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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. Babu G. Ranganathan

    Scripture has to be studied in its entire context concerning any subject or issue. The New Testament explains that the dietery restrictions in the Old Testament were meant to be temporary for a partucluar purpose and reason.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  2. Kathy

    This is an excellent article. I'm surprised CNN posted it.

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

      Totally

      May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      nobody cares puckles

      May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • wesley108

      I'm a Christian and share the opposite view of this article but I appreciate the fairness. I, too, was surprised CNN posted it. Kudos for balanced reporting.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • johny rocker

      Kathy you are simple and small minded, lucky for you he used a lot of small words so you could understand his point. You clearly cannot think for yourself and think couldn't see the obvious problems with saying "ignore these things that god used to say and focus on the more recent things that god said."

      May 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  3. peninsula p

    The Hebrews were using primitive science in banning shellfish and pork. They knew the risks of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and trichinosis. They also had some fashion sense, and knew that wearing mixed fabrics is a no-no; it makes you look ridiculous and careless about your wardrobe. They didn't want their hairdressers or interior tent decorators to scorn them, so they banned them as well.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  4. Maccabeus24

    Thank you! Very well put!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  5. John

    So posting the First Amendment is wrong?

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

      IRONY.

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

      sam...IRONIC indeed! Negates the purpose of the amendment doesn't it?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • John

      Free speech...as long as one agrees with it. What is that song by a group called C & C Music Factory? Oh yeah..."Things that make you go Hmmmm...!"

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  6. Jim

    Believers in the Bible belong to the infancy of our species. It's nothing more than plagiarized mythology. If it had been submitted as a thesis, it would have resulted in expulsion.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      Are you using big words, cause you think your right?? LOL AW.. iys okay. the devil believes you

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

      Lol, so evolution failed?

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

      I've met all types of Christians and I'll admit that some are ignorant, hypocritical and mindlessly follow but there is also a good portion that are very loving, humble and lead a quiet life as the Bible commands. The latter type have their acts together far more than any atheist or agnostic I know.

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

      Butt Pickens, are you not so literate?? I only ask because most educated people wouldn't consider any of the words in that post to be "big." If you want to say one person's beliefs are right or wrong, maybe try forming a cohesive argument??

      May 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  7. Irene

    The Bible is our guideline for how Christians are suppose to live their lives. In order to be saved you must be cleansed of all sin, Is being gay a sin? The Bible says it is, and so is lying, murder, etc. Jesus said "your sins are forgiven, now go and sin no more." Only Jesus has the power to forgive sin, because He is the Lamb of God. The Sacrifice that earned that right. Can I say "because you are gay you cannot get married?" No, but I can say according to the word of God you, as myself, are sinners, and must be forgiven, and go and try to sin no more. I believe that our spiritual guides should do the same, follow the guidelines of the Word of God. That is by the way, still as relevant today as it was over 2000 years ago.

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

      great you stick to that and leave me the hell alone ok!!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  8. HBAR

    If God is all-powerful, then it's enforcing its will. So... Thy will be done!
    Now all I have to do is to use my own head, and that will happen automatically.

    (Hey! There are a whole lot of religions out there, and they can't all be right. This happens to be mine.)

    May 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  9. SoJax

    Why do Christians feel they deserve special powers to judge others and define morals for anyone other than themselves? Isn't this exactly what we are fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Christians, please mind your own business. I really don't care what you believe and I'd appreciate reciprocity.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • clarify

      Then don't force beliefs on us. Goes both ways.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • sam

      @clarify – I don't see gays trying to pass laws based on a book they've decided is the end all, be all. Do you? Who's forcing their beliefs on you?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  10. scott

    Cnn is such a joke for putting this crap on here . THey are so against God. Difference is when people make mistakes who are christian they pray to be better . When your gay it is a sin and it is impossible to pray and ask God to forgive when youare just going to go do it again..

    May 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      You do not purchase things on Sunday?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • n8263

      So when Christians pray they never sin again?

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

      Is the same true of the 90 percent of catholic women who use birth control, and are just going to do it again afterwards?

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

      It's sub-moronic dolts like you who are holding this country back. I think I know where you can shove your opinion, Bible and religion.

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

      "Difference is when people make mistakes who are christian they pray to be better ."

      LOL Because that makes it seem better – and then they just wander off to act like jerks again. No worries. You can pray about it later.

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

      Why are you people so uneduacated in regards to the bible and yet post as if you know what is says and means. Sabbath is from laws established for the Isrealites in the Old Testament. Its being observed today is a personal preference not a requirement!!!!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  11. 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 5:53 pm |
    • SoJax

      Yes, thats what they envision. Now they've become Republican PACs making them even more dangerous.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  12. Reality Check

    The pro-slavery movement was also largely Christian. In every Bible I've ever come across, Jesus gives one single commandment: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

    That's it

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

      Not only that, but the Xtians defending slavery had a stronger scriptural argument than the Xtian abolitionists. The abolitionists had to appeal for a more liberal, compassionate interpretation of scripture

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

      Ooh, I get it! So you want gays to make it illegal for you to be married!

