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My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here's why we focus on homosexuality
The author writes that it's fine for Christians to take certain biblical condemnations seriously while ignoring others.
May 21st, 2012
10:00 AM ET

My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here's why we focus on homosexuality

Editor's Note: R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

By R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN

Are conservative Christians hypocritical and selective when it comes to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality? With all that the Bible condemns, why the focus on gay sex and same-sex marriage?

Given the heated nature of our current debates, it’s a question conservative Christians have learned to expect. “Look,” we are told, “the Bible condemns eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and any number of other things. Why do you ignore those things and insist that the Bible must be obeyed when it comes to sex?”

On its face, it’s a fair question. But it can be posed in two very different ways.

First, the question can be asked to suggest that the Bible’s clear condemnation of sexual sins can simply be set aside. The other way of posing the question represents a genuine attempt to understand how the Bible is to be rightly applied to life today.

In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer.

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An honest consideration of the Bible reveals that most of the biblical laws people point to in asking this question, such as laws against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabrics, are part of the holiness code assigned to Israel in the Old Testament. That code was to set Israel, God’s covenant people, apart from all other nations on everything from morality to diet.

As the Book of Acts makes clear, Christians are not obligated to follow this holiness code. This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”

In other words, there is no kosher code for Christians. Christians are not concerned with eating kosher foods and avoiding all others. That part of the law is no longer binding, and Christians can enjoy shrimp and pork with no injury to conscience.

The Bible’s commands on sexual behavior, on the other hand, are continued in the New Testament. When it comes to homosexuality, the Bible’s teaching is consistent, pervasive, uniform and set within a larger context of law and Gospel.

My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage

The Old Testament clearly condemns male homosexuality along with adultery, bestiality, incest and any sex outside the covenant of marriage. The New Testament does not lessen this concern but amplifies it.

The New Testament condemns both male and female homosexual behavior. The Apostle Paul, for example, points specifically to homosexuality as evidence of human sinfulness. His point is not merely that homosexuals are sinners but that all humanity has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The New Testament condemns a full range of sexual sins, and homosexuality is specified among these sins. In Romans, Paul refers to homosexuality in terms of “dishonorable passions,” “contrary to nature” and “shameless.” As New Testament scholar Robert Gagnon has stated, the Bible’s indictment “encompasses every and any form of homosexual behavior.”

Your Take: Rethinking the Bible on homosexuality?

Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction.

The Old Testament did allow for polygamy, though it normalizes heterosexual monogamy. In the New Testament, Jesus made clear that marriage was always meant to be one man and one woman.

“Have you not read that He who created them made them male and female?” Jesus asked in Matthew. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” For this reason, Christians have opposed polygamy on biblical grounds.

Why are Christians so concerned with homosexuality? In the first place, that question is answered by the simple fact that it is the most pressing moral question of our times. Christians must be concerned about adultery, pornography, injustice, dishonesty and everything the Bible names as sin. But when my phone rings with a call from a reporter these days, the question I am asked is never adultery or pornography. It is about homosexuality.

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Christians who are seriously committed to the authority of the Bible have no choice but to affirm all that the Bible teaches, including its condemnation of homosexuality. At the same time, our confidence is that God condemns those things that will bring his human creatures harm and commands those things that will lead to true human happiness and flourishing.

In other words, we understand that the Bible condemns all forms of sin because our Creator knows what is best for us. The Bible names sins specifically so that each of us will recognize our own sinfulness and look to Christ for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins.

Christian love requires that we believe and teach what the Bible teaches and that we do so with both strong conviction and humble hearts. The Church must repent of our failures in both of these tasks, but we must not be silent where the Bible speaks.

Are Christians hypocrites in insisting that homosexual behavior is sin? We, too, are sinners, and hypocrisy and inconsistency are perpetual dangers.

The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective.

At the same time, this painful failure must remind us that we must not fail to answer rightly when asked what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. Love requires us to tell the truth.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler Jr.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Gay marriage • Opinion

soundoff (7,995 Responses)
  1. GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

    Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a bud who's a deejay, and about 12 years ago, he was working at a gentleman's club and was about two days from turning in his notice because the manager told him he could only play Trance/Techno music at 120 BPM. One day, the owner finally walks in, asks my friend what he's playing, then goes into the manager's office. After a while, the owner fires the manager, walks over to my bud, and tells him he can play anything except country, (c)rap, or hip-hop.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

      Oh, sh!t! Sorry! Disregard! My bad! Strike my last! Wrong window, that was meant for Facebook.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Brian

      You are awesome, lol.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • pepper

      Brian what trailor park did you escape out of??

      June 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Webster

      pepper,

      Maybe the same "trailor" park where you learned to misspell "trailer"!

