FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Set Free

with Josh McDowell | March 28, 2016
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Pornography is a silent killer, wreaking havoc on souls and relationships. Beloved author and speaker Josh McDowell talks about the harmful effects pornography is having on young men and women. Josh encourages parents to build a close relationship with their kids, and to always point them back to the biblical truth about love and sex.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Pornography is a silent killer, wreaking havoc on souls and relationships. Beloved author and speaker Josh McDowell talks about the harmful effects pornography is having on young men and women. Josh encourages parents to build a close relationship with their kids, and to always point them back to the biblical truth about love and sex.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Josh McDowell talks about the harmful effects pornography is having on young men and women, and encourages parents to point their children back to the biblical truth about love and sex.

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Set Free

With Josh McDowell
March 28, 2016
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Bob: We think of epidemics in terms of diseases; but author and speaker, Josh McDowell, says there is an epidemic in our culture that is maybe more serious than some of the diseases we worry about—it’s the epidemic of pornography.

Josh: I mean, right now, there’s two billion pages of pornography one click away! There’s 26 million pornographic websites one click away. As a result of that, it’s caused pornography to be viewed because it’s accessible, it’s affordable, and it fits into culture. That’s how we got to where we are today.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll spend time today with Josh McDowell, talking about how we respond to the pornography epidemic in our culture and how we raise our children to embrace moral purity. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.


Dennis: Bob, do you know anyone who has given 41,000 messages and has spoken 27,000 times at more than—I don’t know—125 countries and has written 145 books?

Bob: As a matter of fact I do. [Laughter] I’ve got the same bio in front of me that you’ve got in front of you—[Laughter] —so, yes, I know him!

Dennis: Josh McDowell joins us on FamilyLife Today. Josh and his wife Dottie have been married for more than 40 years. They have four grown children and—count ‘em—ten grandchildren.

You actually have called the nation, next week, to join you in a landmark conference addressing the subject of pornography. Why are you doing this?

Josh: One, because I have ten grandchildren I run scared for. After all my research, I have a lot of sleepless nights simply because of my grandchildren and other people’s children and grandchildren.


Probably six years ago now, I started to sense something in young people—in their belief system and their language, sexually. I said, “There’s something wrong here.” Usually, I can figure it out real fast—it took me six months. I figured out what it was—it’s pervasive internet pornography.

I found—as soon as any person, young or old, starts watching pornography, it immediately starts to erode the authorities in their life—the authority of their parents, their pastor, their church—but mainly the authority of the Scriptures. I just concluded, guys: “Someone’s got to step forward. I have to or I can’t sleep at night with a clear conscience.”

Bob: That is an interesting observation—I’m just kind of processing it—that there would be a relationship between viewing pornography and an erosion of authority. Here’s kind of the conclusion I’m drawing as I hear you say that: “The stimulation that comes from viewing pornography is so great in a person’s brain that they will remove any authority barriers that try to keep them from that—to get to it.”


Is that it?

Josh: Well, that’s—boy! That’s a good insight! And adding to that is—you have to eliminate any barriers to your intellectual/spiritual freedom to do what you’re doing—to soothe your conscience.

Bob: Yes.

Josh: So you start to question any authority that would say it is wrong. Then you take—you know, Dennis, today’s culture is: “Do what is right in your own eyes. It might be true for you but not true for me.” We’re now seeing that, full thrust, in pornography.

Dennis: So you’re calling the pastors of our nation / the daddies of our nation—men of our nation—to join you in Greensboro, North Carolina, to come together for parts of four days to address this issue of pornography.

Bob: Yes, this is next Monday night, all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and half a day on Thursday. You’ve got 27 speakers coming?

Josh: I can’t believe they are all coming—



—one of them—Mary Anne Layden from University of Pennsylvania—I said, “Don’t you have to look at your calendar?” She said: “Josh, I don’t care what I have on the calendar. I will cancel it, and I will be there!”

