Reply to Rodney Stearns: "Liberty and Grace"

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(© Jeffrey S. Bowman, all rights reserved, use by permission only)

(The following is a paper written by Rodney Stearns an Elder at my former church.  It was circulated first to the leadership of the congregation then made public to all the congregation following my departure from the church.  My reply to Rodney's paper was only given to the leadership - the members were not given my response. My comments are in the indented text interspersed with Rodney's writing.)

                                       LIBERTY AND GRACE

                Let me begin by saying that this study is not meant for the purposes of being condemning or derogatory in any way, and that the act of being critical or judgmental is highly discouraged by Gods word. But as students of the word, and as members of the body of Christ, we have an obligation to use discernment, for theological purposes, for doctrinal reasons, and for any of those areas that effect our lives, or the well being of the church. As it says in 2 timothy 3:16.

   For doctrine: for reproof: for correction: for instruction in righteousness

I want to thank Rodney for his care and concern for our church.  I know he spent many hours researching and writing this paper.  My paper on Good Nudity was a result of ongoing Biblical research that started in 1996.  May we all endeavor to think Biblically on this topic. 

I’m writing a response to Rodney not because I wish to be argumentative or divisive but because I want to state my view.  I want to be able to state what I believe on the topic of Good Nudity and social nude recreation.  Additionally, I want to differentiate myself from some of the arguments that Rodney says the proponents’ use.  All my comments will be inset like this.  This way you can see my view and/or reply to Rodney in his context and this will allow you to assess our perspectives in this discussion.  We have much to gain from this mutual give and take.  So here we go…

The subject before us is of course controversial, and brings with it many questions as to its appropriateness, and of course that topic is co-ed social nudity. Each and every one of us as members of the body of Christ, and as members in leadership, have a responsibility, to educate ourselves as well as possible in the most unbiased way as possible, to see if social recreational nudity passes the test of principles in scripture. My sharing of information with you is to try and bring some balance of information to a very difficult topic, which seems to have no lack of those who would promote its practice. This is not meant to sound derogatory, but all one needs to do is just log on to the net and you will find article after article arguing in its defense, including Christian articles. Because of this imbalance of information my findings are for the purpose of a different perspective, so people may discern this subject from a balance of information. Although I am presenting an opposing view, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t study both sides.

          So! Let me ask the question, does the bible teach, imply, suggest, or give examples of nudity for the purpose of social recreational nudity? If there are times of good nudity in the bible, is the co-ed socializing of nudity, biblically good?

Rodney’s first question is critical.  My answer is: NO, the Bible doesn’t teach, imply, suggest or give examples of nudity for the purpose of social recreational nudity.  The Bible is silent on recreation period!  For example it doesn’t state that it is OK to hunt animals for sport (i.e. just kill them and not eat the meat).  Yet what we do find is that man is given dominion over the animal kingdom.  Thus we conclude that recreational hunting is allowable although not explicitly taught.  God never condemns or forbids our hunting for sport. 

This is my point on this whole topic.  God declares the body to be good.  It is GOOD and nowhere does God prohibit the viewing of a naked body.  In my paper I state: “In fact, in my study of nudity as discussed in the Bible I find no commands against simple, basic nudity.  I have come to see that nudity is a non-issue and is allowable to humanity as culture, climate and conditions allow (or require).”

A question I have is: “How large of an issue is this topic of nudity?”  I.e. how many people does it affect?  My observation is that it HUGE.  From Adam until now, billions of people have been on the earth.  Nudity has been part of each human being in one way or another.  Since it is so huge, God seems surprisingly silent if seeing a naked body or simple nudity is wrong – even in social contexts.  Thus I conclude that, like other aspects of life, God allows us as individuals to figure it out.  We might not have the experience of social nudity, but our lack of it (or fear of it) should not cause us to conclude it is sin in God’s eyes.  He simply hasn’t said nudity is sin.

I don’t think anybody is going to argue nudity for romantic reasons in a committed relationship, just refer to the Song of Solomon, which by the way is not in a social recreational setting. The Song of Solomon represents the wonder of two people in love, sharing that love, through the mutual admiration for the uniqueness and specialness of who they are. The sense of what one gets from the Song of Solomon, is that their exposure to one another is an expression of love, between a man and a woman in a very intimate and special way, within the confines of that relationship. Nowhere do we see the Song of Solomon encourage this sharing in a social or recreational way, and to do so would only demonstrate a misuse of context.

          Secondly, I don’t think anyone would object to nudity for medical reasons. I think one would find that people who expose themselves to the doctor or medical professionals, do it with reluctantcey and find nothing relaxing or recreational about it. As a matter of fact to suggest that nudity for medical reasons is a segway or example for recreational nudity is to suggest that the medical handling of genitalia, is an example of recreational handling of genitalia. There is no doubt that there is such a thing as non-sexual nudity, but in each and every biblical example, there is a very specific reason or purpose, which does not include or support social nudity. There are the cases of intimacy, or medical reasons, or a mens locker room, or even bathing very young children. In each and every case there is a very specific purpose, that is not done, for co-ed social reasons.

I agree that these are aspects of Good Nudity.  I’d also add that we don’t find God stating: “It is OK to see your child nude” or “If you are a male, it is OK to be nude in a room full of men.”  Why then do we not have a problem with these types of Good Nudity?   Is it because our society has no problem with them?  I’d rather put my belief on the basis of the teachings of God’s Word.  I think it is by the core Biblical truth of Good Nudity that we can come to grips with our body when in nude contexts.  Many people have had problems with these and other life contexts of nudity.  The truth of Good Nudity provides the fact that there is nothing wrong with seeing or being seen nude.

Even the laws of the land recognize the problem with social nudity, by keeping it restricted and illegal in normal society. And I would further suggest that other cultures, or ancient cultures who may have accepted some degree of social nudity, does not by any means represent what is biblically correct for Christians today. This would include any examples of nudity found in the bible, which do not support or promote social recreational nudity. What happens in a non-Christian secular humanistic society should hardly be the example of what is biblically correct. If we choose to use Old Testament examples and practices for what is appropriate or acceptable for us today, then I would suggest multiple wives and the practice of stoning. But obviously there are those things that were acceptable then that are not acceptable now.

I don’t think we can argue from our culture (i.e. that it disapproves of social nudity) and then say that other cultures (that approve of social nudity) are improper to follow.  This is a mutually exclusive; you can’t use one culture then disallow another culture.  They are either all allowed or none is allowed. 

I do agree that what happens in a non-Christian secular humanistic society should hardly be the example of what is biblically correct.  Thus, just because our humanistic society frowns upon social nudity doesn’t mean that it is a Biblically correct view.  God’s Word is above culture and until Jesus reigns as King, every culture is secular.

