The Diocese of Gippsland has had it’s annual Synod and Bishop John McIntyre seems to have decided that when he agreed to the Australian Bishops’ Protocol a few months back he really didn’t mean it. His President’s Address [pdf] shows a clear determination to push against the recently-established collegiality of the House of Bishops.
Only in light of reflection on God’s Word did I finally come to understand. Despite what I or others may believe is their worthiness, the fruit of the works of many gay and lesbian people has brought God’s blessing to me and to many other people, both in and beyond the church. That is the measure of their worthiness to minister in the name of Jesus Christ in the life of the church, and in the community in the name of the church. That indicates their place in the life of God’s people.
Put simply, I think God has been saying to me for many years now “If it is good enough for me, John, why is it not good enough for you?”
It’s not like we haven’t heard this sort of argument before. Nor this one…
We all acknowledge that the church can never read the Bible in the same way once it acknowledged that Galileo was right. The world is round, not flat, despite what those who first penned the words of the Bible thought and assumed. It took the church a long time to acknowledge this, and in the name of orthodoxy, it treated Galileo rather shabbily along the way.
Here lies an exegetical parallel for our present purpose. Because of recent new understanding, we now all know that same-sex attracted people are not heterosexual people who have made a perverse choice about how they express their sexuality. They simply are what they are. We might like to argue about whether this is how life should or should not be, but that will not change the way it is. And we have to respond to what is.
The responses to this kind of shallow argumentation are legion but let me try and sum them up simply:
We now all know that adulterous people are not married people who have made a perverse choice about how they express their sexuality. They simply are what they are. We might like to argue about whether this is how life should or should not be, but that will not change the way it is. And we have to respond to what is.
let me try again lest anyone attempt the ridiculous assertion that I am equating homosexuality with adultery:
We now all know that thieves are not property owners who have made a perverse choice about how they express their understanding of property rights. They simply are what they are. We might like to argue about whether this is how life should or should not be, but that will not change the way it is. And we have to respond to what is.
There’s more of the usual Boswellian argumentation but the money paragraph is right at the end. Take heed:
I make this commitment to all of you, whether or not you agree with me on this one issue. All I do, and all I will seek to continue to do, in everything I do, is to seek the will of God.
Accordingly, I will appoint to office in our diocese those whom I believe God is calling to minister among us, and I will continue to do so with a grateful heart to God for the gifts and skills they bring to us. Furthermore, I will do this within the context of the greater call of God on the whole church, which is to live by grace; to seek justice and to show compassion, in all we do and say. That is my commitment to God and to you, and I am willing to live with any consequences that may arise from remaining true to that commitment.
So let’s just be absolutely clear on what happened here.
In March, Bishop McIntyre went to a meeting of the House of Bishops and agreed to a protocol which stated:
As bishops in the Australian Church we accept the weight of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and the 2004 General Synod resolutions 33, 59 and 61-64 as expressing the mind of this church on issues of human sexuality.
We undertake to uphold the position of our Church in regard to human sexuality as we ordain, license, authorise or appoint to ministries within our dioceses.
We understand that issues of sexuality are subject to ongoing conversation within our Church and we undertake to support these conversations, while seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
and now less than 2 months later he says,
I will appoint to office in our diocese those whom I believe God is calling to minister among us … That is my commitment to God and to you, and I am willing to live with any consequences that may arise from remaining true to that commitment.
McIntyre agreed to uphold the position of the church – he has gone back on that agreement. He agreed to uphold that position in regard to all appointments – he has clearly signaled his intention to go back on that agreement. He also agreed to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace – he’s blown a cannon right through that one.
Of course, he also states that he’s “willing to live with any consequences that may arise”. Somehow I doubt it – because the honourable thing to do now would be to admit that you didn’t mean a word of it when you met up with your fellow bishops (unless anyone thinks this change of heart is a sudden thing). When you lie to those you’re meant to work together with then someone’s position becomes untenable. At least it should do. Let’s see what the House of Bishops do in response.
Does this remind anyone of former Presiding Bishop of TEC, Griswold? He went to a 2003 Primates meeting where they agree on a statement that the consecration of Robinson would “tear a hold in the fabric of the Communion” then gets on a plane and goes and consecrates Robinson. The word for that is “disingenuous”. What an awful moment when bishops cannot trust the word of another bishop.
