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First Debate Negative

By the editor of Fig Leaf Forum

Introduction. Before beginning my reply to the church of Christ preacher, I feel it necessary to inform readers that he refused to enter into this debate without strict word limitations in place. It should be obvious after reading his first article that he has posed more questions and raised more complex issues than any opponent could ever adequately address using an equal number of words. My preference would have been to offer a meticulous line by line, point by point reply. However, space will permit only a general response to the four main "charges against nudism" with which he concluded his article. Should the preacher boast in his next rejoinder, "See how the editor avoided answering this question" or "See how he failed to address that issue," readers should understand that it was his own space limitations that made a complete reply impossible. Any reader who would like a more thorough response to any matters not addressed below can receive it by contacting me directly.

Important Admissions. In a pre-debate letter the preacher admitted to me "that generally I accept that nakedness is not immoral in and of itself." I'm glad he did. If he had not, he would be admitting that something God created was inherently immoral, a completely unbiblical proposition.

The definition of social nudism accepted by the preacher for the purpose of this debate is: "Men and women (both married and unmarried) and their children being together completely naked for non-sexual social and recreational purposes." He therefore admits that social nudism involves nakedness within a non-sexual context.

The preacher's next important admission was revealed when he wrote, "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.'" [1] This is a half-truth, but an extremely important one. While David's behavior in no way represents that of modern nudists, public bathing (that is, bathing where one can be seen by others) does indeed offer a close Biblical parallel to social nudism.

The preacher must understand how commonplace public bathing was in Bible times. Private indoor bathing facilities like we take for granted today simply didn't exist! Even Egyptian royalty had to use the river to bathe (Exodus 2.5)! In 2 Kings 5.10-14 we find Naaman comparing the bathing quality of the Jordan River with that of the rivers of Damascus. Bathing was not required only for personal hygiene, either. Leviticus 14-17 and 22 along with Numbers 19 offer more than twenty commands from God to bathe, and this when the Israelites were still living in tents!

The last admission of note came from the preacher shortly after he wrote that "The Bible designates clothing as one step that a person takes to combat the problem of lust." Just a few paragraphs later he reluctantly admitted that it was "certainly true" that "people lust after people who are fully clothed." [2] What he really thinks, then, is that the Bible designates clothes as a control for lust (untrue) even though they are quite ineffective when used for that purpose (true). The preacher might well consider the principles enunciated in Colossians 2.20-23 in order to get a clearer view of what the Bible really says regarding the value of externals in "restraining sensual indulgence." Externals can no more produce real purity and real holiness than externals can produce real salvation.

To summarize, according to the preacher's own admissions we're dealing with nakedness that's not inherently immoral, nakedness that's not sexually immoral, and nakedness within a context that "dramatically parallels" a practice commonly witnessed throughout Bible times, a practice partly necessitated by the command of God yet never once condemned by Him as sinful in any way. Also reluctantly admitted by the preacher is the ineffectiveness of clothing for controlling lust.

Lust And Temptation. The preacher thinks that "Despite all the attention in Scripture to the problem of lust nudists simply choose to ignore the Bible's warnings." Absolutely untrue. If he had bothered to examine what's been written in Fig Leaf Forum over the years, for instance, he would know that rather than ignoring "the problem of lust," Christian nudists address it head on. We don't, however, view lust as a wild, all-encompassing threat like he does. Rather, we have examined any problems that might be posed by lust within context and in perspective, using the Bible as our guide.

The preacher challenged me "to explain to the readers of the debate how a person is to avoid the temptation to lust in the presence of nudity." The explanation lies in the context where nakedness is found. The preacher would have readers believe that 'All nakedness is created equal' (to borrow a phrase from a well-known document). Even though he admits the nakedness of social nudism is non-sexual, he nevertheless references a verse about the allures of a prostitute (Proverbs 6.25) and a verse about fleeing sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6.18) to support his claim that "Social nudism is wrong because it can provoke lust." Later in his article he suggests that it's possible to view my wife's chaste nakedness at a nudist park in the same way as "a naked woman in a pornographic magazine," and my chaste nakedness in the same way as "a naked man on a 'pin-up' calendar." This further proves that he thinks all nakedness is equally lust-provoking.

I contend that just as Scripture must be interpreted within context, so too must nakedness. To illustrate, I'll ask the preacher the following questions: Does he believe the nakedness of classic nude paintings and statues in art museums throughout the world is as lust-provoking as that of pornographic magazines? Does he believe the nakedness in National Geographic magazine or an anatomy textbook is as lust-provoking as that of pin-up calendars? Does he believe the nakedness witnessed by doctors and nurses in a hospital is as lust-provoking as that witnessed at a strip club? It seems absurd to even have to ask such questions to make a point which ought to be so obvious. The truth about social nudism is that the non-sexual, non-arousing nature of its nakedness simply does not provoke lust or temptation in the way the preacher thinks it does.

