Thursday, March 15, 2018

Marriage and Contraception

Thoughtful article here.

I like what it says about marriage as a distinctive relationship between man and woman.

I am not convinced that it makes an adequate case against artificial contraception since the purposes of artificial contraception can be the same as the purposes of natural contraception (e.g. spacing of children for the sake of the wife and mother's well-being). That is, I am not convinced it makes the case that there is intrinsic virtue in sexual intercourse timed to express unitive love without fertility and by contrast some kind of intrinsic vice in sexual intercourse expressing unitive love without possibility of fertility.

Your thoughts are welcome here.

If your first thought is to expound either the virtue or vice of same-sex blessing or marriage, create your own blog! If some reasonable, care-full consideration of the same arises in the course of a thread of comments, I will consider publishing your comment. But I do not guarantee that. I will guarantee that I will not myself comment on such comments, so do not address them to me. It ought to be possible for Christians to discuss marriage between a man and a woman and the kind of contraception they may or may not choose to use without invoking That Topic.

30 comments:

Andrei said...

I think the point is that every act of sexual intercourse must be open to possibility conception if God so wills it.

You could argue that this is not the case in the case of post menopausal women but the Bible records two cases at least of presumably post meopausal women conceiving Sarah conceiving Issac in old age and Elizabeth conceiving John the Baptist likewise

Some Orthodox Bishops suggest contraception is wrong in all cases while others invoking ekonomia say that if you already have a large family that it is a struggle to support after prayful consideration contraception may be used as a last resort

As with anything it comes down to conscience but what is abundantly clear is that "the pill" has had disasterous effects on our culture

Father Ron Smith said...

As with all conversation about contraception - so important for those who militate against it - surely the real moral question is: Is it allowed, or even provided for by God? The problem, when we ask this question, is whether - or not - sexual activity of any kind is always to be engaged in for its basic purpose of procreation, or does God's gft of sexuality have another, separate, purpose as an expression of the love of one person for another?

Even in the O.T. there appears to be implicit eroticism in the Song of Solomon. In that context it would seem that erotic love is part and parcel of God's gift to humanity. This also applies to the rest of the animal world in creation. This also gives rise to the understanding that 'in every act of loving there is something of God.

Another question that must be asked is: if sexual activity is only to be undertaken with procreation in mind; is sexual abstinence the only option for anyone not intent on specifically engaging in sexual activity for the purpose of begetting progeny?

If this, indeed, were God's intention, would it not have been simpler for God to arrange for every cohabitional act to end in pregnancy?

Jesus did speak of 3 different types of eunuch - one of whom was dedicated to the celibate lifestyle 'for the sake of the Kingdom'. However it does seem that - at least in Anglican circles - not many of our clergy are willing to go that far - excepting those in religious orders who undertake voluntary celibacy.

Liturgy said...

I am interested, Peter, in your consequentialist approach to ethics – with the end justifying the means.
Blessings
Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I had not thought I was entering such (presumably) dangerous ethical territory. I always worry when you are "interested" in what I write! :)
On close inspection of what I wrote I think I have only said that I do not find an argument convincing which I think means I am open to another argument being convincing; and that includes the possibility that my reason for not being convinced is itself open to challenge.

Simply on the matter of natural contraception as taught by Roman Catholics, is there in your view something consequentialist about that? That is, that the means (analysing and recording cycles to use scientific information about periods of fertility and infertility) towards controlling fertility is justified by one or more ends (that nature is not artificially interfered with; that Catholic teaching against artificial contraception is upheld; that a theoretical openness in each act of intercourse to procreation is maintained)?

Liturgy said...

To be clear, Peter, I am not in any way convinced by the logic of Paul VI – and remember, nor were 2/3 of the bishops or ¾ of the theologians who made up the Vatican commission about this.

My comment was in relation to how I was reading your post – you seem to present the consequence of both methods (artificial contraception and natural contraception) as both resulting in not conceiving, and from that you question how they differ ethically.

