Thursday, September 20, 2007

Captain Sensible and Church History

Captain Sensible has just recently posted something on her blog with regards to Martin Luther. I have addressed Debbie Maken's horrible misuse of the reformers before, and it appears that Captain Sensible has seen fit to not read the other side. She is, in fact, quoting Debbie Maken who grossly took Luther and Calvin out of context, and, in fact, even altered quotations in order to prove her position [see my documentation here]. Here is how Luther is quoted by Captain Sensible/Debbie Maken:

"After God had made them male and female, he blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply' (Genesis 1:28). From this passage we may be assured that man and woman should and must come together in order to multiply... Hence, as it is not within my power not to be a man, so it is not my prerogative to be without a woman. Again, as it is not in your power not to be a woman, so it is not your prerogative to be without a man. For it is not a matter of free choice or decision but a natural and necessary thing, that whatever is a man must have a woman and whatever is a woman must have a man..."

'Be fruitful and multiply'... is more than a command, namely a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore. Rather, it is just as necessary as the fact that I am a man, and more necessary than sleeping and walking, eating and drinking and emptying the bowels and bladder. It is a nature and disposition just as innate as the organs involved in it. Therefore, just as God does not command anyone to be a man or woman but creates them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates that so that they have to multiply. And wherever men try to resist this, it remains irresistible nonetheless and goes its way through fornication, adultery, and secret sins, for this is a matter of nature and not of choice

At first glance, this looks to be exactly what Debbie Maken and others have said. However, as I said, these people rarely want you to go and read the entire context. Here is what Luther went on to say:

In the third place, from this ordinance of creation God has himself exempted three categories of men, saying in Matthew 19 [:12], "There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Apart from these three groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse. And whoever does not fall within one of these three categories should not consider anything except the estate of marriage. Otherwise it is simply impossible for you to remain righteous. For the Word of God which created you and said, "Be fruitful and multiply," abides and rules within you; you can by no means ignore it, or you will be bound to commit heinous sins without end.

Luther is therefore willing to say that there are, indeed, three people who are exempted from this commandment. Now, how does Luther understand this third category? Luther goes on later to say:

The third category consists of those spiritually rich and exalted persons, bridled by the grace of God, who are equipped for marriage by nature and physical capacity and nevertheless voluntarily remain celibate. These put it this way, "I could marry if I wish, I am capable of it But it does not attract me. I would rather work on the kingdom of heaven, i.e., the gospel, and beget spiritual children." Such persons are rare, not one in a thousand, for they are a special miracle of God. No one should venture on such a life unless he be especially called by God, like Jeremiah [16:2], or unless he finds God's grace to be so powerful within him that the divine injunction, "Be fruitful and multiply," has no place in him.

Luther clearly states that people in the third category voluntarily remain celebate. It is not something where they have no control over whether they remain celebate or not. Luther clearly states that a person who wishes to only begat spiritual children is not sinning. Yet, the Marriage Mandate position is that a person cannot do that. If he has a sex drive at all, it is to drive him towards marriage. Now, why does Luther use such strong language of commanding in the quotation given by Captain Sensible? After the quotation by Captain Sensible, and his explaination of the exemptions given above, Luther then says:

Don't let yourself be fooled on this score, even if you should make ten oaths, vows, covenants, and adamantine or ironclad pledges. For as you cannot solemnly promise that you will not be a man or a woman (and if you should make such a promise it would be foolishness and of no avail since you cannot make yourself something other than what you are), so you cannot promise that you will not produce seed or multiply, unless you belong to one of the three categories mentioned above. And should you make such a promise, it too would be foolishness and of no avail, for to produce seed and to multiply is a matter of God's ordinance [geschöpffe], not your power.

From this you can now see the extent of the validity of all cloister vows. No vow of any youth or maiden is valid before God, except that of a person in one of the three categories which God alone has himself excepted. Therefore, priests, monks, and nuns are duty-bound to forsake their vows whenever they find that God's ordinance to produce seed and to multiply is powerful and strong within them. They have no power by any authority, law, command, or vow to hinder this which God has created within them. If they do hinder it, however, you may be sure that they will not remain pure but inevitably besmirch themselves with secret sins or fornication. For they are simply incapable of resisting the word and ordinance of God within them. Matters will take their course as God has ordained.

