Friday, January 05, 2007

And Juliette is the sun

My discussion of masturbation has clearly hit a raw nerve in some quarters. Let’s remember how this got stated. Philip Blosser had launched an attack on sola Scripture by, among other things, charging that the Protestant rule of faith leads to liberal morality, and he cited the shifting Protestant position on masturbation as a case in point.

I simply took issue with Catholic moral theology at this juncture. What is surprising is that anyone would be surprised that I might take issue with a point of Catholic moral theology.

Let’s recall that while the Reformation is best remembered for theological controversies over sola fide, sola Scriptura and the like, another central concern of the Protestant Reformers was sexual ethics. The restoration of a Biblical view of sex and family life.

It’s easy for some of us to take this for granted because we are historical heirs of that tradition.

I’ll begin on a high note with Frank Turk. As was to be expected, he, along with Tom R, is the most reasonable of my critics.


[1] You asked, "Are you suggesting that it’s sinful for man to want to make love to his fiancé, and that his desire only ceases to be sinful the moment they tie the knot? Surely that’s not your position."

“Yes, that is my position.”

Sorry, but that’s way too Manichaean for my blood.

“If a Dad wants to kill the man who murdered his son, that's sin; if a judge orders the execution of the murderer, that's not sin but justice. Same act: different context -- even if the motive of ‘serving justice’ is inside both.”

Well, the problem with this illustration is that I don’t think it’s wrong for a man to want to kill the man who murdered his son.

And it isn’t intrinsically evil for him to actually kill the man who murdered his son. In the OT we had the avenger of blood.

This doesn’t mean it would be the right thing to do under our own system of justice, where that is delegated to second parties.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, because it’s just an illustration. But it does illustrate a lack of common ground.

“Here is, I think, the problem -- you equate the matter of ‘having children’ and ‘having sex’.”

No, I don’t equate the two. What I did was to tick off three normal, ordinary reasons that a man, especially a Christian male, would want to marry a woman. I didn’t equate them, although, in this case, they are naturally interrelated. But the motives are distinguishable.

“There's not question that you must have sex to have children -- but the pre-marital notion of ‘I want her to be the mother of my children’ is not a euphemism, even if some treat it that way.”

I never said it was, and I don’t see the relevance of this observation to the issue at hand.

“Motherhood is more than being the object of sexual fantasies, and choosing a woman who will make a great mother is more than making sure she'd satisfy one sexually.”

This is both a false dichotomy and a misstatement of my position. And, frankly (pardon the pun), it shouldn’t be necessary for me to exert so much effort to defend the obvious.

But let’s take a contrasting example. Especially in the past, when there was more of a social stigma attaching to sodomy, homosexual men used to marry women just to keep up appearances. They would lead a double life.

But aside from the other immortalities involved in this arrangement (hypocrisy, sodomy, infidelity), it is wrong to marry a woman if you cannot love a woman the way a woman was meant to be loved.

It wrongs her to marry her if you don’t feel the way a normal man would feel about a woman. She’s entitled to a husband who covets her for being all that a woman can be, and only what a woman can be.

I don’t know why I have to belabor these elementary truisms.

I think part of the problem is that some Christians are overreacting to our licentious culture. And in their reactionary stance, they don’t make adequate room for God-given sensuality.

“Let's also be clear about this: any man is going to have sexual desires for any woman in the right circumstances. The issue is if those circumstances are not just useful or practical but morally correct. It is not morally correct to have sex outside of marriage -- not outside of a marriage which exists, and not apart from a marriage which does not exist. Sex outside of marriage is morally wrong. I am sure you don't deny this.”

All true.

“However, if your point is that the desire is neither moral or immoral but neutral, I'd have to think about this some more.”

No, that’s not my point. The desire is either moral or immoral.

“[2] Regarding Mt 5, the only way to say what you are saying here Steve is to say that fornication is not wrong. If fornication is not wrong, then the argument is yours: if it is wrong, then even if the specific example Christ makes in Mt 5 about adultery is only about married people, the precept has to be applied to the sexual sins unmarried people will encounter.”

This raises a valid issue. Several points:

i) We need to begin our interpretation of any given passage with what that passage has to say. Taking it on its own terms. Paying careful attention to the specific wording and literary allusions.

The Scriptural prohibition against fornication should not dictate or prejudge the interpretation of Mt 5:28. We first need to listen to what that text has to say about itself.

ii) Adultery and fornication are both analogous and disanalogous. They are analogous inasmuch as both are sexual sins.

But if doesn’t necessarily follow that if extramarital desire is a form of adultery, then premarital desire is a form of fornication.

a) For starters, what makes extramarital desire illicit is that you are already in a committed, covenantal relationship.

For a married man to, fantasize about a woman other than his wife involves an alienation of affections. He no longer covets her. Rather, he covets another woman. He is defrauding her of the emotional fidelity he owes her, and vice versa.

That is not analogous to premarital desire between a single man and a single woman.

b) In addition, in the economy of God, premarital desire is meant to be directed towards a state of matrimony, and not away from it.

This takes its point of departure with generic sex appeal. Why do men in general take an interest in women in general? Well, there’s more than one reason—but this is one of the reasons.

It is then supposed to move from the generic to the specific. A particular woman as a particular object of affection. A potential or prospective mate.

Christians shouldn’t be uncomfortable about stating the obvious. And we shouldn’t cede the ground of natural, normal sensuality to the unbelieving world.

“It's not enough to say, ‘well, Scripture is silent on such a thing’.”

But, of course, that’s a straw man argument because this is not all I’ve said on the subject.

“Scripture is silent on the use of the dagger in murder -- and they had daggers in those days. Does that mean we can interpret that killing with a dagger is OK, or does it mean that we can understand the precept that unjust killing is murder -- whether it is done by a rock, a sword, a knife or an arrow?”

A poor comparison. We all agree that murder is a sin. Therefore, the fact that the methods may vary is inconsequential.

“There are things in Scripture which can be understood even if they are not explicitly worked out for us to the most obvious degree.”

Once again, this is true. But in that event, people need to lay out a cogent argument for their inferences.


