As usual, my fellow WordPressian, and brother in the ministry Ken Kelly has a thought provoking article at his blog, the Priestly Rant. In it, he talks about what it means to defend “Traditional Marriage”, and why we, as Lutherans would even want to.
Please do read the whole thing, but basically he argues that If we say marriage is for the children, how can we also argue that preventing children is adiaphora. This is an excellent question. Back in the 1920’s, the LCMS was united in its opposition to contraception. Walter A. Maier the First wrote very eloquently on the topic in his magisterial “For Better, Not for Worse.” Sometime between the 1920’s and the 1950’s, we decided that, rather than take our exegetical cues on this issue from the Roman church, we would take them from the Episcopal church. So, when Rome issued Humane Vitae, predicting that the sexual revolution would mean the end of civilization as we know it, the LCMS was on the other side of the fence.
While I’m not sure that the logic of Humane Vitea regarding contraception is consistent throughout, it is very telling that everything that Rome predicted would happen, has happened. Meanwhile, our own synod president has publicly lamented the demographic problems our synod has brought on itself with the widespread adoption of “family planning”.
So, there are two conclusions to be drawn from this.
1) It was a mistake to simply shift our exegesis from Rome to Canterbury. There was no precedent, no good reason to do so, nor any real theological reflection given to this. It was simply the wish of the people to do something that had been forbidden under the old exegesis.
2) The LCMS will have to reconsider its views on marriage. One good thing about the “Gay Marriage” debate is that it has finally gotten us to admit that marriage is more than just a contract, that no fault divorce is evil, that children somehow fit into the definition of marriage, and that marriage as the reflection of Christ and His church will have practical real-life implications.
Ultimately, we are discussing what it even means to be human, and to be created male and female. We can deny it, but we have to re-engage the exegesis from Rome on the topic. I’m not saying we will adopt it in its entirety, but Humane Vitae needs to be discussed among us.
In my time in the synod, I’ve only heard one Lutheran theologian argue against the Roman teaching of no-artificial-contraception-at-all who had done even a modicum of theological and biblical reflection on the topic (That is, had done more than simply spout Episcopal talking points.) This is not good, but I think that such a practice may be coming to an end. We’ve changed our views on this 180 degrees in living memory. It may be time to re-evaluate that change. Again, I don’t know that Rome is 100% right on this. But I have not seen a single serious exegetical treatment of the relevant scripture that brings me to any other conclusion but that Canterbury is wrong.