The Gospel Coalition

There are many difficult issues that arise in Christian ministry. Homosexuality is one of the toughest. It's difficult to be winsome and firm, loving without compromising when dealing with actual people who struggle with same-sex attraction.

Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a helpful article, "A Christian Psychology of and Response to Homosexuality," in which he offers a fresh perspective on difficult questions.

How will the church understand persons who struggle with SSA [same-sex attraction], and what should the hope and help that we offer look like?


What should you say to your friend or your son or your daughter if they come to you and say, "I think I'm gay"? How did their sexual compass get so offset?


Can they change, and if so, what type of change can be expected, even hoped for? How will you counsel and minister to them?


Williams engages with current psychological research while also writing with theological awareness and aiming to advise Christians on how to respond. His approach is realistic about life in a fallen world but still full of hope: "The gospel changes the most important things initially, and it changes everything eventually."

He closes his argument with four ways we can promote change in our churches and families for those who struggle with same-sex attraction:

First, the essential starting point is BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF, OTHERS, AND GOD.


In view of the mercy of God, it makes no sense to avoid, deny, or minimize SSA. I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of "coming out of the closet." Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships.


That which we keep to ourselves tends to fester and swell, and what is left is that painful knot of shame and guilt. The alternative to authenticity is not a pretty thing: loneliness, duplicity, secret sins, anxiety, self-hatred, and sometimes suicide.


It is here that the response of parents, peers, and church is so important. It is the responsibility of Christian families and communities to cultivate openness to the acknowledgment and confession of same-sex attraction. What can we do to move in this direction?


Read the other three points and his whole essay here or watch the lecture.

http://vimeo.com/30850212


Comments:

Harley. W

September 2, 2012 at 09:17 PM

@ Laura Thanks for posting such a clear, straightforward comment. I found it refreshing to read and I completely agree!

What if God never takes away my mood disorder? Is the idea that I am a Christian who struggles biologically with ongoing depression a "lie from the pit of hell"?

I had a feeling Trevor was referring to the secular notion that SSA is of a purely biological cause and nothing else. Of course, THIS we know of to be not true, as the Bible tells us the whole world has been corrupted in all areas (biologically, included) because of The Fall. So yea, I agree with you; the consequences of sin have touched everything, biologically too. That doesn't sound like a lie from hell.

I guess, if you'd like to think about it, it seems like one of Satan's cunning tricks is to have us constantly guessing and working out what the cause to all our problems are, trying to get us lost in the murky waters of our arguments and theories, while all the while the Ultimate Cause is separation from God. Biological, psychological, psychoanalytical, it all sounds fine to him as long as we don't hear the truth.

Timothy Mullet

January 21, 2012 at 01:57 PM

Evil desires come from an evil heart. We should repent not only of our evil actions, but of our evil desires. Scripture has much to say about putting off evil desires and putting on good desires. A person who struggles with stealing, should learn to work with his hands in order that he has something to give. In the process he will be renewing his mind, putting off the desire to take and putting on the desire to give, such that the desire to take will eventually be gone. Generous people do not struggle with wanting to steal, they love to give. The gospel gives great hope of change.

Sexual desire is a good gift of God that needs to directed towards a spouse in marriage. Praise the Lord for those who have been unable to sexually desire members of the opposite sex and choose abstinence. It is true though that the solution to evil desires is ultimately to learn to desire the good. This is very possible and a worthy goal.

Certainly there is wisdom in not entering a marriage where there is no sexual attraction, but I wouldn't discount what God can do.

We cannot reduce the Christian life to simply avoiding bad behaviors.

Andrew

January 20, 2012 at 09:28 AM

Yes, I just finished reading Yuan's book and really enjoyed it. As a young celibate gay Christian struggling to find my place in the church, I would also recommend Wesley Hill's excellent book *Washed and Waiting*. Best book I've ever read on the life of intentional celibacy for same-sex attracted Christians.

Brant

January 19, 2012 at 12:17 PM

I'm imagining a scenario where this group of commenters above arrives at the pearly gates and Jesus is there and he doesn't recognize any of you. "But Lord," you all clamor, "We were faithful followers of you our whole lives." And then Jesus says, "Oh, now I know why I don't recognize you. Because I was spending most of my time hanging out with all the people you guys were condemning and oppressing." And with that, Jesus goes off to his weekly coffee meeting with the LGBT club.

