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