Reparative Therapy and the Gospel

by Denny Burk

In my last post, I noted that California has just become the first state in the union to outlaw therapies aimed at altering the sexual orientation of minors. If you read the law, you’ll find that the vast majority of it is taken up with explaining the medical basis for prohibiting these therapies—including some rather negative assessments of reparative therapy in particular. In the opening section of the law and in other writings on this story, I see persistent misunderstandings about what reparative therapy actually is. Consequently, there’s a good bit of confusion about how Christian teaching relates to this particular therapy. Here’s the definition given in Joe Dallas’ and Nancy Heche’s book The Complete Christian Guide To Understanding Homosexuality (Harvest House, 2010), 104-105:

Reparative therapy is a phrase referring to counseling, psychotherapy, or other forms of psychological treatment for homosexuals who are in conflict over their sexuality. It first became prominent with the 1991 publication of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s book Reparative Therapy for Male Homosexuality and soon became a common term of reference. It derives from a theory (shared by Dr. Nicolosi with others) that homosexuality represents unmet emotional needs or conflicts that need repairing, in which cases therapy should attempt to repair the damage or deficits the person experiences. It is a controversial term, sometimes used as a pejorative by those who oppose attempts to modify sexual orientation. It is also used in a more neutral or even respectful tone by those who condone it, and practitioners of it often refer to themselves as “reparative therapists.”

“Reparative therapy” should not be used as an umbrella term covering every treatment approach for women and men with unwanted homosexual desires. Other forms of counseling or therapy may be designed to help such people, but without subscribing to all the tenets of reparative therapy. Some counselors, for example, may support their client’s goal to abstain from homosexual behavior, yet they may not believe male homosexuality always springs from deficiencies in father/son relationship, or that gender-identity issues always contribute to homosexuality. Likewise, not everyone who offers treatment for people in distress over their homosexuality should be referred to as a “reparative therapist.” The term is properly used when referencing treatment approaches and practitioners subscribing to the theories and approaches cited above.

So reparative therapy is an approach based on the assumption that homosexuality has a psychological pathology. It’s not an attempt to “pray away the gay,” as some people derisively charge. In fact, the approach has no necessary religious basis at all—though some Christian therapists may follow its tenets.

It’s not the only approach that counselors use to help someone alter their sexual orientation, but it is the one that is cited heavily and denounced as bad science in the new California law. In the words of California Governor Jerry Brown“This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” Nevertheless, the new law outlaws all therapies aimed at changing sexual orientation/behavior, not just reparative therapy.

And this is the real point of concern for Christians. Christians have no moral obligation to subscribe to the specific tenets of reparative therapy, but we do have an obligation to believe that the Christian gospel can save and sanctify sinners.

Thus Christians must insist that sexual orientation/behavior is alterable. We believe that not on the basis of any particular study—although there are studies that support the claim—but on the basis of what the Bible teaches. That does not mean that we believe all homosexuals become completely cured of homosexual desires once they become Christian. But it does mean that we have hope in the progressive sanctification of all repentant sinners, including homosexual ones (2 Cor. 3:18). Some Christians may find themselves struggling against homosexual desires for the rest of their lives as Christians. Nevertheless, Christians do believe that God can alter sinful desires and behavior over time, including homosexuals ones (Phil. 2:12-13). To abandon that belief is to abandon Christianity altogether (1 Thes. 4:7-8).

It’s here that Christians are likely to feel the pinch in the coming years. As states like California find a “compelling interest” in protecting minors from Christian teaching about sexuality, there will be tremendous social (and perhaps legal) pressure to abandon any notion of changing sexual orientation. But Christians cannot surrender to this pressure, no matter what the cost may be.”

-Denny Burk, http://www.dennyburk.com/what-is-reparative-therapy/

Salvation: A Work of the Trinity

“God the Father gave his Son to save rebellious, God-hating people, knowing that he would be despised and rejected by those he had made, that he would be a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. He spared sinful people from condemnation, death and punishment, but he did not spare his own beloved Son, with whom he was well pleased.

