Contraceptives and sin

Discussion in 'Family, Relationships, and Single Life' started by Jellies, Jul 25, 2021.

  1. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That is indeed the right question. We've replaced questions of theology and philosophy (soul, nature, identity) with questions of biology and medicine (DNA, etc). That's pure secularism. Let's return to the questions of the soul, because that's how Christians have always understood this question.

    Ensoulment according to the materials I've read is understood to have happened when the heart first starts beating (3-4 weeks in). According to the research made by Invictus, it happens when the fetus first begins to move (10-12 weeks in). I'm still researching the question, and don't necessarily agree with his assessment although there are quotes from some Christian jurists which do seem to side with his view. But I believe that the heartbeat model is the better model for a variety of reasons.
     
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Suppose Christians have long thought that ensoulment took place when the heart starts beating. What does that prove? Isn't that pure speculation on the part of long-ago Christians? Don't forget, long-ago Christians also thought the world was flat. And long-ago Israelites thought the Messiah would come only in triumph, not first in suffering for humanity. Just because thoughts are long-held or widely accepted doesn't prove they're correct.

    However, if earlier Christians based their thoughts on a reasonable understanding of scripture, then we can also rely on the authority of scripture for the basis of our thought. Absent that, IMO we should err on the side of caution and assume the 'earliest-case scenario', which is at conception.
     
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  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The word 'prove' is trying to do more work than it should. The operative word should be 'authoritative'. Scripture is the only revelation, and by that it is far different from tradition or reason. But something doesn't have to be Revelation to be authoritative. Yes if the consensus was that the world was flat, that would be authoritative from Tradition, until the conclusions from Reason would challenge it through new findings.

    Authoritative doesn't have to be Revelation (infallible) in order to be authoritative. This is how science is authoritative without being infallible. It commands our ear because it is the best current answer on certain questions, pending future evidence or a better theory.

    And this is how traditional church teachings are authoritative. You are free to present a better model of ensoulement and the beginnings of a human person, and for all I know you could be more correct. Let's compare your argument with their arguments.

    All I'm saying is,
    1. we need to remember what the historic teachings are, and at least understand why they were made. I'd guess that 95% of Christians don't know what the historic teachings have been, or why. Someone as esteemed and notable as @PDL was conflating a novel RC theory with 'traditional historic Christian teaching'.

    2. we need to return to foundational pillars of this discussion, such as the question of the soul. I don't have a position on your guys debate here, because I'm learning as much as the next guy. I'd just suggest that we return the question of the human soul to the center of this discussion.

    One of the mistakes among Evangelicals is to try to make the Bible a kind of Protestant equivalent magisterium. The reason that's a mistake is because the Roman magisterium attempts to teach on every subject and every topic. It is a man-made instrument (with divine pretensions), but it's eminently practical in how it responds to contemporary questions (even if wrongly). Evangelicals, envious of this church instrument, try to make the Bible into a version of the magisterium, as if it has a specific pronouncement on all possible questions, and we just need to find the chapter and verse on "What is the blockchain", "What we should do about transgenderism", etc.

    What we can say is that the Scripture establishes eternal principles, and reveals God's mind. But the actual mechanism of applying the Scripture to contemporary issues belongs to the Church. Not the 19th century liberal invention called the 'magisterium', but the normal proper church teachings that we know of from history.
     
  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Every modern medical source I’ve read locates quickening toward the middle of the second trimester, around 18-20 weeks. Part of the issue here is that I don’t think the argument can be based on notions of ‘ensoulment’ if the hope is to turn this kind of thinking into legislation. The law deals with empirical realities, not metaphysical entities like ‘souls’.
     
  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    1. Do you believe that a soul exists?

    2. What is your definition of a human being?
     
  6. Jellies

    Jellies Active Member

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    Can I ask what you think then? Is it ok to abort before the quickening?
     
