The Present Controversy Over Pornography – What Say You?

Before I get to today’s interview, I want to let you know that we just uploaded to the podcast the message I delivered at the NCY Ministers Conference. It’s entitled “For God So Loved the World vs. Love Not the World.” Other speakers were Scot McKnight, Jon Acuff, Larry Osborne, et al. You can listen to the message freely via iTunes, RSS feed, or direct streaming. Just click here.

Now on to the topic at hand.

Back in December, I asked a question about using profanity called The Swearing Christian. Christians were divided down the line on the issue. Some said that using cuss words was sinful, wrong, or inappropriate. Some justified it, saying it was not only fine, but it was beneficial.

In that post, I pointed out that Christians are divided over many issues. Some say that these practices are sinful, while others say that they are fine or even good. Among the list are:

Drinking alcohol

Smoking cigarettes

Smoking marijuana

Homosexual behavior

Watching R rated movies

Owning an SUV

Sending your children to public school

Voting

Supporting same sex marriage

Premarital sex

Listening to “secular” music

Another one is pornography. Years ago it seemed that there was an unmistakable consensus among Christians on this issue. But today, that’s not exactly the case. Several years ago (when I used to read Facebook threads), I came across a thread where Christians were debating the issue. Most were saying that viewing pornography is always sinful. Some even said it was the greatest sin facing Christians today.

Several others disagreed. They argued that if the pornography was between consenting adults (not children and not people who were victims of human trafficking), then it was a legitimate hobby. Even for married folks who wanted to watch it.

Again, this was on a Christian Facebook page and everyone who was involved in the discussion professed to be Christian.

So as we did with my Swearing Christian post, I’d like to hear from the Christian community on this question. Answer and share the post so we can hear from as many Christians as possible. I’ll weigh-in with my opinion in a future post.

Is viewing pornography that involves consulting adults sinful? Why or why not? What say you?

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  • http://frankviola.com/ Frank Viola

    Thank you.

  • Ginny Bain Allen

    I heard Josh McDowell teach about the horrors of pornography at a Christian apologetics conference in Spartanburg, SC, last September. He is the one who made the statements I wrote above. I purchased the accompanying DVD.

  • http://frankviola.com/ Frank Viola

    That’s alarming. Can you provide a source for this?

  • Ginny Bain Allen

    Everyone needs to be aware that the first time children view pornography these days is quite often between the ages of 4 and 6. We must be prepared ahead of time for our children to see it, because THEY WILL. There is much demonic activity all over the evil that is the billion dollar porn industry. It destroys myriad lives in a myriad of ways.

  • Ginny Bain Allen

    Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost.

  • Stefan Korth

    Ha. good one. :-) )

  • JQ Christian

    The only possible valid argument against adults viewing (non-violent, abusive or taboo) pornography, in my opinion, is if a married viewer has agreed with his spouse that it’s off limits. It seems to me that the Bible contains erotic material (Song of Songs), a type of pornography and it uses pornographic language to portray spiritual concerns (Ezekiel 16 and 23). Since the Bible commands me to meditate upon it, it is commanding me to meditate upon it’s erotic passages.

    I find that concubines and prostitutes were permitted under the Law of God, thus the sexual acts committed by them in pornography would not be sinful as long as they aren’t among the taboos written in Leviticus 18. That list gives us God’s definition of sexual sins, which doesn’t include premarital sex, masturbation, sex with single women or prostitutes (single and non-cultic), polygyny and lesbian sex. The Church (and society) has distorted and conflated one verse of scripture regarding the necessary virginity of a betrothed female upon her wedding night into a false teaching regarding sex outside of marriage.

  • http://www.godrules.net/articles/mat5.htm JQ Christian

    Yes, you have misunderstood Matthew 5:28, but it isn’t your fault. You are the victim of false teaching. Jesus taught against “committing adultery in the heart” by looking at a woman with sexual desire for her, that is, if you could get away with it, you would have her. If you had her, the sin in question is adultery. Thus, the woman in question had to be a married woman, since that is the only definition of adultery in the Bible, esp. under the Law of Moses which was in full effect at that time. A married man could lawfully have sex with a single woman, just as could a single man. Jesus didn’t invent a new definition of adultery, he just pointed out that it is bad in the eyes of God to actively desire to commit a sexual sin. This has nothing to do with admiring females who are unmarried or who are selling themselves for that purpose.

