SCOTUS Ruling: A Call to Repentance?
After the recent ruling of the SCOTUS on DOMA and Proposition 8 yesterday, I found today's reading in the Confessions quite apropos. In Article XXIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Melanchthon takes on the Confutation's argument that priests must be celibate by means of natural law. He writes:
"The adversaries object to these arguments. They say that in the beginning, the commandment was given to populate the earth. Now that the earth has been populated, marriage is not commanded. See how wisely they judge! Human nature is so formed by God's Word that it is fruitful not only in the beginning of creation, but as long as this nature of our bodies exists. Humanity is fruitful just as the earth becomes fruitful by the Word, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed" (Genesis 1:11). Because of this ordinance, the earth not only started to produce plants in the beginning, but as long as this natural order exists, the fields are covered every year. Therefore, just as human laws cannot change the nature of the earth, so, without God's special work neither vows nor a human law can change a human being's nature.
"Second, because this creation, or divine ordinance, in humanity is a natural right, jurists have said wisely and correctly that the union of male and female belongs to natural right (iuris naturalis; natürlich Recht). Natural right is unchangeable. Therefore, the right to contract marriage must always remain. Where nature does not change, that ordinance which God gave nature does not change. It cannot be removed by human laws. Therefore, it is ridiculous for the adversaries to babble that marriage was commanded in the beginning but is not now. This is the same as if they would say, 'Formerly, when people were born, they were born with gender (sexum); now they are not. Formerly, when they were born the brought with them natural right; now they do not.' No craftsman could produce anything more crafty than these foolish things. They were created to dodge a natural right. Therefore, let this point remain, that both Scripture teaches and the jurist says wisely: the union of male and female belongs to natural right. Furthermore, a natural right is truly a divine right because it is an ordinance divinely imprinted on nature. Because this right (ius) cannot be changed without an extraordinary work of God, the right (ius) to contract marriage remains, the natural desire of one sex for the other sex is an ordinance of God in nature, and for this reason is a right (ius). Otherwise, why would both sexes have been created?" (Apology XXIII:8‑12)
Two things I find worthy of note. The Confessions uphold natural law, so that God's ordering of the cosmos continues to bring forth according to His ordinance, whether we submit to it or not. This is the way things are. It is how it is designed. Nothing—no human law or action—can change that. It is what it is.
The second is the argument of the Confutation. The subversion of God's order by the Western Roman Church in its stance on the marriage of priests has deleterious effects on the view of marriage as a whole by the people. The estate of marriage by divine ordinance and, thus, natural law came to be seen by all as something less than the celibacy of the priesthood, which has support from neither divine ordinance nor natural law. False teaching and a failure to teach has consequences in the hearts and minds of those who hear it. Scum always rises to the top.
Now, we can complain all we want about the SCOTUS's ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8. But I wonder if this is not simply the logical conclusion of the Church's, not the culture's, but the Church's subversion of the divine ordinance and natural law's witness about marriage? How often do we in the modern church sound like the authors of the Confutation, "in the beginning, the commandment was given to populate the earth. Now that the earth has been populated, marriage is not commanded." Or, as it may go today, "in the beginning, God ordained that male and female be fruitful and multiply to populate the earth. Now that the earth has been populated, being fruitful and multiplying is not commanded." Perhaps, the SCOTUS ruling, however disturbing it may be, is our call to repentance, so that we as the Church, the people of God, who know God's commands and confess natural law, will once again teach what the Scriptures teach and bear witness to the jurist's wisdom of natural law in lives lived according to it.