The Doctors' Office

Yesterday I went to the baby doctors' office with my wife. It is a practice of 4 MD's and 1 nurse practitioner. I give the Lord many thanks for these people, one reason is that they have taken excellent care of my wife in the births of our children thus far and are now taking care of her and the one not yet born. But also for the reason above. This is a sign that is posted in their office. When anyone comes in, they know where these physicians stand, and for this I am thankful. I wish that more doctors would do the same.

The "Life of the Mother" Exception

In the comment from Rev. Robert C. Baker I shared below, he states in part:

"The world was changing. Because believers also use the language of the world, which brings with it ideas and concepts foreign to the faith, they begin to reflect and write on their faith in a different way."

The concept of a "life of the mother exception" commonly used in both abortion and contraception arguments is a prime example of modern theologians co-opting the language of modern culture, bringing with it ideas and concepts foreign to the Christian faith.

I confess that I once fell into this same error in thinking when discussing the principle of conflicting absolutes here on this very blog. I used the example of an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy as being a case when "abortion" is the "lesser evil." This goes to show just how far this faulty modern epistemology has taken us. This has led to one of the most egregious errors modern theologians in the Missouri Synod have fallen into.

Let me start out with this statement: It is never, I repeat NEVER, justified for us to take it upon ourselves to end one life so that another may live. However, the death of an unborn child may be a tragically unavoidable byproduct ("double effect") of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of the mother. It is absolutely crucial, though, to distinguish any such procedures from "abortion" because it is not the intent of any such procedure to kill the baby.

This important distinction will seem too subtle to some without further explanation of the principle of double effect.

We may not do evil so that good may come. But this does not forbid doing a necessary good work even when an evil secondary effect may result. Taking this essential Christian doctrine into account, the principle of double effect would, for example, justify the common practice of continuing to give pain relief medication to a terminally ill person near the end of life, even though such medication may hasten the death of the individual through suppression of respiration, etc. We would never equate such end-of-life medical care as murder. My sister has been in this situation as an intensive care nurse too many times to count.

To borrow a brief explanation from a very instructive Roman Catholic explanation of this issue:

However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother's life, is applied to her organism (though the child's death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked. Moralists agree that we are not always prohibited from doing what is lawful in itself, though evil consequences may follow which we do not desire. The good effects of our acts are then directly intended, and the regretted evil consequences are reluctantly permitted to follow because we cannot avoid them.

In the case of ectopic pregnancy, the principle of double effect would justify a salpingostomy, which restores the fallopian tube by re-sectioning the obstructed portion. Without this medical procedure, the fallopian tube is at extreme risk of rupturing and causing the mother to bleed to death. Ideally this surgical procedure would also include an attempt to induce the embryo that has become lodged in the fallopion tube to implant into the uterus. A salpingostomy aims at preserving the mother’s life (the desired effect). Although it almost always results in the loss of the child’s life (an undesirable second effect), it does not use the destruction of the child’s life as an evil means toward the good end of preserving the mother’s life.

Abortion is NEVER a moral option.

Now, contrast this with with the LCMS CTCR opinion from 1984. The influences of the Twentieth Century Project are painfully obvious in this horribly flawed statement:

We have emphasized as strongly as possible the protection to which the unborn child is entitled. We do not overlook, however, the fact that in the gestation and birth of children mothers bear by far the greatest burdens. The child's life is dependent upon his mother in a unique manner, a manner which calls for an act of self-spending on her part. Indeed, we may even say that in the manner of human gestation and birth we see a deeper truth than our attachment to independence and individualism can reach. The life-giving burden carried by mothers, and only by mothers, must be kept clearly in view throughout our ethical reflection. This fact alone gives the mother's claims a certain preeminence in those cases where the life of the unborn child and the equal life of the mother come into conflict. ... In the rare situations of conflict we must recognize the permissibility of abortion. Despite the progress of medical science, there are still unusual circumstances in which a mother will die if an abortion is not performed. ...Even in such circumstances a mother may choose to risk her own life as an act of love, but such an act of self-giving cannot be required. It must be freely given, not imposed.

This error is even included in the most recent Synodical Explanation of the Small Catechism on the Fifth Commandment:

"Since abortion takes a human life, it is not a moral option except to prevent the death of another person, the mother."