  • http://www.equipthem.com/blog Wes Schoel

    I can’t find anything in scripture that would justify, excuse, or condone pornography. Perhaps the biggest motivation for me to not participate in it is that it violates my “one-flesh” relationship with my wife. Under the law we were forbidden to have any other God’s because God was and is a jealous God. Under grace, Jesus restored the one-flesh relationship between a man and a woman. Marriage is a picture of the Bride’s (universal church) relationship with her Bridegroom (Christ). To violate the relationship between the Bride and the Bridegroom would be paramount to the idolatry of the Old Testament and, by the way, God is still a jealous God. A married couple introducing anyone or anything else into their personal intimacy cannot honor Christ and are degrading marriage itself while distorting the image and clarity of Christ’s relationship to His Church.
    This does not excuse those that are not married to participate in pornography. Virginity is to be guarded and treasured so one can present oneself to their future spouse as pure. The metaphor is still applicable. The Bride of Christ should desire to present herself as a pure bride and two people should desire to remain pure and present themselves as pure to one another. Someone who either chooses to be or is simply single should also present themselves as pure before Christ.

  • Jessica Beattie

    Have I misunderstood Matt 5:28??? I thought Jesus made it pretty clear… It sounds clear. There is only one reason for looking at porn – lust. Any other justifications are surely the result of a decision to stop waiting on God and praying for His help with something.

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  • Paul

    Hi Katie–

    Just thought I’d point out that none of the examples you offered as being okay “involving consenting adults” makes sense. Every scenario you described lacks consent, by its very definition.

  • Julio

    No one views pornography to not achieve a vicarious thrill. However, it’s a thrill achieved at the expense of the “actors” or “models” in these adult films who are partaking in a myriad of sexual sins. So how is it ok for a “Christian” to enjoy watching lost people fornicating? The longer you look at sin the better it looks. Before long you won’t be satisfied just being a spectator. Through pornography Satan shows us what we want, not what we’ll get. When someone asks if they can drink alcohol, smoke, swear or watch pornography and still be a Christian, what they really need to be asking themselves is am I really a Christian at all.

  • Rick

    For me, a married man, it is very simple: Pornography is meant to stir up lust. Jesus said that even just lusting after another person was adultery. God clearly defined adultery as a sin. Therefore, viewing pornography is a sin. Case closed.

  • Frank Viola

    Thanks. It’s “Hollywood” by Kendall Payne.

  • James

    Regarding the link for the podcast of “For God So Loved the World vs. Love Not the World.”
    Appreciated the message contained in that presentation, Thank You.
    I could not locate a credit for the artist that performed the intro and exit trailer. Do you have information on who the artist is and title of song?

  • Steve

    Here is what I think:

    “Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials. ” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 2354

  • http://revolfaith.com April K

    At one time, I allowed myself to give into the argument that watching porn was no big deal. But then I came to realize something. Jesus said that even looking upon another person lustfully was committing adultery with them. And when you’re watching porn, you ARE looking lustfully. The Bible also says that love (which God calls us to) does not delight in evil. The actors in the porno aren’t married to each other. They are fornicating, committing lewd acts that often involve humiliation, sodomy, lesbianism, threesomes and orgies. Scripture says those who commit such acts will not inherit the Kingdom of God. So when we watch such acts for the pleasurable stimulation of our flesh, we are taking delight in evil. You can’t claim to wholly love God and your spouse while delighting in evil. At least, that’s how I see it.

  • Stefan Korth

    The question should not be if watching porn is a sin or not (or if it is ok to watch or not). Again and again, christians dont have the bible as law. Is it good for you or not? (please note that I am not saying if it is fun). As porn is often an issue for relationships, and most people would not want their kids to watch it, why should we? Anyhow. Again. Christians should get beyond moral questions, move on to the evangelium….

