In Christendom, why is viewing pornography considered wrong?
Some answers you may have heard:
- It hurts relationships!
- That is somebody’s daughter/sister!
- it’s gross!
While these are valid points, they are also mostly subjective, relatively dismissable arguments that ignore the fundamental reality taught by Christianity: people are made in God’s image, and sex was designed for marriage.
Being made in God’s image imbues every person with dignity, a dignity that the porn industry takes from people. Evidence suggests that many pornographic videos are the result of abuse or actually depictions of rape (2020). What this can mean for people is that by viewing porn and feeding the demand for the content, they incentivize this to continue. Not only this, but pornography objectifies people in a way that reduces people and fails to recognize the full person–it elevates what is sensory about another person to the absence of all else.
Christianity certainly values the sensory as good–this is why we are able to praise beauty when we see it. It must be understand, however, in its proper context, which is marital. A fuller picture of this idea is expressed very well in the book The Theology of the Body in One Hour and is this: sex is marital by its very nature. But to understand that truth, we have to understand marriage as being in some sense sacramental: it is a visible sign (or incarnation) of the relationship between Christ and the Church, just as the bread and wine represent (or become) the body and blood of Christ. This connection is probably easiest for Roman Catholics to make, but I think there is biblical warrant for this sacramental-ish language with regard to marriage in other traditions; after all, the Church is described as the bride of Christ.
Trying to understand sex outside the context of marriage is like trying to understand the life of a famous basketball player without knowing anything about basketball: it can be done (after all, the player is a person who has a life outside of the sport), but it will inevitably miss many important details due to the lack of contextual knowledge.
This is the proper context in which sex is to be understood, and outside of this context lies confusion, and, according to Scripture, danger.
As drinking poison is harmful to our physical bodies, sexual impurity is harmful to our souls. It’s actually bad for us as beings. Paul warns the Corinthians, a church rife with sexual immorality, to flee from it:
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18 English Standard Version)
I would like to note two things about this verse. First is that we are to flee from this sin, as Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife. There are probably some applications here that the readers may develop for themselves, but the second thing about this verse is that it puts the sin into its own category: sins against one’s own body.
Sins that harm one’s own soul. Sin that is powerful. We see elsewhere in Scripture (a character in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert points this out) truths that should make us tremble—that God will give people over to their sin and then to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is one of the scariest things. G.K. Chesterton writes about the madman:
“A man cannot think himself out of mental evil; for it is actually the organ of thought that has become diseased, ungovernable, and, as it were, independent. he can only be saved by will or faith.” – (Chesterton, 2020, pp. 16-17)
It is scary to see how powerful sin can become if we let it reside in us.
Scary, that is, were it not for a Savior even more powerful than sin!
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:13-15 English Standard Version)
There is a process that begins when a person receives Christ and a communion with the Spirit that is powerful not only to save but to transform.
In contrast contrast the mind darkened by the power of sin, the words of Romans take on new meaning:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 English Standard Version, emphasis added)
This transformation is only possible because of a central fact: that when we receive Christ, we become new creatures:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17 English Standard Version)
In a world filled with powerful sin capable of destroying our bodies and darkening our minds, word of a Savior is good news indeed.
Butterfield, R. C. (2012). The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith. Crown & Covenant.
Chesterton, G. K. (2006). Orthodoxy. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
Evert, J. (2017). The Theology of the Body in One Hour. Totus Tuus Press.
Pornhub Reportedly Profits from Nonconsensual Videos and Real Rape Tapes-Here are the Latest Examples. (2020, February 3). Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/pornhub-reportedly-profits-from-nonconsensual-videos/