Be Fruitful and Multiply: Second Thoughts on Birth Control

the_pillIn writing something about birth control, I enter into a battlefield in disarray. There are personal issues hidden beneath many’s opinions on the matter, and there is often guilt, real or imagined, in the consciences of many Christians as they think about this important and personal issue.

And yet the issue is public, just as marriage is. It involves the basic doctrines of our common creed. It is time we take steps to gain consensus. If I may suggest a different approach, instead of arguing about so-called “exceptions,” or hard circumstances, where most of our conversation on the matter has centered for the last 80 years or so, I thought it best simply to go to the nature of the matter by asserting some basic truths. Can we agree that babies are good, and that God wants a husband and a wife to have babies?

Some might think that no discussion on birth control is complete without taking into consideration exceptional cases, but I would like to encourage us at least first to reconsider the utter moral apathy most Christians have towards the use of birth control, and the attitude even confessional Lutherans sometimes display when they look at the size of their family primarily as a decision they make.

Can we at least agree to look at our use of birth control again, and with a critical eye? Can we at least agree that as Lutherans we have followed the culture in choosing more stuff and comfort than children? Can we at least agree that this is wrong without receiving the charge of legalism, or being swamped in hammering out the intricacies of a proper ethical system?

I pray that we can at least agree on this, or come to agree on it by considering the basic truths of the Bible.

If you are interested in this topic, please consider reading my paper, Be Fruitful and Multiply: Second Thoughts on Birth Control. You can also view and/or listen to it here.

In the discussions on this thread, I would ask that you stick to the points of this paper in your discussion, and not bring up “exceptions.” This has too often dominated the debate, and, while it most definitely has its place, I would hope that this paper does as well.

Sincerely in Christ,

Pr. Mark A. Preus

About Pastor Mark Preus

Mark Preus is pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Campus Center in Laramie, WY. He graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne with an M.Div. in 2008 and then obtained an M.A. in Classics at the University of KS in 2010. He was ordained at Faith Lutheran Church, Wylie, TX in August of 2010. He has been married to Becky since 2005. God has graciously given them two daughters and five sons. Pr. Preus loves to read and write poetry, especially Lutheran hymns, and talk theology with anybody who has an ear to listen. He also likes coffee too much and tobacco too much, as well as microbrew beer. He can also prove with reasonable certainty that Paul Gerhardt wrote most of his hymns while smoking and drinking beer.

You can find more of Pr. Preus's writings at his blog.


Be Fruitful and Multiply: Second Thoughts on Birth Control — 48 Comments

  1. I listened to your talk a few days ago via the site Lutherans and Procreation. My husband and I were especially encouraged by your first point that it is God who gives us everything we have, and it is not our labor that builds and sustains our home. The last year has been a little rough, and I am more than a little self-conscious of the close spacing between our children, although I can not imagine our marriage or family being any different.

    I told my husband that God clearly takes care of me and the children through him (my husband, that is), and that we have everything we need, which is true. We also know our church is at hand to help financially, if needed, which is humbling, but also a great relief.

    Also, my husband says he hopes he beats you in the St. Ambrose Hymn writing contest 🙂

  2. I told my husband that God clearly takes care of me and the children through him (my husband, that is), and that we have everything we need, which is true. We also know our church is at hand to help financially, if needed, which is humbling, but also a great relief.

    I don’t mean to pick on you Katy but you bring up a point that troubled me while I was working through Pastor Preus’ essay. Couldn’t the same argument be fashioned against life & health insurance?

  3. If I look at the issue honestly, my selfishness in wanting to control how many kids my wife and I have is unfortunately far greater then “be fruitful and multiply” . Lord have mercy. I was talking with a catholic friend a few weeks back and he talked about the “family planning” approach – which has to do with ovulation – I don’t know if that was covered before – sorry I haven’t read your 1st thoughts. just curious.

  4. I’ve read a lot on this issue, and while I’m not quite sure that I completely agree, I do think discussing the origins of birth control in our society. Issues Etc. did a great program about how early evangelicals fought against contraception, and their reasons for doing so. I’m a single man, so I don’t have a dog on this fight, but I can see how it’s changed culture, and how many extreme liberal trends have their origin in birth control.

    Another thing that I’ve observed is I believe there can be a benefit to large families. In larger families, there’s always someone to go talk to about when one has a problem. In a way, we’ve replaced large families with sterile therapist and government.

    If we’re going to defeat the lifestyle left, we have to embrace natural families.