The preacher thinks that "The Bible portrays nudity as a non-normal state that is associated with shame and embarrassment." Such a blanket statement is simply not supported by Scripture. There are many examples of nakedness in the Bible which prove this assertion incorrect. I offer three here. I have already shown that public bathing was common in Bible times, yet nowhere is its nakedness associated with "shame and embarrassment." 1 Samuel 19.24 has Saul prophesying naked for a day and a night without shame or embarrassment. Finally, John 21.7 has Peter fishing naked near the shore of Galilee, again with no shame or embarrassment experienced and no condemnation received. I challenge the preacher and skeptical readers to search your Bibles, find every instance where physical nakedness is discussed, and then carefully examine the context in which it exists. Never is physical nakedness itself a matter of shame, embarrassment or condemnation. It's always the conditions or actions surrounding nakedness the context that result in these negative connotations. Nakedness is God's creation and cannot, in and of itself, rightly produce shame, embarrassment or condemnation. Neither can God-created nakedness, in and of itself, tempt anyone to evil (James 1.13-14).

Stumbling Blocks. The preacher mentions Romans 14 several times in his article. Here Paul teaches about Christian liberty [3] and right relations between the strong and weak in faith. The weak were those who believed eating meat sacrificed to idols was sin, even though Paul taught that God didn't regard it so. If the weak were threatened by the actions of the strong, the strong were advised by Paul to curtail those actions in their presence [4]. When the principles of Romans 14 are applied to the subject of this debate, I believe the weak comprise two groups: 1) those who believe the non-sexual nakedness of social nudism is sin, even though nothing in Scripture indicates that God regards it so, and 2) those uncommon few who, like David, have an overpowering problem with lust, even when exposed to chaste nakedness.

Paul's teaching in Romans 14 would have been entirely meaningless if it weren't possible for strong believers to in some way discern who among them was weak. The preacher would have readers believe that it's impossible for nudists to recognize the 'Davids' among them. He pointed out that no one can "read the minds of others," and that no one can "know others' hearts." In an absolute sense, both statements are true. However, the Bible says clearly that "When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin" (James 1.15). Jesus taught that, "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.... The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart." (Luke 6.43, 45). Since these Scriptures are true, observant and discerning Christian nudists can expect to learn much about those around them on the basis of their expressed motivations, visible priorities, speech and behavior. Such discernment aids us in acting properly towards others, not placing stumbling blocks or temptation in the way of those who are weak, yet maintaining our ability to enjoy Christian liberty with people who are strong.

But what of those who have yet to experience nudism? The preacher correctly stated that I "encourage others to try Christian nudism through Fig Leaf Forum." What the preacher failed to mention is that such encouragement never takes place without concurrently informing interested parties about the responsible behavior that must accompany the practice of social nudism. Each issue of Fig Leaf Forum begins and ends with unmistakable statements regarding proper social nudist behavior. In addition to reverence, chastity, responsibility and consideration, each newsletter calls for nudist conduct that is purely motivated, honorable and glorifying to God, loving and respectful of others, and legal.

Additionally, first-time visitors to almost all nudist parks are given an introduction to social nudism, either by way of oral explanation or through written literature explaining what is expected regarding proper behavior, nudist etiquette, etc. In a nutshell, virtually no one enters social nudism blindly or unprepared. Fig Leaf Forum, operators of nudist parks and social nudists themselves all play a role in properly educating prospective nudists about what to expect from social nudism and about what responsibilities come with its practice.

Christian Life. The preacher rightly stated that "A Christian's life is to be above reproach...." The only valid reproach, however, is an honest and true reproach. Rebuking a Christian nudist on the basis of misinformation or prejudice is invalid and dishonest. Remember the Pharisees' reproach of Jesus? "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners"'" (Matthew 11.19). What did Jesus say in response? "Wisdom is proved right by her actions." I stand by my chaste and moral actions, as do thousands of other Christian nudists. We strive to lead a life beyond legitimate reproach. If the preacher has credible and substantive evidence to the contrary, let him present it.

The preacher stated that "Romans 12.17 commands us to 'Respect what is right in the sight of all men." Does he believe Paul meant that Christians are to respect what is right in the sight of "all" men, even those who reject what is right in the sight of God ? I don't think so, and that's why I refuse to allow the Biblically ill-informed and/or culturally prejudiced to govern my behavior as one ultimately accountable to God (Romans 14.4).

The preacher wrote that "Paul says Christians are to 'Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.'" I'm convinced that the majority of Christian nudists do exactly that, both inside and outside of social nudism. I believe God wants Christians to bring "salt and light" (Matthew 5.13-16) to every legitimate human endeavor, whether recreational, cultural, commercial or something other.

