Is It OK for Christians to Read Erotic Books?

Someone wrote our ministry to ask, “Is it permissible for a Christian to occasionally enjoy erotic reading? (I'm not talking about anything violent.) I am actively following Jesus and choosing sexual purity in mind and body, but I’m single and may never get married.”

This person’s question was answered by Karen Coleman, an EPM staff member now with Jesus. I appreciate her wise and winsome response. As I shared in our tribute to Karen, she is truly one of my heroes. —Randy Alcorn

When the apostle Paul was writing about Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 10:23-31, he said everything we do should be:

1. Profitable (beneficial, valuable, worthwhile)

2. Edifying (helping to improve us morally or spiritually)

3. Done for the glory of God

I don’t know exactly what you consider erotic reading. (Some argue it’s merely pornography in literary form.) But after a one-minute Google search for “erotic reading” I didn’t see anything I would want Jesus to find me reading. Consider this prayerfully: If Jesus is sitting next to you as you read (and through His indwelling Holy Spirit, He is!), can you hand Him the story and ask Him to read it to you?

I’m glad you’re not reading violent erotica. But where is the line drawn? And what about something violent you may run across while looking for something non-violent? We can’t ever “un-read” something after we’ve allowed our eyes to see it.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul laid out instructions that can help us to guard our minds: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Can each of those rightly apply to erotica?

Just because you don’t have any prospects of marriage at this time doesn’t mean you won’t get married someday. Even though it may be difficult to see now, reading erotic stories can set you up for disappointment, creating unrealistic expectations for your future spouse to fulfill.

Marshall Segal of Desiring God says reading genres similar to this “might feel like a fun and harmless fantasy, but it’s not so subtly redefining the power and beauty of sex, creating spiritual blockages in your heart…and impairing your ability to enjoy real and lasting pleasure.”

Randy has written extensively about sexual purity. I’d encourage you to read his article Guidelines for Sexual Purity, his book The Purity Principle, or his booklet Sexual Temptation: Establishing Guardrails and Winning the Battle. These things would help you establish a Biblical view—something solid against which to line up your behavior and choices.

Finally, here’s a clip where Randy talks about the importance of guarding our minds.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Karen Coleman served as a ministry assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries for three and a half years. She spent 23 years in Cameroon, West Africa involved in Bible translation and missionary care. Before going to Africa and before EPM began, she served as Randy’s assistant when he was a pastor. In June 2018, Karen went to be with Jesus.