Recently, I was asked what the Bible says about public nudity. As you well know, many believe that the taboo of public nudity is merely social, and that apart from societal mores, there is nothing immoral about public nudity. What does the Bible say?
First let me be clear. I draw a distinction between task nudity and social or sexual nudity. Task nudity refers to a person being nude for such things as taking a shower at the gym. Therefore, this article does not refer to task nudity but rather whether it is moral to be nude in public, in mixed company other than with one’s spouse, and/or for the purpose of being nude, disrobed etc., for either sexual or social nudity.
Nudity is beautiful prior to the fall: There is nothing inherently evil about nudity. For example, Genesis 2:25 says concerning man and woman before the fall, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.“ Further, God declared all that He created to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Consequently, the naked body as created by God is beautiful; however, this was before the fall of mankind. Before the fall, the nudity of man and woman did not provoke temptation, but sin introduced distortion into the created order that did not previously exist. This distortion can be seen by comparing Genesis 2:25, which says prior to the fall that Adam and Eve were naked and “were not ashamed to (Genesis 3:7) whereas immediately after the introduction of sin into the world Scripture describes their attempt to hide their nakedness with clothing. More importantly, God clothed their nakedness: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.“(Genesis 3:21)
One commentator lucidly notes the change, “Their bodies were sanctified by the spirit, which animated them. Shame entered first with sin, which destroyed the normal relation of the spirit to the body, exciting tendencies and lusts which warred against the soul, and turning the sacred ordinance of God into sensual impulses and the lust of the flesh.”1
Consequently, Christians should be clear: the body was created by God as “very good” and clothing was not necessary or even suggested in the Garden prior to the fall. We should be equally clear that immediately after the fall, God clothed Adam and Eve. God is the one who started the clothing of the human body; therefore, in our present fallen state, clothing is not an option, a mere status symbol to be discarded in one’s quest for freedom, or a mere social construct, but rather a blessing and provision of God.
The origin of dress is associated with a changed state brought about by sin, resulting in nakedness being seductive, provocative, and potentiating shame and further allurement away from God and His plan for humans.
Therefore, prior to the fall of man into sin, Adam and Eve were naked without shame. Immediately after the fall, they were ashamed and sought to cover themselves, which God did as well. Today those who express their shamelessness about public nudity fail to realize that shamelessness in the garden was because of the purity of the creation whereas after the fall any sense of shamelessness is due to the hardness of the heart from sin “…the unjust knows no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5).
Nudity is beautiful between a husband and wife: Contrary to social Darwinism, which sees man as an animal, different only from all other animals in degree rather than kind, man is created in the image of God, and is therefore categorically different than animals. Thus, the argument that animals do not wear clothing is no argument or determiner of what humans should or should not do. Biblically, the body and marriage are sacred and marriage is the proper context for sex, and social or sexual nudity. The beliver’s body is not only sacred because it was created by God but also because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit, (1 Corinthians 3:16). Therefore, public nudity is wrong because it desacralizes marriage, sex, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Public nudity is sin: Public nudity is sin and should evoke shame. That some are not ashamed reveals more about their spiritual deprivation than about whether public nudity is sin or not. Zephaniah said, “…the unjust knows no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5). Public nudity is humanity at the sensual level, and draws us away from God’s way and elicits lust, jeopardizes marriage, and potentiates adultery, fornication…..
Gen 19:22-25 associates shame with exposure of the nakedness of Noah. Leviticus 18 prescribed several specifics about regulating nudity and appears to use nudity as a euphemism for sex as well. We live in a very sensual culture, and the further we move from being a culture influenced by biblical principles, the more public nudity and scanty dressing will become tokens of liberation from so-called cultural taboos.
Christians do see nudity and sex as beautiful gifts from God, and they, like every other blessing of life, are to be used according to God’s plan. “Christians hold that worldly gifts are subordinate to the gifts of grace and that the new spirit of divine life consecrates these goods from selfish to pious uses…early Christians conformed their dress to a modest and sober taste, giving no indulgence to a vain spirit.”2
The Scriptures remind us, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit“(Romans 8:5). Therefore, we are commanded, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth“(Colossians 3:2) and this command is in light of the warning “Whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things“(Philippians 3:19).
Nudity and sex have no real connection: In one way or another, those who promote public nudity as “innocent” or “social and not sexual” seek to distinguish and disassociate sex from nudity. Those who support the notion and like to frequent nudist clubs, etc. say that walking around nude with other families, children, and those of the opposite sex has nothing to do with sex. In other words, there is no organic relationship between nudity and sex or nudity and sin.
First, as already shown, non-task nudity outside the confines of marriage is sin in this fallen world. Second, while nudity is not sufficient for sex, it is necessary. Their attempt to totally disassociate sex from nudity is laughable. First, the Scripture makes the clear connection between sex and nudity with all of the regulations regarding nudity, as well as using nudity as a euphemism for sex. Also, it seems that the pornographers understand the connection since they make millions by either selling nude photos or photos that cause lust that can only be satiated by sex.
It seems that men understand the connection since they are by every known rational mind to be visual. Lastly, it seems that if honesty prevails, both men and women understand there is an inextricable connection between nudity and sex, or else the move toward more intimacy by men and women would be to put on another layer of clothing with each flirtatious encounter and the most sensual dress would be multilayer thick burlap.
Christians should show forth the glory of God by covering what He intended to be covered recognizing the insatiable appetite of fallen man to desacralize everything, including himself, and live at the basest level of human existence; thereby allowing sensory pleasure to reign supreme with no shame.