Contraception and the Bible

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by jpfrench81, Jun 8, 2010.

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  1. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    And where in scripture is the farmer commanded to farm all his land and not defraud his fields of seed? Nowhere. And where is man commanded to know his wife and not defraud her of him nor vice versa? In 1 Cor 7.

    I think you mistake their meaning (though I don't mean to speak for all of them). They contend that it is sinful to derail the natural effects of knowing one's wife, not that you must try to procreate at all times. Motive is the key.
  2. jpfrench81

    jpfrench81 Puritan Board Sophomore

    From this I assume you think that being intimate with your wife while using contraception is defrauding her. Defraud means "to deprive of something by deception or fraud". I'm having difficulty seeing why this would be defrauding my wife. Would you please go into a little more detail? I appreciate your response.
  3. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    And that's where it gets dicey and Rev Winzer's line of thinking takes the cake (I don't have the IQ or Biblical knowledge to take it all the way through). Also, I don't know that the Bible sees it as depriving one's wife by "deception or fraud" in its use of "Defraud ye not one the other". The question (to me) is this: if the Lord opens and closes the womb (Abraham and Sarah) and children are a blessing and heritage from the Lord (Psalms), who are we to attempt to reject it out of convenience? The argument becomes more complicated when medical issues are brought into it (for some) but I cannot fathom blessings from the Lord being rejected by His people.

    This is no easy topic, especially in cases where children are desired, but are not borne. That's all the more reason why I cannot fathom the idea of rejecting them.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  4. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    1 Corinthians 7:25-26 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

    1 Corinthians 7:32-33 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

    The bible gives two reasons why a man who can control his sexual desires might want to consider giving up marriage, because of present distress in his life (v26), and to avoid carefulness in his life (v32). Marriage is certainly a blessing but there are biblically valid practical reasons for a man to consider forgoing it, or postponing it.

    If this applies to marriage, there is no reason why it would not apply to child birth, which is impossible without marriage. Paul said that it is easier to live a godly life when you have less concerns in your life, and he was talking about getting married, not about business activities or hobbies. In the same manner, it can be perfectly legitimate in some circumstances for a couple to decide that it is for the best for their marriage, their lives and for the children they already have for them to use contraception for a time, if the arrival of a new child now would be difficult. That does not mean the modern idea of stop at 1 or 2 is legitimate, but there is an acceptable place for christians to use contraception as part of living a godly life.
  5. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    But while there is a reason for applying it to marriage, there is no reason for applying it to marital relations, in fact, there is a prohibition against it (1Cor7). So to apply it to childbirth is quite a stretch, since where is there anywhere in Scripture that men regulate the product of their sexual activity and it is seen as righteous by God?
  6. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think the same way as you on this, but I wanted to point out that the antecedent of "she" in the above verse is "the woman," i.e. Eve mentioned in the previous verse. Eve will be saved through childbearing, if "they" (her daughters) continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. In other words, Eve's act of bringing sin into the world will be "vindicated" in a manner of speaking by the actions of her godly daughters.

    It drives me insane when some translations put "women" here instead of "she." Sorry, :offtopic: a little bit.
  7. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I'd say that without a specific "letter" on this subject from Scripture, we are left to the overall "spirit" of Scripture to guide us.

    Those who are opposed to contraception in all cases are saying that it can never be expedient for Christians or others to use contraception of any kind, but that it is always wrong.

    It seems more than strange, if this is the case, that there is no injunction against contraception.

    It looks like one of those areas where Reformed Christians will have to agree to differ, and respect each others conscientiously held views on it a la Romans 14.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  8. bug

    bug Puritan Board Freshman

    I have watched this debate with fascination, my thanks to you all.

    Can I just ask those who oppose any form contraception on the basis of the function of intimate relationships being to be blessed with children, does that suggest that once the wife can no longer bear children we should no longer enjoy this form of intimacy? Or what about those who cannot have children? To my mind the account of the creation of woman was to be a suitable companion for man, and that is fullfilled in marriage. It would seem Elkanah knew Hannah could not have children yet they still shared this intamacy. Do we not fullfill this companionship aspect by initimate regardless of procreation?

