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"

    • So you’re saying that St. Thomas’s argument during the Medieval period (in which they were probably more suspicious about sex than they were earlier in Christian history) was in line with what the Catholic Church teaches? And that’s not a historic position?

      And which Gregory do you mean? Gregory the Great? Of Nyssa? Nanzianzus? Have you looked at the Eastern and Latin Fathers?

    • Michael

      John 1453,
      Not going to have this discussion here, but there are (IMO) somethings in the Bible which are commanded, but clearly culturally conditioned. I think the prime examples of this is Paul’s command for women to not wear “Braided hair”. Thus is the case with people in the “quiverfull” movement when they take Psalm 127:5 which reads “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them [children].” they are taking something that is a blessing in the context of ANE culture and making it normative. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that God would command something which would in modern society ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity through scarcity and depletion of resources. This in turn leads me to further suspect the verses cited in support of the anti-contraception crowd are culturally specific and not normative.

      Also when I say “good for society” I don’t mean it in the sense that some people might use it as the accumulation of more riches. I mean more the minimization of suffering (i.e. we shouldn’t do things which are going to directly cause deaths of other humans through famine, starvation, lack of potable water, inadequate medical care, etc.).

    • Michael

      Just happened across this article from John Piper. For once I can say I agree with the guy 100%.

      http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/2006/1440_Does_the_Bible_permit_birth_control/

    • Hodge

      “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?”

      The issue is whether it conflicts with His moral will, not His decretive will.

      Michael,

      I have a discussion on the Father’s view, which includes Augustine’s view, of the sexual act. I actually think that most evangelicals would agree with the view of the Fathers once it is known. It’s really not any different than their view. The problem is that evangelicals don’t consistently apply their view to the point that their naturalistic assumptions are sufficiently countered.

      I deal with all of these arguments in the book. They are not good objections. I also deal with Piper’s/Piper’s Ministry’s comments in the link you provided. I also try to show why these arguments are not good ones either. Piper’s a smart theologian, but it is clear that this subject has not been given adequate reflection.

      “From a purely pragmatic perspective I believe contraception is necessary. Face it people are not going to be able to control their sex drive.”

      Is this an argument? So if the condition of people not being able to control themselves causes an action to be morally acceptable, do you think that all sexual issues should be handled this way? Or is it really that you a priori think that contraception isn’t really wrong, so there is no reason to argue against it?

      Bill,
      It’s clear that you have commitments to the modern NFP position. Since that is the case, nothing I say can convince you otherwise, since your position thrives on supposedly being right on this issue. Unfortunately, it’s just not. If you want to find out why, then you can get my book.

      “So you’re saying that St. Thomas’s argument during the Medieval period (in which they were probably more suspicious about sex than they were earlier in Christian history) was in line with what the Catholic Church teaches? And that’s not a historic position?”

      No, I’m saying that Aquinas is one of the first theologians who begins to use the lex naturalis as his primary argument. He wouldn’t have agreed with the modern RC position either. The RC position can really be traced back to certain lines of thinking that began in the fifteenth century in RC thought. It did not come to fruition in any mainline sense, however, until the twentieth century.

    • Hodge

      that should be “Fathers'” not “Father’s.” No human Pope in my theology. 🙂

    • confused

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the main issue here (outside of the Catholic discussions) whether or not one believes that God makes a pregnancy happen, rather than basically watching a pregnancy to happen as a “natural process” of life?

    • Michael

      Hmm a book endorsed by the same R.C. Sproul Jr. discussed here http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/09/taking-calvinism-too-far-rc-sproul-jr%E2%80%99s-evil-creating-deity/

      I’m sold.

      On a more serious note does it matter what the Church Father’s thought? In the absence of a clear Biblical mandate one way or the other (which there simply isn’t) it falls into the category of freedom in Christ. Attempts to make it other is pure legalism. If you feel lead to believe that it is wrong to use contraception then so be it, but don’t try to make your convictions normative unless you have some type of mandate from the Bible on the order of “neither drunkards or fornicators or people who use contraception shall enter the kingdom of God”.

      On a earlier discussion are those who use birth control unsaved in your opinion Hodge since they are unrepentant sinners?

    • Michael

      Is this an argument? So if the condition of people not being able to control themselves causes an action to be morally acceptable, do you think that all sexual issues should be handled this way?

      They should be when the issue is directly addressed by Scripture in 1 Cor 7. Apparently Paul knew that what I stated is true and thus gave the following teaching.

      Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.[a] 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Feel free not to read anything anymore, since any given book may have been endorsed by someone with whom you don’t agree. Sounds like a good way to prepare the way for illiteracy to me.

