9.22.2008

The Hausvater Project


The website for this new organization just went live. Visit it and examine it's mission and vision. I am greatly encouraged by this organization and believe it holds great potential. Also check out their FAQs. Here is a sample pertinent to this blog:

What's our view on "family planning" (abortion, contraception, etc.)?

We are convinced that God has the best plan for everyone's family. Imbedded in our created natures as male and female is a message that Luther identified as a "divine ordinance," namely, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28; LC, Sixth Commandment, 207; cf. Luther's Commentary on Genesis). The Creator's design for husbands and wives to procreate remains in place today just as much as in biblical times (Apol. XXIII (XI), 7-8). Ultimately, it is God who opens and closes wombs (Genesis 20:18, 29:31, 30:22), and we should remain open to his blessings of children while also remaining patient if He chooses to withhold that blessing. We are deeply concerned that not only the secular world, but also many within Christendom, have devalued the vocation of parenthood, particularly during the twentieth century, when marriage rates dropped, divorce rates rose, and abortion and contraception became routine.

We recognize that surgical abortion as well as chemical abortion (via hormonal and mechanical birth control methods, such as the pill and the IUD) fall under the Fifth Commandment's prohibition of murder. Although barrier methods of contraception (condoms, diaphrams, etc.) do not cause the abortion of newly conceived life, some Christians have raised concern that these methods physically separate the two fleshes that Scripture speaks of as "becoming one" (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; 1 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:31).

We therefore find ourselves sympathetic to the long-standing consensus of Lutheran church fathers from the Reformation through the mid twentieth century that neither abortion (Fifth Commandment), abortifacient birth control (Fifth Commandment), nor barrier contraception (Sixth Commandment) should be practiced, and we encourage our fellow Lutherans who are exploring the history and theology behind these viewpoints (see, for example, the Lutherans and Procreation blog). For our part, we hope to produce resources that will address the questions that well-intending Christians raise, such as:

  • What are the proper roles for Scripture and natural law in our efforts to identify God's moral law?
  • How can both licentiousness and legalism be avoided?
  • How can both Law and Gospel be properly applied?
  • How does the principle of Christian stewardship properly apply to the topic of family planning?
  • In what ways does Natural Family Planning differ from contraception?
  • What about those rare cases in which some form of artificial family planning -- and perhaps even an abortifacient form -- seems necessary for the preservation of the mother's health?

If you would like to contribute to our ongoing research, please contact us.

9.20.2008

The Role of Women

This presentation by Pr. Rolf Preus is absolutely the best essay on the role of women that I have ever read. Pr. Preus has an awesome handle on this issue and is quite eloquent and pastoral in the way he presents it. The essay is also very complimentary to women who are fulfilling their legitimate vocations. You might be surprised at the issues that Pr. Preus touches on, and the attitude he understands Scripture having toward them. The issue of procreation is spoken of in a wonderful context. I strongly encourage you to read the entire essay, but here's a tickler:

...And that is why God did not make a woman to preach. For a woman to become a preacher is for her to deny what God made her. The highest honor that God bestows on Christian women is to make them faithful wives and fruitful mothers. (Genesis 1, 28)

God blessed them and said to them to be fruitful. He did not curse them with children. He blessed them with children. He did not give them a list of options from which to choose, depending on their own self-understanding and personal preferences. He made them male and female, he joined them as one flesh, and he blessed them to have children.

To deny that children are a blessing from God is to distort the very nature of woman and to steal from her the honor God gave her. (Psalm 127, 3-5) To argue that there is a higher calling for a woman than to the divinely instituted office of Christian wife and mother is to demean womanhood, to despise children, and to hold God’s creative work in contempt.

While the Christian Church scurries here and there for any tiny shred of biblical warrant for extending divine calls to women to do this or that activity in the church – anything by which the service of women may be glorified – she stands in mute acquiescence to the demeaning of true womanly glory by adopting the standards of the current culture of death as her own.

...A few years ago, my wife got into a conversation with an ELS pastor’s wife who told my wife how blessed she was to have so many children. My wife agreed. The woman then shared with my wife her desire for more than the two children she had, but her husband did not want any more children. Naturally, this ELS pastor taught his parishioners that it was a sin for a woman to vote in the voters’ assembly of the congregation. Is not the hypocrisy too obvious to deny? A man denies to woman what God blessed woman to do, and then, should she desire to do what a man is given to do, he denies her that as well. So what purpose then does a woman serve? Is it to please the man? Or is it to serve God? To assert the headship of man while deliberately disconnecting it from the blessing of the fruitful womb is pure male chauvinism.

