Project Wittenberg

Human Sexuality:
A Theological Perspective

Some Problems

A Report of the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
as prepared by its Social Concerns Committee
September 1981

To: Contents - This File/ Plain Text - LCMS Documents - Project Wittenberg



Against the background of this discussion of marriage and its purposes we may proceed to comment briefly on a few issues connected with marriage and sexuality. Our intention here is not to discuss fully all relevant issues, such as, for example, the problems of pornography or abortion, but instead to deal with some of the problems most frequently mentioned in requests to the Synod. [28] It should be noted that we have chosen to concentrate first on a positive development of the order of marriage and its purposes. No discussion of particular problems, however urgent they may appear to be, is likely to be helpful if carried out in isolation from a developed theological understanding of sexuality. Furthermore, it ought to be obvious that no brief discussion of the problems taken up can be exhaustive or fully adequate. It will be enough to point out the direction in which the analysis above leads with respect to certain issues.

    A. Divorce and Remarriage

    In response to the questioning of some Pharisees, Jesus was Himself prompted to discuss the issue of divorce (Matt. 19:3-9; cf. Matt. 5:31 f.). In so doing He appeals to the primal will of the Creator that a man and woman who have become one flesh are not to be "put asunder." Although the law of Moses had allowed divorce, this was due to the hardness of the sinful human heart (Deut. 24:1-4). But "from the beginning it was not so," and Jesus appeals to that primal ordinance in order to demonstrate what marriage ought to be and to convict those who fall short of what it is meant to be.

    It is for our purposes most important to recognize the seriousness with which all traditional Christian teaching has regarded divorce. C. S. Lewis has made use of the "one flesh" imagery to provide a simple explanation of this common Christian teaching.

      All [Christian churches] regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all [Catholic teaching on indissolubility]; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment. What they all disagree with is the modern view that it is a simple readjustment of partners... [29]

    We can see that the retention of this traditional view is no mere traditionalism but, on the contrary, takes seriously the will of God for marriage, as well as the needs of our human nature. We remind ourselves of some of the implications of the three purposes of marriage developed above. Consider first marriage as a union in mutual love. The promises lovers make are not foolhardy. They answer to some of the deepest needs of human beings: the need never to be left entirely alone, whatever the future may bring; the need to be sure that, whatever uncertainties the future may hold, these two people can at least say that theirs will be a future together; the need to be able to give themselves entirely and completely to another-to be naked before the other, and to be so in complete trust and confidence; the need to know that their person, not just their functions, is valued, and that they are not interchangeable with any other partner. The order of marriage instituted by God answers to these deep human needs. It gives rise to a set of hopes and expectations which ought not be disappointed, not only because we have a commandment to the contrary, but because to disappoint them is to fail in a fundamental human commitment answering to an equally fundamental human need.

    When we consider the child who is the fruit of marriage, we may also come to realize the enormous seriousness of divorce. It is fairly common to hear people say in connection with divorce that they fear especially for the children. This statement, though it may ordinarily refer only to the disruption and uncertainty which divorce brings to the life of the child, may also point to an even deeper reality. If the child is the sign of the unity-indeed more, the incarnation of the unity-of this man and woman who now propose to rupture their oneness, then of course we must fear for the child. What event could be more calculated to disturb the child at the very center of his personal identity? Parents are not merely a cause and children an effect which can easily be separated. Here again we must remember that our commitments in the flesh are personal commitments. The child's personhood, his sense of identity is involved. To tear the marriage asunder is in some sense to do the same to the child.

    Moreover, Christian parents need to remember their commitments to their children are also spiritual commitments. Husband and wife who have joined themselves in the one-flesh union of marriage (Eph. 5:31) are committed to fulfill their parental duty by bringing up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4 KJV). It goes 'without saying that the task of bearing a credible witness to the Lord's instruction regarding the permanency of marriage and the meaning of the self-giving love which makes marriage work (Eph. 5:21 ff.) is made more difficult for divorced parents.

