Book review: Planned Parenthood, CPH 1959

This is a book published by CPH in 1959, authored by (otherwise conservative) Professor Alfred M. Rehwinkel of Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

I just finished reading both this and the 1936 edition of For Better, Not For Worse by Walter Maier (also published by CPH). It's absolutely amazing to see the change in attitude which
occurred in the span of two decades, where CPH would then publish a book which praised Margaret Sanger and her "Planned Parenthood" clinics.

Here are some selected excerpts from this fateful volume by Prof. Rehwinkel. First, he defines the term which is the title of his
book, one which he borrowed from Margaret Sanger:

"Planned parenthood, then, means to apply to the function of begetting children and the establishment of the family the same intelligence, experience, judgment, and careful weighing of all the consequences for those concerned as a man would normally apply to any other life situation where an important decision must be made. ...That to this end they voluntarily regulate the frequency of pregnancy and set limits to the number of possible offspring by the use of artificial devices recommended for that purpose by the medical profession, governed in their decision by the exigencies of the existing circumstances." [page 9]

Remember that this is said in a positive context!

"The emerging but still groping and uncertain public opinion on birth control found an enthusiastic champion in the person of a brilliant young woman by the name of Margaret Higgens Sanger." [page 32]

He then proceeds to tell her life story and boast of her brave struggle to see the legalization of birth control.

"This state of affairs became a nightmare for the sensitive soul of Margaret Sanger. Fear of another pregnancy filled the heart of every poor woman that she came in contact with. The question that met her was always the same: 'What can I do to keep from it?' or 'What can I do to get out of it?'

"These appalling conditions haunted Margaret Sanger day and night. She appealed to the doctors to do something about it, but they refused... The struggle was a hard and a bitter one. Very few men or women had the courage to share with her the odium of public disapproval, though they might share her general ideas. She was harassed by law enforcement agencies, repeatedly suffered imprisonment, and even her husband had to go to jail for a considerable time merely for having handed to an investigator a pamphlet published by his wife on the use of contraceptives. But Margaret Sanger was determined to carry on until Anthony Comstock laws had been repealed or modified and the public opinion had been enlightened." [pages 34-35]

What a heroine!

"And it is a noteworthy fact that approximately 60% of those who answered the questionnaire prepared by Rev. Paul G. Hansen of Denver, Colo., for the Family Life Committee of the Board of Parish Education of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (ca. 1953) favored a judicious practice of birth control, which seems to indicate that the position of the church is no longer convincing for a great many of its members" [page 44]

Ahhh! Theology by public opinion.

"And what complicates these difficulties still more is the fact that the Bible is not as specific in these matters as it is in other areas of Christian life. It is no wonder therefore that pious and learned theologians from the great Saint Augustine to present-day Christian scholars have wrestled with this problem and have arrived at conflicting conclusions." [page 47]

It is a wonder to me that a supposedly learned theologian such as Prof. Rehwinkel would make such an ignorant statement as this. Was he simply unaware of the unanimity of exegetical conclusions found on this issue among our fathers in the faith? One would be hard pressed to find an issue about which all previous generations have spoken with more of one voice.

"And now, if we turn to the Sacred Scriptures for a clear and definite word or directive regarding birth control, we discover to our discomfort that the Bible is surprisingly silent on the subject." [page 48]

Only because he refuses to see what all those who came
before him saw Scripture saying. Such blindness is what leads Rehwinkel to conclude that:

"...children may not always and under all circumstances be a blessing and therefore be desired by man." [page 56]

That's exactly the attitude that comes from not listening to the countless places Scripture contradicts Rehwinkel's assertion on this very point.

"Can planned parenthood or birth control as defined in Chapter II ever be considered right and permissible for Christian parents, or is it wrong and sinful in its very nature?

...The answer to the second part of the question is no." [page 88]

Then he proceeds to give unproven conclusions as to why the answer to the first part of the question is yes. Proceeding from there, he writes:

"When and under what circumstances are Christian husbands and wives free to exercise that liberty and resort to the use of contraceptives in marriage with a good conscience?" [page 92]

Now where do you think a good Lutheran theologian would direct a Christian couple for advice in such a situation of casuistry?

