The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Prostitution, Chaos, and Christian Art

The newest theatrical release of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel “Les Miserables” was released on Christmas, but many Christians are refusing to see the movie. The reason simple — the movie briefly portrays the licentious activities of Fantine, a prostitute. Before her fall into prostitution, Fantine and her child Cosette are abandoned by Cossette’s father. Her reputation makes it increasingly impossible for her to keep a job, and her desperation in caring for her daughter forces her to the streets. First selling her hair, her teeth, and finally her body, she sends nearly everything to support her daughter.

Fantine - Steve Macias

Fantine – Les Miserables

A Prostitute’s Sex Scene

Focus on the Family’s “Plugged In” offered this description of the scene:

“Then the camera takes a bit longer watching Fantine—dressed in a hiked-up, bare-shouldered petticoat—as she and her first sexual customer consummate their transaction with realistic sexual movements. Her pain and despair over what she feels she’s forced to do is so palpable here that it’s nearly as smothering as the grimness of her surroundings and the crudeness of the act itself.”

Hugo’s prostitute is overwhelmingly repugnant. We are given an image of a bald, toothless woman stricken with tuberculosis covered in filth. There is nothing sensual about this sexual experience; she’s not even shown in the nude. In the Broadway versions of “Les Miserables,” a more likable Fantine is stripped on stage and then ushered off.

Which is more appropriate?

In our discussion of Les Miserables, we have to think in categories native to comparative literature and the aesthetic arts. This is, after all, Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, a story of undisputed acclaim. How we understand his use of sex is going to be much more profound than the typical pop-culture flick. We are looking deeper than entertainment value to evaluate the weightiness of forms as they construct truth. In all of this, we must view Les Mis as art. The Hollywood production will either reflect characteristics of good art or bad art. The same is true of the Broadway music and the book itself.

By What Standard? A Reformed View Of Art

The modern world… has no notion except that of simplifying something by destroying nearly everything. – G. K. Chesterton

In creation, God expresses his nature as he re-creates his image in man. The creator produces little creators who construct new things in their own image. As Francis Schaeffer has said, “Creativity is a part of the distinction between man and non-man. All people are to some degree creative. Creativity is intrinsic to our mannishness.” In a broad sense, everything that is created by man is art. Architecture, music, and even cooking are art forms.

In the Bible we are given a beautiful written narrative of creative history filled with both poetry and symbolism. Thus our truest reality is found not merely in terse matter-of-fact statements, but in flowing ballads as well. God uses the diversity in form to reflect the beauty of the composer. Art, in its various mediums, is judged by the ability of these flat layers, forms, to emerge as mountains in the landscape of reason, emotion, and truth.

The value of art is determined by it’s comparative ability to develop truth in the things we do, smell, taste, see, hear, and speak; these develop perspectives on how the image of God has impacted this world. In art, man claims dominion over the ordained meanings of particulars and develops their complexity into layers of contrasting universal realities. When a man paints of picture of a woman he uses particulars like lines, colors, and shapes to create the work. When the shapes and colors come together to look like the woman, he has suspended those particular against each other to create a real image. Holding these forms in the equal ultimacy of unity and diversity creates beauty. Yet when the unity is overly stressed we lose the beauty of a unique face and all becomes uniformity. (Imagine if every painting held the face of the Mona Lisa.) When we stress the diversity, we end up with the fragmentation of Picasso.

Fouquet Virgin and Child Steve Macias

Fouquet Virgin and Child

Rembrandt - The Holy Family Steve Macias

Rembrandt – The Holy Family

Thus, art only has meaning within the Christian worldview. The Christian knows true things about men, women, and nature because God has revealed true things. When Christianity is removed, the meaning of art is lost. A good example of this is to compare Rembrandt’s “Holy Family” against Fouquet’s “Virgin and Child.” One is dominated by order, the other by chaos. Following in the example of the Reformation, Rembrandt neither idealized nor demeaned the subjects in his work.