    Thirdly, marriage can scarcely function as a place of remedy or healing if we refuse its constraints and reject its disciplines. In marriage God would have us learn what commitment to another person involves. He offers no guarantees that such commitment will always be easy or pleasant. There is only one sure way to protect ourselves against the cost of commitment to others, and that-to make no such commitment at all, whether in marriage or in other ways-is to tread the destructive path of disobedience and rebellion against the Creator (Rom. 1:24-32). Marriage cannot function in accord with its God-ordained purpose if it is given up whenever our desires and wishes encourage us to do so or if we merely resign ourselves fatalistically to a deteriorating relationship. There is another alternative. If, in prayer and hope, we recommit ourselves to what we have promised, those desires and wishes may be transformed and marriage will fulfill its task of healing.

    God is at work in history gathering a faithful community. In marriage we are given some taste of what such fidelity involves and requires. We are given an opportunity to be faithful to one person as God has been faithful to us all. This is the principle articulated in the passage which perhaps more than any other has shaped Christian thinking about marriage, Eph. 5:31-32: "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church...." This is the pattern of love which ought to permeate marriage. It is the only kind of love which can answer to our deepest needs. It must be a love which is willing to go as far as Christ did in His commitment to His people, a love which so commits itself to the good of the beloved that nothing short of death can break the bond of its commitment.

    It remains true, of course, that ours is a world distorted by sin. 'Marriages are broken daily, and our personal relationships are often characterized by something less than a Christlike fidelity. In response to this the church in its public teaching must hold up and bear witness to the need for fidelity in marriage. Yet the church must face the fact that divorce has become a prevalent practice in our society. According to the Scriptures, fornication is the only ground for divorce (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). [30] The act of fornication by a partner in marriage breaks the unity of the marriage. In this situation the individual offended may have the right to secure a divorce. However, this does not mean that he or she must or should exercise this right. In some cases forgiveness can save the marriage.

      The divorce of Christian pastors must be taken with utmost seriousness. It is difficult to see how the church can maintain the integrity of its witness -- especially in an age where divorce is prevalent -- if it permits pastors who have divorced their wives for less than Biblical reasons to continue in the office of the public ministry. Generally a pastor who has been divorced except in cases of unchastity or desertion on the part of his wife ought not to remain in office nor be reinstated in the office of pastor. However it is possible that under very exceptional circumstances a former pastor may by the grace of God come to the point of being in a position to be reconsidered as a person qualified to be entrusted once more with the powers of the pastoral office. [31]

    It is equally true that in the application of this teaching to individual cases pastors may confront marriages which cannot be preserved, even after long and serious attempts to do so. The conflict between the Creator's primal ordinance and the brokenness of human life in a world characterized by our "hardness of heart" will continue until the end of the age. In such circumstances the pastor is called on to deal with the brokenness of human life in a sinful world while at the same time seeking ways to affirm the Creator's will for marriage. These can only be occasions for sorrow, repentance, and reaffirmation of God's never-failing commitment to us.

    A person who has obtained a divorce for unscriptural reasons may under certain circumstances, with repentance as the primary prerequisite, remarry. The absence of hope for a reconciliation is also a consideration, and there may be other pastoral concerns as well.

      Those who are seeking a divorce for a reason other than that allowed by the Scriptures need to be warned against the danger of "planned repentance." Since genuine sorrow over one's sin against God and faith in the forgiveness of Christ belong to the essence of repentance, it goes without saying that to proceed premeditatively in doing that which one knows to be contrary to God's will, with the intention of becoming contrite later, makes it impossible for faith and the Holy Spirit to remain in the heart (2 Sam. 11; 1 John 1:8; 3:9; 5:18). To proceed in securing a divorce with the full knowledge that such an action is contrary to God's will with the intention of becoming repentant at some point in the future is, therefore, to enter into great spiritual peril. [32]

Divorce and Remarriage

[28] With respect to abortion, the official position of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is that "since abortion takes a human life, abortion is not a moral option, except as a tragically unavoidable byproduct of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of another human being, viz., the mother . . ." (1979 Resolution 3-02A, "To State Position on Abortion"). This issue is not treated in this study, since the CTCR and its Social Concerns Committee are in the process of preparing a new report on abortion. When completed, it will be made available to the members of the Synod for study and guidance.

