I write a lot of inflammatory stuff in this blog but rarely am I able to goad anyone into commenting upon my ravings. Such was not the case with Friday's blog. A fellow by the name of Steven M. jumped upon my assertion that nakedness is sinful and pronounced me to be in serious theological error. I would encourage you to go back and read the two comments he posted to that blog post. There you will find the argument that I dissect here today. Mr. M asked me all sorts of questions in his second comment to the post and I decided that it would be worth answering those questions in a separate post rather than writing a huge comment on that post. So without further ado, here is my response to Mr. M's questions and comments.
Mr. M has made several assertions and asked several questions. As far as I can tell his questions are designed to accomplish two goals: 1) to show the stupidity of my position on nakedness and 2) to prove his position on nakedness. I will attempt to summarize his argument about the biblical necessity for public nakedness here:
- The belief that Genesis 3:7 ("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.") teaches that human genitalia were directly associated with the shame of original sin is false. The belief that Adam and Eve covered their genitals immediately after they committed the first sin and plunged all of mankind into sinfulness was not due to their shame over that sin, or any connection between original sin and their physical bodies. Rather, it was due to their sense of loss associated with broken fellowship with God. They covered their loins because of their sorrow about the broken fellowship they had with God. I imagine they could just as easily have covered their heads or their elbows. The part of their physical bodies they covered was irrelevant. What mattered was the fact that they were very sad that they could no longer commune with God as they had before and that motivated them to cover a part of their bodies with fig leaves.
- Human genitalia cannot be considered sinful because Jesus had genitalia and was sinless.
- Mr. M is a Reformed theologian but does not hesitate to reject reformed theology he considers to be unbiblical.
- I need to explain how public nakedness can be sinful when God commanded Isaiah (Isaiah 20) to strip naked and walk around Israel for a three year period. Clearly, Isaiah's public nakedness was not a sin as God would never command a man to sin. I also need to explain why Micah would also walk around in the nude as he declared the will of God to Israel.
- When the Ark of the Covenant was being brought back to Israel David worshiped God by dancing naked in front of hundreds of Jews as it was carried along. When his wife criticized him for his alleged profligacy God cursed her and blessed David. Clearly worshiping God in the nude is a right and proper thing to do.
- Jesus walked out of the tomb naked. Clearly we should be free to walk about naked as well.
- The first and second century Christian Church baptized her adherents in the nude. (I don't know enough about Mr. M's allegation that Jews also conducted nude baptisms so I will ignore that argument.)
- The belief that public nudity is immoral is a by-product of our culture and not a biblical teaching. Honest and faithful Christians should behave according to what the Bible says and ignore cultural restrictions. Therefore, Christians should practice public nudity on a regular basis. Based upon the examples given by Mr. M I believe it is fair to say that, at the very least, preachers and teachers should preach and teach in the nude, just like Isaiah and Micah. Public services of worship should be conducted in the nude as well. The sacraments of the Church, and baptism at the very least, should be conducted with the recipient being in the nude. Public nudity is not sinful, shameful or in any way contrary to the Word of God. It is the moral obligation of all Christians to "take every thought captive to Christ" and a fine way of doing that is for all of us to do what Jesus did, namely, walk about naked in public.
- Any reading of Genesis 3:7 that is incapable of seeing that the genitalia of Adam and Eve were directly related and associated with their shame for their original sin is so heavily laden with false presuppositions about nakedness that I doubt any discussion on this doctrine can ever take place. How is it possible to understand that verse in any way other than as an example of their nakedness being associated with their sin in light of what they say to God when He asks them why they are hiding from Him? They say, "I heard the sound of Thee walking in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." Adam and Eve had walked around the garden naked, with unbroken fellowship with God, the entire time from when God first created them to when they sinned against Him. The only thing that had changed from their prior sinless condition was their sinfulness. When they tell God they are hiding, fully aware of the sin they had just committed, and they describe it as hiding because they were naked, how else is it possible to interpret that verse other than the way Reformed Christians have interpreted it for centuries? Clearly our federal head covered his genitals because he associated them with the shame and guilt of his sin, both original and actual. We should do the same.
