By Nick Brzozowski
Should Christians be on the pill? Is any form of contraceptive wrong? Maybe you are getting married, but don’t want to have kids right away. Would it be wrong to use artificial means for family planning?
Hannah and I got married as teenagers (She was 18; I was 19.) and wanted to wait to have kids. Honestly, we could barely afford to pay for essentials so being able to afford kids would have been very difficult for us. We got a dog instead. We decided to use contraceptives (I’ll spare you the details), but writing this blog caused me to think much more deeply about it.
First off, I want to give you credit for asking this question. This shows how much you love God and are willing to even surrender your plans to him.
To best grapple with this complicated issue, I’ve decided to break up this article into three parts:
The biggest objection to birth control
Three other objections
Further questions to consider
The Biggest Objection to Birth Control
The biggest objection has the most ancient roots and has been the Catholic Church’s reason for condemning contraceptives. The reason? They believe that procreation is the only reason for marriage and sex. In Concerning the City of God against the Pagans, St., Augustine wrote, “the procreation of children belonged to the glory of marriage” from its very beginning.
Many ancient theologians believed that procreation was the only God-ordained reason for married people to have sexual relations at all. So, sex while pregnant or during a period was off limits. So, even though more recent Catholic theologians have softened their approach a bit (you can have sex even if the primary intention isn’t to have a baby), they take contraceptives to be off limits.
But, in my opinion, the Bible doesn’t make these limitations. While the Bible speaks negatively about procreation outside of marriage (check out more about this in my message: Thank God For Sex), it doesn’t seem to demand that procreation has to be the only reason for sex and marriage.
Genesis 1: The command to “be fruitful and multiply” is referring to having children. But, it is framed more as a blessing than a command. We get this hint that procreation is a great gift from God, but that it is not meant to be seen as a sacrifice.
Genesis 2: In Genesis 1, we see the first hint of marriage and family in the blessing to “be fruitful and multiply.” In Genesis 2, we are given a more descriptive explanation of marriage (“A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh”), but procreation isn't in the equation. Marriage, here is pictured primarily as a “one-flesh union,” not primarily as a means to bring children into the world.
Hannah: In 1 Samuel 1, we meet Hannah who is barren. Eventually, she miraculously does give birth to Samuel. But, before she becomes a mother, we see that her husband, Elkanah gave her a double portion of food because he loved her (v. 5). Here’s an example of an exemplary wife who was barren.
Song of Solomon: The one book that is devoted to romantic love talks all about desire and longing and foreplay and beauty and waiting and seeking and attraction, but there is nothing about babies.
Mark 13:17: Here, as well as a couple other places, Jesus talks about having kids as a burden, not a blessing. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! You could imply that even Jesus says that there are better times to have kids than other times.
Luke 18:29-30: In this verse, Jesus sets himself as an even higher priority than family: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” This seems to be an ongoing pattern of a shifting primary mandate from “be fruitful and multiply” to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28). Even eunuchs have a place in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:12). In heaven, there won’t even be marriage (Matthew 22:30)! This is all sort of cryptic, but the point is that marriage and family are eclipsed in prominence by following Jesus himself.
1 Corinthians 7: This is one of the Bible’s longest explanations of marriage. In it, Paul tells us that marriage is meant to avoid uncontrollable lust (if you burn with passion, then get married). Sex is also a means of mutual care for one another. Again, procreation is not mentioned as a purpose for sex, even in this important text.
Household codes: Scattered throughout the New Testament (Ephesians 5-6; Colossians 3; 1 Peter 2-3), we have apostles instructing households how they should love and submit to one another. The emphasis with husbands and wives falls on their relationship. Procreation again is absent from the conversation.
Three Other Objections
What about Onan? In Genesis 38, we meet a man, Onan, who was killed by God for “spilling his seed" (yes, it's what you're thinking). Did God severely punish him because he used his own “ancient birth control.” Nope! The reason that God judged Onan was that he was selfish. He was now married to his deceased brother’s former wife and it was his responsibility to do what he could keep the blood line going. But, instead, he selfishly took what he wanted and disobeyed God.
Aren't children are a gift? If children a gift from God (Psalm 127), then it would be wrong to regulate how and when to have children, right? Not exactly. That would assume that morally every gift must be received. But, if that were true, then it would be a sin to be single, since a wife is a gift form the Lord (Proverbs 18:22). But, Paul actually encourages some people to stay single (1 Corinthians 7:8).
Isn’t birth control playing “God?” It is true that God is sovereign over everything that happens in the world. But, that is not a reason to avoid planning. God will have his way. We can’t be God even if we tried. So, we can use the resources available to us to plan. Some people think that “natural family planning” is more acceptable than “artificial.” But, both are making plans and regulating the size of our family.
Further Questions to Consider
What are your motives for birth control? On the one hand, God gives us the privilege to make our own decisions. On top of that, marriage and sex are not solely for procreation. But, on the other hand, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider our motives for holding off to have kids. Children are a gift (Psalm 127). Let’s not be too hasty to hold off on a gift from God. Take a moment to search your heart. Are your motives to be responsible and to serve others or are they merely self-serving?
Have you looked into the health concerns? Obviously, I am no doctor, so talk to your doctor about your more specific health concerns. There are reasons why a woman should avoid being on the pill. Also, look into whether or not other forms of contraceptives may cause abortions.
What do you think? Do you have other questions or objections? What may be good reasons to hold off having kids?
Does the Bible Permit Birth Control? (Desiring God)
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