I have been debating people on the monogamy-polygamy question now for many years and have carefully noted the way people defend their monogamy-only position. As one parts the foliage and gets down to the core issues, one discovers the heart of the spiritual forces at play.
For the man who has got past the 'extra sex' illusion and sees just what polygamy entails, the core issue is always the challenge to shoulder more responsibility. There is no happy polygamous marriage for the man who does not want to (a) mature, and (b) become Christ-like. Polygamy fells Cassanovas and Don Juans like the German tanks slaughtered the charging Polish cavalry in 1939. The only male survivors in polygamy are (a) the tyrants who imprison their wives as chattels, and (b) the godly patriarchs who have not shirked in shouldering heavy burdens, have suffered greatly in the early years, and who understand that the only way to be happy in this lifestyle is to imitate Christ in everything.
For the woman who has understood that polygamy is truly a genuine biblical principle, the chief hurdle is one of selfishness and possessiveness. Like the patriarchs, she can (if she accepts the principle) go in one of two directions: (a) she can occupy the submissive rôle in a Dominant/submissive relationship and become a shadow of herself, constantly in heart-denial, and convincing herself that if she suffers this side of the veil of mortality Yahweh will somehow 'compensate' her on the other side; or (b) she can crucify carnal-nature, allow Christ to completely take over her life, and find the pinnacle of joy.
We are all clever apologists ... or think we are ... especially when it comes to deceptively making excuses to avoid the truth. One can approach the polygamy issue from one of two positions: a selfish one or a Christ-like one. Many are the voices I have had raised against me who have admitted that polygamy was biblical but - though never saying it directly (save the liberals) - implying that is is in some way inferior and 'ought' to be superceded in the New Covenant by monogamy only. When the path of the crucifixion of the fleshy nature is rejected by women hostile to polygamy, the justification is always 'me'.
A typical question of a woman is: 'Why would a man want more than one wife?' and of course there are always two answers: (a) Because he thinks it will give him extra sex and power; or (b) because it is a divine call and the allure is a more Christ-like life. But just as there are always a pair of answers to any question on polygamy, every question has its twin which really can't be ignored: 'Why would several women want to share a single husband?' And that too has two answers: (a) She is rather stupid and doesn't understand that men just want to exploit weak-minded women; or (b) because it a divine call and the allure is a more Christ-like life.
The experience of women in polygamy is basically one of two things: (a) control, exploitation, and oppression; or (b) liberation and happiness in the Spirit of Christ. The difference between the two is that first is built upon the carnal nature and the second, the spiritual.
Since true polygamy is essentially a spiritual phenomenon, it directly challenges the spirituality claims of the monogamy-only adherents. And because it exposes a shallowness in their own spiritual life - both in the men's and the women's - those who adhere to this position have only one of two recourses: (a) they must confess that the monogamy-only position is not of Elohim (God), that is it unspiritual and damaging, egotistical and antichrist; or (b) they must do everything in their power to view and portray polygamy as being exclusively carnal and therefore demonic even at the expense of twisting the truth. And when such people resort to such a tactic, they reveal an intensely ugly and evil spirit in themselves, because in order to maintain this position they must deny the truth, lie, and resort to deception.
Their response to polygamy apologists is typical and carnal. Rather than argue from the plain sense of the Scriptures, they instead accuse us of being scripture-twisters, of arguing from semantics, taking things out of context, and so on. The next line of unethical behaviour is always name-calling, accusing polygamy proponents of being adulterers, sexual perverts, blasphemers, antichrist, and so on. At this point no rational discussion is possible because the spirit has ceased to be in Christ but is DEMONIC.
If we want to know how to treat Christians/Messianics of other viewpoints we have only to look at the way Christ handled sinners in His own ministry. He did not accuse and rail at the woman caught in adultery but quietly and calmly allowed the parties involved to come to an understanding of their own spiritual condition and to convict themselves. Of course, the woman in this instance was a bona fide adulterer, but the point was that her accusers - who were only to willing to exterminate her in blind hatred - revealed their own lost condition in their sinful behaviour.
I respect anyone who passionately believes in something ... even if it is wrong ... so long as they are humble, non-accusatory, and justify themselves from Scripture alone. Every instance in Scripture where polygamy has been attacked directly or indirectly has met with an angry divine response. There have always been anti-polygamists and - so long as we live in a sinful world - always will be. Miriam, the sister of Moses, was the first one, who not only resented Moses' Ethiopian wife (his first wife relative to his later Midianite wife) but also the authority that Yahweh conferred on this humble patriarch. The punishment meeted out to this woman and her brother Aaron reflected in its terribleness what Yahweh feels about those who reject polygamy and patriarchal authority. We all know the stigma attached to leprosy and the hopelessness of recovery without divine intervention. We learn therefore from this early tirade against polygamy and patriarchy that the only way the carnal mind will ever understand these twin principles is if the soul falls upon its face in contrition and begs the Almighty to lift the curse of such false thinking and feeling. The bottom line, therefore, in the monogamy vs. polygamy controversy is PRIDE vs. HUMILITY.
