The human body is a significant part of God’s good creation and plays a prominent role in the overarching story of redemption.
God created humans with bodies intentionally, not as an afterthought. Although the fall into sin impacted and continues to affect our bodies and our treatment of them, God still declares through the psalmist that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). The Song of Songs demonstrates that the body in all its intimacy can be joyously praised (e.g. chapters 4-5), while the book of Isaiah provides evidence that prophetic witness can involve the bare body (Isaiah 20:3). Christ himself was not ashamed to take on a human body and dwell among us, though doing so required his bodily suffering. After his death, he was resurrected and he ascended into heaven in the body. To us also, God promises the resurrection of our bodies at the end of time. In all these ways, God communicates the integrity and value of the human body.
The Bible also speaks about clothing our bodies, both for practical purposes and as a metaphor for our restored relationship with God through the atonement made by Jesus Christ on our behalf. Nakedness then, is often a symbol of how lost we are without a saviour. Certainly, in day-to-day circumstances it remains the norm to clothe our bodies. Furthermore, we must distinguish between a healthy appreciation of embodied creatureliness and a current cultural attitude that objectifies and sexualizes the body, sometimes even through clothing. Against this unhealthy attitude, we see each person as made in the image of God with a body worthy of respect. As such, bodies both clothed and naked are worthy of consideration in art. By studying a range of ordinary bodies—thick to thin, black to white, young to old, abled to disabled—in a range of human circumstances from anguished to joyous, we can explore human bodily dignity and action as part of God’s purpose in the world. In doing so, Christians can help restore a biblical aesthetic and moral vision of the body (and clothing) in our culture.
Redeemer’s art program includes the freedom for faculty, students, or visiting artists to explore these themes and represent the nude body in a way that is in keeping with this biblical perspective. Redeemer recognizes that Christians hold varied opinions about what is God-honouring in art, and while we seek to be sensitive to those differences, we also welcome discussion marked by civility and love for one another as we seek God’s truth together. In fact, one of the great purposes of art in a Christian worldview is to consider these very things in our pursuit of God’s glory in all of creation.