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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. Scott Rose

    MOHLER NEEDS TO TAKE HIS GAY-BASHING, KILL-THE-JEWS BIBLE, STICK IT DOWN HIS THROAT AND CHOKE ON IT AND THEN WASH IT DOWN WITH JESUS FREAK KOOL-AID.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  2. Sofia Axis Mundi

    For Christ's sake (literally)! Jesus came here to teach one thing... LOVE! That's it. Love one another and yourself. So few people in this world, Christians and Atheists alike, are actually practicing this most important law.

    So before you judge another, whether they are gay or straight, black or white, Christian or Muslim, please remember to love. This is the most important thing you can do, ever. For Love is All That Is ~*~

    May 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • GauisCaesar

      The Bible is completely opposing you, which is where you get your info on Jesus. Jesus claimed he came for sin, to pay for it. Love is what we should be doing (mercy and love) instead of condemning people on the laws, though he continuously talked of sin. For you to take that out but not the info on sin is very sad, since most of the teachings on Jesus have to do with sin.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • RN

      Amen!!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Tim Tripod

      I think you're getting the Beatles and Jesus mixed up... Jesus certainly did talk about love extensively, but he put love of God (and therefore obedience to Him and his laws) before love of others. Keep in mind that Jesus talked about hell more than any other person in the Bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  3. 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 6:43 pm |
    • Jim

      unless of course it's the bible and you are christian

      May 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • n8263

      Even then it is immoral.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  4. NarratedByJrMartinez

    We already practice moral relativism; African Americans are no longer used as a source of cheap labor for the fields.

    Our sense of morality is superior to the writers of the Holy Bible.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  5. Doobie Doobie Doo

    This article only applies if you try and read the Bible like its an installation manual. Context and a spiritual mindset is the key. If you don't have that....

    May 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  6. Jamie Fitton

    Regardless of what Christian's believe and what the Bible says, the bottom line is that we live in a country that has SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. When someone can come up with an argument against gay marriage that is not based in religion, I'm more than willing to hear their side.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Jim

      Sorry: logic is not allowed if it is contrary to the bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • B

      Well then, you better get ready to throw out our entire legal system because it's all based on the Bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Answer

      @B

      You're a walking failure. I have to ask who is your indoctrinator? They did a fabulous job on you.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Well then, you better get ready to throw out our entire legal system because it's all based on the Bible."

      LMAO!

      May 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  7. Jim

    Why does c – n – n delete certain posts that do not have traditional bad words in them, but, rather have words that may be controversial? Isn't that the whole point of these posts to give opinions? Just be sure and keep your opinion watered down, or politically correct, or, when you hit "post", it mysteriously disappears.

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

      Just use a euphemism

      May 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      It's a web filter, it's doubtful an actual human is reading the responses unless a ton of people are hitting the report button.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Jim

      yeah, I know it's a web filter. but someone had to decide the criteria for which words won't be allowed.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  8. Surthurfurd

    The Bible condemns a lot but here is why we focus on ho mo se x uality.... : 1) we are afraid of them 2) it is not one of the many sins we enjoy personally

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

      hahah good point.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Jeff--Tacoma

      It's no longer cool hate gays!

      You hypocritical bigots will soon go the way of George Wallace and Strom Thurmond and good riddance to the bunch of you.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  9. motorfirebox

    Funny how you don't see Christian groups waging multi-million-dollar ad campaigns against adultery and divorce.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      "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 6:39 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      Or violating the commandment not to engage in commerce or work on the Sabbath.

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

      Adultery and divorce suit their needs.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  10. kenny

    lets see... xtians started the inquisition and holy wars, the colonists that slaughtered indians and stole their land considered themselves xtian, the americans that owned slaves considered themselves xtian, the racists that lynched blacks considered themselves xtian... you get the point... and now we have the bigots that wanna restrict gay rights in the name of xtianity .... you xtians out there gonna let these bigoted A-s clowns make you all look like A-s clowns???

