The Biblical Case for Polygamy
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I've been a pastor for the past 12 years. Much of that time has been spent with youth and young adults. There has been an alarming trend I have seen over these years. Guys are disappearing from the ranks of the faithful. It can be seen in the massive epidemic of single parent families, mainly lead by women (80%). Even when the men are still in the relationship, it is often the women who have taken up the role of spiritual leadership, as the men have either abandoned the faith or never had it in the first place.
Pastor Mark Driscoll has stated that the main reason guys aren't involved in the faith is that the church has catered to a population of women and not allowed them to be "dudes". (You can check out his comments here beginning at the 1:54 mark.)
I respectfully, yet wholeheartedly, disagree. I have run a youth group for the last 12 years and it is definitely geared for guys. Yet, when it comes to leadership and responsibility, the guys run. No matter the challenge, the vision or the high calling to lead in changing the world for Christ, guys are the last to take up the calling in youth group and are usually the first to bolt for the door after youth group is over. I commend Mark Driscoll for creating an environment conducive for young men being biblically challenged, but I'm not seeing it on an individual level.
Maybe it is just the predictable outcome of a culture that is marked by guys fleeing from their responsibilities in marriage and family, while pursuing their own endeavors (be it a career or another relationship). Or maybe it is the result of the culture itself stating that husbands and fathers are no longer necessary. (You can listen to an interesting podcast that makes that case here.) Or maybe it is the invasion of the popular New Atheism movement birthed through a culture of evolutionary theory mixed with a disdain for all things religious (often harkening back to hated experiences growing up in a church). Or maybe it is just guys being boys who are attracted to the next shiny object: the internet, video games...or football, spending all of their spare moments immersed in a world they can control. But guys are leaving the church in droves...and they aren't coming back.
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I have watched year after year as girls and young women, who love the Lord and are passionate about Him, compromise their convictions and for the sake of relationship yoke themselves with unbelievers. I've heard the justifications of such arrangements too. "He treats me better than most of the Christian guys I know." "He's so nice." "I don't want to be alone." "You'd love him and his sense of humor, responsibility, character...(or your own favorite adjective to convince someone that breaking the biblical command is justified)."
But I have seen the fallout of this shortsighted philosophy as these relationships become marriages (or living together arrangements) and children become involved. What seemed like a good idea in the dating phase, becomes a nightmare in a relationship where the woman constantly worries about the conflict her relationship with Christ has on both her husband and her children. The deeper her relationship with Christ becomes the more she frets over the salvation of her husband and the impact their divided family will have on their children in the most important area of life. Living out 1 Cor. 7:10-16 is much harder than it looks, especially when the person has willfully put themselves in that position. Many who find themselves in this place after many years of marriage admit they should have never done it because of the turmoil and pain it has caused them (often leading to divorce and all the extra baggage that comes with it).
But there may be a solution for women who want a husband who is faithful to Christ in the near future that hasn't been previously available before. With the re-definition of marriage that seems to be sweeping the nation, it is only a matter of time before polygamy also becomes an acceptable form of marriage again. Currently the debate concerning marriage is being framed around love and how it cannot be limited to be viewed in only one light. However, once you open the door to one new understanding of the institution provided by this new understanding of love, then others are soon to follow. It will be very easy to make a case that a woman should be able to choose to marry another man who already has a wife, if it is their conviction that they marry within the faithful (and all parties are willing). For if love and marriage cannot have one strict definition, it most certainly cannot have just two.
Now to be sure, there are a lot of issues with polygamous relationships that have to be considered. First, men within those relationships can never be an elder or deacon in the church (1 Tim. 3:1-13). Issues concerning these families and relational problems that arise are sure to give many ministers fits, as reconciliation with spouses and the children born into such circumstances have an exponential set of relationships to properly keep track of. There will be jealousy among wives and the size and type of family each one has (see Gen 16; 21:8-21, 1 Samuel 1:1-8). There will be the temptation to treat the husband as a sex object only good for providing for the family and producing more offspring (Gen. 30:1-24). Or the husband to treat marriage only as an arrangement to produce the most political peace and prosperity for his family, which can have the corrupting effect of turning away his heart from the God he professes to serve (1 Kings 11:1-8). The husband, as well, may only see sex as a function of the body and not part of the committed relationship of marriage and decide to have not only polygamous relationships but polyamorous ones as well (these similar to concubines in the Bible...and they are happening in our culture today...click here to see a Nightline story on this lifestyle, but don't if it will be a stumbling block to you). Finally, the breathtaking problems it can lead to within the relationships of the children have to be read to be believed (Gen. 37; 2 Sam 13).
However, the one advantage of a polygamous relationship is that the husband that each of the women are married to can have a very strong relationship with the Lord, the most solid of all bases to build a foundation of faith within the family.
Don't get me wrong. I am not an advocate of polygamous relationships, even though there is a biblical case to be made for their existence. But their existence may be something the church in America has to deal with in the near future and may provide a type of imperfect solution for the woman who wants to serve the Lord and desires strongly to be married to a man with the same convictions.
The perfect solution would be for guys who profess to be Christians to start acting like men who live out their convictions. They need to stop making sissified excuses of how the church hurt them or how they were bored or how it wasn't relevant to their lives. They need to actually sit down and read the Bible instead of playing lip service to it and actually teach their wives and families to follow Christ (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21, Psalm 78:1-8). Instead of complaining about how the church is, they should be leading the charge of who the church should be to reach the next generation for Christ. They should stop leaving at the first sign of any resistance, whether it be church or marriage or fatherhood, and learn the blessing involved in persevering (James 1:19-25).
If they would just do that, by truly putting Christ first in their marriage, their fatherhood and the practice of their faith in fellowship maybe the next generation of women won't have to double up on a faithful man just to find one. Men who do this would find out very quickly that this is the type of man that a truly beautiful woman is dying to find (1 Peter 3:3-4). And let me assure you, there are plenty of beautiful women longing for a Godly man.