Tag Archives: pornography

Is Masturbation Wrong?

The fact that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention masturbation implies that we should approach this topic with sensitivity and caution. Most teenagers and single adults face an enormous struggle coming to terms with their sexual longings. Often the individuals who are most conscientious about their sexual feelings are the ones most likely to be tormented by unrealistic guilt. If we add to Scripture and weigh them down with even more unwarranted guilt, we become like the Pharisees and their legal experts. To protect holy principles, they added their own laws to Moses — like fences around fences — and in the process they heaped on others burdens that they themselves were not willing or able to bear (Luke 11:46).

If we are honest, each of us will acknowledge the difficulty of keeping sexually pure in a permissive and sexually obsessed culture. We struggle to avoid either of two extremes. We must not surrender to the hedonistic spirit of the age, but we also want to avoid the spirit of asceticism and proud self-denial that has often marred the history of Christianity. Any belief that our sexual desires and feelings are evil in themselves is based in the Gnostic1 denial of the goodness of the body and the natural world, not in the teachings of Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-3).

On the other hand, we can’t entirely discount the significance of habitual masturbation as a moral issue simply because it isn’t mentioned in Scripture. One doesn’t speak of “habitual” eating or “habitual” sleeping unless someone is eating or sleeping much more than they should. The fact that you realize you are caught up in a cycle of habitual behavior implies that you know that something is wrong.

All of life’s pleasures have an appropriate context. When we eat entirely for pleasure, we become flabby and unhealthy. When we sleep much more than is needed for rest and bodily health, we become mentally and physically ill. Any misuse of legitimate pleasure has bad consequences.

The purpose of sexual pleasure is to nurture intimacy and unity between a husband and wife (Genesis 2:24 ; Mark 10:6-8 ; Ephesians 5:28-32). Sexual desire is related to our deepest longings, our profoundest potential for intimacy and joy. It is like a fire. In the right circumstances a fire provides warmth, light, and food. In the wrong place it has enormous capacity for destruction.

The Bible doesn’t provide a detailed discussion of human sexual issues. It tends to refer to sexual matters indirectly and with considerable delicacy. For example, even the term sex isn’t used in the Bible, and the male and female sexual organs are referred to only indirectly, as is the act of intercourse. Even such a serious issue as pedophilia isn’t mentioned specifically. It’s likely, therefore, that although it isn’t mentioned specifically in Scripture, habitual masturbation would be included under the categories of “lasciviousness,” “impurity,” and “uncleanness” (e.g. Leviticus 15:16-17 ; Mark 7:20-22 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21 ; Galatians 5:19 ; Ephesians 5:3,5 ; Colossians 3:5).2

What are some of the illegitimate uses of sexual pleasure that we should be on guard against?

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t serve merely as a “pressure valve” for the release of physical and emotional tension. There are more constructive, loving ways to release — and even to harness — our physical and emotional tension.

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t be fed by sinful fantasy. Jesus made it clear that sexual sin isn’t limited to physical act. Sin occurs equally in fantasy and imagination. There is a healthy imagination that leads to actions that honor one another, and a self-absorbed imagination that inclines us to use others for our own pleasure (Matthew 5:27-30; 15:19). Sexual fantasy can be a destructive expression of rage, revenge, or lust. Such unhealthy fantasies can scar and harden our hearts even if they aren’t carried out in the real world.

Sexual pleasure should never be a way we demand that God satisfy us immediately, on our terms. We should never expect sexual pleasure to compensate for our loneliness, disappointment, powerlessness, or sense of rejection. If we use it for these reasons, it is illegitimate.

Followers of Christ have been given freedom and forgiveness to love and honor one another, but not to be enslaved again to the flesh (Romans 6:16). We have been given God’s Spirit and wisdom so that we can understand that our bodies make good servants — and cruel masters.

  1. . Gnostics represented a wide range of beliefs, but they universally believed that a certain gnosis (wisdom) could be attained that is far more important than “mere obedience” to God’s moral law. Paul’s strong words in 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 were written in response to a Gnostic heresy that claimed one could sin “in the body” without sinning “in the spirit.” The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were also written largely to counter an early form of Gnosticism, as were a number of other sections of the New Testament.
    Gnostics tended to deny the goodness of the material world and of physical life. They glorified the spirit while maintaining that the body was evil and the source of every kind of corruption. If you are interested in Gnostic beliefs, it would be well worth your time to read about Gnosticism in a good Church History text, like A History Of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette, or A History Of The Christian Church by Williston Walker. Back To Article
  2. Leviticus 15:16-17 makes it clear that masturbation would have been considered “unclean” under Old Testament Law. On page 12 of his highly regarded book, Homosexuality And The Politics Of Truth, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover comments:

    On the basis of the Pentateuch, the Talmud treats all sexual activity outside of marital relations, including masturbation, unequivocally as sins, though it makes careful distinctions concerning their varying severity.Back To Article

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How Can I Distinguish Between Nudity in Art and Pornography?