This is a HORRIBLE statement. The "life of the mother" exception is based on a fallacy that has been used to justify countless abortions.

“Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my 36 years of pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life. If toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, the doctor will either induce labor or perform a Caesarian section. His intention is to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”
C. Everett Koop, M.D.
Former U.S. Surgeon-General

For important additional supporting facts and explanations, see these links:

In addition, the modern concept that the use of birth control is sometimes necessary to preserve the life of the mother flows directly from this false argument used to justify abortion. There may be rare legitimate conditions for the avoidance of pregnancy in which the life of the mother is in danger, but I now believe total abstinence (and perhaps NFP, though I'm still uncomfortable with this for all the reasons I have argued on this blog before) is the only moral option to consider, as other methods are intrinsically sinful. We may not do evil that good may come.


All shall be poor

All shall be poor
How today’s sexual narcissists insist on propagating their dreary values

See the complete article at http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/all_shall_be_poor/

A hot new must-read book making the rounds is Frenchwoman Corinne Maier's No Kids: Forty Good Reasons Not To Have Children. Having read her embarrassingly superficial Maclean's interview and perused the jejune list of what constitutes "reasons" for Maier --kids cut into your "fun," kids are "conformists" --I'll pass on actually reading the book. Yet, because it would seem there was both money and celebrity to be gleaned from time Maier might otherwise have idly frittered away in an afternoon nap, I'm tempted to give the idea a whirl myself.

Since wisdom clearly isn't a prerequisite for success in this genre, but a knack for "shocking" hopelessly retrograde traditionalists is, how's this for a book concept: Forty Reasons Women Should Love the Burka (1--No more pesky skin cancer fears! 17 --Size 2 or 14, who's to know, so goodbye dieting! 31 -- You're out of that whole beauty rat race thing! etc.).

Does this parodic riff exaggerate the inanity of Maier's thesis? Just a tad. I wouldn't normally dignify such lifestyle bumf with a column, but it struck me that the hoopla around this silly book falls into a cultural pattern, according to which the media eagerly aggrandize purveyors of utter banality, as long as they are advocating for the abandonment of demonstrably valuable social norms.

The 19th-century Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem commonsensically pointed out what seems obvious to me: "It's no sin to be poor, but it's no great honour either." The problem is, in this age of self-esteem uber alles, in which all must have prizes, being known as "poor" is no longer acceptable to the, er, poor. Or at least not the evolutionary version of poor -- those bent more on their own pleasure than the producing and raising of society's future citizens: you know, the ones paying for Corinne Maier's Parisian nursing-home bed.

* * *

Non-reproductive sexuality-pride, infidelity-pride, divorce-pride, anti-children pride: In this topsy-turvy politically correct world, the media have glommed onto the mantra that poor is rich, even if it's only the exhibitionistic, the immature, the egotistical and the narcissistic who keep repeating it.

Barbara Kay is a columnist for Canada’s National Post, in which this article was first published.

The "Strong Divine Command Theory Ethic"

Two groundbreaking comments last night deserve to be highlighted in a post of their own. They are both of foundational importance to the discussions we have been having on this blog for years. Thanks be to God for the wisdom and insight of these two faithful servants of our Lord!

Firstly, consider this comment by Rev. Gifford A. Grobien over at Four and Twenty Blackbirds:

...Dr. Heidenreich is correct in his account of the history of interpretation of contraception, but Rev. Brown challenges the validity of this interpretation because he does not see the argument in Scripture. The two gentlemen thus have not merely different opinions about contraception or the interpretation of this or that passage of Scripture, but they demonstrate epistemologies at odds. The interpretation offered by Dr. Heidenreich is a classical interpretation that operates out of ontological assumptions: what a creature does is related to who or what it is, and who or what it is is not simply the observable properties and characteristics, but the purpose for which the creature exists and the relationship he is engaged in. When purpose and relationship is assumed, then attributes are less likely to be seen as independent and incidental, but integrated with each other attributes and with other creatures. In other words, for human beings, because semen is emitted through sexual excitement which deepens the emotional bonds between the male and female, sexual relations are for procreation, satisfying sexual urges, and building loving unity. They all go together, and cannot be separated in an independent way, as if each aspect was unimportant for the flourishing of the other aspects.

