Friday, August 21, 2009

The Reformers and Contraception


I have a question for all those "Reformers" out there. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? It is a simple yes or no answer.

"It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. Onan was guilty of a similar crime" (Calvin's Commentary on Genesis, vol. 2, part 16).

"[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her—that is, he lies with her and copulates—and, when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime. . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore, God punished him" (Luther's Commentary on Genesis)

"the purpose of marriage is not pleasure and ease but the procreation and education of children and the support of a family.... People who do not like children are swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because they despise the blessing of God, the Creator and Author of marriage" (Luther quoted in Christian History, Issue 39, p. 24).

Westminster Annotations (1657); Calvinist
Commentary on Gen. 38.9 (by John Ley of the Westminster Assembly) - "...in that there is a seminal vital virtue, which perishes if the seed be spilled; and by doing this to hinder the begetting of a living child, is the first degree of murder that can be committed, and the next unto it is the marring of conception, when it is made, and causing of abortion: now such acts are noted in the scripture as horrible crimes, because, otherwise many might commit them, and not know the evil of them: it is conceived, that his brother Er before, was his brother in evil thus far, that both of them satisfied their sensuality against the order of nature, and therefore the Lord cut them off both alike with sudden vengeance; which may be for terror to those Popish Onanites who condemn marriage, and live in sodomitical impurity, and to those who, in marriage, care not for the increase of children, (which is the principle use of the conjugal estate) but for the satisfying of their concupiscence."


The Protestant scholar Charles Provan listed over a hundred Protestant founders or leaders in every denomination (Lutheran, Calvinist, Reformed, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Evangelical, Nonconformist, Baptist, Puritan, Pilgrim) who condemned the use of contraception, calling it a sinful act (Provan, 1989 The Bible and Birth Control). Why the sudden change in Protestant Biblical interpretation over the last 70 years or so? If the Protestant is so steeped in God's word, why does he now accept a sinful practice that is condemned in the Sacred Scriptures, one that all Protestant forefathers taught against as well? We can chalk it up to another example of the disunity in Protestantism, and the wholesale rejection of God's Church.

The further in time the Protestants move away from the Church, the further out in left field their teachings get. We can also look at the acceptance of divorce, homosexuality and women clergy in Protestantism as other examples among many. I find it interesting how all of these "Reformed" apologists are ready to come out and attack Catholics on various teachings, yet they will run like their head is on fire when they see this one coming at them. (See another previous post on this subject. Where were their rebuttals?) Where is the "ready defense" that they are supposed to be able to give for their beliefs when it comes to their acceptance of such a disgraceful and wretched sin, as their forefathers called it?

It is not a far fetch to blame the success of Margaret Sanger's evil operation, "Planned Parenthood", on the Protestants' acceptance of the use of artificial contraception. She needed the favor of the major Protestant denominations to gain support in her endeavors to popularize contraception, and eventually abortion. Of course most Protestants are against the sin of abortion, but they are not in full agreement on this either! This is amazing to me! Just look at the Protestant pastor Peter Ruckman who said the following on one of his videos on You Tube. Listen to the audio here.

"You don't want to get hung up on those things. Some of the brethren get so hung up on this thing, 'abortion is murder, abortion is murder', they show you pictures. Well they're trying to prove, they're trying to prove the thing looks like a person that is a person. That's what Darwin taught. You gotta watch that business. You can take an embryo of an animal and prove it looks like an embryo of a person. That doesn't make it a person. You gotta watch that business. You go around start prove that thing is a person before that thing is born, then you got that matter of salvation. And the first thing you know you'll be up there at the Catholic hospital dumpin' water on them so they don't go to limbo. You gotta watch that kind of stuff. Now I'll grant you the child is an organism, I'll grant you that. But they're a lot of organisms. I'll grant you the child may be alive in the sense of animal life, I'll grant you that. I'll grant you it's an embryo, I'll grant you that. But if you talking about a living soul see, I read my bible there's no living soul till the Lord breathed in his nostrils the breath of life."


When we look at Protestantism, and what it has become today, it is only a shadow of what it once was. Protestantism was a horrible monstrosity when it was invented some 500 years ago, and it has only gone steadily downhill into the moral cesspool since then. They all now reject core moral Biblical teachings that all of their forefathers once strongly held. So much for Protestants believing the "core" teachings of the Scriptures. We can see that this is not the truth. They can't even agree on the Scriptures in regards to abortion and divorce, let alone contraception!

The fact is that Protestants do not agree on core moral principles as many of them claim. Only the Catholic Church has stood tall among the moral wasteland of the secular culture. The Catholic Church has never wavered on her teachings regarding faith and morals. The Catholic Church has never accepted divorce, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc, like the Protestants have, and it never will. Choose the real Church, not an imaginary one, folks.

Finally I would like to close with the popular "Reformed" apologist James White's disclaimer on birth control from his website. His statement seems to be in stark contrast to what his forefathers thought about the subject.

Disclaimer:

We receive many requests for information that are not relevant to the focus of Alpha and Omega Ministries. We need to emphasize very strongly that it is not our purpose to take the place of the local New Testament Church. Questions about eschatology, church discipline, faith healing, birth control, which translation one should use or how one might interpret a particular parable are not considered "apologetic" in nature. We believe that these issues are more appropriately addressed by the pastor and elders of your own Bible believing church.

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

One might ask where in the Fathers or the church did they hint that a marriage could be annulled by ecclesial decision. That what God had joined together, man could put assunder. And what's more, that over the course of lifetimes, something like 20% of marriages, even over decades with many children involved, in fact never were marriages at all. And that even after a man and woman, joined together in sacred ceremony, and joined "as one flesh" in the marriage bed, might nevertheless not be married at all. Thus calling into question the very existence of any marriage.

At least on the contraception issue, we can argue that we have a better understanding of the biology of conception to argue against the hyperbole of it being murder. But the Catholic annulment process has no such defence from natural law.

BJ Buracker said...

From my understanding, annulment is not an act, but rather an acknowledgement that there never was a marriage to begin with. If that's true, then God had never joined anything together in the first place.

I'm sure Matthew will point out where I'm wrong.

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Jen D said...

Anonymous and BJ - I find the topic of this post to be very interesting and controversial...I'd love to hear your opinion on the actual topic addressed by the blog post, which is contraception.

Does modern biology overturn the better part of 1900 years of consistent Biblical interpretation of Genesis, specifically the Sin of Onan?

Alex said...

BJ: "...annulment is not an act, but rather an acknowledgement that there never was a marriage to begin with. If that's true, then God had never joined anything together in the first place."

