Freedom of the Christian

Genesis 38:8-10

8 And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.

Luther writes:

Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment. He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred. Therefore he did not allow himself to be compelled to bear that intolerable slavery. Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him. [Luther's Works, vol. 7 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44 (Ge 38:9-10)]

A friend has pointed out that many people argue that just because the church fathers, Luther, and others claim that intentionally non-procreative sex is a Sodomitic sin, does that mean it really is. Are they not also prone to error? We are certainly free as Confessional Lutherans to disagree with the non-confessional writings of Luther.

This is one of the major arguments people make against the position of this blog. My response to this argument is that if you disagree with Luther you aren't just disagreeing with him and a few church fathers and other wackos. You're disagreeing with the consensus of orthodox theologians throughout all ages, both liberal and conservative. There are few issues of exegesis on which there is the same unanimity with which the sin of Onan is interpreted. There was absolutely NO disagreement in ANY church that Genesis 38:10 condemned contraception until the middle of the Twentieth Century.

All the new interpretations I have encountered are not based on some new exegetical finding or correction, but rather on a desire to legitimize non-procreative sex in these latter days which celebrate individuality, self-fulfillment, and free-love. The new interpretations I've run into usually even contradict each other. More importantly, the new interpretations are inconsistent with the rest of Holy Scripture. Charles Provan (THE BIBLE AND BIRTH CONTROL) does a thorough job of debunking the most common of these modern interpretations using Scripture alone. I have also had some VERY productive arguments with others based only upon Genesis 38:10.

Ultimately, we must hold this as one of the clearest verses in which Scripture condemns non-procreative sex.

I'm not saying that one must always agree with an historical interpretation of Scripture. Indeed, we must be willing to throw out Luther and the Confessions themselves if and where we can prove them wrong on any point. But if one is going to disagree an historical interpretation of Scripture which is as solid in it's unanimity as that for Genesis 38:10, the burden of proof certainly is on that person to show why the historical interpretation is wrong. In all my years of studying this issue, I've never heard a single argument against the historical interpretation of Genesis 38:10 that is even slightly credible. Have you?

When you read modern discussions of the issue of contraception, I rarely see ANY reference to Scripture, nor any debunking of the historical position of the church. It is just assumed that we are "free" to plan our families because Scripture is silent on the issue. But the church has never before seen Scripture as silent on this issue. If they are going to disagree with doctrine that has been so consistently taught for 2000 years, they can't just say "Scripture is silent." They must prove the historical Scriptural position of the church to be in error! Until they do so, the church must hold to the teachings of our fathers.

The church throughout all ages has universally condemned the sin of Onan as the sin of family planning: St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (c. 339-397), Hexameron, 5.18.58; Athenagoras of Athens, Letter to Marcus Aurelius in 177, Legatio pro Christianis ("Supplication for the Christians"), page 35; St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430), De Nuptius et Concupiscus ("On Marriage and Concupiscence"), 1.17; Barnabas (c. 70-138), Epistle, Volume II, page 19; St. Basil the Great, First Canonical Letter, Canon 2 (A.D. 374); Caesarius, Bishop of Arles (470-543), Sermons, 1.12; Clement of Alexandria, "The Father of Theologians" (c. 150-220), Christ the Educator, Volume II, page 10. Also see Octavius, c.30, nn. 2-3; Ephraem the Syrian, De Timore Dei, page 10; St. Jerome, Letter to Eustochium, 22.13 (A.D. 396); St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 24 (A.D. 391); Letter of Barnabas 19 (A.D. 74); Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies (A.D. 228); Lactantius, Divine Institutes 6:20 (A.D. 307); Minucius Felix, Octavius, 30 (A.D. 226); Origen of Alexandria (185-254), Against Heresies, page 9; Tertullian, Apology, 9:8 (A.D. 197), and The Soul, 25,27 (A.D. 210).

And, until a half-century ago, all Lutheran theologians agreed that Scripture condemns contraception.

Let these modern antinomians contend with these historical, biblical interpretations of Genesis 38:10. Show us where they are wrong! Otherwise, hold your tongues about the "freedom of the Christian." Scripture condemns family planning.


Greg said...

Could you provide me with some cites to Lutheran sources discussing this issue other than Martin Luther, particularly 20th century sources on both sides? I am aware of Walter Maier's defense of the historic Christian position in For Better Not for Worse.

Eric Phillips said...

