Wednesday, December 16, 2009


“For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”
—1 Samuel 15:23

The following piece was written by Rebecca Sharpe, a Fellow of the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society, and Law. In it, she makes forceful and compelling arguments against the use of artificial contraception from both a consequentialist as well as from a natural law perspective.

1. The Undermining of Nature through Science
To gain a complete understanding of modern violations of nature and the natural law, it is necessary to grasp what those infringing the law are attempting to achieve. Perhaps C.S. Lewis’ approach of paralleling the motives of Francis Bacon and Faust in his essay, “The Abolition of Man” is apt, for although sorcery and alchemy were once man’s tools to gain power over nature, they have been far surpassed in efficiency by modern science.
Not all modern science seeks to undermine the design inherent in nature. Much of it only aims at patching the wounds of the Fall as best as humans can. However, some men use it to gain power over the elements of design and natural consequences that witness to the natural law. Seeking to erase the marks of divine intent evident in the design of the universe and humanity, these Faust-like characters sell their soul for power.
Budziszewski, in his What We Can’t Not Know, continues with this theme of modern science’s black magic. Scientific advances may be new, but the desire to assume the role of God and recreate nature according to the human will is ancient. He states, “Their methods do not require the eye of newt, but they might as well: In essence, they are forms of goeteia, of the ancient practice whose goal was to acquire power by ‘breaking’ nature, unpatterning its patterns, uncreating its creation” (Budziszewski, p. 198-9). Whether denying that anything has an inherent nature, claiming as natural that which is contrary to the natural law, or declaring invasive and foreign those most natural elements of human existence, the modern magicians defy God’s will as manifest in the natural law, and particularly the design of His creation.

2. The Example of Contraception
Perhaps the greatest example of the latter is the extraordinary lengths science, driven by popular demand, has gone to prevent sexual intercourse from ending in pregnancy, a frequently accompanying consequence and perhaps the primary reason for the act’s existence. A quote from Dr. Warren Hearn, advocating the use of contraception and abortion, will suffice to demonstrate this point:
“The foregoing discussion should allow us to abandon the erroneous assumption that pregnancy is per se a normal and desirable state, and to consider instead a more accurate view that human pregnancy is an episodic, moderately extended chronic condition with a definable morbidity and mortality risk to which females are uniquely susceptible…” (Budziszewski, p. 235).

While most Christians reject the possibility of curing this “illness” by abortion, it is only since 1930 that some have begun to accept the idea of preventing the disease of children through artificial contraception. Prior to this, all Christian churches were united in opposition to artificial contraceptives. This religious and societal acceptance spelled the beginning of treating pregnancy as an illness. While in some cases, prudence may cause couples to give pause before conceiving, this is different from a culture-wide acceptance of artificial contraception.
While not the heinous crime against the sanctity of life that abortion is, both design and natural consequences testify against the practice of artificial contraception. At the very least, it disrupts the natural hormonal cycles of a woman’s body (except in the cases of barrier methods, obviously). Contraceptives may undermine her body’s natural attraction towards her partner. They substantially increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and they make the female of any sexual partnership bear the greater share of the responsibility for determining when to conceive or prevent pregnancy, a responsibility she should equally share with her spouse. Any hormone-based contraceptive can, and with surprising frequency does, prevent an already conceived embryo from implanting on the uterine wall, thus acting as an abortifacient. Remaining estrogens from hormone-based birth control wash into watersheds and have actually wreaked environmental havoc on the wildlife that depend on these water sources.[i]
Beyond consequentialist appeals, however, one must acknowledge that it is impossible to limit the consequences of the conjugal act (i.e., the bearing of offspring) without weakening its significance and potentially disrupting the other purposes of sex. The use of contraceptives cause the three-legged stool of sexual love to become lop-sided, threatening to topple over altogether and bring down society with it.
Attempts to treat the natural as if it is somehow unnatural, to treat pregnancy or childbirth as disease to be prevented or cured, are perhaps among the most disturbing efforts of modern man’s revolt against design. This rebellion, which in earlier ages would have been carried out through sorcery or witchcraft, seeks to make man the author of nature and man’s design. Such is the hubris of man in his practice of goeteia, that in remaking nature, he remakes himself as God, and not God’s created image.


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