Yet, as I review history I observe that OT and NT cultures had a different view of nudity different than ours.  They had no indoor toilettes or showers.  Their “bathroom” was not private – they had no bathroom!  We have a difficult time really grasping this because of our culture.   Consequently, it is historically well documented that seeing others in co-ed bathing was a common aspect of their life.  As Paul wrote his epistles to Gentile believers there is no doubt that they were going to the Roman baths and involved in other common social practices where various kinds of nudity was seen.  If social nudity was wrong, Paul most definitely would have addressed it.  This aspect of their life is inescapable.  God never prohibits seeing a naked body.

          Now, let’s look at some of the biblical examples of nudity starting with Gen.1:31,2:25,3:7

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. and the evening and the morning were the sixth day vs. 2:25 and they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed vs. 3:7 and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

          Adam and Eve both together and both naked and were not ashamed, and rightly so, because there was no awareness of anything else, other then what could be considered good. So why is it that we are being privy to this piece of information, and what would be the biblical point? What we see, and the reason for the bible specifically pointing out their nakedness, is that it is a symbol of their innocence. Adam and eve with out the awareness of evil had no reason to cover their nakedness. But things did not remain the same nor did they ever return to the same. Because the minute they ate and their eyes were opened, Adam and eve gained an awareness that has never left humanity since. Specifically when it says there eyes were opened, Adam and eve became aware of not only good, but of evil, and so the of covering of what they were now aware of, becomes a symbol of their guilt, and with it a symbol of their sin. Adam and eve now, no longer posses the ability to see and know things as they were. Now with all that they see and hear, all is filtered threw a fallen nature now called the flesh. Adam and eve could no longer just see each other in vision of innocence, but only see threw eyes that saw nakedness. With out a doubt, a major dispensational change had taken place, and all of humanity from that point forward would experience that same awareness, with the same fallen nature. To further add to the fall of Adam and eve in Gen. 3:21 it says,

 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord make coats of skins, and clothed them.

          At the expulsion from the garden, God provides them with coats of skin, not only for protection from the elements, but as a symbol for the covering of sin. Gods sacrifice for sin weather it be a covering of skin or a covering of blood, becomes the mode for in which God will deal with humanity and redemption. When it was the sacrifice for Israel, it was the covering of blood over the mercy seat. When it was the pass over, it was the covering of blood on the doorpost, and when it came to Gods grace, it was the covering of the blood of Christ. In 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and Romans 3:25 it is called a propitiation, indicating that we who are believers are covered by the sacrifice of Christ. Adam and eves nakedness now symbolized a fallen nature that needed to be covered. This is why in Romans 6:6 the apostle Paul calls it a, body of sin. And in Romans 7:24 Paul says, oh wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this body of death. And in Romans 8:10 he says, the body is dead because of sin. And in Philippians 3:21 it says, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like his glorious body. These are all testimonies as to the state and condition of humanity as it now exist. It is no longer in the state and condition as before the fall. While it is true that Gods creation of earth and humanity is indeed wonderful, it still bares the marks of sin, and so it will until that time when God changes all things and makes them new. The redemption in Christ gives us a new hope with a new future, but it does not release us from the now present body of sin. For Paul says in Romans 4:7,

          Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered

  It may be that our sins are covered but the nature that created them is still beneath, even Paul stated in Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

          And also Paul says in Galatians 5:17,

          For the the flesh lust against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would.

          Now if any body thinks that we do not struggle with the flesh all they have to do is look at the Corinthian church. If any body thinks that we can be, or that we are the same as Adam and eve before the fall, fails in acknowledging that we as the off spring, bare all the marks of sin in our bodies and in our minds. To suggest that social recreational nudity is acceptable based on Adam and eve before the fall, fails to recognize the degree and impact of Adam and eve having their eyes opened upon the human race. We, who suffer the same affliction as Adam and eve, as long as we have the body of sin, will never see the things the way they did before the fall. In no way was the garden scene a lesson for, so as to practice social nudity for recreation or pleasure. More and to the point, Adam and eve is a lesson as to what humanity was before the fall, and after the fall. Simply put we are changed!

On many points I agree with Rodney here.  I’ll quote the points I disagree with and provide my view.  I also encourage the reader to read my paper on Good Nudity.

 “Adam and eves nakedness now symbolized a fallen nature that needed to be covered.” 

This is a common view.  However the text doesn’t say this.  God doesn’t say this anywhere in His Word.  The examples I provide in my paper on Good Nudity demonstrate that God views the body as good, never as a symbol of a fallen nature that needs to be covered.  If that were the case then He would have gone against Himself when He had Isaiah walk around nude as a sign to Egypt.   Not that Isaiah teaches social nudity – it doesn’t, rather simply that God had no problem telling him to be naked because it wasn’t a sin.  More on Isaiah later…

 “This is why in Romans 6:6 the apostle Paul calls it a, body of sin. And in Romans 7:24 Paul says, oh wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this body of death. And in Romans 8:10 he says, the body is dead because of sin. And in Philippians 3:21 it says, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like his glorious body. 

Not so!  The Romans passages have nothing to do with the physical body; rather our connection with the Old Man Adam.  The Philippians passage is talking about our physical body.  The word “vile” doesn’t mean that the body is “dirty” or “nasty.”  The Greek word is better translated “lowly” i.e. a body that is humbled by its immortality and need for resurrection.  See the NIV and NKJV.

“To suggest that social recreational nudity is acceptable based on Adam and eve before the fall, fails to recognize the degree and impact of Adam and eve…In no way was the garden scene a lesson for, so as to practice social nudity for recreation or pleasure.”

I fully agree and have not argued that social nude recreation is allowable because Adam and Eve were nude before the fall.  I have stated, as does the Biblical text, that their bodies were good before the fall and their bodies remained good after the fall.  Nowhere does God say to “hide the body because it is evil and you can’t handle it.”  The silence of God, after the fall, indicates that His view of the body is the same as prior to the fall.  This is all I’m saying.  Regarding the covering of skins that God provided for them.  I stated in my paper that: He did provide them with coats of skins but for more practical reasons.  First, He needed to atone for Adam and Eve’s transgression so an animal was sacrificed – a shadow of what would come under the law with Moses, and ultimately, the death of His Son Jesus for the world.  They would wear[1] that coat and be reminded that a blameless animal took their place in death.  Second, He had cursed the earth (3:17,18) resulting in thorns, thistles and other plants that are rough on a nude body.  The skins would provide them with protection from the new hostile environment.  Some sort of clothing would be needed as He sent them out from the Garden of Eden.  Lastly, there is a possible aspect of accommodation – God accommodating them by giving them a covering until they could learn to deal with the knowledge of good nudity.[2]

“We, who suffer the same affliction as Adam and eve, as long as we have the body of sin, will never see the things the way they did before the fall.”

