I remember back in seminary, there was a small yet militant movement of students who were evangelists of the anti-birth control movement. They were not against it because the believed it was an attempt to control God’s plan, but because they believed that all birth control, save “fertility awareness” and condoms, caused abortions.

This put a great deal of fear into me and my wife as we certainly did not want to be responsible for unknowingly aborting one of our children. For the next six months I researched this. Randy Alcorn was the primary apologist against “the pill,” Depo-Provera, and most all other types of hormonal methods of birth control as he believed that they often caused abortions of fertilized eggs. 

However, I was surprised that this was the first time I was hearing about this. I wondered how this information could be so secret, even among the most conservative of the Christian family ministries and anti-abortion advocates. This gave me a great deal of skepticism.

Others are against birth control because they believe, like Catholics, that it is nothing more than neglecting the sovereign will of God in favor of your own will. This group believes that if it is God’s will then we should not attempt to stand in the way. Therefore, this group does not advocate any sort of birth control at all.

Concerning whether the pill causes abortions:

Pro: Randy Alcorn

Con: Rich Poupard part 1; part 2; part 3

Anyway, enough of an introduction. Birth control and the Christian—thoughts? Do you use birth control? Why or why not?


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    123 replies to "Birth Control and the Christian"

    • Samson Covatch

      My wife and I have thought about this a lot. We chose to use coitus interuptus as opposed to the pill. The idea of there being a chance of causing an abortion has lead us to this decision.

      In November of 2008 I did a radio interview on the topic of the theology of Abortion with an OB/GYN friend of mine. Depending on your anthropology, it seems that everyone will come to a different conclusion.

      Here’s another dimension to consider as Christians. Is it okay for us to mutilate our bodies until they no long function properly? Is a vasectomy or tubal ligation just a form of voluntary sterilization? If so, how is this justified?

    • Ed Kratz

      Vasectomy: No problem here…ain’t gonna do it, ain’t gonna do it!

    • MikeB

      To some degree we do (or can) take control of when/if we get pregnant. That is we (and by we I mean a married couple) are not going to get pregnant if we don’t have sex. Also there is a fair amount of timing that can be done to prevent pregnancy.

      So if we are able to do things that lower the chances of getting pregnant (including abstinence, timing method, coitus interuptus) why not use other techniques like the pill (assuming it does not cause abortion), or a vasectomy?

      @jntowers
      —-
      We’ll use birth control, and if God wants us to have another child, He’ll make it happen.” Can that same logic not be applied the other way? “We won’t use birth control, and if God wants us to be pregnant again, it’ll happen and He’ll provide what we need; if not, He’ll not allow it.
      —–

      Depends on how your theology handles cause-effect and logical consequences from our actions. Without denying God’s hand in the matter (ie sovereignty) could your having a child be a result of God letting the natural laws be carried out rather than God did/did not want you to have a child?

    • Chance

      I think the whole “Im not going to use birth control, because I want God to be sovereign” is ludicrous! Why dont we apply this same type of logic to other parts of our lives? “Well, I dont brush my teeth because God is control of my cavities” or “I dont need to eat healthy. I trust God with my health.” This is silly thinking. God decrees both the ends and the means. If you want a healthy mouth, then brush your teeth. Same applies to pregnancy; if your not in a position to have a child, use birth control.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP from a previous post: “Is birth control sin?

      Not when it is practiced responsibly and for the right reasons.”

      There might be discussion about what constitutes birth control “practiced responsibly” and for “right reasons” (assuming that the anti-birth control Christians could and would even stipulate that it could ever be practiced responsibly and motivated from “right reasons”).

    • Actually, the Catholic Church doesn’t hold the position that all methods of birth control are illicit—just artificial means. However, for serious reasons, married couple can delay or postpone (even indefinitely) having children using Natural Family Planning. Nonetheless, married couples are always supposed to be open to children. Not being willing to have children is considered an impediment to valid marriage.

      There might be some Catholics who believe in an absolute prohibition, but that is not the official teaching of the Church.

