12.05.2006

No Room For Contraception

In another forum, Pastor Curtis pointed out this secular website - www.noroomforcontraception.com. While I am sure there are religious contributors to this site, it is a secular site with argumentation from the kingdom of the left. According to Pastor Curtis, you can sign up to receive their newsletter as well - something he has found profitable. Enjoy.

11.26.2006

Episcopalians vs Islamists

This is more from my hero, Mark Steyn.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/steyn/149527,CST-EDT-steyn26.article

Which brings me to our second Jill: the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to run a national division of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Kate gave an interview to the New York Times revealing what passes for orthodoxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a simple enough question: "How many members of the Episcopal Church are there?"

"About 2.2 million," replied the presiding bishop. "It used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations."

This was a bit of a jaw-dropper even for a New York Times hackette, so, with vague memories of God saying something about going forth and multiplying floating around the back of her head, a bewildered Deborah Solomon said: "Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?"

11.16.2006

Birth Control, Youth, & the ipod.

Our 5 week preaching and teaching series continues to bear fruit. This last Sunday night at our High School Youth Group I did a question box night. (We are between Bible Studies.) The week before, they had written out questions and put them in the box, and this Sunday as they arrived more questions went in the box.

I do this about once a year and affording them this opportunity is a blessing to me in return as it acts as a great barometer of the different thoughts, beliefs, and even storms that are moving through their lives. Normally the questions range from the comical and hardly serious, to the dead serious, to the scandalous.

I do preview the questions ahead of time but I give no preference to them. After a quick shuffle of the cards right before the youth I pick one out and we then consider it in the light God’s Word.

This Sunday, the first question I pulled out, and the only one we got to this night was, “What does God/the Bible have to say about Birth Control?”

In the 5 weeks preceding this question we had certainly talked about marriage and procreation, but never at any point did I bring up the topic of Birth Control. Yet our discussion of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood had prompted this question.

We again approached Genesis 3. We looked at Genesis 38 (I presented to them the historic church position on Onanism and the modern interpretation – they were largely unimpressed with the modern interpretation. Of course they also found the concept of a kinsman-redeemer to be quite scandalous). We looked at Malachi 2, Ephesians 5… We talked about the churches historic stance on the topic and the changes within the last 100 years. We considered Humanae Vitae and the Pope’s prophetic predictions concerning the effects of the contraceptive age upon the culture and world at large. We covered a lot of territory and they were very interested in it and very receptive to it.

At one point, one of the youth called for a thumbs up, thumbs down vote – What does God think about birth control? I looked around the room and thumbs were down all around. Interesting.

I thank the Lord for the opportunity to have this discussion with them. As others have noted on this blog - it was one more chance to gently and not coercively or heartlessly bring this before them. It is a beginning, a starting point. There are still discussions to be had. After all, this is the i-pod generation, if I can say that. Where as past generations reinterpreted scripture or even ignored it, I believe I see in this generation that finely honed consumer skill to pick and choose. No longer do you have to buy a whole album of music. Instead, you can simply choose the songs you want…

Thumbs were down all around the room, but the question remains: Will they be moved and normed in their lives by the whole of scripture or will they pick and choose.

11.15.2006

Quiverfull Christians in the News

In light of the Roman Catholic dearth of followers of Humanae Vitae reported by Pr. Curtis below, I thought I would point out that the media is picking up on the growing movement among the rest of Christendom against family planning of all types. It seems to be getting a lot of press lately. Granted, some of these people take a works-righteous stand on the issue, but it shows the backlash to the sinful anti-child, feminist, free-love movements of the middle of the last century. Natural Law, the law written on our hearts, tells us family planning is wrong!

Here is a great Newsweek story from Monday: "Making Babies the 'Quiverfull' Way"

And here's one that caricatures the worst of the movement: "Arrows for the War".

Hat tip to fellow LCMS blogger Mollie at Get Religion, where these articles, and her post, Cheaper by the Dozen, are getting some good discussion. (Mollie, an outstanding journalist who just got married this year, has served on the LCMS Board for Communication Services, and the board of Higher Things.)

Four Percent

A word to Lutheran pastors who, like myself, have become convinced that the traditional Lutheran (and universally Christian down to 1930) teaching against contraception is correct: Don't expect super fantastic results when you start preaching and teaching this and don't be discouraged when you don't get them.

The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States are meeting this week in Baltimore. To their credit, the Roman Church has stood steadfast in the traditional Christian teaching regarding contraception (the teaching Luther, Chemnitz, and the Missouri Synod down to the mid-20th century shared with them). As this story details, according to the bishops' own survey, only four percent of American Roman Catholics are living out this teaching.

Four percent! Only one in every twenty-five people who have heard this teaching their whole lives from their church have accepted it. How much "success" should we expect when our folks are probably hearing it for the first time?

So don't be discouraged. Be patient. As opportunity arises teach on the topic slowly. But don't be put off by a slow "conversion rate."

+HRC

11.14.2006

No Red Meat?

Once again we hear of another risk factor for breast cancer. Red meat is just the latest one put forth in the current news reports. What they don't want to talk about is that having more children and nursing them for two years each would likely make this and other risk factors so negligible that they may be ignored.

The relative risk of breast cancer decreases 7.0% for each child born by a woman and by 4.3% for every 12 months of breastfeeding. The incidence of breast cancer in developed countries would be reduced by more than half, from 6.3 to 2.7 per 100 women by age 70, if women even just had the average number of births and lifetime duration of breastfeeding that had been prevalent in developing countries until the middle of the last century. [
Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50,302 women with breast cancer and 96,973 women without the disease - Lancet 2002; 360: 187‑95]

Why is there this benefit to motherhood? Well, first of all I would say because there are earthly consequences to not following God's will. But scientifically, I can tell you that it is because breast cancer is caused by exposure to high levels of estrogen. This happens every month near the end of a woman's period. The more children one has and the longer one breastfeeds them, the fewer periods one has, and therefore the less exposure to the harmful effects of high estrogen levels.

There is an additional benefit to having the first child early in life. When a woman has her first child and breastfeeds that child, the milk-producing cells of her breasts are permanently changed into a more cancer resistant type ("type 3 lobules"). The longer one waits to obtain this important cancer resistance, the longer these more cancer-vulnerable cells are exposed to high estrogen, increasing the risk of cancer later on. And it is these cancer vulnerable cells which are at risk for the factors like a high intake of red meat, etc.

God obviously built in physical consequences to the behavior of delaying and reducing childbearing. Breast cancer used to be considered the "nuns' disease." Now most women avoid children like nuns but don't live like nuns, making themselves not much different than prostitutes. They even increase the levels of estrogen they are exposed to by taking birth control pills that artificially trick the body into thinking it is pregnant, though there is no baby born or nursed. The same damage happens with abortion. These sinful actions actually make the breast tissue more susceptible to cancer than that of a nun by a process that would take more time for me to explain.

These are the real reasons for the epidemic of breast cancer in our modern age, not red meat. Those who delay and reduce childbearing for careers, personal freedom, or whatever reason, are not ever going to entirely reverse the damage they cause to their health simply by avoiding red meat. Likewise, women likely don't need to avoid red meat if they follow God's will and have as many children as he wants to bless them with and nurse them as God provided them the natural ability to. That's not a guarantee that one won't get cancer. Everything in moderation, except childbearing and breastfeeding. In that area of life it's hard to overdo it. Be fruitful and multiply!!!

