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Polygamy Reconsidered: African Plural Marriage
and the Christian Churches

Path: Behaviour change and sustainability African Plural Marriage Theological Rationale

Chapter 6) The Reasoning of Theologians

The author says 'it is significant that the traditional interpretation of the relevant biblical texts and the usual ecclesiastical discipline regarding polygamy, must be buttressed by a variety of purely rational arguments".

The first of these is an appeal to natural law theory - but this accepts that polygamy is not intrinsically wrong, and can be acceptable in certain circumstances.

The second approach is the Cultural-Progress hypothesis, but this begs the question if history really is the road to here. If other norms are relevant in other societies then polygamy is suitable for them, and therefore not wrong.

Finally, people appeal to sociological conjecture that polygamy is fading away. Not only is this not happening but it is equivalent to saying 'if we just wait a little longer, without thinking too much about it, the moral question will vanish' - which is a pretty poor way of dealing with moral questions.

The catholic church is seen to get all mixed up for when it suggests that a polygamist convert should keep his extra wives but not have sex with them, there is a 'necessary proximate occasion of sin'. In other words there is a recognition that there will be unbearable temptation and frequent breaches of the no-sex rule, and this counts as mitigation - but this goes completely against the Biblical idea that God will not put us through more temptation than we can bear.

Sadly 'many missionaries and pastors have found themselves avoiding the problem by not trying very hard to present the gospel to polygamists,' thereby derogating from Christ's final command to Christians. 'Those with the wrong cultural garments are not invited into the Christian fellowship,' and those who receive the invite do so with a stumbling block put in their way. 'Precisely because this legal condition is both intolerable and incomprehensible to them, polygamists find it hard to listen to the whole Christian message, so they are unable to respond fully to the call of Christ. Since the law of monogamy is often the first thing that people hear about Christianity, many do not care to hear any more."


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Chapter 1 - The historical missionary and pastoral problem of African Polygamy
Chapter 2 - Cultural Presumptions of the West
Chapter 3 - Demography
Chapter 4 - Anthropology
Chapter 5 - Biblical texts
Chapter 6 - Theological Rationale
Appendix - On the Council of Trent



The African American Experiences is a collection of Black Studies to understand the Past, Present and Future of the People called African American!

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