Rebellion of Nudity & Meaning of Clothing - Piper

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Rebellion of Nudity & Meaning of Clothing - Piper

Postby natman » Tue May 13, 2008 2:07 pm

The Rebellion of Nudity and the Meaning of Clothing
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By John Piper April 24, 2008
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[LINK TO ARTICLE]

The first consequence of Adam’s and Eve’s sin mentioned in Genesis 3:7 is that “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Suddenly they are self-conscious about their bodies. Before their rebellion against God, there was no shame. “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Now there is shame. Why?

There is no reason to think that it’s because they suddenly became ugly. Their beauty wasn’t the focus in Genesis 2:25, and their ugliness is not the focus here in Genesis 3:7. Why then the shame? Because the foundation of covenant-keeping love collapsed. And with it the sweet, all-trusting security of marriage disappeared forever.

The foundation of covenant-keeping love between a man and a woman is the unbroken covenant between them and God—God governing them for their good and they enjoying him in that security and relying on him. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that covenant was broken and the foundation of their own covenant-keeping collapsed.

They experienced this immediately in the corruption of their own covenant love for each other. It happened in two ways. Both relate to the experience of shame. In the first case, the one viewing my nakedness is no longer trustworthy, so I am afraid I will be shamed. In the second, I myself am no longer at peace with God, but I feel guilty and defiled and unworthy—I deserve to be shamed.

In the first case, I am self-conscious of my body, and I feel vulnerable to shame because I know Eve has chosen to be independent from God. She has made herself central in the place of God. She is essentially now a selfish person. From this day forward, she will put herself first. She is no longer a servant. So she is not safe. And I feel vulnerable around her, because she is very likely to put me down for her own sake. So suddenly my nakedness is precarious. I don’t trust her any more to love me with pure covenant-keeping love. That’s one source of my shame.

The other source is that Adam himself, not just his spouse, has broken covenant with God. If she is rebellious and selfish, and therefore unsafe, so am I. But the way I experience it in myself is that I feel defiled and guilty and unworthy. That’s, in fact, what I am. Before the Fall, what was and what ought to have been were the same. But now, what is and what ought to be are not the same.

I ought to be humbly and gladly submissive to God. But I am not. This huge gap between what I am and what I ought to be colors everything about me—including how I feel about my body. So my wife might be the safest person in the world, but now my own sense of guilt and unworthiness makes me feel vulnerable. The simple, open nakedness of innocence now feels inconsistent with the guilty person that I am. I feel ashamed.

So the shame of nakedness arises from two sources, and both of them are owing to the collapse of the foundation of covenant love in our relationship with God. One is that Eve is no longer reliable to cherish me; she has become selfish and I feel vulnerable that she will put me down for her own selfish ends. The other is that I already know that I am guilty myself, and the nakedness of innocence contradicts my unworthiness—I am ashamed of it.

Genesis 3:7 says that they tried to cope with this new situation by making clothing: “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Adam’s and Eve’s effort to clothe themselves was a sinful effort to conceal what had really happened. They tried to hide from God (Genesis 3:8). Their nakedness felt too revealing and too vulnerable. So they tried to close the gap between what they were and what they ought to be by covering what is, and presenting themselves in a new way.

So what does it mean that God clothed them with animal skins? Was he confirming their hypocrisy? Was he aiding and abetting their pretense? If they were naked and shame-free before the Fall, and if they put on clothes to minimize their shame after the Fall, then what is God doing by clothing them even better than they can clothe themselves? I think the answer is that he is giving a negative message and a positive message.

Negatively, he is saying, You are not what you were and you are not what you ought to be. The chasm between what you are and what you ought to be is huge. Covering yourself with clothing is a right response to this—not to conceal it, but to confess it. Henceforth, you shall wear clothing, not to conceal that you are not what you should be, but to confess that you are not what you should be.

One practical implication of this is that public nudity today is not a return to innocence but rebellion against moral reality. God ordains clothes to witness to the glory we have lost, and it is added rebellion to throw them off.

And for those who rebel in the other direction and make clothes themselves a means of power and prestige and attention getting, God’s answer is not a return to nudity but a return to simplicity (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:4-5). Clothes are not meant to make people think about what is under them. Clothes are meant to direct attention to what is not under them: merciful hands that serve others in the name of Christ, beautiful feet that carry the gospel where it is needed, and the brightness of a face that has beheld the glory of Jesus.

