Why John Piper is wrong about Porn

Several years ago I read an article by a Pastor I had never heard of but which transformed the way I thought about sin and addiction and their consequences. I had been a porn addict for a few years already and John Piper’s words filled me with hope and peace and strength. I still come back to this article even now and if you are struggling with porn or any sin for that matter I really, really can’t recommend it enough.

Last night I came across a part of sermon from John Piper that might as well have been from a different person. It made me mad, then sad, then mad again and finally determined to bring light to a topic that is so commonly badly handled, if at all. The topic is sexual sin. More specifically, addiction.

So what exactly did John Piper get wrong about sin?

First off here is the link to the part that persuaded me to write this post. It’s pretty short but in it he was answering the question on whether we need to experience sin to fully appreciate the power of sin. I actually kind of agree with him that we don’t need to. Paul would agree with this too in how he answers negatively to the question of whether we should sin more just to experience more Grace.

The real problem arises when John Piper answers his own question with a metaphor that is poorly thought out. His parable contained three men, each of whom had a cord tied around their waist, leading into a pit as the weight of the cord gradually increases on them. The pit is supposed to represent a “pit of lust” and I’m assuming that the weights are temptations that lure the men to indulge in porn or other unwanted sexual activities.

As each man feels the cord pulling they each resist the increasing weight. They dig in their heals all the while saying “no”. The first two men, however, both give in to the ever increasing weight, “quit resisting” and “jump” into the pit.

Finally the last man, also digs in his heals and shouts “NO!” The weight tightens, cutting into his waist, his breath is cut off, he cries for help, grabs a “cross shaped branch”, sees his wife who trusts him and his children who admire him in his hearts. Then finally, looks up and sees Jesus with a huge “gash” on his side, fists formed and a huge smile on his face. The cord cuts into his side, yet he remains steadfast and finally the cord snaps. He made it. He resisted.

John Piper then launches into a fundamental angry sermon voice many of us have grown tired and weary of, shouting at the congregation, “ Are there any soldiers out there”?, “Anybody got blood on his shirt, show me some scars”. “I want to see blood”!

These are not paraphrases. These are not taken out of context.

In a final point, he calls the two men who gave in “wimps”. He even uses a mocking voice as he comments on those who excuse their sinful behavior by talking about being in “bondage”. How the men who gave in didn’t “fall” but “jumped”.

As much as his metaphor falls down, (if they are being pulled by heavy weights then perhaps it’s understandable why they end up in the pit and strange how he disregards the term “bondage” in a parable about men being tied up) there is something more dangerous going on here.

He completely ignores the idea of addiction. Addiction has too commonly been considered something that people bring upon themselves and to a certain extent this is true. Nobody becomes addicted overnight. It happens because people continually choose to engage in activities that initially feel good but over time, strengthen their grip around the life of the addict, slowly squeezing everything out until the person left is a mere shell of their previous self. Characterized by the need for increasingly intense experiences to reach the peak that their substance once offered.

We do need to take responsibility for our actions and this post is not a disregard for our human initial choice in leading to addiction. On the contrary, it is about taking ownership for our full humanness and facing it right in the face without shame our guilt.

The manner in which he talks about sin highlights his lack of understanding of how addiction works. Addiction is a disease and as soon as we, especially Christians, start to treat it as such, all the better. I agree with Russell Brand’s understanding that we need to treat addiction rather than increase the guilt or shame around it. John Piper’s remarks demonstrate a worrying lack of grace and love to those who suffer from addiction. He reminds me of the kind of thought exemplified by Peter Hitchen’s determination that stiffer laws against drug use and therefore the addicts who use them, should be implemented. A thought that has no position for the human involved.

That is, making sin and addiction a black and white issue.

All addiction, results from initial use but that initial use is the result of something inside the user which is broken. This can be due to a million things. It can be a relative who abuses a child, it can be from an absent Father, it can be from neglect, it can be from continually being made to feel worthless by the people you look to for love. At the core of all addiction is an emptiness; a feeling of ugliness either inside or out. It is the attempt to feel something, anything. It is a path that leads to a dead end.

Porn addiction is unique though in the special way it destroys relationship and marriages. It breaks down trust and faith. Yet, we porn addicts often need to be loved more than most people. It is our deep feeling of not being worthy of being loved that cause us to look to sex to heal it.

This is what John Piper does not understand and where his remarks become dangerous and irresponsible.

Perhaps before making his comments he should have turned to the story of the woman who Jesus spoke with at the well. A woman who had come for water but was offered something better by Jesus. Jesus knew that she had been married several times and he knew that the reason was not simply because she was promiscuous. He knew that behind her jumping from one man to the next, lay a deep hurt that needed to be exposed. This exposure elicited not through judgement but by gently remarking on how He knew she had been married many times before. This is also why He offered something that would finally complete that part of her that she had searched for through men.

As Rob Bell would say, “this is really about that”.

Because rarely is porn addiction simply about sex. Sex or at least images of sex have become the go to for people like myself. Sex is about a deep connection with another person and porn has become the false way we have tried to feel that connection.

Porn addiction is about the quest for unconditional love. The porn addict has spent years believing that they need to earn love, that they need to act a certain way to be accepted. Whether that is because of someone in their past treating them as such or in the case of myself, through the gap left by the death of my Dad, shame is the cornerstone of porn addiction. It is not necessarily anyones fault but it is real and painful. A shame produced because they have been made to feel like they are regularly not meeting some sort of criteria of worth.

For a porn user to become free of their addiction a removal of that shame is critical. To get to the core of where that shame has grown from and to deal with it by surrounding themselves with a community of people who like them have also felt the same way. In fact, the understanding that you are not weird or unusual is one of the first ways that shame is removed. For maybe the first time, an addict can expose their shame and still be accepted.

Like a kid who has seen snow for the very first time, their whole definition of what the world is like suddenly changes. Healing can begin.

But to keep John Piper’s metaphor going, the two men who ended up giving in obviously wanted to be free. That is why they resisted for as long as they could until the weight became too much to bear. But by describing them as “wimps”, John Piper has simply reinforced the feelings of shame that they undoubtedly already felt. For someone who obviously cares about the effect porn has on people, he is blissfully unaware that he is actually contributing to the very shame that could push the men into the pit the next time.

We need to start being honest about sin and our treatment of those who continually take part in all the little ways everyday that we become less human. Because those people are everyone. Sin is about missing the mark, about not being able to see how we are invited to participate in Heaven appearing before our eyes on Earth. By realizing how each of us are constantly living in ways that do ourselves disservice, we can remove the stigma that sin holds over the church.

This will not be achieved through naming and shaming or by yelling at our congregations. It will start with our leaders not being afraid to be vulnerable through which, the fear that keeps the rest of us from speaking out is dismantled.

God does not take delight when we act in a way that reduces the creative potential of life inside of us but neither is He, irrespective of what some fundamental Christian leaders would have us believe, angry at you.

Anytime Jesus addressed someone’s sin in the Bible He did so gently and graciously. Whether it was Peter’s denial of him, the man next to Him on the cross or the woman at the well.

Each time the deeply hidden reason they chose sin was brought to the fore and the shame removed which allowed the process of restoration to begin.

If only John Piper and others understood this, perhaps the rise of porn addiction in church would stop.

But let’s give the final word to love. Let me remind you if you need, that you are loved, you are accepted, porn may be where you are but it is not who you are. (thanks Karin Cooke from Naked Truth Project for this amazing nugget). Hold onto that, seek those who will work through this with you and remember that love and not shame is what defines you.

Even if that’s not what you have been told.