But, I can certainly conceive that we are talking past each other.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Ah! I see your point re consequentialism clearly now.
I think, consequently (!!), what I am saying is that if one takes a line that is consequentialist about contraception, that some form of organising one's sexual life as a couple is justified by its results, e.g. care of wife and mother through spacing of children, then I am not sure that it matters much what means are used.
There are other arguments for and against various methods of contraception which focus on the means and not the ends; and at least one argument, that the end of using the Pill might be some kind of harm to the wife and mother, involves the "end" denying the asserted virtue of the means.

Andrei said...

"As with all conversation about contraception - so important for those who militate against it - surely the real moral question is: Is it allowed, or even provided for by God? The problem, when we ask this question, is whether - or not - sexual activity of any kind is always to be engaged in for its basic purpose of procreation, or does God's gft of sexuality have another, separate, purpose as an expression of the love of one person for another?"

We know the answer to that Fr Ron - clearly God intends for sexual activity to serve as part of the bonding process between a man and a woman otherwise we would have been created in a manner that led to sexual activity always resulting in conception ansd for most species sexual activity only happens when conception will occur - in some species it is physically impossible for a non ovulating female to be sexually penetrated

But we are not that way

But God intended for us "to be fruitful and multiply" and the building of bonds between men and women, sex being only a small part of this, is about raising the fruit of that relationship

This aint rocket science Fr Ron - throughout human history children raised by both their parents have done better than those raised by only one. In fact survival often depended upon having two parents engaged in the process

Read about the early life of Temujin, who became Ghengis Khan, to understand the difficulties faced on the Steppe 800 years ago when a Father was lost on the Steppe 800 years ago...

He survived but he was one tough character with a tough mother who married a tough wife

Anonymous said...

With Genesis 1:28 in mind, the premise of Humanae Vitae is often stated thus--

(P-1) *Every act of sexual intercourse should be open to the possibility of conception*

An ethical proposition about an act is deontological, consequential, or virtuous.

If P-1 is deontological, then it must have been promulgated as law by God. Obj 1: There has been no such promulgation of P-1.

If P-1 is consequential, then it predicts that the best state of things will result from compliance with it. Obj 2: As a prediction, P-1 has no necessary relation to the divine will. Obj 3: It preempts sexual relations in a way evidently contrary to the desire authored by God in the creation.

If P-1 is virtuous, then it indicates how an agent so performs the act as to be more fully what s/he was created by God to be. P-1 indicates that a couple is most fully what God united them to be when their intercourse is open to conception. Although this is true, it too is liable to Obj 3.

(P-2) *Sexual intercourse is more virtuous as the couple are more open to conception as a divine gift.*

Response to Obj 1: An ethos of virtue does not require that every maxim be a promulgated law.

Response to Obj 2: The orientation of the act to divine giving subordinates it to the divine will.

Response to Obj 3: (a) A maxim of virtue stipulates what is necessary to the best performance of an act; it is not in itself a prohibition of all lesser performances. (b) Insofar as a couple accept God's gift of conception as the ordinary consequence of their intercourse, their sexual relations are not preempted.

Obj 4: Genesis 2:18 defines a unique companionship as another virtue of sexual intercourse.

Response to Obj 4: Companionship is an extrinsic virtue of sexual intercourse insofar as the companionship serves the intrinsic virtue of openness to conception as God's gift, and indeed that companionship is most virtuous which wills to bear and raise children with the other.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

That is all very well, Bowman, but the actuality of marriage through the ages is that married couples enjoy all kinds of sex (open to conception, closed to conception; hey, let's risk it), not least because they discover that the same bodies creating desire to form one flesh creates desire to form one flesh repeatedly, often without contemplative consideration as to whether this act of sex is more or less virtuous.

Moreover, the"companionship" angle, as you have framed it, does not account for the discovered-by-many-married-couples value of sex that it renews love for one another, thus strengthening the marriage bond, thus renewing the security of family life. That is, even when sexual intercourse is knowingly not open to procreation it likely is open to, indeed eager to enhance the parental life of the procreated.

Anonymous said...

Peter, we do not seem to disagree. But since what people think, feel, vote for, etc may be wrong, in mal foi, or simply uninteresting, I care more about claims for which we can offer at least an articulate rationale. If you can do even better than P-2, go ahead!

BW

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should identify the challenges behind and to Humanae Vitae.

