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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. Peacemaker

    I am a life long Christian. And being 59, I remember "Christians" opposing school desegregation and Civil Rights! I remember "Christians" quoting Scripture to make their point against biracial marriage.

    Mr. Mohler quotes the Gospel of Matthew, "Have you not heard......." What is the chapter and verse? Because, I believe that the quote about a "man leaving his mother and clinging to his wife" is not from JESUS but the Old Testament.

    In the end JESUS IS THE AUTHORITY, by which I, a Christian live..... and the Son of God, JESUS, did not say anything against Gays..... nothing........zip.........nada!

    WHY don't we, Christians, live according to Sacred Law....... and STOP JUDGING..... others?! IF you don't agree with Gays being free to marry civilly then fine. Why deny Gays the joy of marriage? Gays being married do not hurt you or me. BUT.... hate....... judgement, bullying does.

    PS. I am a wife of 40 years..... happily married to a Christian man who also supports Gay Marriage. Their marriage does not take anything away from our marriage. Peace.

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

      Ghee, peacemaker; at lease have your bible by your side as you post. Jesus repeated the Genesis words in Mathew 19:5, about a man leaving his father and mother....

      May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  2. 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, and needy, no matter what land they come from ? The Hyprocrisy of Christians is mind Boggling

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

      How about how it is okay to own slaves?

      And remember Jesus said that anyone who lusts should cut his eye out!

      There would be a lot of blind men around!! Ha!

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

      Neither of you have a clue , go look up what you just said and come back when you become informed...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Pravda

    CUDOS CNN! One of the best articles I have read on CNN in months! Nice new direction for you, I like it!

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

      PS. "Pravda" it is spelled "Kudos"

      May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  4. Duane - St.Pete Florida

    should not be an issue....leave this to the states to decide....why does Obama want to get the federal government into this conversation? why none other than to distract from his failings with the economy of course........

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

      Well DUHane this is a civil rights issue. All Americans should have equal rights. End of story.

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

    as a gay man I thank you for at least being respectful and answering one of my long held questions, though it does not make it right that a really old book gets to take away my rights.

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

      What old book is taking away your rights? The Bible surely isnt...

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

      As a Christian, I agree. Nobody should be taking your rights away ... though the state has no business defining a sacrament. Every "marriage" should be considered a civil union for legal and civil rights purposes. Each individual church can sort out how they want to define marriage and go with it. This whole big debate is one rooted in semantics around the word "marriage."

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

      I don't see the "old" book as taking away your rights. It's simply stating wrong from right. You have a free will to do as you wish and do as you wish.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  6. Ray

    Hah, a Christian talking about people asking questions that they don't want to hear the answers to. That's rich.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  7. galileo225

    You cannot argue with religious ignorance. A snake told an ignorant woman to take a forbidden fruit from a magical tree. Because of that we were all condemned. They believe that is literally what happened. Yet evolution and gravity are fiction to them. Nudity is evil depite being how God made us. How can you argue with that level of ignorance and should we even try. Of course sooner or later we are all the target of that ignorance.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  8. god

    Molesting young boys is A-OK in my book!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  9. JC

    That's all well and good, if you believe in a talking snake, the sun stopping in the sky, xenophobia, genocide, a virgin gaving birth, people coming back from the dead, and world destruction by a jealous god, that's all fine and good. JUST KEEP THESE BELIEFS OUT OF PUBLIC POLICIES!!! You have no authority there. Keep them where they belong... in your church! We are talking about civil rights, not religious rights.

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

      I totally agree ... and keep the state out of my religion. Having the state define a religious sacrament is a complete violation of church and state. Carry on.

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

      Sacrament? If the believers held that marriage was sacred they would be picketting the divorce courts! Go out and protest divorce, the #1 enemy of marriage! We are talking about a civil recognition of marriage. The faithful can marry or not marry whomevr they want.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  10. Rhope

    If you are going to do a bible exposition, at least try and follow the basic principles of bible exposition...
    CNN's been carrying so called opinion by half backed expositors who did not so much as see the inside of exposition & interpretation classroom...or they were asleep in the classroom

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

      Half baked............not backed, ish!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  11. YeahRight

    "Finally a good article that doesn't try to twist what the Bible says.."

    There's a whole list of abominations in your bible are you going to deny all those people their civil rights based on those sins? Unclean things (Lev. 7:21) ; Cheating (Mic. 6:10) ; A proud look (Pro. 6:16-17) ; A lying tongue (Pro. 6:17; 12:22) ; Hands that shed innocent blood ((Pro. 6:17) ; A wicked scheming heart (Pro. 6:18) ; A false witness that speaks lies (Pro. 6:19) ; A sower of discord (Pro. 6:19) ; A false balance or scale (Pro. 11:1) ; The proud of heart (Pro. 16:5) ; Justifying the wicked (Pro. 17:15) ; Condemning the just (Pro. 17:15) ; Refusing to hear the law (Pro. 28:9) ; Wearing clothes of the opposite sex (Dt. 22:5) Re-marriage of former companions (Dt. 24:1-4) ; Cheating others (Dt. 25:13-16) ; Making images/idols (Dt. 27:15) ; Eating unclean things (Isa. 66:17) ; Robbery (Ezek. 18: 6-13) ; Murder (Ezek. 18: 6-13) ; Adultery (Ezek. 18: 6-13) ; Oppression of others, particularly the poor or vulnerable (Ezek. 18: 6-13) ; Violence (Ezek. 18: 6-13) ; Breaking vows (Ezek. 18: 6-13) ; Lending with interest to a brother (Ezek. 18: 6-13) ; Lying with a menstruous woman (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

    Probably not, which is why so many in your cult are hypocrites.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • servant of God

      excuses....excuses...

