Faith, Life

The Blind Leading The Blind On Birth Control

Recently, a friend of mine reached out to me via Facebook message and informed me that she had read my blog post on Green Sex, birth control, and Natural Family Planning. She told me that after reading it, doing some of her own research, and talking about it with her husband that she decided to stop using artificial birth control. As many of you know, I’m very passionate about the evils of artificial birth control and have done extensive research on the effects it has, not just physically, but spiritually as well.

We spoke on the phone for a long while about the subject and after getting off the phone, she sent me a blog post by the director of strategy for a ministry who wrote on the subject of birth control and asked me what I thought about it. He referenced a pastor’s viewpoint on birth control to backup his argument. After reading the blog post, I found many points I took issue with and responded accordingly.

I posted the original blog post below and my responses are in blue. There were too many theological and factual errors that i could not wait until the bottom of the post to respond to them. So I inserted my responses after each problematic statement. Because I’m sure that the blog post’s author has many of the same misconceptions about birth control as many other people and after addressing them to my friend, I figured I’d share them with everyone else.

The worst thing about what you are about to read is that there are many denominational pastors that teach their immoral viewpoints and people follow them because they don’t know the truth. It’s the blind leading the blind in most of those churches.

Here is my e-mail back to my friend. Remember, the original blog post from this guy is in black and my comments are in blue. I’ll post the first paragraph without edits because I went to town on it. The major issue is in his last section, but I found issue with most of his first section as well. Here is the first paragraph of his blog post and then the same paragraph with my comments is posted below it:

ORIGINAL: “Desiring God and Bethlehem Baptist Church have no formal position on birth control, but John Piper and most of the pastors on staff believe that non-abortive forms of birth control are permissible. The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:1, 9 on the sufficiency of Scripture). What is important is our attitude in using it. Any attitude which fails to see that children are a good gift from the Lord is wrong: “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 of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-4).”

COMMENTS: Desiring God and Bethlehem Baptist Church have no formal position on birth control, (This is one of my BIGGEST problems with most Protestant churches. They do not take a position on issues of morality and instead stay silent about them regardless of their beliefs because they are afraid of dissenting congregation leaving their church. It’s more prevalent today than ever. Not only do most Protestant churches not take a stand on issues of same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, etc., but now many of them have started to approve of these things and support them. Please see this graphic for an illustrated view of churches that support it now. It’s a little outdated (as you can see ANOTHER church has allowed it now), but you can see the shift happening. I mentioned it before about how many denominational churches are conforming to society instead of society conforming to church.) but John Piper and most of the pastors on staff believe that non-abortive forms of birth control are permissible. (Remember how he literally just said that Bethlehem Baptist Church didn’t have a formal position on birth control? Well guess what, it just took one when it let their pastors began preaching a position on it. Just in case you didn’t know, there are two main types of birth control in regard to its functions. One does not allow for life to be created. The other ends the life after it has been created a.k.a. abortion by pill. You don’t have to go to a clinic to get that pill. It is just your normal every day contraceptive birth control pill.)The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, (That’s the same argument pot heads use for marijuana. The Bible doesn’t say that using marijuana specifically is a sin, but DOES give us direction on our bodies being temples.See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. To be broad, yet specific, these drugs are hormone changing drugs and alter the chemical makeup of a woman. The Bible also doesn’t specifically contain the word “contraception” because that wasn’t a word when the books of the Bible were written (It was coined in the late 1800s); however, God DOES tell us that we are to go forth and bear fruit. He did not say “go forth and bear fruit whenever you feel it’s the best time.” and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:19 on the sufficiency of Scripture).(There are three issues on this last statement. First, speaking of “adding” to Scripture, we also shouldn’t throw parts of Scripture out of the Bible, which Martin Luther did 400 years ago and most Protestants today don’t even know the Bible they have isn’t even the full Bible. 1,600 years of Scripture and Martin Luther doesn’t like several books, throws them out, and starts his own church. Now people don’t know better. Second, it appears that he is making an argument for Sola Scriptura, which presents a MAJOR issue in and of itself. The third is that if he is interpreting a Psalms passage to read that we shouldn’t add to Scripture, then 75% of the Bible that hadn’t been written must be thrown out under his interpretation. I’m no theological guru, but I’m no idiot either. At the time the Book of Psalms was written, 3/4 of the Bible wasn’t written yet.) What is important is our attitude in using it. (That is not the only thing of importance in this issue.) Any attitude which fails to see that children are a good gift from the Lord is wrong: “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 of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-4).

