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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. Chisled Buttock Muscles

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I believe John Travolta not only to be the finest actor that has ever existed amongst the Hollywood elite, but he is also the most attractive. It is a shame that he has come under so many personal attacks as of late. So what if he's pounding other men in the rear until they squirt blood and stool? Are we as free Americans not allowed to take part in this wonderful activity? I for one raise my head proud in defiance of the vatican authority and will prosecute as many men with my staff of virtuous endeavor with the hammer of Thor and the KY of Poseidon.

    May 22, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • ophu

      troll alert

      May 22, 2012 at 6:11 am |
    • REALLY? A TROLL?

      NO SHIT?!?!?!?!?!

      May 22, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  2. David

    Anyone who thinks that everyone who believes in the bible is ignorant, are not speaking from intelect but from emotion, That is not really a realistic or rational idea. You say Christians and the bible are full of hate? Yet you go on about how vile they are. Sounds like hate to me. So tell me why is the worlds hated of Christian justified yet you say we are the haters. I've seen this kind of thinking before. If only you could see the irony in this.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • Nick Swardson

      I hate haters.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:01 am |
    • jungleboo

      It is not ironic at all. You have gone on an attack to create and legalize an abridgment of my freedom. Do you think I don't have more beautiful things to do with my time than try to stop you? Of course we disrespect you. You re so brainwashed that your mind does not respond to logical discourse anymore. Which you see as a virtue. But it is not a virtue. Our rationality is THE capacity that sets humans above animals. It has taken us to the moon and back, and given us a view of the Earth that is heartbreakingly beautiful. And our ideas have expanded to protect the Earth and all of its people. And to look forward to a good future. You and your religion are an old cancer that needs to be cured. e can do it. Yes we can.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • jungleboo

      whoops, "we".

      May 22, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • ophu

      Good point, but still. Still. The last Bible I saw that was really worth anything was on Antiques Roadshow. That doesn't mean I'm hating on your Bible. I just wouldn't pay money for most of them. Anything worth reading in it is universal and can be found in just about any other religious text in some form or another. And it can all be found on the Internet now.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:06 am |
  3. Nii

    JVAUGHNE
    De 1Tim verse doesnt ban jewellery or fancy close. It says that women's beauty shudnt just b fancy clothes,jewellery or hairstyles but must at all cost include a beautiful character as well. King James is too hard for u so change 2 New Living Translation. There were lots of female ministers

    May 22, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • Nii

      I wonder why people feel it is xtians opposing gay marriage. Why if that is so then murder shud be legalised too. Gays have been given their rights I wonder why they want more.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Nii

      Also the 3 branches of the law were ranked. spiritual law supersedes moral and ritual laws and moral supersedes ritual. Moral law condemns gay s.ex but not lesbianism or masturbation or even having gay thoughts as sin. The spiritual laws of love inspire mercy over the justice of moral law. Ask us!

      May 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  4. SOAPY32

    homosexuality is of concern to all woman man and children because HOMOSEXUALS HATE YOU!!! they seek nothing but to make person victim weak and sickly by contamination from HIV PLUS TERETIARY PNEUMONIA WORST LINGERING DEATH easy prey to stalk and violate to spread poision darkness in their hearts!!! THIS IS WHY THEY LIVE IN WRETCHED SHIVERING FEAR OF WRATH OF GOD HOLY SPIRIT!!!

    May 22, 2012 at 5:42 am |
    • jungleboo

      coo coo xtian

      May 22, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • ophu

      Cease your hysteria. The majority of us are HIV-negative and the majority of the rest of us wouldn't wish the disease on their worst enemy, even though you seem determined to be an enemy. I hope someday you get over your own illness.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • Al

      You would make a fine klansman.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @SOAPY32: Put down the 2000 year old book and attempt to read a book with updated info (maybe a science book). You spew a lot of crap about something you know nothing about. Every ho.mo.se.xual I know has more love and friendship to offer than you could ever wish to have. They are not bigots; they are not judging you; they simply wish to be treated equally. You have a lot of growing up to do...only children have imaginary friends!

      May 22, 2012 at 6:08 am |
  5. Baptist

    Why do we focus on hom ose xualiity? Because we are ignorant, hateful, prejudice s.o.b.'s. Any questions?

    May 22, 2012 at 5:36 am |
  6. Anne

    I'd say this 22-year-old kid pretty much puts R. Albert Mohler Jr. and his argument to shame.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezQjNJUSraY

    May 22, 2012 at 5:36 am |
  7. ophu

    Apparently stoning witches and disobedient wives and children is still OK...

