11.16.2006

Birth Control, Youth, & the ipod.

Our 5 week preaching and teaching series continues to bear fruit. This last Sunday night at our High School Youth Group I did a question box night. (We are between Bible Studies.) The week before, they had written out questions and put them in the box, and this Sunday as they arrived more questions went in the box.

I do this about once a year and affording them this opportunity is a blessing to me in return as it acts as a great barometer of the different thoughts, beliefs, and even storms that are moving through their lives. Normally the questions range from the comical and hardly serious, to the dead serious, to the scandalous.

I do preview the questions ahead of time but I give no preference to them. After a quick shuffle of the cards right before the youth I pick one out and we then consider it in the light God’s Word.

This Sunday, the first question I pulled out, and the only one we got to this night was, “What does God/the Bible have to say about Birth Control?”

In the 5 weeks preceding this question we had certainly talked about marriage and procreation, but never at any point did I bring up the topic of Birth Control. Yet our discussion of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood had prompted this question.

We again approached Genesis 3. We looked at Genesis 38 (I presented to them the historic church position on Onanism and the modern interpretation – they were largely unimpressed with the modern interpretation. Of course they also found the concept of a kinsman-redeemer to be quite scandalous). We looked at Malachi 2, Ephesians 5… We talked about the churches historic stance on the topic and the changes within the last 100 years. We considered Humanae Vitae and the Pope’s prophetic predictions concerning the effects of the contraceptive age upon the culture and world at large. We covered a lot of territory and they were very interested in it and very receptive to it.

At one point, one of the youth called for a thumbs up, thumbs down vote – What does God think about birth control? I looked around the room and thumbs were down all around. Interesting.

I thank the Lord for the opportunity to have this discussion with them. As others have noted on this blog - it was one more chance to gently and not coercively or heartlessly bring this before them. It is a beginning, a starting point. There are still discussions to be had. After all, this is the i-pod generation, if I can say that. Where as past generations reinterpreted scripture or even ignored it, I believe I see in this generation that finely honed consumer skill to pick and choose. No longer do you have to buy a whole album of music. Instead, you can simply choose the songs you want…

Thumbs were down all around the room, but the question remains: Will they be moved and normed in their lives by the whole of scripture or will they pick and choose.

78 comments:

Christopher Gillespie said...

Thank you for relaying this tale of pastoral guidance. I fear we have gone to far down the path. But here we see that by the Holy Spirit's use of the Word, truth can speak to the hearts of people. Well done in your presentation!

Caspar said...

Yes! This is certainly a heartening story!!!

Chalk another one up for the Word of God. These young people are not yet faced with all the tribulation of parenthood that makes it difficult the Word of God on this issue clearly.

Will they fulfill this area of God's law? Absolutely not! As I've said before, though I use no overt form of family planning I am certainly contraceptive at heart. I believe, Lord, please help my unbelief! Some will struggle with this sin more than others, but we all will certainly struggle with it. None can keep one single letter of the law perfectly.

Thank God in Jesus Christ that we have One who has kept the law perfectly for us!

Caspar

J.Conner said...

I'm glad to hear Pr. Rufner is starting to speak to his church about God's will regarding birth control and is at least initially seeing positive results. Well done! When the stage is set properly, one cannot help but conclude that birth control has no place in marriage. I mean, if we believe God is sovereign over all things (including sexuality, fertility, and families), why do we insist on having control over OUR plan for OUR family?

Although I have not contributed to the blog for awhile, I and my wife have not been silent. I frequently preach against birth control and often times connect it with abortion.

In addition to preaching against birth control, I preach the positives/blessings of babies and families (we hear a lot about family values today, which is great, but I think we need to begin speaking more about the value of (large) families.).

I also speak about birth control in various Bible study settings. In addition, my wife often finds occasions with mothers in the congregation to discuss issues surrounding birth control.

My wife and I have also revised our contraception booklet that is in our church’s tract rack and is given to every couple considering marriage – after they read it, I discuss it with them.

On occasion I attend the local ministerial association (it’s really just some local pastors getting together to eat pizza). Anyway, I have shared several resources with them regarding Scripture’s stance on birth control. The whole topic is totally new to them, but I figure I’ll keep trying.

And I am currently taking the local circuit pastors through my theology of marriage resource. In this resource I first paint the biblical picture of marriage and then proceed to the corruptions of it. Along the way we also cover the theology of the body, which is desperately needed to give us a theologically robust language to use in regards to marriage, sex, and God’s design for them.

While results are always hard to gage, I know my wife and I can attribute at least one new baby in our small congregation to our discussions on birth control (and no, it’s not our own!). After one theology of marriage course I taught, one family in the congregation immediately stopped using the pill and a few months later conceived a child. After having her, they cannot figure out why they were contracepting. If they had continued, they never would have known their daughter.

Anyway, I just wanted Pr. Rufner to know that he is not alone. Our people need to hear and deserve to hear the truth (which, of course, must ALWAYS be balanced with love).

J.Conner

Eric Phillips said...

Which modern interpretation of the sin of Onan?

Caspar said...

The fact that you have to ask should tell you something.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Eric, from what I have read and encountered, the contemporary accounting of Onan (Gen 38) proposes that Onan's sin was solely not fullfilling the obligations of levirate marriage. Done away with in such interpretations is the judgment of not only a wrong "end" but also wrong "means" - "sprilling seed".

Caspar said...

Just for clarification for those who are less familiar with the debates on Onan, my point was simply that there is no consensus among modern commentators, while there certainly is among the "democracy of the dead." It was always clear that Onan's sin was that which was displeasing in the sight of the Lord: his act of contracepting. Granted, various theologians characterize this act in various ways, equating the act with sodomy, adultery, and even murder. But they are describing the exact same act (family planning).

Modern commentators hoping to get around this have disagreed as to which faulty alternative interpretation to hang their hat on. Onan disobeyed his father? Onan violated a specific Levitical law? Onan was selfish? Etc. In fact, all of these are true as well, but these were not the acts Onan was killed for. He was killed for what was displeasing to God's sight.

On the other hand, the text is as clear to teenagers as it was to theologians for 2000 years prior to the women's liberation and free-love movements of the middle of the last century. These kids know the embarrasing act Onan was caught in which was displeasing in the sight of God.

The myth of "personal autonomy" has drilled itself deep into the souls of baby boomers. Celibate teens can look at God's Word here with less of a jaundiced eye and see the truth that the autonomous individual prefers to find ways to wiggle around.

If it is so clear that the traditional exegesis is faulty here, then it should be easy for those who believe it is faulty to agree on the "proper" exegesis. The problem is that they don't.

Thus, "it should tell you something that you have to ask that question," Eric.

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

What it tells me is obviously not the same thing it tells you.

Pr. Rufner,

That's a really one-dimensional analysis of Onan's sin. It wasn't simply a breach of proto-Levirate marital law: it was a cruel, selfish HALF-observance of that law. Onan didn't refuse to MARRY her. He was fine with the whole idea of having another sex partner. But the _only_ reason such a practice had been _allowed_, let alone _enjoined_ was to produce offspring for the dead brother, so Onan was wilfully perverting the practice.

What's more, he was doing so in such a way as to render Tamar forever childless. He was a dog in the manger. Not only did he refuse to give her a child; he also married her so NO ONE ELSE COULD. Given this context, of COURSE his deed displeased the Lord.

Something tells me the youth group would have responded differently to this explanation than they did to the one you gave them.

Caspar said...

Eric,

Do you deny what I said? If it is so clear that the traditional exegesis is faulty here, why is it so difficult for those who believe it is faulty to agree on an alternative exegesis? How many Lutheran theologians can you quote who share your particular commentary on Genesis 38:10?

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

Don't ask that question just of the Modern interpreters. You noted yourself that the Ancient and Medieval ones had a range of opinions on the matter. You said:

"Granted, various theologians characterize this act in various ways, equating the act with sodomy, adultery, and even murder."