Advertisements

110 thoughts on “Why John Piper is wrong about Porn

  1. Piper taught a good message. He is teaching more so from a finish line position whereas you are teaching from more of a starting line. How dare you try to make a differentiation that one is more important or wrong. One is maturity. The other is infant stage. You are right that we must live in grace and walk in God’s love but that is just the beginning. Jesus obliterates addiction, that what He does!! That what God does. It is possible because it is a miracle!!! Perhaps you should consider more carefully before you post on a sermon such as Piper’s. Maybe you had a deadline to meet or whatever but tread carefully before you try to tear a fellow brother in Christ down.

    • Hi Curtuluaf,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond.

      So sorry you felt it was a personal attack on a person and not just the idea. An idea that I have seen hurt people time and time again. An idea that does nothing to encourage people to be open about their sin. This is the crux of it. If you add more shame as I believe the way he talked about those struggling with porn does, it makes it more difficult to experience the miracle (and you’re spot on, it is) of healing.

      Appreciate your thoughts.

      • First of all, LOVED the article. I struggle with this too. This first responder, Curt Z, did not identify himself as a struggler, addict or even a finished “miracle” so maybe he is like Piper, someone who has not personally struggled with or been addicted to porn? Do they speak of drug addicts, food addicts or workaholics like this? Are all people who struggle then “wimps?” Definitely NOT loving! I sometimes find myself answering such as these in like manner! Kudos to you for keeping your eye on the prize remembering that Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins! Your insight AND your temperament are above reproach and encouraging to me. I am grateful for brothers like you that I have met along my journey!

    • I was a sex addict who made deliberate decisions at the beginning to fall into the cycle of addiction. There’s decisions I made years later to stay out of the cycle even today. While I agree addictions need to be treated, there’s a reason the illustration was about the men on the outside of the pit and not in it. They were still in a place where conscious decisions could be made. Self control and discipline still had a hold.

    • “You are right that we must live in grace and walk in God’s love but”. Sorry curtzulaf, there is no but to grace

      • The most loving thing to do is to tell people the truth. The most hateful thing to do is to candy coat the truth. That doesn’t help anybody Paul. We have to make war with our sins. And yes porn addiction is a disease, rooted in sin Paul. We have to man up. It says “be a good soldier of Christ.” Please let’s be careful of how we use the word “love.” Have you ever thought the reason he may yell is because there is so much at stake? Eternity is at stake. I wish more of us would yell.

      • Thanks Steve.

        When addiction arises from a deep shame on some unconscious level which all addiction is then the type of language that John Piper uses only serves to increase the shame, not eleviate it. We tell ourselves deep down that we are not good enough and then our teachers yell at us and so we believe it must be true. So we go searching for ways to feel better and addiction is the result.

        Also, it’s all very well telling someone to man up and be a good soldier but when someone has been battling their addiction for many years, really trying hard and yet still coming up short that type of language also serves to deepen the shame and the addiction.

        The way to true freedom is for us to remind those who are addicted that they are not bad people and that they deserve to be free. This can have a life changing impact on someone and removes the shame which is the one vital step to freedom.

        My friend Seth wrote a really great post on this idea which I’d encourage you to check out.

        Thanks again for stopping by Steve. The fact that I am still receiving comments on this post is an encouragement to me that this is an important issue to talk about, so thank you.
        Peace.

    • I made sure in my post to highlight that the main responsibility for someone who is a porn addict is a porn addict. You won’t find any excuses. You will find though I hope, a call to start talking about it with Grace and peace and an understanding of the issues buried deep and in a way that doesn’t bring more shame.

  2. Hey Paul,

    Thanks for taking the time to think through this and write it out bro. I get your burden. I used to be addicted to porn, and I too have been greatly encouraged by John Piper throughout my recovery.

    But I have to say that I share some of sentiments already voiced above. I wanted to say that, as a recovering addict, I haven’t found this position particularly helpful. That is, the position that victimizes porn addicts and reduces our problem to a self-esteem issue or a search for intimacy. Those may indeed play factors in our decisions to engage and indulge in lust and pornography, and we do indeed to know God’s radical grace and unconditional love in Christ in order to be freed. But at the bottom of things, it’s still a decision. It’s still our willing sin against God.

    My eyes were opened to the root of my sin when I read this sentence from Heath Lamber in his book Finally Free: “Men look at pornography out of an arrogant desire to see women in a way that God does not allow.” And I didn’t feel like he was being callous or irresponsible. What he said was true. Though pride is not the only factor, it’s a big one. And humility is not the sum of the solution. But it’s absolutely necessary. It was something I needed to hear, just as much as I needed someone to show me compassion and unconditional love.

    And I think you understand the point of his parable, but C.S. Lewis said the same thing in a particularly helpful manner:

    “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”

    I personally don’t find Piper’s challenge and tone anything but helpful. Piper was preaching in light of the severity of sin and the greatness of God’s glory. We must love each other with conditional love and encourage each other with compassion. But we must not treat each other like victims. We have been sinned against and certain factors have contributed to our patterns of sin. But like Anthony said above, we have to stop making excuses.

  3. I used to struggle with porn till The Lord delivered me from it, and I would like to say a couple things. First of all, if you are saying that this is about an idea and not a person then you shouldn’t title it, why “John Piper” is wrong about porn. This leaves no room for opinions from those that may disagree either, and I agree with Piper. God has raised us to life in Christ to be an army, just like the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel. He used strong language for the first two men but he’s trying to wake up people that think they can be passive when we are in a spiritual battle. Addiction is a stronghold demon, lust and pornography are also demons, Gods Word is clear that we fight not with flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities, spiritual darkness and wickedness in high places, ie. demons. It also says that the weapons of our warfare are NOT carnal but mighty for tearing down strongholds. In our spiritual armor we have 2 weapons, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and prayer, which sadly a lot of Christians neglect. If we want to be victorious in the battle against satans army, and it is an army, with ranks, structure and chains of command, then we must be the soldiers that Jesus Christ has called us to be in the army of God. I’ve experienced deliverance from these demons, we must fight back, then and only then will we be victorious, and will we truly come together as the Church that Jesus said the gates of hell will not even stand up against.

    • Thanks Jay.

      There is plenty of room for you to disagree with me.

      Interesting analogy of fighting in an army because in war you have others around you to help you and to pick you up, not mock you when you are hit.

      Really appreciate your thoughts.

  4. I appreciate any story related to recovery and sexual sin, it’s always good to hear of brothers and sisters in Christ rejoicing of healing. But, Piper along X3 Church have been an important part of my recovery. It would’ve really been great to not have his name attached to your blog. Neither Piper, nor X3 Church are perfect, more misunderstood I’m sure than anything. Please refrain from names, especially brothers and sisters in Christ who are leading the way in preaching the gospel, UNLESS, they are so-called FALSE TEACHERS. Aka Rob Bell. Now, I’m sure some will have a problem with that statement, but we all no about his current beliefs and teaching, so maybe there’s no win win here.

    • I believe he mentioned John Piper for the very reason we are reading this blog post right now: Drive traffic. Nothing like a controversial headline with a well-known name in it to make people click a link. It worked with us, didn’t it?

      The points are interesting and worth discussing, but the marketing aspect is obvious. I hope there are more positives than negatives in terms of the discussion your post created vs. the generalized criticism of John Piper implied in your poorly written headline (I know that probably wasn’t your intention).

    • I believe he mentioned John Piper for the very reason we are reading this blog post right now: Drive traffic. Nothing like a controversial headline with a well-known name in it to make people click a link. It worked with us, didn’t it?

      The points are interesting and worth discussing, but the marketing aspect is obvious. I hope there are more positives than negatives in terms of the discussion your post created vs. the generalized criticism of John Piper implied in your poorly written headline (I know that probably wasn’t your intention).

  5. I feel like at this point I need to make a clarification that I think may have been lost. At no point am I advocating for a Laissez-faire approach to temptation. You can and should make every effort when confronted with the triggers to give in to an addiction, to stop yourself before you let it get the better of you. If however, you feel shame over your addiction this is going to make it less likely that you will open up to others and get the help you need. You can not beat addiction on will power alone. You need other people to surround you and who you can reach out to and will reach out to you when you are feeling tempted.

