But fast forwarding to our present age, there are very, very few that reject to nudity in art in our modern realm, just as there are many that think that hardcore porn has its place in relationships and does little damage to a person's brain (more on this in another post, where I will prove the damage that it does to relationships and the individual's brain).
But I think the most important question on the matter is whether God views nudity as acceptable in any setting. So this post will focus a bit on some of the scriptures that focus on nudity, and whether the pure nudity itself is considered pornographic.
The first and most classic example of nudity in the bible is Adam and Eve. They initially walked in
the garden, naked and feeling no shame over it. But their sin and the subsequent fall of mankind led to their eyes being opened, "...and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." Sin nature itself caused them to have knowledge of good and evil (not that evil didn't exist already, as Satan had already fallen, but that man did not have a knowledge of it, which allowed them to be free of it). Because sin came into the world, evil came into the world, and shame came with it. Nakedness, which previously had no shame, suddenly was sinful and shameful. And God slaughtered an animal to make sufficient coverings for them, to cover their sin. God Himself recognized that their nakedness needed to be covered, and demonstrated that death was now the norm of a sinful world and of the solution to cover sin (a foreshadowing of the cross). This sets the foundation for all of creation, and the fact that nudity was to be kept covered at all times...
The next time we encounter nakedness as a sin is in the case of Noah...
Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”(Genesis 9:22-25)Just because Ham saw his father's nakedness, looked upon him unashamedly, and went and reported it to his brothers, his whole family line became cursed.
The law of Moses forbade the viewing of a family member's nakedness. In an age where taking multiple wives was kosher, taking a mother and a daughter to uncover their nakedness was not.
The priests were not allowed to go up the steps to the sacrificial alter without some kind of undergarment to keep their nakedness covered: "And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it." (Exodus 20:26)
The prophets, when expressing God's displeasure with Israel, said that their nakedness would be exposed as a PUNISHMENT: "Behold, I am against you," declares the LORD of hosts; "And I will lift up your skirts over your face, And show to the nations your nakedness And to the kingdoms your disgrace." (Nahum 3:5). There are several cases where the prophets and kings themselves were commanded to go naked to illustrate the shame of Israel - this was obviously not a norm, but an illustration of judgement.
In Isaiah 47, we see an illustration of God being displeased with Babylon, and the sole sin of the analogy, it seems, is that woman representing Babylon exposed her thighs as she waded in the rivers... "Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers. Your nakedness will be uncovered, Your shame also will be exposed; I will take vengeance and will not spare a man." (I wonder how God views bikinis, in lieu of this???)
In 1 Timothy 2:9, we see that women are abjured to dress modestly, and not in a bold manner, not drawing the eyes to parts of their bodies that would cause others to sin, in essence of the language itself. Modest apparel of that age was a long robe that did not accentuate the figure in any way.
There are many, many, many references to nakedness indicating a distressed, poor, and depraved state, one that God does not approve of and is often considered judgement by God. How then are we to celebrate nudity in our finest art forms?
The Renaissance was considered an age of freedom for the art form, a "throwing off" of the archaic rules of the church and all its frugality. In truth, it was rebellion against the word of God in many ways. Reformers and Counter-Reformers alike spoke out against nudity in art. The Puritans absolutely shirked such forms as absolute pornography. If we were to look in a Playboy or Penthouse magazine and paint the things that we see therein, what difference does it make if there is a background or other manners of fantasy surrounding the nude form? Should Playboy and Penthouse be considered art, if we have fantasy or artistic backgrounds surrounding the nude form? Certainly not. It is pornography, meant to evoke powerful emotions in the viewer, just like a gratuitous sex scene in a movie (often times I am enjoying a great movie, until there is a sex scene that had no place in the movie at all - gratuitous sex to draw the flesh in even more).
The heart of man is deceitfully wicked, and we are idol factories that easily press against the limits of God's word and cause us to pose, as Satan did, "Did God really say that?" I think if you look at the core of that question, it is a challenge to God's ways, what He says is pure and holy and true. If you are constantly doing that to God's word, you may want to consider your relationship with a Lord who made you and loves you and desires what is best for you.