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. Mike

    "Love requires us to tell the truth."

    Unicorns, dragons, a global flood, demons, angels, a man who lived in a fish, the parting of a sea, resurrection, transforming water to wine, magical healings; the stuff of fairy tales of course (and the bible, but I repeat myself).The only reason you laugh at the one and worship the other is indoctrination.

    The bible is not a source of truth.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      For the word of the LORD [is] right; and all his works [are done] in truth.

      Psalms 33:4


      May 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  2. reekerbreeker

    Making "logical" arguments about nonsense is fun.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding.

      Job 28:28


      May 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  3. Mr. Jones

    Freedom of Speech = a person should be allowed to say whatever they want. Gays can hate on Christians, Christians can hate on Gays... freedom of speech. Just don't be mad when the side you are opposed to says something against you.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Saying something against another persons rights is different than voting against another persons rights.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  4. George

    The man is a crook. He has neatly skirted around the issue of divorce and remarriage which is roundly condemned as adultery in the New Testament other than when one of the partners commits adultery.. Why does he not raise this issue? If he does, he will loose his financial support as the divorce and remarriage rate among the Christians is higher than that of the general population. And the people who his flock support such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are divorced and married several times!

    May 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  5. Marc

    The elements have always been, and always will be. Time and space are and have always been endless. The way you "feel" 30 years before you are born, is the way you will "feel" 30 years after you die. Try to remember how you felt... I know, I know... you can't do it. You are not important. You are just as important as the squirrel you ran over yesterday on your way to the grocery store. Heck, you could have been born as that squirrel. But you lucked out and instead came out of a human mother. But you did not come out with answers to all the questions you will ask in your lifetime. Luckily, I just answered them all. Forget about the bible and be a good human being, like Jesus was.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  6. Duke One

    Romans 1:16-32

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


      May 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  7. Puckles

    Fantastic article! Logial, well-thought out and truthful! KUDOS! A slap in a face to all the happies trying to use to Bible to advocate for happies!

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

    9 Quick reasons no sane person should base their view on Ho.mo$exuality on the Bible.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as coveting their neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, reasonable and rational disbelieve in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.

    5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

    6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

    8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

    9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.

    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Yaba Dabba Yaway!

      Amen! I'm with you. I've always been amazed how a "loving" religion could generate so much hate and destruction.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Shills

      I read your points and of course one can come up with even more! I read the Bible, actually read it leaving it in context and that's when my thoughts are changed. This self existant deity, God, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), of David, and the 'Father' of Jesus Christ ('The Anointed One'). It's grounded in the history of Israel. This nation had advanced language and I read over and over again throughout that starting with Moses, was commanded to 'Write it down'. This is a nation with history of Moses, the Prophets, and national and 'God-given' laws ... it's a history. Christ is a part of this history and according to him and witnesses confirmed the 'Old Testament' and said things that much of our history has used in literature, films, media, and the arts. No, when I read it for myself that's where it makes all the difference ... not what someone else is saying ... when I read the Bible for myself.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Voodoorick

      They will all take to long to answer, but pick one of your points you want refuted. Should not be very hard, they aren't as solid as you think. Youpost this exact thing all the time.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • McCave

      Seriously, start a blog.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Wise [men] lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish [is] near destruction.

      Proverbs 10:14

      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.

      Proverbs 10:14


      May 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  9. R. J. Kirchner

    Of course you have every right to condemn behaviour based upon your religion for yourself. However, the very definition of freedom requires that you allow others the right to choose their own path in life. The freedom of religion is not only the freedom for you to practice your religion as you find it, it is also the right of others to be protected from your religion. In truth, immigrants came to the new world not so much for the right to practice their own religion, but to gain the right to not practice someone else's. Gays and lesbians are hurting no one when they become partners. Isn't judgement reserved for God? So called Christians would be far better off attemtping to perfect their own practice of their religion, than attempting to force it upon others. The most important cmmandment is to love one another, not judge one another. He amongst us who is sin free should throw the first stone.

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

      Romans 1:18-28


      May 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  10. Puckles

    Butt Pickens:

    You have a really low IQ. I honestly feel sorry for you.

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

    I am sorry to mention, R.Mohler, that you have just took Acts 10:15 out of context. God wasn't speaking about the food itself. Instead He was referring to the men who came just after Peter's vision to ask him to visit the Roman centurion who wanted to know more about Jesus, as Peter explained himself on Act 10:28. The unclean food was an analogy of what the Jews thought about the Gentiles at the time ...

    May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Peter Urd

      oops... I meant 'you have just taken'

      May 21, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  12. johny rocker

    The Israelis believe in only the old testament and still have legalized gay marriage. What a backwards country we are to continue to allow christian mythology to violate our separation of church and state.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  13. Richard 1189

    Almost 200 years ago Baptists in the South–the direct ancestors of President Mohler's denomination–were clearly convinced that the thelogy of the Bible justified slavery. Apparently it didn't and Southern Baptists have since asked forgiveness for this sin. Given this "oops" moment, I'm not likely to accept the clear reading of the Bible he so confidently asserts..

    May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  14. Duke One

    Romans 1

    May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  15. cncmnccmn xcmnmxcnmn

    christards suck

    May 21, 2012 at 6:09 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 6:09 pm |
  17. David

    Gay people have the same rights that I do. You chose that lifesyle.

    Now you are going to cry and pout until you get what you want and still that will not bring you happiness.

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

      No, you get to marry the person you love (if you're even capable of love) and gays don't. You want special rights for yourself that you can deny the gay couple down the street, which is thoroughly unAmerican.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jim tom

      You, sir, are a tool. And just FYI, if there is any god worth believing in, he is not going to care whether anyone is a Christian. He is going to care whether or not you were a good person in life. You can take that to the bank.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • David

      Who is asking for special rights?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

      Romans 1:21


      May 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "You chose that lifesyle. "

      People do not choose to be gay and gay couples deserve the same equal civil rights as straights. duh!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      YeahRight, all people choose their lifestyle.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  18. waterman

    “What God has made clean, do not call common." This one line is the reason why you can ignore the "word of God" in Old Testament? LOL.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:08 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 6:10 pm |
    • Voodoorick

      Actually, no, it is quite clear in the NT that the law does not applyto Gentile Christians. The law is writtenon your heart. Read Acts and Romans. Stop bringing up shellfish and hair.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Voodoorick

      The law was the old covenant, which man could not fulfill. Thus, Jesus came to fulfill the law for all man's salvation. That is the whole point.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • waterman

      @Voodoo – how can the word of God be "old" or "new"? How can it be "revised"? Why does God need version 2.0? Everything God says is perfect and eternal. God said, kill your disobedient children, period. He did not say "kill your disobedient children, unless you are a gentile christian, in which case read my next book and ignore this one."

      May 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  19. MyTake

    This guys is a complete A$$-CLOWN. He sounds so foolish (to thinking people) the more he apologizes for what is in his book of make believe.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  20. Joe Brown

    "To have a personal relationship with Christ, you need to find a theologian to explain the bible to you."


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

      Interestingly enough, you don't have to understand anything to put your trust in Jesus.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "Interestingly enough, you don't have to understand anything to put your trust in Jesus."

      Right! Why learn to use a toilet when you can just shlt in your Christ diapers.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
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