      “On a more serious note does it matter what the Church Father’s thought? In the absence of a clear Biblical mandate one way or the other (which there simply isn’t) it falls into the category of freedom in Christ. Attempts to make it other is pure legalism. If you feel lead to believe that it is wrong to use contraception then so be it, but don’t try to make your convictions normative unless you have some type of mandate from the Bible on the order of “neither drunkards or fornicators or people who use contraception shall enter the kingdom of God”.”

      Of course, this is all negated by the fact that I do have a Biblical mandate, as I argue in the book. So, No, it’s not legalistic to opt for producing life together with God and following the Scripture. That’s a cop out. I find it funny that I challenged you to read something new that might present arguments you haven’t heard before, and your defense mode goes into overdrive with insults galore.

      “They should be when the issue is directly addressed by Scripture in 1 Cor 7. Apparently Paul knew that what I stated is true and thus gave the following teaching.”

      I’ll tell the pedofiles, adulterers, etc. that they’re good to go since “not being able to control your sexual desires” justifies any use of the sexual act. Or are you talking within marriage? Do you want me to bring up all of the horrible sexual practices that can be done in marriage? Or do you think Paul is talking about practicing sexual morality within marriage (i.e., using the sexual desire/act for God’s purposes to create family through the sexual burning of the individual) rather than misusing it? There is no mention of children in the context, but isn’t he really talking about directing them for God given purposes, and wouldn’t we know those God given purposes from the rest of Scripture? I see no reason to assume that Paul would take a different stance here than he takes elsewhere.

      I won’t bring up my other arguments with this passage, because once again, they’re in the book.

    • Hodge

      BTW, Are you really saying that every Christian that we know of before the twentieth century was a legalist?

    • Hodge, actually, I’m not wedded to the NFP proposition, and I’m even willing to concede that many Fathers of the Church held similar positions to Augustine’s. I have a particular issue with people claiming to know what historical Christianity taught when they won’t be clear on their sources and also seemingly don’t accept many other things that historical Christianity taught (which is a separate issue, and I won’t belabor the point here). Some positions even held widely were condemned, so the fact that “some Christians” held a position is not a convincing argument to me that it was a universally held doctrine. Arianism is a case in point.

      In addition, the preference for celibacy even for lay people in the early Church was also very common, as St. Paul and others noted. So we can’t even say the earliest teaching is necessarily the correct one. However, I will concede that numerous early Church Fathers (and probably most or all) held the position that procreation was the primary purpose of sex (with no reference to a secondary purpose). However, even in the quotations I read, the two extremes were sex for procreation versus sex for the purpose of satisfying lust. There was no mention of any middle ground. However, I doubt the question first arose with Aquinas in the 13th century.

      Again, it also helps to identify your Patristic sources precisely. I suspect you were referring to Gregory of Nyssa, but there’s no way of knowing. Lots of important Gregorys back then.

      For a rundown of Fathers’ statements on contraception: http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/FKBCONTR.HTM.

    • Hodge

      “Some positions even held widely were condemned, so the fact that “some Christians” held a position is not a convincing argument to me that it was a universally held doctrine.”

      Which is why I go through history and show that all Christian teachers who spoke to the subject, fell on one side and not the other. The sources are in the book. As I said, I’m not going to reproduce arguments here.

      The Fathers actually have a much more balanced view than they are often accused of. I also pursue that to some degree in an appendix.

      No, not Nyssa. I do quote Gregory Nyssa in the book, but the quote I gave you is Gregory the Great.

    • Michael

      “Feel free not to read anything anymore, since any given book may have been endorsed by someone with whom you don’t agree. Sounds like a good way to prepare the way for illiteracy to me.”

      I didn’t say that I wouldn’t read books endorsed by people I don’t like. However, I am well aware of the extremist Calvinist position taken by the likes of yourself (in other forum posts) and R.C. Sproul Jr. Thus since I have already rejected these underlying presuppositions the book is likely to lack credibility. Beyond that your plug for us to all go buy “your book” is pretty shameless. It has nothing to do with you personally but I really have better things to read then a few hundred page book which simply doesn’t concern me right now since I am unmarried and not going to be married anytime in the near future. Call it willful ignorance if you like, but if John Piper (who is very intelligent, but I consider borderline extremist with the comments he makes sometimes – i.e. the MN bridge collapse and Minneapolis Tornado) says it’s acceptable and your more extremist then him you just don’t have very much credibility to speak on much of anything because your presuppositions are so vastly divergent from me and Evangelicalism in general that it’s like reading French.

