The Gender Agenda

Why don’t we have any women pastors in our denomination? Why do men lead our Sunday church services? Does Christianity squash women? What place do women have in ministry?

The apostle Paul answers most of these questions in 1 Timothy 2:8-15, one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. The whole letter is all about how Christians should conduct themselves in the church (3:15). When reading this passage (as with the entire Bible) we must be careful to distinguish what is cultural (changeable) and what is a general or eternal principle (unchangeable).

Holy hands and holy kisses

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. (1 Timothy 2:18)

The general principle is that men should pray while serving God in godliness (“holy hands”) and love (“without anger or disputing”). The cultural outworking of the principle is that they lift up their hands while praying. It was normal back then to stand and pray (cf. Luke 18:11), but it would not matter if you sat and prayed, for that cultural expression changes from time to time. A similar cultural expression of a general principle is when Paul tells Christian brothers to greet each other with a holy kiss (1 Thessalonians 5:26). The general principle is warm Christian fellowship; the cultural outworking is

kissing. Today we would shake hands or maybe even give a manly hug, but probably not kiss.

God wants men to use their hands for good, not for sin. God wants men who will serve him, their church, and their families faithfully. God wants men who lift holy hands in prayer.

The counter-cultural women

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

The King James Version is closer to the original meaning; it says in v9, “in like manner also, that women adorn themselves”. Women should adorn themselves. Women should not be hidden, covered up in black or hide their beauty. The question is how should they adorn themselves? Paul says with modesty.

There was a growing problem in Ephesus (where Timothy’s church was) in that the Sunday service was being filled with women who were not content with there God-given role, but rather used the service to flaunt their wealth, demonstrate their beauty and put on a sexually attractive demonstration for the men. In Ephesus at the time there were also hundreds of prostitutes that were employed in the great goddess Diana’s temple. Listen to what one commentator writes, “The elaborate hairstyles which were then fashionable among the wealthy, were also the styles worn by prostitutes. The sculpture and literature of the period make it clear that women often wore there hair in enormous elaborate arrangements with braids and curls interwoven with gems and gold and pearls. The temple prostitutes wore their hair in numerous small pendant braids with gold droplets or pearls every inch or so, making a shimmering screen of their locks.”

We know that God created people as sexual beings. God intended us to enjoy intimacy and sex in marriage. God also created men with a big sex drive. Men shouldn’t be ashamed of it, but rather celebrate and enjoy it in God-given institution of marriage. Men are stimulated visually. That’s how God made us. So when we see something it affects us.

So Paul, under inspiration of Holy Spirit, says that women, especially Christian women, should dress modestly and respectably – not like the temple prostitutes.

The general principle here is that women are to dress modestly, with decency and self-control; the cultural application was not to have braided hair, gold, pearls or expensive clothes. The command is that women adorn themselves with clothing, hairstyles and jewellery that in their culture is sensible not extravagant, modest not vain, and decent not suggestive. Fashion trends today are hardly modest and respectable: jeans and tops get lower, while skirts and hot-pants get higher.

Well, if you shouldn’t adorn yourself to attract attention to yourself. How should you adorn yourself? v10 says “with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” You might be single however and say, “Hey, I’m not married! I have to attract they guys!” But the type of guy you want to marry will be most attracted by your godly character, not your bling.God is not against women wearing nice clothes and dressing stylishly. But God does want women to dress appropriately and modestly. He wants women to think about how your wardrobe will affect their Christian brothers.

The submissive woman

A woman should learn in quietness (“peace”) and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

Egalitarians

When it comes to the issue of women in ministry, there are three positions. There’s the egalitarian, liberal position. It says that men and women can be partners together in every area of ministry. There are no gender distinctions for any office. This is the classic feminist position and it’s the most popular position in our culture. In other words, women can be pastors and elders. They can preach. Egalitarians look at 1 Timothy 2 and say “It was a cultural thing and does not apply to us today.”

Hierarchicals

To the other extreme is the hierarchical position. This is a far more strict and conservative. They say that women should not be elders or deacons. They shouldn’t teach Bible studies or classes. They shouldn’t lead in any ministry. They shouldn’t read the Bible, give their testimonies or lead “worship” in church. The women solely should teach other women and children, and perhaps bake cookies.

