Unpresentable Parts?

If you ask a Bible scholar what 1 Corinthians 12 is about, they are bound to answer something having to do with the analogy of the body as it relates to unity in the Church. That is the undeniable context of this verse in question today. This blog is not Church unity, although that is a topic near to my own heart. It’s a blog about Christian naturism. Sadly, some have used verses 22-23 as an objection against the views of Christian naturists. This is a classic example of proof texting and taking verses out of their clear context.

In fact, those who would say Christian naturists are in error and as a result, you must break fellowship with them, they who maintain this position are in direct violation of the greater message of 1 Corinthians 12. Christian naturists are part (and I’d add a vital part) of the body of Christ, and not to be amputated. There must be no division between Christians with naturist freedom versus other Christians. We are not to say of another believer, “I have no need of you.” In an attempt to project prudish and repressive views onto others, believers attack other believers who hold different convictions and in so doing they commit the sin of divisiveness.

However, that is not the point of this post. Context aside, what is meant by the phrase “unpresentable parts”? That’s what our new video dives into in great detail. Watch the video and the script will be provided at the bottom. I would have to conclude, from all of this, that this verse is no reason to abandon the amazing Eden-like freedom of Christian naturism.

1 Corinthians 12:22-25:

“The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater care, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” 

Like many passages in the New Testament, this one is actually a metaphor for unity in the church and for how each person plays a unique part in the makeup of the body of Christ. 

However, as these verses have been wrongly used to shame our physical bodies, let us dig into the idea that some parts of our bodies are “unpresentable.” What do we think these parts are? Our 21st century western perspective would jump to the conclusion that the passage must be speaking of breasts and genitals. 

If we lived in another place or time, however, we might think our ankles or our ears, or even our eyes were “unpresentable,” while having no concern with exposing the entirety of the remainder of our bodies!

The Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary informs us that the phrase “less presentable members” refers to “those limbs which we conceal from sight in accordance with custom, but in the exposure of which there would be no indecency.” 

Heinrich Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament explains that Paul was referring primarily to the inner organs, (the intestines, the brain, the heart) but allows for a reference to the delicate external organs (ears, eyes, genitals) as well. 

Modern pietists might “strain at a gnat,” or hunt for a needle in this haystack to proof-text the idea that some body parts are worse than others, but in this search, they’ll only find acres of hay.

Our true focus should be that God has called the entire body: good [see Genesis 1:31]. 

What, then, does “unpresentable” mean? If one is going out in a sand storm, it is smart to cover one’s face. It is “unpresentable” to the environmental conditions at the time. If you are going into a very cold environment, you will want to cover all of your exposed flesh. In that situation, it is “less presentable.” Our brains, our hearts, our lungs— to each of these, God has given more honor by enclosing them within our bodies. They are “unpresentable,” but “more honorable.” 

It is only our culture, feeding on customs and the passage of time, that has wrongly concluded that our genitalia or areolae are dishonorable and exist in a state of continuous shame.

If we continue to pass down faulty information and myths to our children, these meaningless traditions will continue… until someone asks a simple question: why? 

Before we say “because God said so,” or “because the Bible said so,” we should ask the simple question: Really?

The issue is not that our reproductive organs are inherently bad. Sometimes, they just get in the way! When not being exposed to harsh elements or strapped down because of exercise or work, our vulnerable external body parts are just as beautiful and “presentable” as anything else.

The Christian walk provides life and freedom. Next time you have the opportunity to bare your skin to the sunshine, let it beam! God is smiling on all of your created parts.

Quotes from “Christian Body”

Christian Body: Modesty and the Bible by Aaron Frost was one of the first books my wife and I read together after we began our journey into Christian naturism. I distinctly remember finishing it over a long weekend at a little cabin, spent entirely as created (nude). It was a special time, but as we read and highlighted certain quotes, I recall we both got fairly angry. What upset us as we read, was not the content itself, but rather that we had missed these fundamental principles for most of our lives. It angered us that our family, and Christian community was living the lie still, and completely unaware of the dangerous side effects of what we often call “modesty.”

We highlighted many passages– too many to cover in this short article, but for sake of time, let’s dive right into a few quotes from the book.

“The biblical response to pornography is not to cover the body, but to oppose sexual objectification with a shining example of Godly people who are not overpowered by the sight of God’s creation, but instead appreciate one another in our natural forms with honor, respect, and dignity.”

