Is Contraception REALLY An Issue?

There has been quite the noise lately in the news about the contraception issue with the Catholics raising a fuss over being forced into supplying contraception and even the “Day After” abortion pills to its employees under “Obamacare”.

Of course the immediate issue is that of freedom of religion. If the Roman Catholic (or any other institution or individual) is forced to supply or participate in something which is against their moral principals, then we definitely have a very real problem in our nation. Our LCMS Synodical President is very outspoken about what is going on and is even in Washington this week testifying to Congress concerning the issue of religious freedom.

In this whole mess, of course the Roman Catholic church has come under much derision again for its stand against contraception (artificial contraception, especially, although it allows for “natural” methods). Studies have shown that some 98% of Catholics have used contraception at some point or another. One has to wonder where the disconnect is. Is the Catholic Church out of line, or is it the parishioners who are out of line?

Historically speaking in the church, there has been very little (if any) support for contraceptives. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches have been vehemently opposed to it from the earliest times. However there has been, it seems, plenty of folks who have desired it. I found a couple very interesting quotes from Martin Luther on the subject, and, as we can imagine, having read the scripture and having five children himself with his wife Katharina, he was very “pro-children”!

Luther said: “…fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and a special gift of God, as is clear from Deut. 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. ‘There will not be a barren woman among you,’ he says (cf.Ex.23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s nature, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good for nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all; for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgment flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ From this they understood that children are a gift of God.” (Luther’s Works, Vol.5, p.325).

Interesting that one of the arguments against having children has been the economics of it all… I thought that was a modern argument, but I guess not, as Luther argues against it here:

“Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: ‘Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.’ But his blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 5, p.332).

Some might find it interesting that the LCMS does NOT have an “official” statement on the issue. The reality is that contraception is an issue that is not specifically dealt with in scripture. Much like gambling, it is impossible to say that contraception is “evil” or “sinful”, but the problem lies in our motivations and practice of it. The closest we come to something of an official “stance” from the LCMS is in a document published in 1981 entitled “Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective”. In this wide ranging document the issue of family planning and contraception was dealt with in this way:

In view of the Biblical command and the blessing to “be fruitful and multiply,” it is to be expected that marriage will not ordinarily be voluntarily childless. But, in the absence of Scriptural prohibition, there need be no objection to contraception within a marital union which is, as a whole, fruitful. [25] Moreover, once we grant the appropriateness of contraception, we will also recognize that sterilization may under some circumstances be an acceptable form of contraception. Because of its relatively permanent nature, sterilization is perhaps less desirable than less-far-reaching forms of contraception. However, there should be no moral objection to it, especially for couples who already have children and who now seek to devote themselves to the rearing of those children, for those who have been advised by a physician that the birth of another child would be hazardous to the health of the mother, or for those who for reasons of age, physical disability, or illness are not able to care for additional children. Indeed, there may be special circumstances which would persuade a Christian husband and wife that it would be more responsible and helpful to all concerned, under God, not to have children. Whatever the particular circumstances, Christians dare not take lightly decisions in this area of their life together. They should examine their motives thoroughly and honestly and take care lest their decisions be informed by a desire merely to satisfy selfish interests.

Back to our title question: “Is Contraception REALLY an Issue?”

The answer is: YES! Even if we determine that it is an allowable practice, it still has implications on our spiritual life and is an issue we NEED to address.

In the end it seems a reasonable supposition that Christians CAN, and even in some cases, SHOULD use contraception to help with planning their family responsibly. However, the blessing of family planning is accompanied by its evils as well. It is all to easy for Christians to be led by the devil to think and do things which are not at all appreciative of God’s gift of life and children. The modern contraceptive practices DO INDEED lead to sinful and selfish attitudes and faithless lives devoid of the blessings of children. I do believe that we need to concentrate on a couple issues:

  1. We need to emphasize that children really ARE a blessing from the Lord. They are not a disease or a burden that we need to be rid of. (This certainly has implications in the abortion debate as well.)
  2. We need to be aware and more careful of contraception methods today which do not prevent a child from being conceived, but actually work to keep an already fertilized embryo from attaching to the uterus wall, thereby actually killing it. There is document prepared by the LCMS that discusses this very issue that you can view here.

Happy and respectful discussion is welcomed!

Munchak and Cordaro Sentencing

A couple days ago the former Commissioners of Lackawanna County, Mr. Munchak and Mr. Cordaro, were sentenced for their numerous crimes of corruption. In the end they got 7 and 11 years of prison. As to how much time they will actually spend in prison only time will tell, but even if they serve their full sentences, it will always be debated whether their punishments were appropriate. The defense accuses the judge of making an example of them – and that the sentences are unfair. But the fact remains that the sentences are substantially below the guidelines for their crimes. And yes, it could be said that as they are (were) the leaders of our community they should most definitely be made to keep their vows to be good examples for the rest of us.

What caught my interest in the sentencing proceedings were the “good works” of both Munchak and Cordaro that were continually brought forward as good reasons to be lenient toward them. Everything from being a great dad to donating blood, the reasons to be nice to the convicted were all laid out in great detail in 130 letters from family and friends.

This kind of thinking is so very convincing to us. None of us are perfect, we know, but we just kind of assume that if we do enough good things in our lives we will some how make up for all our imperfections. The reality is that we as humans really do live so much of our lives by this “rule.” Without this “rule” we would find it almost impossible to survive any kind of human relationship.

But it is important to understand that in God’s economy there is no room for this foolishness. A thousand virtuous acts in the eyes of God cannot make up for even one lousy sin. I remember the example my seminary professor made with the illustration of someone making an omelette. After cracking a few eggs into a bowl the cook realizes that one of the eggs is spoiled and rotten. He can’t just add another dozen good eggs to make up for that one rotten one. He has to throw the whole batch out.

It is a fearful enough experience for once-powerful people to stand before an earthly judge and plead for leniency. At least we can have our “good deeds” to comfort us in our prison cell. But how terrible it will be to stand before the judgment seat of Almighty God stripped of any notion of that comfort! But say it isn’t so! Unfortunately, for too many people that will be the reality. It will be a terrifying experience. But that is not God’s desire. His desire is all would be His children and we would be judged righteous by the blood of Christ. Praise The Lord that He has given us a most beautiful advocate, a SAVIOR, whose name is Jesus, the very same one who has already taken upon himself the punishment of our sin. His cross and righteousness have obliterated our iniquity forever. By His wounds we are healed!

Yes, there is hope for Mr. Munchak and Mr. Cordaro in the courts of the Final Judgement – even as there is hope for you and I. Our Lord loves to forgive. We have a SURE hope through faith in the righteousness of Christ!

1 John 2:1
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.