Freedom from the Web of Pornography

August 16, 2017

by William Edgar

The best gifts become the most ugly in a fallen world. Worship becomes idolatry. Brotherly love becomes murder. Possessions turn to glittery excess. And sex becomes adultery. At the heart of marriage is covenant companionship (Prov. 2:17). Adultery not only breaks the faithfulness but the companionship as well. While in pornography addiction there is no physical adultery, the parallels cannot be missed. When Jesus said: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he is drawing the moral equivalency of intent and actuality. While to be sure pornography addiction is not exactly the same as real adultery with another spouse, it is drawing on the same intent.

Like other addictions, there are a host of reasons why some people are drawn to pornography. Some have unmet needs for love and they try to satisfy it with images. Others, particularly young people, are fascinated by forbidden adventures. Still others simply have sexual desires that are insistent and they seek to satisfy them without the challenges of marriage.

Also like other addictions there are all kinds of techniques and therapies which are ineffective or of limited value. Self-discipline, filters, accountability relationships, and so forth may be of some help but they do not go to the root of the problem. Sometimes men believe certain lies and cannot get free because of their deception. For example, they lull themselves into complacency by the false dictum, this happens to other people, not to me. Or, worse, we may start to think, I can’t help it; it’s not so bad, really.

The Root of Sexual Sin

The root of the problem is a relationship with God gone awry.

The root of the problem is a relationship with God gone awry. And because of that we try to satisfy our relational needs illicitly. Pornography promises instant gratification, it delivers pleasure in the short term, and then you are hooked, and find yourself less and less satisfied. If unchecked the pornography habit not only affects the individual but others around him. The addict practices more and more deception, and begins to lead a double life. Just as the idolater thinks he is just being a little inconsistent at first, or keeps what the French call mon péché mignon (‘my cute sin’) in his comportment, so the pornography addict tells himself, there’s no real harm if I just click on this site once, just to see. And just as the idolater finds himself more and more dependent on the idol, so the pornography addict eventually cannot break with it. His family, his friends, his colleagues at work will be affected.

With the primary relationship with God not right, every other relationship suffers, including the actors, if that is what they are, on the screen. Clicking on a site to look at a woman, or at some clip, contributes to the dehumanization of the persons involved. They may have chosen to be there, but they are paid for, often coerced by the pimps and gangsters who sponsor them. Pornography is largely a shady, if not criminal industry. Despite attempts by ‘soft’ porn companies such as Playboy to make exposing young women to customers appear wholesome and natural, there is nothing wholesome about it. Often a young woman’s life can be ruined by going down the dark path of such prostitution.

Freedom from Sexual Sin

We sometimes imagine God must be tired of us…That is because we ignore the depths of his love and the power of the gospel to save and to forgive, over and over again.

So, is Christianity practical in liberating people from the pornography addiction? Very much so. First, because it recognizes the deep root of the problem to be spiritual, not biological. To access pornographic sites is to say to God, in effect, you did not provide for me in this area of sexual need. To be sure, God’s provision is not always going to be through a blissful marriage. Indeed married people can become pornography addicts as much as anyone. God may call you to be celibate and continent. But it is only when you turn to God “out of the depths” and cry out to him for mercy, and for a contented relationship with him, that other relationships, including the sexual one, will find their proper place.

Second, because the Bible is utterly realistic about both the problem and its resolution. Page after page in the Bible we find acknowledgment of human weakness, including in the area of sexuality. The greatest king in the Old Testament committed adultery and murder. The opening of the book of Proverbs likens folly to a seductive woman. Israel’s unfaithfulness is compared to a harlot. And yet, at the same time, forgiveness and restoration are real and close at hand. David was forgiven and restored. The young sage in Israel is instructed on how to avoid the seductress. Israel was restored. We sometimes imagine God must be tired of us. We’ve sinned one time too many. That is because we ignore the depths of his love and the power of the gospel to save and to forgive, over and over again.

This piece is adapted from William Edgar, Does Christianity Really Work? (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2016), 185–188. Used with permission of the publisher.

William Edgar

Dr. Edgar (DThéol, Université de Genève) is professor of apologetics at WTS.

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