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!


Anonymous said...

This is a selfish, selfish blogspot.
The world does not need large families. Industry needs large families. You are helping to feed the machine that is slowly sucking the life out of us all. Large families mean more Walmarts, McMansions, highways, factory farms and pollution. Large families mean every tree is a floorboard and every park is a development. Life is already unbearable, what you are proposing will surely be our demise.
Shame on you all!!

Christopher Gillespie said...

Pr. Rufner,

I was just remarking last evening that this blog has slowed in its posting. Voila! The next morning I see a new post!

I used similar logic in a recent post... I thought it to be a challenging statement but no one responded. It surprised me as it was a new perspective for me. Ephesians 5 and family decisions

Thanks for the post. I have had challenges broaching this issue on the seminary campus. My best approach is Soft and slow, as a professor coined. Its largely avoided and is held as a "personal" decision.

The language of Ephesians 5 turns such a concept on its head.

Caspar said...


And, as a "personal" decision, we see how closely linked it is to that ultimate "personal" decision about whether or not to give birth to a baby: a woman's "right" to choose.

That's where turning God's absolutes into "personal decisions" gets us.

Pr. Rufner,

My pastor brought up the issue of family planning some time back as well. He made a statement during Bible study (prompted by rather "leading" questions from myself and another father) questioning the godliness of family planning. He said it was not an issue he wanted to debate publicly at that point, but that if anyone wished to discuss it with him personally that he was open to that.

And, Anonymous:

There is a cruel irony in your cry of "selfish" toward those of us who are willing to have large families (which, incidentally, does not necessarily equate to having a large family). Having a large family can hardly be something motivated by selfishness. It finds its origin in a more selfless submission to the will of God. Tell a mother of eleven children she's being selfish when she's in labor for her twelfth. You'd get a real laugh.

You write: "Large families mean every tree is a floorboard and every park is a development."

I deny your assertion, but seeing that you believe this Malthusian nonsense, can you at least see that you are the one taking a selfish position by not wanting (for the sake of another life being brought into the world) to risk losing a tree or a park that you think is the source of your happiness and prosperity?

Then again, perhaps it's just a matter of perspective. The sacrifices of parents in bearing, caring for, educating, and feeding a large family cannot even begin to compare with what some tree-hugging environmentalists would sacrifice for the sake of "Mother Earth." Are you in favor of voluntary human extinction, zero population growth, or something in between?

I'm sorry you find life "so unbearable" because of all the other people you have to put up with. The truth is, God would never allow you to suffer more than you can bear, and he will continue to provide for your every need regardless how many people there are in the world. Problem is, our felt-needs are much greater than our true-needs.

I'm certainly glad that at least one tree was cut down and made into planks... the one that formed the cross on which Christ was sacrificed for the forgiveness of the sins of the world.


Caspar said...

Evangelicals are actually buying into this environmentalist population reduction garbage: From Climate Control to Population Control: Troubling Background on the 'Evangelical Climate Initiative'

Eric Phillips said...

Wow, that anonymous comment is ridiculous. First he calls you selfish, apparently for pushing industrial interests that none of you actually have a stake in. Then he says, in effect, "Keep the population down so there will be more room for US!"

Uh huh.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking a lot about the topic Pr Rufner discussed in his adult Bible study. It wasn't until I started reading/investigating and learning about biblical roles for men and women that my heart was open to hear about how contraceptives don't really play a part in God's plan.

I was a feminist, plain and simple, even though I wouldn't have considered myself 'radical'. I wasn't raised a Christian, and was brought up with the 'women can do anything men can do', and 'you should have a career that fulfills you', and all sorts of other mantras that we fill young girl's heads with. In the early years of my marriage, I felt I was *entitled* to mom's nights out; that my dh neeeded to do HIS share of the housework (even though he'd already worked an 8 hour day and had a long commute), and I was definitely NOT interested in having more dc to add to my work load.

But God changed all that as I began to learn of my vocation/calling as a wife and mother, and how rich and beautiful and fulfilling that calling could be. And now, there is NO place on earth I'd rather be than in my home, serving my family, schooling my children, and eagerly awaiting the arrival of our 4th child (due in 3 weeks or so).