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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. Josh G

    Showing 'Opinionated' articles on Front Page. Biased and pathetic of CNN. Time to find an unbiased news site.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • y2daddy

      There are no unbiased news sites. They don't exist.

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

      Please let us all know when you find one.

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

      democracynow.org. Let's see how long this comment stays up here

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  2. bspurloc

    The Bible condemns plenty of behavior that Christians are comfortable with, like Priests feasting on alter boi juice.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  3. Guys

    Let's not even talk about the fact that the bible has substantially changed over time, both in terms of which books were incldued and what those books that ARE included are translated/determined to actually say.

    Even disregarding that, the ONLY evidence for your religious beliefs is derived from that book. If ANYTHING in that book is true, ALL of it MUST be true, or else you're making a necessarily arbitrary determination based on flawed information. You don't get to pick the happy parts and disregard the parts that make you uncomfortable or are difficult to abide by. If you're disregarding certain portions, requirements, or teachings, you're necessarily undermining the sole foundation of your religious belief. You absolutely must believe all of the crazy stuff unless you want to weaken the fundamental root of your belief. Once a single word is thrown into doubt, the book in its entirety must be thrown into doubt by extension of the same principle. It's either the word of God, or it's not. If it's not, then God is fake. If it is, then you'd better start stoning everyone who breaks the sabbath.

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

      Hugely flawed logic from one of its worshippers. You have traded one false religion for another.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • J.W

      You can believe in God and Jesus without even believing anything else in the Bible.

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

      Well said, totally agree with you

      May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  4. AZ Wildcat

    The Bible condemns lying too, but it sure don't stop you froth mouthed Christians.

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

      When I am engaging in a business venture, if someone opens their mouth and says "I am a Christian", I turn around and walk away because in my experience every person who has said that to me has turned out to be a very bad business associate... "You can trust me, I am a Christian"... Bull Crap Brother...

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

      Timothy, I use this rule in my every day life. If someone says, "I am a Christian" I always tread carefully because I know this is not a rational person.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  5. donny

    all i got to say is. people of god need to stand up for god. i thank god my kid is not gay. its a sick world we live in today...adam&eve...not adam and steve.haha.weard people out in the world today. well its a nasty world.evil...god will bring it down one way or another. wise up people.

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

    Christians need to stop re-writing the Bible. I am 52 and the Bible has been edited and re-written hundreds of times just in my life time.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Amer Abbas

      Not a single letter in the quran changed in 1450 years. including the story of jesus and mary.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Luis

      Aiyin is not merely a vowel as in coommn [mis]pronunciation of Hebrew. Aiyin is a consonent, just as B, G, etc This is taught in ancient texts regarding Hebrew pronunciation. This means Aiyin has an actual sound. Not just the sound of a vowel. EVERY letter in Hebrew has a consonent sound. A few letters SOMETIMES are used as vowels (waw, yud, heh, alef), but even these 4 letters do have a consonent sound. This is the case with all Semetic languages.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  7. 14 umbra

    I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how 2 healthy consenting adults making love in the privacy of their home poses a threat to anyone. If the bible said that eating chocolate was a sin, would it make any more sense to follow that law? Would Christians then try to teach chocolate lovers to stop loving chocolate?
    If a law makes no sense, it makes no sense to follow it, or to revere the author.

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

      today in court 8/29/11 that he wasnt prepared for the kids to live with him that he didnt have cotlhs for them. he expected me to hand over all the cotlhs and things to him. someone needs to investigate more or i will sue everyone involved if my kids get hurt or dead. this is already emotionally neglexting them. thank you Jami Holford

      July 30, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  8. anniem

    God only wrote the ten commandments. The rest of the bible is just hearsay. Religionists throughout history have been rewriting the bible to suit their current preferences. I rather imagine it will continue to do so until people finally figure out that it is probably all just made-up fables designed to control the masses...

    May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  9. bluey

    The really sad part about reading all the BS posted here, is that all you have to do is a quick web search to answer any questions about the Bible. A big one here is that the Bible was written more than a century after Jesus died. WRONG! The Old Testament was before Jesus and the Old was written within 20-60 years after his death, by people who were around when he was alive. Don't believe me...ask Google. Gay marriage is wrong! Do what you want, but keep out of my grill and you won't hear from me about it. Broadcast you ways all over the public world and you must expect to hear from people. It's all written anyway. World's going to hell in a hand basket....sorry a man-purse.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  10. randy

    Americans are socially backward neandethals. This is why the French were the first to discover HIV when in America, the Reagan administration killed everything that was "gay" or had anything to do with gays.

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

      It spread through the gay population like wildfire dude. You can't deny that. That was point...not that it was a disease started by gays. Plenty of people die from lung cancer that never smoked a day in their lives.

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

      you're saying that Osama Abdallah is a POLYTHEIST Christian with bogus pgdnarapoa ??? How odd. I just thought that people might be interested in hearing a debate with a Muslim and Christian about that. If it was only a Christian speaking, I could understand you calling it that, but when a Muslim apologist who gets half the speaking time, I honestly don't see how you can call that POLYTHEIST Christian bogus pgdnarapoa. Unless you're afraid of the truth rising to the top.

      July 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  11. Toonces

    He's using the "But this is different" defense. Here's my question... should the Bible have any influence whatsoever on the laws that govern our country? If you said "yes", congratulations you're a fascist!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • wendy jane

      Separation of church and state......people seem to have forgotten what this country was based on.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  12. Primewonk

    We have, and celibrate marriages that last hours to weeks. We watch total strangers battle on TV for the right to marry. We have no problem letting men and women who have previously been married 5, 6 or more times, get married again. We let folks who beaten a previous spouse get married. We let people who have KILLED a previous spouse get remarried. We let people who have abused their children get married. We let people in prison serving life get married. We let people on death row get married.

