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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. Duke One

    "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 JESUS is the ONLY WAY !!

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

      garbage.

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

      .. to pee??

      May 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Joe A.

      you have DEVOLVED @ umm and glorydays....a disgrace to humanity

      May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Jesus saves baseball cards and string!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • glorydays

      Actually, I'm a very good person. Judge not, according to your Bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      sorry, duke, i do not seek heaven, i do not fear hell

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

      Jesus save big.. on Tuesdays due to double coupons.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  2. Henry

    So lesbians are OK? Great!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      only the hot ones

      May 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  3. Dan

    Christians, and any other religious group, are certainly free to condemn activities their religion believes are "sins". This should have NO bearing on the rights recognized by secular governments associated with the state of marriage. These legal rights should not be denied to citizens because certain religious groups object....exactly why other selected groups have been denied rights through U.S. history. If any church refuses to perform or acknowledge gay marriage, that is certainly their right as well...but they should not force the state to discriminate.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      And now we have Romney running for the office of president, pretty scary stuff!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • John

      The issue for many christians is not "rights." I am a Christian and happy to give gays all the rights to have unions that they want, but don't redefine marriage. Call it a civil union or something else, but marriage has always been defined as a man and woman. Why is that so hard to understand?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • kbux

      ....but that is exactly why the churches are fighting it. They are being discriminated against in the same way by the gay rights movement. No easy solution to this one.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  4. andrew

    I'm just thankful that the bible explains how I should treat my slaves. What would I do without this divine instruction?!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  5. Surthurfurd

    You have shown us that Christianity in practice is not worth respect because its leaders can so easily use their beliefs to condemn others while ignoring their own shames.

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

      I know some great xtians, but there are a lot of lousy ones too

      May 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  6. Jam

    For all you that think God doesn't exist in Jesus Christ.....don't wait til your heart stops to find out you were DEAD wrong.

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

      or absolutely correct.

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

      Should I also believe Mohammad because I would not want to find out I was wrong... or Buddah?

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

      The old fear tactic. I'm not buying your fear.

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

      Jambo, God and Jesus don't exist anywhere. Unicorns I'm OK with, but God and Magic Jesus–no.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • sam stone

      Jam: Your empty proxy threats are laughable. How do you expect people to fear retaliation from beings in which they do not believe? Jesus is coming, get back on your knees.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • CueBallSTL

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster disagrees with you.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  7. flip flop

    Ok, so we have this guy's INTERPRETATION of Peter's vision "This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”" So this seminary president leads us to believe that the NEW testament clarifies what laws are "real" and what laws were just for "practice" before...
    but in Matt 5:17 – 18 Jesus HIMSELF said: “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. 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."
    How can he rank Peter's dream above Christ's own words? Just like any other Repukelican, he takes bits and pieces to bend to fit his neat little theory and disregards the rest, no matter how important the rest might be.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  8. KT

    you don;t need someone or for that matter Jesus to tell me i am sinful or wrong. The god inside me knows about what i do or thinking of doing and tells me everytime i do or don;t do. There is a god/soul in every human being that works as a compass to every one's life.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  9. jeff

    so keep religious marriage the way you want it, but in the eyes of government that biblical interpretation is meaningless. all american citizens deserve equal rights and protections. we should have two marriages, like in europe, one at the courthouse and one at the church for those that desire the religious marriage.
    simple.
    and the only ones that wouldn't accept that arrangement are the religious people that actually just dislike gays.
    again, simple.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  10. glorydays

    All I can say is that many people use religion to promote hate; therefore I cannot support religion.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  11. Jack

    Typical Baptist parsing... No, the Bible doesn't command slavery, per se.
    It just commands absolute obediance FROM slaves to their earthly masters.
    Apparently being a dog to my boss will please the Lord.

    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

    May 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  12. 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 5:25 pm |
  13. Mike D

    CNN- We get it. You really want to push this agenda. Could you please have ONE story in favor of how maintaining the current makeup of a family might benefit society. I have yet to see a single story on your site in favor of this.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Aho B.

      That's right!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  14. kdliz

    If Christians understood the book of Acts, they wouldn't be eating shellfish and pork; but then if they understood the Bible, they'd know Trinity does not appear in the text.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • n8263

      According to Jesus, the Divine Laws must still be followed. What should take precedence? Peter's dream in Acts that 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 5:27 pm |
    • n8263

      Christians think Sharia Law is immoral but impose their own Sharia Law here in America.
      No matter what version, it's immoral to impose your religion by denying others civil rights.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  15. Musk

    Christf@g$ need to stop being d*ck$.

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

    The OT, not the Ot. Bad abbreviation on my part. Sorry.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  17. Taylor

    More convenient, "Oh, that was the old testament" arguments. Sweet.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  18. Matt

    I love how the author gives Christians a pass to ignore everything in the Old Testament because of one sentence, "This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” "

    So your book of parables is the "Word of God", yet you can ignore your God's words anytime they represent an inconvenience to you. I understand, dude. Shrimp are good. Lobster is good.

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

      Bacon is even better!

      I have no issue with people who profess to be Christians not following Mosaic Law. This makes sense. The problem is that most of the proscriptions we are talking about come from the OT, and not from the Gospels at all, so why follow some of Leviticus, and not others. Add to that the hypocrisy over adultery which both Leviticus and the Gospels condemn, but is somehow categorized as "officially sinful, but we'll overlook it, so long as you keep on donating to the church".

      May 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • kbux

      There is much more about it than that. If you read the New Testament it's very clear that Christ fulfilled the old law and presented a new one. There is more than one simple statement explaining the shift in thinking. Just my opinion....

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  19. Andrew

    Who cares what the Bible says about anything? If that is your religion, you are fine to go practice it. However, the laws of this land are supposed to be separate from those of religious convictions. If Sharia law is not ok, neither is Bible law or anything of the sort. If you wish gays not to marry, that is fine., but there is a difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. One is not sanctioned by a religious authority, but both give the same rights.

    This comes down to civil rights in the end, not what Jesus said 2,000 years ago. Frankly, things said 50 years ago are just as apropos today because times have changed so much. Take what Jesus said in the context of when he said it. What would Jesus say if he was born today? Would you listen to his words if he was born today? Would you be convinced that you know God's intent better than he would? Would you believe him the son of God?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  20. brettsamuel

    Why should other people's beliefs influence my life choices?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:23 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.