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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. Jon S.

    Amazing what you can justify to support irrefutably inhumane treatment of others. The bible is, according to its adherents, the word of god. Period. You either follow it or you don't. And it is clear that the author of this opinion piece follows the part that tells him he should hate other human beings.

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

      Perhaps he can also tell us what are the parts that God wrote and which ones are the ones He did not.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  2. Drew

    Dumb people like American evangelicals have no business messing around with spirituality...spirituality is for the wise

    May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  3. Save Us Jeebus!

    Prejudice is prejudice, whether it's Biblically justified or not. "Love requires us to tell the truth", but apparently not to love without qualification.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Obi Wan Kenobi

      You notice they never tell anyone about their own foibles and faults, until they're uncovered by a scandal or such. Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, etc., it's all Hell & Damnation till their sins are revealed to the world...then they're as meek as meek can be looking for forgiveness (and a lot more money).

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Chris

    Very amazed that CNN would offer this commentary. I give them credit for that.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  5. Henry

    Vince, Take a good look of yourself and realize that you are just another fool among many that deny God

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

      You're a fool to deny Zeus. It's ok, every knee will bow when Zeus comes from Mt Olympus and starts hurling his lightning bolts.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  6. Jam

    Al is right on !!!!!

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

      That's why there are now thousands of gay churches, gay clergy and pastors, rabbis and nuns stating that being gay as we know and understand it today is NOT a sin. There are hundreds of pastors who wrote apology letters to the gay communality. The only thing people like "Al" are doing is fueling the hatred and bigotry towards this minority group that are based on the facts of today!

      The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

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

      "that are based on the facts of today! "

      crap that was suppose to be aren't based on the facts of today.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  7. 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 5:16 pm |
    • Jam

      It's again not about religion my friend. It is about YOUR crateor and mine and our relationship with Him. You have one ??

      May 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • n8263

      Allah should not matter when it comes to politics.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • JeramieH

      Zeus is my creator, so don't presume to speak for me.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  8. Duke One

    For those who say they are thankful they worship Satan, "Even the demons believe (that God is one) and shudder" James 2:19 The question is do you believe what Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6 Jesus is the only way to Heaven and eternal salvation.

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

      How do you know the message you are heading is actually His word and not a distorted one by the other, bad, Him?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  9. macky

    If the Bible is a true story, where are the dinosaurs? I missed reading that part. I'm pretty sure dinosaurs were first. Then, I'm pretty sure a meteor came and wiped out almost everything on Earth; I think they have also proved that. Therefore, wouldn't 'Adam and Eve' have been 'created' after the meteor since it destroyed everything? Just a thought...

    May 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • aces2jokers

      didnt you know that jesus rode raptors?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  10. Mike

    There's a lot of things the bible is internally consistent about. But consistent treatment within the bible is no reason to take an issue seriously.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  11. Todd

    The Bible is a sham, MAN created GOD, throw down the chains of Judeo-Christian Mythology!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  12. Laura

    The bible was written years, upon years, upon years ago...by people. Believe what you want, this nation isn't a Christian nation, it' a melting pot, and it is supposed to have freedom and justice for all, not a majority imposing their will on a minority.

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

      This times infinity.

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

      You have the freedom to be dead wrong. God has His order. Man has his evil plans. The sooner you realize that you did not just pop into life like a tadpole, the sooner you will know your creator...

      May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • aces2jokers

      I love you Laura

      May 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Mouth

      So funny... I thought Democracy meant: Majority rules.
      Well, while we are redefining marriage, let's update democracy.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • JeramieH

      Except the USA is not a democracy, we're a republic.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  13. Sir Ivanhoe

    For more infor on this read novel -- king of Bat'ha - and the sequel due out by summer 2012 - Tales from the East:Return of Ivanhoe

    May 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  14. Wow

    Humanity lives in so much sin that good from bad can not be distinguished in the minds of many.

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

      Oh and you think you are one of the chosen ones, right?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  15. Speaking Truth

    I have no problem with most of the arguments in this article. It's fine for you to believe what you do, and preach what you think is right. MY problem is when you enforce your morality on those of us who do not share your beliefs through legislation.

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

      Hear! Hear! And I love the fact that the GOP positions itself as the defender of all morals in America. The same people that will not fund healthcare for everyone, because it costs money. But they will fund wars!

      You want to live your life as you believe. No problem with me either. But do not tell me that I am going to hell unless I believe the way you do.

      You want to prosecute, ridicule, criminalize the way people LOVE? I am sure God is ashamed of who and what you are prosecuting in his name.

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

      I think you are confusing forced with conviction. you'll find out when you heart stops.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • cronewinter

      exactly..believe what you will but grant others the same freedom.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  16. rob

    Christians supported the Civil Rights movement? Did you know the KKK espoused themselves as a "christian" movement? What a load! Did Michele Bachmann feed you this? The same one who said the founding fathers "tirelessly worked to end slavery" ?

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

      Hahaha did Michelle actually say that? What a dumb c***

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

      So, wait, are you saying Christians did not support the Civil Rights movement? That can't be what you're saying...

      May 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  17. I am John

    A time existed when the world of mankind was filled with darkness and hopelessness and had among it a prince of darkness. Then the Father sent His Light to the world to offer mankind the gift of salvation. He offered mankind Himself as a Light to shine in the darkness and to give a brighter hope. One of the greatest gifts of love that the Creator gave mankind was that of free will. A free will to choose the Light or the darkness. Some chose the Light to shine for mankind to see, but others chose the darkness. The life of the Light was extinguished by those who chose the darkness. However, the Father restored the victorious Light, and He returned to the Father thus defeating the prince of darkness. The defeated prince of darkness continued in his efforts to blind the world and his attempts to extinguish the Spirit of the Light that shines in this world of darkness through those who accept the Light. However, the prince of darkness will not extinguish the Light for He is an inextinguishable, eternal Light. Soon, the Father returns the Light as the King of kings and Lord of lords to extinguish the prince and his darkness, and darkness will conquer His Kingdom nevermore. Then the Light will remain forevermore with those who have chosen the Light. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen!

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

      "The defeated prince of darkness continued in his efforts to blind the world and his attempts to extinguish the Spirit of the Light that shines in this world of darkness through those who accept the Light."

      Actually we are all born with goodness, you don't need a god for that. Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. That is why people like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama are known in neurological circles as "vagal superstars." We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I cant be sure but I think your post had something to do with light?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Obi Wan Kenobi

      Blah, blah, blah...both of you.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  18. bill

    Jesus was for love,sharing, forgivness and against any kind of violence. Follow his example and you will find peace.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • n8263

      Or you could get the same results through Buddhism, and it makes a lot more sense than Christianity.

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

      Well stated truth for God....not a man made Budda.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  19. Horus

    "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."

    What a bunch of parochial bs.

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. – Colossians 3:22

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. – Ephesians 6:5

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. – Exodus 21:7-11

    Yep, certainly sounds like the bible prizes "freedom and human dignity". Typical christnut: thinks his faith is the best thing since sliced bread, can't reason worth sh**.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Obi Wan Kenobi

      Horus, Exodus is part of the Old Testament, numbnuts. Now you made yourself sound as stupid as you look when you wear that ridiculous bird's head mask.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  20. EmeraldCity

    Take your truth and cram it.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
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