Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sinful Man Gives Burdens to Others

I will admit, I don't like talking about "Natural Law" much - I don't like talking about how nature itself shows us how things are supposed to be. Not because this isn't true, but for two reasons.

1. It's Law, and the Law doesn't save anyone.
2. Sinful Man will burden one another by their flights of reason and imagination "based" on Natural Law.

First, as I see it, more and more focus is given to natural law as an apologetic tool - the way that we can try to convince the heathen world out there that they need to do what we as Christians know to be right and true - it's "obvious" from nature. Rule number 7 of rhetoric... any time you write "obviously" or "its obvious that", it's neither obvious nor agreed upon.

What we forget is this - to sin, to live sin is to fundamentally go against nature as God designed us - to sin is to not be human, to be fallen. So if one is trapped in sin, one isn't going to care about natural law (unless it's a philosophic interest, but even then ones own pet sins will be ignored). Natural Law does nothing to convince or change minds - really it doesn't. It isn't arguing in the left hand kingdom... Natural Law points to sin, and sin is always ignored in the world. The world cares about benefits and how something impacts me - God's Law (natural or otherwise) is always concerned about the neighbor... so the world won't recognize it.

Second, and this is the bigger one for me (if people want to engage in apologetics, let them) - we take natural Law and run with it in ways it is not meant to go. We will let that old harlot, dame reason, jump on in, and then we will build new constructions and laws on top of "natural" Law, things that should be evident and flow... and we just give burdens to others.

Allow me an example that is absurd. Let's talk about eating. It should be obvious from nature, that food was given to man for two main reasons:

1. To provide nourishment.
2. To provide enjoyment.

Therefore, we can say that a Christian ought never eat Cotton Candy, for it does not really provide nourishment, but rather is just a matter of enjoyment. More over, it is a totally artificial food, overly processed beyond compare. It is a foul, abnormal abomination. Cotton Candy is evil.

This flows quite well logically. Really, it does. Try to tell me that cotton candy provides actual nourishment or that it is health, or that it is natural. Therefore, it violates natural law, and you can't eat it.

(Oh, but no one says something like that, it's silly. Well, I've been told that a Christian needs to avoid eating M&Ms... more than a handful is a sin. And besides, I'm looking at patterns of thoughts here)

Here's the problem - does God forbid eating food for pleasure? No. He forbids gluttony - but the kid at the fair having a wad of cotton candy isn't necessarily gluttony. But, if we put such an emphasis upon what we think are the natural, the obvious purposes of something in creation, it gives us license to derive all sorts of "laws" that are not part of God's command. It gives us license to be new law-givers.

And we take this and we make burdens with it, all for the best intentions. "We must say that Cotton Candy is evil. Don't we see the culture of obesity that we have today, what a scourge this is. Cotton Candy is part of that culture, and we must speak out against it!"

And we are given over to our own pet crusades, and we place burdens upon one another that God did not place upon us in His Word.

+ + + + + + + + +

Actually, what it boils down to is this. We have enough to ponder in God's revealed Word. Why are we spending so much time in the realm of "nature" and "reason", when there is Scripture enough to live and rely upon? Why are we so worried about trying to make others be good... as though our works make others to be more righteous? This ends up becoming idolatry and self-worship. Let it be avoided.


Phillip said...

As children are a blessing, then how could the Bible banning contraception be an unnecessary burden?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

1. The Bible itself doesn't.

2. When man adds a commandment that Scripture doesn't make, that is de facto a burden.

3. Note what you do with your argument. Your basis of your contention is this - "as children are a blessing". The whole argument begins with the truth that children are a blessing. However, then a jump is made.

Because they are a blessing, it is always wrong to not seek them.

This is a logical leap.

Money is a blessing. Therefore, you sin if you do not take a job that offers you more money, because in so doing you are turning your back on a blessing.

A wife is a blessing. Therefore, you sin if you tell a girl you won't marry her, because you are despising marriage.

