Embracing Nakedness: Adopting God’s View of Bare Anatomy


I’m a Wesleyan pastor who is grateful for the landmark Theology of the Body of Karol Wojtyla (late Pope John Paul II). No theologian ever dealt so comprehensively with God’s purpose for gendered human embodiment. This quote summarizes his theme: “The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created  to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”

As an art lover and amateur artist, I was surprised to read Wojtyla’s ideas somewhat echoed by Robert Henri in his book The Art Spirit: “There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body. In fact it is not only among artists but among all people that a greater appreciation and respect for the human body should develop. When we respect the nude we will no longer have any shame about it.”

But before ordination or art classes, I was an L&D nurse, and still am. I work routinely and intimately with bare female anatomy. If this raises any brows, I’ve hammered out my own quote that brings Wojtyla’s and Henri’s together: “A Creator-honoring, incarnational view of the naked human body dispels the fantasy-laden, porno-prudish conception religiously taught and pornographically exploited in Western culture.”

For almost 25 years, I put up with the uncomfortable contradiction between my experiential view of hospital nudity and the one taught by my Christian upbringing. Finally, when God opened my eyes to the dysfunctional immaturity of our culture’s reaction to public breastfeeding, I did my homework. Through intense research about the phenomenon of human nakedness biblically, historically, culturally, and psycho-socially, I experienced a radical paradigm shift in my thinking. My studies showed me the American church’s urgent need of repentance, reformation and restitution for having adopted and promoted Victorianism’s “flight from the body.”

The bottom line is this: a prudish view of the body is a pornographic one. (Tweet this!) Religiously placing an obscene or indecent sexual connotation on the sight of gender-distinguishing body parts creates a sexually objectified body. Such legalism, if socially embraced, becomes the conceptual foundation for a pornographic culture, as ours is now. Also, this objectification trivializes the body language of human genitalia, allowing them to be ignored as features of personal gender identity and distinction. Take some time to do the math on this, and it should cause tears.

Theologically, beyond shining a spotlight on the church’s notorious support of Victorian prudery, these personal insights showed me how Gnosticism’s influence on the early church still lingers in popular Christian thinking (see my article on this here).

Practically, my discoveries led me to join some other pastors in creating a website to fight porn addiction. Our message at MCAG (mychainsaregone.org) is body acceptance, calling men to see women as the Creator does, in opposition to the traditional body-shame approach, which tells them, “Bounce your eyes!”

Ministerially, I feel like “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Christian porno-prudery is so well established as a virtue that most are blind to its real nature as a vice. Yet it has kept Christians from being the world-renowned experts in sex education that our understanding of creation and the Incarnation ought to have made us. It has stopped multiple thousands of Christian art students from ever becoming skilled with the nude. If we hadn’t abandoned the human body by surrendering God’s image and temple into secular hands, these young artists might have become modern Michelangelo’s painting contemporary “Sistine-Chapel” ceilings. Such a holy display of human nudity in our churches might have been a realistic preventative to our current religious and social focus on naked anatomy as an avenue of lust and on gender-specific body parts as sex objects.

I explained the gist of this article to one senior pastor who agreed with my viewpoint but believed the situation hopeless, saying that society and the church are too far into this to ever be changed. I must disagree. The naked truth of reality changed me. Porno-prudery is a learned attitude that can be unlearned through repentance. Gnostic ideas that devalue matter and flesh can be dispelled from our pulpits. Preaching theologically-correct body acceptance can bring a reformation in Christian thinking that restores the strong incarnational message our modern world needs to hear. Although it means swallowing our pride, even the last step is possible: restitution. If our porno-prudery has played a role in the development of a society riddled with porn addiction, body-image dysfunctions, gender confusion issues, human-trafficking, and more, we must confess our error, ask forgiveness, and start behaving as if the “fearfully and wonderfully made” naked human body never stopped being “very good” (Gen 1:31).


David, an ordained Wesleyan minister, graduated from Maranatha Baptist Bible College before serving with Gospel Outreach of California and with YWAM in Quebec during the 70s. He got his RN in 1981 and later an M.A. in Cross-Cultural Studies from New College Berkeley. After 34 years of nursing, he recently retired from his job in L&D, but continues to pastor the small retirement community church he planted in 1996. He loves writing, art, and hiking with his wife Rosemary. They've raised 12 children and live in Sacramento.


  1. Your article is thoughtful, and you bring out good consideration of what drives our theology – is it biblical understanding or cultural influence. All of us are affected by culture, and it’s impossible to be fully free of that environment, but it needs to be regularly examined. As a bivocational pastor myself, presently preaching through Genesis, I hope to use some of this material.

