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. Umbren

    Religion, the ultimate form of bullying.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  2. DDL

    Keep your religion out of my government and your religious fanaticism out of my life!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  3. km1956

    I will definitely Mr. Mohler's right not to be forced to marry another man.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  4. Wes

    Only Christians? You forget Jews and Muslims. I know CNN likes to solely bash Christians and not even go near the topic of Judaism, but they won't even let non-Jews marry Jews in Israel. The Talmud views gentiles (non-Jews) as subhuman beasts.

    CNN needs to stop solely bashing just Christians... it is being super bias.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • bermille

      Yes let's make sure to bash all religions, which seems fair since I'm an atheist.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • ab

      I'm not sure I see any Christian bashing in here, Wes. In fact, it's trying to explain why Christians believe as they do. Perhaps you should re-read it and not immediately assume it's a bashing of Christianity.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Wes

      You might not see it, but that's okay. They are clumping in the majority of Christians against gay marriage and posting this one guy as a stand-alone expert who goes against the grain...

      May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dill

      This isn't a Christian bashing article...it's written by the President of SBTS.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  5. Kit

    STILL didn't answer the question

    May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • bermille

      Because they think they can get results.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  6. David

    WHO CARES! You people are insane! I'm not a member of our religion. I don't CARE if you don't like bacon, or gay marriage, or working on the "sabbath" or gambling or alcohol or blood transfusions. HOW DARE YOU override MY religious freedoms and force YOUR nutty religious code on me against my will. My religion has no problem with gays, so LEAVE ME ALONE! Live free or die!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Duce

      Excellent sentiment David!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Wes

      Sounds like you need to see a doctor.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • PulTab

      David sounds like the sane one to me Wes.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  7. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    recognition of a man and woman being able to create life has nothing to do with allowing a gay couple to visit their loved one in a hospital : (

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Pravda

      So let them visit their gay loved one in the hospital. What is the big deal? Do you really need to transform the meaning of marriage to allow this?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Umbren

      ITT, Christianity created marriage. I hate to break it to you people, marriage has been around a lot longer than Christianity.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • NotBuyingIt

      Marriage doesn't have much to do with creating life. Or are you in favor of denying marriage to all those male/female couples where one or both of the individuals is unable to procreate for one reason or another? I don't remember which part of the marriage ceremony states "you will have children or this marriage is void".

      May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  8. Duce

    I hope I can get off of this planet before all of the fundamentalists of the various religions have their "holy war"!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  9. freedomdem

    notice CNN is afraid to talk about hom ose xuality in ISLAM.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • momoya

      You don't seem to understand logic or reason.. Get help.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  10. Candace Clough

    where does the Bible require Christians condemn and control the actions on non Christians?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Duce

      This point should be echoed! Couldn't agree more.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • anita

      in 2 timothy chapter 4 where it says "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction."

      I'm assuming the "correct, rebuke and encourage" part means to correct and rebuke when you see wrongdoing and encourage those that are discouraged. So it does kind of say that if something is happening that is not right you are to say something...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  11. Sheepleherder

    God loves all of her creations unreservedly. The Christians feel they know better than God. They will take the word of a bunch of illiterate sheepherders over the word of God. That pretty much sums it up.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • servant of God

      God is not a woman for you to say that "God loves her creation", if you read the bible it says that He's " THE KING OF KINGS"

      May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  12. Benjamin

    Gay/bi people make up 1.7% of the U.S. population. Why does CNN cover this subject almost every day?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • freedomdem

      same reason you don't see stories about people and children dying from drugs or bad stories about obama.......agenda

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Pravda

      It's the majority of their readership?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • MidWestKev

      Because "Dear Leader" is currently pandering to that group.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Nicholas

      If that statistic is true, that's 5.2 million. That's quite a lot of people. And the issue affects not just those individuals.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  13. drinker75

    maybe these so called christians should worry more about their own life than about what 2% of the population does in their bedroom.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  14. WTuck

