Polygamy???

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johnwillby

Inactive User
Hi all,

Don't know if this is the right section to be discussing this but could not see an Ethics section :)

Firstly don't worry I am not about to join the Mormons or anything like that. Goodness one wife is enough!

A good friend asked my opinion of this web-site he had found. I read one article (suspect in its theology and definitely as far its morals despite claiming to be evangelical!) and the guy was arguing that nowhere does the Bible condemn Polygamy. At best all it does is highlight the problems inherent in such a practice. The organization were arguing that you cannot maintain from the bible that the marriage of one man to one woman was the only God ordained expression for sexual union between two consenting adults in the Bible. You can see where this argument is heading...

Now I know that is wrong and naively simplistic to say that the bible's position on Polygamy is as ambiguous as this but I can't ever remember seeing a decent book on it. I just assumed it was a subject that was more or less ignored these days. Except I suppose those who write on Mormonism?

Am I right in assuming its not a subject many modern reformed writers have tackled?

Anybody care to suggest a good book dealing specifically with this subject?

Cheers

John
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Perhaps an answer to those who question the prohibition of polygomy in the Bible is this:

Does the Bible ever, explicitly or implicitly, command, endorse, promote or recommend polygomy? (No)

and

Does the Bible ever, explicitly or implicitly command, endorse, promote or recommend monogomy? (Yes)

Far too many people view the Bible as only a book of negative prohibitions, and ignore all of the positive cammands and instructions. :2cents:
 

Theoretical

Puritan Board Professor
Perhaps an answer to those who question the prohibition of polygomy in the Bible is this:

Does the Bible ever, explicitly or implicitly, command, endorse, promote or recommend polygomy? (No)

and

Does the Bible ever, explicitly or implicitly command, endorse, promote or recommend monogomy? (Yes)

Far too many people view the Bible as only a book of negative prohibitions, and ignore all of the positive cammands and instructions. :2cents:
:ditto:
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
I know this may not win me any friends, but...

I am not sure it is that simple of condemn polygamy. Many saints under the Old Testament were polygamists but God did not condemn them. Solomon's sin was identified as going after strange women, not many women per se. In the New Testament the only time is the issue is (directly) addressed is in the giving of qualifications of bishops and elders. But while some of those qualifications are needed in all christians, others are also meant to set the potential elder apart from the normal church member.

Don't get me wrong. I believe the monogamy is definitely God's best. I believe someone considering polygamy in a modern western society would definitely be stretching christian liberty beyond what is expedient, maybe even to the point of sin. I believe we can be thankful to God that by his sovereignty the governments in the majority of the countries we live in have outlawed polygamy. But in a situation like the one Trevor describes, I believe there is nothing in the bible preventing a polygamist convert to the gospel from keeping all his wives, with the full duties and benefits of the marriage relationship in each case.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Don't get me wrong. I believe the monogamy is definitely God's best. I believe someone considering polygamy in a modern western society would definitely be stretching christian liberty beyond what is expedient, maybe even to the point of sin. I believe we can be thankful to God that by his sovereignty the governments in the majority of the countries we live in have outlawed polygamy. But in a situation like the one Trevor describes, I believe there is nothing in the bible preventing a polygamist convert to the gospel from keeping all his wives, with the full duties and benefits of the marriage relationship in each case.

I agree, but the OP concerned the Bible's position on polygomy. The Bible instructs us to not marry an unbeliever, but if a man is regenerated after marrying an unbelieving woman he is not to divorce her just because she is an unbeliever.

I am glad there are Godly men like Trevor out there dealing with these kinds of issues.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Many saints under the Old Testament were polygamists but God did not condemn them. Solomon's sin was identified as going after strange women, not many women per se.

I'm not so sure. In talking about kings, the law had this to say:

Deu. 17:17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

I think that God "winked" at David's transgression, and perhaps Solomon's too. But I also think Solomon and David would have been a lot better off if they had followed Deuteronomy. Talk about disfunctional families.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
However, because the elder qualifications are to be a husband of one wife, these men can never exercise church leadership and so in many cultures it takes a whole generation for local leadership to really thrive.

ANy thoughts or disagreements?