    To my mind, initmacy is blessed by God by giving children, however God does provide quite natural methods of contraception himself. A woman can only fall pregnant at a certain time in her cycle and the Lactational Amenorrhea Method of contraception is nearly as effective as condoms for 6 months after pregancy (depending upon the women). So unless we are only intimate with our wives at certain times in her cycle, and unless we stop her breast feeding we are therefore sinning is that right? Or is it only man made forms of contraception that should be avoided?

    These are genuine questions for I am willing to be persuaded by the evidence.
  9. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    The principle is that it is legitimate to forgo something that God calls a blessing - marriage - when there is distress in your life, or if it would cause excessive carefulness in your life. It is a board principle that applies to many areas of life (1 Cor 7:26-32).

    There is no reason why this principle does not apply to childbearing, which, like marriage, can cause additional stress and care in a christian's life. I never said anything about regulating marital relations... What 1 Cor 7 is talking about is making sure both husband and wife are sexually fulfilled so they cannot be tempted to fornication. That has nothing to do with the practice of contraception...
  10. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman


    No, we are commanded not to defraud one another, regardless of whether or not God chooses to open the womb and provide someone with children:

    1Cor 7:5
    (5) Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

    That is up to God whether or not a woman is barren. It certainly is not a sin if the woman by some medical reason, by no fault of her own cannot have children. Marriage was instituted not only for procreation, but also for the rendering of 'due benevolence' to promote chastity, and avoid fornication. (1 Cor 7:2,3)

    I suppose to define the issue, contraception of any kind, willfully used with the intent to prevent children is sinful, unless under the bounds of an act of mercy. (defined more thoroughly below)

    Yes you are correct in my opinion.

    In my mind, I have to say the breastfeeding method of contraception is permissible, but you have to check your motives. Am I breastfeeding the child to avoid God's curse (for the woman) or am I breastfeeding the child because I want the child to be healthier? If I sincerely believed my child would be the healthier for it, I think this would be similar to a act of mercy, and thereby permissible. If I just wanted to not have any other children, I lean towards the idea that such an attitude is rooted in a sinful perspective and should therefore be avoided.

    Man made forms of contraceptive are wrong in my opinion, unless somehow used within the bounds of mercy. i.e. a medical condition. Not sure how that would look.
  11. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Of course this is usually cited by those that are ok with birth control.....;)

    I think this would be a better verse In my most humble opinion. :)

    1 Peter 4:8

    8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
  12. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    If you're bringing the subject of the Curse into it, Man is encouraged to use legitimate means to relieve the Curse. This is what the march of medical science is about; God revealing to Man means to relieve the Curse.

    I wouldn't have thought about contraception as a means of relieving the Curse, but a means to wisely (or unwisely) procreate. But there is nothing sinful, and everything to be commended, in seeking to relieve the Curse, and that can't be used as an ethical argument against contraception or anything else.

    God and the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ are very much behind the relieving of the Curse by medicine and other means.

    Are you saying that the pains of childbirth are not only part of the Curse, but also the fact that some wives become pregnant so frequently without some kind of birth control is part of the Curse?

    ---------- Post added at 12:29 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:25 AM ----------

    It's also said by those who are against birth control. Brothers can't see eye to eye on everything.

    I say all these things on birth control as someone unmarried. I don't know if that disqualifies me, like the Pope?:rolleyes::D
  13. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Depends. If you'll agree with me, no problem.

    Otherwise, disqualified! :judge:
  14. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    Richard, you make a interesting point, although I am having a hard time distinguishing between man's advancement to lessen the amount of sweat upon his brow to earn his food (lessening of the curse), and the womans using birth control to 'wisely' pro-create. I just don't see in scripture any inference, command, or example providing liberty to purposely prevent the conception of children. I would distinguish it from other legitimate lessening' of the curse. God has been kind to man in providing him medical advancement, although I do not perceive this gives man the liberty to thwart one of the ends of marriage as taught throughout scripture. Thoughts?

    I believe the pains of childbirth are part of the curse. Therefore, for a woman to purposefully prevent conception to avoid the pains of childbearing is sin. I also don't buy into the idea that we should perform family planning via contraceptives. The scripture repeatedly shows that children are a blessing from the Lord, (PS127) the fruit of the womb is a reward, a fruitful wife is the blessing to the man that fears the Lord (PS128), and that the Lord is the opener and closer of the womb... Why should I desire to inhibit God's revealed working in this manner? To purposely prevent the birth of children for means other than an act of mercy is sin. I don't mean to offend you or any of my brother or sisters in the Lord, but my conscience is convinced by the Word of God.
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    As far as I am aware it cannot be taken from Genesis 3:16 that part of the Curse on the woman was not only that she have pain in childbearing, but also that the married Man and Woman would have less control over their fertility.