"Husband and wife confronted with such a decision are urged to consult a competent physician and under circumstances also a psychologist or a psychiatrist and their spiritual adviser. Attention may also be called to planned parenthood clinics found in most of the larger cities of the United States. They are staffed with a professional personnel and are ready to serve with expert advice and aid. In most cases they will be listed in the telephone directory under 'Planned Parenthood Association.'" [page 92-93]

Now, after all that HORRIBLE advice, Prof. Rehwinkel writes:

On the other hand, to fix the size of a family at the very outset, at one, two, or possibly three would be a presumptuous arrogating to themselves prerogatives that belong to God. In the first place, they must remember that they are not alone in this but copartners [sic] with God himself. It is God who creates new lives. Husbands and wives are merely the agents through whom God performs this miracle. We confess in the explanation of the First Article of the Apostles' Creed: 'I believe that God has made me and all creatures.'

In the second place, they are not even free to make such a decision. They are not absolute masters of their own lives and destinies. God may withhold all children from them.

Without this final sentence, I would have thought Rehwinkel was reversing everything he had said previously in this book. He seems on the verge of correcting himself when he says that to "
fix the size of a family at the very outset, at one, two, or possibly three would be a presumptuous arrogating to themselves prerogatives that belong to God." Since he believes Scripture does not address this, where does he get this conclusion? If limiting family size to one, two, or three, is arrogating prerogatives that belong to God, then why isn't intentionally limiting family size to five or six?

Regardless, perhaps the final sentence of this excerpt reveals
Rehwinkel's purpose in saying this. He has indicated thus far in his book that it is perfectly fine for people to limit their family size (with the exception of being voluntarily childless). Perhaps here he just wants them to realize that God may limit it even more than they intended!

On this next point, Rehwinkel shows his ignorance of the inevitable outcome of what he is promoting:

The opponents of birth control also raised this objection, that it would have disastrous consequences on the population and the economic conditions of the country.

...There is no evidence in history that birth control had an adverse effect on the economic status of a country. ...Besides, birth control is not synonymous with race suicide. It is not intended to limit families to one, two, or three children... [page 104]

If Rehwinkel could have only seen what a few decades would bring (see the figures I provided in
my earlier post below) perhaps this book would never have been written, or maybe he would have written AGAINST planned parenthood as he should have. We are now at only replacement level fertility (at best), with man and wife having on the average about two children. Our economy is also in great danger because of the aging population and the lack of young workers to support it. And it's becoming virtually impossible for Lutheran young people to find other Lutherans to marry! In his forward to Planned Parenthood, Rehwinkel writes:

"My only plea is that the reader, whoever he or she may be, follow the argumentation calmly and without prejudice to the end. If he does so, one of two things is bound to happen. Either he will be convinced that the position here presented is reasonable, sane, and in harmony with Christian ethics, or he will be confirmed more than ever before in the view that birth control in every form and under all circumstances is an evil and must therefore be opposed to the bitter end. A half-way position hardly seems possible."

Amen. But unfortunately those who read his words found it much easier to take the path of least

To the right is a photo of Professor Rehwinkel with his wife, Dr. Bessie Lee (Efner) Rehwinkel and their daughters Dorothy and Helen.


Hormones, Cancer, and Grace

It's in the news again that women taking hormone replacement therapy are at higher risk for breast cancer. Of course most readers of L & C already knew this. But what the media almost always refuses to talk about is that the effect of hormonal birth control is known to be even greater. Used as birth control, not only do we have the same direct effect of these hormones on breast tissue, but there is the even greater carcinogenic effect of decreased procreation and breast feeding.

Delaying starting a family, and reducing the number of children one bears and nurses, may be the greatest factors in the modern epidemic of female cancers. Breast cancer was known as "nuns disease" prior to the age of family planning (about 1964 forward). Each five-year increase in a woman's age at her first full-term pregnancy raises her breast cancer risk by 7%. There is also a 7% reduction in breast cancer risk for each child a women bears to full term. And for every year of her life spent breastfeeding, a woman's risk breast cancer drops by 4.3%.

Moral of the story for young ladies: Marry early and have lots of kids! Who would have thought of it? ...uhhhh, God: "Be fruitful and multiply!" Children are a blessing in more ways than one. Just calculate the benefits my wife has gained thus far just from carrying six children to full term and nursing them all on average for 1-2 years.

I should take this opportunity to point out, however, that there is no way of achieving 100% protection against any cancer. Following God's will does not make one immune to the effects of living in a fallen world. More importantly, we must also remember that cancer is NOT a punishment for those who have not tried to follow God's will or not succeeded in the attempt.

There are temporal consequences to the way we live our lives, but Christ took ALL our punishment upon himself. Original sin brought disease, suffering, and death into this world, and it won't end until Christ comes again at the Resurrection of all flesh (come Lord Jesus, come!). But suffering is NOT a punishment from God for our personal ("actual") sins.