You're willing to overlook all that variation and consider their opinion unified simply because the bottom line for all of them was, "Contraception and the sin of Onan are the same thing." But for some reason you are _not_ willing to overlook the variations that separate modern interpreters and consider _their_ opinion to be unified when they all conclude that simple contraception was NOT the sin of Onan.

Why is that?

Caspar said...

Eric,

The Ancient, Medieval, and post-Reformation theologians all would agree that the sin of Onan (contraception) can be characterized in various ways because they would agree on the range of sins contraception is akin to. What they most certainly agree on is that Onan's sin was contraception.

In contrast, Modern interpreters disagree on exactly what it is that Onan did which was sinful, thus refusing to see his act of contraception (spilling his seed on the ground) as sin in and of itself. They think up anything they can to avoid calling contraception a sin... "Onan tried to prevent the continuation of the royal line of David to Jesus, and since Jesus has already been born, there is no absolute need to procreate anymore." ... "Onan disobeyed his father, which was punishable by death." ... "Onan only failed to fulfill his duty under Levitical law, which is obviously not applicable to us anymore." ... "Onan failed to love his brother, which he could have done by just having one child (considered 'fruitful') to raise as his brother's heir, and then he could have spilled his seed all he wanted to." ... "Onan lied to Judah because he said he'd fulfill his duty, but had no intention of doing so." All of these various sins of Onan involve his spilling of seed, but the spilling of seed was incidental to the actual sin, not the sin itself. These sins could be committed without spilling seed by disobeying or lying to his father about something else, or by not marrying his dead brother's wife. The spilling of seed was not integral to these sins.

In contrast, all Lutheran and prior orthodox theologians before the middle of the last century agreed that the spilling of seed was the actual sin, and always is a sin, and characterized why it is sinful in a variety of ways. Reading them, one gets the distinct impression that none of them would disagree with the others' characterizations. They're all correct. Contraception is akin to murder in that (while it doesn't kill someone) it actually prevents life. It is akin to adultery in that it selfishly seeks sexual gratification without responsibility. It is akin to sodomy, in that it is intentionally non-procreative hedonistic sex. All these characterizations describe the specific sin of contraception. It is unbelief, because it is a lack or absence of trust in God, the Creator and sustainer of all life. Most importantly, these theologians are not saying Onan's sin was something distinct from his act of contraception. They are simply characterizing what contraception IS.

All the modern interpreters wish to imply that Onan's sin was NOT CONTRACEPTION in order to safeguard the supposed inalienable right to contraception our very recent postmodern world believes in. The question of what, exactly, Onan was killed for is given a plethora of answers. Modern interpreters do not agree on what Onan's sin was. The Ancient, Medieval, and Reformation theologians all agree that the sin for which Onan was killed was contraception. The modern interpretations all came after Margaret Sanger talked everybody into believing that family planning was good stewardship.

Caspar

Caspar said...

Again, Eric, please answer my question:

How many Lutheran theologians can you quote who share your particular commentary on Genesis 38:10?

Pr. David Rufner said...

Eric,

The very first commentary I could put my hands on today had this to say on the subject: “Levirate marriage laws required that if a woman’s husband died without offspring having been produced, it was the duty of his brother to bear a child by her in order to continue his dead brother’s line. This custom is established as legislation in the Mosaic law (Deut 25:5-10)… When Onan refuses to do his duty by Tamar, he is punished by God and likewise he expires. Onan’s refusal is explained by his knowledge that the son will not be his (38:9). We need to recognize, then, that there is a birthright issue here. Er was the firstborn and entitled to the birthright. If he has no offspring, the birthright will transfer to Onan. If, however, Tamar bears a son that is conceived as Er’s, the birthright will pass to that son. We can therefore conclude that Onan is punished by death for preserving his inheritance rights by disallowance of the competition.” (The NIV Application Commentary Genesis by Dr. John H. Walton).

I believe that this stands as a good example of a modern commentary that treats the goals and motivation but not the fullness of the means.

Admittedly, as an initial distinction (my above comment on 11/21) it could be considered “one dimensional”. Nevertheless I believe that it is a valid distinction and it appears to be one that you yourself make when writing to Caspar: “You're willing to overlook all that variation and consider their opinion unified simply because the bottom line for all of them was, ‘Contraception and the sin of Onan are the same thing.’ But for some reason you are _not_ willing to overlook the variations that separate modern interpreters and consider _their_ opinion to be unified when they all conclude that simple contraception was NOT the sin of Onan.” Within each distinction there are other distinctions – other dimensions – other voices (Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, Luther and Calivin – to name but a few in one camp). But these further distinctions do not obliterate the validity of the first. Concerning pedagogy, I do believe that it is good and proper to establish the first dimension/distinction before establishing any others. This is not, however license to produce caricatures or straw men - which takes me to the following:

You write: “Something tells me the youth group would have responded differently to this explanation than they did to the one you gave them.” With a mighty arm you have knocked over a straw man. From the initial post or from my one comment can you please construct for me what I did and did not teach my youth group concerning Gen 38? You can’t. In fact, you never asked. Yet you responded as if you did. That’s a cheap shot.

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

Sure, there would be a lot of agreement among pre-20th theologians on the subject of contraception, even though different men approached it differently. But there is also wide agreement among 20th and 21st-century theologians on the same subject, so what is your point? You list five contemporary candidates for the sin of Onan, implying that they are somehow mutually exclusive, but they aren't. They go together at least as well as the various explanations proposed by ancient and medieval theologians.

Also, I don't understand how you can claim that "The spilling of seed was not integral to these sins." Had Onan gone through with the act instead of spilling his seed, he wouldn't have been guilty of any of them.

> How many Lutheran theologians can you quote
> who share your particular commentary on
> Genesis 38:10?

I can't give you a very broad Lutheran florilegia on any subject. I'm sure you could supply a few names though, from the 20th and 21st centuries at least.

Eric Phillips said...

Pr. Rufner,

There was no cheap shot. Here's what happened:

1) You said you explained the modern interpretation, and the teens found it implausible.

2) I asked, "Which modern interpretation?"

3) You replied, "Onan's sin was solely not fulfilling the obligations of levirate marriage."

4) I pointed out that this amounts to a straw man.

5) You complained that I didn't know enough about what you taught your youth group to make that conclusion.

But if I didn't know enough, that's your fault. I didn't assume anything; I asked, and went by your reply. You did not say, "Among other things, I told them this...." or "I explained the nuances, but really it boils down to this...." Here is what you told the youth group, in your own words: according to contemporary interpreters, "Onan's sin was SOLELY not fulfilling the obligations of levirate marriage."

If that's bad data, correct it. Don't accuse me of a cheap shot when all I did was take you at your word.

Caspar said...

Eric,

You write: "..there is also wide agreement among 20th and 21st-century theologians on the same subject..."

You have failed to provide any evidence of this assertion of yours.

"You list five contemporary candidates for the sin of Onan, implying that they are somehow mutually exclusive, but they aren't. They go together at least as well as the various explanations proposed by ancient and medieval theologians."

Eric, I have shown that the modern interpretations don't "go together" (as you put it) as do the consensus of ancient, medieval, Reformation, pre-1930s theologians of all denominations, and all pre-1960s Lutheran theologians. These all agree that Onan's sin was contraception (both as a "means" and "end"). The moderns agree that the spilling of seed was the "means," a morally neutral means in and of itself, but they entirely disagree on what the "end" was that Onan was punished with death for (disobeying father, disobeying Levitical law, hating his brother, refusing to continue the messianic progenitor line, etc.).

And now your own personal take can be added to the plethora of modern interpretations of what Onan was killed for: "contracepting in such a way as to render Tamar forever childless." It appears this interpretation of yours is intentionally contrived to agree with your strange take on the subject of birth control, namely that one can be fruitful while contracepting as long as one is not planning to be "forever childless." Your eisegesis of God's command to "be fruitful and multiply" oddly reduces to a "willingness to someday submit to the possibility of at least one blessing from God's procreative purpose of marriage."

