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.



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?



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.


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.

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


Amish, Large Families, and Hochmut

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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.