Artificial Birth Control –
What Does the Bible Teach?
by Martin Beckman
edited by L.A. "Tony" Kovach
In our age, the use of the pill and other methods of artificial birth control has become quite common. Birth control is encouraged in schools, and is routinely suggested by many doctors. Yet for a Christian who is using or thinking these methods, or is thinking about the issue of birth control, we should be asking ourselves this question: "What does God want?"
To answer that question, we will examine a number of Bible verses that will show us what God’s desires are when it comes to birth control and having children. We will also look at the impact and some of the logic behind birth control practices. You'll find interesting insights ahead!
I. GOD’S COMMAND AND BLESSINGS
Be Fruitful and Multiply
In the first chapter of Genesis, God first speaks to us in His first command to mankind:
Genesis 1:27-28 (NASB)
“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Emphasis added)
Jesus Christ was questioned by the Pharisees about divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:1-9. The Jewish leaders at that time allowed divorce for a multitude of reasons. By calling their attention to Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, Jesus reminds them of marital rules set up by God “in the beginning”. The command by God “in the beginning” was that the “two shall become one flesh” and “be fruitful and multiply”. Jesus simply reinforced the teaching of the Father.
Fruitfulness in the marriage act is a command from God that is repeated numerous times in the Bible (for instance Genesis 9:1 and Genesis 35:11). The use of contraceptives violates the heart of this command as this is an attempt to prevent couples from being fruitful and multiplying. Nowhere in the rest of the Bible is this command retracted, we've seen that it was re-emphasized by Jesus our Savior, and therefore remains a command for us all.
But what about overpopulation? Starvation? Being able to afford children and being stuck in poverty?
Many politicians and people in the media portray a 'need' for birth-control, based on arguments about over-population and 'limited' resources. Yet all too often, people fail to question their assertions, and they should!
Presently in the U.S. and in dozens of other nations, there are not enough live births to maintain the current population. It is also worth pointing out that the entire population of the world could be placed in the State of Texas, and every man, woman and child would have over 1300 square feet of space, and the rest of the planet would be empty! Does that sound like over-population? Starvation occurs not because of insufficient food in the world, but rather because of factors like war, greed, disasters along with other individual and social sins.
So if we are living the Gospel message, there is no need to fear or dread having children.
Listen to what Martin Luther has to say:
“Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: ‘Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden alone and not load myself with misery and want.’ But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 5, p.332).
God is great, powerful, almighty, and loves us. He will not desert us! God is a Father who keeps His promises! He gives us a command to be fruitful and multiply and God will provide. We should put faith in the words of our Father and seek to obey his commands, in all things.
Children are a gift of the Lord
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children on one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
1 Chronicles 25:4-5
“Of Herman, the sons of Herman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hananil Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Herman the king’s seer to exalt him according to the words of God, for God gave fourteen sons and three daughters to Herman.”
1 Chronicles 26:4-5
“And Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the first-born, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sacar the fourth, Nethaniel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, and Peullethai the eighth; God had indeed blessed him.”
The ancient Hebrews viewed children as blessings from God, and this is the consistent witness of Scripture. But Jesus knew these days were coming, as He prophesized:
"For indeed, the days are coming when people will say, 'blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed." (Luke 23:29).
Lets consider some analogies, to help us better understand the implication of artifical contraception. For example ... Let's say God wanted to give you the gift of tongues (one of His lesser gifts) ... but you decided that it might be embarrassing to talk like that and doesn't fit your lifestyle, so you cut out your tongue so that you wouldn't receive this gift. We should wonder, would this be acceptable to God, for us to reject His gift?
Or let's say I have a close friend. This is friend whom I owe my life to (back in the Vietnam War days) and whom I've sworn that I would do anything he would ask me to do. I regularly invite him to live with me. After many repeated attempts and requests, he finally decides to come - but he's just become disabled and can't take care of himself right now. Doctors say in several years he'll be in great physical shape. But when he shows up at your door, I don't answer it because he would inconvenience my life.
We often pray for this or that blessing from God, too often, we shut the door when He might give us such a blessing. The gift of life is one of God's greatest blessings! It can be one of life's greatest challenges. In having children, we can better understand God, who tries to gently guide us into making the right choices in life, just as loving parents try to help their children make good decisions too.
Childlessness and barrenness are unfortunate
Hosea 9:10-17; Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 7:13-14
In the Old Testament, God punishes Israel for corruption by preventing childbirth and pregnancies. God views this of contraception as a punishment, not a positive action. Self-induced contraception is certainly not a great scientific accomplishment. Moses viewed being barren and avoiding children as sickness or a blemish.
II. DESTESTABLE ACTS
Penalties for sexual offenses:
“Then Judah said to Onan, Go in to your brother's wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother. Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also.”
In these verses, Onan was told by Judah to go marry his deceased brothers widow. His brother, Er, had been killed by God before he had any children. Onan was to produce a child who would carry on Er’s name. As spelled out in these verses, Onan was unwilling to raise up offspring that would not be considered his, and “went in to his brother’s wife” after wasting his seed. As a result of this action by Onan, God killed him also.