The interpretation offered by Rev. Brown, on the other hand, even if he does not like it, is a modernist one. Yes, the skeptical aspect is postmodern. But what is fundamental is his move away from a holistic understanding of purpose that relies on ontology and relationship, to a subjective perspective that analyzes act and function as relatively independent from any metaphysical essence and purpose of the creature. Relationships and purposes may even be thought to be unchallenged presuppositions, and therefore should be discarded for a truly proper interpretation of a creature or action. From this perspective it is more difficult to make inferences and draw implications. So just because semen is emitted, and one is sexually aroused, and emotional attachment deepens in sexual relations doesn't mean that these cannot be sharply distinguished or even separated when it comes to consideration of the integrity of the act or the complementarity of the aspects. Thus one would also be in greater need of explicit commands or passages from whatever one's authority is (in this case, the Scriptures) for determining the integrity of the act and what is allowed or prohibited.

So I suspect that you are at an impasse until you address this epistemological difference. Most people don't think the way Dr. Heidenreich is arguing, which I think was his point in the first place.

Secondly, consider this comment last night by Rev. Robert C. Baker in a discussion here on L & P:

...at the turn of the last century many Christians were divided over the issue of evolution, the purpose, role, and authority of Scripture, etc.

The world was changing. Because believers also use the language of the world, which brings with it ideas and concepts foreign to the faith, they begin to reflect and write on their faith in a different way. Some believers followed after the Princeton theologians and accepted Fundamentalism. Others, following Kant and Schleiermacher, accepted Liberalism. When you are accused of being a Fundamentalist, or a literalist, or a traditionalist, for example, most likely the person making such an exaggeration is operating from a Liberal set of beliefs, whether or not he or she is aware of it.

In addition to Fundamentalism, another reaction to Liberalism came through the teaching of Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth. Barth denied natural law and taught a strong divine command theory ethic, which means that the only commands that are valid for the Christian are those that are recorded verbatim in Scripture. If you cannot find a Bible verse specifically condemning any activity, then you are free to do that activity.

I find this line of reasoning being utilized, with no apparent credit to Barth, by Missouri Synod theologians beginning in the 1930's, about the same time as when Barth was having his famous debate with Emil Brunner.

The strong divine command theory ethic is why, in my opinion, that modern Lutherans accept contraception (because it is not specifically condemned in Scripture), whereas orthodox Lutherans (Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, Gerhard, et. al.) condemned it as violating the first, fourth, fifth, and six commandments. This method is also why "conservative" Lutherans are unable successfully to address current moral crises today. To wit, most current condemnations of the ELCA's decision to allow same-sex unions and the ordination of gays and lesbians highlight that these are condemned in Scripture.

True, but same-sex attraction and activity also violates the moral law embedded in human nature. Even without Scripture, these folks should know better. If you don't believe me, ask St. Paul.

For more about my views, log on to bioethike.com.

Robert C. Baker

The Twentieth Century Project

I believe readers of this blog will find the discussion going on at Four and Twenty Blackbirds quite interesting, especially Rev. Grobien's most recent comment last night.


A Husband Desires Children

"A husband does not fulfill God's will regarding marriage simply by being married, if he fails to love his wife, desire children, or raise them in the fear of God and with education." -- Gifford Grobien, "A Lutheran Understanding of Natural Law in the Three Estates," Concordia Theological Quarterly 73 (2009): 211-29, at 218 (summarizing Luther and Bonhoeffer).

A Father's Spiritual Testament to His Son

If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.

. . .

Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. . . .

In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the . . . Holy Trinity . . . protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen.

(Excerpt from a spiritual testament from King Louis IX, saint, to his son (presumably his heir and successor, King Phillip III, the Bold). St. Louis was the father of eleven children.)

Psalm 127 (The Psalter, 1912)

Unless the Lord the house shall build,
The weary builders toil in vain;
Unless the Lord the city shield,
The guards a useless watch maintain.

In vain you rise ere morning-break,
And late your nightly vigils keep,
And of the bread of toil partake;
God gives to His belovèd sleep.