    May 22, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • tolerantchristian

      The author of the article happily omits so many more passages in the bible in the new testament that are just as violated by most Christians today. I must say, he is a well-spoken, intelligent and literate bigot... that's rare.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:42 am |
  8. SOAPY32

    yes because god holy spirit willing they will be dead as exticnt as the dodo for their wickedness

    May 22, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • ophu

      Are you reading what you post with an objective eye on your own behaviour, or are you simply venting your rage?

      May 22, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  9. Ho.mo se.xuality is immoral and bad for the children

    Why is that H O M O S E X U A L I T Y censored in CNN?

    At first, I thought it was about the word se.x but I found that for h.omo also.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:21 am |
    • way to go einstein

      No, homoseuality is not censored by CNN you fucking dope. They actively encourage it!

      May 22, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • YOU LOSE

      LOL EINSTEIN COULD SPELL YOU DUMB FAGGOT LOL

      May 22, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • Hangaroo

      You really know how to spell, IDIOT! ARRGHH!

      May 22, 2012 at 5:51 am |
  10. Paul S

    "An honest consideration of the Bible reveals that...":
    a) it is a bunch of arcane rubbish cobbled together from arcane rubbish that proceeded it
    b) it is a hateful, unethical, servile, bunch of gibberish not worth printing
    c) it condones genocide and slavery
    d) All of the above!
    And the correct answer is (d). Don't push your religious crap into our government policy.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • Paul S

      "proceeded" –> "preceded"

      May 22, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  11. HITLER WAS A CHRISTIAN

    CASE CLOSED.

    May 22, 2012 at 5:15 am |
  12. Spangler

    If the Bible was 100 times its 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 come about through the courts based on equal protection.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • Bob

      Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! Johnny tell them what they won.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:33 am |
  13. triguychicago

    I frankly find it a bit irresponsible of CNN to print this hatred. It's not just an opinion-it's providing far too many potential gay bashers with AMMO! You're assuming that your version of theology is and should be universal. What arrogance and cowardice! History will not look kindly on your repeated attempts to dehumanize good people. CNN–in your effort to be even-handed, you've printed the equivalent of printing a Nazi apologist's treatise on why it really is OK to kill Jews. Yes, I think it IS a good analogy.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • Conqui

      Particularly the author's use of only the first part of Matt 19 about marriage between and man and a woman and neglected the greater part of the text on the topic that follows, about eunuchs to whom it does not apply. One type of eunuch Jesus mentions are "eunuchs from birth". These are described in rabbinical writings before and after Jesus, in Roman law and commentary, and in early Christian writings to describe physical intact men with no physical interest in women, but mainly with males, and other descriptors which we today would label as clearly gXy. Jesus said his message about men and women and marriage & divorce doesn't apply to gXy people, exactly the opposite of what this horrid unChristian author says. This is intolerably intellectually dishonest, as well as unChristian.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:03 am |
    • Ken

      What is really amazing is how all you perversion loving people are the ones that truly are hate filled when some other opinion other that your perversion loving is brought forth. What hypocrites you truly are. Look to nature for your answer and you'll see that crows and buzzards tend to mate kind with kind and rabbits and rats work the same way. Equal protection you say? How about protecting our children from your perverted lifestyle? Dogs don't accept your lifestyle and children need to know that. That's not hate, it's common sense. But even with me knowing all of that if I saw you on the side of the road broke down I would stop and help you. What we feel is not hate, it's sadness and frustration that a society has gone so far in the wrong direction on what is right and what is wrong.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Karlen

      I'm glad they printed it. It highlights the stupidity of god belief, which more and more people agree is a bad way to conduct one's life. I'll never understand why christianity isn't at the top of the list of Hate Groups in the United States.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • jungleboo

      Ken, we would be happily pursuing our lives and not at this town meeting if you Xtian martians had not been inching forward to steal and destroy the American concept freedom from religious persecution, and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. You all should have stayed in your tent and concentrated on saving each other, instead of "going out in to the world and trying to change it." Change yourself. I am doing fine, and all those whom I have taught in my long career have appreciated my good work.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • zeckad

      Why is it considered hate? The writer only pointed out what the Bible says. So it's considered hate? The boxer who quoted the Bible was banned from a CA mall and called a bigot and so forth. ANYONE these days that quotes the Bible with regards to this perverted chosen lifestyle is labeled as haters and bigots. Just because they won't embrace a practice that God condemns they are called names. Wow! In truth, it is God that these ones hate because He is the author of the Bible, the rejection is toward Him but played off as rejection to those who merely quote it.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  14. Locksmith

    "In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer"

    Are you serious??? So this skay daddy's law about shell fish and what not, applies to ONLY certain people... because THAT makes more sense than simply answering the questions without using vauge scripture... what moronic reasoning.
    No wonder religion (christianity in specific) is dying out... What "god" makes these completely pathetic rules for some, and not all? A pethetic god, made by man. That's who.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:46 am |
  15. miscreantsall

    Mr. Mohler,

    You are manipulative and your "discussion" is specious, BUT, that is your job……….isn't it?

