Thursday, May 01, 2008

One Month to First Post in new Sola Scriptura Debate

I have accepted a challenge from Mr. Matthew Bellisario to debate Sola Scriptura. The announcement post is up on my debate blog (link). This debate is rather spaced out (the first post is not for one month) and is not expected to interfere with the Romans 9 debate that I have planned with GodisMyJudge.

-TurretinFan

17 comments:

Algo said...

This looks very interesting. I will definitely keep track of this one.

Albert Medina said...

Turretinfan,

In the most recent post of James Swan, Mr. Bellisario makes the following statements,

"Although most of what the Church teaches in now written down in some form or another, there are still moral issues that arise in today's society that the Church must deal with. We find that the Protestants are at a loss when it comes to things in the moral arena. Examples, contraception, human cloning, end of life issues, genetic research, etc. The Catholic Church is prepared to deal with these issues and does so by the guiding of the Holy Spirit....Or we find some apologists who are afraid to deal with the issue claiming these issues are not part of Christian apologetics. Yet nothing can be further from the truth. Contraception is another huge moral question that brings to light where the real Church is, and where it isn't."

Source: http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2008/04/it-at-least-means-this.html#links

I hope you deal with his assertions in you upcoming Sola Scriptura debate. God bless.

Turretinfan said...

Thanks, Albert.

I do suspect that the alleged insufficiency of Scripture will be a topic that will come up.

-Turretinfan

Alexander Greco said...

What about contraception? This topic does seem particularly relevant, even more so when we see that Luther and Calivn (as well as all others until what, the '30s) were against it. I'm supprised to see that nobody has addressed this issue over at Beggars All.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Greco,

I am not aware of Luther/Calvin's teachings on contraception, as such.

I think it has largely become a pressing issue for some folks for all the wrong reasons.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

I'm curious, what are the "wrong reasons" that you are alluding to?

Turretinfan said...

Some examples of the wrong reasons include:

a) a desire to be sexual but sterile, so as to have more wealth for oneself while enjoying the pleasures of the marriage bed; and

b) a desire to have illicit sexual relations without contracting diseases.

Alexander Greco said...

Just to clarify, so it is your position that the cases cited are the only times when contraception use is immoral?

Thanks,
Alex

Turretinfan said...

No, you've misunderstood what I wrote. Those are two examples of wrong reasons for being interested in the issue of the morality (or not) of "contraceptives."

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Okay, what would be some right reasons? What is your opinion on it? Thanks for your responses.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Greco,

Well, one right reason to consider the matter would be if one's church insisted that it was wrong to use them.

How would one go about determining whether one's church was wrong?

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

I'm just wondering whether you believe contraception use is immoral?

Thanks again,
Alex

Turretinfan said...

Greco:

You don't have to answer my question. Still, it is a question you should be asking yourself. I think you know what the answer is.

But my answer is simple: if the law of God forbids it, it is sinful. If the law of God permits it, it is proper.

But I suspect your next question would be to ask me to apply the law of God to the issue at hand. And I do so, but let me tell you one way you can tell that something is on the wrong side of the moral line when it comes to reproduction:

To do so, let me draw you a picture:

Italy: 90% Catholic, fertility rate 1.3

Spain: 94% Catholic, fertility rate 1.3

Portugal: 84% Catholic, fertility rate 1.49

Poland: 89% Catholic, fertility rate 1.27

Those are nations that are not fulfilling the command to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. That's wrong.

Is the problem occassional use of devices or chemicals that impeded fertility? Or is the problem a mindset: women who refuse to be fertile.

Or perhaps God has simply closed the wombs of many women in these super-majority Catholic nations. Do you think so? I don't.

I don't know (or care) whether this sterility is brought about by chemicals, pieces of latex, or "natural family planning." It's not what God has commanded since the beginning.

If your question is whether there is per se immorality in the use of certain chemicals or pieces of latex, you're straining at a gnat. The camel is intentional sterility.

Undoubtedly God has called many to a life of singleness, but that's not the reason for the rates we see in the statistics above.

And I picked on Catholic countries, but I could have picked on so-called "Orthodox" countries instead. They have the same problem. What is the solution:

the solution is for married people to have children if they can.