  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure what that adds to the discussion at hand, but I'll humor the question:
    1. The short answer (to the first question) is 'Yes'. The long answer is that I accept what Kant had to say in his three Critiques on the subject: God, Freedom, and Immortality are things that we assume - indeed, must assume - if we recognize that morality is rooted in imperatives that have universal applicability: always act in such a way that the maxim of your action could be willed as a universal law, or always treat fellow human beings as ends rather than as mere means. This is the Categorical Imperative. The universality of morality requires belief in an ultimate Judge, in the freedom of the will, and in an infinite life that permits us to achieve what we ought to achieve. These are, of course, "postulates" rather than strict "proofs". But I accept belief in all three.
    2. I don't know that I have a satisfactory definition of human being, as opposed to a 'family resemblance' concept, by which I mean that I'm not sure that there's any one feature that truly sets human beings apart from everything else. We have intelligence, but there are other animals that arguably do as well. The cells in my hand have my DNA but if you chopped my hand off we wouldn't say that part of my personhood resided in the severed hand. A baby born in state of brain death has all the DNA necessary for rationality, but by an accident of development it will never be able to exercise that capacity. But we wouldn't say that that baby wasn't a person. So, I'm not sure that I have a satisfactory list of attributes that would qualify as a definition in the strict sense, i.e., genus and specific difference.

    Part of the reason I raise this issue is that ultimately this sort of thing needs to be realizable as legislation or it's just "academic" in the negative connotation of that word. While I disagree with the Right's general stance on this issue, I do agree that fundamental rights in a democracy need to be ultimately enshrined in statute rather than the common law. Once Roe happened, it should have been followed up fairly quickly with federal legislation. But that didn't happen, so now every election is increasingly a referendum on the issue, which gets routed into things like Senate and Presidential candidate vetting, with the result that there's a lot of persistent uncertainty about the right itself. Rights need to be fairly dependable in a free society, and in literally every other democracy on the planet, this issue is determined democratically, through the normal legislative process, not through the courts. And those countries that do have legislation on the subject tend to land somewhere in the middle, which would correspond roughly to the pre-quickening vs. post-quickening framework that you have outlined, without putting it in those terms. And most of those countries have lower abortion rates than we do, in part because they do a far better job of addressing the underlying social and economic causes. I would like to see the number of elective abortions in this country ultimately drop to zero, but I don't see the Right's agenda as the roadmap to how we get there, at all.
     
  8. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It would be a crime and a felony (although not punishable by death), under the 1828 act. I'm not educated enough about the issue to answer from the Church side of the equation. It would certainly be considered a sin, both before and after quickening. But before quickening, the punishment would be less, while after, the punishment would be more. As an instance, before quickening it would be a sin and the person would have to do penance, as well as civil punishments. After quickening, it would be a sin and the person would just be executed, so the church would just administer the last rites beforehand.

    So I'm not sure that the sin-or-no-sin would be different either way. It would be a sin in either case, before quickening or after quickening. The difference would be in the severity of the resulting ecclesiastical and civil punishments.

    What's happened since the 1800s is that the Church stopped administering any ecclesiastical punishments. At the same time, civil society has become atheist in its beliefs of what is to be considered a crime. Thus in today's context, if someone were to have an abortion it would be a sin whether she did it before or after quickening, but, that would come with no punishment, either from the Church, or from the State. Thus the gravity of the situation would be distorted.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2021
  9. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    That's not what I asked though. I asked whether you believed that a soul exists. That's very much central to this question, because if you don't believe that souls exist (as you seem to have implied a few times), then you cannot connect to ensoulment and quickening as the classical Christian framework regarding abortion.

    Exactly. That's another huge gulf separating your approach here from orthodox Christianity which had a very crisp definition, based in Aristotelian and Platonic definitions of humanity and the human soul. So by what measurement would you oppose late-term abortions? According to the 'rights and consent' framework enunciated in Roe v. Wade, as long as the fetus is inside the mother, it is a parasite, it is not a human being, and does not have any human rights such as an independent right of existence.
     
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    ...
    I'm hoping you would like to rephrase that? :confused::loopy: I know you didn't just swim the Tiber!!
     
  11. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Penance is a traditional Anglican doctrine... what's the issue here? If you commit a civil crime, the state will make you do 'the time'. If you committed a church crime, the church made you do 'the time'. There are well-known instances of people having to put on all-white garb, and stand on a box in the middle of the congregation, and say words of repentance in full shame. That would be one of the cases of penance you'd have to pay in order to be received back into the congregation. There were many others, in the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries.
     
