NARTH recently put out a press release concerning a new journal they’ve published:
New Scientific Research Refutes Unsubstantiated Claims Regarding Homosexuality
Encino, CA- A new report in this month’s edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Human Sexuality finds that sexual orientation is not immutable and that psychological care for individuals with unwanted homosexual attractions is beneficial and poses no significant risk of harm. The study, What Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to the American Psychological Associations Claims on Homosexuality, examines over 100 years of professional and scientific literature as well as over 600 reports from clinicians, researchers, and former clients principally published in professional and peer-reviewed journals.
This research, assembled over a period of eighteen months by three of the leading academics and therapists in the field and under the direction of the NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee directly refutes unsubstantiated claims made by some factions of the American Psychological Association and several other professional mental health organizations. The study, conducted by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a network of professionals dedicated to upholding the rights of men and women dealing with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care, confirms the results of a 2007 longitudinal study conducted by researchers Stanton L. Jones and Mark Yarhouse that found that religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm on average.
“This research is a significant milestone when it comes to the scientific debate over the issue of homosexuality,” said NARTH president Dr. Julie Hamilton. “It also confirms what we have seen evidenced in hundreds of individuals who have benefited from the help of NARTH therapists. We believe that every person should have the right to independently determine their own course in life and for many that involves seeking counseling options that affirm their personal beliefs.”
In addition to What Research Shows, a collection of peer-reviewed scholarly and professional papers entitled Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Sexual Identity Confusion in Children and Adolescents, will be published in Volume II of the Journal of Human Sexuality.
Requests for copies or for a more detailed summary of the inaugural issue of the journal should be addressed to: Journal of Human Sexuality • 307 West 200 South, Suite 3001 • Salt Lake City, UT 84101. The journal can also be ordered by phone at 1-888-364-4744 or online at www.narth.com. A PDF summary of the journal may be downloaded at www.narth.com.
Rather than putting out information regarding new studies, this is an anlaysis of “over 100 years of professional and scientific literature as well as over 600 reports from clinicians, researchers, and former clients principally published in professional and peer-reviewed journals.” This should prove to be a great resource in the ongoing public debate over homosexuality, reparative therapy, and “ex-gay” or “post-gay” ministries.
In response, New York Times columnist Frank Rich provided an editorial entitled “The Bigots’ Last Hoorah” declaring “the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.” Here’s a snippet:
Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.”
Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.
What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.
While it is hard to take Mr. Rich seriously when he describes a video such as Gathering Storm as “idiotic” (is childish name-calling now an acceptable form of journalism at the New York Times?), his declaration of the video’s “symbolic significance” bears consideration. Are we at a “historic turning point” in the fight over the redefinition of marriage? Are we who do not want to radically redefine marriage now “depopulated and isolated” (not to mention “brain-dead”)?
In some ways, it does seem that the tide is turning in favor of the gay activists, who it seems will not rest in their battle to gain societal sanctioning of their lifestyles. Even bans on same-sex marriage and gubernatorial vetoes are no longer enough to stop the redefinition of marriage in some states. Clearly, something more is needed, and the persistent pounding of the GLBT drum on this issue may in the end be enough to simply wear out the opposition’s drive to even care about the issue. As Kirk and Madsen put it in 1989’s After the Ball: “The main thing is to talk about gayness until the issue becomes thoroughly tiresome.” Will the silent majority of Americans who do not want to redefine marriage, as well as those Rich so callously (and inaccurately) describes as “homophobic activis[ts]” in the “anti-gay movement,” be able to withstand this continued onslaught?
Good arguments and interesting videos, while needed, will be insufficient in this battle. The fight will continue on the legal and political fronts, as well it should, but the problems go deeper than law, and they transcend politics. In the end, we are in need of nothing less than divine visitation, resulting in changed hearts and lives. Rich may be overstating his case with his proclamations of the “anti-gay movement[‘s]” death, but his assessment of societal trends are not without merit. God is our only hope… He would not have it any other way.
Holiness is beautiful; legalism is binding; holiness brings life; legalism brings death. They are as different as night and day, and yet at first glance, they can seem similar, because they both stand against sinful behavior and call for holy living. How can we distinguish between the two? Let me first present some thoughts on holiness before defining legalism and its dangers.
According to Samuel Logan Brengle, holiness is “pure love.” According to Samuel Lucas, “The essence of true holiness consists in conformity to the nature and will of God.” Stated another way, holiness is becoming like Jesus in thought, word, and deed, in heart, mind, and conduct. Holiness is something beautiful and wonderful!