11.09.2006

Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

As a Lutheran pastor who has some thoughts on the topic of the contraception contraceptive age I have often been asked by friends, peers, acquaintances, and protagonists how I go about bringing this into parish life. It is a good and right question to ask and it is one that I have wrestled with since my arrival in parish life. For over two years, the answer to the question has been quite simple yet uncomfortable: I don’t. I haven’t.

Thankfully, Pr. Heath Cutis and Pr. Jon Conner have both offered great materials for use in pre-marrital/marrital counseling. Yet, with as few marriages as take place at the church I now serve this has hardly become any kind of public discourse among the Lord’s people here.

I am glad to say that in recent days I have been blessed to bring the topic before our Sunday morning adult Bible class. Finally, Lutherans and Contraception has gone the way of public ministry!

We have just completed a 5 week preaching and teaching series on 'Biblical Manhood & Womanhood'. It was kicked off when we were blessed to have Dr. Joel Biermann, of Concordia Seminary - St. Louis, come and preach and teach on Genesis 1-3. In the following weeks we meditated on the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary, & Jesus), the Samaritan woman at the well & Ephesians 5, divorce and the Lord's love of Marriage (Mal. 2, Matt. 19, Rev. 22), and more.

What was consistently born over and over was the faithful recognition and reception of Christ, the Bridegroom of us, His Church: Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. What was further rejoiced in and received was the faithful recognition and reception of our roles as Men & Woman as gifts from God - icons - that when lived out under the Cross of Christ - wonderfully icon/image/profess/confess Christ and His Church to the world.

On the last Sunday of the series, during the Adult Bible class, we were wrapping things up. I asked the class what concerning the topic of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood was still a difficult pill to swallow. There was not a large response – thankfully there wasn’t much of any objection to the Good News of Christ the Bridegroom of His Bride the Church.

I simply then asked what the outcome is of Christ and His Church. Offspring, was the reply. Do we ever prevent these offspring? Do we lock the doors on Sunday morning? No. Does the Lord, or do we, contracept the Gospel? No.

We did not spend a great deal of time on this. I then simply shared with them how I struggle with the contraceptive age. I question how healthy it is for the church to take part in and commend such a practice that contradicts the marital union’s mysterious participation in the Gospel itself.

We talked a bit more about it. Certainly I could have said more, and I might have, but I didn’t. It was a beginning. And it was a beginning that was well received because of the groundwork of the four weeks leading up to it. What fruit will it bear? Time will tell. I am, however, excited to report that already there is a women’s Bible Study that wants to take up the topic in their study of the Word.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

10.26.2006

Feeling Sexy at Harvard...

Since there haven't been any new posts in a while, here is a good article from National Review that was passed on to me.

-Megan Rufner

Feeling Sexy at Harvard
And The Gap is here to serve.
By C. R. Hardy

The last time I lived in Cambridge with kids was four years ago. Back then I had just two of them — and was pregnant with my third. According to my fair-minded fellow Cambridge residents, I was an overpopulating nut-case. The snickers and sneers were insufferable — most especially when I was out with my boys in a double stroller, pushing them along with my pregnant, over-sized mid-section. You could see the astonished eyes looking first at the stroller, then at my belly, then quickly at my face (to see if I was real, I assume), and then embarrassingly shifting to a store front or a passing car. Then the person would whisper to a smiling companion, well within my hearing, “She’s having another one!” As if it weren’t already obvious.

For the full article:

9.21.2006

Capturing Other People's Children

Since liberals aren't procreating, and they're starting to see the political effects of such, how will they avoid the fate of the Shakers? By capturing other people's children through public education, entertainment media, gay adoption, etc.

http://profam.org/pub/fia/fia.2007.htm

9.20.2006

Natural Law on the Purposes of Sex

I've just come from the Cranach Institute's Love & Marriage conference. Some of our other bloggers were there as well and I'll look forward to hearing their summaries and reactions to the presentations as they relate to contraception. Christopher West had a lot to say about it and I think everyone who saw him would recommend his resources: www.christopherwest.com

Part of West's analysis against contaception concerns natural law reasoning - something much misunderstood among modern Lutherans. NL does not mean: "You have to let nature take its course." NL is not against vaccines, etc. Rather NL simply means that the moral law is written on our hearts and available to all human beings by nature. NL ethicists insist that contraception is immoral. The following explores this reasoning.

Here's a little something that I've been meaning to add to my "Should Christian Couples Use Contraception" paper - it needs a section more specifically about natural law.

All agree that sex has several purposes - usually listed as two or three. I'll give three here to cover all my bases: procreation, companionship, pleasure. These are God-given purposes. Now imagine - just taking the last two listed - any sexual act which is specifically designed to avoid and contradict one of those purposes. Could such acts ever in themselves be godly? If I seek to take pleasure out of sex by a medical procedure to my nervous system, or by seeking to inflict pain on my wife - is that ever godly? If I seek to have sex not for deep intimacy, but rather specifically seek to exclude intimacy from the act (by rape or an orgie or a random pick up) can that ever be godly?

I would say, along with NL ethicists, that specifically seeking to actively frustrate any purpose of sex is ungodly.

Now, in a fallen world there are hard cases. What of women diagnosed with 'frigidity' - a medical condition that means they basically can't enjoy sex? Can her husband lawfully seek sexual intercourse with her or should he abstain? That's a hard case. So first settle the easy cases because hard cases make bad law.

So likewise with procreation. To actively seek to frustrate this divine purpose of sex is intrinsically immoral - so goes the reasoning of NL ethicists. But there are hard cases: serious genetic defects, women for whom another pregnancy may be life threatening to her or the child, etc. But again my plea is to first settle the easy case and then apply the thinking you learn there to the hard cases.

So what you think ye? Any argument that purposely frustrating any of the divinely given purposes of sex is intrinsically immoral?

+HRC

9.12.2006

Dispelling Myths: Contraception as Murder

It is a mistaken belief that the Reformers and early fathers erroneously condemned family planning through ignorance because they considered the spilling of seed to be actual murder. First, consider that Luther referred to Onan's sin not as murder, but as a Sodomitic sin:

Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment. He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred. Therefore he did not allow himself to be compelled to bear that intolerable slavery. Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him.

[Luther's works, vol. 7 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44 (Ge 38:9-10)]


In fact, it was believed by most of those who came before the modern age that life (ensoulment) did not even begin in the womb until "quickening" occurred (when fetal movement became detectable). I do not have the reference, but Augustine declared that abortion, though a grave sin, is not murder until after quickening. In 1140, Canon law confirmed that abortion is murder only after quickening. Indeed, for centuries, both English common law and American law (during both colonial and national periods) permitted women to have abortions until the time of quickening.

We have certainly corrected this erroneous position regarding the beginning of life, but in the opposite direction. My point is only this: that since abortion (though always considered a sin against life) was not considered by these theologians actual murder until after quickening, that likewise, contraception was not considered actual murder but a sin against life, against the wife, and, most grievously, against God, the author, creator, and sustainer of all life.

Dispelling Myths: Numbers

Trusting God to plan your family almost always means having more babies. Being fruitful and multiplying (increasing in number) the race of men necessitates having more than two children per couple on average (replacement fertility is 2.1). Numbers are indeed part of the equation, as is obvious from the negative effect of family planning (the western world is below replacement level fertility). But from this, those who disagree with us draw a false conclusion that we hold that if an individual couple does not have "lots" of babies they are not trusting God.

Trusting is often most difficult when one desires a child but God witholds the gift. The archetype of this trust (faith!) and fruitfulness is Abraham, who had one child by his wife, and that in his old age. Abraham trusted that he would be the father of many nations even when he took up his hand to sacrifice his only son. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Faith is nothing less than trust beyond all reason.

