The presence of polyamory among professing believers is yet another manifestation of a culturally accommodating Christianity that seeks to worship the Lord on its own terms. Yet, it is also a reminder that true children of God are called to be set apart for Him alone, to live under His supreme authority, to believe His good and life-giving commands, and to worship Him with all of our being.
When I first heard the term “polyamory,” it sounded like one of those eyebrow-raising issues you hear about on daytime talk-shows—shocking, extreme, and on the fringe. Less than a decade later, it’s creeping out of the shadows and into the mainstream, and even into the Church.
What is polyamory? The word comes from both Greek and Latin and means, “many loves.” Essentially, it’s an arrangement between a (usually) married couple in which one or both spouses agree to have other romantic and sexual relationships, also known as an “open marriage.” As one source defined it, polyamory consists of “consensually non-monogamous relationships.”
The prevalence of polyamory among professing Christians recently came to the forefront. In the days following the roll out of the conservative evangelical Nashville Statement, and the counter-ideological Christians United Statement, one man asked a rather valid question: Why do LBGT-affirming churches fail to give public support for polyamorous unions?
The author, Chuck McKnight, describes his marriage as polyamorous and laments the fact that churches provide “next-to-no spiritual support” for the “thousands of faithful Christians” in their congregations with open marriages. McKnight’s final exhortation for poly-inclusive churches claims, “[P]olyamory is here, and it is growing—regardless of what we may personally think about it.”
As shocking as his claim may be, polyamory among professing Christians is just one more manifestation of an increasingly common mindset.
Is it biblically unconscionable? Completely.
Is it theologically incongruent? No doubt.
But is this really new? Not quite.
Whether we’re talking about polyamory or monogamy, homosexual or heterosexual marriage, you can boil down every perspective of marriage and human sexuality to the same foundational issues: Authority, Belief, and Worship.
Authority: Where It All Begins
Everyone grounds his or her perspective of marriage and sexuality in someone’s authority. Whoever has that authority has the right to define what a marriage is and how human sexuality ought to be expressed.
For someone in a polyamorous relationship, authority is in that person’s sexual desires. And the definition of marriage follows. Even the definition of fidelity adapts to the individual. The polyamory-promoting website, MoreThanTwo.com, assures that an open marriage isn’t unfaithfulness, since neither spouse is breaking the pre-established rules: “If you aren’t breaking the rules of your relationship, you are not cheating, by definition.”
So, the two spouses have the authority to define what marital faithfulness is and is not. This definition comes from believing that they have the authority to define their marriage according to their personal desires. And if marriage were simply a social contract with mutually agreed upon terms prescribed by the individuals involved, that might be true.
Within the Christian worldview, however, the authority to define marriage belongs to God alone.
God created humanity (Gen 2:8, 19). God created sex (Gen 2:24). God created marriage (Gen 2:24). Therefore, only God has the authority to define both marriage and the right use of our sexuality (Matt 19:4-6; Rom 7:2-3; Heb 13:4). And, His commands are for our good (Deut 6:24; 1 Jn 5:3). Therefore, every misuse of human sexuality expresses a denial of God’s authority and is always to our own detriment. It all begins with authority.