Can Christians Use Birth Control?
- 2009 23 Jul
There’s no doubt the Bible says children are a blessing, but the Bible doesn’t seem to address the specific topic of birth control. Is this a black-and-white topic, or does it fall under liberties?
I was standing in line at the grocery store with my five young children when a typical Seattleite in line behind us made a point of rebuking me for having so many children and thereby ruining the planet and contributing to overpopulation and global warming. Trying to make light of a tense moment, I said I knew the world had a lot of people, and I did not like most of them, so I was just trying to create some people I did like. Further, I was hoping global warming would hit Seattle so we would see the sun more than once every presidential election.
Not dissuaded, my critic continued her illogic. I patiently tried to educate her and told her that theoretically everyone on the earth could live in the state of Texas, each with roughly seventeen hundred square feet of space; further, problems such as starvation are the result of wars, disasters, and distribution more than overpopulation. I also explained to her that we are a faithful recycling family that has only one garbage can, which is never full, but two recycling cans and a glass bin, which are full every pick-up day.
Nonetheless, she continued to decry the existence of my children while my children looked at me with furrowed brows, wondering why someone they did not know hated them so much. The woman then asked me, “Don’t you know what causes this problem?” At that point, my middle son, the not-yet-kindergarten-age “buddy” Calvin, rolled his eyes and looked at me, in essence begging me to defend his existence. Hoping to shut her up, I said, “Yes, a beautiful wife with a pleasant disposition has caused this, but don’t fret, you won’t ever have to worry about it.”
She grew more agitated and reiterated that there were too many people on the planet. In a moment that was admittedly not very pastoral, I told her that maybe she should find another planet for herself, thereby freeing up space on mine.
Eventually, we concluded our purchases and left the store. Once in the car, my oldest daughter, Ashley, asked me why so many people hate children. Since then she has also told me that she gets embarrassed when people stare at our family and whisper when we are out, as if we are freaks that escaped from an Amish compound. My wife has even been yelled at for driving a Suburban, despite the fact that we intentionally drive very little, roughly one-third as many miles as the average American, thereby using less fuel than the average hybrid car driver.
In short, there is a great cultural debate about sex, marriage, children, and birth control, with heated opinions on all sides. This question is intriguing for me, personally, on a number of levels. I was raised as the oldest of five children in a working-class, Irish-Catholic family. That branch of Christianity considers nearly all forms of birth control sinful and emphasizes the sanctity of all human life. My Catholic mother stayed home to raise five children out of her convictions that children are a blessing and that motherhood is a high calling. Today, I am the blessed father of five children (we would have six had we not suffered a miscarriage) and my wife, Grace, stays home to work a more than full-time job as a mom. We are raising our children in the city of Seattle, which is among the least likely places in our nation to see a child, since there are more dogs than children.1 Our city is also among the least churched and most overpriced cities in the nation, which make having a big Christian family unusual, complicated, and expensive.2
A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW
By God’s grace, our church has seen thousands of mainly young people come to know Jesus or come back into a transforming relationship with Jesus after years of rebellion. As a result, we see a lot of couples in our pre-marital counseling classes, and we answer questions constantly about sex, children, and birth control. Nowhere in the Bible do we find terms such as contraception, birth control, or family planning. Still, the Bible does speak to those issues in principle. Therefore, to best answer these and other questions, we have to begin with a Christian worldview and then explore how the Bible principally establishes ethical guidelines by which contemporary birth control questions can be answered. The biblical worldview necessary for answering this question is comprised of sixteen truths.
Truth 1: God is the Creator and author of human life.1
Truth 2: God made humanity in his image and likeness, which means that human life is unique and sacred.2
Truth 3: God intends for human beings to fill the earth.3
Truth 4: God authored that life begins at conception and declares that an unborn baby is a sacred life.4
Truth 5: God knows us from our mother’s womb.5
Truth 6: God declares that when human life is taken without just cause (e.g., capital punishment, just war, self-defense), the sin of murder has been committed.6
Truth 7: God made humanity to exercise dominion by ruling over creation.7
Truth 8: God made humanity to steward creation by exercising wise discernment based upon natural revelation, conscience, the Holy Spirit, counsel, and most authoritatively, Scripture.8
Truth 9: God made humanity male and female.9
Truth 10: God created marriage as a covenant for one man and one woman.10
Truth 11: God created sex as a gift only for a married couple.11
Truth 12: God is sovereign over the womb and can ultimately open and close it as he wills.12
Truth 13: Children are a blessing from God to be provided and cared for by parents and extended family and church, including those who are adopted as Jesus was.13
Truth 14: God desires Christians to raise godly offspring.14
Truth 15: God commands his people to lovingly help care for widows and orphans.15
Truth 16: God expects single nonparents to help parents raise children, as Jesus’ own life as a single man exemplifies.16
With this Christian worldview in place, we are ready to examine the various options for a Christian couple considering birth control.
THE HISTORY OF BIRTH CONTROL
It is important to note that birth control is not a new issue. Birth control has been around for thousands of years, although not all methods have been safe or effective.3 Two thousand years ago, Egyptian women soaked their crocodile-dung tampons in honey, onion juice, and mint sap, and then actually inserted them. Other methods included cocoa-butter vaginal suppositories. Ancient Chinese remedies included swallowing a live tadpole and eating the scrapings from inside a deer’s antlers. Greek and Roman women soaked their tampons in hemlock and quinine. Saxon women used roasted horse manure. Japanese prostitutes inserted balls of bamboo tissue paper in the vagina, Islamic and Greek women used balls of wool, and Slavic women used linen rags. These were intended to soak up sperm but the attempts were unsuccessful. Italian men would wrap a wet cloth around the erect penis and tie it with a pink ribbon.