> I've never heard a single argument against the
> historical interpretation of Genesis 38:10 that is
> even slightly credible. Have you?

Heck yes. And so have you.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Mr. Phillips,

Your arguments against the historical interpretation of Genesis 38:10 are the least credible I've heard. I don't know why I waste my time with you, but here goes...

Your belief is that they misinterpreted the Onan incident because they equated or blurred the line between the spilling of seed and murder, and/or had an overlying bad theology re: sex and virginity, considerings sex itself sinful.

You feel that these first principles led them to believe Onan was either guilty of murder or guilty of incontinence. And you must therefore believe that after these myths were dispelled (by science and the Reformation), theologians still took centuries before they corrected this misinterpretation of Genesis 38:10.

Luther was certainly not prejudiced by a bad theology of sex and virginity, nor did he equate contraception with murder. Yet he clearly maintained, and even expanded upon, the historical position on Genesis 38:10, as did Calvin. I don't think you have, but others have argued that this is because in an agrarian society children were an economic plus, whereas now they are a liability.

Have I clearly articulated the "credible" argument?

You fail to consider that the new interpretations of Onan you favor are made by those who are prejudiced by a postmodern worldview that approaches Genesis 38:10 assuming contraception is a virtue of good stewardship in a world in which children are not always a good thing. These new interpretations immediately followed the secular acceptance of family planning and were never heard of before the lies Margaret Sanger taught our modern culture to believe.

Scriptural interpretation is never done without bringing your own assumptions to the text. There are a million interpretations of individual verses one might consider credible if one does not consider what first principles are brought to the text.

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans can all favorably quote Scripture to support their very different soteriological doctrines. One must decide which set of first principles one agrees with in order to decide which Scriptural interpretation is the most credible.

I favor the first principles of our fathers in the faith, especially those of Lutheran theologians up until LCMS seminary professor Rehwinkle began praising Margaret Sanger in the 1950s. I favor the first principles our Lutheran fathers inherited from the 1500 years of church history preceding them. I favor the first principles from the consistent Old Testament condemnations of contraception throughout recorded history.

You, on the other hand, favor the first principles of the modern culture, believing family planning is a virtue, and that all previous generations were just scientifically ignorant prudes.

The readers can decide for themselves which is the more credible approach. The horrific demographic liability being caused by the modern acceptance of family planning is soon approaching.

Eric Phillips said...


The "new interpretations" of Onan simply point to elements that have been in the text all along. The ancient and medieval authors were capable of discovering them too. I once pointed out to you an instance of that in Emphraem the Syrian's commentary on Genesis. But they focused instead on the part they thought was more egregious. Modern commenters do not agree with the presuppositions of the ancient and medieval commenters, and thus they emphasize the elements of Onan's action that went largely unmentioned in past treatments.

Yes, the main reasons for the assumption (which the fathers and the medievals held before they ever approached the Onan story) that "seed-spilling" is wrong were 1) the opinion that sex is a sordid act defensible only because it has some good side-effects, chief among which is reproduction, and 2) the scientific ignorance that led to significant doubt about whether the mother provided any kind of seed, or just ground for the father's seed to grow in. If she provided no seed, then the semen was equivalent to an embryo. So all those Christians today who oppose the destruction of embryos but allow the spilling of semen are making a moral distinction that was not obvious before the discovery of ovulation in the 19th century (so no, it didn't take theologians "centuries" to realize the implications of that discovery).

There's a third reason, though, and this is the one you keep asserting: "The tradition says it's wrong." #1 and #2 are the only reasons this tradition was monolithic in the first place, and yet some people still say, "But... it's the tradition! How can I interpret these verses in a way that none of the fathers ever did?" I'll tell you how: you're freed from the errors that made their conclusion a foregone thing. Use that freedom. Find the elements of the Onan account that they skipped over.

> the consistent Old Testament condemnations
> of contraception throughout recorded history

If you mean "consistent _interpretations_ of the Old Testament," you should rephrase this. If you actually mean what you wrote, I'd like to see you produce even one.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

But, Mr. Phillips, the Lutherans did NOT base their interpretation on a mistaken scientific understanding. They equated contraception with sodomy, not murder. Their belief was that intentionally non-procreative sex was sinful in that it showed a distrust of God and a despising of His blessings. They did not believe that sex itself was sinful, nor that it was sinful whenever a child did not result. They also did NOT equate it with murder. So, you are wrong. The Lutheran position is NOT based upon false assumptions that have been corrected by modern scientific understanding.

