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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. Keith

    This preacher is trying to justify hypocrisy, "Standard Christian teaching".

    May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • whynot

      There is a difference between dietary habits and sin. Some believe as this preacher does while other Christians do not. Your attempt to lump the two togehter alone shows your ignorance, bias, and crude hypocrasy.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
      • Keith

        I spent 30 years or so studying your bible and healing myself from being raised a Fundamentalist "Christian". If Christianity works for you that is good but it is not the only way, especially with the Catholic Bible all you "Christians" use, it was invented 400 years after Christ death by the Catholic Church.

        There are many holy books in the world and many different gods. I choose a god of peace and love, you may keep the one you have if you choose.

        May 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • whynot

      Keith,

      the Gospels, as agreed by most historians, was written in th 1st century AD, not 400 years after Christ. The bible as made official then, but its works were already centruies old.

      Jesus never advocated hate or revenge. He preached a God of love. Some Christians have radical views, but read it and you will see, he believed in a loving God.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  2. gravis

    Jesus was a gay pedophile. That's why he wore that robe and authorized all his preachers to play with little boys.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • whynot

      Slander, especially since you do not have any evidence. If there is no evidence, you are stating a lie.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • John

      Whynot I hope you're trolling, seriously. If not, let me tell you about slander. A great example of slander is when a christian walks up to me on the street and tells me I am wicked person, that I was born a wicked person. That christian has no proof, no evidence that I am wicked. None whatsoever. The christian bases his thoughts about me on his faith, a subjective thought process that leads to a subjective conclusion that christians can't even agree on. If you claim the right to believe every person on the planet is wicked and deserving of eternal pain based on no evidence, but rather a book written eons ago by people who thought thunder was god stomping his foot in heaven, and thought heaven was quite literally in the clouds, and had no idea that clouds were water vapor, and thought water vapor rising from the ground was the resurrected bodies of their loved ones, and probably most importantly thought that they lived and died in horrible pain because their god hated them, but in reality only were ignorant of antiseptics... and feel justified in your beliefs, then I claim the right to say that you're foolish. Is that slander? I have proof...

      May 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  3. aertzc

    So, to sum up. This article says that it's okay to do the same things that make Christians horrible people. Glad we got that cleared up.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • whynot

      To sum up, Christians are not horrible people. Would you condemn an entire people because of the views of a few? Christ never advocated hatred, revenge, or murder. Get your facts straight. There is nothing horrid about Christianity, only those wolves in sheeps clothing who claimed to be Christian but were not.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • John

      There is plenty horrid about christianity. I mean, don't fool yourself, you still follow the same god that is in the old testament. Jesus is him. Just because Jesus came and started a new law doesn't erase the fact that your god, the one you want to meet in heaven, ordered his people to kill infants, to commit genocide, and committed genocide himself. Go pick up your bible. You'll notice there are two books, the old testament and the new testament. I suggest you read them both, not just the first testament. Read the OT closely, really take it in, and ask yourself why you would follow any sort of being that would subject his "children", his most beloved creations, to such torture, hatred, pain, suffering, and death.

      And don't even dare say I just can't understand "His Love". Ordering the deaths of infants is not love. That is hatred. Don't fool yourself, you bow at the feet of a mass murderer, of a baby killer.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  4. BruceJay

    Islam hates gay marrage too, what you got to say about that? Everyone knows the liberal media is afraid of Islam and bows like a slave to them since they are afraid of Islam.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      All religions are demeaning.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • whynot

      Religions are not demeaning. They have been abused.

      Take away religion and you still have all manner of evil including war and murder. It is mans selfish nature that is the problem, not religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  5. Suzanne

    Frankly I find these religious justifications for prejudice abhorrent, and I am disappointed in CNN for running any of them. I don't need to go to CNN or Fox or NBC or any TV or newspaper or website to understand that some people choose to hate and to misunderstand the magnificent diversity of the universe. Very tired of seeing such misinformation – about gays, women, other races – repeated. Ugh. I'd rather read a more enlightened argument for tolerance and understanding than another religious screed.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I'm with you sister!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • whynot

      Not all Christians believe the same way as this man.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • wdgmartin1

      I believe they are providing opportunity to people on both sides of the discussion. Are you against that? Or only against it if people disagree with you? Seems to me that you anti-religionists are least tolerant at all and have quite a god-complex issue going on.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • B Reed

      Good one sis..

