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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. Dan586

    BUT YET CHRISTIANS ARE WILLING TO EMBRACE MORMONISM

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

      Yes, we love atheists too... Oh wait a minute, sorry, I thought you wrote Moronism....

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

      Mormonism is BS too. So is Islam. All religions are BS because there really isn't a god.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  2. David alamus

    Do not goes beyond what the bible say' for it is written thou shall not add or remove from this words i.e bible'

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

      It is now written herein, the bible is a fucking joke and only idiots believe what it says.

      There, it's written. Now move on from your sick religion. The people of the world, gays and others too, have suffered enough from Christianity already.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Tom

      Does the Bible condemn using its pages as toilet paper?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • justinstl

      I smoked weed from bible paper .....lol

      May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  3. god

    Open marriage between a man and other women is allowed. Just ask Newt.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  4. KH

    If your bible tells you this and this is your belief, then the answer is easy: don't marry a man, Reverend. But do not make me abide by your religious faith. I, too, belong to a church, and that church married my husband and me.

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

    CAN ANYONE NAME ONE PROPHECY THAT HAS NOT COME TRUE?........ HERE'S A SECRET THE ANSWER IS NO

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

      The entire book of Revelations is prophacy and much of it hasn't come true yet.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Prophecies coming true, huh? Which would indicate the power to see the future. Which means God knows what He's doing when he creates someone that will go to hell. Which means God is cruel. Which means, "where's this merciful God at?"

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Tom

      I can only conclude 3 things. You're either: 1.) stupid 2.) insane 3.) willfully ignorant

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      REVELATIONS.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • PurpleStikyPunch

      AHAHAHA... you can't be serious. Read Revelations. Where's the seven headed dragon spewing frogs? Probably just happening somewhere with no news media.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • I'm free.

      Yes, the one about jesus coming back. And don't start that crap about "yet"

      May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  6. Mitch

    I can't think of many better arguments for atheism than this article.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  7. cncmnccmn xcmnmxcnmn

    to take the focus off their absurd delusion

    May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  8. Rick

    The author misses the point. We as Christians must follow the teachings of the bible to judge our own moral and sinful nature. The right to judge others is limited to Jesus Christ alone (see the Gospel of John for reference). We need to quit judging gays and lesbians. Paul would agree that bringing someone into the presence of the Lord is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Christians: quit judging and start loving people even if you think they are sinners. It is what we are called to do.

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

      Why not just do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and toss your Bible onto the scrap heap of failed ideologies?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Peacemaker

      You are correct! Jesus great commandment was (is) 'LOVE ONE ANOTHER....."

      Christians give God a bad name with their bigotry.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  9. I am John

    I am astonished at how many people who post here who claim to know the Bible...but have never read it in its entirety! I have never read all the works of ______ (i.e., Shakespeare), therefore I would not pretend to understand it nor would I comment on it.

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

      I've haven't seen all the Twilight movies, but I know they're terrible.

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

      Most people come out of Shakespear with the same understanding.

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

      Are you kidding? It has a talking snake in it. Do you really think there's any wisdom in there?

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

      Christians actually think that their man written Bible actually contains the WORD of god.....Thats crazy to think since God does not speak to man....man thinks it all up and suits his own greedy needs.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  10. Pravda

    Okay, all you atheists and gay activists out there, can we please stop attacking the bible over US laws? Besides Atheists claim we are not a religious nation and our laws are not based on Christianity anyways, so why attack the Bible??

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

      Because you're using it to persecute people.

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

      "so why attack the Bible??"

      Because Christians are using it to fuel the hatred and bigotry towards this minority group, using it to try and block their civil rights. Duh.

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

      Lol, you don't even know me dude, how can you say that?

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

      But we are not a "Christian nation" so says the atheists....

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

      Are you blind? People are using the Bible to rescind and restrict other people's rights. That's why. As such, we should all burn a Bible today (and Koran)

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

      IF we were a TRUE Christian nation......... people would not hate our president!

      The poor would be taken care of, no child in the U.S. would go to bed hungry, and......... the sick would have healthcare paid for!

      NO........ we are not a Christian nation...... we are a nation addicted to greed & power!

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

      The Bible is only a man written book...You Christians twist it around and use it as a tool or manual for life. It is nothing more than a book of ideas the same as GOD is nothing more than an IDEA! God is different for each and every individual.....The Christians want people to think that God is a ruler(absent one at that) that says its my way or the highway. Thats not Gos! thats is Christians trying to unite and control the lives of man.

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

      No one is attacking the bible...it is just a book...People attack the Christians that try to push their beliefs and their book on others ....by constantly refering to this story book as the word as if it is the only thing to consider in life. I bet if These so called Christians had to choose between their book and God or their right to mave hold and make money....they would abandon their God for the money! Is your god going to feed you when you arent allowed to use or have money?

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

      Jesus said: 'Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil."

      This breaks down any claim that you're not supposed to be following the old laws.

