Several months ago I received an e-mail from a gentleman who works at a large church near Washington, DC. The subject line of his e-mail caught my attention immediately: “Respectfully: Why Covenant Eyes is a waste of money.”
There was nothing unfriendly or volatile about his e-mail. He had himself been a Covenant Eyes user for six years. He thought the quality of our services was very good. He believed people who use Covenant Eyes likely view less pornography as a result of using it. So what was his issue?
His e-mail was a well-written theological treatise explaining why people who are empowered by the gospel of Christ shouldn’t need a service like Covenant Eyes. His comments were lengthy, so I’ll paraphrase his argument:
Ultimately, we sin because of our sinful desires. We sin because we perceive a payoff of pleasure. Putting external blockades in place to keep sinful activities out of reach might change our outward behavior, but it does not mean our hearts have changed. So, as far as Covenant Eyes is concerned, if someone holds you accountable to your Internet use, this might keep you from looking at pornography, but it will not change your desires to look at pornography.
This is Paul’s point in Colossians 2:20-23, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—’Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”
Paul’s point is that it makes no sense for a Christian to submit to human techniques for curbing sin. There are many external mechanisms we try to use to prevent us from looking at porn: cold showers, bouncing the eyes, the fear of public shame, fasting, accountability partnerships, distractions, Internet filters, personal rules and regulations. But Paul says “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”
So, what motivates a Christian to resist sin? The only way to fight sinful desires is for holy desires to trump them. This is what some have called “the expulsive power of a higher affection.” Paul’s next statement in Colossians 3:1-4 shows us this. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Paul is urging his readers to not submit to human regulations, but rather set their affections on “things above.” Doing this will expel the desire for sin, because the pleasures of God are far greater.
Therefore, minsters of the gospel should not weigh people down with unnecessary and impotent regulations. Covenant Eyes and all similar forms of restraint are a waste of money and effort. Instead, a minister should say to himself: “I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can” (Jonathan Edwards). Ministers should proclaim the value and sufficiency of Christ, helping hearers set their hearts on things above. This is what truly changes hearts, not software.
This is the gist of his argument. What are your thoughts about this?