Birth Control: An Idea Whose Time Never Comes
by Paul deParrie
It is only right to let you know my starting point. Ideas have consequences. And some of my ideas are directly related to the conclusions I have reached below.
My first presumption is that God exists and has revealed Himself to us by His (not man's) Word and by His Spirit. The second is that, under the New Covenant, God wants me to seek a personal relationship with Him through worship, prayer, study, and service.
This relationship is not based upon rules (though there are some of those), but on getting to know Him well enough that I start to understand how He thinks. This is in order that I may begin to follow His ways even in places where there are no specific biblical commands.
God's thoughts are not mine, so it is imperative that I strive to know His and conform myself to them.
However, God's thinking is not always revealed on the surface. Some, while we can come to accept them, still baffle and perplex. Consider the fact that Jesus Christ is both 100% God and 100% man.
More in keeping with our topic, consider the following:
Abraham paid a tithe of the spoils of the Battle of the Five Kings to Melchisedek. (Hebrews 7: 1-2) Yet the chapter continues with this puzzler, "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedek met him." (v. 9-10)
God sees a person paying tithes two generations before he is born! How's that for "not our thoughts."
Nor is this the only place where descendants are seen as participating in events performed by their progenitors. Recall the incident where Abraham cut the animals in two and passed between the pieces - followed by God passing between the pieces as a "smoking lamp" and a "horror of a great darkness." (Genesis 15)
If you are familiar with Middle-East suzerain covenants, you know that "cutting" such a covenant was common. The animals were cut in half and both parties went "between the pieces" signifying, "If I break this covenant, I will be as these - a bloody corpse." This kind of covenant is nowhere repeated in the Bible - especially not among the children of Israel. Yet, here we are, hundreds of years later, and God calls the people of Israel to account and threatens them with this covenant in Jeremiah 34: 18-20:
"And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, the princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf; I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth." (KJV)
It is hard to imagine the ramifications of these kinds of verses. I see them as reflecting the eternality of God - that is, that all of time and all times are simultaneous to Him. He is not linear. All events occur together and all persons exist together in His eyes.
But I digress.
I will come back to this issue later, but suffice it to say that not all of how God thinks is summed up in "Thou shalt not . . ." or "Thou shalt . . ."
I believe the Christian, with the open-door covenant that is afforded him (and especially American Christians with all of their resources), are more responsible to seek out and obey the will of God - even where it is not specifically spelled out.
On the subject of birth control, I can easily prove that the Pill and the IUD are sinful because they are abortifacient - they cause an already conceived child to die. Birth control by non-aborting means is different. There is no "Thou shalt not . . ." in the Bible - though, as I will argue, there is a "Thou shalt . . ." that is applicable.
This being the case - no "Thou shalt not . . ." - our biblical case is drawn from inference. This is why I am not in the position to declare all birth control to be sin. Yet, I think that this writing will produce a very good initial case that any birth control is not pleasing to God.
"Thou shalt . . ."
The ancient Jewish rabbis used to call it the First Mishna (commandment).
The very first commandment given by God was to be fruitful and multiply. No place is the command rescinded. I realize that is the "argument from silence" which is very week, but the command is qualified. In essence He only limits the reproduction by the command to "fill (replenish) the earth."
Now for those among you who think that humanity's ability to fit its entire population in to the State of Texas with a full suburban house-lot per individual is the same as the earth being "full," you may as well stop reading here. I don't think we have come even close to "filling" the earth.
Certainly the average American Christian couple with their 1.7 children haven't even come close to filling their own houses, much less filling the earth.
The command is repeated to Noah (genesis 8: 17) after the flood - and thus to all his descendants.
I believe that the fact that everything God touched "teemed" with life and was commanded to be fruitful and multiply, that we get a good look at God's mindset about how much "life" - especially life in His image - He wants around.
The Purpose of Sex
Hang on to your hats, because some of you are not going to like this. While this subject could use a complete treatment of its own, it has specific applicability here.
As with the First Mishna, I derive a lot of my understanding of God's thinking by looking at how it was "in the beginning." I got this idea from the way that Jesus handled the issue of divorce. (Mark 10: 5-9)
Reading the entirety of the account of the creation of Eve, there are only two things God focuses on - unity (become one flesh) and procreation (be fruitful and multiply). Both of these references involve sexual intercourse. In the New Testament, Paul states that one who would have sex with a harlot has "become one" with her. (1 Corintians 6: 16)
These indicate God's purpose for sex. "Pleasure" is not even mentioned.
