I’ve heard the arguments: “If you are truly indwelt and walking by the Spirit, you should not succumb to the temptation of internet pornography.” “External systems of constraint don’t solve the internal issue of the soul.” “You don’t mortify sin by mere external means.” To all of these I fully agree. No work to mortify the flesh will ever be complete apart from regularly partaking of the ordinary means of grace. Is that really the question, though? Let’s apply this logic to another area of Christian warfare.
Let’s say a physically attractive pastor is counseling a young, physically attractive woman who has just found out that her husband is cheating on her. By the logic used above, the pastor should have no fear of counseling her alone, should he? I mean, if he is truly indwelt and walking by the Spirit, he should not succumb to the temptation of adultery. Besides, having others sit in with them won’t solve the internal issue of their souls. Seriously, though, you can’t mortify their lusts by mere external means, right?
For all of the arguments I’ve heard from some pastors against using accountability software for internet use, I find it quite hypocritical that they still use common sense when guarding themselves from sexual sin. The problem is not with the use of online accountability software; there’s wisdom in it. The problem is when people become sola software in their battle against pornography.
We are to be Sola Scriptura in our approach to all matters of faith and obedience. However, we are not to be Sola Scriptura to the exclusion and utter denial of “the light of nature and Christian prudence” (LBCF 1.6). There are certain aspects of the Christian life which require that we operate with the common sense that God gave everyone. Accountability may not have worked for David (2 Sam. 11:3-4), but that’s not because he didn’t need accountability. It’s because he relied solely on accountability without addressing the deeper issues of his soul.
But what about Paul’s warning against asceticism in Colossians 2?
“If you have died with Christ [x]to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Col. 2:20-23; NASB).
Notice what Paul says about the nature of the things he is talking about. He defines them as “things destined to perish with use.” In other words, they are things created for a good use that do not defile the body. Pornography is not among these things. Thus, in regard to pornography, you are not an ascetic if you “do not handle, do not taste, and do not touch.” In fact, Paul further goes on to argue that the things to which he refers are “in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men.” However, when we talk about accountability and self-control in the area of pornography, we are talking about the commandments and teachings of God, not men. So, Colossians 2 obviously does not apply to this situation. To seek accountability in battling lust is far from “self-made religion”; it is of God.
So, the next time you counsel someone on how to handle his pornographic sin, don’t be so quick to discount the wisdom of accountability software. It won’t work all by itself, but neither will accountability in the preacher’s counseling office. The issues of the soul must be remedied in a manner that’s in keeping with Sola Scriptura, but not to the expense of “the light of nature and Christian prudence.”