Is it wrong for Christians to pose nude, or paint and photograph nudes?

nice portrait of a young woman with naked shoulder posing inside a frame

Is it wrong for Christians to pose nude for painters or photographers? Is wrong Christians to take nude pictures of models, or paint nude models? Is wrong for Christians to be involved with nudity at all?

The lust argument

Many Christians would say –“Duh – ya! Of course it is wrong for a Christian to pose nude, or take nude photos, or paint nudes or to have any involvement in nudity at all”.

The reasons for this common belief among Christians are:

  1. If a person poses nude, there image will be used to cause others to lust.
  2. If a person takes nude photography, or paints nude – they may lust themselves after the model they are painting or photographing and/or cause others who see the photograph or nude to lust.

I would not argue with the fact that if a person poses nude, they might cause others to be sexually aroused by their beauty. While this could apply to women as well, it would primarily apply to men because men are usually much more visual than women.

But the fact is, the Bible never condemns sexual arousal, it only condemns sexual lust. While sexual arousal and sexual fantasy can lead to sexual lust, they do not have to, any more than our hunger for food has to lead to gluttony.

Our sexuality, our sexual nature, is a part of who we are as human beings, this true for men and women. As men, we are much more sexual in our natures, due to having 10 more times the testosterone in our bodies. Our brains are bathed in testosterone while we are in the womb, and this makes us have highly competitive, aggressive and yes sexual brains.

As believers, God wants us to channel our sexuality in positive ways that do not break God’s law. While all acts of physical sex are reserved for marriage between a man and woman, this does not mean we have to suppress our sexuality until we are married. It also does not mean that after marriage all of our sexual energy, and every sexual thought must be about our spouse.

What it means is we are not to fantasize about trying to get someone to sleep with us outside of marriage, whether we are single or married, that is the very definition of lust. Lust is fantasy to possess something that does not belong to us.

Lust is NOT being sexually aroused by the sight of a beautiful woman.

Lust is NOT being wondering what a woman looks like with her clothes off.

Lust is NOT having a sexual dream or fantasy about a woman you are not married to.

The “no arousal” argument

There may be some Christians (and non-Christians) that think it is OK to paint or photograph nude models as long as there is no arousal. Every time I hear this theory, it makes me want to chuckle. I don’t dispute that in 95% of cases, especially for men, the site of a nude model that is even semi attractive would cause sexual arousal.

Now can men learn to hide their arousal? Certainly. But we as men are hardwired for visual beauty, it’s a fact. To say otherwise is a biological lie. But again as I said above, there is no sin or immorality with being aroused at the site of a beautiful woman. It is what we do with that sexual arousal that will become sinful, or not sinful behavior.

Let me review some principles from my article “Is Nudity always shameful”:

  1. As a general rule, God wants people to be clothed. In most circumstances, to be naked is to be shamed.
  2. We are not to uncover the nakedness of anyone involuntarily, or for the purposes of having sex with someone we ought not to be having sex with (anyone outside of lawful marriage).
  3. Most instances of nakedness being a shame in the Bible are of involuntary nakedness such as being captured in war and being stripped, a woman being raped, or someone being in poverty and losing one’s clothes. A person having their clothing taken from them against their will is shameful and disgraceful.
  4. In some instances, when clothing is removed voluntarily, and with specific purpose for limited time, it is not a shame or sinful to do so.

So once we understand that lust is not sexual arousal, or even sexual fantasy, but is instead thoughts and fantasies about actually possessing someone that we cannot have, or having someone outside of marriage, then we need to look at principles for nudity.

God wants us as believers to be clothed, generally speaking – see my post Why God meant people to be clothed.

However, when someone disrobes voluntarily, for a specific time, and for a specific duration for the purposes of being painted or photographed – no sin has occurred.

Song Solomon shows the beauty of the human body, along with a wife painting her husband’s body with words (Song of Solomon 5:10-16), and a husband painting his wife’s body with words (Song of Solomon 7).