Update. The Age newspaper have an article on the division this type of thing is causing in many denominations and wider afield. Bishop Robert Forsyth of Sydney has this to say:
In the long run, someone behaving in a way that is consistently immoral working for an organisation is going to de-power and chill the fervour and the life of the organisation.
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I always find it worrying when church leaders claim that God has told them something that is clearly against scripture. I continue to learn about and meet people who are not happy with what is happening in Gippsland just now.
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“the fruit of the works of many gay and lesbian people”….when it comes to gay and lesbian ministers I presume the fruit he refers to is empty churches and failing denominations all over North America and elsewhere.
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I do like the fact that Bishop John McIntyre can change his mind. Obviously the Holy Sprit is at work in guiding him into all truth – Those not open to the Spirit (Like those who opposed Gallileo, refused to minister to divorced people, agreed with slaves, burnt heretics at the stake….. etc) – Let us open our minds and hear the Sppirit breathing across the world – oten in the hearts of those of no faith — It’s love that is the result of this Spirit. Love for ALL, NO ONE IS EXEMPT FROM THE LOVE OF GOD.
hi Fr Mike, thanks for coming and commenting.
Couple of thoughts:
No-one thinks people ought not to change their minds, I think the point of complaint is that Bishop McIntyre has
1 reneged upon an agreement and broken collegiality
2 gone against the express teaching of the Scriptures and the church
When you speak of the work of the Spirit, do you speak of the same Spirit who inspired the Scriptures? In which case, are you therefore arguing that the Spirit Himself changes His mind?
And I’m delighted to agree with your last statement. There is no-one exempt from the love of God. But I don’t think anyone on my side of the argument has ever argued otherwise.
John McIntyre and others are misguided on how they show God’s love to those who see themselves as homosexual. I believe that God does at times give us a desire to minister to or speak out for certain groups of people. My own life experience has meant that I can understand the issues surrounding lone parent families especially younger unmarried women. I know that at times the church has not addressed or met these issues appropriately. I would not however argue for divorce to be made easier or encourage pre-marital sex as a way of showing God’s love to such families. What has possibly started out for some as a genuine concern seems to have spilled onto gay rights becoming part of the church’s mission.
This is a saga with a long way to go, paralleling stories across Judaism and Christendom.
At the heart of this seem to be four revelations:
1. from God’s creation that same-sex unions are natural and healthy;
2. from Biblical scholars that the Scriptures condemn some same-sex activities, but not all;
3. seeing first-hand the powerful ministry of gay and lesbian people within the Church, and
4. rediscovering that the Church in the past has often accepted same-sex unions, and that the homophobia evident today is another passing phase.
Naturally there is blow-back.
So the question, as with all the other major and minor reformations throughout history, is: are these revelations from God?
Quite perceptive. Worth noting that
1. an entirely new revelation for the church. No-one has thought this for over 1900 years. Perhaps none of them knew how to properly read?
3. yes, a seemingly powerful argument. But slightly begging the question. Almost like arguing “seeing first-hand the powerful ministry of adulterers within the Church”
4. “rediscovering“. And your use of the term “homophobia” rather begs the question too.
I suggest, then, that the answer to your question is a resounding “no”.
Thanks for posting and replying. Some brief responses:
1. Yes, perhaps. A parallel to the 16th century cosmology debate?
3. Slightly, yes. Agree. Except that adultery among Church members is almost always the cause of disillusionment, heartbreak and mistrust, and often also resignation and divorce.
4. Here in France, just as one example, Allan Tulchin researched mediaeval brother-making rituals. He wrote in the September 2007 Journal of Modern History that Christian ceremonies joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions which raised family, held property jointly, and were virtually equivalent to marriages.
Those answering ‘no ‘ are still clearly a majority in most branches of Judaism and Christendom at the moment. But those answering ‘yes’ seem to be increasing steadily with advances in scholarship.
1. which debate are you referring to? There wasn’t much of a debate over cosmology in the 16th century, at least not in the church. Plus if there was a debate, it was over what people saw in the sky, not what the Bible said.
2. ditto? How did Bible scholars change their view of cosmology in the 16th century?
3. Yes, adultery is a different form of sexual sin. But 2 things should be said; 1.the Biblical view is that sin does harm to the sinner, whether initially perceived or not. 2. Sin is not simply that which hurts others (nor necessarily that at all), but that which is against God’s good design. It is ultimately an offence against God, not others.