      I also like that you didn’t answer my bottom line. If I get married tomorrow and me and my wife use birth control am I an unrepentant sinner going to hell??? Come on you know you want to answer it. Show your true colors.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      If Piper is an extremist, why do you accept his position on this? This is simply a convenient way for you to dismiss an argument. You may find ad hominem appealing, but no thinking individual will join you.
      I’m not sure why it’s shameless for me to tell people that I’ve provided a resource for them to think through this issue on a blog that is discussing what Christians think about this issue. I wrote the book primarily for my children when they grow up, but thought that it could also help others as well.

      And, here’s the big shocker for you, I don’t think people are condemned automatically over the issue. It’s God’s domain to judge, not mine. I do think willful ignorance/rebellion is the underlying sin that condemns an individual in any sin they commit, but I support great patience on this issue as people learn and think through it. Most people don’t even know that this is an issue, so why would I condemn them when they neither think about it, nor are they taught otherwise?

      I admit that the book is really for those who are thinking through the issue. No arguments, regardless of how strong they may be, will convince those who have already made up their minds. And of course, you have to accept the underlying assumptions of the Bible, logic, and the Church, and since you’ve rejected those, you probably would just dismiss the book by looking at the back cover.

      Cheers.

    • Michael

      “If Piper’s an extremist, why do you accept his position on this?”

      I didn’t say I did simply because it was his opinion, rather his opinion reflects the majority opinion in Evangelicalism despite being on the conservative theological fringes of Evangelicalism. Even most of those Evangelicals who do reject “the pill” do so because of the (perceived) risk of causing an abortion through lack of egg implantation, not because of some Biblical mandate opposing all birth control.

      “and of course, you have to accept the underlying assumptions of the Bible, logic, and the Church, and since you’ve rejected those…”

      Oh I do – just not your reading of them (with the possible exception of the Church). Of course I’m sure all those out there (like John Piper) who disagree with your position are just unreflective idiots who are suppressing the Truth in unrighteousness and leading everyone else astray. Or perhaps they don’t think their arguments are as weak as you think they are. Of course I’m sure you’re just smarter, better read, better reasoned and more holy then they are.

      “Most people don’t even know that this is an issue, so why would I condemn them when they neither think about it, nor are they taught otherwise?”

      So are you saying that someone has to understand that something is wrong and not just have some Church tell them it is wrong before they are condemned for unrepentantly practicing the wrong in question?

    • Michael

      BTW one final question.

      R.C. Sproul Jr. who endorses your book I believe has seven children. Do you think it would be healthy or advisable for every family in America to have seven children? Or how about every family in the world? and then compound that over the next 100 years and see where it gets us. Your position is not only questionable Biblically (given the high number of well educated scholars who reject your position) but would be disastrous if actually practiced on a wide basis. Of course who gives a rat’s rear end if a theological position would lead to famine, disease and poverty just as long as you’re sure you’re right. Forget other possible interpretations

      If I seem a little disturbed and angry by your suggestions with regards to this matter it’s because I have seen first hand the ludicrousness of this position. In my town we had a family who believed in the “quiverfull” philosophy and had 13 children. The mother (keeping with Biblical views of manhood and womenhood of course) was a stay at home mom while the father was a construction worker. They didn’t make enough money to feed four children much less 13. Many of the kids were forced to sleep on mattresses strung out around the house because the house was too small to support that many people. As a result the church essentially supported this family with money taken from all of those families who had a responsibly sized family that was within their means. But would they stop having kids??? Of course not – that would be interfering with God’s plan and so they just kept popping them out. Today the kids of this family have grown up to be the most dysfunctional bunch of people I have ever seen. Few if any have a college education, most have left the faith and live day to day off whatever they can make.

      Of course that’s just experiential nonsense – who cares about practical matters like how many kids a family can afford to feed? God will provide I’m sure…

      Bottom Line. Either it’s we shouldn’t consider anything practical in having kids (health of mother, income, ability to give kids the attention required, etc. etc.) and should just freely have sex and how many ever we end up with is what we have. Or your position on 1 Corinthians 7 makes no sense since practical implications against having children would require abstention from sex thus making the passage unintelligible as people not being able to suppress their desires was the problem in the first place.

    • Hodge

      “I didn’t say I did simply because it was his opinion, rather his opinion reflects the majority opinion in Evangelicalism despite being on the conservative theological fringes of Evangelicalism. Even most of those Evangelicals who do reject “the pill” do so because of the (perceived) risk of causing an abortion through lack of egg implantation, not because of some Biblical mandate opposing all birth control.”

      This is what I would call reverse ecclesiology. It looks for orthodoxy through the majority opinion in the present, rather than throughout the past. In other words, this assumes that modern evangelicalism is right and the rest of the Church has been wrong.

