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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. swaf

    God has used the bible because it filters, those that dont want to believe it wont and the bible itself will help you "not believe" because its what you want anyway, dont you read the bible that God blinded the eyes of the jews so they would reject him, not that he wants that end result but for those who have already made up their mind and is just looking for an excuse, you will find one, even in the bible.

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

      wait, so god wants some of us to burn? I thought he loved us all!

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

      Just like Jesus is a "stubling block" for those that dont believe and a savior to those that do, not a stubling block for those that believe or will believe but a stumbling block to those that DONT believe, because they dont believe already

      May 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • swaf

      I cant change your mind or make you understand, only you can do that, but those that are hardened in their resolve to not believe or to reject God will find an excuse, God will even give you one, God wants everyone to live and be saved, its said over and over in the bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Drew

      But why did god create us to be heard-hearted? Why would he create someone who is destined from the beginning for hell?

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

      So your saying you would rather be a robot programmed to act a certain way or do certian things rather than freewill? Freewill is rare, we are both gifted by it and its a trouble for us.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  2. Jesu X

    Grow up. The bible is dumb, Jesus wasn't real, and you need to stop concerning yourselves with other peoples' lives. Losers.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      Do your research.. Uneducated dumb one..

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

      dont you mean get a life *rolls eyes

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

      Jesu X, Did your mom send you to time out for name calling? If you don't stop I will call your mother!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Ladylaureli

      Well...I can't say that I like your 'style' , but I do have to agree that they "...need to stop concerning yourselves with other peoples' lives".

      June 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  3. oh really

    My question was about whether the laws of OT are still considered valid after the NT was given out, to which Holly, Rich and clarify had graciously answered that "The "Law" or the "Ten Commandments" is still very much required but only BECAUSE we love God and want to please him. "

    @Holly, Richs, clarify.. Ok.. since you say the OT is still valid and the law is required today, Do you support the following verses too.. from the same awesome book of Lev..

    A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

    All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

    If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

    Any Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the LORD's name will surely die. (Leviticus 24:10-16 NLT)

    .. and more importantly, why do you NOT support these "Laws" that are "valid" and "required" today?

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

      Sadly, no one has an answer.. guess Selective-hearing-itis and Selective-reading-itis is a must to be a christian!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • swaf

      the OT and NT are basically contracts between the people and God, If you read the new you will see that the OT was done away with, the "letter of the law" and that we are now under a new contract of the law of liberty. The laws of morality still applly but not the laws of ritual.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Snow

      @swaf.. sure, I understand the difference between the laws of morality and rituals.. But, adultery, cursing parents, etc are not rituals now, isn't it? I would think they are morality issues (unless you can say they are rituals too). So, woudn't they apply now also? How come these are ignored then?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • swaf

      @Snow the laws of morality and basically the law of love is applied and we are commanded to follow them. Those that ignore them will find the punishment they incured. Those that obey the new commandment which is basically to love each other given by Jesus himself will not do things like adultery, cursing parents etc. We are under the law of liberty, we are free, but still required to love each other under the "moral laws" as is Good and Godly

      May 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Snow

      I see that you ignored the question and took a diversion into "love".. ok, I'll bite and ask you, does your definition of love to others include keeping two people who love each other dearly apart? to not allow them to promise their undying love in front of an authority?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  4. Steve

    If you assume, for the sake of discussion, that everything in the Bible is true and accurate, you still haven't answered the issue of church and state. Why does what Mr. Mohler thinks regarding the Bible matter in terms of how we run our government or what laws we have in place?
    The fundamental problem here, it seems to me, is we are mixing church and state. The problem that presents itself, when you do that, is: What religion do you observe and which do you exclude?
    Mr. Mohler seems a decent man as do most serious Christians. I am interested in what they have to say. That being said they still have no place in our government.

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

      Please, before you go on about Church and State, make sure you read a history book. Is that too hard to ask?

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

      Well said, and I think that's the heart of the argument. It amazes me that the same people who scream about how evil Muslim law is will then turn around and point to the bible to justify their desire for laws.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  5. Skeeve

    Any condemnation that is based on a work of fiction is hypocritical. With all due respect the moment you decide to pick and chose what to condemn and what not to condemn base on the Bible because it is convenient to you now I will simply chose to refute the whole book as is. You either accept it in full or it is not a word of God. Since our Christians have been picking and choosing since time immemorial – it is NOT a word of God. Since it isn't I don't care what it says.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  6. JennyTX

    Doesn't the bible say "Thou shall not judge"? There's some big-time judging going on here.

