This post is partially cross-posted from my other blog. This was written a while ago, and a few edits have been made.
This post focuses on the Christian view of Polygamy.
Is polygamy a sin?
Short answer? Yes and no.
“But Paige, how can the answer be both yes and no?” you ask?
Polygamy (multiple marriages) can be further broken into two groups:
Polygyny – that is, multiple wives
Polyandry – that is, multiple husbands.
While the Bible expressly forbids polyandry (see Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22, and Romans 7:3), it never forbids the practice of polygyny. There’s a great article on blogspot about this which goes into detail about scripture and how it does not forbid that man have many wives. In fact, if we look at the Old Testament, we see all over the board men having multiple wives and many concubines (you were limited in the amount of wives, but you could have as many concubines as you wanted, which had the same rights as wives, pretty much). This was accepted as a part of the culture and even the religion. Even now, Israel is opening back up to the idea of men having concubines, or women who wish to hold that class (pretty much, a consensual slave, but not like within the BDSM or D/s or M/s subculture, because you can’t get married to the guy. You just get protective rights from him).
But i’m digressing. Point is, Old Testament says you can have multiple wives.
The New Testament is more tricky. It never expressly forbids having more than one wife. The only case here more than one wife is forbidden seems to be in the case of a ruler. The above blog explains this:
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
1 Corinthians 7:32-33
A man only has so much time and energy. A polygamist with the responsibility of providing for the well-being of many wives probably would not have enough time and energy left over to provide for the well-being of the parishioners of a congregation. Being a bishop, deacon or elder requires a huge investment of time and energy, as does being a polygamist. Therefore, it would probably be counter-productive for a polygamist to have a high position of leadership in the church.
Tom Gruber, blogspot
A man who has more than one wife has to worry about the well-being (physical, emotional, mental, sexual) of every wife equally. The rule for taking on an extra wife is that the Husband must be able to provide for each wife as much as the first wife was prior to the second marriage. In other words, the Husband can’t stop his one date night and two nights of sex with his first wife (or make them lessened) in order to provide equal time with the second and third wives. He has to find a way to give them all the same things – the same amount of space, the same amount of allowance, the same amount of sex, etc. This is just too much work on top of taking care of all of the people in a Church! So, leaders can only have one wife. 😉
Mr. Gruber over at blogspot also said that perhaps, how people are “like Christ” in marriage is that, if they have a polygynist marriage, the Church (Jesus’ bride) can be seen as made up of many people. However, they are harmonious. Thus, if the wives in the polygynist marriage are harmonious and all work towards pleasing their Husband, just as the Husbands (who comprise the Church) work to please God, then their relationship is seen as the same as the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church.
Now, how does one deal with this in a culture where people date before getting married? How do to deal with a culture where people will co-habitate and have a sexual relationship without ever being married, and even stay that way and raise children together while not married? Making us deal with polyAMORY (multiple loves) instead of polyGAMY (multiple marriages)?
Some would say that it doesn’t matter.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Romans 4:5-8 (KJV)
In other words, righteousness is not shown through works, but through faith. Why is this? Because no one is perfect, and people make mistakes. But if you sin, knowing it is wrong? Well, some would say you just have to ask forgiveness.
So how does this apply to the real world?
A world where people date and co-habitate and have sex without caring what the Bible has to say about it?
Pretty much, “It’s wrong, but God knows you are going to be tempted, so as long as you have true faith, then you are still saved.”
Where I struggle with this is, how do we know what true faith is? Some would say it would be to try and follow the letter of the law as closely as possible… however, that is a decidedly Jewish view.
What, then is the Christian view (other than that sinning doesn’t matter as long as you have faith?)?
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22:36-40 (KJV)
According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to love God absolutely and completely. The second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Even without any other commandment, you can be righteous by following these two commandments.
Through faith, one is righteous. Loving ones neighbor also produces righteousness.
So even if one makes mistakes, even if one sins, as long as they love God completely and loves and respects those around them, they can go to Heaven.
So, in other words, both polygamy and polyamory are fine. Yes, polyandry and polyamory can technically be considered sins within the Abrahamic religions. However, if looked at from a Christian standpoint, we are absolved from all sins as long as we have faith. Furthermore, others should be supportive and loving even if they do not approve of the poly lifestyle because Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, one that all other commandments hang on as well as the first greatest, is “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Thanks for reading!