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5 Myths about Porn

Posted February 8, 2023
Christian LivingSexuality

Porn Is Built on Lies

Porn is Satanic. Why do I say that? Because the world of porn is infested with lies. Porn needs lies and myths to keep going. And Jesus said about Satan, “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan’s empire is propped up by lies upon lies, with new lies covering up old lies.

It’s no surprise, then, that porn promises much but delivers less—and not just less but, in fact, the opposite of what it promises. And by now aren’t we all fed up with being manipulated? Advertisers lie to us. Politicians lie to us. Porn lies to us. This world breaks our hearts. But Jesus has come, and his kingdom heals our hearts. So let’s be defiant. Let’s get free of every lie, by God’s grace, starting with the fraudulence that pornography is.

Myth #1: Porn will satisfy you. It will even turbocharge your sexuality.

Maybe. For a short while. At an animalian level. But the bitter aftertaste is inevitable. “Satan presents the bait, but he hides the hook,” to quote the Puritan, Thomas Brooks.

Why does porn always get us spiraling down into shame and regret? Because God created us in his image, for his glory. And his exalted purposes for us include all that we are—yes, even our sexuality. So whenever we use his gift of sexuality for a lesser purpose, especially an ugly and predatory purpose, what can we do but end up disappointed and exhausted, feeling wasted? It’s not as though we might figure out smarter ways to use porn so that it actually pays off. No. Porn is simply proving to us what it always is. Porn is poison—with no warning label. There is a reason the Bible warns us, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). So let’s flip it and find our sins out, those wretched losers! Let’s start living again!

Myth #2: Porn is common, even normal. So what’s the fuss?

In a way, this myth is true. Porn is common. Indeed, porn is the wallpaper of our culture. Maybe common isn’t even a strong enough word. We need a stronger word like pervasive. Sexualized images keep showing up here, there, and everywhere. So, is porn common? For sure. But does that make it normal?

Here is something we must understand about this world we live in. The world is the way it is for the very purpose of making the abnormal feel normal. This is a world where we call evil good and good evil, where we put darkness for light and light for darkness, where we put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isa. 5:20). And if enough people go along with it, it does start feeling normal. We redefine reality to support our desires—which is crazy. And it doesn’t matter if the whole human race joins in the game. Numbers don’t define truth. God does (Rom. 3:4).

Porn is not only not normal; it isn’t even human. And it sure isn’t magnificent. But God created us to be nothing less than magnificent. Why would we ever settle for something so weird, bizarre, and creepy as porn? When we give it access to our souls, it shapes us way down deep. But if we’ll accept from God the honesty that sees reality as it is, he will help us run from porn back to himself. He loves to redignify sinners who are fed up with their crazy.

Myth #3: Porn isn’t hurting anyone. It’s an innocent distraction in your stressful life. You deserve a break today.

Two thoughts about this myth. One, it’s more than a myth. It’s a blatant lie. The truth is, wherever porn goes, trafficking goes, coercion goes, degradation goes, human miseries and unspeakable sufferings go. Porn is the modern slave trade.

Racialized slavery was legal in America until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Looking back now on that national disgrace, we see three human profiles among the Christians. One: active participants. Some Christians traded in slaves. We today grieve over them and wonder what on earth they were thinking. Two: passive onlookers. These Christians didn’t participate. They just shrugged their shoulders and mumbled, “Well, these things happen.” We look back on them and wonder why they didn’t stand up for what’s right. Three: active liberators. These Christians opposed slavery and worked and prayed and stuck their necks out to set people free. And we today rejoice over them and thank God for them.

Okay then. How will later generations look back on us? Are we today liberating people from this engine of injustice called the porn industry? We today can starve this wretched beast. We today can set men and women free. But will we? And if our answer is no, then let’s have the honesty to admit that we approve of the slave traders of the past. We’re on their side. Let’s admit it. But let’s not go there at all! Now is our God-given moment in history to stand up as living proof that Jesus is a Liberator—and we, too, are liberators for his sake!

Two, we were made for more than easy, lazy escapism. When we do get tired and worn and stressed-out, then getting some rest is a good idea—obviously. But let’s always remember that we were made for soldiering on with rugged endurance. We Christians eat hardship for lunch! The Bible has recruited us for this bold privilege: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). He is why we’re glad to keep going and keep going and keep going. We’re on his side, the winning side! We’ll have time enough and energy enough for the big party after the final victory is forever won. In the meantime, let’s never feel sorry for ourselves, as if living hard for Jesus is something to slink away from. No way! He loves us, and he’s all-in. We love him, and we’re all-in. What a privilege!

Myth #4: Porn has no deep or lasting impact. You can stop at any time. You’re in control.

The myth says, “You can even budget your porn use. Hold back during those times when you need to be at your best for Christ or for your family or whatever. But then, after you’ve been good for a while, you can jump back in—no problem.” Really? Sin is that easy, and our freedom is that negotiable?

Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). And if there is any area of our lives where we experience the painful grip of this slavery, it’s in our sexuality. Why? Because God created our sexuality to be a magnetic power between a husband and a wife, bringing them together again and again. Sex is meant to be, in God’s goodness and wisdom, an experience of personal abandon and ongoing vulnerability. But when we offer up our sexual powers to any sinful purpose, we discover that our losing control in the wrong way creates degrading slavery where God intended captivating attraction. What God designed for deep belonging curves in on ourselves as compulsive, self-injuring isolation.

Myth #5: Doesn’t God want you to be happy and just live your life?

God is a morally serious person. He remakes us into morally serious people. This ridiculous notion—“Doesn’t God just want us all to be happy?”—how can we respect that, much less worship the One who, we are told, taught it to us? This myth doesn’t require much debunking. All we have to do is look at the cross and see him there, suffering for our sins, including the sin of trivializing God and ourselves with glib and shallow slogans like this.

I began this post by saying that porn is a Satanic pack of lies. I’ll end on a different note. You are an image of the living God, created for his glorious purpose (Gen. 1:26–28). You aren’t stuck with porn. The One who made you can recreate you as a person standing tall, walking in integrity, lifting others up. Why repeat this past year? Your gracious Savior is offering you freedom in this new year. Why not go for it?

Content adapted from The Death of Porn by Ray Ortlund. This article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.

Photo of Ray Ortlund
Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is the president of Renewal Ministries, the pastor to pastors at Immanuel Nashville Church, and a canon theologian with the Anglican Church in North America. He is the author of several books, including The Death of Porn; the Preaching the Word commentaries on Isaiah and Proverbs; and Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel. He is also a contributor to the ESV Study Bible. Ray and his wife, Jani, have been married for fifty years.