Before you tie the knot, pastors and counselors try to tell you what you need to know for a healthy and successful marriage. I remember being advised about communication styles, conflict resolution, birth control, personality, etc. It felt comprehensive.
There’s one thing, though, that needs to be added to the list of topics discussed before marriage: infertility counseling. I realize that subject sounds like a bummer to talk about just before a couple marries and goes off to be fruitful and multiply. Based on the situations couples face these days, however, waiting to talk about it until after a couple is facing infertility is far too late.
Here’s why. Once a husband and wife find out they can’t get pregnant, things change. They, understandably, get very emotional about the fact they can’t have children. People in their life stage are popping out kids left and right. Every friend’s pregnancy announcement is another bittersweet ordeal.
In an attempt to fix the problem, the couple pursues the help of fertility doctors. Sometimes they consider procedures that may be ethically questionable because they are passionately committed to the end result of having kids.
Not only have couples told me they felt this way, but I know firsthand as well. My wife and I also dealt with infertility. I remember how I felt, how my wife felt, and how hard we tried to get pregnant. We went through counseling. It was a long and tumultuous time. We met with infertility specialists, took numerous tests, and even had surgery in an attempt to increase our chances of getting pregnant. For a time, it felt like our decisions were largely driven by our emotions.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, we got pregnant naturally after four years of infertility. In retrospect, though, it seemed like we were willing to try anything to get pregnant. I’m not saying we would have done something medically unethical, but I was afraid we might.
I’ve now spoken with several couples who faced a similar situation. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get pregnant naturally. Instead, they used fertility treatments that put them in a moral dilemma. For example, one couple I recently spoke with used in vitro fertilization. They had multiple eggs fertilized, and then the embryos were implanted in the wife’s womb. The problem was that the wife was now pregnant with five children. Their doctor advised them to abort three of them. He said to attempt to carry all five children would likely result in a premature delivery that would take the lives of all their kids. What should they do?
My advice is to never create more embryos than you’re willing to implant and never implant more embryos than you’re willing to carry. But it was too late for that advice.
Once you’re married and facing infertility, your judgment can become clouded. I’m not saying every couple loses all rationality. Many, though, act before they think or seek good advice because they’re desperate to have kids.
Couples need to be counseled about fertility treatments before they get married and find themselves deep in a moral dilemma where lives are at stake. That way they can reason through the decision-making process prior to an emotional ordeal that jeopardizes clear thinking.
When I teach on homosexuality, I’m often asked about how a believer can bring up the topic of homosexuality with a friend or family member who identifies as gay or lesbian. I’m always puzzled by this question. It assumes we’re supposed to go through life and try to figure out non-believers’ sins and bring them up in conversation so they’ll consider stopping the prohibited behavior. But we can’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians. As my pastor often says, “Don’t put family rules on those outside the family.”
Our hope for homosexuals is not heterosexuality, but holiness. We’re not trying to make them straight, but lead them straight to Jesus. In almost every case where I’ve seen a man or woman with same-sex attraction abandon a life fulfilling homosexual desires, it was because they first committed their life to Christ. Then, with the Holy Spirit in their heart, they were transformed from the inside out and began to live obediently to the standard of Scripture.
That’s why my advice to believers is not to focus on behavior modification of non-Christians. That’s only a band aid. If you really want to say something about your convictions that is also relevant to them, tell them about Jesus Christ. Homosexuals, like any other non-Christian, need to hear the offer to be pardoned from their crimes against God. Only then can there be true healing.
My son is memorizing the Apostles' Creed and asked me about the phrase, "He descended into hell." Did Jesus really go to hell? I didn't think he did, so I checked Wayne Grudem's excellent Systematic Theology for an answer.
I discovered the Apostles’ Creed was not written by a single person or approved by a church council at a specific time. It gradually took form between 200 A.D. and 750 A.D. The first version, by St. Irenaeus, didn’t include the phrase, “He descended into hell.” Rather, Rufinus first inserted it in 390 A.D.
Rufinus, however, did not intend the phrase to mean that Christ descended into hell. He simply meant that Christ was “buried.” It was a literary device to emphasize that Christ actually died. Rufinus meant Jesus “descended into the grave.”
There were at least five more versions of the Creed after Rufinus, but none of them contained his expression. It wasn’t until 650 A.D. that someone inserted it again. Then, people didn’t seem to know Rufinus’ intended meaning of the phrase. They began to speculate as to how to harmonize the claim that Christ went to hell with the rest of Scripture. Some said Christ went to hades or the netherworld. Others said He actually went to hell. Of course, many today still try other ways to explain the phrase.
The bottom line is that the Apostles’ Creed didn’t originally include the phrase “He descended into hell.” Even when Rufinus inserted it, he never intended it to mean that Christ actually went to hell. This is besides the fact that there is no biblical justification for such a claim.
There seems to be at least three options for Christians today. One, they can recite the creed in its current form and simply remember in their mind that the phrase “He descended into hell” is a figure of speech for Christ descending into the grave. Two, they can recite the creed by changing the words to “He descended into the grave.” And three, they can simply omit the phrase.
Personally, I lean towards omitting the phrase when I recite the creed. Option two, however, is nice because you can keep speaking along with everyone else if you're saying it in a group.
Grudem has an extended article on this question that was published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can read it here.
This Thursday is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized the killing of unborn children in the United States. Since we've had 42 years of abortion, I'm going to post 42 abortion-related tweets in one day. I'll post one tweet every 15 minues from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM (PST).
If you're not already, follow me on Twitter @AlanShlemon and watch my feed on Thursday.