    Who cares what this religion believes? What happened to separation of church and state? A secular nation is not governed by the Bible, the torah, the quran or any other religious code. Period.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  15. therealbartonfunk

    It's always funny to see Christian try to make sense out of their contradictions. First, the Christian Bible is written by numbers people at different times so it obviously doesn't make sense. Multiple stories and versions about the same events, numerous strange rules and duties, reworked stories from earlier cultures, different names for the god .. because all the stories were written about many gods. And then the whole concept of the trinity to they to explain the obvious problem. Obviously, believing in a sky god is quaint and silly. Childish even. But, even beyond that looking to some book written by various people and then edited by other people from loooooooooooong ago to give you rule on how to live today is insane. No sky god exist. No god "spoke" to anyone to give them rule or how to info ... it's just made up by people that were ignorant and trying to cope with life. The bigger question is not how to live by the Christian bible, but rather why has god not been back to update the rules? If so why isn't' everyone Morman or Muslim ... I mean god talked to Jews, then to Christians (conveniently updating the rule to be easier one everyone) then he spoke to other groups and then to Mormons? Who still believes in this stuff?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • mbh

      You have to read and study the Bible, before you can comment about what it does/does not say.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Mr Mark

      People have the right to the conceit that is their religious belief. They don't have a right to impose that conceit upon others.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Believer

      The funny part of your post is that all of your contradictions, 'errors', etc can be explained by an all powerful, omnipotent God. You see in the end what He wants is that it really comes down to Faith, do you believe or not. I do.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • drinker75

      The "I don't understand why there are crazy things in the bible but god does so just believe" argument is always my favorite.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  16. BOb the Prairie Dog

    The point is moot because: NO ONE knows what happens when we die and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a liar who probably wants your money. Please make a note of it.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  17. Let's cut the nonsense

    My problem with the Gay community is there is no compromise, respect or any but I want my cake and I want to eat it to. You want me to stop gay bashing, fine done. You want right to my marriage traditions, get stuffed.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jim

      Huh? Why do you care so much? How does letting someone else have a right diminish your life? The nerve of those gays wanting rights! Why can't they just shut up and go away!!?? Sooooo much wasted energy on this whole matter. Just let everyone be treated equal and case closed on the matter.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • momoya

      Wow, you're a colossal bigot.. You want rights for people who think like you but not for people that think differently.. Gay marriage isn't going to affect you.. Why not allow consenting adults to marry whomever they wish?. You want special privileges, huh?. It seems to me that we already tried that "separate but equal" crap and found out it was stupid as fvck.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • jack

      "my" marriage rights? taking ownership of something that you have no right to own?

      people like you are the reason humanity is doomed. you really must "own" everything around you until you have nothing left to own and destroy.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • DrewNYC

      The "No Compromise" notion is not that of the LGBT community, but of the Church.

      By the way, you sound like a lovely person. Can I ask you what you think "Traditional Marriage" is?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'll bet his wife hates him.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • christine

      you call them "your rights". If they are rights, then Yes, everyone should get them. You can't pick and choose who gets which rights. This is the United States where we ALL have rights.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • spiralbrain

      "Your" marriage traditions. Thats funny.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  18. perspective

    it's funny how, no matter which way you spin it, hate is still hate. what a shame for all of you who actually follow this stuff and refuse to think for yourselves, outside of your precious book.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Believer

      By throwing the 'hate' word around so much I only see your efforts in some form of social blackmail to make me condone what I feel is an absolutely wrong behavior. I have a right to believe and to state that that behavior is wrong just as much as you might have to say it is right. That does not mean I hate. If you tell your child that lying is wrong is that a demonstration of your 'hate' for them ??

      May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      By any other name...

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • spiralbrain

      Believer: Intolerance IS hate.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  19. Mr Mark

    Repeat after me:


    Repeat that whenever you feel the urge to impose the Bible (make believe) on the real lives of real people.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  20. Wil in LA

    Jesus said, "Never, ever divorce." Divorce must be made illegal.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:33 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.