God is holy, and so His very being reflects the perfection of righteousness and goodness and purity and wholesomeness and compassion and mercy and justice. As expressed by Ralph Finlayson, “The sum of all God’s attributes, the outshining of all that God is, is holiness” – and we are called to emulate that holiness. As is it written in 1 Pet 1:15 (quoting Lev 19:2), “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
To be holy is to be separated from sin and to be separated to God, which means to be separated from that which is bad and destructive and evil and unclean and polluting and to be separated to that which is like the Lord. Sin is spiritual poison; holiness is spiritual health. As William Jenkyn explained, “There is nothing destroyed by sanctification but that which would destroy us.” In short, everything holy is good; nothing unholy is good. Everything unholy is bad; nothing holy is bad.
And yet there’s more: Holiness is our goal, our destiny, our portion. It expresses the very essence of the nature and character of God and describes the highest level of spirituality attainable by man. Listen to the testimony of the Word:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the congregation [or, church] and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant congregation [or, church], without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph 5:25-27).
That’s why Joseph Caryl could say, “Perfect holiness is the aim of the saints on earth, and it is the reward of the saints in heaven.” Or, as expressed by John Whitlock, “. . . the Christian’s . . . way is holiness, his end happiness.” Oswald Chambers understood this too, stating that “God has one destined end for mankind – holiness! His one aim is the production of saints. God is not an eternal blessing-machine for men. He did not come to save men out of pity. He came to save men because He had created them to be holy.”
William Gurnall was therefore entirely right when he wrote, “Say not that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.” (You might want to stop for a moment and read that again. What a godly challenge!)
Why then do many believers resist holiness? One major reason is that many of them have been hurt by legalism, and so they immediately associate holiness with legalism.
What then is legalism? Legalism is rules without relationship, emphasizing standards more than the Savior and laws more than love. It is a system based on fear and characterized by joyless judgmentalism, producing futility instead of freedom.
To an unsaved person the legalist preaches justification by works, saying, “You’re a wicked sinner and you need to get rid of all your filthy habits if you want the Lord to accept you.” There is no grace in this message, no exalting of the life-changing, sin-cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, no clear proclamation of mercy.
The declaration of God’s love expressed through the cross is muffled – if it is even heard at all. Consequently, the proof of the new birth is seen almost entirely in what someone no longer does, and this continues to be the pattern for believers within the church: They are judged almost entirely by a few external standards (which, in many cases, are not even expressly mentioned in the Word) and they are monitored by conformity to the particular group’s code of conduct. And the result is external conformity rather than inward transformation – and that means either self-righteousness of self-condemnation (or both!).
Of course, it is absolutely true that God has very high standards, and for anyone honestly reading the Word, there can be no doubt that He calls us to live by very high standards – in our thoughts, words, and deeds; in our attitudes; in our sexuality; in our families; in our relationships; and much, much more. Passages like this are common in the New Testament:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:1-6).
Tragically, legalists, despite their best intentions, get things tragically wrong. First, they try to change a person from the outside in (whereas God deals with us from the inside out); second, they fail to present a balanced picture of the Lord, putting too little stress on His mercy and too much emphasis on His wrath; third, they do not point the struggling sinner (or believer) to the Lord’s supernatural empowerment, making holiness a matter of human effort alone; and fourth, they add laws, standards, commandments, customs, and traditions that are not found in the Word, making those things even more important than the biblical commandments themselves.
In contrast, true, scriptural holiness begins with the heart and flows from an encounter with God and His Word. It calls for repentance in response to the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation and it offers a way to be holy – the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of God. Biblical holiness is free, although it requires discipline and perseverance. For the legalist, nothing is free. Everything must be earned! That’s why legalism leads to bondage and holiness leads to liberty.
As Ralph Cudworth explained many years ago, “I do not mean by holiness the mere performance of outward duties of religion, coldly acted over, as a task; not our habitual prayings, hearings, fastings, multiplied one upon another (though these be all good, as subservient to a higher end); but I mean an inward soul and principle of divine life (Romans 8:1-5), that spiriteth all these.”
It is that inward spiritual principle that must be cultivated, the principle of intimacy with Jesus, the principle of being renewed in our minds by His Word and Spirit, the principle of being conformed to His image and character, hating what He hates and loving what He loves. As Dr. Kent Hughes expressed in his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, “There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline. Legalism says, ‘I will do this thing to gain merit with God,’ while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.’ Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered.”
To quote Oswald Chambers again, “A bird flies persistently and easily because the air is its domain and its world. A legal Christian is one who is trying to live in a rarer world than is natural to him. Our Lord said, ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,’ i.e., free from the inside, born from above, lifted into another world where there is no strenuous effort to live in a world not natural to us, but where we can soar continually higher and higher because we are in the natural domain of spiritual life.”
