Is the Duggar Position On
Birth Control Biblical?

by Mary Stephens
published June 2017


In this video the Duggars talk about their experience with birth control and why they chose to not use any method of prevention. [Note: You do not have to watch the video in order to understand this article. I have given quotes and explanations of things that are said.]

First of all, I find it interesting how Jim Bob and Michelle will sometimes talk as if the extremely stressful "baby and diaper" years are behind them. I've heard them say similar things in other videos. At the time of this recording Josie was still a baby, as you can see from the pictures, and they still had a number of "little ones", so Michelle shouldn't be considering herself past that. I'll grant that it likely becomes easier with time and experience, but the main reason it's so easy for them now is that they pass off a good deal of their responsibility to the older daughters for raising the younger kids - "the buddy system", as they call it. Of course it isn't hard to raise this huge family now. They have multiple surrogate parents helping them in the form of their older children, other relatives, and friends. The problems of that situation are another whole topic for consideration.

As to their experience with birth control, they explain that they went "on the pill" after they got married because they didn't want children right away. After a few years, they went off of it and had Joshua, then she started taking it again. She got pregnant while on the pill and lost the baby. A doctor told them that this could have been caused by the pill because you can get pregnant while on it and then the pill will cause a miscarriage. The problem is that they basically freaked out over this. This is something I call "Reactionary Christianity". They found a legitimate problem, recognized the seriousness of it, and then concluded that the opposite extreme was "obviously" the way to be "right with God." Christianity is sadly full of this on many different subjects.

The thinking is that if abortion is wrong, if "the pill" causes miscarriages of conceived babies, then the obvious solution is to never do anything to prevent. Only, this is not scriptural. We are to let our moderation be known. Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.  Moderation is a point between two extremes according to Samuel Johnson's dictionary. To be moderate is to not run to either extreme. In other words, we should not justify wickedness nor should we make laws and rules that are not clearly delineated in scripture in order to "be righteous".

Colossians 2:20-23 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

What Paul is saying here is that there is an appearance of wisdom - a show of wisdom - in obeying the commandments of men to not touch, taste or handle certain things. Because it appears to show humility, subjection of the body to an apparently higher calling, and it does not satisfy the desires of the flesh it APPEARS to be godly and righteous. However, it is not truly being dead to the rudiments of the world and alive IN CHRIST. It is following the commandments and doctrines of men. Of course, this is reminiscent of what Jesus said on another occasion.  Matthew 15:8-9 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

When someone, no matter how "wise" they appear, starts to promote various extreme ways to humble the flesh that are not clearly commanded to the church, it's time to step back and reconsider what they are doing. Frankly there is no clear scripture, especially for N.T. believers, that makes it "wicked" to use non-life-threatening forms of pregnancy prevention (known as birth control to the world).

Was it sad that the Duggars lost their second baby due to the use of the pill? Yes.

Should they have been concerned about that and taken appropriate, life-honoring measures? Absolutely.

Is it ok to decide to have as many children as you can have because you want a large family? Yes, it's quite fine to have a large family.

Was the "godly solution" to decide that any form of birth control was wrong? No. This is a reactionary position - they were reacting against the extremity of what they saw to be evil by going to the opposite extreme. As said before, there is no N.T. proof to support it, and O.T. proof is shaky. Just because they had accidentally done something that ended the life of their child, they did not have to go to the extreme position of never doing anything to prevent pregnancies ever again. 

By the way, to say that these forms of pregnancy prevention are wicked because they allow for fornication is, well, a bit laughable. Honestly, people have committed fornication for thousands of years without our modern birth control methods available, just to be clear.

There are methods available for preventing pregnancies that will greatly limit the probability of conception without any risk to the life of a baby that is conceived while using such methods. To say that these are not God-honoring or even wicked because some methods can cause miscarriage is nonsense. It is not sound reasoning, and no wonder the unsaved mock.