Laura

January 19, 2012 at 08:55 AM

Thanks for your response, Trevor! I really appreciate it. I think we have a great deal of agreement here.

But I completely disagree that the goal is attraction to the opposite sex. What do you do with SSA believers who work and pray for years that they will no longer experience same-sex attraction, but who continue to experience it? What I would say to them is what I would say to any believer who continues to struggle against sinful desires: keep fighting! And meanwhile, live a godly life of celibate service to God!

I don't understand why you believe that the idea of a person being born with a tendency to a particular sin is a lie from the pit of hell. If we are in fact born in sin, and if sin effects every part of this fallen world, why would genetics be exempt from that? A cousin of mine was born with the disease that eventually killed her -- that's evidence to me of sin's deadly influence on all of life from conception to death.

Depression, too, seems to have a genetic or inherited component; I struggle with it myself, as have several other family members. Can I not live a godly life as a person struggling with depression? Even if I live in holiness, even if I refuse to give in to despair, even if I trust God constantly? What if God never takes away my mood disorder? Is the idea that I am a Christian who struggles biologically with ongoing depression a "lie from the pit of hell"?

My concern is that your exhortations go beyond Scripture (being set free from sin, even forsaking sin, does not entail an absence of a desire to sin, not in this life, anyway), and that they can lead to despair in an SSA believer who continues to struggle against (and not act on) his or her same-sex desires. Sometimes I am tempted to give in to despair and its attendant self-indulgent narcissism, as though I'm the center of the universe. Is that temptation the same as sin? Is my depression itself sin, or can it just lead to sin? Can depression, addictive personality, or same-sex attraction not simply be a "thorn in the flesh" by which God is ultimately glorified as a believer overcomes sin and lives a holy life in spite of this difficult burden?

Redeem Christianity

January 19, 2012 at 07:29 AM

Incredible discussion on such a hard topic. I'm surprised that no one has argued the increasingly popular viewpoint that same-sex attraction was actually designed by God and is not a sin if it exists in a loving, monogamous relationship.

Trevor

January 19, 2012 at 07:12 AM

Laura-

Good morning and thank you for the questions. To address your first question, I would instruct a believer who is battling temptations and sin in the area of homosexual lust the same way as a believer fighting the temptation and sin of fear. I would instruct them in the reality of grace, and the truth of their identity in Christ. The gospel is the power of God, and many folks don't focus on all the aspects of salvation. A major benefit from grace is the new creation. Those who have the lies of homosexual sin along with anything else, need to be reminded of the truth so they can stand firm in it!

Before I was saved, I went to rehab for drugs and alcohol. I was heavily involved in the secular setting of AA meetings. They main theme attached to this demonic self-help group is that drunkenness is a disease called alcoholism. They try to make what God calls sin, into some medical disease that the person is victim to. This is a lie of Satan, and will not free anyone from the bondage of sin. Addiction is a secular word for depravity. To be addicted is to be bond. If you read Romans 5-8, you will see Paul's argument of the work of regeneration in the life of the saints. Being addicted to something is not the nature of the redeemed. We have been set free from the power of sin, and have become slaves to Christ!

The whole idea of not being able to consume alcohol is not biblical. I did not drink for around 7 years. After growing in my knowledge of God's word, and seeing the reality that I was not a alcoholic, and could control myself to the glory of God, I decided to have a beer. Since then I have enjoyed some tasty beers and red wine. I do not get drunk, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, can obey Christ in this area to his glory!

So yes, I would tell them that they died to sin, and have the Holy Spirit living within them. I would teach them the scriptures and dismiss the worldly thinking that is not true regarding their situation.

As far as the orientation goes, I would never tell them that they were wicked. The scripture teaches otherwise. Those who have been saved by grace through faith are no longer defined as wicked. Our orientation is pure and new in Christ. Holiness is the fruit of salvation for all who believe. To many Christians think, and are tought, that they still have the same nature as before conversion, but just need to work harder to not be like that. That is not biblical! Those in Christ has crucified the flesh with its passions and desires! We died with Christ, and have been raised by the Spirit! The lie that homosexuality is some biological orientation is from the pit of hell! God created men to be with woman, and for them to be what God created them to be. Their orientation is either male or female, and God's design for them is attraction to the opposite sex. We must address this sin and all sin with the word of God alone!!! Hope is only found in the truth of God's word. Those who think that their identity is homosexual are deceived. That is a lie and we must preach the truth that will set sinners free, and edify the church in areas of sin that war against our souls.

