4.23.2008

Psalm 127 in practice

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. ~Psalm 127

Less than a century ago, and for the entire history of the world previous to that, a man could depend upon the church teaching his children and all their potential spouses that children are a blessing, and that one should feel blessed to have as many as the good Lord desires (i.e. that contraception is a sin).

As a father of seven children, the oldest being 16, I am facing the stark reality that the choice of spouses for my children in this postmodern culture of death is almost non-existent. That is, if I they don't want to marry someone who will despise the blessing of children by contracepting most of my grandchildren from ever existing.

What's a man to do? How am I going to help my children find spouses who not only truly believe in the pure Gospel of forgiveness as confessed in Lutheranism, but also truly believe the words of Psalm 127?
A. Start a new e-harmony.com group that confesses both these truths.

B. Sit back and trust God to bring them together somehow.

C. Convert the heathen masses.
These potential answers are worded in humorous terms, but there's a thread of true sentiment in each of them. I have ideas in my head as to how to search out potential spouses. At the same time I tell my maturing children not to worry - God will take care of them. But then I realize that my children may have to convert their spouses to Lutheranism, fecundity, or both, if they're ever going to get married.

This question brings everything we've talked about on this blog home to roost. The issue of "Lutherans and Procreation" is not just a question for each individual to wrestle with. It is a question that has implications for us all, including our posterity.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Erich,

This is a very troubling issue.

My wife and I have also been discussing this issue. I am preparing to move to a new city this summer. We are leaving a conservative Presbyterian church with several large families. Our pastor has six children. At least one family has seven. I can think of a few with five. There are many, like us, with four. Obviously, we belong to a church where children are considered a blessing. The ratio of children to adults is very high, at least as compared to most churches in the first decade of the 21st century.

I have already begun searching for a new church home in our new city. I have done some online searches of churches, including contacting families in those areas who have large families and pastors who have delivered sermons on the blessings of many children. I have also searched out churches which appear to have a relatively high ratio of children to the overall membership and attendance of the church. It is my hope that rearing my children in such a church will have the message which we deliver at home reinforced and also give them opportunities to meet potential mates who have the same understanding.

Obviously, this approach also has problems. I believe in the Real Presence (though I have no particular understanding of how the Real Presence comes about) and in the licitness and, indeed, imperative of infant baptism and the normative necessity of baptism for the remission of sins. I found a Reformed Baptist pastor who is strongly pro-large family and delivered a very excellent sermon on Psalm 127 (I'll send the link if I can still find it), but I could not join such a church because of its merely symbolic view of baptism and the Lord's Supper. I feel I could join a conservative Presbyterian church, though even they do not hold to the same understanding of the Lord's Supper and baptism that I do (though Calvin's own views may have been closer to Melanchthon's than many believe). Sad to say, the conservative Lutheran and Continuing Anglican churches which I have found have low rates of children. (I recently found a Continuing Anglican church near to where we may live which I have not yet checked out as to demographics, though they do appear to teach that contraception, at least as commonly practiced, is a sin -- I have more checking out to do as to them.) I am not prepared to become Orthodox or Catholic. Obviously, depending on one's doctrinal beliefs, they may not be able to find a church which both teaches what they take to be sound doctrine on other important issues and which, at the same time teaches the blessings of children, and especially the blessings of large families and which, in fact, has many families which adhere to that teaching in their own personal lives.

As I said at the beginning, it is a very troubling issue.

GL

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Greg,

Regardless of how much work we might put into it in fulfilling our vocation as fathers, we must trust God to find spouses for our children, just as he did for the Patriarchs who lived in pagan lands.

Our concern for helping our children find their God-given spouse could be no excuse for communing at a church that does not have the essential doctrine of the church correct. I might find procreative spouses for my children at a heterodox church, but unless we convert them their false doctrine would put all my grandchildren's salvation in danger.