The husband of Song of Solomon calls his wife’s body, “The work of the hands of an artist” in Song of Solomon chapter 7:

“How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter!

The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist.

2 “Your navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine; your belly is like a heap of wheat Fenced about with lilies.

3 “Your two breasts are like two fawns, Twins of a gazelle.

4 “Your neck is like a tower of ivory, your eyes like the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bath-rabbim; your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, Which faces toward Damascus.

5 “Your head crowns you like Carmel, and the flowing locks of your head are like purple threads; The king is captivated by your tresses.

6 “How beautiful and how delightful you are, my love, with all your charms!

7 “Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.

8 “I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks.’ Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, And the fragrance of your breath like apples,

9 And your mouth like the best wine!” “It goes down smoothly for my beloved, flowing gently through the lips of those who fall asleep.

Song of Solomon 7:1-9(NASB)

Conclusion

I completely disagree with those who are Christian, or even non-Christian (such as Muslims) who believe that nudity must be covered at ALL times (except for between a man and woman in the privacy of their own home).

Both from a Biblical perspective, as well as practical perspective, how does it make sense that God has made the human body so beautiful, especially that of women (“the work of an artist”), only for it to be hidden away?

I have used this example before, and I think it very applicable to this issue beauty as well as nudity.

Single Orange Tree

Imagine that a man plants a beautiful orange tree in his yard. It grows and blossoms with beautiful fruit. But people walk by and look at its beauty, and this bothers him, because he reasons “that tree belongs to me, and its beauty is only for me”. So he hires a construction company to build a 20 foot wall around it with a door so only he can enter and see its beauty.

Now most of us would find this utterly ridiculous, but this is how some men see their wives, and some wives think they should be treated as wife. They see a woman’s beauty as something to be hidden, and only enjoyed by the husband in private.

Using this same tree, continuing our analogy, what if the man did not build the wall but allowed the beauty of his tree to be enjoyed by all his neighbors, and all who would drive by his home?

If the tree represents his wife, there would be no sin people walking by and enjoying the beauty of his “tree”, then the only sin would be if someone were to come and touch that “tree”, and take from its fruit – for that tree belongs him and him alone.

Although God wants us to be clothed as we go about our daily lives, there is a place and a time for nudity and the display of the art, the beauty and sexual allure of the human body. There is a place in Christianity for artistic as well as erotic nudity. But as Christians we must always exercise our expressions of art and sexuality within the bounds of God’s law.

See these other related posts in this series on Biblical Nudity:

Why did nudity become shameful after the fall?

Why God meant for people to be clothed

Why nudity is not always shameful for a Christian

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10 thoughts on “Is it wrong for Christians to pose nude, or paint and photograph nudes?

  1. Ok… let me share an example. It may be extreme,but here goes….i want to photograph my wife lets say, ( I can’t paint worth anything) and I would want to share that picture with lets say some friends of mine either at work or at church, how does something like that fit into all this? Is this wrong? Am I sending the wrong message especially to those I’m either trying to witness to or brethren I’m trying to be an example to?

  2. Jeff,

    I think we always have to be cognizant of the culture we live in. Whether it is with fellow believers, or unbelievers we need to measure our actions. Some actions we take privately, we might not want to take publicly, and there is no hypocrisy in this, as there is a time and place for everything.

    As far as your example – if you were to share a nude photo of your wife you would need to be very sure of your audience and how they felt about it, also how would your wife feel about your sharing it? If you have any inclination, that either your wife would not approve, or anyone in your audience would have a problem with it, then you should not.

    But let’s say your wife is model, and loves posing nude for you to either paint or photograph(and some few women do like this), and she does not mind you sharing it and your audience is OK with it, then there is no problem. For instance say a Christian owned an photographic art gallery. He might display many nude or partially nude pictures of women throughout his gallery, maybe even some of his wife.

