A New Moral Code

New Barna survey on morality. Here's the bottom line analysis from the story:

According to George Barna, who directed the survey, the results reflect a significant shift in American life.

"We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America," said the researcher and author, who has been surveying national trends in faith and morality for more than a quarter-century. "Mosaics have had little exposure to traditional moral teaching and limited accountability for such behavior. The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them - the Baby Busters - pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents - the Baby Boomers. The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the U.S. has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness.

"The consistent deterioration of the Bible as the source of moral truth has led to a nation where people have become independent judges of right and wrong, basing their choices on feelings and circumstances. It is not likely that America will return to a more traditional moral code until the nation experiences significant pain from its moral choices."

Indeed. Who can deny that we live in a society with a "moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness?" The separation of sex from procreation is certainly a shining example of this new "morality." Is this a perversion of the "inalienable right" to the "pursuit of happiness?" Or, is it a natural outcome of believing in such "rights?" The "pursuit of happiness" had a somewhat different meaning to the people who signed the Declaration of Independence than the meaning people take from it today.


"The Life of the Mother"

A common question that comes up when discussing procreation is: "What if the life of the mother is in danger?"

My typical first response to this question is: "The mother's life is always in danger with every pregnancy." Many people in today's world don't really even think of childbirth as being dangerous. Relative to year's past, it isn't. But, just for the sake of perspective, let's consider the actual statistics.

First, let me introduce a technical term: "Maternal Mortality Ratio" (hereafter "MMR"). This is the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In the United States in the year 2000, the MMR was 17. To put that in terms some might find easier to understand, an MMR of 17/100,000 equates to an approximate 1 in 6000 risk of dying with each childbirth experience. The current MMR of 17 is just a bit higher than the risk of death in automobile accidents (15).

If you happen to be one of those who do not pay much attention to the risks of driving a car, consider that auto accidents represent the number one cause of death in children and young adults. Some people take all kinds of precautions for other risks that they don't realize are relatively negligible and then throw their kids in the car without proper safety restraints and drive down the road talking on their cell phones.

Back to the point of this post... Even with modern medical advances, each pregnancy still places a woman at a relatively high risk of death.

Now, let's put that in some historical perspective. Below is a chart showing the reduction in the MMR since 1890, when statistics were first reliably recorded (source: Irvine Loudon,
Maternal mortality in the past and its relevance to developing countries today, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 72, No. 1, 241S-246s, July 2000 ).

As you can see, the risk of death from childbirth used to be 20-50 times higher than it is today (10 times higher just in our parent's lifetimes). Compare a previous normal 1 in 200 risk of dying with each pregnancy versus today's greatly improved 1 in 6000 risk. One can only speculate what it was like in previous eras. I wonder what the risks were 1000 or 5000 years ago.

So, the honest ethical questions I would like to ask in this post begin as follows:

How much higher than today's normal (15/100,000) would the risk need to be for a mother to decide it is "too dangerous" for her to consider getting pregnant? If you are 50 times more likely than average to die from childbirth because of a particular medical condition, your risk of death is probably pretty close to the average risk of death of a woman prior to 1935 in the United States, and probably much better than the average in Luther's day.

Does the fact that modern medicine has greatly improved one's chances of surviving pregnancy make the risks women used to take morally unacceptable for today?
Should they have refrained from having children back then because of the high risk of pregnancy? Should we refrain now when the risks approach their levels because it isn't normal for today?

It sounds pretty harsh when looked at in these terms, but what do you think?

I give thanks for all the mothers throughout history who have risked their lives to give life. Thanks be to God for our mothers!


Michael Medved: "Conservatives are having larger families than Liberals"


More news of Taranto's Roe Effect:
"An analysis of birth trends shows why Liberalism is doomed.  Do you know why Liberalism is doomed?  Because liberal, left-wing, secular people are not having babies!"  -Michael Medved
>>> Listen to the conservative talk-show host discuss this trend HERE. <<<


PS.  My family and I just returned from a camping trip up north in the
Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan, and before our departure, I looked up mp3's for the drive. I found the above talk by Medved as well as many other worthwhile recordings (Mark Steyn, Victor Davis Hanson, David McCullough, Steven Ambrose, et al.) and have consequently subscribed to this worthwhile podcast:  American Conservative University.


Lenski's Commentary

Here are some excerpts I pulled out from the new Libronix electronic edition of R. C. H. Lenski's commentaries. I thought our readers might find them as interesting as I did.

Interpretation of John 1:13 -
"The subject of v. 13 is the Logos, who constitutes the beginning, middle, and end of the entire prolog and thus needs no formal mention as John proceeds to describe his human birth. This birth was οὑκ ἐξ αἱμάτων “not due to bloods,” i.e., the mixture of blood from two human parents as in cases of ordinary human procreation. “Blood” is the material substance from which the human organism is formed. The plural “bloods” is the more necessary in the Greek, since the singular might be misunderstand. For the human organism of the Logos actually began with a bit of blood in the womb of the Virgin Mary; it was thus that she “conceived in the womb,” Luke 1:31. The explanation of the plural from the analogy of other Greek expressions must be dropped. Blood that is shed in drops or in streams, animals that are sacrificed, wounds and the slain in battle, murderous acts and the like, justify the use of the plural in the Greek but are no analogy for the generation of a human being. Where a real analogy occurs, as in the reading of some texts in Acts 17:26, the singular is used in the Greek, “hath made of one blood.” When the Logos became man, this was not due to, did not start with (ἐκ), the blood from two parents.