Now, does the law of God provide a per se prohibition on the use of chemicals and/or mechanical devices that prevent fertility? No, it doesn't. It also doesn't provide a per se prohibition on the use of practices that prevent fertility. But again, one needs to ask onesself why one is posing the question in the first place.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

Sir,
I am not sure how you went from my question as to whether or not you believe that artificial contraception is immoral, to me not answering your question. I didn't even know that you had a question for me. How would I determine whether or not my Church is wrong? By doing an honest investigation into the issues. I have done this and so I can conclude that my Church is not wrong.

Now, do I have to be a member of my Church in order to conclude that contraception is immoral? Hardly.

So I take it that you are a Divine Command Theorist?

What does your use of fertility rates have to do with the argument? Protestants do not have any significantly higher rates. This is a universal problem.

You: "If your question is whether there is per se immorality in the use of certain chemicals or pieces of latex, you're straining at a gnat. The camel is intentional sterility."

Me: That would depend upon whether or not you believe that the end justifies the means. I agree with your point over intentional sterility (and so does the Catholic Church), but I also believe that the means matter.

You: "Now, does the law of God provide a per se prohibition on the use of chemicals and/or mechanical devices that prevent fertility? No, it doesn't. It also doesn't provide a per se prohibition on the use of practices that prevent fertility."

Me: Yes it does, both in Scripture (sin of Onan for instance), and as expressed via natural law theory.

I am asking the question because (a) it is relevant as your point on fertility rates indicate, (b) some birth control are actually abortifacients (even Prevention Magazine, a liberal outfit aknowledges this), (c) this is of major concern for all couples.

From what I can gather, you believe that (1) we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply, (2) if you can (how would you define this) have children, then you should have them (3) if you cannot have children, then the means used in order to avoid conception are all legit (except any means that are obviously harmful to the woman, and once conception takes place then the child cannot be harmed). Is this accurate?

Turretinfan said...

"I am not sure how you went from my question as to whether or not you believe that artificial contraception is immoral, to me not answering your question. I didn't even know that you had a question for me."

I'm not sure how you could have missed it, given how short my response of Friday, May 09, 2008 4:50:00 PM was. But, anyway ...

"How would I determine whether or not my Church is wrong? By doing an honest investigation into the issues. I have done this and so I can conclude that my Church is not wrong."

That doesn't really help anyone follow in your footsteps. Let me propose an alternative: find something you are sure is right and compare your church's teachings with that standard.

After all, that's how we generally go about making investigations of accuracy. If I want to check if a line is straight, I use a ruler (or - these days - perhaps a laser). If I want to see how a word is spelled a look in a dictionary. And so on.

If someone tells me that it's against man's law (against the laws of the country where I live) to do such-and-such, I check the laws of the land to see if it is the case.

In other words, "an honest investigation" sounds like a bit of an evasion. Undoubtedly an investigation should be made, and undoubtedly it should be an honest one. But the question is how COULD we go about it?

The answer is that we have received the inspired and inerrant word of God. We know that it is true: that it is God-breathed. Thus, we can trust it 100% - and we can use it as our ruler to say what is a straight line. That's the answer to how we could go about determining whether or churches are right.

"Now, do I have to be a member of my Church in order to conclude that contraception is immoral? Hardly."

Obviously your church does not conclude that contraception is entirely immoral or it would not have monastic orders or a (mostly) celibate priesthood.

"So I take it that you are a Divine Command Theorist?"

I don't think I've ever taken that label for myself. Perhaps you'd care to elaborate what you mean by it?

"What does your use of fertility rates have to do with the argument? "

Well, it's not an argument yet - as far as I can see. I am trying to help you refocus on the camel instead of the gnat. The camel is "Christian" societies committing genetic suicide. The gnat is them taking pills or wearing little pieces of latex to accomplish this. The camel is the mindset of infertility: the gnat is the means to that end.

"Protestants do not have any significantly higher rates. This is a universal problem."

a) "Protestants" is not a meaningful category to the discussion.

b) Even assuming it were, recusal is not a defense. Two wrongs don't make a right.

TF (previously): "If your question is whether there is per se immorality in the use of certain chemicals or pieces of latex, you're straining at a gnat. The camel is intentional sterility."

AG: "That would depend upon whether or not you believe that the end justifies the means. I agree with your point over intentional sterility (and so does the Catholic Church), but I also believe that the means matter."

Answer:

It's not really a question of the ends justifying the means - at least not in a positive sense. Otherwise good parts of creation are bad when put to bad ends. A gun is a perfectly lovely thing, but not when used to murder.

