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« Strengthen the Basics in 2015 | Main | If God Could Save Him, God Could Save Anybody »

January 01, 2015


This challenge frustrates me quite a bit, because you're basically just responding to one of the weaker objections to your position. Furthermore, your approach raises a lot of questions. For example, given that some fluidity has been observed in some people's orientation (as you point out), how do we know that sexual orientation change efforts actually have an effect on this fluidity? Might some or even all of it happen anyway?

There's also the very practical question of what to do about everyone who does not experience orientation change, which you've admitted is a common thing. There are many people who haven't experienced orientation change after years or decades of trying. It's not very comforting to just tell them that other people have found what they've tried effective. Plus, there's the issue that people are defining "change" differently. Most people who are "former homosexuals" or have experienced "change in their orientation" admit to ongoing attraction to the same sex. This attraction may be weaker than it used to be, or they may have developed some level of attraction to the opposite sex, but they have rarely become "straight" the way people normally define "straight."

I don't think there's a way around the fact that the orientation change model is insufficient to address homosexuality from a Christian perspective, even if this particular attack isn't very good.

Once again, Alan totally bypasses the Biblical answer in this issue: the Gospel. Programs, "sexual orientation change efforts", etc., are all bunk! The ONLY right answer is the power of a changed life through repenting and believing in Christ!

Alan, you have GOT to come to grips with this: the only thing that should be coming out of your mouth should have to do with the Gospel, yet that is the one thing you consistently shy away from!

Ouch t - I think Alan's credentials are well established. On another note - I adopt a stance a friend more Godly than me takes. "It doesn't matter if you're born that way. Jesus said to change now. We're all sinners and we're called to repent." So the born that way, not born that way argument can be quashed at inception. We're all born sinners. Since Jesus said if we look at a woman to lust after her we've committed adultery it can be taken that sexual lust is sin and Jesus standard of purity is 100%. Repent from lust, period.


Nice try at moving the goal posts.

Alan was answering a very prevalent objection, and however weak it is, that convinces a lot of people.

His answer knocked it out of the park.

Perhaps, if you formulate your new objection succinctly and well, which you have not yet, Amy will set it up as another weekly challenge. She did that recently with one from a poster who called himself "The Great Suprendo". It wasn't even that well formulated.

WisdomLover -

To be clear, I'm a Christian with a traditional understanding of sexual ethics. I guess I'm just used to having this discussion with people who make better arguments than the simplistic one Alan replied to. I think that one of the reasons the traditional ethic has lost credibility is that it has too often been tied to a narrative of "orientation change." When that sort of change doesn't pan out for people (and it often doesn't pan out), people tend to give up on the traditional ethic altogether. I think that means we need to offer narratives about chastity that don't revolve around orientation change. This is one of the key ideas behind the "celibate gay Christian" movement.

My concern is just that Alan seems to be putting a lot of stock into an outcome that is not promised in Scripture, and that only seems to happen for a relatively small minority of people who pursue it. Even those who do experience orientation change usually end up in a state that fits the way the word "bisexual" is normally used, rather than the way the word "straight" is normally used.

The real objection is that people exist who aren't likely to experience change in orientation no matter what they do, and that the orientation change narrative has often denied this reality. The proper response is to start addressing the pastoral complexities that result from that, rather than basically arguing that these people need not be considered.

"these people need not be considered"

Nobody argued that.

The underlying difficulty is that, if it really is impossible for gay people to act otherwise, then what they do cannot be characterized as sin any more than breathing can. Alan argues, successfully, that it is not impossible.

Also, "celibate" is a sexual orientation as much as heterosexual is. Because all this talk of sexual orientations is just talk of sexual habits. One can get into the habit of celibacy (no pun on nuns). One can break a habit of homosexuality. To form the one habit requires the breaking of the other.

I suspect that celibacy is almost as difficult a habit to form as heterosexuality is for people who have the habit of homosexuality. It might even be more difficult to break the habit of homosexuality and form the habit of celibacy than it is to replace the habit of homosexuality with the habit of heterosexuality.

If so, everything you have to say against 'sexual orientation change therapy' would apply in spades to 'gay Christian celibacy'.