There are, of course, some Christians who would disagree with this position on birth control. Some of the major theological objections that have been made to birth control can be categorized according to the following questions:

  • Is birth control consistent with the truth that children are a gift from the Lord?
  • Shouldn’t we let God determine the size of our family?
  • Should natural family planning be preferred to “artificial” contraception?

Is birth control consistent with the truth that children are a gift from the Lord?

(He’s really not addressing the morality of birth control in this section and instead he’s addressing family size regulation, which he also mentions in his last section. Due to the length of this post, I chose to save my comments on that issue until the end of this post.)

It is very important to delight in the reality that “children are a gift of the Lord.” But some people go further and argue from this that since children are gifts from God, it is wrong to take steps to regulate the timing and number of children one has.

In response, it can be pointed out that the Scriptures also say that a wife is a gift from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22), but that doesn’t mean that it is wrong to stay single (1 Corinthians 7:8). Just because something is a gift from the Lord does not mean that it is wrong to be a steward of when or whether you will come into possession of it. It is wrong to reason that since A is good and a gift from the Lord, then we must pursue as much of A as possible. God has made this a world in which tradeoffs have to be made and we cannot do everything to the fullest extent. For kingdom purposes, it might be wise not to get married. And for kingdom purposes, it might be wise to regulate the size of one’s family and to regulate when the new additions to the family will likely arrive. As Wayne Grudem has said, “it is okay to place less emphasis on some good activities in order to focus on other good activities.”

When I was teaching a summer course at a seminary in Africa, a student of mine made a perceptive observation along these same lines. He noted first of all that in the creation account the command to multiply is given together with the command to subdue the earth: “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 (Genesis 1:28).'” He then asked how a farmer (he lived in a largely agrarian society) knows how much land he should cultivate. The answer, of course, is that a farmer seeks to cultivate what he believes he can reasonably handle. He doesn’t take this command to mean that he needs to make his farm be as large as is naturally possible. Likewise, then, it is right for a couple to seek to have the number of children that they believe they can reasonably nurture in light of the other callings they may also have on their lives. In the same vein, Wayne Grudem points out: “We aren’t required to maximize the amount of children we have any more than we are required to subdue the earth all the time—plant, grow, harvest, etc.”

In reality, then, although it is true that “blessed is the man whose quiver is full of [children],” we need to realize that God has not given everyone the same size quiver. And so birth control is a gift from God (VOMIT) that may be used for the wise regulation of the size of one’s family, as well as a means of seeking to have children at the time which seems to be wisest.

Shouldn’t we let God determine the size of our family?

(The argument is not about regulating the size of your family for JUST reasons. It’s about the method in which it is done and WHY it is being done that is of importance here. If it is motivated by selfishness and not by “just reasons” then the Church would hold that it would be wrong to do so whether you are using NFP or other forms of birth control. It is not “birth regulation” that the Church opposes, but selfishness and any immoral means of accomplishing that.)

Sometimes people also reason that if you really want to “trust God” to determine the size of your family, then you should not use birth control. The assumption seems to be that if you “just let things happen naturally,” then God is more at work than if you seek to regulate things and be a steward of when they happen. But surely this is wrong! God is just as much in control of whether you have children when you use birth control as when you don’t. The hands of the almighty are not tied by birth control! A couple will have children precisely at the time God wants, whether they use birth control or not. Either way, then, God is ultimately in control of the size of one’s family.

The “trust God, therefore don’t use birth control” thinking is based upon the incorrect assumption that what happens “naturally” reflects “God’s best” for our lives, but that what happens through human means does not. Why should we conclude that the way to let God decide the size of our family is to get out of the way and just let nature take its course? We certainly don’t think that way in other areas of life. We don’t reason, for example, that we should never get haircuts so that “God can decide” the length of our hair. Farmers don’t just let the wind plant their crops in the fear that actively regulating what is grown on their land somehow interferes with the provision God wants to give them. And a family doesn’t just trust God to provide food for by waiting for it to drop from the sky, but instead goes to the store to buys it. God ultimately determines everything that will happen, both in nature and in human decisions, and He brings His will to pass through means. Human activity does not therefore interfere with his plans, but is instead itself governed by Him as the means to bring to pass His will. Hence, we should not conclude that what happens apart from our planning is “better” and more reflective of God’s desires for us than what happens through our planning. God very often causes us to plan as themeans towards improving our lives and advancing His kingdom purposes.