[29] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1960), p. 82

[30] Traditionally theologians in our Synod have noted that. while there is only one Scriptural ground for divorce, viz.. fornication, there are eases in which Christians may suffer "malicious desertion. "Dr. John H. C. Fritz, in his Pastoral Theology, states on the basis of 1 Cor. 7:15 that malicious desertion occurs when a spouse deserts the other party "with the manifest intention of not returning to the abandoned spouse, and will not by any means be persuaded to return." Such desertion, rather than a cause for divorce Fritz says, "is in itself divorce" and constitutes the dissolution of the marriage (p. 181). In a forthcoming report on "Divorce and Remarriage" the Commission will give this matter more detailed attention as it seeks to offer guidance to pastors and congregations as they deal with problems such as this in their ministry of pastoral care.

[31] Cf. the article by Martin H. Scharlemann, "The Pastoral Office and Divorce, Remarriage, Moral Deviation," Concordia Journal 6 (July 1980): 141-150.

[32] In his discussion of penitence in the Smalcald Articles Luther writes: "It is therefore necessary to know and to teach that when holy people, aside from the fact that they still possess and feel original sin and daily repentance strive against it, fall in to open sin (as David fell into adultery, murder, and blasphemy), faith and the Spirit have departed from them. This is so because the Holy Spirit does not permit sin to rule and gain the upper hand in such a way that sin is committed, but the Holy Spirit represses and restrains it so that it does not do what it wishes. If sin does what it wishes, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present, for St. John says, 'No one born of God commits sin; he cannot sin.' Yet it is also true, as the same St. John writes, 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. and the truth is not in us"' (Smalcald Articles III. iii. 43-45).


    B. Headship Within Marriage

    The principle which determines how husbands and wives are to conduct themselves toward each other within the order of marriage is that of mutual service (Eph. 5:21). Their attitude toward each other's assigned role is to be shaped by their recollection of the self-giving love of Christ for the church (Eph. 5:2). "For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). As the church's Head devoted Himself totally to the needs of His church, so the husband is to devote himself to the needs of his wife. And as the church yields itself completely to the love, care, and direction of the Lord, so the wife is to yield herself to her husband.

    The apostle's exhortation that husbands and wives "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5:21) must not be interpreted to mean that there ceases to be hierarchy within marriage. The call to mutual service presupposes that an ordered relationship between husband and wife exists. Under the principle of mutual service, however, hierarchy within marriage is viewed not as a political relationship of the ruler over the ruled but as an arrangement whereby the welfare of the other may be served.

    The Christian husband will therefore understand that the position of headship has been entrusted to him for the exercise of sacrificial love toward his wife. Mindful of Christ's willingness to suffer death for His beloved, the church, the husband will seek to bind his wife to himself by love and gentleness. The Christian wife will understand that, in requiring that she be subject to her husband, God has put her in a position of supporting her husband in his responsibility to care for those who belong to his household. Such a relationship, which cannot be equated simply with obedience, carries with it the honor of accepting a role which the Son of God Himself assumed before His Father (1 Cor. 15:28). [33]

    Where mutual service of the kind we find in the life and work of Christ prevails within the hierarchy of marriage, permanence of the marriage bond is assured.

      To understand something of the sense in which hierarchy in marriage is to be recommended we should distinguish two sorts of hierarchies: of function and of merit. [34] Hierarchies of function occur when those who are different are nevertheless united in an organic unity which is more than a contractual association. Thus, for example, we might consider the relation of parent and child. The parent's legitimate authority over the child is not based simply on the fact that the parent knows more and has more experience than the child. If these were the only considerations, we could equally well assign children to other adults (or to some kind of state-run organization) for their rearing. But the family is a fellowship, a community. And the members of such an organic unity have different roles to play in the life of the whole (Eph. 6:1-4;1 Peter 3:1-7). (We may think of Paul's reference to the church as Christ's body having many members.) Hence, in a hierarchy of function a kind of inequality of authority exists. Yet, we would scarcely conclude from this that one member of the union (the parent) was of greater value or "worth more ... than an other (the child). In referring to this hierarchy of function we are saying nothing more than that in their common life together some must lead and others follow if the character of the union is to be maintained and their common life sustained.