      “Oh I do – just not your reading of them (with the possible exception of the Church). Of course I’m sure all those out there (like John Piper) who disagree with your position are just unreflective idiots who are suppressing the Truth in unrighteousness and leading everyone else astray. Or perhaps they don’t think their arguments are as weak as you think they are. Of course I’m sure you’re just smarter, better read, better reasoned and more holy then they are.”

      Michael, how can you say this. You haven’t read what I wrote. You’re speaking from ignorance, and rather hostilely I might add. You mentioned not getting married any time soon, and your language and grammar evidence something to me, so at the risk of an ad hominem, how old are you?

      “So are you saying that someone has to understand that something is wrong and not just have some Church tell them it is wrong before they are condemned for unrepentantly practicing the wrong in question?”

      No, I said that we don’t condemn anyone. That’s God’s domain. The Church needs to explain its position on the Bible to them, help them understand it, etc. before it takes any disciplinary action (as has always been the practice of the Church concerning this issue). You may think what Christians have believed and practiced concerning this issue for the breadth of the Church’s existence, but I choose to take a more humble approach in my historic ecclesiology, so I don’t replace it with a cultural one.

      Let me suggest to you, as someone who is most likely much older than you are, that you may want to approach people with whom you disagree by understanding what they believe and why they believe it first. You seem to be charging at Sproul, Piper, and Myself personally, simply because you don’t like our positions (“extreme” compared to what? The secular culture, the historic church culture, or evangelicalism that is made up of both?). Rather than labeling things as extreme or “on the fringe,” why not simply deal with what is said, and if you don’t know what is said, go and find out? I think that will give YOU more credibility in the long run.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Hodge, et al,

      If the husband wears a condom, have both the husband and the wife committed a sin?

      Anyways, here’s an article that I just found:

      Does Bible permit using birth control methods such as
      pills and condoms to prevent pregnancy?

    • Hodge

      “Bottom Line. Either it’s we shouldn’t consider anything practical in having kids (health of mother, income, ability to give kids the attention required, etc. etc.) and should just freely have sex and how many ever we end up with is what we have.”

      Here’s my question: “Are you saying that these scenarios, based on what is practical, should dictate what is moral? In other words, why stop at contraception. These people already have too many children in your view. Why not cause the mother to get an abortion if she’s pregnant? Why not kill the children, since they should not have been born in the first place?

      You see, to each of these questions you would no doubt respond, “But that’s immoral.” To which, I would respond, so is practicing contraception. You just don’t think so. So forgive me if I’m not persuaded by your “practical” argument, as it begs the question, and you would not apply it yourself to any other immoral behavior. Ergo, you have to first assume that there is nothing wrong with practicing contraception.

      Now, of course, my book is addressing Christians, not the whole world; but will we have trouble in this world in our attempt to follow Christ? Of course we will. I would not put an extra burden on anyone, since we will have enough as it is. But if this is a much more serious issue than evangelicals realize, and I argue that it is, then it should not be dismissed by such situational ethics.

    • Hodge

      Truth,

      As Aquinas argues, sin is in the intent, so it depends on who’s intentions are being carried out.

      I address the article’s argument in the book as well. The leap in logic it makes fails when one considers all of the issues. I also think that most people approach the issue with the usual evangelical disease of falsedichotomiosis, to which I often refer. Sex is primarily for procreation. It has secondary benefits to it, so it carries with it intimacy and pleasure. The secondary just should not replace the primary. You’re not going to find a Biblical author pitting them against each other as modern evangelicals often do.

    • Michael

      Hodge, I’m not trying to be credible to you because it doesn’t matter. Rather I’m just mocking you for the ridiculousness of what you propose. The arguments I have seen rage on the whole host of issues indicate to me that being credible doesn’t matter one iota. Everyone’s mind is already made up. Yours is, as is mine. How often do people actually change their minds?? How often does a fundamentalist Calvinist become an outspoken Arminian, or vice versa??? It happens but is exceptionally rare. I quite frankly don’t have the time to search the internet to refute every argument you make nor do I personally have the Seminary education needed to refute said arguments. When someone like yourself arrogantly walks in and accuses virtually all of Evanglicalism and Protestantism of being in mortal sin on a collateral issue that is a matter of conscience I’m going to get take offense. This is especially so when so many reputable sources all across the Protestant spectrum disagree with you and you set yourself and your reading of the Bible and your understanding of Church History and your logic as the final arbiter of Truth. Of course to you they just all have “bad arguments”.

      It’s been said that a good pastor majors on the majors and minors on the minors. You just major on everything and wrote an entire 300 page book on a minor matter. Of course you don’t think it is a minor issue which just proves my point.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Me: “If the husband wears a condom, have both the husband and the wife committed a sin?”

