10.28.2007

Vocation


Oh, how our lives would be transformed and our perspective on being fruitful and multiplying would be enlightened if only we were to live out the meaning of Luther's words below:


"Every man is created and born for the sake of others." WA 21, 346

The hearts and minds of the married man and wife (whether contracepting or not) say for much of their married life: "No, we do not want this gift of marital bliss to result in the creation and birth of another human being right now - we want it to serve only our pleasure - we have the right to want what we do in the privacy of our own bedroom to serve only our gratification and to nurture only our own one-on-one relationship - we only want this gift of marital bliss to result in the life of another person when we believe it best serves our purposes and desires as a couple - only if and when WE want a baby."

In our sinful hearts we must all confess that we do not want our entire lives to serve others, and we do not want to create and nurture more lives to serve others unless it fits into our own selfish plans for our own fulfillment. I confess this myself, even though my wife and I employ absolutely no means of contraception, including NFP. Sin is in the heart, and my heart is full of it.

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. [Luther's supposed "sin boldly" letter to Melanchthon]

3 comments:

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I was researching (in Google book search) some of the original sources in a book I'm reading and came across this quote. This is from Leslie Newbigin's Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel in Western Culture, 1986 Eerdmans, p. 109:

The autonomous science of economics was thenceforth to develop on the basis of the assumption that self-interest is a universal, natural, and calculable force analagous [sic] in this realm to the forces of gravity and inertia in the realm of physics, and that consequently it is impossible to develop a science of economics that will be as mathematical and as independent of theology as is the physics of Newton. And since, for the eighteenth century, nature has taken the place of God and has inherited his benevolent character, it follows that the pursuit of self-interest will coincide with the purpose of God. Alexander Pope, as usual, concisely sums up the faith of his age:

"Thus God and Nature formed the general frame
And bade self-love and social be the same"

Traditional Christian ethics had attacked covetousness as a deadly sin, and Paul had equated it with idolatry: the putting of something that is not God in the place belonging to God (Col. 3:5). The eighteenth century, by a remarkable inversion, found in covetousness not only a law of nature but the engine of progress by which the purpose of nature and nature's God was to be carried out.


The book which led me to this quote is Worldviews by Steinbronn (CPH 2007)

The Newbigin quote then caused me to research the subject of "self-love" in Lutheran theology, which ended in my finding the following quotes from Luther in my Libronix library of Luther's Works:

No less carefully must one understand that very popular distinction which is made among natural law, the written law, and the law of the Gospel. For when the apostle says here that they all come together and are summed up in one, certainly love is the end of every law, as he says in 1 Tim. 1:5. But in Matt. 7:12 Christ, too, expressly equates that natural law, as they call it—“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them”—with the Law and the prophets when He says: “For this is the Law and the prophets.” Since He Himself, however, teaches the Gospel, it is clear that these three laws differ not so much in their function as in the interpretation of those who falsely understand them. Consequently, this written law, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” says exactly what the natural law says, namely, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you [this, of course, is to love oneself], do so to them [as is clear, this certainly means to love others as oneself].” But what else does the entire Gospel teach? Therefore there is one law which runs through all ages, is known to all men, is written in the hearts of all people, and leaves no one from beginning to end with an excuse, although for the Jews ceremonies were added and the other nations had their own laws, which were not binding upon the whole world, but only this one, which the Holy Spirit dictates unceasingly in the hearts of all.

One should also note most carefully that from the words of this commandment some of the fathers drew the opinion that the love here prescribed begins with oneself, because, as they say, love of oneself is prescribed as the rule according to which you should love your neighbor.

I used to think about these things in an effort to understand them, but the exertion is useless. I shall not decide in advance for anyone but shall make bold to set forth my own opinion. I understand this commandment in the following way: It commends love only of one’s neighbor, not love of oneself. In the first place, because love of oneself is in everyone inherently. Secondly, because if Paul had meant this to be the sequence, he would have said: “You shall love yourself, and your neighbor as yourself.” But now he says: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” that is, just as you already love yourself, without any commandment. But in I Cor. 13:5 the apostle Paul, too, ascribes this quality to love that it does not look for its own advantage, since it completely renounces love of oneself. Christ commands that one deny oneself and hate one’s own life (cf. Mark 8:34 f.). And Phil. 2:4 says c1early: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” Finally, if a man had the right kind of love of himself, he would no longer be in need of the grace of God, because the same love, if it is the right kind, loves both oneself and one’s neighbor; for this commandment demands the same love, not another love. But, as I have said, the commandment presupposes that a man loves himself. And when Christ says in Matt. 7:12: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you,” He is certainly declaring that affection and love of self are already present in them; and, as is obvious, He is not commanding it in this passage either. Therefore, as I have said, according to the opinion I make bold to have, the commandment seems to be speaking of the perverse love because of which everyone, forgetful of his neighbor, looks only to his own interests. This, on the other hand, becomes the right kind of love when one forgets oneself and serves only one’s neighbor.

Luther's Works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, Ga 5:14, page 354.

Therefore I believe that with this commandment “as yourself” man is not commanded to love himself but rather is shown the sinful love with which he does in fact love himself, as if to say: “You are completely curved in upon yourself and pointed toward love of yourself, a condition from which you will not be delivered unless you altogether cease loving yourself and, forgetting yourself, love your neighbor. For it is a perversity that we want to be loved by all and want to seek our interests in all people; but it is uprightness that if you do to everyone else what in your perverseness you want done to yourself, you will do good with the same zeal as you used to do evil. In this we surely are not commanded to do evil, but the zeal should be the same. Just as Adam is the “type of the one who was to come” (Rom. 5:14), that is, of Christ, the second Adam. Just as in Adam we are all evil, so also in Christ we ought to be good. This is said for the sake of comparison, but not for imitation. So it also says here: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but not in the sense that you should love yourself; otherwise that would have been commanded. But now it is not commanded in this way, that the commandment is founded on this principle. Thus you do wrong if you love yourself, an evil from which you will not be free unless you love your neighbor in the same way, that is, by ceasing to love yourself.
Luther's Works, vol. 25: Lectures on Romans, Romans 15:2, page 513.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your work. I can't express to you how much help this is to us. My husband (LCMS pastor) and I until recently have had so many unaswered questions regarding contraception. There is a need for this discussion. Keep talking.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

You are quite welcome. It is God who opens our mouths, our ears, and our hearts, making this discussion worthwhile. Thanks be to God for His endless mercy, and for the gift of others (including our children!) through whom He serves us all.