Contraception and the Bible

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

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  1. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don’t know if my last post pointed it out clearly, but I am not anti-contraception. And I am not rejecting the use of scripture, but that we should examine carefully the Fathers teachings in light of scripture. This would include their hermeutical use of scripture and application there of. I do not think contraception should, nor do I think it is wise, to be a preached conscience binding topic, for the reasons I gave in a earlier post.

    And I think Adam would basically be in agreement with me. If I am wrong Adam then correct me.
  2. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    No, we are in agreement. I was just clarifying my position, so that people did not think that I just write off anything that is old.

    One of the hardest things I have found about threads on an internet forum and weblogs is that it is so easy for people to misunderstand the tone, motivation, and attitude with which you are saying things. I guess it is just part of the medium.

    Also, I appricate your point that we should not reject something just because it is old. We should be able to interact with both old material and new material.

    God Bless,
  3. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Adam, I'm afraid we are speaking past each other. I find this thread incredibly disheartening, but will come back tomorrow if my time permits and persevere because it is just that important.

    Also, not making any judgment calls here, but I am curious as to how many of those who are for contraception are parents. Just curious.

    Interesting, from one of the PB's own:

    And another (non-PB, but interesting):
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  4. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    Thanks for your reply, Kevin. For brevity’s sake, I will try to limit the discussion to the core issue(s).

    Again, the fact that the Lord calls children a blessing does not automatically mean it is wrong to not desire children, or more children, at certain times in your life. In your post you jumped from the truth of children being a blessing to it being wrong for Christians even to ask what was God’s opinion on the use of contraception for a time. There is no obvious link between the two, and that was why I said you appeared to have started with your conclusion.

    We don’t need specific verses because the principle is that just because something is a blessing, it does not mean it is wrong to limit that thing in your life, or forgo it for a season, if that blessing would bring excessive care into your life (1 Cor 7:32). Paul applies the principle to marriage, grieving, rejoicing, business, and our general activities in the world (1 Cor 7:29-31) - so it is a general principle that applies to all things. There is no need for a specific verse mentioning children.

    To try to sumarise…

    1. The bible says children, and large families are blessings. We both agree on this.

    2. The bible never says it is wrong to limit the number of children you have.

    3. The bible gives examples of when it is not just allowable but prudent to limit certain blessing in your life for a time, for example with marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.

    4. There is nothing to differentiate children from marriage. The principle is still the same, namely that there are times when it is appropriate to limit or restrict even things that God calls blessings in our lives.

    Which of the above would you disagree with? And with what scriptural support?

    I’m not a parent.
  5. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The case of Onan teaches that contraception was known about among the Covenant people, but when we come to Exodus-Deuteronomy there is no injunction against it and no mention of it, which would indicate permission, because it would be a sin which the Covenant people would be tempted into.

    The case of Onan teaches us that contraception should be used wisely, but not that it is forbidden in all circumstances. We don't want to take away from God's Word, but neither do we want to add rules that aren't there.

    Paradoxically, Onan was using it to avoid his Levirate responsibilities, which marrying of one's dead brother's wife is disapproved of by many (all?) the Reformed today.

    Contraception shouldn't be used as a cop out from having a family (Covenant family) if you are married and there are no valid reasons for not having a family.

    Various strange sexual sins are dealt with in Scripture more than contraception.

    Quote from Kevin
    I don't think you should be disheartened. Given the Scriptural data, this thread is about as right as it stands. Maybe it is a subject that is more important to you than it is in the pages of God's Word.

    I think we agree that Christians couples should question if they are following the world in having 1,2 or 3 kids, but since this is a very personal matter, and people can be infertile, etc, it is difficult and unwise for a third party to judge what is going on.
  6. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Mark, thank you for your response, let me try to respond fully to these points here.

    1. The bible says children, and large families are blessings. We both agree on this.

    Yes, agreed. But to bring it to its fullness, we must say that the fact that one has a large family is a direct blessing from the Lord. It is He that opens and closes the womb, it is not my actions that precipitate the birth. Without His hand, there is no conception.

    2. The bible never says it is wrong to limit the number of children you have.

    True, but contraception in most of its modern manifestations is just that, a modern phenomenon. Until the Lambeth Conference (1930), when the Anglican church began to allow contraception, non-Catholic Christian churches were united in rejecting birth control. Is it possible that they were all wrong, and simply did not understand Scripture for 1900 years? Possible, but not likely. A quote from them (dated 1908):

    This sounds like an amoral argument (they don't quote scripture, though I assume that is what is backing it), so it doesn't carry much weight, but it does show some historical perspective.

    3. The bible gives examples of when it is not just allowable but prudent to limit certain blessing in your life for a time, for example with marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.

    But marriage is very clearly presented as a choice and something to be thought over before entering into. Conjugal relations are actually commanded and not to be refrained from, save for prayer or fasting. So yes, I would agree that there are times when it is prudent to limit marriage, but there are specific injunctions against limiting relations with one's wife. While it is silent on specific means of birth control, most manifestations of prophylactics are fairly modern in any case.

    4. There is nothing to differentiate children from marriage. The principle is still the same, namely that there are times when it is appropriate to limit or restrict even things that God calls blessings in our lives.