One Catholic article claims, “Scrolls found in Egypt, dating to 1900 BC, describe ancient methods of birth control that were later practiced in the Roman Empire during the apostolic age. Wool that absorbed sperm, poisons that fumigated the uterus, potions, and other methods were used to prevent conception. In some centuries, even condoms were used (though made out of animal skin rather than latex).”4
Egyptian physicians offered prescriptions for the prevention of pregnancy, according to Egyptian papyri dating from 1900 to 1100 BC.5 In the Greco-Roman world, birth control potions were recorded in fifth-century BC writings from the Hippocratic school of medicine.6 In early medieval European history, the Celtic and Germanic peoples used various medicines to control birth.7 The Arabian philosopher and doctor Avicenna wrote The Canon of Medicine during the eleventh century, and the work discussed spermicides, vaginal suppositories, potions, and abortifacients. The work was the standard medical textbook for the next five hundred years.8
In 1873 the United States passed the Comstock Law, named after the Christian who proposed it, which made it illegal to mail or import contraceptives, and most states outlawed the sale and advertisement of contraceptives.9 In 1880 the diaphragm was invented, and by 1935 over two hundred types of artificial contraceptive devices were in use in the Western world.10 In 1936 the courts overturned the Comstock Law.11 The first “birth control clinics” in the United States opened during the 1920s, available only for married and engaged women who could prove their status with appropriate paperwork.12
As the number of birth control options has increased and continues increasing, so has the need for discernment. Therefore, we will examine various options that fall along a birth control continuum.13 I will differentiate between no birth control, contraception, which literally means “against (contra) conception” (such methods prevent conception, whereby a sperm fertilizes an egg), and abortion, which terminates the life of a fertilized egg.
LEVELS OF BIRTH CONTROL
Level 1: No Birth Control
At the very least, every Christian married couple should cover every aspect of their marriage with prayer, including future children God may bless them with. Through prayer, the Christian couple is demonstrating faith in the goodness and sovereignty of God over all of life, including the womb.
Some Christian couples determine to use only prayer in their family planning. As a result, they simply enjoy normal marital sexual relations and trust that if God desires that they have children, he will provide according to his timing. When a Christian couple chooses this approach, trusting that whatever happens is God’s good will, it is acceptable.
A Legalistic Version of No Birth Control
When this form of family planning is dogmatically pushed as the only faithful Christian option, such foolish legalism can lead to both self-righteousness and harm. This kind of narrow thinking is popular in networks such as Quiverfull and often promulgated through some sectarian homeschool networks and promoted in some Christian books, which are not bad on all points but widely miss the mark on the issue of birth control.14 Vision Forum Ministries, which includes authors such as R. C. Sproul Jr., published the book Be Fruitful and Multiply in which Nancy Campbell, who publishes Above Rubies magazine, says, “‘Contraception, sterilization, and abortion.’ . . . Each one is masterminded in hell!”15 Similarly, in Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Revive Our Hearts national radio show host and best-selling author Nancy Leigh DeMoss, says:
So anything that hinders or discourages women from fulfilling their God-given calling to be bearers and nurturers of life furthers Satan’s efforts . . . The Christian world has been unwittingly influenced by this way of thinking [secular feminism], leading to the legitimization and promotion of such practices as contraception, sterilization, and “family planning.” As a result, unwittingly, millions of Christian women and couples have helped to further Satan’s attempts to limit human reproduction and thereby destroy life.16
Ironically, although DeMoss does have some good things to say on other topics in this book, she falls into her own error by doing exactly what her mother Eve did, namely, adding to God’s Word by declaring something that God has not said.
Furthermore, she quotes at length from Mary Pride, a homeschooling proponent and overreacting former feminist, who wrote in her book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, “Family planning is the mother of abortion . . . Abortion is first of all a heart attitude. ‘Me first.’ ‘My career first.’ ‘My reputation first.’ ‘My convenience first.’ ‘My financial plans first.’ And these exact same choices are what family planning, which the churches have endorsed for three decades, is all about.”17
Obviously, the self-centeredness of pride is something that Christians are to repent of, but the generalized character attacks by some—that women who use any form of birth control are working in concert with Satan and motivated solely by pride—go way too far.
Most certainly there are sinful people who use birth control for a variety of unbiblical reasons, including greed (they want to make as much money as possible without the responsibilities or costs of childbearing); selfishness (they have no desire to undertake the work involved in lovingly raising a child); an unbiblical view of children as a burden instead of a blessing; and an irresponsible lifestyle (they refuse to grow up and assume adult responsibilities). However, there are also a host of valid reasons why some godly people use birth control, such as working on a very troubled marriage in need of attention or dealing with serious health troubles, like a friend of mine who is taking birth control while battling cancer.
