~By Nate Wilson
From the amount of flame mail I've gotten since posting this article, I'm quite aware that most Christians today disagree with the position of this paper. I'm not out to condemn anybody, I'm not wanting to get involved in a controversy, and I don't want to unnecessarily make a big issue of birth control. This paper is merely intended to be a summary of several books on the subject, and my intent is to provide a balance to the many articles on the Internet offered in favor of birth control. My concern is that too many Christian couples hear the arguments in favor of birth control and make their decision without ever having heard that there might be reasons not to practice birth control. I offer the following arguments so that Christian couples can make more intelligent, informed decisions concerning birth control (hereafter "B.C."). Once a couple makes an informed decision - whether for or against B.C. - this paper has served its purpose in providing part of the information needed to make that decision. Whether or not you practice birth control is YOUR decision, not mine for you, so please don't worry about what I think. What matters is that you can stand before God with a clear conscience on this issue.
God is Sovereign in birth. He opens & shuts the womb; He blesses with children. (The following verses are NOT an exhaustive list.)
It is GOD Who opens and shuts the womb: Genesis 20:17-18; 29:31-33; 30:1-2,6,17-18, 20, 22, 23; I Samuel 1:6, 11, 19, 20;
God helps and participates in the process of bringing forth children: Genesis 4:1, 25; 21:1-2; Ruth 4:13; I Samuel 2:20-21; Psalm 139:13, 16; Luke 1:21-25, 57-58
Procreation is part of God's design and was commanded by God at the creation: Gen. 1:27-28
God multiplies children: Genesis 16:10; 17: 2,20; 22:17; 26:4, 24; 28:3; 41:52; 48:4; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 1:10,11; 28:63; 30:5, Joshua 24:3; I Chronicles 27: 23; Psalm 105:24; 107:38; Isaiah 26:15; 51:2; Jeremiah 30: 19; 33:22; Ezra 36:10-11, 37; 37:26
The Bible nowhere encourages B.C., but everywhere condones fertility!
Pro-child verses: Psalm 127:3-5; 128; I Chronicles 20:4-5; Exodus 23:25-26; Proverbs 17:6
Children are a blessing that comes from obeying God: Leviticus 26:9; Deuteronomy 28:1-4; 6:3; 7:13; 13:17 ff
Pro-Fertility verses: Leviticus 20:18 (abstaining during monthly periods increases chance of fertilization after period); Genesis 1:27-28 (The command to be fruitful has never been revoked); I Cor 7:3-5 (Not compatible with "Natural Family Planning")
Anti-Infertility Verses: Infertile manners of intercourse were condemned: Beastiality (Leviticus 20:15, 16), Homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), Withdrawal (Genesis 38:6-10, Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In fact, all of these things incurred the death penalty. There was no death penalty for fornication or polygamy.
Semen is referred to as offspring even before it joins the egg: Hebrews 7:9-10; Job 10:8-11
Childlessness is one of the curses listed in Leviticus 20:20-21 and Hosea 9:10-17
Having children is part of the whole picture of a family:
The Father is to provide for his family--I Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 6:4
The Mother is to work at home and have children: I Timothy 2:15; Titus 2:3-5, Malachi 2:15, I Timothy 5:9,10, 14
Children are a blessing to parents: Proverbs 10:1; 23:24-25; Mark 7: 10-13
Parents are to teach children: Deuteronomy 6:7; 11:19
B.C. has existed for millennia. Ancient Egyptian papyruses have been discovered with references to chemical contraceptives. The IUD was used by ancient Arabic caravan traders. Infanticide has always been widespread in pagan cultures either through sacrifices to appease spirits or through abandonment.
God's people, Israel, did not practice B.C. They WANTED all the children they could get and considered them an unqualified blessing. The one man mentioned as practicing B.C., Onan, was struck dead. (Onan could have followed the teaching of Deuteronomy 25:5-10, as Ruth's nearest-of-kin did, removed his sandal, and passed on the responsibility to the next-nearest-of-kin--which, in Ruth's case was Boaz. See Ruth 4:1-12. Although there was shame in that, it didn't incurr the death penalty. The scriptures clearly state that part of the problem was the manner in which Onan refused his duty - by spilling his seed.)
Christians have also historically not practiced B.C. This is not just a Roman Catholic church issue--it has been the historic and continuous understanding of Christians from the earliest times. The Protestant Synod of Dort equated contraception with abortion. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and many other founders of Protestantism linked B.C. with murder. The Puritain founders of the United States of America considered B.C. as bad as adultery and disqualified anyone from church leadership who practiced it. In the 1800's the U.S. government passed laws against birth control. It wasn't until the 1930 Lambeth Conference that the Anglican church became the first Christian community to allow birth control.
Obviously, we shouldn't base our position on whether or not OTHER people practice B.C., but if the non-use of B.C. has been a universal trend for the vast majority of Christian history, we should not lightly dismiss it, but rather examine WHY.
CON'S OF B.C.:
All forms of B.C. increase abortion. Contrary to what some doctors say, there is no such thing as a chemical contraceptive (Pill, implant) that does not cause abortion from 2-5% of the time. Although the primary function of most of these "Pills" is to prevent ovulation, they do not prevent all ovulation (people still occasionally get pregnant), so they ALL have a secondary function of irritating the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg will not be able to implant, and thus will abort. There are several other pills whose primary effect is to abort fertilized eggs; the IUD also does this as its primary function. Apparently, the body also aborts some pregnancies naturally at very early stages, without provocation, and all methods of mechanical prevention of fertilization (condom, diaphragm, Rhythm, N.F.P.) actually increase the number of these natural abortions by perpetuating the monthly menstrual cycles, which are suspended when a woman is pregnant.
