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My wife and I have both embarked on a journey of healing with God in recent years. We are grateful to Him for the gentle mercy and kindness He has chosen to shower our lives with during this time. Nevertheless, we have found that the path to wholeness can occasionaly be arduous and harrowing. God’s healing touch requires that we acknowledge and face the darkness in our souls, whatever its nature may be. This is no easy task, because wounded people are very adept at running from their own darkness, at covering it with every manner of “medication” in a feeble (and sinful) attempt to deaden the gnawing pain that festers deep within. Owning up to the the fact that we’ve coddled and hidden from our darkness has been a struggle at times, but neither of us would trade this season we are in for anything. We have come to know God as our loving Father in ways that we had never dreamed. A corresponding freedom comes with this knowledge. When we obediently face the freezing, stinking shroud that smothers the inner life and view it through God’s eyes, we open ourselves to the innate subversiveness of His light and freedom. They invade and conquer inner darkness like the small amount of leaven that works all the way through a lump of dough.

As leaders in the church, our own experiences with inner-healing have sensitized us to the rampant brokenness that exists among Christians. We are often wont to probe the writings and methodologies of those who are learned and seasoned in healing ministry in order to augment our own ministry “tool belts.” Aware of this, a friend of ours gave us a copy of Leanne Payne’s The Broken Image, which details the power of healing prayer to undo woundedness and usher God’s redeeming power into damaged souls–particularly in relation to the emotional and spiritual pathologies that contribute to homosexuality. In fact, Ms. Payne’s counseling experience has led her to the conclusion that, as disorders of the mind and heart go, homosexuality is surprisingly simple to deal with.

Now, before I proceed, I wish to make a disclaimer. I can tell from Ms. Payne’s book that she is among the kindliest of souls, and her passion for ministering wholeness and freedom to others certainly resonates with me. Her success in ministering to practitioners of homosexuality is impressive, heartwarming, and faith-building. I do not, however, agree with her healing methodology in toto. Ms. Payne does not hesitate to employ visualization with her patients, which I view as dangerously subjective in healing ministry situations. Ms. Payne knows full well that anyone working through woundedness encounters profound difficulty in objectively apprehending the truth about their own condition and how God views it. For this reason, I believe it is much safer and healthier to facilitate an environment where God is free to initiate the impartation of objective information–whether it conveys a sense of His love and acceptance or the reason why a victim suffered abuse–by His Spirit. Our relationship with God is necessarily an admixture of His objective activity in our lives and our subjective experience of it. There is far less room for error if we completely trust Him to be the proactive one in a healing ministry context.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the point of this post.

Out of curiosity, I recently went to to see what other readers had to say about Ms. Payne’s book, and found the following propaganda review:

As a licensed psychotherapist it is disturbing to see that “christian” writers must attempt to vilify homosexuality in the name of “love.” Bigotry and lack of scientific evidence wrapped in the Bible is still bigotry. What all believers in “reparative therapy” (disavowed by the APA and the overwhelming majority of mental health professionals) cannot grasp is that behavior does not equal identity. Certainly heterosexuality is not defined only by it’s erotic states. This “old shoe” theory of a maladaptive relationship with the father simply doesn’t hold water in scientific studies. Also of note, is the “relapse” of the notable names in reparative therapy, (John Paulk among others.) Mainstream mental health professionals (heathens to the likes of Ms. Payne) believe that anyone can temporarily change sexual behavior, bisexuals for example. But behavior change does not equal identity change. Promoting that it does, is the big lie of christian counseling. (…)Payne and her ilk, (dispite growing evidence to the contrary) refuse to even consider the possibility that God created homosexuals. This does not fit into the evangelical rigid black and white thinking. Sadly, the clients I see have been tortured by this “Christian love”, and are seeking a real path to heightened self-esteem through acceptance of themselves exactly as they are.

Well, my goodness!

Having read Ms. Payne’s book through at least twice, I can say with certainty that this reviewer grievously mischaracterizes her positions. For example, the reviewer accuses Ms. Payne of relying on the “‘old shoe’ theory of a maladaptive relationship with the father” to explain the occurrence of homosexuality. This is hopelessly reductionistic. An objective reader would tell you that her explication of causal factors eventuating in same-sex attraction, while including maladaptive relationships with parents, is far more nuanced and complex. My hunch is that the reviewer proceeded from his own prejudice against Christian notions of “reparative therapy” without giving Ms. Payne’s book a fair reading.

The reviewer also made one general assertion about Christians that I want to address in some detail:

What all believers in “reparative therapy” … cannot grasp is that behavior does not equal identity. Certainly heterosexuality is not defined only by it’s [sic] erotic states.

First of all, the reviewer is dead wrong about Christianity’s failure to draw a bifurcation between behavior and identity. The very notion of salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8)–a core tenet of Christian belief and practice–necessitates that behavior and identity (i.e., the personal aspect of an individual regarded as a persisting entity) remain distinct from one another. If it were true that we are what we do, then our deeds would define us. One who performs good deeds would be able to make a claim upon God for favor and salvation: “I am a doer of good, therefore I am good.” The Bible, however, teaches us that (1) we are, by virtue of the universal fall of humanity, evil by nature; (2) as a result, even the good deeds we do are like filthy rags; (3) the pandemic of inner human wickedness, while perhaps masked at best by our good deeds, always belies them before God. Our good deeds can never sponge away the unresolved rebellion against God that every one of us is guilty of. Moreover, our evil deeds are merely consistent with the evil nature that precedes them. We are not what we do. The reverse is true: we do what we are, whether our nature is good or evil. This is the truth behind Philippians 2:12-13:

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

For those who are new creations in Christ, the identity is indissolubly bound up with that of Jesus Himself. The challenge is to be in deed what God has made us in nature: righteous.

This means that homosexuality is merely one of many symptoms stemming from unredeemed, human sinfulness. That is not the end of the story, however, because God does not leave us to wallow in our wretched estate. The message of Christianity is that our unredeemed nature is not God’s ideal for us. We were originally made in His image and likeness, and His intent is to recover through Jesus Christ what our own sin and the sin of others have so marred and twisted. To the homosexual, Ms. Payne says, “Your broken, sinful self has eventuated in homosexual acts. Your true, liberated, and fulfilled self is to be found in Christ Jesus. Living in Him necessitates that you eschew–by His grace and power–that which is contrary to His nature. In uniting yourself with Him, He in turn works His righteousness and truth in you, so that you can work it out through what you do, think, and say.” Or, to put it another way, “You are currently doing what you are, but God wants to make you new so you can live differently.”

The reviewer I have cited above would no doubt dispute much of what I have said here. Nevertheless, his original comment is based on an erroneous understanding of Christianity. I suspect that he would still take issue with the notion that homosexuality is rooted ultimately in the sinfulness of humanity. On that count he is arguing not with me, but with thousands of years of inspired holy writ.


Rob Monti
aka The MonT-SteR