a child. To reduce breasts to flesh covered bottles is denying all their uses, most of which have nothing to do with nutrition. Satisfaction and comfort are what breasts are used for more, and for a longer period of time (like an entire lifetime for a husband….). Anything that has that intimate a purpose is something that is not for everyone to see.

  12. van Rooinek

    There is NO culture ANYWHERE, where the naked, unadorned body is considered appropriate for normal social display. Even if it’s just a minimal loincloth or body paint or beads (not necessarily covering the genitals), nevertheless, ALL human societies expect you to wear SOMETHING in public. Nudism is abnormal. This universal rejection should tell us something.

    Besides, there’s no such thing as an attractive nudist. LOL

  13. Tamie

    My opinion is that simply reading what husbands and wives can or can not do can be erotic to some. It depends on where your mind goes. I don’t believe that it is right to go and unclothe yourself in a sexually inviting way before others but I do believe that in certain groups of naturists that it simply isn’t sexual. They are so desensitized by the whole body that it no longer is erotic unless they tell their minds to go there. I would simply like to feel comfortable with the body that God gave me as I have struggled with body image from the time I was young. People who participate in the naturist thing seem to be much more accepting of imperfect bodies and I really feel that would be helpful in how I view myself. I also enjoy being nude alone because it feels more natural. I am just really undecided at this point.

    1. J Post author

      I just think you have to be careful about saying that everyone is so desensitized in naturalist settings. Should we be that desensitized? Yes, you should accept and appreciate your body, but that doesn’t require letting go of modesty to do so. Thanks for your comment!

Comments are closed.