Our lack of gratitude deserves to be reproved

Ecclesiastes 11:5, "As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything."

In mistakenly thinking man can determine by science the exact moment life begins and, therefore, identify a time before which he can insert his will without murdering, we have lost a necessary awe and respect for procreation as the ongoing work of God - a work which defies human wisdom and knowledge.  The growing knowledge of the biological process should only increase our fear and wonder at the miracle of procreation, not increase our confidence in fiddling with it.

"Therefore our lack of gratitude deserves to be reproved. If we believe that God is the efficient and the final cause, should we not wonder at His works, delight in them, and proclaim them always and everywhere? But how many are there who really do this from the heart? We hear that God took a clod and made a human being; we wonder at this, and because of our wonder we regard it as a fairy tale. But that He now takes a drop from the blood of the father and creates a human being, this we do not wonder at, because it happens every day, while the other thing was done only once; yet each of the two is brought about through the same skill and the same power and by the same Author. For He who formed man from a clod now creates men from the blood of their parents." (excerpted from below)

Luther's Works, Vol. 1, Page 120-128:

About the male he said that he was made out of the dust, that the breath of life was breathed into his face, and that all the living beings were brought before him. When Adam saw no help among them, the woman was made—his partner in procreation and in the preservation of the species. God did not want his descendants to originate in the same way in which Adam was made out of earth; it was His desire that man should have the power of procreation, such as the other animals had. ...Thus Adam was created alone; later on the animals were brought to him, and Adam was put to a test whether he could find or see a partner in that group; finally Eve was created. ...For because God had said: “Grow and increase,” it became necessary to describe how the woman was added to Adam, how she was made and was joined to him. 
...But so far as this account is concerned, what, I ask you, could sound more like a fairy tale if you were to follow your reason? Would anyone believe this account about the creation of Eve if it were not so clearly told? This is a reversal of the pattern of the entire creation. Whatever is born alive, is born of the male and the female in such a manner that it is brought forth into the world by the female. Here the woman herself is created from the man by a creation no less wonderful than that of Adam, who was made out of a clod of earth into a living soul. This is extravagant fiction and the silliest kind of nonsense if you set aside the authority of Scripture and follow the judgment of reason. Accordingly, Aristotle declares that neither a first nor a last man can be conceded. Reason would compel us, too, to make the same statement if it did not have this text. If you should reach the conclusion that what the unvarying experience of all creation proves is true, namely, that nothing comes into existence alive except from a male and a female, then no first human being can be conceded.

The same thing would also have to be stated about the world, which the philosophers have, therefore, asserted is eternal. But reason with all its force inclines to this conviction even though proofs founded on reason are thought out by which it is demonstrated that the world is not eternal. How can it take its beginning from nothing? Moreover, if you should say that the world had a beginning and there is a time when the world was not in existence, it immediately follows that there was nothing prior to the world. An endless series of other absurdities follows, and these induce philosophers to conclude that the world is eternal. But if you should say that the world is infinite, then immediately another new infinite will also appear, namely, the succession of human beings. But philosophy does not grant the existence of several infinites, and yet it is compelled to grant them because it knows of no beginning of the world and of men. These contradictions and the lack of clarity gave the Epicureans the opportunity to say that the world and man came into existence without any reason and will also perish without any reason, just as cattle perish, which die as though they had never existed. This leads to another conclusion, namely, that God either plainly does not exist or does not concern Himself with human affairs. Into these perplexing mazes reason is misled when it is without the Word and follows its own judgment.

However, it is useful to realize how it comes about that our reason or wisdom is unable to make a greater advance in understanding the creation. For what, I ask, does a philosopher know about heaven and the world if he does not even know whence it came and whither it tends? Indeed, what do we know about ourselves? We see that we are human beings. But that we have this man for a father and this woman for a mother—this must be believed; it can in no wise be known. Thus our entire knowledge or wisdom is based solely on the knowledge of the material and formal cause, although in these instances, too, we sometimes talk disgraceful nonsense. The efficient and final cause we obviously cannot point out, especially—and this is a wretched situation—when we must discourse or do some thinking about the world in which we exist and live, likewise about ourselves. Such pitiable and inadequate wisdom!

