[*] Rooster: contraception (2)

Paul's exhortation in 1Cor 7 goes like this (ESV):
    1 ∂ Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
So Paul's view is that marriage is for the godly satisfaction of sexual needs, right? The husband should satisfy the wife's needs, and the wife her husband's needs. In that, it seems that he doesn't mention child-bearing at all in the matter of married sexuality. Or does he? See: if you stop in verse 9 and say, "well, Paul's vision for human sexuality is about the satisfaction of passion in order to avoid sin," you have about 80% of the message - because he goes on:
    10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?
Certainly the main focus of this passage is not sex - but v. 14 says something that cannot be overlooked: it takes for granted that, in being married, and in having sex, you will have children. (and all you jonesin' for a tussle over what this verse implies about Baptism - you wait your turn)

One of the things that I think is missing in the view Rooster has espoused so far - and let's be honest, that view is also the view I practice, so in making this argument I think I am speaking to myself first of all and the rest of you are welcome to listen in - is something that the Bible implies over and over again: children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. That is, of course, a direct citation from Ps 127, but that's the attitude that the Bible demonstrates in all kinds of places. Sarah feels oppressed and jealous when Hagar has Abraham's child and she has none; Rachael and Leah are at odds because one has born Isaac's children and the other has none; when Jacob meets up with Esau after years of exile, all of the children are said to the "the children whom God has graciously given"; prior to the birth of Samuel the Prophet, his mother Hannah was seen as afflicted because she could not bear children, and Elkanah's other wife (Penninah) had many children and was seen as blessed.

And in that, when we reduce the pre-fall command of God to Adam and Eve to one for them only which is thereafter mirrored in the NT by the Great Commission (one is being fruitful physically, the other, by the Holy Spirit, is being fruitful spiritually), we have accepted a very decent theological truth but have overlooked all the steps that it takes to get there. It seems to me that in order to say something like this (which Rooster has done), we accept only the metaphorical use of the language and somehow overlook that literal use of the language upon which the precept is founded.

Let me be clear about something: Rooster (and the rest of my brain - the parts that do things other than blog, which I admit is a very small portion of my brain, but there it is) is not saying, "you should not have a large family." He is not decrying sexual fruitfulness. What he is saying is that you have some liberty inside marriage - you can choose to have many children, or only a few. In that, the couple who chooses to have 6 kids is just as upstanding as the couple who chooses to have 2 kids, and as the couple who chooses to have no kids.

The problem with this view, I think, is that it overlooks the view of Scripture that children are not just a choice, but a blessing. Scripture's view of marriage - and thus, of sexuality - is that it ought to be fruitful and bring forth children. Part of the blessing of the sexual union is the blessing of children. The strong advocate of the other side might then ask, "cent, mushbrain, if that's the case then you are saying that choosing to have fewer children is to choose to refuse God's blessing. Isn't that a little legalistic? Does that ignore that, in the end, God is the one who chooses to create life?"

My answer to the first question is this: it is not any more legalistic than recognizing than refusing baptism or refusing to take the Lord's supper is also refusing to take God's blessing. I'm not talking about Grace and soteriology here, so don't get all bent out of shape: I'm talking about being blessed materially, immediately by participating in the way God runs things. It is a blessing to be initiated into God's family through baptism - because that's the only way to be initiated into God's visible family, right? To become part of that body is a material blessing because of the physical and spiritual benefits of that body to the believer, and vice versa.

The same can be said for the Lord's supper: it is a blessing to participate in the remembrance because it calls us to judge ourselves and count the cost of our salvation - to make real for us the sacrifice of Christ (not to re-present it, but to bring it literally to the front of the church in the act of presenting the bread and the cup) and in that to make real for us the salvation we receive through Him. Remembering the sacrifice gives us spiritual nurturing which them makes us more fruitful for Him.

So in that same way, when we marry, and we allow sex to be only about the satiation of passion, we have missed out on the rest of the blessing. It is easy to say that we have the liberty to have no children (and as I write this, who is not thinking about Monte Python's Meaning of Life in which the slogan "every sperm is sacred" leads to a large, filthy family in poverty, but the Protestant who affirms that he will use birth control whenever he wants seems to be a passionless man who is neglecting his wife). The question, really, is why we would choose such a thing? Why choose to let God's blessing - the material blessing, not the high-brow theoretical blessing which cannot be seen until we have run the race and fought the fight and receive the crown - slip through our fingers?

And with that, in the next (and final) installment on this topic, we shall find out what a great hypocrite centuri0n really is.