My take on Contraception

| | Comments (5)

I had been planning on writing a post on contraception, but Jeremy has beat me to it. His post is excellent and there is little that he says there that I would disagree with. I do want to add some of my own point of view so here goes:

In my circles, I have come across several people who believe that using contraception demonstrates a lack of faith in God. Some have been aware of my infertility, one even had infertility issues of her own. The universal refrain among them was that to use contraception was try to control our lives too much instead of allowing God to have control.

What irks me is that all of them also had financial planners and invested heavily in their retirement funds. Financial planning was defended under the rubric of "stewardship", while family planning was attacked under the rubric of "unfaithfulness".

Admittedly, family planning can be done in an unfaithful manner. And financial planning can be done as proper stewardship. But not all family planning is unfaithful, sometimes it is good stewardship. In the same way, some financial planning is not good stewardship but unfaithfulness.

When pressed to defend their anti-contraception stance, they would ususally fall back on the "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" command. I actually had a family member, one with whom I had shared the hardest parts of my infertility struggles, telling me that everyone, me included, had a moral imperative to multiply. For me not to do so was apparently a sin, even though I had no control over it. (To his credit, he did not put it quite so bluntly and apologised immediately after I told him how hurt I was. Apparently, he also later changed his mind on the issue, or so I gathered by his vasectomy.)

This was of course ridiculous. The command to be fruitful and multiply hardly applies to all people in all circumstances.

The variant of this arguement that I have been coming across recently is that we need to have more children because we need a larger working class in order to support the retired elderly. Population control (and by extention, contraception) is seen as a moral evil because certain institutions, like Social Security, won't work properly if the elderly outnumber the tax base.

Of course, the logical end of this, especially as you factor in increasing life-spans, is that the population must grow exponentially forever. There are some practical problems involved with this. [Examples are left as an excercise for the reader.]

Coming back to the "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" command--have we ever considered that maybe we've completed this command? Maybe we've already filled the earth? I know that we can certainly fit more people on this planet, and that the planet could certainly support more of us than it does currently, but is that the right criteia by which to measure if we have filled the earth? The rest of the command is to "subdue the earth", which I take to me that we are to steward and cultivate the earth. It may be that we are to fill the earth until we are numerous enough to do such a job properly. I would contend that we curently have enough people to do that. (And if you take a more conservative view of the word "subdue" and take it to mean "control and subjugate", then we have more than enough to do that--witness the mass extinctions going on around us.)

So if that is the case and we have fulfilled the command, then even as a species do we any longer have any moral imperative to procreate? This is of course not to say that we shouldn't procreate; I'm just questioning if our species any onger has a moral imperative to increase our population.

5 Comments

I think there might be a little more to the command than just populating and subduing the earth. It might also be a reflection of God's creative aspect and our imitation of God's creative element through being creative in our limited way. Clearly this involves much more than children, and this is not going to be part of everyone's fulfillment of the command, but it's one way the command to be fruitful and multiply can involve more than just populating the earth until it's populated enough to steward it well.

There's also a possible imperative for Christians (or at least to see having children as a good thing) because of spiritual multiplication, but of course that need not involve any biological reproduction, and some might argue that it's better (if financially possible) that it mostly not involve biological reproduction because of all the children who could be adopted. I'm not sure you or I would argue for that, but you and I both know people who might.

Quite a mix. But on the whole, both you and Jeremy had me up until
"some might argue that it's better (if financially possible) that it mostly not involve biological reproduction because of all the children who could be adopted"

Which is simply the inverse of "everyone, me included, had a moral imperative to multiply" children.

Both man-inflected imperatives, not God-given. I liked "There's also a possible imperative for Christians (or at least to see having children as a good thing)" if it was more an emphasis on seeing the ways God wants to bless us as something that is good.

I practiced birth control, and I also had a large family ( involved inconsequential explanation for that). I have run into both sides of the fence on this... and I think the biggest mistake for Christians is to try and formulate an imperative when there is none.

What I found very interesting in your post was this:
"Financial planning was defended under the rubric of "stewardship", while family planning was attacked under the rubric of "unfaithfulness"."

I think you are on to something here. People often have difficulty seeing where personal responsibility and self-control is mandated and where God's Sovereignty and our faith is required.

It is not our responsibility to right all the wrongs of everyone "out there". Neither by having children nor by not having them, but we are responsible to walk humbly with our God and do what is good with the opportunity He affords us.

Some of us are given children- which is a blessing- and some of us are not... and have other areas of blessing and fruitfulness. We ought to all be thankful for the state we are in. There is a mandate;) maybe.

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To circumvent the usual admonition to "read the post". I did. This comment is more my own take in recognition of the different sides on this issue as evidenced in Christendom.

I am not arguing against, but with..... :)
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One thing that I do not see addressed within these posts is the massive shift within our culture that heavily burdens women with children. There is precious little support and nurture for young mothers from the community ( including that of the Church) while increasing burden is placed on those dads who are caring and responsible.

It is sink or swim for those who decide to have more children than the culturally acceptable two...mmmmaybe three. I am not going to simplistically say that it is all the fault of a jaundiced attitude towards having children, I do think that plays an integral part of it.

We have so many shifts due to reworking concepts of right and wrong that it is hard to pinpoint all the causes of specific opinion pendulum pulls on subjects such as contraception. Perhaps clarity on the line between God-given mandate and godly opinion would help.

The conversations here seem to encourage that.

So if that is the case and we have fulfilled the command, then even as a species do we any longer have any moral imperative to procreate? This is of course not to say that we shouldn't procreate; I'm just questioning if our species any longer has a moral imperative to increase our population.

I don't see any scriptural basis for this. On what basis do you see "you will know you have filled this commandment when"...?

Wink pointed out that the "be fruitful and multiply" command is in the context of stewardship over the earth. If the point of being fruitful and multiplying is so that humans can safeguard and care for what's been given to us in God's creation, then we have to evaluate whether that command has been fulfilled in terms of whether we're in a position to steward the earth well. I'll let him explain why he thinks we are in that position, since that's a matter of empirical observation and not biblical exegeis, but I wanted to make clear what his argument was. It does tie it to the scripture.

Well it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

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