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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. NOT MY CHAIR

    JJK -"what's more reasonable to believe, something from nothing or something from something??? Modern science can only "grow" tissue from existing tissue."
    this is one of the dumbest things i have ever read! you know so little about evolution it hurts. STOP BEING IGNORANT AND GO READ A REAL BOOK!!! and actually UK scientist have created synthetic life using synthetic DNA Google it

    May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      and it is not something out of nothing its a fusion and evolution that takes millions of years. evolution does not mean creating nothing from something its changing from something to something else

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

      UK scientist have created synthetic life using synthetic DNA....
      You apparently didn't read the entire article. They "programmed' an existing cell with synthetic DNA. Not quite the same as creating life.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  2. TSol

    About "The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce" ...Not the Catholic Church, sorry!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  3. Sarah

    I always think it is interesting that whenever conservative Christians want to point out sins, rather than turn to what Jesus said (or didn't say) they turn to Paul, who never met Jesus (unless you count the time he converted and thought he saw Jesus in a bright light; he never met the actual person Jesus) and did about as much picking and choosing as to what Jesus' teachings were as they (Christian conservatives) do. So do we listen to Paul, or should we listen to Jesus?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I think the best answer would to be to listen to yourself with the wisdom you acquire through experience.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • beezers

      I'm sorry, Sarah, do you have the Book of Jesus, written by his hand? No? I guess we all rely on what the Apostles tell us regarding Christ's words, so Paul's writings are just as legitimate as Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Sarah

      @ Voice of Reason: Good advice. However, it was more of a rhetorical question. Paul essentially went from one form of extremism to another. If I were a Christian, it would seem as though he isn't the best to judge what is right and wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Sarah

      @ beezers. No. As I said, Paul was interpreting Jesus as much as you or I; Paul of Tarsus never met Jesus. There is more chance that the Gospels were written by people that knew him personally. And even that is debatable with the Gospel of John.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • beezers

      So I guess the real question, then, Sarah, is whether Paul was a true apostle and his words truly the words of Christ. As someone who's received personal revelation (and I believe you can receive it, too), I can assure you that Paul's writings are just as much the word of God as any in the Gospels.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • JCNOW

      Beezers made a very good point. We shouldn't be relying on the writings of any of the bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  4. Rev. Schaeffer

    Love also includes free will. If others engage in sin, it is not our place to force them to stop (unless they are doing us direct harm.) We can speak, and we may do so vociferously each according to their conscience, but we may not legislate or wage war upon them simply for standing upon a different philosophy. I believe this concept is expressed not only in the Catholic catechism [1730], but in the first amendment to the US Consti-tution.

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

      Legislating according to a moral code does not force people to follow it. People still disobey the law. Choice is never taken away from anyone, which is why laws against abortion are not anti-choice, just pro-life.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • JCNOW

      That is the most ridiculous argument I've ever heard. So it's okay to use a particular religion's moral code to establish what is legal or illegal? I have my own religion. My religion says that evangelical Christians are evil and therefore, any religious practice by any evangelical christian should be treated as a felony. Now you evangelical shouldn't have any problem with that since you still have the right to ignore the law, practice your religion, and land your sanctimonious little axxes in jail.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Rev. Schaeffer

      The function of the law is to punish, correct and enforce behavior. The function of ministry is to teach. Somewhere along the line those distinct ideas became blurred. America corrected that mistake. In using force to create "proper" behavior we not only remove free will, we place in ourselves the authority of God. And, at least according to Christianity, excessive pride is also a sin. The purpose of the law is merely to ensure we do not violate another's free will in the exercise of our own. Many politicians, like many clergy, have forgotten that they are not masters... we are servants.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  5. historyrepeatsitself

    In fifty years, Mr. Mohler will be looked upon in the same light that people who believe blacks shouldn't have equal rights are now looked upon today. If you don't believe me, please look at what book the KKK uses to back their idea of white supremacy.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Seriously?

      That's taking a bit of a big step there, don't you think? Equating religious people with the klan seems a bit much. Misguided as they might be, religious people don't strike me as evil.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • historyrepeatsitself

      Since the KKK preaches the bible, no, I don't find it too far off. Discrimination is discimination, even if it is done in the name of god.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • beezers

      History does repeat itself, doesn't it? The righteous will be vilified, sins will be accounted as good, and empires will crumble.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  6. jnail7

    I thought the author was going to talk about Christianty. Instead I get some Judaism and lots of Paulian rhetoric. Where are the quotes from the red sections?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  7. sowhat

    why do Southerners always feel it's their "right" to tell everyone they hate Catholics? What if I, right off the bat, told them I think 95% of Southerners are complete hee-billlies no matter their level of education?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  8. MrApplesauce

    "...and commands those things that will lead to true human happiness and flourishing."

    -------

    Good to know everyone who is flourishing in this world are there by following the commands of God.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  9. eddie

    So Sad to see humans fighting among themself for something no one knows for sure,, so leave it along and lets all get along is the only option we all have!.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  10. mrbones

    Thumpers can make the Bible say anything they want it to. When it's all said and done, you are still going to he!! for everything you do, right or wrong.

