"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Friday, January 30, 2009

Birth Control

There are not many issues which stir as much controversy as birth control among devout Christians. The Catholic Church has taught against it forever, and its teachings were fleshed out in the relatively recent encyclical Humanae Vitae. Increasingly, evangelicals of other denominations have begun to see the merit of not practicing birth control.

For my own part, I have not made up my mind 100%. Certainly, scriptural teaching leaves the issue somewhat open. There is no direct condemnation of family planning. However, there is a philosophical argument based off the Bible for opposing birth control.

The question we need to ask is why was marriage instituted in the first place.

"So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them; And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it." (Gen. 1:27-28)

God created man and woman to be in union for the primary purpose of pro-creation. For Anglican Christians, you are reminded of this at every wedding. "Marriage is not to be entered into...lightly...but...duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained. First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name." (BCP) Of course, sex has other purposes, but this is its primary one. So should couples ever divorce sex and reproduction? It is hard to draw a definitive yes from this passage, but I do believe it is a question that should weigh heavily on the thoughts of Christian people.

Secondly, until recently, homosexuality was universally considered sinful by the Christian Church. Vast majorities of the church still oppose it and rightfully so. The Scriptures teaching from the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the three cities of the plane to St. Paul's teaching in his letter to the Romans, and the strict forbidding of same sex relations in Leviticus See: Lev. 18:22 and 20:13) is that it is sin for a man to sleep with a man or a woman with a woman.

I wish to pose the question of "why". Now, as Christians, we are obligated to follow the commandments God gives us and don't really have the authority to demand a why. Yet, if we examine the ten commandments, we see a reason behind each one. We are not allowed to murder, because it is the taking of another life created in the image of God. We are not allowed to have gods before Jehovah because he demands our full attention. So what is the "why" behind forbidding homosexuality? I wonder if the reason behind it isn't because it is sex divorced from procreation.

If this is our premise, the sin of Onan recorded in Genesis 37 does not have to be understood as any particular sin, but as falling under the general category of separating sex and sexual pleasure from reproduction.

Any thoughts?

Update: I posted this blog almost a year ago. Since that time I have become convinced that birth control is a grave moral problem. Sex is intended to be the complete giving of two people two each other, with life being the fruit. Christ gave himself for his bride to give her life. The love of Christ for his Church, and her love for him begets life. Shouldn't then the primary image and reflection of Jesus' love, marriage and sex, also beget life? Isn't contraception then akin to going to Church but never learning about the eternal life offered to us in Christ?

Monday, January 19, 2009

On Being Good

He died that we might be forgiv'n,
He died to make us good. -Cecil Alexander.

Mrs. Alexander, an Irish woman living in the latter half of the 19th century, wrote these beautiful words in her hymn "There is a Green Hill Far Away".

I've often thought she hit on a thought that is missed by many Christians today. For those more familiar with theological terminology, you understand imputed righteousness to refer to Christ's righteousness being given to the believer so that essentially, when God the Father looks at the Christian he sees his perfect Son. Thus, even though we are not perfect we are in Christ and our standing before God could be summed up as "not guilty".

Unfortunately that is where many Christians, particularly Protestants, stop. In the beginning, when God created the world, he called everything intrinsically good. He called humans very good. The corruption of sin in the wake of the Fall ended this. Things were no longer intrinsically good, not humans, not the natural world. The Garden of Eden was no longer perfect. It was no longer Good.

However, the book of the Revelation ends in a Garden of sorts. In the 22nd chapter we see the restoration of all things. After describing the tree of life as symbolizing the healing of the nations, St. John writes "And there shall be no more curse." That is to say, as we approach the eschaton things are progressing to perfection. They are becoming more and more Good. What changed?

St. Paul writes in reference to the Crucifixion and Resurrection "we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Rom. 8:22) The "until now" is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Because of what he did, not only does he clothe us in his righteousness, but he provides the grace for us and the world to truly become Good. The goodness of creation was a reality and will be again. For mankind, goodness was a reality and CAN be again.

It is our task in this life to believe in Jesus which is the beginning of conversion. This places us without question within the boundaries of God's mercy. But we are then called to be perfect, to be holy, to be good. The Lord in his mercy gives us graces through the Church to be obedient to his will and commandment, that we might progress in sanctification through co-operation with his redeeming grace.

We cannot save ourselves, but if we claim Jesus as Lord, we must treat him as Lord. Which means we become obedient servants who are truly becoming Good and are not just declared Good by God.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Playoffs: Week 2

The wild card round is in the books and there were two “upsets” last weekend. (Of course, if you were reading here like a good sports fan, you would know that there was really only one upset.) However, I was shocked and stunned that the Falcons folded under the pressure like a deck of cards. But, it is one of the perils of a rookie QB.

This week’s match-ups obviously favor from the outset the teams who are not only at home but have had a week to rest up from injury. Without further ado, the NFC picks.

At the risk of having egg on my face for the second straight week, I am predicting the collapse of the Arizona Cardinals. I do not believe that Edgerrin James has another game in him like the one he had against Atlanta. However, the Panthers’ run defense was 18th in the league, so they will have to step up their game a bit. The 9th best pass defense will overwhelm Kurt Warner and his wide receivers and the panthers 3rd best rushing offense will take advantage of the porous Cardinal defensive line. Bottom line: Panthers by 7.

The Giants and Eagles will meet for the third time this season in a rubber match. Both teams won on the road, but can that happen in the playoffs? They say that defense wins in the playoffs, and on paper the eagles are better than the G-men. This game features two proven quarterbacks, although Eli Manning has been able to advance farther than Donovan McNabb. This game will likely come down to how successful the eagles are at running the ball. The giants run defense was not great this season and allowed 131 yards to Westbrook in their home loss on Pearl Harbor Day. A hail Mary pass on the vigil of the Immaculate conception was not enough that day and it won’t be enough for the Buressless giants in this game either. In a shocker, the Eagles by 1.

