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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. David Nelson

    If Christ came to make pork clean he missed all those awful trichina larvae. So its pretty obvious Christ did not come to make pork "The Other White Meat." He came to die for our sins and take our place. Uclean is still unclean folks. Peter's vision in Acts 10 was to show Peter that the Gentiles were not to be considered unclean. Something he struggled with! In Acts 10:28 Peter explains his vision was to show him that he should consider no man unclean. Basic stuff folks. So don't let others tell you what this mean, read all of chapter 10 for yourselves and decide for yourselves.

    Maybe you are saying "but what about 1 Tim 4:4?" If you look more closely you can see that Paul is giving a list of deceptions that are considered doctrines of devils!!!
    Here is the list of "lies and hypocrisy."
    1. Forbidding to marry and forcing men to abstain from clean foods. in v 3
    2. Telling people unclean things are clean. in v 4
    3. Saying these things can be made be by a sanctifying prayer. in v 5

    All these are considered as coming from seducing spirits and are considered the doctrines of devils. So I ask you again. If Christ came to make pork safe to eat, why are the trichina larvae still there? So if these foods could supposedly be made clean by sanctifying prayers, why does no one say prayers over pork and shellfish to make them clean?

    To reduce Jesus death on the cross to being about shellfish and pork is pretty ridiculous when one thinks about it.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  2. clinky

    If Christians had followed their loving, inclusive roots and accepted marriage equality, instead of letting themselves be led by the nose by bi-gots, then gay and lesbian rights wouldn't be a "pressing moral question of our times."

    May 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ clinky

      Do you not know the difference between natural and unnatural? (Don't think you do!)

      May 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • clinky

      Serpent, Romantic desire is natural. Yes, I got that.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ clinky

      Let me expound a little further. Do you know the difference between natural sensual actions and unnatural sensual actions? Are sodomites not doing unnatural actions? Also do not some "heteralists" commit actions of sodomy?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @A Serpent's Thought

      You ran from me yesterday when I stated your god is unnatural. Rebuttal?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  3. Brother Maynard

    "The other way of posing the question represents a genuine attempt to understand how the Bible is to be rightly applied to life today."
    – AH I get it ... so eating shellfish does not apply to life today. Sort of like slavery doesn't apply to life today. ( But did in the 19 century )

    May 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  4. QS

    Another very convenient aspect of religion, or Christianity specifically, is how Christians claim they aren't trying to force their beliefs on others, they are simply "spreading the word"....something they might recognize as "forcing their beliefs on others" were they not so consumed with trying to pretend that's not what they're doing!

    May 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Russ

      @ QS: do you say the same thing about medicine? Were you upset when Salk said "hey, here's a cure for polio!"?

      Christians believe Jesus is good news just like that – but only infinitely more important. What would you think of people who believed that they had news that good & didn't share it?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • QS

      Bad comparison – medicine is science, Jesus is myth.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ QS: so what you're really saying is that your complaint is not that people have the integrity to care enough to follow through on what they believe – but it's really about whether or not they agree with what you believe.

      That sounds an awful lot like you are doing exactly what you were complaining they are doing.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  5. Brother Maynard

    "First, the question can be asked to suggest that the Bible’s clear condemnation of se.xual sins can simply be set aside."
    – uh YEA .. so?? OR the question can actually ( AND DOES ) ask 'WHY DON'T YOU OBEY ALL THE LAWS IN THE BIBLE'

    May 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Jeff

      When jesus died on the cross the old laws (old testament) was done away. The new testament came into effect. Testament means will and can a man have two wills at the same time. No the newer one takes over. The new testiment did away with the jewish laws. Of selfish and fabrics. Christians follow the new testiment today. Read the book of Galations. It explains this very well. The theif on the cross was a jew and follwed jewish laws.

