Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The APA gets it right. Sort of.

Last Wednesday, the American Psychological Association declared that there is little evidence that one’s sexual orientation can be changed through therapy, therefore mental health professionals should not tell their homosexual clients that there is hope that they can become heterosexual through such treatments.

It's not often that I agree with the APA, but here I have to say, "Amen! Preach it!"

This is not to say that the APA and I are on the same page exactly. We have simply come to the same conclusion about the ability of psychology to change homosexuals. We come to that conclusion by very different means.

The APA is right – psychology cannot help homosexuals to change their sexual orientation. It's not that the psychological establishment has come to its senses all of a sudden, but rather it has an erroneous presupposition about the nature of homosexuality. There was a time when the APA considered homosexuality to be a mental disorder. However, in 1975, they removed homosexuality from the list of known mental disorders. At that point, homosexuality became “normal”. This development means that the APA’s understanding of this issue over time has gone from bad to worse.

It’s important to note that this change in the APA’s understanding of homosexuality is not why they made this announcement last Wednesday. Since homosexuality has been “normal” since 1975, it follows logically that the APA has held since then that psychology cannot change one’s sexual orientation. The actual reason for the recent announcement is the growing public awareness of Christian organizations offering to help homosexuals change their sexual orientation. Some of these organizations have had a good deal of success, which looks bad for the APA.

The announcement noted that one reason many homosexuals feel the desire to change is because of their religious beliefs. The APA urged therapists to consider a number of options to deal with this problem, including changing churches. We have to give them some credit – they recognize the inherent conflict between biblical Christian faith and the humanistic presuppositions of psychology. Something has to give. Unfortunately, their choice will always be to suggest the adjustment of one’s religious convictions rather than to re-examine their understanding of human nature.

So the APA’s conclusion that psychology cannot be used to change one’s sexual orientation does not represent an admission of the shortcomings of psychology, but rather a reiteration that homosexuality is normal.

I, on the other hand, have completely different reasons for saying that psychology cannot change one’s sexual orientation. Not only is homosexuality not normal, it’s not even a psychological disorder. This isn’t an organic disease of the mind. Plain and simple, homosexuality is sinful rebellion against and rejection of God’s holiness and God’s design. In that way, it is just like lying, murder, gossip, and envy. Homosexuality is a spiritual problem, not a psychological one. It is but one manifestation of the sin condition into which every human is born.

The first chapter of Romans shows that homosexuality is the fruit of human depravity. It is the eventual result of a rejection of God: (Rom 1:26-27 ESV) 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

This portion of Romans is the first step in Paul’s argument that salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone saves men from sin. This tells us two things about homosexuality specifically: 1) It is just one manifestation of the root condition of sin; and 2) Because Christ saves men from the penalty and power of that root condition, Christ saves men from the penalty and power of all manifestations of that condition, including homosexuality.

Do the thoughts, desires, and compulsive behavior of homosexuality go away immediately? All things are possible with God, but Scripture teaches that sanctification is a progressive thing. One thing is certain, if the principles of sanctification are applied in the life of a regenerate person, there is no such thing as an unconquerable sin.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11, for the Bible-believing Christian, should destroy the assertions of the APA on this issue: 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

There are at least a couple of things we can draw from these verses. First, homosexuality is sin that excludes one from God’s eternal kingdom. It is not normal. It is not a mental disorder. It is not a psychological problem. It is sin and it draws the eternal wrath of God.

(Some have argued that the Greek underlying the English versions does not mean what it appears to mean. There is some truth to that, but it does not help those who would defend the practice of homosexuality. Rather, it far more explicitly refers to the two participants in the act of sodomy. The word translated effeminate refers to passive partners in homosexual intercourse. The word translated homosexuals refers to the active partners. There is no question the original text is referring to homosexuality.)

Second, homosexuality can be overcome. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified… How? in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

So the APA is right. Psychology cannot help a person change their sexual orientation. That is true not because homosexuality is normal, but because the only solution to man’s sinful condition is the blood of Jesus Christ. He alone saves and sanctifies sinners. Just as surely as the Lord died and was raised, the homosexual can be freed from the penalty and power of his sin.

…Such were some of you…

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