The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Contraception Morally Wrong?
WHAT do you think? Is it wrong for married people to use contraception? Your answer may well depend on your religious convictions. The Catholic Church teaches that every action designed to impede procreation “is intrinsically evil.” Catholic dogma promotes the idea that each act of sexual intercourse between marriage mates must remain open to pregnancy. For the Catholic Church, then, contraception is “morally unacceptable.”
Many people find this point of view difficult to accept. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on the subject noted that “more than three-quarters of Catholics in the United States say the church should allow the use of artificial birth control. . . . And millions ignore the ban every day.” One of them, Linda, a mother of three, freely admits to using contraceptives but says: “I don’t really believe in my conscience that I’m sinning.”
What does God’s Word have to say on this issue?
Life Is Precious
God considers the life of a child to be precious, even in the very earliest stages of development. King David of Israel wrote under inspiration: “You kept me screened off in the belly of my mother. . . . Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing.” (Psalm 139:13, 16) A new life begins at conception, and the Mosaic Law indicates that a person could be called to account for injuring an unborn child. In fact, Exodus 21:22, 23 specifies that if a pregnant woman or her unborn child suffered a fatal accident as a result of a struggle between two men, the matter had to be brought before the appointed judges. They were to weigh the circumstances and the degree of deliberateness, but the penalty could be “soul for soul,” or life for life.
Those principles are relevant to contraception in that some methods of birth control appear to be abortive. These methods of contraception are not in harmony with the divine principle of respect for life. Most contraceptives, though, are not abortive. What about the use of such methods of birth control?
Nowhere does the Bible command Christians to procreate. God told the first human couple and Noah’s family: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” But this command was not repeated to Christians. (Genesis 1:28; 9:1) Hence, married couples may decide for themselves whether they will raise a family, how many children they will have, and when they will have them. The Scriptures, likewise, do not condemn birth control. From a Biblical point of view, then, whether a husband and wife choose to use some nonabortive method of contraception is really a personal decision. Why, though, does the Catholic Church condemn contraception?
Human Wisdom Versus Divine Wisdom
Catholic sources explain that it was in the second century C.E. that professed Christians first adopted a Stoic rule according to which the sole lawful purpose for marital intercourse was procreation. The reasoning behind this position was thus philosophical rather than Biblical. It was based, not on divine wisdom, but on human wisdom. This philosophy persisted down through the centuries and was elaborated on by various Catholic theologians.* The logical outgrowth of this teaching, however, was the idea that sexual pleasure as an end in itself is sinful and, consequently, that sexual relations that exclude the possibility of procreation are immoral. But this is not what the Scriptures teach.
Using poetic language, the Bible book of Proverbs describes the joy that can result from appropriate sexual intimacies between husband and wife: “Drink water out of your own cistern, and tricklings out of the midst of your own well. . . . Let your water source prove to be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth, a lovable hind and a charming mountain goat. Let her own breasts intoxicate you at all times. With her love may you be in an ecstasy constantly.”
Sexual relations between husband and wife are a God-given gift. But procreation is not their sole purpose. Sexual relations also allow a married couple to express tenderness and affection for each other. So if a couple should decide to exclude the possibility of a pregnancy by using some form of contraception, that is their choice to make, and no one should judge them.
It was only in the 13th century that Gregory IX enacted what the New Catholic Encyclopedia calls “the first universal legislation by a pope against contraception.”
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
▪ What should Christians bear in mind if they use contraceptives?
[Blurb on page 11]
God told the first human couple and Noah’s family: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” But this command was not repeated to Christians