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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. seemerunfast

    What was God's stance on molesting children? It is fine if the church can cover it up? Oh it is fine if you move the priest to a new parish! This “opinion” is as meaningless as the church’s “opinion” on all moral subjects. Let the individual be concerned with what “God” will do based on the individuals actions. How can anyone possibly take the church seriously about moral issues when the “church” is more immoral than the people they are preaching to.

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

      Your foolish, open the Bible to find the answer is all you have to do. Not all who claim to be Christians are but the Bible it the Living word.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • truthseeker777

      WoW, using that same logic, YOU would also say ALL MUSLIMS are Evil because of the few Radicals?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  2. Bob

    Finally someone who got it right.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Richard

      I don't think he gets it right at all. Like most opponents of marriage equality, he's selective with facts and refuses to put forth an argument based on rationality instead of magical books.

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

      I'd like to point out that the slave owners and other defenders of slavery were ALSO largely led by Christians, so what exactly is his point?

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

      Well there is a simple answer for me............ God created my son and even at 5 years old we knew he did not have maile interests and in fact had natural feminine likes and gestures.

      If God made him and He did....... then it's clear to me God's opinon on this subject

      May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Saboth

      You mean someone that just parrots the Southern Baptist Convention and can't think for themselves.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • jnpa

      To Joe...Very true indeed. But Christians argue that being gay is a choice. They really have no clue when they say that. My argument has always been that God made EVERYONE, and if being gay is so wrong then gays are damned before they are born. I don't think God intended it to be that way.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  3. DB

    @Wise Man

    I don't want to get into judgment and punishment here, but ask yourself, if God offers you freedom from punishment, and you reject that gift, then what are choosing? He's not punishing you for not accepting his gift, he's giving you what you've asked for.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • WOW

      On what basis did you formulate those questions? You clearly are implying things that the you think the Bible states without knowing what your are talking about so first state the basis for your question.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  4. kevin

    all of that is well and good for people who choose to believe it. for those who think it's just a hodgepodge of stories written and compiled by human beings alone and then translated by other people then it's nothing more than a suggestion. freedom of religion is the right of the individual to say "i agree" or "i disagree". so no church or organized religion should have any expectation of COMPLIANCE to their religion. not even by the people who darken their doors. in other words, tell your story walkin' chief.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  5. Welled

    He wasn't gay he never even exsisted. Once again the whole story is whole cloth. People of the middle east played with religion all the time. It wasn't exactly the psycology of yesterday but the sociology of yesterday. People reacted to things they didn't understand. Some people found that highly interesting and expermented with it. That New Testament. For people that well fail to use their sense because the bible tells them not to. Has writtings from about 3 or 4 different Semetic peoples. Zororaster is part of that of course. Those people are Semetic also that wrote that. Herods temple isn't Hebrew at all. That dosen't even make sense that it would be. However those people had their own brand of religion. So rebuilding a temple some where could mean a lot of things. For example. Religious people of course get very excited about religion and when you try to explain all their sense shuts down and goes to faith. Sort of like the people that believe in "Government" also. They just shut down all their senses. Its sort of the same since the Governments foundation rests on religion. Then again it rests on no religion. Which is Democracy. Which is divide and conqueor. I am suprised that people that aren't religious fall for the time and again. When they know damn well what they wrote would have the intended effect. Knowing religion is bogus. Religion was started as a means of pacifying people. In nations and crossing boundries.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Al CA

      OK, You're dumb.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • truthseeker777

      FACT: The Bible was written: Over a 1500 year time frame. Over 40 Generations. Over 40 Authors from Kings to Shepherds, in different places, at different times, in different moods, on 3 Continents, in 3 Languages on Hundreds of Controversal topics, HOWEVER, it is the ONLY book on the Planet that writes it's History moving FORWARD with 100% accuracy with ONE General Theme. Salvation of ALL people thru God's only Son, J E S U S C H R I S T !!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  6. ralph

    That's why a living prophet is important – to help us sift through what is culturally based in the Bible from what is doctrinally based.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  7. tony

    Still waiting for a church leader to explain how the Tsunamis represent a loving god that should be worshipped. Who needs to interpret the bible when we have present real life to explain?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Mike the Former Atheist

      Tony,

      Attached below is a post I made on Facebook in reply to a pastor's poor attempt to explain the problem of evil and suffering (including tsunamis). I am sure you will enjoy this read although I cannot promise that I will reply to any questions or comments that come as a result of this. I simply do not have the time for it and only post this because it was already written by me before. Enjoy!

      I came to the faith because it was logical to me. If I can't answer something logically then I am hard pressed to believe in it. Have I found a logical explanation for everything in the faith? No, but I can tell you with certainty that I have been able to for 98% of my doubts and the 2% I can't answer I simply admit that I can't answer rather than say "it's just something we can't comprehend". I simply keep looking for answers with the belief that God wants us to fully know him.