Complementarianists

Complementarianism is the middle, moderate position. It says that men and women are partners in every area of life and ministry together. “Though equal, men and women have complementary and distinct gender roles so that men are to lovingly lead and head their homes like Jesus, and only men can be pastors in the church.”* Women and men are partners together in every area of ministry; but we do believe that God places two restrictions on the ministry of women in the church. Paul makes the argument that women are not allowed to teach and/or exercise authority over men within the church setting.

This means that women shouldn’t preach to a congregation where there are men present. This is why we (at Christ Church Tygerberg) only have men lead our Sunday services as leading services is seen to be an authoritative role. It’s not a problem for a woman to minister in hundreds of ways in the church, but the office of leadership and teaching of men is preserved for spiritual and godly men. Jesus was pro-women, but chose twelve men to be his apostles. That was intentional, because they are all given incredible authority to found the church. They are like pastors, only they have more authority than pastors. (Of course, Jesus did call women to significant ministry – but not to be apostles.)

Instead of seeing complementarianism as a bad thing we should rejoice, because unlike so many other churches in the world, we actually have gifted, godly men prepared to stand up and lead the church. We also only have men as council members (“elders” in biblical terminology), but we’ve got men and women on our management team (“deacons”).

Our management team, in fact, has lots of amazing women who help us lead our church in the general areas of ministry. God wants men to lead his church, but he also wants women to serve alongside men in the church. They shouldn’t teach men or occupy the office of elder, but if a woman wants to serve, everything else is open. Women could be full-time staff members, preach to women or at women’s conferences, teach ladies Bible studies, run kids clubs, supervise Sunday schools, lead praise and worship, they could give testimonies and report backs and words of encouragement. But they must always be under the leadership of godly, faithful men.

Church only

Remember that Paul’s only talking about the church context here; he’s not saying that women can’t have male employees in the business world. Women are free to work and be bosses if they want to. They can lecture men at university or Bible college. Paul’s specifically talking about public worship services here. Just as God wants the spiritual leadership of the family to be exercised by the husband, so he wants the leadership of the church to be exercised by men. Women have no reason to feel inferior and men have no reason to feel superior. God has simply given us different, complementary roles.

Adam and Eve

You might argue that the call for women to learn quietly and not to teach men is just a cultural expression, like wearing braided hair or giving holy kisses. But look at the reason Paul givers, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (1 Timothy 2:13-14)

Paul gives a universal principle that goes all the way back to the creation of the world. This means that what he’s just said is applicable and binding for all time because it is exactly the way God intended it to be from the beginning of the world.

Paul says we should also look back at Adam and Eve and you’ll see how God’s whole design can come undone. He makes Adam first, and Adam needs help.

So he makes Eve to help him, but she does the opposite. She’s deceived and takes over the leadership role and leads Adam into sin.

We should therefore strive for a return to God’s order: to have men who lead the church (and their families) with godliness and integrity and women who serve alongside them as equals, yet willingly submitting to the men’s God-given role of spiritual leadership and oversight in the church (and family).

Restoration

You might say, “Wow! Women are getting a real raw deal.” Maybe as a woman you’re thinking, “Hey, it wasn’t my fault!”

1 Timothy 2:15 answers this by saying, “But women will be saved through childbearing––if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

The word translated here as “saved” can refer to being saved from things other than sin. This verse means that women are saved or delivered from the stigma of a woman having caused the fall – of course with Adam’s help! Women have the opportunity to lead the race to godliness through their influence on children as the godliness and virtue of a mother has a profound influence on her children. One of the women’s great contributions comes in motherhood. However, she must continue in faith in Jesus, in love and in holiness. Only a godly, Christian mother can raise godly children.

Obviously God doesn’t want all women to be mothers. Some of them he doesn’t even want married. But as a general rule, motherhood is the greatest contribution a woman can make to the human race (think about it!) Not business, politics or advertising, but child-rearing. The pain of child-bearing was the judgment on her sin, but bearing children delivers her from the stigma of that sin.

Feminism’s failure

Satan seeks to undermine the role of women, he attacks the whole concept of family seeking to devastate and destroy. The devastation and destruction of the family has left a bunch of individuals who look out for their own interests. But the church is a family, just like the home. Just as men and women have different roles in family, so too they have different roles in the church.