    There needs to be balance in this arena. I agree there is indeed a “prudery” in some Christian circles (the more conservative and orthodox, the more the struggle), and such thinking not only leads to pornographic addictions, but dissatisfied marriages, cliques and critiques based on clothing, etc.

    The other consideration, however, that doesn’t seem to be mentioned in Pastor Hatton’s article, is the introduction of sin into the world. The pre-Fall world was indeed “very good” and the man and his wife were naked and unashamed. Ineffective covering was introduced by man as a result of sin entering the world. God’s grace was demonstrated in His making of more effectual clothing to cover us, and even in that there is a type of salvation. But that leads to a theological reality: not all nakedness is good. Clothing is God’s gift to us to cover us in our sinful shame, and until such time as we are clothed in our glorified bodies, it is still necessary.

    • Yes, John, culture is indeed formative, especially in how Scripture is read and interpreted. For instance, our Western stance on nudity yields a taken-for-granted interpretation that God clothed the first sinners with animal skins “to cover us in our sinful shame”—something culturally “read into” the text (eisogesis) rather than “out of” (exegesis). Contextually, between their discovery of nakedness and His act of clothing them, God describes the harsh new world of thorn and storm they would now inhabit. For this reason, some see the provision of leather clothing as clearly “God’s gift” of protection. Others, myself included, see in God’s act a foreshadowing of animal sacrifices for “atonement” (“kaphar”: “to cover”), which would end with Christ’s ultimate sacrifice to “take away” what was previously only “covered over.” The text itself is silent about God’s motive.

      There are, however, sticky problems with the idea that God was trying to hide the shame of their nakedness. This was a married couple, with no one else around. What becomes of “no shame” in marital nudity stated prior to this event? Again, if God was initiating a moral precedent, then His requirement is leather for hiding nudity. His specific action would show textiles (plant material) insufficient. Finally, was God changing His “very good” view of nakedness based on a deceived sinner’s “fear” or, even worse, based on a fallen angel’s information, which God pointed to by asking, “Who told you that you were naked?” No commentator I’ve found deals directly with God’s clear implication in that question: that they learned something about their fear of nakedness from the master of fear.

      Culturally, we can miss seeing in Genesis that Satan was involved in the first-stated result of human sin: man’s alienation from his body. Beyond what I’ve shared in the above article, I believe Satan’s hand in creating a distorted perception of naked human embodiment has had far-reaching social effects. That the church has played an unwitting role in the process is a point I’ve tried to make in a similar article on my personal blog:


      And if you’re really interested in a more thorough theological dealing with the idea of Satan’s involvement in this matter, read my doctrinal paper dealing with Gnosticism and human sexuality, which is linked to in the above article.

      Blessings as you do theology in this crucially significant area!

        • Lots to think about in your well-thought-out article. Many of our assumptions about what is being conveyed in Genesis 1-3 need to be jostled by the questions you are raising. I am still digging there for insights skimmed over in the past.

      • It is not a given that God killed animals to get the skins of which He fashioned tunics. Having shortly before created the animals, it would hardly be beyond His ability to have created the skins out of nothing. So all the inferences made, “blood had to be spilled to cover sin” may be without one grain of foundation.
        Eating the fruit involved their hands and mouths, not their genitals. So what was the “aprons” thing about?
        Today in a naked society we should wear the aprons around back to be sat upon.

        • It may not be “a given that God killed animals to get the skins” but it is clear that Adam’s son Abel (whom Jesus included among “the phophets” [Luke 11:50-51]) was soon thereafter led to offer animal sacrifices. Abel’s little “grain of foundation,” being followed by a gigantic sweep of grains in the Mosaic law, is why some Bible scholars see sacrificial significance in the “skins” God used to cover Adam and Eve. Indeed, they may be wrong. I repeat, if you missed it, that the “text itself is silent about God’s motive” in clothing them with leather.

          But, regardless of your own opinion about it, Adam and Eve did soon learn realistically that leather’s unique source is dead animals. That fact might have given them food for thought, if God was silent about why He replaced their textiles with leather. Also, if the later OT sacrifices themselves foreshadowed the ultimate Sacrifice, as NT theology insists, then for these scholars to see the shadow of sacrifice in the skins is not “without one grain of foundation,” as you suggest.

          Personally, I think it might have been a ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or’ situation. A sacrificial shadow may have been God’s implied intent, which He would later build upon in His progressive biblical revelation. But the practical gift of leather for warmth and protection met an obvious need in view of the new environmental situation described in the passage immediately preceding God’s use of the skins. Just my opinion, however, since opinions are we can hold for now.