Belief in "God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth" has seemed to entail both that believers attribute the *orders of creation*, such as sexual differentiation, to his will, and also that they should live in accord with them. If one cannot do both, then it is not easy to see how one believes the first article of the creeds, even if one does hypothetically believe in the existence of a god.

In somewhat Protestant language, Humanae Vitae defined that use of a birth control pill to control conception is not living in accord with the created order. This holding tacitly introduces a distinction between *creation* and *nature*-- recognition of the human being as a creature knows more than the technology of the human organism. This superiority arises from the contrast between seeing the teleology of divine origin organising efficient causes (creation) and not seeing it (nature). What Humanae Vitae argues in relation to reproduction has broad implications for the understanding of *reason* and could also be applied in relation to eg ecology and agriculture.

Speaking very broadly, Christian ethicists of the last century struggled to reconcile the Judaic supposition of created order with their own preoccupation with the consciousness and agency of human individuals. That is, where ethicists of earlier times had granted that individuals departing from the observed pattern of life were rejecting the order of the Creator and so sinning, many in the C20 did not. Anglicans, for example, grew uncomfortable with singing--

The rich man in his castle
The poor man at his gate
God made them high and lowly
And ordered their estate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Things_Bright_and_Beautiful

--but earlier churchmen had felt no compunction about seeing social class as one of the created orders.

Ethicists of the last century especially struggled to reconcile the personal consciousness of erotic love with the impersonality of sexual reproduction. This tension, which is still unresolved, seems to be a proxy for a wider one between a high value placed on the person's independence of impersonal forces and the sense that their impersonality reveals God to be their author.

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

P-1 and P-2-- Humanae Vitae and one more Anglican approach-- differ in the sort of reconciliation that they envisage between personal will and impersonal force. This is because P-1 identifies the Creator's will only with the operations of the body apart from the mind, whilst P-2 identifies the Creator's will also with some impulses of the mind that seem to be part of one system with the body's reproductive work. Thus Peter rightly says, "...sex ...renews love for one another, thus strengthening the marriage bond, thus renewing the security of family life. That is, even when sexual intercourse is knowingly not open to procreation it likely is open to, indeed eager to enhance the parental life of the procreated." P-1 safeguards faith's willing submission of the soul to the will of God manifest in the body's ordinary operations. P-2 safeguards faith's recognition by the soul of wholeness in the couple and in the wider creation through the teleology ordained by the Creator.

P-1 and P-2 also differ in another way. P-1 ventures a deontological rule, promulgated on the authority of the Roman magisterium. Quite apart from what one thinks of the papacy, we may think that P-1 makes a jarring leap from the creational to the legal, from the teleological to the a-teleological, that is not helpful. A priori, consequentialist ethics do not recognise any grand teleology, so they cannot help a soul who believes in the Creator God of Judaic faith. But a virtue ethic (cf St Paul, Elizabeth Anscombe, Alasdair MacIntyre, Stanley Hauerwas, Linda Zagzebski) is very compatible with the sort of teleology that one sees with faith that the Resurrection inaugurated a new creation being ordered by the Holy Spirit in the Son according to the will of the Father. And happily for many of us, plenty of biblical texts suppose something not easily, if at all, distinguishable from a virtue ethic.

P-2 may not be the best possible solution. But it is a one better for many than P-1.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Thanks for recent comments; they help me make better sense of P-2.
I had thought it was a second premise to Humanae Vitae: I now see it is your estimation of an Anglican approach. (Have I got that right?)

I note what you say about approaches to "ordered life". Rightly we understand that what we see as ordered may change. This also applies, does it not, to sexual intercourse and its consequences? Once life was "ordered" so that a woman experiences pain, even death in childbirth (and/or the child might die). Medical intervention with better outcomes overcomes that ordering: human technology defies previous human teleology. Contraception offers the possibility of a couple making a hitherto unknown ethical decision: to more or less guarantee that children can be spaced, and when sufficient unto the day are born, to cease production. Is there a distinction between one kind of medical intervention upsetting the order of things and another kind also doing so? (I am not asking you to answer that question; it is a for instance of the kinds of questions which medical advancement raises.)

Of course, abortion has potential for similar outcomes to contraception; reminding us that sexual ethics is not straightforward. One can be for contraception and against abortion because the latter involves another ethical consideration, that taking of life is wrong.

