The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—
deliberate, contrived and dishonest—
but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

— John F. Kennedy —

The Pornographic View of the Body

What is a “pornographic view of the body”?

It’s a viewpoint about our external physical anatomy that calls a person’s naked body “indecent” or “lustful,” if seen by anyone but his or her spouse. A few moments of calm reflection reveal that this idea is an entirely man-made notion, not one that came from our Creator, even though many good Christians have believed and preached it.

MyChainsAreGone.orgThis pornographic conception of the human body is not one that comes with the equipment. Our society, and especially the church, have assumed and taught that it does, that it’s a natural, inborn response. But such an attitude about our bodies is a cultural invention, not truly a natural part of our humanity. If it were actually part of human nature itself, it could be universally identified both throughout the centuries and across cultures. It takes very little investigation to see that this is not the case. An honest study of history shows clear evidence that most ancient civilizations, which were “clothed societies” like ours, accepted and treated the unclad human body much more realistically, and therefore much more sanely, than we do today.

Historical Examples

A few well known examples of this “body acceptance” come from the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations. All of these cultures recognized sunlight as medicine and used sunbathing of the full body as a part of preventive healthcare. The Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton, with his children and beautiful wife Nefertiti, were often seen without a stitch of clothing during normal daily activities in their palace.

[see article by psychologist Aileen Goodson, Nudity in Ancient to Modern Cultures]

Clothing that left women’s breasts exposed, perhaps for health reasons, was part of the style in early Egyptian dress. Their workers and indoor servants often labored in the nude. And publicly bathing in the Nile River was a practice as familiar to common people as it was to royalty. Even a princess of Egypt bathed there in such an open and unconcerned manner that she did not become offended when she found that a stranger had been watching her do so (see Exodus 2:1-8).

In Greece, tunics that left one side of the male or female chest exposed were also a common style of dress. These ancient Greeks, who contributed to Western art the “idealized nude” form, sent their young men to schools called gymnasiums (from the root word “gymnos,” meaning “naked”), where students exercised and learned their lessons in the nude. Greek athletes stripped themselves entirely bare for all competitive events. Although in Greece this practice of athletic nudity was generally reserved for males, in Sparta, the public practice of naked exercise and competition included young women as well. Most people don’t know that the original Greek Olympic games required the full nudity of all competitors.

Public Bathing

The Romans are famous for having built gigantic public baths in major cities all around the Mediterranean, some of which could hold up to 1,500 people at once. At first these public bathing structures were segregated by a schedule of bathing hours for men and women, but by the time of Christ, the general policy was “co-ed.” Even the open latrines, changing rooms, and saunas were used simultaneously by men and women.

[see NOVA’s very extensive and informative article about these baths at Roman Baths: A Day at the Baths]

Literary evidence shows that Christians attended these baths, including at least one early bishop. There is archaeological evidence that one of these bathing facilities had been built and dedicated by a Christian.

[see Of Sisinnius Bishop of the Novatians in Socrates and Sozomenus Ecclesiastical Histories]

By far the greatest reason that this common, mixed-gender exposure of the body was so ordinary to those in ancient civilizations is the universality of outdoor bathing. Everyone took their baths outside in rivers, streams, lakes, and man-made pools. This was the routine experienced by everyone from infancy to old age. In Palestine, this same familiarity with the common sight of full body nudity allowed the three-year naked ministry of the prophet Isaiah to arouse no moral outrage among his neighbors (Isaiah 20:2-4), as it would today in our modern Western culture. But back then, such undress accompanying prophetic preaching was culturally acceptable. Even the prophet Micah refers to it (Micah 1:8), and it might have been the criteria for which King Saul was popularly considered “also among the prophets” (1 Samuel 19:23-24).

Nude Christian Baptism

Since everyone throughout most of human history was accustomed to bathing outdoors, it should come as no shock that the early church’s practice of nude baptism, which lasted for over four hundred years, was never regarded as extraordinary or indecent.

Christian nude baptism followed the same pattern as the Jewish mikveh ritual which required a totally naked immersion. This was most likely the same mode of baptism used by John the Baptist, because it was already recognized by the Jews. But in the Christian explanation of the rite, nude baptism represented a special kind of bath. It symbolized that a believer was stripping off the clothing of a sinful life and finding unity with the naked death of Christ on the Cross. This was a new doctrinal meaning seen by the church in its adoption and continued use of the mikveh ritual. One early church father, Cyril of Jerusalem (313–386), put it this way:

“You put off your clothes, which is an emblem of putting off the old man with his deeds; and being thus divested, you stood naked, imitating Christ, that was naked upon the cross, who by his nakedness spoiled principalities and powers, publicly triumphing over them in the cross.”

Another church father, Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 400) said, “Adam was naked at the beginning, and unashamed. This is why your clothing must be taken off as baptism restores right relation to God.”

[Skeptical readers can investigate a detailed account of how nude baptisms were done in the first part of chapter 21 of The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome (written in 215). This fact of early church nude baptisms is what first convinced me personally that those in Bible times did not share our present-day “pornographic” conception of the body.]

Much more evidence exists to show how these ancient “clothed” civilizations, which gave rise to our own, exhibited a much healthier acceptance of the naked body than we now have. But an example closer to modern times is the wholesome attitude toward nudity that existed in Japan before it was infiltrated by Western values after WWII. Japanese culture was famous for its practice of communal bathing. In homes, the participants were usually relatives and close friends. But in public baths, men and women who were total strangers would bathe together with attendants of both genders serving them. This naked exposure of members of the opposite sex carried no connotation of indecency in the Japanese culture.