The feminist movement is Satan’s big lie, hurting the women of our world. Motherhood should be a top priority, but now it’s right at the bottom. How tragic it is that so many women feel unfulfilled because they don’t function in the same roles as men. God has given women the unique privilege of raising a godly generation of children and of having an intimate relationship with them that even fathers don’t quite have.

* http://theresurgence.com/2009/03/29/complementarianism

Here and here are helpful articles.

Don Carson gives a good summary of why we use the word “complementarian” over here.

(Thanks to Alistair Anderton for his recent sermon that contained many of the insights and thoughts contained in this blog; any errors are mine.)


President Zuma, Spear, Freedom of Speech and Respect

Recently a painting that depicted a certain Head of state with his genitals exposed made the news. The painting is a criticism of the leader’s personality and governing ability!

Now, while this description would cause South Africans to think of a painting of President Zuma entitled The Spear,[fig.1]

Canadians would have thought about a painting called Emperor Haute Couture  which depicts their Prime Minster Stephen Harper reclining in the nude [*1].

Both the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of South Africa have undergone the same treatment.

However, the reaction in Canada to Emperor Haute Couture was quite different to the reaction in South Africa to The Spear.

In South Africa there has been public outcry, protest, law suits, vandalism and heated debate.

By contrast Canada’s reaction to their painting was quite different. While it invited some criticism, mostly it was met with humour. While there was a smattering of debate between political commentators, the politicians showed little interest [*2].

Why is it that South Africans reacted so differently to the Canadians? And how are Christians to make sense of and engage with the issues raised from the fallout surrounding The Spear painting?

On the 10th of May this year Cape town based artist Brett Murray showed his The Spear at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg as part of an exhibit called “Hail to the Thief II”.

The exhibit featured various pieces that were critical of the ANC and suggestive of corruption and bad governance. [*3]

Mr Zuma is depicted in a stance similar to that of the founder of the Soviet Communist party, Vladimir Lenin, in the poster, Lenin Lived, Lenin is Alive, Lenin Will Live by Victor Ivanov. [fig.3]

However, unlike Lenin, Zuma’s genitals are exposed.

After the City Press newspaper published an article about the exhibit with a photograph of The Spear the ANC issued a press release on 17 May 2012 expressing outrage about the painting and their intention to apply to the High Court to have it removed [*4].

The gallery's lawyers responded by saying that the painting would stay up until the show was over, citing censorship as the reason.

The ANC also demanded that the image be taken down from the City Press' website and boycott the paper [*5].

The ANC call to boycott City Press was subsequently condemned by the International Press Institute (IPI).

The painting made headlines again when it was defaced by two men on the 22nd of May 2012, in protest of the President’s dignity. The gallery has since removed the painting [6*].

It is clear that this painting has excited much controversy in our country!

The debate centres around two clashing viewpoints - respect of authority and freedom of speech! Which do you value more highly - Authority or Truth?

Comments in our papers show that your viewpoint can be linked to your cultural worldview.

Some comments state that “this painting is an affront to African culture” [*7].

Further comments state: “The office of the presidency has been abused and mocked in the most un-African manner!” [*8] and “As lawsuits were thrown around it was said the artists were out of tune with the masses who saw no African ‘Ubuntu’ in mocking a sitting president in this manner.”

It is clear that one side is upset that the President has been disrespected. These people are upset because they feel that no matter what your opinion respect and honour of authority is of primary importance. To do anything else is to be un-African.

The other side, however, says "So what, presidents are not demigods and they must be teased." They believe that to censor such a painting is an infringement of freedom of expression/ speech.

The gallery's initial response was to keep the painting up on the grounds that taking it down “would be censorship” [*7]. Taking it down amounted to threatening the media [*10] and the country’s constitutional rights [*11].

So there are two voices; one calling for respect of authority (an African viewpoint), the other for freedom of speech and the constitution (a Western viewpoint). It should come as no surprise therefore that, being a predominantly Western country, Canada did not experience as much controversy.

While South Africa is greatly influenced by a Western worldview it is still an African country. This has resulted in a clash between the two worldviews. The African worldview prizes respect and honour, while the Western view prizes truth and freedom of expression.

