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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. ScottH

    Wow...how quickly CNN has become MSNBC.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  2. harry bradley

    the rev. dr. mohler needs to be careful in giving southern baptist convention Christians credit for the abolitionist movement and implying that those folk are against slavery and for personal freedom. the SBC has been notorious is objecting to civil rights legislation throughout history. in fact, all of the deep south senators voted against the civil rights bill by LBJ and the SBC controlled the votes in the soutern states during that time and still do. if most SBC christians had their way...there would be no civil rights, no human rights, no womens rights, men would always be head of the household and their preachers would still preach from the pulpit that it's ok to beat children....and some still preach that. the rev.dr. mohler needs to get a real job so he can become educated

    May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  3. PRISM 1234

    One of few well written articles here on CNN belief blog...... They don't come very often!
    Thanks, Mr Mohler!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  4. tigrr

    Bottomline – Religions want their members to breed so they have more members. More members, more money, more power. Same for governments. The also stifle individuality for the same reasons.

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

      @Tigrr – I belong to and am a regular attendant to a First United Methodist Church. Our church does NOT preach members to breed more members. What an absurd statement. I have NEVER heard our preacher say one word, for or against gays & lesbians.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ Dallas

      SSssooOOH your preacher is he the silent type when it comes to sodomy and gay and lesbian crowds?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  5. Daniel

    The writer answers about slavery and polygamy... "In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. For reason reasons of freedom and dignity.... "..the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction." I always hear that "this nations was fouded in Christianity and our founding fathers were Christians" yet they drafted the laws that excluded blacks form basic freedom and personhood. Then we're told it took an "Army of Christians" to abolish it – and the Bible Belt, the highest concentration of Christinas, the SOUTH in the civial war was fighting to DEFEND slavery – like the founding fathers set up. Seems to me credit is being applied very conveniently. The essay ends with "Love requires us to tell the truth." Truth does not paint a pristine picture of Christianity's role in history. Truth says to me the Bible give a lot of air time to the helpless and vulnerable, yet Christains give all the airtime to a relatively small issue. To be TRUTHFUL – the Bible really wants us to drop what we're doing, and go out and invest our time making the world a better place for all – most notably the poor and the sick and the vulnerable, not check a box on a candidate's ballot or some initiative hust because it's the most popular issue today. It's NOT the most popular issue with Christ! Maybe Christians just aren't not listening to the workds in the book they preach. That's what history says, anyway.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  6. Keith

    To live one's life based on "tenets" created thousands of years ago makes little sense to me. Would we allow the ideas of slave owners from the Civil War Era determine civil rights in our country? What about the ideas of Hitler? Would we use his writings written decades to determine how we act today? Haven't we learned yet that when you "subjugate" another, there only course of action is "to rise" up against the subjugation? We have so many examples in history, and many of them are not so far in the past.

    There were many who never thought that African Americans would never have the freedoms that they have today, yet society changed and adapted. It took leaders of great courage to stand up to the ignorance of the masses. Sure, the majority might rule, but is it right to let mob mentality determine our social course and future?

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

      The principles of democracy are older than the Bible and were written down b4 the NT. If it is relevant to your life the Bible is even more so!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  7. Dan586

    Shellfish ? HOW ABOUT RESTING AND WORSHIPPING ON THE SEVETH DAY ? No working on this day.

    How about GOATS AND SHEEP people ! Where God judges all men based on helping the poor, sick, old, amd needy, no matter what land they come from ? The Hyprocrisy of Christians is mind Boggling

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

      No, just like most atheists you really don't understand what you are talking about. Maybe try reading the bible sometime...

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  8. SIR John

    You presume that everybody follows your bible. Well I don't. So I guess I'm all set where condemnation is concerned. For the record, I do things in my bedroom that would curl your toes, but that is my choice and none of your business. I am enjoying my life, giving back to my community, and being kind and loving. If there is a god and he has a problem with me, I want to hear it from the horse's mouth and not from the opposite end from which you are preaching. I am a tax payer, your church is not. Now who should have protection and equal rights under the law. Your church or me? Um ... me.

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

      *Like*

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

      It is so strange to read a well written piece by a clearly educated person who is trying to explain nonsense and mythology as fact and history and intellectual justification? Sort of like a treatise on the Easter Bunny explaining the moral basis of his egg delivery system to justify some national economic policy. Whacky.

