The following is my reply to a brother who told me he would never agree to my view of naturism as a Christian:
You say you’ll never agree with me on the naturist position and can’t see anyone in the Bible practicing that. Never say never! I once was in your camp and thought the same thing about the Edenic ideal. Christian naturists, in my view, had to be a bunch of perverts trying to justify their awful behavior. For me, that was a projection of my own perversion at the time, especially since I equated nudity with sex. This is the main hang up for people that is hard to get over, but once you break that link, temptation to lust loses all its power. As Martha C. Nussbaum put it so eloquently and succinctly: “Nudity quickly becomes unremarkable when generally practiced.”
Now, having taken off the lenses of cultural bias, I’ve seen the words of Scripture anew. I see the body as the pinnacle of God’s creation, made very good. That didn’t stop being good when man sinned, at least I don’t think God changed his mind on it from one chapter to the next. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed until they ate of the fruit. Then we are supposed to believe that this husband and wife are suddenly ashamed of their nakedness, after God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply? Something deeper and more sinister seems to be at play here! Many gloss over one of the very first questions God asks Adam after he confessed they were afraid and hid because they were naked. That question is simply “Who said you were naked?” It’s largely ignored, and most, it could just not be in the text at all. Could it be that the continued influence of the lying serpent deceptively put ideas contrary to God’s heart in their impressionable minds?
God wants us like little children to enter His kingdom. Someone described innocence as being “unaffected.” Kids learn body shame from grown ups. They don’t have this instinctively. We teach them, just like our first parents were taught. Is it possible to be innocent again or unaffected by sexual temptation this side of heaven? I think if our minds are renewed (Romans 12:1-2), we can be. Imagine a swindler who gives his heart to the Lord and quickly realizes that as a child of God he should swindle no more. We would do him a major disservice to his faith and new walk with Christ to tell him, “Well, the truth is that we live in a fallen world. And even if you don’t want to swindle any longer, you’re going to struggle with swindling because that’s just who you are. No! We’d tell him, “Swindling grieves God’s heart and it’s not who you are any longer.” That is the most I’ve ever referred to swindling, but I hope the point is clear. Lust is no different, and we shouldn’t treat it differently! Lust is not a constant threat to the one who doesn’t want to lust, he or she who trains their own arousal to be based solely in relationship, not in the visual aspect only (see www.mychainsaregone.org).
Jesus was fully human, tempted in every way as we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15) The woman caught in adultery was most likely fully naked, and Jesus looked at her with compassion, not lust. He commands us to do the same. (Matthew 5:27-28). We need to see people like God sees them, as made in His image.
I do not want to cause you to compromise your convictions. But as one who held the same convictions before, I will now speak of my freedom. I don’t want to try and convince you about naturism. It wasn’t even invented in Bible times, as you stated. There wasn’t a need to protect a group of like-minded people without the trappings of clothes, and restrict them to a certain area in those days. This is because nudity was simply more commonplace those days. We are post Victorian era and much more prudish as a result. We have also unfortunately been conditioned to treat the sight of bare skin strictly in a sexual way. That can be unlearned as easy as it was learned.
It’s sad to me that I never knew so many things about the ancient world at the time when Jesus roamed the earth. I didn’t really think about Roman baths or bathing at the river. How did people know who was and wasn’t circumcised? Since our clothes are so cheap to produce today, we don’t think about having one super expensive garment, that served as collateral in times with no credit cards, and doubled as a blanket at night. If you own very few garments, you would accustom yourself to working naked, like Peter and fishermen, for example. There are mosaics and frescoes and artwork that depict all these realities, as well as nude baptism for centuries! I was either unaware of these facts or outright rejected them. The point is, simple nudity was common and expected in that era, unlike today.
God commanded Isaiah to go and preach naked for three years (Isaiah 20:1-3). Would he command someone to sin? Did Jesus sin at his crucifixion or even when he came out of the grave and was mistaken for a naked gardener? When Saul in 1 Samuel 19:23-24 stripped and prophesied, people saw and asked if he was among the prophets (who were accustomed to prophesy this way).
I had no clue about Pope John Paul II’s landmark work known as “Theology of the Body” or what significance it would have for my life and faith. I didn’t know about all the censoring of art throughout the centuries, including the Sistine chapel. I was clueless about the subsequent removal of the loin cloths drawn over the top to reclaim Michelangelo’s God-honoring masterpiece.
As a result of not knowing or appreciating these truths, I lived a lie. The lie is that there is only one response to the sight of flesh. Like Pavlov’s dogs, my thinking was one track minded, and so the result was exactly what you’d expect (one of enticement and lustful desire). When I started to see that there is another and a better way, everything changed. My bondage ceased in a way never attained before. Soon after my wife’s body shame issues (of which she was largely unaware, even though it colored much of her world and confidence) died along with my struggles. Praise the Lord! What used to be a rock of offense, is now a great blessing just as God intended it to be in the beginning.
As for the most common objections, we cover them and the Scripture references in question at great length in this video/text blog series. I personally know several pastors and have read of many more who see no reason why naturism cannot be reconciled with Christian faith and practice. Some of them became naturists after studying the Bible for themselves, unsuccessfully trying to prove naturism is wrong! In fact, they and I attest to an enhancement to our faith and love for our Creator God and Lord.