Being a Pastor is a blessing. If you are a man and do not become a pastor, you are sinning because you are despising the blessing of the Office.

Land is a blessing. If you are content to rent instead of purchasing land, you are sinning by despising the blessing that is land.

These all follow the same train of logic - that something which is good must be sought after and can never be avoided.

There are times when some duties might mean you would rather rent, or remain a laymen, or remain single, or not take a higher paying job. These are not forbidden.

Likewise, even though children are a blessing, life is not defined simply by trying to have children, and for the sake of others in your life, they might not be sought.

4. Why would a blessing (Gospel) suddenly bring forth a resultant law?

Phillip said...

The Gospel brings further Law with it. Gospel: You are saved because Christ died on the cross to save you. Law: Don't willfully decide to reject Christ's sacrifice.

Prove Scripture doesn't ban it.
Be fruitful...
God struck Onan dead for
Procreation is the end of marriage, God encourages marriage (not just to anyone) and condemns those who oppose it

How do these not mean what they say?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Really? The Gospel is the pretext for the waging finger? Besides, that "law" is nothing new. It's the same as it always been, for to reject God has always been to reject Christ.

"Be fruitful" -- therefore, anyone who is not fruitful is sinning. Oh, wait, that doesn't check because celebacy is permitted, and moreover, whatever man does, God is ultimately the One who gives children. Perhaps attention should be paid to whom this is said - otherwise you might have to go move to Israel and posses the land because God commanded it.

God did not strike Onan dead for contraception - he struck him dead for theft. The whole them of that chapter is that Tamar is not being provided for -- her wealth and lot is being stolen by her heir not being provided. That's about greed... (but I'd be willing to concede that contraception shouldn't be used in Levirate marriages). It is a jump to move from this to any and all forms of contraception. Too big of a jump.

And yes, procreation is an end of marriage - one reason for it. Yet why do you treat procreation as something that is totally devoid of man's thought or planning.

Let me actually quote scripture rather than case allusions. In John 1, when our being brought to faith (in the context of Christ's own conception) is discussed, John says, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."

Note - directly involved in the contrast here is the idea that the will of man is part of childbirth. Man's will is involved in the bringing forth of children, simple as that. Moreover, the husband has a fundamental duty and responsibility to tend to his wife's health and well being.

I don't know why you will limit be fruitful and multiply with one hand (as Scripture itself does), but then demand it more vehemently than Scripture does with the other. It shows no compassion upon those who face struggles in a difficult world. Even the Talmud allows for contraception... how do we become more legalistic than those whom Christ Jesus Himself lambasted for their legalism?

Phillip said...

Theft? Last I checked Leviticus it was the dead brother not the widow who was owed the heir. Tamar wasn't promised a child. Onan was killed for trying to prevent conception from happening, not for stealing Tamar's never promised child.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This is a property issue. A woman had the right to be provided an heir... in fact, that was the reason a woman was allowed to divorce a man, if he refused her and prevented her from having a child.

Tamar would have Er's share of the property... but if she has no child, that would revert to her nearest kin -- Onan. Onan was legally bound to provide her an heir - instead, he chooses, as Genesis says, "not to give offspring to his brother." That is stealing his brother's share of the property.

That's the wickedness - that the only reason Onan would touch Tamar was to provide an heir... the ONLY. She is not his wife, there is no mutual support or anything like that. Get her pregnant and be done. But he doesn't do this so as to deny his brother an heir, and he dies. He denies Tamar support in her old age, so he tries to steal from her, and he dies.

Phillip said...

She would always be provided for in Judah/ Onan's house. He wasn't stealing her property, just as you said, denying her an heir. That is, a child. It's about procreation, not theft. Nowhere is a woman guaranteed a child in the Bible. There is absolutely no Scriptural basis to call Onan's actions theft instead of contraception.

Mike Baker said...