Liturgy said...

You continue, Peter, to this reader at least, to primary speak in consequentialist terms - you remind us that sexual ethics is not straightforward even though the outcomes are similar. Surely, it is only consequentialists who need such reminders?!
Blessings
Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bosco and Bowman
Unlike you good and wise gentlemen, I have never been formally trained in ethics.
Thus terms like "consequentialist" and "deontological" make my brain hurt.
Perhaps I am a consequentialist but this has been somewhat closeted till now :).
But, then, sex is all about consequences: marriage leads to sex leads to pregnancy leads to disrupted nightlife. And when I were a lad if the marriage bit didn't figure before the sex bit then quite often it figured between the discovery of the pregnancy and the disruption of nightlife.
Might I be forgiven if, granted my upbringing, it turns out that I am consequentialist???

Anonymous said...

"An ethical proposition about an act is deontological, consequential, or virtuous.

If... deontological, then it must have been promulgated as law by God...

If... consequential, then it predicts that the best state of things will result from compliance with it...

If... virtuous, then it indicates how an agent so performs the act as to be more fully what s/he was created by God to be."

Peter, most readers here assume that a Christian ethic will be deontological -- commands and prohibitions read off the top of holy writ-- at its core and then round it out (or not) with either situational conjectures of consequences guided by some subjective disposition (eg Joseph Fletcher's "act with love in every situation") or else a additional commands and prohibitions from states or churches. Bosco is close to saying that you (and indeed many here) are a situation ethicist.

Your recent OP on Barclay's Gift points to another approach. If such non-Augustinian readings are correct, then St Paul has an account of human agency that is very compatible with a virtue ethic, and it is central to his gospel. This is not to say that one can simply port Aristotle into the NT-- he has no notion of gifts or of new creation-- but if one did one would be far closer to the C1 than our two main modern approaches.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman (and Bosco)
Things are getting worse! Not only a consequentialist, now a situationist :(
Please presume that I am an ideal virtuous ethicist: "If... virtuous, then it indicates how an agent so performs the act as to be more fully what s/he was created by God to be." (Also there are deontological rules ...).
My problem is "reality"!
What do we mean by what "s/he was created by God to be" when we shift from (say) unreliable contraception to reliable contraception (thread here); or unreliable means of ending one's life to reliable means, in a world of slow painful death because we have eliminated some previously quicker illnesses from which to die (present day euthanasia debate); or aspects of That Topic in societies which have changed rules, mores and customs which previously supported Christianities deontology?
Does one have to be a situationist or consequentialist?
I would be interested in Barclay's approach being "applied" ethically.
A final thought, which I am sure Bosco would agree with: on various matters liturgical in the life of ACANZP some of our colleagues are situationist and/or consequentialist when otherwise deontological about other matters (not permitted for discussion in this thread!)

Liturgy said...

With respect, BW is confused and confusing this thread. There is a way of thinking of "if deontological, then it must have been promulgated as law by God" - but that is not straightforward.

It reads, for example, as if atheists cannot hold to a deontological ethical approach. This is false. With one exception, there is no necessary connection between atheism and any particular ethical theory. BW is confusing deontological with divine command ethics - the only ethical theory atheism rules out.

Yes, divine command ethics is deontological, but not all deontological ethics is divine command (BW's contention).

The thread illustrates what I have long been saying: the decades of energy spent on the topic not permitted for discussion in this thread has not equipped us for dealing with the much bigger ethical issues that we should be giving our attention - some of which Peter lists.

Blessings

Bosco

Anonymous said...

At ADU, Bosco, one can discuss whatever Peter wishes.

Personally, I discuss the ethic of believers in the Creator God of the OT. Unbelieving variants of all three sorts of ethic are known. But as a believer talking to other believers, I do not find them interesting enough to discuss. That is, each ethical claim that I stack on one of the three piles labeled Deontological, Consequentialist, and Virtuous is in some strong sense related to faith that God was in Christ. But of course I am interested-- even if nobody else is-- in how others with other views might stack and label them.

"With respect, BW is confused and confusing this thread."