    • John I like your response. However, I have an intriguing article about being naked before the fall. The story was written by those who lived after the fall, living in a sinful world talking to a sinful people who knows little about living naked. So any idea of being without the need of clothing is foreign to them. To broken humanity, Adam and Eve were naked. But the question God asked, “Who told you that you were naked” is like us asking our child “Who told you that you were ugly, or unworthy, or a bad person?”. That does not mean WE agree with that conclusion. The child is NOT ugly. The child is NOT unworthy, or a bad person. Adam and Eve were NOT naked as far as GOD WAS CONCERNED! For more on this (before I rewrite the whole thing here), go here for the article: (Also see the comments because I added some more thoughts there)

    • inkaboutit4u com

      Adam and Eve , The body is not corrupt but the mind got
      corrupt thinking. So why do Christians keep copying Adam and Eve today and keep wear cloth in shame of God’s nude and sexual creation.

      Titus 1:15 Everything is pure to
      those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and
      unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are defiled.

      Adam and Eve got corrupt thinking, there body did not change
      , only their confused and corrupt
      thinking changed. Rom 14:14 if you “think” something is wrong then to you it is
      wrong. It does not mean that it is wrong just because some or many think it is wrong.

      Romans 14:14 I know and am perfectly
      sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is
      wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is

      But God told Peter in Act 10:15 that Don’t call bad was God
      said is good. This includes many, many things
      that Christians are still calling bad.

      Acts 10:13
      Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter;
      kill and eat them.” 14 “Never,
      Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never in all my life eaten anything
      forbidden by our Jewish laws. ” 15 The voice spoke
      again, “If God says something is
      acceptable, don’t say it isn’t.” 16 The same
      vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was pulled up again to heaven. 17 Peter was very

      Putting Clothes on was wrong. God wants all creation to be nude
      with no shame and no guilt over both
      nudity and sexuality. God created holy human nature and said it was very good
      design. We humans sometimes add man made
      “sin principal “ to it which is bad, but
      God human nature is still very good. Still God’s design. We just need to understand the man made “sin principal” part and learn not apply it to God holy human
      nature. Be sure not to “through the “baby” (God holy human nature) out with the dirty water(man made “sin principal”) “ God’s nude human body with God’s holy human nature
      is still very good. Man made “sin principal” part
      is bad. Don’t call God made human nature bad when God called it good.

    • In response to ,”Clothing is God’s gift to us to cover us in our sinful shame,” I am a little confused. I thought Jesus Christ was the answer, not clothing. John 1:29 says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Take away sin and you take away shame. I preach Christ, not clothing. Clothing is insufficient at dealing with sin and shame and the fact that people go on sinning, even while dressed to the hilt in the finest clothes, is proof.

  2. I saw this article in the Fig Leaf Forum and wanted to follow up. I have a blog that is not as “professionally” written, but has helped a lot of people along with my website on Christian Naturism.
    You wrote “I explained the gist of this article to one senior pastor who agreed with my viewpoint but believed the situation hopeless, saying that society and the church are too far into this to ever be changed. I must disagree.” I disagree as well. Saying it is hopeless is like saying “there is sin in the world, therefore it is hopeless”. Jesus would disagree or he would not have come into our flesh for our redemption. Now is it hopeless to get nudists out of the closet and stop living in fear? That is another hope. Great article, looking forward to more.

    • Most Christians, myself included, have long been suspicicous of “nudists.” But it was wrestling with the strong arguments of those following nudism’s traditional moral philosophy that launched my “research” mentioned above. I was surprised to discover that one of their original motives was to provide a context where their children could unlearn the surrounding culture’s sexualizing of the body. Meditation on this forced me to connect the dots between religious prudery and our pornified culture. It was a painful epiphany.

      Yes, if there are Christian nudists in “the closest,” we need “a radical paradigm shift” in the church’s thinking to allow them to “stop living in fear” and sit next to us under the preaching of God’s Word. I know a Christian art instructor who teaches figure drawing. If she invited one of her nude models to church, she should no more fear jaws dropping at him sharing about his occupation than I do in telling my congregation that I help naked moms deliver and breastfeed babies.

      But I also know a devoted Bible teacher who lost his pastorate for revealing his stand on “body acceptance.” The church’s theological and practical “shift” toward a more realistic, sane and mature view of our embodiment may take longer than is healthy for us. I don’t know how to speed up the process other than to pray and keep preaching the truth.

      • I have had pastors who are still good friends that knew about our naturism and even excited at the idea that we are reaching out to a culture that is not being reached by mainstream Christianity! My most recent pastor, however, did not share that excitement. That’s OK. I know where I stand.

