Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Does God approve of pornography?

Is it acceptable for a Christian to look at pornography? Does God approve? If He disapproves, why did He give us such a strong sex drive, particularly men, who are easily aroused by visual stimuli? An estimated $97 billion was spent on pornography worldwide in 2006.  Statistics for internet porn are estimated at about 4.2 million websites, the average age of first exposure 11 years old, and 66% of men in their 20s and 30s report being regular users of pornography.[1] A poll of 1,000 respondents conducted on a Christian website found that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women admitted to being addicted to pornography[2] - and those are the ones who admitted it. One report indicated that 70% of porn is viewed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.[3], frequently on the office computer. Many more similar statistics could be given but, suffice to say, the porn industry is enormous. So many people can’t be wrong, right?

What does the Bible say?
Many books in the Bible clearly condemn sexual activity outside of marriage. But, what if someone is only looking? The Bible also warns against lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16) and heart (Proverbs 6:24-25). Jesus stated, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) According to Jesus, looking with desire or lust is also improper. And Job, even though he had no internet, DVDs, or magazines, recognized the potential pitfall of lust involving the eyes (Job 31:1).

But, why?
Certainly it’s wise to obey God even when we don’t know the reason. But, as humans, we are curious and want to know why. This is especially true when the action only involves looking. What if someone never mistreats women or commits any sexual crime, but only views porn – why is that wrong?

Any addiction places us in bondage (Romans 6:16). A Christian should not be involved in any behavior that places us under bondage or may damage our witness to others (Romans 14:21). And, if a particular behavior causes our heart to condemn us, we should avoid that activity (Romans 14:22 and 1 John 3:21).

Lust is a form of covetousness, which is detrimental to all people, not only Christians. One of the Ten Commandments directly addresses this issue:
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17)
Combining this commandment with the admonition for men to have their own wives (1 Corinthians 7:2) and be satisfied with one’s own wife (Proverbs 5:18), lust of the eyes would seem to be illicit (1 Corinthians 7:9). Now, someone may make the point that he does not desire to possess the women in the videos and photos; rather, only to look at them. Besides, these women pose for the camera voluntarily and for money. So, they are not unwilling participants in most cases. (We will set aside for now the argument that a certain percentage of these girls and women are coerced to some degree, possibly through drug addiction.)

A Christian must ask himself whether this behavior is worth missing eternal life, considering Paul’s comment:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, … nor adulterers … nor the covetous …  will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
God is certainly willing to forgive (Psalm 136:1, Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 103:3), but we must first admit the behavior is sinful (1 John 1:8-9).

It’s not adultery if I’m not married, right?
Jesus said anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart and adultery applies to those who are married. Would it be correct to say this verse is not applicable to those who are single? Well, the Bible states we should avoid sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 2:22), which can be committed by those who are not married as well as those who are. In 1 Corinthians 7:9, the Apostle Paul speaks directly to those who are unmarried advising to either exercise self control or marry. This does not sound like Paul is giving free license for singles to engage in any sexual behavior they please.

Using images of women to gratify one’s lust leads to objectification of females. Rather than considering them as valuable persons made in God’s image, women are perceived as objects to satisfy a man’s selfish desires. The fact that women allow themselves to play this role does not change the male perception. Public nudity - other than Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:25) before sin entered the world - is described disparagingly in the Bible (Genesis 9:23, Ezekiel 16:36, Ezekiel 23:18, and others). God’s design and plan is for a woman’s body to be enjoyed by her husband (and vice versa), not shown on the internet or DVDs as an object of desire for the entire world.
(For additional information regarding God’s best plan for our lives, see the article on this website “Does God disapprove of sex?”)

What is the difference between adultery and fornication?
Adultery is distinguished from fornication in the Bible in several passages and both are described as sinful behavior:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19)
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries” (Mark 7:21)
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals …  will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)
“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)

The Hebrew word used to indicate adultery in the Old Testament is na’ap (Strong’s 5003), which is more specifically defined as:  “to commit adultery; … adulterer, adulteress; by extension: to be unfaithful to God (by having illicit relations with other gods) … break wedlock”[4] The Greek word moicheuo (Strong’s 3431) is used in most New Testament references, indicating the same basic meaning:  “to commit adultery; … to become an adulterer”[5]

The word “fornicate” in the Greek is πόρνος (pornos, Strong’s # 4205), which is translated as:
“one who is sexually immoral (male or female), in some contexts distinguished from an adulterer (1 Co 6:9):-whoremongers [4], fornicators [3], fornicator [2], whoremonger [1].”[6]
The bottom line is this:  Sexual activity outside of marriage is considered to be sinful in the Bible.

