by Hadley and Marilyn Robinson
Why do most Christians avoid the discussion of contraception? Has the Church so firmly adopted the views of the surrounding culture that such discussions seem irrelevant? Do those who know better teach others to limit God’s sovereignty in some areas of their lives, especially what is done in the bedroom? Why is it that the Roman Catholic Church seems to be the most important defender of chastity and purity in the world (at least on paper)?
Contraception is only briefly addressed in Scripture. But this does not mean that God’s word does not teach us about the broad principles at its core. There should not be any corner of human activity which is immune to testing by Scripture,
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. – Psalm 24:1
For those who love the LORD, study His Word, and follow His ways, being obedient to Scripture should be a delight, as often as we fail. "I fall, I repent, I ask forgiveness, I go on with the hope that I will be strengthened the next time I am tempted." As C. S. Lewis wrote somewhere, "We never outgrow our need for forgiveness." We want to do what is right, weak and sinful as we are. We are greatly comforted and strengthened by these words from Scripture,
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. – 2 Thess. 3:3
Accordingly and with His help, we should base our decisions on what is His will as expressed in the Scriptures rather than on that which we think will minimize suffering in our lives.
As one godly pastor said recently, we should not seek suffering nor should be push it away when it comes along. Seeking the easy road is always a great temptation that follows us
through this life and is a path we often take.
In recent history, this is no more evident than with the Church under the Third Reich. Only 10% of all German pastors took a godly and scriptural position against the excesses of the National Socialist Party.
No doubt other pastors of the time took notes on what happened if a pastor objected: Financial ruin, banishment, incarceration, and even death – often enough by torture. If the reader wishes to be inspired by pastors who refused compromise with the Nazi's, he need go no further than consider Paul Schneider and Franz Kaufmann, a Jewish convert to the faith. This writer can only hope that he would have the courage of these two men, if needed.
Unlike Schneider and Kaufmann, Samson (Judges 13-16) is a Biblical example of one of the elect who had great trouble being obedient. Nonetheless, he did the LORD's will in the end but not before he suffered greatly from his excesses, especially his carnal love of women. Not matter what we do, the LORD has repeatedly said that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5) but this often means we will suffer His discipline. C. H. Mackintosh, a pastor in 19th century Ireland, wrote, “Faith always seeks and finds a warrant for its activities in the Word of God.” Do we find excuses for using contraception in God's Word or from the world?
As the Church comes under increasing attack by a more openly hostile culture, some Christians are being forced to re-examine what it means to be a Christian. Unfortunately, however, most continue their slide into the immoral abyss that characterizes 21st century America. While foundational Christian theology has remained unchanged since the beginning, the cultures in which we find ourselves continue to present challenges to the way Christians live. It may be that the legalized use of abortion as a means of birth elimination and the historically unprecedented advance of homosexual unions has prompted a few Christians to rethink issues at the heart of the sanctity of life – it did for us.
Increasingly barbarous Supreme Court decisions have fanned the flames of the controversies surrounding human life. It is becoming more evident that elected-for-life lawyers wish to trade constitutional rule for the promotion of social decay at the least or, at the most, to strengthen the Federal iron-grip on the States. It also reinforces the suspicion of true Christians that the American cultural elite will do anything to reduce human sexuality to the level of mere animals.
Abortion, contraception, and moral decay are inextricably linked. Some have suggested that the use of contraception is the sort of activity that would fall under the broad subject of disputable matters as discussed in Romans 14. What are “disputable matters?” The context of this passage demands that these “matters” are those that have to do with minor issues, such as food and drink – not with human sexuality and the means God uses to bring human life into the world. How can the latter be a minor matter? It seems that most pastors are frightened to discuss the truth in the face of irate churchgoers thoroughly in bed with the culture. But who can blame them? If my job depended on not insulting God's flock, would I be faithful to the truth? Maybe I would not....
