Art, Nakedness, and Redemption

Following on yesterday’s post, I thought it would be helpful to share this thoughtful article at Reformation 21 by the Rev. William VanDoodewaard, Associate Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Here is an excerpt.

Adam and Eve were naked, without sin. Yet in the Garden, after their sinful rebellion, Adam and Eve realized their nakedness, creating fig leaf coverings for themselves. This awareness is unique to the humans, as animals continued in their “naked” state unperturbed. God declared the fig leaves insufficient, and in an act which theologians see as a picture of redemptive history, killed animals, providing Adam and Eve with adequate coverings of skin through a bloody act. After this point, 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.

Where God displays His redemptive activity in contexts of extra-marital nakedness He clothes His people. Ezekiel 16 exemplifies this pattern in Scripture: God graciously redeems and clothes His bride, covering her nakedness and making her beautiful. Her God-given covering is not a denial of beauty, but rather a redemptive rescue and restoration to appropriate, glorious, public beauty, after she had been an object of abandoned, uncovered shame. The bride, however, turns to play the whore, prostituting herself, taking off her beautiful clothes, giving her naked beauty, now rebel, distorted and cheap, to any passer-by. Her disrobing outside of marriage is an outward expression of her inner rejection of God’s redemption. She calls men to join her in violating God’s perfect law.

The disrobing, redemption-rejecting woman of Ezekiel stands in stark contrast to the bride of the Song of Solomon, whose nakedness is truly beautiful. It is reserved for her husband, given to him alone–a “step that does not establish deep intimacy, but one which presupposes it.” [3] Even in the literary description of the marital sweetness and joy of the inspired Song a poetic modesty remains. [4] There is also a glorious foreshadowing here of the relationship of Christ and His Bride, the church, who is clothed as well–by His redemption.

VanDoodewaard concludes his article with these poignant words.

To reject nudity in art and film is no denial of artistic ability, nor of created beauty. It is a realistic, careful, humble acknowledgment of God’s redemptive work in Christ and His precepts for a grace transformed, holy, happy life in a fallen world. This includes the need for covering nakedness. Real redemptive activity seeks to preserve and rescue from sin by pointing men and women to Christ and His Word. Knowing this redemption, Paul, by the Holy Spirit, declares:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality… will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God… you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

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