There has been quite the noise lately in the news about the contraception issue with the Catholics raising a fuss over being forced into supplying contraception and even the “Day After” abortion pills to its employees under “Obamacare”.
Of course the immediate issue is that of freedom of religion. If the Roman Catholic (or any other institution or individual) is forced to supply or participate in something which is against their moral principals, then we definitely have a very real problem in our nation. Our LCMS Synodical President is very outspoken about what is going on and is even in Washington this week testifying to Congress concerning the issue of religious freedom.
In this whole mess, of course the Roman Catholic church has come under much derision again for its stand against contraception (artificial contraception, especially, although it allows for “natural” methods). Studies have shown that some 98% of Catholics have used contraception at some point or another. One has to wonder where the disconnect is. Is the Catholic Church out of line, or is it the parishioners who are out of line?
Historically speaking in the church, there has been very little (if any) support for contraceptives. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches have been vehemently opposed to it from the earliest times. However there has been, it seems, plenty of folks who have desired it. I found a couple very interesting quotes from Martin Luther on the subject, and, as we can imagine, having read the scripture and having five children himself with his wife Katharina, he was very “pro-children”!
Luther said: “…fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and a special gift of God, as is clear from Deut. 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. ‘There will not be a barren woman among you,’ he says (cf.Ex.23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s nature, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good for nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all; for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgment flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ From this they understood that children are a gift of God.” (Luther’s Works, Vol.5, p.325).
Interesting that one of the arguments against having children has been the economics of it all… I thought that was a modern argument, but I guess not, as Luther argues against it here:
“Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: ‘Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.’ But his blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 5, p.332).
Some might find it interesting that the LCMS does NOT have an “official” statement on the issue. The reality is that contraception is an issue that is not specifically dealt with in scripture. Much like gambling, it is impossible to say that contraception is “evil” or “sinful”, but the problem lies in our motivations and practice of it. The closest we come to something of an official “stance” from the LCMS is in a document published in 1981 entitled “Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective”. In this wide ranging document the issue of family planning and contraception was dealt with in this way:
In view of the Biblical command and the blessing to “be fruitful and multiply,” it is to be expected that marriage will not ordinarily be voluntarily childless. But, in the absence of Scriptural prohibition, there need be no objection to contraception within a marital union which is, as a whole, fruitful.  Moreover, once we grant the appropriateness of contraception, we will also recognize that sterilization may under some circumstances be an acceptable form of contraception. Because of its relatively permanent nature, sterilization is perhaps less desirable than less-far-reaching forms of contraception. However, there should be no moral objection to it, especially for couples who already have children and who now seek to devote themselves to the rearing of those children, for those who have been advised by a physician that the birth of another child would be hazardous to the health of the mother, or for those who for reasons of age, physical disability, or illness are not able to care for additional children. Indeed, there may be special circumstances which would persuade a Christian husband and wife that it would be more responsible and helpful to all concerned, under God, not to have children. Whatever the particular circumstances, Christians dare not take lightly decisions in this area of their life together. They should examine their motives thoroughly and honestly and take care lest their decisions be informed by a desire merely to satisfy selfish interests.
Back to our title question: “Is Contraception REALLY an Issue?”
The answer is: YES! Even if we determine that it is an allowable practice, it still has implications on our spiritual life and is an issue we NEED to address.
In the end it seems a reasonable supposition that Christians CAN, and even in some cases, SHOULD use contraception to help with planning their family responsibly. However, the blessing of family planning is accompanied by its evils as well. It is all to easy for Christians to be led by the devil to think and do things which are not at all appreciative of God’s gift of life and children. The modern contraceptive practices DO INDEED lead to sinful and selfish attitudes and faithless lives devoid of the blessings of children. I do believe that we need to concentrate on a couple issues:
- We need to emphasize that children really ARE a blessing from the Lord. They are not a disease or a burden that we need to be rid of. (This certainly has implications in the abortion debate as well.)
- We need to be aware and more careful of contraception methods today which do not prevent a child from being conceived, but actually work to keep an already fertilized embryo from attaching to the uterus wall, thereby actually killing it. There is document prepared by the LCMS that discusses this very issue that you can view here.
Happy and respectful discussion is welcomed!