God the Son gave himself, willingly undertaking the task appointed for him by his Father. He veiled his glory in a human body, experienced every temptation we face without succumbing to any, and lived a perfect human life. Yet he took out sin and guilt upon himself and died a cursed death, suffering in his human nature the infinite torment of the wrath and fury of his Father. After three days he was vindicated in his resurrection before being exalted to his heavenly throne. From there he rules his kingdom, awaiting the day of his glorious appearing when every eye shall see him, every knee bow before him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God the Holy Spirit, having been sent by the Father and the Son, now works in our hearts through the proclamation of the gospel to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment, to draw us to Christ in repentance and faith, and so to unite us to Christ that we may share in every blessing he has won for us.

God the Holy Trinity thus turned aside his own righteous wrath against sinful humanity; endured and exhausted the curse of the law that stood against us; cleansed us of our sin and clothed us in Christ’s righteousness; ransomed us from our slavery to sin, the world and the devil by paying our debt, canceling the devil’s power of accusation against us, and liberating us to live new lives empowered by the Spirit; triumphed over all evil powers by punishing evil in the person of the Son; and reconciled us with himself by removing the barrier of sin and enmity between us; in order that we may stand blameless and forgiven in his glorious presence, credited with the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, as adopted Children of God, gazing upon his face for all eternity.

God vindicated his truthfulness by remaining faithful to his promise that sin will be punished; he manifested his justice by punishing sin and acquitting the righteous; he glorified his name by exalting his Son and placing all things under his feet; and he demonstrated his love by dying for sinners and reconciling to himself those who were once his enemies.”

-Jeffery, Steve, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach. Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007, 104.

Evangelism, Prayer & Scripture

“I find it tremendously valuable to have my prayers guided by Scripture. As I pray about sharing the gospel with others, or as I pray for those who do not yet know the Lord, there are many passages from the Bible that can give focus and direction. Here are just a few of them.

1. There is work to be done

Matthew 9:37-38
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

2. Jesus has commanded you to do it

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

3. Success is guaranteed

John 10:16
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

4. Jesus is the only salvation

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

5. You were given the Holy Spirit for this purpose

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses inJerusalem and in all Judea andSamaria, and to the end of the earth.

6. People won’t be saved without hearing

Romans 10:11-15
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

7. Evangelism is necessary for your own growth in Christ

Philemon 6
And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”

-Tim Challies, 03-19-2012, http://www.challies.com/resources/7-scripture-texts-about-evangelism

What I Pray My Children Say About Their Parents And Their Home

Jesus was worshipped.

I had a great childhood.

Dad was crazy about mom.

My dad was the same at home as he was at church.

I can’t believe how patient my parents were.

The Gospel was preached.

My parents did not assume I understood the Gospel. Ever.

We prayed often… even when meals weren’t involved.

We laughed… a lot.

My parents loved Jesus.

My parents treated me with respect.

My parents’ love was unconditional.

My parents were servants.

There was wisdom.

My dad asked for my forgiveness… more than once.

I know I was… but I can’t remember being spanked.

My parents loved the church.

My dad preferred me over his ministry.

My parents weren’t perfect, but they were broken.

I was prepared for life.

The standard was sincerity and not behavior.

I was encouraged to be myself.

I learned what it meant to love my spouse by watching mom and dad.

Grace, not law was the means of correction.

My parents listened.

I was free to make mistakes.

There was unending forgiveness.

My parents were my friends.

My parents insisted I know they love me.

-Byron Yawn, 01-31-12

Posted here: http://thetrajectory.org/some-of-what-i-pray-my-children-say-about-their-parents-and-their-home

Postmodern Obfuscation and the Trinity

“Frankly, I think ER2 was a scripted Theodrama designed to look like it’s going to be cutting edge; it isn’t….

…When I investigated further the fetid fruit of ER1 it became pretty clear to me that what was going to happen at ER2 would be a bromance with T.D. Jakes in order to move modalism out of the way so they can bring Jakes into the mainstream of contemporary evangelicalism.

God be praised, I’m afraid I was correct. Tom Chantry provides a transcript of a leaked You Tube video showing what went on with T.D. Jakes in The Elephant Room II, Session 4 Transcript. For now, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind based upon the evidence.

“Jakes masterfully deconstructs the entire practice of theology. Don’t be fooled by the panel members who insist that he affirmed the Trinity. What he did was say, “I’m Trinitarian so long as I am free to express it in Sabelian terms.” He repeatedly insisted that Oneness folks and Trinitarian folks are all saying the same thing.