      A different example may make clear what a hierarchy of merit would involve. If we grant that within the classroom teachers have a legitimate authority, this is no doubt because of the knowledge the teachers have acquired and are able to impart. If, however, after class a teacher with no mechanical ability should walk into the parking lot and find that his car will not start, any one of his students with mechanical aptitude immediately becomes his superior in a new role relationship. Hierarchy here depends precisely on some superiority.

      We may note important differences between hierarchies of the two sorts. Hierarchies of function are stable. The roles of super and subordination do not change. In hierarchies of merit, however, the roles are constantly changing. Hierarchies of merit are fluid and in a constant state of change precisely because no one merits superordination in all aspects of life. We can even say that a sort of equality is built into hierarchies of merit in the sense that they involve a constant set of changes. At any given moment not equality but super-and subordination pertain. However, these roles are constantly shifting, and no one is always in authority. Consequently, distinctions which rest upon merit never make one person head of another per se. They do so only with respect to certain activities.

      It will never be difficult for people to deny the existence of hierarchies of function, for it will always be a little mysterious that they should exist at all. It is difficult to give reasons of the normal sort to justify their existence. We are accustomed to accept as reasons explanations why-on the basis of some superior attribute or ability-one person merits headship. Yet just these sorts of reasons are ruled out in discussing hierarchies of function.

      The Christian claim that a hierarchy of function-with wife subordinate to husband-is appropriate in marriage proceeds from the Christian view of male and female. Husband and wife are not interchangeable members of a contractual association. They are members of a body, a union. Their personhood is protected not by stressing that both are persons but by emphasizing the difference which is fundamental to the fellowship in which they come to know themselves as man and woman, in which, that is, they realize their identity. Such a union in love cannot come to fruition unless the different roles of husband and wife are recognized. Without a willingness to complement each other in this way, a power struggle must ensue whenever disputed matters arise. Without, that is, a recognition by both husband and wife of legitimate authority within their union, the permanence of that union is endangered. The insight of Ephesians 5 goes deepest after all: Permanence and hierarchy imply each other.

      A few qualifications are still in order. It will be helpful to note that several standard objections to hierarchy within marriage fail to touch the position outlined above. It will always be inappropriate to ask for some special reason why the man ought to exercise headship over the woman, other than the reason that God ordained the hierarchy which exists in marriage. Any other such reason would almost certainly imply some superior ability or merit on the part of the husband, but that is not the sort of hierarchy involved. Similarly, advocates of the subordination of wives who try to point to some traits in justification of the husband's headship also miss the point. And finally, it is improper to object that the wife is considered on this account to be of less worth than the husband. Considerations of merit and value are specifically excluded in hierarchies of function Instead, they proceed solely from the requirements of an organic union in love committed to permanence. Such a union is not dominated by considerations of either authority or merit but rather by mutual service of the kind we find in the ministry of Jesus Christ in our behalf.

    The connection between permanence and hierarchy has been looked at in this section largely from the side of the wife. That is, if the permanence of the union is to be certain, she must be willing to recognize the superordinate role of the husband. However, as we have begun to set forth in this section, the implications for the husband's understanding of his role are not less important. In cases of disagreement, how shall he exercise headship? Must he "wield authority as a domestic tyrant"? [35] If he is really committed to mutual service and the permanence of this union, his first question ought certainly to be, what are her desires, her wishes, her needs? The distortion which sin brings to human relationships all too often enters in here as well, for this is certainly not the first question husbands always ask themselves. Because the authority which has been entrusted to them can be misused, it is not out of place in Christian teaching to stress that love will seek to treat the other as partner. This should not be misunderstood to mean that marriage is, therefore, a mere contractual association. Rather it is a necessary emphasis in the face of misuse of the concept of hierarchy. Our marriages are lived out in a fallen creation, a fact which must enter into our understanding of what is possible and desirable in marriage.

Headship Within Marriage

[33] In the New Testament the term hypotasso ("to be subject") is not a condescending term. Luke chooses hypotasso to describe Jesus' loving subordination of Himself to His parents (Luke 2:51). In this verse the word carries with it a twofold nuance. On the one hand, it presupposes that a hierarchy of relationships exists within the created order (e.g., Col. 3:18-4:1). The term also denotes a readiness to surrender one's own will in service to others.