There are also many practical reasons why a Christian couple would choose not to use birth control. Sadly, some couples using birth control wait too long to begin their family and, as a result, suffer great complications. Infertility and miscarriage are common complications, especially as a woman gets older. Women are most fertile between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. Fertility begins a slow decline at age twenty-five and speeds up dramatically at thirty-five.18
To compensate for the age factor, in vitro fertilization (IVF) has become increasingly popular. According to one report, “IVF accounts for over 90 percent of late-in-life pregnancies and can cost anywhere from $10,000–$100,000.”19 The average cost of one IVF cycle in the United States is $12,400.20
Furthermore, the statistics indicate that the older a woman is when (and if) she becomes pregnant, the greater the odds that she will suffer medical complications, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, miscarriage, and stillbirth,21 and her child will have increased odds for birth defects and low birth weight. If she does give birth, she will be far more exhausted as a mom because her energy levels drop as she ages.22
Therefore, the woman who assumes she can simply postpone her childbearing in an effort to finish her education, establish her career, or pursue her travel goals may in fact be wasting her most fertile years. Instead, it may be wise not to wait to attempt motherhood by using birth control but rather to make it a priority, as God does in Scripture. Nonetheless, to declare that anyone who uses birth control is a selfish feminist working in concert with Satan is ludicrous. To illustrate this folly, I want to dispel the groundless arguments promulgated against any form of birth control.
Arguments against Any and All Birth Control
First, it is commonly argued that modern birth control is evil because it was promoted by racists such as Thomas Malthus and Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood). Sanger tried to implement Darwinism practically by encouraging the use of birth control and abortion among those peoples and races deemed less fit. She set up her first clinics in the poorest and most ethnic neighborhoods.23
Theologian Wayne House says, “In 1933 the magazine for Planned Parenthood, known in Sangers [sic] day as Birth Control Review, actually published ‘Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need,’ by Ernst Rudin, Hitlers [sic] director of genetic sterilization and founder of the Nazi
Society for Racial Hygiene.”24 Furthermore, later that same year the magazine “published an article by E. A. Whitney, entitled ‘Selective Sterilization,’ which strongly praised and defended Nazi racial programs.”25
Sanger saw birth control as the most effective way to get rid of people she called “feebleminded,” meaning those whose mental ability was less than that of a twelve-year-old.26 Sanger also once said, “Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity no less than Capitalism.”27
Sanger was simply a wicked woman, and no Christian should agree with her principles or practices. Nevertheless, to say that all birth control is sinful is fallacious, because it is a classic ad hominem attack that seeks to simply dismiss birth control as evil by connecting it with an evil person. Just because something is promulgated by a godless person does not mean it cannot be redeemed by God’s people and used in a godly manner. Pornographers, for example, are responsible for many of the gains in media, from inexpensive digital movie cameras to highspeed Internet downloads, but that same technology can also be used to download sermons and Bible studies to edify God’s people.
Second, it is argued that Christians never endorsed any form of birth control until 1930. The rhetoric postulates that Resolution 15 of the Anglican Lambeth Conference on August 14, 1930, was the first time in the church’s history that birth control in certain forms and for certain purposes was accepted. The conference did not endorse abortion, and furthermore did issue “its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception-control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.”28
Yet theologians such as Wayne House have refuted the erroneous claim that Christian birth control did not exist until 1930:
Christians in all ages have generally practiced some form of birth control, whether through medical devices or by more natural means, such as restricting intercourse to certain periods of the month or through coitus interruptus [a.k.a. Vatican Roulette]. Though the Roman Catholic church declared birth control a violation of natural law in the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (1965), most Protestants have considered some forms of birth control morally acceptable . . .
Contraceptive devices were known and used in the pre-Christian Mediterranean world. For example, five different Egyptian papyri, dating between 1900 and 1100 BC, have recipes for contraceptive concoctions to be used in the vulva. Other papyri describe preparations aimed at blocking or killing semen. Legal scholar John Noonan, in his authoritative work on contraception, has provided abundant evidence that such formulas were also used in Christian Europe during the medieval period (AD 450–1450) and the pre-modern period (AD 1450–1750).29
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.
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.”
Regarding the unbiblical thinking that undergirds this false view of marital sex, Wayne House says, “History reveals that such notions owed more to Greek Stoicism than to the New Testament,”39 and he quotes historian John T. Noonan Jr.: “Stoicism was in the air the intellectual converts to Christianity breathed. Half consciously, half unconsciously, they accommodated some Christian beliefs to a Stoic sense.”40 As a result of this Stoicism, emotions were downplayed and self-control was exalted. This even became true in marriage, where passion was considered suspect. Marriage must have another purpose namely, the continuance of the human race. In the words of the Stoic philosopher Ocellus Lucanus, “We have intercourse not for pleasure but for the purpose of procreation . . . The sexual organs are given man not for pleasure, but for the maintenance of the species.”41
This horrid, pleasureless, godless, unbiblical teaching is repackaged worldly Greek philosophical dualism (in which the body and its pleasures are not holy) instead of truth from God’s Word (in which our body and its pleasures are holy gifts from God to be used as God intends).
In Scripture we see that marital lovemaking serves the purposes of pleasure (throughout the Song of Solomon married sex is extolled and children are never mentioned), children,19 oneness,20 knowledge,21 protection,22 and comfort.23
Furthermore, the Song of Solomon includes many sexual acts that are given by God for married couples to enjoy; each of them is solely for pleasure, and none are necessary for the sole purpose of procreation. They include kissing,24 oral sex (fellatio) by her initiative,25 manual stimulation by her invitation,26 petting by his initiative,27 oral sex (cunnilingus) by his initiative,28 striptease by her,29 and new places, including the outdoors, and new positions by her initiative.30 In addition, 1 Corinthians 7:5 clearly states that the normative scenario for Christian marriage is free and frequent sexual intimacy: “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Response to the Anti-Birth-Control Arguments
While God has not changed, the world has, and his people need wisdom, not legalism, to live in it. In the days of the Old Testament, most people lived in a rural culture as farmers, which meant that children were assets as both laborers with their parents and caregivers for their parents in old age. Today, with more than half the world’s population now living in cities, where culture is made, it is more important than ever that God’s people heed the counsel of texts such as Jeremiah 29:5–7: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.”
