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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. Glen

    Probably a waste of breath, but here goes... It's God's job to judge, not yours. No one is asking you to accept the lifestyle, just to show understanding and tolerance. Let God make the decision that he made a mistake (your understanding, not mine) when he created some of his children.
    And what would Jesus say; I hate gays?
    Wish Jesus was here today.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      He is , people are just ignoring him unfortunately.

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

      @Hade

      Proof please.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Glen: so you think MLK was wrong for calling out social conservatives because God judged their racism?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      momoya...you look , but do not see..

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

      So does that mean you have no proof?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • commentusmaximus

      not true. You should always correct someone who is sinning. 1Timothy 5:20 "Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning."

      May 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • RobertG

      Jesus would say the same thing he told the man he healed, "sin no more." Ho.mose.xuality is a sin, and Jesus knows that gays know that. He would tell them to stop, " lest a worse thing come unto thee." John 5:14

      May 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Brian

      momoya, prove to me that your mom or dad loved you. Can you? You cannot prove the love between two people, only provide examples of evidence. Similarly, knowing that God exists and that He loves us is also not possible to prove. Instead there are evidences that are personal. My proof was found through honest and open prayer, but I cannot use that as proof to others, just as I cannot prove to you that my mother and father love me.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      momoya..... the primary arguments never address the paramount question. WHY does ANYTHING exist? Now , can you answer me that?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • suesark

      Very graciously stated! It is God's job to judge, not ours. And boy! Am I glad for that!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  2. Joe

    Looking for one (1) non-religious reason to not have equal rights regardless of who you choose to be with that does not involve a phobia. Ohh there isn't one much like there wan't one for race or gender. Funny how people made the same arguments back than about those two groups. Shame the people who should run the country don't have what it takes to get into office and those that have no right to be there can get in so easily.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  3. elvee

    love this article!!! and the truth shall set you free ~

    May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  4. Bob

    What a convenient interpretation from someone with an axe to grind. Read it, it does not actually say you can't eat shellfish.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Josiah

      Yes, it does. Leviticus 11:9, 10 says, “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you."

      May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  5. Scott Allen

    Outstanding article brother.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  6. brokenpinata

    Simple explanation: If it affects Christians directly and would force them to change their lifestyle, ignore that part of the bible. If it has absolutely no bearing on your life or personal affairs, but offers you the opportunity to belittle and bully people that are different than yourself, then PREACH PREACH PREACH!!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Woman

      SO TRUE, BROKEN PINATA

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • commentusmaximus

      Nope. Christians especially Catholics follow everything in the New Testament and trashes everything in the Old Testament that Jesus and His disciples did not follow.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  7. DED

    I am sorry, but Acts 10:15 was not trying to suggest that now okay to eat "unclean meats" like shellfish, shrimp, and pork. In those days, Jews do not associate themselves with the Gentiles, because of their sinful nature.

    Peter was being told by the Angel (three times) that he should not call any MAN common or unclean – also recorded in Acts 10:28, which clearly explains the vision of Acts 10:15:

    "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

    It has nothing to do with it being okay now to eat “unclean meats” whatsoever..!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  8. BlueJeans

    My one disagreement:
    "[I]t is the most pressing moral question of our times."
    No, killing unborn children is.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • name

      god kills children everyday. through disease and starvation and child abuse.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      name...God kills no one... man is responsible for it all in some form or another.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  9. fryuujin

    this gay thing is 100% a GOP propaganda item to promote their message/platform of hate. sadly people can get pumped up to hate easier than anything, so the GOP is using this as part of their ticket to get elected.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  10. timothy

    The thing to bear in mind here is that Mohler either a) believes his judgement of Peter's vision overrides not only the directly stated biblical interpretation, but also Peter's own judgement, b) he is not actually competent enough to read the Bible and understand what it specifically says, or c) he is knowingly bearing false witness in order to support his own predjudices. In any of these cases, he is not someone that anyone with discernment should take seriously.
    Peter's vision was meant to show us that God is available to all, that with Christ's sacrifice there is no longer a "chosen people", that we are not to call anyone unclean because Christ has cleansed us all. Read Acts 10, the whole chapter not just Mohler's cherry-picked verses.
    God wants us to live justly, love mercy and walk humbly. Mohler fails his Lord on all three.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • James

      I don't disagree that Peter's vision was meant to show him that the Kingdom is available to all. However, do you think God would reveal a truth to Peter about people using a vision that itself is untrue? Certainly, the vision wasn't only about food, but it is correct to draw the same unclean / clean conclusion regarding foods. Especially when you consider other passages that support that same conclusion.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  11. NeoGraphix

    To follow a fictional character is odd. To pick and choose parts of a book to follow and ignore the rest is just plain idiotic. Either you're all in or not.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Josiah

      Pick and choose? How so?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  12. When Worlds Collide

    Bottom Line – Your faith should not be forced on those who have a different faith. Period! Two loving ,committed, same gender people being married in no way is forcing a rule on another faith. Denying two loving, committed, same gender people the right to married IS forcing your rule on another faith.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Russ

      @ colliding worlds: you said "Your faith should not be forced on those who have a different faith. Period! Two loving ,committed, same gender people being married in no way is forcing a rule on another faith."

      do you not see how you are doing the very thing you're so upset about here? "hey don't force things. we MUST do this – but that doesn't count as forcing things."

