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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. Prognosis

    Of course, the real question isn't whether its a sin or not. The real question is why the heck should the rest of us care if the Christians think it is a sin. We're talking about legal issues, not theological ones. The problem is that the fundamentalist Christians think they have a right to force their religion into the laws everyone in the nation has to follow. That is the reason that everyone else in the nation is starting to hate fundamentalist and evangelical Christians more and more all the time.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • NeedNewGov

      soooo true and soooo sad.

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

      The holiness movement is scary. Probably because so many people now adays don't actually go to church or read the Bible or have a personal relationship with God. I mean, how can people talk trash about something they know nothing about. Go against the Bible and/or against the Bible and you open the door for serious problems.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • twelb

      Meant to say going against the Bible and/or God is bad.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  2. NeedNewGov

    Religions are killing Gods message. I'm a spiritual person and have a big problem with Religiousity. We all should seek and live the truth not what these so-called religions are cramming down our throats.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • twelb

      So then what is your authority? To Christians it is the Bible, if you don't have an authority then what dictates wrong and right? Good and evil? You leave it up to how you feel? Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with God

      May 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  3. ricardo1968

    “dishonorable passions,” “contrary to nature” and “shameless.” All completely subjective terms, and thus utterly useless as a basis for moral guidance.

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

      Yes they are useless. Xtians refuse to judge gay relationships by the amount of happiness they generate, and instead look for reason why they shouldn't be able to generate happiness at all

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

      referring to nature's way of reproduction as being between the male and female of the species is a fact not a subjective opinion

      May 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Drew

      No, but it is subjective to suggest that reproduction is the be all and end all of human life

      May 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  4. Honey Badger Dont Care

    @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”

    I sure hope that you’re not really a nurse. At least not anywhere that my family or I might go to. You are showing your complete and utter lack of knowledge about science in general and evolution specifically. You are the one that needs to pick up a book and start learning about biology.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      gravity is also a theory but i dont here anyone screaming that that is false cause its a theory

      May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • twelb

      na dude macro-evolution is wrong.. it was proven wrong by darwin himself.. well, or at least what he said right before he died.. look up the cambrian explosion

      May 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  5. Voice of Reason

    Religion is a Mental Illness.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      its more like mass hysteria

      May 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • agree.

      delusion.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • agree.

      unfortunate and ironic, but there's power in religions for a lot of oppressed people. i think the true delusion in patriarchy. it comes before religions.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  6. Bryan

    Jesus never spoke against equal rights for gays, so why do people that call themselves "Christians" behave otherwise?

    May 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • agree.

      i agree. it probably didn't fit their concept of making a baby so they couldn't figure it out from there. christianity is all about forgiving people for their se x uality. he never talks about pedophiles. that would certainly be worse. they never talked about it. suffer the little children who come to me. that part maybe. otherwise, nothing. personally, i think jesus might have been gay himself.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • twelb

      Because the Bible, which we as Christians know was inspired by God, states that it is a sin and those that practice it will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  7. IronRider

    Excellent article.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  8. Honey Badger Dont Care

    @ Heaven Scent

    "How did Isaiah know in 700 B.C. the earth is round? The non-believers of Isaiah's day thought the earth was flat."

    The Earth is NOT a circle. A circle is a two dimensional object, FLAT! Just one more place where your big book of multiple choice got it wrong.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      did some one actually say that to you? thats the dumbest thing i have ever heard. a lot of non-believers knew the earth was spherical using algebra be fore Isiah was ever born

      May 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Drew

      hahaha it's funny how so many Xtians have such horrible reading comprehension

      May 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  9. PD

    Mohler uses the same focus-on-one-verse approach that he claims to despise. In the passage in Acts, verse 15 has nothing to do with the food laws that apply to Israel; instead it is a parable to help Peter understand that the message of Paul was to be given to Jews as well as Gentiles. Instead, Mohler explains that

    "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."

    Astounding that someone who professes to be learned in such things would miss the mark so widely.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  10. Michael

    Great article!!!! Finally, someone with some common sense. Very well put, we are all sinners and h-o-m-o-s-e-x-u-a-l sin is not different than any other s-e-x-u-a-l sin, but as Christians we have to stand up for truth. Truth is truth, it is not relative. Meaning absolute truth doesn't change based on preception or what the soceity as a whole thinks or any other factor. The fact is no matter what the sin is, God loves you and wants you to come to Him as you are. When you come to Him, you will want to change your sin nature, just out of how awesome He is! I'll put it to you this way, I am guy and I would never dream of playing tea with barbie's, but when my daughter comes and wants me to play with her, I do, because I love her! Same with God, you may not be able to imagine your life any different than the way it is now, or even if you struggle with sin, you may not be able to see how you would even be able to quit, but if you go to God, out of love for Him, you will find yourself willingly laying it down with His help.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      as a christian you have to stand up to truth.... hahahahaha sure like creationism? belief and faith is not truth neither is a book written by man and edited by man( which your god gave free will to mess with)

      May 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • shawn

      amen

      May 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • shawn

      standing up for creationism makes a whole lot more sense to stand up to then a theory that puts people millions and billions of years before there time in which no one could ever possibly know because the odds are against them. Creationism is within our time and acknowledged through historic texts and evidence from the texts such as the flood. evolution is a dead theory that they need to stop brainwashing the children into believing because its that theory that satan works through to make people go astray from the faith

      May 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  11. clinky

    Conservative Christians don't have a card to play here because the New Testament upholds slavery. Christians are on higher ground by tapping into Jesus' message and acts of love, compassion and inclusiveness. They'd be wiser acknowledging that gays and lesbians make couples no less loving than straights do, and accept marriage equality.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  12. Don

    We are hearing about seperation of church and state. Actually, the state should keep out of marriages entirely. Leave that to the church.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Rynomite

      Marriage pre-dates churches.

