Home Christian News Stephen Arterburn: How Porn Led to Actual Death in My Life

Stephen Arterburn: How Porn Led to Actual Death in My Life

Stephen Arterburn

At a virtual conference held by Promise Keepers this weekend, author and speaker Stephen Arterburn challenged men to stop making excuses and to live fully into their callings as men of God. Arterburn shared from his own life how the excuses he once made to look at pornography influenced his decision in college to pressure a woman into getting an abortion.

“On any given Sunday,” said Stephen Arterburn, “of us men that are sitting in church, more of us have looked at pornography than have opened God’s word to look at his truth.” Arterburn believes that if more men cared about God’s word and his kingdom than they did about looking at porn, “We’d see the kingdom of heaven here on earth.”

Stephen Arterburn: No More Excuses 

Stephen Arterburn is the founder of New Life Ministries and the co-author of Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time. He was one of several speakers who participated in Promise Keepers’ virtual event, which was originally intended to take place at a stadium in the Dallas area. Instead, 500 churches in the U.S. and men from 65 countries joined online to hear from speakers including Dr. Tony Evans, John Eldredge, Luis Palau, Bob Goff, and Mark Batterson

Arterburn described his childhood as “a sad, sad growing up” that was shaped by strict legalism and a constant struggle with his weight. He was exposed to porn as a young boy when he would visit his grandfather’s office and see the pinups of women that were on the walls. Through that experience, Arterburn learned that women were not equal to men, but were objects to be used.

Later, Arterburn attended Baylor University and after graduating, was asked to speak at the college’s chapel. He decided to share that while attending the university, he had gotten a girl pregnant and then paid for her to have an abortion. Arterburn now sees a direct link between the fact that he pursued an abortion and the fact that pornography taught him to see women as objects.

“You see,” he told conference viewers, “when you objectify women and some woman gets pregnant, well, it’s just an object. It’s not a person. And so I just moved, did what I thought you needed to do to get rid of it…But it wasn’t an object. It was my baby.”

When he used to look at porn, Arterburn would rationalize his behavior by telling himself that he wasn’t hurting anybody and that what he was doing was not that bad. “Imagine your standard being ‘It’s not that bad,” said Arterburn. God’s standard is Ephesians 5:3, which says, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” But his mindset was what Proverbs 4:12 describes when it says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” 

Pornography not only brings death to the people around the one using it but also harms the person looking at it. “Pornography, it literally neuters a man,” said Arterburn. “It doesn’t make you more of a man. You can’t have sex with a real, live woman after pornography has gotten hold of you.” 

He explained that sexual experiences cause the release of oxytocin, a hormone that is a bonding agent. One of the results of this bonding is that people feel aggressive toward anyone or anything that could interfere with that bonding. This is why a man who is looking at porn feels hostile toward his wife. Said Arterburn, “He can’t understand, ‘Why can’t I stand the woman I married?’ It’s because you have oxytocin flowing through you that makes you aggressive towards her because she’s a threat to the very thing that you’re bonded to.”

Stephen Arterburn Finds Freedom

Stephen Arterburn felt overwhelming guilt over what he had done to his baby and the woman he had been involved with. “I felt so much shame as a believer,” he said. “I felt that it was my job to make God believe that I felt worse than anybody that had ever done this.” His shame was so extreme that he developed 80 ulcers and his doctor told him he would die if he did not change something.

God did start bringing Arterburn freedom from the shame of his past, but he was not completely free even after he shared his story in chapel. This was because he had not yet fully owned everything he had done. After hearing he had shared their story at Baylor, the woman he had wronged called Arterburn. He had kept her anonymous and she did not mind that he had shared the story, but she challenged him over how he had presented the abortion. The truth was he had not merely paid for it, but had actually pressured and manipulated her to get it. In fact, he had made it clear to her that he would not be there for her and their child if she went through with the pregnancy.

“I had been a coward,” said Arterburn. When he realized this, he did everything he could to truly reconcile with her, and she forgave him.

“Did you know that you can’t be fully right with God unless you’ve made it right with the people that you’ve hurt?” asked Arterburn, citing Matthew 5:23-24. If you feel disconnected from God and as though your prayers are not being answered, he said, “Maybe you just need to go and make it right with somebody else.”

Arterburn was clear, however, that God does not continue to hold our sins against us after we have repented of them and reconciled with those we have wronged. Later, after Arterburn got married, he and his wife were infertile for seven years, and at times people would ask him if he thought God was punishing him for the abortion. 

“That’s what people think God does,” he said. “Once you sin, even though you claim Christ’s forgiveness for that sin, they think you’re going to pay the price for it forever, but that isn’t true. He wipes it clean.” The Arterburns ended up adopting a baby girl, who has been a great joy in their lives. “God is a God rich in mercy,” said Arterburn. “That’s the kind of God we have. You come before God, you humble yourself, he will restore you. He will lift you up.” He challenged the men watching to take God’s offer of restoration seriously, to stop making excuses, and to reconcile with anyone they have harmed. 

“Every man is called by God. It is an amazing calling,” said Arterburn, “but first, you have to surrender.” He closed with a challenge, asking viewers sincerely willing to follow God to repeat the following words:

I am a man of God. I have a calling on my life. I am called to a great purpose. I am called to be a hero in every battle every man fights. I am called to conquer every evil force from without and every evil and excuse from within. I am called to make a great difference. I am a man of God. I accept God’s calling. I will live into it, I will live up to it, so help me God.

Previous articleBack the Blue Rally Accused of Intimidating Church in Dallas
Next articleSome Things You Should Know About Christians With Anxiety
Jessica is a writer for ChurchLeaders.com. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past two years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.