Again, I'm just going to write more on comments from this post.
First, Mike Baker, in perhaps the best thing written on this blog, writes:
That's precisely my point. Whenever this topic comes up, people who think contraceptives are "evil" like say that we shouldn't argue from the point of view of the exceptions.
...but I'm telling you that the exceptions are the only ones who care enough about this topic to listen to you. You'd better take their situation into account.
Yes, contraceptives are often used for evil purposes... but they have positive and even life-saving purposes as well. The last thing America needs is more reactionary attitudes from people who have not done enough research to have an informed opinion on a given topic.
To which I respond
"...but I'm telling you that the exceptions are the only ones who care enough about this topic to listen to you. You'd better take their situation into account."
This may be the most brilliant things you've said, and precisely what people forget. We don't live in some rosy, idealized world. We live in a world of exceptions, where even the Law of Moses is centered and wrapped around exceptions.
There are cities of refuge.
For the hardness of your heart - divorce.
If you can't afford the Sacrifice, two doves.
Over and over and over the Law of Moses made exceptions for people in various situations. It seems quite foolhardy and unbiblical to not do so in our discussions.
This gets to the heart of why I can get so nervous on how many people treat issues with Law. Instead of painting the ideal as a goal to strive for, it becomes how it is to be. It becomes "be perfect, as Your Father in heaven is perfect". Yes, that is Law - but it is Law that runs roughshod and crushes people. "Be Ye Perfect" is not guide, is not shaping your life, it shows how messed up you are.
When it comes to life in this sinful world there are always exceptions made for the frailty of our flesh. God understands that we are not perfected, that the Law, while good, is a burden we cannot bear. So exceptions are given. Allowances are made for the impact of sin.
Consider the 2nd table of the Law.
4 - Honor your father and mother. Yet, what else does our Lord say? That He will set father against son and mother against daughter. Why? Because of the sin of unbelief, and we are to follow God rather than men. This is not to be of our own devising (bad Korban, bad!), but it happens.
5 - You shall not kill. Yet, in this world there is violence and evil and wickedness, and so the sword is given to the State. This is an exception to the rule.
6 - You shall not commit adultery. Not to happen - yet, even though He hates it, God Law allows for divorce in certain circumstances. He understand that marriages will fall apart, and allows for how things can be handled when they become messy. Shoot, Paul even acknowledges that marriage can be entered into not for lofty ideals, but as a way of curtailing lust.
7 - You shall not steal. Hmm. Actually, I can't think of exceptions to this one (although the Libertarian in me wants to shout out "Taxes, Taxes" - but that's a political argument). Perhaps you could point to if someone takes your coat, give him your robe -but that is more from the victim's perspective.
8 - You shall not bear false witness. Again, I can't think of too many examples of where lying is spoken of well - I do see plenty of lying, but not exceptions.
Although many people would assert that one could steal or lie in order to prevent or hinder wickedness - and perferable state sponsored (a la the 5th).
As for 9 and 10 - The two commandments on coveting highlight just how wretched man is and how often we can fall into the temptation of covetousness. It's a very realistic view of what we are like (and it's interesting how we so rarely talk about these - probably because there's nothing we can point to in order to say, "See, I HAVEN'T coveted." It's hard to be self-congratulatory about coveting).
And of course. . . if your son or ox falls into a well....
The point is this. In the Scriptures you see two things - there is the ideal, the goal to strive for that is given. However, you also will see a baseline that you are not to fall below, that even in the frailty of your flesh you ought not transgress.
What happens? Instead of phrasing that ideal in the same sort of lofty terms Christ does (love your neighbor as yourself) or Paul does (love is the summation of the Law), we can be tempted to treat specific acts as the ideal (and make no allowance, give no sense of when there should be allowances).
I worship this way.
I don't use contraception.
I don't drink.
I don't dance.
I only listen to the right music.
That's all nice... but what does it have to do with me.
Literally - what does it have to do with me? How does that show me love? Also, why do I have to do that as well.
Is the worship at my congregation as idealized as I'd like? No. Why is it not? Because I am evil and vile? No. Because out of love and care for my people I have not tried to force them into a pattern into which they have not yet grown.
Do some people use contraception wrongly? Sure, but sometimes it is used for the sake of showing love and concern for one's spouse, what he or she needs or fears, for their sake. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Can drinking and dancing and music lead to wickedness? Sure - but it can lead to good and God pleasing joy as well - so I'm not going to willy nilly tell other people not to enjoy things simply because I in my frailty can't - my frailty doesn't shape their life.
+ + + + + + + + + + +
But why, why do you lament all this stuff about the Law so much? Why do you rant about this, oh Confessional Gadfly?
Because, ultimately, errors about the Law attack the Gospel.
"Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven."
The Gospel is this - Jesus condescends.
Con - with
De - down
scend - comes.
Jesus comes down from heaven to be with us, to be our Savior. He comes to those who could not bear the Law to lift us up and win us salvation. The heart of the Gospel is that Christ Jesus comes down. That when He sees people transgress, He has mercy and compassion on them instead of a desire to simply whip them into shape.
The Law says I must die. Period. Christ Jesus comes down and makes the ultimate exception - fulfilling the Law in my place, dying in my place, all out of His great and wondrous love for us.
We are taught that God desires love, not sacrifice. Why, when we speak about the Law do we speak in a way as to try to force people to sacrifice rather and thinking about dealing with people and their flaws in love and compassion?
(The answer is that too many people end up celebrating flaws in today's society and we can be tempted to over-react. We are in the world, not of the world - our statements are not to be reactions to the world, but rather the proclamation of the Word of God to the World).