Is social nudism wrong? In extensive correspondence with the editor of Fig Leaf Forum, I have assured him I can demonstrate from scripture that it is wrong. It is my task in this debate to show clearly, from the Bible, that God does not approve of nor endorse nudism as the editor practices it. What they are doing is sinful and wrong. Let's learn why.
To do so, we begin by studying our proposition. I am affirming that "Social nudism is condemned by the Bible as sinful." Just what is social nudism? That is defined in the debate agreement as "Men and women (both married and unmarried) and their children being together completely naked for non-sexual social and recreational purposes."
Now we know what we are talking about. Notice that we are discussing social nudism, men and women who are not married to each other being together naked. Thus this debate is not concerned about nakedness in the privacy of one's home, with one's own spouse, with one's doctor, etc. Further, it is important that everyone realize we are discussing what the Bible condemns as sinful. Thus, we are not discussing what history says Christians hundreds of years ago did regarding clothing. History is not our standard. We are also not talking about what we think or feel. We are discussing what the Bible says is right and wrong. All that is of interest in this debate is "What does the Bible say?" I believe that when we examine the Bible we find that it teaches social nudism is wrong.
Social nudism is wrong because it can provoke lust. Lust is the core problem with social nudism. The Bible frankly and honestly speaks about the allures the human body can have upon a person. Proverbs discusses the harlot and says "Do not lust after her beauty in your heart" (Proverbs 6.25). Jesus warns about lusting: "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5.28). John also warns "For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2.16). This is just a sampling of the varied material throughout scripture cautioning that men and women of God need to be careful with their eyes.
The Bible designates clothing as one step that a person takes to combat the problem of lust. The priests wore clothes so that lust would not occur (Exodus 28.42). Paul urges women not to use clothing, either too much or too little, to draw attention to their bodies: "Women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing" (1 Timothy 2.9). While it is acknowledged that primarily Paul is speaking here to the problem of over dressing note that the passage urges "decency and propriety" (NIV) or "modestly and discreetly" (NASB). How does nudism possibly fit into this passage? Consistently the Bible urges chaste behavior so that the sin of lust will not occur.
However, despite all the attention in scripture to the problem of lust nudists simply choose to ignore the Bible's warnings. They willingly go where there is complete nudity, apparently hoping that in the midst of so much temptation they will not sin. The editor needs to explain to the readers of the debate how a person is to avoid the temptation to lust in the presence of nudity? While scripture commands Christians to flee lust (1 Corinthians 6.18; 2 Timothy 2.22) and to pray for a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10.13) social nudists embrace temptation. They abandon propriety, modesty and any other safeguard against lust, choosing to exhibit themselves absolutely nude with others who are also nude. Where is the concern for "the lust of the eye?" Where is the determination to avoid "adultery in the heart?"
Lest one ignore the dangers of lust the Bible contains a powerful story of how overcoming lust can become. In 2 Samuel 11.2 we read that David saw Bathsheba bathing. Note carefully that this event dramatically parallels what the editor calls "social nudism." Bathsheba was naked, but she was not naked for sexual purposes. What she did was not done to entice anyone. She was merely bathing. Yet the sight of her naked body led to lust and a tragic series of terrible sins by David. Who can read this story and then say "It's no big deal if men and women are together naked?" David's story shows how even the spiritually strongest person can lust.
Let us make the point clear. Repeatedly, the Bible warns against lust. The Bible demonstrates the terrible dangers of lust. Given this clear pattern what thinking Christian would ever wish to go any place where he could be subject to such temptation? After reading the Bible what person says "social nudism is blessed by God?"
The editor may choose to deny that he has ever lusted after anyone at a nudist camp, but he cannot deny that it could happen. Why does he flirt with disaster? Can the editor guarantee that tomorrow his Bathsheba won't come to the nudist camp, leading him to adultery and the destruction of his marriage and soul? Who would say they are stronger spiritually than David? So don't say it can't happen, editor. It happened to David, and that means it could happen to anyone — anyone who chooses to see people naked!