      Hodge: “As Aquinas argues, sin is in the intent, so it depends on who’s intentions are being carried out.”

      Let’s attempt to remove the “it depends on” waffle. Let’s say that neither husband, nor wife intend to commit sin when the husband wears a condom. The question is then re-asked: If the husband wears a condom, have both the husband and the wife committed a sin?

    • Michael

      Here’s my question: “Are you saying that these scenarios, based on what is practical, should dictate what is moral? In other words, why stop at contraception. These people already have too many children in your view. Why not cause the mother to get an abortion if she’s pregnant? Why not kill the children, since they should not have been born in the first place?

      Very simple. We have a clear Biblical mandate which forbids this and is not subject to any interpretation which would possibly allow such an action. In the case of contraception we have possible alternative interpretations. Now you may assert they are just bad interpretations or wrongly reasoned or whatever, but that is apparently a minority opinion. Of course I forgot again “Hodge right….everyone else wrong….”.

      As for my age education etc. – I’m a 26 year old attorney. Yeah shocking I know.

    • Hodge

      “When someone like yourself arrogantly walks in and accuses virtually all of Evanglicalism and Protestantism of being in mortal sin on a collateral issue that is a matter of conscience I’m going to get take offense.”

      1. The Historic Church has accused it. I’m simply voicing it.
      2. It’s simply a matter of begging the question to say that it is a collateral issue and a matter of conscience.

      But I know these won’t be corrected in you because you won’t bother reading the other side. So be it.

      BTW, I did change my mind on this issue, and I’ve seen many people change their minds on this issue, once they settled down and listened to the arguments. “Anger does not produce the righteousness of God,” and that is most likely because it does not allow a person to be “quick to listen.”

      “This is especially so when so many reputable sources all across the Protestant spectrum disagree with you and you set yourself and your reading of the Bible and your understanding of Church History and your logic as the final arbiter of Truth. Of course to you they just all have “bad arguments”.”

      I’m sorry, Michael, who else has dealt with this issue from an indepth perspective in your mind? I see a few pages here and there in larger volumes concerning Christian ethics. I don’t see lengthy treatments by scholars. Perhaps you can point them out to me.

      This is the last I’ll address you, as I don’t want to inflame your rage at the suggestion to study an issue, that affects most Christians, more deeply than you have anymore than necessary.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Michael: “It’s been said that a good pastor majors on the majors and minors on the minors. You just major on everything and wrote an entire 300 page book on a minor matter. Of course you don’t think it is a minor issue which just proves my point.”

      Lisa Robinson recently wrote a post titled “The Theological Serenity Prayer”:

      “Lord, grant me the serenity to humbly accept the theological inconsistencies that do not make a difference

      The courage to graciously challenge the ones that do

      And the wisdom and knowledge to know the difference”

      Excerpting a part of my comment #15 from that thread:

      “My suggestion is that for the folks who think that something is non-essential, then why don’t you, as a general rule of thumb, defer to the Christian brother or sister who regards it as an essential. For example, if you believe inerrancy of Scripture is a non-essential, then defer to those who proclaim that Scripture is inerrant. After all, it’s not essential to you. Another example, if you believe that complementarianism is a non-essential, then defer to your complementarian brothers and sisters.

      But don’t claim that something’s non-essential, and then argue like the dickens for the doctrinal position that you want. Because your behavior then shows that you think it IS essential.”

      And thus… you’re being inconsistent!

      😉

      P.S. FWIW, I oftentimes think there’s far too much emphasis on the “tonal quality” of blog comments. I really just care about the substance of an argument. But if I were forced to make a subjective judgment between the tone of Michael’s comments to Hodge and Hodge’s comments back to Michael…

      I’d have to say Michael has an angrier tone. Whether that’s good or appropriate, I leave it to the other readers of this thread.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Michael: “Of course I forgot again “Hodge right….everyone else wrong….”.”

      That’s not good argumentation. In fact, it’s poor and not befitting of an attorney who should know what’s acceptable rhetoric.

      You can, and should do better Michael.

    • Hodge

      “Very simple. We have a clear Biblical mandate which forbids this and is not subject to any interpretation which would possibly allow such an action.”

      Wait, I had to comment on this before I go. Where’s the mandate against abortion? Are you saying that the bulk of evangelicals in the early seventies, who were for Roe vs. Wade, were wrong and YOU are right? We can all play this game. The difference is that you’re led by your presupps given to you by your contemporary culture (both in and outside the church), and others try to think beyond it with the ENTIRE Church as their interpretive guide.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Hodge,

      Don’t go just yet. Have a reply for #73?