    Here’s the link to the Issues, Etc. program:

  5. I was disappointed that the most recent issue of the Lutheran Witness did not mention this with other life and bioethics topics. It is time for us as a Synod to repent and have this discussion. Nice work Pastor Preus!

  6. Thanks Mark, I truly appreciated your paper. I pray that more would see children as a blessing that not all people have. Take care of yourself, your family and your congregation.

  7. From the paper….”The failures of large families are harder to hide. It is humbling for a man not to beable to give his children what other men can give their children. It is humbling for a man to bedenied the pleasures he enjoyed in life before his children came. [
    It is humbling to have to relyon the charity of others
    .] It is humbling, but it gives a man a dignity that his labor couldotherwise not give him. When a man is working only to live for himself there is nothingdignified about that, [
    despite what the Republican party might teach you – not that I’m a Democrat
    .] This is why a single Christian man or woman who works alone emulates what afather or mother does by giving his goods in service of others. This gives the work dignity”

    As a girl I dreamed of having a very large family. My husband and I were blessed with several children! The mini-van is pretty much full. These aren’t the days were you can just pile them in the backseat of the station wagon and double up on the seatbelts, anymore. I am still a little jealous to see families with a 15 passenger van. The hardest “charity” to accept is tuition assistance to our church’s parochial school. The school board and pastor said that parents need to “plan” ahead. Most of the families in the school are 2 income to “afford” tuition. Noticeably, these families also have less children. Ironically, the larger families (non-Lutheran Christians) all homeschool. While I feel humbled to receive assistance so my children can receive a Lutheran education, I still feel pressured as a stay-at-home mom/wife to get a job and help the church pay for the rising tuition so the school can be competitive against the public schools and appealing to the non-members who will pay higher tuition fees. I feel like we are just caught in a cycle… those wishing to send their children to a CDS are having less children so they can maintain a second income and “afford” the tution. If the church wants to encourage families to be fruitful and multiply then they should be finding ways to put less pressure on young families to be prepare for the cost of Christian Education. When the Church can find a donator for a new sound system or ever other “project” the church needs, but their is very little in the tuition fund, it is very frustrating to feel like you are not in a position to “do your part” as expected. It’s a cycle that is only going to get worse as time goes on.

  8. @#4 Kitty #2
    “”I told my husband that God clearly takes care of me and the children through him (my husband, that is), and that we have everything we need, which is true. We also know our church is at hand to help financially, if needed, which is humbling, but also a great relief.”

    “I don’t mean to pick on you Katy but you bring up a point that troubled me while I was working through Pastor Preus’ essay. Couldn’t the same argument be fashioned against life & health insurance?””

    Kitty, Birth control is not life or health insurance. People who have many children within marriage are not irresponsible. When they run into financial difficulties, which is embarrassing for them, the Church should be joyful with the prospect of helping them, because those in the Church love them.

  9. While I pray that our church recognizes the thoughtless, perhaps cruel overuse and even DEPENDENCE on birth control, I think some of those “emotional” cases are very pertinent to discussions. Individual cases keep conversations from becoming abstract. And we are commanded to love our neighbor, a very concrete and difficult thing. Too often people come across as jerks because they, in my opinion, formulate an “easy to follow” principle that people come to check off for the sake of their own righteousness, whether as husbands or wives. Abstaining from sex gets thrown around like God’s fine with us abstaining within marriage for FIVE YEARS OF CHEMO. As in, that exact example was used in another online discussion of your paper.

    By all means let’s pursue righteousness, but not at the expense of seeing and serving your neighbor. I continue to see contraceptives as a vocational issue, to be used in service in ethical ways.

    “We need to trust in God as our Maker and preserver. . . . We shouldn’t be afraid to look a bit strange by having more children.” Agreed. Let’s help people have courage. Let’s love and want babies! Let’s be pro-big family! But I don’t see that we have to reformulate a teaching in order to do so. Though you say our use of birth control is “not a morally neutral matter,” I think that oversteps things. I think ultimately we all would admit there are multiple uses and not all are automatically selfish or self-serving.

  10. @Mary Moerbe #9
    I believe that five years of chemo would fit under the so-called exceptions and hard circumstances. I would say removing the so-called exceptions (chemo-therapy) and hard circumstances, that the use of birth control is automatically selfish and self-serving. Otherwise, it would fit under an exception. The word vocation is easy to throw out. Pretty much any person can examine his life and determine what he does is his vocation. The thing about vocation is it actually has a meaning. It is a calling. From whom? From God. A married couple might not have the calling to have a large family, but who decides that? God might bless the family with children or not. It depends on which vocation He decides to give them.