Trusting God to plan your family may mean twenty children. It may also mean none. In this respect (the individual), numbers are irrelevant. Nonetheless, we affirm as Scripture does, that barrenness is a curse while a full quiver is a great blessing. But only God knows how many arrows you need in your quiver.

9.09.2006

Chemnitz on Contraception

This is from the Loci Theologici, Preus translation, vol. II, p.
406, first column (Thanks to a friend, Pr. William Weedon for
pointing me toward this quote). The topic is the fifth commandment:

"The first and most heinous kind is the external deed itself.
Scripture speaks of the shedding of blood, Rom. 3:15; Gen. 9:6.
In Ex. 21:18-20 and Num. 25:7 certain instruments or weapons are
mentioned, such as iron, rock, or club. Rev. 18:23 and Gal. 5:20
mention sorcery [actually Chemnitz notes here the Greek word
pharmakeia, 'potions' - this was also an ancient word used for
chemical contraceptives like silphium - +HRC]. But in the
Decalog it simply says, 'Thou shalt not kill,' without
mentioning either the instruments or the circumstances of the
crime. In Judg. 20:5 the wife of the Levite who was ravished by
a mob of Gibeanites was said to have been 'murdered.' [I don't
think the quotes are appropriate - Chemnitz doesn't use them -
+HRC] Pertinent here also are those things which hinder
conception, Gen. 38:9. Likewise, the matter of destroying the
fetus in the womb, Ex. 21:22, 'If a pregnant woman is struck. .
. .' I Kings 3:19 refers to those who in their sleep lie on and
smother children."

The Latin can be found on page 68 of the Pars Secunda. The
sentence that especially interests us here reads: Pertinent
igitur huc, qui conceptionem impediunt, Gen. 38. v 9.

Here Chemnitz demonstrates that he knows exactly what's going
on. He differentiates between contraception and
abortion/infanticide and notes that Gen. 38 forbids the former.
He takes it up under the 5th commandment because it is an action
against the good of life - not the taking of a life already
present, but the 'impeding' of the process through which God
gives life.

And all this from the "second Martin," the chief author of the
Formula of Concord.

+HRC
--
Pr. H.R. Curtis
Trinity - Worden, IL
Zion - Carpenter, IL

9.06.2006

Amish, Large Families, and Hochmut

The image “http://static.flickr.com/89/236001962_a8cf12af02_o.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Last Friday, as the last hurrah of the summer before starting our homeschooling year, we jumped in our Chevy Suburban with the extra after-market "rumble seat" in the rear, attached our trailer, and visited Shipshewana, Indiana, an Amish tourist destination about an hour-and-a-half from our home. We were hoping to possibly buy some desks for our new homeschool room, but didn't find any within our price range.

It's interesting to see the looks you get from people when you have six children. You often get stared at more than if you were Amish. What was really strange is to see how we get looked at by both the Amish and the tourists at the same time. I think the tourists probably wondered why this particular Amish family could get away with not wearing the traditional garb. I think the Amish were just flabbergasted to see outsiders with more than two children. ...but I digress.

On the way, my wife read the Wikipedia entry for Amish outloud for all of us to hear. We found the following excerpt of particular interest...

Hochmut and Demut

Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their revulsion of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut or "humility" and Gelassenheit — often rendered "submission" or "letting-be," but perhaps better understood as a reluctance to forward or assert oneself in any way. The willingness to submit to the Will of God, as expressed through group norms, is at odds with the individualism so central to the wider American culture. The anti-individualist orientation is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on neighbors, or which, like electricity, might start a competition for status-goods, or which, like photographs, might cultivate individual or family vanity. It is also the proximate cause for rejecting education beyond the eighth grade, especially speculative study which has little practical use for farm-life but which may awaken personal and materialistic ambitions. The emphasis on competition and the uncritical assumption that self-reliance is a good thing, cultivated in American high schools, are in direct opposition to core Amish values.

I have a similar "revulsion" toward the Hochmut of individualism that is worshipped in the public education system. While I would not recommend resorting to the isolationism of the Amish, homeschooling and large families provide a certain antidote to this sinful tendancy.

The large family factor is explained in the cover story of this month's Christianity Today:

What happens in larger families? Children are more tolerant. They learn that they are one part of a whole much larger than themselves and that the common good usually takes precedence over their particular desires. They also discover the principle of scarcity; they learn to conserve. Their clothes are on loan and passed on to others when they are done. They have to share their toys. They cannot take more food than they can eat, or someone else will not have enough. They can't take long, hot showers, or someone else gets a cold shower. They learn that their singular behavior affects multiple people. They are not the center of the universe.

Children with multiple siblings are also more accepting. They practice living with a variety of temperaments, quirks, and ages. Older children cannot stay safely within their own peer group. They learn to hold babies, sing lullabies, and change diapers. A teenager cannot retreat, morose, into his bedroom every afternoon to listen to his music—his 3-year-old brother will jump on his back and demand a gallop around the room. A 16-year-old girl will trudge through the door from school, worry on her face, to be greeted by a flying 18-month-old jumping into her arms.

Children from larger families have to work together. Every morning, the grump, the overachiever, the early riser, the dreamer, the snuggler, and the toddler must negotiate their separate concerns toward a single goal: to get out the door and to their respective schools on time. In summer, for a family with a commercial fishing operation like ours, the goal is to pick all of the fish from all of the fishing nets before the next meal. The children have to help each other. They have to work together in storms on the ocean.

Yes, they fight. Sometimes they do it all badly, and 1 Corinthians 13 love—which is patient, kind, and keeps no record of wrongs—is nowhere in sight. But there are other times when they lay down their lives for one another: a sister holding her injured brother's hand as he lies on the ground, waiting for a helicopter ambulance; the oldest brother risking himself to snatch his youngest brother from a fire.

And this observation is from a mother of six who does not homeschool. As a father of six who does, I can tell you that the effect is magnified greatly by homeschooling. And this observation is from a father who also happens to be the founder and president of a Michigan Public School Academy (charter school), Marshall Academy.

My philosophy of education has changed somewhat since we began homeschooling our two high school age daughters (Marshall Academy only went through the eighth grade at that time). Now we have all six children at home because we want all of them to enjoy the benefits of homeschooling.

It is a particular joy to witness the dynamic of a large family homeschool in action, regardless of what it looks like to tourists, Amish, uninformed relatives, and others.

Blessings,

Caspar

8.22.2006

Mark Steyn: It's breeding obvious, mate

Sharp Canadian!

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1685406/posts?page=1

My own related comment: I don't know why the Muslims bother terrorizing the West. With our below replacement level fertility and the Islamic prohibition of birth control, they will take over the world in a generation or so anyway. At this very moment we are witnessing the birth of a new Islamic state: "Eurabia." What's the need of terrorism when those you would terrorize are killing themselves off with below replacement fertility levels?

Having lots of kids won't get you to heaven, but "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." [Psalm 127]

Not trusting God to plan our families, especially with the growing threat of our much more reproductive Islamic enemies, provides a unique perspective on the first verse of that same Psalm: "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

Erich

8.04.2006

Russian anyone?

Does anyone know any Russian? I am guessing that this isn't an encouragement to sell one's S-Class in order to afford 3 more children.

7.26.2006

Economics, Babes, and a Bedside Ethos

The August 2006 issue of 'Christianity Today' just hit the newsstands. In it there is an article by Leslie Leyland Fields entitled 'The Case for Kids: A defense of the large family by a six-time breeder.'' (Unfortunately, as of this moment this article is not yet available on the web.)