    If the men in the parable had grabbed onto each other to give strength to each other, instead of trying to resist on their own then perhaps they would have been able to face the temptation down.

    But shame is what stops us helping each other and why many of us can not resist temptation.

    I truly appreciate everyone’s comments. Keep them coming. Even those who disagree with me 😉

  6. Hi Paul,
    I caught this from a Facebook link.

    I had to read part 2 to find the answer is Jesus. Wonderful. Love the woman at the well. Jesus isn’t shocked by our sin, that’s why he came. He needs us to be honest about it.

    I don’t know the person that this article is about or the original message, but I have a problem with the calling of those that fall into sin, “Wimps”. Buck up and fly right??? Hey, let’s apply that to every sin, then we’ll be perfect. The whole message of the Gospel and the purpose of the law is to show that we CANNOT make it in our own strength (so that none can boast) and that Jesus has paid the price for us. That, if we realize our weakness, He will come into us and change us.

    This issue of SELF pollutes our Gospel. Our focus has everything revolving around us when it isn’t about us. It is about Him. Sorry for the sound bites here, but in reading your part 2, I think that you understand me.

    There is another scripture that I find even more fitting to this subject. That is Mark 5:1-20 “The healing of the demon possessed man” Tormented, isolated, self-destructive, unable to be helped by the restraints of man,,,then he sees Jesus and is delivered. That is the story of all of us. Jesus is always the answer.

  7. I get what you’re saying, Paul, about shaming people. We as Christians are called to tell the truth in love. In fact, we are exhorted by Jesus specifically to not name-call. Clearly, you are not calling down John Piper as a minister; you are calling into question something he said. If we cannot question our leaders, we hold them up as idols. I pray we all have discernment from the Holy Spirit to question something if it does not appear to follow the words of Jesus.

  8. Thanks for the article. I agree with your assessment Pipers analogy. The men who ended up jumping in certainly arent wimps! To say that they are leaves out the role of sanctification in our life. All three of those men at one point never even had a cord around their waist, and would freely stroll into the pit. The men who resist demonstrate how far Christ has brought them, because nothing would have caused them to resist other than the work of Christ in their lives. Praise God for growth that causes us to resist! We dont shame our children until they get something perfect. Instead, we celebrate their incremental stumbling as they progress towards whatever the goal may be! Thanks for addressing the shame culture surrounding this! We should always strive for more rather than being complacent. But anyone who fights sin isnt a wimp, they are just somewhere along the rough trail of sanctification.

  9. I love this article. Addiction and sinful behavior are not spiritually different (in that they are both sin and because of sin), but they need to be treated differently. I’ve found in addiction that truly “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Jesus said “Gouge out your eyes”, but that looks a lot more holistic when it’s an addiction. It involves education on the body’s weakness, assessment of all stumbling “cues” or “triggers”, and most importantly, people who understand and love you through it. If people simply treated addiction with a “Just stop mentality”, they’d find very little success. It’s not laisez-faire to admit you’re addicted. It’s a courageous reaching out for a rescue branch.

  10. It’s just not true that Jesus always dealt with sin graciously – He showed anger many times. That’s not to say we should be trying to shame anyone, but there’s just so little progress to be made if you’re convinced you’re powerless in the situation and need pity and graciousness. Again, it’s not about condemnation or guilt, because that’s not the right path, but the Bible doesn’t say we addicts/sinners just need more love. We need His redemption.

    • True He did and maybe I generalized in that statement but usually His anger was reserved for the religious of the day and not to the sinners or the people that no one would touch with a barge pole. Think Zacchaeus or the woman at the well or the woman who the Pharisees brought out to be killed. Especially the latter who was made to feel shame for her sin by the Pharisees.

      But Amen, we certainly all need His redemption.

      Thanks Jason!

  11. Brother, I really appreciate your words here. I often find myself at odds with “mainstream” Christian voices, such as Piper, and tend to appreciate the more “roguish” types, such as John Eldredge. In my readings of Piper, I’ve often felt a lack of grace toward those who sincerely wrestle in their relationships with God. It’s the same as how folks in the Church have little empathy for felons, because, most of them have never been felons. It may be, that those who do not reach out to people at porn conventions, as XXXChurch does, may not be able to have as much empathy, because, they’ve never been exposed to those realities on a personal level. As a former member of the legalist, Christian fundamentalist cult of Bill Gothard, I can attest to the soul-crushing effects of doctrine without grace. In fact, the cult’s definition of grace was, “The desire and power that God gives us to do his will (http://billgothard.com/teaching/grace/).” There was no love in the cult, and it is that lack of love that you have mentioned, that I am convinced has been a major contributor to my personal use of porn. People who feel secure in love, are at very low risk for developing addictions. I am honestly saddened to see most of the responses to this article have been as equally graceless. Piper and the above commenters may be technically “right,” but Christians should acknowledge that Paul said he could do many things that were right, but, if he did not show and experience love, being right was worth absolutely squat. I’m sure that there are Christians who can “bootstrap” themselves up more than others. Some may have a constitution that responds well to Piper’s approach. When that is the case, good has been done. But some do not respond well to it, and when that is the case, hard will be done. What kind of parent would be so uncaring or unaware, as to not know which of his children need their stubbornness broken by the switch, and which one’s spirits would be crushed by it? What kind of parent would say that God demands arbitrary spanking across the spectrum of all children? I try not to be judgmental of the strong Christian’s ability, and it’s a shame that they do not often extend the same understanding to those who are leaning on a crutch, because, something is broken. What kind of people would walk up to someone on a crutch, kick it out from under them, and tell them how much they don’t need a crutch for their broken leg, yelling, “That crutch is such a crutch!” without giving them a remedy, APPROPRIATE TO THEIR WOUND? As per 1 Corinthians 7:9, nothing puts out fire, but something that is designed to put out fire (and how often do Christians offer non-flame retarding solutions, regarding the specific context of this verse?). The solution is to heal the broken limb, and wean them off of the crutch. In this case, the remedy comes from God, but that manifests in the given ability to FEEL SECURE IN LOVE, not, bootstrapping themselves up, simply because it’s the “righteous thing to do.” Furthermore, what kind of person would sit in judgment of a person, who they literally just saw break their ankles from being dragged down into the pit, simply because, they couldn’t shout loud enough and stare at figures long enough to withstand…um…physics (reality)? What kind of people would shout down into the pit, “After your fractured ankles, that have broken through your skin heal, don’t you dare call them scars! They’re not! We have strict (arbitrary) ideas for what qualify scars around here!” Even the most primitive medical knowledge would correct that idea. Scars are scars. Piper does not get to define what a scar is. Another thing that really offends me, is at the end of the clip, when he refers to the audience as, “you,” as if he’s saying, “you people.” How about, “we,” or are we not on the same caste level as Piper? I imagine him wearing a bow-tie, when he said that; you know, the kind that prestigious university professors wear?

