The Problem of Pornography is Merely a Symptom

The issue of pornography has once again leaped to the forefront, gaining new momentum within the Christian community. A recent CNN report entitled, “The Demise of Guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation” stirred the conversation this week, and Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary followed up with a pertinent post at the Desiring God blog.

Popular author and apologist Josh McDowell is taking even greater strides in the war against pornography. The Christian Post reports:

Apologist and author Josh McDowell launched, a new website to raise awareness about online pornography which he says is a problem big enough to cause the downfall of the church.

“The downfall of the church will not come from a lack of apologetic teaching; it will come from disintegration of the families in the church,” says a video posted on the website, which was launched this week, just in time for summer vacation when students’ media consumption significantly increases.

“The greatest threat to the cause of Christ is pervasive sexuality and pornography,” McDowell, known as an articulate speaker, said in a statement Thursday. “Today we have, by and large, lost control of the controls because an intrusive immorality is just one click away from our children.


It’s true that pornography is a rapidly growing and pervasive problem not only in today’s culture, but, sadly, within the professing church as well. As such, it is indeed a worthy cause for Christians to fight against this crippling and devastating addiction. Yet, is the issue of pornography at the root of the church’s, or the individual Christian’s, problem? Or is it merely a symptom?

McDowell is quoted above as stating that, “The downfall of the church will not come from a lack of apologetic teaching; it will come from disintegration of the families in the church.” So what will cause this family disintegration? The article assumes that it is pornography and sexual sin. Perhaps the more appropriate question would then be, why are self-professed Christians falling into the grievous sin of pornography?

It is true that, no matter how much doctrinal truth is known by a person, his life cannot be outwardly changed until he is inwardly renewed by the Holy Spirit, thus learning and desiring to apply those doctrinal truths in his life. Yet, without the dissemination of “apologetic teaching” or the preaching of the Word, there is no foundation on which to build a Christian ethic that rejects such sinful practices as the viewing of pornography.

There is a principle that may be gleaned from Hosea 4:6, which reads:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6, ESV

To be sure, this passage is directed at Israel, and specifically at her priests. Yet the condemnation and the principle revealed here is that these priests have withheld from the people the knowledge of the truth that comes from God alone. When people are unaware of God’s truth, of His laws and His gospel of forgiveness, then the result can only be destruction.

Pornography destroys. It destroys individuals, families and it can destroy churches. It is a dreadful product of this sinful world, and Christians ought to speak out against it, and pray for God’s protection from it and its effects. Yet to do this without also laying a foundation of God’s truth as spoken in His Word likely will offer only temporary results.

Pornography will not cause the downfall of the church, but a lack of knowledge will. A lack of knowledge and ignorance of the truths of God inevitably will result in sin and ultimate death. Christians, then, ought to faithfully preach the Law of God, to offer it as a mirror that reveals sin and the need for a Savior. Then they must preach the Gospel, the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only the Gospel can save; it is the only weapon worth wielding against sin.