God has absolutely NO punishment left to offer. All our guilt was placed on Christ, 100% of the punishment was suffered by Him on the cross, and all our sins were left buried in the grave when he rose! Praise be to Christ!


A Proposal For Our Lutheran Youth

The Lutheran young people of today are experiencing a crisis of sorts. For the majority of history, Christian youth were raised in families with five or more children on the average. This typically equated to a total youth population in congregations of triple the current population. It is simply a matter of fact that we have fewer young people in our midst than we did in previous decades. Birth rates are a major component in this dynamic. However, regardless of the causative factors, many churches now contend with challenges which result from much smaller youth groups.

Small numbers are particularly difficult when it comes to youth social activities. The very nature of the early years of adolescence and adulthood by necessity includes difficulty socializing with peers who do not share your interests. Only once we get married and have kids does the playing field of social interaction seem to all level out. While sin certainly plays a part in this behavior, there is also an aspect of this sociology which is simply utilitarian and natural. People gravitate toward those who share similar interests, which leads to associations which are functional and fruitful (especially those that lead to marriage!). Forcing young people with disparate temperaments to behave as close friends is no more fruitful than forcing a marriage between two people who share little in common.

There are aspects of Christian fellowship among our young people which are independent of such social similitude. Worship, joint prayer, and catechesis, are easily shared by people from all walks of life, as long as they are of the same confession. Social activities, however, cannot be limited to these universally shared activities. It is inevitable that young people will group themselves at least somewhat according to common interests. To deny this fact is to ignore an unavoidable fact of life, even though sin surely plays a part in this partial segregation. This tendency should not automatically be labeled as cliquish or antisocial behavior. It's simply a matter of practical necessity that young people seek out the company of those who share their interests and values.

What activities are necessary for our our unmarried young people, and what purposes do they serve? Why do we want them to have church-related activities outside of those which we married adults typically participate in (church work, worship, and bible study)? Well, I think we all would agree that the influence of peers affects teens more than adults. Young people are often not as firmly set in their beliefs and convictions as older adults. The unmarried typically have a great deal more time on their hands than we married adults do. And, for good or bad, that time is most often spent in the company of other young people.

What is the effect when this social activity is mostly in the presence of those who, though they share secular interests, do not share the same religious convictions? Does the company our teens keep have any influence on who they may find to be a lifelong companion in marriage? I would argue a strong affirmative. We offer little competition to the societal lures of our culture (dances, sports, extracurricular activities, etc.) and then we wonder why we are losing our youth to other churches and even unbelief.

In addition, I'd like to point out that when we segregate our youth activities too much by age, we limit the interaction of those at the fringes (such as high school seniors and college freshmen, or high schoolers and those in Junior High) who would benefit from frequent social interaction. If these social activities are to foster potential introduction of marital prospects (yes, that's a valid and important reason for these activities), we must remember that we put young ladies at a disadvantage when we segregate them into a group where they are among the oldest. Our young men also are at a disadvantage when they graduate to the next segregated age group, being the youngest of the bunch. Just ask them!

In times past, organizations such as the "Walther League" fostered positive social activity and support among young Lutherans. While these times have come and gone, such regional gatherings are possibly more needed today than ever. Why? Because congregations today often have too few young people to allow for adequate association between those who share common interests. During the baby-boom, each church had its own "Walther League" of sorts. It is probably less of an issue in larger congregations as well.

Today we see some of our youth desiring to bring their non-Lutheran friends to youth activities. Otherwise they would feel alone and without adequate social interaction in such activities. While there's not necessarily anything wrong with that, the main point I'm making here is that today's circumstances call for a different approach. To gain the numbers necessary for effective youth activities, I believe smaller congregations with an increasingly dwindling youth population must now think regionally rather than locally. While Higher Things and our Synod provide opportunities for annual national youth gatherings and one or two regional retreats, this still leaves a huge hole for the rest of the year for those seeking edifying associations for their unmarried Lutheran young people.

Today's parish youth groups think nothing of meeting at the church and then traveling a half-hour to an hour (and sometimes much more) to some activity. Why not have those from several regional churches gather at a convenient location and then share a common Bible study, fellowship, meal, and activities? This would provide our young people a greater possibility of finding those with shared interests among fellow Lutherans with whom they can enjoy the companionship of more than once yearly - or even more often than this new group I'm talking about would meet! It would foster fellowship amongst all our teens and the parents of neighboring parishes. This fellowship would approach the value which used to be enjoyed in the day when we were blessed with the presence of many young people in our congregations.