"I think Alan's credentials are well established."

You are quite right that his credentials are well established: in post after post on the topic of homosexuality, he consistently has established himself as unwilling to promote an unvarnished Gospel, opting instead time after time to argue for things like he does in this video, rather than simply sticking to the Biblical call to repent and trust in Christ.

For example, he attempts to defend what he terms "sexual orientation change efforts" and likens them to AA, etc.

However, the ONLY "sexual orientation change effort" prescribed by the Bible is "repent and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15). Further, when addressing issues such as raised in the original challenge, Alan never attempts to make a Biblical argument, addressing how passages such as 1 Jn. 3:6, "No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." might apply to situations such as these.

In other words, the Biblical reason someone might relapse into a life of homosexuality isn't because of some failure of some "sexual orientation change effort", but because they're unregenerate sinners who have not been born again, have not repented of their sin and, have not believed on Christ for salvation unto eternal life.

But we never get that from Alan; instead, it's a consistent pattern of failure to address things Biblically.

WisdonLover and t -

You are both using a nonstandard definition of "sexual orientation." Orientation doesn't refer to who a person has sex with or even lusts after. Rather, it is simply the pattern of who a person is sexually *attracted* to. This is why it's possible for a person to be both gay and celibate, for example. Now a given person's pattern of sexual sin has a lot to do with that person's underlying sexual orientation, but it's not one and the same. Asking a gay person not to lust after people of the same sex is not really any different than asking a straight person not to lust after people of the opposite sex, for example.

This is why the discussion of "sexual orientation change efforts" is relevant. The claim that some people make, either because they mean to make it or because they make it unintentionally by using the commonly-understood term "orientation," is that a person's underlying pattern of attraction can be changed. This does not happen for most people, either as the result of a sexual orientation change effort or as a result of trusting in Christ. However, other forms of sanctification - like overcoming a pattern of sexual behavior or learning to discipline one's thought life, for example - are the sort of thing that can be expected as a part of Christian growth into maturity.

This is also why the failure of sexual orientation change efforts in the majority of cases is not determinative for Christian sexual ethics. Rather than affirming gay sex, we can see gay attractions as similar to the attractions we may feel towards other people's spouses. The reality of these basic attractions is a given, but we still have choices about how we respond. There are some pastoral complexities created especially by the lack of attraction to the opposite sex that many experience, however, which creates a need for further discussion.

Habits are marked by the fact that one finds oneself attracted to what one is in the habit of doing.

I see no reason to think that homosexuality is any different. If you break that habit and replace it with another, say a habit of heterosexuality, you will find yourself attracted to whatever the object of that other habit is.

That requires a rather strained notion of a "habit." My attractions are bisexual, in that I find myself attracted to people of both sexes. I'm also a virgin, and I've never even used porn. Are you saying that I'm partaking of a sexual "habit?"

Also, I've known multiple gay people who have gotten into heterosexual marriages and found that their attractions didn't change, leading to divorce after a few years in several cases. So this doesn't work in the uncomplicated manner you suggest.


"Rather than affirming gay sex, we can see gay attractions as similar to the attractions we may feel towards other people's spouses. "

The thing here is that within opposite sex attraction there can be an appropriate fulfillment of that attraction within marriage, the same cannot be said of same sex attraction. Thus the difference between the two situations. I think this is a critical difference.

Louis Kuhelj - that's why I used the example of attraction to other people's spouses, rather than heterosexual attraction in general.

Our own imaginations are porn enough for us. We can form habits simply by entertaining these attractions and acting alone on them (if you take my meaning).

Habits, especially those we classify as addictions, are notoriously difficult to break once acquired. There is nothing uncomplicated about habits.

What exactly does he mean when he says revert back. If a person has uncovered his problems that supposedly cause him to have same-sex attractions and has overcome them, then supposedly he no longer has same-sex attractions and is therefore no longer a homosexual. He is heterosexual, meaning he is opposite-sex attracted and is not same-sex attracted. What does it mean then to revert back to homosexuality. Does it mean that the problems that he uncovered in therapy become covered again, and therefore his same-sex attractions come back again? This doesn't make sense what he is saying. We all know that alcoholics are alcoholics for life. What the alcoholic needs to do is learn to resist drinking. Similarly, if a person is only resisting acting on his same-sex attractions, he is by definition still a homosexual and not a heterosexual. If a heterosexual resists acting on his opposite-sex attractions, this does not make him a homosexual.