“And another thing: what the hell difference does it make to the discussion if you or I or all of us here reading and commenting (including women: let's not leave them out, as if this is only a "guy thing"!) have committed this sin or not? How is that the least bit relevant? __So, e.g., if you condemn Catholic commenters as hypocrites, if they happen to admit that they committed this sin, why could they not come right back (on the same kindergarten-ethics basis) and condemn you as rationalizing sin and calling evil good for self-interested purposes if indeed you are doing it yourself? This has nothing - NOTHING - to do with the merits of the case pro or con.”

i) Actually, I offered a detailed reply to this question in my response to Alan. You’ll notice that Dave simply disregards my reply, and instead launches into a hysterical tirade.

ii) I’m not particular concerned with the rather banal issue of hypocrisy per se.

Rather, as I already explained, the question of hypocrisy goes to the issue of whether the critics have a viable code of conduct.

A point of inconsistency can be relieved in either of two different directions. It’s hypocritical for a white supremacist to inveigh against miscegenation if he has a black mistress on the side.

This doesn’t mean that he should be a more consistent white supremacist. Rather, he should achieve consistency by ditching his racism.

If people have a code of conduct that they can’t live with, then they may have the wrong code of conduct. If their ethical ideal is simply unlivable, then it may be unlivable because it is unnatural.

Christian ethics is not supposed to be utterly impractical or unrealistic.

“berny, paul wrote in romans that if your conscience tells you something is a sin (even though it is not), if you do it you have sinned. so listen to your guilty feelings.”

This oversimplifies what Paul has to say about the weaker brethren. Indeed, Paul makes the point that guilty feelings can arise from faulty theology. And the lingering guilt is a sign of spiritual immaturity in this particular respect. We need to correct our theology and outgrow our false guilt.

There are many legalistic theological traditions that saddle believers with a false sense of guilt. They pile on a backbreaking load of extrascriptural prescriptions and proscriptions. This needs to be challenged, not codified and canonized.


“The two are ethically similar if not identical insofar as they both separate ejaculation from its proper sphere (in the context and act of intercourse, open to procreation, which is its deepest ontological purpose).”

What about a wet-dream?

“Onan deliberately removed himself from proper sexuality and ‘interrupted’ it with de facto masturbation.”

That’s eisegesis, not exegesis.

“Homosexual sex, or sodomy, is another instance of the same. They are all essentially the same on a moral plane because they deny the divine purpose of sexuality: procreation.”

So infertile couples should divorce? When a wife passes her childbearing years, the husband should dump her for a younger woman and sire more kids by his second (third, fourth, fifth…) wife. Is that it?

“Besides, most Protestants are no more opposed to contraception than (many) are to masturbation.”


“You may say this is solely contraception and has no bearing on masturbation at all, but even if one grants that (I don't, per the above) you still have to explain how the Bible explicitly condemns it and Onan winds up dead. Theories about his failure to do the levirate duty, etc., fall flat with cross-referencing, as I showed, particularly in my longer paper.”

i) To begin with, why should I care for what a Catholic layman has to say? Dave doesn’t speak for the Magisterium, now does he?

ii) And while we’re reading his paper, we might also want to read a few standard commentaries on Genesis.

Notice that Dave simply disregarded the exegetical argument which I reproduced from the commentaries I quoted.

“So you are in a position of defending a sexual morality that IS explicitly condemned in the Bible, in the case of contraception (specifically an old variant of it: coitus interruptus).”

i) Only on your blatantly acontextual interpretation.

ii) However, Dave does us a favor by pointing out that there is an analogy between support/opposition to/for contraception, and support/opposition to/for masturbation.

Many Evangelical critics of masturbation are, indeed, rather inconsistent on this point.

“Any way you slice the cake, the Protestant who has (knowingly or not) caved into the sexual revolution in part, has severe biblical problems to contend with.”

i) This is another part of Armstrong’s rhetorical shtick: pretend that challenges to Catholic views of contraception and masturbation automatically represent a capitulation of the sexual revolution, rather than a course-correction on the basis of grammatico-historical exegesis.

Over the course of 1500 years, the church piled up some traditional misinterpretations of Scripture. It’s necessarily to clear away the debris. And the job is still a work in progress.

“One may abstractly or conceptually distinguish the two, but it doesn't follow that 1) they were not both condemned by the ancient Jews, or 2) that Genesis 38 has no bearing on masturbation at all.”

Notice the bait-and-switch:

i) The fact that they may both be condemned in Jewish tradition doesn’t mean that you can use one as an interpretive grid for the other.

ii) Jewish society was a tribal society. The land belonged to the clan. That’s a major reason for levirate marriage. It was adapted to the socioeconomic conditions of the time.

Onan was depriving his sister-in-law of her property rights. Her livelihood. Her chance at having legitimate offspring who would support her in her own old age, as opposed to selling her body as a prostitute to keep from starving. That’s the ANE background of Gen 38.


Fr. Brian Harrison did a huge study on ancient exegesis of Genesis 38: "The Sin of Onan Revisited": showed that your overall contention is incorrect and that the Talmud also associated masturbation with the condemnation of Onan: "

6. In the parable of the sower, the idea of seed which falls upon the ground, rather than in it, symbolizes a fundamental sin: rejection of the Word of God (cf. Lk. 8: 5-6, 12-13). In Hebrew poetic thought a woman's body in its capacity for fruitfulness and motherhood is sometimes alluded to under images of a "garden" in which seed is to be sown (cf. Song of Songs 4: 12-16; 5: 1; 6: 1-2). Indeed, the very fact that in Hebrew the same word (zerah) is used for both 'semen' and 'seed' suggests that the potential for fruitfulness is understood as essential to any sexual activity."


Okay. So the Lucan version of parable is a really an allegory about the sin of masturbation. That’s very creative. Who would have known?

What a pity that in the two standard commentaries on the Gospel of Luke, which also interact with the synoptic parallels, as well as other Catholic scholars (e.g. Lagrange, Cerfaux, R. E. Brown), neither Fitzmyer nor L. T. Johnson discern the esoteric meaning of this parable.