"Also, I don't understand how you can claim that 'The spilling of seed was not integral to these sins.' Had Onan gone through with the act instead of spilling his seed, he wouldn't have been guilty of any of them."

OK. I think I understand your confusion. Let me clarify. Contraception (as a means) is not integral to the various sins proposed by modern interpreters because these sins could be accomplished by other means. He could disobey his father and even Levitical law in many other ways. He could have hated his brother in many other ways, he could have refused to continue the messianic progenitor line by simply refusing to marry Tamar. The "means" of contraception is kept from being sinful in all these interpretations of Genesis 38:10 because contraception is not integral to any of these proposed sins of Onan.

I asked twice: How many Lutheran theologians can you quote who share your particular take on Genesis 38:10?

Your latest non-answer:

"I can't give you a very broad Lutheran florilegia on any subject."

Really? Do you just lack the resources, or do you sincerely take Lutherans to be in that much confusion and disagreement on Scriptural exegesis that you can't find broad agreement on "any subject?"

"I'm sure you could supply a few names though, from the 20th and 21st centuries at least."

No, I could not, as this is the first time I have heard this unique interpretation of yours. It's not my job to supply proof for your arguments anyway. Again, for the third time: can you provide any contemporary support for your particular eisegesis?

The reason I continue to ask you this is because it is sometimes asserted (not necessarily by you) that the change in teaching on birth control followed a new revelations in biblical scholarship on the subject. The known history of this change in teaching indicates the opposite: that new interpretations of Scripture have followed the change in doctrine as the various objections in Scripture have been argued. In fact, the faulty CTCR document on Human Sexuality gives no Scriptural support for its assertions. You would think they would have liked to quote your eisegesis of Genesis 38:10 to support their assertion that while "it is to be expected that marriage will not ordinarily be voluntarily childless... in the absence of Scriptural prohibition, there need be no objection to contraception within a marital union which is, as a whole, fruitful."

In actuality, the most common argument I run into from Lutheran pastors and theologians asserts that Scripture is entirely silent on the issue, leaving it to Christian freedom. Then, when one brings up the Scriptural evidence the church found pertinent to the subject for 2000 years, the new interpretations begin to fly, and they fly in a multitude of directions.

If you are going to contradict the consistent historical teaching of the church regarding the interpretation of Scripture, the burden of proof is on you.

So, Eric, let me ask another question: How do you support your position that "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" in Genesis 1:28 as it applies to modern marriages simply (and minimally) means "not intentionally childless"?

Eric Phillips said...

I repeat, the modern interpretations do not conflict any more than the ancient ones do. To both sets of interpreters, there were a number of problems with Onan's deed. Neither group is required to choose just one.

There is no greater harmony involved in saying, "He was killed because he contracepted... and here are five reasons why contraception is bad" than there is in saying "He was killed because his act of contraception involved the following five problems."

> contraception is not integral to any of these
> proposed sins of Onan.

But it is. If Onan had simply refused to marry Tamar, that would not necessarily have deprived her of children. Another kinsman redeemer could have been found. Onan was playing dog-in-the-manger. Also, he was taking advantage of the half of the law he liked (the part that gave him another sex partner) while rejecting the part that gave him that right in the first place. That particular subversion also required contraception.

> Do you just lack the resources...?

I haven't read much Lutheran theology yet beyond the Confessions, which don't address the subject.

> In actuality, the most common argument I run
> into from Lutheran pastors and theologians
> asserts that Scripture is entirely silent
> on the issue....

Yes, because the Onan incident is as close as Scripture gets, and that's not very close at all.

> Then, when one brings up the Scriptural evidence
> the church found pertinent to the subject for
> 2000 years, the new interpretations
> begin to fly

Well of course. I can't understand why you should be surprised that we have new interprations to replace the old ones that have been found wanting.

> If you are going to contradict the consistent
> historical teaching of the church regarding
> the interpretation of Scripture, the burden of proof
> is on you.

Contemporary interpreters have shouldered that burden of proof with ease.

As for your last question, let me refresh your memory. I don't consider that verse to lay an edict on the modern Christian marriage at all. I agree with Melanchthon that this command continues in us internally, as the sex drive that impels most men and women to procreate, and with Augustine that it lost the force of external law long ago when the human race first filled the earth.

Caspar said...

Eric,

My memory needs no refreshing. Your answers to my comments are so pitiful that I will not waste my time responding to any but the final one, and that only because you misrepresent the good Phillip Melanchon.

As for your agreement with Melanchthon (i.e. his words in the Confessions), you are far from agreement. Melanchthon was briefly paraphrasing the words of his master, Luther, with whom he agreed at the time of that writing:

The following translation, the first into English, is based on the text published by Johann Gr├╝nenberg in Wittenberg, Uom Eelichen Leben, as reprinted with annotations in WA 10, 275–304.

Jesus

How I dread preaching on the estate of marriage! I am reluctant to do it because I am afraid if I once get really involved in the subject it will make a lot of work for me and for others. The shameful confusion wrought by the accursed papal law has occasioned so much distress, and the lax authority of both the spiritual and the temporal swords has given rise to so many dreadful abuses and false situations, that I would much prefer neither to look into the matter nor to hear of it. But timidity is no help in an emergency; I must proceed. I must try to instruct poor bewildered consciences, and take up the matter boldly. This sermon is divided into three parts.

Part One

In the first part we shall consider which persons may enter into marriage with one another. In order to proceed aright let us direct our attention to Genesis 1[:27], “So God created man … male and female he created them.” From this passage we may be assured that God divided mankind into two classes, namely, male and female, or a he and a she. This was so pleasing to him that he himself called it a good creation [Gen. 1:31]. Therefore, each one of us must have the kind of body God has created for us. I cannot make myself a woman, nor can you make yourself a man; we do not have that power. But we are exactly as he created us: I a man and you a woman. Moreover, he wills to have his excellent handiwork honored as his divine creation, and not despised. The man is not to despise or scoff at the woman or her body, nor the woman the man. But each should honor the other’s image and body as a divine and good creation that is weil-pleasing unto God himself.

In the second place, after God had made man and woman he blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” [Gen. 1:28]. From this passage we may be assured that man and woman should and must come together in order to multiply. Now this [ordinance] is just as inflexible as the first, and no more to be despised and made fun of than the other, since God gives it his blessing and does something over and above the act of creation. Hence, as it is not within my power not to be a man, so it is not my prerogative to be without a woman. Again, as it is not in your power not to be a woman, so it is not your prerogative to be without a man. For it is not a matter of free choice or decision but a natural and necessary thing, that whatever is a man must have a woman and whatever is a woman must have a man.

For this word which God speaks, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' is not a command. It is more than a command, namely, a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore. Rather, it is just as necessary as the fact that I am a man , and more necessary than sleeping and waking, eating and drinking, and emptying the bowels and bladder. It is a nature and disposition just as innate as the organs involved in it. Therefore, just as God does not command anyone to be a man or a woman but created them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates them so that they have to multiply. And wherever men try to resist this, it remains irresistible nonetheless and goes its way through fornication, adultery, and secret sins, for this is a matter of nature and not of choice.

In the third place, from this ordinance of creation God has himself exempted three categories of men, saying in Matthew 19:12, 'There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.' Apart from these three groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse. And whoever does not fall within one of these three categories should not consider anything except the estate of marriage. Otherwise it simply impossible for you to remain righteous. For the Word of God which created you and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' abides and rules within you; you can by no means ignore it, or you will be bound to commit heinous sins without end.

[Luther's works, vol. 45, The Christian in Society II, The Estate of Marriage, pp. 15-18]

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

It's very odd. You purport to show me, by quoting Luther, that I have misunderstood Melanchthon. Then you offer a Luther quotation that merely reinforces what I've already said about Melanchthon.