In any case, Romans 14 cannot be taken as a blanket excuse for Christians to condone what might be questionable behavior in their lives. Would anyone suggest that all matters of food and drink are beyond accountability to God? What of the glutton and the drunk – both sins of the flesh? Contraception has nothing to do with food sacrificed to idols or the broad implication made in Scripture (1 Cor. 10:14ff.) that nothing physical has real spiritual properties – matter is matter, nothing more; says the Word of God. The issue in both Romans 14 and 1Corinthians 10 is the Christian’s participation with demons. The implication is that a strong believer should not care about the origin of the meat before him. Yet, on the other hand, he must not participate in temple sacrifices – he should not be present at the table of demons nor must he ignore the scruples of other brothers in Christ.
In this essay we give twelve reasons why contraception is not a neutral, disputable activity but a pernicious evil that has overwhelmed most of the Christian churches, to say nothing of the heathen. We should not merely abstain from evil to be free of the consequences of disobeying God but we should want God’s fullest blessing on our marriages and families. We want to please Him in all that we do and this must be by faith in Christ Jesus.
Couples often comment that “We want to wait until we have enough money to afford a child” or “...until we get used to each other” or “...until I graduate from school.” And the list goes on. Is not this walking by sight instead of by faith? Is it really a demonstration of godly prudence? The Word of God says,
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. – James 4:13-14
How do we know we will ever be rich enough to afford a child, get along better with our spouse, or graduate from school? Even more so, how do we know that God will give us a child
according to our particular timing or that we are even fertile at all?
Generally, we are to exercise prudence in all things but this should not be true in matters that may thwart the will of God, such as the bearing of children. For example, it may be prudent for own sakes to tell the magistrate that we will cease from claiming that Jesus is the only way to God, but is it right? With issues of sexuality, a failure to bring together the unique cells of life so that God can create an eternal soul from them is not something that can ever be repeated at some later time. That unique combination of the egg and sperm will create a unique person of one sex or the other that can never be duplicated again. How many “missing souls” are there because of a couple’s decision to stop the natural course of their union? We sometimes wonder what young man or woman we could have enjoyed as our oldest child if we had only known the truth?
Recent state court rulings legalizing homosexual “marriage” ignore the difficult responsibilities undertaken by the mother and father to raise children. Instead of the home being the foundational environment where a child first learns about law and order, the state, the Church, and his first work responsibilities, it is optional and irrelevant (at best) and restrictive and harmful (at worst).
But should we not be surprised that self-expression and personal happiness trump all? Homosexual “marriage” is really just another stage of the journey down the road to complete depravity and evil. Contraception is but the first step. We might be disgusted by the practice of the bulimic but why should we be? What is the difference? In one case, food is treated as waste. In the other, it is the cells of life that are despised. What did God intend when He created human sexuality? What answer can we give? So we could lust?
Whether one is a naturalist or a practicing theist, it should therefore be of no surprise that abortion and contraception are unnatural. What are their consequences? Despite the murder that occurs in an elective abortion, contraception is, at the least, demeaning of the entire process which God designed to bring life into the world. How does He feel about it? Who is asking this question other than the Church at Rome and a few other kooks?
While it is not the purpose here to discuss the eventual results of the idolatry of sexual passion, it should be sufficient to note that, since the beginning of civilization, cultures have exhausted themselves in its pursuit, as we seem to be in the process of doing. It is bizarre that such dangerous conduct as the practice of homosexuality is not only condoned but also promoted here in the United States. It is more evidence that our culture is in a downward spiral that will not hit the bottom until it is too late. Most of the church seems to be happily following right behind.
The tawdry, the seamy and the vulgar are widely practiced, protected by the courts, and accepted by most ordinary people. All sorts of media increasingly reflect the cravings of the basest of human desires. George Will once said, "...the supply of people willing to degrade themselves, and even risk injury, for money is limitless."