    Your type is always leading people to judge. Your passive aggressive style is very transparent.

    All that you offer from a micro thinking brain like yours is no surprise.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'miscreantsall' contains instances of the ad hominem fallacy and the the circ-umstantial ad hominem fallacy.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:41 am |
  16. Smart

    It's hilarious to me that this man creates an argument based on the premise that the "silly book full of fairy tales" is consistent. Great job. Now please let go of your delusions.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  17. Joe

    What a poor reason to hang all of the Christian fundamentalist "cherry-picking" of the Bible's on, by pulling your justification right out of thin air. You have this rather arcane justification, which boils down to you stating, "This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” There is nothing clear in clear in this case, nor is it clear what is "clean" or what is "common". That's a poor try to justify your non-Christlike actions. You are busted! You do not even pass the "what would Christ do" test. May God bless you and prepare your for your reaping of what you sow.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:19 am |
    • Drew

      Joe, you're right in arguing that the verse cited in the passage does little to support his argument. There are, however, plenty of verses in the New Testament that discuss the "holiness code" or the law of the Old Testament. Most specific would be Galatians 3:24-25, which states, "So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian."

      May 22, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Drew – Instead of quoting Peter, Paul or Mary – and what they have to say regarding obeying the OT, why not quote what your Jesus said about it?

      Matthew 5:18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

      I guess the relevant part is- is the earth still here? If it is, then Jesus tellls you that the OT laws and rules are in effect. Looks like you fundiots better get busy killing all the gays like your god demands.

      May 22, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  18. Spangler

    If civil rights are only for those who, within marriage only, use the missionary position only and only when attempting to create a baby, then few Americans will have any rights.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:10 am |
    • Skip the Bible

      Agreed. I enjoy a plethora of many other positions.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:17 am |
    • GrayS

      You have no clue what you are talking. Are you for or against ?

      May 22, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  19. jvaughnereal

    It's not just old testament teachings the church is ignoring, first timothy tells women not to wear jewelry or fancy clothes. The new testament also tells women not to speak up in church, but it's doubtful anyone would silence a women. The truth is that moralities shift as society evolves, and those values are reflected in the way the church conducts itself. Denying rights to someone because of their orientation will one day be a practice lost with time.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • Skip the Bible

      Religion is nothing more than a narcissistic power struggle.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:16 am |
  20. Dr. Flavor

    You can try and suggest the Bible is outdated and is only for nut cases. I will counter by saying that the political system (mainly supported by those that condemn the Bible) is even more nutty, and offers ZERO hope for the future.

    May 22, 2012 at 3:59 am |
    • Skip the Bible

      How many atheists hold political positions?

      Get back to us on that and we'll discuss whether or not your original post here merits any more conversation.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:03 am |
    • Dr. Flavor

      Sorry skip, but not only does your demeaning way or looking to argue a point not only fall short, but it also makes no sense.

      Instead of being haughty and dismissive, try making a valid rebuttal.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • Skip the Bible

      I made a perfectly valid point. HOW MANY ATHEISTS HOLD POLITICAL POSITIONS?

      Answer the question. Then we shall see if you have anything useful to add after proving you shot yourself in the foot with a stupid claim.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Dr. Flavor

      You are only bolstering my point, yet you seem to ignorant to know it. Atheists (though I think you MIGHT be looking for the word 'agnostic'...though you would still be missing the mark) probably number into the millions that hold political positions.

      True followers of the Bible should have no interest in politics, or what it foolishly might hope to provide. Jesus would not be made king by Satan or the people, he had no interest in this world ('Pay back Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God'), and he pointed towards the Kingdom Come to be the only true salvation.

      Those that would hope in their political leaders to solve their ills are many times over more foolhearty than the religiously-minded person they often scorn.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      Our government is riddled with different forms of corruption. I don't see anyone but religious people supporting corruption.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      I should add greedy people to the list of those supporting corruption.
      When people can vote themselves money using corruption, it is anything goes. And yes there's going to be some atheists in the mix.

      May 22, 2012 at 4:31 am |
    • Skip the Bible

      Dr. Flavor. You've yet to answer the question. I did not ask for information about agnostics. Do not put words in my mouth or tell me what I meant. Answer the question and stop skirting the issue.

      May 22, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • North Guy

      All human beings deserve rights......we are talking about the definition of marriage......and it needs to stay between a man and a woman. I don't need to swear and insult everyone to make this point. There are sooooo many reasons – to keep it this way

      May 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Anna

      Lets all take a vote – Skip the Bible leaves this discussion – all in favor blink.....its unanimous

      May 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Bet

      Anna, you can't tell someone to leave the discussion just because you don't like his question and can't answer it without invalidating your own arguments.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
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