There are women who, for one reason or another, do not marry. There are women who marry and are physically incapable of having children. There are women who can have children but might put their lives at risk if they did. There are many ways that a woman can fulfill her womanly nature without having and nurturing her own children. The fact that God withholds a blessing from one of his children does not diminish the blessing. God only knows why God does what he does and does not do what he does not do. We do know that having and nurturing and providing Christian instruction for children is a high honor given by God to women to do and it is an ungrateful and perverse generation of Christians that treats what is holy as if it were common and of little value.

The Psalmist speaks for God and sets forth God’s values when he describes in these words how the man who fears the LORD is blessed: "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table." Psalm 128, 3

Children are true wealth. This is not merely a socially conditioned opinion. It is God’s infallible declaration, as the Psalmist also writes:

"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; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate." Psalm 127, 3-5

Many Christians have wondered over the years why God appeared so tolerant of polygamy during the times of the Old Testament patriarchs. That God is patient should not be misconstrued to mean he is lax. The account of the family life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is sufficient biblical proof that God disapproves of polygamy. Nowadays, with the exception of a little sect presently being persecuted by the State of Texas, polygamy is practiced consecutively rather than concurrently. Marriage is in disrepair. Christian couples divorce at a rate as high as those who don’t confess the faith. Also among church goers men and women live together and enjoy the marital bed without first getting married. Fornication is celebrated by the popular culture. In the name of helping the poor, the Welfare State subsidizes illegitimacy. As the culture decays the Church appears more willing to conform to it than to challenge its assumptions and governing principles. You know the old saying, “When the church marries the culture she soon becomes a widow.” When the Church herself is a widow she can hardly depend on the Church for assistance.

The theoretical rejection of our identity as men and woman created in the image of God may be expressed by the adoption of the doctrine of evolution, but the real rejection takes place in the practice of planned barrenness. Despising the fruit of the womb is to despise the One who gives it and the one who bears it. When the motherhood of woman is despised, the fatherhood of God falls with it.

...Indeed, the best way for women to serve the church is not by seeking out an office in the church. The best service women can do for the church is the service they provide to their own husbands and children in their own homes. This is the service that God loves. It is certainly more valuable than whatever monetary remuneration is gained by hiring others to take on the domestic responsibilities while going out to compete with men for jobs, thus depressing wages while depriving children of their mothers. When a Christian wife and mother of small children leaves the children in someone else’s care in order to accept an allegedly divine call to an alleged ministry of the church this is no service at all to anyone but is rather a burden upon the home and the church.

...Is this solely a matter of who has authority over whom? It is hard to argue that a woman usher is exercising authority over the men in the pews, but there is something unseemly about it nonetheless. It just doesn’t look right. She should not be acting as a representative of the congregation. It is also difficult to conclude the case against women’s suffrage solely by an appeal to the authority of voters over voters. What authority does a voters’ assembly have over the typical male parishioner who does not attend such meetings and pays no attention to what they do and say? A better case would be made, I believe, by pointing out that the domain of a woman is in the home and that it is not proper for men and women to be thrust together in situations where this woman and that man are required to interact with one another without the protection provided by the intervening institutions of marriage and family. To put it simply: It is unnatural. This woman is with that man. They belong together. God made them one flesh. And he made her the mistress of the home. He placed her at the center of domestic life. He gave her children, entrusted her with their care, and gave her womanly gifts by which she can serve him and the whole church by raising Christian children. Why would such a woman leave her children at home in the care of a baby sitter or a henpecked husband so that she can go off to the voters’ meeting and do what the men do?

Men and women have been segregated from each other throughout history in a whole host of social arrangements. Why segregate them? When men and women are thrown together to do things together without marriage and family defining the way they are to interact with one another the result is conflict, confusion, adultery, and the consequent degeneration of the family. When marriage and children are at the center of the woman’s life, she finds her identify where God himself has established it in creation. Women without husbands and children are also benefited greatly by this stability and they require a stable family life as much as anyone.

...The service of women for the church begins at a very young age. A young girl in her teens can offer the greatest service to the church by keeping her virginity for her future husband and choosing as a husband a man who is sincerely devoted to the pure teaching of God’s holy word and faithfully attends an orthodox congregation to receive it. A man honors his wife by cherishing her not only as his woman but as the mother of his children.