I had one complaint to the effect that their statement does not necessarily "judge" other people. While there is a point in that, I have heard so many people with this position speak in ways that cast judgment on others that I do not want to under-emphasize the problem. The Duggars have not been clear enough in their statements often enough to make it plain that they don't judge others, and furthermore, there are too many people who take what the Duggars say that way. As I have clearly stated here, the issue is that when we make a claim as to what it means to "do God's will" on a certain subject, we had better have clear scripture to support that. The Duggars' comments are less aggressive than some people's but they still can be taken as setting a standard of what it means to "have the heart of God about children," implying that those who do otherwise are not following "the heart of God."
The Duggars are somewhat restrained in voicing the opinions that some people in the Quiverfull, Family Inclusive, Patriarchy Movements actually say about these things. They generally style themselves as "receiving all the blessings God wants to give us." They generally don't mention some of the more extreme views which condemn people who don't "trust God with their family" as wicked, ungodly, and selfish. Some go so far as to indicate that any woman who uses any form of birth control is a whore. (Yes, I've read claims that extreme.) I have heard the Duggars say that what they are doing is not for everyone, so I'll credit them with at least appearing to realize that it's OK for some people to limit the size of their family.

Having said that, however, the position that they do take and the way they express it does tend to indicate that they have done this "right." They have "given that area of our life to the Lord" which, in many people's minds indicates that those who want to limit children are not giving that area of their life to the Lord. Claiming that "we just want to receive all the blessings God wants to give us" (meaning children), as they have said at other times, also rings this way to many people's ears by implying that those who limit the size of their family are not willing to "accept all the blessings" God allegedly wants to give them.

Now, stop and think about that. What if God leads a couple to not have a large family, for whatever reason - physical health, economics, ministry, mental/emotional health, life calling, etc.? What right has anyone to cast them as not "giving that area of life to God," if the people involved believe that the Lord Himself has directed them that way? I know one couple personally who chose not to have children because they knew that she carried a genetic problem that she could pass on to any children they might have. They believed that was God's will for "that area of their life."  God forbid that we should question the faith of others in such an area where there is no clear N.T. command. 

Romans 14:23 ...for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. That means that condemning someone for not living by our personal faith or questioning them for living in the faith God has given them for their life, is questioning the ability of the Lord to guide the believer. It is basically denying the power of the Holy Spirit to lead each of His children in the way they should go!

At the time stamp 1:56, Michelle says, "We prayed. We said, 'Father forgive us and give us a love for children like You love children.'" There is nothing wrong with loving children like God loves children, but the implication of what she's saying is that anyone who learns to love children like God loves them will not limit the size of their family. Does the Bible say that? No! Killing children in the womb is definitely not loving children as God loves them. But, in the N.T. there is no indication that we are obligated to have unlimited physical children in order to love children like God does.

I know another couple who decided to stop after they had only one child. The reason for this was that they had miscarried several before that one was born and the husband could not endure the loss of any more children. This is not because he doesn't love children but because he loves them so much. I can't blame him at all. I can well imagine his anguish of spirit. To condemn him and his wife for "not loving children like God does" because they chose not to continue to have babies (and possibly have them all go to heaven directly from the womb) would be nonsense! They have a real heart for children in their ministry to this day, and delight to see them saved and learning to follow after the Lord.

I don't know if Michelle meant to condemn others with what she said. Likely she would say that was not her intent. However, it is true that when we live as Christians we condemn the world simply by how we live. Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.  Noah condemned the world just by building the ark, although he preached as well in 2 Peter 2:5. Consequently, it is of great importance that the things we do and preach as "righteousness" should fall into that category biblically speaking. If we are going to condemn others by the position we take, it had better be a position that God has clearly revealed in scripture. I maintain that we are not commanded nor condemned in the New Testament regarding the number of children we have. God has apparently left that decision up to individual couples in this age.

Michelle Duggar continues the story saying that right after they "gave that area of our lives to God" that He "blessed us with twins," as if this was a sign that He was pleased with what they chose to do. One peril about looking for signs and revelations is that it is so easy to read whatever happens in the light we want to see it in. They needed to be justified in their own minds for the choice they had made. Having twins appears to have "proven" to them that the Lord was blessing them for their decision. It could just have easily been that He was showing them mercy in honor of their repentance and confession, and that He was comforting them for their previous loss caused by their ignorance. 

