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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. Jesus is Lord

    Nietsche is dead – God

    May 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Answer

      God needed a whole day to rest.

      Now that is laughable in itself. Forbid if god gets sick.. who will take care of 'him/it'?

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

    But weren't the Gospel's written by people abiding the laws of the old testament?

    May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Drew

      Yup

      May 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  3. Colin

    The scientific evidence of the genetic cause of h.omos.exuality, heteros.exuality, bis.exuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded s.exual orientation – and that's all s.exual orientations including the most common, heteros.exuality– as a phenotype.

    Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in s.exuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology or the role of sugar in sweetening coffee.

    Don’t confuse this, however, with the so called “gay gene”. No gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!" But that's not at all what it means. No "tall gene" will ever be found, but that does not make height a choice.

    Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore have a role in s.exual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in s.exual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know.

    Furthermore, there are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This, too, is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

    So, whatever else you want to think about h.omos.exuality and your position on it; two truths remain; (i) h.omos.exuality is genetic; and (ii) there is no single “gay gene.”

    I doubt this will change many Christians’ mind, given that they have hardly demonstrated themselves as being limited by facts on most matters, but, to the extent your view is inconsistent with the above, it is factually misguided, whatever your value judgment on the matter might be.

    So the next time any Christian asks an atheist “why do you atheists try so hard to convince us God does not exist” you might like to reflect on the fact that, in the 21st Century, we are debating the moral legitimacy of gay people based not on any of the above material, but by quoting verses from a 2,000 year old book of Palestinian mythology.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Jim

      I believe there is a unicorn in my closet. Unless YOU can prove otherwise, I am clearly right. Makes sense to me!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • billw

      I read with interest your response. I really don't think that's where or how the Bible came in being . Study that issue then come back and your response would probably be different.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  4. Michael Pittman

    Kleb, you just respond to others post. Whats wrong? Are you just a follower and not a leader?

    May 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Michael Pittman

      As well as MR Brown

      May 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  5. David

    I support seperation of church & hate. Shouldn't you?

    The old, hateful, horrific, Christian America is dying and it's a new, modern, progressive dawn. One day soon America will rise up to become the new shining city on the hill where freedom and liberty really do exist for ALL Americans, not just the Christian elite. Civil rights are for EVERY American, not just the folks of whom the church approves.

    Christians have been drinking Jesus blood way too long, and now it's time to call a spade a spade...these people are UNAMERICAN FREAKS.

    FUND FREEDOM. TAX THE CHURCH...heavily.

    OBAMA 2012.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Jim

      Don't tax the church "heavily": just tax them as any other business. Make it so we ALL play by the same rules (no exemptions for certain groups because they believe in whatever (god, jesus, the devil, mohammad, the sun god, etc)

      May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Joe Brown

      Those aren't progressive values at all....
      In fact, I think you're a conservative posing as a progressive to smear them.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • QS

      Agreed, and thank you! 🙂

      May 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Seraphim Hanisch

      Wow... I guess you are clear in your stance. But it is sad. Wow....

      May 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • mema

      I do hope your right as that would satisfy the last of bible prophacy. So it will be short lived. Last prophacy is a direct attack on religion then the end will come. So far all other prophacy has taken place so this one would serve to increase the Christia faith very much in its accuracy. Its really quite incredible to see and be a witness to Gods word being fullfilled just as promised.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  6. Jim

    Put two people in a room and let them debate each other: one muslim using the Koran as the support for his arguments the other christian using the bible as support for his arguments. Sell tickets to the amusing spectacle. PS: I wrote a holy book (inspired by god!). Can I join in the spectacle and quote from my holy book? Or are we simply going by the "holiest" book (as defined by who? (oh yeah: god. But, but, but... all the books are the word of god. I'm sooooo confused.))

    May 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Wandi

      Yay! I'm just starting week 2, but feel very cofatromble with the pace- the weekends are the hardest since I usually read at night and both Fri & Sat get so busy! Just finished Genesis- WOW![] Reply:January 27th, 2010 at 8:13 pmI also find weekends to be more difficult.Great job Jenny![]

      September 9, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  7. onlymyopinion

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “
    (Mat 7:1-3)

    May 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Joe Brown

      How DARE you quote the bible to justify a reasonable position!!
      😉

      May 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  8. taintright

    Response to Raven: Earlier you commented about taking a person quietly to the side to discuss/show their error of sin. Such action is reserved for a fellow Christian, not a non-believer. You don't rebuke someone who hasn't been educated of what is or isn't a sin.