Social nudism is wrong because it can cause others to lust. Even if the editor can guarantee that he will never lust (which he can't), what effect does the display of his naked body have on others? He cannot know what will happen for he cannot read the minds of others. He may be causing someone to lust and be ignorant of it — but surely he is then an accessory and party to their sin. He has put a stumbling block before others by his unwillingness to clothe himself to prevent lust. This is sinful (Romans 14.13). The editor must trust men, seeing his naked wife, to look upon her without lust, to see her differently than they would a naked woman in a pornographic magazine. He must trust women to see him differently than they would a naked man on a "pin-up" calendar. How can he be certain others are doing that? If they cannot he has contributed to sin!
Amazingly, the editor reveals that he knows this is a problem with social nudism. In the Fig Leaf Forum he shares the following: "My wife does have a concern that our lifestyle might be a spiritual stumbling block to some individuals (Romans 14). I share her concern but believe that if we call ourselves Christian nudists then we must be very sensitive to the moral and spiritual sensibilities of those around us...we must take care that nothing we do in the presence of others be allowed to compromise their faith or cause temptation to sin." All of that is fine and good, yet the editor does not explain how he is going to keep from being a stumbling block to another while he is completely naked! Such is impossible.
To my further amazement, reading the material on the Fig Leaf Forum makes it clear that the editor and his wife frequent nudist camps of all sorts, not just so-called "Christian nudist camps." This means that he is naked in the presence of those who do not make any pretense or attempt to subscribe to his supposed "high moral values." For all he knows he is among people who have come together to be naked for the express purpose of lusting and carnal pleasure. He cannot deny this, because he does not know others' hearts. Someone may come to such a camp intent on causing lust by displaying his/her naked body, or may come there intent on lusting after others. What an atmosphere for a Christian to be in! Despite this the editor still displays himself in the nude, exposing himself to the temptation to lust as well as quite possibly causing others to sin.
Lust is the issue here, and it is the problem of "lust of the eye" that the editor must grapple with. Watch carefully in his reply and see if the editor will tell us what "lust of the eye" is, and how he avoids becoming involved in it or causing it when he is practicing his social nudism. See if he will answer these two vital questions: Can he guarantee that he will not be led to lust when he practices social nudism? Can he guarantee that he is not causing others to lust?
Social nudism is wrong because of its influence. The editor and other nudists raise great complaints in their writings about how misunderstood they are, how everyone thinks they are perverts, etc. This alone indicts them. A Christian's life is to be above reproach. Jesus tells us that we are "lights unto the world" (Matthew 5.14ff). If this behavior is obscuring our light why would we want to be part of it? Paul says Christians are to "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time" (Colossians 4.5). Romans 12.17 commands us to "Respect what is right in the sight of all men." Our influence matters. When the editor tells non-Christians that he is a nudist what is their reaction? Do they immediately think "Here is a spiritually minded person from whom I can get answers about Christianity?" No they do not. Nudism is associated with sensuality. It is not viewed by the majority of people, Christian or otherwise, as righteous. The editor as much as admits this when, in the lead editorial for the Fig Leaf Forum, he promises anonymity for anyone who would send letters in about practicing nudism. The editor writes "Regretfully, the history of social nudism has always required anonymity for some of those involved." Why is this, editor? Isn't it because so many interpret social nudism as a sin, and associate it (correctly) with lust and sensuality? How can one be "salt and light" when he associates himself with what so many clearly see as sinful? Yet the editor willingly impairs and compromises his influence by his determination to practice social nudism. This is simply wrong.
Social nudism is also wrong because it could lead others to sin. The editor wishes his social nudism to be designated as a matter of Christian liberty. But even if it were (it clearly is not) he still should not practice it. Paul carefully details that one must not practice a matter of liberty if it could cause another brother to stumble (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8.9, 1 Corinthians 8.13). So the editor believes he can go to nudist camps without sinning. He encourages others to do the same in his Fig Leaf Forum. Now a new Christian reads his material and decides "I'll try it." But this new Christian does lust at the nudist camp. Who placed a stumbling block before him? That is right. The editor led him into sin!