"The Encylopedia Judaica (Vol. 4, p. 1054, article "Birth Control") states: "Jewish tradition ascribed the practice of birth control to the depraved humanity before Noah (Gen. R. 23: 2, 4; Rashi to Gen. 4: 19, 23)." (For further confirmation of Jewish views on this point, cf. H. Hirsch Cohen, The Drunkenness of Noah [University of Alabama Press].) The Encylopedia article adds that on the basis of Gen. 38: 9-10, "the Talmud sternly inveighs against 'bringing forth the seed in vain', considering it a cardinal sin (Nid. 13a). . . . Strictly Orthodox [Jews], . . . for religious reasons, refuse to resort to birth control." In the same Encyclopedia, under "Onanism" (Vol. 12, p. 1495), it is stated that the act of Onan "is taken . . . by the Talmud (Yev. 34b) to refer either to unnatural intercourse or (cf. Nid. 13a) to masturbation. The Zohar [a 13th century work] expatiates on the evil of onanism in the second sense." Other works by Jewish authors corroborating this tradition include D. Feldman, Marital Relations, Birth Control and Abortion in Jewish Law (New York: Schocken Books, 1974) and J. Cohen, 'Be Fertile, Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It' (Cornell University Press, 1989).


i) No one denies that Gen 38 has reference to contraception. That isn’t the issue. The issue is what makes contraception illicit in that particular situation.

ii) Even if some post-Biblical Jewish traditions gloss Gen 38 as a case of masturbation, that doesn’t make it valid exegesis. Why doesn’t Armstrong quote from a major Jewish commentary on Genesis like Sarna’s?

Likewise, why isn’t Armstrong quoting any contemporary contemporary Catholic commentaries on by major Catholic OT scholars?


Fr. Harrison summarized: " The classical Jewish commentators - who can scarcely be accused of ignorance regarding Hebrew language, customs, law, and biblical literary genres - certainly saw in this passage of Scripture a condemnation of both unnatural intercourse and masturbation as such.

Two problems:

i) Dave has cited very little supporting material to document the masturbatory interpretation. Instead, he’s tried to obfuscate the issue by amalgamating different sources that say different things.

ii) It’s quite possible that a Medieval Jewish commentator like Rashi would be ignorant of ANE culture. That’s about 2500 years under the bridge.


A typical traditional Jewish commentary puts it thus: "[Onan] misused the organs God gave him for propagating the race to unnaturally satisfy his own lust, and he was therefore deserving of death." And this is undoubtedly in accord with the natural impression which most unprejudiced readers will draw from the text of Genesis 38."


If this is typical, then it’s typically wrong. It’s clearly out of context.

On the one hand, it’s oblivious to the framework of levirate marriage.

On the other hand, coitus interruptus is scarcely the most satisfying form of sexual expression. It’s only used as a contraceptive measure, and not because it’s more pleasurable.


Moreover, Joseph Schenker is the Professor and Chairman of the Department Of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Hadassah, University Medical Centre, Jerusalem, Israel, wrote: "The collection of semen can present problems because of the prohibition against masturbation and "seed wasting". Masturbation is strictly condemned by the rabbinical sources: "Thou should not commit adultery, neither by hand, nor by foot". Coitus interruptus, or withdrawal, and the use of condoms are generally prohibited on the basis of the Biblical injunction against "spilling of the seed needlessly". " See the texts in the Babylonian Talmud itself: Niddah 13a / 13b:


i) This is irrelevant to the original intent of Gen 38.

ii) It also illustrates a point of tension in Catholic moral theology. On the one hand, we’re told that masturbation is wrong because it thwarts the proper purpose of sex, which is procreation.

On the other hand, when masturbation is used in the service of artificial fertilization, in the case of couples who are unable to conceive by natural means, it is still treated as immoral.


This involved what is known as the "levirate law": the duty to produce offspring with the wife of a dead brother. But this is not why God killed Onan, since the penalty for that was public humiliation and shunning, not death (Dt. 25:5-10). Context also supports this interpretation, since immediately after this (Gen. 38:11-26), is the story of Onan's father Judah refusing to enforce the law and allow his other son, Shelah to produce a child with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. He was afraid that Shelah would be killed like Onan and his other wicked son, Er (38:7,11). Judah acknowledges his sin in 38:26: "She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah." He wasn't killed, so it is unreasonable to contend that Onan was judged and killed by God for the very same sin that Judah committed (in the same passage). Onan was judged for contraception (sex with the deliberate intent to unnaturally prevent procreation).


i) To begin with, it’s unsurprising that we find some detailed differences between patriarchal common law and the Mosaic law, for the patriarchal honor code is a social custom, whereas the Mosaic law, to the extent that it codifies and canonizes preexisting social mores, also reformulates them in a more nuanced fashion. The Mosaic law doesn’t merely rubberstamp tradition.

ii) Armstrong’s interpretation is incoherent, for, on the one hand, he contends that Gen 38 doesn’t have reference to levirate marriage since refusal is not a capital offense in Deut 25; on the other hand, he also says that Shelah doesn’t suffer the death penalty for refusing to honor the custom.

So, in basing his argument on the respective penalties, Dave, to be consistent, would have to deny that Deut 25 is also dealing with Levirate law.

iii) The sin of Onan was to game the system by pretending to honor the law when he was really dishonoring the law.

“It only is in modernistic Christianity and biblical interpretation; this is the problem. Fancy that!: Steve Hays, the victim of modernism in both sexual morality and hermeneutics. How ironic…”

i) Catholic casuistry is far from treating every case of conscience as indubitable. Just consider the debates over Probabilism, Equiprobabilism, and Probabiliorism.

Does that represent a surrender to the sexual revolution?

ii) Let’s also not forget that Catholicism represents a moral compromise. It arbitrarily distinguishes between natural methods of contraception and artificial methods of contraception.


That's right. The liberals make the same exact argument about kids having sex: they'll do it anyway and can't control themselves so we must let them do so and no longer say it is wrong. This reduces human beings to the level of the brute beast. Nice going there. They give them condoms: you wink while little boys play with themslves and arouse fantasies and improper sexual feelings. Let 'em dop it. This is pure sexual revolution thinking, through and through. It's not traditional Christian or biblical teaching, by any stretch of the imagination.

i) Dave is now descending to pure demagoguery. I said that we shouldn’t automatically give into our feelings because some of our feelings are irrational or unjustified. We can’t always avoid having certain feelings, but we can avoid acting on them. And I gave false guilt as an example.

