It was pointed out how I end up approach things from a more modernist perspective, rather than the approach that was taken classically amongst Lutherans in terms of my epistemology (the study of how one thinks). This is fair.
It was noted that classically there was more of an ontological approach, where the focus was upon what a thing is, where it's form determines its function. Nature itself reveals what something is to do. I take what some have apparently termed the "strong divine command ethic", where the focus is upon simply what the Word of God has said.
First, let it be noted that there is validity in both these approaches. There is ontological reality - a woman's body is designed to be able possibly to carry a child - a man's is not. Simple as that. There is a real difference in nature. On the other hand, I'm sure none of the people who get all bent out of shape on my approach to contraceptives would say that we should ignore the Word of God, or would denigrate the Word of God intentionally in any fashion.
But when it boils down to it, when push comes to shove, the question becomes which is the higher, better, more trusted way of thinking -- looking at the ontological nature of a thing, or looking directly at the Word of God.
I have to go with the latter.
Why? Well, consider Romans 1:18-20: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
"But wait," one might say, "this is just confirming that ontological approach - things should have been obvious to them, clearly perceived in the things that have been made - that's ontology!" Yep. You are right. And here's my question. What happened to all those people who had all that wonderful ontological evidence to consider?
They died condemned. Romans 1:21-23: For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
They moved to their own wisdom, their own thoughts, they claimed to be wise and became fools, and then made up religion of their own devising. And they were lost.
This is the point, the thing I fear. As Luther has pointed out, Dame Reason is a whore.
What do I see what I see constructs on the basis of natural law? What do I see when I hear people then make logical jumps and arrive at conclusions that God has not revealed in His Word? I just see the creation of new idols, new righteous fertility gods which we must worship in order for people to think we are good.
I see people dimming the light of God's revealed Word by choosing to look through dame reason's stylish sunglasses.
"but, but, but," one might say, "look how often the Lutheran Fathers took this approach, look at how Luther took this approach." Yes - and what schools was Luther trained in? Classical education, scholasticism, even humanism. And what's always running around in there -- well, what's Luther's beef with transubstantiation? That it's an attempt to apply a system of human logic to a mystery of God using terminology not present in the Scripture and binding people to accept it.
Hmm.... Reason moving beyond what is revealed in the Scriptures.
You know - maybe on the basis of ontology, you make a wonderful observation. Perhaps you even come up with a wonderful, useful connection, a great philosophy or approach to life. It may even be good... but without a clear Word from God, how do I know you haven't just been cavorting with the old harlot for your own pleasure and self-aggrandizement? This is what happened throughout the Old Testament, whenever people chose new ways to worship God - either in Samaria when it was to be in Jerusalem, whether it was new laws designed to aid one in keeping God's revealed Law (revealed in the Word), whether it was syncretic hedging of the bets, whether it was the establishment of Korban and things like that.
All seemed reasonable derivations, but all abandoned what God has said. And that's tragic. But the Word of God - ah, now that is a lamp unto my feet that is constant and flickers not. Thus, I will make my stand there.
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The counter that may come up is this - "alright, well tell me where the clear Word of God is that says that you *can* use contraception!"
But tell me this. When have I ever claimed that using contraception is a holy and righteous way of worshiping God? I haven't. I've only claimed that it is neutral and free, not forbidden. And if you come across folks who argue that "as good Christians we must limit the number of kids" I'll gladly join with you in ripping that apart. That too is establishing a new righteousness on the basis of reason.
But that's not what I've been arguing for. (Nor, frankly, am I interested in trying to prove myself righteous or fall into some American-Finneyesque attempt to use the Christian faith to make the world a better place as though the purpose of the Church was to improve sinner's postures. If you have been talking for a while and have not talked about forgiveness, or it's just sort of appended on -- oh, I suppose there's forgiveness if you aren't as righteous as I -- then I'd rather just go listen to an old timey Methodist if I could find one)
You see, our lives are not about demonstrating our righteousness, or showing forth our own holiness by how proper we live. Christ is my righteousness, why would I ever point to my own acts as "righteous".
Rather this - I am concerned about showing love for the neighbor. And telling a neighbor "you must" when God has not said "you must" does nothing but crush them.