  12. Jellies

    Jellies Active Member

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    In what country do people get executed for committing one murder? Let alone abortion
     
  13. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    In pre-1900s Europe and America, violence that resulted in a post-quickening abortion was considered to be murder (or at the very least manslaughter). (Actions based on health are a separate question.)

    Anyway, if a murder is committed, the person may be executed. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Who took a human life, must give it. It's Scripture.
     
  14. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    And I answered "Yes":
    Aristotle's "soul" was merely the form of the body, and perished along with it. Plato did teach that we have immortal souls (which preexist the body), but this did not stop him from approving infanticide in The Republic. I doubt Plato would have disapproved of abortion. Plato's writings were rather ruthlessly suppressed in the East, and knowledge of Platonism was kept alive in Byzantium only in secret. Only portions of Plato's writings were known in the West in Latin translations until the Renaissance. Knowledge of Aristotle made its way back into Europe via translations from Arabic in Muslim Spain, along with the works of the jurist and philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes). It took a long time for the Church to fully accept the synthesis of Aristotle and Catholicism achieved by Aquinas, and in this, Aristotle’s Categories were transformed from epistemological concepts into metaphysical entities, and bore little resemblance to what Aristotle actually taught and how he would have been understood in his own day. What you are describing as "orthodox Christianity" here is thus actually a rather late development (really just an earlier iteration of Roman Catholicism reinventing itself). But even more fundamentally, even though quickening is an objective event that an expecting mother would perceive and recognize, there was no body/soul dualism in ancient Jewish thought, and a Jew living at the time the books of the OT were written would not have interpreted quickening as the moment of 'ensoulment', which is why the subject never comes up in the Scripture themselves. Empirically, even if we postulate the existence of the soul - as I do - we can know nothing of its relationship to the body, including the precise moment that it becomes "attached" to the body, assuming there is such a moment.

    I think the most biblically solid approach is to exegetically focus on the close link between ruach and nephesh in the creation account of Genesis 2: “…and God breathed…and the man became a living soul” (the word translated ‘soul’ here simply means ‘life’). Thus in Judaism, a foetus up to the moment of birth is a potential person, and from the moment of birth is an actual person. This does not mean that the subject of abortion is taken lightly in Judaism. While not considered murder, it is nonetheless prohibited except in certain circumstances.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2021
  15. Jellies

    Jellies Active Member

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    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you”

    while I agree with the death penalty in certain cases, I don’t think one murder or one abortion is necessarily worthy of the death penalty. Or else we would be killing an awful lot of people
     
  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Judaism never interpreted the lex talionis (“an eye for an eye, etc.”) literally anyway. It was understood as a metaphor for monetary compensation except in the case of murder, and is part of the very same passage we’ve been discussing from Exodus.
     
  17. Jellies

    Jellies Active Member

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    Also, the question I was asking was about contraceptives and Sin, not abortion lol. Does anyone here think it’s a sin? As in, it is a sin to use artificial contraception in your everyday life with your spouse?
    I feel like it’s certainly lead to the degradation of society and relationships between men and women. But is it a sin? Specifically because the RCC teaches it is a mortal sin and intrinsically evil. And it’s the first time I’ve ever heard in my life that wearing a condom is a sin. I’ve seen some people on here say it is. But I have to genuinely think, If it never occurred to me, someone who was raised in a Christian home, to be some evil sin, how is it possible that it is? Also like 98% of Christians use birth control. How can pretty much all Christians be committing a terrible sin against God without even knowing it ?
    We all know abortion is a sin, homosexuality is a sin, adultery and fornication are sins. But it doesn’t come to me “naturally” at all to see contraceptives as sinful within marriage.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The two issues go together because abortion is one means of contraception, or rather a remedy for its failure. I don’t think it’s possible to discuss one without discussing the other.
     
  19. Jellies

    Jellies Active Member

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    I should have specified non abortifacients. Really I wanted to know what people think of contraception, not abortion
     
  20. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Understood. :thumbsup:

    I think it’s reasonable for people to take appropriate steps to responsibly plan their families. Ultimately, I think that’s between a woman and her doctor.