  • Jim

    Pornography satisfies an unruly urge of the flesh, an unduly desire of the eyes, and leads to haughty behavior which stems from either a lofty opinion of one’s self (self-idolatry) or a substandard view of one’s self. These are all things John tells his readers to avoid. [See 1 John 2:15-17] I would never give any of my children permission to view pornography. The unnecessary scars left from such images can ruin a person’s proper understanding of the opposite sex (or the wonderful gift of sex itself), and can take years to heal, even at the hands of our Great Physician. I say, stay away.

  • RobS

    I can’t think of any good reason either. A woman involved in that business is simply being objectified and manipulated by men. That woman was created by God and He loves her. For a Christian to see her as an object instead of a valued treasure of God is truly unfortunate. I am convinced God wants more for his daughters than to be an object for some man’s fantasy.

  • Hardik Modi

    I was stuck in bondage to this sin. In fact, even after I became a Christian, I was still addicted to it. I tried all my best to stop it but the more I did the worse it became. Then, by the grace of God I got delivered from this peace-destroying, shame-giving sin. The last time I ever watched was on 21st February 2012. It destroys your confidence, peace, joy, hope, etc. Everytime after I watched, I became so miserable. I never want this ever again. This sin gave me troubles more than any other sin. By my experience I say this, it’s absolutely impossible to have an intimate relationship with God when you commit this sin.

  • Rev. Sidney R. Smith

    Concerning all of this that exists in Carnal Christians life’s and some churches. I posted in on my Facebook Page, REALITY OF SANTIFICATION BY THE WORD. “Paul said he was DETERMINED [choose] not to see anything but Christ in the Body at Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:2). Think about that, reminding yourself what manner of sins were in the Church at Corinth, all the carnality and lust, there were divisions, idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, and fornication “It is reported COMMONLY that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles [foreign nations not worshipping the true God, pagans], THAT ONE SHOULD HAVE HIS FATHER’S WIFE.” That’s right someone had sex with his mother. Yet Paul said in spite of all the sin that was common in the Church, he was determined and chose not to focus on sin, but on Christ in them. That took a lot of determination considering all that was going on in the Church at Corinth. Maybe you can understand why I don’t focus on sin in my teachings. I’m not ignorant concerning it probably exists among you, but I focus on telling you WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST and as I do, you begin to see Him in you in all His fullness in you, and that will literally force sin out of your life. That why I constantly stress to you to live in study and mediation of God’s Word. If you’re full of Jesus, then (sorry) there no room left for anything else, Satan can’t even get his foot in the door! Praise God for the power and anointing on and in His Word!!! GLORY!!! See also: (Romans 8:28-29)”
    Paul, of course, would expose sin in a heartbeat. But his main focus was in such a carnal Church as at Corinth was to see Christ in them, and indeed that requires deep Holy Spirit anointed determination. But self-will disobedience that you know is wrong should never be in a Christian’s life, and I even question their claims of being Born-Again. For Paul also said, “So, come out from among [unbelievers] and separate (sever) yourselves from them, says the Lord, AND TOUCH NOT [ANY] UNCLEAN THING; then I will receive you kindly and treat you with favor.” (2 Corinthians 6:17 Amplified Bible) Any means any. Going after things that the world offers contrary to God’s Word is just what it is. SIN! It is shameful and brings reproach on Christ and His Church! Their actions will be revealed before God at His judgment seat, and if there are sins in their life, their punishment awaits them. God is an holy God and is not mocked by those who live in sin and who support others who live in it, as they do in supporting gay marriages. It will not go unanswered! YOU ARE BLESSED AND JESUS IS LORD OF ALL, OR HE’S NOT LORD AT ALL!

