God May Be Immutable; the World Is Not

While I have begged off further involvement in a debate here a while back about the Catholic Church’s reputation and the Vatican’s legitimacy (see here), my opponent David made an interesting comment about God’s immutability and I’ve been planning to address that subject ever since, as well as contraception (since David and I went pretty heavily back and forth on the rightness or wrongness of birth control), and the ways the two issues tie together in some ways.

This post may be a bit of a ramble. Apologies in advance if so.

God is, reportedly, immutable, unchanging and eternal. I really have no argument with that (though I also have no proof of it). I know a lot of agnostics and atheists do reject the unchanging nature of God, and they often contend such notions with talk about God’s personality shifts in the Bible, but I disregard that line of argument. I disregard it in part because I believe it is less a case of God changing than of God changing the way He approaches people.

And really, how could He not?

Humanity has evolved (genetically, socially, technologically, etc.) in so many ways. God had forged multiple covenants with humans not because He cannot make up His mind but because dealing with us is an ongoing process, and guiding us toward the next steps in our spiritual development (in this life and beyond it) is an ever-shifting process.

Now, Jesus pretty much put a final stamp on the basic theology and the priorities we are supposed to have. Given the period in which he appeared historically speaking, it was probably as good a time as any to make a “final” covenant that would carry humans through until God’s plans were complete in terms of our time here on Earth.

However, I cannot help but notice that Jesus didn’t talk about nearly as many things as the apostles did after he was gone, and Jesus certainly didn’t emphasize the minutiae of the Old Testament laws. I cannot help but notice that Jesus kept it pretty simple and basic. I also cannot help but notice that while Jesus himself followed Jewish law for the most part, he didn’t uplift it as something to be a slave to, and he broke it in cases where it was irresponsible to follow the law simply for the sake of the law.

And here’s where I get to contraception, boys and girls.

First off, let’s toss that Onan shit out the window. Anyone who can read that story and still say it was about masturbation being evil and contraception being evil has totally and completely missed the point that Onan was punished because God told him he needed to get a child on a certain woman after all his brothers had died and Onan failed to do so because he didn’t want to. If God was so mad at masturbation, why kill that guy, after centuries upon centuries of masturbation and coitus interruptis, and no one else? God had a mission for that man, for some reason, and Onan defied God and did so in a highly disrespectful manner. End of story. Don’t anyone argue with me on that point. Don’t even start. Jacking off was NOT the sin in that story.

Now, you can point to various things in the Bible and extrapolate that God wanted men and women to marry and have lots of kids. Great. But let’s take that in context. The world was not overpopulated at the time. Women were often little more than baby-makers, sometimes little more than chattel, and so from a societal standpoint, they weren’t considered useful aside from family-rearing. Also, families needed new blood to keep things going and run the farm (or herd the sheep, or make the boats, or whatever). Fathers needed heirs. Infant mortality was high. Many women died young thanks to birth complications.

So, of course there is going to be a focus on marrying people off and having them breed in those times. Particularly as regards Isreal, because if God set them as his messenger and the venue through which Jesus would come, so He’d be particularly keen on them making plenty of babies and remain viable on the Middle Eastern stage. So, for the Bible to support “be fruitful and multiply” made sense then.

But that is not the world we live in now. Many things in the world today are not covered biblically and attempts to use the Bible to deal with current issues based on anachronistic origins end up ringing untrue for that very reason. End of life decisions, abortion, pornography, electronic interactions and a ton of other things are all things that not only didn’t really factor into daily life (or at all) in Jesus’ time (or before) but also don’t even have any logical parallels with things covered by the Bible.

So, times change. The Bible is meant to be a guide, not a lawbook. It doesn’t change to keep up. God doesn’t check back in with us to give us the Commandments version 25.1 or something. We are expected to try to act as much in concert with the Holy Spirit as possible. But when something like the Vatican makes blanket rules and says they will never change and we’re going to keep doing it because we have been for 2,000 years (or longer) doesn’t make sense.

Is it really sensible to think that God wants married people to have sex only when they plan to make kids? No. Sex is also a relationship-bonding experience. It is, I dare say, a spiritual experience when I give my wife an orgasm, when I get one, or when we both come together (blessed be those nights…and sometimes mornings or afternoons). If God’s goal was only for us to breed, why not leave us with mating seasons and specific sexual cycles? Why have it be something that feels so good and cements a loving relationship so well, and have it only be for baby-making? So, right there, we’re already off track when contraception is condemned because of the notion that every sexual act should be potentially procreative.

Jumping to the next point, does it really make sense in this resource-strapped world, with so many poor and so few rich but so much wealth in the hands of a tiny number of people, that God wants us to breed like bunnies? Is it really wise for us to do so? No. It makes us poor stewards of the planet. China has population control policies, and look how huge THEY are. What if they didn’t have such policies? What if every married couple in the United States in these modern times had families of six to 15 kids or something. When my dad was young, that was tenable. Now, it’s environmentally irresponsible and financially untenable. Did God not give us free will so that we could exercise some common damn sense?

Contraception is not evil, and attempts to make it so are simply a game of maintaining the status quo for the sake of comfort or habit or plain ignorance.

Is is because we change that we were sent the Holy Spirit, and why we have to try to listen to that spirit of God. It is because we change that God approaches us in different ways at different time. And for a long time now, it’s been right and appropriate for God not to overtly reveal himself, because it is through the search for Him and our attempt to forge a relationship with Him (by whatever means, Christian or otherwise) that we show we are honoring those things spiritual.