Having children is a blessing, but this fallen world is mired in sin and its consequences... which makes things messy. For some women, conception is a death sentence of the child and a life-threatening health risk for the mother. This situation is more common than you might think.

For these couples, there is a moral obligation to PREVENT death... and, with life at stake, NPF is not fool-proof enough to stake the lives of unborn children and their mothers on. The advice that is always given without knowing the couple then has to be "chastity even though you have not been given the gift since contraception is forbidden by God." All of a sudden those people who are so keen on not seperating procreation from the marital act fall off on the other side by denying the non-procreative blessings of sexual contact just because of medical neccesity.

This is why talk of contraception in an abstract, intellectual capacity is an unneccesary burden that is both unwise and unhelpful. Like most life-and-death situations, you don't paint in broad brushes but examine each situation case by case. The worst thing to do is get advice over these matters via the internet or a formal church document that speaks in nothing but generalities.

The interpretation of Onan is far from unanimous or easy and the conclusions drawn from it throughout history are broad and disputed at best.

No matter how you read the text, the fact remains that Onan's situation is not the situation of a husband who doesn't want a 7th or 8th (or in some cases 12th) miscarriage and the ICU visits that come along with it. That is the couple who actually cares about this topic enough to read blog posts about it. That is whose consciences are being unneccesarily burdened by speculative philosophy on both sides.

Phillip said...

You can't just ignore hard parts of the law because you don't like them. If you study the Bible and actually believe in Natural Law then it's very clear contraception is wrong. Be as cynical as you want because you'd rather deny Scripture than accept Natural Law, but God's clear it's wrong, besides the Church has held this position from the beginning to the 1950's when the Anglicans broke it. Of course everyone's lives would be easier if we ignored the parts of the Law that weren't fun. But the fact that it's hard for people doesn't make it cruel or not truly the law.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I do not deny Scripture.

I desire mercy and not sacrifice.

scott said...

Aside from whether it is theft or not, clearly Onan is disobeying his father, which carries a death sentence in Scripture.

Phillip said...


You argue it's too hard. "Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." "There must not be even a hint of sexual immorality among you." Sounds a lot harder to me than sex without condoms or pulling-out. Furthermore, NFP is the most effective method of contraception. It's significantly safer than most surgeries if you're staking a child's life on it. The only thing truly safe to do by your standard is total abstinence. Nothing else is foolproof.

Phillip said...

There's nothing merciful about leaving people secure in their sins. The merciful and loving man is the one who condemns the sinners actions not the one who ignores him to be nice and make things easy.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Phillip - you are right. People should not be left secure in their sins. Where one is showing Greed, let the Greed be condemned. Where one is showing lust and selfishness, let that lust and selfishness be condemned.

When a husband and wife, out of concern for each others well being, engage in non-abortificant methods of birth control - I'm not going to knock them. Nor am I going to tell them "well, you just need to abstain then", especially as Paul tells us (again, that pesky bible) that one should not deprive the spouse of his or her conjugal rights precisely for the prevention of grave sin.

Calling something a sin and forbidding it because you don't like it is hatred and vile, a burdening of consciences on the basis of philosophic babble that puts more trust in man's ability to divine the will of God from "nature" instead of relying upon the Word.

Phillip said...

I put my trust in the multitude of Scriptural evidence that contraception is wrong. That stuff you keep calling irrelevant to the discussion, yah, that's what I trust in, not my intellect. Just because we disagree doesn't mean I'm preaching Praetera Scriptura. It means out mortal intellects disagree on what the Bible means. Besides which, all you've done is claimed every piece of Scripture I cite is irrelevant or only sometimes means what it says. Prove it doesn't. Sola Scriptura doesn't mean ignoring the parts you don't like by saying they don't apply. Prove it doesn't mean what it says.

scott said...

Of all the laws given in the OT and NT about marriage and who can sleep with whom, and whatnot -- including things like no sleeping with animals or homosexuality -- are you trying to say, Philip, that there is something that clear against contraception? Uh, let's see it.

