We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Is Contraception Unbiblical? (i.e. Sinful?)


What does the Bible say about sexual relations inside of marriage?

*Genesis 2:24 says the husband and wife are to become one flesh, which Jesus reiterated in the Gospels. 

*Hebrews 13:4a says, “Marriage is honorable among all…” 

*1 Corinthians 7 tells us that the wife’s body belongs to the husband and his body belongs to her, and that they are not to deprive each other of sexual relations. 

*The Song of Solomon exalts sexual relations within the marital relationship, as the couple describe the pleasure they share in each other.

So we see that while Scripture condemns sexual relations outside of marriage as immoral, sexual relations within marriage are right and proper and intended to make the husband and wife “one flesh.”

Notice that there are two functions of sexual intercourse: the unitive function (including companionship) and the procreative function.  

The unitive function is stated immediately when in Genesis 2:18, 23-24 it tells us the reason for the unity (not good for man to be alone), and that they do indeed become one flesh in that unity.  This is prior to the procreative function - before “be fruitful and multiply.”  I believe the unitive function of sexual intercourse is even more important than the procreative function, in that it seals the the couple together -  the “cleave unto his wife” (KJV) has the meaning of becoming “glued” together; cemented as one.  (After all, not all couples can procreate!)  Pleasure is derived from this unitive function, and the pleasure in each other is part of what draws the couple closer in their unity.  (Think about it — God could have made sex only for procreation with no pleasurable feelings involved.)

William S. Banowsky put it this way:   “The significance of manhood and womanhood resides, not in what each is unto itself, but in what each can become along with the other.  As radically different as they are, yet perfectly complementary, man and woman hunger innately to immerse their separate, prior selves into one complete self.” (It’s A Playboy World, p.78)

Now that we know what the Bible says about marriage (that it is honorable) and sexual relations within marriage, let’s take a look at what the Roman Catholic Church has taught, and which has bled over into many of the Protestant teachings over the centuries.  We will begin with a bit of a history lesson:

St. Augustine by the end of the fourth century, had developed the doctrine of original sin in such a manner as virtually to equate it with sexual pleasure.  Soon the conviction was firmly entrenched that, inside or outside of marriage, an act of intercourse propelled by desire and consummated for pleasure is always wrong.  Perpetual virginity thus came to be considered the highest good and absolute celibacy was required by all who would take churchly vows.  Marriage was permitted  as a concession to the weak but, even within marriage, intercourse was looked upon as a necessary evil legitimate only for the propagation of the race.  Augustine regarded marriage as a kind of confessional arrangement, a sacrificial means of forgiveness for the sin involved in the pleasure of coitus; and Aquinas, arguing that wedlock with intercourse is really more holy, quoted with approval the saying of philosopher Xystus: ‘He who loves his own wife too ardently is an adulterer.’’ (William S. Banowsky, It’s A Playboy World, p.74)

So, now you should understand why the Catholic Church forbids priests from marrying, and why they are so much against birth control — AND why Mary must be a perpetual virgin (otherwise she is “soiled” by sexual intercourse).  But let’s look at current Catholic teaching; unless otherwise noted, I will be citing the “Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XI on Christian Marriage.”  This document leans heavily on the teachings of Augustine, and cites him frequently.  For ease of reference, I will cite paragraph numbers from the on-line edition.

In discussing marriage in general, I found a curious statement:  “To take away from man the natural and primeval right of marriage, to circumscribe in any way the principal ends of marriage laid down in the beginning by God Himself in the words ‘Increase and multiply,’ is beyond the power of any human law.”  (para.8) 
So if they really believe that, then why do they take said right away from priests and nuns?!?  Isn’t this hypocrisy?

Now to see what they say about birth control.

And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act.” (para.53)
Notice how they have determined that “continence” is “virtuous” but using some method of contraception is “frustrating the marriage act.”  They have determined, without biblical support, that sexual intercourse MUST provide the ability to conceive.

Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances.” (para.53)
With great hubris, Rome has called contraception “criminal abuse,” and then provides only two possible reasons people would not want children from every sexual encounter.