      The entire original point of marriage was a business transaction. My 3 goats for your daughter. Now we are allies.
      Non-Jewish and Non-Xtian Cultures married. Surprise!

      May 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Don, wake up. Marriage is a SECULAR contract between two people. It has nothing to do with religion. Otherwise how can you explain that you can get married at a JOP and have to go to a judge to get a divorce? Simple, relgion has nothing to do with it.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  13. tb63

    Just a question for straight people who believe being gay is a choice: how do you know?

    The answer: you don't.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • GodPot

      They know that they chose to be attracted to the opposite s.ex early on in life, they started noticing those girls and thought, "well they look nice, maybe I can work up some feelings for them if I really try since it's obvious my hormones have nothing to do with it and aren't playing any sort of role in who I dream about mating with while i'm going through puberty..."

      May 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • tb63

      Fail.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • tb63

      Wait, my fail. Didn't notice 'opposite' the first time I read it.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  14. GodPot

    "Christians must be concerned about adultery, pronography, injustice, dishonesty and everything the Bible names as sin."

    "have no choice but to affirm all that the Bible teaches, including its condemnation of hom.ose.xuality."

    So you have "concern" for the sin's that many Christians have problems following, but condemnation for the gays because they are just so icky.

    "The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective." So not failing would mean a national ban on divorce so that the US Laws are in line with biblical law? What would winning look like? One Nation, under foot?

    May 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  15. Rynomite

    Hilarious hypocritical argument by the author.

    Let's conveniently interpret Acts 10 so that we can apologize for the entire part of the old testament we don't like. Unless of course theres something we want to use to make you dance to our tune later....

    Either your Bible is the word of god or it IS NOT. You can't have it both ways.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Kevin

      You may need to attend a Church. You don't clearly understand the New vs. the Old testimate. Many of the laws that came before Jesus, are no longer valid

      May 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Rynomite

      I atteded a Church for 18 years, and now go with my wife because I love my silly little fundamentalist.

      I call it like I see it. An apology is an apology.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • kymarcus

      It is so lame when Christians attempt to disown the laws of the OT.
      Which God was it that made those disgusting rules in the OT ? The very same God.

      So, supposedly, at some point, God realized that his nasty vindictive set of rules wouldn't fly any more, so he made some new ones. Well, sorry, that doesn't make it all ok.

      You don't get a pass for that. Because, for supposedly 4000 years, you, the omnipotent one, who always knows best, thought that set of rules was best.

      Come on Christians, that is the same God you worship now. Does his 4000 year brainfade not bother you at all ?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • GodPot

      "It is so lame when Christians attempt to disown the laws of the OT.
      Which God was it that made those disgusting rules in the OT ? The very same God."

      It would be like saying "You know all that bad stuff Hitler did, that was the old Hitler, now in his new book, 'Mein Kampforting Everbody' he says we do not have to put the jews in the ovens, they are forgiven now. And we don't have to execute our down syndrome children anymore, he is so loving and caring, what a guy..."

      May 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  16. BobZemko

    Jesus, protect me from your followers.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Don

      Now THAT is truly hypocritical. Thanks for verifying. Lol.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Cunning Stunts

      In response to people bashing christians for cherry picking from the OT,
      I will dismiss the OT except for the part about bashing gays.
      Right out of the republican playbook.

      May 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  17. Skeptic

    If I had written a report in 7th grade using one book as a source, I would have gotten an F. How people can base their entire system of beliefs around a single book is baffling.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • twelb

      It is actually 66 books written over a period of thousands of years.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • kymarcus

      twelb, 39 of those books don't matter though, right ? That's what all these revisionist Christians are saying.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • WOW

      This is the Living word of God and not just any book. I too had a hard time understanding what was meant by "Living" word of God referring to the Bible. When i read the Bible as a skeptic to God and Religion I felt the same way and the words really didn't mean that much to me. After my acceptance of Jesus as my saviour the darkness started slowly clearing from my eyes. I started understanding the teachings of Jesus in the Bible and the complex nature of all these BOOKS (yes the Bible is a collection of books through out many years – so it is not based on ONE book). The Bible grew from just an old set of out dated books that did not have any concept on what is going on to today to a very indepth understanding of who we really are and how we "work". That is when the Bible becomes alive to those Christians whom truley believe.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • twelb

      They all matter, it's just that some of the laws don't apply.. not to mention some books are historical in nature. It takes mature and knowledgeable Christians to tell the difference and that is why it is important for people to find a good Bible based church to learn the difference. For example, like the author of this atricle stated, the Old Testamanet stated that eating pork was bad and the Jewish nation was forbidden from eating it, but in the New Testament it says that it is now ok as God gave Peter a vision.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • twelb

      Amen Wow! You know the Bible really shows us God's mind.. and the Word states that without the Spirit you cannot understand the mind of God. As a result we shuld really show mercy on people that just don't get it.. because we were once the same way.. thanks for sharing you testimony that got me fired up!!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  18. n8263

    Christians should care what the Bible says regarding homosexuality about as much as they care about what it says regarding stoning disobedient children to death.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  19. ScottyR

    I thought most adults stopped believing in fairy tales when they grew up

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

      You mean fairy tales about how government will take care of you? And that there is morality in nature? And how complex lifeforms just happen from nothing?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • ScottyR

      Your debasement of the achievements basic science shows how ignorant you truly are
      thanks for trying, play again

      May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  20. Beam

    Good article! Thanks for explaining to those that have little knowledge about our faith why we don't follow the hundreds of OT laws...that those were meant for the Jews alone thousands upon thousands of years ago and its not us picking and choosing what to follow in the bible. If we follow those OT laws, I guess we would be called Jews, not Christians.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
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