More Thoughts on Birth Control

The earlier link to Albert Mohler’s radio program on birth control (can Christians use birth control?) has raised some good questions among some of you. Here are my thoughts on a few of the queries that have been posed:

“Is it morally acceptable to enjoy the pleasures of sex outside of its natural context (making babies)?”

I would argue that the natural context of sex is not making babies. Otherwise, it would be unnatural for sex to occur unless it made a baby each time. I would argue that the natural context for sex is marriage, and in that case, yes, it is no bueno to experience sex outside the natural context. God created sex within the natural context of marriage for both pleasure and procreation.

“Does birth control demonstrate a lack of faith in God’s provisions? When does claiming “human wisdom” cross the line?”

In my estimation, birth control doesn’t cross the line of a lack of faith anymore than using preventitive medicine in other areas demonstrates a lack of faith. Instead, it is designed to be used in a faith-filled way.

“Is birth control a type of abortion? Are there really birth control methods out there that are safe?”

You will hear plenty of debate in this area. From my understanding, there is no conclusive evidence that birth control methods like the pill cause abortions. The reality is that any time a baby is conceived there is the risk of a chemical abortion (aka miscarriage). None of us would conclude that this risk of an unintended chemical abortion is grounds for not attempting to get pregnant.

There are some things like the morning after pill that do cause abortion. In terms of safety, there are unquestionably safe (in terms of their inability to cause abortions) options available including abstinence (I’m not recommending that one), natural family planning, and condoms.

Is it permissible, as Mohler claims, to use birth control as a means to plan a family (i.e. waiting until having children is more economically plausible)?

I believe the answer is yes. Birth control is anything that alters a couple’s natural sexual patterns or ability to conceive in an effort to reduce the chance of pregnancy. I have never heard of a couple who has not used birth control (by this definition) at some stage in their marriage.

Here’s what I mean…do you know any couple who has not altered their normal sexual habits in any way at any point in their marriage in an effort to minimize the chance of pregnancy? I don’t. It may manifest itself as prolonging breast feeding, taking a week off from intercourse during the woman’s cycle, or many other means. The issue is not ‘do couples use birth control?’ but ‘when do they use it? and how effective is it?’

The bottom line is that birth control is another area in which Christians must partake with good stewarship and discernment. I believe the use of birth control should only take place while embracing the following perspective:

  • A willingness to joyfully accept any children that come
  • A viewpoint that is acting by faith (Romans 14:23) to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) in the decision–in other words, not doubting what you have decided to do
  • A resistance to comparison and criticism of couples who do not share your convictions

This is in no way intended to be a comprehensive treatise on birth control, but is simply designed to pose some thoughts and spark more dialogue. Bring on your thoughts, questions and criticisms in the comments section.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “More Thoughts on Birth Control

  1. Interesting argument. I don’t know where I stand on the issue. It bothers me to alter anything sexually oriented, unless through natural means. My wife and I planned our second child using natural methods of monitoring her cycles. But, I have to give your argument some credible points there. Well thought out. I enjoyed.

  2. Thanks for your terrific post Phil! You always challenge the heart, and spur on the mind!

    Before I comment, let me say that apart from the standards given to us in the Bible, I have absolutely no ground to stand on in this dialogue. I’m not married, don’t have kids, and of course, haven’t been involved in much family planning (unless you count the fact that I decided to be born right on time…lol!).

    That being said, let’s take a look at the issues:
    “Is it morally acceptable to enjoy the pleasures of sex outside of its natural context (making babies)?”

    I agree that, “God created sex within the natural context of marriage for both pleasure and procreation”. However; I do not think that both have equal parts to play within the marriage. Genesis 1:28 does not state: “And God blessed them and said unto them, Have pleasure, enjoy each other’s physical gifts”. (I’m over killing, I know, but it gets the point across.) God commanded first of all, before any mention of physical pleasures, to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” I see it as a stretch to confer that “multiplication” is not the pre-eminent factor in man’s ‘natural’ relationship his wife. The fact that a baby is not born during every act of procreation, is not grounds enough to conclude that ‘creation’ in fact, is not its grand design. Is pleasure included? Yes. It is certainly a blessing of the marriage bed. But should we as Christian’s, pick and choose our blessings at the expense, so to speak, of others? (I am getting ahead of myself, as I plan state the obvious, that children are a blessing; not a hindrance, inconvenience or the like.) And if it is the case, that God has constructed marriage in a way as to bless the family with children – then what place does the Christian have in exchanging the blessing of offspring, for the blessing of secondary pleasure, without the responsibility of offspring? (I know this is as much of a loaded question as it is a rhetorical one, but I couldn’t explain it any different)

    “Does birth control demonstrate a lack of faith in God’s provisions? When does claiming “human wisdom” cross the line?”