He dismissed the question as secondary – not worth division among the people of Christ, among whom he clearly counts the Oneness churches. Once he has deconstructed the very idea of systematic theology, he can affirm anything. So yes, he answered “absolutely” or “yes” to each and every one of Driscoll’s questions, but what does that mean? Not much. (Online source)”

This is precisely what went on in the postmodern obfuscation. Now I’m going to point your attention to the following salient mini-commentary on ER2 today by Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries via Twitter. He’s one of the few men of God out there with some spiritual backbone.”

-Ken Silva quoting Tom Chantry on 01-26-2012,   http://apprising.org/2012/01/26/dr-james-white-twitter-mini-commentary-on-t-d-jakes-in-elephant-room-2/

The Gospel in an Abortion Culture

“As the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision approaches, most Christians recognize, and rightly so, the loss of millions of unborn human lives. What we often forget is the second casualty of an abortion culture: the consciences of countless men and women.

Too often, pastors and church leaders assume that, when talking about abortion, their invisible debating partner is the “pro-choice” television commentator or politician. Not so. Many of the people endangered by the abortion culture aren’t even pro-choice.

In your congregation this Sunday, and in the neighborhoods around you right now, there are women vulnerable to abortionist propaganda, not because they reject the church but because they’re afraid they ‘ll lose the church. Pregnant young women are scared they will scandalize church people when they start to show, so they keep it secret. Parents are fearful their pregnant daughter, or their son’s pregnant girlfriend, will prompt the rest of the congregation to see them as bad families.

As they keep all of this secret from the Body of Christ, many of them fall prey to the false gospel of the abortion clinic. “We can take care of this for you,” these people say. “And it will all go away.”

Moreover, there are thousands of men and women in our churches who have aborted their children, or urged the abortion of their grandchildren. Bearing the shame of this, they keep it secret. And in the concealment, the satanic powers accuse them: “We know who you are; you’re a murderer, like us.”

Every time pastors and church leaders speak, they are speaking, at least potentially, to these men and women, the aborting and the abortionists. Many of these people don’t argue that the “fetus” is a “person.” Their consciences testify to that, and they’re either tortured by this or violently trying to sear over that persistent internal message.

The answer, for the church, is to preach the gospel to the conscience.

For many evangelicals, to “preach the gospel” seems to be obvious and ineffective because they think this means to, by rote, prompt people to accept Jesus and go to heaven. But the gospel speaks right where the abortion culture is in slavery, to the conscience.

For one thing, those guilty of this silent atrocity often don’t think we’re talking to them. For some, the demonic structures have helped them to conceal this secret, and to convince them the safest thing to do is to try to forget it altogether. Others are so burdened down by guilt, they really don’t believe they are included in the “whosoever will” of our gospel invitations.

Speak directly to these people. To the woman who has had the abortion. To the man who has paid for an abortion. To the health care worker who has profited off of tearing apart the bodies of the young and the consciences of their parents.

Speak clearly of the horror of judgement to come. Confirm what every accusing conscience already knows: clinic privacy laws cannot keep all this from being exposed at the tribunal of Christ. When the Light shines, there’s not enough darkness in which to hide and cringe.

But don’t stop there.

Proclaim just as openly that judgment has fallen on the quivering body of a crucified Jesus—accused by Satan, indicted by the Law, enveloped by the curse.

An abortion culture knows that hell exists, and they know judgment waits (Rom 2:14-16). Agree with them, but point them to the truth that God is not simply willing to forgive them. Show them how in Christ God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26).

The woman who has had the abortion needs to know that, if she is hidden in Christ, God does not see her as “that woman who had the abortion.” He hasn’t been subverted from sending her to hell because she found a gospel “loophole.” In Christ, she’s already been to hell.

And, in the resurrected Christ, God has already told her what he thinks of her: “You are my beloved child and in you I am well-pleased.”

The consciences around us don’t believe what they’re telling themselves. They’re scared and accused. Shine the light in the eyes of their consciences. Prophetically. All for justice, legally and culturally, for the unborn. But don’t stop there.

After all, the spirit of murder doesn’t start or end in the abortion clinic (Matt. 5:21, 15:19; Jn. 8:44; Acts 9:1; Rom. 1:29; Jn. 3:15). And the blood of Christ has cleansed the consciences of rebels like all of us.

Warn of hell, but offer mercy. Offer that mercy not only at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but in the small groups and hallways of your church.”