This sounds right to me. Annulment as an act sounds as if something had existed, but now no longer. The Church merely makes a declaration of nullity stating that from its inception, there was lacking in the relationship something necessary for marriage.

What do you think about the contraception issue?

Matthew Bellisario said...

That is the Church's definition of annulment BJ. They conduct an investigation to see if there was in fact a valid marriage in the first place.

Long time no see BJ. How are things your way? Any opinions on the change of Biblical interpretation on Genesis regarding contraception in the Protestant world?

BJ Buracker said...

Hey Matthew,

Things have been going well, thanks for asking. The break from studies has been nice, but I've been spending my time translating Luke and Acts.

I haven't quit reading your blog, but I haven't been commenting in many places. But now, I've got my blog back up and running (http://www.stupidscholar.com), so I'm writing more all the way around.

How are things with you? You behaving yourself?

I'll respond to your questions in another comment.

Blessings,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

BJ Buracker said...

Ok, Jen and Matthew,

Short answer, I don't know. I've read and listen to a bit of the Catholic arguments, and I'll be honest, I don't find the Onan very persuasive. However, I do find the argument from the dual nature of sexual relations (love/intimacy AND procreation) to be far more persuasive. As a result, my wife and I do not use contraception. See, I am a saint :)

As far as Onan goes:

There are several possibilities for the actual sin.

1. Coitus interuptus.

2. The failure to fulfill the Levirite marriage required of him.

3. Direct disobedience to an explicit command of God (Gen 38:8).

That Onan decides to spill his seed because, "He knew that the offspring would not be his" (v. 9) seems to indicate that he opposed Levirite marriage. These potential children would benefit from Er, Onan's brother, not Onan, and that was his reason for failing in his duties.

Nevertheless, the narrator simply says that Onan's act was evil in God's sight, but he doesn't attribute an exact reason.

So again, it could be any of the 3 reasons I gave above or any combination thereof. The text indicates that Onan was opposed to his duties in Levirite Marriage, and it is clear that Onan disobeys a direct command from God.

Thus, I think that the text is inclusive in the argument for/against contraception. I believe that the issues for Onan were #2 and especially #3 above. The simple act of spilling seed is not directly addressed in this passage, and so I don't think it can be used one way or the other.

That's my story, now rip it apart :)

BJ
Stupid Scholar

BJ Buracker said...

HUGE CORRECTION!

I misread the text and attributed the command of Judah to be a command of Yahweh. This does change my argument a bit, and in this case, I would argue more strongly for #2. Plus, you have direct disobedience against his father, but that doesn't seem to be the reason for death.

Again, I conclude that it is simply not conclusive exactly what the sin was, and to assume it is the wasted semen is inferring too much.

Thanks and sorry for the error.

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Alex said...

BJ, if #2 is the reason you are going with, then what do you make of the fact that death is not the punishment for not fulfilling the Levirate, but public humiliation?

We know that the punishment given for violating the Levirate was humiliation, as described in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Within biblical interpretation there are certain rules to be followed. The text itself is what should be looked at first, then the immediate context, followed by the wider context of other biblical passages. In this case, we should look at condemnations for violations of the law of the Levirate. It is also interesting to note that Deuteronomy prescribes the death penalty for other deviant sexual sins (22:22-25).

The operative sentence in the text is, “What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also.” According to the text itself, God slew Onan due to the specific action he performed. What Onan did, his action, is what was found to be evil in God’s sight. Onan’s act of withdrawal and spilling his seed, a perverse act, is where the emphasis should be found in the text, and not on what Onan intended to achieve.

In the wider context of the biblical account we find Judah admitting his fault in violating the Levirate. Shelah also was guilty of violating the Levirate by not assuming the duty to which he was bound. It should be noticed that three people are guilty of the same crime, but only one was slain. Why? If we were to use the Levirate-only interpretation, and not the perverse sexual act of Onan, then we will certainly arrive at an interpretive impasse. We clearly see that it was Onan alone who artificially separated the unitive from the procreative ends in the sexual act, thereby defrauding its purpose and meaning.

It should also be mentioned that any pro-contraception mentality cannot logically argue against any other form of sexual deviancy among consenting adults. In light of this, we can see that arguments stating that Onan was slain by God simply for violation of the law of the Levirate are not sustained by the text itself and are further disproved by the text of Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Violating the law of the Levirate is violating the law of the Levirate. Humiliation is the punishment given for violating the law of the Levirate. Therefore, God must have seen something evil in the act itself of withdrawal and spilling the seed. Modern scholars conveniently ignoring the context does not help. The fact that this novel interpretation coincides with modern man’s progressivist understanding of the sexual act is not coincidental. Also, the fact that the Anglican Church was the first to accept contraception (to the outrage of others, including the Baptists) which debases the sexual act, is also the same church that finds itself unable to logically conclude that homosexuality is immoral due to its acceptance of artificially sterile sexual acts, and this likewise is not coincidental.

Alex said...

continued-

Historically the levirate marriage could have been a practice that the Israelites adopted and adapted to themselves due to the occupation of Palestine, or the custom was developed due to Canaanite influence. The probability of there being a corresponding influence is confirmed by noting the biblical fact that Judah’s wife Shua was a Canaanite. The point is that the law was not the sole property of the Israelites, but was a common law throughout western Asia and is clearly of greater antiquity than the Mosaic Law. We find the niyoga in India (which was more of a temporary purpose, being that when a child was conceived relations between the woman and her brother-in-law would cease), cakar marriage found amongst the Persians and Parsees, as well as other examples.

There were seemingly important reasons for this practice. Among these reasons we can discern a desire to somehow preserve the father’s (husband of the wife that is) name through his brother’s act of copulation with his wife resulting in an heir, as well as providing a means for passing on the inheritance. There is even argumentation put forward which states that the sister-in-law via marriage has become the property of her deceased husband’s family; therefore, the inheritance being a part of the familial rights must be kept within the family via heirs. It is noteworthy though that within the scholarly literature it is apparent that amongst the Israelites the continuance of the deceased brother’s name was of primary importance. Likewise, it is noted that the symbolism of removing the sandal from the uncooperative brother-in-law’s foot was not an isolated custom of the Israelites, but was of legal significance throughout western Asia as well.

Based upon what I have been able to conclude, the only relevant differences between the pre-Sinaitic Revelation and the Torah legislation is that under the Torah legislation the father-in-law does not seem to be permitted to “go in” to his daughter-in-law. Also, under the Torah legislation it is better determined that by the mere conjugal act the brother-in-law becomes married to his sister-in-law. Beyond this, I am unaware of there being any relevant differences between the two, especially in the punishment given for not bringing forth offspring for one’s brother.

