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When is Nudity OK for a Christian?
By Ted Slater | Focus on the Family Blog
Comments on several blog posts tell me that this is a hot topic: When and how
is it appropriate to include nudity and portrayals of sexual intercourse in
various forms of art, specifically film?
In regards to viewing nudity, it's clear that there's a spectrum of
appropriateness. On one hand, it may be appropriate for a man to view his wife's
or baby's unclothed body; at certain times a male physician may be within his
right to view a woman's unclothed body. On the other hand, it's never
appropriate for a man to view a woman other than his wife with lustful desire in
his heart, whether she is clothed or unclothed.
Perhaps the rightness or wrongness of viewing nude forms has to do with
vocation: a husband's vocation to please his wife, for example, or a physician's
vocation to care for his patients.
And perhaps the rightness or wrongness of viewing nude forms also has to do
with the heart: viewing a woman lustfully is clearly wrong.
made a covenant with his eyes not to "gaze at a virgin." Habakkuk
associates "gazing" at someone's unclothed body as shameful. There's something
about "gazing" at someone you're not married to that Scripture considers
To directly challenge a comment on another blog post: Scripture does indicate
that a woman's breasts are sexual for men, and not merely for men in "civilized
cultures." Consider Proverbs
5:19 and Song
of Solomon 7:6-12 and Ezekiel
23:3,21, for example. To further illustrate, let me ask our female readers a
couple of questions: If a man not your husband touched your shoulder, that'd
probably be all right, right? But if he touched you elsewhere, it would not be
all right. If he looks you in the eye, that's probably all right, right? But if
he gazes elsewhere, would you not feel uncomfortable? Of course, because you
would feel sexually violated.
Nakedness is associated with disgrace and shame (Isaiah
3:18). When we see someone who is without clothing, we are not to admire
their form, but to cover them (Isaiah
God modeled this by clothing Adam
and Eve. God did this because He deemed such a gift to be good; not
giving such a gift would not be good; therefore it would be
bad not to give such a gift; because this gift's purpose was to cover
their unclothed bodies, it follows that it was bad for Adam and Eve to go around
with unclothed bodies.
I need to make it clear that the human body is not shameful. It is glorious.
But in most cases, uncovering it before others is condemned. Just as, perhaps,
interacting inappropriately with the sacred Ark of the Covenant was condemned.
Scripture is clear that it is wrong to "lie sexually" with someone to whom
you're not married (Leviticus
18:20). The marriage bed is to remain undefiled (Hebrews
13:4). Actors who portray sexual intercourse with someone to whom they're
not married are rejecting both of these principles. By paying money to view
these actors, we are facilitating and affirming their ungodly behavior.
I see plenty of instances in Scripture where viewing unclothed bodies is
wrong. Does Scripture ever portray unclothed bodies as right? Hm. Well,
"walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign ... against Egypt and
Cush." The Lord Himself directly commanded Isaiah to do so in order to indicate
the shame these peoples would experience.
Should passers-by have averted their gaze, like the men of Coventry who
refused to look at the Lady Godiva as she rode horseback through their town,
naked and humbled, sacrificing her honor for
their sake? Yeah, probably.
It's also likely that Jesus was without clothing as he was hanging on the
cross. His garments were
who carried out the crucifixion. This nakedness may have contributed to the
He experienced on the cross.
As with Isaiah, Jesus' humiliation was a display of God's holy judgment
against sin. Like Lady Godiva, He sacrificed His honor for our sake. It had no
(Note, of course, that the nakedness of neither Isaiah nor Jesus was in any
way sexual, but was heartbreakingly shameful and humiliating.)
So is it good for storytellers to use unclothed bodies in their art? Does the
vocation of "artist" grant someone the same authority that husbands or
physicians may have to view an unclothed woman? Does their vocation permit them
to instruct unmarried couples to engage in sexual behavior? Even if so, when is
it good for the rest of us to view the nakedness and sexual activity they
present to us?
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