Understanding Pornography

Dealing with today's skeleton in the church closet

The Internet has made a tremendous impact on the world and how things are done. Some of the impact has been good, such as improved communication, but it also has brought with it an ugly side — pornography. The Internet has brought into every home what was once only available in adult stores or in trash cans and hidden stashes. I know many guys from my Christian high school, my churches, my college and even the Focus on the Family Institute who have struggled with this evil. These friends do not come from unchurched backgrounds, but from "good families."

The Internet has brought into every home what was once only available in adult stores.

According to the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families publications, "Studies show boys ages 12-17 are among the primary consumers of porn — a major source of their sex education." In a small survey of Christians at the Focus on the Family Institute and a separate youth group, I found that the average age of exposure to Internet pornography was 15, which is a bit higher than the national average. This is due to the fact that a large number of those surveyed were around 20 years old, and the Internet came along during their teen years. The average age for first seeing a pornographic magazine was around 11 1/2 years old. The most interesting part to me was that, among the males, 64.10% had at some point purposely viewed pornography.

When someone says that pornography is not a problem in the church, it makes me truly question their contact with those in the church. According to one Internet source that deals with the issues of pornography, "At one Promise Keepers event, 50% of the attendees admitted to dabbling in porn during the previous week." This is a problem that is not just outside of the church, but one that is hitting churches from the pew to the pulpit.

So why are we not addressing this problem? The church is called to bring healing to the hurting in the world. I was motivated to write this article by a strong passion and burden that we must start to deal with this dangerous problem that is attacking those in the church, and targeting continually lowering ages. Before we can try to minister to those around us who are struggling with this issue, we must first model healthy sexuality in our own lives.

We must realize that nearly everyone is affected.

Part of being able to deal honestly with this issue is to have an understanding of the addiction to pornography. We also need to understand Biblical sexuality. There are many levels and types of pornography. Fundamentally "pornography is anything you can see, read or hear that's designed to cause sexual arousal, including magazines, books, movies, music, computers, etc." The most accessible type of pornography is found on the Internet. However, the same principles apply to all sources of pornography. Knowing that pornography covers a wide variety of media, you and I must not think that pornography only affects a select few. Instead, we must realize that nearly everyone is affected. Many who simply stumble upon pornography slowly develop a gradual desire for more, and if not dealt with early on, it can consume the person and change his or her thinking about sexuality and the opposite sex.

Everyone that purposely seeks it or even stumbles across pornography accidentally is exposed to a few basic subtle messages about sex. These messages are what many authors and researchers call lies or false messages. These messages include:

  • Sex with anyone, under any circumstances, any way it is desired, is beneficial and does not have negative consequences.
  • Women have one value — to meet the sexual demands of men.
  • Marriage and children are obstacles to sexual fulfillment.
  • Everyone is involved in promiscuous sexual activity, infidelity and premarital sex.

  • Women are less than human.
  • Women are a 'sport'.
  • Women are property.
  • A woman's value depends on the attractiveness of her body.
  • Women like rape.

These messages are not literally written across pornography, but are communicated through repeated exposure. Pornography seeps into a person's life. A good metaphor for this process is smoke filling a room. It starts slowly, filling the room through a crack. Over time, it completely swallows the air. And if there is a big crack, it will fill the room more quickly.

The mental images of what is seen will not dissipate; they will remain over time just like smoke damage. Sometimes it takes just one exposure to pornography for it to become an addiction. In other cases, it takes time. The cracks in the room are like the emotional gap in the life of an addict that they are filling with pornography. Pornography is a progressive and deadly problem that is attacking and taking over lives of those in the church and society.

There are five basic stages that one goes through when addicted to pornography.

There are five basic stages that one goes through when addicted to pornography, according to Dr. Victor Cline:

  1. Early Exposure: Most guys who get addicted to porn start early. They see the stuff when they are very young, and it gets its foot in the door.
  2. Addiction: Later comes addiction. You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You're hooked. You can't quit.
  3. Escalation: After a while, escalation begins. You start to look for more and more graphic porn. You start using porn that would have disgusted you when you started. Now it excites you.
  4. Desensitization: Eventually, you start to become numb. Even the most graphic, degrading porn doesn't excite you anymore. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again, but can't find it.
  5. Acting Out Sexually: At this point, many men make a dangerous jump and start acting out sexually. They move from the paper and plastic images of porn to the real world.

The Bible has pretty clear guidelines.

The stages of addiction show that it is a progressive addiction, much like an itch. It starts small, but over time the itch needs more and more scratching for it to be satisfied. Those who struggle with an addiction come from all types of homes and backgrounds, even those that look totally healthy on the outside.

We know that the Bible has pretty clear guidelines on what is acceptable for us to do sexually. The following are just a few verses that show God's view of sex:

Man is to leave his parents to be joined
in one flesh with his wife.

Proverbs 4:23
We are to guard our hearts. It is the core of who we are. When you join together with another person sexually you become one. You can't separate from another without leaving part of yourself with them.

Matthew 5:28
We are not to look lustfully at another person.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
We are to flee sexual immorality. We are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and were bought with the price of Christ's death on the cross.

Ephesians 5:3, 2 Timothy 2:22
There is to be no hint of sexual immorality among us.

Colossians 3:5
Put to death sexual immorality and lust.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
God's will for us is that we be sanctified and avoid sexual immorality and control our bodies in a way that is pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:4
Marriage is to be honored by all people. The marriage bed is to be kept pure. God will judge the sexually immoral and the adulterer.

These verses are just a few of the many that speak to the issue of sexuality. There are also many great non-biblical resources that hit on this topic:


  • Dare 2 Dig Deeper: In Your Face ... In Your Mind: Resisting the Power of Pornography. Focus on the Family, 2000.
  • Dare 2 Dig Deeper: Forever Sex Without Regrets. Focus on the Family, 2000.
  • Triumph Over Temptation. Literature Ministries International, 1999.
  • Your Children & Pornography: A Guide for Parents. Tom Buford, Fires of Darkness, 2001
  • Caught in the Porn Trap: For Clergy and Lay Leaders Advising Victims & Their Loved Ones. The National Coalition For the Protection of Children & Families.


    • False Intimacy. Harry Schaumburg, NavPress, 1997.
    • Real Solutions for Overcoming Internet Addictions. Stephen Watters, Vine, 2001.

      Article copyright © 2002, Focus on the Family.
      All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
      Used by permission.

      Tim Roberts wrote this article while he was a student at the Focus on the Family Institute and serving as an intern in the
      Pastoral Ministries department.