Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Argument for Life (brief)

I recently read a friend’s blog about why she and her fiancé have not rushed marriage. She made 7 points, most of which I wholeheartedly agree with. There was a comment made about Paul (the apostle) saying it is better not to be married. I think it was a comment made sort of as an afterthought/in passing, but it did get me thinking to how scripture can be misinterpreted when taken out of context. It spawned the writing below:

I am assuming that she was alluding to 1 Corinthians 7, his comments on marriage and virginity. Paul says in verse 7, “indeed I wish everyone to be as I am (celibate and unwed), but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” Paul is saying this within the context of what we read in Matthew 19, “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so (genitally infertile), some because they were made so by others (eunuchs), some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” Now if we flip back to Paul, he says in verse 8, “now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: It is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control (aka not masturbating or being sexually active with others) they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire.” This must be also kept within the context of the end of Chapter 6, specifically verses 12-20. “The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body…do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” He goes on to explain that the one who sleeps with a prostitute becomes one with her body, but this is not exclusive to prostitutes but rather to the idea of sexual immorality for the sake of temporal gratification of the flesh.

Marriage, as within the context of the Catholic faith, is a sacrament. It is the unification by God of two people made into one. It is also a vocation.

Within the context of the last part of Matthew 19 I quoted, “some because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” This is precisely why priests and those in religious orders do not get married. They devote their lives completely and fully to the kingdom of heaven, to the mystical body of Christ, his bride, the Church (see Ephesians 5:31 as referenced a few paragraphs down).

On the subject of marriage, in Chapter 7 verses 4-5, he says “a wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for at time, to be free for prayer (aka fasting and abstinence), but then return to one another so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.”

In Genesis 1:28, we read: God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…”

This is speaking to the need for creation of new life and not limiting God’s desire for life by means of artificial contraception. This also speaks to women not denying their husbands of sexual unity for fear of having more children because it leads to temptation of impure, unchaste activity. Likewise for men with their wives.

Genesis 38:9-10 “Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground (withdrew, a form of contraception) in order not to give offspring to his brother.  But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.”

>> This is one piece of support for the Catholic Church’s teaching against both masturbation and artificial contraception

Jude 1:7 “Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah and the surrounding towns, which in the same manner as they indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

>> The unnatural vice in their time was sodomy or even the desire for intercourse with angels, but I believe this is also clearly directed in our time to artificial (aka unnatural) contraception.

All throughout the Old Testament, we are reminded of the blessing of children, of God blessing lineage with children and making them fruitful. Then we read on into Ephesians 5:10-11

“Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (God said be fruitful and multiply, and Jesus said let the children come to me). Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness…”

>> Be FRUITFUL and multiply (Genesis), take no part in FRUITLESS works of darkness (contracepting, taking God’s desire and gift of life into our own hands based on our own personal agendas and selfish desires).

Reading on in Ephesians 5:31, we see that man and woman become one flesh in marriage. Referencing back to each controlling the other’s body, and also having read about lack of self-control, which is also described as self-abuse, which could also be described as lack of self-love. “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body.” Christ calls us to love and cherish our own bodies just as he loves his body, the Church.

Turning to Romans 1:26, we see that “…females exchanged natural relations (sexual intercourse open to new life) for unnatural (homosexual or that closed to the possibility of life, aka artificial contraception), and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another.”

Galatians 5:19-20 “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery (the Greek word is “pharmakeia” which includes abortifacient potions, aka birth control), hatreds, rivalry, jealous, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness (aka sex for the pleasure of it without the openness to new life)…”

Now, many could contend that having children when not financially ready is irresponsible and actually jeopardizes a child’s well being. But in Luke 12, Jesus tells us, “Therefore do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear…notice the ravens they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?”

I realize that all of this would mean very little to someone who does not define themselves as a Christian. However, for those of us who do believe in the infallibility of scripture as God’s written word, I believe that the question of life merits as much consideration as the value and gratefulness that we place on our own lives. I know I am glad that my parents chose life.

1 comment:

  1. I'll write a further response later, but I will say, it is vitally important to put things in context, as you have said, but not just the scriptural context, the historical context as well.
    I also think it is important that how we interpret scripture is not creating entire dogmas around 1 or 2 verses, but rather looking at the few in light of the whole. If we just pull out 1 or 2 verses to prove a point, we can prove anything, including that God is dead and our faith is worthless. Obviously the whole of scripture would disagree with that. (I'll expand upon this as well).
    I also think your view on Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 is interesting. My belief is that all of us are called to kingdom work (yes some are called and gifted to specific tasks), but the church as a whole, including lay people, are responsible for sharing the kingdom of God with others. That being said, wouldn't all of us be more committed to the work of the kingdom if 100% of our time was dedicated to this? I don't think Paul is standing in opposition in marriage at all, but I think he is saying that our focus should not be on getting married, but on doing the kingdom work ALL believers are called to, and by not being married, we are more focused on doing that.
    I do have some thoughts on other things too. You are in luck though, because my boss did his doctoral work on Paul, so I will be interested to see how he interprets things as well.
    I think this could be a very interesting conversation :) I'm excited to dig in deeper.