Dennis: You’ve been in a ministry that has spoken to teenagers all over the world. I’d just like you to summarize, Josh, the past 50 years. As you’ve spoken to young people, what’s happened on this subject of pornography for us to end up where we are today?

Josh: One, is the trend—the shift in truth. It’s gone from an objective truth in a personal Creator God to the individual: “If it’s true for you, wonderful; but it’s not true for me. You need to discern what is right for you / what is wrong for you,”—that has become totally mainstream in culture. So, when it comes to pornography, it’s all individual. This is why hardly any Christian has a friend, who would say, “Pornography’s wrong,” because it’s up to you, as an individual. That’s one thing.

Second—the technology— 


—it’s gone from a magazine to video / now, it’s gone to the internet. What the internet has done, along with the progression of breaking down of truth—it has made it accessible. I mean, right now, there’s two billion pages of pornography one click away! There [are] 26 million pornographic websites one click away!—down at the front of your church, if you want to do it.

[Third], there’s affordability. You only pay for 10 percent of pornography. All the other is free. [Fourth], there’s anonymity.

As a result of that, it’s caused pornography to be accepted to be viewed because it’s accessible, it’s affordable, its anonymity, and it fits into culture. That’s how we got to where we are today.

Probably one of the biggest ones is—the church has gotten away from a clear, biblically-based, exciting foundation of sexuality in the Scriptures and the nature of God—


—the beauty of one’s body / of sex—everything. Without that, you can’t determine a counterfeit.

Dennis: And I would add—I think the family has gotten away from a beautiful, magnificent, biblically-based view of human sexuality that they’re teaching their kids as they grow up. I mean, the church can’t do it all! Parents are the ones who’ve been given children—to train them in how to think about sex, how to view sexual temptation, and how to handle these issues that are coming at them today as never before.

Josh: If we do not have a family relationship in faith that our kids gravitate towards it / really want it—I don’t know how any kid’s going to stand up to pornography.

When I wrote the book, Straight Talk with Your Kids about Sex, I sent a video crew around to all my kids’ homes because I wanted to make sure I was accurate in the stories. They asked my kids, “When was the first time your father ever talked to you about sex?” My three daughters and my son said, “I don’t know!” Katie said, “He always did it—at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, on the way to church, on the way to a ballgame, way to a movie, way to home, on the way to school!”


[Laughter] Well, if your child can remember the first time you talked to them, you blew it.

Second, they asked the question, “What was your greatest motivation to staying pure?” And when I read the transcript, I cried—my three daughters and my son said, “Because I’ve always wanted what my father has with my mother, and it’s worth waiting for.” Whew! If you’re child does not want your faith, your sexuality, and all—you’re in trouble.

Dennis: I just want our listeners to pause and listen to what Josh had to say there. You have to have the real disease in order to pass it on to your kids. Unless you’ve got it—unless you have a love for Christ—unless you respect and fear God and the Scriptures and allow it to be the authority / the governing body of thought to govern your desires—

Josh: —and you’re living out biblical sexuality!


Bob: Right.

Dennis: Right.

Josh: Song of Solomon!

Dennis: —in your marriage and for the kids to be able to see a healthy, loving relationship between a man and a woman—that is the great apologetic for staying pure today.

Josh: We’ve got to start young. The average now—seeing pornography, in Christian homes and everything—is eight years old. I think, in Christian homes, it’s four to six years old. If, by the first time your child—

Dennis: Wait! Wait! Wait a second! You said, in Christian homes, it’s younger—

Josh: I think so.

Dennis: —than the culture?!

Josh: Yes.

Dennis: Why?

Josh: Because they put up no barriers to it—they don’t even think: “Well, you don’t talk to your kid then.” “You don’t ever share anything with your child then.” Well they’re not going to see it.” Most Christian moms would say, “My kids would never seek out pornography.” You miss the whole point! Pornography is seeking out your child!

I couldn’t show that statistically—four to six—but from personal experience over the last seven years, I would have to say—if somebody said, “What is the age in Christian pastors home?” Four to six years old.


