Present reality can blind our eyes to the past. We live in our present and believe that how things are now is always how they have been. Take the jolly man of Christmas, Santa Claus, as just one picture of this. When we see Santa dressed in red and white, most of us assume that these have always been his colors. The truth is, Santa's been dressed in multiple colors, with a tilt toward green (until the 1930s when red and white took over, with the help of Coke, whose colors are red and white). As the BBC reports:
Coca-Cola's involvement kicked in in the early 1930s, when Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom started drawing ads for Coke featuring a fat Santa in a red coat trimmed with fur and secured with a large belt.
Our present picture of Santa is less than 100 years old, but we imagine he's always been this way.
Reflecting on some of the issues in the CRCNA, I wonder if we have the same take on certain matters, namely, we imagine how we see them now is how it has always been. Take the CRC's present stand on contraception,
The personal decision of birth control is a matter of Christian freedom to be guided by prayer and the biblical principle of 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Acts of Synod 2003
In making this decision, Synod 2003 also made a startling statement:
No Bible passage prohibits birth control that prevents the conception of life—unlike the sin of intentional abortion.
Why is this a startling statement? Because church fathers like Augustine would disagree entirely with these words, as would Calvin, Luther, and a host of other reformers. Dr. Taylor Marshall, a Catholic theologian, points out,
Prior to 1930, all Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox held that contraception was sinful and contrary to God's will. Not only Catholics but even dissenting voices such as Martin Luther and John Calvin agreed that contraception was against the natural law and the revealed will of God.
The unified consensus against contraception fell apart in 1930, when the Seventh Lambeth Conference of the Church of England, representing the Anglican Communion, issued a statement allowing birth control "when there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence." This highly controversial decision was gradually accepted by Protestants in general so that currently, 90% or more (according to a Harris Interactive poll) practicing Evangelicals support the use of contraceptives and contraceptive behavior.
Next time: The reformers and church father's commentary on birth control, a synodical history on contraception, and some wonderings about shifting Biblical interpretation.