Question:

A university attended by many Christians currently uses an art textbook containing photography of nudity, photos glorifying homosexuality, sculptures of female genitalia, multiple sculptures of nude human bodies. The administration and many brethren are defending such content because it is "Art" and not intended to be viewed as pornographic. There is one person who appears to be in defense of such by asking, "Is it inherently sinful to look upon the naked human form?" Do you care to comment?


Answer:

Morality is not established by what people, or subgroups of people, find acceptable. Right and wrong is based on the nature of God. "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (I John 1:5-6). Since God does not change, right and wrong is a fixed commodity.

The general rule since the fall of man is that a person doesn't expose his genitals to others. We make efforts to keep our privates private. Of course there will always be times when it can't be avoided, yet we should make efforts to minimize it. Being seen naked in front of others ought to trigger a sense of shame. "Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen" (Isaiah 47:3). One of the complaints God had against ancient Israel was the fact that they lost their sense of shame. ""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; see also Jeremiah 8:12).

There are going to be times when you can't avoid being seen or seeing someone else naked. However, we should carry with us a sense of respect for the other person. We should avert our eyes out of respect for the other person. "I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1). When people call images of the naked body "art" they glorify the very thing that God said should be embarrassing.

An example is that of Ham (Genesis 9:20-27). Ham's father, Noah, sinned by making wine and getting drunk. Ham accidentally walked in on Noah while he laid naked in his tent. Rather than be embarrassed by the situation, Ham went to his brothers. We aren't told what he said, but it is likely he thought it was funny that their father was acting so poorly. I want you to particularly note Japheth and Shem's response. "But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness" (Genesis 9:23). I'm sure that over the years there were many occasions when they might have seen their father without clothes. They could have just walked in and covered him up, but they were making a strong point. Their father, because of his drunkenness, was in an embarrassing state and they refused to see their father lowered in their eyes. Thus they went out of their way to make sure they didn't see Noah uncovered.

Nakedness becomes sinful when it is done for sexual pleasure or voyeurism. "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness!" (Habakkuk 2:15). This remains true regardless whether someone wants to label something "art." To claim that something good can come from something that is intrinsically shameful doesn't make it become right. But you also mention that this book depicts homosexuality in a favorable light. Trying to make something that is sinful (I Corinthians 6:9-10) look good is not good. "And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"? -- as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:8).