This is a common objection to nudity.  Let’s examine it more closely.  First, it is true that we are fallen beings and we now have knowledge of good and evil which alters our perception of life.  Second, this doesn’t mean that we are incapable of seeing things as they really are.  It may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible.  For example, after the fall Adam and Eve now had a change of view regarding God: specifically they feared Him who is love.  Yet, we see examples of believers in the Bible whose fear is turned to love as they grow in their knowledge of Him.  I believe the same is true regarding our bodies.  It isn’t impossible to have a renewed mind regarding the naked body.  I’d even suggest that God wants us to have a body acceptance – after all, it is His image.  Little children, whom God welcomes because of their innocent simplicity, have no problems with being naked in pure simplicity.  Some cultures continue this body acceptance and clothing is minimal at best.  Other cultures (like ours) foster a shame upon the child at an early age regarding their (and others) bodies.  Thirdly, and most importantly, God does call us to renew our minds on all topics that sin distorts.  Pornography has robbed nudity of its goodness.  Many men in our culture “salivate” at any sign of skin.  Why is that?  Lustful sin no doubt, but also a mind that has been conditioned by our culture to equate nakedness with sex.  This is done deliberately by the world because “sex sells.”  I have discovered that social nudity and other forms of Good Nudity counteracts the world system and renews the mind to the Goodness of the Image of God – the body.  To put it in Paul’s terminology: the bad (porn) is put off and the good (non-sexual nudity) is put on and the mind is renewed.  Without putting on good, the bad will come back – often with a vengeance.

           Adam and eve, which are indeed an interesting study, does not by any means hold the record for being interesting. Next and another  example of nudity in the bible is Isaiah 20:2-4,

At the same time spake the lord by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Vs.3  And the lord said, like my servant Isaish hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and wonder upon Ethiopia. Vs.4  So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

          To say the least this is an interesting way to send a message. For three years Isaiah was to go butt naked as to send a message to Egypt and Ethiopia, demonstrating that this would be their fate, Egypt and Ethiopia were headed for a time that they would be attacked, stripped, humiliated, and taken captive by the assyrians. Now! Is this an example of social nudity, or even good nudity? Are we to derive from Isaiahs example that this is implying in any way social recreational nudity? Well, let us examine the context. The purpose of Isaiahs nudity is for what reason? Was it not to demonstrate the shame and embarrassment of what was coming? Was not Isaiahs nudity for the effect of shock value? An extreme measure to get peoples attention? And after all should we think God using His prophets in this way unusual, because after all, God did have Hosea marry a prostitute? But are we to consider what God meant to be a message of shame and embarrassment, as good? I would disagree with anyone who would suggest that this typifies a culture accepting social recreational nudity. If it was not a shock to see this, then the point of it would be ineffective. Some people, who would advocate social nudity, would suggest this to be an example of nudity in a good way, thus implying a case for social nudity. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Gods intended purpose for Isaiahs nudity was for a very specific reason, which was to have a very specific effect. To use this as an illustration for social nudity is to spin the context to mean some thing other then its intended purpose. If we are to make points out of biblical principles, is it right to use biblical principles focused for a specific thing, and apply them toward something different? In other words if we are to use scripture to demonstrate and build a case for social nudity, then it helps to use scripture that actually supports that. Isaiahs nudity does not support social nudity; but only illustrates the shame and embarrassment of it. And this is not unusual, because the advocates of social nudity would admit that there are circumstances where nudity is used to shame, embarrass, and demean a person’s stature. Its almost like an oxymoron, because if a society which is suppose to be accepting of nudity, or who is acclimated to seeing nudity, would feel demeaned by forced nudity, you would think whats the big deal? After all isn’t nudity, nudity? But we know that is not the case, the Bible clearly shows that nudity can be used to shame a person. Just check it out. Isa.47:3 and Ezk.16:7-8 and Ezk.18:7 and Gen.9:22 and Gen.23:2 and Hosea.2:3 and Chron.28:15 and so on. All of these are examples of nudity in contrast to a fallen nature and demonstrate what Adam and Eve must have seen after the fall, as well as what people perceived in Isaiahs nudity, as not good. The argument that there is good nudity is not the issue. I don’t think any reasonable person would disagree that there are circumstances where nudity is acceptable or appropriate. The real issue is rather or not nudity in a co-ed social recreational setting is appropriate? To use the argument that good nudity exists, thus making social nudity good, is like saying bad nudity exists, thus making social nudity bad. Now certainly those who support social nudity would find that unacceptable. But the reality of life is that we are no longer in the garden, and we are no longer in the dispensation of innocense, along with Adam and eve our eyes have been opened and we see and feel what they saw and felt. If this were not true, then there would be no such thing as bad nudity.

Isaiah isn’t an example of social nudity and I would never present his situation as an example of it.  But it IS an example of Good Nudity, God mandated nudity.  Why?  Rodney is correct, as a sign to Egypt.  Egypt was to be stripped naked to their shame by the Assyrians.  When an invading army conquered another they would strip them of one of their most precious personal possessions – their clothes.  Isaiah would be naked for three years to demonstrate that Egypt would fall.  This was different than the norm of his society.  He’d be naked 24x7 in all the seasons including winter.  No doubt because of this he’d be asked; “Why are you always naked?” He could then pronounce his prophecy regarding Egypt.  This would be a blessing for Israel as Egypt was their enemy.  My point on Isaiah’s nakedness is simple – nude is not lewd or sinful.  God would never have Isaiah do something that was sinful.  This holds true with Hosea marrying a prostitute.  Hosea would be a visible representation to Israel who was married to Jehovah yet acting like a prostitute.  Like Isaiah, Hosea would be able to pronounce his prophecy as people would ask him; “Why are you married to a prostitute?”  God didn’t ask Hosea to do something wrong, just funny (or maybe even foolish) in the eyes of Israel to make a point. 

Once again, my point on Isaiah’s nakedness is simple – nude is not lewd or sinful or else God would NOT have had him be naked.  Now the fact that he went naked demonstrates to us that his culture viewed nakedness differently than us.  They had Good Nudity as simple standpoint of life from bathing to bodily functions.  Isaiah was unique because he was nude for three years, 24x7.   A person today could not walk around naked in public without being arrested.  Yet Isaiah did and didn’t get arrested.  Israel (and other nations at that time) had a different view of nudity than we have.

          Let’s now move to another example. In the views of some social nudist, the story of peter fishing with his buddies is an example of nudity being socially acceptable, but is this true? Let’s read. John 21: 3-8  Simon peter saith unto them, I go fishing. They say unto him, we also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. Vs. 4. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Vs. 5. Then Jesus saith unto them, children, have you any meat? They answered him no. Vs. 6. And he said unto them, cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw for the multitude of fishes. Vs. 7. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto peter , it is the Lord. Now when Simon peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fishers coat unto him, for he was naked, and did cast himself into the sea. Vs. 8. And the other disciples came in a little ship; for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits, dragging the net with fishes.  Here we see nudity in a different kind of context, but once again for a very specific purpose. Just as a side note it may be interesting to understand that the Greek word used here for naked is the word, “ Gumnos ” And in Vines expository dictionary of new testament words, and in Bullingers Greek lexicon and companion bible, they give the meaning as to indicate ones undergarment or unclothed. Even further, R. C. Lensky’s, interpretation of St. Johns gospel, says, The discipels had worked “naked” which, however, does not mean stripped of all clothing, as some would suppose. For “gumnos” is also used when those parts of the body that are usually covered with clothing are exposed.