      June 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

      Dang, Webster, that's funny, I don't care who y'are! 😀

      June 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  2. GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

    If anybody sees this in time, if you log onto http://www.kfiam640.com every Sunday morning from 6a-9a Pacific, 9a-12p Eastern, you can hear The Jesus Christ Show. It's on KFI-AM, and the host says he's Jesus Christ. (The show's on for another 15 minutes.)

    June 3, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Star Spangled

      We'll pass.......there is nothing you have said that would cause any of us to regard your taste in radio

      June 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bet

      @ Starspangled

      Speak for yourself. I'm totally interested in a radio preacher who says he's Jesus.

      June 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

      @Star Spangled: I only mentioned it for those inclined to listen to it. Only in Los Angeles...
      @Bet: The guy hosting the show is Neil Saavedra, KFI's marketing director. He's been doing the show for about 13-14 years.

      June 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  3. Doy Harris

    Thank God for minds and followers like R. Albert Mohler Jr. and all God's obedient children for we shall see his face one day. The the rest of you (post responsers) I pray for as you have not seen a bad day yet on earth before I pray your soul is delivered from the pitts of hell. Some of you are so sad in your thinking, I pray God opens your ears, eyes and give you insightful gifts. (Holy Spirit ) Sounds like life has been rough for you and I pray Jesus finds his way in your hearts and minds.

    June 3, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • sam stone

      Why wait, Doy? Leave now, and avoid the rush

      June 3, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

      There's only one "t" in "pits."

      June 3, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  4. Cary Hartline

    My Unicorn God says that any man named "R. Albert Mohler Jr." shall be put to death. If you do not allow me to make this law then you are going against my freedom of religion.

    June 3, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Evangelical

      Your unicorn god is a false god. You'd better examine your heart and re-evaluate your faith.

      June 3, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • Dorothy

      @evangelical – what makes his god and more false than your god?

      June 3, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • sam stone

      dorothy: you got to understand the folks like evangelical are god's spokespersons. at least they think they are. makes them feel all powerful. evangelical here is a BIGOT. he or she is dreaming of eternity on their knees in front of jesus. interpret that any way you wish

      June 3, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • WWFSMD

      Repent, Cary Hartline. Until you accept the Truth and follow the one True Way, you are just following false gods. Open your eyes, find the Flying Spaghetti Monster and be touched by His Noodley Appendage. Ramen.

      June 3, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Peanut

      Sam thinks he is the Pied Piper for CNN....His opinion against the church makes him feel powerful. All of the comments from him express how Christians think and feel with alot of insults and name calling – Total arrogance Sam. You do not know the first thing about any of us.....how we think or feel. If you were a fortune teller you would be broke

      June 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Bet

      @ Peanut

      I don't know sam, and can't speak for him, but I was a good, faithful, studious, bible-banging christian for more than 50 years. It's true, many christians think that they are god's personal mouthpiece and the poster who calls himself evangelical is typical of that type of christian.

      June 3, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

      @ sam stone: Evangelical's not only looking to spend eternity kneeling in front of Jesus, but also in front of Sarah Palin's cro.tch.
      Ummmmm...smells like caribou!

      June 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      peanut: all i know about evangelical comes from his/hers/its own posts. i do not ascribe that feeling to all christians.

      June 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Bet

      The best part is that evangelical apparently thinks Cary Hartline was serious.

      June 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      That moron doesn't know the meaning of the word "think".

      June 3, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  5. Klaus Daimler

    Let shellfish be shellfish for a moment, how do you self-proclaimed defenders of Christianity so easily forget some of the more CENTRAL tenets of faith, such as love and generous grace? Moehler et al., your faith is as hollow as that of the pharisees as long as you smile, talk about love, but really only preach the Gospel the GOP has sanctioned – capitalism, military power etc. What would Jesus think of your selective reading of the scriptures that you invoke with every breath?

    June 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • A Pastor's Kid

      Christians are called to love others, but it is rooted within our beliefs that the bane of humanity ever since Adam and Eve fell is sin. Christians MUST remind others that they have sinned, and that acknowledging that fact, and that Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose again three days later and ascended to Heaven. Agreeing with others and loving them is not enough, a real life scenario is a lazy child who refuses to work and study. Would his mother "love" him by allowing him to waste his life away like that? Or would she reprimand him and prod at him to work and study, even if it causes clashes and tension? That same way Christians love others, but they know of the dire situations in which others are precariously in if they do not share the Gospel and tell them of their sins.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Dorothy

