Re: Social Problems--Part A

Charles Cairns (
Thu, 19 Feb 1998 19:53:08 -0500

Russell wrote in part, in answer to Charles Cairns' question:

>> Do you have references for God's disapproval of polygamy?

>One could, of course, point to all sorts of problems--God's punishments, I
>assume--associated with polygamy in the Old Testament. But I don't think
>you are looking for an inductive approach.

Well, I wouldn't reject arguments from that angle entirely, but I don't know
that they would be convincing. Because those being punished would presumably
have erred in more ways than one, I doubt we could identify polygamy as the
chief offense. Ie, was homosexuality the cause for Sodom's destruction, or
hubris, or both, or both and more? Conventional interpretations often
reflect conventional morality.

>Rather: The pre-fall ideal was one man with one woman (cf. Gen. 2:4); after
>the fall, polygamy appeared; but when Christ redeemed his people--as
>expressed in the New Testament--there was to be a return to one man-one
>woman. This ideal is expressed in Titus 1:3, for example. Then, at the end
>of the NT, in Revelations, Christ meets his bride, the church--not brides.
>Surely, if the beginning and the end are ideal situations, then the time
>between should have come up to that ideal.

I don't think identifying pre-fall ideals tells us much about what is right
behavior after the fall. Assuming that the account of Eden is historical,
are there not other elements of the pre-fall condition that one could argue
should also be restored? Public nudity? Ignorance? We cannot remove the
shame that befell man at the fall; nor can we deny the need to learn and
improve ourselves, since we no longer have a Gardener to take care of us.
Our pre-fall state may prefigure our glorified state in heaven, but I don't
think it is represents goals for our post-fall behavior.

How else do you explain Paul's words in 1 Timothy 3:2: "A bishop then must
be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior,
given to hospitality, apt to teach;"

It would appear that Paul found monogamy a virtue, especially for church
office, but didn't condemn the parishioners for having more than one wife. I
think monogamy was one of Paul's "good ideas," along the lines, IMHO, of his
words elsewhere about being abstinent if you can, and if you can't, take a
wife (advice that would hardly be given today to a promiscuous young man).

You thoughts on this verse?

(BTW, we've not touched on our responsibility to live within the laws of our
community, or how laws change across communities, or how Christians ought to
behave in those communities. And of course, we're two guys talking about
having multiple wives, an admittedly one-sided conversation, but the only
one that would have occurred to Timothy and Paul.)