  11. Vocation serves one’s neighbor. It is NOT vocation to examine one’s own life to determine this that or the other, certainly not to circumvent good. But a husband’s vocation as husband is to serve his wife. You believe a husband who worries for his wife (not her career) is automatically selfish to pursue a pause in childbearing? He would not be acting for himself. She would not be acting for herself, but in submission.

  12. You say our use of birth control is “not a morally neutral matter.” I seem to think of different uses than you do, ie attempts to love and serve one’s spouse. Is that so rare it is always an exception?

  13. Being a parent now, I can’t imagine NOT having children. It’s hard to see why a husband and wife would rather choose childlessness than partake of the privilege of rearing little ones created in the image of God.

  14. Mary, I think these words prefacing a blog post on birth control by Pr. Curtis are very helpful:

    “First, a little disclaimer. The world is a very sadly broken place.

    Any discussion of God’s gift of children and our receiving of it inevitably introduces several elephants into the room. What about the hard cases? What about when disease and hardship disrupt God’s world?

    As some famous writer once said: people who are happy are pretty much happy in the same way, but people who are unhappy each have a unique story. It is very difficult to speak about the hard cases in a general way. So I’m not going to try. If you are suffering under such a hard case – a life threatening disease (including diseases of the brain), crippling hardship, etc – and wonder how God’s gift of children applies to you and your spouse, then stop reading this and find a faithful pastor to talk it over with. If you have a flippant pastor who likes to talk about his elective vasectomy after three kids at age 37, then send me an email and I’ll try to point you to a faithful pastor in your area.”

    Kitty, I would stand by my comment even if I did not have children.

  15. @Mary Moerbe #13
    If you are speaking of the mental and physical health of the mother, that is an exception even if it is rather common that such a related problem may occur. A husband ought to always think of the health and well being of his wife. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “love and serve” one’s spouse. Except for the sake of the health (mental, physically, or physically), I do not understand how preventing the conception of a child could possible fit such a description. I acknowledge that such cases happen often enough. I also discourage judging married couples, who do not have many children. We don’t know their situation. What I do encourage, is the removal of the mentality that children are a choice within marriage. Couples, who are to get married should think of children as the highest blessing. They should want to serve each other by giving each other children.

    1 Samuel 2:20-21 “Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to[a] the Lord.” Then they would go home. And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters.”
    Psalm 113:9, “He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.Praise the Lord.”
    Psalm 127: 3-5, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children[a] of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
    Prov. 31: 10, 28, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels…..Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her”
    1 Timothy 5:14, “I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.”
    John 16:21, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
    Matthew 19:14, “but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.””
    Ephesians 5:25,28, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
    1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

    The pews are emptying, not because husbands are loving and serving their wives. We cannot reverse this trend by judging and condemning people with small families. We can only reverse this trend by showing Christians from Scripture that God love children, He blesses marriage with children, husbands and wives bless each other with children, and marriage cannot be removed as a purpose of marriage.

  16. Sigh. I did not say that at all. I was quoting another blog post, and the point was to address exceptions. I agree with JAOP absolutely that “We cannot reverse this trend by judging and condemning people with small families.” I know all about multiple miscarriages and barrenness.

    However, in my experience, there are far too many Christians who are willing to volunteer the information that they have chosen to be “done.”

    I try to stay out of these discussions, and will bow out now. Thanks again, Pr. Preus for the paper/lecture.

  17. Fr. DMJ,

    The quote is indeed mine – and I’m saying that choosing to cause one’s body to malfunction for no other reason than that you don’t want any more kids is a sin, as all our fathers surely taught. And I’m saying that hard cases may indeed make such medical procedures non-elective, but rather necessary. But I think we need to set aside the hard cases when we first talk on this issue so as to get the points clear.

    I’d recommend a look at Concordia Pulipt, 1940, for a nice series of sermons on marriage and contraception from before the days of Rehwinkel and the Synod’s capitulation to the spirit of the ages.

    Later on,

  18. Something of the joy Mary had upon discovering she was to be the mother of Jesus ought to find its way into the Christian home as often as the Lord permits a child to be born into it. For children are still the greatest earthly blessing God can give to parents.

