Author Topic: Contraception  (Read 9422 times)

Karl Hess

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Contraception
« on: July 16, 2010, 12:08:14 AM »
Someone suggested awhile back that we should start a different thread on contraception.  So I'm starting it.

I don't teach that contraception is a sin--yet.  But I'm leaning that way. 

Before I went to seminary, my pastor at the time and a lady whose husband had been to seminary were talking about some people at one of the Missouri Synod seminaries who were opposed to contraception.  At the time, this struck me as utter lunacy. 

While I was at seminary, I learned that the pill could, in rare cases, function as an abortifacient.  That was news to me.  Somewhere in there I read Luther's views on contraception, which I think are found in the Genesis commentary.  I think Luther referred to it as "sodomitic" and asserted that this was why God slew Onan.  Then I learned that all Christians of whatever sect were formally opposed to contraception until the 20th century.

So I started to investigate the Bible on the issue.  Several things become apparent from Scripture.

1. According to the Bible, God opens and closes the womb.  Children are not simply a human decision, but ultimately come from God.
2.  The Psalms refer to children as "blessings."  The man God has blessed has a wife who is a fruitful vine and children like olive shoots around his table.
3.  God's blessing on man and woman after the creation and after the flood is "be fruitful and multiply." 

Then I began to reason--"If God gives children, and they are a blessing, why would I not want to receive as many children as God sees fit to give me and my wife?  if God sees fit to give us, say, 10, would I at the end of my life say, 'I wish we didn't have that one, that one, and that one?'  Isn't God the author of life, not me?  What does it mean to be "pro-life" but then only want to have as many children as seems good to me?  How different is that kind of thinking from the kind that says, 'I only want to live as long as it seems good to me'?  If God sees fit to bring ten children into the world, isn't He capable also of providing for those children?"

Then I began to think of the consequences of the widespread approval of contraception  for marriage.  In normal circumstances, when not obstructed, sexual intercourse leads to children.  Pleasure is certainly a result of sex, and so is bonding, but biologically these seem to be only "enticments"to the chief end of sex, which is procreation.  But when I was growing up, the sense that I got from society was that primarily, sex was about pleasure or expression of romantic love, and conception a usually undesirable intrusion on pleasure and "love".  It began to occur to me that without that perverse way of looking at sex, it would be impossible to conceive of homosexual "marriage." It had also led to a huge increase in out of wedlock births and single parent homes.

As I continue to consider the ramifications of contraception, I am amazed at how it has completely re-shaped society.  It has changed the way we view what it means to be male and female.  We now live in America in which the majority of people in the workforce are women (see the latest Atlantic Monthly), and in which out of wedlock births is soon to become the norm (they presently account for over 40 percent of children born into the world.)  The ramifications seem to be endless.

I think we are just now beginning to see Christians (and Lutherans) beginning to wake up to the idea that perhaps contraception is really contrary to biblical teaching. 

But then again, maybe my thinking is wrong.  I've held off on teaching people much about this because--in addition to the difficulty of teaching it--I am also unsure about where lines should be drawn.  When the episcopal church initially began to open the door to contraception in the 30's, they only approved contraception between married couples in cases of "necessity."  At the time, that was a radical idea.  Rome openly approves of natural family planning, which is also a type of "birth control." 

Where do we begin rethinking contraception, or should we begin rethinking at all? 

James Gustafson

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2010, 01:14:04 AM »
A well reasoned and succinctly put position, thank you for posting this question.  I don't have an answer but I will say this, if we can't even stop abortions, what can we do about contraception?

We must remember always, we are not in charge, God finds a way.   Contraception or no, Godís will be done.  Amen

Karl Hess

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2010, 01:17:40 PM »
All that time writing the initial post, and the thread lands on p. 83.  Well, I'm going to bump this and see if I can't get any takers to discuss this.  I know that this issue is still on the fringes of Lutheranism, but my prediction is opposition to contraception is coming soon to a Lutheran church near you (although by soon I mean in the next decade or so). 

A brother pastor suggested that the theological rationale for contraception is found in Genesis 1, in the same blessing which tells man to "be fruitful and multiply."  This brother said that God's command to "have dominion over the earth" includes contraception--that we are empowered by God to have dominion also over our procreative powers.  That argument seems problematic to me.  We are not to have dominion over human life when it comes to taking it--but we are to have dominion when it comes to preventing life from coming into being?  Does that work for you?

Or perhaps there is another Christian defense of contraception that I'm missing. 

Karl Hess

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2010, 01:28:02 PM »
Obviously Genesis 1 can't be construed to mean that married couples are required to have sex constantly in order to multiply, or Paul would have been advocating sin when he recommended that married people could refrain from sexual intimacy for a time to devote themselves to prayer (1 Cor 7).  The reason why Paul discourages people from abstaining from the marriage bed for longer periods was due to their lack of self-control.  But if married people were able to control themselves, it would be a mistake to regard abstinence from sex within marriage as sinful or contravening Genesis 1.

 ::)

peter_speckhard

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2010, 11:34:35 PM »
There is an excellent article in the most recent Touchstone on this topic. I think along the same lines as Karl on this, and suspect this issue is at the root of a whole host issues related to vocation, gender, marriage and so forth. The LCMS, as far as I know, cannot give a coherent account of the history of its teachings, official or simply widely accepted, on this issue.