    There is something. An ordinance not to defraud one another in the marriage bed. Advice to think well on it before entering into marriage. Once inside the bounds of marriage, there is a specific injunction to continue relations unless you are devoting yourself to fasting or praying.

    And yet we see that we are specifically NOT to limit conjugal relations within marriage, so there are arguments against that principle within the very same chapter.
  7. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    Correct, Psalm 127, 128 and many examples in scripture prove this to be the case.

    The bible also never says it's wrong to cut oneself. Rather, it is a logical deduction from the sixth commandment "Thou shalt not kill" So is the case with children, it's a logical inference from the dominion charter command to be fruitful and multiply, the scriptural blessings concerning children as our heritage, along with God's promise to call out a people for Himself from the seed of His people, and examples in scripture given concerning God's working His sovereignty over the womb, as in the case of Hannah, Sarah, Leah, Rachel, and in the shutting of the wombs of Abimelech. (Gen 20:18)

    I agree, abstinence is a legitimate form of birth control during times of prayer and fasting. Though obviously the intent is not to prevent children, but to seek the aid and wisdom of the Lord. The very fact that Paul afterward commands that couples 'come together again' strongly implies that children are to be expected. The analogia fide demands this, for example, children are a blessing, a heritage, and a reward, therefore relations spoken of in the NT comes with the implication that children will be born from that union. There is good inference in scripture that children are to be expected. Why does the scripture teach that we should baptize our children except that God *expects* His people to have a seed for Him to bless with regeneration? (not infallibly of course, but by His good timing and pleasure, God has promised Himself a people from the seed of His people, saying to Abraham that from "His seed" all the nations of the earth shall be blessed?) Note, this is also applicable to Baptists as well, who although deny infants baptism, yet still believe that God will have a people for Himself primary from the seed (children) of His people.

    Such instances though are very rare instances, like prayer and fasting. For example, God has provided me with food which is a blessing, yet, I would only abstain from it under circumstances of great need. How can this principle teach us that I should therefore prevent my having children on a continual basis? Something that God has commanded and ordained to be one of the very purposes of marriage? Truly, if people don't want to have children, they shouldn't get married, being it subverts one of God's appointed ends for marriage.

    I find it quite convenient that the conclusions of 'scholarship' in this area just so happen to fit the ends of the conclusions of the world in this area, i.e. a desire to have no children or very few, in order for men and women to enjoy their lives apart from such parental responsibilities. (doesn't this seem selfish?)

    Christians are so few in this world, how sad it is to see those who profess a degree of reformed christianity / puritanism, yet who seek to limit the propagation of the doctrines they profess to love by limiting the souls they could thereby inculcate these nearly forgotten teachings to. Truly what is the benefit? There is such a wonderful potential in children, brothers and sisters are they not a blessing?

    Finances are a terrible excuse to limit the number of children one may have. You can do a lot with a little by shopping at thrift stores, second hand books, bulk food and a garden. So, I'd say, even if you find the biblical evidence unconvincing, (though I find it quite overwhelming) there is still a large practical benefit for the kingdom of God as a whole in having a large family and raising them up to influence the hearts and minds of the next generation.

    My thoughts, I do not desire to offend, though I state this matter strongly.
  8. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    As I said, Mark Driscoll and John Noonan have both refuted this. It is just simply false. Noonan cites examples from the early church as well as the Talmud to show that contraception was used by Jews and Christians long before 1930. While it is true that Catholic and Non-Catholic Christians eventually came to believe that the use of birth control is sinful, even into the age of the Puritans, both Driscoll and Noonan demonstrate that this position developed over time.

    Also, I would ask what the point is of asking how many people who are pro contraception have children. I would point out that both Mark Driscoll and John Piper have children, and they have been very critical of your position. In fact, in the video posted earlier in the thread, Mark Driscoll said that he has five children, and he and his wife had one miscarriage. And yet, I agree with what he had to say on this issue [with the exception of his exegesis of Genesis 1:28]. This shows that the scriptures don't suddenly change in their meaning once you have children. The meaning of scripture is constant.


    Actually, Deuteronomy 14:1 has been traditionally seen as a prohibition of cutting oneself because of its association with paganism.

    I agree that we can talk about how the law is applied, but we must apply the law as the scriptures apply the law. For example, "Be fruitful and multiply" is not a command to individuals humans; it is a command to the human race. I provided and exegesis of this text earlier in the thread.

    Again, however, we must understand the *Biblical* conception of a blessing.

    Again, speaking to a group, not individuals.

    I like what Mark Driscoll said. Are we really suggesting that God is up in heaven saying, "I wanted to give that couple a baby, but that latex makes me totally impotent to do my will!" Also, how many children have been born even while the parents used birth control? If God wants to give someone a baby, he can do it, and no birth control will stop him.

    God uses means to accomplish his ends. He can ordain that someone use birth control in order to shut the womb, just has he ordains that someone preach the gospel so that the elect are saved.

    I don't think he was talking about relations in marriage. I think he was referring to the fact that marriage is a blessing, and yet, Paul specifically says that it is good, in view of the present distress, that people not marry.

    Again, the command is given to a group [the covenant community] and not to everyone in the group. I would put it this way. Just as every church must have elders and deacons, every church must also have people who are about the task of having and raising covenant children. The command to the church to have elders does not mean that everyone in the church is commanded to be an elder. Likewise, the command to the church to produce children does not mean that everyone in the church is commanded to produce children.