While not every Christian should live in the city, too few do. Statistically, the closer you venture to a major city, from which culture and influence emanate, the less likely you are to find Christians, in general, and Christian families, in particular. This separation of Christian families from cities and culture-making centers is often a failure by parents to understand their role as that of training their children to be the next generation of missionaries, evangelists, and church planters. More than ever, major cities need Christian families who love the city and seek to introduce the people there to Jesus.
In its early days, Christianity spread as a primarily urban phenomenon from city to city, with a particular concern for raising children to love Jesus. In the Roman Empire during the days of the
New Testament it was common for children to be severely beaten and even tossed into the garbage or dung heap either to die or to be taken by someone and used as a slave, a prostitute, or a gladiator.42 Infant mortality was so high that only half of children lived to their fifth birthday, and less than 40 percent lived until their twentieth birthday.43 Consequently, a family would need to birth five children to raise two and usually waited between eight and nine days after the birth to name the child to see if he or she lived through the first week. Poorer families often bred children to help earn income and later care for their aging parents. Infanticide was common, particularly with disabled children and girls. Methods of infanticide included abandonment in the desert, drowning in a river while tied to a rock, and even suffocation at the hand of a parent.
As pastor of an urban church and father of five children, my desire is for missional Christians to live in cities and have children for the sake of the gospel. Nevertheless, I recognize that there are reasons today why a godly Christian couple might want to consider using some form of birth control—reasons that do not constitute sin or selfishness. I want to offer some practical, real-life examples from people I know personally. In them you will see that while writing books and declaring legalisms is easy, living for God’s glory amidst a fallen and imperfect world is far more complicated.
- A man married a single mother with rebellious teenage children and chose to postpone having any children with his new wife for a season while he first pursued a deep heart-level relationship with his adoptive children.
- A virgin woman who married for the first time in her forties chose to wait to attempt conception until after their first year of marriage. She and her husband had both been single for so long that they recognized they were a bit selfish and set in their ways and first needed to learn to care for one another selflessly.
- A woman had a difficult pregnancy that resulted in such great tearing of her body that her organs literally started falling out, so she wanted to wait a few years for her body to heal before birthing again.
- A family had a very sickly child who was unlikely to live for more than a few years and required constant medical attention, which prompted the couple to wait before having another child, though they did desire more children.
- A husband woke up with a debilitating and painful arthritic condition that kept him bedridden for a few years and unable to work; thus, he and his wife used birth control so that his wife could work to feed their children.
- A missionary family took an assignment in a war-torn area that was hit with famine; facing the possibility of starvation, they chose to postpone their childbearing efforts by using birth control.
- The mother of small children had been brutally raped and was dealing with such trauma that her husband lovingly agreed to wait to have any more children until she had physically and emotionally recovered.
- My wife, Grace, and I met while in high school and were married four years later, in the summer before our final year of college. We chose to postpone childbearing at that time so that I could finish my degree and start my career as a pastor, whereby I would be able to provide a salary and medical benefits to our now five children, in line with 1 Timothy 5:8, which says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
It is true that some people sinfully postpone children for reasons motivated by greed and selfishness. It is conversely true that some idealists have children prematurely, before they are truly able to care for them.
In summary, using no birth control of any kind beyond prayer is acceptable for Christian couples. However, it is sinful when it is imposed upon or demanded of all Christian couples. Many years after graduating from college, my wife, Grace, and I were reunited with a family that we had greatly learned from and enjoyed while students. They contacted us and came to visit us and spend a night at our home—with their twelve children! They are a beautiful Christian family in which the parents have a great marriage, the wife has been able to birth all her children without major physical trauma, and the children all love and serve Jesus. As one would expect, they have had to live simply, as with ten daughters it is at times difficult to meet all of the financial needs. But, to be honest, it was an absolute joy to have their family in our home, and in every way but financial they are one of the richest families I have ever known. Their position is very mature: they are both convicted that God has called them not to use any birth control, yet, they do not believe that is God’s will for everyone, and they do not judge or look down on Christian families who use birth control.
The Case of Andrea Yates
Conversely, the legalistic opposition to any use of any birth control and its devastating effects was the subject of much media scrutiny when allegedly Christian homeschool mom Andrea Yates murdered her five children by drowning them in the family bathtub. In 2002 Time ran a story detailing the life of Rusty and Andrea Yates, who are described as “a well-intentioned husband, strong willed yet seen as lacking empathy” and “a woman who had a vision of violence from the time just after her first child was born but who kept her demons secret to preserve the image of family and motherhood she and her husband treasured.”44 Even at their wedding in 1993 they expressed their plans not to use birth control; they wanted as many children as God would give them. They were pregnant within three months and eventually had their five children in six years.
The Yates family did not attend church but rather had family Bible studies three times a week because Rusty was leery of organized religion and had not found a church he liked. Andrea was on and off various drugs for her bouts of depression and multiple suicide attempts. Her doctor warned that if her illness returned, it could be more severe; but “Rusty and Andrea both believed, Rusty says, that if the depression were to return, Rusty could easily recognize the symptoms and seek early intervention.”45 Andrea became obsessed with the Bible. She finally succumbed to the voices in her head and played out her violent visions on the morning of June 20, 2001.
