How to deal with addiction to pornography: Josh McDowell

Josh McDowell // May 2, 2018, 1:49 pm

Porn is not the root problem

Christian apologist Josh McDowell was in Singapore in March 2018 for the Reasonable Faith Conference. He spoke to Salt&Light on the sidelines of the conference and shared his concerns over the issue of pornography. You can read his thoughts on the pervasiveness of pornography here.


There is no one solution for pornography. There is no one answer. There are solutions, plural. There are answers, plural. You need to apply anywhere from 6 to 10 answers or you can’t help someone struggling.

For starters, pornography is usually not the problem. Pornography, 98% of the time, is a surface coping mechanism for a deeper hurt – usually relationally – in that person’s life.

Pornography, 98% of the time, is a surface coping mechanism for a deeper hurt.

For example, one of the biggest things is loneliness. How do you escape loneliness? Pornography. If you’re feeling insignificant, where do you find someone who loves you? Pornography.

If you deal with the symptom and not the root cause, that person in 3 months will go deeper into shame and hurt.

They’ve found that when a child, boy or girl, who was raised in a home where the mother constantly confided with them about the problems in her marriage – the problems with their father – that child is almost guaranteed to become addicted to pornography.

But here’s the problem: 98% of pastors in the world are not equipped to help everyone deal with their porn addiction. I am not equipped to do that. Most pastors around the world, they don’t have time to deal with pornography – they wouldn’t have time to preach or do anything else.

So if you can’t count on that, what should someone struggling with pornography do?


First, you’ve got to announce, “I have a problem.” Until you say you have a problem, there is no way anyone can help you. You have to own the problem.

Next, you need to come to the point of true biblical repentance. 

Until you realise you need more than Jesus, you will never beat pornography. If anyone says all I need is Jesus like many pastors preach, you will never have victory, because it is unbiblical.

I need more than Jesus. If I had thought all I need is Jesus, I would have bummed out years ago and my ministry would have been destroyed. And yet so many pastors preach all you need is Jesus. That’s unbiblical.

How can I say that? Very simple: Read the Bible! Read how many time it says just in the New Testament: One another. That’s not just you and Jesus, that’s you and a brother or sister in Christ.

If you try to go it alone, you won’t make it. You’ll never make it. You need one another.

Pray for one another, love one another, encourage one another, counsel one another. Think of Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Or in James: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16).

When we confess our sins to God, what does the Bible promise? Forgiveness. When we confess our sins to one another, what happens? Healing. 

As soon as you say, all you need is Jesus, nothing else, you are cutting off one of the greatest sources of healing. This is not just the laying of hands or speaking in tongues or anything. It’s confessing one to another.

And without that, you try to go it alone. You won’t make it. You’ll never make it. And 93% of all evangelical churches around the world have nothing to help a person addicted to pornography – and half their congregation is addicted to it!

Something like 3% of churches  say they have the resources equipped to deal with pornography.

Those are just some of the steps to dealing with pornography. I could go on and on. There are probably about 40 different solutions.

And it’s not so straightforward, either. It’s not so simple. It’s far harder to break addiction to pornography than anything you could ever dream of – heroin, cocaine, alcohol, anything – because of what it does to the brain.

For more insight into how pornography affects the brain, read the first part of this two-part series:

We are facing a pornography pandemic: Josh McDowell

About the author

Josh McDowell

Josh McDowell is an apologist, evangelist, and writer. His books include Evidence That Demands a Verdict, More Than a Carpenter, A Ready Defence and Right from Wrong. He is the founder of the Josh McDowell Ministry under Cru.