Al Mohler says the apostle Peter was wrong and that’s why evangelicals should ‘focus on homosexuality’

According to the New Testament book of Acts, the apostle Peter was given a vision from God. The 10th chapter of Acts describes that vision. And in that chapter and the next, Peter himself explains what that vision meant.

Southern Baptist enforcer R. Albert Mohler Jr. says that Peter was wrong. The vision from God, Mohler says, meant something else.

The Bible condemns a lot, but here’s why we focus on homosexuality,” Mohler writes today for CNN’s Belief Blog. Here’s Mohler:

“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.

Fair point, but after dismissing those who ask the question dismissively, Mohler offers his response to those who ask it from “a genuine attempt to understand.”

It is here that Mohler tells us that the apostle Peter was wrong — that Peter misunderstood his vision from God in the Book of Acts and that, even worse, Peter spread this misunderstanding as a false prophet in the early Christian community.

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.

I should note here that Mohler’s interpretation of Peter’s vision is widely held and quite popular among American Christians. (I wrote about this earlier in “The Abominable Shellfish: Why some Christians hate gays but love bacon.”)

But while popular, this view utterly contradicts Peter’s own interpretation of his vision. If Mohler is right, then Peter was wrong. If Peter was right, then Mohler is wrong.

For Peter, his rooftop vision wasn’t about kosher dietary laws — it was about people. He says this explicitly: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

That’s a very different conclusion from the one Mohler draws. Mohler says this story — this scripture — is about purity laws. Peter says this story is about God’s commandment that no people should be excluded as impure.

I’m going to have to side with Peter on this one. Peter was right. Mohler is wrong.

Mohler’s case for his interpretation of Peter’s vision only looks plausible if you extract a tiny portion of the story from the rest of the chapter, but if you read all of Acts 10, you’ll see that the story doesn’t allow that.

Consider, for example, the purpose of Peter’s vision. It wasn’t sent because Red Lobster was about to bring back “endless shrimp,” but because of the people who were about to knock on Peter’s door. The author of Acts makes sure we don’t miss that point, writing: “While Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the [impure, uncircumcised, bacon-loving Gentile] men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.”

And just in case you somehow miss that point, as Mohler does, the author of the book of Acts gets pretty anvilicious by repeating the whole thing in even more explicit terms in the very next chapter: “Peter began to explain it to them, step by step …”

And those chapters, again, must be read in the context of the entire book of Acts, which begins with Pentecost — bringing together people “from every nation under heaven … Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to the Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs” — and continues inexorably outward to include and embrace European tradeswomen and African eunuchs and anyone else the author can imagine the reader otherwise being tempted to exclude or reject. The book reads like an after-school special on celebrating diversity.

People — all kinds of people. No one is excluded. Not purity laws but people. That a major theme throughout the entire book. And not just that book, either.

“God is showing us that we should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

  • Joe

    Here is Acts 15:

    5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
    6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After
    much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know
    that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might
    hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

    That is the “tieback” to Acts 10, right there in Acts 15:10.  And Acts 15 goes on:
    23 With them they sent the following letter:
    The apostles and elders, your brothers,To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. 24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.Farewell.

  • Lunch Meat

    So, what, chapters 11-14 don’t exist?

  • EllieMurasaki

     So, what, chapters 11-14 don’t exist?

    In fairness, 11 is mostly a retread of 10, 12 is Peter escaping prison and Herod dying, 13 is Paul telling the Jesus story, and 14 is Paul and his buddy getting hailed as gods and saying “no we’re not” and also Paul’s travels. Nothing particularly relevant.

    What I find interesting is the command in Acts 15 against sexual immorality. Jesus had words on sexual immorality. Some of those words were ‘look on someone with lust and you have sinned’, yes, but some of those words were ‘let the one who is without sin throw the first stone’.

    Know how my atheist ass takes that command in that context? If you want to fuss at me for being bisexual, first prove to me that you have never looked at anyone of any gender with lust without first having married that person. And not incidentally, it’d be a lot easier for us gay and bi and queer types to behave with sexual morality if you lot would let us marry somebody we’re attracted to.

  • Tricksterson

    I still win my bet with myself that Joe would be too chickenshit to reply to the question.

  • Lunch Meat

    Ch. 11 is a retread of Ch. 10 because it’s Peter explicitly explaining the vision of Ch. 10.  That’s why it’s relevant.  Saying that Ch. 15 proves the vision is really about food is like saying that Yoda was talking about Anakin when he said “there is another Skywalker”, because Anakin shows up later, despite the fact the other Skywalker is explicitly stated to be Leia not two minutes later in the movie.

