Monday, March 03, 2014

Onanism - Part 2

Steve Hays responded to my article on Onanism v. Homosexuality, and since a combox reply would not be practical, I am responding to him with a new article.  Steve's comments are in yellow, where he has quoted me is in blue.
I'm going to comment on a few recently claims by Catholic apologist Scott Windsor.  
I found the article interesting, and even almost Catholic in many places, however... you knew that was coming :-) ... when it comes to Onan's sin - the writer makes a very definitive statement that Onan was not slain for spilling his seed, but in reality - it is precisely for what Onan DID (spilling his seed) and not his MOTIVE (not wanting to produce children for his brother).
i) Evangelical converts to Catholicism like Windsor and Dave Armstrong resort to traditional prooftexting. A more sophisticated Catholic apologist would skip the fanciful prooftexting and justify his denomination's teaching by appealing to the theory of development as well as attempting to mount a natural law argument.
a) Hmmm, why bring up Dave Armstrong?  Are you trying to draw him into this discussion?  
b) Then you go straight into ad hominem as if whether or not I am a “sophisticated Catholic apologist” or not has any bearing on the points made!  
c) Catholicism is not a “denomination” - it is Protestantism which has denominated itself to be apart from Catholicism.  Catholic simply means “universal” - whereas “Baptist” or “Lutheran” or “Methodist” are given names to distinguish themselves from the Universal Church which Jesus Christ built…  but I digress (squirrel!).
d) Hays ignores my thesis and jumps to supporting arguments I made. which are tangential.
ii) As is typical of evangelical converts to Rome, Windsor is out of touch with Catholic scholarship on his locus classicus. This, again, betrays the fact that apologists like Windsor and Armstrong remain outsiders to their adopted denomination. But here's some examples of modern Catholic scholarship on the issue at hand:
Onan is commissioned to raise seed to his brother's wife, according to the levirate law; cf. Deut 25:5-10. Oanan's offense is obvious: he selfishly refuses the responsibility of fulfilling his duty to his brother, as the law provided. That is the point of his offense. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall 1990), 38.  
Moreover, from the biblical author’s point of view, Onan’s sin was his refusal to fulfill the important responsibility involved in the levirate law (cf. Dt 25:5-10). New Catholic Encyclopedia (CUA, 2nd ed., 2003), 9:315b.
In common usage often taken to mean improperly completed intercourse or even masturbation. The word is taken from the story of Onan in the Book of Genesis...This was in accordance with the custom of Levirate marriage...Popular usage of the term onanism is based on the assumption that the evil for which the Lord took Onan’s life was his unchastity. This, however, is by no means clear from the text, in which his refusal to conform to the prescribed marriage custom can be seen as the wickedness that brought vengeance upon him. Consequently, no certain argument can be based upon this text to prove the sinful character of either improperly completed intercourse or masturbation. Evidence for this must be sought elsewhere. Ibid. 10:600a.

e) Again, ad hominem as "typical evangelical converts to Rome…” is unnecessary, irrelevant and 
invalid argumentation.

f) Again, naming Armstrong in this discussion - who was not a party to the original discussion.

g) Irony:  Hays refers to “locus classicus,” as if I am ignorant of it, and then cites a MODERN source!  How about going to a “classic” source instead of the modernist commentary in the New Jerusalem Bible or the “New” Catholic Encyclopedia?  I reject Mr. Hays attempt to prove “locus classicus” from “modern” commentaries (neither of which he cites has any authority).  Would he like me to admit there have been some revisionists in the Catholic Church?  Fine, I will admit to that, but that, however, does not change my point in the least.

h) Hays then argues that it “is by no means clear from the text” that Onan was punished for what he did and argues (as the two other respondents did) that it had more to do with his motive than what he did.  I refer the reader (again) back to what the actual Scripture says Gen. 38:10 -

10 And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing.

So back to my point, the Lord slew him, because of what he DID, not for WHY he did it.  To say it was due to Onan’s motives that he was slain imputes something to the text which is simply not there.  My opponents here are rationalizing that because the text also mentions the motive, that it was his motive that was the reason for his punishment - but again, the text does not say it was due to WHY he did the “detestable thing” but that he DID the “detestable thing.”  My point remains unassailed.  I ask the objective reader - what did Onan DO which the Lord found detestable?  Don’t rationalize WHY he did it, just tell me what he DID - OK?

iii) Windsor shortsightedly excludes Onan's motivation. Yet that runs contrary to Catholic teaching on contraception, where intent is a key consideration. Conjugal relations should always be open to the possibility of conception:

2366 it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.

i) It is not “shortsighted” at all, but that being said - I do not “exclude” Onan’s motivation, in fact I agree 100% with them that this is WHY he DID what he DID - but I remind Mr. Hays, but moreso the objective reader of this discourse, that verse 10 does not say that God punished Onan because of his motive, but because of his ACT.  And this is a FACT which Mr. Hays cannot get around, no matter how hard he tries.

Continuing with Windsor:

It was here that for the first time a major Protestant communion opted for some limited use of contraception, so long as the motives were not selfish, based in luxury or mere convenience.  Now, honestly ask yourself, for what other reason, outside of a personal health issue, would have been considered acceptable by such limitations?  Not many, if any!  Yet less than 100 years later it is precisely for selfish, luxury or mere convenience reasons that contraception is practiced!  Today's practices by most who participate in contraception would be condemned by the 1930 Lambeth Conference!  It should be noted as well, than more than a third of the voting members of this conference voted against acceptance of the resolution.