    • Rachel Vruggink

      Just posted on this today: http://vrugginks.blogspot.com/2010/01/truth-about-all-birth-control-pills.html

      Whether a woman is taking an “abortive” or “ovulation preventing” pill, the chemicals in every birth control pill thin the lining of a woman’s uterus. Women taking birth control pills notice this thinning in that their monthly periods are lighter (or in some rare instances disappear all together). Why is this such a big deal? Let’s have a mini-science lesson.

      When a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm combine, they form what most Christians consider to be a baby. This baby then travels to mommy’s uterus and attempts to embed in the lining of her uterus. The baby must embed into mommy’s uterus in order to survive. If the baby does not embed in mommy’s uterus then the baby dies and is flushed out with the monthly period.

      So – I came to realize that in taking ANY oral contraceptive I was thinning the lining of my uterus hence creating a hostile environment for my baby. As a mommy, it is my God given responsibility to do my best to create a safe, loving environment for my children. What kind of mother would I be if I knowingly took a drug that thinned the lining of my uterus making it very difficult for my accidentally conceived baby to implant?

      I understand that the point of ovulation prevention birth control pills is to cause a sperm and egg never to meet, BUT almost all of us know women who got pregnant while taking birth control pills. How is this possible? Because ovulation prevention birth control pills do not prevent ovulation perfectly, there are times when even a woman taking birth control ovulates and conceives a baby. Sometimes these precious little babies are able to implant in their mommy’s thinned uterus (hence a pregnancy even while taking birth control), but most of the time those precious little babies are not strong enough to implant in their mommy’s thinned uterus and they die.

      After discovering the truth about all birth control pills, the choice has been obvious for me – I will not take any oral contraceptives (i.e. birth control pills) because they would thin the lining of my uterus thus create a hostile environment for any baby accidentally conceived.

    • bethyada

      The most useful link is the Poupard part 3. What is relevant here is that the contraceptive pill (COC) prevents ovulation and thins the endometrium, but if COC fails to prevent ovulation, then the body will prepare the lining despite ongoing use of COC. He mentions the amounts of hormone produced by the corpus luteum is greater than the COC. While true for progesterone (which is the relevant hormone in this phase), I don’t know if it is the case for oestrogen.

      What Poupard doesn’t mention is that high dose oestrogen (say 4 COC at once) works to prevent implantation, so it can at some level, the question is what level?

    • Jermayn

      Are we majoring on the minor with this issue?

      I have heard Mark Driscoll’s on this (his new book) and so far I have yet to hear anyone who can give a true non bias opinion on this matter. I will download your notes but again I ask, are we majoring on the minor??

    • Michael

      Man this discussion would is one large can of worms. Too many dimensions to even begin to have a full discussio. In order to fully come to an answer on this one would have to come argue and come to conclusions on everything from when a human being is a human being (some argue fertilization, others argue implantation, still others viability, or we could even use the historical method of quickening as the measure) to what exactly constitutes interfering with the will of God or natural law (or even if the will of God can be thwarted for that matter or if what is perceived as natural law is “biblical law). It’s almost too complex of an issue for a blog post.

      However, having gone to a Catholic Law School and having some professors who were strongly anti-contraception I had a number of discussions concerning this issue outside of class. To be honest the thing that surprised me the most was how little the Bible actually has to say on the issue of when a human is a human (perhaps because it’s not a scientific textbook). Most of what we believe, regardless of what we believe, is made from inferences from Scripture and not clear mandates (as with homosexuality for instance).

      My personal conclusions on the matter is that until the egg is implanted in the mothers womb there is simply no pregnancy to abort. Yes the fertilized egg “could” implant, but in many cases en in healthy women not taking the pill the egg simply fails to implant and passes out of the female in the menstrual fluid to be discarded unnoticed. Should we consider the act of discarding the fertilized egg an “abortion” as well?? To me personally, and people are welcome to disagree, to consider a simple fertilized egg a human being with a soul is absurd. Until the egg is implanted and there is a pregnancy there is nothing but a mass of cells which may implant or may just pass through the system and out of the woman’s body completely unnoticed. I highly doubt we will find those who would’ve come from the eggs which never implanted in heaven.

