Friday, December 21, 2007

Question of the Day

Is polygamy compatible with Christian teaching? Defend your position Biblically.


Dan Trabue said...

While I once thought that the Bible was quite clear on sexual ethics (being taught that way), I no longer think it as clear as I once did.

Clearly, there are all manner of sexual relations scenario that are presented in the pages of the Bible. Some are offered within the context of the story (without offering "God's opinion," if you will) while others are offered with the implication or direct statement that it is within God's Will.

David, Abraham, Solomon and several others are represented as having multiple wives (hundreds for David and Solomon) and often multiple concubines as well as wives. Not only is it never condemned as being wrong, in the case of David and Solomon, but the Bible makes clear (to literalists, anyway) that God gave David his multiple wives.

[And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
2 Samuel 12:8

And there's ambiguity about courtship and age parameters in the Bible, wherein God commands actions that we would find horrifying today.

For instance, God commands Israel to kill all the peoples in an enemy nation but spare the orphan girls so that they may be brought home to be wives for Israel's men (yikes!).

[Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. ~Numbers 31:17-18

ewww... for what purpose and how will they determine their virginity?

See also Deut. 21:10-13

God has Hosea marry a prostitute, Lot offers his daughters up for rape to the ruffians at Sodom, Abraham passes Sarah off as his sister, offering her to a King to be bedded down and so on.

Additionally (and perhaps more importantly for Christians), we have the more traditional teachings of marrying one individual and being faithful to that spouse. The NT certainly is more consistent in its sexual standards than what we find in the OT.

But all in all, it's not nearly so neatly packaged front to back of the Bible as I once thought it was.

To answer your question, though, as NT believers, I certainly think the norm is a healthy monogamous marriage - one where each spouse treats the other with the same respect and love that Christ shows to the Church. So, that would be my final answer.

Pastor Chris Roberts said...

C'mon John.
The Bible says "Adam and Eve" not "Adam and Eve and Eva and Evelyn and Evie."

Allan R. Bevere said...

What Chris said. Enough said!

Keith Taylor said...

Jesus said in Mark 10:

6: But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
7: For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
8: And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
9: What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
10: And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
11: And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

From Jesus' own words in his answer to the Pharases questions on Divorce, that He states that God intended for one Man and one Woman to be married together to form one union. Therefore, I'd say that Christ's own words state that polygamy is not in God's original design. Just because certain OT saints may have practiced it and it is recorded in the Bible, doesn't mean that it was per the original design of God.

Likewise, the Bible never shows polygamy in a "good" situation. At best it is a neutral situation, the majority of the time, it is reflected negatively.

Dan Trabue said...

At best it is a neutral situation, the majority of the time, it is reflected negatively.

References? It is never condemned in the OT that I can think of. It leads to some complications, but then, so does monogamy.

Not that I'm defending polygamy or think it especially moral. It's just that I don't think the Bible - taken as a whole - condemns it.

John asked for biblical support, not bumper sticker support (although I'm assuming that "Adam/Eve, not Adam/eve,etc" was a joke - a rather funny one, at that).

Dan Trabue said...

Actually, for me, I find this a good analogy to war/peace and the Bible.

We can definitely point to some isolated OT passages that give examples of Israel warring - even examples of God commanding them to - but then we have the NT teachings.

And while the NT teachings never condemn war itself, it teaches us another preferred way - the way of creative peacemaking and seeking of justice. And this "new" way is backed up with MUCH in the OT, as well.

Like that with polygamy. Never is it condemned outright in the Bible's pages (and sometimes it seems arranged by God), but we are offered a better, preferred way in the NT (with some support for this new way in the OT, as well).

John said...

Hmm. Then maybe one can do some creative exegesis and come up with a Just Polygamy Theory.

Allan R. Bevere said...

While polygamy is not explicitly condemned, per se, the kingship narratives treat David's and expecially Solomon's extreme polygamy as one more example of how Israel had become like all the other nations, when God wanted it set apart for his purposes.

Remember Israel's complaint to Samuel, "We want a king like all the other nations." God relented and gave them an earthly king, and they received what they asked for, and Israel ended up in exile.

So, polygamy is not affirmed in the OT, it is seen as another pagan practice.

