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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. Bee Cee

    Utter drivel. As a person of faith, I embrace Judeo-Christian values, and a core value is the Golden Rule. Gay people are like everyone else, and have existed throughout the centuries. Unfortunately, the Golden Rule has been unevenly applied to them during that time.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Jim

      I thought the golden rule was that those who have the gold, rule. Apparently not enough gays have enough gold yet!

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

      Haven't read the Bible then have you?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Jim

      Have you read the Koran, Book of Mormon, and every other holy book there is? How do you know you are following the correct book? Can't be sure.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Mortex

      The Koran speaks of Murdering innocent lives
      three sects teach this 1 sect is what the war is over (( 911 )) extremist the other 2 try to hide them scriptures written

      Mormons say Jesus and God / Jehovah (( Psalms 83:18 )) – Acts 15:17 Only God's people are called by his name
      Mormons say they are Imperfect – Incapable of reading the hearts – judging proper people / Disciples, – Elect – chosen ones
      They say God picked poorly (( WOW TO THEM ))
      Mormons believe one HUSBAND and MULTIPLE WIFE'S - Warren Jeffs theor founder
      (( oops the sect separated left the fundamental teachings after years of this belief ))
      two Bibles ?? Revelations 22:18 Do not Add or Subtract anything from what is written
      OOPS (( they have added their own Bible – by their own words added their own terms and meanings ))
      Funny how their founder was the only one to ever to read the gold plate – Yet God used Stone etc.. to spread his message and they use riches of gold
      Jesus said Drink and be merry just don't get drunk – they now say it is wrong and jesus was wrong in teaching the health benefits of drinking wine

      Acts 15:17 There is only one truth (( Jehovah God )) internet search God's name
      Only one group of people do his work just as jesus showed us to do – go door to door teaching the coming kingdom

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  2. Mortex

    You should get your facts before you post crap like this for people to read
    all your doing is misleading people
    thats ok DEATH is your reward
    Romans 1:24-32
    Revelations 20:13-15

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

      ROFL!

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

      Death is ultimately everyone's reward.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  3. Jim

    Jesus said, "Never, ever divorce." Divorce must be made illegal. <- Hey, people are allowed selectively follow the bible. Apparently MANY christians select not to follow this.

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

      A fool opens his mouth with out truth – facts
      NEED I SAY MORE Learn the bible before you run your Flap

      Matthew 19:3-9
      3 And Pharisees came up to him, intent on tempting him and saying: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on every sort of ground?” 4 In reply he said: “Did YOU not read that he who created them from [the] beginning made them male and female 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? 6 So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” 7 They said to him: “Why, then, did Moses prescribe giving a certificate of dismissal and divorcing her?” 8 He said to them: “Moses, out of regard for YOUR hardheartedness, made the concession to YOU of divorcing YOUR wives, but such has not been the case from [the] beginning. 9 I say to YOU that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.”

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

      Jesus said that or the Bible says that Jesus said???? Being that the Bible was written at least a century after his death, it is pretty safe to say everything in it is heresay!

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

      Is green green ?? or is it red ??

      Blue is actually Yellow (( after all man named it and man is foul-able ))

      Excuses will hold no weight the day of the Lord - Choices you make by not learning truth is your loss

      There is only one truth – One True God – One Accurate knowledge
      Acts 15:17 only God's people are called by his name – only God's people do his will – only god's people follow in Jesus steps going door to door - You will be objects of hatred for my name sake – John 15:18

      John 9:31 the one doing God's will this one he hears
      Matthew 7:22-26 Get away you workers of lawlessness for you did not do as Instructed

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  4. jwarino

    Good thing I don't take stock in holy bible. The real problem has little to do with ideaology, the problem in our society is with the movement of the church imposing their beliefs on the rest of us. Church and state must be kept seperate.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  5. Ana

    From what I understand, the New Testament, as the above article seems to rely on, was written 150 years AD, as in, after the death of Jesus Christ! Some others say 70 years after his death....So someone explain to me how it is possible that those writings are the writings of "GOD" or even writings based on what Jesus said? I can barely remember what my MOTHER told me two hours ago, so how can those people remember what was being said 150 years prior?

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

      You heathen!! How dare you question the word of God!!!

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

      Exactly!!

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

      What happened? can't face the facts????

      May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      They cant, that's just it. We also dont know who the authors are of those scribblings.

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

      Jim and Peteryoo just proved my point....TWO BLIND FOLLOWERS OF PURE MYTHOLOGY! Thanks!