The line between art and pornography is notoriously hard to define. In the Victorian era the sight of a woman’s knee was considered erotic, and one didn’t refer to the legs of a table in mixed company. Today in some Muslim societies women still have to cover their faces lest they incite male lust.

As much as we might wish to define our Christian responsibilities regarding things like clothing and art in stark black-and-white terms, we aren’t able to do so. The apostle Paul acknowledged this when he wrote:

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:12-17).

Christian liberty is the freedom from bondage to sin ( Romans 6:18-23 ; 1 Corinthians 15:56 ), the power of evil ( Colossians 1:13-14 ),and the law as a means for salvation ( Galatians 4:21-5:1 ) that results from voluntary submission to righteousness.

Once we understand the meaning of Christian liberty, it’s much easier to live with a peaceful heart. People who are bound to the law (like certain legalistic sects who follow a strict set of rules for clothing) live with constant dread of failure, little sense of personal self-control, and an exaggerated feeling of guilt.

Rather than living under the law and struggling to do the right things for the wrong reasons, Christian liberty calls upon Christians to become conscious of the specific things that draw them into sinful lust and then resist them. Excessive general rules — such as those defining any kind of nudity as pornography — remove personal freedom and the responsibility to develop one’s own Christian character.

Try this simple rule of thumb: Don’t be overly sensitive, but if something arouses you, put it away. Don’t look at it any longer. Don’t let things escalate ( Genesis 39:12 ; Ecclesiastes 7:26 ; Proverbs 5; 6:25-28 ; Matthew 5:30 ). The nude image of an attractive person will always evoke a degree of sexual longing in a person of the opposite sex, but good people learn how to sublimate their longings in loving and constructive ways.

Sexual arousal is a wonderful aspect of human experience that should be cultivated only when it is appropriate, that is, with our spouse under the right circumstances ( Proverbs 5:18-20 ). If we don’t carefully cultivate this gift of arousal, we’ll find that purity, freedom of relationship, and appropriate affection for others of the opposite sex will be progressively harder to achieve. Giving in to inappropriate (sinful) arousal always enslaves.

The cultivation of sexual purity and self-control involves struggle and occasional failure. Developing this kind of self-awareness requires faith that God will honor our efforts to resist sin. He will forgive us for our setbacks and failures on the basis of what His Son did for us at Calvary. He will also — through the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit — enable us to overcome our sinful inclinations and obsessions.

When we proceed with faith and determination, the end result will be more personal freedom and greater intimacy with others.

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Is a Man Harmed by Looking at Pornography?

There are many today who would suggest that viewing pornography is a harmless recreational activity. Many men, including many Christian men, openly and secretly try to justify looking at the smorgasbord of pornography available on the Internet and video tape. The actual truth, however, is that viewing pornography harms a man in several significant ways.

First, looking at pornography affects how a man views women. Nude pictures and videos of women are degrading and dehumanizing. It portrays women as little more than sex objects to be used and discarded. Any man hooked by pornography is likely to develop disrespectful attitudes towards women.

Second, viewing pornography can turn into a sexual addiction. While it’s true that almost anything can turn into an addiction, the lure of pornography pulls a man in like little else does. Not every man who looks at pornography becomes addicted, but everyone who looks runs the risk. And the cost of a sexual addiction is high. As the addiction grows more and more out of control, it can wipe out a man’s job, his financial assets, his testimony, his peace, his family, his health, and even his freedom (James 1:14-15).

If a man is married, there are at least two additional implications to consider. First, looking at pornography violates the marriage covenant. Jesus said that a man who lusts after a woman commits adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Second, looking at pornography leads to an increasing distance between him and his wife. Lusting over sexually graphic images does not cause a married man to desire his wife more. It causes him to desire her less. He may not be drawn into an extramarital physical affair, but every time he fantasizes about having sex with other women, he creates distance from his wife in some way. His wife will sense the growing distance, which will cause problems. She may become angry or blame herself for the distance.

Rather than “spicing up” a married couple’s sex life and building intimacy, looking at pornography compromises the relationship and destroys intimacy. Viewing pornography will cause a man to crave more and more unrealistic sexual stimuli, which his wife won’t be willing or able to provide. Consequently, he will feel cheated and angry; she will feel used and inadequate, and they will grow further apart.