When we seek a sign to "prove we're doing the right thing" it is sadly easy to find one. Often we are  simply trying to confirm our own wishes or desires or "convictions" - to justify ourselves before men. Jesus warned about those who seek after signs, Matthew 16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign...  We really need to beware of looking for "signs and proofs" of God's blessing on us when we want to justify our position!  It leads to very perilous waters indeed. He also mentioned those who justify themselves before men. Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Starting at time stamp 2:23 Jim Bob starts in on the subject of dealing with this large family and how overwhelming that was and how they cried out to God for help and grace for those challenges. Then Michelle goes on to say, "The choices that you make throughout your day are not just based upon what you feel and what you want. There's a commitment. It's almost a dying to yourself. So, in one sense, there's death to your...selfishness, but yet, there is life abundant." Now, first off, I want to say that they certainly faced some daunting challenges and I'm sure, as with all challenges in the life of a Christian, these things brought growth through the leading of the Lord. But, I have some real concerns with the way this is said here. 

Let's look first at the verse she refers to here. John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Is this talking about gaining more abundant life through our trials and dying to the flesh? What is the context?

John 10:9-11 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

No, this is NOT about getting a more abundant life through our works! This clearly is saying that Jesus Christ gives us the more abundant life through salvation, which is in Him alone! You see there is a very serious problem that has worked its way into the Lord's church over the centuries, it is the idea that we can gain "righteousness" and the favor of God through our works and especially suffering. 

Let me give you an example completely outside of the context of this article that may help you see what I'm talking about. Some time ago I watched a documentary on Mormon polygamists. It is important to understand that the original teaching in the Mormon church regarding polygamy was that it was required for salvation and eventual godhood of the patriarch of each home. A man who did not practice polygamy could not be become a "god" and therefore his family would not have a god to head their universe in the "next life." Thus they would be demoted or lost (I don't recall which). One family that was interviewed talked about the challenges of living as polygamists and that it was hard sometimes. Some of the things they said very much echo what Michelle says here. Basically, they believed that they were subduing the flesh and their own selfishness by living in the polygamous relationship. They believed that it was making them stronger, more righteous people. And, I remind you, these were not born again people. They were trusting their works for their salvation and they believed the lie that they would one day be gods and goddesses (in the essentials).

Now, how is their claim to gain righteousness different from what Michelle said? The problem here is that the line between the truth and error is sometimes very thin. On one side we have true life and freedom in Christ and the joy of serving Him and suffering for His name's sake. But, on the other side we have a monastic ideal of self-inflicted suffering to gain spirituality and holiness through works. It slides very quickly into works salvation as well, I might add.

I'm afraid we tend to easily fall into thinking that by our works we will become more righteous. But see what the scripture says:

Romans 4:5-7 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Titus 3:4-8 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

John 17:17-19 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Righteousness is not about works. It is about faith without works. We work because we love Jesus Christ, not to gain His approval, keep His approval or increase His approval. We work for love of Him, not for our own sanctification! We work because He already paid the full price and made it possible for us to live in HIS righteousness.

In fact, I found one verse that speaks of sanctifying ourselves, and very interestingly, the works come after the sanctification, they don't cause it!

2 Timothy 2:21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

Galatians 3:2-3 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

We are neither saved nor made perfect by the works of the flesh. It may feel like we're learning a lot through our trials and struggles, and in a sense we are learning. But, the reality is that we are not going to experience "life abundant", as Michelle calls, or sanctification through the works of the flesh. It must be in our lives through faith in and relationship to Jesus Christ, or we will not experience it no matter how unselfish we try to be.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13, There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. [Emphasis added.]

I think we sometimes get so focused on the way of escape that we miss the first part of this verse. Christian friend, your situation is not "special". There is no temptation you can experience but what is common to the human race in general. Having a super large family does not give you better potential to be "selfless" or to grow in grace or experience the "abundant life". Being married does not give you opportunity to be a better Christian. Being single does not make you more holy, though it gives you the possibility to serve the Lord without distraction, 1 Corinthians 7:35. Being a Vegan does not mean you have greater experience in denying yourself and being a stronger Christian. Having depression, lupus, cancer, a dirty past, a clean past, poverty, riches, education, lack of education, etc. does not make us wiser, better, or more spiritual, and it does not give us the possibility of more growth than those who don't have those problems or blessings.  There are no "unique" cases on earth. God told us so plainly, and when God says, "no", He means NO! How is it that our pride makes it so hard to understand a little two-letter word?!

