Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I will apologize in advance for the acerbic tone that this post will have, but even Paul found that tone to be effective on occasion (cf. Gal 5:12).

God told Adam and Eve they could eat of any of the plants (save the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) that he created. Did this mean they should eat, and eat, and eat and keep on eating? If they had ceased eating, would they have been thwarting the will of God?

God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." (Gen 1:29) Do I sin against God if I don't like spinach and refuse to eat it? After all, God didn't say, “I give you some seed-bearing plants for food," or, "I give you the stuff that tastes good". God said "every," and "every" means "every."

Well, I figured I would chime in once, and only once, on this contraception issue, because the logic of the arguments has gotten so utterly ridiculous. And I mean that in a literal sense: worthy of ridicule. The latest episode (part 1 and part2) has appeared at Pastor Beisel’s blog… a blog I have enjoyed in the past, and I am sure I will enjoy in the future.

The gist of the argument (found primarily at this site) is thus:

In Genesis 1:28, God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful, and multiply”…etc. The contra-contraception folks take this to be an absolute command to procreate, and anyone who thwarts it by preventing pregnancy through any means (chemical, physical barrier or timing) is sinning in doing so.

The Biblical evidence marshaled for the position is Gen 1:28, Gen 38:9 (the story of Onan), the legal proscriptions against harming a pregnant woman and thus harming her child or causing a miscarriage (cf. Ex. 21:22), and the various passages from Psalms which celebrate a full household (cf. Ps. 127:3-5; 128:3-4).

Furthermore, evidence from Church history is brought to bear, viz, that virtually all commentators prior to the 20th century condemned contraception.

Let’s examine these…

Do these people have no training in logic? Does it matter whether or not every LCMS Pastor ever in existence agreed with the anti-contraception position or not?

No. That is a logical fallacy called an "appeal to authority". Saying that Luther believed contraception was sinful is meaningless. The question is, was he correct?

If we assume he is correct just because he was Luther, then perhaps we ought to consider taking up his views on the Jews? Hey, Luther said "burn their houses" so let's all get together and burn their houses!

Good grief. No, what matters is what Scripture says.

And with that, we have disposed entirely of the irrelevant opinions of Luther, Walther, Kretzmann, et al. Now, let's consider the Biblical passages, shall we?

Let's begin with the horrendously puerile interpretation of Genesis 38:9 to mean that contraception is forbidden. Here, for example, is Luther:

"This 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 to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment." (LW 7.20-21).

Sorry, Martin, but you get an “F” in exegesis on this one. Let’s look more closely, shall we?

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the LORD's sight; so the LORD put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, "Lie with your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother." But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also. (Gen 38:6-10)

Looking at the passage, we see that Onan was motivated by greed (if Er remained childless, Onan would get the firstborn share of the inheritance!), and that he deceptively and repeatedly pretended to be trying to fulfill his duty. What if Onan had not, in fact, "spilled his seed"? What if he had simply refused to even lay down with his brother's wife, as the law demanded? (cf. Deut. 25:5-6) What if he just went into the tent and chatted her up? Tamar knew what was happening, after all. Would he not have been equally guilty? The obvious answer is yes. Onan's sin, then, has absolutely nothing to do with him "spilling his seed" on the ground; it is entirely and only about deceiving Judah and not fulfilling his filial obligations under the law.

Don't come back at me with, "Well, Luther said..." because I don't give a rat's patooty what Luther said.

Second, as for Genesis 1:28, have they all forgotten entirely about a little thing called Two Kingdom theory? Procreation belongs to the kingdom of the left (aka, the Kingdom of Creation). God's statement to be fruitful and multiply isn't a command so much as it is an invitation. Calling a husband and wife's decision to control for the number of children they have "sin" is as ludicrous as calling my disdain for spinach a sin. And it’s as careless as telling your child that he doesn’t need to wear a helmet when he rides his bike, because if he wears a helmet, he’s not trusting God to protect him.

Lutheran husbands and wives are being plenty fruitful out there; these guys have no place telling them they're sinning by not being fruitful enough. The bottom line is that Scripture says nothing explicit about contraception. The story of Onan is not about contraception. The laws addressing someone who strikes a pregnant woman, harming her unborn child or causing her to miscarry, are not about contraception.