    The people who come to that type of gallery expect to see nudity, or partial nudity and would not be shocked by it. He might even be able to take the opportunity to share his faith through his business, and perhaps even have quotes from the Song of Solomon on his walls about the beauty and design of the various parts of the human body.

    So its all about time and place, and knowing your audience.

    Now might some Christians be offended that a Christian art dealer is showing nude photos, even of his wife? Yes. But as long as he is not bringing that into their home, or their church and putting in their face, the problem is theirs, not his. He is doing what he believes is right before God.

  3. Thanks, excellent reply.Since nudity is nowhere called sin in the Bible, then the other issue we have to deal with is culture,setting,& audience and believe me with most of the people I know, none of these areas would fit. Your answer was pretty much what I had in mind. Thanks

  4. I was reading in the book of Exodus last month and in the golden calf incident the people are found by Moses naked. its seems in this incident the nudity is associated with the idolatry not the nudity itself. What do you think?

  5. Jeff,

    A few principles come to mind – as Christians we have to be careful of playing the “guilt by association” game. I have some Christian friends who won’t buy products certain companies because of their stance on gay rights or other moral issues. If we follow this in all areas of our lives we couldn’t shop anywhere or do anything. We must always take each thing, in and of itself and judge it based on it’s own merit.

    This principle applies to nudity, nudity is not always wrong, and it is not always right, it depends on the circumstances.

    Obviously no one one disagree with someone disrobing in front of their spouse.
    No one one disagree with a small child disrobing in front of their parents for them to help with bathing, or medical issues.
    Some disagree with a women disrobing for her male doctor for medical treatment, but I believe because it is done a specific purpose(that is not wrong) and for a limited duration, there is no problem.
    Also for the purposes of being painted or photographed, or bathing at beach or bathhouse these are all nudity for a specific purpose and limited duration, so again no problem here with nudity.

    But when the people of Israel disrobed in Exodus, they were doing so for evil purposes. They were being naked to worship a false God, and were basically committing sexual sin and having a big orgy, they were disrobing to perform evil acts.

    So it is always about the time, place and purpose of the nudity as to whether we can judge the morality of the nudity.

  6. There are extremes to the ‘guilt by association’ concept. I totally understand that. If we practiced that to it’s full extent, we would all be farmers and I have no intention of being a farmer,full or part time.Never the less the Bible teaches us that it does exist. Scripture teaches that we as believers are to ‘abstain from the very appearance of evil’ (1 Thess.5). We are also to ‘walk circumspectly, not as fools ,but as wise’ Here’s a real life example of what I mean: There was a family in our church yrs ago that had a son who ended up getting involved with the wrong crowd. They were one of the fine families in our church at the time. The dad was even a deacon. The father ended up fighting the pastor over some stands the pastor took on some issues like closed communion and not allowing people to join the church who did not have Scriptural baptism. They ended up leaving. A few yrs later there was a report in our city newspaper about a murder where three people arrested in connection with the crime.The son of this family happened to be one of the individuals arrested. He was not connected with actual murder weapon,but he is still spending the rest of his life in jail. The reason is that he was with them. He was an accessory to the crime or guilt by association so the concept is very real.

  7. Jeff,

    Yes there is a true ‘guilt by association” in legal world, as far as if you are an accessory to murder. In other words, you did not actually commit the murder, but you were involved in the circumstances that led up to the murder in some way. I also agree that we need to be careful of whom our children “associate” with. I don’t want people to negatively influence my kids and there have been some kids that I won’t let kids hang out with, because I know what goes on in their home.

    But the passage from I Thess. 5 does not mean to “stay away from anything even it it could appear to be bad”, i.e. – “could give someone the false impression that it is bad a thing to do.” The “appearance” actually means “kind”, so what the verse literally means is “stay away from every kind of evil in whatever form it takes”.