Towards the end of her article she takes up the child-bearing and child-rearing issue that I fear rules in the hearts of many a Christian married-couple, keeping them from having children more than once, yet, or at all. And what is the issue? The cost of children. Economics. The author of the article writes, "It no longer makes economic sense to have a child at all. Books, articles, and internet calculators coolly estimate the financial liability of raising a child to adulthood and arrive at staggering figures, ranging from $700,000 to $1.5 million per child. By these calculations, Americans should stop having children altogether." (And might I add that by these calculations the childless seminarian and his wife need not pretend that the seminary studies are what pose the insurmountable economic hurdle to the Lord's blessing of children within their marriage. More honestly, in the face of the dollars sited above, it would seem that the chosen career path would pose a more real and perennial economic threat. But, I digress.)

The author continues:

Even after considering the cost of education, a typical child in the U.S. consumes 28 percent less than the typical working-age adult, while elders consume 27 percent more, mostly in health-related expenses. How do we order and feed such a top-heavy, resource-consuming society of elders – a demographic of which most who read this article are a part? Who will produce the goods needed to keep the nation’s engines and industries running? When our self-reliance wears out, when our self-authenticated minds and our spirituality unfettered and independent souls grow dim with age, who will feed and sustain us? Who will wheel us into surgery, deliver our packages, grow our food, research and formulate the medications that enable us to live longer and better? In an overburdened medical system, who will decide whether or not our lives still have value when our medical costs outweigh our economic worth? (Italics added) In all of this, we will depend on the actions and judgments of other peoples’ children.

We, as a Christian community, have already heard the first gasps, even our own, as we learn of the not-uncommon-university-lectured-ethos and the real-life-instances that ‘pull-the-plug’ on ‘one of the least of these’ because ‘medical costs outweigh… economic worth’. Yet seldom is the self-reflection (Leslie Leyland Fields excluded) that would lead the same gasping Christian community to take a step back and see such an ethos and such instances as the paradoxical progeny of their own children who were never born. And why weren’t they born? Because the cost of such children was deemed too great an economic hurdle – this from a generation of would be parents entitled to cable tv, cell-phones, dsl, foreign travel, a health club membership, and automobiles hardly the jalopies their grandparents started out with – a generation of which I am chief of sinners.

I am looking forward to your comments, thoughts, and discussion.

7.11.2006

Live births from "artificial" sperm

This story reminds me of an interesting query I have posed before. Christians are proud to have the slogan and belief that "life begins at conception." But what does that specifically mean? How do we know exactly when in the process of human reproduction that a soul is implicated in the flesh any more than we do when it is that a soul leaves the body in the process of death? A soul is supernatural and beyond the explanation of science.

As with the concept of inserting of genetic material into a human egg in cloning, the potential joining of laboratory created sperm and human eggs from the above linked story reminds me of this question in my mind. Even in normal human sexual reproduction, at what exact point in the PROCESS of fertilization is the soul implicated? Is the soul implicated at the point of:

Penetration by the sperm of the egg's zona pellucida?
Entry of the single winning sperm into the perivitelline space of the egg?
Fusion of the sperm with the egg's plasma membrane?
The egg's cortical reaction causing the zona pellucida to become "hardened " and refractory (preventing other sperm from entering)?
Entry of the sperm contents into the cytoplasm of the egg?
Formation of egg and sperm pronuclei through the reactivation of the cell cycles?
(Pronuclear formation takes place a few hours after penetration of the sperm into the egg)
Following anaphase II, when the egg chromosomes remaining in the cytoplasm disperse and the female pronucleus forms?
When the sperm nucleus is decondensed and transformed into a male pronucleus?
The two pronuclei move towards the egg center?
Pronuclear envelope breakdown?
The spatial organization of microtubule arrays by the centrosome, connecting the egg and sperm chromosomes?
Final intermixing of the maternally and paternally derived chromosomes to establish the genome of the embryo?
Preparation for the first cell division?

Most people know little of the science of reproduction and think that "fertilization" is a simple process which occurs in the blink of an eye. Not so. The intricate saga of fertilization can and does fail at any of the above amazing processes. Even my simple summary of some of the milestones only scratches the surface of all the intricate biochemical events involved, many of which science is yet (if ever) to discover. Which of these is the "critical event?" Scripture certainly does not tell us. Why?

The answer to this question in my opinion is simple. It happens when God wants it to. The more important implication of this question and its answer is that we shouldn't be messing around with what is solely God's territory in the first place!

"Life begins at conception?" What does that mean? How is that related to God's plan other than in a negative sense in which we rightly say that abortion is murder? Why do we let the abortion debate define God's plan of life?

Human life began with God's breath of life into Adam. It continued in his taking of Eve out of Adam. It continued with the joining of the two in marital relations, ordained by God, and by which God created offspring of Adam and Eve. Life continues today with the joining together of man and woman, if and when God desires that joining to result in the gift of offspring.

Does every joining together of egg and sperm (fertilization?) create life? Not every joining together of man and woman does. It is God's business when and if such unions between man and wife, and sperm and egg, result in life.

We are given the gift of marital love and the one-flesh union. God adds the gift of children if and when he so pleases, just as he gives spiritual life through the gift of faith if and when he so pleases. If we follow God's design, these questions about how life is conceived do not need to even be asked, let alone answered. In fact, it is better we not ask or answer them, just as it is better not to ask why some are saved and not others.

So what's my point? Abortion is wrong for the same reason contraception is wrong, and for the same reason that human cloning and "artificial sperm" are wrong. They are all contrary to God's plan for the union of man and woman. They are all against God's will. Why do we always seek to rank sins, thinking abortion worse than contraception? Why are abortifacient birth control methods considered so much worse than non-abortifacient methods?

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." [James 2:10]

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." [Matthew 5:18]

The law convicts me just as severely as the abortionist. I am contraceptive at heart even though I employ no overt methods of family planning. I am a rebel against God as much as those who do employ such methods... even as much as those who abort their children, although I desire to think myself better.

"All Have Sinned and Fall Short of the Glory of God." [Romans 3:23]

Yet Christ forgives us all, having given Himself for the life of the world.

"And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly: that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" [Romans 5:20-6:2]

I sin horribly every day, being guilty of violating the whole law ... yet struggling with sin (living a life of repentance) by God's grace is a far cry from living in sin (unrepentant).

"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" [Romans 7:24-25]

6.13.2006

Malthus & The Confessions

One reason that is often put forth in favor of the contraceptive age is world over-population. This has seldom been brought up on this blog (if ever) but deserves attention because it does appear from time to time. Certainly there are secularists who cheer the contraceptive age for this reason. But, we must also take note that there are Christians who take up this battle-cry, and even Lutherans.

Dr. Alfred M. Rehwinkel (professor of Christian Ethics at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis for 15+ in the '40s and '50s) in his book 'Planned Parenthood' even gave a nod to this belief: "A nation that is not able or willing to propogate itself is doomed and sooner or later will have to make room for a more virile race... But on the other hand a nation which propagates more rapidly than the available or potential food supply is also headed for serious trouble." Certainly, there appears to be a simple and reasonable logic in his statement - People need food. The land can only produce so much food. If we have more mouths to feed than the land can produce food, we are in trouble.

This line of thinking was first made popular and championed by a british demographer and economist Thomas Robert Thomas Malthus (1776 - 1834). His concern was that human population as he observed it grows geometicly (1, 2, 4, 8, 16) while food supply only grows arithmeticly (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). His line of thinking, which has been expanded upon, championed, refuted, and re-tooled at times, is called Malthusianism.

