Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Effects of Pornography and What to Do about It: thoughts prompted by a talk given by Dr. Mary Anne Layden

I just watched an excellent talk by Dr. Mary Anne Layden on the effects of pornography. She is a therapist who has been engaged with this issue for thirty years. She confirms my own conviction that pornography is one of the most widespread, serious, and damaging evils in our world today. You may watch her talk by clicking here:

Dr. Mary Anne Layden The Effects of Porn Use

I feel that Dr. Layden does an excellent job of exposing the harm done by pornography to those who watch it, their families, and those who are in it. I support her call for action against the evil porn industry.

While Dr. Layden’s talk is very helpful, it leaves out a whole major area of effects from pornography. It is true that pornography works like a harmful addiction and a social ill. It is also true that watching pornography is sin against God.

God commands us:

ESV Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Pornography is not true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, or excellent. We have no business looking at it and letting it into our minds.

Jesus said,

CSB17 Matthew 5:28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Watching pornography is sin. Like all sin, it has many terrible effects. We cannot predict with precision which consequences of sin will occur after any given instance of sin, but we should remember that in general:

* Sin often leads to more sin. With regard to pornography, it very easily turns into a habit which leads to watching more and more in terms of quantity, and also watching increasingly worse content.
* Sin doesn’t just hurt the person who commits the sin. Sin hurts people around the sinner. Those closest, family members, children, coworkers, and friends, are often hurt the most by sin. Even sin that we think is secret sin (but no sin is hidden from God) can cause great damage to our churches and families.
* Sin creates relational distance between us and God.
* Sin robs us of Holy Spirit power for ministering to others.
* Our sin can damage the name of Jesus and hurt the gospel.
* Sin can result in physical sickness (1 Corinthians 11:30).
* Sin gives Satan an opportunity to work in our lives.
* Sin robs us of joy, peace, and other godly emotions, and can lead to despair, anger, depression, and other dark emotions. Our lack of Holy Spirit fruit and the presence of dark emotions hurts the person who sins and all those around them.
* Sin hurts our relationships with other people. Pornography hurts marriages and families. It is a major factor in many cases of divorce.

So, watching pornography is even worse than Dr Layden’s talk indicates. But there is also good news which Dr. Layden does not present in her talk. Viewing pornography, like all sins, can be forgiven through the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. God also gives us powerful tools to resist sin and get free from it if we have disobeyed and become entangled. These tools include prayer, the Bible, and help from other Christians. This doesn’t mean it will be an easy battle. It means it is a winnable battle. There is real hope in Christ. Our souls can be healed. Relationships can be mended. There is grace.

Here are four related articles which may help you:

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Day of Wrath

In this morning’s Bible reading, the phrase “the day of wrath” stood out to me. It is from this verse:

Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment is revealed. (Romans 2:5 CSB17)

Anger is a very unpleasant emotion. Most human anger is unrighteous anger, which is why the Bible tells us to get rid of it (Ephesians 4:31).  But even in the rare cases when I think my anger towards some injustice or evil was truly righteous anger, the emotion was not pleasant. I wouldn’t want to stay angry forever.

Although God’s anger in entirely righteous, I don’t think anger feels pleasant to God. God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11 CSB17). Jeremiah witnessed God’s wrath on Jerusalem. In his lamentation, Jeremiah says about God, “. . . he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind” (Lam. 3:33 CSB17).

We often think of how terrible eternal torment would be for the unrighteous. But have you thought about how it would make God feel to inflict such a punishment? A terrible consequence of interpreting the Bible to teach eternal torment is that it results in a view where God is experiencing anger forever. In this view, God is eternally engaged in an activity which brings Him no pleasure and which He does not enjoy.

We all occasionally have to perform unpleasant tasks. This will continue as long as we live in a fallen, imperfect world. Because God loves us, it is not surprising that He reserves the most unpleasant task of all for Himself. God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). But God must either allow evil to continue forever or eventually He must destroy those who refuse to love His truth and repent. It makes sense to me that God will carry out this unpleasant task in order to maintain justice and cleanse the world from all evil. It does not make any sense to me that God would want this necessary, but unpleasant, task of destroying the unrighteous to involve a process that goes on forever.

I realize that sometimes the Bible uses the word “day” in a non-literal way to refer to a period of time. And I understand that with the Lord, a thousand years can be like a day. But I don’t think “the day of wrath” refers to an eternity of wrath. Romans 2:5 is not the only verse that indicates that God’s wrath is limited to a “day”:

Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will shake from its foundations at the wrath of the LORD of Armies, on the day of his burning anger. (Isiah 13:13 CSB17)

Their silver and their gold will be unable to rescue them on the day of the LORD 's wrath. The whole earth will be consumed by the fire of his jealousy, for he will make a complete, yes, a horrifying end of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zephaniah 1:18 CSB17)

By the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Pet. 3:7 CSB17)

In the last verse quoted, notice that the “day of judgment” is also the day of “destruction of the ungodly”. Due to the incorrect doctrine of eternal torment, I think we often imagine that when the Bible speaks of “the day of judgment” it is only referring to the act of declaring the unrighteous guilty and of proclaiming their sentence. The execution of the sentence is then thought to go on forever. However, based on 2 Peter 3:7 (and I think the Bible in general supports this), it seems more accurate to view the “day of judgment” as referring to the time when God both declares judgment and carries out the sentence. This sentence ends in “the destruction of the ungodly.”

Let’s consider one more passage which teaches this same truth. The most natural way to interpret “eternal destruction” is that it refers to destroying the unrighteous in such a way that they will never again exist as conscious, living people. It cannot refer to a process of destruction which goes on forever because Paul tells us when they will be destroyed:

They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord's presence and from his glorious strength on that day when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed. (2 Thess. 1:9-10 CSB17)

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, and about the brotherly debate between annihilationism (also called conditional immortality) and eternal conscious torment, you may find these posts helpful:

Also, you may want to check out the very helpful Rethinking Hell website.