Book Review: Captured by a Better Vision: Living Porn Free, by Tim Chester

Review
10.30.2018

He told me he’s used porn again. We talked about his problem. We prayed together. Then I said, ‘The first thing we need to do is put accountability software on your computer.’ His face dropped. He was devastated. I could see it as clear as day. He didn’t want to be a porn user, but he still wanted to use porn. Perhaps he would try to change, but he still wanted the option of going to porn. ” (p. 19)

Thus Tim Chester begins Captured by a Better Vision: Living Porn Free. In this wide-ranging, honest, and profoundly gospel-centred book, Chester demonstrates that the contemporary pornography pandemic which is crippling lives and ministries is fundamentally a problem of idolatry. Building on his wonderful pastoral primer, You Can Change, Chester recognizes that struggling with porn reveals deep things about the human heart, and therefore requires a deep grasp of the gospel by way of rescue.

Mere self-help has “no value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col 2:23), as Odysseus found to his peril when he relied on plugging his sailors’ ears with beeswax to insulate them from the seductive song of the Sirens. Only the captivating, sweet, and better music of Orpheus could drown out the Sirens’ song and keep the sailors safe. Similarly, only the captivating, sweet, and better music of the gospel—the “better vision” of God’s glory, goodness, and grace—can drown out the allure of sexual temptation. But it will take a fight.

I’ve used Captured by a Better Vision several times in single-sex small groups and one-to-one contexts—with students and ministry colleagues. It has been a profound experience every time. On one occasion, the pastoral fallout was especially challenging, though having worked through the situation with prayer, honesty, and accountability, one individual shared with me: “That was the hardest—and best—thing has ever happened to me.” Praise God for his renewing and restoring grace.

A quick note on accountability relationships: you only get out what you put in. A student once told me, “Dave, do you know how easy it is for students to ‘say the right thing’ in one-to-ones?” It saddened me to hear that, though I’m glad he was honest enough to admit it. But here’s the truth: we’re masters at throwing people off the scent if we have something to hide. It’s worth remembering that as you begin meeting to discuss a book like this.

Each chapter of Captured by a Better Vision comes with discussion questions that helpfully focus the conversation. You might want to be careful where you meet, however. I once convened a group to discuss the book in a local Starbucks, which meant occasionally hushed voices while we supped our Flat Whites!