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

      *Like*

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

      Brilliant, Sir John. I completely agree. If religion wants to participate in the legislation of civil rights and even have a voice in politics then they need to pay taxes, hold elections, and be vetted like any other PAC. We do not live in a religious State. We are a secular nation. If you believe otherwise then you are not a true American. Get your religion out of my life! Practice your freedom of religious delusion where it belongs – in your homes and churches. Keep it out of my home, my school, my government!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Derangedcowbrain

      One of the greatest replies ever. I am forever in your honor, SIR.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Freelancer

      *LIKE*

      May 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  9. rad666

    God only created Woman because he got bored watching Adam do it with the animals.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  10. Canopy

    Check your tags non-nudists...mixed fabric anyone?

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

      Yeah, and no more underwear with elastic or underwire or whatever..

      May 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  11. Ryan

    Colossians 3:22: Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

    Pretty sure that is the New Testament condoning slavery.

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

      Men wrote the bible people, it is a novel at best!!!

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

      I guess you missed the part where it says gain your freedom if you can. And Jesus came to set the captives free. It's okay, your atheistic teachings are just showing...

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

      Taking a big leap there with that assumption ... one that'd you would be wrong about. But people see what they want to see.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  12. Morman Smorman Who Cares

    Why are most republicans repressed hom oph obic people. Doesn't the ten commandments speak about not judging? Maybe they to busy coveting young women and men......

    GET A CLUE AND GET OVER YOURSELVES NOW!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  13. R. Hatton

    Trying to apply some aspects of your religion but not others to all Americans, including non-believers–if this isn't hypocrisy, what is it? You "failed miserably" to apply Christian divorce laws to all. Why did you give up that pursuit if Jesus' core teachings are so essential to everyone, Christian or not? In the USA, pursuit of theocracy is a fool's errand. As a devout Christian, I resent it & I resent bigotry being presented as God's will.

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

      Brav o! My church happens to accept, ordain, and marry lgbt folks. If they didn't I'd find another place to go.

      But what is most important is that we live in a secular society and live by secular laws. These churches that preach politics should lose their tax exempt status.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  14. hayesry1

    Absurd.

    "For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction."

    Ya - but the pro-slavery movement was ALSO lead by Christians, citing Christian scripture. This is revisionist history, pure and simple. But what else can we expect from reactionary wing-nuts like this. Here's an idea: maybe try reading a book that is not The Bible - maybe learn something.

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

      Dang you're on some good stuff, pass that over here...

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

      Good points. The Bible was used by both sides of the slavery argument in the North AND the South. I would suggest that Mr. Mohler re-read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" - the author of that work does a great job at juxtaposing the two arguments.

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

      And the Baptists were NOT leading the anti-slavery movement AT ALL!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  15. Freelancer

    You know - I went to a Christian private school for 5 years (8th grade through 12th grade). We had to go to chapel every day. We had to take bible classes to graduate. We even had to learn Latin...

    Yet, after 25 years, my graduating class is still connected on a daily basis via Facebook. Guess what? Even after all the Christian "teaching", we're almost unanimously PRO CHOICE when it comes to the subject of gays.

    While we have children of our own now, and we send those children to Christian private schools all over the nation, we have been completely discusted by the actions of the so-called Christian Moral Majority.

    "A man who hasn't learned history is doomed to repeat it." This is no different from the Church condemning early science during the times of enlightenment, or the Church welcoming slavery / segregation with open arms.

    Make no mistake, the Church is doing what it does best - sticking it's nose in other people's business, and telling them how to live their lives. The end result is nothing short of discrimination.

    For the religious zealouts who insist on putting the hammer down on the gay issue - be aware that you are also driving away your sheep!

    ** Freelancer is a straight male, married 18 WONDERFUL years to a beautiful woman, and has three GLORIOUS children. Freelancer has never had a gay experience, and has no interest in ever having one. Freelancer is an intelligent, logicial-thinking human being, who believes all people are created equal in the eyes of God. Freelancer does not believe in genocide of any type (Native Americans to White Settlers, Slaves to Southerners, Jews to Hitler, Chechens to Russians, or Gays to Christianity). Freelancer belives in LIVE AND LET LIVE!

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

      5 years in a Christian private school is not alot..LOL! I went to Christian private school from 1st grade to the 12th. LOL!