As for your correction to my diction, what I meant to state in the words in question was simply that my position is in accord with the theology of the Jews prior to Christ.

Eric Phillips said...


What evidence do you have that "the Lutherans" based their repudiation of contraception on any one thing? It doesn't come up in the Book of Concord. And even in this Luther excerpt you've quoted, nothing is said of sodomy.

Actually, it sounds like the modern interpretation to me.... He frustrated the woman, "inflamed with the basest spite and hatred." I'm not suggesting that Luther would have gone so far as to say that everything would have been fine if Tamar had agreed to the arrangement. He would still have his "order of nature" argument, for what that's worth. And I wouldn't be surprised if he had some other arguments waiting in the wings. Maybe #2 or #3.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

"And even in this Luther excerpt you've quoted, nothing is said of sodomy." ~Eric Phillips

I suggest you re-read it, then. It's right there in the third sentence quoted. Luther writes: "We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin."

Notice the "WE" in that sentence.

What evidence do I have on the reasoning used by Lutherans to condemn contraception? That gleaned from more years studying the Lutheran theologians over on this issue than you've spent studying for your degree in Patristics.

If you're truly interested in looking at what the Lutherans have to say on contraception in general and Onan in particular, Charles Provan provides a beginner in this field of study a broad selection of quotes from Lutheran theologians from the past five centuries in his book "The Bible and Birth Control."

The Lutherans characterize contraception as a sexual sin, not murder. And you cannot accuse the Lutherans of considering sex evil in and of itself. So your reasons #1 and #2 are false accusations against the Lutherans.

Now, as for your reason #3, you are right that the Lutherans do not throw out the historical position of the church without good reason. Neither will I. There are church fathers who go too far on just about any subject. This does not give us justification to throw out the positions they thus defended.

The position against contraception was around long before the one (or more) father you can quote using erroneous reasoning to defend the position. All cultural and historical demographic indications are that this position goes all the way back to the time of Onan.

Which brings us to the subject of this post. You write: "you're freed from the errors that made their conclusion a foregone thing. Use that freedom."

It is your job to prove that the Lutherans based their position on errors. You have not done so, nor can you.

Eric Phillips said...

> "We call it unchastity, yes, a
> Sodomitic sin."

Eh. There it is. My bad.

> more years studying the Lutheran
> theologians over on this issue
> than you've spent studying for
> your degree in Patristics

Okay, I'll buy that. I would distinguish, however, between confessional Lutheran positions and the consensus of Lutheran theologians, even if that consensus persists over a long period of time.

Also, I have to ask, have you seriously never encountered a Lutheran theologian making the link between contraception and murder? I seem to remember Charles Provan doing just that in some of the excerpts you quoted the first time we debated this.

> And you cannot accuse the
> Lutherans of considering sex
> evil in and of itself

Well... not exactly like that. But the theologians of whom you speak may have been making a related assumption, i.e. that sex is good _because_ it's procreative. That reasoning seems inherent in the equation of contraceptive heterosex with homosex.

Reason #3 covers a lot of ground. It could easily explain why Lutheran theologians might continue to use arguments originally framed by people who had a much more negative view of sex than they did.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Also, I have to ask, have you seriously never encountered a Lutheran theologian making the link between contraception and murder? I seem to remember Charles Provan doing just that in some of the excerpts you quoted the first time we debated this." ~Eric Phillips

Not that I recall. But I'd have to read through my collection to answer that definitively. That will be hard since I'm currently on vacation in Florida. ;-) But I can tell you that the primary position taken by Lutheran theologians is most certainly that contraception is a matter of sexual immorality which disparages the blessing of children in favor of selfish pleasure and gain. They see it as turning the marriage inward on itself as a matter of mutual masturbation or even individual self-gratification.

BTW, as much respect as I have for him, I am not referring to Charles Provan as one of the "Lutheran theologians." I am not talking about lay theologians in my comment above. What you are recalling is Provan's personal argument from a few Scriptural references that seed=people. What I referred you to above is Provan's collection of quotations of well-known Lutheran theologians.

Calvin, on the other hand, does equate contraception with murder in his commentary on Onan that I've quoted. As I recall, he is the only (or one of the only) Reformation-era theologians who does make that connection. [At least virtually] everyone else, including all the other non-Lutheran reformers, condemn contraception as sexual immorality - not murder.

