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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. LOL Religion

    Because they are bigots.

    Next question.

    "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

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

      Sounds more like Atheism to me. Atheists create their own moral standard, hence their own "god" and religion...

      May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      I'll take using empathy and utility as my moral compass over a book written by ignorant primitive desert dwellers any day, Pravda. Just because you maintain your morality is objective, does not mean it is superior or just.

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

      There are many,many people who are misguided and truly uninformed be they admitted atheists or religious followers or not. Hate the sin/wrongful act , not the sinner/person. That is the message. Any other interpretation is mistaken.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      I love the Christian and hate their bigoted, antiquated religion, Hadenuffyet.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • stating the obvious

      Bigot, yeah right. If bigotry includes thinking it's gross and nasty for someone to routinely allow dise@sed ridden f*cal matter to be smeared all over their d!cks, then turn around and donate some themselves, and then calling it "love", then PLEASE count me in with the bigots. Why is it that they are the only group that can wallow in disease and f!lth and it's considered cool simply because they WANT TO?!?!?

      That's one jacket I don't mind wearing.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Thanks for making my point for me.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  2. Mike

    Actually it's because christians just find gay people icky.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  3. anon

    It just goes to prove that we have reached the point in society where we as individuals will have to choose which side to be on. Years ago, conservatives, and liberals could live in peace with one another, agreeing to disagree, and who's differences were a bit more blurred and subtle. Not so now. As the bible so prophetically put it (yet again) folks are going to have to decide whether or not to be among the sheep or the goats. Families will be split apart. Mothers against daughters, fathers against sons, mother in law against daughter in law and NOW, it's husband against wife. Our enemies are in our own house.
    Choose now this day who, and what (ideals, values, beliefs) you will serve and stand with.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  4. russ

    Oh.... a Baptist.... that explains his views.. His is not a true Christian faith so his opinion doesn't count

    May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Billy Joe Jim Bob

      You are a delusional bigot, so your opinion is worthless.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  5. Jonathan Oleson

    Great article. Thank you.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  6. freedomdem

    christians and ho mo's should both be banned from the usa...................................that would be sweet!!!!!!!!!!

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

      Kinda like Soviet Russia circa 1920...how lovely..

      May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  7. jw

    there is no such thing as religion, or the bible or God according to the Bible. IT IS FICTION, and it is silly to see how many people are not thinking with the brain they were gifted with and living their lives according to the FICTION that is the bible. WE are ALL in the same boat people.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  8. RobertG

    @YeahRight – There are gays being cured every day. There are many who were as gay as one could be, and CHOSE to leave. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is done much more often than you will want to believe. You can check out NARTH.

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

      They cure people there the same way you'd cure left-handedness.. I've known more than one gay to go through those sorts of programs and every one of them eventually lapsed back into homersecksuality within years or decades–but eventually.

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

      @momoya – some may go back, but it's like an alcoholic, they have to stay away from the stuff. There have been gays free from it for more than a decade, easily.

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

      Robert, can you recommend any organization that can cure me of my redhead-ness?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Billy Joe Jim Bob

      Your delusional belief in your comic book hero is the sign of a sick mind. To then suggest that gay is a disease is not only the pinnacle of hypocrisy, but a clear sign of the denial of your own sick mind.

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

      I hope for these people's sakes what you say is true, but I have my doubts. For one thing, we would be hearing alot more about it from the most conservative, and Christian groups. Yet they are a bit silent on that particular subject. Though I can see where most gays wouldn't WANT to be that way. Life is still much easier in society for the straights. Whether or not they are born that way or just assume they were born that way because it FEELS so right is debatable. Truth of the matter is is that there is no way to really know. It's safer to assume pure biology at play with straights, since otherwise, our species would simply die off, but gays, hmmm, that one's a bit trickier. Nonetheless, they are what they are.

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

      Madtown..they have electrolysis for that...lol

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

      Repression does not equals cure.

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

      @Madtown – Yes, it's called gene therapy. Hair color has a gene related to it. Being gay does not.

      Do you honestly think that when genetic engineering is a reality that we can change a couple of genes and a person will no longer be ho.mose.xual?? Really??? I'll be able to do that with your hair, tho.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • frank

      gene therapy hahahahahahaha!!!!!! I go away

      May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Madtown

      RobertG
      @Madtown – Yes, it's called gene therapy. Hair color has a gene related to it. Being gay does not.
      -----
      No kidding, it's not nearly as simple as 1 gene. If you had any desire to learn about it, and not stick to your judgemental dogma, you'd learn that it's complex, and numerous factors may contribute. But, the correct conclusion is certainly that there's at NO POINT any choice involved. Since you think so, tell us at what age did you make your choice of how to be? What was your thought process and rational behind choosing your particular path of orientation?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • RobertG

      @Madtown – When I was a teenager, after having some ho.mose.xual experiences and realizing I liked girls more than boys. It's interesting that gays tell me that I was "too immature" as a teenager to make a "choice", but then when teenagers today "come out" it is celebrated. What makes them more "mature" than someone who "chooses" against it???

      When did you decide?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  9. TJ

    Question, did "God" write the bible or was it written by men, who, when writing may have put in their own thoughts and beliefs. I am not a religious person and do not really believe the events in the bible...but I do have to ask...did Jesus EVER talk about discriminating against anyone? If I recall correctly, the only time ti is written that he became angry was when people were being cheated...so why do others feel the need to cheat people who identify as gay or lesbian out of their happiness?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      Of course it was written by man and of course they put their own thoughts into it especially in the epistles which were personal letters from the apostles to other churches.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  10. Hadenuffyet

    Live by this and everything else follows suit....