    It is clear from Scripture that man is allowed to relieve the Curse by legitimate means, and that would include the pains of childbirth, disease, thorns and thistles, etc, etc.

    A married couple avoiding having children merely because of the expected pains of childbirth would not be right.

    But expedient use of legitimate forms of contraception in the procreation process is not condemned in Scripture.

    We must follow the "spirit" of Scripture, not the spirit of the world. Children are a blessing to a married couple, but does that mean that the Bible teaches that they should try for all they possibly can?

    I don't see that in Scripture, but we must agree to differ.

    ---------- Post added at 10:06 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:58 PM ----------

    If a Christian man has a family of e.g. seven or eight children, he has obeyed God's command to be fruitful and multiply distributively far more than a single Christian man, and yet the Lord isn't against some Christian men being single.

    I don't see such a Christian or non-Christian man "thwarting the ends of marriage" unless you believe that the Bible teaches that married couples should try for as many children as possible, and the only purpose of congugal relations in marriage is having children, and that fellowship isn't a purpose in itself.
  16. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    And here's where I think we see a major fork in the road in philosophy. No one is saying (least of all me, ironically) that you should "try" for as many as you can. But what I am saying, shouting, willing to be incredibly unpopular and seen as weird for is this: since God provides that spark of life, let Him give as He sees fit - He will limit it to what you can handle. I can sleep with my wife 100 times fruitlessly "trying" for a child, and unless the Lord specifically blesses that particular 101st union, there will be no child; biology professors and the bulk of medical science notwithstanding. I hold this as a firm and steadfast conviction. As He opened and closed the wombs of Abimelech's house, He does the same for my wife and for every other woman on the face of this planet. He is sovereign over even this.
  17. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    But God uses secondary means in His sovereign purposes. Procreation in any context is itself a secondary means whereby God sovereignly produces the human beings He wants on the Earth.

    So the Q still boils down to whether expedient use of certain types of contraception within marriage is acceptable in God's preceptive will or does Scripture teach that He want each act of conjugal relations to be open to allowing for a child in fertile couples.

    God's decretive will even includes sin, in the sense that He has sovereignly decreed everything that happens.

    The question is a preceptive one. Is it always wrong to use contraception, bearing in mind that the Sixth Commandment is not breached, that everything that happens is in God's sovereignty, and there is no injunction against contraception.

    I don't think it's weird to hold the view on this that contraception is always wrong. We must hold to what we believe that Scripture is saying and show respect for our brothers and sisters views a la Romans 14.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2010
  18. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior


    Where does God say that he demands complete sovereignty over the womb? God is sovereign over everything in the world, but we use means to alter many of them for our good. Where does the bible state that childbirth is in a special category?
  19. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I think there is a confusion here between God's preceptive will (commands) and His decretive will (sovereignty). His sovereignty cannot be overthrown, but the question of contraception comes into God's commands, does He permit it or not.

    E.g. is God's sovereignty in procreation overthrown when an engaged couple delay their marriage for a few months. Is God's sovereignty in procreation overthrown when a m,arried couple use contraception? No. Because all these things - whether they are right or wrong were intended in God's sovereignty and decretive will.

    Everything that happens, good or evil, is in God's sovereignty.

    The question is whether contraception is always evil.

    It attempts to frustrate one of the purposes of relations i.e. procreation. It doesn't attempt to frustrate God's sovereignty which can't be frustrated.

    But the Bible teaches that there is more than one purpose for relations, therefore if the married couple distributively give place for the purpose of having children in their relations with each other they are yet fulfilling the command to be fruitful and multiply which was first given to Adam and Noah. They are not denying this important purpose of marriage to raise seed, holy seed in the case of Christians.