I don't get it.

Caspar said...

I realize you don't get it. Let me simplify.

Do you agree with the following portion of the quote?

"For this word which God speaks, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' is not a command. It is more than a command, namely, a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore."

If so, please reconcile this with your belief that it is our prerogative to hinder this divine ordinance as long as we don't intend to hinder it "forever."

Eric Phillips said...

In context, yes, I agree with that statement, and especially the part that says it's not a command--not _legal_, but rather built into our nature. Luther, like Melanchthon in the AC, is preaching against the abuse of celibacy, not against contraception.

Anyone who marries and reproduces acts in accord with this natural ordinance.

Caspar said...

Eric,

In context? You are missing the greater context. Yes, Melanchthon was using this argument in the Apology against forced celibacy, but these words speak equally to the issue of contraception because he is speaking of a universal truth, one that is not only valid in the argument he is making. Luther, whose argument he was using, made this argument not against Rome, but rather in preaching on "The Christian in Society," specifically "The Estate of Marriage." Melanchthon took Luther's argument against family planning and used it against forced celibacy. Luther understood Genesis 1:28 to speak directly against family planning.

"For one must also consider that at that time fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and a special gift of God, as is clear from Deut. 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. “There will not be a barren woman among you,” he says (cf. Ex. 23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s nature, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good-for-nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all; for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgment flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: “Be fruitful and multiply.” From this they understood that children are a gift of God." [LW, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis, p. 329]

"Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: “Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.” But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper." [LW, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis, p. 332]

You also stated that you believe this commandment to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth "lost the force of external law long ago when the human race first filled the earth." This not only disagrees with Melanchthon, it goes against the very Confessions he penned, and to which teaching we as Lutherans are bound.

Here are Melanchthon's own words from the Apology which you strangely refer to as supporting your position.

AP XXIII: "7] First. Gen. 1, 28 teaches that men were created to be fruitful... 8]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 formed 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]."

Clearly, the Confessional Lutheran position is that the force of this commandment to be fruitful "will not change as long as this nature of our bodies exist." If fruifulness is no longer commanded, but is just a leftover side-effect of the "sex drive that impels most men and women to procreate" and which it is our prerogative to hinder or ignore, then so is marriage no longer commanded. But this is not the Lutheran position. And so, according to Luther, Melanchthon, and therefore our own Lutheran Confessions, the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" remains in force.

But instead, you write: "I don't consider that verse to lay an edict on the modern Christian marriage at all."

The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words of the LORD: "Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. Behold the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'" [Jer. 23]

Who do you think "they" are to whom the LORD repeats his divine ordinance "be fruitful and multiply?" "They" are "we" in the current millennial reign of Christ! So how can you say that the divine ordinance "be fruitful and multiply" no longer applies to us? That is not only anti-Lutheran, it's anti-Scriptural!

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

The Luther you quoted in your last post was on-topic, as he was making the same argument Melanchthon makes in the AC. These two other passages you've just quoted (for the 200th time) are not relevant. The first one refers to Gen. 1:27 simply as evidence that children come from God as a good gift, and the second doesn't refer to Gen 1:27 at all.

My statement does not disagree with Melanchthon. You are forced to ignore half of it in order to make your case. I said 1) Gen. 1:27 doesn't have the force of external law (i.e. is not an edict that binds us) anymore, but 2) that it still does have the character Melanchthon attributes to it in the AC, i.e. that of an ordinance inherent to our nature--our sex drive.

Note carefully what position Melanchthon is opposing: "since the earth has been replenished, MARRIAGE is not commanded." He goes on to argue that since men and women still desire one another sexually, the command is obviously still in force as a natural ordinance, and therefore most should marry. This is an argument against excessive celibacy, not contraception. True, it implies that marriages should be procreative, but that's all it says on the subject, and there's a great difference (as I keep pointing out) between saying that marriages should normatively result in offspring and saying that every act of contraception is a sin.

What Melanchthon clearly does NOT say (or Luther, in your previous quotations) is that we are under any _external_ obligation (as Adam and Eve were) to fill the earth with offspring. Hence the distinction I've made between internal and external applications of Gen. 1:27.

As for your Jeremiah quotation, it looks to me as if the part of the prophecy that includes the allusion to Gen. 1:27 pertains to the Old Testament situation and is not a prophecy of the Church. Jeremiah prophesies that after the Captivity, God will return Israel to the land and make it thrive again in preparation for the "righteous Branch" He will soon raise up from it.

And if we _do_ apply this prophecy about being fruitful and multiplying to the Church instead of Judah, the most reasonable way to do it (and certainly the way the Fathers would have employed) would be to take it as a prophecy of the explosive spread of the Gospel, from a small bewildered group of disciples in AD 30 to the official religion of the Roman Empire in AD 380--a process that certainly involved procreation, but was chiefly accomplished through conversion.

Caspar said...

It never ceases to amaze me how we sinners can twist things around in order to justify our own hedonism.

Satan: "Did God really say... "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth?"

Eric Phillips: "Yes, but he said it to Adam and Eve, not to me! That ordinance doesn't apply in the same way to modern marriages. Children are no longer always a blessing, and the earth is already full. I have the freedom to choose when it would be a blessing to me and when it would not."

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Let's shift gears here and take a different approach to this. Pastor Rolf Preus wrote the following in a discussion about family planning a few years ago, and I'd like your opinion. Open your heart and your mind to his reasoning and then see if you can answer his questions honestly, and see if it doesn't change your position on procreation.

"The question is rather whether or not God Himself chooses when and if children are to come into this world. Is He the Author of life or is He not?

Much of the pious talk about children being gifts from God that we hear these days is just that: talk. Who can deny it? But the very foundation of planned parenthood (i.e., planned barrenhood) is predicated on a denial of this fundamental truth.

The issue is not primarily what God tells us to do or not do. It is a more fundamental question of doctrine, that is, it is a question about what God Himself does. The Bible teaches us that children are a blessing from God. This means that when He gives us children it is to bless us. He blesses us because He loves us. We live at a time when children are not seen as a blessing from God. This godless attitude is what drives the feminist, planned parenthood, anti-family, anti-woman, gnostic, hedonistic, anti-incarnational, anti-Christian attitudes swirling around our heads and from which we cannot escape because we are so heavily influenced by the devil, the world, and our flesh.

The proper distinction between law and gospel is a theological principle, it is not a biblical rule of hermeneutics. Clearly, the intent of Genesis 1:28 is to teach us that the physical union of husband and wife is a good thing because through it God blesses His children with children. To deny either is to reject the plain sense of God's word.

When questions of birth control arise, they must always be considered in light of this fundamental and undeniable truth: children are blessings from God. Do we believe this or do we not? And don't be so quick to say that you do if you don't. If your concern is about the health and wellbeing of the mother, that is one thing. If it is about how much money you will have to spend on all the stuff that will be destroyed with this world, that is another thing. There can be no question that the prevailing attitude about planned parenthood and the tolerance of abortion on demand go together. The legal opinions of the Supreme Court followed a social trend that found support as well in the liberal Protestant churches of America. Those of us who call ourselves confessional Lutherans should take the time to study this issue not just by means of an exegetical debate, but by looking at how attitudes and habits in our culture have changed over the past couple of generations. How has a sanctity of life ethic been replaced by a "quality" of life ethic? What does God in Genesis 1:28 say to us about this?"

Eric Phillips said...

You act as if I'm out of line when I point out that the command "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth" came to Adam and Eve at a time when they were the only two people alive. Well, okay, pull that incredulous act if you want, but the conditions under which a command is given, and the people to whom it is given, are an integral part of any command. When you read the orders Elijah gave for exactly how he wanted the altar on Mt. Carmel built, do you feel compelled to go build such an altar? When you read God telling Jeremiah to go prophesy doom to the king, do you feel a sudden conviction that you should be doing the same thing to President Bush? When you read that the leaders of the church in Acts 15 forbade Gentile converts to eat blood, does that make you order all your steaks well-done?