      On the other hand I get where the other side is coming from. No one wants to be the cause of the death of human being and where the line is is hard to draw as the Bible is mostly silent on these matters. The Bible simply doesn’t address the scientific knowledge we possess today and some of the questions it raises. So it just makes the most sense to draw the line at the earliest possible moment in order to avoid even the possibility of killing a human being.

    • Hodge

      This, of course, is never discussed in churches, Bible studies, families, etc. anymore; but I wrote the following to help people think through the issues:

      Bryan C. Hodge, “The Christian Case against Contraception: Making the Case from Historical, Biblical, Systematic, and Practical Theology & Ethics” (Eugene, Or: Wipf & Stock, 2010).

      The issue is a little more involved than just the sovereignty of God issue. I encourage people, including Mark Driscoll, to really think about the “other side” before concluding one way on the matter too quickly. Most people I meet don’t even realize there are arguments for the other side. They just think it’s a bunch of crazy people who don’t believe in what is obviously perfectly acceptable. Assumption, of course, is the death of all inquiry.

    • Jason Chamberlain

      We used birth control for a long time, partly to help regulate my wife’s irregular cycle. After the birth of our second child we decided that we had enough and I made an appointment with a urologist. I can tell you that it is really not a difficult procedure at all. I really wasn’t even that sore. I had to stop running for a couple of weeks, but that was it.

    • Jermayn

      I am reminded of an episode of CSI where Grissom has the discussion with some religious people and he quotes a scripture in Leviticus where it talks “about life is in the blood” and says that going on from that, life begins on the 15th day (I think), when the fetus develops blood.

    • melissa f-b

      I don’t think this comes up for Protestants mostly to avoid the possibility of having to ditch the pill. We are Mennonites and we wrote about our experience using the Fertility Awareness Method at the beginning of our marriage. Now that we have a toddler, we’re using a barrier method. We don’t think about it in Catholic terms, more along the lines that you mention. Even if there is a relatively small chance of causing an abortive event, we wanted to take seriously the roll of hospitality we want to be a cornerstone in the married life. We wanted to make our lives, my womb, our finances, our plans and our expectations available to whatever gifts (children or otherwise) we may never have expected. I can say it radically altered the way we thought about the sovereignty we held over our lives. It wasn’t “caution to the wind,” Duggar-style. But it did realign how we perceived the place of sexuality in our relationship.

      http://signonthewindow.wordpress.com/2007/03/01/baby-talk/

    • Susanne

      My husband and I chose to not have children. Otherwise we are fairly typical conservative Christian types. When people hint at that whole “be fruitful and multiply” command of God, I like to think He was speaking to Adam and Eve NOT Susanne and Andrew. Because, frankly, there are enough people born now so I think the fruitful command was fulfilled. God also told Adam to name the animals and I don’t see people running around trying to do this task.

      I’m one who grew up confused by Calvinist and non-Calvinist types. I grew up the latter, but on the chance that the former were true then why would I purposefully bring precious children into this world whom I would love and cherish only to have God possibly elect them for eternal damnation? I’m not that cruel!

      And, really, if God is all sovereign and powerful, He’d make me have children regardless of whether or not I intended to have them.

    • jim

      Interesting stuff!! I tend to agree with Chance(#5) If I get sick , I take medicine ! If the kids have exams , I recommend study!
      I guess I don’t get bent out of shape with interfering with the sovereign will of God ( How can I even do that, unless his sovereign will is not etched in stone but a purpose ) So be disciples, witness and love one another. search for truth. Is this not his purpose for us, why try to narrow it down to whether Birth Control is permitted, then why buy insurance, why pray over anything , if it really doesn’t matter!

      I’m saying God gives us wisdom to make choices , In Iraq, the average family consists of 7.7 members……Canada and USA don’t even make the top ten countries. I wonder who’s getting it right?

      I have 3 wonderful boys….the youngest(11) had a seizure during the holidays…talk about scary!! Along with alot of prayer was a lot of doctors consultations and exams…..God expects this of a loving parent. Why do we make if so difficult and unreasonable in our pursuit of truth and faith, be open to his leading and use what he has given us!!!!

    • confused

      @Chance and others that think not using birth control and trusting God’s sovereignty is “ludicrous”…

      You’re making the false assumption that NOT using birth control automatically leads to pregnancy. This is nothing like buying insurance or studying for a test or brushing your teeth. You’re making the assumption that YOU have any control over when you get pregnant.

