3.29.2009

Bioethike 2

Last Sunday I promised the readers of Lutherans and Procreation that they would find Rev. Baker's writings of increasing interest.

Here's the latest example: Morpheus to Neo

See what I mean?

If you haven't
bookmarked or subscribed to Rev. Baker's blog yet, I suggest you do so.
.

3.25.2009

Quiverfull on NPR

Read and listen here.
And then join the discussion at CSPP.

Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord

...Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary...


Unto the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children..."


"Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." [see Luther's commentary on 1 Timothy 2:15]


And the angel said unto her, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS."


...And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."


..."My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever."

3.23.2009

Morning After Pill and Minors

LiveNews.com: Today, U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman order the FDA to make the Morning After Pill (which is already over the counter) available to women as young as 17 within the next 30 days and to consider reversing its entire decision on selling the morning after pill to minors.

3.22.2009

Bioethike

We have added Bioethike to our "Blogs worth following." This a relatively new personal blog authored by Robert C. Baker.

No, not the inventor of the chicken nugget. ;-)
Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Rather, this is Rev. Robert C. Baker (CSL 98), the senior editor of adult Bible studies at CPH. Rev. Baker is a very articulate and wise defender of the traditional biblical doctrine of marriage and procreation.

Rev. Baker describes his blog as follows:
Bioethike is a new blog discussing ethics, particularly bioethics, from a distinctively orthodox Lutheran perspective.

Bioethike makes the following assumptions:
  • all ethics is law;
  • classical Lutheran ethics embraced lex natura, the natural law; its abandonment by some Lutherans in the 20th century has impoverished Lutheran contributions to the field;
  • dichotomies such as Law/Gospel, sinner/saint, etc. are helpful only as pastoral applications.
Your contributions and collaborations are appreciated!
Watch this blog closely, and I encourage you to join him in conversation. I promise the readers of Lutherans and Procreation will find Rev. Baker's writings of increasing interest -- never flat or tasteless like chicken nuggets. ;-) For instance, check out his latest post on the Lutheran Church and Sexuality.

Kukos, Rev. Baker! We're listening.

3.18.2009

Celibacy and Chastity

Perhaps this post and its discussion would be pertinent and of interest to some readers of this blog, as well.

3.16.2009

3.13.2009

Embryos and/or Fetuses?

In a letter dated March 7, 2009, LCMS President Jerry Kieschnick called for prayer regarding President Obama's reported intention to sign an executive order reversing restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Indeed, we should pray. However, his message then gets quite confusing at this sentence:
“Fertility-clinic leftovers otherwise destined to be thrown away” is a terribly offensive and utterly disrespectful way to describe what remains of a tiny human being taken from a mother's womb, after having been created by God's marvelous gift of the procreation of precious life.
What are you talking about, President Kieschnick? You are confusing two very important issues in this sentence. Do you even know where embryonic stem cells come from?

I expect the readers of this blog know that embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo - the stage of development a baby is at approximately four days after the moment of conception. Mechanical abortions, on the other hand, are done much later than the embryonic stage of development, at which point the baby is called a "fetus."

In fact, the "leftovers" in fertility clinics unfortunately have never even seen the inside of a womb. "Fertility-clinic leftovers" are not "taken from the mother's womb after having been created by God's marvelous gift of procreation." That statement describes what happens at abortion clinics - not what happens at fertility clinics.

Of course, it is no less a sin to murder an "embryo" in the laboratory than it is to abort a "fetus" from the womb. Life begins at conception, whether that conception happens by God's marvelous gift of procreation in a mother's womb, or by man's perversion of this gift in a laboratory petri dish.

There is an important point to be made in talking about these two distinct issues. See this article from The Slate: Drill Babies, Drill - If harvesting embryos is OK, how about fetuses?

3.12.2009

Advice from Lutheran Pastors to People Contemplating Sterilization

When I was in my early 30s, my wife and I surpassed our state's average number of children (1.8 per woman's lifetime), and that's just when people started asking if we were calling it quits--at "1.8" children, when No. 2 was shortly to be born. I was rather surprised at how many of our fellow Lutherans asked if we "were done." Soon I realized that many men and women at that stage in life get surgically sterilized to confirm their membership in the "two and done club," as one Christian acquaintance called it. (I didn't even know her that well, but she volunteered that she and her husband had joined, and inquired whether or not my wife and I were going to have any more kids.)

