Motive // The Christian and Birth Control
This is an overview of the information in The Christian and Birth Control book, published by Christian Life Resources. To purchase the book click on the link at the bottom of this page.
For years the national office of Christian Life Resources has been wrestling with the issue of birth control. In summarizing letters and comments received over the years the issue is reduced to two challenging topics: (1) the appropriateness of using birth control; and (2) forms of birth control that are clearly inappropriate to use.
While it is easy to reduce years of correspondence to two topics, the topics are nevertheless complex. To make a point people often overstate their position. To meet market demand, birth control mechanisms are offered to the public with little understanding, in some circumstances, of how the mechanism works.
So it is time that Christian Life Resources steps into the battle. With this book, we will attempt to simplify and clarify pertinent issues. One conclusion we have already reached is this: not everyone will be happy with the results. The topic of birth control is often debated in emotional terms which means objective fact has a tendency to be overlooked, ignored, discredited or denied. Nevertheless, we offer this information so that you might be better informed on the matter and may ultimately make a decision that reflects your Christian faith.
Before we can talk about the types of birth control we want to begin this book by explaining a Christian’s motive in the use of birth control. In other words, before talking about what birth control to use, we must ask ourselves the question, “Why would I use birth control?”
The directive we have for Christian living is succinctly stated in 1 Corinthians 10:31 where we read: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The key element in glorifying God is not a specific action or a series of actions. Rather, that element is “faith.” We are told, “And without faith it is impossible to please him [God]” (Hebrews 11:6).
This means a Christian’s life is devoted not to self-gratification or self-enhancement, but rather to God’s glorification. A Christian asks not what he can do for himself, but what he can do for God. What is striking about the 1 Corinthians 10:31 passage is that Paul spells out the mundane and routine activities of life, like eating and drinking, which are also to be done to the glory of God. Our lives as God’s children are to be entirely absorbed in giving glory to God.
This approach to living is a dramatic departure from the way of the world. The Apostle Paul described the change that is to take place on converting to the Christian faith in this way: “[You were taught] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Perhaps one of the most challenging directives God gives to his children of faith is the one of acceptance. In Psalm 46 we read: “Be still and know that I am God.” As Jesus walked this earth carrying out our plan of salvation he also served as a perfect example of living the Christian faith. At one time he said, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30).
When a Christian considers using birth control, his faith compels him to ask not what is most convenient for himself but what glorifies God. Scripture neither endorses nor condemns the use of birth control. Some have referenced the spilling of Onan’s seed (see Genesis 38) as a Scriptural condemnation of birth control. At best that is shoddy biblical exegesis. The spilling of his semen on the ground was the result of what was truly being condemned – his refusal to obey the Lord. Onan was instructed to impregnate his deceased brother’s wife, as was the custom. It was his refusal to obey that was condemned, and not how he disobeyed God.
Although there is not a direct reference to the issue of birth control, there are principles that come to bear on the matter. To begin with, understand that birth control is intended to control birth. In other words, the goal is to provide for full sexual relations with a reduced or eliminated risk of becoming pregnant.
Our discussion of the use of birth control presumes that we are talking about a decision a Christian couple must make in this regard. Scripture clearly commands against sexual relations outside of the marriage bond. For that reason, even if the mechanism of birth control is correct but its use is intended to allow violating God’s command against adultery, it is wrong (Hebrews 13:4).
Subsequent comments on the matter presume we are talking about those within the marriage bond.
Is there, one could ask, “a place within the Christian marriage to use birth control?” The answer simply put is “yes” but more needs to be said about that. To begin, we must remember God is the author of human life (Deuteronomy 32:39) and man is a steward, caretaker and guardian of human life (Genesis 9:5). The caretaker of a garden may decide when to plant the seed but it is still God who makes it grow. A Christian may decide when to have children but it is still God who grants the children.
A Christian’s decision to use birth control is a stewardship issue. Stewardship concerns are those wonderful opportunities God gives Christians to show with their lives and actions the convictions of the heart about God.
Some have argued that God’s Word in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply” is a divine prohibition against birth control. Please observe that the passage is the announcement of a blessing, not a command as was given in Genesis 28:1. If this passage was a command given to all people then the Apostle Paul would certainly have raised a concern with his endorsement to remain single (1 Corinthians 7:1).
What are the factors when deciding to use birth control? Only prayer and a soul-searching evaluation of one’s motives will reveal whether the use of birth control is right. One issue that is of concern is the mental or physical health of the mother. Even in a society trying to move toward a gender-blind existence, there is no denying the fact that women are the ones who bear the children. They experience the dramatic changes in their bodies, and they are often the ones to assume the bulk of responsibilities for the daily care of each child.
There are limits as to what a woman can handle physically and emotionally. To pursue more children but neglect the biblical principle of caring for one’s spouse and body would be wrong. Children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3) to be cherished and cared for when given. Protecting and caring for our loved ones is a command for all of us (1 Timothy 5:8, Galatians 6:10).
Financial considerations do enter into this evaluation, but we must take special care. Scripture instructs us to be careful as it relates to greed (Ephesians 5:3). A Christian couple will want to carefully evaluate whether financial concerns are genuine in the essentials of raising a family or whether financial concerns reflect greed for things of the world. Couples also wrestle with timing questions. Perhaps some schooling needs to be finished, or a few years need to pass to solidify a relationship before bringing in the added dimension of children. These may be valid issues. Again, however, soul searching needs to be done.
What is important to remember is that children, regardless of timing, health or convenience, are blessings from God. Decisions rooted in an attitude that children are anything less than a blessing from God reflect a motive that doesn’t understand God’s will on the matter.
In summary, a Christian married couple can practice some form of birth control. It falls within the realm of Christian freedom and stewardship. But as with all such issues, a careful exploration of motives of the heart is necessary in order to that which truly glorifies God. In this regard, it is good to talk candidly with your pastor so that he can serve as a sounding board for you as you wrestle through your motives.
In the next chapter, we will look at the kind of birth control mechanisms that are available. Specifically, we will consider what are called “barrier methods” of birth control.
To learn more, purchase The Christian and Birth Control from the online CLR store, click here.