      Wouldn't a better answer to the "problem" of evil and suffering be that it is necessary if there is to be free will? Most of the evil and suffering (if not all) that we experience is a result of free will. A child murdered is the result of a person expressing his free will to cause harm. Many argue that a lot of cancers are caused by our free will to eat processed foods or not live healthy lifestyles. Throughout the progression of time our poor living habits as a global community has significantly contributed to the diseases we experience in most cases. So what would be the solution? Take away free will? No, because if there is no free will then we are simply robots and life as we know it would simply NOT be possible.

      That, in my opinion, would be real suffering.

      What about earthquakes, tsunamis and every other natural disaster? Well, the bible explains to us that creation was once good, yet because of our separation from God, caused by our expression of free will, all of creation now growns awaiting its redemption.

      There are those two words again...............free will.

      In conclusion, I believe that God created something good and allowed for free will with the full knowledge that it would lead to mankind and creation causing its own suffering. But what would have been the alternative? Would not creating life and everything we experience today be the solution? I don't know about you readers.........but I like living........even if I may die in a tragedy tomorrow.

      What about creating a world with no "bad people" who murder innocent children? Well, if God is God, he must be perfect. Otherwise, he can not be God. If he is perfect then anything less than perfect should not exist since anything less than perfect would cause some form of evil and suffering. If God is God, he must also be fair and balanced. Some call this a just God. Therefore, if he is to be a "just" God he can not simply eliminate one form of imperfection (child murderers) while allowing for another imperfection (say.....employees who steal staples from the office).

      But you say......an employee who steals office supplies is nowhere near as evil as a child murderer. I say YES, but in the presence of a perfect God who must be fair and partial, all forms of imperfection must cease to exist if we are to allow for a world with no evil or suffering. After all, I'm sure someone suffered (even a little bit) when they ran out of staples at work and could not finish that big project they were working on.

      If God is God, he must be fair and impartial. Therefore, physical life could not exist without free will and the existence of evil and suffering. Either that, or God must eliminate us all or not have allowed for life in the first place.

      In conclusion (this time for real), the good news is that we, who place our hope in God, have a future we can look forward to as we groan alongside all of creation. God, who is fair and just, provided for free will yet also gave us redemption in Jesus Christ. This allows us, in our ignorance and imperfection, to express our free will yet find repentance and new creation in the cross of Jesus Christ.

      So, evil and suffering do have an explanation. It is not a "problem" that can not be logically explained or understood.

      And between you and I........

      ........this former atheist thanks God for that. 🙂

      May 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Mike

      Wow dude, it's called "Life" and easily most of us would choose to have a chance at it, even if we knew tsunamis existed.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • YeahRight

      “What about earthquakes, tsunamis and every other natural disaster? Well, the bible explains to us that creation was once good, yet because of our separation from God, caused by our expression of free will, all of creation now growns awaiting its redemption.
      There are those two words again...............free will.”

      LMAO – you really believe earthquakes and tsunamis are created because of man’s free will. That’s hilarious. Wow how delusional your cult makes people is sick.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  8. Yes

    Isn't CNN a trusted NEWS source? How is this entering into the philosophy on a religous topic & promoting specific sides anything to do with news at all?? Is this what we can expect from a top News service for an entire election period? Where is the news story of this by any stretch. Editor give us a break please. Thank you!

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

      This is one article from the Belief blog, which is part of the greater Opinions section, which is one category in many that appears on the CNN front page. The reason that people will continue to use this "why is this news?"/"why are they over-reporting this?" criticism is beyond me... There are literally over 100 article links on the front page. If you didn't want to read about this, then why did you click on it?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  9. Gaz

    Nobody is asking churches to change their beliefs. The states have a right to protect all of their inhabitants no matter what their beliefs may be.

    You are welcome to live your life under your particular interpretation of Christianity, just as others live under other religions, or no religion.

    I have no problem agreeing to disagree on multiple issues, especially regarding faith and religion, but I draw the line when people use their beliefs for intolerance which verges on bigotry.

    The best advice I can give to people of your opinion is that if you don't like it, don't marry a man. Problem solved. In the mean time I will fight for your right to marry a man if you don't choose to and their right to do so if they wish.

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

      Very well said! Why should a person not have equal rights because a book called "the bible" says so?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  10. Christine

    I don't care if you're Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Catholic, black, white, whatever....100% of humans are hypocrites in one way, shape or form. I try very, very hard to live by these words – DO NOT JUDGE ME BECAUSE MY SINS ARE DIFFERENT THAN YOURS!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  11. Joe Walker

    How would Dr. Mohler explain the interface of his position on LGBTQ behavior with Vatican II's teaching on respect for "primacy of conscience." Also it is a generally accepted Christian fact that Christ loved sinners. Certainly we (and me) are to avoid the near occasions of what our conscience tells us is "sin", yet we are to respect and try to love the person whose conscience tells her or him that she or he is acting morally. We should judge not another's action we call sinful, according to God anyhow! In the interim let's let go and let God be the judge. Jesus was all about love of all creation!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  12. THEISTS AGAINST THE BIBLE CAN I GET A WOOP WOOP?