    Response to Hawaii...: Proof of truth?...This is all spiritual till you can prove why 2+2 actually equals 4 and not 5. Choose heaven or hell, same 50/50 chance for all of us.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • QS

      OooOooOoo.....siiiiiin....quick, everybody kneel!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  9. 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 6:27 pm |
  10. Joe Brown

    I have always found it amusing that the faithful blame those that profess no faith, for crises of faith. It's like blaming the shadows for the darkness.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Michael Pittman

      NOT a good comparison.. THUMBS DOWN!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  11. Snow

    I am still not sure I understand from all the talk of love you christians preach.. does your definition of love to others include keeping two people who love each other dearly apart? to not allow them to promise their undying love in front of an authority (notice I did not say "god")?

    May 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Snowdog

      I guess I do not understand who is keeping them a part. They are still together. They can go through a union. Who is keeping them a part. Is the police coming to there house and separating them? I do not get it. Is it about benefits? They each get benefits based on where they work. No-one is denying them benefits.

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

      The 'love' in question is a thin veneer veil of hate in reality/ against reality. If you do not 'love' my delusions then I will curse and scorn you for rejecting my religion. That is the truth of their so called 'love'.

      It is a unique form of placid emotion and is a deceptive move to gain attention and union/friendship. But it is a hate that will be swift if they see and notice a 'rejection'.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Snow

      consider what "constitutionally banning" something means.. and what it entails.. and then read your own comment and see what is the problem.. it should be obvious..

      if you still can't find it, I can still point it out!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  12. Colin

    10 Commandments that every child should be taught.

    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.

    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic, miracles and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.

    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.

    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars want to prohibit you from looking under the hood.

    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and ghouls and believing in any of them does not make one moral.

    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should you believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.

    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?

    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of God,” “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.

    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?

    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.

    I sometimes think that, if we first taught our children these simple guidelines, any supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      So just to summarize. Use a bit of logic and common sense? Ok I'll accept that as a great place to begin.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Joe Brown

      @colin: Whoa, careful partner! What you're promoting is FREE THOUGHT! Didn't you know that's gone out of style, here in Mammon, USA?

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

      Let me guess, Colin, you don't have children?

      Why don't you shorten your "DOs" and "DONTs" to:

      "DON'T teach your children there is a God" (regardless of the evidence) and
      "DO teach your children that atheism, or agnosticism, is a much more logical worldview." (Ignoring the fact that such a worldview is NOT based on evidence, but rather moral desire to "live how I want").

      So please explain to us how your worldview is any different than a Christian parent's when it comes to passing on their beliefs unto their children?

      May 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  13. American Majority

    Thank you Mr. Mohler, for a well written article. Southern Baptists are still the largest denomination in America, and this is the majority viewpoint of that group of Americans. I believe God has blessed America for walking this way. All the vitriol in these posts, while tragic, is just normal hatred of Christians that has been around since the beginning and that Christ predicted for those that follow him.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Mark

      You're demanding control over the secular laws of the land, demanding that other people's religious freedoms and basic rights are denied for your religion, and calling a whole group of people lesser citizens... and you're actually trying to play the victim?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      Mark, Your point is accurate. Also no one mentioned hating christians. As usual they see hatred with anyone who doesn't see it there way. Remember that this faith of theirs requires the absolute suspension of reason. You cannot have a logical discussion when reason is absent from one side of the table. Hence, war after war after war.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      Gosh, American Majority, you sure have a persecution complex, for a "majority", that is