These guys are reading the Bible with a slide-ruler and compass, which is how Calvinists read the Bible, making up laws where no such laws exist. Scripture forbids such practice, and in fact Paul tells us to rebuke them sharply. (Titus 1:13) For shame. I pity any sheep put under such a yoke.

 
posted by Kepler at 17:31 |


6 Comments:


At 10/03/2006 04:57:00 PM, Blogger Caspar

Kepler,

You write:

Onan's sin, then, has absolutely nothing to do with him "spilling his seed" on the ground; it is entirely and only about deceiving Judah and not fulfilling his filial obligations under the law.

Don't come back at me with, "Well, Luther said..." because I don't give a rat's patooty what Luther said.


Well, since you have such disrespect for our fathers in the faith, I'd like to know: do you give a "rat's patooty" what God says about your interpretation of why He killed Onan? I'll bite your "sola Scriptura" lure. Let's look at what the Word of God says and let Scripture interpret Scripture. The text really is quite plain for those who take the time to get into it.

Firstly, God's Word says explicitly that He killed Onan because "what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD."

Here in explicit terms the Word tells us that the capital offense Onan committed was something that God saw him do. Yet you say what God killed Onan for something he didn't do. He didn't obey his father and he didn't fulfill his obligation. Yes, he certainly sinned in this way also, but even if those were the reasons for his action, God doesn't say He killed him because he didn't like his reasons. He says He killed him because "WHAT HE DID was displeasing in the sight of the LORD."

But let's forget for a moment that little problem with your interpretation. Let's imagine that it's what Onan DIDN'T do that he got wacked for. If God punished Onan because he failed to fulfill his filial obligations, then (having a just God) we should see Onan's punishment meted out as that required under God's law.

So, what is the punishment required under God's law for this sin? Fortunately we don't have to guess. This is not one of those fuzzy areas of the law requiring a supreme court to interpret what has been written. God has spelled out this law quite explicitly for all the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

"If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, 'I do not wish to take her,' then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, 'The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.'"

So, first he is to be confronted and given a chance to repent. Then he is to be humiliated symbolically, with spit, and by name calling.

Where's the death penalty for this sin in God's law?

Hmmm... if you're right, Kepler, then God isn't following His own law!

It is inconsistent with the witness of Scripture to believe Onan was killed because of his motives. Yes, they were bad. Yes, they deserved punishment. But God didn't kill Onan for his motives. He killed Onan because what he did was displeasing in His sight. What is recorded in Scripture as that which Onan did in God's sight was this: "when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground." This is an explicit description of what he did. And what he did was "displeasing in the sight of the LORD." For this Onan was killed.

Again, even if we ignore the plain meaning of the text and think Onan was killed because of his reasons for doing what he did, if Onan had done what he did because he wanted to wait until he got a raise at his job, or until his mortgage was paid off, or until he could afford all those diapers, would "what he did" still have been displeasing in the sight of the LORD? Well, that depends a great deal upon whether or not God is a situation ethisist. Do you think God is into situation ethics? Is God pleased when we do what is evil so that good may come of it?

Cordially yours,

Caspar Heydenreich

 

At 10/05/2006 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Kepler

Wow.

CH said:Well, since you have such disrespect for our fathers in the faith, I'd like to know: do you give a "rat's patooty" what God says about your interpretation of why He killed Onan? I'll bite your "sola Scriptura" lure. Let's look at what the Word of God says and let Scripture interpret Scripture. The text really is quite plain for those who take the time to get into it.

Disrespect? Pardon me, but I have a great deal of respect for "our fathers in the faith". I just don't happen to believe that any of them are infallible.

CH said:Firstly, God's Word says explicitly that He killed Onan because "what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD."

Here in explicit terms the Word tells us that the capital offense Onan committed was something that God saw him do. Yet you say what God killed Onan for something he didn't do. He didn't obey his father and he didn't fulfill his obligation. Yes, he certainly sinned in this way also, but even if those were the reasons for his action, God doesn't say He killed him because he didn't like his reasons. He says He killed him because "WHAT HE DID was displeasing in the sight of the LORD."


