By / Aug 27

Amid the cultural upheaval of COVID-19 and what has turned out to be one of the most eventful years in modern history, a dehumanizing and predatory perversion of technology has been spreading in the darkness of our communities: pornography. While the out-of-sight nature of pornography makes it is easier to shrug off its insidiousness, especially given the social unrest of the moment, the rise in predatory marketing plans and expanded pornography use should not be left alone because of the monumental human dignity implications.

As the coronavirus lockdowns went into effect throughout the world in March, Pornhub, the world’s largest online pornography provider, announced that they were providing users in Italy free access and subscriber privileges due to the nation’s outbreak and isolation. The company has also provided similar access to users in other nations such as Spain and France. In light of the free and open access to this pornographic content, Pornhub self-reported on their official blog that daily usage increased by 38-61% throughout these European countries, which led them to also claim that “people all over Europe were happy to have distractions while quarantined at home.” According to the company’s June analytics report, “worldwide traffic to Pornhub continues to be much higher than it was before the Coronavirus pandemic spread worldwide.”

The company also demonstrates how people are also searching for virus-related pornography. According to Pornhub’s report, there have “been more than 18.5 million searches containing Corona, 1.5 million containing Covid and 11.8 million containing Quarantine. More than 1250 coronavirus themed videos have been uploaded to Pornhub, with many being viewed over 1 million times.”

None of this should come as a surprise because the pornography industry is well-suited for a worldwide pandmeic. As the Economist reports, the industry “has already largely moved online; and its consumers often voluntarily self-isolate.” This pandemic has not created a pornography problem in our communities and homes, but it has esacerbated a deep and disturbing trend of separating sexual desire from relational wholeness and marital fidelity.

The problem of porn

Statistics can only take us so far in understanding the deceptive nature of pornography and how it is ruining so many lives throughout our world. At the heart of pornography use is not just young men and women who are unable to control their sexual desires or openly reject God’s good design for our sexuality. The core of the problem is an acceptance of a worldview and morality that isolates our sexuality from our whole person. This deep division of body and mind from flesh and desires contributes to the growing trend of the normalization of pornography and the perversion of human sexuality.

The unbridled mantra of our day is that the real you is your deepest desires and emotions, cut off from the embodied nature of humanity. As Nancy Pearcey states in her book Love Thy Body, “sexual intercourse, the most intimate of bodily experiences, has been disconnected from personal relations” (emphasis original). This bifurcation of humanity has led to countless perversions and abuses of fellow image-bearers, most evidently seen in the rise of the sexual revolution and the corresponding rise of pornography worldwide.

As the culture around us continues to buy into the lie of the sexual revolution, the Church has a call to proclaim the goodness of the created order and the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

When we separate what it means to be an embodied soul, the use of pornography becomes commonplace because it allows for the sexual high outside of any relational context and reduces humanity down to what writer Melinda Selmys describes as a “wet machine,” which could also be understood as a soulless body or organic machine. The real you—the disembodied ghost— controls this machine in order to pursue pleasure in any way you see fit, regardless of the cost to yourself or others.

Alongside this division of body and soul, another dehumanizing effect of pornography is the objectification the person on the other side of the screen (or even headset, in light of the explosive growth of VR porn in the last few years). One of the ways this manifests itself is in the faceless nature of pornography and the obession over the body. God designed the face to play a major role in how we see each other as individuals and subjects, worthy of respect and honor, and made in his image (Gen. 1:26-28). As the late philosopher Roger Scruton describes in The Face of God,

“The underlying tendency of erotic images in our time is to present the body as the focus and meaning of desire, the place where it all occurs, in the momentary spasm of sensual pleasure of which the soul is at best a spectator, and no part of the game. In pornography the face has no role to play, other than to be subjected to the empire of the body. Kisses are of no significance, and eyes look nowhere since they are searching for nothing beyond present pleasure. All of this amounts to a marginalization, indeed a kind of desecration, of the human face.” (107)

Scruton goes on to show that this desecration of the face leads to a “canceling out of the subject,” rendering sex—especially in a pornographic culture—“not as a relation between subjects but a relation between objects.” Through the use of pornography, we naturally objectify the other because we are not concerned with them as a fellow human but rather as an instrument that leads to our sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure becomes the primary goal of the user rather than a deep and intimate connection with another image-bearer as a whole person. 

Predatory porn

The dehumanizing effects of pornography affect those on both sides of the screen. Not only is the viewer dehumanizing themselves by separating the goodness of sexual intercourse from its proper context, but there is also a victim who is portrayed and treated as nothing but a simple object of desire. These victims often see sexual acts as the only way to provide for themselves or even as a way to attain fulfilment or freedom.

