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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. FireBreathingElk

    Even if we accept everything in this article as sound arguments...why should the Bible's 'laws' apply to anyone who isn't a Christian? Why should they apply to governmental laws, when there's supposed to be a separation of Church and State?

    Nobody is going to force YOU to get married to someone of the opposite gender, Christians. Stop trying to force everyone else to follow your beliefs. How would you like it if the religious majority in the U.S. was Jewish and tried to outlaw eating pork for everybody else?

    May 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Ask Santorum. He, and the far right GOP want to blur that line. What they don't realize is that, by doing so, they open the door for ANY religion that can come to power and alter our laws to suit their Popes, Pastors, Imams, Satanists, whatever.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • whatajoke

      the attack on marriage DOES, in fact, affect everybody, christian or not, because we all will live in a society, and one of the main supports of society is marriage and family. If you undermine the foundations of society, it will crumble. Just look at Norway. Studies show that the marriage rate is down since they legalized SSM.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Joey

      The Christians would crap themselves.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  2. BamaDaniel

    @booty me and my girlfriend going to have an African wedding

    May 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sweet! all cultures have beauty to offer.

      on a pseudo-side note, my fiance is a gorgeous african american woman.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  3. Observer

    NO ONE believes every word of the Bible. They just pick and choose. That's how Christians can pick on gays while igoring the Golden Rule and ignoring that there are far more Christian adulterers than there are gays.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      well said.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Raven76

    For the bible tells me so...as long as I interpret it the way I wish to live my life. In this case, full of judgement and condemnation.

    Le vi tic us 18:22 "Kai meta ar_senos ou koim_EthEsE koi_tEn guna_ikos."
    Or the literal translation “And next man do not lie with in beds of woman”.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Raven76

      For those unfamiliar with that line, that's the most cited reference to anti-gay rhetoric in the bible. But if you read it exactly, you have to twist it a lot. Similar lines are similarly wrought with untranslatable words.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • whatajoke

      Anybody who knows Greek knows that if you transliterate word for word, it won't make any sense in English. What's the point??

      May 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Bryan

    This Mohler guy has a creepy smile...

    May 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Joey

      Don't most preachers have a creepy smile? After all, imagine the bill of goods they are trying to sell. Many years ago there was a man and a woman created by some invisible creature no one has ever seen. And, because things got dull in his world, he allowed one of his invisible workers to materialize in the form of a snake and talk to the woman convincing her to eat the poison fruit. Afterwards, the man is so dumb that he eats it too and they die. Then, this same invisible creature causes another woman to become pregnant with his child who is later born as a human, grows up, and dies a horrible death because this invisible creature loves mankind. Makes no sense at all.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  6. BamaDaniel

    @booty wat up boyee.I've seen the light booty .Civil rights for all.PS. dinos in the bible(unicorns)

    May 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      goooooooooooooood morning, BamaDaniel. wait... are you joking? you now support g.ay marriage?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Jack

      So I guess radiometric dating is BS too.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Jack – no...they account for that in fidgeting with god days vs. millennia. More fun christian math!

      May 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      unicorns, satyrs, dragons, c.ockatrice in the bible - koo koo!

      May 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  7. scoobypoo

    This is so sad. People allowing themselves to be led by fairy tales written thousands of years ago.
    What an ignorant pack of lemmings.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  8. Bootyfunk

    hilarious article. the guy basically says when it comes to the bible and h.omos.exuality, you can't pick and choose - but then he picks and chooses on slavery. the bible VERY clearly supports slavery, OT + NT. jesus himself tells slaves to obey their masters if they want any chance of getting into heaven.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  9. Pamela

    He forgot the most important sin, gluttony is a sin, the sin of being over weight and obese. Completely missed that one.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Drew

      I bet most of his congregation is guilty of that sin

      May 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Joey

      There are a lot of fat southern Baptists. It comes from so much fried chicken.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  10. joewaianae