TF (previously): "Now, does the law of God provide a per se prohibition on the use of chemicals and/or mechanical devices that prevent fertility? No, it doesn't. It also doesn't provide a per se prohibition on the use of practices that prevent fertility."

AG: "Yes it does, both in Scripture (sin of Onan for instance), and as expressed via natural law theory."

a) Natural Law Theory cannot provide "per se" prohibitions, or at least I've never seen anyone make a cogent case for such a concept.

b) Onan clearly doesn't help your case for several reasons:
1) he "spilled it on the ground" - which is a contraceptive behavior, not a contraceptive mechanism;
2) he did so with the intention of effecting sterility (which is the camel, as mentioned above); and
3) he did so despite a specific duty to be fertile.

c) So no, neither "natural law theory" nor the record of God's displeasure at Onan failing his levirate duty, provides a per se prohibition on the use of chemicals and/or mechanical devices that prevent fertility.

"I am asking the question because (a) it is relevant as your point on fertility rates indicate,"

Let me provide a weak counter-illustration. Take alcohol. It can be abused. In some places that's a big problem. Still, by apply either Natural Law Theory (assuming such theory has any validity - which we do not need to debate now) or by looking at God's displeasure with alcoholics one cannot and should not imagine that there is a per se prohibition in Scripture against alcohol.

"(b) some birth control are actually abortifacients (even Prevention Magazine, a liberal outfit aknowledges this),"

Killing babies is clearly wrong. No doubt. That's not really a contraception question - any more than it is an alcohol question (which likewise, in sufficient quantities, can harm or kill an unborn child).

"(c) this is of major concern for all couples."

If you mean (b), I agree that the preservation of life is a major concern.

"From what I can gather, you believe that (1) we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply, (2) if you can (how would you define this) have children, then you should have them (3) if you cannot have children, then the means used in order to avoid conception are all legit (except any means that are obviously harmful to the woman, and once conception takes place then the child cannot be harmed). Is this accurate?"

As to (1), yes - the command to Adam still applies to those who are given the gift of marriage.

As to (2), assuming that you have been given the gift of marriage, you should procreate - yes. That doesn't mean you must do everything in your power to have as many as you possibly can.

As to (3), I don't see how one could claim that someone was trying to contra-conceive if they thought they were unable to conceive.

-TurretinFan

Alexander Greco said...

I thought that you were making a rhetorical point, not a question. Besides, it was entirely irrelevant to my question to begin with. It seems to me that you were looking for a red herring to throw in instead of answering my original question.

You: "That doesn't really help anyone follow in your footsteps. Let me propose an alternative: find something you are sure is right and compare your church's teachings with that standard.

After all, that's how we generally go about making investigations of accuracy. If I want to check if a line is straight, I use a ruler (or - these days - perhaps a laser). If I want to see how a word is spelled a look in a dictionary. And so on.

If someone tells me that it's against man's law (against the laws of the country where I live) to do such-and-such, I check the laws of the land to see if it is the case.

In other words, "an honest investigation" sounds like a bit of an evasion. Undoubtedly an investigation should be made, and undoubtedly it should be an honest one. But the question is how COULD we go about it?

The answer is that we have received the inspired and inerrant word of God. We know that it is true: that it is God-breathed. Thus, we can trust it 100% - and we can use it as our ruler to say what is a straight line. That's the answer to how we could go about determining whether or churches are right."

Me: As I have pointed out, your question was entirely irrelevant to the topic at hand, and a red herring to boot.

By all historical accounts it was the Catholic Church through her councils who defined what books belong in Scripture and what the true value of Scripture is. If you are going to argue that this comes from Scripture alone, then where in Scripture does it say this, and where in Scripture does it define those books accepted as part of the Canon? However, this is all besides the point of my initial inquiry. I had asked what your opinion was on the morality of contraception. It is a red herring that you decided to embark on this irrelevant digression.

You: "Obviously your church does not conclude that contraception is entirely immoral or it would not have monastic orders or a (mostly) celibate priesthood."

Me: Apparently you are not aware of what contraception means because you are referring to abstinence, and not contraception. Hopefully the American Heritage Dictionary can help you here: n. Intentional prevention of conception or impregnation through the use of various devices, agents, drugs, sexual practices, or surgical procedures.

You: "I don't think I've ever taken that label (Divine Command Theorist) for myself. Perhaps you'd care to elaborate what you mean by it?

