Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reasons I do not Believe in Artificial Birth Control

My fellow blogging friend, Steven, has brought up some reasons he doesn't think that contraception is wrong. I understand that it isn't a popular position these days, and I don't want to give the impression I am looking down on anyone who does use it or think it's okay, and in fact it is a position I have come to only in the last few years. However, I would tell people I think they are wrong and give my reasons. This issue isn't explicitly addressed in scripture as clearly as I'd like, but I do think there are implicit signs in scripture that it is not the natural or intended course set by God, as children are always referred to as a blessing and the more you have the better off you are (Psalm 127:3-5).

I appreciate Steven questioning me. It helps me to define my reasons for all, even myself. I will respond to some of his objections here.

It is not clear to me that to do something such that, if you were not to do it, you would receive a blessing from God is sinful. Suppose children are a blessing from God, as scripture teaches: why is it supposed to follow that if you don't want one, you are sinning?

That's not the only point. Not only is this blocking a blessing from God, but in performing the act and removing the possibility of the whole point of the act, you are acting against the natural reason for which the act was created for. You are not making the intended end of sex, which is union with your spouse and children, the goal of the act. The end of sex in the case where children are actively prevented becomes nothing but pleasure for selfish reasons, in my opinion. If someone doesn't want to have children, there are natural ways to prevent this that wouldn't be morally questionable, most notably abstinence (for a time at least).

I suppose being taken away into heaven would be a blessing; for Christians, to die is gain, as Paul tells us. It is a blessing from God for a Christian to be taken away from earth and to be with Christ. But is it therefore sinful if we do not desire this, for pragmatic concerns or otherwise?

Yes, upon death we will be better off than we are, but this does not mean we seek death, or that death itself is a blessing. Death is an enemy that we are to avoid (1 Corinthians 15:26) and only happens as a result of the sin we have committed. Furthermore, Paul did say that death would bring him into the presence of the Lord, but he would be removed from his intended end on earth, the propagation of the Gospel.

Hopefully that also addresses his next couple of paragraphs.

It also seems to me that if you really think you are sinning by behaving in such a way as to prevent yourself from receiving some blessing of God's

Ah, but as we see, death is not a blessing, but the enemy. We should not attempt to quicken our death because it is the curse for sin in this life, and would remove us from spreading the Gospel and advancing the kingdom of God. God will remove us in His time.

Say you and your wife are exceptionally poor

In this case I think modern Christians have forgotten who provides for them. God will provide what we need if we trust Him. I therefore don't think the "not enough money" argument is very good in light of God's promises. Joseph and Mary were not wealthy, yet God provided for them.

If you have sex with your wife, knowing that there is a high chance she will conceive, and that you will be having a baby in those conditions, it seems to me that is the height of irresponsibility

Which is why there are other natural options that do not require twisting the true and natural purpose of sex; which is union with your spouse in love and children. Preventing the possibility of children seems to be working against God and questioning His provision in your life. Furthermore, is anyone really ever "financially ready" to have children? God will provide.

Final Thoughts:
I think it's important to note, as I have in the past, that up until the 1930's, all of the greatest minds of Christianity believed that contraception was a sin. This doesn't make it necessarily so, but I think it adds weight that needs to be considered. Also, birth control is a progressive idea. It arose because of the degrading of the sanctity of life in the progressive agenda, and the false belief that having children is destroying and overpopulating the planet. Margaret Sanger, the earliest proponent of birth control, was a eugenicist and founded Planned Parenthood which is the largest abortion provider in the nation. The modern church has justified it in other ways.

The main reasoning behind contraception seems to be about me wanting to have more time, about me wanting more money for myself, and about me not wanting to be inconvenienced. I don't think these are adequate reasons to prevent the natural course from being taken. I don't think children are an inconvenience. The ancient Jew and Christian would be incensed at the idea, as they trusted God to provide what they needed.

31 comments:

drwayman said...

Brennon - I always enjoy reading your conversations with Steven. It's obvious that you two like discussing opposing points (and sometimes agree) and that you two genuinely like and respect each other. To not confuse my opinion, I believe that sex is only meant for a man and a woman who are married to each other. All other forms of sex are sinful.

I think that birth control that does "baby blocking" would be against God's plan, for example, the IUD and morning after pill. However, birth control that prevents fertilization is a reasonable Christian behavior. There is no destruction of human life. The end result is no different than a wet dream, which is a biological function designed by God. The sperm is just wasted.