    Look…. Some of you will chastise me for what I am about to say, and others will agree in full…. Either way, this is what I truly feel. This BOOK… the Bible…. I can’t stand behind its findings….. WHERE ARE THE FACTS……. Every time I turn around there is something contradicting the other… its full of crap, why we even feel the need to live our lives to the standards of a BOOK… I find it uneasy to absorb. I have been all over this planet, I have seen all sorts of religious beliefs, are you telling me this BOOK, is correct and all the other religions of the world are wrong?????? I say once again, IT’S A JOKE…… I could write a book on this… (sounds like a plan actually) but I will end it at that, and await the onslaught of yay/nay Sayers.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Topher

      What contradiction are you talking about?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      there are endless contradictions. there are 2 accounts of genesis - they don't match. there are also 2 genealogies of david leading to jesus that also don't match.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • joewaianae

      The whole OLD / NEW ..... its as if I can rewrite it to conform to the way that I NEED it to be, or the way I WANT, it to be, that whold thing is full of it.......

      May 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • joewaianae

      thanks bootyfunk....

      May 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Reasonably

      How is this news? Did you just wake up to this?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • whatajoke

      joe, it has never been proven that the Bible contains even a single contradiction. Here's a book a recommend to you, if you are open minded: http://www.amazon.com/New-International-Encyclopedia-Bible-Difficulties/dp/0310241464/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337625039&sr=1-1
      If you are closed-minded and don't want to be confused by the facts, then just ignore this.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      apparently it's news to christians...

      May 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Topher

      Bootyfunk
      The geneaologies don't match because they aren't the same ones. One is Mary's line back to David. The other is Joseph's line. So of course they don't match.

      Got anything else?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Joey

      It's been used for years to scare the crap out of people. Until America said no, the Bible was used by the Catholic church to justify the murders of thousands. Now, Christians of all manner justify murder and every other horrible action by using the Bible. Just imagine, in World War Two, catholic boys went to Europe to kill other Catholics. The other brands of Christianity do the same thing. They make converts in other nations then war with them. And look at the amount of these so called conservatives that come out when they can't hide their gayness anymore. It seems that the man who rails against gay people is the man who later turns out to be gay. Can't help but wonder about this guy. Wonder if this "pastor:" is really gay?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • joewaianae

      I am open minded, so you want me to buy a book that explains the book in question???? lol.... that too is a joke within itself lol....... LOOK.... i am not trying to push anything on anyone, as you seem to be, I am not really in the whole article about gays and such, i am just saying the BOOK... is just that..... ITS A BOOK, with no FACTS to support it. I should go buy Harry Potter BOOKS and call that gospel.... I am saying is there are NO PROOF OF FACTS TO JUSTIFY IT...... You show me another book and ask me to have an open mind????? (just sayin of course)

      May 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • DB

      @ joewaianae

      I don’t want to chastise you, I want challenge you a bit. First, I would ask, by what standards do you live your life? If not a book or religion, then what? Second, You mentioned other religions; don’t they have books by which they live their lives? Do you feel the same way about those books? I wonder what it is about the Bible that draws so much of your ire? Third, since you mentioned those other religions, consider the overall breadth and witness of the Bible: The Bible is not one book but sixty-six, not penned by one writer but several, and over the course of centuries. And yet, there is one single narrative flowing throughout: that of a loving God doing everything in his power to redeem his beloved humankind. Try as you might, you you won’t find a contradiction for THAT.

      @Bootyfunk

      You claim that the Bible has “endless contradictions” but that’s a bit of a hyperbole, don’t you think? And, in fact there are plenty of scholarly resources that discuss and explain these apparent contradictions, such as the resource that whatajoke has suggested. But, what I find fascinating about the Bible is that it does not try to hide these apparent contradictions. I mean, it’s not like you’ve stumbled on to anything that theologians haven’t dealt with. What I find interesting is that the Bible doesn’t try to hide its apparent contradictions. You think nobody noticed two creation accounts or two genealogies? Why wouldn’t the powers that were have removed those parts? Two reasons, I think: 1. They aren’t actually contradictions and 2. Even if they are, they don’t invalidate the central claims of the Bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • joewaianae

