By Tim Stanley, Telegraph


May the Lord preserve us from liberal Anglican bishops. This week the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, wrote a letter that was published in this newspaper explaining why gay marriage is a good and Christian thing. His argument is that theology evolves along with society, that “sometimes Christians have … to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience.” As proof of the evolution of morality he cites the example of slavery: “before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation.” And this error of historical understanding is a very revealing one.



As Fr Lucie-Smith points out in the Catholic Herald, Christians prior to Wilberforce were not universally sold on slavery (I’m guessing Christian slaves were especially unconvinced). The Catholic priest says that Bishop Nicholas’ letter,


…will come as major news to Pope Pius II who condemned slavery as a great crime and who died in 1464. The same is true of Popes Paul III, Urban VIII, and Benedict XIV, all of whom long predated the English reformer, not to mention the founders and members of the Mercedarian and Trinitarian Orders, which were dedicated to the redemption of slaves.


Of course, there were Christians who used Biblical literalism to justify racism (the curse of Ham) or to give slavery the false ring of paternalism (some US slave holders insisted that it was kinder than capitalism). But the Catholic tradition rightly saw it as a sin. To Aquinas it was a perversion of natural law, replacing reason with coercion and denying rational souls access to equal justice. Protestants could be a lot more pro (Calvin saw no need for abolition and regarded obedience to masters as a sign of visible sainthood), but many campaigned for an end to slavery long before Wilberforce was born. In colonial America, emancipation was promoted as early as 1718 by William Southeby, an influential Quaker in Philadelphia.



Bishop Nicholas is not a fool, so why did he choose to misrepresent Christian history in this way?



Read here

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