Friday, June 27, 2008

Marriage Decision 1

Adam is from a polygamist tribe and has five wives. A missionary brings the Gospel message to the tribe and Adam & his wives are converted to the Kingdom of God. Should Adam divorce all of his wives? Should he divorce all but his first wife? Should he remain married to all? If so, can he be a leader in the tribes church?


The AJ Thomas said...

Stay married to all of them but don't marry any more.

Allow the wives the option of divorce.

Allow him to be in leadership.

Make it clear in the church that one man one woman is the ideal but that divorcing your wives for Jesus is not a good plan.

Hold those who are not yet married to more than one woman to a standard of "one man and one woman"

matthew said...

I agree with all but the church leadership part. I think he will be too busy to be in church leadership. Of course, it's possibility that EVERYONE in the tribe will have the same issue, so that would have to be taken into account.

I think that's what the 'husband of one wife' line in 1 Timothy is mostly about though. The change from celibacy to marriage is, to some degree, preventative in regards to your focus on the kingdom. If that's true (and Paul says it is) then the move from 1 wife to 2 (and all the way to 5) would just limit your focus all the more.

The AJ Thomas said...

When you look at it though the lens of our culture having more than one wife would likely make you way to busy but it would depend on their culture. In some cultures having that many wives would provide you with buckets of free time as they did all the work and you just sat around.

My assumption (based on your description of the situation) is that everyone is more or less a new convert (also "un-biblical" as leaders) and the vast majority of people who are still single or just have one wife are quite young (not a wise choice to have exclusively young leadership in broad aged congregation and arguably "unbiblical" as a sign of disrespect to the elders.)

I would see letting folks in that situation serve in leadership as a temporary, less than ideal, compromise but not a sin.

I also take a lot of consideration of things done before conversion. I think if redemption is going to be as full as possible we need to provide reasonable leeway for the results of ungodly decisions that were made before one became a follower of Jesus like a criminal record, inappropriate tattoo, or several wives.

I guess I've never figured out if husband of one wife was about divorce and remarriage or polygamy, maybe both.

If you were going to argue from the "focus on the kingdom" perspective than you would also have to say people with kids were a bad (or at least second best) call for leadership, as well as people with jobs, livestock, hobbies, any sort of physical problems, etc.

In fact if we say that disengagement from the normal stuff of life like work and family relationships makes you a better servant of God we are only one step off from our catholic brothers. I would argue that focus on the kingdom is an issue of how you view and act in your life situation not what it is.

Not saying yea polygamy but that there may be better arguments against it.

At the risk of sounding like a heretic I'm not sure Paul's thoughts on those subjects were A: particularly well informed, B: universally true, C: not heavily influenced by his own personality and propensities.

The AJ Thomas said...

Wow that was a lot of comment - sorry

matthew said...

No problem :) I appreciate the comments and we are in almost complete agreement.

Aaron Perry said...

AJ, could you flesh out a little more what you mean in "risky" paragraph? To what subjects are you referring?

Also, when you say that Paul's thought were influenced by his own personality, wouldn't all of his thoughts have been? Does this preclude the Spirit's ability to give the church formative theology through Paul?

As to my own thoughts on Matthew's questions, terribly separated from real life, I would argue for something that would empower the women. Just as women, when divorced in the Old Testament, were given the option to marry another without the ability to remarry the first husband, likewise should the women should be given this option.

Those who remain married would be in a situation that requires delicacy. I do not think that Adam could continue sexual relations with all who continued to remain his wives, but they should receive the support otherwise provided. If Adam and his wives are willing to abide by certain restrictions in this modified marriage, I believe they could serve as deacons.

The AJ Thomas said...

AP - Great clarification on the "sexual activity out" support / security in. I like it. Of course does that have the potential to marginalize a woman who hasn't had children yet or would she be a good candidate for remarriage.

As for the "risky" paragraph I was being slightly hyperbolic. I certainly think that the personality of all the scripture writers comes through and that's part of what makes it such a beautiful book. I tried to communicate that I saw this as an atypical example by using the expression "heavily influenced" as opposed to typically influenced or whatever. Frankly I "get" paul more than many other biblical writers and he tends to be my "go to guy" for theology, perhaps to a fault.

That said I think that for a highly motivated, hard working, constantly traveling, apparently happily celibate, constantly getting beaten and shipwrecked , and frequently going without food type of guy having a family could be a problem. If you feel that is YOUR role in the kingdom than a family would be a detraction from that particular type of role. If you think Jesus not only may come back tomorrow but actually is (as Paul seemed to) then having a family is not likely to be viewed as a kingdom enterprise.

If you feel part of your role in the kingdom is to raise up Timothys (from an early are knew the scriptures, faith of your mother, etc) than not being married would be a significant detraction.

If you feel part of your role in the kingdom is to model a healthy relationship to many people who have never really seen one or who grew up in a broken home then not being married would be a detraction.

I'm not saying what Paul was saying categorically isn't true I'm just saying that we need to look at it in context and I think that in this situation his personal temperament and life situation may be a significant part of the context. I might see this admonition as somewhere between "let the women keep silent" and "somebody bring me my coat" that's all.

Dena said...

Wow! I knew you men were deep, but I never thought you would have such well thought out answers to the polygamy issue, seeing as it probably doesn't come up in your congregations often. I agree with AJ's initial statements, but I would have to keep open about the leadership one. My initial reaction is that he should not be in leadership, per the "husband of one wife" line. But Aj raises some great points about the availability of one-wife men and their maturity given the specific culture. For me, that would have to be one thing I would leave blank until the situation arose and I understood the actual culture. Perhaps in one tribe I would allow it and in another I would not. Maybe it would end up as a "second best" for lack of other options, as AJ suggests.

Are you having polygamy problems in your church, Matthew? Are you entertaining the idea of proposing to Katie AND another woman and you want to know if you can keep your job?

Lindy said...

Remember that David had multiple wives and God still put him in leadership.

Teach monogamy for the next generation.

Give the guy a break.

matthew said...

But David's numerous wives ended up causing problems for his leadership. As did Solomon's. I think those cases strengthen the argument for leaders with 1 or less wives actually :)

I agree with giving the guy a break, but for different reasons I suppose.