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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. sumday

    It is not gays that I have an issue with- it is calling a gay relationship equal or the same thing as a man and women that I have an issue with. To say gay marriage is the same thing as a straight marriage is to take away all meaning, intent, understanding, purpose, ect of marriage being about reproduction. Gay marriage changes the meaning, understanding, belief about marriage from something about reproduction to something about just 2 people wanting to be together. If gay marriage is allowed tell me how do you deal incest? You ban 2 people from marrying based on reproduction reasons, while at the same time allowing to gay people to marry bc you say reproduction has nothing to do with marriage. Bottom line being gay is between them and G-d, just don’t tell me or try and force me to call it the same as a straight relationship bc biologically there is a difference in abilities. Comparing an individual with a medical condition to a health gay individual does not justify your arguments either.

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

      You're talking about Matrimony. A Church-sponsored, sacramental marriage.

      Marriage is a legal term.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      I hate to alarm you but there is a difference in not being able to reproduce and reproducing deformed babies with horrible birth defects. That's a big difference right there.

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

      So is a man married to a woman, with no intention of reproducing not considered a marriage?

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

      Joe marriage has always been tied to the idea of reproduction, 2 sperms=no life, 2 eggs=no life, 1 sperm 1 egg= new life. Weather a couple decides not to have kids- which is only possible with today's medical knowledge is besides the point, and does not nullify that all life comes from only 1 egg and 1 sperm. Marriage is not based on individual couples, but on a type of relationship that produces life- and that is bt 1 man and 1 women. Gays were not included in marriage bc that type of relationship is incapable of reproduction, that relationship was disqualified from marring based on biological ability- and not ability of an individual couple but ability of every single gay couple. There will ALWAYS be expectations to the rule in everything, but just bc there are those expectations does not through out the majority and intent of marriage.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  2. Pravda

    It's funny that the majority of posters here are Atheists and don't give a flyin flip about gay marriage.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Well the article isn't about gay marriage. I guess you didn't read it. It is about the Bible's opinion of hom-ose-xuality.

      However, I have posted a few things about gay marriage on this article. Like for instance, how the banning of it is a violation of the first ammendment. There is no good reason other than the Bible to ban gay marriage. That means that this law is based off of the Bible and nothing else. Last time I checked we have this thing called separation of Church and State.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  3. Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

    I love that there are people denying the Council of Nicea happened. They are saying it is "Dan Brown-type stuff". No, it was a recorded historical event. There is a lot of evidence. Actually there is more evidence for the Council of Nicea than there is for Jesus.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  4. Rumpel Stiltskin

    They focus on gays because the republican leadership tells them to. They tell them to because they want to create a wedge between people so they don't notice how much they're being fleeced. The democrats are no different.

    It's called teamism. We're all too_stupid to realize this isn't a sports game where rooting for the red shirts or blue shirts doesn't really matter.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  5. freedomdem

    love how ho mo's bully people into accepting their lifestyle or beliefs and if you disagree with them you are the devil, a nazi, or hitler.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      You don't have to believe it is right, but they deserve to have equal rights. Remember, it isn't a choice, as much as you want to believe it is.

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

      I mean...if you are denying them the same rights as you and treated them as second and third class citizens...

      Then they are spot on.

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

      Allowing them equal footing under US Civil law DOES NOT EQUAL acceptance within your own heart. You can feel free to hate all you want – no one can or is even proposing to control that – but it's simply a different proposition than setting up civil law to treat all citizens equally. The fact that you have to misrepresent the stance of those you hate so clearly (and so transparently, on such an elementarily simple concept) suggests you know you're on the wrong side of the argument.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Morman Smorman Who Cares

    Because Republicans like to feel better than everyone else and they covet g a y hom o pho bic tendancies and are scared of catching it.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  7. anthony

    AMEN!..... WE WANT TO LIVE OUR LIVES WITHOUT GUIDANCE, WITHOUT GOD.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  8. Steve

    Here's the funny thing: nobody is asking for the Church's consent. They're sticking their noses into our political process.

    The reason most of us ended up on this continent was to avoid the state religion in England. I'd suggest moving again we do not have any unexplored lands settle.

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

      Amen

      May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  9. Gabe

    Who cares what the Bible states, when was the last time ANYONE ever witnessed a miracle or such? Lucky for me that you can't use the words of a book I don't believe in against me.

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

      As an agnostic who has many Christian friends, let me tell you about their conception of miracles. There are many wonderful, random things or acts in life that just turned out to be good. Ex. winning lottery, getting accepted for school/award/job, surviving a rare disease, etc. Christians will attribute these as God's miracles or at least God had a hand in it, while atheist/agnostics just perceive them as mere coincidences or result of hard work. For Christians miracles happen every day.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  10. Nathan

    chrism – you are a lost cultist fanatic. Your logic is like a pail with holes; it holds no water. We "celebrate" lots of things – why use "celebrate" as a criterion for anything? Evangelical BIble literalist cherry-pick what they want to believe and not believe in the Bible. If not, why do women speak in church? Why do women wear jewelry in church? Why do women not cover their hair in church. Paul said those rules are from God, not from him. Yet, today, pastors play down such commandments because the congregations have decided that they aren't going to abide by them, so it is deemed "OK" by the church powers that be. It is nauseating.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  11. Carlos