-Russell D. Moore, January 19, 2012, Complements of:  http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/01/19/the-gospel-in-an-abortion-culture/

Street Evangelism in Six Steps

“One of the most challenging evangelistic endeavors is what I call street evangelism. This is the approaching of total strangers for the purpose of explaining the gospel to them. When many people think of evangelism, this is often precisely what they have in mind—and they are intimidated by it.

This kind of evangelism may be intimidating, but it also rewarding. There are people who exist outside of the sphere of Christian influence, and unless they hear the gospel from a stranger, they are likely not going to hear it at all. Many encounters are with people completely outside of the faith, unfamiliar with Christianesse, and ignorant of the basics of the gospel (ie., Jesus died in the place of sinners).

But that is exactly why this kind of evangelism is exhilarating. I never know who I am going to talk to. Is this person a Catholic? An agnostic? A self-righteous sinner, living on moralism? This mystery is exactly what makes cold evangelism compelling and intimidating.Here are a few steps to help you get underway:

1. Choose a location. The more people the better, because there are more opportunities, and because it is less weird. My favorite place for this kind of evangelism is on college campuses. Students often have free time, and are often open to talking about the gospel. Grace Church has groups that go out to hospitals, outdoor malls, and subway—all places near our church where lots of people congregate. We stay near our church because we often invite people to our church.

2. Start the conversation. This is the hardest part. I’m not a fan of gimmicks, but I go straight for the chase; I usually begin by introducing myself as a pastor from a church in the area. I’ll ask if they are familiar with the Bible, my church, or what it is that Christians believe. I’ll ask if they have even been to my church, or what they think of the gospel. Essentially I’m looking for some bridge to start the conversation.

3. Ask questions. I ask a lot of questions. One of the most helpful books I’ve read on this kind of evangelism is Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism, where he makes the simple point the more questions you ask, the more information you get. The better you get to know the person you are talking to, the more skillfully you can explain the gospel to him. I ask tons of why questions: “Why did you take that job?” “Why did you choose that major?” “Why do you think that way about church?” The more I ask, the more they talk, and the more likely they will be to listen when I explain the gospel.

4. Make the jump to the gospel. Unlike relational evangelism (with friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.) cold evangelism is a one-shot deal. Eventually you have to make the jump to the gospel. I have found that asking if I can explain what the Bible says about an issue helps. “You said you want to help people with your life; can I explain what the Bible says about that?” “You said that church offends you because Christians are hypocrites; can I tell you what the Bible says about that?”

5. Explain the gospel. I take any question they ask—from why do Christians not believe in evolution, to what about the crusades—and answer with the gospel. A short gospel presentation includes who God is (creator and holy), who people are (sinful and in need of a savior), who Jesus is (God in flesh, sinless, substitute for sinners, who rose from the grave), and what we must do in response (turn from sin and believe the gospel in faith).

I look for any opportunity in the conversation to get to the gospel, and when I am there, I move quickly. I can explain those points briefly in one minute, and then circle back to explain each one more if the opportunity is there.

6. End the conversation. After explaining the gospel, I ask if the person has any questions. I ask if I can pray for them, if I can give them a tract that explains more, and if they want to talk more sometime in the future. I invite the person to church, and give him my contact info. Occasionally I have had people contact me months later, wanting to learn more about Jesus.

I don’t think all Christians are called to this kind of evangelism, but I think all Christians should at least try it and see if they are gifted at it. It is amazing to see how the Lord uses these encounters to open doors for the gospel, and to strengthen our own understanding of the basic tenets of what we believe.

How about you? Share a tip or two that you would add, or a question about this kind of evangelism.”

-Jesse Johnson, Complements of: http://thecripplegate.com/street-evangelism-in-five-steps/

A Bold Letter

Dear unsaved friend,
Could you please read the following carefully, and then sign it–if you agree to it.

  

I am resolved to persevere in sin, and follow the maxims and customs of those around me–though it costs me the loss of my soul, and exposes me to everlasting damnation.

I am resolved to reject the Son of God–I will not embrace Him as my Savior, or have Him reign over me. I am resolved that I will not accept the pardon which God presents to me in the gospel, though it cost Jesus His life to procure it–and I know I must eternally perish without it. I am determined not to submit to God’s way of salvation, and I consent to be lost forever! I have made up my mind, that I will never consent to receive a free salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ–I will not have it!

I am resolved . . .
to reject God’s message,
to dare His justice,
to defy His power,
to refuse His mercy,
to brave His threatened wrath, and
to harden myself against all His invitations, expostulations, exhortations, and promises!

