Saturday, January 20, 2007

Albert Mohler: Birth control OK, not deliberate childlesness

Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a leading Calvinist voice in the Southern Baptist Convention, says that evangelical leaders haven't adequately addressed the moral questions raised by modern reproductive technologies.

At the same time, evangelicals overcame their traditional reticence in matters of sexuality, and produced a growth industry in books, seminars, and even sermon series celebrating sexual ecstasy as one of God's blessings to married Christians. Once reluctant to admit the very existence of sexuality, evangelicals emerged from the 1960s ready to dish out the latest sexual advice without blushing. As one of the best-selling evangelical sex manuals proclaims, marital sex is Intended for Pleasure. Many evangelicals seem to have forgotten that it was intended for something else as well.

Mohler joins Catholics in condemning the "contraceptive mentality" and makes the case that a Christian marriage must be open to children.
Marriage represents a perfect network of divine gifts, including sexual pleasure, emotional bonding, mutual support, procreation, and parenthood. We are not to sever these "goods" of marriage and choose only those we may desire for ourselves. Every marriage must be open to the gift of children. Even where the ability to conceive and bear children may be absent, the will to receive children must be present. To demand sexual pleasure without openness to children is to violate a sacred trust.

But he rejects the Catholic requirement that this openness must apply to each and every act of intercourse:

For most evangelicals, the major break with Catholic teaching comes at the insistence that "it is necessary that each conjugal act remain ordained in itself to the procreating of human life." That is, that every act of marital intercourse must be fully and equally open to the gift of children. This claims too much, and places inordinate importance on individual acts of sexual intercourse, rather than the larger integrity of the conjugal bond.

The focus on "each and every act" of sexual intercourse within a faithful marriage that is open to the gift of children goes beyond the biblical demand. Since the encyclical does not reject all family planning, this focus requires the distinction between "natural" and "artificial" methods of birth control. To the evangelical mind, this is a rather strange and fabricated distinction. Looking at the Catholic position helps, but evangelicals must also think for themselves, reasoning from the Scriptures in a careful consideration.

In another column, Mohler calls deliberate childlessness "a form of rebellion against God's design and order."

The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children. This reminds us of our responsibility to raise boys to be husbands and fathers and girls to be wives and mothers. God's glory is seen in this, for the family is a critical arena where the glory of God is either displayed or denied. It is just as simple as that. The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children.

1 comment:

Jess said...

One has to wonder, though:

How is deliberate childlessness (when a couple has no children) bucking God's perfect design, but deliberate childlessness (when a couple already has one or two) acceptable?

I think his position is gracious toward the 40+ crowd that wants to wave goodbye to their child-bearing years a little early, but it seems inconsistent to me.