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

      Historical events recorded by eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus, 66 books, over 40 authors most of whom never meet. Cause was written over 1500 yrs. Translated over 3 contients,Asia, Africa, Europe, in Greek, Hebrew, & Aramaic. EVERY SINGLE prophecy has come true. Over 20,000 archeological digs not one has been proven wrong. BAMMMMMM THE TRUTH & AND THE LIFE.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Ana

      Recorded how? The "eyewitnesses" that live with Jesus could not write, as in, were illiterate at the time. Did they draw? Use a tape recorder? what? By the way, Jesus story of being born of a virgin, on 25th, rose from the dead and many more anecdotes, were present in many PAGAN stories, such as Osiris, WAYYYY before Jesus was born.
      Back atcha!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • bluey

      Another one who knows not what they speak...The New Test was written by people who lived in Jesus time with Him. That means it written in parts from 20-60 years after his death. The sad part is that you went to school and were taught history I presume??? Yet some of that history was written hundreds and sometimes thousands of years after the fact, but you don't have a problem with that do you.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  6. WomenOnGuard

    And the man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh: She shall be called Woman. Because she was taken out of Man". Seems to me that it was probably the other way around; Woman said...

    May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  7. Mark

    I fully support his right to his beliefs and interpretations of his book. I still don't see how this has anything to do with my life. I do not believe in your book, though I can respect and value it. I am still baffled why this allows you and yours to dictate laws that discriminate against me and others like me. Preach all you want, just stop insisting I listen to your opinions. Of course lets not even bring up the whole cast the first stone thing. Duh!!!

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

      That's just your opinion.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • jmac121

      you're right ... jesus did not throw a stone when, by his own words, he could have ... but he did tell her not to commit adultery anymore ... jesus walked in both love and truth

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

      @Mark, I'm, with you. I celebrate the fact that we are blessed with freedom of religion but long for the day when we have freedom from religion. Laws need to represent the will of the people, not ministries.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Neil

    He says the Book of Acts makes clear that Christians are not required to follow all the prohibitions in the Old Testament. However, what he cites, by his own admission, only deals with dietary laws and mixed fabrics. How does this "make clear" that Christians are not obligated to follow the hundreds of other commandments in the Hebrew Bible that have absolutely nothing to do with what you eat? Christians still observe the Ten Commandments, right? They weren't released from those?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  9. Sylar

    What? Christians only using the parts of the bible that apply to their actual beliefs? Sounds like every other religion out there.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  10. Drew

    Yeah... um... I don't need approval from a church. I just need a certificate of marriage from the state so that my loving, monogomous, committed partner can get on my insurance. The dude that sits in the next cubicle just got a certificate of marrage from the state only his has Karen on it and not Clinton.

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

      Maybe you should move to NY?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • momoya

      Evidently that slip of paper would cause the collapse of civilization.. Not the act or the desire–the slip of paper.. Stupid christards.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Drew

      Why should we have to relocate our home in order to enjoy government benefits the dude in the next cube does?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Nathan

    It is amazing to me in the 21st century that millions, well, billions, of Christians, Jews, and Muslims actually believe in the authority of the Bible/Torah/Quran. These books are just collections of writings by human beings, not by God, and not inspired by God. These writings reflect the times in which these ancient, tribal people lived. There are gross inaccuracies in all three; there are inconsistencies in all three. We should reflect upon these writings, but use our own reason and common sense in issues of today. To say they represent the authority of God is absolutely ridiculous. Man has made God in his own image; humans have created religions in their own image, and yet we continue to do harm to people; trample their human rights; torture them physically and mentally, and even kill them, all in the name of a book written by primitive people. It is really difficult to fathom that intelligent people participate in this kind of thing. Maybe 'intelligent' is the key word here.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  12. rob

    What did Christ say about gays? Nothing

    Show me one revealed and verifia

    May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Hom.ose.xual acts are an abomination to God. Leviticus 18:22

      May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  13. A TRUTH believer

    Hey Albert! Spread your bu ll sh it somewhere else. You're disgusting . Give the tooth fairy a call, maybe you'll convince her.

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

      Seems like today CNN was tired of stories that Atheists cud sound off on! Don't worry Atheists tomorrow is another day! I know atheists who use gay slurs to insult xtians here! If they love them why shud being gay be used as an insult to someone they don't like. Political oversimplification! lol

      May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  14. jocko

    Why do these righteous religious crazies always look like child molesters?

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

      it has been spoken..."in the last days evil will be made to look good and good evil". This ever growing gay marriage issue is a perfect example...at least to those who take scripture seriously. I don't believe this is an issue of the church sticking it's nose into politics. Religious beliefs are a major part of the lives of many of the governed. So it becomes a social issue with social consequences. I have gay friends and feel very badly for their plight. I believe many are born with the tendency. However, most men, with no conscience or morals to guide their lives would bang ever woman that made herself available...but it doesn't make it right. Its about living within the moral bounds that God has set...at least if you want lasting happiness. Just my opinion, don't get your panties in a bunch.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  15. Lokari

    "An honest consideration of the Bible" would, first and foremost, require the reader to recognize that it was written by plain old mortal men, and subjected to numerous instances of editing and translating by, again, plain old mortal men. And for hundreds of years it has been further twisted and re-interpreted to serve the purposes and agenda of still more plain old mortal men. So many cruel, horrific and immoral acts have been committed in the name of the bible that it is irretrievably tainted.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  16. Raphael

    Does anyone actually read the articles before they comment anymore?

