A haunted house attraction in Pennsylvania is giving people the option to strip off their clothes in order to amp up the intensity of their terror. This brings us to a very interesting intersection of the theological concepts of horror and nakedness.
[Note: While this article was being drafted, the company putting on the show announced that they have removed the “nude” option due to the amount of worldwide publicity they have received. But they expressed optimism that they’ll be able to bring it back next year.]
What is it about man’s heart that fascinates him with 1) horror and death and 2) the thrill of the fright that comes from being terrified? Moreover, how does being naked while participating in 1) and 2) enhance his experience? The Bible gives us the answers, but first it’s helpful to see what Scripture says about nakedness, blood, and monsters.
The Theology of Nakedness
After the Fall, Adam and Eve tried to hide their shame from God by covering themselves with fig leaves, man-made clothing crafted from vegetable matter. Despite this, they could not hide their sin from God. After he confronted them, he judged them, cursed them and cast them out of the Garden of Eden. But before he did, he provided a covering for them made from an animal skin. He didn’t want them to be cast out into the newly-cursed world in complete vulnerability.
This was a foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus Christ. It demonstrated the impossibility of man to cover his own sin and reconcile himself to God by his own means. We must rely on God’s grace and his mercy to provide us a covering, or atonement, that will satisfy God’s requirement that blood be shed as a propitiation for violating his covenantal law. In Adam and Eve’s case, God sacrificed an animal as a symbolic representation of the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ who God, having predestined all of history, could look forward to and give credit for even in that very first full day of man’s life. (1 Pet. 1:20)
Clothing plays a big symbolic role in the Bible, and fallen man especially has become obsessed with it. It is used figuratively to describe our sin-state. Typically “the flesh” refers to the corruption of sin in our lives. (Gen. 6:13, Eph. 2:3, Rom. 8:3-5) Circumcision in the Old Covenant was a symbolic casting-off of the sinful flesh so that the whole body could be renewed. (Deut. 10:16) The Old Testament often speaks of the putting on of righteousness as a clothing or breastplate. [Job 29:14, Isa. 59:17] This clothing of righteousness would serve the purpose of covering our sinful “flesh.”
This comes to fulfillment in the New Covenant when we are washed with baptismal waters and united to Christ’s baptism-death: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11-12, ESV)
All who are baptized in Christ have “put off” the old flesh and “put on” Christ [Gal. 3:27], “the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” [Eph. 4:24] Christ is our covering, the robe of righteousness that covers our old sinful flesh. Soiled garments, spotted with filth, are analogous to our corrupt nature, our “flesh.” Standing in contrast to those who are defiled in their sin are those who walk with Jesus Christ “in white,” [Rev. 3:4] clothed in white robes and resting in Christ. (Rev. 7:9) By being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, our robes are made white like snow. (vs.14)
Unregenerate man tries to construct elaborate clothing for himself either literally or symbolically. He hopes that it will cover his sin just as well as the simple white linen garment of Christ, or else he tries to strip away all of his clothes in an attempt to recreate the pre-Fall conditions and return to a state of innocent nakedness1 — an obvious lie.
In the former case, no matter how sophisticated and layered an outfit he may construct for himself in God’s eyes it will still be spotted and blemished, covering him in a robe of defilement. In the latter case, in his nakedness his flesh will be uncovered and put forward as an affront to God’s holy character because it remains “uncircumcised” and not yet cast off or covered in Christ. The sinful flesh is defiled, and no defiled thing can cross a holy boundary. (Num. 19:20)
End of Part 1 of 4…
1. Ray Sutton, “Studies in Baptism No. 11: Baptism and Nakedness,” The Geneva Papers, December 1982, p.2, http://bit.ly/18PQnrD, accessed October 7, 2013.