It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication, and a government bureaucracy to administer it.
— Thomas Sowell
It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication, and a government bureaucracy to administer it.
— Thomas Sowell
Here is an excerpt from Budziszewski’s recent book On the Meaning of Sex (OMS). OMS was an excellent, albeit short, book that I would recommend to anyone interested in natural law sexual ethics. I have a book review that will be featured on Apologetics 315 on July 7th. So stay tuned for that! But here are a couple of things Budziszewski has to say that’s taken straight from his book:
What then are the natural meanings and purposes of the sexual powers? One is procreation—the bringing about and nurture of new life, the formation of families in which children have moms and dads. The other is union—the mutual and total self-giving and accepting of two polar, complementary selves in their entirety, soul and body. These two meanings are so tightly stitched that we can start with either one and follow the threads to the other. (24)
With regard to the unitive meaning, he writes:
We join ourselves by doing what? By an act which is intrinsically open to the possibility of new life. In other words, whenever I give myself sexually, I am doing something that cannot help but mean that happy chance […] Now for two persons to give themselves to each other totally is to give what they are wholly; what they are wholly includes their bodies; and into these bodies is written the potentiality to bring a third person into being. […] Mutual and totally self-giving, strong feelings of attachment, intense pleasure, and the procreation of new life are linked by human nature in a single complex of meaning and purpose. For this reason, if we try to split them apart, we split ourselves. (27-29)
The purposes of unity and procreation cannot be separated, and this is the kind of separation we see in same-sex marriage (I believe Budziszewski briefly points that out, and if I am mistaken that he does mention that, my apologies).
Indeed. I’d just qualify this by noting that it also depends on one’s motives for acting. For example, it is possible to act in favor toward the poor, while resenting them with all your heart. The Lord does not care what you say or believe, as long as you do what is right with the right motives in the right circumstances. This is why Jeremiah 17:10 tells us, “I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.” I advise everyone to take this seriously. Examine your own hearts and minds in accord to God’s standards and you’ll soon find that you’re not as good as you think. It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but you should fall on your knees against a holy and perfect standard. If that’s not your response, then you are either a self-deceptive liar or have pathetic excuses for thinking you are good, regardless of your faults. You’re not taking sin seriously enough.
I came across this link via a Facebook friend. I though it was interesting since it critiques the pro-life movement from a more traditionalist perspective rather than a liberal one. I think the author raises some interesting points, and I’m not saying I’m in favor of everything he’s against. Overall though his position seems to depend on fallacious slippery-slope arguments and simply false claims. In the following comments I’ll refer to “pro-lifer” as someone who agrees with the principles behind the pro-life movement which the author criticizes.
In one spot the author tries to show that there is not an obligation to step in on someone’s property in order to prevent the killing of a fetus, because this would lead to absurd consequences:
“Are we always obliged, either as Christians or as moral human beings, to trespass on someone’s property in order to prevent a sin or crime from taking place? What if the neighbor is only falsifying a tax return or reading pornography or committing adultery? Those actions may be sinful and criminal, we are told, but they do not involve loss of life. Then mere existence is the ultimate moral test? That is a strange line for Christians to take. Should the ancient martyrs have been rescued or Jesus dragged down from the cross?”
This is silly though. It doesn’t follow from the fact that I would stop my neighbor from murdering his child that I have to step in and stop him from falsifying his tax return. No pro-lifer would be stupid enough to say we are “always obliged…to trespass on someone’s property in order to prevent a sin or crime.” We would be obliged if someone was going to suck his child’s brains out though. Maybe other cases are less clear-cut, but this one isn’t.
Later in the article the author appears to be trying to show that the comparison of stopping an abortion to stopping a drowning is not helpful:
“But the specific example used by Operation Rescue is persuasive, and most Christians would agree that failure to save a drowning man’s life, where rescue could be achieved without danger, is close to murder. The problem with the example lies in the assumption that all these moral dilemmas involve abstract individuals.”
But that’s because we think that fetuses possess the same moral status as anyone else. So it is perfectly legitimate to refer to “abstract individuals.” He then goes on to not refute the argument by reference to talk about “moral ties” and “community.” But ultimately, I’d stop my neighbor who’s killing his child; moreover, I’d create a law which makes it illegal for people in my country to kill their children. The case of abortion is the same given the pro-lifer’s premise that fetuses are not morally inferior to human beings in later stages of development. So his points about moral ties ultimately turn out useless until he refutes this point.