4. Well I’d be interested to see a link to that research. If the Boswell nonsense has taught us anything it is that we should be sceptical that the conclusions are actually supported by the data or that the reporting of an activity means it was endorsed at the time.
The “no” are in the majority since they have the non-contrived reading of Scripture. I’m not sure what “steady advance” of scholarship you’re referring to but you should be aware that most current “research” is a regurgitation of Boswell’s poor work. Contra Boswell, Gagnon is well respected and yet none of the liberals have sought to engage with his definitive work. Funny that. For “advanced scholarship” they always seem very reluctant to deal with the counter-arguments.
Neuhaus puts it best:
Oh Alan, it took only a brief google to demonstrate the paucity of the argument.
Here is Tulchin himself commenting upon the research you point us towards…
1. and 2. Referring to comments such as this from Martin Luther, in 1544:
“There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon … But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.”
3. Agree entirely re sin. Scholarship today is increasingly finding Scripture identifies several same-sex activities as sinful. But not all. As with heterosexuality.
4. Tulchin continued: “Similarly, it is essentially impossible to prove that any particular sexual act occurred in any particular relationship—including an affrèrement—in this period, unless it led to the birth of a child. The assumption that all affrèrements were platonic is hard to refute. But it is more plausible to assume that some were sexual.”
There are others besides Tulchin and Boswell, though, aren’t there, David?
Cistercian abbot Saint Aelred in the 12 century urged monks to love each other, “individually and passionately”.
Randolph Trumbach of Baruch College claims “the Christian tradition on homosexual behavior has not been the same in all times and places,” and “the Christian tradition has in some times and places blessed sexual relations between males.”
William Eskridge of Yale Law School writes that “in the early Middle Ages the Church developed institutions … that combined the Church’s spiritual commitment to companionate relationships with its members’ desire to bond with people of the same sex.”
Current understanding of marriage as one-man-one-woman dates from the 16th Century. Before that, many variations appear to have been accepted and celebrated by the Church.
Do you have an actual citation for the Luther? I see a number of people claiming it comes from TableTalk but no-one actually providing the reference.
On 3., i think you’ll find that the “increasingly finding” is a vast overstatement. The majority consensus remains that Scripture both proscribes homosexual behaviour and prescribes/endorses heterosexual monogamy. Yes, there a few die-hards trying to argue otherwise but once you’ve seen one terribly over-stated conclusion drawn from Ruth/Naomi or David/Jonathan, you’ve seen them all.
4. Yes, Tulchin does indeed claim that some may have been sexual. I think that is a perfectly reasonable conclusion. However, your claim was far broader than that – that they were for “same gender couples” and “vitually equivalent to marriage”. Tulchin demonstrates that they were in the norm nothing like modern-day “gay marriage”.
Your other attempts to demonstrate the same are simply more examples of over-reaching. Aelred urges nothing more than I would urge of any of the men in my church. On what basis do you claim that this is an endorsement of same-sex sexual relationships? What’s the source? What’s the context? Just looks like another Boswell-type clutching at straws.
And on your last para, you’re several millennia out. The “current understanding” of marriage in the church dates not from the 16th Century but from here:
If someone in the 16th century asserts heterosexual monogamy as the model for marriage, it’s because they’re reading the Bible and following Jesus (Matt 19/Mark 10), not because they’re introducing a novelty.
Seriously, don’t you have anything better than this conjecture?
Hi again David,
Citations for the Luther quote via google. If these are dubious, then the history of Galileo and the Church – culminating in the 1992 Vatican apology – may serve. There are others.
No, I don’t think that was an overstatement, David, about the current shifts in Judeo-Christian academia. There is a definite move by theologians, biblical scholars, church leaders and church members across the world towards accepting a revised view of the Scriptural teaching.
They now believe that the texts traditionally used to condemn all homosexual behaviour (six of them) when understood in context really address only abusive or destructive acts – rape, paedophilia, adultery, casual flings, prostitution and pagan ritual worship. Not faithful, monogamous unions.
Just as the texts which condemn some heterosexual behaviour (300 of them) do not prohibit all unions.
Last year the Presbyterians changed their rules on gay couples in both Scotland and the US. The move is on is other denominations elsewhere and seems to be gaining significant momentum.