Remaining open to God's blessing of children has proven to be a lonely road among our friends, though anything but lonely in our home, where God has blessed us beyond the count of two. We talked to some Lutheran pastors about it. They pointed us to "Christian freedom" and cautioned us against judging our peers who were choosing sterilization. To be clear, we have no objection to sterilization in the rare instances of medical necessity. What concerned us was the casual acceptance of permanently removing one's fertility. (Even when medically necessary it's a loss to be mourned. When not medically necessary, it certainly should not be a casual event to be euphemized, in the words of our friends, as a visit to "Dr. Snippy.") It wasn't until perusing the wonderful online essay file described here that we found several Lutheran pastors (Wisconsin Synod) who shed some good Scriptural light on the matter. Here are some sample statements:

Hans Kirsten, “Birth Control As an Ethical and Pastoral Problem,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly 65, no. 1 (Jan. 1968): 24-42, at 39:
It is therefore wrong and a sin to enter into marriage with the intention of not having any children by it. It is just as wrong at the outset arbitrarily to limit the number of children one will have. Finally, it is likewise wrong at any time during the course of a marriage to determine that one will not have any more children, and that entirely for the sake of convenience and out of lack of faith.
Herbert F. Muenkel, “Birth Control, Abortion, and Sterilization,” Red Wing Pastoral Conference, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bear Valley, MN, 18 Jan. 1972:
For a Christian it is not a matter of choice whether or not to have children. For us to arbitrarily limit the number of children we shall have, or to have no children, is defying God’s plan for the continuation of the race and hindering His plan for the salvation of mankind.
Gerhard H. Geiger, “Abortion in Light of Scripture,” Dakota-Montana District Pastoral Conference, Mobridge, SD, 3-4 April 1972:
It is termed vasectomy in the male and is as common a procedure with prostate surgery as removal of the appendix with any abdominal surgery without any questions asked. ... [But,] according to Dt. 23:1 an eunuch was excluded from the congregation of the Lord. Sterilization also excluded the sons of Levi from the priesthood whereas all other deformities, such as blindness, lameness, etc., did not. God looked upon sterilization with disfavor.
Wayne M. Borgwardt, “Methods of Birth Control in Light of Scripture,” Fox River Valley Pastoral Conference, 1977:
The main consideration in both cases [vasectomy and tubal ligation] is that the operation is irreversible. When such a procedure is not medically indicated, it assumes that future circumstances will not change. Most persons cannot claim such assurance for themselves. Consequently this approach is an assertion that procreation can never again be a sound possibility. Furthermore, such an operation which is not medically indicated is a mutilation of the body and unjustified when other methods are available.
Robert Otto, “Are All Methods of Birth Control Acceptable for the Christian?,” Southern Pastoral Conference, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bristol, WI, 14 Jan. 1986:
What about the Christian question? Here again, as with the vasectomy, we examine motivation. If the sterilization procedure is used try avoid responsibility, we ask, "Does God say to the Christian, ‘Go ahead, you aren’t responsible for your actions?’" We already pointed out, man is responsible, even for his words. In fact in the examination of the Lord Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount one discovers that Jesus holds man responsible for his very thoughts. Christian couples, Christian women can not choose sterilization because they wish to avoid responsibility. Christian women can not choose sterilization as a procedure that gives them sexual freedom or the ability to live as they please. Christian men and women ought not to act like animals. They aren’t animals. They are the creations of God, fashioned by a loving Lord. Man’s greatest purpose is to love and serve his Creator God with his whole being.
I realize the statements quoted above are considered outdated by some, since the most recent is already 23 years old. But Christians seek to discover God's timeless truths, and as I read Scripture and then read these quotations, it seems these pastors are at least close to the mark on the issue of sterilization.

