Quotes about Birth_Control
Neither Paul nor any other New Testament writer envisions any Christian couple voluntarily remaining childless for the duration of marriage (John Davis).
While Christians take a variety of stances on contraception today, this diversity of opinion and practice is a relatively recent historical development. The majority report in Christian history has been overwhelmingly vocal in its opposition to birth control. The Early Church fathers condemned the use of contraception, leaning heavily on the negative example of Onan in Genesis 38 as evidence for their position and arguing that procreation was the primary purpose of sexual intimacy. This same basic stance was reiterated and reinforced by the Medieval monks and theologians. Even with the sweeping changes which the Reformation brought to Christians’ views of marriage and family, leading Reformers (such as Luther and Calvin) maintained the church’s historic opposition to contraception. Up through the 19th century, both Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic church stood united in their condemnation of contraception. The first official break with this view came with the 1930 Lambeth Conference, in which the Anglican Communion cautiously opened the door for Christian use of contraception. Within a few decades, the Christian consensus on contraception had collapsed and a range of attitudes and approaches towards contraception began to develop (Ben Franks).
What caused this dramatic shift in the church’s views [toward birth control]? Part of the answer is found in the radical shift which took place in the culture’s views in the first half of the 20th century. Increasing concern over population growth, loosening sexual mores, the rise of the Feminist movement, and an increasing commitment to individual autonomy and personal choice all pushed contemporary culture towards an embrace of contraception. By the 1960s and 70s, one could safely say that the contemporary cultural view of contraception was overwhelmingly positive (Ben Franks).
One helpful way of delineating these conditions is to say that the Christian use of contraception is only permissible when biblical principles of human flourishing are applied within the context of the biblical paradigm of marital fruitfulness (Ben Franks).
Ten Arguments against the use of birth control and a response to each: 1. Genesis 1:28; 9:1. But: a. If this were a specific command to every individual, every man and woman would be required to marry. But clearly marriage is not a universal obligation (Jesus, Paul, 1 Cor. 7). b. This text does address the responsibility to bear children but says nothing about how many or for how long. Nothing in the text explicitly requires us to have as many children as is biologically possible. c. Gen. 1:28 must be read in the light of 1:26. 2. Deut. 23:1 – The argument is that this prohibition reflects God’s displeasure with any means of birth control. But: a. There is nothing to indicate that these men were castrated as a means of birth control. b. In all likelihood, this refers “not to states of infertility produced by illness or accident, but to deliberate acts of castration at times associated with pagan worship in the ancient Near East” (Davis, p. 37). 3. Genesis 38:6-10 (Deut. 25:5-10). But: a. Onan’s sin was not that he violated the general command to have children, but that he violated the specific obligation in the law of levirate marriage. His action was sinful not because he used a form of birth control, but because he disobeyed a legal responsibility to raise up seed in his deceased brother’s name (probably because he didn’t want to assume the personal and financial obligation of raising them). b. Lev. 20:10-21 lists specific sexual crimes punishable by death under the Mosaic Code. If coitus interruptus, such as that committed by Onan, were regarded as an abuse or sin, one would expect to see it in this list. 4. Psalms 127:3-5; 128:1-6 – No one would dare disagree that children are a wonderful blessing from the Lord. But: a. Why should we conclude from these texts that we are morally obligated to have as many children as is biologically possible? b. As with all God’s blessings, we must be wise and prudent stewards in the enjoyment of them. 5. The purpose of sex in marriage is procreational, not recreational. But: a. The Bible reveals at least [four other] purposes for sex in marriage. b. “If sex were intended only for procreation, then it would be strange that nature has it that women can procreate less than half of their married life…and then only at a very limited time each month” (Geisler, p. 215-16). c. If this argument were valid, it would be sinful for a married couple to have sexual relations subsequent to female menopause or a hysterectomy or in cases where either husband or wife is sterile. 