Contraception; The Vindication of Humanae Vitae

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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Dear Adam,

Thanks for your kind words.

I understood you to be applying those maxims to all situations, which I think would be a misapplication. Certainly Scripture states these things boldly --it also states boldly that baptism saves us; that faith without works cannot save us. These things are true: we could go around saying them without qualification, as boldly as Scripture does, without telling any sort of lie. But we don't. We qualify not because we feel that Scripture is inadequate, but because it elsewhere contextualises these remarks so that they say something different than what they might mean to a person who didn't have that context. The portion of God's people here on this earth has by and large, of a vast by and largeness, been to suffer without all the material blessings that they see the ungodly having. It is not just an 'exception'. It is the rule (and one that is found in experiences and expressions throughout Scripture), that most Christians globally (though perhaps not in the states) live a life of hardship, very much relating to the Psalmists complaints about seeing the blessings the ungodly enjoy in this life, themselves wandering about 'in sheepskins and goatskins', their lives often cut short, and only finding some sort of reconciliation of promises that God will bless obedience when they go into God's house and consider the end. The promises are primarily to do with this end, not with this middle part we are living now. So millions of babies are aborted by godless women, though children are a reward --this is not an exception in our experience here. Brad very kindly reminded me that I can still have children in the spiritual realm. I do not think this negates any teaching about physical blessings, but it does qualify it considerably if the physical is not the main thing Scripture has in view: if the physical, though certainly a legitimate plane in itself, is never meant to be the 'end', but is itself to point us, in plenty or scarcity of material blessing, to spiritual realities; indeed it qualifies so much that to teach that what is primarily in view in all these promises is the material blessings of God in reward for obedience does seem like a moralistic misconstruction, that can only tend to discourage the godly and make the ungodly self righteous. This is the misconstruction that fuels the tv evangelists: and they use the words of Scripture, without qualification.

I simply find an unnuanced position on this to be inconsistent with all of Scripture's teaching; I find the position that material blessings come to those who are obedient, and we are supposed to expect as much as possible of them here, to be inconsistent with the rule of Christian experience in this life (and I recall that the Proverbs ask God for neither poverty nor riches, thus using the means of prayer to seek to limit a material blessing). I think the position that we should never do anything that involves us in managing our health etc., which is also a blessing, by using means with regard to conception to be inconsistent with the practices of people who advocate such positions (ie, in that men will consume alcohol for enjoyment but won't allow their wives to practice nfp for health. Also, as you indicate above, generally trying to be more fertile is not a problem though equally interfering in God's domain; but trying to be less fertile is). I respect your statement of things and your spirit, and have appreciated your posts in many threads recently; I don't want to simply argue to no purpose. But as someone who has been negatively affected by unnuanced statements in the past, I simply wanted to register my disagreement.


Puritan Board Professor

Thank you again for giving attention and thought to this issue. It is good to be reminded of the need to consider all vantage points that Scripture gives us.

As to the doctrines of Scripture, the general rule is not that baptism saves, or that faith without works is dead. The general rule is that sacraments cannot save, and that we are justified by faith alone, apart from works. The exceptions are the statements you have pointed out. They are similar to the statements that barrenness is a blessing, or that some are given the gift of singleness. They are exceptions, and to be viewed and nuanced in light of the general rule (children are a reward and we are justified by faith alone, for instance).

It is a sociological fact that countries affected by the Reformed Faith are the most prosperous on the earth. Countries that used to be colonies of the Reformed are the most prosperous "third world countries".

I don't agree with the assessment that poverty is the lot of God's people. Poverty (again as the general rule) is the result of indolence and sloth. See the Proverbs for more on this. Long life is the result of obedience to parents. Does that mean that some saints have not been poor? Nope. And Jesus died at 33 or so (that is, before being raised to newness of life). So, He died young.

Again, the basic rule is: diligence makes rich, and honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the land. The exceptional cases are to be understood as exceptions.

Your situation is exceptional, and God has clearly had very special things planned for you. Things you could not have done with a large family. God has blessed you, and used you.

Thanks again for your input, and may the Lord continue to bless you in all your ways!