To some, this may be a rude awakening. Fortunately, the same pastors know from the same Scripture that God is gracious. He not only desires to bless us with children, but more especially has blessed us with the Christ Child who forgives. We speak of those who commit the sin of premarital sexual relations and then repent as receiving a sort of "second virginity" from Christ, who has forgiven their sin and declared them pure again; perhaps also we should speak of those who wrongfully chose sterilization and then, in view of the pastors' admonitions given above, repent, as receiving a "second fertility"--being fruitful in attitude even if they no longer can in body, and learning to provide better encouragement to those around them.

3.11.2009

"'Anti-Abortion' is Only the Beginning"



"LCMS congregations and leaders ought to encourage prevention of unintended pregnancies"  Rev. Jerry Kieschnick, LCMS President, in the March 2009 President's Journal

What, exactly, do you mean by that, Rev. Kieschnick?

Perhaps if more people ask we'll get an answer. Copy and paste the following text in a personal email to president@lcms.org
Rev. Kieschnick,

In your March 2009 President's Journal you said "LCMS congregations and leaders ought to encourage prevention of unintended pregnancies".

What, exactly, do you mean by "unintended pregnancies"? Also, please explain how you would recommend congregations and leaders should encourage their prevention.

I would like your permission to publicly share your reply.

Thank you,

Your Name

What Sells in a Recession?

Sean Gregory writes in Time Magazine:
What's last thing people want in a recession? More kids, apparently. According to data-tracking firm the Nielsen Company, dollar sales of products in the "family planning" category, which includes condoms and over-the-counter female contraceptives, are up 10.2% for the first two months of this year. Unit sales are up 1.5%, which indicates the consumers are willing to pay higher prices today to prevent crib expenses tomorrow.

3.10.2009

All Creation Groans

My children have had abundant experience witnessing the conception, birth, and death of animals. We have had sheep (up to 160 breeding ewes) on our farm, barn cats galore (countless), and a puppy whose life ended under the wheel of a car in front of our home. I have also done some hunting, both for food (geese and deer) and for pest management (raccoons, coyotes, and possum).

Just this Saturday, our family dog died.

Mocha was a very special animal to us, and was a loving member of our family for the past 14 years. We found her as a puppy, abandoned on the side of our road, when our third daughter was an infant. She was a good and faithful dog. It was very difficult to watch her suffer with the infirmities and pains of old age and then to suffer even more over the last weeks, days, and hours of her life. She died gracefully for a dog.

With the death of our fellow Christians, we have the tremendous comfort of knowing that we will see them again - that this is not their end. We cannot say the same thing at the death of a beloved pet. I believe Scripture teaches that there will be animals on the new Earth, but whether those animals will include our pets we are not told. In light of this, and knowing that Mocha's death was imminent, I asked my pastor and searched the Scriptures myself for what would be of value to speak to my family at Mocha's burial. I settled on the following:

Job 1:21 And [Job] said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

However, what I chose to teach on primarily for this thundering, dark, rainy day of Lent was this section of Romans 8:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

In particular, I sought to answer the question that was nagging all of us: "Why do pets suffer and die?" Lenski's Commentary provided this helpful answer in explaining Romans 8 as follows:

For to vainness the creation was made subject, not of its own will, but because of him who made it subject on the basis of hope that also the creation itself shall be liberated from the slavery of the corruption for the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

A calamity came upon the whole earthly creature world when its crown and head, Adam, fell; then the creation was made subject to vainness. The creation was subject to man before the fall but not subject “to vainness.” It was subject to man for true effectiveness, to accomplish the purpose for which God had created it. The creature world was compelled to fail in its divinely intended purpose of glorifying God by serving man in a perfect way.

The world is full of sinners, full of ungodliness; God’s wrath is revealed against it (1:18–32). How can the creatures who were made for man serve him in the way in which God intended when he made them for man? They are abused at every turn for “vainness.” The purposes and objects for which they are used are failures, utter failures. Man eats the fruits of the earth and dies; that was not what these fruits were made for. Man uses the animals, and his life ends by perishing; that was not God’s intent. This “vainness” has entered the creatures themselves so that they even help to hurt and to destroy man. In countless ways all is against him: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life,” Gen. 3:17.