6. Birth control is unnatural and artificial. Common sense suggests that the purpose for human sexual organs is reproduction. Anything that prohibits or interrupts the sex organs from performing their appointed role is thus sinful. But: a. “If the sole purpose of sexual intercourse is procreation, then why did God give women the desire for sexual intercourse at times when they cannot become pregnant? Does not the natural order of things, then, demonstrate that procreation is not the only purpose of sex?” (Feinbergs, p. 175-176). b. We do many so-called unnatural things that run counter to and hinder so-called nature, none of which any of us would regard as immoral or unbiblical: shaving, air-travel, mowing the lawn, etc. c. If we consistently applied this principle we would be forced never to employ medical assistance, medication, or surgery. d. Those who employ this argument concede the use of the rhythm method and abstinence during times of ovulation, none of which is itself natural (charting or scheduling intercourse based on body temperature, etc., is hardly natural; and abstinence runs counter to the natural sex drive). 7. Birth control betrays a lack of trust or faith in the sovereignty of God. He is Lord over the womb. If God wants us to have children, He should be free to bestow them. If He doesn’t want to, He (and He alone) should have the power and prerogative to prevent conception. But: a. We must be careful that our trust in God is not simply irresponsible behavior. b. If this argument were consistently applied, we should never work, use locks or alarms on our homes, save money for emergencies, purchase life or health insurance, wear safety goggles when using a weed-eater, use sun-screen when outside, or support the police or national defense. 8. Birth control has the potential to alter in a destructive way our concepts and experience of love and commitment. But: a. The fact that birth control may yield negative consequences does not itself make birth control wrong. The absence of intimacy, promiscuity, etc., are wrong, not because one may have employed a contraceptive device, but because such things are declared to be wrong in the Bible. 9. Birth control encourages promiscuity among both married and unmarried people. But: a. We must distinguish between an object and the purpose or use to which an object is put. Cars are not sinful simply because people can use them to escape the scene of a crime they’ve just committed. The fact that an object can be used for immoral purposes does not necessarily prove the object is in and of itself immoral. 10. Birth control devices have negative side-effects and are detrimental to one’s health. Since our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we should not employ those things that do damage to our physical constitution. But: a. If a birth control device is found conclusively to have physical destructive side-effects, it should not be used. But such scientific evidence does not exist for all methods of contraception.
Is a Christian couple free to take steps to avoid ever having any children? The issue here is one of motive: Wrong motives for being childless:
1. The world is over-crowded.
2. The world is too corrupt.
3. “We don’t like kids!”
4. “We want the money and time to spend on ourselves.”
Right motives for being childless:
1. If there is good reason to believe the parents would pass on a genetically fatal disease.
2. If you are physically able to have kids but physically unable to raise and nurture them.
3. If children would impede a clear call to ministry (missionaries).
4. If you are financially unable to provide for them (but this is only legitimate for delaying the bearing of children, not for not having any at all, ever).
My conclusion is that the Bible nowhere prohibits the use of birth control. But are there any texts that suggest or imply that birth control is morally permissible?
1. 1 Corinthians 7:5 – “While this passage does not mention contraception, it does carry important implications for the discussion. Here it seems evident that God’s will for the Christian couple is not “maximum fertility,” i.e., the maximum number of conceptions biologically possible during the course of a Christian marriage. By mutual agreement, sexual relations may be renounced for a time in order to pursue spiritual objectives – in this case, prayer. The larger principle would be that Christian couples have the right to choose to “override” the usual responsibility to procreate (Gen. 1:28) for a season in order to pursue a spiritual good” (John Jefferson Davis, Evangelical Ethics, P&R, 2004, p. 39).
2. 1 Corinthians 7:26-28 – Here Paul advises Christians to avoid taking on the responsibilities of family life due to the impending persecution.
3. 1 Timothy 5:8 – This text not only demands that we work or in some way provide financially and physically for our family, but also forbids us doing anything that would hinder such care, even if we are employed. We are forbidden to take on obligations, no matter how well intentioned, which would lead us to fail to provide basic necessities for those who are dependent upon us.