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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. Butt Pickens

    This guy looks like he let a silent one go...

    May 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  2. jon

    Is this someone's full-time job at CNN, to promote gay marriage? Imagine if someone spent this much time looking for things said on CNN broadcasts 'out of context', to suit his/her flavor-of-the-day cause?

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

      Lots of other articles to see....

      May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  3. QS

    I need no shepherd for I think and reason...and I am not a sheep,
    I shall want only what serves humanity best;
    I lie down in green pastures because I choose to, not because anything makes me.
    I swim in still waters, I need not be led beside them;
    If a soul exists it is mine and is for me to restore how I see fit.
    Paths of righteousness will never fail to lead a person astray…
    especially for His name’s sake.

    I will walk through many valleys, it’s called life;
    the shadow of death follows one and all, no matter where we walk.
    I fear evil;
    evil is created by man, which is to be feared far more than any of the countless versions of god;
    your rod and your staff do not comfort me as they are herding tools...and I am not a sheep.
    I would be arrogant to think goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, for I am human and we make mistakes.
    I shall not dwell in any house that believes me to be nothing more than an animal which must be told where to go and when.

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

      God is dead.
      -Nietzsche

      Nietzsche is dead.
      -God

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

      Nicely said......

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

      The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, [there is] none that doeth good.

      Psalms 14:1

      Amen.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @HeavenSent

      The constant quoting of verses from your unholy book is pointless.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Andy

      @Hawaiiguest And why do you call it unholy?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Andy

      Unholy because I like satire, and by reading the book without a preconception of blind acceptance allowed me to see the attrocities attributed to a thing that doesn't even have evidence of existence.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  4. David

    This is not about civil rights. Marriage has always been between man and women and should always be.

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

      Slavery has always been throughout history. Can't change what has always been. (actually, so has murder for that matter)

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

      Well, enjoy your set worldview. And keep it to yourself so the rest of us don't have to live by it.

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

      Why? What business is it yours........none. Just because a fairy tale book says so......pppsssstst

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

      Sam....
      Can't play by your own rules... How about keeping your worldview to yourself?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • David

      Sam,
      Sorry, to tell you. You are pushing your views on the world. I don't think this was even an issue 20 years ago.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  5. Well said

    Mohler hits the high points very well. Nicely done.

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

    Yes Christians are hypocritical and selective. The Bible forbids wearing gold and forbids specifically forbids cutting down a tree and putting it inside your home and decorating it AKA Christmas Trees. No Christian ever brings that stuff up.

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

      huh? could you point the scripture where it says that?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Andy

      Could you site the reference on Christmas trees and gold being forbidden????

      May 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  7. TLS

    Just some interesting information on why politics and religion are so intermixed, this is part of George Washington's final address when leaving office:

    27 Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  8. 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 5:41 pm |
    • Andy

      Neightytwosixtythree- Lets say the Bible is true... would not it then be immoral to not speak of what it says? And where do you get a sense of morality anyway... Where did humanity get a concept of morality?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  9. Jim

    I'm going to write a "holy" book and claim it is god speaking through me (or inspired by god, or whatever the case may be). THEN, when anyone questions me on any matter, I can simply point to that book and say that is what it says (so it must be true). OR, if anyone challenges me on what I claim is in the book, I will reply "did you even read the book"? AND, obviously if you disagree with anything in the book, you are just wrong because it says it in the book.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • n8263

      That is what Christians do with the Bible.

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

      Jim, a simple study in textual criticism would declare your book worthless and would also reveal the Bible is the most attested writing of antiquity on the planet.

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

      Andy....I thought Green Eggs and Ham was the most writing of antiquity of our time.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Gman

      you'll need only one other thing besides that, carry your cross to your death after being falsly accused of blasphemy

      and are you willing to lay your head on a chopping block to be executed for your defense of your book as

      most of the 12 apostels were. when you have suffered as they did for preaching the gospel then you

      might have some credence to you arguements. but they layed down their lives willingly and are you

      willing to be beheaded and persecuted for what you might write as an author ? this is what makes

      their testimony so strong , is that they all were willing to be led to execution for what they believed.

      find 11 other friends who will follow you to their death for what you write and you will have

      accomplished something.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Andy

      Preschoolers read green eggs and ham and then celebrate by dying eggs green and eating them.
      If people want to have a real conversation, a simple study of textual criticism will "enlighten" many nay sayers of the Bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  10. Erin

    Is the author saying that God changed His/Her mind on some issues? He made one command in the Old Testament and changed it in the New Testament, so I guess His/Her views evolved. Maybe it is time for the Bible to add a Newer Testament so God's views can evolve even more.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • n8263

      According to Jesus, the Divine Laws must still be followed. What should take precedence? Peter's dream in Acts 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.

