Links I like

Nothing That Is Possible Can Save Us

Tullian Tchividjian, quoting David Zahl:

Auden’s meaning becomes clearer when we consider problems of a less everyday nature. The kind that keep us up at night. I was speaking with a friend recently who had just separated from his wife. He told me, “I’ve done everything I can think of. Even couples’ counseling hasn’t helped. She just doesn’t want me. It’s going to take a miracle to save our marriage.” He had pursued all the right options, and nothing had worked. The problem was simply beyond him. So it is with us. Our condition is not fixable. That is, we can empirically say that the solution to human nature has not been found in the realm of “what’s possible.” Instead, we need a miracle to save us – from ourselves, from our sin, and ultimately, from death.

No More Gender: A Look into Sweden’s Social Experiment

Trevin Wax:

If Sweden is our future, then we are in trouble. The idea of humanity as completely neutral in terms of gender is foreign to a Scriptural understanding of who we are. Human beings bear God’s image, and God made us male and female. He didn’t make us merely human. He made us gendered beings.

What’s at stake in this discussion? Human flourishing. We don’t flourish when we suppress or ignore gender distinctives. Such an existence creates a flatter, duller society. Instead, we flourish when we embrace our maleness or femaleness as God’s gift to us – intended for our joy and His glory. The differences between men and women aren’t obstacles to overcome; they’re glorious and beautiful.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals from Crossway:

Also on sale:

Moral Mayhem Multiplied—Now, It’s Polygamy’s Turn

Albert Mohler:

As most Americans were thinking thoughts of Christmas cheer, a federal judge in Utah dropped a bomb on the institution of marriage, striking down the most crucial sections of the Utah statute outlawing polygamy. Last Friday, Judge Clark Waddoups of the United States District Court in Utah ruled that Utah’s anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional, violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment as well as the guarantee of due process.

In one sense, the decision was almost inevitable, given the trajectory of both the culture and the federal courts. On the other hand, the sheer shock of the decision serves as an alarm: marriage is being utterly redefined before our eyes, and in the span of a single generation.

Who determines meaning?

Denny Burk:

How can you tell the difference between a good interpretation of a text and a bad interpretation? This is the fundamental question that every reader has to answer in trying to understand the message of scripture.

The traditional approach has been to recognize the author as the ground and the guide of textual meaning. If you want to know the meaning of the text, then you must discern the author’s intent in writing that text.

The “New Criticism” of the early twentieth century dethroned authorial intent and argued instead that meaning is a property of the text quite apart from the author. Texts have “semantic autonomy” as it were, and it is a fallacy to think that we can read the minds of authors.

From about the 1960′s until now, reader-focused methodologies have come to the fore. On this understanding, meaning cannot be identified with authorial intent or with a property that inheres in the text. Such approaches define meaning as the reader’s response to the text.

Which of these approaches is correct? Is meaning defined by the author, the text, or the reader? Recently as I was reading through 1 Timothy, I came across a text that seems to have a bearing on this question. In 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul writes, “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” Some observations…

Does the Bible permit polygamy?

bible-polygamy (1)

The question really says it all, doesn’t it?

Okay, clearly not, seeing as how there appears to be a great deal of confusion on the issue. Cult leaders say “yes,” usually because they want to satisfy their own sinful desires. Most Christians would say “no,” although they’re not always sure how to articulate why, beyond pointing to the creation of Adam and Eve.

Some, though they disagree with polygamy, say you’re not going to find it explicitly condemned in the Bible. “Despite what some may think, the Bible never condemns polygamy,” Rachel Held Evans writes in A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Kindle location 1316), to give but one example.

One doesn’t have to look hard to see that many of the “heroes” of the faith were polygamists—Abraham had multiple wives and concubines; Jacob had multiple wives and concubines as well. Even the greatest kings of Israel, David and Solomon, had multiple wives.

So… does that mean it gets a green light—or at the very least, a proceed with caution?

Nope.

We find an explicit command against kings and rulers taking “many wives,” (along with excessive riches) in Deut 17:17, “lest his heart turn away,” but that’s about it. While you might not be able to point to a specific verse that says verbatim “polygamy is wrong,” one only has to look at how polygamy is depicted:

The first polygamist is Lamech, who takes two wives, Adah and Zillah (Gen. 4:19). Lamech, a descendent of Cain, is a prideful and wicked man, one who arrogantly boasts to his wives about his murdering ways and lack of fear of repercussions (Gen. 4:23-24).

This is not a good start.

Abraham, the man of faith and friend of God, is another polygamist. It didn’t go well for him. Sarah, who gave Hagar to Abraham as a concubine, became bitter with Hagar when she conceived Ishmael and treated her harshly. Eventually Hagar was sent away with her son, while Sarah and Isaac remained with Abraham. (see Gen. 16, 20)

Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah before Rachel, and treated her as more of a burden than a blessing, and there was clearly strife between the two wives/sisters (see Gen. 29-30).

Gideon, he of fleece fame, had “many wives,” and also led Israel into idolatry because of the ephod he made (Judges 8:27-35).

Elkanah, the father of Samuel, was a polygamist. He was married to both Hannah and Peninnah, who is called Hannah’s “rival” (1 Sam. 1:6-7).

King David may have been a man after God’s own heart, but a one woman man he was not. He was married to Saul’s daughter, Michal (1 Sam. 18:27), but during his exile took for himself many wives: Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital and Eglah (2 Sam. 3:2-5). Later, when he settled in Jerusalem, he took for himself more wives and concubines, including Bathsheba (2 Sam. 5:13). His family was characterized by strife and rivalry as well with attempted coups from two of his sons.

Solomon, David’s son, was even worse, with 700 wives and 300 concubines, most of whom he married for political purposes such as Pharoah’s daughter. “And his wives turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:3), he fell into idolatry and the nation was eventually split in two under his son’s harsh rule.

Those are but a few examples of practitioners. And while all were used by God, and many are shown as heroes of the faith, we never read that God was pleased with their polygamy.

So, what about monogamy?

Interestingly, where polygamy is portrayed in a consistently negative light, monogamy tends to be displayed with an equally consistent positivity. 

When Adam is introduced to his wife, he rejoices over her with a love song, “they were naked and not ashamed,” and God declared it all “very good” (Gen. 2:1-24; Gen 1:31).

The created ideal remains the standard throughout the Scriptures.

The Song of Song’s celebration of romantic love is entirely within the context of monogamy. The aforementioned Deut. 17:17, as well as the command to abstain from adultery (Ex. 20:14), implicitly point to monogamy as the ideal (after all, if one is the standard, then anything beyond that is “many” and adultery against  the one). The New Testament explicitly calls it out as the ideal for marriage by placing it in the characteristics of both elders and deacons—”the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6).

Most significantly, marriage is described as a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church (Eph. 5:23-33). Jesus loves His bride, He will never forsake her. His heart has no room for rivals.

So does the Bible permit polygamy?

Our starting point determines the answer, ultimately. If we see the Bible as a mere collection of ancient stories, we’re going to have trouble answering that question definitively.

If you’re evil and trying to violate people in order to satisfy your own sinful desires (see Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism), then you can probably twist together a case.

But if marriage is a picture of the gospel—if Jesus’ love for His bride is your starting point, as Paul says ought to be—you can’t honestly come away from the Scriptures suggesting it advocates for polygamy.