Can Christians Use Birth Control?
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Third, it is argued that God commands his people to have children, yet in Genesis 1:28 we read, “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’” Children are a blessing, not a command. Were we commanded to have children, then those who never marry, like Jesus, and those who are barren would be in sin for not obeying God’s command. To turn a blessing into a command is a common error of legalism, which twists something we get to do in delight into something we have to do in duty. Christian married couples typically should desire and pursue children, either on their own or through adoption or fostering, and celebrate if or when God blesses them with children. Yet to state that any couple that is not continually doing all it can to have children is sinning is to misrepresent what God communicated to our first parents.
Fourth, it is argued that because children are a blessed gift from the Lord, Christian couples should seek to have as many as possible. The staff at John Piper’s Desiring God ministry has issued an insightful refutation to this point:
It is very important to delight in the reality that “children are a gift of the Lord.” But some people go further and argue from this that since children are gifts from God, it is wrong to take steps to regulate the timing and number of children one has.
In response, it can be pointed out that the Scriptures also say that a wife is a gift from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22), but that doesn’t mean that it is wrong to stay single (1 Corinthians 7:8). Just because something is a gift from the Lord does not mean that it is wrong to be a steward of when or whether you will come into possession of it. It is wrong to reason that since A is good and a gift from the Lord, then we must pursue as much of A as possible. God has made this a world in which tradeoffs have to be made and we cannot do everything to the fullest extent.
For kingdom purposes, it might be wise not to get married. And for kingdom purposes, it might be wise to regulate the size of one’s family and to regulate when the new additions to the family will likely arrive. As Wayne Grudem has said, “it is okay to place less emphasis on some good activities in order to focus on other good activities.” . . .
In reality, then, although it is true that “blessed is the man whose quiver is full of [children],” we need to realize that God has not given everyone the same size quiver. And so birth control is a gift from God that may be used for the wise regulation of the size of one’s family, as well as a means of seeking to have children at the time which seems to be wisest.30
Fifth, it is argued that any attempt to regulate if or when a birth occurs effectively negates God’s sovereignty. However, because God is sovereign, we cannot negate his sovereignty. God is bigger than our choices and efforts, and he can accomplish his will whenever he wills it. This explains why, in Scripture, we see one virgin and a line of elderly barren women having babies. Furthermore, this line of reasoning becomes plain silly when applied to other areas of life. When I get a haircut, do I not trust the Lord to make it grow to the length he sovereignly chooses?
Sixth, it is argued from history that we should do all we can to reproduce because we don’t know what God might have in store for those children in the future. Charles Wesley was the thirteenth child, George Whitefield was the seventh child, and George Washington was the fifth out of ten. While this proves the point that each family must prayerfully consider its family size, it does not necessarily follow that the more children we have, the better, because those children might impact the world. Adolf Hitler was the sixth child born into his Catholic family, which probably opposed birth control, and my guess is that most of us would have preferred that his parents found a box of condoms somewhere and started using them after their fifth child.
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