    • Hodge

      Truth,

      To answer your question, I discuss this in the book. I hate to have that as an answer to everything, but I really don’t want to reproduce it. I will, however, say that I make a distinction between intent and “how one perceives what he or she is doing.” One may not think that what he is doing is wrong, but it is still wrong nonetheless. The intent has to do what the person is doing, as well as why the person is practicing it (and I mean by that the assumptions of the person, not so much what is in the forefront of their minds while practicing it).

      To give an example:

      I walk into a store and pick up a candy bar and eat it. If you ask me what I did, I would say, “I ate a candy bar.” If you asked me why I did it, I might say, “Because I was hungry.” That’s the way I was thinking about it, but the intent was for me to do an immoral act in order to bring about that result. I stole a candy bar. Whether I was thinking about the immoral act of stealing it, while doing so, or the thinking of the end goal (i.e., to quench my hunger) for why I stole it, is really not a part of the intent. Either way, I intended to steal it in order to accomplish my goal, regardless of my thought process.
      I seriously doubt most people actually think that they are sinning when they do so. In fact, most people make excuses for why it is OK to do action X in situation Y, precisely so they don’t think they are sinning and feel guilty about it.
      Now, I would say there is a difference between willful sin and transgression, where one is known (whether accepted or not) and the other is unknown (i.e., no one has told them that this is wrong and why); but I would still say that some kind of sin still exists in the act and intent of a practice.

    • Michael

      Wait, I had to comment on this before I go. Where’s the mandate against abortion? Are you saying that the bulk of evangelicals in the early seventies, who were for Roe vs. Wade, were wrong and YOU are right?

      You assumed I was necessarily talking about the abortion part, I could be simply talking about the forced portion of the statement you made ala Old Testament Law about causing a women to miscarry. I don’t think the Bible actually does give us a clear mandate on abortion. It gives us verses which allow us to make some inferences, but nothing certain concerning at what moment a human being has a soul. As such I would NOT allow for abortion simply out of extreme caution as we are dealing with the possibility of taking a human life, rather than clear Biblical evidence that there is in fact human life present.

      “others try to think beyond it with the ENTIRE Church as their interpretive guide”

      In other words you’re RC without being RC. Can Church Tradition be wrong just out of curiosity?? Are there any things you believe which are not in keeping with general Church Tradition? If I were a betting man I’d willing to wager that there are.

    • confused

      @Michael – your question awhile back about RC Sproul Jr… again, you’re making the assumption that someone that does not use birth control will have 7 kids. I know of at least a few examples of families that went this route and only had 2 or 3, and claim God used this as a means to trust Him more in their lives.

    • jim

      confused & Hodge:

      Thanks for the comments, you too Michael.

      Confused: Thank you for your consideration of my wife and her disease. And I understand your viewpoint. I guess I want to get back to the question of is sex simply for pro-creation.

      Though you quote lots of bibical verses supporting this I still go back to Genesis when God said That it is not Good for Man to be alone. That he simply needed a helpmate , he goes on to say they should be of one flesh. Granted , for everyone to have a helpmate there has to be babies produced. However, I too , as mentioned by Michael, seen starving families , the latest case a mother of eight who is now seperated from her husband. He told me that he wanted to stop at four children but his wife believed tn the whole quiver thing and refused any form of birth control (him or her) The result was a broken marriage and who suffers the worst is the KIDS. This holly mother even threw them onto the streets one day and because I had been helping the family out with different needs they had, the kids called my house and I took them in for a couple of days. It broke my heart when I called the mother about taking them back and she said “Well, If I really have to!!! I kept them another day ( 3 kids; ages 11-14) prayed and talked to my pastor, before calling Social Serivces. It broke my heart, not so much for the parents but for those little ones who had no choice in this matter. This was a year ago , still bothers me today, so you have to understand the practical application this has on one”s theology. Sometimes we need to have God given WIDSOM!!
      Regards as Always,

    • confused

      Jim, that’s a very good point. In the same way I can think of examples of families that used no birth control and trusted God and DIDN’T have huge families, there are plenty of examples like yours.

      Knowing only the details you mentioned, I have to think that the problem in your friend’s(?) case is not the fact that they had a large family and went the “full quiver” route, but the fact that he and his wife were not at all on the same page… I can’t imagine the resentment that he must have built up inside of him. If there’s one thing about the families with whom I’ve had contact that decided NOT to use birth control, it’s the fact that both the husband and the wife were on the same page and felt the same persuasion from the Holy Spirit.

      Maybe I struggle being bent towards the birth control camp because I see our society using it for selfish/convenient reasons more often than not (which is an issue in and of itself because obviously we don’t know the details of everyone’s situation). So maybe the problem, then, lies not in birth control itself in our culture, but in our motivations for using it. Heck, even John Piper (who is no stranger to going to the accurate extremes of biblical commands!) preempts his church’s claims with “Any attitude which fails to see that children are a good gift from the Lord is wrong” in the article referenced above.