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

      What? ? ?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  11. jonp

    this argument makes a lot of sense if you believe that the bible is actually the word of god.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  12. Michael

    CNN Belief Blog staff meeting:
    "Any ideas to drive up readership?"
    "Let's run a g-a-y marriage story with a different viewpoint every few days and watch the same people make the same reflexive comments over and over again."
    "Then the next day we'll run a "what you said" story and watch the same commenters at it again."

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

      Ecclesiastes 1:9: ... what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

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

      What's your point? There are literally over 100 different article links on the CNN front page. If people want to read and comment on this one, then who's fault is that?

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

      @NotBuyingIt, Not much point really. If people want to comment here, they are permitted to do so. In the last week I suspect there have been on the order of 10,000 – 20,000 comments on this subject for the four stories I saw run. They boil down to a very small number of viewpoints.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  13. Steve From NH

    They used to use the same types of arguments against interracial marriage. The bible is like a horoscope, you can find something to support any side of any argument. Maybe it's not the word of god after all, huh? For instance, why would the "word of god" be different for one set of people vs. another? Wouldn't you think there'd be a universal truth in there somewhere? Maybe the bible is being used by one set of people to control another, and has little to do with god in the first place?
    Aside from all that, if you christians really feel that way, why don't you just mind your own business and stop trying to force your opinions down everyone else' throats?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  14. brian

    the bible is FICTION. quit trying to craft laws after it.

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

      The irony is these same people are scared of "sharia law" from Islam yet they want to impose the Christian version of it.

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

      Trying reading it sometime ,and see how exactly it matches Historically ,before your cry BS , ignorance is bliss i guess.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  15. Ashley

    Thank you for having the courage to stand up for what is right. I thought this was the truth written in love. Pray that the Lord will continue to use you in a great way.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      How incredibly ignorant.

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

      @ Voice of Reason- I could say the same to you. Why so quick to say something negative on what I believe in?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • JCNOW

      OH MY GOD. There is little I hate worse in this world than sanctimonious Bible-thumpers. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  16. 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 by denying others civil rights.

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

      Being gay is a choice , not a right , another delusional person

      May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Exma

      @DPatriot. Being gay is not a choice..my son is 2 years old, prefers to sing Lady Gaga songs and when we go to the toy stores goes straight to the barbie doll section. He is making a choice to be gay? Do I stop him and twist his ears and force him where the toy trucks are?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  17. TLS

    I mainly wanted to say that whether you believe in the Christian God or not is your choice. I am what today calls, a Christian. For me deciding to be a Christian means believing what the bible teaches. That being said, God does give us our own free will to decide if we want to accept it or not. I chose to accept it. I also chose to accept that it is up to each individual to choose what they want to believe. I personally believe that what God says is sin, is sin and yes for me it is literally what is stated in the bible. However, I also believe that we are not to condemn someone else for their choice. That would be God’s decision, not mine. I believe that God states very clearly that we are not to hate anyone. We cannot ever force someone to accept what we personally have accepted nor should we try. If the God I believe in doesn’t force me to accept him then how could I try and force someone else to believe in him? I also believe that it is all or nothing, you either choose to believe a specific “religion” or you don’t. I don’t understand why you would even want to be a part of a “religion” if you didn’t believe everything it taught or was based on. I do like to witness (the word used by Christians) God with others as I find him to be a most caring and loving God. But, again it is a choice you make. God gave us the free will to do so.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Why can't you just be a person?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  18. gbranson

    I believe that gay marriage is a legal issue. I don't know of anyone that can judge for God. That is between god and each person who believes in him. Aren't there scriptures about greed and helping your fellow man. I don't see a lot of people like Mitt Romney worrying about those scriptures. Let people live their lives and make their own peace with God.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  19. DJ

    Interpret the bible anyway you want, just remember that the bible is not relevant when it comes to a discussion of laws or government in the USA. Don't use your subjective interpretation of the bible to justify discrimination against people who either a) don't share your interpretation or b) don't share your religion or c) believe in the primacy of conscience over dogma and scriptural extrapolation.

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

      a) don't share your interpretation or b) don't share your religion or c) believe in the primacy of conscience over dogma and scriptural extrapolation.

      If gays and gay supporters adhere to what you said, then we shouldn't have a problem, the problem is gays and gay supporters are forcing their beliefs on others.
      why should one segment of the society get the special right to redefine another's traditional and religious beliefs?

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

      The problem DJ is that the Bible says primacy of conscience is evil. We can never choose good unless goodness comes to us. The Messaiah brought that goodness which covers evil.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • JCNOW

      What a tool. Gays are trying to force their beliefs on you by how? Wanting to live their lives? Wanting equal rights? It's the religious nut cases that are trying to legislate for all based upon their nutty beliefs. Well not all Americans believe as you do. Perhaps not even most. Go ahead and pray on your knees until the skin rots off for all we care. But don't try to tell us what to do and don't try to legislate your misguided fairy tale beliefs to the rest of us.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  20. Gregory

    The bible was composed by man to control man and did so very well for 2000 years. It's over, let it go. The bible is no longer relevent.

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

      Agreed!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:00 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.