While Fouquet’s work, meanwhile, is one of the best examples of how Western Art can be used to subvert Christian truth.In “Virgin and Child” we see a woman who is not ‘real’ and is not Mary. The face of the subject was actually the King’s mistress, Agnes Sorel, who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Not only was the King’s mistress painted as Mary with all of the holiness removed, but the meaning, too, was being destroyed. The meaning of the particulars was reduced to a debased pornographic portrait of the King’s mistress. Even more telling, Fouquet’s Virgin, painted in unusual colors that point toward the French crown, is not realistic. It points back to its own fragmented meaning. In Fouquet’s Virgin, truth is reduced to the sexual imagery of man-centered idealism. Thus, fragmentation is rebellion to God; this is how we as Christians can declare the intrinsic sinfulness of pornography.

Good art does not have to be realistic, but when an historical figure is purposely distorted, modern fragmentation is clear. Fouquet’s painting is obvious chaos; one immediately gets the feeling that it is “out of this world,” but not in the holy sense. Yet in Rembrandt’s Holy Family, Mary is portrayed as a real woman who had a real child. In Rembrandt’s work we can identify those multiple layers of meaning, whether your identifying the historical statement, the nurturing of motherhood, the Christian view of the family, or even more abstract elements such as the meaning in light, movement within the painting, character placement, color and shadows, along with various similar details we don’t notice at first glance.

Victorian Censorship

It is also important to notice that nudity is used in both of these pieces, yet it is only erotic in one. Particulars like nudity have meaning in God’s world and are defined by context. In Rembrandt’s work, the virgin’s exposed breast is a symbol of both the humanity of Jesus and nurturing nature of the Virgin. This is how we can see sex and prostitution in the context of Les Miserables as both noble and repugnant. Unfortunately this tension is lost in modern Christian filmmaking; for instance, movies like Courageous and Fireproof spoon-feed flat morality scenes that lack the multi-layer depth of true art.

Christians throughout history have demonstrated Biblical beauty in art, reflecting the goodness of God in the diversity of human dignity not by merely affirming positive examples, but by maintaining a tension between the ideal and debased. Today, modern Christendom uses art as propaganda with a single seemingly “gospel” centered message that they wish to communicate as an intellectual statement. This is anti-art in the same way government murals of the Chinese Dictator Mao are anti-art.

Reformed art is not merely romantic.

The Christian view of art does not confuse Victorian sensibilities with moral uprightness — with righteousness. Those who view art in the simplistic context of the “message” will close their eyes at the beauty of Rembrandt’s Virgin and Hugo’s Fantine. Such a view creates a romantic view of morality, another symptom of humanism. Art that can only display positive aspects of man denies the truth that man is cruel and broken. Art affirms the morality of God by demonstrating the vulgarity of man.

Unoffensive Prostitution is Chaos

Hugo wrote the character Fantine to describe how French society had forgotten the downtrodden among them. How fitting for Christians of our day to do the same in their opinions of the depiction of Fantine. They cannot even bear to look at her pain. They wish her away in a blissful ignorance, a self-righteous indignation at her existence. Instead the Christian humanist demands a sanitized reality, an idealism that comforts the mind and ignores the heart. When Hugo confronts our modern sensibilities with a woman who represent our real sin, we respond with a desire for chaos. In our world, we have peace because we hide the reality of prostitution. We rush it off the stage and sweep it under the rug. Order requires work and struggle. Order requires us to become like Fantine, first emotionally realizing our own dirty, adulterous lives and then overcoming that desire to be left alone. To stoop down and be confronted with Fantine’s sin is to be personally disturbed.

There is in Christian Humanistic thought the desire to separate anything of sexual nature from the body. The reader may intellectualize Fantine’s prostitution on the pages of a book, but to see her portrayed in bed with a man is dangerous and even sinful. Self-righteousness is fueled by their intellectual ability to discern the weaknesses of their flesh. This over-sensitivity of the man is the denial of the body. Instead of solving the problem like Hugo does in his artistic contrast, modern man solves this by denying the body and embracing neo-platonic dualities.