    I know no one is talking about this anymore, but I wanted to pull out that metaphor because I’m pretty proud of it. :-)

  • Tricksterson

    Well, I was still lurking so you had an appreciative audience of at least one.

  • Joe

     So you’re gonna lose Tricksterson! Sorry but I gotta pay the bills too…

    As I said before, I, as a Christian, do not hate gays.

    But because I believe that sex is confined to marriage, and because I believe that two men cannot marry, and two women cannot marry, then they are having sex outside of marriage what God commands

    It is as simple as that.

    The idea of two women/two men marrying violates the command God gave in Genesis:

    27 So God created mankind in his own image,     in the image of God he created them;    male and female he created them.
    28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ”

    You cannot “be fruitful and increase in number” when two men and two women get married.

    As to your argument about the old testament, let me refer you to Ephesians 5:

    He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his
    own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the
    church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this cause a man
    shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the
    two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking
    with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each
    individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the
    wife see to it that she respect her husband.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You cannot simultaneously not-hate gay people and forbid gay people any opportunity to engage in sexual behavior without violating either their self or your rules.

  • P J Evans

     Joe’s only going to be happy when we all announce that hse is correct in everything and a true Christian. Which ain’t gonna happen.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    You cannot “be fruitful and increase in number” when two men and two women get married.

    If this turned out to be false, would you change your conclusion? Or does your conclusion actually depend on some other line of reasoning, and the truth or falsehood of this claim isn’t really that important?

    Put another way: if two married women could be fruitful and multiply, would it then follow that God commanded it after all?

  • Tricksterson

    No actually I win since you’re  using the politicians trick of replying to a question that wasn’t asked.  The question in question was “What happened tp verses 11-14?

  • EllieMurasaki

     Chapters, not verses.

  • Lori

     

    What part of EATEN dont you understand?  

    Snerk. I love a good 12 year old’s joke.

    Oh man, you didn’t mean for that to be funny did you?

  • P J Evans

     Clearly didn’t read anything after Acts 10:17. Because if he had, he’d see how Peter understood that vision, and it’s so NOT about food. Right to the end of the chapter.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

     This is relevant to you.

    Subtext: Look at all the fucks I don’t give for your Bible sword drilling.

  • Lunch Meat

    So I guess you don’t have an answer to my question. You’re just going to start talking about different verses and use them as your proof-texts. Okay, whatever.

    But because I believe that sex is confined to marriage, and because I believe that two men cannot marry, and two women cannot marry, then they are having sex outside of marriage what God commands
    It is as simple as that.

    So God’s will is limited to what you believe?

    The idea of two women/two men marrying violates the command God gave in Genesis: [...] You cannot “be fruitful and increase in number” when two men and two women get married.

    So infertile people are violating God’s commands. Got it. You really are on a roll here.

  • P J Evans

     There seem to be a lot of people who like to tell God what She should do. All of them are trying to punish people for something that no one has any choice about.

  • Johndoe

    “God is showing us that we should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
    That obviously means that we shouldn’t categorically exclude anyone from being a Christian at all. But it doesn’t, and can’t, mean that we are not to say that people are sinners in need of salvation and rescue from their sins.  

  • EllieMurasaki

     Suppose I want to be a good Christian who doesn’t commit sexual sin.

    Why then are you keeping me from marrying the person with whom I want to have sex?

  • Lunch Meat

    Peter believed that only people who ate certain kinds of food were eligible for salvation, because others were unclean. He had good reason to believe that. The Jewish law is full of dietary requirements. Some kinds of food were even labeled abominations. God showed him that purity and cleanliness things aren’t as important as faith and love. God showed him that there are other lifestyles in which one can follow God than the way that Peter was used to. God showed him that God makes people clean in other ways than by following the law. “Do not call anything unclean that I have made clean”–God had cleansed Cornelius’s heart through Cornelius’s faith, not through ritual purity.

    I can understand believing that everyone is in need of salvation. But some Christians have decided that people who have certain kinds of sex are not eligible for salvation. This is biblically unsupportable. The important thing about sex in the Bible is not who you have it with; it’s the way you treat them. Are two women or two men in a loving, committed, consensual relationship in which they honor and serve each other and help each other become better Christians? Then who are you to say that God cannot make that relationship clean?

