Pornography is one of the greatest dangers facing the church today. I could offer you statistics and case studies showing the devastating effects pornography is having on our church leaders but that is not needed. You know the dangers and the widespread effects of pornography. Based on statistics alone there is a reasonable chance that some reading this are physically addicted to viewing pornography. If you are not already addicted there is a greater chance that you have at least viewed pornography recently and on the verge of addiction.

As students pursuing (or currently in) ministry we are called to a higher standard. We will be leaders in our churches where our people will be looking to us as an example. Too often in the church our leaders fall prey to sexual temptation. One well-known pastor recently admitted to an “inappropriate relationship” and numerous pastors and church leaders names have appeared on the recent Ashley Madison list.  In addition to the obvious personal and familial destruction, the people in our churches can begin to distrust the gospel and think less of the people who should be leading them.

“Teleiosness” and James

In one of the most practical books of the New Testament James, the brother of Jesus, exhorts his people to pursue of life of “teleiosness”—or in simpler terms, “wholeness.” This idea of wholeness means that our outward actions and our inward thoughts are in complete agreement with each other. “Teleiosness,” often translated as “perfection,” is not about “doing all the right things” but rather orienting our lives in line with Christian virtue. This the pursuit of holiness that is central to the Christian life.

Along with this idea of wholeness, James also says teachers will be held to a “stricter judgment” based on their position within the church (Jas. 3:1). Granted, this is in the context leading up to a small discourse concerning our speech, but I think it can be applied more universally. As teachers and preachers of the gospel, ours is a calling to holiness. Our lives, should be marked with a wholeness in the same way that Christ showed us in the gospel stories.

If we are engaged in pornography our life is not marked by “teleiosness” but rather “dipsychosness” (Jas. 4:8) or “double-mindedness.” Our outward actions may be righteous and holy but our lives are marked by a deep and dark addiction—pornography. We could list all the verses that pertain to sexual sins and apply that here but if you are reading this then you likely know that sexual sin is one that can erode the soul of even the godliest person.

Pornography and the addicted brain

Engaging in pornography not only erodes the soul, it also physically impacts the way that your brain is wired. John Piper in a recent article explains some research within the medical community that shows pornography has an addiction effect similar to cocaine and heroine. Cocaine and heroine cause a “high” in two distinct ways. Yet, as the article explains, viewing pornography actually taps into both these causes. A drug addict needs more and more drugs to realize the same sensation. Likewise, pornography re-wires the brain in the same way and, thus, needing more and more pornography to feel the same effects. Therefore, pornography is not only addicting in a spiritualized, sin-craving manner, but your body becomes physically addicted to the “high” and *needs* more material to achieve this high. This addiction is both spiritual and physical. It can all be accessed alone—”anonymously”—in the comfort of your personal computer or smartphone.

How can you help yourself prevent the seduction of pornography in the age of the Internet? Below I mention four basic levels of protection. These are not exhaustive and you should still do your own research beyond this article. I also want to note that some of these protections use the language of “parental controls” because they are focused on parents and children.

Use your spouse or a trusted friend to act as the “parent” with these solutions, giving them the passwords to monitor and control the accounts so you are not tempted to circumvent their protection. There are many articles on the Internet that discuss web accountability but many do not take into account mobile devices. So when you are doing your research realize that pornography is most easily viewed on mobile devices so protections against routers and computers are ineffective in this regard.

Four levels of protection

1. Prayer and community: You must fight the urge to engage in pornography through prayer and community. Satan wants to tell you that you can fight this on your own. You can’t. Don’t give into the lie that “this won’t effect me” and not establish the necessary precautions. As image-bearers we are built for community. Find trusted friends you can pray with and who will hold you accountable. Don’t be ashamed. We are not made to fight temptation alone.

2. Open DNS: This solution allows you to change settings to your home (or business) router that automatically filters web content at the router level. This will give you basic protection for anyone connected to the internet via the router in your home or business.

3. Mobile parental controls: Setting up Internet filtering protection at the router level is good and necessary, but pornography is being viewed more and more on mobile devices, which have access to the Internet beyond the router. Mobile operating systems such as Apple’s iOS provide parental control restrictions. While these may be labeled “parental controls” you can use these to your advantage by having your spouse or a trusted friend determine the settings and store your password. Not knowing your password helps ensure in the moment of temptation you are not able to “unrestrict” the filtering to view pornographic material. (iOS) (Android)

Third-party mobile solutions: While parental restrictions on mobile devices are great, they are generally not as customizable as one would want. This is why it is a good idea to also use a third party service such as Curbi or Covenant Eyes. Curbi and Covenant Eyes function in different ways on mobile devices. Curbi installs a “profile” on your mobile devices, which then speaks to their servers and provides filtering and content wherever you are. The disadvantage to Curbi is that this “profile” can be uninstalled but it will send out an instant alert if that is done. Covenant Eyes disables all Internet access on your mobile device except through their own browser. This means that you can only view web content through their custom browser. While this will work, I personally find it to be a less than elegant solution and would recommend checking out Curbi first. (Curbi) (Covenant Eyes)

These solutions do not and will not offer complete protection from pornography. There will always be a way to view it regardless of how many protections you put in place. But what they do is provide the necessary road blocks to limit easy access and put in place hazard lights warning you not to go any further. These solutions will not change your heart, but they will help protect you in the war for holiness.

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Brian Renshaw is a Ph.D. student in New Testament at Southern Seminary. His interests include Gospel studies, hermeneutics, theological interpretation of Scripture, and history of interpretation. He works as an instructional designer in the SBTS Online Learning department and also serves as the director of digital production for CACS. When he is not reading you can find him roasting and brewing craft coffee. He and his wife attend Sojourn East. He writes on biblical studies at his personal site and Techademic. Follow him on Twitter.