by Mary Van Nattan
Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me,
teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
It has become fairly common these days to assume that if someone is a Bible believer; home schools; believes in courtship; has a "beautiful Christian home"; and/or is a member of a rip snorting, fire preaching, soul winning church that they will also believe that all forms of birth control are evil. "Naturally," they will know that it is "God's will" for every married couple of child bearing years to have as many kids as they can and just "trust God" regardless of the consequences. This ideology (it is not doctrine) has even come to be known as being "a quiverfull family" based upon Psalm 127:5. (It is seldom taken into consideration that it might be God's will, and to His glory, for some people not to have children, but we will take that up at another time.) Those who do not follow this plan are considered "unspiritual" and of little faith.
First and foremost, it must be stated that we are against any form of birth control, or more correctly put - pregnancy prevention, that endangers the life of an already conceived baby - anything that is abortificient, causing the womb to be inhospitable to any baby that is conceived in spite of the odds. This is murderous.
But, it is a big jump to go from this point to the conclusion that all forms of pregnancy prevention, or birth control, are "evil". Unfortunately, there is a tendency in many people, Christians included, or perhaps especially, to go to the opposite extreme on an issue when they realize that something is wrong or when they strongly disagree with it. It is important to remember that on many subjects we find the word of God to be in moderation - not extreme, holding to a position between two extremes.
So "what saith the scripture"?
First of all we are in the New Testament Church era, and the verses in the Old Testament that refer to child bearing as a reward, heritage, etc. are in the context of Jewish obedience to the law of God.
Deuteronomy 7:12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:...14 Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.
This is the context of the famous and much quoted Psalm 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. The heritage and reward is for obeying the law of God given by Moses to the Israelites under the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The reward of children guaranteed the continuation of Israel as a nation and heirs to inherit the promised land (an heritage) and the preservation of the individual tribes.
What does the New Testament say on this subject to Christians under the new covenant of the blood of Jesus Christ? A simple list of the verses would be useful.
1. VERSES SAYING BIRTH CONTROL IS WRONG: NONE
2. VERSES SAYING CHILDREN ARE A REWARD FOR FAITHFULNESS TO THOSE RECKONED UNDER GRACE: NONE
3. VERSES THAT SAY A COUPLE MUST HAVE CHILDREN, EVEN IF ADOPTED, TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD: NONE
4. VERSES SAYING WE MUST HAVE LARGE FAMILIES TO PLEASE GOD: NONE
5. VERSES SAYING WE MUST HAVE SMALL FAMILIES TO PLEASE GOD: NONE (This is added for the sake of those busy bodies who insist on questioning those who want more than two kids.)
6. VERSES THAT SAY A WOMAN CAN TAKE CHARGE OF OTHER MEN'S WIVES ON THIS ISSUE: NONE (This is added for the benefit of those women who think it is their "Christian duty" to "instruct" other women on "trusting God with their bodies" while usurping the authority of another man in his own bedroom. I say this with as much charity as I can muster.)
Number 6 above actually has verses that tell us women have no business taking charge of other men's wives.
1Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
1Corinthians 7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
1Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
Something is gravely wrong with this anti-birth control, "quiverfull", large-family-to-please-God teaching when we realize how often women are found instructing other men's wives on the subject. We might even say that these women are in essence entering other men's bedrooms through their wives. Women who would never dream of entering a man's bedroom and dictating behavior during the sexual time together, will do so through the wife in this issue because "it's so important." If it is "so important" then why didn't God say something about it in the New Testament?
Some will answer that "our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and that includes the female organs." It is a curious thing to come from that to the conclusion that a woman is obligated to have as many children as her body will churn out as fast as it will happen. Judging by the verses above it seems quite clear that such a decision belongs to each couple and they answer to God, not a pastor or evangelist, and not some other woman!
Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Others will assure us that "God opens and closes the womb." This is biblical enough as far as it goes, but again I would mention that all the proof texts are solidly in the Old Testament or under the old covenant (Zacharias and Elisabeth). This is not to say that God does not open and close wombs in the church age. However, again, He does not give command to the church on this subject. Interestingly, the same people that will say God opens and closes the womb to justify unlimited children will often encourage women or couples who are barren to do all they can to have children - if necessary adopt. Do I detect a double standard here? There is a name for this. It is hypocrisy.
It doesn't necessarily follow that because God opens a womb He therefore does not allow the husband and wife to use discretion as to the spacing of children or the total number. A godly, compassionate husband knows his wife's strengths and weaknesses much better than some other woman. If he chooses to limit the family size either for the sake of the wife or the children apparently, from scripture, God has left him that leeway in the church era.
Many of the women (and men) who claim the "doctrine" that all pregnancy prevention (birth control, or limiting or spacing) is sin make the cruel mistake of expecting others to live by their convictions and faith. In Romans 14:23 the Bible says, And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. This is speaking in regard to eating, however the principle holds true. When we do something because other people expect it of us in order to be accepted in the "spiritual" crowd, it is not of faith. I have seen at least one family, maybe two which were not practicing birth control of any form because it was "expected" of them to prove their godliness. They were not happy in their conviction and it showed in their attitude toward their children. It was extremely sad.
Sister, if someone "doesn't have enough faith" to just "take whatever the Lord gives them" (and I use that phrase very loosely), or if they are having many children and are not handling it well, then you mind your own business. If you think their motive is not right in the thing, then pray for them and shut your mouth. Thank God if you and your husband are happy with a large family or have the freedom to limit your family. But, God has not given you permission to enter into other married people's sex life and tell them what to do. He has also not given you permission to tell single ladies what they "should" or "have" to do after they marry. If you convince someone against their faith to do what you think is right YOU ARE HELPING THEM SIN, ...for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Now think about that. Do you want to give account to the Lord for that? Woe unto man (or woman) when he speaks where God is silent! (And, by the way, don't tell me that you should do this because the aged women are to teach the younger to love their children, Titus 2. Women can love children without have 15 or 20 of them. Some women love children and don't have any, as a matter of fact. I know some personally.)
Furthermore, if you're going to impose your faith on this subject upon others, then you should stick around and help clean up the mess. If you demand they have "as many children as the Lord gives" then you ought to have the grace to help them raise those kids and take care of them. If they are poor, you help support them. If the mother is overwhelmed with homeschooling then you go help her teach her kids. If they can't afford a vehicle to carry all their family at once, you help them get something. Hm.....not exactly what you had in mind? Don't tell us "if I can do it they can too." Thank God that's not how He runs His church! He tells us what He requires in His word and then He leads each of us according to the faith He gives us.
Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
When you expect someone to live by your faith instead of what God has given them, you are actually questioning God's ability to lead His own children. Stop and think about that a minute.
Romans 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
Again, I emphasize, the Lord gave us many laws in the New Testament for church and individual life, but He DID NOT address this subject directly. What the Bible does not say is just as important as what it does say. If the Lord doesn't lay a burden on us, let us not lay that burden upon each other. God knew what was coming for the church. In His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge He knew the many things that His church would suffer both for His name (persecutions) and in the times and places in which they would live (the Dark Ages, wars, many countries unfriendly to the gospel). He, therefore, saw fit NOT to command His church that they must have large families. NOR did He limit us to small families, for He knew that there would be times and places for, and those who would want, large families. Who then are we to question Him or to lay out mandates where He has not? Where God is merciful and gracious, we ought to be also.
Luke 11:46 And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.
Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Editor's note: There are several other methods of pregnancy prevention
that are not threatening to an unborn baby.
We would recommend pursuing these if you feel that you need one.
The Fertility Awareness Method (which allows for non-threatening barrier methods),
Natural Family Planning (including the Creighton model), and others.
background & graphics by Mary Stephens
Updated July 2016