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

      Obviously not, this is one of the best articles on the subject that CNN has posted...

      May 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  17. Randall Roverts

    Maybe the whole thing is just a bunch of conflicting mumbo jumbo created by people who were poisoned by lead in their drinking water.

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

      Best post ever. LOL

      May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  18. Bet

    If you want to base your life on a book of fairy tales, hatred and violence, that's fine. What does that have to do with a person's civil rights?

    The First Amendment is quite clear – the government can't make laws favoring the views of one religious group over another. So go ahead and condemn gays all you want. You just can't make it legal.

    Gay marriage will be a reality. Get over it.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  19. Todd

    To the religious nut jobs, mind your own business, it's a win win. There are two possible scenarios:
    1. You are right and gay people will go to hell just like you want, (win in your head)
    2. It is all in your head and i really doesn't matter what we do, (win for everyone)

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

      Todd – Christians do not want these people to go to hell. I'm Jewish and I know that. What they want is for the "sinners" to reform.

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

      Then keep your business out of my face! You dribble away and say stay out of it it's none of my business, but you band together in public places, you rally, you all over TV and you tell me to mind my own business???? One big bunch of hypocrites!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Scott in NC

      You tell 'em bluey- just be quiet and stay oppressed. Silly gay folks, disturbing everyone else by wanting to be treated the same. If we don't stamp this out now what else might happen? I mean, the women may want to vote, and the slaves may want to be free, and those silly scientists might start saying the earth is round again....

      May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  20. chrism

    A well written piece, thank you, and the author is correct, it is love that compells the Christian to speak the Truth. Indeed divorce, abortion, contraception, far wages, the dignity of life, the poor, homeless, Christians fight and battle every day to do God's will and bring the light of Christ into the world. No, most certainly, there is no special focus on anyone's sins. The reason for the battle is clear – gays/lesbians are en masse lobbying, fighting, waging an extreme political campaign. What is disingenuous and hypocritical is to ignore that massive political campaign and turn around and ask why are Christians so vocal about the issue. It is absurd, it is obvious a current major political battle and of course the battle from gays is provoking a proportioned response. Finally, perhaps uniquely, the pushing for "marriage" is a unique one because marriage is something we celebrate. Unlike divorce and abortion, which even those who practice it might acknowledge they desire it be legal, but they do not "celebrate" it, this battle is asking others to "celebrate" a sin. The resounding honest, loving and humble answer is no. No way. No way this sin should ever be mislabeled as "marriage." And God bless all brave and honest Christians who fight to keep this one nation under God, so that God may bless all of us. The Lord's peace be with you.

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

      "No way. No way this sin should ever be mislabeled as "marriage.""

      Yet adulterers are allowed to remarry and that is far more condemned in your bible. What is so hysterical about your posts is it's not just gays advocating for their civil rights! The experts have shown that being gay is not a choice, it's not a mental illness and it can't be voluntarily changed. You realize that Christians like you have always been on the wrong side the civil rights debate. 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."

      By the way the NAACP just put their support for gay marriage because this is a civil rights issue!

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

      "The Lord's peace be with you."

      Oh really that's why you are supporting those that are fueling the hatred and bigotry towards this minority group, that's not peace.

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

      Well written, chrism, and an apt name, too. Those who have not the spirit will despise things of God and fight against it.

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

      “What God has made clean, do not call common.” What the fudge does that mean? How do you get from that to "in other words, there is no kosher code for Christians.....That part of the law is no longer binding"?

      Come on now, It's all just mumbo jumbo isn't it, sir?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • DFW Dann

      I never knew that love came in the form of denying others the freedoms that you believe are given by god. What blasphemy is must be for you to assume his mantle and pass judgement upon others as to what is just and right for the world.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Here you are again, Robert, yet you've failed to prove a single point you've attempted to make and continue to avoid providing any evidence that you are correct about the effects of gay marriage on anyone. When are you planning to do that?

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

      Amen to all that! A true Christian does not condemn anyone, but does go by the Word. It's that simple. Christians didn't go out and chase this, the gays brought it out and shoved in everyone's face and then condemn the Christians for having an opinion. Bring it on, I say. I have nothing against gay folks, at all...but to call it marriage is a joke and a slap directly in the face of God. My belief...don't like it...sue me!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • geeky

      All of those gay and lesbian Americans who want to participate in the protections of government-sanctioned civil marriage are not waging "war" against what you believe. It's not a political movement. There are real people whose lives are affected in very real ways. And as for the truth, that is only spoken by God, not by you. You are merely a vessel. You're not "speaking the truth in love", you are just judging because you're afraid of what you don't know.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • peterchanbyuh

      Thank you, Mr. Mohler, for articulating the Christian perspective so well. God loves the sinner but hates the sin.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Primewonk

      According to your line of thought, marriage is a christian function. So why are you not forbidding atheists from having a civil marriage?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:57 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.