    They are also fulfilling the command to have relations and "know" each other, just not always attempting procreation at the same time.
  20. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    One more little stab at the beast before I must be off to bed: I think this thread is beginning to show a mindset that often befalls our Lord's Day observance threads. Some say, 'take joy in that the Lord has given you this day of rest', as per Isaiah 58:12, 13

    Then others will counter with: '...but if I want to do XYZ and it does not conflict with Scripture specifically, then that is within the bounds of my Christian liberty.' And then we battle it out from there. But it is the attitude that gets my goat, not the specifics so much. Take JOY in what the Lord has laid out in Scripture in this matter, and seek to be that living sacrifice seven days of the week, while taking rest as He has commanded and allowed.

    I see the same thing here with contraception. Instead of taking joy in the blessings that will come of a marriage free of this contrary attitude, we ask how far we can go in the other direction without ticking God off, and staying within the bounds of Scripture, so far as we think we are correctly exegeting the verses in question. Why not just take joy in His promises? Ask instead where the motivation comes from to put the brakes on what God has promised - that is extremely germane to the discussion. Is it the world's view of what a family/life should be? Is it a personal foible that is leading your thinking this way? A desire to justify a personal opinion? Is it simply a desire for a deeper understanding of Scripture? Is it a lack of exposure to a proper family life or overexposure to a bad one? Is it medical concerns for the mother? This is a huge factor in the discussion.

    I am not trying to besmirch anyone's posts/characters that are opposed to my own in this thread. But as I hold my newborn child, I ask myself how it is that anyone could read Scripture, hold their newborn, and not see this as anything but the finger of God in their life. I simply can't fathom it. To me, it is as Israel asking God to stop the manna and quail because we've had quite enough of that entree, thank you very much. It is God's special blessing to us. Enjoy it and thank Him for it. Full stop.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  21. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    Kevin, I understand where you are coming from, but you are not being fair with the issue. You are starting with the assumption that contraception is wrong and reasoning from there. But if something truly does not, in God’s sight, conflict with the scriptures, there is nothing wrong with a Christian choosing to do that. You have certain strong convictions and by asking “Why not just take joy in His promises?” you are effectively saying “why not just be like me?”… But if God’s revealed will in his bible does allow for some latitude in this area, there is no reason to question the fact that someone has made a different choice.

    With respect to your example on the Lord’s Day, the bible also says that mercy is greater than sacrifice, and that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Jesus Christ did not just ask his disciples to take joy in the Sabbath when they were hungry walking through the fields of corn. Neither did he ask the man whose ox went into a ditch on the Sabbath or the people he healed on the Sabbath to just take joy in the Sabbath and wait another day. There is room to ask what does the full revelation of God’s word say on a subject. It is not always impious to not automatically accept the most conservative choice as being the only acceptable option for Christians.

    The bible also says that we are not to tempt God, and presume upon his promises. I quoted from 1 Cor 7 where God, through Paul states that even something as good as marriage can bring trouble and care into your life and because of that you need to at least consider before making the choice. He didn’t say, just go ahead, I will definitely take care of you. Someone might want to spend more time with his wife (Eph 5:25, Deut 24:5) , to be able to focus time on the children he already has (Eph 6:4), or even consider whether he is able to provide for the children he already has (Pr 13:22). All these, and others, are biblically valid reasons to at least consider if it is for the best for his family to use contraception for a time. You may not agree with such reasoning, but you cannot biblically condemn it.

    As a note, I want to say that I understand this is an area where we are all exposed to much worldliness in our thinking. I can accept that I may have been influenced much by the world’s thoughts. But the topic of the thread is what does the Bible say about contraception, and at this moment in time I believe the bible teaches that God has left it a matter of christian liberty. As with any liberty, it can be abused and a lot of what you raised in your post is very relevant to consider when an individual Christian makes a decision on this matter for his family. But if we just ask what the bible teaches, I have not seen any convincing biblical reasoning or argument that would condemn all usage of birth control.
  22. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Actually, I am not starting from the position that all contraception is wrong. I am starting from the assumption that the Lord calls children a blessing. I am starting from the assumption that God in no way ordains a means of regulating childbearing. I am starting from the position that children are repeatedly shown as a legacy and a heritage (AND such that one who has many children has a HUGE responsibilities - they are not Tiddlywinks, they are vessels to be filled with the Lord's teaching. If someone sees them as mere collectibles, they are in grave error.)