What is going on here regarding the definition of the Greek word gumnov" (gymnos) that is translated naked, is that some scholars, due to their prejudice, do not face the actual meaning of the word, but give it a personal slant.  This is much like the word BAPTISM.  You can search and search the lexicons and find various meanings.  The fact remains that the KJV does an outstanding job and translates it naked.  Unlike baptism, which is difficult to translate (hence it is transliterated), gumnov" (gymnos) primarily means naked, or nude.  Occasionally, as context will indicate, it can mean partially clothed.  Years ago in my Bible I wrote extensive notes that the word meant partially clothed.  I’ve since discovered the bias of the lexicographers and have corrected my notes.

Now needless to say this is interesting, because as to weather or not peter was in the stark naked mode, in it self becomes questionable. One is only left to assume the extent of nudity, in which the context is not always clear. That means all those places where this word appears, rather questionable. Such is ( John 21: 7 ) ( 1 Cor. 15:37 ) ( Mark 14:51-52 ) (Acts 19:16 ) ( Matt. 25:36-44 ) ( 2 Cor. 5:3 ) ( Heb. 4:13 ) ( James 2:15 ) and  ( Rev. 3:17 & 16:15 & 17.16 ). Also another interesting point is where this word appears in Rev. 3:17-18. Because thou say I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing and knows not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked; council thee to buy of me gold tried in fire that thou may be rich and raiment that thou maybe clothed and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear and anoint thine eyes with salve that thou may see. Rev. 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief, blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. Now the point of this is to show a different kind of context in which our word  “ Gumnos “ appears. Because if we were to choose this context for defining our word we would have to conclude that nakedness is associated with shame, and could be the reason Peter tied his upper garment around himself when he went to shore. Regardless of the extent of Peters nakedness, the example of peter fishing with his buddies in may or may not be the buff, is really no different then a mens locker room. And a mens locker room would be no more of an example for co-ed social nudity then Peter fishing with his buddies. The point of peters so called nudity was not for the purpose of socializing or having fun. You can hardly say that the point and purpose of one thing should mean the point and purpose of something different. Further, the advocates of social nudity seem to put little importance on the fact that peter did in some fashion cover himself before going to shore. To what conclusion is one to draw from that? Maybe its because peter knew it was a inappropriate way to be in a more social public setting. Making the leap from peter fishing to social recreational nudity, is just that, a leap. One could go on but it would be pointless. Weather it be Adam and eve, or Isaiah sent with a message, or even Peter fishing, they all had a very specific purpose for a very specific reason. As a matter of fact nudity is associated with shame in the bible more then it is not, so what can one derive from that? I could get into Noah’s story, or the story of David and Bathsheba, and the out come would be the same. In each and every case they are examples of nudity in very special circumstances that have nothing to do with social nudity.

The story of Peter does not teach social nude recreation.  It just captures what was a normal event in Peter’s life – fishing naked.  As I’ve already stated, recreation isn’t much (if at all) found in the Bible.  I don’t think it helps to say that Peter was just fishing with the boys and thus it isn’t co-ed.  The text is silent as to where the women are.  But again my point is that this passage teaches that there is nothing wrong with simple nudity.  This is an example of Good Nudity. 

Why Peter grabs his coat and jumps into the water is subject to our imagination.  I think it is because his coat is a valuable item to Peter.  This is perhaps WHY he and others fished naked, so as to not get it all fishy.  He most likely has only one (see Matt. 10:10; Luke 9:3).  We can also ascertain that he is close enough to the shore to swim to shore with it on.  Is he so close that others (including women and children) could see his nakedness?  It is only reasonable to deduce.  This also demonstrates that we have a different view of nudity than theirs.  I can’t wash my car nude (which would be a very practical, specific, non recreational thing) in my driveway.  For that matter, I can’t go fishing nude in a boat that is close enough to swim to shore!  The Word of God simply captures, without condemning or condoning, the simple event of Peter’s naked fishing.  It shows Good Nudity.

          Now I would like to address the purpose of circumcision. Some  proponents of social nudity would tell us, and have us believe that circumcision was something useful in a social context so that men and women could see the having or not having, of circumcision, so as to be an identifier of who was of Israel and who wasn’t. But I just have one question, where is the scripture that supports that? Where in the bible does it say or imply that circumcision was to be used publicly as an identification marker? So am I to understand that a person could not distinguish an Israelite by their culture? Like distinctions in their dress, or their hair, or their jewelry? When David met Goliath no one was uncovered, so as to know their ithenticity. But yet David calls Goliath an uncircumcised philistine several times while standing in full armor. Is it just possible the cultural distinctions were sufficient to know who was who? So, what does the bible actually say the purpose of circumcision was for? Gen. 17:9-11.

          And God said unto Abraham, thou shall keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations; This is my covenant which you shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee, every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.

          Nowhere is it said or implied that circumcision was to be anything other then a sign between God and his people. The whole purpose of circumcision and why it was passed threw the generations, was to remind Israel of the covenant. This is not untypical of God to use signs in this way. Any bible student would know that Israel was full of practices to remind them of their special relationship with God. It was something integrated into their culture so as to keep them separate and special in their relationship with God. To imply that a sign between God and his people, in a most private area, was something to be publicly displayed is not supported by scripture. The logic of saying circumcision was a sign, so it must have been meant to be displayed, is not supported by scripture. If any thing, this argument seems to suggest ones imposing a personnel preference upon scripture. And to suggest nudity in the Hebrew culture as something social or public, is unsubstantiated by scripture. If this were not true, then why wasn’t Israel a nudist colony?

I agree with Rodney that circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham (Israel).  The challenge that is presented is: “Where in the bible does it say or imply that circumcision was to be used publicly as an identification marker?”  My response is in the very nature of “sign.”  Something has to be seen to be a sign!  God took a part of anatomy that has great significance in reproduction and said circumcise (lit. to cut around) it.  Scholars have given us many theological points regarding the theological aspect.  My point on circumcision and its relationship to the topic of Good Nudity is as I wrote: Social nudity was common whereby a man’s circumcision (or lack of it) would be seen.  From Abraham to the Apostle Paul such good nudity is the only way this special sign would be seen (cp. Paul’s circumcising Timothy, Acts 16:1-5; yet not Titus, Gal. 2:3).  This helps explain why we fail to understand the significance of the identification of circumcision – we don’t have the cultural experience of social (good) nudity.”  The ancient world had contexts where circumcision or lack thereof would be seen.  Archeology tells us that from bathing, to working in the field nude, to the loose fitting clothes (with no BVDs!), the ancient world had and accepted various states of undress and nudity in social contexts.

