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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. Golmer

    The bigoted concepts in the bible should only apply to those people silly enough to subject themselves to its teachings.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • cyberhackster

      Bingo - Let the "Gays" follow the Old Testament....

      May 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Observer

      cyberhackster,

      Do you mean they should kill all the Christians who work on the Sabbath? Do you have something against major league baseball and professsional football?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Hugo

      I disagree (with what you said, which likely isn't what you meant; perhaps you should work on that).

      I think the prohibition against murder should apply to non Christians as well. I'd like an explaination of how being against murder is somehow bigoted. (I have more but I hope I made my point.)

      May 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Oh Really

    38,000 sects of christianity with 38,000 different bible interpretations. All of them think their interpretation of the bible is the correct one. Many of them believe the other 38,000 that don't have it right are going to hell.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • J

      And you made up some number, great! Glad your adding to the debate in a constructive way!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Oh Really

      Didn't make it up. Did a quick google search and saw that was around the number reported on many christian and non christian sites.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  3. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    Once again, it doesn't matter what the Bible says about gays. Marriage is legal contract with the state. Therefore religion has no part in whether or not it is valid. Separation of church and state and all that jazz. You can't give me one good reason, without using the Bible, why gays shouldn't be allowed to marry.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  4. independent

    How is it that Daniel Helminiak and R. Albert Mohler see the Bible so differently? Why not publish an interview held with the two of them, point by point.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  5. ChristopherM

    Rationalize it all you want, Mohler, that still doesn't give you the right to codify your religious beliefs into civil law.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • jake

      Did he? I think he just said it was a sin. and I am guessing when you ask his opinion he will tell you why

      May 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Observer

      jake,

      Yes, people using the Bible to pick on abortion don't know what they are talking about.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  6. Observer

    Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    "Actually the Bible sort of mentions something along the lines of abortion in the Old Testament. There is a law about if a man were to injure a woman so that the unborn baby died, he would be punished with death."

    Nope. If he kills the baby, the punishment is a FINE paid to the FATHER, not the mother who suffered.

    So much for abortion according to the Bible.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • jake

      and the whole.. thou shall not murder. which is against the law too. Oh by the way if you kill a woman who is pregnant in the US guess what?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Well that is a matter of debate. It says if no harm was done if the baby were born prematurely then a fine was to be paid. But it says if harm does occur that it would be life for life. It is in debate if it is referring to the baby born prematurely.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      My thinking is that if the baby was a miscarriage and it died before it was born, you only had to pay a fine. If the baby survived through the childbirth and later died, it would mean death to the one who hit the woman. That is my interpretation. That is telling me that according to the Old Testament a fetus is worth less than a baby.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • jake

      i was refering to US law.. I

      May 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • jake

      let's say for argument sake that a fetus, baby in the womb, is of less value than a born baby. (that is not my posiiton but for argument sake) Does that mean then that is still up to the woman's discretion to kill that baby in the womb if she wants too? There is still a fine correct?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  7. Bootyfunk

    @BamaDaniel,

    you've seen the light? you now support g.ay marriage? seriously....?

    May 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  8. AverageJoe76

    Follow your beliefs if they make you happy and grant you peace in my opinion. If you follow out of fear, then you should re-evaluate. That's like worshipping a crime lord.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      no, don't blindly follow your beliefs. examine and question them. if they are hurtful to other people, they are bad.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • cyberhackster

      Of course,like Ted Bundy

      May 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  9. robert

    What a joke, this guy is trying to tell us there is a rational reason for his bigotry; it is because it is written in the bible – for which there is no rational argument that supports the idea that it was written by a god. If your values are such that you chose to hate other human beings for what they are, feel free, but don't try to B.S. us that there is a good reason for it. The only reason for it is that you and people who share your beliefs are of low moral character. A trait the world is coming to understand as being endemic to the faithful.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bernie

      You are too funny.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  10. Reality

    Dear RM Jr.,

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:
    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    From: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1855948_1861760_1862212,00.html#ixzz0jg0lEyZj

    “Facing calls to curb child se-x abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church — urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors. The SBC decided against such a database in part because its principle of local autonomy means it cannot compel individual churches to report any information. And while the headlines regarding churches and pedophilia remain largely focused on Catholic parishes, the lack of hierarchical structure and systematized record-keeping in most Protestant churches makes it harder not only for church leaders to impose standards, but for interested parties to track allegations of abuse."