    In an age that frowns upon large families, at a time when too many couples by deliberate choice count children out of their family life, the joy and blessing of God’s gift of children needs emphasis as never before. The pagans of Greece and Rome used to put unwanted children to death; today, with motives just as selfish, husband and wife contrive to keep the blessing of children from their homes. And only too often in later years they openly express their grieving regret at having spurned the gift which God could have given their home to enrich their lives.

    Henry J. Eggold, Jr. (CTS Springfield, IL/Fort Wayne , IN faculty, 1951-82)
    “Sermon for Mother’s Day”
    The Concordia Pulpit for 1951
    CPH, 1950

  19. I just want to note that the “exceptions” when birth control is necessary to health are not rare, but common. Most couples will find it necessary at some points in their lives. That is my opinion based on my life expereinces. After all, a woman is fertile for about 30 years of her married life.

  20. Only through their children do wife and husband achieve the fullest possible meaning in each other’s life. Many childless couples realize this and seek to adopt children. Adoption agencies can state that they have many more applications than they are able to fill. And how many parents with only one child wish earnestly for more! One child can often bring more trouble than many. The early years of an only child are filled with special hardship and loneliness. On the other hand, the give and take in a large family, the sharing and appreciation of little favours and gifts are a wonderful schooling for marriage and for the realities of a hard world. How gladly brothers and sisters of large families think back upon their experiences and talk of their mutual sorrows and joys! Yet so many today criticize large families and speak pityingly of them as though some misfortune had befallen the parents.

    Let us learn to look upon children as a blessing, not as a misfortune or curse. With Scripture let us envy large families, not pity them. Of course, we can do this only when the children of such families are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

    The Scriptural Doctrine of Marriage-A Doctrinal Essay Presented at the Queensland District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia in Convention at Nobby, Qld.
    The Purpose of Marriage: Procreation
    Gerhard Aho (CTS, Springfield, IL/Fort Wayne, IN faculty, August 1960-87)
    September 1955

  21. Here is the problem with Mark’s initial plea — while I would whole welcome a good discussion on the fact that children are in general “good”, and that we shouldn’t simply follow the current social trends that denigrate them… it seems it never gets left there. It quickly moves to legalistic condemnation… where what one person deems a “legit” exception doesn’t meet someone else’s standards.

    This is because too often people move on a law-gospel-law path instead of letting the gospel stand.

    Law: Having kids is hard, is burdensome, is frightening and scary.

    Gospel: However, look at what the Scriptures say – kids are good, they are blessings from God, and while it might be as annoying as heck to be a parent sometimes, God will see you though.(YES, I know that isn’t technical Gospel by a narrow definition – it’s God at work for your good, ride with it)

    Instead of simply stopping there – what happens? This…


    And everything shifts. Instead of being a discussion on God’s goodness, of first article blessings, it shifts to condemnation, self-justification over how well we fill the law and they don’t (or even how well I appreciate freedom and they don’t).

    I sincerely think that the best way to bring up this whole idea isn’t to even talk or focus on birth control – or maybe just in the beginning when address the fears present in the world… and instead, just focus on God’s action… and let God’s activity be the last word. Otherwise we just make people defensive about their actions (be it using BC or be it not using).

  22. @Eric Brown #23
    Just a general note on Law and Gospel:

    “Repentance and the forgiveness of sins shall be preached in His name.”

    Law: You are in the process of stealing a Twinkie.

    Gospel: Your sins and forgiven!

    And now what? If you repent, there is forgiveness. But what if you spurn the Law and refuse to repent? What if you cling to your sin?

    So, if you have stolen a Twinkie, repent and find grace in Christ. If you stumble again, repent again. But don’t try to tell me that stealing a Twinkie is not a sin because Jesus frees me from the Law.


  23. @Pr. H. R. Curtis #24

    Well, of course, I disagree with the assertion that the use of contraception is fundamentally a sin…

    So smash people away and burden their conscience as you wish if you think this will make them righteous, and eschew actually dealing with the fears and concerns… “twinkies are being stolen” after all..

  24. @Eric Brown #25
    Eric, I don’t quite understand what your concern is. Are you the mighty defender of folks who find themselves in difficult situations? Against what exactly are you defending such victims of circumstance? Or do you just have a guilty conscience? And what does “fundamentally a sin” even mean? Is it a sin to believe that God wants you to avoid his blessings in order that he might not inadvertently put himself in a position to render himself unable to give you the blessings that you really want?

  25. @Eric Brown #25
    Exactly – we have an honest disagreement and there is no use to commit petitio principii in our arguments.