In short, sin compliments society. God was patient for generations and generations with his people. We can thus be patient with his people for a few decades while polygamy dies on its own in these cultures that become influenced by Christianity.

Your point about elders was exactly where my mind was going. I wonder... if it takes generations to establish indiginous church leadership because of the polygomy issue...could that explain why Christianity has taken hold more surely in some places of the globe while in others it seems to flounder? (Holy Spirit aside) :think:

I wonder if you could draw a paralell between polygomy in some cultures with debt in our own. The Bible has a great deal to say about debt but when an American adult becomes regenerated he will more than likely be in debt up to his eyeballs. (speaking from experience :( ) It takes a long time to establish biblical wealth in that man because all the while even though he may wish to tithe and give and be debt free, he also knows he would be worse than an infidel if he did not provide for his family. I can assure you it will take a generation for my family to establish biblical wealth.

I read a press release last year from the ACLU that stated they are working in Utah for the rights of polygomists as we speak. This is an issue the English speaking churches will be dealing with soon. We need to be prepared.

Any thoughts? Any disagreements?
 
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satz

Puritan Board Senior
I'm not so sure. In talking about kings, the law had this to say:

Deu. 17:17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

I think that God "winked" at David's transgression, and perhaps Solomon's too. But I also think Solomon and David would have been a lot better off if they had followed Deuteronomy. Talk about disfunctional families.

Good point. I should have remembered about that. However, as you say, that was a law directed specifically to the kings. As some others have alluded to, I see it as being somewhat parallel to the requirement that elders be the husband of one wife. But that does not make polygamy inherently a sin in God's eyes. Yet he holds his leaders to a higher standard.

.... I do not consider myself to be in any position to correct you, but from what I can tell, I think what you posted is generally correct. I do not believe there is any biblical justification from disputing marriages that have already been entered into in any way shape or form. This is another one of those issues where I guess we wish God had made himself clearer. But I believe if he wanted to declare polygamy a outright sin like adultery and fornication, he was very capable of doing so. We ought not to try to be more conservative than God.
 
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Herald

Administrator
Staff member
[bible]Genesis 2:22-24[/bible]

[bible]Psalm 128:3[/bible]

[bible]Proverbs 5:18[/bible]

[bible]Proverbs 12:4[/bible]

[bible]Proverbs 18:22[/bible]

[bible]Malachi 2:14-16[/bible]

[bible]Matthew 19:9[/bible]

[bible]1 Corinthians 7:2[/bible]

[bible]Ephesians 5:22-33[/bible]

[bible]1 Timothy 3:2[/bible]

[bible]Titus 1:6[/bible]

Any questions? :smug:
 

gwine

Puritan Board Sophomore
-God (I forget where) uses an analogy of even Himself being married twice. I can look it up.

Ezekiel 23 ?
Eze 23:1 The word of the LORD came to me:
Eze 23:2 "Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother.
Eze 23:3 They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosoms handled.
Eze 23:4 Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.
 

Timothy William

Puritan Board Junior
If there was a situation of polyandry (one woman with multiple husbands) in converts to Chritianity, would they all be valid marriages, or does the allowance of polygamy only work one way?
 

johnwillby

Inactive User
Hi Guys,

Been sitting back enjoying reading this interaction. I am surprised that with the history of Christian missions, many which have been laboring amongst tribal groups and Muslims for many years, that nobody has written a book on the subject. I guess for most they see this issue as being so similar to slavery that the same type of exegesis and argument can be used?

However from my reading of Piper's biography of Wilberforce I seem to think they quoted a specific passage that condemned the practice of making slaves in the way that it was done in the 18th and 19th Centuries (i.e. Literally capturing by force some unwilling tribes person). They tolerated people to keep slaves (initially) but sought to outlaw the making of slaves by force. They saw the move towards total abolishment as being taught in the case of Philemon?

I am not sure, as yet, that one can make the same argument with Polygamy? Can you? What passage would you use to argue that a Christian should not marry more than one wife and to do so is a sin (apart from the fact it is illegal in some countries)? Where I think you are on firmer ground is the toleration of those already polygamously married. A suitable biblical argument might be possible at this point.

I suppose what scratches where I itch is the principles of exegesis being used here in this thread. If I might be permitted to "stir the pot"...

