Can Christians Use Birth Control?
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Seventh, it is argued by some Protestants and many Catholic theologians that birth control is forbidden based upon Genesis 38:10. The hillbilly redneck soap opera of Jacob’s family takes a very daytime-television, trash-talk-show turn in Genesis 38. There, both Abraham and Isaac dreaded the thought of their sons intermarrying with Canaanite women because it would cause them to wander from God.17 Nevertheless, Judah did just that and had three sons named Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er then married a woman named Tamar and, without fanfare or details, we are told that Er was a wicked man whom God killed. It was customary in that time for a widow to marry her husband’s brother, who would care for her, protect her, and give her sons to ensure she had a stake in the family’s inheritance and to look after her in her old age.18 The duty to care for Tamar fell on the next son, Onan. Onan was happy to have sex with Tamar but refused to meet his obligation of impregnating and caring for her. So, he practiced coitus interruptus, pulling out of Tamar at the moment of ejaculation, in an effort to not impregnate her, like so many teenagers do in our own day.31
Nonetheless, Onan’s sin was disobeying God and dishonoring Tamar by having sex without wanting to be obligated in any way or care for her, or, as Genesis 38:8 says, to “perform the duty of a brother-in-law.” In short, Onan got whacked for treating Tamar like a booty call and not a bride.
The false understanding of Onanism as a condemnation of all forms of birth control is based on the early church father Augustine (AD 354–430), who said of Onan, “Intercourse even with ones [sic] legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it.”32
Augustine was part of the Manichaean cult prior to his conversion to Jesus at age twenty-nine. That cult favored contraceptive drugs and discouraged procreation.33 Augustine overreacted to his background and said that to be pure from sin marital sex had to have procreation in view.34 He went on to say that the use of any contraceptive method turned “the bridal chamber into a brothel.”35
Eighth, and perhaps most bizarrely, it is argued by some that sex in marriage is solely for the purpose of procreation. Thus, for sex not to be sinful, it needs to be done with the possibility of conception occurring. On this point House writes, “In the postapostolic period marriage was generally viewed as being for procreation. Clement of Alexandria [AD 150–215] expresses this attitude when he says, ‘Intercourse performed licitly is an occasion of sin, unless done purely to beget children.’”36 C. W. Scudder writes, “Such fathers as Clement viewed the sexual union between husband and wife as a sign of moral imperfection. Celibacy and continence within marriage were made the spiritual goal to which Christians should aspire. This self-denial was considered preparation for the life to come (in contrast to the ‘worldly’ act of sex).”37
In addition, Mary Pride says, “The Bible teaches us that sex is only legitimate within marriage. It further teaches, as we have seen, that the natural purpose of marital sex is (1) physical oneness and (2) fruitfulness. Nowhere does the Bible say that the purpose of marital sex is climax, much much [sic] less climax at the expense of fruitfulness and oneness.”38
Practically, this would mean that apart from the fertile days a woman experiences each month, sexual intercourse in marriage would be sinful. Furthermore, this would mean that intercourse with an infertile wife or sex with a postmenopausal wife would also be sinful. All of this is incredibly nonsensical and unbiblical for many reasons. A woman’s clitoris is a nerve center created by God with only one purpose: pleasure, not reproduction. God also made women multi-orgasmic for the joy of sexual pleasure in marriage. Proverbs 5:19 reveals that a wife’s breasts are not solely for baby food but also for husband fun: “Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight.”
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