The kids were still having breakfast when she began. First was “Perfect Paul,” the 3-year-old who had been her most joyful and least trouble. He died in seconds, held violently underwater by the mother whose hands had carefully washed his hair so that the soap would not sting his eyes. She carried his soaked body to her bed, tucking him beneath a maroon blanket, his head on the pillows. After Paul, she drowned Luke, 2, and moved on to John, 5. Next she killed their baby sister Mary, whom she had distracted with a bottle so she wouldn’t scoot away and hurt herself while her brothers were being killed.
Noah, her firstborn, was the last to die. The 7-year-old left his half-eaten cereal on the kitchen table when Andrea summoned him. Walking into the bathroom, Noah saw his sister facedown in the water, her tiny fists clenched. He asked, “What’s wrong with Mary?” and then, according to the account Andrea would give police, he tried to run away. His mother chased him down, dragged the wailing boy to the bathroom and forced him facedown into nine inches of cold water in the tub, his sister’s body floating lifeless next to him. Noah came up twice as he fought for air. But Andrea held her grip. She then laid Mary in bed with her brothers, wrapping their arms around the baby. She left Noah in the tub . . .
Later she told jail doctors that nothing could mute the patter that said she was a lousy mother. The death of her children, she said, was her punishment, not theirs. It was, she explained, a mother’s final act of mercy. Did not the Bible say it would be better for a person to be flung into the sea with a stone tied to his neck than cause little ones to stumble?46
For those most overbearing, legalistic husbands who ignore parts of the Bible that teach about being wise and loving your wife, seeing the faces of the children before their troubled mother killed them might be helpful.47 Indeed, children are a blessing and so are prudent Spirit-led parents headed by a daddy who looks at his bride and sees a wife, not just a womb, who needs love and not just labor.
A Word to Husbands
Admittedly, I have hammered this nail hard. I have done so because I have met too many idiotic husbands who seem to think that birthing is akin to scoring points in a sporting event, and all they want to do is outscore their buddies, though they neglect to provide the kind of spiritual, emotional, mental, and financial support to enable their wife to be loved as Christ does his church. The result is often a wife who looks like a cash-strapped, exhausted, breastfeeding, homeschooling mom without any help—from a babysitter, housecleaner, decent home, or dependable car—detached from meaningful church community and kept under the thumb of her husband, who conveniently overlooks the fact that even the quintessential Proverbs 31 wife and mother had a husband who made an income sufficient for her to pay for help and invest what was left over.
Such folly is often done falsely in the name of headship, which I actually adhere to in its biblical form, by narrow-minded, impish men who fail in their duties while having a hard time settling into a church that meets their legalistic expectations and telling their wives to suffer in the name of submission until the weaker vessel invariably breaks. One group of women I know, suffering under this kind of husband, actually talk openly about their nervous breakdowns, as if such breakdowns are simply part of being a Christian mom. Assuming that the right hand of fellowship has now found the jaw of my blockheaded brothers, we will proceed to consider various categories of birth control for Christians.
Level 2: Natural Birth Control
Natural methods include any kind of contraception through which pregnancy is prevented by abstaining from vaginal sexual intercourse on days when the wife is likely to be fertile. The most popular natural method is the calendar-based rhythm method, which has been replaced by more effective methods such as the symptothermal method and the standard-days method. Fertility computers are a new development in contraceptive technology that make these natural methods easier to use by telling a couple when sex will or won’t result in pregnancy. The Roman Catholic Church approves the use of natural methods. One common myth is that a mother cannot become pregnant while nursing, which, while true for some women, is not true for all women.48
Abstaining from sexual intercourse does not necessarily require abstaining from all sexual activity. Some married couples enjoy such things as oral sex or a helping hand of manual stimulation from one another, depending upon what their conscience permits, during the wife’s fertile days.
Natural birth control methods have many benefits, including the involvement of both husband and wife, as well as the fact that such methods are free, safe, and reversible. Additionally, these methods require no surgery, chemicals, devices, or drugs. Natural methods can also be used with other methods, such as a condom, during fertile times. One of the potential difficulties is that natural methods require discipline and planning, which not everyone is equally faithful to ensure. In conclusion, natural birth control is permissible for a Christian couple.
Level 3: Non-abortive Birth Control
Like the natural methods, non-abortive birth control methods also seek to influence the timing of conception but do so by taking either temporary or permanent additional measures. This method of birth control has quite a long history.
Temporary non-abortive birth control methods are generally barrier methods. Barrier methods of contraception include all methods that permit intercourse but prevent the sperm and egg from coming together. Perhaps the most common is the male condom, which was invented three thousand years ago by an Egyptian couple using a linen pouch.49
As many as five thousand years ago, sea sponges were soaked in diluted lemon juice and then inserted into the vagina to absorb semen.50 Women also tried soaking sea sponges in olive oil, vinegar, and brandy.51 More than three thousand years ago, ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans inserted combinations of herbs, tree resins, and honey oil into their vaginas.52 Some African women used hollowed-out okra pods as a vaginal pouch that was in some ways like the modern female condom. 53 Roman women used goat bladders in a similar manner.54 Male condoms in the seventeenth century were made from animal intestines and were actually somewhat successful.55 In the second half of the nineteenth century, the rubber condom came into use.56 Regarding effectiveness, there is a reported 3 to 12 percent pregnancy rate per year with typical use.57 Using only a condom but doing so correctly means that a couple has a 3 percent chance of becoming pregnant in a one-year period.58
Male condoms are the best method for preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, if the husband or wife is infected. Complaints about male condoms include the unromantic need to stop in the moment of passion to put one on, diminished pleasure sensation for the husband, and the physical barrier between a husband and wife in their moment of greatest intimacy.