    I will assert here, the obvious. Children are a blessing from God. Obviously, not all families are blessed with ‘natural’ children, but that in no way diminishes the fact that children are a blessing, pure and simple. That being the case – Is it within the Christian’s moral prerogative to ‘prevent’ or ‘inhibit’ that blessing? Your point about preventative medicine is a valid point, but not one in the context of creation of human life. I think we can agree, that taking a polio shot is far different from preventing the fertilization of a human embryo, or it’s attachment, after fertilization, to the mother’s uterus. Having faith that your polio vaccine will prevent a deadly disease is far different than, having faith that God will prevent the possible creation of human life. (And as you’ve stated before, not all acts of intercourse end in pregnancy – so, can it not then be gathered that birth control is hedging your bet in favor of ‘childlessness’? Would it not be more faithful to entrust creation to God, and refuse to take “life” (or the absence thereof) into your own hands?

    “Is birth control a type of abortion? Are there really birth control methods out there that are safe?”

    You do well in stating that there are different types of birth control. But the point remains, is birth something that God has given Christians the moral obligation and/or prerogative to ‘control’? It seems that God’s sovereignty would contrast with our involvement in creation, would it not? We had no say in when the first man was made, or when we were made…why then, should we have the luxury of deciding at what point in time our children are made? (within the confines of marriage, of course)

    The issue of abortive birth control is indeed, an oft-debated issue. There are, as you stated, instances of clearly abortive birth control such as the morning after pill. But that is not the only type of ‘control’ that we have the obligation to address. The issue is not as much of the option of controlling birth, as it is controlling fertilization and the implantation of the fertilized egg. That is what most birth control actually controls. If we are to take the biblical stance, that “life begins at conception”, then we must ascribe the ‘abortive’ sense to these other ‘controls’. If a pill, shot, patch, or whathaveyou – inhibits the carrying of an embryo (post-conception) – then it must be considered “abortive” and should not be supported.

    As far as miscarriages go, they are an issue in and of themselves. One would be hard pressed to compare a natural miscarriage (of young, first time mothers), to an illegal drug, alcohol, or physically induced miscarriage. The former is a decision out of the hands of the mother; the latter is clearly a personal choice (intentional, or not), which ends in the “termination the pregnancy” (as Pro-Choicers like to say). The issue then becomes, if Christians do not have the moral right to end a pregnancy of their own accord, do they have the right to “prevent” one, of their own accord?

    Is it permissible, as Mohler claims, to use birth control as a means to plan a family (i.e. waiting until having children is more economically plausible)?

    After stating that the option of controlling birth is not one that is delegated to the biblical Christian, I can not agree with Dr. Mohler. (I never thought I’d say that…and frankly, still don’t believe I did…lol) If children are indeed a blessing (Deuteronomy 33:24), why should a Christian try to reduce the chances of being blessed? I know I am repeating myself with the same question, but it strikes at the heart of the matter. Should we restrain God’s hand in “increasing” our family? Should we wait on ‘our time’ to be blessed, or should we have faith in God’s time?

    If the issue is economical stability, perhaps the question should be — Should marriage wait until the couple is economical ready for the blessing of children? That seems to be a faith filled outlook.

    And as far as “never hear[ing] of a couple who has not used birth control (by this definition) at some stage in their marriage” — I can think of very few biblical examples, that support that statement. I can find plenty to the contrary however; of people going out of their way to have children – defying God’s promises and decrees (Gen 16:2, Gen 30:3), but recognizing that children and child-bearing was the original and preeminent purpose of biblical marriage.

    I don’t see this issue as one of stewardship either. How many times have we told God, “Lord, don’t let me make that much money this year — I just don’t think I’m ready for it”, or “I appreciate these spiritual gifts that you have given me, but that is enough for now. I don’t think I could deal with anymore.” The truth is, God knows what we are ‘ready’ for. Like folks always say, “God won’t give you anything that you can’t handle.”

    I am not naive enough to think that children are “blessings without responsibility”. But, what a blessed responsibility they are! They are a blessing without compare (not without measure, but nothing is quite like the blessing of children). That being the case, it is difficult to align the same principles of stewardship as we have with other “material” blessings.

    I do not believe that Christians should force their ‘potential’ children to trek through the labyrinth of birth control, economic, and other reservations to even have the ‘possibility’ to be born. (Because, once again, not all acts of intercourse end in pregnancy)

    Much as Rev. Mohler has proven before- http://www.henryinstitute.org/commentary_read.php?cid=273 – it is a Christian’s duty to ‘get the facts’ and faith permitting, change their minds on issues of biblical importance. This undoubtedly is one of those issues.

    An excellent resource on this issue (for both sides) is a 4 part series posted by Frank Turk (aka Centuri0n) at: http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2005/09/rooster-contraception-1.html

    Verse for thought:
    “And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, ‘Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’” – Genesis 30:2

    Blessings – Bro. Hank

  3. Pingback: Linking Up (7/26)-- Stepping in Faith

  4. To Phil, what great insights into birth control and marriage!
    To Kevin, I have to point out a few things that came up in my mind as I read your comments. I hope I can explain them clearly.