    I’m not a big fan of using analogies to prove a point, because, any analogy can be presented to fit the speakers intention. Piper begins his analogy, “Once, there were three men…” Well, no, there weren’t; Piper conjured them out of thin air. A scriptwriter can manipulate the parameters and outcome of the story, because, imaginary characters are not constrained by reality. The first thing I notice, is that Piper uses 2 men vs. 1 man, when he could have just as easily used 1 vs 1. I don’t think Piper is stupid; he seems fully capable of being aware that this will make a more dramatic distinction, in favor of his argument. So, the pit is attractive, because…um…it has snakes in it and no indication of anything even giving the illusion of benefit to the men? Last time I checked, a beautiful woman’s naked body is a good thing and can give the appearance of being beneficial (in committed marriage). It’s also, not full of snakes, I guess? The point is, that Piper is making the point that the pit has attraction, but gives no attributes of its attractiveness; as if anyone would need any significant motivation to say no to a hole in the ground with snakes at the bottom. It’s a gross oversimplification, that doesn’t address its primal attraction. It is also interesting, that the third man’s chord…just…snaps…because…um…Piper simply said that an event in the story caused it to snap…I guess? And the first two men jumped, because…um…their rescue would have been certain, had they continued resisting? There’s only jumping and being rescued and no falling, because, falling isn’t a real thing in the real world, from which the analogy draws? I understand that it’s an analogy, but reality is reality because things are true, not because a man tells a story that makes people feel good about the conclusion. It’s no coincidence that my cult was very big on employing analogies, when presenting its doctrines. And, yes, Jesus used analogies. And, yes, Jesus was infallible in his ability to use them correctly. I, personally, do not dare to have the same confidence of infallibility, lest I become like those who should be drowned, with a boat anchor tied around their necks. Piper doesn’t indicate that he is citing any real world experience, but you, the writer of this article, do. You aren’t relying on a simply story to argue your point. Another thing to consider, is that those who are the most judgmental about and rail the loudest against any particular offense, are often the guiltiest offenders, trying to hide their own guilt. Again, are we not on the same caste level as Piper?

    Something that almost baffles me, is that, in the article, Piper states that he believes it is guilt, more so than actual sexual sins, that keep people from living free and serving God. Note: I didn’t read the full article, as I am not going to pay for a subscription. Personally, I’ll take a person’s actions, over their words, as an indicator of their true heart, and Piper’s audio speaks volumes more to this, than his writing does. It’s the same with Church congregations; if you want to know what they believe, don’t listen to what they tell you, look at what you observe there.

    I wish that more Christians, such as yourself, would be willing to question the modern Church’s leadership, when something seems a little funky. I also really appreciate your responses to the commenters who challenged you, which were far more gracious than theirs. Keep up the good work, brother.

    • Clay, I would love to be your friend! Extremely well thought out response! LOVED every word of it! I, too, like Eldredge’s thoughts and am not too keen on Piper, Driscoll, or even Bell. However, that being said, I too struggle to eat the meat and spit out the bones! The end justifies the means so if someone gets free from Piper’s railings then that is great but I sure hope they spend more time loving and not shaming. THAT is NOT good disciple-making . . .

  12. I just kept thinking, “Surely one of these guys is going to decide to cut the rope?” That’s true freedom, right?
    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hey Paul, normally I don’t bother leaving replies to various blog posts because arguing about issues like these usually prove fruitless, but I can tell you have a real heart and desire for truth, man, so I’ll say something and leave it at that. You say that Dr. Piper left shame alone in his analogy, and even made people feel more of it when he called the two who jumped “wimps”. Dr. Piper addressed shame, though, in the only way he could: the picture of Jesus’ sacrifice with him smiling at the third man. It is crucial to understand how shame is defeated. JESUS CONQUERED OUR SHAME ON THE CROSS, GIVING US THE POWER TO FIGHT SIN KNOWING IT HAS ALREADY BEEN DEFEATED. You are right when you say that we need to look at the face of the addiction without shame or guilt, but that only comes from Jesus. That is why the branch in the parable was in the shape of the cross. So in fact Dr. Piper addresses your area of concern exactly the right way; not pointing to the addiction as a disease or sickness, but the willful jump towards sinful gratification that will end up killing the person. In order for a person to experience the grace of the cross, shame is necessary. We must own our sin before Christ can forgive us of it. That’s shame! But it is short-lived, because Jesus took the punishment and better yet rose from the dead to empower us in our fight. THAT FIGHT SHOULD LEAVE US SCARRED, and Dr. Piper was right when he shouted to the congregation to show him theirs. Paul, please know that I really respect your opinion here, but I think Dr. Piper’s analogy is very helpful to me and many others in this situation.

      • I agree with Mark regarding shame. I also think it’s important to note, with this area of sin, that there is much diversity. It’s hard, and an oversimplification, to make generalizations about someone’s addiction to pornography. I agree that promoting grace and openness is important, but it is equally important (and biblically right) to point out the shame in the sin. Just as there are many who need to feel love and openness in order to overcome the sin that they already know is shameful, there are those who need the kick in the pants to get off their butts and take up their cross. Piper, in my opinion, was paraphrasing what Jesus said when Jesus called His disciples to “take up [their] cross daily” and follow Him (also saying that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”). The image of the cross is not one of love and grace but one of blood and scars. And beautifully enough, Jesus took up His very own cross for us. Thus, while we may receive scars and bruises here on earth, our victory is secure and the pain and struggle with the flesh will one day cease.

        Regarding Piper’s statement, I also want to point out a reason, perhaps, maybe why he chose to focus on the aspect of fighting and getting scars (as opposed to presenting the loving and embracing side to it as well). As a pastor of a church, I’m sure he meets with many members regarding many issues. This is pure speculation, but would it not be possible that he noticed a pattern of “laziness” (in resisting the temptation of lust) among some of his members? When he made this statement, maybe he was trying to light a small fire in the congregation to get them off the couch and fighting for the gospel daily, as the Bible calls?

        Thanks for your post Paul, I can tell that you care deeply about this subject and for those associated with this issue. Don’t lose that passion! If I’m mistaken in anything I’ve said feel free to correct me, that’s how we learn is it not? 🙂

  14. OK I’ll add my 2 cents. Let me try to address a couple things. First, I think that the wimps comment is accurate but not as you are thinking. Those who rely on their own strength are wimps no matter how much they try (Matt 26:41 seems to state that we are weak in our flesh), compared to those who reach out to Christ and work with all the power he supplies to fight (Although Col 1:29 is not about sin, I think Paul lays out the groundwork for how we are to approach all things God has for us to do). It is not about how hard you fight on your own, its about how fully you fight to rest in Christ. Second, as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior” which is how the dictionary defines shame, I think he is addressing those who shamefully give in when the going gets tough. 1Cor 10:13 seems to say that God always gives a way out and it is we who do not take his way out. So we are never without options. You say “the understanding that you are not weird or unusual is one of the first ways that shame is removed” but I am not sure how feeling like a sin lemming (everybody is doing it) removes shame. It seems more in line with Scripture to say that shame needs to be removed and that only comes from Christ. As someone who sins quite often, I don’t think shame is bad, so long as it leads me back to the cross from which I strayed, where we can ask for and receive forgiveness (1John 1:9) and where condemnation is done away with (Rom 8:1). There are times I don’t need coddling about how my past has led me to this point, or how “its OK that you failed, it happens”, but I need to hear – “That was stupid, wrong, and shows a lack of trusting in the sufficiency of Christ to provide all that you need. Now get back up and flee to him and thank him that even though you gave up fighting for a bit, he never leaves you or forsakes you.” My problem and I think many guys share this with me, is we tend to not feel the weight of our sin and get lazy about fighting and repenting. Where I find the analogy Piper uses falls apart (as all analogies do at some point) is that even when we have done what the first 2 guys did, he graciously catches his children on the way down the pit and places them back on land again. He does not untie the rope until glorification, but he continue to allows us a new chance to “get it right” by turning to him for help rather than digging in our heels on our own.

    Well that was longer than I thought it would be. Hope it helps add to the dialog. Thanks for bringing this up and causing us all to think more deeply about these issues.

  15. Struggled with porn addiction for a very long time and God broke it after hearing a powerful message on loving your wife and how that is incongruent if you’re watching porn followed by a woman speaking of the impact her husband’s porn addiction had in her and her marriage. I still feel the slight pull every once in a while, but at the end of the day, each man chooses to watch it. Some guys need a very in your face approach and some guys need a more gentle approach. Mr. Pipers message may have been for the guys who needed a more in your face approach, which often works better for me.

