The Bible seems to condone slavery and accept wives as their husband's property. But these are generally acknowledged to be immoral in modern civilization.

Yet, there are other modern societal perspectives which differ from their Biblical perspectives that many (if not most) Christians deem to still be ungraceful in God's eyes, like homosexuality.

I'm familiar with arguments that the Bible was written for its own time and pertained only to the era. But, if some values can be progressive and Christian despite what is in the Bible while others cannot, how can one know which ones God is okay with?

Also, is it possible he just doesn't care about stuff like slavery?

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    I'm not sure this question fits the definition of a good question for the site. I'm not saying it's not a valid question, but as asked, it invites answers based on opinion. What makes a good focused question? – David Stratton Nov 19 '11 at 7:51
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    @DavidStratton How is this not answerable using doctrine or applications of doctrine? Is it just a limitation of the documentation on hand? – Samuel Hulick Nov 19 '11 at 8:27
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    This is a really difficult question to approach (and as David noted likely to attract opinion answers) because it uses a bunch of terminology that is impossible to define (Biblle era, modern societal perspectives, progressive, etc) and also makes a number of false assumptions about Christianity in general (including what the Bible says, what historical views were, etc). Also since it is very broad. Any of the examples could be the subject of dozens of books and you're asking for a theory of understanding Christian ethics and morals. Can you figure out something you want to focus on here? – Caleb Nov 19 '11 at 13:41
  • Samuel In answer to your comment to @David ... no I don't think the problem here is a lack of documented doctrine, the problem is that nearly the entire corpus of documented doctrine deals with this on one level or another. – Caleb Nov 19 '11 at 16:48
  • Ok. comment withdrawn. – David Stratton Nov 19 '11 at 17:01

Your question basically boils down to two things: hermeneutics and doctrine.

Hermeneuetics is the study of texts, and Biblical Hermeneutics is the application of textual study to the scripture and the process of determining what it means. This field is relevant to your question because your question itself contains clear trances of not being backed by any kind of hermeneutics at all. For example you mention that a "woman as property" view is condoned by Scripture. This is commonly made assertion made by commentators with an anti-Christian bias, but it is not based on a good reading of the text. In order to come away with an idea like that one must ignore the difference in literary genres between passages. The difference between narrative and prescriptive passages is very important and how that is determined is part of what the field of hermeneutics addresses.

Doctrines are beliefs about any given topic. Good doctrine is the result of careful application of hereneutics and a good overall understanding of Scripture and general revelation. Bad doctrine looks a lot like humanism and is the result of man using his own internal moral compass to delineate what he wants to believe. One must always choose between doctrines.

There are of course conflicting doctrines out there. Some will say that practicing homosexuality is fine for a Christian, others will say it's a result of man's fallen sinful nature and an abomination in God's eyes. In order to determine which bit of doctrine you are going to subscribe to you need to do some research. If, as in the title of your question, you plan on subscribing to whatever you can determine to be God's judgement on the matter then your first order of business is to figure out what he said on the matter in the past and what it means to you today.

This means approaching Scripture using the lens of hermeneutics, examining the Canon to determine which books and teachings you are going to consider and authoritative witness on which to base your doctrinal conclusions, what methods of interpreting the text you will use and then applying that to the whole of Scripture to deduce a cohesive theology (or understanding of God's nature and the nature of his dealings with men). Once you have that you can use it to help guide your discernment on individual decisions. Is X a sin? What do the scriptures I hold true say about the matter, how do I read and apply those scriptures and what conclusions must I draw?

All Christian traditions have some corpus of accepted doctrines. Part of your process in choosing what tradition to align yourself with should be examining their doctrines and the basis for those doctrines to see if their reasoning and sources are sound and comparing them to any other conclusions based on the same sources. When conflicts arise between conflicting doctrines, you should have some clear idea WHY you reject one interpretation over another that has taken into consideration how the various conclusions got drawn.