    We DO see parts in Scripture that discuss both sides of marriage. We DO NOT see this with children (Matthew 24, Luke 21 are, In my humble opinion, irrelevant in this case; adding them to the discussion is to pull them way out of context - and I don't see anything else that comes close.) Thus I cannot see the connection between the similarity of regulating marriage and childbearing (as someone mentioned above) as anything other than an artificial one.

    Sorry, that doesn't wash. I am starting from what Scripture says, not from my own position. Your arguments are trying to bolster a negative position, (some may argue it is one that is adiaphora,) but which Scripture does not speak to in the positive in any way, while it is full of positive verses to having children.

    Agreed. The Sabbath is appropriate for works of mercy and service, that is plain and simple. But again, it is to do God's will, not to do my own. Christ made provision for His disciples both physically and spiritually, that was within His purview as Saviour and Lord, and we see this same dual principle again in James 2. Thus I cannot understand these examples being quoted above - they are clear and I am in no way arguing against them; they fall well within Isaiah 58's directives.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  23. Dwimble

    Dwimble Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, they certainly didn't ask Him to stop giving it, but when God gave them manna they complained that it wasn't enough and that they should have meat, too. God graciously gave them that as well. Further many tried to gather more than they needed and it rotted, except for the one day per week when they were permitted to gather more.

    I don't really have a dog in this hunt, so I'm not offering an opinion, but the argument you made could easily be used by those on the other side of the debate. Namely, some tried to get as much of that blessing as they could and were rebuked for it.
  24. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    But again, it comes down to the specific nature of this blessing. I can scoop manna all day long, against God's law, pile it up in my tent, and it will rot. But to lay with my wife 100, 1000, or 10,000 times (and do so very much in tune with God's law), there will be no spark of life unless God decrees it, no matter that the mechanics of the act are biologically sound and 'should' produce a child. I cannot 'sinfully' try for all I can, because 1 Cor 7 speaks quite clearly to that - there is no sin in laying with my wife, in fact I am commanded to do so.

    The Bible talks about quivers full of sons, it does not talk about stockpiles of manna, in fact, as you said, it specifically warns against it. So I don't see how it is in the same category.

    As I see it, it really comes down to whether or not one believes that God opens and closes the womb or whether one believes that it is merely an act of mechanical biology. Are Rachel and the house of Abimilech and Hannah simply Biblical miracles that are no longer applicable or relevant today or does God exercise His sovereignty in that way even now?
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  25. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I have seen this several times when we discuss this topic. In other words, unless the specific term “children” or its synonyms are used, you won’t believe that it applies to children. You said something similar the last time I spoke to you. We were discussing Proverbs 25:16, and you said that text refers to gluttony. You seem to have this view of language that is common amongst evangelicals [including quiverfull folks], that can be summed up with:


    In other words, words and phrases have meaning in the sense that they are equated with things in the real world. Hence, you want to equate 1 Corinthians 7 with marriage, and you want to equate Proverbs 25:16 with gluttony.

    The problems with this approach are manifold. First of all, it ignores that individual terms themselves have both sense as well as reference. For example, we can speak of the phrase “NBA champions” as the sense, and the reference for that sense is “The Los Angeles Lakers.” However, in a matter of a week, that could entirely change, and then, the referent would be the “Boston Celtics.” In other words, there can be a sense behind certain references that could be applied to more than one object.

    However, even this is way too simplistic, as there are different kinds of senses to a word. I have been reading a book on semantics by Kate Kearns, and she goes through and shows how complex even this is. For example, consider the word “bird.” Most people would consider its sense to be a small feathered animal which sings beautifully and flies. Yet there are all kinds of birds that don’t fly, and don’t sing beautifully [ostrich, penguin, etc.]. These kinds of concepts are called prototypes, where the sense of something is determined by prototypical conceptions most people have of something.

    However, there is also something called “family resemblances.” Family resemblances are senses that will have nothing common to all, but a number of features will occur in clusters. Wittgenstein’s classic definition is the word “game.” While there are some games that share no features with other games, if you look at certain clusters of games, you will see that they do share some traits.

    Then, of course, you also have senses of words in which all things are held in common. These are self-explanatory. The point of the whole discussion to show how simplistic you are being when you talk about A=B, Proverbs 25:16=gluttony, and 1 Corinthians 7=marriage. You are leaving out one whole aspect of meaning that is very important.