  16. Thanks for your blog. You are entirely correct. Most pastors do not know that the addict has lost the power of choice when it comes to their addiction. The idea that we can struggle with sin until we overcome it is a false and destructive teaching. We must first admit that we are defeated and that only God can deliver us from it. In fact, Jesus took our addictions to the cross and nailed them there more than 2,000years ago.When we give up and surrender completely to God, He then delivers us. Our relapses do not surprise Him. He knew when he bought us with His blood how long it would take us to finally learn that we cannot walk in the spirit by trying to act better. He wants us come come and die with Him Romans 6, and experience the resurrection life. Our addictions bring us to that place of absolute surrender. Poor John Piper, He has never had a problem too big for John Piper to handle.

  17. Porn or any other sin is not overcome by digging in your heels. All sins, great or small are overcome purely by the power of Christ at work within the broken and contrite, dependent on Him alone and not on human power. Noone can take credit for their own bravery or might in resisting sinful nature or the habits it inevitably produces. Taking credit for what the grace of God accomplishes in us is very dangerous. We should give God glory for every sinless moment we experience. Our sinful thoughts and deeds should be sqaurely layed at the feet of Christ to overcome in His method and in His timing. Our prayers should be like that of Judah facing impossible odds.
    2 Ch 20:12 O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” (NLTse)
    If it were possible for man to simply dig in his heels, then why did Christ have to die?

  18. Reblogged this on Focused and Free and commented:
    I love to find posts that say so wonderfully what I kow and have wanted to share or tried to share but somehow fell flat in the process or delivery. Thank you Paul Orbison for your honesty, openness, and willingness to tell it like it is and like it needs to be as regards how “Church” approaches and fails to properly deal with sin -as a whole.

  19. Paul,
    It is with great delight that I read your post. It is a significant contribution toward de-mystifying not only the nature of the porn problem among Christian brothers but more importantly the solution as well. Of course, there can be no solution at all if the problem never comes into the light; and it is much less likely to do so if it is only met with shaming or rejection. Your analysis of John Piper’s sermon is not necessary for me to understand the pervasive intolerance toward addictive behaviors within the Evangelical church; especially sexually addictive behaviors. We tend to boast about the unbelieving addict who turns his life over to Jesus and finds acceptance and deliverance; but we tend to avoid the believing addict who longs for freedom but is stuck and unable to find neither acceptance or deliverance.

    My own quest for this deliverance has led me to a wonderful portion of Scripture that has transformed me and two very dear brothers in Christ. I post it below in it’s entirety and hope you have time to read it and perhaps share your thoughts. Thanks again for the affirming nature of your post that neither sidesteps the issue nor suggests any solution apart from the power of Christ.

    John 13:1-17 A Model for Men’s Accountability Groups
    Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

    1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
    2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
    6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
    7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
    8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
    Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
    9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
    10Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
    12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

    Three months later, Peter is in his Accountability group:

    PETER: “Fellas, I’ve got dirty feet again.”
    JAMES: “Shame on you! After all Jesus has done you treat him like this!?”
    PHILIP: “Okay guys. Peter can’t seem to shake this problem. What are we going to do to hold him accountable?”
    JAMES: “How’s your devotional life Peter? How much time are you spending in the word? Have you memorized any scripture lately?”
    JOHN: “Brothers! Stop! Which one of us doesn’t get dirty feet? Jesus just said to wash each others feet like He did. If He didn’t question us; if He didn’t rebuke us; if He didn’t shame us, how do we dare place ourselves above the Lord in this way? Which one of you is going to take responsibility to fix Peter? Fix yourself! God will take care of Peter. You sound like Job’s counselors! I tell you this, if we don’t wash each other’s feet as Jesus washed ours, then we have no part with Him.”
    ANDREW: “But John, Peter keeps coming here with dirty feet. How long should we put up with this?”
    JOHN “Does seventy times seven ring a bell?”

    Then placing his hand on Peter’s dirty feet John prayed: “Father, Peter has acknowledged his sin before us and before you. And because he is our brother, his sin is our sin. Thank you that you are faithful and just to forgive us this sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Help us to continually walk in the light. Amen.”

      • Karl,
        Thanks for your comment regarding John 13. I’m convinced more than ever that it is not so much about servant hood as is commonly understood; but rather the very thing this blog is talking about: Getting dirty feet from having to walk in the world AFTER we’ve already been bathed. (and Jesus says we don’t need to be bathed ever again PTL!)

        The material is NOT copyrighted. Whatever anyone else may think I know The Lord gave me this understanding because I had been so burdened by trying to overcome my sin but knowing that I could not do it alone. Then one day I was reading John 13 and it began to jump off the page. I shared this understanding with two other brothers and it resonated in their heart also. At that time none of us knew that any of us was struggling with porn; but as we continued to meet weekly with a willingness to metaphorically “wash each other’s feet” the walls came down and each of us was able to lift our tunic high enough to expose the filth that had accumulated on our feet. We had All been sruggling with porn! We chose to have the nonjudgmental attitude of Christ in John 13 rather than that of Job’s counselors. As a result we’ve been meeting like this everyweek for over four years now and as Jesus says in verse 17; “you will s blessed if you do this (one to another).

        Please feel free to use the material and know that you too will be “blessed” if you do this.

      • Thank you, Scott. Since you put that together and wrote it out, it would be nice to give credit where credit is due when sharing. I’m sure others will want to share ti as well. Feel free to email me via my about.me page (about.me/karldrhoads) with an attribution (your name).

        Grace and peace,
        kdr

  20. Sorry, Paul, but I say you’re about half full of crap. I say that as a person who has been a former porn addict and producer. Based just on what you’ve written about what he said, I’d agree more with Piper.

  21. To be fair, taking a clip of a pastor’s sermon out of the context of the time and congregation’s position is dangerous. I think this is good cause for pastors to always guard what they say if their sermons are being posted online for non-congregation members. It is something I consider as my congregation, like many others albeit a bit tardy, moves into the electronic age. It may be that a serious “3rd use of the Law/struggling against the flesh” moment was needed at his church at that time (though even then it was still harsh). That’s his judgment as their called and ordained pastor. However, as uncharitable as this is to Rev. Piper, I’m guessing this may not be an isolated incident, and it is far from helpful.

    More to the point, using his parable…
    The cross is not a crutch (I hated that part the most)
    We all end up in the pit.
    The fact is that Jesus JUMPS in and dies WITH us.

    In His death we are safe, and the cord around HIS waist is His own resurrection, which He uses to pull us out.

  22. There is a tension in the NT between justification and works. We have to reconcile Paul and James, i.e. Gal 2:16 and Jam. 2:17. This tension is even on Mt. Everest – Romans 8. These are not inconsistencies. Dr. Piper’s messages at issue accurately reflect this tension. Like you, as a struggling sexual sinner (I don’t find “addict” helpful), I love hearing the first message and recoil at the second. But, Dr. Piper is dead-on correct in both, down to his tone. I (my flesh) don’t like it anymore than you, but it is what it is. I am grateful for men who preach truth. So, let’s go and sin no more.

    (By the way, flippantly quoting an indisputable heretic causes a catastrophic loss of credibility).

  23. It seems as though you are referencing a sermon from 2001 and an article from 2007 (which you indicate helped you). I’m not a huge Piper fan, but it seems as though John Piper has evolved his message and perhaps moved more towards grace. Has Piper spoken more recently about this topic? That might be a better option to compare. Perhaps more grace towards him for a sermon 13 years ago is warranted. I wouldn’t want some of the things I thought in 2001 (I was definitely more legalistic during that time) held against me in 2014.

    • That’s a good question I’ve been getting a lot about this post. I haven’t heard anything recent from him but the sermon was posted by him and Desiring God on their respective facebook pages around three days ago, so I assume that he would stand by it if he is willing to post it now.