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/104843729170977060437 FiretronP75

    We should be focused less on defining what is or is not a sin (like the pharisees) and focus more on what is helping us live like Christ and what is distracting us from living like Christ. I stopped letting my mind and body be entertained when I had a revelation of the importance of my God-given mission and that I have no time to waste on myself. Life isn’t about trying to figure out what is allowed and disallowed in the pursuit of happiness. Life is about finding happiness in the pursuit of fulfilling our God-given mission. When you are about your Father’s business, you won’t have time to do the things that you are not sure are right or wrong. It won’t matter if it is right or wrong because you won’t have time for it anyway!

  • http://www.thelonelydisciple.com Andrew Mugford

    Hi Joel,
    Thanks for being brave and posting your dissenting opinion. I agree with you that any activity that compromises your love of God or neighbour is a bad thing. I disagree that it is up to the individual to decide if porn is good or bad for them. God’s standards apply universally to all His children. God has ordained a purpose for sex. God has ordained a standard of care that we owe to ourselves and to others.

    Your response seems to pre-suppose that most people won’t become addicted or that the most of the actors aren’t being abused or that those issues are the central ones. What ultimately matters is what God has ordained for the purpose of the marital act and our bodies. Our bodes are not evil, they are designed for good; same for sexuality. This is a complete perversion of that process and is evil; totally, completely, and in all ways evil.

    Most female actors will do one movie and than quit because it is so frightening to them. This is not how we are called to live. Disconnecting sex from relationship and love is not sex, it’s abuse. The very fact that they are engaging in the act itself outside of God’s ordained purpose of the marital act is sinful and making use of that material is therefore sinful because you are advocating for its existence. These men and woman in the industry need to be rescued not continually abused by the consumers. There is simply no way to make pornography acceptable to God and therefore a Christian.

    Thanks again for your response.
    Blessings,
    Andrew

  • Charles

    Daniel:
    That is the exact scripture I immediately went to as well. It doesn’t mean that we are perfect people but we must recognize that we serve and live to glorify a perfect and Holy God. He calls us to that perfection through His Son Jesus Christ and through the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Do not be conformed means what it says. Willfully and purposefully deciding to do what is contrary to God’s word is the problem, falling, stumbling, and failing to live up to God’s standard does not mean that we are to give up. Through repentance and recognizing our forgiveness through Christ’s sacrafice on the cross for all our sins, should lead us to rejoice in who God is, and that is a God who is worthy to be praised, at all times and in every way!
    Charles

  • http://www.butnotyet.com Joel

    Allow me to be the dissenting voice here. Engagement in pornography (making, watching, selling, etc) is neither good nor bad. It is our response to it that matters. If you have an addictive personality, you probably shouldn’t watch porn. If watching porn distorts your image of others, you probably shouldn’t watch porn. If the depiction of sexual acts offends you…, well, you get the picture. That’s not to say that I don’t have issues with pornography, however. The treatment of women by some in the industry is troublesome as is the fact that it basically reduces sex to a commodity. But, my basic rule of thumb is love God, love your neighbor. If any level of involvement with porn compromises either, it’s not a good thing. Whether it does that or not is up to the individual.

  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com Randi

    I would be so bold to stay – without statistical evidence – that sexual additions are harder to break & more destructive than any other addiction a person could have to battle. This is because — unlike drugs, alcohol and (??) — sexual addictions can be kept hidden in the dark recesses of minds & hearts – which we all know is exactly where our enemy wants them to stay. Hidden, dark, secret habits – cause men(and women) to isolate even further from each other than we already are in this era and live a defeated life of shame & guilt.

    This sin of porn addiction (and it very very quickly becomes an addiction even at first view because it seems harmless & because more and more types & quantity are needed to achieve the same amount of pleasure) is condemned harshly in most church communities but so few are willing to step up and help others and be honest about their struggle….. because so few battle all the way through victory!

    To overcome this (and any addiction) there needs to be an honesty that most are not willing to have….. or maybe they are willing, but they don’t have close enough relationships with any other peer that is built on trust, love & time.

    Our isolation & independence & lack of living out together as His Church has consequences in so many areas…. battling sins and living in victory over sin is definitely one of those areas.

    Here is a website for an incredible ministry for anybody struggling or has a partner that is struggling….for anybody desiring information or help in this area:
    http://www.bebroken.com/
    Be Broken – healing sexual brokenness, by God’s grace, one story at a time.