    • I don’t think we can do anything to “thwart the sovereign will of God.” Given His track record with barren women and virgins, I don’t think a little artificial birth control is much of a challenge.

      However, like all gifts, the gift of sexuality can be used appropriately or inappropriately. In addition, appetites are geared toward a purpose (or multiple purposes in the case of sexuality). If we treat them according to our own whims without consideration of their purpose, we can suffer the physical, emotional, and moral consequences.

    • C Skiles

      Someone earlier said the pill prevents pregnancy by not allowing the egg to be fertalized. I disagree. It prevents pregnancy by killing a woman’s sex drive!

      On a more serious note. My wife stopped using the pill because she just simply did not feel “right” on it. She felt bad. My opinion has always been that any thing that tricks your body into thinking it is already pregnant and therefore you don’t get pregnant (I have read medical explanations of how the pill works that read this way) can’t be healthy. For her it was simply a health issue and a “feeling better off of it” issue. Anyway, it is no longer an issue for us either way , she just had a hysterechtomy. I’m with you Michael, never been fond of the idea of the big “V”.

    • Steve in Toronto

      My wife and I just had our third (and I hope last kid) we are both in our mid 40’s and we are just getting too old for this kind of thing. Her gynecologist is suggesting an IUD but for the obvious reasons we are both very uncomfortable about going this solution. Since my wife does not want to take birth control pills while she is breast feeding the only other options are clumsily (condoms or a diaphragm) or too drastic (I can’t bring my self to get surgery). I can’t believe that we are the only christen couple in that spot does anyone have any suggestions?
      Cheers
      Steve in Toronto

    • #John1453

      Re Michael (#11)

      Michael’s comment regarding implantation is neither logical nor scientific. The single cell zygote / fertilized egg is a complete human organism. Period. Of what relevance is the environment of that organism? Are babies (humans at a much later, multicellular level of development) no longer human when they leave the womb?

      If one is a dualist, then it is of course relevant to decide when the biological organism has a spirit/soul. In the absence of evidence, the relevant principle would be the precautionary principle, which seems in line with Biblical morality.

      regards,
      #John

    • Jugulum

      Michael,

      From #11

      My personal conclusions on the matter is that until the egg is implanted in the mothers womb there is simply no pregnancy to abort. Yes the fertilized egg “could” implant, but in many cases en in healthy women not taking the pill the egg simply fails to implant and passes out of the female in the menstrual fluid to be discarded unnoticed. Should we consider the act of discarding the fertilized egg an “abortion” as well??

      No, the failure to implant would be like “miscarriage”. Frequent miscarriages that go unnoticed.

      How exactly does that demonstrate anything about the status of the zygote?

      Note: I think you’re probably right that it makes sense to say, “Pregnancy starts at implantation.” ‘Pregnancy’ is the word describing the mother’s condition–and if the mother’s body starts changing at implantation, then it makes sense to say she isn’t pregnant until then. But fertilization is still when a new human organism begins to exist.

    • Jugulum

      Regarding birth control & God’s sovereignty.

      If you think that using birth control is inherently an attempt to overrule God’s sovereignty, then can you explain why locking your car door is different? (“If God wants your car to stay yours, he’ll prevent anyone from stealing it.”)

    • confused

      @Jugulum – having a baby and having your car broken into are two completely different things, conceptually and scripturally. Your method of comparing the locked car to using birth control might feel the same logically, but it’s not. Birth control prevents something that is scripturally considered a blessing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “don’t have kids”. It does, however, say not to steal.

    • MikeB

      @ confused in #18

      You’re making the false assumption that NOT using birth control automatically leads to pregnancy.

      I am not sure I am making that assumption at all. No one is saying that pregnancy is automatic without BC. But I would say we do have some control over getting pregnant… abstinence will certainly prevent pregnancy. I am also working on the natural way God created our bodies and will assume that having sex without birth control – especially if timed with the women’s cycle will certainly increase the chances of having a child. This view does not deny the ability for God to open/close wombs as He chooses but it does allow God to allow your choices to have their natural and intended effect.