One more note. I listened to a video of Alan Shlemon where he said that the ex-gay movement is the worst enemy of the gay rights movement. It has the potential to destroy the gay rights movement by showing that gays CAN choose to be straight. The fact that Alan would even make such a video shows that his main goal is not helping gays change, its stopping the gay rights movement.

However it appears that the gay rights movement is coming close to 100% success in the United States and the ex-gay movement is in shambles as seen in the collapse of Exodus and the Love Won Out conferences of Focus on the Family.

I don't think there's a way around the fact that the orientation change model is insufficient to address homosexuality from a Christian perspective

Jeremy, I don't disagree with that. (And I don't think Alan would disagree with that, either.) The challenges are, by design, very narrow, and this one isn't meant to be a comprehensive response to homosexuality, but only to this narrow question that Alan often gets asked about.

WisdomLover - that analysis sounds reasonable in theory. However, I don't see how it is taught in Scripture, so it is in the class of things analyzed best by experience. It doesn't fit very nicely with my experience or that of numerous other people I know. I'll just say that if my pattern of lustful fantasies were the primary determinant of my attractions, my feelings would lean significantly more in the heterosexual direction than they actually do. And while I've seen the habits you mention affect the intensity of people's experience of attraction, I don't know that I've ever seen them affect which sex the attraction is most directed to. So I don't think the "habit" model is an adequate way to look at sexual attraction, even though habits play some role in parts of the experience.

There's also more to the experience of attraction than just wanting to have sex, and I think it's overly Freudian to reduce the whole thing to a desire to have sex. So I don't think the attraction I and other LGB people feel is driven entirely by sexual fantasy or behavior.

Amy - That's fair. I probably lashed out too much at Alan for what is really a problem with the whole state of discourse around homosexuality in our culture. Sorry for that, and thanks for the clarification about how the challenges work.

"This is why the discussion of "sexual orientation change efforts" is relevant.

Never said it wasn't relevant. What is irrelevant is man's attempt to substitute himself in the place of God's clear prescription for changing one's sexual orientation and living a life of sexual purity. Therapy, psychology, Alan's "sexual orientation change efforts", all amount to essentially the false gospel of "save yourself", and that's quite simply impossible.

Yet the true, saving, Gospel of "repent and believe" (the same message that Christ preached when He began His earthly ministry) which is only possible when a person has been regenerated unto newness of life, and is the only way a person can truly change their sexual orientation, is consistently absent from Alan's postings on this issue.

t - Why do you see change in sexual orientation, which is simply a pattern of attraction, as part of sanctification? Do you believe it's sinful to be attracted to someone you can't morally have sex with? Will a married man, when he repents and believes, lose attraction to all women other than his wife?

I would see learning not to lust, for example, as part of sanctification, but I see absolutely no biblical reason that we would expect to see a change in orientation itself. The only arguments I can see would also apply to things like the temptation to adultery just as much as the temptation to gay sex. So I believe that promising orientation change is making a promise that God has not made. This is a dangerous thing to do.

Do you believe it's sinful to be attracted to someone you can't morally have sex with?

Yes. The Bible is clear on this point.

So I believe that promising orientation change is making a promise that God has not made.

I'll simply link to Al Mohler's excellent, and far better, article found here. In it, he writes

This means that Christians cannot accept any argument that suggests that a fundamental reorientation of the believer’s desires in a way that increasingly pleases God and is increasingly obedient to Christ is impossible. To the contrary, we must argue that this process is exactly what the Christian life is to demonstrate. As Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

Pretty much sums it up.

Further, and to my original and legitimate beef with Alan, Al Mohler writes in his article exactly what is lacking in Alan's material:

Christians cannot avoid the debate over reparative therapy, nor can we enter the debate on secular terms. We must bring to this conversation everything we know from God’s Word about our sin and God’s provision for sinners in Christ. We will hold no hope for any sinner’s ability to change his or her own heart, and we will hold little hope for any secular therapy to offer more than marginal improvement in a sinner’s life.