Lo, children are a great reward,
A gift from God in very truth;
With arrows is his quiver stored
Who joys in children of his youth.

And blest the man whose age is cheered
By stalwart sons and daughters fair;
No enemies by him are feared,
No lack of love, no want of care.


The ELCA and John Piper

John Piper posted a very controversial and very thought provoking blog entry regarding the tornado that damaged a Lutheran church on the same day that the ELCA passed one of its Social Statement on Human Sexuality resolution. See http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1965_the_tornado_the_lutherans_and_homosexuality/. Piper wrote, inter alia:
The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
Certainly, homosexual behavior is a grave sin. Anyone who has read Scripture and takes it seriously cannot deny that. Yet, the same web site includes the following declarations:
Desiring God and Bethlehem Baptist Church have no formal position on birth control, but John Piper and most of the pastors on staff believe that non-abortive forms of birth control are permissible. The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture . . . .
Martin Luther called Onan's sin of birth control a "Sodomitic act." That is, he categorized it as the same class of sin as homosexual acts (and, if one studies this matter, heterosexual acts which by their nature are not potentially procreative). To Piper's assertion that "[t]he Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly" we have not only 19 centuries of the most respected Christian pastors arguing otherwise, we have Walter A. Maier, Sr.'s response to a similar assertion nearly 80 years ago:
This is a bold statement. When the first human parent pair was created, the divine commandment enjoined: “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” (Gen. 1:28). After the Deluge, when the world was to take its second start, the blessing for Noah and his sons again required them to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” (Gen. 9:1) In Ps. 127:3 we read: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, And the fruit of the womb is His reward.” The picture of the ideal home is described in Ps. 128:3: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house, Thy children like olive plants round about thy table.” . . . In spite of extended argument not a single passage can be adduced from Scripture which in any remote way condones birth control; and no one acquainted with the Bible should hesitate to admit that it is a definite departure from the requirements of Scripture. See Gen. 38:9, 10.
One wonders when we "conservative" Christians will remove this log from our eyes so that we can better see to remove the specks from the eyes of our more liberal brothers.


What if she were 23 and finishing law school?

Let's assume contraception sometimes is okay and sometimes is not. Where might that lead?

I mentioned my growing horror at abortion as one of the important elements in my own conversion to Catholicism. When we broke into informal conversation over lunch, one of the women drew me aside because she wanted me to know that notwithstanding her respect for the Magisterium, if she had a thirteen-year-old daughter who was impregnated during a rape, she would whisk her off to an abortionist before you could say "boo." Startled, I responded, "And what if she were twenty-three and finishing law school?" She looked startled and suddenly abashed.

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Marriage: The Dream That Refuses to Die (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2008), 151-52.


Chesterton: "I despise Birth-Control"

G. K. Chesterton on Babies and Distributism

From The Well and the Shallows

Short excerpt:

They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world."

New Population Control Method Suggested in India

Reader GW just sent me this one [Less Sex, More TV] saying: "The idea being that if they bring electricity to all the villages in India, couples will stay up late watching TV and be too tired to make babies. I wish I was kidding."

Can you believe this??? Wow!


Polyamory -- The Perfectly Plural Postmodern Condition

Albert Mohler reports on the latest trend in our decent into the abyss on his blog at http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_print.php?id=4211.

Mohler, in reference to the recent Newsweek report, available at http://www.newsweek.com/id/209164 writes:
Once a sexual revolution is set loose, it inevitably runs its course through the culture. While the current flashpoints of cultural conflict are focused on same-sex marriage and gender issues, others are biding their time. As Newsweek magazine makes clear, some new flashpoints are getting restless.

Polyamory, reports Newsweek, is having a "coming-out-party." Polyamory is the current "term of art" applied to "families" or "clusters" comprised of multiple sexual partners.

* * *

Perhaps the best way to understand this new movement is to understand it as a natural consequence of subverting marriage. We have largely normalized adultery, serialized marriage, separated marriage from reproduction and childbearing, and accepted divorce as a mechanism for liberation. Once this happens, boundary after boundary falls as sexual regulation virtually disappears among those defined as "consenting adults."

How did we get started down our descent into this seemingly bottomless pit?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.