During this pandemic, some people are turning to various pornographic websites like IsMyGirl to earn extra income. This particular site offers predatory promises by signing up to become a model. According to a March press release, the company opened up lucrative “opportunities” for furloughed or out-of-work McDonald’s employees. The popular pornography platform stated, “in an effort to help McDonald’s employees, and to make sure they can continue to provide for themselves and their families, we want to help provide them with a legitimate option.”

This “legitimate” option is nothing less than asking others to sell their bodies in order to make ends meet during these extraordinary times. But as the culture around us continues to buy into the lie of the sexual revolution, the Church has a call to proclaim the goodness of the created order and the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

While it may be tempting to overlook those stuck in cycles of pornography use or even the industry itself, Christians have the mandate to speak out against the predatory practices of the entire pornographic industry. Part of this mandate will mean that some believers will need to address and seek help for their own pornography addictions. For others, it will mean speaking out against these dehumanizing atrocities in order to expose the lies and predation of the porngraphic industry. 

The Christan moral witness proclaims that sex is not designed for a temporary high, online exploit, or even a late-night addiction. We are more than just machines. We are people created in God’s image. We are embodied souls who are offered redemption by the God who took on flesh himself in order to save us from ourselves. And our hope in the midst of this porn pandemic is that what is hidden will come to light in the fullness of time. As the church, we must be ready to proclaim the forgiveness found in the light of Jesus Christ while working to welcome, defend, and care for the vulnerable among us. 

By / Apr 23

Much has been said in Christian circles lately to remind us that the current viral crisis presents us with a novel set of particular problems, but it by no means changes one of our general problems: unless the Lord tarries, we shall all face death. We are confronted with a new way to die—and to suffer before we do—but the certainty of death and suffering has been present the whole time. These are healthy reminders. They should be at the forefront of our minds at all times, regardless of pandemics, and they should be woven throughout every presentation we make of the gospel. 

But there is another aspect worth considering that often escapes our notice: the importance of viewing ourselves not just as bodies but as spiritual beings who have a soul as well. 

There is a tendency in our modern era of brain imaging, scientific reductionism, and naturalistic evolutionary explanations to think that a person is nothing but a body. The traditional Christian teaching that humanity was created a little lower than the angels has been supplanted by a view that says we are just a little higher than the apes. The belief that we are “soulish creatures” has been at the heart of Christian teaching about the nature of humanity since the beginning, but today we are told that believing in a spiritual aspect to our nature is out of step with modern science. There are good answers to these modern challenges to Christian teaching, but let us instead take a few minutes to reflect on the importance of the classic Christian perspective in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]

It is natural, when faced with mortal threats to the body, to focus on protection from them as our immediate and most pressing concern. The danger, however, is to lose sight of something equally important; indeed, if we are to believe Jesus Christ, infinitely more important. When discussing the various fears that beset humanity—things like hunger, lack of shelter and clothing, and even persecution—Jesus snaps our attention back to what matters most. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). It is vitally important to remember that the death of our body is not the end. It is not the end of us. 

Surely it is a good thing to have a body, and one day after we shed these mortal coils we will be clothed with imperishable ones. Our bodies were made by God, and having a body is how we flourish—it’s part of God’s plan for us to be embodied creatures, not only in the present life but also in the eternal kingdom to come. That is our hope and stay; without the resurrection Christianity is an empty faith and a deep deception. That is why the resurrection plays such a central role in Paul’s description of Christianity in 1 Corinthians 15. In that passage he argues that if there is no resurrection of the body, our hope is in vain. Paul reminds us that this body, which he calls our “earthly tent,” will be replaced. Yet we will not be left naked—disembodied spirits floating in the clouds—but will be further clothed by God in a “heavenly dwelling” that does not decay (2 Cor. 5:2). “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,” Paul says, “and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6–8). So while our bodies are important, we are more than just our bodies. Our spirits will persist even after the body has died, and will one day be embodied again.

What is needed today is the medicine this perspective offers. Remembering that we are spiritual beings changes our outlook in several ways. 

In these times when death and uncertainty stalk our globe, let us embrace and proclaim the important truth that we are more than our bodies. We would do well in these days, as Peter teaches us, to “entrust [our] souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

First, it undermines the common attitude that science can solve all of our problems. Even if a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available tomorrow, and even if we can treat everyone who is currently infected and prevent their deaths, there are more serious issues that no physical remedies can help with. Our immediate problems concern the body and its health, but our spiritual problems can only have a spiritual cure. That cure is offered by the work of Jesus Christ and is only available to those who join the invisible Church—a hospital for sinners and the only place a remedy is available. As important as the work of scientists is, their greatest accomplishments will be of no ultimate help on this front. Our problems are not all physical, so our solutions can’t be either. 

