Assembling a collection of sacred art, you come across a painting in which Jesus is portrayed completely naked. You should...

a) refuse to purchase it.
67% (8 votes)
b) purchase it, but refuse to exhibit or sell it.
0% (0 votes)
c) purchase it, have it carefully altered to conceal genitalia, then exhibit it.
8% (1 vote)
d) purchase it, do not alter it, but exhibit it with a cover and warning or disclaimer.
0% (0 votes)
e) purchase it, do not alter it, and exhibit it unapologetically.
25% (3 votes)
Total votes: 12
5041 reads

There are 19 Comments

pgepps's picture

I'm asking this question for serious research purposes, based on a historical fact set.

Although this forum is semi-public, any quotations used will not be attributed to you personally unless you explicitly request that we attribute your response to your forum ID or name.

Please DO indicate WHY you responded as you did to the question. Thanks! Feel free to message me privately with any further inquiries.

Rob Fall's picture

Because I don't buy such art to begin with. Clothed or naked, it wouldn't mattter.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I agree with Rob. Labeling it sacred art does not change the pornographic nature of the depiction.

Interesting that those who voted to purchase and show unaltered without apology forgot to explain their reasoning.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I can't find the link to an article I read not long ago about nudity in art. But the basic idea was that nudity is nudity, it's shameful, and exhibiting it for entertainment or visual pleasure or whatever you want to call it is wicked. It doesn't have to be sexualized to be shameful either.

If I bought such art, I'd use it for kindling. That wasn't an option in the voting though. Too bad.

Edited to add: I FOUND IT! http://www.reformation21.org/articles/art-nakedness-and-redemption.php

Jay's picture

and wonder what bearing OT passages on the 'graven image' and NT passages would have on this discussion. I think that it was Piper who wrote a fascinating article on how he thinks that believers ought not to use any kinds of visual aids in worship, since it invariably leads to idolatry and/or ritual/legalism. If I can find the article, I'll link to it or provide a reference. Wikipedia has this written http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idolatry_and_Christianity#New_Testament ]on the subject of images and idolatry :

Quote:

Idolatry is prohibited by many verses in the Old Testament, but there is no one section that clearly defines idolatry. Rather there are a number of commandments on this subject spread through the books of the Hebrew Bible, some of which were written in different historical eras, in response to different issues. Idolatry in the Hebrew Bible is defined as the worship of idols (or images); the worship of polytheistic gods by use of idols (or images) and even the use of idols in the worship of Yahweh (God).

The Israelites used various images in connection with their worship, including carved cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-22) which God instructed Moses to make, and the embroidered figures of cherubim on the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle tent (Exodus 26:31). Similarly, the Brass Serpent, which God commanded Moses to make and lift high to cure any Israelites who looked at it of snakebites, is God-ordained use of an image. However, as part of a later religious reform Hezekiah destroyed the Serpent, which the Hebrew people had been burning incense to (2 Kings 18:4).

Judaism's animosity towards what they perceived as idolatry was inherited by Jewish Christianity. Although Jesus discussed the Ten Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, he does not speak of issues regarding the meaning of the commandment against idolatry. His teachings, however, uphold that worship should be directed to God alone (Matthew 4:11 which is itself a quote of Deuteronomy 6:13)...

The New Testament also uses the term "idolatry" to refer to worship like passion for things such as wealth. One can see evidence of this in Colossians 3:5, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry." Some Christian theologians see the absolutization of an idea as idolatrous. Therefore, undue focus on particular features of Christianity to the exclusion of others would constitute idolatry.

The New Testament does contain the rudiments of an argument which provides a basis for religious images or icons. Jesus was visible, and orthodox Christian doctrine maintains that Jesus is YHWH incarnate. In the Gospel of John, Jesus stated that because his disciples had seen him, they had seen God the Father (Gospel of John 14:7-9 [3 ]). Paul of Tarsus referred to Jesus as the "image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15 [4 ]). Theologians such as John of Damascus argued that the connection between Jesus' incarnation and the use of images is so strong that to reject or prohibit the use of images is tantamount to denying the Incarnation of Jesus.

Early Christianity grew in a society where religious images, usually in the form of statues, both large ones in temples and small ones such as lares and penates in the home, were a prominent feature of traditional pagan religions, such as traditional Ancient Roman religion, Ancient Greek religion and other forms of Eastern paganism. Many writings by Church fathers contain strong denunciations of these practices, which seem to have included outright idol-worship.

"Our task today is to tell people β€” who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories β€” that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

pgepps's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Interesting that those who voted to purchase and show unaltered without apology forgot to explain their reasoning.

I would definitely like to hear explanations from a variety of points of view.

To any of you who chose option (a), are there any other options you *could* consider acceptable? And I'd ask much the same of those who chose option (e).

For example, I think Susan's "kindling" comment is a refinement on option (b), except most of us probably wouldn't choose to spend that much on a bonfire.

edited to correct a typo

pgepps's picture

Rob Fall wrote:
Because I don't buy such art to begin with. Clothed or naked, it wouldn't mattter.

