Couples on Pill 'prefer God's curse to His blessing'
By Tim Bloedow
In August, The Interim ran a review of a booklet by Randy Alcorn, a U.S. Protestant evangelist, on the
abortifacient function of many so-called contraceptives. Alcorn's concerns reflect those of an
increasing number of pro-life Protestants, showing that contraception isn't just a "Catholic issue."
In the following article, regular Interim contributor Tim Bloedow offers arguments against
contraception itself - not just the abortion-causing kinds - based on his understanding of the Bible,
from an evangelical Presbyterian point of view.
It's hardly a secret that Protestants who oppose birth control or "family planning" today are a rare
breed. Apparently, however, this has not always been the case. John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley,
and many other early Protestant Reformers, including the Puritans who moved to America, had nothing good
to say about contraception. I want to add my voice to the opposition to contraception and "family
planning," and I hope to add some constructive thoughts and arguments to this important debate.
Being committed to the historical Protestant view of the Bible's exclusive authority and
infallibility, my necessary focus and starting point is what I understand the Bible to be teaching,
rather than, for example, the scientific and medical issues surrounding the safety of chemical
conception, or the possible relationship between the contraceptive and pro-abortion mentalities.
I first want to talk about what I think is the overarching principle for those who support
contraception—the idea that since responsible people must plan in other areas of life (rather than just
sitting back and letting things happen), it is only reasonable that we should plan the size of our
One secondary point worthy of note here is that almost without exception analogies are immediately
brought into the discussion to argue this point. Any student of logic, however, will tell you that an
analogy can only supplement an argument, not prove it. The existence of a principle does not
automatically justify its use wherever we find it convenient. Also, an analogy can be made to say almost
whatever a person wants it to say.
For example, one critic of birth control recently said a friend who supports "family planning" used
the example of a farmer, saying that a godly farmer has to plan and act (for example in setting up an
irrigation system), rather than just pray (for example, that God would send rain). This birth control
opponent, however, argued that the illustration actually serves his own position better.
"The farmer seeks to add wise and diligent means ... to his labour to make his land more productive,"
he notes. "Birth controllers, on the other hand, seek to prevent the multiplication of productive
seed—children. For the analogy to hold, the farmer must seek to limit his crop's productivity—perhaps by
praying for drought or simply refusing to plant seeds likely to grow!"
Getting back to the main point: If we are to be involved in planning the size of our families
(and the spacing of our children), then we must take our direction from the Bible in order to plan
according to God's will. When we go to the Bible, we find that it does teach us what to do in terms of
"family planning." The problem though (for those who argue for limiting the number of children we have)
is that the Bible's plan takes us in the opposite direction.
The Old Testament taught God's people that women, because of their monthly period, were "unclean"
during this time and for seven days afterward. It teaches that they are not to have sexual relations
during this time. Because of what we know about human biology today, we know the period of time during
which husbands and wives were permitted to engage in intercourse includes the woman's most fertile
I confess that I have strong reservations about making this principle binding in the New Testament
era because most, if not all, other areas of teaching about "cleanness" and "uncleanness" refer to the
sacrificial system set up to foreshadow the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the final
sacrifice for us. Therefore, at least within historic Protestant teaching, these commands were fulfilled
in Christ and, therefore, are not binding on New Testament believers.
Nevertheless, binding or not, this model clearly reveals that God in His grace and sovereignty
ordained that his people enjoy sexual relations over the period of time when it is most likely to
produce offspring. I see no evidence in the New Testament that this larger principle has been reversed.
Christ did not dismiss the law, he fulfilled it.
The passages about "cleanness" and "uncleanness" do not state that couples have to engage in sex
during the period of the woman's "cleanness," but the New Testament certainly warns against abstaining
from sex for more than a short period of time. I Corinthians 7: 3-5 says abstinence by married couples
must be with consent, and for specific reasons: "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a
time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer." This is a very serious command because it is
made so that "Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." Exceptions should only
include situations over which we have no control such as illness or geographical separation.
By the way, this principle must also be faced by those (primarily Roman Catholic) who advocate
so-called "natural family planning." "Planning," whether through man-made chemicals and products or by
way of other methods, is not natural if it contravenes God's will.
I am surprised at the extent to which I have heard even very credible Bible teachers caricature those
who oppose birth control as hyper baby-makers. From their entrenched view that birth control is
normative, they caricature opponents as people who spend almost all day in bed, not exercising their
other responsibilities in a balanced fashion.
Actually, this criticism usually comes in response to the observation that children are a blessing.
Critics will agree, but argue that you are not necessarily supposed to thirst after every blessing in
unlimited amounts. The point is also made that many other things, including prosperity and good health,
are also identified in the Bible as blessings, but we aren't called to pursue them to the exclusion of
First of all, those who oppose birth control are not feverishly trying to have as many children as
possible. They simply refuse to set up obstacles to conception during their times of sexual intimacy.
One's position on birth control does not determine the frequency of sex. In fact, it may be that the
more children they have, the less frequently they set aside time for such intimacy (without more
Also, it should be noted that the comparison between children and other blessings is wrong. Those who
make the comparisons rightly point out that excessive pursuit of blessings such as material prosperity
is wrong—but it is not wrong because they said so, it is wrong because the Bible calls greed sin. On the
other hand, I have yet to find a Scripture passage calling an "excessive number" of children a sin.
Actually, one proponent of birth control I read recently argued that Psalm 127, where we are told
that the man whose "quiver" is full of children is blessed, is to be interpreted as referring to a
community, not a single "nuclear family," because a quiver included 30 to 50 arrows. "Are we supposed to
pray for 30 to 50 children?" he asks.
God's perfect standard of righteousness, however, is also impossible to achieve in this life, yet God
still commands us to "be perfect, as I am perfect." Therefore, one could just as easily argue that,
since it is all but impossible for one woman to produce 30 to 50 children, what God is telling us in
this passage is that we should continue to desire and welcome as many children as He will give us with
the understanding that each child is a blessing and that we are looking towards the ideal number of 30
It's interesting that people want to argue that there's nothing wrong with not having children. On
the contrary, biblical morality is antithetical in nature (i.e., the opposite of right is wrong), and
the Bible clearly teaches that barrenness is a "curse." The anguish that Old Testament women felt over
their barrenness was not simply a culture-specific response, it was an appropriate response to the
teaching of Scripture.
Some people may argue that barrenness is the lack of children, so once a couple has at least one
child, they are free to stop. Barrenness as depicted in Scripture, however, appears to be the state of
being unable to have children, regardless of whether or not one already has a child. If barrenness is a
"curse," then Christians who voluntarily choose barrenness must ask: "Why do you prefer God's curse to
Dr. Ian Taylor, a well-known Ontario evangelical in creation science and home schooling circles,
draws people's attention to the command to "be fruitful and multiply" in Genesis I. He observes that the
word used is "multiply," rather than "add," and argues multiplication requires a minimum of three
offspring (while addition implies just two children to maintain the population).
I should note that the Bible certainly lacks any specific, indisputable command not to obstruct
conception. At the same time, however, the lack of explicit biblical command or revelation does not in
itself make the issue "secondary" in importance—the Bible does not explicitly define God as a Trinity
either. We discover that truth by comparing Scripture with Scripture to discover the complete counsel of
Scripture on this point. That is what I have attempted to do here, at least in part, on the question of
(Part two of this article will appear in the November issue of The Interim.)
Tim Bloedow, an evangelical Presbyterian with a BA from Ontario Bible College, is married and lives
in Ottawa, where he works as a journalist and Campaign Life Coalition lobbyist.