A proud person will never understand polygamy, even if he accepts the principle! If a proud man accepts polygamy, he will end up as a tyrant. If a humble man accepts it, he will bring glory to Yahweh and multiply the Light of Christ in everything he does. If a proud woman accepts polygamy, she will retain her carnal nature and merely try to bury it deep, and as a result cause deep dissastifaction and pain for herself which may explode violently at some point and hurt many people. If a humble woman accepts it, she will bring glory to her husband and to Yahweh our Heavenly Father and cause love to blossom on everything which her hands touch.
We see, then, that there are four kinds of polygamous marriage:
We will take these in the reverse order.
- 1. Humble man, humble woman;
- 2. Humble man, proud woman;
- 3. Proud man, humble woman; and
- 4. Proud man, proud woman.
Proud Man, Proud Woman
Here you have the perfect combination for hell on earth. The man will be trying to dominate and control and the women will be in constant rebellion, jockeying for positions of power and affection themselves. Such a marriage would best be described as a military siege. It has failed even before it has started and will likely fly apart or become a concentration camp of misery.
Proud Man, Humble Woman
An outsider coming to this kind of marriage may well be tempted to believe that everything is fine and prosperous. The women are loving, sacrificial and striving to be the best women that they can be in Christ. They will reflect so well on their husband that he may be seen in glowing terms. He basks in their light and is literally a parasite. But because he is proud, he is not giving as much as he is receiving, and inevitably the wives will starve spiritually. They will endure, as good Christian women, but they will grow weary. The lustre, light and joy will disappear from their eyes as they sense their increasing isolation, because their husband is on a carnal wavelength. Such a marriage will probably survive depending on how proud the husband is, but it will not be a happy one. The wives will be living for Christ and obtain their chief sustenance from Him, but will never know the blessed state of union with a humble man. If the husband is particularly proud, the stresses that build up may well fracture the marriage.
Humble Man, Proud Woman
The patriarch's nightmare. He is giving of himself 100% but it feels as though his love is disappearing down a black hole. The better part of his energy is expended in trying to repair broken relationships and to bring peace to selfish women who wish to control and manipulate. His situation is hopeless. He will either be crushed and become a shadow of himself, useless for kingdom work because of his deep unhappiness, or if he breaks he may just walk out.
Humble Man, Humble Woman
Paradise on earth is guaranteed if they maintain this spirit of contrition. The doors of possibility will constantly swing open showing new vistas of hope and ever ascendant experiences of happiness. This is the only polygamy that is truly Yahweh-ordained.
Each of these four case scenarios is different and therefore each requires different remedies. There is no excuse for pride and no blessing from Yahweh because of it. Yahweh opposes the proud ... always. And their end is never a happy one. The proud always fall unless they repent.
There are a number of 'theories' in circulation in the patriarchy movement as to how to handle women (rarely the men) and they try to apply a single remedy to all of the three negative situations described above.
A marriage which is ruled by a proud man has no real remedy. If the wives are humble, they can try to shame him to repentance but this is no guarantee. Either Yahweh must humble him through forces and circumstances external to his marriage, or he will simply decline into spiritual oblivion depending how proud he is. The humble man married to a proud woman or women must expect to sacrifice much of his life energy. My first marriage burned me out and though I did not see it as providential at the time, Yahweh's taking away my first undoubtedly saved my life. His intervention, unorthodox though it was (because she wasn't willing to repent, and because I didn't have the courage of my convictions earlier), was really the only resolution. And it was actually a fulfilment of prophecy given to me because I presumptuously entered the marriage in the first place.
I ought to add here that there are two types of pride - there is pride which exalts self, and there is pride which negates self. The latter is a counterfeit form of humility though often fools the less mature and wise Christian/Messianic. There are actually people who take a perverse pride in failure and who exalt their hopelessness. But it is still pride and it is equally as destructive as self-exaltation and arrogance. I experienced that in my second marriage and had something of that weakness in my first marriage in myself.
I think the very real and difficult question that humble patriarchs ask themselves when confronted by proud wives is just how far should they confront the pride issue in their spouses, and when. Since none of us are immune from pride (even those whom we regard as 'humble'), there has to be constant self-evaluation on the part of a patriarch who has to confront this ugly condition in his wives. One wing of the patriarchy movement takes a 'hands off' attitude and believes wives should be left to struggle on their own, even if they use a whole life time resisting a husband's call to polygamy by clutching on to their monogamy-only covenants for all they are worth. The knack for the righteous patriarch is maintaining exactly the right amount of pressure but not enough to force the issue. And the only way to learn how to do this is to observe how Yahweh subtly applies pressure in our own lives.
