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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. Foxhole Atheist

    Foolproof two step approach to adopting the correct side of an issue:

    Step 1: Ask, what are religious conservatives and evangelical Christians thinking on the issue?

    Step 2: Adopt the opposite side.

    Hardly surprising that any simpleton who wants to base 21st Century social policy on 2,000 year old Palestinian mythology is almost always wrong

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

      We don't like you either. And there are more of us.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Graffing

      The only time something should be illegal is when it causes harm (physical, economical, property damage) to another person. In other words, if it doesn't hurt anyone, it should be legal. We have legislated all our rights away.

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

      Fields –
      1) Great – "might makes right" – absolutely setting a Christian ideal there. Also sounds a lot like what a group of bullies said to me when I was younger. FREAKING BRILLIANT example you are setting for others there.
      2) Your statement is inherrently incorrect. Christians are only 33% of the world.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  2. BRC

    @Topher,
    Less than a dozen, the vast majority when I was a kid. The last time I lied was 4 years ago, during an ugly incident with a female friend I was in a quasi-relationship with. I was trying to shield her from something to avoid hurting her feelings, it didn't work. I don't lie anymore. (for what that's worth over the internet)

    May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  3. gb333

    Sounds like when they wrote the new testament they decided that things like wearing mixed fabrics and not eating shelfish was just silly.

    But those gays, we can't be having that.

    /Rolls eyes.

    <Straight white guy that is tired of Church hypocrisy.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  4. Battsman

    http://www.evilbible.com/Biblical%20Contradictions.htm

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Bobby

    Obviously, gays are freaks of nature. They make up only a small minority of humans and animals. But they are made they way they are by nature, and they can't change. Why not let them marry? God told us to love everyone, so let's love them and let them marry.

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

      Gayness can't be hereditary. If it were, it would breed itself out. There is no way a hom-ose-xual couple can reproduce. Not possible.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Eric G

      "freaks of nature" is a bit uncalled for, but otherwise, well said.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  6. Evangelicals Su ck

    Jesus never said a thing about gays or abortion. All he did was 2 rules. 1 Love god and 2 Love others as oneself.

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

      Ahh, but... Jesus did define marriage as one man, one woman. So he may have never mentioned gay people, but he sure did mention marriage.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • J.W

      Jesus didn't really define marriage. He just described it in a certain way because that way was the most socially accepted way at that time.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Aaron

    The only way I can accept that CNN is publishing this load of crap is that it's freedom of speech. Otherwise who cares what Christians think and how they pick and choose parts of the bible to suit their needs.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  8. John

    So the argument is that everybody is bad anyway, so don't say anything? LOL!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  9. mark

    Here's another law from the Bible that NO ONE would implement now:

    "A marriage shall be considered valid ONLY if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed."(Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

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

      Dork! Read Ezekiel 20. That is why Moses gave that law.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Arizona Yankee

      Sounds like Islam to me.....

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  10. RobertG

    Do people who believe ho.mose.xuals are "born that way" actually think that when genetic engineering is a reality that we could change a couple of genes and there will be no more ho.mose.xual activity in our world?? Really???

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

      At what point did you make your decision on the orientation you'd choose? What factors did you consider, and what was the rational behind your decision?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • RobertG

      @Madtown – When I was a teenager, after having some ho.mose.xual experiences and realizing I liked girls more than boys. It's interesting that gays tell me that I was "too immature" as a teenager to know, but then when teenagers today "come out" it is celebrated. What makes them more "mature" than someone who decides against it???

      When did you decide?

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

      When did you decide?
      -----
      I had no choice to make. I've never had an inkling of attraction toward my same gender, have at all points been drawn to the opposite gender. It may not be as cut and dried for everyone, but for certain everyone is made as God intended to make them.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • RobertG

      Of course you decided, it may have been a number of small decisions, or a big one like mine. If not, then you are saying our decisions are made by our genes. If that is true, then we can change our decisions by genetic engineering. Do you REALLY believe that??

