Does the Bible condemn Pornography?

Q. I have been told that the Bible does not condemn pornography, that it is a victimless crime, and that it does not contribute to any of the problems in our society, that a presidential commission actually recommended pornography as therapeutic in nature and we should all, therefore, get off our moral soap boxes and quit trying to deprive people of their constitutional rights to have and trade pornographic material. I guess what I am asking is this does the Bible in any way condemn pornography?

The answer to your question is an unqualified “YES.” The Bible condemns Pornography in many ways. First let me see if I can unravel the details in your question.

It is true that a 1970 commission, called the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, declared pornography “therapeutic” and recommended the repeal of obscenity laws. What these guys were thinking, no one knows. Most scholars on this subject simply think they were influence by the pornographic lobby. Pornography is a $3 billion dollar industry (FBI statistic).

In 1985 President Regan ordered Attorney General Edwin Meese to appoint a commission to investigate the issues concerning pornography. They were ordered to “determine the nature, extent, and impact on society of pornography in the United States,and to make specific recommendations to the Attorney General concerning more effective ways in which the spread of pornography could be contained, consistent with Constitutional guarantees.” Their findings linked pornography with organized crime, sexual violence and degradation, civil injustice, and other societal harms. The commission strongly recommended that laws against pornography and obscenity should be strengthened and enforced.

The truth is that Pornography is not a victimless crime. It is destructive to the core unit of the country, the family. It is a fact that today internet pornography is increasingly being cited as a cause for increasing divorce rates ( Edwin Feulner, The Naked Truth – Heritage Commentary 2002, The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C.)

I have here a picture of what many scholars believe to be the oldest example of pornographic material, this is a picture of the “Venus of willendorf.” This figurine is dated to several thousand years old (24,000 by some scholars) found in 1908 by the archaeologist Josef Szombathy near the town of Willendorf in Austria. This demonstrates that the problem of Pornography has been with us for a long time.

The word “Pornography” comes into English directly from the Greek word “pornographous” which meant writings about prostitutes (from the root words prone, “harlot,” and graphos, “writing.” The English word has come to have a broader definition to include all writings, photographs, or works of art that depict sexual activity, particularly illicit sexual acts or perversions.

Let me give you a Biblical perspective on this. There are a number of words in the Greek New Testament that condemn Pornography. If a sincere person were to consider just context here is what they would find:

Galatians 5:19-21
19* Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20* idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21* envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In verse 19 above, the first word that we will look at is the Greek word:

1) PORNEIA (fornication, immorality, sexual vice) (porneia)
This is a generic word in Greek that covers all forms of sexual impurity. Originally, it meant “to act the harlot” and then “to indulge unlawful lust”

As used in the New Testament, we find it having at least four different meanings…
a. Pre-marital sex – 1 Cor. 7:1-2
b. A synonym for adultery – Matt 19:9
c. A generic sense referring to all forms of unchastity –
1 Cor 6:13,18
d. A specific sense referring to harlotry and prostitution – Rev. 2:20-21

2) AKATHARSIA (impurity, uncleanness, ) (akayarsia) ak-ath-ar-see’-ah
This word originally had reference to dirt or dirtiness in a physical sense. In the Greek Old Testament, it is used to denote ritual and ceremonial impurity which made it impossible for the worshipper to approach God (cf. Lev 22:3-9).

It then came to be used in a moral sense, of that moral depravity which disgusts the person who sees it.

There are at least two ides included in this word:

1. The quality of that which is soiled and dirty. Some people have a “dirty mind.”
2. An impurity where there is a repulsive quality that awakens disgust in those persons who are decent.

This word indicates a general defilement of personality which taints every sphere of life.

3) ASELGIA (lasciviousness, licentiousness, (aselgeia) sensuality) –as-elg’-i-a

In the NT it seems to be linked with sexual excess in a public way
2. Barclay distinguishes three characteristics of this sin:
a. It is wanton and undisciplined action
b. It has no respect for the persons or rights of anyone else
c. It is completely indifferent to public opinion and to public decency

The general idea is that this word describes the kind of shameless behavior exhibited by those with no moral restraints who are completely indifferent to public opinion of what is acceptable behavior.

The Greek scholar Thayer defines this word by giving these examples:
1. Unbridled lust
2. Excessive wantonness
3. Shamelessness
4. Outrageousness
5. indecent bodily movements
6. Unchaste handling of males and females.