Aristotle declares: “Man and the sun bring mankind into existence.” Well said. But follow this wisdom, and you will arrive at the point where you maintain that man and the sun are eternal and infinite. For you will never find a human being who is either the beginning or the end, just as I cannot find the beginning and the end of my person if I want to gain certain knowledge about this and am not willing to rely on belief. But what sort of wisdom and knowledge is it that knows nothing about the final cause and the efficient cause? So far as our having a knowledge of the form is concerned, a cow likewise knows her abode and (as the German proverb has it) looks at and recognizes her door. This also makes clear how awful was the fall into original sin, through which we have lost this knowledge and have become incapable of seeing either the beginning or the end of ourselves.

Plato, Cicero, and other philosophers who belong to the better sort state in their discussions that man walks with his head erect, while the rest of the beings look at the earth with their heads bent down. To man they attribute reason or the ability to understand; and later they reach the conclusion that man is an extraordinary animal created for immortality. But how tenuous and almost useless this is! All this is based on a knowledge of man’s form. But if you go on to give consideration to his substance, does not reason compel you to declare that this being must again be disintegrated and cannot be immortal?

Therefore let us learn that true wisdom is in Holy Scripture and in the Word of God. This gives information not only about the matter of the entire creation, not only about its form, but also about the efficient and final cause, about the beginning and about the end of all things, about who did the creating and for what purpose He created. Without the knowledge of these two causes our wisdom does not differ much from that of the beasts, which also make use of their eyes and ears but are utterly without knowledge about their beginning and their end.

Therefore this is an outstanding text. The more it seems to conflict with all experience and reason, the more carefully must it be noted and the more surely believed. Here we are taught about the beginning of man that the first man did not come into existence by a process of generation, as reason has deceived Aristotle and the rest of the philosophers into imagining. The reproduction of his descendants takes place through procreation; but the first male was formed and created from a clod of the field, and the first female from the rib of the sleeping man. Here, therefore, we find the beginning which it is impossible to find through Aristotle’s philosophy.

After this beginning was made, there then follows the no less wonderful propagation through the union of a male and female, whereby the entire human race is brought into being from a droplet of the human body. In a similar vein Paul, on the basis of this passage, has a clever discourse among the philosophers in Athens (Acts 17:25): “God Himself gives to all ζωὴν καὶ πνοήν, spirit and life everywhere, and from the blood of one man He makes the whole human race that it may dwell on the entire earth, that they may seek God, if perhaps they may feel Him or find Him, although He is not far from each one of us.” Here Paul is speaking of the propagation brought about by the first man when he says “from the blood of one man.” If, therefore, man is brought into existence from a droplet of blood, as the experience of all men on the entire earth bears witness, surely this is no less miraculous than that the first man was created from a clod, and the female from a rib of the man.

But why does the creation of Adam and Eve seem so unbelievable and miraculous, while man’s propagation, which all men know and see, does not seem so miraculous? Undoubtedly because, as Augustine says, miracles become commonplace through their continuous recurrence. Thus we do not marvel at the wonderful light of the sun, because it is a daily phenomenon. We do not marvel at the countless other gifts of creation, for we have become deaf toward what Pythagoras aptly terms this wonderful and most lovely music coming from the harmony of the motions that are in the celestial spheres. But because men continually hear this music, they become deaf to it, just as the people who live at the cataracts of the Nile are not affected by the noise and roar of the water which they hear continually, although it is unbearable to others who are not accustomed to it. Without a doubt he took over this very statement from the teaching of the fathers, but they did not want to be understood as though sound were given off by the motion of the celestial bodies. What they wanted to say was that their nature was most lovely and altogether miraculous, but that we ungrateful and insensible people did not notice it or give due thanks to God for the miraculous establishment and preservation of His creation.

Thus it is a great miracle that a small seed is planted and that out of it grows a very tall oak. But because these are daily occurrences, they have become of little importance, like the very process of our procreation. Surely it is most worthy of wonder that a woman receives semen, that this semen becomes thick and, as Job elegantly said (Job 10:10), is congealed and then is given shape and nourished until the fetus is ready for breathing air. When the fetus has been brought into the world by birth, no new nourishment appears, but a new way and method: from the two breasts, as from a fountain, there flows milk by which the baby is nourished. All these developments afford the fullest occasion for wonderment and are wholly beyond our understanding, but because of their continued recurrence they have come to be regarded as commonplace, and we have verily become deaf to this lovely music of nature.

