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.
I 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.