Victor Hugo includes the prostitution in a way that makes one feels as though it could be themselves or someone they know, yet in the offensive sexually encounter Hugo urges us to not look away, to not skip this scene. Rather, we are to take it to heart and to be so offended that you do something about the injustice existing in your culture. In the movie, missing the scene would be missing the words:

“Don’t they know they’re making love | To one already dead!”

The Christian View of Prostitution is Sympathy

In my work in the Pro-life ministry we often show graphic pictures of abortion to demonstrate its horrors. This includes a DVD of an actual abortion being performed. This is much more graphic than the scene in Les Miserables both in nudity and content. I am often confronted by Christians who dislike the use of these images, often accusing me of offending post-abortive women. The result of such emotionally driven censorship is the alienation of post-abortive women. All of our sins can be displayed in media, whether we are talking about murder or adultery, but abortion in its graphic detail is not allowed. Even worse, this emotionalism has crippled pastors who are afraid that they may offend the post-abortive woman in the pews. In actuality, this emotionalism creates a gulf of separation between real hurting women and those who can offer help. When the woman thinks of her sin she wonders, “Is my abortion so evil that they can’t even show me what I did?” or “Is my sin so huge that my pastor has no hope for me?”

This is the same sort of relationship breakdown that happens when we become so apprehensive to the prostitute that we can’t even bear to have a scene of one in our media. Hugo wrote to prick the conscience of the Christians; the Catholic church of his time was not appreciative of his criticism, and even today the Christian world rejects his cutting scene. Yet in the apostolic literature, Christ calls the harlots to the front of his teaching on sexuality. In the woman caught in adultery, we are are given Christ’s dramatic encounter with a woman caught in the act — one must wonder what the Victorians among us would do to sanitize this story. As we move back into Biblical literature, the relationship between Hosea and Gomer is a type of how God sees Israel. Gomer runs away from her Husband Hosea and sleeps with another man, but he loves her anyway and goes to buy her back. God does not hide prostitution, nor does he make it an unforgivable sin. Instead he demonstrates his fatherly responsibility to rescue those lost in harlotry, to buy those like Gomer and Fantine back. Hollywood is faithful both to Hugo and to scripture by including such a scene. As Hugo describes it,

 “What is the story of Fantine about? It is about society buying a slave.”

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16 thoughts on “Prostitution, Chaos, and Christian Art

  1. Thanks…very good post.

  2. Excellent. Thank you for putting this so well…

  3. Pingback: Prostitution, Chaos, and Christian Art

  4. Brilliant. Thank you.

  5. Excellent article, Steve. Lots to think about.

  6. I think the article was wrong and opposed to Scripture. Here are some reasons why:

    – “By What Standard? A Reformed View of Art” is one of your article headings. Not only does your article misrepresent the term “Reformed”, but frankly I don’t care to hear “A Reformed View of Art”; I want to hear “A Biblical View of Art”. You didn’t use or quote scripture once in the article and referred to it only twice in passing.

    – “The value of art is determined by it’s comparative ability to develop truth in the things we do, smell, taste, see, hear, and speak; these develop perspectives on how the image of God has impacted this world.”

    Wrong. The value of art is determined First by how it lines up with Scripture. We can see in Scripture that sex scenes in a film are inherently sinful and wrong:

    “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

    “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, …” 1 Timothy 2:9

    – “It is also important to notice that nudity is used in both of these pieces, yet it is only erotic in one.”

    Wrong. Erotic is defined as: “of, relating to, or tending to arouse sexual desire or excitement.” I have a problem with both of the pictures that are shown in the article, but for me, the one by Rembrandt is one that, if I didn’t look away, would “arouse sexual desire”. Maybe… maybe it doesn’t cause you to stumble, but to make a blanket statement that only one is erotic is just not true.

    – “In Rembrandt’s work, the virgin’s exposed breast is a symbol of both the humanity of Jesus and nurturing nature of the Virgin.”

    It may be a symbol of that, but it’s definitely an unbiblical symbol of it (refer to the scripture references above).