Having been married 25 years, I wasn't ready to give up sex after the birth of our second child. Before we had kids, we wanted four. After one, we want three, then after the second one we decided (after prayer and consideration) that having more than two would be irresponsible for us. God provided a medical way for us to not have children any more, so I had a vasectomy. (To stay in the medical arena, do you take antibiotics when you get sick or do you let nature take its course? I know, bad analogy but maybe relevant somewhere...) Ironically, in less than two years, my wife had medical complications and had to have a hysterectomy. In hindsight, my vasectomy was unnecessary.

Anyway, after 25 years of marriage, I offer this thought. Why did God make sex so pleasurable? After 25 years of marriage, sex has become more intimate and pleasurable and there is no purpose of procreation. Sex has taken on deeper meaning and has become a "spiritual" act, a union and celebration of two people in Christian marriage that is only shared with God.

I offer this second question. Why did God speak of His relationship with Israel in sexual terms? I offer that God sees sex as intimacy and not solely for the purpose of procreation. He intends for sex to continue throughout the human lifespan and to reflect the best intimacy in human terms that He has with us.

drwayman said...

Sorry, for the second post. In regard to sex being a lifespan activity, I offer this third question. Why do women who enter menopause (no longer able to have children) become more interested in sex and find it more pleasurable? Why do men of the same age take longer to ejaculate, increasing pleasure for him as well as his wife?

BTW - You say much that I can agree with in this post. Sex is not about my pleasure, it is about my wife's pleasure, a Christian husband should never demand sex.

I also agree that children are not an inconvenience. They are an heritage, a gift (Ps 127:3) from God. I only have two arrows in my quiver (Ps 127:4-5) but like Jonathan and his armor bearer (I Sam 14:13-14), I would place them up against an army because they are righteous, godly men and like David, they won't need 5 stones (I Sam 17:49)to accomplish His purposes. They are like the left-handed Benjamites who can sling a stone at a hairsbreadth and never miss (Judges 20:16).

I pray that the children whom you and your wife raise become godly, righteous individuals on fire for God. :-)

bossmanham said...

Dr Wayman,

I don't have time at the moment to reply point by point.

I would say I think a vasectomy is going against the natural (and I don't know how any man could go through with it, lol ;) ).

I am not saying to give up sex completely to avoid children if need be. There are natural methods that require periods of abstinence, but I think that would build patience and self control in a marriage.

Why do women who enter menopause (no longer able to have children) become more interested in sex and find it more pleasurable?

I don't know, but I don't think it's relevant to the issue. Menopause is part of the natural course of events in a woman's life. If you have sex after menopause, there is nothing unnatural about that.

I will try to get to Steven's re-rebuttal someitime this week.

drwayman said...

Brennon - Thanks for replying. I wasn't try to confuse the issue. It appeared to me that you were saying that sex is for procreation only. To me, it seemed that you were buying into the Catholic idea of no birth control at all. I'm not saying that because it is Catholic, it is automatically wrong. I don't know this for sure, but I suspect that Catholic idea is built upon their theology of the perpetual virginity of Mary. In other words, sex is sinful unless it is for procreation.

My points were simple, that sex serves purposes other than procreation. If you are saying that, then I can agree with you.

Steven said...

I am not inclined to think, at the moment, that there is not really a primary end to any part of life or human activity, except perhaps an intended but necessitated end of glorifying God. But it seems perfectly reasonable to me that sex can be glorifying to God even if procreation is not intended, nor desired, and deliberately avoided.

Rhology said...

There are natural methods that require periods of abstinence, but I think that would build patience and self control in a marriage.

I have two young children and they're about all the patience- and self-control-building I can handle right now. ;-)

bossmanham said...

To me, it seemed that you were buying into the Catholic idea of no birth control at all.

I think they're correct, but I came to the conclusion before I knew that Catholics believed it.

I don't know this for sure, but I suspect that Catholic idea is built upon their theology of the perpetual virginity of Mary

I don't think it is. Not sure how that connection could be made, but all protestants believed the same thing as Catholics through 1930.

My points were simple, that sex serves purposes other than procreation.

But in removing the possibility for procreation, the natural use of sex is being obscured. As Hank Hanegraaff says, it becomes a nothing more than a "profound form of play." The possibility of procreation is not the only purpose of sex, but it is one of the purposes. If it is removed, then something unnatural is being done, IMO.

Steven said...

but all protestants believed the same thing as Catholics through 1930.

Surely you don't mean every protestant who ever lived...

;)

As regards your point about something "unnatural" being done, I am hoping you will respond to my rebuttals soon.

drwayman said...

Brennon - God,our creator,made everything perfect. As His creation, when we make something or think of something, we often think singularly. God, when He creates has many purposes for something. For example, most things that God creates has more than one purpose. Rain replenishes the earth. It also causes erosion. It also creates awesome spectacles and demonstrates God's infinite power. To think of sex as singular is to miss the multifaceted wisdom of God.