At the same time, we gladly point all sinners to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. [Romans 10:13] We hold full confidence in the power of the Gospel and of the reign of Christ within the life of the believer. We know that something as deeply entrenched as a pattern of sexual attraction is not easily changed, but we know that with Christ all things are possible.

Let me just ask you the question you skipped, which I think is crucial: Will a married man, when he repents and believes, lose attraction to all women other than his wife?

If your answer to that is "no," and yet you believe that a loss of same-sex attraction is a necessary consequence of "repenting and believing," then your view is inconsistent and not actually Biblical. After all, Matthew 5:28 makes a similar point to Romans 1, but is talking about a heterosexual context.

Part of the problem with the discussion from the beginning is that Christians have now accepted the terminology of the culture on this issue.

"Sexual orientation", as used by the pro-homosexuality side MEANS that a person is born with these particular desires! It's a descriptive label of something that is assumed to be inborn and therefore unchangeable - just like the terms "Chinese" or "blue eyed".

Once you give in on the language, you're saying that you AGREE with this false claim.

There is ZERO evidence to prove that people are born with a homosexual "orientation" - any more than someone is born with an adulterous orientation or an alcoholic orientation.

As Christians, we have to start at the point where we point out the fact that we ALL are born with a SINFUL orientation! And that is where the tendency for any and all these sins comes in.

Agreeing with someone that they have a "homosexual orientation" is basically leaving them with the message that this is just who and what they ARE.

The Bible teaches no such thing! The glorious message of the gospel is that we CAN be changed, no matter what our particular sin struggle may be! It doesn't mean we will never struggle with a sin again. We will still have temptations. But we CAN experience true victory.

Let's stop telling people this lie that they are "oriented" this way. It's just not true. Think about it. Do we tell adulterers that they have this orientation? Do we tell those who steal or lie or who are violent that they have an "adulterous orientation" or "thief orientation" or "lying orientation" or "violent orientation"? Of course not. That would be silly.

It's just as silly here.

Mo -

Your claim about what the terminology of "sexual orientation" means is not in line with common usage. I had never heard of the term having such an implication, so I just Googled "sexual orientation" and looked at the results on the first page. Only two sources (Kids' Health and the Unitarian Universalist Association) could possibly be argued to define the term the way you argue, and even then it's not clear they're using that as part of the way they actually define the word. Several of the sources correctly point out that the causes of different orientations are not yet known, which is quite different than claiming that they are inborn.

Interestingly enough, we do have a lot of evidence that people are born with what might be termed an "adulterous orientation." Most men, at least, are attracted to more than one woman, even after getting married. However, this is just in the range of what people assume when you use the term "heterosexual orientation." As you say, we are all born with a sinful orientation that we must learn to resist.

I would put a continued homosexual, bisexual, or even heterosexual orientation in the category of "still having temptations," and I don't see how admitting they exist somehow denies the victory over sin we have in Christ. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that somehow having a homosexual orientation means that a person is more prone to sexual sin than most others.

Not to mention that sexual attraction is actually more than "wanting to have sex," and part of what people are talking about when they talk about their "sexual orientation" actually has more to do with a drive for friendship and other kinds of connection. This component of the person's orientation is not directed toward sin and is therefore sanctifiable and, unlike the part that constitutes temptation towards sexual sin, needs not be fought against. This is another key difference between it and something like "lying orientation" that is defined only in reference to sin.

Mo -

I should actually correct something I stated too simplistically in my most recent comment. There are a couple senses in which, due to the nature of the temptations they face, having a homosexual orientation could make a person more prone to sexual sin. If we're actually talking about a homosexual orientation (as opposed to a bisexual one), then the lack of a legitimate sexual outlet indeed makes things quite a bit more difficult. Even in the case of a bisexual orientation, there are also the difficulties that can be encountered in single-sex environments, especially places like locker rooms where visual temptations to lust are particularly poignant.

