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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. Ben

    The Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ. (Eating shellfish, number of steps you can take on Sabbath). The commandments to not lay with another man is not part of the law of Moses. It's part of a higher law and was not abolished.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      I guess that means that you get to pick and choose which commandments out of the OT that you get to use and what not to use.

      Typical cafeteria xtian.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  2. Joe

    Cnn you are too funny- everyday your top new stories are gay marriage!LOL and trying to convince Christians and other people they should be fine with it because Obama pandered to the gay community. This election is NOT about gay marriage and Obama doesn't care about gay marriage. He can't run on his record so this is just another Obama distraction and CNN is helping Obama! If you look at the shiny object in his left hand, you'll forget about the economy, obama's 5 trillion dollar debt, worst housing market, highest unemployment rate- in fact Obama will be the first president in modern history to have fewer people employed than when he took office, more people on food stamps, gas prices..........
    But let's focus on gay marriage.LOL

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

      I just wish they'd start posting articles about how many christians get divorced and end up as single, frustrated parents, and how outlawing christian divorce might give them a chance to actually put their money where their bigotry is..

      May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  3. Love one another ... live the sin to God!

    Matthew 7:3-4
    New International Version (NIV)
    3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

    Matthew 22:36-41
    New International Version (NIV)
    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 3:42 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      I can quote nonsensical bible verses too:

      Ezekiel 23:19-21

      19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prost itute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. 21 So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.
      (NIV 1984)

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  4. sam

    CNN and their slanted one-sided reports. Christians aren't focusing on the gays, the gays are focusing on the gays. Christians are just expressing what they believe and the path they choose to follow. No hate in the equation. Christians do not force-feed their beliefs on non-believers and gays. Why do the gays and mainstream media want to force feed the gay agenda onto Christians?

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

      Well said!

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

      You're kidding right?

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

      I'd say laws against gay marriage as prime examples of christians telling others how to live. I don't protest your right to believe in God or Jesus, so why should I be forced to live my life by your bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Which God?

      T@Sam. That is an outright lie and you know it. You folks are Always trying to ram you beliefs down everyone's throat.

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

      The "protection of marriage" BS that is floating around this country is promulgated and supported by Christians....who are seeking to "force feed their beliefs" onto others. No one is trying to force their beliefs on you......it is simply a group of people fighting for equal protection and recognition under the law. Something that the 'christians' in this country are fighting very hard.

      “I am treated as evil by people who claim that they are being oppressed because they are not allowed to force me to practice what they do.”

      – Unknown

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

      uuhh what do you call laws outlawing gay marriage then? are you even aware of what you are talking about?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • CBinKY

      His picture explains it all. He must have been stoned when he wrote that.

      "True Believers" scare me – as they think that they have every right to force others to act in according with their own particular interpretation of a religious text. Accordingly, they should be given the respect they afford to others, which is none.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Alicia

      Excuse me? What planet are you from? There are MANY Christians that spew hatred for anything or anyone that doesn't believe or do what they do. This is one of the reasons many have left the church in the first place. Jesus would be appalled at the lack of love coming from the Western church.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Scott in NC

      "Christians do not force-feed their beliefs on non-believers and gays."
      Sure- except for the whole not having the same rights thing. Other than that, it's one big love fest.
      So just for arguments sake, if I were to believe that christians shouldn't be allowed to vote, and found a way to get a large enough group of other idiots to agree with me, that would be legit?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  5. paulronco

    Does anyone but CNN and its corporate sponsors really care what this guy has to say?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  6. Patrick

    When these same bible-addicted morons fight as hard to make divorce illegal as they are to keep gay marriage illegal, then they will have a leg to stand on. Until then they should just shut the hell up and keep their ignorance behind closed doors, in their own churches.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  7. Trixi

    I imagine little old ladies in grey dresses and tights muttering about someone somewhere being immoral. Go feed some starving children and stop worrying about who's licking whom.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  8. steama

    The reason christians focus on gay issues is because they are bigots plain and simple.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Joe Seattle

      Because there's no way anyone could possibly believe sticking your penis up someone else's rectum isn't the greatest idea ever. Yup, they're just jeaslous.