    Men belives that they have the power including the Bible and it is just a lie. We have no control of anything. Jesus loves everyone including the GLBT. Our goal is to live life in peace, respecting everyone on this planet. If Jesus was alive, he was having fun including the GLBT in his get together. I am so tired of the Christians Talibans... enough is enough people. I am a Christian... and gay. I am not better than anyone else. I work, pay my taxes and I do have a family. Why this is a sin. A sin for me is to kill someone, or spread hate. People need to get real. Not long ago blacks were the ones who were discriminated and now the GLBT. Let's get real. When God calls you back... what it counts is what you have done good to people while you were on this planet.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  12. Jablonski

    Why do Christians focus on gays? Simple, they are a threat. People living a lifestyle that is normal and accepted in society but condemned by the Bible simply cannot be abided by them. There will always be gay people, but hopefully there will not always be Christians.

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

      So it's ok to be gay but not ok to be Christian? That's the kind of bigoted remark Christians come to expect from 'free thinkers' these days. You are just as close minded and hateful as anyone you accuse of such.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  13. Mormon magical underwear

    Christians need to focus on how Mitt Romney is not a christian but a cult Bishop for the mormon religion.How can you stand by biblical teaching but look the other way and vote for a cult bishop? Mormons believe in Joesoph Smith as their messiah,when he was a child molester,rapist,polyigimist,theif and a murderer,but they worship him.They worship the book of Mormon as the word of god,which this book was created by Joesoph Smith to control his members.They believe in Mormon magical underwear that protectes them from evil,and only the most devout shall never take them off.Then last but not least they believe GOD lives on PLANET KOLOB. The mormons and BISHOP ROMNEY all believe in these non christian teachings and are performing cult rituals that go against the biblical teachings of god,they distort and slander and pervert the bible and should never be considered a christian. I URGE ALL CHRISTIANS TO NOT VOTE FOR CULTIST BISHOP ROMNEY AND NOT SELL OUT YOUR RELIGIOUS FAITH AND SUPPORT A CULT!!!

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

      And just who do you think we should vote for??? Obama??? there is no perfect candidate. Vote for Obama if you want 4 more years of the same mess.

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

      Fine, I'll vote for the only committed born-again Christian who is running, even if I have to write in his name... again.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  14. JD

    "We, too, are sinners, and hypocrisy and inconsistency are perpetual dangers."
    Lest we forget how the New Testament was basically written after the fact, the bible has been translated multiple times...and don't forget how most of American protestantism is BASED ON KING JAMES BREAKING FROM THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN ORDER TO GET A DIVORCE, proceeding to commission his own biblical translation, that is commonly used today. Just saying. Hypocrisy and inconsistency is inherent in the nature of the text. That which is written and translated by man is inherently fallible

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

      Uh, that was Henry VIII. King James was a whole century later.

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

      The Bible says that gay is not okay. You can do what you want but don't try to change the meaning of the bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  15. Jay

    Christian Love for all as long as you believe as I believe and as I decide the true meaning of the Bible. Deviate from what I believe and you are going to hell so fast even though Jesus supposedly died on the cross to forgive ALL sins! When & IF someone can prove beyond any doubt that GOD 100% stated "xyz" is the rule of God – I'll believe it! Until then save your believes for yourself and don't foist them on me! AMEN!

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

      Actually..no. Hate the sin...love the sinner...Just because we do not agree with someone's lifestyle does not mean we hate them.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  16. MyTake

    This guy is a joke. "In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer." - It is you and your ilk that don't bring up the question to be answered. This is nothing but mind games. the bible does not COMMAND slavery. The fact that is is okay is enough for any thinking person to reject it!!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  17. Joe

    The Jesus I know would never condemn gay marriage.

    But he would say 'Never Ever....

    use cheap drywall'

    May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  18. Jon

    If Joel Olsteen doesn't approve.. nor do I

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

      With all due respect to Joel Osteen, Joel Osteen doesn't know what he believes

      May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  19. Mark

    Explain to me how it is more important to make sure that gays do not marry, than it is to outlaw divorce? I see no movement to make that illegal and really it affects straight folks a whole lot more than gay marriage.

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

      Agreed. Divorce harms thousands of children. Gay families who adopt give children a home.

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

      I'm with you on this one. It always baffles me how "irreconcilable differences" outweigh an oath and pact made before God.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  20. gager

    Why would anybody believe biblical nonsense? Silly people believe.

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

      and what do you believe- science? Tell me when was the last time science did not change it's mind on something? Just pointing out that so many people place such great authority in science as absolute fact & truth, but with each new discovery those "facts/truths" get changed. In essence what you believe to be absolute truth today based on science will be changed and called foolishness in the future, yet you still have the stupidity to laugh at others for their beliefs whiling knowing that your own beliefs are subject to change at any time and are more than likely to be “proven” wrong or of error in the future- talk about calling the kettle black.

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

      That's the point. There is no absolute truth. Over the centuries science evolved to get closer to the truth from the earth being round and revolving around the sun to medical discoveries. The Catholic Church evolved and lagged behind science. Over the years it had to change its beliefs to become scientifically correct. The persecutions of the earliest scientists were the best examples of this.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
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