Oct 28, 2007

Holy for God or Wholly for Self: Sex, Pornography, and Addiction

First, yes, the other post is still coming, I just want to try to do it well.

Well, I don’t usually do this. I make a concerted effort not to write posts that are in the “high academia” realm. I prefer things that are more personal and practical in nature. However, I feel this subject is extremely important, even here, and since I wrote a paper on it and don’t feel like rewording everything, I have chosen to simply post the paper as is. Also, it should go without saying… don’t plagiarize or attempt to turn this in for a class.

May the Lord bless and heal us from all sin!


Title Page


INTRODUCTION ................................................................................ 1
OVERVIEW OF PORNOGRAPHIC ADDICTION .......................... 2
---Addiction Defined ............................................................................ 2
---Pornography Defined ...................................................................... 4
PORNOGRAPHY’S DEVASTATION ................................................ 6
---Setting the Trap .............................................................................. 6
---Technological Entrapment ............................................................. 7
---Killing Relationships ........................................................................ 8
DECIMATING PORN ADDICTION ................................................ 10
---Genuine Repentance ..................................................................... 10
---Reprogramming the Mind............................................................. 12
---Securing the Perimeters ............................................................... 13
CONCLUSION ..................................................................................... 15
BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................. 17





Western society is the product of many influences and has grown and advanced in many areas in the course of history. In Western society, a person can study anything from the intricate details of cell structure and genetic encoding to the vast complexities of moons, stars, and planets amazingly distant from our own. However, in the midst of all of the amazing and wonderful discoveries there is a destructive cancer spreading throughout the entire society. Pornographic addiction, most specifically internet pornography, has touched lives from every demographic, from the poorest person in the public library to the business executive in his office.
Unfortunately in this case, despite the fact that Christians are called to holiness and purity, many Christians are falling into pornographic addiction right alongside the secular world. They have entered into a world in which they know they do not belong. They feel trapped in the addiction and are tormented by the shame and guilt of living secret lives, in continual, known rebellion against Christ. For those that have not fallen into this world personally, most have been affected either indirectly through family or friends, or have known someone who has been affected.
The purpose of this paper is, from a Christian perspective, to address pornographic addiction, it’s affects and consequences, and how a person can be break free from this enslaving sin. As evidenced by the preceding statement, the sinfulness of this addiction is a presupposition and will not be directly addressed. The drive behind this paper is that this writer has witnessed the full spectrum of this addiction in his father. Further, this writer has heard and read of many instances of professionals and ministers falling into this world at home and in the office. Finally, this writer has observed and counseled with many individual studying for the ministry in his undergrad and here at Southern who feel trapped in this world. Thus, it is of extreme personal interest to address this topic with a pastoral heart and a view to help people change.


This section will provide the reader with an overview of pornographic addiction. This will be accomplished by providing a discussion of addiction followed by a discussion of what pornography is, as there seems to be some confusion on these terms. The final part of this section will be a discussion of how people entrap themselves in pornographic addiction.

Addiction Defined

Throughout the Western culture, specifically, the American culture, the terms addiction and disease have become virtually synonymous. The problem with this is that a disease is by definition rooted in a physical cause and it treatable by physical means. Addictions simply are not caused by physical factors. They may be influenced by physical things, but addictions are not determinative. The change from personal accountability into labeling addictions as diseases is simply a matter of culture-wide blame-shifting. Just as Adam blamed eve in the garden, we, as people, are still trying to avoid taking responsibility. This misunderstanding is essentially the result of a lack of understanding about personal responsibility and an effort to describe the way an addict feels controlled and unable to change. However, despite feeling enslaved and helpless, the truth is that addictions are willful enslavement.1
Now that a general discussion has been given to addiction, a more concrete definition is in order. For the purpose of this paper, sexual addiction will be defined as an “obsessive-compulsive relationship with a person, object or experience for the purpose of sexual gratification.”2 The first point to note is the use of “obsessive-compulsive.” As already noted, this is not meant to take away personal responsibility. As will be discussed later, it is largely a matter of wrongly programming the mind into scripts that can be very difficult to break. Second, it is important to note that the relationship can be with a person, object or an experience. Thus, sexual addiction can range from a real relationship, to the imaginings of the heart without any particular stimulus.
In truth, addiction is a matter of the human heart, desiring selfish things at the root level. It is a matter of idolatry whereby the human heart turns away from the limits Christ has set in this life and toward the fulfillment of its own selfish desires for such things as comfort, power, pleasure, and so on. The bottom line is that the heart wants control where Christ has demanded it.3 This is idolatry, where a person sets something above or in opposition to their relationship to Christ. Pornographic addiction, at the deepest level is not an addiction to the material itself, but and addiction to self-centeredness. This is the classic definition of idolatry, whereby the person becomes the object of their own worship.4