    Folks can read what Pr. Preus wrote, or what I wrote, or what John H. C. Fritz wrote, or what WAM I wrote, or what Luther wrote, etc., on the one hand, and on the other hand, they can consider your arguments, and Rehwinkel’s arguments, and the arguments of the Anglicans of 1930 onward. They might also consider the life’s work of Rehwinkel and those Anglican’s on the one hand, and the life’s work of Fritz and WAM on the other and ponder all that together.


  26. A Divine Heritage – In Spite of Modern Disparagement

    Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord. – Ps. 127, 3.

    When our text calls children “an heritage of the Lord,” that is, the gift of love which a bountiful Father bequeaths to His sons and daughters, it takes an attitude toward childhood which is directly and determinedly opposed to much of modern thought. To-day, in our era of diminished families, when the graduates of our select women’s colleges exclude themselves from motherhood and when all the modern theories for the looseness of the marriage relation are built up on the idea of childless families, children are frequently regarded as inconvenient restrictions and unnecessary hindrances in life. Only in this way can we explain the motive behind our steadily decreasing birth-rates and the corresponding diminution in the number of the find large families so frequent a generation or two ago.

    Now, I know that it has been only a few weeks since a large body of American churchmen gave to the press of the nation what is virtually an endorsement of birth control, as that term is popularly understood. But I would not want my hearers to think for a moment that this or any other similar disparagement of the divine gift of children and the nobility of parenthood settles the issue either from the point of view of morals or of Christianity. I like to hark back to that lone Friar of Wittenberg, standing before the assembled powers of Church and State four hundred years ago, declaring that Church Councils and Church Fathers have erred and made mistakes. In the same spirit I say to-night that, if that endorsement of birth control were signed by every church-body in the country, it would simply be a nation-wide misinterpretation (to put it mildly) of the plain statements and the emphatic spirit of the Word of God.

    The Lutheran Hour
    Winged Word to Modern America,
    Broadcast in the Coast-to-Coast
    Radio Crusade for Christ
    “Childhood – Heaven’s Heritage”
    Walter A. Maier, PH. D.
    CPH, 1931

  27. @James Warble #26

    I simply hold that contraception is merely a tool — like automobiles, guns, or even pizza. Can all these things be abused? Sure. Ought we think about how we use them? Sure. We ought recognize blessings of God, but I am highly dubious to make the logical step to move from “This is a blessing” to “therefore, you cannot do X” without Scriptural warrant.

    That’s the same argument that proscribes drinking (because drunkenness is bad) though no prescription is given.

    Or would say that a Christian cannot own guns (because murder is bad… and besides, you should trust God to defend your family), though no prescription is given.

    Now, just because I would not forbid people from drinking or owning a gun, I would want them to think about how they use them — as I think is a right and proper thing. Culture today tends to abuse these things – let us think about how we do use them.

    In so far as Preus’ article does this, I think it is interesting and positive. But when man, even generations of men, tries to forbid what is not forbidden I don’t view that as good.

    So I agree… babies are good and God wants people in general to have babies – as the OP asks.

  28. @Eric Brown #29

    The drinking is wrong when the purpose of drinking is to get drunk. Using a gun is wrong if the purpose is to murder. Except for the exceptions, which Pastor Preus asked that we for the moment dismiss, when is the purpose for using birth control good? Is it appropriate that young engaged and married couples are asked, “How many kids are you planning on having?” Is it appropriate that healthy married mothers and fathers are asked, “Are you done yet?” after the second or third child? And these questions aren’t asked by non-Christians. They are asked by Lutherans, who think that it is morally acceptable to decide beforehand how many children you want. We aren’t talking about health exceptions. We are talking about people choosing less children, because they want more stuff or a more comfortable life. This isn’t about Christian freedom. This is not about the many exceptions because of the health of the mother. This is about the attitude among Lutherans, which must change, that children are a choice.

    I don’t believe you mean the same thing as me when you say that babies are good and God wants people to have babies. Money is good. Property is good. Clothing and shoes and food and friends are good. God wants us all to have them, so long as we don’t worship them. He also graciously gives them to us. However, He does not always grant them to us, at least the way we want. We can also choose not to have these things, at least in abundance. But God intrinsically connects children to marriage as an heritage. He commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. He commanded to let the little children come to Him. It is to be purposely obtuse to put children in the same category of any other worldly blessing of God. We bring children to Baptism! God loves them…a lot. To treat the issue of how many children a couple has as trivial as ‘do you want to live in the country or the city?’ or ‘should we own a gun or not?’ shows the neglect the past few generations, and current generation has had for this issue.

