Recently, a friend of mine came up to me and asked me a question. She had told me that over the weekend a friend had approached her and expressed his doubts about Church teaching on non-marital sexual intercourse. Specifically, he felt that intercourse was acceptable once the couple was in love. I have posted on this topic before in my essay “The Church Makes True Love Possible.” I do not intend to address the matter again her, but I will simply state that those who want to know more should get a free copy of “Marriage and the Eucharist” by Christopher West from the Mary Foundation and his book The Good News About Sex and Marriage.
What I want to address is one of the other things she told me he said. She told me that he said something like, “If sex before marriage is wrong, then why does God allow conception to occur in this context?” (The argument is a non-sequitur and easily can be shown to be one using this reductio ad absurdum. If that argument logically follows, then the same could be said for adultery, which also results on occasion in conception.) She told him that God can allow good to come from sin. He rejected that good could come from sin.
Let’s look at his position for a moment. I think that his position really undermines God’s providence. Take as an example the problem of evil. People who struggle with the problem of evil constantly ask, “How could God let something like the Holocaust (Shoah) happen?” Sometimes people give the lame answer that God gave us free will and He doesn’t interfere in our affairs. While true, I say this is lame because God most certainly does interfere in our affairs when He wants. A look at a crucifix shows us He greatly desires to bring us back to Himself through entering into our lives. Do we forget that even today every saint canonized requires one miraculous healing performed by God through the saint’s intercession? God most certainly could have prevented the Holocaust. If doing so is beyond His normal course of action, then many verses in Scripture become meaningless. Psalm 91 says that we will be safe under God’s wings and not to fear the terror of the night. Psalm 27 asks of whom should we be afraid, since God is at our side. So the answer to the Holocaust question is that suffering has meaning. It is redemptive. God was in Auschwitz with those suffering. Maybe we don’t understand the meaning, but the meaning is there.
This is not to say that God supports sin. Think on a smaller scale about a car crash. If someone gets drunk, goes for a ride, and kills someone, in no way is God pleased in the action of sinner, the driver. He, did, however, bring about His ends through the sinner. He used the car crash to take the life of an innocent (in this situation) bystander. Another example would be if I turned to the person sitting on my left and in anger punched him. God could have stopped me from punching him. The anger in my heart could have been the sin without having hit my neighbor. However, God, in His providence, used my punch. In no way has God been in favor of my sin. Using the previous aforementioned reduction ad absurdum, does this make murder part of God’s will? God’s will is the death of the person and He brings it about through murder. This is illogical, as murder is clearly sinful.)
In the same way, God, in His providence, brings about His will, in this case conception, through sinful means without supporting the sinful means. This means that that even though intercourse before marriage can result in conception, it is not morally acceptable. We are not to make any judgments on the people who commit this sin or on those who are conceived in this manner. However, we cannot condone the act for the sake of people’s feelings either because we do in fact know it to be wrong. We must be sensitive to their feelings but remain dedicated to the truth and out of love tell them the truth so that they repent, not to condemn them, but to save them and straighten out their relationship with God.