- The mere presence of genitalia does not mean the body to which they are attached is sinful. It is the public display of genitalia that is at issue here. Jesus was born a man. He was also a sinless Man. He was also the only sinless man in human history. Jesus, as far as we know, never practiced public nudity.
- Mr. M is correct to not believe something simply because others say it is true. On the other hand, it is always a prudent precaution to be slow to reject a doctrine that has been deemed biblical by thousands of theologians over hundreds of years. Those who are quick to throw out such doctrines often have a hidden motive for doing so. I do not know Mr. M but I wonder if he might be a government school physical education teacher, thus giving him a strong motivation to reject the historic Christian doctrine I propound.
- My explanation for how Isaiah and Micah could walk around buck naked for years and not be guilty of the sin of public nakedness is a simple one. My answer is....they were not buck naked. The word 'naked,' according to such theological luminaries as Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, does not mean total and absolute nudity. One was considered to be naked when one had girded his loins for work. One was considered to be naked when the outer robe or covering was removed, thus revealing what was essentially ancient underwear. Isaiah and Micah were not nude, they wandered about in their underwear, thus garnering the attention of those around them in a most spectacular and public fashion. John 21: 7 is a good example of this usage. Peter is not fishing in the nude. He had girded his loins for work and prior to coming ashore to dine with Jesus he ungirds his loins and puts on his outer garment.
- The assertion that David was dancing nude before the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant was being brought back to Israel is bizarre. II Samuel 6: 14 says, "And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod." David was not naked. He was wearing an outer garment but no under garment. Later his wife Michal alleges that he exposed himself while he was dancing. As a non-member of the priestly class he was not required to wear underwear while ministering before the Lord in order to cover his nakedness (Exodus 28:42, 32:25) and he may have accidentally exposed himself. It is also possible that Michal may have been making the entire thing up as the Bible records that she "despised him in her heart." Even if she was not making it up, it was clearly an accident and not an intentional act. Note, however, that the accusation would only make sense if nakedness was deemed immoral. Otherwise David could have responded something like this, "Of course I am totally naked. It is a good thing to be totally naked in public worship and you should practice it too." If Mr. M's position is correct David could simply have said, "Why are you accusing me of doing something moral and good?"
- As far as I am aware nobody saw Jesus walk out of the tomb. Therefore it is impossible to assert that He was naked as He did so. My best guess would be that He was clothed with a brilliant white robe as He came out of the tomb. We know for a fact that when He appeared to the women at the tomb shortly after He came out of it He was fully clothed. We also know for a fact that all of his every post-resurrection appearances were fully clothed. There is no basis for the belief that Jesus ever engaged in public nudity.
- Mr. M is correct that first and second century Christians were often baptized in the nude. Does that mean public nakedness, at least during baptism, is a good and proper practice? The first and second century Church also practiced the allegorical method of biblical interpretation, being generally ignorant of the grammatical/historical method. Should we go back to that method of interpretation? The early church also generally believed in the doctrine of traducianism (the belief that human souls are created by physical pro-creation rather than created and imparted by God), baptismal regeneration, Montanism (the belief in the continuation of charismatic utterance which, I understand, is normative for Evangelicals but anathema for Reformed Christians like Mr. M), the practices of asceticism and the necessity of an exorcism prior to baptism. Should we go back to those beliefs and practices also? The early Church also universally adopted the practice of slavery, even considering it to be God's will and consistent with biblical teaching. Should we do the same? The mere fact that first and second century Christians did something, although an interesting historical fact, does not tell us anything about how we should behave today. I find it telling that early baptisms in which the subject was nude were often conducted at night, so the subject could not be publicly seen. I also find it interesting that the practice rapidly died out, as it should have.
- This is the most disturbing doctrine being taught by Mr. M. According to Mr. M public nudity is not just morally proper, it rises almost to the level of a commandment. I suspect Mr. M would be magnanimous enough to declare that anyone who is not sanctified enough to have risen to his level of spirituality is free to remain clothed at all times. But Mr. M clearly seems to believe that engaging in actions such as public worship and teaching entirely in the nude is somehow indicative of a higher level of sanctification and obedience to God than those who do not engage in such practices. It is one thing to declare that public nudity is not sinful but it is another thing entirely to say it is morally superior.