    • jim

      Confused

      I really appreciate your sensitivity in these area. I too see a society , even a culture bent on personal pleasure and you are correct in that regard, especially with the abortion issue being so convenient for most people.

      I have read some of John Piper and watched him on youtube and at times I really get what he is preaching, then he flings himself to such a extreme left or right that I lose touch with his message.

      “Any attitude which fails to see that children are a good gift from the Lord is wrong” in the article referenced above.” I would like to read this article where could I find it”

      Thanks,
      In Christ

    • cherylu

      Michael and Hodge,

      Please gentlemen, both of you. I can’t help but wonder what any unbelievers reading this thread have thought about the tone of the conversation here.

      And Hodge, seriously, if you want to make a point, it seems to me that the way to do it is to simply state your opinion and/or research and not just keep referring to the book you have written on the subject.

      I’m sorry, but this has been a very disturbing conversation to read.

    • Hodge

      Cherylu,

      I don’t think dumping a three hundred page book in the comments is appropriate, and I don’t think I’ve said anything that is out of norm by suggesting people refer to the book.

      I also don’t think it’s appropriate to lump me in with Michael. He was clearly verbally abusive and accusatory, but can you show me where I was to him? If I was, I will certainly apologize for any comments that I see are out of bounds.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      How about this one to Michael, “And of course, you have to accept the underlying assumptions of the Bible, logic, and the Church, and since you’ve rejected those, you probably would just dismiss the book by looking at the back cover.”

      It sounds just a WEE bit inflammotry to me.

      And I am not going to comment on this anymore. No sense in getting into an argument regarding an argument!

    • Hodge

      Cherylu,

      I apologize if that came off the wrong way. That was a reference to what Michael said about rejecting underlying assumptions in the previous comment. My point was that those were the underlying assumptions I used. Michael, a priori, said he would reject my underlying assumptions without knowing what they were. Hence, I came back with the fact that he would be rejecting the Bible, logic, and the Church.

      And the comment about dismissing the book was a joke because that is obviously what Michael did.

      I also don’t want to enter a discussion about a discussion, as such claims often derail the focus and importance of a topic.

    • I don’t think anything Hodge has said is overtly inflammatory. Despite a few reservations about the unanimity of the voice of the early Church, I’m largely in agreement with his position. Hodge, I may even pick up your book, although I think a few more details might’ve been good–may even have been good advertising. I understand that Dr. Patrick Riley also has a book coming out on the very topic of contraception in the ancient world and the Church’s stance. Of course, I also have stacks of other theology texts in competition for my time as well.

    • Hodge

      Thanks Bill. I’ll have to pick that one up myself. I know what you mean. There are so many books to read and so little time in which to read them. Take care.

    • confused

      Jim, if you click the word “article” in my previous post (in the last sentence), it should take you to it. If that doesn’t work, it’s here: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/2006/1440_Does_the_Bible_permit_birth_control/

      He takes a pretty balanced approach to it, with that disclaimer at the beginning. The balanced approach he had was what surprised me, b/c (as we both said), he tends to go very strongly in one direction or another on a lot of issues.

    • Sandra Glahn

      A related question is this: “Does the pill cause abortion?” As coauthor of Zondervan/Christian Med Assn’s book, The Contraception Guidebook, I had an interesting discussion with Randy Alcorn on this subject before we submitted our manuscript. I love the man and his passion for life, but (very) respectfully disagree with his sources and conclusions on this question. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it for bible.org’s women’s leadership blog:

      http://blog.bible.org/tapestry/content/taking-pill-%3D-abortion%3F

    • Lutya

      I find it interesting in all this theological discussion that nobody has said anything about the science of various birth control methods related to the concern of it causing an abortion. Or even the science of menstruation and how pregnancy occurs… I don’t think a person can come to a conclusion on this issue unless they understand both.

      In addition, there are also medical situations where birth control prevents more serious medical problems for a woman, for example PCOS.

      So, i guess for me this isn’t a black and white issue. There’s quite a bit of grey.

    • jim

      Confused, Thanks for the link, I actually was in consent for all of the article, I too was surprised!!!

      I see balance and God given wisdom in alot of the discussions we have on this blog, although at times we all need to keep Christ centered with our responses.