Whoa, there, Nellie. You know, one of the things I noticed when I got off the Pentecostal/Dispensationalist boat was that Lutherans had a much better sense of how to interpret Scripture, precisely because they don't do what you just did, which is to take a passage so literally as to make it laughable. So, first, pardon me while say this:

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! No! Really! Stop! My stomach hurts!!!

OK, so...God has eyes? Well, the Incarnate God certainly has eyes. You need to do a bit of looking around at how that word is used throughout the OT. Even if, however, we follow this amusing misconception of "sight", my point still applies. God "saw" Onan go into Tamar's tent, or bedchamber or wherever, and come out and pretend to have fulfilled his filial obligation. God saw him deceiving his father, Judah.

You really want to make a distinction between a sin which is active versus a sin which is passive? You really ought to ge be a Papist...they do this crap better than you do. You could learn something.

CH said:But let's forget for a moment that little problem with your interpretation. Let's imagine that it's what Onan DIDN'T do that he got wacked for. If God punished Onan because he failed to fulfill his filial obligations, then (having a just God) we should see Onan's punishment meted out as that required under God's law.

So, what is the punishment required under God's law for this sin? Fortunately we don't have to guess. This is not one of those fuzzy areas of the law requiring a supreme court to interpret what has been written. God has spelled out this law quite explicitly for all the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

"If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, 'I do not wish to take her,' then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, 'The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.'"

So, first he is to be confronted and given a chance to repent. Then he is to be humiliated symbolically, with spit, and by name calling.

Where's the death penalty for this sin in God's law?

Hmmm... if you're right, Kepler, then God isn't following His own law!


Wrong again, because you're looking at the wrong law. In the case you cite, the brother is assumed to be openly refusing to lie down with his brother's widow. In Onan's case, he was disobeying his father by deceitfully pretending to be doing his duty.

What is the penalty for a rebellious son?

Death. (cf. Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

Sorry, Caspar, but it is simply impossible to stretch this passage to make it mean what you want it to mean.

And, FWIW, nice try in that last paragraph. I don't think I've ever witnessed someone wrap a red-herring inside a straw-man. Or was it a straw-man inside a red-herring? Either way, it smells really bad.

 

At 10/05/2006 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Caspar

Just for clarification, I think you meant to accuse me of reading Scripture literalistically, not literally. We Lutherans insist on taking Scripture literally.

I am not literalistically depending upon God having human eyes to "see" what Onan did. I don't know how God sees things, but I know he sees them. The readers of this verse would certainly have understood this as "sight," not just knowledge of the act, in that what Onan did would be a detestable thing in ANYONE'S sight as it brings up nasty images just thinking about it.

I am not stretching Scripture, nor am I being literalistic. I am taking the words to mean what they would have meant to those who read and heard it. You, on the other hand, are reading things between the lines that just aren't there. Let me explain...

You say now that Onan was killed for being a stubborn and rebellious son (Deut. 21:18-21). Genesis only records that Onan disobeyed his father in this one instance. It does not describe him as a stubborn and rebellious son. It also does not say that he was a glutton and a drunkard, as the man in Deut. 21 is. He was not confronted and chastened as Deut. 21 requires. He was also not given the chance to repent, as the man in Deut. 21 was.

Deuteronomy 21 is a very poor fit for the disobedience of Onan as recorded in Genesis, while Deuteronomy 25 fits perfectly. If disobedience is the fatal sin, why aren't the men in Deuteronomy 25 killed? Do you think their fathers didn't tell them what they should do? The men of Deuteronomy 25 are certainly being disobedient, not only disobedient to God's law, but disobedient to their fathers... and persistently disobedient (cf. Deut. 25:8).

The text of Genesis 38 shows us that it was naturally the father's job to decide which one of his sons would take this responsibility when there was more than one brother. How else would they know which brother was to take this responsibility? Genesis 38 describes the disobedience of Deuteronomy 25 in action, and Deuteronomy 25 does not call for the death penalty for it's persistent disobedience.