Dave turns this on its head, as if I said we should automatically act on our irrepressible feelings, which was just the opposite of what I actually said.

ii) Dave also has a rather odd view of young children who explore their anatomy. Does he really thing that a two-year-old who “plays with himself” is indulging in sexual fantasies?

Evidently, Armstrong subscribes to the Freudian thesis of infantile sexuality, which is the basis for organizations like NAMBLA.

Nice going there. This is pure sexual revolution thinking, through and through, it’s not traditional Biblical teaching by any stretch of the imagination.


“You know guys, I guess you're right. Since you would only be considered ‘unclean’ in the OT, it's really not that big a deal. I mean, you didn't have to slaughter an animal over it. God just declares that you're ‘unclean’. Only ceremoniously so. I guess I'm just being prudish and uptight about the whole thing. No Christian man should have a problem with being declared ‘unclean’ by his God...”

Having backed himself into an untenable corner, Juan is now being silly as well as inaccurate.

i) Does he think that defecation, menstruation, and conjugal relations are sinful? Or does he draw a distinction between ritual impurity and intrinsic evil?

ii) And, no, you didn’t have to slaughter an animal for the types of ritual impurity we’re talking about. Rather, a ritual ablution is all that was required.

“Let's see Steve, when you use your sex organ, is it sex?”

Well, that all depends. What you call the sex organ has more than one function. I don’t equate urination with sex, do you?

I’m sorry to inflict this on the reader, but that’s what happens when people back themselves into a corner. They flail about for any argument, however desperate, to extricate themselves.

“Steve, does a man consciously and purposefully initiate a wet dream? A wet dream may be the result of lust in a man's heart, but it is not a conscious act, is it?”

i) Now he’s shifting ground. His original objection to masturbation was that it violates the procreative purpose of sex.

Since that argument doesn’t work for wet-dreams, he’s having to shift gears. But, in so doing, he’s tacitly withdrawn his original argument.

ii) He’s also adopting the Arminian principle that only conscious sin counts as sin.

“And I'm Reformed and a Calvinist, btw, not Pentacostal.”

In that event:

i) You should appreciate the ethical difference between the moral law and the ceremonial law.

ii) You should avoid an Arminian definition of sin.

iii) And you should avoid a Pentecostal epistemology, which—to judge by your statements thus far—is your operating epistemology.

“Was Paul's answer in 1 Cor. to fast and pray when faced with sexual temptation? No, he said "it is better to marry than to burn". I don't recall him saying, well, if you can't find a wife, look for a nice, quiet dark place and Onanize it.”

He was addressing the case of those who felt an irrepressible urge to marry, not with those who couldn’t find a wife.

“What is God's intention with regard to sex, Steve?”

What is God’s intention with regard to wet-dreams, Juan?

“You asserted that necrophilia is dealt with in Scripture.”

No, I didn’t say that. You denied that Scripture addressed the question of necromancy. Two problems:

i) The Bible does address necromancy.

ii) Necromancy is not a form of sex.

The only form of neco- sex would be necrophilia—although that is not discussed in Scripture.

So what are you referring to? To judge, both by you previous statement and your present statement, you don’t seen to know what you mean.

“The reason I am animated about this topic Steve, is because I know that a lot of young men struggle with this. There are guys out there like Berny that have guilty consciences with regard to it. And this isn't like being afraid of heights, some irrational fear you have to deal with. This is a moral issue before God, and guilt is involved because man knows in his heart it is wrong.”

A man’s heart is hardly the measure of morality. There are legalistic denominations that think it’s sinful to take a sip of communion wine. So they substitute grape juice.

A Christian conditioned by this unscriptural tradition may feel conscience-stricken about imbibing communion wine.

If he feels in his heart that communion wine is sinful, is that an objectively valid argument against the use of communion wine? Or must that question be settled on exegetical grounds?

“But don't cause others to stumble because, while the biblical principles about sexual purity are all around you in Scripture, you just didn't come across the ‘word’.”

A straw man argument, since the silence of Scripture was never framed with reference to the absence of a particular word.

But what is far more likely to cause others to stumble are extrascriptural legalisms.

“Ought the man of God be chained to his libido and his penus? Or is he in union with Christ?”

It would be difficult to come across a finer example of a false dichotomy than this monkish antithesis.


  1. My friend, I am sure you are wrong, and I am sure I cannot convince you.

    Thank you for thinking about this with me.

  2. Steve,

    Apparently you cannot make a distinction between what a man purposes to do and what he has little control over. By your line of reasoning necrophilia is also morally neutral because it isn't mentioned in the Bible. Pursuing this with you at this point would be a waste of time. I agree with Frank at this point, adios......

  3. juan rivera said...

    "Apparently you cannot make a distinction between what a man purposes to do and what he has little control over."

    No, the problem is that you are backpedalling from your original argument. And you aren't any better at defending your fallback position.

    "By your line of reasoning necrophilia is also morally neutral because it isn't mentioned in the Bible. Pursuing this with you at this point would be a waste of time."

    Given your simplistic characterization of the actual argumentation, I agree that you're wasting everyone's time.

  4. Steve,

    I didn't say I was wasting everyone's time. I said debating this issue with you was a waste of time. Let's recap the arguement...

    Masturbation is sex because it involves the use of your sex organ

    Masturbation is a perversion of God’s intention for sex—pleasure within marriage and procreation (note I didn’t assert it is for procreation only)

    Masturbation is the fruit of sinful lust and when engaged in does not fulfill the need it is supposed to fulfill, and is committed consciously and purposefully

    A “nocturnal admission” is sex because it involves the use of your sex organ

    A “nocturnal admission” is a perversion of God’s intention for sex—pleasure within marriage and procreation

    A “nocturnal admission” is the fruit of sinful lust and occurs when someone is asleep, not consciously or purposefully—still sin, still originating in the heart, but certainly on a different level than masturbation wouldn’t you say?

    I can’t make it any clearer than that Steve. Now you may break dance around that with all your apologetic skills if you want to…..

  5. This is more entertaining than an episode of Reno 911. I wish I had a bucket of popcorn!

    So what about mutual masturbation between an unmarried couple? Is that a sin? ;)

  6. Aaron, that's an interesting question, but possibly not quite as interesting as it originally struck me 2 minutes ago.