But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.” (para.54)
Contraception is now declared “against nature” regardless of what reason one may have for not wanting a child from every sexual encounter.  They declare it a “sin against nature,” “shameful,” and “intrinsically vicious.”  All these emotional claims have no basis in Scripture, but derive from the perverse mind of Augustine and his ilk.  And notice the claim that sexual relations are “primarily by nature for the begetting of children,” (my emphasis) contrary to the plain teachings of Genesis 2:18, 23-24.

Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.” (para.55)
So, if one is using contraception while engaged in marital intercourse, Augustine decided that it is “unlawful and wicked” based on his bizarre misrepresentation of the episode with Onan, in Genesis 38:9-10.  Let’s look at the actual passage to see what it REALLY says:
But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother.  What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death also.
Notice that Onan had sexual relations on many occasions, and any time would have been killed if the reason for death was contraception.  God gave Onan time.  The incident with Onan was about a specific case and not as a general rule.  Onan did not want to impregnate his wife because the resulting child would not be considered his, so he ignored what God wanted and for that rebellion he was punished.

any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”(para.56)
This is, of course, total nonsense, and all based on the idea the sexual intercourse, in and of itself, is intrinsically evil.

As regards the evil use of matrimony, to pass over the arguments which are shameful, not infrequently others that are false and exaggerated are put forward.  Holy Mother Church very well understands and clearly appreciates all that is said regarding the health of the mother and the danger to her life. And who would not grieve to think of these things? Who is not filled with the greatest admiration when he sees a mother risking her life with heroic fortitude, that she may preserve the life of the offspring which she has conceived? God alone, all bountiful and all merciful as He is, can reward her for the fulfillment of the office allotted to her by nature, and will assuredly repay her in a measure full to overflowing.” (para.58)
Notice how this paragraph begins with calling contraception evil!  And although they will grieve if a woman dies because it was well-known that having a child would kill her, well that’s just too bad.

“Holy Church knows well that not infrequently one of the parties is sinned against rather than sinning, when for a grave cause he or she reluctantly allows the perversion of the right order. In such a case, there is no sin, provided that, mindful of the law of charity, he or she does not neglect to seek to dissuade and to deter the partner from sin.”  (para. 59)
Notice there is no unequivocal judgment of sin for the one suggesting the use of contraception.  Of course we don’t find than sin in the Bible, but that doesn’t make any difference to Rome.

Now let’s take a look at some teachings in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae.”  Again, we will use the online edition for easy reference:

If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.”  (para.16)
Guess how often the rhythm method has produced children!  And of course, the idea of scheduling sexual relations is just plain absurd.  Can you imagine newlyweds — who are desiring to wait a few months or even a year to start their family —  going to celebrate their honeymoon only to discover that their wedding day fell during the wrong time and they will have to wait a while before they can consummate the marriage?!?!

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”  (para.17)
So, here’s the real reason.  With the availability of birth control, Rome can’t trust a man to remain faithful to his wife, or to not degenerate to just using his wife’s body for his own sexual release.  Perhaps they should have been more concerned about all the promiscuous popes!

I think William S. Banowsky has a good summation:
“[U]ntil it forthrightly affirms the legitimate place of sexual pleasure as a unitive embrace, without regard to procreation, the [Roman Catholic] church will continue to encourage the ancient idea that there is something inherently evil about the sex act itself.  And mere endorsement of the rhythm method is no such affirmation.  The most debilitating thing about the rhythm method is not that it imposes an abnormal limitation upon the expression of marital love, but that it undergirds the false idea that sex is a biological appetite that can be scheduled — like eating or sleeping.  If we hold to the principle that the only purpose of intercourse is procreation and carry this principle to its logical consequence, we cannot avoid the grotesque conclusion that all intercourse after menopause is illicit.

“Serious anthropological confusion lies at the root of all this antisexualism.  Whenever there is a confusion about the nature of man there will always be confusion about much else.  Religious antisexualism emerges from a sadly limited definition of man, a view that divorces sexuality from his total being.  Such a view segregates sex and translates it into a limited set of actions that may be regulated by law, or discarded with impunity.”  (It’s A Playboy World, p.76)

Oh, and by the way — Marriage is NOT a “sacrament.”  Rome says sacraments are “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” (Catechism, para 1131)  There is no biblical authority to declare it as such.