The early Protestant leaders opposed contraception, as two examples in this article indicate, on moral and Biblical grounds. Yet many modern Protestant commentaries say the reason God killed Onan was his refusal to raise up a child for his brother or that he had disobeyed his father. But were these really the reasons God to killed Onan?
In Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Scripture says that for whatever a man’s reasons for refusing to raise up a dead brother’s children, the penalty was humiliation (shoe being pulled off, face spit on, scorning), not death. It would be unusual for God to lash out such a severe punishment to Onan but elsewhere, others receive a much lighter penalty for a similar offense.
So was Onan's death for the other possibility, disobedience to his father?
“For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
When a man and woman marries it ends any required obedience to his father and mother. When Onan married his brother’s widow, any parental authority Judah had over Onan ended. So God didn’t kill Onan for disobeying Judah, because according to the word of God, Onan had no requirement to obey his father.
What did Onan do differently than the man in Deuteronomy 25:5-10?
This leaves the obvious conclusion, God killed Onan for wasting seed, a contraceptive act.
Various Other Sexual Offenses
In the first five books of the Bible, the death penalty is an action to be meted out for about twenty offenses. Several of these relate to sexual matters. The sexual matters which are condemned can be broken down into two parts:
(1) Those that are forbidden due to who the sexual partner is (i.e. adultery, incest, close relatives, etc.);
(2) Those that are forbidden because of the act in itself.
In this second part, let us examine these offensive sexual acts.
Withdrawal/Wasting seed (Genesis 38:8-10)
Male homosexual intercourse (Leviticus 20:13)
Male bestiality (Leviticus 20:15)
Female bestiality (Leviticus 20:16)
Intercourse with a menstrous woman (Leviticus 20:18)
What is the common element in these sexual acts?
The answer, of course, is that they are each non-reproductive sexual acts. As we can see, the reason these are forbidden by God is that they each oppose God’s command of “be fruitful and multiply” and as such are perversions. Of course, items #1 and #5 could happen accidentally and no offense is involved when that occurs. (Lev. 15:24, Deut. 23:10-11).
In 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 says these are examples to help Christians determine what is pleasing and displeasing to God.
“ Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they are craved.”
In several other verses, animals with injuries are viewed as defects to God. In Leviticus 22:20-22, 24-25 a list of defects is given … blindness, sores, fractures, and bruised, torn or cut testicles. Even people with similar injuries are viewed to have defects in Leviticus 21:17-20. Certainly vasectomies and tubal ligations would fall under this category also.
God certainly doesn’t view these as beneficial things, especially when self-inflicted!
III. SEED & LIFE IN THE WOMB
"And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him."
"The hands that fashioned and made me altogether, and wouldst Thou now destroy me/. Remember now, that Thou hast made me as clay; and wouldst Thou turn me to dust again? Didst Thou not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese; clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinew?"
"This is what the Lord says- He who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you"
"For You created my innermost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
"Before I was born the Lord called me..." "And now the Lord says-He who formed me in the womb to be His servant..."
"Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One form us both within our mothers?"
It would seem that God views children as part of a continuing process, from the time they are in the loins of their parents until the time they are born. Those that practice birth control are eliminating the possibility of future children of God. He is with us from the beginning. He loves us from our conception! He knows us from the beginning of time. Do we really want to oppose God's will?
Some argue that if God really wants the children to be born, He would go past any contraception measures and give His gift of the children He really wants … being Almighty God, He is in control …. right? After all, He can make children out of rocks.
Let's look at some analogies, to help us understand this argument. Would this same argument work if I put a gun to my temple and pulled the trigger? If our Creator really wanted me to be here, He would cause the gun to malfunction, right? Or if I decided to commit adultery, God would stop me if He really had a problem with it … right? The examples could go on and on. The point is that Lord gives us the ability to have children in Godly ways and tells us to be fruitful and multiply.
A quote from John Calvin, one of the early leaders in the Protestant movement:
"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 a doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring. This impiety is especially condemned, now by the Spirit through Moses' youth, that Onan, as it where, by a violent abortion, no less cruelly than filthily cast upon the ground the offspring of his brother, torn from the maternal womb. Besides, in this way he tried, as far as he was able, to wipe out part of the human race. If any woman ejects a fetus from the womb with 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." (Calvin's Latin Commentary on Genesis - 38:10)
IV. CHILDBIRTH AND SALVATION FOR WOMEN
Faith and Good Works
1 Tim 2:15
"Yet women will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty."
By keeping God's commandments and continuing in faith and love and holiness, Paul says we will be saved. Paul isn't saying that women having children will in itself provide salvation, but those who reject childbearing, when married, reject the good works Paul says accompany salvation.
This statement echoes Jesus in Matthew 19:17:
"If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." Jesus is not preaching salvation by law and works, He teaches the law of love. Love God with all your heart and soul and love your neighbor. If a person is truly a Christian, good works will accompany him to eternal life.
V. CONTRACEPTIVES, HEALTH, AND FAMILY
One of the little known facts about birth control pills and
contraceptive devices is that, even in their normal use, they can be
abortifacient. "The word 'abortifacient' means 'having a secondary effect of not allowing a
fertilized egg (a baby) from implanting, and therefore killing the baby.
