5.31.2006

NFP and Embryonic Death

The Journal of Medical Ethics:
"Given certain plausible empirical assumptions, the rhythm method may well be responsible for a much higher number of embryonic deaths than some other contraceptive techniques."

I have read other sources on this argument before, and have related it to others in my many writings and arguments against all forms of contraception. I have long criticized the Roman Catholic approval of NFP (natural family planning) as hypocritical on a theological level, regardless of any abortifacient arguments. In addition, I believe the scientific assumptions made in this
research article are quite plausible, given the moderate knowledge of human reproductive physiology I have. The paper was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (one of the British Medical Journal's publications).

As with the "unproven" assumptions we have showing hormonal birth control (the Pill, etc.) to have an abortifacient component, why would anyone knowingly employ a method of family planning which may lead to increased risks of death for the unborn?

Of course most of you know that according to my position this is a moot point. Regardless of the abortifacient nature of all the favored methods of family planning, ALL FAMILY PLANNING is against God's Word. My position does, however, allow for the potential application of ethical principles (casuistry) according to the Lutheran ethic of "conflicting absolutes," which leads us to choose the lesser evil and throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ.

Caspar

UPDATE: In response to his critics, the author of the article in the Journal of Medical Ethics has posted a reply on the British Medical Journal website. The reply gives further official documentation to his argument and does a good job of answering the most common objections voiced to his original article.

5.23.2006

LQ Discussion of Gen. 1:28 Heating Up Again!

The discussion continues because the first one was locked by the moderator. The beginning of this new one is pretty funny (according to my dry style of humor) as you read the dialogue, especially the grammar comments (which have already been archived). Be sure to check out the "archive(s)" because every 30 posts are archived and linked at the top of the page.

5.22.2006

Pr. Rolf Preus Chimes in on Family Planning

Always a pastor in his theology, Pr. Rolf Preus gives his perspective...

Here are some reasons why the "Be fruitful and multiply" command and the discussion of birth control in general evoke such strong emotional responses that make a sober and reasonable discussion based on the Scriptures extremely difficult.

1. There has been a rapid and quite radical change in the views held within the church on the subject of birth control during the past two or three generations.

2. The conceiving, bearing, and rearing of children involves so much in a person's life that our discussions will inevitably become very personal.

3. There is a tendency toward antinomianism within the confessional movement today, likely a reaction against the intrusion of Reformed theology among us.

4. The command, "Be fruitful and multiply" is at least as much blessing and promise as it is command so that focusing on the law might not bring out the whole intent of this command.

5. There are cases where infertility or other problems make the fulfillment of the command impossible or dangerous and these cases are made prominent in an argument that is of a more general nature.

6. There is little if any theological leadership in defense of the traditional teaching on this subject.

7. The change in teaching has occurred at the same time that effective birth control methods have been introduced, leading one to assume that had the technology been available hundreds of years ago the change in thinking would have taken place hundreds of years ago.

8. We all impute personal motives and ulterior motives to those with whom we disagree, and in a discussion of a topic that by its nature includes very personal matters it is inevitable that the argument will at times descend into acrimony. Too bad, but that's human nature.

Having said all of this, may I make a couple of very personal observations?

First, when God gives you gift after gift after gift He humbles you by His generosity unless you are a complete ingrate. A man blessed with a beautiful, healthy, pious, Christian wife to whom God gives a dozen children should humble himself before God in gratitude every day.

Second, gift is gift. Gift isn't imposed. We don't require attendance at private confession or the Lord's Supper as a matter of law. Some folks cannot take the Sacrament of the Altar. They are still Christians who have all of the spiritual blessings God has to give. Some people cannot receive children. They are not less than those who can.

Third, God does provide for His children. How? I never know. Mostly through kind and generous people. Sometimes Christians we have never met.

Finally, the main point of view of traditionalists is that children are, objectively, blessings from God. This is our argument. God blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply. That's the issue. That's what God says and that's what I believe and when my children face troubles in life and I worry about this or that I hold up before me God's word of blessing here, the inspired and inerrant word of God says that my children are God's blessings to me.

Those who don't entirely share the traditionalist approach to this topic may assume that we are standing in judgment of them so I always encourage traditionalists to state our case in terms emphasizing God's blessing rather than God's law.

My two cents worth on this topic.

5.17.2006

'Rebel Without an Issue'

The following is an excerpt from Touchstone Magazine written by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., on Married Couples Who Won’t Have Children.

Joe and Deb Schum aren’t worried about baby-proofing their house or buying a car seat. They don’t intend ever to have children. As a matter of fact, they are proud of their childlessness. According to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The Schums are part of a growing number of couples across the country for whom kids don’t factor in the marriage equation.”

The nation’s birthrate fell in 2002 to a historic low of 66.9 births per 1,000 women age 15 to 44. That represents a decline of 43 percent since just 1960. “Many childless couples,” according to the report, “revel in their decision, despite badgering from baffled mothers and friends. Others struggle with the choice before keeping the house kid-free...”

Click here to read the remainder of the article.

5.11.2006

Fruitful As A Whole? Part II.


John Paul II offered a different perspective than the '81 CTCR document on the matter in 'The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan':

In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian vision of marriage, we must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth.

Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.

To justify conjugal acts made intentionally infecund, one cannot invoke as valid reasons the lesser evil, or the fact that such acts would constitute a whole together with the fecund acts already performed or to follow later, and hence would share in one and the same moral goodness. In truth, if it is sometimes licit to tolerate a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater evil or to promote a greater good, it is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom, that is, to make into the object of a positive act of the will something which is intrinsically disorder, and hence unworthy of the human person, even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family or social well-being. Consequently it is an error to think that a conjugal act which is deliberately made infecund and so is intrinsically dishonest could be made honest and right by the ensemble of a fecund conjugal life.

5.10.2006

Fruitful As A Whole? Part I.

In the 1981 CTCR report entitled 'Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective' there has always been a line of reasoning that has not set well with me.

On pg. 19 we read: "In view of the Biblical command and the blessing to 'be fruitful and multiply,' it is to be expected that marriage will not ordinarily be voluntarily childless. But, in the absence of Scriptural prohibition, there need be no objection to contraception within a marital union which is, as a whole, fruitful."

Two things bother me here: First, it is implied here that Scripture's lack of prohibition on a topic is equivalent to license. While it is true that we dare not add to scripture, does not scripture inform us as members of the Body of Christ how to navigate in the midst of any number of topics that the Word is not explicit about? (Of course, even that is working with their assumption that Scripture is silent on the matter - something our older brothers and fathers in the faith who were not as wise in the wisdom of the world would have scoffed at.)

Second, and more disturbing to me is the culmination which refers to marriages being O.K. which are "as a whole, fruitful." Is this really a helpful way to talk about this? I would suggest not. Wouldn't it be alarming to arrive at a church in Timesgoneby where the door-to-missions was closed because the Great Mission Fest of '87 had seen the Word of the Lord bring a family of four to the Faith. Say what you will, but the Bride of Christ Timesgoneby was "as a whole, fruitful."

Yet, when it comes to that other Bride and Groom - the Sons of Adam and the daughter's of Eve - whose marriage gives witness to the Lord Jesus the Christ - do we really do well to qualify the Lord's command/promise to be fruitful and multiply with "as a whole"? Again, I would suggest not.

In an effort to guard against taking a strong, historic, orthodox church (which they feared to be legalism?), they have entered into a whole new legalism - splitting hairs, qualifying the Lord's command/promise, and demonstrating to the Lord their faithfulness to his command by quantifying for Him their fruit.

Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective - CTCR 1981