I am uncertain how with some who argue by pointing out the fact that Onan predates the legislation found in Deuteronomy provides any substantial difference. We know that this was an ancient, semi-universal practice. We also know that the punishment given was not isolated in the period described in Deuteronomy 25.

It seems to me that by looking at the facts objectively, one would agree that Onan’s sin is not solely found in his selfish intent to deny offspring to his brother, but also his chosen method in doing so. However, it appears that most protestants would stop short and focus solely on intent and not the actual method used. I do not see how this argument can withstand biblical, historical, philosophical, and logical scrutiny.

Alex said...

continued-

The biblical text is clear, “And what he did was displeasing in the site of the Lord.” The historical understanding of Onan’s sin is also clear. This is not a Catholic concept. The reformers also held to this understanding as well as the Jews (read the entry on Birth Control in the Encyclopedia Judaica). I am curious as to why many modern day protestants have not addressed the correlation between the rise of man’s modernist understanding of the sexual act, and this novel interpretation. Indeed, correlation does not always imply causation. However, when the conditions match, and causation does exist, then it should be addressed as I believe this should.

I can safely assume that you would agree with me in stating that Onan’s act was morally different than Shelah’s in that Onan actually began coitus with Tamar whereas Shelah did not; therefore, Onan merited death in God’s eyes. I am confident that you would agree with this because you have stated as much. However, we disagree in that you believe that God’s condemnation of Onan was ultimately due to his intentional disobedience of Judah’s command alone (remember, it was Judah who commanded Onan to go into Tamar, not God…as you have stated, besides Deuteronomy 25 did not come about for sometime later). We likewise agree that there is an inherent immoral quality to his act of coitus interruptus.

I disagree in most protestant's assumption that God would have been indifferent to Onan’s act of coitus interruptus if he did not have the obligation to bring forth offspring imposed upon him from Judah. I state that there always is an obligation present, and not just for Onan in this particular instance.

It appears to me most protestants make the claim that there is nothing inherently immoral in the act of coitus interruptus, and as a means of avoiding children it is perfectly legitimate provided that you do not have the obligation to have children imposed upon you. I find this curious because they would state that the means itself is not immoral per se, but only when the obligation is present. However, other means are acceptable even when the same obligation is present.

I am interested in finding out which means are acceptable in their eyes, and whether they would equally conclude that Onan would merit death if he had forgone the conjugal act altogether and opted instead for mutual masturbation with Tamar. In this scenario he is not engaging in coitus, so he is not simply enjoying sex itself without the imposed responsibility. A protestant could certainly protest that he is enjoying climax with Tamar outside the conjugal act, still forgoing his duty, and probably still merit death. So we can conclude that this act if it took place, as a means, is immoral as well because he is unlawfully enjoying a property (climax) outside the fulfillment of his duty even if it is not coitus itself. Yet they would probably add the caveat that it was immoral solely due to the fact that he had a positive duty to fulfill.

What if he opted instead to engage in masturbation alone? Would he likewise be condemned? He was duty bound to provide offspring, but he wanted the pleasure without the responsibility. While the means at attaining the climax is categorically different, Onan would still be attaining climax while forgoing his duty.

Alex said...

continued-

Outside of Onan’s duty, I am not sure where you would stand on these issues. I have seen various responses from non-Catholics over the morality of masturbation. Some say that it is acceptable. Others state that it is wrong when done outside of marriage (so it is perfectly legitimate in marriage so long as one is thinking of his wife…however, I claim that in actuality he is objectifying her, turning her body into a means of deriving his own pleasure). Still others state that mutual masturbation between partners is okay (I would call this mutual objectification). Finally, there are others who believe that mutual masturbation is acceptable provided that it proceeds coitus; ergo, ending as coitus interruptus. As a Catholic, and as someone who follows the natural law, I find each and every one of these acts to be intrinsically disordered, and therefore immoral when used.

The argument is commonly stated as: “Onan had sex with his brother’s wife, but didn’t fulfill his duty; it wasn’t just that he refused to take his brother’s wife. He wanted the pleasure without the obligation God requires, therefore God punished this wicked man.” I completely agree; however, God’s obligation extends to each and every sexual act due to the very nature of the sexual act (understood as being physiological, natural in regarding the generation of offspring, and a truly human act with human rationality and emotions corresponding to it). These aspects of the sexual act determine its quality in that the act itself must not become intrinsically disordered thereby depriving the couple from attaining their teleological ends consisting of the unitive and procreative goods which fulfill the act. When the moral agents deprive the attainment of these goods, by introducing artificial means of separating these goods, they selfishly strike at the heart of conjugal love and render it disordered which would certainly not lead to their flourishing as humans. Conjugal love becomes reduced to animalistic mutual pleasure; thereby, inhibiting their attainment of true fulfillment.

It all boils down to defining what human sexuality is. Is it strictly equal to what we find amongst the beasts of the earth? Absolutely not!

When we look at the moral agent (only humans who have the capacity to use their rational faculties are to be considered as moral agents; ergo, small children and those who have higher degrees of mentally retardation are not considered to be moral agents per se and therefore are unable to commit actual sin…after that there are certainly degrees to which one has the capacity to use their rational faculties which might be inhibited due to various types of forces, i.e. environment, brainwashing etc…at which point issues such as vincible and invincible ignorance relating to levels of culpability enter the conversation), we can see that when that agent acts, he/she acts towards a certain end. That end might be fulfilling of the human person leading to human flourishing, or it might not. However, to be considered a good end, a moral end, the end must result in human flourishing.

There are different types of goods as perceived by the agent, actual/real goods which lead to human flourishing, and apparent/seemingly goods which do not. The human will is determined by the good, whether it is an actual or merely apparent good must be evaluated by the rational agent making use of his/her faculties of reason in conjunction with the virtues of prudence etc. derived by way of the grace of God in which our human freedom, i.e. ‘free will’ belongs, and to this we are said to be made in the Imago Dei.

Alex said...

continued-

As members of the Elect (Mt 24:13; Heb. 3:12-15), our supernatural end is to be eternally united with God in Heaven. However, in speaking of our ultimate end we define it as human flourishing, or happiness. There are also intermediate ends which must lead to the ultimate end, human flourishing. The means employed are only good insofar as they are both a) intrinsically good (the moral imperative is true in that it is always wrong to do evil so that good may come from it), and b) they actually lead to human flourishing; otherwise they are morally indifferent. As a means, morally indifferent acts are acceptable; however, morally evil acts are never acceptable.