    If God gave birth control as a gift, He gave it to save the lives of mothers. He did not do it so that His children could plan out their lives and live comfortably and bring less children to Him in Baptism.

  29. The Church’s Position

    The Church must maintain its emphatic avowal of Christian marriage as God’s institution for the propagation of the human race. It must insist that, whenever the divine command “Be fruitful and multiply” is evaded for selfish purposes and through the employment of methods suggested by birth control, divine displeasure is invoked.

    This does not mean that the Church establishes an orthodox minimum and insists upon families of ten or twelve children. It has no doctrine of human mass production, nor does it champion the Canadian “$500,000 maternity marathon,” started by the extraordinary will of bachelor Charles Vance Millar, Toronto brewer and horseman. He offered a half million to the mother in his city bearing the most children within a decade. Neither does the Church declare that children must follow in rapid succession without sufficient interims for maternal recuperation and infant care. Nor is the health of the mother to be disregarded in the establishment of the family. Her constitution must not be ruined nor her body broken by excessive child-birth. In all of these considerations of the Christian principles of love and forbearance must be actuating impulses.

    Young couples sincerely concerned over the thought of abnormally large families and the resultant inability to provide adequate means for the cultural growth of their children, should not permit themselves to be disturbed by the alarmist literature of birth-control propaganda. Instead let them consider these five fundamental facts:

    First of all, the specter of a prodigal nature that spawns out children and that almost mechanically brings babies year after year in uninterrupted succession is not the picture of nature as it exerts its influences in our lives. There are limits to fertility which are regulated by mysterious factors. The mere physical chances of extraordinary large families in the average home today (an age that has notable natural trends toward an increase in sterility) are small, particularly in view of the prevalence of late marriages. In England, Doubleday, Pell, Sutherland, and others have presented as prosperity, comfort, and intellectuality increase.

    Then it dare not be overlooked that “children are an heritage of the Lord,” the gift of His rich and underserved mercy. Thousands of Christian couples have learned by sad and personal experience that this heritage has not been theirs, and even with intense desire and fervent prayer they have been denied the rich blessings from which other short-sighted couples flee in aversion. No child comes into the world without the will and direction of God, and every child born into a Christian home is under all circumstances to be welcomed as the embodiment of a divine benediction.

    In the third place, should be emphasized that there may be certain unobjectionable, if not infallible, means that will help regulate the size of a family. Christian physicians can offer sound advice in emergencies confronting honest young couples who spurn the artificial methods of birth control. The Church has never protested against the employment of those means which the course of nature itself seems to provide, unless their employment is a selfish attempt to evade the responsibilities of parenthood.

    The Church also calls attention to continence, self-denial, and restraint. While this often imposes a hopeless struggle on those without the spiritual forces of Christianity, those who take recourse to the power of effective prayer find a sustaining ally in their faith.

    Finally, the Church says that in the infrequent and exceptional conflicts between childbirth and maternal health the Christian conscience must seek pastoral advice and the counsel of a Christian physician.

    With all this, unusual consideration must be extended to those who have not received the heritage of the Lord from their heavenly Father. No finger of scorn should be pointed at them, no whispers of suspicion raised behind their backs. They should receive the sympathy which Scripture extends to its Hannahs and Sarahs. In their own lives there should be no diminution of heart-deep prayer to the Father above, who “doeth all things well,” that the happy gift of parenthood may be theirs. If this blessing is permanently withheld from them, they may find solace when, beholding a helpless infant, orphaned and deprived of paternal love and the full opportunities of an unfolding life, they look beyond to see the great Friend of children as He lifts His arms in benediction and tells them: “Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me” (Matt. 18:5).

    For Better Not For Worse – A Manual of Christian Matrimony
    Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Blight of Birth Control
    Walter A. Maier, Ph. D.
    CPH, 1939

  30. @JAOP #30
    Indeed, it would be best to here insert the theological notion of a Good. Money is not a good – it is a tool. Food is not a good – it is a tool. Wisdom is a Good.

    Goods are ends, non-goods can only be means. Seeking money as an end is always evil. Seeking wisdom as an end is always good, unless you use evil means to try to get it.

    Human beings are Goods in this theological sense. Augustine says that we “use” the things of this world, but only “enjoy” eternal things: God and other men, the virtues, etc.

