This is for you if you are dealing with this subject as a shepherd, not on your own account or on your own initiative, but because someone in your congregation is either asking hard questions, or has taken a position on this, or is actually considering taking another wife, and you have the courage and intellectual integrity to actually do some research instead of knee-jerking an authoritative or emotional response based on your education, experience, or positional authority. If you are considering the question for yourself, please take a look at our For Men page, and if you find that helpful you might ask your wife to take a look at our For Women page. Otherwise, let's talk about how you're going to handle this situation on behalf of the believers God has entrusted to your care.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
You have a tough job. As an under-shepherd of God's flock, one of your responsibilities is to protect and defend the flock from those who would do it harm. It is understandable that you would want to act quickly to expose any false teaching or drive out any immoral or divisive people from your flock.
At the same time, though, as Isaiah reminds us above, calling good 'evil' can cause just as much grief as calling evil 'good'. "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor 3:17), and if we are of that spirit we should be careful before coming down hard on brothers and sisters in Christ simply for raising counter-cultural questions and issues, especially if you have known that brother or sister long enough to have a positive assessment of their character before this issue came up.
We have provided information on this site to empower individuals to come to their own conclusions about what the bible actually teaches about marriage. Frankly, most of us were originally just as surprised as you are now to be dealing with what we thought was a "settled" issue, and we have put this information together in an effort to help others in their search for biblical truth and the freedom it brings. We hope that you will prayerfully and carefully consider what you find here and take it to heart, even if this is not your particular journey, but for the sake of others who are working this out for themselves.
Some of us have been kicked out of churches just for asking questions. Some of us have been run out of churches over actual lifestyle issues. In many cases we are not welcome at churches where we have been open about who we are. And unfortunately, in some cases the situations got rather ugly.
What's curious about that is that the New Testament has much more to say about gossip, slander, hatred, anger, envy, judgment, pride, division, and unforgiveness than it has to say about plural marriage. It also has a lot to say about fear, which appears to drive a good deal of any hostile reaction to this idea.
We encourage you to embrace the challenge this presents. If someone in your congregation is causing people in your church to question what the bible teaches about marriage, then go for it! Open up a dialogue. Ask that person how they got started down this path and look closely at what they've found so far. Take a hard look at the scriptures with a fresh pair of eyes. Consider the possibility that you are a good shepherd and a good teacher, but along the way you were misled by the culture we were all raised in.
Also, prayerfully consider the possibility that the people in your congregation you are most concerned about not offending are your biggest problem. If you are facing this issue now, it is already given that you are going to have to choose which side to take—the conventionalists or the reformers—and either way somebody is going to be really unhappy with you. Focus on what is true and scriptural, and everything else will fall into place.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9)
Who wants to be that guy? Nevertheless, there's a pretty hard-to-argue-with body of knowledge that suggests that a true biblical Christianity would permit men to take more than one wife (and women to marry a man that is already married), and that we don't see that today only because of the way the early Roman church blended Greco-Roman culture with biblical Christian doctrine, which has then been handed down for hundreds of years as church dogma.
We hope that you'll spend some time on this site and discover for yourself the truth of what the bible really teaches and doesn't teach about marriage. If you have any questions at all, or would like to discuss this with someone, please contact us using the form below, and one of us will get in touch with you just as soon as we can. Peace.
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