Such leaders in the evangelical world as Tim LaHaye concur with the popular mindset with little more than a paragraph of examination. However, he does believe that “[God] never intended parents to use birth control devices to exclude children [entirely].” If it is wrong to exclude children entirely, is it also wrong to exclude them partially? What or where is the logic from the Scriptures? But, like most evangelical leaders, LaHaye sounds like a deist and humanist who mixes these paradigms with godly faith and religion.
Fortunately, other Christians are speaking out and raising questions about contraception and the dehumanization that it causes.
“People ask what business is it of the state to regulate people’s sexual practices and living arrangements. And if two people love each other, why shouldn’t they have the legal benefits of marriage? The answer is that sex – by God’s design for all of His creation – is a family value. That is, sex is designed to engender children. …A family is not just a set of individuals who have sex with others, nor is it a set of individuals who love each other. Rather it is a biological unit, grounded in how God made us, and a social unit [created in the Garden of Eden before any other institution]. …One does not have to be a Catholic or to reject birth control entirely to recognize that contraceptives had a profound effect on the culture’s mores about sex. Separating sex from procreation meant that each could go his separate way. …Sex became a matter of recreation only, a jolt of physical pleasure, unconnected to family attachments. This led not only to promiscuity but to the acceptance of pornography and the constant sexual stimulation of our entertainment industry, in which sex obviously has nothing to do with having children. …Most seriously of all, the separation of sex from procreation means that when sex by accident does produce a child, it is nothing more than an unwanted byproduct. It becomes perfectly acceptable under this mindset, to get rid of the unwanted ‘product of conception’ (to use a common medical euphemism) by means of abortion. Once our culture began approving of sex without [the possibility] of procreation, the next phase of our dehumanization could begin: procreation without sex.” – Gene Edward Veith, World Magazine, May 20, 2000 pp. 7, 8.
Veith's assessment is amazing. As the lawful joy of sexual love must not be divorced from one man, one woman for one lifetime, what about the apparent divorce between sexual love and
the conception of human life? This divorce is just one more in a series of attempts to separate that which must never be separated.
When we were first married we assumed that contraception and “family planning” were a normal part of life for those in the Kingdom. If you had approached us about not using contraception, you would have encountered incredulity. It was not until much later that we realized that contemporary Protestant evangelical perspectives on marriage preparation assume contraceptive use as much as they assume our right to material happiness. When we quit using contraceptives, it was as if we had stopped being thieves. We can describe the feeling in no other way as simply a release from guilt.
We live in an age unparalleled in its moral perversity, depravity and assault on innocent human life. Abortion has become just another form of contraception and human sexuality has become more distorted than ever. Certainly, the ancient (and immoral) Canaanites could never have imagined a time when the sexual union of a man and woman could be completely divorced from conception. Suffice it to say, modern sexual practice has taken the same outlook.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently said this to a group of University of Virginia College students:
“Most evangelical churches have never heard a word from the pulpit on the issue of contraception. That is a shame. I want to summon evangelicals to a discussion of this matter and to a theology of conception so that evangelical couples may greet their children with celebration, not fear.”
Good luck.... We rejoice that a few evangelical leaders in the Church have begun to address all issues of human life. After 35 years in the evangelical church, we have never heard a class, a sermon, or a discussion on the pro's and con’s of contraception. What happened? Why should not this be a part of our teaching in the Church along with everything else? Is the entire issue so “open and shut” that it does not warrant attention? Does the Lord have a concern? The Scriptures seem to be clear that everything under Heaven is his concern:
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:13
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ” – 2Corinthians 10:5
Among the many important issues we address as Christians, contraception, as Al Mohler wrote, should also be one of them. The prevalence of abortion as a form of birth elimination
should also motivate us to examine this issue. Just because it may challenge deeply held beliefs and opinions, should we abandon a search for the truth? Are we too afraid to tackle
the really important issues? Does convenience trump truth? On the other hand, who wants to endure the howls of protest that would surely erupt from worldly Christians? Elijah
had similar problems....
