Saturday, February 21, 2009

Marriage and Birth Control

I have been listening to Issues Etc debate on this found here.

Please remember, my topic is not birth control outside marriage, I am considering here, the domain - birth control within marriage!

I am a bit skeptical on the arguments mentioned by the pastor for the contra position, but the one on the pro position could have brought forth his arguments much better from Scripture. The contra has some red herring arguments and straw man arguments which should have been fairly answered by the one on the pro side.

A few points:
-It has been claimed that in ages past, orthodox Christian leaders have always been contra to birth control. Therefore, we should be contra too.

ME: We have no article of faith on this, but the contra position holds this as dogma, a type of Law.

-It has been claimed that God's purpose for sex in marriage is for pleasure AND childbearing.

ME: This statement is an interpretation of the biblical data, notice I highlighted the AND, meaning both, i.e you must not separate. Actually most Christians who lived in the ancient world considered only the latter, sex is ONLY for childbearing, nothing else.

But what if the Biblical data says that sex in marriage may lead to childbearing? In other words, it is not an AND, but an IMPLY. It all hangs around on God's intention for sex, how is it to be used? I think that is the question.

Meaning, God intended sex for married people, it may have the consequence of childbearing. It may preclude of course that the spouses would like to copulate because they do want to have a child. It may also mean they want to do what the birds and the bees do because they just want to without in mind to childbearing. But the contra position says birth control in marriage is wrong because it violates God's intention for sex. Do I have Biblical evidence against this position? I think so, that is why I am skeptical for the traditional contra position.

Consider 1 Cor 7:

3B)">(B)">B) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5C)">(C) Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again,D)">(D) so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

6Now as a concession,E)">(E) not a command, I say this.a]">[a] 7F)">(F) I wish that all wereG)">(G) as I myself am. ButH)">(H) each has his own gift from God,I)">(I) one of one kind and one of another.

8To the unmarried and the widows I say thatJ)">(J) it is good for them to remain singleK)">(K) as I am. 9But if they cannot exercise self-control,L)">(L) they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul seems to have a practical understanding of things. In fact he says if you cannot contain yourself, then you should marry, it pertains to sexual passion.

Sex is intended by God to be exercised in the realm of marriage, and the above passage bears that they are to go and engage in what is lawfully theirs. It does not mean that they have to get together for the purpose of having children. In fact it does not suggest that at all. It is silent.

If it is true that sex and childbearing should go together then what do you say to a person who decides to be single without any relationship, they are just happy being single with no relationship? They must be violating the command to multiply, correct? He must be practicing birth control is it not?

Any thoughts on this?


The Scylding said...

I'm not convinced either. most commonly used is the story of Judah & Tamar - but the issue there is not birth control, but greed in terms of inheritance etc.

Some argue this because they are uncomfortable with the "pleasure" side of the equation - thus these arguments are often more psychological than logical. It has more to do with neo-puritanical "ascetism" than anything else.

Also, some have a very skewed undewrstanding of will and responsibility, cause and effect. Does it mean that if you biologically can have 20 kids, you should just go ahead? Is it not your responsibility to care for your offspring, financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually? If you can't do that, then don't. And don't have this attitude that God will automatically enable you to overcome the finacial and emotional limits of giving we all have, you must just "trust"? I have seen this attitude, and many of these become "holy beggars" or "holy leechers". Some load immense loads on their elder children, depriving them of a childhood by placing them in loco parentis.

Of course I'm not saying that these things can't happen, or that the offspring of very large families will necessarily be deviant. But I am saying that pre-existing assumptions are often wrong, and most often selfish.

Considering all this, will they that preach the contra position then forego completely, creating untenable situations like Paul mentioned?

No, I find that too many are quite willing to add precept onto precept when it comes to these matters.

Firstly, everyone should for themselves have a clear conscience before God. Secondly, we should stay out of our brothers' and sisters' business, especially the bedrooms.

Finally, some argue that birth control necessitates abortion. That is simplistic, and false.

L P said...


Good points.

You raise an important point on stewardship. This is now where in view proposed by the contra position.

Children indeed are a gift of the Lord that is why woe are we if we cause them to stumble. I have seen many such things happen in Manila. The RCC has intruded into this and so you see jobless dads having 5 or children, roaming the streets and with no education , neglected and often abused.

It is indeed a simplistic view to simply bring down a Law.


Liz said...

My struggle with the contra argument is the absence of grace in extreme situations. Through physical constraints, I may not be able to have more children, or may only have one or two more via C-Section. When it is medically unadvisable for me to continue having children, it seems the contra argument is: Well, either die in childbirth or abstain from relations until menopause. That smacks of legalism.

L P said...


It is smack of legalism indeed. It is not even a Law from God but an illegal making of a law that tries to bind conscience to their opinion. Most of the time those who speak on this issue are not women in the Church but men who have no idea what goes on in child birth.

In the debate I heard a lot of straw man arguments from the contra and mixed with red herrings. I could give examples but I do not want to offend. The issue is birth control in the realm of marriage, birth control in the realm of the not married is another issue and has an issue that is before that - it is cohabitation, not birth control. These two are being mixed by the contra arguments.

The Church has no statement of faith in regards to birth control, there has been no council that spoke about this. Also pious opinions of pious men may be wrong.


Lucian said...

Any thoughts ?

Yes: who was the genious master-mind that taught You the fine art of making such bewildering non-sequiturs? :-\

L P said...

As far as genius is concerned well it certainly it ain't you. :-]

Well, as far as non-sequiturs, yours is a classic example of not getting the point i.e. your critique of my non-sequitur is a non-sequitur..


Lucian said...

You're making no sense in Your resoning.

L P said...

Sorry you are finding it difficult.

But around here it seems it is only you who is not getting it so my sincere condolences to you.


Lucian said...

Well ... I do have to admit that it is indeed rather difficult for me to understand how the passage quoted bears any relation to the issue at hand, that's all.