      May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  6. Henry

    ME II, Why would God speak to you? Unless you turn to Christ you are just another lost sinner on your way to hell!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  7. Errogant2

    In other words.....do what you want, because you can find justification for it whether it be right or wrong.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  8. Vince

    These are the same people that thought the world was flat people. Get a grip. If there is a God, let's all hope he is not a stupid as the guy that wrote this piece.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • whynot

      Actually flat earthers came about from medieval ignorance and still existed until the 1960s. Educated Christians, Columbus included, did not believe this and took the Aristotle view.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Hy

      No, the Bible was written *during the time people* thought the world was flat. They also thought the world was suspended on a turtle's back, but see Job 26:7. The Bible is abundant with scientific foreknowledge. However, most people today are too narrow-minded to honestly research it and instead dismiss it with prejudice and hatred, mostly because they resent the notion that their almighty creator has a right to tell them what to do.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • whynot

      Hy,

      Actually, its poetic verse. In reality the bible does not prove the earth is flat as some would claim (ex: Dan 4:10-11). Some have narrowly read the verse and thought too literally while not seeing its underlying meaning. Its shallow thinking.

      Flat earth came about from ancient cultures, including Greece, long before Isreal was a nation. The bible didnt invent it and didnt even advocate it. It was an ancient invention by long dead cultures.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • JCNOW

      Christianity has long been known to suppress science. How could they convince the masses to continue to subject themselves to hell on earth when science could explain religion away entirely. Until religion comes forth and preaches love and acceptance, rather than selective hell and damnation (depending upon who's rule you are violating), it has no relevance at all in today's society. As far as I'm concerned, they could tear down every church in this country and we'd be the better for it.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  9. dan

    The author did clarify the Biblical take on this issue which is pretty clear to any honest reader, student or follower. Regarding the confusion on slavery and the Bible: neither the Old or New Testaments condoned slavery. It was simply a reality that Biblically called for subjects to not return evil for evil...in much the same way Martin Luther King urged in his day.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  10. Kyle

    Says the Straight White Man.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • brandon

      I'm a straight black man and I will back him up, as a christian.

      I'm a graphic designer and I went to school in the art department and spent a lot of time in the theatre department. I made freinds who are gay and I would continue to call them friends to my dying day. I want them to be happy. But Christianity is about something different than being happy. If you're happy on the way, that is great, but the bible and Jesus make it very clear that your happiness is in no way guaranteed.

      I think gay people should be able to get married, as americans, if that is what they want to do. But Christianity calls for something different, I believe.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  11. Ozgur

    Considering what a terrible record the Church has had with being right about the world, I don't know why anyone would listen to them at all about their interpretation of what the Bible is saying (whether or not the Bible is worth listening to in part or in whole). Ken Wilber, anyone?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  12. incredulous

    it's just a book people! Sheesh! Get with the times and give up your primitive fantasy.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • whynot

      why not give up yours. Origin of the Species is just a book.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "why not give up yours. Origin of the Species is just a book."

      let me know on which page it claims an ape walked on water.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • whynot

      Cedar Rapids

      Let me know on what page, primordial ooze became complex genetic code akin to a computer information system. Even Darwin acknowledged it was difficutl to conceive and stated it as a big "IF". Id say the physics of walking on water is at least far more plausible than random spontaneous generation of complex DNA.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Id say the physics of walking on water is at least far more plausible than random spontaneous generation of complex DNA."

      yeah, that you think that 'complex dna' would be a spontaneous generation and is less plausible than walking on water tells us a lot.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • whynot

      Cedar Rapids

      Theortical physics can support just about anything. Spontanesous random generation ... still yet to be supported.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  13. DrBob

    In the US we have the right to own a gun (2nd Amendment) and follow a religion (1st Amendment), but we do NOT have the right to use our gun or our religion to deny equal rights to others (14th Amendment). This is exactly what these extremist Christians are trying to do. They are free to believe whatever they want but they cross the line when they try to force their beliefs on others, especially when it takes the form of denying a select group of citizens the same rights as others.

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

      You hit the nail on the head. You are correct in every aspect.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Libby

      Well said.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • whynot

      Not all Christians believe the same as what this man does. However eveyone who reads articles such as these believe all Christians are the same way. This is not true

      May 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • JCNOW

      Then tell us whynot. Tell us what you are about. Because what we are getting, day after day, is the sanctimonious religious zealot who enjoys shoving their hell and damnation theories down the throats of everyone who doesn't believe as they believe. I too think there are rational Christians, and perhaps you are one of those. But why don't rational Christians become more vocal. Offset the ridiculous nonsense streaming from the evangelical right. These people are destroying religion in this country. Mainstream America is beginning to equate religion with these zealots, and want nothing to do with it.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  14. Wade