[34] It should be noted that this discussion deals only with subordination of wives to husbands, not of women to men in general. It is far less clear, in fact, whether the Bible anywhere really enjoins the latter. The distinction between the two kinds of hierarchy is taken from Charles Williams, "A Dialogue on Hierarchy," The Image of the City and Other Essays. ed. Anne Ridler (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 127 f.

[35] Francis W. Beare, "Ephesians," in Interpreter's Bible, vol. 10 (New York: Abingdon, 1953). p. 718.


    C. Homosexuality

    Homosexuality comes under a categorical prohibition in the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22, 24; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). Paul writes in Romans 1 of the "dishonorable passions" to which God gives up those who worship the creature rather than the Creator and says: "Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men . . ." (Rom. 1:26-27). In a discussion of homosexuality one might stop here with the fact of the condemnation uttered in such passages. If we consider homosexuality in the light of the total Biblical context regarding the purpose of marriage and the man-woman duality discussed above, however, we may come to a clearer understanding of why Christian thought has condemned and should continue to condemn homosexual lusts and acts.

    The creation of human beings for covenant community finds its original expression in the fellowship of male and female. This fellowship, as we have stressed above, requires a commitment to the integrity of our sexual identity. The fellowship of male and female implies a recognition that we are male and female and that we should not strive to transcend that distinction. The ultimate fellowship for which God is preparing us, of which the man-woman polarity is an intimation, is not a merging of those who are alike into an undifferentiated oneness. It is a harmonious fellowship of those who, though different, are united in love. From this viewpoint we may say that the homosexual relationship approaches too closely the forbidden love of self and minimizes the distinction between lover and beloved. The male-female duality as the created pattern of human fellowship requires of us fidelity to our sexual identity, a willingness to be male or female.

    Second, and very obviously, a homosexual relationship is nonprocreative, and it is so not merely by choice or accident but because the nature of the relationship itself could under no circumstances be procreative. Some, of course, may regard this as mere biological fact, irrelevant when the possibility of deep affection and love in a homosexual relation is considered. Nevertheless, the Scriptures do not place love in such "splendid isolation." "Mere" biology becomes very important when Christian teaching about human nature takes seriously the fact that we have no personhood except one that is incarnate. Furthermore, when we point to the fact that the homosexual relationship is nonprocreative, we do so against the background of the significance we found in suggesting that the one-flesh union of a man and woman is ordinarily expected to be fruitful.

    Hence, we can say on Christian premises that mutual consent or even genuine affection is not enough to justify a homosexual relationship. The human being is, according to the Scriptures, more than mere freedom to define what he or she will be. There are acts or relationships to which we cannot consent without stepping beyond the limitations our Creator has set for His creatures (Rom. 1:26 ff.). Sexuality provides an excellent example of this truth. Mutual consent alone between partners does not, on the Christian understanding, make heterosexual intercourse permissible. (See Section II above on marriage and its purposes.) Similarly, mutual consent alone, even when joined with affection, cannot justify a homosexual union. An unwillingness to make such affirmations is part of a "flight from creation" which besets the contemporary world and contemporary Christendom. It ought to be resisted in the name of the Redeemer who is also our Creator.

    In discussing the sins which follow upon man's refusal to honor God as Creator of all things (Rom. 1:26-32), the apostle Paul singles out the sins of homosexual behavior for special comment. Such behavior comes under God's judgment not because it is any more heinous than the 21 vices listed in 1:29-31, but because it, too, illustrates man's rebellion against his Creator. Like these sins, homosexual behavior is illustrative of how rebellious man turns in upon himself and makes "an agony of the common life that should in God's intent have been a blessing to mankind." [36]

    The apostle's condemnation, however, is not meant to deprive those guilty of these sins the help which God would extend to them. While not minimizing the threat of God's wrath against all forms of enslavement to sin, the church needs to recognize in its efforts to help the homosexual that all people are born in need of deliverance from the effects which sin has imposed on their lives. With this in mind it is important to realize that there are those persons who, apart from any deliberate choice on their part, have a predisposition toward homosexuality and have no desire to enter into a relationship with a person of the opposite sex. [37] In order to offer such persons the compassionate help they need, the church, having condemned all homosexual acts engaged in by such persons or by those of a heterosexual orientation, must stand ready to offer its assistance to those who seek to overcome the temptations which beset them and who desire to remain chaste before God despite their homosexual orientation.