    However, even if we want to talk about reference, even there I would say that A=B is way too simplistic. Consider the word “blue.” What does the word “blue” refer to? Does it refer to “turquoise,” “sky blue,” or “ocean blue?” The answer is “yes” to all three. Blue is what is called a “vague predicate.” For example, Kate Kearns talks in her book about a stick you could make with one end blue gradually adding more red until you get purple in the middle of the stick, and then gradually taking away blue so that you get red on the other end of the stick. The question that we must ask is “where does blue end and purple begin?” Also, “Where does purple end, and red begin?” or even “Where does blue end and red begin?” All of these things are questions that illustrate the reference of a vague predicate. Another question that is often asked in this vein is, “How many people have to leave before a crowd ceases to be a crowd?”

    However, even if we leave out vague predicates, you are still left with the fact that meaning and reference are not related to the real world alone. Consider these two sentences:

    1. Adam is not blue.
    2. Adam is not purple.

    Now, what if Adam is white? In that case, it would make both of these true. However, do they both mean the same thing? Hardly. The way to solve this problem is to speak of *possible* worlds, and to say that sentence #1 is true in any possible scenario in which Adam’s color is anything other than blue, and sentence #2 is true in any possible scenario in which Adam’s color is anything other than purple. Hence, we have distinguished the two in meaning, but it is not just on the basis of reference in the real world, but in possible worlds as well. This goes for all meaning. The statement “Adam is typing this post” has its meaning in common with all possible scenarios in which Adam is typing this post.

    In other words, even reference is a topic that is way more complicated than just finding a reference such as “marriage” or “gluttony” in the real world, and saying “That is what it means.”

    However, it gets worse, as even in the way we use our language, we are not necessarily referential. What does the word “the” refer to? When you walk down the aisle during your wedding and say “I do,” to your wife, what are you referring to? As Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out, language has many uses, and reference is only one of its uses. One has got to understand how language operates in a community, or, as he put it, what language “game” each community is playing *before* one can truly understand the meaning of a text.

    You might be saying that all of this is well and good, but how does it play out in real life? Consider Isaiah 7:14. The referent of this sign is clearly given to king Ahaz as a sign to him of his victory. Yet, the New Testament applies this to Christ in Matthew 1:23. This is a case where the referents are multiple. The reason this is the case is because of the development of the “child” motif in chapters 7-9. This keeps on reoccurring, and ultimately culminates with the great words of Isaiah 9:6 which talk about a child born to us who will have no end to the increase of his kingdom. Yet, although this sign is given to king Ahaz, and these grand promises are expected, in Chapter 10, you find that all of those expectations are crushed by the Assyrian army coming and taking away the kingship.

    The point of these building of expectations and the crushing of these expectations almost screams the message, “This is impossible with man.” These great promises can never be totally fulfilled in a mere man, because mere men will always fall prey to sin. That is why these promises were only able to be fulfilled by God himself taking on human flesh, and why these texts can legitimately be applied to Christ. Hence, these texts are not just referential, they are polyreferential!

    Now, what does all of this have to do with contraception and children as a blessing? You keep on looking for a passage which specifically mentions children , and talks about moderation in the birthing of children from us. I would contend that such an expectation of us is irrational given the information about language I have just provided. I have presented Proverbs 25:16-17, 27-28 as proof that the conception of a blessing includes moderation. Satz has presented 1 Corinthians 7. There are many other passages we could point to where the Bible specifically speaks of things that are good, and yet, encourages moderation in our reception of them. It is abundantly clear that the Bible is presenting the “sense” of blessing as including moderation. Yet, here, you have complained that there is no specific referent given to children in this vein. The whole point of this post is that there doesn’t need to be. The way the Bible is constructing the *sense* of the word “blessing” is that blessings are something that must be received in moderation. To expect the Bible to give us an exhaustive list of all blessings and apply this conception to them is absurd. Should we look at Proverbs 25:16 and say that, since honey is the particular reference, that we can overindulge in cherry pie? No, the Bible does not have to [and, indeed, it would be impossible to] mention every blessing by name. The Bible gives us the sense of “blessing,” what kind of sense the sense of “blessing” is, and thus, we can reason about the Biblical conception of a blessing as it applies to children.