Contemporary Examples

The effect of such a practical acceptance of the body was so profound that it poured over into other facets of social life. On visiting Japan before the war, one American traveler found it common to see Japanese women nude from the waist up as they worked outside hanging up laundry to dry. From his hotel window across the street from a factory he watched a daily scene of young women stripping naked to change between work uniforms and street attire, because their dressing lockers were on the wall outside the small factory. The girls had “complete indifference to passers-by” or to observers like himself, because neither they nor those walking by in the street saw anything obscene in the naked human body. It was a natural part of life.

[These and more examples of a normalized view of nakedness in Asian culture, before it was altered by Western concepts, are found scattered throughout John Patric’s interesting book, Yankee Hobo in the Orient, published in 1943.]

MyChainsAreGone.orgIn exploring the fact that a pornographic view of the body is not a built-in human reflex but a cultural invention, we must not ignore the multitude of “naked people” groups that existed before Western expansion, or the few that still survive. Their seemingly primitive ways do not make them an inferior example of human behavior. In fact, despite our characteristic pride in Western ways, many of these people groups have an integrated cultural sophistication that dwarfs our own ability to “pass the baton” of traditional customs and values to the next generation.

In these cultures, most of which have now been devastated by Western ideals, there were no such things as body shame and the body taboo that accompanies it. Pornography, therefore, was nonexistent.

But, instead of learning from them, we brought them our “superior” knowledge about the body, and now body shame, the body taboo, and pornography have invaded all those cultures. Modern, cross-culturally intelligent missionaries have learned from this socially disastrous mistake. They now align their practice of “clothing the naked” to the actual meaning in Scripture, which is clearly about warming the needy who are cold, not about hiding the anatomy of the naked.

When I was discussing this and all of the above issues with a Christian lady studying for her doctorate of divinity, she told me about her friend’s visit to a missionary in South America. While her friend sat talking with him, a knock came at the door. When he answered it, two lovely young women stood there selling fruit. Both were entirely topless. The missionary picked among the fruit, paid for what he selected, and closed the door.
“How did you do that?” she asked, shocked by the scene.
“Do what? Buy fruit?”
“No…. I mean, those girls. They were both half naked!”
“That’s how they all dress here,” he replied. “I’m so used to it, I didn’t notice.”

On another occasion, during a similar discussion, a pastoral colleague of mine told me about his missionary friend’s answer to American visitors who see the nakedness of the native population and ask about “the nudity problem.” He tells them, “These people don’t have a problem with nudity. It’s we Americans who have the problem.”

Primarily an “American” Problem

Indeed, we really do have a problem with the naked body, and we won’t admit it, because we don’t think we have it. Sadly, we can live with a false idea for so long and get so used to it, that we can’t recognize its implications or notice its logical results. This is exactly the case with our pornographic perspective on the human anatomy and the resultant power of pornography in our culture. Thank God that this devastating viewpoint is not absolute.

Even though America’s obsessive preoccupation with sex grossly outstrips reality, elements of a rational view of the naked body still exist here. Some people still think little toddlers who toss their duds to romp in the sprinkler are a cute sight. As a nurse, I personally experience a more realistic, mundane view of nakedness. So do others working in healthcare areas where body exposure is common. Morticians, massage therapists, sculptors and painters working from nude models, and even some tattoo artists, all deal routinely with the utter normalness of naked bodies.

Some American tourists return from Europe having learned by personal experience that the lewdness they’d heard preached about there on clothing-optional beaches was a myth. The nudity they saw (or their own, if they decided to join those around them), after about five to ten minutes, seemed simply natural and normal. I consider all the above signs and symptoms of a healthier-than-usual “body acceptance” to be a blessing from God. By His overruling grace, a sound and wholesome way of thinking about the human body, discovered through these practical avenues, is raised up to confront this pornographic view. Once this more realistic view of nakedness is adopted, pornography is powerless in dislodging or extinguishing it. Truth can overcome falsehood, if we open our eyes to the light and let it dispel the darkness.

Sexual Imagery in Common Use

There is another way we manifest a more healthy conceptual acceptance of our bodies, especially their sexual anatomy. In our terminology, we have created words from visualizing the structure and function of our sex organs. One very common example is using the terms “male” and “female” to describe the ends of electrical devices where one plugs into another. Using such terminology, which explicitly refers to the obvious illustration portrayed by sexual intercourse, does not cause us embarrassment or mental defilement. We are merely accepting and using God’s design and purpose for our sexually differentiated body parts as an excellent way to understand something functionally similar to them.

While I was contemplating writing this article, another example stood out to me in a book where the author was trying to help the reader visualize part of the structure of the brain in these words: “. . . an extension of the subarachnoid space which tapers as it invaginates into the brain tissue. Thus the CSF circulation penetrates into the cerebral parenchyma . . .” If you search dictionary etymologies for words that include the roots “pen” (from penis) and “vag” (from vagina), you will see just how common this conceptual use of our sexual anatomy was when these words were being formed. If there is any mental tendency towards lustful thoughts when contemplating the realities from which these words derive their illustrating power, it is not those realities, but the person’s thinking that is defiled. But, praise God, the defiled mind, as well as misled thinking, can be renewed by truth.