Christian nudism is simply sinful. It is wrong to go where lust could so easily and obviously occur. It is wrong to go and be a potential temptation to others to lust. It is wrong to compromise one's influence. It is wrong to promote something that could lead others to sin. Nudism is wrong and there is nothing right about it.
Certainly, we expect that nudists reading this material will attempt to excuse their behavior. Some may say "No one lusts at these nudist camps." How can one know that? No one knows what others are thinking! Yet in a post to the alt.christnet.nudism message board one wrote that at a nudist camp swimming pool he could "get his eyeful of attractive young bodies." This from a so-called Christian nudist! So we see that lust is going on among these nudists whether they want to admit it or not (and this fellow admitted it!). And again — even if the editor never lusts he cannot be certain that he isn't causing others to lust.
"But," one may protest, "people lust after people who are fully clothed." This is certainly true, yet how does this exonerate the nudist? Does a true disciple of Christ not bear some responsibility to "walk in a manner worthy of your calling" (Ephesians 4.1ff), which would certainly include trying to help people keep from lusting rather than causing lust? The Christian is called to a life of purity, holiness and chaste behavior (1 Peter 1.16; 1 Peter 3.2). How does throwing caution to the wind and presenting oneself as a target for lust fit with such admonitions? To argue that since some cannot control their thoughts if we are fully clothed we may then take off all our clothes is ludicrous. Yet the editor and other social nudists brazenly expose themselves to non-Christians, tempting them to lust. Incredibly, they revel in their practice, and seem completely unwilling to accept responsibility for the sin they may be causing.
Others have offered that "we get used to nudity, so we don't lust any more." This is certainly a fascinating defense. Note that it admits that lust did occur for some time, but now they are "used to it." Apparently this person just lusted long enough until finally their conscience was seared (1 Timothy 4.2). That hardly constitutes much of a defense for anything! "We'll just sin and sin and sin until finally we can get this sort of under control and not sin so much."
Finally, I would like the editor to tell us what public nudity does for him. If he wishes to be naked he may certainly do so in the privacy of his home. He and his wife can be naked all they wish there without causing lust or other sin. If he wishes to be naked outdoors let him secure a private place outdoors. But why does he want to be naked with others? There is simply nothing in scripture of any kind that would indicate that being naked with others will enhance one's spirituality or make one a better Christian. In fact, the Bible portrays nudity as a non-normal state that is associated with shame and embarrassment (Isaiah 47.3; Ezekiel 16.7-8; Hosea 2.3; Matthew 25.36; Revelation 3.17). If God has such a positive view of nudism why is it consistently used as an image for humiliation and shame? How then can one decide public nakedness is good, normal or to be desired? The Bible details the spiritual disciplines, like prayer and Bible study, that draw us closer to the Lord. Where is any hint that social nudism will help one be a better Christian?
In closing, this article conclusively demonstrates that there is no defense for social nudism. It is sinful. Those involved in it must repent and stop such practices.
In the editor's response we will watch closely to see that he:
1. Give specific attention to answering my questions about "lust of the eyes" and how nudists prevent such sin.
2. Responds point by point to my four charges against nudism. The editor must tell the reader how nudism does not lead to lust by the nudist, does not cause lust in others viewing the nudist, why a social nudist can destroy his influence for good by practicing nudism, and how he keeps from leading others into sin by promoting the social nudist lifestyle.
3. Shows us the scriptures that tell us that nakedness is desirable and helps one serve God.
He has his work cut out for him!
Next article: First Debate Negative
:: Debate Introduction
:: First Debate Affirmative
:: First Debate Negative
:: Second Debate Affirmative
:: Second Debate Negative
:: Final Debate Affirmative
:: Final Debate Negative
:: Does God Approve Of My Sin?
:: Letter To A Texas church Of Christ
:: A Rejoinder
:: Rejoinder Response
:: A Debate 'Post-Mortem'
:: A Letter To The Editor
:: A Letter To The Preacher
:: Reflections On Lust
:: On Lust
:: The Problem With Lust
:: What A Beautiful Tree! Is That Lust?
The Good News
:: The Gospel Of Jesus Christ