Now we have already crossed over to the more positive meaning of clothing that God had in his mind when he clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins. This was not only a witness to the glory we lost and a confession that we are not what we should be, but it is also a testimony that God himself would one day make us what we should be. God rejected their own self-clothing. Then he did it himself. He showed mercy with superior clothing.

Together with the other hopeful signs in the context (like the defeat of the serpent in Genesis 3:15), God’s mercy points to the day when he will solve the problem of our shame decisively and permanently. He will do it with the blood of his own Son (as there apparently was blood shed in the killing of the animals of the skins). And he will do it with the clothing of righteousness and the radiance of his glory (Galatians 3:27; Philippians 3:21).

Which means that our clothes are a witness both to our past and present failure and to our future glory. They testify to the chasm between what we are and what we should be. And they testify to God’s merciful intention to bridge that chasm through Jesus Christ and his death for our sins.
Last edited by natman on Tue May 13, 2008 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby natman » Tue May 13, 2008 2:19 pm

I like the explanation that he gives for why God clothed Adam and Eve.

So if clothes are a "witness to our past and present failures" and "to the chasm between what we are and what we should be" and "to God’s merciful intention to bridge that chasm through Jesus Christ and his death for our sins", and since Christ has already died for our sins and since we have accepted His death, burial and resurrection as a propitiation for our sins and accepted Jesus, Himself as our Lord and Savior, should we continue to use clothing as a witness or should our witness now be the fact that we no longer need clothes because our past, present and future failures have already been PERFECTLY covered and the chasm closed?
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Postby Desert Hiker » Tue May 13, 2008 10:05 pm

Hmm. I hardly see this article as a supportive apologetic for naturism. He sees nudity as an even further rebellion against God.

An additional problem arises if we accept these arguments; If the argument that clothes testify to our lack of righteousness holds true, then your assertion that the redemption of Jesus frees us from the need of clothes would also suggest that those who have not accepted Christ are in need of clothes. IOW secular nudists are in a compounded rebellious state, first by not yet accepting Christ, and furthermore by being unclad.

I cannot accept the premise that we are in any further state of rebellion by being nude. Nor can I accept that if this is true in our unsaved condition, that our need of clothes would be lifted upon receiving Christ. Indeed, if God had attached any such assertions on our state of dress, then it would be stated as such in the Bible. Yes, those who do not accept Christ are indeed in a rebellious state--yet this is no more true of them because of their state of dress.
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Postby SteveNTL » Tue May 13, 2008 10:48 pm

Seems like he started out ok, but I think he does not identify correctly why God allowed and provided coverings, and Piper's reasoning becomes not well substantiated. I think God accomodated the mis-guidedness of Adam and Eve in seeking a covering, but it was not His desire for them - just as He allowed the nation of Israel to have a king when they thought they needed one, and told them who to select, even though it was not God's plan for them to have a king.

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Postby Larryk1052 » Wed May 14, 2008 6:57 am

Natman, I don't know about you, but this kind of theology make me just want to bang my head on my keyboard.


This is a prime example of it's in between the lines theology. I have heard preachers say that God gave us clothes to wear out of mercy to help us deal with the guilt and shame of sin. Seems like it would of been more merciful to have left us naked so we wouldn't forget it and would look back to Him for reconcilliation.
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Re: Rebellion of Nudity & Meaning of Clothing - Piper

Postby bn2bnude » Wed May 14, 2008 7:51 am

As I read this for the second time, I came to think that Piper is letting his culture color his reading and interpretation of scripture.

So, for comments, look inline... I won't quote the whole thing but just the parts being commented on.

As others have mentioned, he starts out well.

So what does it mean that God clothed them with animal skins? Was he confirming their hypocrisy? Was he aiding and abetting their pretense? If they were naked and shame-free before the Fall, and if they put on clothes to minimize their shame after the Fall, then what is God doing by clothing them even better than they can clothe themselves? I think the answer is that he is giving a negative message and a positive message.

Negatively, he is saying, You are not what you were and you are not what you ought to be. The chasm between what you are and what you ought to be is huge. Covering yourself with clothing is a right response to this—not to conceal it, but to confess it. Henceforth, you shall wear clothing, not to conceal that you are not what you should be, but to confess that you are not what you should be.


