I have actually written on the subject of the theology of nakedness fairly extensively. The post though that I am reaching back to on this particular problem is The Bible and Nakedness – Part 1 – Eden Again. In it much of the argument for nakedness being the right state for humanity and it is the Fall of mankind that brings shame to nudity. Even then the question remained for me was this shame in nakedness directed toward each other or was it a shame of being in God’s presence naked. As my study concluded I had to conclude that Adam and Eve’s shame was not between each other, they are really in the same boat. The shame is directed toward God because of their sin. Adam and Eve don’t have a naked problem, they have a sin problem.
The real first problem in nakedness in a religious context is that our theology is bad and quite frankly inconsistent. The standard argument is that because of sin nudity is sinful, but that is not what actually is going on and the other side of the argument about sin is that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross removes all consequences of the Fall but we want to say it is not right for people to return to being naked and unashamed. In the above post I cited I listed the consequences of the Fall:
1. Separated relationship with God for Mankind
2. Separated relationship between man and woman (with woman becoming subservient to man)
3. Beginning of loss of relationship with creation
4. Hard work for men
5. Increased pain in childbirth for women
6. Loss of the tree of life and Eden
7. SHAME in Being Naked
8. Having to wear clothes
Now, looking at all of these there is in a sense some change in thinking because of Christ:
1) Relationship Between God and Mankind being restored back to friendship with God through Christ.
2) In Christ, Man and Woman can enjoy closeness and oneness in a new life in Christ and each other. Women are given much more prominence and equality in Christ than before Christ.
3) While I would say that the relationship with between Creation and Mankind is stained, it does not have to remain so as the final redemption of creation is promised in Christ and there is a possibility of renewal in Christ.
4) Actually the curse of the ground was lifted after the flood and even though mankind works hard in many ways because of new life in Christ work can be a discipline to lead us closer to God.
5) Women still experience pain in childbirth, but Paul in First Timothy promises some form of ‘salvation’ through childbirth because of Christ.
6) Eternal Life is regained in Christ although we still have to pass through death to get it.
At this point I want to point that all of these are in what we call a ‘already but not yet’ state of redemption because of Christ. There are elements of all these that are already redeemed and have change right now because of Christ but there is also a promise of future additional redemption in each of these areas. So why would there not also be a sense of already but not yet in some way as regarding both shame in nakedness and having to wear clothes?
7) If Christ has removed our sin and covered our spiritual shame because of sin, why would we still be ashamed to be naked in His presence or the presence of others? The already is that we should at least be able to disrobe in God’s presence and feel not shame and in fact such a thing would indicate what we really feel about our sin and Christ’s effect on it. The ‘not yet’ is that because of pervasive sin in society in both religious and non religious contexts is that not everyone can accept this idea. Those who can should do so but with a mind for their weaker brother who cannot accept this. Someday after final redemption this will be gone, but for now I think it will always exist. Note though, the problem is not nudity itself but peoples’ conception of it.
8) Clothes are indeed the result of our shame and should not be looked at as good. Nakedness is good; having to cloth ourselves is a result of sin and sinfulness. Some cannot accept this however and so the same rules apply as #7.
What I want to point out for those who want to practice nudism or naturism in a spiritual context in any form is that not everyone is going to accept what you’re doing is right and that will probably never change. Form time to time you might persuade someone or certain parts of society to your position but not everyone.
On the flip side in addressing those who think that nudity is sinful, I would point out to you that theologically you have to twist Scripture to get this interpretation. The Bible never says nudity in and of itself is sinful. Sin twists our conception of nakedness and makes it sinful in our mind. The removal of sin should also remove the twisting. Not everyone can accept this and we need to accept this reality as part of the problem, but we need to get over the idea that if someone is naked they are sinning. Adam and Eve were naked and they were not sinning, they were simply being the way they were created to be. It is inconsistent to say that Jesus redeems us from the Fall and then say that nudity is still sinful even though Christ has rid us of ALL sin. Sorry, you are probably going to start treating Christian nudist as a brother or sister and not an enemy. They may actually be more mature in Christ in this area than you.
Next: Naked Problem #2: Spiritual Nakedness vs. Religious Control