As for your other point, I do believe that children are blessings from God. I also believe that food and rest are blessings from God, but that's never made me obsess about eating every time I get a chance to, or getting a full night of sleep every night. The usual procedure with all God's good gifts is that we plan our enjoyment of them, and feel no guilt for deferring or judiciously limiting such enjoyment. I don't see why it ought to be any different in this area of life.

Caspar said...

"The usual procedure with all God's good gifts is that we plan our enjoyment of them, and feel no guilt for deferring or judiciously limiting such enjoyment. I don't see why it ought to be any different in this area of life."

I believe you have unwittingly discovered the cause of your blindness on this issue. You really believe there is no difference between the blessings of food and rest and the blessings of procreation?

The pleasures of food and rest are not always blessings. As you point out, they are sins when taken in excess! Children, on the other hand, are ALWAYS blessings, even if they come when we sinners find it less than pleasurable to add the burdens we sense in serving them.

Can you see beyond the hedonistic concept of pleasure and enjoyment to the true meaning of God's blessing of children? Food and rest are provided to serve us, but children are provided for us to serve.

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

You're right, there is a relevant difference between the blessing of food, shelter, and rest, and the blessing of children: children involve a mission, a responsibility. This argument leads to the conclusion that having children and raising them "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" is a good and responsible thing to do--a duty that should not be shirked by those who are in a position to fulfill it, one that is important enough that couples _should_ be encouraged to reconsider their "quality of life" standards, etc.

It is, however, a different argument from the one Rolf Preus was making in your excerpt. It is responsibility that separates procreation from the other goods we've mentioned, not some quality that makes procreation a blessing 100% of the time while other goods are blessings only some of the time. The things the body needs are _always_ blessings. The fact that we can abuse them does not change that. We can abuse procreation just as easily.

Caspar said...

I sense that we're making some progress here, Eric. You write: "We can abuse procreation just as easily."

Please list the "abuses" of procreation to which you are referring for which family planning could be considered a remedy.

Caspar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

I do not prescribe family planning as a remedy for any abuses.

I wasn't talking about abuses when I mentioned food and rest. I was just pointing out that we can skip dinner, or stay up all night, without spurning the good gifts of God--despite the fact that food and rest are both good gifts of God.

Caspar said...

Eric,

Then for what reason would you use some form of family planning? What are you trying to prevent by avoiding conception if it is not an abuse of procreation? I can think of many valid reasons why one would delay dinner or sleep, but why would one wish to avoid the responsibility and blessing of a child within marriage? I can only think of a few potentially valid reasons, and they are very rare circumstances. Like Luther, I don't even see poverty as a valid reason, since we should trust God for our support in all circumstances.

So please answer me: WHY WOULD A CHRISTIAN AVOID CHILDREN WITHIN MARRIAGE?

Eric Phillips said...

> I don't even see poverty as a valid reason, since
> we should trust God for our support in all circumstances.

So is it okay if I eat a very light lunch before running a race, so as to avoid cramps, or should I dig in and trust God to keep me from cramping? Is it okay if I stay up all night to finish a presentation, or should I enjoy the good of sleep and trust God to give me the words to speak in the morning? Why is procreation the only area of life in which it's impious to plan our lives?

Caspar said...

You haven't answered my question, Eric. You just keep giving me invalid analogies. Cramps are pathological. Children are not.

"So is it okay if I..." contracept so as to avoid X? What is "X?"

Please answer the question:

WHY WOULD A CHRISTIAN PREVENT THE CONCEPTION OF CHILDREN WITHIN MARRIAGE?

What is the "bad" you wish to avoid through planning?

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

You need to understand my analogies before you can judge their relevance. Cramps do not correspond to children, but to poverty. Children correspond to food in that example.

Caspar said...

OK, fine. I'm still waiting for your answer to my question. Am I correct to assume that "X = poverty" is one answer in your opinion?

Thus, "It is okay if I contracept so as to avoid poverty."

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

See, I did answer your question. That's why you're able to make that guess. Yes, parents might engage in family planning so as to be able to give proper food, shelter, and care to the children they do have. I would agree with you that in most situations, contemporary Westerners underestimate the number of children they could handle, and have unrealistically high standards for what constitutes "proper" food, shelter, etc. Nevertheless, in principle this is a valid reason.

I also think it is a valid reason for a young couple to contracept a few years in order to enjoy each other and get their feet under them, preparing financially and/or educationally, or just mentally, for the challenge ahead. I also think it is a valid reason for a couple to space their children a little for reasons of health and/or peace. Concerns about overpopulation could also be valid in some times and places, though America has at no time been one of those places.

The bottom line is, I'm not going to get into telling people when it is right and when it is wrong for them to contracept, though. Let each one be convinced in his own mind. I only want to say two things: to most modern Western Christians I say, "Raising godly children is the best thing most Christians can ever do to leave a positive impact on the world. You need to weight the importance of that much more highly in your personal calculus." I love it when Christian families have lots of kids.

But to the Christians who preach that contraception is sinful in and of itself, I say, "Do not bind the conscience where God leaves it free."

Caspar said...

You write: "Yes, parents might engage in family planning so as to be able to give proper food, shelter, and care to the children they do have."

You have an assumed premise in this enthymeme: "God will not give us our 'daily bread' if we let him bless us with too many children."

This is unbelief, and is the problem with every other reason you gave as well.

Eric Phillips said...

Nope. Careful planning can coexist with faith. We do it in every other area of life, and you don't squawk about that. What's different here?

Caspar said...

Again, Luther:

"Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: “Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.” But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper." [AE, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis, p. 332]

Caspar said...

"We do it in every other area of life, and you don't squawk about that. What's different here?"

Answer:

A child IS a life. A child is not an "area of life." God is the Author of life. You can do with your life what you please, but you can't decide when and if to have it. We're not talking about an "area of life" here. We're talking about the very creation of life! There's a huge difference!!!

Caspar said...

Just for clarification, the "unbelief" spoken of above is the unbelief that all sin consists of. We are not saying that a person who does not trust God for his daily bread is therefore not saved. This person can, like the father of the boy with a dumb spirit, say: "I believe, Lord, please help my unbelief." [Mark 9:24]

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

You're mixing your reasons again. Every time I point out that this whole "don't evade God's blessings!" argument is just a bunch of special pleading that doesn't correspond to any other area of life, you mention how important children are. Yes, they're important. Parenting is a crucial responsibility and contribution. I've said that already. But that is a separate consideration that lends no support to the thesis, "It is wrong to seek to delay or restrict God's blessings."

The importance argument has no actual connection to the blessing argument.

As for Luther's comments re: unbelief, he's definitely overstating his case. He did that sometimes.

Caspar said...

You're quite impossible to reason with, Eric. My answser to your question "What's different here?" is most certainly valid, and mixes nothing. You can't say planning children is the same as planning meals and sleep. I explained why they are different. We're not arguing a general rule that you can never avoid any of God's blessings without sin. That's a straw man.

We're arguing that you cannot avoid the blessing of children within marriage without sin. No other blessing of God is like the blessing of life itself. You are making invalid comparisons in order to knock down your straw man.

And as for Luther's comments re: unbelief, NO he's NOT overstating his case. Luther, Scripture, and the Confessions all speak of sin as unbelief. All sin is unbelief at it's roots. You need to do more reading of Luther and Lutheran theology before trying to argue the Lutheran position on anything.

I'm done with you. Because we do not begin with the same first principles we almost always disagree. Where we do agree, it is rarely for the same reasons. You are of a different spirit.

Go in peace.

Eric Phillips said...

> You can't say planning children is the same as
> planning meals and sleep.

Nor have I, except in the limited sense that is relevant to the blessings argument.

> We're not arguing a general rule that you can never
> avoid any of God's blessings without sin.

We aren't? So what's the relevance of 2/3 of that excerpt you quoted from Rolf Preus?