      But anyway, I agree with you, I'm also pro choice on the gay marriage thing. And Yes I am hetero.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Freelancer

      @JohnSmith - thank you for your response. (Though I'm not sure why you had to poke fun at my 5 year sentence.) Be advised that my classmates were "Lifers" (K-12) as well, and most agree with us on the pro-choice gay issue.

      One thing I left out of my first post - the Church has a long history of making very poor decisions in the name of God, then apologizing for those mistakes at a much later date (like 200 years after the offense). Learn from your own history. Stop making poor decisions. Do the right thing, and stop forcing your "law" on everyone. (For the record, not everyone wants to live under the rule of your iron thumb!)

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Derangedcowbrain

      Excellent post. I find that I don't even need to post my own with great ideas offered by your and Sir John.

      DCB

      May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Freelancer

      @Derangedcowbrain - thank you for your nice words. Yet, PLEASE voice your own opinion! United we stand!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  16. v

    Jesus himself condemns divorce multiple times, but I don't see modern-day Christians railing against divorce and remarriage at even 10% of amount they put into anti-gay sentiment. Bottom line: everybody sins, and all sins are equal in the eyes of God. Splitting hairs is human talk, not divine talk.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • drinker75

      Maybe there should be a law making it illegal for Christians to get divorced....that would be interesting!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ v

      The divinity of people depends upon their laws of righteousness and until such days shall come, all nations will scurry about loathsomely and with little vigor!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • JohnnyCopper

      I am a bible-believing Christian, and I totally agree!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  17. Robert

    This is very well written. The real issue is not what the bible says about what is right or wrong (all interpretations aside). We are a nation of many faiths or not of any faith. Our country should not be obligated to discriminate on who thinks someones love is wrong based on any book of religion.

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

      I am a bible-believing Christian and I totally agree!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  18. Edwin

    Okay, so the author (conveniently) discards the contract with Israel - even though lots of other christian scholars dispute this point of view.

    Even so, can any christian here explain to me why unmarried straight couples do not get the same kind of protests and grief as unmarried gay couples? BOTH ARE LIVING IN SIN - no question about it. BOTH sins are considered EQUAL in God's eyes. So... WHY DO CHRISTIANS IGNORE THE ONE BUT GET INTO A TIZZY ABOUT THE OTHER?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Eric G

      Because many Christians are ho-mophobes and created their god in their image.

      I think the old saying is.....

      How do you know that your god is man made? Because he hates all the same stuff you do.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Tomk777

      Christians don't ignore, infidelity and adultery, but people who commit adultery are usually not going on record as being PROUD about it, there is no infidelity and adultery pride floats or parades that I'm aware of, their are plenty of gay pride parades and floats though. It's not the gay issue that makes it a more troublesome sin, your right, God sees all sin as equil, it's the pride part that's the problem, because if there is pride, God can't work with us. They can discount Gods word, they can ignore God, they can even claim he doesn't exist, but that doesn't change anything, he still exists, his word is still clear, he's still reaching out to them, and their still rejecting him.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Part of it may be the pro-creation factor sadly...even if a man and woman are living together without that paper involved, they are still capable of having children.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  19. A Serpent's Thought

    The "separation of church and state" are as two vines clinging upon the same tree of societal ways! Without social considerations tree rising, neither the vine of the religious nor the vine of the state could raise upon the societal branches! All three constructs cannot flourish without their roots borrowing deeply into the soil of the people who serve and are served!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  20. 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 3:48 pm |
    • Morman Smorman Who Cares

      As long as they can pretend their the top 1% in wealth and never ever pay taxes they would sleep in dens of hedenistic occurances to save some cash.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Punisher2000

      Anyone who calls Jesus Christ his Saviour is a Christian. Inciting hatred is very unchristian and typical of ignorant bigots.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Me

      Kind of like how Obama is a Muslim and we should be careful re-electing Muhammed and putting Allah in the White House?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • jimbean

      While I agree that Mormons do have teachings contradictory to the bible, you have to remember that that Jesus and Paul were considered members of a "sect" (aka cult) of the Nazarenes. Aside from the real obvious groups (drinking cyanide, etc.) you need to be real careful who you label a cult. Cult is usually a label applied by the status quo/most popular/largest religious group of a given time, to anyone else who doesn't agree with them. I'm sure the Catholics considered the Waldensians a "sect" for trying to reproduce copies of the bible in the language of the common man.
      On related issue, Peter's dream had NOTHING to do with diet; it was an illustration for Peter and the newly formed Christian church that the gentiles were to now be included in the body of Christ.

      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.