I say this with great love and passionate zeal. Take this to heart and dig deep into the scriptures to see the truth of God.

"But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness." Romans 6:17-18

Trevor Brents

Webutante

January 19, 2012 at 06:10 PM

Anyone here heard of Christopher Yuan or read his stunning book, 'From Out of a Far Country?' He's the real deal and to ignore what he says is Christian folly, in my opinion.

Reid

January 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM

I have read the PDF link above, and want to thank the authors and TGC for publishing this. There is some perspective on the development of SSA for men that I believe is worth mentioning in the comments of this article.

While Dr. Williams provides an excellent, concise overview of factors that may contribute to fragile masculine identity, there is not really much discussion about what is going on in the hearts and minds of young guys who are affected by the factors listed in the essay. What longings and searchings do these boys have, as a result of this fallen world, that can "shift" their sinful desires or attractions towards other men? I think Williams' statement on the "Exotic Becomes Erotic theory" is worth elaboration, and this idea is actually a result of some combination of other factors like family, peers, difficulties in forming male friendships, or abuse.

Even with equifinality or multi-causality, SSA strugglers generally experience the same trend of heart issues and desires around the puberty years. Non-believer and Christian guys alike can share this track of desires, accompanied and reinforced by their sin of lust and physically acting out.

Consider this: a certain kind of boy, whose personality and gender development needs more "sensitive" or deeper relationships with a father and fellow boys. He feels "different" and grows up - lacking in healthy gender development from family & formative friendships. His heart and flesh deeply long for the acceptance, affirmation, and affection from fatherly figures or his peers. Other boys and men seem like a mystery, and the heart issue creeps in of envy and idolatry of other guys (ones perceived as more masculine). This envy and desire for masculinity turns into exotic fantasy and eventually attraction towards guys he believes will make him feel masculine or complete. Deception can set in - where a guy can believes that he is not wrong (or not really struggling with homosexuality) or that he is not in need of a Savior who can change his heart. I believe you'll find this model of development to line up with all the related Scriptures that portray lust, idolatry, and homosexuality.

When you really talk with guys who struggle with this (I have talked with dozens, and this is similar to my story), their feelings and heart issues will be remarkably consistent - even among different types of guys dealing with homosexuality: ones who thought they were "born this way," guys who remember being attracted to girls early in their puberty, guys who claim to struggle with bi-sexuality, and even with guys who were confused by sexual activity or abuse during childhood.

I know I am not citing research in this description, but much of it is connected to works from Payne, Nicolosi, Joe Dallas, and a few other leading experts who have sought a biblical, Christian perspective on homosexuality. This is the position of Living Hope Ministries in Arlington, TX, which is the largest Christ-centered discipleship and support group for believers struggling with unwanted SSA. I would encourage you to check their website at www.livehope.org or contact the director, Ricky Chelette, at ricky@livehope.org. Thanks for reading, and Lord willing, I look forward to some more discussion.

Laura

January 18, 2012 at 09:09 PM

Ben, I praise God for your testimony of joyful celibacy! Let me just offer another perspective:

I've read testimonies from some SSA Christians who have never experienced sexual attraction for an opposite-sex person EXCEPT for their spouse -- a fact which they took as a gift of grace from the Lord. I share your distaste for the idea of SSA believers being guilt-tripped or pressured into marriage, as though that will "fix" them (in fact I find the idea disgusting and anti-gospel). But I think in some situations the Lord does provide an otherwise SSA believer with attraction for an opposite-sex spouse. Obviously, as in any other marriage where one or both spouses have complicated sexual pasts, lots of transparency and accountability would be needed, but, given those things -- attraction, transparency, and accountability -- I wouldn't rule out marriage even for an otherwise solely SSA Christian.

Laura

January 18, 2012 at 08:18 AM

Hi Trevor, can you explain a little more fully what you would say to a believer who struggles with same-sex attraction?

