REPLYING TO THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE
By Charles D. Provan
So that our readers may better follow our answers to Pastor Kovaciny’s “Devil’s Advocate”, we will proceed in the same order as his paragraphs.
Our comments upon:
Paragraph 3. It is of course legitimate to bring up questions about our views upon birth control. The Apostle Paul himself brings up questions some would ask about salvation, and Peter says that we should not fear questioning of our faith.
Par. 6. It is true that the nations of the West are committing race suicide. This is because they deserve it. We wish we could say otherwise. As the Scripture says, “The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.” (Psalm 37:38) Because of our culture’s desertion of God and his Christ, we are in a period of sad decline, brought about by our own wickedness.
Par. 7. While it may be true that in the Third World some parents sell their children, yet we may also observe that Scripture says, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) It also says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things [food and clothing: C.P.] shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
But if, in accordance with his secret plan, God would cause a great catastrophe, which would affect the children of believers in a negative way, we may be assured that God has some reason for it, as in the case of Job’s children (Job 1:18-19) or Joseph’s slavery (Genesis 37, 39-40, 50:20). These emergencies do not justify wasting seed; for in the case of a temporary great catastrophe, we ought to listen to the word of the Apostle Paul, who said during a crisis at Corinth (1 Cor. 7:26), “those who have wives should live as if they had none.” (1 Cor. 7:29) That is, couples ought to have no sexual relations at all. Note, he does not say that “due to the present crisis, I want Christian couples to practice withdrawal or other unnatural non-procreative practices.” Likewise, when God told Jeremiah not to have children in Palestine due to the upcoming invasion by the Babylonian army, he instructed him not to get married; which makes no sense if God allows deliberately non-procreative sex in marriage. So that Christian couples do not classify every bad circumstance as a “crisis” justifying no sexual activity, please note what God told the Israelites who were slaves in Babylon: “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: …’ Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.'” (Jer. 29:4,6) Note also that when the Israelites were in great bondage in Egypt, it was still God’s will for them to be fruitful and multiply, as Moses says in Exo. 1:7,12,20. (We say this so that present day Christians do not use the “crisis” of not being able to vacation in Acapulco as an excuse for not having more children for God!)
Par. 8. D.A. says that up until approximately 200 years ago, (with the coming of the Industrial Revolution) people wanted children because they were a monetary asset. But in saying this he is not aware of several historical facts which disprove his point.
For example, Egyptian contraceptive “medicines” are mentioned as early as 1900 B.C.! Jewish records also speak of effective methods of birth control, utilizing available chemicals. Socrates, a well known philosopher, mentioned that population should be kept down to prevent countries from falling “into poverty or war”. Another famous philosopher, Aristotle, mentioned various methods of preventing conception without objection. (And why would he object, since he was in favor of abortion as a means of population control?) The Cretans desired low-level populations, and encouraged homosexuality to accomplish this. The Greeks and Romans practiced exposure of infants. Caesar Augustus promulgated legislation to push people into having children, but his attempt failed: the historian Tacitus says “childlessness prevailed”. The Cathaginians and Canaanites practiced unnatural sex and child sacrifices – practices which obviously lowered the population. Pliny the Younger (c100 A.D.) says the he lived “in an age when even one child is thought a burden preventing the rewards of childnessness”.
Against this atmosphere of anti-children ideas and practices the early Church took its stand opposing contraception. (To list all the Church fathers would take up too much space.) The non-Christian populations of the Empire still practiced birth control, viewing children as a burden, as is evidenced by the heated condemnation of birth control by Jerome, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine and many more.
I do not know much about society’s view of children after the fifth century A.D., but I do know that the Catholic Church was continually fighting against birth control, which seems odd if “children were greatly desired before the Industrial Revolution.” In the 1500’s Martin Luther wrote, “Today you find many people who do not want to have children” (LW Vol. 1 p.118). (Note that he said this some 250 years prior to 1800 and D.A.’s start of the Industrial Revolution!) Luther went on the state that the main reason for people’s reluctance to have children was economic – the same as it is today. In addition, an eminent Puritan named Richard Stock (d.1626) said, “Again, in the use of marriages; many men and women, though they desire some children, not many….” (Stock opposed birth control too.)