Second, it provides the best motivation for seeking a cure for the virus to begin with. Unless our view of humanity is buttressed by an understanding of our spiritual nature, it is nearly impossible to adequately establish the value of human persons and why it is important to save lives. As J. P. Moreland says, “There is a deep connection between the reality of the human soul and the sort of high, intrinsic value human persons possess.”[2] That is, without belief in the soul, it becomes difficult to provide a philosophical justification for the very task of directing science to a cure. Why should the death of a few more animals (which is all humans are in the secular materialist view) be of so much importance? What could ground the belief we all share that every life matters? Not only would science be unable to solve all our problems, it is difficult to see why it should even try. The Christian view of humanity is uniquely positioned to explain why we think the scientific effort is worth it in the first place. 

Finally, it motivates us to brace ourselves for the afterlife. It is appointed for all of us to die, and after that to stand before God’s righteous judgment of the life we lived in these bodies (Heb. 9:27). As C. S. Lewis said, “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”[3] The body will die, but the soul will not. Thinking of humans as spiritual creatures protects us from the deception that physical death is the end of our existence. 

In a passage where he predicted his own death, Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:36–37) In these times when death and uncertainty stalk our globe, let us embrace and proclaim the important truth that we are more than our bodies. We would do well in these days, as Peter teaches us, to “entrust [our] souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet. 4:19).


  1. ^ For those who are interested, I address some of these in my upcoming book, God on the Brain (Crossway, July 2020).
  2. ^  J.P. Moreland, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters, (Moody Publishers, 2014), p. 15.
  3. ^ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), p. 46.
By / Apr 2

If we are honest with ourselves, the last few weeks (and likely many more to come) have been extremely difficult. Some of us have become sick or known loved ones who contracted COVID-19. Others have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to stay-at-home orders put in place to slow the spread of the virus. While many others have seen little day-to-day impact of the virus spread in their communities, they are still lost in the news and updates from the frontlines. Regardless of where you find yourself, we all know how easy it has become to get lost in a sea of overwhelming and depressing news online.

If you are like me, you chuckle when you see your screen time report come up on Sunday morning, chronicling your time spent the past week on your smartphone. Our entire life is being lived out online in many respects with video conferencing, social media grazing, online education, and so much more. Before we know it, we’re stuck in an endless vortex of news, updates, and some really funny memes.

A couple of weeks ago, an email newsletter from The New York Times about this very thing caught my attention. Kevin Roose, a writer-at-large at the Times, wrote an article where he described the concept of “doomsurfing”—spending endless amounts of time online, often drowning in coronavirus content and unsettling ourselves to the point of physical discomfort. This concept struck me because it so clearly explains what many of us find ourselves doing: searching for answers and some semblance of hope in the midst of the havoc we’re experiencing. But while Roose recommends coping strategies and even self-care, Christians have a greater hope amid the doom, even as we still continue to search for answers as to why this is happening and what can be done.

Technology and the human soul

Before we explore the peace we have in the midst of uncertainty, we need to examine why we go into these online doomsurfing excursions in the first place. Technology was given to us by God as a tool to use as we seek to honor God and love our neighbors in this broken world. Just as early technologies like the shovel and the hoe made our manual labor easier and extended our physical abilities, today’s technologies open up a world of information and access to the ends of earth in ways that our ancestors would have found astounding.

But our sinful and prideful hearts still misuse, abuse, and seek things in these tools that are dangerous for our souls. We often try to use these technologies in order to be “gods” ourselves instead of living contentedly as the only creature made in God’s image. We begin to twist and manipulate these tools in order to serve ourselves rather than serve the One who made everything we have ever known. 

We mistakenly look to these technologies as a source of hope and certainty in an uncertain world, often tricking ourselves into believing that if we just find out that last bit of breaking news, the latest testing numbers, or even the rate of spread then we might have just enough knowledge or understanding to obtain some semblance of peace. 

We can engage in the proper use of technology only when we remember that God is our hope and refuge in the midst of the storm. Instead of getting lost in the news of the day as we long for control and peace, we can cling to the One who calls to us to flee to him in the midst of our suffering.

Of course, there is nothing wrong about being informed and educated. But for all of the promises of modern technologies, we will find ourselves always longing for more, never satisfying the craving for knowledge and an abiding calm. These tools will never satisfy us, nor will they ever show us the right information to make us feel the peace that we so diligently seek in this pandemic.

A psalm for the digital age

One of the goals I set for myself when my family went into full isolation a few weeks back because of my wife’s compromised immune system was to read through the book of Psalms. At just five psalms a day, you can read the entire collection in about 30 days. A few days ago, I read Psalm 46 and was reminded afresh of God’s saving presence and refuge in the midst of the doomsurfing and longing for answers.