Further, God has revealed that it is His will for us to regulate and direct creation for His glory (Genesis 1:28). God has given us the privilege of being able to make significant life decisions because this exercises wisdom and thus shows the fruit that His word is bearing in our lives. When we rightly use the godly wisdom God has given us, God is glorified. He doesn’t want us to simply think we have to take what comes naturally, apart from our efforts, because then our sanctified wisdom is not expressed. In fact, very often it is God’s will that we not simply let things move along naturally. Going back to the analogy mentioned above, farmers don’t simply collect whatever grain happens to grow in their fields, concluding “this is what God wants to provide.” Rather, they go out and plant grain, realizing that God wants to provide not only through nature, but also through the means they employ to steward nature.

It does not work, therefore, to conclude that the use of birth control interferes with God’s role in granting children. Birth control can be a way of wisely stewarding the timing and size of one’s family. One might be able to minister more effectively for the kingdom, for example, by waiting 3 years after marriage to have children in order to enable the husband to go to graduate school. And one might be able to minister more effectively for the kingdom by deciding to have 4 children instead of 15, so that more resources can be given to the cause of missions and more time can be devoted to other areas. If such planning is done for God’s glory and in wisdom, and if such planning continues to acknowledge that our plans are not perfect and that birth control does not absolutely ensure anything, it is pleasing to God.

Does birth control express a lack of faith in God?

Without regulating the size of their family, many couples would end up having more children than they can reasonably support financially. In response, some argue that we should simply have faith that God will provide the funds. However, we don’t use the “God would provide” reasoning to justify going beyond our means in other areas of life. We wouldn’t consider it wise, for example, to pledge twice our annual income to missions organizations in faith that God will supply the extra funds. God expects us to make wise decisions according to what he has given us, and not presume upon him providing from out of the blue. Reasonable financial considerations are a relevant factor: “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

Should natural family planning be preferred to “artificial” contraception?

(THIS is the major issue of his entire post. He’s not considering MANY things in his assessment, which I will outline.)

Some conclude that “natural family planning” is acceptable but “artificial” means are not. But this seems to overlook something significant: in both cases, you are still seeking to regulate when you have children. (This is in fact true. He’s right on this point.) And so if one concludes that it is wrong to seek to regulate the timing and size of a family, then it would have to be concluded that natural family planning is just as wrong as “artificial” means. (And he’s wrong on this one. What he is saying is that if you conclude that a result isn’t wrong (regulating family size can be both okay and wrong depending on the reasons) then the means of obtaining that result are ultimately equivalent. That’s more than just a poor argument. It’s just flat out incorrect.) But if one concludes that it is appropriate to steward the timing and size of one’s family, then what makes “artificial” means wrong but natural family planning right? (There are SO MANY reasons why these are not equivalent means of obtaining the result of family size regulation/birth control. In particular, these are some reasons why: 

1. With NFP there is no introduction of any chemical imbalance causing substance. With the pill, shots, etc. there are. With other forms of artificial birth control (condoms, diaphragms, etc.) you are not giving freely of one’s self either by placing a barrier between you and your spouse.

2. Contraception involves the deliberate frustration of the marital act; NFP does not.

3. I found these illustrations to be pretty good:

Father Richard Hogan has written: “Some people think that a decision by a couple to time their acts of love in order to space children using NFP is the same as the decision by a couple to avoid pregnancy through contraception. This is a confusion of purposes and means. The purpose may be the same, but the means are different. The NFP couple delaying another pregnancy and the contraceptive couple delaying a pregnancy are engaging in two radically different acts. The NFP couple, while engaging in non-procreative intercourse by making use of the infertile times, give themselves to each other totally and completely as they are at that moment. The contracepting couple withholds their fertility from each other in an anti-procreative act and do not give themselves totally. Remember, love is defined as a total self-gift…Further, the contracepting couple alters either both of their bodies or one of them, and in doing so they violate the integrity of their own bodies.” (The Human Body….a sign of dignity and a gift, page 9)

Author Christopher West addresses the difference between contraception and NFP in his book, Good News About Sex & Marriage: Suppose there were a religious person, a nonreligious person, and an antireligious person walking past a church. What might each do?

Let’s say the religious person goes inside and prays, the nonreligious person walks by and does nothing, and the antireligious person goes inside the church and desecrates it. (I’m framing an analogy, of course, but these are reasonable behaviors to expect.) Which of these three persons did something that is always, under every circumstance, wrong? The last, of course. 

Husbands and wives are called to be procreative. If they have a good reason to avoid pregnancy, they are free to be non-procreative. But it’s a contradiction of the deepest essence of the sacrament of marriage to be anti-procreative. To use West’s terms, NFP couples are both procreative and non-procreative, depending upon what parts of the cycle they choose to have marital relations. Contracepting couples are always anti-procreative. Back to the blog post… he continues ->) Surely it is not because God is “more free” to overrule our plans with natural family planning! Perhaps some have concluded that artificial forms are wrong because they allow one more fully to separate intercourse from the possibility of procreation. But if it is wrong to have intercourse without a significant possibility of procreation, then it would also be wrong to have intercourse during pregnancy or after a woman is past her childbearing years. There is no reason to conclude that natural family planning is appropriate but that “artificial” means are not. 

