August 2012

Answering questions about Old Testament polygamy

August 1 2012 by Gregory Thornbury, Baptist Press

JACKSON, Tenn. – In the middle of ongoing cultural convulsions over the definition of marriage, I have found one question increasingly on the minds of many people: “Didn’t God in the Old Testament allow for polygamy? If that is true, then how can you say that marriage is defined as being only between one man and one woman?”

The truth is that the story of polygamy in the Old Testament is, well, a problem. Although monogamy was clearly God’s intent from the beginning, the picture blurs pretty quickly after Adam and Eve’s first sin and expulsion from the Garden. By Genesis 4, you have Cain’s son Lamech taking two wives. The patriarchs Abraham and Jacob themselves had multiple wives and concubines. Technically, the practice was polygyny. In other words, men could have more than one wife, but not the other way around (polyandry).

Moses had two wives as well. The Mosaic Law likewise accommodated the practice of marrying more than one wife, including captured prisoners from foreign conquests (Deuteronomy 21:1-17). It also made provisions for continuing the family line by marrying a brother’s wife if he died without producing heirs (Deut. 25:5-12). And the stories keep coming: Gideon, one of Israel’s champions, had many wives; Elkanah, a presumably godly man and the father of Samuel, had two wives.

Other “love stories” in the Bible are similarly plagued. Queen Esther was undoubtedly part of a harem.

The picture gets even dicier when one considers the practice of the kings of Israel. King David, the “man after God’s own heart,” had eight wives. In 2 Samuel 12 when the prophet Nathan confronts David over his sin with Bathsheba, we read: “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I have given you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your bosom ... and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah, and as if this wasn’t enough, I would have given you even more.” David’s son, Solomon, however, went overboard, flouting a stipulation in Deuteronomy 17 that kings not accumulate “too many” wives. For the record, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

How does one respond to this situation? The answer begins by seeing that God always points His creation back to the primacy and perfection of the original design. Next, you have to read every book to the end – especially if it is the biblical context. And if you read the stories about the characters referenced above, you’ll quickly find that polygamy was an unmitigated sociological disaster that created heartbreak and sowed familial discord. By the time of the writing of Malachi, God’s command to a thoroughly chastised nation was clear: covenantal monogamy was to be the norm.

Further, through the ministry of Jesus, we see God “reset the clock” so to speak to the original goodness of monogamous marital union – pointing forward to a new society and a new way. He also enacted new provisions to protect women and raise their standing in society. Jesus showed a world that had distorted the meaning of marriage back to the beauty of “the man being joined to his wife, and two will become one flesh.” The nouns Jesus used are singular here, folks. He showed that there is a way to go back to our “origin story” in the Garden – where one husband is joined to one wife – a relationship Saint Augustine once called, “the basic bond of society.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gregory Alan Thornbury is dean of the school of theology and missions at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. A version of this column first ran in the Jackson Sun.)
8/1/2012 2:55:46 PM by Gregory Thornbury, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



We dare not chicken out

August 1 2012 by Eric Metaxas, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – If you’re even a semi-regular BreakPoint listener, you’ve no doubt heard Chuck Colson – and me – talk about “breaking the spiral of silence.”

We’ve warned about the dangers of remaining silent on critical issues even when our opinions are unpopular or counter-cultural – probably especially when they’re unpopular and counter-cultural. Even when it appears that the argument is “settled,” that the public has “moved on,” and we’d better “get with the program.”

And we’ve pointed out that, sometimes, breaking the spiral of silence can come with a price.

Well, as you know by now, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said recently that his family-owned company “operates on biblical principles” and therefore “supports the traditional family.”

He spoke out, and now he and Chick-fil-A are paying the price. Certain voices in the media and government are lashing out – and seeking, basically, to intimidate and bully Chick-fil-A, and anyone who shares their views, back into silence.

For example, an alderman in Chicago is seeking to block Chick-fil-A from opening an already planned restaurant in the city. He has declared that Chick-fil-A’s position is “bigoted” and “homophobic” and that the company discriminates against homosexuals, which is just a crazy, baseless charge.

The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, at first backed the alderman, and he told CBS Chicago, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values ... And if you’re going to be a part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”

Really? So, all you Chicago churches and mosques and synagogues that do not share the mayor’s interpretation of “Chicago values” had better pack up and leave town.

The bottom line is that if you dare say you believe that marriage is between a man and a woman only, you run the real risk of being called a “homophobe,” a “bigot” and a “hatemonger.” If you own a business and take such a stand, you may be targeted.

But my question to you now – and to myself – is: So what?

Do we or do we not have the courage of our convictions to defend marriage, to defend free speech, to defend freedom of religion? Do our freedoms, does our faith, matter to us more than the opinion of some others? Will we allow our reputations and our profits to suffer before we will allow our freedoms to erode?

Chuck warned us long ago that a free society can remain free only so long as dissent is tolerated, only so long as opinions and ideas can be debated freely in the public square.

Which is why, as Chuck would have said, the proponents of so-called gay “marriage” and sexual “freedom” are sawing off the branch they’re sitting on. By doing all they can to deny those who disagree with them access to the public square, by their intimidation tactics, and by their – sad to say, intolerance – they are helping to make this country, this society less free. And that hurts everybody.

Folks, we have no choice but to speak out. Not to lash out, but to speak out, winsomely but firmly. We must break the spiral of silence.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Eric Metaxas is an author and the voice of the Breakpoint radio commentaries. Reprinted from BreakPoint, July 27, 2012, with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.)
8/1/2012 2:53:23 PM by Eric Metaxas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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