Common Christian arguments against polygamy
Does one flesh mean one wife?
MOAs often believe is this is there most powerful argument against polygamy. Because after all, how can 3 or 4 or 18(David had 18 wives) mesh with “the two shall become one flesh”?
4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.
Jesus repeats what is said in Genesis after God created Eve and brought her to Adam. The context of Jesus’s statement is his answer to the question of divorce. He is alluding to “the beginning” in the Garden of Eden, before sin. Before sin divorce was not necessary, so in the beginning divorce would never have been needed. But is he also alluding to the fact that marriage was designed by God to be monogamous? He says nothing about that here.
The “One Flesh” analogy of Scripture has at its core the act of sex. As I have said on more than one occasion, far too much symbolism and marriage advice has been read into the Bible’s One Flesh analogy. Do men and women often times have an emotion bond before or after sex? Of course they do. But the scripture never make an emotional and spiritual bond a precondition for sex, the only precondition for sex is the covenant of marriage.
In previous eras, and especially with many marriages being arranged, it was extremely common for a woman to have sex on her wedding night with a man she barely knew and had little to no emotional connection with. But their “becoming one flesh”, having sex, sealed their marriage and each subsequent time they had sex it was a reminder of their covenant they had both made in marriage.
If you want to argue that “one flesh” means a lot more than sex in marriage, then how can a man become “one flesh” with a prostitute if it more than sex?
“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.”
I Corinthians 6:17(KJV)
So yes – a man is to become “one flesh”, and have sex with his wife. Even if he marries another wife, he must still continue to become “one flesh” with his first wife as the Scriptures state:
“If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights.”
Each time a man and woman have sex within marriage, it is a beautiful and honorable thing as the writer of Hebrews states:
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
But all too often the “one flesh” analogy looses it core meaning of sex when Christian relationship books and articles read far too much into this analogy.
In the end though, one flesh does not mean “one wife”. It does not even mean becoming “one mind” with one woman as we are often told it does(no passage of Scripture supports such a concept in marriage). “one flesh” means having sex within marriage, and most men are capable of having sex with more than one woman, and even loving more than one woman.
The Bishop must be the husband of one wife
“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” – I Timothy 3:2(NASB)
Some point to the fact that the Bishop had to be the husband of one wife. If a Pastor must be the husband of one wife, then this must be God’s correct design for marriage and anything else is perversion of his design including polygyny or so they say.
Is the “husband of one wife” requirement (I Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6) for a Pastor speaking of monogamy or divorce? I would argue based the qualifications of widows who could be supported by (and became servants of) the church that Paul was speaking of a Pastor or Deacon not having been divorced from his first wife:
“A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man,” – I Timothy 5:9 (NASB)
Even if the apostle Paul is stating that the Bishop must literally be monogamous, this is ONLY applied to Bishops and deacons and never to Christians at large. This would be very similar to how the Old Testament has stricter marriage practices for Priests as opposed to the general population.
In any event, no passage in the Bible, either Old or New Testament, condemns the practice of polygyny.
Another argument I have read online is –“like God tolerated divorce and it was not part of his original plan, so too he tolerated polygamy but it was not part of his plan either”. There is one small problem with that statement – the Bible never compares polygamy to divorce and it never states that polygamy was a sin.
The Adam and Eve argument
This is an argument that sometimes stumps pro polygamy advocates. It really should not. The argument basically goes something like this:
“If God meant for men to polygamous, then why did he only create one wife for Adam and not many wives?”
My answer to the question starts with another question:
Why did God not create multiple couples so that Adam and Eve’s children would not have to commit what would later be called incest (by having brothers and sisters having to marry one another)?
We are no more bound by Adam and Eve’s monogamy than we are by the fact that God’s initial creation method required that brothers and sisters marry.
Later God would outlaw brothers and sisters marrying, and later he would even outlaw men marrying their wives sisters unless they were marrying their dead brother’s wife to give him an heir (levirate marriage). But God never outlawed the practice of polygamy itself.
What about Laws against Polygamy?
Some would argue “well even if the Bible allows polygamy, since we have laws against polygamy that would make it sinful to engage in polygamy.” The government does not determine what marriage is – God does. We have allowed the government to step in defining marriage a long time ago, and look where it has led us – they now want to allow gay marriage. So it is irrelevant to me that our government out-laws polygamy, because I do not recognize their authority in marriage any more than I recognize their authority to come and tell me how to raise my children or their authority to come into my church and tell my Pastor what he can preach.
Conclusion of Part 3
None of these arguments against polygamy stand when examined closely. A man can be one flesh, which each of his wives. Even if a Pastor can have only one wife, this is not prescribed for all Christians, just as the Levite priests had different standards for marriage that were not applicable to greater population of Israel. God’s creation of one man and one woman for the first humans is no more binding than the fact that Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters had to marry one another to start the human race.
All articles in this series: