As someone who has for many years been declaring not only the biblical legality of plural marriage but also sharing the vision which Yahweh has given to me personally, a heavy responsibility falls upon my shoulders. I find myself in a small band of apologists who, though all having slightly different visions of this form of marriage, are all basically declaring that polygamy is OK today.
The biblical data on polygamy is incontenstible. There is no doubt whatsoever that Yahweh sanctions it and makes no distinction between its practice in one dispensation or another. The New Covenant of Christ did not abolish it.
But this is not the only issue that needs to be addressed. The biblical legality of polygamy established, we then need to ask ourselves some difficult questions:
The reason we need to ask these questions -- and to ask them urgently -- is because, with few exceptions, most of the domestic reports I am getting from Christian polygamy in practice are of UNQUALIFIED DISASTERS. The mental picture I am getting is of a war zone with bodies scattered over a battle field. And whilst, it is true, a similar battle is being fought in the fields of monogamy, with on average a 50% failure rate in all marriages, is a terrible mistake being made perhaps somewhere along the line?
- 1. What model of Christian polygamy?
- 2. Does Yahweh want it practiced generally now?
- 3. Is polygamy superior, inferior, equal to monogamy?
- 4. Is polygamy Yahweh's will generally or only permissively? And if the latter, what are the criteria?
For if you were the head of a College of higher education in which half your pupils were failing their first examinations in Mathematics, would you then go ahead and initiate an advanced degree in Mathematics in which the failure rate was something in the order of 95%? What kind of an advertisement would you be sending out to the world of the ability of your College to educate? Or, if your education is, in fact, sound, of your ability to admit suitable candidates? A College with such a track record should, in my view, be closed down until it has got its admissions proceedures and its ability to adequately educate sorted out.
One could, of course, go overboard and instead of addressing the real issues declare that maybe mathematics is 'bad' and shouldn't be taught any longer. One might even be tempted to abolish it altogether. One might even conclude that, perhaps, mathematics was not for these pupils at all. Some people do have a tendency to overreact.
Perhaps of some real concern might be if the failed students, knowing that they had no qualifications, decided to apply for work on the basis of their experience at College. 'Well, I didn't pass the exams, but I do at least have some working knowledge and experience of mathematics.' I don't know about you, but the hair would stand up on my head if people were to be employed on that basis, or to employ themselves.
The analogy might seem a little silly were it not for the fact that this is precisely the kind of signal that some polygamy-advocating men are giving. There are some men out there teaching polygamy and claiming to be experts who have never lived it in their lives. There are others with wide and influential polygamy ministries whose homes are a living disaster. In short, cyberspace is swarming with men advertising a principle they know nothing about and who are luring women into an avoidable hell. It has to stop!
But since we are free agents in a free society (for the most part), and since accrediting male polygamists based on free consent is not a particularly practical option, we are in many ways, hamstrung. What does one do? In recent times we at at this ministry have felt that our advertisement of Christian/Messianic polygamy is playing right into the hands of the quacks, the misinformed, and the confused who are using our advocacy of polygamy as justification for their own perverted ends. The feeling has been one of betraying those who are most likely to be hurt by polygamy if entered into by them in the wrong way. More than once I wanted to take this ministry right off the Web (and in the end did so for 15 years), but then that would just leave the field open for the wolves (which, in part, is why it is back again).
Let it be very plainly stated, even though it has been stated so many times, that polygamy is very, very, very, very DIFFICULT to live. It can only work and thrive IF you are fully committed to Christ and His Word AND have been endowed with a deep, deep, deep, deep selfless love for others. Being a good theologian isn't enough. There are plenty of cold-blooded fanatics who have a good grasp of Scripture, and who use Scripture to cudgel women into a life of misery. There must, in addition, be pastoral skills in leadership because the polygamous family is a miniature congregation. But even this is not enough. Hitler and Napoleon had an abundance of leadership skills. To good biblical knowledge and leadership skills must be added, in good measure and overflowing, an OCEAN of love. Again, I underline love, for there are men out there who are skillful theologians and have great leadership abilities, who rule with a rod of iron and who have created polygamy hell-holes for lack of love, because they have reinterpreted 'love' to mean what they want it to mean. Flee from them as you would death!
My heart is weighed with deep sorrow as I hear of more and more disaster stories. I groan within not knowing how to adequately articulate my feelings. It convinces me more and more, day by day, that there is only ONE form of true polygamy, and that is echad polygamy. It convinces me more and more, day by day, that only a TINY FEW are called into this principle, and definitely NOT the broad mass of Christians or Messianics. Definitely not. Polygamy is NOT a choice - never! It is a divine calling (which you can choose to respond to, or not). It is not a calling of the carnal man. And so I become more and more convinced, day by day, that we need some sort of safe haven where the spiritual credentials of those who believe they are called into this principle can be tested and where they can be trained. For if we don't have such a place with a proven track record of success and happiness, the polygamy movement is DOOMED to degenerate into nothing more than a cult, as it already has done in some quarters, and in a major way.
It should come as no suprise, therefore, that this ministry became the popular choice of polygamously-minded women but not polygamously-minded men. Of the latter, only a small minority have come to us. And no wonder - when there is at least one large ministry which says that polygamy is for all, we are not surprised to find it attracting drones of carnally-minded men who have been told that polygamy is for anyone who wants it. They are the pied-pipers of unhappiness.
In many ways, I think our contemporary Western culture is culturall the most ill-prepared possible to enter this lifestyle. It presents so many handicaps. It can't even live simple monogamy! It is just too hedonistic and egocentric. People for the most part lack any sort of spirtual depth and the word 'responsibility' is an unknown qualtity for them. They hear only about individual 'rights'. I have been far more impressed by what I have seen and heard of in Africa, for example, though even there there are abuses of a different sort there.
Whilst I believe that polygamy will be a universal principle in the Millennium and the eternities, I am persuaded that in the pre-millennial Christian/Messianic dispensation only a tiny minority were ever intended to live it. Many of the advocates of contemporary Christian/Messianic polygamy have a vision of it that is brutal and heartless. Lacking any true vision of the future, and what the ideal millennial world will be like, they are looking back into history and into the past for their inspiration. And in doing so, they are creating a spiritual environment that is doomed to make them wither on the vine.
It seems to me that many ministries are degenerating into marriage fleamarkets. Polygamy matchmaking retreats are organised by some of them that function more along the lines of breeding centres than anything remotely resembling Christian/Messianic spirituality. I know of women who are 'passed around' from home to home to see if they might 'fit in'. Where on earth is the Spirit of God in all of this? A degrading and obnoxious supermarket mentality has infected formerly spiritually-minded believers. Little wonder that godly women are becoming so turned off by what they see and are concluding that polygamy is a throwback from the dark ages. And little wonder, therefore, that the carnally-minded men who have entered this lifestyle without Yahweh's permission are 'forced' to use force to get it to function at all. They should become Moslems (were any salvation to be found there, which there isn't, of course).
It surprises me also that such things are never discussed by other ministries, and if they are, then never openly. Such discussions occur in secret amongst those who are in the 'club' (usually fee-based). They are too busy making media images -- marketing a product they want to dress in the most appealing way possible. Well, marriage isn't like that. Indeed, marriage shouldn't be marketed at all. It is something that should happen naturally without public interference or display in public parades. Polygamy ministries, if they exist at all, should simply be to give counsel when it is sought - they should not become marketing centres, or exist for themselves apart from a wider Church or Assembly. Indeed, if a polygamy ministry is not a part of some sort of denominational structure with the full range of ministries available, it should be shunned completely, or otherwise it will degenerate into a spiritual hobby-horse!
It has been suggested to me, in the light of the degenerate state in which this movement currently finds itself, that I temper down my belief that polygamy is in any way superior to monogamy and simply posit it as an valid and equal alternative. But I am bound to say that I cannot compromise the beliefs I hold simply on the basis of the contemporary politics of the moment, which beliefs are as follows:
Christian Polygamy has failed so abysmally because it is being promoted by spiritual amateurs who are yet hidebound by false traditions, the impotence of which is no more clearly evidenced than by the 'polygamy experiment'. Even the fundamentalist Mormons, for all their doctrinal errors, see the issues far more clearly than your average Christian/Messianic. One fundamentalist LDS (FLDS) writer, Ogden Kraut, is right on the mark when he says:
- 1. That polygamy to the carnal soul is not only inferior but positively harmful, and ought to be avoided like the plague; and
- 2. That polygamy to the spiritual soul is superior to monogamy and to be greatly desired, by both genders, and is the normative way of heavenly living.
There are honourable women out there who want to live this lifestyle with honourable men but have become discouraged and turned away because of the rodeo which they see amongst so-called 'patriarchs' who look as though they have come out of a Dirty Harry movie. In the beginning (2002) our plan, using this ministry, was to educate and accredit men whom we considered 'fit' for this lifestyle. Events overtook us and today (2016) we are planning to set up something similar but within the context of our own general mission and for people in our own congregations to which people not of our belief system might possibly be able to enroll. But these are early days.
"Plural marriage was never intended to be a principle that all men could live. Furthermore, it never will -- simply because most men are incapable of properly fulfilling the obligations of even a monogamous marriage. It certainly stands to reason that if men like David and Solomon, who gained the respect of God and man, were capable of failure in their marriages, then we know that all men can fail. Indeed, we may conclude by saying that only a 'few' shall ever qualify for exaltation" (The Polygamy of David and Solomon: From Triumph to Tragedy, December 1986, p.14).
If this comes to pass and people can see that we are training men who can be relied upon, then perhaps the less reckless women interested in this principle will come here in search of the higher spiritual ground. That, at least, is our hope.
To accomplish this means a rigorous program of Torah-based Christian/Messianic discipleship within our Priesthood Schools. With both Deacons and Elders in our African congregations living polygamously this discipling will, in due course, come under the Schools of the Shammashim and Zaqenim, respectively. In sort, this spiritual education will be for those maturer in the Gospel. For a true Patriarch is not just the head of a household (which all men are by default) but one who has arisen into the spiritual office of either a Deacdon or an Elder.
The purpose of this spiritual training will be to, first, senstitise people to the fact that there is a difference between jurisdictional salvation and sanctification. Fig.1 (below) illustrates the carnal, unsaved man. Fig.2 illustrates what happens when such a man accepts Christ as His Saviour and receives His covering (the blue layer). From the point-of-view of our Heavenly Father, Yahweh, such a soul is legalistically 'clean' because all He sees is the righteousness of Christ. We are declared righteous on the basis of Yah'shua's (Jesus') death on our behalf on the cross and His atoning blood. BUT that does not mean we are literally clean. The carnal man, coloured red, is still there. Part of the problem, conscious and unconscious, amongst Christian/Messianic men interested in polygamy is that they assume they are 'clean' because of the atonement of Christ and therefore fit for polygamy. This is a major error and one of the sources of so much suffering in Christian/Messianic polygamy today.
There is a difference between salvation and sanctification
The New Testament plainly teaches a seven-fold spiritual overcoming, corresponding to the seven annual festivals of Messianic Israel, that the saints must engage in before the qualify to partake of the Tree of Life in Paradise (Revelation 22:14). In short, the newly saved believer faces a rigorous program of discipleship if he will yield to it. The Book of Revelation details this by comparing the carnal overcomings that must be attained with specific spiritual problems that afflicted (and ultimately destroyed) the Seven Churches/Assemblies of Asia Minor. We are told the problems and the blessings or results of overcoming. This same book of scripture further teaches us that the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is not one but Seven-in-One, and it is the teaching of this ministry that each of these Ruachs (Spirits) of Yahweh has, as Her purpose (for the Ruach/Spirit is always female in Hebrew) the ministry of overcoming in one of these areas.
In Fig.3 we see a person who has overcome in one of these areas, represented by a blue or sanctified segment of the soul. Fig.4 illustrates someone who has overcome in four of these areas and finally, Fig.5 shows someone who has completely overcome. Thus the outer jurisdictional salvation is matched or equalled by the literal transformation of the soul into an image of the Son of Yahweh.
If the truth be known, most men and women don't want such a struggle of overcoming, which is why so many evangelicals have bought into a watered-down version of the Gospel which I call 'cheap grace'. They arrogantly proclaim that they are walking in the Presence of Yahweh-Elohim simply because they have made a profession of faith. And whilst such does indeed give the believer the right to enter the Holy of Holies and to commune with the Father through the blood of Christ, it does not make him literally clean. Yes, Christ washes our sins away, but only as we repent of them and OVERCOME through Him.
We could, of course, argue doctrine until the cows come home and get nowhere as each remains entrenched in his position. But it's not until you start trying to live Christian/Messianic polygamy that your doctrines prove themselves to be true or false. All cheap grace doctrines come unstuck in polygamy because they reveal the vaccuousness and hypocrisy of those who claim to have 'made it' by a simple profession of faith alone. Such a soul, covered in Christ, reveals his inner spiritual backruptcy as he tries - as polygamy requires of him - to sacrificially and selflessly love his wives as Christ loved the Church/Messianic Community. His carnal disposition trips him up time and time again and reveals him to be the unredeemed brute that he really is. He has used Christ as a mantle of self-justification for unrighteous authority instead falling on His knees, as a Bride of Christ Himself in a meek, contrite and broken-hearted attitude and learned Himself what it is to truly submit in female position. And because He will not do this (or does not understand it) he comes across not as a saviour/deliverer on Mount Zion (Obadiah 1:21) but as an ogre to his wives. The Christ-image is lost and in its place is the image of Satan - to be feared and loathed. And when this image is revealed, springing as it does from the carnal nature, polygamous wives grow fearful and silent, or otherwise flee.
Yes, brethen, you can indeed name Christ as your Lord and Master until the cows come home but unless you have His Spirit within you, you are liars. Polygamy, as I have said many, many times, is the great revealer and exposer. It reveals what the men who practice it are really made of. Just as there are Mountains of Blessing and Cursing in Torah (Deuteronomy 11:29; Joshua 8:33), so there is a Mt.Gerizim (the spiritual nature) and a Mt.Ebal (the carnal nature) in every soul. And until Mt.Ebal - the Mount of Cursings - the Carnal Nature - has been utterly subdued, there is no complete bridal salvation in man, for if he does not cast that mountain into the sea by faith as Christ commanded (Mark 11:23), he will take it into the next world with him. And the Father, seeing that sinful nature, will only admit him into such mansions as tolerate such things, reserving for His actual presence those who have extirpated it altogether.
This cleansing is not possible without the Seven-fold Polygamous Ruach haQodesh or Holy Spirit, and is absolutely required of all those who are called to live polygamy. I make no bones about that. For those who claim to be called to polygamy - men and women alike - is the implicit understanding that such will labour with their whole souls to become cleansed out. And to do that requires a major inner struggle.
I have been accused of being a 'cultist' by at least one of the major polygamy ministries for saying such things (and others would surely like to) but it interesting to note the abysmal marriage failure rate both by the vast majority of those who have followed this 'anti-cult' teaching not to mention the disaster of the founder's own family. Not that I rejoice in his misfortune, but grievously sorrow, for it need not be such. Indeed, I pray for him and for all those many men and women over whom he has great influence, though I do give him this warning: that unless he repents, Yahweh will take his ministry and his family from him. (By January 2003 he had disbanded his church and abandoned three of his four wives and their children with the law in hot pursuit. He has since changed state, changed his name and started a new ministry under a new name too. According to a daughter, has refused all contact with the rest of his family.)