When did Christians Begin Accepting Birth Control?

It is very common to read that no orthodox Christian denomination condoned the use of contraception until the Anglican Communion accepted its use at its 1930 Lambeth Conference. That is true, as far as I have been able to discover. However, the Anglican Communion did not simply one day make a 180 degree turn without anyone within their denomination or the broader Christian world advocating for this. For several years, I have researched on this subject, trying to discover examples of pastors, theologians or smaller denominations which condoned the practice before 1930.

To date, the earliest example I can find of a nominally orthodox Christian (Gnostics and other widely acknowledged heretical groups don't count) condoning the use of contraceptives is "the prominent American radical clergyman, Moncure Conway," who in 1878 preached a sermon in London on the subject. Flann Campbell, Birth Control and the Christian Churches, Population Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Nov. 1960), p. 131, 133. "Seven years later the Christian Socialist parson, Stewart Headlam, condoned the practice. . . . It was among the Nonconformist Churches that a more broadly-based movement developed in favour of birth control." Ibid.

I would welcome any information (citation preferred, but not required) of earlier examples of an orthodox (at least nominally) pastor, theologian or denomination which condoned the use of contraception. Please post any suggestions as replies to this post. Thanks.

NY Times: Aging Nations

See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/08/opinion/08iht-edbowring.html

August 8, 2009


Aging Nations


HONG KONG — Shanghai has plenty of achievements to boast about but one record suggests a bleaker future — the world’s lowest fertility rate, with 0.7 births per woman of child-bearing age.

In an era in which one frequently hears dire warnings that overpopulation will one day overwhelm the planet, this may not seem like an insurmountable problem. But low fertility rates in Asia, as in Europe, have created an economic time bomb, in which aging populations will be dependent for survival on a rapidly diminishing number of working age people.

In recognition of this demographic crises, which has been developing in Shanghai since birth rates began falling in the 1980s, officials announced recently that the city was selectively easing China’s one-child policy to encourage some families to have two.

Shanghai’s situation is extreme, but it reflects a trend. A recent U.N. report estimates that China’s total population could peak as early as 2020. The median age was forecast to rise from 34 today to 37 by 2020 and 50 by 2050.

And this pattern has been developing in other Chinese societies. Hong Kong has a fertility rate of about 1.0; Taiwan and Singapore are at 1.2. All of these are below the lowest fertility rates in Europe (Italy and Greece both have a rate of 1.3), and the rate of 1.4 for South Korea and Japan.

Although Japan and Europe are usually the focus of talk about the demographic crisis, urban East Asia shows a more consistent pattern.

In China, the Communist Party’s brutal population policy reduced the national fertility rate from 4.8 in the 1950s to around 1.8 today. However, several Asian countries saw almost equally sharp declines without having resorted to state thuggery. Moreover, it seems unlikely that easing the one-child policy now will do much to change practices, at least in urban China, where fertility is well below the national average. Indeed, Shanghai first announced an easing of the one-child policy in 2004, aiming to double the number of newborns by 2009. Those from one-child families or on second marriages were permitted to have more children and official enforcement of the policy relaxed. But the impact has been zero.

* * *

But underlying all this may well be the cost of children for families with high housing costs that need to save for health care and retirement because of limited government programs. The decline in extended-family support-systems has not been compensated by other social networks or the state. Thrift is valued but the future worth of children to parents and to society is forgotten. Societies that claim to have strong communal values resist tax funding for nursery schools as dangerous welfarism.

In addressing the problems, officials are reluctant to look at the example of longer-urbanized Western societies, where fertility rates are now close to replacement levels. The United States is one, though its birth rate is more due to recent immigrants than the fertility of older-established populations. More significant are those like the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, France, New Zealand and to a lesser degree Britain. All are characterized not only by generous welfare and maternal leave provisions, and infant care systems, but also by high levels of sexual equality as measured by incomes and social position. They also happen to have a high proportion of births out of wedlock. This suggests that welfare and tax systems that support childbearing are important in bringing fertility back toward replacement levels.

Perhaps Mr. Bowring misses the real lesson here. While it may take a village to raise a child (or a community, but certainly not a nation state or the UN -- which is what our current Secretary of State really had in mind), it most definitely takes families for a society to function at all and to sustainably provide necessary care during all stages of life, especially at the beginning and the end. The state is no substitute for moms and dads during the early years of life and no substitute for children and grandchildren during the last years.