    – “Unfortunately this tension is lost in modern Christian filmmaking; for instance, movies like Courageous and Fireproof spoon-feed flat morality scenes that lack the multi-layer depth of true art.”

    Wrong. They show what needs to be shown, while maintaining the purity of the viewers. Scripture says:

    “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh *and the lust of the eyes* and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16 (emphasis added)

    – “This is anti-art”

    I don’t care. “Is it anti-biblical?” is the real question and you will not find anywhere in Scripture to justify a sex scene in a film.

    Also, you are not basing your view of art in Scripture. When God created the heavens and the earth, He called what He had created: “very good.” When we approach creating art from a biblical perspective, we must keep in mind the way God created; things that were “very good.”

    – “Those who view art in the simplistic context of the “message” will close their eyes at the beauty of Rembrandt’s Virgin and Hugo’s Fantine.”

    What beauty? You said that the scenes were shown as repulsive. This is a logical inconsistency.

    – “Art that can only display positive aspects of man denies the truth that man is cruel and broken. Art affirms the morality of God by demonstrating the vulgarity of man.”

    This is a Straw-man fallacy. You are implying that anyone who disagrees with your point is saying that you can only portray positive aspects of man and denies that man is cruel and broken. I’m not saying that you cannot portray the negative elements of man in art. However, you cannot Biblically portray in art that which causes someone to stumble and I don’t care how dirty or filthy or repulsive the scene is; a sex scene will cause men to stumble.

    – “How fitting for Christians of our day to do the same in their opinions of the depiction of Fantine. They cannot even bear to look at her pain.”

    Straw-man. It’s not the showing of pain that I have a problem with. It’s the showing of sex.

    – “There is in Christian Humanistic thought the desire to separate anything of sexual nature from the body.”

    Straw-man. I’m not trying to separate anything of sexual nature from the body. I think Joshua Harris’ book title says it best: “Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)”

    – “This is the same sort of relationship breakdown that happens when we become so apprehensive to the prostitute that we can’t even bear to have a scene of one in our media.”

    Ok, so the scene that you claim is acceptable or, rather, beneficial to watch is about 2-3 seconds long (or so I’ve been told). What if the exact same scene were 20 seconds, but it was still shown as repulsive. Would that be acceptable? What if she was completely naked during that 20 seconds, but it was still shown as repulsive. Would that be acceptable? What if she was completely naked and the scene was a minute long, but it was still shown as repulsive. What if the redemptive story was about a male homosexual prostitute and it showed the same kind of scene, but it was still shows as repulsive. Would that be acceptable? What if, what if, what if…

    Tell me where you draw the line.

    – “…one must wonder what the Victorians among us would do to sanitize this story.”

    I’m not a Victorian and Scripture doesn’t need sanitization. I’m not saying you can’t say words like “Sex” and “Caught in the Act”. It’s completely wrong to compare this account in scripture to a visual, lust provoking (yes, I said that) sex scene. Steve, you may be, May be one in a million, but for the rest of us, unless we were homosexual or castrated, this scene would provoke lust.

    – “Hollywood is faithful both to Hugo and to scripture by including such a scene.”

    I haven’t read Les Misérables, so I can’t say whether or not Hollywood was faithful to Hugo to include this scene; but I defy you to show me in Scripture, which he neglected to do in the article, how including such a scene is faithful to scripture.

  7. Cody,
    While I appreciate your sensitive nature, I don’t think your comments are well-informed with regard to the reality of what is portrayed in the film. There is no “skin” at all shown by Fantine (who begins the story as a picture of virtue in contrast to the other women around her). The scene in question is obviously a rape situation of a downtrodden woman who, in the scenes just prior, has sold her hair and her teeth in order to provide for her child who was abandoned by the father.

    Any man who experiences lust in his heart as a result of such a scene is certainly not reacting to the author’s, director’s, or actors’ intent. Often what we object to will show the darkness of our own hearts more than that of others. I’m not telling you to see the movie, but your contempt is not informed, imo. Thanks.

