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The Christian and Nakedness in Art

Recently, I came across an article entitled “Art, Nakedness, and Redemption” by William VanDoodewaard, a church history professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. In this thought-provoking treatment, he inquires how the believer ought to treat visual media which portray human nakedness — whether in classical and Renaissance art, or in modern cinema. Somehow, I suspect that Paul would not have wrestled too hard with figuring this one out, but VanDoodewaard documents modern-day professing Christians who have come to the conclusion that in the name of redeeming culture, believers may indeed expose themselves to — and even participate in — art and film that portray human nakedness.

VanDoodewaard determined to “examine what Scripture has to say on nakedness and redemption and what a history of nakedness in art might reveal.”  He concludes that after the Fall, “Scripture’s testimony over and over again is that nakedness in contexts outside of marriage and necessity is shameful, spiritually destructive, a denial of the reality of sin and God’s holiness.”  He turns to history and briefly probes the purposes of nakedness in pagan art, noting Clement of Alexandria’s and Augustine’s condemnation of such.

Concluding, he notes that

Scripture and history indicate that nudity in art (and now film) is not actually the domain of the mature, the wise, or those engaged in “redemptive activity.”  Rather: “we dress because we sin… [it is] a reminder that man is an unholy fugitive, in hiding from God and from his own fellows” and a picture of the need for bloody atonement for sin, and clothing by the righteousness of Christ.  As such, “whether it be in a nudist colony, at an orgy, in primitive society, or in the nursery, public nudity is only possible for those unconscious or aggressively heedless of their sinfulness.” It is far more likely that the attitude of the acceptability of nudity for “the mature” in art, film, and pop culture is contributing to the rising tide of infidelity and divorce in the church.

The whole article is worth your time.

About Chuck Bumgardner

I seek to be a student of the Scriptures — New Testament in particular — and also have a deep love for the praise of God through music in the church. I have at the present time the privilege of overseeing the music and leading the singing in my local church, a ministry which brings me great joy and provides a God-ordained outlet for my musical energies. I've enjoyed serving in music-related areas in the church since high school — some 25 years now — as a vocalist, choir member, choir director, and congregational songleader. In addition to serving as a member — and for a time as an assistant pastor — in various local churches, I've also had the privilege of traveling during my college years to many churches throughout the United States and Canada as part of a vocal ensemble. I hunger to see, both in my own church and beyond, an increased appreciation for the great historic music of the church in which theologically rich texts are wedded to music which provides an appropriate setting for those texts, and through which our affections are turned toward God. I'm also eager to see new contributions to the rich heritage of Christian music which share in the same characteristics.