    I believe that when God puts God’s Spirit in our hearts, the Spirit provides guidance for us. If a person is committed to following God, then that person will know if they are doing wrong. If they are not committed, then nothing you can say will affect their salvation anyway, so why bother? And you have no way of knowing whether or not they are committed. I also believe that if the fruit of the Spirit is present in someone’s life, that is more important than ritual purity. If a person demonstrates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, what does it matter who they are having sex with? Who are you to say the Spirit is not active in their life? Welcome them as a fellow follower of Christ, and let God work it out if they are not clear on the details.

  • Joe

     Fred wants to set Peter’s recognition that the holiness code no
    longer stands between Jew and Gentile because God has made all things
    clean in Jesus against the vision in which Peter was told that
    God has made all things clean. The “tiny portion” of Acts 10 that Fred
    wants us not to pay attention to is the vision itself – the part where
    God declares the unclean animals clean; the part where God sets aside
    the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:9). The holiness code is
    the reason Peter would not have gone to Cornelius’ house before the
    vision. The removal of that code is precisely what leads him to say yes
    and go with his visitors.

    Like most revisionist activists the Slacktivist is a selective
    reader. He loves the part where Peter affirms that (in Fred’s words) “no
    people should be excluded as impure” because he thinks that orthodox
    Christians believe that homosexual people are “impure” but the part
    about the removal of holiness code is terribly inconvenient so he simply
    pretends that the obvious connection between the two isn’t there and
    trusts that his readers have as much interest in actually reading the
    bible for themselves as he does.

    And he’s probably right.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And the Bible never uses symbolism. The Bible never uses metaphor. The vision of God making all foods clean can’t possibly include anything more broad than food.

  • Lunch Meat

    Do you wear mixed fabrics? I wear mixed fabrics because I believe that the vision in Acts 10 applies to the entire purity code, not just the part about food. If you’ll notice, the prohibition against mixed fabric is never explicitly removed.* I think I’ve made a reasonable extrapolation from the principle of the text, instead of proof-texting. That’s the same reason that I have no problem with my husband touching me while I’m on my period, because I don’t believe that the label “unclean” applies to me or to any other Christian. That’s the same reason I have no problem wearing my hair short, because I don’t believe that I can be “dishonored” based on my appearance. Honor, purity, cleanliness–these are all cultural, ritual externalities. The only thing that counts is faith working itself out through love.

    *Yes, I know the letter in Acts 15 mentions “sexual immorality.” Do you know what the Greek word there is? It’s just as vague as it sounds. Can you prove it includes consensual, committed same-sex relationships?

  • Lunch Meat

    Sorry, my footnote is incomplete. It should read “Yes, I know that the letter in Acts 15 only mentions four things, so everything else is implicitly allowed. But if that’s your argument, that letter doesn’t mention homosexuality either. It does mention “sexual immorality.” But  do you know what the Greek word there is? It’s just as vague as it sounds. Can you prove it includes consensual, committed same-sex relationships?

  • hapax

     

    The holiness code is
    the reason Peter would not have gone to Cornelius’ house before the
    vision. The removal of that code is precisely what leads him to say yes
    and go with his visitors.

    I beg your pardon?  I was under the impression that you read the Scriptures seriously, if not literally.

    Could you please provide citations for where Peter says all of this, instead of what he clearly, explicitly, and LITERALLY says:  “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

  • Joe

    Acts 11:

    The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
    4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ 8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
    9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
    11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
    15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
    18 When
    they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God,
    saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads
    to life.”

  • EllieMurasaki

     You…do realize that that’s the same bit that tells us that the ‘do not lie with a man as with a woman, for that is abomination’ bit is no longer relevant, don’t you?

  • Joe

    Acts 10:
    34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
    God “accepts” those men who “fear him and do what is right.” Thus God
    still distinguishes between people as far as who he accepts. The change
    that occurred was in the need to distinguish between clean and unclean
    as far as the holiness code is concerned. It was not the case that God
    no longer held people to any standard whatsoever.

    I’ll put it this way. If Acts chapter 10 makes sex outside of the
    marriage of 1 man and 1 woman ok, then why not just say it removed ALL
    of the law? Thus its ok to kill, lie, steal, covet, blaspheme etc. From
    reading the New Testament its obvious that Christ still holds us to a
    standard and expects us to promote and follow that standard. The
    wonderful thing is, when we fail to meet that standard and recognize
    that we fail and believe on his saving work and repent, our sins are
    washed away.