Lastly, any true search for God's opinion -- his will in any given matter -- is going to include communicating with him on the matter. Although they vary in how they see this implemented practically, all Christians pretty much agree that God has made some provision for guiding people into a proper understanding of his word through his Holy Spirit left as a counselor to men after Jesus left earth. Not asking Him to guide you in your discernment process would be like trying to map out the objects in a dark room without turning on the light.

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    I think that is an excellent answer in principle, but simply: it is far far beyond the majority of the population, religious or not. Keep in mind we are fortunate that we have excellent access to information from different sources, and you are obviously pretty well-educated and well-versed. The majority of the population is not, and/or lacks access to information (plus language barriers). The reality is: the majority has no ability to choose here, but must accept what they are told, usually in whatever belief they are raised. – Marc Gravell Nov 19 '11 at 19:57
  • Yes, I realise that priests etc are meant to know this stuff (it is, ultimately, their profession), but that isn't the same as the individual being able to understand and make a rational reasoned choice based on a personal understanding of the subject. – Marc Gravell Nov 19 '11 at 20:00
  • "Bad doctrine ... is the result of man using his own internal moral compass to delineate what he wants to believe. One must always choose between doctrines." I find these sentences contradictory. Suppose I want to take a stance on whether or not the practice of homosexuality is permissible. I can read everything there is to be said on the subject, but ultimately I must bring my own "moral compass" to bear on the readings themselves in order to come to a decision. – user1014 Nov 23 '11 at 9:21

I love this question. I have wondered this myself and found answers. Here you go, from personal experience and study.

The short of it? Prophets, and prayer.


Yes, you are right, the Bible is old, but as Amos 3:7 says, "Surely the Lord God will nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." God calls prophets so that people can know what He is speaking at the time. That is mainly how we have the Bible, a collection of words of God's prophets, chosen and set apart to lead the people in specific, contemporary issues at the time, and also eternal truths, mainly that of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Often, people will being to disobey (apostasy) and not follow God's prophets, so He withdraws them from the earth. When the people are ready again, God calls another prophet to speak His word and clarify truth. This happens all throughout the Old Testament, and a period of apostasy begins again near the end of the New Testament.

So, God just leaves us alone forever? For hundreds of years there were no prophets on the earth, no new revelation. Hence a period of reformation/enlightenment when people sought greater spiritual truths for their day, and to restore teachings of the original Christ-organized Church.

As several denominations (and non-denominational sects too) believe (albeit differently depending on where you go/who you ask), God has prophets in the Church today. But we must be careful not to blindly follow a so-called prophet, ancient or modern. How can you know?


God's values, or true eternal principles, will never change. God's truth then is God's truth now.

To know if something is right, or, as we might say, to know God's "opinion" on the subject, we can pray and ask. No promise is more repeated in canonized scripture than "Ask, and ye shall receive." Knock, and it will be opened unto you.

From my own experience I know that God answers prayers and will give you an answer to sincere prayer through the Holy Ghost. One must only have a sincere heart and faith in Christ, with real intent to act on the answer. If you have a question about any moral, doctrinal, or other issue, I know God is there, and that He is interested in you and it. He wants to answer you and He will.

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    @david nothing at all wrong with the point you're making but these comments seem a bit over-critical for new users. Expecting brand new users to have visited meta and read the many posts there about good questions and answers is unreasonable. – Waggers Nov 19 '11 at 8:32
  • I removed it but I didn't expect him to have read it. I meant to encourage him to do so, as it seems he might be a positive contributor to the community. As usual, my poor written communication skills resulted in a misunderstanding of my intention. – David Stratton Nov 19 '11 at 9:07
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    As shown by the myriad of schisms in the Church, if He is answering, then he is answering dfferently depending on the person doing the asking. – Marc Gravell Nov 19 '11 at 19:47
  • I'm usually fine with sincere correction. I have attempted to answer according to what I've been reading about... for example: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective. I hope my answers will help somebody. – Matt Nov 20 '11 at 20:54

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