      Mark
      10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 10:7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 10:8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 10:9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10:10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 10:11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 10:12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
      Romans
      1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Sockness Monster

      *** Mark
      10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 10:7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; ......
      -----------------------------------------------------
      The church knew it had a big problem with Adam & Eve and incest, so they came up with this....

      May 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  6. DeeCee1000

    Idiots like this still believe gay people choose to be gay. . .kinda like the closet case Marcus Bachmann. What a bunch of idiotic snake-oil salesmen. If they only knew what idiots they really are.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  7. ballenascourt

    Some people may not want to 'hear' what R. Albert Mohler Jr. has to say on the topic but I don't think the traditional Judeo-Christian viewpoint could have been put any better. Now people have to decide if that value is worth preserving and that is a debate that will not be resolved in any of our lifetimes if ever since humankind is always testing the limits of it's powers within nature.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • QS

      Look, yet another convenience – calling blind, religious bigotry towards others a "value"!

      May 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  8. Kyle

    "...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." Religion has been the major cause of wars throughout humanity's existence and has brought nothing but strife and ill to this world because people are not accepting of other world views. Not to mention that by omitting scriptures from the old testament, and displayed again by moving from the old to new testament, is a pure and simple demonstration that the bible is not a holy text but a set of guidelines for a certain group of men, written by men. Thus, any argument against giving people equal rights under the law is unfounded.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  9. NOT ONE JOT

    "At the same time, our confidence is that God condemns those things that will bring his human creatures harm..."

    You just got through saying that the prohibitions against shrimp and lobster only apply to Jews. So we're to be "confident" that God condemns shrimp and lobsters because that will bring Jews harm – but NO ONE ELSE???

    See, this is what happens when you tell a lie. You have to then tell a bigger one to justify it, and then another one and then another. What lie is next – to get around this ridiculous statement you made?

    May 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  10. Sam Spade

    What about religous freedom?? Fine, Christians don't believe in gay marriage. There are other religious beliefs that allow it. So make it legal and Christians can practice their own religion and not partcipate. Let's move on and get rid of laws that discriminate that were passed due to religious beliefs only.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Sam Spade: so you're for liberty for all, regardless of beliefs – but would you say the same thing with automatic weapons? or how about heroin? Why intervene in those cases?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • momoya

      Ummm bodily harm?!??? Seriously, w t f?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Russ

      @ momoya: exactly. and yet what is the basis for claiming that's doing harm? some heroin addicts claim it's not hurting them but helping them.

      Point being: Christians have an ethical objection – and Sam is claiming they should not, yet he does the same on other issues. Sam's objection is not consistent with what he himself does elsewhere.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • DeTamble

      MORON OF THE DAY..............................................

      Russ

      @ Sam Spade: so you're for liberty for all, regardless of beliefs – but would you say the same thing with automatic weapons? or how about heroin? Why intervene in those cases?

      What does two consenting loving adults wanting to get married
      have to do with weapons and drugs ?
      Moron.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  11. Not a Scholar

    I go by the Ten Commandments. They are applied to everyone equally and do not separate out one group of people. But it seems that many of the people that seem to be focused on Gays overlook their own sins, which are usually many.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Spangler

      The 'Ten Commandments" is the only thing in the Bible actually written by God. Only three: do not mur der, do not steal and (in legal situations) do not bear false witness are civil law.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  12. Please

    Great! But I also live in a nation that has separation of church and state. So put your book of man made religious rules away and deal with it. There are gays living among you. You are on the wrong side of history my friend.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  13. DrewInPortland

    The facts are still the same... The Bible was written millenia ago by white men who were looking for a way to convert and control. I don't dispute that a man names Jesus existed, but think if he were alive today, spouting off his words like a prophit on the subway or on the street. Would you be writing down every little thing this guy said and repeating it as supreme wisdom? No, I've seen you walk right past this guy, and avoid your eye contact, and not drop a quarter into his old dirty coffee cup.

