(I bet that got your attention).
Today on the Boundless blog, Ted Slater asks about nudity in visual art such as illustration and film: "When and how is it appropriate to include nudity... in various forms of art?"
It's a good question because it brings into focus two distinct arguments: that God made the human body as the marvellous crowning glory of His creation (see Psalm 139:13-16), and that the naked body has a particularly remarkable effect on many of those who view it.
The naked body has been portrayed -- and revered -- in visual art since there was art to be made. This doesn't offer an exception to Christians pondering the appropriateness of nudity in art; it simply shows us how deeply flows the belief in the value and necessity of the nude form in art.
There are, however, exceptions to most rules. In this case, married couples are, of course, given the freedom to look on each others' nakedness, and a male doctor might be required to tend a female patient. That same doctor will also likely have studied detailed depictions of anatomy in the course of his education, which I think provides a clear example of when nudity in art is appropriate and when it is not.
All art is created for a reason, even if the reason is so basic as a guiding compulsion to create, or for the sheer joy of making something. But art also invokes a response, and I think it is this reason and response which provides the best guideline for the appropriateness of the portrayal of nudity. What is the underlying reason behind the portrayal of a naked woman in a painting? What is the response of the viewer?
It is impossible to deny that humans -- particularly men -- struggle with lust provoked by visual stimulation. Is it ever right for us to create a piece of art that could add to that struggle? To say that someone's struggle over sin is their own battle to fight is not enough. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are obligated and privileged to help one another, to "spur one another on to love and good deeds." And our role as disciples goes beyond simply helping: we are called to avoid doing anything -- even unintentionally -- that could cause someone else to stumble.
Jesus said, But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt. 18:6).
Being exempt from similar struggles ourselves -- or being firmly convinced of the beauty and loveliness of the human form -- does not excuse us from meeting our obligations to our fellow believers. The following Scripture relates specifically to food; if we substitute the word "art" in its place, we are offered a challenging insight into our role as creators of art:
Do not, for the sake of [art], destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he [views] (Romans 14:20).
There will be nudity in art as long as there is art. But should Christians be creating visual art which includes portrayals of nudity and sexual images? These Scriptures convince me that the answer is no.
But what's your take? (You can disagree if you want; it keeps us all on our toes!)