Both worldviews have good and bad points. The danger evident in a Western worldview is that it can lead people to dishonour their leaders in the name of truth. The danger in an African worldview is that it can lead people to subversion of the truth in the name of respect.

Both truth and respect, however, are good biblical principles. So how do we uphold these values not from a Western or an African viewpoint but from a Christian, biblical view? How should the gospel cause us to respond?

In Romans 13 it is clear that God calls us to honour those in authority, parents, teachers, bosses and Presidents, even if we think that they don’t deserve it. This clashes with the Western view. On the other hand Christians are called to proclaim the truth; freedom of speech, therefore, is a great ally and luxury.

Christians should support freedom of speech for the following reasons: Firstly, freedom of speech is one of the most important weapons in combating corruption and the abuse of power, whether it be in the municipal or commercial sector. This is a good and honouring thing (Eph 5: 8-13).

Secondly, freedom of speech protects religious freedom. This is good for Gospel proclamation and gives people a choice to respond to Christ [*13]. This will mean that as a Christian I will fight for the rights of those of other religions to have their say.

Thirdly, freedom of speech and of conscience gives individuals the opportunity to object to reprehensible things in society [*12].

However, Christians also know that freedom of speech must have some limits. These are seen in the following areas: Firstly, in defamation (the action of damaging the good reputation of someone; slander, [Ref slander Lev 19:16, 1 Pet 2:1]).

Secondly, in incitement to riot (to stir up people to commit unlawful and violent behaviour [Prov 16:29; Lev 19:16]).

Thirdly, when it comes to obscenity (obscene behaviour, language, or images, [Eph 5:4]), and lastly when it comes to child pornography.

So for Christians while freedom of speech is a good thing it does have its limits... (Rom 13:13; Col 3:5). Wickedness cannot be allowed in the name of “Freedom of Speech”. And love of the truth, together with respect for authority, must be upheld because of the gospel.

As Christians we are called to a different worldview and culture. We are to give honour where honour is due (1 Tim 5). It is also right to have the freedom to speak out against corruption and to point out the faults in our leaders. But the way in which this is done is important. We must be thoroughly Christian in the way we do it. We are to speak truth and we are to do it with respect.

So to the Christian, respect and truth go hand in hand, never at the cost of the other. This is a challenge to both Western and African worldviews. But Christians are marked by a new culture, the culture of the kingdom of God. They are to live in a way that honours the greatness and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Written by Scott Seivewright

 

References and Sources

*1: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/story/2012/05/24/nude--?harper--?painting--?sold.html

*2: The Star 01 June 2012 9:14:30 AM SAST http://www.iol.co.za/the--?star/art--?helps--?to--?expose--?the--?naked--?truth--?1.1305811

*3: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE84H07820120518

*4: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/Politics/ANC--?to--?go--?to--?court--?over--?Zuma--?painting--?20120517

*5: http://memeburn.com/2012/05/city--?press--?removes--?the--?spear/

*6: http://www.citypress.co.za/SouthAfrica/News/Zuma--?Spear--?Constitution--?entitles--?City--?Press--?to--?publish--?20120521

*7: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Gallery--?takes--?down--?The--?Spear--?20120522

*8:http://www.theroot.com/views/brett--?murrays--?spear

*9: http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world--?africa--?18241925

*10:Sky News. http://news.sky.com/home/world--?news/article/16234886

*11: http://www.theroot.com/views/brett--?murrays--?spear accesed 19 June 2012

*12: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_thought accessed 20/06/2011 11am

*13: Poltics According to the Bible; Wayne Grudem; Zondervan 2010


The Painting and the Extravagant Worship

We’ve all read about the huge furore about Brett Murray’s painting “The Spear”.  The painting is of Jacob Zuma, our president, with certain parts of his body exposed.  How are we to respond?

The Bible does teach that we are all made in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect.   The Bible teaches that we should seek to build each other up, not tear each other down.  The Bible also teaches that we should stand up for truth and justice, point out injustice, sin and immorality.  I’ll let you decide.

What was interesting is that two men, a business man and a taxi driver, were caught on camera defacing the painting.  What made them do this extravagant, impulsive and unlawful action?  In their own way they wanted to protest against the painting and against the ethnic tensions it’s creating in our country.  Their beliefs led (lead)them to action; their convictions led them to extravagant conduct.