Are there certain offices the church may create that are especially suitable for women more so than for men? Yes, there are. I am thinking specifically of the office of deaconess. It is not necessary, probably not even desirable that a deaconess be given her theological training by an institution of a synod. It certainly isn’t appropriate for men who are studying to be pastors in the church to be sitting next to women during their seminary training as these women receive instruction to be what God forbids them to be. A church that does not have a pastor competent to give a deaconess the theological training she needs is a church that should not have a deaconess.

But a deaconess can be a tremendous benefit to the church specifically in serving women in a way that a pastor cannot. While private confession and absolution is a great blessing to the church, there are matters that are simply inappropriate for a woman to discuss with a man who is not her husband. God only knows how many pastor / parishioner relationships that began with a woman confessing her sexual sins to her pastor were concluded by the two of them sinning sexually together.

A woman can speak from within herself to another woman in a way a man cannot. No, this is not the ministry of the word, but it is a blessing from God. A woman can listen, understand, and give woman to woman counsel that no pastor can give.

But such service doesn’t even need a formal position. Women do what God gives them to do. A mother’s wisdom is not to be despised. One man’s wife can help another man’s wife to be a faithful Christian wife. Pastors should encourage women to go to women to get the kind of help that a woman can give.

9.09.2008

"The Sterility of Civilized Man"

"When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable." - Oswald Spengler

The following excerpt is taken from Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Vol. II. Perspectives of World History, New York: Alfred Knopf, 1928, pages 103-105:

And then, when Being is sufficiently uprooted and Waking-Being1 sufficiently strained, there suddenly emerges into the bright light of history a phenomenon that has long been preparing itself underground and now steps forward to make an end of the drama - the sterility of civilized man. This is not something that can be grasped as a plain matter of Causality (as modern science naturally enough has tried to grasp it); it is to be understood as an essentially metaphysical turn towards death. The last man of the world-city no longer wants to live - he may cling to life as an individual, but as a type, as an aggregate, no, for it is a characteristic of this collective existence that it eliminates the terror of death. That which strikes the true peasant with a deep and inexplicable fear, the notion that the family and the name may be extinguished, has now lost its meaning. The continuance of the blood-relation in the visible world is no longer a duty of the blood, and the destiny of being the last of the line is no longer felt as a doom. Children do not happen, not because children have become impossible, but principally because intelligence at the peak of intensity can no longer find any reason for their existence. Let the reader try to merge himself in the soul of the peasant. He has sat on his glebe [an alotted parcel of land] from primeval times, or has fastened his clutch in it, to adhere to it with his blood. He is rooted in it as the descendant of his forbears and as the forbear of future descendants. His house, his property, means, here, not the temporary connexion of person and thing for a brief span of years, but an enduring and inward union of eternal land and eternal blood. It is only from this mystical conviction of settlement that the great epochs of the cycle - procreation, birth, and death - derive that metaphysical element of wonder which condenses in the symbolism of custom and religion that all landbound people possess. For the "last men" all this is past and gone. Intelligence and sterility are allied in old families, old peoples, and old Cultures, not merely because in each microcosm the overstrained and fettered animal-element is eating up the plant element, but also because the waking-consciousness assumes that being is normally regulated by causality. That which the man of intelligence, most significantly and characteristically, labels as "natural impulse" or "life-force," he not only knows, but also values, causally, giving it the place amongst his other needs that his judgment assigns to it. When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard "having children" as a question of pro's and con's, the great turning-point has come. For Nature knows nothing of pro and con. Everywhere, wherever life is actual, reigns an inward organic logic, an "it," a drive, that is utterly independent of waking-being, with its causal linkages, and indeed not even observed by it. *The abundant proliferation of primitive peoples is a natural phenomenon, which is not even thought about, still less judged as to its utility or the reverse. When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable. At that point begins prudent limitation of the number of births. In the Classical world the practice was deplored by Polybius as the ruin of Greece, and yet even at his date it had long been established in the great cities; in subsequent Roman times it became appallingly general. At first explained by the economic misery of the times, very soon it ceased to explain itself at all. And at that point, too, in Buddhist India as in Babylon, in Rome as in our own cities, a man's choice of the woman who is to be, not mother of his children as amongst peasants and primitives, but his own "companion for life," becomes a problem of mentalities. The Ibsen marriage2 appears, the" higher spiritual affinity" in which both parties are "free" - free, that is, as intelligences, free from the plantlike urge of the blood to continue itself, and it becomes possible for a Shaw to say "that unless woman repudiates her womanliness, her duty to her husband, to her children, to society, to the law, and to everyone but herself, she cannot emancipate herself."3 The primary woman, the peasant woman, is mother. The whole vocation towards which she has yearned from childhood is included in that one word. But now emerges the Ibsen woman, the comrade, the heroine of a whole megalopolitan literature from Northern drama to Parisian novel. Instead of children, she has soul-conflicts; marriage is a craft-art for the achievement of "mutual understanding." It is all the same whether the case against children is the American lady's who would not miss a season for anything, or the Parisienne's who fears that her lover would leave her, or an Ibsen heroine's who "belongs to herself" - they all belong to themselves and they are all unfruitful. The same fact, in conjunction with the same arguments, is to be found in the Alexandrian, in the Roman, and, as a matter of course, in every other civilized society - and conspicuously in that in which Buddha grew up. And in Hellenism and in the nineteenth century, as in the times of Lao Tzu [father of Taoism] and the Charvaka doctrine [an ancient Hindu materialism], there is an ethic for childless intelligences, and a literature about the inner conflicts of Nora and Nana. The "quiverful," which was still an honourable enough spectacle in the days of Werther, becomes something rather provincial. The father of many children is for the great city a subject for caricature; Ibsen did not fail to note it, and presented it in his Love's Comedy.