My first observation is that those in high spiritual callings - men and women alike - tend to get a lot of pressure from the Almighty when they have wandered off the way, unless they have become so callous to the operation of Holy Spirit that they are in serious apostacy and, without necessarily knowing it, are already on the enemy's side. Teachers of the Word, we know, receive a stricter judgment than the recipients of it. I have noticed how unbearable the divine hand can be sometimes as it forces me to confront painful sin-issues. And yet others seem to get off lightly. A woman who has an excellent knowledge of the Scriptures as a woman's leader or a Pastor's wife is, I have noticed, more likely to come under heavy spiritual flak from Yahweh if she resists something she knows to be true. The unwillfully ignorant seem to be given more grace. Therefore the first duty of the husband is to teach, with grace, the plain meaning of scripture on polygamy and the Gospel in general so as to work upon her conscience and so subtly and kindly 'force' her to confront and deal with the polygamy issue. But he must know what she is emotionally capable of and not 'push' her beyond her ability to change. Several times Yahweh has shown me a vision to warn me that I have been pushing those who are under my pastoral care too hard. We all need space and time to work things out. That much grace we are all entitled to. And we are all struggling in one or more areas of weakness. "Do unto others what you would want others to do unto you". So if you are having problems with a wife accepting polygamy, ask yourself how much grace you would like for an area of personal weakness yourself. And be honest. Unequal expectation is hypocrisy. And we all know how Christ feels about religious hypocrisy.
We are accountable for the way we treat other people. No two people are alike. Some make unreasonable excuses over the polygamy issues but others are genuine, being tied up with self-worth and the ability to genuinely cope. If we have married a woman who has such weaknesses, that is our responsibility for choosing her as a wife in the first place. Equally, she must not use this as an excuse not to confront the truth. We must all judge with righteous judgment.
My first wife told me, just before she left me, that if I had insisted on marrying polygamously, that she would have accepted my authority and decision on the matter. It was a big shock for me. Because she was so implaccably opposed to it, I never dreamed she would entertain such a thought. My mistake.
The other day I was talking to a husband who told me of an unusual offer his wife had made to him. If he could find another women to marry him within 12 months, she would accept polygamy. If he couldn't, she would not. Though hardly an ideal arrangement, and though it is highly unorthodox, it was an act of faith on her part, manipulating though it was (since once that year was up the door to polygamy would be permanently closed from her side). Though surprised, my counsel was: 'Well, if that is the only way she will release you from your monogamy-only marriage vows, and if it is Yahweh's will that you marry polygamously, then why not!' Of course, the nature of the condition will always leave questions unanswered. If no women turns up, then it can either mean that he wasn't supposed to marry polygamously or that the woman in question isn't available until later ... based on her own free agency and choices. Yahweh may, or may not, act. But what if he does find a wife within the one year deadline? She will be bound by her covenant but that won't necessarily mean she will accept the arrangement of that the marriage in her heart or that it will be a happy one. I'm just glad that I was never put in that situation!
Yet, from the stance of a monogamy-only person, this act of faith is commendable and not at all unlike that of Gideon who asked for a miracle as a sign of what he should do. Yahweh often adapts Himself to our level of faith. I wonder what would have happened if I had gone ahead and taken a second wife based on my first wife's willingness to obey on trust even if her heart protested violently against polygamy? I doubt it would have worked simply because my theology was not so well founded in those days and I wouldn't have been able to teach as well as I can now. But who knows ... I may very well have taken the chance had I known, and that would have altered my own history to such an extent that I may not have met all my current wives. In actual fact, I am sure it would have bound me even closer to the wrong theological beliefs I had at the time. No, I am sure the catastrophe of my first wife divorcing me was providential.
All of this serves to teach me that not only is life highly complicated but that there are rarely pat solutions. Because every individual is unique, so each invididual brings with him or her a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, giftedness and problems. So there really is no simple, orderly way either into, or in, polygamous marriage. One may give general guidelines, but the details are up to the individual families.
Complex though we are, the ground rules are simple to understand. Carnal and spiritual natures, pride and humility, repentance and rebellion, crucifixion or exaltation of self. The Gospel of Christ does actually make things a lot simpler to understand and offers infallible remedies, but the price is always high, as must the cost of a pearl of great price always be. As one friend wisely remarked to me many years ago, the desires and wants of the Self are endless - but our real needs are few. The illusion that ensnares us is the belief that self-pursuit is the course to happiness, but what a terrible lie it is. The truth is that everlasting happiness is in direct proportion to our willingless to crucify self and yield to Christ. But such requires faith and humility. Cultivate these and everything else will take care of itself.