Several Spiritual Conundrums have been submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life in recent months on the subject of pornography. Here are some of them. First from a reader named Tom:
I have a question I would like answered. Is porn considered sin in the Bible? Or is it just based on whether or not the star you are looking at is married, homosexual (I’m straight btw), or if you get addicted to it or not?
And from “newbeliever”:
I struggle with a desire to look at pornography, as well as to read erotic stories and to masturbate. Now, I cannot tell if all of these three things are related. Could any of those things possibly be okay, and under what circumstances? Because I believe that sexual desire is natural but not necessarily sinful, but lust is sinful, and I have trouble distinguishing between the two. Could masturbation be a way of staving off temptations to lust? Could doing things with my girlfriend function in a similar way?
When there is a temptation to sin, God always gives you a way out. Therefore, if I ever sin, it is by choice. I struggle because I feel as though if I ever look at porn, though I would try to choose not to, because I gave into temptation and could have done otherwise, God will not forgive my sexual immorality, as He seems to judge sexual immorality more harshly than some other forms of immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).
And from a reader named Johnny:
my name is Johnny.. am a practising Christian.. but when I went to high school.. I became a porn addict and later end up in masturbation.. so one day a pastor came to our school, and started to praying to people. after a while he said that the holy spirit showed him that someone is struggling with masturbation.. so he wanted that person to come to the alter to be prayed for. I was really troubled and I refused to go to the altar. is that blaspheming the holy spirit?
The Holy Spirit revealed to a pastor that in a room full of teenagers, someone is struggling with masturbation? No way!
On that subject, please see, “What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?” About blaspheming the Holy Spirit, see: “What is the Unpardonable Sin? Am I Doomed?”
And about “doing things with my girlfriend,” please see: “Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?”
Now it’s time to answer the question everyone’s asking:
Q: What does the Bible say about pornography?
The Bible says nothing about pornography
Yes, that’s right. The Bible doesn’t say anything at all about pornography.
That’s because in Bible times, the concept of pornography didn’t exist.
Yes, in ancient times there were statues of nude male and female figures in public places in some cultures, and statuettes of fertility goddesses were fairly common as well. But these had more to do with beauty, power, and fertility than with sexual arousal. In ancient times, fertility was a big issue. Having many children was critical to the survival of one’s family and clan. And if a clan’s livestock became infertile, that could spell starvation and death for the clan.
Further, photography and video hadn’t been invented, so there was no way to distribute sexually explicit material far and wide as there is today.
In short, the Bible couldn’t possibly say anything about pornography because pornography didn’t exist in Bible times. So if you hear people saying that the Bible condemns pornography, you can safely ignore them because they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Is pornography good or evil?
Does that mean there’s nothing wrong with pornography?
I didn’t say that!
Unfortunately, sex is a highly charged issue in some religious circles, just as it is in much of society generally. That’s at least partly because some of our most primeval human drives and needs revolve around our sexuality—drives and needs that are often difficult to control and to channel in a healthy direction. Our sexuality strikes close to our very identity as human beings.
And pornography has become so charged an issue that it’s hard even to have a rational conversation about it. It tends to devolve into a highly black and white discussion in which there is nothing but pure evil on the one side and pure good on the other—and nothing in between.
Ironically, pornography is one of the few issues on which conservative Christians and ardent feminists can agree. They both think that pornography is evil, evil, evil—though for different reasons:
- Conservative Christians believe that people who use pornography are committing terrible sexual sins that will send them straight to hell.
- Many feminists believe that pornography is an integral part of a patriarchal, male-dominated culture of sexualizing, objectivizing, and oppressing women.
On the other side of the issue, there are those who proclaim that the human body and human sexuality are a powerfully beautiful part of nature and of God’s creation, and who believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with viewing pictures and videos of the naked human body and of people engaging in sex with one another. In fact, they see erotica, as they prefer to call it, as a good and positive thing!
It is very difficult even to come up with a sound and sensible definition of pornography that doesn’t tar with the same negative brush many beautiful depictions of the human body and healthy human sexuality. “Pornography” is in the eye of the beholder—which prompted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to famously say, “I know it when I see it.”
If nothing else, the huge popularity of pornography in many cultures throughout the world is a testament to a vast army of lonely, sexually frustrated men and teenage boys—not to mention some women and teenage girls who are in the same boat.
Heat, light, and shades of gray
I don’t claim to be an expert on pornography. And no matter what I say about it, it’s likely that plenty of people on one side of the issue or the other are going to be upset.
However, as with other controversial issues that we have taken up by popular demand here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, we’ll press on and attempt to cut through some of the black-and-white thinking and charged language, and take a more objective and more human look at pornography.
It’s an issue that millions of people, male and female, young and old, struggle with mightily. So let’s bring in some light on the subject so that we can tone down the heat and be a little more constructive and practical. If you are “struggling with a desire to look at pornography,” I can’t tell you how to live your life. But perhaps I can offer some thoughts that may help you make your own decisions and move in a positive direction.
And let’s start by recognizing that there are many shades of gray here. As an expression of our sexual drives, pornography is neither the worst nor the best. It doesn’t involve actual illicit sexual contact with another person. But it is also far from the ideal of mutual, loving sexual intimacy within a long-term, committed, faithful relationship. And the production of pornography involves a great deal of immorality and, yes, a lot of exploitation.
The use of pornography arises when our natural longing for sex and intimacy meets our widespread inability to find that sex and intimacy in a good and healthy relationship. And it can have very different results for different individuals who view it, depending on the circumstances and the choices each person makes.
First, let’s return to the Bible.
Lust, adultery, and pornography
When Christians want to expound upon the evils of pornography, they quote Bible passages such as this one:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28)
Here Jesus doesn’t talk about pornography but about adultery, and about a man lusting after a woman in his heart as a form of adultery.
The Greek word here translated “lust” means to burn with passion. This is not a mere aesthetic appreciation of a woman’s beauty. It is an intense desire to have her, and to have sex with her. And it is not a mere fantasy about having sex with her. It is a powerful drive to actually have sex with her if at all possible.
The strong word Jesus uses here makes it clear that he is not talking about a man having fleeting fantasies of having sex with an attractive woman that he sees passing by. Rather, he’s talking about a driving desire that will result in a man actually having sex with a woman if he can find—or make—an opportunity to do so.
In short, Matthew 5:27–28 is talking about the type of burning inner desire that will cause us to actually commit adultery if we can. If we have that kind of desire, then as Jesus says, we have already committed adultery in our heart. It is from that burning desire in our heart that adultery comes.
Adultery vs. marriage
As covered more fully in the article, “Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?” Jesus’ primary concern, and the primary concern of the entire Bible, is to forbid us from committing adultery. Any thoughts and desires that would lead us to go ahead and commit adultery are also forbidden, precisely because they do lead us to commit adultery.
Adultery is having sex when one or more of the participants is married to someone else.
That’s what the Bible primarily condemns. And as explained in the article linked just above, although the Bible does generally frown upon extramarital sex that isn’t adultery, there is actually no clear commandment against non-adulterous extramarital sex in the Bible.
From a biblical perspective, then, the primary question to ask about any sexual activity is whether it is adulterous, or drives us toward committing adultery. To ask the same question in a different way:
- Does a particular sexual or sex-related activity lead us away from honoring marriage and toward violating marriage?
- Or does it provide a possible path toward honoring marriage, and away from violating marriage?
This is the question we must ask about pornography, as well as erotic literature, and the various ways it is used.
And when we look at this question about pornography, we find that it simply isn’t a black and white issue. Rather, it does occupy a gray area between our desire for sex, intimacy, and love, and our inability to find and enjoy these things at the present time within a committed, faithful, monogamous relationship.
The reality is that our natural, biological sex drive does not wait patiently for some future time. It drives us to satisfy its desires now. And if it is put off too long, it will push us into some kind of activity in order to satisfy that drive.
The question is, what kind of activity?
Perhaps a few mystical souls are able to sublimate their sexual desires into spiritual contemplation. But most people who think they can do this are only fooling themselves. The vast majority of humankind is going to engage in some sort of sexual activity, whether healthy or unhealthy.
That powerful, impatient, God-given sex drive
Consider this. The very first commandment God gave to the male and female human beings that God had just created was:
Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28)
And how do we humans go about being fruitful and multiplying?
By having sex!
So the very first commandment God gives to us humans in the Bible is that we must have sex in order to reproduce ourselves.
This gives us an idea of just how basic our sex drive is to our existence as human beings. And the modern science of biology fully confirms that not only for humans, but for every animal species on earth, the drive to reproduce is the most powerful drive there is, even eclipsing the individual survival instinct.
It is not unusual for male animals to die in the attempt to mate with available females. And it is not unusual for female animals to die in the attempt to protect their offspring from predators.
I recently watched a mother bird repeatedly fly right into oncoming auto traffic in an attempt to ward it away from her baby, which was haltingly and very dangerously walking across a busy four-lane road. (Miraculously, the baby bird did narrowly escape with its life. And the mother did avoid getting hit.)
Clearly the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” is not one that God takes lightly. And pursuant to that commandment, God has embedded in the very fiber of our being a powerful, often overpowering, drive and desire to have sex.
So for the vast majority of us human beings, the question isn’t whether we’re going to engage in sexual activity. It’s what sort of sexual activity we’re going to engage in.
What sort of sexual activity?
The ideal is to engage in mutually loving sex within a long-term, committed marriage relationship. (See: “How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?”)
Unfortunately, for many people that isn’t one of the current options.
- In many cultures, marriage isn’t even allowed until at least five or six years after puberty, when our sex drive kicks in.
- Even when the culture does allow us to get married, many of us don’t find a suitable and willing partner, or if we do, social and financial circumstances make marriage difficult, if not impossible.
- Far too many people who do get married find themselves in a relationship where either there was no mutual love in the first place, or love quickly dies, and the sex life along with it.
- And even within marriages in which there is love, various physical and psychological circumstances sometimes make normal, healthy sexual relations difficult or impossible.
These are only a few of the many reasons why many people don’t have the ideal form of sexual activity available to them in the present moment. And no matter how often religious leaders tell us to WAIT, unfortunately that is simply not how the human animal works. For most people, attempting to suppress all sexual desire and all sexual activity until it can be done in the ideal way, under the ideal circumstances, is neither realistic nor workable.
Now don’t get me wrong. For those few people who are able to do that, it’s a wonderful thing!
But everyone else must wade into that gray area between our powerful, God-given desire for love, sex, and intimacy, and the reality that right at the moment, and for the foreseeable future, the ideal of sex within a loving, committed marriage relationship is not available.
This means that for the vast majority of actual flesh-and-blood human beings, some alternative to the ideal will be necessary for at least some part of their lives.
And so, once again, the question most people face for at least some part of their lives is: Given that the ideal isn’t available, what sort of sexual activity am I going to engage in?
And the best general answer to that question is: The sort of sexual activity that is least damaging to achieving and experiencing a loving, committed, faithful, monogamous marriage in the future.
In other words: The color white (loving marriage) is currently out of stock. The color black (adultery) is a very bad option. So what’s the best shade of gray currently in stock that keeps white available as a future option?
Looking at pornography from this perspective is much more useful and pragmatic than either condemning it as a terrible, horrible evil that will send a person straight to hell or proclaiming that there’s nothing at all wrong with pornography, and we can consume it with abandon.
Pornography is a business
First, let’s consider pornography itself from a pragmatic perspective.
People who view pornography usually do it for sexual stimulation. That’s what makes it pornography.
But people who produce pornography almost always do it to make money.
To understand pornography, it is necessary to understand that pornography is a business. Both the people in front of the camera and the people behind the camera are in it for the money.
What we see when we view pornography is not people making love. And it is certainly not people who are in love with one another. Some pornography manages to come close to looking like the people in it are making love—especially with the rise of pornography produced by women, and even the phenomenon of feminist pornography.
But no matter how skillfully pornographic scenes are produced, and no matter what ideas—or even ideals—are behind it, pornography is still a business, and the people producing it are still doing it to make money.
At best, the performers in pornographic photos and videos are full adults who have chosen to make their career and their living in pornography. There are even trade organizations devoted to ensuring good working conditions and wages for workers in the porn industry. And a large class of pornography doesn’t even require the performers to engage in actual sex, but only to display their bodies in sexually enticing positions and motions.
At worst in legal pornography, the subjects are teenagers just over the legal age who are desperate for money and are lured into pornography as a “quick and easy” source of cash—only to be dumped out on the street as soon as sleazy porn producers have squeezed every bit of exposure, sexual use and abuse, and humiliation out of them, and have moved on to next fresh-faced legal-aged teenager.
And then there is the truly black side of pornography involving actual (not just simulated) coercion, or young children, or teens who are minors, or any number of other shady, illegal, and highly destructive practices. Society rightly condemns this sort of pornography. Those caught producing and consuming it are subject to severe penalties. In particular, child pornography by its very nature violates the integrity and rights of minors who are not yet of an age to give consent. Like statutory rape and child sexual abuse, it causes terrible long-term damage to the psyche of its victims.
But the common denominator in nearly all porn is that people are in it to make money. They’re doing it as a business, whether legal or illegal.
Many conclusions could be drawn from this. For our purposes, the main thing to understand is:
Pornography is not a realistic depiction of loving, healthy sex and sexual relationships.
Pornography is fantasy, not reality
People who think they are going to learn about love and sex from pornography are deceiving themselves. What they’re getting instead is a money-driven depiction of sexual poses, sexualized dances, and sexual situations that various groups of people find erotic to fantasize about.
And fantasy is not reality.
In real life, good and satisfying sexual relations require building a relationship with one’s partner. In real life, loving sex is the expression of mutual love between two people. And it becomes more loving and more satisfying the more the love grows and deepens between the two people.
Pornography, on the other hand, is all about short term, uncommitted, shallow sex. It’s about depicting sexual fantasies that have little or nothing to do with the actual love life of real-life happy couples. The people who consume pornography are drawn to it precisely because they are not engaged in a healthy, satisfying sex life. Who needs pictures and videos when they have the reality? And what porn producer would try to record or even to simulate the love life of a happily married couple? Not one who wants to make any money.
So don’t confuse pornography with love, or with making love. Pornography does have its appeal to many people. And as we’ll discuss below, it even has its uses. But it does not depict real, deep, romantic and sexual relationships. The same goes for most of the popular erotic literature out there.
Pornography gives a false, distorted picture of love and sex that can make it more difficult to form a real romantic and sexual relationship with a real person.
Because it fills people’s heads with unrealistic fantasies about sex that must be unlearned before it is possible to build a real, mutual, and satisfying sexual relationship with an actual human being.
If you do view pornography, keep in mind that what you’re seeing is people engaging in sex for money. And they’re making money by depicting sexual fantasies. You are not seeing people making love with one another. And you are certainly not seeing what goes on in a healthy, long-term romantic relationship.
All of this is contained in the very derivation of the word “pornography.” It comes from two Greek words, porneia, “prostitution” and graphein, “to write or to record.” Prostitution is engaging in sex for money. And pornography is a “written” version of prostitution—which these days especially means a photographic or video version of prostitution. It is displaying one’s body in sexual poses and motions and engaging in sexual acts for others to view, for the purpose of making money.
Is that wrong?
You can decide that for yourself.
The point here is that pornography is a business, whose purpose is to make money.
And incidentally, pornography is nowhere near as big a business as many people think it is. Compared to the major entertainment industries such as broadcast and cable television and the mainstream movie industry, it is a mere bit player. See: “How Big Is Porn?” by Dan Ackman, at Forbes.com.
Please don’t confuse pornography with reality.
Is pornography evil?
We’ve already established that the Bible doesn’t say anything about pornography. But it does say a lot about evil, sin, fornication, and adultery. So we must use our thinking minds to decide how pornography fits in with these biblical and spiritual issues.
Here are the basic principles that can help us to do so:
- Adultery is absolutely prohibited in the Bible, and is a great moral and spiritual evil.
- Promiscuity is greatly discouraged in the Bible, and is a lesser moral and spiritual evil.
- Faithful, committed, monogamous marriage is the ideal and the goal morally and spiritually.
- Other sexual activities are better or worse depending on whether they lead toward marriage or toward adultery and promiscuity.
So is pornography evil and sinful?
Clearly from a spiritual perspective pornography is not good. It is far from the ideal of loving, committed, faithful, monogamous marriage relationships. Though not necessarily adulterous, it does involve a lot of promiscuity in its production. And in its consumption it involves non-marital or extramarital sexual thoughts, feelings, and, ahem, other activities.
Certainly, then, pornography as it is commonly produced and used is tinged with evil, even if it does not necessarily violate what is absolutely prohibited in the Bible—which is adultery. So as for whether pornography is evil, the most we can say is, “Yes, but as most commonly produced and used, it is not the worst evil.”
The scale of sexual evil
Pornography does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it exists on a scale of human sexual activity from very good to very evil. Even if we do think of pornography as tinged with evil, we have to weigh it against the other possibilities for dealing with the not entirely resistible sexual urges that God has put into us by nature—and that we can’t always satisfy in the best way now or in the foreseeable future.
For people with ordinary to strong sexual drives, here are some possible ways of satisfying them when sex within a healthy, loving marriage relationship isn’t possible:
- Do nothing, and let sexual dreams and nocturnal emissions take care of the job.
- Masturbate as needed to satisfy one’s need for sexual release.
- Engage in sex with a single partner in a faithful unmarried relationship.
- Engage in casual sex with multiple partners, one after another.
- Engage in casual sex with multiple partners at the same time.
- Pay a prostitute for sex, and always go to the same prostitute.
- Pay many different prostitutes for sex.
- Engage in a consensual adulterous relationship with a married woman or man.
- Engage in multiple consensual adulterous relationships with many different people.
- Rape people through the use of blackmail, violence, or the threat of violence, or when they are too drunk or drugged to consent or resist.
Clearly there is a scale of non-marital sexual activity from very mild through horribly evil and destructive—though different people may arrange that scale in different ways.
Here are the key questions to ask about pornography:
- Where does it fit on the scale of mild to evil non-marital sexual activities?
- How does it function in relation to the other possible releases of sexual energy?
Pornography on the scale of sexual evil
The primary purpose of pornography is to provide sexual stimulation. And it is very commonly used to provide visuals and fantasies to accompany masturbation. Yes, there are other uses. Some of them are better, some are worse. But in the main, pornography and masturbation tend to go hand-in-hand.
And where does masturbation fall on the scale of sexual evil? Masturbation does not involve actual sex with another person, nor does it have any harmful effects if done in moderation as needed to satisfy one’s sexual urges. Masturbation is therefore one of the most benign, non-evil ways there is to satisfy sexual desires for which a person has no healthier outlet. (See: “What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?”)
Of course, it’s not necessary to use pornography in order to masturbate. But men, especially, are visual creatures when it comes to sex. And women can and do enjoy a sexy body also.
Yes, many women and teenage girls do turn to erotic stories and sexually explicit “romance” novels instead. Many romance novels, with their narrative formula of long, teasing buildups to steamy, highly explicit sex scenes are calibrated to the sexual rhythms of women. Men and teenage boys may also go for erotic stories—though usually ones that skip the long buildup and move quickly to the explicit sex.
Still, it’s inevitable that many males and some females are going to want visuals when they masturbate.
That’s where pornography comes in.
Functionally, pornography is most commonly used as an aid to sexual self-stimulation when a sexual partner is unavailable. Or it is used when a person would prefer not to get sexually involved with a girlfriend or boyfriend for social, moral, or spiritual reasons.
And that’s why pornography, though tinged with evil, does not necessarily form paving stones for the broad, downhill road toward hell.
It can instead provide a detour away from that slippery slope by providing for sexual release that, while certainly not the ideal, at least doesn’t involve actual promiscuous or adulterous sexual relations with a flesh and blood human being.
Is the use of pornography purely innocent? No. Someone had to expose themselves sexually or engage in promiscuous or adulterous sex in order to produce that pornography. Pornography is tinged with evil—and some of it is very evil.
But we humans are not perfect beings. Not a single one of us is capable of living a sinless life. This is not to excuse sin when we could very well not sin. But as I said earlier, our sexual drives are some of the most powerful desires in us—and some of the most difficult to tame and direct into a completely healthy course.
So in the real world, real human beings must make choices about where to direct these powerful sexual drives and desires. And although pornography is certainly not the best direction in an absolute sense, for those with a normal to strong sex drive (which is most people), it might be the best available choice.
Yes, but isn’t pornography a sin?
Perhaps you are with me so far. And perhaps not.
But even if you are, you may still be thinking, “Yes, but isn’t pornography a sin? If it’s even tinged with evil, we shouldn’t use it, right?”
First, we need to distinguish between evil and sin.
Evil and sin are two distinct things. Evil is anything that causes harm in any away. Sin is intentionally doing things that we know are harmful and against God’s will. That’s why Jesus said:
If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains. (Matthew 9:41)
The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. (Luke 12:47–48)
In other words, sin is not an absolute standard. It depends on what we know and believe to be wrong. (For more on the meaning of evil and sin based on the Bible, please see: God, Forgiveness, Freedom, and Hell – Part 4.)
If you strongly believe that viewing pornography is evil and sinful, and harmful to yourself and others, I would strongly advise you not to view pornography. If you do, you will be violating your conscience, which is never a good thing. Sin could be defined as violating our conscience—which is God’s voice in us telling us what is right and wrong.
Remember how I said, “Pornography is in the eye of the beholder”? Well, pornography is sinful for us when we believe that it is sinful based on our understanding of God’s commandments. And if God is telling you that pornography is evil and sinful, then you should definitely pay attention to that.
If you don’t think pornography is evil and sinful, then you will not be violating your conscience by viewing it. It will therefore not cause the spiritual anguish for you that it does for people who have had it drilled into their heads that pornography is terribly sinful.
Further, many young people view pornography because they have a natural, hormone-driven fascination with sex and the human body, and they want to see what it’s all about. Of course, pornography is not the best way to learn about human sexuality. However, since there are still many cultural taboos about sex and the naked human body, it is inevitable that curious adolescents are going to find out about these things wherever they can. If it’s just a passing fascination, and they move on once their curiosity has been satisfied, then there’s little real and lasting harm from this common phase of viewing pornography, reading explicit stories, and so on.
For people who do continue to view pornography and read erotic stories, and don’t believe it’s sinful, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s completely innocent and not at all evil. As pointed out earlier, pornography and erotic literature are fantasy, not reality. Even for people who think there’s nothing wrong with consuming them, these fantasies can skew attitudes toward sex and intimacy, making it more difficult to engage in a healthy sexual relationship with a real, flesh-and-blood human being.
So is pornography a sin?
It is if we believe it’s a sin. And even if we don’t believe it’s a sin, it can still cause problems.
What if you can’t stop viewing pornography?
And yet, for many people that’s all academic. They find themselves irresistibly drawn to pornography.
If that’s your situation, it may be time to switch strategies.
And if you feel terribly guilty about it, and are constantly beating yourself up for continuing to view pornography, it may be time to make some modest adjustments to your conscience. Remember, the Bible doesn’t actually say that pornography is a sin. So we must use the thinking minds that God gave us to come to some reasonable conclusion about it.
According to the Bible, the only person who ever lived a sinless life was Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 4:14–15). Once again, this is not an excuse to sin. But it should prompt us to have the humility to recognize that not a single one of us is going to live a perfect life. We are going to do things that aren’t very good, and even some things that are definitely evil.
The real question is: Which direction are we going? Are we going toward what is good or toward what is evil? Are we moving toward heaven or toward hell?
Pornography is not very good. But it is also not the worst sort of evil. It inhabits a gray area between our drive and desire for sexual intimacy and the common situation in which this is not available to us within a healthy, committed marital relationship.
If you’re losing the battle to completely avoid pornography, then it may be time to switch strategies. It may be time to recognize that at this point in your life, pornography isn’t going to go away entirely—but that you can still work to move your irresistible sexual energy in a better direction, and away from worse directions. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
The Bible on sexual immorality
If you find yourself unable to resist viewing pornography no matter how hard you try, then it might be time to start thinking in terms of the scale of evil rather than trying to adhere to some humanly impossible standard of absolute good.
The Bible is nowhere near as black and white about sexual immorality as conservative Christians often claim it is. And those conservative Christians commonly support such claims by quoting Bible verses completely out of context.
For example, speaking of 1 Corinthians 6:18, a few verses earlier Paul says:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” (1 Corinthians 6:15–16)
It is in this context that Paul goes on to say:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
What Paul is focused on here is avoiding and shunning sex with prostitutes. In other words, he’s telling us not to actually commit sexual immorality by having sexual intercourse with people we shouldn’t have sexual intercourse with.
And no, sexual sins aren’t judged more harshly than other sins unless they’re actually worse than other sins. Sleeping with a girlfriend when neither of you is married, which is not forbidden in the Ten Commandments, will not be judged more harshly than murdering or committing adultery or stealing, which are forbidden in the Ten Commandments. And masturbation isn’t forbidden in the Bible at all (see “What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?”), so it makes no sense to say that it is going to be judged more harshly than sins that are repeatedly condemned in the Bible.
Pornography, also, is not forbidden in the Bible. So will it really be judged more harshly than murder and theft? The Bible’s commandments and statements about sexual immorality are aimed especially at serious sexual immorality, such as adultery, rape, and using the services of prostitutes.
Pornography, while not good, isn’t anywhere near as bad as sleeping with prostitutes, committing adultery, committing rape, and so on. And for those religious people who highly value remaining a virgin until marriage, pornography should at least be considered a lesser offense than having sexual intercourse before marriage.
It all hinges on recognizing that evil is not black and white, but that there is a scale of evil, from lesser to greater—and that this scale applies to sexual evils just as it does to every other kind of evil.
God recognizes that we are not going to be perfectly sinless. So in the Bible God steers us away from the worst and most damaging evil and sinful desires and actions such as adultery, rape, and prostitution. And God does this by moving us progressively upward on the scale of evil toward what is good.
Pornography can be a hedge against greater sexual evil
That’s where pornography comes in.
Here’s the deal: if pornography is used in moderation as a visual aid to masturbation and sexual release, then it can actually help people to avoid greater sexual evils.
This is not to say that using pornography is good. Rather, it’s saying that it can serve as a hedge against committing sexual sins that are flat-out forbidden in the Bible. For people who are strongly committed to remaining a virgin before marriage, it can even help to satisfy and release sexual drives without actually having sex with a girlfriend or boyfriend.
This is not a license to view pornography with abandon. The idea is not to let yourself loose, but to provide a necessary outlet for your sexual drives and desires so that your pent-up sexual energy doesn’t break out into worse sexual activities.
The key is keeping your mind and heart focused on the ultimate goal of being in a faithful, monogamous, loving marriage; and at the same time keeping your mind and heart turned away from adultery, promiscuous sex, and other serious violations of marriage and monogamy.
In short, if you view pornography, it should be with the clear understanding that it is a necessary evil in order to keep yourself away from serious violations of marriage and monogamy.
You’ll have to figure out exactly how to accomplish this difficult balancing act as you go along. But here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t view pornography hour after hour. If nothing else, it’s a massive waste of time! View pornography only enough to release your sexual energy through masturbation.
- Avoid the sleazier, more sordid forms of pornography. Steer yourself toward healthier and more positive depictions of sexuality and the human body involving full, consenting adults.
- Take up a hobby. Join a gym or an activities club. Volunteer at a local charity. If you have extra time on your hands, find something positive to do with it. Get together with other people who enjoy the same activities you do. As the old saying goes, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playthings.”
- And finally, once you do have a healthy outlet for your sexual drives and desires within a committed, faithful relationship, leave the porn behind. Focus on loving your partner instead.
Remember, the idea is to keep your sexual drives and desires reasonably satisfied in the least damaging way possible for you until you can satisfy them within a loving, committed, and ideally married relationship.
You may not be able to completely control your sexual drives. You may not be able to avoid pornography entirely. But you can exert your will to gradually turn yourself away from worse forms of sexual immorality and toward ones that aren’t so bad, until you can achieve a good and healthy sex life within the sacred bonds of marriage. Don’t be too worried if you slip up from time to time. Just pick yourself up and get yourself moving in the right direction again.
Think of your sex drive as a massive ocean-going ship such as an oil tanker, a container ship, or the Queen Mary 2. You can’t turn those things on a dime. When a huge ship is going full speed ahead and the captain commands, “Right full rudder!” the first thing that happens is almost nothing. The ship keeps right on going in the same direction. It only gradually turns—and a full turn can take ten or fifteen minutes, and cover a distance of well over a mile. That’s why even when the Titanic’s crew saw the iceberg dead ahead, they couldn’t steer the ship away in time to avoid hitting it.
Your sexual drives are going to take a lot longer to turn around. You may have to keep your ship at right full rudder for months, years, or even decades to finally get yourself going in the direction you want. Don’t expect quick and easy results. Stick with it, and gradually steer yourself away from the icebergs and shoals of more serious sexual misbehavior, and toward the clear waters of a hoped-for future loving marriage relationship.
This article is a response to several spiritual conundrums submitted by readers.
For further reading:
- If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First
- What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?
- Can You Masturbate Without Lusting? What about Matthew 5:27-30?
- Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?
- How to Attract the Opposite Sex—and Keep ’Em
- Beyonce and Jay-Z Reveal the Secret: How to Start a Lasting Marriage
- How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?
As you pointed out, the Bible does not explicitly condemn pornography any more than it does unfair internet practices- there simply was no precedent at the time for the Bible to address in explicit terms. But outside of what the Bible explicitly declares to be permissible and impermissible, might it serve us better to weigh these moral questions against the Bible’s *affirmative* statements, which in effect describe what God wants for us? You certainly do that in this article, when you mention how pornography is at odds with the monogamous marital ideal, but what does this idealized expression of human sexuality tell us about the Bible’s overall attitude toward it?
It certainly seems that the Bible offers a wondrous attitude on human sexuality, such that a more developed pair of spiritual eyes can even see how the cosmic mystery of creation intersects at the focal point of the sexual act. Quite extraordinary. But when we contrast this attitude with pornography’s, which offers a monstrous, one-dimensional caricature of human sexuality where human beings are little more than slaves to their impulses, does that leave us with something that is so at odds with the Bible’s ideals so as to be more than just tinged with evil?
If so, contrasting so starkly with the Bible’s ideals might be an absolute prohibition in itself.
Certainly those with eyes to see it can find high ideals of marriage in the Bible. But the reality is that those ideals are made nowhere near as clear in the plain text of the Bible as many Christians claim they are.
Where are the lyrical passages extolling the virtues and purity of marriage, monogamy, and sexual intercourse as a spiritual act? For the most part, that is absent. In fact, acceptance of polygamy was the rule throughout most of the Bible narrative. Even in the New Testament, although there is certainly a noticeable trend toward monogamy, there is no clear prohibition of polygamy. And historically, it took five or six centuries for Christianity to settle decisively into monogamy and to absolutely prohibit polygamy. Even today there are Christian sects, mostly in Mormonism, that believe in and practice polygamy.
It’s overstating the case to say that “the Bible offers a wondrous attitude on human sexuality.” For the most part, marriage in the Bible is a rather low-level affair that seems to have more to do with procreation and mutual material and social benefit than with any high spiritual ideal of marriage.