    • Jugulum

      confused,

      First, change the question to, “Do you tie up your horse?” (If God wants you to keep your horse, he’ll keep it from wandering away.)

      Second, please notice that I wasn’t arguing that birth control is fine. I was critiquing one particular argument against birth control—the argument, “It’s wrong because it attempts to violate God’s sovereignty in your life.” I’m talking about the argument against “trying to take control from God”. (Maybe you’re not making that argument. But even if you’re right about birth control, that doesn’t mean every argument is a good one.)

      “It’s wrong because it rejects something that God calls a blessing” is a different argument. I do see a point there—at the very least, it has to affect how we view & use birth control. (For instance, it means that if you just don’t want to have kids, then you have the wrong motivation.) But if it means that birth control is always wrong, then I think it also means that all attempts to avoid pregnancy are wrong—including abstinence during the fertile period.

    • Nick

      This to me is an abundantly clear sign that the Sola Scriptura “choose your own morality” path is extremely dangerous and cannot be the plan Jesus had in mind. Even the “conservative” Christians who oppose stuff like homosexuality still advocate divorce and contraception.

      The Christian – especially a pastor and/or scholar – should never be wondering if such things are a sin. If they are a sin, then you’re leading people astray. These issues are not irrelevant and in fact directly related to Christian morality, the very things Christians need to be on the right side of.

      Further, contraception was virtually universally condemned until the early 1900’s when the Anglicans opened the door a tiny bit, and eventually all the way. So, clearly, at one time contraception was a sin for all Christendom, and only the Catholic side has held it’s ground.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Nick: “So, clearly, at one time contraception was a sin for all Christendom, and only the Catholic side has held it’s ground.”

      CMP from a prior post: “Is birth control sin?

      Not when it is practiced responsibly and for the right reasons.”

      Nick, there’s a claim that birth control is not a sin when it’s “practiced responsibly and for the right reasons.”

      Do you allow that it can be practiced responsibly and for the right reasons?

    • jim

      Confused!

      I am blessed with my children I have. However , My wife now has MS and for her to have another child would be pushing the limit. Even as a Dad, I find 3 is enough! So while it is true , that they are a blessing, try to tell that to a starving child in Africia, or as I mentioned befoe …the average household in Iraq where 7.7 is the norm…….God given wisdom is what we need!!

      You cited “You’re making the false assumption that NOT using birth control automatically leads to pregnancy. ” I think probably the facts would prove that , not always, but for the bigger % , that is exactly what will happen.

      As MikeB has stated we certainly can improve or hamper the odds.

      I hope your not teaching “health issues in our schools for today’s society.
      Regards

    • confused

      @Jim – ha! no I’m definitely not teaching that 🙂 I was somewhat playing devil’s advocate simply b/c it is an issue on which we have deliberated before. I think balance is key, as with everything, and obviously you and MikeB bring up good points (and Jugulum).

      I think, and this is obviously another issue completely, that we live in a very selfish society (in and outside of the church), and that too often birth control is used as a means to keep our lives more comfortable, or more in our control. Is that to say birth control is wrong? No, of course not. If my wife was guaranteed to have some major health risk by getting pregnant again, rest assured I’d choose birth control.

    • Nick

      Truth Unites: Do you allow that it can be practiced responsibly and for the right reasons?

      Nick: No, anymore than adultery can be practiced ‘responsibly’ and ‘for the right reasons’.

    • confused

      @Nick – would you allow for abstinence as a form of birth control for, say, two weeks out of the month? What would you say to Jim’s situation where his wife has MS? I’m very curious as it sounds like you strongly oppose b.c.

    • Nick

      Confused,

      The periodic abstinence method is allowable under certain conditions, and that includes heath-risks to the wife.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “Is birth control sin?

      Not when it is practiced responsibly and for the right reasons.”

      Nick: “No, anymore than adultery can be practiced ‘responsibly’ and ‘for the right reasons’.”

      Thanks for the reply, Nick. You regard birth control as sin. Just wanted to see if the gap between you and CMP (as proxy for others) could be bridged. It doesn’t look like it.