    Actually, there are many reasons you might abstain from food. Let us say you have just ate a large thanksgiving dinner, and you are stuffed to the brim. Now, the left over spagetti in the fridge is a blessing. However, would you say that you *must* eat the spagetti in that instance because it is a blessing? In fact, this gets to the principle I have quoted over and over again from the book of Proverbs:

    What we are arguing is that, in all of these principles that have been raised, the issue is moderation, and that the Biblical conception of a blessing includes moderation.

    This is a non-sequitor. How about, "I desire to have no children or few because I believe God is calling me to serve him in some way other than having children." Again, I would recommend that everyone agreeing with this listen to Mark Driscoll's sermon on this topic. He points out that there can be things that are morally neutral, and be used for good or evil. The example he uses is high definition video equipment. Pastors like John Piper, John MacArthur, etc. can use it to bring the gospel, while the p0rnography industry can use it for p0rnography. It is the same thing with contraception. You can use contraception for selfish reasons, or in service to God.

    Who said we have to limit it? Are you saying that I cannot help with the raising and training of children in my own covenant community? Are you saying that I cannot teach them to other people around me who are not children? I would tell the whole world about God's truth if I could. That is hardly a limitation!!!!!!

    The benifit of all of this is to serve Christ in the way he has called us, and not to bind to the contience of God's people things that are not found in his word. As the scriptures teach, God calls people to serve him in different ways. People who serve God by having and raising covenant children need to be working together with those who serve him in other ways, not trying to bind their calling to the contience of others. We are a body, and we need to work together.

    I don't agree. Eventually there is a limit, even if you shop at the places you mention. Again, the issue is moderation. You can vomit things up financially, friendship-wise, as well as digestively [Proverbs 25:16-17].

    I can agree with this statement. You are correct that having a large family is a very good, and very rewarding way to serve God. I would even go so far as to say that people serving God in this way are greatly needed today, but not as something required.

    God Bless,
  9. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    I said I was curious, and not making any judgment calls. Is that a problem?

    Adam, you keep returning to the honey. It is an incongruent argument. As I said, I can take the honey in violation of God's law and eat until I vomit (not unlike the stockpiling of manna as previously mentioned). But as I likewise said, I cannot sinfully "overindulge" in children. It is not a simple semen/egg confluence that sparks life, it is God (or at least that is what I believe, perhaps you don't agree). Please tell me, do you or do you not believe that God opens and closes the womb even today, in each woman, around the world, every day? Let's just clarify things a minute. If you do not, then we will continue to spin endlessly down this pathway of bizarre hermeneutics.
  10. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    Psa 29:9 The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve...

    Isa 66:9 Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God...

    Adam, obviously no, I have no intentions on saying anyone cannot teach another person's children. But we have to realistic here, no one will deny that "the father" is commanded to raise and teach his children, not friends in the covenant community. If you have children, or ever do, you will be of a greater influence in their life than any other male teacher. 100x over. The father has such a fantastic opportunity to train and influence, it's an amazing responsibility and privilage.

    Glad we can agree on this last point. It's encouraging to hear. It's not my intent to offend.

    Lastly, I'd agree with Kevin, ultimately we believe that God is sovereign over the womb and therefore we should not feel the need to seek to limit the order that He has placed among us. If I say contraceptives are lawful, am I not implying God is not sovereign over this? (reference verses above) For myself, I find this implication unavoidable.
  11. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am not a parent either, and I like taking care of children. I do see them as a blessing from God. My main problem with the debate here is that the strict anti-contraception argument does not deal with the required wisdom of child provision. We are talking about human beings here that need to be cared for. Control of conception is not to necessarily take God out of the picture, but can be an exercise of wisdom to not go beyond one’s means. We live in a world of limited resources and time. It is not a lack of faith to limit one family on the precious care of raising a child; which you have to feed, change their diapers, and educate. It is keeping in mind the means that God has ordained for men to take care of his family. We as men have to work and in some cases so do the wives so that the rent, utilities, car bills, student loans, and other bills are paid. If you already have four children and such bills which are common today, will the church help you financially with the fifth child? They are a blessing, but realistically no. So what if the man forced to work 2 and a half jobs and still needs money. What kind of image of the church do we show when their on welfare. This is more then just a hypothetical situation; there are people in our churches that are having enough of a struggle caring for the needs of their children and need help. I saw it High School and as Middle/High School teacher in low income areas, where the family population was bigger the what the man could provide for. It is a realistic and practical problem and I like to see you use the sovereignty argument over the advice of wisdom. “You might as well do whatever you want because its all in the sovereignty of God.” And of course you wouldn’t say that, Sovereignty never gives you a license to act against wisdom.

    Also we should be careful with the be fruitful and multiply argument, whereby we try to drive or force single people to marriage. And binding on their conscience to reproduce. The be fruitful and multiply is not directed towards every individual, because it is not a sin for people to not get married. In the case of married couples, God does not always bless people with children. Are we to say that couples are under sin if they are not multiplying by the grace of God, if they are not blessed with children. We need to be careful with this argument, because of its sore affect to even those that are trying to have a family, but have not yet. I think Adam view of this argument is correct. And if people in the church are so concerned about being fruitful and multiple they need to learn how to proclaim the gospel, which I would say is more important then the focus of future children that will be born in Adam and thus have that original sin. And if the church is truly that concerned about the next generation then they need to start teaching these current generations. And do not tell me we are as a whole when the majority of upcoming pastors entering into seminary cannot pass a basic bible exam. A large portion of our children cannot even quote the Lord’s prayer or the Decalogue.