You bring up two passages not addressed in this series: Ephesians 5:3 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. My answer is we agree! You would surely say that can’t be so, but that would be because you still link nudity to sex in your mind. There is non-sexual nudity that does not arouse sexual energy. Medical communities know this and naked tribes knew it until we went and told them they were naked and and deemed them “improper” in that state of undress. Nursing mothers should be left alone to care for their offspring without being sexualized. I have gathered with other believers and we’ve worshipped together all in undecorated bare bodies and there wasn’t a hint of sexual immorality. There were only sweet times of fellowship that honestly are hard to replicate in the clothing obsessed society. There’s really something about the vulnerability and honesty and humility of all people coming together in one mind. These are such fond memories and powerful times of Spirit-led meetings, and passionate prayer. It’s no wonder the prophets of old were known to shed their clothes as they prophesied.
Greed is also improper for God’s holy people. Could an obsession with clothes (even “modest” fashion) be a well-intended conviction actually based out of pride and greed? That aside, do we try to curb greed in the same way we attempt to keep lust at bay? Do you suggest that we cover up the banks just so we have not even a hint of greed? I realize it’s a faulty analogy, but it shows how we elevate sexual sin over other sins in our minds. This is because we struggle to accept bodies as what they are, and we tend to obsess over what we think we cannot control (lust). Greed I can control with God’s help, so the sight of a bank sign won’t trigger me. See what I mean? Shouldn’t we treat all sin in the same way?
2 Timothy 2:22 – Avoid the passions of youth, and strive for righteousness, faith, love, and peace, together with those who with a pure heart call out to the Lord for help. Again, we absolutely agree! To us, there’s no finer example of a pure in heart than chaste nudity in a soul that walks with the Lord, just like Adam and Eve did in the cool of the day. In my youth, I conflated this passion, made it all about me and did not live righteously. As an adult, I spent many years stunted in that one area of maturity. Then I realized I should grow up (using the maturation of our knowledge and God’s power to be made like a child, unaffected by the grip of lust). Now, thanks to God, I live for love, peace, and righteousness, not out of duty or obligation, but out of joy and relationship. True ethical naturists are adamant when they say nudity is not porn. They are so very different. Naturism is antithetical to porn. I agree. I hate porn because it devalues the person, splitting body and soul in two. Naturism shows the whole person and without any pretense or falsities. I avoid the passions of my youth today and live with a mature purity that I wish everyone would be able claim for themselves.
I know what I was like before embracing body acceptance and rejecting a body taboo. It’s a night and day difference for us, as I am not ever tempted to go back to my porn compulsion and my wife is finally seeing herself and others as God sees them. You could do this without naturism, but in my experienced opinion, nothing works faster and more completely than ethical Christian naturism. It also seems more congruent to the mindset in Bible days where non-sexual nudity was a given and not as shocking as it is today. Yes, sexual sin was a major problem, but these are heart problems and always have been. They aren’t dependent on the visual stimuli that you may or may not encounter to cause you to sin or not.
A friend named Jim put it like this just the other day, “The prudish mind is like a can of gasoline. All it needs is the necessary spark and voila, the mind explodes with distortion of the person — again, because we are messing with a primary need. Without having a prudish mind, I could easily stumble onto a porn site and it would affect me with great negativity and sadness with no allure whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I did stumble upon one last week while looking up saints of all subjects. And it affected me with negative emotions as I could see separation of the soul of the individual from the body.”
Herein lies the question: Could I lust at a naturist resort? I suppose I could if I wanted to. Although, it must be stated that naturists don’t take too kindly to any gawking or ogling! But think about this— I could also lust at a public swimming pool or even at a church service. Or I could choose not to lust in any of those places or situations. When it’s a matter of the heart (which it is), no one or nothing can make me sin or keep me from sinning. Why would I put myself in such a dangerous place such as a naturist resort where temptation abounds? Because it’s not dangerous to me any longer, because through God, I’ve retrained my mind to not objectify other image bearers. It’s like a former alcoholic that can go down the liquor aisle or even a bar and not have a problem. They are truly free and not enslaved in that bondage if they can do that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t suggest it! This is to say nothing of having a positive Christian influence and example for those naturists who claim no faith. It’s no surprise to me that I have talked about my faith more on a nude beach than I ever did on a textile beach!
For me personally, I couldn’t go back to how I used to be. I would compare it to a dog returning to its vomit. I used to see the body as lewd and obscene and a constant source of temptation. Now it is a beautiful work of art, that God himself fashioned in His own image and likeness, to be protected and always treated with the utmost respect. Big mental changes are hard to come by, especially when you’ve been many years in certain thought patterns. This is why in the movies, Neo might be too old for the red pill in The Matrix or Anakin may be too old to train as a Jedi in Star Wars. Again, we flee from youthful passions, but we must become like little children according to Jesus. Children can learn a new way of thinking easily. They are innocent and, in our case, unaffected by lust, until we teach them otherwise. The dichotomy is that mature purity is reflected in being innocent (and living with sexual integrity in both thought and deed). We, likewise, would de well to reclaim that unaffected state through our new thinking and renewed minds as Jesus makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). That’s how I want to be. This is how I am. I’m never going back.
Something that I didn’t tell him that I wish I had would be this: I don’t want to limit God by saying I’ll never do something when there’s a chance that He may be calling me to it. This is obviously a moot point when something clearly contradicts God’s heart and His will for us, but if there are believers saying this is a godly blessing in their lives, I’m not going to write it off as an absolute “No” without first looking into it and praying about it. Convictions can change with new insight and information. Values and faith don’t and shouldn’t change. For me personally, I can say, along with my friend, Matthew Neal, that I’m a naturist by biblical conviction.