    • JR,

      It has zero to do with what you consider to be my sensitive nature. Those scenes are opposed to the clear teaching of scripture. And it’s not obviously a rape. She is completing a transaction.

      It doesn’t matter the intent of the author, director or actor. God can examine motives. Man must judge by actions.

      I’m not telling you to not see the movie and I’m not saying you are telling me to see it. My “contempt” is aimed at an article that says those who will not see it are:

      “Victorian” “self-righteous” “neo-platonic” and a “Christian humanist”

  8. What could be more self righteous than this: “She is completing a transaction.” ?

    Romans 2:1 “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

    What we condemn (especially without knowledge), depicts the darkness of our own hearts more than those of whom we accuse. If you experienced lust in your heart over such a “transaction”, your judgment would be better directed toward self-conviction than condemnation of those you over whom you should desire mercy. Apparently, we (in the Church today) have more to learn from the study of Javert than Fantine.

    I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Peace,

    • Perhaps the “self-righteousness” you are talking about is very similar to what R.C. Sproul Jr. said most people call legalism: “When my convictions prick your conscience.”

      I suppose we will just have to agree to disagree.

      • Cody, not at all. Legalism is when people toy with the law and treat it like a pet; like something that can be ameliorated by certain outward manipulations.

        The Law is the Holy perfect will of God, as commanded in scripture. A high view of the Law understands our own need for forgiveness before a holy God and the gratitude that we have for such immeasurable grace, given to us freely, by no merit of our own. Such an understanding of the heinousness of sin looks first at the cross, then within our own hearts before judging a matter. Only after we have received the grace of Christ and have rightly understood it, can we effectively seek to understand this broken world.

        As far as Fantine’s character goes, I stand by what I’ve said. There is nothing inherently sinful about how she is portrayed. Is it offensive? Absolutely. In the same way modern slavery and trafficking is (but as a Christian, I can hardly blame the victim):

        http://www.combat-trafficking.army.mil/documents/training/TIP_20Feb09.ppt
        http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/82902.pdf

      • Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I’m not going to convince you and you’re not going to convince me.

  9. Pingback: Valentine’s Day: Christian Marriage, Cheap Love, and Sex « Kuyperian Commentary

  10. Pingback: The movie “Les Miserables” and Francis Schaeffer | The Daily Hatch

  11. I would not necessarily call the article a “Reformed view” of art either, because I think it is inherently biblical. The entirety of Scriptures presents God’s story of his rescue operation of his fallen creatures from the corruption and desecration of sin. It reveals not only the depths of depravity into which man can submerge himself, but also the wonder of God’s love and mercy to still reach out to us in grace. He must view us as victims in some way as well, for him to continue to offer his love to us in our defiant condition.

    In the same way, I believe he instructs us to offer this same love and mercy to all those around us. Unfortunately, many of his ambassadors have difficulty looking at the horror of our condition, even though God willingly looks at it. And without that view, I believe our love and mercy is too often truncated. We can sit in the safety of our churches without seeing the desperation of people living only blocks away, listening to passionate calls for holy living while ignoring that God’s holiness is not violated by his mercy and persistent pursuit of sinners. Our condemnation homosexuality and prostitution too often targets the homosexual and the prostitute, victims of the same sin that has corrupted us.

    But to have this biblical view, we have to be willing to follow the pattern of the Savior and incarnate ourselves into a very wicked world. Jesus did not violate his purity by looking on the sin of those he loved. We might be able to see better if we were willing to incarnate ourselves into communities of poverty and evil, if we were willing to open our hearts to see the real condition of people underneath their wickedness, if we were willing to love people who can be so unlovable at times.

    It’s very biblical to think about prostitution this way. Thank you for a provocative article. May your tribe increase.

  12. Jason on said:

    When I was a young child at Sunday School my teachers often used
    flannelgraph boards to depict various Bible stories. They would
    depict Cain slaying Abel, David and Batshebba, etc. In the mind of a
    little child that slaying was realistic. As far as a 8-year old who
    knows nothing about sex, David and Bathshebba was realistic because
    they showed David looking down from the walls of his castle on
    Bathsebba bathing. I’m sure Bathshebba was clothed in the
    flannelgraph because I would definetly remember it if she were
    depicted as actually naked. I’ve never met anyone who had any qualm
    with the depicting of those stories via flannelgraph.

