Friday, May 23, 2008

Porn? Ok or not?

Christians and porn: OK or not OK?
Copyright: DrMarkK
The purpose of this brief discussion is to enquire as to whether there is a problem with a Christian (usually a male), or anybody for that matter, engaging with porn; whether it be through movies, internet, magazine or other source.

Some would argue that it is not a problem as it is just another form of entertainment, does not involve actual adulterous relationships and is about visual experience and fantasy.

I would argue strongly that this libertine approach is flawed at a number of points and that if we understand God, Christ, humanity and biblical revelation accurately, we would take the position that porn and engaging in porn is dehumanizing and a sin against self, others and God.

1. Porn and adultery
Jesus in Mt 5 says this of adultery:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. “

Jesus here is critiquing the commonly held view of adultery as active engagement in sexual relationships that violate the marriage relationship. Rather than just active physical engagement, he is telling his hearers that adultery begins in the heart and to even look with sexual desire on another is a violation of the spirit of the command. So adultery begins in the heart and what is done physically is just an outworking of the problem. He warns that this is sin and people of the Kingdom should renounce even the attitude of adultery. The natural reading of the text is that to fail to do so is to face eternal judgement.

While technically adultery can be distinguished from fornication (pre-marital sex), homosexuality and other sexual sins; I would argue here that Jesus’ words apply to all manner of sexual immorality. In Mk 7:19-21 Jesus states that all sexual immorality is evil and this command on adultery is essential to all sexual sin. If then we apply this teaching to porn, it is apparent that when a person engages in watching porn, fantasizing and being sexually aroused through it, they are committing adultery. They are looking with lust at another or others and are sexually aroused through the associated fantasies. It is thus incongruous with being Christian and so, Christians should renounce all interest in pornography and not do it. It is adultery. If the person engaged in doing this is married, they are violating their marriage vows. It is no less in Jesus’ eyes than sleeping with another person.

2. Porn and Relationship with Christ
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul warns the sexually immoral that they anyone who is sexually immoral (porneia) will not enter the Kingdom of God. Also mentioned in this passage are homosexual relationship whether active or passive and adultery, in the technical sense of marriage violation. This text teaches that those who continue to engage in sexual encounters and are unrepentant will be in danger of eternal separation from God.

As the chapter unfolds Paul addresses the matter of sexual relationships with prostitutes. Paul expressly states that to engage in sexual immorality is a violation of one’s own body. It is also a desecration of the purity and sanctity of the relationship one has with Christ. He says, ‘should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!’ This is because in doing so, one becomes ‘one flesh’ in Genesis marital terms with the person (cf. Gen 2:24). The person engaging in sex with the prostitute becomes one with her! Paul’s response in v17 is unambiguous: ’flee sexual immorality.’ He goes on to say that body is the temple of the Spirit and as such when we engage in such illicit sexual relationships we grieve and violate the Spirit. Rather, we should glorify God with our bodies.

Applied to pornography and knowing that adultery comes from the heart, watching porn is a violation one’s own body. It is a violation of Christ and the intimate relationship one has with him. It grieves him and dishonours him. It violates the relationship one has with the indwelling Spirit. As such, it is a crime against the triune God. Christians should be like Joseph when faced with any sexual sin, they should flee it! If they cannot stop the compulsion, they need prayer and counselling to overcome in Christ this problem. They must bar themselves from access to internet site through adequate software and make themselves accountable to others. Where a marriage is concerned, it is a violation of the marriage covenant as one seeks oneness with another, even if just an image.

3. Porn and the Image of God
Lurking beneath all this is the idea of people as being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and being children of God. When one looks at another person lustfully they violate the other person’s humanity, objectifying them and dehumanizing them. Rather than honour them as image bearers, sisters or brothers and creations of God, they become an object of lust and self-gratification. This violates their integrity as precious image bearers who we are to love and honour in purity.

Behind every porn image is a real person who is being exploited and violated by the huge porn industry to make money for someone. Somewhere a woman, man of more was in a room before cameras engaging in sexual activities for money and to please viewers. They are real people having real experiences, however faked to stimulate the viewer. It is thus a violation of God’s image and so of God himself. It is dehumanizing and a disgrace to God.

4. Porn and the sex industry
Porn is a huge industry. By far the dominant use of the internet is through internet porn. The porn industry exploits attractive young men and women, abusing their humanity, for the purposes of stimulating the sinful desires of fallen humanity and material gain. When we use porn we are supporting an oppressive satanic structure that exploits people sexually and materially, Not only are we engaging in dehumanizing others, objectifying them; but we are supporters of an oppressive satanic regime. The porn industry relies on those who will watch their products. We must reject involvement in this satanic and oppressive regime.

5. Porn and Lust
Sexual desire is a wonderful gift from God as is sex. The scriptures clearly tell us that sexual relationships are a gift from God to be enjoyed within heterosexual, faithful, loving marriage relationships. Sexuality is a wonderful means of expressing intimacy, celebrating oneness and procreation. The Scriptures also tell us that the Fall has seen a distortion of all of human existence, warped and marred by sin. Human desire is part of this; all of us are sexually fallen. This is often expressed in sexual desire, the distortion and corruption of what is beautiful; whereby natural positive and God-given sexual desire becomes distorted. People express their sexuality falsely outside of the marriage relationship in all sorts of ways. Porn is one example. Purveyors of porn seek self-gratification through the thrill of satisfying their personal lusts through objectification and fantasy. It distorts what it means to be human. It is a selling out to personal gratification at the expense of others. It is sin.