But, as the article linked earlier acknowledges, it is still a minority position.
“Yes, Tulchin does indeed claim that some may have been sexual. I think that is a perfectly reasonable conclusion.” Okay. I’m happy to leave that there.
On Genesis 2:24, David, do you really believe whoever wrote that had the thought in his (or their) mind that marriage was intended to be only one-man-one-woman – in light of the rest of the Pentateuch?
Alan, that’s not a citation and you know it. A citation tells me where to find the quote. You’re not just citing something that you’ve not actually checked yourself, are you? Could you let us know exactly where in TableTalk you read the Luther quote?
I’ve known about Martin Luther’s conflicted attitudes towards contemporary science since long before the internet. Pretty sure this is fairly generally known. But have never been asked to provide a citation. So it is not readily to hand.
Why do you need this? If it is important for us to find accord, I may be able to look for it.
I suspect, however, the general point the quote illustrates is not one on which we disagree.
Alan, I need it because experience has long taught me that people “quote” all sorts of things without properly sourcing them. Case in point here – you have the Luther quote ready to go, it’s obviously a prepared answer – which is fine if it’s genuine.
In answer to a key previous question….
Yes, I really believe that. I don’t see anything in the Pentateuch, or the rest of the Bible for that matter, which indicates otherwise. And Jesus and Paul quoting that text too pretty much caps it for me.
Yes. I see. There seem to be a few reasons, however, why Genesis 2:24 is increasingly understood to be not actually teaching one-man-one-woman.
This is a poetic piece rather than instructional. A snapshot of the first marital union rather than moral teaching. Great for quoting at weddings. This is suggested by the next verse which is also a snapshot rather than guidance for life: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
The argument is that we can apply verse 24 rigidly to life today, along with verse 25. But we can’t apply one and not the other, can we?
The way Paul and Jesus use the text also suggests they see it as affirming that God wants people to live in permanent unions. But not much more. Nothing about gender, number, race or anything else regarding marital partners. Paul especially regards it as a mystery.
It is intriguing that the passage uses the Hebrew word ‘dabaq’ for being joined – or being united – or cleaving. What does this mean in Hebrew? Where else is it used in Scripture?
We find it is used for Solomon and his many foreign wives in 1 Kings 11:2 and for the relationship between Ruth and Naomi in Ruth 1:14. So on the face of it, whatever ‘dabaq’ means, it can apply to same-sex and polygamous arrangements.
Most compellingly, however, the writer clearly had no thought in his (or their) mind that the passage limited marriage to M1W1 or parenthood to M1W1 unions. This would seem abundantly clear from numerous later passages. Unions with concubines or slaves were blessed with children. Scripture has instructions about inheritance and other matters for polygamous marriages. God’s prophet told David that he could have had more wives had he wished. None of these would be there if God required only M1W1, would they?
There are many other indications that variations on M1W1 are acceptable. It seems there is actually only one clear instruction in Scripture regarding one-man-one-woman – relating to overseers/elders in the New Testament.
I personally find M1W1 works for me. It seems you do also, David. As does Bishop McIntyre in Gippsland. But we can’t claim it as a Biblical requirement, can we?
David, did you read Prof Bill Loader’s submission to the Australian Senate last month? (citation: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LoaderSenateSubmission.pdf)
well, let’s see. I rather think that the use of the language “man” and “woman” suggests otherwise but we’ll see how we go…
First, how is it “poetic”? It clearly reads as narrative. Second, how is it not “instructional” nor “moral teaching’? Jesus uses it in an “instructional” way – to clearly answer those who would undermine marriage.
The nakedness issue is interesting. Free from sin, there is no barrier between the man and woman. As soon as sin enters the world they are ashamed. Graciously God, of course, provides clothing to deal with this issue. However “nakedness” is certainly something we encourage all married couples in, and obviously not simply physical nakedness (although physical nakedness and the freedom thereof for a married couple is regularly an indication of a much healthier emotional nakedness). How any of this somehow undermines the impact of the language of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ is quite beyond me.