That aside, I found your comment on the Real Presence interesting. I'm very glad you do not hold to a mere symbolic presence. I think we might agree more than you realize. You said: "I believe in the Real Presence (though I have no particular understanding of how the Real Presence comes about)." Did you know that this is EXACTLY the Lutheran position? Some people think Lutheranism believes in a process called "consubstantiation." But we don't! That's a label others have put on us. We believe the elements ARE what Christ says they are, but we don't pretend to know how this can be. For instance, in "Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast prepared" we sing:

Though reason cannot understand,
Yet faith this truth embraces;
Thy body, Lord, is everywhere
At once in many places.
How this can be I leave to Thee,
Thy word alone sufficeth me,
I trust its truth unfailing. (TLH 306)

And, in "Thy Table I Approach" we sing:

Thy body and Thy blood,
Once slain and shed for me,
Are taken here with mouth and soul,
In blest reality.

Search not how this takes place,
This wondrous mystery;
God can accomplish vastly more
Than seemeth plain to thee. (TLH 310)

Are you sure you're not Lutheran?

Anonymous said...

>>>Are you sure you're not Lutheran?<<<

No, I am not sure I am not Lutheran. When I take one of those online denomination selector tests, it always comes up LCMS. My wife's always comes up PCA. I actually believe I am closest to Continuing Anglican, but all those little denominations are too small to be included in the test.

GL

Polly said...

I can work myself into a complete freak-out when I think too much about the world in which my kids' future spouses are growing up. My children are ages 4-17.

All I can do is pray "into your hands I commend my body and soul and ALL THINGS."

Anonymous said...

My mother-in-law, who does not understand (or, apparently, approve) of our openness to more children, cites the bad days coming (I think she has in mind the End Times, ala Left Behind, which she is convinced is just around the corner) as a reason not to bring more children in the world. If that was a good reason not to have children, mankind would have become extinct long ago. And, of course, I don't base my behavior on works of fiction, but on the eternal Word of God.

Pastor Beisel said...

I agree with your strong convictions about contraception. However, you run the risk of replacing Justification by Grace through faith as the article upon which the Church stands or falls with Procreation/anti-contraception. The bottom line is, I think you need to remember that as long as we live in a sinful, fallen world, all things will not be ideal and as you wish. If your children happen to marry someone who is not on board with procreation as being a good gift of God, perhaps in time they will come to see the blessings of children. It might not happen overnight. Then again, I think there are a lot of young people out there who are realizing just what hindering the creative process does to one's marriage and conscience.

Anonymous said...

D. Send your kids to a Concordia to the tune of about $100,000+ each. Like my dad, you can pressure them to get married after they find a girlfriend/boyfriend. Try a Concordia, but they might end up denying inerrancy and creation like many of their professors. Maybe they will even recieve a free condom like I did in the very first contraceptive handout here (don't worry, I'm not going to use that condom in my desk drawer).

D. Try Bethany or WisCo, but they might sever church-fellowship with you.

E. Offer them $100,000 each to set them up when they get married right after Lutheran High...after all, dentists make a lot of money, right?

Anonymous said...

I attended a Concordia and didn't find a husband.

God surely disappointed my parents.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Pr. Beisel,

Thank you for your comment. But I take serious issue with your contention that I "run the risk of replacing Justification by Grace through faith as the article upon which the Church stands or falls."

The primary issue my children's potential spouses MUST be orthodox on is Justification. This CANNOT be sacrificed for any reason. That was the thrust of my reply to Greg L. above.

But we also believe that procreation is a primary purpose of marriage. For my children to say "I do" at the altar, the person they marry must ultimately agree on this point before my children would even consider entering into that blessed one-flesh union.

That's not confusing the issue with the doctrine of justification. It's simply being honest about our belief in the main biblical purpose of marriage.

"Therefore, He also wishes us to honor it (matrimony), and to maintain and conduct it as a divine and blessed estate; because, in the first place, He has instituted it before all others, and therefore created man and woman separately (as is evident), not for lewdness, but that they should (legiti­mately) live together, be fruitful, beget children, and nourish and train them to the honor of God." [Large Catechism, Sixth Commandment]

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

P.S. Putting it briefly, my children have a much higher standard for whom they will consider giving themselves to in marriage vs. whom they would commune with in the Sacrament of the Altar.

That distinction doesn't confuse procreation with Justification as the article of faith upon which the church stands or falls.

GL said...

Erich,

Here, belatedly, is a link to some sermons by a Reformed Baptist minister in Birmingham, AL on Psalm 27.

http://www.dominionbaptist.org/journal/index.php/2007/09/

GL said...

Oops. That should have read Psalm 127. (I am quite prone to typos.)