The Prudish Twin

MyChainsAreGone.orgBefore I conclude this article, I want to point out one more thing that you should know. The pornographic view of the body has a twin called “a prudish view.” They come from the same womb. They are two sides of the same coin, and when that coin is spent, whether it’s heads or tails, the purchase is a distorted portrait of our bodies. This is because both views promote an unholy, God-dishonoring treatment of the human body based on exactly the same vain imagination. Prudery hides the body, calling the Creator’s design a lustful indecency. Pornography flaunts it, using prudery’s definition to turn the beauty of God’s handiwork into a stimulus for impure sexual thoughts. Both these ways of treating the body are an unnatural, unrealistic abuse. Though they seem to be opposite, they are conceptually identical. Both are ungodly, and both are based on a dysfunctional view of humanity’s physical embodiment. Wherever a wholesome, godly view of the naked human body is rejected and a shameful, obscene view is embraced, the resultant religious zeal of prudery inevitably plunges a society into the hellish depravity of pornography.

Many self-help or buddy-accountable programs that promise to help break the power of porn addiction are miserably failing those who are struggling with this bondage. The reason for the failure is that this prudish view of the body is their foundation. Prudery is firmly rooted in the very first psychological result of humanity’s fall into sin: body shame. Pornography, and addiction to it, thrive on this body shame, which was a direct result of Satan’s opening the eyes of our first parents while simultaneously closing them to God’s viewpoint. Prudery scrupulously perpetuates this demonic scheme by maintaining vain and ridiculously dysfunctional imaginations about the body. The only way back to the sanity of truth is to rediscover that our human anatomy is “very good,” just as God originally pronounced it.

Although sin distracted our attention from God’s point of view about the body, God Himself has not changed, because the truth about our bodies has not changed. He still deems us “fearfully and wonderfully made.” When we sincerely acknowledge the goodness of the Designer’s creation of our bodies, we open ourselves up to find His simultaneous deliverance from both a prudish and a pornographic view of the body. Once they are cast out, healing begins. When you taste that healing, you will never want to go back to those defiled views of our awesomely created bodies.

— Pastor David

[If you desire a further explanation of how and why I have come to the conclusions expressed in this article, I invite you to read my website article: My View on Nakedness.]

Next up: Addiction to Pornography

 

 

12 Responses to The Pornographic View of the Body

  • I’ve just recently come across this site; so I obviously haven’t read everything yet. But the things I’ve been reading seem to make sense. So, please don’t think I’m trying to start a fight; I would just like to better understand the views of those who run this site. Basically, my question (one of my questions, anyway) is: What about the Bible? The Old Testament, at least, is full of “prudery.” Even the verses you reference seem to be associating nakedness with shame. Also, see:

    https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=naked&qs_version=KJV

    Now, from looking at some other Bible translations, I understand that some of the verses listed on that web page may use “uncover nakedness” as a euphemism for “have sex with”, but there are still some verses that are clearly not referencing sexual intercourse (such as Genesis 9:22-23 and Exodus 20:26). And even if every single reference to “nakedness” was actually a command against sexual sin, wouldn’t that seem to show that God Himself associates the nude human body with sexuality?

    I also realize that we are no longer under the Old Testament law, but the reasoning and thought process behind many of those laws would still seem to apply, even if the exact letter of the law was no longer binding.

    To summarize, my question is actually part of a much larger discussion I’m currently having with myself about the inerrancy and relevance of the Bible. I would like to hear your views on this.

    • Sorry for the delay, Kevin.

      Bear in mind that when you study the Bible and do a word study, you can’t depend on the English translation to get you where you need to be. Very often, there are multiple words in the original language which are translated with the same English word, or a word in the original language which is translated with multiple words in English, depending on context. When either of those things happen, it means that the translators were compelled (unavoidably) to insert some measure of their own interpretation into the translation. The effort of a word study is to pull back that layer and try to get a sense of how a specific original language word is used in the Scriptures in order to better understand what it really means regardless of which English word is used to translate it.

      In the case of the word “naked” or “nakedness,” there are multiple Hebrew words used in the original text that all get translated the same way. Most of them are never associated with shame (or even sex) at all. The only one that is ever associated with shame is the Hebrew word ervah. A careful study will also reveal that that word doesn’t simply mean “simple nudity.” Whenever it appears in the Scriptures, it seems to indicate that the nakedness was in active use… typically sexual use. But even then, it’s not always shameful use. But, it sure makes sense that the sexual misuse of the body would be very frequently associated with shame in the Bible.

      When ervah is understood correctly, I believe that it sheds a lot of light on what was really going on behind the Gen. 9 and Exo. 20 passages that you referenced.

      I suggest that you read this article and see if it helps in your understanding of those passages… it addresses them both: http://www.scribd.com/doc/230736030/Nakedness-in-the-OT

      Regarding OT law… now, we are no longer under the civil law (as opposed to the moral law), but I would not say that it is the “reasoning and thought process” behind OT laws that still apply, but rather the truths about God revealed by those laws are still true of God. All moral truth arises out of the nature, character, and holiness of God. When we read an OT law, it’s not supposed to add to our list of do’s and don’t’s… but reveal something true about our God. And then we live according to that truth.