      May 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  14. Seraphim Hanisch

    There is one theological mistake here. The Bible is being used as the infallible source of information, which is consistent with Protestant methodology and approach to Christian theology. But if you research the history of the Bible itself, you will find that the book we now understand as the Bible is actually only about 500 years old since the last revision – the removal from canon of the so-called Deuterocanonical (Apocrypha) books. This was done as the Protestant Reformation was gathering steam. However, the more ancient compilation of Scripture – with these books included – dates back still to about the third century, AD, when the Church, in a couple or three councils, defined the canon of Christian Scripture, both saying what is included in it, and what is not. The Church gave us the Bible. Christ gave us the Church, which the Holy Spirit directs. This is still held to in Orthodox Christianity, but our brethren in the Roman and Protestant communions have, to a greater or lesser degree, abandoned this very important piece of historical knowledge. It is Christ - > the Church -– > the compilation of the canon of Scripture. The Scripture therefore springs from Christian teaching. It does not impose Christian teaching, it reveals it, because that is what the Bible's purpose is – it's about Jesus Christ, from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation. It is about nothing else.

    The problem is that we have forgotten how to read it – we have forgotten where it came from and why, and we have abandoned the notion of Christians as "reasonable" and now act like Christianity is insane. And like I said elsewhere, some of that is the fault of Christians who said and did things they shouldn't, and acted like they were right about it.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Drew

      This is a very interesting point

      May 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  15. Red

    What does Greek mythology have to say about ho mo se xuality?

    May 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Logan from Texas

      I don't know. Maybe if 1 billion people believed in Greek mythology we could ask them. Unfortunately, no such people can be found.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Red

      The more people who believe something, the more true it is.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Sunil

      I haven't really been poitsng any updates, but thankfully, I am still on track and nearly finding it somewhat easy. I've NEEDED to do this for some time and I'm so grateful that I am making the time for His word to be my primary reading.[] Reply:January 27th, 2010 at 8:16 pmThank you for letting me know that you're making time for this. I committed because I also wanted this to be a priority.[]

      September 9, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  16. Matt M.

    It is difficult to adhere to the teachings of Jesus. Turning the other cheek is hard. Loving thy neighbor as yourself is hard. Living modestly so you can better help the poor is hard. On the other hand, it is pretty easy for a straight person to not be gay – no effort, no sacrifice, no resisting temptation required.

    Christians are like everyone else in the sense that they don't want to give up their rights or be inconvenienced by the government. When Christian politicians want to rally their base, gays are an easy target. Anti-gay legislation is a good way for a politician to cram Christianity down everyone's throat without inconveniencing many Christians. Its not as Christians are going to want to sacrifice their own rights so we can have a "turn your other cheek" law, and they definitely don't want to be taxed more to help the poor.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  17. Carlin123

    Trust me, just skip the whole thing.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  18. George

    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.”

    Say what? How can you infer that this statement absolves "Christians" from following kosher tenets? All this means is that Peter was probably "high" on some psychadelic herb at the time and was meandering aimlessly through la-la land. Seriously, you can reconstruct the Bible to suit anyone's belief, so as a moral code, it is totally useless. However, it is the greatest historical text on the planet, and should be revered for its reach back into time and insight it provides on early civilizations of the Fertile Crescent. Get with it folks, we choose the moral path per the New Testament and great Wayshower, Jesus Christ, because it makes our species and the planet strong and vibrant.

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

    Who cares what some bigots wrote 2000 years ago? Yes, abolitionists used the Bible to condemn slavery, But slaveholders used the Bible to JUSTIFY slavery, funny how you leave that out. You can twist it any way you want, because it is nothing but the edited and translated ramblings of a few old men, who had their own bigotries and bias.

    Anyone who really does believe the words that Jesus supposedly stood for should follow the words of tolerance and leaving judgement to God instead of being so egotistical as to think that YOU know more than the creator, who by the way, created gay people... Ever think that the real test of your faith is being tolerant and forgiving even to people and things you don't understand?

    May 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • A

      I am a Christian. I admit; I don't know more about the God of the universe than you do. I will just say this
      1. God loves you
      2. God loves everyone
      3. God meant for EVERY word of the Bible to be used
      4.The words of the Bible are God speaking through people and there is no bias. It is truth
      Christians have come judgmental but that is only because some people feel that they have to force Christianity on everyone but that isn't the truth. You pray for the people that have fallen from God, and you love them. You talk with them and tell them that you care. That is what a Christian should do.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  20. Drew

    The essential Christian argument against gay se x seems to be basically that it is unnecessary, but then again humans do lot's of unnecessary things, like write books and paint paintings.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:23 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.