    If we bind something to a family’s conscience then we should be obligated to assist in any manner to that family, whereby care of that family does not fall into sin; for if such happens then we as the church have sinned; including the pastor that should be undershepherding the folk of God.

    We may be in one of the most prosperous nations in the world, but that does not mean that everyone in this nation is prosperous. You will find it common to see low-income families with large families, many of them on welfare. Now granting in many cases there are various sins at play at times. It is not wise for such families to continue to grow if the wellbeing of their current children is not being taken care of. In fact, if they are not then they are taken away by CPS and the parents can be thrown in jail; which is not a good testimony of Christ by the fact the child not cared for or by going to jail. So in these type cases contraception could be wisely used. Here is a case where our theology matters in the lives of individual people, where the rubber hits the road.

    In the case where a couple can care for a family of three or four children, that is financially stable and the couple is mature then there may be sin at work for not having a family. But I will not place such a judgment on them because in my option scripture is not clear on banning contraception.

    I would say that we as a church should help with the raising and training. I know in some infant baptisms I have seen that the church gives in oath of promise to assist the parents in the training of the child. Now realistically that oath is not carried through in my opinion as evident with children’s’ lack of knowledge.

    You can overindulge with having children if you cannot provide for them. And if you are willfully have more children then you can provide for that should be a case for church discipline.

    You cannot teach or train children if they have been taken away from you because you cannot provide for their physical needs.

    Because of the limits of the world, wisdom must be exercised. And I think Adam honey argument is spot on.
  12. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    OK, then you do not believe that God opens and closes the womb. That's fine. I just want to know where everyone stands. If you do not believe in that way, we will continue to talk past each other and that is not at all profitable, but I do urge you to change your stance.

    Also, if I were you I would moderate the tone of giving brothers over to church discipline because they are following scripture. If they are otherwise irresponsible, and thus unable to provide for their young, that's one thing (and in reality has little to do with the number of children and everything to do with simple irresponsible behaviour.) But if they are good stewards of what financial resources they have, then they deserve no censure, but aid from their brethren.

    Agreed, and Scripture makes that very clear - there are no arguments to the contrary with respect to marriage.

    NO! That is ridiculous. This is not an argument, it is mere rabble rousing. Please discontinue this line of discussion, it is a hurtful thing.

    And we are. The father of a large family knows better than most what a weighty matter is before him. As for poorly trained children, if you can show me that the majority of those pastors who cannot pass a bible exam came from large families and the majority of those children who are ignorant of the Ten Commandments came from large families, then continue in your argument. Otherwise, it is just so much noise and bluster.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  13. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    That is silly, because I do. You can see that in my first posting on this issue.

    I do not think we are talking past each other. There a clear disagreement present. I recognize that God is sovereign over the womb and at the same time see the biological mechanical process of conceiving a child. God is sovereign over everything, but he has means to his ends. We must recognize those means and need be practice wisdom. We are not hypercalvinists here. Would we not practice wisdom when giving the gospel to a broken man compared to prideful man? I hope you would.

    I will not change my stance because it is not clear in scripture and I have seen the affects children being raised and taken away from parents because they could not be provided for by the parents.

    I would say the begetting of children you cannot provide for is irresponsible. You are not using the resources God has entrusted to you wisely. It is not being a good steward to raise up a family you cannot provide for. And in regards to church help, they should be given for the sake of the children. The problem is most of our churches are limited in resources as well. There should be a real concern if a parent purposely begotten a series of children that they could not provide for. Wisdom dictates something should be done.

    It is fantastic that you actually teach your children, but not all fathers do; regardless if it is a small family or a large family.

    My point about incoming seminary students was not an issue regarding those coming from large families, but the reality that as a whole of children growing up in the church, they are not passing basic bible exams. I am not distinguishing from large or small families. The fact our children are not being taught should be a real concern regardless of the size of the family and the reality is that it is not being done as a whole. So please do not see it as noise and bluster. And this line of thought going against the main line and point of the tread so let us try to stay on subject then responding to my rants. I confess am big on Christian education and discipleship and what I see as a lack there of is a pet peeve of mine. The reason why I said what I said is our concern for the future generation and that it is that spiritual knowledge that is our legacy ultimately and how the kingdom of God multiplies in faith. Those who are born of flesh are flesh.

    I wonder if Earl knew it was going to be that controversial of a thread.
  14. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    First I would ask if the christian who is in such financial straits is managing his budget well before this excuse should even be considered. For example, does this christian have extravagant cell phone bills, cable TV, the newest car(s), expensive hobbies/habits, the latest brand name clothes and/or a larger house than what they need. If none of the above, then that sure is a excellent example of what you're trying to prove, but in my whole life I've never heard of such a thing, nor do I believe it even exists. If such a case did exist, I believe that would constitute a great cause to destroy the faith of other believers who trust in such a generous, merciful and good God as the LORD who would never let one of His own go hungry, nor cause them to be forced to give up their children to the state! Take David's experience for example:

    Psa 37:25
    (25) I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

    Please provide me with an example of a biblical, faithful man who was failed by the Lord.