      @DB
      I most certainly do question their books as well….. You ask by what standards I live my life? Well I would have to answer that with “happiness within the laws that have been put fourth upon to me” and maybe… just maybe influenced by this book. I am not trying to be a hypocrite by any means, I just question the factual validation of this BOOK. One can’t control the influence of his upbringing, yet here I am an Engineer in this world and there are only FACTS that can be relevant to exact measurements, and exact locations, exact numbers, exact answers…. You get what I am saying??? This BOOK, has no validation to support it, other than people like yourself saying so. I am not mad at the BOOK… not at all. I just keep questioning its truth is all…. It is a better story than most I will give it that, but we have no means to justify it, like I said earlier other than people like you saying so…..

      May 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  11. Aroz

    Yes indeed, select what you will to support your bigotry. So very Christian of you.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  12. Bootyfunk

    marriage is a legal device, not a religious one.
    get married in a church with church approval but without a gov't issued marriage license = not legally married
    get married in a courthouse without church approval but with a gov't issued marriage license = legally married

    you can add ritual and ceremony to a marriage, but it's not necessary. marriage is a legally binding contract between two people.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  13. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Fun fact: Nancy Reagan was Ronald Reagan's second wife.
    Ronald Reagan was the only president to have had a divorce! And the Bible clearly condems that too!

    May 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Observer

      It also objects to when he took the virginity of a young actress.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Topher

      So what you're saying is Reagan was a sinner?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Dutch

      Outside of adultry, it does condemn that. I'm sure other presidents have sinned before.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Wow

      The Bible doesn't condemn divorce. Not even close. You can be granted a divorce if there is adultery.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  14. n8263

    According to Jesus the Abrahamic laws must still be followed. What should take precedence? Peter's dream Rev Mohler references, or Christ's actual words?

    Matthew 5:17

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

    To this day under Christian Sharia Law you are not to eat pork and shrimp, wear blended fabric, and must murder your disobedient children, non-virgin brides and adulterers.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Reasonably

      And remember that divorced women that re-marry are adulterers whereas men who divorce and re-marry are not.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Read it again: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

      Jesus fulfilled the law of the prophets (mainly regarding his arrival as the Messiah) and everything was accomplished. Remember what Jesus said on the cross? "It is finished." That was the reconcilliation of man and God. Jesus himself said "It is not what goes into a man, but what comes out of a man." That was declaring all food clean. He abolished the laws regarding eating kosher.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  15. Reasonably

    Pick and choose the word of god to suit the current socio-political environment. The bible tells me to!

    May 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  16. paganguy

    Here is an article that says nothing.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. Obvious Guy

    My bible says Christians can't get married. Sorry everyone.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  18. Steve O

    I put this article into Google translator from "Christian Apologist" to "English" and it spit out the following:
    "Gays make me feel icky"

    May 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Drew

      hahaha very good

      May 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  19. JEM

    It is no accident that evangelicals have more enemies than they can keep track of yet the Amish are hated by no-one.
    Evangelicals are always quick to vote to have their views and beliefs imposed upon society by the violent mechanisms of the nations justice system.
    The Amish and Quakers tend to leave others alone and in peace.

    This issue of "GAY MARRIAGE" is among other things a way for evangelicals have the state persecute those they do not like.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Drew

      evangelicalism could only emerge in a country as stupid and backwards as the US

      May 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • BamaDaniel

      Christianity was forced upon the world at the end of the Catholic sword.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Michael

      @BamaDaniel, and England exported Protestantism to North America where instead of forcibly converting the locals at sword-point they killed them with muskets and disease.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • whatajoke

      The Bible teaches that true followers of Jesus will be hated by the world.

      "Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake." Luke 6:22

      May 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Joey

      Amen. No pun intended.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  20. JTC

    All mr mohler is concerned about is discriminating against an entire segement of the human population. He backs this up with a a book of fairy tales that not everyone believes. They religious cires and screams still abouit the downfall of our military after the repeal of DADT. Has anyone noticed anything change about how our military does its job? NO ANd there will be no change in our society when the LGBT community is allowed the same rights afforded me and my wife, equality in our society.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
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