The Act of Severing

“These three goods [concerning sex]–procreative, unitive, and sacramental–are a package deal. Our time has made several great errors about them. The first is trying to tear them apart. It doesn’t work; they are fused by God’s natural and supernatural design, and what God has joined, no man can put asunder. That doesn’t stop people from trying.”

“For example, some wives and husbands try to sever the procreative dimension from the unitive. They imagine that by refusing the ‘burden’ of children, they can achieve a better partnership, a higher intimacy. The problem here is that their partnership was designed for raising children, and any so-called intimacy which is deliberately closed to new life is merely a collaboration in selfishness” (J. Budziszewski in the Foreword to Open Embrace by Sam and Bethany Torode [Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002], xiv).

9 thoughts on “The Act of Severing

  1. One wonders if Professor Carter is merely trying to keep his bona fides with the left current. He has a very precarious position, it seems to me, between the generally liberal and secular law school faculty at Yale and his own position as a black Episcopalian Christian. In order to maintain legitimacy among his peers, he may feel that maintaining bridges is the best or only way to go. In his books, The Culture of Disbelief, and God’a Name in Vain, he makes his points about how Christianity has been culturally diminished, but he doesn’t stray too far from accepted or acceptable, liberal views.

  2. The “sacramental” one caught me off guard as well. I am pretty sure Budziszewski is Roman Catholic, and that could be the reason for the word choice. Earlier in the Foreword, he explains, “The third, or sacramental, good of conjugal sex becomes real only when the spouses are united to Christ, for they become a living emblem of his sacrificial love for the Church and Church’s adoring response. Paul is so awed by this that he calls matrimony one of God’s secrets”(xiii).

  3. The sacramental -actually, eucharistic, since marriage is already a RC sacrament- language is more and more used to describe the sexual union of a married couple in the Catholic circles I intercat with. AS far as I remember, it was even used in a recent Chruch document (I do not remember if it was from B 16 or from the National Conference of Bishops; though).

  4. All that seems logical to me, but it does strike me as a bit of *eisegis* and I think we have to be careful not to make laws (in the biblical rather than legal sense) out of such things.

    I’m thinking of how this might play out in real life:
    someone else says, “But God wants you to have children that’s what he designed your marriage for.”

    Spouse: “Honey, we can’t have children, do you ever wonder if we are incomplete and not feeling all of God’s blessings because we cannot have them?”

    So, um, kind of watch out, you can trouble some consciences that don’t deserved to be troubled. This isn’t to say that anyone is condoning such a thing, it’s just that blanket statements seem to have a way of doing that and should be used with the utmost care. IMHO.

  5. I think J. Budziszewski would join with the rest of the church and grieve with those couples not able to have children due to some fertility problems. However, Budziszewski’s statement is not targeting these couples. It is simply recognizing our culture’s tendency to separate the procreative element from the sexual act. Concerned Christians and church leaders, in addition to Budziszewski, have recognized this trend and spoken out on the subject. One may argue that the culture does not do this, but I think it may be a difficult argument to win.

  6. Popular culture strives to remove God from every aspect of our culture. Marriage is no exception.

    The Sacramental discussion within marraige is intreaguing.

    Secularists, for example, do not recongnize the hand of God in procreation. Therefore anything associated with procreation is simply a human action. Which in their mind means humans create life, not God.

    We view our Sacraments as something in which God is doing/giving something to us. Therefore, can we not argue that it is Sacramental when God creates life within the acts of procreation?

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