As for unbelief, of course I agree with you that unbelief is a sin. Where Luther exaggerates is in asserting that a beggar (who is by definition a man so destitute he can't even support _himself_) is somehow evincing unbelief (rather than sober prudence) when he determines that it would be foolish to attempt to support a _family_ in addition to himself.

And as for the rest, we agree a heck of a lot more often than you let on. In fact, contraception is the only thing we fight about. You're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Caspar said...

Theology determines your sexuality. This molehill says a lot about your mountain. And as for our agreeing, you think we do much more than I do. Your understanding of justification concerns me greatly, and a proper understanding of justification is the basis for all truly good works.

You say you agree that "unbelief is a sin." You have once again entirely misunderstood what I said. I said ALL SIN IS UNBELIEF. This is not the same thing. Unbelief is not "a" sin, it is "THE" sin. And, yes, it is sinful for a "beggar" to refuse marriage and parenthood.

We are beggars all!

Eric Phillips said...

For purposes of this conversation, there's no practical difference between those two statements. The principle you're invoking is "sin = unbelief." It doesn't matter which term you put first. All that matters to your case is that when the beggar fails to increase an obligation he is already failing to meet, you be able to interpret this as a lack of reliance on God = unbelief, = sin.

What you haven't explained yet, and what you need to explain for this argument to have any coherency, is why it is not similarly sinful for me to stay up all night preparing for a presentation instead of gratefully receiving God's gift of rest and trusting Him to give me the words to speak come morning.

And pointing out that children are more important than rest doesn't answer the question.

Caspar said...

Eric,

You are just throwing up more straw men.

I did NOT say that children are different because they are "more important" than rest and sleep. While true, that would be a pitiful description of God's creation of human life. Human life is incomparable to any other blessing from God.

I have more important things to do than give you lessons in logic. Let me be brief in this instance. "All unbelief is sin" might, but does not necessarily, mean that "all sin is unbelief."

You did NOT say "all unbelief is sin." You didn't even say "unbelief is sin!" You said unbelief is "a" sin, thus clearly indicating that you believe there are sins which are not unbelief.

ALL SIN IS UNBELIEF (and, of course, all unbelief is sin).

Please don't bother me anymore.

Caspar

Caspar said...

P.S. Eric, please just try to be less pendantic and concentrate instead on this: Why has the sanctity of life ethic that prevailed in Christian thinking until recently been replaced by a "quality" of life ethic?

You are treating children as if they were something God provides to improve your personal temporal earthly life, like food and sleep. Do you see how self-centered this way of thinking is? Can you see beyond the selfish plans and desires of yourself or your wife?

You think a husband and wife might be robbed of their enjoyment of each other by having children too early. Do you even think you know what you are talking about? You don't even know the first thing about true joy until you submit your "enjoyment" to God's will.

Do you understand the beatitudes? Where does the cross fit into all this? Has Christ freed you from sin so that you can be free to seek after (and plan) your personal desires and ambitions? What does it mean to submit your body as a living sacrifice?

I'm NOT saying that I do these things. God knows the sinfulness of my heart as well as my actions. But the forgiveness which has been freely given me strengthens me to continue to fight against my selfish unbelief, mortifying the flesh and its desires, seeking instead to serve others, as many as God wishes to bless me to serve.

Like Pr. Preus said, this is not as much about what you should or shouldn't do, but rather about what God does.

Soli Deo Gloria

Caspar

Caspar said...

"Pedantic" that is... I don't know where that extra "n" came from. ;-)

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

> I have more important things to do than give you
> lessons in logic.

Well good, 'cause the way you miss my points doesn't give me confidence in your ability to give such lessons. You don't need to prove or explain the link between unbelief and sin; you need to prove that the exercise of human prudence constitutes unbelief in the first place.

> Why has the sanctity of life ethic that prevailed
> in Christian thinking until recently been
> replaced by a "quality" of life ethic?

I'll agree there's some of that going on, and that it comes from many of the causes you identify. What I don't agree with is your contention that a limited use of contraception says anything about the couple's view on the sanctity of life.

> You are treating children as if they were something
> God provides to improve your personal temporal
> earthly life, like food and sleep.

No I'm not. Don't be ridiculous. Food and sleep are relevant to the "contraception rejects God's blessings" argument because they are also blessings. All you're doing here is pointing out, for the fifth time, that children are more important.

> You think a husband and wife might be robbed of
> their enjoyment of each other by having children
> too early.

No, not really. I think they might miss out on one stage of that enjoyment, however.

> Has Christ freed you from sin so that you can be
> free to seek after (and plan) your personal
> desires and ambitions?

That's not the relevant question, Caspar. We both agree He didn't. The relevant question is, why is it okay to plan your life until it comes to contraception? What makes contraception so different? Why is it okay to be engaged for two years, but not to be engaged for one year and then contracept for a second one? Why is it okay to use NFP to _maximize_ chances of conception, but not okay to minimize them in any way? All four of these options involve human choices (although God is sovereign), and any one of them may be chosen for good or for bad motives. You need to stop asking irrelevant questions that attempt to paint me as some kind of infidel, and start explaining the logic of your position.

Caspar said...

Eric,

The logic of my position has been fully explained on this blog. The logic is valid. You do not accept the premises on which this logic is based. The premises are all based on Scripture. You interpret these as having NOTHING to do with the issue, though the church for thousands of years has interpreted them as prohibiting family planning. The burden of proof is on YOU, for it is YOU who disagree with the consistent interpretations of the pre- and post-Reformation church.

I have tried my best to open your eyes to the truth of this teaching. Logic will not convince you of the truth. Only the Word and the Holy Spirit can do that. I commend you to them and pray for you to gain understanding. There is nothing more I can say, other than to point out that as long as you remain an incorrigible pedant you will never understand.

PAX,

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

As I said, we've met that burden of proof. It wasn't hard to meet, once the Reformation fixed ancient and medieval biases against sex and modern medicine made clear the sharp distinction between contraception and abortion.

Arguments for discouraging runaway contraception and encouraging increased fertility, esp. among Christians, are strong and quite worthwhile. But every argument I've ever seen for contraception being categorically _sinful_ has been inconsistent and unable to handle simple challenges in a coherent fashion.

Caspar said...

Eric,

You have given me more that I must respond to.

You say "we've" met that burden of proof. Who are the "we" here? As I've continued to request from you, please tell me of a single Lutheran theologian who agrees with your unique reinterpretation of Genesis 38:10. There is no "we" here for you to claim. You stand alone in your theology. Yes, there are lots of people who agree that Scripture doesn't prohibit family planning. The problem is that the interpretations all of you have replaced the accepted interpretations of Scripture with do not agree with one another!

No, those who disagree with the consistent interpretations of the pre- and post-Reformation church have NOT met the burden of proof. Saying you have does not make it so. You must provide evidence, and it just isn't available to you. There is no consensus among contraceptors as to the correct interpretations of Scripture. Your own personal interpretation of Genesis 38:10 is one that I have NEVER heard! ...and I've been arguing these Scriptures with Lutherans for a LONG time.

There is no "we" as far as your reinterpretation of Scripture goes (other than a common denial of the traditional interpretation). If you are going to claim a "we" that has met the burden of proof, this "we" must agree on the proof, which is a consistent and convincing reinterpretation which not only contradicts the traditional interpretation but proves it wrong.

It is simply inconceivable (no pun intended) that the church has wrongly bound people's consciences on this important issue for thousands of years. The reasons presented by those who believe it has are not anywhere near coherent enough to make such a claim.

You stand alone in your reinterpretations of the pertinent verses of Scripture. Do not pretend to be a "we."

PAX!

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

We modern Christians. And yes, that includes Lutherans. Perhaps you've noticed the position of our common synod on the issue.

Caspar said...

Our synod claims to not have an official position on this issue. The CTCR report on human sexuality is as close as you can get to one, and it doesn't even attempt to refute the traditional interpretations of pertinent Scripture. There is no "we" you can claim that is not fictitious.