Like Al Mohler, we are disappointed that church leadership often refuses to discuss the tough issues. Sadly, many entrenched church bureaucrats will never climb up the ecclesiastical ladder by making waves in their congregations. One would think abortion and the mayhem it has brought would be an important topic of sermons but this crime (for which our nation is in danger of destruction) is rarely broached in the majority of pulpits, evangelical or otherwise. Certainly the fact that congregations do not want to be reminded that their coveted personal habits are under the scrutiny of the Almighty is a major factor for this silence. Who does not love a god that does nothing and requires nothing – the god of our pledge of allegiance, touted on billboards, and in invocations?
Feel-good sermons abound among a people laden with self-satisfaction and self-indulgence. Hopefully, married couples or those contemplating marriage will be able to make a more informed and godly decision about an important aspect of their lives together. As it is, most do not give this subject a thought beyond the usual arguments in favor of contraception. We never did.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1
The practice of faith is always a challenge to the Christian. We easily become functional atheists. Is God involved and does He care about the conception of human life? There is a persistent attitude that human conception is not fundamentally different from that of cats and dogs. “God is equally uninvolved and unconcerned with both” it is touted. Throughout the Scriptures, the Lord has a special role in the conception of human life. This is especially evident with the promise given to Abraham that, even though Sarah was physically dead with respect to child-bearing, a son would be born to them. Abraham’s confidence that God was Lord of the womb was one aspect of his faith that was “credited to him as righteousness.” We also have Manoah and his wife, Hannah and Elkanah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and, the mother of Jesus, Mary.
It is not as if we had acquired some bacterial infection, conclude that “God can heal,” and so refuse antibiotics. It has been the glory of Jesus Christ that he has given both heathen
and believer the knowledge that universally mitigates some of the effects of the Fall without compromising His holiness. While this is an age of unparalleled barbarism, it is also an age
of matchless grace.
Contrary to what the heathen would have us believe, pregnancy is not a disease for which we need a cure. Indeed, the barren womb is a curse (1 Sam. 1:5, Prov. 30:16, Deut. 8:18). But the way people discuss this, even in the Church, you would think that is was both a curse and a disease.
The creation of human life and parenthood are not evils.
The use of contraception is a decision on our part that God did not create human sexuality to our standards – standards generally created and dictated by the heathen and aided by the general selfishness we all share in a fallen world. Of all the areas of our lives, the bedroom remains “off limits” to the God who created the man and the woman. “Family planning” is not a Christian concept and is nowhere expressed in the Holy Scriptures other than in Genesis 38 and Deuteronomy 25 where it is addressed negatively. "Family planning" is an expression of Humanist doctrine.
Some, like Tim LaHaye, have expressed the idea that a small family means a “quality family” as opposed to the “quantity family” where there is a large number of children. This assumes
a number of things: We are raising chickens or cattle; God is not God of the womb; and economic abundance guarantees a better spiritual condition for the children in a home. There is no
part of Scripture that concurs with such views, either directly or by implication. For example, families mentioned in the Scripture could be small with godly children (Zechariah,
Elizabeth and their son John) or small with godless children (Eli the high priest and his two sons).
The heathen believe that we are just dogs and cats and so do too many Christians. And that is how more and more of us are behaving, just as the Scriptures have said concerning Israel,
A wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving–in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her. – Jeremiah 2:24
More than not, young children get parked in front of the TV and have their minds filled with heathen filth instead of being raised to fear and know the Lord. Is it any wonder that they do not turn out well? The Bible warns about Christians becoming godless:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Are we to serve God or is He to serve us?
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. – Philippians 2:5-7
Could it be an attitude of pursuing equality with God when we are determined to decide the size of our families, the nature of our careers, or how rich we want to be? How does our
idea of success coincide with God’s?
Cultures that fall in love with contraception may find themselves eventually extinct. They also tend towards greater and greater perversions as the role of sex becomes more and more distorted. Europe is consistently shrinking in its native population and is ever on the cutting edge of newer perversions. What was unthinkable 30 years ago, is now commonplace. What does the future hold? Evil will experience no boundaries until judgment comes: This is the heart of the of the earthly drama moving towards Armageddon.