    I can't believe Dave Armstrong used the Parable of the Sower in his argument about onanism. What was centuri0n saying about "dope"?

    And thanks for the greeting. It's good to be back stateside, though the missionary heart God has given my wife and me chafes against our location dang near every day...


    "Let's recap the arguement..."

    More like, let's recap a string of oft-refuted assertions.


    Masturbation is sex because it involves the use of your sex organ

    Masturbation is a perversion of God’s intention for sex—pleasure within marriage and procreation (note I didn’t assert it is for procreation only)

    Masturbation is the fruit of sinful lust and when engaged in does not fulfill the need it is supposed to fulfill, and is committed consciously and purposefully


    Such formidable logic deserves to be cast in a syllogism:

    A. Masturbation is sex because it involves the use of your sex organ

    B. Urination is sex because it involves the use of your sex organ

    C. Ergo:

    i) Urination is a perversion of God’s intention for sex.

    ii) Urination, when committed consciously and purposefully, is the fruit of sinful lust.



    A “nocturnal admission” is sex because it involves the use of your sex organ

    A “nocturnal admission” is a perversion of God’s intention for sex—pleasure within marriage and procreation


    Dear, dear! There goes our nightlife. Juan is such a killjoy!

    Can't go out at night to a restaurant or classical concert or movie theater, because we'd have to pay an admission fee, which would constitute a nocturnal admission, which would be a perversion of God's intention for marriage and the poison fruit of sinful lust.

    Next thing you know, Juan will turn his guns on matinal admissions as well.



    A “nocturnal admission” is the fruit of sinful lust and occurs when someone is asleep, not consciously or purposefully—still sin, still originating in the heart, but certainly on a different level than masturbation wouldn’t you say?


    A menstrual emission, even if it doesn't occur consciously, much less purposefully—is still sin, still originating in the heart, wouldn't you say?

  8. Aaron Kinney said...

    "So what about mutual masturbation between an unmarried couple? Is that a sin? ;)"

    Yes. Fornication, to be specific.

    I've already drawn the necessary distinctions.

  9. I must admit, this has been fascinating reading the past couple of days....not so shocking that the post on whacking off gets so many responses from the men of the various Christian sects.

    Steve, you've touched a hot button with the boys!

  10. I can't believe Dave Armstrong used the Parable of the Sower in his argument about onanism. What was centuri0n saying about "dope"?

    The only "dope" here (if there must be one) is you. All you need is a good concordance to see that the Greek word for "seed" in the parable of the sower is "sperma." Do you comprehend the possible connection there, yet? In the KJV it is translated "seed" 43 times.

    Most of the time, the word (sperma / seed) is actually used of human offspring, not agriculture: e.g., Mt 22:24; Mk 12:19-22; Lk 1:55, 20:28; jn 7:42, 8:33,37; Acts 3:25, 7:5-6, Rom 1:3, 4:13,16, etc.

    The parable of the sower is an obvious play-on-words based on the very notion of literal seed vs. spiritual seed or progeny. So it is not unusual at all to make another application to biological seed, since the same Greek word is used in both scenarios.

    Why anyone would immediately call one making that argument (and it wasn't my argument, but Fr. Harrison's) a "dope" can only be explained, in my opinion, by good ole anti-Catholic prejudice, not intelligent analysis of biblical words.

    Of course Frank Turk originally applied the word to me. Be that as it may, at least I am not a big enough dope or thin-skinned enough to threaten to press federal charges against someone who made remarks purportedly in my name, as Frank did (and entire fake blogs have been made in my name):

    Steve Hays wrote at the time:

    "Dave Armstrong is on the warpath once again. As usual, he feels that his honor has been slighted. Once upon a time there was a way of dealing, once and for all, with real or imagined affronts to one's person: you challenged your opponent to a duel. This custom had the advantage of quickly winnowing the hawks from the chicken hawks.

    "However, out of deference to his already bruised and besmirched sense of honor, I decline to press the comparison any further seeing as that might further affront his tender sense of injured honor.

    ". . . Dave has a thing about hoax-blogging. He acts as if this is deeply unethical. I don't know if he deems it to be unethical by the calculus of probabilism, probabiliorism, or equiprobabilism. For my own part, I don't see that hoax-blogging is any different from political cartooning, a la Herblock. As long as a hoax is obviously a hoax, no deception is involved. It simply belongs to the genre of satire, a la Swift."

    That's all fine and dandy. And then Frank added:

    "In order to make sure that the maximum controversy comes out of posting this, let me say, with all valor and heroic abandon, that Dave Armstrong is all about killing the joke. I will not speculate about why this is so -- it is simply part of the splendor of Dave."

    Really? Yet I had simply joked about the fake blogger, exposed his idiocy, and had a little fun trying amateur detective work. I did think it was highly unethical, yes (and this is standard Internet understanding). But let someone imitate Frank Turk and what happens? A mere two days later, he was fuming:

    "So if you have any complaints about how this was handled, you can e-mail [the impersonator] and tell him what a great Christian witness it is to impersonate someone in order to get his friends to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do.

    "One other thing: if the person who did this will come foreward and confess, I won't press federal identity theft charges; if I have to press this through Yahoo and get an IP address for the person who opened this account, you can rest assured that I will turn that information over to the FTC for formal charges...."

    ("Pants on fire" - 11-30-05)

    Is that not precious? I'm supposedly a killjoy and a narcissist when someone lies in my name; two days later someone does the same thing to Frank and he is ready to go to federal court at the drop of a hat! LOL

    I do believe this is the single funniest incident I have ever seen in almost eleven years online. But I would expect no less from someone who describes himself as a "Jerry Springer apologist" and who lies shamelessly and deceives fellow anti-Catholics and staffers on the CARM board (incident of 3-23-04); even lying to his friend James Swan. That's not speculation; he confessed it. And it wasn't the first time or the last, believe me (I know from personal experience).

    All that folly, but I'm supposedly the "dope".

  11. Dave Armstrong said:

    "The only 'dope' here (if there must be one) is you. All you need is a good concordance to see that the Greek word for 'seed' in the parable of the sower is 'sperma. Do you comprehend the possible connection there, yet? In the KJV it is translated "seed" 43 times."