    Yes, I agree, prayer, fasting, selling of unneeded things, possibly relocating or rearranging family circumstances and the budget can go a long way. Perhaps I should shop at thrift stores, stop buying junk food and eating out. Family responsibility should come before other pleasures, luxuries, and comforts of life. I must agree with Kevin, the fault lies on parental irresponsibility, not on God's ordained provision for a person.

    Yes, God is sovereign but that does not give us the right to use means He has not appointed such as contraception. In my mind and the majority of christians throughout history this view of contraception has been inconsistent with biblical teaching. I find it strange how people argue the popular opinion (Driscoll, Piper, Macarthur) today as if finally we've come to a level of understanding above that or our ancestors. Well, I agree with Calvin, Luther, and the Puritans. ;-)

    Also, consider, can not God bless me with a better job as well? Truly, is prayer and fasting just out of the picture in regard to something as weighty as a child? The Lord tests our faith in many ways, children are a wonderful means towards this end.

    Psa 34:10
    (10) The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I would say that it should be left to godly wisdom. Scripture does not go as far as to say it is always wrong, maybe because it isn't always wrong. Even you, yourself have indicated that, in cases of "mercy" you would approve of its use.

    If you hold that contraception is allowed in cases of mercy, then you believe that contraception is not wrong in itself, and therefore is something that can be used with discretion. We may agree that at present it often isn't being used with discretion, and therefore there are more mico-families.

    We are arguing about the principle of its use at all. I would say that it is adding a legalistic fence to say that Scripture teaches that in principle it is always sinful to use contraception.

    The Reformers didn't get everything right, coming from the background they did. See e.g. Dabney on Calvin's view of the Sabbath.
  16. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Josh, I've hit thanks 47 times but it only gives you one. Sorry. :up:
  17. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    As Grimmson has already pointed out, you certainly can "overindulge" in children by having so many that you cannot afford them, or if it affects your wife's health, or prevents you from doing a particular ministry that God has called you to, or in instances of recovery from rape, etc.

    Also, if you think it only refers to honey, then why is the next verse parallel?:

    Proverbs 25:16: dәbaš māșāʼtā ʼᵉkōl dayyekā pen-tiśbāʻennû wahᵃqe’tô

    Proverbs 25:17 hōqar ragkā mibbȇt rēʻekā pen-yiśbāʻekā ûśәnē’ekā

    Why do you have this pen-śab construction in both sentences? Also, why is the -ekā ending on dayyekā then repeated in almost every word in verse 17 [ragkā, pen-yiśbāʻekā, ûśәnē’ekā]? The point is that there are real structural and phonological connections between verse 16 and verse 17. However, verse 17 reads:

    Proverbs 25:17 Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor's house, Or he will become weary of you and hate you.

    Notice how the principle of the honey is now taken and applied to friendship. As I mentioned, it gets worse as we continue to the end of the chapter where this shows up again:

    Proverbs 25:27 It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one's own glory.

    Proverbs 25:28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.

    HALOT, the standard Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon for the Hebrew Bible gives the gloss "impediment, "limitation" under which is the word "control." It is self-control in the sense of being able to set limits for yourself, and not just take as much as will come. Hence, far from having arrows like a warrior when you have no limits on children, you are like a city broken in without walls! You have to keep things in balance.

    I would say that God's granting of blessings [in the case of children, the opening and closing of the womb] is the case for everything we have. Look at the very passage you like to use to prove that children are a blessing:

    Notice how the same granting that is found in the following verse "children are an inheritance from the Lord" is also found in the verses that immediately precede it. Yet this says that any blessing that we have, the building of a house, the guarding of a city, and even the very sleep we get each night is something the Lord must grant in the same sense as God opening and closing the womb.

    In other words, the womb is not unique in this regard. In fact, it is something that is common to all blessings. It would be irrational to say that, since the Lord gives and witholds sleep, I therefore cannot prevent sleep in order to get my homework done, because it is *God* who grants and witholds sleep, and if I prevented sleep to get my homework done, I would be taking over something over which God is sovereign. If you try to make a distinction here, you are caught with the fact that the granting of sleep and the granting of children in the womb are spoken of in exactly the same context in Psalm 127. If Psalm 127 uses them in the same way, it is arbitrary to break them up.

    Of course, it is not just children and sleep, there is a whole list there: the building of a house, the guarding of a city, as well as the granting of sleep. God must grant the opening of the womb, all the things mentioned here, and, by implication from the Psalm itself, any blessing we receive [including honey and friendship]. So, yes, God opens and closes the womb, and grants every single blessing that we have in exactly the same sense.

    The key here is the use of means. God grants sleep, opens and closes the womb, etc. by using means. In the case of sleep, it is the act of laying down in bed, and relaxing. In the case of the womb, it could be any number of things [as there are also natural factors to fertility], but I would say that God uses contraception as a means to close the womb in the same way that he used the preaching of the gospel to bring me to salvation.