    When would it be right to take a pill so that you could avoid gaining wisdom or chastity? What would we think of a tool that helped us avoid getting to know our neighbor and enjoy him in this Augustinian sense?

    Or my favorite question on this question: What would we think of a pill that let us escape the unitive function of sex instead of the procreative function? Or a pill that would make sex pleasureless. What we would think of the morality of such a pill? Just a tool?

    I’m convinced that our fathers in the faith were right on this one and that it is no coincidence that the first Christians to advocate birth control (the Anglicans) are the same folks who have shown themselves incapability of basic sanity when it comes to all issues of human sexuality.


  31. To me this whole question of children is like the question of work or of calling or of anything else. You either trust in the providence of God or you don’t. You either let God control your family as much as you possibly can or you don’t.

    If you leave it up to God, sometimes He doesn’t give a woman more than one child. And sometimes He doesn’t give a woman more than two children. And sometimes He just showers His blessings and gives a woman ten or twelve.

    I just think that with every aspect of our lives if we trusted much more in the very presence of God — every hair on our head is numbered; a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without our Heavenly Father knowing it.

    That’s not only on the question of children but on all the issues of life.

    Robert David Preus
    Dr. & Mrs. Preus Speaking on Life in the Parsonage
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

  32. To refuse beforehand therefore, and by design, to have any children although physically and mentally fit to have them would be a manifest violation of God’s ordinance of marriage. On the other hand, to fix the size of a family, at the very outset, at one, two, or possibly three would be a presumptuous arrogating to themselves prerogatives that belong to God. In the first place, they must remember they are not alone in this but copartners with God Himself. It is God who creates new lives. Husbands and wives are merely the agents through whom God performs this miracle. They are not even free to make such a decision. They are not absolute masters of their own lives and destinies. God may withhold all children from them.

    No young married couple is able to know whether the physical, mental, or economic conditions in the life before them will be such that it would preclude having more children than the number agreed upon. The motive for such premarriage limitation of a family can only be either a wrong attitude toward children, selfishness, a false standard of value, or a lack of faith in divine providence.

    Alfred M. Rehwinkel
    Planned Parenthood and Birth Control in the Light of Christian Ethics
    CPH, 1959

  33. As a woman who used birth control pills the first 10 years of her marriage, I would like to thank you for the discussion.
    I applaud pastors who are trying to teach their flock about the goodness of marriage and gifts of children. We certainly live in an anti-children culture and this has affected the church rather than vice versa.
    I can honestly say, in my faithful attendance of ss and church, I have never heard an LCMS pastor speak to benefits of a large family and being open to how God might bless. I attend a large wealthy congregation and the number of “fixed” couples (not of medical necessity, but bc they are done) is very high. Even when I became pregnant with my last, several asked me if it was an accident.
    So while I have great regrets for my years of bc pills (and exposing myself to increased risk of breast cancer) I am grateful for God’s forgiveness and hope to persuade others to be open to God’s gifts.

  34. Although today’s society interprets contraception and abortion as “rights of reproduction,” both demonstrate the following:
    1. a lack of reverence for God’s creativity and creation. When God blessed His creation He said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Genesis 1:28
    2. disrespect for the woman and her fertility. A woman’s cycle of fertility is treated like a disease (take a pill 365 days a year to eliminate 36 days of fertility), and an untimely pregnancy must be removed like a cancerous tumor.
    3. a severing of bonds between individuals who have experienced the most intimate of physical/spiritual connections — sexual intercourse and the nurturing and indwelling of new life.
    4. a denial of the connection between sexual intimacy and the creation of new life.

    I offer this perspective on the sanctity of life for you to consider, fully aware that most of us, including myself, have used some form of contraception at some time. Do we need to reevaluate our commitment to our belief that God is in control? How do we live out our trust that God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and joy breathed life into each of us?

    Cynthia Gravatt
    “Aid to Women”
    Iowa District East Today
    March-April 1998

  35. …the initial reception he got for his views on family planning. “That was the worst of my heresies,” Rip confessed to me.
    “Are you sure that was the worst?” I asked.
    Rip laughed, “That’s hard to say.”
    “How did you ever last?”
    “I don’t know!”

    Rip began lecturing students on birth control, a hitherto untouched subject for the church, in the spring of 1948. Again basing his arguments on sound principles of Bible interpretation and a careful examination of the world in which he lived, Rip concluded that in this matter, the Christian conscience should not be bound.

