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Porn in the Pew: Can You Love God and Porn at the Same Time?

Last Updated: October 30, 2020

Mark Denison

Mark Denison, D.Min., along with his wife Beth, is the founder of There’s Still Hope, a national sexual addiction recovery ministry. Mark has a Master’s in Addiction Recovery, is a certified PSAP (Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional), and is an active member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. Mark is a former church planter, pastor (30 years), NBA chaplain, and university board chairman. Mark has written four books on recovery: Porn in the Pew, 365 Days to Sexual Integrity, A 90-Day Recovery Guide, and Porn-Free in 40 Days.

It’s the thing nobody in the church wants to talk about. But it kills more marriages, drains more hearts, and ends more ministries than anything else. It’s the elephant in the church–pornography. The church has only three available responses: ignore it, condemn it, or address it. We have chosen to address it.

For the pastor who dares to address from the pulpit what people are talking about in the pew, the veil can be lifted. Where there is shame, we offer hope. It’s time for the church to become the biblical community where healing can take place. To that end, we will address three questions.

How Bad Is the Church’s Porn Problem?

It’s bad. Real bad. Many of us have suspected this for some time, and here is just a sampling of the data.

  • 62% of evangelical men view porn monthly, compared to 64% of non-believers. (Proven Men Ministries)
  • 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women view porn at least once a month (compared to 65% of non-Christian men and 30% of non-Christian women) (Proven Men Ministries)
  • 37% of Christian men and 7% of Christian women view pornography at least several times a week (compared to 42% of non-Christian men and 11% of non- Christian women) (Proven Men Ministries)
  • 13% of Christian men say they are addicted to porn; another 5% say they might be. (Proven Men Ministries)
  • Only 7% of pastors report their church has a ministry program for those struggling with porn. (The Porn Phenomenon)

Download the 2018 version of Covenant Eyes’ ebook, Porn Stats, for the most up-to-date statistics on porn, including stats on porn use in the church.

Can You Love God and Porn at the Same Time?

To even ask the question is heresy to some. Of course you can’t love God and porn at the same time, right? You must pick one or the other. After all, Jesus said it himself–no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). But hold on. Jesus said we can’t serve two masters, not that we can’t love two masters.

The history of loving God while struggling with personal demons is rich. Job questioned God’s plan for his life when he asked, “Why didn’t I just die at birth?” (Job 3:11). David confessed, “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalm 38:4). Moses killed a man (Exodus 2), Jeremiah cursed the day he was born (Jeremiah 20), and Peter denied even knowing Jesus (Luke 22). And Paul said, “I do not the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).

J. I. Packer explained Paul’s struggle. “Paul wasn’t struggling with sin because he was such a sinner. Paul was struggling with sin because he was such a saint.”

The Christian Hall-of-Fame is filled with those who struggled. Luther doubted his own salvation, Spurgeon battled fits of worthlessness, Calvin battled unbelief, C. S. Lewis endured long periods of doubt, and Mother Teresa spoke of her personal hypocrisy.

This is not to let the porn user off the hook. To bow to the God of heaven and the god of porn simultaneously is to be the living definition of the “double-minded man” (James 1:8). This man is in for sleepless nights, unfulfilled relationships, and years of guilt and shame.

To relegate porn use to the trash heap of disgusting sins is too simple. Dr. Bob Hughes, clinical psychologist, describes sex addiction as both a sinful choice and a biological disease, which can “grab onto a person and rob him of his volition.”

A man can love God and porn at the same time because the struggle with sin never goes away. Luther coined the phrase, simul Justus et peccator–the simultaneously righteous and sinner.

Commenting on Paul’s struggle as recorded in Romans 7, Donald Barnhouse said, “The believer in Christ is given power to overcome the outbreaks of Adamic nature, but its presence constantly contaminates his life on earth.” Nelson Mandela described himself as a “sinner who keeps on trying.”

Can a man love God and porn at the same time? If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be in recovery myself. And Beth and I would not have launched a national ministry to help those who suffer from porn and sex addiction.

How Should the Church Respond to Porn?

First, the church must recognize the magnitude of the problem. Churches provide wheelchair ramps for the 0.7% of their members who need them and devises for the hearing impaired for the 15% who need that. Only three percent of churches ever have a fire, yet they all have fire extinguishers. Yet, in a day when 95% of our men have viewed porn (and 62% do so regularly), we offer silence. Only 7% of pastors report their church has a ministry program for those struggling with porn. The church must awaken to the magnitude of the problem.

Second, the church must create a culture of redemption. I’ve never heard of a man ostracized over a “proud look,” though it heads the list of deadly sins (Proverbs 6:16-19). Yes, sexual impurity is a sin, but the church must be a safe environment for sinners. This means offering 12-step groups, affordable counseling, and studies such as Every Man’s Battle.

As I already stated, the church can respond to the pandemic of sexual addiction in one of three ways: ignore it, condemn it, or address it. A problem so widespread, so devastating, cannot be ignored. To simply condemn it is too convenient. We must address the problem–now.