    This is the Harold Camping school of exegesis. Run your finger down a concordance, assume that the same word always has the same referent, then merge all referents, as in:

    1. Christ is a lion

    2. Satan is a lion

    3. Therefore, Christ is Satan

    You and Juan should collaborate sometime.

  12. Dave said: “Homosexual sex, or sodomy, is another instance of the same. They are all essentially the same on a moral plane because they deny the divine purpose of sexuality: procreation.”

    This is an assertion minus the argument. Homosexuality is linked directly to idolatry in Scripture not procreation or the lack thereof. It's not enough to say that other sexual sins are non-procreative, as this overlooks the way that homosexuality is discussed. In Leviticus, it's discussed along with wearing clothes of multiple-fibers, because the two are practices associated with pagans. In Romans, it's a sin that is likened unto making a mockery of common grace and rejecting the "natural" use of the other sex. In that respect, it is, like idolatry, an "unnatural" act. It's "natural" for the unregenerate person, but man's natural state is not, in reality, idolatrous, rather his "natural" state relates to his being created for fellowship with God. Homosexuality is also a direct attack on the Trinity. The link here isn't procreation, rather its the Trinitarian image of God. The creeds, which one assumes Dear Old Dave believes are rather clear in the paternity of the Father, the filiation of the Son, and the spiration of the Spirit. We have one God, 3 Persons, each of which shares a single essence, but which manifests differentiation in these 3 respects. Likewise, in mankind, we have one race with one single essence in two genders. Taken togther in the family bond, the husband answers to paternity and thus the Father; the wife answers to filiation and thus the Son, and children spirate from them as children do. Paul even speaks of the order of the church with Christ as it's Head and the Father over Christ, this is also the paradigm for the home. Homosexuality reduces to de facto modalism, because with only one gender, you lose the differentiation. It's worth noting that many trinitarian heretics have at one time or another endorsed homosexuality, which rather proves this assertion. Take a look at the mainline denominations today; they're functional or outright Unitarians, and they support gay rights. Look at the non-trinitarians of past ages, they sometimes drew on a dualistic worldview in which sex with the other gender was bad, only to replace it with homosexual sex.

    And for Juan, Scripture does not address necrophilia as necrophilia, but it does speak to (a) touching dead bodies (b) sins related to pagan practices, (c) necromancy, as well as (d) no fornication, So, there's quite enough there to draw a conclusion about necrophilia. I can't speak for Steve, but it is by no means true that Steve is arguing that because the Bible does not address a particular practice, it is ambivalent, given those facts. He is not, like I believe Steve Lehrer at IDS did in relation to the discussions between NCT and RBCT, saying that "because the NT doesn't discuss incest it may not be a sin in the NT context." (Yes, he really said that last year). Rather, he's trying to get us all to think more clearly about this subject in general.

    Steve said: Onan was depriving his sister-in-law of her property rights. Her livelihood. Her chance at having legitimate offspring who would support her in her own old age, as opposed to selling her body as a prostitute to keep from starving. That’s the ANE background of .

    And, in the process, he was cutting off the name of his brother from the people, which is something that was, under the Law, only permissible in cases of apostasy, which involved a trial. Onan's sin amounts to "murder" under the social code, for Er had no children whatsoever, and in the act Onan commits displays a murderous contempt for his brother. He not only played the system and failed to comply give his brother children, he cut off his brother's entire line.

    "Dave said: This involved what is known as the "levirate law": the duty to produce offspring with the wife of a dead brother. But this is not why God killed Onan, since the penalty for that was public humiliation and shunning, not death ()."

    The custom of levirate marriage, which is first mentioned here, and is found in different forms among Indians, Persians, and other nations of Asia and Africa, was not founded upon a divine command, but upon an ancient tradition, originating probably in Chaldea. It was not abolished, however, by the Mosaic law (.), but only so far restricted as not to allow it to interfere with the sanctity of marriage; and with this limitation it was enjoined as a duty of affection to build up the brother’s house, and to preserve his family and name (see my Bibl. Archäologie, § 108). Keil & Delitzch.

    I'd add that the punishments in the OT Law are at times less stringent than those in the Patriarchal period. It's a hermeneutical mistake to read back punishments under the Mosaic Law into the pre-Mosaic period and draw inferences from them the way Dave's source has done, because part of the Mosaic Law happens to involve a shortening of the list of punishments resulting in death. It's one thing to say that Adam, to take one example from a standard Confession, broke the same Decalogue (in principle) that Moses possessed, but another to start reading back the punishments and civil penalties for sin in Moses' Law into that narrative.

    For example within the latter part of the Chapter 38 narrative we see that Judah ordered, by virtue of his authority as head of the tribe, that Tamar should be brought out and burned. Tamar was regarded as the affianced bride of Shelah, and was to be punished as a bride convicted of a breach of chastity. But the Mosaic law enjoined stoning in the case of those who were affianced and broke their promise, or of newly married women who were found to have been dishonoured (); and it was only in the case of the whoredom of a priest’s daughter, or of carnal intercourse with a mother or a daughter, that the punishment of burning was enjoined (and ). Judah’s sentence, therefore, was more harsh than the subsequent Mosaic Law; whether according to patriarchal custom, or on other grounds, cannot be determined. And, lest we forget, this whole episode shows the guilt of Judah who had gone and become entangled with Canaanite women. It's not about Onan; it's about Judah! The point of course, from the perspective of the Mosaic Law would be that, once again, we have men who depart from the covenant people and, as a result, the entire tribe or nation's future is placed at risk. Like the incident in , Judah had done something that should have led to his own death, and would have had he lived a few generations later. Onan becomes, in reality, a victim of Judah's own sins. His punishment was not just for his own sin, but is also a direct result of Judah's own behavior, for in having children by Shua, he went his own way, departing from the covenant people in order to have children and presumably allowing them to be reared as such. In other words, this who series of events would never have happened had he not departed from the covenant people, for "Judah departed from his brothers," and gotten involved with Canaanites. One gets the impression that his leaving is somehow tied to his feelings after suggesting they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. He wanted to get away from them, so we sympathize with him on the one hand, but then we see this and see that he's not much better than they, for he seems to, like so many today, be disallusioned with the covenant people to the point he decides to strike out and live by another code, which of course makes life much worse for everybody involved.

