Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Nakedness of Adam and Eve and How a Measure of Separation Makes Us Closer

From Genesis 3:

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." 11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

I've speculated on this recently in an online debate with a supposed female who is pro-pornography and tried to justify her position on a Biblical basis. The issue of nakedness is directly tied to sin in the account of the fall. In fact, nakedness is the first recorded awareness Adam and Eve had of the knowledge of good and evil. Testing the exegetical acumen of my opponent I speculated unnecessarily on the reason nakedness may be wrong is that Adam and Eve hid their nakedness from each other because they projected the sin of their own thoughts on the gaze of the other. My opponent didn't catch the planted error and I was able to ascertain the weakness in her presuppositions and debate effectively against her.

The fact is that Adam and Eve hid their nakedness from God rather than each other. My speculation isn't necessarily inaccurate, but it doesn't follow exegetically from the passage. So what is nakedness that it needs to be hidden from God or anyone? If nakedness is an issue as a result of sin, then nakedness is a projection of the guilt of the individual on the state of one's personal presentation in relational matters. Let me unpack this:

I have evil thoughts. We all do. If I have evil thoughts, then I know I am subject to scrutiny in my behavior and appearance as a reflection of the evil within me. Therefore, to minimize the scrutiny I desire to hide my true self and project an image that is more pleasant: an image of a person I desire to be rather than the person I really am. This desire may be rooted in a fear of being caught in sin, fear of broken relationships or an earnest desire to glorify God. Everyone has the first two reasons in life. (The third reason is only had by Christians for only the living God works through grace to His own glory for His sake as well as the sake of the elect. All false gods are created to demand mere adherence to a set of rules only for the sake of their adherents.) Whatever their reason here, Adam and Eve hid from God because they feared His righteous judgment on them. That was their nakedness.

But I consider that as they fleshed out their sin in their own relationship, nakedness became a barrier even for them. As Adam looked at his wife and Eve looked her husband, each realized that their vision of each other in their nakedness was tainted with scornful scrutiny. This pattern exists today. Don't believe me? Show up in town tomorrow without a scrap of clothing on your body and tell me how it goes. Why wouldn't you want to do that? Do you fear that others will look at you judgmentally? If you go into town and someone hops out of their car without a scrap of clothing on, would you fail to scrutinize them in the least? Would you treat them as though nothing were out of the ordinary? Would you avert your gaze to avoid seeing someone naked or stare so you can get a good eyefull?

Wearing clothes and acting like we don't have evil thoughts are an attempt to avert the judgment and scrutiny of others. It enables us to develop the close relationships we need as social creatures. This means that we cannot know of each other fully intimate details. We are, as it were, in a quarantine of sorts. We can be in fellowship with each other so long as we can keep our sinful tendencies hidden and only act on the righteousness available to all.

As an aside, I'm not advocating a lack of confession among believers, but rather it is wise to confess specific sins in certain confidence and only return to the account of any sin publicly in a limited manner as a matter of testifying about what God has done to forgive us and restore us.

Likewise, God clothes us so that we can avert His eternal judgment. Even as He clothed Adam and Eve in the skins of animals, the first sacrifice, He clothes us in the righteousness of His Son through His atoning sacrifice. The covering on the one hand hides our sin from God and on the other opens us to reconciliation with God.

This separation for the purpose of closeness is the necessary paradox of all our relationships in this fallen world.

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