Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Chaste Life and Contraception. . .


If gay and lesbian marriage is one crisis well known to Christians, many have predicted that the issue of contraception will be the next crisis to face.  We already heard Pope Francis warn against marital decisions against having children.  I listened to one radio talk show in which both the pro and con on Francis' words began by admitting that people who choose not to have children are just as "good" as those who choose to have them.  So great is the shibboleth of our modern idea that children are so small a part of marriage that we must begin any discussion with the politically correct idea that there is not a darn thing wrong with couples choosing not to have children.  Indeed, this defender of Francis suggested that children are an added extra, a little bonus of you will, for the husband and wife -- further trivializing the whole discussion.  If that is all children are, then who needs them?

The issue is modern.  Contraception is very modern.  Condoms were mainstreamed after World War II when the Army decided that soldiers were going to do it so at least we must make doing it as disease free as possible and prevent conception along the way.  Move ahead a couple of decades and the pill made contraception safe, easy, and cheap (or so it seemed at the time).  What began as exceptional became normal within a generation or two.  This framed the argument for homosexuality and the whole gay marriage debate.

Christians easily lost their way in this whole debate.  Jesus' words were taken to mean that women did not have to be any more chaste than men did (according to the prevailing societal norm of first century Judaism) when He was saying the opposite -- men should be as chaste as honest women were expected to be!  Contraception gave permission and license for women to be as free from restraint as men were expected to be (not much restraint at all) and it has left us with the ridiculous position that for Christians only gay sex is bad.  We have been so silent on fornication and cohabitation that Christians presume it is perfectly fine and expected that the unmarried should not have to go without sex, except that conservative churches think gays should always go without it.

If there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contraceptive intercourse and sex that allows for conception is the exception to the rule, why would heterosexual people get a pass and gay people get a condemnation?  But that is the point.  There is something wrong with the view that contraceptive sex is the norm, that sex is not primarily for procreation, and that marriage is not the divinely intended place for this.  There is something wrong with the idea that inside or outside of marriage sex is sex and procreation is something different altogether.  There is something wrong with the idea that sexual union should be deliberately and totally divorced from fertility.  Why does there need to be a marital union at all if a sexual union is already presumed as an inherent right of life?  Is marriage just a little extra on top of the sex -- the way children are a little bonus on top of marriage?  That is where we are at functionally.  We have managed to scrape the whole nature of Christian morality over sex and marriage and procreation and adopt the view of the world as normal even virtuous.  That being the case, it seems hardly fair that gays or lesbians would be singled out by another set of rules, rules straight people are free from!

As one author has put it:
If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery (I should perhaps remark that I am using a legal term here - not indulging in bad language), when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? It can't be the mere pattern of bodily behaviour in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference! But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example. I am not saying: if you think contraception all right you will do these other things; not at all. The habit of respectability persists and old prejudices die hard. But I am saying: you will have no solid reason against these things. You will have no answer to someone who proclaims as many do that they are good too. 

There is nothing wrong or evil or bad about sex.  No one is saying that.  But unhinged from procreation (or its potential), it is unhinged from marriage and, unhinged from marriage, any restriction or law becomes arbitrary and unfair.  That is what the Church needs to recognize.  We cannot adopt the world's view of contraception and somehow or other hold on to the Scriptural word against homosexual behavior without becoming the ultimate of hypocrites.  So the sins of the heterosexual are justified simply because of who they are and their own sinful behavior becomes acceptable or tolerable while the homosexual are banned only because of whom they desireContraception and fornication and gay and lesbian lifestyles and marriage are all tied together.  We cannot sort out one mess without also sorting out the other.  So it will be time for us Lutherans to rethink our position on contraception or we will be patching together a leaking boat of arguments against gays and lesbians.  Whether or not that will happen, I cannot predict.  What I can predict is that our position of silence against the full use of contraception will make it more and more untenable to retain the Biblical admonition against those men who lie with men as women and women who lie with women as with men.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is so good.

Anonymous said...

Please address the prevalence of divorce and remarriage in the church. The scriptures say it is sinful, and yet it is permitted. When marriage is no longer between one man and one woman *for life*, gay and lesbian marriage, as well as other forms of marriage, are the logical next step. Your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Yet another blog post of Law without any Gospel. when will pastors learn that the number one reason we are losing this debate is because we keep addressing issues like this without the Gospel? (both liberal and conservative have completely thrown the Gospel out the window).

Pastors, keep it up if you want to see gay marriage become the norm in America.

John J. Flanagan said...

This is just another way to muddy up the waters about sexual sin. Sex within marriage is the Biblical and Christian guideline. If the author wants to plug gay marriage and use the contraceptive argument for heterosexuals as a theme for hypocrisy, then he is quite misguided, and for a pastor to use this argument as a basis for tolerance of homosexuality is contemptible.

John J. Flanagan said...

