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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. Honey Badger Dont Care

    I love this line:

    ” 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.“

    Your god condemns things that bring people harm? You mean like your own religion?

    And commands those things that lead to true human happiness? Like two people who love each other to be able to live together the way that all other people are allowed to.

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Mohler.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Backwards idiots like Mohler refuse to accept that gay people are born gay. He's like the scam artists who used to go door to door or in the public square selling their "cure-alls", while in reality all they were selling were concoctions of worthless colored water.

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

      Didn't your parents ever give you rules or expect you to do things that were hard or didn't make sense to you when you were young, but you can now understand that there was a reason behind those rules? That either they helped you learn something or kept you safe in the long run?

      Have you ever considered that God, who has the knowledge, wisdom, and power to create all things, might have a little more insight and knowledge than you? That even if you can't understand why He says not to do something, He might know a very good reason?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      It may also be interesting to note that God does not condemn earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons, or tornados. Or animals that can eat men.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  2. DeeCee1000

    What does this idiot's opinion have to do with my civil marriage? Answer: nothing.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • James

      What does your opinion have to do with God's laws? You just choose to disobey them.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      @James – I think the problem is determining what Gods laws are. They are quite different if you ask a Calvinist, a Mormon, a Jew, an Evangelical, etc. Even among protestant branches, there are fairly large disagreements over the meaning of the text. Wouldn't a perfect God realize that his creation would need something more plain and simple that could not be distorted or confused?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • DeTamble

      *** James

      What does your opinion have to do with God's laws? You just choose to disobey them.
      ------------------------------------

      Mans laws work well for me.
      We need laws, we dont need your book to force your version of morality on us.
      That is what you are doing.

      May 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  3. Drew

    Man, Xtians are going to have some back pedaling to do when it is finally proved that being gay isn't a choice

    May 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      That's already been proven, just like the Earth isnt flat, that the Earth goes around the sun, and the fact of evolution.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Nurse143

      time to look up the difference between fact and theory – the THEORY of evolution is still not proven or it would be a law

      May 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Isaiah 40:22: "It is he that sitteth upon the CIRCLE OF THE EARTH."  How did Isaiah know in 700 B.C. the earth is round? The non-believers of Isaiah's day thought the earth was flat. They didn't discover the earth is round until the early 1500s when Magellan sailed around the world. How did Isaiah know something over 2000 years ahead of non-believers?

      Amen.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Well it took the Catholic Church several hundred years to apologize for the imprisonment of Galileo. . .soooooooo. . .

      May 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Drew

      the Ancient Greeks knew that the world was round, and early Jews probably got it from them. If we are going to technical, the earth is not a "circle" either, it's a sphere

      May 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      HeavenSent: You need to continue reading. When "round" was written, they didn't actually mean a sphere. . . and even if they did, some of the Greeks already knew about atoms and that the earth was really a sphere long before the Judeo-Christian idiots wrote down anything.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Nurse, technically the idea of the earth going around the sun is just a theory too. Maybe you should look up the definition of theory within the scientific method. A theory is usually very well established and it is almost impossible for anything to pass the test to make it a scientific law.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Nurse143

      Jacques – exactly my point, thank you – if the burden of proof of scientific method keeps theories from becoming law, it means they are believed /taken on on faith – much the same critique people would have for the basis of other's faith in God – it can't be proven to MY satisfaction. God has been proven faithful to many believers just as for others, without reservation. Next we all have to consider the consequences of being wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Nurse143

      should have said, "just as for others, [scientific theories are believed] without reservation"

      May 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • NotBuyingIt

      @ Nurse

      It sounds like you misunderstand what a scientific theory is and unfortunately Jacques' explanation fell a bit short.

      Burden of proof has nothing to do with the difference between theories and laws. They have similarities but they are still quite different. A theory doesn't become law with more proof, it will always remain a theory because that is the nature of it. Additionally, theories don't lack proof. They are backed up by observable and testable evidence, by pre-existing theories, and even by laws. Scientific theories explain how world works and it is VERY unlikely that a theory will be "debunked" without some massive new discovery or a change in the laws that govern our universe.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      HeavenSent,

      First a circle is not a sphere.