    Dave said: the Talmud also associated masturbation with the condemnation of Onan: "

    How does the Talmud have any realy bearing on this? Is it infallible? Is it binding on the Magisterium? Did the rabbis base this on the exegesis of the text? Why does the codification of post-Christian Jewish tradition have authority for Dear Old Dave?

    Dave said: I'm supposedly a killjoy and a narcissist when someone lies in my name

    Oh, hardly Dave, that's not what we think of you at all. You're not a killjoy and a narcissist when somebody lies in your name; you're a killjoy and narcissist because you have a general persecution complex and unravel just about anytime anybody invokes your name or disagrees with you.

  13. Dave,

    So you decide to trot out some of the history of your anger over the fake blogger thing and all that? I have to be honest, I have in the past taken some of the things said about you here and over at centuri0n's blog and James White's blog to be just a tad embellished, given that they were in the mix... I can attest to how emotions can flare up over the keyboard. But to see you come back and dredge it up again, all to rejoinder the appellation of "dope" b/c you took the Parable of the Sower ridiculously out of context *w/ a straight face* and not once but twice... it really damages my impression of exaggeration those times.


  14. Hi Gene,

    How does the Talmud have any realy [sic] bearing on this?

    You must read very poorly. Steve made the charge that I was engaged in anachronistic exegesis. He first brought up the Talmud, not I, and claimed:

    "Talmudic literature draws a clear distinction between contraception and masturbation

    Cf. E. Ullendorff, "The Bawdy Bible," BSOAS 42 (1979), 425-56."

    And so I came back with Jewish sources that contradicted his insinuation that the Jews never associated the Onan passage with masturbation. He was wrong.

    Is it infallible?

    Nope. Are you? Is Steve?

    Is it binding on the Magisterium?

    Not to my knowledge.

    Did the rabbis base this on the exegesis of the text?

    I don't know (I imagine they did), but that's beside the historical point and point of fact (the charge of anachronism).

    Why does the codification of post-Christian Jewish tradition have authority for Dear Old Dave?

    Why do you keep asking dumb, irrelevant questions, Dear Old Gene[s]? Don't you have anything better to do? If you had simply looked at the background of the previous exchange, it was quite obvious why I brought these things up.

    But another point: if Protestants are so opposed to any citing of Jewish sources, on grounds that they aren't "biblical," then why is the so-called Council of Jamnia (that was scarcely even a council at all) always brought up as a (post-Resurrection) source for the extent of the OT canon?

    Whatever works for the Protestant argument, huh? If Jewish sources don't work somewhere else and sound too "Catholic," then bash them while pretending that they aren't pressed into service when it is to bolster up a weak Protestant polemic.

    You guys are fun to watch, and I am immensely enjoying the further round of juvenile insults. Keep it up! And for people I hardly even talk to anymore -- gee, I wonder why, with enough intellectual flatulence around here to suffocate an elephant????? -- (this being a rare exception to my rule), you and Steve and Frank and Alan sure have a lot of emotion invested in putting me down. That's fine, too. It shows that I must be doing something right and that you have nothing better to offer. Thanks for the encouragement!

  15. I have responded at length and point-by-point on my blog:

  16. Hi Steve,

    Kudos for the brave conversation. I submitted a semi-fictional peice (please continue with your fiction as well) to a Christian blog a while back. I suspect that it was removed for being too brave. It appeals to Rome's traditional response to wet dreams. Here it is in it's entirety.
    Sweet Dreams Oct 1/05

    “Forgive me Father for I have sinned”

    “Indeed, Brother Luthier, don’t we all? But if we confess our sins God is merciful and forgiving isn’t he? What shall we do penance for today?

    Father, I don’t know where to begin. From the greatest sin to the least or from the least sin to the greatest, O Father I am overwhelmed by guilt. My throat is as tight as a drum. Words are so difficult for me now.

    Now now Marlin, lets start from the least then to warm your throat for the worst. Oh how I love warm words. Especially coming from you.

    Father, may I be so bold as to suggest that the tenth commandment may be the least. May I share with you then my covetous heart? So much I’ve coveted today that I don’t know where to start this night.

    Oh my dear Marlin lets try to be chronological then shall we? You just tell me your most recent coveting then. Surely it’s representative of the rest of your coveting. Then we can move right along now shall we?

    Father, my most recent coveting is indeed so dreadful. But perhaps my least recent coveting is so much more dreadful. May I impose upon you to hear all of my coveting. Surely I cannot have complete peace with a God that demands absolute perfection unless I do complete penance. Please grant me this.

    Marlin, you have tied my hands and my heart once again. But please be brief now. I will tire after another of your 6-hour tirades. Please show me mercy as well. I don’t believe that I am worthy of such punishment again.

    Thank you Father. I will try to use few words for I covet sleep as well. Oh no! There is yet another. Please forgive me Father.

    Continue Marlin, you are beginning to tire me.

    My humble apologies Father. My most recent coveting was at the dinner table, Father. I saw Brother John pour gravy on his potatoes and I coveted his gravy. I knew it would not compliment my rotundity and yet, I coveted it. Oh how foolish of me to want what I know is deathly unhealthy and yet desire that which doeth me such harm. How difficult it is to rely on the Lord for all my want. Yet I continue to struggle with so many wants.

    Marlin you tire me with trifles to no end. Do you not know that your orotundity bothers me more than your rotundity? Marlin, what makes you think that this gluttonous want is more deadly than depriving your Father Confessor of much needed sleep, huh? Ok Marlin, perhaps ten Hail Mary’s will curb that want a bit. I expect all those Hail Mary’s a fortnight ago curbed many a want. No? Marlin, I will suffer you only one more confession tonight so you’d better make it a good one.

    O dear Father, you have been most gracious. Please be patient with me on this final one then. I can scarce be brief. For the immensity of this coveting is so great. It is nigh unto blasphemy!

    Oh Marlin, you are so histrionic. Go on. Bore me to tears then. I fear you would be a double-edged sword to even our Mother.

    But Father, that’s just it. It is about our Mother. I fear I have offended her!

    Marlin, how could you offend someone whom we love and worship so much. Surely your offense is an offense of omission. Surely you merely failed to worship her as you ought to have worshipped her. Surely it was no sin of commission, but merely a sin of omission. Surely you jest!

