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. wolvver

    Why has no one brought up what is stated in the Revealed Wisdom of the Golden Unicorns text? This holy book provides all of the answers for mankind, and has much to say on this topic.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  2. Soda

    If one speaks of hated, he is not a god, but a klan member.
    If we are all made in Gods image, then wouldn't that make god gay.
    But ultimately, the truth is, there is no god.
    Free your mind, free your spirit, live your own life.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  3. Nate

    I don't understand why the religious view of gay marriage is even part of the discussion. Our public policy should be based on factual data and rational thinking, not Bible verses. Churches won't be forced to marry gay people just because it is legal so what are Churches worried about? Freedom means you are free to do what you want as long as it doesn't hurt other people. Right now, gay people are not free. Legalizing gay marriage will not hurt anybody and it will not impinge upon Christian's freedom. So legalizing gay marriage results in more freedom for gays without reducing anybody else's freedom, that is a win-win in my book.

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

      It takes away my right to oppress people I don't like.

      note: *sarcasm*

      May 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Fight For Freedom

      Well said!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  4. Bonnie

    Let's be clear. The Old Testament applies to the original covenant (mutual agreement, promise) between God and Abraham. Then due to gross disobedience to God, the covenant was broken. God then gave mankind one last chance through His Only Son, Jesus Christ, who inaugurated a new covenant by means of His Son. Thereby some of the laws have changed. NOTE: No two threads; cotton and wool is all they had, if sew together, the garment shrinks. There was no Miller's Outpost on the corner. Also, it would be wise not to eat ANY fish now that all waters have been polluted.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • sam stone

      bonnie: you have no authority to speak for god

      May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  5. Ken Phillips

    What about Luke 16:18? "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
    I Corinthians 7:10 "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband."
    How do you feel about divorce as a bible following Christian?

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

      The word of God is law. It has not changed since this scripture you just quoted. Most "christians" today do not follow God's word closely, which is why they do not truly know Him or Jesus, His only begotten Son. People now tend to make their own laws, to their own destruction of disobedience. The only way one can remarry is if the spouse commits adultery or dies.

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

      This is his next to last paragraph. And I agree.
      "The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective."

      May 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • sam stone

      "The word of God is law."

      Not in the United States

      " It has not changed since this scripture you just quoted"

      How do you know? Do you speak the original languages

      May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  6. Tylenol

    which version of the bible?old testemont, new testemont, lukes version, dukes version,,so many to choose from

    May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      The Gospel according to Shaft. Can you dig it?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • steve

      Incorrect spelling negates any intellectual attempt to question the story. "Testament" please.

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

    comming since tells us its wrong .

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

    Isn't odd that someone has to go to such a great depth to explain what the bible implies and what it does not. It is almost worst than the english alphabet, all of the exceptions, what ifs, etc/ Sort of sad really. I am sorry, but love and peace is pretty simplistic. You do not need a book to tell you what is morally correct in certain scenarios. This guy looks foolish, he is delusional, does he not see something wrong with the fact he has to dissect the bible in order to apparently explain it. I do not give a damn about a book, I know how to treat other human beings, I know how to be honest, I know how to love, I know how to work.

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

      I read your post, Joshua. Your attempt at dismissing his article was sad, really.
      He was spot on target in every point. He didn't say what you want to hear, so
      now you're mad. Too bad.

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

      "I read your post, Joshua. Your attempt at dismissing his article was sad, really.
      He was spot on target in every point. He didn't say what you want to hear, so
      now you're mad. Too bad."

      The Scriptures were written approximately 2000 or more years ago when there was no knowledge of constitutional homosexuality. The Scripture writers believed that all people were naturally heterosexual so that they viewed homosexuality activity as unnatural. Women today are pointing out that the inferiority of women expressed in the scriptures was a product of culture and the times in which the Bible was written; it should not be followed today, now that we are beginning to appreciate the natural and God-given equality of men and women.