      May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bob

      No different than trying to force others to accept your sick values as normal or decent.

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

      @ Bob: so you agree his argument is self-refuting?

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

      @Russ

      You moron, allowing gays to marry doesn't affect your rights.. It's fair if every consenting adult gets to marry whom they wish.. It doesn't somehow become "less fair" for you because other people have the same freedom you already have.. Are you dense?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • SMH

      THANK YOU!!!!!!! I dont care what your religion is dont try to force it on me, or anyone for that matter. Christians love to force their religion on others, but hate it when others do the same. SMDGH

      May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: i like how you often try to change the argument. but two fallacious arguments don't make a good singular one.

      the idea that two consenting adults in private can do whatever they want fails on multiple examples today (as I've said before): automatic weapons, illicit drugs, etc. you object "those are criminal activities!" on what grounds? a moral basis – the same basis to which your opponents appeal here. again: you already do the exact same thing you are criticizing your opponents for doing.

      secondly, on the issue as a whole, i'm not arguing for "my rights." i'm arguing against what I believe to be immoral activity that is qualitatively detrimental to society – just like racism. and don't you do the same? why outlaw racist activities?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  13. TAK

    I have NEVER read more contrived mental gymnastics than this clown uses to justify his bigotry (against gays and, if you read between the lines, jews).

    May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Josiah

      I'm Jewish and a Christian, and I don't see the discrimination here against Jews. All he says about the Jews is that there were laws God set down during the Old Testament that would set the Jews apart from the world. Some of what God told the Jews were probably about more than just setting Israel aside for His purposes (washing after touching dead bodies, quarantining the leperous until they got better, not eating certain meats which could have been because of how they stored it back then), but God set aside the children of Israel aside so the world would know that He is Lord.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  14. Woman

    the question is why do they condemn gays more than adultery? no justification

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Russ

      @ woman: those last 2 paragraphs read like an apology on that point.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Woman

      @Russ. The last paragraph? That confirms what I said: it is bearly mentioned.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  15. Johnny 5

    Pick up a book on fossils if its answers that you seek.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  16. Hmmmm

    So, I can have booty sx with a woman, even though it is not for procreation, but if I have booty sx with a man, I am going to hell? On a side note, you know not all gay men have booty sx, right? Probably not, cause you are more consumed with trying to understand your little black book, which is very cryptic to begin with, leaving it completely open for any interpretation, rather than trying to understand others around you. Butt, back to booty sx...is it a sin to have your own head so far stuck up your own booty? Cause, that is where it is.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  17. Richard F. Kessler

    This kind of biblical certainty about what God said and what God meant is not faith. It is arrogance. Only God knows. Any mortal claiming divine certainty is putting himself in the place of the creator. The bible has been used to justify slavery, the Inquisition, antisemitism, colonialism and every kind of war with its attendant attrocities imaginable. By condeming those from whom we differ, we bring judgment upon ourselves, not them. For the sake of your soul Reverend, stop persecuting gays.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Marc

      Richard Kessler dial it down. Its not persecution, its biblical interpretation. Read something else if you don't like it

      May 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  18. steve505

    How do we know the bible is correct? Because it is the word of God!

    How do we know it is the word of God? Because it says so in the bible!

    How do we know the bible is correct? Because it is the word of God!

    The bible. Circular reasoning at it's finest.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • name

      twist it however your puny little brain will accept it.

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

      Pray about it. That's how you find truth, from the actual source. As James put it – if you lack wisdom ask of God. No circular reasoning required.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  19. Mark

    For those who base their anti-gay views on the Bible, please explain the following verse to me: 'If no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.' (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

    How many girls would there be in the U.S. if this were implemented?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Marc

      Okay. It was a unique time in history when Israel was emerging as God's chosen instrument, as the nation that would bring forth the Savior (Jesus), so the nation was called to practice the holiness that it preached or experience judgment.

      In the Bible, God is God and reserves the right to execute judgment in any way and through any means He wants.

      At the same time, we thank God for Jesus, that He took the punishment of God on His shoulders and that the unique period of the holiness code is history 🙂

      May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Ms Codpiece

      really? a unique time in history???? seems that in some countries that thinking still applies...that man can screw anything he wants but woman must remain untouched until the so called husband gets to deflower her....and he still can screw around on the wife....the rulles are made by man to benefit man!!!! the basic god law to follow is do unto others as you would have them do unto you....that is translated easily to ALL religions!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  20. tomnikoly

    "For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction."

    True, but the slave-holding south also quoted scripture and assumed "god" was on their side with equal conviction.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Josiah

      There have always been people who twist and misquote Scripture. I mean, Eve did so in the Garden of Eden!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
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