Biblical support is missing: B.C. puts a Christian in the shaky position of Onan, who was struck dead. I Corinthians 7:3-5 gives the only reason for abstinence in marriage--Prayer and fasting, not to avoid children. Leviticus 12:1-5 and 20:18 establish a sexual pattern that actually increases fertility rather than decreasing it!
It's inconvenient: I have hardly ever heard a positive comment about diaphragms and spermicidal jelly or condoms from my friends who use them (and condoms are not highly effective at preventing fertilization anyway). And, of course, it's hard to abstain for significant periods of time as per the "Rhythm" or "Natural Family Planning" methods. There is also the cost of purchasing pills or other paraphanalia to consider.
Health problems: If you take the pill, you are five times more likely to die of circulatory disorders. The pill can also cause permanent infertility and a host of other major and minor problems. The IUD has historically caused lacerations in the uterus which result in severe pain and permanent infertility. Abortion is a serious cause of breast cancer. It is also a proven fact that the longer child-bearing is delayed, the more likely a woman is to get endometriosis. On the other hand, women who nurse multiple babies are less likely to get breast cancer.
OBJECTIONS HOLD NO WATER:
Overpopulation is a local problem in some cities, but it is not a world crisis. If every person in the world today were given one acre of land (therefore families living together would have far more than 1 acre of land), everyone living in the world today could just about fit within the Continental U.S. alone. (According to agricultural studies, an acre would give far more than enough land for living space and food-production for one person!) It is also a fact that humans adapt and create new methods of coping with scarce resources. Over a thousand years ago, thinkers were afraid that the earth was too overpopulated then for the human race to survive, but we have adapted fine!
Multiplying like rabbits: The average number of children borne by monogamous couples not practicing birth control is only five! (People who enjoy good nutrition and good health are likely to have more than the average, however.)
Cost: The scary, high figures you see quoted are based on expensive C-sections, baby formula, baby food, frivolous baby furniture, not getting a baby shower, using day care, etc, all of which is unnecessary. It doesn't take long before children are old enough to become income producers, anyway. Additionally, God provides for His children. See Psalm 23:1; 37:25-26; 84:11; Proverbs 3:33; 14:26; Malachi 3:8-10; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6, 19; I Timothy 6:6-10.
The myth that children of large families are less intelligent is sheer bunk. 76% of U.S. Presidents came from families of 5 or more children! Almost every famous Classical musician came from a family of more than 7. Comparing an upper-income only-child with the 10 children of a dysfunctional family is comparing apples and oranges; intelligence is based on the intelligence and discipline of the parents, not the number of children.
Stewardship: Look at the famous passage on stewardship: the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Who decided how many talents each servant could steward, the servant or the Master?
Technology is good. Not necessarily so. The H-bomb is intelligent, highly advanced technology, but that doesn't mean we should blow up the world with it! Simply because technology (such as the Pill) is available doesn't mean we should use it! We must first evaluate the moral ramifications of its use.
What if I have health problems? There may be exceptions, but are you looking for an excuse, or are you trying to be faithful to God? Some female problems would be solved rather than exacerbated by having children. One woman who had a hole in her lung that would not heal was told by her doctors never to have children because she could not provide enough oxygen for two. She conceived anyway, and the pressure of the growing uterus against the lung sealed the hole and healed it! If, however, you have a legitimate health issue and are not looking for an excuse not to have children, you shouldn't feel guilty if you practice birth control.
Bible only for Agrarian community. God's principles apply to all cultures. The famous verse about having a "full quiver" of children (Psalm 127:3-5) was written by a politician in a big city and was written about a soldier. The context is not agrarian at all!
Sex only for Procreation? There is a difference between trying to avoid children, trying to create children, and not worrying about it either way. We believe the Bible teaches that the last of the three is the best! No matter which of the three approaches you take, you can't help having pleasure, therefore sex by its very nature is not limited to procreation!
A sovereign God can override B.C. Let us apply the same logic to another context: suppose a murderer were to say, "I've bought a knife, and I'm going over to Fred's house to kill him, but if God doesn't want me to kill Fred in cold blood, He will find a way to stop me." This logical progression is exactly the same as that of someone who says they don't know whether B.C. is wrong or not, but that they will do it anyway and God will stop them if it's wrong. This is not a logical position. It is iresponsible to purposefully not decide whether what you're doing is right or wrong! Here's one more question: "Why would God want to give children to someone who doesn't want them?"
Given the Bible's pro-children stance and its anti-infertility stance, given the fact that Christians have historically not practiced birth control, given the problems caused by birth control, and given the fact that most reasons for using birth control are not valid, it is a reasonable and good conclusion for a Christian to not practice birth control.
THIS ARTICLE WAS COMPOSED USING INFORMATION FROM THE FOLLOWING BOOKS:
A FULL QUIVER, Hess, Wolgemuth & Hyatt
ALL THE WAY HOME, Pride, Crossway
LETTING GOD PLAN YOUR FAMILY, Owens,
THE BIBLE AND BIRTH CONTROL, Provan, Zimmer
THE WAY HOME, PRIDE, Crossway
WHAT GOD WANTS HIS WOMEN TO BE LIKE, Wilson
WOMAN'S COMPLETE GUIDE TO PERSONAL HEALTH CARE, Evans, Wolgemuth & Hyatt