Either you’re entirely ignorant of what Paul and Jesus actually said or you’re being disingenuous. Neither reflects well upon you or your claims. Jesus and Paul both directly cite the language of “man” and “woman” and thus the onus is heavily upon the person who wants to argue they really meant “generic partner 1” and “generic partner 2”. More than that, Paul in Eph. 5:22-32 goes on to state quite clearly that the relationship between husband and wife mirrors that between Christ and the Church. There is a clear complementarity and asymmetry there which you conveniently choose not to discuss. Under your schema Paul would be saying that Christ and the Church are equals with no actual distinction between them. Actually, there’s just no way he can be saying that, it simply makes no sense the way you explain it.
Yes it can. But you choose not to mention that the cleaving of Solomon in 1Kings is quite obviously proscribed – that’s just exegetical dishonesty on your part. As for Ruth and Naomi, is it really your contention that every use of “dabaq” must always be read in a sexual way that is consistently endorsed? If so then I suggest that your exegetical skills need vast improvement. However I suspect you didn’t do the exegesis yourself. Rather, you’re regurgitating other people’s material without checking the argument.
btw, any joy on the Luther citation yet? I note that you’ve not answered that point either.
On the contrary, the standard is set right at the beginning. It is the only standard consistently maintained throughout. If you can show one other instance where God specifically says “I heartily endorse something other than heterosexual monogamy” (or words to that effect) then provide it. Otherwise I think the sort of nonsense you’re repeating second-hand here is hardly swinging any argument.
Depends what you mean by “requirement”. Should all be married? no. Is marriage clearly defined and all other systems proscribed? quite clearly, yes. Your vapid arguments only serve to demonstrate it.
David, did you read Prof Bill Loader’s submission to the Australian Senate last month? (citation: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LoaderSenateSubmission.pdf)
I think this type of argument shows just how utterly dishonest the position being put forward is. Alan is putting forward the tired and over-used suggestion that Ruth and Naomi had a sexual relationship that is endorsed. You can read the verse by hovering your mouse over the reference. It will be seen that the “clinging” is a singular moment where Ruth literally clutches onto Naomi so as not to let her go. There is no indication in the text that this is a marital, let alone sexual, “clinging”. It’s just a woman holding onto her mother-in-law in a sign of loyal affection.
Compare to Gen 2:24. Again, hold the mouse over the reference. Here we see the narrator of Genesis step back from the action and give a summary statement. The “cleaving” of the man (“uniting to his wife” in some translations) is a general statement about an ongoing status. A man, we are being told, ought to be continually committed to his wife. He cleaves to her – the picture is almost one of a barnacle or limpet on the side of a boat.
For Alan to roll out the argument of others that, somehow, these two “cleavings” ought to be considered equivalent is pretty weak. I offer it up to all our readers as excellent evidence for just how rigorous and conclusive this “scholarly work” really is.
Hi again David,
Thanks for these responses.
I’m happy with the descriptor ‘narrative’ for Genesis 2:24-25. Yes, Jesus does use it in an instructional way. But he uses it as a kind of launchpad for fresh teachings which are not actually there in the original passage. Paul does much the same. Countless Jewish and Christian teachers and pastors have used this similarly down through the ages, especially at weddings.
Jesus uses it to reject divorce. This is a logical extension of the fundamental spiritual truth of the passage. But not explicitly referred to in the text.
Similarly, Paul in Ephesians 5:31-32 uses it as a simile for Christ and the church, even though there is no explicit reference to either in Genesis 2.
You have done much the same in extending the nakedness of Adam and Eve to an exhortation regarding healthy marital emotional nakedness, which is not explicitly in the passage.
These are all perfectly legitimate didactic strategies. All teachers do this all the time. What seems less legitimate, however, is to draw commandments from this narrative which are not explicit in the original. Particularly is this problematic when the commandments we attempt to draw are contradicted by the rest of Scripture.
David, it is just not possible to argue that polygamy is prohibited by Genesis 2 or any other passage. Polygamy is clearly one of the many marital options God has ordained for parenthood.
Abraham and Sarai brought their slave girl Hagar into the bedroom to begin a family. This produced a son who became a great patriarch. Abraham later took a second wife, Keturah, who bore him six sons. He also had children with an uncertain number of concubines. Jacob married Leah and Rachel who then invited Rachel’s servant girl Bilhah to join the family “as a wife”. Several times for at least two children. Leah’s servant girl Zilpah then joined the family. There is no hint anywhere that these were irregular. In fact, the opposite. Great rejoicing at these blessings from God. (Genesis 30:9-13)
These guys were not alone. Lamech took two wives. Esau started out with two wives and later married a third. Gideon had many wives. Elkanah had two wives. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Ashur had two wives. Rehoboam took 18 wives, and 60 concubines. Abijah had 14 wives. Caleb had children with at least two partners. Jehoiada had two wives. David had eight wives, an unknown number of concubines. These are those we know of.