      Or maybe they think there might be something better?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  9. I am John

    Choose! Choose who you want to follow for the Day of the Lord is at hand. Choose the Light or the darkness. Do you want the Prince of Peace or the prince of this fallen world? Choose I say!

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

      No.. You don't even choose what to believe, anyway.. Belief is a compulsion, not a choice.. You're banking on a stupid fairy tale.

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

      Choose, choose! Choose to live in hatred or in love. Choose to live as Jesus taught you (love your neighbor as yourself), or choose to continue parroting lies based in fear, bigotry and ignorance. Choose! Choose!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  10. Damo

    "In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery".

    Rarely have I seen weaseling on CNN. No, it didn't "command" slavery. Nor did it condemn it. At no point did the New Testament treat the repugnant practice of slavery as anything more than a normal fact of life, condoning while not commanding. The Old Testament laid out laws for how slavery should be properly conducted, as if such a thing is possible, going so far as to condemn slaves refusing to follow their masters' commands as a sin.

    You pick and you choose, you thump this ancient work of fiction and use it to persecute people and tell them how to live their lives, and the parts that have proved the most unpopular, you just pretend aren't even there, using weasel words to try and avoid the unpleasant truths.

    It's a book of parables and laws made by desert nomads thousands of years ago, and we're only going to move more and more away from the world it was written for.

    Those that use these ancient desert nomad laws to persecute people that just want to express their love are on the wrong side of history, and will be nothing but a source of shame for their descendants, just like the bigots of old, who used the very same book to try to justify their inhumanity.

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

      Its about love , not hatred. Without God every immoral thing is possible and will be accepted.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • hingie68

      I feel sorry for. You have rejected the only truth that holds until the end and are outside the realm of grace.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  11. ProperVillain

    This guys logic is so full of holes I don't even know where to begin. Let me sum it up this way:
    Divorce= hurtful event that effects adults and kids in negative ways. I don't think it should be illegal, not by a long shot, but the fact is that even a "good" divorce is hurful.
    Being g a y = hurts no one.
    Yeah, that about sums it up. So get off your high horse and go feed the poor or take care of people that need help instead of wasting time and resources on a ridiculous crusade of hate.

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

      It's astounding how simple the logic is, isn't it.. Good ideas are like that: simple and obvious.. Thanks!

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

      except for the guy who has a sore rear. that would hurt.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  12. Typical CNN Blog Atheists...same tired argument again and again and again

    The Bible is a lie? Really? Llet me try the atheist approach on here:

    Prove to me that the Bible is make believe.

    That's all. Just one spot please. Show me where the Bible has been proven false. If you can, I'll renounce my faith right now. 2 Timothy 3:16

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

      The burden of proof is on you, putz.

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

      Flood never happened.
      Jesus said it did.
      Bible and its god are stupid.
      Case closed.

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

      “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.”

      – George Bernard Shaw

      "I contend that 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 3:43 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      I'm a Christian but am not naive enough to believe that EVERYTHING in the bible is true fact. Also, you cannot prove the bible by quoting passages from the bible as proof. If this is the litmus test for truth, then Lord of the Rings is just as historical as the Bible.

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

      Jesus easily get a beat down by the hulk... Try putting the hulk on a cross lol.

      It is a fairy tale, tell me this,why didn't Jesus let everyone know the world was round?

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

      I honestly don't care if you believe that the Bible is literally the word of God. I can't prove that stars are not really little M&M's that glow from food coloring, affixed permanently to a velvety substance several light years away either, but I don't expect anyone to try and force that belief on me.

      And by the way, the "proof" argument isn't really an atheist thing - it was used extensively in the Middle Ages by *christian* monks... oops!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Lawrence Sutherland

      Were you there when he walked on water?

