This is something that I’ve thought about posting on for a long time but never have. For the record, my goal here is not to draw any hard lines in the sand but rather ask the question whether or not the practice of birth control is warranted by scripture. If you currently use some form of birth control, all I would ask is that you read and consider. I do not believe birth control to be a salvation issue. It is a secondary issue but I do believe it could, at the very least, be an issue of holiness.
There are strong historical arguments against birth control. For example, the fact that no christian denomination before 1930 agreed with the practice as well as strong statements by respected church fathers such as Augstine, Luther and Calvin. These were some of the first things that made me really question the whole idea of the practice, but for this blog I’m going to focus solely on the biblical arguments. If you’d like to know more about the historical arguments, the Catholics have many websites that speak on them.
In Genesis 1:28 God says “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV)
He says the same thing in the previous verse as well, in 26. This is probably the most popular argument with Christians who choose to abstain from birth control. God here obviously doesn’t declare a number, therefore why not have a gazillion kids, right?
Although that is an argument, I think a more powerful one is this: In hebrew whenever a word is repeated it’s called a parallelism. In english we underline, boldface, italicize or highlight something to draw attention to it’s importance, but in the bible if something is important, it’s written twice. In short, God is saying we need to pay attention to that word “dominion”.
Dominion is a royal term. It means to subjugate or to rule. Another way to read it would be: Bring God’s glory everywhere, hence the words “the earth”. God wants His glory to shine all over the earth. How do we do that? By being fruitful and multiplying. Now this argument is insufficient on it’s own to really make a strong case, so stay with me here. The following arguments in conjunction with this one, will help us formulate a more fuller picture of what I think scripture has to say on the whole birth control issue.
2.) Psalm 127:3-5
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (ESV)
Two things I want to point out are the words “Blessed” and “fills his quiver”. The psalmist believes that to have a family (probably a large family from the way its written) makes him strong. He mentions his enemies and being able to stand against them. Let’s not concern ourselves with that part, since most of us have since put aside our Spartan ways and no longer raise up warrior children to defend our bastions (a.k.a. homes).
All I want to show here is that every child is a blessing from God and that God through the psalmist, reveals that a specific number is not really His concern. In my opinion, this is because the assumption is that everyone would be trying to have as many kids as possible.
Voddie Baucham, one of my favorite pastors said it this way: “If you’re boss came to you and gave you a raise would you turn him down? What if he came and gave you four subsequent raises? The bible says your children are a blessing.”
I like this analogy because its simple. If having a child is like getting a pay raise, why would would we not want to be rich? Why do we not want as many blessings as possible? Is it because society has tainted our view of children? Are we letting the culture determine how many kids we have?
3) Confirming our election
“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” 1 Peter 2:10 (ESV)
How do we confirm our election? By being holy and living like Christ.
“Yet she (the wife) will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
We know from scripture that a person is saved only through faith in Jesus Christ and not through works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we also know that works are the evidence of a person’s faith (James 2:17). It is safe to conclude that Paul is not saying that a woman is saved by having children, for that would mean barren women would be unable to receive salvation. It makes more sense if we read the verse “saved through childbearing” as confirms her election through childbearing. In other words, with every child, that woman becomes more holy. Why would we not want to be more holy? If every child means growing closer to God why would we stop short?
* If a woman can’t have children, I do not believe this means she can’t confirm her election in other ways. I’m simply stating that having children is one of the ways she is permitted to do so.
4) Blessing vs Cursing
God in Deuteronomy 28 gives a list of blessings and curses. One of the blessings, if they choose to follow him, is that he will bring them children. One of the curses, however if they do not obey, is that they will not have children.
This is an interesting thought. In ancient Israel it would have been considered a curse to not be able to have a child. So essentially, if I were to bring a set of birth control pills, condoms, spermicides, surgical equipment for vasectomies and tube ties etc. to an Israelite family and say “use these”. They would slap them out of my hand and probably spit in my face.
Food for thought. Why do we willingly make our bodies infertile when that’s the way God has designed them? Would the Israelites have done that? Would the early church? From everything I can see, they wouldn’t have.
5) Growing the elect Church
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
God’s Word makes it very clear. If you want to have christian children, teach them to be christian from a young age. But is this verse saying only that? What if this verse is also saying that we as believers and as parents, have an opportunity to help bring a new believer into God’s elect Church?
Remember, proverbs is stating a general rule. If you raise your children to be Godly, they will be Godly. That may not happen all the time but as christians, we don’t argue for the probabilities, the “ifs” and the “maybes”, we go off what scripture tells us. If we have a family of five and we are believing parents, could all our kids turn out to be evil wicked pagans? Sure. Unlikely, but it is a possibility. If we’re really being honest with ourselves though, that’s most likely not going to be the case. If a child is raised in a christian family where the parents are actively pursuing and modeling their faith for their kids, they will more than likely become christians.
So assuming the above is true, that means with every child born, that’s (technically speaking, in light of the above) another believer we can add to the kingdom. Why stop at two believing children when you could possibly commission seven or nine or twelve? Everyone is so concerned about going overseas and evangelizing to our communities, which we should do! But the odds are better with those of our own household. The likeliness that they would be saved, much higher. So the question becomes, why do christians not want to play the odds?
Points three and four are meant to stand on their own. Points two and five I want to now use to tie in with my first point on dominion. More children means more disciples, it means more evangelists, preachers, and servants for the kingdom. If we were to say, “you know what God? I’m scared, but I’m gonna lay it down and have as many kids as you want me too.” What would happen? Would we be able to take dominion of the whole earth? Would we be able to shine God’s glory in more dark places? I think the answer is yes.
Would it be hard? Most definitely. Would we be poorer? Have to live in smaller houses? Not buy our dream car/apple watch/flux capacitor/500 inch galactic plasma-photon-LCD TV? Rely on our neighbors and family a bit more? Absolutely. But would we be better for it? Would we be more desperate and hungry for God? If the answer is even remotely close to a yes, then I don’t see why we wouldn’t at least try.
What are your thoughts?