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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. bernie

    You christians will NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER change our minds... and we'll never change yours

    May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Drew

      They will change their minds, they've changed them about lots of things... divorce, purgatory, the sale of indulgences...

      May 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Matter of opinion

      ...so it's good, then, that Truth is independent of our opinions.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • cristero

      no worries your kind will eventually die out due to lack of reproduction. 🙂

      May 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  2. dentont

    Ah yes, CNN keeps printing stories about gays to keep the masses angry and each others throat. If we can distract them then they won't ask questions about is really important, the economy and Obama's inability to lead

    May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      How about Arizona considering if they will allow Obama on the ballot because they are not sure that he is a US citizen?

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

      Religion is useful to manipulate those masses, ya know...

      May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • dentont

      Sutherford, you lost me , your point is?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      My point is all sides are seeking to distract us from the weakness of their positions.

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

      I like that comment, thank you

      May 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  3. Asturiano

    Goes to show how hypocritical Christians are. They are just cafeteria believers.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • clarify

      I don't see anything hypocritical about the article. It is simply core belief. However, you are right about cafeteria Christians. They are becoming very common.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Rick

      Don't you find it odd that a "core belief" of "Christianity" is something that Jesus never said? At least equally oddl, "Christians" always quote Paul, but never quote Jesus.

      When will "Christians" finally admit that they are really Paulians, rather than Christians?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  4. Dave Larson

    Well said Mr Hohler very proud of you CNN for including this well thought out truthful commentary. Gods word stands the test of time as it it God breathed, as demonstrated in the hundreds of passages of prophesy fulfilled by Jesus alone. No other religious work even comes close. Jesus can still speak to people today as he did 2000 years ago, you just have to listen.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Drew

      This is just one guy's interpretation. It's no more true than the next guys

      May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      So the sun revolves around the Earth and the Universe is about 6000 to 7000 years old?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      Clearly brainwashed.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • rob

      If you are listening for what Jesus said about gay people, you will hear deafening silence

      May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • LA Guest

      "God's word" only stands where there is ignorance. Why doesn't Mr. Mohler move to a country where "God's word" is final if he wants to hate gays? He can find like-minded souls in Iran, Afghanistan.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  5. Duke One

    No Jesus No Peace. Know Jesus Know Peace.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Asturiano

      Kill for Christ. That's the Roman way, so said the Pope.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • LA Guest

      Force Jesus on me and I guarantee there will be no peace.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  6. Surthurfurd

    If you want to live in a theocracy... move to Iran or Israel.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Drew

      Israel is decidedly NOT a theocracy

      May 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Asturiano

      Stupid is as stupid believes

      May 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • CR from CA

      Or the USA – believe it or not, the right awing evangelicals suffer from the same "One True Religion" mentality of Islamic extremists.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      Drew... that is the common position of Israel until you note the character of their laws and restrictions.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Drew

      Could you give me an example?

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

      Drew.. there are laws in Israel that are based on Jewish law... while they allow freedom of religion, the government is defined by the formation of a land based on a religious belief.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Drew

      Well, the shape of the land is actually defined by what was given to them after WW2, in addition to what they took from their neighbors in various wars. Nothing particularly religious about that

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

      Why do they think that is their land?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • mike

      To expose your ignorant statement, take murder for example: It was God who first said "thou shalt not murder" so does that make the US a theocracy because we hold murderers accountable for their actions? Why is it 'wrong' to murder?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  7. PetePete

    I'm amazed how many gay bashers turn out to be closet cases. I suspect Mr Mohler will be next.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  8. Tom

    You are interpreting Acts 10:15 wrong. If you continue reading to verse 28, it clearly states that he was referring to Gentiles, not food:
    27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.

    One does not follow God's commands for salvation but out of love and reverence – you don't do it because you have to but because you want to 🙂

    May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  9. nuwansam

    Conservative hypocracy is at best. These conservative religious extreamist have selective amnesia. So they try to infuse selective beliefs to our civil society without regard to those people who do not agree with them. That is wrong and immoral. This is a civil issue. What we are talking about is recongition of gay marraiges for the sake of civil and legal matters. Not for the religious matters. And the government should not descriminate against it. But if those religious conservatives do not want to recongize that within their religion, then it should be fine. But they should not force their beliefs everyone in the society.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • clarify

      But the hom ose xual belief is being forced on religious society. How do you suggest we go about removing the force issue on either side?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  10. gravis

    I have an answer to our economic problem. Take all the churches in this country, you know those pretty buildings where stupid people gather weekly to listen to sing and listen to childish garbage from some pedophile, and sell them to the general public! Tax part of the proceeds to rapidly pay down the deficit!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • J.W

      Every churchgoer I am sure is smarter than you if you think that will pay down our deficit.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • VanHagar

      So, churches are were the stupid people gather, yet your idea is....brilliant? O.k. You go with that Skippy.