Mark 14:1-11 is an account of extravagant conduct too, although the woman pouring perfume on Jesus may be an extravagance that guys find hard to identify with!   Yet what we see in the woman’s actions is an attitude that is worthy of imitation – for guys and girls.  It’s an attitude that Mark wants us to imitate – which is why he included this account in his book.

In contrast to the religious leaders who are seeking to do a bad thing to Jesus, this woman has done a beautiful thing.  The woman really teaches us about discipleship, about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Faith comes before action 

The woman performed this action because she loved Jesus, not to make Jesus love her.  We as Christians obey, honour, follow and serve Jesus not to make Jesus love us, but because he loved us.

God rescuing the Israelites from Egypt at the time of Moses is a perfect example.  God first rescued them and only then gave them the 10 Commandments.  Obeying the 10 Commandments didn’t save them. God saved them.  The 10 Commandments were and are God’s guidelines for his already saved people.  The principle is sound: God’s grace leads to action.  Our actions, our obedience, our devotion, our  ministry and our godliness as Christians is not to make God love us, or to earn his favour, or to work our way into heaven, but a response to God’s gracious work in our lives.

The Bible does not teach Islam or Buddhism.  We cannot earn our way into heaven, no matter how expensive the perfume or how big the donation or how moral our lives are.  Faith comes before action.

Faith responds in action

Or as the apostle James says, “Faith without works is dead”.  This woman’s love for Jesus compelled her to action, even extravagant action.  She most probably lived in this village of Bethany just outside Jerusalem.  She had obviously heard Jesus teach and heard of the miracles.   This woman may well have been Mary the sister??(brother) of Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead.  Now that Jesus was in town, there was no other action open to her but to demonstrate her love for Him (Jesus)in some kind of way.

She could not keep quiet, she could not keep still, and she could not keep away.

Your faith is seen in your actions.  Your actions demonstrate if you have faith or not.   Are you seeking to obey(s) God’s word, to live a transformed live, to be a godly husband or a godly  wife, to live with integrity at work and to demonstrate grace and justice to your children?  Are you seeking to serve Jesus and his people, even in extravagant ways that people might laugh at or ridicule?  Faith responds in action.

The deep inner convictions of the two men drove them to defacing the painting.  Their belief drove them to action – it’s the same with Christians.

Jesus is infinitely worthy of our worship

Mark 14:3 says, “A woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”

We don’t know who Simon the Leper was, but we do know expensive perfume was put in alabaster jars and nard was a particularly expensive fragrance that was made from the roots of a plant found in India. One had to break the jar to open it.   The perfume was probably an heirloom passed from mother to daughter and had great sentimental and monetary value.   The disciples, in fact, are angry and say it could be sold for 300 denarii (denarri) – more than a year’s salary of an ordinary worker!  We might have been angry at the “waste”ourselves.

But Jesus replies in v6, “Leave her alone.  Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

How do you view Jesus?   Are you like the woman who recognises Jesus' worth and responds in extravagant service, extravagant worship and extravagant generosity?  Or are you more like the religious leaders, and even some of the disciples, who think Jesus in not worthy of such worship or extravagance?

Here is an extended quote worth reading:

“The deeds and titles of many a king and emperor and general are as completely forgotten as if written in the sand.  But the grateful act of one humble Christian woman is recorded in over 440 different languages and is known all over the globe. 

The praise of man is but for a few days, but the praise of Christ lasts forever. 

On the Day of Judgment no honour done to Christ shall be found to have been forgotten.  The Speeches of Parliamentary orators, the exploits of warriors, the works of poets and painters shall not be mentioned on that day.  But the least work that the weakest Christian person has done for Christ or his members shall be found written in a book of everlasting remembrance.  Not a single kind word or deed, not a cup of cold water or a jar of ointment shall be omitted from the record.   Silver and gold they may have had none, rank, power and influence she may not have possessed, but if they loved Christ and confessed Christ and worked for Christ, their memorial shall be found on high…

We may be laughed at and ridiculed by the world.  Our motives may be misunderstood.  Our conduct may be misrepresented.  Our sacrifices for Christ’s sake may be called “waste” – waste of time, waste of money, waste of strength.  Let none of these things move us.  The eye of him who sat in Simon’s house in Bethany is upon us.  He notes all we do and is well pleased.”


