Has biblical morality evolved?

Here is a progressive evangelical’s response to OT and NT injunctions forbidding homosexuality. It goes along this line:

“Over time, God’s revelation of proper conduct has changed. For example, in both the OT and NT, slavery is permitted and acknowledged to exist, but beginning with the 18th century, the ethic gradually became more and more intolerable through God’s ‘amazing grace’. For another example: circumcision was commanded in the OT, Jesus was circumcised (presented at the temple on the 8th day), but today it is not uncommon to not circumcise our baby boys. Lastly, the OT contains many injunctions against usury, yet no pulpit has condemned the practice in hundreds of years. I could list more examples. Therefore, so, too, our understanding of same-sex intimacy, marriage, and family status (allowing adoption) has matured through God’s grace. We’ve progressed, and fundies like you are taking “plain reading” to an extreme without considering context. So your church should permit gay pastors and perform same-sex weddings just like mine does.”

Leaving cultural influences, effects on children, and natural law (i.e., biology/anatomy) aside, how do I speak into why standing firm on this issue is the correct Scriptural perspective?

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@walkert Great question :slight_smile: God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and His character is the same in the OT and NT. Love God and love neighbor are both in the first five books of the Bible. Jesus was not inventing a new morality when He taught people the great commandments. Instead, He was calling people to obey the heart of the law rather than only the letter.

At the same time, Jesus is a fuller revelation of God than the law. “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The law in the OT it was given to a particular people at a particular time in history for a particular purpose, but it was not the ultimate revelation of God to man. That is Jesus.

But at this point we have to be very careful. Jesus also says in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus is a fuller revelation than the law, but He also said the law is good. Paul reaffirms the fact that the law is good in Romans 6-8, but Jesus did what the law could not do—He gave us new life in the Spirit through His death and resurrection.

Biblical morality has not evolved, but the law has been fulfilled in Christ, who is the fullest revelation of God to man.

That aside, let’s look at each of the examples offered in the argument you cited. The second two were the weakest, so I’ll start with those in bullets. Then, see below for a discussion of the fact that there is a redemptive trajectory for women and the issue of slavery in the Bible, but not on the issue of homosexuality.

  • circumcision is a bad example because that was a sign of the Old Covenant. We no longer have to circumcise babies as Christians because we live under a New Covenant with God in Christ Jesus—it has nothing to do with evolving morality.
  • usury is another bad example. Usury was condemned in Scripture within a certain cultural context. If the cultural context changes or the practice is different, the same injunction does not necessarily apply. This is also not an evolution in morality. (see the discussion below on the three types of law in the OT as another point to be taken into account - this would be civil law)

Slavery, Women, and Biblical Trajectory

I remember the first time I understood the difference between slavery, women and homosexuality in the Bible. The difference is trajectory. In the case of slavery - the Bible is constantly urging masters to be kind to their servants - to go beyond the cultural requirements of their day and to welcome them into God’s family / not mistreat them - they are coheirs with us in Christ. In the case of women, Jesus first appeared to women as His witnesses after the resurrection, Paul mentions them as fellow coworkers and the apostles exhorted men to honor / love their wives in a way that pushed beyond cultural expectations.

Both slavery and women in the Bible show us a trajectory of change - God is moving humanity towards a more fair and equal treatment. However, that is not the case with homosexuality. The Bible, from beginning to end, is clear that all forms of sexual sin are wrong. We must honor God with our bodies.

So there is a clear distinction between women’s issues and homosexuality. Women’s issues show a trajectory of change. Homosexuality does not.

Whereas with creation/slavery/women one can point to passages where counter-tensions existed with what was clear (such as the way Paul asks Philemon to treat Onesimus, or how Mary sat as Jesus’s disciple, or how the Spirit is said to indwell all women), no OT or NT text is even neutral on same-sex issues. Every single text that mentions the topic does so negatively. So here also trajectory helps us, since with same-sex passages there is no trajectory. The reading is consistent. That should count for something.

The Law

Here is an article and short excerpt from it that explains why we do not need to follow all of the OT laws. The gist of it - and I agree - is that there 3 types of law in the OT - ceremonial (laws for the priests and purification of the people), judicial/civil (for the earthly kingdom of Israel) and moral (laws based upon God’s nature and eternally binding). When Jesus’ died on the cross, He put an end to the ceremonial and judicial law - He is our High Priest and King - we live a new life by the Spirit and not by the letter of the law. Our purity is not through sacrifices of goats and bulls, but once and for all by the blood of the Son of God.

“There exists a three-fold division of the law — ceremonial, judicial/civil and moral. The civil and ceremonial law are no longer applicable to us today, while the moral law — which is not culturally contingent — is indeed universally binding.”

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Sir,
I read your words, and I feel the same calm desperation, I felt when I had had a fine base of choice whiskey in my guts, to stomach, the same tear jerking question to a young, strong, physically, spiritually, financially stable, young Christian Father,And even now Sir.! It causes me anxiety to even give you a simple response, that have given me a simple peace from the Creator that I cannot deny.

How can we truly know the true reactions, of the true chosen of God, eventhough, it’s known to all Christians that the very words of what be perceived as divine canon is corrupt by the lufciferian abominations. Eventhough, my simple peace, joy, and loving faith in Christ grows, how do we know if the “felt” divinely right, is the true serenity the creator “truly” answered the questions completely, or has lufcifer found away to keep out a spiritual “freeing” revealing revelations,. Knowing that the divine truth answer, is still enough for Christ’s redemption. Freeing, Man and Women, with constant simple faith, truth, and simple love. I guess sir, my answer is this, is this phrase in the Bible translated properly, on constant chain of words, joy unspeakable. Or is JOY!..unspeakable. Is it said real quickly, as a quick lighthearted phrase just checking the box, for another accolade expounding the perfect creator’s, perfect glory? Perhaps, but then I think of the left hand of God, cause I’m a hard hitting southpaw, I think of the obscure,mistundstood, physically insidious in combat perfection.fervently faithful, unyielding in there self works, teatering, on abominations after abominations, mocking the True, Only, Living Creator of this planet, my answer is yes sir, the fathers words are not complete, not! because of us all trying to meticulously, going over every yacht and tittle, again and again in every Christian denomination, but we have the very pauses of the shear pause and “intensity” of the statement loses the fathers simple loving, all encompassing truth, is it joy unspeakable? Or is it JOY!..unspeakable. I’ll take the secretive, latter form, where true Love of Women’s Divine, physical seduction’s, nuance’s my sinful flesh, DARING,! Me to sin in physical gratification,but my heart knows my father loves me, and we are all in his army, there are soft skilled Mos’s in the combat of hell war, and combat mos’s in hell war. A right hand and a left. I am a combat soldier. In my arrogant,seasoned combat veteran opinion, I am the hard left hand of the United States Army. As so many misunderstood, “minor” judges and prophets.