Tuesday, September 17, 2013
My article from this week's Algona Upper Des Moines about Polygamy:
Q: Does the Bible allow for polygamy? If a Christian man lived in a country where it is legal, would it be acceptable for him to marry multiple wives?
Polygamy can be a challenging question for students of the Bible. After all, there are numerous examples of polygamous marriage throughout the Old Testament some of which involve men who would undoubtedly be considered heroes of the faith—Jacob, David, Solomon, and Gideon.
Unlike divorce, which has clear guidelines in the New Testament about if/when it might be acceptable, polygamy has no such mention. Very likely, this is because it was not a topic of debate among the Jews of the time or among early Christians, but there is no New Testament command explicitly allowing or forbidding a man from marrying more than one wife.
However, the Bible clearly does not envision polygamy as God’s design. In the beginning, Genesis records that God creates one man and one woman, and not a man with multiple wives. On numerous occasions, Jesus affirms the statement from Genesis following the creation of woman, that “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his own wife,” using it as the foundational principle for his other statements about marriage and sexuality.
In the Old Testament, even though God distributes robust punishments for various sexual sins (the Sodom and Gomorrah incident, David and Bathsheba, etc.) he does not do the same for polygamy, perhaps indicating a different degree to polygamy than to other sexual sins, much like hatred and murder or gossip and lying under oath bring different degrees of earthly consequences even though variations on the same sin.
At the same time, the Old Testament’s example never portrays a polygamous family with good outcomes. Jealousy overshadows Jacob’s household. Abraham’s taking of Hagar as a concubine had violent consequences which are still being felt between his sons’ descendants in the Middle East to this day, and Solomon was led horribly astray as a result of his numerous marriage partners.
In both Testaments, the marriage commands and advice that are given relating to married life, such as in Proverbs and Ephesians, are always given in singular terms, certainly indicating a preference for monogamy. The New Testament also demands monogamy on two occasions when giving qualifications for pastoral service. This seems to indicate not only a preference for monogamy, but also a command for monogamy among all Christians. This is because all other items on the list of pastoral qualifications are also true for Christians in general. The difference between pastors and Christians in general is not that pastors must obey additional laws, but rather that certain sins (such as poor parenting, or drunkenness), while sinful regardless of who commits them, are grounds for disqualification for the pastoral office.
Finally, the Bible draws a clear connection between the marriage relationship and the relationship between Christ and the Church. Monogamous marriage reflects this relationship in that there is one Christ and one Church which includes believers of every nation, race, and denomination (not one church with several saviors or one savior with several Churches). Other variations on a marriage relationship fail to reflect this reality, because their participants do not match with their counterparts in the Christ-Church relationship.
Although the Bible lacks a direct statement that “Thou shalt not engage in polygamy,” there seems to be plentiful evidence, that polygamy is, at the very least, discouraged and less than ideal, but also a convincing argument that, linked to the commandment “You shall not commit adultery,” polygamy is unacceptable in all cases for Christians.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
My article from this week's Algona Upper Des Moines evaluating the place of evolution for the Christian:
Q: How do Christians resolve the idea of evolution with the Bible’s account of creation in Genesis? Is it possible to reconcile these two ideas or much one choose between them?
Soon after Charles Darwin published his ideas of natural selection, Christians began to contemplate how it should be received in light of the Genesis creation account and to formulate responses to this new theory.
Some Christians ardently objected to the contradiction, preferring the Genesis account, refusing to even study or evaluate evolutionary theory in light of its disagreement with Scripture’s record. Others simply accepted the evolutionary proposition as fact, disregarding the Biblical account as myth or symbolism in the process.
Later, some arose who attempted to reconcile the two in a concept called Theistic Evolution. This attempt accepts the premise of species, even man, occurring by means of evolution, but gives God the credit for orchestrating the process.
All of the responses mentioned so far have their difficulties, though: For Christians to simply disregard scientific research is problematic, because it gives the appearance of anti-intellectualism and drives Christians to mere belief that lacks a factual foundation. For Christians to uncritically adopt a scientific position that forces them to disregard Scripture is also problematic, because it leaves no reason to affirm anything in Scripture as true, and ultimately no reason to continue as a Christian.
Theistic Evolution likewise has inconsistencies which make it an unsatisfying option for the Christian. However, this is not primarily because, as it might appear on the surface, that it casts doubt on the Bible as a “literal” source of spiritual truth. This is a concern, but not the most significant problem. Instead, the foundational problem with theistic evolution is that it abandons a single human couple as the parents of all humanity—and therefore undermines the foundational concepts of salvation and sin in Christianity.
If God guided the process of evolution so as to produce humanity rather than creating man as a distinct act, then one must discern exactly which generation marked the transition from a former species (lacking an immortal, spiritual, existence; not accountable to God for actions) to humanity (having an immortal soul and accountable to God for actions).
Likewise, there would be multiple pairs of humans giving rise to the human species rather than a single set of parents, forcing the conclusion that not all people inherit sin from Adam and therefore could be spiritually good, or at least spiritually neutral, and thus not in need of salvation for sin.
In contrast, the Apostle Paul, in Romans 5 attributes human sinfulness to our common descent from Adam, and portrays Jesus as the perfect man who causes a reversal of Adam’s sin and gifts righteousness to humanity by taking the place of Adam and all his descendants in death.
Apart from a single set of human parents, sin is not universally attributed to all humanity, and more importantly, sin cannot be collectively forgiven by Jesus’ substitution—thus undermining the foundational idea of all Christianity and rendering the religion of no value, because it could offer neither full forgiveness nor complete assurance to man.
A reasonable path in dealing with evolution as a Christian seems to be to affirm Darwin’s observable and repeatable explanations of change within species (called micro-evolution) while denying his unobservable, unrepeatable proposal of evolution across species (called macro-evolution).
Although remaining space does not allow much elaboration in this edition, modern research is indicating numerous instances where evolution does not adequately explain many natural phenomena, and while science cannot tell us who is responsible, it is becoming more and more evident with the passage of time that nature shows evidence of design. As a result, exclusive evolutionists are declining in number in younger generations of scientists and other explanations are being sought as to the source of this design, particularly regarding the complex structures of the human body.
It is ultimately unwise and inappropriate for Christians to pose an adversarial relationship between science and faith, because it does justice to neither. At the same time, it is not necessary for Christians to attempt to compromise between the two. Instead, Christians affirm well-researched science and its conclusions, while questioning agenda-driven or poorly considered theories. In doing so, it becomes evident with the passage of time that the Bible and modern research actually agree and science ultimately affirms the claims of Scripture.