Newsweek: "Having Kids Makes You Happy"

Lutheran journalist Mollie Hemingway posted today about a news story on declining fertility rates. A commenter on Mollie's blog pointed her to another interesting story in the latest issue of Newsweek: "Having Kids Makes You Happy."

On a personal note, this Friday and Sunday I witnessed the birth and then the second birth of my seventh living child, Grace Katherine. What a joy! Having children most certainly makes me a happy man! And that is precisely what God says it does:
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.

[Psalm 127]
I am a very happy man indeed. Praise be to God!


Catechism on Procreation

What if Luther had foreseen today's anti-child contraceptive culture and thought to include Scriptural teaching on it in his catechisms? What would it look like in that context? Well, here's what I think he would have written - in fact he did write most of what is below. The blue text would be for the Small Catechism, and the rest of the text would be his longer explanation for the Large Catechism.

The First Divine Ordinance

Be fruitful and multiply. [Genesis 1:28, 9:1, 9:7, 35:11, Jeremiah 23:3]

What does this mean?

We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things so that we do not despise His gift of children, but rather welcome them with praise and thanksgiving as an heritage unto the Lord and as a reward and blessing, and raise and nurture them in the admonition of the Lord.

“For this word which God speaks, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' is not a command. It is more than a command, namely, a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore. Rather, it is just as necessary as the fact that I am a man, and more necessary than sleeping and waking, eating and drinking, and emptying the bowels and bladder. It is a nature and disposition just as innate as the organs involved in it. Therefore, just as God does not command anyone to be a man or a woman but created them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates them so that they have to multiply. And wherever men try to resist this, it remains irresistible nonetheless and goes its way through fornication, adultery, and secret sins, for this is a matter of nature and not of choice.
. . .
from this ordinance of creation God has himself exempted three categories of men, saying in Matthew 19:12, 'There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.' Apart from these three groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse. And whoever does not fall within one of these three categories should not consider anything except the estate of marriage. Otherwise it simply impossible for you to remain righteous. For the Word of God which created you and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' abides and rules within you; you can by no means ignore it, or you will be bound to commit heinous sins without end. [Luther's Works, vol. 45, page 15 ff]

1 Timothy 2:15: “But women will be saved through bearing children—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

“That subjection of women and domination of men have not been taken away, have they? No. The penalty remains. The blame passed over. The pain and tribulation of childbearing continue. Those penalties will continue until judgment. So also the dominion of men and the subjection of women continue. You must endure them. You will also be saved if you have also subjected yourselves and bear your children with pain. 'THROUGH BEARING CHILDREN.' It is a very great comfort that a woman can be saved by bearing children, etc. That is, she has an honorable and salutary status in life if she keeps busy having children. We ought to recommend this passage to them, etc. She is described as 'saved' not for freedom, for license, but for bearing and rearing children. Is she not saved by faith? He goes on and explains himself: bearing children is a wholesome responsibility, but for believers. To bear children is acceptable to God. He does not merely say that bearing children saves: he adds: if the bearing takes place in faith and love, it is a Christian work, for to the pure all things are pure (Titus 1 :15). Also: 'All things work together,' Rom. 8:28. This is the comfort for married people in trouble: hardship and all things are salutary, for through them they are moved forward toward salvation and against adultery.... 'IN FAITH.' Paul had to add this, lest women think that they are good in the fact that they bear children. Simple childbearing does nothing, since the heathen also do this. But for Christian women their whole responsibility is salutary. So much the more salutary, then is bearing children. I add this, therefore, that they may not feel secure when they have no faith." [Luther's Works, Vol. 28, p. 279]

“For one must also consider that at that time fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and a special gift of God, as is clear from Deut. 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. ‘There will not be a barren woman among you,’ he says (cf. Ex. 23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s nature, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good-for-nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all; for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgment flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ From this they understood that children are a gift of God.” [Luther's Works, vol. 5, p. 329]

Genesis 38:9-10 “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. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.”

“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, page 20]

Genesis 30:2 "Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said: 'Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?'"

“Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: ‘Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.’ But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.” [Luther's Works, vol. 5, page 332]

Psalm 127: “Except the LORD build the house, they labor 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.”


What If?

I used to love the Marvel "What If?" comics as a kid.

Uatu the Watcher, an alien with super intellect and power, observed the lives of the various heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe and would ponder questions such as; "What if Spiderman had not been bitten by a radioactive spider?" Or "What if Wolverine did not join the X-Men?"

If you were a comic geek like I was, this stuff made for some good reading.

So let's play "What if?"

"What if the learned men and women who put together Christ in Your Family, Thoughts on Christian Marriage and Contraception didn't accept the concept of gray areas?"

Back in Lutheran high school, during Christian Family class, the teacher told us that barrier methods were permissible, but the pill was not, because it does not prevent sperm and egg from coming together and when they come together that is life. Whether or not the fertilized egg implants is God's will.

No grey area there. The teacher had a basic premise and he stuck it out to a conclusion. I am not saying it is the correct conclusion, but he at least had the sanctity of life in the womb in mind. I remember more than one of the females in the class being very unhappy.

For better or worse, let us say that what I was taught in the 80's is more or less the default Lutheran position. In short - keep sperm and egg from meeting and you are in an ethically sound position, add artificial chemicals to change the way sperm and egg are processed where they normally meet and you are into an unethical situation.

So, let's say the learned men and women who put this document together were in my Christian Family class back in 1989 and what we were taught stuck and they came out and said - package says breakthrough ovulation can occur, it doesn't explicitly state that some sort of super mucus is generated that will keep sperm and egg from joining so that you don't have to worry about an intentional willful thinning of the uterine wall that prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg - we cannot in good Christian conscience recommend this product.

I don't need to write a comic book on the result of such a statement. Millions of women in the USA are on the Pill. That translates to hundreds of thousand of Lutherans. Boom. Bang. Crash. You have just seriously offended lots of women and you are going to lose money.

Programmatic and business reasons, right?

So they settled on the 'grey area' position - in real life.

I must ask the question, what do we need learned men and women for, if they are going to just leave something as important as life in its sacred and wondrous beginnings in a grey area?

The Church has a primary duty and that is the administration of the Gospel. It also has a duty to to be salt and light. One way to be salt and light is to create informed Christian consciences. This cannot be accomplished by seeing grey when the truth is inconvenient.

I am afraid that those from whom we expect heroic statements are not to be found amongst the learned men and women who publish statements under the auspices of synodically sanctioned bodies.

It is up to those of us who do not have an advanced degree in theology to do it.


LCMS World Relief Position on Contraception

LCMS World Relief and Human Care's Life Ministries has finally come out with the long anticipated position paper: Christ in Your Family: Thoughts on Christian Marriage and Contraception.

Read it and weep. And then come back here and comment.

Hat tip to the ladies over at CSPP