      Regarding the inerrancy and relevance of the Bible, I am a firm believer in both. I find that when we do the work to ensure that we correctly understand what the original authors were trying to communicate to their original audience, we will find truths that are absolutely relevant to us today. The problem comes in when we read the Bible through modern Western eyes and interpret everything we see there according to our own experiences and values… then the Bible seems very outdated and irrelevant!

      I look forward to hearing from you again.

      David

  • Thanks for the reply. No problem about the delay. I’ll definitely have to dig into this word study a bit deeper. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’m am trying to unlock some truth here and I want to write my thoughts. I am sure there is a question here somewhere.

    The porno/prudish dichotomy implies a middle ground. Some fine line to walk between the two lies. This could get real tiresome if every interaction has to stay on the line. Similarly I am a father of two boys and two girls, I want to know how to teach that line.

    I understand and believe the female nude form is not shameful, yet I do not plan to teach my daughters that clothing is optional. What clothing is appropriate, and more importantly why is it that I don’t worry about this question with my sons?

    There is a modesty question here. There is a cultural question here as well. There is a gender question as well.

    I am getting confused.

    • Hey, Mark. Thanks for writing.

      It is a very good thing that you are wrestling with these questions. I pray that you keep at it until you really discern the truth that God wants you to understand… whether it come by way of MCAG or some other source.
      .

      To answer your question, however, I’m going to have to startle you a bit more, and you may well reject my words, although I hope and pray that you will at least consider them. There are several assumptions that you are making that are not true… or at least are contrary to what we are trying to proclaim at MCAG. Let me explain:
      .

      1. There is no “line between” the two lies (porn & prudery) because they are not two lies, but one. Pornography and prudery believe the exact same thing about the meaning of the body… they only differ by the response to that meaning that is pursued. Here’s what I mean:
      .
      Porn says that certain body parts are sexual, and seeing them is a sexual experience. Being naked is a sexual expression. Therefore, porn says, expose those sexual body parts and utilize nakedness to encourage sexual excitement and carnal pleasure.
      .
      Prudery says that certain body parts are sexual, and seeing them is a sexual experience. Being naked is a sexual expression. Therefore, prudery says, cover those sexual body parts and shun nakedness to prevent sexual excitement and carnal pleasure.
      .
      This is one lie, not two. Do you see how the perspective of the human body is the same? I literally copied and pasted the first two sentences and changed the first word only.
      .
      Consequently, there is no “middle ground” between them. This is most certainly a source of your confusion. This is also one of the most radical ideas that we teach at MCAG… that our “prudery” has done nothing to set us free from pornography’s allure, because it literally affirms the lies that give porn its power!
      .
      Since the perspective on the meaning of the human form is the same, there’s no “middle ground” to find on that point, and the only “middle ground” possible is in the response that we have to the body… and on that score, I think you’ll agree that we do not want to compromise on moral purity as pornography would encourage. And while purity is our goal, we must not base our pursuit of purity on a lie… but that’s exactly what prudery does.
      .
      In summary (for point 1), your question itself betrays the fact that the pornographic view of the body is still present in your heart and mind, even though you say that the nude female form is not shameful. I know that sounds harsh, but I urge you for the sake of your own purity and the purity of your children to pray carefully about this issue to see if the Lord might affirm it to your heart. Ultimately, it is He that you must follow, and from Him that you need to sense the truth. Keep in mind, however, how prone we all are to respond to something from our cultural conditioning, then assume that the response was really from God… guard against that with great diligence.
      .
      2. Your questions about clothing are also based upon an assumption that you haven’t really challenged in your heart… and that is the assumption that whatever the truth is, clothes are necessary!!
      .
      Does that shock you? Well, in our cultural climate–one deeply permeated with the pornographic view of the body–it’s an assumption that usually is not challenged… particularly in the community of faith. It is so (seemingly) universally assumed that almost no one has ever bothered to review the scriptures to ensure that we are teaching God’s truth rather than man-made rules.
      .
      The assumption has its foundation in the pornographic view of the body as I’ve stated it above… and the logic goes like this: Since sexual expression outside of marriage is forbidden by God (and this is not in question!), therefore all nudity–and the exposure of those “sexual” body parts–must necessarily be relegated to the only relationship context where sexual expression is condoned… that is, marriage. But if the pornographic view of the body is actually a lie, then that foundation for requiring clothing also must be recognized as a false man-made rule.
      .
      Let me make a few biblical observations that will highlight the unbiblical nature of the clothing-requirement rule:
      .
      * What body parts does the Bible tell us to cover?
      * At what age must a son no longer see his sisters or mother unclothed?
      * Can a father change his daughter’s diaper, or a mother her son’s?
      * How do we know that it’s OK for doctors or nurses to see our unclothed bodies?
      * How do we know that it’s OK for women to see other women’s bodies, or men to see other men’s bodies?
      * Is it forbidden to bathe in the sight of others of the opposite sex?
      * Can we give our own aging parents a “bed-bath” if we are ever called upon to do that?
      * Are we ever told that the first naked person we should ever see should be our own spouse?
      * Are men/women ever told that the must never allow anyone of the opposite gender to ever see their unclothed bodies?
      .
      I hope you see my point… if God intended for us to have clear answers to any of these questions, He could have and would have provided them in His Word. Yet, the Bible is utterly silent on these very simple real-life questions. If God didn’t provide us direction on these points, how can we presume to add them to His word?
      .
      The church’s blind adherence to “modesty” standards (cover this and that) reflects a pornographic view of the body. God never gave us such standards, and the notion that keeping the body covered will prevent (or even inhibit) lust is completely foreign to the Word of God. Even 1 Tim. 2:9 is not about skin-exposure, but about the avoidance of ostentatious attire; “lust” isn’t even part of the equation.
      .
      If we are going to truly reject the pornographic view of the body, then we must also reject the aversion that we have to seeing the natural body, as well to our own bodes being seen!
      .
      3. On modesty and culture, I can’t think of a better resource that C.S. Lewis’ chapter on Sexual Morality wherein he addresses the cultural concept of “modesty.” http://www.merelewis.com/CSL.mc.3-05.SexualMorality.htm
      .
      4. On Gender, there is no biblical distinction relative to the correct perception of the unclad body.
      .
      And now, you just may be even more confused–or alarmed–than you were before. I get that. But I pray that you will prayerfully consider my words here… put everything you’ve thought about these issues “on the table” and don’t pick them back up unless the Scriptures compel you to. Pursue the truth on these matters and hold fast to it, no matter who thinks you’re wrong.
      .
      Let me close with a reminder of a quotation attributed to Dresden James… it seems so very apt to me on this sort of topic:
      .
      When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.
      .
      I hope that you’ll write again. And if you’d rather correspond directly, please feel free to use the email: mail (at) mychainsaregone.org
      .
      By HIS Grace,
      David Martin