Eric Phillips said...


> That will be hard since I'm currently on
> vacation in Florida.

Haha! Well, good. I'm glad to hear you don't go on vacation with your library.

> I am not referring to Charles Provan as one
> of the "Lutheran theologians."


Interesting that Calvin would be an exception in that regard. I wonder why? As for Lutheran theologians usually tackling contraception as "sexual immorality," doesn't that suggest that they find something wrong with pleasure--or at least sexual pleasure--for its own sake? It sounds like they're holding that sex is good _because_ it's procreative. And that's just one step away from "sex is bad, but procreation makes it acceptable."

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

It sounds like they're holding that sex is good _because_ it's procreative. ~Eric Phillips

You really need to read more Lutheran sources. That is not the only good they see in sex. They simply see the intentional divorcing of sex from procreation as sinful. This is how they consistently interpret Onan. This does not equate to a belief that sex is ONLY good because it is procreative. You will hear the same theologians praising the other blessings of married sexuality.

By the way, have you considered the novelty of your own interpretation of the Onan incident? Of all the modern interpretations I've heard, yours is the only one I've heard from only one person.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it is your contention that Onan's fatal sin was the fact that he intended NEVER to give Tamar any children.

I've encountered many other interpretations several times. Various modern exegetes claim that Onan's fatal sin was disobeying his father, others say disobeying Mosaic Law, and still others that he was killed for lying to his father. But I've only heard this particular interpretation from you. Don't you find that odd?

On the other hand, I believe with the consensus of theologians from all ages that Onan's fatal sin was the act of intentionally non-procreative sex itself: i.e., intentionally spilling his seed on the ground. The text tells us this is it, because it says "what he did was evil in the sight of the Lord."

The plain obvious reading of this text must be accepted. The "not-for-mixed-company" narrative of the sexual practice of Onan draws a graphic picture in the reader's mind of what Onan did. The text then goes on to say that what Onan did was evil "in the sight of the Lord." And we are told that for this act which God saw God took his life. Of course God sees everything we do, but the reader is particularly reminded of this fact in this particular case.

And just because you can find a few theologians mischaracterizing this act as murder doesn't change the fact that they all interpret correctly that it was this act of spilling seed which was deemed sinful in this verse. In this, all sources until the middle of the last century agree on the plain meaning of the text exegetically, even if they go beyond the meaning of the text in their commentaries.

Your interpretation, on the other hand, is entirely novel, being unpublished by any reputable theological source that I know of, old or new. But like the other modern interpretations, it is a clear deviation from the plain sense of the text itself.

Well, gotta go. I'm off to a day at Sea World in seven hours with six kids and a pregnant wife! The Orlando weather forecast is 71ยบ and sunny. Back home in Michigan there's a foot of snow and it's forecast to be cloudy, windy, and in the single digits in the morning. Gotta love Florida!

Good night.

Anonymous said...


Have you never considered the possibility that contraception could be considered a form of murder, in a metaphysical sense, in that it denies potential life to one who might come into existence but for the contraceptive act? Let's accept that the early Fathers were operating under a misunderstanding of the nature of the sperm -- which I'll admit some of their writings seem to suggest. Does that mean that one practicing contraception has not sinned against those who would have come into existence but for the act of contraception in a manner that is in some sense akin to murder?

Let us take Onan's sin as an example. Tamar became the mother of Perez and Zerah through Judah. Perez became "the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ."

Had Onan had his way, Tamar would have not had any children and none of those listed, including our Lord, would never have been conceived. All of them would have been denied existence. Is that not a form of murder? Or, if not, is it not at least a grave sin against those named (and all of humanity)?

C.S. Lewis undoubtedly had this in mind when he wrote in the Abolition of Man: "By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer. From this point of view, what we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument."

And one cannot help but conclude that he had in mind Onan's sin when he put in the mouth of Merlin in The Hideous Strength, "‘Sir, . . . know well that she has done in Logres a thing of which no less sorrow shall come than came of the stroke that Balinus struck. For, Sir, it was the purpose of God that she and her lord should between them have begotten a child by whom the enemies should have been put out of Logres for a thousand years.’"

God's purpose was that Tamar should be an ancestor of our Lord. Onan's sin would have thwarted that purpose. Onan was killed by God for his sin. His sin was in engaging in intercourse in such a way as to deny the possibility (as best he understood it) that any child would be conceived. That is what contraception is.

