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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. Wise Man

    Christianity:

    Because you're so awful, you made god kill himself.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      LOL, oh man – that was wicked.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Wise indeed... I'm stealing this.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Wise man,

      Close.

      Because we are so sinful. God, out of love for us, sent his son to die for us. So he wouldn't have to kill us.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Wise Man

      Right. That makes sense. Because some talking magic snake convinced a woman to eat the fruit of knowledge, God is holding a grudge against all of us. God's big on forgiveness. Why make us jump through silly hoops. Couldn't he just point blank, forgive us all?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      He did. All we have to do is accept the free gift.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Don’t take advice from zombies. They just want to get into your head.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Wise Man

      A gift isn't really a GIFT, if you get PUNISHED for not accepting it.

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

      @Robert Brown, very well said.

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

      DB
      @Wise Man

      I don't want to get into judgment and punishment here, but ask yourself, if God offers you freedom from punishment, and you reject that gift, then what are choosing? He's not punishing you for not accepting his gift, he's giving you what you've asked for.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      @DB
      I'm afraid not. When 'god' is both the one that created said punishment and set it as the default status.. then it no gift to rescue you from it. I could deliberately and knowingly push someone into a pool that can't swim.. am I then a hero for tossing them a life preserver? No.

      Critical thinking is your friend.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  2. McCave

    Today 40 Catholic dioceses and other organizations are sueing the Obama administration over the HHS mandate, but what does CNN have as their lead story?? This obviously pro-gay article is their lead story. CNN says "Rah Rah Gay Gay! We're behind you all the way!"

    May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Who cares about the Catholics who are upset over something for no reason.

      1) Obama changed it so they didn't have to pay for it.
      2) It is just a mandate to make sure the insurance company covers it (at no cost to the church-sponsored insti-tution.
      3) This is for church-sponsored inst-itutions which means stuff like hospitals. They hire non-Catholics so the non-Catholics should not be forced to live like Catholics.
      4) 98% of Catholic women use contraceptives.
      5) Contraceptives have a ton more uses than simply birth control.

      It is a non-issue. The Catholic church needs to realize that they are a part of a society. A society made up of many non-Catholics and sometimes things are going to happen that you don't like. Obama didn't everything to pander to those clowns and they still aren't happy. They don't even have to pay for it! The insurance companies do!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      @ McCave
      You have a point there. They should instead post pro-Catholic articles so you can then day Rah Rah Pedo Pedo! He touch you to save your soul!

      May 22, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  3. TexAnn

    I would be interested in hearing from a Christian couple who produced a gay child. How would/do they feel about this issue? How do you reconcile your Christian teachings on this when it's playing out in your own home?
    (and this is not a facetious question– I think it would be a pretty soul searching scenario)

    May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  4. LOL Religion

    Christians say love the sinner, hate the sin.

    I say love the Christian, hate their antiquated, bigoted religion.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  5. ah292801

    You telling me what the bible says is kinda like me telling you what it says. Neither of us seem to agree. Perhaps we should just learn to live together in disagreement. . .

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

      Amen

      May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  6. Mitch

    I love Mohler's comment in the thread here to the effect that he prefers his god's arbitrary morality over secular ethics because secular ethics can change. Does he not realize that Christian morality has been changing ever since it came into existence? Religion gets its morality from the people that believe in it, not the other way around.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Exactly, when Christianity ruled the world it was called the Dark Ages.

      It took the secular Enlightenment to break that, and the secular world has been dragging these religious dolts forward kicking and screaming ever since.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  7. unhanon

    I think Jesus said it best, according to Matthew (22:34-40).
    The greatest Commandment? "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart".
    And the second greatest Commandment? "Love your neighbor as yourself".
    Seems to me if we could work on these, everything else would sort itself out eventually.

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

      Amen!!!

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

      BRAVO

      May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Honestly, if the world at least followed the second part, it would be a much better place.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • tim

      Amen +1, great comment

      May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  8. James the Just

    Mohler seems to be pandering (not seems to be he is) to the ideal if ga-y marriage here at CNN but on his personal website he called Obama's decision "TRAGIC". Typical mega church hypocrites, the pharisee of our modern day.

    We should all stand for equal rights for Ga-ys, all Christians. Lets simply use different terms "marriage for the religious" and "civil unions for the non-religious" and then all this goes away and you people can leave the Bible alone.

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

      No.. Let them marry.. Separate but equal failed as an idea a while back.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      And why should they have to use a different term? You do realize of course that marriage not a Christian concept. It was around before your religion and can be found all over the world (as in where you religion as no influence).

      p.s. The earliest accts of marriage was between two men. It was a contract over chattel and had nothing repeat NOTHING to do with relgion.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  9. Curzen

    Telling people to act against their nature and discriminating against them based on badly translated fairy tales, it's what Christians do.

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

      Now, that is the STUPIEST comment I have read, to date!

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

      To bad for Rob that it's a true statement.

