Contraception and the Bible

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

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  1. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    Adam, my point is, that honey, sleep or friendship cannot be used in the place of children (or the 'hoped for offspring'), they are not similar types of blessings. Your argument re-interprets children (the hoped for offspring) as if they were somehow similar to elements of the worldly creation, which they are not, they are separate in that we are God's special creation made in His image.

    That's not true Adam, you equate the 'hoped for offspring' to be on the same level as what one chooses to do with local farm animals, or property, or such things as sleep, honey, friendship etc. etc... I have no qualms about raising children in the training of the Lord, but the point is your re-interpretation of what children are, or the 'hoped for offspring' is.

    The philosophy you take on this point is simply not scriptural. Take a natural argument for example, say everyone used birth control, the world population would eventually die off. Ultimately the philosophy behind the use of contraception is that of death, not of life. This element of contraception is not in accordance with anything in scripture, it is simply a foreign element to the bible and should not be used. It is contrary to the general themes of scripture.

    This is where we differ Adam, you re-interpret children to be part of the lower creation. My argument does not prove too much, you're just misunderstanding PS127. The exegesis that would state sleep and honey, the keeping of a city, and children are all the same type of sovereign blessings from God without distinction is incorrect. The first two verses are obviously an emphasis on God's sovereign power and influence over all of life and man's need for His favor, but verse three distinguishes a break in the context referring to children as a heritage, and reward, for those who trust and believe in this mighty and powerful God in verses 1 and 2. Your exegesis ignores this change and blankets the whole distinction made.

    Psa 127:1 A Song of degrees for Solomon. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
    Psa 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
    Psa 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

    Ultimately, the re-interpretation you perform upon man's dominion of the creation of man, i.e. via birth control, you are attributing to man a aspect of God's dominion alone. That's where I disagree with you. I don't think God has given man the right to determine whether or not they have children. Secondary causes doesn't fit the bill, it's a overthrowing of the order God has placed in the world by creation. Who is man to overthrow it? Children are not 'blessings' in the sense of honey, or anything else. Consider do you 'cause' children to be born? Then what gives you the right to 'cause' them NOT to be born? (Not infallibly, though in a plain and practical sense this is true - I do not agree with secondary causes in this instance)

    Regarding Malachi 2:15, I will not say the scripture is 'too obscure for it to be understandable' and Calvin didn't say that either, he said 'some obscurity' referencing the difficulty of the text - further, every translation I read of that verse still speaks of the seeking of a godly offspring, whether attributed to God or man, it still goes back to God and is obviously pleasing to Him, implying our required obedience regardless. Just because Calvin references the fact that the verse is speaking of the iniquity of the priests by running into polygamy doesn't mean that God doesn't desire a godly offspring, or that man shouldn't desire a godly offspring. The implication is clearly there either way. The priests were robbing God of that godly offspring.

    Contraception often 'dispenses' with the 'hoped for offspring.' The accusation of the 'preexistence of the human soul' is not helpful to this discussion. We are dealing with what are the areas of man's responsibility under God, not ontological concepts which will only muddy the waters for everyone. Contraception in a very plain sense, 'dispenses' with the 'hoped for offspring.' I use the more exact term to keep from being misunderstood. My apologies.

    I don't know about these quiverfull people, but I do know that if christians follow your argument, they will all have smaller families and less children to be raised in the 'training and admonition' of the Lord. Which to me, is a sadder and more practical result. I hope that all who read our back and forth arguments, though they may disagree with the anti-contraception position, would still seek to have a large family and raise them according to God's Word. I also want to say it is not my intent to offend you Adam or anyone else. I certainly acknowledge you as my brother in Christ though we differ on this issue.

    ---------- Post added at 01:39 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:14 PM ----------

    Consider that God made Adam the 'keeper of the garden' not the keeper of the fruit of Eve's womb in the sense of determining whether to allow or withhold her from having children. i.e. contraception.
  2. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    I would say that there is similarity, and yet, there is also distinction. However, if you want to use that as part of your argument, you would have to show me where the Bible ever links the unique aspect of children to the idea that they are an exception to the call to moderation in Proverbs 25?

    On the same level in what sense? In the sense of them being blessings that God must grant, yes. Psalm 127 clearly teaches that. However, that has nothing to do with the idea that children are created in the image of God [friends are also created in the image of God, though]. However, if you want to use that distinction, you have to show where in the Bible the uniqueness of children is ever the basis of an overthrowing of the call to moderation in Proverbs 25.

