March 30, 2013

Is Contraceptive Sex Different From Same-Sex Sex?

What would be an evangelical theological response be to the notion that sex using artificial contraception is no different than sex between homosexuals? If gay sex is unnatural how is contraceptive sex natural?

Linker makes this case:

Gay marriage has come to be widely accepted because our society stopped thinking of marriage as a conjugal union decades ago.

Between five and six decades ago, to be precise. That’s when the birth control pill — first made available to consumers for the treatment of menstrual disorders in 1957 and approved by the FDA for contraceptive use three years later — began to transform sexual relationships, and hence marriage, in the United States. Once pregnancy was decoupled from intercourse, pre-marital sex became far more common, which removed one powerful incentive to marry young (or marry at all). It likewise became far more common for newlyweds to give themselves an extended childless honeymoon (with some couples choosing never to have kids).

From a different angle, the biggest inconsistency is birth control pill using Christians arguing against gay marriage, some people are now arguing. Talking about morality divorced from redemptive history only muddles the discussion. So, arguing on the basis of immorality in the public square will fail every time. This is why Anderson and Robert George (see below) have focused on mothering and fathering as unique natural phenomena with respect to children. It’s not that they are simply against gay marriage morally (which is the only argument evangelicals have) but that human sexuality is about procreation and parenting. Hence, Vincent Palozzi’s Yahoo News article link above. Birth control pills (and other artificial contraceptives) made sex about something else other than its original design which established the “fairness” proposition in the gay marriage debate. Evangelicals seem ignorant (perhaps because they are unfamiliar with theological ethics) that the moral norms in Scripture are not arbitrary but normally point to creational norms with covenantal and redemptive purposes. Again, in Christian ethics, for example, the morality of human sexuality is a means of revealing a biblical theologically reality that is derivative of the doctrines of creation and redemption. Evangelicals aren’t even asking WHY God might have designed marriage and family the way he did (the ethics of the Pentateuch alone should make that clear as well as what theological and eschatological relaties those moral norms point to, etc.) Biblical ethics norms exists for reasons. . . .

As long as evangelicals argue about the morality of marriage divorced from biblical theology, as is currently being done, they will have no basis to argue about the ineffectiveness of the George/Anderson approach. Many are arguing that as soon as Christians started using artificial birth control, esp. the pill, they sacrificed their biblical theology of the body on the altar of America secular pragmatism and gave marriage away–hence the high divorce rate and now this issue (by divorcing sex from procreation). My guess is that evangelicals will not argue theologically against the Anderson/George approach on theological grounds (esp. if they have a robust doctrine of creation) but will rely on the secularist sexual pragmatist Western argument (explaining, in effect, why children get in the way of career pursuits and the attainment of the American dream).

5 response to “Is Contraceptive Sex Different From Same-Sex Sex?”

  1. Greetings Dr. Bradley,

    Glad to see you back blogging. As a Christian & Protestant who affirms traditional marriage (between one man and one woman), let me offer some push back. This post felt like an endorsement of Humanae Vitae, which while I have not read in a while, still remember the arguments from it. Is the solution for most problems in theology to go back and take positions that have affinity to Catholicism? HV taken to its logical conclusion is killing persons in two-thirds world countries:

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but that was the impression I got from this post, at least from the link to Linker’s post.
    Also, IMO, it’s not the theology of creation that’s the reason why Evangelicals are losing the culture wars on the issue of same sex weddings. The problem is that LGBTQ persons want marriage because of the economic benefits of marriage. The economic benefits (tax breaks, insurance policies) are given to married couples by the state, and the LGBTQ community wants these privileges too. It’s not because marriage is sacred or anything, American Christians dispensed with the idea of marriage of sacred when it made the government define marriage, and that goes back to the days of enslaved Africans’ marital bonds being illegal & violated.

    I say this, my position is Singleness Equality, that theologically, the New Testament informs us that God is not a respector of persons, and this goes for marital status as well. There is no married people up here at the top, and singles down at the bottom. This is where our theology of marriage as Christians should start with. Yes, marriage is a sacrament, but so is the life of singleness/celibacy. Certainly, this means the end to churches marginalizing singles & “shipping” them so quickly into a marriage/stability. Churches are also more likely to hire youth and pastors who are married because they get 2 for the price of 1. And on the question of reproduction, I think the question of infertility does matter because all bodies matter to God, both able bodied and those bodies with disabilities and shortcomings. To suggest otherwise is to neglect God’s nonpartisans love, which was the basis of the abolitionist hermeneutic btw.
    Just a few thoughts.

    Look forward to your response.


  2. To address the question in the title, one might analogously ask: is heterosexual passionate kissing (say between a christian man and woman) different from gay passionate kissing.

    I’d say its obvious that it is.

    BTW, are you claiming arguing about morality on the basis of redemptive history WILL work in the public square where arguing without that basis has failed? I’m a little unclear what your preferred method of engaging the ssm debate is.

    I’ll grant that evangelism is always contains the possibility of success, DV, but not humanly speaking…

  3. Protestant wholesale embrace of contraception has undermined the argument against both same-sex marriage and abortion. If we do not desire and welcome children as a blessing, we have little credibility against the pragmatic arguments to make marriage an institution primarily geared toward accommodating adult preferences (because we are essentially remaking Christian marriage into the same thing). That does not mean we should cease to defend marriage, but we should probably all take a good look in the mirror while doing so.

    “Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. They are entitled to know who they are and where they came from. Therefore children have a legitimate interest in the stability of their parents’ union, since that is ordinarily how kids have relationships with both parents. If Mom and Dad are quarreling, or if they live on opposite sides of the country, the child’s connection with one or both of them is seriously impaired.
    But children cannot defend their rights themselves. Nor is it adequate to intervene after the fact, after harm already has been done. Children’s relational and identity rights must be protected proactively. Marriage is society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.” (J.R. Morse)

  4. Good article. I was making a similar one about 10 years ago with a friend who planned on using contraception in marriage. Because he didn’t understand marriage and the marital act, his argument was basically “I think gay behavior is gross.” Btw, Julia, I like Morse too.

  5. Dr. Bradley,

    Thank you for this post. The issue of contraception is all but ignored in the Church today. Most people don’t realize that up until the early 20th century, the Church (Catholic & Protestant) uniformly opposed birth control. There is a great article about this shift in America entitled, Paving the Way for Title X: How Protestants Swallowed the Pill and Evangelicals ‘Out-Libertined’ the Mainline (