    Put your lives in perspective, realize how short and insignificant our time on this planet is, and learn to enjoy what you have, and not take joy in hurting people around you.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  14. QS

    One of my favorite things about religion, is how people who belong to one or another (and I say belong because they do in fact belong to that religion – it owns them) whine and complain that others are "attacking" their religion or mocking them for their beliefs, as if to say that they honestly believe their beliefs should be respected despite the fact that their beliefs demonize an entire segment of the population.

    Then, when the fruits of that demonization take root and children begin suffering the majority of the consequences, they retreat behind their work of fiction to justify their reasoning that they are simply being "good Christians" by treating gay people the way they do!

    Which of course brings out the big guns of religious conveniences, as it were....the epitome of convenience, the pinnacle of self-righteousness, the ultimate progression of non-thinking....ladies and gentlemen I give you "hate the sin, love the sinner"!

    May 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  15. Bob

    Why focus on the bible [full stop]!

    May 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  16. ben

    God made the family unit as father ,mother and children.God is giving mankind the privelege of furthering his creation by having children.Also as Christians we don't condemn, we warn,God's Word does the condemning.Look up stats where the father is present and leading the household according to the Bible,contrary to fathers who are absent or abusive.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Bob

      There is no "God."

      May 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • NotBuyingIt

      Fighting to have legislature signed that backs up your beliefs isn't "warning" people, it's an attempt to control their lives. I don't have a problem with anyone of any religion who lives their own life by what they believe. I only have a problem when said people attempt to write laws for everyone else based on those beliefs.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • QS

      Now compare the stats of child abuse in the homes with those good, loving Christian fathers.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • DeTamble

      I have a mother and father.
      I also have 3 sisters and two brothers.
      I have 2 brothers in law,
      and 1 sister in law.
      They all have children.
      I am gay and have been with my partner for 30 years.

      So are you going to tell me that i am not part of a family ?

      May 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  17. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEW MEMBERS:

    "Abrahamics" to include the Southern Baptists believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

    As noted, there are basic biological differences in gay unions vs. heterose-xual marriage. Government benefits are the same in both but making the distinction is important for census data and for social responses to potential issues with respect to disease, divorce and family interactions.

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, ga-y s-exual activity is still mutual mas-turbation caused by one or more complex s-exual differences. Some differences are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  18. A Serpent's Thought

    Why is sodomy an unleavened action against God and also against the vast majorities of godly people?

    May 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  19. Spangler

    It is necessary to pick and choose for enbrace the entire thing (there is also a talking donkey in the Bible) would be too over-whealming for anyone.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Spangler: so between a talking donkey and a guy being raised from the dead, you think the talking donkey is the big deal? If Jesus really was raised from the dead, isn't talking animals a minor objection?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • gsurf

      God spoke out of Balaam's ass, and now you are speaking out of yours.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Russ

      @ gsurf: yes, it's easier to call names than engage the logic.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  20. MHS

    Hate the sin, love the sinner.

    The sacrifice Christ made was a Justification of us to the rules of the Old Testament. He fulfills the demand for perfection or Death by dieing perfect for our Sanctification.

    But...it requires Faith. The belief is what one has yet to see. Believing that God created the Heavens and Earth. Believing that Christ fulfilled the prophecies. Believing that the center of the universe is something other than ourselves.

    The Church has failed miserably at embracing everyone and acknowledging them as they are... as they all are...sinners. Then guiding them and disciplining them in the ways of the Lord. Shouldn't we take the log out of our own eye before we call out the speck in our brother's eye?

    So, I don't agree with 'Gay Marriage' because God brought a man and a woman to cleave together. But, I have compassion and embrace my friends who are gay.... just as I do not condone my friends who carry on extra-marital affairs. I may not agree with their lifestyles or choices, but I embrace them with the affection that I am called to offer.

    Excusing them or condoning them is not love....embracing them with accountability and Truth is love.

    Peace.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • momoya

      Hate the belief, love the believer.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
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