Unfortunately, so long as carnal segments remain in the soul, there is spiritual blindness. Furthermore, there will be a radically different 'experience' and 'vision' as compared with those who are overcoming or who have already overcome. The seven eyes of Yahweh range across the whole earth (Zechariah 3:9; 2 Chronicles 16:9) for He has a unique seven-aspected perspective which only those who have overcome can see. And that is why Yahweh remains so incomprehensible to so many believers. Now you all know the difference between looking through a telescope with one eyepiece and a pair of binoculars with two. Physical sight can either be monoscopic or stereoscopic. Not so the ruach (spirit) of man which potentially has septoscopic (sevenfold) vision.
One of the most amazing, as well as deeply frustrating, results of overcoming in Christ is that you can 'see' things which others cannot until they in their turn have overcome. You can try and explain your multiple vision until you go blue in the face but get nowhere, for you will be met my the protests of the monoscopic view. Spirituality is vision in depth, and it is not easily acquired. But to be a polygamist MAN you must absolutely have it, because you must be able to see your wives, in all their manifold variations of spirit, where they are so you can help them forward. Without this vision you will misunderstand them and hold them back as you try to channel them down a tiny tunnel of your own limited self-vision and ego. And as you do, you will become more and more estranged from them spiritually, and in the process reveal that you are not the true polygamous patriarch that you should be. The result becomes a kind of spiritual Mexican Stand-off, nobody getting anywhere, no one understanding anyone else. The spiritual problems thus mount until they reach explosion point. And then the world crumbles around you.
No man who is not congniscent of the seven-overcomings and is some distance down their spiritual path already, having at least overcome in one or two areas, is called into polygamy. I guarantee it. It is a path that involves a complete stripping down of the ego leading ultimately to its complete subjection and leading a complete takeover by the Spirit of Christ. It is not enough to talk about such things but one must live them any more than it is enough to talk about polygamy to really know anything about it.
Our Order - the Chavurat Bekorot - provides such a path. It is not easy but well worth it. Instead of relying exclusively on the semi-random nature of external events to strip us down, it is a systematic and orderly spiritual method which was revealed to our founder back in the 1980's and 90's. It prepares men and women alike not just for polygamy but for ministerial service in general. My wives have been, or are going, through it, and it is what has given us such a stable base. Struggles and difficulties are anticipated, expected, and catered for. In our experience it can take a man, depending on how spiritually endowed he is, from one to seven years (usually the longer period) to prepare for polygamy having come from a background where intensive polygamy discipling was not known. It requires those participating in this program to place themselves under accountability and annual weighing.
I see this as the only remedy for not only the first generation of Christian/Messianics polygamists but for polygamists in the generations to come. The carnal nature, with its attendant bridge-making to demonic influences, simply cannot be underestimated. And in a polygamous situation, a husband dare not take risks with the souls of his wives for whom he is responsible as their covering. For if he covers them with carnality, then he becomes a spiritual thief and a robber instead of a protector.
In conclusion, may I again reaffirm that I still unhesitatingly believe that polygamy is the superior form of marriage for those who are overcoming and have their eyes on Fig.5. For the rest who have settled only on a partial overcoming, it is neither superior or inferior to monogamy. But to those who will not overcome, it is the worst possible hell anyone could enter into. Thus whether polygamy is superior, equal, or inferior to monogamy will entirely depend where you are standing on the spiritual terrain of overcoming. And whereas in the past in previous dispensations polygamy may have had a more practical function such as in the raising of large families with which to populate a newly forming nation (I know of one messianic ministry that justifies polygamy principally on this ground), in the present one its principal (though by no means excusive, for it has physical affects) function is spiritual, because that is the nature of the New Covenant. Though I have, regrettably, been misinterpreted by some as suggesting that polygamy is a blessed way to live for everyone no matter where they may be in their spiritual journey, I have consistently stated that polygamy is only for those who are called by the Divine Hand, and that such a call will only ever be given to those who are committed to entering the spiritual battle to overcome the carnal man. Further, unless that battle is already well underway before polygamy is entertained or contemplated, then the likelihood of such a person being called is, in my estimation, low.