      It must be said that a predisposition toward homosexuality is the result of the disordering, corrupting effect of the fall into sin, just as also the predisposition toward any sin is symptomatic of original sin. [38] Furthermore, whatever the causes of such a condition may be-- e.g., environmental or genetic-homosexual orientation is profoundly "unnatural" without implying that such a person's sexual orientation is a matter of conscious, deliberate choice. However, this fact cannot be used by the homosexual as an excuse to justify homosexual behavior. As a sinful human being the homosexual is held accountable to God for homosexual thoughts, words, and deeds. Such a person should be counseled to heed the church's call to repentance, trust in God's promise of deliverance (Ps. 50:15), and order his/her life in accord with the Creator's intent.

    We should stress that the judgment made here is moral and theological, not legal. The question whether homosexual acts between consenting adults should be legally prohibited is one about which Christian citizens may disagree. Not all matters of morality are fit subjects for legislation. Although law does play an educative role and must, therefore, shape moral convictions, questions of morality are especially fit subjects for legal codification when they impinge on the common good. Whether homosexual acts privately engaged in damage the common good in such a way that public concern and control are needed is difficult to judge. Even if one felt that such relationships were not a fit subject for legislation, however, the law would still have a legitimate interest in protecting children from homosexual influence in the years when their sexual identity is formed. At any rate, the judgment of informed Christians may well differ as to precisely where the legal lines ought more properly be drawn.

    We cannot conclude without noting that the discussion above suggests that Christian counsel for the homosexual is that he seek to control his sexual orientation at least in the sense that he abstain from homosexual acts. We should not overlook the burden of loneliness which this places upon the homosexual. If the discerning eye of God created woman as the answer to man's loneliness, the homosexual who abstains from the sexual relationship to which he is inclined must feel that there is no "other" to answer to his loneliness. He must be helped to bear that burden, not merely exhorted to struggle nobly against his inclinations. It is right to remember, of course, that Christian counsel to heterosexuals will also often involve asking them to restrain their impulses and refrain from acts to which they are inclined. Finally, we should note again that, while marriage can be said to be the center of the male-female polarity, it is only a created reality. As we stressed above, marriage has limits, and entrance into a marital union is not a necessity. The person of homosexual orientation must be constantly made aware that fellowship in the church and a share in the hope of the heavenly kingdom is also offered to him/her through faith in Christ, whose death has atoned for all sins.


[36] Martin H. Franzmann, Romans (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968), p. 43.

[37] It is not uncommon today to distinguish between the pervert-for whom heterosexuality is natural but who nevertheless engages in homosexual acts-and the invert-who, as far as he knows, has never experienced heterosexual attraction and for whom a homosexual orientation seems perfectly natural.

[38] For a discussion of the distinction between "propensity" and "behavior" as these terms apply to the question of homosexuality the reader may wish to consult the Lutheran Church in Australia's 1975 "Statement on Homosexuality," pages 1-2. This report was distributed to the Synod by the CTCR in April 1975 as "a worthy contribution to the discussion" of this sensitive issue of human sexuality.


    D. Artificial Methods of Reproduction

    The words we use reveal more than we suppose about the images which actually shape our thinking. There is wisdom and insight in the reflection of Leon Kass, a contemporary Jewish thinker, about some of the words we use:

      Consider the views of life and the world reflected in the following different expressions to describe the process of generating new life. The Hebrews, impressed with the phenomenon of transmission of life from father to son, used a word we translate "begetting" or "siring." The Greeks, impressed with the springing forth of new life in the cyclical processes of generation and decay, called it genesis, from a root meaning "to come into being." (It was the Greek translators who gave this name to the first book of the Hebrew Bible.) The pre-modern, Christian, English-speaking world, impressed with the world as given by a Creator, used the term procreation. We, impressed with the machine and the gross national product (our own work of creation), employ a metaphor of the factory, re-production. [39]

    This is not the place to provide a detailed discussion of the various methods of reproduction which scientists have developed or are developing. The basic premise which emerges from our discussion of sexuality and marriage within a Christian perspective is the joining of mutual love and procreation within the covenant of marriage. Even when we contemplated above the possibility that a husband and wife might-upon serious reflection-have reason to limit the size of their families, we never granted that their procreative capacities might then be used to give birth to children outside of and apart from their one-flesh union.

