Question: "What is conversion/reparative therapy, and is it biblical?"

Answer: Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is a blanket term used to describe various methods to “cure” people of homosexuality. In the past century, various psychiatrists, Christian and non-Christian, have proposed techniques for “converting” a homosexual into a heterosexual. In recent years, the psychiatric community has begun to strongly oppose conversion therapy, declaring it to be psychologically and emotionally harmful. Even some Christian groups that formerly advocated Bible-focused methods of conversion/reparative therapy have abandoned the efforts. Is conversion therapy biblical?

The Bible clearly declares homosexuality to be a sin (Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9) and that any sin can, with God’s help, be overcome (Romans 6:17–18; 1 Corinthians 6:11; James 4:7–8). However, the Bible does not give a specific methodology for overcoming any particular sin. There is no 5-step process for gaining victory over lying. There is no 11-step program for defeating an addiction to pornography or sexual immorality. There is no silver bullet. There is no magic potion. Sin, especially sexual sin, is multi-faceted, and behavior modification is not the solution. There must be heart change that can only come by the power of God.

So, conversion therapy cannot be said to be explicitly biblically based. What has been done to some homosexuals in the name of conversion therapy is absolutely unbiblical and even abusive. Electro-shock therapy, nausea-inducing drugs, exposure to heterosexual pornography—such things contradict what the Bible teaches about how to help someone overcome temptation. If a particular method of conversion therapy is devoid of biblical truth, it is nothing but junk psychology.

But a rejection of the specific methods used in conversion/reparative therapy is not the same thing as surrendering to the idea that homosexuality cannot be overcome. There are literally thousands of individuals who have achieved lasting victory over homosexual tendencies and temptations through faith in Jesus Christ. Far more important than testimonials is the biblical teaching that sin can be overcome. To say that faith in Jesus Christ, a commitment to obeying God’s Word, and a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit cannot produce victory over sin is an affront to the love and power of God. At the same time, the ultimate goal for the homosexual is not to become heterosexual. The goal is holiness and glorifying God in all that he or she does. Those surrendered to God will live by denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Christ (Matthew 16:24–26).

Sins, including homosexuality, can be overcome. Paul reminded the believers in Corinth that, before they received Christ, some of them were homosexuals, “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 Corinthians 6:11). Their homosexuality was a sin of the past, and they had abandoned that sin by the grace of God. Only when we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) can our sin natures be defeated. Only when we truly experience conversion to Christ can any true reparative process begin (Romans 12:1–2).