"From the act of procreation in which the blood of man and woman join so that the blood of both flows in the child’s veins, John advances to the impulse of nature which lies back of this sexual union, “nor of the will of the flesh.” The term “flesh” denotes our bodily nature as God made it, male and female, adding the blessing, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.” “The will of the flesh” is thus the natural urge and volition implanted in our bodily nature to beget and to rear offspring. Like “bloods” this “will of the flesh” includes both man and woman. It is true that our blood as well as our flesh and the will of our flesh are now corrupt because of sin and death, yet this corruption is not stressed. The human birth of the Logos is not due to our nature either as it now is or as it once was. The will to beget children, implanted in man by God, had nothing to do with the incarnation. A far higher, an entirely different will, brought that about.

"Yet the decisive will in the act of procreation is that of the man not that of the woman, hence John adds, “nor of the will of man,” using ἀνήρ in distinction from γυνή and thus not to be identified with ἄνθρωπος, the generic term for man as a human being including both male and female. The three phrases used by John in stating how the birth of the Logos as man was not brought about are not coordinate, merely placed side by side; nor should we subordinate the second two phrases and regard them as merely defining more closely the first phrase. These phrases are like a pyramid, one placed on top of the other. They are like three circles, the second being narrower than the first, the third narrower than the second. Thus the first phrase includes the other two, and the second includes the third. Beyond the final, most precise specification John cannot go and need not go in his negations. The Logos was born entirely without a human father. In his conception no male parent was active. The detailed history of this conception and birth John’s readers know from the records of Matthew and of Luke, which John also takes for granted. Neither v. 13 nor v. 14 can be properly understood without the other two Gospels. What John here does is to restate with exact precision the vital facts contained in the full historical records of the other Gospels."

Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The interpretation of St. John's gospel (67). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.

Ephesians 6:1, "For Children and Fathers" -
"1) Paul takes it for granted that the Christian home contains children. Nowhere has he cause to treat the modern crimes of abortion and so-called birth control which defeat the divine purpose of marriage as instituted by God (Gen. 1:27, 28) and its chief blessing (Ps. 127:3–5). Children, keep obeying your parents in the Lord, for this is righteous."

Lenski, R. C. H. (1937). The interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (646). Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern.

Revelation 20:7 - After listing several misinterpretations of
"Gog and Magog", Lenski favorably quotes Graebner, saying:
"Here is sanity: 'Whatever is in league today against the Christian Church—anti-Christian scientific speculation, higher criticism, the New Theology, New Thought, Mormonism, Eddyism, materialism, sensualism, secretism, birth-control, all the forces of Sin and Carnality which seek to corrupt the Church and to slay her inner life, are the ‘Gog and Magog’ of Ezekiel and John. But the great day of the Lord is even now approaching, which will witness their irrevocable doom.' Graebner."

Lenski, R. C. H. (1935). The interpretation of St. John's Revelation (596). Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern.


Fertility as Gift

Good question from Rev. Paul Beisel:

What can husbands do to help our wives see their fertility as something of great value when so many other factors in day to day life seem to scream out: "Stop the madness...NOW!"

If you have a suggestion, visit his blog.


Bonhoeffer on "the right of life that is to come into being"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had this to say in his Ethics [1940-1943]:
"Marriage involves the acknowledgment of the right of life that is to come into being, a right which is not subject to the disposal of the married couple. Unless this right is acknowledged as a matter of principle, marriage ceases to be marriage and becomes a mere liaison ... To raise the question whether we are here concerned with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder." [emphasis mine]
Of course the subject he was writing specifically against abortion, but his logic applies equally to the subject of contraception. His words echo those of Augustine:
"Marriage, as the marriage tablets themselves proclaim, joins male and female for the procreation of children. Whoever says that to procreate children is a worse sin than to copulate thereby prohibits marriage; and he makes the woman no more a wife but a harlot, who, when she has been given certain gifts, is joined to man to satisfy his lust. If there is a wife there is matrimony. But there is no matrimony where motherhood is prevented; for then there is no wife." [The Morals of the Manichees 18.65 PL 32:1373]


Wall Street Journal, 7/31/08: "Treating the Pill as Abortion"

Stephanie Simon over at the WSJ has picked up the story Erich posted about on July 19.

the Bush Administration, as described in the Wall Street Journal:
Set aside the fraught question of when human life begins. The new debate: When does pregnancy begin?

The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying "the life of a human being." [...]

Would our Lutheran leaders identify popular forms of contraception as "abortifacient" and then unequivocally condemn their use, since they can cause the destruction of human embryos?


U.S. One-Child Policy?

Carter Dillard has published an article, "Rethinking the Procreative Right" (PDF), in the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal calling for a one-child policy in the U.S.
HT: The Population Research Institute

Happy Birthday Humanae Vitae?

Humanae Vitae turned 40 within the last week.

It isn't long and it is an interesting read. And don't worry if you are a Lutheran, it is not like you are communing at a Roman Catholic altar by reading it.


Article 17 is downright prophetic.

Now, before anyone gets their nose of joint let me state the following: Admiring a Pope's application of Christian thought and Natural Law does not mean that one sees the Papacy as good thing.

It does blow my mind that we followed in the steps of the Church of England into such gross error on this topic. We Lutherans have a serious problem that needs to be addressed in this case. I think the development of the overall Lutheran approach to contraception is something akin to our penchant in some circles of avoiding crosses with a corpus. In other words - no we can't go buying into that, it is just too Catholic.

Truth is truth - even when those who drove us out see it as truth too. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" philosophy makes for bad policy, dogma and doctrine.