The argument that God disapproved of multiple partners but tolerated and regulated it – as with divorce – is not convincing. There is no hint anywhere that polygamous, same-sex or extramarital unions are intrinsically wrong. Yes, Solomon was rebuked for taking too many foreign wives (1 Kings 11:1-2). But nationality was the problem there, not multiplicity. Although 700 does look a bit greedy.
Nathan telling David that he could have had more wives had he wished is clear affirmation that M1W1 has never been a Biblical requirement. As are the many Scriptural guidelines about inheritance and other regulatory matters for polyamorous arrangements.
So can you understand why scholars suggest it’s a bit dubious to draw monogamy from Genesis 2, David?
Incidentally, Prof Loader’s submission to the Senate offers an historical rationale for polyamorous unions in Biblical times.
Not sure Paul’s use of the text in Ephesians 5 is much of a problem, David. Paul uses Adam and Eve as a simile. Always with similes, analogies and word pictures there can be problems if we push them too far. It seems pretty clear that Paul is talking specifically about headship and love here – not polygamy and monogamy.
And even with these Paul seems reluctant to be too dogmatic: “This is a profound mystery”.
Back later re Ruth and Naomi. Meanwhile, a helpful discussion on the citation for the Luther quote is available here: http://www.leaderu.com/science/kobe.html.
Blessings, David. AA
Hi again David,
Just to clarify the Ruth and Naomi relationship. No, I’ve never claimed it to be a sexual union. We just don’t know. Very frustrating for those on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue.
The relationship comes up for consideration, however, when claims are made about what Genesis 2:24-25 says about sex, marriage, nudity, divorce, monogamy, same-sex unions and Christ and the church. We are then obliged to look at the meanings of the words, aren’t we? And ‘dabaq’ is a key word.
So I’m not sure it’s fair to say this inquiry “shows just how utterly dishonest the position being put forward is.”
Nor is it really satisfactory to assert “that the ‘clinging’ is a singular moment where Ruth literally clutches onto Naomi so as not to let her go.” Because Ruth 1:16-18 confirms it was much more than this.
Yes, there was a moment when the ‘dabaq’ commitment was articulated, as is true of most marriages. But then the relationship continues – for life, we hope.
So it would seem that if scholars who claim ‘dabaq’ in Genesis 2 refers to a permanent union have a case, then so do those who claim the same of Ruth 1.
It’s interesting that the Ruth and Naomi love story is still a popular one to be read at church weddings, although some churches have dropped it off their official list recently. This is where we get ‘til death do us part’, isn’t it?
What?! “fresh teachings”? Alan, serious question – do you just make this stuff up? There is no “fresh teaching”. He reaffirms the created order and adds a dogmatic “that which God has joined together, let not man divide”. That’s not a “fresh teaching” – he’s just insisting upon the thing he’s taught.
it’s the natural conclusion of the text. A man cleaves to his wife. The two become one flesh. Thus they ought not to be divided. There’s nothing new in this – it’s just a restatement of what is already there.
I realise that the liberal position that you are so keen to advocate for requires you to be constantly insisting that there is something new being said, but you really have to base your argument in the text, not your imagination or speculation.
you know what, I’m a little tired of you playing fast and loose with the Bible so we’ll make this the test case for your hermeneutic. Where does God ordain polygamy as an option for parenthood? Where does God say “this is a good thing, this is what I intend for humanity, this has my endorsement”?
For all your flitting about the text, making claims and retracting them, claiming ‘I didn’t say that’ (see your backpeddling on Ruth/Naomi as one obvious example) you have failed to show this clear endorsement by God of polygamy (or homosexual activity, for that matter).
Leah may rejoice in children – it does not mean God endorses polygamy. Kings may have more than one wife, again this is a far cry from stating that God approves – quite the contrary, the model of one man one woman is already set.
So cut to the chase, Alan. Show us where God endorses polygamy, where He says “I intend for a man to marry more than one woman – this is my intention in creation”. Take your time with it, I’m sure our readers are keen to see this knock-down argument.
