So… I’ve been thinking about porn lately.
More specifically I’m trying to get to the root of why it’s a problem. I feel this is a topic where there are a lot of soundbites and virtue signaling, but not much thinking. So this post will include some foundational concepts for my philosophical adventure through yet another inappropriate subject.
The first step is to define the relevant terms correctly. As Vox Day has pointed out, the earliest sign of a charlatan is that they use commonly understood words in unusual ways in order to fit their argument. This could also apply for people who have been infected by false teaching and haven’t yet done any thinking of their own. And I will have none of that boondoggling around here! So let’s start with a basic glossary…
(Links are included to relevant dictionary entries. I used the Greek words when it is a term found specifically in the Bible.)
Erotica – literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire
Art – the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination
Pornography – printed or visual material that contains explicit descriptions or display of sexual organs or activity
Lust (epithumeó)- a focused passion to do or possess something; a compound of epi (“upon”) and thymós (getting heated up; passion-driven behavior; intense emotions). Lust is an intense and growing obsession with an object.
Adultery (moicheuó) – sexual intercourse with another man’s wife. Jesus taught that the root of adultery is lusting for another man’s wife (see above.)
Tempt (peirazó) – to try or test. Often used in a negative sense but could be used in a positive sense. The context determines whether it’s positive or negative. James says that it is epithumea (“lust”, “passionate desire”) that creates our temptations.
Sin (hamartia)– derived from A “not” and meros “a part, a share of”. Means to have no share or part of something due to missing the target. In the Biblical context, sin is that which causes one to lose his place or share in God’s kingdom because he did not reach the target (i.e. the end goal.)
So now that we’ve clarified the definitions, the next question is how do these terms relate to each other? Here’s a few starting observations:
The Song of Solomon is not pornography because it does not explicitly describe sexual organs or activity. Rather, it uses metaphors to indirectly refer to sexual functions.
Pornography is art because it is an application of creative skill and imagination. The question is whether it can be good art.
Viewing pornography is not the same as sexual immorality (porneia) because one can certainly look at porn without engaging in illicit sexual behavior. The right question is whether it inspires illicit sexual behavior. There are also other factors to consider… just because something is not a categorical sin doesn’t automatically mean it’s “good.” Nevertheless, the answer is probably not as black and white as we tend to make it.
The Song of Solomon is certainly erotica and it’s included in the Bible for all to read. Hence we cannot categorically condemn erotica as sinful.
Lust is not inherently sinful. Whether it’s sinful depends on whether or not one is able to lawfully possess what he desires. A man can (and should) lust after his wife. And a man looking for a wife could, arguably, legitimately lust after an unmarried woman. Though from a Red Pill perspective, lusting after an unmarried woman is unadvisable… akin to “oneitis.” It’s better to lust after a wife rather than a particular woman.
Lust is not the same as the desire for sex. It’s not even the same as desiring to have sex with a particular woman. Lust occurs when there is a “focused passion” (i.e. an obsession) that continues to grow in intensity. But, as a matter of wisdom, it is best that a man avoid dwelling on any woman other than his wife; there is no need to create unnecessary temptation.
Sin is a distinct (but related) concept from “temptation” and “lust.” According to James 1:14, there is a progression that, when allowed to develop, ultimately leads to death:
Lust => Enticement => Temptation => Sin => Death
In regards to pornography, the question we need to pursue is twofold:
- Does intentionally viewing or reading sexually explicit material cause one to lose his place in God’s Kingdom? If so, why?
- If there is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or reading sexually explicit material, then what are the Biblical boundaries that need to be placed around it to prevent us from being tempted to sin?