If God were to immediately kill every Jew who disobeyed his father once there wouldn't have been any concern about their using family planning, because there wouldn't have been any Jews left to procreate! Mosaic law does impose the death penalty for a single act of disobedience against one's father. It calls for the death penalty for a subbornly disobedience son who is a glutton and a drunkard, and only after he has been chastened and still persists in disobedience. We have no evidence that Onan was such a man.

So, you see, in order to validate your interpretation we have to read things into the text that just aren't there. I am not reading anything into it in my interpretation, which happens to agree with the interpretations of orthodox theologians from all ages. It's all there for those who have ears, and not only Christian theologians interepreted Genesis 38 this way. History tells us that the Old Testament Jews also prohibited family planning based upon this verse.

Cordially,

Caspar

 

At 10/05/2006 04:14:00 PM, Blogger Kepler

On the point of literally vs. literalistically, I'll concede the point. It just so happens that I came from a traditiona that always claimed to be reading the Bible literally, so frankly I have tendency to use that word pejoratively.

I'm SO glad you brought up the Jews in that last paragraph. As I undersand it, it is still a sin amongst Orthodox Jews to "spill seed" precisely because they don't know if the seed spilled would have been the seed that brought forth the Messiah. It's a very pragmatic opposition, and one which (as you point out above) they justify with the use of Onan.

Which brings us to another good point. God, as we all know, while never capricious, nevertheless shows mercy where he will show mercy, and exacts justice where he will exact justice. Exactly WHY he would show mercy to David, who murdered the husband of a woman he adulterously seduced, and not to Onan is beyond the scope of our knowledge. So for God to enforce the law at one point, and show mercy at another is not for either of us to question.

God may visit the sins of the father upon the third and fourth generations, but we are not to punish a son for the sins of the Father, or vice-versa. f you want to try to "justify the ways of God", go right ahead.

However, we should note that the only way that the disciplines for breaking the levirate law could be invoked was if the sister-in-law (Tamar, in this case) brought the accusation against the brother (Onan), which Tamar apparently did not.

Back to the Jews...

While I am in no way, shape, or form obligated to take their understanding of a passage as normative for how Christians should understand a passage, there is at least something to what they think on this passage, for the thing that you have apparently failed to see about the whole thing is its Messianic implications.

The Gospel of Matthew traces Jesus' lineage through Tamar. There is something much bigger than the levirate law going on here: God is trying to keep His anointed one on track (so to speak), and Judah's sons (and, in fact, Judah himself) are getting in his way. God is pissed.

Again, it doesn't matter one iota whether or not Onan spilled it, or just went into the tent and threw back some cold guys with his sis-in-law, and came out pretending to have done the deed.

God SAW that he had deceived everyone (multiple times!) and had had enough.

ZAP!

Now, for the record, I'm not accusing you of "reading between the lines". I'm saying that you are putting the emphasis where the emphasis is not. The Scripture states "whenever he did this", meaning it happened multiple times. (And I have it on good authority that the NIV is correct in its suggestive wording here). If the problem was simply "spilling his seed" then ONCE would be enough. No. The problem is in the persistence, or, if you will, his stubborn rebelliousness.

Good day.

 

At 10/05/2006 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Caspar

I've heard the whole messianic implication business before. (BTW, I did not refer to the position of modern Jews, but rather OT Judaism.) The messianic implication is certainly worth considering but simply adds to the fact that the sin involved was that of preventing procreation. But, remember, God is the one who killed Er and Onan, thus ensuring that the Messiah would not come from them. Modern medical knowledge tells us that if Onan had indeed persisted with his very ineffective method of contraception, Tamar would very likely have become pregnant by him sooner or later... that is, if God hadn't made his life so short. It is therefore God who made certain that the Messiah would not come from Onan. What God was upset about was his act of trying to separate the act of sexual relations from God's procreative purpose.

Do you think Onan was thinking "hmmm... I don't want a savior, so I better not have a child by Tamar, because the Messiah might come from that line." No, that wasn't it at all. We are told the stupid selfish reason Onan did what he did.

I'm short on time too, so this will be my last post here. It's your blog, so have at it.

Nice debating with you!

Caspar

 


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