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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. Worship Poseidon

    I worship lesbians.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  2. bill

    what an utterly retrograde and unevolved segment of the human population.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Thepacific

      They do not like evolution, do they? However, nature has its own duality. This population probably cannot avoid evolution anyway. They probably experience backward evolution to turn themselves back to ape-worshiping inbred.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  3. Miguel Caron

    All Christians are selective when it comes to the bible; there is no Christian alive today that is like a Christian living in or around the time of Jesus. People have cherrypicked what fits their beliefs, rather than conforming their beliefs to what the bible tells them. THANK GOD FOR ATHEISM!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Oh Really

      38,000 sects of christianity that all think their interpretation of the bible is the correct one..

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

      I am not exactly sure about how different were the Xians around the time of Jesus from modern xians. Many of them probably could not read, much less to interpret the bible. However, I am sure one thing: they are all blind.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  4. Mark

    Betty Bowers explains the biblical view of traditional marriage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkeKKszXTw

    May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  5. J.S. Morales

    An excellent piece, really hits every salient point that is necessary. The fact is, if you're a Christian, the Bible is clear where you should stand on this issue.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Brian

      This article is written by a gay guy so i wouldnt believe any of it. I have more respect for a dog than a gay person. One day all gays will be exterminated.

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

      ...except where it contradicts itself, of course.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • James

      "An excellent piece, really hits every salient point that is necessary. The fact is, if you're a Christian, the Bible is clear where you should stand on this issue."

      Your bible does not address the issue of sexual orientation as we know and understand it today. So because of that you're going to deny these people their civil rights. That's pathetic. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • uh

      1. Thou shalt not Kill
      2. Judge Not, lest ye be judged
      3. Treat others as you want to be treated
      Exterminated? Sounds very nasty and judgmental to me, even by your belief system your going to hell

      May 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Don't feed Brian. He's 14.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Frustratedtexan

      Exactly, "if you are a christian" The fact is bud, not everyone is and this is a secular nation no matter what you religious types think. You know that whole "separation of church and state" thing. This is CIVIL liberties and CIVIL law issue not a religious issue.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  6. green lyon

    Self-righteous bigots are created by two-dimensional thinking- it's us or them- God is on our side everyone else is the devil .They have no spiritual credibility whatsoever their Bible comes from the anti-christ , the Roman Empire.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      Bible comes from the Roman Empire? I think you are lost. Your comment is directed at when the Christianized Rome tried to standardize what people read. The books were out there for a long time, and most people had them in their reading. I think you are way off in your quick jab.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Brian

      Be quiet Elton John you have no room to talk. I will kill my kids my self i knew they were gay. One day all religions will decide to exterminate gays off the face of this planet.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  7. 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 2:59 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Is marriage a right or a privilege? You have to make application, meet all the requirements, and purchase a license. Sounds like a privilege.

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

      Robert, there are a lot of other legal rights that go with a legally recognized marriage; you're being deliberately obtuse.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • uh

      @Sam....Technically by law, simply purchasing the license is all it takes.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Frustratedtexan

      Robert Brown. Ever heard of "equal protection" laws? If anyone has the right or "privilege" then all do.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • David L.

      Furthermore, Robert, marriage was decided by the Supreme Court in 1967 to be a civil right. To quote Chief Justice Earl Warren:

      "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

      May 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • bgjtenn

      i guess that you must be an anarchist. Don't tell me that I can't steal. Who are you to put your laws on me???

      May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  8. Scott

    What I don't understand is... Why should YOUR religion govern MY behavior? You don't like polygamy or girl on girl action (which the bible says ZERO about btw)... fine... don't participate... Why should YOU and YOUR beliefs be the LAW that I must live by? Why should I not have the right to live differently than you? Why should I have to constantly oppose laws by your kind that is attempting to tell me how I should live?

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

      What i dont understand is why should a child grow up with two dads? What i dont understand is why gay people are so proud to be gay? Dont you see its a problem? Dont you see you're sick?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • J.S. Morales

      You don't like lying, stealing, or murder? Fine! Then just don't participate. Who are you to tell me how to live though?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Are you a doctor? Where do you get the idea that gays are "sick"? And why would you imagine that the children of gays and lesbians are unhappy? Can you produce a single shred of research that proves it?

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

      Morales has a very legit rebuttal. Things like gay marriage focus more on lifestyle and have little real effect on others. However, things like abortion, prostiitution, gangs, etc innately affect others.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Lying isn't in itself a crime. You are lying right now about one thing or another, guaranteed.

      Stealing and murder injure others and deprive them of their rights under law.

      Gay marriage does nothing of the sort.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Observer

      Brian,

      Yes, we see a problem. It is your lack of education. The professionals at APA say that h0mos-xuality is not a sickness. Your blind ignorance, however could be a sign of a problem.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • sam

      Brian, no one is forcing you to take in stray gay people, tape your eyes permanently open, and live with everything they do. Turn your head, change the channel, go the other way. The existence of gay people and whether or not they can marry is not your problem. They don't affect your life. So go stick your nose somewhere else. You think about gay sex more than gay people do, I bet.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • bgjtenn

      Why should your opinion (murder and theft are bad) rule MY behavior??...it's a free country, right?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  9. Oh Really

    Wouldn't the "Protection of Marriage" act be more applicable if it was a law to not be able to get divorced as opposed to something speaking about gay marriage. After all, no marriages are destroyed by a gay couple getting married. Many marriages ARE destroyed by allowing divorces.