Related: Why the Church Must Be a No-Shame Zone

It’s Time to Address the Problem of Porn in the Pew

The problem of porn and sex addiction is screaming loudly in today’s world. The church can no longer afford to respond in silence. If you are a Christ-follower who suffers from the clutches of porn, you are not alone. In fact, you are in the majority. If you are a pastor or church leader, it’s time to step up. Your church needs your compassion, not your condemnation. They are begging for help. Their pleas must not go unheard.

The problem is huge, but God’s grace is sufficient. There is porn in the pew; it demands grace in the pulpit. For you who struggle, there is hope. For you in leadership, it’s time to lead.

  • Comments on: Porn in the Pew: Can You Love God and Porn at the Same Time?
    1. Jeannine on

      Thank you, for everything you are doing. My husband has had an addiction to porn. I’ve really struggled a lot in the past with it. We both are doing better. I hate what it does to families.

      Reply
    2. Romel on

      Thank you for this. It shows that sex/porn addiction must be handled with care. It shows the Church’s concern and approaches it with love.

      Reply
    3. K Cicardini on

      Thank you for writing this. It is exactly what needs to be said.

      Reply
    4. Anthony Genova on

      Porn is very addictive, a very difficult sin to overcome and millions of men, myself included, battled or have battled with it.

      But, PLEASE, I don’t EVER, EVER, EVER want to hear ANYONE (and I AM pointing at Bob Hughes) say it is a biological disease. Don’t start playing that card like they did with alcohol. It REALLY, REALLY ticks me off and makes me extremely angry.

      It is NOT a bioligical disease! And Jesus agrees! It is SIN! S…I….N. What’s next, greed.
      Greed is a disease? Pride? Envy? Come on!

      Reply
    5. David on

      Thank you for addressing this issue – it’s been needed.

      Reply
    6. SB on

      The problem is when some Christians say they are struggling with porn, but they aren’t actually struggling at all. They are quite content with they’re hidden sin… the problem is that it doesn’t stay hidden forever. Once it’s discovered, the ‘exposer’ has a price to pay. When there is no remorse, repentance, confession, desire to stop, or desire to repair a damaged relationship, this person has ceased serving two masters and has decided to serve one – porn. I don’t believe porn has to be every man’s battle. I believe that this statement can definitely be used as a deception to justify sinful behavior – a cop out. It’s not a battle if there is no fight. For some, it could definitely be a battle, but for the person described above, they laid down their weapons long ago.

      Reply
    7. Randy on

      Good article, men are so easily attracted to evil, and too proud to admit it. We need to know and understand just who we are In Christ. When we go back to the garden, we read that Eve was decieved, Adam was not. He stood there and allowed Eve to sin. He knowingly disobeyed against God. Watching porn and the effects of watching porn is no different, we do it because we want to regardless of what God says. Men, get real. We have been set free from sin by our Savior, sin no longer has dominion over me. We have the righteousness of Christ. Oh my, if only we could fully understand what that means, but here is what I think we are to know on this side of the Vail, we are in a battle, yes a real battle, yet we have all the means to be victorious. We can and should win this fight. But here is the one thing we each must give an answer to, what do we love more, sin or Christ. Be honest. Now then. Choose this day whom you will serve, if it be Christ, then you can be assured that victory is within sight. Just remember that our adversary will always tempt us, be he cannot make us sin.

      Reply
    8. Randy on

      Thank you Mark. You once was my pastor, and a very great one and good man. You lead my wife to the lord, even though you had no idea about it. Thanks for your honesty, it gives me hope that maybe the church can finally understand that it is a hospital for sinners such as I. I have struggles with more than one addiction, and can’t go to my church for help. I tried and was ostracized. Yes you can have addictions and love and serve the Lord. Sanctification is a lifelong process. Men like you give me hope!! You could have let guilt and shame and self righteous people stop your ministry, but because you are His you confessed and now are helping people to get healed. Hope someday you will be back in the pulpit.

      Reply
    9. Ralph Pauldine on

      I am well studied on the topic and the Scriptures. Why would you make reference to Matt.6:24 in the first place, especially if you conclude something that misses the point? Why go there at all then? Jesus explained Himself perfectly. He actually did say you can’t love both! (Application to porn may be questioned, as He was teaching other)
      Why not explain rather, opinion that those who quote this text are out of context, if that’s what you believe?

      Thank you for your heart, conviction and work.

      At a minimum, explanation is needed.

      Reply
    10. Scott Mullen on

      I struggle with sex and porn

      Reply
      • Moriah Bowman on

        Hi Scott,

        Thank you for being honest in sharing your struggles. Please know that you are not alone. Men and women of all ages, across the world, struggle with the same exact things you are. Praise be to God that there is hope for freedom! Do you have a close friend or mentor with whom you can share your struggles with? Sometimes, just having a person to walk alongside us in healing can make all the difference.

        Above all, reach out to God and ask him to give you the strength to pursue recovery. HE is our greatest source of hope and forgiveness!
        Blessings,
        Moriah

    11. Sue on

      Every mans battle is an awful book. It normalizes sex addiction. Men are capable of stopping Sexual sin, if they want to. The problem is, many don’t.

      Reply

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