It has been interesting reading the comments about Naomi and Ruth. I came across this idea years ago when looking at the odd teachings and ministry of TD Jakes the television evangelist. I never realised that some people were actually taking this theory seriously. The romance was between Ruth and Boaz and this is why as you say Alan why some people like to have passages read at their wedding. Ruth was clearly a loyal person who wanted to continue with her relationship with Naomi who was her mother in law. The only people who would argue that this relationship was a sexual or romantic one will of course be those trying to argue that same sex relationships are normal and consistent with God’s will, no one else sees it this way.
Excellent questions again. But no, no knockdown argument, unfortunately. Don’t you hate that?
The understanding that God ordained polygamy can be arrived at from a few directions. First, the passages used to claim God ordained monogamous marriage serve also to affirm he ordained other unions, including polygynous unions. There are actually no specific limitations on the number, are there?
Take Genesis 2:24-25, for example. The idea that this limits husbands to just one wife is read into the text. It is not there in actual words.
It’s a bit like God ordaining us to have children. Having had one child is it permitted then to have another? What does Scripture teach? Or what does the Bible teach about how many times a month couples should have sex? God seems happy for each family to decide on number without His direct instructions.
Pretty strong evidence that Genesis 2:24-25 does not limit the number of spouses is found in the many following passages referred to earlier where God blesses polyamorous unions. And no, it is not just Leah who rejoices in the blessing of children in a polyamorous arrangement, David, is it? It seems to be a recurrent theme. Genesis 33:5 is just one further indication that having children with multiple partners – in Jacob’s case two wives and two handmaidens – were gifts “God has graciously given”. There are others.
Stronger evidence still is found in Nathan’s direct affirmation to David in 2 Samuel 12:8 that his wives were all given to him by God and that he could have had more had he wanted.
Then in the New Testament Paul directly addresses the matter of the number of wives in 1 Timothy 3:2. Advising bishops/elders to have one wife is most reasonably understood as restricting domestic responsibilities in a community where polygamy was common and normal. We know this was the case. We know few if any of the ancient scholars interpreted Genesis 2 as restricting wives to just one.
This seems, in fact, quite a recent interpretation – or misinterpretation – depending on your hermeneutics.
Which raises a question. David, who was your Old Testament lecturer at college? What does he or she believe the OT teaches about polygamy?
Thanks, David. Cheers, AA
Yes. I agree with you.
The challenging question of the moment, then, is: Are those trying to argue that same sex relationships are normal and consistent with God’s will actually correct?
This is the question.
Yes, it is there in actual words; he cleaves to his wife. Not multiple wives, not the possibility of many wives, not potentially a man – simply “his wife” feminine singular. And it is further confirmed when Jesus says (Matthew 19:4) “Have you not read that in the beginning God made them male and female and this is why a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh”.
He affirms what is already clear in the text – that God made us male and female and that this direct gender complementarity is the basis for heterosexual marriage – not a vague allusion to some generic partnership as you keep insisting.
And this is how the church has understood it for just short of 2,000 years. Yet you seem to think that now, all of a sudden, it’s unclear.
I think we’ll leave it at that, Alan.
Well, what an interesting discussion, I have learned heaps.
2 Samuel 12:8 (NIV)
“I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.”
If Nathan is a prophet of God, then this is God saying clearly that many wives are quite okay, this looks like a knockdown argument to me.
Rev Ould, what would have been your response to this, if you hadn’t closed the discussion? just wondering.
btw Stacy, good to have you here. How did you end up on my website?
It’s an excellent question and I don’t want to pretend for a minute that it’s not important.
I think it’s a stretch to insist that it means that David married the wives of Saul (there’s nothing else in the OT to suggest that he did) but simply that they were handed over to him much as Saul’s possessions also were (and do note I am distinguishing between Saul’s possessions and his “wives” – nb we are only ever told of one woman Saul married).
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting little observation given that the context is his rape of Bathsheba who he “took” from Uriah. Could it be that Nathan is saying “look, you could even have had Saul’s wife if you wanted, but no – you had to go and take Uriah’s “? It’s hard to tell exactly what is intended to be communicated.
So, as with other such “examples” the onus remains on the revisionist to demonstrate that the text really means what they suggest it means.
And there’s no need to have to address me as “Rev” (unless you particularly want to). I’m quite happy with “David”.