Here's the list you gave earlier:

Prove Scripture doesn't ban it.
Be fruitful...
God struck Onan dead for
Procreation is the end of marriage, God encourages marriage (not just to anyone) and condemns those who oppose it

1 Prove scripture doesn't ban it. Why would we have to prove that scripture doesn't ban it? You are the one insisting it does. If there's a passage that says "Do not contracept." show it to us.

2 Be fruitful . . . This can be taken as law, or it could be taken as a blessing. That seems to be the context, "And God blessed them and God said to them . . ." Life is something that only God can give, therefore it has to be a blessing. No matter how hard a man and woman try, it is not their powers that bring about children.

3 God struck Onan dead for contracepting. Or, He struck Onan dead for disobeying his father (which does carry a death sentence in scripture). Yes, Onan did it by contracepting, but he could also have disobeyed by running away, or refusing to sleep with her at all, or . . .

4 Procreation is the end of marriage. I certainly think we'd all agree that it is an end to marriage. But it is an end that only God can give. Some He does not give children to -- so are you saying that God did something wrong? That even He didn't know the proper end to marriage? Come on.

Rev Brown has gone on record as saying contracepting can indeed be sinful. I'm sure many a Lutheran pastor agrees with him. But your hand is not as strong as you think it is. Otherwise, lay down your trump card. The stuff you've been bringing has been asked and answered. It's not new. If you just like to argue and mix it up theologically, fine. But if you wish to call something a sin, and have it preached as such, give us the proof.

Phillip said...


1 If there's a passage that says "Do not masturbate." show it to us. Yet, would you really say it's licit?

2 Be fruitful... Check your third grade grammar book. This is called the imperative. Show me the Hebrew where this is not so.

3 Lots of people ran away or disobeyed fathers and lived.

4 Don't talk nonsense. You know that's not my position. Don't try cheap shots in place of legitimate argument.

I'm here for legitimate theological discussion. Are you?

I've cited Scripture and there's more, but what I've said hasn't been adequately answered. The Bible doesn't list a lot of things that it condemns. If you studied law or patristics you'd know that. We're expected to not be so stupid we can't get that masturbation or LSD, etc. is wrong.

And no, there's 1,950 years of Church history where contraception has been condemned. And 450 years of it being undisputed in the Lutheran church. It's been asked and answered and Scripture and the Church says it's wrong. You can't ignore Scripture and say it's not good enough and call that a trump card. That's ELCA, PCUSA, and every other liberal theological group. Prove God doesn't care about it if you want to change. The burden's on you, not the people who hold the same position we've always held. And no, throwing out another possibility for a verse or two is not proving God approves of it. Hold yourself to your own standard. Prove with Scripture God doesn't care about contraception.

scott said...

Quickly, as I'm in a hurry.

1 There is a passage where Christ talks about looking at a woman lustfully and thereby committing adultery.

2 Rev Brown has said, and I would agree, there are ways to sin against God by contracepting. But David also took the shewbread. You've taken a blessing and turned it into a yoke some people at some times can't bear. The Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath.

3 And? Several people also contracept and are not struck down. What I'm saying is there is a possibility that Onan was struck down for disobeying his father, not just for contracepting.

4 You put up the short argument. I may have misinterpretted it. My bad. You said the end. I took you at your word.

I'm here for theological discussion too, but you seem to be wanting more. You seem to want pastors to be condemning people from the pulpit for any use of contraception. I may not speak for Rev Brown, but I want a clearer passage. That's my call though.

