Social Problems (was Social Problems--Part A)

Russell Maatman (
Sat, 21 Feb 1998 14:52:13 -0600

I have changed the heading to "Social Problems"; in that way, I might
stimulate discussion on the other three questions I mentioned in my
original (set of five) communications. Thus: Is it true that respect for
life must rest on scientific results, and not begin with our biblical
understanding of God's plan of redemption? Is it true that respect for the
various races must rest on how well individuals fare on tests, etc., and
not begin with our biblical understanding of God's plan of redemption? Is
it true that we are to work out early human history only on fossil
evidence, and exclude our biblical understanding of God's plan of

I shall now respond to Charles Cairns's comment sent on Thursday, February
19, 1998, at 6:53 PM. Charles wrote in part, responding to my claim that
the Bible teaches monogamy:

> I don't think identifying pre-fall ideals tells us much about what is
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> words elsewhere about being abstinent if you can, and if you can't, take
> wife (advice that would hardly be given today to a promiscuous young
> You thoughts on this verse?

My thoughts on this verse: I've consulted John Calvin's commentary on this
passage. First, Calvin agrees with Chrysostom, a church father, and says
that "in a bishop [Paul] expressly condemns polygamy," whereas Jews of
Paul's time thought they could imitate the patriarchs and middle easterners
of Paul's day. Now, more to the point of your question:

"But here it might be objected, that what is sinful in all ought not to
have been condemned in bishops alone." Calvin then remarks that the
original law, laid out in Genesis 2:4, was never repealed. "But [God]
might, to some extent, bear with that in others which, in a bishop, would
have been excessively vile, and therefore not to be endured."

We certainly should have no difficulty with the idea that God bears with us
even in our sinfulness, and gently leads us along so that eventually,
perhaps after centuries, his people have changed. No doubt we can recite
many practices "taken for granted" say, a thousand years ago, which are,
however, considered wrong, wrong, wrong today.

> (BTW, we've not touched on our responsibility to live within the laws of
> community, or how laws change across communities, or how Christians ought
> 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.)

Yes, one-sided, although two guys. We could take a poll among the women in
our lives and find out what they think of polygamy.

Sorry. I couldn't resist that last remark!


Russell Maatman
Home: 401 5th Avenue
Sioux Center, IA 51250