Just making this claim is, at least for this article, ignoring the obvious. They were heading into a world which is becoming much harsher. The second obvious point is that the making of skins from animals pointed to a blood sacrifice. During the curse given to Adam and Eve there is no "curse of clothing". A point of note here... It appears that Eve wasn't named until this time.

One practical implication of this is that public nudity today is not a return to innocence but rebellion against moral reality. God ordains clothes to witness to the glory we have lost, and it is added rebellion to throw them off.


This is where I think Pipers argument heads in a wrong direction. I do, however, agree with the first part of the first sentence. Public nudity is not a return to innocence, not even close. For a Christ follower to claim this is to ignore the sacrifice Christ made on the Cross. On the other hand, there is no reason that someone who is not a Christ follower not to claim this. Those who do not follow Christ make many other claims that contradict God as well.

As to the second part of the first sentence, I find it to be the start of where the argument goes wrong. This is a blanket statement and, as many blanket statements, is too broad. What are the reasons for public nudity?

There is protest such as PETA and others. It gets peoples attention and, as Piper states, indicates rebellion. Is it, however, rebellion "against moral reality"? Actually, sometimes. Sometimes, however, rebellion in the case of protest can actually be expressing outrage toward injustice or the cultural reality.

During much of history, public nudity has certainly been used to shame the person who is nude. This is the case for nearly every case of occupation of Israel as well as many other conquests. Is this a "rebellion against moral reality"? The person who is nude was not nude by choice. In fact, it goes more to expose the moral reality of the captors.

During much of history, nudity either complete or incomplete has been a reality for many so-called third world peoples. Does this scream rebellion against God? I don't believe they think of nudity in terms of rebellion.

What about the acts (as someone pointed out here or in NC) where Saul, Isaiah and others were publicly naked because of God's prompting (Saul and the Holy Spirit) or because of Gods commands? Would Piper go to the extent that some have done with wine? The "it was really grape juice" interpretation method?

Then there was nudity during baptism during the first 3 centuries of Christendom (and earlier). Baptism was certainly a public occurrence, at least in many cases. Does this scream rebellion? Actually it shouts submission.

Recreational nudity is a relatively new movement. Is this an act of rebellion against "God's moral reality". I believe it can be. Just like any activity I do, it can be used for God's glorification or for my glorification.

And for those who rebel in the other direction and make clothes themselves a means of power and prestige and attention getting, God’s answer is not a return to nudity but a return to simplicity (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:4-5). Clothes are not meant to make people think about what is under them. Clothes are meant to direct attention to what is not under them: merciful hands that serve others in the name of Christ, beautiful feet that carry the gospel where it is needed, and the brightness of a face that has beheld the glory of Jesus.


Again, a true statement is made to support a poor conclusion. The passage in Timothy is made regarding to Worship and yes, exhorts women to simplicity. The passage in Peter deals with the marriage relationship and, as Piper claims, tells women to strive for simplicity. In both cases, it is the clothes which are the rebellious acts, not lack of them. His statement about clothes is actually true when looking at the abuse of them. It does not, however, extend to nudity where appropriate.

Now we have already crossed over to the more positive meaning of clothing that God had in his mind when he clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins. This was not only a witness to the glory we lost and a confession that we are not what we should be, but it is also a testimony that God himself would one day make us what we should be. God rejected their own self-clothing. Then he did it himself. He showed mercy with superior clothing.


I find this a little confusing. Piper states that clothing is positive but the example, which I agree with, points to the shame of rebellion that clothing reminds us of.

Piper then closes the piece in a way I cannot argue with.

To sum up my disagreements.

Piper claims that public nudity always is an act of rebellion. I don't believe that this is true. Piper claims that clothing is always a reminder of the shame of the fall. In the piece, however, he contradicts this with the passages from both 1 Tim and 1 Peter, going on to show that clothing can be used in wrong ways (rebellion?) as well.

If I were to take this argument to it's full conclusion, I should only ever dress "simply" as any other dress would be drawing attention to myself and be rebellious.
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Re: Rebellion of Nudity & Meaning of Clothing - Piper

Postby jochanaan » Wed May 14, 2008 12:50 pm

bn2bnude wrote:...What about the acts (as someone pointed out here or in NC) where Saul, Isaiah and others were publicly naked because of God's prompting (Saul and the Holy Spirit) or because of Gods commands?