Am I a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God? It is so easy and we hope that in our heart of hearts that we love God more than anything else. But what a battle it is.
The Lord says that many children are a blessing – the more you have the more you are blessed:
You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. – Deuteronomy 7:14
The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. – Psalm 115:14
Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. – Psalm 127:3-5
What a pity that the world around us considers them a curse – an ungodly attitude. This kind of thinking would be unimaginable to the great men and women of God who came before us.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15
Does this apply to contraception because it is “in the world”? It goes without saying that everyone loves the results – more control of one’s life and, in some ways, becoming more of
a god. It is immensely attractive – we personally know this.
Where among us is the attitude of Mary when she was told that she would bear the Christ?
“‘I am the Lord's servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’” Luke 1:38
This was the crisis pregnancy of all times. Can you imagine what might have happened if she had been a part of God's people today? Most would have been filled with outrage that God would do such a thing to a young woman. How might a typical young woman in the church of today respond to the Angel? Maybe it would be something like this:
What do you mean I’m pregnant? I’ve been on the "pill" – this is impossible! I’ve got school to finish! What will my friends think? "The Holy Spirit got me pregnant!" Who will believe that? What man is ever going to marry some psychotic weirdo who goes around telling people "God made me pregnant"? I’m too young to be having a baby. I’m not even married yet. My boyfriend is going to roll his eyes and leave me. If we ever do marry (I doubt it) we will need time to adjust to each other and not have some kid right away. How could we ever have a decent marriage without time alone together? We will need time to save some money. These times are horrible – how could a loving person bring a kid into this rotten world anyhow? What will it be like for him? This is going to wreck my career – I wanted to be a Supreme Court justice and not sit around all day nursing some fussing kid and changing diapers! My mom is going to throw me out of the house. This is crazy! What do you think I am – your private baby factory? I’m a woman and this is MY body! I’m going to Planned Parenthood….
This may not be too far off, especially after listening to the mothers of some of these young women. What if Sarah or Elizabeth had lived in this age? Can you imagine the shame
and scorn that would have been heaped on them at the hands of God’s people for becoming pregnant at such an advanced age?
Indeed, how opposite is Mary’s attitude to the trendy spiritual addictions of this age. She had the Spirit's attitude in mind when she responded to the Angel.
Was sex created for us men to have an outlet for lust?
The Spirit tells us the purpose why he made a man and woman one flesh:
Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:15
Contrary to popular teaching, God did not make the man and woman so they could have the pleasure of sex apart from the possibility of bringing the cells of life together.
The Lord does not say why He made sex as pleasurable as it is. However, if sex were a chore, it is likely that there would not be any people left in the world. The Lord had to make us this way because we are so selfish. Otherwise, people would not come together as male and female so He could create human life through them.
Have we broken faith with the wife of our youth by refusing to have children by her? Does she mourn before the Lord as Leah, the wife of Jacob, did? We know of a family where the husband refused his wife’s desire for more than the two children they already had. He just did not want the hassle or expense. When we brought over one of our then newborns we felt badly as we observed the wave of pain and longing on her face, but what could she do?
Furthermore, sex between a man and a woman is not so they can become “one.” They are one by covenant – one flesh – and become one flesh in the same sense that a man and his sister are one flesh, but even more so. Before Rebekah went into Isaac's tent she was his flesh - his super-sister. How does one divorce one's sister? No matter what she does or what she becomes, she is always his sister. But just try to teach this Biblical doctrine in a Protestant church much less even discuss it....
The man who goes to the prostitute does not want to be one with her (like a sister) in any Biblical sense, he wants the pleasure of sex. The same is for the man with a concubine or the homosexual: Sex becomes the primary vehicle for pleasure.
Sex without the possibility of its God-designed results is also a convenient boon to public policy makers who believe we are “over-populated,” an un-Christian view in light of God’s lordship over the womb.
