Question:

Is viewing movies with brief nudity a sin? The church doesn't condemn viewing non-sexual movies. However, the Bible does seem to address nudity as shameful, but I don't believe it condemns it either. I understand that lusting is a sin. Does the Bible say anything about looking at somebody nude? Isaiah did march for threes years in the nude. David danced naked. Plenty of art has nakedness. Obviously my viewing intention is not about the nudity, there are plenty of other alternatives for that. However, I am wondering if I should be concerned about this at all.


Answer:

Paul discusses modest dress in I Timothy 2:9-10 and uses three words to describe proper attire. One of them is aidos in the Greek, which means with a sense of shame or with a sense of bashfulness. One of the problems men have with their sins is that they become calloused to them. They are no longer embarrassed by their sinful actions. Israel had reached that point: "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD" (Jeremiah 6:15).

Nudists are a group who advocate not wearing clothing. Advocates of naturism talk about how it takes time to get used to the idea of being naked in front of others when someone first starts.

"I confess to you, that like most nudists, I do not have much shame over my own nudity but that is quite unnatural…. when I was a teenager, I was just as ashamed as everyone else…. people wear clothes because it is totally NATURAL to be ashamed….. I had to first OVERCOME my natural tendency to shame in order to walk around nude in public places" [Stephen Mendes]

In other words, nudists are purposely setting out to remove their sense of shame. I found it ironic that one nudist complained about the voyeurs who took pictures of them without permission. Though they are trying to suppress their sense of shame, it is still present.

The sense of shame at being seen naked is nearly as old as men on this earth. When Adam and Eve sinned by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they immediately understood that they were naked and attempted to clothe themselves. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings" (Genesis 3:7). Even then they hid from God because they understood that the clothing they made wasn't adequate. "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself" (Genesis 3:10).

To be naked is considered shameful. Using that concept, Jesus used it to illustrate another point. "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (Revelation 16:15). But the reason it is an illustration is because being naked is shameful. In the Old Testament God said He would expose Israel's sins to their shame and He draws the same parallel. "Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen" (Isaiah 47:3).

You are correct that Isaiah had to walk around naked for three years, but what was the purpose? "Then the LORD said, "Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. Then they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation and Egypt their glory"" (Isaiah 20:3-5). It was to emphasize the shame that the Egyptians would face when Assyria conquered Egypt and Ethiopia. Consider the reverse. If there was nothing usual or wrong with Isaiah being naked, it would not have served as an illustration of humiliation. Why three years? Because that is how long it took for Egypt and Ethiopia to be conquered. This is not a support for public exposure.

David was accused by his wife, who at the time hated him, of dancing naked in public. "Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!"" (II Samuel 6:20). But in truth, David was not nude. "Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod" (II Samuel 6:14). An ephod is a short linen garment joined at the shoulders and tied in place with a belt at the waist. It was the type of clothing children wore (I Samuel 2:18) and was a part of the priests' official outfits (I Samuel 22:18). Basically Michal's complaint was that King David wasn't wearing enough clothing in her view lowered himself to the level of a common worker. It doesn't mean David exposed himself. Michal doesn't really say he did and we have to remember that in her anger she is very likely exaggerating her points.

That nudity is used in art isn't proof that it is right. All it proves is that some artists think using shocking views sells their works. See: Is it wrong to look at nudes as art?

So why is there brief nudity in films? In an Atlantic article on this very topic, it notes "Actors and filmmakers will spin nakedness as part of the quest for a greater cinematic truth, while never acknowledging the fact that, for a certain segment of the audience, nudity is a draw, a marketable commodity" [Jason Bailey, "In Movies With Nudity, What's the Line Between Ogling and Art?"]. In other words sensuality sells movie views.

So should a Christian promote films that are purposely being provocative in order to make more money? "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks" (Ephesians 5:3-4). We have to consider not only the impact something makes on us personally but also the impact it make on what we tell other people is right or wrong.