Malthusianism today asserts simply that the earth has been duly filled. The earth is populated. It cannot handle more humanity. Period. Of course, this is something we think about as the world's population is now well over 7 billion souls. That's a big number after all (like the sands on the seashore or the stars in the sky) that has the ability to play on our fears and anxieties over whether the earth can provide for "all that I need to support this body and life" - as if the earth were doing the providing on its own. Maybe then you will understand my surprise when in my study of the Confessions I recently noticed for the first time that during the Reformation this 'full earth' argument was being put forth when the world population was just over 450million. It was an argument which along with its pernicious implications the Confessors rejected:

First, Genesis [1:28] teaches that human beings were created to be fruitful… Our opponents trivialize these arguments. They say that in the beginning there was a command to fill the earth, but now that the earth has been filled marriage is not commanded. Look at their clever argument! The Word of God formed human nature in such a way that it may be fruitful not only at the beginning of creation but as long as this physical nature of ours exists. Likewise, the earth became fruitful by this Word [Gen.1:11]: “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed.” Because of this ordinance, the earth commenced to produce plants, not only in the beginning, but yearly the fields are clothed as long as this natural order exists. Therefore, just as the nature of the earth cannot be changed by human laws, so neither can human nature be changed by vows or by human law without a special act of God.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Kolb/Wengert p. 249.

Noteworthy is how they considered an attack upon fruitfulness/procreation to be none other than an attack on the Lord's institution of marriage. "Our opponents trivialize these arguments. They say that in the beginning there was a command to fill the earth, but now that the earth has been filled marriage is not commanded."

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

5.31.2006

NFP and Embryonic Death

The Journal of Medical Ethics:
"Given certain plausible empirical assumptions, the rhythm method may well be responsible for a much higher number of embryonic deaths than some other contraceptive techniques."

I have read other sources on this argument before, and have related it to others in my many writings and arguments against all forms of contraception. I have long criticized the Roman Catholic approval of NFP (natural family planning) as hypocritical on a theological level, regardless of any abortifacient arguments. In addition, I believe the scientific assumptions made in this
research article are quite plausible, given the moderate knowledge of human reproductive physiology I have. The paper was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (one of the British Medical Journal's publications).

As with the "unproven" assumptions we have showing hormonal birth control (the Pill, etc.) to have an abortifacient component, why would anyone knowingly employ a method of family planning which may lead to increased risks of death for the unborn?

Of course most of you know that according to my position this is a moot point. Regardless of the abortifacient nature of all the favored methods of family planning, ALL FAMILY PLANNING is against God's Word. My position does, however, allow for the potential application of ethical principles (casuistry) according to the Lutheran ethic of "conflicting absolutes," which leads us to choose the lesser evil and throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ.

Caspar

UPDATE: In response to his critics, the author of the article in the Journal of Medical Ethics has posted a reply on the British Medical Journal website. The reply gives further official documentation to his argument and does a good job of answering the most common objections voiced to his original article.

5.23.2006

LQ Discussion of Gen. 1:28 Heating Up Again!

The discussion continues because the first one was locked by the moderator. The beginning of this new one is pretty funny (according to my dry style of humor) as you read the dialogue, especially the grammar comments (which have already been archived). Be sure to check out the "archive(s)" because every 30 posts are archived and linked at the top of the page.

5.22.2006

Pr. Rolf Preus Chimes in on Family Planning

Always a pastor in his theology, Pr. Rolf Preus gives his perspective...

Here are some reasons why the "Be fruitful and multiply" command and the discussion of birth control in general evoke such strong emotional responses that make a sober and reasonable discussion based on the Scriptures extremely difficult.

1. There has been a rapid and quite radical change in the views held within the church on the subject of birth control during the past two or three generations.

2. The conceiving, bearing, and rearing of children involves so much in a person's life that our discussions will inevitably become very personal.

3. There is a tendency toward antinomianism within the confessional movement today, likely a reaction against the intrusion of Reformed theology among us.

4. The command, "Be fruitful and multiply" is at least as much blessing and promise as it is command so that focusing on the law might not bring out the whole intent of this command.

5. There are cases where infertility or other problems make the fulfillment of the command impossible or dangerous and these cases are made prominent in an argument that is of a more general nature.

6. There is little if any theological leadership in defense of the traditional teaching on this subject.

7. The change in teaching has occurred at the same time that effective birth control methods have been introduced, leading one to assume that had the technology been available hundreds of years ago the change in thinking would have taken place hundreds of years ago.

8. We all impute personal motives and ulterior motives to those with whom we disagree, and in a discussion of a topic that by its nature includes very personal matters it is inevitable that the argument will at times descend into acrimony. Too bad, but that's human nature.

Having said all of this, may I make a couple of very personal observations?

First, when God gives you gift after gift after gift He humbles you by His generosity unless you are a complete ingrate. A man blessed with a beautiful, healthy, pious, Christian wife to whom God gives a dozen children should humble himself before God in gratitude every day.

Second, gift is gift. Gift isn't imposed. We don't require attendance at private confession or the Lord's Supper as a matter of law. Some folks cannot take the Sacrament of the Altar. They are still Christians who have all of the spiritual blessings God has to give. Some people cannot receive children. They are not less than those who can.

Third, God does provide for His children. How? I never know. Mostly through kind and generous people. Sometimes Christians we have never met.

Finally, the main point of view of traditionalists is that children are, objectively, blessings from God. This is our argument. God blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply. That's the issue. That's what God says and that's what I believe and when my children face troubles in life and I worry about this or that I hold up before me God's word of blessing here, the inspired and inerrant word of God says that my children are God's blessings to me.

Those who don't entirely share the traditionalist approach to this topic may assume that we are standing in judgment of them so I always encourage traditionalists to state our case in terms emphasizing God's blessing rather than God's law.

My two cents worth on this topic.

5.17.2006

'Rebel Without an Issue'

The following is an excerpt from Touchstone Magazine written by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., on Married Couples Who Won’t Have Children.

Joe and Deb Schum aren’t worried about baby-proofing their house or buying a car seat. They don’t intend ever to have children. As a matter of fact, they are proud of their childlessness. According to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The Schums are part of a growing number of couples across the country for whom kids don’t factor in the marriage equation.”

The nation’s birthrate fell in 2002 to a historic low of 66.9 births per 1,000 women age 15 to 44. That represents a decline of 43 percent since just 1960. “Many childless couples,” according to the report, “revel in their decision, despite badgering from baffled mothers and friends. Others struggle with the choice before keeping the house kid-free...”

Click here to read the remainder of the article.

5.11.2006

Fruitful As A Whole? Part II.


John Paul II offered a different perspective than the '81 CTCR document on the matter in 'The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan':

In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian vision of marriage, we must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth.

Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.

To justify conjugal acts made intentionally infecund, one cannot invoke as valid reasons the lesser evil, or the fact that such acts would constitute a whole together with the fecund acts already performed or to follow later, and hence would share in one and the same moral goodness. In truth, if it is sometimes licit to tolerate a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater evil or to promote a greater good, it is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom, that is, to make into the object of a positive act of the will something which is intrinsically disorder, and hence unworthy of the human person, even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family or social well-being. Consequently it is an error to think that a conjugal act which is deliberately made infecund and so is intrinsically dishonest could be made honest and right by the ensemble of a fecund conjugal life.

5.10.2006

Fruitful As A Whole? Part I.

In the 1981 CTCR report entitled 'Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective' there has always been a line of reasoning that has not set well with me.

On pg. 19 we read: "In view of the Biblical command and the blessing to 'be fruitful and multiply,' it is to be expected that marriage will not ordinarily be voluntarily childless. But, in the absence of Scriptural prohibition, there need be no objection to contraception within a marital union which is, as a whole, fruitful."