This, I believe, is what Jesus was referring to when he said that in heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage (Luke 20:34-36). He meant that the low, earthly, materialistic form of “marriage” that existed in that day did not exist in heaven. What we think of marriage today—an equal relationship between two partners based on love—would hardly even be recognized as marriage by Jesus’ contemporaries.
Our present ideal of mutual, equal, faithful marriage relationships based on love didn’t even exist until some time in the 1700s. Before that time period, marriage was seen largely as a business relationship and as a means of producing sons—and daughters as a necessary side effect. For more on this, see Stephanie Coontz’s wonderful 2005 book, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage (Amazon link).
Yes, there are a few brief verses in the Bible that can point those with a spiritually-oriented mind toward a high ideal of marriage. But for the most part, that high ideal of marriage was developed many centuries after the last books of the Bible were written. For the most part, the Bible’s attitude toward marriage is quite pragmatic, and not very spiritual at all.
This might sound shocking to many Christians. But I would challenge them to find any sustained, systematic teachings about loving, faithful, monogamous, spiritual marriage in the Bible. Even Paul, who wrote some of the passages these Christians would likely point to, believed that celibacy was preferable to marriage. The reality is that there are only a few hints about genuine, spiritual marriage here and there in the text of the Bible.
For some perspective on this, please see these two articles:
Once again, Christians—especially conservative Christians—have a strong tendency to draw a picture of human sexuality that includes only bright, pure white and stark, black black. But that’s just not supportable from the Bible itself. When it comes to marriage, there’s really not a whole lot of pure white in the Bible. And there are many shades of gray before it gets to the stark black of adultery, which is about the only sexual act that is clearly and repeatedly prohibited in the Bible, including in the Ten Commandments itself.
This article aims to be more realistic about those shades of gray. Without understanding that human sexuality exists on a continuum from light to dark, which includes everything in between, we simply can’t think rationally, realistically, usefully, or even spiritually about our sexual life as human beings.
So yes, the ideal is loving, monogamous, faithful, spiritual marriage. But that is something only a few people actually achieve on this earth. Most people in real life are either on a path toward that ideal or on a path away from that ideal. And its opposite is not pornography, but willful, repeated adultery, adulterous thoughts, and adulterous desires, with no regard whatsoever for marriage, and even an antipathy toward marriage.
Let’s be realistic, then. Let’s not paint everything in stark blacks and whites. And let’s recognize that pornography, while it falls on the evil side of the spectrum, is simply not the horrible blackness that many Christians (and old school feminists) paint it to be. It is a shade of gray on the promiscuous side of human sexuality. And if we see it that way, we’ll have a much more realistic and useful approach to it both personally and societally.
So no, I do not believe the Bible’s ideals lead to “an absolute prohibition in itself” on pornography. I believe that the Bible is more realistic and pragmatic about human sexuality than are the vast bulk of so-called “Christians”—who mostly ignore what the Bible actually says in favor of their own human-created attitudes and doctrines (see: “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach).
It seems hard to pair, if you’re correct, the Bible’s predominantly pragmatic attitude toward marriage with the highly exalted status that Swedenborg gives it in his own writings and Biblical interpretation.
But I notice you remarked that the Bible ‘generally’ has such and such an attitude, and ‘almost nowhere’ does it say such and such; but I have to ask as to how often does something need to be said before it becomes reasonable to say that the Bible carries that explicit attitude? For instance, if the Trinity were explicitly defined as three separate persons, albeit once and in some obscure passage…that would still be enough to turn all other Trinitarian ideas over on their heads.
In this case, while the Bible certainly does address the practical aspects of marriage, you have something like the Book of Hosea, in which the very idea of marriage is described as a metaphor for the covenant between God and Israel- that sounds like a pretty celestial attitude to me!
Most of the Bible was written when humanity was in a very low spiritual state. So most of the Bible speaks to and in the context of that low spiritual state. And yet, being the Word of God, it also contains deeper, spiritual and divine meanings. It is in seeing and understanding those deeper meanings, to which Swedenborg pointed us and gave us the key, that we can see the highly exalted status of marriage that Swedenborg presents in his writings.
As for the rest, I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. The fact is that the Bible never does define the “Trinity” (a word the Bible doesn’t use) as “three separate persons.” So that’s a purely hypothetical question, with no actual basis in the Bible.
And yes, the book of Hosea uses marriage and adultery as a metaphor for our relationship with God. But the sorts of things the Jewish people were doing to “commit adultery” against God were mostly pretty low-level and materialistic.
Was it you that wrote on this article where it says a man came in and the Holy Spirit told him someone had a problem with masturbation and wanted him to come the alter. And it said no way. Like that’s not possible. Don’t you know that what prophets are for if you said that?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
The point is, it’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it that in a room full of teenagers, “someone is struggling with masturbation.” There’s no need for the Holy Spirit or the gift of prophecy to tell you that. It’s probably just a stock line that pastor uses whenever he talks to groups of teenagers.
To follow that up, some of the psychological complexities you detailed in this article call to mind an implication that seems to always follow when discussing them: ‘is God a moral relativist who allows for necessary evils?
“Moral relativist” implies that God does not have clear moral values. It would be more accurate to say that God recognizes that we humans will always fall short of the ideal, and does not condemn us for being fallible and imperfect.
Right,but it seems (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that you’re offering a ‘lesser of two evils’ solution when describing how pornography can help deal with sexual desires that could otherwise become destructive. If so, then it in effect says that it is *right*, in this situation, to *choose* something that is evil in order to bring about a good effect. Situational ethics might then be a better way to describe this, but we do have to reflect on that kind of ethical attitude and our understanding of God’s commandments.
Let me ask you a few questions:
Do you believe that you are able to keep God’s commandments perfectly?
Have you in your life been able to consistently achieve the moral, ethical, and spiritual ideal in every situation?
Have you ever had to choose between the lesser of two evils?
You probably didn’t need to await my reply before you confidently concluded my answer to be ‘no’, and with good reason, but let my supplement your conclusion by adding to it ‘NO WAY!’ This is not an endorsement of my life decisions, but it can’t be overstated how often and knowingly I have (and continue) to willfully miss the mark.
That said, I can’t give you any specifics, but I’m sure I’ve been in a position where I’ve had (or thought I’ve had) to choose between the lesser of two evils, and if that’s true, it’s an unsettling thing to reflect on. It implies that there are times when the holy thing to do is to choose something evil, but because it’s the least evil that allows for the greatest good. Catholic moral theology addresses these scenarios with the Principle of Double Effect, but the first pillar of that idea is that the act itself cannot be evil, or must at least be morally neutral, regardless of intent.
Another view might be that, no, that does not happen. God has not designed the universe in such a way that we will ever *have* to choose evil even as the lesser of two, as there is always a third option we know is there but simply lack the courage and fortitude to take up because it’s either too difficult or too inconvenient for us.
Yes, those where rhetorical questions. None of us is able to, or does, live a perfectly sinless life. All of us at times do things that are ethically questionable, or that are downright wrong, even at times when we know perfectly well that they’re wrong. We are imperfect beings, or in biblical parlance, we are all sinners. That’s just a reality. Once again, the question is which way we’re going.
I would say that it’s a bit naive to think that we’ll never be faced with situations in which we must do something evil to prevent a greater evil.
Consider the fairly common situation in which a foreign power is militarily invading our country. Now, war, and killing are evil, no matter who’s doing it. Killing enemy soldiers, even in defense of our own country and our own homes, is a terrible, destructive thing.
I know that the commandment is often interpreted as “Thou shalt not murder.” But the Hebrew word is pretty basic. “Thou shalt not kill.” That’s because killing is intrinsically evil.
And yet, there are times when we must do so in order to prevent a greater evil. If an enemy army is coming to destroy our country and kill and enslave our people, is it really right to stand by and do nothing, and let them do it, because killing is evil?
There are times when, unfortunately, we must kill, even though it is evil, in order to protect ourselves and protect the innocent.
Defensive wars are, I believe, justified, and are not sinful, but they still involve much killing and much evil. That is a classic case of choosing the lesser of two evils.
And that’s just one of many examples in which there are no really good choices, and we must instead choose what we hope to be the least evil course of action.
Don’t mean to break this up into three separate posts, but in reading your article again, I’m somewhat struck by this remark:
“From a biblical perspective, then, the primary question to ask about any sexual activity is whether it is adulterous, or drives us toward committing adultery.”
Certainly the Biblical perspective on sexuality is ultimately broader than the contexts of adultery to which it specifically speaks? It would make sense that the integrity of marriage is what is addressed more often than not when discussing sexuality, as dating and hooking up as we know it in our modern society didn’t exist in Biblical times. And after all, you did mention that, while not as severe as adultery, promiscuity is greatly discouraged in the Bible, so would your above statement be more correct to include ‘promiscuity’ in addition to adultery as among our concerns when evaluating any sexual act?
This kind of speaks to what I mentioned earlier as the need to take explicit Biblical allowances/prohibitions and work backwards to reveal the larger principled picture beneath them, rather than get too caught up in what the Bible says at the expense of what it’s ultimately saying.
It’s a mistake to make absolutes out of things on which the Bible does not make absolute statements. In fact, that is precisely the mistake I most wish to point out in the article: the mistake of making everything black and white rather than recognizing all the shades of gray in between.
In attempting to make everything a binary “good” or “evil,” with nothing in between, traditional Christians are replacing what the Bible actually says, and the complex human realities it deal with, with their own rather shallow and excessively moralistic thinking.
The Bible is actually quite pragmatic about sexual activities that fall somewhere between faithful marriage and adultery. For more on this, see: Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?
If conservative Christians want to make strict rules about human sexuality for themselves that aren’t actually stated in the Bible, then they are certainly free to do so. But they should at least have the intellectual honesty to recognize and admit that these are their own rules, and not anything imposed by the Bible itself.
Hi Lee. Before directly replying back, I was hoping you could first maybe clear up what the Bible means by adultery? The specific meaning of adultery is sex that violates the bounds of marriage, but does it also carry a more general condemnation of lust? And that same lust that Paul said was better to escape through marriage than to ‘burn with passion’ outside of it?
If the most basic Biblical condemnation of sexual immorality rests on a fundamental condemnation of acting lustfully, then it would have far reaching implications on everything from adultery to viewing pornography.
The simplest definition of adultery is that it is people having sex with one another when one or more of them is married to someone else. The Bible also uses adultery as a metaphor for humans violating their relationship with God through violating God’s commandments, worshiping other gods, and so on.
As I explained in the article, the lust that constitutes adultery in a person’s heart is a burning desire that will lead the person to commit adultery if acted upon. And it is condemned precisely because it is what leads people to commit adultery. “Lust” as used in the Bible condemns us because it leads to adulterous action. If it didn’t, it would not be lust. By itself it doesn’t condemn us. But when we act upon it, that is adultery and sin, and that condemns us.
However, in a way, that’s all academic, because if we have that lust in our heart, we will act upon it whenever we have an opportunity. So we are commanded to confront and overcome that lust in our heart, ideally before it results in our actually committing adultery.
The lust Jesus condemned is not just any kind of sexual desire. It is a desire to commit adultery. That’s why he said that when a man lusts for, or burns with passion for a woman, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Once again, Jesus is not talking about simple sexual interest or sexual drive. He is talking specifically about a burning passion that will lead us to commit adultery, which is forbidden in the Ten Commandments.
As suggested in the article, viewing pornography may or may not be a result of that kind of burning, adulterous lust. As suggested in the article, if viewing pornography is part of our moving away from marriage and toward adultery, then it is very serious. But if viewing pornography is something we do when we would really prefer to be in a committed, faithful marriage, but that simply isn’t available to us, then it is relatively mild.
The test of any sexual activity is whether it leads us away from faithful, loving, monogamous marriage and toward adultery, or whether it preserves for us a path toward faithful, loving, monogamous marriage and away from adultery. And the desires and choices of our heart will determine which one it is—which way we are going.
Hi Lee, and thanks for replying back. This issue may be one in which you and I happen to differ (and you don’t strike me as someone with whom that would at all create a problem with). Unless I am misunderstanding your position, I just have a hard time understanding as to why adultery is the primary and only gauge when assessing our sexual behavior. It certainly strikes me as the most serious offense, but aren’t there a number of other ways by which humans abuse their sexual faculties that deserve moral consideration? Again, you alluded to them in this article as fornication and promiscuity- acts that very much have their basis in lust- but are expressed in ways other than adultery.
I’m also not sure as to where you find support for the idea that lust is condemned only because it will inevitably lead to adultery if acted out. It seems rather plain to me that this verse in Matthew is saying that thoughts are actions too. To not just experience a lustful impulse, but to relish, and cherish it- to covet with our thoughts, and to inwardly savor something evil. To do so amounts to adultery within ones heart, and naturally is much worse when acted upon externally.
I agree that the passage in Matthew is not speaking broadly enough to refer to any act of sexual desire, but is it speaking so narrowly so as to only be referring to adultery? It’s important to note that 1 John 2 condemns, among other lusts, lusts of the flesh, and it seems easy to connect the dots between lust of the flesh and the concrete examples of adultery and prostitution that are mentioned in the Bible, and p. Is it possible to see this passage in Matthew, then, as not just referring to adultery, but expanding on the Old Testament law to include all acts of sexual immorality? Is a condemnation of adultery and the means that lead to it really the only takeaway from this passage?
The Bible certainly condemns lustful behavior, but why? In this case, it seems like we can answer that question by contrasting it with the ideal of marriage, and then we see how one is a selfless, loving unification of two into one, and the other is only selfishly concerned with its own pleasure. If condemnations of lust are interchangeable with condemnations of adultery, then it gives us something to work with when assessing everything from adultery, to consuming pornography, to possibly (and I know how unpopular this is going to sound) masturbation.
My main point is that there is a scale of sexual evil, just as there is a scale of other types of evil. Some are worse than others. It’s not that promiscuity and fornication are A-OK. It’s that they’re not as bad as adultery. So if there’s a choice between sleeping with a married man or woman and sleeping with an unmarried man or woman, then sleeping with the married person is worse than sleeping with the unmarried person.
Do you really think that masturbation should be put on the same level as adultery? Do you really think that there’s no difference between sleeping with a girlfriend or boyfriend and committing date rape?
We humans commonly live in shades of gray. And engaging in sexual activities that don’t actually violate marriage simply isn’t as bad as engaging in sexual activities that do violate marriage. Also, engaging in forcible sex with an unwilling person is a terrible crime, whereas engaging in consensual sex when both partners are unmarried is nowhere near as destructive, and may even be leading toward a faithful, monogamous marriage.
Attempting to reduce everything to black (totally evil) vs. white (totally good) is simply unrealistic. It is also not in accordance with the Bible’s various statements and commandments about human sexual activity.
It’s not that consensual, non-adulterous extramarital sex is good from a spiritual and ideal perspective. But it is nowhere near as bad as adultery, rape, prostitution, and so on.
If you think you can live a sexually pure and perfect life, then I strongly encourage you to do so! And if you are able to do that, then congratulations! You’re in the 1%! 😉
No, I totally get your point Lee, and at no point have I ever contested the idea that there exists a scale of sexual immortality, with some offenses being far worse than others. But that’s not what I was asking in the above post. I was asking as to why do we use adultery as the litmus when looking at our sexual behavior, if that’s just one (albeit) extreme expression of lust? Shouldn’t the idea of lustful motives instead be the gauge we use?
And I was asking if there’s a larger takeaway from this passage in Matthew that isn’t just concerned with adultery and the specific lust that lead to it, but is concerned ultimately with the lusts of the flesh that 1 John 2 is condemning.
I’m not at the point where I’m condemning masturbation, but I need to confront as honestly as I can, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, the notion of what lust is, its opposition to love, and what it says about the decisions it inspires us to make. Sometimes some conclusions are just unavoidable if you’re honest enough to see them for what they are.
I responded to much of this in replies to some of your other comments.
But basically, adultery is the opposite of marriage. Marriage is the ideal. Adultery is the corruption of that ideal.
Ultimately it will be our motives that determine our fate. But it’s the motives that we act upon, or would act upon if given the opportunity, that really matter. We are all mixes of many motives, good, bad, and indifferent. The acid test is which ones we carry into action. Those are the motives that really count. The ones we desire, but prevent ourselves from acting upon, still have an effect. But our primary, driving motives will sooner or later express themselves in action.
So it’s not just motives, but effective motives that we act upon when we can that matter.
If we have bad motives, but recognize that they’re bad, and prevent ourselves from acting upon them for that reason, then we won’t be held guilty of them because we are actively repenting from them.
So when it comes to lust, we all have it, but if we recognize that our desire to have sex with someone is wrong, and therefore don’t act upon it, we are not held guilty. And if we do act upon it, but then realize and admit that it was wrong, and commit ourselves to not doing it again, then we will also not be held guilty spiritually because we have repented of it. Real repentance is not just saying we’re sorry, but not doing it again.
Of course, you’ll have to make up your own mind about masturbation and any other sexual activities, depending upon your own situation. I’m not advocating masturbation, premarital sex, and so on, as things we should do. Rather, I’m saying that for those who have average to strong sexual drives, masturbation is a reasonably healthy and benign way to satisfy those drives while not violating marriage, and not closing off the door to future marriage.
To unpack my concerns that I am possibly misunderstanding your position: you drew a mental spectrum earlier with the holiness of marriage on one side, and the evil of adultery on the other*. So when you say that we need to ask ourselves if our sexual conduct is leading toward adultery, are you saying we need to ask if the act, in itself, is adulterous, or will directly lead to adultery?
Or are you basically referring to a slippery slope, where the extreme evil of adultery is the inevitable end result of successively lustful decisions? I know this conversation is now complicated a bit by my suggesting that adultery in the New Testament means and was understood to mean a much broader gamut of sexual immortality, including but not limited to the specific act of adultery.
*I notice your article posited certain acts of sexual violence behind adultery on the sexual evil spectrum. Should that then be our primary consideration then, or is violent sexual assault in a category of its own?
Spiritually and even morally speaking, every action is colored by the motivation behind it. Two people can do the exact same thing, yet one of them is spiritually guilty while the other is not. This applies to sexual actions just as it does to every other kind of action.
Motivation has to do with the direction we’re going with our actions. And when it comes to sexual actions, our motivations can generally be divided up into those that are heading toward marriage and those that are heading toward adultery.
For example, a teenage boy who has sex with a girl could feel really in love with her, and be thinking about a future with her. Or he could just think of her as “a good lay” that will be one of many “conquests” he expects to have. It’s the same sexual action. But for one it is leading downward toward promiscuity and ultimately adultery, whereas for the other it is leading—or at least can lead—upward toward faithful, monogamous marriage.
The same analysis could be applied to just about any non-adulterous sexual activities. Which way is the person headed with it? Does the person hold to an ideal of faithful, monogamous marriage, and hope to achieve that, even if he or she hasn’t yet gotten there? Or does the person consider sex to be something you grab for personal pleasure wherever possible, regardless of the other person’s integrity, with no intent of having any mutual, faithful relationship, and with a desire to pile up as many promiscuous and adulterous sexual liaisons as possible?
The “slippery slope” occurs when people have no particular ideal, hope, or wish for a future faithful marriage, and just sow their wild oats wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. And it especially occurs when people actively thumb their nose at marriage, faithfulness, love, and respect for sexual partners, and think that allowable sex is boring sex, whereas forbidden sex is exciting.
All of this is yet another reason we must recognize that there are shades of gray in human sexual activity. Not only is there a whole gamut in the acts themselves, but there is a whole gamut in the motives and intentions of those who engage in them. And ultimately, it is the motives and intentions—or in more guttural terms, the burning lust or the high hopes and aspirations—within the person who is engaging in the actions that determine just how evil or good the action is spiritually, and whether the person is going up or down on the marriage to adultery scale.
About rape and sexual violence:
Sexual violence is a very serious violation of present and future marriages because it violates one of the core essentials of marriage: mutual consent. Without mutual consent, there is no marriage. And when mutual consent is violated by forcing sex upon another person, it destroys the inclination toward marriage in the one committing the rape and sexual violence, and does terrible damage to the victim’s ability to experience mutual, consensual, loving marital and sexual relationships now or in the future.
Rape and sexual violence is therefore an adulterous act even if neither the perpetrator nor the victim is married, because it is a serious violation of the very foundations of marriage both in the perpetrator and in the victim.
Obviously even mutually consensual adultery is still adultery. If one or both of the people involved is married to someone else, then it is a violation of marriage even if the people involved are acting of their own free will.
However, mutually consensual sex among people who are not married is nowhere near as serious a violation of marriage, and doesn’t rise to the level of adultery, because it preserves that key essential of marriage: mutual consent. Mutually consensual sex in which neither person is married is still considered fornication biblically. But it is fornication that can lead to marriage. In fact, it is very common for people to have sex before marriage, and go on either to marry their partner with whom they’ve had a romantic and sexual relationship or marry someone else, with whom they then have a faithful, monogamous relationship.
Rape and sexual violence, on the other hand, violates the marital principle by its very nature. Those who engage in it and think there is nothing wrong with it will never be able to have a real marriage because they reject the very basis of marriage.
Meanwhile, the victims of rape and sexual violence sustain severe wounds that are very difficult to heal from because they cut so close to their core integrity as a person, and turn what should be a beautiful part of human life into a trauma and a nightmare. It is very common for victims of rape and sexual violence to be unable to engage in a mutual, happy, loving relationship afterwards. And those who are able to do so usually have to go through a very painful healing process that can take many years.
That is why rape and sexual violence are adulterous regardless of the marital status of the perpetrators or victims.
Okay, I think I have a much better understanding of what you’re saying now. I originally thought you were referring to aduitery as it was traditionally understood, that is, sex among two people of whom one is married to someone else. But it sounds to me from what you’ve written that adultery is understood to more generally mean any sexual act that affronts the meaning of sexuality as it exists within the ideal of marriage? If so, it seems to me that adultery and sexual immorality are more or less interchangeable, as sexual immorality begins with sexual self centered-ness (lust), and lust is in every respect the opposite of the selflessness that sexuality expresses within a healthy marriage.
So I hope I’m not stretching too far to connect the dots when I surmise that a condemnation of adultery is in effect a condemnation of lust? I ask this because I never used adultery as the measuring stick by which I evaluated sexual conduct. To me it was like trying to assess our sin of lying by whether they are leading toward murder- it’s just sounds like a highly unrealistic to me, and doesn’t pay attention to the less severe but still grievous sins it actually does lead toward.
A broader definition of adultery is something I can entertain, but for me the basic question isn’t ‘does this lead to adultery?’ but rather ‘is this act focused only on myself or the other person?’ Basically, is it lustful? Is this thinking compatible with the standard of adultery as you’ve described it?
I do think you’re moving in the right direction. But let’s be clear about a few definitions, distinctions, and realities.
First, the basic meaning of adultery remains “sex among two people of whom one is married to someone else.” That is adultery’s basic, concrete definition because such an act is a direct violation of marriage. Marriage is based on mutual love, commitment, faithfulness, and trust. Having sex with someone else breaks that mutual love, commitment, faithfulness, and trust, and therefore breaks the marriage relationship.
In other words, adultery is adultery because it flatly and directly destroys marriage. That is why adultery is the polar opposite of marriage, and it is why adultery is the measuring stick, or perhaps the opposite pole, in evaluating whether a particular sexual act is good or evil.
Sexual immorality, on the other hand, is a broad term that can include many different actions from many different motivations. Some of those actions are very destructive of marriage, and verge on or overlap with adultery. Others are relatively mild, keep open the door toward marriage, and therefore are not adulterous. They might be termed “fornication,” but they wouldn’t be termed “adultery.”
So no, adultery and sexual immorality are not “more or less interchangeable.” Some sexual immorality is adulterous, and some is not. Consensual sex between two unmarried people, for example, is considered sexually immoral by many people. But it is not adulterous because it is not a direct violation of marriage. It doesn’t destroy a marriage, nor does it destroy the possibility of a future marriage.
I expand the definition of adultery to include rape because rape is a direct assault on present or future marriages. It violates one of the most central and sacred principles of marriage, which is mutual consent. And even if the victim is not married, it damages and sometimes destroys the victim’s ability to become married in the future. That is not true of consensual sex between two unmarried people.
Oh, and of course, a person who sees nothing wrong with rape, and commits rape if an opportunity arises or is made, cannot possibly be a partner in a real, spiritual marriage. The two are diametrically opposed to each other.
Yes, adultery does spring from lust as I believe you’re defining it: sexual desire that is driven by self-centeredness. That is the sort of lust that leads variously to adultery, rape, child sexual abuse (another act that is diametrically opposed to and destructive of future marriage for its victims), and so on. This sort of self-centered lust that cares nothing for its partners or victims is the inner reality of adultery. Adultery itself is the outward act that flows from it. So the two go hand in hand, and both are spiritually damning.
However, that is very different from the “lust,” or really, sex drive and even love, that leads unmarried people to engage in consensual sex.
Of course, if that sex is superficial and promiscuous, then even if it is not adulterous, it is quite destructive of the marital principle and of respect for marriage in those who engage in it, and it could be a stepping stone to future adulterous lust if the people involved do not recognize their error and put themselves on a better path sexually.
But the common phenomenon of unmarried people who are in love with one another having sex has nothing at all in common with adultery. It may be premarital, but at its best it has most of the basic characteristics of marital love: mutuality, consensuality, love, faithfulness, and trust. Such sex is not driven by lust, but rather by love and by sex drives. And though it may not be ideal, it isn’t opposed to marriage. In the natural course of events, most people who engage in these sorts of monogamous premarital romantic and sexual relationships do get married—though perhaps not to their current partner. They consider marriage to be an ideal worth striving for, and they do get married if and when they feel they are ready for it.
I am aware that many people no longer believe in marriage, and simply live together long-term. But keep in mind that marriage as we know it today, initiated by a wedding ceremony officiated by a clergyperson, did not even exist in Bible times. That came into being only a few centuries ago. In Bible times, marriage was more of a social acceptance that the two (or more) people were married. Yes, they did have wedding feasts in Bible times. But there was no ceremony. And the marriage was considered “official” when it was physically consummated–i.e., when the couple had sexual intercourse. So although I happen to believe that getting married is important, I also recognize that the particular way it happens in our culture is a social construct of our culture—and not everyone accepts that particular social construct.
But back to your point, yes, the primary thing that violates the commandment against adultery is the inner state of adultery—which is lust, or sexual desire, that cares little or nothing for the other, but aims only at pleasure and power for oneself. And that is precisely what leads people to commit outwardly adulterous acts.
Without trying to complicate things, it’s worth mentioning that, if there’s one thing sexual psychology seems to have taught us, our sexual *behavior* often has little to do with our sex *drive*, as sexuality is just the means by which we express otherwise non-sexual mindsets.
Hooking up and sowing oats seems to have its basis in a (lustful) expression of our sex drive, when it comes to things like adultery and especially rape, I would be hesitant to classify them as fundamentally sexual, as we’re dealing with people’s violent needs to dominate, control, and transgress than we are their natural sex drives.
So when we talk about sexual motives and intentions…boy it can get complicated in a hurry.
Yes, it does get very complicated very fast. That’s why it’s best not to attempt to judge the spiritual state of another person, even if we must judge them civilly when they break the law and cause damage to other people and their property.
I do understand the movement toward not labeling rape as a sexual crime, but as a violent crime. However, I would classify it as a violent sexual crime, and as a terrible corruption of human sexuality in which sex, instead of being an expression of love and caring for another person, is an expression of selfishness and a desire to dominate and hurt other people for one’s own twisted pleasure.
In other words, both the act itself and the motives behind it are corruptions of human love and sexuality. And the best and most beautiful things, when corrupted, become the worst and most destructive things.
Okay, I think I’ve taken in what you’ve said here. I should clarify that I’m not grouping premarital sex and lust as one and the same. I’m also not talking about lust as a black and white ‘either you only care about yourself or the other person’ idea. Much like our conversation about dominant love, I believe lust is self centered, but that doesn’t mean a person can’t behave lustfully without exhibiting care and concern for the other person in various degrees (and we see this in the ‘friends with benefits’ notion in hook up culture).
I guess I’m just still not easy with using adultery as the overall standard by which we measure sexual acts. To me it sounds like the ‘gateway drug’ fallacy, that if you smoke marijuana you will inevitably wind up smoking crack.
There are, I’m sure, plenty of people who have lived lustful and promiscuous lives throughout high school and college who would eventually grow up and out of it to settle down with someone they love and remain committed toward. It seems to me that promiscuity is one thing, but there might need to be an additional element that results in adultery that promiscuous people don’t necessarily have. Maybe it’s the love of taboo, or the thrill of getting away with something, but I have a difficult time insgining how sexual permissiveness is something that, left unchecked, is something that inevitably tumbles down the scale toward adultery.
That’s why I just stick with asking if an act is self centered when scrutinizing sexual behavior, since that is the basic basis behind sexual immorality. It’s definitely a good idea to be mindful as to how your behavior affects your ability to hold down a marriage in the future, but weighing consensual, non committal sex- however wrong- against destroying a future marriage just sounds like too broad a jump.
And now as to why this is a big deal for me: is this unbiblical of me?
Responding more briefly:
Uncommitted promiscuous sex can go either way. If people continue down that track, it’s likely they will have or develop no respect for marriage, and will be perfectly happy to engage in adulterous sex. But if it’s just a phase, and as they mature they realize that uncommitted promiscuous sex is a dead end, and move on to more committed and faithful relationships, then although their former promiscuous phase might cause some lingering damage, it is repairable damage that they can move beyond toward something better.
Another way of looking at it is that God allows us to try things our way first, because for most of us that’s the only way we learn. To a teenager or young adult, “free love,” which usually really means promiscuous, uncommitted sex, looks mighty enticing. And without actually trying it out, they’ll never learn that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.
And if I may trouble you to elaborate a tiny bit here: if adultery is more than just sex with someone while married to someone else, and is the end result of unchecked promiscuity, what does someone who inevitably finds themselves in a final, adulterous state look like? Is it someone who has destroyed any possibility for a healthy marriage because they’ve lived such sexually self centered lives?
Unchecked promiscuity, if not repented of, can and often does lead people toward an adulterous state and adulterous acts, because people who engage in such promiscuous sex in the end have no regard or respect for marriage.
To be clear, “promiscuous” means, basically, “with many different partners.” Steady, long-term but unmarried partners who have sex only with one another are not promiscuous, even if many religious people see their sexual activity as fornication.
Promiscuity is superficial because it does not build a relationship with one other person in which the love grows deeper and the two grow as human beings through their relationship with one another. Promiscuity involves jumping from partner to partner. This inevitably means that the sex is primarily physical, with little emotional content and no spiritual content because there is no relationship between the two people other than a fleeting and purely physical one.
People who continue in that way may or may not become literally adulterers. They may or may not sleep with married women or men. But they destroy the ability to be in a real marriage precisely because a real marriage is at its core a spiritual connection and relationship between two people. And that can exist only in committed, faithful, loving, monogamous relationships.
People who persist in superficial, promiscuous sex, and don’t eventually come to their senses and recognize how empty their sex life is, tend over time to burn out on sex. This may happen only after they have gone into more and more sordidly stimulating types of sexual activity. But it still remains hollow, and they are never able to achieve any really satisfying sex life. Adultery may be one of the things they do in an attempt to spice up and stimulate their sexual desires through engaging in the forbidden fruit. But eventually that burns out as well. We humans just aren’t built for superficial sex that doesn’t flow from love.