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

      YeahRight
      The man just told you that every sin is grave in God's eyes equally. The essential principle in Xtianity is Mercy rather than Justice. Besides sin is Transgression of the Law. Genesis to Deuteronomy. You quoted wrongly. If you do not know ask of at least Google.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Jack S.

      Addressing your list of prohibitions from the Old Testament, the author states, "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.” On the contrary, and in defense of your comment, there are PLENTY of examples to be found in the New Testament.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • RyouNutts

      90% of those are from the old Testament. Check out the new Testament which was written because of the sacrafice of Jesus. Then try reposting with your new found knowledge.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  12. Peter

    More rationalization for hate.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  13. Gpower

    The bible has been diced, sliced, chooped up, underlined, highlighted every which way to suit a particular group's agenda. They certain parts and preach to others without telling the whole story. THE BIBLE IS A BUNCH OF B.S.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  14. Only one true God

    We all have different point of views, we can't get mad if somebody don't believe, Jesus doesn't force his will on any man but it is a who so ever will let him come. We all are going to stand before God and give an account of the deeds done in this body if it be good or evil. I don't argue the Word of God I just let people know that JESUS LOVES THEM. Being filled with is Holy Ghost is thee most important choice you will ever make. Prepare your lives my friend there is a day when he will come back. Love, forgive, repent, believe and be filled my friends.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • servant of God

      Amen to that my brother

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

      I don't argue the Word of God
      -----
      Good. The human beings that wrote it would be quite happy with you.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • DFW Dann

      Jesus may not force his will upon others but I pray every day for him to protect me from those ideologues who claim to act in his name. I respect those who adhere to their beliefs after thoughtful consideration and allow others that same privilege.

      Problem is it's the other ones (Like Westboro Baptist Church) who are making headlines and causing good people to be hit with bad labels.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Thirty One Flavors

      I am not really expecting a rational response, but I am going to ask you anyway: why, exactly, are you so convinced that your "one true god" is THE one true god. There have been many worshipped before, at the same time, and will be after yours, so why do you believe that yours is correct? You are saying that apples are better than oranges, but you have never even held an orange ... Believe what you will, but understand that if you state that your way is the only way out of thousands, some people might ask you to validate and verify that in some way, shape or form.

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

      That's all fine and good. Just keep out of public policy making. That's all. You can play with your "toys" but don't tell others how to play with their "toys".

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  15. Dan586

    CHRISTIANS ARE ALL CHERRY PICKERS !

    May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Mythology is not healthy for children or other living things

      Only after they get married...otherwise it's a sin.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  16. Jim

    What does the bible say about directing five guys to hold down the kid that didn't fit in so Romney could butcher his head with a scissors.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Common Guy12

      Really, your best attack against Romney is something that happened 50 years ago. Pretty sad.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  17. Julnor

    Speaking as an atheist, it would seem that it is the media that is putting so much focus on gays.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • galileo225

      Having known gay people who took their own lives over being bullied and told how evil they were their whole lives by religious biggots, I disagree that their is too much press. I am as straight as they get, they were good people who deserved better. They were more christian than any of these so called evangelicals.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  18. Kyle in dallas

    Why does the good Rev. not talk about divorce. Southern Baptist have a very high rate of divorce and the Bible states God hates divorce. God never states he hates Gays contrary to SBC statements.

    Romans 7:2,3

    A married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives. This means that if she is married to another man while her first husband is alive, she is guilty of adultery. She is free to remarry without guilt only if her husband is dead.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Because like all preachers the Rev is a cherry picking hypocrite.

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

      He did. READ.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • coomercove

      Did you not read the article? He mentioned divorce and said the church has failed and needs to be honest enough to admit to it and correct it.

      "The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective."

      May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Jack S.

      Direct excerpt from the end of the article, "The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective." Yes, the curch has failed in the failure to address this prevalent problem within the church.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Kyle in dallas

      Yes I read the article but he did not say what the corrective action will be. Are the Southern Baptist planning to push for state amendments to forbid women from remarrying until their first husband is dead? I have not read anything about that, have you?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Jack S.

      To quote Kyle in Dallas, "Why does the good Rev. not talk about divorce." That statement does not reflect an inquiry into what corrective actions the author would recommend.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Steelydrew

      Re read the article, he did address the issue of divorce & that the church has not spoken out against it. And I totally disagree that ALL Christians are cherry pickers, all Christians are human & therefore quite imperfect beings. Quit being so judgemental & hypocritical.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  19. Steve

    Civil rights are not subject to Church doctrine.

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

    Finally a good article that doesn't try to twist what the Bible says..

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

      I saw plenty of twisting.. Like with his remark about the bible not being pro sl a very..

      May 21, 2012 at 3:52 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.