Bishop Edwin Ngubane's Story (Video)

Our Brothers over at sydneyanglicans.net took some time to interview our own Bishop Edwin Ngubane about ancestor worship and Gospel Ministry in Johanesburg. You can see the video below.

http://vimeo.com/25696586


Polygamy in South Africa

The issue of polygamy has dominated the press for the past week in South Africa not least of all because of President Zuma’s polygamous practices, as profiled on the world stage, and his impregnation of Irvan Khoza’s daughter as revealed in the press over the weekend. It has raised much debate ranging from the dignity and rights of women, to secular versus Christian state laws, and the issue of polygamy and the history of Christianity. Professor Christene Landman of UNISA theological department certainly spices up the debate as a “Church historian” professing that monogamy is biblically unsubstantiated and arises more from Roman culture than a distinctive and united Christian heritage. She argues that to view the issue from a Christian point of view one must stop asking the question of polygamy as a morally appropriate practice and rather ask the question of equality in relationships regardless of how many relationships are being referred to. Professor Landman raises President Zuma to the height of a role model for the complex South African context as he is able to exercise his “shifting identities” as a head of state with a secular constitution, a bishop of an African church, and one who is true to his cultural Zulu heritage with apparent ease. Interface on SABC3 hosted a debate on the issue where Rev Theuns Botha from the Christian Democratic Party argued the Christian position against polygamy. To his credit he stood firm on the authority of scripture as a Christian and challenged a democracy that bulldozes the views of a majority position on a number of matters, including polygamy. He struggled, however, to show that outside of the law that he subscribes to as a Christian that there is any inherent evil or danger in the practise of polygamy at the level of personal preference. The only argument he was able to produce was that it compromised the dignity of women in such relationships.

This raised the concern to me that many professing Christians sitting in churches throughout South Africa, indeed the world, hold certain beliefs as if cultural but cannot articulate them based on a biblical worldview. The classic retort in a secular society is, “Good for you! I am glad you are a Christian! Now leave me to practice my belief and I will leave you to do the same.” Though I am able to leave the matter there without the need to take up arms to enforce my Christian position, since the kingdom of Christ is not advanced that way, I would hope to be able to give a reason for the hope I have in Christ as to why I am looking forward to a new and renovated kingdom in which polygamy will not exist (knowing marriage won’t be there either). In other words if polygamy is sin and Christ came to rescue me from the slavery to sin then what bearing does this have on my personal life as I repent in a way that will also stand out as a witness and hope in a fallen world. This is also important because of the allegation that ridding cultures of polygamy is merely a form of imposing Western culture on other cultures. It must be clear that when we come to Christ we receive a faith of equal standing to every other Christian since our righteousness is from God and through Christ (2Peter 1:1). So it is not a matter of articulating a superior “western culture” but a matter of living for Christ. With this in mind here is my humble attempt to present a brief biblical defence of monogamy as the biblical norm for marriage over against polygamy.

1. Both the Old Testament and New Testament affirm and are developed in the light of God’s creation design as the pattern for healthy and orderly life in God’s world. This includes marriage, which is why Jesus and the apostles appealed to the Genesis account a number of times. Many scholars scoff at the Adam and Eve prototype and pattern for marriage but then Peter said that many will deliberately forget God’s creation and destruction of the world as recorded in Genesis. These they will do because they want to follow their own inner passions and because they despise authority, which seems to refer to biblical authority of Old and New Testaments that are Holy Spirit inspired and delivered by prophets and apostles. (See 2Peter 2:1-3, 10 & 3:1-7)

