The Bible and Birth Control
James P. Needham
(Editor's Note: In keeping with our desire to furnish our readers with a good selection of material on a wide variety of subjects, we are reproducing the following from a tract that deals with a topic of widespread interest. The author deals with a delicate subject in a discreet manner.)
A great many Christians are deeply concerned about the matter of birth control. In recent years the subject has received more attention than at any time in history. This has pressed it upon the consciences of Christians and caused them to consider the matter in the light of the scriptures. More and more Christian couples are seeking help on the matter, but there is hardly any help available with a Biblical emphasis. Having been approached for Bible teaching on the subject upon numerous occasions, I decided to put the help I have provided in this form for wider circulation.
I. False Arguments Against Birth Control
There are many false arguments against birth control. The main source of these is the Catholic Church. This organization is very much opposed to "artificial" methods in limiting the size of the family. Many Christians have unwittingly absorbed many of these false arguments and issues. Let us examine some of them:
A. "God said, 'multiply and replenish the earth." (Gn. 1:28; 9:1, 7) This is absolutely true, but each time a woman has a child, this command is being fulfilled. There is nothing whatsoever in these verses that would demand that each couple should have as many children as the course of nature happens to provide.
"Population explosion" is one of the major concerns of the future. While the birth rate continues to climb, the mortality rate declines. Man's life span is constantly lengthened by modern discoveries. Yet, statistics show that food production is decreasing. Experts in the field see food shortage as one of the major crises of future generations.
A favorite rationalization is that God will see to it that the population is fed. This is His business, not ours. The fallacy of this statement is evident in our present world. There are millions of people dying of starvation this very minute. If this matter of feeding the world is totally in the hands of God, why does He not remedy the present situation?
The ability to produce children, like many others, is a God-given power which man is to control within the bounds of reason. The dire consequences of his failure to do so s tragically seen in starving, poverty stricken areas of South America and the Far East. The same thing can happen anywhere in the world where man does not use his common sense to control his power to reproduce.
B. "Women are to be saved by child bearing." (1 Tim. 2:15) This is true, but again, there is nothing here to indicate that she is to bear as many children as the course of nature will produce. It should also be said that every time a woman bears a child (just one), this passage is fulfilled. One child is "child bearing."
C. "But the Bible says, 'children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward . . . . happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them."' (Psa. 127:3,5). Yes, but we should realize that every man's "quiver" may not be the same size. The number of children it takes to "fill my quiver" might leave a great deal of room in someone else's. Circumstances and financial ability would determine the size of one's "quiver." In no sense does this passage say that is wrong to limit the size of one's family.
D. "Artificial birth control is immoral." Who says so? Where did this idea come from? It came from the Catholics. This is one of their most frequent charges against "artificial" means of birth control. Their saying it does not make it so. When did God delegate to them the authority to decide and decree what is moral and immoral? The only way a thing can be immoral is for God to decree it in His law, the Bible. I ask, where is the divine law that would prove "artificial" means of birth control immoral? Where is the passage? It does not exist.
E. "Artificial birth control destroys life." This is a frequently heard statement that has no foundation in fact. The arguments are that when conception is prevented by some manmade device, life is destroyed. Some think they avoid this by the rhythm method. This means that no man-made device is used, but the couple agrees to abstinence during the wife's days of fertility. This is prevention of conception, therefore, according to the argument, is the destruction of life also. The fact is that in each and every conception millions of male sperms die. Only one sperm is necessary for a conception, and yet millions are involved. This means that all but one must die. Hence, the same objection can be lodged against the rhythm method.
II. Misunderstanding of Marriage
One of the most prominent bases of the idea that birth control is wrong is that the only purpose of marriage is to procreate. This is only one purpose - a very important one. (See Gen. 1:28; 1 Tim. 2:15.) But there is also a second God-ordained purpose of marriage. Paul said, "Nevertheless, TO AVOID FORNICATION, let every mar~ have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (I Cor. 7:2). In this same context he says, "But if THEY CANNOT CONTAIN let them marry: for it is BETTER TO MARRY THAN TO BURN" (I Cor. 7:9). And furthermore, "But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and NEED SO REQUIRE, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: LET THEM MARRY. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, HAVING NO NECES SITY, but hath power over his own will and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well." (I Cor. 7:36, 37.)
Paul here decrees that marriage's second purpose is "to avoid fornication" or in order to relieve a necessity or to avoid BURNING in lust. The desire to cohabit is one of the strongest urges God has placed in man. It is stronger in some than in others. To those who "cannot contain," Paul said, "let them marry." Why? To relieve necessity. The point is that God has established marriage as the legitimate avenue for the relieving of this God-given urge. It is not wrong, ugly, nor unholy to satisfy this desire IN MARRIAGE. "Marriage is HONORABLE in all and THE BED UNDEFILED but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." (Heb. 13:4).
Hence, marriage is designed by God to procreate the race and to propagate man's happiness. True happiness in marriage is dependent upon a thorough understanding of these two holy purposes of the union.
III. By What Method Can Birth Control Be Practiced?
I think it goes without saying that once the right to practice birth control is established, the method becomes a matter of personal preference and expediency. Whether it is natural or "artificial" is of little consequence. A great deal of stress is given to the "rhythm method" by the Catholics, which is, as we formerly explained, abstaining during the days of the wife's fertility. Though I would not want to say the scriptures forbid this method altogether, I think more danger is involved in it than in what are called "artificial" methods. Paul said, "Defraud ye not one the other, except it be WITH CONSENT FOR A TIME, THAT YE MAY GIVE YOURSELVES TO FASTING AND PRAYER; and COME TOGETHER AGAIN, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." (1 Cor. 7:5.)
For one mate to deprive the other of cohabitation may subject him or her to more temptation than can be tolerated. There is the possibility that this could occur in abstaining during the wife's fertility days. In this sense, the "rhythm method" is inferior to "artificial" methods of birth control. Paul said it is alright to "DEFRAUD" by mutual consent for purposes of fasting and prayer, but Catholics and others say it is alright to "defraud" each other to limit the size of the family. They find themselves in contradiction with Paul, the inspired apostle. Jesus said we should pray: "Lead us not into temptation . . ." (Matt. 6:13.) How can we scripturally pray this prayer when we deliberately lead ourselves into a temptation against which the scriptures warn us?
IV. Consequence of Not Limiting Size of the Family
The consequences of failing to limit the size of the family are seen in many segments of our society. Couples have more children than they can adequately care for physically, mentally, or financially. In such areas children grow up without proper training and care. Some Christians also used bad judgment in failing to properly plan their families, and are unable to give their children many of the things they need. Paul said if we do not care for our own we have denied the faith and are worse than infidels. (1 Tim. 5:8).
We have all witnessed the mother whose health has been impaired by having more children than she could care for. Many times she does not have time to adequately recover from one birth before she is expecting another. It is strange how some people can honestly feel that this is pleasing to God.
But some people say that God will not give a couple more children than they can care for. This is a very vague rationalization. Can we not see that some people already have more than they can adequately care for? If child care is wholly in God's hands, He is doing a rather poor job in many cases and in many countries.
The truth is, God gave us the power to reproduce, but left it up to each couple to use their common sense to determine how many they should have. To say that their care is in God's hands is to try to rationalize a very bad situation which involves drastic consequences.
We realize that this has been a study of a delicate subject. Perhaps there will be some who will question the wisdom of dealing with it, but we can see that it is indeed a Bible subject. Should we not preach "all the counsel of God?" (Acts 20:27) May the reading of this tract bring a greater degree of happiness to the homes which this subject has troubled.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 12, pp. 14-17