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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. Hypocrites

    Divorce is a CHOICE!

    Jesus spoke out against divorce, adultery is the only reason it is allowed. 50% of all conservative Christian marriages now end in divorce, meaning there is a lot of adultery going on and a lot of banned divorce and remarriage.

    Why should gays fear their lifestyle when conservative Christians don't fear divorce? The author of this column is just plain stupid!

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

      nice straw man. it suits you well.

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

      Because it makes for better career longevity of the preacher to scapegoat the gays and gay marriage than give a sermon to his congregation where half of the 70 year old heavy hitters are sitting with their 30 year old second wives.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  2. Decima

    Typical Christian. Ignore what might apply to you, enforce what will oppress others.

    Yet another reason I'm glad your religion is dying out.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  3. Mark

    I have never seen a conservative Christian protest outside of Red Lobster. Even if there is leeway the distribution of protests suggests they are abnormally obsessed with what consenting adults do in private.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  4. James the Just

    There is a very easy way to solve this issue; THE GOV SHOULD GET OUT OF THE MARRIAGE BUSINESS.. PERIOD. Leave the "term" MARRIAGE to the Church, period. Call it a Civil Union (even a hetero couple can have one) and afford them all the legal rights of a recognized marriage. If the Ga-y lobby is not attacking the Church "as they claim" with this issue and all they want is equal rights within the laws associated with Marriage then this is a quick fix. If ANY CHRISTIAN stands against equal "medical", "Legal" and or "Tax" rights for hom-os-exual couples then they have an extra-biblical agenda motivated by political ideology not the teachings of Christ.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Anthony

    My take on your article. I don't care about your bible. Go eff yourself, and stop forcing your make believe stories on other people through laws in a country built on the belief that church and government should be separate.

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

    I notice that this editorial avoids discussion of the New Testament's very clear condemnation of divorce (Jesus personally spoke out against divorce). One should note that the writer of this editorial is a Southern Baptist minister, and according to a Pew survey, Southern Baptists have among the highest rates of divorce (even higher rates than among atheists). It appears that this editorial deliberately obfuscates the fact that Christian fundamentalists are indeed conveniently selective about the behavior they chose to condemn, and thus they are indeed hypocrites for doing so.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  7. Republican Class Warfare

    The truth is, we just need more desperate folks to fight the wars we want to start. That means no abortion, no being happy with who you are, and no full employment at a decent wage. Also no education or citizenship or health care either.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Tijah

    Because it states that it is a abominable sin in the bible. It also states that we should not judge. Therefore we can have our personal beliefs but we shouldn't be judging others. We need to focus on ourselves...

    May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  9. justthesame

    I support people with different lifestyes. That's all fine. But..... anyone here who forcefully argues that using a reproductive organ and shoving it through a anal sphincter that is used to excrete food waste, is natural process is going to far.

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

      Hmmmmm. That doesn't sound like support.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Republican Class Warfare

      You don't think the cavemen ever slipped?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Eric G

      Well, too far for you, but not for them.

      Mind your own beeswax.

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

      Oh, I bet you love it "argued forcefully" don't you.

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

      Like most frightened people – you focus only on the physical act. Do you think that intercourse is the only factor that matters in people's lives? What they do in the privacy of their homes is no concern to anyone but themselves.

      And trust me, more strange places than sphincters have seen the presence of the male organ...

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

      KH. Letting people live how they want to live, does mean i have to run around telling everyone they should try it. I just cant stand the forceful attack on those that will not drink the cool aid. FYI i dont mind people eating cheese, but i cant stand it myself.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Colby

      "Lifestyle" is something you choose to do. As in playing golf, or fishing, , ect... Being gay is not a choice. Being Gay is NOT a lifestyle.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  10. cncmnccmn xcmnmxcnmn

    if you are a believer it's your own fault

    May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  11. solex

    Second place for cogent comments about Christianity goes to Carl Sagan. He was asked whether or not he believed in God. His answer?

    "I don't want to believe. I want to know".

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

      U CAN KNOW

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Eric G

      Be careful Radical.....
      I really don't think you want to deal with the "Is faith a path to truth" question here.

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

      No radical – You can't. It's just an opinion. And your opinion only means something to YOU.

      To me it is the invisble man – and neither one of us can prove the other wrong – hence we don't KNOW.

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

      To quote Indiana Jones –

      We are looking for FACT, not TRUTH. If it's Truth you are interested in, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is just down the hall".

      May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  12. Dan586

    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 3:59 pm |
  13. cncmnccmn xcmnmxcnmn

    only smart people don't believe in god

    May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Grammar Police

      Hey pot, it's kettle calling! If you want to claim smart people are the only ones that don't believe in God, try to form a sentence on here.

      Good luck!

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

      Nikola Tesla
      Albert Einstein
      Rene Descartes
      William Kelvin
      Immanuel Kant
      And as quoted by Kant, "We are told of Newton that he never pronounced the name of God without pausing for a while and meditating upon it." (chapter VI of Thoughts on Education). So, yes, Isaac Newton too....hmm, lets see...
      Robert Boyle
      Max Planck
      Michael Faraday...and the list goes on...

      ...and there are many great intellectuals today who believe in God...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  14. jerseykurto

    Bible scholar. Now, there's an oxymoron.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  15. Steve

    I think he doesn't address two important issues: (1) how much does he believe opposition is based on the Bible vs. cutlural bias? He has presented an erudite, ivory tower theological debate, but most people use theology to justify their beliefs, not the other way around. This is why the church has been losing the debate on divorce. And (2) in a secular state, why does Christian opposition matter legally? Preaching against something and legislating against it are two different things.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  16. dallastexas75205

    Matthew 7:1-2

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

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

      OMG. This is perfect. Apparently God changes his mind every 2-3K years about what is ok and what is not ok. All we need to do is to find a profit who can add to the Bible like Peter did. Woohoo!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Patriot1742

      What are you saying when you say judge not least you be judged – seriously I am not sure where you are going with the statement.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  17. Bisi

    Reblogged this on Broken Rulers and commented:
    Thoughts?

    May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  18. cncmnccmn xcmnmxcnmn

    i want christians dead

    May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  19. dallastexas75205

    Matthew 7:1-2

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

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

      Percepective "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?,,,,, You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye"

      I agree there a plenty of planks in "christian" eyes, but the bible also commands judgement all over the place. Judgement, without hypocracy is what it commands.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  20. solex

    To this day, Ghandi had the greatest comment about Christianity EVER:

    "I like your Christ. I do not like Christians. Christians are so unlike your Christ".

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

      So much truth to those words.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 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.