This typically leads into the question of whether an evil effect along with a good effect can be tolerated, and the answer to this question is a conditional ‘yes’. It is basic knowledge that there is a cause and an effect in human acts. At times there can be multiple effects of the same cause, where one effect could actually be evil. The existence of the evil effect is generally acceptable upon four conditions: 1) the moral agent’s end must be morally acceptable, that is the goal for which the cause is engaged in and directed to, 2) the cause itself must have one of two qualities…it must be either good, or morally indifferent, 3) the good effect must immediately follow the cause in its relation to the cause (this would outlaw the idea that the evil effect could somehow be a means to the good effect; remember, it is never morally acceptable to do evil so that good may come from it), and lastly 4) the reason for positing the cause must be grave (this is more of a normative issue…however, there must be a grave reason involved in order for us to tolerate the foreseen evil effect). The typical and what I believe to be the clearest illustration of what is called the Doctrine of Double Effect is found in the example of a hysterectomy on a pregnant woman with cancer. The foreseen evil effect of the fetus’ death is tolerated, while the good effect of saving the mother’s life by using the moral means of a hysterectomy is employed.

Human sexuality’s raison d’etre is multifold as reasonably understood by examining its nature. In the natural order the primary purpose is procreation and the education of offspring; however, the secondary purpose is unitive bonding and the enjoyment found therein. These constitute the goods of marriage, and as such they are inseparable. The goods of marriage and the conjugal act are not protected when any form of artificial contraception deprives the conjugal act of its natural end and the goods therein contained. Contraception actually renders the conjugal act into a deceptive act, and therefore a disordered act of merely mutual carnal pleasure. When the couple directly frustrates the generative end of the conjugal act by introduction of artificial means of contraception they introduce two antithetical loves into the conjugal act which should not be there. One is love of the other spouse as person (which is good), as opposed to viewing the other as the object of gratification.

Alex said...

continued-

Think about the symbolism contained in the act of conjugal love. The couple gives to one another of their entire being without withholding of themselves. The woman communicates with her spouse by taking him and his substance into her with full receptivity. The man fully gives himself to his wife without holding back. They do not close their bodies off to one another, thereby creating the façade of love. In order for coitus to be truly an act of love, an act of communication, it must not be mediated. One reason why marriage cannot be dissolved is due to the fact that conjugal love is a total self giving. The two become one. When the man uses contraception he is lying to his spouse. He is telling her within the act itself that he will give her some affection but not his substance. When the woman uses contraception, she likewise is giving him the semblance of affection but renders his seed powerless over her body. The true union found in coitus in regards to the conjugal act does not exist. The communication is flawed. The sexual act is disordered.

I am only discussing these basics of ethical and moral reasoning because proper moral reasoning is not typically discussed.

Belkin, Samuel. (Apr., 1970). Levirate and Agnate Marriage in Rabbinic and Cognate Literature. The Jewish Quarterly Review. Vol. 60, No. 4 pp. 275-329

Burrows, Millar. (Mar., 1940). Levirate Marriage in Israel. Journal of Biblical Literature. Vol. 59, No. 1. pp. 23-33

Burrows, Millar. (Feb., 1940). The Ancient Oriental Background of Hebrew Levirate Marriage. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. No. 77. pp. 2-15

BJ Buracker said...

Alex,

I appreciate your zeal and detailed response. However, I'll be honest - I don't have the time or energy to read such a long comment. Is there anyway you can give a summarized version of your response? Then, if need be, I can look at the original as a reference.

Two things i'll respond to now that were in the first of your comments.

1. I did not argue for #2. I argued that the text is ambiguous. The text does not explicitly say what it was that so angered the Lord.

2. None of the possible sins committed are punishable by death. But neither were the sins of Ananias and Saphira in Acts. Plus, Onan was not put to death in accordance with any law, which would have been carried out by human hands. However, God as the author of the Law and the author of Onan is free to punish how he desires. Therefore, the text still looks ambiguous to me.

Thanks,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Matthew Bellisario said...

The text was not ambiguous for any of your Protestant forefathers. The sin of Onan has always been identified with that of a contraceptive act. It was not ambiguous for the the last 1900 years of the Church. It has only become ambiguous for Protestants over the last 70 years or so. There is much explaining to do for such actions that overturn 1900 years of Christian interpretation.

Matthew Bellisario said...

It also was not ambiguous for Saint Jerome who wrote, "But I wonder why he (the heretic Jovianianus) set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?" St. Jerome, "Against Jovinian," 393 A.D.

Matthew Bellisario said...

I like the way this theologian summarized his article looking at the sin of Onan.

"The witness of Christian as well as Jewish tradition on this point should be emphasized in conclusion. That Onan's unnatural act as such is condemned as sinful in Gen. 38: 9-10 was an interpretation held by the Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Church, by the Protestant Reformers, and by nearly all celibate and married theologians of all Christian denominations until the early years of this century, when some exegetes began to approach the text with preconceptions deriving from the sexual decadence of modern Western culture and its exaggerated concern for 'over-population.' Sad to say, these preconceptions have since become entrenched as a new exegetical 'orthodoxy' which can no longer see even a trace of indignation in this passage of Scripture against intrinsically sterile forms of genital activity as such. We shall give the last word here to Pope Pius XI, who, in quoting the greatest of the Church Fathers, summed up and reaffirmed this unbroken tradition in his Encyclical on Christian Marriage, Casti Connubii (31 December 1930). After roundly condemning as intrinsically contrary to the natural moral law all practices which intend to deprive the conjugal act of its procreative power, the Pontiff gave an authoritative interpretation of this biblical text which not only confirms the tradition, but is itself confirmed by impartial and historically well-informed exegesis:

Wherefore it is not surprising that the Sacred Scriptures themselves also bear witness to the fact that the divine Majesty attends this unspeakable depravity with the utmost detestation, sometimes having punished it with death, as St. Augustine recalls: "For it is illicit and shameful for a man to lie with even his lawful wife in such a way as to prevent the conception of offspring. This is what Onan, son of Judah, used to do; and for that God slew him" (cf. Gen. 38: 8-10)."


Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D

Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA

Matthew Bellisario said...

Thanks for at least posting your thoughts on this BJ. I find it interesting how James Swan, Turretin Fan, Rhology and the like all disappear when this subject comes up. Where is the ready defense for their beliefs, and their Biblical interpretations? They will attack me on the drop of a hat on most other topics. Yet silence falls upon them when we show that they all clearly oppose their Protestant forefathers, which they often hail as heroes. The fact is, the Catholic Church is the only Church that upholds the ancient Christian teaching on regarding contraception. The reason is it is the true Church.