"If it [the possibility of procreation] is removed, then something unnatural is being done, IMO" is what you said. IMHO, now that my wife and I have no possibility for procreation our sexual relationship and oneness has improved. Our marriage bed is undefiled.

By saying that the natural use for sex is procreation, you are reducing humanity to animals. Sex in a Christian marriage is much deeper than just a natural use, there is also a spiritual use. This is made clear in the sexual terms that God uses in His relationship with Israel. Additionally, the church is the bridegroom of Christ, That is a pretty blatant sexual connotation present in that analogy as well. I urge you to consider the sexual relationship as more than just a natural use.

bossmanham said...

To think of sex as singular is to miss the multifaceted wisdom of God.

I wasn't thinking of sex as singular.

By saying that the natural use for sex is procreation, you are reducing humanity to animals.

Care to back that up?

Sex in a Christian marriage is much deeper than just a natural use, there is also a spiritual use.

And it is denigrated when you artificially impose your will over God's will.

This is made clear in the sexual terms that God uses in His relationship with Israel.

1) Point out what you're talking about. 2) Is it made clear? Or are we justifying our behavior?

Additionally, the church is the bridegroom of Christ,

And we're supposed to make converts. That sounds like procreation.

I urge you to consider the sexual relationship as more than just a natural use.

I'm sorry, there is nowhere in scripture where it is even hinted that it's okay to do this.

bossmanham said...

Consider what these great theologians said:

Clement of Alexandria: "Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted" (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2).

Hippolytus of Rome wrote in 255 that "on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful [certain Christian women who had affairs with male servants] want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered" (Refutation of All Heresies 9:12).

Lactantius (307): "complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife" (Divine Institutes 6:20).

The First Council of Nicaea in 325: "If anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men this canon admits to the clergy" (Canon 1).

Augustine: "I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility [oral contraceptives]" (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17).

Martin Luther: "[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime. . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore, God punished him."

John Calvin: "The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."

John Wesley: "Those sins that dishonor the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he [Onan] did displeased the Lord—and it is to be feared; thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls." (These passages are quoted in Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control)

This goes from the first century through the 19th century.

bossmanham said...

Steven,

I have been busy. For a start, I'd say the hand analogy is a false analogy first off. It's like comparing apples to bananas. Second, there's nothing unnatural about walking on your hands. There is something unnatural about cutting off a few fingers.

I'll get to the rest later.

Rhology said...

Just a note on the theologians bossmanham cited. It just goes to show how bad ppl's exegesis can be.

Clement of Alexandria -
1) It isn't wasted when a loving married couple engages in intercourse. It's just not going toward procreation but rather oneness of couple.
2) I suppose he'd prefer couples not have sex when the woman is pregnant.
3) Or when the woman or man is known to be sterile.


Hippolytus - why cite this one? No one's arguing abortion is OK.

1st Nicaea - why cite this one? No one's arguing for castration.

Augustine -
1) He apparently forgot Paul's admonition in 1 Cor 7, that marital sex is given to satisfy urges, rather than to burn.
2) Cruelty? To whom? If there are no kids, there's no object of cruelty. This is just vain imaginings from Augustine.
3) It bears repeating that birth control pills have a tertiary effect of abortifacient. It is not justifiable to take them, and I'm certainly not arguing that they're OK.

Martin Luther -
Onan's sin was not coitus interruptus. Read it again. This is some of the worst exegesis I've seen; unfortunately it's all too common. Romanists say this all the time, and don't interact with the text. Ditto John Wesley.

John Calvin -
1) Um, the hope of the race is far from extinguished if I decide to have a few less than 20 children. Please.
2) If you don't --ahem-- go all the way in sex, then there's no baby to "kill before he is born".


Grace and peace to you all,
Rhology

zilch said...

Not to butt in on an infra-Christian argument, but just for the sake of a wider perspective, I'd like to add another factor, so far unmentioned, which, I know, is unimportant to many Christians: there are simply too many people on the Earth already, and there are more all the time. This is a good argument from the real world for having few children.

Hey Rho! Nice to hear you arguing in my direction for a change, although of course I would (and do) go further. Wordfreak that you are, you would appreciate my word verification: "adistal", that must mean "proximal", that is, close- and pertinent.

Merry Christmas to all! Cheers from unseasonably warm Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

Hi zilch!