      Second how many more passages in the bible are completely wrong in its decription of our world? So why did the 'inspired word of the all knowing God' get so much wrong?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Nurse143

      When a theory is scientifically proven, it becomes a law. This is what my science teachers taught me – Boyle's theory, became a law when it was scientifically proven.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • NotBuyingIt

      @Nurse

      If that is what your teacher taught you then it sounds more like your teacher needs to go back to school. The fact is that scientific laws and theories are two different things. One doesn't become another. Theories can be as strongly supported as laws, and laws are still falsifiable in the light of new evidence. Science explains how our universe works given the rules that govern it. If you want "proof", then check out mathematics.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  4. Spangler

    If the Bible was 100 times it's present size and every verse on every new page said 'one man marry one woman.' its use in court would still be zero. Gay marriage will win in the courts on equal protection.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Spangler, man isn't going to stand next to you when you meet Jesus. Try making excuses to Him why you didn't love and follow His truth about life and the hereafter. After all, He specifically told us not to pay attention to the ways of the world which includes lust of the flesh.

      Amen.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  5. DPGW

    Just start slapping warning stickers on all bibles and make all the bible beaters happy:

    "Warning: Subject To Interpretation"

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

      Will wonders never cease? Finally, a new baloney you can spout. It still doesn't hold water. LOL.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      HS, your post, as usual, is meaningless. The Bible is interpreted in many different ways. If you can prove yours is the one correct one, by all means, do so.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  6. martin

    Creationism Genesis Bible Demolished: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/gen/1.html
    People who believe in Creationism also believe in talking snakes and donkeys.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  7. isthereadog

    I like turtles

    May 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  8. duper

    I assume that R Mohler also thinks slavery is A-okay, since that is also in the New Testament.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • momoya

      No, he leaves that one at the buffet bar and tries to tell others not to select it either.

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

      I noticed he's not taking on the NRA, despite the fact that Jesus instructed for people to "bang their weapons into plowshares." I doubt that would go over very well with his base, so let's not mention it.

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

      Jesus character supported killing gays and condoned slavery: Matthew 10:34-36 Paul supported slavery, Collosians 3:22 slaves obey your masters. 80% of so called bible is just plain discusting. Blood sacrifice? Nutzo

      May 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • James

      There are a lot of things in the New Testament, slavery being one of them. It was part of society as a whole at that time. Jesus didn't condone it. He didn't condone killing gays. He came into this world to do one thing, to give His life as a means of salvation for all people. People came to him who knew they were sinful. He didn't turn them away. His usual command was, "Go and sin no more." People can be set free from anything by His power.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  9. Reason77

    As the Editor Notes: 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.

    As such, Mr. Mohler has much to gain personally (substantial power, high financial income) by arguing in favor of the “conventional” interpretation of the bible.

    Just like a highly paid tobacco executive arguing that smoking is not dangerous.

    Given this huge conflict of interest his arguments have no credibility whatsoever.

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

      This assertion is absurd. Who better to talk about Baptist theology than the head of a Baptist seminary? Is it in his interest to promote his position and his seminary? Sure. His words themselves illustrate the poor theolgical foundation of evangelical Christianity, being: "the Bible is the literal word of God, except, some of it is wrong".

      May 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  10. Brother Maynard

    Possibly the worst apologtic article I have ever read. It took me longer to find all the "no no" words in my rebutal than it took to discount his points

    May 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  11. Joe

    So the general take from the author. We focus on them because we want to hate them and all your other logical points don't count or are not really in the Bible because I choose not to read those sections. If you want to make the arguement that some parts don't mater because its a changing world than you have to allow for all parts of the Bible to be changed for the modern world. Get over it people they don't want you to become one of them they just want equal rights much like women wanted equal rights.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  12. No Truth, Just Claims

    He sure glosses over the sins that christians like to ignore. CHristians have no interest in making adultery a public policy issue. Though adultery is not condoned it is not villified to the extent being gay is. If churches do not want to have gay marriages they don't have to, nor are they required to recognize them.

    I also find it interesting that though he touches on the failings of the church in the past he does not offer solutions for those failings nor why they failed in the first place, his only point is those failings should not be used to justify failing in this case...pathetic.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Bryan

      Preach it!

      May 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  13. tdiddy

    I thought the first rule is to not judge others...what if the "social issue" of gays is really a test for so-called Christians? What if the test is really for people who claim to be good but want to condemn others? If we are all from God, who makes no mistakes, then why did God make "sinners" from birth?

    What if a life that Pro Lifers saved turned out to be a gay one...would you still fight to save that life?

    May 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  14. clinky

    Mohler's article doesn't pass the smell test. Adulterers are no less castigated in the New Testament than gays are, and in fact they are probably condemned a whole lot more. But spouse-cheaters fill the pews of every church and no one is seriously picking on them. Gays are bullied by religious zealots because they form a minority group.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Mary

      The Religious Conservatives are bashing on SSM primarily because it has no effect on them.

