Issue and Interchange
ADVOCATE 2 Response
Rules of Interpretation
Our position on birth control is this: since the way God sets things up in the beginning is the pattern for righteous behavior (Ex. 20:8-11; Matt. 19:4-6), and since it is most obvious that God Himself ordained the sex act at the beginning for the purpose of procreation (Gen. 2:24; 1:28; Mal. 2:15; Job 10:10; Westminster Confession of Faith XXIV:2), it therefore follows that contraception (which is an intentional thwarting of being fruitful) is forbidden by God unless one can produce Scriptural justification for it; i.e. approved example, explicit command, or good and necessary consequences (WCF I:6, Larger Catechism Q.99:4). This is the clear teaching of Leviticus 10:1-4, which tells us the story of the sad deaths of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who were killed by God because they "offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them."
Birth Control is Mandatory in Advocate One's System
In advocating birth control, Advocate One uses these words: "circumstances in which it is contrary to Godly wisdom to take on familial responsibilities" and "the types of distresses that Paul wants believers to avoid," following them with "the principle stated above will apply to all those circumstances in which such familial distress occurs -- i.e. persecution is not the only situation in which we may temporarily forego taking on familial responsibilities." Interpreting I Timothy 5:8, he says, "This principle...forbids us to place ourselves in situations in which we cannot support our family...." Even in his new response, he says things like "Scripture forbids us," and "we are obligated to...act as faithful, active stewards" (my emphasis). Our opponent makes birth control out to be God's will (and therefore mandatory ) in certain (very broad) circumstances.
Pharaoh and the Corinthian Distress
Our opponent scrambles about to find some big difference between the two persecutions mentioned, to justify his assertion that God allowed contraception to the Corinthians, while opposing it for the Israelites! The fact is that the Pharaonic assault was worse. The distress of I Corinthians (not even mentioned in II Corinthians, to my knowledge) was of short duration, whereas Pharaoh's campaign soon escalated to encompass the destruction of the entire seed of Israel. If God was opposed to the Israelites in Egypt practicing contraception, He obviously would be opposed during lesser persecutions, which destroys I Corinthians 7 as a "contraceptive proof text." Further, Paul told the Corinthians that the lessons of Old Testament Israel's conduct are binding on Christians (I Cor. 10:1-22; II Cor. 8:13-15).
On I Timothy 5:18
Advocate One asserted that poor Christians who do not practice contraception are guilty of violating this passage. Nehemiah dealt with an even worse case than envisaged by Advocate One, and he did not condemn the procreating poor, even when they are forced to sell some of their children. Advocate One now asserts that "Nehemiah 5 does not provide us with enough information," with no proof.
On "Endorsing Slavery"
Being in slavery to pagans is not good, but it is better to be a slave and trust God for the consequences, than to never be alive at all. Slavery is bearable and can be rectified (Gen. 50:20; Ex. 6:6; Lev. 25:47-48; Neh. 5:8; I Cor. 7:21), while not conceiving a child is a horrible and much worse catastrophe: a curse -- Hosea 9:11; a disgrace -- Luke 1:25; a sickness -- Genesis 20: 17-18; and a source of great bitterness and misery -- Genesis 30:1 and I Samuel 1:10-11. (In addition, who thinks that Christians who oppose abortion "endorse" birth defects?)
Advocate One says that not practicing birth control in certain circumstances makes one an enemy of God. Scripture says that enemies of God should be excommunicated. The logical implication is just what we said.
We apologize for not stating our position more clearly last time. The paragraph below should help clarify matters.
Although nature is in some circumstances an imperfect teacher, in others it is a perfectly valid indicator. Nature proves the evil of homosexuality in Romans 1:24-28, and God Himself uses the example of nature ("the land") in Leviticus 18:25, 28; 20:22, when he mentions the putridness of menstrual sex, bestiality, and male homosexuality. All species in nature perform the sexual act in such a manner as to further the cause of procreation, not to hinder it. Note that Advocate One does not dispute this known fact , and when he tosses out nature entirely, his quarrel is with the Bible, not me. If nature proves homosexuality wrong, then it also proves contraception wrong.
Is All Past Christian Interpretation "Utterly Irrelevant"?
Reformed theology has always had great respect for the views of the godly of the past, in obedience to Scripture: "In the multitude of counsellors there is safety" (Prov. 11:14). To quote a well-known Reformed theologian: "Although tradition does not rule out interpretation, it does guide it. If, upon reading a particular passage, you have come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for two thousand years, or that has been championed universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation" (R.C. Sproul, The Agony of Deceit, p. 35).
It is a matter of historical fact that all branches of Christianity (and especially the Reformed) strenuously opposed contraception up until well into the corrupt century in which we find ourselves. Before then, it was advocated only by acknowledged heretics (various agnostics) and open enemies of the Christian faith (see, for example, Peter Fryer, The Birth Controllers ). This is the tree from which "Christian" contraception has sprung, and to which we say, "a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit" (Matt. 7:18).
The pertinent part of Genesis 38:8-10 says this: "...when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also." The anti-contraception view is the most obvious: God killed Onan for destroying his seed. Since God Himself says that non-performance of the Levirate duty (regardless of motive ) is not worthy of death (Deut. 25:9), but that Onan's act was worthy of death, this greatly reinforces our interpretation. To get out of this conclusion, it is necessary for Advocate One to come up with more than "this is simplistic;" he must prove that Onan cannot have been killed for contraception, since he admits that Genesis 1:28 commands Christians to have children. Thus far, all he has come up with are historically non-existent interpretations of only two New Testament passages.
Who is Bound by the Procreation Command?
God gave the command after He had married Adam and Eve; hence the command applies only to married folks. We may here again observe that for Advocate One to prove that birth control is permissible, he must locate a clear and provable Scripture mandate for contraception. He is thus far able to locate only abstention for prayer and related subjects, and this does not prove the justness of contraception any more than my abstaining from sexual relations while I am at work or church proves that I am in favor of birth control. Likewise, his citation of Jeremiah (which we brought up in the first place) proves nothing because abstinence for the unmarried is the Biblical norm.
Married Christians, rich or poor, who eschew birth control are acting in a very responsible manner: God told us to have children, God made the children, and God says He will take care of them for us.
"An Ugly Assertion"
Advocate One accuses me of distorting his view of children, but it was he who compared having children to the horrible things I mentioned; in fact, I merely lifted them right out of his paper. Please compare my "Trusting in God," paragraph two, with his "Section C," paragraph two.
God has ordained sexual relations as the channel though which He sends children (a great reward) to believers (Gen. 2:24; 1:28, Job 10:10; Ps. 127). Many people don't want the children they fear God might send them, and do all in their power to thwart God in this matter. Thus, contraception is fighting against God, and those who practice it are guilty of despising God's gifts (Gen. 25:34; Heb. 12:16).
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