A single man is making a big mistake if he thinks that looking at pornography today will have no negative effect on his marriage in the future. Some single men even believe that getting married will end an affair with pornography, but it won’t. A man that is used to being sexually aroused by pornographic images often begins to crave it again once the novelty of marriage wears off. And the man who gives in to that craving not only violates the marital covenant, but also puts the marriage itself into serious jeopardy. To state it frankly, there are no redeeming attributes to pornography.

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How Can I Know If I’m Addicted to Pornography?

Pornography is a serious problem that is only getting worse. We live in a world of technology that some are taking full advantage of to make pornography more readily available than ever before. And as the pornographic industry continues to expand, more and more people are becoming enslaved to looking at sexually graphic images.

How can a person know if they’ve become trapped in an addiction to pornography? One of the surest signs is that you keep returning to something you know is wrong. If you have promised yourself over and over again that last time would be the last time — and it never is — then it’s likely that you’ve given yourself over to an activity that you believe you can’t live without.

A person who has become addicted to pornography will also identify with a number of the following statements:

  • I regularly seek out pornography.
  • I have an increasing need to view more pornography.
  • I have a pattern of spending large amounts of time looking forward to viewing pornography.
  • I shift between the extremes of feeling that my problem is either out-of-control or under control.
  • I’ve noticed a pattern of neglecting work, social, family responsibilities in order to view pornography.
  • I have a pattern of lying to conceal my struggle.
  • I have a pattern of breaking my promises to stop.
  • I have a pattern of minimizing the extent of my struggle.
  • I have suffered serious consequences as a result of looking at pornography such as financial debt or the loss of my marriage or job.

An addiction to pornography is a serious matter. The more you minimize it the more it will master you. If you suspect that you are addicted, stop kidding yourself. You can’t deal with this alone. You need to seek help. Let your secret out. At the very least, tell a “trusted” friend or wise pastor that you have a problem with pornography that feels out of control. Confiding in someone is scary for sure, but you have the assurance that “he conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

If you don’t consider yourself addicted to pornography, you should not assume that you can occasionally dabble in sexually graphic images. First, any watching of pornography, whether it occurs once or a thousand times, is wrong and harmful (See the ATQ article Is a Man Harmed by Looking at Pornography?). Second, anyone who lustfully looks at pornography is in danger of getting hooked.

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Why Shouldn’t I View Pornography or Sexually Explicit Educational Videos?

Pornography and sexually explicit “educational” videos don’t promote the development of love and intimacy — they undermine it. A married couple may benefit from better knowledge of sexual physiology and technique, but information about sex should be provided in a way that respects the tenderness, mystery, and wonder of marital love. Filmed sex is a crass violation of human dignity and intimacy.

Intimacy is a matter of the heart. It can’t be captured by bright lights and a camera. All that can be captured on film is an illusion of intimacy. Lonely people who watch pornography in hopes of satisfying some of their longing for intimacy will be drawn in the opposite direction — toward voyeurism and self-absorbed lust. In fact,the more a person succeeds in imitating pornography, the more he will fall into the snare of sexual addiction and the further he will be from understanding the nature of real love.

Scripture contains some of the most beautiful erotic literature ever written ( Song Of Solomon 4:9-15; 5:10-16 ). It is clear that God created us as sexual beings, and He intends for us to delight in our sexuality when expressed within the bond of marriage. But Scripture also contains severe warnings against self-absorbed lust ( Exodus 20:17 ; Proverbs 5:3-6; 9:13 ; Matthew 5:28; 15:16-20 ; Colossians 3:4-7 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:2-7 ). In the same epistle in which the apostle Paul wrote his marvelous “love chapter,” he made a striking observation about sexual sin:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

In these verses Paul indicated what it is about sexual sin that makes it so destructive. He declared that it is a sin “against the body.” This clearly refers to much more than the mere physical effects of sexual sin. Real love and intimacy require a commitment of the heart ( 1 John 2:16; 4:8 ). Human sexuality is designed for much deeper purposes than mere sensual pleasure, release of tension, and self-gratification. It was designed to express the passionate, tender unity of a husband and wife in committed love. The apostle Paul wrote:

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.” But he who unites himself to the Lord is one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:31-32).

If a person commits his body to sex according to the pornographic model, the power of self-absorbed lust is released in full force,untempered by love. The Scriptures warn us that this will produce a darkened mind and an insensitive and hardened heart ( Romans 1:21-24; Ephesians 4:17-19 ). As a hardened heart and darkened mind vainly try to duplicate the joy of an intimacy in counterfeit form,the flames of lust flare with ever greater intensity. As lust grows, so does sexual addiction, diminishing our ability to experience in the body the ecstasy of real intimacy and genuine erotic love.

A book you may find helpful is False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumberg (Navpress).

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