What I was really trying to get across, though, is that simply having that orientation doesn't mean that a person is necessarily sinning sexually in ways that others aren't. There are a variety of other situations that bring their own temptations, like how being wealthy results in an increased temptation to be self-sufficient rather than depending on God, and being poor results in an increased temptation to steal. Sexual orientation can be like that, but isn't itself quite the same as a moral category, as long as we're understanding involuntary sexual attraction to be a form of temptation rather than sin.

@ Jeremy Erickson

"Your claim about what the terminology of "sexual orientation" means is not in line with common usage. I had never heard of the term having such an implication"

Oh, come on. Homosexuals and their supporters are always claiming they are born that way. That't the entire foundation of their position!

"You seem to be under the mistaken impression that somehow having a homosexual orientation means that a person is more prone to sexual sin than most others."

How it angers me to have people making up things that I didn't say.

My main point was that I disagree with using the term "homosexual orientation" in the first place. Not only are you going to ignore that, but even claim this outright lie about me?

Sorry, I will not continue with you. Discussion is one thing. Completely making up things and claiming I said them is quite another.

(And of course you will hide behind the, "I never said/I only said "seem to be".)

You don't have to reply to me, but I may as well leave one more comment for the benefit of anyone who happens to be reading this conversation. I was intentional in saying "seem" in that sentence, since I wasn't so sure. As you say, you never actually said that, and going back and reading your comment, it does look like I probably went too far. Sorry about that, and I retract my claim there.

I didn't ignore your disagreement with the term. I pointed out that people weren't using *that particular term* in a way *that implied by definition* that people were born that way. I'm well aware that many people do make the "born that way" claim. However, as I pointed out, groups as liberal as Planned Parenthood (one of the results on the first Google search page for "sexual orientation") take pains to point out that the causes are unknown. So I maintain that the "born that way" claim and the term of "orientation" are separate concerns, and that you've incorrectly conflated them.

I'm totally fine using different terminology; we don't have to use the term of "orientation." However, the term of "orientation" was the term used at the start of this discussion, and I don't think there's anything wrong with using standard terminology in line with the way it is normally defined. I used that term in my reply to you in order to point out why I thought it had different implications than what I thought you interpreted it to have. If I've misunderstood you there, feel free to offer another correction.

Mo, there are several medical studies that thoroughly examine possible natural causes (rather than cultural and social causes – Foucault; the Queer Theory) for the development of homosexuality, e.g.
1 - Rice, Friberg & Gavrilets (2012): Homosexuality as a consequence of epigenetically canalized sexual development.
2 - Alan Sanders (2013 & ongoing?) ( study on the influence of Xq28 on sexual orientation (follow-up on Hamer 1993)
3 - Endocrine studies:

I am Christian and I like science. Science is not inventing new things. Science is the discovery of what was created. Any substantiated and reproducible scientific findings and any substantiated interpretation can never disprove the bible.

I like the answer Alan gave especially with regard to not confusing efficiency and feasability. Do I still have unanswered questions? Yes. What does ‘sexuality is fluid’ mean exactly in the author’s opinion? I also struggle with the presumption that homosexuality is “any other psychological condition or behavior”. It avoids the challenge of how to address someone who is convinced that homosexuality is purely biological, thus not changeable. From their point of view an ex-gay going back to being gay had only temporarily surrendered to outside pressure before becoming himself again.

Jeremy, Freud actually states that all people are bisexual and that an absent father during childhood contributes to the development of homosexuality in men. He opposed Ulrichs (1864 – “founding father” of the gay movement) and Hirschfeld, i.e. the theory of inborn homosexuality.
I do however agree with your defnition of sexual orientation and your views regarding the engagement in sexual sin, how diffuclut it is to change a pattern and that Jesus Christ is in fact the only way to change.

I don’t agree that homosexuality is a habit and that celibacy a form of sexual orientation. Celibacy is a choice of action (or here abstaining from an action) that doesn’t describe a person’s individual desires. Homosexuality, fornication, adultery, lust are sins, not habits. We are in the habit of sinning as we are human, but the sin itself is not the habit.