The Pill does not reliably prevent ovulation 100% of the time. When ovulation occurs (perhaps 3-10% of cycles; more often probably with the 3-month shots or the implants) conception can occur. Then, the probability exists that the Pill, will act to prevent implantation, causing the unborn child to abort.
If you check the PDR (Physician Desk Reference) listing for whatever Birth Control Pill (various brands; check Ortho-Novum's listings, they're pretty representative). They either will clearly state that one of the mechanisms of action of the Pill when taken the usual way as a "contraceptive" is interference with implantation, or they will not mention mechanisms at all. This is through just normal use of the Birth Control pill and is not taking into things such 'emergency contraception' -- a tragic misnomer, since a significant percentage of the time, if the Pill is used this way, it will not prevent conception, it will cause an abortion).
The American Life League has additional medical information on this topic.
Chances are, you've heard the expression that it takes three to have a successful marriage: the husband, wife and God. We know that God is ominipresent, so He is also present during any marital act. God created sex for two purposes, unitive and procreative. Our Creator made sex pleasurable, as a blessing of marriage and also to insure the fruitfulness of the human race. There are times of the month and times in our lives when the procreative aspect is not possible, but this is part of our Maker's plan. Since periods of natural infertility are God ordained, the use of natural family planning (NFP) is morally acceptable. You can learn more about modern NFP in the ABC's of Faith's "Resources"
The Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council dealt with this topic in this way:
"By that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one . . . A man and a woman, who by the marriage convenant of conjugal love 'are no longer two, but one flesh' (Mt 19:6), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions ... Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state … Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love"
(Gaudium et Spes, 48, 50)
The promoters of artificial birth control often proclaim their allegation that contraception 'helps' married couples to be 'happy.' But the evidence is clear that this is not the case. Even as early as four years after contraceptives were first tested, researchers found that marriages in which contraceptives were used were twice as likely to end in divorce than marriages in which there was no contraceptive use. (Grant MD, Ellen Sexual Chemistry: Understanding Our Hormones, The Pill, and HRT. Mandarin Paperbacks, London, 1994.) By contrast, those couples who use NFP and are open to having children, have some of the lowest divorce rates of any group in the U.S.!
We might wonder, why is contraception harmful to marriages? The reasons are many. When sex becomes solely an act for pleasure, with no chance of having children, often a user mentality of one's marriage partner evolves. One or both partners can become selfish, and that selfish behavior can lead to other problems in the relationship. Artificial birth control also opened the door for an increase in pre-marital sex and adulterous relations. The statistical evidence demonstrates that couples that live together are twice as likely to divorce once married as couples who don't live together before marriage. Adultery is a common reason cited for divorce. Our Lord, who forbids such behavior, knew the emotional and physical pain such actions cause!
Contraceptives treat children like a disease. Modern society often views them as things to be avoided so that must take medicine or have surgeries to avoid them. More often than it should be, it is more an occasion of condolences than congratulations. We should once again, individually and as a society, look at children in the Scriptural way, as a blessing from above!
Christian Unity and the Birth Control Issue
Jesus said in John 16:13:
"But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth."
Jesus also prayed for unity among believers (Jn. 17:21-22).
Until the Lambeth conference in 1930, all Christian churches condemned birth control as sinful. Today, the Catholic Church is virtually alone in holding to this ancient belief, as one denomination after another has accepted artificial contraception. This should be a troubling fact for many who believe in Scripture. Was the Holy Spirit wrong in guiding all Christians to believe that birth control was immoral for some 1900 years? In the light of John 16:13, the clear implication is that the Catholic Church has been guided by the Spirit to safeguard the truth; namely, that birth control is wrong.
Instead of birth control being an issue that divides believers, the beauty and benefits of following the Lord's will should lead believers into union with the Church that Jesus founded.
Judie Brown - President - American Life League (one of the largest pro-life organizations) stated:
"If a hatred or fear of children causes a human being to practice contraception, love is lost; If self-centered desires for commodities stifle a desire to form a community within a family where children are welcome as gifts from God, love is lost; If the murder of innocent children continues to be the norm for those whose "choice" of contraception may cause abortion or lead to abortion, love is lost. American Life League denies the moral acceptability of artificial contraception and we endorse the moral use of natural methods for spacing children and for trying to have children. American Life League will work to outlaw any form of "contraception which kills a human being once that baby's life has begun at conception/ fertilization. American Life League calls upon those in doubt to review the material available, the studies that have been done and the reality of God's most precious gift to man and woman-the ability to procreate, to participate with Him in bringing into this world children created in His image and likeness."
Please take a moment to thank Martin Beckman for sharing his work on this topic with you and others. Thanks, Martin!
To learn more about the wisdom and inspiring insights of the Catholic Church's teaching on Birth Control, Abortion, and Families read the papal encyclicals "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life"), ("On Christian Marriage") , and "Familiaris Consortio" ("The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World").
You'll find more statistics and information on this topic in our "Resources" links.
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