From Christian Infertility to Muslim Dominance

From the Asia Times:

The closing of the Christian womb has ensured eventual Muslim dominance.

Precise data are unobtainable, for demographics is politics in Lebanon, but Lebanon's Christians became as infertile as their European counterparts. Muslims, particularly the impoverished and marginalized Shi'ites, had more babies. In 1971, the Shi'ite fertility rate was 3.8 babies per female, against only 2 for Maronite Christians, or just below replacement. Precise data are not available, but Christian fertility is well below replacement today.

Even before the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, infertility undermined the position of Lebanon's Christians . The civil war itself arose from the demographic shift towards Muslims, who saw the Christian-leaning constitution as unfair. Christianity in the Levant ultimately failed for the same reason that it failed in Europe: populations that are nominally Christian did not trouble to reproduce.


NY Times: Birth Rate Is Said to Fall as a Result of Recession

See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/us/07births.html?_r=1&hpw for the complete article. A brief excerpt:
August 7, 2009

Birth Rate Is Said to Fall as a Result of Recession


For the first time since the decade began, Americans are having fewer babies, and some experts are blaming the economy.

“It’s the recession,” said Andrew Hacker, a sociologist at Queens College of the City University of New York. “Children are the most expensive item in every family’s budget, especially given all the gear kids expect today. So it’s a good place to cut back when you’re uncertain about the future.”

In 2007, the number of births in the United States broke a 50-year-old record high, set during the baby boom. But last year, births began to decline nationwide, by nearly 2 percent, according to provisional figures released last week.

Those figures from the National Center for Health Statistics, indicate that births declined in all but 10 states in 2008 (most of them in a Northern belt where the recession was generally less severe) compared with the year before. Over all, 4,247,000 births were recorded in 2008, 68,000 fewer than the year before.

* * *

“More than 80 percent of the job losses in this recession have been borne by men,” Professor Coontz added. “There are a lot of families where a maternity leave would mean that no income at all was coming in.”

Historically, birth rates have fluctuated with the economy. Record lows were recorded during two economic crises: the Depression in the 1930s and the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s.

By the 1970s, birth rates were also affected by the rise of feminism and easier access to contraceptives and to abortion. But would they have dropped as low as they did, Mr. Haub asked, without “the added impetus of inflation, not to mention long lines at the gas station?”

“While that question can never be definitively answered,” he said, “we do know that the economic setting hardly seems conducive to starting families or having additional children. Double-digit inflation during the 1970s made two-earner, two-career families a virtual necessity for many.”

* * *

“It is certainly too soon to tell if this economic crisis will result in a sharp drop in the birth rate,” he said, “but all the measures and indicators, along with the collapse of the mainstays of the economy, are much worse than in the 1970s.

Luther On the Importance of Educating Children

In volume 46, page 251 of Luther's Works, we find Luther giving a sermon on the duty we owe our fellow human society in providing our capable sons with a classical liberal education so that at least some may become pastors, leaders, and good citizens. I couldn't help also applying his basic argument in this regard to the sin of preventing of these servants of God from even being conceived in the first place. Here is Luther:

You ought also to know the harm that you are doing if you take the opposite course. If God has given you a child who has the ability and the talent for this office, and you do not train him for it but look only to the belly and to temporal livelihood, then take the list of things mentioned above and run over the good works and miracles noted there, and see what a pious hypocrite and unproductive weed25 you are. For so far as it is up to you, you are depriving God of an angel, a servant, a king and prince in his kingdom; a savior and comforter of men in matters that pertain to body and soul, property and honor; a captain and a knight to fight against the devil. Thus you are making a place for the devil and advancing his kingdom so that he brings more souls into sin, death, and hell every day and keeps them there, and wins victories everywhere; the world remains in heresy, error, contention, war, and strife, and gets worse every day; the kingdom of God goes down to destruction, along with Christian faith, the fruits of the suffering and blood of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the gospel, and all worship of God; and all devil worship and unbelief get the upper hand. All of this need not have happened and could have been prevented, things could even have been improved, if your son had been trained for this work and entered it.