The preacher wrote that "Consistently the Bible urges chaste behavior so that the sin of lust will not occur" and "The Christian is called to a life of purity, holiness and chaste behavior." Both statements are absolutely true and rightly emphasize the importance of right conduct over mere appearance. I'm certain that the preacher would regard the term "modest nakedness" to be the most outrageous oxymoron he's ever heard, yet it precisely describes the behavior I've consistently witnessed during my years as a social nudist. In truth, "purity, holiness and chaste behavior" are themselves the nudist's prime safeguards against provoking lust in others.

Conclusion. I believe the preacher has failed to prove the proposition of this debate. I've shown that his attempts at using the Bible to directly and indirectly condemn social nudism are completely without merit. Though in his introductory remarks the preacher cautioned against "talking about what we think or feel," the majority of what he has offered to support the proposition of this debate represents little more than just that: what he "thinks or feels" about social nudism. His article clearly reflects the influence of traditional and contemporary cultural presumptions about nakedness. It also displays an abysmal lack of understanding about the true nature of social nudism [5]. I have countered with expert, eye-witness testimony regarding observable facts about social nudism that can easily be verified by anyone who actually visits a nudist park.

Proverbs 18.13 says that "He who answers before listening that is his folly and his shame." The preacher has attempted to "answer" with authority concerning social nudism but has, in fact, made little or no effort to really "listen" (learn) about nudism first. Based upon my actual experience as a nudist, I submit that most of what the preacher thinks or feels about the "perils" of social nudism is simply false.

The preacher has not proven that "Social nudism is condemned by the Bible as sinful." What I believe he has proven instead in this debate is his willingness to legislate where the Bible does not legislate and condemn what the Bible does not condemn. Though I have no doubt that his intentions are completely honorable, he is nevertheless attempting to bind his own personal scruples and unfounded fears about nakedness onto all Christians everywhere. For the sake of truth, and for the sake of Christian liberty, such actions must be exposed for what they are and resolutely resisted.

[1] While the Bible makes God's displeasure with David's actions abundantly clear, never does it criticize or condemn Bathsheba for engaging in the common practice of public bathing. Bathsheba is later blessed by God with the birth of Solomon. Compare Bathsheba's blessing with what happened to another of David's wives who criticized some nakedness of his own (2 Samuel 6.14-23).

[2] The preacher failed to offer any credible Scriptural support for his assertion that clothing combats lust. He thinks "The priests wore clothes so that lust would not occur" (Exodus 28.42). Incorrect. According to verse 43, priests wore their sacred garments so they would not "incur guilt and die."

The preacher thinks "Paul urges women not to use clothing, either too much or too little, to draw attention to their bodies." A half-truth. The preacher followed this claim by admitting that "primarily Paul is speaking here to the problem of overdressing." Not "primarily," sir exclusively.

Note that nowhere in either Exodus 28 or 1 Timothy 2 is lust even mentioned!

About Matthew 5.28 the preacher thinks "Jesus warns about lusting." Another half-truth. To be precise, Jesus warned about 'looking lustfully.' Note carefully that Jesus didn't say, "anyone who looks at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart." He pointedly said, "anyone who looks lustfully." Jesus made no distinction between clothed or unclothed women in this teaching. The preacher would have the reader believe it's impossible to look upon any nakedness without lusting. That's patently false. Nudists by the thousands (along with doctors and nurses by the hundreds of thousands) prove everyday that people can indeed look upon chaste nakedness without lusting.

[3] Briefly, Christian liberty is here defined as the freedom enjoyed by believers to rightly use all things good or morally neutral.

[4] Note that while Paul taught believers to be considerate toward the weak in faith, he never commanded permanent cessation of Christian liberty for their sake. Never in Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 8 did he teach all believers everywhere to permanently become vegetarians because a few somewhere might have a problem with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Neither would Christian nudists be required to permanently forgo their right use of nakedness because a few people somewhere might have difficulties with it.

[5] The preacher offered two unidentified quotes from an Internet newsgroup called alt.christnet.nudism. The preacher knows that anyone can post to this newsgroup, whether they be Christian or not, nudist or not. I was able to use to locate the first quote ("get his eyeful of attractive young bodies"). According to's message archive, during the last three years this man posted only four messages to alt.christnet.nudism, all on the same day! In none of these messages does he claim to be a Christian or a nudist. I also discovered that the preacher quoted him out of context. I wasn't able to locate the source of the second quote ("we get used to nudity, so we don't lust any more"). Readers may legitimately wonder why the preacher isn't disclosing his sources. If he truly wants to research Christian involvement in nudism, my advice to him would be to seek a variety of sources, seek credible sources, and attribute references so others can verify author and context.

Next article: Second Debate Affirmative

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