    • #John1453

      yes, what Jugulum (#23) said. I was focussing on the life of the organism, because that is what is morally relevant. Pregnancy per se is not morally relevant. Moreover, typically “pregnancy” is usually intentionally misused as a circumlocution for human/ baby / “living human organism” so as to abstracta nd depersonalize the act of abortion and to take focus off the fact that an abortion kills a living human.

      regards,
      #John

    • Chris

      Another Question — Fertility Treatments? Good solid Christian couples have helped create, unintended I am sure, the embryo/stem cell controversy.

      I had the surgery. The upside is you have an excuse to do nothing but lay around and read or watch movies all day for three days. And, the frozen peas thing, but still three days of nothing answers the need for “Serenity Now!”

    • Hodge

      Jug,

      Unless tying up a horse is said to be a direct act of God to create the result, and could not occur without Him, then all of these analogies are false. The reason why issues like this changed in the twentieth century for Christians is because Christians adopted a philosophic naturalism as an assumption when viewing the issue of conception, even though theoretically they adopt the supernatural view of the Scripture that God makes children. I think the morality of this issue goes far beyond the issue of God’s moral will (note, not His decretive will, which allow for murder, rape, and every other evil thing to be practiced by Christians) in relation to His sovereignty. The exaltation of the self is only one aspect of the issue. There are legion of issues here.
      The Church has historically argued that the practice (whether by chemicals or “naturally”) of contraception is an anti-creational sin that is of the same kind as murder and sexual immorality (such as that found at the base of homosexuality). It is no coincidence that Christians struggle now with the issue of homosexuality because their view of the primary purpose of the sexual act is the same as the culture’s. The Church is, therefore, following the flow of the culture. This, of course, does not make it wrong. It just needs to be thought through biblically. I think once this is done, and the bad arguments are taken out of the way, a Christian will come to the right on the matter.

      BTW, for those who want to pit the RCC position as the historic one, I would think again on that one. The historic position does not believe that any kind of contraception, including RM or NFP methods, are acceptable.

    • Hodge

      People really need help on this issue. Please read up on it before you come down on one side, especially on an issue that is confused with so many bad arguments.

    • “BTW, for those who want to pit the RCC position as the historic one, I would think again on that one. The historic position does not believe that any kind of contraception, including RM or NFP methods, are acceptable.”

      Can you point to your sources for this claim? Periodic abstinence has been the only acceptable form for spacing out births. RM and NFP didn’t exist before 1930, so they could hardly be condemned. What has always been condemned is the use of sex with the intent to render procreation impossible (for example, the various forms of artifical birth control, coitus interruptus and masurbation, which are still illicit). Can you show some doctrinal statement by a Church-wide council prior to 1900 that forbids periodic abstinence? They could hardly condemn RM or NFP since they didn’t exist, and since they didn’t condemn them after they came into existence, then it doesn’t sound like you have grounds for this statement.

    • Hodge

      “Can you show some doctrinal statement by a Church-wide council prior to 1900 that forbids periodic abstinence?”

      If you want a council on the matter, then you’re only going to find minor comments in some of the medieval councils. If you want the statements of Christians, which is more of a guide during the Church’s two thousand years of existence, then I think that is more important. I’ll give you one, but I’m not going to reproduce everything in my book here.

      Augustine comments on the use of the rhythm method against a Manichean sect which employed it as follows:

      Is it not you who used to warn us to ardently look for the period following purification of the menses when a woman is likely to conceive, and during that time refrain from intercourse, so that a soul would not be entangled in the flesh? From this it follows that you do not think marriage is to procreate children, but to satisfy carnal pleasure. Marriage, as the marriage tablets themselves proclaim, unites male and female for the procreation of children . . . he [who practices the rhythm method of the Manichees] ceases to make the woman a wife, and turns her into a prostitute, who when she has been given certain gifts, is joined to a man in order to satisfy his lust.

      Noonan comments on the irony of Augustine’s statement when he says:

      In the history of the thought of theologians on contraception, it is, no doubt, piquant that the first pronouncement on contraception by the most influential theologian teaching on such matters should be such a vigorous attack on the one method of avoiding procreation accepted by twentieth-century Catholic theologians as morally lawful. History has made doctrine take a topsy-turvy course.