100% agree with Mo. Another point to add to Alan's; I think what is being left out of this conversation is what additional lie is being swallowed by the culture and what a danger it is. That lie is the movement, (I believe a law was just passed in New Jersey disallowing the practice), to make it illegal to provide "sexual reorientation therapy" to anyone! Let's get to the bottom of what this is - this is the proliferation by this insane culture to insist that immorality is a right, a good thing, natural and moral, and that it is of the highest offence to reject that. This whole premise is an outrage! That is why we have family centered epidemics around the world of broken families - fatherless children, porn addiction to the younger and younger, etc. This is the line in the sand, the frontline, and all the willy nillys give consent because they're asleep and don't know the cause they have by default given themselves allegiance to. The homosexual orientation is disastrous based on health dangers alone - and this government would say that a psychologist could not help a young, confused person to come to grips with whether they are a hetero or not!! SO DEMONIC. On another note - I disagree wholeheartedly with Leo that alcoholics are that way for life - study Louis Zamperini and a host of others, (including myself). I am not bound by my "disease" to attend AA for the rest of my life. I have the power of Christ delivered me from the spiritual slavery from my flesh. And Jeremy, you seem young, take it from a married Christian man - could I be "attracted" to a woman who isn't my wife? The question falls flat on so many levels to this Christian man - it can be demolished by so many things - I have so much to lose if I am not on guard against this threat to me and my family. I come from a broken family, I know I wouldnt wish that on my worst enemy. As a Christian be like Job and make a covenant with your eyes not to lust. We all are tempted - rush to Christ to be repented and remove all form of lust temptation to cutting off, throwing out, whatever it takes..

Josh -

It seems to me we're defining quite a few words differently, and you might be making some odd claims. For example, are you trying to claim that homosexuality leads to fatherless children? I'm guessing you just mean that sexual sin leads to fatherless children, as it is only heterosexual acts that have the power to create children in the first place. If you just mean that the sexual revolution broadly has been a disaster, then I agree with you. I don't want to see it continue to advance, though I do get frustrated when some (not all) Christians focus a disproportionate amount of attention on the homosexual side of things.

I'm not sure why you say that a homosexual orientation is "disastrous" in terms of health dangers, since the dangers are usually associated with specific behaviors. Sexual behavior is not a necessary consequence of a homosexual orientation. Perhaps you're understanding "orientation" to refer to more than what it is normally defined to mean.

I think I'm seeing a similar confusion with regards to the term "attracted." I see this as pretty much synonymous with temptation, and distinct from lust. I agree that we must be on guard against the threat of sin and to fight lust in all forms. However, the fact that you need to be "on guard" in the first place implies to me that you do feel "attracted" in the sense I meant, or you wouldn't have anything to worry about.

When I say that someone's orientation is not likely to change, I basically just mean that the person's temptations will not necessarily be transformed as a result of the freedom we have in Christ. Rather, freedom in Christ provides the power to choose, through the power of Christ, to avoid indulging in sin. Just as this doesn't make straight temptation disappear in this life, I don't see any reason to believe it will make gay temptation disappear.

Does that at least clarify things?

@ Josh Reynolds

"That lie is the movement, (I believe a law was just passed in New Jersey disallowing the practice), to make it illegal to provide "sexual reorientation therapy" to anyone!"

I'd heard vaguely about these types of laws, but I had not followed up on it much. So counselors are now being put in a position where they cannot help people in this area, even if the person wants that type of help. Wow.

"Let's get to the bottom of what this is - this is the proliferation by this insane culture to insist that immorality is a right, a good thing, natural and moral, and that it is of the highest offence to reject that. This whole premise is an outrage!"

I couldn't agree more. But even Christians often don't seem to notice that we are having a war waged against us in this area.

"The homosexual orientation is disastrous based on health dangers alone"

Absolutely right. Many times in discussions on this issue I've posted the health risks inherent within homosexual behavior. The information is always ignored/dismissed. Always.

"I am not bound by my "disease" to attend AA for the rest of my life. I have the power of Christ delivered me from the spiritual slavery from my flesh."

Amen! "Such WERE some of you", but NOW...


Doctors are allowed to mutilate men and women who are sexually confused so that they can pretend that they are something they are not.

Nooo Problemo!

But try to talk someone into changing a habit?

This. Cannot. Be. Borne.

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