Two things bother me here: First, it is implied here that Scripture's lack of prohibition on a topic is equivalent to license. While it is true that we dare not add to scripture, does not scripture inform us as members of the Body of Christ how to navigate in the midst of any number of topics that the Word is not explicit about? (Of course, even that is working with their assumption that Scripture is silent on the matter - something our older brothers and fathers in the faith who were not as wise in the wisdom of the world would have scoffed at.)

Second, and more disturbing to me is the culmination which refers to marriages being O.K. which are "as a whole, fruitful." Is this really a helpful way to talk about this? I would suggest not. Wouldn't it be alarming to arrive at a church in Timesgoneby where the door-to-missions was closed because the Great Mission Fest of '87 had seen the Word of the Lord bring a family of four to the Faith. Say what you will, but the Bride of Christ Timesgoneby was "as a whole, fruitful."

Yet, when it comes to that other Bride and Groom - the Sons of Adam and the daughter's of Eve - whose marriage gives witness to the Lord Jesus the Christ - do we really do well to qualify the Lord's command/promise to be fruitful and multiply with "as a whole"? Again, I would suggest not.

In an effort to guard against taking a strong, historic, orthodox church (which they feared to be legalism?), they have entered into a whole new legalism - splitting hairs, qualifying the Lord's command/promise, and demonstrating to the Lord their faithfulness to his command by quantifying for Him their fruit.

Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective - CTCR 1981

4.25.2006

The natural fertility in a healthy woman. Part 2

We're on to breastfeeding: God's intended food for babies; and as I am about to discuss, God's intended way to heal a woman from the physical trauma of birth...

Since we're talking about the fertility of a healthy woman, I won't take the time to discuss all the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding for children, though it is not hard to find information on it. I will say, though, that supplemental formula is NOT the "next best thing."

The way breastfeeding works into a woman's fertility, and overall health, begins right at birth. The uterus, which has just spent the last 40 weeks growing from less that one pound to almost 20 pounds is all stretched out and has worked harder than any other muscle in a woman's body. Everything that was inside it is now gone and all you have left is a big empty worn out bag. Breastfeeding, if attended to immediately after birth will help a woman's uterus to work itself back into shape, and will also help eliminate the after-bleeding that can cause a woman to hemorrhage after birth.

It does this because nipple stimulation causes the hormonal release of natural oxytocins, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions. Some women who practice extended breastfeeding (up to two years and beyond) have been known to rely on their nursing toddlers to help augment a stalled labor instead of resorting to the synthetic version of oxytocin: Pitocin, the ob-gyn's drug of choice. Pitocin is also used regularly, even in women who've birthed naturally, to contract her uterus because doctor's take our babies away immediately after the birth to do all sorts of tests. But the natural nursing relationship of mother and baby is strong enough on its own to shrink down the uterus, work out the placenta, and close up the bleeding openings that the placenta leaves behind on the uterine wall.

Breastfeeding is so effective at shrinking a woman's uterus, in fact, that the "after pains" that came from nursing my newborn Olivia were so severe that I was in tears each nursing session for three days after her birth. She was an expert eater from the moment she was born, and my uterus shrank back to an immeasurable size before I left the hospital.

A less immediate benefit of nursing is the Amenorrhea, or lack of menstrual period, that it creates. A woman who is exclusively breastfeeding her baby will experience this Amenorrhea for the first 2 months to 2 years after birth. That does not mean that there won't be after-bleeding, or lochea, which is present after every vaginal birth for about 3 to 6 weeks, but once the lochea is finished there will be a break in the woman's "monthly" cycle.

HAVE NO FEAR! Caspar, I'm not about to go on and on about how we can rely on this to space our children, though it is very effective for that (so effective I was night-weaning Olivia in order to conceive our next dearly longed-for baby due this September).

But, as I mentioned in Part 1, the hormonal break that the uterus enjoys during pregnancy is continued during the nursing relationship as well. It has been studied that breastfeeding will in fact reduce your chances of breast cancer. And if that isn't good enough, it also reduces the risk of other reproductive cancers in woman as well.

I hope that this information has been interesting to learn, and that I might have shed some light on things that aren't generally known. There are even more things about a woman's natural fertility that I have found fascinating since I started studying it three years ago, but at this moment more pressing things are upon me and this post has sat as a draft long enough.

I'm going to go share popsicles with the 18 month old result of my healthy fertility since she has a 102 degree fever, and I don't want her to get dehydrated. :(

Thanks for reading.

Individualism and Society

Here are some wise words by Harold O. J. Brown, of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society.

The whole article can be read here.

Where individualism reigns, society ceases to exist. Nowhere is this more evident in the beginning of this new century than in the transformation of sexual morality in Western "Christendom." One of the most fundamental imperatives for living beings is the perpetuation of the species, of the race. It is contrary to natural law to suggest that the woman, the bearer of the new generation, should be able to dispose of it at will without any restraint by her spouse or by her parents. The traditional covenants, marriage and family, mean nothing to the individualist. The elevation of abortion to a fundamental right through Roe v. Wade and a series of concurring Supreme Court decisions breaks totally with the biblical and natural principles of reproduction as a human duty.

"Be fruitful and multiply" is God's first command to human beings (Genesis 1:28). Homosexual behavior does not reproduce, and abortion negates reproduction that has already taken place. A society that not merely tolerates but extols and praises both - as our society does - has clearly repudiated the reality of nature as well as the teachings of religion. No animal species exchanges reproductive sexual behavior for sterility. Only homo sapiens are clever enough to see this as a "right" to be enjoyed and praised. Throughout the Western world, the rate of human reproduction is not sufficient to preserve the society. The individual has no duty to society, no more than to God. She or he is autonomous, a law unto self. Individualism taken to this extreme is solipsistic. When solipsistic man dies, he dies alone. There is no one to mourn him, for there will be no one to come after him.

When there is no common sense of the good, traditional virtues are mocked or banned, and traditional vices go from disapproval to tolerance to acceptance to dominance. Tradition becomes a disqualification, rather than a reason for approval. Tolerance of the old style is rejected as implying acceptance, not disapproval, as indeed it did. What it means today is approval, acceptance, and preferential treatment. Tolerance comes to mean approving that which in principle was intolerable. And as Jean-Paul Maisonneuve said, it becomes the worst kind of intolerance.[6] The tennis players are ruining the putting greens.

"Professing to be wise, they became fools," St. Paul wrote (Romans 1:22, NASB). In the final paragraph of The Crisis of Our Age, Pitirim Sorokin asks that the grace of understanding be vouchsafed to us, so that we may make the necessary decisions to escape the fiery dies irae and be able to continue man's divine creative mission on earth.

4.19.2006

What is the Nature of "Natural Fertility?"

I am trying to understand the point Devona is making regarding the natural fertility of a healthy woman. To be honest, I enjoyed my Lenten blogging fast so much that I was tempted not to begin blogging again! ;-) My home blog, beggarsall, is closing in on its 50,000th visitor. That's overwhelming, and scary insofar as it is like a black hole that can suck in a lot of time - something I don't have a lot to spare, with 6 kids and lots of jobs and responsibilities at home, church, and school.

Anyway, Devona writes: "It [a healthy woman's natural fertility] very much relates to the topic of contraception inasmuch as the culture (as we have discussed before) treats fertility as an illness to be treated and controlled by medication. But if one understands the natural unmedicated workings of a healthy woman's cycle, by which I mean more than just her monthly cycle, we can learn a great deal about the great care God took when making us reproductive beings."