    Yet 2 people who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives in a loving committed monogamous same sèx marriage violate your sense of righteousness?

    Seriously?

    If so, then you have some serious psychological damage.

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

      Well said.

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

      Primewonk, for the win....

      QFT.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  13. DontPretend

    I focus on gays because they wear all of those vivid colors...hard to ignore.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  14. BMP

    Why ) why cannot humanity break free of the small minded bigotry of religion. I realize fear of death have caused it to be invented, but why do we still listen to it ?

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

      Because people like you exist....

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

      forecasting ones death has created a evolutionary need to believe this.

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

      Thankfully Pravda, fewer and fewer people like you exist every day. Religion is dying a slow but sure death.

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

      some scriptures and sterios are real in the bible, but the way the sterios are visioned are way off scale. first you need to accept that we are made in their image, that the heavens may be a superior planet. that the angels really didnt have dove wings but the they transported here through their own type of vehicles but our ancestors could only discribe them as what the compared to at the time which were birds. the words may be real or not but whats out their is what we've denied

      July 29, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  15. Lyden

    Sorry, wanted this at the top. It has been spoken..."in the last days evil will be made to look good and good evil". This ever growing gay marriage issue is a perfect example...at least to those who take scripture seriously. I don't believe this is an issue of the church sticking it's nose into politics. Religious beliefs are a major part of the lives of many of the governed. So it becomes a social issue with social consequences. I have gay friends and feel very badly for their plight. I believe many are born with the tendency. However, most men, with no conscience or morals to guide their lives would bang ever woman that made herself available...but it doesn't make it right. Its about living within the moral bounds that God has set...at least if you want lasting happiness. Just my opinion, don't get your panties in a bunch.

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

      Marriage is a civil contract. You cannot get legally married without a state issued marriage llicense. Whatever your god wants, is irrelevant, as your god has no legal standing in our secular government.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Christian God a FAILURE

      If gays getting married is a sign of the end of days, one would think you religious fanatics would be dancing in the street and throwing receptions for the happy couples afterwards.

      OR – don't you want Jeebus to come back?

      The Christian god is a failure. 90% of the souls he created are destined for hell, as the vast majority of people now, in the past, and in the future will be NON-CHRISTIAN. If God was a teacher, Republicans would be demanding he be fired and the school system dismantled. (They're doing that now, with much better successes than the Christian cluster going on.

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

      You may need to be reminded...the orgin of marriage didn't begin as a civil contract from a secular government. It was issued and ordained by God before governments ever existed.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  16. Punisher2000

    Me: I am surprised you can breathe on your own. I sure hope you are prevented from voting and procreating. Ignorance such as your should be eliminated

    May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Dino S.

    I would like to hear Dr. Mohler address that not so long ago, segregationists used scripture to condemn interracial marriage. It was said that all non-whites were either the decendents of Cain, after being marked by God for killing his brother Abel, or of Ham, the cursed Son of Noah. In a 1959 Court case challenging Virgnia's ban on interracial marriage, the Judge ruled that "almighty god created the races and placed them on separate contenents." Therefore he did not want the races to mix. It was even easier to use the bible to justify slavery.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  18. Pravda

    Excellent article Mr. Mohler, you have returned a touch of class to CNN...

    May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Christian God a FAILURE

      Yeah, who would have thought that all it took for CNN to regain its class was to let some religious cult leader to babble on and on in an inane manner, spouting hypocritical nonsense and making anyone who believes in that pile of steaming horse manure appear to be ignorant, inbred hicks.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  19. Ana

    If everyone followed some of the Budhist teachings of self discovery the world would be a much better place!
    But that obviously would require people to look inward and work at being kind , humble, and seek their own happiness.
    That obviously doesn't work for most people, because it is not fear driven enough..no punishments..no wrath of "God' and all that scary stuff.

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

      hello im so happy to see this site,im a muslim from cndaaa and i have a friend name kevin moss from australia who is a christian.we have been friends for past 4 years now and in our 4 year relationship we have always tried to find a way to connect and find the similarities between islam and christian's.believe me we have not been so happy in our life, we learned so much from each other in past 4 years instead of finding the difference in the holy quran and bible we always try to investigate the similarties and peace with in the holy books. i have never met kevin moss because we are on 2 different side of the world but we are connected spiritually.i sent him the link to this site and i know he will be just as happy as i am to read and learn more about the 2 religions.he both are hungry for knowledge. once again thank you so very much.Hi Fauzia:Thank you for your comments.While I have found harmony between the principal teachings of the Bible and the Qur'an, I have also found much conflict between current Christian and Islamic religious practises. I believe that if Christians followed the explicit teachings of the Bible and Muslims followed the explicit teachings of the Qur'an, then the only differences between Christians and Muslims would be cultural and not theological.Let me encourage both Mr Moss and yourself not to avoid discussing what appear to be differences between the Bible and the Qur'an. It is only when such differences' are brought out of darkness and into the light of scrutiny that the Truth has an opportunity to be revealed. I will happily provide any assistance as requested.My best regards to you both,Walter.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  20. Spangler

    The OT was written by the leaders of a Middle Eastern nomadic tribe who wanted land, power, money, slaves, multiple wives, loyalty and fame and wrote a book that said God wanted them to have all of that.

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

      Kind of like the stuff spouted by the Republican Party?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:10 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.