Thursday, December 24, 2009

Final Post on Artificial Birth Control

This will be my final response to Steven on this issue as a main post. I don't want to devote any more of my main blog space to the issue. Any more interactions will have to take place in one of our comboxes.

Steven replies to my contention that the end of sex is union with one's spouse and childbirth:

(i) It is not entirely clear to me that primary end of sex is union with your spouse and a child. I would ask Brennon to show this from scripture; if he can do that, then we can start talking, but until he does so, I see no reason to accept his claim.

I think it's pretty self evident the natural end of sex is childbirth. This will happen if sex is properly performed, or if it is improperly performed in an adulterous relationship sans contraception.

In terms of scriptural support, there is a lot promoting the abundance of children and absolutely none condoning the limiting of children. In Genesis 1:28; 9:1,7; 35:11 we can see that from the very beginning children are the point of the marriage relationship.

In Genesis 38:8-10, the only explicit act of contraception is performed and the man is killed. Now, this passage is iffy in its use against contraception, and I somewhat hesitate to bring it up. I tend to lean against using it, as it is not clear. However, in support for using it, the punishment found in the law for one not giving his brother's wife an offspring is humiliation, not death (Deuteronomy 25:7-10). So, Onan should have been humiliated, not killed. Is it because of his act of contraception along with the explicit disobedience of God that Onan is killed? Almost all exegetes prior to the 1930'a thought so (Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, etc). Not all today are so sure.

Hosea 9:11 says that the lack of conception is a curse from God, meaning, in my opinion, that those who would avoid conception are placing themselves under that curse.

Psalm 127:3-5, as I have stated, says that an abundance of children is a blessing from God. I think determining for God how many blessings we allow Him to give is sinful.

I also think God's condemnation of homosexuality in scripture is another implicit sign in scripture that it is unnatural to waste the sexual act without the possibility of children. Why would God prohibit the joining of people of the same sex? It is unnatural! Why is it unnatural? One obvious reason is the inability for the couple to procreate.

(ii) But even if it is true that the primary end of sex is union with your spouse and a child, it does not follow that engaging in sex without either one of those ends in mind is sinful. I suppose the primary end of my hands is to use for grabbing things, tearing things apart, working with them, etc. But surely using my hands for other ends, like say walking on them for fun, isn't sinful. Suppose I use my hands to walk on them as part of an act of a circus--I'm a carny, let's say. That is clearly not the primary end my hands were created for. But why suppose that doing something like that is sinful?

I think the hand analogy here is a false analogy. To begin with, the use of one's hands is demonstrably different than the sexual act. Hands can be used for hundreds if not more things. I don't think it's unnatural at all to walk on your hands. It's a different use for them, but there's nothing inherently unnatural about it, and you aren't depriving them of a natural end. The deck was stacked when the only 'natural' uses of the hands were set up by Steven as grabbing, tearing, working with them. I don't think this is the case.

Or, say the primary end of my feet is walking, or running, or whatever. Surely if I use my feet to hold down a piece of paper that would've flown away with the wind otherwise, I am not using my feet for what they were primarily made for. But you'll have a hard time convincing me that that is sinful.

Again, I don't think this is an unnatural use of the feet, and it certainly isn't depriving anything of a natural end. Again, this is a false analogy.

(iii) Partaking in something for "purely selfish reasons" is not obviously wrong, either. Eating oranges because they are my favorite food, or watching the newest Werner Herzog film, or listening to my favorite metal album all involve doing something for purely selfish reasons--just to enjoy it, with no real regard for any other person involved in it--but they are not obviously wrong.

This is actually not Biblical at all. Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves." We aren't supposed to do anything for selfish reasons, but for the glory of God. Preventing God from blessing us is demonstrably not glorifying Him, as He is glorified in part by blessing His people. Enjoying the blessings of prosperity from God is not selfish, but is glorifying to God if we enjoy it within His guidelines.

(iv) It is just Brennon's opinion that having sex without wanting a child is selfish. But who cares? If scripture teaches something like that, it'd be an interesting point to bring up; but he hasn't shown scripture does teach that, so it is hard to see how it is interesting to the discussion.

I haven't heard a non-selfish reason for practicing BC. It always comes down to what WE think is the best number of children to have. As I said before, the main reasoning behind contraception seems to be about me wanting to have more time, about me wanting more money for myself, and about me not wanting to be inconvenienced.

In response to me pointing out that death is not a blessing he says:

(i) I never said that we seek death. My point was that avoiding death was not a bad thing, despite death being plausibly considered a blessing.

Death cannot be considered a blessing. Death is a curse for sin. What follows death can be a blessing if we are in Christ, but death itself is always a curse.

(ii) It is hardly obvious from the Corinthians text that you cited that Paul's point is what you would have it be. I don't see how Paul's naming death as an enemy in that eschatological context even slightly supports your thesis. How does Paul mean that we are to avoid death? How does what he says support the idea that death is not a blessing, by any plausible definition of the term?

Okay, if you need more Biblical support, death is referred to as a curse in Deuteronomy 30:19. Death is the ultimate curse for the sin of Adam. Death is always negative. Now, the life after death may or may not be a blessing, depending on your standing with Jesus.

Clearly it would be irresponsible behavior on the behalf of the poor family if they bought a large television on credit, trusting that God would provide for it

We can go off on many red herrings and cloud the issue a lot. It seems to me we're just trying to find ways to justify a behavior. We should owe no man anything (Romans 13:8) first of all. Second, it can hardly be said that having children is putting something on credit (aka another false analogy). Third, buying one of those things is a selfish act in the absence of money and in light of having children to provide for.

In summary:

1) I think it is obvious that the natural and God-intended end of sex is the union with your spouse and procreation.
2) I think it is clear that determining what you think is best over and above the will of God is sinful, as it is God who blesses with children.
3) Philippians 2:3 makes it clear we should not be doing things out of selfish reasons.
4) The Bible consistently speaks of death as a curse to avoid.
5) A poor couple trusting and obeying God have God's promise that He will provide for them. Obfuscation and red herrings notwithstanding, I am still convinced by scripture, reason, and history that artificial birth control is a sin that we should avoid.


Jonathan said...

Merry Christmas!

bossmanham said...

You too, Jonathan! Hope God is blessing you!