I do not say that God gave circumcision and thus wanted them to show (i.e. reveal) something that wasn’t ALREADY visible.  God took their normal way of life and had them create a sign in something that was already seen.  A circumcised penis looks different than an uncircumcised penis.  Next it is said: “The logic of saying circumcision was a sign, so it must have been meant to be displayed, is not supported by scripture.  My response is that God didn’t have to tell them to show something – they were already seeing it in various “life” contexts.  Next: “If any thing, this argument seems to suggest ones imposing a personnel preference upon scripture.” To which I reply; “not at all.”  I understand the sign in the historical / cultural context that it was given.  That historical context is clearly one that included seeing the penis in aspects of life that now are done privately.  In the past, my cultural perspective on life and nudity blinded me.  I was actually imposing my cultural aversion to nudity upon God’s Word and not acknowledging that simple nudity is OK.  Finally, it is said: “And to suggest nudity in the Hebrew culture as something social or public, is unsubstantiated by scripture. If this were not true, then why wasn’t Israel a nudist colony?"  The evidence is to the contrary.  Nudity is found in scripture as a part of normal life and culture.  True, nudity is not commanded by God anywhere in the Bible (except for Isaiah).  God gives us the freedom to be naked or not.  It is a non-issue to God.

Was Israel a nudist colony?  No, but if we could go back in time we’d discover that their society was far more like a nudist colony than ours.  They had a different view of nudity.  They didn’t have a problem with non-sexual nudity.  You could go fishing naked (John 21:7); you could be naked with the Prophets (1 Sam. 19:24); you could be naked for 3 years as a sign to the people (Isa. 20:2,3); you could dance before the Lord wearing nothing but a ‘revealing’ linen ephod (2 Sam. 6:14); you could rip off your clothes and reveal your “humanness” (Acts 14:14); and you would see the sign of circumcision – all of this without being misunderstood by other believers or put in jail by the government! 

I could go on giving examples and giving explanations, but one would think enough has been said to make the point. Examples of nudity for social recreational purposes do not exist in the bible. Those advocates for social nudity who choose to pull examples of nudity out of the bible is a misapplication of scripture. Defenders of social nudity, who take examples of nudity that was intended for specific reasons other then social nudity, and applying to social nudity is nothing short of being wrong. As a matter of fact this is not good objective bible study, and only serves to lower ones credibility, by trying to prove a position threw out of context study. But! Enough said, let us move on.

As I’ve said, so say I again, the Bible does not teach social nude recreation.  The core truth of Good Nudity (that the naked body is good not evil) is what is found.  If Good Nudity is accepted, then the naked body in other contexts is allowable by God.  Thus we see the examples given above, not as proving social nude recreation, but that nude isn’t lewd.

Rodney has made a point that each verse having Good Nudity “was intended for specific reasons…” In other words, if I understand his point, because nudity in these verses has a specific reason, it is justifiable or OK.  I do see that there were non-recreational reasons for the nudity.  However, God never told them to be naked (with the exception of Isaiah) so it doesn’t matter WHY they were naked.  The Biblical text simply captures the events surrounding their nudity and informs us of it.  Once again, this doesn’t limit nudity, unless you view these passages from the perspective that God told them to BE naked – which He doesn’t.  My point is that God’s Word captures the life of the people and there is no Divine Viewpoint expressed other than what has already been said: “Everything is Good.”  (Gen. 1:31).  God does not tell anyone to put their clothes on because the body is bad, evil, or causes lust.

           I would like to now say something about lust. We know that lust is something that exists, and we know lust is something you can have for many different things, but exactly what is lust? Bullingers Greek lexicon, gives us the words “ epithmeo “ and “ epithumia “ which is the most common words for lust, and is the words which I will be referring to, when I refer to lust. Bullingers definition is basically, “a desire which attaches it’s self upon its object” and can be directed toward anything. Vines expository dictionary of New Testament words, explains it this way “ a strong desire of any kind, of which if it is good or bad is determined by the context. “ Now I looked up some of the versus to get an idea of how the word was used with some context. Rom. 13:14 and Gal. 5:16,24 and Eph. 2:3 and 2 Pet. 2:18 and

1 John 2:16. and after reading these not only does one get the sense that lust is a desire, but that lust is an emotion. An emotion which produces feelings, this is where the desire comes from. For example in Eph. 2:3 it says, Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and by nature the children of wrath, even as other. Notice that lust is used in a context of inner characteristics of which is desire, and of which is the mind. Notice there is the addition of the word  fulfilling, indicating to us that a behavior is something manifested from lust. This is why Christ said in, Matt. 5:28, But I say unto you that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. Now, this doesn’t say who made a jester or who pursued her or even winked at her, this is a matter of the heart, these are not things taking place externally, but taking place internally. Oh yes! Lust can be acted on, in which then we enter into the arena of behavior, which is only a manifestation of lust, but not the lust, itself. Now, this is a key point, because some advocates of social nudity would have us believe that lust is not a, inactive emotion or desire, but lust is a behavior, and it demands some kind of action to be lust, and with out the accompanying behavior that describes lust, it only becomes a passive desire. While it true that a behavior can be called fulfilling lust, as many behaviors come from emotional states of mind, but yet it is not the emotion itself. Further more, we all know that most behaviors are conceived of first internally, and then have the possibility of becoming something external. This is why Gods salvation is concerned with changing the internal and with the renewing of the mind. 1 Cor. 10:15, Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Although it doesn’t necessarily free us completely from the lust of the flesh, it does help us to avoid them, and keeps us from acting on them. Gal. 5:16,17, is a good example of this. This I say then, walk in the spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lust against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that ye would. Now this does not sound like an external conflict, but an internal conflict, indicating that lust is an internal desire, which we can choose or not choose to act on. What Christ was implying in Matt. 5:28 is that when we strongly desire something that is sinful, it is wrong, and because God knows in his wisdom that what is conceived of in the hearts of men will eventually see the manifestation in our actions. The key to removing lust out of our lives is in replacing a bad desire with a good desire. As that is precisely the point of Gal. 5:16. It is the desire of the spirit replacing the desire of the flesh. Is it possible to be a Believer and fulfill the desire of the flesh? Absolutely! Just ask the Corinthian Church. To simply make lust an issue of controlling a behavior is an inaccuracy. This is what religion try’s to do. This is an effort by humanity to be righteous. But true believers know that God works the inside, which brings changes to the outside. But now, how does all this apply to social nudity? According to some proponents of nudity you can look at naked bodies all day long with all its desires, but as long as you don’t act like you are, then its ok. But is this good, and is this biblical? If we are exposing ourselves to a situation that creates sexual desire out of its proper context, such as a loved one, then are we in the arena of lust? If lust is an emotion, a desire from a feeling, then what does a scenario of out of context sexual desire sound like? Now I am not saying that it is impossible for a person to be in a social nude setting and not be led by the spirit, which would replace lust with the desire of the spirit. But what I am saying is that for most people this probably does not apply. Most people are not that strong in the spirit to resist a desire that comes so easily in a person’s life. And what about the majority of people in nudist resorts; who are not even believers? God knows the struggles of the flesh that’s why we have Rom. 7:21 and Gal.5:17. But he also gave us anther way to deal with it. Eph. 5:15 See then that you walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise. Walk circumspectly is an interesting phrase because the word circumspectly “Gr. Akribos” has the meaning of exactness. This is a word that denotes accuracy, careful exactness, as pertaining to our walk. Now to the person who may be a novice, or the weak brother, or the person who may be battling with the lust of the flesh, I would think accurately identifying those areas and avoiding them would be expedient. Isn’t that what the apostle Paul was really teaching in 1 Cor. 10:23, All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