    May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Drew

      I think you should put it more diplomatically, but I think modern Christians should ask themselves what differentiates them from other Christian apologists for oppression

      May 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  11. Steven

    thank you LisaP for at least answering the question. At least LisaP will answer and say she is willing to take the punishment. Every one else just talks about unicorns and jello or other religions. Do you see how you avoid answering the question? We all must answer this very question first, and then live with the consequences of the decision.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  12. my way or...

    can somebody please come up with a morality code that al people can follow?

    i mean, as a christian, i know that we attempt to use the bible as a guideline to help us "toe the line" so to speak, in how we relate to other people. I know that it hasn't been perfect, but at least there is is a defined starting point, i.e. the ten commandments.

    what seems to be the big issue is that we have two very different groups here fighting for something they dearly believe in. it basically comes down to an issue of morality legislation (or lack of morality, whichever the case may be). If we just had a moral code that everyone could abide by, this crap would subside, i think.

    christians see the problem in this way: if we allow something like hom.o$.ex.uality to become accepted as normal, then what is next? Will the NAMBLA pedoph.iles start creeping out of thier closets demanding that everyone accept them as normal? How soon till someone decides that $ex with animals should be considered OK? No, it is better to not allow it at all, and stop this now before it becomes even worse than it is today.

    lgbt's see it this way: this is the freaking land of freedom and I cant have the same rights as you? who the he.ll are you to tell me that I cant do the same thing you are? (and they have a point)

    So, who's morality code is right and who's is wrong? I agree with both positions, mostly, but the question still becomes: how do we as a people define what is OK to allow and what is not ok to allow? how do we determine what is good and what is bad as a society? It seems as though the only answer is some sort of anarchy. Anyone who will actually stand up and call for a standard of behavior is ridiculed until they have been destroyed, because there is always some group that doesnt agree with thier standards. Well, if there are no standards, that means that every behavior must be OK . If every behavior is OK, that means that anarchy is just around the corner.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Andrew

      How about this... "If there are demonstrable negative outcomes of actions or behaviour on other people, we should consider the action or behaviour immoral".

      So, for example, gay s-x between two consenting partners has no demonstrable negative consequences. It doesn't impact ANYONE else besides the two people. However if one person is aware they have an STD and doesn't use a condom or inform the other person, that is directly hurting the health of the other person, and hence immoral.

      Murder directly harms another person, same with theft. Child marriages directly harm children, and hell even driving drunk puts everyone else's lives in danger, these are immoral.

      Lets adopt a 'live and let live' morality. People must strive not to harm others, but if people are just doing something like having gay s-x, relax, and ignore it. If it doesn't impact you, or hurt anyone else, then there is NO reason to complain, and religious justification is insufficient.

      People like this Mohler use the bible as a reason to justify condemning h-mos-xuality, but he ignores the much more important question of "why should we adopt your biblical standards?" I say the morality of the bible is fairly arbitrary, at least a morality based on avoiding negative consequences has some basis to evaluate.

      If god commands you to murder someone, is it moral? I would say no, because my morality doesn't need a god, and any god who commands people to kill is not a moral creature to follow. I would say Abraham is a story of an unjust god commanding an immoral man. I do not believe faith should EVER be placed before family.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Andrew

      By the way, not always is it obvious what actions could have negative consequences, and there are times no behaviour is the most favoured, meaning that as far as I'm concerned, my standard would also allow more exploration of moral ambiguity. There is not always going to be a black and white way of viewing things. I feel biblical morality of 'sin' versus 'not sin' is overly simplistic. There is no middle ground, there's no 'half sin' for example.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Tracy

      Well said, Andrew. Well said.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  13. Jesus is Lord

    There are billions of Christians on earth and Christianity continues to grow. There are even many scientists who are Christian. Could this many people really be wrong.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Mark

      Yes. For years, billions upon billions of people thought the earth was flat. They were all wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • waterman

      There are far more non-Chiristians than Christians. Could this many people be wrong?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Logan from Texas

      Any billions deny Christ. They are wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Flavius Claudius Julianus Augustus

      Centuries ago, the masses believed the Earth was flat. So to answer your question, YES, that many people can be wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Greater than 90% of people used to think the Earth was flat.

