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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. PrimeNumber

    Any person who has witnessed the birth of a human being knows what human 6uality is. Its power is enormous and is only possible between two genders. Gay relationships may be loving, but they are not secksual; they are androgynous. Maybe the words of the scriptures don't even apply to this arrangement between two people of the same gender.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  2. victor

    A message for the new age attention seekers: burn the Bible, go for it and deal with consequences. Summing up the endless chain of coaxing articles by CNN.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  3. wade

    Really, in the end this argument is pointless. Even if it was a totally clear cut issue that the bible condemns it, that matters not at all. Gay marriage is a legal issue of equal rights, privileges and status. Should the state be giving special status to a man and a woman that it refuses to give to two men or two women. The answer for me is a very clear no. Either states should abolish all recognition of marriage, or should allow gays to marry. These are the only fair ways to deal with the situation.

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

      But only a minority of people think that way, the rest of us are against it.

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

      It doesn't matter if a majority want to contravene the rights of a minority. You don't live in that kind of country. There is a reason you have an entrenched bill of rights that the majority can't easily stomp on, and be glad for it, or the USA would be very backwards by now.

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

      Pravda, You got it backwards, there is a clear majority of Americans who recognize that gays should be allowed at the very least to have secular civil unions and slim majority that believes they could consider it "marriage".

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  4. TexasAnnie

    There are MANY different religions in this world. Who's to say which one, if any, is right?
    And let's face it, the Bible (as well as other books of religion) was not written by any God, but by man... and has been rewritten & rewritten to suit the writer. Maybe I should submit "my" version & see how it flies....
    If we all would just live by that old "golden rule" maybe things would be better all around, and a Bible wouldn't even be necessary.

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

      Well, one of them has to be right!! And the Bible has only been translated from the original languages.

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

      Read "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. He was an atheist who came to find faith in Christ through his search for answers to questions just like this one.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  5. Bruce

    Mr. Mohler, scripture - especially Jesus' words in the New Testament - is unequivocally and unabashedly against divorce and remarriage. Jesus even labels the practice, not as "po.ly.ga.my," (which would be accurate in a way) but rather as "adul.tery." In fact, it is in the "one man and one woman" section of Jesus-scripture (the red-letter variety), the section most-often mis-applied to the gay marriage question, where Jesus makes his (very anti-marriage) point that divorce and remarriage is equivalent to adult.ery, and we are left with the impression that he agrees with the (very anti-marriage) senti.ment that it is "better for a man to not marry at all!"

    So, until you address the divorce-and-remarriage issue head-on, you have no place whatsoever to use scripture to co.nde.mn hom.ose.xuality. Forget the shellfish, Mr. Mohler. Until you co.nde.mn Newt Gingrich's three marriages as adult.ery, you are not talking about scripture when it comes to marital issues.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  6. Lucy

    Thanks Mr. Mohler for explaining it in such an eloquent way!

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

      Don't forget bigoted!!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  7. joe

    Who cares what Christians think? They are for the most part uneducated, bigoted and hateful people. Anyone who thinks the bible is the word of a God is either a mental midget or mentally disturbed.

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

      And a fool says in his heart 'there is no God.'

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • y2daddy

      And right there is hateful speech. Which is why when the "tolerance" crowd speaks, I don't listen. They are just as intolerant as the people they preach against.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  8. David

    Well said – you hit all the main points. Any act of sin earns the right condemnation of God. Thank the Lord for opening my eyes and letting me see that I am incapable of living a life without sin on my own. I need Christ. It is also sad that those of us who merely want what God wants are painted as mind-controlled bigots. Far from it, when you know the Truth you know that pleasing God and seeking His glory is worth more than the indulgences of this passing age.

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

      the Christian God hides while its followers profess it is responsible for all the good that happens but give it no responsibility for any bad that happens. (Same for Muslims and Allah.)

      May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • David

      It is called free will. God is not at fault because man disobeyed him. Does it make for a crappy situation? Yeah. But I can't say if I were in the garden I'd have behaved differently. The mind of God is unfathomable. While many things in the Bible don't seem fair or seem to make sense, I trust God that in His goodness, His plan is best. I'm also thankful he sent His Son to die on a cross for my sins and yours. This historical fact is what the Bible attests to and is the sole basis for my faith.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @David

      Prove it's a historical fact if you want to make that claim.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • David

