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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. taintright

    For those seeking a tax break, you're better off single with a mortgage, opposed to married with a mortgage. Those seeking spousal (medical, social security and life) benefits, ok you're right to want them for now, but what if the law were to change...are you going to get divorced for that?!! Marriage is suppose to be sacred not for conveniently "beating the system". Just remember the pre-nup so you don't have to do 10/10/80 when you do decide to divorce with a lawyer.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  2. Colin

    Christianity is the belief that an all-knowing, immortal being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, has a personal interest in my $ex life.

    Atheism is the belief that the above belief is ridiculous.

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

      I got the super cluster orbits balanced right containing trillions of star systems but I can't seem to keep those pesky little dust mite human males from trying to mate with eachother...

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  3. Puckles

    The happy peds (moderator won't let me use the real words) 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! I'm talking to all you deviants. You h ave the nerve to make comments about the happies and the peds in the churches when YOU are those people! YOU are the ones covering for each other and infiltrating the churches.

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

      We'd rather you didn't use any of the words, at all.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      Go ruin your home and quit burning churches..

      May 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Jim tom

      You seem to be losing your grip on reality sir. I'm not sure who you are talking to.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Joe Brown

      Hypocrisy is split equally between pulpit and pews. The rest of us have no problem admitting other peoples' lives are none of our business.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  4. James Carte

    Even God hates religion. Just a cult full of bigots.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  5. Avery

    Christians love all gays. We just hate their sins.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • sam

      ....and encourage legislation to take away their rights. But at least they're loved!

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

      and what defines a person as gay?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Posted with the aplomb of a fool. What makes you think any of you would be a good neighbor, walking around with "hate" smeared across your face. Behind that beatific smile you have so carefully crafted is the look people who see themselves as a superior race. They lost the same fight in Germany. You have already lost. Now get to your heaven and stay there. For the good of all humanity.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Michael

      Why hate at all?

      Their "sin" is not in the Ten Commandments and Jesus didn't mention it. Why would a follower of Jesus even cherry pick Leviticus at all?

      And why is it so important to Christians that those "sinners" not enjoy the same preferred tax status, insurance benefits and survivorship rights as everyone else?

      I don't understand how the evangelical viewpoint is consistent with "love one another".

      May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      I love Christians, I hate their ridiculous, bigoted, antiquated religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Joe Brown

      Any more than God hates your own? Judgement you reserve for yourselves.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  6. Dan / Colorado

    Christians don't believe they have the right to tell others how to live; God has given us guidelines which are there for us. Love each other. Respect each other. Treat each other well. Help the Poor. Try to be a better person. Ask forgiveness if you mess up. Don't mock the Holy Spirit. Not such a bad thing. I'm certainly not qualified to judge anyone, or say I'm better than them – I mess up like a soup sandwich every day! When mankind gets involved, the word of God gets jacked with and misrepresented. Look at what's written without agenda. Not such bad stuff – and nowhere does it say we have to bash each other, hate each other, or treat each other with disdain, disrespect, or hate. I've heard the "Fear based" argument – and what is that "Punishment"? Eternal separation from God. If he's not in your life, will you know the difference? Not some boiling lake, or demons, or 7 circles. We all need to lighten up.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  7. 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! I'm talking to all you deviants. You h ave the nerve to make comments about the happies and the peds in the churches when YOU are those people! YOU are the ones covering for each other and infiltrating the churches.

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

      What?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      People like you are the reason christens leaving churches. Breathing you dragon breath and quick to slap hands. Ask your kids "you are a hypoCritter

      May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Drew

      No it's actually just the Church's fault for not letting priests marry

      May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Butt Pickens

      true true

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Aradan

    200 years ago Thomas Paine articulated compelling and damning evidence in the Age of Reason that the Bible is an anonymous work, without authority and obviously not the word of god. Only those still ignorant regarding it dubious authorship, contradictions and history can call it the word of god. Pointing to the Bible to substainate one's position is no more convincing than pointing to the Illiad or the Odessy.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  9. volsocal

    Mr. Mohler, like most of us, should find a good pastor, attend church, and listen to someone educated in the field of theology if he wants to understand the Bible.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:04 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 6:05 pm |
  10. Henry

    This is the result of 48 years of godless public education.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • n8263

      Thank god.

