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.

16 comments:

Caspar said...

P.S. What theology is there other than pastoral theology?

Devona said...

Well, some people say that we're all theologians, since we all contemplate the truths of God, even atheists. So, qualifying it as "pastoral" gives it more authority than, say, my "lay theology" as an arm-chair theologian at best and a silly speculator at worst (and admittedly most frequent).


~~~~~~

And I wanted to say that this is probably my favorite post on this blog to date. Thanks for sharing the quote, Caspar.

Caspar said...

My comment that "all theology" is "pastoral theology" isn't meant to say that laymen cannot "do theology." Rather it is meant to point out that if theology does not have the same end and purpose as that of a pastor, it is simply an excercise in academics. Even as a layman, I should always "do" theology from a pastoral perspective. Unfortunately, I am not a very pastoral thinker. My sinful mind wastes all kinds of time on academic excercises, and my communications reflect this deficiency of pastoral thinking.

This is one of the things that makes me consider Rev. Rolf Preus the greatest living theologian I know of.

Caspar

Caspar said...

P.S. I must credit to my pastor, Rev. Roger James, for being the one who first taught me this important fact. In a discussion about another subject I tried to make the distinction (which I now realize was a false dichotomy) that he was speaking from a pastoral perspective whereas I was speaking from a purely theological perspective. Pastor James asked me what purpose I thought theology has if not a "pastoral" purpose.

Caspar

Devona said...

Yeah, I was thinking about this more as I was driving around with Liv today. I was wondering why I answered you the way I did, when even *I* as a lay-woman should be trying to see theology through the eyes of a pastor-- meaning, that I should be trying to pronounce the Gospel, and to better understand my sinful/redeemed self.

Caspar said...

Don't forget that the third use of the law is also one of the tools of a good pastor which he must never deny. Pastoral theology is not ALL Gospel. Even the Keys are used in two very different ways. The key (pun intended) is to apply what is needed.

Devona said...

I wonder if a good study on the uses of the Law might be in order? Do you think that it would be applicable, or that we could work it into the discussion of contraceptives?

Pastor Rufner, what do you think? Caspar? Am I off base here, but I think it might be helpful...

Caspar said...

Good idea, Devona.

Let me give a brief overview.

1st Use: Civil order. WRT family planning, civil order is lost in today's at-will use of family planning. The family is the basic building block of society. Family planning and all the anti-child attitudes that go along with it have almost eradicated the family.

2nd Use: Showing us our sin. It is important that we not water down God's law so as to make it something we think we can follow. God's Law requires perfect obedience. The question in this case is what perfect obedience to the creation ordinance "be fruitful and multiply" really is. Most of my posts have been directed to showing what this is. It condemns us all, and therefore we are all naturally defensive.

3rd Use: Instructing us in our Christian life how to live according to God's will. We will never live up to it completely, but this does not free us to ignore God's law. The Third Use of the Law has been greatly ignored in American Lutheranism. The result is antinomianism, which is what I spend virtually all my time on this blog fighting against.

I suggest everyone read the Formula on the Third Use of the Law.

Caspar

Anonymous said...

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-05/bsj-mm052306.php

'Rhythm method' may kill off more embryos than other methods of contraception
The rhythm method and embryonic death J Med Ethics 2006; 32: 355-6

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

Antinomianism is saying that Christians don't need to worry about the Law, because we are not under Law but under grace. According to my recollection, no one on this blog has ever said, "Who cares if contraception is right or not? I'm a Christian, not a Jew."

In short, you've spend a lot of time trying to prove that contraception violates the Law of God, but no time at all fighting against antinomianism.

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

Antinomianism is saying that Christians don't need to worry about the Law, because we are not under Law but under grace. According to my recollection, no one on this blog has ever said, "Who cares if contraception is right or not? I'm a Christian, not a Jew."

In short, you've spend a lot of time trying to prove that contraception violates the Law of God, but no time at all fighting against antinomianism.

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

Antinomianism is saying that Christians don't need to worry about the Law, because we are not under Law but under grace. According to my recollection, no one on this blog has ever said, "Who cares if contraception is right or not? I'm a Christian, not a Jew."

In short, you've spend a lot of time trying to prove that contraception violates the Law of God, but no time at all fighting against antinomianism.

Caspar said...

Does saying it three times make it more accurate?

NOT!

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

I didn't say it three times. The blog software did. As you should have assumed.

Caspar said...

Blog software does not randomly repeat posts. You have to push the "login and publish" button three times to get it to publish three times. We must be talking about operator error here. Possibly you did this because of impatience with a slow Internet response to your first click. You could delete your additional inadvertant posts by clicking on the trash can at the bottom of each. In any case, can't you take a joke? That's what my comment was meant as.

You're being too legalistically academic, Eric. ;-) You are working from the classical definition of antinomianism rather than the popular definition which calls "antinomian" any arguments against aspects of the law which are being denied, just as my position is called "pietistic" and "legalistic" by my opponents because it is seen to focus too much on the law, although I certainly do not ascribe to classical pietism or legalism.

Lighten up, "Doctor."

Caspar the friendly doc

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

If you choose to use the popular, inaccurate definitions of theological words when engaging in theological discourse, you have nothing to complain about when someone corrects you.