"Marriage" and Procreation

Due to the homosexual assault on the definition of marriage, Lutherans are starting to think more about the issue of procreation.  Until very recently, conservative Lutheran arguments about homosexual unions focused almost exclusively on the fact that the Bible specifically prohibits homosexual acts. The simplified argument against homosexuality (and thus homosexual "marriage") is basically limited to two premises: that "sex is for marriage", and that marriage is defined as "one man and one woman."

However, this limited argument based on a "strong divine command theory ethic" worked against homosexuality only to a point. There is so much more involved in a full understanding of why homosexual "marriage" is not just "wrong" and "against Scripture", but rather is actually an impossibility.

In the secular world, as well as within the church, we must bring a broader epistemology into play that includes natural law and human reason. Why? Because people see the inconsistency and unfairness of saying homosexuals cannot marry when a man and a woman can marry and engage in sex that is not procreative. The real problem is that, through contraception and the sexual revolution, heterosexuals changed their definition of marriage long before homosexuals sought to co-opt the term.

A case in point is the April 24, 2009 Iowa Supreme Court case of Varnum v. Brien, which interpreted the constitutional guarantee to equal protection as follows: "To truly ensure equality before the law, the equal protection guarantee requires that laws treat all those who are similarly situated with respect to the purposes of the law alike."  You see, if marriage is just about the relationship of two people, and heterosexuals can have intentionally childless marriages for the exclusive purpose of mutual support and pleasure, how can we deny the same legal designation and rights to homosexuals, "who are similarly situated with respect to the purpose of the law?"

Now that we have a growing consensus in our society for a legal redefinition of marriage that includes homosexual "marriage", people are realizing that the Christian argument against such a redefinition must go beyond the "one man - one woman" facet. Many are realizing that they were missing the larger ontological point that illustrates why marriage is between one man and one woman.

I am now noticing that many pastors, theologians, and even laymen who otherwise approve of contraception are beginning to come to the realization that understanding what marriage is must take more into account than just the "relational" aspect.  They are beginning to see that a basic ontological truth about marriage is its intrinsic procreative nature. This is crucial to successfully defending marriage against the concept of "homosexual marriage." 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.

However, most people still are failing to connect these dots and take this ontological argument to its logical conclusion.  Some even say that an intentionally childless marriage is still a true marriage because it retains the "appearance" of being potentially procreative.  It might seem obvious to others that an intentionally childless "marriage" is not that much different from a homosexual relationship, but people really have trouble seeing the same connection to a "marriage" that is intentionally limited to the concept of a 2.1 children maximum.

Does the one-flesh union of "marriage" retain its procreative nature during the periods of time when the procreative purpose is being intentionally frustrated? Most of our readers here would agree with me that the answer is, "NO!" We do not have the prerogative to turn off the procreative nature of the one flesh union at will. Whenever we refuse God's procreative intentions for marriage, then there is little substantive difference between heterosexual and homosexual unions.

The marriage one has is the one which is being lived out at the present, not the one a person might choose to have at another time.  I can't say I'm being faithful to God's purpose for marriage by saying I plan to be fruitful later.  That would be like saying that I am loving my neighbor if I leave him starving today but plan to give him a loaf of bread next week.

Marriages that struggle with infertility, as well as post-menopausal marriages, also do not validate the false notion that an ***intentionally*** childless marriage (or period of marriage) is still true marriage simply because it retains the "appearance" of a procreative relationship. Again, ontologically speaking, 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. 

So, my question is this... how do we address the error we see in those who would use the procreative argument against homosexual "marriage" yet approve of family planning within heterosexual marriage? How do we get them to see that contraception itself is a sodomitic sin, corrupting the very nature of the one-flesh union we call marriage? What is the simplest way to point out the logical inconsistency? What questions could one ask such individuals to get them to think? What analogies would open their minds to the truth? How do we address the false counterarguments regarding infertility and post-menopausal marriage?

I am attending the Concordia Catechetical Academy Symposium this Wednesday through Friday, and I expect the argument is going to be ripe for the picking. The subject is "Catechesis and Contemporary Challenges to the Christian Faith." Rev. Dr. Nathan Jastram is one of the presenters and is going to be addressing the issue of homosexuality.  I've also been thinking about this Symposium's topic in relation to the recent book I reviewed here on L&P, How the West Really Lost God by Mary Eberstadt. 

Overall, I personally believe contraception has been one of the most detrimental challenges to the Christian faith.  I really think we are approaching a time when, due to the contemporary challenges, people who otherwise hold orthodox theology will just need to connect the dots of what they have already come to realize in order to reclaim the historic biblical teaching of the church about procreation.


Gregory K. Laughlin said...

I pray you are correct. That's what happened to my wife and me. But what I've found is that people who are otherwise orthodox will suddenly adopt the same methods of those who defend abortion and homosexual acts and "marriages" to defend contraception. It is the log in their eye, which they refuse to remove and which prevents them from clearly seeing how to remove the speck from the eyes of others.

Your question really is "How do we make the blind see?" I wish I knew. I've tried arguments from Scripture and from nature, the same sources used as to the other issues, but suddenly they can't see what they can see on the other issues.

Maybe the answer is prayer, that He who gives the blind sight will do so in this case.

Anonymous said...

As someone who now so regrets believing the lies of our culture, I am grateful and heartened to see that there is real interest in the church in teaching our young people that contraception is not normal or good in the general case. We cannot and should not define as normal all the strange cases that in total afflict some tiny fraction of people. Thanks to all those folks speaking up.