    The reason why God opens and closes the womb even when we use contraception is that God has a choice. He can either use the contraception to close the womb, or choose to keep the womb open. You can use contraception, and still have many children because God has ordained that the contraception does not work on you. That, however, remains God's decision. We can only do our best to be obedient to his commands to moderation, and trust him that he knows what he is doing when he gives us what he gives us.

    God Bless,
  18. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I have a simple question that may have a simple answer.

    If one believes God opens and closes the womb why practice birth control?
  19. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I addressed this in my last post. The simple answer is because one can also believe, as the Bible teaches, that God uses means to accomplish his goals. Thus, God uses contraception as a means to close the womb.

    We are not fatalists here. We don't believe that God ordains ends [the womb being closed or open] without also ordaining the means.

    God Bless,


    I just there is another thing that runs against this "God opens and closes the womb" argument. We have found that there are natural causes to a woman being infertile. It is a documented medical fact that certain natural things in the world around us can cause infertility. According to this logic, that must refute the idea that God opens and closes the womb, since it is not God but things in nature that cause infertility!

    The easy way out of this problem is to say that God uses means to open and close the womb. Thus, both can be true. However, if you do that, you have to acknowledge that contraception can also be a means that God can use to open and close the womb.
  20. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    You're mixing up God's sovereignty i.e. his decretive will with His preceptive will.

    God sovereignly providing children is part of His decretive will, which cannot be thwarted by contraception or anything else that happens. All that happens including whether you or I have children or not, is in God's sovereign will.

    The questions of whether or not to have relations with someone, or who with, or getting married or not, or whether contraception is ever permissable, which all can lead to God sovereignly providing babies or not, are all questions of biblical ethics, God's preceptive will.

    If God sovereignly wants you to have a particular child you cannot thwart His will. You will be anti-contraception, you will not use it, or it will fail. You will marry a particular woman at a particular time and have that sovereignly ordained child. If God doesn't want a particular child to be born He can stop that too.

    Because God sovereignly ordains good and evil, doesn't teach us that we should do evil. Because God sovereignly opens and closes the womb, doesn't teach us whether we should get married or not, when we should get married, who we should get married to, and how often a couple should have relations.

    God's decretive will doesn't tell us how He wants us to behave, but His preceptive will i.e. His commands and teachings in Scripture.
  21. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Thanx. Now I agree God uses means to accomplish His will. But I do assume you do understand God also uses secondary sinful causes to cause things that do or don't come to pass. Which of course you do, so I will let 1 Peter 4:8 rule here.

    ---------- Post added at 07:43 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:37 PM ----------

    I assume we differ on what "Be fruitful and multiply" means to us today means. Also I have been reading on what Calvin has said concerning the Onan passage along with Augustine and Luther and you are not in the same company on that issue or in their opinion of birth control.
  22. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    Yes, I agree that God can use sinful means to accomplish his purposes. That is why I think we need to go back to scripture to discuss whether or not it is sinful to use contraception.

    Also, I think that both sides would do well to understand 1 Peter 4:8. The other side believes we are wrong by saying we can use contraception, and we believe the other side is wrong because we believe they are adding commands to scripture. Whoever is right, we should remember that we are all part of the body of Christ, and we are to love each other, no matter which side of this issue we come down on.

    God Bless,
  23. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Good points because we are discussing if this is an area of conscience or definite sin. Peter describes if it is sin to be fore bearing and Romans speaks of matters of conscience. We all would do well to maybe side on the side of the early church fathers and reformers on what they understood from scripture, knowing that they had a much less "chance" of being persuaded by our materialistic culture of today. What I find interesting is that people who generally have large families think "why would you want to limit" and people who generally have small ones think "are you crazy to have so many kids". The caveate is that the ones who have large families are more blessed than the smaller ones though exceptions can be seen now and then.
  24. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I would say that this is a double edged sword. The reformers were coming out of their culture as well. In fact, a book that I have cited [and I am going to need to get my own copy so I don't have to keep borrowing it from the library] is John Noonan's work on contraception. He says that the late middle ages/early reformational teaching on contraception was largely driven by Stocicism. This is the tradition that the reformers inherited.

    That is why I would say that it is much better to study the culture of the time period out of which the Bible came, and also study linguistics to understand how language works. You then compare what the scripture says against is own background and culture, and let it build its own worldview. Yes, we can look at the writings of the reformers to get ideas, but I think that, since the standard is scripture, we should be seeking what it says first.

    There are some things in this I can agree with and some with which I would differ. It is certainly true that people do not understand that having a large family is a good and legitimate way of serving God, and does bring about great rewards. Yes, people are surprised to learn that [unfortunately].

    However, I think that there is a balance. We have to follow God's calling, and whether that is to a small family, a large family, or service without children, we must be seeking to serve God in all things. We should not be doing things for selfish reasons, but to serve God in all that we do. Then, we will have the blessing of God and just as great a reward because we are being obedient to his calling.