I also found another explanation that illustrates the above points I’ve made:

Morally speaking, then, what is it that makes NFP acceptable while artificial birth control is wrong?
1 ) NFP does not separate sex from responsibility. The act of intercourse has a twofold meaning: sharing of love and giving of life. Married persons who perform this act must accept both sides of the coin. While not every marital act will result in a child, it must nevertheless be open to the possibility of life. The act will be “open” to life as long as the spouses do nothing to “close” it. Here’s the difference between artificial birth control and NFP. In the first case, one does something (takes a pill, uses a condom, etc.) to deliberately “close” the life-giving power of sexual intercourse. In NFP, however, no such step is taken. The spouses do not act against their fertility. They do not reject the link between the two meanings of sex (love and life). They simply follow the natural patterns of the body’s fertility and infertility — patterns placed there by God Himself. In the fertile days of a woman’s cycle, if there are serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, the couple respectfully steps back from the act of intercourse. In using birth control devices, however, they attack the meaning of the act — they do the action of intercourse and then undo part of it. In NFP, instead, they simply choose at times not to do the action in the first place.
2) NFP is not just a “method” based on physiology. Rather, NFP is based on VIRTUE. It is based on sexual self-control, which is necessary for a healthy marriage. There are times in any marriage when spouses have to put aside their desire for sex because of sickness, fatigue, travel, or other reasons. In a healthy marriage, love is shown in many ways, and not all these ways of showing love are physical. In fact, to refrain from sex when necessary is itself an act of love. Why? Because in effect the spouses then say to each other, “I did not marry you just for sexual pleasure. I married you because I love you. You are a person, not an object. When I have sex with you, it is because I freely choose to show you my love, not because I need to satisfy an urge.” Using NFP requires abstinence from intercourse during the fertile days if a pregnancy has to be avoided. This actually can strengthen the couple’s sexual life. When the spouses know that they can abstain for good reasons, they also come to trust each other more, and avoid the risk of treating each other primarily as objects of sexual pleasure rather than persons. Artificial birth control, on the other hand, gives free reign to the temptation to make pleasure the dominant element, rather than virtue. It encourages couples to think that sexual self-control is not necessary. It can encourage them to become slaves to pleasure.
3) NFP puts the responsibility for family planning squarely on the shoulders of both partners, because it requires communication and cooperation. Both spouses need to know when the fertile days of the woman’s cycle have arrived, and then decide together what to do (depending on whether they are trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy). To think that such communication and cooperation make the sexual act less pleasurable (because less spontaneous) is simply not true. To know with certainty what stage of the cycle one is in can increase the pleasure and spontaneity of the act, since the spouses can ignore worries about contraceptive failure or side-effects of the pill. Artificial birth control, besides introducing these worries, also puts the “contraceptive burden” on the shoulders of ONE, not both, spouses. It makes it possible for a spouse to cut off the fertility of the act, even without the consent of the other spouse. It can introduce division into the marriage.
4) NFP is not just a means of avoiding pregnancy, as artificial contraception is. Rather, it can also be used to ACHIEVE pregnancy since it pinpoints ovulation. It is a wholly positive approach to the sexual life of the spouses. It is clean, inexpensive, morally acceptable, and reliable.
As with anything good, NFP can be misused, if a couple has the wrong motives. Married couples are called by God to cooperate generously in bringing forth and educating new life.For a couple to decide that “we don’t want children at this time”, there need to be serious, objective reasons (health, finances, etc.). If the reasons are not objective but selfish, then the couple cannot justify the avoidance of pregnancy just because they are using NFP to do it. In this case they are not practicing “family planning”, but “family avoidance”!
There are differences between NFP and artificial birth control, but let these suffice for now. As Pope John Paul II has explained, the difference really rests on a person’s answers to some very basic questions like, “What is marriage?” What is sex? What is the human body? What is love?” Artificial contraception distorts the meaning of all these things. It sees the body and its sexual faculties as something to be “used”, and it fails to acknowledge God’s place in love and marriage. NFP, instead, is a practice of virtue, resting upon self-control, inner freedom, respect, trust, communication, and reverence to God’s plan for love and marriage. It enriches both love and marriage. Every couple owes it to themselves to learn more about it!