      @Hawaii. Check out the writings of Josephus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus). He was a Roman Jewish historian who recorded the same events of the Bible from a secular (Roman) perspective. I'd also recommend if you are interested in seeking out the trust that you check out "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. The farther we get from Jesus' life, death, burial and resurrection, the easier it is to put Jesus on par with Santa and the Easter bunny. Where in fact, this guy changed the world – so much so our calendar still revolves around his life.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • David

      @myself – Trust = truth

      May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @David

      I don't find the writing in Josephus's texts to be very reliable, and here's why.
      1) In his entire works, there are only 2 references to Jesus, in books 18 and 20.
      2) In book 20, he mentions the brother of jesus who was called James, and this is thought to be an authentic writing of Josephus himself. Yet in book 18 scholars generally discount it due to the vastly different writing style in comparison to all his other works, this reference is generally accepted by religious and secular scholars to be a forgery. The exact place of it is Book 18 Chapter 3 #3.

      Now, if we were to take only that which is accepted by both religious and non-religious scholars to be authentic, you have a single reference outside of the bible of a man named jesus existing, although being written about about 60-70 years after his supposed death. You then take the passage where a likely forgery takes place that talks about the wonderous works he did. At best you have a case for his existence, but not any supernatural claims of him. I find a single person 60-70 years later to be a poor basis for his existence.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  9. wendy jane

    Whatever happened to separation of church and state? Those ignorant voters in NC didn't just outlaw gay marraige but also domestic partnerships.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  10. morti

    Most americans are "christmas christians"–meaning they are only christian when it suits them otherwise they are sinful heathens

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  11. timothy

    Using our tax dollars, Blowing the heck out of a country that no intention or capability to attack us, killing hundreds of thousands of women and children is overlooked but they are worried about gay marriage. One of us is seriously wrong about judgement day...

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  12. Soothsayer

    Please watch Mathew Vines' dissertation on the matter. It's informative, consistent with the Bible and reconciliatory.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  13. David

    Could someone please list the sins that aren't allowed (for Christians) and those that are allowed?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  14. Ima Mused

    My bible also says that we are NOT to judge, and that only he without sin can cast the first stone. Wow, Mr. Mohler, you sure are pitching your stone, Who died and made you God?

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

      Amen to that.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  15. Dave

    Another way of posing the question; why are we even taking this nonsense seriously? How is it that an ancient scripture written by a bunch of Bronze Age goat-schtoopers is still running the lives of seemingly rational people?

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

      well said Dave

      May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  16. Brian

    If Christians focus on gays with many issues. That could cause gay population growing fast because they learned from Christians hatred words..

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  17. Duane - St.Pete Florida

    just an observation.....let's also talk about how messed up Islam is, and the Jews......all religions! why just Christains? I'm an atheist so bash away......or are you all afraid? lol......

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  18. Milo Weaver

    There is much irony in the relationship between the bigot and the deviant. One can almost not exist without the other. But then the iconoclast joins the deviant in order to destroy moral fiber and norms. The irony of the atheist is that he must believe something, Darwin for instance, where the all-male community produce no offspring.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  19. George

    So explain to me why gays want to get married if it is a holy alliance blessed by God. They want what God has made holy but dont want to abide by anything else. Go figure.

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

      @George. I don't think they're looking for anything sacramental. I think they're looking for the same preferred tax status, insurance benefis and rights of survivorship as everyone else.

      The whole point is that it doesn't have anything to do with religion.

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

      Are you serious? Do you read? They just want the same right to marry as any other couple– not a "religious" right but a civil one.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • TheTruthSpeaker

      There are two sides to Marriage; a legal and a religious. The US grants 1000's or rights to married people: Inheritance, survivorship, etc. Religions make marriages ceremonial. The US says that all men are created equal and that there's a separation of church and state. Gays would like to have legal marriage so they can have all the same rights as other Americans. In this, they would NOT infringe upon any Religious beliefs...any church who disagree would not be forced to hold gay marriages. The only effect of gay marriages would be that discrimination would stop. Marriages, either legal or ceremonial are a great thing....why would anyone who believes in Marriage prevent another flike minded individual from wanting to join the ranks?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  20. Bill

    It is not "Christians" that focus on gays; it is the right wing conservatives who focus on gays as part of their political platform. These are the same conservative nut jobs that tout family values but who still commit adultry, they tout conservative fiscal policies but yet the GOP almost drove this country into the Great Depression II the past 13 years, the GOP wants stronger illegal immigration laws but they still want to pay illegal immigrants below minimum wage to be their nannies, they tout religion but the GOP are among the worst offenders (second only to the Taliban) of spewing hate filled speech and intolerance. Right wing conservatives have nothing in common with Christianity!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
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