    God Bless,
  25. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    Abstinence would be the best form of contraception (mercy) in the case of the wife being sick, or somehow unable to perform conjugal duties. Breastfeeding a child also inhibits pregnancy, and can be performed for a few years if desired for the benefit of the new child. (mercy) (both methods are not contraception in the normal sense, and I don't think it's right to have the attitude of "I don't want a child")

    All other forms of contraception are sinful and should not be used. Even in such cases as an extended illness, or the wife having cancer. If pregnancy is truly so undesirable in such a case, then it would be better to abstain completely anyway for safety's sake. (Birth control isn't 100% effective)

    Suppose I came into your house and took your newborn child, the child weighs seven pounds, so, in the child's place I leave seven pounds of honey. Both are blessings, so, therefore I have not robbed you, rather I have only traded you one legitimate blessing for another legitimate blessing. Now, of course this case is ridiculous, any good parent would never trade their child for an equal weight of honey. Yet that is the logical fallacy in your argument. Children are priceless, and God has made known that He desires a physical godly seed among His people:

    Mal 2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

    The idea that we can view children as a blessing like honey, or food, or sleep, and therefore have the liberty to dispense with them as we wish through contraception, under the guise of 'stewardship' is a complete and total fallacy in logic and discernment of what the bible teaches. I am a steward over my money, and health, but I do not have the power to give or take life, that comes only from God. For me to take that liberty upon myself is presumption against God in the highest degree. It's as if I am seeking to play God's part in the role of function He has created for the woman. Truly, it is a wicked thing to do so.

    Consider what we would do if our Lord Jesus Christ thought the same as those who felt contraception was legitimate. Instead of "Behold I and the children which God hath given me" we would have, "Behold I and some of the children which God hath given me, because I removed the rest because I didn't want them."
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2010
  26. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    Kauffeld, this is not a good example at all. Even if someone took my house, and left seven pounds of honey, I am going to be upset. The commandment "Thou shall not steal" or the commandments against kidnapping are not negated when someone leaves something else that is a blessing in its place. The issue in that case would be private property [in my illustration] and kidnapping, and not the idea of something as a blessing. Private property and kidnapping are not negated when other blessings are presented in their place.

    No, it is ignoring what the Bible teaches about about the commandment to raise your children in the training and admonition of the Lord [not give them away for something else]. You act as though, once you establish that God grants to us all blessings, that, somehow, that then negates all of the rest of God's commands such as the commands against kidnapping and raising the child that God has given you. It doesn't. My point was that one cannot say that the necessity of God granting is a unique property of the blessing of children. As Psalm 127 says, it is the property of all blessings.

    Also, you neglected that I was exegeting Psalm 127. It is Psalm 127 that says that God must grant any blessing we have including sleep and honey in the same context as the granting of children [the opening and closing of the womb]. Thus, if you say you cannot prevent the conception of children because God must grant them, then the argument proves too much, in that it proves that you cannot stop the aquisition of any blessing, since God must grant all blessings.

    Children are priceless, but that has nothing to do with moderation. Friendship is also priceless [Proverbs 25:17], and yet, we are called to moderation in our friendships as well.

    Also, I have often said that Malachi 2:15 should not be used to prove anything other than that there is a Malachi 2:15. The text is notoriously obscure. Since we are talking about the reformers so much, John Calvin summarizes my position on this well:

    In fact, Calvin's conclusions are quite different from your own:

    Calvin argues that this passage is a prohibition of polygamy. That is quite different from what you said. The exegetical issues that are found in this text are manifold. While we can come to some conclusions, it is, by far, not certain.

    Here is the text:

    wәlōʾ-ʾechād ʻāśȃ ûšәʾār rûach lô ûmȃ hāʾechādbaqqēš zeraʻ ʾᵉlōhîm wәnišmartem bәrûchᵃkem ûbәʾēšet nәʻûreykā ʾal-yibd

    The ambiguity begins with the first phrase. The question is whether the lōʾ negates the noun ʾechād or the verb ʻāśȃ. Should the text read "not one" or "...has not done?" Also, is the noun ʾechād the subject or the object. Should it read "not one has done so," "did he [the Lord?] not make one?," or "did the one [God?] not make [them]?" All of these translations are possible.

    Second, how does the waw conjunction in the phrase ûšәʾār rûach lô relate to the previous clause? The waw conjunction usally means "and," but it can also mean "or, but, that is, etc." One could take it as a simple conjunction "and there was a remenant of spirit to him [the Lord?, the one?, nobody?]. It could also be taken, as is tradition, as an epexegetical [that is] clause: "that is, who had a remainant of spirit to him." However, what is it further explaining? It depends upon how you take the first clause. Also, what is the šәʾār rûach? How does the theology of the šәʾār [remainant] relate to this text, expecially in the context of a judgment oracle? This is, imparticular, why many Jewish commentators will read Abraham here as the one who is being talked about.

    The next phrase, ûmȃ hāʾechādbaqqēš zeraʻ ʾᵉlōhîm, only gives is more grief. The first, less likely possibility is that, the hāʾechād [one] is the second half of the question "and why one?" The reason is because mȃ does not typically mean "why?" but "what?" However, if you take one as the subject of the first clause "did he not make one" one could argue contextually that this is correct. Again, you have to deal with the ambiguities of the first clause, though. The other option is to take this clause as having a gapped ʻāśȃ from the previous clause "and what was that one doing while seeking Godly seed." The other option is to see this all as one sentence with the participle mәbaqqēš as the verb "and what was the one [God?] seeking?" However, even this "was" is tenative, since the participle could have any time significance attached to it "what is the one God seeking" or "what was the one God seeking?"