Male condoms are the only barrier method available for husbands, with the possible exception of a guy with one eyebrow who refuses to use breath mints because they are not mentioned in the Bible and wears shirts bought only from an auto parts store or a beer company and scratches himself a lot and wants his wife to play “pull my finger” before bedtime. In that instance, he is his own barrier method.
Female barrier methods include the diaphragm, contraceptive sponge, cervical cap, and female condom. Spermicides are also considered barrier methods because they kill sperm before they can reach a waiting egg, thus preventing fertilization. Also effective as a barrier is constant nagging, which keeps a husband far away.
The factors to consider with these methods are many. Sponges can be dangerous if left in too long, even causing infection or toxic shock. Female condoms are less effective than male condoms but can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse, thereby enabling greater spontaneity than male condoms.59 Most spermicides (including sponges with spermicides) use nonoxynol-9, which can create infection in some women but is helpful alongside other methods, such as a condom, because it kills sperm. However, the use of spermicides has been linked to a higher-than-normal incidence of severe birth defects—twice the rate of nonusers.60 The cervical cap has been a favorite contraceptive method in Europe since the mid-1800s and today is considered 60 to 80 percent effective. It can be inserted more than a day before intercourse so as to allow greater spontaneity.61 The reported failure rate of the diaphragm is anywhere from 2 to 20 percent.62
Permanent non-abortive birth control methods are often chosen by couples who have decided not to enlarge their family. (For the purposes of this chapter I am referring to voluntary versus involuntary sterilization.) Such preventatives can be achieved by either female sterilization, also called tubal ligation, or by vasectomy for men. Both of these methods require minor surgery and should be considered permanent, although it is theoretically possible, but difficult, to undergo a reversal. One of the elder candidates at our church had a vasectomy when he was a young non-Christian. After meeting Jesus and growing in his understanding of marriage and family, he actually underwent a vasectomy reversal before becoming a pastor in our church in order to set a good example. He reported that the entire process was painful and complicated.
The first vasectomy clinic in the United States opened in 1969.63 Some men reportedly experience depression after the surgery because they feel they have lost something of their masculinity. Others who become divorced or widowed can later regret their decision when they remarry and desire to have children with their new wife.
The first tubal ligation was performed on women during the nineteenth century.64 Some women reportedly experience depression after the surgery because they feel they have lost something of their femininity. Others who become divorced or widowed regret doing something so permanent when they remarry and desire to have children with their new husband.
Three things need to be mentioned regarding permanent nonabortive birth control methods. First, the heart needs to be examined regarding motive on this issue; this method should never be used to completely abandon the blessing of children, as Tom Leykis suggests. He is the most popular radio show host for young men in the nation and encourages young men (i.e., in their early twenties) to have a vasectomy so that they will never have to worry about getting their girlfriend pregnant or being stuck with paying child support to their ex-wife, should they ever get married and then divorced.
Second, it is unwise to make this decision too early in life, because it is not uncommon for a couple to later desire more children, or for someone to remarry after being divorced or widowed and desire to have children with their next spouse. I personally know of many couples who underwent just such a surgery after having a few children and later deeply regretted their decision and wished they had not done it.
Third, some Christians are legalistic on this issue and declare that there is essentially never a good reason for such a permanent measure. However, life in a fallen world is complicated and painful. A pastor and his wife, good friends of mine, suffered eighteen miscarriages before he had a vasectomy to stop what had become for them incredible physical and emotional pain. Also, my wife, Grace, had complications with the birth of our first daughter, Ashley, and had to have an emergency C-section. The doctor advised us to continue using C-sections, but after five C-section surgeries and one miscarriage we prayed James 1:5 and fasted and then decided that she would undergo a tubal ligation in conjunction with the birth of our last child. We have remained convinced that we made a wise decision for the sake of her health. Additionally, we are open to adoption or fostering in the future if God calls us to that, since we do consider children a blessing.
To summarize, levels 1 to 3 are options that Christian couples can consider without concern of terminating a fertilized egg, thereby taking a human life.
Level 4: Potentially Abortive Birth Control
At the next birth control level we tread into murkier waters, where it is more difficult to discern what is biblically right. “The pill” is a categorical term for more than forty types of oral contraceptives, which are also referred to as birth control pills and sometimes combination pills because they contain a mixture of estrogen and progestin. These hormonal contraceptives are designed to override the female body’s normal cycle and “trick” the woman’s brain into believing she’s already pregnant, thus preventing the release of an egg from the ovaries.