The same holds with his description of a case from New York and the ensuing discussion: “If we apply the same sort of reasoning to the unborn, the principal effect will be to strengthen the government’s hand in its ongoing struggle to supplant the family. If there is an absolute and unquestionable right to life, then abortion will be only one of the options forbidden to pregnant women. What about smoking or drinking or, indeed, any activity that carried to an extreme could threaten the child’s life or reduce its birthweight?”
The author is here beginning to sound like a pro-choicer; only now it’s not the woman’s right to choose, but the family’s right to choose. (“The government will be restricting the family’s freedom!”) But this again rests on the crucial assumption that the fetus doesn’t have the same moral status as a child. In the case of an adolescent child nobody would say, “Well, we shouldn’t legally enforce an absolute right to life of adolescent children, since that might lead us to ban smoking or drinking from the household.” That would be silly. The same argument when applied to the fetus is silly as well. Clearly killing your children is murder and should be punished as such; the face that the child is in your womb makes no difference.
I finally got some motivation to finish up doing the Read Along for Feser’s The Last Superstition. That motivation is the fact that I started reading another book that I really wanted to share commentary on. So, I’m going to do what I should have done a long, long time ago: finish up with Feser’s book. In the last post, I covered his chapter “Scholastic Aptitude.” Now, we’re moving on to chapter 5 “The Descent of the Modernists.”
In this chapte, Feser gives us a brief tour of modern philosophy and he highlights some of the problems that came out of the modern period of philosophy. Feser’s first stop is a discussion of John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. Feser claims that while these two would be classified more as medieval writers, they led to “the undoing of the Scholastic tradition” (167). Feser comments on Ockhams razor, his nominalism, and his conception of God and how they rejected how we could come to know God the way Aquinas postulated.
There was one thing that did catch my attention though. Feser notes the following, “Ockham’s pulverization of all reality into a collection of unrelated individuals also has a tendency to turn God into merely one individual among others (albeit a grand and remote one)” (170). God, in other words, is made more anthropomorphic and thus we see the beginnings of what today is called Theistic Personalism (This is one topic that I really want to discuss in the new book I’m reading!).
Feser now turns to discussing the relationship between modern philosophy and modern science. One point he makes is that many modern scientists will say that science has utterly done away with Aristotelianism since his science was shown to be proven wrong. Thus, his metaphysics was wrong too. I’ve heard this in countless classes and it’s no wonder a lot of people in philosophy classes today just end up ignoring Aristotle and all the other ancients, while they gravitate towards Hume and all the other modern dolts. But what Feser notes is that Aristotle’s metaphysical views are independent of his scientific theories. As a case in point, Feser lists “the distinction between actuality and potentiality, the doctrine of the four causes, [and] hylomorphism” (172). These metaphysical ideas are still as relevant today as ever before.
One of the trademarks of modern science is that it’s based on the modern philosophical assumption that the world is mechanical. Feser points out that the denial of final and formal causes comes with this territory. There are a few “famous” objections that Feser covers in this little section. One is a joke that makes fun of the explanatory power of final and formal causes. Basically, the joke is that a doctor explains that opium causes sleep because it has “dormitive power” that is, it has the power to cause sleep. The objection is basically that the explanation if tautologous since all the doctor was saying is “opium causes sleep because it has the power to cause sleep” (180). But this isn’t a tautology, as Feser points out, whereas to say “opium causes sleep because it causes sleep” would be one (180).
The statement that “opium causes sleep because it has the power to cause sleep” actually does say a lot. Feser articulates the point that this statement is saying that the ability to cause sleep is inherent in the nature of the opium and is not just some accidental feature that this opium just happened to have as opposed to some other pile of opium over there (180). This is just one example of the few objections by moderns that Feser deals with.
The next section “Inventing the mind-body problem” is probably one of my favorites. Feser notes that much of modern philosophy’s views started with Descartes. The first big modern “tendency”, as Feser likes to call it, started with the intro of subjectivism as postulated by Descartes, which is the idea that “all that we can know directly and with certainty are the contents of our own minds” (Feser’s emphasis 186). Another distinction that adds to this is the idea of primary and secondary qualities. These ideas contribute to a mind-body dualism in which the body is part of the mechanical world, and all these qualities of redness, hotness, etc. exist in the mind of the observer in some immaterial sense.