    The joining of mutual love with procreation is an essential element in the mystery of our created humanity.

      One can in fact speak here of a mystery without exposing oneself to the charge of tending toward irrational fuzziness; for what is meant by mystery here can be very precisely defined. It is the mysterious, rationally unexplainable bond between the personal act of human communication-which, according to its purpose, is live-and the biological creation of a new life, which constitutes the pledge of this bond. [40]

    To make procreation a technical operation (mere reproduction) and to remove it from the context of mutual love is to deprive individuals of their role as persons in God's creative activities. We spoke above of the fact that the child enters the world as a manifestation that such mutual love between a man and a woman is fruitful and creative. That is because the relation of husband and wife here images the deeper mystery of God's own creative power. We cannot penetrate the mystery of how God an His love created the world. Yet we can affirm that all things were made through Jesus Christ (who was with the Father in the beginning), that nothing was made without Him, and that God's own creative act is therefore an act of the One who to Himself is love (1 John 4:8, 16). "We procreate new beings like ourselves in the midst of our love for one another, and in this there is a trace of the original mystery by which God created the world because of His love." [41] To sever our acts of procreation from the personal context of mutual love would be to deface the image of God's creativity in our own.

    It is in this light that Christians will evaluate various proposed methods of artificial reproduction. [42] In artificial insemination, for example, it is possible that the donor of the semen may himself be the husband of the woman and that for physical or psychological reasons they are unable to fertilize the woman's ovum in the ordinary way. Here artificial insemination is offered as an aid to procreation within marriage. It is intended not to separate procreation from the context of the loving union of husband and wife. Instead, it is a way of bringing their love to the fruition toward which it is naturally ordered. Even here, however, a word of caution is in order. Artificial insemination may be a way of avoiding underlying psychological problems within a marriage rather than treating them. It may also be a step-even if a justifiable one-toward an attempt to transform the mystery of human procreation in love into a matter of reproductive technology.

      We can see this when we note that the procedure does not really accomplish what medicine seeks to do; it does not cure the underlying defect. The physician is, one might say, treating not the defect but the desire of the parents to have a baby. Suppose, however, their desires go further-suppose, for example, they desire a male baby. Is that an end which medicine ought to pursue? We think not. To turn in that direction would be a definite step away from procreation and toward reproduction.

    Although the Scriptures do not deal directly with the subject of artificial insemination by a donor other than the husband (AID), it is our opinion that such a practice must be evaluated negatively. Whatever the reasons offered in support of AID, whether eugenic or simply concern that an infertile couple be enabled to have a child, the process of fertilization is removed from the personal context of the one-flesh union of husband and wife in a way that not even their consent can allow.

    In a world which has become increasingly technical and depersonalized, the Christian church is called to bear witness to the human significance of the bond between male and female, to the purposes which God as Creator and Preserver has implanted in marriage, and to the ways in which such an understanding should shape our lives. To hold up before people once again the human, personal significance of our fundamental fleshly relationship, to explore the mysterious image of God's love in the one flesh union of husband and wife, and to recognize in wonder and humility the limitations which our creaturely condition places upon us-all this is part of fidelity to that God who has redeemed us, not that we may flee from His creation but that we may cherish it and find in it intimations of His love.

Artificial Methods of Reproduction

[39] Leon Kass, "Making Babies: The New Biology and the `Old' Morality," The Public Interest 26 (Winter 1972): p. 23. Kass' entire article provides a good discussion of artificial methods of reproduction. An excellent discussion by a Christian moralist is Paul Ramsey's Fabricated Man: The Ethics of Genetic Control (New Haven: Yale Press, 1970)

[40] Thielicke, p. 252.

[41] Ramsey, Fabricated Man, p. 38.

[42] A section on in vitro fertilization has not been included in this report, since the Social Concerns Committee of the CTCR will give attention to this matter in its study of biomedical ethics (cf. 1975 Res. 3-26, "To Provide Assistance Regarding Bioethics").


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