      This has been a pleasure to converse with you over this topic, God bless you till me “talk” again

      Yours in Christian love

    • Michael

      Those of you who think I took a strong tone with Hodge are correct and if I offended any of you I apologize, however this strong tone was by design. People who claim to be Christians that run around spouting legalistic doctrines which I consider no better than those of the Pharisee’s should be mocked and condemned in no uncertain terms. Hodge has come in here and basically said “contraception use is sin and if you want to know why read my $25 300+ page long book”. When asked to specifically give Bible quotes which lead to the inescapable conclusion that contraception is wrong he has balked instead telling us again to “read his book” or relying on the quotes of theologians in Church History.

      Now I don’t know about anyone else but it would take me less than a page to explain why the vast majority of things Christians believe are sin are in fact sin. I could explain why murder is sin in one sentence. Something that takes a 300 page scholarly book to explain why that something is sin should give us all pause by the mere fact that it requires that much explanation. If God had wanted to condemn contraception He would have done so in the Bible, yet I have yet to see the other side put forth any verse which is not EASILY discounted to prove this. Until someone does in fact put forth a Biblical passage which proves that contraception is sin it falls into the category of freedom in Christ and any attempt to say otherwise is legalism which should be condemned by all.

    • Michael L

      Wow !

      So.. where on the “concentric circle of essentials” do we put this one ?

      For those that are not familiar with what I’m talking about, you can see it Here

      I can tell there’s some that are trying to push it in the center circle. There’s some that don’t even want it on the chart.

      I’m probably more likely to let it go more towards one of the middle circles, but not center. A sin ? Sure. Just like eating unhealthy food which is going to kill you sooner or later, or smoking, or being lazy, or a million other things that will shorten your life and one could therefore call “slow murder”.

      I think it depends on the situation. As long as it is done within a marriage, and husband and wife agree for whatever reasons (financial, medical, …) I think you can argue either way.
      If it’s for convenience and as a mechanism to be able to live a lewd lifestyle, it’s probably a bigger challenge.

      Perhaps an analogue example ? I can have a beer and enjoy it. It’s part of my cultural heritage (Belgium), I like the flavor and I enjoy it. Some argue against with “don’t make a brother stumble” (1Cor 8:13). Others go even further. And therefor catalog it as a sin since it violates scripture. I personally don’t see it that way and might enjoy a good trappist tonight on my patio. So who’s right and who’s wrong ? Middle circle somewhere. Definitely not center.

      Should we take the same attitude here ?

      In Him
      Mick

    • Hodge

      For those interested:

      I’m actually discussing the historic Church’s claim, that contraception is a form of murder, sexual immorality, and idolatry–and to a minor degree, that it is contrary to Christian discipleship, which is based in Luther’s theology of the family. The reason why I don’t give proof texts here is because I try not to use proof texts in the book. Instead, I approach things from both a Biblical theology of individual books/passages, as well as from a canonical perspective. I also answer the claim that it is Pharisaical with ironically the same claim for those who make the claim. If the case of the Church cannot be made through the Biblical, Systematic, and Practical (not pragmatic), then legalism would be a good charge. If it can be made, then labeling someone who argues against murder, sexual immorality and idolatry a legalist is a bit absurd. It must also be understood that the claim that someone is not a Christian, but instead a legalist, needs to be made for the entire Church before the twentieth century (i.e., the entire church up until about 35-60 years ago). Otherwise, it is disingenuous to suggest that one should be labeled this today, but not place the same label on others in history, who say the exact same thing (and in fact are harsher about the issue than those today are) simply because they happen to be heroes of the faith. Which is it?

    • Hodge

      Michael L,

      I would probably put it toward the center circles, not the center circle. I wouldn’t put any sort of work/practice in the center.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Michael, #96,

      Thanks for explicating the reasons for your vehemence towards Hodge. Not that I necessarily agree with them, but it does help me understand where you’re coming from. For example, you hold that Hodge is a legalistic Pharisee, seeking to bind the consciences of all who read this thread that birth control is a sin, a sin without exception or qualifier. And because you see him as a legalistic Pharisee, you treat him as one. This explains much to me.

      “When asked to specifically give Bible quotes which lead to the inescapable conclusion that contraception is wrong he has balked instead telling us again to “read his book” or relying on the quotes of theologians in Church History.”

      On blogs elsewhere, I’ve seen the anti-contraception argument based on the bible story of the Sin of Onan. I think it’s a bit thin (there’s dispute as to what was the sin), but that is the biblical argument that I’ve seen set forth.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      If you expect anyone to understand why you believe what you do, I think you will have to tell us why you believe it is a form of murder, sexual immorality and idolatry.

      And telling us to go and buy the book and read it just isn’t going to cut it I am afraid. You have argued long and hard here and I don’t remember you really addressing these questions at all. Granted, it has been a long discussion, but I certainly don’t remember it if you have. If you have and I have forgotten, could you please point me to the correct comments?

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