    See these newer translations of I Thessalonians 5:22:

    “Abstain from every form of evil.” NKJV
    “Stay away from every kind of evil.” HCSB
    “abstain from every form of evil.” NASB

    I teach my children that when it comes to what we read, what we watch, what we buy, and other activities we choose to engage in we must judge each thing, in and of itself as to whether it is good or not – for the most part. But my kids do know what sometimes Dad can “get a bad vibe” about something or someone, and I may just forbid it based on that bad vibe. That is OK as parent to do, as we need to trust our gut, we might not always have an exact reason and that is OK. The difference though is, if I don’t have an exact reason why I am against something(from a Biblical perspective) I won’t stand on the mountains and preach it for everyone else, the only things I will stand and shout are those truths that are rock solid and Biblically based.

  8. The Bible says to make no provision of the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof(Romans 13:14). When you pose nude, or photograph someone that is, especially for a man given, as you’ve said, we have a very visual nature, you are making a provision of the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof since, although, as you’ve said, it doesn’t have to lead to lust, it potentially could, even by accident. For a man, this would be especially easy. For proof, you need look no further than King David himself. When he saw Bathsheba bathing, even though he hadn’t intended on going up to his roof to lust after any other man’s wife or a woman not one of his own, David was more than just aroused sexually. He lusted after her, even though he hadn’t intended on doing that at all, just intended to get some night air. We should not, unless its for medical, or illustrative purposes, such as teaching/learning about the human body, like doctors do, or doing illustrations of such things as are in the Song of Solomon, be photographing nude models(our own wives are an exception since lust isn’t possible with them) or posing nude ourselves at all since it could potentially lead to lusting after that woman or man, or having them lust after us, and the danger of that is warned against in the passage above.

  9. Tyler,
    I disagree that simply posing for nude pictures or paintings is making provision for flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. I have actually used Romans 13:14 in my recent discussion of Biblical dating.

    When we date and have a relationship with a woman there is a much greater danger of truly lustful thoughts forming because of the real possibility for sex to occur. That is why I are argue Christian couples should never be alone together before marriage.

    However if a woman were in a room full of people either posing for a nude painting or allowing herself to be photographed nude there is no real possibility of sex to occur both because of the venue with many people there and there being no relationship between the parties.

    To lust after a woman means u must have the intent and desire to unlawfully have sex with her. That is very different than being aroused by her form(which u would be as she posed) or even imaging what it would be like to have sex with her.

    So I disagree that lust could easily occur in this situation as the possibility of an actual sexual encounter would be unlikely…therefore the possibility of actual lust happening would be less likely.

    On the issue of King David. His sin was not in enjoying the view of Bathsheba bathing. In fact at first he did not even know she was married. Before he knew she was married he could have looked at her as another potential wife.

    But when he was informed she was married instead of just enjoying the view he allowed covetous desires to form and plotted to have sex with her which he eventually did.

    You see because David was the king, the possibility of him being able to pressure this woman to sleep with him was very high. The probability of a real unlawful sexual relationship happening was high and this in turn generated the lustful(covetous) thoughts he began to have toward Bathsheba.

    I think when we understand what lust actually is and the circumstances under which it actually occurs and grows we can better fight it.

    I actually think the story of David and Bathsheba is more about the temptations of powerful men. Because of their wealth and power , men in these positions need to be especially careful with those under their authority realizing it is very easy for them to manipulate those under their authority into sinning.

    Powerful men can wrongly come to believe that they can do or have anything they want. But they are still under a greater authority who is God.

  10. Bathsheba is wrongly condemned by many commentators. She had just finished her «mikva,» her ritual bath seven days after she finished her period. She may not have seen the king, and not realized from how far away a man’s eye could discern her.
    He sent officers to fetch her. Likely she had no idea why the king would send for her, and could have done nothing to keep from being taken if she had been suspicious.
    Once she knew what David intended, what could she do? He was a powerful man of war who had personally killed hundreds of enemy warriors. Other than to protest – we have no information as with Tamar – she could do nothing to prevent him from raping her. And, he was the king. To disobey the king was death, at least for men.

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