One of two things has to be true. Either the traditional Christian interpretation for 1900 years was wrong, and we should all now be following a modern liberal interpretation. Or every single Protestant group or denomination is now in serious error. I think we all know in our hearts which is true. Protestantism has gone against Sacred Scripture. This is no surprise because the Scriptures do not belong to the Protestants. They belong to the one true Church who has not changed her moral teachings based on the modern whims of secular culture.

Alex said...

BJ, if you perceive the text to be ambiguous, wouldn’t the next course of action be to see how it was originally understood?

Matt and I have posited what we believe to have been the original understanding, and we have shown that that understanding had been held universally up until modern times.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Bellisario,

In fact, it's not true that "James Swan, Turretin Fan, Rhology and the like all disappear when this subject comes up."

In fact, however, we rarely see anyone try to make a Biblical case against contraception.

What's interesting is that you seem oblivious to the fact that the arguments of the era that you quote including arguments equally applicable to so-called "Natural Family Planning," which Rome seems to endorse (however, no infallible teaching on the subject has been identified by you on this particular topic).

Do you think that this is something that can be proved from Scripture alone? I realize that Scripture alone is not your rule of faith, but it is ours. When doctrines can't be proved from Scripture, we tend to reject them (even if Calvin and Luther taught them).

-TurretinFan

Matthew Bellisario said...

Turretin, how do you interpret Genesis 38? Is your interpretation the same as your forefathers?

BJ Buracker said...

Matthew and Alex,

I have not done extensive research on the Patristic Fathers or on the Reformer's take on Gen 38, although I should and would like to do so. I have also learned not to simply accept a log of quotes as being definitive. So to be honest, I don't know if I'm out of accord with my predecessors or not.

However, for the sake of argument, I'll grant you the point, and assume that I am out of accord with them on this. That does not bother too terribly much. There are many early interpretations of Bible passages - both Patristic and Reformed - that I disagree with. Not all the great Fathers and theologians were great exegetes all the time.

Notice, too, that I am not arguing whether or not contraception/masturbation/etc. is sinful. My argument is that Gen 38 does not address fully address these issues. I am an exegete who is interested in theology, not the other way around. As an exegete, I'm interested in seeing what the text says and does not say. I am not convinced Gen 38 says that contraception or even coitus interruptus is sinful. I simply don't think that there is enough in this text to dictate that.

Alex,

Matt and I have posited what we believe to have been the original understanding, and we have shown that that understanding had been held universally up until modern times.

Actually, I'm going to call foul here. You have not shown the original interpretation, because we don't have access to that. You would need to show how the original audience understood it, and we don't have any of their writings. Even early Jewish sources aren't early enough. While what you have shown is significant and ought to be seriously considered, it is not the original understanding.

Blessings to all,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Matthew Bellisario said...

BJ, will you not at least admit that it is the original Protestant interpretation recorded? I do not know of any Protestant founders who did not interpret Genesis 38 as being a condemnation of contraception. Would yo u not agree?

Also the Church Fathers who wrote about the subject in reference to Genesis 38 also interpreted it that way as well.

Matthew Bellisario said...

We also have other Church Fathers clearly opposing a contraceptive sexual act, although they may not have referenced Genesis specifically. Of course I believe that the Church Fathers were not Sola Scripturists either. Here are a couple of quotes that seem to substantiate the Catholic teaching. These two are from St Augustine and St. Clement. Reading the texts in their context seems to indicate they also opposed contraception. This would also be in complete agreement with Protestant interpretations before the 1930s.

"To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature." Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 2:10:95:3 (A.D. 191).

"I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility…
Augustine, Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 (A.D. 419)

Alex said...

BJ: “Actually, I'm going to call foul here. You have not shown the original interpretation, because we don't have access to that. You would need to show how the original audience understood it, and we don't have any of their writings. Even early Jewish sources aren't early enough. While what you have shown is significant and ought to be seriously considered, it is not the original understanding.”

Maybe not, but your accusation of “foul” might be overly ambitious. To the best of our knowledge, based upon the earliest sources, the sin of Onan was believed to be the way we describe it. Do you have any reasonable example as to why we should believe otherwise?

Turretinfan, please deal with the arguments that we have raised. I am eagerly awaiting your response.

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

Turretinfan: "In fact, however, we rarely see anyone try to make a Biblical case against contraception."

Then you have not looked too far.

Turretinfan: "What's interesting is that you seem oblivious to the fact that the arguments of the era that you quote including arguments equally applicable to so-called "Natural Family Planning," which Rome seems to endorse (however, no infallible teaching on the subject has been identified by you on this particular topic)."

Stating that it is is hardly proving it as such. As far as the infallibility of it goes, listen to Matt's podcast.

I recall you stating: "I'm simply suggesting that it's foolish to claim that we haven't addressed the issues simply because you can't afford to purchase the books where we do so."

I'm simply suggesting that it's foolish to claim that we haven't addressed the issues simply because you are too lazy, busy or indifferent to listen to the podcast where we do so.

BJ Buracker said...

Matthew,

BJ, will you not at least admit that it is the original Protestant interpretation recorded? I do not know of any Protestant founders who did not interpret Genesis 38 as being a condemnation of contraception. Would yo u not agree

As I said above, I don't know; I haven't done the research, but I conceded the point for the sake of argument.

We also have other Church Fathers clearly opposing a contraceptive sexual act, although they may not have referenced Genesis specifically.

That's fine. As I said in my earlier comment, I find the argument for the nature/purpose of intercourse a far more persuasive argument for not using contraceptive. My claim on this thread, however, is that Gen 38 is not clear enough to use as a proof text for that position.

One of my old professors used to say, "The truth of a principle does not demand the presence of a principle." In other words, even if contraception is sinful, that would not demand that Gen 38 teach as much.

Blessings,

BJ

Matthew Bellisario said...

The Catholic Church does not base its teaching on contraception from Genesis 38 alone. But the Protestant has no other choice. That is why Luther, Calvin and others specifically referenced Genesis 38. The Catholic Church also has affirmed that interpretation as well, but the Catholic Church also exercises her authority given by Christ over the natural law. so both arguments are valid for the Catholic.

Alex said...

Turretinfan, you're lack of response is a true disappointment. As predicted by Matt, the Protestant side has zero response to the issue of contraception.

Turretinfan said...

Alex:

Response to what? I see that you posted some massive (five posts or so) comments to which BJB responded - are you trying to ask me to respond to those same arguments?

-TurretinFan

Alex said...

What response Turretinfan? He didn't respond. The fact is that most Protestants (there are exceptions, BJ might be one) are ill-equipped to respond.

Provide at least one source from antiquity which doesn't correlate the act of Onan to the sin of coitus interruptus, or some other contraceptive act. Provide one example from Christian antiquity which doesn't condemn the contraceptive act, but allows for it. Your disordered idea of what is a proper sexual act is foreign to Christians prior to modern times. The fact is that it is against natural law, the Bible recognizes this, as does the ancient sources, including orthodox Jews.