Par. 9. D.A. says that having lots of children “would bankrupt a man today”. He says that “children are an unremitting expense”. I would ask, “From where does D.A. get his view?From the Bible, or from the wisdom of the world? Does not marriage cost a lot? Does this prove that marriage is no longer a duty for those without continence?”
Par. 10. Our Devil’s Advocate states: “what concerns me about Provan’s article is the failure to recognize these facts and the failure to see how the changing structure of society changes the applicability of various Scriptures”.
First, where does D.A. get his proof that “the changing structure of society changes the applicability of various Scriptures”. He says that in the old days many children were valued as old-age insurance, but now that Social Security is here (!) the church should reconsider its opposition to B.C. Where does Scripture allow for reasonings which transform the clear teachings of the Bible into their opposites? Let us listen to what the Word of God says in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Does not this apply to D.A.’s statements? He says many children (a great blessing in Psa. 127) is now a “burden” which will result in financial destruction; on the other hand, he has nothing bad to say for couples who deliberately make themselves childless, which the Bible consistantly calls a great calamity!
Where in Scripture is it stated that “changing society” changes the moral precepts of God? Should it not rather be the moral precepts of God which change society? And if D.A.’s method of interpreting Scripture is acceptable, what well-respected theologian is there to back his view for the first four centuries of Protestantism?
Par. 11. D.A. says that people who condemn birth control may themselves be in danger of the condemnation of Jesus (Mt. 23:4)! I would again ask whether D.A. views the entire church for its first 19 centuries as under the condemnation of God? Logically they would have to be, because the Christian church has always opposed B.C., until one reaches the corrupt and decrepit twentieth century. Let D.A. be aware that his argument is used today by many who would change the rules which the church has held for 2000 years. We are told for example, that he church has been opposed to women preachers because of male chauvinism. Now, however, in our “enlightened” society, when we realize that this is “sexism”, we should change the rules of the church instituted by Paul himself. Nowadays we are also informed that the church’s 2000 year teachings on Scripture and homosexuality are just cultural, and so should be changed. This type of thought leads the Church to shipwreck the faith. (By the way, I am not saying that D.A. is pro-women elders, pro-homosexuality or anti-scripture. I am saying that his approach to Scripture interpretation (“change society/change application of Scripture”) is very dangerous and is a major support of the enemies of the Church, as well as some of its misguided friends.)
Par. 12. We do not agree. Where does Scripture call children a burden? Scripture rather calls children a blessing and a great responsibility in so many passages we couldn’t list them all here. We are not dealing with B.C. “legalistically”, for legalism is demanding that people follow non-Scriptural rules (such as hand washing in Matthew 15). Since our opposition to B.C. is based squarely on Scriptural principles, we are not behaving legalistically, but Scripturally. Since this is so, let us apply some other words of Jesus to those who have many children out of obedience to God’s command: “Take my yoke upon you, for it is light”. (Mt. 11:30) The burdens of the Pharisees were heavy because they were stupid, oppressive and unscriptural.
D.A. says that “we have to make people want children by helping them to raise them, instead of demanding that they shoulder the burden out of a sense of duty”. Of course, for Scripture says “Jesus replied; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ (Matt.22:37-38) Should we not also want to love God? Of course: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) I love my wife because Scripture commands me to do so and also because I want to, out of gratitude for her kindness to me. So what’s wrong with having children because: a) God says it is my duty, and b) they are a great blessing? Children obey parents because they want to please their parents AND because they’ll get paddled if they don’t!