But at the same time, modern science has been trying to reduce everything, even the mind, to simply materialistic terms. The biggest problem, however, is that the denial of final causes is surely a problem for this project. As Feser notes, “The human mind manifests final causality more obviously than anything else. It intends or plans actions and outcomes that do not yet exist and may never exist, but remain directed towards those actions and outcomes all the same” (194). Moreover, because Descartes denies aristotelian-thomistic metaphysics and thus the form-matter relationship of the soul, the problem of the mind interacting with the body emerges since the interaction is no longer described as formal causation but efficient causation (196). Hand in hand with this is that given Descartes’ view of the mind/soul and the mechanistic conception of the world, Feser also contends that this opens up the problem of the gap between the mind and the external world.
But those are but a few of the problems opened up by the modernist philosophy. Feser goes on to list some more of this “universal acid.” One is the problem of skepticism, which the A-T conception of the soul helps by way of how the intellect grasps the forms of objects and the same form is abstracted in the mind. The problem of induction which comes from the denial of formal and final causes. The issue of personal identity also comes from the abandonment of formal causes, i.e., a man being a composite of form and matter (soul + body). With the discussion on free-will, Feser discusses how the intellect and will operate as “parts of the realm of formal and final causes” (209). Thus, when formal and final causes are denied, as we see in modern philosophy with the mechanistic view of the world, free-will becomes an even greater problem. Natural rights is another problem that Feser highlights as having arisen out of the denial of formal and final causality. Closely tied with natural rights is the idea of property, and Feser analyzes Locke’s view of property and how a denial of teleology in nature makes his conception harder to accept. Lastly, Feser discusses morality and spends his time criticizing Hume, Hobbes, and Kant. “The bottom line,” Feser writes, “is that by abandoning formal and final causes, modern philosophy necessarily denied itself any objective basis for morality. If nothing is objectively for anything — if nothing has any inherent goal, end, or purpose — then reason is not objectively “for” anything either, including the pursuit of the good. Hence there cannot possibly be any way of grounding morality rationally” (219-220). Feser blames much of the degradation of morality on this very denial of final and formal causes.
Feser does go into detail about how the problem came as a result of abandoning A-T metaphysics, and he explains how A-T solves it. My aim here was not to give a comprehensive summary, but a brief sketch of the topics he touches on. This chapter was a very fine treatment of how Modern philosophy is the cause of so many of the philosophical “problems” we see today. I did my best to just highlight the main sections of the chapter so you can get an idea of what he spoke about. The final chapter of the book will be covered in my next post, and that chapter is “Aristotle’s Revenge.” From what it looks like, Feser will be giving one last defense of the A-T model and we’ll see it in action in the last chapter.
Guest Post by Adrian Urias. This is a note that was posted by my friend, Adrian, on his Facebook page. He granted me the permission to go ahead and post it here. I felt he did a great job of outlining his own position on the matter, and his journey is pretty much the same one I had on the issue, except mine started with the acceptance of Natural Law. I was planning on doing a post on this anyways, but since Adrian beat me to it (and wrote it much better), I decided to have it here as a guest post. I’ll maybe provide my own post some time in the future where I make the connection to natural law a little more explicit. You can find his website here.
I have been engaged in many conversations lately about contraception. I think I’ve thought through it enough to actually throw it out on Facebook (I have tests I make ideas go through before I adopt it personally with full confidence and conviction, and putting it up on Facebook is one of those last stages. I’m weird, I know). So here is how I came to these conclusions.
It started with marriage. As some of you may know, I wrote an article for knowitstrue.com attempting to defend traditional marriage. At the time of my writing this, it is currently the article with the most comments on the website. So I thought to myself, how can I go about making such an argument? I read around, looked at some articles, some in books, some in magazines, and some online. I took what I thought were good points and meshed them into what is now that article. I also considered criticisms and I constructed my article with those in mind to sidestep some pitfalls. So what you see was that product of all that. Looking back, I would reconstruct the argument differently to make it stronger (I never stopped studying), but basically, what I came up with was this, and this is important:
1. All married couples have sex.
This seems obvious. First, marriage is complete when you consummate it, that is, at the first act of sex. Secondly, failure to consummate is grounds for void marriage. Not divorce. If a partner refuses to have the first act of sex in a marriage, the other partner can completely nullify the marriage. It wasn’t even valid to begin with, so it’s different from a divorce. Thirdly, marriage is a comprehensive union. Everything needs to be shared. This includes bodies. That means sex. Fourthly, if there was not a union of sex, then a divorce on grounds of infidelity would be no grounds at all. But it is grounds for divorce, therefore, there is an understanding of sexual exclusivity in marriage. But that implies marriages are sexual, hence, they have sex.
