Thursday, June 27, 2013

SCOTUS Ruling: A Call to Repentance?

After the recent ruling of the SCOTUS on DOMA and Proposition 8 yesterday, I found today's reading in the Confessions quite apropos. In Article XXIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Melanchthon takes on the Confutation's argument that priests must be celibate by means of natural law. He writes:
"The adversaries object to these arguments. They say that in the beginning, the commandment was given to populate the earth. Now that the earth has been populated, marriage is not commanded. See how wisely they judge! Human nature is so formed by God's Word that it is fruitful not only in the beginning of creation, but as long as this nature of our bodies exists. Humanity is fruitful just as the earth becomes fruitful by the Word, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed" (Genesis 1:11). Because of this ordinance, the earth not only started to produce plants in the beginning, but as long as this natural order exists, the fields are covered every year. Therefore, just as human laws cannot change the nature of the earth, so, without God's special work neither vows nor a human law can change a human being's nature.
"Second, because this creation, or divine ordinance, in humanity is a natural right, jurists have said wisely and correctly that the union of male and female belongs to natural right (iuris naturalis; natürlich Recht). Natural right is unchangeable. Therefore, the right to contract marriage must always remain. Where nature does not change, that ordinance which God gave nature does not change. It cannot be removed by human laws. Therefore, it is ridiculous for the adversaries to babble that marriage was commanded in the beginning but is not now. This is the same as if they would say, 'Formerly, when people were born, they were born with gender (sexum); now they are not. Formerly, when they were born the brought with them natural right; now they do not.' No craftsman could produce anything more crafty than these foolish things. They were created to dodge a natural right. Therefore, let this point remain, that both Scripture teaches and the jurist says wisely: the union of male and female belongs to natural right. Furthermore, a natural right is truly a divine right because it is an ordinance divinely imprinted on nature. Because this right (ius) cannot be changed without an extraordinary work of God, the right (ius) to contract marriage remains, the natural desire of one sex for the other sex is an ordinance of God in nature, and for this reason is a right (ius). Otherwise, why would both sexes have been created?" (Apology XXIII:8‑12)
Two things I find worthy of note. The Confessions uphold natural law, so that God's ordering of the cosmos continues to bring forth according to His ordinance, whether we submit to it or not. This is the way things are. It is how it is designed. Nothing—no human law or action—can change that. It is what it is. 

The second is the argument of the Confutation. The subversion of God's order by the Western Roman Church in its stance on the marriage of priests has deleterious effects on the view of marriage as a whole by the people. The estate of marriage by divine ordinance and, thus, natural law came to be seen by all as something less than the celibacy of the priesthood, which has support from neither divine ordinance nor natural law. False teaching and a failure to teach has consequences in the hearts and minds of those who hear it. Scum always rises to the top. 

Now, we can complain all we want about the SCOTUS's ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8. But I wonder if this is not simply the logical conclusion of the Church's, not the culture's, but the Church's subversion of the divine ordinance and natural law's witness about marriage? How often do we in the modern church sound like the authors of the Confutation, "in the beginning, the commandment was given to populate the earth. Now that the earth has been populated, marriage is not commanded." Or, as it may go today, "in the beginning, God ordained that male and female be fruitful and multiply to populate the earth. Now that the earth has been populated, being fruitful and multiplying is not commanded." Perhaps, the SCOTUS ruling, however disturbing it may be, is our call to repentance, so that we as the Church, the people of God, who know God's commands and confess natural law, will once again teach what the Scriptures teach and bear witness to the jurist's wisdom of natural law in lives lived according to it.


  1. Thank you for this very valuable reference to the confessions concerning the state of U.S. society today (That is the dominance of homosexuality). Mostly we have ourselves to blame. We allowed the liberal extremist left (Marxist) to dominate education in America. So like the back-sliding of Israel we have done the same. We deserve God's wrath. We now must render to Caesar that which is Caesar's (President B. Hussein Obama and his regime). There is nothing left to do, but to submit to them that have the rule that is over you.

    But, thanks be to God we have eternal life in Christ Jesus. As we submit our heads in surrender to the Muhammadans and Sodomites.

    I like to read the book of Jude.

    Stephen Harris
    Head Elder and Subdeacon
    Saint Pauls Evangelical Lutheran Church
    Kewanee, Illinois

  2. I wonder if we Christians are able to articulate a defense of marriage based on natural law that does not depend upon our scriptural presuppositions, which is to say that it has a chance of persuading those who reject the Christian worldview.

    Is it possible to put forth such an argument in the public square?
    If possible, is it worthwhile for us to attempt this?

    I think it may be that the repaganization of the West has advanced to such a point that it is not possible. But then, God blessed even the pagans with natural marriage.

    Much I'm reading from Lutheran pastors these days seems to argue that Christians should retreat from this fight in favor of a more libertarian stance. Their arguments are serious and persuasive; but I cannot shake the feeling that we should not acquiesce but, like Augustine, fight against the coming dark age.

    1. Yes it's possible and yes it's worth it.


    2. As Fr. Curtis says, "Yes, it's possible, and yes, it's worth it." The issue that remains in our day is the rejection of natural law and its implications. I think some have jettisoned natural law because they think that it doesn't work in persuading. In other words, they think it doesn't help them win the argument. The point, however, is that natural law is just that—a law. It can be subverted but it can never be destroyed. It is part of the orderly creation. So, we continue to teach and seek to persuade by means of the natural law because it is true not because it works.

      While there may be a time when it is subverted and denied, it can never be ultimately ignored because of the inherent consequences. And we may have to bear the burden of some of those consequences until such a time that we can ask the question that Dr. Phil always asks: "So how's that working out for you?" You can't just fix stupid. Sometimes reason is not enough for people to stop being stupid. And so there are consequences because subverting natural law never comes out in the wash. The question is how long will we have to endure that burden? How many tragedies will come to pass until the full weight of those consequences bring to light the error of ignoring natural law?

  3. I would not call libertarianism a retreat. For too long, Christianity has used the state as a crutch. Sunday blue laws are a great example. Libertarianism as a philosophy reduces the state's sphere of influence (which operates by compulsion) and yields to other societal institutions (such as the church, which operates by persuasion).

    A libertarian worldview may or may not reflect a Christian worldview, but the same can be said of statism.

  4. Check out the current Chronicles Magazine and Thomas Fleming's article...very germane.


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