    Bottom line Mr. Mohler, clean up your own theology and current Baptist issues with pedophilia before commenting on morals.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  11. DrewNYC

    Keep telling yourself that you're "loving" by denying rights to fellow human beings. At least be honest and call it what it is; fear and hate.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  12. mike

    Thank you CNN for some balance

    May 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Caddy33

      I know, FINALLY we get a biblical commentary from an author who actually reads the bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Yeah articles by somebody who has read the Bible, unlike that Roman Catholic priest in the last pro-gay marriage article! He clearly never picked up a Bible if he became a priest!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  13. RS

    There are many false comments here describing what the New Testament says, including some the author of this article is stating. I'm guessing the biggest problems are started when people assume when someone says "It's in the Bible",IT'S ACTUALLY IN THE BIBLE. If you make statement concerning the word of God...please back it up ...As an example, The 2 most important commandments are given in Matthew 22:36-40. Everything else revolves around these verses:
    36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    May 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • jon

      Who wrote the "bible" anyway? And, was you there Charlie?? Why do we believe this stuff? Live your life as YOU see fit, and just don't hurt anyone else. That is really all that matters. In this United States of Hamerica, everyone is always telling everyone else how to live their lives. Live your OWN life and just shut up. The Catholic church, by the way, is really just interested in getting a LOT more people into their organizations, and thus getting their money as well, so that is why they are against all forms of contraception. With about 8 billion people in the World already – and about 2 billion having barely enough to eat – don't you think that SOME level of birth control might just be a good idea?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  14. Natsarim, TX

    GET A LIFE Albert Mohler Jr! You don't know scripture and you are leading others down the wrong path! My issue is with the Acts 10:15 post. That is an excuse that you make! The scripture did NOT ever change for man with man, and it DID NOT CHANGE for what is CLEAN or UNCLEAN!. IF you read further down to Acts 10:28 you will SEE that Peter was a Jew who observed Torah, Elohims principals and instructions. He did not eat pork or shrimp, the illustration was about who Peter would have fellowship with, Gentiles and Jews not food. Because he was Torah observant, Elohim was showing him something that he could relate to because he called being with the Gentiles UNCLEAN. and what Elohim created (ALL MANKIND) IT WAS NOT UNCLEAN! Now what man does makes him unclean that is the point. I don't take issue with unbelievers and the like who post here, but it is the RELIGIOUS wackos whom I take issue with. Go ahead eat what you want, destroy your temple and then at judgement you ask why did you die of a food related illness and Elohim tells you that you ate the unclean. Then you will blame the preacher because that is what "he said"..What about you reading for yourself and asking his Ruach HaKodesh to give the understanding? It's the want-to-be preachers that really burn me up for misleading, and not the ones who don't know the "WAY".

    May 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      way to hide behind a blanket of religion to promote your bigotry.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • pgoossen

      Natsarim, TX
      Thank you for the explanation on Peter's vision. I was confused about the vision myself when reading it, and the only way that I ever heard it interpreted is that all the unclean foods were being made clean until I heard a discussion during sunday school pointing out something similar to what you just stated (from some visiting folks). I'd like to understand more about this topic, could you post a website link that has further discussion?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Natsarim, TX

      @pgoossen send me email add

      May 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  15. Bjohns23

    Once again, who cares what the Bible says? The content of the Bible was voted on by man and written by man. If we are fallible, maybe we should not jump to judge what is right and wrong in the eyes of God. Also, shouldn't Christinans leave this decision to him/her/it on "judgement day". Apparently it is blasphemy to disobey God only when others decide that they don't like what other people do but totally disregard the writings they so hold so dear when it suits their interests. Religious people who tell others what they should be doing is simple hypocrisy. The bible not any other religious book was not written by any higher power. It was written by those in power. I am not an atheist but people who pretend that they know what happens to others when they die are just idiots,

