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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. Rik

    I find it offensive that this piece of opinion trash is prominently featured as the main news story on the CNN home page. Shame on you CNN. Stick to news and leave the opinion– especially the controversial opinion– pieces to the blogs

    May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Billy Joe Jim Bob

      Hypocrite.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • WOW

      I find it offensive you would post such a reply. You must be against freedom of speech.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  2. Spangler

    Christians (followers of the teachings of Jesus) have no problem with gays. Those who follow the teachings of the OT and of Paul do.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Pastor Bob

    This is all to try and cover up the complete failure of the Church. You can't legislate morality but must teach it as Jesus did, which is why his ministry wasn't spent in Rome.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  4. GeorgeHenbeck

    Why do people add religion to this issue? Gays say they are a minority group and allowing them to marry won't hurt anyone. Actually they have the same rights as anyone else right now. They can marry anyone of the opposite gender anytime they want. And any straight person cannot marry a same-gender person. Makes us all even. What they want are extra rights above what others have. If you redefine marriage for them, why not bigamists? They won't hurt anyone by marrying multiple partners. What about people who love their dog and want to marry them? Where does it end?

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

      Here's some terms for you to google: "consenting" "adults"

      May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      your theory would be right if your premise that ho..mo..se..xu..al..ity is a choice were a correct one, which it is not.

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

      I know some "consenting" women who would marry the same guy if they could. I'm sure there are some "consenting" guys who would be willing to share one wife as well.

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

      LOLOLOLOLOL

      Where do you people dredge up this nonsense about special rights

      Everyone has the same rights. Black people can marry anyone who is black and a white person can marry anybody who is white. A black person can't marry anybody who is white just like anybody who is white can't marry somebody who is black. Whoops, I guess those civil rights folk were looking for 'special' rights.

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

      @religion...
      Kleptomaniacs would say that their lifestyle is not a choice either.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Billy Joe Jim Bob

      Yet you wonder why people think you are so incurably stupid.

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

      @GeorgeHenbeck

      Theft harms people. Recognize the difference.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • GeorgeHenbeck

      @Billy Joe Jim Bob
      Good job answering my questions! I guess your method is – if you can't talk on the subject intelligently, then call them stupid.

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

      If someone wants to marry their dog then all the power to them. Doesn't make me sleep any less at night, it's not my life so if it makes them happy go to it.

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

      Gee, maybe we should ban marriage altogether. If you let someone marry, then the next thing, they'll want to marry their dog. This 'slippery slope' argument has exactly as much validity as yours.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • GeorgeHenbeck

      @Demotage
      Exactly – open marriage to everyone and everything and marriage no longer exists.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  5. DJ Reality

    Here is one for the Christians in Arizona.

    Leviticus 19
    33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 
    34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  6. David

    Why is one persons moral code superior to another? Religiosity is declining world wide. A more intelligent less arbitrary humanism is the way of the future. Still no evidence of God, heaven, hell etc, just blind faith and adherence to an ancient text when human beings were by todays standards primitive.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  7. NC

    I have ZERO INTEREST in what christians/christian beliefs/the bible say about ANYTHING.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • ?

      Then why are you here?

      ...and why are you commenting?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  8. Will

    Typical garbage from the radical Tali-Baptist who ignore Christ teachings in the NEW TESTEMENT on divorce.....and yet still have hate in their hearts ......what a waste of space for CNN.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  9. COGowan

    A. This is Mohler's interpretation and it is just as likely to be "correct' as that of a small house cat, and B. Neither Mohler's, nor the house cat's, nor anyone else's religious beliefs is the law of the land. The rights of citizens should never, ever be violated because of one person or one house cat's beliefs.

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

      Couldn't agree more. Another way of saying this is that one cult's beliefs are no more wrong or right than another cult's beliefs. My god is better than your god?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  10. Don

    bible = basic , instructions , before , leaving , earth . Read it first with a open mind . Only then will u see the truth . Want a free bible go to http://www.gideons.org/ or just go to any motel a ask for one .