    I believe in God but I believe the bible to be God's word as much as I believe in Santy Klaus. The bible is a man made text, written hundreds of years after jesus died, and in languages no less, that died centuries ago, and have been re-constructed with the interest of guiding religious doctrine. Add in different versions, edited texts (gnostic bible), how the heck is anyone supposed to take this mad made collage of fables seriously? Take your bible and shove it. I will stick with God. There is a big difference. I worship God, not what other men say about God. I suggest everyone do the same and let everyone be free. When gay marriage was passed into law in my state of connecticut, it did not affect my freedom, my morality, my community, my world in any way shape or form other than knowing I live in a true American state, where all people are free, not just ones who believe in the bible.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • truthseeker777

      When you STAND for Nothing, you will FALL for ANYTHING !

      May 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  13. n8263

    Christians think Sharia Law is immoral but impose their own Sharia Law in America.

    No matter what version, it's immoral to impose your religion and deny others civil rights.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Kalessin

      And how should a person within our country vote? The nation should reflect how the majority of voters..well...vote right? If the Christian majority actually voted...then the result would be a more Christian based nation and be legal. Correct? Just as long as the govt doe not cross the line that says they are justifying their positions solely on a religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  14. Rachel Lee

    Post-script to my previous comment–Only Lilith was made a woman in her own right–and you call her a Bit@%.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  15. TPN51

    Question? How many of you so called Good Christians watch Ellen or How I met your Mother (Neil Patrick Harris) or listen to Clay Aiken or watched movies and TV with Jim Neighbors, Rock Hudson man the list goes on, they are all Gay folks. Didi you enjoy them? or turn them off because they were Gay? NO Religion has the right to DICTATE LAW to another human being. Preach Love and Hate a the same time. Makes me glad I gave up religion years ago.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  16. Richard

    I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me why it is ok for Christians to force the rest of us to play their imaginary friend game? Anyone?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • n8263

      That is a great question. Can anyone explain this?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • meemee

      It's not okay, but it's the force of the majority's assumption. I find it really irritating, myself.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • WOW

      Oh someone forcing you? Tell us how?

      forcingpresent participle of force (Verb)Verb: 1.Make a way through or into by physical strength; break open by force.
      2.Drive or push into a specified position or state using physical strength or against resistance: "she forced her feet into sandals

      May 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • bill

      hey richard..i wonder if you will think religion is all imaginary when ylou are on your deathbed...i doubt it...what a fool...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  17. wolvver

    The Wise Council of Golden Unicorns explicity stated their support for gay marriage and have stated that it is consistent with their desires when they created man. That really should end the argument.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • ME II

      But didn't the Invisible Pink Unicorn overrule that edict in the Council of Water Cooler in 1423UE?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  18. WOW

    At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come

    May 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • H in Texas

      And then something went BUMP! How that bump made us jump! We looked! Then we saw him step in on the mat! We looked! And we saw him! The Cat in the Hat!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • DD--Washington, D.C.

      Saved from hell? You mean because god treats people he dislikes the way Hitler treated some of these very same people he disliked. What god is this? I believe in god and always will. I do not believe in dogma and doctrine.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
      You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...

      Dr Suess, Book of Places You'll Go 3:16

      May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  19. Jkb

    Read 1Corithians 6: 9 NLT. Can u explain this.?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  20. Another Andy

    I'm a Christian, and I disagree with this editorial entirely. Many of the writer's statements are conclusory without support, and some simply seem to ignore relevant historical facts. I could rephrase this entire article in one sentence:
    "The parts of the Bible that we want to read as anti-gay matter more because we hate gays but don't want to give up eating shellfish."

    How dare this man call his point of view "love" - you don't get to preach bigotry and inequality and condemnation in the name of God and call it "love." This demeans all Christians.

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

      Amen.

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

      You have been found a wolf in sheeps clothing. Repent!

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

      You can't draw a conclusion from what is fantasy in the first place.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Another Andy

      If teaching and sharing real Christianity make me a "wolf," then I will howl God's love at the moon until my breath is gone. But until that day, I will not let people manipulate Christ's teachings for the sake of petty mortal political opinions.

      Christ didn't say a word about being gay. Or about abortions. You know what he did say? Love God, and love each other. Anything else is someone else's opinion.

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

      Exactly, Another Andy. It saddens me that people like this claim to be the only Christian authority on the matter and explain away the reasons why it is ok that they overlook all other parts of the Bible to prove themselves right and feel morally good about discriminating and condemning others

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

      Keep on howling and misleading wolf

      May 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Another Andy

      I hope everyone reading these comments understands that there's a tremendous schism today between real Christians and those who condemn everyone or everything who disagrees with them or that they dislike.

      There are real, loving Christians out here still. We need to make it easier to find us. But if you're looking for hope, please don't give up because of people like some of these commenters. They don't speak for God. Only one person ever did, and no matter what these people do, no matter how much they tell you that God only loves them, they can't rewrite the text to put words in Christ's mouth that he didn't say.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:02 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.