Does porn use give a Christian grounds for divorce?


Brad Hambrick, a counselor in Georgia, has written an article exploring whether or not pornography use might provide grounds for divorce. It is a worthy read. His final answer is a qualified no but includes a lot of other helpful thoughts about the experience and what repentance ought to look like. Too often we get caught up in a yes/no focus to this question and miss significant issues. Seems there are several questions that need to be answered,

1. Is porn use a form of adultery given Jesus’ equating lust and adultery?

2. Does failure to repent or repetitive acts such porn use destroy the covenant so that it is impossible to live at peace with a spouse? In this case, the question is less about porn and more about refusal to honor a covenant. David Instone-Brewer writes about this from a NT perspective on the OT. I blogged about his thoughts some time ago and you can search “divorce” on this blog and find multiple entries.  Instead of divorce, we could insert repetitive gambling away family income, repetitive risky behaviors.

3. What would be evidence of repentance? Does any relapse equate to total failure? How many relapses equal refusal to repent?

Rather than just focus on the “big” question, it might be helpful to ask more immediate concerns. Does the porn user agree to utter transparency? Are they demanding something in return for their abstinence? Are they still trying to control their treatment?

For those who follow the link, I’d be curious your response. Read it from a user’s perspective and also of the victim spouse.

8 Comments

Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Reflection, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Does porn use give a Christian grounds for divorce?

  1. I enjoyed this article tremendously. Very thoughtfully written. My perspective is that of a Christian Counselor who has ministered to hundreds of men of God (and their spouses) who have been impacted by pornography. I believe that many are bound up with a demonic stronghold from which they need deliverance. Those who come to me typically want to be free but have battled unsuccessfully. To me, the issue is not repentance (as a counslor, that is a non-negotiable for me to continue) but rather are they open to ministry, willing to do what we ask them to do and are they prepared to do the spiritual warfare, along with having proper boundaries in their life, to stay free!

    • The problem, as I see it, is a misunderstanding of Christ’s words.

      Due to translational issues, it is hard to see it in english translations. However, if one takes Exodus 20 from the Septuagint (Greek OT) and takes Matthew 5:27-28 from the Greek Textus Receptus (Greek NT) and lays them side by side, it becomes apparently obvious that Christ was just paraphrasing the 10th of the 10 Commandments, namely, “Thou shalt not covet ….. neighbor’s wife”.

      So, the term lust is covet and the term woman, is actually wife of another man. Meaning, you are not to steal another man’s wife.

      I elaborate on this more in my article here:
      http://www.godrules.net/articles/mat5.htm

      There is also an issue with the commonly used secular definition of “adultery”, as it does not match the Greek and Hebrew meaning of adultery in its ancient context.

      Keep in mind, I am not justifying porn here. What I am pointing out is a very common misconception of what Jesus actually said and from that, many make judgements, including divorce.

  2. Thanks for putting this on the table and giving us some questions to consider. This is a huge issue in the church – and in the counseling office. Sadly, it’s not going to go away – or be easily resolved.

  3. Amy

    I wonder if the article would have a different final answer if it were written by a woman…

    It’s a good read, for sure, but I’ve rarely met a man struggling with porn that hasn’t been in bed with a woman that isn’t his wife. This could simply be my experience…but it seems that one thing leads to another.

    And, ironically, both of these situations led to divorce.

    • Scott Knapp

      I’ve known of many men who struggled with porn usage, ranging from occasional perusers to frequent addicts, in my travels through men’s groups over the years. A few of them moved on to actual physical affairs…the majority of them did not. Based only on my anecdotal experience, I’m not certain a linear connection between one form of lust and the other could be reliably predicted.

      In that time sitting amongst men, I’ve also heard numerous laments about the things that distract wives’ attention away from their marriages with what appears to them as the same consuming absorption as porn to men: daytime soap operas, Farmville on Facebook, reading and writing on blogs, scrap booking, even church activities.

      My wife and I reached a point at which we both took a hard look at the things that consumed our passions and attention away from one another, and we both had some changes that needed to be made in our priorities.

  4. Scott, there may not be evidence of causation (porn to physical adultery) but there is clear evidence of correlation.

    You give a good reminder that any number of things (even good things like childcare) may become a consuming absorption and so damage a marriage.

    Some consumptions are more immediately damaging to the marriage than others. Some are more direct attacks on the other even if all absorptions lead to the same place. And of course it is important for individuals using either farmville or porn to escape another to stop excusing their own behavior because they perceive their spouse doing the same or worse.

  5. Does Jesus equate adultery & lust? I see his point that don’t think you haven’t sinned just because you didn’t do anything. I can’t see Jesus saying you may divorce your spouse because they lusted after someone else. We’d have to say that Jesus is the only one to never have lusted after someone.

    The bigger question … if porn use replaces fulfilling our marital duties we are getting very close to desertion.

  6. Megan

    If you lust you commit adultery in your heart already Jesus words so if the person addicted to lust and adultery doesn’t get help and overcome their relationship is damaged with God and spouse the relationship cannot work only with repentance and victory over this sin can the relationship work. The marriage vow is to forsake all others. Continual lust and adultery is a betrayal of this vow. So if the person is getting help and working on the issue is one thing but if in the end there is no leaving off the indulgence the marriage cannot work.

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