So the end result of that sort of sex life tends to be impotence. And if that doesn’t happen here on earth, then it will commonly happen in the other life, according to Swedenborg. Many, though not all, people in hell lose all interest in sex. And the lower (worse) the hell they inhabit, the more likely they are to become completely impotent and uninterested in sex.
Still, as long as a person is living on this earth, it is possible to repent, and to begin the process of rebuilding him- or herself and moving away from promiscuity and adultery, and toward marriage. For confirmed, long-term adulterers and philanderers that is highly unlikely. But it is possible if they come to their senses, recognize that the way they have been living is wrong, and decide to turn their life around.
Sorry, I keep replying to the wrong comment.
The comment section on WordPress blogs is a little clunky to use.
Lee is cutting edge. What other religious type blog shows a nudie on their home front page to help get their point across? Ok well I mean you know he could’ve used a loin clothed big banana leafed one. I’m pretty sure the Woof’s are okay with skinny dipping too. You know comfortable with their God created bodies. Cool! lol.
I’m also fairly certain if Billy Graham ministries did this he’d turn over in his grave. Oh wait he’s not dead yet. In that case it would cause at least an apoplectic fit.
Can you imagine? lol
Hi Frankly Frank,
Haha! It is true that I was not brought up to be ashamed of my body, or of the human body in general. It is a beautiful creation of God. Yes, of course, it can be and all too often is exploited and abused. But in itself the nude human body is a pure and beautiful thing.
About that “nudie,” I chose it for this article for a reason. When it was first exhibited in 1865, it caused a scandal and an uproar! It was not a “proper” nude. It was a painting of a prostitute, and she was brazenly looking right at the viewer rather than “chastely” averting her eyes. By today’s standards it is rather mild. But for its day, it was considered quite pornographic. That’s why it is an appropriate illustration for this particular article.
Besides, I figure that anyone who can’t handle an artistic nude probably can’t handle the content of this blog anyway. 🙂
I’m late to the party, but think this contribution is worth adding. BTW- I appreciate your tone and thinking.
One use of porn/masturbation that is rarely discussed is the use by the married man who is being sexually defrauded. He cannot become a rapist or a beggar and still function as the head and chooses to honor his vow made before God till death parts them. He is in a bad spot, he has been turned over to Satan to be tempted, the Christian community belittles his suffering, even encouraging his wife to defraud him, and he still has a God-given sex drive that is a major part of his masculine identity. There may also be children so in order to survive a marriage where he has been rejected and despised sexually and is unwilling to castrate himself and live as a gelding, (becoming a functional eunuch is not keeping the marriage bed pure) he turns to an outlet that although is not ideal, (the ideal was treacherously taken from him), but is an outlet to avoid worse sin. Such use under such circumstances is nearly virtuous.
Also If I may add a few thoughts on Matt 5:28. It is badly translated from a dualist perspective. It would more accurately reflect Jesus’ words and harmonize with the Old Testament translated as: “But I say to you that whoever looks at another man’s wife to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
– Gune can only be another man’s wife to correspond to the use of moicheuo. It should not be all women, only those who are married. Jesus uses pornao in v 39 which would extend to all women, so he knows the difference and chooses His words carefully.
-epithumeo wich is translated “lust” is used elsewhere by Christ to mean “longed” Matt 13:7, Lk 15:16, desired Lk 16:21, Lk 17:22, and Lk 22:15. None of these uses have a sexual connotation – in fact, they are used as a positive desire. Thus the insertion of a word with a highly charged sexual connotation is the result of prejudice on the part of the translators.
The amplification of the law that Jesus is highlighting is coveting another man’s wife. One way this often happens is when a pastor desires the honor from the wives in the congregation that belong to their husbands. Some will belittle men, much to the pleasure of the women, or defend the sins of women and in the end, they receive not sex, but what belongs to another man none the less. This is coveting another man’s wife and is adultery of the heart. Same for counselors who assume headship of the family and authority over the husband. They have taken authority over another man’s wife and coveted her submission which belongs to her husband; this is nothing short of treachery. For too long Matt 5:28 has been used as a club to bludgeon male sexuality, it is time to fight against the mistranslation and not add to the law. In Matt 5:28, Jesus was protecting husbands and marriage, it is time to stop using to cut husbands off at the knees and enabling the destruction of marriage. Many shamefully use this verse as a basis for divorce – “my husband looked at a sexy woman, he committed heart adultery and adultery is justification to break my vows”.
One last thought. Porn is a business, but so is anti-porn. FOr example Covenant Eyes shames men without ceasing, disparages their sexuality and then sells them software for covenant spies to be their conscience. Quite a racket!
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Though I would express things differently, I do agree with some of what you’re saying, while not agreeing with other parts.
Yes, it is very common for married men to use pornography and to masturbate when there is little or no sex in their marriages.
However, this isn’t necessarily because they are being “defrauded” by their wives. True, some married women do use sex as a weapon or bargaining chip. And that is not a good thing. But that is not the only reason for a lack of sex in a marriage.
If there is no love in a marriage, there is also commonly no sex. That isn’t necessarily either partner’s fault. Marriage and relationships are complex things. We can’t always predict what marriage will bring us, and we commonly deceive ourselves and one another for many reasons when we are “falling in love” with someone. And today, married women are less likely to dutifully have sex with their husbands when there is no love in the marriage. Husbands, also, who do not love their wives sometimes have little or no desire for sex with them. This is not “evil” or “wrong.” It’s just that today both men and women are more likely to think of sex as an expression of love and closeness between two people. And that is a good development. (But yes, quite often our biological sex drives do override a lack of love and cause married couples to have sex with each other even if they’re not in love.)
There are other reasons married couples have no sex life, some of them physical, some of them psychological, some of them emotional. To tar it all with the man being “defrauded” is to reduce to stark blacks and whites a situation that has many shades of gray.
Some women don’t want to have sex with their husbands precisely because their husbands really don’t love and care for them, and are just using them for sexual release rather than expressing love for them in the act of lovemaking. A self-respecting married woman does not want to feel like a prostitute who is getting paid by her husband for sex. If a husband insists that his wife owes him sex because he provides for her and their children, how is that different from considering her a prostitute whom he pays for sex? Unfortunately, in many marriages sex is seen by the man as a commodity to which he is entitled. Many marriages are what the skeptics call marriage: mere legalized and socially acceptable prostitution.
In short, women are not the only offenders when it comes to sexless marriages.
This is not to say that there aren’t women who “defraud” their husbands of sex. Women have their flaws and their sins just as men do. And some women do indeed unfairly cut their husbands off for selfish reasons. I’m simply saying that the sex life of a marriage is a two-way street. It is not always the woman’s fault if a marriage is sexless or nearly sexless. Sometimes a lack of sex in a marriage is due to real marital and relationship issues that need to be resolved between the partners. And sometimes the couple just shouldn’t be married to each other at all. This does become more complicated when they have children.
That said, it is quite true, as you say, that many married men who do not have a satisfying sex life within their marriages, or have no sex life at all, do turn to pornography and masturbation to satisfy their natural sexual drives and desires. And that is indeed far better than either committing adultery or emasculating themselves. It is certainly not an ideal situation. But life here on earth is rarely ideal. Sometimes men (as well as women) have to choose the lesser of evils when what is good and ideal simply isn’t available. That, really, is the main point of the above article, on the positive side.
Since this is getting long, I’ll respond in a separate comment to the biblical issues you raise.
About Matthew 5:27–28:
The Greek word gyne used in Matthew 5:28 is the general word used for “woman” in the New Testament. It includes both married and unmarried women, as you can see in its definition here. When it specifically means “wife” it is constructed with a possessive pronoun or name, such as (literally) “his woman” or “Philip’s woman,” which are then translated as “his wife” or “Philip’s wife.”
In short, the term gyne that Jesus uses for “woman” in Matthew 5:28 is not restricted to married women, but refers to women in general.
Every other word for “woman” used in the Greek New Testament is far less frequent, and is more specialized. Jesus simply used the common Greek word for “woman.” If he had wanted to restrict his meaning to married women, he would have had to specify that by saying (literally) “the woman of another (man).”
It is true, as you say, that the Greek word epithymeo does not always have a sexual connotation. Its basic meaning is “to have a strong desire for, to burn for.” The object of that burning desire may be something other than sex, such as money, food (for a starving person), and so on.
However, in Matthew 5:27–28, the object of that desire is specifically a woman. So in that context, translating it as “lust,” though a bit archaic, is perfectly legitimate, just as “starving for” would be a legitimate translation when it is used in Luke 15:16 to describe the strong desire of the prodigal son to fill his stomach with the husks eaten by the pigs he was feeding.
The common denominator is the strong desire. The specific nature of that strong desire is determined by the object of the desire.
And yes, the Greek word epithymeo is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for “covet.” It is the Greek word that the Septuagint commonly uses to translate the Hebrew word chamad, “covet,” as in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:17. And in the New Testament Romans 13:9 also uses it to translate “covet” in the Ten Commandments. You can see more about this in my article, “Is Masturbation Always Sinful? Does it Always Come from Lust?” under the heading, “Words, meanings, and ‘lust.’”
Like the Greek word, the Hebrew word also denotes a strong desire for something, and that something is not necessarily a woman or sex. But when what is coveted is a woman, or sex, then once again, “lust,” though a bit archaic, is a perfectly valid translation.
So translating it as “lust” in Matthew 5:28 is not the result of prejudice on the part of the translators. It is simply a case of translating the word according to its context, which in this case is strong desire for a woman—commonly known in religious circles as “lust.”
As I said in the linked article, this epithymeo, or “lust” refers to a strong, burning desire that will drive and impel us to act upon it if we find or can make the opportunity to do so. Coveting or “lusting after a woman” is not mere fantasizing about her. It is not even merely thinking about having sex with her. It is, rather, a burning desire to have sex with her such that if we could make it happen, we would actually do it. That’s why Jesus condemned it, and said it was tantamount to adultery. Because it is the desire within ourselves that leads to adultery in act, such that it is, as Jesus said, it is “committing adultery with her in our heart.”
Unfortunately, traditional Christian churches have actually cheapened and lightened this word by applying it to any sort of sexual fantasy about a woman. That is why they have missed Jesus’ point. Jesus was not talking about mere fantasy. He was talking about a driving desire that will lead to committing adultery, whether with a married woman or with an unmarried woman (if the man is married). For more on this, see the article I linked above.
Hey! I was just wondering If porn is okay if the face is censored. Technically your not lusting after anyone. Thoughts?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your question. Since you don’t know the people in the porn anyway, it doesn’t really matter whether you see the face or not, does it?
One more response to your comment:
I agree that the general belittling of men in today’s Western society is not a good thing. However, it was probably an inevitable pendulum swing after many centuries of women being belittled, suppressed, and having much lower status in society than men.
This “men are terrible pigs” thing will just have to work itself out over time, as the pendulum swings back and forth, until both women and men are valued equally for who they are as God created them.
Along these lines, you may be interested in these articles:
As a woman, I have seen (and discussed in depth with women friends) marriages where the woman was committed and in love with her husband, where he privately engaged in pornography to the point of impotence or lowered sex drive with his wife, essentially neutering her and making her feel poorly about her body to him. To me, this sounds like an affront to the marriage, even when she has talked with him openly about why he’s not making any sexual advances towards her, yet “says” he wants sex with her, essentially depending on her to feel better with him and initiate sex (after her feeling neutered by his porn and sex drive), and her feeling less-than what he needs. Sadly, in these cases, I see porn as a problem, and it’s failed to be mentioned as a real problem for marriages and committed relationships of love. It lines up with your comment earlier about losing interest in sex here and on the other side when they burn out – or maybe rides the lines of addiction. What is your take on the matter?
Yes, that is a real problem. It’s the flipside of what a reader named Dave brought up in a comment just above. Although he used rather charged language, his basic issue was that when wives cut their husbands off from sex, their husbands will sometimes turn to porn to fill the void. You might want to read my responses to his comment as well.
Toward the end the above article I said:
The whole premise of the article is that pornography, while it is not good and is generally tinged with evil, can be a hedge against engaging in even worse sexual evils when a healthy sexual relationship is not available. But if a healthy and loving romantic and sexual relationship is available, then using porn slides over from being a hedge against evil to being an evil that is a barrier to good.
Basically, married men whose wives love them and want to have a sexual relationship with them should not be satisfying all their sex drives by masturbating to porn. That is not only robbing their wives of love and intimacy, but also choosing a rather sordid and self-absorbed way of satisfying their God-given sex drives when they could be having a good, loving, and healthy romantic and sexual relationship with another human being—namely, their wife—as God intended.
Having said that, sex and marriage are complicated. It’s not always as simple as it appears from the outside. Some men have tried to have a sexual relationship with their wives, but things went wrong at some point and the sexual relationship got broken. In some cases their wives continually blocked and resisted their husbands and threw up barriers, or told their husbands in various ways, subtle or not, that they’re incompetent in bed—which pretty well kills a man’s desire to have sex with his wife. And if a wife is always “too tired” to have sex, what is the husband supposed to do? In some cases the two just have different ideas of what constitutes a good and satisfying sex life. For example, many men think they’re supposed to be the initiators, and when their wives aren’t particularly responsive to them when they take the initiative, but instead seem to want to be the one who initiates and controls when sex happens, that is a common turn-off for many (but not all) men.
These sorts of things, and many others, can set up a precedent and pattern that the wife (and the husband) may later regret, but that they will have a very hard time breaking and reversing. Sometimes what’s at the bottom of a sexless marriage is relationship issues that the couple needs to work out with each other. And sometimes this requires a marriage counselor to help them through it.
So although I’m with you that men should not be hooked on porn when they have a willing and loving partner, and that when they do have a relationship with porn instead of with their wives it is a wrong and an offense against their wives, I would also say that it’s not always as simple as that. Yes, sometimes the men are indeed just being idiots, and they need to get a handle on their life and get their priorities sorted out or they’re going to lose a woman who loves them and wants to be close to them. Other times there are more complex issues involved, and both the husband and the wife need to do some hard work to overcome whatever it was that killed their sex life.
Lust is not mere sexual arousal nor even sexual desire. It involves covetousness and is dangerous because it can lead to fornication, adultery or even sexual assault.
There has been way too much confusion about sex within Christian circles for centuries – actually since the time of (St.) Augustine. That is sad, and is one reason why the modern Western world is so screwed up over sex.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I agree! See my comments on the meaning of lust in the article, “Is Masturbation Always Sinful? Does it Always Come from Lust?”
I don’t expect to see the word ‘pornography’ in the Bible before I know it is a sin.
Watching porns gives way for lust, unnatural erotic desires and fleshly desires.
Masturbation, pornography, adultery, premarital sex and all forms of sex not ordained in a marriage (between man and woman) are all vile passions.
If people can have the Holy Spirit in them they can discern evil.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
In response, that is your opinion, and it is shared my many other Christians.
However, the Bible does not say these things. They are human interpretations. And you have no more valid claim to have more of the Holy Spirit, or to be able to discern who else has the Holy Spirit, than any other human being. So while I respect your right to hold these views, as pointed out in this and related articles they are human viewpoints, and not anything that the Christian Scriptures themselves teach.
Speaking of related articles, here are some that go into more detail on some of the other issues you mention:
The only one of the things you list that the Bible actually prohibits is adultery. The rest are a matter of human interpretation.
Everything you mentioned are sinful. Sex before marriage, masturbation, you can’t masturbate without lusting, masturbation is always sinful, imagination and fantasy does not help our spiritual growth, there is no marriage in heaven.
The Holy Spirit does not lie. He can’t tell one person that something is wrong and tells the other person that it is wrong.
When interpreting the Scripture don’t use ‘human interpretation’. The Scripture is understood by revelation and discernment.
It is not everything ‘christians’ share as opinion are right.
I believe what the Spirit tells me than the fleshy interpretation of men. Twisting the Scriptures to suit our worldly desires does not make the truth to be taken away from the word of God.
I don’t claim to have the Holy Spirit more than any person but I don’t argue things that are sinful in capital letters.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
Once again, these are your opinions, and you have every right to hold to them sincerely.
But once again, the Bible simply doesn’t say these things.
We humans aren’t infallible when it comes to discerning what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. Even the prophets of the Bible sometimes received lying prophecies. Relying upon the Holy Spirit to tell us what is true and what is not simply doesn’t compare to relying upon the Word of God to tell us what is true and what is not. God gave us a written Word precisely because we humans in our fallen state are not capable of reliably receiving direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit. We need a written Word to turn to.
Thinking that I am an exception to this, and I can say what’s true and what’s not based on what I hear from the Holy Spirit is not humility, but hubris.
Don’t speak against the Holy Spirit.
You can’t take away the Holy Spirit from the word of God. Without His Spirit you CANNOT understand the Bible.
The prophets never received lying prophecies. If they did you are probably telling me that God is a liar.
The Holy Spirit teaches us ALL things. Read John 14:26
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
Does this mean that no matter what anyone says, as long as they say “the Holy Spirit told me,” that means it must be true and we must believe it?
I’m sure you are aware that throughout the history of the Christian world thousands of people have stated all kinds of contradictory things, including things that flatly contradict the plain words of Scripture, and have claimed that the Holy Spirit told them so.
If the Holy Spirit reveals something to you, then that is a message to you. It doesn’t mean that every other Christian must believe what you are saying because you say that the Holy Spirit taught it to you. Otherwise we would have to believe every contradictory thing every preacher says and claims to be from the Holy Spirit. If the Bible doesn’t say it, then a Christian is not required to believe it.
About lying prophets, read 1 Kings 22:19-23 and the same story in 2 Chronicles 18:18-22. It ends with:
You got it all wrong. God putting a lying spirit in a prophet; it means false prophets. The word ‘Prophets’ is used both in the prophet of God and of the devil.
God can punish His prophet who derails by putting a lying spirit in him. Remember they were called prophets of Ahab and Ahab was an evil king.
Remember when Saul the first king of Israel visited the soothsayer invoking the spirit of prophet Samuel, God punished him by putting in him a distressing spirit.
People being contradictory saying the Holy Spirit told them does not make you believe them. There are false teachers.
From my observation, you seem to neglect the Holy Spirit and which not good. The Scripture is written by revelation and you have to understand it by revelation not by reading it like literature.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
That is your interpretation and your opinion. I have no way of knowing whether you, too, might be a false teacher, except that I know you are claiming things that the Bible doesn’t teach, which doesn’t look good. And if you think that you can teach authoritatively and people must believe you because the Holy Spirit is telling you what to believe, then you are very likely dangerously deceived.
However, I am going to assume that you are good-hearted and well-intentioned. I simply disagree with your interpretation of the Bible, and your views on what extra-biblical things we must believe. And I have studied the Bible all my life.
It seems you dislike the Holy Spirit. And that’s the reason you have studied your Bible all your life without understanding it.
Assuming or not assuming that I am a false teacher does not make me angry with you. It makes me realise that most people need spiritual knowledge.
If you read my posts you will realise that my teachings are highly based on the Bible.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
You and I are not going to come to agreement on these things. I believe you have studied the Bible all your life without understanding it, because you are saying many things that the Bible simply does not teach.
And I believe you are claiming knowledge from the Holy Spirit that you do not have. Really, all anyone has to go on is your word that the Holy Spirit has spoken to you. Other evangelists will say that the Holy Spirit has told them the opposite of what you believe.
What we do know is that God gave us the Bible to teach us the truth. And you are teaching things that the Bible doesn’t say, and asking people to believe them simply on your personal authority.
For my part, I will stick with the Bible, not your claims and your opinions.
It is well with you.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
You say that “there is no marriage in heaven.” But the Bible doesn’t actually say that. Once again, that is a human interpretation, and not what the Bible itself says. See:
Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
The Bible said it when the Sadducees asked Him about a woman who married seven brothers. Read Mark 12:18 – 27.
Read verse 24 & 25 carefully.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
No, the Bible does not say that there is no marriage in heaven. In the passage that you are referring to, Jesus said that those who attain the resurrection “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” In other words, they don’t get married. There’s a big difference! You must read those verses very carefully, and not read into them things that the verses themselves don’t say.
Please read the article I linked for you. It’s all explained there. It is simply not true that the Bible says there is no marriage in heaven.
Marriage is only experienced on earth. What Mark 12:25 means is that marriage does not exist there.
You omitted where Jesus said in verse 25. …. but are like angels in heaven.
So if we be like angels means we cannot marry. Angels don’t marry. What angels do is to worship God.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
Angels do much more than worship God. God sends them to people to deliver messages, and to do many other tasks, as seen throughout the Bible.
And the rest is also just your opinion, and not anything that the Bible says. The Bible simply does not say that there is no marriage in heaven. It says that people don’t get married in heaven. Personally, I’m already married, and have no intention of getting married in heaven. But I do plan to remain married to my wife to eternity.
It is also merely your opinion that angels don’t marry. The Bible never says that. That belief is based on human traditions, not on the Bible.
Once again, if you want to believe these things, that is certainly your right. But these things simply are not taught in the Bible.
It is not my opinion that angels don’t marry. I wrote what Jesus said and you are saying it is my opinion.
Planning to remain married to your wife till eternity is a wishful thinking. You don’t plan it, you work it out by getting saved at the end.
Angels don’t marry and will never marry. It is not my opinion it is what is written in the Scripture.
The fallen angels did they fall with their wives and children? Didn’t they fall on earth to lay with daughters of men? They would have brought their wives.
Hi evangelist chilavert nmezi,
Pay attention to exactly what Jesus said. Don’t add to his words. He said they don’t get married, not that they are not married. Read the article I linked for you. You are very much mistaken.
The very fact that the sons of God lay with the daughters of men shows that angels are not sexless beings. However, fallen angels are also adulterous angels. If they had wives, they were committing adultery against their wives by sleeping with human women on earth.
May God help us.
There are things in the bible that are interpreted in the Talmud. I would trust that source for further thought on issues we may not be clear on.
From my own studies, there are things not mentioned much in the bible, such as suicide, grief from death, and how the men seem to think having concubines is ok, or marrying one woman for bearing children and having another woman as a sex toy. Even Swedenborg doesn’t cover these subjects well enough for today’s situations. I was quite disturbed at these issues because, especially the woman issue, it’s arrogant and quite selfish on the man’s part. It has hurt women in different ways, deeply. More clarity for today has to be understood. So how do we get answers? I went to the Talmud and sometimes the Kabbalah for further elucidation on these issues. Furthermore, I have a conscience that works with knowledge learned. Some would say the Holy Spirit, which I think is the connection to our knowledge and conscience for wisdom.
Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, these are complex and difficult issues, and we must each seek out discernment in order to come to some understanding and conclusions about them for ourselves.
We should not, however, presume that because we have come to a particular understanding, and believe it to be true, that we have the right to insist that everyone else must agree with us and accept what we believe to be the truth.
Your comment here, “However, fallen angels are also adulterous angels. If they had wives, they were committing adultery against their wives by sleeping with human women on earth.” This threw me off. I was trying to figure out how you came to the conclusion that the fallen angels were adulterous without knowing if they had wives prior to mixing with human women. Can you please explain this?
First of all, I was answering according to the viewpoint of the gentleman that I was talking to. The Bible passage in question doesn’t even mention angels, but “sons of God”—and there has long been considerable debate as to what exactly that means. It’s something of an assumption that it is talking about angels.
However, in general, those who break one of God’s primary commandments, and are thus “fallen,” are quite willing to break the other commandments as well. And committing adultery is (ahem!) one of the favorites. These “sons of God” are portrayed as sleeping with human women on earth—and that is presented as a rather negative thing. So it’s not unreasonable to think that these “sons of God” are sexually promiscuous and willing to engage in adulterous relationships.
My own view is that these early stories in the Bible are not meant to be taken literally, but figuratively. So my own view of that story is quite different than that of much of traditional Christianity.
That in no way answered my question regarding fallen angels or sons of God were possibly married. How do get the information to even surmise they were married? Fallen may imply they were sinners but that in no way implies marriage. Please explain.
First, I don’t believe there are literal “fallen angels” or “sons of God.” I believe these early stories in Genesis are symbolic (secular scholars would call them mythical), not literal.
However, viewing it as a story, here is the relevant section from the Bible:
So according to the story, these “sons of God” were having sex with the daughters of humans—meaning with mortal women on earth.
This means that these “sons of God” were not sexless beings as angels are believed to be in traditional Christianity, but in this case are males with a sex drive and male reproductive organs that make them capable of having sexual intercourse with flesh-and-blood women and impregnating them.
Now if, as is traditionally believed, these “sons of God” are fallen angels, this means that according to traditional Christian theology, God created them before the world was created, so that they existed for unknown eons prior to there being any flesh-and-blood women on earth to have sex with. And would they really spend those eons not having sex given that they clearly have a sex drive and the necessary physical equipment to have sex?
So although the story doesn’t say they were married, it just makes sense that they would have had partners before they came down to earth and mated with human women.
Alternatively if, as some believe (with no basis in the Bible), sex is inherently sinful, and is the result of the Fall, the belief would be that these “sons of God” were “chaste” before they were fallen, and had sex only after they had fallen. But that once again begs the question of how long before the earth was created they fell, and what they did with their fallen sex drives before God created an earth with flesh-and-blood women to have sex with. Presumably if there are male fallen angels there are also female fallen angels. And are male and female angels really going to remain chaste and pure when they could be frolicking with one another?
So yes, it’s speculative. And I don’t even believe in the whole view of angels and creation that this line of thinking is based on. But for those who do believe that these “sons of God” are fallen angels, the story shows conclusively that they have the drive and ability to have sex and procreate children. And it makes no sense to think that they would never engage those drives or use that ability until human women show up.
Further, why would God even give them sexual organs in the first place? Did God intend for them to misuse their sexual organs by having sex with human women and produce a race of wicked giants destined to be destroyed in the Flood?
So basically, trying to maintain that these fallen angels never had sex before they had sex with human women just doesn’t make much sense. And if they had sex before they had sex with human women, that means they had sexual partners. So at minimum they were engaging in promiscuous sex, and if they were sexual beings before the Fall, from a biblical viewpoint they would have been married, not promiscuous. Hence the reasonable conclusion that if, as the above-quoted section of the Bible makes clear, these “sons of God” had sexual drives and reproductive organs, they likely had prior angel marital and/or sexual partners, and their liaisons with human women were therefore at minimum promiscuous, and most likely adulterous.
I don’t necessarily know if they were angels or literal people or ever married. But they did something vile in God’s eyes. I can see your reasoning here, but to state they were married was a huge step and raised another question in my mind where that information came from. You further stated that you didn’t believe this to be a literals story. Maybe you can elaborate on the non-literal translation of this story/these beings, as you understand it. Or point me to any other postings as Swedenborg or bible may have addressed.
Thank you, Lee.
These things can get complicated, especially with different churches and people interpreting the Bible in all different ways. But I do think of angels as married, not as sexless and single. For more on this, see: “How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?”
Swedenborg explains the spiritual meaning of this story in huge his multi-volume Bible commentary Secrets of Heaven. However, for people not familiar with his mode of Bible interpretation, reading that commentary can be like swimming in very deep waters! Perhaps I’ll write and post an article about it here on the blog before too long. It would be an interesting topic!
I was just revisiting this issue recently and just wanted to add a few additional thoughts.
Firstly, I think we need to reflect on the implications of saying that, for people who are unable to or yet to find a faithful, committed monogamous marriage that *some type* of alternative will have to do, and that alternative ought to be the least damaging thing to them. That would seem to describe all of us at one time or another- people who have never had or just out of relationships, or can’t find a fulfilling one. But there’s an implication inherent to that notion concerning God’s design of human beings: that we sometimes, by design (not circumstance, because no one is born into marriage) *need* to do things that are not good, but the least evil. Basically, that we *need* to sin, but in a way that’s least damaging to us. That’s pretty heavy.
There’s a difference between ‘not as good’ and ‘not as bad’- it seems that the former is pulling us toward something positive, and the latter toward something negative, at different speeds. So I might be inclined to say that premarital sex in a faithful loving relationship is ‘not as good’ as marriage, and use of pornography is ‘not as bad’ as adultery. But to say that sometimes we need to do the less bad thing is that we need to do something that pulls us toward adultery. That just doesn’t seem to sit well with the idea of God’s design and plan for human beings. And if we need to do it, then it might imply that God wants us to do it, because we need it. So God *wants* us to commit sin?
Secondly, and I’ve more or less touched on this before, do you think you maybe place too much emphasis on absolute prohibitions? For instance, suppose the Bible made no absolute prohibitions against suicide, but made clear emphasis on the sanctity of life and human beings as entrusted with protecting it. That clearly functions to the effect of condemning suicide despite it not being spelled out in so many words. And it makes sense, because saying what someone ‘should not’ do does not bring anyone closer to knowing what they ‘should do.’ If you tell your children they ‘should not’ eat sugar cereal, it doesn’t tell them that they ‘should’ eat their vegetables. In this case, you discuss what the Bible says about ‘sexual immorality,’ but what about sexual *morality?* What are the ‘thou shall’s’ in addition to the ‘thou shall not’s?’ You can’t generally infer a ‘thou shall’ from a ‘thou shall not,’ but the reverse is not true: if you’re given a ‘thou shall,’ then you can infer that anything incompatible with the spirit of that commandment is therefore prohibited.
I know you mentioned in a previous post that human beings were at an especially low spiritual state at the time the Ten Commandments were issued, and simply needed instruction on what to stop doing so as to stop spiraling into ruin. But there’s obviously more to the Biblical story since the Ten Commandments, and the larger picture gives us we have a more endorsement-based touchstone for *morality* as opposed to just condemnation of immorality, and maybe we need to look at that picture before we base so many of our ideas of good and evil on what the Bible says you shouldn’t do.
These are all good thoughts and questions. I’ll respond to some of the more general ones first, and then get to the issues related more specifically to pornography.
About suicide, I don’t think a specific commandment against suicide is necessary because it’s covered under the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Killing oneself is still killing, and therefore still breaking that commandment. Having said that, of course suicide is a very complex issue, and I do not believe, as some churches teach, that people who commit suicide automatically go to hell. See my article, “Does Suicide Work?”
About many of the commandments in the Bible, and especially in the Old Testament, being “thou shalt nots” instead of “thou shalts,” the reason for this is that until we stop doing what’s wrong we can’t do what’s right. You can’t be honest when you’re still lying. You can’t be respectful of other people’s property when you’re still stealing. You can’t be faithful and monogamous when you’re still committing adultery. You have to stop the evil actions before you can engage in the good actions. If you try to do both at once, the evil will corrupt the good, and that is actually worse than simply being evil, as we’ve discussed elsewhere.
That is why so many commandments in the Bible are “thou shalt not.” The principle is stated succinctly in Isaiah:
The progression is from ceasing to do evil to learning to do good. First we must stop doing the evil things we are engaging in. Then we can start doing good that is genuinely good. Repentance must come before reformation.
And yes, at the time the Ten Commandments were given humanity was at a very low, materialistic ebb spiritually. That’s why the Ten Commandments are phrased in such a stark, guttural way.
However, the positive side of this is that the Ten Commandments form a solid bedrock foundation for all of the higher principles. They provide a clear, visible, behavioral foundation for the finer points of human morality. In several places in his writings Swedenborg provides explanations of the deeper meanings of each commandment, declaring that the Ten Commandments contain everything of human morality and spiritual life when seen in all of their levels of meaning. If they had been stated in more abstract, philosophical terms, they would not provide such a solid foundation for all the rest.