    May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      sorry don, I have read and studied the bible at a christian university and still come to the conclusion that the book is nothing but a bunch of stories written by a bunch of people over a long period of time, then edited by more people to fit an agenda. Try again.

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

      'cause that's where the adulterers are!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  11. anwerman28

    R. Albert Mohler Jr = pathetically stupid, hopelessly egotistical and genererally preys on the weak to make a living.. sad sad sad..

    May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • k

      A well reasoned argument. Your parents must be very proud.

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

    The Torah says not to drink blood of any kind and to be strictly monotheistic. Christianity does the exact opposite. Please explain. In Torah Mary should have been stoned for being pregnant by someone other than her husband when full marriage occurred Christianity celebrates her adultery/ looseness.

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

      It is important to learn all the facts before making such quick conclusions with many pieces of the story missing.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  13. McCave

    I'm so sick of CNN's pro-gay propaganda!

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

      Oh dear, you poor thing. How does this amount to pro-gay propaganda?

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

      Uh... "pro-gay?"

      Did you even read this "article?"

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

      Oops Wrong article.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Pokydoke

      We are sick of your ignorant bigoted close minded ways.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      lol you can hate gays but not read a lick. R3TARD

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

      And I'm sick of Fox's News pro hate agenda. And you're comment means what? If you don't like it, don't read it.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  14. Demotage

    This whole issue should be moot. Christians may believe whatever they want about what their bible says. They may choose or not to live their lives according to this understanding. As far as the law of the land goes however, why should we care what the Bible says? The Bible should not be the standard for setting laws in this country. Separation of Church and State! I should be as free from persecution from a religion as I am from persecution for it.

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

      Eggzackitally.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  15. Richard

    I have to wonder why Christians are always searching for and relying upon cryptic biblical justifications for their bigotry, hatred, and disenfranchisement. There are white preachers out there who can go right to the Bible and prove that God only loves white people. For a group who is supposed to withhold judgment to avoid being judged themselves, they sure throw around a lot of it. If it's God who doesn't agree with this behavior, why not let his judgment stand at the final day, instead GUESSING what it might be before that great and glorious day. We must all face him alone and submit ourselves to his loving judgment. If I were to speculate, I suspect God's advice to this gentleman would be to keep his mind on his own house.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  16. Timothy

    Whenever 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 over the years has turned out to be a very bad business associate and definitely NOT trustworthy... "You can trust me, I am a Christian"... Bull Crap – Brother...

    May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  17. Bill

    The problem in today's society is that there are so many laws regarding marriage and spouses. If marriage was just a religious covenent, I don't think anyone would really care if they could get married. But,because government has put so many restrictions on people's lives based on their marital status, we now have groups that are being discriminated against simply because they either cannot, or do not want to, marry. We should either allow everyone the right to marry or change the laws so that unmarried people have the same rights as married people.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  18. Theone

    Doesn't CNN have anything better to report than this?? What's with the gay obsession?? Starting to think everyone at CNN is gay and you're using your position to ignore all other important stories in the world and focus on your selfish agenda!!

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

      Again, you choose to read the article. No one forced you to sit here and read. Obviously you want something to whine about. That's the problem with you "so called christians" you constantly whine about something.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  19. Pax Canning

    Once again, people representing Christian beliefs try to "explain" how God must be obeyed in setting down the laws of the United States. Once again, people want to pick and choose which parts of the Bible should be codified for the rest of us. Something tells me that these Christians won't be happy until the United States is fully under their Christian brand of "Sharia Law". Those of us who believe differently have our work cut out for us.

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

      They want the laws as long as they don't apply to them. I say if they want to ban gay marriage go for it, but include in it no divorses and see what happens.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  20. Scott

    The truth of it is that folks want to hate on other people and they will cherry pick portions of the Bible and then choose to interpret ambiguous language in order to find a justification for what it is that they want to hate.

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

      Couldn't have said it better.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:07 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.