Our English word "pornography" derives from the Greek word "pornographos." This Greek word is a compound of "porne" meaning "harlot" or "prostitute" and "graphein" meaning "to write." By definition, it matters not at all whether the harlotry is for gain or purely for lust. Technically, pornography is "writing about prostitutes." However, the Greek "graphein" is related to the Greek "grapho" which not only means to write but also includes drawings and paintings. Therefore, "pornography" pertains to the depiction of erotic behavior through writings, pictures and movies, and is intended to cause sexual excitement or lust.
Pornography directly, forcefully and adversely affects humanity on several fronts. The Bible student is at once aware that pornography runs counter to several biblical principles (e.g., teachings about fornication, lust, modesty). Further, pornography contributes to the debasing, desensitizing and brutalizing of human society or civilization. Whatever affects society affects the members that comprise it, including you and me. Pornography especially portrays subsets of society -- women and children -- as the special targets of sexual aggression. At the least, pornography is an insult, especially to womanhood; she has so much more to offer and possesses so much more self-worth than what pornography pictures for her. Pornography dehumanizes men, women and children, presenting them as objects of base, animalistic indulgence. Pornography leaves in its wake victims of all sorts (e.g., men and women addicted to it; men, women and children depicted in it; men, women and children who though not directly involved with it may be assaulted by others fueled with it).
Morally sensitive people understand that pornography is ultimately more devastating to society than stealing. Theft robs people of things, but pornography robs them of character. It destroys their humanity.1
Varying degrees of pornographic manifestation have saturated public outlook through every form of media (e.g., books, magazines, the Internet, movies, music videos, television, live performances). "Nearly 900 theaters show X-rated films and more than 15,000 'adult' bookstores and video stores offer pornographic material, outnumbering McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. by a margin of at least three to one."2 One immediate result of the widespread popularity of pornographic expression is that society rapidly becomes jaded by it and is susceptible to and often is drawn to even more greatly depraved representations of it. Pornography is psychologically addictive.
Doubtless, Christians are concerned most about the pollution of the soul for which pornography is certainly responsible. The estimated eight billion dollars spent annually on pornography3 corrupt the souls of all those who embrace it, and many who are somehow the unwilling victims, directly or indirectly, of it. "About 1.2 million children are annually exploited through child pornography and prostitution."4 Numerous studies confirm that many pedophiles and rapists precede their sexual assaults with digestion of pornography.
The divine image in which mankind was cast by God is incompatible with pornography. What, then, are some biblical considerations regarding pornography? In its mildest form, pornography violates the biblical doctrines about modesty and lust. Since the fall of mankind, at which time God clothed his human creation (Genesis 3:21), we have been compelled to conceal our human form from public view (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Failure to exercise modesty incites lust in others, for which our souls and their souls are imperiled. "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).
Pornography involves the corruption of one's mind and a distortion of sex as God designed it (1 Corinthians 7:2-3). Sexual perversion is embraced through pornography, contrasted to the divinely sanctioned marital union (Genesis 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6), marital intimacy (1 Corinthians 7:4-5), sexual pleasure within marriage (Genesis 18:12; Proverbs 5:18-19) and procreation (Genesis 1:28). The sinful activities in which anyone engages begin with a wickedly besmirched mentality. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19). Hence, it is immensely important on what one's mind feeds. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
It attacks the institution of marriage and the home. . . . It defiles the mind by polluting it with impure and unholy thoughts.5
Pornography also implies and often depicts all manner of fornication. The English definition of "fornication" is inadequate to represent the biblical definition of its Greek counterpart -- "porneia." In Scripture, "fornication" is not restricted to the "consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other."6 "Porneia means fornication (sometimes involving adultery) . . . porneia broadens out to include not only fornication or adultery but incest, sodomy, unlawful marriage, and sexual intercourse in general."7 Porneia is used "of illicit sexual intercourse,"8 that is, "every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse."9 Add to the above list bestiality (Leviticus 18:23), rape (Deuteronomy 22:25) and any other sexual intercourse contrary to the function inherently designed by God (Romans 1:26-27, e.g., oral copulation).
In any case, use of pornography puts the consumer thereof in the position of approving of what God condemns. Following a catalog of sins, including various types of fornication, the apostle Paul recorded the following by inspiration: "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Romans 1:32). A similar register of sins concludes with ". . . they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Use of pornography promotes the ruin of especially women and children that find themselves entrapped therein. In this vein, a judge addressed a convicted child pornographer thus: "'By receiving and possessing child pornography, you took part in the victimization of those children,' U.S. District Judge Alan Block told . . ." [the offender].10 Similarly, every consumer of pornography indirectly contributes to the sinfulness by which it is produced, the infection of its participants and other purveyors of pornography by it, as well as those who are innocently, directly or indirectly, victimized by pornography. That one may obtain pornography in many instances without paying for it does not materially affect one's culpability. Financing the multibillion-dollar pornography business by one's purchase of pornographic materials only compounds one's blameworthiness.
Is one who uses or approves of pornography more nearly a friend of God or a friend of the lost world and an enemy of God (James 4:4)? Is pornography consistent with one's Christian birthright and an eternal home with God in heaven? As faithful children of God, we must " . . . have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret" (Ephesians 5:11-12).
The way for evil and unrighteousness to reign supreme is for good people to idly sit by and do nothing. That's exactly what the porno-pushers want us to do. And that is just what God's people must not do!11
1 Lindell Mitchell, “Pack of Lies -- 9: Viewing Pornography Is a Harmless Adult Pleasure,” Firm Foundation, (Bedford, TX) Vol. 109, No. 4, April 1994, pp. 8-9.
2 Anderson, Kerby and Brown, Perry, “The Peril of Pornography,” (Garland, TX: American Tract Society).
5 Robinson, Garland M., “Pornography,” First Century Christian, (Memphis, TN) Vol. 13, No. 3, March 1991, p. 15.
6 Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 1993.
7 Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 1985.
8 Vine, W. E., Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell) 1981.
9 Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, F. Wilbur, and Danker, Frederick W., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1979.
10 “Man Sentenced in Porn Case,” Herald-Star, (Steubenville, OH) December 4, 1998, p. 9A.