If you have the time, and as an aside, are you able to explain why there are exactly ten commandments? I’m of the belief that religions and their cornerstones are born at the intersection between human beings and God, and so the product thereof reflects a very visible mixture of Divine perfection and purity, and human imperfection and (in our post-Fall world) impurity. So something like the Ten Commandments- which is understood to be a synthesis of Mosaic law- would make sense as ten because the number ten is a helpful device in remembering something.
Also, aside from being essential guidelines for human behavior, do the Ten Commandments- and the law in general- also serve to point out our sinfulness? We’ve touched on this before, and I recall you rejected the idea that the law is there to demonstrate how we are unable to fulfill its requirements, but our ability to keep the commandments *does* indeed serve as a reflection of our moral condition (even if it doesn’t amount to whatever conclusions Protestants draw from that).
It’s not that God wants us to sin. It’s that we have sinned, and it’s unrealistic to think that having fallen, we are going to be perfectly pure in our lives.
A more abstract way of saying this is that God does not provide for us to do evil, but permits us to do evil when preventing us from doing so would bring about even worse results. This is all covered in detail in Swedenborg’s book Divine Providence.
Pornography is not in the realm of divine providence, but in the realm of divine permission. The ideal would be for us to grow up with a strong ideal of marriage, and then marry in young adulthood. And in a non-overly-sexualized culture, it would be very possible for young people to save themselves for marriage through their teenage years without resorting to pornography, casual sex, and so on.
Unfortunately, that is not the culture nor the world that we live in. And conservative religious folks who tut-tut about this are themselves a major part of the problem because they have made all kinds of absolute rules that are impossible to follow in our current culture, and then condemned those who don’t follow their absolute, arbitrary rules.
Because we live in a fallen culture and a fallen world, it is necessary to think in terms of shades of gray rather than in terms of stark blacks and whites—as covered in the article. Absolute rules make things worse, not better.
Or more specifically, for Christians, making absolute rules when the Bible does not makes things worse, not better.
It’s important to pay attention to exactly what the Bible does and doesn’t say. Most of historical and present-day “Christian” doctrine is based on things the Bible doesn’t actually say.
I’m aware that in many areas we must use our thinking minds to discern what is right and wrong, because the Bible doesn’t give detailed instructions for every situation.
However, making general and absolute rules and then imposing them as “Christian truth” when the Bible doesn’t actually make those rules is fraught with problems.
This is precisely the case with conservative Christians making absolute rules about premarital sex, non-adulterous extramarital sex, pornography, masturbation, and so on when the Bible makes no such rules. Jesus had harsh words for the Jewish leaders of his day who made all sorts of rules that weren’t in their scriptures, and imposed those rules on the people. I have the same harsh words for “Christian” leaders today who do the very same thing.
Pornography is not a good thing. But using pornography is not committing adultery, and it is not forbidden in the Ten Commandments. And living as we do in a fallen state, in which we must navigate many gray areas, we must be realistic in approaching issues such as pornography. Pornography does not necessarily involve or lead to adultery. As covered in the article, for many men and some women, it provides a way of satisfying natural sexual desires without committing adultery. But all of this is covered in the article, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
I just wanted to be sure that we’re taking into account both in this article and our discussions of this (and other) articles the importance of deriving doctrines from statements that articulate an ideal of human behavior versus rejecting doctrines just because they’re not explicitly condemned by statements that articulate corruptions of human behavior (in your words, to be thinking persons in the absence of explicit condemnations).
If you see a sign that says ‘no left turn,’ then you can safely say that left turns are illegal.
But if you see a sign that says ‘right turn only,’ then you can still say with equal certainty that right turns are illegal through inference.
Likewise, if the Bible says to not have premarital sex, then that’s case close. But if it says to only have sex within marriage, or articulates an account of human sexuality that we can understand as saying sex is only appropriate within marriage, then it’s also case closed: we just took a different route to get to the same place.
So I just wanted to be sure that we’re not saying things are ok because we don’t see any ‘no left turn’ signs, or rejecting mainstream doctrines for that same reason. I understand what you’re saying about the foundational moral value of ‘thou shall not’ statements, but I also want to pay equally close attention to signs that tell me where to turn, and I think there’s a relationsl harmony between explicit ‘thou shall not’ statements and some of the more implicit details that function as ‘thou shall’ statements, of which we decipher as thinking persons.
But the Bible doesn’t actually say those things. There is no place in the Bible where it says only to have sex within marriage. And there are a number of places in the Bible where people have sex outside of marriage and are not condemned for it. See: “Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?”
What the Bible does do is prohibit adultery, and generally discourage fornication (non-marital sex). Which is the same thing I’ve been saying over and over. Sure we can “understand that as saying that sex is only appropriate within marriage.” But that is our understanding, and not what the Bible actually says.
Once again, it’s important to pay attention to what the Bible actually does and doesn’t say, and not to loosely attribute teachings, commandments, prohibitions, and doctrines to the Bible when the Bible doesn’t actually articulate them.
Now, if we humans want to make particular teachings, commandments, prohibitions, and doctrines for our use, we’re certainly free to do so. But we should be clear that these are human formulations, not biblical ones, and certainly not divine ones.
I’m not actually saying that. I’m using that as an example between basing what is allowed and prohibited from I might call ‘negative value statements (The Bible does not prohibit X) and ‘positive value statements (The Bible endorses Y).
The Bible endorses a lot of things as a moral ideal, and it prohibits a lot of things as a moral evil, and like I said, there there is a harmonized relationship between both- I just want to be sure that we’re taking a full and holistic approach to deriving our understanding of what is good and bad, and not stamping something as ok just because we can’t find a ‘thou shall not.’
Though of course there are many complexities, in general particular evil desires, thoughts, and actions are the opposite of particular good desires, thoughts, and actions. Evil has no existence of its own. It exists only as a twisting of good. And every particular evil is the twisting and corruption of some particular good. So in one sense it doesn’t matter if it’s a “Thou shalt” or a “Thou shalt not.” One is simply an alternate way of saying the other. The prevalence of “Thou shalt nots” in the Bible is, as I said, due to the necessity of ceasing to do evil before we can learn to do well.
The other issue here involves levels of evil and shades of gray.
Some things, such as adultery, are absolutely prohibited in the Bible because the are very dark and very damaging evils. Others, such as “fornication,” meaning generally sex when neither of the two is married (but sometimes also referring to adultery), are generally discouraged in the Bible, not absolutely prohibited, because they are a lighter shade of gray, which could go toward white or could go toward black depending on the direction in which the people indulging in them are headed.
It is not good to make absolute pronouncements about things that, while not actually good, are relatively mild on the scale of evil, and can be bent toward good if the heart and intention of the person engaging in them is generally good, or at least amenable to being turned toward good.
In such cases, making an absolute prohibition against something that is evil-ish, but not terribly evil, can do more harm than good. It tends to push people toward evil because they are not ready for good, often for reasons beyond their own control, and their gray-area actions are simply not something they’re going to stop doing at this point in their lives. Painting those grays as black, black, black gives them the message that they’ve already stepped over some absolute, arbitrary line, and it doesn’t matter what they do because they’re heading straight to hell anyway. And that is basically a license to engage in any evil whatsoever—including things such as adultery that are far worse than non-adulterous casual sex.
That is why I believe that conservative Christian (and other) religious leaders who go far beyond scriptural authority to make absolute prohibitions against things that their scriptures (in this case, the Bible) doesn’t actually prohibit are doing more harm than good. It is not an accident that the Bible absolutely prohibits some things, but is more lenient about others. The Bible is calibrated to the spiritual and moral states of people as they actually exist, not to some ideal that few to no actual human beings are able to attain and maintain.
Hi again Lee,
To kind of supplement this, are The Ten Commandments ‘enough’ when it comes to encapsulating the whole of Christian morality? I know Swedenborg distinguishes between a natural, spiritual, and celestial sense of each commandment, but like I said earlier, saying ‘don’t do X’ is not the same thing as saying ‘do Y.’ But ‘do Y’ tells you to ‘not do X,’ because X is at odds with Y.
But when it comes to The Ten Commandments, can we derive both what we should not and SHOULD do? Or are they mainly meant to be remedial for people at a very low spiritual state?
As I said in my previous comment, evil is simply the opposite of good. And particular evil things are the opposite of particular good things. So ultimately it doesn’t matter if the Bible says “Do X” or “Don’t do anti-X.” It amounts to the same thing. It is, once again, just that we can’t do X while we’re still doing anti-X. Anti-X cancels out, or even worse, corrupts X.
About your more general question, the Ten Commandments do contain everything of Christian morality. However, that can be seen only when we’re aware of the deeper, spiritual meanings contained in the various commandments. Obviously on the surface there are many wrong actions that are not explicitly prohibited in the Ten Commandments, and many right actions that are not explicitly required in the Ten Commandments. However, the principles they contain in the letter and in the spirit of the commandments do cover all of human morality, both negative and positive.
For more on the Ten Commandments and what they cover literally and spiritually, please see my article, “The Ten Commandments: Our Spiritual Inventory List.”
Lee, you are right in that there are grey areas concerning premarital sex. (my english is not so perfect). BUT- here about porn you are seriously wrong! Just because there was not porn in the time of the bible, does not mean that it is not a sin! Because it is about the SPIRIT behind it! Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned by God mainly because of sexual sins like public orgys, rape, and certainly they commited acts of perversions like the bible says the surrounding countries of Israel did (sex with animals etc). That’s what porn is full of today
In Thessalonians 4:4-5 we are told not to indulge in debasing and degrading sexual lusts, but to control our own body in a holy and honorable way. This can certainly be applied to masturbating to porn.
God never intended sexuality to be filthy and unholy. There is a very strong spirit of anti-christ in porn. Even if there are technical things that did not exist when the bible was written it certainly does not mean it can not be sin today, it is about the spirit behind acts and thinking that are the same today as it was during the time of the writings of the bible!
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
I understand your feelings about pornography. Certainly, as the article says, it is not a good thing. Even the least objectionable pornography is tinged with evil. And some types of pornography are downright evil and disgusting—as the article also says.
However, the fact remains that the Bible does not condemn, or even mention, pornography.
What the Bible does do over and over again is absolutely prohibit adultery, and heavily discourage fornication.
Adultery is having sex with someone when one or both of the people involved are married to someone else.
Fornication, as that word is used in the Bible, is a generalized term for sexual relations between people who are not married. However, it has the sense of promiscuous extramarital sex (i.e., sleeping with multiple partners), sleeping with prostitutes, and so on. For more on premarital and extramarital sex, please see: “Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?”
By contrast, masturbating to porn does not involve having sex with another person at all. That is why, for those who do it in moderation as a way of satisfying and controlling their natural sexual urges when they cannot have healthy sexual relations within marriage, or at least within a committed romantic relationship, it is actually a rather mild way of avoiding both adultery and fornication. About masturbation in particular, see: “What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?” and the follow-up articles on masturbation linked from the end of that one. Short version: The Bible never says anything at all about masturbation, let alone prohibiting it. There is no good biblical reason for considering masturbation a sin. But please read the articles for a full explanation.
About Sodom, I understand you have been told that the sin of Sodom was primarily sexual, involving public orgies, rape, perversions, sex with animals, and so on. But that is simply not what the Bible says that the sin of Sodom was. Here is what the Bible actually says:
There is not a word here about sexual sin. It is all about arrogance, self-indulgence, and a lack of concern for people in need.
Conservative Christians commonly latch onto the mention at the end of “doing detestable things,” thinking it’s all about sexual sin. But that’s not what the Hebrew word translated “detestable” or “abominable” there (tow`ebah) means. Rather, it refers to things that are ritually unclean and culturally taboo. And though that did include some sexual sins, it also included many other types of sin, such as making an idol or sacrificing an imperfect ox or sheep.
In short, contrary to popular belief, according to the Bible itself the sin of Sodom was not primarily sexual. For more on this, see: “What is the Sin of Sodom?”
Even the attempted homosexual gang rape described in the story of Sodom in Genesis 19 would not have been seen as primarily a sexual sin. Rather, it would have been seen as a shocking violation of the sacred law of hospitality, in which visitors to one’s town and home were to be treated as honored guests. Rape certainly is a sexual sin. But its primary characteristic is a desire to dominate and humiliate other people. It was this unconcern and shocking disregard for the wellbeing of Lot’s angel guests that caused Sodom to be condemned and destroyed.
So once again, I understand your feelings about pornography, masturbation, extramarital sex, and so on. But it’s important to pay attention to exactly what the Bible does and doesn’t say, and not dress it up with all sorts of human taboos about sexuality. The Bible is actually very pragmatic about sex.
I encourage you to read the linked articles, and then read the Bible for yourself, without all the later additions by various human beings of more and more sexual rules and taboos that the Bible itself does not make. Once again, the Bible itself prohibits adultery, and heavily discourages extramarital sex—especially promiscuous extramarital sex and the frequenting of prostitutes.
As covered in the above article, though pornography is not ultimately a good thing, for many people who are not married or don’t have any healthy outlet for their God-given sexual drives, masturbating to the less objectionable forms of pornography makes it possible to avoid doing the things the Bible actually does prohibit and discourage, until they can find and marry someone with whom they can have a loving relationship that expresses itself physically in loving and mutually fulfilling sexual relations.
You write that the bible do not condemn or even mention porn. But of course, in ancient times they did no thave papers, tv, internet, mobilphones etc! That does not mean that the people back then could not have the mentality and spirit of porn! In NT sin is not merely about actions but also thoughts and words.(my english is somewhat limited so I’ll try to make this simple and short). The inner man.
The greek word, ‘porneia’, translated as ‘fornication’ or better ‘sexual immorality’ is a broad term for several things, from smaller sins to severe ones. The greek word means literally: prostitution, sexual services in exchange for money or gifts. It’s use in the bible though cover a wide range of things.
It can be; incest of different kinds, perversions; like sex with animals, prostitution, both cultic and ordinary, infidelity, unclean lust, metaphorical idolatry etc. But I do not think that ‘porneia’ alwasy has to be about physical actions, but also thoughts and attitudes. See 1 Thess 4:4 “..each of you should learn to control your body in i an holy and honourable way..That means everyone, wether married or not married. In Ephesians 5:4, it clearly shows that such things as ‘obscenity-wether in words or thoughts-is included and belong to the concept ‘porneia’. Wether married or unmarried.
You write that masturbating to porn does not involve another person at all. Well, to look at nude women in porn is like mentally going to a prostitute.(Matt 5:29, Mark7:20 ..)
⦁ I do not condemn masturbation totally. If a person is single and do not have a partner for a long time, then of course masturbation can give a purely pshysical release. But what becomes of it depends how you handle it. If it is kept at a minimum it may serve as an acceptabel outlet. But there is a risk that it starts a craving for more and more lustful fantasies of unclean nature, which should be avoided as much as possible.
Your write:”Keep your mind and heart moving toward the ideal of a committed, loving, faithful, monogamous marriage
Well masturbating to porn is cerainly not a good way to prepare yourself for a loving, faithful marriage and relaltionship! If your emotional life have been destroyed and poisoned by porn and your view upon women and sex distorted, that is a very, very bad start to a marriage!
About Sodom and Gomorrah. Yes, there were other sins than sex included, like lack of concern for people in need. Bur foremost it was about dekadent sex! Se 2 Peter 2 and Jude 1, ..”gave themselves up to seuxal immoralty and perversion”.
See Leviticus 18:24-29. The Lord punishes the nations, especially- but not only-for sexual sins.
The bible show us how God wants us to view sexuality in the Song of songs!
If you hate someone and fantazises about murdering the person, even though you do not commit the act, you still risk opening up yourself to a spririt of murder.Same thing with unclean lust, even if you do not act it out, you may open up to evil spirits of unclean lust. This is well known in many charismatic churches. Because sin is not only about physical actions. This can happen when you continuously cultivate certain sinful thoughts and feelings
Your write: “In short, if you view pornography, it should be with the clear understanding that it is a necessary evil in order to keep yourself away from serious violations of marriage and monogamy.” This is absurd! More likely you will risk to be acting out things that do violate marridge and monogamy. Research has shown that pornconsumers are more likely to become promiscuous and unfaithful.
Premarital sex. I agree with you that the bible does not have a clear prohibiton against premarital sex. The bible speaks against a promiscuous life-style, yes, but I do not think this apply to for example a couple who are in a long-term, committed sexualrelationship as exclusive partners.(sex here means intercourse)
And here I want to end this discussion, because I think it will be quite futile to continue.
We christains may have different opinions on have to interpret the bible in many ways, but the wast majority of christians do think porn is very, very evil and satanic.
And that’s the truth!
Thanks for your reply.
However, it really doesn’t matter what “the vast majority of Christians” think.
Is the truth a democratic institution? Can we humans take a vote and decide what the truth is?
The truth comes from God, not from human beings.
And God has spoken to us in the Bible to tell us what is true, and what is important for us to do and not to do.
And the simple fact of the matter is that the Bible never prohibits masturbation, and it never prohibits looking at a nude woman or a representation of a nude woman—which is about as close as it could get to prohibiting pornography, since photos and videos didn’t exist at that time. If it had been very important for us not to do these things, God would have told us so in the Bible.
What it does prohibit is adultery. And what it does heavily discourage is extramarital sex, especially promiscuous sex and frequenting prostitutes. These are the things it is important for us not to do, or to avoid as much as we possibly can.
It is simply unrealistic to attempt to prohibit all sexual thoughts and all sexual activities among unmarried people. That’s not how the human mind and body works. The simple fact of the matter is that people are going to engage in sexual fantasies, and in sexual actions. And we must be pragmatic, not unrealistic, about recognizing that and giving people ways to release their God-given sexual drives and desires in ways that are least damaging to a future marriage if they are not married.
Conservative Christian preachers and teachers who attempt to prohibit all forms of sexual expression among the unmarried are actually causing more lust and more fornication and more adultery among the people they preach this message to. By not allowing their congregations any sexual release at all, they are causing those sexual urges and drives to build up more and more until they break out into things the Bible does prohibit and condemn, such as committing adultery and sleeping with prostitutes.
Is it any wonder that practically every month in the news some conservative Christian leader is caught committing adultery or sleeping with prostitutes or committing some other type of prohibited sexual acts?
Quite frankly, these preachers are hypocrites. They are laying heavy burdens, hard to be borne, on their followers—burdens that the Bible does not lay on us. They are making doctrine out of human traditions.
Nowhere in the article do I say that pornography is a good thing. The article covers the Greek derivation and meaning of the word, and the other points you make here about it. Rather, the article says that on the scale of sexual evils, assuming that the pornography in question was made by consenting adults, and does not depict the cruder and grosser forms of sexual perversions, it is on the milder end of the scale of human sexual evils, and is nowhere near as bad as actually fornicating with other people or, even worse, committing adultery with other people.
The article also covers the fact that pornography does not represent a real, healthy sexuality, but is mere fantasy, and that this should be kept in mind by those who view it. No, masturbating to pornography is not a good preparation for marriage. Those who consume pornography will have to unlearn many things in order to have a healthy sexual life with their future marital partner.
However, if it keeps them from having actual sex with actual flesh-and-blood people, at least their future marriage won’t be muddied with prior sexual relationships with people other than their partner in marriage.
We humans aren’t perfect, and we’re never going to be perfect. If anyone can avoid pornography altogether, that’s all to the good. But many people don’t have that level of self-control. The idea is to limit the damage. And masturbating to porn is, as the article says, one of the least damaging outlets for the natural sexual drives of unmarried people.
So although I understand your distaste for porn, I simply think it is unrealistic to think that we are going to be able to root it out of society any time soon.
The very first commandment God gave to humanity was to be fruitful and multiply. This should tell us how deep and powerful God has made our drive to mate and reproduce ourselves. Few people are able to fully rein in their sexual desires. Keeping those desires running around in some sort of corral is better than letting them run free and plunging into all sorts of far more damaging sexual activities.
If you think that the primary sin of Sodom was decadent sex, then you simply don’t understand the Bible or its cultures.
Yes, Jude 7 mentions that Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities indulged in sexual immorality. And yes, sexual sin was a part of the sin of Sodom. They wanted to gang rape the angels.
But Ezekiel 16:49–50, which I’ve already quoted for you here, and covered in the article on the sin of Sodom that I also linked for you before, makes it clear that the primary sin of Sodom was not sexual, but one of arrogance and unconcern for the poor and needy. The sexual sin described in Genesis 19, attempted homosexual gang rape, was a result of that arrogance and unconcern.
The excessive focus on the sexual nature of the sins of Sodom among modern Christians has much more to do with their own unhealthy over-focus on sexual sins than with anything that the Bible says. Once again, the so-called Christian preachers and teachers who go on and on about the decadent sex of Sodom and Gomorrah are simply hypocrites. They are trying to cover up their own lusts and desires with fulminations against a fantasy picture that they’ve built up in their own minds of Sodom and Gomorrah engaging in continual continual orgies.
The Bible itself has no such focus on the sexual sins of Sodom. Though it does mention them, the Bible itself focuses on the arrogance and unconcern of Sodom and Gomorrah that leads to committing various sins, including sexual ones.
I would urge you to ignore the sex-filled fantasies of preachers who build up lurid scenes of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah continually engaging in decadent sex. Perhaps that would make a good Hollywood movie that the masses would flock to for titillation while thinking they were watching something “biblical.” But it has no place in Christian preaching and teaching.
I never said that the bible completely prohibits masturbation, but that it can lead to things the bible prohibits.
By looking at pictures of nude women in porn, I mean that the person who does that, in his mind have sex with them, not just look at them. As I have said in the New testament it is important what you do in your mind and your heart.
.You write: “What it does prohibit is adultery. And what it does heavily discourage is extramarital sex, especially promiscuous sex and frequenting prostitutes. These are the things it is important for us not to do, or to avoid as much as we possibly can.”
Yes, and so unclean lust, obscenity etc too!
I have never meant that one should prohibit all sexual thoughts and activites among unmarried people! I agree with you that those who prohibit all form of sexual expression among unmarried are causing a lot of problem. From what I know there are those who hardly won’t even allow people who are dating, kissing, touching, some form of sexual intimicy at all, short of indercourse. And perhaps not even dreaming about such things. And that is very,very damaging. And there is absolutely no support for this in the bible.
But I absolutely do not agree with you that pornconsumtion is better than unmarried sex! Unmarried sex is not the best thing, but in many cases better than pornconsumtion! It is better that a man have had a loving, healthy seuxal relationship with an ex-girlfriend, and then after that meet ‘the right one’, than to have been poisened by porn and need to have an inner healing after that, a restoration of his sexuality and emotional life wich perhaps is not possible. And perhaps it will be necessary with deliverance from evil spirits.
Best is of course to neither had permarital intercourse, nor have looked at porn, either..
You write “And masturbating to porn is, as the article says, one of the least damaging outlets for the natural sexual drives of unmarried people.” Wrong! It is one of the most damaging one’s! (that does not mean that is completely wrong just to masturbate)
Yes, the sex drive is strong., And we will have to struggle with our flesh as long as we are on this earth, on many areas of our lives. We will fail several times, but we can receive grace and help from the Lord to avoid sinning.
About Sodom and Gomorrah. If their sin was only or foremost about unconcern for the poor and needy, then WHY does it say in Jude 7:”…they gave themselves up to sexual immorality”as their foremost sin?! Not just a smaller part of their sin, but the most important one. And it is clear from 2 Peter 2 that it had very much to do with sexual sin!
The bibel writes that all the men from the whole city surrounded the house and wanted to rape the angels.That indicates a very, very decadent society. That was certainly not the first time they had public rapes and orgies.
Why did the bible authors in the New Testament not write about their unconcern for the poor and needy as the most important sin, if that was so?
As with anything, if people go overboard with masturbation and porn it can, as you say, be very damaging. And some people do get caught in that trap. Some people spend hours and hours at it, and waste away their time and their life on unworthy an unholy things. Some people descend into the darker forms of porn, and pollute their minds with sordid sexual scenes.
But many, if not most people just do what they need to do to satisfy their sexual urges, and then move on about their day or go to bed and go to sleep for the night. Don’t listen to preachers who tar everyone with the same brush and make it sound like the least use of porn or the least bit of masturbation leads instantly to utter sexual perversion and hell. That’s just a lot of scare-mongering.
Although I don’t entirely disagree with your view that it’s better to have a loving relationship with a girlfriend or boyfriend and then move on to marriage, there is certainly no basis for that in the Bible. In the Bible, anyone who sleeps with a woman is required to marry her. That is, unless she is already married or pledged to be married, in which case the two are to be put to death, or if the woman was raped, only the man was to be put to death. This is covered in the article I linked for you before: “Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?” And while, as I say in the article, I don’t believe people today are required to follow all of the harsh laws of the Old Testament, in making statements such as yours you should at least admit that this goes well beyond anything the Bible itself says or allows.
And yes, it would be best neither to have premarital sex or to view porn. But thinking most people are going to accomplish that today is simply unrealistic. That’s the whole point of the article. We have to deal with people as they actually are, not as we wish they were. And the reality is that most people today are going to engage in some sort of sexual activity before they get married. The question is, which kind?
The idea that masturbating to porn is “one of the most damaging” kinds of extramarital sexual activities is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
There are many, many sexual actions that people engage in that are far worse than masturbating to porn. I really don’t know where you’re getting this fixation on porn as evil, evil, evil! Some types of porn—child porn, non-consensual porn, revenge porn, and so on—are indeed very evil. But other types, involving consenting adults displaying their bodies or engaging in ordinary sex for the sexual stimulation of others are relatively mild, and certainly no worse than unmarried people actually engaging in ordinary casual sex with one another.
Is porn a good thing? No. And I never said it was. What I said, rather, is that assuming it’s not one of the worse and more disgusting or illegal forms of porn, it is a relatively mild form of sexual evil. And for someone who strongly believes that sex before marriage is wrong, despite your opinion on the matter, it’s better to masturbate to porn than it is to have actual sex with another person.
Really, my main objection to your view of porn is that it makes it all a matter of black and white, when the fact of the matter is that porn exists on a spectrum of fairly light gray to very, very black. People who keep themselves in the fairly light gray areas can easily move from that to a healthy sexual relationship without too much damage. Your idea that anyone who consumes porn is going to be terribly damaged by it is simply unrealistic.
Now to continue on Sodom and Gomorrah,
Yes, Jude 7 says that Sodom and her sister cities engaged in sexual immorality and perversion.
However, the wording in 2 Peter 2:6–8 seems to indicate a more general sensuality and depravity of conduct that is not necessarily strictly sexual. It can also involve other types of physical self-indulgence such as gluttony. And the verses speak of a general lawlessness.
Further, these verses in the New Testament must be read in light of what is actually described in Genesis 19. There we find the citizens of Sodom attempting to violate Lot’s angel guests. And once again, in the context of that culture the most shocking thing about this would not have been their intent to have homonexual sex, but rather their aggressive violation of the sacred law of hospitality, and their intent to abuse and humiliate honored guests in their town. This showed their general character as arrogant, wicked people who did not care at all about the wellbeing of others, or adhere to the overall moral code of the cultures of the ancient Middle East.
Further, while Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6–8 give brief, passing descriptions of the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah, you seem to want to ignore the clearest and most detailed description of the sin of Sodom outside of Genesis 19 itself. Here it is once again:
You can’t just ignore the clearest and most detailed defining of the sin of Sodom in the Bible in favor of two more passing and less clear statements about the sin of Sodom later in the Bible in order to support some sex-filled fundamentalist Christian fantasy about the nature of the sin of Sodom.
The Bible itself doesn’t support that fantasy of Sodom and Gomorrah as continual wanton orgies. No such orgies are described in the Bible in relation to Sodom and Gomorrah.
What is described is an incident in which the people of Sodom attempted to gang rape two guests in their town. That is the basis of the statements much later in the New Testament that they were lawless, engaged in depraved conduct, and gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. Building that into some lurid sexual scene of continual orgies is merely an expression of the sexual fantasies of Christian preachers who are themselves obsessed with sex because they’ve suppressed a healthy sexuality in their own lives, and in the lives of their congregations.
Once again, Ezekiel 16:49–50 puts the sin of Sodom into a much more realistic and biblical frame. It wasn’t all about sex. It was about arrogance, gluttony or general self-indulgence (being “overfed”), and being unconcerned about anyone else, which included not helping the poor and needy—as good, moral people have always been required to do. It was about haughtiness. It was about doing “detestable things,” meaning (in the original Hebrew wording here) doing ritually unclean and culturally taboo things that were prohibited for decent, moral people in ancient Middle Eastern culture.
In this most clear and detailed biblical description of the sin of Sodom, there is absolutely no support for those sexual fantasies of fundamentalist Christian preachers about Sodom. The overarching sin of Sodom is not sexual perversion, but arrogance, self-indulgence, and unconcern for the needs of others.
And the actual sexual sin of Sodom described in the Bible (as compared to those sex-filled fantasies) is attempted homosexual gang rape of two visitors in their town. This was primarily an (attempted) act of violence and humiliation against honored guests, and only secondarily a sexual sin. Yes, it was a sexual sin. But it was a sexual sin driven by arrogance, unconcern, haughtiness, and lack of any concern for the wellbeing of other people. That, and not some supposed orgiastic lifestyle, was the sin of Sodom as detailed and described in the Bible itself.
So once again, please purge your mind of the fantasies of Sodom and Gomorrah as continual orgies, as luridly preached and described by sex-obsessed “Christian” preachers. That is a false, unbiblical view of the sin of Sodom.
I have never meant that the least use of masturbation or lusting to porn instantly leads to perversion or hell.
But we should do as it is written in Thessalonians 5:21-22: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good..Abstain from all appearance of evil”
You will not go to hell because you became a bit drunk yesterday, or you could not help swearing, as long as your inner attitude is that you say sincerely to the Lord: ” I am sorry, I know that this is bad, that you do not like it, and I do not want it to be in my life, please help me”. But we cannot say,just because we can not completely live without sinning, that it is ok with just a litte stealing, a little drunkenness, or foul language, a little slandering etc
You write: “3. In the Bible, anyone who sleeps with a woman is required to marry her” We can read about this in Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29. But this is not so much about moral, but more about economical restitution to the girls father.. There is no punishment. The father would get less in brideprice for a girl who was no longer a virgin. The seducer should pay “money according to the dowry of virgins.” But the father could refuse to marry his daughter to this man . I think this is a paralell to Deut.22:28-29.(this is most likely about seduction and not rape)
The hebrew men were allowed to have concubines. They were like ‘girlfriends’ and did not have the legal rights as wifes had. Problably they were easer to get rid of, and perhaps the concubine could leave and go to another man if she wanted.
So if a girl was not a virgin, I do not think a man having sex with her always was obliged to marry her.
In the Song of songs it is clear that the loving couple are not married. They have their meeting out in the garden, the vinyards and so on. That shows that that was something that could happen at that time.
You ask if porn is worse than:
⦁ “Is it worse than rape?” Of course a rape is the worst thing.! But. Many times the women in porn are coerced and threaten to do acts they do not want to do, there are traffickingvictims and such.’ The are often being verbally abused, and violently treated.
⦁ Many of the women in porn have been abused, perhaps as children.They are often not healthy, they are poor. So you may question how ‘willingly’ they do the porn. So there are ingredients in porn of rape and abuse.