  24. Like most men (probably all), I struggle with porn from time to time. I don’t consider myself addicted because I can go months without needing to see any image. But I don’t consider myself free because I know that eventually I will choose to do it again. I have a problem with the part in the article that says porn addiction is a disease. While I agree we need to avoid creating shame in people that struggle with this sin – that’s what porn addiction is – having shame and guilt is biblical. The article is right that we need to encourage people with this sin, to not let shame and guilt rule their hearts. But, they need to acknowledge that they are in sin, should have guilt and their sin is not something to be proud about. By the way, Jesus was gracious with sinners – but oftentimes we read Him warning “do not sin again.” I have a graduate degree in counseling and feel calling certain addictions like porn, is a humanistic and carnal approach to this practice of sin.

  25. Thanks for the article. Maybe John Piper’s illustration was not the best to use for this case. The term “wimps” may be a bit harsh. But then, I did not listen to the sermon in its context. Let me leave Piper alone, lest I judge him out of context. . However, I have a bit of a problem in agreeing in totality with the way you have dealt with the subject. It is more like you are saying porn is not a sin but a disease. Sin is a disease but in this case by “disease” I mean something like cancer. A person needs sympathy than repentance. What about a person who is a serial killer. Would you recommend the same approach? Maybe I misread? Possible.

    It could be that I live in a country (Zambia) where porn is not so pronounced (and will certainly not be treated with any kind words)? Not quite. I believe porn (and any other sins) is a problem anywhere and everywhere. It may only be more readily available and more legalized in one place than in another. I write as a man and I am aware of the snares but I believe that there is some helpful lessons from Piper’s illustration: Keep fighting. I understand this to be what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5:27-30. Do whatever it takes. Your eternal destiny hangs on it! Could it not also be what God was saying to Cain in Genesis 4:7?

    I think any sin that one does over and over again is an addiction, whether it be lying, stealing, cursing, drinking, slander, jealous, covetousness. The difference is that some addictions are more devastating then others. It is the nature of sin, any sin, to addict us to itself. We are born addicted to sin anyway. In fact so bound to it the Bible says we are dead in it (Ephesians 2:1,2).

    A person who has become addicted to porn surely needs help and grace. Jesus can rescue such and He has done it over and over again. But the “patient” has to own the sin and admit he has a sinful problem if He will really appreciate the grace of Christ. Jesus said that He came for sick, not the whole. But He came to call sinners (the sick) to repentance (Luke 5:31,32).

    Concerning the statement “Anytime Jesus addressed someone’s sin in the Bible He did so gently and graciously. Whether it was Peter’s denial of him, the man next to Him on the cross or the woman at the well”, it all depends on how we understand “gracious” and “gentle”. Was Jesus being gracious when He rebuked the Pharisees and the Scribes the way He did in Matthew 23 and in other passages? If not, then your statement falls. If so, then you have to agree that Piper may not be off the mark either.

    • Thanks Ray, for taking the time to read and comment. Appreciate it.

      I think there is a difference between a serial killer and a porn addict, but interestingly there certainly have been cases of people, who have grown into serial killers after being porn addicts. There is a progression to addiction and examples like that are certainly extreme but perhaps if as children such people were loved graciously and patiently they may not have ended up like that.

      My point being, it’s never black and white.

      Secondly, I never made the point in the post that porn addiction was not a sin. I agree fully with you and anyone else who says it is because it is. My idea of sin is similar to NT Wright’s definition of “missing the mark of genuine humanness.” Porn certainly fits into that idea.

      Finally, the difference between examples like those I provided and that of Jesus reaction in the temple, was that He reserved His greatest anger for the religious folk of the time. I think that is really interesting and I wonder if much has really changed.

      Thanks Ray.

      • Thanks for the feedback and shedding more light/reiterating your point. Puts things in better perspective for me. Keep well and God bless you.

      • First off,
        You’re right, it takes grace, and grace and a lot of grace. Except, we are to respond accordingly, we are to do what it takes to respond accordingly to that grace we have so lavishly received.

        Now, for one you criticized John Piper, not that it’s inherently bad, but let’s say it’s bold at best, and then you wrote a whole article off of a SINGLE interview, have you checked his website, his overall stance on the matter? I mean, have you thought about the impact of your article?

        Second, you quoted Rob Bell in the same article, again, not inherently bad, but uber clumsy at best :)) I mean Rob Bell, really?

        Thirdly, Dude, you said some pretty good stuff, but I’m sorry it’s so self-centered: we need grace, we need love, we need attention, we are sick, we, we we, we. You just made John Piper’s point: “whining” and “wailing”. Come on, look at Jesus, the author and the Perfecter of our faith. Whoever the Father has given to him will come to Him, and he will never cast anyone out, and if the Son sets free, we will be free indeed! We have His word!

        We all struggle, YES we need grace, yes we need love, acceptance. BUT we are ALSO to exhort one another, to restore those who fall, in love, within the Spirit of discipleship! Could John Piper have said these words in this Spirit?

        How Paul could have possibly handled the sexual sin problem within the church of Corinth? Please let me know. Did he lack grace? Was he too harsh?

        The bottom line, you might want to reconsider your position, or at least clarify that you disagreed with John Piper’s view in that ONE interview, because I tell you he wrote a lot on that topic, and they are not all exhortations or harsh thoughts.

        Finally, what about this (off of my head, I’m sure there’s other passages in the Bible) as an example of Jesus being not always gracious with sinners…

        21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

        Interesting isn’t it? Unless you understand this in the literal sense, that Jesus would judge the actual city (not the unrepentant people)

        Thank you

  26. “Anytime Jesus addressed someone’s sin in the Bible He did so gently and graciously.”

    Well, except for when he referred to gouging out eyes and cutting off limbs.

    • Jesus often used exaggeration to stress a point and in doing so in Matthew 5, he is pointing to the the seriousness of lust. They were never intended to be literal instructions. This was also set in the discussion of marriage and so His purpose here was to show us that to take marriage seriously we are to take any lust we have seriously and to do everything in our power to not feed it.

      I for one am glad it is not to be taken literally because I only have two eyes.

      • I’m curious to how you would respond if I suggested that, ‘John Piper often uses exaggeration to stress a point and in doing so in his sermon, he is pointing to the seriousness of lust’.. It’s interesting, to me, that you agree with the biblical statements of lust yet still disagree with Piper’s paraphrases of those same biblical thoughts. To me, when I hear Piper say “show me your scars”, I hear Jesus’s statements of, “take up your cross” or, “if your hand causes you to sin…cut it off” (which produces scars, if I’m not mistaken). What are your thoughts regarding this? I’m curious cause maybe I’m misunderstanding what your point is.

      • Whereas Jesus was talking about stressing that lust is not something that we should just ignore or hope goes away John Piper it seems was saying that if we just fight harder and shed blood and produce scars then we will eventually resist temptation and please Jesus.

        This is dangerous for one main reason. Porn addiction is not something that you can just dig your heals in more to get through. That may work a few times but because of the nature of addiction eventually it will not work. Working with men who are addicted I have seen this over and over. Imagine if we had the same approach to alcoholism or drug addiction. Just try your hardest to not take heroin. We know for these things that you need support of a community whether it be 12 step or a group, we know we need counselling, we know that there are deeper issues. These are complicated things to work on.

        Is porn addiction a sin, you bet it is. Should we resist sin. Of course. Is that enough. I don’t think so.

        Why this is dangerous is that if a porn addict is trying their hardest like John Piper suggests and is still failing over and over they are being led to believe that there is something about them that is not worthy to be free. They will say things like “Why can I not break free?” “I’m doing everything I can to ‘dig my heals in’.”‘I’m praying, I’m reading the Bible”. Doing these things more is important for anyone but they are not going to work completely. Their shame will continue to grow and they will continue deeper into their addiction. Because beating addiction is a process that takes patience and time, not simply, working so hard we end up with scars.

        Thanks Jason for your great questions. Appreciate your reading. Hope this clears up some confusion.