    However, you are specifically saying that children are an exception to this sense of a “blessing” that the Bible presents when it says that blessings must be enjoyed in moderation. Your job would then be to prove from the text of scripture itself that children are an exception to this concept. I would argue that scripture never says this about children. Satz and I have pointed out that, throughout all of scripture, blessings and moderation go hand in hand. You are positing an exception to that in children. We are simply asking for proof of this from the text of scripture.

    Kvanlaan, this is what I meant when I said that the scholarly world considers the exegesis of quiverfull advocates to be reductionistic. I did not mean it to be an insult; I meant that the ignoring of the kinds of features of language that I have presented here in this post, as well as several others, are commonplace in quiverfull. Their exegesis, in most cases, does reduce down to A=B, and yet, we never use our language in this fashion. I did not mean it as an insult, but only that those of us who study Biblical interpretation on a regular basis are constantly thinking of these things when we interpret a text, and, myself and many scholars would say that many of these things are not considered when you read Nancy Campbell, Mary Pride, James and Stacy McDonald, the Botkin family, etc., as most of them are not trained in this area. I am not saying that this makes everything they say wrong, but it will tend to lead to reductionism in terms of how you view language. That is what concerns me.

    God Bless,
  26. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Um, no.

    I am not dense, I am not so intellectually crippled that I cannot grasp your meaning (in that words have meaning and you can't differentiate between blessings like I am). But there is a difference, as has been made clear in the last several posts. Please engage these arguments, instead of merely saying that my 'pals' are too reductionistic to engage on a 'scholarly' level.

    Also, I do not lean on Mary Pride et al for my proofs; they are not theologians and everyone has an opinion (even if they do agree with me - though I don't discount them out of hand either). Instead, I am more apt to take the opinion of Calvin and the Synod of Dordt (and am happy to email as many orthodox theologians of today as you'd like, starting with Beeke and going down the list) who take the same task. Also, please find me support from a theologian or orthodox church for your opinion dated before 1900. Reply with that, and engage them as well, if you would. It would appear that the entire scholarly world has overlooked a few theological works of note.
  27. MamaArcher

    MamaArcher Puritan Board Freshman

  28. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    First of all, I *never* just said that these arguments are reductionistic. I *proved* it by showing that the methodology you are using does not capture how language works. Also, I never said that you could not differentiate. I pointed out, though, that sense and reference are used when we understand the meaning of terms like "blessing" [no matter how diverse the reference is], and that we should understand blessings in the context of the "sense" of a blessing. One of the aspects of the sense of the term "blessing" we are discussing is moderation. You would like to make an exception for children. I only think it is logical to ask you to prove that this is an exception from scripture.

    Also, kvanlaan, my whole post was a response to the argument you are presenting, namely, that you can write off Proverbs 25 and 1 Corinthians 7 because of their reference, not even stopping to consider if they are building a certain sense.

    Nor did I ever say that you did. My point was that I can see in their writings the same kind of mistake that you have made in talking to Satz and myself. My point is that you and all of those people mentioned are dependent upon the same kind of reductionistic view of language because they use it in their writings as well.

    And I will take the opinion of the scriptures. We are protestants, and we should be deriving our views from scripture, not from history.

    There is an entire dissertation that does this by John Noonan called Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists. Noonan shows by references to the Talmud that the Jews used contraception, and also shows references to Christians using contraception, and points out that it was largly the controversy of Platonic philosophy that brought these things into existence.

    In fact, in the video by Mark Driscoll that was posted earlier in this thread, he refutes this argument as well.

    Hence, I *have* engaged the arguments you have presented. When I said you are reductionistic, I went and proved it using the language you and I use every day. I am concerned that, when I argue against you scripturally, you refer to theologians and confessions. I cited scholars, only to show that my concerns are pretty well rounded amongst those of us who study this for a living. We are protestants, and we believe that scripture is the standard. As I said, if the Catholic Church came and showed us all of these historical theologians and figures who believed in some form of maryolatry, we would quickly say that there is no support for that in scripture. I am deeply concerned that we do not do the same thing when it comes to this issue.

    I am not trying to be pejorative. I am trying to argue this on the basis of the text of scripture. We need to be careful that no tradition is bound upon the hearts of Christians that is not found in the text of scripture. That is my concern.

