The Witness of the Body: Inclining Against Contraception
I had encountered the truth that to engage in contraceptive sex would be to live a lie
Without the aid of any Church doctrine, by just listening to the "close-in teleology" of the conjugal act, I had encountered the truth that to engage in contraceptive sex would be to live a lie. I had an inclination I could not have then put into words that to separate the unitive and the procreative aspects of the conjugal act was wrong, and not only wrong but horribly wrong. For me it was clearly something despicable, something for which I would have to answer to God were I to continue the practice.
There is something about our end (in Greek, our telos), our design and God's purpose, that is to be learned from our body, from its acts, even from what the theologian Steven A. Long calls the "close-in teleogies" of human acts. There are "close-in theologies" that are found in the "close-in teleogies" of the human body, especially in such inter-personal matters as the conjugal act or the marital act.
To be sure, pure bodily activity is to be understood within the context of the whole human person, and not separated from it. Yet it is also sure that the body talks to us. We have to have an internal ear to hear what our body is saying. The loud din of our culture, our presuppositions, our ignorance, our lusts can often deafen us to the witness of the body. There are many sources of static.
Sometimes even some moral theologians try to plug their ears with respect to the music found in the "close-in teleologies" and "close-in theologies" by crying biologism, biologism, biologism!
But it is a fact that the natural moral law often speaks to us in the language of the body, in the meaning of its acts, and in what moral theologians have called our inclinations. Unquestionably, our inclinations can frequently go awry, especially after the disorder caused our nature from Adam's Fall. So not all felt inclinations can be assumed to be legitimate.
Importantly, in understanding these inclinations, it is also wrong to think of the inclinations as bodily urges. Far from being disordered primitive urges, the inclinations are in fact expressions of a kind of reason, an Ur-reason, a fundamental, non-conceptual, non-discursive reason. This is why I like to think of these inclinations as a sort of intellectual feltness. The natural law is (contrary to Kant and the natural law theorists of the Enlightenment) not based upon conceptual or discursive reason alone, but is fundamentally built upon these inclinations.
The notion of the natural law as something built upon these fundamental inclinations fits in better with the Biblical notion of the natural law as a law of reason written not on one's brain, but in one's heart. (Rom. 2:15) The Biblical notion of the heart refers or signifies the very center, the most intimate core, of the human person. The heart is something much more basic than one's brain. And it is here--in the central core of the human being, the heart--where the intellectual feltness, the inclinations of the natural moral law, are found.
Now I say all this as an introduction because it helps explain a life-changing experience I had about 28 years ago. And here to understand the context, I need to give a few biographical details.
Though raised Catholic, I had left the Church--indeed Christianity altogether--by the time I entered college. I remember my inchoate rebellion at age 13, but by the time I reached 17, this attitude had blossomed into full-scale rejection of God and of His Church.
As I approached college graduation, I happened to attend a Bill Gothard seminar with the young woman who would eventually become my wife, and experienced a conversion. I realized how much I had sinned or strayed from childhood innocence, how I needed forgiveness, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.
To make a long story short, after my conversion I read the Scriptures, but as I bounced from Baptist Church to Charismatic Church, I soon became aware that the Scriptures were not as perspicuous-that is, as plain to the understanding--as the Protestants claimed them to be.
So I decided the best evidence of the meanings of the Scriptures would be the so-called Apostolic Fathers, those persons who were the immediate successors to the Apostles. I was soon convinced, upon reading St. Ignatius of Antioch, that a Scriptural Church had to have at least three requisites: (1) it had to be Liturgical, (2) it had to be Eucharistic, and (3) it had to be Episcopal, which is to say governed by bishops.
So I looked for such a church. The Episcopal Church was convenient, had (or at least appeared to have) these three signs, and so ...
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