Let me jump to the chase. I have proposes to some area LCMS pastors the formation of a regional "Luther League" (or whatever you want to call it). One which I have humbly volunteered to chair. I suggest the organization of at least two formal educational youth retreats per year, and additional monthly youth gatherings for Bible study and fun activities to be shared between those of the one true faith. I propose that these activities be open to ALL unmarried young people who wish to participate, mainly between confirmation-class age and recent college graduates. Some activities would be geared toward older youth, some toward younger youth, and some of interest to all.

Some of these activities could be coordinated with "Higher Things," but having organized a youth retreat with HT last year, I can tell you from experience that doing all of what I propose under the umbrella of HT would be problematic. They have a specific well-tailored mission. They are more focused on national events and national projects, as well as "Christ on Campus" programs. They are working on developing some regional "retreats" like the one we hosted last year, and perhaps we could organize one or two of these a year for our churches. But as you can see, what I am talking about is a bit more local. I do plan on running this all past Pr. Klemet Preus and others I know at Higher Things.

The region open to taking advantage of this proposed regional organization could be limitless -- as far as someone would be willing to travel for this fellowship. Why would we exclude any Lutherans who share our confession and who wish to travel the distance for this opportunity? However, it obviously would usually work out to be more for neighboring parishes for the more frequent activities, practically speaking. We should, however, plan activities in different areas of our region -- depending on how broad the interest is.

Parents would also be welcome to chaperone and/or possibly participate in adjunct social activities planned for them. Training in proper chaperoning could be provided (I recommend this), policies and guidelines would be set, and I'd suggest that those who chaperone would be required to take advantage of this training and agree to the policies of this youth organization. The risks of bringing younger and older youth of both sexes together would be offset by a strict code of conduct and more than adequate chaperoning by qualified and dedicated parents who have been trained to do so, and who would be role models for the youth to emulate.

There were many Lutherans who met their spouses at Walther League activities. Wouldn't it be gratifying in the future to hear that people met and came to know their spouses at these regional Lutheran youth activities I suggest?

So, I throw it out to all you here on L & C as well. What do you think??? Do you have small numbers in your youth activities? I'm looking for as much input into this as possible.



Some Illuminating Figures

At the turn of the last century (1900) the birth rate in the Missouri Synod was around 38 per 1000 members, a natural birth rate for an industrialized country with little contraception practiced. All Christian churches and denominations taught that contraception is against God's Word.

In 1930, the Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops became very the first Judeo-Christian authority in ALL of history to deny the biblical prohibition of contraception taught in God's church since He Himself said to Adam and Eve, "Be Fruitful and Multiply," and he killed Onan for practicing it in Genesis 38:10.

From the late 1940s through the late 1950s, the birth rate in the LCMS hovered around 37 per 1000 members, not much different than a half century earlier. At this point, the Missouri Synod still held fast to the biblical teaching, vociferously condemning the acceptance of contraception by the general culture and by the Anglicans.

But in 1959, Concordia Publishing House published a book called "Planned Parenthood" by Professor Alfred Rehwinkel (an otherwise conservative theologian) of Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis. This book marked the beginning of the acceptance of contraception within the Missouri Synod. In the book, Rehwinkel praised Margaret Sanger's "brilliance" and "God-given talents." Sanger was the mother of birth control and remains the patron saint of abortionists (as well as eugenics, and euthanasia).

By the late 1960s, the birth rate in the Missouri Synod had dropped by a third to less than 25 per 1000 members.

In 1960, the LCMS baptized 82,000 babies.

In 1981, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations report on "Human Sexuality" (never adopted in convention) stated: "...in the absence of Scriptural prohibition, there need be no objection to contraception within a marital union which is, as a whole, fruitful." Insert whatever you like into the phrase "as a whole, fruitful" -- whatever that means outside of "childless." This CTCR report did not even attempt to refute the Scriptural prohibition of contraception taught consistently by Christians and OT Jews since the beginning of time.

While total LCMS membership has remained relatively static since 1960, the LCMS baptized only 31,700 children in 2005, a drop of 66% since 1960. We are now, like the rest of the general population, at replacement level fertility levels (about two children per family).

Currently, the casual observer sadly knows the average Lutheran family consists of one or two parents with one to three children (often with various last names). The effect of contraception obviously explains our dwindling Lutheran youth.

I thought you might find these facts illuminating.


P.S. Aaron Wolf has another good article on this in Chronicles Magazine this month (not online). I drew a couple of these figures from that article.