At this point, I fear I must digress because someone is bound to think that I am opposed to sex being pleasurable. Far from it. I only state that nowhere in Scripture can it be seen that pleasure is a purpose of sex. (I often say, tongue in cheek, that mankind is so corrupt and lazy that if God had not made sex pleasurable, humanity would have been extinguished in two generations.)
I realize that a number of Christian writers and teachers have elevated "pleasure" to the status of a purpose, but Scripture does not. One might ask these people, if, for some reason, sex stopped being pleasurable for you, would you then be freed from your biblical obligation in 1 Corinthians 7: 3-5?
"Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." (KJV)
The best illustration of what I mean when I say that pleasure is not a purpose is food. The purpose of food is life-giving nourishment. That purpose could easily be filled by some kind of enriched porridge. In fact, if God was as anti-pleasure as some make Him out to be, He would have made all food taste the same. However, our great God has provided us with nearly infinite possibilities of wonderful tastes.
What would you say, though, to someone who ate only for the taste, then purged himself afterwards? What would you say to someone who insisted on eating things that did not nourish the body (perhaps, plastic) and nothing else?
This person would be a pervert as much as a homosexual who abuses his sexuality for improper pleasures.
Deliberately barren sex is the same kind of violation of the nature of the sex act. While no one says that sex is limited to procreation, when one seeks to limit procreation during sex, an integral part is left out.
The same would be true if you left out the unity of the sex act. This would be true of forcing your spouse to have sex. This also is perversion.
It would seem to me that any sex should not only be between one husband and his one wife (as it was in the beginning), it should also reflect the two apparent purposes of God in sex - unity and procreation. That is, no completed sex act between husband and wife should deliberately limit or exclude either purpose.
To answer the next question, once a woman is past child-bearing years, that does not exclude sexual activity since the limit to procreation is not deliberate. Besides, God often "surprises" people. Remember Sarah!
Whose Kids are They?
I often hear parents say that the kids they have are "on loan from God" and that they are "only stewards of God's kids." This may be more true than they think.
The Scripture commands parents to rear their children in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6: 4) Why?
Malachi gives us a hint.
Malachi 2: 14-15: "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth." (KJV)
Here God, besides always calling Israel (and later, Christians), My children, he says that He "made the two one" that He might seek a godly seed. He wants children for Himself through us! The children we bear are His children not ours. It is not within our purview to decide how many children God has or when He has them. We are His clay, His instruments, to perform His will - not our own.
While we presumptuously try to figure out - in the short term and with our own limited ideas of what is best for the plan of God - whether we should have more children, God has His own plans that may span centuries and involve that little baby we are trying to avoid. God had David's reign in mind when he first called Abraham. What if Sarah had decided that she had fulfilled the prophecy through Hagar. What if she had been satisfied with Ishmael?
(Yes, God can overcome our attempts at birth control, but should He be required to? Is it obedient living if you make God jump through hoops to get you to raise children?)
Psalms 127:3: "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." (KJV)
Deuteronomy 28:11: "And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee." (KJV)
When I first got saved and ran up against these verses, I said, "Well, if children are a blessing and a reward from God, then I want as many of those as I can get!" While I had formerly liked the idea of a large family, these words sealed it. I could not (and cannot) image anyone in their right mind saying "no" to God's blessings and rewards.
Look at the blessings in just a single verse of Deuteronomy 28:
Doesn't that signal something to you?
Perhaps there is an Enemy who has convinced Christians that they don't want children. When God planned to bring Moses on the scene, there arose a spiritual attempt to stop him before he started. (Exodus 1) When Jesus was born, again there was a demonic attempt to stop Him. (Matthew 2)
Consider the passage that follows the verse from Psalms quoted above.
Psalms 127:4-5: "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."(KJV)
Consider that children are likened to arrows used as weapons of war. Why?
In biblical times, a soldier with a sword was charged with holding the ground on which he stood. A sword is not a good weapon to use to advance on the battlefield. The usual method was for the swordsman to hold the ground and for the archers, standing behind the lines, to let loose a flurry of arrows ahead of the line making it possible for the swordsman then to advance.
We are in a war. We, with the Word of God, are able to stand our ground, but what of the future? Will our gains be for naught when we die off? Not if we raise up arrows in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and launch them into that future to carry on the work and advance the Kingdom.