(Note: With regards to my use of the terms “contraception” and “contraceptive,” this does not include those methods which cause the abortion of that which is already conceived.  It may include sterilization in some circumstances.)

Addendum, 4/7/14:  Today I was reading the book, “Judaism For the Non-Jew,” by Rabbi Barry A. Marks, and came across this interesting paragraph:

Sexual relations between husband and wife are affirmed not only for the sake of procreation but as a means of expressing love.  There is a rabbinic statement to the effect that the individual will have to render account in the next world for those pleasures he could have legitimately enjoyed and which he denied himself.

Notice that when compared to Romanism, Judaism says that sexual pleasure is a vital part of marital love!  No hint of it being evil, etc.  Notice also that Marks says it is “not only” for procreation, whereas with Rome procreation is seen to be of the utmost importance over and above any “evil” of desiring sexual pleasure.

I think Judaism, in this case, agrees with the Bible more than does Rome!

10 comments:

Drew said...

My concern with contraceptive pills is I have heard that all of them do include abortion poison as a back-up device. And at this stage of the game, I feel like Christians need to be having more children, anyway.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Drew,

I understand, which is why I made my note about the type of contraception discussed. But one's choice of contraception is another topic. The issue here is whether contraception in and of itself is sinful.

ali said...

Whew!!

Much information to digest. Will need to chew on this awhile.

Thanks for doing your due diligence.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I'm going to post a short addendum this afternoon, based on some reading I was doing today.

Steve Bricker said...

Interesting material. I knew about Augustine's view of Original Sin but never thought this bled over into the teaching on contraception. It makes sense though.

Jen said...

I don't know if it is sinful, but hormonal birth control is not healthy- period. No woman should be bombarding themselves with hormones to trick their bodies and then they wonder why they end up with problems later on. You fool your body into not getting pregnant, then you wonder why you can't stay pregnant. You wonder why you are old and hit with all these health problems that you take more pills for.

Surgeries just SEEMS wrong. You don't "break" a part of your body that is working. As for the rest...I don't know. It also SEEMS wrong to try to prevent what the Bible says as a blessing just because the world tells us otherwise (its bad for your marriage, you cant afford it, you need more money, you won't be able to travel, kids are a burden, etc) But does that make it sinful? I don't know. What it does make it is something to pray over and to be willing to actually listen to the answer.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Jen,

I agree about the possible health risks of hormonal birth control, but that again is beyond the scope of the article. Condoms, e.g., bring no harm to the partners, yet Rome outlaws them as being sinful.

I would suggest surgery as a permanent method when medical evidence demonstrates a pregnancy would be life-threatening. Again, the idea of the post isn’t what methods are used (except to note that drugs causing abortion are definitely wrong), rather the point of the post is that birth control in and of itself is not sinful. A couple could even practice Onanism and cause no harm to themselves, and yet Rome uses that method as an example of the sinful nature of birth control.

Also, the REASON for birth control may be sinful, rather than the birth control itself. For example, if a couple doesn’t want children because they are selfish it is the attitude which is sinful, not the contraception. For example I see no sinful attitude in desiring to space children for various reasons.

Anonymous said...

This article is a perfect example of liberalizing apostasy. The Roman Catholic and all the original Protestant churches all unanimously opposed contraception in any forms whatsoever. Contraceptives kill innocent babies and violate God's natural design for sex This post is nothing but mildly seeker-sensitive, emotional, ignorant assertions.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous,

So, disagreeing on contraception is apostasy?!?!? I don't think you know what that word means.

I couldn't care less about the traditions of men. I prove in this article that the Lord does not forbid contraception, that it isn't a sin.

Your ignorance of contraception is horrid. SOME contraception kills the conception, and my article speaks against that.

God's natural design for sex is also the unitive function (did you actually read the article or just the headline?)

There is nothing "seeker-sensitive" or "emotional" about this post; again, I don't think you understand what these words mean.
And there is no "ignorant assertions" made, rather I prove my case.

Take your ignorance and ad hominem attacks elsewhere.

Jesse said...

These two articles are beneficial here:

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2012/03/contraception-part-1.html

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2012/04/contraception-part-2.html