If doubts remain as to whether or not worldliness has invaded much of the church and what the bottom of such a slippery slope looks like, then doubt no more and look no further. Reuters reports that a Protestant youth group in Nuremberg, Germany has published a 2006 calendar featuring twelve photos depicting erotic scenes from the Bible. Among others, those scenes include a bare-breasted Delilah cutting Samson's hair and a nude Eve offering the forbidden fruit. "Unlike many recent fund-raising calendars featuring nude people, this one does not have strategically placed items covering certain anatomical parts."
The goal of the project is to get teenagers and young adults interested in the Bible. "We wanted to represent the Bible in a different way and to interest young people," Anne Rhomer told Reuters. "Anyway, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude." "The 21-year-old posed as the biblical prostitute Rahab wearing garters and stockings." Stefan Wiest, the 32-year-old photographer who took the pictures stated, "There's a whole range of biblical scriptures simply bursting with eroticism." The pastor of the church thinks the calendar is a great idea. "It's just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the Bible," noted Rev. Bernd Grasser.
Worldliness has always been a problem for the church and Scripture is replete with warnings against its slow but powerful creep. Paul noted that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6)." The leaven here rises in the form of many deadly errors.
First, the practice of displaying photos depicting erotic scenes, even from the Bible, is characterized by the Bible as fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness. The word fornication translates the Greek word porneia from which we get our word pornography. The other two words are self-explanatory as indeed is one verse among a multitude: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness (Gal. 5:19)." Such a venture is nothing less than the leading of young people into the fleshly work of pornography. When teenagers are used as models, such use is no doubt on par with exploitation and child molestation.
Second, the stated goal of getting teenagers interested in the Bible is nothing but a fantasy. The appeal being made is not an appeal to truth, holiness, grace, Christ, or anything else the Bible holds out as more to be preferred than riches. As noted, the appeal here is to the flesh. The only goal to be realized in this project is that of getting kids interested in pornography, which in turn fosters a greater desire for such, which again leads to the slippery slope. Rather than increased Bible reading, the result is sure to be increased profits for the likes of Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint.
Third, the desire to represent the Bible in a different way to young people was certainly realized. That representation is indeed the problem: it is a different way. It is a twisted and distorted way to represent the Bible and its sublime message of grace in Christ. We are warned that "there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4)." Pastor Grasser falls into this category. Peter speaks of those who twist the Scriptures and notes that they do so to their own condemnation (2 Pet. 3:16).
Fourth, Rhomer asserted that the Bible does not forbid individuals to show themselves nude. Yet, Shem and Japheth would not even look at the nakedness of their own father as it would be a shame to him (Gen. 9:23). To be sure, sex and its accompanying nudity is wonderful in the context of marriage. Yet, throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament book of Revelation, nakedness is described in other contexts as shameful. We can only pray that Rhomer will propagate biblical truth in the future rather than the world's rationalization of its rebellion against God.
Fifth, as if Rhomer wasn't enough, the photographer offered his best effort at theological instruction as well. He noted that the Scriptures are bursting with eroticism. Again, eroticism in the Bible is condemned if in the wrong context. Sexual love is exalted in the context of marriage.
Sixth, perhaps the most troubling statement of all came from the pastor. "It's just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the Bible." Hear the Lord's assessment of such: "Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart (Jer. 14:14)." Further, "I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem a horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah (Jer. 23:14)." Any questions?
Seventh, in the final analysis, not only do these so-called Christians see no problem with what they are doing, they actually boast about it. Paul had something to say about a church boasting of a member's sexual sin: "your boasting is not good (1 Cor. 5:6)." Paul here refers to the same dynamics to which he referred in v. 2 when he said, "you are arrogant! Should you not rather be grieved [over this man's sin]?" They were boasting in, among other things, a false understanding of grace. They were not concerned with sin in the camp because they were focused on themselves.
This dynamic is nothing more than one of Satan's nefarious schemes to give religious people a false sense of security. In a day when individualism reigns, this dynamic is particularly deadly. They should have grieved over the sinning individual and his rebellion, over the destruction of a family in the church, over the shocking and perverse nature of the sin, over the reproach it brought upon the church and the name of Christ, and over the fact that the blood of the covenant had been trampled underfoot and that God's glory had been exchanged for a lie. So too should we in regard to this church in Nuremberg and its youth group.
If sin is left unchecked, disastrous results follow. Paul's noted question concerning leaven becomes ominous. His point is that sin is pervasive. If left unchecked, it will spread through the entire church. This process of contamination not only affects those within the body, but it displays a false church to the world and puts an ineffective church in the world. Is it any wonder that most persons outside of the church refuse to come to church because of the rampant hypocrisy they see? Is it any wonder that churches which refuse to practice church discipline have no real power to transform lives and no real influence in the world?
No, a pornographic calendar will not attract young people to the truth of Scripture nor to the Lord of glory. It will only serve to display a false Bible to the world and put an ineffective witness in the world. If tomorrow is a day in the calendar of a fool, this one is the fool's calendar.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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