It does seem that in this instance we are doing something very similar to situation ethics. By this we are saying basically that whilst far from the ideal it is better to tolerate polygamy than to resort to the greater sin of divorce. Would you say this is a fair comment?

A quote from the discussion in that link mentioned earlier says this - "This means that even if polygamy was wrong, it is was a lesser evil than adultery". This sounds much like situation ethics to me.

However I suppose the pertinent issue concerning situation ethics is whether we feel this encourages disobedience to scripture? For instance tolerating what the Bible condemns as a sin to avoid another sin?

I guess where this thinking also helps me is that we can accept Polygamous marriages as being legitimate marriages because they are between a man and a women and so thus reflect , albeit incompletely, one aspect of the creation pattern as demonstrated in Genesis and used by Paul to this effect when discussing sexual immorality of various kinds in Romans 1. What we can't do is make a route from this to same sex partnerships (I can't bring myself to call them marriages as I don't believe they are). So if somebody who came to church and was saved was in such a partnership we can say to them that they should dissolve their partnership as its not a marriage in the same way that a man and a women are. We CAN argue that homosexuality is clearly spoken of in negative terms (however it is expressed).

Where I suppose this web site, that I was asked about, made the link between these two things is that they believe, despite claiming to be evangelical, that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality when between two committed partners in a "civil partnership". That even though the "mode" is difference from the norm, like in the case of Polygamy, what matters is the commitment to "one partner" as argued in the case of monogamy. They object that we are being hypocritical if we allow one type of marriage that only reflects on aspect of the creation pattern and not another. That its better to tolerate same sex partnerships than to force people into the worst sins of fornication, lust and promiscuity. The paper on the site I read even talked about marriage between a man and a woman as being the ideal but that we should tolerate such expressions as civil partnerships between same sex people despite being not the "ideal". Can you can see how they make the connection now between these two issues?

They are wrong of course and their argument is fatally flawed but I suppose it should not be a surprise that people can be so devious about finding ways to legitimize sin!

I know this borders on the bad habit of changing the original intent of the thread into something else, but I thank you for patiently reading my pondering.

Sin complicates things - thats a fact!
 
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johnwillby

Inactive User
Hi

Yes you are right to draw a distinction between situation ethics and grading sins.

As I think about this I can see this now.

However I think its an easy step to take from grading sins, and then having thus graded a sin as less than another, to then argue that choosing the lesser sin is "better". All of a sudden we find unwittingly we have taken steps towards situation ethics.

The thing that troubles me is we need to be very careful not to lessen the fact that sin is sin! Not that I think you are doing this but it is worth mentioning in this context.

I agree we should always stress the "ideal", that we can't just ignore the "less than ideal", but is this argument strong enough even if tied into the passages that promote the "ideal" to embolden us to say "this is sin"?

Thats a very difficult one and whilst my inclination is to condemn polygamy as sin, the lack of a clear scriptural condemnation makes me feel a little hesitant...
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Hello;

By no means would I ever advocate situation ethics. What I would advocate is, if a missionary entered a Gospel rife with polygamy (many case studies could be brought forth) it is best to preach the Gospel and polygamy will die down within a generation or so.

God dealt with the Patriarchs for generation after generation, I only urge patience to see it die a natural death after a generation or two. In a sea of evils to be corrected, polygamy, as strange as it sounds, is lower down on the list than some others like tribal war, spirit worship, baby killing, etc.


The Biblical case against polygamy would come from preaching the ideals of marriage. Once the perfect situation is described, it is near impossible to see that polygamy is as desirable as monogamy (unless a huge war breaks out and there is a shortage of men). Once the people have an understanding of Scripture and there are some believers, then even if sociological conditions make polygamy desirable they will still see monogamy as ideal.

:amen:


Too, you will concede that some sins are worse than others. Adultery is thus worse than polygamy. Murder is worse than a lie. A lustful glance is less evil than full blown adultery. Polygamy is less evil than divorce.

I thought only 'the great transgression', the sin of presumption was worse than others... :candle:
 
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amity

Inactive User
Here are some bullet points on polygamy:

-God told David, wouldn't I have given you many wives if you had wanted, but why did you committ adultery. Thus, it appears that adultery is worse than polygamy (and polygamy is NOT adultery, but truly counts as marriage...even if a stupid covenant to get into).