The creation was made subject to vainness “not willingly,” not by an act of its own will, it was not like Adam who willed to sin against God. Man is evil because of his own guilt, the creatures have no guilt. Man suffers justly, the creatures unjustly. Our restoration is pure grace, that of the creature world is simple justice. Its subjection to vainness and failure was “because of him who made it subject,” because of God who so arranged and ordered it when man fell from God. This was not an arbitrary act on the part of God but was due to the original connection of the creature world with man. It was made with the purpose that he should live in it and be served by it. When man became sinful and perverted, how could he remain in a perfect creature world, how could it fulfill God’s original purpose toward him? God might have removed man, but then what about all this creation made for him? Then it, too, would be purposeless. But God intended to extend grace to man, to give him time to repent, to be restored; so he subjected the creation to vainness and let man continue, and the whole creation ever reminds him of his sin and his guilt.

So it is man’s sin that caused this entire frustration of and derangement in nature, but it was not the ultimate cause. God is the one who subjected the creation to this vainness for his great ulterior purposes.

[Lenski, R. C. H. (1936). The interpretation of St. Paul's Espistle to the Romans (533). Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern.]

Until now, I never clearly thought about the suffering and death of animals in this way. They are subjected to such corruption because of our sin. It's our fault! It has been that way ever since the first animal skins were used to cover our nakedness in the Garden of Eden. Indeed, all of creation groans as a grim reminder of our sin and guilt.

We heard the pitiful "groaning" of creation, loud and clear, at our home during this Lenten season. Mocha, a creature of God who served us with love, protection, and companionship in her life, also served us while she suffered and died, visibly and audibly reminding us of the horrible penetrating depth of our sinfulness and guilt, and thereby showing us even more how great a Savior we have in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all creation. "The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

"Honorable Old Families"

In teaching my children today, we found this section of the Large Catechism on the Fourth Commandment (¶138-9) interesting regarding the subject of this blog:
Thus experience also teaches, that where there are honorable, old families who fare well and have many children, they owe their origin to the fact, to be sure, that some of them were brought up well and were regardful of their parents. On the other hand, it is written of the wicked, Ps. 109:13: Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Therefore heed well how great a thing in God's sight obedience is, since He so highly esteems it, is so highly pleased with it, and rewards it so richly, and besides enforces punishment so rigorously on those who act contrariwise.
Thoughts?

3.02.2009

BEICHTSPIEGEL

There are other, somewhat simpler versions of "confessional mirrors", as well as this Pruefungs-Tafel from 1914, but the "teeth" of this particular Beichtspiegel ("confessional mirror") are particularly helpful in my Lenten devotions, not to mention regular self-examination for holy Communion and confession and absolution. This is the first time this particular Beichtspiegel has been made available online. If you find any typographical errors, please let me know in a comment below so that I may correct them.

This Beichtspiegel is published in
The Brotherhood Prayer Book, Emmanuel Press, 2007 (www.emmanuelpress.us). The authors, Rev. Michael Frese and Rev. Benjamin Mayes, compiled this "confessional mirror" from the writings of the best American and German Lutheran father-confessors. The text is public domain and therefore may be formatted, copied, and distributed as much as you wish without copyright concerns. You also have the blessings, explicit permission, and even encouragement of the authors to do so. Though it is not required, please acknowledge the authors and The Brotherhood Prayer Book. However, if you modify this text in any way, which you may certainly do if you wish, kindly do NOT mention the source. May God bless your use of this Beichtspiegel with fruit according to His will.

Free Beichtspiegel download links:

3.01.2009

Rev. Dr. Walter Obare and Family


"Bishop Obare and his wife are typical of the Kenyan countryside. He and his bride raised ten children of their own. However, they explained how there are always, at any one time, at least 10 orphans that they care for in their home in western Kenya. The children don't always sleep in their home. Sometimes they go to other relatives. Still, the Obares do a lot to feed, clothe, and care for them.

"The greatest part of caring for the children," said Bishop Obare, "is that they receive God's blessings for the body and the soul." [source]

[Photo from Rev. Matt Harrison's blog]