Par. 13. It is stated by D.A. that “We cannot assume that shouldering these burdens [having children; C.P.] will automatically bring about the blessings needed to bear the load.” To which we say, “Why not?” After all, doesn’t Jesus say, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mat. 6:33) So if a godly couple seeks to obey God by being fruitful, why shouldn’t they (in a godly manner) expect God to help them? Jesus also said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Mat. 6:26) We would say that this great promise of Jesus applies not only to believers, but also to their children.
D.A.’s example of “life in Utah” doesn’t prove anything because: 1) Mormons aren’t exactly “orthodox Christians”, and 2) our culture encourages easy divorce, wifely rebellion and material dissatisfaction. Is it not reasonable that our evil culture would be in effect in Utah? As responsibilities increase, the ungodly will take the easy way out.
But the Christian is not permitted to do so. “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matt. 7:13) And of course, if I am in favor of people not practicing B.C., then it is the duty of myself and other Christians to help out with more than words: “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
Par. 14. Let no one say that we are in favor of illegitimate children simply because we oppose B.C. Rather, we are in favor of abstinence before marriage, and are in favor of natural sexual relations during marriage.
Par. 15. We are opposed to “DINC”ism. No Christians has the right to choose “DINC”, though it may come to some without their having anything to do with it. Is it right for married women to desire something which Scripture calls a shame and a reproach?
Par. 16. Knowing “why people, even Christians, sometimes consider sterility a good thing” does not affect the teaching of God. It is Scripture which counts, and it says that sterility is bad, so bad that it is described as sickness (Gen. 20:17-18), a disgrace (Luke 1:25), a curse (Hosea 9:11) and a cause of great misery and bitterness (1 Sam 1:10,11 and Gen. 30:1).
Par. 17. Of course we would agree that Social Security should be replaced by responsible Christian stewardship. The government should encourage people to have godly children; as the Scripture says: “A large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined.” (Prov. 14:28) Isn’t this happening to the once great but now dying United States?
Par. 18. Far be it for us to say that Onan wasn’t selfish or greedy, for we think that he was all that. But it is Scripture which focuses in on Onan’s destruction of semen as the cause of his death. As Gen. 38:10 says, “WHAT HE DID was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death also.” The Church has always taught that willful destruction of semen is an awful deed.
Let us look at the death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. Peter specifically says that they were killed by God because they lied to the Holy Spirit. But who would deny that lying and being greedy are sins to be condemned on the basis of the same story? In the same way, the Scripture says that Onan was killed by God for what he did, and what he did was kill his semen. So we would say that this is the primary point of the Onan incident; yet we would agree that the Onan story can be used to condemn greed and theft. The opponents of birth control are not faced with an either/or situation in the matter of Onan, for Scripture still condemns Onan specifically for destroying his seed. It is those who favor birth control who must come up with all kinds of absurd reasons to totally exclude destruction of semen as the reason (or even “a” reason) for Onan’s death. The burden of proof is entirely upon them, not us.
D.A. says that Onan “deprived his dead brother’s wife of what she wanted.” Of course, we would agree with this part of D.A.’s assertion, and move on to an even more important question; namely “What is it that God himself wants from married couples?” Is it not, “Be fruitful and multiply”? (Gen. 1:28 NASV)
The Augsburg Confession says that Genesis 1:28 proves that “God created men for procreation” (Augsburg Confession Section 23, on “The Marriage of Priests.”) The Westminster Confession alludes to the same verse when it says that marriage was instituted by God “for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue and of the Church with a holy seed.” The Confession quotes Mal. 2:15 (which speaks of marriage) as proof of this doctrine. It says, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.” And is not B.C. intended to thwart the goal of the sex act, the creation of children? The facts are these: a) according to the Bible, God creates, nurtures and causes children to be born, and b) people are not pleased with God’s plan, so they practise B.C. to prevent God from sending them more children. (Isn’t this perfectly obvious?)
