Slavery and Sodomy: The Alleged Trajectory of Illumination of Issues

Posted at The Protestant Pulpit:

In a recent document that sets forth questions for Christians who do not accept ‘gay’ Christians, Matthew Vines sets forth the argument that illumination over the issue of gays is like the church’s illumination over the issue of slavery, moving from acceptance of slavery to an abhorrence of it. Here are his questions:

14. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support slavery?

15. If not, do you believe that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards were not actually Christians because they supported slavery?

16. Do you think supporting same-sex marriage is a more serious problem than supporting slavery?

17. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s passages about slavery before you felt comfortable believing that slavery is wrong?

18. Does it cause you any concern that Christians throughout most of church history would have disagreed with you?

Now, there are several issues involved in this. But I will limit myself to one central issue. It is the core of his presentation –the idea of progressive illumination. When we develop a biblical doctrine, which we must do as occasion calls, we are not permitted to alter the foundation truth. We may unfold it, but we cannot alter it. The seed of truth must produce fruit that is in accordance with its nature. One of the best examples of this concerns the doctrine of God. The church progressively came to the understanding that God is Triune. This is not against the core teaching of monotheism, but it takes in the full gamut of the Scriptures on the doctrine of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Now, there are two questions that must be answered here: 1.) Does the Bible permit a development of its teaching on slavery, and is this in accordance with its basic teaching on the subject? 2.) Does the Bible permit a development on its teaching on sodomy, and is this in accordance with its basic teaching on the subject? What I hope to show is that the Bible does permit a progressive understanding of slavery, but it does not permit such for sodomy.

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