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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. MCO

    Christian's rights end where mine begin. I will not live my life according to your ancient standards and ridiculous beliefs in invisible people.

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

      But you already do...lol

      May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      Hadenuffyet, findajobyet?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  2. rad666

    Religion, biggest welfare program around.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  3. taint

    A delusional man talking about which delusions should be believed and which should be ignored. All nonsense. Religous people, you are all f*&*(*& nuts!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  4. Duaine Morphis

    The only quote: Those without sin may cast the first stone,
    Understanding is talked about many times in the bible,
    I think we could focus there first, then worry about the other.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  5. Saywhatyouwant2

    The people of this world have been stuck in a mind warp. The Bible this. the Bible that....some say this dictates this and this dictates that. Seems like people want to write their own words to make themselves feel better about who they are and what they choose for their life. To use a classification of Non-believer and believers or groups of this groups of that. To define themselves are gay or straight. We the so called people are not in control of of anything! All the genius' that think they know the answers to everything and all the answers to Life according. If people would just stop looking past their noise and take a deep look at themselves first. Then to refer or reference the almighty as the Gods, etc etc. I feel very sorry for people whom don't know any different in what they were created for in this life. If all this finger pointing and name calling and hatered and self centeredness would just stop. Life could be seen for what intended it to be. The Bible can be read all day long by each word.. each and every word. The human race was made to learn how to speak and gain knowledge. If you are just reading the words in the Bible with your eyes then you are not reading it the way it should be read. Anyone can find words to define this and that from reading. If you do not read with the heart and the soul you will never get it. God have mercy on those whom choose to close their eyes and the ears and the hearts. The tongue is designed to roll and most choose to roll evil off of it. The people of this world have defouled the chance to see the great and powerful things that our Magnificent Father Above designed from his hands. What a shame.. What those choose to do with their path are given choices good or evil and they know who they are, my prayers go out to those whom are lost and make the wrong choices. ONE very thing that NOT NO ONE CAN CHANGE is that we are born to die and to meet our maker of this creation at the end of the road. God Bless these people Dear Lord may they accept what they do and ask for your forgiveness.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  6. ronjayaz

    CNN= Christian News Network. Intimately, fascist!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  7. moses

    If the condemnations of the old testament are no longer binding to christians, why include it in the christian bible? Why not worship the new testament only? Maybe it's because you need some of the condemnations of the old testament to fit whatever stringent intolerance you happen to be preaching that week.
    Al, you sir are a w-hack job.

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

      The Old Testament is for historical context. Many in the New Testament, including Jesus, refer to the Old Testament. The OT is like an x-ray....it shows us what's wrong with us (we're all sinnners), but it cannot fix us – only the Gospel can do that.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  8. dr. sparemachinery

    has anyone mentioned in here that one of the primary precepts of christianity is a thing called "free will"

    that each individual is ultimately responsible for his or her actions, and at the end of their life will have an audience before god to review how well he or she may have measured up to his expectations.

    thus, it would seem to me, to be an issue between them and him – and none of the rest of us

    we as christians or non christians need to leave these people to live their own lives, as they see fit, not as we may or may not see fit.

    it is none of our business.

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

      In high school I was taught by the President of the school (also a Priest) that were were only given free will so that we could choose God. Not choosing God was not an option.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  9. gary

    Xtians focus on gays because they are easy, safe targets. Xtians don't worry about violent criminals, homeless, sick, wars, etc ... but GAYS! Gays are just easy targets for bullies .... and Xtians are notorious bullies. BTW .. god is pretend.

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

      Clearly, you've never paid close attention to the deeds of Christians.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  10. joe

    I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours
    Stephen Roberts

    May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  11. reuben

    In spite of what is written, I take issue with the doctine (the Bible) in and of it self. At best the doctrine can or only be construe as here say. When examine from an unbias view point of simple common sense it does not hold up, even how it was compile comes strongly into question. Yes, I understand faith, but faith or no faith if the core principal is true it reveal this truth to all rather a person understands it or not. One of the core principal is Earth being the center of the universe, well if that is wrong everything else would follow like wise, disproven. After all principal give rise to theory not the other way around. More importantly, a principal that is suppose to be profound can not be bent by those who suppose to be governed by it. Example; how could these suppose to be profound principals be used to create and employ evil activities on humans and planet earth as a whole. The deepest flaw I personally observe with Christians is the open fear of exploring and seeking real truth, forever hiding behind blanket statements of ignorance. Face it, it's not free will but a perverted doctrine, that which is contained within the Bible covers, that has created more pain and suffering than good. It being the Bible has been around long enough to have produce some concreate actual proof of it's principals, which it has not other than in the destruction and pain to humanity and the earth as a hold. In closing Iwill concede one point however, it has proven to be a powerful way to control and demean humans within an invisible prison of fear.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  12. veep

    that was the most twisted bit of claptrap I've seen in a while.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  13. Davankay

    Well said!! Thank you so much!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  14. wait what O_O

    dear god, we thank you so much for you sacrificed your son, your ONLY son for us, yet we're all your children. So in your eyes we're a bunch of girls. so help us as we struggle with the temptation of les bia nism. amen.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  15. pachecosita

    hmmm! I thought we did not have a theocrasy or Do we?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  16. David

    Ban religion, problem solved. Move on.

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

      Good luck with that.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  17. VoiceOfReason

    If you believe that the Old Testament was the word of God, and accept the fact that the New Testament is NOT the word of God, but the word of men, then you must accept the fact that God is fallible. Otherwise, how could the word of man overturn the word of God? Did God change his mind? Why would he? Did he make some mistakes? HOLY COW!!!!

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

      bible – written by primitives in a primitive land 2000 yrs ago in a land that is still near stone age. It's BS.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • mb2010a

      The entire Bible is the word of man...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  18. Bruce

    Mr. Mohler, until you con.dem.n divorce as loudly, or even more loudly, than you con.dem.n hom.ose.xuality and gay marriage, stop pretending this is about what scripture clearly teaches.

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

      Read the article...he addresses divorce. Also, did you know that it's ok by God to divorce if your spouse cheats on you? Didn't think so.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  19. denver2

    His (faulty) interpretation of scripture doesn't matter. All polls for the last several decades suggest a clear trend that Mohler and people like him will be posthumously viewed with the same scorn we reserve for the racists of the 19th and early/mid-20th centuries today.

    His nonsense will die with his generation. On to the next failure of conservatism already.

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

    Look....I'm a Christian. And what I say is there are many issues out there that need our attention. Christians have all the energy in the world to talk about, finance, and mobilize (and hevean forbid, vote) on mere popular issues, but there's a void of energy when doing the same for the real (read, significant by comparison). No one has any energy to talk about taking care of children ONCE they're born, only BEFORE they're born because it's, well, popular. The Gay marriage issue is just popular, folks. If asked his opinion, Jesus would do what he always did, kneel down, scribble in the sand, then put it right back at the requestor, making him acutely aware of how rediculous his position is in even asking Jesus. So let's keep the political issues on "delivering the mail", and get the churches talking about what Christ would be talking (and doing) about. Certainly not gearing up for a big presidential vote on one, rediculous issue.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:17 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.