    Oh no Father. So much a sin of commission that I hardly dare mention it to you. So difficult it is to even allude to it. I am nigh unto choking aft ‘this mere allusion.

    Marlin Marlin, as distraught as you claim to be by this mere allusion- the more I grow inclined to mine own illusions behind closed eyelids. My eyes are fading fast now Marlin; oh how I treasure sleep right now.

    Oh, but that’s just it Father! I had this dream of our Holy Mother. And I treasured it. No Father, I relished it. Oh Father, I relished it too much. Ooh, Father.

    Marlin, I am going to start counting your words as I would sheep soon. Should I count myself to sleep you may count on paying dearly for that sin should you die ‘ere you rise on the ‘morrow.

    Forgive me Father, but I have desecrated our Mother!

    Oh what foolishness you speak of Marlin. You cannot desecrate her -you know that. She is immortal, immaculate and ever a Virgin. The Mother of God can not be desecrated. Your words are full of error and nigh unto lashes.

    Father you are so correct. I cannot even mention what I did with our Mother. Words fail me then flail me. I surely am worthy of countless lashes.

    Marlin, I would relish counting the lashes I would like to have you flailed with. Perhaps that might hasten my lids to close. Unfortunately I am bound by tradition to give you one less than forty. Get on with it man, before I break with tradition!

    Forgive me Father! But I was bound with our Mother. She beckoned me and I came. I was no match for her call. Like the sirens that called for Ulysses; she called me and there was no ship’s mast for me to be bound to. My mind was dulled by the dullness of my sleep yet my heart was ever wicked. She called me to her royal paps and I suckled as even our Lord had suckled. I nursed and was satisfied by her comforting breasts. I did suck and was delighted by her bountiful bosom. I was fondled on her knees. She extended peace to me like a river. A peace beyond compare. Father, my bedding was soaked with far more than sweat. My guilt now soaks my heart with filthy rags. Oh Father, please absolve me of this wicked want. Oh how I want. And want yet even more. My want lies ever with me. I fear this worm shall never die- yet burn my soul to death.

    Marlin, oh Marlin. How could you even think of such an assault on our Holy Mother? Surely this was Succubus that seduced you. Surely this was not our Holy Mother. Surely you must do as St. Hippolytus did; and throw your chasuble over her that she might become a corpse. Surely this was not our Holy Mother.

    But Father oh Father, surely I fear the succubus. Surely I know that they tempt the saints. St. Anthony and Hilary, Victorinus to name a few. Yet how may I know our Mother from another. Which is witch and whom is whore? I have succumbed to one beyond my measure. I am polluted, so polluted beyond all pleasure.

    Marlin Marlin, hear me now. No Hail Mary’s will I proscribe for thee. This vision warrants the Ambrosian hymn:

    “Let all dreams and phantasms of the night… fade away, lest our bodies be polluted”

    May you repeat it till you sleep. Now give me some rest!

    But Father Father, did this work for Pope Sylvester 11? Did this work for the Council of Constance? I fear lest I be overcome again. I fear, I fear, I fear.

  17. Im not anonymous1/06/2007 3:11 PM

    I dont get it, why this subject always invokes such emotion? The more acceptable sins such as anger loathing, hatred, greed, gossip dont ever cause this type of reaction. Of course these other issues are not real sin.

  18. Steve,

    I'm not a native English speaker, so I apologize for getting "emission" mixed up with "admission". Since this exchange is degenerating into ungodly bickering, I leave you with three conclusions you must agree with given your line of reasoning.

    1. It would have been perfectly holy and legitimate for the Lord Jesus Christ, as a man (and single) on this earth, to masturbate.

    2. It would have been perfectly holy and legitimate for the apostle Paul, as a single man, to masturbate. Imagine accidentally walking into his tent to commend the good sermon he just preached and, uh oh, sorry Paul. What are you doing?

    3. It is sound biblical counsel for a father of teenage boys to say to them, upon their expression of concern about their struggles with sexual desire, "It's OK Billy, just masturbate. Now, don't think about Sally, Heather, or Megan from church, just make up some generic Barbie doll type--but she can't be real! No Britney Spears! If you think about some long dead actress like Greta Garbo, well, that's OK. Or maybe you can just sit on the bottom of the bath tub and think about the shower head, etc etc..."

    If you embrace those conclusions, I'll leave you to them. But you are naive to think that a teenage boy is going to play with his "safety valve" and not think about some girl he knows, some girl he likes, some girl that likes him back, and some girl he gets knocked up because jerking his "safety valve" wasn't enough....

  19. > "It would have been perfectly holy and legitimate for the Lord Jesus Christ, as a man (and single) on this earth, to masturbate."

    Not necessarily. Look at the howls of outrage that greeted The Da Vinci Code's claim that Jesus married and had children. While Dan Brown managed to unite a wide spectrum of Christians in agreeing he was an ass, ISTM that their reasons were subtly different. Protestants were more offended at Brown's claim that the New Testament is misleading and incomplete, that it contravened Sola Scriptura. Catholics, on the other hand, could hardly get too worked up if someone came along and said, "Hey, the four Gospels, Acts, etc are almost completely silent (except for a few cryptic hints) about one of the most important women in Jesus' family, and about her true significance to Christians today"... until they realise which Mary Danny boy is talking about, and in which capacity. Unlike Prots, who insisted that Jesus did not marry, Caths seemed more intent on asserting that Jesus must not marry: that for various reasons it would have profaned him.

    (It would also have created the unsettling prospect of a race of demi-gods whose descendants are still alive today. I suspect this is one, unstated reason why Catholics are so insistent on the Perpetual Virginity of Marty: if she was sinless, then any other children she would have borne would have carried the "Holy Blood", although not of course God Incarnate. To Prots, Jesus's specialness came from the Holy Spirit at conception, and was not present in His Mother at her birth. Thus we can accept St James and other "brothers" of Jesus as literal brothers, without seeking out their descendants today to cure ague with their touch.)

  20. IOW, (a) most Catholics would agree that one cannot (or should not) imagine Jesus marrying and fathering children (even if He had sex only for fathering children), but (b) this does not of course mean it is wrong for other Christian men to marry and father children.