      BTW, from Augustine’s quote, we can see that it obviously did exist. In fact, I document in my book that pretty much every form of contraception we use today has been used in the past. Our technology, of course, is better in some cases, but our methodologies are quite similar.

    • confused

      Hodge – thank you for verbalizing what wasn’t connecting in my head… the idea that God deliberately causes a pregnancy to happen. That’s the difference between becoming pregnant and all of these other analogies. If you believe that pregnancy is a simply a consequence of natural occurrences, and it’s just the luck of the draw on any given month when the sperm finds the egg… etc etc… then I can see how any non-abortive birth control would feel ok. However, if you believe that God directly influences each and every pregnancy (or lack thereof), then that would change how we approach birth control, significantly I would think.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Hi Hodge,

      With regards to the question that CMP addressed in an earlier post, “Is Birth Control Sin?”

      How would you answer?

    • Sprockett

      I really don’t understand how we say on the one hand that God is really Sovereign, and then on the other be concerned that our decisions somehow effect that?

      Either he is or he isn’t regardless of what we do, we are the creation, not the creator.

      I had the big V surgery a number of years ago because the pill was causing health problems for my wife and apples just don’t cut it as an alternative, it wasn’t as bad as I expected and it was important for her health.

      To be honest I’d do it again if needed, because another child while always a blessing would cause so many health problems for her that she or the baby may not make it. So to prevent that situation, I did the manly thing 🙂

      -Paul-

    • Hodge

      Truth,

      I appreciate the question, and I think I’ve already showed by hand, but I would really rather people just read up on the issue from both sides first (although I do think most people already have the one side down pretty well). The reason why I say this is that it is one thing for people to say, “Those anti-abortion people are all a bunch of religious nuts” once they hear our stated position on abortion. It’s a completely different thing to read a book like “Politically Correct Death” by Frank Beckwith and have people come out with a completely different perspective on the matter. I do think you can glean from what said what I would answer concerning that question though. 😉

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Hi Hodge,

      If I hazard a guess as to your answer to that question, and I guess wrong, would you grant me the courtesy of letting me know that I was wrong, and what your real position is?

    • Yes, every form was used, and the Church forbade the use of anything artificial, or more specifically, anything that violated the nature of the marital act. Does any bishop other than St. Augustine (speaking to the Manichaeans) say anything? Does St. A outright condemn periodic abstinence (your bracketed interpolation notwisthstanding)? St. Augustine’s main point is not to use your spouse solely as a sex object, not that you should never have sex during infertile periods (although he admittedly viewed procreation as the only redeeming aspect of sexual activity).

      In addition, one view by one bishop does not equal Catholic teaching (which is why I asked for proof of a conciliar statement). St. A’s views on marriage were hardly canonical and he in fact had to clarify them to avoid accusations of heresy. Whether individual Christians might’ve felt the same is also not proof that the entire Church taught the view as doctrine. Even a minor comment in a Medieval council is not necessarily authoritative since the whole point of a council is to air each side of an argument. What matters is the canons that define the Church’s position at the end of the council and whether those are approved by the college of bishops and the pope. What the Catholic Church taught and still teaches is that procreation is the primary intent of the marital act and that thwarting the natural process is sinful. Abstaining is not thwarting a natural process, whether for long periods or short.

      In 1930, Pius XI wrote Casti Connubi, in which he states: “Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.” (CC 59). Note that this was written during the same year when the rhythmn method was developed. Unless Pius XI was stunningly aware of advances in reproductive science (and unless the RM were already a doctrinal question, which would have been far faster than any other doctrinal issue had perhaps ever brought a pope into the fray), I’d say he was referring to periodic abstinence.

      The point is, from the position of the Catholic Church, if you don’t want children, don’t get married and have sex. If you have sex, be open to having children and don’t do anything that violates the nature of the act. (BTW, RCC only refers to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, and not to the 30 other Catholic Churches in the communion–Melkite, Marionite, Greek, and so on.)

    • Hodge

      “Does St. A outright condemn periodic abstinence”

      Of course not. But he doesn’t see planning pregnancies a reason for periodic abstinence, nor would abstinence for Augustine include abstaining so that one could have sex during infertile periods.