      This entire discussion is silly anyway. Keep your bible out of laws and non-believers will leave christians alone

      May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      As pointed out by the author of this article the Bible has contradictions from old testament to new. The bible also has interestingly enough indicated that a woman is worth less than a man. The Bible has also said that sodomy is wrong, burning witches is right, that we are too take care of our planet but then says to exploit it in some regards. The Bible is really an easy target, lets face it men/women 2000-5000 yrs ago knew very little about sciences and nature. The Jewish and Christian peoples both wanted to procreate so why allow a union that does not increase the tribe?" It is simple, math and control that causes the Bible to dictate to the average person.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. tigrr

    The Bible is like a bunch of old newspaper clippings. It is a collection of legends, stories, historical eventes, letters from apostles, and other forms of ancient news all assebled together. It has been written down by scribes for pharoah, kings, priests, rabbis, et al, and since edited, and often corrupted. Unless you can read the original texts in arabid, ancient greek, etc, and understand the idioms of the day, you are likely reading something rather mis-translated and mis-leading. Rome's councils deliberately removed most reference to the wise women (Marthas) of the day, took out most things dealing with reincarnation, and other edits to suit the pope at the time. The Histories by Herodotus are more reliable than most things in the Bible. Amazingly, some people think it was 'witten by go' ... and in English. LOL

    May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  12. solex

    The simple fact is that the bible has nothing to do wtih it. Hatred is hatred – you don't really need an excuse for that.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  13. Tom

    Mr Mohler – take your Bible and shove it deep up your Mohler. It's a disgrace than an adult in the 21st century still takes cues from a book with a talking snake in it.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  14. Bob

    With all the bible referencing going on here, it's worth a look at some of the common juicy bits in the Christian book of nasty that one encounters frequently in there. Fine stuff like these instructions from god that the bible presents:

    Numbers 31:17-18
    17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
    18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

    Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

    Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

    And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Please folks, stop referencing that Christian book of nasty, AKA the bible, as a guide to how any group should be treated, or, well, to anything else at all. Get over your sicko ancient supersti-tions already and learn some science and reasoning skills, before America declines even further.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • A La Carte

      Enjoy your time at the buffet line!

      Don't bother to read the whole Bible at all...just pull out what supports your argument. Have a nice day!

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

      Wow, grabbing a couple verses meant for the Jewish nation centuries ago and just for that time, what is your point? Typical atheist drivel...

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

      Did you read the artilcle?

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

      Pravda, your post is bullshit plain and simple. Again, read this part of my post carefully. Go away and think about it, since you aren't very bright, and don't come back until you understand and appreciate it:

      "And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself."

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • DontPretend

      Actually, Numbers and Deutoronomy are from the Old Testament, aka, the Jewish Book of Nasty

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Bob

      I can get into NT nastiness too, but again, read my post, and think it through more carefully: Why did your "loving" sky fairy ever put such nastiness in there, OT or NT? You seem to lack the courage to address that. What a joke your religion is.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Thirty One Flavors

      @ a la carte – I have read your bible. Several times. I have also read a lot of other texts that I am positive you have never touched. So let us not pretend to compare religious knowledge, because I am not pigeonholed into one way of thinking. Are you really trying to argue that the Christian bible doesn't contradict itself? He paraphrased passages, because it would be foolhard for him to copy and paste the entire works. He is expecting a certain level of intelligence and comprehension, and the ability to make your own mental connections from the examples given. If this doesn't work for you, please try and draw by numbers coloring book. There are only two options: literal or allegorical. If it is literal, then it is full of contradiction from start to finish. I am not even talking about the conceptual issues (like who Cain mated with), or the logistical argument that you simply can't house that many animals on a watercraft and survive for a year at sea. But the straight up "do not eat fish on Fridays, or I will kill you" contradictions. Or how messed up the entire story of Job is.

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

      All written by man! whats your point?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  15. MyTake

    "In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer." – Thinking people as myself are afraid to hear the answer of that would reflect the vision for our country (and the world) and would come from it your answers.

    Right wing Christians are a blight on America and should be called out.

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

    I agree with Matt, the question is not if you consider being gay a sin. The question is if people should have their freedoms taken away because of your religious beliefs... this statement says it all.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  17. Hamlet

    The question should be why does CNN focus on Gays?

    I'm Christian and I'm not focused on Gays at all, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Merry Prankster

      You may not "focus" on the subject but surely you have an opinion. I mean you're either ON the bus or you're NOT ON the bus, right?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  18. GOP Hate America

    christians are stupid people

    May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Duane - St.Pete Florida

      what about Islam and the Jews.....hate them all? or are you afraid to bash them too? sissy?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      ALL grown ups who believe in fairy tales are stupid. ALL of you. If you believe that Moses actually parted the Red Sea by waving a stick ... you are an idiot. If you think that some dude survived for three days in the belly of a whale (or giant fish), you are retarded. If you are convinced that Noah actually had 2 of every animal on board a ship for over a year, you do not understand basic math and logic. If you think the Earth is only 6,000 years old, you are a fool. Let me bottom line it for you: Only children use the word "forever" from a serious point of view. Intelligent adults understand that "forever" isn't a real frame of time. I have NO problem calling people stupid in bulk.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      Furthermore Duane – I do not hate you. I hate what organized religion has done to us as a species, but I do not hate you as an individual for it. I understand that it is comforting to think that a universal constant "loves" you, and cares for you. And when you die, you will be reuinited with all of the good people. I get it. It's the same story as Santa Claus, but at some point, you have to grow up. And I am sorry to break it to you, but the Universe could really care less about you. You will die, just like everything else, and the Universe will go right on doing what it's doing. So, understand that it's not hatred we feel. We just want you to wake up and contribute to the real world, instead of putting in so much work for the spiritual one. Which may, or may not exist.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  19. Frank

    Making excuses for bigotry

    The fact that he's using the Bible as a reasoning for anything shows you a lot. A fake book written by man to control the masses?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  20. ibemarkv

    You have to love this statement: "This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”" – What the F? Clear? As others have already stated, divorce and adultery cause an amazing amount of pain to others whereas gays, not so much. Yet why do xtians have such outrage for the latter while mostly ignoring the former? BECAUSE THEY WOULD BE INCONVENIENCED!

    May 21, 2012 at 3:55 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.