2. No same-sex couple can have sex.
This gets into the nature of sex. What is sex? In order for there to be sex, there needs to be sex organs. No sex organs, no sex. The sex organs for humans are the male penis and the female vagina. These sex organs have a proper function. There is a right way to use them. The proper function for these sex organs is to meet. If they do not meet, then it isn’t sex proper. I like quoting Francis Beckwith who said, “You can eat an ashtray, but that wouldn’t make it food.” What he is saying is that you can do many things with your sex organs, but that wouldn’t make it sex. There is still a right way to use your sex organs. Now, in the case of same-sex couples, there is no proper function for two-penises and two vaginas. There is just no right way to use two of them. They can stimulate each other, but that wouldn’t make it sex. Therefore, no same-sex couple can have sex with each other.
3. Therefore, no same-sex couple can be married.
This logically follows from the first two premises.
Now, buried somewhere in this argument against same-sex marriage is also an argument against contraceptives. The formulated argument was worded thus to avoid as much religious language as possible so to convince even the non-believer. Since it is secular reasoning, it appeals to everyone, regardless of religion stance. So, in my second premise, I say sex has a nature. But included in that nature, is a teleology. That is, an end. Sex has a design. That end is children. In my article, I mention this, but I didn’t make the divide in argument so clear. That is one of the things I would change in that article. Anywho, sex is not like any other physical act because it has the ability to produce children. Imagine if sex did not produce children. Sex would just be a rubbing up against someone. It would be like a massage or even a leaning on someone on a crowded bus. At worst, it would be like poking your finger into someone’s ear. In this light, it would be difficult to see what exactly is wrong with rape, if really you aren’t doing anything worse than giving someone a wet-willy. The ability to procreate through sex is one of, if not THE biggest reasons why rape is so wrong. But I digress. So, it isn’t just some weird coincidence that when we have sex, we have children. No one has sex, then has a child, and say, JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH! WHERE DID THAT COME FROM!? We understand that children happen that way. So, the teleology of sex is children.
But Adrian, where does contraception come into all this?
Well, lets begin by taking a look at condoms, perhaps the most common form of contraceptives. What is a condom? It’s a piece of rubber that acts as a barrier between the man and the woman. If sex is supposed to be a union of man and woman, and a condom literally prevents that union, can we say that sex with a condom is really sex? No, we can’t. It would be like trying to bite into an apple with a rubber covering over it. Also, if you used a condom on your first night of marriage, then you didn’t actually consummate the marriage that night since consummation requires union. Are we starting to see the problems?
I was really encouraged to hear my atheist philosophy professor blast condoms as being one of the stupidest things he’s heard of. “Why would you want to reduce such a wonderful feeling?!” He said to me. I mention this to point out that this has been reasoned to without any Biblical reference. Through logic and reasoning, we can see why contraceptives are wrong. But here is where some of the force might be lost if we continue to reason without Scripture, for the non-believer can simply say, “Ok, using contraceptives is against human nature. So what?” We can still push the argument successfully through, but it loses some persuasive power at this point against the non-believer. So, since most of my conversations about contraceptives have been with believers, I now take a theological approach from here.
Now, most of what I have said so far is just very Biblically obvious. Of course men and women are supposed to be together. Of course marriage is only between men and women. Of course sex leads to children. Of course parents are supposed to raise their children. Of course homosexuality is not in human nature. Of course! But now, when we get into contraceptives, suddenly, this is not so obvious. Why? I’m not sure, but a few months ago when I started wrestling with this, my friend Stephen Weltz, said that up until 1930’s, every church was against contraceptives. It’s just the Catholic church for the most part (he is Catholic, and so is Beckwith and Robert P George from whom I got the core of argument against same-sex marriage from, so interesting correlation there). So fun fact there.
So what does the Bible have to say about marriage? Marriage is a covenant. It is not a contract. A contract involves an exchange of property, whereas a covenant involves an exchange of persons. Jesus dying on the cross is symbolic of the marriage covenant. Jesus is married to the church. But how does a marriage covenant work? It is a blood covenant. When the male enters the female, there is blood because she is a virgin. The blood traditionally signifies the first marital act. In the same way, Jesus being married to the church, also gives a blood covenant, and it’s his blood on the cross that creates the new covenant. So Jesus on the cross actually represents something more feminine than masculine, the submissive one who sheds blood. But anywho, it’s a marriage covenant. There is the exchange of persons.