Lust is a powerful aspect of our fallen humanity.  I agree with Rodney that lust is internal sin.  As believers in Christ we should avoid lust, it is the 10th Commandment.  I think that this is a reaction to the book, Nakedness & the Bible by Paul Bowman.  In that book the author postulates that there is a distinction to be made between a simple thought and lust.  The author suggests that “lust is not the involuntary sexual arousal or passive sexual attraction that the man or woman may experience when they become aware of an attractive person of the opposite sex; it is when they willfully turn that arousal into lust, spewing it unilaterally onto the other that defiles the one who lusts.”[3]   What concerns me is Rodney’s comment: “According to some proponents of nudity you can look at naked bodies all day long with all its desires, but as long as you don’t act like you are, then its ok.”

Which proponents?  I’m not aware of ANY Christian naturist who would state this.  Paul Bowman doesn’t state this.  I wish Rodney would provide us his source.  It is unfair to read such a conclusion into Paul Bowman’s attempt to grapple with a complex issue.  I for one reject any such idea that it is OK to look at a woman (clothed or unclothed) and lust internally.

That brings me to a very important point regarding lust.  How big is this topic?  How many folks does it impact?  EVERYBODY!  This is why it is the 10th Commandment.  Now notice that God never says to “not look at a woman (clothed or not) because she will cause you to lust.”  The problem isn’t the woman; it is the heart of the man.  God’s point is that lust is ALWAYS a potential sin for ANY object (note what the 10th Commandment contains: house, wife, servants, ox, or any possessions).  Because our society doesn’t have or appreciate simple nudity (i.e. non-sexual nudity) the only thing it has is pornography.  I’ve already commented on how we are conditioned by our culture to respond to partially clothed woman.  As soon as I stepped into a context of the good nudity found in naturism I discovered the lie of the world regarding the body.  The grip of lust was broken by the goodness of seeing the body in all ages, sizes, shapes and colors.

It is just not a fair argument to say that nudity = lust and because of this deduce that God says to not see anyone naked.  Nothing of the sort is found in the Bible.  God never says: “do not look upon a naked body because it causes lust.”  It may or may not; it depends on your knowledge of the truth of the body, cultural background, and exposure to good nudity.  We can conclude that social nudity might cause one to lust.  But my experience is just the opposite; it causes the sin of lust to be revealed and a person discovers that they can control their mind.  In my paper I state: …lust is caused in the heart of the person by their own sin.  Lust is a strong word denoting an “I’ve got to have it” and “I’ll get it whatever way I have to” mentality.  A new car, house, or job can be an object of lust.  So can a fully clothed person.  Also, those in the health field, who are around good nudity, can attest that a nude patient is simply that, a nude patient.   I’d add one more thing; the more exposure you have to good nudity (in any context) the more you are de-sensitized to nudity and the “lust factor” disappears.

The following part of Rodney’s paper until the end contains a lot of leading questions that have been used against so many things people have believed.  I’ve even heard them said about Grace Truth and other theological systems including Acts 28ism.  The argument goes as follows: If something is controversial then why discuss it?  If something might cause harm, then what is the value?  My only answer is because it is a truth that is found in God’s Word.  Now please keep in mind that I’m not talking about promoting nude recreation.  I’m talking about the truth of Good Nudity. 

           Is it not true, we as believers should discern these things with accuracy, and treat them accordingly? Weather it be to eliminate these things from our life or to keep them as personnel privileges, which would not be expedient for another? In which when promoted could be divisive, and in opposition to church edification. The questionability of social nudity is one such topic, and when left for general information in the body of Christ, could not only have the appearance of something scandalous, but because of its controversial nature could cause a weak brothers or sisters to stumble. Why would anyone who values Eph. 4:3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Want to promote something, which is a personal preference, that has the potential for lust, and to be harmful to some brothers in the church? Although it may not be some ones intention to be hurtful, a subject like this can appear that way. Once again raising the questionabilty to its value, to the edification of the Body of Christ. And why take a chance on involving yourself or that of a fellow believer, where the lust of the flesh could be an issue, and even worse, have it manifested in your life? The avoiding of such things is not only biblical, but demonstrates wisdom in ones life.

This point here is a leading point.  If one doesn’t think that ANY freedom is good then it will be said to be bad or harmful to others.  We must use great wisdom with this type of reasoning.  Jesus Himself was thought to have been a “sinner” when He did things that were not in line with “acceptable” behavior (John 9:16, 24).

Promotion is a strong word.  I don’t believe anything should be “promoted” but loving God and His Word.  Thus I’ve taught Good Nudity (and other controversial topics) as revealed in God’s Word.  Social nude recreation is a matter of ones personal choice and should not be “promoted” from the pulpit.  Why not?  The Bible doesn’t teach social nudity – it teaches Good Nudity. 

Say for instance, there is a couple, doing some searching, the husband is into pornography and the wife feels and senses how this is taking away from the specialness of their intimacy. She feels that possibly getting involved in a church will help her husband to see that this is an unhealthy activity, and will help him to gain a healthy perspective. Now this couple decides that their local church is the right place to be, until, they find out that social nudity is taught as a good biblical practice. So now he wants to go, but she doesn’t, and this becomes a source of major contention. The entire experience now becomes a stumbling block for both, because he is like giving wine to a wine’o, and she is disillusioned with biblical guidance. Really! Is this what the church is for?

This hypothetical example is off on two areas.  First, I would apply the truth of Good Nudity to the man’s problem with porn.  Second, any approach of help towards the man should be carried out with extreme caution.  Social nudity may or may not help the man and it would be foolish to rush into any kind of solution to his porn problem without laying a Biblical foundation.  This illustration is fraught with assumptions about actions that I would never make. 

Finally, the next (and last) section of Rodney’s paper deals with the issue of making someone stumble.  Questions are asked in this next section that are fully leading – they only allow for one type of answer and that being Rodney’s.  Thus I’m not going to address them directly.  I will present my conclusions (not details – that would be a whole book) on the question of stumbling.

In many ways what we now are dealing with is approach to ministry and philosophy differences.  We have heard these before regarding music and dress.  Our church is what it is because of the “tone” I’ve set in my approach to the Word and Life.