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

      It's a start. 10% here, 10% there, pretty soon you got real money.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • clarify

      Most of those pretty churches are in massive debt. Tax them, and you would happily see the churches disappear but you would see an increase in the starving, lonely, and abandoned here and throughout the world.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Dan

      Are you really saying that the government should seize private property and sell it back to the public? That's kind of far fetched. At least you could make a statement that the government should take away the tax deductible aspect of churches. At least then you'd sound somewhat intelligent.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  11. Duke One

    Do not take a chance on where you will spend eternity ! "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." Acts 16:31

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

      So god wants us to gamble with our souls?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      Eternity? As in a million billion years? Forever? For ever ever? For ever ever EVER? ... Why does this make sense to you? Nothing lasts forever. Not even the nuclear reaction in stars, which we barely comprehend, has enough fuel to last forever. Yet, you believe your soul is eternal? Why? Because your mommy told you so, and it's a pretty story?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      This is exactly why religion was invented; to keep the mindless masses in line and threaten them with eternal damnation if they don't obey. Better believe "just in case". Pathetic.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      @ Concerned – "Oh, you don't HAVE to believe. ... You will find out the truth when you die.". ... Seriously? Death? I get no real answers until death? And I have to gamble my eternal soul on an incomplete and garbled transmission? If I am right, I am golden, but if I choose any of the other THOUSANDS of choices (which are selected by when and where you are born), then I will suffer forever. Ever. If I live until 90, I can be punished for 90 million years? ... 90 billion? ... wait, just getting started. 90 TRILLION? ... Well, you will find out when you die ... LOL

      May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  12. Rick

    So what did Jesus have to say about it?

    Oh, thats right, nothing. Which is yet more evidence that "Christians" don't follow Jesus, they follow Paul.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:35 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 5:38 pm |
    • Rick

      According to Jesus, there are two commandments: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

      But Christians prefer Paul's teachings over Jesus' teachings. That's why they always quote Paul, and never quote (or follow) Jesus. They should just end the charade and call themselves Paulians.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  13. 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 |
    • glorydays

      Absolutely correct.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Chaddr

      Why does no one realize what you just said!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • clarify

      So you are saying that we should have anarchy? Murder is okay, stealing is okay, etc... The lies that you are spreading are dangerous. Christians have no laws other than being free to express our beliefs the same as anyone else. I don't see any difference between your hate and this Shariah law you claim to be against.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  14. Surthurfurd

    I love how he noted that Christians were opposed to slavery, when the majority of slavery supporters used the bible to justify slavery. Note that the Christians that were opposed to slavery were outside of the main stream... liberal types.

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

    Got a great link for Albert: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    May 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  16. Harry

    I think the government should mandate that every American citizen receive at least a year of Bible classes. There is no more important message on earth than that of salvation offered by Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind.

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

      And thankfully, the first amendment would prevent a religious book of immorality to be taught as some kind of good truth.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      You may have missed the fact that far more atheists have read the bible in full than christians. Which is odd since there are far more Christians.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • rob

      After that, they can be required to watch at least one season of "Will and Grace". Then we can take a vote and see which they found more entertaining and truthful.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Joel

      I think they do that in countries like Iran. But, more likely this is a False Flag, which is a bit below the belt.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Sherron

      I THINK the government should mandate that ALL JESUS FREAKS. Be sent to an island far, far, away from those of us who ACTUALLY HAVE A BRAIN!!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Joel

      Surtherfurd, I think that is as a percentage of each population.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • RLGESQ1

      Biblical study used to be basic and common in US public education until the US Supreme Court outlawed it. Patrick Henry said “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. So the current hostility to Christianity is relatively recent ushered in by judicial decree.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Another Religion

      I am all for studying the Bible. It is a wonderful book with great philosophy. Plus study the Koran. And study the Bhadavad Gita, the teachings of Buddha, Confucius, the Greek philosophers, the Eddas and on and on.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Alex

    Why are we debating a book written more than 2000 years ago and is completely irrelevant to modern society? There was a time when population was low enough that people would talk about keeping the species going. Do we have that problem now? Why does China need to have a law that only allows a couple to have one child? Could it be, perhaps, that nature has realized that there is a problem with over-population and that's why there are more gay people?