Is God so ignorant that he does not know how many people there are? Is He that helpless? We daily must battle functional atheism because, without much thought, we easily adopt the views of the godless.
When was the command in Genesis 1:28 and 9:7 to be “fruitful and multiply” reversed? Some would say, “It’s obvious the world is overpopulated. We need to help God out….” Is it so obvious? Please see Hebrews 11:1-2.
What is the one thought that the user of contraceptives shares with the other perversions, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, pedophilia, and bestiality? None want children
to issue from the union (despite the fact that it is impossible for some unions). Did David go in to Bathsheba because he wanted to have a child by her?
Why would God consider homosexuality so defiling? What is wrong (other than being unnatural) of two men “loving” each other? It is all a perversion of what God intended when He created us, as Gene Edward Veith wrote earlier. Abortion and homosexual “marriage” follow contraception as night follows day.
Genesis 38:1-10 is the one and only instance of contraception described in the Bible. Onan was required to
continue the line of his dead brother with his widow. He refused to do this for the same reasons most men, married or not, do today – the cost and inconvenience of a child.
Whether Onan used a condom or withdrew himself before releasing the cells of life (as he did) are one and the same.
The punishment for Onan’s sin of refusing to further his brother’s line should have been humiliation (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) and not the sentence of death that he received. This was because he engaged in a seriously unnatural act for which God gave the death penalty (Leviticus 18). It is unnatural for a man to release his seed in any manner other than in such a way that will ensure it has the possibility of meeting with the cell(s) of life that belong to his wife. What about the elderly? Please see Genesis 17:17 and Luke 1:13.
Such bible teachers as Martin Luther and John Calvin viewed Onan’s sin as the practice of contraception. Luther even equated contraception with sodomy. (Please see the appendix for more information.) In their standard reference work, Keil and Delitzsch agree that Onan’s act “…was also a sin against the divine institution of marriage and its object, and was therefore punished by Jehovah with sudden death.”
Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:1-2
Are we conforming to the pattern of this world? Should we present just part of our bodies to the Lord and not all?
What does God think when we destroy the healthy tubes that carry the cells of life as is done in a vasectomy or a tubal ligation? Is not this a form of mutilation that is condemned in Scripture (Deuteronomy 14:1)?
Is it for the Lord or for us to decide if we are to bear children? What is the best way for him to decide what our family size should be?
When a husband and wife bring the cells of life together, is it a matter of chance or fate what happens next? If we were mere animals, as our heathen culture teaches, then we would falsely expect that some “new tissue” would be formed that has the “potential” of becoming a human being.
This attitude should be rejected because it belongs to those who favor abortion and is their excuse to permit the wanton murder of innocent human life.
The Scripture teaches that we are not masters of the womb but that God is.
The most significant conceptions there have ever occurred demonstrate that the Lord is God of the womb: Isaac, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist, and, of course, Jesus. The mothers were all previously barren because of one reason or another. In every case but Mary’s, the husband and wife had brought the cells of life together but no life was conceived until a miracle happened. It was God’s sovereign purpose and power to bring life where there was none. The elderly Abraham and Sarah did their part but God, Himself, created the life in her womb. Being created in his image (Genesis 1:27) we should expect this: We have a soul and are not mere animals, despite appearances.
We also have the hard cases: Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. Was his conception and birth some accident? How could we believe this when Jesus said:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your father… you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31
It requires faith to believe that Rachel’s death was a result of the pregnancy He ordained. Hebrews 11 is full of others who were “…sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do
not see.” It took faith for the authors of this essay to trust the Lord with the womb He gave to them, even after experiencing multiple miscarriages.
Would we Christians want to trade places with Rachel? With Sarah? With Elizabeth? If we do not want to trade, why not? Asking this kind of thing can help us understand how deeply ingrained the world’s values are in us.
How many couples kneel before God and prayerfully tell him, “Lord, please use the womb you have given us according to your will. Amen.”