I have to say, I partially agree with you. The biblical command is to be fruitful and multiply, and goldurn it if that ain't been done!
However, there's no way to say "there's too many ppl on Earth now". Judging by what standard?
If you're talking about food and stuff, there's plenty of food, but no way to distribute it to the ppl who need it due to all sorts of reasons.
Another good argument AGAINST having few children is the upcoming population bomb that will go off in:
1) China - ~20 million men will have no Chinese woman available for marriage. ~20 million more men in this current generation than women b/c of the One Child Policy.
2) Japan and Russia, and to a lesser extent the US and Western Europe - there are millions fewer ppl in the upcoming generation than in the generation nearing retirement. In Japan and Russia in particular this will be a problem of critical proportion.

Just food for thought. I don't know of any resolution, just sayin'.

Peace and Merry Christmas to you,
Rhology

zilch said...

Hey Rho! You say:

However, there's no way to say "there's too many ppl on Earth now". Judging by what standard?

True, that's a subjective judgment. You're right- as far as I've heard, there would theoretically be enough food for all, if only it were more equitably distributed. But it isn't; and even if it were, the population is still growing, and the Earth is groaning.

Having lots of kids made sense back in Biblical days, because not all of them lived to reproduce. Nowadays, especially in the First World, nearly all children live long enough to have children themselves. And whether or not God exists, math seems to be binding; and the Earth can only carry so many.

All the best to you and yours, don't forget to drop me a line if you're out this way, zilch.

zilch said...

Btw: for the record, I have two kids, who are the delight of my life; but I'm not planning to have any more.

And bossmanham: having kids will change your life in ways you cannot imagine. All the best to you, your wife, and your future kids, and the world they will grow up in.

drwayman said...

Brennon - It's interesting to be on the other side of the argument of you. I'm new at this blogging stuff and defending my position in an electronic age. I usually save disagreements for people that I know face-to-face so that even subtle nuances are not missed that are missed in this format. This is your blog and I'm learning how to do this.

You wrote, "care to back that up?" When I said,"By saying that the natural use for sex is procreation, you are reducing humanity to animals." I agree that the natural use for sex is procreation for animals. I believe you can agree to that statement. However, we part ways when you make the assumption that the natural use for sex in a Christian marriage is for procreation. I contend that God's Word does not state such. I will make no pretension of knowing what God's natural use for sex was when He created sex. It is entirely possible that Adam and Eve's sex life did not include procreation until after the fall. Adam may have "known" Eve before the fall but it is not specifically stated until after the fall.

Later you said of my statement, "And it is denigrated when you artificially impose your will over God's will." That's a pretty heavy statement! Do you really want to say that to me, my friend? You already admitted that the Bible is not entirely clear and that this is your decision and that other people who come to a different conclusion are not necessarily sinning (I am going off memory, please correct me if I am mistaken.)

drwayman said...

Brennon -I hate it when people make long posts, I find the posts boring. So, please forgive this continuance. Sorry, if I bore you and other readers.

You correctly said of me,"This is made clear in the sexual terms that God uses in His relationship with Israel." You said, "1) Point out what you're talking about." I won't bother to point out the exact verses but if you want them I can find them for you. I presently don't have the resources, as I am out of pocket for another day. I'm going off memory here... In Jeremiah, God speaks of Israel playing the harlot by going after other lovers. Paul talks about how he would never join the Body of Christ to a harlot. God's Word in both of these instances,I can find others later if you'd like, talk about God's love in sexual terms.

Regarding your comment about making converts is similar to procreation, I figured you probably would say that. I'm still considering that...

I wrote, "I urge you to consider the sexual relationship as more than just a natural use." You responded, "I'm sorry, there is nowhere in scripture where it is even hinted that it's okay to do this." That goes back to your presupposition that I consider could be faulty. I can't find scripture that tells me that the natural use for sex in a Christian marriage is for procreation.

Thank for listening to my ramblings. I'm still curious where you and Steven take this. I appreciate that you let me be involved.

Mr. Guthrie said...

Brennon, I have wanted to post a comment supporting your article for the past couple of days. My opposition to artificial birth control began in high school long before I became a Christian. After salvation I have always considered it to be taking over the authority of deciding who is to be born and who is not, such an authority belongs only to God. In the secular world, there is opposition to birth control by many in the academic community who see the demographic results of a declining population. It is assumed that in many countires that have experienced famine the culprit was over population. Yet the countries in Africa that have had famines have been those with low population densities. There are many countries in Asia that have high population densities that have had no experience with famine, including Japan which has almost no land fit for agriculture. Many countries which value large families dislike us for trying to force birth control upon them. China will have a demographic crisies this century because of its one child policy and its practice of aborting female babies. I have no time to read the comments written by others because I am using a computer in the public library that allows me little time and my time is almost up. I hope I have not repeated what someone else has said.