Notice, that Luther is objecting against the use of vows to remain single. The reason why he uses such strong language is because the Bible never gives "because a I made a vow" as a proper reason for refraining from marriage. He does allow a voluntary refraining from marriage as an acceptable reason for remaining single [however, I would say he would probably want to agree with Calvin about "the gift of continence]. Of course, Captain Sensible cannot have that, because that means that Luther is not the granddaddy of the Marriage Mandate movement, but a reformer who was reacting against the abuses of a forced celebacy due to a priestly vow. This is a horrible misuse of Martin Luther, yet, sadly, it is the kind of thing that permiates Marriage Mandate literature. The reformers are quoted, without any thought as to their context, and it is taken for granted that what they are saying is consistent with what the Mandatory Marriage Movement is saying.

Also, before I close, I would just like to post this one quotation from Martin Luther which should remove all doubt as to whether or not Luther was teaching the Mandatory Marriage position:

Here I will let the matter rest and leave to others the task of searching out further benefits and advantages of the estate of marriage. My purpose was only to enumerate those which a Christian can have for conducting his married life in a Christian way, so that, as Solomon says, he may find his wife in the sight of God and obtain favour from the Lord [Prov. 18:22]. In saying this I do not wish to disparage virginity, or entice anyone away from virginity into marriage. Let each one act as he is able, and as he feels it has been given to him by God. I simply wanted to check those scandalmongers who place marriage so far beneath virginity that they dare to say: Even if the children should become holy (I Cor. 7:14], celibacy would still be better. One should not regard any estate as better in the sight of God than the estate of marriage. In a worldly sense celibacy is probably better, since it has fewer cares and anxieties. This is true, however, not for its own sake but in order that the celibate may better be able to preach and care for God's word, as St Paul says in I Corinthians 7 [:32-34]. It is God's word and the preaching which make celibacy, such as that of Christ and of Paul, better than the estate of marriage. In itself, however, the celibate life is far inferior.

Notice, that here Luther says something totally self-contradictory to Captain Sensible, namely, that in saying these things, he does not which to entice anyone away from virginity into marriage. Yet, that is exactly what Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken are trying to do! Luther also says that is that a person is to act as he feels it has been given to him by God, not by whether or not he has sexual desires. Luther's view is that whether or not you get married is something that is a personal issue, not a church issue. It is not something where another person can command you to get married. Luther clearly states that each man must decide for himself. Combine that with the fact that Luther clearly states that one of the exemptions from marriage comes from voluntarily refraining from marriage, and you have a really bad misuse of a historical source.

Again, I would invite you to read the entire sermon yourself. It is not that long, but it will give you a feel for just how far off Maken's [and, by extension, Captain Sensible's] misrepresentation of Martin Luther is. It is sad to see Captain Sensible not read the other side, and just blindly assume that Debbie Maken is correct in her interpretation of the reformers, when her interpretations of their writings have absolutely no credibility. The reality is that this is a movement that has come about in the twentieth century, and has no historical foundation before Albert Mohler and Debbie Maken.


NJArtist said...

"There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Apart from these three groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse. And whoever does not fall within one of these three categories should not consider anything except the estate of marriage. Otherwise it is simply impossible for you to remain righteous.

And there you have a kicker: those of us who do not fall in any of the "eunuch" categories, seeking marriage, yet finding none in the church. The "be fruitful and multiply" principle still active within us but unsatisfied. It is a terrible thing when this drive, this goad (this good) within one, picks you up and carries you a distance you did not want to go.

Do the marriage mandators assume that we should simply settle for the first pliant woman we find in order to satisfy this drive? I say "pliant"; for, what sort of woman would be willing to be used as a mere vessel (vassal) to satisfy visceral cravings? Not even the bible supports that.

Do these mandators even understand the hell of a settled marriage? Or do they gloss that over with pious bromides?

And what then is the responsibility of the church when it fails to generate suitable helpmates?

PuritanCalvinist said...


I think that, what you have to do in your case, is still fight against the sin that is inside of you, keep looking, and trust in God that he will supply all of your needs.

Just by way of testimony and encouragement, I was in the same place you were for many years, and God has brought a wonderful woman into my life, and we are planning to marry at the end of next school year. Thus, I would say that you should keep looking, and just trust in God to meet your needs, whatever they might be. Indeed, if you are searching for a spouse, and God keeps saying "no," then you likely do not need one. However, just because God has said "no" in the past does not mean he will continue to do so. Whatever God decides, trust in him that he will keep his promise to complete the good work that he has started in you [Philippians 1:6].

God Bless,