1.17.2006

God's Word and Procreation



It appears the NFP discussion has stalled for the time being. Let us now begin where I think this entire blog should have started: the greater biblical argument against ALL forms of family planning (a.k.a. "birth control"). Stated in the positive form, this is the biblical doctrine of procreation.

For purposes of this discussion, let's lump all "birth control" methods into one term: "family planning" (a.k.a. "planned parenthood"). This term includes "natural" family planning (NFP) and other non-abortifactient contraceptive methods (e.g. barrier, withdrawal, and spermicide), all potentially abortifacient contraceptives (e.g. hormonal and IUD), voluntary abortion, whether chemically or surgically induced, and voluntary sterilization. These all are "means." But the problem of sin is a problem of the heart.

The sin of family planning in the heart is believing we have a right to "plan" our families, whether that is 12, 6, 3, 2, or no children, and a right to have sexual pleasure without the burden of children popping up whenever God desires them to. This is where the sin of "contraception" begins in the heart, and then it bursts forth in a plethora of acts of of immorality, from masturbation to sodomy and even murder (abortion), all because we think we have a right to sexual pleasure without the possibility of procreation. The reasons given by Christians to justify the planning (or banning) of one's family are almost always based upon myths, selfishness, materialism, hedonism (love of pleasure), convenience, or postmodern reasoning, and may indicate a distrust of God and His Word.

Those who look at the subject of family planning only from the perspective of "means" miss the point of this sin entirely, because they are looking at actions rather than at what the state of the heart is. As I tried to explain in the immediately previous post which was limited to NFP, the problem of sin is not the sin itself, but the condition of one's heart. Whoever keeps the Law outwardly and yet stumbles at just one point in his heart is guilty of breaking the ENTIRE Law. What you do certainly matters, but if you look at actions in isolation from the heart, the outside of the cup may look clean while the inside is filthy.

The title of this blog is "Lutherans and Contraception." So, now let us investigate what God has to say about the matter of procreation from a Lutheran perspective of Scripture. I would like to present the entire biblical evidence first in short form in this post and then move through it point by point in subsequent posts according to individual biblical arguments.

The best brief presentation of the historical biblical position from a confessional Lutheran position I have ever seen is the doctrinal statement of the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation (LCR). I will now present it here, unaltered, as it was adopted by them at their 1989 convention:


PROCREATION

(The following statement was adopted by the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation)

God is the Creator of all human life (Gen. 30:2; 1 Sam. 2:5f; 2 Kgs. 5:7; Acts 17:25,28) and desires to create spiritual life in all sinful human beings, that everyone come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Married couples1 should reproduce in observance of the following Biblical principles:

1. The command of God to be "fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28; 9:1,17; 35:11; 1 Tim. 5:10,14; AC XXIII, #5 & 8, Triglot p. 612; AP XXIII, #7-8, Trigl. p. 365-73; LC 6th Comm., # 207, Trigl., p. 6394).

2. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Gen. 1:28; 15:2-5; 17:5f.; 24:60; 33:5; 48:9; 49:25; Lev. 26:9; Deut. 28:4; Josh. 24:3; Ruth 4:11f.; Psalm 107:38; 127:3-5; 128:3-6; 147:13; Prov. 5:18; 17:6; LC 4th Comm., # 105, Trigl. p. 6115).

3. It is God who opens or closes the womb (Gen 16:1-2; 17:15-19; 20:18; 21:1-2; 25:21; 29:31; 30:2-6, 23f; Deut. 32:18; Lev. 20:20f; Judg. 13:3; Ruth 4:13; 1 Sam. l:19f; 2:21; Job 10:8-12; Psalm 22:9-10; 113:9; 139:13-16; Eccles. 11:5; Isa. 8:18; 43:1,7; 44:2,24; 49:1,5; 66:9; Jer. 1:5; Lk. 1:36f, 57f; Heb. 11:11).

4. Having children is a good work for Christians (1 Tim. 2:15; AP XXIII, #32, Trigl. p. 3736).

5. Christians are to be mindful that they are not only to be fruitful and populate the earth, but they are to bring up their children as Christians and thus populate heaven (Prov. 3:21f.; 4:3f., 20-22; Mk. 10:13-16; Acts 2:38f.; Eph. 6:1,4; Heb. 2:10).

6. In Scripture barrenness is regarded as an affliction (Gen. 11:30; 15:2; 16:2; 18:11f.; 25:21; 30:1,22f.; 1 Sam. 1:2,5-7,l0f.; Prov. 30:15f; Luke 1:7,24f.,58).

7. There are many examples in Scripture of fruitful parents among the godly (Gen. 3:20; 4:1,25; 5:4; 24:60; 30:1-24; Judg. 13:2f; Job 1:2; 42:13-16).

8. The Word of God prohibits us to "put asunder" marriage (Matt. 19:4-6), including its purposes (1 Cor. 7:2,5; Gen. 2:24).

9. The Bible exhibits the wrath of God upon those who defy His will (Gen. 38:8-10; Exod. 21:22; Rom. 1:18).

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).

