Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
As we ponder this topic, it is important that we have a brief overview of the biblical teaching. Please bear in mind, this is brief. Much more could be said and needs to be said. But that is for another time.
God created with order and design. Numerous times after creating, God pronounced His creation was “good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 18, 21, 25). God’s pronouncement over all of His creation upon completion was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The highlight of God’s creation was man and woman, male and female, those beings alone who were created in His image, and who were to “be fruitful and multiply,” and this “very good” gift from God was seen to be a blessing from God (Gen. 1:26-28). It is also important to note that God who is good and the One who determines good is also the One who determines what is “not good.” In the midst of all the pronouncements of what is “good” and “very good,” we read of God’s pronouncement of what was “not good,” which was that Adam was alone (Gen. 2:18, 20). God’s ordered design and remedy for Adam’s aloneness was a woman, a female who would be a helper.
This created order and design for men and women, which was/is very good, became disordered and distorted by the entrance of sin into the world, theologically known as the fall (Gen. 3). This sin now manifests in various ways in the sexual realm: incest, adultery, sex-trafficking, pornography, cohabitation, fornication, same-sex sexual relationships, etc.
The good news of the gospel is that which has been and continues to be disordered and distorted by sin can be restored. Paul writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
When we address sexual sin, we must remember the broader biblical perspective. We still live in a fallen world. For those not restored to God through Christ, they remain in that fallen state. For those who have been restored through Christ, believers, it must be remembered that we live in a fallen, redeemed, but not yet glorified state. This helps us both to understand these issues and how we engage pastorally.
This is why I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read that California has made it illegal for any “mental health provider” to offer to minors any reparative therapy for homosexuality, defined as “sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex” which is broad and problematic. Ultimately this law denies the disorder and the distortion of the fall, and it removes any help and hope held out in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Erik Eckholm, “California Is First State to Ban Gay ‘Cure’ for Minors,” The New York Times (September 30, 2012)
California has become the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to “overcome” homosexuality, a step hailed by gay rights groups across the country that say the therapies have caused dangerous emotional harm to gay and lesbian teenagers.
“This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement on Saturday after he signed the bill into law. “These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”
The law, which is to take effect on Jan. 1, states that no “mental health provider” shall provide minors with therapy intended to change their sexual orientation, including efforts to “change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
To this decision by Governor Brown, John Stonestreet responds in his Breakpoint commentary (October 3, 2012), “More than Our Feelings: California Bans Reparative Therapy.”
First, what if the minor wants to change, as many do? Doesn’t this violate the supposed liberal cardinal tenet of “choice”? And it’s a troubling precedent to nail an identity on an entire segment of the population with the stroke of a pen.
Second, the law claims scientific consensus when there is none. Gov. Brown said the law would consign reparative therapies “to the dustbin of quackery,” banning “non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide.” But the governor failed to note the high rates of depression and suicide among active homosexuals with or without therapy.
Folks, what we have here is ideology disguised as science. We’re telling young people who may want to change that they should live a lifestyle that statistics say is a dangerous one. And then we’re telling their parents and counselors that if they help them escape that lifestyle, they are breaking the law. That is not loving.
But most importantly, this California law codifies into law an awful tendency in our culture to deify feelings. To be “true to yourself,” we’re told, we must obey feelings, because that’s who we are.
This is what happens when there is no standard for what is "good" outside of ourselves—no created order, no divine design. Fallen creatures are left to themselves to think that their fallen condition is the way things are supposed to be. How sad.