Finally, you conveniently ignore the fact that the Fathers did not rely exclusively on the murder argument. John Chrysostom, for example, called contraception "contemning the gift of God." The Scriptures in many places call children a blessing given to men by God. Contraception is an act which says, "No thanks. I would not consider a child a blessing." It is, in fact, an act which calls God a liar. That has nothing whatsoever to do with murder. It is worse than murder. It is blasphemy.


Eric Phillips said...


> You really need to read more Lutheran sources.
> That is not the only good they see in sex.

I'd be very disappointed if it were. You misunderstand my point. I'm not accusing them of _denying_ the other goods of sex, but of failing to take them into account when judging the act of contraceptive intercourse. I'm pointing out how strange it is to assume that avoiding _one_ of the three classic goods of marriage even _once_ somehow turns that particular act of sexual intercourse from a good thing into an evil thing. That makes no sense. There are still two solid reasons to call the act good.

> Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it is
> your contention that Onan's fatal sin was
> the fact that he intended NEVER to give Tamar
> any children.

You are wrong. That's one of the things that made his act evil, but it certainly wasn't the only thing. He disobeyed a paternal command that was later given explicit divine warrant in the Law of Moses, AND he took Tamar _under condition and for the purpose of_ providing an heir for his brother, pretended to the outside world that he was trying to do exactly that, but determined to take his pleasure from Tamar without fulfilling the very obligation that gave him the right to her in the first place. And he did this even knowing that he was relegating her to permanent status as a second-class wife, to being considered barren and out of God's favor, and to never having a child of her own.

It's pointless to try to figure out the (one) sin of Onan. He was guilty of disobedience, deceit, perversion of the law, defamation of character, greed, and cruelty. At least. "What he did" includes all these things. This is not a novel interpretation. It's been in the text as long as the text has existed, and past interpreters have mentioned different elements from time to time. They've just focused overall on the low-hanging fruit.

Eric Phillips said...


> you conveniently ignore the fact that the Fathers
> did not rely exclusively on the murder argument.

If you consider anything I've posted in this thread to be comprehensive, you should be able to list all kinds of things I've "conveniently forgotten." And remember, I explicitly mentioned another argument the Fathers used besides the murder one.

As for "contemning the gift of God," I don't see what makes family planning any more open to this charge than a hundred other kinds of planning we do every day. If you've ever declined or delayed the reception of something good, you fall victim to your own argument here. Even if someone avoids children for completely selfish and unworthy reasons, he's not simply "contemning the gift of God." He's preferring lesser gifts to greater ones.

As for denying life to potential people, you do that simply by failing to maximize your reproductive capability. I probably "denied life" to two or three potential people simply by holding out for true love (that selfish modern dream) and not getting married 8 or 10 years before I did. And if you want to use that argument, you'd better make sure you have sex every day the wife might be fertile.

I'm not saying these arguments are completely worthless. It's good to make people think about things like this. Christians shouldn't contracept nearly as much as they do. But I don't think it's defensible to say every contraceptive act is a sin.

Plus, it allows people to write you off as a kook with a bad argument instead of a person with a thought-provoking point of view.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

What you fail to acknowledge, Mr. Phillips, is that what the fathers, both early and Lutherans focused on was what the text forces us to focus on by its plain reading.

Do you really believe that Luther or anyone else (including me) would deny all of the other sins of Onan which you have pointed out? Of course he was guilty of all those things as well. But the text focuses us in on the act itself of non-procreative sex.

You try to take the focus off what the text itself urges us to focus on.

Every sin invariably involves more than one of the ten commandments. Nevertheless, in Scripture sins are typically identified by their primary violation.

It is the primary violation against the command to be fruitful and multiply that identifies this sin. A few fathers go further and bring in murder as one of the additional sins Onan was guilty of in this act. In that, they are no different than you, except that what you add is scientifically sound. But what you add is not sound Scripturally.

You write: "He disobeyed a paternal command that was later given explicit divine warrant in the Law of Moses."

The punishment for disobeying this particular command is spelled out in the Law of Moses as well, and it is not death. It is humiliation at the hand of the woman. [Deuteronomy 25:7-10]

Judah was also guilty of denying Tamar her just compensation. He was also guilty of disobedience to God's law, deceit in claiming he'd give Tamar to his remaining son, illicit sex in an incestuous, adulterous fling with his Tamar thinking her a whore, and greed in holding back his remaining son. I'm sure this list could even be expanded upon. But notice that God does not kill Judah for what he did.