  • Genesis 3:21 states: “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.”

    It doesn’t appear to me that clothing, for a fallen world, is an option. God covered mankind. It was not a cultural invention.

    Pagan societies are bad examples for how to view human sexuality. By this reasoning we should also embrace rampant homosexuality and pedophilia as acceptable as was also practiced in ancient Greece. (shall we dare to exalt the temple practices of the Greeks and Romans while we’re at it?) If we are to adopt a Biblical world view of primitive people groups, we would HAVE to conclude that they are not “primitive” at all, but fallen away from the truth. We can all trace our ancestry back to Noah and his sons who had the truth.

    I am not saying that Western (American) culture has a correct view of the body (prudish/porn), but frankly, many of your examples seem to be off. I haven’t read the next articles in the series, but it makes me wonder about the foundation of your conclusions. I’m not convinced the problem sex addict/idolaters face is that they see the human body as sexual. Some see animals or inanimate objects as sexual. I believe the problem has more to do with seeking a salvation apart from God. A belief that “I will be saved” by some other means; “God is not truly good, and is keeping the ‘good stuff’ from me.”

    I hope you will pardon the tone, but truthfully I am a little shocked at the direction you have started with. I know, I know, it’s “worked” for you, but I am curious what the definition of “works” is. One can desensitize themselves to ANYTHING, and that doesn’t make it good.

    • Hey, Chris. Thanks for writing.

      I’ve approved your comments because I suspect that MANY people read what you read so far and dismiss us for the very reasons you’ve stated… and don’t bother reading the rest of what we’ve written! I hope that you do read the rest… then come back and give an update.

      I’m not going to address everything that you’ve said here, but let me respond to a few things…

      You quote Gen. 3:21 and claim that “God covered mankind.” There are several errors that you are making here. First of all, it was not God who “invented” clothing first, but rather Adam and Eve. Their motivations for “covering themselves” were not right (See God’s rebuke in Gen. 3:11) but rather based upon their sinful efforts to falsely assign their guilt to their bodies rather than their actions. Secondly, It is not right to say that God “covered” them–as if “hiding” their bodies was the purpose–them because the text only tells us that God “clothed” them. Third, we are not told why God clothed them… only that He did so. To presume “sexual modesty” is adding to the Scriptures something that is simply not there. Fourth, we should be very careful to no presume that God’s reason for clothing them was a ratification of Adam’s explanation… which He had rebuffed 10 verses previous. Finally, there is no command to remain clothed (or in what context) given to the man and woman… it is only a narrative telling us what happened. If we presume a command for clothing here, shouldn’t we also conclude that a man and his wife must remain clothed even when it is just the two of them (the context of the supposed “command”)?

      You see that there is a long list of faulty assumptions that undergird your assertion that God’s clothing of Adam and Eve was a requirement for people to wear clothing. Furthermore, it is VERY dangerous to create “rules for righteousness” which God did not directly give us in the Bible. Whenever we do, we have God’s promise that such rules will NEVER promote the righteousness that we have created them to uphold, so we are told rather to actively reject them (see Col. 2:20-23).

      The purpose for pointing out different cultural treatment of the naked body is NOT to put them on display as our “guide” or as the “correct” standard… but rather to actively counter the assumption in our culture today that the sexual view of (and response to) the naked human form is somehow “innate” and a consistent element of the human condition throughout history. It also serves to point out that the Bible is remarkably silent about the perils of visible nudity if we understand that public bathing was the norm while the Scriptures were being written, and the exposure of the body a common societal experience even during public sporting events when Paul was writing the NT. IF indeed such exposure was to be considered a spiritual danger to us, isn’t it exceedingly puzzling that God never condemned such common practices in the pages of His word?

      As I said, I hope you will read the rest of what we’ve written. The theological and practical implications of the fact that we are made “in God’s image” reach much further than we realize, for it means that our bodies literally have theological meaning and significance. This “theology of the body” is a huge hole in Protestant theology today… one that Satan has very cleverly filled with his own “theology” about our bodies… that they are sexual, indecent, shameful, lewd, and a danger to our spiritual health. It is the “pornographic” view of the Body that we’re talking about here in this article! If this is true, then it should not surprise us that the church’s wholesale acceptance of this demonic “theology” about our bodies has led to all manner of body and sex-related sins.