      What century is this?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Lawrence Sutherland

      Just because argument is tired doesn't make it wrong – does it?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Friendly Neighborhood Atheist

      Uh last time I checked the earth wasnt flat, the sun doesn't rotate around the earth, the earth is not held up on 4 pillars, there is no "noah's ark", the creationsim story is a joke, and there are THOUSANDS of other religions with other "origin claims". When you can tell my why you do not believe in Zeus, Thor, Mithra, Krishna...or any of the other thousands of gods....then you will realize why atheists dont believe in your god. In fact we are both atheists, I just believe in 1 fewer god than you.

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

      DINOSAURS

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Fred

      Oh my god. are you for real. Lets just look at the first page of the bible. The earth was not created in 7 days, Adam and Eve were not the first humans, the earth is not 5,000 years old (yes those dinosaur bones are real).

      May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Mathematics

      is in I Kings 7:23-26, describing a large cauldron, or "molten sea" in the Temple of Solomon:
      He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

      On a more practical note, do you really want to group yourself with the Muslim fundamentalists who accept what someone tells them is true about their holy book without any consideration of your own?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Scott in NC

      Ok, since we're doing role reversal, I'll use the christian logic to respond.

      It's false because I have an old book that says it is. The book also says that everything in the book is true, so it must be right. Furthermore, it says I have a duty to persecute anyone who does not agree, so I will soon begin a campaign to take away the rights of anyone who does not follow it.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  13. ab

    They need to write a "newer" testatment.

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

      Scary! Does that mean another man-made messiah?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  14. bob

    "If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother." That's right ladies, if you are a widow you have to marry your dead husband's brother instead. Yay bible!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  15. Sarah U

    This is why I am no longer a Baptist, and UU gets my money- they welcome all.

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

      GEN 2:21 So the LORD God caused a deep R62 sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned F56 into a woman the R63 rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This R64 is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She F57 shall be called Woman, F58 Because she F57 was taken out of Man." F59 24 For R65 this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And R66 the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

      Eve was considered Adam's wife from the very beginning.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • hingie68

      Well, you just forgot about salvation. There is no salvation without Jesus.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  16. AJR

    Can someone show me the chapter and verse demonstrating that Adam and Eve were married? If there was a "biblical definition" of marriage, one would reasonably expect it to have originated in the origin story.

    So, where is it again?

    "The less you know, the more you believe."

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

      21 So the LORD God caused a deep R62 sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned F56 into a woman the R63 rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This R64 is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She F57 shall be called Woman, F58 Because she F57 was taken out of Man." F59 24 For R65 this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And R66 the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

      Eve was considered Adam's wife from the very beginning.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  17. FYI

    this is stupid.

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

      clarification: R. Albert Mohler Jr. is stupid.

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

      Yep.. I told him so on page one or two of this thread.

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

      clarification: he posted a comment and I replied.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  18. Matt

    The question is not if you consider being gay a sin. The question is if people should have their freedoms taken away because of your religious beliefs? You can believe it is a sin, but you can not take away another’s freedoms.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • hingie68

      As long as you don't shove your garbage down my throat. (no pun intended) then you and I will not have a problem. The gays can deal with their misguided lifestyle after they take their last breath. It was their choice.

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

      Wow, that about sums it up, you could have saved CNN a lot of effort. Nicely put Matt, now I guess we can get back to the real problems of our country. Ooops almost forgot, CNN needs to fuel this fire for revenue, and politicians need to fuel this because it allows them to divide the country in two which creates gridlock and strengthens the two party system. So back to work CNN, there's gotta be another angle to this story.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  19. mike

    better question: Why does the media focus on gays? That's all they ever talk about anymore. There are much more important issues.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  20. Peteyroo

    I was wondering. Why are so many gay children born to Christian couples? Is it that the parents didn't pray hard enough? Or did the parents commit some sort of blasphemy/sin against God? Or is it just because God doesn't care one way or another?

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

      Or maybe, Peteyroo, God is trying to change the hearts of the church. What better way than to force the church itself to either love or condemn it's own children. No truly loving parent will reject his or her child just because they are gay.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 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.