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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. Christine

    Finally an article that represents the views of most everyday americans. Agree that Christians often focus on the hot topics- gay marriage and abortion– but these are no worse than other sins– overeating, lust, dishonesty/fraud, child abuse, etc

    We all have hangups that God wants to help us with– dealing with gay feelings doesn't have to be at the top of the list.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  2. Name*beverly

    very well spoken. thank you.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  3. Andy Wilson

    actually Im still trying to find where Christians are called Baptist.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  4. Allen

    Leave out science and compassion in an argument and you have a well reasoned argument apparently! Who Knew that religious beliefs left out scientific findings as evidence and continued ancient arguments where there was no science and human compassion present in the first place.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  5. Drew

    Just more of the myths, legends and nonsense that underscores the very essence of human insecurity. Perhaps one day people will realize how utterly foolish they look believing in things that just don't exist and never have. Sadly, it won't happen in my lifetime, but one can hope. Feel free to worship as you choose, but please do NOT force your nonsense on others.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  6. gravis

    I guess this means if we all pray hard enough, gracious God will swoop down from his cloud and sweep away all the undesirables! O Happy Day!!

    May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  7. Butt Pickens

    When did clay akien S**t a rainbow?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  8. Surthurfurd

    So, where is the evidence that the Bible is to be completely believed if we are to figure out or be told which parts not to follow or believe?

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

      Surthurfurd is another a–hole

      May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      or he likes them??

      May 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  9. Jim Weix

    The Bible is interesting, but it was written by uneducated peope. I went to Catholic grade school, but the Catholic Church and I parted company when the nun told me that my best friend couldn't go to Heaven because he was Lutheran.
    Of course that teaching has changed since 1960.
    The other "beliefs" will change also. Past and present situations are clearly showing us that the people of the Middle East and Africa have nothing of value to offer besides oil and diamonds.

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

      Yeah, the Catholic church makes Romney look consistent

      May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • 1SmartGal

      The Catholic Church has almost nothing to do with Christianity. They have a lot more to do with rituals with a little Jesus sprinkled in. But as for the remark about the Bible written by uneducated people....God uses the most common and lowly among us to do some of the most amazing things. It's not about who we are, but about who God is.

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

      The bible was written by no one person, but it was compiled by some very smart men. I think they knew what kind of political power it would bring them and their successors

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

    Well said Mr. Mohler!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  11. Ism Three

    I stopped reading right about here.
    ' In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer.'
    But I should be given some credit for trying at least, to humour someone who doesn't feel like following the lifestyle of JEWISH Jesus.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  12. Puckles

    The happy peds are the ones who have ruined the Churches by infiltrating and spreading their filth. How dare you blame religion when it is people like you, with a total lack of morals, who are at the root of the problem!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Jim tom

      Who exactly are you talking to? ....

      May 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      THis woman is the reason christens are leaving churches. If i had to smell her dragon breath, I would leave too

      May 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  13. Just a guy

    All the previous articles have been written by recognized, peer-reviewed academic scholars who are also members of the clergy. This one, of course, which supposedly represents the view of the "Christians" got a BA from a Baptist College, and then went on to get what satisfies the requirements of Southern Baptist Seminary's requirements. Let's just say that there are no peer-reviewed science journals publilshed by Southern Seminary.

    Beware, he who comes to you in sheeps clothing, but who carries the teeth of the wolf...

    May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • l

      Wow. I didn’t know that degrees from Baptist colleges didn’t count. Talk about bigoted.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  14. Guy

    Why are Christian gay marriage supporters so quick to manipulate the Bible, rather than maybe questioning whether the book is the truth to begin with?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • n8263

      It is not the truth, everyone knows that deep down. That is why it is so important to distract ourselves by arguing over what it means.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  15. mary

    The bible was written to be read..ALL OF IT.. Many of those rules are to keep people healthy.. Eating shellfish and blood and all those rules? We written for people year ago when there was ignorance about germs and bacteria.. It was to keep people healthy.. And look at what happens.. Even today with modern medicine we end up with disease's from having se** with people.. Eat a animal that carries parasites without cooking properly and you get sick.. Well many years ago people couldn't keep food frozen or prepare it for long term storage like we do today..They got sick and died..
    So read the whole bible folks.. its the ultimate manual for how to survive as a human..
    They are not crazy rules.. They all make sense... Even today..

    May 21, 2012 at 5:57 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.

      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 5:58 pm |
    • mary

      n8263

      We live under the rules set down in the new testament.. The bible is a history book.. A look into the past.. Into a world before Christ came to offer salvation.
      Its just a shame that instead of reading and understanding people hit a passage here an there and then think they understand the whole thing..
      Do you if you read a few chapters in a book.. Watch a few minutes here and there in a move?
      No you don't know what is going on.. And you wouldn't draw a conclusion without following it from start to finsish..
      The bible is a good read.. And makes total sense..
      You just have to read it all.. But then, thats the problem.. People just don't want to.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  16. 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 5:57 pm |
  17. aginghippy

    Go ahead! Be a good Christian. Live your life in a way that you feel pleases YOUR imaginary friend. However, you do not have, and never will have, the right to tell others what they can and cannot do, based on your religion.
    This is the United States of America, and the very thing that has always set it apart from many other nations is the freedom we enjoy to live our lives exactly as we see fit. That includes the right NOT to believe in your God, not to condone depriving others of their civil rights based on YOUR religion; in other words, not to be a hateful, bigoted control freak in the name of God.
    Christians say they feel like victims of repression and discrimination. Well, stop being such busybody as*holes, trying to push your fairy tales on the rest of us, and you can believe in anything you want. See how that works?

    May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  18. Colin

    It amazes me that, in the 21st Century in one of the most advanced nations on Earth, in a mainstream news channel like CNN, we are debating the propriety of ho.mo$exuality ased on competing interpretations of 2,000 year old mythology from the other side of the planet.

    To all believers, I invite you to think about that the next time you ask an atheist, "but why are you so opposed to religion?"

    May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Logan from Texas

      Apparently God only exists to Colin if he was alive in 21st Century America.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  19. The_Mick

    "As the Book of Acts makes clear, Christians are not obligated to follow this holiness code. This is made clear in Peter’s vision..." Read it again. It was JAMES who called the shots at the Council of Jerusalem when Paul asked if the Jewish code was to be followed by Gentiles. JAMES decided that Gentile Christians -not ALL Christians- are not obligated to follow it. As for Peter, Paul told him off -and writes about it in one of his letters- when Peter would not sit with Christians not following the obligations. As Josephus, who was there to witness it, wrote in his Histories of the Jewish People, James was in charge of the Christians after Jesus, NOT Peter. Peter and Paul came to be idealized after the Romans brutalized religious sects in Jerusalem around A.D. 70 and Greece and Rome became the centers of Christianity.

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

      I should add that it is Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, that tells us it was James who made the decision.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  20. Surthurfurd

    This is not a persuasive argument. It only serves to emotionally justify a position by pretending to be reasonable.

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

      Ever watch FOX?

      May 21, 2012 at 5:59 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.