  • http://christiansexaholic.wordpress.com Christian Sex Addict

    I can only speak from personal experience.

    Pornography is the primary way that I have escaped from negative emotions and experiences for around 15 years. I used images, videos, and later, sexual encounters with anonymous women using webcams and chatrooms, to cover up my feelings of boredom, loneliness and unimportance. And it works. I was never bored lonely, or unimportant in my fantasies. But once the fantasy was over, I had gained nothing and I had lost increasing amounts of time and energy that I could have spent investing in real tangible relationships with my wife, family, friends, etc.

    By engaging in porn, I used other people to fill up what was lacking in my self and then discarded them. I became my own god, looking only to what I could provide for myself in hard times. I never once sat in my pain and loneliness and let God work in my heart to mold me in to the image of Christ. I hid behind masturbation and fantasy. And now, barring a miracle, I have to cope with the cognitive paths that I have constructed for the rest of my life.

    Only God can save me.

  • http://emerginganabaptist.com Ryan Robinson

    I went to a fairly liberal school that had a strong Feminist Theology bend to it. I was a little surprised but classmates did come up with 2 scenarios that they think would allow for watching pornography:

    1. Education in order to know how best to fight against pornography. You could look at groups like XXXChurch for this idea and it is true that it is hard to minister to those involved without knowing what it is actually like. I can accept this argument in principle but you would have to take a lot of precautions in how you went about it to make sure you keep your motives healthy.

    2. For health reasons in order to get the plumbing working properly again in order to have sex with your partner. This could be the case for a lot of older men after surgeries or the like. I would personally argue that they should be seeking for his wife (or husband if you support same-sex marriage; different question) to provide enough stimulation because if porn is doing more for you than your partner than you have bigger problems. Some of my classmates thought it was a legitimate case, though.

    So the first one is the best argument I’ve heard for a scenario that it could do more good than harm…. if you’re careful. Everything else seems to be stacked against it: treatment/objectification of those involved, breaking of the “one flesh” relationship, unrealistic expectations (one classmate brought up a fascinating/disturbing point that since women in porn usually don’t have pubic hair, a lot of men who are addicted to porn become attracted to children), etc.

  • http://akindoflying.blogspot.com Evan

    I agree! God wants my heart. Weather we’re taking about Porn, cigarets, alcohol, M&Ms, TV, jogging, or whatever, I can turn to these things when my heart is troubled, or I can turn to God and my friends. What am I depending on to get through the day? a vice? or a savior who knows and loves me. I think Christians are called to love and be loved by the people around us and our God. Start here.

    Does a debate about weather these vices fit into that relationship valuable? possibly. as long as we know that the relationship is king and that God knows and cares what’s going on in our hearts when I turn to a potential vice. Am I doing those things to cope with stress? or celebrate? or do anything else I should be doing with God and my christian community?

    General rule for me: Have relationships. If there is something I’m doing that diminishes my relationship with God or another person, I seriously need to think about weather I want to do that.

  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com Randi

    ” In the end pornography is a cancer that eats my wife’s self esteem, encourages an unreal expectation for my wife to live up to, and never teaches me to enjoy the natural responses that occur during sex with my wife.”

    AGREED

  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com Randi

    amen!

  • Kelly

    As a sexuality professor, researcher, and author, my opinion is that pornography–even that shared between consenting adults–is harmful to the development and maintenance of healthy relationships.

  • Leah

    Matt,
    The only problem with your last comment is that I cannot picture God having sex so I’m not sure how to use your comment. God also does not eat…

  • Leah

    Whatsoever things are pure, lovely, … – think on these things – Philippians 4:8.

  • Sally Roach

    I can’t think of a single good reason to ever look at porn.

  • http://awell-wateredgarden.blogspot.com Annette

    Amen! Well-stated.