BJ does comprehend and acts in accordance with natural law by not engaging in contraceptive sex. You, on the other hand, even admit that you do not consider contraceptive sex as a violation of the sexual act as reasonably understood by a consideration of the natural law. I even seem to recall that you and Genebridges were arguing that the Church endorsed coitus interruptus.

Turretinfan said...

Alex,

"Provide at least one source from antiquity which doesn't correlate the act of Onan to the sin of coitus interruptus, or some other contraceptive act."

Why on earth would I want to do that?

-TurretinFan

Alex said...

Turretinfan, I didn't know that we were playing games.

How's this: Provide at least one source from antiquity which doesn't correlate the act of Onan to the sin of coitus interruptus as an intrinsically evil action, regardless of any obedience he might have owed Judah.


Matt, can you provide a clock at the top of your blog that will count off the time until a protestant provides a decent response to the contraception challenge?

Matthew Bellisario said...

The fact is they have no argument. There is not one Protestant denomination that follows the Biblical teaching of their forefathers. They all want to live the lifestyle that they want, regardless of what Sacred Scripture says. This is what happens when you assume that you are one of the elect, no matter how you choose to live. This is why their theology is so dangerous. Dr. James White has a disclaimer on contraception while his heroes like Calvin, Luther and the like all condemned such an action as a grave sin. Evidently Prots these days just ignore Scripture when it is convenient to do so, opting to reinterpret it to suit their sinful lifestyles. This however once again points out that the Catholic Church is the only Church left standing who follows the true interpretation of this Biblical passage. If people want to know where the truth is, they know where to find it.

BJ Buracker said...

Matthew and Alex,

I'm working on a more detailed exegesis of Gen 38 for my own blog, which I hope to have up later today or tomorrow at the latest.

In the meantime, what other Scripture passages (including Deuterocanonical) do you use in defense of your position? I'd be interested in looking at those as well.

Thanks,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Constantine said...

Matthew,

You are apparently unaware of what Catholic scholars have written on contraception. When you say, “They (Protestants) all want to live the lifestyle that they want, regardless of what Sacred Scripture says”, you put yourself in direct opposition to teachers in your own church. In other words, your own scholars say the Bible is silent on the subject and your protestations to the contrary only confirm what you apparently don’t know.

Moreover, these same Catholic scholars show decisively that the teaching you currently endorse is pagan and was introduced into the Church by the pagan Stoics; it is not a Christian teaching. So I guess we’ll have to cross off “standing tall in the moral wasteland.”

When you complain that Protestants changed their teaching “70 years ago” you are quite right (even though it was in 1930, which is almost 80 years ago). But the Catholic Church changed its teaching 60 years ago (in 1951) and threw out 1500 years of teaching on this subject. In fact, Pius XII threw St. Augustine right under the bus and introduced immense confusion on this topic into your church. So much for “never wavering on her teachings.”

And up until that time when the Anglicans changed their teaching, Protestants and Catholics had the same teaching on contraception – the Augustinian model. (Heck, for almost 1600 of those years we were the same church!) So I don’t know what you could mean by, “they have no argument.” Our arguments were the same for 1930 years.

Matthew, your zeal for Rome has once again propelled you into areas unknown, which you vigorously defend without merit.

I’m sure we’ll talk more.

Peace.

BJ Buracker said...

All,

I have finally gotten up my more detailed argument about this subject. It can be found at my blog, Stupid Scholar. I hope you'll take some time to read through it and respond.

Tear me to shred, Bellisario!

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Matthew Bellisario said...

Constantine wrote, "But the Catholic Church changed its teaching 60 years ago (in 1951) and threw out 1500 years of teaching on this subject."

My response,
Prove it. Plain and simply, what you have written here is false. And I cant believe you expect yourself to be taken seriously on the subject. The Church Fathers interpreted Genesis 38 like the Catholic Church does today. Yet you claim that the Catholics Church invented it 50 years ago? This is laughable. For example Clement of Alexandria (AD195) wrote plainly "Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted" Saint Augustine also wrote against it. The great Catholic theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that contraception "does injury to God." Trent also tells us that the Catholic church did not change her teaching over the past 50 years, “Whoever in marriage artificially prevents conception, or procures an abortion, commits a most serious sin: the sin of premeditated murder.” Finally the Catholic church's canon law from the 1200s stated, “If anyone for the sake of fulfilling sexual desire or with premeditated hatred does something to a man or a woman, or gives something to drink, so that he cannot generate or she cannot conceive or offspring be born, let him be held as a murderer.” You have to be out of your tree to try and make the case that the Catholic Church changed her teaching on this. I am amazed that someone would attempt to argue such a hair-brained position.

It is the Protestants who changed the interpretation of Genesis 38, not the Catholic Church. This was the constant tradition of the Church for 2000 years not to mention the Jews who also interpreted that way. You have no idea what you are talking about. Quite plainly, no serious scholar would ever make such a claim as the on that you have made. It is well known that Catholic church has always been opposed to artificial contraception. Where are you getting your info from? Peter Ruckman? Sources please.

Matthew Bellisario said...

BJ, I read your article. I find your argument for ambiguity weak. You seem to be among the liberal of the last 70 years or so who try and debunk this text of Scripture as pertaining to an immoral contraceptive act. In fact Onanism itself is named after the contraceptive act. But thanks for looking at it and giving your thoughts on the text. I will be putting up a post dealing directly with the sin of Onan in an upcoming post. I will address your arguments more fully in that post. Thanks.

BJ Buracker said...

Matthew,

What was weak about it? Show me where the text identifies Onan's sin exactly?

I'm glad you took the time to read my article, but I'd like a little more feedback then you just gave. Will your forthcoming post interact with mine?

Thanks,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Constantine said...

Happy to oblige, Matthew. And to make it easier for you, I’ll use only Catholic sources.

The preeminent Catholic expert on your topic is John T. Noonan, Jr. Dr. Noonan has an earned doctorate from the Catholic Univeristy of America and a law degree from Harvard. He is a Laetare Medal recipient from Notre Dame. In short, he is a “Catholic’s Catholic” and a scholar of the first order. His seminal work on this topic is, “Contraception: A History of Its Treatments by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists.” (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.)


In his work he explains that your interpretation of Genesis 38 comes from Jewish – and not Christian tradition. The use of this text as a condemnation of contraception comes from its misuse in the Jewish Tosefta. The Tosefta is a compliation of Jewish oral tradition dating to the Babylonian captivity of 597 B.C. and was finished about 200 A.D.