And, just to draw a parallel, what is your response to Christians still struggling with temptation to drunkenness, who cannot consume alcohol at all because of a former addiction? Would you tell them they're not actually alcoholics, that the root of their problem is personal sin, and that they have died to their sinful propensity to be addicted to alcohol? Would you tell them that their very orientation, so to speak, is wicked, even if they are living lives of absolute holiness with regard to alcoholic beverages?

I'm curious to know your replies. Thanks.

Trevor

January 18, 2012 at 07:18 AM

I want to say a few things regarding this topic. First, God is the focal point, and the answer for the sin of homosexuality. The world wants to make this sin something it's not, a "physiological" problem that denies God's word and rescue. It is clear from scripture that God created male and female with the intent and design for them to marry and be with each other.

Attraction was ONLY for the opposite sex, and it was good according to the LORD. The fundamental reason for homosexuality is sin. Homosexuality is sin. It is no different than rage, selfishness, greed, murder, lust, pride etc. To many people and even Christians, have put this sin into another category which cuts the truth of rescue away from the sinner. Those under the wrath of God having these thoughts and desires, need to flee to the gospel of Jesus Christ! As an unbeliever I started to have homosexual thoughts and desires come about, but God drew me to Himself for salvation. He redeemed me and took those sins away. Temptation still lurks its head at times, and the spiritual war of evil is at the door trying to lead me astray as a believer in the Lord Jesus. YET, I'm free from sin and the powers of darkness, and I'M a NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus!!! Lies may come my way on a variety of things to deceive me and get me off track. They WILL NOT have victory!

Anyone struggling with the lies of homosexuality need to either turn to Christ in saving faith, or cling to Christ in the reality of who they are in Christ as a new creation. Sin is no longer the elects identity. We died to sin! The lie of Satan that teaches homosexuality is how you are "wired" or "born with" is a lie! Those who come to Christ are freed from the disorder of sin, and will grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ! Don't get caught up in the worldly physiology/ philosophy that views and teaches things contrary to God's word! Stop using secular views to address biblical matters. The bible holds the truth for all things, and homosexuality is one of them.

If you're reading this and are a believer in the Lord, hold fast and know that NO temptation has seized you, and you will not be tempted beyond your ability to obey!!! You're not your own, and God has you secure in His mighty arms! You're NOT gay! That is sin, and you have died to sin. That is a lie to deceive you. That is NOT your identity, Christ is! Study the scriptures and know the truth!

I leave you with this passage from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, "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." Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Ben F.

January 18, 2012 at 03:30 AM

@Irene

You are most certainly right that our eyes, all Christian eyes & hearts, should be set on our Lord Jesus Christ in holy adoration and worship. He is the most worthy one.

But I do find it troubling even with present, even if its a lesser, emphasis on individuals with samesex attraction being to find a spouse. Not simply because there so many marriages that are ruined from samesex oriented individuals marrying opposite sex attracted individuals because the ssa thinks they can grow into heterosexuality yet find they never can foster the vast love that is due a spouse. They endup with a mockery of a marriage and often times causing huge emotional hangups and wounds for the osa individual. Or that when we often emphasize that a ssa individual should connect romantically with an osa individual, often times the ssa individual in the struggle begins to become more times not spiritually and sadly physically self destructive for their perceived failures. And if they do not get married but pushed/encouraged to get married, as often times emphasized most churches, the ssa individual normally endsup feeling or concluding they are worth less or they not fully a person or lack personhood.

Now speaking as a SSA celibate individual, the most important thing for us to do is to find our identity in Christ and live a life of celebrating God. Celibacy is a valid choice, and I dare say its not a calling but a choice, made available for everyone. Its a wonderful life! A life focused on celebrating God is indeed marvelous. But I'll hush before I'll make my post to long to read.

paul

January 17, 2012 at 10:53 AM

I appreciate the tone and candor of what Williams is saying...
another great resource is Mark Yarhouse who curiously enough is at Regent Seminary.
thanks.

Irene

January 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM

I think it is worth saying that the desired result of ministering to homosexuals isn't just to have them (men) now attracted to women. To point them from one lust to another is just as damning and we have to be careful that we don't make it feel and look like wanting women is the desired result. The true desired result should be for that person to have all affections set on Christ and to be fleeing from any sexual and other immorality. To then pursue either godly marriage or single life would be for that person to decide with counsel, but by all means let Christ be the centerpoint, not the idea of now being "straight".

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