Project Wittenberg

Human Sexuality:
A Theological Perspective

Some Problems

A Report of the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
as prepared by its Social Concerns Committee
September 1981

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Against the background of this discussion of marriage and its purposes we may proceed to comment briefly on a few issues connected with marriage and sexuality. Our intention here is not to discuss fully all relevant issues, such as, for example, the problems of pornography or abortion, but instead to deal with some of the problems most frequently mentioned in requests to the Synod. [28] It should be noted that we have chosen to concentrate first on a positive development of the order of marriage and its purposes. No discussion of particular problems, however urgent they may appear to be, is likely to be helpful if carried out in isolation from a developed theological understanding of sexuality. Furthermore, it ought to be obvious that no brief discussion of the problems taken up can be exhaustive or fully adequate. It will be enough to point out the direction in which the analysis above leads with respect to certain issues.

Divorce and Remarriage

[28] With respect to abortion, the official position of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is that "since abortion takes a human life, abortion is not a moral option, except as a tragically unavoidable byproduct of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of another human being, viz., the mother . . ." (1979 Resolution 3-02A, "To State Position on Abortion"). This issue is not treated in this study, since the CTCR and its Social Concerns Committee are in the process of preparing a new report on abortion. When completed, it will be made available to the members of the Synod for study and guidance.

[29] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1960), p. 82

[30] Traditionally theologians in our Synod have noted that. while there is only one Scriptural ground for divorce, viz.. fornication, there are eases in which Christians may suffer "malicious desertion. "Dr. John H. C. Fritz, in his Pastoral Theology, states on the basis of 1 Cor. 7:15 that malicious desertion occurs when a spouse deserts the other party "with the manifest intention of not returning to the abandoned spouse, and will not by any means be persuaded to return." Such desertion, rather than a cause for divorce Fritz says, "is in itself divorce" and constitutes the dissolution of the marriage (p. 181). In a forthcoming report on "Divorce and Remarriage" the Commission will give this matter more detailed attention as it seeks to offer guidance to pastors and congregations as they deal with problems such as this in their ministry of pastoral care.

[31] Cf. the article by Martin H. Scharlemann, "The Pastoral Office and Divorce, Remarriage, Moral Deviation," Concordia Journal 6 (July 1980): 141-150.

[32] In his discussion of penitence in the Smalcald Articles Luther writes: "It is therefore necessary to know and to teach that when holy people, aside from the fact that they still possess and feel original sin and daily repentance strive against it, fall in to open sin (as David fell into adultery, murder, and blasphemy), faith and the Spirit have departed from them. This is so because the Holy Spirit does not permit sin to rule and gain the upper hand in such a way that sin is committed, but the Holy Spirit represses and restrains it so that it does not do what it wishes. If sin does what it wishes, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present, for St. John says, 'No one born of God commits sin; he cannot sin.' Yet it is also true, as the same St. John writes, 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. and the truth is not in us"' (Smalcald Articles III. iii. 43-45).


Headship Within Marriage

[33] In the New Testament the term hypotasso ("to be subject") is not a condescending term. Luke chooses hypotasso to describe Jesus' loving subordination of Himself to His parents (Luke 2:51). In this verse the word carries with it a twofold nuance. On the one hand, it presupposes that a hierarchy of relationships exists within the created order (e.g., Col. 3:18-4:1). The term also denotes a readiness to surrender one's own will in service to others.

[34] It should be noted that this discussion deals only with subordination of wives to husbands, not of women to men in general. It is far less clear, in fact, whether the Bible anywhere really enjoins the latter. The distinction between the two kinds of hierarchy is taken from Charles Williams, "A Dialogue on Hierarchy," The Image of the City and Other Essays. ed. Anne Ridler (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 127 f.

[35] Francis W. Beare, "Ephesians," in Interpreter's Bible, vol. 10 (New York: Abingdon, 1953). p. 718.



[36] Martin H. Franzmann, Romans (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968), p. 43.

[37] It is not uncommon today to distinguish between the pervert-for whom heterosexuality is natural but who nevertheless engages in homosexual acts-and the invert-who, as far as he knows, has never experienced heterosexual attraction and for whom a homosexual orientation seems perfectly natural.

[38] For a discussion of the distinction between "propensity" and "behavior" as these terms apply to the question of homosexuality the reader may wish to consult the Lutheran Church in Australia's 1975 "Statement on Homosexuality," pages 1-2. This report was distributed to the Synod by the CTCR in April 1975 as "a worthy contribution to the discussion" of this sensitive issue of human sexuality.


Artificial Methods of Reproduction

[39] Leon Kass, "Making Babies: The New Biology and the `Old' Morality," The Public Interest 26 (Winter 1972): p. 23. Kass' entire article provides a good discussion of artificial methods of reproduction. An excellent discussion by a Christian moralist is Paul Ramsey's Fabricated Man: The Ethics of Genetic Control (New Haven: Yale Press, 1970)

[40] Thielicke, p. 252.

[41] Ramsey, Fabricated Man, p. 38.

[42] A section on in vitro fertilization has not been included in this report, since the Social Concerns Committee of the CTCR will give attention to this matter in its study of biomedical ethics (cf. 1975 Res. 3-26, "To Provide Assistance Regarding Bioethics").


This text was converted to ASCII text for Project Wittenberg by Rev. Robert Grothe and Rev. Todd Dittloff and is in the public domain. You may freely distribute, copy or print this text. Please direct any comments or suggestions to:

Rev. Robert E. Smith
Walther Library
Concordia Theological Seminary.

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