2. As Genesis unfolds the disaster of sin we come across Lamech in Genesis 4:19-24 who is a “not so delightful” character. He is the first in a long line of “takers” or “sons of God” or “men of renown” that God ultimately grieves over and determines to judge because of their wickedness in Genesis 6:1-8. This follows the “sociologically mixed view” interpretation of who the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 were. They were power hungry despots that sought to make a name for themselves by lusting after power and usurping control of people, property and positional status. This is everything that God did not intend mankind to be and is an acute expression of the fall of male leadership in the household, in communities and over God’s creation. As Lamech takes two wives and as God instructed the king of Israel to be different in the context of polygamy in Deuteronomy 17:17 we must conclude that bigamy or polygamy is a far cry from what God created marriage to be. There is an inherent evil and character flaw associated with the desire and practise of making a name for oneself by accumulation of people or property. Whether this is expressed in a culture where polygamy is the norm or whether it is a western man with a mistress on the side or merely lusting after that which you don’t have, these are all an expression of the inclination of man’s heart being wicked all of the time. This incurred and will incur God’s judgment and should be considered as being under judgment already according to scripture. It is a less than blessed arrangement no matter how much the husband or the wives try to convince the world that equality prevails.

3. Jesus Christ came to restore and re-establish the value amongst God’s people of being prepared to give and to serve rather than to receive and to take as the godly form of leadership. The relationship between marriage and Jesus’ marriage to the church is inextricable and reminds us that the husband is called to love his wife and to lead her in holiness, a tough task indeed for fallen males! So how does this work or fail to work in a polygamous setting?

A. The examples of polygamy in the bible, which Professor Landman argues establishes a biblical basis for polygamy, reveal profound inequalities and unhappiness among the wives. They usually result from a lack of faith and leadership on the husband’s part as in the case of Abraham. In the case of Jacob the culture of Laban forced Leah and Rachel into polygamy that was marked by ugly competitiveness rather than equality. The practical outworking being that a husband must focus on one wife to love her in a way that she can respond to with trust and security. This is impossible when the husband is on the “take” or accumulating women amongst other things to prove or substantiate his manhood or to make a name for himself. God has already made a name for the Christian husband that frees the husband to serve one woman and to provide the environment for a secure marriage to flourish.

B. In times of war, it is argued, the women vastly outnumber the men and therefore polygamy is necessary to afford every woman the opportunity to experience the blessing of childbirth and raise a family. This is to miss the real issue of why are men going of to war all the time! This is not the situation in South Africa at present either. Jesus Christ also came to bring an end to the violent streak of man and one would hope that commitment to Him in all areas of life would also deal with the issue of such shortage, which it has curbed over a number of centuries though there is no end to war yet. Even if the “shortage of men” was an issue it is clear in the New Testament that a life of singleness is neither a plague nor a sentence to second-class citizenship amongst God’s people. The absence of father figures or the subjection of an entire generation to the fatherhood of men that enjoy fathering children with many women while failing to take responsibility for them or even favouring a few over the rest is outside of the value of sacrificial love that Christ died to establish. The mature Christian woman would recognize this and though it be emotionally difficult she is equipped and satisfied by faith in Christ to sacrifice the fulfilment of her “rights” for good of society and any potential offspring she might otherwise raise from the sperm of an absent or partially present husband and father.

C. When it comes to those with “shifting identities” being the happiest people in a complex society like ours we must consider the identity we are called to in Christ. We no longer exist to satisfy ourselves in futile ways as were handed down to us by our forefathers, no matter what our cultural background is. Our identity in Christ calls us to renovate that in our culture that stands opposed to God’s kingdom and what it means to be found in Jesus Christ. The Christian will then be an alien and stranger in the culture of his or her upbringing and does not have the “luxury” of “shifting identities”. When the pursuit of happiness by the definition of a world enslaved to the sin of taking and fulfilling personal rights even at the expense of others is king in the “Christian’s” life then that Christian must re-evaluate the basis of his or her identity in Christ. Has Christ bought you from slavery to sin or are you denying the Master that bought you for a new life? In the case of polygamy there is not even the promise of happiness for the majority since only a few despots will benefit. In this case living out our identity in Christ will indeed also bring great happiness to all involved.

There is always more to be said on a subject as wide and complex as this one but the three points above are at the core of what we need to consider and articulate as Christian people that stand on the authority of scripture. It is always difficult to pitch the gospel to an audience entrenched in self-obsession and standing on personal preferences and rights but we were all there at one time or another and return there from time to time. Yet, by the grace of God in the gospel, and that is why we need to remember to practically articulate this gospel over and over again, the power of God will break into people’s hearts and lives so that they will see the truth of Christ and the value of His sacrifice working its way into the details of life.