On John Piper, Self-Control, and that there’s No Such Thing as Addiction

I’m sorry Mr. Piper, I humbly disagree with you…


This clip was recently shared across quite a few platforms of social media, including Facebook.  I get what is being said, and even more, I’ve seen the–literally–hundreds of comments following the posting of this video. But still, I’m torn.

Many of you know of my own struggles with sexual addiction in the form of pornography, and here’s the thing that stuck with me as I watched this video…

Yes, I know that God can do all things.

Yes, I know that the beauty of Christ should be enough.

Yes, I believe that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, can redeem you of your sins and that the beauty of Christ should usurp the miss-conceived ‘beauty’ of our lustful desires.

But, even after I had giving my life to Christ, after coming up out of the water at our baptism in the Spokane River in 2000, after asking God (and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and whoever else may have been listening) to take these feelings and desires and sinful thoughts away or at least aid me in the battle, after lying awake in bed, under the covers, sweat-soaked and shaking and pleading with God, after raising myself from my knees on innumerable occasions with tears running down my face, after breaking down, years ago, as I finally had the guts to tell my wife the life I’d been hiding from her since before we’d met…..

After all of those times, I would still wake up the next morning to realize…

I’m. Still. Me.

The sky didn’t crack open. Angels didn’t sing their soft hymns of grace over my redeemed soul. The mighty hand of peace did not descend upon my shoulder. The Holy Spirit did not guide me in the removal of all my sinful temptations.

And in a few days those same old feelings and desires and sinful thoughts would arise once again.

Yes, I believe God is more powerful than the enemy, more powerful than our sinful nature, more powerful than pornography. (1John 4:4)

Yes, I believe that, for some people, all that is needed is for that Christ-shaped hole in our hearts to be filled up, and all desires for the earthly things will fade away. (as in John 14:6)

For some people.

But, I’m sorry Mr. Piper and quite a few FB commenters; that is for some, not for all. And unfortunately, I’m not one of the some.

I still struggle. I still wrestle. I still lust. I still question. I still doubt. There are still times when my hands still shake and my heart still races with the lingering effects of addiction. I think of the opening scene of the movie “Thanks For Sharing”, as the camera follows a recovering sex addict through the streets of a major metropolitan city…and triggers are literally EVERYWHERE: Billboards.  Posters. Department store windows. Passersby.

And how true that is.

I know.   I see them.


And the enemy laughs.

My reality is that I have to face every day, sometimes several times a day, and summon that “proper motivation” that you claim is all I need. And I can. And I do. But it is hard, Mr. Piper. It is tiring. Exhausting. Mentally draining.

I want to win this spiritual battle Mr. Piper. And though I know I have the ultimate power of righteousness on my side, I am still fighting a very real enemy, with very real weapons, –some subtle, some downright manipulative–and it’s an unfair battle on his turf.

Worth it? Yes.

Necessary? ……………I wonder.

I’ve also heard that repeated exposure to those types of images over the months and years can actually alter a person’s brain chemistry (which is basically what ‘addiction’ is). Sex and porn addicts don’t ‘see’ the same way as other people do; many seemingly ordinary and harmless things, animate and inanimate, are filtered through the lens of our addiction. Triggers are everywhere, and each is different for each addict.

Further, just as I will tend to see the world differently, I can also see, through the commentary on social media, those who have struggled with addiction in their past (or present), and those who haven’t.

We just see things differently.

Yet, didn’t God make our brains, and the chemistry within them as well? Wouldn’t He know this stuff? Or at least make allowances (or forgiveness) for them?

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not asking that He forgive me in my addiction, only that He walk with me through it. (1Corinthians 10:12-13)  And I find it hard to believe in a God who does not answer the earnest, desperate pleas of his creation to deliver them from this enemy, from these weapons, from his laughter. (Mark 11:24)

I understand that I have my part to play. But, like every situation involving the intercession of God: there is my part, there is God’s part, and there is other people’s part. I can do nothing about how other people dress, about how Victoria’s Secret chooses to advertise (or network television for that matter). I can do my part, and only my part. And part of ‘my part’ is praying to God for the strength, discernment and, yes, self-control to aid in fighting this battle.

I believe that God is stronger than the enemy, and stronger than our fleshly desires and sinful nature.

I also believe the enemy is stronger than I am on my own, and the desires of the flesh and my sinful nature are stronger than my will (i.e. self-control) to overcome them. (1Peter 5:8)

I believe I am not just fighting my own desires. I am fighting a spiritual battle with only the weapons provided me by my human nature. A battle that I will lose every time. Because the enemy has been doing this a long, long time.

I have the “proper motivation”–which is God Himself, Mr. Piper. And yet I don’t believe in a God that would allow me to wallow in the mire of my own sin when I earnestly ask for aid in deliverance. I don’t think it’s that I’m not doing it right, or that I don’t truly have the Holy Spirit within me, or that I am not saved by the grace of the blood of Jesus Christ.

And yet, you seem to leave very little room for any other alternative.

But, maybe it’s just me…

BTW, here’s the trailer for “Thanks For Sharing”; not an easy movie to watch at times, but very unflinching in its true-to-life look at sexual addiction:

One. Day. At a time.

One thought on “On John Piper, Self-Control, and that there’s No Such Thing as Addiction”

  1. Kent—Since Satan knows your desires to turn away from this, I wonder if his greatest weapon against you now is not the pornography itself, but the FEAR of the pornography. When the thoughts first come into your mind, if your immediate response is to freak out, that actually gives him more power over you. I wonder if it would help if when thoughts or desires arise, if you calmly observe what is happening and remind yourself that you are NOT your thoughts. When we go into a fear/panic mode of great resistance, it increases the struggle. Sorry if I sound like I’m lecturing—I just wonder if this might help.

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