It was I. :? Thanks for mentioning them here; I happened to see the article on NC first and didn't feel like going back and copying my response. :)
bn2bnude wrote:...If I were to take this argument to it's full conclusion, I should only ever dress "simply" as any other dress would be drawing attention to myself and be rebellious.

Indeed. And what is simpler than nakedness? 8)
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Postby jochanaan » Wed May 14, 2008 12:51 pm

BTW, has anyone gone back to the original site to respond to the article?
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Postby bn2bnude » Wed May 14, 2008 3:55 pm

jochanaan wrote:BTW, has anyone gone back to the original site to respond to the article?


I looked to see if there was an easy way of doing so. There does not seem to be.

On the other hand, on the NC Yahoo group, Nathan was asking for the responses for his own use as a rebuttal to the person who sent the article to him in the first place.
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Postby natman » Wed May 14, 2008 4:54 pm

I agree the Piper does come across as counter to the practice of naturism and I do not agree will all of his conclusions. However, he does "appear" to leave the subject open for discussion in that he says "One practical implication of this is that public nudity today is not a return to innocence but rebellion against moral reality." He could have said "The practical...". Instead, he leves the door open for OTHER practical implications which, unfortunately, he does not mention here.

Also, I understand Sam's concern about clothes "witnessing" about our fallen nature. However, I saw that as a "positive" tool we can use as professing Christians to show that those who have not truely accepted the free gift of grace through Christ Jesus continue to cling to their clothing because deep down inside they sense the chasm and the fact that they are not what they ought to be. The converse is true for those who have come to love and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. We no longer have an abslolute need to hide behind clothing.

Also, I see that Piper's "One practical implication" probably does not apply to Christians who are grounded in their faith and, thereby, pure or in the process of becoming pure of heart based on Titus 1:15...

Tit 1:15
"To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure."

Instead, it applies to those who use nudity as a rebellion against morality, such as swingers, pornographers, streakers, flashers, strip clubs etc. or those that use nudity for the sole purpose of shock and awe or as a form of perversity.
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Postby jochanaan » Thu May 15, 2008 1:33 pm

natman wrote:...Instead, it applies to those who use nudity as a rebellion against morality, such as swingers, pornographers, streakers, flashers, strip clubs etc. or those that use nudity for the sole purpose of shock and awe or as a form of perversity.

And this is the only form of public nudity many people see, or hear of; so it's understandable for them to think that's all there is. Yet it seems very strange that so often we're classed with them even though we're so obviously not... :roll: :cry:
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Postby Alfie » Fri May 16, 2008 1:10 am

I don't believe in any way that it is valid to assume that clothing should be seen as a reminder of 'the fall', the scriptures clearly state what the outcomes (and reminders) of the fall are, sickness, pain in childbirth etc etc. Why interpret scripture to make up another one when there is already plenty. Piper is simply using scripture to try and justify a social more or attitude, this has been done far too often by the church and Christian 'teachers' over the years. Some even try to do this with such contentious topics as homosexuality.
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Postby Desert Hiker » Sat May 17, 2008 1:18 am

Clothes witnessing to our fallen state, and nudity witnessing to our redeemed state--this is a positive?!

If it were only that easy, eh?! Truly, we would no longer have to waste our precious time preaching to the choir--all the saved ones are starkers! :lol:

Seriously, no matter how you twist this one around, it places Christian naturists in a morally superior position--what is lawful for us is NOT lawful for them--WRONG!

God's law is the same for everyone! I cannot support any argument that gives Christians a liberty that is only lawful to Christians.

Nor can I accept any argument that reads so much between the lines that a new sin is hatched out of the ether. It is obvious to me that this fellow is grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to outlaw nudity.

Sorry, no sale.
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Postby Alfie » Sat May 17, 2008 4:50 pm

Desert Hiker wrote:.... God's law is the same for everyone! I cannot support any argument that gives Christians a liberty that is only lawful to Christians.
Nor can I accept any argument that reads so much between the lines that a new sin is hatched out of the ether. It is obvious to me that this fellow is grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to outlaw nudity.
Sorry, no sale.


I don't buy it either!
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hatching a new sin?

Postby jimmy » Sat May 17, 2008 11:37 pm

Sin existed before the world was created. "There is nothing new under the sum..." I don't buy it either.

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