Furthermore, although I am a Lutheran from the LCMS for some years, and although I am an old man not far from 70 years of age.....if more LCMS pastors write similar rubbish and actually believe what they are teaching...then it will be time for me to leave the denomination and wipe the very dust of prevalent apostasy from my shoes, and by the grace of God, I shall find somewhere a faithful church to worship in the final days of my life.

Pastor Peters said...

Did you read what I wrote? I am not plugging gay marriage but simply saying that we cannot be against gay marriage and silent or tolerant about the contraceptive ideal that underlies the rampant heterosexual cohabitation. They are connected. It is unfair to talk incessantly against gay sex while tolerating straight cohabitation. Underlying this cohabitation debate is how contraception has become the norm for Christian couples also. At some point we Lutherans will have to speak about contraception beyond the normal condemnation of abortion or abortificients. There is nothing here to suggest that I am on the side of normalizing gay marriage and there is no Gospel here for sin that has become normative so I reject the complaint that it is all law. It is all law because the vast majority of Christians no longer see sex outside of marriage wrong or sinful EXCEPT perhaps for gays. That is untenable theologically and morally.

To the two anonymous commenters, read what I have written again. To John Flanagan, what did I write that was rubbish? It is provocative to address the sin of cohabitation or sex outside of marriage as an equal if not greater problem than the gay issues but if that is rubbish then the commandments and Scripture is rubbish.

John J. Flanagan said...

I suppose I jumped to conclusions and owe you an apology. On Lutheran blogs I have come across some support for homosexuality, particularly from ELCA pastors, and from other denominations as well...and have come to the conclusion there are theologians trying to twist scripture in any technical way possible to bring about some justification for accepting gay marriage. I am sure you have seen this happening as well. I apologize for jumping to a conclusion you were not advancing. I do not agree with your last statement that "the vast majority of Christians no longer see sex outside of marriage as wrong or sinful except perhaps for gays." In my view, most devout Christians know and acknowledge that sex between men and women outside of marriage is sinful....but may do it anyway...not in spite or in blatant disobedience but due to the biological urges inherent in human passion, inability to restrain this urge, and most couples in this condition will marry as soon as possible. The sexual drive is no small thing...it is powerful....after hunger, thirst, and survival. I believe all people struggle with sexual temptation, including the most devout and faithful believers. That is why prayer for grace is needed, particularly for young people. That is why marriage between a man and a woman must be encouraged by the church.

Anonymous said...

I am the second anonymous poster. I agree with everything you wrote; I was merely making the observation that divorce and remarriage among Christians is tolerated and seen as OK, when Paul in 1 Cor 7 says otherwise. We should not be condemning others for that which we ourselves are just as guilty of.

David Gray said...

Opposition to contraception is a catholic position and prior to the 1930s was held by every substantial grouping among Christians including Baptists, Lutherans, Reformed, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. The slide to depravity started in the 1930s with, as is pretty much always the case with such errors, the Anglicans.

Anonymous said...

"They are connected. It is unfair to talk incessantly against gay sex while tolerating straight cohabitation."


No one in the LCMS is talking incessantly against gay marriage. I go to church at least once a weak, including bible studies and other groups. No one ever talks about it at all.

I have head preaching against divorce and extramarital sex, but never against gays ever.

So, pastors are doing a good job.

And the media is totally lying when it says pastors are preaching incessantly against gays. It is not happening and it has not happened. The media lies. Stop declaring their lies to be truth.

Pastor Peters,

please ask the pastors that you know personally how many times they have preached against gays and how many times they have preached against divorce and extramarital sex. You will find what I am saying is true.

Anonymous said...

Can a Christian husband and wife use birth-control for family planning? Are there ever financial, medical, psychological, or other reasons that would make a temporary use of birth-control permissible within marriage?

It seems to me that "be fruitful and multiply" might be blessing language and gift language. Eat of any of the trees of the garden. Be fruitful and multiply. Yes, if one were to refuse entirely to eat, that would be a perversion of the gift God gave. Yes, if husband and wife refuse entirely to be fruitful and multiply, that would be a perversion of the gift God has given.

But I am having a hard time reading pre-fall "be fruitful and multiply" in the way of post-fall Law. How many children must I have? How many daily attempts to multiply must I make?

I am told that contraception is strictly forbidden by this Law, be fruitful and multiply, because it means we are no open to the gift of life. So what if my wife and I know that her cycle is such that fertilization is, humanly-speaking, impossible - "must" we or "must" we not? And, again, how much fruit and how much multiplication must we do to fulfill this Law?

Is this really what God had in mind? Or can husband and wife be fruitful and multiply, and yet abstain from time-to-time? Can husband and wife be fruitful and multiply, and yet use "rhythm method" or birth control from time to time?

Are anti-contraception pastors certain they aren't burdening consciences with loads God never meant them to bear?