⦁ “Is it worse than having sex with someone when they’re too drunk or drugged to give consent?” That is of course abuse.But the women in porn are often using drugs to be able to cope.
⦁ “Is it worse than committing adultery?” Many women feel like their husband is committing a sort of adultery when he is consuming porn. There are many divorces because of this.
⦁ “Is it worse than sleeping around with all different partners?” Mmm..is’nt that what so much porn is about…?
⦁ “Is it worse than shallow, uncommitted sex?” Mm..again, is’nt that what porn much is about..?
“Is it worse than having sex with animals?” Isn’t that quite freqeunt in porn`?
I do not think you alwas should compare different sins with eachother.
Your write: “Your idea that anyone who consumes porn is going to be terribly damaged by it is simply unrealistic.” So.Many people can witness what terrible harm porn done to them, to their husbands and family
. As the bible say: “Abstain from all appearance of evil”.
And even if things you do in your mind,for exampel bad sexual fantasies do not directly hurt another person, you do not act it out-but it can hurt God!
About Sodom and Gomorrah. I do not ignore Ezekiel 16:49–50. This was certainly a part of their sin. But you ignore the the very clear passage in Jude about this. Even if these verses are not so detailed, they are very, very clear. “..giving themselves over to sexual immorality” The special expression here: ‘give themselves over to sexual immorality” indicate a lust that gluts itself, satisfies itself completely. You try to explain away what happend in Sodom, that it was just an occasional thing when the whole town came to rape the angels..Certainly they did violation of the sacred law of hospitality, but to want to gangrape, that shows that they were very sexual decadent people. When you have reach such a degree of evilness then that is something that has developed over a long time. It was not normal, decent people who suddenly got the idea:’ Hey, lets go raping and have groupsex!’
In Ezekiel 16:50 is the word abomination used. The same word is used in Leviticus 18:26 about sexual perversions.
According to Jude, and to some extent 2 Peter,the overearching sin of Sodom is decadent sexuality, but according to Ezekiel there were others sins also. But you do not need to be a ‘sex-possessed’ fundamentalistic preacher to understand that there were orgies going on in Gomorrah and Sodom…” The glimpse we get from what happend when the angels visited to the city and the language of Jude is very clear.
This time I’ll address your further issues about Sodom and Gomorrah first.
In fact, the language in Jude 7 is not all that clear. Scholars debate the precise meanings of the words used. The first one, ἐκπορνεύω (ekporneuō) occurs only once in the Bible, and does not occur in secular literature. It seems to represent a serious form of πορνεύω (porneuō), which is the general word for fornication and prostitution. It does not seem to refer to any specific form of sexual immorality.
The other (two-word) term used, σαρκὸς ἑτέρας (sarkos heteras), literally, “other/different flesh,” is heavily debated as to its meaning. It’s traditionally interpreted as a reference to homosexual sex, but not all scholars agree that that’s what it means.
So Jude 7 is simply not as clear and definitive as you would like it to be. It does refer to very serious sexual immorality, and perhaps to sexual immorality of a homosexual nature, but beyond that it’s a matter of interpretation as to exactly what it means.
But it doesn’t really have to be a matter of interpretation. We can read the story in Genesis 19 and find exactly what it refers to in the actual text of the Bible: the entire adult male population of Sodom desiring to gang rape Lot’s two male guests. This would account for the likely meaning of homosexual sex, and also for the very serious sexual immorality.
However, to jump from that to concluding that the inhabitants of Sodom regularly engaged in various orgies, group sex, and so on is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of ancient society, and to confuse different types of sexual immorality that are, in fact, completely different.
First, gang rape is not group sex. Group sex is a whole bunch of people having consensual sex with one another. Gang rape generally involves one person at a time raping a victim—which is obviously non-consensual.
Second, orgies, like group sex, are generally consensual all around. It is a bunch of people engaging in all sorts of sexual debauchery for their own and mutual sick pleasure. And once again, that is not at all what gang rape is.
In other words, gang rape is an entirely different phenomenon than group sex and orgies. People who engage in group sex or orgies would rarely have any interest in gang rape. People who engage in gang rape would rarely have any interest in group sex or orgies. To jump from one to another is to confuse and confound two very different types of behavior, based on two very different types of mindsets and desires. One involves a debauched form of consensual sex. The other is non-consensual by its very definition.
Rape in general is primarily about dominance and humiliation, and only secondarily about sexual satisfaction. Certainly it is a sexual sin. But its primary nature is that of wanting to wield power over the victim and use and abuse them in the most humiliating way possible, and in the most emotionally and physically painful way possible. Commonly that means sexually humiliating them because people’s sexuality is a core part of their identity.
Our sexual relationships are also the closest and most intimate relationships of love that we humans are able to engage in with one another. So violating that violates the deepest type of love that one human being can feel for another. That is why rape is so traumatizing and devastating for the victim, whether the victim is female or male.
Further, while the rape of the women of conquered societies has, very unfortunately, been prevalent throughout history, in many ancient societies it was also a prevalent practice to rape the (male) soldiers, and sometimes the male civilians also, of the conquered army and people. The purpose of this was not primarily sexual, nor were the victorious soldiers who did this homosexuals. Rather, it was to humiliate the conquered army and population.
And unfortunately, this sort of thing still takes place today, though usually not on such a widespread and systematic scale as it did in some ancient cultures. Today, prison rape is an example of this. The men doing the raping mostly are not homosexuals, nor are their victims. Rather, it is primarily an act of dominating and humiliating the victim, and only secondarily a sexual act. It is an act of establishing the pecking order in prison, and ensuring fear and obedience on the part of the victims toward the perpetrators.
Prison rapists do not think of themselves as homosexuals, nor are they generally homosexuals. Rather, they think of themselves as dominant, macho men who make “girls” out of the men they rape, thus humiliating them. If and when the perpetrators get out of prison, most of them will resume their prior sexual relationships with women.
Without understanding this widespread practice in the ancient world of raping conquered soldiers, despised foreigners, and so on, it is simply not possible to properly read and understand what happened in Sodom.
The men of Sodom were not homosexuals (except perhaps the usual 1.5% to 3.5% of the population that is gay, lesbian, or bisexual). They were heterosexuals. They had wives and children. Two of them were pledged to marry Lot’s daughters. Their desire to rape the angel guests had little to do with sex, and much to do with a desire to violate and humiliate foreigners staying in their town by raping them.
Of course that is a serious sexual sin. But it is a specific type of sexual sin: rape.
There is no biblical warrant whatsoever for translating their desire to rape Lot’s guests over into a generalized practice of engaging in orgies and so on. That idea, once again, is based only the sex-fueled fantasies of conservative Christian theologians and preachers who don’t understand the cultures of the ancient Middle East and also don’t understand the dynamics and psychology of rape. It is a product of pure ignorance together with reading their own sick sexual fantasies into the Bible when such things are nowhere stated in the Bible, clearly or otherwise.
Given all of this, to state that Ezekiel 16:49–50 only refers to “part of their sin” and that Jude 7 and the even less specific 2 Peter 2:6–8 establish that the primary sin of Sodom was general sexual immorality is to ignore, misunderstand, and misinterpret the entire range of Bible passages that deal with Sodom and Gomorrah, especially including the story itself as narrated in Genesis 19.
You can’t just pick and choose which passages you like, and sideline the rest.
Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6–8 make passing references to Sodom’s sin, in words whose meaning is generalized and is debated, but does seem to have to do with sexual sin, and also a general “sensuality” in the sense of pursuing sensory pleasures, whether sexual or non-sexual—in other words, physical self-indulgence.
Ezekiel 16:49–50 is much more specific, providing a description of the evil character of the people of Sodom as arrogant, self-indulgent, haughty, and unconcerned for the poor, as well as committing תּוֹעֵבָה (tow`ebah) “detestable things,” “abominable things.” As I’ve already said, this word means primarily things that are ritually unclean and culturally taboo. It does not refer only to sexual sin. It can refer to many prohibited practices such as:
It also varied according to the culture. For Egyptians, it was tow`ebah to:
In short, this word does not particularly refer to sexual sin. It refers to anything that a culture considers seriously taboo and prohibited. And it was different for different cultures.
Hebrew culture prohibited all male-with-male sex. It was considered tow`ebah. See Leviticus 18:22; 20:13. This was likely because it was seen as a social humiliation for one man to penetrate another.
Throughout the ancient world, sex was seen as a dominant person of higher status penetrating a submissive person of lower status. This applied to all sexual relations, both heterosexual and homosexual.
Whether we moderns like it or not, women were universally seen as being of lower status than men. A man having sex with a woman was seen as “natural” sexual intercourse because in their eyes it involved a higher status person penetrating a lower status person.
In many of the cultures surrounding the ancient Israelites, a man having sex with a lower status man was also seen as “natural” sexual intercourse. The gender of the person who was penetrated was not an issue. Rather, the social status of the person being penetrated was the key factor. A man could penetrate a woman, a male slave, a conquered enemy solder, a man who belonged to a foreign culture that was considered inferior to one’s own, and so on. In every case, the man doing the penetrating was seen as dominant, virile, and manly, whereas the one being penetrated was seen as socially inferior and of lower status, if not outright despised.
However, in ancient Hebrew society (including the Hebrew/Christian society of the New Testament), all men were considered equal to one another legally and in the eyes of God. It was tow`ebah, or culturally taboo, for one man to penetrate another because this was seen as one man reducing another man to the lower social status of a woman, and thus humiliating him. And in fact, there are no stories in the Bible of Hebrew men penetrating or raping other men.
This cultural prohibition of male-with-male sex applied to the rape of men in war and rape of foreign guests just as much as it applied to Hebrew men having sex with one another. Therefore aside from the violation of the code of hospitality, the ancient Israelites also would have seen men raping men, whoever they were, as tow`ebah: “detestable,” or the breaking of a serious cultural taboo.
All of this is why Ezekiel could ascribe the sins of arrogance, self-indulgence, haughtiness, and lack of concern for the poor and needy to Sodom based on the story of their actions narrated in Genesis 19. In the context of that ancient culture, desiring to rape honored male guests in one’s town was an obvious sign of all of these sins.
What the men of Sodom desired to do to Lot’s angel visitors was not a sign of general sexual immorality, of homosexuality, or anything like that. It was, as Ezekiel says, a sign of arrogance, self-indulgence, lack of concern for others, including the poor and needy (in this case, foreign visitors requiring lodging and sustenance for the night), and the flagrant violation of cultural taboos.
I’m sorry, but whoever you’re getting your information from about Sodom, they have, unfortunately, read the Bible through the lenses their own preconceived notions and fantasies about the supposed orgiastic nature of Sodom instead of studying the text of the Bible itself, learning what the original words mean, understanding the cultures of the Bible, and drawing their conclusions based on what the Bible actually says, and what it means in its own cultural context.
The sin of Sodom was not primarily a sexual one. It was primarily one of arrogance, self-indulgence, and flagrant lack of concern for the wellbeing of others, to the point of desiring to sexually violate and humiliate visitors in their midst.
That is what the Bible itself says.
Once again, I urge you to purge you mind of the erroneous teachings you have been fed about Sodom’s sin being primarily sexual. That is simply false, for all of the reasons explained above.
About porn, once again, I never said it was good. Throughout the entire article I say that it is evil, and tinged with evil. And once again, I point out that some forms of porn are very evil, while others are relatively mild.
Certainly the porn industry has its seedy side of abuse, coercion, exploitation, drugs, and so on—which I also mention in the article. However, there are also unions and organizations of porn and sex workers that advocate for the rights of porn models, prostitutes, and so on. And there are adult women and men who make a decision to make their living in that industry. You and I may not like it, but the fact of the matter is that even if there is an exploitative segment of the porn industry, there is also a segment of it that consists of adults who have made their own decisions about what they want to do with their lives and how they want to make their money.
In other words, the porn industry has a whole spectrum from relatively mild and consensual (but still tinged with evil) to evil, coercive, illegal, abusive, and highly destructive of the lives of those engaged in it.
And when it comes to the “products” (the photos and videos), there is also a huge range all the way from relatively innocent nudes that could pass as classical art if they weren’t actual photographs to seamy, sordid, and utterly gross depictions of things that no human being should ever be involved in.
In other words, once again, we can’t just tar all pornography with the same brush.
Nor can we tar all users of pornography with the same brush.
All of the discussion I’ve had with you so far has been about unmarried people who don’t have access to healthy sex within a loving, mutual, committed, and monogamous relationship.
Of course, if a person is married and has a willing sexual partner and instead turns to porn and masturbation to satisfy sexual desires, that is wrong, selfish, and destructive. I don’t cover that very much in the article because it should be obvious, but I do say toward the end of the article that using porn should only be used to tide oneself over until one can be in a healthy, loving marriage relationship. I presumed that readers would figure out that this means stopping the porn use at that point.
Having said that, some men (and women) find themselves in the position of being married to someone who refuses to have sex with them, and rejects them as a partner in bed. What is such a person to do? Committing adultery is prohibited—and that means all forms of actual interpersonal sexual intimacy are forbidden to that person. Of course he or she should do whatever is possible to resolve the issues in the marriage that are standing in the way of a sexual relationship within the marriage. But the reality is that some people find themselves married to someone who persistently refuses and rejects any intimate relationship with them at all, no matter what they do to try to fix the marriage. The legitimate (non-adulterous) options then are:
In that case, a man (on woman) may opt to masturbate to porn, not because he or she doesn’t honor the marriage and desire a real marriage and sexual intimacy within the marriage, but because his or her partner is persistently refusing to engage in sexual intimacy.
Unfortunately, even for people who are married, sometimes sexual intimacy isn’t available in the marriage, through no fault of their own.
However, for those who are married to someone who wants a sexual relationship with them, no, they should not be using pornography, and yes, doing so can cause serious damage to the marriage. I agree with you that consuming pornography in that instance is itself a form of adultery.
About the rest, while I don’t entirely agree with your reading of the Bible, I don’t think the difference or the relevance is great enough to go point-by-point on the other issues you bring up. But if there’s something specific you feel requires a response from me, please let me know.
I answer you here about the interpretation av the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
First, when I wrote gangrape and groupsex, I did not mean that those to normally belong together. But when all the males of the whole town came to engage in the rape, it must be seen as group sex also in this case.
You try to explain awat what is clearly written i Jude, about’ giving themselves up to sexual immorality’.. This word ‘porneia’ could cover a vide range of things; different kinds of perversions, incest, prostitution etc. In for example Leviticus 18;24-29 we can read that how severely God treated the nations that in indulged in these sexual sins . The Lord warns that if Israel would defile the land with these kind of sins, the land would vomit them out ,as it vomited out the nations that was there before them. (now God does not only punish people for sexual sins, there were others also, like idolatry)
But from what we can understand here God sees very,very seriously upon gross sexual sin. The nations surrounding Israel also often had cultic prostitution and such. Therefore it is logical to interpret the text in Jude about’ giving up themselves to sexual immorality’, as that Sodom and Gomorrah were indulging in the kind of sins mentioned above.
You canot ignore that the text in Jude is crystalclear that it was foremost about sex. Not just an occasional rape to humiliate the visitors, but something more on-going, habitual deviant and very decadent sexual behaviour .
If you read the Wikipedia article on group sex, you will see that it is a consensual activity. There is not one word on the entire page about rape, nonconsensual sex, forced sex, and so on. Group sex refers to more than two people willingly having sex with one another. To refer to gang rape as “group sex” is a gross mischaracterization, and a terrible insult to its victims. It implies that they willingly participated in their own victimization. No decent, respectful person would refer to gang rape as “group sex.” Nor would any decent, respectful person refer to gang rape as an “orgy,” for the very same reason.
And it’s not a matter of “explaining away” what is written in Jude 7. It’s a matter of understanding what it is referring to.
According to traditional Bible chronology, Jude lived 2,000 years after the events of Genesis 19 took place. He was not an eyewitness. He could not describe based on first-hand experience what things were like in Sodom. But he was a Jew by birth, and thus steeped in the Hebrew Bible. That is what he is drawing on and referring to in Jude 7.
In other words, if you want to know what type of “sexual immorality and perversion” Jude was referring to in relation to Sodom, read Genesis 19. That’s what Jude did. That’s what his words are based on. And what’s described in Genesis 19 is not orgies or group sex or temple prostitution or any of the other things you have mentioned. It is attempted homosexual gang rape. Ascribing anything else to Sodom is going beyond what the Bible says, and reading one’s own ideas and fantasies into the Bible story.
Did the people of Sodom do other prohibited things? Probably. If they were willing to rape Lot’s male guests, they were very wicked and immoral people. But based on the Bible itself, we have no more warrant to say that they engaged in orgies or group sex or cultic plostitution than we do to say that they engaged in rampant lying and stealing. That’s simply not what the Bible describes them doing.
What we do know, based also on what is described in Genesis 19, is that they were so arrogant, self-indulgent, and unconcerned about the wellbeing of others that they were willing to attack and rape two foreigners (the angels) visiting their town. And we can presume that if they were willing to do that to Lot’s guests, they were willing to attack and rape other visiting foreigners as well, and probably had done so in the past.
As for the rest of the evil things they may have done, it is all speculation. It goes well beyond what the Bible tells us. And we are specifically warned not to add to the words of the Bible.
Once again, Jude, and also Peter, both born and raised Jewish, are referring to what they, like we, had read in the Hebrew Bible—their Scriptures. Reading into their words all sorts of other things that are not described in those Scriptures is, once again, imposing our own fantasies on the Bible story, rather than reading what the Bible itself actually says.
Meanwhile, once again, though Jude refers to the serious sexual sin (attempted gang rape) that the men of Sodom intended to do, Ezekiel gives a much fuller description of the wicked character of its people, also based on the story itself. Further, as I’ve already covered, Peter’s words about Sodom and Gomorrah probably don’t refer only to sexual sin, but more likely refer to their generally depraved character and actions.
It’s not that I’m attempting to “explain away” what is said in Jude and 2 Peter. It’s that you’re attempting to base your entire view of Sodom on a common misreading and misunderstanding of a few verses in Jude and 2 Peter, together with errant speculation that goes far beyond what those verses actually say, while ignoring and misrepresenting everything else that the Bible says about Sodom and Gomorrah, including the story itself in Genesis 19—which is what Jude and Peter themselves were referring to.
I wonder if you deliberately misunderstand me about this with group sex and rape. To me, normal sex is being done behind close doors between two people. At a gang rape the poor victim who is absolutely unwilling to the act is certainly not a part of the ‘orgy’ the perpetrators perform! That’s just the perpetrators doing the ‘orgy’
.The bible is often obscure and do not tell us every detail, and we have to make deductions ourselves. You do so yourself here!. I do not have a misreading and misunderstanding of the verses in Jude. To ‘give oneself over to sexual immorality’ is saying that it is about sexual sin that, exactly that. The expression ‘give one self over’ indicates that the behaviour is on-going, continuosly, habitual and so on. Not just something occasional. Jude does not give any details though, exactly what is was all about.But there is absolutely nothing wrong in assuming that that the sins were much the sins the bible tells us provoked Gods anger especially.(se for example Leviticus 18:24-29). (temple/common prostitution Hosea 4:10-19)That is very likely and logical.
You say that i ancielnt middle-east men could rape other men, conquered population, soldiers or civilians during war. That was a way to just humiliate them. But- there was no war in Sodom and Gomorrah..
Perhaps we should see the pieces of information given by Ezekiel and Juda as completing each other?
That is simply a misuse of the word “orgy.” No part of a rape is an “orgy.” I am urging you, specifically, to stop using words such as “orgy” and “group sex” to refer to rape in any way, shape, or form. It is highly disrespectful to the victims. Plus, it is just plain incorrect and wrong. The correct word to use is “rape.” Rape is a terrible crime, with victims. Using words such as “orgy” or “group sex” to refer to it is minimizing the crime and disrespecting the victims. It should be identified and referred to as the crime that it is.
Confusing Jude’s and Peter’s meaning and expanding it to all sorts of actions that the Bible doesn’t attribute to Sodom is also simply a misreading of Jude, Peter, Ezekiel, Genesis, and every other mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible.
Yes, the Bible has passages condemning other sexual sins, such as temple prostitution and common prostitution. But the Bible does not describe common or temple prostitution occurring in Sodom. It describes attempted homosexual gang rape occurring in Sodom.
You can do all of the assuming you want. Just understand that you are going far beyond what the Bible actually says, and attributing all sorts of things to Sodom that the Bible itself does not.
The Bible says what it says for a reason. It describes Sodom the way it does for a reason. It’s not just an arbitrary thing where we can add whatever other stuff we want to it and think we’re “reading” the Bible. No. That’s reading things into the Bible, and preferring our own human additions to what the Bible itself actually says—and to what God is saying to us in the Bible.
That is one of my major complaints about Protestant (and Catholic) “readings” of the Bible in general. They regularly add all sorts of things to the Bible that aren’t actually there, while ignoring what actually is there.
In no case is this more flagrant than in their misreading and twisting of the story of Sodom. Many Protestants and other traditional Christians have taken a story of attempted homosexual gang rape, minimized the rape or ignored it altogether, and created instead all sorts of fantasy scenarios about the inhabitants of Sodom engaging in wild orgies and group sex.
All of this is pure fantasy on the part of those “Christian” preachers. It is not reading the Bible. It is reading their own sexual fantasies into the Bible. It is corrupting and perverting what God is saying to us in the Bible.
And it’s wrong.
Jude and Peter were reading what the (Hebrew) Bible said, and commenting on it. These modern “Christians” are disrespecting Jude, Peter, Ezekiel, Moses (the traditional author of Genesis), and God himself by substituting their own sick fantasies for what all of these inspired human beings—and God, the divine author of the Bible—have written for us in the Bible.
These so-called “Christian” preachers will have to answer for their twisting and perversion of the Word of God when it comes their time to stand before God’s heavenly throne.
You misunderstand me completely about rape and orgy. I always calls a rape a rape! Then you may add things. But it is still a crime.
You do not have to ‘read in your own fantasies in the bible’ go get the interpretation I and many others have. You just have to do deduktions by reading what the bible tells us.
You write: “These so-called “Christian” preachers will have to answer for their twisting and perversion of the Word of God when it comes their time to stand before God’s heavenly throne” Yes, and that goes for you too!!”
Then you should call what the Bible describes happening in Sodom “rape,” not “orgies” or “group sex.”
Why do you keep wanting to attribute all sorts of things to Sodom that the Bible does not? Why don’t you stick with what the Bible itself says? Why do you feel the need to add all sorts of things to the Bible? Don’t you think the Bible—and God, its divine author—is capable of saying to us exactly what God wants to say?
Why do you think Genesis 19 was written the way it was? Why doesn’t it say that the people of Sodom engaged in group sex, or orgies, or temple prostitution, or common prostitution? Why, for that matter, doesn’t it say they engaged in lying and stealing and killing and making idols and taking the name of the Lord in vain?
The Bible could have described Sodom in any of these ways.
But it doesn’t.
It tells a very specific story about the men of the city surrounding Lot’s house and demanding that he bring his two visitors out so that they may “know” them—a Hebrew euphemism for having sex with them.
Why did the Bible describe that particular sin, and not any of the other dozens or hundreds or thousands of other sins that it could have described the inhabitants of Sodom engaging in?
Did God just forget to mention all those other sins?
Or did God have a specific reason for having that particular sin described as the sin of Sodom?
Do you believe that we, who are mere human beings, can just add whatever else we want to God’s words in the Bible, and think that we’re reading what God says to us in God’s Word?
We must pay attention to what the Bible actually says, not make all sorts of human additions to the Bible, such as orgies and group sex and temple prostitution and on and on and on.
God had a very specific reason to have that particular story told about Sodom. It was meant to show its inhabitants’ arrogant, haughty, self-indulgent, unconcerned attitude, and their desire to dominate, victimize, and humiliate people who were not “their own type”—i.e., foreigners and people of other nations and races. Their words to Lot when he attempts to stand in their way show that they had just as much contempt for Lot as for the angels because they saw him as a worthless foreigner who had no standing.
Orgies and group sex are evil. But people who engage in them are not necessarily domineering and desirous of attacking, victimizing, and humiliating innocent people.
Temple prostitution and common prostitution are also evil. But people who engage in them are also not necessarily arrogant, domineering, and desirous of attacking, victimizing, and humiliating other people.
All of these other sexual sins that traditional Christians commonly attribute to Sodom completely miss the point of what God is communicating to us about the especially wicked character of the people of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which led to God’s destruction of those cities. Thinking of the sin of Sodom as generalized “sexual sin” completely misses the point of what God is communicating to us in the story of Sodom.
Making up all sorts of other sins that the inhabitants of Sodom and its sister cities supposedly engaged in is missing the point about the character of those people, and missing the message that God is delivering in Genesis 19, and in all of the later mentions of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible.
It’s not just a harmless, “Oh, if we recognize there was rape, we can assume all sorts of other sins were happening there as well.”
It’s a case of not understanding that the Bible has a very specific reason for describing the inhabitants of Sodom and their actions in the specific way it does.
Sodom, as Ezekiel says, was a representative of what happens when people become supremely arrogant, self-indulgent, haughty, and unconcerned for the wellbeing of others. It is a picture of extreme arrogance and self-love, and vaunting ourselves above others to the point where we think we can attack, violate, and victimize others with abandon.
The story of Sodom is specifically not about consensual forms of sexual evil such as orgies, group sex, prostitution, and temple prostitution. Those things are evil, yes. But they are nowhere near as evil as forcible, non-consensual sex, commonly known as rape.
Those other crimes are victimless crimes. Everyone involved is engaging in it consensually, even if what they are doing is wrong and sinful. Their evil and sin is on their own heads, and their punishment for it will be on their own heads.
Rape is on a whole deeper and more destructive level of evil. It involves attacking, victimizing, and destroying the lives of good, innocent people who do not consent in any way, shape, or form to what is going on.
Attributing all of those other sexual sins to Sodom is missing and minimizing the point that God is making about the terribly evil character of the inhabitants of Sodom. These are not just people who enjoy engaging in kinky, perverted sex. These are people who enjoy engaging in sexual assault.
And sexual assault always involves a desire to dominate and humiliate innocent people. It is far more wicked and destructive than any consensual sexual activity, no matter how debauched, because it targets innocent victims, and destroys their lives.
Jude does not just use the ordinary Greek word πορνεύω (porneuō) to describe what happened in Sodom. Apparently that word simply wasn’t strong enough, so it seems that he may have coined a whole new word, ἐκπορνεύω (ekporneuō) to convey just how terribly wicked the sexual sin of Sodom was.
If he had wanted to refer to orgies, group sex, prostitution, temple prostitution, homosexuality, and so on, he would have used the ordinary word for sexual sin, πορνεύω.
But he didn’t.
And that tells us that he was referring to something far worse than ordinary sexual sin.
And the fact is, we know what he was referring to. We can read about it in the same place he did: Genesis 19.
He wasn’t talking about ordinary sexual sin among consenting adults, no matter how depraved. He was talking about sexual assault, and the victimization of innocent people. That, in modern terms, is what’s described in Genesis 19.
So yes, it’s wrong to read Jude as referring to all of those other sexual sins. That’s simply not what he was referring to. He was referring to the specific sexual sin—that of sexual assault—that is described in Genesis 19.
I am asking you to pay attention to what the Bible itself says, and not add extra things to it.
I am asking you to pay attention to the exact wording Jude uses, and not minimize or downplay it.
I am asking you to pay attention to what Jude was referring to, which is the attempted homosexual gang rape described in Genesis 19.
I am asking you not water down or confuse the severity of the sin of Sodom by adding all sorts of other lesser sexual sins to the list, thus distracting from the reason God destroyed Sodom and its sister cities.
There were many cities in the ancient world that practiced all sorts of sexual sins. They are described in the Bible as engaging in temple prostitution and other forbidden sexual practices. Yet God did not rain fire and brimstone down upon all of those cities.
God rained fire and brimstone down only upon Sodom and Gomorrah. And God did that, not because they may have committed those other lesser sexual sins, or any other sins of gluttony, self-indulgence, lying, stealing, cheating, killing, and so on, but because they were so supremely arrogant and evil that they would engage in sexual assault against innocent men who were honored guests in their town.
So assume and attribute all these other lesser sexual sins that you want.
You are only distracting yourself from what the Word of God describes as the sin of Sodom.
You are only causing yourself to water down miss the message that God is delivering to us in the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
You are only missing the message of Ezekiel, Peter, Jude, and even Jesus himself about the especially terrible wickedness of Sodom.
We don’t know, nor does it matter, whether Sodom engaged in other, lesser sexual sins. If it were important for us to know these things, the Bible would have said that Sodom did these things also. But it doesn’t.
What we do know, because it is described right there in the Bible, is that Sodom, in its arrogance and utter lack of concern for the wellbeing of anyone but itself and its own people, engaged in a terribly wicked victimization of innocent people, seeking to attack, abuse, humiliate, and destroy them.
And that is something for which God reserves especially severe punishment, as shown by his raining fire and brimstone down upon Sodom and its sister cities—something God did not do to any of the other ancient pagan cities that practiced all of those other, lesser sexual sins.
All of this is why it is so important to pay attention to exactly what the Bible itself says, and not add to it all sorts of other things that it simply doesn’t say. That is why, at the end of the book of Revelation, John said:
When the angels come to Sodom, the people there planned to rape them, How many? 20, 50, perhaps 100? Even more? The whole town? I would call that an orgy of rape.
I do not confuse the severity of the sin of Sodom by adding other sorts of lesser sins to the list. Problably it was so that the lesser sins mounted up to the worst; rape.
The sins listed in Ezekiel 16:49 were sins at the root of the depravity described in Genesis 19 and in addition to that depravity.
Neither Ezekiel nor Jude were eyewitnesses to what happened in Sodom. We are supposed to believe that they were inspired and guided by the Holy Spririt in their writings. So perhaps they got at least some supernatural knowledge about it..
You say I should not ‘add’ so much to what the bible say. But you yourself do that! You have a quite detailed explanation to why the people of Sodom behaved as they did., a bit more than what the text in the bible say.
God let it rain brimstone and fire over the cities.Surely there were other places that perhaps was nearly as sinful as Sodom and Gomorrah, but God chose them to set an example.
The bible is very, very obscure many times and do not give us as much informations and explanations as one would think and wished that it would. So we often have to ask the Holy Gost to give us some guidance – and use common sense.
That’s why there are so much different interpreations of the bible. Different people will come to different conclusions. But there is I believe, one truth.
Perhaps the explanation to why we do not get so much information as we would wish about this with Sodom and Gomorrah is because God think we actually can draw our own conclusions based on what the bible tells us.
It was the entire adult male population of Sodom:
However, we don’t know what the population of Sodom was, so we don’t actually know how many men that was. Just that it was every single man who lived in the city (aside from Lot, of course).
I think the Bible is much clearer than you give it credit for. We just have to read it carefully and exactly, without all sorts of preconceived notions about what it’s supposed to say to support some church doctrine. If you put together all of the passages about Sodom and Gomorrah, it paints a very clear picture of the nature of the wickedness of the people of those cities. There is no need to add to it or subtract from it.
Sure, we can draw our own conclusions. But the Bible doesn’t mean whatever we want it to mean. It says definite things. And before we start applying it to our lives—yes, each in our own individual way, according to our own spiritual character and journey—it is best to get a clear and accurate understanding of what it says.