    Which, of course, is a strawman. What you are saying would only be true if *everyone* used birth control. However, as I have already stated, that is not what I believe. My position is somewhere between these two extremes. I believe that, just as every covenant community is commanded to have elders and deacons, every covenant community must have people who are about this ministry of having and raising covenant children.

    This is another reason why I said that I believe your position is imbalanced. It is either "everyone uses contraception" or "no one uses contraception." As I said, I would say that the truth is somewhere inbetween. I would say that it is all going to depend upon your calling, that is, whether God has called you to this particular ministry. Yes, if no one serves God as an elder or a deacon, then church government will die. However, if there is a shortage of elders and deacons in the church, we do not go around adding a command to scripture for people to be elders and deacons by saying that not being an elder or a deacon is distructive to church government! We point out that there is a need in this area, and we ask for people to volunteer to serve in this area.

    Again, this is a strawman. Saying that all of these blessings are the same a particular sense, does not mean they are the same in every sense. They are all the same in the sense that God must grant them. However, there are certainly distinctions in terms of the dignity of human beings. I *never* said that, because God must grant every blessing, that, therefore, all blessings are exactly the same blessings, and there are therefore no distinctions. That is a total strawman. However, again, if you want to use this in your argument, you have to show where the Bible says that their uniqueness implies an exception to the call for moderation in Proverbs 25.

    Why won't second causes cut it? That is mere pontification. The fact of the matter is that we *do* have second causes even in the birth of a child. We have sexual relations, do we not? Is that not a secondary cause that God uses to bring children into this world? You might say, "But it is not always successful." I say, "Neither is birth control in the prevention of the birth of children." The point is that sexual relations, birthcontrol, etc. are all secondary causes God can use to open or close the womb.

    Also, as Mark Driscoll said in the video earlier in this thread, God is not up in heaven saying, "Oh man, latex! I wanted to give this couple children, but my whole dominion has been totally thwarted by latex!" Who would want to worship a God whose sovereign will and dominion can be thwarted by contraception? I would argue that this is totally antithetical to Calvinism. God can give you a child when you use birth control or don't use birth control, and God can close the womb when you use birth control, and even when you do not use birth control. Thus, in what sense is man in dominon of this at all?

    Also, you say this is overthrowing an order set up in creation, and it is none of man's buisness. Again, without proof from Genesis 1 and 2, this is more pontification. Can you show us this from the creation story? Can you go back to Genesis 1 and 2 in the story of creation and show us where God said that it is none of our buisness to use birth control as a second cause to control the birth of a children? That is complete and total eisegesis.

    Again, Kauffeld, I am seeing strawmen, eisegesis, and assumptions that are just not found in the Biblical text. I have to ask, because of this, who really has the unbiblical philosophy here? Biblical philosophy is based in the exegesis of the Biblical text. However, whenever we turn to the Biblical text, I get strawmen, eisegesis and assumptions that are not proven from the text.

    He said that it was obscure, but he then went on to say that no one to that point had come up with the meaning of the prophet! That is more than just obscure. When you say that no one before you is probably correct, that is saying something! He acknowledged that it was that obscure from the very beginning. Secondly, he came to a conclusion completely opposite of you, namely, that the Godly offspring had to do with offspring from your wife, and not offspring from polygamous relationships.

    Also, as I stated, to talk about "Godly seed" in the sense of children, I argued, totally violates the context of the passage. The context of the passage is about the violation of the covenant [v.14] in which a person deals treacherously with their wife [v.15], all in the context of the remainant [v.15]. That suggests that the "Godly seed" are not referring to infants, but what the people who are dealing treacherously with their wives are supposed to be. Again, to paraphrase the end of Malachi 2:15, "When you deal treacherously with your wife and break your covenant with her, you are not behaving like the Godly seed I am seeking, and have called you to be."

    Also, I would point out that, while we are making headway in understanding this passage, almost every Hebraist I know of who has worked on this text will tell you that nothing is really certain about this text. Even the "seeking of Godly offspring" is subject to interpretation as to the subject, the timing of the participle, and even the meaning of "Godly seed." How you take the clauses around the phrase will affect all of these things.

    Again, if you have solved all of these issues beyond a shadow of a doubt, [even the issue of the meaning of "seeking Godly offspring] you are doing way better than those of us who do this for a living! I don't mean that as an insult, only to tell you what I have seen in the literature with regards to this text, and the possibilities seem endless at times. I have my own position on how I can solve these difficulties, but I am not certain. In fact, I read one commentator who said that this is one of the hardest texts in the entire Hebrew Bible. My point is that these issues must be argued from the text, and not just have a bare citation of the text, because it is obscure.