Steven said...

After salvation I have always considered it to be taking over the authority of deciding who is to be born and who is not, such an authority belongs only to God.

Only about as much as wearing a seatbelt is deciding who is going to die and who is not.

drwayman said...

Brennon - In case you didn't know about this resource, go to www.duggarfamily.com Although I don't agree with them 100% they are doing what they believe God wants them to do. What I do appreciate is their strong stand for Christ and the Bible.

bossmanham said...

Rho,

I find it interesting that the interpretation of Onan's sin changed conspicuously after the 1930's. I'm not saying you can use Onan's sin to argue against BC, not sure the text is that clear (although this is the only time BC is ever explicitly mentioned in the Bible, and that the guy is killed for it) so I'm undecided leaning against using Onan as an example, which is why I didn't bring it up.

He apparently forgot Paul's admonition in 1 Cor 7, that marital sex is given to satisfy urges, rather than to burn

But he doesn't say anything about that being the only use for sex. We can be fairly confident that BC was never even on the mind of Paul in this passage. In fact, in the practice of BC, you are depriving each other of something.

bossmanham said...

Dr. Wayman,

Do you really want to say that to me, my friend? You already admitted that the Bible is not entirely clear and that this is your decision and that other people who come to a different conclusion are not necessarily sinning

I said, "I do think there are implicit signs in scripture that it is not the natural or intended course set by God," and, "However, I would tell people I think they are wrong and give my reasons."

I don't mean to insult people here, but if I did not tell people when I thought they were sinning, I would not be being truthful and would be sinning against that person. It is not right or safe to go against conscience. To clarify, I don't think the Bible is explicit on the subject, but I do believe it speaks against it implicitly. I do think it is a sin, but God does forgive sins.

This isn't a personal attack on anyone. I'm also a sinner. But through the study of the Bible, church history, prayer, and philosophical contemplation I believe my conviction on this subject is correct. I think the unanimous testimony of the church before 1930 is a testimony to this. If I am asked, I will tell people why I think their justification for what I perceive to be a sin is incorrect. This is not a personal attack against you or anyone. You have always been very friendly to me and I don't intend to offend you.

bossmanham said...

Steven,

Only about as much as wearing a seatbelt is deciding who is going to die and who is not.

Except wearing a seatbelt would save a life, where contraception is preventing life. I'm also pretty sure a premature death by car accident is an unnatural death that can be avoided by using a seatbelt..

drwayman said...

Brennon - I just found your statement rather startling. One of the many reasons I read your blog is that I admire the way that you use this medium to present your arguments. I agree that Onan is not good for your argument as that has to do with Onan's disobedience to the law. You still haven't spoken about the spiritual connotations of sexuality, specifically, God using sexual terms. Hosea comes to mind as well.

This is new to me. I guess I wouldn't have discussed this with you if I knew right off that bat that you believed a vasectomy is sin. I have no intention of trying to change someone's mind who firmly believes something and has no intention of changing that belief.

I thought we were in the philosophical arena, a young man who was open to various opinions in the Christian community regarding this issue. Sorry, that I misunderstood your intention.

You keep bringing up the 1930's. I'm ignorant of what you're speaking about. Maybe a follow-up blog about the changes in Christian thought would be enlightening.

BTW - I will always be friendly to you. Other people's behavior does not determine how I treat them. I do appreciate your convictions even though I disagree with you on this issue. I don't always agree with myself 100% of the time! :-).

bossmanham said...

Mr. Guthrie,

Thank you for your comments. I agree with you. The dulling of the conscience since birth control gained widespread support has had deep social impact on the culture at large all over the world.

bossmanham said...

Dr. Wayman,

Please don't feel like you can't disagree with me

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

Thanks for your thoughts and well-wishes.

drwayman said...

Brennon - I think I made it clear that I disagree with you. We just have different styles in how we confront.

You have what I call, a "prophet" personality, you call sin what it is when you see it. I tend to ask more questions and let people reflect for themselves and trust the Holy Spirit to convince and convict. Some would call this a "pastor" personality. Both personalities have their drawbacks. Prophets can come across as argumentative and judgmental. Pastors can come across as weak and spineless. Obviously, these are huge caricatures and open for room as I see these on a continuum.

I may disagree with you again in the future but I would say that I agree with you about 99% of the time. BTW - I agree with you about Avatar.

arminianperspectives said...

...and in fact it is a position I have come to only in the last few years.

Has your wife come to this position as well (I can only assume she has)? I wonder if she will still hold to this position after, say...child #10? Keep us posted :-)