Eric Phillips said...

Uh huh.

We've already been over the way you skim over all the varying emphases of the fathers and the medievals and the reformers in order to arrive at your "2000 years of unbroken consensus" mantra, but then refuse to extend the same courtesy to modern interpreters.

NOW we have to believe that all these LCMSers who agree with me on birth control (a la the CTRC report) or "do not have an offical position" (which means they agree with me in not condemning it) have simply IGNORED the Onan story. Yeah, right.

You're quite ridiculous sometimes.

Caspar said...

Yes, we have been all over this and you continue to ignore the facts.

The fathers all agree that Onan's sin was family planning. They only emphasize various non-conflicting aspects of why it is sinful. They also all agree that perfect obedience to the divine ordinance to be fruitful and multiply prohibits all family planning.

If we could call a council of the "democracy of the dead" I have no doubt that they would not contradict one another on the sinfulness of family planning, but only on the irrelevant biological facts you think are so crucial.

Your modern "we" might agree on these irrelevant biological facts, but it doesn't agree on what Onan's sin was, having conflicting theories, nor does it agree on what defines perfect obedience to the divine ordinance to be fruitful and multiply. Some factions of the "we" don't even think it applies to "modern marriages."

That's why the CTCR document does not make Scriptural arguments. There are no common interpretations among those who approve of family planning.

Eric Phillips said...

> The fathers all agree that Onan's sin was
> family planning. They only emphasize various
> non-conflicting aspects of why it is sinful.

Let's try a little editing in the interests of honesty and fairplay:

The moderns all agree that Onan's sin was not simply family planning. They only emphasize various non-conflicting aspects of how he did sin.

> They also all agree that perfect obedience to the
> divine ordinance to be fruitful and multiply
> prohibits all family planning.

No, they don't. St. Augustine taught that "be fruitful and multiply" was a command that, biologically interpreted, no longer had any relevance to Christians, because the earth was already full.

Caspar said...

1. The statement of mine and this new statement of yours do not compare. Mine is a positive statement, while yours is a negative statement. The positive statement tells us what the sin of Onan is while the negative statement only tells us one thing it is not.

2. The second half of your statement is not even pertinent. We are not talking about all the ways in which Onan sinned. We are talking about what sin God killed Onan for. The moderns disagree on what this sin was, while the rest of theologians throughout history agree that it was family planning, even if they describe the sinfulness of family planning emphasizing various aspects of its sinfulness.

The theologians throughout history would agree with the moderns that Onan sinned in ways in addition to his act of contraception, but deny that any of these are what he was killed for. The moderns most certainly DO conflict each other on which sin Onan was killed for. Some say it was for disobeying his father. Some say it was for hating his brother. Some say it was for violating levitical law. Some say it was for some or all of these sins combined. And you have said it was for intending the union to be "forever childless" (though now you seem to be gravitating toward a combination of the above). I've heard countless conflicting identifications by modern liberals of what the fatal sin was (or sins were).

Prior to modern liberal theologians, I've only found ONE sin identified as the one Onan was killed for: family planning. Moderns deny this is even a sin. They only believe that there could be sinful reasons for family planning. Prior to modern liberals, all theologians believed that ALL family planning was sinful, regardless of the reasons one employed it. Moderns include the modern papacy, which has contradicted previous catholic tradition in allowing for a sinless "Natural Family Planning" for various formulas of supposedly "valid" purposes.

And finally, if Augustine ever said anything like what you are saying his position was, it certainly conflicts with many other things he said on the subject. Augustine often contradicted himself, but Augustine was most certainly against family planning, condemning all intentionally unfruitful sexuality, including NFP.

Eric Phillips said...

> The positive statement tells us what the sin of
> Onan is while the negative statement only
> tells us one thing it is not.

So what? That's precisely the point at issue. Most pre-20th commenters agreed that contraception itself was the main problem, or at least the one worth mentioning, and most 20th century commenters agree that it wasn't.

> We are talking about what sin God killed Onan for.

Yes, we are. Or I'm trying to. But you keep pretending that you can separate the bare anatomical fact of coitus interruptus from the circumstances of the act and the motivations that drove Onan, and somehow conclude that God killed Onan strictly because he withdrew, nevermind anything else. "The thing Onan did" is considerably more complex than that.

> The theologians throughout history would agree
> with the moderns that Onan sinned in ways
> in addition to his act of contraception,
> but deny that any of these are what he was
> killed for.

I'd like to see your evidence for that last part (but deny...).

> now you seem to be gravitating toward a combination
> of the above

It's all combination, Caspar. Do you seriously think that people who write, "God killed Onan because he disobeyed his father" mean to deny that IN DISOBEYING HIS FATHER he also violated a stricture of the future Levitic code, acted in spite of his brother, and defrauded Tamar? It's all bound up together. If you would just for one second extend to modern translators a FRACTION of the goodwill you extend to ancient and medieval ones, you'd see that.

Finally, yes, Augustine did say that, in the context of explaining why Virginity was superior to Marriage for the serious Christian. I can find the citation if you want it. And it absolutely does NOT contradict the other things he said on the subject, because as I have told you a dozen times now, AUGUSTINE OPPOSED CONTRACEPTION BECAUSE HE THOUGHT SEXUAL EXCITATION WAS INHERENTLY SINFUL, and you needed all the MITIGATING BENEFITS you could get if you wanted God to bless the act. He did NOT oppose contraception because God said "Be fruitful and multiply." Remember that quotation I've shown you several times where Augustine says that it's a shameful act of lust for a man to have relations with his wife when she is pregnant?

You've never taken the early Church's errors re: sexuality into proper consideration while hyping your "2000 years of unanimity." It's a big crack in your much-vaunted _consensus patrum_, and ignoring it won't make it go away.

Caspar said...

Good Lord!

You are such an immature, arrogant, and incorrigible pedant, Eric! You have too little knowledge of Lutheran doctrine, a blinding knowledge of the early fathers, and an almost total lack of wisdom.

Along with Will Rogers, I say that I have never met a more ignorant person than an educated man, once you get him off the subject he's educated in. Patristics is a very narrow branch of theology and best serves the purpose of Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism if you focus too much on them. I predict your conversion to one of those two communions if the focus of your theological knowledge does not change. You are certainly not a student of Luther.

Go in peace and trouble me no more. You will find no further response from me here.

PAX,

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

> Along with Will Rogers, I say that I have never
> met a more ignorant person than an educated man,
>once you get him off the subject he's educated in.

You're a dentist, right?

Caspar said...

Yes. Do you think my education has been limited to teeth? You admitted in this discussion that you "haven't read much Lutheran theology yet beyond the Confessions." This blog is meant to discuss contraception from a Lutheran theological viewpoint, especially the theology of the cross. Your study of the early church fathers combined with your ignorance of Lutheran theology beyond the Confessions makes it very difficult for you to see things from a Lutheran theological viewpoint. Your arguments on LQ and elsewhere regarding justification concern me much more than what you say on this blog.

You need to open yourself up to instruction.

And please forgive me for the harsh comment that preceded this one.

Blessings,

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

No, I don't think your education has been limited to teeth. You have obviously learned many things beyond your educational specialty. But so have I. And you were targeting my Patristics doctorate with that Will Rogers quip, so I figured I would point out that you're an odd person to be targeting advanced degrees that way.

> Your study of the early church fathers combined
> with your ignorance of Lutheran theology beyond
> the Confessions makes it very difficult for you
> to see things from a Lutheran theological
> viewpoint.

It must have been hard for Martin Chemnitz then, too. He knew the Fathers _suspiciously_ well, and there wasn't much Lutheran theology (other than the confessions) around at the time. The man hadn't read Gerhard, Quenstadt, Walther, Sasse, Marquart, or a single Preus. How could he know what he was talking about?

Seriously, what do the Confessions leave out? What's the defect that needs to be remedied by attention to later Lutheran writers?

