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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. gravis

    Well, based on this story I should re-read the New Testament in order to become further educated. Unfortunately my parrots have taken a dump all over all the pages I ripped out and used to line their cage. I guess I'm out of luck and destined to live in sin.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Snow

      burn, baby burn!! 🙂

      May 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  2. Patrick Hartigan

    Hi, everyone. My religion is not called merely "What the Bible Says," and neither is yours. If it were, that would be a problem on a number of levels. Let's think about that. Let's think about what our religions are called, and why. Take it easy.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  3. David

    "An honest consideration of the Bible" reveals fiction after fiction after fiction.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  4. Fred Evil

    In other words, you can rationalize JUST ABOUT ANYTHING, huh preacherman?
    Screw you AND the church you rode in on!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  5. Richard Conn Henry

    Why on earth would anyone pay any attention at all to a book whose only claim to fame is having survived? I remember hearing a Republican on NPR saying "scripture" in an awed voice. Please give thought to what on earth you are thinking, folks!

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

    "have no choice" so much for Free Will.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  7. Jason

    Good thing we live in America and don't make laws based off of what someones holy text says.

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

      .. yet.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Exma

      ...until Romney gets elected...ha!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  8. *sigh*

    All such silliness. Put this corrupted old book and just use your brain and heart. It's easy.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      Tthere is a reason they are called sheep

      May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  9. mrglobal

    the interpretation of the bible has eolved from burning of hereics and witches. If the Muslim can learn and evolve the koran.

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

      umm.. god's word changed?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  10. ThorGoLucky

    First paragraphs: Christians should ignore that the Bible teaches slavery, what to wear, and what to eat.

    Last paragraphs: "Christians who are seriously committed to the authority of the Bible have no choice but to affirm all that the Bible teaches."

    Why pick & choose and interpret which scripture quotes to follow as your moral guide? Simply cut out the unnecessary "middle man" and go straight to do what you know is right with the help of your evolved capacity of empathy and compassion to do the right thing. Toss your Bible in the trash and get on with real life.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  11. Jason

    Now if only they can tell us why any of this matters in a nation that separates church and state.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      The problem Jason is that we have to keep it that way and it's a fight for the right of freedom and choice.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  12. cbinal

    Finally CNN allowed someone with common sense and Biblical truth to write an article.

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

      "common sense and Biblical truth"
      Nah.. both are mutually exclusive.. what you have is a biased one sided article that supports their own agenda.. nothing more.. and for you to call this unbiased speaks a lot about your sense of judgement

      May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      If you believe this is common sense that you just actually proved you're nuts!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Mark

      THE BIBLE AND RELIGION HAVE ABSOLUTLY NIOTHING TO DO WITH GETTING MARRIED!!!! IT'S A LEGAL CONRACT BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE WHO LOVE EACH OTHER!!! What don't people understand about this ??? If it was a religious/bible thing I would have been required to get married in a church by a preacher/priest. But I wasn't. Just because some people believe a fairytale doesn't mean it should apply to those who don't. If you think that two men or two women getting married some how lessens the value of your marriage then you have serious marital issues.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  13. alyx

    Then perhaps it's time to reveal the bible for what it really is. A fairy tale for adults that no longer resembles honerable way to view life.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  14. JennyTX

    Sorry, but your religion does NOT trump other people's civil rights.

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

      Amen!!!!!!!!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  15. Robin Bray

    Marriage is between a man and a woman. Just like Lot and his daughters. Sort of texas style ahead of it's time.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  16. n8263

    Jnail7 asked about what the red ink says.

    According to Jesus the Divine Laws must still be followed. What should take precedence? Peter's dream Rev Mohler references, or Christ's actual words?

    Matthew 5:17:
    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

    To this day under Christian Law you are not to eat pork and shrimp, wear blended fabric, and must murder your disobedient children, non-virgin brides and adulterers. If you can rationalize rejecting what Jesus clearly taught then you can rationalize rejecting any part of the Bible no longer compatible with civil society.

    Of course none of this matters since we have a separation of church and state and Americans would never impose their religion on others.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      It should hold as much weight in deciding public policy as this quote from Dr. Seuss:

      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...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      The Law, as it was given to Israel is still in force. Jesus didn't eliminate the law. The point is that the vast majority of Christians are not Jews and therefore not subject to the ritual laws of the Old Testament. Ask any Rabbi whether non-Jews are obliged to observe the Law and they will say no. Ask the same Rabbi if non-Jews are required to obey God's moral law and he will say yes.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • eric

      Your statement makes NO SENSE. Peter was the one arguing with Jesus when he was told to eat from the net. He was saying that he couldn't. He was told specifically by God that whatever HE called clean man could not call unclean.

      If you are going to quote the Book or use it as a basis for an argument, atleast know what it says.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  17. John

    Why do we want to follow what Peter says? He wasn't an educated man. He was just espousing the low class culture of the time. Basically the Bible was written by a bunch of low class homeless people. not much different than the Branch Davidians. Do we consider David Korash to be the son of God?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  18. Duke One

    "All scripture is inspired by God." 2 Timothy 3:16 The Bible IS God's Holy Word.

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

      Ok.. if I say that I speak for God, does it make it so? How can you say that the Bible is the word of God just because it says it is? This is illogic to the extreme!!!

      May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Says who? YOU?
      Why should I care what YOU think?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      It is true because it says it is. That's not circular logic AT ALL.

      I prefer this quote: 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...

      May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • bec215

      If your Pastor or Minister is ordained by a Seminary, he or she will confirm for you that the Bible is a collection of books, written by different people over a period of decades and centuries after Jesus death. There was a committee who sat down and looked at all these writings they had access to, and decided to take selected books and bind them together into what we call the Bible. Other books were thrown out because the writings contradicted writings they chose to keep in, or because they were too fantastical. Even today, there are contradictions across books, because they were written at different times by different people. I have been to Jerusalem. I have seen the Dead Sea Scrolls. I've hiked to Massada, and been in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and touched the Western (Wailing) wall of the temple. But humans wrote the words in the Bible, interpreting God's word – and humans are fallible.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  19. SRC

    Finally, a sound, well-reasoned, solidly biblical, and truly Christian commentary on same gender marriage by someone who is actually a Christian and who really knows the Bible! Wish CNN would publish more like this.

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

      Nice way to pick and choose the meaning of Christianity bud. Real nice. The author's definition suits your needs. Is this your new lord and savior?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Hank

      He says that he believes what he believes because those are his beliefs.

      Its all very well reasoned.....without any reason at all.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  20. cdgfla

    I stopped reading at "the Civil Rights movement was led by Christians." I'm sure all those jesus fearing hood wearing supplicants in the south were totally onboard. What a crock of pure BS. Dixiecrats (i.e. the Republicans of today) fought it tooth and nail. Northern Democrats and moderate republicans supported LBJ, not Christians.

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

      He did not say that Christians led the Civil Rights movement, he said that they led efforts to abolish slavery. If you read about William Wilberforce you will have a good idea of what he was referring to.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:15 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.