Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Baptist John R. Rice's Opposition to Contraception (From 1946)

See Part I | Part II | Part III

Quaint remnants from a bygone era, when most Christians actually agreed on this issue, over against pagan or secular sexual practices and beliefs. You know which Christian body has singularly preserved the ancient Christian consensus on this issue . . .

I got this from my friend Rod Bennett's blog, tremendous trifles. I love how he summarizes Dr. Rice's moral teaching:

I hope you will stop to consider the deeper implications of these "old-fashioned" words from the past. This isn't just a fundamentalist talking; much less a Roman Catholic. This is the voice of a Church which, in 1946, was virtually unified on this important moral question and had been for centuries. And for what have we traded that precious unity? What mess of pottage have we got in return? A world without unwanted kids? Without child abuse? Of happier marriages? And if the patent medicine hasn't worked as advertised, hadn't we better be willing to retrace our steps?).

. . . Are these Catholic arguments? Many people have learned to dismiss them as such. After all, several of Dr. Rice's points are straight out of Humanae Vitae - except that [they] appeared two full decades before Pope Paul's encyclical! No, the truth is that the great Baptist leader's arguments are simply Christian - non-partisan, non-sectarian, non-controversial when they first appeared. Just the straight stuff cut straight, no compromise. If they make him sound Romish to 21st century ears [and Dr. Rice, it must be said, had all the usual fundamentalist prejudices against Rome] - well, that fact ultimately says more about the 21st century than it does about him.
Another friend of mine and former LCMS Lutheran, Tony Gerring, did a lot of research some years back on how that conservative Lutheran denomination (Missouri Synod) also firmly opposed contraception up through the 50s (maybe even the 60s, but I'm not sure). This is easy to document if you know how to get to the sources.

For those who are unfamiliar with the history of the view of contraception in Christian circles: no Christian denomination ever accepted it as a morally acceptable practice until 1930, when the Anglicans decided to allow it in "hard cases" only. Doesn't that sound eeerily familiar? Now every major Christian group (except the Catholic Church) accepts it; even (quite sadly) the Orthodox. So it has been a complete reversal in 75 years: from classifying contraception as a grave sin and evil to now regarding it as morally neutral or positively good. We have witnessed a complete cave-in of non-Catholic Christianity to the spirit of the age and the sexual revolution, within the lifetime of my parents (born in the 1920s).

For other papers and web pages of mine or by others on this topic and related ones, see:

The Biblical Evidence Against Contraception

Dialogue: Why Did God Kill Onan? Why is Contraception Condemned by the Catholic Church?
Dialogue on Contraception

Dialogue on the Ethical Distinction Between Artificial Contraception and Natural Family Planning (NFP)

Dialogue on Contraception and Natural Family Planning (NFP) (vs. "Grubb")

Contraception and the "Fewer Children is Better" Mentality: the Opposition of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Other Protestants

Contraception: Early Church Teaching (William Klimon)

Does Orthodoxy Allow Contraception Or Not?

Life Issues: Abortion, Contraception, and Euthanasia [Web Page]

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