Loved into existence
No matter how a child is conceived, God’s role in the act is always love . . .
The Catholic Church holds a consistent and beautiful set of beliefs about marriage, love, family and human sexuality. The Church teaches that God loves each and every person into existence, and desires that human beings love the next generation into existence.
We believe that God created the universe out of nothing as an act of pure love. He didn’t need to create: He is completely sufficient in Himself. But the Divine love among the three persons of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — gushed out into the series of creative acts recorded in Genesis. After the creation of man, God declared His creation to be “very good” (Gen 1:31).
God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” What does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God? Christians believe “God is love” and that God is a communion of persons — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be created in the image of a Trinitarian God is to be created for love and for communion with others.
Because “it is not good for man to be alone,” God created woman. Upon seeing her, Adam exclaimed, “This one at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). Eve is not a clone of Adam, nor is she so different that she is another species. She is like him but not identical to him. Genesis continues, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). With these words, God created marriage, the first human social institution. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, which is the first commandment.
God created Adam and Eve out of love — and for love. God intended them to love Him and to love one another. But love cannot be coerced. Love must be freely given. Therefore, God created us with the capacity to choose to love or not love. All other choices pale before this basic choice. It’s the unbroken teaching of the Catholic Church that God created us with freedom.
With that great gift of freedom comes the possibility of choosing wrongly, of choosing against the love of God. And that’s exactly what our first parents did. The serpent convinced them that “You shall be as gods” if they choose against God’s one simple commandment not to eat of the tree. Of course, they became no such things. We men and women are not gods, but creatures of God.
The story of the fall in Genesis says that sin came into the world through the misuse of human freedom. And this continues to be our story. We are created “very good” by God. But we choose not according to the deep and unending love that He has for us. Instead, like petulant children intent on getting our own way, we choose our immediate desires over our deepest needs. Then we lie to ourselves. We try to squirm out of it by blaming others, just as Adam tried to blame Eve, and Eve tried to blame the serpent.
But God cannot be fooled. He understood that Adam and Eve had made a fundamental choice to go it alone. His love continued: He didn’t destroy them or the world he had made. He permitted them to go their way. The human race continued in existence, and continued to have responsibility for creation. God didn’t abandon them, nor cease loving them and their children.
Human love is part of the divine plan. God, the author of all life, could have created us differently. He could perform an act of special creation with each and every new person, without requiring any human participation at all. But the sexual act between a man and a woman can bring forth new life. Human participation in procreation is part of an act of love between the man and the woman. The love of human parents for each other gushes over into the creation of a new life, just as the divine love within the Trinity gushed forth into the creation of the world.
It’s also a simple matter of fact that we cannot completely control the creation of new life. The creation of a new human being requires the cooperation between man, woman and God. There is a “random” element to every act of intercourse. Even artificial reproductive technology, which seems to be the ultimate in human control over procreation, has a large random element to it.
God’s part in the creation of new life is always love. A man and woman may conceive a child by accident — or through rape. They may conceive a child in a drunken stupor or in the backseat of a car. They may conceive a child without having any relationship with each other at all, using artificial means.
But God’s participation is always love. No matter what our motives or behaviour, no matter how careless or violent or unprepared we may be, God’s participation in the process is always love. God loves each and every child conceived, no matter how they were conceived. Therefore, no matter what wrong we may have done, we must never regret the child that results. God loves the child and wills his or her existence.
This analysis helps explain the Christian teaching about many policy areas that are now considered controversial: Why sex outside of marriage is so often deeply disappointing, even if it’s safely contracepted. Why marriage is properly permanent and exclusive. Why conception outside the womb is an act of injustice. Why abortion is a heinous crime.
This is what we believe: God loves each of us into existence and wants us to participate in his creative process through love. At the center of the universe is a deep abiding love. And we are called to be part of it.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, the National Organization for Marriage’s outreach to young adults. This article is adapted from a talk she gave earlier this year. You can hear the entire lecture at ruthinstitute.libsyn.com.