Scripture draws us in the very text to the act of non-procreative sex, and that this was so evil in the sight of the Lord that He killed Onan. Perhaps God would still be killing contraceptors, were it not for the fact that he subsequently gave the job of judgment and execution over to man.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Christians shouldn't contracept nearly as much as they do. ~Mr. Phillips

I find this statement interesting. Let's explore it. Where do you draw the line?

Anonymous said...

I agree with your anti-birth control stance. However, this recent article of yours cites an number of principals that would work perfectly well to defend the prohibition of usury. After all, Luther claimed that those that took interest were damned, the consensus of the Fathers is clear, and you certainly can't prove that it is okay to charge interest from the Bible? So therefore we must obey the traditional teaching of the church? Walther and Henry Scwhan certainly wouldn't have taken a loan, bought insurance, or gotten a mortgage. Why should we against the clear testimony of the Fathers and Luther?

Random Layman

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Random Layman,

Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you agree with the anti-contraception stance. I haven't really studied the issue of usury. Perhaps it is sinful. If someone could make as strong an argument against usury as we have here on this blog against contraception, I'd be very interested in hearing it.

But I gather from your comment that you are simply taking issue with the sufficiency of the present article. I agree. It is not sufficient in and of itself. There are many other Scriptural arguments and natural law arguments that support our position. This post on the freedom of the Christian was not meant to present the complete argument. It was meant to present a simplified polemic against the antinomian attitude of some who use the "freedom" argument.

I believe the historic interpretation of Genesis 38:10 is one of the strongest arguments, but not necessarily sufficient in and of itself.

Anonymous said...

Christians shouldn't contracept nearly as much as they do. ~ Mr. Phillips

I would like to see these questions addressed as well. When may fertility be limited and, when it may, by what means?

In his critique of the 1930 Lambeth Conference's resolution permitting contraception, T. S. Eliot wrote, "[T]o allow that ‘each couple’ should take counsel only if perplexed in mind is almost to surrender the whole citadel of the Church. It is ten to one, considering the extreme disengenuity of humanity, which ought to be patent after so many thousand years, that only a very small minority will be "perplexed"; and in view of the words of the bishops it is ten to one that the honest minority which takes ‘competent advice’ (and I observe that the order of words is ‘medical and spiritual’) will have to appeal to a clergy just as perplexed as itself." He called on the bishops to provide guidance to the rectors who would have to address questions from couples as to when it would be moral to limit fertility and, when it was moral to do so, when only natural means of doing so would be appropriate and when artificial means might be employed. See T.S. Eliot, Thoughts After Lambeth. Unfortunately, the bishops did not take his advise and today we face a world in which most Christians fail to see any moral issue related to their use of contraception. Thus, the question he asked then and I ask now are never addressed.


Anonymous said...



Here's a couple who have been revisiting the topic of contraception (not Lutheran, but you will find much that they say of interest, I think).

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Thanks for the info, especially the update on the Torodes. I have their book. While I appreciated their disapproval of contraception in general, I was disappointed that they encouraged NFP as being an acceptable mode of family planning. NFP is family planning, and I am about the only member of this blog who believes it has little difference to other non-abortive modes of contraception. The problems experienced by the Torodes wrt NFP are much the same as what I have expressed concern about on this blog. NFP is talked up by those who believe it is not a violation of natural law, but as the Torodes explain, it often violates the very nature of the married relationship. If contraception is under consideration as a potential "lesser evil" in rare moral dilemmas, these factors must be weighed into the equation.

Eric Phillips said...


> But notice that God does not
> kill Judah for what he did.

Nor does He kill all those who lie to the church, as He did Ananias and Sapphira. Nor does He kill us for the many things we have done to displease Him, all of which are worthy of death. "By the Lord's mercy we are not destroyed."

> Where do you draw the line?

I don't. I just think Christian couples need to give serious thought to the good they can do for the next generation by peopling it with numerous strong Christians, and need to examine their motives.

Bodecea MaGrath said...

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs on the dusty ground, God shall make them pay for each sperm that can't be found!

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Monty Python is hilarious. : )

Anonymous said...

"He was guilty of disobedience, deceit, perversion of the law, defamation of character, greed, and cruelty."

Okay, Mr. Phillips, that is at once a fair summary of contraception as well as Onan's fatal sin.