Monday, February 19, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 5b

Monogamy, Monotheism, and Playing out the Story of Redemption

In the Torah, and the History and Writings of the Patriarchs and Kings we see polygamy as a regular practice. It would therefore seem that my view of monogamy as a ritual practice modeling monotheism would be a pleasantly attractive, but potentially unbiblical model. Yet I believe that Monogamy is the Biblical preference, and being the ideal pattern established by God it is therefore the more perfect model of both His character, and His redemptive work with humanity.

My reasons for feeling this way are outlined below.

1. References to marriage in commandment form, or in reference to God's plan for the institution are always described in a monogamous pattern.

2. Leaders in the New Testament are required to be monogamous, showing us that those who are set aside specifically to model the Christian life, are modeling something positive and godly in their monogamous lifestyle.

3. I place polygamy into the pattern of things allowed, but not celebrated by God. Things which are allowed do not carry the same value of ritual lifestyle which model the character of God, as those things which are preferred. Monogamy was established "from the beginning," and becomes the pattern of preference which models something of God's character and plans.

Though I certainly do not hold the view that monogamy is necessary for salvation, or that polygamy is rejected fully by God, I do see polygamy as a far less than optimal lifestyle in respect to the development of a life modeling the character and redemptive story of our Savior.

Modeling Redemptive History

The redemptive story of Christ bringing salvation to humanity, and calling a people to Himself is filled with intimate, romantic language. The people of God are seen as a woman being courted by the Lord in Jeremiah, and the Prophet Hosea lives out redemptive history in prophetic detail through his marriage to one woman who is unfaithful to him, and has kids by other lovers. As we come to the New Testament, Paul relates the mystery of the Gospel in terms of a marriage relationship between one man, and one woman. The church which is seen as many who yet are one are given the title the Bride of Christ, and a marriage supper to this one lover is arranged at the end of the redemptive story.

No institution of marital arrangement fits the picture of the jealous faithfulness of God for His one people, and the romance of the story of our redemption like the institution of monogamy. Monogamy becomes a lifestyle liturgy modeling the redemption history, and the jealous love of our God like no other pattern of living we know.


Shiloh Guy said...


I love the redemptive picture of Christ and his Bride. Do you think that generally speaking men have a harder time relating to that picture than women? My lovely wife is enraptured by meditating on this while I seem to hold a rather intellectual perspective. I wish I could get closer to where she is! In spite of my weakness on this point, I find it a magnificent metaphor.

How is polygamy "allowed" by God? Do you mean it is allowed in the sense that men like Jacob and David were not immediately obliterated? I shy away from "allowed" in favor of "grace." It is/was a sin like any other and God chooses not to exercise justice for all manner of sin. (But not always; e.g. Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira.) His demonstration of grace doesn't seem to be the same as allowing sin.

One more thing...the paragraph immediately following #3 doesn't seem to say quite what you want it to say. Am I mistaken?

You're doing a great job with this series. Hurry up, I'm preaching through Ephesians and am quickly approaching the marriage section in chapter 5! You're a big help!


Pastor Phil said...

Hey Dave,

Thanks for the heads up on that paragraph which was typed out quickly last night. All fixed now.

As far as using the word "allowed," since I do not come from a reformed theological position, I do not have a hard time with the word allowed. Perhaps it's a matter of theological semantics. I use allowed in the sense of "the times of this ignorance God winked at." Yet strangely I also do not find a call to repentance concerning the practice of polygamy in scrippture, and certainly if that was critical to God I believe that I would see it since it was a practice openly occuring in society at the time the biblical text was being formed. This is a weirdly uncomfortable thing to consider, especially since I have met, and discussed polygamy with real live Mormon polygamists.

Anonymous said...

Dude phil! you're stretching my brain. Everytime I read about guys with more than one wife in the bible I usually dismiss thinking about it because it's just to foreign and awkward for me to think about.

I may be wrong but didn't the biblical characters who practiced polygamy/adultery in one way or another(Abraham, David, Solomon) have trouble down the genetic line with sexual immorality?... I'll have to mull over this. These have been great posts on sexuality, Thanks Phil.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl,

I had to think through this topic a number of years ago, because I was wanting to move to Utah and minister to Mormons in central Utah many of whom belonged to fundamentalist, polygamist Mormon churches.

So I had to consider what muight happen if a family joined a church with two moms, both with 3 or 4 kids, and a father who was responsible for the whole family. So what the heck do you tell them? --Sorry, you'll have to divorce your second wife, and send the kids off with her into the wilderness like Hagar and Ishmael?

We don't face these dilemmas here in MA, USA, but if we preached in Africa, or the Middle East, or even Utah we'd have to think about it.

As far as sexual immorality down the genetic line: I wonder which genetic line hasn't had that difficulty. It seems to be a general human condition of sin - even among television evangelists.

Adam Gonnerman said...

You are right that polygamy is nowhere forbidden, except for church leaders, but it never seemed to work out well either. An extreme example is Solomon, though the patriarchs before him had no end of trouble from having more than one wife.

In missions this sometimes can be an issue. A few years ago I heard about a well-intentioned missionary in Africa that led a powerful man to faith in Christ, but would not baptize him until he dealt with his second wife. The missionary explained that monogamy was the only acceptable option. The missionary left, and a few weeks later returned to check on things. The man, sad-faced, said he was ready to be baptized. The missionary said that was great, and that he would also like to speak with the ex-second wife about what this all meant. Terribly confused, the man told the missionary that she had been put to death.

In that tribal culture, there is no divorce. Sometimes it helps to understand your culture. This sounds like an urban legend, but it was presented to me as fact from people who knew the missionary.

Anonymous said...

Hi pastor Phil, just to say a big thanks for your posts on sexuality. Only just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it. What you say makes sense to me and I've never really seen it like that before (the whole monogamy / one God thing) Genuinely normal and genuinely spiritual. Err well, I haven't got any deep comments to add, so cheers again.


Pastor Phil said...

Hey Caz,

Thanks for stopping in. I like your phrase genuinely noormal and genuinely spiritual. That's a cool way of describing living ritually.

Anonymous said...

yeah, that's a good point, sin is found in every family... still scratching my head.