STANTON L. JONESStanton L. Jones is chair of the Department of Psychology, Wheaton College, and a licensed clinical psychologist. An expanded and fully referenced version of this essay, coauthored with Don Workman, will appear in The Journal of Psychology and Theology later this summer.

It has happened more than once—a friend has said casually, “Of course, the church’s historic stance on homosexuality is totally outmoded in light of what we now know about it.”

Neither the Christian tradition nor the Scriptures can be responsibly interpreted as approving of homosexual behavior. But many argue that recent scientific understandings put the church in a “new hermeneutical situation” where its traditional stance must be altered. But what are these new scientific understandings? As a psychologist, I would like to address what the behavioral and social sciences have to say to the church on three key questions: Is homosexuality a psychopathological condition? Is homosexual orientation caused by factors beyond a person’s voluntary control? Is change to heterosexuality possible for the homosexual?

Is Homosexuality Pathological?

Homosexuality was removed from the approved list of pathological psychiatric conditions by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1974. Many take this to mean that homosexuality is no longer considered a psychopathology, a “mental illness.” But knowledge of the history and context of the APA’s action suggests that this simple answer will not work. The vote occurred at a time of tremendous social upheaval, at unprecedented speed, and under conditions of explicit threats from the gay-rights movement to disrupt APA conventions and research. While the deletion of homosexuality from the professionally authoritative ...

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