(When Christians try to tell me that they have heard that a Hebrew quiver held only six arrows, I note with some grim satisfaction that these folks almost never have - or intend to have - a quiver full. However, I believe that "fact" is not true anyway. After all, if you were an archer going into a war, how many arrows would you carry?)
Does this sound like something that Satan would like to stop? Wouldn't he prefer that we are "conformed to this world" in our belief that children are a burden? I would venture to say so. While Satan's children openly kill their babies, Christians, under the same reasoning either kill them unawares through abortifacient birth control or "limit" their families.
In the culture of ancient Israel, barrenness was considered a curse - and sometimes it was. Today, many Christian's think of it as a blessing - at least they do so enough to artificially induce it.
As a result, Christianity has suffered a great loss. Christians have few children (arrows) with which to "take the future."
If there is one common refrain I hear from Christians when I tell them about the biblical evidence against birth control, it is summed up in the word "stewardship." The basic argument is this: "We have a duty to exercise proper stewardship over our households so that we can properly raise the children we have balanced with all our needs, our ministries, and the resources God has given to us."
Let us examine the central "stewardship" teaching of the Bible - Matt 25: 14-30:
Then we see the servant with one talent. Maybe he thought the one talent was too much. The way he treated it, he may well as not had it in the first place.
You see, we are in a relationship with a great King. He alone decides what capabilities we have. He alone knows the future. He alone knows whether it is important to His plan that you have one child or ten. He alone knows whether you can "afford" them.
So what if you have five kids whom you cannot afford to send through college? Is college so necessary to His plan for them? What soothsayer revealed this future knowledge to you?
Is your doctor saying your pregnancy is risky? Are they saying another pregnancy could kill you? It is your Lord, Whom you trust, Who knows. Was He surprised when Rachel died in bearing Benjamin? Was not Benjamin crucial to God's plan?
What about a pregnancy that could cause some deformity in your child? Does this prospect daunt God? Does He have no plan for a child who is handicapped? As to "protecting" the child from possible injury, which injury is greater, living with a handicap and being able to serve God or being "protected" out of existence? This is like the pro-aborts who say that having an abortion was "what was best for the child."
No amount of human reasoning or wisdom can replace His omniscience. God's plans are inscrutable to the human mind. They encompass more than the blip of time we inhabit.
No. We have no competence in being stewards over who is and is not born. If we did, then we could decide which abortions were warranted. Life and death are in God's hands alone.
We are not competent to know the future.
I'm going to speculate a little, but I think it is important to do so.
Jeremiah 1: 4-5 tells us, "Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (KJV)
This is a curious verse. It brings us back to similar ideas as we found in the scriptures concerning Levi paying tithes in Abraham and Israel making the covenant "between the pieces" through Abraham.
God is saying that before Jeremiah was conceived, God knew him. I am not arguing preexistence of souls, but I am asking if God knows people before conception, what does one call it when people prevent that conception? Is it murder? A pre-conception abortion?
In Genesis, where Cain is confronted about Abel, the original Hebrew reads, "Your brother's bloods (plural) cry to Me from the ground." The old rabbis say that this relates to the fact that Cain was guilty, not of murder, but genocide, since he had killed Abel and all his descendants. How does this play with contracepting someone out of existence?
What about a circumstance where God plans for you to have a child in 2002, 2004, and 2007. However, because you have used birth control to "space" your children differently, you end up with births in 2003, 2005, and 2008. You do not have the same children as you would have had since different eggs and sperm are involved. But, if these were children other than the ones God planned to give you, who are they? Add to it the possibility that God may have added another in 2010, but you had a vasectomy and no child was born then. What happens to the role in God's plan that that child was to fulfil?
Certainly, there will be objections about whether or not it is possible to stop the plan of God. Well, it seems that God intended to bring the Messiah through Abel, but the plan went through with Seth. Did the fact that God's plan still went thorough mitigate Cain's crime? I don't think so.
God wanted to lead Israel into the Promised Land straightway after leaving Egypt, but the unbelief of Israel stalled things for 40 years.
My intention here is not to condemn people for sinning in using birth control. My hope is that Christians will revisit the matter. The whole Church (all denominations) opposed all birth control up until 1930. They had good reasons. Do we know them? Have we considered them - or have we just surrendered blindly to the cultural myopia of the Whig Theory of History?
I can only hope that some of what I have written will get the ball rolling.
Should you come to the conclusion that birth control is sin, that may be dealt with by confession and repentance. (1 John 1: 9)