Suppose God were to address you on your deathbed, or at the Last Judgment, and say, “I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, and you rendered me no service. For in that you have not done it to people on earth and to my kingdom or gospel, but have helped put them down and allowed men’s souls to perish, you have done this to me. For you could have helped. I gave you children and material means for this purpose, but you wantonly allowed me and my kingdom and the souls of men to suffer want and pine away—and you thereby served the devil and his kingdom instead of me and my kingdom. Well, let him be your reward. Go with him now into the abyss of hell. You have not helped to build but to weaken and destroy my kingdom in heaven and on earth; but you have helped the devil to build and increase his hell. Live, therefore, in the house that you have built!”26

How do you think you will stand then? You will not be tainted by little drops of sin, but inundated by whole cloudbursts of it—you who now give no heed but just go nonchalantly along as if you were doing well in keeping your child from an education. But then you will have to say that you are justly condemned to the abyss of hell as one of the most odious and vile men who ever lived. Indeed, if you were to consider these things even now, while you are living, you would be truly horrified at yourself. For no conscience can bear to be found guilty of even one of the things that have been mentioned; how much less can it bear it if suddenly all these things, more than can be numbered, fall on it all at once? Your heart will then have to cry out that your sins are more than the leaves and the grass, indeed, greater than heaven and earth; and you will say with Manasseh, king of Judah, “The sins I have committed are more in number than the sands of the sea; my transgressions are multiplied” [Pr. of Man. 9]. Even the law of nature tells you that he who is able to prevent injury but does not do so is guilty of the injury because he certainly desired and willed it and would have inflicted it himself if he had had occasion or opportunity. These people, therefore, are certainly no better than the devil himself because they are so angry with both God and the world that they help to ruin both heaven and earth, and serve the devil faithfully. In a word, if we cannot adequately denounce the devil, neither can we adequately denounce these people who hinder the work and office of God, for they are the devil’s servants.

In saying this I do not mean to insist that every man must train his child for this office, for it is not necessary that all boys become pastors, preachers, and schoolmasters. It is well to know that the children of lords and other important people are not to be used for this work, for the world also needs heirs, people without whom the temporal authority would go to pieces.27 I am speaking of the common people, who used to have their children educated for the sake of the livings and benefices but now keep them away from learning to earn a livelihood. Even though they need no heirs they keep their children out of school, regardless of whether the children have the ability and talent for these offices and could serve God in them without privation or hindrance. Boys of such ability ought to be kept at their studies, especially sons of the poor, for all the endowments and revenues of the foundations and monasteries are earmarked for this purpose. In addition, though, other boys as well ought to study, even those of lesser ability. They ought at least to read, write, and understand Latin, for we need not only highly learned doctors and masters of Holy Scripture but also ordinary pastors who will teach the gospel and the catechism28 to the young and ignorant, and baptize and administer the sacrament. That they may be incapable of doing battle with heretics is unimportant. For a good building we need not only hewn facings but also backing stone. In like manner we must also have sacristans and other persons who serve and help in relation to the office of preaching and the word of God.

Even though a boy who has studied Latin should afterward learn a trade and become a craftsman, he still stands as a ready reserve in case he should be needed as a pastor or in some other service of the word. Neither will such knowledge hurt his capacity to earn a living. On the contrary, he can rule his house all the better because of it, and besides, he is prepared for the office of preacher or pastor if he should be needed there. It is especially easy in our day to train persons for teaching the gospel and the catechism because not only Holy Scripture but also knowledge of all kinds is so abundant,29 what with so many books, so much reading, and, thank God, so much preaching that one can learn more now in three years than was formerly possible in twenty. Even women30 and children can now learn from German books and sermons more about God and Christ—I am telling the truth!—than all the universities, foundations, monasteries, the whole papacy, and all the world used to know. Ordinary pastors, however, must be able to use Latin. They cannot do without it any more than scholars can do without Greek and Hebrew,31 as St. Augustine says32 and canon law even prescribes.33