Should any member of the church take that which is a personal preference and put it on the church? What is more important, our personal liberties or edification? What is more important, our personal preferences or creating unity? What is more important, our liberties under grace or having a testimony that is unquestionable? Should our priorities lye in exercising freedoms in Christ, or exercising, what is expedient to the people? Any serious student of the word knows the answer to these questions, especially those in leadership. The apostle Paul consistently gave up personal freedoms, not only for the purpose of edification, but also for a solid testimony. Paul did not debate his right for personal freedoms, but more so mediated between those who did. Paul who claimed to be all things to all people sacrificed liberties so as to win souls to Christ. Although the Word of God does not seem to speak directly to the theme of social nudity, this does not dismiss or minimize the principles of scripture that would guide us in the areas of social nudity. Thus leading us to the conflict of those who do, and those who don’t, those who would choose to push the limits of liberties, and those who choose not to. The teaching of freedoms and liberties, of rather we should or should not, is important to understand, and is something to look at. If we are to understand the right and wrong of said principles, we should now examine the principles of what is a stumbling block and how it applies to our lives. This is an area of great importance, especially to those in ministry. Because it defines a biblical area that sets the guidelines for those parts of our lives that are as diverse as people themselves. 1 Cor. 8:9-10 and 13, But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which has knowledge sit at meat in the idols temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to those things which are offered to idols. Vs. 13 Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend. Now on the surface this sounds pretty straightforward. There are those things in life which would be considered controversial, these are such things as for one person a liberty and for another person an offense. Notice that the apostle Paul is not debating weather or not this is pharisaical or legalistic. Paul does not say if any man is perceived to be legalistic then we can blow them off. We are not talking about things considered petty, or nit picking, these are issues that would be legitimately considered controversial, and would be offensive not to just some isolated case, but to several individuals. It is also interesting to note that the Apostle Paul does not choose to resolve the weaker brother’s issue with meat, by inviting him to try it. As a matter of fact Paul sees this as contributing to the down fall of his brother, and not necessarily to his enlightenment, thus being a warning to us, if it be wise to share what could be considered as one mans liberty is another mans vise. Now there is a debate as to how a person becomes aware of an offensive activity. Some proponents of social nudity would narrow that definition as to, it only matters what a person sees. In the context of 1Cor. 8:10 Paul does state, if anyman sees, and because of this, some social nudist would argue as long as I am not conducting my activity in there presence, then no foul has been committed. But is this what Paul is really talking about? Is it the actual witnessing of such liberties, or the awareness of such liberties? If we use the proponents argument we could say that in this context only men are offended, thus leaving consideration for women and children, as what, they don’t rate? Or we could even say, this only refers to meat specifically offered to idols, and exclude everything else in life considered a liberty. But is this the principle being put forth? Are we to consider some things not improper just because we did not personally witness it? Is it not true that vision is just one example of gaining an awareness, but it’s the awareness itself that would provoke an offensive reaction. If a man makes an improper gesture towards your wife, would you say no foul because you did not witness it? Would not your wife telling you and making you aware be sufficient to alarm you?

The illustration above is confusing a true sin (an improper gesture) with a freedom.  His illustration doesn’t work to prove his point.  Yes, I’d be alarmed if I just knew someone “hit” on my wife.  But this is different than someone knowing that a person participates in a freedom.  This isn’t a Biblical cause for stumbling.  Typically what happens is that someone finds out about another person’s “life” and since they don’t like it, they judge or criticize them.  To stumble (as defined Biblically) is to fall into SIN.  We must remember that stumbling is not to simply disagree with the actions of the person.  Also, if someone “stumbles” over truth are they really “stumbling?”  Not as I understand it.  Should we be silent on the truth because it might offend?  Paul never was!

If we are to narrow a principle, of a section of scripture, are we not limiting the guidance God has given us in his word. To react to things based upon our awareness is a very biblical principle. Take Rom. 10:17, So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Now there is nothing here about our vision, but yet the awareness gained threw words has a very profound effect on many people’s lives. In this context we wouldn’t narrow the meaning of the verse to just the spoken word. We know if it is spoken or read it has the same result, and the principle would apply either way. To say something is offensive only if witnessed, is to say faith can only come if you hear Gods word. This type of narrowing has a tendency to remove power from the principle of Gods word. The substantiated awareness of an activity can be sufficiently offensive without having to witness the activity. Some proponents of social nudity would have us accept a narrow definition of 1Cor. 8:10, because it allows them to not have to deal with the whole stumbling block issue. Anther example is found in Rom. 14:2, For one believes that he may eat all things, another, who is weak eats herbs. Vs.3, Let not him that eats despise him that eats not, and let him who eats not, judge him that eats, for God has received him. Vs.4, Who art thou that judgest another mans servant? To his own master he stands or falls Yes, he shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand. Now, to say the least this is very interesting, because those who are professing believers need to learn a lesson. First of all we must understand that those things in life considered a liberty in Christ may or may not be things all people agree on. When we have those disagreements, those who are on the opposing view have a responsibility. That is, it is not up to people to opinionate, and be condemning of those things considered liberties. This scripture speaks directly to those people who would be critical and judgmental. And vice versa, those who would exercise there freedoms in Christ are told not to be critical of those who don’t, such are accusations of legalism. But the apostle Paul does not leave us in a stale mate, he further adds Rom.14:13, Let us not, therefore judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brothers way. Vs. 19, Let us therefore, follow after the things which make for peace and things with which one may edify anther. Vs.21, It is good neither to eat nor to drink wine, nor any thing by which thy brother stumbles or is offended, or is made weak. The word of God is consistent, that when it comes to personnel rights or liberties, they are second priority to what’s edifying or expedient. And again this is not just referring to things witnessed. No where in the context of Romans 14 do we see that it must be something witnessed. Here, the principle is suggested towards those having knowledge. For example in 2 Thess. 3:11, For we hear that there are some who walk among you disorderly, working not at all but are busy bodies. Notice the context is very clear, these are things not witnessed but only heard. And what is the reaction? 2 Thess. 3:14 And if any man obeys not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Wow! This almost sounds unloving, and kinda of extreme, or even maybe legalistic. But, is it rather a tough love meant to protect and edify the flock? If every time a believer who is in defense of what is edifying for the flock, is accused of legalism, it may be a case of a brother judging a brother. Clearly either way, we are not to condemn our brothers and sisters, but, we are to discern. Clearly we are to search the scriptures for instruction, so as to detect those things harmful to the church. As pertaining to social nudity, those who feel they are not in sin must search there own hearts. As to weather or not social nudity is a sin is something that is subjective and relative. As it is said, let every man work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. It is possible that the very act of non-sexual social nudism is not a sin, but the way in which it is prioritized in ones life could be. It is possible for non-sexual social nudity to be sinless, but the careless handling of such a responsibility in our liberties could be. The grace God has given His children to freely enjoy Gods creation is not a license to have rights for being offensive. The burden of responsibility as pertaining to what is expedient for the church falls on the person exercising their liberties. That means it is up to them to use discretion whenever necessary. Regardless of what our personnel preferences in life may be, we must always examine and discern those things appropriate for the Body. If those things have the appearance of controversy and appear to stretch the limits of freedoms, it just may be those things are meant not to be in the church. As responsible believers in Christ, or even more so, as responsible leaders in Christ testing the spirits is not only expeditious, but necessary. Titus. 1: 7-9, For a bishop must be blameless as the steward of God not self willed, not given to filthy lucre, but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober minded, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to confute the opposers. Ultimately if we are to hold fast the faithful word of God, liberties at times may be questioned, and may at times be inappropriate, God has given us the responsibility to figure it out. May it be that in our search, it is a search that puts on love and holds that which is expeditious, and edifying as first priority.