Me: Research Divine Command Theory.

You: "It's not really a question of the ends justifying the means - at least not in a positive sense. Otherwise good parts of creation are bad when put to bad ends. A gun is a perfectly lovely thing, but not when used to murder."

Me: This is incorrect when contraceptive measures are in view. What is the telos of a gun? To shoot at the intended target. That target can be any number of things. But not all targets are morally acceptable to shoot. However, the telos of any contraceptive measure is the intended pervention of conception. There is no other purpose for its use within the sexual act.

You: "a) Natural Law Theory cannot provide "per se" prohibitions, or at least I've never seen anyone make a cogent case for such a concept."

Me: Then you have not adequately studied natural law theory. We can know through the use of our reason what is in accord with our nature, and hence how we OUGHT to act. As such, we can understand what must be done, and what must be avoided. For instance, abortion is a prohibited act.

You: "b) Onan clearly doesn't help your case for several reasons:
1) he "spilled it on the ground" - which is a contraceptive behavior, not a contraceptive mechanism;
2) he did so with the intention of effecting sterility (which is the camel, as mentioned above); and
3) he did so despite a specific duty to be fertile."

Me: Mechanism/behavior...this is a distinction without a difference. A "mechanism" is quite simply the means used to acheive an intended end. "Spilling the seed" is a means of contraception. The whole argument is surrounding the act of intentionally preventing a child through means designed to prevent conception. Spilling his seed on the ground is considered by all accounts to be contraception. It is a sexual practice that excludes conception.

You: "c) So no, neither "natural law theory" nor the record of God's displeasure at Onan failing his levirate duty, provides a per se prohibition on the use of chemicals and/or mechanical devices that prevent fertility."

Me: I have shown that this is incorrect on both accounts.

You: "Let me provide a weak counter-illustration. Take alcohol. It can be abused. In some places that's a big problem. Still, by apply either Natural Law Theory (assuming such theory has any validity - which we do not need to debate now) or by looking at God's displeasure with alcoholics one cannot and should not imagine that there is a per se prohibition in Scripture against alcohol."

Me: There are multiple problems with your analogy here. It is not alcohol in general that is forbiden, but excessive use of alcohol which causes drunkenness. God forbids drunkenness (And yes, you can also make an argument against drunkenness from Natural Law Theory). This is not the case with each act of contraception. Contraception excludes conception each and every act (barring any defects in whichever method used... http://www.fda.gov/Fdac/features/1997/conceptbl.html).

You: "As to (3), I don't see how one could claim that someone was trying to contra-conceive if they thought they were unable to conceive."

Me: I'm sorry, I meant if you CAN have children..., not cannot have children.

So, to answer my original question, do you believe that the use of contraception as a means in order to prevent conception is morally legitimate? It appears that you do. I disagree. Any sexual act that artificially separates the unitive from the procreative ends is an immoral act. I find that your position's notion of sexual intercourse within marriage is inherently flawed. The contraceptive mentality attempts to situate oneself against God's design.

Turretinfan said...

Let me dispose of a few unpleasantries, before turning to the interesting bits of your comment.

If your original question has nothing to do with the issue of how we resolve disputes (sola scriptura or sola ecclesia), then it is your question that would seem to be the "red herring," and not my question to you.

Furthermore, I suggest you seriously consider answering the question for yourself. I'm not demanding you post a response to this combox - but I hope you'll really think about the issue: how can we know when our church is right and when it is wrong?

Speaking of red herrings, though, here's one:

"By all historical accounts it was the Catholic Church through her councils who defined what books belong in Scripture and what the true value of Scripture is. If you are going to argue that this comes from Scripture alone, then where in Scripture does it say this, and where in Scripture does it define those books accepted as part of the Canon? However, this is all besides the point of my initial inquiry. I had asked what your opinion was on the morality of contraception. It is a red herring that you decided to embark on this irrelevant digression."

Unless you are saying that we cannot use Scripture to determine whether or not our churches are correct, I don't see how your (at best) disputable historical claims are relevant.

As to the issue of moral law as applied to issues related to conception: I think my comments on the matter speak for themselves, and so I don't adopt your "so you think ... " (paraphrased) style characterizations, simply because I prefer the way I put things, because I know what I mean by those statements. I'm leery of recharacterizations.