    Yes and so do Prosecutors and police every day of the week decide some laws can be broke by some people some times. What is the point? Does not make it less wrong just because others do stupid things or do not follow the rules. It means they are week in their beliefs or are just hypocrites How many woman are there that say they are catholic yet practice abortion as a form of birth control?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  15. Global Traveler

    Even if all of this is true. Why should anyone care? There is a separation of church and state for a very good reason. This guy just illustrated them. When they are allowed to pick and choose what applies to them and what doesn't, then their entire argument falls apart. Either you believe the bible is the absolute word of God. That there was nothing lost in translation through the years. That you should be willing to die for these principals, ALL of these principals. Or, you realize that it has been passed down through the generations, and just like a rumor being passed from one person to another, the story gets changed. You take from it that which will make you a better person and leave the rest behind.

    I don't want these religious fanatics to cross the street to embrace me. I simply want them to leave me alone. And being left alone means that you aren't allowed to use your position as a member of the majority to trample the rights of a vulnerable minority.

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

      I'm not religious zealot (actually I'm gay), but the seperation of church and state was more about the government keeping its nose out of religion. So if you don't want religous people putting their beliefs on you, then have the same respect for them and try to not force you beliefs on them as well. To say you don't is disingenous at the very least, and an outright lie at the extreme. Non-religious people say they don't want religion forced on them, but then complain when religious people don't want their tax money spent on things they consider murder (abortion). Its a two way street. if you don't want their beliefs forced on you, don't try and force yours on them as well.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Matt Jones

      The Bible is not analogous to rumors being passed down from generation to generation. If you cross-check the Bible as written today with Old Testament manuscripts written thousands of years ago, they match up perfectly.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  16. Leucadia Bob

    Don't be a ROBOT – put this stupid book down

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

      you are refering to the Origin of the Species correct?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  17. 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 5:10 pm |
    • rick jolie

      I agree.

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

      Unless of course, you follow a religion, in which case it's immoral NOT to impose your beliefs.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • incredulous

      I second that

      May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  18. David Mitchel

    Gotta love CNN's totally deceptive front page headline: "On Bible, Read This, Skip That." As if Mohler just cherry-picks to suit his fancies. As if he doesn't take some time to explain why some OT commands apply to present-day Gentiles (i.e. those that are expressly affirmed in the New Testament), and others do not (i.e. those that the New Testament expressly abrogates, like the dietary laws).

    May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • n8263

      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 5:11 pm |
    • Jeff

      Jesus spoke consistently and clearly about the evils of divorce and remarriage, but I don't see any mention of outlawing divorce in the US by many Evangelicals. It is any wonder that most folks think they are hypocritical?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
      • David Mitchel

        Eye on the ball, Jeff. My comment was about the fairness of CNN's headline more than the merits of Mohler's article. Whatever one thinks of Mohler's OT hermeneutic (I would probably have some quibbles with it), his approach to the commands of Torah isn't arbitrary cherry-picking. About your comment: If you read Mohler's article, you will note that he recognizes and acknowledges the evangelical Church's failures on divorce, doesn't hesitate to call them failures, and quite obviously thinks the church needs to repent of those failures. Cheers.

        May 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  19. Matt M.

    If you want to pat yourself on the back for being Christian, oppressing gay people is a whole lot easier than: helping the poor, turning the other cheek, and loving thy neighbor. Heck, you don't even have to oppress the gay people yourself – there is a political organization that will do it for you if you give them power.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • DrBob

      Matt, you are so right. I blame the conservative and extremist Christian leaders for focusing so much on hatred and bigotry. I also blame the people who listen blindly to these leaders. Hatred and Bigotry were never and should never be American or Christian values but somehow it has become okay to use self proclaimed "values" and "morals" to justify hatred and bigotry. It is both hypocritical and very sad.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Chris

      More organizations to help the poor, hungry and homeless have been started and run by Christians. Please name any organization started by an atheist to help the poor? Atheists have no reason to help anyone as they are a god unto themselves.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Chris

      Atheists Helping the Homeless

      If you want charities that are secular but don't have the word atheist in the name there are many more that I'm aware of.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Joel

      No Chris, we do it without tooting out own horn

      May 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • john

      Christians voicing their beliefs based on what was written is not oppressing people. It's the Christians that the rest of the world wants to oppress and silence. The non believers hear something they don't want to hear and they call it radical and oppression and discrimination. I think the guy who wrote this article laid it out really good. I just can't believe that an article with real Christian opinion was actually put out there by CNN.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  20. Leucadia Bob

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_SOD7TN6sw

    May 21, 2012 at 5:09 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.