Pornography Defined

Despite the prevalence of pornography, and the ever-increasing number of books, articles, and yes, term papers, devoted to helping people break free from pornography, very little attention, if any, is given to actually defining pornography. Thus, in this writer’s opinion, there is much confusion as to exactly what it is. In Christian settings, few doubt that “X Rated” movies or magazines are rightly classified as pornography. Yet, in this writer’s own experience, it seems little attention is given to any other form. Thus, the need to define the term. The American Heritage Dictionary defines pornography as “sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.” This is a decent definition, though clearly from a secular viewpoint. The reason for including it in this paper is that it includes the visual element, the written element, and the fact that it causes sexual arousal. However, this definition is still severely lacking, especially from a Christian standpoint. The primary problem with this definition is the last section of the definition. It classifies pornography according to intent. While this writer agrees that intent is important, by comparing this definition to others in the secular arena, it is clear that dictionaries are trying not to include so called “Sensual Art” where all things classified as “art” are excluded from the label of pornography. Advocates of this position often take pictures of nude women or children or produce sculptures or some other depiction that, though not showing intercourse, are still erotic.
Despite being problematic, this definition is helpful in that it leaves the other avenues wide open. There are a few major types of pornography that exist in churches that seem to be viewed as benign, despite their destructive qualities. One huge problem in many churches are “R” rated movies where nudity abounds and sex is depicted so graphically that it may as well be “X” rated. This is not to set up “R” rated movies as all bad or as some Litmus test for spirituality or maturity. However, the pornographic quality of many of the movies cannot be overlooked. A second major problem in churches is so called romance novels. These novels are directed at women and tell stories of some great looking man who is perfectly what the women is looking for and usually saves her from some physical or emotional distress and then the two have the greatest sex, in graphic detail. Both forms are equally destructive and, unfortunately, usually overlooked as such.
This writer’s working definition of pornography is anything of a sexual nature, short of sexual intercourse, that stirs up sexual desire toward anything other than a person’s own spouse. This definition is admittedly broad. However, this writer feels it is too often defined simply in terms of “X” rated movies or magazines. Further, what may be pornographic to one person, is not necessarily pornographic to another. For example, a doctor may look at slides of women’s breasts for valid medical reasons, or perform certain procedures where the woman is exposed. If the doctor is able to keep his mind pure and focused on medicine, the it is not pornographic. However, if it begins stirring up desires in the doctor, it has just become pornography. As another example, clothing ads in the Sunday paper may not cause some men to stumble. For them, it is not pornography. However, for some men, this causes such desire that they use these as an excuse for masturbation. In this case, it has clearly become pornographic. Hopefully, the point is clear by now that this writer is not trying to excuse some things an not others, but to help the reader understand that things other’s may not view as explicit, may in fact be fore some. In the end, perhaps the best and simplest definition is that pornography is a substitute for intimacy.5


Hopefully by now, the reader has a clearer picture of what pornography is, both in the literal sense and in the sense of what it is to the human heart. With that, this paper will briefly discuss how people, specifically Christians, entrap themselves in sexual sin and the devastating effects is has.

Setting the Trap

How does a person become addicted to pornography? The obvious answer is that it is different for every person, but there is a general pattern that most people follow. The most important consideration is that pornographic addiction is a slow drifting away from the Lord, toward selfish gratification.6 The bottom line is that sexual lust pornographic addiction do not exist in a vacuum and do not simply show up with no preceding history. Sin always has a history.7 Usually, this type of sin begins with the person becoming lazy with their spiritual disciplines. They begin praying and reading less and less, thus not putting on the full armor of God (Eph 6). Then, at some point, they happen across some stimulus that sparks the crouching sin in their heart. They will often battle this very hard at first. In fact, the first time or two is usually quite “a terrible, anxiety-provoking experience.”8 Thorough continued drifting, a lack of genuine repentance, and a growing self-idolatry, the person continues going further and further in this sin. Eventually the person is so consumed with their sin and so comfortable in it, that Jeremiah 8:6 describes it as a horse running into battle with no variance in determination and later in 8:12, no shame. In the end, the person ends up stuck in a vicious cycle, reciprocating back upon itself.9