The Vatican needs to get up off that no-contraception policy, as do many other Christians and non-Christians. People need to stop calling God a victim of capriciousness and multiple-personality disorder simply as a way of disregarding religion.

And we all need to keep up with the times. But that doesn’t mean throwing out Jesus’ teachings. It means keeping them in context.

9 thoughts on “God May Be Immutable; the World Is Not

  1. Big Man

    You know what I’ve often wondered about Onan?

    If I remember the scripture right, he wasn’t even jacking off, right?
    Actually, it seems like dude just pulled out. Wasn’t he having sex with the woman, and then instead of spilling his seed inside of her, he pulled out and put in on the ground.

  2. societyvs

    “So, for the Bible to support “be fruitful and multiply” made sense then.” (Deacon)

    I slightly disagree. Be fruitful and multiply doesn’t neccesarily need be a numbers game. Why can’t having 2 kids be – fruitful and multiplying? Heck having none but maintaining a strong marriage is quite fruitful! Adoption is another pathway for multiplication.

    I think it is a scare tactic to bring in the idea of ‘over-population’ as the reason for birth-control. Sure the world has more people on it, fact. But the world is also not shared very well, fact. To come to the idea we need to put in place laws the regulate the amount of kids that can be born in a year seems, well, dictorial in nature. This line of reasoning always bothers me, it punishes people for ‘having children’ in some regards – like they’re doing something wrong.

  3. Deacon Blue

    @ Big Man,

    You’re right, actually that it seems to have been coitus interruptis, but of course that hasn’t stopped people from using it to decry masturbation, which to the best of my knowledge isn’t even addressed in scripture.

    @ Societyvs,

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m painting some broad strokes in many ways. My point is more that if every person in this country now were doing the “be fruitful and multiply” thing according to Vatican standards in marriages, we would all have big families, and we would have a problem. Likewise, with China, while I don’t agree with their way of dealing with people, try to imagine what would happen if they didn’t work to use some kind of method (educational and/or reward-based options would be better than punitive, of course) to rein in population growth?

    I’m not bringing in overpopulation as a means to argue against having children…but I will cite it as a legitimate reason why denying people access to contraceptives is utterly wrong. If people want large families, they should have that right, generally speaking; if they don’t, they should have that option as well.

    But if the Vatican had it’s way, no one would ever have sex without contraception in marriage, and where would THAT leave us? Up shit creek. My mom was one of eight…my dad one of 13 kids. Can you imagine the chaos and strain on our system if that was the norm today? And yet that’s what the Vatican would have us do (the alternative being that married people would have to avoid sex most of the time, which is pretty unhealthy)

    Point is that the context today, in a world of more than 5 billion, is WAAAAAAY different than the context of a world with millions of people instead.

  4. societyvs

    “Point is that the context today, in a world of more than 5 billion, is WAAAAAAY different than the context of a world with millions of people instead.” (Deacon)

    It is, this is all true. I also agree with the need for birth control, which is a choice, and I respect that position. However, there is fine line between touting the over-population line and dictatorship (via laws on the subject). Is it fair for someone to be put in jail, for example, for having children? Brave New World anyone?

  5. Deacon Blue

    You’ll get no particular argument from me on any of that, sir. My inclinations are NOT to tell people what to do reproduction-wise. And I think that needs to go in both directions. I think it is unwise to promote unrestrained procreation and also unwise to dictate to people how big their families can be (though I really, really don’t like the Duggars and the way they approach family-building…and pimping…and preaching). And mostly, I speak from a North America-centric view, since the U.S., Canada and Mexico I understand more first-hand than any other part of the world.

  6. societyvs

    I didn’t think you were towing that line (laws for birth)…but just thought I’d point out this potential danger when you hear others speak on the topic…reminds me of ‘Big Brother is watching’ type scenarios. I am very quick to never stand on that side of the debate – thought about it one time – I have a brother with 6 kids and a sister with 6 kids as well…maybe they should of had less…but who can determine that is accurate? I have none.

  7. robyn

    are we going to stone people for mixing linen and wool? i don’t think so!
    are we going to obey all the [ridiculous] laws of leviticus? i don’t think so!
    are we going to follow hillel and roll our eyes at shammai, esteemed though he is? i think so!

    in re onan: he broke the law, he disobeyed god and he did to profit himself. it was to avoid diluting his patrimony, not because he had any aversion to the woman or the act.

    in re abortion: old law [pre 1900 or so] “it” became a child at quickening, generally early in the 2nd trimester. before the fetus quickened, abortion through chemical or surgical means was between a woman and her midwife/friend/doctor. anyone here seen ‘vera wang’? my mom knew abortionists, my grandmother used one. my great grandmothers used distilates the ancient romans used distilates and pessiaries [sp?] as medicine has improved in terms of keeping us alive and prolonging out life, we have to consider the world effect. don’t get me started on the morality of 20-24 week births that were doomed just a few years ago, the strain they put on medical resources or, the inverse, keeping prolonging the death of the inevitable.

    in re sexual pleasure: judaism has pretty strong laws on that and on when intercourse is permissable. kinda hypocritical to not follow jesus’s lead in this. http://www.jewfaq.org/sex.htm

    i like to think of jesus as the greatest of the politicans: keep your eyes and thoughts on your god and on yourself. what have you done to improve the world today and your place in it? how have you helped? and btw, don’t throw stones. they’re coming right back atcha.

  8. Deacon Blue

    Out where I live, I think people ought to be stoned for routinely going to the store in pajama bottoms. But I’ll let the wool and linen combo slide.

    And as for those stones coming back at us, I guess that explains a few permanent knots on my noggin. 😉


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