    Then, of course, we have the difficulty of interpreting the phrase zeraʻ ʾᵉlōhîm. While it is true that the term zeraʻ can refer to infants, we are dealing in the context of a judgment oracle [vrs.1-14], the breaking of a covenant [v.14], the idea of a remainant [v.15] and dealing treacherously with your wife through the breaking of the covenant [vrs. 14-15]. This would suggest that the "God seed" would not refer to the having of babies, but, rather, to the fact that they are called to be the Godly seed, and not to treat their wives treachoriously. In other words, a paraphrase would be something like, "God seeks a Godly seed, not a seed that deals treacherously with the wife of their youth." This fits the context of the whole passage better, and the context of verse 14 better.

    Either way, because of the ambiguities in this text, it should not be used to prove anything. In fact, major English translations are all over the map:

    NASB "But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth.

    NIV Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

    KJV And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

    NKJV But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

    ESV Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

    Again, it always amazed me that people cited this text to prove anything other than that it exists. The reformers, the Jews, and even all modern day interpretations cannot seem to agree with one another. There have been some commentators [and I don't think this is correct] who have argued that the text as we have it is so badly corrupted that we need conjectual emmendation!

    I would argue that in this statement there are some built in assumptions with which I cannot agree. First of all, contraception does not "dispense" with anything. Before conception, children do not exist! How can you "dispense" with something that doesn't exist? This is why many people have pointed out that, for quiverfull people to continue to use this argument, they will eventually have to believe in the Mormon concept of preexistence of the human soul. If children do not exist, then there is nothing to dispense of.

    And, when you use contraception, you are neither giving nor taking life because life does not yet exist. Not only that, there is nothing in the text of scripture that says that the role of every woman is to bear children. To add these commands to the word of God is equally as wicked as anything you could have ever imagined us doing in this discussion. God's word is sufficient as it is. It does not need the addition of these extra commands.

    Of course, such reasoning is fallacious because, again, the children don't exist before conception. Given this logic, God must have to create an infinite number of children because he cannot say that he doesn't want children. Thus, God will continue to create children for all of eternity. Such is simply irrational.

    Again, you are neglecting the force of what we are saying. We are dealing with the word of God here. Anyone who adds commandments to the word of God, as if the word of God were not sufficient in and of itself, is greatly insulting his word. The pharasees would likewise add their traditions to the text of scripture, because they thought that God's word was insufficient. If you want to read Jesus' stern rebuke of them, then read Matthew 15. We cannot go about adding these traditions of men to the text of scripture. When we do, we put our words into God's mouth, and we gag the mouth of God.

    Again, I think you will agree, we do have to say all of this in the spirit of 1 Peter 4:8 knowing that, whoever is right, God is a merciful God, and we are to love one another, even when we disagree.

    God Bless,
  27. MamaArcher

    MamaArcher Puritan Board Freshman

    I just want to throw something in here.

    It is mentioned several times that if you cannot afford children then you should not have that many. In our case we have seen the Lord provide abundantly for us AFTER we stopped trying to control how many children we would have. When we had 3,4,5...we would have fallen into that category of being in dire financial straights and we did do something surgical to end our childbearing. We continued to struggle. When we were convicted to have the reversal surgery people (mostly Christian) thought we were insane. The Lord has provided for us abundantly!! More than we could have ever asked or imagined! I believe it was due to our obedience.

    Also, a lot of the financial difficulty isn't always because of the number of children it is often because people were not living financially the way they should be. Example: instant gratification, debt, wants verses needs, etc. I know this one from experience.

    As far as unruly children...we do have a responsibility to teach and to train our children. Just because one does not follow through on those responsibilities does not necessarily mean they have too many children it means that they are living in disobedience to teach and to train their children.

    Just my 2 cents -- the reasons given in several instances in this discussion are not necessarily from having too many children and using wisdom concerning that but in using wisdom in other areas of life.
  28. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say it was because of your "obedience." It can be a matter of contience. If you are doing something against your contience, whether the Bible actually teaches it or not, then it is wrong, simply because it shows a heart that is not willing to believe God wherever he leads. However, none of this means that the prohibition is actually taught in scripture.

    Also, I have heard many stories of criminals who have had children, and God has provided and protected that child from the criminal until he was caught. In other words, it could be that God, in his grace, was providing in order to protect the children from the errors of the parents.

    Also, there are many other people who are abundantly rich, and have a small number of children. Why is it they are experiencing the blessing of God, and you were not? Could they not say that it is because of their obedience in exercising moderation? Also, there are some quiverfull families that are dirt poor. Are they experiencing God's curse, just as you were when you limited the amount of children you had?

    This is why personal stories have little weight, because they have to be interpreted. That is why, I would argue, that we need to go back to the text of scripture to really see what is going on here.

    I can agree with that. Still, I would argue, there is an amount where you "have enough of it, and vomit it up [financially]" [Proverbs 25:16].

    God Bless,
  29. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Wealth is as much a responsibility as a blessing - not unlike children in some ways! A large family will make you realize just where your earthly wealth lies. There is no curse in material poverty; some of the most devout in the faith are some of the poorest in the world (and yet they are happy!) Are they then being punished by God? No, they are blessed beyond measure because they see where their true wealth lies.
  30. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I agree, which is why I don't think you can use the financial success or failure of a family as an indication of whether they are being obedient to God. We must go back to the text of scripture.

    God Bless,
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