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

      Drew:

      As an atheist myself, I have to ask...

      ...do you have any idea how retarded it makes you look when you say "Xtian"? Just because you dislike a group, you call them something else? They have a name – "Xtian" is just an edgy, contrarian, hot-topic-atheist tactic of getting them worked up and trying to come off with a mistaken sense of intellectual superiority. You are the kind of "mad-at-my-parents-atheists" that give the rest of us a bad name and make us look foolish – in fact, I think I'll start calling you guys Herp-Derp-ists.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  13. Lise

    Separation of church and state....where are you...?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      a house an new state???

      May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  14. Webb

    I agree. This is a great article. The problem I have is that there is a consensus, it seems, in America, that if I don't agree with your position, I am considered bigoted and hateful. Neither of which is correct. I don't have to agree with your lifestyle as you don't have to agree with mine.

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

      agree!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • n8263

      As long as you are not using politics to impose your religion on others then it does not matter.

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

      Agreed. But quit trying to create laws that enshrine your position. If its no threat to you, mind your own business. You've already got huge tax advantages since your church is tax free and still able to act as a Republican PAC.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  15. dina

    First to accept this man's writing, you have to accept that the bible was actually the word of a god and that Jesus actually existed. None of these can be proven so his words mean nothing.None of this matters in the real world.

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

      I beg to differ. I believe that both of those can be proven. I might as well say that Plato or any ancient figure didnt exist, at least with Jesus of Nazareth we have external sources to affirm that he did in fact exist. I have a feeling though, even if you look and find the proof, you wont believe it.

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

    First rule of any religion. Figure out what you want want to believe and enforce. THEN, find something in whatever your sacred book is to back up your belief. Second rule of any religion. Ignore or denigrate other parts of the book that do not agree with your beliefs and practices, or say that those parts are not applicable to you.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  17. Surthurfurd

    I wonder when Christians will come out in force to oppose any commercial operations on the Sabbath? Since it is in the 10 Commandments?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  18. Henry

    All those who love God and His Word need to stick together to fight the rising tide of secularism in our God-given country. America was established on Christian principles, and only by returning to Christian principles can America become great again!

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

      So we need a theocracy?

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

      Yes, a theocracy with Jesus Christ at the head.

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

      Just as soon as Jesus gets here. And I don't mean his picture on some flatbread.

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

      America was built on slaughtering thousands of people who were here first. I feel bad for you. You are miseducated. You will never come close to understanding the potential greatness of humanity. You are part of a huge problem that has been chocking this world for over 2000 years.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  19. John

    MODERATOR: Are you afraid to post the First Amendment? Not very American.

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

      Whatever. I do what I want.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Loki

      Puny mortal, it is I who run this board, and I do not see fit to let you post on it.

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

      Free speech??? Ironic.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • John

      These are the "Things that make you go Hmmmm...!"

      May 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Sam

    The answer to your first question is an unqualified "yes." The answer to your second question eludes me. I have never understood why it is so important for conservative "Christians" to attempt to legislate morality. You feel its wrong to marry a person of the same gender, fine – don't. But why should people and their children and other family members be deprived of the same civil rights just because ofyour own personal religious beliefs?! Surely you have more important things to do?

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

      Christians are not depriving Gay people of being married. It's the liberal gay community try to force those of faith in the bible to change their doctrine. If your not a Christian, and you don't read the bible, what right do you have to even articulate how one should act? That's like me telling a woman what it feels like to be pregnant.

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

      @ Jason

      I have read the Bible. it's a big part of why I'm an atheist. "It's the liberal gay community try to force those of faith in the bible to change their doctrine." Who is forcing whom to accept what? It seems to me that Christians are forcing gays to accept their interpretation of a 3000 year old book of lies and fairy tales.

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

      @MS
      Your a liar. I never read the bible until I was 21 and when I read it for myself, there was too much for me to even consider being an atheist. So of course your going to say you read it. Do you realize the unlimited amount of questions you would have to answer before you could say that the bible is a fairy tale??? Unlike you I am not such an arrogant person, that even at face value the most read book, and controversial book of all time has to be a teency weency bit more complex than myself before I could reduce it to a fairy tale of lies, by a mental giant like you. Clearly your an Atheist, because only Atheists, think the way you do.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Evangelicals are Crazy

      This is just why religion must stay out of politics and public life. Why should I be forced to respect some religion's cr ap. Why are they trying to force their religious views down every one's throats? Republicans need to stay out of people's bedrooms and they need to stay out of people's private life.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • JohnnyAnonymous

      @Jason

      "Do you realize the unlimited amount of questions you would have to answer before you could say that the bible is a fairy tale???"

      It is exactly this same point that causes me to believe the majority of the Bible is a fairytale. I say the majority of the Bible because I'm sure there was a very charming/charismatic figure named Jesus but all the subsequent son of God part is where everything starts to fall apart (in other words 99% of the Bible).

      May 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
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