      • Inkaboutit4u com

        I agree. Some people are open minded seeking truth, but
        others are closed minded thinking they
        already have all truth and have stopped questioning anything.

        A Christian Pastor ,38 years in the ministry, who is retired now, after a lot of personal
        research , Wrote, “Divine Sex” exposing many of the misleading sexual teaching there is out there. He asked many questions that need to be asked, to help find truth.
        Very good book all should read. Book is free online.

        In Bible College my theology professor, whenever we would
        expose false teaching of another religions
        or denomination, he would always ask, “Wonder where WE have a blinding misunderstanding?”
        something like that. We all assume we have or know all truth so we stop looking
        for truth or stop asking God to show us
        truth, “God, open my eyes and show me your truth.” Problem is what do we do when God does show us truth? If we respond the right way, God will show us more truth. We need to test the truth. Truth can stand the test, lies can not.

        This is the biggest problem with many religious leaders. Jesus
        could not teach Jewish religious leaders anything. They called Jesus the Devil. They
        wanted to kill Jesus, they did kill Jesus. How closed minded can anyone get? It
        go back to “spiritual pride” But look what’s happen since then with only
        starting with 12. Truth will win out.
        Truth over comes lies.

  3. inkaboutit4u com

    I agree that God is very pro-nudist. God wants and wanted
    all creation to be nudist. Adam and Eve were holy and pure when they were 100%
    public nudist. But the first thing they did with their confusing and sinful and
    corrupt thinking was to put cloth on and cover up God’s creation and hide
    behind trees and brushes thinking they
    were hiding from God or something.

    But today the Church
    still is copying Adam and Eve and Satan’s lie and they think they are more “spiritual”
    do that. They cover their body thinking the more they cover the more spiritual
    they are. But the opposite is true. “Spiritual “pride , the “wholier-then-thou, pride
    is one of the worst pride there is,
    because it is so deceiving.

    But to me this is only part 1. Not only are people hung up
    over there God’s nude creation , but also their God designed sexuality, that God also say it was very good. God said
    both very very good Gen 1:31.

    They create wrong definition for “fornication” that does not
    even fit in the Bible anywhere and create major contradictions. If anyone does
    an opened minded research on the “word, “fornication” you clearly see that it
    means the misuse of your God given sexual freedom given to all creation at
    creation to join in the pagan worship of a fertility pagan god. Compare 1 Cor
    10:8 use the word and the definition of “fornication” is in Nu 25: 1-9 where
    Paul is pointing. This is the correct definition. If you look up every “fornication
    verse and study each context you will see this is the correct definition that
    fits in 98% of the time. The other 2% they use the wrong word or there is a
    misunderstanding or just lazy translation work.

    • “Fornication” is an English (similar in several other languages) derived from a Latin word meaning having to do with the “fornices,” the arches, of the viaducts and aqueducts of the Roman empire, where the lowest “streetwalker” grade of prostitutes plied their trade.
      In the Hebrew it is «zānâ,» to become a prostitute, to be sexually immoral, to be promiscuous, to commit adultery, and associated wrongs. In one instance it is «taznût,» promiscuity, prostitution, act of lust.
      In the Greek it is variations of «porneia,» sexual immorality, fornication, marital unfaithfulness, prostitution, adultery, a generic term for sexual sin of any kind.
      The modern restricted usage of “sexual intercourse between unmarried persons” is not Biblical.

  4. I’m not surprised my article attracts the attention of Christian nudists. After all, it touches a major premise in their philosophy. But, while valuing nudist insights, I feel “body acceptance” a broader issue with greater implications than enjoying a clothes-free lifestyle. Without yet finishing my research on traditional nudism, I’m already convinced that a focus on “nude recreation” is far too narrow. But rather than repeat my reasoning, I offer an explanation already given on my website: http://www.pastordavidrn.com/files/bodyacceptance.html. This little testimonial starts with what I discovered in studying nudism but ends with seeing it as only one among other concerns that, to me, are more important.

    Also, I don’t think winning converts to a counter-cultural practice of nudism will change the face of society. Sadly, but historically, the momentum behind porno-prudery—and the body-shame problems stemming from it—has been the Christian community. Yet, once disseminated in society, that “take” on the human body has become so identified with lustful behavior and sexual exploitation that “nakedness and nastiness” are looked upon as conceptually synonymous. The difficulty in opposing the general consensus of average people raised in this culture is that a distorted view of the human body is a trusted part of their upbringing. Some even carry personal fears from real wounds inflicted in the context of that distortion. Without trivializing these, I call for an end to the erroneous social mindset which such traumatic experiences mistakenly seem to confirm.