“…Onan had broken a law designed to perpetuate the name of the elder son. He had disobeyed his father. He had also shown a want of family feeling and at the same time displayed an introverted egotism. Moreover, he had appeared to accept the obligation placed upon him to marry his widowed sister-in-law, but by his acts he had frustrated the purpose of the obligation…Was Onan punished for his disobedience, for his lack of family feeling, for his egotism, for his evasion of an obligation assumed, for his contraceptive acts, or for a combination of these faults?…That contraception as such us condemned seems unlikely. THERE IS NO COMMANDMENT AGAINST CONTRACEPTION IN ANY OF THE CODES OF LAW.” (op. cit. p 35) (emphasis added.)

Professor Noonan goes on to show that while other “sexual matters” were specifically legislated against including vivid descriptions and specific punishments, there is no such proscription against contraception in either the Jewish tradition or the Old Testament. As one example, Noonan describes Leviticus 20:18 which demands that a husband and wife who have “marital intercourse” be cut off from their people.
“It is surely strange that this act should be so severely and definitely punished and the illegality of contraception left to inference, if the compilers of the Pentateuch believed contraception to be unlawful.” (op. cit., p. 35)

Dr. Noonan concludes this section thusly: “…the lack of any commandment, the contrast with other explicit regulations on marriage, the evident need to restrain other forms of sexual misconduct – SUPPORT THE VIEW THAT CONTRACEPTION IS NOT THE ACT FOR WHICH ONAN WAS KILLED. The story nonetheless furnished a striking example by which later commentators, Jewish and Christian, could demonstrate (erroneously) the sinfulness of contraception.” (Noonan, p. 35 ff.) (Emphasis added).

So there was NO prohibition against contraception in the Old Testament and to interpret Genesis 38 as a prohibition of contraception is eisegetical.

Two other Catholic scholars, next time…Peace.

Constantine said...

Last time, I proved that using Genesis 38 as evidence for a Biblical ban on contraception is simply wrong. Because of the limitation on words for a blog, this proof was limited to only one – albehim preeminent – Catholic scholar. But Dr. Noonan is not alone in this matter. We find concurrence from other Catholic scholars, too.

"It is not clear whether the Lord killed Onan for spilling his seed, or for failing to give his brother’s wife a child (a breach of the Levirate law). The implication may be that Onan would also have been killed if he had simply refused to ‘go unto’ the wife.” (Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976, p. 511)

And lastly, one more Catholic historian:

"Even more disturbing for Catholics, who believe in the inspiration of Jewish scripture, is the fact that JEWS HAD NO PROHIBITION OF CONTRACEPTION in their extensive and detailed laws (though Pius tried to wrest one form a false interpretation of the Onan story in Genesis). …The history of the theology on contraception, then, had this anomaly as it entered the modern world: It claimed to be basing its views on a philosophy of natural law derived from classical antiquity (which had no ban on contraception) but was taking its supposedly empirical views on sex from late antiquity and the Middle Ages (which were full of superstitions)." (Wills, Garry. Papal Sins: Structures of Deceit. New York: Doubleday, 2001. p. 76 ff.)

So there is no legitimate ban on contraception in Jewish tradition or the Old Testament as proven by three Catholic scholars.

What about the New Testament? If the ECF’s promoted contraception (which I acknowledge that they did) and their basis wasn’t the Old Testament or Jewish tradition, what was it? (I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t Christian!)

Peace....

Constantine said...

To recap, Genesis 38 is not about contraception. The idea that it was came from a misguided oral tradition, not the Old Testament of the Bible. But Matthew tells us that the ECF’s did preach against contraception (and I agree that they did), so the question is, what was their basis?

“Stoicism was in the air the intellectual converts to Christianity breathed. Half consciously, half unconsciously, they accommodated some Christian beliefs to a Stoic sense….If one asks, then, where the Christian Fathers derived their notions on marital intercourse – notions which have no express biblical basis – the answer must be, chiefly from the Stoics. In the case of …Clement of Alexandria…his work is a paraphrase of…Musonius…Origen’s standard…is clearly Seneca’s…Lactantius’ remarks…echo Ocellus Lucanus…Jerome’s most austere remarks are taken from Seneca.” (Noonan, pp. 46, 48)

Isn’t that amazing?

“But what Christian sexual doctrine would have been without the influence of Stoic teaching is a speculative construction. In fact, the Stoic view of marital intercourse, the stress on procreative purpose, the failure to connect intercourse and love, were profound influences on the Christian approach; the doctrine on contraception, as it was fashioned, largely depended upon them.” (Noonan, p. 49)

So all of the elements of Rome’s current doctrine come not from Christian tradition, but from paganism. Stoic reasoning and ethics are the foundation for this teaching going back to at least the 2nd century – ACCORDING TO CATHOLIC SCHOLARS!

“The Stoic marital ethic was accepted. If intercourse when nature itself prevented impregnation (i.e. during pregnancy) was wicked, it would seem, a fortiori, that intercourse would have been regarded as seriously sinful when a human agency made fruitful insemination impossible. Contraception stood condemned by the express conditions required for any lawful intercourse.” (Noonan, p. 77)

Now what happens next is incredibly interesting. It is a great example of what happens to a doctrine that departs from Sola Scriptura and relies on human tradition. On the basis of Stoic reasoning, both Origen and Clement of Alexandria “emphatically proclaimed” the prohibition against intercourse during pregnancy. But 200 years later, John Chrysostom “defended the Pauline view and largely ignored the Stoic notion…intercourse in pregnancy and by the sterile are…justified by his doctrine.” (Noonan, p. 78)

Matthew, what happened to the “constant tradition for 2000 years”? These guys couldn’t keep their story straight for 200 years!

Constantine said...

Just a few more responses, Matthew.

You wrote:
For example Clement of Alexandria (AD195) wrote plainly "Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted"
My response:
Yep, you’re right. He surely did (Paedagogus 2.10.91.2). But you are distorting his meaning. What’s the context of his statement?
“This text was immediately preceded by an exhortation not to commit adultery. It was immediately followed by the statement that Mosaic law forbade intercourse in menstruation lest “what is soon to be a man” be polluted, and by a further statement that intercourse in pregnancy was forbidden…so Clement could be read broadly as criticizing contraception. But his context seems to limit the text to a criticism of intercourse in menstruation, which will damage the seed, and intercourse in pregnancy, which will waste it.” (Noonan, p. 93)

So the context of your quote is not what you think. Clement is not issuing a general prohibition against all contraception – he is doing what he and Origen were noted for in my last post – issuing a prohibition against intercourse in two specific situations, only.

