Birth Control and Family Size
Submitted Question: “What is the Bible’s view on birth control”? Same question stated expansively: “What is a Biblical view of family planning? Clearly abortion is sin. I do wonder though, how a married couple glorifies God through consistent sexual intimacy without having countless children… Are Christians to have as many children as naturally conceive? If not, how do (we) go about this while avoiding medications which can harm the woman or potential future children, (and while avoiding) other unnatural means.”?
Answer: This brief response is not a detailed evaluation of specific methods of birth control that may or may not be appropriate for Christians who accept the practice of birth control. Rather it is an overview of the larger issue of whether birth control as a basic practice is acceptable for Christians.
1. We should acknowledge that even many who eschew “unnatural” birth control methods (contraception) commonly practice some form of birth control, be it abstinence during fertility or some form of planning. So birth control is not the issue per se. Birth control by artificial means is.
2. We should also remember that the normal product of marriage is kids.
a. NAU Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…”
b. This means “become many”! So normally, the question is not “if” we should have children; it is “when” and “how many”. I am saddened by how many believing couples do not value children. Have they forgotten that children are God’s special blessings?
c. NAU Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
3. However, the purpose of sex is not solely procreation.
a. Children don’t seem to be in mind in the encouragement of sexual pleasure in marriage found in places such as: NAU Proverbs 5:18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love.”
b. This is also the clear implication of 1 Corinthians 7:4-5.- The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
c. In fact, sexual intercourse itself is valued, not just the product - NAU Hebrews 13:4 - Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled…
4. There is an instance of birth control called, coitus interuptus, recorded in the Bible: NAU Genesis 38:9 states that Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother.” In this instance it was a reprehensible act. But it does demonstrate that birth control was apparently common and that it is not condemned per se.
5. Understanding the broad purpose of sex is significant to this discussion.
a. God made humans as sexual creatures so that they can perpetuate the race. This is a chief purpose of sex. Recall NAU Genesis 1:28 –“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth… “ Sex is not solely intended for pleasure. Kids are in view by the command to be fruitful. “Fruitful” literally refers to that which is the product of a vine or a tree; thus here it refers to the normal product of marriage which is kids. In Genesis 30:1-2 Rachel’s inability to have children (1) is described as not having “fruit of the womb.” The normal product of a marriage is kids! This is reinforced by the “multiply” and “fill” commands. Be many! Throw yourself into it. However, this is a command to mankind, not to every couple. So, it is possible for some to have many children and others to have none.
b. Human sexuality is intended to be a means for developing unity in marriage. Oneness is both the result and purpose of sexual intimacy in marriage. NAU Genesis 2:24 – “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. “This is the passage Jesus quoted in Matthew 19. The one flesh concept encompasses the whole spectrum of dynamics in marriage that produce unity. And, there can be no doubt that sexual intimacy is one of those powerful dynamics that bond a man and woman together in marriage. Thus sexuality is both physical and non-physical. It is part of the total relationship rather than an end in itself. Sexual problems in marriage are usually symptoms of other problems. Illust: a warning light in cockpit of plane I was on sitting on the tarmac. The mechanic juggled it and replaced it. Still didn’t go off. Concluded that there really was a problem and fixed it. That delay was okay with me! Therefore, don’t take baggage to bed with you – unload it first.
c. The Bible encourages sexual pleasure in marriage: NAU Proverbs 5:18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love.
d. Sex in marriage is both obligation and pleasure. NAU 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” On the one hand sexual abstinence is prohibited in marriage. Spouses owe each other the marital privilege. Sex in marriage can be a valid countermeasure to immorality. And on the other hand paying the marital duty will not be an oppressive burden. Couples in healthy marriages will relish robust sexual intimacy.
So, is it permissible to have as many children as are providentially conceived? Yes. And is it permissible to take steps to limit the number of children? Yes. Each couple must determine if they will use birth control and if so, what methods. I believe the key is mutuality. Couples need to understand one another’s perspective on this. Begin with when to have children and then answer how many. This will naturally lead to a discussion of birth control. And by all means do not look askew upon those who have chosen a different practice than yours. And please remember, that at the end of the day, regardless of your decisions, God has the last word.
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.
Posted on Sun, September 4, 2016
by Joe Flatt filed under