The calling of men and women into polygamy is not spiritually for the same reasons. Now I know - obviously - that we men are not Christ and can never be Christ, nor do we have the capacity to operate on the scale that He does. But it would equally be wrong to say that we are not to imitate him on our particular level of limitations - limitations, incidentally, which will decrease as we overcome spiritually, and which will be even further reached if and when we make it to the highest glory that is offered man. It is not therefore blasphemous, as an image of the Elohim (God), for husbands to try and to emulate the mortal (human) Messiah. We are actually commanded to not only copy Him in the kind of life He led but were specifically promised that, following empowerment by the Holy Spirit, we would do even greater works as men than He did (the atonement excepted). Though it seems we are still far, far away from realising that, the prophecy nevertheless remains. Having first attained a proper humility and submission to Christ (for this passage is open to abuse by unsancfied megalomanics), we are clearly shown what as patriarchs we are supposed to be. I repeat:
The word "saviours" here is mowshi'iyim, the plural of yasha or yah'shua, the same name given to the Messiah. His servants are to be mini-spiritual reflections of Him, just as Adam and Eve (and therefore mankind) were (are) images or reflections of the Elohim (Godhead). The word is used as one who liberates, frees or delivers, thus showing what a true patriarch should be to his wives, and not a slavemaster. The word "Esau" translates as 'rough' or 'crude' (alluding to the roughness or hairiness of that man), again indicating the purpose of the saviour to be a refiner or purifier (Malachi 3:3). The Patriarch is to reflect Yah'shua (Jesus) in His life through submission to Him, as his wives are to reflect the Christ in their husband through submission to that which is saving or liberating. It is a spontaneous thing - or ought to be - that leads to spiritual prosperity and happiness. Esau is the 'carnal half' of man, Jacob (Israel) the 'spiritual'. There is a battle between the two. But Jacob starts life off as a deceiver, as many Christians/Messianics do, trying to 'trick' or 'deceive' their way through to sanctification. But such trickery will not enable them to escape the final struggle at Peniel where Jacob had to wrestle with Yahweh's Angel. Until that battle has been won, he cannot becomer Israel, nor be grafted finally onto the vine of salvation (Romans 11).
"Then saviours (deliverers) shall come to Mount Zion
To judge the mountains of Esau,
And the kingdom shall be Yahweh's"
(Obadiah 21, NKJV)
This passage in Obadiah, which is a major spiritual signpost for patriarchs, should be studied carefully. It will yield rich pickings in terms of understanding. Though his wives are his, they are ultimately Yahweh's, because he is Yahweh's too. "The Kingdom shall be Yahweh's".
We face in Christian/Messianic Polygamy, therefore, a dual problem:
But rather than take the long and tortuous path of father Jacob, why not choose the high road and voluntarily submit yourself to carefully disciplined refinement? Remember, men, that what you do affects your wives too - you have a responsibility to them to pave the way to make their own spiritual journey better. In that you are supposed to be imitating Christ who paved the road of salvation for us so that we could walk safely along it back to our Father Yahweh.
- 1. Men called into it (a small minority), some of whom are playing Jacob's trickery games and messing things up. They will be brought to account at Peniel and come face to face with, first Yahweh, and then Esau, their carnal reflection. They will face the wrestle of their lives until they have overcome and can break the hatred of Esau;
- 2. Men not called into it (the vast majority) whose end is destruction unless they repent and place themselves and their wives (those who choose to remain) under congregational accountability and care.
Patriarchs must work hard to complete their spiritual journey