I could write a book on the stories!

Dennis: You also ran past something. I want you to just stop and help moms and dads understand about what’s happening with today’s youth. You whizzed by this, Josh—you said, “Your young person is growing up with peers, who think that pornography isn’t a sin / isn’t wrong—that it is acceptable to look at pornography.”

Josh: In the church! Yes. Of Christian young men, 13-24 years of age, one out of 20 would say, “I have a friend who would say pornography is wrong.” Ninety-three percent of Christian 13-24-year-olds, in the largest study ever done, will say, “Whenever I talk to my friends”—which most of them are Christian—“about pornography, it’s either being neutral, accepting, or encouraging to do it,”—93 percent.


Bob: Wouldn’t the biggest group there be the silent kids, who are just biting their tongue and saying, “Well, I’m not going to speak up and tell him he’s wrong because moral relativism has influenced their belief structure”?

Josh: Yes. And then here—only several percentage points of Christian parents have ever talked to their children about pornography and the internet.

Bob: How much—what percent?

Josh: It’s about seven percent—that’s sad!

Dennis: Josh, I’m absorbing all this and I’m going: ‘We’re living in this pornographic pervasive culture that is out to seduce our kids. We’ve thought of this as being a male problem—

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: —but, because it’s so pervasive, we’re now finding it’s a massive problem among young ladies.

Josh: Eighteen to twenty-four-year-old Christian women—56 percent actively seek out porn / 76 percent of men—56 percent [of young women]. Now, women usually do it for different reasons. You can’t categorize every woman and everything else, but one of the biggest reasons is women do it on how to save their marriage:


“How can I save my marriage?” Girls, who are exploding onto this scene, do it: “How can I keep my boyfriend?” or “How can I get a boyfriend?”

Women usually seek out different types of pornography than men. Women seek out relational pornography—pornography between a husband and wife / between two significant others—something that has a relation. Men could care less about that.

Bob: You started off by saying the reason all of this is so troubling to you is because you have ten grandchildren.

Josh: That’s right.

Bob: If you were able to go back today—let’s say you were the mom and dad of those ten grandchildren instead of being their grandpa / you’re their mom and dad. What would you do today, raising those kids?—to try to protect them as best you can / get them ready for what’s ahead. What would you do?

Josh: What I did with my four children, before all of this really hit—


—one, you must acknowledge it as a problem. Most Christian parents don’t. They don’t see the devastation / how large it is!

Do you know how big pornography is? There are 26 million websites. Just one—not even the biggest—in the last 30 days, produced 29 petabytes of transferred data pornography. If you printed that out—just one site of 26 million—in 30 days / would fill 540 MILLION four-drawer file cabinets! It is so big—your kids will see it. So, one—you’ve got to acknowledge it’s a problem.


Dennis: And let me just stop you there, Josh. When you say you’re going to talk to your kids—that they are going to see it. Do we need to watch our attitude about this?—making it extremely shameful? I mean, how do we hold the barrier up—of it being wrong or against what God wants—without somehow turning our kids against our Christianity / our walk with Christ?


Josh: First, you need to develop such a loving, intimate, close family relationship that your child feels totally free to ask mommy or daddy anything—and I mean ANYTHING—without shame, without judgment, without starting to quote the Bible / which most Christian men do—you do that later!

Bob: So, if a five-year-old comes and says, “Mommy, what is…” and then puts in anything—

Josh: That’s right. Without being self-conscience / without shunning away a little bit because they read your body language faster than your lips.

Bob: Right.

Josh: You listen to them. You don’t judge them, “Well, you shouldn’t be doing that!” No!

Bob: You don’t say, first thing, “Where’d you hear that?!”

Josh: That’s right.

Bob: You don’t say that first?

Josh: No.

Bob: So, what do you say?

Josh: You listen to them—say, “Well, tell me about it, honey.”

Bob: “What have you heard?”

