07 August 2011

Considering Contraception in Brief

For those who would much rather cut to the chase, here is a condensed statement of my opinions on contraception. The nineteen points here are still numbered to coincide with the corresponding points in the full original version, which should be consulted for clarification (as well as for the catechetical and kerygmatic context in which these points are given).

2. A husband and wife will normally engage in marital relations as a matter of course in their life together, and they should not withhold themselves from each other except by mutual agreement for a time for the sake of prayer (1 Cor. 7:5). It is in this union of the two as one flesh, that the Lord our God, who is alone the Author and Giver of life, conceives children where and when it pleases Him.

3. Though men and women cannot create new life, it is within their power and ability to destroy the temporal life that God has entrusted to their care, to hurt and kill the bodies of their children. But such destruction, harm and violence, even when it is done quietly and covertly in the secret place of the womb, is forbidden and prohibited by God. It is sinful.

4. Because the Creator and Preserver of all things has established an orderly creation, and He is most faithful in upholding His creation in its natural order, it is possible for men and women to avoid the likelihood of conception. Such avoidance does not involve the destruction or murder of any living being. It may be a godly exercise of dominion over the creation.

5. Notwithstanding the common usage, I pointedly distinguishing between “contraception” and “birth control,” as follows: “Contraception” avoids the likelihood of conception by seeking to prevent the union of the man’s sperm with the woman’s egg. “Birth control” aims to prevent the actual birth of a child. It does so, whether in whole or in part, by hindering, inhibiting, and preventing the normal growth and development of an already-fertilized egg; which is to say, by doing harm and violence to a newly-conceived human life.

6. “Birth control,” thus defined, is sinful and immoral because it violates the fifth commandment.

7. I do not approve or condone the use of “birth control pills,” because they intentionally cause the woman’s body to be inhospitable to any children who are conceived; and because they also do short term and long term violence to the woman’s body in the process.

8. I do not regard the act of “contraception” per se to be sinful or immoral, but neutral and free.

9. The practical decision to use contraception, however, is subject to the moral considerations of faith and love in accordance with the Word of God.

11. Deliberately refraining from marital relations on a particular occasion, or at any given time, for the purpose of avoiding conception, is itself a method of “contraception,” which I do not regard as morally superior or inferior to other methods. “Barrier methods” are self-evidently more intrusive, and in that respect are less “natural.” But withholding and abstaining from the natural affections and intimacy of marriage is another sort of intrusion, which is also unnatural (especially at those very times when the woman is most fertile).

12. The morality of contraception is not measured in the external action, nor in the particular method that is used vis-à-vis other methods of contraception, but it is measured in the heart.

13. When decisions to avoid the likelihood of conception are driven by fear, doubt and despair, laziness, selfishness and greed, personal ambition, etc., those decisions and actions are sinful violations of faith and/or love, irrespective of the method of contraception that is used.

15. Faith trusts and confesses that the Lord will surely provide all that is needed for each and every child that He conceives. For He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, will freely give us all things in and with Christ Jesus.

16. The Lord’s gracious provision, in this fallen world, is granted in, with, and under the Cross, finally to be realized and fully received in the resurrection of the body. Thus, the certainty of His providence does not negate, nor is it contradicted by, the present frailty of our mortal flesh.

17. The Lord’s gracious providence is granted through various masks and means, which should not be despised or ignored in preference for some “miraculous divine intervention,” but should be recognized and received in confidence as the Lord’s ordinary divine work.

18. Living by faith in the Lord’s divine providence does not mean that we ignore, dismiss or reject His mediated gifts and guidance. Nor does faith put the Lord God to the test by proceeding recklessly or foolishly into harm’s way without cause, that is, where love does not require it.

19. When considering contraception, in particular, the key to living in faith and love is for the husband and his wife to live within their respective vocations in relation to each other.

20. In love for his wife, the husband considers her welfare, listens carefully to her, and finally exercises his headship and authority to care for her. He takes into account, not only her bodily health and well-being, but also her heart and mind, her soul and spirit. And, as a father, he considers the (special) needs of those children the Lord has already entrusted to his care.

21. In faith before God, the wife speaks to her husband in love — opening her heart and mind to him, and also serving as an advocate on behalf of those children the Lord has already entrusted to her care. Then she submits to her husband’s headship and authority, as unto Christ her Lord.

22. Sometimes for the husband, and sometimes for the wife, faith and love will remain open and receptive to the likelihood of conception, in spite of personal fears and trepidations. And at other times — whether for the husband or the wife — faith and love will agree to avoid the likelihood of conception, in spite of personal desires or “ambitions” for more children.

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