    God Bless,
  29. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    Even though God is sovereign, that should not be used as an excuse in regards to the use of wisdom. God is sovereign over all, including child birth, but that does not mean people should be irresponsible in the begetting of children. There is a mechanicalistic process for the begetting of children and that should be considered in the debate. Why cannot we say that God both opens and closes wombs and at the same time it is a mechanical process? There are many teenage wombs that could mechanically be considered open, but does that mean they should have children? Of course we would say no in the case that they are not married. Lot’s daughters’ womb was open and they recognized the mechanicalistic process of sex for the production of children. We should not use the sovereignty of God as an excuse to not to practice wisdom, but instead recognize God’s ordained means for a given end, such as the case with the proclamation of the Gospel. We all seen people use the sovereignity of God as a reason for themselves to not practice wisdom for whatever reason. If a father cannot provide for his children and the church cannot support him, and I have seen this in more then more church, then what are we to do? Call CPS? To beget a child only have the child taken away because not all the child’s needs are being meet? I think it is proper to recognize a difference in the laying down with a wife to satisfy her needs and to do so for the conceiving of children. We should not make sex within a marriage relationship to have the final purpose of begetting of children; if such is the case then I think that would create unnecessary tension in the martial relationship due to the unfillment of a partner by not having sex and the process of martial sex to be sinful; which was actually Augustine’s position, see the Good of Marriage. Notice that this is only the case if the begetting of children is not in mind. Therefore, since a husband is required to satisfy the needs of his wife, and if the husband cannot afford another few mouths to feed, then wisdom may dictate a means in which the seed of the man and the egg never meet. Not to blindly use the sovereignty of God as an excuse, because we are created as rational beings in the image of God and commanded to use wisdom; which is a reflection of that image.

    Personally, I think children should be looked at as a gift of God and the fruit of a committed martial union. We risk the danger I think of losing the appreciation of children when we expect large families. We, thank God, no longer live in an age of a high infancy mortality rate. If we expect women and bind to their conscience to have a large amount of children and do not assist these women, then we are bring them to a state of sin if we do not assist them. It is not like an olden days, where there a farm we can send the children out to work and help out in to provide for the needs of the entire family. We live in a different context, an individualistic context, with little help from family and neighbors, if any at all. I say if you want to be fruitful and multiply, learn to preach and teach the gospel and not to go beyond your means in relation to child care.

    ---------- Post added at 04:55 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:34 PM ----------

    There a big difference talking from maryology/"maryolatry" and contraception. We do not want to ignore, as Protestants, the exercise of wise teachings and use of wisdom of our Fathers in the faith. They read the scriptures, just as we do today. It is not like the scriptures suddenly disappeared as can be seen from Chrysostom to Aquinas. Did some of them have an interpretation different from us? No doubt, but we would be a fool to ignore what the great teachers of the faith said. Let us not compare contraception to non-biblical traditional thoughts of Mary, such as the conceived immaculate/ perpetual virginity/ prayers to Mary/ assumed bodily into heaven. It is a comparison of apples to spinach. You thought I say oranges didn’t you? :D
  30. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I agree that we shouldn't *ignore* what the great teachers of the faith say. I am not ignoring them. I am testing their arguments against what scripture says.

    The reason I think it is parallel to Maryolatry is not because I think that it is equally grave to pray to Mary, and to look at the patristic writers rather than the scriptures; I am simply pointing out that we rejected Maryolatry for the same reason that I believe we should reject the binding of anti-contraception on the people of God: it cannot be found in scripture.

    Also, while it is true that the patristic writers read the scriptures [and, again, I think Noonan has done a good job in showing that anti-contraception teaching developed over time], still we have to understand that the people of God do grow in our knowledge. Chomskian syntax was unknown to the patristic writers, as were the modern day fields of semantics and pragmatics. Also, a whole lot of research is being done right now on the relationship between all of the major divisions of linguistics. In terms of extrabiblical material, most of the Northwest Semitic inscriptions had yet to be found, no one knew of the material Akkadian, Sumerian, Ugaritic, or Egyptian Hieroglyphics. I believe that God has given us this knowledge so that we can use it to better understand his word, not *ignoring* what people in the past have said, but *correcting* what people in the past have said. We should seek to use all the tools God has given us to become more and more accurate in our understanding of scripture

    God Bless,
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