      You use the word “desensitize” as if seeing the body as NOT automatically as sexual experience is a departure from the “norm.” We are actually advocating a rejection of the “conditioned” sexual response and the restoration of a godly and biblical view of the human form. The rejection of a lie is ALWAYS good!

      I hope this helps address your objections. And I look forward to hearing from you again.

      Pastor David Martin

      • I’m not trying to start a back and forth argument here, so I only half expect you to post this. But the point is not that God “invented” clothing (which I did not say) only that he did clothe them. Americans did not invent clothes. It is quite obvious that the reason that Adam and Eve clothed themselves was shame, brought on by sin. Shame is exposure and the dread of being known. When sin entered the world, we made ourselves not right with God. Adam hid from the One he betrayed and blamed Eve and, audaciously, even God Himself (not his own body), trying to deflect that shame.

        Adam and Eve were created sexual beings (as we are today). They were sinful (as we are today). They felt shame because of their sin (as we do today). God clothed them. I never said that nakedness was sinful or inherently wrong, only that in their sinful state, *God* chose to clothe them, not Americans.

        God asking of Adam “Who told you you were naked” is not a rebuff as you stated. It was an inquiry God already well knew the answer to, in the same way He asked “Where are you”, and “Did you eat of the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” None of *these* were rebuffs either.

        Further, I challenge your assertion that this is an unwarranted and “dangerous” reading into the scriptures. Doctrines are built upon a cohesive harmonious reading into scriptures. This is only “dangerous” when the “read into” conclusions contradict themselves, the expressed written word of the scriptures, and/or historical understanding of the passages. Calvinism vs Arminianism, Paedo vs Credo Baptism etc are just some examples of legitimate understandings. Legitimate disagreements based on inferred conclusions. Legitimate interpretations “read into” the text. You probably have some positions held that would fall into this category. On the other hand… is it not dangerous to figure out how all of the prohibitions against uncovering nakedness (which itself implies the wearing of clothes to cover that which ought not to be publicly displayed) somehow don’t apply?

        The further a society gets from the truth the less sacred the human body becomes. Pagan societies (which you referenced almost exclusively… yes even the pagan Roman society of the early Christian world) have always treated the human form as though it were not sacred. The further modern societies get from the truth, we see the same phenomenon. Europe is ahead of us in this area. This is not evidence that Europe has a proper view of the human body, only that they are further ahead on their moral slide. Tell me, does Europe have porn? Has internet porn not become a *global* problem, even in places that have “healthier” views of the human body? Porn was not invented by Americans, or by Judeo-Christian prudes either. Porn is ancient and has existed in many places that had “healthy” views of the human body.

        I do not doubt your sincerity. You do not seem like a charlatan. But I believe you have traded one lie for another. I believe it is unwise to propagate a view of the human body that denies the universal sinfulness of mankind… Didn’t say that? Then consider:

        Man first was naked in pure communion with God. Man sinned, breaking that communion, and exists in that sin today. Man, feeling shame (exposure), hid from God. After God admonishes them, they received the curse of the fall God and clothes them, covering their shame. God sends them from The Garden clothed and with only sex as a brief and metaphorical picture of that lost communion with Him. Human sexuality (which involves the exposed body) is a bit of sacredness in a fallen world. A visit back to The Garden, free of fig leaves (or animal skins), and a glimpse of what it is like to be known and unashamed (until we pervert it of course). Outside of that union, nakedness is a source of shame. Holding up pagans who are in spiritual rebellion, who have desacralized the human body and equated it with those of animals or even nothing more than material, as examples of health, deny the fact of sin. If human sexuality is not sacred, neither is the body. We are not in the Garden anymore.

        The problem culturally is not an improper view of the human body, but an improper view of human sexuality. To the addict, sex is not sacred, it’s a “need” for which we have a “drive”. It is for the addict, degraded to a recreational act where anything goes to get that fix. Why is sex such a big deal to the addict? Because he doesn’t believe that God is good. The addict is an idolater who has found a new god. Salvation is in what one may acquire for himself. The addict harbors a secret rage toward God for the sake of The Curse of Genesis: Thorns and Thistles thwart him in life’s endeavors. He harbors the this rage against a God who in his estimation is not good and can’t be trusted. He takes this rage out against the very metaphor of sex God has provided BECAUSE it is sacred. He delights in Image Bearers being consumed and defiled BECAUSE they are sacred. The addict has a new god and it is himself! No sacrifice is too much, and no sacrifice is ever enough. The perverted picture the addict creates is not only a counterfeit or corruption of the sacred God/communion picture, it is the anti picture. The opposite. A Black Sabbath of self worship.

        The problem in society is not that we make too much of human nakedness. The real truth is we don’t make near enough of it.

        Sorry, but I felt like you cherry picked my argument, misrepresented my position, and used some flimsy supports for your rebuttals. You probably won’t agree. But I didn’t feel like I could let you go unanswered, even if you are the only one who ends up reading this.