Psalm 46 is one of my favorite psalms and has been a source of peace for me throughout the darkest of seasons of my life, including this current season of my wife’s cancer and the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world. The psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v. 1). He continues to explain that although the earth gives way, the waters roar, the nations rage, and the world seems to be splitting apart at the seams, God is still in control of every aspect of our lives and serves as our refuge and strength throughout it all.

In this international crisis and pandemic, it will be even easier for us to find ourselves enamoured with our devices, longing for answers and control as we get lost in doomsurfing, all while trying to distract ourselves from the pain and suffering all around us. As we seek the peace and comfort that we long for in all of the wrong places, as Christians, we know that God himself isn't sitting on the sidelines.

Our God is with us through our pain, the confusion and doubt, and especially in the midst of a world that seems to be showing the deepest scars of the fall. Instead of getting lost in our devices, surfing the web and social media for new information and answers, maybe we need to simply put down these tools for a moment and meditate on the One holding the entire universe together in his hands. 

The psalmist concludes by saying:

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress . . . 
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

We can engage in the proper use of technology only when we remember that God is our hope and refuge in the midst of the storm. Instead of getting lost in the news of the day as we long for control and peace, we can cling to the One who calls to us to flee to him in the midst of our suffering. As the psalmist says, God is indeed our fortress, especially amid the temptation to find our peace while doomsurfing.

By / Oct 10

Amid the afternoon bustle of downtown Charlotte, N.C, an unlikely group gathers each day at 3 p.m. around a table in a corner restaurant.

On this particular day, it is a homeless man, a homeless woman, a construction worker, a bus boy and a chef. At the last minute a man in a business suit and a woman in a wheel chair join the others.

Also at the table is Jim Noble, who is leading these people in a daily open-to-the-public Bible study in his restaurant. He is giving them food for both the soul and the body—he makes food available for anyone who shows up at the table.

Noble, who has lived in Charlotte for 10 years, opened The King’s Kitchen, a nonprofit restaurant, in 2010 simply out of a biblical mandate to care for the poor and feed the hungry.

“Feeding the hungry is not an option,” said Noble. “For us to walk by hungry people on the street and not help them is to ignore Jesus, because He said that whatever we do for them, we do for Him.”

As a seasoned, European-trained chef/restaurateur and as an ordained minister, he combined his two passions—food and the gospel— to serve Charlotte’s downtrodden.

One hundred percent of the profits from The King’s Kitchen go to local ministries that feed the hungry.

But, it does more than that. It gives the hopeless a second chance through a restoration program that offers on-the-job training to the unemployable. Some of his employees are overcoming an addiction or have a criminal history.

Part of Noble’s restoration program requires these employees to attend discipleship classes, which can include his afternoon Bible study.

“We (Noble and his wife, Karen) just want to do what Jesus would do if He were to show up in downtown Charlotte,” he said. “We want to go to the broken. We don’t wait for them to come to us. ”

The Nobles’ ministry goes beyond donating their profits from upscale southern dishes like shrimp and grits and “Aunt Beaut’s Fried Chicken.” Each Friday night they gather a group who walks throughout downtown Charlotte to talk to people on the street and pray for them.

Each Thanksgiving they feed people all over Charlotte, whether it is in their restaurant or at area churches. Last year, they fed around 2,500 and Noble expects close to 3,000 this year.

“We can’t do what we do without the buy-in of the local Church. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he didn’t leave the president of the United States in charge. He didn’t leave Congress in charge. He didn’t leave corporate America in charge. He left us—the Church—in charge,” Noble explained.

“If we believe the gospel, we can’t continue to sit in our pews and do nothing.”

He also urges believers to give if they can’t do—find a person or a local organization who feeds the hungry and fund them.

One simple way to give, Noble says, is to faithfully tithe: “If every believer would tithe faithfully, we would be looking at an altogether different picture when it comes to feeding the poor. There would be no need for a government-based welfare system. We would also be opening more churches instead of closing so many church doors, because people would see the church as a place that offers hope—a place that can meet their needs.”

He pastors a church—Restoration Place—that meets at The King’s Kitchen on Sunday mornings. Many of the people who wander in through the doors are homeless and hungry, looking for nourishment.

“It’s almost like we are a magnet for hungry people, both in the physical sense and in the spiritual sense. Almost every day, someone walks in here and says some version of, ‘I am in need, and someone said you’d help.’

“And that’s what we try to do,” said Noble.

With Isaiah 61—“to proclaim good news to the poor”—as one of his motivations for ministry, he hopes that churches across the United States will become passionate about participating in the restoration work of the gospel through serving the poor, the hungry and the otherwise marginalized.

“One day, Jesus is going to present us without spot or wrinkle. Holy. And blameless. We have our marching orders all throughout Scripture to minister to those who are lacking,” explained Noble. 

“Jesus did the work on the cross, but we are called to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. And one of the best ways we can do that is to care for those who need a hand.”