Listen to God’s word in Ezekiel 16:21: “You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to idols.” Again in Ezekiel 23:37, God says, “they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me…” God here condemns the Israelites for killing his children. Children of believers are here called “my children” by God. And by birth control we prevent God (insofar as it lies with us) from sending more of his children into the world, children which would otherwise be conceived and nurtured according to the mighty power of God. Thus as the Pharisees of old, we nullify the commands of God by our traditions. (Mat. 15:3)
Par. 20. The problem is not that I don’t understand Calvin, because he is quite easy to understand. The “problem” is really for D.A. to convince us that Calvin is in error when he viewed birth control as murder and abortion! For, if Calvin is correct, then the churches of today are filled to the brim with unrepentant murderers and abortionists. What does D.A. offer to prove that Calvin believed in the “garden theory of reproduction”?: Nothing. Further, if Calvin did believe in the garden theory, then why does he say that Onan, by wasting his seed, “tried, as far as he was able, to wipe out a part of the human race.” If the garden theory is true, Calvin had no need to add this phrase to his exegesis; he would have said, “Onan actually did wipe out a part of the human race, since there are little fully formed people in the seed.” Lastly, even if Calvin did believe the garden theory, what does that prove? Calvin does not say “And we know Onan was bad because of the garden theory” – he does not even mention it!
In what way does “modern Science” refute Calvin’s view of Onan? Modern science certainly agrees that the human sperm is a cell unlike any other cell – it is alive in and of itself, and it moves by itself. And, killing the sperm kills the life which (according to Job 10:10) God forms into people. Abortion, infanticide and B.C. are all just tools to eliminate children who people don’t want, in defiance of God’s revealed will. If people weren’t worried about God sending unwanted children their way, why would they practice B.C. in the first place? After all, you don’t need to prevent what cannot possibly happen!
At this time we would like to point out a weak spot in our opponent’s armor: namely, his reliance upon the ethical conclusions of “modern science” when it comes to Birth Control. Our view is that the Holy Scriptures are to be our source for theology. The Church should not reject the seven day creation because of what pagan geology professors say about rock formations. We should not get our views on predestination from scientific atom particle diffusion patterns, which supposedly disprove predestination. And likewise, we should not get our views on Birth Control from genetic engineering and eugenic researchers. Our views as Christians should come from the Bible. When you want some poison gas or a neutron bomb, see a scientist; when you want to know if using these weapons is morally defensible, consult the Bible. Let us not forget that the greatest “scientific achievement” of this century was the development of the atomic bomb – a great moral accomplishment for post-Christian man!
Par. 21. Our friend asserts that Calvin believed in “implantation”, not “conception”, but if one looks at Calvin’s statement, he says, “in order that Tamar might not CONCEIVE a future human being.” Please note that the foregoing capitalized word in Calvin’s original Latin is “conciperet”, which means “conceive” (as in conception).
Also, please note the great importance which Scripture applies to the semen: Levi was in Abraham’s loins (Heb. 7:10); Christ was in David’s loins (Acts 2:30, 2 Sam. 7:12); the genealogies in the Old Testament and the New are reckoned by the men, not women (Matt. 1, Luke 3, Gen. 11:10-26, Ezr. 2:61-62); We all died through Adam, not Eve! (Romans 5:17); Life comes from the semen (Job 10:10)
Par. 22. D.A. says that we are wrong because we say that “menstruous intercourse cannot produce children”. (Our original article in Christian News erroneously stated that menstrual intercourse was sterile; we have corrected this oversight in this edition.) He says that “this fact does change the conclusions of the section Reason #5” But, as a matter of fact, it doesn’t change our conclusions at all, for we specifically allowed for minor exceptions. We said in our paper that “Withdrawal is meant to be sterile, and is, most of the time.” (See Reason #5 of Chapter One of this book) We admit that it is possible to become pregnant by sex during menstruation, but only just possible, the same way it is possible to become pregnant by the method of withdrawal. Nonetheless it is in fact practically sterile, as was apparent some 2000 years ago (the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, refers to this fact, now verified by observation). For further information, see page 33 of Pregnancy, Birth and Family Planning, by Alan F. Guttmacher, M.D.