Technological Entrapment

Every generation has had its own dangers in the realm of sexual sin. In the Proverbs, the wiser elder warns the younger man to be aware of the dangers of following a prostitute (Proverbs 7). In more recent history brothels and strip bars have been the large threat. In recent history, videos and magazines have been a huge and disastrous means of sexual perversion. However, in very recent history, the internet has become the largest and most devastating means of sexual sin and perversion. An individual used to be required to go to a particular store or some other public area to purchase he material that would be used for sexual gratification. This involved not only the bold and willful commitment to sin, but also the possibility of being seen by others. As an example, a church near a pornographic store was interviewed by the local news in Greenville, SC because they were taking pictures of cars at these stores and sending them to the “woman of the house” of the registered car. Thus, going to a public place required a great deal of boldness and risk. Even with the risk, many, many men fell into this sin, spending billions of dollars on pornography. Internet pornography is exponentially more dangerous because it seems to remove these dangers. There is the belief in anonymity online and even software that people can purchase to “protect their identity” that is actually designed, and marketed, to prevent someone else, say, the wife, from knowing where the husband has been online. Further, looking up pornography online takes little boldness as the addict believes himself to be and “anonymous observer.”
In addition to the above, an even greater danger is that many jobs, perhaps even most, now require at least some “online” time for a person to be able to perform his or her duties. Further, most homes now have internet access and many have high-speed access. This means that for someone who is weak, struggling, or an addict, is in continual temptation and that literally anything they want is very easily attained. To make this situation even worse, a person does not need to seek pornography, it is sent to the person’s email, website, or through some other means, on a regular basis. A generation ago, America was divided over the display of a fictitious genie’s stomach in evening programming, claiming it was an innocent indulgence and quite harmless. Today, America is passively sitting by as what can be described as pure filth is pipelined into homes at amazing speed.10

Killing Relationships

Pornography is a killer of the wort kind. As stated earlier, no real treatment will be given to the fact that pornographic addiction is wrong, that is assumed and acknowledged as fact. However, it would be a major fault not to point out the fact that idolatry and sin always kill a person’s relationship with the Lord. When one turns from God to something else, it not only displeases God, but it causes the person not to listen for the Lord. Simply put, a person cannot be in right standing with the Lord and be addicted to pornography.11
Beyond killing the relationship with the Lord, 1 Corinthians 6:18 warns the reader to flee from sexual immorality because it is a sin against the self. Pornographic addiction is a cancer within the individual. It causes a lifestyle of deceit and deception and reshapes the way a person thinks. The addict no longer sees a woman as simply that. The addict begins to fantasize and view others as objects rather than people. The truly sad thing is that the addict rarely realizes that this reprogramming has taken place until after it has taken root.
If the damage and death caused by the aforementioned was not enough, the destruction also touches every other aspect of the addicts life. Specific to internet pornography, though certainly applicable to all forms, is the issue of time. As with any addiction, the addict continually seeks more. The small amount of stimulation that originally satisfied the self-worship is no longer enough, the addict must have more and more and the amount being received no longer produces the desired effect. Part of the reason for the increasing amounts is simply the human tendency to never be satisfied. Newness wears off, the old becomes mundane, and it is no longer enough. The other aspect is that the addict is seeking a substitute that is not really there. They seek intimacy and excitement and realize that the pornography is an empty promise, vanity. Instead of turning from it, the addict believes the lies that just a little more will satisfy and fulfill the original promise. This is also the reason for the progression from so called “soft porn” to “hard porn” and beyond, but that is a different topic. Thus, with the addict continually seeking more, more time is needed to acquire the materials. Thus, the addict spends more and more time away from his family, loses sleep, takes breaks from work, and eventually his entire life is spent around seeking after this lust. Then compound this with the irritability that comes with a person that is steeped in shame and guilt and the mental and emotional change these things bring about. The result is that the person is distant, fails to complete tasks, and becomes very difficult to be around. This causes others to put more pressure on the addict and to pull away emotionally, which causes the addict to seek these substitutes even more in the absence of the actual intimacy and support.12 Again, it is a vicious cycle that tears lives apart.


Thus far, a fairly bleak picture has been painted of and for the pornographic addict. Though this writer does not want to minimize what has already been discussed in any way, there is hope. Despite the devastation, the broken relationships, and ultimately the idolatry, there is hope for the Christian who desires to change. Change in this area is not an easy task. Many books and articles have been written to address this issue. This section will discuss how to decimate pornographic addiction from the life of a believer through a three-stage attack plan. The most important thing for the reader to understand is that war must be declared on this sin, with the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit, with no mercy for the selfish idol.