Pastors should counsel families both publicly and privately to observe these principles. The churches and ministers should not take it upon themselves to investigate the private practices of their members (Eighth Commandment). Refusal to reproduce should be treated first by patient instruction and counsel. Nevertheless, when a situation becomes a public scandal then evangelical discipline is in order (Matt. 18:17).

While we allow for exegetical differences and exceptional cases (casuistry), we must also maintain and teach the principles relating to this issue (Matt. 28:20; Acts 20:27). Such was the united teach­ing of Dr. Martin Luther and the "Old Missouri" fathers (C.F.W. Walther, F. Pieper, A.L. Graebner, C.M. Zorn, W.H.T. Dau, J.T. Mueller, W. Dallman, F. Bente, E.W.A. Koehler, L. Fuerbringer, T. Engelder, Th. Laetsch, G. Luecke, W.A. Maier, M.J. Naumann, et al.) and LCR leaders such as P.E. Kretzmann and W.H. McLaughlin.

The reasons given to justify the prevention of conception are often based upon myths, selfishness, materialism, hedonism (love of pleasure), convenience, usurpation of God's prerogative, or humanis­tic reasoning and generally indicate a distrust of the Almighty God and His Word.

NOTES

1. The unmarried are not to reproduce, since they are unable to engage in legitimate sexual inter­course.

2. "God created man for procreation, Gen. 1:28 ... No man's law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God."

3. "First. Gen. 1:28 teaches that men were created to fruitful and that one sex in a proper way should desire the other. For we are speaking not of concupiscence, which is sin, but of that appetite which was to have been in nature in its integrity, which they call physical love. And this love of one sex for the other is truly a divine ordinance. But since this ordinance of God cannot be removed without an extraordinary work of God, it follows that the right to contract marriage cannot be removed by statutes or vows.

"The adversaries cavil at these arguments; they say that in the beginning the commandment was given to replenish the earth, but that now since the earth has been replenished, marriage is not commanded. See how wisely they judge! The nature of men is so forced by the Word of God that it is fruitful not only in the beginning of the creation, but as long as this nature of our bodies will exist; just as the earth becomes fruitful by the word, Gen. 1:11: Let the earth bring forth grass, yielding seed. Because of this ordinance the earth not only commenced in the beginning to bring forth plants, but the fields are clothed every year as long as this natural order will exist. Therefore, just as by human laws the nature of the earth cannot be changed, so, without a special work of God, the nature of a human being can be changed neither by vows nor by human law (that a woman should not desire a man, nor a man a woman)."

4. "Therefore, He also wishes us to honor it (matrimony), and to maintain and conduct it as a divine and blessed estate; because, in the first place, He has instituted it before all others, and therefore created man and woman separately (as is evident), not for lewdness, but that they should (legiti­mately) live together, be fruitful, beget children, and nourish and train them to the honor of God."

5. "To this estate of fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction above all estates that are beneath it that He not simply commands us to love our parents, but to honor them. .. He separates and distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them at His side."

6. "...that woman is saved by the conjugal works themselves, by conjugal intercourse, by bearing children and other duties. But what does St. Paul mean? Let the reader observe that faith is added, and that domestic duties without faith are not praised. If they continue, he says, in faith. For he speaks of the whole class of mothers. Therefore he requires especially faith, by which a woman receives the remission of sins and justification... Thus the duties of the woman please God on account of faith, and the believing woman is saved who in such duties devoutly serves her calling."

11 comments:

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

Of the 10 points in the LCR statement, the only one that actually supports your radical position is #8, which also happens to be the one in the list that makes no exegetical sense.

When you begin a post by saying that all "family planning" is sin, and the post is so very long, one might expect to find something more than that by way of a supporting argument.

Oh, also, it's unlikely you are going to find any interlocutors who agree to the way you group contraception and abortion together under the heading of "family planning" for "purposes of this discussion." That's nonsense, man. Next we can have a discussion of the sinfulness of "vocation planning" where "for the purposes of discussion" we equate the desire to be a soldier and the desire to be a hitman.

Caspar said...

Eric,

My intent of throwing out the LCR position document was merely a starting point prior to the arguments. The supporting arguments will come in subsequent posts. As I said, "I would like to present the entire biblical evidence first in short form in this post and then move through it point by point in subsequent posts according to individual biblical arguments."

The LCR document is not complete in its explanation of the biblical evidence, but it does present it in the best concise organized format I seen. Evidence approves premises. Premises are not arguments. This evidence is not organized in the LCR document exactly the way I will make my argument, but it presents virtually all of it in an organized way.

In order to support my position, I must take the biblical evidence and through argument prove a conclusion. I have not begun that yet. I'm sorry you expected my supporting argument in this post. By way of the LCR document, I'm just giving biblical citations for those readers who are truly engaged in this discussion to begin investigating.

If the evidence indicates my premises are true, and my logic is valid, then reasonable people cannot disagree with my position in the end - even if you still don't agree. ;-)

Caspar

Devona said...

Caspar, did you get Pr. Rufner's permission to change the format of the blog?