      Logical fallacy: Appeal to majority. Google it.

      I hope you are just trolling and not actually as stupid as you are coming off right now.

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

      Yes, they could most definitely be wrong. You alread think that there are billions of muslims, hindus, buddhists and jews who are wrong. Could all those people be dilusional while you are correct? Isn't it possible that the placibo of religion has infected you too?

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

      Using that logic, at the rate islam is growing, in a few years islam will have to be the correct religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • sam stone

      yes. in the same way that adherents of any faith can be wrong

      May 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  14. Alan

    Since we don't have to pay attention to the rules in the Old Testament anymore – let's forget about the 10 Commandments!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  15. eh?

    Maybe there is a God. Maybe not. But, I'm pretty sure every religion that ever existed is rubbish. Perhaps people should leave their religious texts at home when we writing our laws?

    May 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Drew

      Whether there is a god or not, organized religion is almost always a huge farce

      May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  16. Lora

    Here's the problem...not everyone in this country is a "christian". Not everyone in this country believes in or follows the bible. This country was not founded on the bible, so our laws are not based on the bible.

    As a previous poster stated to.."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."

    This country is not a theocracy.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Snowdog

      Worng Lora, this country was founded on Christain values and the Bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Answer

      The winner for the "Most Indoctrinated Award" goes to SnowDog.. let's all congratulate this piece of human garbage on his award.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Michael

      @Snowdog, actually this country was founded by people who deliberately excluded religion from their most important work.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Michael

      The colonies were (mostly) formed with different state religions. They even fought with each other over religion during the English Civil War. When they created a new country from the colonies they not agree on which religion was 'right' and sensibly ignored the whole problem.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  17. Tim Tripod

    Dr. Mohler, thank you for a clear and concise response to the many narrow criticisms of a holistic approach to the Bible. Despite CNN's obvious bias on this issue (I mean seriously, calling the link "On Bible, Read This, Skip That"?!?), they do deserve some credit for publishing this article.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Believer

      Thanks, Tim. It was indeed very nice to see a knowledgeable column, and a well-spoken comment, even! Cling to Christ, and walk in His word.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  18. Texas4Truth

    If people were to reflect on the question, "Has God's (Biblical) moral code ever failed anybody who followed it perfectly?..., why would anyone not want to follow it? Not even Christ was failed by perfectly following the code, for by his own admission he came to die on the cross for everyone's sin. Unfortunately mankind continues to pick the way of the imperfect and then wonders why life becomes such a mess. Is anybody not guilty? How ridiculous to think that a piece of legislation that attempts to alter a perfect moral code will result in anything but chaos and conflict. Just look at this web site!

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

      Texas is an embarrassment to the U.S. Why don't y'all secede already?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Alan

      If you think it is a perfect moral code – you have definitely skipped over a whole Texas sized part of the bible.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Michael

      Has the Quran ever failed anyone who followed it perfectly?
      Has Taoism, Buddhism or Hinduism failed anyone who followed it perfectly?

      One can live a 'good' life according to the 'golden rule' without faith in the supernatural.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  19. SKC

    I find it funny that Christian always point to the words of Peter and Paul to reinforce their desire to cling to this specific OLD Testiment Law. Strangely, Jesus, is oddly silent on the matter. Before I gave up on the Church and it's arrogant, ignorant, fantastical hypocricy, I took the point of view that anything that didn't come out of Jesus' mouth didn't count (IE everything past the first four books of the NT . . .and especially that deranged acid trip known as Revelations.) Luckly, Jesus didn't often deal in absolutes and when he did it was mostly common sense because his supposed words are suspect considering they were transcribed, WAY after the fact, by his followers and distorted by 2000 years of translation and interpritation. In sort, while the Bible may be a nice book of mostly good advice and life lessons, it has no place in our legislations and shouldn't be used as a justification laws.

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

      SKC – I gave up on church too, but I will never give up on Jesus Christ. He did not give up on you.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  20. One one

    Atheism existed long before Christianity and will still be around long after Christianity has been relegated to the scrap heap of abandoned religions.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
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