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

      don't you know the christian motto? "Rules are meant for other"

      May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      The bible says a ton of stuff, very little of it is actually practiced by those who call themselves Christian. It's kind of like a grab bag, you just take what you want out of it, and leave the rest for someone else. Which is why, from an outside point of view, Islam is so much more impressive. More Muslims actually practice and live their religion on a daily basis. i.e Prayers towards Mecca, not eating pork, not drinking liquor, etc. I still call it insanity, but at least they practice what they preach. ... And then blow up schools and coffee shops full of infidels, but that isn't the point.

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

      Jenny, you cannot pick and choose verses that you like but instead look at the whole message of the Bible. It tells us about grace, love and forgivness "For we have all fallen short of the glory of God". Thou shalt not judge but it is also not right to not tell the truth.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • 1SmartGal

      It sure does....Christians should NOT judge non-Christians. Why would they be held to the same high standard and live the same way? But Christians are to judge other Christians...not to knock them down, but with love. And we should expect other Christians to judge us.

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

      The bible also says that the christians also known as saints (not the catholic sillyness of its use, but the bible says that all christains are saints) will judge even the angels

      May 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • swaf

      The bible says not to judge in a condemning way because we were once or even in danger of the same condemnation, but to hold out a hand to the "siners" just like Jesus hang out with "sinners" and was condemned for it, he doesnt want us to consdemn or to look down on.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  7. Asturiano

    Because they are nothing if not hypocrites.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  8. Butt Pickens

    was the reporter/writer high on this one?

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

      You just cannot accept the fact that God condemns your behavior.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      your father has been watching you puckles.. wonna
      toke?

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

      C'mon Pickles. You're confused and bewildered. In fact I'm going to throw in flummoxed as well. Too many smart atheists for you to handle.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  9. The Flamingo Kid

    Fantastic article! It really puts those in their place who are trying to use the Bible to teach that gays are acceptable.

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

      That's the same response I had.

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

      Your to stupid to respond.

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

      The Flemenco Kid, get a grip bird boy. No intelligent person would use the Bible to prove anything. It's fiction. But now that I think of it Huckleberry Finn was fiction yet had great value, so maybe just maybe I'm a little hasty. There are good parts to the Bible though not the word of God of course. Who can argue with "Love thy neighbor as thyself" or "Judge not lest ye be judged." Good thoughts but not divinely inspired.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  10. Henry

    “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, the LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous, for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous but he frustrates the ways of the wicked, the way of the wicked will perish. I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols”

    May 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  11. Jim

    I was speaking to a christian over the weekend, and their argument why Jesus was God was the following: because he said he was. At any given time there are probably a few thousand people throughout the world that believe they are god. Hmm...

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

      Why don't you ask a priest? Why are you afraid of the truth? Can't believe if you cant see?

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

      Would that be a child raping priest I should ask?, or, one of the gay priests?, or which type of priest are you talking about?

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

      Hmmm because he conquered death...hmmmm

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

      don't ever look to catholic anything for answers
      they've already done enough ruining the christian name for centuries now

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

      its not easy for some people to explain things off the top of their head, but to really find out if Jesus was God or if the bible is from God etc etc just look at it as a mystery and try to solve it. Judge it, take in the facts, the witness statements, the authenticity, etc etc, like a jury and decide for yourself.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  12. j moran

    This opinion's justification is based on the opinions of the noted conservative and anti-gay theologian, Robert Gagnon. There are other, more convincing theological opinions on this question.

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

      Let's hear them!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  13. Harry

    The Bible is true because it is the Word of God. And it's the Word of God because it's the Bible!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • No need to believe

      Circular logic gets you back to the very meaning of the original question...... Right?

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

      Since God doesn't exist he cannot say a word, therefore Bible is not a word of God. Ergo – it isn't true

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

      Jesus came to earth as proof and to redeem humanity, this really happened. How about you spend a day researching historical FACTS about what happened 2000 years ago? His words are in the bible, which is used in modern day historical references. Look it up! You don't have to take my own word for it!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      @ 🙂 – can you find any other sources to validate your claims? It is typically bad research to cite one publication to repudiate the same publication. "Uhh, this book is correct because it says so on page 15!" Do you have ANY other works that support this? Or do all of your "facts" come from the same book, written by the same goat herders and farmers 2,000 years ago?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • swaf

      in any case you cant to weigh the evidence, facts etc etc like a judge and jury. Figure it out yourself like a man and stop hiding behind opinions and silly arguments of what you think or what others think instead of seriously finding out yourself.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Daniel

      Archeology.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • :)

      Mr. Jones you are a fool not to believe Jesus of Nazareth existed, it can be proven by science.
      Like I said LOOK FOR YOURSELF don't take my word for it I'm not the expert here.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:22 am |
  14. jerry148

    Who brought the popcorn?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  15. CR from CA

    Seems like Gods eternal word isn't that eternal if parts of it can be considered "no longer binding" depending on whether you call yourself a Christian or Jew. According to this logic the Old Testament shouldn't be part of the Bible since apparently it was repealed.