6. Porn and Male Sexuality
Men are particularly vulnerable to porn. Men are usually quickly aroused through image and fantasy. Porn is a particular problem for men. Christian men are no less vulnerable to this than any other human. On the other hand the power of God is available to men through the Spirit who can help a person overcome through the spiritual fruit of self-control. Men must learn the skill of refusing to be drawn by image to fantasy, from desire to sin. Men must learn to refuse to go there. Porn is seductive and it is easy to justify it on the basis that it is not hurting anyone, is merely image and not active engagement. We must resist such false self-justification and be utterly dedicated to refuse to engage in any situation which will excite us sexually except with our marriage partners. Those who are single need to find positive means of expressing themselves physically through exercise and renunciation of sexual objectification through media and through dehumanizing those they encounter on the road of life.

7. Porn and Marriage
When a married person engages in sexual gratification using porn it is adultery. It is a violation of the marital vows whereby one gives oneself wholly and exclusively to their spouse. To fantasize over another human body whether in real terms or as a visual image is a violation not only of oneself and the other person, but one’s spouse. It is a betrayal of one’s loved one. One can argue that it is less than the act of sexual activity with a real person, but it fails to account for the fact that it is a physical experience involving a real person who has been filmed for this very purpose. It is porneia in Matthew 19 terms and a breaking of the marriage covenant. When we gave ourselves over to our spouse at the marriage ceremony we in effect resolved to have eyes for no-one except our spouse. Any straying whether in the direction of an image or whatever violates the sanctity of the marriage bed. When our sexual desire is directed to a married person, we not only violate the object of our relationship, but we violate that person’s spouse, sinning against them as we covet their wife/husband. There is so much at stake when we sin sexually!

8. Porn and Satan
When one allows a desire that is contrary to God’s will, one opens oneself up to the potential of demonic oppression. This is possible with any sin whether it be material greed, anger or sexual lust. Satan feeds on these opportunities and will seek to take the opening and bring us to a point of addiction. Hence, we need to address this issue quickly and decisively and not allow Satan a foothold into our lives. There is great danger in flirting with this area. It is not unsurprising when a person moves from porn to sexual engagement with others. This is particularly so with sins that is a distortion of natural parts of being human. Eating disorders have the same potential, gluttony leading to the problem of food addictions and other disorders through a blend of sin and Satanic oppression.

9. Porn and Grace
Having said all this, porn is not the unforgivable sin. All of humanity is sexually fallen and many men in particular, struggle with image and sexual objectification. In this age, we are literally bombarded with image. Sexually explicit material is found on free-to-air TV, in music videos and the movie industry. Provocative images are everywhere. Hence, it is almost inevitable that many men particularly with vulnerability in this area, will struggle with sexual desire and stray in this area.

Hence, we need an atmosphere of grace and means by which people can share their experience, be accountable to each other, find forgiveness, experience grace and grow from their failures. We need to allow people space for repentance and confession in this area and to make progress. When one or other in a marriage finds their partner falling in this way; while great hurt will be experienced, the church needs to be prepared to help, guide a person to recovery. Great self-control is required for those with a weakness in this area and safeguards need to be put in place. Care needs to be taken in watching TV, movies; protection needs to be set in place on computers. People need mutual accountability. Men’s ministry fellowships can be great contexts whereby such issues are brought to the surface, prayed through, counselled and support given.

Conclusion
It seems to me that there is absolutely no doubt that authentic Christianity should reject pornography and viewing it. We need to be men and women of self-control in the area of sexuality. We need to recognize the sanctity of sexual purity and be devoted to it. Where we have a weakness in this area we need support, accountability, grace and self-control. As the church we need to proclaim a gospel of sexual purity while preaching grace, forgiveness and restoration. We need counselling and support to be available in these areas. Those who are single have unique challenges and need support and encouragement in single-celibacy. Those who are married have to be utterly dedicated to no sexual relationships of any sort (including porn), outside of their marriage vow. We need to recognize that to engage in pornography is a sin against oneself, against the object of our desire, against our Lord, against the Spirit who lives within us.

So, if you have fallen prey to porn of any sort, do what Paul says and ‘flee immorality.’ Confess to God your problem. Share it with someone you trust to get counsel. And tell your spouse, get it sorted before it becomes more than a mere image problem and your sexuality is distorted. One of the other problems of sexual sin is that it damages us and leaves us broken sexually and often our marriage sexual relationship suffers. You will need healing which will involve prayer and counsel. You may need prayer for demonic oppression and the infilling of the Spirit to replenish you spiritually. Remember that God is the great healer and restorer and there is nothing he cannot deal with.

4 comments:

pornstudent said...

If you believe in the Bible and you have the usual human lusts, you would have made yourself blind.

"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away." - Jesus

The truth is that those who say they believe in the Bible, don't really.

Dr Mark K said...

Hi Porn Student
Thank you for commenting.

Can I suggest that your comment indicates you understand little about the bible or the use of hyperbole in rhetoric. Jesus never intended us to take this literally. This is hyperbole to make a point, a device common among first century preachers in the Jewish and non-Jewish world. Another example of this is where Jesus tells us that we should hate our parents if we wish to be his disciple. He clearly did not mean this literally, but is speaking about priorities; i.e. our priorities should be God and his kingdom above all commitments.

The point Jesus is making in the verse you refer to is that if we have a propensity to sin we should deal with it because its consequences are extreme i.e. eternal separation from God. It is better to cut off the offending part of the body than continue to allow it to dictate terms to us and ultimately cause us to be separated from God forever.

You are playing a dangerous game with God and the bible. If you wish to justify yours and others rampant lust and abuse of yourself, other humans and your creator with such arguments, you are simply allowing yourself to be blinded by your own desire at the expense of goodness and if not sorted, with eternal life.

I do believe in the Bible and especially the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament which consistently rejects sexual immorality. My previous blog indicates why. If you are indeed a porn student in the sense of being into porn, I urge you to get out and if you can't, get help. For the consequences could be eternal.

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