        • Chris,
          .
          Thanks for your thoughtful response. Obviously, there’s more there than I can possibly address in this sort of context, but let me make a view observations.
          .
          One of the things we’ve made very clear at MCAG is that what we are teach is radically different than what the church has been teaching for years. To your credit, you are noticing that fact probably more than most do. Your statement is a pretty good summary of what the church has been teaching for a long time. But our teaching is quite different… and that’s precisely what we’re trying to get people to consider… a very different perspective about the human body.
          .
          When I first approached this topic, I purposefully decided to put everything that I’d ever heard or been taught about our bodies, nakedness, the Image of God, Creation, and the Fall “on the table.” Everything I believed before was to be reevaluated. I was determined to believe only what the Bible clearly taught… so I decided to leave any belief on the table that I was not forced to take back up by the careful and correct interpretation of God’s Word. I ended up leaving a lot more “on the table” than I expected!
          .
          For example… I had always heard that Adam and Eve hid and clothed themselves because of shame… but that’s not the text says. Adam rather says he was “afraid.” Shame is not even mentioned in the account except to declare the couple UN-ashamed before they sinned. Is that significant? I’m not sure… but in what you just wrote, you talked only about the shame of Adam and Eve, and nothing about their fear.
          .
          I also had to leave behind:
          .
          * The idea that God performed the “first sacrifice” for their sin.
          * The idea that God “covered” Adam’s and Eve’s bodies… as if those bodies were shameful, or as if He concurred with their notion that clothing was a valid way to deal with their sense of fear and shame.
          * The understanding that there is any “command” from God regarding clothing in Gen. 3:21.
          .
          Something I was forced by the text to embrace was the fact that “image” refers to a visible similarity between God’s spiritual form and man’s physical form. Careful hermeneutics required that conclusion! That one fact forced me to reinterpret everything about the account of the fall…
          .
          Among other things, it means that the fig leaves (and the hiding) because they were “naked” would be something of an insult to the Almighty God whose image was found on their bodies! But who was the source of such an insult? Here again, the text itself forced me to conclude that it had to be Satan, for the All-Knowing God’s question to Adam was not “how did you find out you were naked?” but “WHO TOLD you that you were naked?” God knew the answer to His question, and the way the question is framed points to personal agency and intellectual communication from that agent… All of a sudden, there’s a clear understanding of who was behind the insult and who even invented the word “naked” to start with.
          .
          I don’t expect you to be persuaded by this very very brief summary of a study that took me a LONG time, but I do encourage you to take the same study path on these matters. If the Bible is your authoritative source for truth on these matters, nothing but good can come from a brutally honest reevaluation of your current ideas about them.
          .
          One final comment I’ll make about the issue of “reading into” Scriptures. You’ll note that I was not talking about “doctrine” or theological concepts… I said “rules for righteousness” (of which the supposed “clothing requirement” is an example). The primary error of the Pharisees was not that they rejected the teaching of God’s word, but rather that they added all sorts of additional “rules” that they believed would ensure that they and others were following God’s “real” rules. And THAT is ALWAYS a mistake, as Col. 2:20-23 makes clear (along with Jesus’ consistent violation of such rules, much to the Pharisees’ irritation). It’s one thing to attempt to frame Biblical teaching into a Theological system of thought (which is what you described); it’s quite another to declare a behavioral requirement that is simply not in the text.
          .
          Let me raise some other questions for you to consider in light of the Bible and the Bible alone (i.e. distinct from cultural or traditional understanding or conditioning):
          .
          * Does God consider the unclothed state to be primarily a state of sexual expression?
          * Does God intend for men to be automatically sexually aroused at the simple sight of a woman’s body?
          * Does God ever give a clear command of clothing for men and women? If so, which specific body parts are subject to that command?
          .
          For what it’s worth, I found that the biblical answers to those questions were quite different than what our culture–and the church–teaches. What do you find?
          .
          IF you’re interested, I have several position papers that I’ve written on topics related to this discussion…
          .
          Nakedness in the OT (a word study on the Hebrew word ervah)
          Examining the Physical Nature of the Imago Dei-Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b (Why careful exegesis requires the understanding of a visible component to the Hebrew word for “image”…. tsalem)
          The Biblical Purpose of Clothing (Bible-based speculation on why God clothed Adam and Eve)
          .
          I do hope that you’ll read through all of the MCAG articles. Let me encourage you to do so very prayerfully… asking God to reveal what is true and what is false. I appreciate your wariness and skepticism, for none of us should simply accept every new radical idea that we are exposed to. But it is also a danger to be so committed to the ideas that we’ve always believed that we don’t ever even consider an idea that challenges them. If what we at MCAG say is true, God will reveal that to you, provided you are willing for Him to shake up your current beliefs a bit. Of course that’s between you and God!
          .
          Pastor David Martin

          • My personal understanding of why Adam and Eve clothed themselves after the fall came after reflecting on what going from ignorance to knowledge feels like. As a musician, I was incredibly naive in my undergraduate studies as to the world of music. I didn’t know what I was supposed to know.

            So, putting myself in Adam and Eve’s shoes, this means that they didn’t know that their naked bodies were images of God and that that was good, any more than they knew that eating of the fruit of the Tree was evil and that it would make them feel guilt and separation from God.

            So when they eat the fruit, they now feel incredible guilt. Not only do they realize that they’ve offended God by disobeying him, but they know that they’ve made a mockery of God’s Image. In other words, now knowing that their naked bodies were actually a physical and good picture of God, they sought to hide themselves from God in every way possible. They hid their forms with clothing because they didn’t feel WORTHY of such goodness! Not because they suddenly were squeamish about sexuality or nudity.