The first question I have is this: Is learning about God's creation of man and woman as reproductive beings the true extent of your purpose in expounding upon knowledge gleaned from NFP teachers? Are you sure you do not have any motive tucked in here (intentional or unintentional) of advocating NFP prior to making the case for its being God-pleasing? If not, why the statement: "I could go on and on in order to help explain this, but it is really best if you find a good source for NFP and learn from a trained professional."

I certainly agree that a knowledge of how God designed us as reproductive beings would be helpful. However, there is a huge difference between a general knowledge of human physiology and the charting of one's own personal fertility cycles - the former possibly being helpful in understanding God's creation, the latter being a matter of being able to use such personal knowledge to our own selfish purposes. We are by nature 100% sinful! If we are to fear, love, and trust God alone, are we not tempting ourselves by tracking our personal fertility on a daily basis?

Finally, I'd like to ask: Are you sure that the way our natural fertility works in this fallen world tells us what God's initial perfect plan was in the beginning? Creation was fatally damaged in the fall. Many excellent theologians theorize that pre-fall fertility was intended to be much higher than that which resulted post-fall - possibly not inhibited at all by days of the month or nursing, etc. Pain and tribulation were certainly increased. Is it not possible that studying the relative times of fertility and infertility will tell us more about our fallen world than about God's perfect creative plan?

Once again, I think the problem here is a matter of getting the cart before the horse. What do the cycles of the natural fertility of the so-called "healthy" woman really tell us about? I think they tell us about the perversion of God's creation by sin, death, and the Devil. The image of God is so damaged that we can only see a shadow of it in the current state of nature, as if we are looking in a shattered mirror.

Rather than looking at nature, we should be looking at God's Word in an attempt to discern God's will.

What think you?

Blessings,

Caspar

4.12.2006

The natural fertility in a healthy woman. Part 1

I thought I'd post this, since I have found that many women, even those who are in their fertile years, do not know. Most men don't, though that doesn't surprise me as much.

It very much relates to the topic of contraception inasmuch as the culture (as we have discussed before) treats fertility as an illness to be treated and controlled by medication. But if one understands the natural unmedicated workings of a healthy woman's cycle, by which I mean more than just her monthly cycle, we can learn a great deal about the great care God took when making us reproductive beings.

You will find a TON of contradictory information about these matters. But if you consider the affiliation of the source you will find that the majority of pro-life and non-contraceptive organizations will provide you with the same, or at least very similar information. I learned most of this from my Natural Family Planning(NFP) teacher, Dr. Sears, and the La Leche League International.


First off, as has been discussed in the past, a woman is only fertile for a short period of her monthly cycle. It ranges from 5 to 9 days, depending on the exact time of her ovulation and the quality of her cervical fluid (I could go on and on in order to help explain this, but it is really best if you find a good source for NFP and learn from a trained professional). The fertile period is near the middle of her monthly cycle. The cycle begins on the first day of menstruation. Ovulation does not always occur on the same day after her first day of her cycle, but the same number of days always pass between ovulation until the beginning of her next cycle. This is called a luteal phase. Mine is 15 days. I tend to think that this is pretty cool, but that's just me. ;-)

The statistics that I have been given from my NFP teacher were that a couple not avoiding or attempting to conceive, but having natural relations would conceive on average within 6 months if both partners are healthy. And a couple which is able to observe and follow their fertile patterns when trying to conceive, can after as little as one month, but often after 4 if they are both healthy. If there are fertility problems but the woman is still ovulating, a couple who can determine their fertility can conceive within 8 months on average. Of course, that last stat can vary a lot depending on how often a less fertile woman ovulates.

Let's continue now onto the next phase of a woman's fertility: pregnancy. We all know that women carry their children on average 40 weeks, but it is really more like 41 weeks for first time mothers. This varies depending on your race and health conditions, but is pretty static over all.

Pregnancy benefits the woman's over all health by giving her ovaries a rest. The monthly surges of hormones are relieved and replaced by a steady increase of the hormone progesterone, which I like to call "the happy-hormone" because it really makes you feel good, you know that thing they call the "pregnancy glow"? In fact there have been a few studies which link post-partum depression and the length of pregnancy since progesterone levels peak right at the end of pregnancy and then drop to nearly zero after birth. Theoretically, if a woman has not been pregnant for the 40 to 41 weeks her level of progesterone will not reach that peak and will therefore be lower over all and the after birth change will not be as drastic.

The other benefit of pregnancy is the lowered risk of cancers in her fertile system, such as breast and ovarian cancer. Pregnancy gives your body a rest from the back and forth high levels of estrogen, which is a cancer causing hormone in too high of levels. That's pretty cool, too, if you ask me.

Once a woman has given birth we begin the next phase of her fertility. And it's not "trying not to get pregnant too soon." God has made a natural way to space our children, and lucky for us it has sooooooo many other benefits for mom and baby that you'd be silly not to give it a try.

This is, of course, breastfeeding which I will discuss in my next post. I think I've already given everyone enough to chew on for one day. :)

4.03.2006

Touchstone: News and Views


First the News: Eric brought to my attention that this blog has been sited by the editor of Touchstone Magazine - David Mills. He comments on 'Lutherans & Contraception' in the Touchstone Blog 'Mere Comments'... It is an encouraging boost in what has been a slow time for this blog.




As for Views: In David Mills' blog post he also sites an essay by Juli Loesch Wiley entitled 'The Well-Connected Mother'. It is a good read and reveals a level of meditation on marriage, motherhood and the Lord that moves beyond the all too often chronic refrain within our own spheres of 'the freedom of the Christian'.

3.31.2006

First Things, Hobbits & Children

I was recently filing some old articles I had read in past years when I came across an incredible little piece on The Lord of the Rings that I had forgotten about. It is quite pertinent to our discussion and cuts to the heart of my concern over the Christian Church's near whole-hearted buy-in to the contraceptive age. Here is an excerpt from it:

The virtues of mortality are most obvious in the great paradox of the book: that the very mortal Hobbits are the only ones who can resist the Ring’s seduction and destroy it. Seemingly the most insignificant and lowliest race of all, they spend their (relatively) short lives in small pursuits. They have little use for lofty “elvish” ideas. As most characters in The Lord of the Rings remark, they are unlikely saviors of the world. In fact, their lowly mortality may be their greatest asset.

The Hobbits are firmly enfleshed. They love gardening, visiting, eating and drinking—“six meals a day (when they could get them… Also, unlike the other lands we see, the Shire is full of children, for Tolkien tells us that Hobbits have very large families, Frodo and Bilbo being “as bachelors very exceptional.” This is true of no other people in Middle Earth. The immortal Elves, of course, need few children… The Dwarves, though mortal, are very long-lived, and they have children so seldom that many believe they are not born, but grow from stones… The Ents seem to live more or less forever, but even they are dying out.

It is not only the older and the lesser races that have ceased to bear children. Barrenness also characterizes Gondor. Once great, the city has declined. Pippin sees there many houses that have fallen empty, so that “it lacked half the men that could have dwelt at ease there.” Beregond the guard tells him, “There were always too few children in the city…”

Click here to read the full piece written by Anna Mathie entitled ‘Tolkien and the Gift of Mortality’ (2003 First Things 137 – November 2003)

3.02.2006

LCMS Contracepting itself out of business

In the March 2006 issue of The Reporter, the official periodical of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, asks "Where Are All the Children". What follows are some states dug up by a friend of mine, the Rev. Sem. Scott Adle, at CHI and the letter I sent to the Reporter's editor.