  • Lunch Meat

    So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

    So if you saw the Holy Spirit “come upon” a gay person, you would admit that God has no problem with it?

  • Joe

     In chapter 11 the objections to Peter’s going to Cornelius’ house was as
    follows: “the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went
    into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”” (verses 2-3) So
    their objections were based on violations of the “holiness code” and
    thus point to the significance of the change in that code that Peter is
    about to tell them about.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, I fail at being a heterosexual woman, I repent of not being a heterosexual woman, my sins are washed away, can I marry my fucking girlfriend now?

  • Lunch Meat

    Also, quoting an entire chapter is not an argument.

  • Lunch Meat


    If Acts chapter 10 makes sex outside of the marriage of 1 man and 1 woman ok, then why not just say it removed ALL of the law? Thus its ok to kill, lie, steal, covet, blaspheme etc.

    Did you not read ANYTHING I said about the fruit of the Spirit, faith living itself out through love, etc? Do you really think we need a rule telling us not to murder?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Less pissed-off: It is not okay to murder because murder is hurtful. It is not okay to lie because lies are hurtful. It is not okay to steal because stealing is hurtful. Coveting and blaspheming I’ll give you, but I won’t give you consensual same-sex relationships, because those are not hurtful.

  • P J Evans

     My view is that that’s between them and their God. Just as your sins are between you and your God.

    Stop telling God what to do!

  • Joe

     If I saw the Holy Spirit “come upon” a gay person, I would expect that gay person to  no longer be gay. So that would tell me that God does have a problem with it.

  • Joe

    Consenual same-sex relationships are not of God, they are of man. So yes they are hurtful.

  • P J Evans

     And the previous verses, in Chapter 10, which you’re NOT quoting because they don’t support your narrow-minded views? Where are they in that passage?

  • Joe

     I was asked to provide a citation. I did so.

  • EllieMurasaki

     So basically God hates exactly what you hate.

    Funny how that works.

    Incidentally, in between yelling at you I’m reading The Five Books of Miriam. “Why does the Torah forbid male homosexuality?” “Perhaps because the Torah wants [men] to lie together ‘as one lies with a man’!”

  • P J Evans

     Quote all of it, not just the bits that you think agree with you.

    Even the Devil can quote scripture, when it suits the purpose.

  • EllieMurasaki

     Consenual same-sex relationships are not of God, they are of man. So yes they are hurtful.

    Hurtful TO WHOM?

  • Joe

     If God didnt think that we needed the rule – it would not be there!

  • P J Evans

     They’re of God, because man was created in God’s image. And God has created homosexual birds and lizards, which are happy and reproducing. God has also created fish which can change their functional gender, too.
    All things are possible with God, including the ones you think are immoral.

    Now go troll somewhere else.

  • Joe

     To God of course.

  • Lunch Meat

    If I saw the Holy Spirit “come upon” a gay person, I would expect that gay person to  no longer be gay. So that would tell me that God does have a problem with it.

    And what if your expectations were unfulfilled? What if the Holy Spirit was displayed in a gay person in a way that you could not deny, and they continued to be gay? What then? Or will you argue that that’s impossible because your knowledge of God is perfect?

    Consenual same-sex relationships are not of God, they are of man. So yes they are hurtful.

    Prove it.

  • Joe

     They completely support that passage. No need to quote them.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Joe:

    Are you seriously fucking saying you believe some totally undetectable spirit actually influences the sexualities of people?

    Jesus H. Baldhaired Ole Christ on a Unicycle.

    What is this I don’t even.

    Why didn’t you just become one of those loopy psychics who reads palms or something? You’d be less annoying that way, since then you wouldn’t be voting for politicians who want to put into legal practice your squicks about non-straight people.

  • EllieMurasaki

     So basically you’re arguing that there’s no secular justification for forbidding same-sex relationships including marriage. Also you’re arguing that I should take into consideration the feelings of someone I don’t believe exists.

  • Joe

     Romans 1:

    The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against
    all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by
    their wickedness,
    19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
    20For
    since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal
    power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from
    what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
    21For
    although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave
    thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts
    were darkened.
    22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
    23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    24Therefore
    God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual
    impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
    25They
    exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created
    things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
    27In
    the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and
    were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts
    with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their
    perversion.

    28Furthermore,
    since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,
    he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
    29They
    have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and
    depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.
    They are gossips,
    30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
    31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
    32Although
    they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve
    death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve
    of those who practice them.

    That about says it all.


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