Genuine Repentance

The first place a Christian must begin is genuine repentance. Genuine repentance is turning from sin, toward God realizing how much that sin displeases God and committing the will to seek God rather than that sin. It is not only action, but a new way of thinking.13 Ultimately, it is trusting in Christ’s righteousness to cover and pay for the sin. Perhaps the most solid definition this writer has come across is that repentance is “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”14
Before continuing the discussion, it is important to point out that repentance is diametrically opposed to penance. Repentance is accepting God’s grace and forgiveness through the righteous sacrifice of Christ and reacting to that through obedience, in the power of the Spirit of Christ. On the other hand penance is a religious construct, deeply embedded in the human heart whereby people attempt to pay for their own sins through various means such as good works, suffering, deprivation, or any number of other things.15 Thus, penance is attempting to pay for sin based on one’s own ability with a desire to no longer do what is wrong, based on one’s own strength to change. Clearly repentance is a soothing aroma to the Lord and penance is quite odious. Further, this distinction is of absolute importance in breaking free from pornographic addiction as repentance will lead the person to genuine change in Christ and penance will continue to destroy the person in the cycle mentioned earlier. To use a common phrase in Biblical counseling, genuine repentance is putting off one thing, sin, in order to put on another thing, Christ’s righteousness. The acceptance of God’s grace through Christ is foundational to healing and renewal.

Reprogramming the Mind

Continuing the idea of putting on, the next stage in the attack plan is for the Christian, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to reprogram the mind. This is what Paul was discussing in Romans 12 where he commands the believers to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. The mind in scripture is a topic worthy of a dissertation or a book, thus a full treatment cannot be given in this paper. However, a few key thoughts will be discussed.
First, in order to reprogram the mind, the right code is needed. In life, the code, is the applied word of God. It is when the Christian begins to know Christ better and more fully, meditating and rejoicing in Christ continually that the mind can be renewed. In a sense, this regaining the disciplines that were lost before the addiction took root. Yet, more importantly, it is to expand and deepen those disciplines. Thus, specific strategies, which will be covered in the next section, pale in comparison to the mind that truly grasps who Christ is and who that person is in Christ. Put another way, Piper says that he knows with all of his heart that “the tiny spaceships of... moral strategies will be useless in nudging the planet of sexuality into orbit, unless the sun of... [the individual’s] solar system is the supremacy of Christ.”16 In this writer’s opinion, the point Piper is making cannot be overstated. A person must mediate upon the truth and have a picture of Christ’s holiness. It is only when the picture of what ought to be permeates the redeemed mind and heart that genuine change can occur.
Another important aspect of reprogramming the mind is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5. In this passage Paul is exhorting the believers in spiritual warfare, specifically relating to the mind in this verse. Believers are told to take every thought captive to obedience to Christ. It is the Christian’s responsibility to be in control of the mind. Over time, habits are developed and the human mind, specifically the executive function, operates in sort of an auto-pilot fashion whereby preprogrammed scripts are followed unless there is a valid reason or concerted effort not to follow the script.17 Thus, the Christian that has allowed his mind to be corrupted by evil scripts, must fight against their own mind. Since these scripts are followed in an automated fashion, it can seem as if the person is not in control of their own actions. It is therefore necessary to be very conscious of every decision and action. The Christian must ask himself why am I doing this at this moment. If this is not an acceptable script, the Christian must fight against the urge to complete the action. If it is sinful, the Christian must no only fight against the urge, but bring specific scripture or scriptural principles to his mind in the moment. This will, over time, help the Christian to reprogram his mind and have it focused on Christ. Then, also over time, the automated scripts will be Christ-honoring and beneficial instead of destructive. These two things are the heart of winning the battle of the heart. Once again, the reader can see the principle of putting off and putting on.