Karl Hess

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2010, 11:50:23 PM »
A grand old lady at my church, along with a host of others in the ladies' aid, continually talk about how the rise of women working outside the home has done a number on church life.  She is also convinced that is has not been good for the life of the church for women to gradually replace men as leaders in the congregation (except for those places where only men are allowed to serve.)  It's not hard to draw a line between the things that these women see as having drastically changed church life and society at large--women working outside the home and assuming leadership--and contraception.

kls

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2010, 08:11:00 AM »
My story from the Lutherans for Life thread has led to some amazing and uplifting notes from people.  One such note led to a discussion on the issue of abortifacients.  I thought I would put forth this LCMS document as part of the discussion on this thread which was the result of Resolution 6-10 at the 2004 convention of the LCMS.

Resolution 6-10: Guidance on Contraceptive Methods

Any takers on a discussion?   ;D

Oh, and thanks, Pastor Hess, for taking the time to start this thread.  I may be late to the game, but maybe it can be revisited.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 08:15:12 AM by Kim Schave »

kls

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2010, 12:13:51 PM »
And how do we treat those who may have chosen these methods of birth control?  Do you think the church has done enough to bring this information to the forefront?

Kurt Weinelt

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2010, 12:22:07 PM »
Quote
Men may regret their decision to be sterilized and should remember that this procedure is considered permanent. Reversals are expensive and not always effective.
OTOH, not being able to naturally father children in the future may temper the inherent male instinct to promiscuity, and may be another incentive to be faithful.

As for regretting it, I am sure there are some under circumstances such as divorce and remarriage. It is certainly a factor in the decision. I've not ever talked to any man who regrets it and is seeking a reversal.  Some of us actually celebrate it!

Quote
We believe that a broader discussion in the church regarding marriage and its purpose would be beneficial.


I wouldn't count on it.  Having just left the ELCA, I'm not up for more drawn-out divisive fights over social statements. The fight against abortion is a clear and holy cause.  A crusade against married couples using birth control, maybe not so much.

Anyhow, beneficial for exactly whom?
Kurt
"Learning about history is an antidote to the hubris of the present, the idea that everything in OUR lives is the ultimate." David McCullough

kls

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2010, 12:42:27 PM »
Anyhow, beneficial for exactly whom?

I would venture to say this applies to young, newly married couples putting off child-rearing for the sake of establishing themselves in their careers or perhaps others who might for other selfish reasons put off (or avoid) having children.

I am admittedly confused myself on how strong of a stance I'd take and how I would counsel another woman on this issue.  I readily agree with the report I linked to above and think it is the best I could do in providing guidance to a woman.  Not all cases are that clear-cut (including my own), but what is clear-cut is that God provides the most joyful of gifts when He blesses us with children and that He desires us to receive His gifts readily.  However, where we act selfishly, His gift of forgiveness is there, too.

Bergs

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2010, 01:12:11 PM »
Does this passage give some relevance to the discussion.

Quote
1 Timothy 5:
 3Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. 8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
If we are to care for our families, some degree of family planning is needed.  If our jobs do not pay enough to properly provide for the next child, wouldn't family planning be required? 

Brian J. Bergs
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kls

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2010, 01:18:58 PM »
Does this passage give some relevance to the discussion.

Quote
1 Timothy 5:
 3Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. 8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
If we are to care for our families, some degree of family planning is needed.  If our jobs do not pay enough to properly provide for the next child, wouldn't family planning be required? 

Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN

Or would it be a matter of accepting in faith that God would provide all that the family would need to sustain it even with the addition of another child?  I suppose one could say His understanding of how much money is needed to do so may very well differ from ours.

This is a toughie, isn't it?   ???

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2010, 02:01:22 PM »
Or would it be a matter of accepting in faith that God would provide all that the family would need to sustain it even with the addition of another child?  I suppose one could say His understanding of how much money is needed to do so may very well differ from ours.

This is a toughie, isn't it?   ???

If an underpaid family accepts welfare from the state, is that trusting God or relying on the government? If we say that God is providing help through the government, why can't God also provide help in family planning through medical means?
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Kurt Weinelt

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2010, 02:03:47 PM »
Or would it be a matter of accepting in faith that God would provide all that the family would need to sustain it even with the addition of another child?  I suppose one could say His understanding of how much money is needed to do so may very well differ from ours.

This is a toughie, isn't it?   ???
Brian Bergs makes a great point--some degree of contraception and planning (sans abortion, obviously) is a good idea. I don't think contraception within married couples is a tough decision at all, and I don't think adopting the Roman Catholic position makes good sense for Lutherans. And I certainly don't think it's God's will for a married woman to have a baby a year throughout her childbearing years, which evidently stretches into her 50s these days.
Kurt
« Last Edit: October 27, 2010, 02:05:44 PM by Kurt Weinelt »
"Learning about history is an antidote to the hubris of the present, the idea that everything in OUR lives is the ultimate." David McCullough

kls

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Re: Contraception
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2010, 02:15:02 PM »
If an underpaid family accepts welfare from the state, is that trusting God or relying on the government?

It could be both or either, I suppose.

Quote
If we say that God is providing help through the government, why can't God also provide help in family planning through medical means?

We pray for daily bread in the Lord's Prayer, perhaps that could come by way of the government if God so chooses.  I don't pray daily for medical intervention to thwart God's plan for my family size, which in the minds of many would be construed as a denial of His gifts.  Praying the Lord's Prayer includes a request for His perfect provision for my family no matter the size.

Others would also argue that the Pill is beyond just a method of prevention and actually can work as an abortifacient.