At this level all Civilizations enter upon a stage, which lasts for centuries, of appalling depopulation. The whole pyramid of cultural man vanishes. It crumbles from the summit, first the world-cities, then the provincial forms, and finally the land itself, whose best blood has incontinently poured into the towns, merely to bolster them up awhile. At the last, only the primitive blood remains, alive, but robbed of its strongest and most promising elements.
___________________________


*The abridged edition of Spengler's work begins a new paragraph at this point, omitting everything quoted prior, and much that follows.

1"Being" and "Waking Being" are defined by Spengler on page 7:
"...there emerges in all clarity yet another distinction, which is normally obscured by the use of the ambiguous word 'consciousness (Bewusstsein).' I distinguish being or 'being there' (dasein) from waking-being or waking consciousness (Wachsein). Being possesses beat and direction, while waking-consiousness is tension and extension. In being a destiny rules, while waking-consiousness distinguishes causes and effects. The prime question for the one 'when and wherefore?' for the other 'where and how?' A plant leads an existence that is without waking-consciousness."
2Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906), Norwegian dramatist. Hjalmar Ekdal, in the play, The Wild Duck, act 4., referring to Mrs. Sörby’s marriage, says:
"A marriage based on full confidence, based on complete and unqualified frankness on both sides; they are not keeping anything back; there’s no deception underneath it all. If I might so put it, it’s an agreement for the mutual forgiveness of sin."
3Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsen.

9.05.2008

"The Great Turning Point"

Here is an interesting quote from the Phillip Longman article linked below:
"When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard 'having children' as a question of pro's and con's, the great turning point has come."

~Oswald Spengler
Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (1880-1936) was a German historian and philosopher best known for his 1918 book The Decline of the West (Der Untergang des Abendlandes) in which he presents a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations.

9.04.2008

The Return of Patriarchy

Where was I when this was written over two years ago? I just heard about it (another hat tip to GL). It's a piece by Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation. His thesis is:
"Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best."

9.02.2008

2006 Census Report on Fertility

HT: Greg Laughlin - thanks!

http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/p20-558.pdf

This report indicates that my family of seven children is in a minority of less than 2% of the population (they stopped counting at five children). I remember filling out this census questionnaire, and there was not room for all our family data. But, the bureau actually called after they received the form to interview me for the rest of the data. The number of families with seven or more children must have been even more statistically insignificant than the 2% who have five or more.

Some of the "highlights" from the report:

The level of childlessness among women 40 to 44 years old in June 2006, 20 percent, is twice as high as 30 years ago (10 percent).

Women 40 to 44 years old will end their childbearing years with an average of 1.9 children each, a number below replacement-level fertility. Hispanic women will have an average
of 2.3 children each, higher than that of White non-Hispanic, Black, or Asian women.