    For you bible thumpers out there. The New Testament actually has some pretty strong language about getting divorced and remarried. It says that if you get remarried you are committing adultary.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      Conservative pastors have been fighting this for years too. In fact many of them say this gay marriage would further move the issue, whereas they want no-fault divorce taken away. So, the answer to your comment is "they are"

      May 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • McMichael

      You are correct. I believe the issue of gay marriage is a smokescreen used by both parties to divert by more pressing (and intellectually complicated) concerns like the economy and downsizing our foreign presence.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Oh Really

      McMichael – Ding ding ding... I think we have a winner. Ever notice how these topics come up around election time? Of course, before it was gays serving in the military and not gay marriage.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • sam

      Because it actually makes sense to realize straight people have been ruining marriage since the beginning – and we can't have anything making sense, around here.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Oh Really

      Sam – Not to mention the fact that it would be much harder to get people on board since this affects a lot more people than the small gay minority. Try preaching against divorced people getting remarried at the pulpit and watch all those divorced people who don't want to be single find another church.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  10. UncleM

    Mythical book and a nasty god. Ignore all of it.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • momoya

      Right-o.. Spread the word to the world.. Biblegod is a disgusting azzhole torturer..

      May 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  11. palintwit

    I was deeply disappointed earlier when I scanned the morning papers and nowhere did I read a headline about Sarah Palin being run over by a bus or falling off a cliff. I guess that means that she is still wasting oxygen. Oh well... I guess there's always tomorrow.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • freeb

      No matter your politics, wishing death on another human isn't going to get you anywhere. You're as bad as the reichwingers when you do that.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • palintwit

      The key word here is "human".

      May 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Observer

      palintwit,

      Grow up.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • palintwit

      Buzz off, Observer.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Thepacific

      The problem is when we unbelievers stay silence, bible followers will take no time to make America uglier.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  12. IslandAtheist

    If Jesus had three wives, why do Christians condemn polygamy?

    May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      He didn't have any wives. Not sure where you think misrepresentations will help your cause. It only polaizes people and isolates the ones that are smart enough to see your deceit.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • IslandAtheist

      The Book of Mormon teaches Jesus had three wives while he was on Earth.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • jake

      the book of morman has nothing to do with christianity

      May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  13. status quo

    And my favorite quote of all time:
    "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
    ...Stephen F Roberts

    May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Oh Really

      That is a great quote

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

      no it's not

      May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • yes, it is.

      And it's true. Think it through man.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  14. Joey

    I knew a fisherman once who said, "If you want to drink beer, take a Baptist fishing. If you want to save beer, take two Baptist fishing." I suspect there are many Baptists along with other so called conservative religious folks who are actually gay. They just stay in the large closet. They hide and sin. If no one knows, they really didn't do it. I suspect its always been that way.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  15. Charles in Des Moines, IA

    That's fine, you feel that my lifestyle is not right, and I feel your slavery to a mythical being not far removed from Zues, Thor, or Isis is wrong, but I would never tell you that you shouldn't worship your god, nor would I stand by while our shared civil government tried to do the same. However, if you and your church don't agree, that is fine, but stop forcing your beliefs on my family. We are doing just fine, ask nothing from anyone, and only want the same protections for our lives together that you and yours take for granted (the very high divorce rate amongst the Evangelical groups is to what I refer). I really couldn't care less what your book of fables says, it is something I rejected long ago, but as a taxpaying citizen of this nation, same as you (not your church though) I would like to be afforded the same respect from our shared government that you enjoy, and in many ways abuse (see again tax exempt status).

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

      Spot on...

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

      You know, if everybody in this country thought along your lines, we would be a lot better off.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • sam

      Thanks Charles.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Yes

      Thank you. Just fables no different than a Brothers Grimm tale.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  16. longshot

    author: 'the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians'
    reality: more of the slave holding movement was led by Christians than the abolitionists.

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

      That's a erroneous argument to begin with. The civil rights movement was a Christain movement, albeit a liberal one that had influence even in conservative churches, although not all. In fact, Rev MLK was in fact drawing from the Bible.

      Anti-abolitionists were fighting it on Christian terms but on economic ones. Please read history. Don't let your obvious poor speculation get in the way of reality.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  17. Revelation

    The sooner that you realize that the bible is fake, the better off you will be

    May 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  18. Outlaws

    Just outlaw it, that will work! Just like prohibition did.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  19. believe this

    The crusades are about to start up again. You know, jail scientist, kill homesaxuels etc.

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

      Apparently, you don't know what the Crusades were, only your small view of the events. The Crusades wont happen again, ever. And the Crusades wasn't about doing those things anyways.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Charles in Des Moines, IA

      This guy is not going peacefully. I have always abhorred violence, hated guns, but one lesson I have taken from the right: I now own a gun and will not be going quietly into the night like the holocaust victims. I may be dead at the end, but I plan to and am now taking shooting lessons to make sure if they ever think they are coming for me, I am taking at least a few of them with me. I hope it doesn't come to that, but I have been a victim of their "love" before, and not ever again.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  20. mikes

    John 8:7

    May 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
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