I haven't heard from him for a while. I was wondering what is going on.

Anonymous said...

I'm relatively new to this blog but have been following it intently since I discovered it a few weeks ago. Although I've never commented, I check for new comments from others every day.

To be candid, I'm rather disappointed that we have to wait for your evidence before discussing the LCR document. I hope it's not too long before you post again.

I'm looking forward to the discussion being centered on Biblical arguments. I really enjoy this blog.

Chris

Caspar said...

Yes, Devona, I did. He's been very busy but is planning to get back to the blog soon.

Devona said...

Ok, Thanks for answering. :)

Sarah said...

"If the evidence indicates my premises are true, and my logic is valid, then reasonable people cannot disagree with my position in the end - even if you still don't agree. ;-)"

I am wary of clever arguments sometimes.

As many lawyers know, the TRUTH is of no concern in a court of law. The "winners" tend to be the ones with the greatest rhetorical skill. It is altogether possible for someone to hold the TRUTH and not have the skills to articulate it.

Caspar said...

Chris,

Thanks for your comment. I hope no one feels they have to wait to comment on anything. Please, feel free to comment on the LCR document.

Caspar

Caspar said...

Sarah,

Rhetorical skill rests upon three basic modes of persuasion:

1. Reasoning (Logic) - this is the argument, and what I said is fact: if the premises are true, and the logic is valid, reasonable people cannot disagree with the conclusion. If all participants of a discussion are using logic, and being careful not to be swayed by the next two modes of persuasion, all will agree in the end.

2. The Ethical Appeal - the speaker's character as revealed in the presentation makes you believe his argument, irrespective of the actual valitity of the reasoning or the truth of the premises.

3. The Emotional Appeal - the presentation of the argument is such that it elicits the emotions desired in the audience to accept your argument and act upon it - think of Mark Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral (Shakespeare), again irrespective of the logic.

I am obviously not very good at #2 and #3. My character seems to be in question already, as I have been accused of being "rather harsh and condescending to individuals on this blog."

My emotional appeal is also very weak. My "radical, extreme" position against family planning is one which elicits the most negative emotions from people. It is completely contrary to the postmodern way of thinking. It intrudes in the most relentless way on concept of individual rights as it prohibits the "right to choose" how many (if any) children to bear.

No, Sarah, you need not be afraid of my rhetorical skills in this instance. I am a logical thinker, and will continue to present my position in a simple logical format, regardless how "heartless" it may make me sound and regardless how many negative emotions it elicits - NOT because I don't care about people's feelings, nor because I desire to make them mad, but rather because I am apparently not gifted in the ability to appeal to people in that way.

At least you know I'm not trying to trick you. What you see is what you get. If my premises and untrue, and/or my reasoning invalid, all I have to present are qualities of speech which seem to repel most people. In any case, there's nothing "clever" about it in the sense that you need be wary of me. I know I'm not going to convince you or anyone else unless what I present is true.

Caspar

Lauren said...

As I imagined, comments slowed when Caspar posted that all contraception is sin. What then is there to talk about regarding NFP, the Pill, etc? Nothing, I guess. However, I remain unconvinced that planning your family is sinful (even from the passages in Scripture), so, here's to sinning boldly and forgiveness!

*maybe this will spark some conversation*

Caspar said...

Lauren,

"Sin boldly" is an unfortunate mistranslation of Luther used by many as a license to sin. What he actually wrote is more accurately translated:

"Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world." [Source: Project Wittenberg]

The point is that it is important not to minimize any of our sins or try to interpret the Law as something manageable. There is a verse in Luther's German translation of the Bible which uses virtually the same wording Luther did in the above quote. There is little doubt in my mind that this is what Luther was paraphrasing in his (in)famous statement quoted above.

Romans 5:20-21 (Luther Bibel 1545)

"Das Gesetz aber ist neben eingekommen, auf daß die Sünde mächtiger würde. Woaber die Sünde mächtig geworden ist, da ist doch die Gnade viel mächtiger geworden, auf daß, gleichwie die Sünde geherrscht hat zum Tode, also auch herrsche die Gnade durch die Gerechtigkeit zum ewigen Leben durch Jesum Christum, unsern HERRN."

My English translation of the German:

"The law however came in besides, so that sin became more strong. But where sin becomes strong, nevertheless grace becomes even more strong, so that, as sin prevailed to death, thus grace also prevails through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord."

NKJV - "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

My point is not to say that Luther's German is the best translation of the Greek of this verse (I haven't even looked at that), but rather to point out what it is that Luther was trying to say in this often misunderstood phrase.

So now, to put this in context, we must not say, as you did above, "so, here's to sinning boldly." Paul continues from the verse quoted above:

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"

NO! We must not "sin boldly" in the sense that phrase is understood by people. We must flee from sin straight to the cross. Of course we will continue to fall into sin because of our weakness and sinfulness. But we must not resign ourselves to living in sin.

I understand that you are not convinced of my biblical argument at this point, Lauren. I really haven't even begun to present it yet!

Thanks, all, for your patience.

Blessings,

Caspar