2004:
Members--2,463,747
Baptised Children--32,851
Juniors Confirmed--25,325
Adults Confirmed--19,153

1961:
Members2,464,436
Baptised Children--82,248
Juniors Confirmed--52,445
Adults Confirmed and Baptised--32,000

Dear Editor,

In your March issue Dr. Judith Christian asks where all the children are. A brief look at statistics available at CHI can tell you: they were never born.

In 2004 the LCMS had 2.46 million baptized members. Likewise in 1961 the LCMS had 2.46 million members. But in 1961 our people were reproducing above the replacement fertility rate: we had 82,248 infant baptisms that year. In 2004, with the same number of overall membership we had declined 60% to just 32,851 infant baptisms.

In short, our church body has been complicit in its own demise by not emphasizing God's plan for procreation in marriage. We're contracepting ourselves out of business. All the evangelism programs in the world can't make up for that: ask the Shakers if you don't believe me.

In Christ,

Pr. H. R. Curtis
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, IL
Zion Lutheran Church, Carpenter, IL

2.28.2006

Lenten Blogging Fast



In preparation for the Resurrection of our Lord, I will be fasting from blogging on both BeggarsAll and LutheransandContraception. If that and my fasting from beer and other carbohydrates (are there other carbohydrates?) doesn't kill me, I'll be back after Easter Sunday.

Lenten blessings to you all,

Caspar

2.27.2006

Birth Control to be Outlawed in New Town

Returning to those black and white days of the baby-boom of the 1940s and 50s - the theme of Pleasantville in reverse!



Pleasantville was a comedy about two '90s kids shockingly thrust into the black-and-white TV world of Pleasantville, a Leave It to Beaver-style town complete with picket fences, corner malt shop, and warm chocolate chip cookies, where everyone knew right from wrong. This time-travel occurs when a one-of-a-kind remote control (provided by repairman Don Knotts, who I'm very sorry to report died this past Saturday of lung cancer) transports them from the real world to the obligatory G-rated TV land. They are forced to play along as "Bud" and "Mary Sue," the obedient children of George and Betty Parker. Mary Sue starts shaking the town up, most notably when she takes basketball stud Skip up to Lover's Lane for some modern-day fun and games. Soon enough, Pleasantville's teens are discovering sex along with rock & roll, free thinking, and soul-changing Technicolor. The movie gradually transforms from all black and white to color, building by building and skirt by shirt.

Now, imagine this process in reverse...

Domino's Pizza Founder Plans "Catholic Only" Town
February 27, 2006 2:00 p.m. EST
Julie Farby - All Headline News Staff Writer

Detroit, Michigan (AHN)—A former marine who was raised by nuns and made a fortune selling pizza has embarked on a plan to build the first town in America to be run according to strict Catholic principles, the Times reports. Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain, has stirred protests from civil rights activists by declaring that Ave Maria’s pharmacies will not be allowed to sell condoms or birth control pills. The town’s cable television network will carry no X-rated channels.

Read more
HERE.
________________________________________

I'm concerned about the pietism of this Amish-style retreat from the world. However, there is no indication that these people will never leave the town, like poor Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, or the sheltered children in The Village. This RC town could be a shining example of what life under a
government that pays attention to God's law could be without the error of the Amish of avoiding all innovation. I'd love to live in a works-righteous Roman Catholic town! Unfortunately, NFP will probably be legal - though serious Roman Catholics know that it is officially only sanctioned for extreme cases.

I think this would probably be an excellent place to live and raise a family if one could find a confessional Lutheran church nearby. I wonder if we Lutheran "catholics" would be welcome to purchase real estate in this new town. Alas, I believe the ideals of Tom Monaghan are doomed to failure, as legal battles will likely prevent such a town from ever existing. Let's see how long South Dakota's ban on abortion lasts.

A good article from Touchstone

I'm in a poasting links kind of mood today. Here's a really good one.



The question is, where is your treasure? And this question is for fathers as well as for mothers. Is your treasure your job, your career, your earning power, your advancement, your house, your car, your vacation, your computer, your money, and the things that money can buy? Or is your treasure your children? For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.

Something Applicable from a Pastor I trust...

This would make Caspar happy.

World Population Hits 6.5 Billion!

Oh no!!! We're all going to starve to death!!!!!!

According to the best calculations available to modern man, on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:16 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the population of the world hit 6.5 billion people. Thomas Malthus, the British economist who famously predicted in 1798 that the world’s population - then just under a billion - was growing so fast that people would soon be without enough to eat. In the days of the Industrial Revolution he formulated his notorious "law of population" which asserts that while food supplies expand only arithmetically, population soars geometrically.

This theory, with its controlling factors of survival of the fittest through famine and war, influenced the birth of Darwin's theory of "natural selection" and ultimately the eugenics movements of Margaret Sanger and Adolf Hitler. The popularization of family planning for undesirables led to its acceptance for undesired pregnancies, and thus the philosophy of the "pro-choice" movement of planned parenthood and the legalization of abortion: The death of the West! The western world is now at below replacement level fertility, while Muslims continue to procreate since they have not forsaken Islam's hatred of birth control.

The theory of Malthus has since been proven wrong (we're still here!), but we're stuck with all the subsequent sequelae of his preaching. Technological improvements have shown themselves to be so great that a much more rapid increase in food production (than in population) has been possible for centuries. The world is not just surviving, it's generally FAT! There are areas which experience famines, but these are not caused by population problems. Famines are associated with naturally-occurring crop failure and pestilence, but more today because of war and genocide.

We Christians must continually remind ourselves in this postmodern world that we can and should trust in the goodness of God in providing what is necessary for body and soul. The Western culture's myth of overpopulation has led us today to have below replacement level fertility in the West. We are looking today at the impending death of the West because of the suicidal mindset of "planned parenthood."

Caspar

2.23.2006

Trusting God to Plan Your Family



Relative to the exchanges Devona and I have had in the most recent posts below, it seems appropriate to proceed to the final point of the LCR document.

10. God desires that we put our trust in Him in all matters, also in His will and ability to provide for the children that He gives us (Exod. 23:20,26; Psalm 30:7; 37:25f.; Phil 4:13; 1 Pet. 5:7).


Exodus 23:20

“Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.



Exodus 23:26

No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.



Psalm 30:7

LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.



Psalm 37:25

I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.



Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.



1 Peter 5:7

...casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.



And, at the risk of being repetative, here I quote Luther again:

Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: “Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.” But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.

[Luther's works, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis, page 332]

2.21.2006

Read the post below this one first.

A definition of Natural Family Planning, by a woman who uses it.

This will not likely change Caspar's opinion of what NFP is. But it might help some of our readers (are there any left?) to understand what NFP is since it is widely misunderstood.

NFP is the understanding and charting of a woman's fertility. That's it. It is simply the knowledge of when a couple can, and cannot conceive. What a couple chooses to do with that knowledge is not defined by NFP.

My husband, Rob, and I do practice NFP although we have never used it to avoid conceiving. In fact, we used it to conceive with this current pregnancy. I chart with NFP (sometimes more regularly than others) in order to know my body, mostly so that I will know if something is wrong with me if things change. We don't have any reasons to avoid children, and likely won't have any in the future, Lord willing. It will be good to know when to abstain, though, if anything should arise in our lives which would necessitate avoiding conception (see post below).

The thing that makes NFP different than any other form of contraception is that it is a hibernating form of contraception unless you choose to abstain. And if you do choose to abstain for one day of your fertile period, you have the chance to change your mind tomorrow. You have not avoided conception until you have continuously abstained for the whole of a woman's fertile period which lasts 7 to 10 days.