This is another example of where biblical narratives need to be read as a whole and in large context, instead of searching for explicit prooftexts one way or another. Just because we do not see Jesus, for example, explicitly affirming or condemning something, doesn't mean that there exists no larger context from which we can draw conclusions.

Ignobleone said...

It seems to me that Gods allowing the OT polygamy was akin to his allowing bar-b-que after the flood. As strong-willed and stiff-necked sinners humans did what was expected, tolerated or accepted reglardless of the commands of God. Moses brought tablets that suggest monogamy, the creation story suggest male and female monogamy, and Christ (as referenced earlier) describes it as the intended state of sexual relation.

I am not so sure that the outcomes of Solomon's polygamy can cannot be considered as never being condemned as wrong. Certainly Solomon's association with many wives of other culturals and his loving response to their desires to worship is identified as leading to Isreal's downfall.

As a sinful people we are likely to keep on sinning, while God seeks us, but that does not mean that our sinful lives are acceptable to God.

Scotte Hodel said...

Deut 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."

Referring to the king. That is, in spite of the practices of David and Solomon, the law condemns polygamy by the king.

Keith Taylor said...

Dan wrote:

References? It is never condemned in the OT that I can think of. It leads to some complications, but then, so does monogamy.

The relationship and emotions between Jacob's wives, Rachel and Leah and their two maidens is outlined in Gen. 30. The shory shows a very troubled family relationship.

The relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar was very troubled to the point that Abraham had to send Hagar and Ishmael in (Gen 21:9-20) into the wilderness.

Both Solomon's and David's exploits with plural marriage are well documented in the Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles sections of the Bible. It isn't condemned as wrong, but it certainly isn't shown in a positive light for either man or their relationships with their wives or their children nor the children with their siblings.

No where does the Bible say, thou shalt only have one wife, but many times, you have to actually read the text of the stories and think about them to figure that out. I say that in spite of what that idiot, charlatan, liar, false prophet, and money schemer - Joseph Smith dupped the poor mormons with in the mid 19th century. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

Dan Trabue said...

So, polygamy is not affirmed in the OT, it is seen as another pagan practice.

So, what of the (at least one) passage in 2 Samuel 12, where it indicates that God GAVE King David his multiple wives? In that instance, polygamy is God-ordained (or, at least it is for those who insist that the Bible be taken literally).

Keith Taylor said...


If I buy a house, did I buy it, or did God give it to me? If I buy two houses did I buy them or did God give me two houses? The answer to both questions in each example questions is "yes". What if it was God's will that I should only have one house, and I give the money that I would have spent on the other house to charity. But, I didn't listen to God, I gave the money to the seller and I bought another house anyway. Did God still give me the house? the answer is still "yes".

I am in the conservative camp. I do actually believe the Bible to be an inerrant document.

The words of Christ are pretty clear. Marriage is and was designed by God to be between ONE man and ONE woman to form ONE Union.

John's original question was, Is polygamy compatible with Christian teaching? The answer from Christ, himself, is a clear "no" in my King James copy of the book.

John said...

Thanks to everyone for the discussion, and especially for Dan's encyclopedic coverage. That's basically my position: the overall Biblical position is one of disapproval, or that things go really awry in polygamous relationships. Sort of like the Biblical stance on homosexuality, albeit less strong.

Dan Trabue said...

If I buy a house, did I buy it, or did God give it to me? If I buy two houses did I buy them or did God give me two houses? The answer to both questions in each example questions is "yes".

Well, I would tend to think, no, not at all, actually. If you buy two houses, then YOU bought two houses. God may allow you to have them, but I wouldn't say that God gave you the houses (or wives), any more than I would say that the person who has stolen a car had the car because God gave it to him. He stole it.

Just because God allows stuff doesn't mean that God endorses stuff. Seems to me. Not everything that happens is God's will, right?

While I agree with all of you that polygamy is a poor idea - wrong, even, I don't think you can get there ("Polygamy is wrong") exactly through biblical teachings. We have to use our own reasoning a bit, don't we?

scooter said...

Even if it is Biblically correct, why would you want to? Maybe that's why there was always drinking in the Bible...too many wives.