You claim to have put up scripture proving your point. Others disagree. I'll end for now with this -- you may be right. Unlike the Pharisees in John 9, I'll claim I'm blind to this. I just don't see it as you do. I think your scripture passages fall short of what you want, especially if you are wanting a blanket statement that all contraception is wrong. Why again, seeing how there are multiple explicit commands about sex, do we not have one that says, "Do not contracept"?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

One point - actually, I'm not certain that the condemnation against Contraception is as clear, especially in the early Church. Jewish practice of the time was to allow barrier methods when:

1. The wife was extremely young.
2. She was nursing.

There is also some discussion that if pregnancy would harm the woman, then a barrier method might be allowable.

You really don't get the Fathers speaking to these issues -- what you do have is a condemnation of doing what the heretics do... such as the manicheans and the like. This may be a case where there was such vehement opposition to heresy that the Church became over zealous.

scott said...

Also, and forgive me for being unclear earlier, in regard to the "asked and answered", I was referring not only to this thread, but also to the recent history of this blog. I would guess that in the last 6 mos to a year that, aside from the sermon posts, no other topic has taken up as much space on this blog. Thus my desire to see some new argument advanced. Otherwise it just seems like being contentious. But perhaps you are new, in which case please forgive me.

As you can see by my jumping in, I live in a glass house. ;) Contend on.

Phillip said...

"She was nursing" one of the reasons Rome teaches NFP is for nursing mothers. If the wife is too young or otherwise for health reasons should not conceive, NFP is recommended.

Procreation is an end of marriage that is inalienable except by God. If you (a person) remove an end from an act you fundamentally alter the act. To use Pr. Brown's example from another post, if you remove the end of praising God from worship, you fundamentally alter the act and have idolatry. If you make a law about oppressing a group instead of good order, you get laws that aren't laws. You get the Holocaust by removing the end of Natural Law justice from the power of the sword. I assume you would consider it adultery to lustfully objectify your wife as an object of sexual pleasure. You'd be exploiting your wife for physical pleasure and wanting sex without intercourse. Even inside of marriage, you'd be committing adultery. Not every sexual act begits a child. Neither does every sexual act lead to orgasm. Show me why procreation can be licitly removed from sex as an end but love can't, or any of my other examples.

Who in the Bible uses contraception besides Onan?

I apologize, this recent string of posts was began after I shared one of my finals papers that was on contraception with Pr. Brown. That has a longer argument which I've been tacitly including in my argument.

If you want more arguments, I would point you to Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae (both Papal Encyclicals), Donum Vitae (from the RC Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, all three on the Vatican website), and an Elizabeth Anscombe piece on contraception and chastity,

There's not really a proof verse or short passage other than "Be fruitful..." and Onan. There are many long arguments drawn from Scripture and Natural Law, but none that would fit in a blog comment.

The Fathers condemn heretics for being opposed to procreation, contraception is inherently anti-procreation. If you think the Fathers were wrong on this point then so be it, but they were specifically addressing contraception, not heresies as wholes.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

What I find distasteful about all the constructs on contraception is that they are arguments from silence. God's word is silent... He doesn't say we "can" therefore its bad.

I have freedom. Unless you can show me where I cannot, then don't abrogate my freedom. Simple as that.

I would note that there is a difference between the heretics and what I am adovacating -- the Gnostics taught that children were bad, that matter was wicked, and that it should be spread. That is indeed wrong. However, there is a vast difference between this and choosing to postpone contraception for a time for the sake of order, or to avoid it for the sake of health. One says "children are fundamentally bad." The other does not.

Also, the other thing which I fail to understand on all this talk on sex is how procreation is fundamental. Who argues that a couple should be celibate after menopause, or if the wife is rendered infertile? Sex isn't just about making children... it is about giving joy to ones spouse - and that is a good thing, even if children don't result.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

That matter should *not* be spread, that is.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Thinking on this: "If you make a law about oppressing a group instead of good order, you get laws that aren't laws. You get the Holocaust by removing the end of Natural Law justice from the power of the sword."

This, I think, shows why natural law talk sits so... poorly with me. It's like some secret, hip code that all the cool kids know, but I haven't got the decoder ring.