Josh: That’s right.


Bob: Okay.

Josh: So you’re without judgment, without shame, without starting to quote the Scripture, and without humor—“Oh, you’re too young for that!” If they’re old enough for the question, they’re old enough for the answer.

Bob: Okay.

Josh: So you’ve got to develop that family, where they’re totally free.



Second, you need to create, within that child, a concept—and I mean early / I think by five years old—should, to a certain degree, have added in God’s concept of sexuality: “What is sex? Who created sex? How beautiful your body is,” and all—and how God’s design is something WONDERFUL! 

You say, “Why is that so important?” For this reason—your child will see pornography—and [while] young! Here’s the key—I really believe—if your child sees pornography and they don’t have, built in, a certain type of original, they cannot detect a counterfeit.

I had to build into my three daughters and my son an original concept. They had to see it in my life with their mother. Those are two of the biggest things you can do.

Dennis: What I’m hearing you say, right there, is that giving your kids a picture of what sexual purity looks like / the benefits of that:


“How good it can be when you wait until marriage, and a covenant has been established, and the safety of a marriage relationship is in place. That’s when a young man and a young lady can truly experience what God designed.”

Josh: That’s right. That’s why, when I was in your office—if you remember, I looked down and I saw Passport to Identity, Passport to Purity®, etc.—and I said, “Dennis—that is the beginning of the answer to pornography! We have got to build, within our children, healthy, positive biblical teachings about their body, about sexuality, about who they are, their identity—who God is / the relationship. If we don’t do that, young, then I don’t care what you teach your children. That’s why, when I saw this today, I thought: “Wow! I’m going to promote that at the Set Free Summit because it’s a positive answer!”

Bob: You got a sneak preview because Passport to Identity is brand-new. In fact, our listeners have just started hearing about it. In the next couple weeks, we’re going to be giving them a full explanation of what this resource is all about.



But the reason you’re excited about things like Passport to Identity and Passport to Purity is because we set up moms and dads to have the kinds of conversations moms and dads need to be having with their kids.

Josh: That’s right. A parent is derelict if they don’t have positive interaction with their children, right down to the nitty-gritty of sex—and I mean early.So many parents say to me: “I don’t want my kids to hear it. I want to guard their purity.” I said: “Oh my gosh! It’s knowledge, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in a loving intimate relationship, especially with Daddy.”

Bob: For years, we have pointed folks to books by—you know Stanton Jones, who works at Wheaton; right?

Josh: Oh, of course!

Bob: So he and his wife Brenna have put together these age-related books, where you can teach your kids about sex. We’ve shared those with parents for years. There’s one for preschoolers, one for elementary school—they’re kind of graded as they go up. Those can be catalytic to having the kinds of conversations you’re talking about as well; right?

Josh: Oh, you have to.



I say to dads, “Listen to the mom.” Mom usually has a little more insight. Her intuition is better than a man’s facts. I said, “Know your child—just how far you go. You don’t want to create unhealthy images—but boy! You’ve got to go to the line today,”—even with books like you just described. Bob, the internet is changing it all. The internet—it breaks my heart—is taking it younger, and younger, and younger.

Now you think of this—these are Christian young men, 18 to 24-year-old / 76 percent actively/ regularly seek out pornography—for 39-60-year-olds / it’s 47 percent—25 to 39-year-old / is 65 percent—18 to 24 / 76 [percent]. Do you see the progression?

Bob: Yes—it’s getting bigger.

Josh: The younger, the bigger. It’s a total shift in culture.

Bob: Let me step in here and just let our listeners know the things we’ve talked about—


—the Passport to Purity resource / the books by Stan and Brenna Jones—these are things we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Our listeners can come and get more information about how they can get the resources.

We’ve got a link on our website, Josh, to the event that you’re doing next week in Greensboro. I understand it’s still possible for folks in North Carolina to sign up.