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

      Hebrews is a great book of the bible that explains why many things changed over from the OT to the NT. The holiness code was a picture of salvation that was fulfilled through Christ. I would challenge anyone that has questions concerning Jesus or the Bible (even if you don't agree) to read the Bible and let its worldview inform your worldview and not vise versa.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Erin

      In other words, He evolved.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  11. cloudi9

    Pretty sweet article. I've never heard it put so well.

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

      Yeah, it's so great when someone manages to sound nice about ruining others peoples live and having to risk nothing all for their own religious agenda.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  12. Duke One

    Choose Jesus !

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

      Why does he hide while the uneducated and ignorant and delusional do his bidding?

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

      Choose reality!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      Did you really "choose", Duke? Or were you assigned your deity? And by that, I ask how much have you looked into any of the other options out there? Have you ever read the Koran, or studied Hinduism, or Buddhism? Probably not. So, your "choice" came from a selection pool of one? That isn't what the rest of the world considers choice, my friend.

      Choose intelligence. Fact beats faith all day, every day.

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

      When did Jesus become a Pokemon??

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

      Worse yet: WHAT DOES HE EVOLVE TO? O_O

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

    According to the American Psychiatry Journal, Atheists commit suicide more than those with religious affiliations. (http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?Volume=161&page=2303&journalID=13). This just shows that you need God to be happy and to enjoy life. Without a God in your life, you will eventually feel that you have no purpose to live because you're living just to satisfy yourself.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  14. Kate Larabee

    "we understand that the Bible condemns all forms of sin because our Creator knows what is best for us."
    That's only one Christian view of the Bible, with God as Ultimate Puppetmaster. The founding fathers believed that their Creator merely set the wheels in motion, then sat back and watched things unfold – not a puppetmaster at all, and very different from the view of modern evangelicals. In some Christian faiths, God is loving and and inspring to offer guidance. In others, God is vengeful and vindictive, and to be feared. There are actually many interpretations and translations, so who on Earth really has the final authority on what view is "correct?" Many Christians do support gay marriage, so the writer comes off as arrogant when he offers his interpretation as the only 'correct' one. Worse, he offers it in a way that suggests he speaks for all Christians (as if "Christian" and "evangelical" were the same thing). He does not and neither do they.

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

      Let me ignore your comment and just explain the first sentence of it. ALL Christians believe in sin, since there isn't a single book of the Bible that doesn't touch on it. Nowadays, some pastors have formed their own religion by mixing secular humanism, just like the Jews did who were Hellenized (gnosticism) or the Jews that let Egypt have too much influence (Kaballah) Just because I go out and form my own doesn't mean it is now another denominiation that is correct.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  15. Mike

    The writer of this article is a pure loser....

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

      Fighting words... how about debate him instead of attacking him personally.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  16. David

    and thank you so much for that outdated take on life and evrything in between. Now take your religion and your politics about my life and shove them up your ass 🙂

    May 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  17. cfoxusmc

    That's your justification? Paul said it too? Let's see what else Paul says that Christians ignore:

    1 Timothy 2
    11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

    Yeah I don't think so, chief.

    Rationalize your bigotry all you want, but you cannot escape the charge of hypocrisy if you are to remain consistent in your professed beliefs.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Bill Collins

      Get your own religion then and leave mine alone!!!

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

      I always love number 14. She ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Knowledge folks. Why would a loving god ban this? Oh, thats right, he don't exist........

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

      It's sad that God is 'that guy' who does stuff like leave a cupcake on the very edge of the coffee table and expect the dog to leave it alone, and yells at the dog for being unable to resist.

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

    Totally agree with the Matt 7:5 reference. We have been called to love others as Christ loves us. Sin is Sin and viewed as such by God. James 2:10- For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking ALL OF IT.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  19. JOregon

    The SBC (and others) go after this one, then claim to put a divine blessing on Adultery.
    N.T.
    Mark 10:11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
    Mark 10:12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
    *Hypocrites*

    May 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  20. Woody

    Mohler is a typical Southern Baptist dupe who has been brainwashed and has no original thoughts of his own. I've seen this gibberish thousands of times before. Why do we need to see it again! It's 2012...enough!

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

      "It's 2012, enough!" What does the year have to do with a belief in God? Thank goodness we live in America and can vote according to our beliefs.

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

      Yeah, thank goodness we live in America and end up being subjected to laws based on a few idiot's beliefs.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
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