Polygamy In the Bible A Sordid Tale, by Lionel Windsor

A good response to those who care little about doing their due diligence in gaining perspective before asking provocative questions of or making provocative statements about Christianity (along the same lines of Keller’s response concerning why Christians can eat foods off limits in the OT but still hold to the OT’s teaching on homosexuality (of course, the latter teaching holds in the NT also).

Christian leaders were being asked about their opposition to proposals to redefine marriage, and were discussing the Bible’s view of marriage. At one point, the interviewer asked a question which is often brought up in these contexts: Doesn’t the Old Testament condone polygamy? There was, of course, a question behind the question: Since the Old Testament says polygamy is OK, why should we listen to it on any moral issue?

Why did this interviewer think the Old Testament condones polygamy? Clearly he’s expressing a common point of view. Where has it come from? I reckon it stems from the fact that a lot of people in our world don’t really know what the Bible is about. A large number of people (maybe as a result of ineffectual communication by Christian teachers) think the Bible–and especially the Old Testament–is just a list of moral commandments, along with some stories to give us examples of how to be good. So when they do get around to reading the Old Testament, they read it with this moralistic framework in mind. And they find quite a few stories where the lead character is a polygamist. Furthermore, they don’t find any explicit commands that say “Thou shalt not commit polygamy”. So, since they are assuming that the Old Testament is just a book of moral commandments and morality tales, they conclude that the Bible says polygamy is OK.

The problem, of course, is that the Bible–even the Old Testament–is not really a book of commandments and morality tales. The Bible does of course contain commandments, and lots of narratives. But hardly any of the narratives are about morally upright heroes who keep God’s commandments. Most of the narratives are about God’s actions and plans to save immoral human beings. Most of the human characters in Bible stories (even some of the most faithful ones) are morally dubious at best; in fact, many of their activities are downright sordid. You’re not supposed to read these stories as direct examples for your own life; you’re meant to read them to understand God’s actions in the midst of a tragic human history.

Go here for the rest of this instructive post.

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