RWS. 1-25-02

Here is my summary on the "stumbling block" texts of Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 (see also: Stumbling over the issue of Stumbling blocks):

We must keep in mind that to stumble (as defined Biblically) is for a person to fall into SIN because of the actions of another.  We must remember that stumbling is not simply disagreeing with the actions of the person.  A disagreement is a totally different issue with a totally different approach.

In both texts Paul discusses the topics of eating meat offered to idols.

He in essence says it doesn't matter if you eat or not. In 1 Corinthians he even goes so far as to say there are no such things as 'gods.' They are made up in the minds of the people, so eating meat offered to them is no big deal. However, not everyone has such knowledge. In both places Paul defends the right to eat (or not).

What finally dawned upon me is the fact that Paul was discussing the topic with both eaters and non-eaters. He tells them both the truth (that it doesn't really matter) but adds not to actually eat the meat in front of another brother who feels it is wrong.  In the telling of the truth about the idols, Paul was potentially offending the non-eaters.

In my Christian experience I would avoid discussing controversial topics because I didn't want to offend (on the basis of these passages).  Yet Paul never avoided talking about truth. He exhorts us not to do the offending act of freedom in front of someone who differs. But Paul never says don't discuss it -- he was doing that very thing. Paul never says that if you eat meat, "don't tell anyone that you do." He simply says don't eat it in front of those who might stumble because of it.

In the world of Christianity we have avoided talking about Good Nudity, nude art, nude recreation, sex, and other topics because we don't want to offend. I think we've missed Paul's point. I think we need to discuss nudity and all aspects of life that impact our culture even if our fellow Christians don't want to or think it improper.  We who are leaders in Christ’s Body have a responsibility to evangelize and edify.  We are responsible to understand and discern our culture and apply God’s unchanging Word of Truth.  We need to say: “There is nothing wrong in God’s eyes with eating meat, drinking a glass of wine, having a beer, or seeing Good Nudity.  These are NOT SIN to God yet the person who has a “weak” or uninformed conscience might view them as sin.  In which case, the knowledge and application of truth can help the person IF they are willing to receive it.  However, you should never make someone stumble by doing it in front of them.

An example: If you were to come to my home and we invite you to relax and fellowship with us in our hot tub.  And if I said:  “We normally do not wear swim suits, so do you mind if we don’t with you?  By the way, you are welcome to be au’ natural too!”  Am I causing someone to stumble?  No.  If they say: “We’d rather you wear suits.”  We’d say: “Sure no problem!”  I would be sinning if they requested us to wear suits and we didn’t.  This would then be a stumbling block.  This also applies to many freedoms: drinking beer, wine, smoking, dancing, card playing, watching a movie, watching a movie that has non-sexual nudity, etc., etc..  Naturally we all use great discretion with our freedoms before we ask someone if they’d like to participate.  We evaluate the situation before we offer.  This would be love.

My observation is that over the years the church has been subject to unfounded fears that have caused it to fail in evangelism and edification.  These “phantom fears” are truly imposed upon ourselves by non-Biblical views.  This causes Christians to have a secret life (notice I didn’t say private).  We create Believers who talk one way on Sunday but a different way the rest of the week.  By being honest with each other regarding our lives we prevent this.

In summary, Paul would have been violating his own command if it meant not discussing meat eating with "non-eaters." He potentially offended the non-eaters by discussing it and then telling them that the meat eating doesn't matter, but truth is more important than cultural misunderstanding. However, he would not have eaten the meat in front of them.

For sake of discussion, I’ve altered the two passages so that they reflect our topic of Good Nudity and social nudity.  I’ve place contextual aids in [ ].

Romans 14:1-15:7

                1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may enjoy Good Nudity, but he who is weak always is clothed. 3 Let not him who likes to be naked despise him who is always clothed, and let not him who is clothed judge him who is naked; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person enjoys social nude recreation; another doesn’t. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who enjoys Good Nudity, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not, to the Lord he does not enjoy it. He who likes to be naked, is naked to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who is clothed, to the Lord he is clothed, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother [who likes to be naked]? Or why do you show contempt for your brother [who likes to be clothed]? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

                14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing wrong with the naked body; but to him who considers it to be wrong, to him it is wrong. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your nudity, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your nudity the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not nudity, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of nudity. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who has a problem with nudity. 21  It is good to not be naked nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God [and not in front of your clothed brother]. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he is nude, because he does not enjoy nudity from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

                1 We then who are strong [and have no problem with being nude] ought to bear with [and be clothed] the scruples [nudity is wrong] of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." 4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded [accepting each others differences on the application of Good Nudity] toward one another [both those who enjoy being nude and those who don’t], according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

                7 Therefore receive one another [naked or clothed], just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. (NKJV)

In this passage I left in some of the NKJV text so you can see how I’m attempting to keep the tone of the topic consistent with the text.  The NKJV is set in { }. 

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

                1 Now concerning the issue of being nude in a social setting: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. 4 Therefore concerning being nude in a social setting, we know that there is a good nudity, and that God created the body as good. 5 For even if there are perversions of the body {are so-called gods}, no matter what kind {whether in heaven or on earth} (as there is no end to mans perversions) {(as there are many gods and many lords)}, 6 yet for us the body is good and made in the image of God {there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him}; and there are both male and female forms which we have. {one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live}. 7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the perversions, until now view it as something that is bad when naked {eat it as a thing offered to an idol}; and [whenever they see it nude] their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But clothes do not commend us to God; for neither if we enjoy being nude in a social setting are we the better, nor if we do not enjoy such nudity are we the worse. 9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge naked on a sunny day, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to be naked? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if nudity makes my brother stumble, I will never again be seen naked, lest I make my brother [who doesn’t have such knowledge] stumble. (NKJV)

In conclusion, whatever we take from this discussion on stumbling and freedom we must keep the balance of God’s Word.  In Colossians, part of the pinnacle of the prison letters of the revelation of the mystery, Paul states:

16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations -- 21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," 22 which all concern things which perish with the using -- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16-23, NKJV)

Pastor Jeff Bowman 2/23/2002   


[1] It has also been suggested that their wearing or ‘receiving’ of the coats demonstrates that they accepted God’s atonement for them thus placing them back into fellowship with God.

[2] There are several places where mankind needs help or requests something that God didn’t think they needed but He granted it anyway.  Examples: Israel’s request for a king to rule over them.  God would rather have had Him rule over them but He granted their request anyway (1 Sam. 8); Israel desired food and “tested” the Lord and he granted their request but sent “leanness into their soul.” (Ps. 106:15)

[3] Nakedness & the Bible, p. 131

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