I don't need Natural Law theory to show that the Holocaust was unjust, nor do I need to speak about oppression. Rather this - how do the Scriptures speak of governance? The sword is to punish wicked doers. Simple as that. Is it legitimate to argue that one is an evil doer, in a civil context, simply on basis of race? I don't think you can make that argument, so the holocaust isn't defensible. Moreover, it shows a government acting in direct opposition to what authority is for in the Scriptures. Authority is always given for the benefit of those who are placed under that authority... and the holocaust is a messing with this.

Now, if you mean, "How do we explain to those outside the Church that the Holocaust was wrong"... that's something else entirely. There are many philosophic theories that would contend that the Holocaust was unjust... we don't need Scholastic thought to do this.

Moreover - I'd much rather delve into the Scriptures, consider them, be shaped by them... and natural law does that. I have no desire for Christian Philosophy detached from the Word. I am a Theologian of the Word - I want to deal with the Scriptures and see ever more what they say.

Or to put it this way - if I get asked, "Pastor, what about ______," I'm never going to say, "Well, what does Natural Law say?" I'm going respond, "Well, what do the Scriptures say" and go from there.

Always, always based and centered on the Scriptures -- and I fundamentally don't trust anything that sets its main focus (at least on issues of morality) on something other than the Scriptures.

Mike Baker said...

Oh boy... there goes Pastor Brown on his Sola Scriptura thing again. It's like he's a Lutheran or something.


Phillip said...

Children belong to God. If He chooses not to give someone any, then it's His prerogative, but that doesn't change the end of the act. Sarah and Elizabeth conceived well after menopause. If the chances of having a child are virtually nil, then that percentage has nothing to do with the end of the act. You could play golf and never make par in your life, but if you play golf and purposefully hit into the woods, you're no longer playing golf. The same is true with sex. You could have sex and never have a child, but having sex and trying to avoid a child is very wrong.

"Is it legitimate to argue that one is an evil doer, in a civil context, simply on basis of race?" Show me where in Scripture it says you can't. Being Canaanite carried a death penalty in the Old Testament. Their death was for the benefit of God's people. Sure maybe that means let the Christian Jews live, but no reason to spare the rest of the Jews or the Muslims or anyone else. Hitler was just protecting the Protestant Church in Germany. Isn't that a good function of the government? It's only Natural Law that says I know it's wrong because my heart says so (and no I don't mean I feel it's right or wrong), or I can derive it from the combination of Scripture and natural law theory to form a legitimate argument and not just say it's wrong. The faithful pastors in Germany used Natural Law, which comes from Scripture and the Holy Spirit, to attack Hitler's atrocities.

Natural Law is no more secret of a club than Greek, Hebrew, Eschatology, Exigetical theology, etc. It just requires training to be used very well. Most laymen aren't very good at exigetical theology, but this doesn't make it any less valid or doctrinally important. Few people know Greek or Hebrew, this doesn't mean the Church doesn't care about them or that the KJV is the definitive version of Scripture. You'd never say exigetical theology says this, but you'd certainly use it if it was relevant.

Mike Baker said...


You conveniently argue around the situation that I have presented which places real moral questions in the hands of the couple. Barrenness is not a moral question. It is easy to argue the situations in which no actually strugles with conscience.

What about those who conceive regurarly, but are medically proven to be incapable of bringing a child to term? What is your advice to them?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


You note: "Show me where in Scripture it says you can't. Being Canaanite carried a death penalty in the Old Testament."

It was a death penalty delivered not by their own government, but by Israel. The Elders of Israel were not the leaders of the Canaanites, nor were they given a duty by God to care for them as subjects. You cannot compare how a leader in a military campaign treats an enemy people to how a government treats its own citizens. Apples to oranges on that comparison.

And here is my problem with natural Law -- if you were focused primarily on the Scriptures, that context would jump right to the fore. Instead, your example misuses the Scriptural example and ignores the context provided in the Scriptures. It's a faulty use of the Word. Because your focus is on philosophy, the Scriptures become a pretext to point to a logical construct that has already been derived on the basis of the observation of "nature". I don't trust that foundation.