Par. 23 . D.A. is correct in saying that we did not prove our point about Scripture forbidding castration of animals. (Our original Birth Control article in Christian News stated this: “Take a look at Lev. 22:24. This verse forbids offering defective animals to God, but it says more than that – it forbids castration of animals. We see from numerous Bible passages that God cares about animals; this is a protective law for them.”) Because of insufficient evidence, we have “softened” our original paragraph into the paragraph now present in our booklet (paragraph 5 of Reason Number Six).
In any case, this does not destroy our point, for castration is still called a blemish for animals, and is therefore still a blemish for humans. (Unless we wish to say that blindness and being crippled are not blemishes for humans, though they are for animals!)
Par. 24. D.A.’s restricted definition of castration is technically correct. We, however, were using “castration” in its wider definition, which is: “to emasculate, to geld, to deprive of virility or procreative power.” Since tubal ligation certainly does “deprive female reproductive system of procreative power”, in mostly the same way a vasectomy “does deprive the male reproductive system of procreative power”, we feel justified in referring to both as castration.
D.A. says “Nor can we make doctrines “by implication”. But on the contrary, many times Scripture proves things “by implication”. For just a few examples: 1) David’s eating of shewbread (1 Sam. 21:1-6) proves that healing is OK on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28); 2) God’s care for oxen treading grain (Deut. 25:4) proves that ministers should be paid (1 Tim 5:17-18); 3) The Israelites gathering enough manna proves that Christians should share (Exo. 16:18, 1 Cor. 8:13-15); 4) The birds getting grain proves that God is concerned with us. (Mat. 66:26); 5) Evil men doing good things proves that God is even more good towards us (Mat. 7:11, Luke 18:1-8); 6) Women shouldn’t be elders, proven by Eve’s being decieved by the Devil (1 Tim 2:12-14).
And so, since proving things by implication is a Scriptural method of interpreting and applying Scripture, we feel entirely justified in reasoning that “since castration or damaging of the male reproductive organs is described in very negative terms, it thereby follows that castration or damaging of the female reproductive organs is also viewed by God in a very negative way. Since this is so, women are not allowed to get tubal ligations.”
Par. 24 & 25. Concerning lesbianism, I reject as unproven his “by implication” statement that lesbianism is worthy of the civil death penalty. Lesbianism, though evil, is nowhere ascribed a death penalty in any Jewish or Christian source that I am aware of. D.A. says (without proof) that Lesbianism was “much less common.” To us, it would seem that in a culture where men were openly homosexual, that women, partly out of reaction, would turn to themselves or their own sex – After all, once the natural order of God is given up, there’s nowhere to go but downhill.
Par. 25. D.A. mentions the “great desire of ancient people for children”, a statement which he does not prove. I am aware of many cultures which viewed children with disdain. While it is true that the nations which surrounded Israel had religions which are called, “fertility cults”, yet is also true that these cultures mainly valued fertility of crops and animals, not children. In fact, one of the most powerful methods of “worshipping” the fertility gods, such as Molech and Chemosh, was by child sacrifice and non-procreative sex! These things were done, not to increase the number of children, but to ensure peace and food.
It would also be enlightening to look at Greece, which D.A. says “highly valued” children. Plato, one of the greatest of the Greek philosophers, was in favor of laws which would prohibit childbearing after the first ten years of marriage; he was also in favor of what we would call “zero population growth.” As we have stated earlier, his disciple Aristotle thought abortion was OK. We know of only a few pagan Greeks expressing “pro-children” views. They were ignored, so much so that about 150 B.C the Greek general Polybius said, “In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children…. and a failure of productiveness followed… by our men’s becoming perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasure of an idle life and accordingly either not marrying at all, or, if they did marry, refusing to rear children that were born, or at most one or two out of a great number for the sake of leaving them well off or bringing them up in extravagant luxury.”
Does this ancient Greek attitude toward children sound familiar? It should, for this same mindset is rotting the core of Western and Eastern Europe, as well as the United States, the areas which once were the bastions of Christianity.