Apart from that, I, like most who agree with virtue ethics, also broadly agree with Elizabeth Anscombe's landmark 1958 paper, Modern Moral Philosophy--

https://www.pitt.edu/~mthompso/readings/mmp.pdf

More particularly, I agree with her that the notion of *obligation* in modern ethics has been a survival of the Jewish Stoic Christian divine lawgiver in whom philosophers of her generation tended not to believe. So obviously do those atheists who are divine command theorists citing this paper themselves.

Am I simply preferring the usage of ethicists with whom you do not agree?

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Humpty Dumpty had it right, at least as far as the conventional practice of those constructing positive arguments. (If anyone in the paying audience mistakenly thought that this was a lecture series on Statistical Studies of Usage in Contemporary Secular Ethics, the Management is terribly sorry, profusely apologises, and promises to refund your ticket at the window where you paid.) Most readers here will be just as (dis)pleased to read *divine command* as they were to read *deontological*. Nevertheless-- when something they care about as believers is at stake in the difference between the words, then we can and should have the pleasure of discussing it here, Peter permitting.

BW

Anonymous said...

"Does one have to be a situationist or consequentialist?"

Peter, when you put your ear to the ground, the gallop you hear is the sound of Bryden riding his fast horse to answer your question better than I am about to do.

The ancient correlation of the virtues and their vices supposes a self becoming aware of its continuity and character through myriad decisions in the shifting horizons of its hours, days, life. Homer opens the Iliad with the word "wrath," not only because this vice of Achilles is the spring of the plot-- if he had been willing to fight the Trojans, the war would have been short; when crazymaking grief puts his strong arm behind his sword, the war ends-- but also because the word is a truth about his inner being that is revealed by such events as his pain at losing Briseus, his envy of Agamemnon, and his determination to avenge the death of his friend.

Both the situation ethics of Joseph Fletcher and the consequentialism that Bosco protests-- but why?-- acknowledge the flux around us, and enlist a certain rationalism to master it. But they fail as ethics for believers because they offer no account of the faithful soul amid this flux, nor of the God who draws that soul to himself. In contrast, any virtue ethic offers an account of the self in terms of its characteristic choices, and a believing one relates such accounts to its transformation in Christ.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

I cannot hear the thuds, Bowman (Bryden is a man with many interests and not hearing those thuds likely means he is occupied elsewhere than the blogosphere) but your reply is most satisfactory in steering me in the direction of virtue!

Anonymous said...

For any (I am thinking of Jonathan and Jean) who might actually be curious about how philosophers sort the ethical theories on offer--

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/

https://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/

Of the usual three (sometimes four) branches, my favourite is the *virtue ethics* inspired by Elizabeth Anscombe's famous paper and developed by Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue. Linda Zagzebski's Divine Motivation Theory relates the virtues to the believer's devotion to a divine exemplar (eg Jesus). Stanley Hauerwas has used virtue ethics to explore how a Christian ethic differs from one that is merely-- and maybe maximally-- rational.

BW

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for your most recent posting on 'Time for love'. This seems a most balanced theological understanding of a real need for a theological re-think on 'you know what'. One hopes ALL your readers will take the time.

Bryden Black said...

What a tangled tale we tell with this business of contraception! And that opening sentence is loaded with nuances, as we shall see. Yet there are two further initial observations I make on this thread so far: (1) no women’s voices to date ...; (2) nothing solid about what is meant by “natural contraception”. Although a mere male, I shall seek to address both of these lacunae.

Addressing the second omission first, I refer any readers of this blog to http://www.woomb.org/ where they will find a host of embedded links etc. leading to a wealth of information that goes way beyond any smartphone app. WOOMB seeks to promote an extraordinarily powerful awareness among women - and therefore/thereafter among men also - of their own bodies, which are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139). Many are simply ignorant of how their natural bodies radiate information every month throughout the month. Men in particular are ignorant of these very subtle and delightful signals, for we blokes are actually very simple by comparison! The reality is that while this thread has so far plunged into some form of ethical debate, a fulsome morality is unavailable until we are duly informed ...

Re the first omission: all that I have encountered re WOOMB et al is via my dear wife of 40+ years, who as a humble member of RNZCGP nonetheless practised within that speciality now known as menopausal medicine, first in Melbourne (home city of the Billings, whom we used to know) and then here in Christchurch. And what a fascinating career it has been!

