Pornography, by its very nature, leads to insatiability. One picture, stored in the memory, will never be enough to continue arousing a man. God, after all, designed the man and the woman to be satisfied not with a single sex act but with an ongoing appetite for each other, for the unitive and procreative union of flesh to flesh and soul to soul. One seeking the mystery outside of this covenantal union will never find what he is looking for. He will never find an image naked enough to satisfy him.
Yes, pornography is an issue of public morality. We have spoken to this repeatedly. A culture that doesn’t safeguard the dignity of human sexuality is a culture on its way to nihilism. Yes, pornography is an issue of social justice. After all, pornography, at least as we know it today, is rarely about mere “images.” Behind those images stand real persons, created in the image of God, who through some sad journey to a far country of despair have tumbled down to this. We agree with those—often even secular feminists with whom we disagree on much—who say that a pornographic culture hurts women and children through the objectification of women, the trafficking of children, and the commodification of sex.
But before pornography is a legal or cultural or moral issue, it is an ecclesial one. Judgment must, as Scripture tells us, begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). The man who is sitting upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs their children to soccer practice might well be a religionless, secular culture warrior. But he is just as likely to be one of our church members, maybe even one who reads Touchstone magazine.
Human beings are insatiable creatures. We were created this way. We were created with the infinite capacity to experience pleasure. The more pleasure we experience, the greater our capacity for pleasure grows. Our souls burn like a fire that never says, “Enough!” This is clearly evident in our physical appetites. Today, I will grow hungry and thirsty. I will eat and drink water. Yet, my hunger and thirst will return. There is not one food or drink that will forever satisfy my hunger or thirst. The same can be seen in other physical desires. A man will desire the body of his wife. They make love, but the desire will return. No newly married man looks at his wife on the second night and says, “I’m still good from the previous night.” Instead, his desire for her has only grown. The body grows tired each evening, inducing sleep. Yet, the next day’s activities again end in sleep. There is no amount of sleep that can satisfy our need. Desires always return. And we were curiously created this way.
Too often, desire is shunned within the Church. We can accurately pinpoint the source of our cultural rot. Pornography. Murder. Rape. Abuse. Theft. Corruption. The Church has rightly observed that these all stem from desire. As each of these vices is preached against from the pulpits across America, what is subtly (and most likely unintentionally) communicated is that ALL desire is bad and should be avoided. A passionless moralism, a Christianized version of Stoicism, is often what flows from our pulpits. We fight against and attempt to kill what God intended for our good, for our pleasure. Yet, if desire is good, if desire was given to us by Creator God, why does pursuing these desires led to such destruction? Our problem is not our pursuit of desire, but rather in the means we seek to lay hold of it.
When cancer grows in the body, the tumor that masses is due to an over-production of cells. Normally, as cells are unneeded, they simply die. When cancer forms, those cells have forgotten how to die. They have become inordinate. They feed on the body’s resources, growing and growing until death results. The moment a man seeks to fulfill his infinite capacity for pleasure with finite things, those desires become inordinate. The moment that gifts of finite pleasure replace the God, who is infinite pleasure, those desires become malignant.
What we need is a theology of satisfaction. We need to understand our desires in light of the Story that God is telling and not the small stories that we are trying to tell. We need God to define the good. For if we try to define what is good, what is true, we will fall into putting on our old self, along with it’s deceitful desires (Ephesians 4:17-24). I love how Paul calls our desires deceitful. Because without God defining our desires, they are deceitful. If there is no God, then the logical thing to do is live for my desires. Without God, reality is only as big my own longings. But God has not left us to grope in the darkness. He has defined our desires. He has defined where we are to seek satisfaction for that infinite capacity for pleasure. It is the cross that defines our desires. It is Christ alone that has the infinite resources to satisfy our infinite capacity.
Towards the end of his letter to the Philippians, Paul helps us see exactly this. In probably the most famous and most misunderstood verse in all of Philippians, Paul states emphatically, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). I am quite sure that at this moment, you can find this verse stamped on coffee mugs and plaques that line the shelves of Christian bookstores across the country. Yet, this is no cute, throw-away verse that brings morning motivation. What Paul is communicating here is that he has found the secret to living a content life. The secret is that in Christ Jesus, Paul has limitless resources and pleasure. Since Paul views his finite desires through the lens of Christ’s resources, they do not become inordinate. The desires remain in check, under control. Paul knows how to face being in need. He knows how to face having plenty. Paul is not controlled by his finite desires. He is controlled by his one infinite desire and that is to know Christ (Phil. 3:8-11).
You see, this is the end of our infinite capacity for pleasure. It is to be met by one who has infinite resources with which to satisfy the ever growing joy. Heaven will be one day after another of increasing joy in the presence God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why were created to experience infinite joy. We were created for Heaven. We were created for God.
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them! (Psalm 135:15-18 ESV)
That glossy book of perditionin the hand evokes a dark emotion The pulse intensifiesOver a page that temporarily satisfies A soul in need of moreDespite the need within the core This poisonous meal is consumedUnaware that he is truly doomed Each page. Each image. Each bite.Creates a darkness darker than night. Yet he presses on towards his prizeThe centerfold of forbidden fruit and lies. A tall beauty never meant for his gazeFinally, the object of his praise She smiles beautifully with luscious lipsBut she cannot speak his soul from the pits She looks at him with eyes that pierce his soulYet her image is blind, eyes dark as coal “I’m a great listener” says her profileBut she is deaf and he is in denial On the page, her form and figure appear completeYet she is lifeless and he is a cheat He, too, has a mouth with which to speakYet he is mute as his family falls over the peak He has eyes to see the harm he bringsYet he is blind to the one on whose finger he placed rings He has ears to hear the sounds of impending doomYet he is deaf to the warnings that dangers loom He is among the living, working and playing each dayYet he is lifeless, his soul in decay Mute. Blind. Deaf. Lifeless.You become what you worship, image what you bless. ~sdg