    This is why the needed “change of mind” (repentance) must begin with Christian leadership. Ministers, regardless of previously learned loyalties, owe God their allegiance to an accurate biblical theology based on His Word. For that reason, unless I find individuals who will set aside their cultural biases to think through the incarnational truth of Scripture afresh, I make my appeal to the pulpit. Because past pulpits promoted “body shame,” I believe pastors and Bible teachers are restitutionally the best candidates to replace society’s pornographic view of the body with the sanctified one intended by our Creator. God usually doesn’t deliver His people from the predicaments they get themselves into, unless He first addresses them prophetically— Amos 3:7, “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” So, almost all I’ve written on “body acceptance” has been shaped with my peers in ministry in mind. If the church ever adopts and starts proclaiming God’s view of bare human anatomy, nudism will eventually become obsolete.

  5. I enjoyed this article because it confirmed my beliefs regarding the bible and nudity for awhile now. Can someone be a Christian and a nudist? The answer is absolutely, yes. Christianity is about inclusion, not exclusion.

  6. Public nakedness is OK both with God and (should be) with the secular world? I wonder if you have considered what it would be like aboard a crowded subway car naked with all the other passengers naked, too?
    Recently I saw a feature about a naked bike ride. All but one person was left alone by police and others. He, however, had an erection and was told to get pants on or he would be arrested.
    Now, erection is not under conscious control. A person can, by thinking erotic thoughts, influence sexual arousal but cannot inflate and deflate the relevant blood vessels by direct control like raising a finger and letting it drop. So why was this person being threatened over a spontaneous physiological action while all the others, whose penises were dangling limply, unmolested?
    Why is an erect penis obscene and a limp one not?

  7. I labored hard to make the target of this ‘body acceptance’ article precise and its impact practical for Christian leaders. But I often find commentators creating little paths off the main road. These rabbit trails usually lead to personal agendas and preoccupations that do not directly engage the article itself. My reply to them might be appropriate in another context. But treating them as ‘pertinent’ to this article would detract from its intended goal and limits. So, I’m trying to ignore such rabbit trails, in hopes that they will go away, and I suggest subsequent readers to do the same.

  8. This is so awesome, I feel like printing it off and posting it on the forehead of every single human being I pass today.

    This is brave, but it is just the freaking truth.

    SO GOOD.

  9. Thank you David L. Hatton for a very well written article and your attempt to help others come to their senses. I agree that it’s not impossible to change the world, especially through prayer and taking healthy action. The biggest hurdle seems to be that so many have been brainwashed and are unwilling to even entertain the idea that they could be wrong. Some simply love their clothes and really do see them as their salvation. With consistent persistence, we can change things. Thank you again!

  10. I see a lot of reference to the beginning (pre-Fall, which we would like to recover) but what about passages in the New Testament, like Revelation 3:18, where Jesus seems to allude that nakedness represents sinful shame, or 2 Corinthians 5:2-3, where Paul does likewise…

    • Naomi, sorry for missing your comment and not replying sooner. There is no internal mechanism alerting me to questions or comments.

      The shame of nakedness within the context and the culture of Bible times, both OT and NT, fall under several categories that have nothing to do with the shame of the body’s actual anatomical features, but with various conditions of nakedness directly associated with: 1) being stripped after military defeat; 2) having clothing coercively or exploitatively removed; 3) the naked state being used for illicit sexual activity or for an invitation to it; 4) deprivation of clothing from the state of poverty, both actually and metaphorically (as in the spiritual nakedness in Revelation 3:18 and elsewhere); and 5) an isolated sanction against priestly nudity (possibly to counter imitation of a pagan worship practice). Otherwise, throughout Scripture and the early, post-NT centuries of the church, working naked, bathing naked, and being baptized naked, were all common forms of nudity never in themselves considered shameful. Why? Because God’s creation is theologically NOT shameful. Sin and sin’s effects are shameful.

      As far as Paul’s use of the idea of “clothed” and “unclothed” in 2 Corinthians 5:2-3, he may be drawing upon the biblical ideas of shameful nakedness listed above, but notice that he also is not talking about clothing. In this case he is clearly talking about the body itself as clothing for a person’s spirit. Naked of clothed, the body itself remains the embodiment of God’s image and the temple for His Holy Spirit. Clothing is an addition for protection, decoration, identification of status. Nowhere in Scripture is there the modern cultural stipulation that clothing is a constant moral necessity for ‘hiding of the body.’ This concept is the modern religious invention I call “porno-prudery” in the above article.