Over in the AFC the Steelers will take on the resurgent Chargers, who will likely be without LT for the entirety of the game. Sproles as his backup was more than adequate against the Colts. But that was the Colts. This is the mighty Steelers. If SD running game is thwarted and they have to rely on Phillip Rivers, Heinz field will be rocking this weekend. However, the nice thing for the Chargers is that Pittsburg comes into this came with the 8th worse offense in the league and a banged up Big Ben. Likely, even if the Steelers are dominating the charger offense, the offense will be able to stick with the running game because the Steelers won’t be able to run up the score. But the Steelers will in the end be too much for the Chargers. Steelers by 4-probably something like 13-9.

Finally, we come to the much-anticipated Titans and Ravens game. This has all the makings of a beauty. The home team with a veteran QB against one of the nation’s best defenses. The Titans looked vulnerable on a number of occasions this season. Look for the Ravens to exploit any of those vulnerabilities. However, you cannot underrate the Titan defense. 9th against the pass and 6th against the run, Joe Flacco will need to be very good and probably mistake free to keep the Ravens in this game. I do not believe the Ravens can win this game on defense alone. Home field advantage is big in the playoffs but the ravens have run off a string of upsets in the Music City and you will see another one on Saturday. Ravens by 3.

So we have the Panthers, Eagles, Steelers, and Ravens. We were 3-1 last week. Let’s see what the weekend brings.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Epiphany

Today, January 6th, is the day the Church remembers the visit of the magi to see the Christ Child in Bethlehem. You all remember the story quite well. Wisemen from the East brought to Christ gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. The account, recorded in the second chapter of Matthew's gospel, teaches us as the popular hymn states it, that Jesus was "King, God, and Sacrifice."

Now I have never heard in a sermon exactly what I am about to argue, but I think it has merit. The bringing of gold, intended clearly for a king, is an acknowledgment that the Kingdom of God has come. It is an indication that the prophecies of the Old Testament (Hag. 2:7, Is. 2:2, and many others) will and have come true. That a king is coming because God promised that there would not fail to be a Son of David on the throne of Israel. But now the "See of Israel", if you will, is being extended and under the new name of the "Church" or in this case "the Kingdom of God." John the Baptist, whom we rightly honor, is often credited with the first proclamation that the Kingdom of God is at hand. But I wonder if we gyp the gentile wisemen in so saying. For it is they who first declared that the King of the world had been born by the presentation of gold.

Of course, their other gifts, Frankincense and Myrrh, have their own significance. Frankincense indicates Christ's deity. Therefore we have the requisite nature for an offering on behalf of mankind-Very God and Very Man joined together but not confused. The Myrhh foreshadows the sacrificial death of Jesus. Thus we have two gifts which indicate the means whereby man in faith enters into the Kingdom proclaimed by the third gift.

As Gentile Christians, Epiphany should really be every bit as important to us as Christmas itself. It is on this day that the Kingdom was to be permanently extended beyond the ethnic, geographical, and racial boundaries of Israel-that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Friday, January 2, 2009


*Cue the Jim Mora tape*
Everybody laugh because it is still hysterical a decade later.

It is that time of year when the twelve best NFL teams (or in this case, the 10 best plus the better than average Chargers and the mediocre Cardinals.)

The first round of the playoffs will feature four games, three of which will be quite competitive.

Beginning in the AFC, it is hard to imagine that the Baltimore Ravens at 11-5 are the #6 seed. But they will open on the road against the Miami Dolphins, a team they beat soundly early on 27-13. Since that time, the Raven defense has improved and Joe Flacco has matured. The dolphins have certainly gotten better over the same time period. But unless Chad Pennington is perfect and can pick apart the Ravens in the short passing game, this could be a long afternoon for the home team.

Then you have the Chargers and Colts going at it. On the face, an 8-8 team going against an 11-5 team, especially when the latter beat the former at home just five weeks ago, seems like an easy prediction. But not so fast. After starting 3-4 the colts ran off 9 straight wins. Of those 9, only three were decent wins. They managed to beat the Chargers, Steelers, and Patriots by a combined total of 10 points. Impressive, but hardly insurmountable totals. In the last five weeks, the colts have sharpened their playoff skills by playing bottom-dwellers such as the Browns, Bengals, Jaguars, Lions, and a Titan team resting its starters. Bottom line, both of these teams come in streaking, but the chargers have been fighting for their playoff lives for four weeks. The Colts have been on cruise control. This game is in San Diego. The chargers offensive line is back. I am going to boldy assert a Chargers "upset" by 3 of the colts.

Philadelphia and Minnesota will be an interesting game. The eagles defense has been great of late. However, their greatest strength seems to be in players like Brian Dawkins, who will not be primarily responsible for stopping Adrian Peterson. However, Jim Johnson's various blitz schemes will likely prove too much for the young Tevaris Jackson and Donovan McNabb's leadership and resurgent offense should prove too much for the Vikings. I take the Eagles by 6.

Finally, there is the formality of the Cardinals and Falcons. I think I'm a bit too kind to say what needs to be said about the Cardinals, but frankly I would be shocked if they beat the Falcons, who are clicking on every cylinder. Arizona, according to a team press release, has not even managed to sell out the game as of yet. What does it say when your fans don't support you? This team barely managed to get over the .500 mark. They limped down the stretch. Their season is the mirror opposite of the Falcons. Falcons by 10 in this game.