But if we regarded these wonders in true faith and appraised them for what they actually are, they surely would not be inferior to what Moses says here: that a rib was taken from the side of Adam as he slept and that Eve was created from it. If it had pleased the Lord to create us by the same method by which Adam was created from the clay, by now this, too, would have ceased to hold the position of a miracle for us; we would marvel more at the method of procreation through the semen of a man. This crude doggerel is right, and there was certainly good reason for composing it: “Everything that is rare is appreciated, but what is an everyday occurrence comes to be regarded as commonplace.” If the stars did not rise during every single night or in all places, how great a gathering of people there would be for this spectacle! Now not one of us even opens a window because of it.

Therefore our lack of gratitude deserves to be reproved. if we believe that God is the efficient and the final cause, should we not wonder at His works, delight in them, and proclaim them always and everywhere? But how many are there who really do this from the heart? We hear that God took a clod and made a human being; we wonder at this, and because of our wonder we regard it as a fairy tale. But that He now takes a drop from the blood of the father and creates a human being, this we do not wonder at, because it happens every day, while the other thing was done only once; yet each of the two is brought about through the same skill and the same power and by the same Author. For He who formed man from a clod now creates men from the blood of their parents.

Aristotle, therefore, prates in vain that man and the sun bring man into existence. Although the heat of the sun warms our bodies, nevertheless the cause of their coming into existence is something far different, namely, the Word of God, who gives a command to this effect and says to the husband: “Now your blood shall become a male; now it shall become a female.” Reason knows nothing about this Word. Therefore it cannot get away from its childish prattle about the causes of such important matters. Thus the physicians, who have followed the philosophers, ascribe procreation to a matching mixture of qualities which are active in predisposed matter. Although reason cannot disprove this (for it sees that dry and cold natures are unsuited for generating, while moist and fairly warm ones are better suited), still they have not arrived at the first cause. The Holy Spirit leads us to something higher than nature, higher than qualities and their proper mixture, when He puts before us the Word by which everything is created and preserved.

Therefore that a man is developed from a drop of blood, and not an ox or a donkey, happens through the potency of the Word which was uttered by God. And so, as Christ also teaches in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9), we call God our Father and our Creator, as the Creed calls Him. When we look at this Cause, then with a chaste and pure heart and with gladness we can speak of those things which otherwise, if this Cause is disregarded, we could not mention without filthiness and indecency.

This discussion also shows how awful the fall into original sin was, since the entire human race knows nothing of its origin. Indeed, we see a man and a woman being joined; we see the woman made pregnant by a droplet of blood; and later, at a definitely fixed time, a baby is brought into the world. These are facts that lie before the eyes of all and are well known; and yet without the reminder and instruction of the Word you have no actual knowledge of the very activity which you are carrying on consciously and with open eyes. The discussions of the philosophers, with which we have already dealt, give sufficient evidence of this. Such horrible blindness and such a pitiful lack of knowledge!

Accordingly, if Adam had persevered in innocence, it would have been unnecessary to instruct his descendants about their origin, just as it was unnecessary to instruct Adam about the creation of his Eve, because the moment he saw her, he himself was aware that she was bone from his bones and flesh from his flesh. That kind of knowledge of themselves and of the remaining creatures would have remained also among the descendants of Adam. All would have become aware at once of the final and efficient cause about which we now have no more knowledge than cattle have.

For the ears of reason, consequently, this is a very beautiful and pleasing fairy tale, which the philosophers enjoyed ridiculing when they heard about it, as some of them did, especially those who had become acquainted with the science and wisdom of the Egyptians. But it is incalculable wisdom for us to know what is taught by this foolish fairy tale, as the world calls it, namely, that the beginning of man’s coming into existence was through the Word, inasmuch as God takes a clod and says: “Let Us make a man.” Later He likewise takes a rib of Adam and says: “Let Us make a helper for man.”

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