I had looked into Christian Naturism many years ago. I, like so many of those around me, disregarded it as implausible being raised with standards of “modesty.” That upbringing, however, did not stop me from developing an ongoing struggle with pornography. When I explored it further, I came to see that simple nudity and pornography are two very different things. My problem, which would overpower me, was the objectification of the body, not the sight of it. My mind equated it with a sexual connotation, not as God’s creation. As a result, I did not treat it with honor, respect, or dignity. That is the key to no longer be overpowered by lust. Respect and appreciation of God’s creation.

However eye-opening this was, here’s some of the parts that made us mad:

“When God first asked, “Who told you that you were naked?” it was apparently Satan who had told them this, but now it is missionaries who carry Satan’s message for him telling unaware people around the world that they are naked… For many cultures, which did not previously have a sexually perverted perception of the body, Christians have manufactured indecency where it never before existed… By this method, Christians in the name of so-called ‘modesty’ have spread some of the worst moral pollution around the world through bigoted and legalistic perceptions of morality that draw from pagan culture rather than God’s Word.”

Strong words in a harsh tone, but one that is deserved. I believe Christians aren’t knowingly and purposefully propagating these harmful ideas. That’s the clever and shrewd enemy, Satan. I’m angry at him. It took most of my life to learn we had been duped! 

Here is another example:

“Today, the once honorable and principled Japanese culture has largely adopted our Victorian modesty concept, and as a result has developed an exploding pornography and sex-trafficking trade and a deeply perverted culture of dysfunctional sexuality thanks to missionaries who bring Satan’s message telling the people that they are naked.”

And later he says, “We are making fools of ourselves and actively promoting the very error that has helped cause much of the perversion in our society!”

I’m sure that was never the intent of these missionaries, but they themselves have lived under the lie that began in the garden of Eden. Nakedness was a part of everyday life in Bible times, but the church embraced the lie early on.

“In today’s cultural climate, depictions of nudity are hastily labeled as pornography and strictly censored in many circles, but archeology frequently discovers original depictions of daily life in Bible times where workers, bathers, and the poor went about their business completely naked without any immoral innuendo or religions censure. This matches the unremarkable nudity mentioned several times in the Bible. Public nude bathing was a common practice for both Jews and Christians before, during, and after the time of Christ, and these nude bathing places were neither preached against nor even avoided by Jesus (John 5:1-7)… These ruined works of art show that the disdain and revulsion we hold for nakedness today did not always exist and was not originally contrary to Christianity but was introduced later and caused believers to go back and deface their historical artwork. The ‘Christian’ idea of indecency was an entirely foreign concept in early churches until long after the time of Christ.”

My wife and I had never really thought about this before. There were even some pictures of this censorship that we saw for the first time in this book. We only knew what we had grown up believing, which is what our well intentioned parents taught us, which they learned from their parents, and so on.

I suffered from an addiction to pornography and my wife had her own body issues. The collective wisdom of the church on these issues was not very helpful at all. This book eloquently stated for us how we had both achieved a lasting and permanent victory in both our areas of debilitating struggles.

“Men have consistently reported that this brought them victory over their struggle with pornography, and many women have discovered a new level of self-acceptance and confidence in the bodies God gave them after years of jealousy and debilitating insecurities. These are wonderful things that the family of God ought to be standing for rather than fighting against!”

“Unfortunately well-meaning, but very misguided Christians are often the most vocal group fighting against this freedom. Those who expend the most effort to keep themselves from the temptation of ‘worldly’ immodesty are the most hypersensitive and vulnerable to sexual temptation and addiction… I have been saying for some time now that if we were to remove modesty standards completely, the degrading, shameful pornography issue would wither and die a silent, forgotten death and many, many dysfunctional sexual vices in our culture would melt into obscurity.”

As I read, it was confirmation of what God had done in my life to eradicate this problem area for me. My wife began to see the changes in me and how what I would tell her about her own issues was also true. We both found freedom, and I pray that many others do as well. I vow that my children will not fall into the same traps that I fell into, and that my daughter would see herself as a beautiful creation of God, worthy of both respect and admiration. I pray the church would repent of its willful pride, misguided interpretation of modesty, and blind loyalty to the attitude of our enemy in seeing God’s crowning glory in creation as obscene and dirty. Sadly, the true filth is a mind that has not been renewed to see others as God does.