    If you truly believe in God’s sovereignty in regard to the birth of children, then you should be able to see that His will can cause a child to be born even if a woman is on birth control. If he can cause a virgin to have a baby, I don’t think birth control poses much of an obstacle.
    I have yet to read a verse in the Bible that says, “you should get married so you can have children” (actually I think it was Paul who said it’s better NOT to marry) I also haven’t seen any verses that say, “If you are married, you must have children,” or “If you don’t want children, don’t you dare get married.” Yet, according to you, the only way for a married couple to choose to avoid having children is to practice abstinence…which – oops – is also a form of birth control. In fact, by that logic, a couple who truly wanted to have no control over having a child would be obligated to have sex constantly! As I read the Bible, I see no indication that having children is God’s will for everyone. My personal belief is that killing children (abortion) is wrong, but taking steps to deter conception is not. Like I said, if God really wants a child to be born, birth control won’t stop it.
    As for your comment “I can find plenty [of examples] …of people going out of their way to have children – defying God’s promises and decrees (Gen 16:2, Gen 30:3), but recognizing that children and child-bearing was the original and preeminent purpose of biblical marriage.” This statement rings false to me on several levels.
    There may have been plenty of examples of people wanting to children, but that is in no way a testament to whether or not children have to be the primary purpose of marriage by God’s standards. The desperate cry for children by so many people in the Bible is perfectly natural when you consider the culture of the day. Remember Hannah (Samuel’s mom) crying to God for a child? I’m sure she had her motherly yearnings, but the Bible also clearly points out that, according to the culture of the time, being childless was a social disgrace. Children were essential for economic well-being, to maintain a good quality of life in old age, etc. So there were many non-religious reasons to pray and beg God for a child. In no way does the emphasis on the “blessing of having children” mean that we are morally obligated to have children.
    The last part of your statement “children and child-bearing was the original and preeminent purpose of biblical marriage” seems a bit presumptuous as well. When God said “Go and be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth,” there were only eight human beings on the earth! To take that command and give it the amount of emphasis you are, seems to take it out of context. First of all, what distinguishes it from the MANY, MANY other Old Testament commands we don’t follow? If you are woman who doesn’t trek seven miles out of town when she’s on her period, if you wear clothes of mixed fabric, if you’ve ever eaten a shrimp, or you haven’t sacrificed an animal on an alter this year, you have effectively disregarded the Old Testament commandments.
    As for the “grand design of marriage,” Genesis first mentions that its purpose is for some teamwork and, it seems, companionship. “But for Adam no suitable helper was found… Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man… 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” No mention of babies. Lets try the New Testament: Eph 5:31-32 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” The grand design seems to simply be God giving us a small glimpse into the kind of relationship we have with him…the emotions He feels for us, the challenges, etc. (Hosea and Gomer is another good example of that). Again, no mention of making children.
    Also, you have to keep in mind that it is highly unlikely that Noah wrote down what happened to him…unlikely since writing didn’t exist at that point as far as we know. The story of Noah was passed down orally for many generations – probably until Moses’s time (making a word-for-word accounting of the story VERY unlikely). The same with stories like Adam-n-Eve, and Job. Scholars usually agree that these stories are oral traditions, meant to convey truths about God and the Jewish heritage. To say that procreation is the MOST important aspect of a marriage is to take two singular OT (and therefore old covenant) verses – derived from centuries-old oral traditions – and place their importance over the spades of other verses that talk about the purpose and rules of marriage, and yet which never mention making babies. It just seems to me that you are micro-analyzing these two verses, and then assigning them a level of importance over all the other mandates given to us by Paul and Jesus that might indicate birth control is a GOOD idea …well, that sort of an argument just doesn’t hold a lot of weight in my mind. The earth is filled. You multiplied. Good job, Noah and Family.

    By the way when I say other mandates, I mean things like being a good steward (arguments can be made for this, although you disagreed. We can save that for another time), being wise, loving your family AS YOU LOVE YOUSELF, etc. It hardly seems wise for a poverty stricken family of ten starving children to have another child. In another scenario, I don’t think a child would mind waiting a few years to be born to parents who feel a bit more ready for him. By the way, if you’re thinking “what if the child is never born at all?” just remember what I mention earlier. If you believe in a sovereign God, birth control is a small obstacle if he wants someone to be born. To say that God is sovereign over child birth ONLY for couples who are NOT on birth control is a very large breech of logic.

    In my mind, it seems so irresponsible to just start popping out children without regard as to whether or not that is God’s destiny for you at that time, or whether you can provide a good life for the child! Having a child can completely change the course of someone’s life. While God can obviously make good of that situation, it may not have been His best intentions for that person. To know this is true, I only have to look at children born of wedlock. To say that God willed them to be born right at that time is like saying He willed the wedlock to occur – a clear breech of His commands on sexual purity.

    Sorry this ended up being so long. It’s a bit late, so I hope it makes sense. I loved hearing everyone’s input! Keep up the good discussion!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s