Birth control pills were introduced to America in the 1950s. In 1965 the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the nineteenth century law prohibiting the use of contraceptives.65 Today, fifty to sixty million women worldwide take the pill each day, and it is the most widely prescribed drug in the world.66
Generally speaking, hormonal birth control methods run the risk of causing an abortion. Because female hormones direct the process of ovulation, synthetic hormones can be used to keep an egg from being released so that sperm are not able to fertilize it. These same synthetic hormones can also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus and growing into a baby. Combined pills are generally very effective, as long as they are taken correctly: “With careful use, fewer than 1 woman in every 100 will get pregnant in a year. With less careful use, 3 or more women in every 100 will get pregnant in a year.”67 However, research indicates that those numbers may be considerably higher, up to 4 percent among “generally consistent and conscientious users” and up to 8 percent “among those who use the pill inconsistently and incorrectly.”68
Hormonal methods of birth control tend to be more effective than others but also pose greater health risks. They include systems with estrogen and progestin such as combination oral contraceptives, the vaginal ring, and the contraceptive patch, as well as estrogen-free methods such as the mini-pill (progestin-only pills), contraceptive injectables, and some intrauterine devices (IUDs). These are the same drugs used in emergency contraceptive pills. There are no hormonal methods available for men.
The Pill Debate
The debate over hormonal birth control, particularly the pill, is whether it results in the taking of a life by destroying a fertilized egg. Author, pastor, and pro-life leader Randy Alcorn has written a great deal on this subject.69 Alcorn writes, “The Pill is used by about fourteen million American women each year. Across the globe it is used by about sixty million. The question of whether it causes abortions has direct bearing on untold millions of Christians, many of them prolife, who use and recommend it.”
Alcorn goes on to point out that there is not one but rather three purposes for birth control pills. First, the pill exists to inhibit ovulation, which is its primary means of birth control. Second, the pill thickens the cervical mucus so that it becomes more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg. Third, the pill thins and shrivels the lining of the uterus so that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg. On this last point, Alcorn says, “Reproductive endocrinologists have demonstrated that Pill-induced changes cause the endometrium to appear ‘hostile’ or ‘poorly receptive’ to implantation.” 70 Furthermore, “Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) reveals that the endometrial lining of Pill users is consistently thinner than that of nonusers—up to 58 percent thinner.”71
The bottom line is this: the first two purposes of birth control pills are contraceptive in nature and therefore acceptable for use by a Christian couple. However, the third function of birth control pills is potentially abortive in that it seeks to disrupt the ongoing life of a fertilized egg. That potentiality is incredibly controversial; thus, faithful Christians who are staunchly prolife and believe that life begins at conception are divided over the issue.
To help provide some clarity, Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council (PRC), under the leadership of James Dobson, examined the issue for two years. The PRC is comprised of prolife Christian doctors from a wide variety of fields. They sought to thoroughly study the issue of whether combination oral contraceptives (those with both estrogen and progesterone) cause abortion. Ultimately, even they were undecided:
Pro-life physicians who have carefully and conscientiously studied this issue have come to different conclusions regarding the interpretation and implications of the relevant scientific data. After two years of extended deliberation and prayer, the PRC has not been able to reach a consensus as to the likelihood, or even the possibility, that these medications might contribute to the loss of human life after fertilization. The majority of the experts to which Dr. Dobson has spoken feel that the pill does not have an abortifacient effect. A minority of the experts feel that when conception occurs on the pill, there is enough of a possibility for an abortifacient effect, however remote, to warrant warning women about it.72
Similarly, the statement from the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) on this issue reads:
CMDA recognizes that there are differing viewpoints among Christians regarding the broad issue of birth control and the use of contraceptives. The issue at hand, however, is whether or not hormonal birth control methods have post-fertilization effects (i.e., cause abortion). CMDA has consulted many experts in the field of reproduction who have reviewed the scientific literature. While there are data that cause concern, our current scientific knowledge does not establish a definitive causal link between the routine use of hormonal birth control and abortion. However, neither are there data to deny a post-fertilization effect.73
Therefore, whether to use birth control pills is a very complicated issue about which faithful prolife Christians and doctors disagree. As a result, it seems legalistic and inappropriate to declare that use of the pill is sinful. Conversely, it seems that Christian couples need to be informed of the potential abortive nature of birth control pills so that they can study the matter further and prayerfully come to an informed decision according to their own conscience and the leading of God the Holy Spirit.
Personally, when Grace and I were first married, she had one semester of college left and I had one year remaining until our degrees were completed. At that time, Grace used the pill to prevent pregnancy until after graduation. She was actively involved in a local prolife group, and we were completely unaware of the potential abortive nature of the pill. Once we uncovered more information on the matter, we prayerfully came to the conclusion together that, in order to err on the side of caution based upon our deep convictions about the sanctity of human life, she would not take the pill. As a pastor who is, admittedly, not medically trained, I do not encourage members of our church to use the pill but also would not discipline a member for sin if they did.