Unfortunately, the moment you preach biblical holiness, many Christians put their hands over their ears and say, “That’s legalism! That’s condemnation! That’s manmade religion! That’s the dead letter of the law! You won’t put me in bondage! I won’t listen to stuff like that!” As Robert Brimstead observed, “The idea of living strictly by what the Bible says has been branded as legalism.”
And so, these Christians run from the dangerous clutches of legalism and fall into the deadly grasp of license, that self-deceived state of fleshly liberty, catering to their carnality rather than crucifying it. What a terrible error!
Whatever comes naturally to these “liberated” believers is accepted as normal (and “understood,” of course, by the Lord), while biblical commandments are brought down to the level of their own experience, and anything that brings any kind of spiritual pressure to bear on them is rejected as not being the easy yoke and light burden of Jesus. And when the Holy Spirit brings conviction on people like this, they rebuke the devil for trying to condemn them – ultimately at the expense of their own souls.
To quote Oswald Chambers yet again, “The only liberty a saint has is the liberty not to use his liberty. . . . Liberty means ability not to violate the law; license means personal insistence on doing what I like. . . . To be free from the law means that I am the living law of God, there is no independence of God in my make-up. License is rebellion against all law. If my heart does not become the centre of Divine love, it may become the center of diabolical license.”
What then is the antidote? Flee from legalism, stay far away from license, and run to holiness; reject humanly birthed, external religion, give no place to false teaching that excuses carnality, and instead embrace new covenant, heart transformation — and in the power of the Spirit, supernaturally enabled by God’s grace, deal ruthlessly with sin in your life. That is the path to freedom!
Sin is so utterly awful that only the blood of Jesus could pay for it (1 Pet 1:16-19). We dare not trivialize sin in our lives.
In closing, let me bathe you with the truth of God’s liberating Word. (Yes, I know that this has been a long article, but I think you’ll agree that the subject is quite important – really, the difference between life and death.) Listen to the Word of the Lord!
“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God” (Rom 6:12-13, NLT).
“Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (Rom 13:13-14, NLT).
“Because we have these promises [of being sons and daughters of God], dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” (2 Cor 7:1, NLT).
“For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. . . . God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thes 4:2, 7-8, NLT).
“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Ps 24:3-5, ESV).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt 5:29-30, ESV)
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14, ESV).
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21, ESV).
What a wonderful Savior!
For more information on holiness and legalism, see Dr. Brown’s mp3 series Go and Sin No More, available at the AskDrBrown Online Bookstore by clicking here.
As I ponder this new year and all the changes that it will bring, I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead for the Church at large. There is no doubt as we look around that people are hungry for something real. Modern day music lyrics strain with the weight of a cry for change, and truth, and something to ease the pain or fear that living in this world can bring. Television reality shows flood the media industry: everyone is looking to remodel something, as though changing a house, or wardrobe, or image can bring about the necessary relief from the struggle to find some form of happiness.
In the midst of it all, the Church is on the brink of a destiny waiting to be fulfilled. Looking back through history, in Moses’ day when the magicians in Pharoah’s court appeared to be able to copy Moses’ signs up to a point and then had to admit defeat, or when Elijah was able to call down fire on Mount Carmel after the prophets of Baal tried and failed to imitate the miracle, or when Queen Esther was able to go before the king and save the people of Israel from destruction at Haman’s hand (who pretended to love the king until he was exposed), God is trying, again, to raise up people who can stand in the gap to bring freedom and change. With uncertainty in the economy; a collapse in the foundation of families (and the attempt of certain groups to undermine the very definition of covenant marriages); the rise in teen-age suicide, and violent crimes, and drug trafficking, there has never been a greater need for hope.
As I look around at the Church, today, I see two things taking place. One, there is a shift in some towards works and superficiality…a vain attempt to control through one’s own efforts the changes taking place in the world. There is a shift, as in the world, to be THE deliverer…the one that rescues the “poor, down-trodden from the changes taking place.” The problem with this is that no one person can carry the destiny that was meant for a Church to fulfill (by Church, I mean that group of people world-wide who were meant to know Jesus intimately and reflect His heart to a frustrated, hurting world in a way that no other religion or man-made organization can carry out…a Body of people that can only fulfill this destiny as Christ, as the Head, gives them strength and strategy).
At the same time, there is a people rising up who are willing to humble themselves and lose everything to see the world the way Christ sees. They are willing to walk as Jesus walked…to die to their very reputations and be humiliated if needs-be to have just one opportunity to show the world the love of Christ. They are not superstars or fast-talkers with a misguided attempt to carry out strategies of their own design or steps for change: rather, they are willing to wait, and live out their daily lives in submission to Christ seeing daily the fruit that comes from letting His love shine through. In the midst of the darkness, they don’t curse, or grow angry, or bitter, or manipulative, or proud, but they shine a light that slowly burns and cannot be extinguished. They are a remant…a world-wide family that recognizes one another by the heart of Christ that glows on the inside. God is opening a door for them that cannot be shut…an open heaven where they daily seek His Presence and walk and talk with Him, and they, in turn, open the door to their hearts. May we be part of this remnant…may we let God make of 2009 a year that will mark a difference in our hearts through a courage in knowing, as we follow Him, that He is with us, and that, in the darkness, He will forever be our light.