As a sidenote, people who drink (as a general rule) are more likely to... ehem... do things that cause children to be born. As a rule, tee-totalers are less fruitful; doctor's advice notwithstanding. Also, the medical community is in controversy as to the affect of alcohol on furtility and fecundity.



a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Adam, just a final insert that I do understand what you're saying. It is my position that in Scripture, esp. in the OT where many of these statements are made, the rule is of not seeing promises physically fulfilled. Certainly wisdom teaches us to live in such a way that we will not bring evil consequences on ourselves, and to expect good consequences from good actions. But Christian wisdom also teaches us to hold out for the good consequences though we do not see them now (and to expect the evil consequences to visit the ungodly at a later time, though they seem to be enjoying the consequences of godliness now). This is traditional Christian wisdom, though hard learned by each of us through many painful experiences because we are born expecting to see the things we hope for immediately. The whole heroes hall of fame is composed of people who 'did not inherit' those things they were promised, who looked past the material lack of fulfillment: the people of God are there characterized, as against those who enjoy pleasures now, as those who 'suffer affliction'.

I don't honestly know much about European nations which I assume have been the most affected by the things you speak of; but they are a minority of the world; and Christians are not confined there. I do know that America has Christian roots; and certainly it is prosperous, though it has legalized the mass murder of its most innocent and helpless (I doubt it is now a Christian nation'). It was prosperous when it was much closer to those roots; while stripping, raping, branding, beating, working to death its African slaves; taking advantage in many cases of brothers and sisters in Christ who were not even allowed to go to church (I am not one who thinks that the Bible makes no provision for slavery: but the African slave trade and American practice, as witnessed on many first hand accounts, were simply appalling). Christians have always been persecuted even in Christian countries. We are taught to expect the experience of Christ on earth as a rule: and as you point out, he was homeless, and he died young.

I think the balance I am trying to advocate --the promises which are certainly a 'rule', and the lack of fulfillment we experience, which is also a 'rule', are well stated by N. T. Wright in his book about the Problem of Evil (and I do understand that Mr. Wright has some other problems :) Italics mine.

'It is quite clear on the one hand, particularly in the Psalms, that David and his dynasty are to be seen as God's answer to the problem of evil. They will bring judgment and justice to the world. Their dominion will be from one sea to the other, from the River to the ends of the earth. And yet the writers are all too aware of the puzzle and ambiguity of saying such a thing. The greatest royal psalm, Psalm 89, juxtaposes 37 verses of celebration of the wonderful things God will do through the Davidic king with 14 verses asking plaintively why it's all gone wrong. The psalm then ends with a single verse blessing YHWH forever. That is the classic Old Testament picture. Here are the promises; here is the problem; God remains sovereign over the paradox. Split the psalm up either way, and you fail to catch the flavor of the entire corpus of biblical writing. God's solution to the problem of evil, the establishment of the Davidic monarchy through which Israel will at last be the light to the nations, the bringer of justice to the world, comes already complete with a sense of puzzlement and failure, a sense that the plan isn't working the way it should, that the only thing to do is to hold the spectacular promises in one hand and the messy reality in the other and praise YHWH anyway.'

I think this necessarily adds a different dimension to discussions on children, because often those who teach that we should not preserve one blessing by taking means to limit another interpret the promises by splitting up the biblical teaching, and failing to catch a flavor of an entire corpus, thinking that as a rule we can and should have it all physically now. It also adds more nuance when it comes to applying those promises to barren women, etc.

Thanks again for your very thoughtful and kind responses. All the best.


Puritan Board Freshman
Just some thoughts after reading this thread but not all of it.
If it was Gods will for you to have a baby do you think birth control is going to stop Him? I know that 3 condoms wont. that really happened. Not me.
God also says that he takes from the rich and gives it to the righteous.
There are times of the month were it is pretty safe not to become pregnant. Is this Gods design?
There requirement of work as a means does not prove anything of value in standing before God. So that he may work through the means or he may choose to work outside the means. But we are required to see that all of our goods come directly from His hand. In spite of our laziness.
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