Artificial contraception is a most profitable business: do not underestimate its global greed ... For this affects/obfuscates hugely contemporary ‘ethical’ debates. We have had first hand experience of this in Africa amongst so-called aid programmes. To start at a mere utilitarian level - yes; Bosco, I know! What has been the cost-benefit analysis of the past 60 years regarding “the pill”? How might one venture such an analysis? For the pill has become the instrument of all contraceptive instruments ...

Some costs. I recall only too well my dear mother (herself a biology grad) ‘lecturing’ me when my wife-to-be and I got engaged about the death of a godson’s girl-friend who died of a clot derived from the pill ... Sure; anecdotal evidence - but there are stats out there! There are too heated discussions, to say nothing of Headlines, whenever the latest HRT research results get published - yet seldom any extrapolation from these across to consumers’ use of the pill; and yet the exact same chemistry is involved ... curious to say the least. Nor is there any attempt to track (down) the rise in the incidence of breast cancers as perhaps associated with the rise in the use of the pill ... again, curious. Nor (finally for now: one could digress to higher levels of estrogen in cities’ water supplies) is the research being undertaken in the development of the brain in young women broadcasted with the associated risks to that development when the pill is started at a young, pubescent age - all too common nowadays.

Some gains. Sure; the ‘freedom’ granted women these last 60 years or so (assuming the late 1950s as a due start date) from the manufacture of the pill has been/might be considered to be enormous. It has certainly helped further the WW2 experience of women in the work place. It has surely driven a perception of ‘equality’ of women vis-à-vis men when child bearing/rearing has ceased to be the ‘norm’. It has surely given women an enormous sense of power over their bodies, enabling the autonomy of the “pro-choice” movement to thrive. All of which - and more - are culturally perceived as “gains”. Yet have these very gains not also come with ‘costs’ of their own? Frankly, the ledger to my mind is a most ambivalent one, having been immersed in this ‘debate’ ever since I married my dear doctor wife, who helped rescue me from the torrid years of the 1960s! And the public “disquiet” is indeed growing!

Bryden Black said...

Cont.
As for the more explicit ethical thundering of hooves: Oliver O’Donovan’s triology, Ethics as Theology (2013/14/17) might rescue some of us from otherwise contemporary blind allies and dead ends. A (partial) review is now available: “Occasionally one reads a text that is so rich and creative that it makes one wonder about all the time one spends reading other books. This is such a text. In particular, it is that rare text that combines scholarly precision in ethics with a richness of a treatise of spiritual understanding unfolding a vision of life in the Spirit. It is a book that should be regarded as a touchstone for a long time to come.” So opens/opines David Cloutier in Pro Ecclesia XXVI/3, 2017, 333-6, in addressing the second volume in particular [with some reference to the first, since “Self, World and Time” (vol.1) arrange each section on “Faith, Love and Hope”, with three chapters each, as we both Find and Seek, and Seek and Find, unto thereafter (vol.3) a fulsome Theology which incorporates our Communal Goal, in the Transformation in the Holy Spirit of “Work”, “Friendship”, and the “Endurance of Love’s” “Meaning”. Here we have both teleology and eschatology via the Christian Gospel lense.] BTW: Consequentialism is beautifully and witheringly dealt with on pages 201-205! And Bowman, GEMA gets a great mention re her book Intention as he does it.

Lastly, I cannot recommend highly enough Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Pauline Books, 2006). This revised edition of the late pope’s Wednesday General Audiences from September 1979 to November 1984 (with interruptions) had their origin in a book which was already completed in Poland before he became pope. It was derived from his extensive pastoral experience with young people and constructed via his own personalist philosophy, as the 128 page Introduction by Michael Waldstein demonstrates (and which others, like George Weigel, have also shown). Frankly, the Introduction alone is worth the price of the book; it will also probably be necessary for many a reader, to assist them through this weighty but profoundly rich tome.