With fall in the air, gas prices on the rise, and elections in the news, change is prevalent in everyone’s minds and hearts.Things that once seemed certain are no longer a constant reality: from the sporadic availability of gasoline to the faith that leaders will maintain their integrity and not shift with the changing political tides.From mudslinging in political campaigns to attention being brought to sin in certain leaders’ lives in various large ministries, confusion and feelings of betrayal can seem to outweigh feelings of hope and consistency.An inability to buy gas or even, at times, to pay for food, housing, and continued education can raise the question: “Is there anything that is dependable in this day and age?”Desktop computers are thrown out and traded in for smaller, faster laptops; cell phones and iPods are traded in for iPhones and Skype, and jobs, friends, cities, and even spouses and children are tossed out, at times, in the quest for something better.Still, in the trading of one thing for another, an emptiness remains, and the restless search continues for something to hold onto as the world around us spins breathlessly into change beyond our control.
It is clear that there is a shaking—a shifting going on—and a call to press into a new season or be left behind paralyzed by our fears.It seems that, world-wide, things are shaking, and in the shaking, God is asking us to answer the biggest question of our lives: “Who do we say that He is?” If we say He is good, we will trust Him no matter what things look like around us. If we say He is able, we will rest knowing that He will deliver us, and come through for us, and provide for us no matter what our hearts or circumstances say.
Years and years ago, Jesus faced His disciples and asked them that same question.Have you ever wondered why He did that?Why was it so important that they knew at that moment who He was to them?He started by asking them who others say that He is. They answered that some said He was John the Baptist; some said He was Elijah.In other words, in the world around them, the people were ready to accept Jesus as a Voice that could speak into their lives sometimes, or a great Prophet who could perform miracles at their request.But Jesus needed His disciples to go one step further than that.He wanted them to know Him as the Son of God: the only One greater than any need and who cares for them in the midst of any circumstance.Why? Because everything around the disciples was shifting and shaking, and because Jesus Himself was about to move in a way that they had never seen.The world was asking for a sign, and crying out for God to come in a way of their own design, but Jesus was asking His disciples to believe in Him and trust in Him, and to know Him so their own identities would be secured.
Have you ever tried to receive directions when you are in a strange place—perhaps, out of town at a friend’s, or visiting another country calling from the hotel lobby, or having just moved into a new home where you are learning your way around? You call up information for the number and then dial up the place you wish to visit, or perhaps, you look up Mapquest on Internet Explorer and type in the desired location. You will quickly realize your task is impossible if you do not know your starting point. You can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where you are coming from. Quickly, you’ll look around for someone—anyone—who can tell you where you’re at so you can then find out where you need to go. It is the same with knowing who we are.We can’t know who we are and where we’re going (what our purpose is in life) until we first find a starting point. For that reason, Jesus gave His disciples their starting location. He spoke comfort to them in the midst of a changing world: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going…” He finished by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”Why did Jesus say all of these things?He was reminding the disciples of who He’d called them to be: His. He came as the Son of God and secured our hope; He made a way back to the Father’s heart, and He BECAME for us THE Way; THE Truth; THE Life. Now, in knowing Him, we will not be troubled when trouble comes. We will know that He is for us and that He will continue to give us life—long after this life is over—if we trust in Him. As a result, we aren’t afraid when changes come.Jesus as the Truth becomes greater than any lie: “You’re not going to make it. This is hopeless. There’s no way out,” becomes instead, “He cannot lie. He is good.He will not leave. I am His. If I trust Him, and know Him, and put my life in His hands, and know Him as my Lord—the One over every area of my life—I know that I’m okay. My identity is sure.No one can take away my worth or steal my future. He will be there through each season.”
Once Peter spoke up and called Jesus Lord, Jesus answered that, “Upon this rock,” He would, “build [His] Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mat 16:18).Knowing Jesus as He is gives us a confidence that no power of hell can shake. In naming Him Lord, we name ourselves as “His”, and we can know that He takes care of His sheep. He will never desert us.Once we see Him as THE Way; THE Truth; THE Life, we see who we are in Him and nothing can shake us from that place of standing firm…not even when all the world changes around us.We can let Him move in our lives and remove what we once held so tightly to, because we’ll know that we can trust Him.He is God, and He is able, and He is good.