Michelle goes on at the 3:55 time stamp, "When you become a mother, a parent, there's a whole new dimension. You look at life through different eyes because you realize, before God, you are responsible for another person's life; to direct them and to mentor them to love God." 

Philippians 2:21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.

Now, I don't want to negate the feelings that some parents may experience upon the birth of their children. Becoming parents is an awe inspiring responsibility and it's sad where it doesn't inspire greater striving.  But... 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm going to ask again what the N.T. scripture teaches us. Was the Apostle Paul a parent? We don't know that he was, at least not of living children. It seems unlikely that he was because at the time of his conversion he apparently did not have a wife (though it's possible he'd had one that died) and no physical children are mentioned either. But, what was his attitude toward those with whom he worked? How did he encourage believers to act toward each other? What example did he strive to give in the Christian walk? Paul wept as he warned, he called Timothy his son, he worked with his own hands to provide for those who were with him, he taught with great fervency, he rebuked when it was appropriate, he carried them in his heart, he prayed for them without ceasing, he longed for them, he loved them more than they loved him. Are these not attributes of a good, godly parent? 

You see, our modern view of "church" has, I think, marred our understanding of what it really means to be the body of Christ and the family of God, to be all things to all men, to walk circumspectly and honorably among the saints, to love one another as Christ as loved us. It is too bad that some Christians only achieve this level of awareness that Michelle speaks of through becoming parents, and it's even more tragic if they never realize that this responsibility extends beyond their own flesh and blood. 

Philippians 2:3-7 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

John 13:14-17 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

I have discussed this peculiar and blessed family relationship that we are supposed to have more thoroughly in another place.

In Conclusion

I would like to think the Duggars mean well, and that they likely are not seeking to condemn others. What is really in their hearts is hard to say. They sound well on camera most of the time, although in the reality show there is often a lack of actual Bible or mention of Jesus Christ. But, it's so important to examine what people say in light of God's word, especially when they are presenting themselves as a source for spiritual guidance or wisdom! 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

There is no conclusive evidence from N.T. teaching that we are supposed to have as many children as our bodies are capable of producing in order to "give that area of life to God". Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. - not to the Duggars, and not any other leader or teacher.

There are no works or situations in our lives that make us "better Christians" than others in a quicker way or a more significant way. We all are to  ...grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 One way is not more effective than others, and no manner of works will save us or make us more righteous. The Lord is capable of teaching His children all they need to know through a variety of methods, and no one method is more effective than another in the long run. We each get our lessons in the way best suited to our needs, or we get them based on our own foolish choices which cause us to cast ourselves more wholly upon God. Every temptation is common, and the fruit of the Spirit is the same in every life. How we respond to His teaching and our life lessons in those situations is up to us.

And finally, we should be viewing the body of Christ as our family. Yes, we have a great obligation to the people God has put in immediate relationship to us. That's clear enough from all scripture. However, parents don't have some special inside information in this area that is not available to all Christians. The apostle Paul felt responsible for Timothy as for a son, although he was not his own flesh and blood. We all need to view the body of Christ as our family and not limit this "special" selfless living to parents of children. Philippians 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

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.

Romans 14:13-14 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Romans 14:22-23 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.


[P.S. Please don't waste your time writing to me that Romans 14 is about food and doesn't apply to this. Go read the context. More than food is mentioned and it's rather obvious from the more general verses that the Lord intends us to apply it to other areas of life as well. Buck up and face the truth. Don't try to brush it off because food is used as the specific example.]

Other Links of Interest on this page:

What the New Testament Says About Birth Control

Safe in the Arms of Jesus - for parents who have lost a baby

Why We Are not "Quiverfull"


graphics and background by Mary Stephens
Vintage graphics and illustrations - unknown