You wrote:
Saint Augustine also wrote against it.

My Respsonse:

You’re right again, Sir Matthew! Augustine certainly did preach against contraception. But what was his basis? The Bible? Christian tradition? No! It was the Manicheans! Anything the Manicheans taught, Augustine taught the opposite: Manicheans had ritual sex; Augustine said only private sex. Manicheans taught sex was only for pleasure; Augustine – sex only for procreation. Manicheans taught sex was a sacrament; Augustine said it was sin. Manicheans taught it is ok to have sex in the woman’s sterile period; you guessed it – Augustine condemned that, too. So in addition to the Stoic influences already at work in the 4th century church, now you can add another man made authority – anti-Manicheanism!

Which of course, brings us to the funniest part of the show . In my first post to you, I mentioned that the Catholic Church had indeed changed its doctrine on contraception almost 60 years ago. You apparently think I’m making that up. Let me prove it to you.

The Augustinian doctrine held sway in the “catholic” church from his death (a.d. 430) until modern time. One of the aspects of the Augustinian doctrine was that any sex – and we mean ANY sex – whose purpose was not procreation was prohibited. So having sex in the “sterile period” was mucho verboten. But in 1951, enter stage left, his infallible holiness, the very Vicar of Christ – Pius XII! Let’s hear from Catholic historian, Paul Johnson what happened:
But in 1951, Pius XII in an address to Italian Catholic Midwives, stated that use of the so-called ‘safe period’ as a system of birth control was lawful, provided the intention was justified by circumstances. Such a compromise undermined the Augustinian teaching since Augustine had specifically denounced use of the safe period in his The Morals of the Manichees; and the concession was also fatal to Augustine’s whole doctrine of marriage. Moreover, use of the safe period systematically tended to raise the question of whether it was legitimate to stabilize the period artificially; and if this were conceded, it became almost impossible to a [sic] draw a workable moral distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ contraception.” (Johnson, op.cit., p. 512)
So none less than Pius XII himself reverses 1500 years of Catholic teaching on contraception and marriage by gratuitously reversing Augustine! There it is – the about-face I promised you.

Thank you for welcoming me to your blog. I hope you will agree that I have proved, exhaustively perhaps, that what your understanding of contraception is, is not in concert with church history or Catholic scholarship on the subject. I wish you well in your future endeavors as you continue your studies.

Peace.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Constantine, guess what? Catholic scholars and historians do not determine church teaching. Did you know that? You made a false claim that the Catholic Church changed its teaching over the past 50 years. I have proven definitively that this is incorrect. The Council of Trent and church canon law over the centuries have proven your assumptions to be incorrect. You can quote all of the liberal "Catholic" historians that you want. It doesn't change Church teaching, nor doe it change the official consistent standing of the Catholic church on this issue. You sir, are ill-informed.

Secondly Genesis 38 has everything to with contraception. Once again, you can go search for any liberal historian or theologian that you like. But the fact remains that Christianity as whole interpreted Genesis 38 as being related to Coitus interruptus. That is a fact. So did the classical Jews. I can go quote a hundred scholars who disagree with your scholars. So what? Let us be honest and look at the text of Christian writers throughout the ages. They side with my premise, not yours.

Turretinfan said...

Alex wrote: "Provide at least one source from antiquity which doesn't correlate the act of Onan to the sin of coitus interruptus as an intrinsically evil action, regardless of any obedience he might have owed Judah."

Again, why?

Let's suppose that we come to the conclusion that every patristic and medieval exegete (that we can find) disagrees with us on the matter. What then? What would you do if that was the case with respect to the teachings of your church (i.e. that they varied on some point, however non-essential to the faith, with your church)?

This is not a game, but a serious question?

-TurretinFan

Alex said...

Turretinfan, I will grant you this for the sake of argument, and to add to it let’s suppose that Sola Scriptura is the sole rule of faith. Now, moving on, I seem to recall that you do not believe in the Natural Law. Am I right? If you do or were to believe in the Natural Law, if it could be reasonably argued that contraceptive acts were in violation of the marital act, then couldn’t we also reasonably conclude that Onan’s act of coitus interruptus was displeasing to God because: “What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also.”

Alex said...

That is to say that if the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law, then by extension God would also find those things which violate it also displeasing, correct?

Turretinfan said...

Alex:

I do believe that there is such a thing as Natural Law, but I have a feeling that my view of Natural Law and the appropriate recourse to it may be significantly different from your view of Natural Law and its application.

I've heard natural law arguments on this subject, but frankly they were not compelling. Perhaps you have some that I have not heard, though?

-TurretinFan

Alex said...

Turretinfan, that depends on what you have heard. Can you give me the natural law argment you've heard?

Turretinfan said...

Good point, and I lack the time or interest to reproduce the arguments I've already heard.

Alex said...

Turretinfan: "Good point, and I lack the time or interest to reproduce the arguments I've already heard."

Me: Then how can I produce any compelling argument that you haven't heard when I don't even know what the arguments you've heard are? I'll just take your word for it that you lack the time and interest to reproduce the arguments. However, I can't just take your word for it that you know natural law arguments against contraception, and that they are unconvincing. If you change your mind, I'd be very interested in finding ot what those arguments were, and why you found them to be unconvincing according to natural law.

Turretinfan said...

Exactly. I should not have confused you with my round about way of saying: show me the argument.

-TurretinFan

Alex said...

Turretinfan: Exactly. I should not have confused you with my round about way of saying: show me the argument.

Me: You stated that of the natural law arguments you've heard, none of them were convincing, and maybe I could give you one that would be convincing. How can I do that if I haven't seen the arguments that you have rejected? At this point I am wondering if you have even seen a natural law argument against contraception before, and so I call your bluff.

Turretinfan said...

Alex: Whatever, dude.

Alex said...

I'm sure that is how you would like to leave it Turretinfan. It is much easier to say "whatever, dude" than to provide any substantive argument. If this is how you want to leave everyone, doubting your knowledge, credibility, and honesty, then by all means it's your reputation, not mine.

Turretinfan said...

Let's be clear: "whatever, dude" was my response to your supposed wonderment over whether I've seen natural law arguments on this subject. I don't believe you really wonder that, and I'm not willing to waste my time reproducing arguments that I reject for the sake of satisfying your curiosity.

Alex said...

Whatever, dude.

Maybe you can squeeze this nonsense by the self-proclaimed intellectual giants over at Triablogue, but over here we don't buy into your phony excuses.

As I've said, I challenge you to produce one (maybe the best one) natural law argument which you have heard and rejected. Simply going around and around stating "Oh, I have...yes indeed." doesn't prove anything to me. I call your bluff.