      They choose not to mention the verses that talk about women being subservient, slavery being legal.

      If they had their way women wouldn't be allowed to vote and we'd still have slavery in the U.S.

      Apparently the Conservatives have no problem with Adultery and Divorce.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  15. Melvin

    The Scriptures at no point deal with homosexuality as an authentic sexual orientation, a given condition of being. The remarkably few Scriptural references to "homosexuality" deal rather with homosexual acts, not with homosexual orientation. Those acts are labeled as wrong out of the context of the times in which the writers wrote and perceived those acts to be either nonmasculine, idolatrous, exploitative, or pagan. The kind of relationships between two consenting adults of the same sex demonstrably abounding among us - relationships that are responsible and mutual, affirming and fulfilling - are not dealt with in the Scriptures.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  16. Ally

    While I'm a person who hasn't decided what to label myself with regards to religion; I try to live by the general rule of "Do unto others...."

    I just want to give kudos to CNN for FINALLY posting an article from the conservative side of the discussion. I don't agree with all of what the author said, but I wish I'd see all major news outlets dropping the spin and just posting un-bias news and discussions more often.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  17. Brother Maynard

    "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."
    – Ah yes the ever popular OLD testeament / NEW testament arguement. Either your "HOLY" bible is the infalible word of god as a whole ... or it is not. You cannot dismiss some parts of it.

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

      Umm...you should note the author's response to this claim, this is not just his personal opinion, it is rooted in what he is reading that it does not apply to Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. There are different covenants between God and his people, yes one book, but different covenants, this has been consistent over time and has not been applied only where convenient. I don't think your argument stands on solid ground there.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Bill P

      Brother – (Either your "HOLY" bible is the infalible word of god as a whole ... or it is not. You cannot dismiss some parts of it.)

      Your understanding of God’s Word is considerably off-base. If that matters to you, I recommend an honest approach to its study. All of those rituals – like rules on foods, sacrifice of animals, and burning of incense only by the tribe of Levi – are all part of the "law" which Jesus fulfilled by His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection. Plain and simple – they no longer apply or are required. Sorry if that bursts the bubble of all of the naysayers that like to point to the "abomination of shellfish", but that is the way it is. The Bible is both simple and complex – just like many things, like chemistry and physics. In physics, for example, we understand that “what goes up must come down” – a very practical principle that a child can apply to his as well as other’s safety, like in throwing rocks into the air. Why the rock must come down, after being thrown into the air, is a more complex physics question.

      The simple part of the Bible is the message that folks are sinners – for many different reasons – and universally it is true that they fall short of God's Holy nature. God wants to have “fellowship” with His creation and enjoy that fellowship throughout eternity, but we (God and we) have a problem – the “sin” problem. God fixed that by providing Jesus as the ONLY acceptable sacrifice that is capable of providing the forgiveness of our sins. The more complex part of God’s Word (66 books, more than 40 authors, 1500 years in writing, 1200 chapters, and 31K verses), should one actually study it, would lead a person to understand the relationship between the meaning of animal (blood) sacrifice and Jesus’ fulfillment of it, as an example. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were basically “IOUs”, looking forward to Jesus shedding of blood. Non-believers are only capable of handling the simple message of the Bible – which is what they first need to address – to seek salvation through Jesus Christ. The author of this article provides a breath of fresh air after all of the manipulative verse-twisting that has so far been provided on this subject.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • DeTamble

      Man is born with sin.
      Jesus died for our sins.
      Think the church can make up its mind ?

      May 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  18. Dan

    Did the editor's even read this article or skim through it? The tagline below the picture reads: "The author writes that it's fine for Christians to take certain biblical condemnations seriously while ignoring others." However, this is not what the author is saying at all! I don't think this is a truly unbiased editorial comment right here and it certainly misleads people.

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

      What, something having to do with religion being misleading!?

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

      You may not like the observation, but it is however what the article says.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Christian God a FAILURE

      He might be saying it – but that's not what he's actually doing.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  19. 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 )

    "In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer."
    – Wrong ... because YOU cannot answer the question doesn't mean that the persons ASKING the question don't want an answer

    May 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      But what does the Book of Armaments say?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  20. LookAndSEE

    What these stories r doing is polarizing society into choosing the mark of the Beast when it comes into perspective.
    Waite and see!

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

      LMFAO!

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

      someone's off their meds...

      May 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      Usual trade-off: You pray for me, I'll think for you.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
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