As for your comments about what "contraception" means, the term has a broad range of meanings. I suggest you get a better dictionary, if your dictionary limits the meaning to prevention of conception in some particular way. Merriam-Webster defines it simply as "deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation." As you yourself later admit in your post: "Mechanism/behavior...this is a distinction without a difference."

As for your comment about researching (I suppose you mean, "further") "Divine Command Theory," I'll pass. I have no assurance that you yourself know what the phrase means, especially given that type of answer.

As for your comment about supposed lack of familiarity with NLT, again you're mistaken. It's due to my familiarity with the limitations of NLT that I recognize its inadequacies and shortcomings. Ultimately, though, NLT as it is presented in most modern contexts is not something I buy - so perhaps the point is moot.

But moving on to the more interesting part of your comments:

You point out that the object of a gun is to shoot at an intended target, which can be various - whereas the object of a contraceptive is to prevent conception.

That is a useful and important distinction.

You take it a bit too far when you say that contraceptives can only be used to prevent conception. Contraceptive devices (such as pieces of latex) can also be used to prevent the spread of disease: and they are widely promoted for that purpose. Likewise, some drugs that serve (or could serve) as contraceptives in women can serve other purposes. For example, some can be used to fix a broken period - or to prevent periods. One can certainly imagine a young, unmarried athlete wishing to reduce the number of periods she has, if it interferes with her athletic abilities.

If you take refuge in the fact that the word "contraceptive" already assumes that they are being used to prevent conception, then the analogy is to a "murder weapon," not a gun.

In any event, it is not the use of the drugs or latex itself that is prohibited (or makes the act sinful) but the intended purpose, just as it is not the gun itself that is prohibited (or makes the act sinful) but the intended purpose.

In other words, it is improper to use otherwise lawful means to a forbidden end. Now, it is also unlawful to use unlawful means to an unlawful end. For example, it is unlawful to kill one's children in order to further objective of not being fruitful nor multiplying.

With respect to Onan, you say: "Mechanism/behavior...this is a distinction without a difference."

As a general matter regarding the issue of contraception broadly defined, I agree - but I am not sure you can, for abstinence is sometimes used as a behavior to prevent conception, yet you seem unwilling to condemn it, or at least unwilling to lump it in with other ways.

In Onan's case, abstinence would also have been wrong, for he was commanded to perform a levirate duty, and he refused. It would seem less heinous, certainly, but it still would be wrong.

It seems your position is: "any sexual act that artificially separates the unitive from the procreative ends is an immoral act."

Scriptures do not teach such a general prohibition. As has been demonstrated, Onan cannot be stretched to serve as a general rule (1) because God's anger was specifically over his refusal to raise up children to his dead brother, (2) because - given the reason for God's anger - Onan would still have been guilty if he had simply refused to know his brother's widow (or had engaged in a campaign of "Natural Family Planning" so as only to know her at times when she was unable to conceive, and (3) as to artificiality, Onan's act is no more or less "artificial" than abstinence would have been - or than "Natural Family Planning" would have been.

In short, this is an example of a man-made rule. It may have been made with the best of intentions (i.e. to promote fertility), but it is not found in or properly derived from Scripture.

If your church teaches that God commands men not to engage in "any sexual act that artificially separates the unitive from the procreative ends," that doesn't make it so.

Now, as far as I can see, this rabbit trail on "contraceptives" is at an end. The topic of the post under which this has been running is Sola Scriptura.

If you would like to try to make the connection back to sola scriptura, or if you have some minor point of clarification that you'd like to make feel free. Keep in mind that I tend to be something of a blog autocrat - permitting comments in here on a much more limited basis than many others in the blogosphere.

As far as opinions go, I don't find your analysis of Onan at all compelling, and I'm more than sure that you did not derive your opinion from that text, but from the teachings of men. In fact, I'd go further and say that the only relevance Onan has is that it is an example of activity that is both censured by God and censured by your church's rule (assuming that spilling one's seed on the ground is a sexual act that separates the two functions artificially as opposed to naturally). That's only support for the rule in the sense that both reach the same result.

I'd be interested in any link to any article in which someone has tried to make out a case for anything so specific as that NLT absolutely prohibits any separation of those two functions. I am guessing that the best NLT advocate is going to have a lot of trouble with it. Still, if someone skilled has given it a shot, I'd love to see what they came up with. It's hard to imagine how any such analysis could not suffer from many many instances of unwarranted induction.

-Turretinfan