And then most recently there’s Angel Perez-Lopez, Procreation and the Spousal Meaning of the Body: A Thomistic Argument Grounded in Vatican II (Pickwick Publications, 2017). This is an admirable commentary on the work of JP2's “Theology of the Body”. It shows it to be truly “original”; that is, it derives its power from “placing [its argument] within a personalistic framework” of the 20th C, which nonetheless is also a “renewal in the sources of revelation and traditional theology”. “Such ‘originality’ is manifested in his understanding of procreation and its relationship with the spousal meaning of the body [individual and social, and notably ecclesial]. ... John Paul II accomplishes this by offering not only a theology of the body, but also a theology of love. His entire proposal has never abandoned the perspective of supernatural love” (emphasis original). Just so, A P-L concludes the book by quoting Thomas Aquinas who himself cites the conclusion of the Book of Revelation in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. Just so, the fulness of the celebration of the gift of self to another in conjugal love [as opposed to mere ‘contractual friendship’, as described by either Michael Wee of Peter’s thread or Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson & Robert George, What is Marriage? (2012)] elides symbolically Marriage, Sexual Intercourse, Jesus and his Church, and the fulfilment of all eschatological faith, hope and love, as we “Enter into Rest” (O O’D).

May all your readers Peter enjoy their explorations unto clarity and charity.

Father Ron Smith said...

Not to forget, of course, Dr.Rowan Williams seminal(!) work on 'The Body'.

Glen Young said...


Not to forget Jesus' seminal work either; Matt.19.

Anonymous said...

"It reads, for example, as if atheists cannot hold to a deontological ethical approach. This is false. With one exception, there is no necessary connection between atheism and any particular ethical theory. BW is confusing deontological with divine command ethics - the only ethical theory atheism rules out.

Yes, divine command ethics is deontological, but not all deontological ethics is divine command (BW's contention)."

I disagree. Atheists who think there are *objective moral obligations are deluding themselves and not thinking consistently.
All atheist ethical systems are, in the final analysis, consequentialist - and probably hedonist. It there is no transcendental Judgment and Lawgiver, then ethics is a human-derived system. Even - or rather, especially - Immanuel Kant understood this.
On the one hand, he tried to claim that the Moral Law - "Duty" - was simply there and was its own justification. Tied to his epistemology, he denied that God's existence could ever be established.
But then in his Critique of *Practical* Reason, Kant argued that God *had* to exist, otherwise the Moral Law had no foundation - since justice evidently fails at so many levels in this mortal existence, there had to be a perfect, all-knowing, all-just, all-powerful Judge who underwrites the Moral Law. This is the gaping contradiction at the heart of Kent's ethical theory. (The late Reformed theologian R. C. Sproul tells a wonderful story that in his early days as a philosophy professor, a young man was converted to Christ in one of his lectures as a result of his teaching on Kant's ethics).
Modern deontologists basically go back to Kant but often not with the consistency of their teacher.
If you are an atheist, the 'moral law' can only be a construction of human consciousness. And that keep changing. In the final analysis, atheist ethics can only be earth-bound consequentialism.

William

Jean said...

Hmm.... contraception isn’t really one of my bandwagons.... : ) ... I would probably defer like all technology medical or otherwise, the technology is nuetral and can be used for good or bad reasons, positive or negative outcomes. The pill is positive for those women whose lives are threatened by conceiving or families who couldn’t feed more children or for a multitude of reasons. It is negative in its effect on helping along the concept of sex with no strings. However, noting the latter seems to have always been a feature in some form or another in each generation albeit usually it was the mostly men who escaped the strings.

I have no doubt the ‘women of old’ new a lot about natural contraception and passed that information down as Bowman notes, information that is not necessarily known anymore today.

The pill certainly has culturally altered women’s lives but also men’s too... Perhaps there needs to be a paper on male use of condom’s and its theological implications or having the ‘snip’ does it fit with Christian ethics? It’s okay I am only joking I don’t think the readership would be high.

Thanks for the explanation of ethic concepts Bowman, yes virtue sounds appropriate - it seems to fit well with discernment.

Anonymous said...

The Careful Reader is alerted that this from William's 19th/7:10 pm is a quotation from Bosco's 19th/7:43 am--

"Yes, divine command ethics is deontological, but not all deontological ethics is divine command (BW's contention)."

Here, I have moved on to virtue ethics, especially those grounded in Linda Zagzebski's *divine motivation theory*, which has ties to both *scriptural imagination* and theologies of the body and the Body.

BW