Level 5: Abortive Murder
Abortion is taking a human life by killing a fertilized egg. Biblically, it is also known as the sin of murder. Abortions include medical procedures of various kinds as well as RU-486 and the morning-after pill. Other items that cause abortion are the intrauterine device (IUD) and Norplant, which do not prevent conception but prevent implantation of an already fertilized ovum. The result is an abortion, the killing of a conceived person.74
Thomas W. Hilgers of the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, studied over four hundred articles on the subject and concluded, “The primary action of the IUD must be classed as abortifacient.”75 Tragically, some 2.5 to 3 million American women use IUDs.76
Focus on the Family also addresses these birth control methods:
Birth control pills which contain only the hormone progesterone do not reliably prevent ovulation (the release of the egg from the ovary). This is also true of Norplant, a device implanted under the skin which slowly releases progesterone. With these methods, the pregnancies which do occur have a greater chance of being ectopic—that is, outside of the uterus. This may be evidence that these contraceptives act in some cases to disrupt normal implantation of an early pregnancy and not merely to prevent conception. Thus, the use of Norplant and the progesterone-only pill is problematic for those who believe life begins at conception.77
It may seem odd that I, as a pastor writing primarily for Christian readers, include this level as a form of birth control. Yet, tragically, many people, including Christians, use abortion as a form of birth control. Undoubtedly, there are very rare cases in which even the most devoutly Bible-believing, pro-life Christians are caught on the horns of an ethical dilemma involving abortion (e.g., when the mother’s life is at stake), but for the purposes of this chapter I am speaking of abortion in its majority sense as a murderous form of birth control. Regarding abortion, a divisionof Focus on the Family says:
The Alan Guttmacher Institute is a nonprofit corporation for reproductive health research and policy analysis. The Institute is also a public education arm of Planned Parenthood. It reports that one in six women who have had abortions are evangelical Christians. Based on these statistics, 5.6 million women in our churches have chosen abortion as a way out of an unwanted pregnancy. Each year, 1.5 million American women have an abortion. This means 250,000 evangelical Christian women could choose to abort a child this year.
Women ages 20 to 24 obtain 32 percent of all abortions. Teenagers obtain 20 percent. Forty percent of women ages 15 to 44 have had at least one previous abortion. Fifty percent of women who have abortions use it as their sole means of birth control. Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients say they used birth control during the month of conception.78
Christians have always followed the teaching of the Old Testament Jews, that abortion of a preborn child and exposure of a born child are both murderous sins. In the Didache, which was an ancient manual for church instruction, we read, “You shall not commit murder . . . You shall not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide.”79 The Epistle of Barnabas also says, “Thou shalt not procure abortion, thou shalt not commit infanticide.”80
Some will argue that there is a difference between a child in a mother’s womb and one outside of it, yet the early church saw both as equally living people and the taking of life in either state as equally murderous. Their convictions were based on Scripture, which uses the same word, brephos, for Elizabeth’s unborn child, John the Baptizer (Luke 1:41, 44), as is used for the unborn baby Jesus in Mary’s womb (Luke 2:12) and also for the children brought to Jesus (Luke 18:15).81 Simply, in the divinely inspired pages of Scripture, God reveals to us that a child in the womb and a child singing and dancing around Jesus in worship are equally human beings, who bear the image of God, and thankfully Mary did not abort the “tissue” in her womb, because he was God.
Prior to being saved from my sins and regenerated by Jesus at the age of nineteen with a new mind, with new understanding, with a new heart, and with new desires, I am sad to say I was vocally pro-abortion to the degree that I was more Malthusian in my outlook. I wrongly believed that less fit people should be sterilized or not permitted to conceive and encouraged, if not required, to abort if impregnated. I argued for this persuasively both in high school classes, as the president of our student body, and later in college classroom debates. I deeply regret my sinful position, and for those who somehow claim to believe simultaneously in Scripture and abortion, my rebuke includes a suggestion of ongoing study as an act of repentance, in order to experience Romans 12:2, which commands, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Thankfully, Jesus can forgive any sin, even the sin of murder, as he did while hanging on the cross and asking God the Father to forgive those who murdered him. Furthermore, prolife ministries are devoted to extending the love, grace, mercy, compassion, and support needed for men and women who have suffered from abortion to experience healing and new life. In our church this includes a ministry to post-abortive women run by female deacons who were once sexually active and who aborted their own children, only later to meet Jesus, repent, experience new life, and become godly wives, mothers, and church leaders.
In summary, as a pastor I would support Christian couples practicing levels 1 to 3 of birth control, urge those considering level 4 to prayerfully and carefully reflect on their decision, and oppose any Christian couple considering level 5, unless there are extremely weighty extenuating circumstances. In twelve years as the pastor of Mars Hill Church, which has seen hundreds and hundreds of weddings and pregnancies, I have not yet faced such circumstances, and by God’s grace I pray I never do. Should that occasion occur, I will work with the family, aided by prayer from our church, counsel from fellow elders, and outside expert medical counsel, to arrive at a decision based on a careful examination of all the variables involved.
1Genesis 1–2; Deut. 32:39; Ps. 139:13–16.
2Gen. 1:27; James 3:9.
3Gen. 1:28; 9:1.
4Ex. 1:16–17; 21:22–25; Lev. 18:21; Jer. 7:31–32; Ezek. 16:20–21; Mic. 6:7; Matt. 2:16–18; Acts 7:19.
5Jer. 1:5; Job 10:9–12; 31:15; Ps. 119:73; Eccl. 11:5.
6Gen. 9:5; Ex. 20:13.
81 Pet. 4:10.
9Gen. 1:27, 31.
10Gen. 2:24–25, cf. Matt. 19:5, Mark 10:7–8, Eph. 5:31; Prov. 2:16; Mal. 2:14.
12Gen. 20:18; 29:31; 30:22; 1 Sam. 1:5–6; Isa. 66:9; Luke 1:24–25.
13Gen. 1:28a; Pss. 127:3–5; 128:3–4; Matt. 18:5–6; Mark 9:36–37, 10:16; 1 Tim. 5:8.
14Mal. 2:15; Jer. 29:4–9.
16Matt. 19:13–14; Mark 10:13–16.
17Gen. 24:3; 28:1.
221 Cor. 7:2–5.
232 Sam. 12:24.
Copyright 2009 by Mark Driscoll
Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
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