  27. This was a fantastic article. I can relate to everything you posted. I have been very angry at many in the church who use shame as a way of addressing the issue of porn and other sins. I read one book by John Piper then listened to a couple of his sermons and realized he is not a man I could follow or respect as a leader in the church. What limited exposure I have had to him has shown me anything but grace from a man who should be oozing grace. I have become very disenfranchised with organized religion because of men like John Piper. I have given up on church because my bullshit detector has become so finely attuned that I can smell a hypocrite when I walk in a room. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to go to church and worship with fellow believers. I just haven’t found one that truly accepts people where they are and ministers to the true needs of people. Instead they all seem to be about growing in numbers, raising money for something, celebrating their perfect missionaries who give up everything to reach the heathens, or sitting back and enjoying the rock star worship leader. Authenticity is difficult to find in churches. I do my best to be open and vulnerable and willing to share my story and seek loving Christian support. What I have found is that most people in churches don’t want to hear about sin in their church. They don’t want to think that someone who has a porn addiction ever led the youth group or the worship team, or worse, served on the church board. Piper and his ilk just push people like me away and most of us will never come back.

    Thanks for sharing from your heart. I love what you have to say.

    • I appreciate your kind words Kevin. Luckily for all of us church is much wider than a denomination or a leader or a belief. It is our community, it is the way we treat others, it is the people who get together and pay the rent of someone who just lost their job. Perhaps, when we gather with two or three we can consider this as much church as a Sunday morning. Also easier to share out struggles with sin too.

      A really great article you may like by Don Miller addresses some of this stuff around church this. And his follow up

  28. Pingback: Overcoming Porn Addcition | Focused and Free
  29. Some good thoughts on addiction, but this whole blog post is based on a misunderstanding of Piper’s message. Before Piper starts yelling in the sermon, he prefaces it by saying “If this were a sermon on lust, I would be yelling like this.” Then after he’s done yelling he clarifies that his sermon is not one on lust, hence he really isn’t yelling at people like that. So Paul, you have some good thoughts on addiction, but your frustrations towards Piper are based on mishearing what Piper actually said. Piper was pretending when he was yelling. Go back to the podcast and double check. Regardless, I appreciate your thoughts on addiction.

  30. Pingback: Brain Disease (?), Addiction, and Jehovah’s Witnesses – 3/29/2014 | Apologia Radio
  31. Hi,

    I encourage everyone especially the author to listen to this radio podcast which biblically critiques the above post.

    http://www.apologiaradio.com/?p=757

    Please listen from the 33 minute mark onwards.

    May the Holy Spirit open up the eyes of those deceived and hopelessly bound to addiction of any kind through repentance and faith in Christ alone.

    In love, in Christ,

    Sharif.

  32. Pingback: Why Addiction is Not (Exactly) sin | paulrobinsonwrites
  33. My thoughts have been mostly covered in the previous discussion. But, I can’t help but point out that when recounting the story of the woman at the well, you’ve committed an egregious instance of eisegesis. This entire portion, “Jesus knew that she had been married several times and he knew that the reason was not simply because she was promiscuous. He knew that behind her jumping from one man to the next, lay a deep hurt that needed to be exposed. This exposure elicited not through judgement but by gently remarking on how He knew she had been married many times before. This is also why He offered something that would finally complete that part of her that she had searched for through men.” is not anywhere in the Biblical text. That is 100% eisegesis and quite misleading.

    • Hi Landon,

      Really appreciate the time to read my post and for your thoughts.
      So do you not think that she was searching for something, through multiple marriages and a promiscuous lifestyle, that only Jesus could offer her? Because that was my point. And I think that is consistent with many traditional interpretations and readings of this passage.

      • I too appreciate your thoughts and civil responses to criticism.

        My point is simply that maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t (searching for something). But to insinuate these things as biblical truth is mishandling the text. Further, to surmise the woman’s underlying feelings as the impetus by which Jesus deals with her is to further insert your own thoughts and ideas into the Biblical text rather than understanding them as written.

        The book GotQuestions says it best that, “In spite of the similarities in the two meetings between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, there are differences in the way Jesus unveiled grace to them. While Nicodemus needed to see himself as a sinner in order to understand grace, the Samaritan woman, who knew she was a sinner, needed to see herself as a person of worth and value. And this provides us with one of the most powerful lessons in all of Scripture.

        “This story teaches us that God finds us worthy of His love in spite of our bankrupt lives. God values us enough to actively seek us, to welcome us to intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship. As a result of Jesus’ conversation, only a person like the Samaritan woman, an outcast from her own people, could understand what this means. To be wanted, to be cared for when no one, not even herself, could see anything of value in her—this is grace indeed.”

        So, while your premise appears to be on track, the execution insinuates a revelation not revealed in the text. And the beauty of the Bible is that it needs no embellishment or further revelation beyond what is written. It’s a very slippery slope to start reading our ideas into the text.

  34. This was an excellent article, Paul. As someone who has been battling a porn addiction for two years, it is nice to see a perspective like yours, which I can relate to. I really enjoy most of John Piper’s messages, but his approach to porn addiction is definitely something that upsets me a little bit. Shaming is a horrible thing to do when meeting an addict who keeps relapsing (I don’t like the word relapse). Anyways, good stuff!

  35. First of all, his point is that you don’t need to sin to experience its power, in fact, the opposite is true. In terms of the pit, I believe he’s talking about giving up on the fight against lust and giving in to it completely, not just giving in once in a while. A person who gives in to temptation has maybe slipped towards the pit, but he hasn’t jumped in until he says “forget it, it’s not worth the fight, I can’t beat it, I’ll just do it all the time”. That was my take :p

    • Thanks Joel for contributing to a very important discussion. I think where the difference is, is that for him, there is no difference between lust and addiction. An addict isn’t just giving into lust; they are dealing with something much more powerful. It’s not enough to just tell an addict, stop looking at porn or drinking or whatever it is. They need to confront the pain that is at the root of this. Piper’s approach would only cause more shame and guilt, which is all fuel for an addiction. If someone does get to the point of giving up as you describe, we have to ask why they believe it is not possible anymore, and if the truth of their situation to them is one of hopelessness, making them feel horrible about themselves, as Piper’s approach would, isn’t likely to suddenly change their point of view. It’s just going to make them feel more hopeless.

  36. Wow, so many replies here already. I wanted to add a couple of my own.

    1. I tip my hat to you for being so vocal about your addiction. I am personally concerned with how many Christians struggle (and are even addicted to) sex and how it remains the elephant in the room among so many churches. Part of addition is isolation, so what you end up with are churches full of people hurting and lost and isolated, weighed down by addictions, and most churches aren’t even talking about it. Among churches that do talk about it, fewer still provide intentional support through teaching, discipleship (I guess you could call it sponsoring if it’s a 12-step support system) and accountability. So even posting this article is an outer circle thing for you, and the comments are a “gift that keeps giving.” I pray for your continued recovery and sooner-than-later healing.

    2. James 1:3 clearly states that teachers will be judged with greater strictness. I don’t think any other living person has been used by God in my life than John Piper. That being said, I agree with you that calling the two fallen men in his parable wimps went too far. I assume these two men were Christian, since they were originally trying not to sin. Galatians 6:1 instructs those who are spiritual to restore someone caught in any transgression “in a spirit of gentleness.”

    3. I love what he said about scars. I love when he speaks about fighting against sin in terms of making war. Not giving up. Keep fighting. It’s meant a lot to me personally and it’s part of the story of how healing came to me. I won’t write about all of that here. Maybe separately if you want. I’ll just say that I experienced these things before I heard John Piper preach on them, and hearing them from him was like coming home. Especially his teaching “For Men: What the Life of Augustine Teaches Us.” It rang so true to me. Fighting fire with fire, beauty with beauty… I suppose it is similar to 12-step terminology like focusing on outer circle behaviors instead of white-knuckling it. He also taught through Romans and there’s one teaching where get mentions how often people complain about their addictions and failures but he sees so little war. Yes, this could be seen as insensitive. But as someone who has had addictions and who still has failures, I just find it encouraging. It encourages me to stay strong, to continue to fight.