    That's fine. However, I would argue that "hoped for offspring" makes all the difference in the world. In this conception, the children only exist in a possible world, not in the actual world. The reason why it is wrong to dispose of children who exist in the actual world is because they have actually been created in the image of God, and actually have been given to people in the real world. However, hypothetical children haven't even been created, and haven't been given to anyone. You cannot morally equate things in the possible world with things in the actual world.

    Consider this. Let us say that there are boys who are playing cops and robbers, and they don't have any props, so they just pretend that they are stealing money from a pretend bank. Now, would it be correct to say that, because the boys are stealing pretend money that, therefore, the state police should come in and arrest the boys who are playing the robbers? I mean, even if you say that you would never let your children play a game like that because it encourages theft, you still would have to admit that they should not be thrown in prision for breaking the law against theft! The reason is because things that exist in possible worlds are not morally equivalent to things that exist in the actual world.

    In the same way, I would agree with what you are saying, but only after the children actually exist. Yes, we cannot just discard children that exist in the actual world. However, possible worlds are morally distinct.

    I guess that is going to have to be a difference between us. I would argue that the goal is not to maximize the size of our families, but to do the work that God has given us to do, whether that includes having large families, having smaller families, or, even, having no family. The issue, for me anyone, is being obedient to his calling on your life, and living in service to God, of which having a small amount of children, a large amount of children, etc. is a part. All of these are legitimate ways of serving God, and areas of service that are necessary to the church. However, the foundation of what you do should always be to serve God in all that you do [1 Corinthians 10:31], and obey his commandments. If heeding God's calling means smaller families for some people, or no families for some people then I am all for it. That being said, I must reiterate that the area of having and raising covenant children is something for which workers are greatly needed, and I think people should consider if God is calling them to work in this field.

    I would say "ditto." I am not someone who believes in watering down the truth so as not to offend people! We both believe each other is wrong, and there is nothing wrong with saying it! I am sure we probably do have a lot in common [the doctrines of grace, homeschooling, etc.] on which we would defend one another. I too do not mean anything I write to be offensive, only to interact about what the scriptures say on this issue.

    God Bless,

    ---------- Post added at 05:49 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:41 PM ----------

    Oops, didn't see your addition:

    That argument proves too much, though. Even if you are using "dominion" in the context of contraception [which I think is a category error, since contraception is neither necessary nor sufficient to have or not have children], God also put Adam in charge of the garden, and not the fossil fuels beneath it. Since fossil fuels are likewise not mentioned in this text, are we to assume that we are not to use fossil fuels? There is much that Adam was to have dominion over that was not the garden itself. I don't think that the text is giving us the *extent* of the dominion, as much as it is establishing one area in which God wanted Adam to exercise dominion.

    God Bless,
  3. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    Adam, our presuppositions are just different. I don't believe the call to moderation has anything to do with how many children a person has. Honey is not a child. The distinction lies simply in the creation of God and it does not have to be specifically pointed out. It should be an obvious aspect of natural law that we are different and should not be managed or moderated in terms of whether or not life is given. I do not think this should be so hard to understand or accept and I believe the general theme of scripture supports my view via God's opening and closing of the womb, children are a blessing, if God is sovereign then why use birth control? etc. etc...

    I have said what I have said, people will make up their own minds and in the end we will all stand before God to give an account of our lives. For myself, I am not convinced, I see birth control as a influence of the world and a conforming to it in this area. I don't trust the modern exegesis that supposedly leads to the views you propose, neither do I trust Piper, Macarthur, or Driscoll on this issue. It's all too new for me and I cannot judge the case well enough due to my own lack of knowledge to be able to satisfy my conscience.

    Thank you for the hearty debate, it's been heated at times but has helped me to see some of my own weaknesses and also has helped me in refining my views in this area of life. It's too bad there could not be a reconciliation in views on this area.

    May the Lord bless you, I don't think I'll be posting anymore on this thread.
  4. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Sorry, but ditto to Josh. I cannot continue to argue against this odd hermeneutic; it is simply too disheartening, and the clinical sterility of it is disturbing to me. It may be all the rage in "the literature" today, but among dead theologians of the 'old' Calvinism, I find little support for this frame of mind or this worldview. This discussion simply would not be happening among Reformed Christians 400 years ago, and I too see this as simple worldly infiltration of the Body. Pinning the 'proper' view of this issue on the likes of Driscoll and Piper in view of all the material that contradicts them in Reformed theology and writings is to me a very myopic view of all that our Reformed heritage has bequeathed to us.

    Adam, honey is not a child. A child is God-breathed life into a form of dust, and I cannot think of an equal among His blessings, save salvation. I truly hope that some day you will see this. Academia may have a lot to offer, but ivory towers are a very real danger.