      Unfortunately Pastor's Kid, you are making one fatal error. You are assuming that you and Rev. Muhler actually know the mind of God. That puts you in the same category as the dude in NC that thinks he knows what God want us to do with gays.....the Pope who think he knows what God want us to do about contraception......Phelps who thinks he knows what God want us to do about service men who have died for our country.....and the snake handler in another CNN article who was pretty sure that God wanted him to play with snakes. The Bible does not condemn ho mo se x uality any more than it condemns equal rights for women, interracial marriage and desegregation. Can I use the Bible to condemn or justify those things.....of course.....but it doesn't make it right. You make the analogy of loving parents and how they protect their children. It is a good analogy, because indeed if children were going to hurt themselves, a parent would intervene. On the other hand, it is a fine line between assuming our children are going to hurt themselves and just wanting them to live their lives the way WE want them to irregardless of whether or not the decisions are truly harmful or not. We have empirical data that shows us that hom o s ex uality is not harmful or detrimental unless the person is tormented by society over it. Please do not assume that you know the mind of God......I would hope that God would want his children to be in loving, nurturing relationships with that special person that He has put in their lives.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • WCCT

      @A Pastor's Kid

      If sin has been the bane of humanity since Adam & Eve, what's the point in trying to stop it now?

      June 3, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • JWT

      @Pastor's Kid – the fundamental point is that your view of god is a personal one, shared by others but essentially personal. Only you may sin in your gods eyes – others do not sin since they have a different view of god, or view a different god or no god at all. Your god does not set the rules for other than his believers.

      June 3, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Susan W

      Klaus what a stupid, self centered comment? Do you have ANY idea how many millions of christians are feeding the poor and running orphanages in Africa and abroad? We need some government stats on this wall – so a whole bunch of you can get your facts straight. For every ignorant bigoted christian – there are 5000 working in the field caring for others!! Get your facts straight!!!!

      June 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  6. A Pastor's Kid

    I'm very happy to have read an article on a secular worldwide website that expresses similar opinions to my own. Thank you Reverend Muhler 🙂

    June 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Jessica

      Keep in mind that less than 50 percent of the nation agrees with you.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Doy Harris

      I am so gladffor this article, this pastor has his future on the right path. Whether we do like the bible says or not, remember those that have a understanding and do not obey will suffer greatly. I am so glad that you and the good pastor understand and have an ear to hear and understand.....peace be with you both.

      June 3, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • sam stone

      doy: you paint a picture of a vituperative angry punk. if that is how you want to see god, have at it

      June 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      sam nails it. You idiots think you need a nanny to keep you in line. Those of us who don't believe in your nanny don't nned such a goatherd to make us behave well toward others.

      June 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  7. Evangelical

    I wish CNN would require registration on this board so that it couldn't be spammed like this.

    June 2, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I wish you were unable to type.

      June 2, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

      @Tom: LO-f*#kin'-L!
      That was one he.lluva spambot.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Evangelical

      I post a neutral comment and for that I'm personally attacked? What a small, bitter man you are Tom. I hope the Lord touches your heart before it is too late. You have shown the whole world your character for what it is.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You've never made a "neutral comment" in your life, Eva. And I'm not a man.

      Get off that cross; we need the wood.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • pita7763

      @Evangelical

      So your response to feeling personally attacked is to personally attack Tom, Tom?!? Yeah, that's a much more Christian/Evangelical approach than something say like "turning the other cheek" would have been. Before hoping for Abba to touch Tom, Tom's heart before it is too late you might want to first ask Him to touch yours...before it is too late. You really didn't end that post with "You have shown the whole world your character for what it is." did you?!? Thank you so much for providing such a perfect example of the word IRONIC! Now I'm the one LO-f*#kin'-L!!

      June 3, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • Peanut

      Even if they could just edit people like Tom Tom and Sam that would be awesome

      June 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Pita,

      I am constantly being attacked by Tom. He has called me all sorts of names and hurles all sorts of insults at me, and I have looked the other way. But when I make a neutral comment and get attacked ... well, I've reached my limit. I am only human after all.

      June 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bet

      @ evangelical

      You are such a liar. You've done more than your share of name calling, in addition to telling everyone how to think, speak and act. "I've looked the other way." What a laugh, you lying hypocrite. You called tom tom names in the very post you reference.

      I know that in your original post you were referring to the spammer who hacked CNN's message boards, and not those of us who have been debating you for days. I agree with you; hackers are an unfortunate reality online. But please, don't pretend that you haven't done as much name calling as everyone else.

      June 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • GALACTICA-CMDR. AIR GROUP

      Then if Tom's a female, her atti.tude is giving me "wood!"

      June 3, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Evatard: it's "hurls". And you deserve every single epithet I can think of.

      June 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      OH, and poor little Peanus. What a shame you are forced to read my posts. It is so sad that you have no choice in the matter.

      Oh, wait. Yes, you do. You can leave or you can scroll. Tough toenails if you don't have the wits to do either, you poor little lamebrain.

      June 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  8. Ed Wood

    I'd suggest it's because you're latent.

    June 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
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    June 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.