The church of Roman supports "limited use of contraception." It simply draws a makeshift distinction between "artificial" contraception and "natural" methods of birth control.

j) Nice attempt at the Red Herring argument, Mr. Hays.  How about dealing with what you quoted instead of going off on a tangent which Begs the Question?  (Two invalid arguments in one statement there, Mr. Hays!).  To make it easier, I’ll summarize the point Mr. Hays SHOULD have responded to…  The 1930 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church was THE FIRST TIME even among Protestants that a LIMITED use of ABC (Artificial Birth Control) methods MIGHT be used IF done for the right reasons (which the conference conveniently does not define).  What the Lambeth Conference DOES define are reasons NOT to partake in ABC methods - which are “selfish, luxury or mere convenience” - which are PRECISELY why MOST people participate in ABC methods today!  Thus - by the standard of 1930, most who partake in ABC methods are in the wrong.  How about dealing with the ACTUAL POINT, Mr. Hays?

Well, as an article in Salon puts forth, the anti-contraception movement (primarily Catholic) had not caught hold among Evangelicals, but that all changed in 2011.  The "HHS Mandate" was passed on July 19, 2011 and according to Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on July 20 said: “HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has recommended mandatory coverage for ‘emergency contraception,’ which is a euphemism for the morning-after pill, which often kills a newly conceived child by not allowing the embryo to implant on the wall of the mother’s womb.”  In September of 2012 the founder of Hobby Lobby sued Kathleen Sebelius and based on the fact that his company was founded upon Christian principles, they should be exempted from the mandate.

Passage of Obamacare was made possible by support from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, colluding with Catholic politicians like Bart Stupak and Nancy Pelosi. Sebelius is another Catholic official.

k) Again, missing the point, the point is that FINALLY “Evangelicals” are coming around and re-joining Catholics in opposing ABC methods of ALL kinds.  

l) To be honest, those “Catholics” you named may have a LOT to answer for when they stand before the Judgment Seat.  I would not want to be in their shoes!  But again, what these “Catholics” (whom I personally would consider to be CINOs, Catholic In Name Only) have done is irrelevant to the point of how “Evangelicals” are coming around on this issue.  Ignoring the points does not make them go away, Mr. Hays.

While recognizing the abhorrent sins here, the Catholic Church has recognized, perhaps moreso recently than previously, that we must recognize the sinner and the sin are not the same.  While the Church has more openly embraced sinners - she has not changed her position on the sinful acts and/or lifestyles.  While the cliche may be a bit overused, it does ring true - "Love the sinner; hate the sin."  Pope Francis relates the Church to a "field hospital," and you really can't treat those who need you if you don't first bring them into the hospital!
Well, you can read the exchange yourself and see - but essentially, I can only assume here, that those respondents are supporters of ABC and/or participants in it - and thus have a vested interest in arguing for such methods, but do they realize they are so, so much in the minority of the historic Christian viewpoint?  Even among their own fore-fathers (for which they can only go back about 500 years, at best) ABC was by and large condemned.  In their relatively short history, only the last (less than) 20% of their existence as protesting (Protestant) Christians can be seen as supportive of the modern (or Modernist) views on ABC.  One would think this SHOULD cause them at least SOME concern!

To the contrary, Rome used to take a very different position on the nature of conception. Based on Aristotelian embryology, abortion before ensoulment wasn't deemed to be homicide. That's documented in John Noonan's classic monograph on Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists (Belknap Press, enlarged edition, 1986).

By Windsor's nostalgic logic, we should return to the good old days when abortion in the first trimester wasn't classified as homicide by Rome's leading theologians and canon lawyers.

m) Mr. Hays, simply making reference to a secondary source which allegedly argues for “Rome” having a “very different position” is not valid documentation and would not be acceptable in any sort of debate forum.  If you wish to challenge what I have to say, please, at least do so validly.  If you have a primary source for me to consider, please present it.  If the secondary source you cited is worth anything, it quoted and cited its primary sources - go to those and present them and they will be given the consideration they deserve.  You entitled your response "Ensoulment" - yet your only reference to that is in this invalid citation.  I repeat, if you wish to make a valid case for the Catholic position on "Ensoulment" - please begin with valid documentation.

n) While what Mr. Hays "responds" to here was a tangential point, the REAL point is that Protestantism has changed its stance on ABC methods and that even in their own (less than) 500 year history, less than 20% of that has taught ABC methods in a favorable light.

o) The response Mr. Hays quoted from me just above (in blue) also was actually getting back to the original thesis of the original article...  "squirrel!"

p) I will say, the main thesis I began with "Onanism v. Homosexuality" was a bit "lost" in my responses to "rockingwithhawking" and "ANNOYED PINOY" - and I take responsibility for that "squirrel" on my part.  The point there was, and was actually in agreement with "ANNOYED PINOY's" response - that homosexuality is the epitome of "spilled seed" as conception cannot occur.  Both homosexuality and "Onanism" are condemned by the Lord.

q) In conclusion, I am disappointed in your response, Mr. Hays.  Typically you do a lot better work, but in this “response” you have skipped over several points and when you have quoted my words, your arguments have not dealt with the topic at hand.  I really had come to expect better scholarship from you.  



  1. I find your responses very patient. I really have a hard time being insulted by so-called apologists who like nothing better than insulting the person, arguing points that were not made, and quoting sources that just repeat prejudicial lies about the Catholic faith. You have more patience and courage than I. I wish I could argue so well. Good job.


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