The Greek scholars Lindell & Scott give a similar listing of meanings, adding the idea of “lewdness and/or vulgarity.”

Chamber’s Etymological English Dictionary says of the English words used to translate this idea that of “tending to produce lustful emotions.”

This word can certainly be used to describe what is commonly called Pornography today.

Here are the words of Jesus:

Matt 5:28
28* but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus demands purity of mind for his disciples.This concept is so prevalent in Christ’s teaching that he carries impurity back beyond the act to the lustful heart. In the parable of the soils Jesus says those that are sown among the thorns are those:

Mark 4:18-19
18* “And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word,
19* but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires (lusts- KJV) for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Paul says that God gave the Gentiles over:

Rom. 1:24
“in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.”

Paul commanded:

Rom. 6:12-14

12* Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,
13* and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
14* For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

He Said:

Gal. 5:16

“Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”

He wrote to the Colossians:

Col 3:5
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Christians are to put away the lusts of deceit:

Eph. 4:22-24

22* that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
23* and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24* and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Timothy was told to:

2 Tim. 2:22
22* ¶ Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Titus wrote

Titus 2:11-12

11* ¶ For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12* instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

Peter said:

1 Pet 2:11
11* Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

John said

1 John 2:16
16* For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
17* The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

No thinking person can ignore the devastation wrought by the animalistic lust produced by those who indulge in Pornography.

Dr. Victor B. Cline is a psychologist at the University of Utah with a private practice as a psychotherapist specializing in family marital counseling and sexual addiction. He has counseled numerous couples where one of the partners has a sexual addiction to pornography. He is the author of the booklet “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children,” published by Morality in Media, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 239, New York, NY 10115.

In this work, Dr. Cline says:

“As a clinical psychologist, I have treated, over many years, approximately 300 sex addicts, sex offenders, or other individuals (96% male) with sexual illnesses. This includes many types of unwanted compulsive sexual acting out plus such things as child molestation, voyeurism, sadomasochism, fetishism, and rape. With only several exceptions, pornography has been a major or minor contributor or facilitator in the acquisition of their deviation or sexual addiction…”

Studies by social scientist Dr. W.L. Marshall found that almost half of rapists used pornography depicting consenting sex to arouse themselves preparatory to seeking out a victim to rape.1

Other investigators have reported that rapists and child molesters use pornography both immediately prior to their crimes and during the actual assault.2

Empirical research by Dr. Zillman and Dr. Bryant suggests that where experimental subjects are exposed to repeated presentations of hard-core non-violent pornography over a six-week period they develop an increased callousness toward women and trivialize rape as a criminal offense and to some it was no longer a crime and view non-monogamous relationships are normal and natural behavior.”3


It is now empirical fact that:

Serial Murderers Fueled by Pornography:

Gary Bishop, Serial Killer
Ted Bundy, Serial Killer
Jeffrey Dahmer, Serial Killer
Klebold and Harris, Columbine Murders

Columbine High School murders Klebold and Harris were regular viewers of violent and pornographic videos. “Klebold and Harris were completely soaked in violence: in movies like Reservoir Dogs; in gory video games that they tailored to their imaginations.” (Time Reported (December 20, 1999 Vol. 154 no. 25).

Resource books on Pornography:

Victor B. Cline: “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children,” Morality in Media, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 239, New York, NY 10115.

Frederick S. Lane Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age

Richard F. Hixson Pornography and the Justices: The Supreme Court and the Intractable Obscenity Problem

Ilene Raymond A Parent’s Guide to The Internet

Jay A. Gertzman Booklegger and Smuthound: The Trade in Erotica, 1920-1940

Andrew Careaga, Leonard Sweet eMinistry: Connecting with the Net Generation

John Gallagher, Chris Bull Perfect Enemies: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement, and the Politics of the 1990’s

EndNotes:
1. A Report on the Use of Pornography by Sexual Offenders,” Federal Department of Justice, Ottawa, Canada,1983
2. Silber, M.H., and Pines, A.M. “Pornography and Sexual Abuse of Women,” in Sex Roles, Vol. 10, pp. 857-868, 1984.
3. Cline, V.B. Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children. New York: Morality in Media, 1999 edition. p. 8.

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