I find your desire to add all sorts of other sins to the sin of Sodom than the ones that are actually described in the Bible to be contrary to the principle that we should first let the Bible speak for itself, and listen to it without trying to make it say what we want it to say.
However, I’m sure you’re a good person, and take some message to heart from the story of Sodom that moves you forward on your path of spiritual rebirth. And that, in the end, is the most important thing.
And once again, using such words as “orgy,” which refer to consensual, if depraved, sex to describe gang rape, which is definitely not consensual on the part of its victims, is insulting and demeaning to the victims of that crime. Out of decency and respect for the victims of all rapes, please stop using such words to describe what the men of Sodom tried to do to the angels.
I’ll give you an example how the word ‘orgy’ can be used:
Do you really think that the author of the article is insulting to the victim of this crime described in the article, by using the word ‘orgy’ (in violence)?!
The word ‘orgy’ can be used not only about sexual thing, but also about both quite innocent things and very evil non-sexual things of differerent kind.
In crimes it only describes the perpetrators exceedingly evilness !! The victim are completely innocent. The word only describes in a way the scale of the evilness.
And stop insulting me by insinuating that I do not have enough compassion with victims of rape and abuse, that I am demeaning etc!! Nothing can be further from the truth.
I find no reason to go on and on about this, it is a waste of time.
I don’t think you are being intentionally demeaning. But sometimes the words we use are hurtful to people even if that wasn’t our intention.
I’m aware of that meaning of the word “orgy.” But I think it is very unfortunate, and not very respectful of the victims, to use it to refer in any way to a sexual assault. It inevitably carries the implication that this was all a lot of kinky fun.
Further I would not look to a British tabloid for respectful commentary on the news of the day. Their headlines intentionally push the envelope, and regularly use loaded, salacious words in order to grab potential readers’ eyes.
Further, you had previously been arguing that the people of Sodom engaged in orgies, something for which there is no biblical evidence at all. Now you seem to be trying to hold onto and justify your use of that word by applying it to the attempted gang rape that actually is described in relation to Sodom.
Once again, it would be much better just to drop the word “orgy” altogether, along with other non-biblical ideas such as that the inhabitants of Sodom engaged in group sex, and focus on what the Bible actually does describe the men of Sodom doing.
Once again, God has very specific reasons for everything that is, and isn’t, in the Bible.
Lee, you are very articulate with your views. And you make many good points. However, in responding to objections, you sound like the proverbial “broken record”. You come across, generally as what might be termed a “liberal” Christian. Yet you are so very “legalistic” in your biblical interpretation so as to defy logic. Like saying pornography is nowhere mentioned or prohibited in the Bible. Duh! When commenters point out that a clear inference may be made to relate what pornography really is to what is indeed prohibited, you fall back on your legalistic reading of scripture. It come across as “don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up”.
You also stick to your position that such and such is not in the Bible, even when it is pointed out you are wrong. in particular, I would mention the following statement you made:
•The Bible doesn’t actually say there is a Trinity of Persons in God.
•The Bible doesn’t actually say that Jesus made satisfaction for our sins.
•The Bible doesn’t actually say that we are justified or saved by faith alone.
•The Bible doesn’t actually say that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.
•The Bible doesn’t actually say that non-adulterous extramarital sex is prohibited.
One wonders if you consider Paul’s letters to be part of the Bible.
Of these statements, the first is true per se (Trinity not mentioned), but of course Paul did give this benediction: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. Maybe we can infer something from this? Plus Jesus’ own statements about “I and the father are one” and “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name”… The doctrine of the Trinity came from these and other biblical passages.
The next three of the above statements are definitively included in Paul’s letters. How could you miss them?
The last statement is true per se, just as the first was. But as others have (attempted) to point out to you, just because there is not specific prohibition in plan language does not mean it cannot be inferred that the behavior is sin.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
However, it is not “legalism” to pay attention to what the Bible does and doesn’t say, and to distinguish that from human interpretations of what the Bible says.
I understand that you may believe that various passages in the Bible mean those things by interpretation. But I stand by my statements that none of those things are ever actually said in the Bible. If you can show me a passage where the Bible does say any of these things, I would be very interested to see it.
I also understand that we humans will and must engage in interpretation of the Bible. However, the basis of any good interpretation is paying attention to exactly what the Bible itself says, and not adding or subtracting from it. If we are unwilling to pay attention to the Bible’s own words, then our interpretations will be fallacious and false, drawing more on human ideas and traditions than on the Word of God. And I do believe that Catholic and Protestant doctrine draw more on human ideas and traditions than on the Word of God.
Hi Lee, ive been reading many of your articles recently to help me in my daily life, and while reading this article and the comments, there seems to be a topic no one has brought up: what about animated/drawn pornography?
Ive seen your views on video games and i definitely agree with your viewpoints on the subject, but can the same logic be put in this context/situation?
Is it ok to engage in viewing animated pornography (often called hentai) because it; like video games; consists of only lines and colors and no real people?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. I’m glad the articles here are helpful to you.
About animated pornography, except that, as you say, no real people are pictured, the same principles apply as outlined in the above article. Even if it’s drawing and animation, it is in the mind of the viewer that the “action” takes place. Drawings and animation that depict very negative and exploitative sexual scenes have similar effects on the human mind and spirit as live pictures and videos of similar scenes involving porn actors and actresses. Relatively mild or positive scenes also have similar effects on that end of the spectrum.
So with drawings and animations, you’ll have to make your own choices, just as with “live” pornography. And none of it is a good substitute for an actual relationship with a real human being, if that is possible and available.
Hi lee, sorry for using the wrong comment section, tried deleting the comment to post it here, but it doesn’t seem to have the option…
The question still goes:
In short: is it or is it not ok to watch pornography now that i know its at least a little sinful? Because its been 2 weeks and (without a girl) unless i have some sort of visual its seemingly impossible to “relieve myself”, especially with all of these religious changes im going through
To add on to my confusion, you said all 4 of these statements
“If we recognize that something is a sin, that is a commandment from God to stop doing it now, and eventually to stop even wanting to do it.”
“When we come to see that something we are doing, or are tempted to do, is wrong and sinful, that is a message from God that it is time to stop doing that thing”
” because Christ has overcome sin, we are able to stop sinning through the power of Christ working in us.”
“It is hubris to think that we will be able to live perfectly, and be perfect.”
The 1st three statements seem to disagree with the last…
Also, how is “overcoming sin within ourselves and in our life” a “lifelong task” If when ” we recognize that something is a sin, that is a commandment from God to stop doing it now”
“there is never a time when it is okay to say, ‘Well, I’ll sin this time, and repent from it later.'”
To me, these statements are contradictory…out of all the articles of yours ive read, this subject is the only one i cant seem to understand and get mixed messages from
Can you please clearify along with the previous question?
Re-read some the article related to my situation
And i have one more question, in the article you say
“if pornography is used in moderation as a visual aid to masturbation and sexual release, then it can actually help people to avoid greater sexual evils.”
But since my stop on masturbation and pornography, i still dont have, nor do i believe I’ll EVER start heading towards more sexual evils such as rape or getting a prostitute…due to the fact that im already beating myself up over simply viewing porn.
So if im not risking myself to do worse sexual sins by stopping, and the only problem im having with stopping is the fact that i now have NO sexual release options which has been torture in my head seeing as im not the best with the ladies (kissless)
I feel as if i have no option, i know you say its the least bad of the bunch, but that doesn’t shake the fact that when i even open up my browser when really tempted, my own brain turns itself off in frustration due to me not being able to just do it knowing its wrong…the last 2 weeks are like a cicle!
•i get home from a stressful day
•i get the idea that since its night and i haven’t done so in a while, it should be fine
•i open up my browser
• see that ALL my previous sites have been leewoof articles and bible verses
•i INSTANTLY feel huge guilt (to the point of tears yesterday) and force myself to hold off yet another day
How do i break this cicle? should i even break it?
Is it necessary in order to rid my head of the urge, or is it just making the urge worse??? I legitimately can not tell anymore…
So . . . you’ve held off for two weeks . . . how’s that working for you?
Clearly your efforts to go cold turkey on all sexual expression are only subjecting you to ongoing torture. If there were some end in sight, that might be one thing. But is this really something you want to live through for months, and very likely for years? How much of this can you take? How realistic is it to think you’re not going to have any sexual expression at all, indefinitely?
It’s not realistic, and it’s not good or healthy to flatly deny normal bodily drives in that fashion. If you stop eating food, sooner or later you’ll get so hungry that shoe leather starts looking mighty tasty. If you stop drinking water or any other liquids, sooner or later your lips will get so parched that you’ll greedily drink out of the next mud puddle. Our sex drives may go on a somewhat longer cycle than our need for things like food, water, and air, but our need for sexual release is just as real.
And it’s not evil, any more than eating, drinking, and breathing are evil.
What’s torturing you is the belief that any sexual expression at all besides sexual intercourse within marriage is evil and sinful. As long as you hold to that belief, you will be boxed into an intolerable situation. That’s why preachers who lay this heavy, unbiblical burden on their followers are doing great damage, and working against the Lord instead of for the Lord.
The way to break the cycle is to adopt a healthier and more realistic view of human sexuality in general, and of your sexual drives and desires in particular.
Sex is not evil. Sexual drives and desires are not evil. God gave them to us. Praying to God to take them away is like praying to God to take away our head or our feet.
The reason I wrote these articles about what the Bible says on hot topics such as masturbation, pornography, and sex before marriage is that traditional Christians—especially those on the conservative end of the Christian spectrum—are pushing a hard, unrealistic, and unbiblical line about human sexuality. That needs to be corrected.
You can start by not listening to them, and rejecting their unrealistic and unbiblical anti-sex views.
And yes, I do mean anti-sex. They’ll talk about the beauty of sex within marriage. But even there, they actually believe that it’s just a physical, earthly thing. They reject eternal marriage because they have a physical-minded view of sex, marriage, and the Bible. They think that sex is unworthy of heaven, and that God gave it to us only temporarily, and only for the purpose of reproduction here on earth. No matter what words they may mouth about sex being good within marriage, they have a purely physical-minded and earthly view of it.
To get your mind at least temporarily away from the negative side of sex, and get yourself thinking more positively about it, please read the article, “How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?” Then, for a more in-depth view, read the three-part series of articles starting with this one: “Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?” And if you finish those, here are two more for you:
The best antidote to bad information is good information. The best antidote to falsity is truth. As you flush out of your mind the unbiblical, physical-minded, and negative views of sexuality that you’ve been exposed to so far as “Christian teachings,” and replace them with a healthier, more realistic, and more spiritual understanding of sex, love, and marriage, the terrible guilt you now feel at the thought of satisfying your normal, God-given sex drives will gradually subside.
And wow, opening up your browser and seeing all those leewoof articles in your history . . . what a nightmare! 😛
It’s a good question. The basic answer is that we do not have perfect self-knowledge. Nowhere near it.
There are many parts and aspects of our character and personality that we’re completely unaware of. Have you ever had the experience of having someone say to you, “You always do that!” and suddenly realizing that you have a habit that everyone else but you knows about?
Many people aren’t self-reflective at all. They just go about their lives, do what they are going to do in any particular situation, and don’t think about it. But when we start out on a spiritual path, we have to start paying attention first to our behavior, then to the thinking behind our behavior, and then to the loves, drives, and desires behind both our thinking and our behavior.
It is a gradual process of getting to know who we actually are as a person. We start from the outside, looking at how we behave in different situations, and doing the work of changing that behavior when it is clearly contrary to God’s spiritual and moral law.
Another way of looking at it is that God doesn’t show us all of our evils all at once, because if God did this, we would be completely overwhelmed, and would immediately give up in defeat and despair. So God shows us our faults and our evils one by one, and little by little, at a rate at which we can face and deal with them—with God’s help, of course.
This is the spiritual symbolism of this point in God’s instructions to the Israelites when he is sending them to conquer the Holy Land:
And in Deuteronomy:
Spiritually, the Israelites’ conquest of the Holy Land, and defeating the enemies in the land little by little, represents our ongoing battle against our own evil and sinful desires, thoughts, and actions. We can’t do it all at once, or the “wild animals” of our uncontrolled desires would overwhelm us. But we can do it little by little, one evil and one bad habit at a time.
Thanks for re-posting your questions here. WordPress doesn’t allow users to edit or delete comments once made. I could delete the other one if you want me to, but it’s not necessary to do so. I just didn’t want to keep going on this topic there.
First, as I say in the article, the Bible doesn’t actually prohibit pornography. The whole issue of the Bible and sexuality is far more nuanced than traditional and fundamentalist Christians usually make it. Their effort seems to be to shut down all sexual feelings and expressions outside of marriage. That simply isn’t realistic. In fact, statistics show that the Bible Belt is a major consumer of pornography. And fundamentalist pastors regularly get caught with their pants down. These churches and pastors lay heavy burdens, hard to be borne, on their people—burdens which they can’t even carry themselves.
Certainly pornography is not the ideal. Perhaps if we grew up in a perfect world in which society is not sexualized, teens hang around in groups and don’t feel they have to pair off, and people get married as soon as they hit adulthood, there would be no need to resort to pornography, masturbation, and so on. But that’s just not how life is. And it probably never will be here on earth.
The practical reality is that we start having sexual drives and feelings years before we can get married. Those sexual drives and feelings need some outlet. What the Bible prohibits is adultery. And the Bible generally discourages sex outside of marriage. (See: “Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?”) For Christians, then, adultery (having sex when one or both people are married to someone else) is absolutely prohibited. And sex before marriage is generally not a good idea, even if it is not actually forbidden in the Bible. These are the things that can be considered sinful for Christians.
Further, when Jesus spoke of “looking at a woman lustfully,” he was not talking about mere fantasy, but about a burning desire that will lead to our actually sleeping with that woman if we can find, or make, an opportunity to do so. (See: “Is Masturbation Always Sinful? Does it Always Come from Lust?”) The Bible does not prohibit all sexual thoughts, nor does it prohibit appreciating the beauty of a woman (or a man), nor does it even prohibit sexual fantasies. It prohibits burning with passion for people that we’re not allowed to have sex with, such that we’ll try to have sex with them if we can.
What happens when a normal guy (or gal) with normal sex drives suppresses all expression of those sex drives? They don’t go away, no matter how much you pray and no matter how many cold showers you take. They keep building up and building up, demanding some sort of expression. This is not evil. It’s normal. It’s how God made us. And the reality is that denying them all expression is likely to cause us to do exactly what we’re not supposed to do: burn with passion for someone until we make the effort to have sex with them, even if it’s wrong to do so. Sure, you can wait around for a nocturnal emission. But that doesn’t always happen on schedule.
That’s why, even though pornography is tinged with evil, using it is not a sin if it is a way to keep ourselves from committing actual, serious sin. As you suggest, men commonly need visuals. Pornography provides those visuals for men (and teenage boys) who aren’t or can’t be in a marriage relationship. It’s best to avoid the smuttier types of pornography. And it’s best not to spend hours at a time immersed in pornography. For one thing, it’s a huge waste of valuable time. But moderately using a visuals of beautiful women (or men) is not a horrific thing to do. The human body is not a dirty thing. It was created by God to be beautiful. It’s just not ideal to use pornography, because the ideal is to be in a loving, faithful, committed marriage, and express our human desire and need for physical intimacy within that relationship.
Ultimately, you’ll have to make up your own mind whether or not to use pornography. But if you try to suppress your sex drive altogether, I’ll tell you what’s going to happen: It will grow and grow within you until you break down and do what you don’t want to do. Then you’ll be all ashamed, beat yourself up, wash, rinse, and repeat. So my suggestion is to make your peace with a minimal amount of mild pornography, just enough to satisfy your sexual drives through the usual non-sinful outlet (masturbation), until you can leave that behind in a good and loving marriage.
For boys and men who don’t need pornography, that’s even better. I’m not saying pornography is great. But it sounds like you need visuals. That is very common. So don’t beat yourself up. Do what you need to do to keep yourself from doing things that the Bible actually does prohibit. And don’t listen to those preachers who think you can pray away the sex drive that God put into you, heart, mind, and body.
Thanks for clarifying this, it makes a bit more sense, with your statement on what should be done when dealing with visual stimulation: cut back and keep it mild.
Didnt see the comment before posting the very last comment i made about the cicle im going through (which you covered with the rinse and repeat statement coincidentally)
Though the only thing I’d see myself breaking down and doing would just be telling myself “i cant take it anymore” and actually going through with wtching the porn, which would lead me to the shame and beating myself up.
Thanks a bunch for your responses, i look forward to reading those articles (not married so didnt think they would apply to me, but i can see its very much relative)
You’ve really been helping me out in times of need more than i can express
i started my spiritual journey by reading passages from exodus, which scared me out of pretty much anything and everything that wasnt bible related(like game apps, cursing, media as a whole) to the point where my mom was worried for my sanity and scheduled me for a psychiatrist (was only eating one meal a day and wouldnt talk about any other subject)! She ended up finding your site and sharing it with me, which helped put ease on so many questions i had that she couldn’t answer due to lack of knowledge on the subject.
Again, thank you Lee! You’re really helping people in the world!
You’re very welcome. Glad to help.
Your mother is a wise woman. 🙂
And by the way, Christians can still be normal people. 😀
So when Heaven and Hell says that “lust leads away from Heaven,” or when Swedenborg says adultery also consists of “filthy thoughts” in True Christian Religion, he didn’t mean _all__extramarital sexual arousal or thoughts about sex, but rather serious thoughts and desires for promiscuity and cheating?
If so, it would be more sensible, especially in modern society when one may have to wait for a decade or so from puberty to marriage, if they elect to save their virginity for marriage. As you no doubt know, traditional Western faiths would have you believe any extramarital thoughts or arousal constitute adultery and serious sin. Puritanical thought makes _all_ sex seem “dirty.”
Given that God created us male and female, and made us sexual beings, and given that sex is the seed-bed of heaven, and given that the very first commandment God gave to human beings (in Genesis 1:28) involves having sex, it would be very strange if all sex were dirty.
In fact, sex and marriage are among the greatest gifts God gave to humankind. As God created sex and marriage, they are holy, heavenly, pure, and innocent.
Unfortunately, we humans do tend to corrupt the things God created—and sex is no exception. Sex and marriage, which are among the greatest and most beautiful creations of God, became some of the worst and most destructive things when we twist them into forms they were never meant to take, such as uncaring promiscuity, adultery, and rape.
The Bible never says, “Thou shalt not think about sex, nor shalt thou desire sex.” It says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Traditional Christianity went way off track when it got all puritanical about sex, and ultimately gave its adherents the notion that sex is inherently merely physical, fleshly, dirty, and tainted with sin.
It is quite normal for humans from the time of puberty onward to have sexual thoughts and desires. Merely thinking about sex or wanting sex or even fantasizing about sex is not “filthy,” nor is it “lust.” See: “Is Masturbation Always Sinful? Does it Always Come from Lust?”
Swedenborg did not believe or teach that all sexual thought are “lustful.” He recognized that sexual drives can go wrong, and can result in promiscuous and adulterous sex that is harmful both socially and spiritually. But he saw the general desire for sex as a normal stage in a normal human progression toward marriage love, which is not a mere desire for physical coupling, but an inner union between married partners that does also express itself in the physical union of sexual intercourse.
About Swedenborg’s statement in Heaven and Hell #379 that “lust leads away from heaven,” notice that the whole section is about how genuine marriage is possible only in a monogamous marriage, and not in a polygamous marriage. For Christians, he says, who are capable of spiritual marriage, wanting to be married to more than one person destroys marriage because polygamy is inherently physical-minded and focused primarily on physical sex and reproduction. There cannot be a oneness of minds and hearts between one man and more than one woman (or vice versa). So the “lust” Swedenborg is talking about here is a purely physical desire for sex, including sex with multiple partners, that has no element of inner spiritual connection.
And when Swedenborg includes “having filthy thoughts” in his definition of adultery in True Christian Religion #236:2, he once again does not mean having any sexual thoughts at all. Rather, he means having sexual thoughts that are actually filthy, such as thinking with pleasure and desire about committing adultery, or about forcing someone into sex, or about sleeping with many different partners purely for physical pleasure. Someone who fantasizes about having sex within a mutual, faithful, monogamous, and loving relationship is not having “filthy thoughts.”
As for saving virginity for marriage, I do think that is the ideal. However, not everyone is going to do that. The next best thing is to have sex only within a mutually loving and faithful unmarried relationship. It may not be the ideal, but it is also not adultery, not “fornication” as the Bible uses that term, not awful, not dirty, and generally positive in that it is almost like marriage even if the two are not actually married. Such relationships can be practice for marriage, or lead to marriage. Even if they break up, the people involved have established a pattern of “monogamy” that is friendly to marriage.
Thanks for the well thought out reply. So I take it mere arousal at the sight of one of the opposite sex is not inherently sinful for a single person too?
Furthermore, if someone fails to find love in life and dies a virgin, does God always lead them to a virgin spouse in Heaven? I remember reading in True Christian Religion that a virgin and a non-virgin are on different levels when it comes to marriage love, so it would make sense that God would lead a virgin who wishes for marriage to a virgin spouse so they’re “on the same page.” I also imagine they’d be “destined” to meet and marry at the same (mental) age.
No, mere arousal at the sight of one of the opposite sex is not inherently sinful for a single person. It’s not necessarily even sinful for married people, as long as they don’t act upon it. In addition to being spiritual creatures, we are biological creatures with a built-in sex drive. This is normal and natural, and part of God’s plan. We humans cannot control all of our thoughts and impulses. But we can exercise considerable control over what we do. When we have certain thoughts and impulses, but commit ourselves to not acting upon them if they are contrary to spiritual, ethical, and moral behavior, then we have not sinned.
About someone who dies a virgin marrying someone else who also died a virgin, I would say that there’s a more than average likelihood of that. However, I wouldn’t make it a hard and fast rule, especially for people from today’s society in which virginity before marriage is no longer a major cultural expectation. Someone who early in life imbibed the cultural attitude toward sex and engaged in premarital sex, but later came to believe that it is better to wait until marriage, even if s/he didn’t actually do so, may be a better inner match for someone who did wait than someone who never had sex just because s/he was two shy or socially awkward.
In Swedenborg’s day, virginity prior to marriage was still highly prized, especially for women. In that culture, having sex before marriage would mean flouting cultural norms and thumbing one’s nose at accepted morality. It was therefore much more of a statement about a person’s character than in today’s (Western) cultural environment in which much of regular society simply assumes that most people will have sex before marriage.
Hope you’ve been healthy and well in your new appointment in South Africa- thank you for continuing to maintain this blog amongst all your other responsibilities.
I wanted to drop back into this post in order to add, while not ‘pornography’ in the commonly understood sense and thus not directly relevant to the discussion, a different type of ‘smut,’ so to speak that we- collectively- need to address. It’s the type of content that’s hosted on real-life gore sites and is downed with so must disturbing enthusiasm by an demographic of gore hounds.
Shock sites that host thousands of videos depicting accidents, decapitations, mutilations, and far, far worse- some that are so horrifying in the absolute depravity of their human cruelty that even ‘seasoned’ veterans of these gore sites admit to not being able to physically and/or emotionally stomach. These sites serve as a proud gallery for the absolute worst of what humanity is capable of doing to each other.
Almost as disturbing as the horrors within these videos are the nature of the comments below. The bulk of them are via keyboard warriors who brag about their ability to stomach the most stomach-turning content, or how sexually aroused they have become when viewing the most graphic depictions of human suffering, often belittle the people who pop in to say that whatever is in question was simply beyond their threshold. Some come in to express sadness and sympathy, some make cruel jokes, but by far the most disturbing comments are from those who express their desire for more- some people for whom the depravity of what they’ve just seen simply isn’t enough. They’ll describe the lengths they wished the video had gone to, sometimes writing up a fantasy scenario of what they wish they had seen instead.
Relatedly, the level of racism and misogyny they pervade these comments is absolutely off the charts. Whenever there’s the subject of the tragedy on screen is a woman, there’s an avalanche of comments that express a vindictive satisfaction that she ‘got what she deserved,’ along with some of the most mean-spirited misogynistic remarks I’ve ever read. It’s no surprise that all of these elements- racism, misogyny, and a macho self-affirmation- come together on these sites and in these personalities, as it’s all very consistent with each other.
In a sense, there’s *some* parallel with the desire to view pornography, in that it’s consumed to indulge/stimulate a desire, and I don’t think anyone has to take a moral stance on pornography in general to accept this.. But I think the nature by which this ‘material’ is consumed differs vastly from pornography, in that the desire being stimulated is not a normal, healthy one- whatever lies at the heart of these rabid fans it pure ugliness- it’s evil. It’s truly the blackest of the black. It’s for people who wish to indulge their inner misanthropy, or as a surrogate for their own personal fantasies, some of whom, I fear, will reach a point in which mere ‘fantasy’ isn’t enough for them.
My views on censorship are a bit complicated, but this is something I honestly, truly believe ought to be censored. There is no value to any of this, and all it is is a steady stream of poison that’s being pumped into our spiritual water supply. Moreover, I feel compelled to believe that to watch these videos for pleasure implicates you in a kind of complicity; you may not be holding the blade, but you’re chosen to be part of the audience, and there’s a kind of spiritual criminality in this kind of inhumanity. Of course, the publishers and consumers of this content will advance a lot of the same defenses, that it has ‘educational’ value, or serves to help people better appreciate their own lives and how fragile it is, but, no- I don’t buy that for a second. While there are some people who are just occasionally morbidly curious, it’s evident from the activity on these sites that they are an exception to the gore hound. The gore hound lives for this stuff, and when they do things like play death metal over the course of an hour long compilation of genuine death footage, you cannot convince me it’s for any educational value- it’s to validate your own ‘toughness’ at best, or facilitate your hatefulness at worst.
I understand this is something of a rant, which I’m sure by now you know I’m not prone to doing here, but I spent the better part of my day learning about this content and its consumers (reading the descriptions out of my own masochistic curiosity but never watching the videos), and it has been such an appallingly stomach turning experience that I suppose this is equal parts critical discussion and venting. But I did at some point draw a parallel to this post, and I got to thinking: if we understand ‘pornography,’ at its most basic level, to be something obscene and anti-human values, then I feel there’s no worse pornography than gore sites, and I truly believe these ought to not exist.
Pornography is about sex. Gore is about injury, dismemberment, and death. The distinction between them is the same as the distinction between the Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” One forbids the corruption of a good thing: sex and marriage. The other forbids something that is intrinsically evil: damaging and destroying life.
I recognize that the stricture against killing is a vexed one. It has been debated for as long as the commandment has existed. What about soldiers killing enemy soldiers in war? What about killing animals for food, which is an integral part of the cycle of nature? My own view on these questions is that humans are meant to transcend mere animal nature and live based on a higher morality, and that killing other sentient beings should not be a part of that life. In my view, the existence of killing as a regular part of any human society is a sign that that society is more natural-minded than spiritual-minded. This does not necessarily mean that it is an evil society, especially in the case of killing animals for food. Just that it is a natural-minded society.
Short version: pornography is driven by the privation or corruption of a good thing. Gore is driven by a focus on an evil thing.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that people who consume either one are evil people spiritually. But in the case of consumers of pornography, we’re dealing with a good thing (sex and marriage) that has gotten off-course, whereas in the case of gorehounds, we’re dealing with an evil thing (the destruction of life) that has become a focal point in a person’s psyche.
Analyzing the psyche of any particular gorehound is above my pay grade. I suppose that some of them are dealing with either the experience of death in their own life or the fear of death, and that consuming gore is how they deal with that. There are far better ways to deal with the experience or the fear of death. However, in Western culture especially, death is the great taboo; very few people or institutions have a healthy approach to it. In the absence of healthy ways of dealing with the experience and the fear of death, some people will turn to unhealthy ways such as the consumption of gore.
Other gorehounds are just plain focused on the evil of dismemberment and and death. This sort of focus comes from hell, and is hellish. Gorehounds who fit into this category have rather dim prospects after they themselves die. If being a gorehound wasn’t just their unhealthy way of dealing with trauma and anxiety, and they continue to love the dismemberment and death of their fellow human beings in the spiritual world, they will make their bed in hell—and in a rather grim hell, at that.
As for censoring gore, I doubt it would work even if it might spare some people from getting sucked into it. Most likely it would just be pushed onto the dark web, where it would become even more dangerous. As a society we do have to prohibit people from harming others. But our efforts to prohibit people from harming themselves generally cause more problems than they solve. Prohibition in the United States is the poster boy for the failure of such efforts.
About keyboard warriors: The filth that many people spew from the safety of their keyboard, when they would never say such things in person, is an example of the difference between people’s outward behavior and their inner thoughts and desires. The inner thoughts and desires are the real person. The outward acceptable behavior in public, if it is engaged in merely to avoid damage to their reputation and livelihood, is a mask that will come off after death. What we are seeing in the case of trolls and keyboard warriors is their actual inner character. If they persist in it, that is the character they will carry with them after death, and live in to eternity.
I realize of course that there is a meaningful enough distinction in the consumption of porn vs the consumption of gore for them and the impulse to view them to belong to their own respective categories. I decided to address it in a post regarding pornography, though, because they share the basic reality of consuming content for the act of stimulation, whatever that stimulation may be, wherever it may come from. And also because I heard many years back about some literary figure who, in one of his works, referred to deeply inhuman and offensive obscenities as more generally ‘pornography,’ which I thought was an interesting an effective device. In that regard, something like deceitful political propaganda would be termed ‘pornography,’ and if we were to look at the word in that way, then the idea of documenting and disseminating videos of gruesome murders and accidents for entertainment would be ‘pornographic, as well.
I agree that, like most things in life, many different people might do the same thing for different reasons. Some people would watch some content because they enjoy it, others because their imaginations are just running wild until they see it. There are in fact many people who refuse or cannot bring themselves to watch these videos, but would ask for people who have seen it to describe it to them in the comments. The main distinction that I’ve witnessed between these two types of people are that the former watch it and crave more, where the latter watch it and wish they hadn’t. And like I said, the comments sections of these websites is where the absolute worst of humanity converges: videos of people committing the cruelest acts of inhumanity imaginable, and its consumers who’s only disappointment is that it wasn’t more cruel and inhumane.
And again, my views of censorship are a bit complicated. It may sound counterintuitive, but I do not believe that we are collectively, spiritually *ready* for censorship. I believe our human ideas of freedom currently simplistic and material, and according to this low-level conception, this *may* in fact necessitate that people be permitted to propagate various harmful, destructive obscenities like the one in question. I believe this is because our ideas of freedom and civilization view us as individuals unto themselves rather than a collective of individuals with commonly shared values. I believe that if we *were* a community that lived according to and were guided by more spiritually grounded values, then we would look upon occurrences of these obscenities with contempt and disdain, and ‘censor’ them insofar as we would ostracize them from our community. I used the analogy of the ‘water supply’ in my earlier post, and I feel inclined to believe we would view these and other things in terms of what they pump into it, and censor in the same way that we strain out away harmful impurities from our water.
Yes, the word “pornography” has been given a broader meaning of “grossly wrong and objectionable material.” Sexuality remains a highly charged issue. People have the idea that any sort of sexual wrong is especially evil and damnable. Therefore the word “pornography” has the voltage required to zap “really bad stuff.”
