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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. Dan586

    Alright I will agree to banding gays getting married, only if we force all companies in the U.S to close on the seventh day so we can rest and worship God. I would love a day-off.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  2. Thomas Kraft

    How dare this bigoted writer manipulate the bible to launder his own hate and prejudice through. He has the gall to state : “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."
    How convenient he has forgotten that the Southern Baptists ( the very organization he is head of) left the traditional Baptist church to SUPPORT SLAVERY! In fact the Southern Baptists ( who used bible verses to condone and support slavery) didn't apologize until 1995! Talk about hypocritical thinking. Hey Bible Thumpers, how about just minding your own business for once?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  3. CT

    Liberal war on Christians roll on!

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

      If no one wages war on them then they will continue to hate, discriminate and prosecute people who think differently from them, so I am all for it!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  4. skyking

    What a crock! Friggin' baptists ALWAYS have an answer, don't they?

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

      No, actually, they don't. Or at least his guy didn't. He had a bunch of words, but his argument was a joke. His logic abysmal. His cogency non-existent.

      I'd live to hear an answer – maybe CNN can find a Baptist willing to offer one?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  5. ShouldMYGayDaughterMarry

    There is the contract of marriage. The contract is recognized by state and federal government. The contract between to individuals allow for the purchase of property, filing of taxes, making medical decission of the other person, allows for health benefits from an employer etc. The government should recoginze this contract as a marriage contract plain and simple.

    Then there is the covenant marriage. The covenant of marriage are the vows spoken to each other.

    For me there is a VERY big difference between the two. Make it legal to hold a marriage contract between 2 consenting adults – period! The church should have NO say in this at all – seperation after all! Boys and girls, we don't need the church to make a covenant between those wishing to marry.

    My church wedding didn't work out so well and we called it quites after 13 yrs. My second marriage we held in a public park in front of family and friends. It was performed by a friend who was a notery! This marriage has been amazing! The covenant taken there actually meant something. The words spoken during the second wedding were ours, we own them – not something that a preacher had us say...

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

    There are plenty of evil passages in the new testament. I just love how people say the old testament doesn't count yet they believe in Jesus and the original sin story and how we got here. ..which was covered in ... THE OLD TESTAMENT. If we didnt have the OT then we would have no original sin, therefore no need for Jesus to die, the creation of the universe etc. You throw that out then you are just picking and choosing what you want which is what most people do anyhow.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  7. Dan586

    Alright I will agree to banding gays getting married, only if we force all companies in the U.S to close one the seventh day so we can rest and worship God. I would love a day-off.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  8. ShawnDH

    People's religious beliefs are irrelevant to EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW in the 21st-century United States. Just because some people oppose something like gay marriage doesn't mean it should be ILLEGAL, and that's the foundation of FREEDOM itself.

    It's frankly disgraceful that so-called "Christians" oppress people so mindlessly, ruthlessly and cruelly. It's sad. It's un-American and it's wrong.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  9. Robyn

    "Christians" who are seriously committed to the authority of Mr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
    have no choice but to affirm all that he commands, for only he can know the will of God.

    Perhaps in his own mind, he is God.

    All must bow before Mohler the God of Hate and Hypocracy
    and worship him with fear and disgust lest he become vengeful
    and smite us with his puny wrath.

    Dear God, If you do exist and this pathetic dung beetle is worthy of Heaven,
    then I beg to be tortured in Hell for all eternity rather than spend one instant
    with a creature so loathsome, vile and repulsive as Mr. Mohler.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  10. khrog

    "blah, blah, blah, blah, I select passages from a crummy book to control women and condemn men who don't behave like proper men, blah, blah, blah, blah... I am logical and loving, blah blah blah blah"

    May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. KG

    Morals do not come from religious books. Ethics and morality preceeded the writings in religious books. Here's a teaching to follow: Equal justice under law. Now quit justifying discrimination on the basis of religion.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  12. Jim

    Yeah well, the bible also teaches not to judge others and leave that to God but whatever.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  13. truconserv

    If you're so intellectually vacuous that you need to lead-off with a strawman argument, then there really isn't much hope that the rest of your argument will make sense. Indeed, the good reverend did not disappoint – his argument lacked basic cogency and never, ever, got around to seriously addressing why it's okay to cherry pick the Bible to death.

    Anther loser looking for an excuse, is the author of this article, too afraid to examine his faith or his actions.

    After reading this, I have no better understanding of why this man fears gay marriage – and why he thinks he interpretation of the Bible deserves government protection over the interpretation of others.

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

      Well stated!!!! I wish CNN hired contributers like you.. You know, people who know how to make a salient point so that all but the dumbest can get it..

      May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  14. Elliot

    Evangelicals are the most annoying beings to ever walk the planet, and coming in a close 2nd place are the flaming limp wrist pansies. If you are g-a-y and don't act more girlish than a regular girl, you don't annoy me.

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

    Jacques- maybe you missed the point, allowing gay marriage is to say that reproduction has nothing to do with marriage therefore gays should be allowed to marry, BUT you would then not allow incest couples to marry BECAUSE of reproduction reasons. So does marriage have anything to do with reproduction or not? If no how do you ban incest couples when you say marriage has nothing to do with reproduction? Or do you say marriage has nothing to do with reproduction so gays can marry, but then apply reproduction rules against incest couples- that is a contraction- you would let 2 gay brothers or sisters marry but not a brother and sister, or how/why would you ban gay siblings from marrying since they can't reproduce. Currently we ban incest couples bc of reproduction reasons, but gays are saying reproduction has nothing to do with marriage- if so why are we then banning incest couples? Either marriage has some idea of reproduction in it or doesn't, and if it doesn’t how then do you apply reproduction restrictions on incest couples.

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

      We don't disallow incestuous marriage because of blood line concerns. Whomever told you that mislead you.

      Do some research – as is stated over and over again, we don't allow incestuous marriage due to the harm it causes society. Real harm, measurable harm. The same is not true for gay marriage, which is why it always reverts to the Bible.

      I don't need a bible to argue that incest is wrong – can you say the same for gays?

      Finally, if reproduction is the key, then you would want to outlaw marriage by infertile adults. But you don't, do you?

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

      If we were to accept that, we have to apply it universally. That means genetic testing for all married couples. Any infertile men or woman will automatically be excluded from marriage, as will those with genetic defects likely to be passed on. Okay, I'm all for it, lets get this movement on. Until then though, fair is fair, we should be allowing gays to marry as well or we are applying rules to them we aren't applying to the rest of the populous (hell, even if we had the procreation argument, in the modern world it doesn't hold up so well anymore as a ban against gay marriage).

      May 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  16. Alverant

    "In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer."
    YES I DO!! You do not speak for others, just yourself.

    Why do you ignore the parts of your bible you dislike while trying to force the rest of us to obey the parts you do like? Why don't you apply your holier-than-thou morality up to the god you worship?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  17. josh1

    Is the author of this article really trying to justify selective reading? That's funny...

    May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  18. jojo75

    The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective.... so this people will like to take away the right to divorce, contraception, etc. Is not wheter Christians think is sinful or not, is whether they finally understand that there is a separation of church and state for a reason. The US in NOT a Christian nation. It's greatest glory lies on the acceptance of all the peoples.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  19. MaryM

    Keep Religion Out of Government, period

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

      @ MaryM: so you want to punt the Declaration of Independence?
      "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

      May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  20. JKB

    Then, if this is Christianity, I'll take a pass....

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

      Harry, it's only hate speech if you hate it. There's no malice in it as far as I can see, just a guy giving his take on the biblical text which he sees as authoritative for Christians

      May 21, 2012 at 4:30 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.