    Now let’s fast-forward to my college days. I was visiting a church
    where a visiting group of Christian high-schoolers were doing a play
    about David. This group was traveling from church to church during
    the summer and doing this play. It included a scene about David and
    Bathshebba. In this case there were actual actors and a young man
    looked out from a realistic castle they had built on the set towards a
    young lady who was realistically bathing on the rooftop. Of course,
    the scene was “sanitzied”. There was no nudity–But everyone knew
    exactly what was going on. The young man had some line saying
    something like “Oh my…she’s beautiful. I must have her. Servants!
    Bring that lady!” Being a red-blooded male with hormones, I thought
    that if I were that actor and saying those lines, I’d have a
    difficult time performing that role week after week without it
    sparking my imagination and being a stumbling block to me. I believe
    any man would very likely be thinking (at some level) about the words
    he was saying–it’s natural to do so–especially if you’re trying to
    “get into” your part and act realistically.

    God is OK with us thinking about Cain slaying Abel. After all, He put
    it in the Bible for our benefit. He knows our minds will fill in the
    blanks because He created us as creative imaginative beings. God is
    OK with us thinking about David watching a beautiful woman bathe naked
    on a roof and then taking her in an adultrous affair. After all, He
    put it in the Bible for our benefit.

    Christians are OK with the portraying of Bible stories via
    flannelgraph in very realistic terms (for a 7- or 8-year-olds). I
    remember being “shocked” visually at various times by the story as it
    unfolded before my eyes. It was just like being there in my mind.
    And I’m sure others can remember similar experiences in their life
    when a flannelgraph story “came to life”. Christians are OK with
    “sanitized” 3-D portrayals of sinful actions via live theater–even
    though those portrayals make the story “come to life”. Christians are
    OK with “sanitized” movies on Bible stories portraying sinful actions.
    Christians are OK with all of this because they believe (and I think
    rightfully so), that these forms of “art” are useful because they
    remind people of God’s truth.

    Getting to Rembrandt’s painting….not all nudity is created equal.
    It’s based on context.

    Parents often photograph their cute little baby naked taking a bath or
    doing something funny. Almost everyone thinks this is OK.

    Is it OK for someone take a nude picture of a 9- or 10-year old boy or
    girl? No! It’s child pornography. But we would say Yes! if it was
    a medically necessary picture of the “before” and “after” of a surgery
    done on your child who had something wrong in his/her private parts.

    What about the 10- or 12-ish-year old boy that played the part of the
    boy in the film version of the Jungle Book? We were watching that
    movie and I was in the process of assuring my children, “..don’t worry
    kids, they’re not going to actually show him naked–they’ll just
    obscure the appropriate parts with jungle branches, etc”. Less than a
    minute later I was proved wrong and ALL of my children were “grossed
    out” and repulsed by it. It wasn’t sexual in nature at all. I can
    guarantee my children didn’t have any sexual temptation going on –it
    was more like a gag reflex! Just a boy raised by jungle animals. He
    was shown totally naked here and there as he ran through the woods.
    It was not extreme. It was occasional. It was realistic, but not
    overdone. In previous years I would have immediately turned off the
    movie, but I kept the movie on and the children had a sort of
    rolling-of-the-eyes attitude about it. I couldn’t quite exactly
    explain my thinking, but the context was non-sexual and it seemed “OK”
    if that makes any sense to you. Now we could debate the merit of
    watching the “Jungle Book” in the first place, but that’s not what I’m
    driving at here. (By the way, later in the movie as he “grew up” a
    little more, he had a loin cloth of sorts).