In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel responds to God’s call by saying, “Here I am.” What if he had said, “Please don’t bother me now, I’m trying to sleep. I’ve got a lot of work to do in the temple tomorrow and I need my rest….”
It has been the extraordinary grace of God that He has allowed us all to have the knowledge to often survive the dangers of childbirth experienced by women in previous times. Death is unnatural and we are very thankful when suffering is alleviated in this way. Much could be discussed as to why life-saving surgical intervention, for example, is fundamentally different than abortion but this is beyond the scope of this essay.
Among the benefits of not practicing contraception is not being subject to powerful drugs that may have
unknown side effects. No one has to use devices prior to, or during, intimate moments or worry about “what if I get pregnant?” and the accompanying dread. Our faith in God is strengthened.
Tim LaHaye, incorrectly claims that those who do not use contraception will have a dozen children (ibid p.195.) We know of rare cases where this has happened but more common is barrenness, which happens to 20% of all couples, not to mention those who have trouble conceiving in the first place. Of the great women of God, what was the average number of children they had? Sarah, Manoah’s wife, Elizabeth and Ruth had only one child apiece, as far as we know. Leah is among the record holders with seven children – only one more than the author and his wife have – and this was rare.
If we men are truly following Ephesians 5:5, we must always consider that it is our wife who will become pregnant, God willing, and bear our child. That is, a husband and wife should prayerfully make any decision about contraception together, whatever it is – even the wrong one – as peace in the home trumps most other issues. We should not be like many of the Reformers or our country's Founders who did not have the patience to wait for God to fix the Church – or the government. Is God's arm too short to fix that which He appointed and established?
Perhaps contraception among New Testament Christians may be looked upon by the Lord in much the same way He looked upon divorce and polygamy in ancient Israel: He reluctantly permitted it because people’s hearts were hard and it was widely practiced in the culture.
Can we trust that God knows the right size of our family? The authors’ family size is always striking to outsiders and it has been a significant witness to our faith in Christ. It is also a unique symbol that stands out in contemporary culture that is so often offended by the presence of children.
We realize that most Christians choose another way and this makes us sad. Shouldn’t we all be less selfish and exercise more faith? We really do not know what other couples do – nor do we want to. There will be questions and comments – please send them our way and we will do our best to respond. May our Lord Jesus richly guide and bless you as you prayerfully decide what is best. Be sure to share with us any blessings that you receive.
Hadley & Marilyn Robinson
Here are some comments about contraception, past and present:
“Wake up, Christians, and stop shooting yourselves in the foot! Toss out the contraceptives and start reclaiming the world for Christ one child at a time!” – Susan Grafton, Knoxville, Pa. (in a letter to the editor of World Magazine)
“In seeking to avert an imagined calamity [overpopulation], the promoters and practitioners of birth control automatically abolish themselves leaving the future to the pro-creative – an interesting case of self genocide.” – Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1971) p. 30.
“Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin…. 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 to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment. He was inflamed by the basest spite and hatred. Therefore he did not allow himself to be compelled to bear that intolerable slavery. Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God…. That worthless fellow … preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother.” – Martin Luther
“The voluntary spilling of semen [by Onan] 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…. In this way he tried, as far as he was able, to wipe out a part of the human race. If any woman ejects a fetus from her womb by drugs, it is reckoned a crime incapable of expiation and deservedly Onan incurred upon himself the same kind of punishment, infecting the earth by his semen, in order that Tamar might not conceive a future human being as an inhabitant of the earth.” – John Calvin
Note: It has only been in the last eighty years or so that Christians have generally approved of contraception. Unfortunately, the views of important Christian leaders have continued to be skewed. For example, speaking of abortion, Billy Graham said, “There’s a Christian position, but I can’t say what that is.” He also said, without reservation, “But there are occasions, I think, when abortion is the only alternative.” (Good Morning America interview, September 19, 1991) Is he showing any light in this world by saying such things? He is an experienced and capable public speaker. It could not be any accident that he said this. It is a shameful thing that he did. – HR