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

      @Rob

      How so?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Rob is just proving the point that Christians don’t read the bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  10. Doobie Doobie Doo

    Another stupid uneducated opinion on the Bible.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  11. ellid

    Mohler is lying about the New Testament condemning slavery. Not only did it do nothing of the sort, the pastoral letters explicitly commanded slaves to obey their masters, while the entire point of Philemon was Paul discussing whether a slave should be returned to his master.

    Disgusting.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  12. DsOpinion

    You are totally free to live by whatever your vacillating sky fairy tells you to do, but in a country founded on the principles of separation of church & state and liberty & justice for all, your religious rules have no place in the formation of laws to govern our people.

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

      Amen!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  13. chris

    Life would be so much better without the bible. Let's be blunt, the bible IS NOT the word of God. The bible is a coupling of stories, and is more or less, MAN's (and man is imperfect) version of God's intent. Thus, since man gave the bible his own spin, it is no longer the word of God, but a work of stories compelled to control morality. And since man wrote the bible, and man is flawed....the bible is flawed. Flawed just like any other book. Case closed.

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

      Exactly. However, people like to use the bible to control others, dictate and rationalize their belief system.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  14. Daniel

    Interesting how when one points out someones sin that person will immediately point out another persons sin. Mirror image of Adam and Eve... Man has always been made for a woman and a woman for a man. However, God is God and he is the true judge. No one is pure like jesus and in the end we all sin alike. Try not to get into heaven by your merits alone but by the grace of Jesus.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Todd in DC

      Until you show me something in the bible that refers to hospital visitation rights and tax deductions, leave civil marriage out of this.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Until you can prove your religion is more than snake oil to control the masses leave YOUR god out of MY life.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I left my house before 4 pm to run errands. This is the first post I've made since.

      Troll, get your own name.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Source?

      May 22, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  15. AverageJoe76

    According to most Christians, all a person has to do, is accept Jesus in their heart and speak it with their mouths to be accepted into heaven. Meaning, Hitler could've said the magic words right before he died, and some lucky soul will be his heavenly neighbor! Yayy!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  16. imeubu

    test

    May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  17. open400

    The GOP keeps saying they want to get government off our backs. It seems like the the GOP wants to bring the government right inot your bedroom – like Puritan or something. When the GOP says they want to get government off your, that statement does not apply to the average working stiff; that applies to getting the government off the backs of Wall Street investors so they can gamble our money awayl after all, if Wall Street screws up, they can always get another bailout.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  18. Al Ford

    "Jesus made clear that..."

    Let us be clear ourselves that Jesus himself left no writings or other recorded word. The words written, supposedly on his behalf, were not produced until decades after his time. It can hardly be claimed that this is "clear"

    May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Hey! No sir! … Facts and reason have NO place here.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  19. Totally Agree

    Totally agree with Al in all points, and like him I believe we MUST fix the PROBLEM of divorce once for all in this inmoral country. That way we won't be hypocrites any more, and fi-na-lly put our women, by OUR manhood rights, in their right place. Taken care of the kids and the house, so we can deport these cheap illegals. These inmoral days you cannot even tell these bitxes shut up witout they threating you for divorce and take the kids with some low-life liberal ho-mo lover.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • come and get me

      You are a piece of garbage and deserve to die.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Gcamacho

      Wow, you call the country immoral and then proceed to put together the most immoral rant I have read all day. That's real Christian of you!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • suesark

      Genius! And hardly any spelling or grammatical errors, too!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  20. tdphilbeck

    I'm a professor, not an evangelist. This article and it's reasoning concerning the history of the bible and it's interpretation via the southern baptist seminary is complete hogwash. The questions are legitimate. He is in essence saying that "Christians" whoever they may be, are required to follow the bible as interpreted by an authority which decides what the text means "to modern life". Ridiculous. He should be a Catholic and get it over with. The only cultural relevance of the new testament to the 21st century are Jesus' words. Let's try and focus on "love thy neighbor" the most important commandment, and stop being the first to cast stones.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Turnaway

      You must be gay and trying to have it both ways.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Grafknar

      If you believe Holy Scripture should simply be edited to fit within our culture, that's fine.

      What this means, though, is that you do not consider any text to be Holy. You can't support Christians "get with the program" and support any form of religious meaning; because the whole point of religious meaning is to uphold beliefs. Who is qualified to decide what is relevant in today's culture? You?

      Humanity didn't adhere to certain norms all throughout existence just for you to come along and say "you're doing it wrong". Feel free to believe this, but you are merely reveling in your own hubris if you do so.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      A professor… a professor in what? I direct you to the above post:

      Al Ford
      "Jesus made clear that..."
      Let us be clear ourselves that Jesus himself left no writings or other recorded word. The words written, supposedly on his behalf, were not produced until decades after his time. It can hardly be claimed that this is "clear"

      May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Lazarus

      Much agreed. Thank You.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • tdphilbeck

      The most coherent response was the guy who called me gay!

      May 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom the Piper's Son

      Thank you for proving my point.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:07 am |
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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.