            We’re not told that Adam and Eve had sex the garden, but it’s strongly implied, since they were married and one flesh and all, which usually has sexual connotations. So if we, after the fall, can attain some level of comfort in being nude around our spouses, I see no reason why Adam and Eve would suddenly be squeamish about their nudity in front of each other after years, perhaps decades of living in the Garden together (remember they were immortal at the time).

            When God clothes them in animal skins, this is simply a practical measure! They were being kicked out of the Garden into the harsh and perhaps cold wilderness, and fig leaves really wouldn’t protect them.

            So God isn’t prescribing a prudish adherence to clothing: if anything, he was ANGRY with them that they hid their bodies, his image, with clothing. And angry that they would have to continue to hide their bodies in order to survive in the wilderness that he never intended for them to have to weather.

            Pastor Martin, I’m interested to hear what you think of this theory.

  • You don’t have to post this if you don’t want to, but to sum up what I understand your position to be versus what my understanding of sexual sin and lust is: Essentially you state that an improper view of the human body causes lust and sexual sin?

    My position is that an improper view of human sexuality and the resultant sin causes an improper view of the human body.

    To expound slightly on that summation, I believe my position (or the traditional understanding) accounts for the depravity of the human condition, the near universality of sexual sin (for example pornography) in diverse cultures regardless of how they view the human body, and further it accounts for sexual sin that is more perverse such as, objects, animals, physical harm, degradation, fetishes, pedophilia, homosexuality etc.

    If I am to understand what you are saying, one first believes the body to be sexual, then he is tempted. The view of the body as sexual will cause him to lust in ways that might lead him to perversions such as objects, animals, physical harm, degradation, fetishes, pedophilia, homosexuality etc.

    I do not think we disagree on the point that those who are tempted to sexual sin have an improper view of the human body. I just think that the improper view of the body stems from human depravity and a perverted picture of sex. Not the other way around. And that works out to be a big difference.

    I appreciate your kind tone, even if I think you are wrong! 🙂

    I will read further to do your efforts a little justice. If I am to understand you correctly, your assertions will have profound theological consequences about sin in general. Frankly, if this is the case, I’m not likely to turn away from 2000 years of scholarship and church understanding regarding sin. I have not noticed that men who turn away from orthodox Christian teaching have become more Christ-like. Just the opposite actually.

    • Chris,
      .
      I still don’t think you understand our position.
      .
      To be sure, believing a lie does precede the engagement in sin, but what we’re saying is much more significant than just an “improper view of the body.”
      .
      As I said before, the core error has to do with the Imago Dei. You see, when God created us in His image, it means that He was revealing something about Himself through the very shape of our bodies. The church’s almost wholesale neglect (or rejection) of the physical aspect of the Imago Dei has resulted in a huge hole in our Theology Proper (understanding of God). It also means that we have a huge hole in our Anthropology (our understanding of man).
      .
      It is into this vacuum that Satan has introduced his demonic understanding of the meaning of the human body… both as it relates to God and especially as it relates to how we understand ourselves. Whenever lies are embraced, sin bondage follows. When we embrace lies about our bodies, body-related sin bondage follows. And that is exactly what we see in our world today: a more deeply erroneous view of our bodies… leading to more deeply grievous body-related sin bondage.
      .
      You are mistaken to think that somehow the understanding of sex is distinct from the understanding of the God-given meaning of our bodies, for the Imago Dei also applies directly to our function as sexual beings and it is central to our correct understanding of the sex act. It is through the physical sexual union of the man and woman (a plurality) that mankind can portray or “image” the unity-in-plurality of the Godhead (this is seen right there in Gen. 1-2).
      .
      If you really understood what we are saying, you would see that we are not rejecting “2000 years of scholarship” at all, but rather, we are pointing out the fact that the church has unwittingly returned to and embraced a 2000 year old heresy called Gnosticism… which diminishes or denies the goodness of the body in favor of “the spirit” of man. Our bodies are NOT impediments to righteousness. The female form is NOT created by God to be a “temptation” to man simply when seen… yet that is the Gnostic perspective that pervades Christian thinking today.
      .
      One final point… you need to research your claim about the “universality” of pornography… I think you will be surprised by what you find. First of all, among cultures where there is much more openness about nudity, there is much LESS use of pornography than the US… even though they are even more lax about sexual conduct! Among 3rd world cultures that used to live completely nude, there was NO problem with pornography until Western cultures came in and introduced the “moral requirement” of clothing… then and only then did pornography take root! What’s more, if you research which people group has the highest per capita consumption of pornography, you’ll find that it is the Muslims… who require the total covering of the entire female form.
      .
      Even within the church, the utter rejection of nudity as “sexual” is relatively recent in its 2000-year history. For the first 300-400 years after its birth, the church required nudity for public baptisms… (do your research… all credible sources on the topic agree about that point). Up until only the late 1600’s, nudity in Christian artwork was relatively common… artwork that was displayed IN places of worship! We today tend to think that the views we hold about the exposed human form are actually biblical and right, but they are not. Rather, they expose a horrifically flawed “theology” about our bodies, and the subtle return of Gnosticism.
      .
      If you get the chance, I suggest that you listen to my talk about the theology behind what we teach at MCAG and it’s practical implications besides just pornography.
      .
      The Incarnation – Scene One
      .
      David Martin

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