Birth Control in the Bible????

Soooooooo….I left a comment over on my brother-in-law's blog that said:
This past year has been an eye opener for me in actually reading the Bible and choosing to believe what it says — even on such ideas as birth control!
A friend of mine emailed that people will wonder what the heck I meant, and possibly think I meant something I did not. In case any of Miroslav's readers are so shocked and dismayed that they click over to my blog to see what kind of freak show is going on over here, I thought I'd clarify my thoughts on birth control.
Birth Control is NOT mentioned in the Bible. Look it up in a concordance, you won't find it. However children are mentioned in scripture, lots of times, and our attitudes toward them are prescribed there for us as well. It is a new heart toward children — which the Lord has given me through the process of reading scripture — which has given me a new view of birth control. We used to go right along with the "children are a burden" philosophy, always looking for chances to have "breaks" from them, and dreaming about the things we could accomplish once they were grown and out of the house!
(The amazing thing has been watching God work in my husband's heart over the years. He has really changed his viewpoint on children. I have recently had the chance to watch Hubby explain to many people his thoughts about his vasectomy-reversal, and I have to wonder if this is the same man I married! Wow! I loved him when we got married, and I loved him when he got the vasectomy, but how my heart goes "pitter-patter, boom! boom! boom!" for him every time I see him look to God for answers to questions in our lives — and then respond with appropriate action. A man of integrity!)
I think Douglas Wilson, author of Reforming Marriage, says it best. From the end of Chapter 8:
In one sense, the fact that birth control is an issue in the church again is a good sign. No longer are Christians automatically assuming that a practice which is widespread in the world must be legitimate. At the same time, just because multitudes of non-Christians are doing something does not automatically make it unlawful either. So how are we to approach the question?
The first step is to see if the Bible teaches directly on the subject. And at this level, it is clear that certain forms of birth control are expressly prohibited in Scripture. Beginning with the most obvious, we may exclude infanticide and abortion. The Bible excludes all such practices in the most direct way possible — "Thou shall not kill." What many may not realize is that this commandment also excludes certain birth control devices, such as "morning after pills" or the IUD. These are devices which prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. Consequently, they are unlawfully taking a human life after it has begun.
But what about other birth control devices? Does the Bible say anything about the lawfulness of a husband and wife limiting the number of children they have or spacing them? The answer is both yes and no. There is nothing in Scripture itself that says the act of using birth control is unlawful in itself. At the same time, most birth control as practiced today is sinful in its motivation and application. To understand this, we have to look at a related subject first.
While the Bible says nothing about birth control, as stated earlier, it teaches much about children and family. So before we can ask whether the practice of birth control is lawful, we have to ask whether or not it springs from an understanding of, and submission to, the Bible's teaching on the family. And because situations vary, sometimes it does and much of the time it does not.
Let us start with an example of a situation where the use of birth control would not be godly. Suppose a couple is thinking this way: "You know, kids are a hassle, both are careers are going well right now, the world is really overpopulated, and besides, we can always go off the pill later." Nothing is more apparent than the fact that this couple has been drinking in worldly assumptions from a fire hose.
Now a counter-example: "The Lord has graciously given us six children, and they are all a delight to us. But we have recently been thinking about using birth control because it is getting harder and harder to provide them with the care the Bible requires. We are starting to have trouble feeding them all — and the tuition costs for a biblical education (or the time costs for a biblical home education) really add up."
Now this second couple may be mistaken in their assumptions (about their ability to care for seven children, for example). But this mistaken assumption is not the same kind of thing as the sinful and rebellious attitude exhibited by the first couple. In contrast, we see a family which believes that children are a blessing, and they have been acting accordingly.
Because the Bible says nothing about birth control itself, we must evaluate the action based upon whether the action is motivated by a biblical attitude toward that which the Bible does address — children and family.
(Here Wilson goes into the story of Onan, showing that it wasn't Onan's actions so much as his motives that were evil — trying to rob his deceased brother of his posterity)
Consequently, those who practice birth control with ungodly motives are following in the footsteps of Onan. But it takes a good deal of ingenuity to make a connection between this evil motive of Onan's and the motive a godly couple who practice birth control to space their children in order to maximize the number of children they can have (e.g., because she has to deliver by Caesarean section). So when there is no clear teaching in the Scripture on a subject of moral and ethical behavior, it is necessary for us to be silent. We may not condemn something as sin in itself simply on the grounds that most people who do it are sinful in their motivations.
But this does not mean that a Christian husband and wife practicing birth control are free to assume they are doing right. It is true, as argued above, that this entire issue must be understood in the light of our motivation, and our submission to the scriptural view of family. It is also true that in the area of motivations, we are answerable to God and Him alone. The issue of birth control is not an area where the civil magistrate or the elders of the church have any business. If an ungodly attitude toward children and family is visible and apparent, then THAT should be addressed by the elders of the church. But they should deal with it in the same way they would deal with an analogous situation (e.g., someone who has an ungodly attitude toward alcohol — a substance not sinful in itself but which can be abused).
Parents are stewards before God, and God entrusts the children to them. Some parents receive the resources which God gives and bring up many children to serve Him. They are greatly blessed. Other parents may limit the children they have but believe the children they have to be a great blessing, and they also bring them up to serve the Lord. These parents are also blessed by God. When Jesus told the parable of the talents, He did not refer to any quarrel between the man who had ten talents and the man who had five. The one who got into trouble (with his master, and not with his fellow-servants) was the one who feared to be entrusted with any responsibility. He buried what he had in the ground and was condemned by his master. And this is what many Christian couples have done and are doing. They don't want the responsibility of parenthood, but God has said that He made them one for the purpose of godly offspring (Mal 2:15).
So our modern debate about birth control has unfortunately gravitated to the methods used — as if the lazy servant could have justified himself by pointing out that the action of burying money in the ground is not inherently sinful. This is true enough, but beside the point.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the use of birth control is sinful.
So it is wrong to say that it is.
The Bible does consistently say that children are a blessing from the Lord.
And it is a sin to act as if they were not.