I am resolved that I will not . . .
bow to His authority,
yield to His entreaties,
believe on His Son,
repent of my sins,
love His name,
or obey His precepts!

I am determined that there shall never be joy in Heaven among the angels of God–on account of my conversion.

I will never . . .
desert the ranks of Satan,
give up my sinful practices,
ask for mercy at God’s hands,
or take up my cross and follow Christ!

I am resolved . . .
to keep on in my old wicked course,
to persevere in my present sinful path,
to associate with my carnal companions–
and if it secures my eternal damnation–then let it do so!

I will not receive salvation on God’s terms,
I will not stoop to be saved by grace alone,
I will not take the yoke of Christ upon me, and engage to be His subject and servant–even though Heaven and all the glories of eternity would be secured by it.

If I cannot escape the wrath of God–but by faith, repentance, and holiness–why, I am determined go to Hell, for I am resolved not to yield to any such terms!

It is of no use for the preacher to spend His breath upon me! My mind is made up, I will be my own master, I will take my own course! No one has any right to interfere with me–for I shall injure no one but myself!

I have no objection to going to church, or to attending to some religious forms–but to give my heart to God, to be crucified to the present world, and to make God’s glory the end of life–will never do for me; therefore I gladly take the consequences.

If this is required of those who would be true Christians–then you must stop urging me–for I will not yield! You must stop all attempts to convert me, for my mind is made up! I have heard hundreds of sermons, I have read the Bible myself–but I have hardened myself against the whole, and I am not going to yield now!

Tell me no more of the Savior’s love,
tell me no more of the pleasures of holiness,
tell me no more of the terrors of death,
tell me no more of the dreadful judgment,
tell me no more of the joys of Heaven,
tell me no more of the agonies of Hell–
for you will never induce me to yield myself unto God, and seek the salvation of my soul. For my mind is made up, and my daily conduct is enough to convince you of it, if anything would. I am resolved not to yield–let the consequences be what they may!

I will go on just as I have done!

I will not be Christ’s servant!

I will not be God’s child!

I will obey only Satan!

I will follow the course of this evil world!

I will serve my lusts and pleasures!

In proof thereof, witness my signature, ____________.

-James Smith (1802-1862), Letter to an Unsaved Friend

Complements of Geoff Kirkland: http://vassaloftheking.blogspot.com/2011/10/letter-to-unsaved-friend.html

Beware the Teaching of Men

Jesus never promised your best life now. If this is your best life now then you have hell waiting you in the next life. Don’t be an idolator of the mind. Don’t create a Jesus in your mind who is loving but not holy, righteous, good and full of wrath. If Jesus came to preach love and prosperity in this life, He would never have been executed by the Jews through the Romans. Jesus did not live a prosperous life but died a death He did not deserve to pay for sin. He is not coming again with a pacifier in His mouth but as the Judge. His wrath will drench the hem of His robe in blood.

A true friend will lay down their life so that you may live. If you alter the gospel to make it appealing to this world, you do not love those to whom you are preaching. Do not be a blasphemer; do not trample under foot the blood of Christ; do not pervert the gospel. Preach God as He has revealed Himself in His word.  He has written His law on the hearts of all men and will hold all guilty who do not obey Christ. John 14:6 reads “Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, except through me.'”

http://showyou.com/v/y:hFLIZf7qiWM?u=philjohnson

Our Role in the World

“While it is true that we live and minister within a cultural setting, there will inevitably be certain aspects of the culture that we cannot embrace or celebrate. We are called to be in the world, but not ofthe world.

Though we make every effort to present the gospel message with excellence and effectiveness to the world around us, we should be careful to do so in a way that both stays true to the biblical gospel and stays within the biblical boundaries of moral propriety. Catch-words like “relevance” and “contextualization” are not a valid justification for condoning coarse speech or morally-questionable behavior in order to identify with certain youth subcultures….”

“…an emphasis on personal holiness and moral separateness in the midst of secular culture is not legalistic. It’s biblical.

Over and over again the New Testament calls Christians to stand out as lights to the world. We don’t reach the darkness by becoming like the darkness; we reach the darkness by shining brighter and brighter in contrast to the darkness of the sinful world around us.”

-Nate Busenitz, Accommodation or Separation?,

http://thecripplegate.com/accommodation-or-separation/