    Is it OK for someone to take a nude picture of a grown man or woman?
    No! It’s pornography. But we would say Yes! if it were pictures that
    taught a surgeon how to repair a person’s private parts. In fact,
    pictures similar to this helped save my child’s life because we lost
    our midwife shortly before our most recent child was born and I took
    all the books my wife had about childbirth and we studied them. There
    were very explicit photos of the whole birth process and I saw many
    naked ladies. Those pictures and the accompanying text helped me know
    what to do when our son was born (my son was born in our SUV and my
    daughter and I were my wife’s only caretakers). The ladies in those
    pictures allowed themselves to be photographed completely nude and the
    book was distributed publicly. Was it evil or sinful for them to do
    that? I think most people would so “no”, but not everyone would be
    comfortable with doing that themself. They’re glad others have done
    it, but, understandably, they don’t want or need to do it. I also
    think most people would
    rightfully differentiate between a woman needing to dress modestly (as
    the Bible does command) and this situation where a woman allows
    herself to be photographed for a book in order to help doctors and
    midwives know what to do.

    We need the understanding of the human body and that understanding
    entails the use of actual photographs (and perhaps video) of actual
    naked people. The surgeons, midwives (and in my case mid-husbands) of
    this world need that. These people must be wise in their use of these
    and must honor God while viewing this. A Christian can and should
    view these if it’s his/her lot in life to be doing this. The
    Christian should pray for God’s protection and do this to God’s glory.
    In fact, the reason I don’t mind “telling the whole world” about my
    viewing of these is that I’m confident my heart was right in doing so
    and I was doing it for the glory of God. And it was beautiful. Yes I
    said it. Those nude ladies preparing for, giving birth and caring for
    their newborn child were beautiful and none of them were my wife. I
    “enjoyed” those as a part of enjoying God’s creation and seeing His
    wonder. It was not a sexual enjoyment. The miracle of birth IS a
    beautiful thing! I have
    fond memories of the time my wife and I spent discussing and viewing
    this stuff and it was part of a sovereign God’s mighty hand preparing
    me for the most difficult situation in my life. My enjoyment of my
    wonderful God was absolutely and totally enhanced by the ladies who
    allowed themselves to be photographed and videotaped nude and I am so
    very very grateful that they did this. Is there danger in viewing
    these kinds of things? Yes! But there’s danger in doing many things
    that are
    right. There’s a danger in becoming a preacher because people tend to
    respect you and it can be easy for this respect to “go to your head”
    and help feed pride. But we don’t tell people not to be preachers.
    We tell them to remember that the preacher is a servant. We remind
    them of pertinent Bible verses. Those who know them well take them
    aside if they see them starting to be proud. We help those who are
    struggling and we encourage them to keep on preaching or keep on
    teaching or keep sewing or delivering goodies to neighbors, etc. We
    don’t tell them to quit any of these unless it’s actually “gone too
    far” and they need to quit. And when we do this, we often encourage
    them not to quit forever. We tell them to take a break and get their
    life under control and then go back to what God has called them to do.
    Or..maybe God IS calling them to something else.

    Now, going back to your post, in Rembrandt’s “The Holy Family”, he
    painted a woman’s breast. When he painted it he was thinking of a
    breast. Who’s breast? We don’t know. But he had to have SOME breast
    in his mind. I dont’ know if Rembrandt was married or not since I was
    never a student of art. My point is he had to have some picture in
    mind. Maybe it was his wife’s breast. Or maybe he grew up in a
    family where his mother nursed openly in front of everybody without
    covering up. In America, we don’t see this happen (I’ve never seen
    it), but a friend of mine who lives in a Central American country
    where it’s always very hot was surprised when she was in church and
    started to realize that all of the ladies nursed in public fully
    exposing their breasts. It’s just too hot for the babies to be
    covered with a blanket while nursing. And all this happend at the
    church building (and if I remember right), during the church service
    while the preacher was preaching! I’ve started to realize that some
    of the not-so-sex-crazed cultures think nothing of this and it’s not
    because the people involved are horribly evil (any more than the rest
    of us) or absolute pagans. God-honoring, Christ-loving mothers do
    this in other cultures. And it’s not a big stumpling block for the
    men since they all grew up seeing mom’s breast often.

