Tuesday, 03 July 2012
By J.N. Hong
In this post, I am mainly referencing this post by RELEVANT Magazine.
I tweeted a few days ago (a few weeks ago now) that the natural conclusion from a post from RELEVANT Magazine on pornography was to never have sex again because it could cause us to become addicted to dopamines. The post is centered around the idea of the brain producing dopamines when we are stimulated by various activities. In this particular post, Internet pornography was targeted as producing dopamines, and through repetition, we slowly are wired into a routine in our mind. To break out of this routine is increasingly difficult, as the brain “learns” to act a certain way, causing compulsion and addiction.
I have a lot of issues with the post. Largely because I have and still do struggle with pornography, I can see where it’s totally insufficient and plain unhelpful in fighting the sin.
The main issue is that people will constantly fail if we try to fight it by ourselves. We can rid ourselves of pornography, but we’ll start lusting after other women, or we’ll find our dopamine addiction in other places–being jealous of other people, lying in our relationships, using the Lord’s name in vain. The bottom line is, the post doesn’t state that it is impossible to walk in this world without sin with an individualistic worldview, absent of the communion of believers and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit constantly. The answer is God, only and always God.
1) It’s a secular worldview on a Christian magazine.
This is perhaps my biggest problem. There is nothing in the post to differentiate it from a secular self-help magazine. Besides, the message of the article that is anti-pornography–the applications for breaking the bond of pornography are largely focused largely on human betterment, instead of God glorifying. That is, holiness attained is not for the glory of God and enjoying Him better. I’m not saying the human betterment, and glorying God are not correlated, but the first purpose of our lives is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him. The applications and profits of not being addicted to pornography are hopelessly unrelated, and against what the Gospel is preaching.
I think the article would be acceptable as part of a secular publication–in fact, I would be slightly impressed because, honestly, apart from a Christian worldview, I wouldn’t see a problem really with pornography. The problem with pornography is it is a cultural thing. The article doesn’t separate the Christian from the secular, and it therefore dilutes both views. Defeating pornography essentially requires the Holy Spirit, and a disconnection from the World which tempts us.
While there is an element of human responsibility in our lives still, sin changes form and we can chase wealth, image, status–all of these which takes us away from God. Charles Spurgeon talks of the sin of pride:
“Sometimes it is an Arminian, and talks about the power of the creature; then it turns Calvinist, and boasts of its fancied security — forgetful of the Maker, who alone can keep our faith alive. Pride can profess any form of religion; it may be a Quaker, and wear no collar to its coat; it may be a Churchman, and worships God in splendid cathedrals; it may be a Dissenter, and go to the common meeting-house; it is one of the most catholic things in the world, it attends all kinds of chapels and churches; go where you will, you will see pride.”
I feel if we do not preach the Gospel that forgives all sins, we are preaching much less than is sufficient to help people be healed. By not preaching for people to live apart from the world, I feel we are preaching much less than what the Gospel demands.
2) The substitution of “addiction” with sin.
Am I being nit-picky? There are connotations and stigmas associated with both words. Though, I would argue that psychologists who use the word “addiction” are meaning something different from when Mark Driscoll uses the word addiction–there are strengths and weaknesses of both words in relation to each situation. Therefore it’s kind of difficult, but I’ll attempt to explain the difference:
Addiction is simply a weak or bad person making a bad choice. It’s a man-centric concept, which reduces decisions made to purely voluntary behavior. Jay Adams states that: ‘The idea of sickness as the cause of personal problems vitiates all notions of human responsibility’. This demonstrates how disconnected the concept is from God, and insufficient in acting as a synonym for sin.
Sin is a God-centric concept, and has a direct relationship to our relationship with God. That is, sin is what brought us out of the Garden of Eden and sin is what makes us have to toil the ground and have pain in childbirth. Sin is why the world is messed up and apart from what God’s plan are. Sin is why I am so messed up and the Church is messed up.
There is a solution to sin, and that is believing in Jesus Christ, and repenting of our sins. That is the key, I think. If we are continuing in a secular dialogue, there is no room for dialogue. The solution to addiction is what the article has stated–positive thinking ; but if it is not working in synergy with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives convicting us of sins, it is useless and damning. To reduce pornography to merely an addiction is robbing us of the efficacy of the Gospel on our souls, and the greatness of forgiveness of sin.
3) The bigger picture
The article misses the grand plan that God has for sex. I feel that this too is often what is absent in discussions about other sexual issues like homosexuality and pre-martial sex. The post is so intent on saying: “PORN IS BAD”, “YOU ARE A BAD PERSON”, and “YOU NEED HELP”, but it misses the glory of sex. I feel as Christians, we are always guilty of just rubber stamping anything with sex on it with a R rating. Any movie with that mentions a bad word is immediately shut down, so much so that whatever glory there is in sex, that we put a bushel over because we are afraid of it. Yet, it is a very real and beautiful part of our lives–so beautiful that we fail horrifically in differentiate between the sex and pornography enough.
Sex is a vastly different creature from pornography. Pornography is perhaps one of the most loneliest things on this earth, while relational sex is the most intimate. To reduce the reasons not to watch pornography to dopamines rewiring our minds is reducing all things to relativity. The reality is that sex generates dopamines, eating food generates dopamines, breathing air (I’m pretty sure) creates dopamines, and all of these should be avoided because it might wire our brains to continue living?
On the topic of sex, dare I say it…I am excited? But so many Christians seem to be so closed up to it, and afraid to discuss it. But really, if we aren’t talking about it and engaging with the topic with honesty and openness, the only place we are going to learn about it is on television and on the internet. It’s the unwillingness to educate and define the boundaries, contrasted with the tendency to remedy and restrict–this makes Christianity seem full of rules. But to understand the great plans that God has for us, in our future spouses (or blissful singleness for those called), I don’t know why we would want to settle for anything less. I don’t know why we would continue to hide it.
This post was mostly written for Prisca’s Voice (follow her!) and I always wanted a reason to exposit a lot about my views on how Christian treat the subject of sex (if rarely).