    May God bless you in your studies.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2010
  5. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    I should apologise to Kevin and Josh that I did not manage to get around to answering their responses to my earlier post.

    Josh, I know you have bowed out of the thread, but I would like to comment on something you said.

    I am appreciative for the graceful way you have put across your position in this thread, despite having strong feelings, but the second paragraph is still an incredibly unmerciful position to take.

    I (currently) believe that the bible teaches that a couple may use birth control for certain circumstances, for example, to concentrate on growing as a couple in their first year of marriage (the principle, at least, is thought in Deut 24:5), or if they are finding difficult coping with their life situation and do not believe they can handle another child at this time. You and Kevin disagree, and while I don’t (at the moment), believe you have proven your point from the bible, I can still understand where you are coming from.

    However, I find it hard to imagine there is any bible justification for the position that you cannot use contraception even in severe cases such as one of the spouses having a serious illness like cancer, to use the example you gave. It would be justifiable according to the bible in the same way it was justifiable for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath (instead of waiting just one more day, despite the fact that none of the illness he healed were immediately life threatening) or for his disciples to pick corn when they were hungry. Mercy is more important than sacrifice, and even if you believe that the fact that the bible’s teaching on children being a blessing implies that contraception is wrong, you should still chose the merciful position of allowing a couple to practice contraception in a very trying time in their lives, without forcing them to forgo sexual relations, instead of sticking to the "strict" position, when there is not even an explicit command against contraception.

    Later you said;
    If the issue is that you cannot justify birth control, and don’t trust the reasoning of its proponents, instead of you being 100% rock certain that it is sin in the eyes of God, you should, on the principle in Matt 12:7, that mercy is better than sacrifice, allow for couples to use contraception in the extreme cases like that you have cited.
  6. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Just thinking one can limit or moderate the number of children one has or may want to prevent from conceiving is just manifestly wrong if one believes all children are a gift of God. The presuppositions are either #1 One trusts God in Him giving the number of children gets. Or #2 One attempts to prevent (successfully I will add as seen in the dwindling of the number of children in Christian families) the number of crowns or rewards one will receive in heaven. Because Christians do suffer lose in Heaven which derive from sinful actions as being discussed in this topic.
  7. christianhope

    christianhope Puritan Board Freshman

    Mark, thank you for your kind comments. A few things you mentioned:

    Sometimes the Lord calls us to forgo relations in His providence. It shouldn't be conceived as unmerciful. If the wife is truly so sick and should not be pregnant, abstinence will always be a better method anyway. I mean, just think, what if you used birth control and then she still got pregnant? So, the medical mercy question just doesn't make much sense to me. Just think Mark how many christians in the past made do under such situations when the entire church was united against birth control? So I am not propounding anything new.

    Obviously Mark, I am just a man and cannot make anyone do anything. All I'm doing is stating my conviction of what I believe is based upon God's Word. It's a hard topic, and I held a position of mercy for medical reasons just like you stated when I began writing in on this thread, so, it was only after I spoke with a few godly friends and thought more about this topic that I have come to the conclusions that I have. I mean, really, how many people really think of those 'what if' situations unless they are brought up or come up in daily life? So, my convictions have developed a bit here.

    I would say on an exegetical basis the text is talking about a man going off to war or not taking part in a business that would keep him from his wife. Having a child would not inhibit a man being with his wife for the first year in any manner, so I do not see how this would apply. It's simply the same principle held by the conception proponent position, that somehow children or 'the hoped for offspring' are dispensable options similar to other worldly elements like honey, sleep, property, and therefore fall under moderation principles. I just don't accept that. There is a distinction that we should not cross. For myself I think the Bible plainly infers that position through logical deduction based upon God's special creation of man in His image, natural law, and the bible's general statements and themes regarding the seed of believers, children are a blessing, God's sovereignty etc. That's my conviction, and I do 100% believe it is sin to do otherwise. So I disagree with the idea you presented here and believe it to be a sinful thing to do, obedience is better than sacrifice. (1 Sam 15:22) :)
  8. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    If my wife was that sick, I would likely be deep in prayer and fasting anyway...
  9. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Are these natural law arguments or biblical arguments. You seem to be justifying a form of contraception if it's a particular form, while if it was another form it would be unacceptable.

    How much were Calvin, Luther and Augustine affected by natural law in this area?

    Your basically saying that if your wife is sick and you don't want her to conceive, you should abstain. But if you use e.g. a condom with the exact same motivation, you are committing a sin. Where do you get this from in the Scriptures?
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
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