Still, it is good not to let this lull our minds into equating one kind of evil with another, and mashing all evil together into a single soup. There are many kinds and varieties of evil, and they are distinct from each other both in their character and in their types and levels of destructiveness.
While I’m not sure I agree with you about censorship, one positive effect of most of this happening online today is that it’s highly unlikely that anyone will accidentally wander into a den full of material that they find awful, painful, and gross. When people go onto the Internet, they see and find what they are looking for, and don’t see what they are not interested in. In this way, the Internet resembles the spiritual world, in which everyone is sorted out into the areas where the people, ideas, and activities they love most are located, while being kept far distant from people, ideas, and activities that they do not like.
Hi, Lee, I found your post very informative and it was interesting how you were able to take a non-biased approach to this topic. It was interesting how you were able to convey both how porn can be a bad aspect and at the same time something that can maybe used well with the right control. This has led me to ask some questions, although you also a human being and may not be able to answer my questions the best, I still would like to ask you some things.
One thing that I also was able to find interesting about this post is the non-biased approach to the topic. As a big Catholic myself I have been seeking out the answer to this question myself for a while now. I have been and scoured many Catholic and Christian forums looking for an answer, and although I have found an answer, they aren’t necessarily the answer that I was looking for nor were they that informative. In all the forums and posts they’ve explained multiple aspects of porn and why it’s sinful such as lust, but they only looked at it from a one-sided perspective, not really taking in the condition of the person that is watching porn. In many of the posts I’ve seen, I see that the people are assuming that all people who watch porn are in a state of lust and all they desire is to have sex and masturbate to porn. They never really explained the source of lust in porn and what causes the person to lust
I personally think of this topic as a grey area because I define lust as more of a strong desire to have sex. I feel like people can look at women with self-control and not lust. This area is also a grey area for me because I feel like since we’re all humans and we all have hormones, it would make some sense that we would do something to satisfy us. I also think that we can have desires but keep them under control to the point where they don’t overcome us.
I say that this is a grey area because I haven’t really found an answer to my question yet and I am a big Catholic it’s just that I’m just wondering about this issue and topic.
All these forums do explain why porn is bad but they don’t give reasons behind why. For example they will say lust is generated from porn, but they won’t say if simply clicking on the website is lust. They don’t say if porn is lust itself or if lust is generated from the person watching porn.
I also think that there’s this assumption that people who watch porn do it because they have this lust for sex and all they do is masturbate to porn. But one specific example that I have is one time I was with friends and we watched hentai or animated porn but we didn’t do it because we had this big desire to have sex or we wanted to masturbate to it. All we really did was watch it and make jokes about it. Also I think that there’s this assumption that people get turned on from watching porn but back then when. we used to watch hentai, we weren’t turned on by the idea of animated characters having sex. Instead we were more intrigued with the plot and the comedy, etc.
At the same time I think that someone could look at another person’s genitals without desiring to have sex with them. But when I go to different forums to try and find answers, all they say is that your lusting when you watch porn and commit adultery. Another big thing that I see is that a lot of people assume that the people who watch porn are married.
I try and ask sometimes if lust is generated the moment you click on a link to an adult website or is lust generated from the person just merely watching it or does the person actually have to feel a desire?
I’ve also read other articles that state the sins that porn brings to someone who watches it. I do see how these sins can deeply hurt a person, but a lot of these sins in my opinion can be avoided.
An example I gave one time is if an asexual person decides to watch porn to experiment with himself with full knowledge that what he’s doing is a sin, would he still be guilty of the sin of lust even though he can’t feel anything?
I personally think that porn is bad and can hurt you when you let it overtake you and get in the way of your relationship with God, but I don’t necessarily think that if watched in moderation and practicing self-control such as not constantly masturbating while watching it, I think that porn wouldn’t be as evil as people make it out to be.
My question now is can you watch porn without sinning?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and questions. Apologies for the disappearing messages. The site’s spam checker got a little over-zealous. 😦 I am keeping and responding to only the last version of your comment that you posted.
To get right to the point in answering your questions:
Lust comes from the heart, meaning from inside of us, not from any outside influence such as porn. This is very clear from Jesus’ own teachings. A person who has no lust in his or her heart could look at porn all day, and find it mostly uninteresting, or perhaps see it as a fascinating study in human anatomy and behavior. A person who has no lust in his or her heart could walk through a street full of naked people, and be more interested in getting to know them as people than in staring at their genitals. Such a person would have no interest at all in having sex with them. For such a person, sex is an expression of love and closeness to his or her married partner. The idea of having sex with anyone else would leave such a person cold right to the bones.
Nothing outside of us can cause us to have evil desires. These come from within, as Jesus taught, especially in Matthew 15:10–11, 17–20.
Lust is not mere fantasizing about having sex, nor is it the desire for sex that comes from our natural sex drive. Rather, as the Bible uses that term, lust is a burning desire to have sex with someone that we should not have sex with, such that if we can find or make an opportunity, we will go ahead and have sex with that person. Lust as the Bible uses that term is adultery in the heart because if it is expressed, it will cause us to commit adultery. It is not just magically “adultery” to look at a woman (or man) and get aroused if we have no intention whatsoever of actually having adulterous sex with her or him. We can’t control all of our sexual desires and urges. But we can control what we do sexually.
Also, masturbation is never forbidden in the Bible, nor is it evil as most traditional Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, teach. Of course, like anything, it can become harmful if we overdo it. And of course, loving sex within a committed and faithful marriage relationship is far better than masturbation. But for people who do not have a legitimate partner with whom to have sexual relations, masturbation is a benign and even healthy outlet for our natural, God-given sex drive. It is far better than many other ways people satisfy their sex drive outside the bonds of marriage.
Here is a series of articles that explain some of these points in much more detail:
Can you watch porn without sinning? That all depends upon who you are, what your attitudes toward sex are, and why you are watching porn.
For people who have unclean and lustful attitudes toward sex, and think of it as a way to get pleasure for themselves regardless of any social and moral implications of their actions, and regardless of how they might hurt other people in the process, watching porn is sinful because it is done from a heart that cares only about its own pleasure, and does not care about anyone else’s well-being.
On the other end of the spectrum, for people who very much wish they were in a loving, faithful, monogamous relationship, but who are not in a position to be in such a relationship, and who watch porn in order to satisfy their natural sexual desires, though they may feel a little guilty about it depending upon what they have been taught, for them porn is not really sinful. It is just what they do to keep the ol’ gonads at bay.
But all of this is discussed much more fully in the above article.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with seeing people naked. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with seeing depictions of people (or hentai characters) having sex with each other. There is not even anything intrinsically wrong with actually seeing other people having sex. Most cultures have taboos against such things under most circumstances, and it is best not to violate the norms of one’s own culture too flagrantly. But in itself, the human body, including its sexual organs, is not dirty, nor is using our sexual organs for what they were made for dirty. Our sexuality is part of God’s creation of us as human beings. We were created male and female from the beginning, and commanded to be fruitful and multiply. That is really a commandment to have sex, isn’t it? Then why should we consider sex evil, dirty, and shameful?
Sex becomes evil, dirty, and shameful only when we approach it with an evil and dirty heart. Biologically, sex is designed to produce offspring. Spiritually, sex is meant to be an expression of deep love and oneness between two people. If we have no regard or respect for these things, and just go at sex to get as much pleasure as we can for ourselves regardless of love or caring or consequences, then sex becomes evil and dirty for us.
But in itself, human love and sexuality is the purest and most holy creation of God, because it is the means for two people to express deep love and connection with each other, and the means for bringing potential new angels into the world.
On the positive side, here are some articles about love, marriage, and sex as a spiritual and eternal relationship:
I hope these answers, and the linked articles, help. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has really missed the boat on the meaning of sex and marriage. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be Catholic. Just that you will have to think these things out for yourself, and not automatically accept everything the Catholic Church says even if it doesn’t make any sense to you.
Pornography is full of witchcraft like also a lot of stuff in the music industry. It’s just very unhealthy stuff and especially if you’re aware of “how evil it is”. It’s something that blocks blessings and growth. I don’t really see how it wouldn’t.
In that case, it’s something that should be avoided. Now on the other hand, if someone just goes thru a high school yearbook and lusts, I’d have to say that’s something unavoidable and something God would understand.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I am aware that some conservative Christians believe that pornography, the music industry, and so on are full of witchcraft and other things they view as exceedingly evil. However, in the real world, there is not much evidence of this. Sure you can find songs that use themes from wiccan sources. But most of it is just ordinary stuff that ordinary people think about.
And in general, God does understand our inner desires, including the ones that aren’t good, and God does not condemn us for them. Rather, we condemn ourselves when we take great pleasure in them and eagerly pursue them to the point of pining to act upon them, and actually acting upon them if we can find or make an opportunity to do so.
The best article I have read on pornography and all the related issues it brings along. Maybe I missed it in the article, but the biblical depictions of polygamy, something alluded to in the N T standards for being a deacon, also show that in matters of sex, the ways forward are not always simple.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words.
Yes, it seems that especially in the area of love, marriage, and sexuality, it is a long and winding road to get us humans onto a good and healthy path. Polygamy continued to exist even in the early Christian church, and wasn’t ended entirely in Christian lands until several centuries into the Christian era. It only goes to show how stubborn and worldly-minded we are, and how long it takes for God to get through to us with a higher approach to life, and especially to marriage.
Speaking of marriage, you might find this article interesting also:
Man, Woman, and the Two Creation Stories of Genesis
*An excerpt from the article please*–
…”But as I said earlier, our sexual drives are some of the most powerful desires in us—and some of the most difficult to tame and direct into a completely healthy course”..
And, I feel the tongue is another one, with its versatile and volatile tendencies.
Yes, the tongue can get us into a lot of trouble also!
I wanted your take on some proverbs that I discovered whilst researching. More specifically, I’d like your take on them in relation to indulgence in pornography. If I’m not mistaken, these proverbs were teachings that Solomon instilled in his son.
Proverbs 5:15-17 (KJV) – Drink waters out of thine own cistern, And running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, And rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, And not strangers’ with thee.
Proverbs 5:20 (KJV) – And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, And embrance the bosom of a stranger?
Other translations may substitute the word “ravished” in 5:20 for “captivated/infatuated” or “strange” [woman] with “immoral”.
I look forward to hearing your opinion.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.
First, in traditional cultures, “my son” doesn’t necessarily mean a literal, biological son. It is a common way of addressing boys and younger men generally. In other words, Proverbs 5 is addressed to boys and men as a group.
And if you read Proverbs 5 as a whole, you will see that it is advising its hearers to avoid prostitutes and remain faithful to their wife. In other words, it is an injunction against adultery.
As covered in the above article, and in others at this website, when it comes to sexual evil, the Bible’s primary clear message is that adultery is prohibited. Proverbs 5 is in line with that message. The Bible is nowhere near as clear about non-adulterous sex outside of marriage—i.e., sex among unmarried people. For more on this, please see:
Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?
As also stated in the above article, people who are in committed, faithful, loving, monogamous relationships should leave the porn behind, and focus on loving their partner. In Proverbs 5, Solomon is talking to married people. He is telling married men to avoid prostitutes and remain faithful to, and sexually satisfied with, their wives.
On that, I agree with him 100%. If you’re happily married, you shouldn’t be using porn—and it’s unlikely that you’ll be using porn. If you’re unhappily married, then you have some hard work to do and some difficult decisions to make. But committing adultery is still not allowed.
The main message of Proverbs 5 is to remain sexually faithful to your wife by not having sex with prostitutes, or with any other woman who isn’t your wife. It doesn’t say anything about viewing pornography. It’s all covered in the above article.
Thanks for your response.
I’ve been studying and researching the Bible’s teachings on pornography for a little while, and – for a time in my life, was confused as to whether a single, unmarried individual watching pornography would be classified as sin.
I’ve read many articles, including yours.
Some of these articles would argue that the very word “pornography” is deriven from the root word “porneia”, which they say refers to sexual immorality, and “graphe” which, of course, repherps to graphics, drawings, depictions, etc. They then argue that pornography is simply the graphic display of sexually immoral acts and is therefore sinful.
The article in question: https://www.purelifeministries.org/blog/what-does-the-bible-say-about-pornography
First, I would recommend that in addition to the above article, you read my series of articles on masturbation, starting with this one:
What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?
The other articles in the series are linked from the end of this one.
About the article you linked:
This is a fairly typical evangelical/fundamentalist take on pornography and masturbation. As is usual in these pieces, it offers only a superficial view of the issues it deals with, and engages in much black and white thinking. It also reads its own ideas into the Bible, as is very common among evangelicals and fundamentalists.
At least the article admits that the Bible doesn’t actually mention pornography. However, it then charges ahead in bending what the Bible does say to suit this ministry’s own purposes, rather than paying attention to the actual meaning of the Bible’s words.
For example, it says that the Greek word porneia refers to “immoral sexual relations.” While that is true if understood correctly, it does not tell the whole story.
The word porneia comes from the word porne, whose specific meaning is “a prostitute.” From there, the word did broaden to refer to sexual immorality in general. But if we ignore its root meaning, we will misunderstand what the Bible is saying when it uses that word.
In order to understand what the Bible is referring to when it uses the word porneia, traditionally translated “fornication,” we must recognize that the culture of Bible times was very different from today’s culture. There was no birth control. Women’s sexual lives were tightly controlled by their fathers, brothers, and husbands. There was nothing like the free and easy sex between unmarried people that there is today.
The reason the word for “prostitution” was used to mean “fornication” is that for the most part, “sexual immorality” in those days meant either using the services of a prostitute or being a prostitute oneself. When the Bible says to “flee fornication,” it’s not saying not to have casual sex with your girlfriend. It’s saying not to go to a prostitute.
And mostly, it’s saying this to married men, for whom having sex with a prostitute would be adultery. In those days, men were expected to get married fairly young, and stay married. There were not armies of single men looking to satisfy their sex drive. There were armies of married men, and they were expected to satisfy their sex drive with their wife or wives.
If a man did have sex with a woman who was not his wife, and not a prostitute, this was either considered rape or it was considered marriage. Or if the woman was married or promised in marriage, it was considered adultery, which was punishable by death.
Quite literally, in these ancient societies, a marriage happened when a man had sex with an unmarried woman. There might be a wedding feast, but there was no wedding ceremony. There was no minister saying, “I now declare that you are husband and wife.” Rather, there was a feast, and then the man would sleep with the woman. By virtue of his having sex with her, they would be considered married.
If a man took it upon himself to have sex with a woman who was not betrothed or married, he was considered married to her. He would have to pay her father a generous bride price, and he would never be allowed to divorce her, because he had broken the rules about how an honorable man was supposed to go about taking a woman as his wife.
If, however, the woman was already either betrothed (i.e., promised in marriage) or married, this was adultery, and it was punishable by death. If it was consensual on the woman’s part, both were to be put to death. If it was not consensual on the woman’s part—i.e., if she was raped—then only the man was to be put to death.
For more on this, please see this article:
Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?
All of this is why the article you linked is not correct in saying that porneia refers to “sexual immorality,” if that is defined as it commonly is today: having sex with someone when neither of the people are married. In Bible times, porneia mostly meant having sex with prostitutes, because if it was with a woman who was not a prostitute, it was considered to be either de facto marriage or rape. Porneia could also mean having sex with another man’s wife. This was adultery, and it was punishable by death, according to the above-mentioned rules: if it was consensual on the woman’s part, both were to be executed. If it was rape, only the man was to be executed.
In short, in Bible times, most porneia was some form of adultery. For the most part, it was either married men having sex with prostitutes or men having sex with another man’s wife.
That word wasn’t generally used to mean unmarried people having sex with each other because such a thing didn’t happen much in those societies.
I know that’s hard for people today to believe. But consider that there was no birth control, no DNA tests to determine fatherhood, no sexual equality between men and women. Women’s “chastity” was jealously guarded by men not just because of “paternalism,” but because this was the only way men could be certain that the children their wives bore were their own, and not some other man’s. An unmarried woman was required to be a virgin because, once again, this was the only way a prospective husband could be certain that any children his new wife bore would be his children, and not some other man’s children. Of course, he also wanted to know that his prospective wife wasn’t in the habit of sleeping with other men.
The article you linked ignores all of these cultural realities—if its authors even know about them. It takes biblical words and rules out of their own cultural context and meaning, and uses them with very different present-day meanings in the context of an entirely different culture. That’s why the article is so mistaken and wrong.
Its authors may say, “Yes, but even though that’s how it was in Bible times, unmarried people today still can’t have sex! It’s immoral and sinful!” And if that’s their opinion, then they are welcome to believe it and teach it. But the Bible simply doesn’t say that.
In fact, the Bible has quite strict standards for unmarried women, and rather loose standards for unmarried men. For example, in the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38, Judah, who was the father of the Jewish people, had sex with a woman he believed to be a prostitute after his wife had died. And in all the complications of that story, never once does it say that it was wrong for Judah, as an unmarried man, to have sex with a prostitute.
If these evangelicals and fundamentalists were really following the Bible, they would say that it’s wrong for unmarried women to have sex, but no problem for unmarried men to have sex as long as it isn’t with another man’s wife, or with a woman who is promised in marriage to another man. Do we really want to follow that sort of double standard of sexual morality in today’s culture?
The Bible also does not say that it’s a sin to view pornography. Mostly, I suspect that people in Bible times would have considered pornography a strange waste of time. Instead, they would have arranged marriages for their sons and daughters so that they could have sex with each other and bear children. Today’s idea of romantic love and “soulmates” did not exist back then. People did not marry for love. They married for practical, earthly reasons. For more on this, please see the section titled “The history of marriage” in this article:
Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
Because they didn’t marry for love, there was no need to wait to find one’s “true love” or “soulmate.” Rather, the common pattern was that as soon as a man was ready to support a wife, a marriage would be arranged for him. And as soon as a woman was of marriageable age—often when she was still a teenager—a marriage would be arranged for her. Once again, there were not armies of single men (and women) wandering around looking for “love” or looking to satisfy their sex drive. That’s just not how it worked in those societies.
Again, that’s why taking the Greek word porneia and applying it to “sexual immorality” as that is understood today is not correct. In the Bible, porneia does not refer to sex before marriage, or sex between unmarried (and unbetrothed) people. Mostly, it is another word for adultery, because that’s what most “sexual immorality” was in those days. Primarily, it is about married men having sex with prostitutes, or with another man’s wife.
The articles I’ve linked for you above go into these things in more detail, and provide the supporting references to the Bible.
As far as pornography and masturbation, the article you linked is also way off.
It is true that some men (and even some women) can go overboard on pornography and masturbation. But porn and masturbation addiction is not caused by pornography and masturbation any more than alcoholism is caused by alcohol, or addiction to cigarettes is caused by cigarettes. Rather, it is caused by internal psychological, emotional, and spiritual issues in the person who becomes addicted to these things to the point of heavily overdoing them.
Most people who masturbate and use pornography do not become addicted to them. They do what they need to do to satisfy their biological sex drive, and then they go to their job or go to the gym or go hang out with friends. The idea that porn or masturbation is a slippery slope that inevitably leads to ruin and destruction is simply not true. It’s just sensationalism.
What is true is that people who go overboard on porn and masturbation have some tough issues to deal with in their life. Once they deal with those issues, the compulsion to spend hours and hours viewing porn and masturbating will subside, and they will go back to a normal life.
Another way of saying this is that porn and masturbation do not cause lust and fantasy, as that article says. It is just the reverse: lust and fantasy cause porn and masturbation. If you stop the porn and masturbation without dealing with the lust and fantasy, all that will happen is that the lust and fantasy will build up and build up and build up until they break out into more unhealthy and damaging forms of sexual expression and indulgence.
The fact of the matter is that we humans cannot just shut off our biological sex drive. It is a powerful drive, and it will express itself in either healthy or unhealthy ways. As covered in my series of articles about masturbation, for people who are not in a committed relationship (ideally a marriage), one of the least problematic ways to satisfy it is to masturbate as needed to satisfy the biology, and then go about your daily business. Please do read those articles for much more about this.
The founder of the ministry that posted that article also contradicts himself about masturbation in the article’s quotation from him. First he says that masturbation is “a completely self-centered act.” Then in the very next paragraph he says that masturbation is not wrong in itself. Which is it?
These people are very confused about the issues that they purport to teach others about. They have a superficial and mistaken view of what the Bible says about sex and marriage. Instead of paying attention to what the Bible says in its own context, they rip its statements out of context and put them into service in pushing their own unbiblical, prudish, and damaging view of sex and sexual morality.
This is not not to say that pornography is good. But as covered in the above article, for many men (and some women) these days, it is by far the lesser of evils that they could be involved in.
I hope these thoughts, and the linked articles, help you to sort these things out in your own mind. In the end, it’s your own choice what you will believe and what you will do. Just be aware that many churches and ministries that claim to be Bible-based are playing fast and loose with the Bible. Instead of paying attention to what the Bible itself says, they are reading their own human rules and doctrines into the Bible.
I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you put into your responses. It is a relief to finally have someone to discuss these topics with. Topics that have plagued my mind for a long time.
I wanted to discuss more about “prostitution” and “whoremongering”, a word used in the KJV. From what I’ve read in your articles and comments, it would appear we can concur that prostitution is sinful, mainly due to the fact that a prostitute’s attitudes and/or motives aren’t set upon a monogamous, committed marriage covenant but to make money and or gratify the flesh (But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Romans 13:14 KJV).
Therefore, would you not say that the actors and actresses performing in depictions of pornography are, by definition, “prostitutes”?
Would you not then say that those who engage with or utilise the services of these women for sexual satisfaction, either directly or indirectly, are whoremongers by definition?
Continuing on, 1 Timothy 5:2 says that we should treat: “the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”
Can such an instruction be fulfilled when viewing pornography?
Thanks Lee. Look forward to your response.
The King James Version uses the words “whoremonger” and “fornicator” to translate the Greek word pornos. While these are considered acceptable translations, the base meaning of the Greek word is “a male prostitute,” which the KJV translations obscure. Pornos is the masculine equivalent of porne, which is the common term for a (female) prostitute.
In other words, the Greek word translated “whoremonger” five times (and also “fornicator” five times) in the KJV has more the sense of “a man who is a prostitute” than “a man who uses the services of prostitutes.” But similar to the crude English slang of calling a promiscuous woman a “whore” even if she is not literally a prostitute (a person who exchanges sex for money), in Greek a sexually immoral man could also be called a “whore” even if he wasn’t literally a prostitute.
That’s why the KJV translations aren’t necessarily wrong. In Bible times, a sexually immoral man would most likely be using the services of prostitutes. He would not be casually sleeping around with unmarried women who weren’t prostitutes, as commonly happens today, because the cultures of the time didn’t allow that. So he would likely be a “whoremonger.”
Still, it’s good to keep in mind the root meaning of the original Greek word, which is “a male prostitute.” “Whoremonger” gives the wrong impression in today’s society, where a sexually immoral man may or may not be sleeping with prostitutes. That’s why the Revised Standard Version, and other similar later translations, use “fornicator” instead. But even that word doesn’t fully capture the sense of the original Greek.
The sense of the original Greek word is not a man who goes to prostitutes, but a man who is a prostitute, either literally or in the more informal slang sense of the word.
Is prostitution evil and even sinful? Yes, it is. However, evil and sin are not black and white. There are greater and lesser evils and sins. The sexual sin that the Bible absolutely forbids is adultery. Prostitution, on the other hand, while frowned upon in the Bible, and seen as a sin, is not absolutely prohibited, as adultery is. Why not? Because while it is evil and sinful, it is not as evil and sinful as adultery.
Specifically, in the cultures of the Bible, if a man was unmarried it was considered acceptable for him to have sex with a prostitute, but not acceptable for him to have sex with a woman who was married or promised in marriage—which was forbidden as adultery—or with a woman who was neither married nor promised in marriage (but not a prostitute), because that robbed a virgin of her virginity and her prospects for marriage, and also robbed her family of the value of a virgin daughter who could be given in marriage to a respectable man.
Prostitution has been tolerated as a necessary evil in many cultures both ancient and modern because it served as a hedge against men violating marriage and violating “virtuous” women. If a man had sex with a prostitute, he was not causing her downfall as he was if he had sex with a married woman or a virgin. And he was not wrecking another man’s marriage, or a family’s chances to reap the social and financial benefits of having a marriageable daughter.
So is prostitution evil and sinful, from a Christian perspective? Yes it is. But it is not as evil and sinful as adultery, or even as evil and sinful as promiscuous sex with unmarried women who are not prostitutes. Once again, what the Bible absolutely prohibits is adultery. Other sexual evils fall on a sliding scale of sinfulness. A man who goes to a prostitute instead of sleeping with another man’s wife is at least avoiding what the Bible prohibits as the worst sexual sin. That doesn’t make it good. But he may be doing the best he believes he can under the circumstances. Therefore he may not be condemned for it when it comes his time to stand before God’s judgment seat.
Are actors and actresses performing in pornographic pictures and videos prostitutes? In a sense, yes. They are engaging in sex, or in sexually enticing poses and actions, in exchange for money. That’s why the word “pornography” comes from the Greek words for “prostitute” and “writing.” It is a “written” form of prostitution.
On the other hand, they are not engaging in sex with their customers (those who consume the pornography), nor do their customers expect to have actual sex with them. So in the strict sense of the word, they are not prostitutes. For the same reason, on the scale of sexual evils, what they are doing is milder than actual prostitution, in which women (or men) accept money from a man (or woman) in exchange for actual, physical sex.
It is true, as Jesus says, that if we lust after a woman, we have already committed adultery with her in our heart. But as explained in my series of articles on masturbation, the Greek word translated “lust” is a very strong word. It refers to a powerful, burning desire that will lead us to actually commit adultery with the woman if we can find or make the opportunity to do so. In other words, if, in our heart, there is the desire and intent to commit adultery, we are adulterers just as much as if we actually commit adultery. Why? Because if that is the state of our heart, then if we think we can commit adultery, and get away with it, we will commit adultery. We are adulterers at heart even if we have not committed adultery physically.
What about an unmarried Christian man who has committed himself to never committing adultery or engaging in “fornication,” which is usually (though not very accurately) interpreted to mean having sex with an unmarried woman? What if such a man masturbates to pornography just enough to relieve his unavoidable biological sex drives? Is he a “whoremonger” or “fornicator” in the biblical sense?
No, he is not. He has not engaged in any sexual activity that the Bible presents as “fornication.” The Bible never prohibits or even mentions masturbation, nor does the Bible ever prohibit or even mention pornography.
What the Bible does prohibit is sex with a woman who is married or (in that culture) promised in marriage, which is adultery. And what it frowns upon is sex with prostitutes and with women who are neither married nor promised in marriage. An unmarried man who masturbates to pornography is doing none of these things. In fact, if he is a Christian man, he may be masturbating to porn specifically to avoid doing any of these things.
In other words, he is doing something that, while neither ideal nor “pure,” fulfills the same function that prostitution has fulfilled in societies throughout history: providing a sexual outlet for men that doesn’t involve adultery or “fornication” in the usual sense of sleeping with “virtuous” unmarried women. Further, the Christian man is not even having sex with a prostitute, so he’s engaging in something even milder than what the Bible frowns upon, but doesn’t absolutely prohibit.
Further still, the Christian man has no intention of ever having sex with the women depicted in the porn he watches. He has forbidden himself to do so. He is therefore not even a “fornicator in his heart,” because given the opportunity to have sex with the women in his porn, he would not do so. He is watching the porn specifically to avoid having actual sex with actual women.
This doesn’t make it good to masturbate to porn. But on the scale of sexual evils, it is just about the mildest and least evil thing an unmarried man (or woman) could do to deal with that pesky, unavoidable biological sex drive. He’s not committing adultery. He’s not having sex with unmarried women. He’s not even having sex with prostitutes. He’s not having sex with anyone at all. He’s just doing what he has to do to relieve the sexual tension of “the flesh,” to use a biblical term, so that he can go about his day and be as sexually virtuous as possible under the circumstances. No human being is perfect. Only the Lord is perfect.
The ideal, of course, is that he would find a woman to marry, and have sex with her within the bonds of matrimony. But as covered in the various articles I’ve linked for you, that isn’t always possible. Meanwhile, even if, as I say in the above article, pornography is tinged with evil, it is not forbidden by the Bible, and given the alternatives, it is one of the milder forms of sexual evil, assuming that the pornography in question is depicting consenting adults.
I think this answers all of your questions. But if I have missed something important, or if you have further questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to continue the conversation.
My most pressing question relates to your statement: “In other words, he is doing something that, while neither ideal nor “pure,” fulfills the same function that prostitution has fulfilled in societies throughout history: providing a sexual outlet for men that doesn’t involve adultery or “fornication” in the usual sense of sleeping with “virtuous” unmarried women.”
If we can agree that a man indulging in pornography is neither ideal nor PURE, how can said man fulfill the instruction in 1 Timothy 5:2 to treat: “the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”?
I am also interested in this notion of a scale of evil.
Judging by my earthly, imperfect and human standards, I would wholeheartedly agree with you that pornography is a lesser evil in comparison to adultery. However, surely it is God’s standards that we should be aiming for? I understand people will incorporate realism and suggest “since all men have sinned and will continue to sin, surely choosing the lesser of the two evils will help me find favour with the Lord” but God commands us to “follow righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22). In other translations, the word “pursue” or “strive” is used in place of “follow”.
Not only this, but surely the agreement that pornography is evil, or “tinged with evil” should indicate that we should hate it as God hates evil? Romans 12:9 (KJV) commands us to “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”
As you say: “Are actors and actresses performing in pornographic pictures and videos prostitutes? In a sense, yes.” – as well as – “So is prostitution evil and sinful, from a Christian perspective? Yes it is.”
If we agree that actors and actresses in pornography can be considered prostitutes and thus are engaging in sin, surely we are called to abhor it as is commanded in Romans 12:9? To indulge in something we are called to hate, as God hates, sounds nonsensical.
The Bible has many examples of God accommodating to and accepting lesser human evils for a time because we humans are not able to achieve anything better in those areas. Here is one:
As another example, the ancient Jews worshiped God by sacrificing animals, just as their pagan ancestors had done. God put an end to that practice among the Jews in 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple. Today, neither Jews nor Christians practice animal sacrifice. And the prophets suggest that animal sacrifice was never God’s idea or God’s will. For example:
Some translations say that God did not only or just command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices, but that’s not what the Hebrew says. Here is that verse in Young’s Literal Translation:
And another example:
This suggests that to God, animal sacrifices were never good and pleasant at all, but an evil stench in God’s nostrils, and that they were not God’s idea at all, but the Israelites’ own idea. It suggests rather that God allowed sacrifices because the Israelites had “stiffened their necks,” only requiring them to sacrifice their animals to God rather than to idols and to pagan gods and goddesses.
This is an example of how God uses our earthly and wrong ways of doing things to bend us toward God, until we are ready to leave our old evil ways behind, and move toward something that is better. That’s exactly what we did with animal sacrifices when Christ replaced all those sacrifices with his own spiritual body and blood, which are his love and truth. (See: Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood)
In the same way that God allowed the ancient Jews, like the surrounding pagan nations, to continue to engage in the rather disgusting practice of animal sacrifice on their altars and in their temples as a way of keeping them focused on God instead of on idols, so, I believe, God allows pornography and even prostitution on our earth in order to keep men (and women) away from worse evils. It’s not that pornography and prostitution are good. It’s that given that we are in a fallen state, and also given that many men cannot get married even when they are adults and have the usual sex drive, pornography and prostitution are ways to keep men from engaging in adultery and in promiscuous sexual liaisons outside of marriage with women who are not prostitutes.