    Getting back to the point, Rembrant obviously knew how to paint
    woman’s breasts. How did he develop his skill in doing so? Was this
    painting a one-shot wonder where he painted it correctly the very
    first time? Not likely. Painting requires practice. My daughter is
    getting better at drawing horses. Horses are difficult to draw
    because of all the curves and bones. You really have to look at
    horses and look intently and study the proportions of each part to the
    other. Maybe Rembrandt had his wife pose as he practised painting her
    naked breasts. Maybe his mom or sister posed. That’s kinda creepy,
    but maybe in that culture it was no big deal. I’m pretty confident
    that somebody posed. Photographs didn’t exist back then. I suspect
    he didn’t just look at other painter’s depictions of breasts. If he
    did, then that painter had to learn somehow and eventually you get
    back to the first person to paint a breast and somebody probably
    posed. So…should only married men be painters of images like these?
    and should the person who poses only be his wife?

    God’s says, in Phillipian 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things
    are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
    whatsoever things are sure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
    things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any
    praise, think on these things.”

    Here’s my questions:
    1. Is there virtue in art? I think you would say “Yes”. And I would
    agree. But I’m not sure why (other than the verse above). Can you
    give me some direction here? Rembrandt’s painting wasn’t for medical
    purposes. It was for our enjoyment and it is (supposedly) pointing us
    to God’s greatness in some way. Part of our enjoying it and
    understanding it is seeing Mary’s breast. Going back to that verse, I
    would say the painting is pure and lovely. I would also say that art
    has dangers, but we can’t just rule it out because there are dangers.
    Just like some people shouldn’t drink alcohol because it’s too
    dangerous for them, and other people can enjoy alcohol.
    2. You would say this painting is to the glory of God. While I know
    you can’t render a decision on every work of art, would you say it’s
    possible for a painting of a partially (or maybe fully) nude lady or
    man be to God’s glory?
    3. If partially or fully nude paintings are OK in some situations,
    what about people who create art?….
    a. Art students often learn how to paint/draw the human body by
    having an actual nude person pose in an art class. Could a Christian
    pose this way for the glory of God? Remember, I’m not talking about
    posing for a medically-related purpose. I’m inclinded to say that IF
    this kind of art has virtue or is needed, then the answer is “Yes”.
    In fact, if the answer is “Yes”, then those involved have no reason to
    be ashamed. They should be able to share freely with those at their
    church about the project and how well it was going, etc. I’m not
    saying that in our American sex-crazed culture this would come
    natural. However, if it is right, then a Christian could presumably
    talk about this part of their lives with other Christians while using
    wise judgement and the conversation could actually be to the glory of
    God. However, does this this learning how to paint/draw really
    require a classroom of people looking at a nude person? Would it work
    -and- wouldn’t it be better for artists just to practice by painting
    their spouse?
    b. Can the Christian artist righteously look INTENTLY upon another
    nude human being posing for the artwork? This is a harder question to
    me because in point “a” above, I think the person would have some
    natural inhibitions to being naked and so for them it would be a
    little bit nerve-wracking (to say the least), but, presumably, for the
    good of other Christians who “need” this art, they are sacrificially
    giving of their time (and their image) in this endeavor. But with the
    artist himself/herself, they’re looking intently at the person and how
    all the proportions are in relation to one another in order to create
    the painting. They’re “taking it all in” in all the intimate details.
    Painting the image seems much more risky for the Christian than being
    the image.
    4. And…going back to your explanation of Victor Hugo’s “Les
    Misearbles” you said that in the Broadway version a character that was
    a little bit less repulsive was stripped on-stage and escorted off
    stage. Do you thing there’s a righteous way of doing that?
    5. What about in the recent film version. You said there was
    actually no nudity shown. What if there had been some shown? Could
    that have been done to the glory of God?
    6. Was it sinful for me to allow my family to continue to watch that
    Jungle Book movie? It didn’t SEEM sinful, but maybe I was wrong.

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