Women near the end of their childbearing years, 40 to 44 years old in 2006, had an average of 1.9 children—more than one child fewer than the average for women in the same age group in 1976 (3.1 children). This shift in the average number of children ever born reflects the decline in the number of women having higher order births (three or more children) over the past three decades from 59 percent in 1976 to 28 percent in 2006 and also the increase in the proportion of women not having any births (from 10 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2006).

Complete Fertility for women 40 to 44 was the following by various characteristics:

Non-Hispanic Whites: 1.767
Asians: 1.689
Blacks: 2.003
The only group with an above-replacement-rate TFR were Hispanics at 2.3.

Of women born in America, the completed TFR was 1,823, compared to 2.052 for foreign-born women.

More educated women had lower completed TFRs (1.596 for those with graduate or professional degrees) compared to those with less education (2.447 for those who failed to complete high school -- the only group with an above-replacement-rate TFR).

Those with family incomes of $100,000 or above had a lower completed TFR (1.832), than those below that level of income. Those with family incomes between $35,000 and $49,999 had the highest completed TFR at 2.052.

Palin, Procreation Politics, and Motherhood

Politically, I think Sarah Palin was a shrewd choice by McCain. However, since John McCain chose her for his running mate, everyone has been excited about her "pro-life" stance. It seems that everyone believes that giving birth to a son with Down Syndrome shows her to be a super-pro-lifer. Are there really pro-lifers who believe one can morally abort a child who has a genetic defect? If not, why do they fawn over this fact?

What's more, now that it's public knowledge that her teenage daughter is pregnant and intends to keep the child, Palin's familial pro-life position is perceived to be even more solid.

I'll admit that this is all in stark contrast to Obama's "babies as punishment" stance, but have we really reduced our collective conscience as a nation to seeing the hallmark of morality on the issue of procreation as simply that one doesn't kill babies? How about being willing to stay home and raise them?

This seems a good time to introduce the following quote from Luther's commentary on Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 7:26. "And I found more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets and whose hands are fetters; he who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her."

"Among the things I have noticed about fools is this one, which has to do with women. For when he was writing a catalog of vanities, it would not do to pass over this. What happens to fools who try to keep hands off and to do nothing and to be free of everything is that they fall into the hands of women and are obliged to serve women. He is speaking about a woman who administers things and arrogates wisdom and ruling power to herself. He is not speaking about the wrath of women, although it is true that a woman has a more tempestuous nature than a man. This is not a condemnation of the female sex, which is a creation of God. For the sex must be kept distinct from its weaknesses, just as earlier he made a distinction between the works of God and the counsels of men. A human being is a work of God, but beyond this work he wants to follow also his own counsels and not to be controlled solely by God, by whom he has nevertheless been created and made. In the same way the sex must be kept distinct from its weaknesses. As a creature of God, a woman is to be looked upon with reverence. For she was created to be around the man, to care for children and to bring them up in an honest and godly way, and to be subject to the man. Men, on the other hand, are commanded to govern and have the rule over women and the rest of the household. But if a woman forsakes her office and assumes authority over her husband, she is no longer doing her own work, for which she was created, but a work that comes from her own fault and from evil. For God did not create this sex for ruling, and therefore they never rule successfully.

"In opposition to this one could cite the histories about the Amazons, celebrated by Greek writers. They are said to have exercised authority and to have waged war. For my part, however, I believe that what is said of them is a fable. The Ethiopians select women as both kings and princes, as is their custom; thus Candace, the queen of Ethiopia, is mentioned in the Book of Acts (Acts 8:27). But this is a foolish thing to do, as foolish princes are often put in charge of a kingdom. Never has there been divine permission for a woman to rule. Of course, it can happen that she is put into the place of the king and of the kingdom; but then she always has a senate of leading men, by whose counsel everything should be administered. Therefore even though a woman may occupy the king’s place, this does not confirm the right of women to rule. For the text is clear (Gen. 3:16): “You shall be under the power of your husband, and he shall rule over you.” The woman was created for her special purpose, namely, to use prudence and reason in the rearing of children. For everyone functions most efficiently in that for which he was created. A woman can handle a child better with her little finger than a man can with both fists. Therefore let everyone remain in that work to which he has been called and ordained by God."

Luther's Works (15:130)

It doesn't sound to me like Luther would be in favor of Palin's candidacy, regardless of her record or abilities. The fact that one
can do something doesn't mean one should. Isaiah 3:12 also speaks negatively about the rule of women:

O My people! Their oppressors are children,
And women rule over them.
O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray
And confuse the direction of your paths.