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

      Perhaps if our public education was even more godless we might finally catch up with godless europe

      May 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • sam

      Do I sense a 'prayer in school' rant coming?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  11. Colin

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Astronomy;

    (b) Medicine;

    (c) Economics; or

    (d) Christianity

    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking serpent if you are a:

    (a) historian;

    (b) geologist;

    (c) NASA astronomer; or

    (d) Christian

    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A gifted psychologist

    (b) A well respected geneticist

    (c) A highly educated sociologist

    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    If I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me, I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian

    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely f.cking absurd nonsense.
    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
    (a) A victim of child molestation
    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
    (d) A Christian
    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or

    (d) All of the above.

    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) A mafia boss

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.

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

      Awesome.

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

      I tip my hat to you, sir. That was excellent!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Joe Brown

      Salute!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • A

      I am a Christian. God says that faith without works is nothing. He doesn't say that you should pray and things will magically happen. God doesn't will people to do thing magically. Everything that you do is your choice. Communion doesn't magically turn into Jesus's body and blood. It is a ritual of rememberance. Pastors don't feed of society and if they do they are fake for the Bible says that faith without works is nothing. Learn about Christianity. Study it. Then, argue your point.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  12. CueBallSTL

    I met Jesus. Then I hired him to do some landscaping.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • l

      Thanks for adding your profound thoughts to this discussion!

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

      My pleasure! Jesus lives, and does a great job of landscaping!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  13. Harry

    Good science supports Christianity.

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

      The Sun goes around the Earth and the universe is 7000 or so years old?

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

      Good religion supports science.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  14. LOL Religion

    It's because Christians are bigots. Next question.

    "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

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

    Wow, I am stunned that CNN put this fair minded article on their front page. I am also happy that they did and I pray that it will help to curb some of the hate routinely aimed at Christians – Christians who for the most part love their fellow humans, even the gay ones, they just believe they should speak the truth in love.

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

      How is this article any more fair minded than the article's with opposing viewpoints? I agree it is fair minded of them to publish both, but they are both just interpretations

      May 21, 2012 at 6:03 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 6:02 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      You have no idea what your talking about. Just how do Christians impose Christian law in America?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Aradan

      True

      May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • n8263

      One example is denying gays the right to marry.

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

      If you think you are living under anything close to Sharia Law here in America, I think you first ought to spend a few years living in Iran.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • n8263

      Islamic Sharia Law is more extreme because they have more fundies, but in principle they are no different.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  17. Robin

    "it is the most pressing moral question of our times" Really? Only because close-minded people like you choose to make it so. Jesus Christ didn't condemn it. He did, however, condemn intolerance, hatred, theft, abuse, etc. Condemning someone because of the way they were born is NOT a Christian act. And those who practice such intolerance are NOT Christians.

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

      According to the Bible, all are born sinners. Psalms 51:5 "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Ephesians 2 says "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins....All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved."

      May 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  18. Henry

    are these idiots adults?

    May 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  19. Surthurfurd

    ho mo se xual ity ... God hates.. but WAR... he seems to love. Interesting.

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

      And just how does God "love" war?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  20. 1SmartGal

    I highly recommend the site http://www.CARM.org to answer a lot of these questions about the Bible and sins. Yes, we are all sinners. Yes, there is only one living God. Yes, there is only one way – thru Jesus. Yes, Christians are called to love. Love before truth is so much more effective than the other way around which is what so many Christians do...Truth before Love never works. Jesus always met the needs of those around him before he spoke truth. Yes, many people think Christianity is a bunch of jibberish. For those of you on the fence, pick up a bible, go to a Bible church – they actually use Bibles and encourage us to study our Bible, join a Bible study...and go to CARM.org.

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

      I'm sorry you're wrong, but Zeus is the only way. You'll understand on your deathbed.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • One one

      And this will be the very first lesson you will be taught:

      Luke 12:5: But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:09 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.