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

8 comments:

Caspar said...

Excellent point, Pr. Rufner. I would like someone who thinks family planning is God pleasing to define "fruitful as a whole" for us. "As a whole" is a qualifier. Obviously this qualified "fruitfulness" is NOT fruitful in some aspect. Otherwise, why the qualification?

God's Word does not use such qualified language on this subject, and He is not silent on the matter as the CTCR document implies. God did not say "be fruitful on the whole and reproduce when you desire." As I've said before, an apple tree with one apple on it can hardly be considered "fruitful." Yet people think that "as a whole" a couple who uses family planning is being fruitful. Going around plucking all but a few of the apple blossoms off a tree is hardly being "as a whole, fruitful."

The CTCR document says some very good things, but errs in qualifying them incorrectly. I have previously created an edited version of the CTCR document which you will find in the second half of my initial post here.

Caspar

Caspar said...

Sorry, that link didn't work right.

Here is the right page for my edit of the CTCR document.

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

I don't understand the argument here. God said "be fruitful." To be fruitful "on the whole" is to be fruitful. What's the problem? The person who interprets "be fruitful" as "be fruitful on every possible occasion" is the one who is qualifying the command, as far as I can tell. He's telling you _how_ fruitful you need to try to be--a detail God omitted.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Dr. Phillips, I am glad to see you are back.

However, I say right back at you, "I don't understand [your] argument here." Not once did I imply that a proper qualification is to "be fruitful on every possible occasion." No, my concern here is over "on a whole..."

Certainly it is clear to you that the qualification "on a whole," is just as spurious as the qualification "on every possible occasion." Both legalize that matter - just on different ends.

I will say this: I am discouraged that you have not taken the time to engage what has been put forth - that Christ's (the Groom's) union with His fruitful bride the Church informs us as to what a marriage He has called/called to be fruitful looks like.

Eric Phillips said...

David,

The fact that I still disagree with you does not constitute proof that I have failed to engage your arguments.

"To be fruitful as a whole" is a clause that is clearly constructed to answer those who insist that we should try to be fruitful every chance we get. If you are not one of those so insisting, then you must be okay with some contraception, as I am. But if you are actually opposed to all contraception, as your posts have thus far led me to believe, then it is disingenuous for you to protest that you have never said we ought to try to be fruitful on every possible occasion. It is the only possible conclusion.

Eric Phillips said...

Pr. Rufner,

Looking over your post again, I think I misunderstood your comment about me engaging your ecclesial argument. I thought you were saying you were disappointed that I returned to this blog with the same unreconstructed positions I held before the hiatus.

I actually think it's a good connection you suggest between the Church's fruitfulness and that of a married couple. It might work better than you intend it to, however. As a corporate entity, the Church must indeed never put a barrier in the way of those who might come to spiritual rebirth, but sow the good seed faithfully at all opportunities, trusting and praying God to give the increase. However, as individuals, we the Church sometimes have conflicts in individual situations. We have the chance to witness to someone, but we can't think of how to say it or can't get up the nerve, and the moment is gone; or we figure we don't know them well enough to say anything, and we should get to know them a little better first; or we are going to be late for an appointment if we stop to talk; or we decide we can't afford to give more money.

Two JWs came to my apartment once when I was reading for my comprehensive exams, which were only a week away. In trying to get me interested in talking, they listed a couple of questions I might be curious about, and one was "Is there a Trinity of three gods, or just One?" I'd just been reading Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus, and I _wanted_ to have that discussion, but I decided regretfully that I needed to read instead, with that deadline coming up. I told them to come back in a week or two, and gave them my number, but they never came back.

Now was that a missed opportunity to be fruitful? Yep. Of course, it's very unlikely that JWs of the sort convinced enough to go door-to-door would have been swayed by my explanations, but the Church's job is to sow faithfully and leave the matter of the increase to God. So did I make the wrong decision? I don't know. But if anyone wanted to accuse me of sin for it, I'd tell him to get lost.

So if you're serious about wanting to keep this discussion away from legal questions, and you want to substitute this Church-and-fruitfulness argument, I think that's great. If people can think about it that way, it will make them examine their contraceptive motives a lot more seriously, and have good overall effects. It will not make them all give up contraception entirely, though; nor should it.

Also if you're serious about this, then you need to debate Caspar too, because that is decidedly NOT his approach to the matter. And the statement you a criticizing in the CTCR is necessary to defend against people like him.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Eric P.,

Again I say, spurious alternative. I know plenty of people, including myself (of this you are correct), who being opposed to contraception do not adhere to your "we should try to be fruitful every chance we get" crowd (The fact is that we can't/aren't). In fact, I don't know anyone in this crowd you propose. Can you produce one? I fear that you do harm to your own argument and this conversation by under-representing or misrepresenting those who do not hold your own position.

I in fact, took the time to delineate myself from your above dichotomy – a dichotomy I believe to be false (see comment above dated: 5/16/2006). There I wrote: "Certainly it is clear to you that the qualification 'on a whole,' is just as spurious as the qualification 'on every possible occasion.' Both legalize that matter - just on different ends." From that I hope it is painfully clear to you and to all that I do not represent a position that claims that “we should try to be fruitful every chance we get…"

Yet you respond that "if you are actually opposed to all contraception, as your posts have thus far led me to believe, then it is disingenuous for you to protest that you have never said we ought to try to be fruitful on every possible occasion."

Not only did I represent myself above entirely other than you suggest I am in the habit of doing, but I would readily repent of having represented myself in the manner you suggest I have, if found to be doing so elsewhere.

In the meantime, I would ask that you would graciously seek to understand and critique the position that has been put forth, at least by this writer. Why? Because by attributing to me and critiquing me based on a position I do not hold, you have now furthermore leveled to me the claim of being “disingenuous” - not a light matter for either of us.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Having taken time to carefully write an post the previously comment I see that in the meantime you have commented further...

I am genuinely glad that you are back. I find your tone at times to be abrasive, but you do engage the conversation and cause me to want to be clear in thought and word.

I do take seriously the image of Christ and the Church and that of the groom and the bride. For it is more than a metaphor or image. It is Christ and His church. It is that our marriages as sons and daughters of the Most High... well, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church." Ephesians 5:32

I also find myself in agreement with you that this image "might work better than you intend..." That the profundity of this mystery is greater than the outworkings of it that we have already discussed is for certain. Furthermore, I agree with you that it severlely challenges reasons for not sowing seed when we have been called to sow. Thus, it most certainly challenges the use of contraception and NFP alike. I for one, am willing to be challenged by it - and even changed by it if it calls me to change. My simple hope is that others will be too.