I tend to think it's an advantage, actually, to be able to read the Lutheran Confessions from a Patristic perspective.

> You need to open yourself up to instruction.

I believe I _am_ open to instruction. I just expect that instruction to make sense in light of the Bible, the Creeds, and the Confessions.

> And please forgive me for the harsh comment
> that preceded this one.

I forgive you. Thanks for the apology.

Eric

Caspar said...

Eric,

You place yourself in the same league with Martin Chemnitz? Martin Chemnitz IS Lutheran theology. Yes, he knew his patristics well, but he knew correct Lutheran doctrine even better. Patristics are not a liability if you study them from the same perspective that Chemnitz did. Have you read Chemnitz? He has a lot to say about this. You do not have the same doctrinal perspective that Chemnitz did. He was brought up in the correct doctrine and was educated in it.

What do the Confessions leave out? Well, you yourself have said that they don't address the topic of this blog. I believe they do address the topic indirectly, but even if they don't, that does not mean that Scripture or Lutherans have no doctrine regarding family planning. The Confessions do not contain the entire counsel of God.

Blessings,

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

> You place yourself in the same league with Martin
> Chemnitz?

No, of course not. I use that example to prove to you that a Patristics scholar who hasn't read many Lutheran books can still have an impeccably Lutheran grasp of theology.

> that does not mean that Scripture or
> Lutherans have no doctrine regarding family
> planning

It does mean, however, that Lutherans may disagree on the subject while still being authentically Lutheran.

Caspar said...

...depending on your definition of "Lutheran." I don't think we agree on that term either.

There's no such thing as an unimportant doctrine, and there are important ones not covered in the Confessions. Take women's ordination for example.

One's attitude on sexuality can often be a significant indicator of one's theology. One's theology informs one's sexuality and often reflects the extent to which one worships the creature rather than the creator.

Eric Phillips said...

> Take women's ordination for example.

Good point. Of course, I would say the Bible is clear on that point, but I can guess what your response would be.

I think when it comes to sexuality, you and I agree--which means we both disagree significantly with most of the ancient and medieval witnesses you would call as witnesses in a contraception debate.

Caspar said...

No, Eric, you and I do NOT agree on sexuality. I see all sexuality which is intentionally divorced from procreation by human will and action as self-serving and evil, turned entirely inward toward oneself, and against God. Obviously not all intercourse results in conception, but when it is God who has prevented conception it is not the human will and action that has made it so. God alone opens and closes the womb. The desire of man to shut the door to God's creative hand is sinful in every such thought and deed. This includes the sinful record keeping of couples who use "natural" family planning for the purpose of ensuring that their sexuality is non-procreative.

One cannot be considered to be acting in a "fruitful" way while holding God's creative hand at bay, even if he doesn't intend to be "forever childless." I do not deny the other purposes of marriage and sexuality, but natural law demands that we realize the primary purpose of intercourse is to deposit seed in the womb of the wife in the hope of conception. This, and this alone, is fruitful in intent. Man's part is to sow indiscriminately with his wife when the God's gift of eros calls, just as the sower in the parable. God decides when to make the soil bear fruit. Unfortunately, the cares, riches, and pleasures of our selfish lives often turn our hearts away from our duty of total submission to the first divine ordinance of God, causing us at various times and circumstances to consider the conception of life as a curse to be avoided rather than the blessing it ALWAYS is.

Man was created for procreation. It is our most sacred duty and blessing to accept all the children God desires us to bear and to raise them in the way of the Lord to serve Him eternally. All other duties, cares, and desires must take a back seat to this blessed and holy vocation of parenthood. When God blessed them and said "be fruitful and become many," giving them their first and highest vocation, he did so while promising to give the many their daily bread through all other vocations. If people considered godly parenthood their primary and most important calling in life, to which all other callings must submit, we would be spared many of the evils of this world.

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar says,

"I see all sexuality which is intentionally divorced from procreation by human will and action as self-serving and evil."

No you don't. You see the intentional divorce as evil, not the sexuality. On the sexuality itself, you and I are in agreement _against_ most of the Fathers and Medievals.

I mean, can you imagine St. Augustine talking about "God's gift of eros," or St. Ambrose claiming that "It is our most sacred duty and blessing to accept all the children God desires us to bear...."?

Your peculiar theology of contraception is just as modern as mine.

Caspar said...

You continually misrepresent my words and misunderstand me, Eric. I DO consider the sexuality which is divorced from procreation sinful, as well as the thoughts, words, and deeds which divorce it.

As for my theology about contraception being as modern as yours, please don't make me laugh. My theology is the same as Martin Luther's. Do you consider Martin Luther modern?

BTW, I have never denied that the early church erred in many ways on many issues. They also interpreted a lot of Scripture allegorically. However, they all got the basic rule of God on this subject right: sexuality which is intentionally divorced from procreation is sinful. Somehow natural law kept them on the straight and narrow.

Eric Phillips said...

> I DO consider the sexuality which is divorced
> from procreation sinful

I think we've got a semantical difference here. When you say that _sex_ is wrong if there is contraceptive intent behind it, you're considering the sex and the contraception as a single act: "contraceptive sex." You have no problem with the sex itself, just with the intention of those engaging in it. You see eros as a fundamentally _good_ thing that can be misused (as all good things can). It's the opposite of the mentality we see in the early and medieval Church, where the intention of procreation was necessary to balance out the lust inherent in the act.

> My theology is the same as Martin Luther's.
> Do you consider Martin Luther modern?

Okay, I should not have said "as modern as mine," but rather, "Modern, as mine is." Luther was certainly not _as_ modern as we are, but his perspective on sex was distinctively a Modern Christian approach, as opposed to an Ancient or Medieval one.

Caspar said...

NO. It's not just a matter of semantics. I DO consider the eros and the sexual intercourse as sinful in and of themselves when intentionally divorced from procreation. Marital sexuality is only sanctified by trust in Christ, trust which contraception shows is absent in that act. When engaged in against God's divine purpose, the act is sinful and not sanctified. Homosexuality, beastiality, masturbation, and all such non-procreative sexuality are in the same league with contraceptive sex, even within marriage.

In this way, I do not differ that much from the "mentality we see in the early and medieval Church." Certainly lust infects all our marital eros. It is faith alone which makes the act a good work instead of a sin. An act not done in faith is sin. Prior to and without faith, sex is sin. Prior to sin, in the Garden was the only place sex was not a sin. Faith restores that paradise, sanctifying acts done in faith.

Murder, theft, slander, adultery, homosexuality, and all other illicit sex are acts which cannot be sanctified. Intentionally non-procreative sex is illicit sex done in unbelief (without trust in God).

Eric Phillips said...

> I DO consider the eros and the sexual intercourse
> as sinful in and of themselves when intentionally
> divorced from procreation.

That's a contradiction. If it is the contraceptive intention that makes the intercourse sinful, the intercourse is not sinful "in and of itself."

> Certainly lust infects all our marital eros.
> It is faith alone which makes the act a good
> work instead of a sin.

"Everything is wrong if we don't do it in faith" is hardly the same argument as "Sexual excitation is wrong, but permissible in marriage in order to achieve the good of procreation."

Besides, you can't give me a coherent argument to support your contention that contraception and faith are mutually exclusive.

Caspar said...

You are once again missing the forest for the trees as a true pedant.

This is my final goodbye.

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar's definition of a pedant:

Someone who expects arguments to be logical.

How dare I, really.

Caspar said...

I have a nephew who has Asperger's syndrome. Logic gets in the way of his understanding of things in the same way it seems to with you. OCD has a similar effect. You should get checked. I've had people ask me what your problem is. It might be treatable!

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

I do understand what you're saying. It's just that your arguments are arbitrary, inconsistent little tubs that leak from every joint and therefore hold no water. In casual conversation, this would be no impediment. Since you are attempting to convince me of something, however, it's a problem.