    4. The real reason I decided to post a comment was because some of the things you wrote remind me of concerns I have in general about some ideologies that tend to accompany literature and support groups focused on helping with addictions. Having spent some time in 12-step recovery groups, I realized that there are certain things that Christians simply have to view differently if they believe the Bible. I quickly realized that I was being dishonest when I tried to reconcile these ideologies with scripture. And I just wanted to encourage you to keep your mind sharp. A couple of things to think about:

    You mentioned “taking ownership for our full humanness and facing it right in the face without shame our guilt.” It is not ‘humanness’ that we take ownership of. In fact, it’s not even sin that we take ownership of. Rather, Christ took on our sin, our guilt, our shame, and thus purchase us for His glory. He takes ownership of us. Now, I understand the importance of confessing sin, having accountability, and all of that. But our perspective is important. Too often I hear Christians in 12-step groups saying things like, “This is just who I am,” or “I am just human,” or “I have to learn to accept my failures and be easy on myself.” This simply is not the biblical perspective. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says everyone in Christ is a NEW creation. Romans 6 describes how we were baptized into Christ’s death so that we could live a new life. Our old self was crucified and we have been set free from sin. The point here is perspective. Even though we still struggle with sin, our perspective shouldn’t be to accept ourselves, go easy on ourselves, and say things like “This is just who I am.” Rather, Romans 6:11 says to consider ourselves dead to sin. Also see Romans 7:11-25 and pay attention to the use of “I”. Paul refers to two different selves at war within him, but the final resolve of all of this in verse 22 is “in my inner being I delight in God’s law.” He didn’t say, “This is just who I am and I have to take ownership of my humanness.” He made war with himself. He called that part of himself wretched that still desired sin, but in the end, trusted in God’s grace and acknowledged that his true self was the one that delighted in God. That was his perspective. His identity. So the whole “once an addict, always an addict” thing. I’d just ask you to think about that statement, and what that does to your perspective about yourself and your future, in light of what the Bible says.

    You wrote “We porn addicts often need to be loved more than most people. It is our deep feeling of not being worthy of being loved that cause us to look to sex to heal it.” Someone else already mentioned the victimizing language used by some addicts and I think it’s a legitimate concern. When I was doing step 4 (personal inventory), I used a workbook that had an exercise in it for basically tracing all of my relationships to my relatives and other people growing up, as well as any meaningful situations, and how those could have contributed to my addiction. It seemed like there was a hunger in me to understand “WHY” I was the way I was, and this specific workbook sort of set me up view myself as a victim in a larger story of how others hurt me. And it just didn’t seem helpful. Some of the questions almost seemed aimed at finding flaws where I would have otherwise not found them. In the end, I decided that it didn’t matter to me as much how I came to have the addition. It was more important for me to take ownership (not of my humanness 🙂 ) of my failures and work on fixing those. And that seemed more biblical than trying to blame others. And when I hear statements about how porn addicts need to be loved more than others because their lack of self esteem feeds their addiction, it essentially puts the ownership of one’s addiction in the hands of another. And I don’t think this is fair or biblical.

    God bless you!

  37. Paul,

    I think you have a keen grasp on much of what is at stake here. Although I disagree with you on some crucial points, I really appreciated reading your article.

    Something for everyone to keep in mind: There is unity in diversity.
    Something for Paul to keep in mind: What you are referring to as “shame” is in actuality “guilt”. There is an astronomical difference in these two terms. Shame is a positive thing used by God to build us up in who He is. Guilt on the other hand is used by Satan to hold us down. I think the premise of this alone brings drastic change to such an article.

    Let us truly appreciate your thoughts, as I hope you would genuinely appreciate ours (those of us who tend to be swayed toward Piper’s thoughts).

    It is obvious that you and the “headliner” share the same end-goal. You just differ heavily in methodology.
    God Bless you, Paul. We as the church (universal) ought to thank Him for kingdom-changers such as yourself.

    In Jesus’ Joy,

    Timothy Andrews.

    • Thanks for the link Louis. Great to see this conversation is still going!

      I think John Piper is so close to getting it with the article you shared but doesn’t quite get there.

      The examples he used of ISIS and a crap load of money are very extreme and this suggests that he believes that addiction is a matter of priorities. Of course anyone faced with those two situations would have self control. But by explaining addiction in those terms he is reducing the idea of addiction simply to one of choosing one thing over another.

      An addict will know the dangers of using. But that is never enough to stop them in the moment. Sure, short term if someone is waving a million dollars in your face you will have control. But tomorrow, the fact that looking at porn again would hurt your wife and could cause you to lose your family won’t have any effect.

      As sad or as sinful or whatever way we choose to label it as that is, it’s the sad reality.

      The idea of simply choosing to love Jesus more is also dangerous since the addict to some extent has no control over their actions. This then will cause shame which will lead to medicating even more.

      Jesus may well be the answer but not simply through the act of seeing Jesus as more beautiful than porn (or any drug).

      What needs to happen is for the addict to do the deep and difficult work (alongside a community of others grounded in Grace) of examining the wounds and pain they carry that is contributing to their addiction. Only then will they be able to break free. Jesus may or may not have a part to play in the healing of these wounds, but until they are addressed nothing will happen.

  38. Sorry, but the best that can be said of Piper is that his heart is in the right place. I liked him until I read his ‘refutation’ of NT Wright’s work. I don’t agree with Wright 100%, but for anyone with a knowledge of the Bible or the history of the Bible times, his book is, frankly, an embarrassment. He seems to realise that he can’t go head to head with Wright in these areas, so HE ‘wimps out’ by saying we don’t need to – we just need to stick true to the tradition faith as laid down by Luther & co – Forgetting (or ignoring) that the Reformers themselves were studying the texts (in the context of their times) precisely to break away from a flawed ‘traditional’ religion. Sorry – slightly off-topic, I know. But I’m just saying that trying to build your Christian life on Piper’s teachings is building on sand.

  39. Paul, thank you for your courage in standing up to the monster of pornography and helping others to do so.

    I’m a Christian parent struggling with a heroin addicted son. After many years and much of my fortune, it appear that this side of Heaven the addiction is permanent, short of a miracle ranked with the recreation of a limb. I write because I will never give up hope, and to shout it wherever I go, HEROIN IS A KILLER.

    “Heroin is extremely addictive no matter how it is administered, although routes of administration that allow it to reach the brain the fastest (i.e., injection and smoking) increase the risk of addiction. Once a person becomes addicted to heroin, seeking and using the drug becomes their primary purpose in life.”

    http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-long-term-effects-heroin-use

  40. The fact that you mentioned Rob Bell…kinda ruins your whole argument. That guy is as “wimpy” as you can get when it comes to discussing anything related to Scripture. Maybe you should subscribe to the Oprahism he spews.

  41. there’s a very useful button or function on each TV set – the power switch.
    please don’t tell me porn addiction literally forces you to not shut down the source.
    in short, I can only say, that whatever addiction one is struggling is, if one still fails, one has not tried hard enough. and that is only at the flesh level. don’t ever forget the omnipotent Holy Ghost resides in the believer. has the addict tried to tap onto that?

  42. Aside from much of the drivel in the blog, addiction is not a “disease”. It is neither bacteriological nor viral. And anyone claiming to be a bible believer should know better. Addiction is a symptom of the sin nature…the fallen Adamic nature (“….for out of the heart proceeds murders, evil thoughts…” Matt 15:9) But the doctrine of the two natures is rarely taught as in our modern theology. It has been replaced by psychology and philosophy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s