Now, we have to understand how important marriage is to God. God has said that he hates divorce. That’s strong. But we understand how much God longs for marriage when we look at the history of covenants. The covenant with Adam was marriage, Noah was the household, Abraham was the Tribe, Moses was twelve tribes, David was Israel as a nation, and then God COMES BACK to marriage when Jesus marries the church of not just Jews, but Gentiles as well (notice the increase of people as history goes on). I suspect God came back to marriage because that is the covenant before the entrance of sin. So God does a marriage covenant AGAIN! The church as his Bride.
Every covenant has an act where that covenant is renewed. For Jesus and the church, the renewing of that covenant is communion. When we take the body and blood, we are taking part of that act where Jesus officially married the church. When we partake in communion, what happens? We have new life. In basically the exact same way, when we renew the marital covenant with our spouse through sex, we have the chance for…new life! Otherwise known as children! Therefore, taking contraception to avoid new life is the equivalent of taking communion and spitting it on the ground!
I mentioned that marriage was the covenant before the entrance of sin. This takes us way back into Genesis, an incredibly difficult book to interpret. But hey, lets give it a shot. Since marriage involves people and now apparently God, we realize there is a much deeper connection between the man and God. For Christians, we know that God is a Trinity. This is sometimes known as the Divine Family: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet there are not three Gods, but one God. In the same way, when a man and his wife are one flesh in the marital act, there is one being, but two persons. But, lets say in sex, a child is conceived. In this case of one flesh, how many persons are present? Three. Three persons, one being, just like the Trinity! In this way, we reflect the image of God, in complete unity.
Another bit about Genesis, and I’ll move on. One of the first things we learn about God is that God is a creator. That like the first sentence of the Bible. Is it a coincidence then that the first command God gives us humans is to create life? In this way again, we reflect God, by creating life.
Isn’t contraception then a smearing of God’s image?
Now, let me get this straight with many of you. I am not too happy about my discoveries about this. And I’m not even sure I can call them discoveries. I’m just recovering certain theological positions that everyone agreed with 100 years ago, and just siding with what the Catholic church has been saying for a long time in those 100 years. Contraception goes against God’s plan. But like I was saying, I’m not thrilled about this. I mean, I’m thrilled I’m learning about who God is (Trinity), who we are (reflections of the Trinity), and what marriage is (the complete self-giving love of the persons in the Trinity). I’m excited about that! But honestly, I would like to have sex with my wife as much as I can without the chance of children. I would like to use contraceptives, but it doesn’t seem Biblically permissible. I mean, that means, when I get married, I must be open to the possibility of children on the very first night! That’s a lot to ask for!
It seems like I’m wrestling with God. I mean, Jesus is Lord, but does that mean he has to be Lord of my body? My wife’s fertility? The timing of my children? Then you run into passages like 1st Corinthians 6:19-20 and Romans 12:1-2, which reads, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” and “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
That last part. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. That’s it, isn’t it? We are so brainwashed by society that tells we can decide when we have children, and we can decide what we do with our own bodies. Do you see how when right teaching is taught, when there are no teachers professing what God wants from us, when we don’t have knowledgeable preachers preaching, do we see how Satan gets a foothold into our lives, and we don’t even recognize it? He has surrounded us for so long, we drowned him out. And we accept it. But enough of my preaching.
Each person of the Trinity gives themselves fully to each other. In the same way, a wife should give herself fully to her husband, and he to her. Contraception is you holding back. To my future wife, whomever you are, wherever you may be, I love you so much, and it’s possible that we might not have even met yet, but I’m already thinking about us. This is for you! Let’s not hold back.
One of the greatest difficulties is to keep before the audience’s mind the question of Truth. They always think you are recommending Christianity not because it is true, but because it is good… One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.
— God In the Dock – C.S Lewis
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16
This is my public confession that I am a sinner who has committed the most disgusting actions, chief among them is murder (of the heart ) and adultery (of the heart). I continually struggle against the same hang ups and I need to just knock it off!
I ask any of my brothers and sisters who are willing that they pray for me to overcome the temptations to sin in my life. I ask for prayer for my family, that God is with them in this most trying of times. I ask that you pray for simply “the promise” that God sees it through and lifts the scales from the eyes of those around me and reveals only His truth and purposes to them.
Any prayer is appreciated. Thank you.