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

      Why are we debating a book written more than 2000 years ago and is completely irrelevant to modern society?
      --------
      Fair question. I suppose the easy answer is because there are still so many believers in the U.S., which begs the question, how can that be? How can millions of people in 2012 possibly be so uneducated and ignorant?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Alex

      Joe, I'm not calling anyone ignorant. I just think that we're not thinking about what's happening around us. We're basically using comfort in the known rather than thinking critically.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  18. Danno

    I choose to ignore everything in the bible. Because it's all garbage. The Book of John or Peter or Elmer can say whatever they want, just keep it the hell out of our government. Maniacs.

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

      I will give that an AMEN!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Henry

      Danno,

      Start your own forum what are you doing here flaunting your stupidity?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • S Smith

      all of it garbage? Like the parts about selling our possessions to give to the poor? To seek justice for the oppressed? To put away slander and wrath, and seek to bless and forgive? To seek peace and reconciliation with one another, as best as we can?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Danno....in the Bible you'll find a call to care the poor (you reject that), a call to forgive (you reject that), not to judge (you reject that), love your neighbor (you reject that), not to murder (apparently that's o.k. with you), not to commit adultery (your spouse, I'm sure, is pleased to know you reject that too). Why not step back and realize that what you hate is the type of world most people want.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Danno

      Yes, that's all garbage. Proof? The Vatican. The Catholic Church. Southern Baptist Megachurches. Right Wing Extreme Republican who insist the poor deserve no help. If helping people was a genuine purpose of the bible being written, no one seems to be practicing it. Just another thing that you can choose to ignore. Except the part about gays right?

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

      Danno...your logic is...at best...flawed. The Bible makes clear that we are to take care of the poor–whether or not you see that happening (and whether or not it is happening by those who follow the Bible), the clear fact is that that is what the Bible commands. Is it still garbage then? We can only assume that that commandment is garbage to you so you are doing even less than the believers you mock.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  19. Henry

    Matthew 20, “Jesus came to the disciples and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and TEACHING THEM TO OBEY EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    May 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Danno

      You can't quote the bible to support the validity of the bible. It's like little kids learn in school... you can't use the word you're trying to define in the definition.

      And if that's all you have, take a hike, bro. No proof = a handful of balls.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • LA Guest

      Henry

      See – and you wonder why we hate you guys. All we want is to live in peace. My "god" is not commanding you to do anything. And your fat bearded Santa Claus in the sky is a joke to me. Just shut up, live and let live. You impose your beliefs on me and we're going to have a problem. A big one.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  20. pccoder

    The Bible is a joke. What's even more of a joke is that people actually think it's the word of God. Give me a break.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Dan

      The word of God telling us to love each other, respect each other, and be cool to each other – I think that's anathema to a joke!

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

      pccoder, you can’t even wipe your a–

      May 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      Actually, the most interesting part (to me) is the capacity to take an ancient text, and pick out the parts that they don't like, but insist that the REMAINDER is the word of their god. If the whole thing is gospel (yes, pun intended), then everyone is screwed, because no one lives up to 100% of it. Plus, it's contradictory, so that's impossible. However, if the whole thing is allegorical, then it's really easy to pick and choose the parts you want to fit to any given situation.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Danno

      The funniest thing to me is that some people insist this is a Christian nation.... as if Jesus would approve of any government that still carries out executions. Unbelievable.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Dan

      MJ – look at Christianity in it's most basic and conservative form. Love each other. Nobody is beneath us. Help each other. Work hard. Strive to be a good person. Ask forgiveness when you mess up, as we all will. And according to that, the only unforgiveable is mocking the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32), Not all "Conservative Christians" are as stereotyped – perhaps we're actually MIS-typed!!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Danno

      Once again, if the book I'm trying to mock tells me that it is unforgivable to mock it, why should I care about anything it says? You can quote the bible forever, but without other information or evidence to support what you insist of the truth, you will get nowhere.

      Hence why, in the 2000 years Christianity has been ruining peoples lives worldwide, people still commit adultery, murder, theft, and false idolatry... sometimes in the NAME of "God". Your fear-based punishment/reward system of behavior control has never worked, and will never work.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:45 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.