But, it’s harmless
It’s true that many men view porn and never abuse women or children. However, many do. Much porn available today involves children and violence. In only one police operation, 1,500 individuals were arrested internationally and in the United States for downloading child porn.[7] That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Almost without exception, those who commit sexual offenses and murder of women are heavily involved in pornography consumption. The California Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Obscenity and Pornography remarked that:  “In interviews with a great many police officers, the Committee was frequently told, ‘I never arrested a child molester who did not have pornography in his possession.’ Also stated in the report: ‘in an investigation of more than 40 cases of child molestation by the Los Angeles Police Department, including interviews with more than 100 victims and suspects, officers found that pornography was a factor in every single case.’”[8] One report found 116,000 daily “child pornography” requests on the internet.[9] While it is true that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, all or almost all of those who go on to abuse children begin by viewing pornographic images.

Isn’t this just normal male behavior?
But seriously, does anyone expect normal men to not look? Besides, God made guys that way – so it’s His fault, right? Telling a guy not to look at an attractive female is like telling a dog not to bark. Using this logic, since people are selfish and prideful by nature, those who behave as such are not morally culpable. Simply because something is in our nature does not give free license to act on it. Most humans are lazy by nature, but we consider it beneath us to remain in that state. All people have a sinful nature, as Paul explains (Romans 7:18), which wars against what we know in our mind is good (Romans 7:23). Paul lists the deeds of the flesh, or human nature:
            “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21a).
One could easily make the argument that, because these are part of our nature, we should be free to act upon them without condemnation. But, Paul goes on to state, “as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (v. 21b)

Brain chemistry
Chemical activity in the brain during pornography usage is nearly identical to that which occurs in drug addiction. Testifying before a Senate subcommittee, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, M.S., M.D., stated:
“…modern science allows us to understand that the underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction: Only the delivery system is different, and the sequence of steps. That is why heroin addicts in particular give up sex and routinely compare their ‘rushes’ to ‘orgasms’. The chemistry involved is as follows: Upon viewing or reading the ‘expression’, the pornography addict experiences an irresistible impulse to self-stimulation… Upon achieving climax, the brain releases opioids—chemicals that are the naturally occurring analogs to synthetic opiates such as morphine or heroin.”[10]

Larry and Wendy Maltz, both Licensed Clinical Social Workers with more than 25 years of experience with sexually related issues, have concluded:
“… porn can have as powerful an effect on your body and brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Porn stimulates and area of the brain known as the 'hedonic highway,' or median forebrain, which is filled with receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is released when you get sexually aroused. It is also released by other pleasurable activities, such as kissing, intercourse, smoking a cigarette, or taking other drugs. Porn causes the dopamine production in your system to spike. This dramatic increase in dopamine produces a drug-like high some researchers believe is most similar to the high caused by crack cocaine.”[11]

This article is not intended to advocate political or legislative action; rather, to provide accurate information. The message promoted in society today is that pornography is perfectly acceptable. However, the enemy (Satan) would like to weigh down and entangle Christians (Hebrews 12:1) with foolish and sinful behavior. God has a higher calling and purpose for every one of us (2 Timothy 2:21).  Ephesians 5:3 states, “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.”  This is not meant to bring condemnation, but to show that we have a greater purpose as children of God (Galatians 3:26), heirs of God (Romans 8:17), and coworkers with God (2 Corinthians 6:1). To run the race to our full potential, we must throw off every weight that hinders.

(For those who need help in breaking this habit, the book every man’s battle, by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, is recommended.)

[Biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.]

[1]Family Safe Media, “Pornography Statistics”, statistics through 2006, accessed 5 June 2009.
[2]The Christian Post, “Porn Addiction Flooding Culture, Church”, June 5, 2007,
[3]The Washington Times, “Porn Corrupts America”, 24 Feb 2009.
[4]James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), p. 1534.
[5]Ibid., 1628.
[6]Ibid., 1638.
[7]International Business Law Services, “The Child Exploitation Section of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement is Resolute to Apprehend Internet Child Pornographers”, April 23, 2007,
[8]Coral Ridge Ministries, “Issues Tearing Our Nation’s Fabric”, updated 13 July 2002, accessed 31 May 2009,
< http://www.leaderu.com/issues/fabric/chap17.html>
[9]Family Safe Media.
[10]Testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and the Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities, 18 Nov 2004, www.princeton.edu.
[11]Wendy and Larry Maltz, The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography (New York, NY:  Harper Collins, 2008), pp. 18-19.

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