Can you please help me find this Bible passage where God tells David he would have given him many wives if he had wanted? Thanks.

edit: I think I found that one. Now looking for the passage where wives are listed as among Solomon's blessings!
 
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LadyFlynt

Puritan Board Doctor
No, not giving him a way to sin, but rather a way NOT to sin. Remember polygamy is never condemned as a sin...just rather is not the ideal.

Also on the woman with many husbands...yes, in this case it is a two way street. You do not see such a case in scripture and the man supports the wife/wives...not vise versa.


(I'm with Trevor on this issue)
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
Perhaps an answer to those who question the prohibition of polygomy in the Bible is this:

Does the Bible ever, explicitly or implicitly, command, endorse, promote or recommend polygomy? (No)

and

Does the Bible ever, explicitly or implicitly command, endorse, promote or recommend monogomy? (Yes)

Far too many people view the Bible as only a book of negative prohibitions, and ignore all of the positive cammands and instructions. :2cents:

God regulating polygamy is promoting it isn't it?
 

Nse007

Puritan Board Freshman
Interesting...

This text does seem to pose a problem...do you mean the Lord would've made way for David to sin (by giving him more wives?)
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I excerpt the following two paragraphs from a post I wrote on another thread:

"When I had a class consisting of many pastors, elders, and evangelists (itinerant lay preachers) in Africa (mostly Sudanese, some Kenyans), the question I had put to me was: A polygamous husband converted to Christ; may his second and third wives, if believers, partake of the Lord's Table?

Some in the class said he had to put away #s 2 and 3 -- although this was almost tantamount to putting them to death in that tribal village culture."

Those who said this [immediately above] had been in contact with Western missionaries and church groups.

I believe the settled view is this (although at first -- in 2005 when I first confronted these questions -- I was dumbfounded):

When a husband with more than one wife was converted [most men in the tribal villages had more than one -- it is part of the economic system, more on which below] he was allowed into the church, and if he had believing wives, they were also -- all being eligible for baptism.

If any wife died, he was not allowed to replace her, as the New Testament teaching was: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh..." (Matt 19:4-6).

I believe the Scripture in Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2, "the husband of one wife" speaks to this, specifically referring to polygamy. There is a tension, an ambiguity here, I think the Lord purposely had it like this for dealing with the Gospel in polygamous cultures.

If he did replace her, being himself a professing Christian now, it was not counted a marriage but an adulterous affair, the which if repented not of would make him liable to discipline, even excommunication.

The same with any believer who took more than one wife; any woman after the first was not reckoned a wife but a mistress, and constituted adultery.

No person who came into the church with more than one wife was eligible for office, unless some died and he ended with but one, or none.

So they are allowed in, but once in must submit to the standard of Christ.

These things are now taught and practiced in the PCOS, Presbyterian Church of Sudan, as well as in the Reformed churches in Kenya (at least in the Kisii region).

The way tribal culture in Sudan is set up, the fathers -- patriarchs -- give their daughters in marriage for a "bride price", which usually is 15 cows. Few young men, save those from cattle-wealthy families, can come up with this, so they indenture themselves to the fathers for many years to pay off the debt. When I asked the class how many cows did they think I got from the man marrying my daughter, they were shocked to hear I got none, and that in the West fathers usually shell out a lot of money for their daughters' weddings!

In the churches they are trying to stop this practice, but it takes a generation or two for there to be a pool of eligible women not in that system. Southern Sudan has been deprived of all essential services from the main (Muslim) government in the north for over 15 years, during which the north waged war against the south, capturing multitudes of women and children to be sold into slavery. The tribal cultures were pretty much decimated, and the Lord nonetheless worked good through it by breaking the cultural patterns so that the churches could begin establishing the foundations of a new kind of society. In south Sudan the churches are the unifying societal infrastructure, for the pastors and those they train have some education, wisdom, organizational skills, and of course, a mighty King who undertakes in their behalf. Although the situation is far from perfect, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and His churches, that are the best hope for the new South Sudan.

Steve
 
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