    This sort of thinking underscores the fact that the Bible is the word of people claiming to talk to god. Today they would be called delusional.

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

      Interesting that in recent years we've learned there are certain times when its safer to eat shellfish, many people are allergic, and apparently its an aphrodisiac, as well as the effects the nitrates in pork can have on your health and your brain......hmmmm yeah im sure the random man who decided to make all this up thousands of years ago knew this before hand...sounds like Gods wisdom protecting his people.

      Its still profitable for reading to better study and understand the character of One True Living God, although yes Christians are under a new covenant, under grace, not the law

      May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  16. readitall

    Great headline "Read this, skip that". It's worth noting that after the quoted verses Matthew 19:4-19:5 "Have you not read...shall become one flesh." Jesus goes on to say that some men are eunuchs from birth, or made that way. Eunuch is usually taken to mean castrated - but in historic context it can also mean celibate, impotent or otherwise not inclined to marry. Since it's not often babies are born castrated, it would be reasonable to consider these other meanings. I wonder why that verse was not included in the article?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  17. 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 5:44 pm |
  18. Realist

    Can we please get to the heart of this whole thing, and stop fooling around? The bible was written by PEOPLE serving their own purposes at their own times. It is NOT the word of GOD. If it was, I think he would have found a better way to get the message across so that there was no 'interpretation' needed or 'controversy'. As George Carlin famously pointed out: if this is the best god can do, then this is one incompetent god. The bible is full of cute stories to teach morals, which i have problem with. But we need to stop using it as the end all be all. Jesus is still dead, there was no boat that had every animal on it, and we as humans evolved from prime mates (not just magically appearing out of nowhere in a magical garden). But the fact we continue to follow these cute stories in the 21st century as truth and fact makes me wonder if the evolving process has stopped.

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

      your missing one vitual thing, God has used the bible because it filters, those that dont want to believe it wont and the bible itself will help you "not believe" because its what you want anyway, dont you read the bible that God blinded the eyes of the jews so they would reject him, not that he wants that end result but for those who have already made up their mind and is just looking for an excuse, you will find one, even in the bible.

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

      But I'm not 'looking for an excuse' not to believe. I used to be a diehard Christian when I was younger. But there's a thing called facts. And when you use critical thinking to look at all religions, not just Christianity, you begin to see there are A LOT of flaws. And the reason there are a lot of flaws is because religion is man-made, and is used by people as a way to control...sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Most religions today have these convenient clauses that say 'you have a choice to believe' and 'satan is trying to keep people from following god' and all that fun stuff. It's a nice way to keep people from really thinking about the BS that's being preached to them. I'm not trying to knock people's beliefs, but we have to look at the facts and be honest about things instead of just saying 'this is how god says it is' with no real discussion

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

      Yea Revelation is a really cute story.......

      Maybe the aliens need to come back and help us get back on the evolution track again, maybe rewrite and reprogram our DNA for us, so we can all get rid of this silly yearning inside of us that begs to be one with an Eternal True God

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  19. Josh Carroll

    I am a christian but realize that our government is not a religious establishment and that our country is based on freedoms which includes pursuit of happiness, and religious freedom, even if it offends christians. We christians have to understand that in this democracy we are living in "We can not have it both ways".. If we want to force our religious beliefs on society than we will have to become a monarchy again... I'd also like to ask what is our stance on people who are born with male and female parts? Who can they marry? What does God say about this? American Christian's also need to understand that we are "Babylon" as prophesied. Don't believe me? Read Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Revelation again... If you agree the last days are upon us..America is the ONLY nation that fulfills these prophesies at the current time..And the only nation in history that is currently undefiled by foreign envaders. Maybe something we should be more concerned with..

    May 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  20. swaf

    ^^ translation, God is a forgiving God, and sin is doing what God said not to, not doing what God said to do, simple as that, and for these crimes we pay with our souls because thats what the fine is. God knows we are weak and wants to keep us out of "prison" so he paid the price for our sins by coming to earth as a human "Jesus" (split from himself both himself and seperat, its God he can do anything) and Jesus paid our price by dieing which is basicall a blank check so that no matter the fine or payment needed it will cover it. UNDER one condition, that we repent, confess what we did (our sins) and obey God, that includes being baptized (not that baptizm itself saves but is your proof that you obey) and then God puts his mark on you (holy spirit) and when the time comes if you have obeyed etc you go to heaven, (whatever that is?) bible itself can only describ it in human terms of gold, diamonds and silver (basically we cant understand how awsome it is, but its like really really awsome)

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

      And all this nonsense doesn't seem monumentally implausible?

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

      Not to mention it's the equivalent of locking your children in the basement and torturing them for all eternity for disagreeing with you.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:50 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.