Hey, David! Thanks.
I’ve had a good look at this and think I will stay with Nathan. he definitely says wives plural. And the term ‘wives into your arms’ is intimate. I think Nathan would know.
Nathan would also know of the Garden or Eden story and doesn’t see any conflict between it and many wives and concubines. So i think i will stay with Nathan’s view of Genesis 2 also.
I saw your page mentioned ona facebook page somewhere. about 2 weeks ago. cant remember where. I think it was a liberal site, not sure. they were talking about the bishop in Gippsland.
Bye for now. Stacy x
I’m not sure how anyone can insist that it’s “intimate”. Is the same phrase used anywhere else to indicate intimacy? the far more common phrase is when God says that he gives someone or something
“into your hands” as an outcome of conquest.
So the liberal is left with an at best possibility. Rather a slender thing on which to insist that 2,000 years of biblical understanding be overturned, don’t you think?
Hey again David, no, i don’t know whether the phrase is used elsewhere.
but I can’t see that it matters at all. Just the plain reading of this passage is perfectly consistent with everything else in the Bible. It shows that God is quite happy with polygamy really.
i can’t see where anyone is trying to overturn anything, either, David. Polygamy is still accepted today within the Anglican and other churches throughout much of Africa, parts of Asia and most of the Middle East. even in parts of Australia.
The majority view of biblical understanding for the last 2000 years seems to be polygamy is okay …
Bye. S x
But that, surely, is the point. You say “plain reading” and I would point out that we are both people who are living at least 3,000 years after the text was written. We speak a different language into which it was translated with different idioms. So there is a “plain meaning” which is the literal words, but then there is the question of how those words are being used. So when I ask if the phrase is used elsewhere it’s not an attempt to obfuscate, far from it – it’s actually an attempt to clarify the meaning. Any attempt at translation and understanding has to go through these processes – it’s basic exegesis.
In mainstream culture, perhaps yes – indeed my wife’s grandfather was a polygamist. But in the church, no. So when you say,
You’re simply incorrect. Unless, of course, you can show mainstream Church Fathers and theologians like Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin etc stating otherwise? I don’t think you can.
Now i am a bit confused. You seem to be saying now that we have to try to understand and take into account the times of the Bible when it was written. is this right? because you seemed to be saying the opposite earlier.
So is it true that the largest group of married men in the Bible had 2 or more wives; the second largest group of married men we don’t know how many wives; and the smallest group we know had only one wife?
don’t know about the church fathers, David. If they are saying they all believe one wife should be the Church’s teaching, then that is okay. If they are saying Genesis teaches against polygamy then they are not right. Right?
Bye for now, S x
Well, it depends what you mean. I’m saying that in order to understand an idiom of 3000 years ago it might be helpful to know a little more about 3000 year old idioms. Surely that’s not in dispute? So, when we see a phrase like “give into your arms” it’s helpful to ask if that’s an idiom rather than presuming that a Hebrew of 3000 years ago thinks in exactly the same way as we do today. That’s all.
that’s a far cry from suggesting that we simply reject the meaning of the text because it’s 3000 years old and from a different time which was your original challenge.
No, I don’t think that’s true at all. I see no evidence at all that “the largest group of married men in the Bible had 2 or more wives”.
Well, you were the one who made the claim that “The majority view of biblical understanding for the last 2000 years seems to be polygamy is okay” – I’m just asking if you have any evidence at all to back it up. It seems you do not. Fair enough.
Hey again, David. yes, i agree about context.
Just can’t seee how anyone can read Nathan’s words to David in context without reading that wives plural are okay. and can’t seee how anyone can read Genesis 2:24 in context and claim it is addressing the matter of number of wives, or of having sex and children with slaves or of having sex and children with concubines, or of the gender of life partners or any other matter it is not talking about.
The context, David, the context. 3000 years ago.
and yes, David, i still think The majority view of biblical understanding for the last 2000 years is that polygamy is okay – and there is overwhelming evidence for this.
Listing names of church fathers is not a good argument, without knowing what they said and if what they said was correct.
I’ll stick with the largest group of married men in the Bible had 2 or more wives – until shown otherwise. I actually found this on a site trying to argue for monogamy. Huh?
The Anglican church in Africa does recognise multiple partners still today – not just society – just to clarify an earlier matter.
Cool? SC x