  • http://harvyoder.blogspot.com Harvey Yoder

    As a pastor, grandparent and therapist, I’m deeply concerned about the distortions porn creates regarding body image for both younger and older women, and the impression it gives both younger and older men that women are to be both bodily “perfect” and have a constant desire for sex. The pornography industry is about one thing only, to make huge profits through promoting a view of sexuality that is both fake and destructive of healthy relationships.

  • Matt

    Ephesians 5:1
    Amplified Bible (AMP)
    5 Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].
    If you can picture God doing it, then go for it. If you can’t…

  • Kevin

    To me, the problem with all of these issues is our insistence on making issues out of them. We can point to the Bible all day long to prove what God thinks about something (and we can even be right), but until an individual hears Father calling them away from something, no amount of our screaming about the issues will change a thing. This was God’s whole point with the law. He wanted their hearts more than their obedience. In addition, Romans tells us that the law actually led to more sin…and that was God’s plan all along. When we continually beat the drum on these issues, we’re essentially trying to resurrect and apply a law that just led to more sin and has been dead for over 2,000 years. A focus on sin just leads to more sin. A focus on Christ leads to a life led by Christ. To me, the only thing that matters is Christ!

  • RussK.

    We learn to live by the indwelling life of Christ, by loving others as our self.
    To me, love is meeting the need of the other. When we are alone, we can still meet the need of the other. Often times when we are alone, the other is God, and we can sense His need. God doesn’t have a need per se, in terms of being deficient, but He does have a passion to be housed, expressed, and that mainly happens through meeting needs of the other. This happens in the larger context of Christ, His ever expansive person.
    The issue of pornography then, gets swallowed up in this larger issue of the Spirit of Life in Christ. Death is swallowed up in victory. This expansive context of Christ, His words, works and effects, His person…His indwelling life – get baptized into this…get immersed into this and it in you. Die to all else and raise to walk in newness of life. Eat Him and drink Him in constantly. We have been freed, to learn to love, by meeting the needs of the other, that Christ may be expressed by all of us, for all time.

  • Katie

    Is robbing a bank involving consenting adults sinful? Is arson involving consenting adults sinful? Is cheating on midterms involving consenting adults sinful? Is rape involving consenting adults sinful? Is bullying involving consenting adults sinful? Need I go on??
    One can always justify something, good or bad on a balance scale of self gratification, just like the ‘need’ to pick and choose certain scriptures, apply one’s own interpretation and live accordingly.
    In the end, “but Lord, we did all these things in your name! Heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the poor, cast out demons..” Need I go on??

  • http://timogle.wordpress.com Tim Ogle

    I would love to see someone prove that looking at pornography was healthy, leads to a more satisfying sex life, and is beneficial for our society. It would give me a “clearer conscious” to indulge in the viewing “pleasure.”

    However, that just isn’t they case. All of the excuses and defenses that may be offered, Christian or otherwise, are straw men. In the end pornography is a cancer that eats my wife’s self esteem, encourages an unreal expectation for my wife to live up to, and never teaches me to enjoy the natural responses that occur during sex with my wife.

    I was discontent with my marital sex life for years because it wasn’t what I had seen in the movies and magazines I viewed growing up.

    Today, there is a big change that has occurred in my marital sex life….my attitude. I wish I could explain the bliss I have found in enjoying my wife for who she is, not what I compared her to. Not to mention the spiritual implications and impact that it has had to experience sexy in a more “pure” form. Marital sex was meant to teach us in our Christian spiritual life also.

    “Wait til your married to have sex” is an accurate but incomplete Biblical teaching.

  • Daniel Farrow

    Frank. I myself have struggled with pornography, and I know how it warped my thinking into believing that, as long as I didn’t have sex with a woman, that it was okay. I now realize that I was believing a lie and, thank God, Holy Spirit helped me to break agreement with that lie. Today, I’m free from the temptation of pornography. In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul talks about us not being conformed to the pattern of this world but being transformed by the renewing of the mind. I interpret this to mean that God can and often does help us to literally change the way we think. All of this being said, I now believe viewing pornography, even between consenting adults, is sinful because it leads to patterns of thinking that conform to the patterns of this world and do not please God.