I consider pornography to be an advance over prostitution, under God’s providence. It is no longer necessary for any single man today to resort to prostitutes. Rather, if he feels those urges, he can resort to pornography and masturbation. At least he is not having sex with prostitutes.
Once again, it’s not that pornography is good. It’s that it is a step toward something less evil than what used to fulfill that role before, which is sex with prostitutes. God can use the lesser evil of pornography to steer men away from the greater evil of going to prostitutes.
As I said in the above article and in the articles on masturbation, if a man feels driven to use pornography, he should not spend hour after hour at it. Pornography can be addictive. Men should not allow themselves to fall into that trap. Rather, men should use pornography just enough to satisfy their biological sexual drives through masturbation, and then go out and do something good, useful, and healthful. (But masturbation itself is not unhealthful. It’s just not as healthful as sex within a loving and committed monogamous relationship.)
All the while, men should keep their heart focused on moving toward God’s ideal of faithful, loving, monogamous marriage. If they are able to achieve that (and even many married people do not achieve it), then they will have no more need for pornography, and perhaps only occasional need for masturbation when circumstances prevent sexual intimacy with their wives for an extended period of time.
The word “treat” is in some translations, but it is not in the original Greek. Here is 1 Timothy 5:1–2 in Young’s Literal Translation:
And here it is in the NRSV:
In these verses, Paul is talking about how we should speak to older men, younger men, older women, and younger women—not harshly, but as elders, brothers, and sisters, “in all purity.” Certainly this is something we should strive to do: to speak to other people—whether they are our elders or our contemporaries, whether they are male or female—with respect and with purity of heart.
Once again, the very reason that many men (and some women) masturbate to porn in the privacy of their own rooms is so that when they are out and about and interacting with other people, both male and female, their minds will not be plagued by sexual thoughts and desires that would prompt them to say or do improper thingsn, and sully those interactions and relationships with other people.
Masturbating to porn not the ideal. But for an unmarried man who is also not in a sexually active relationship, it’s better than most alternatives. We fallen humans can never be perfectly pure. Statements to that effect in the Bible are ideals that we should continually strive for. There is only one sinless person, and that is Jesus Christ. The rest of us do our best to move out of sin and into righteousness. That also involves avoiding greater evils and sometimes indulging in lesser evils instead, until we can make our way to what is good.
Having said that, once again, the Bible never prohibits or even mentions masturbation. I do not believe that masturbation is evil at all, but good, in its proper place.
As for porn, if it is too much against a person’s conscience, he or she should avoid it, and masturbate without porn if necessary. It’s just that when men, especially, do this, they tend to picture women whom they know in their minds as they masturbate. It would be better for them to use porn to picture women that they don’t know when they are engaging in sexual thoughts and actions so that they don’t complicate and sully their thoughts toward women that they do know, which can make their relationships with those women complicated.
In short, for many single men, the use of porn while they masturbate can help them to keep themselves on a purer and more respectful track toward the women they know and see every day.
All of this is an accommodation to the reality that we are fallen and imperfect beings who are not pure even as we walk a path toward the One who is pure.
Thank you kindly for your explanation.
I wanted to get your opinion on this article in particular. The author claims that a user commits a total of eight sins when indulging in pornography.
The sins written in the article include: “lust, adultery, idolatry, deceit theft, sloth, sexual assault and ignoring the Holy spirit.”
Ignoring both lust and adultery, due to the fact that these words are often mistranslated and, or, misunderstood, especially in the context of Matthew 5:28, what is your take on the remaining six sins?
The article in question:
There are many, many errors in this article. It’s not that pornography is good. But sensationalizing it and engaging in dubious reasoning in an effort to make it into a terrible, terrible sin is not good either.
The errors of the article do start with the author’s superficial view of “lust.” As covered in the articles on masturbation that I linked for you earlier, “lust” as used in the Bible is not mere sexual desire. It is a burning sexual passion whose desire and intent is to actually carry out the sexual liaisons that the mind is picturing and the heart is desiring. Having sexual thoughts and desires is just biology and the desire for intimacy. Wanting to carry out those desires in real life in damaging ways, such as in an adulterous relationship or in promiscuous sex with multiple women, is lust. A Christian man who has sexual thoughts, but also a commitment not to actually have sex with women until it can be done in a moral way—ideally within marriage—is not engaging in “lust” as the Bible uses that term.
Evangelical Christians are far more restrictive on sexual matters, and far more prudish, than the Bible is. There is no biblical warrant for extrapolating and expanding what the Bible does say about sex into a vast edifice of moral laws against every conceivable form of sexual activity other than missionary position sex within marriage. That is not only unbiblical, but entirely unrealistic.
That’s why evangelical clergy, deacons, and so on are always getting caught with their pants down in forbidden sexual activities. They can’t live by their own rules because their rules are unbiblical and unrealistic.
But on to the specific sins mentioned in the article:
By the logic of this section, the moment we do anything at all besides going to church and worshiping God, we are committing the sin of idolatry.
Does the author really think that “In the moment you begin to look at porn, you have allowed it to replace God as essential to your happiness”? Does that mean that the moment you start eating food, you have allowed it to replace God as essential to your happiness? Does it mean that the moment you go to the gym and work out, you have allowed it to replace God as essential to your happiness? Does it mean that the moment a man makes love with his wife, he has allowed it to replace God as essential to his happiness?
By using the word “essential,” the author has subtly, though perhaps not intentionally, shifted the ground from what’s most important to our happiness to things that are necessary for our happiness. God is what’s most important to our happiness. But we also need food, exercise, and yes, sexual expression in order to be fully happy. God did not create us such that all we need to be happy is God. God created us with many wants and needs, and many things that need to be fulfilled to keep us alive, keep us healthy, and keep us happy.
The author of the article should know this. He quotes another writer who says, “An idol, simply put, is anything that is more important to you than God.”
We do many things all day. That doesn’t mean that they are all more important to us than God. We even do some things that we think God doesn’t approve of. Even that doesn’t mean that those things are more important to us than God. Only that we aren’t perfect in following God.
There are many people who masturbate and use porn, and who still think that God is more important. They may feel bad about the porn, or they may think it’s no big deal. But in the big things in life, they will do their best to follow God’s ways because following God is what’s most important to them.
The problem is that “Christian” writers and preachers have set up an unrealistic black and white conflict between belief in God and engaging in various “sins” that are never identified as sins in the Bible. Real people live with many shades of gray. Real people who are believers and have good hearts do their best to follow God, but sometimes and in some areas fall short of what they believe God desires of them. That’s not idolatry. It’s just being human. Only God is perfect.
Here the author’s weakening of the word “lust” into any sort of sexual desire for a woman causes him to lump any kind of sexual desire or expression into the term “adultery” even if it is not actually adulterous. Adultery is having sex when at least one of the participants is married to someone else. When a man lusts after a woman—who was assumed to be married, since most adult women were married in those days—in the biblical sense of having a burning desire that would express itself in actual adultery with her if there were opportunity to do so, then he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. But if a man feels sexual desire toward a woman, but is very clear in his mind that he would never actually do it because it would be wrong, that is not lust in the biblical sense, nor is it adultery.
The author also weakens the word “deceit.” Deceit involves deceiving someone. It involves making them think what is true is false, and vice versa. It is usually done for the purpose of dishonestly achieving some goal or gain. If a salesperson intentionally hides flaws in a product and touts features that it does not have in order to sell it to a customer at a high price, that is deceit.
In some instances, consuming pornography may involve deceit. If a married man who has a loving wife has no interest in making love with her even though she wants to make love with him, and he is actually masturbating to porn while claiming that he is “just tired” or some other excuse, then that would be deceitful. He is being dishonest with her and depriving her of intimacy with him. In such cases, the man does indeed have some repentance and reformation to do.
But most men who masturbate to porn do so because either they have no wife or girlfriend, or their wife or girlfriend refuses to have sex with them (or has physical health issues that prevent it). If it’s his girlfriend, and this situation continues long-term with no likelihood of changing, most likely he’ll eventually break up with her. But if it’s his wife, the situation becomes much more complicated, especially if there are children.
Some married men will have an affair, which will usually end out breaking up the marriage. Others will remain faithful to their wife, only using masturbation, and often pornography along with it, to satisfy their sexual drives. Chances are they won’t tell their wife, because it would only exacerbate the relationship issues that are leading to the sexless marriage in the first place. Obviously, the best result would be to work out those issues. But in some instances, the relationship issues are too great, and there will be no resolution. If divorce is not a good option, and the man does not want to cheat on his wife, he’ll do what he has to do to deal with his sex drive. Usually that will mean masturbating to porn.
The same goes for men whose wives have health issues that make it difficult or impossible for them to have sex. Even if he is still in love with her, and wants to stay with her, his sex drive does not conveniently go away.
For single people who masturbate to porn, there is no deceit. They’re not misleading a partner, parents, or anyone else. They’re just not broadcasting their private life to the world. There’s a difference between lying and remaining silent.
In most cultures in the world today, people do not walk around naked in public, nor do most teenagers walk around naked in front of their parents. In most cultures today, people do not display their sexual organs to everyone around them. There are good reasons for this. Likewise, there is no need to share our personal sexual activities with parents or with the general public, nor would it be a good thing to do so in today’s cultural climate.
As for teens not telling their parents, too many parents are too freaked out about sex. Teenagers know this. Their parents are likely the last people they will ever tell if they are masturbating and using porn. And that’s too bad, because many teens would love to have a knowledgeable, non-condemnatory adult, whom they could trust, to talk to about these things. What’s wrong here is not so much what teenagers are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms, but the fact that their parents are so ignorant, misinformed, and conflicted about sexual issues that their own children cannot confide in them. And the so-called “Christian” church is the main source of that ignorance and misinformation, and those conflicted thoughts and feelings about sex.
For men who have a girlfriend or wife who will not have sex with them, there is also no deceit, because there is no intention of being dishonest with their wife or girlfriend for some sort of personal gain. If their wife or girlfriend would have sex with them, they’d quit the porn. Meanwhile, they’re just dealing with a difficult situation as best they can, while avoiding sleeping with other women and thereby being unfaithful to their wife or girlfriend. Usually (but not always) lack of sex in a relationship means there are deeper issues in that relationship. It would be best to deal with those issues. But that’s not always possible, or it may take years or even decades. Meanwhile, the sex drive doesn’t just take a break until the relationship issues are resolved.
As for “accountability partners,” if it were some nutty fundamentalist Christian who has unbiblical and overblown ideas about the dangers of everything but missionary position sex within marriage, I wouldn’t want to tell them about anything else I did either!
I also notice that the author throws in the word “addiction.”
It is true that some men, and even some women, are addicted to porn. They spend hour after hour, day after day obsessively watching porn videos, viewing pornographic images, and so on. These people have a serious problem, and they need to deal with it.
But that’s not how most people use porn. Most people use it to get their rocks off, and then they go about their day, or go to sleep and get up the next morning. That’s not an addiction any more than eating food when you’re hungry is an addiction. The author of the article is engaging in sloppy thinking by casually referring to all porn usage as “addiction.” This is one more indication that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His black and white view of reality causes him to see only black and white, and no shades of gray in between.
I find it very funny that this guy is suddenly worried about theft of copyrighted material when the material involved is pornography. Perhaps instead of nagging lonely and frustrated men about their use of pornography, he should go on a crusade to combat the terrible theft of reposting pornographic material without permission! That would be a truly Christian and virtuous pursuit! After all, if it’s bad to use stolen pornography, it’s even worse to actually steal pornography! Thou Shalt Not Steal! So get with it, Mr. Christian, and lay your ax to the root of the tree!
In short, this is a ridiculous objection. Men who use porn can’t control how it’s produced and what path it takes to get to them. By this logic, we should not buy any product at all, not even food, because somewhere in its line of production and distribution some evil thing almost certainly happened. If some day in the halcyon future we are fortunate enough to live in a perfect world, this might be a valid objection. Until then, it’s just horse puckies.
All this, and not a word about those poor, downtrodden porn models!
How is it greedy to use a product that was willingly produced for you in exchange for money? Assuming the women (and men) in the porn are consenting adults, if you don’t use their product, they may be annoyed, and if you do use their product, they’ll be quite pleased. That’s what’s putting food on their table, paying their rent, and so on. That’s why they put a lot of effort into getting their material out to potential consumers.
This one is an especially weak objection. It makes no sense at all. The guy is grasping at straws. And he is clearly ignorant of the realities of the pornography business.
Of course, if the production of some particular porn does not involve consenting adults, then it is rightly illegal in every decent country. Obviously men should not consume any porn for which they have reason to believe that its production may have involved actual rape, coercion, minors, and so on.
This once again seems to assume that all people who use porn are addicted to porn, and are wiling away all their free time glued to their porn vids. If they are, then yes, it is a massive waste of time and human potential. That’s why I advise men (and women) who are without a sexual partner, and who need visuals, to use porn only as much as necessary to reach sexual climax, and then go about their day.
In fact, people who have a normal sex drive and don’t satisfy it in some way will waste lots of time and mental energy obsessively thinking about sex all day when they could be focusing on doing something useful, with a clear head. Masturbating as needed, and if necessary using porn to make it work, can actually save mental time and focus, and make a person more productive.
If this guy thinks that all porn depicts sexual assault, I have to wonder what sort of porn he is drawn to.
Obviously any porn that involves actual rape or sexual assault is horrible, and also illegal. That’s what the police are for.
But most porn that portrays scenes of sexual assault is produced by consenting adults all the way around. It’s not just that “sometimes these women have volunteered for such degradation,” as the author writes. “These women” are most likely instructing the porn producer about exactly what sort of rape and violence scene they enjoy. As for the psychology of women who enjoy fantasy scenes of being sexually assaulted, that’s a matter for the psychiatrists. But the same women, if they were actually the victims of sexual assault, would find it terrible and traumatizing. In the professional porn business, the female porn actors are in control, they get paid considerably more than the male actors, and they determine exactly what will be in the scenes they shoot.
However, the bulk of porn does not depict sexual assault. A lot of it doesn’t even have men in it at all. As with everything else, pornography is not black and white. It has many shades of gray. As I say in the above article, my general recommendation is that if one must use porn, it is best to avoid and move away from the darker types of porn, and move toward and use the lighter types of porn instead.
Ignoring the Holy Spirit
In this section, the author cites 1 Corinthians 10:13, which reads:
His use of this verse simply assumes that masturbating to porn is a sin, and that our sex drive is a “temptation.”
But our sex drive is not a temptation. It is something that God created us with. And God did that for very definite purposes. Attempting to suppress it is not only futile, but contrary to God’s design. It is like trying to suppress our desire for food. No good comes of it. If anything, attempting to suppress our sex drive is itself ignoring and defying the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is God, then if we attempt to suppress and deny what God has put into us, we are defying the Holy Spirit.
“Christian” authors commonly say or suggest that we can be “pure”—by which they mean not engage in any sexual expression at all outside of marriage—simply by accepting Christ as our Savior. Some of them even run programs to help men “deal with sexual sin.” Perhaps they are successful in breaking some men of an actual addiction to porn. But in general, their “solution” doesn’t work. Accepting Christ as our Savior does not magically take away our God-given sex drive. We might as well decide we’re going to break our “addiction” to food, so that we don’t have to eat at all, by accepting Christ as our Savior.
Some men may have some success in these fundamentalist programs in the form of no longer obsessively consuming porn and wasting all of their time. But most, if they don’t get married, will eventually either go back to masturbating to porn, or they’ll go have sex with actual women—perhaps prostitutes, perhaps one-night stands, perhaps committing adultery—and hope nobody finds out. They certainly won’t tell their “accountability partner” about it. They’ll leave that church first.
When people “fail” their programs and return to their old ways, the evangelicals who run them will not admit that their programs don’t work. That would involve abandoning their false belief system, which they are very invested in. Instead, they’ll talk about “the battle with Satan,” and “Satan reclaiming his own.” But most likely, they’ll never know that their graduates are back to using porn. They’ll claim amazing success for their program, not realizing that in reality it is largely a failure. The main thing these programs accomplish is to create growing tension and frustration in their clients until they finally can’t withstand it anymore, and go “back to their life of sin,” as they have been taught to believe.
Our sex drive is a normal, natural part of our human nature, built into us by God. We can’t just turn it off, any more than we can turn off our need for food. Suppressing it is damaging to our physical and mental health.
If we cannot satisfy our sex drive within a faithful and loving relationship, it is best to find the most healthful and least problematic way of satisfying it. For people who can masturbate without porn, there’s really no downside at all. That would probably be the best possible route. But men, and some women, commonly need visuals. Hence porn. It’s not great. But it’s also not the blackest of evils as these “Christian” authors claim. It’s a lot better than sleeping with some other man’s wife, it’s better than engaging in casual and promiscuous sex with various women, and it’s better than paying for sex with a prostitute.
For many men, masturbating to porn is precisely the “way out” of the temptation to have promiscuous or adulterous sex so that they can “endure” not having a sexual partner. This is not ignoring the Holy Spirit. It is taking advantage of the means at our disposal to avoid yielding to the temptation to commit actual sexual sin.
In his final paragraph, among other things, the author says:
The only problem is, the Bible never says that Christ satisfied God’s wrath against our sin, or anything like that.
The idea that Christ’s death served as a satisfaction for our sins was originated a thousand years after the Bible was written, by a Catholic monk named Anselm. As developed by later Catholic theologians such as Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas, the resulting satisfaction theory of atonement became the primary doctrine of atonement in the Catholic Church.
When Martin Luther, who was also a Catholic monk, broke away from the Catholic Church, and took a number of other Catholics with him, they did not abandon their former Catholic satisfaction theory of atonement. Rather, they developed their own version of it, known as penal substitution. This is what the author of the article you linked is referring to with his use of the term “satisfied.”
As the author of the article says on his biography page, he is a Calvinist Protestant. Doctrinally, Calvinism is the worst of the major branches of Protestantism. It not only affirms the unbiblical doctrines of justification by faith alone and penal substitution, but also teaches double predestination, which states that God decided before creation who would be saved and who would be damned. It is a horrible, horrible doctrine because it takes away human free will and invalidates all of the Bible’s teachings about our need to choose life by repenting from our sins and living a righteous life instead.
If the author of this article actually believes that terrible doctrine, then in the end, he knows in his gut that it doesn’t matter whether people do or don’t follow his advice, because God has already decided whether they’re saved or damned anyway. In his mind, if people are able to follow his advice, that means God predestined them for salvation; and if they aren’t, then that means God predestined them for damnation. He therefore has no real incentive to make sure that his advice about “sexual sin” is good and well-founded advice. And it is very bad advice.
If you want to delve into some of the unbiblical and false doctrines that are behind the bad sexual advice given by Catholics and Protestants alike, here are a few articles that take them up:
That should be enough to keep you busy for a while. And there are plenty more where those came from!
The reason the author of the article you linked is so wrong about “sexual sin” is that his entire theology and doctrine, and all of his thinking based upon it, is unbiblical and false.
Perhaps he’s helping some men to break an addiction to porn. Maybe he’s helping some married men to get off the porn and get back with their wives sexually. Beyond that, he is causing a lot of damage by giving men unrealistic ideals of “purity” that are not possible for anyone but the Sinless One to achieve.
He is setting men up for failure, for furtively continuing practices that they believe are evil and sinful, for terribly guilty consciences as a result of that, and in many cases for eventual rejection of Christianity (as they understand it), and of Christ along with it. For many of the people he thinks he is helping, in the long run his brand of “Christianity” will lead only to atheism, after they have tried and failed to be “good Christians.”
But that sort of “Christianity” is not Christian at all, as shown in the last article linked just above.
I am a 18 year old who regularly watches porn and masturbates to release my sexual urges, will this send me to hell, or is this completely normal for someone my age?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.
Short answer: There is no commandment in the Bible prohibiting masturbating to porn. Doing so will not send you to hell. And yes, it’s fairly normal for people of a wide range of ages, especially if they have no regular marital or sexual partner. For more on masturbation, please see this article, and its two or three follow-up articles:
What does the Bible Say about Masturbation? Is Masturbation a Sin?
Now, if you get married, and you’re still masturbating to porn all the time, that could be a problem. But if you’re single and just doing what you need to do to satisfy your sex drive without doing things that the Bible actually does prohibit, that’s not a problem. Do see the articles on masturbation for more about that, though.
There’s recently claims that porn use may shrink the brain and cause “rewiring”, but I figure that’s excess use of internet porn, and it seems exercise and cutting back or cutting out can fix such issues, should they occur. America seems to still have that prudish view that sexuality is inherently “dirty” and wrong, so I shouldn’t be surprised if that influences such research, or the reporting of it.
Still, there’s porn that I think is immoral to enjoy, and there’s times and places where enjoying porn isn’t the best idea. Like when one is married and the porn in question is of someone other than one’s spouse.
My understanding is that the brain is constantly being wired and rewired. Too much of anything will likely cause problems. And yes, the above article is meant to inject some moderation and shades of gray into the pornography debate.
It’s also claimed by very conservative religions that porn devalues and degrades, objectifies, and encourages abuse.
I don’t think porn inherently devalues and degrades, unless one thinks sexuality is inherently dirty.
As for “objectification”, I like what Wendy McElroy said, according to Wikipedia on “objectification”:
“Wendy McElroy says, given that ‘objectification’ of women means to make women into sexual objects; it is meaningless because, ‘sexual objects’, taken literally, means nothing because inanimate objects do not have sexuality.”
And as for addiction, I don’t think porn inherently encourages addiction, or at least I hope that isn’t the case.
Pornography does cater to our physical and biological sexual drives and desires. From a spiritual perspective, it is devaluing of women (and men) because it doesn’t take into account our spiritual nature as human beings, and our potential for romantic and sexual relationships deeper than physical ones.
However, it’s not pornography that devalues, degrades, and objectifies women (and men), but our mind and heart that do that. Pornography itself is passive, and doesn’t do anything. Our mind uses pornography to satisfy physical sexual drives and desires.
Is that evil? Not per se. Rather, it is earthly and materialistic. (And of course, a lot of porn is indeed degrading in its production and depictions.) It will tend to keep our mind on an earthly, materialistic, and animal level. But once again, it is the mind doing this, not the porn. Porn is just a tool in the hands of human desires.
Objectification, also, is looking at women (or men) primarily as physical beings rather than as spiritual and psychological beings. It is a real thing that people commonly do to one another. The word is most commonly used when men do this to women for sexual enjoyment, visual or physical.
Once again, objectification not so much evil as it is physical-minded and unspiritual.
Unlike animals, we humans have an entire spiritual level, consisting of our higher capacities for love and understanding. If we ignore that level in other people when we interact with them, we are “objectifying” them not in the literal sense of making them into inanimate objects, but in the sense of treating them as primarily physical beings. Specifically, objectifying women generally involves paying attention to the sexually attractive form of their physical body and paying no attention to who they are as a person.
Women do this to men as well, though not as commonly as men do it to women. Also, while men commonly objectify women as “sex objects,” women are more likely to objectify men as “wallet objects.” In other words, they are commonly attracted to men and marry them for their money and their earning capacity. So it’s not a one-way street.
Back to porn, it doesn’t “encourage addiction.” Rather, if we have tendencies for sexual addictions, porn becomes an outlet for that addictive tendency. If porn didn’t exist, more men would likely attempt to have unhealthy sexual relationships with actual women than is the case given that porn does exist.
Bottom line: Porn doesn’t “do” anything. People do things with porn. The solution is not to get rid of porn, but to heal the human mind and heart spiritually, and our romantic and sexual relationships along with them. This is the process of regeneration that Swedenborg talks about so much. Once people have gotten their thinking and their relationships onto a more spiritual level, pornography will have no appeal to them.
Thanks for the reply. I’m single so I don’t have the opportunity for a real relationship now. So, I can still get certain urges upon seeing certain content. That alone isn’t necessarily a sign I haven’t regenerated, is it? Such urges don’t automatically lead to me denying that the spiritual exists, nor deny that there’s a difference between sexuality that comes from adultery or not.
Those urges are the common experience of most human beings. As long as we are alive on this earth, we are biological beings as well as spiritual beings. As such, we are subject to all the physical needs and drives that exist in lower animals. We can channel them into the most healthful, or at least the least unhealthful, avenues for satisfying them or expressing them, but we cannot eliminate them altogether. Those who attempt to suppress them generally don’t fare well.
And no, the persistence of these drives and desires does not indicate a lack of regeneration. Only expressing them in a way that harms or denigrates other people would indicate a lack of regeneration.
And by “denigrate” here, you don’t mean merely focusing on the physical of a person, I take it?
I also think even people who are regenerating can slip up now and then and entertain bad urges.
No, by “denigrating” I mean treating people badly, insulting them, and tearing them down.
Focusing on the physical side of a person isn’t necessarily denigrating. When a man tells a woman she is beautiful, and both of them understand that he’s talking about her physical beauty, and she is pleased with the compliment, that is the opposite of denigrating, even though it’s focusing on her physical side.
And indeed, no created human being is perfect. We all slip up now and then. Also, having bad urges isn’t something we can always avoid. Entertaining them, if that means thinking positively about them and dwelling on them, and truly wanting to express them in action, is a problem.
On the other hand, fantasizing about doing something that you know you would never actually do in real life may just be our way of dealing with these urges in our mind without actually acting upon them. For a related article, see:
How Imagination and Fantasy Help our Spiritual Growth
Hello Lee, you lost me at “the Bible says nothing about porn” and I’ll explain why. Just read Galatians 5 with true Greek understanding because “porn” is literally the first work of the flesh listed (Galatians 5:19) of which “those doing this or anything like it will not inherit the kingdom of God,” (Galatians 5:21). This and all works of the flesh, which are pride working by lust (1 John 2:15-17), are polar opposite to the fruit/works/deeds of the holy spirit of God, which are faith working by love with 9 characteristics (Galatians 5:6; 5:22-24; John 15; Matthew 7). True self-giving love/God the father, the spirit, & the word, is polar opposite to self-gaining lust/sin of the world, flesh, & devil whether false-love, anti-love, of just non-love. According to the scriptures, one cannot truly be, have, or do both porn as a work of the flesh and love as a work of the spirit. Most importantly, all people will be judged for either choosing true faith that works through love by grace in the true Christ Jesus or doubt of God & pride that works through hate of God & lust. Jesus is a new & last replacement Adam through which all things are possible, including God keeping people from porn and lust and sin and making us walk in the love of God instead. Be careful, because God will judge us all in the last day and teachers even with a higher standard. Better to get all this right now.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Galatians 5:19 reads, in Young’s Literal Translation:
The first word in the list is μοιχεία (moicheia), “adultery.”
I presume you are referring to the second word in the list, πορνεία (porneia). Although it sounds similar, this word does not mean “porn,” but “whoredom, fornication.” It derives from the Greek word for “prostitute.”
This and the rest of your points are all covered in the above article. No need for me to repeat it all here.
There’s the claim that “sexualized” depictions of women are always “misogynist” and “immoral”, but I disagree. Depictions of women being both sexual and women is inherently neither degrading nor promoting contempt.
There’s also the claim that fictional “sexualized” depictions of women made by men are bad because “fictional characters cannot consent” in reality. Such a view is flawed because if one can make up a character who is alive in fiction in the first place, then one can make up a character who has certain likes or dislikes in fiction, which can also include enjoying being “sexualized” in fiction.
I think such claims demonize male sexuality, which I doubt God would create as inherently evil. They’re also reminiscent of the Puritanical religious views of sexuality that sees it as inherently “dirty” or sinful.
I don’t think it is inherently misogynist and immoral to make, or enjoy, sexualized depictions of women. The issue comes when that is the only thing men see in women, not to mention when it is the only thing women see in themselves.
Women, like men, have both a body and a spirit. Neither one is dirty or evil in itself. Ideally, the body is the expression of the spirit. A beautiful body may or may not express a beautiful spirit inside. A physically beautiful person may not be spiritually beautiful, meaning the person may be selfish and greedy rather than loving and kind. But a beautiful body still represents spiritual beauty, even if it doesn’t correspond to spiritual beauty in that particular person.
Enjoying the physical beauty of a woman, or of a man, is not inherently evil. God made human beauty for a reason.
The problems come when physical beauty is the only thing one person is interested in about another person. This is the dreaded “objectification” that gets so much press these days. But that problem goes both ways. It is not only men who objectify women as “sex objects.” Women also objectify men as wallet objects. And women also objectify themselves as sex objects—and that is not all men’s fault. Quite often women are competing with other women, and men hardly even notice.
All of this happens when people are physical-minded, and have not developed their spiritual self through “regeneration,” or in Jesus’ original words, being “born again.” People who are physical-minded will naturally focus on the physical and worldly aspects of other people. If they are men, they will commonly pay attention to a woman’s physical beauty, and not to much else. If they are women, they will commonly pay attention to a man’s physical health and looks as well, but perhaps even more, they will pay attention to the size of his wallet.
For people who remain on that earthly and physical-minded level, all of this is inevitable. Complaining about men “objectifying” women won’t accomplish anything, any more than men complaining about women marrying men and then taking them to the cleaner’s in the divorce will accomplish anything. That’s just how physical-minded and materialistic people work.
The fire behind all that smoke is that we are meant to rise to a higher level than animals during our lifetime on earth. Animals pay attention only to potential mates’ physical characteristics. They have no morals or values that would cause them to do anything else. It is neither evil nor good. It’s just the way animals are. Humans can live like that as well—and many do.
But we humans have a higher spiritual level to our being that the lower animals don’t have. And when we open up and develop that higher spiritual level, we can have an entirely different type of relationship than animals are even capable of. Animals do not have romantic relationships because they are not capable of that type of relationship. Humans do have romantic relationships, because we have the higher levels of mind and heart that make them possible. Pushing toward having those relationships based on the other person’s inner qualities rather than only on their physical beauty or material wealth and connections is the fire behind all the smoke of our fractured gender relations today.
In previous historical eras, humans were largely worldly and materialistic. They were also quite pragmatic about sex. For the most part, their marriages weren’t all that different from the matings of animals, practically speaking. But today, we live in a new era in which people are becoming more spiritual, and are seeking higher forms of relationship, including in the marital sphere. That is a good thing. It’s just messy making the transition from the earlier largely external and earthly relationships to the newer internal and spiritually-based relationships. In any such major transition, there is usually a lot of chaos before things settle into a new and better pattern.
To bring things back to your original point, even for people who have opened up their spiritual levels so that they can engage in spiritual marriage, it is not wrong to enjoy the physical, social, and even financial characteristics of the opposite sex, or even of the same sex. Put plainly, women are often very beautiful, and men are often very handsome physically. There is nothing wrong with enjoying that. Our physical beauty is a gift from God.
But a spiritually-minded person will a) not think that’s all there is to a beautiful woman or handsome man, and b) will be interested in sexual intimacy with only one woman or man, not with every beautiful woman or rich and handsome man that happens by.
Much more could be said about this, but that’s enough for now. About fictional characters and sexualized depictions, you may find this article relevant:
How Imagination and Fantasy Help our Spiritual Growth