Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Sane View of Things....

From Credenda Agenda

Volume 18, Issue 4: Husbandry

Birth Control

Douglas Wilson

When a man and a woman come together in marriage sexually, much more should be involved than simply the procreation of children. At the same time, because our culture wants to make sexual activity almost purely recreational, Christians need to make sure we don't lose either part of the picture. The central biological purpose of sexual relations is the procreation of children, and we have to list this under the heading of "stubborn facts."

Of course, there are additional design purposes involved as well. In this way, it is comparable to food—the biological purpose of food is to nourish and strengthen the body. But God could have made food that was every bit as nutritious as food actually is, and have done so without the almost infinite range of tastes. What is the biological purpose of the taste of oranges, or watermelon, or beef gravy?

So, without losing our balance, what can we say about birth control? If the analogy above holds straight across, then is not the widespread use of contraceptives comparable to inventing and consuming calorie-free food? No, not quite. One place where the analogy breaks down is that food is necessary for individual survival. Were we to invent food that was absolutely nourishment-free, the end result would be that the eaters of it would starve to death. Fruitful sex is necessary to the survival of the human race, but it is not necessary to the survival of the individual. It is not necessary to the physical survival of a childless couple. The point of the illustration is to show how kind and liberal God is with His blessings. He layers them, stacking them on top of one another. When we discover that God has "this" purpose in something, it is wronging Him to simply assume that this is the end of the story.

Because Scripture says nothing about birth control in itself, we cannot conclude that it is a malum in se, an evil in itself. Doing so would take us well past what is written. Like everything else in this category, it would be sinful, or not, based on things like motive, context, method, and so on.

With regard to method, an obvious example would be the use of techniques that take the lives of unborn children. Abortion is considered by many to be a form of birth control, and so it is—a murderous form of birth control. In a similar way, bank robbery is "making a withdrawal from multiple accounts." But a guilty species does not become innocent by being a member of an innocent genus.

Motive and context would be defined by what Scripture says about faithful children generally. Everything else being equal, fruitfulness is a good thing. It is a blessing. So if a Christian couple have bought all the current propaganda, and they are diligently limiting themselves to 1.2 children, then they are allowing the current false assumptions of the world to dictate to them how the Bible is to be read. But if another couple know that children are a blessing, and they use birth control in order to "space" their seven children, I would be hard pressed to say that this was an example of some kind of compromise. A man can have a high view of apple trees and still not plant them a foot and a half apart in his orchard.

There is another consideration. The Bible teaches that it is not just a matter of having them. Bringing up a child involves a good twenty years or so. Having ten children means that you are dealing with a couple (overlapping) centuries of child-rearing. When this is done right, it is glorious. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. But when it is not done right, the results are correspondingly disastrous. Samuel would not have been more greatly blessed if he had had five sons taking bribes instead of two.

Looking around the secular world, there is plenty to react to. Looking around the conservative Christian world, there is plenty to react to. But we ought not to be reactionary. Children are a blessing, and if they are individually loved, nourished, read to, fed, and educated, they remain a blessing.

Scripture does not encourage us to think that wisdom and fecundity automatically go together. And at the same time, the Bible does not encourage us to seek out barrenness as though it were a blessing. It is not.

We are told that none of us should think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3). Before you build the tower, you ought to do some contingency planning (Luke 14:28). Sit down and count the cost. What are your likely financial boundaries? What is your health like? How old will you be when the youngest graduates from high school? Will you short-change your oldest daughters in their education by pressing them into service taking care of their younger siblings? Given how hard you will have to work to feed them all, will you have any time and energy left over to love them? Remember that children don't just need quality time; they need quantity time. What will the tuition payments to the Christian school be when all of them are enrolled? Are you equipped to homeschool so many children at so many different levels, or will things quickly deteriorate as they are left to instruct themselves or each other?

This is susceptible to misunderstandings, I know. But having answered all the questions above (and others like them) as honestly as you can, knowing what you can do, I would encourage you to have all the children you can.

But that can is much more than biological.

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Hi, Cheryl,
This article brings to my mind the thought that some of the "distinctives" of the rpna(gm) are Biblical truths which have been slightly warped, and then are held superstitiously by the "elders" and those who continue to countenance them. Indeed, there was a split in the leadership of the group over this very issue."No birth control" is a term of communion, but the "elders" who hold to it have excommunicated all members who tried to hold them to their "intention" (not "promise", Greg Barrow states) to actually put pen to paper to give the Biblical reasons for their position. Whatever position we take on this issue, it must be firmly based on Scripture, not some superstitious reverence for men's sperm, which is what I gather is their reason, from having listened to them, and from reading Provan, whom they recommend.