    May 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • bill

      i completely agree. The Bible was written (and revised and redacted) by the men in power when the books were added to it. It does not in any way reflect the "mythical word of God" as there is no such thing. God hasn't spoken or written, ever. and i challenge anyone to show evidence that this Being has written or spoken to anyone in a way that can be proven.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  16. Robert Brown

    Very good article Mr. Mohler, it is sin and we know Jesus is the answer for all sin. As Christians we rebuke fellow Christians out of love. Some try to justify the behavior and claim they are taking the higher road of love by proclaiming that it is not sin. They are wrong and should be corrected just as Paul rebuked the churches in his letters. It does no good to rebuke nonbelievers because they do not see it as sin. They have their own morality. Jesus even warned of attempting to correct nonbelievers because it would make them angry to the point of violence. A person has to have some faith before they can realize they are a sinner in need of a savior.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      except you don't KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, everything you just said. you speculate, nothing more.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • James

      The scriptures actually say nothing about homosexuality as a psychosexual orientation. Our understandings of sexual orientation are distinctly modern ones that were not present in the minds of Scripture writers. A few passages of Scripture (seven at the most) object to certain types of same-sex expressions or acts. The particular acts in question, however, are sexual expressions which are exploitative, oppressive, commercialized, or offensive to ancient purity rituals. There is no Scriptural guidance for same-sex relationships which are loving and mutually respecting. Guidelines for these relationships should come from the same general Scriptural norms that apply to heterosexual relationships.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      The only people acting violently are the Christians. Funny way of showing love.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  17. xtopher

    I know you SAY that Christians must be concerned about the other things that the bible condemns as sin but really that's just lip service. If it weren't, when that reporter calls and asks you about your stance on gays you would do the right thing and put the "sin" of ho.mos.e.xuality in context with all the other sins listed in the bible and say (as the bible does) that god sees all sin as the same; there is no hierarchy of sin and therefore it would be wrong and disingenuous to focus on just ho.mo.s.e.xuality. But you don't do that do you?

    May 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  18. n8263

    According to Jesus the Mosaic 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."

    To this day under Christian Law you are not to eat pork and shrimp, wear blended fabric, and must murder your disobedient children, non-virgin brides and adulterers. If you can rationalize rejecting what Jesus clearly taught then you can rationalize rejecting any part of the Bible no longer compatible with civil society.

    Of course none of this matters since we have a separation of church and state and Americans would never impose their religion on others.

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

      Yeah that is not what Jesus is saying. The law was given in order that the Isrealites would be able to have God dwell in their presence.. which is also why the sacrificial system was established in order to pay for the breaking of the law. Jesus didn't come to do away with the process but to fullfill it meaning he became the righteous requirement of the law. That we do not abide by the holiness laws given to the Isrealites because he has fullfilled their demands and requirements.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • n8263

      Yes, that is the rationalization. Reinterpret the word "fulfill."

      May 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      He fulfilled the law by becoming the payment for sin, because as he taught, we all sin whether in thought or deed. His death, burial, and resurrection fulfilled the prophets who prophesied of his coming and accomplished everything in the law by providing the final sacrifice for all sin.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • n8263

      Christians think Sharia Law is immoral but impose their own Sharia Law in America. No matter what version, it's immoral to impose your religious superstition and deny others civil rights.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • n8263

      The original word interpreted as 'fullfil' was 'plerosai' among its meanings are to establish, confirm and validate. If Jesus was all-knowing and perfect why did he have such a hard to communicating what he meant?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  19. mtngoatjoe

    The religious right would prefer to see this country a theocracy before they concede that it's OK for other people to live by a different moral code. People should just mind their own business and focus on their own families. Forcing others to live by your religious philosophy simply leads to pain, suffering, and damnation, not salvation.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  20. AverageJoe76

    Satan = the consequence for disobedience. Tell that to children and..... BAM! I think we got ourselves a believer. Satan is the most popular boogeyman. And hey, if my grandpappy says it's real, then guess what? ........ it's real.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • joe schmo

      And who are we to say your "boogyman" doesn't exist? There are a lot of things we humans aren't privy to–yet.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
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