      “St. Augustine’s main point is not to use your spouse solely as a sex object, not that you should never have sex during infertile periods (although he admittedly viewed procreation as the only redeeming aspect of sexual activity).”

      I would take this as a typical re-wording of Augustine in order to justify a position. Augustine did, in fact, believe that the sexual act was primarily for procreation (as you admit), but he also believed to engage in an infertile act was a sin. He thought there was minor sin in not intending the sexual act to be procreative, as long as you did participate in an unproductive sexual act, but if you did, then it was in fact a sin.

      I’m not going to sit here and list people. You can get my book. The only other person I’m going to mention for now is Gregory:

      “Husbands and wives are to be admonished to remember that they are joined together for the sake of producing offspring; and, when, giving themselves to immoderate intercourse, they transfer the occasion of procreation to the service of pleasure, to consider that, though they go not outside wedlock yet in wedlock itself they exceed the just dues of wedlock”

      No more freebies. 🙂

      “In addition, one view by one bishop does not equal Catholic teaching (which is why I asked for proof of a conciliar statement).”

      I said the RCC position is not the historical position. To me, that means what Christian teachers (i.e., the ones who make up the councils) say to the matter throughout history. I didn’t say that the modern RCC position can’t be held because it contradicts a council. My point is that the Fathers would have condemned the Pope for suggesting that a natural form of family planning is morally acceptable for Christians to practice.

      “What the Catholic Church taught and still teaches is that procreation is the primary intent of the marital act and that thwarting the natural process is sinful. Abstaining is not thwarting a natural process, whether for long periods or short.”

      Agreed. This is what the RCC teaches. The change from the historic position concerns the primary purpose of the sexual act. In the NFP position, one is engaging in a known infertile sexual act in order to prevent the fertile sexual act from being productive. The historic position would have disagreed with this because the primary argument does not stem from lex naturalis. The modern RC argument stems from lex naturalis, which really stems from Aquinas’ argument. The lex naturalis, of course, is fine as a supplemental argument, but the RCC has made that it’s primary argument, and thus, lost the more important part of it that we find in the historical position.

    • Hodge

      “For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.”

      And this is the change from the historic position. The secondary ends are actually lifted up to be possible primary ends, and therefore, the act can be performed during known infertile periods. This is not what the Fathers believed.

    • Michael

      Hmmm, if we are going to quote St. Augustine on this subject maybe we should have a wider discussion about his views on sex and the relation it has to original sin as well as his views on marriage and other subjects. I don’t think you would find to many people outside the RC Church who would be willing to go along with his theology on these matters (which leads to the natural conclusion that all unbaptized infants are going to hell). Suffice to say I don’t think in a full discussion about Augustine’s views on sex marriage and a whole lot of other subjects his views would be considered Biblical by many Christians today and in fact were questioned by many at the time he wrote them.

      From a purely pragmatic perspective I believe contraception is necessary. Face it people are not going to be able to control their sex drive. Some may, but the majority are unable to and in fact Paul tells us this in the Bible imploring those who are unable to control their sex drive to get married. The fact of the matter is that if everyone had kids like they do in countries that don’t widely practice contraceptive use the Earth would run out of resources very quickly. In an agrarian society where there is a abundance of physical labor to be done and many children die in childbirth or youth having a large number of kids is proper and necessary. In a modern urbanized and increasingly crowded society having a large number of kids is inadvisable at best, harmful at worst. Now that view is probably considered unbiblical by most (I think incorrectly so), but doesn’t change the reality of what happens with rapid population growth.

      Would those of you who advocate no birth control agree with this movement which has lead to family’s like the Duggar’s (seen on TLC) which have 19 kids? Do you think regularly having families with 19 kids is a good thing for society?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiverfull

    • #John1453

      Not that I necessarily disagree with contraception, but the question for Christians is not “good thing for society” (however that may be defined or structured) but has God commanded anything in this regard or left it up to us? If the former, then it is a moral issue of obedience, if the latter, then as Paul said “some celebrate the new moon, some don’t” and “all things are lawful but not all things are profitable”.

      regards,
      #John

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