frgavin on June 19th, 2011

Posted  by cesanews

The issue of polygamy has dominated the press for the past week in South Africa not least of all because of President Zuma’s polygamous practices, as profiled on the world stage, and his impregnation of Irvan Khoza’s daughter as revealed in the press over the weekend. It has raised much debate ranging from the dignity and rights of women, to secular versus Christian state laws, and the issue of polygamy and the history of Christianity. Professor Christene Landman of UNISA theological department certainly spices up the debate as a “Church historian” professing that monogamy is biblically unsubstantiated and arises more from Roman culture than a distinctive and united Christian heritage. She argues that to view the issue from a Christian point of view one must stop asking the question of polygamy as a morally appropriate practice and rather ask the question of equality in relationships regardless of how many relationships are being referred to. Professor Landman raises President Zuma to the height of a role model for the complex South African context as he is able to exercise his “shifting identities” as a head of state with a secular constitution, a bishop of an African church, and one who is true to his cultural Zulu heritage with apparent ease. Interface on SABC3 hosted a debate on the issue where Rev Theuns Botha from the Christian Democratic Party argued the Christian position against polygamy. To his credit he stood firm on the authority of scripture as a Christian and challenged a democracy that bulldozes the views of a majority position on a number of matters, including polygamy. He struggled, however, to show that outside of the law that he subscribes to as a Christian that there is any inherent evil or danger in the practise of polygamy at the level of personal preference. The only argument he was able to produce was that it compromised the dignity of women in such relationships.

This raised the concern to me that many professing Christians sitting in churches throughout South Africa, indeed the world, hold certain beliefs as if cultural but cannot articulate them based on a biblical worldview. The classic retort in a secular society is, “Good for you! I am glad you are a Christian! Now leave me to practice my belief and I will leave you to do the same.” Though I am able to leave the matter there without the need to take up arms to enforce my Christian position, since the kingdom of Christ is not advanced that way, I would hope to be able to give a reason for the hope I have in Christ as to why I am looking forward to a new and renovated kingdom in which polygamy will not exist (knowing marriage won’t be there either). In other words if polygamy is sin and Christ came to rescue me from the slavery to sin then what bearing does this have on my personal life as I repent in a way that will also stand out as a witness and hope in a fallen world. This is also important because of the allegation that ridding cultures of polygamy is merely a form of imposing Western culture on other cultures. It must be clear that when we come to Christ we receive a faith of equal standing to every other Christian since our righteousness is from God and through Christ (2Peter 1:1). So it is not a matter of articulating a superior “western culture” but a matter of living for Christ. With this in mind here is my humble attempt to present a brief biblical defence of monogamy as the biblical norm for marriage over against polygamy.

1. Both the Old Testament and New Testament affirm and are developed in the light of God’s creation design as the pattern for healthy and orderly life in God’s world. This includes marriage, which is why Jesus and the apostles appealed to the Genesis account a number of times. Many scholars scoff at the Adam and Eve prototype and pattern for marriage but then Peter said that many will deliberately forget God’s creation and destruction of the world as recorded in Genesis. These they will do because they want to follow their own inner passions and because they despise authority, which seems to refer to biblical authority of Old and New Testaments that are Holy Spirit inspired and delivered by prophets and apostles. (See 2Peter 2:1-3, 10 & 3:1-7)

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