Josh: Absolutely! I’ll give you my room if there’s not a room! [Laughter] No! I’m dead serious! We need influencers—pastors / Christian school headmasters. I wish every camp director in America could be there because 50 percent of even your children camps watch pornography. Usually, when it becomes known in the camp, they handle it totally wrong.

Dennis: Yes. I’d say we need to have daddies there. I’d say we need to have mommies there. Single moms / single dads ought to come to this because it’s not a matter of if—it’s a matter of what your kids are going to see. It’s a matter of how they’re prepared to handle this.

Bob: I know a lot of people are going to have to clear out their schedule to be able to do it—take a couple of days off from work—but we think this is as critical an issue as you do, Josh. So I’d encourage folks:


“Go to and click the link you find there to the Set Free Summit. It’s happening next week in Greensboro, North Carolina. We’d encourage you to get more information. Again, go to”

Dennis: I just want to read a passage of Scripture here, as we conclude today’s broadcast. You can just hear the Daddy in the apostle Paul. I don’t know if he’s ever been called the Daddy before; but he sounds like one at the end of his book, Romans. In Chapter 16, verse 19, he says this—now just think about a father to his son: “For your obedience is known to all so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.”

Josh, that’s the assignment of a parent—“…wise in what is good and innocent of what is evil,”—it’s our assignment. We’re not going to able to do it perfectly—this is a fallen world.


Today, more than ever, children, boys and girls, young people, young adults even need daddies and mommies—

Josh: Absolutely!

Dennis: —in their lives, calling them up to the standard of Scripture.

Josh: This is where the Scripture says, “Guard your eyes.” You can’t accomplish what Paul wrote there unless you train your children to “Guard your eyes.” Now, here’s a problem—parents say, “Well I tell my kids, ‘Just don’t look at it!’” It’s too late! You see, in your brain is norepinephrine—a memory hormone—that attaches memory to your brain—an image seen, a feeling, a thought, a smell, whatever.

With an average man—pornography slides by the screen / in less than 20 seconds, norepinephrine is released and attached for memory. You know what it is for a child, 11 and under? Less than one second— .78 of a second! There are no words attached to it—it’s only image—because they can’t process the words yet. But they’re finding out now, years later, those very images is what begins to haunt them and affect their behavior. So we’ve got to do more than just say, “Just don’t look at it!”


We’ve got to prepare them for the first time they see it!

Dennis: Yes Again, you ran by something there very fast that I want to make sure our listeners heard. You did a major study / a major survey of what’s happening to today’s youth—a study of pornography’s impact on youth—and you said that 27 percent of young adults, ages 25 to 30, first viewed porn before puberty.

Josh: Oh, yes!

Dennis: Before they were 10, 11, 12, 13 years old—

Josh: Yes.

Dennis: —27 percent. By comparison—baby boomers, like me—only 6 percent of us saw pornography before puberty.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: It’s a game-changer folks. We have to do what Josh said—which is not / not think you’re going to protect them perfectly—but to prepare them to know how to handle it when they see it.

Bob: Equip them.


That’s the operative term here, and that’s what you’re pushing folks for. Again, if folks want to find out more about the Set Free conference that’s coming up April 4th through the 7th in Greensboro, North Carolina, go to There is a link there, along with other resources that we’ve got available.

Let me say a quick “Congratulations!” today / “Happy Anniversary!” to Mike and Cindy Cooper, who live in Maryland, and to Frank and Jessica Bryan, who live in Pennsylvania. The Coopers and the Bryans are both celebrating their anniversary today. For the Coopers—it’s 29 years / for the Bryans—it’s 7 years. We’re wishing both of them a “Happy Anniversary!” today because we are the Proud Sponsors of Anniversaries™.

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I hope you can join us back tomorrow. Since the Final Four is this weekend, we thought it would be fun to revisit an interview we did with a legend—this was a while back that we got a chance to sit down with Coach John Wooden, who coached the UCLA Bruins back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. You’ll hear our interview with Coach tomorrow and Wednesday. Hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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