Securing the Perimeters

The third stage is to secure the perimeters. Securing the perimeters means to fortify the defenses and to be on guard against all attacks, frontal and sneak attacks, and all potential points of attack. In the spiritual life, there is no such thing as a safe-zone or a wall that is so fortified that it cannot be breached. One of the most basic methods of strategy, is to catch the enemy off-guard. Satan loves finding ways to attack Christians and then watch them destroy themselves. Christians must be on guard, this principle is repeated throughout scripture over and over. This section will discuss three basic methods of being on guard. All three of these reinforce and serve to reprogram the mind as discussed in the previous section. Also, these three methods are universal to all types of addiction even though they are applied to pornography in this paper.
The first, and most important, is to be bathed in the spiritual disciplines. The most important three, in this writer’s opinion, are reading, prayer, and worship. It is vital to know what the Bible says and to be continually reminded of who Christ is, what Christ expects from Christians, and how to live a proper Christian life. The second discipline, prayer is absolutely vital as well. Christians must be in continual contact with God, talking, asking for him, and just spending time consciously in the presence of Christ. The third discipline is, in this writer’s opinion, often the most neglected of the three. Genuine worship of Christ is the glue that holds everything else together. It serves to enliven both reading and prayer and serves to continually direct the heart toward Christ.
The second method is that of barriers. At least for a time, certain barriers may be needed to help prevent the Christian from falling back into addiction. Some barriers might be wise even if a person is not yet an addict. For pornography addicts or those prone to stumbling into sexual sin, the focus of paper, this may mean no internet access without someone present. This can be affected through log-on passwords and a variety of other means, even as far as not having internet access. For some, a program like Covenant Eyes, may be the best thing where the program sends the browsing history to a list of people who know the person and will check it. Another barrier might be allowing personal space to be inspected for a time. There are far too many barriers to cover here but a few have been mentioned in order to give th reader some ideas. The thing to remember with barriers is that they are not foolproof and will never work on their own. The help to prevent bad action, but do not address heart issues.
The third method, accountability, is closely related to barriers. Accountability is bringing another Christian, of the same sex, into the life of the struggling believer. There are many ways to do accountability, but the point is that the struggling believer and the accountability partner meet regularly and discuss the issue. Help and counsel is given as one believer tries to exhort and encourage another in living the Christian life. Accountability should only be undertaken with a believer who is mature enough to keep confidentiality and loves enough to confront. As with barriers, accountability is only maintenance and cannot directly address the heart issues.


Much more could be added and should be, for a truly full discussion. However, this writer hopes that after reading this paper, the reader has come to better understand the subject of pornographic addiction. With this knowledge, it is hoped that the reader will be able to find his or her way back to Christ, if the reader is struggling with this issue. If the reader is not, it is hoped that the reader will be better able to help those that are.
As a final thought, remember that genuine change is not merely a matter of the human will, is not merely a matter of following spiritual disciplines, and is not automatic. Genuine change starts with God prompting a person and occurs when that person immerses themself in the worship of God, willing themself and committing themself to take what they have learned and consciously apply it to their life over and over, being ever watchful. In the end, it is only the grace of God that keeps any Christian faithful. That realization should humble all Christians, especially those that do not struggle in this area.

1Edward T. Welch, “Addictions,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 19, no. 3 (Spring 2001): 19.
Russell Willingham, Breaking Free (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1999), 27.
3Welch, “Motives,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 22, no. 1 (Fall 2003): 49.

4Jeffrey S. Black, “Pornography, Masturbation and Other Private Misuses,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 13, no. 3 (Spring 1995): 8.

6Ibid, 7.
7David Powlison, “Sex, Truth, and Scripture,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 13, no. 3 (Spring 1995): 2.

8Black, 9.
9Mark R. Laaser, Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 35.
10Welch, “Motives,” 50.
11Mark E Shaw, The Heart of Addiction (Birmingham, AL: Milestone Books, 2006), 41.

12Melissa Partain, “Sex and Cyberspace,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 22, no. 1 (Fall 2003): 71.
13Jay E. Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 215.
14Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 712.
15Edward T. Welch, “Is Biblical-Nouthetic Counseling Legalistic,” The Journal of Pastoral Practice 11, no. 1 (1992): 11.

16John Piper and Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 38.
17Eric Johnson, “Personality Architecture” (class lecture delivered for Christian Theories of the Person on 11 October 2007), Southern Seminary, Louisville, KY.







Adams, Jay E. A Theology of Christian Counseling. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Laaser, Mark R. Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Piper, John and Justin Taylor. Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Shaw, Mark E. The Heart of Addiction. Birmingham, AL: Milestone Books, 2006.

Willingham, Russell. Breaking Free. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1999.


Black, Jeffrey S. “Pornography, Masturbation and Other Private Misuses.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 13, no. 3. (Spring 1995): 7-10.

Partain, Melissa. “Sex and Cyberspace.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 22, no. 1. (Fall 2003): 70-80.

Powlison, David. “Sex, Truth, and Scripture.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 13, no. 3. (Spring 1995): 2-3.

Welch, Edward T. “Addictions.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 19, no. 3. (Spring 2001): 19-30.

________. “Is Biblical-Nouthetic Counseling Legalistic.” The Journal of Pastoral Practice 11, no. 1. (1992): 4-21.

________. “Motives.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 22, no. 1. (Fall 2003): 48-56.
Unpublished Materials

Johnson, Eric. “Personality Architecture” (class lecture delivered for Christian Theories of the Person on 11 October 2007). Southern Seminary, Louisville, KY.

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