      Similarly, as we know that homosexuality is just as natural and God-given as heterosexuality, we realize that the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality were conditioned by the attitudes and beliefs about this form of sexual expression which were held by people without benefit of centuries of scientific knowledge and understanding.

      It is unfair of us to expect or impose a twentieth century mentality and understanding about equality of genders, races and sexual orientations on the Biblical writers. We must be able to distinguish the eternal truths the Bible is meant to convey from the cultural forms and attitudes expressed there.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Hank

      Great post Joshua.

      This editorial says "I am right because God said so".

      Its juvenile.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  9. TAK

    "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler Jr."

    How I wish that was true. There's a hundred million other dimwits in this country that share those opinions.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  10. Grafknar

    Scott Allen, well said...

    May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  11. Jeff--Tacoma

    What about "Judge not, lest yee be judged"? If I'm a sinner, then I'll answer to God, in the meantime I expect to be treated equally under man's law.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  12. Bill Dusterwald

    I want Chapter and verse. None of these abstraction or interpetations. If it "clearly says " this and that, clearly quote it in context, not just the words you see but all the words. Such as "the root of all evil is...money." It actually reads "The root of all evil is the PURSUIT of money. Which isn't in the Bible, by the way, but at revivals across the nation the sanctimonious few hurl it at the rest of us.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  13. steve-o

    Hypocracy and idiocy are the driving force of religion. Religion is designed to put us vs them.
    Align thyrself with me and we will crush them(while I use thee to line my pockets)

    May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  14. C. Thomas

    Even the Devil can quote scripture.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  15. Mormon magical underwear

    If your a christian you could never support a cult Bishp Romney then,his mormon church is against the teachings of the bible.

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

      How is that any different than cult member Obama, or Bush, or Clinton, or (insert nearly every president).

      May 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  16. Sapient

    Mohler is delusional. The First Amendment only provides freedom of religion without fear of governmental persecution. It does not provide freedom to force people of all other religions, faiths, or no faith at all, to follow any one chosen religion. Any attempt to do so is about the most un-American thing a person could do. Mr. Mohler, your personal choice of religious beliefs end at your doorstep and do not extend to anyone other than yourself. It would be wise for you to remember that fact.

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

      The First Amendment reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." That to me means freedom FROM religion. The founding fathers then continued, "...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". That's freedom of religion. I find it telling that the emphasis was put on freedom from religion, while freedom of religion was mentioned almost as an afterthought.

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

      Sounds llike you are the delusional one, Sapient. He's not forcing anyone to do anything.
      He has a right to express his views just as you do.
      Of course, he did it better than you did, but I digress...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  17. Anomic Office Drone

    Accept the Bible for what it is: a very old update to Aesop's Fables.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  18. NeoGraphix

    Just to let most of the faithfully out there know that if Jesus came back to Earth as promised, most of the world wouldn't understand him because he didn't speak English. Then what?

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

      Jesus already came to us a second time. Too bad for him that he chose Arizona as his entry point. He's in a jail at the moment awaiting deportation along with a hundred other men named Jesus.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  19. Pete

    Was Jesus Gay? No girl friends or pictures of him kissing a woman. He hung around with 12 guys. He never married. No visits to the house on the hill with the red lantern to become a man. He didn't follow the norms of his society. He would likely be suspected of being gay in today's political climate.

    Wouldn't it be troublesome for most anti-gay Christians to discover that their savior was gay?

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

      Shouldn't it be disturbing enough to them that he never married, and actually called for those who could manage it to avoid marriage if they could? How much more anti-marriage can you get than that?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Dad and Coach

      We'll pray for you brother. That is a pretty disgusting supposition. It is not honest in its analysis and is only a feeble attempt to smear the memory of His life and love for all mankind.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      Dad: I don't think he needs or wants your prayers. Coach, eh? Jerry Sandusky was a coach, too.....

      May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  20. fitz

    Souther Baptist Theological Seminary = Billy Bob's Bible College and School of Auto Uphostelry

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

      Now that's damned funny!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • steve

      You must have flunked out from it then, it's "uphostery" not uphostelry.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:51 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.