    Matthew 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
    36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

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

      amen...you beat me to it, i was gonna cite the same passage. jesus overthrew the "law" and replaced it with a new commandment...not a bunch of legalistic moralistic rules, but a very concise and simple statement. love god and love each other. but men, both believers and non-believers alike, continue to feel the need to invent "rules" by which to enslave each other.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  11. Hypatia

    because xians need to have some group to persecute, just like they need another group to 'convert'. Their whole system of judgments depends entirely on forcing their beliefs on others, one way or another.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Billy Joe Jim Bob

      Bee eye en gee oh.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  12. Mormon magical underwear

    If you truely are a christian you cannot support the Cult Bishop Romney,DONT SELL OUT YOUR CHRISTIAN FAITH<SIT THIS ELECTION OUT!

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

      The Christian faith does not recognize the Church of Latter Day Saints, to be a Christian denomination.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Tyler

    The biggest thing Christians need to understand is that gay people do not need to abide by their holy book, YOU do. It does not matter if it is legal or not, you're the one submitting to religion, so you're the one that needs to obey. You have no right to impose your beliefs onto others.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Billy Joe Jim Bob

      Since hypocrisy is the fulcrum of religion, that will never happen.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • anon

      I've thought about your point often. I think the reason why so many in the Christian ranks take such an interest in it is for the same mentality that someone on a boat would take interest in someone else on the opposite side of the boat trying to drill a tiny hole in it, and allowing a small trickle of water to come in. Even if they are drilling a small hole behind closed doors in their own cabin, it is still believed that the hole will one day have an adverse effect on the life of the ones on the other side of the boat who have religious objections to hole drilling.

      Hole drilling may be a bad analagy when discussing this topic. 😉

      It's possible many of us are just paranoid, and it won't make the country go down one bit, or even contribute to such. I think we have more to worry about with the national debt then anything else. All in all, I think you are right. If you don't believe in hole drilling, then just don't do it, but don't tell others what THEY can do.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • anon

      I've thought about your point often. I think the reason why so many in the Christian ranks take such an interest in it is for the same mentality that someone on a boat would take interest in someone else on the opposite side of the boat trying to dr!ll a tiny ho.le in it, and allowing a small trickle of water to come in. Even if they are dr!lling a small ho. behind closed doors in their own cabin, it is still believed that the hole will one day have an adverse effect on the life of the ones on the other side of the boat who have religious objections to hole drilling.

      Hole drIlling may be a bad analagy when discussing this topic. 😉

      It's possible many of us are just paranoid, and it won't make the country go down one bit, or even contribute to such. I think we have more to worry about with the national debt then anything else. All in all, I think you are right. If you don't believe in hole dr!lling, then just don't do it, but don't tell others what THEY can do on this boat. Or better yet, give swimming lessons.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  14. A. Disciple

    I am a disciple (a follower of Jesus Christ) because He has called me to love my fellow neighbor as myself and I must obey. Jesus did not call me to love the bible or to take it literally as do the fundamentalists. The Bible is the work of Man (human beings) in response to God. It is not to be construed as the words of the Creator. If we worship the bible, as many sadly do, we simply make it another idol along with wealth, fame, material things, our appearance, and our career. So many are blind to the true Love of God because they must have all the answers printed out in words. It is better to live in doubt and simply love as Jesus instructs. It's very simple!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  15. freedomdem

    im a liberal and im so sick of the ho mo agenda......gay this gay that gay this gay that gay this gay that............so old

    May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • elephant in the room

      Despite the arguments, and well laid manipulations of the bible, it all boils down to one thing:
      G@ys are simply a group of people who demand we acknowledge their behavior as normal and equal to others. Nevermind the fact that their behavior involves routinely allowing the smearing of disease ridden f*cal matter onto their privates. It's sitll "love". Nothing says I love you like sharing E coli.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  16. MyTake

    "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. - This DOES not mention any number of wives ... these apologist do nothing but lie. They have to because the actual words they DECIDE to abide by are non-sense.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  17. jay

    What about all those priest that molested boy and the church forgave them????

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

      Are you referring to the molestation of boys by Catholic priests in the 2000s? Catholics are different from Baptists(and other Protestants). I am neither; however, even I know the difference. Do not utilize misguided attacks on subjects you are clearly misinformed about.

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

      Sin is sin. Catholic preists are mere men – and God will be their ultimate judge.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  18. Scott

    The only worthwhile part of the New Testament is the Gospels. Everything else is just the word of men who made rules. And even what's in the Gospels was adjusted as the writers saw fit, otherwise there would be one Gospel and not four (and we know there were many others that were not selected by human men to be in the Bible). You can believe God is against gay marriage all you want. But God created gays "in his image". Besides, gay marriage has nothing to do with any religion, it has to do with the purely secular federal and state and local governments, so whether or not Christians or any other religious group oppose gay marriage is inconsequential.

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

      Interesting – "the Gospels were adjusted as the writers saw fit. . . ." and I guess you have evidence of that? Archeologiests today continue to find more and more evidence that validates the Bible. Science leans more and more to the existence of God, and medical science confirms that their patients who have a strong Christian faith recover from illness in greater numbers than those who don't. These are just a few of the current day facts that you need to take a closer look at.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  19. 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 3:45 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      Ravi,
      Actually, this is a commonly understood narrative in Acts. Have you read it?

      By the way, I disagree with Mohler's main premise in this column.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  20. frankie

    The bible, god and religion are BS

    May 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      I'll second that!

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

      Amen

      May 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • jlc012

      And I!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Sabrina Nord

      If you read the Bible in it's entirety you would know that it is not BS. That is very foolish talk. The Bible is the Living Word and it is breathed by God.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:56 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.