But you say, “Suppose things turn out badly and my son becomes a heretic or a knave? As they say, ‘The learned are daft.’ ”34 Well, you have to take that chance. Your diligence and labor will not be lost. God will have regard for your faithful service and count it as though it had turned out well. You simply have to take the chance as you would in any other occupation for which you might train your son. How was it with the good Abraham? His son Ishmael did not turn out well; neither did Isaac’s son Esau, or Adam’s son Gain. Should Abraham therefore have given up training his son Isaac, or Isaac his son Jacob, or Adam his son Abel for the service of God? How many bad kings and people there were among the holy and chosen nation of Israeli With their heresies and idolatries they brought on all kinds of trouble and killed all the prophets. Ought Levi the priest to have let the whole nation go on that account, and no longer trained anyone for the service of God?

1957 CPH book says "Sex is all wrapped up with God's way of creating people"

Two years before CPH published Planned Parenthood and the Christian, by Concordia Seminary theologian Alfred M. Rehwinkel, CPH published Walter Reiss's Teenager, Christ Is for You (1957). After promoting abstinence until marriage, Reiss concludes (p. 44):

And when you do marry, you'll find out that sex means a lot more than just fun or excitement. Sex is all wrapped up with God's way of creating people -- more temples for His presence [1 Corinthians 5:19]. When you take your first look at your first baby, someday -- whether you're a young man or a young lady -- you'll be mighty glad you handled sex with respect and used it with love.

Marriage: Why? When?

Wow! This article hits the nail on the head in my opinion. Ummm... No, sorry, that's not quite right... Actually, it hits several nails on the head, and drives them all the way into my thick skull. Yes, alright, that's more honest.

Now, I would also apologize for the author's frank references to sex, but the Bible itself is quite explicit in exposing sexual sin. In fact, it is rather counterproductive to sanitize our discussions about what has gone wrong with the postmodern relationship(s) of man and woman.

In any case, when reading this article, be prepared for it to challenge our typical blind
acceptance of societal norms in favor of a Biblically informed view of marriage.

*The photo above from 1902 is the wedding photo of my wife's great-grandparents, Joseph Albert Gomoluch and Mary Irene Duda, wed at 26 and 15 yrs of age respectively. My own mother was 17 when she married my father, who was 27, in the photo below from 1957. And, yes, they are still happily married. My mother is 70, and my father will be 80 this August 31st.


Demographic Bomb

From the same people who produced the Demographic Winter DVD, we now have Demographic Bomb, available at http://www.demographicwinter.com/index.html.


The Case Against Having Kids

A reader just sent me this article from Canada’s current affairs magazine, Macleans.


“Are you planning to have children?” is a question Statistics Canada has asked since 1990. In 2006, 17.1 per cent of women aged 30 to 34 said “no,” as did 18.3 per cent of men in the same category. The U.S. National Center of Health Statistics reports that the number of American women of childbearing age who define themselves as “child-free” rose sharply in the past generation: 6.2 per cent of women in 2002 between the ages of 15 and 44 reported that they don’t expect to have children in their lifetime, up from 4.9 per cent in 1982.

. . . Laura and Vincent Ciaccio are spokespeople for No Kidding!, a social club for non-parents founded in Vancouver in 1984 that now boasts more than 40 chapters in five countries. Laura, a 31-year-old attorney in New York City, refers to children as a “calling,” one that she and Vincent, a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology at Rutgers University, have decided isn’t for them. “I didn’t want to make such a major lifestyle change just because it was something society expected of me,” she says. “Children should be something people have because they really want them.”

Speaking up on the subject can elicit a smackdown. Last February, the 37-year-old British journalist Polly Vernon wrote a defiant column in the Guardian enumerating the reasons she didn’t want children: “I’m appalled by the idea,” she wrote. “Both instinctually (‘Euuuw! You think I should do what to my body?’) and intellectually (‘And also to my career, my finances, my lifestyle and my independence?’).” The response was terrifying, she reports: “Emails and letters arrived, condemning me, expressing disgust. I was denounced as bitter, selfish, un-sisterly, unnatural, evil. I’m now routinely referred to as ‘baby-hating journalist Polly Vernon.’ ”

Lui, who observes celebrity for a living, rejects what she sees as a pernicious retrograde swing back to the ’50s in which motherhood was celebrated as women’s highest calling. . . .