Also - with your golf analogy - let me demonstrate why I think your approach is wrong. The goal of Golf is to shoot as low a score on however many holes it is (let us say 18 holes). You argue that if you hit into the woods, you aren't playing golf. What about hitting countless golf balls into a net? Is that no longer golf? Is the golfer then violating the natural law of golf? Or, is the golfer doing something else - like practicing, or tending to a specific portion of his game for the precise reason that when the time comes for the 18 holes, he is better prepared? A golfer must exercise discipline and control and timing in order to improve his score.

Likewise, while the ends of marriage is children, this does not mean that every moment, indeed, every sexual contact has to have as its goal the production of children. Sometimes other concerns, other factors need to be tended to first. Sometimes the needs of a spouse need to be considered - and tending to these is not necessarily a destruction of marriage... it's focusing on some other aspect of the family that is good and proper to be tended to.

A husband does not tend to children to the exclusion of his wife, nor to his wife to the exclusion of his children. To be a husband is to have dominion, to be a lord. And as such, that does include the setting of priorities in the care of ones family. If I determine, with my wife's consent, that for a time another child would be less than ideal, I have no problem exercising my God-given dominion and order in this way. If God contravenes my plans - so be it. Still, I will order and arraign my family as it seems right and proper and loving to do.

If this is the reason, the rationale for the use of non-abortificant means of contraception - fine. If NFP is allowed, let people use a tool. I'm sure Natural Law doesn't argue that the state can only strangle people to death because the sword is an unnatural tool - or that we have to plow our fields by hand because tractors are unnatural. Let a tool be used, let there still remain physical and emotional care for a spouse even in times of family planning.

And if the idea of contraception is abhorent to a couple - then by all means, let them not use it. Do not violate your conscience -- but don't create some construct to lay burdens on another.

And I'll second Mike's request -- answer his hard case. What do you tell them? How shall that husband do his God given duty of caring for his spouse right then an there?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

And just in case someone in that case is reading this, let me give my counsel.

What can you bear?

If you are content to continue to try to have children... so be it. Try. But when the impact of this fallen and death is to much to bear, then be free to avoid it.

What point is this? I don't know. Depends upon the couple. Husbands, I would note that on this you must put your wife's needs above your own... if she cannot bear it but you'd like to try more... tough. Love your wife. Put her needs above your desires. Likewise wives, if your husband can't take anymore... you may need to submit and follow his lead on this.

I would also bring up the idea of adoption - or even foster care. Both of these are needed... and actually, adoption is the very picture of God's love for us, for we are His children by baptism.

Support, care, and comfort. This may be hard, and it may mean curtailing what you would want for the sake of your spouse -- that is the burden you took up when you were wed. Do your duty, show love.

Phillip said...


I would tell them to use NFP. What would you tell them? That the 98% chance of success for NFP isn't enough to stake a child's life on but the 80 something % chance of success with a condom is? You and Pastor argue people should be allowed tools, but the best tool isn't plastic or rubber. What percent of contraceptive success is good enough for you when the pregnancy would likely result in death? Last I checked only total abstinence works every time. I would feel very sorrow and try my best to comfort the couple, but my father dying when I was 11 doesn't excuse me from God's Law, I don't mean it insensitively, but neither do their children's deaths. There are no subjective exceptions to the Law.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Here is the thing. If you counsel for NFP, you are counselling, you are saying that there is a just time to try to avoid contraception. What then is the harm in adding another layer of protection?

I'll use your numbers - NFP at 98% and condoms at 80% (although that is short-selling condoms and over stating NFP... people don't always count well). Say it's one of those 2% times... well, now it's knocked down another 80% to 0.4%. Great. Improve - much better. It doesn't have to be an "either/or" method.