Today's perception is about Biblical difficulties. You know, things in the Bible that may be difficult to understand, hard to explain, seem contradictory, or maybe appear to be just plain bad. There are several things in the Bible that could fit this description. Sometimes, they can be hang-ups that keep people from putting their faith in Jesus. They are often used as ammunition by atheists and skeptics to attack the Christians' faith. Indeed, my idea for this post comes from what I read when I browse the comments on stories in the Belief Blog on CNN.com. This could possibly turn into a multi-post story that I may have to make a page for, but we'll start with this one post for now. My thoughts after the jump.
Let's face it, there are many passages in the Bible that for many people can be confusing. There are concepts that can be difficult to grasp, and in some cases, on the surface, it can appear that the Bible is even promoting and encouraging something viewed as bad. How do we reconcile these things? For the Christian, these can be difficult to understand, and so for the non-Christian, they can be outright outrageous. One thing that the Christian should understand and remember through faith though, is that God is holy, just, and completely righteous. If on the surface the Bible (and therefore God) seems to be promoting something viewed generally as evil, then there must be some deeper meaning that shows what is in the Bible is either not bad, or is actually not promoted by God. Let us look for example at a topic in the news recently...polygamy.
Polygamy has been in the news because of the recent conviction of Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is an offshoot of the Mormon Church that still practices polygamy. Jeffs was convicted of sexually assaulting two girls that he called his "spiritual wives", and has since been sentenced to life in prison. Mormonism is not actually a Christian faith, but they still use the Christian Bible to support their position of polygamy being endorsed by God. So what does the Bible ACTUALLY say about polygamy?
The idea for polygamy being ok comes from the fact that several characters in the Bible has multiple wives. Many of these people were even called faithful servants of God. The most extreme example of this is probably King Solomon, who was the son of King David. It is said that Solomon had over 700 wives, and over 300 concubines. If these people were faithful servants of God, and they had multiple wives, then it must be ok, right? The short answer, no. If you read the accounts of these people, not once does God actually give his approval of polygamy. Taking multiple spouses is never given as a command in the Bible. In fact, one thing you will find when you read the accounts of these polygamists is that they all are punished, and problems are created. This seems to be more of a condemnation of polygamy than condoning.
Take Solomon for example again. Solomon was once called the wisest man that ever lived. He was faithful to God, and was even allowed to build God's temple after David was told he could not because he was a man of war. Solomon went astray when he began marrying the many women, however. Many of these women were foreigners that did not worship the one true God. Solomon was thus influenced to worship other gods, becoming a polytheist, and fell from God's grace.
As another example, consider Abraham. Abraham took as a second wife the servant of his first wife. He doubted that God would provide a son for him through his wife Sarah as was promised, and so took the servant Hagar, who bore him Ishmael. Did you know that Muslims trace their heritage and their right to Jerusalem and the promises of God back to Ishmael? It is possible, that the divide of Jews and Muslims is because Abraham doubted God, and took for himself a second wife.
In determining if polygamy is endorsed by the Bible, we should also look at the trends in the Bible. How was marriage done? In Genesis, in the beginning, how many wives did God give to Adam? He gave him one, Eve. It is never stated in the Bible that God gave Adam another wife. So from the start, the model for marriage is one man and one woman. Also, the church is collectively called the bride of Christ. We are not the wives (plural) of Christ. Again, one bride and one bridegroom. In the New Testament, one of the conditions for being a leader in the church is for a man to have but one wife (1 Tim 3:2). If taking multiple wives were encouraged, then Paul would not have made this a requirement.
Monogamy has always been the standard of God for marriage. God may have tolerated it with some people in the Bible. But it was only for a time, and they were still punished for it. The people in the Bible may have been called faithful and righteous, but remember that they were still human, and therefore still sinned. Just because they did something that was recorded in the Bible does not mean that God approved of it. Each of these people that took on multiple wives sinned in the eyes of God. They were actually committing adultery. This is how God set it up. Not anywhere in the Bible is there a verse that says polygamy is allowed, approved of, or commanded. Monogamy on the other hand, is commanded and encouraged many times.
This was a little bit longer post, but sometimes it takes an in depth explanation. There are many other difficulties in the Bible that I would like to explore, but I'll save those for future posts. Hopefully, if you had any questions about polygamy, this helped to clear some of them up.
Have a wonderful day!