Pornography: a rising phenomenon

From the time we wake, our senses are bombarded with images and sounds from our phones, television, internet, and news outlets. Some is positive, but others are harmful, exposing us to ideas and images that we would not naturally choose.

One insidious influence that is increasingly pervasive in our digital age is pornography. According to Gallup research carried out in 2018, 43 percent of Americans felt that pornography was morally acceptable.1 This was an overall six-point increase over 2017. However, this number is an average and masks some more disturbing figures. Of those surveyed, 50 percent of nonmarried individuals, and 67 percent of nonmarried men between the age of 18 to 49 felt it was morally acceptable. Overall, 22 percent felt that religion was very important to them.

This level of acceptance of pornography raises questions for Christians who state they want to live their lives based on the 10 commandments, the teachings of Jesus, and principles that can be understood from the Bible.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.”2 Although pornography is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, it does speak about sexual immorality and lust. These texts can help us extract principles that guide our understanding.

Rewriting the rule book

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus redefined adultery. In Matthew 5:27, 28, He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (NIV). By saying this, Jesus rewrote the rule book. According to Leviticus 20:10-12 under the Law, if a couple were caught in adultery, they both were to be stoned. Jesus raised the bar and said even if you think in a wrong way, you are guilty.

Reading this in our modern context, we could reasonably expand it to include viewing pornography.

Looking at another person with lust – even if it is images or videos – does not give them respect as individuals who were made in the image of God. Rather, it reduces them to objects for personal pleasure, or sexual gratification, without any commitment on the part of the person watching.

Paul writing to the church in Philippi instructed them with regards to what they were to think about in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Pornography is the opposite of this list and draws us away from God.

God created sex as a beautiful, intimate expression of love between a married man and woman, where both the man and the woman are valued and cherished (Genesis 2:24). By contrast, pornography often portrays a distorted view of sex that centers around self-centered gratification rather than mutual respect and love.

Pressure on relationships

Pornography damages our spiritual life by drawing our thoughts away from God, and others to self-gratification. But its effects go beyond our relationship with God. It impacts our relationships with others.

Exposure to pornography may create unrealistic expectations about sex and short-circuit a person’s ability to form healthy attachments. It can lead to issues with body image, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, low self-esteem, and loneliness.3 It reduces sex to the level of a performance to be viewed, or a transaction, undermining God’s gift of an intimate expression of love, within a committed relationship between a husband and wife.

Like many things which have been corrupted, or taken out of the context God originally intended, pornography often becomes addictive. The user becomes dependent on it for sexual satisfaction, or it becomes a form of emotional escape. When this happens, it further harms relationships as it isolates the user, creating a barrier between them and their loved ones. There is also the problem of sex exploitation and abuse that often goes along with the recording of pornographic material (especially filming and videos).  It magnifies the damage to our relationship with God, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and spiritual distance.

Honoring God

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples 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 bodies” (NIV). When we decide to accept Jesus as our Savior, we also accept that our bodies are no longer ours to do as we wish. We need to treat them with respect, keep them as healthy as possible, and use them in ways that honor God. When we indulge in exposing them to things that God never intended, we are dishonoring God.

If you or anyone you know have struggled with or are struggling with pornography, it is important to remember that there is nothing too difficult for God. God’s grace is freely available to everyone. Jesus came to look for those who were struggling and offers a way out and forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV). In addition, several helpful resources in dealing with pornography addiction have been developed. You may access them here and here.


From a biblical perspective, pornography may be viewed as a form of lust and sexual immorality that dishonors God, the sanctity of marriage, and our mental and physical health. It can have harmful effects on both men and women, impacting their self-perception, relationships, and spirituality. But through awareness, discipline, and the grace of God, individuals can overcome these challenges and develop healthier attitudes towards sex and relationships.

By Audrey Andersson, General Vice President, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

  1. 1. (accessed August 7, 2023) ↩︎
  2. 2. (Accessed August 7, 2023) ↩︎
  3. 3. (Accessed August 7, 2023). ↩︎

Images: Freepik, AI-generated

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