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7 thoughts on “Birth Control in the Bible????

  1. That’s some stuff to chew on, girl! You know I come from a Catholic family, so I see a lot of that stuff reflected here. Children are a BLESSING, and if we trust that God knows us and is indeed in control of the world, and will only give us what we can handle, how can we not also trust Him to know how many children we can or cannot handle? My dad has some AWESOME theories on this subject and we talk about it a lot. Whenever I go to church with him He likes to point out the Catholic families with two or three kids and wonder if they’re reallyyyyyyyy just not having kids by abstaining, which is pretty much the only Catholic way of keeping your numbers down. 🙂

    Anyway…I’m not sure what my thoughts on this will be by the time I am married and..well, if I can even HAVE children with my illness, but it’s awesome to see you talk about it and think about it in a real way.

    It’s true that it doesn’t say anything in the Bible about Birth Control specifically, but I think it’s a matter of what you believe is important vs. what God believes is important. Consciously PREVENTING what God considers blessing seems like a pretty stupid idea to me…

  2. Eireann,
    You are so cute. Your dad cracks me up with the wondering about abstinence! I’d be wondering the same thing 🙂
    You know its crazy, tho, that I know many people (in real life and cyber space and from books) who have never used birth control (not even the natural family planning)and only have a few kids(or none). The author of that Reforming Marriage book only has 3! My friend from church has 2 boys, exactly 2 years apart! I thought this family must have planned their kids, until I snooped and found out how they earnestly desire more kids and only used b.c. the very first year of marriage (married for 14 years).
    I always said I admired people who trusted God for birth control, but that if I did that He’d give me 12 kids!!
    It is comforting to see families where God actually limits the amount of kids to a “reasonable” amount — LOL!
    We’ll see what God continues to do in our hearts. I bounce all over the place in my thoughts on this stuff. Good thing that men are so much more stable. What would I do with Ron and his steadiness??
    Email me about visiting before you go back “home!”

  3. I appreciate this post alot. I have been thinking alot about this issue. I have 4 children and am turing 45 in a month. My family all wants another one, a boy in particular as we only have 1 boy in the family. But I am less desirous as I love my dc so much and they are with me all the time, but I feel stretched to my limits. I know God can increase my capacity and am willing for him to do this. I have just been praying that if God wants to give us another He will give me the desire to go through another pregnancy and delivery and post partum.

  4. I have searched through the bible and have yet to find, if it is even in the Bible a saying I have heard for years which is God will only give you as much as you can handle. Is this, or anything like it, in the Bible?. As the Bible has been written in many languages and there are many things that
    either I can’t find or understand. But this particular phrase, God will only give you as much as you can handle is something that I would really like to
    know about. Any information you could give me about this would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Dick Bridgman
    Springfield, Illinois

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