By "such art" do you mean expensive gallery art (which I assure you I don't buy, either, 'cuz I'm too poor!) or what I'm calling "sacred art"?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan, excellent link.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Pastor Harold's picture

Anything with detailed pics of Jesus is not of value to me, and I own some valuable art. We need not conger up images of what the Unseen looks like. I hate a long haired, pale, rosy cheeked, penciled in beard, 6'5" BODY BY JAKE picture of my Lord. If you must paint him, show him teaching in the distance with a crowd, covered with a robe as he travels or the expressions on His subjects faces as He healed and taught. The only pics we need of Him are for educational purposes to go along with a story. No painter can do the Redeemer of mankind justice, show your artistic abilities on the everyday objects. Leave the looks and stature of Jesus alone.

pgepps's picture

It's a really interesting question, of course, what is "sacred" about "sacred art," but for now I'm just treating it as a matter of "family resemblance": for a variety of reasons, we seem to fairly quickly recognize the difference between, say, Raphael's Madonna of the Meadow (which depicts Jesus and John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary as having both humane and theological relationships) and Rubens' Helene Fourment and her Children (which shows a bourgeouis family sans father). I'm not precluding a discussion of "should we recognize a category 'sacred art'?" or even "should we collect or exhibit art at all?" -- but for sake of this question, I was mostly interested in how people would respond to Jesus being shown naked in a painting, particularly when that painting is being considered as a major purchase and potential exhibit for a collection of sacred art (or "religious art" or "the art of Christendom").

Greg Long's picture

Is the painting in question a depiction of Jesus as a baby or an adult? I wouldn't purchase it either way, but I do think it makes a difference.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

pgepps's picture

Greg Long wrote:
Is the painting in question a depiction of Jesus as a baby or an adult? I wouldn't purchase it either way, but I do think it makes a difference.

Thanks, Greg!

Yes, I wanted to get our baseline positions out there, on the matter of nakedness in sacred art, and depictions of Jesus in sacred art, etc. Then I really want to ask you:

Would it make a difference if this were a depiction of the Infant Jesus?

Thank you all for explanations, arguments, and questions (and likes to articles!) ... all very helpful.

Rob Fall's picture

I meant I'm not interested in "religious" art save for the annual Christmas creche.

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
I agree with Rob. Labeling it sacred art does not change the pornographic nature of the depiction.

Interesting that those who voted to purchase and show unaltered without apology forgot to explain their reasoning.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

pgepps's picture

...to being one of the (e) answers. I only answered my own poll because I wanted it to stop asking me. Smile

Now, for me, this is more of an integrity issue than a modesty issue. I'm not persuaded that all nakedness is pornographic, though I will grant that nearly any *beautiful* nakedness can be *taken* as pornographic, whether by those who thus abuse themselves and the creaturely dignity of humans, or by those who criticize it thus out of zeal for the purity and protection of God's children. Because of that, I would make my decision based on what sort of *expectations* and *responsibilities* attach to the exhibitors and viewers.

  • I think that the entire presentation of the BJU M&G, and any other sacred art exhibit I would approve of, militates against the pornographic abuse of its subjects.
  • Further, I think that a representation of the Infant Jesus is still less likely to be taken as pornographic than, say, a nude adult male.
  • Further, I think that there is a real question of integrity when one displays a painting as "by Calvaert" without being transparent (so to speak) about any alterations since Calvaert, especially one's own changes.

Again, thanks to all of you for offering your thoughts, and I hope you'll have more to say as time permits.

ericepps's picture

If I couldn't (for whatever reason--quality, content, etc.) display it unapologetically, then I wouldn't purchase it. So, although I answered (e), the other course of action I would consider appropriate is (a).

Since the collection is sacred art, out of consideration for my audience, I may also consider an alteration of (d), a disclaimer/warning before admission regarding any material that some may find objectionable (not just nudity but violent or troubling works). I wouldn't think it necessary, but I would want to be considerate whenever possible--it would depend on the level of understanding and expectation of the visitors.

LEpps's picture

I think I like this option the best, although I don't like changing an artist's work, I do feel a need to amend it to make it suitable for public display. Not every viewer will have the maturity or insight to appreciate the artist's intent. Most that would can also appreciate the wisdom of not displaying it in that way.

LEpps's picture

And if the work is worthy of purchase and the effort to make it appropriate for display, it probably should be explained in signage or literature that the gallery reserves the right to alter an image that show nudity. BTW, don't like it in baby or adult art.

LMyers's picture

I wouldn't purchase it myself. There are tasteful ways to conceal it by use of shadows, poses, etc where genitalia wouldn't be shown, but the same message portrayed. I do believe if it was displayed unaltered, that some sort of warning should be given prior to viewing the painting since it would be a stumbling block to some. Also, Jesus didn't stay dead on the cross. To me, a more triumphant picture is the empty cross or the empty tomb, but I do understand why people do portray Jesus on the cross.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

From those of you taking the position that naked pictures of a baby Jesus which include depictions of genitalia are acceptable forms of sacred art, I would like to know how you determine the difference between art and child porn?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?