      May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Madtown

      RobertG
      Of course you decided, it may have been a number of small decisions, or a big one like mine. If not, then you are saying our decisions are made by our genes. If that is true, then we can change our decisions by genetic engineering. Do you REALLY believe that??
      -----
      Huh? If at no point I made any evaluations about which path to choose, or looked at going down a different path, then no, certainly no "decision" was made. I am who I am. Just as God made me. WIth you, you may have had moments of confusion as a young person, as others may, but you followed your instinct and ended up taking the path you were meant to take(in regard to orientation). If that's a "decision", I could grant you that, but it's not a decision in terms of "oh, this lifestyle looks fun.....I think I'll be this way". No. If there's a decision at all for the hoM0 s*xual, it's in deciding to live life as they were meant to, in the open as they were rightfully created, and fully available to persecution from people like you.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • RobertG

      So, you are agreeing then with a few changes in genes we could rid our society of ho.mose.xuality. You are so delusional.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Madtown

      RobertG
      So, you are agreeing then with a few changes in genes we could rid our society of ho.mose.xuality. You are so delusional.
      -----
      LOL!!!!!! You're a blatant fool. I responded several pages back to you that it's not as simple as 1 gene.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  11. rad666

    Christian Cafeteria Bible -- Pick and choose what suits your objective.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  12. Fields

    Thank you CNN, for FINALLY publishing a piece by a real Bible scholar–instead of the cranks you've previously been entertaining.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  13. Skeptico

    In order for Rev. Mohler's argument to hold, he needs to explain in objective ways whence the moral authority of this book derives. Let's have some measurable, objective, independently verifiable validation that this position is correct. The threshold for limiting the freedoms of law-abiding citizens should be high. He makes a weak argument for limiting freedoms that other citizens enjoy. An argument that begins with: "My deity says this...." is not a strong position in an ostensibly rational society.

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

      God created the universe. What further moral authority do you require?

      Next time YOU create a universe- YOU can get to say what is good and bad.

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

      Fields –
      Your assumption is that the "God" referenced in the Bible and the "God" who created the universe are one and the same. That is unproven.
      For that matter the creation of the Universe by "God" is also unproven...

      Logic and the Christian "God" are not necessarily in a close relationship – and certainly not in a marriage.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Skeptico

      @Fields "God created the universe"

      Care to offer proof of that? If one wishes to limit the freedoms of law-abiding citizens, then the moral authority must derive from an objectively identified source. "God" is not objectively proven.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • WASP

      @fields: ok so by your logic seeing me and my wife created our child, we get to deside what is good and bad for it even if it doesn't benefit from it? before you go ranting about "god created my child" no he wasn't in the bedroom that night, lmfao.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  14. Christopher

    Christians don't focus on gays, that is an abject lie, the left wing media focuses on Christians in a malicious and hateful way and then picks a topic like gays and keeps grinding and grinding the subject.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  15. Thomas

    Christians focus on others when Christ clearly said focus on yourself.

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

      Then Christ would have been a Republican.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  16. Tony

    That's all well and fine, you can believe whatever you want. However, when these scripturally-dictated values start making their way into lawmaking, THAT'S where the problem arises. It would be like if a person of Muslim faith tried to ban eating pork, because it was against HIS religion. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" means you can't legislate based on YOUR personal faith.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  17. esailor

    There is no such thing as an atheist on his deathbed.-anonymous

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

      Or on a battlefield.

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

      What? You somehow know what everyone feels when they die? Are you GOD? It would be the first evidence of his existence.

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

      @esailor
      There is no such thing as an atheist on his deathbed.-anonymous
      May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm
      BobbyGB
      Or on a battlefield.
      May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm "

      you are both morans. i'm atheist served eight years in the army. when i joined i was atheist, during training i was atheist and during combat i was atheist........more importantly during one point where is was trapped and facing possible death; guess what? I WAS STILL ATHEIST. so copying and pasting bs from some christian propaganda site only makes you look like the ignorant asses you are.

      May 22, 2012 at 7:24 am |
  18. FactsRBad

    Sure did gloss over the Slavery issue pretty quickly – there are an amazing number of references in the bible on the regulation of slavery – clearly it was accepted if there are rules governing the practice. Hypocrites.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  19. BobbyGB

    Holy Crap! Not all Christians focus on gays! CNN focuses on Christians who focus on gays! CNN keeps running this topic as a lead story over and over again. What's happening in Afghanistan? Jobs? I guess if you stop reporting on something long enough, it makes the issue go away. So I guess we should keep reporting in hopes that Gay Marriage kills the recession...?

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

    The quote he uses is not anti-gay. He left out the last line, which is also the most important. The last line is "Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate". It is an anti-divorce verse, not anti-gay.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Hyper71

      Let's see, the verse started with "a man and a woman", not "any two people who care to". Perhaps you should re-examine your logic!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
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