    Rip convictions did not spring from a low view of parenthood. He encouraged a healthy awareness and positive attitude toward both the joys and responsibilities involved. In fact, Rip made it a special point to expose and denounce the various selfish and sinful reasons for choosing not to bear and raise children. Interestingly, from amidst his strongest arguments for birth control one can hear what sounds like the voice of an old-fashioned sentimentalist: “The noblest virtues of a woman and the highest degree of lasting feminine beauty are not attained until completed in motherhood,” and not “until a husband has become a father has the full potential of his personality and manhood been attained.”

    Actually, it took less time and grief for Rip to bring the church around to his way of thinking on the matter of birth control than was required for the seemingly more obvious and less consequential matter of engagement. In the spring of 1959 Concordia Publishing House marketed Rip’s book, Planned Parenthood, which sold 50,000 copies in three separate printings. How shall we account for the change? Several factors were probably involved. By the ’50’s many of the bulldog traditionalists had passed on or were fading out, and with them went much of the automatic resistance Rip could count on. World-wide winds of change were finding even the reputedly impervious fortress known as the Missouri Synod to be somewhat porous.

    Salt, Light and Signs of the Times
    An Intimate Look at the Life and Times of Alfred (Rip) Rehwinkel
    Ronald W. Stelzer

  36. @Adele #35

    Thank you, Adele. I could write the same thing.

    I would say to pastors not to ignore teaching the good of having children from the earliest ages because our kids are growing up in homes where they are like the second or third “birth controlled” generation. Their parents teach them directly and indirectly that they should be responsible and only have 0-2 children. Never are they really even allowed to consider the possibility that more even could be good. Having a small family is like brushing your teeth, it is just what you do. Only the strange have more, and heck kids, we don’t even know any of those people. In our large wealthy congregation, there are only four families that my kids know that have three children. All the rest have 0-2. Also, it is quite painful to those of us who fell into this sin to realize now what we have done and its consequences. So, it is important for us to confess this sin and its consequential pain and regret to our children and warn them that it really is a sin so they will recognize it and not have to suffer the pain and regret of this sin. I know that God forgives, but it doesn’t change the consequences in the here and now. God forgives a murderer and so can the family of the victim, but it doesn’t bring the victim back to life. Likewise, whatever children God would have sent, we will never know. My mother said, “Sin in haste, repent at your leisure.” It didn’t really sound that bad until I got here. Now, I know and tell my children. The father of lies deceived our parents on a grand scale. Now we can see it. Let’s not persist in it.

  37. Okay, I will be a stinker.

    We all want more members in the LCMS; more workers with us in the Kingdom of God.

    We just don’t want them living in our own houses. We want new folks to come and help us bear whatever burdens, yet we are called to serve them. This is just another facet of selfishness.

    Our corrupt culture has instituted new norms of virtue and we are not immune to perceiving and unconsciously incorporating the world’s corrupt and false doctrines of what is virtuous. We cannot serve two masters.

    The proper virtue of caring for one’s family is reconfigured to mean we are obligated to have a family that is small enough for us to do this with room to spare. To the extent we fail because we have more children than we can afford to care for in a style than modern American advertising agencies suggest we should, then we are negligent and evil. Our neighbors need feel no obligation to us or our children because we did it to ourselves by not observing the cultural virtue of the small family.

  38. Our planet currently has over 7 BILLION people on it. Don’t you think it’s time we read the rest of God’s admonition to “replenish the Earth”? Look at all the damage and destruction that result from overpopulation. Aren’t you the least bit concerned about population control?
    God will provide–and He certainly has–the means to safely control fertility. Should we not make use of it the same way we do other medical breakthroughs?

  39. Some have argued that the increased population is causing numerous problems. Food shortages, pollution, environmental destruction, and other ecological concerns seem to point to the need of contraception. But is that truly where the blame lies? Is overpopulation the real culprit in these concerns?

    The blame for hunger in our world lies not with the number of people. Indeed, it does not really lie in the lack of distribution of resources or in their destruction per se. At its core the blame must lie with political ideologies and systems, moral values and choices, greed and selfish ambition. Hunger is due to the attitudes and actions of sinful man, not to the appetites of large families.

    What about ecological problems? Again, these stem not from the change in population size, but from the change in attitudes and values. “At the root of ecological crisis is human greed, what has been called ‘economic gain by environmental loss'” (John R. W. Stott, Involvement Volume I: Being a responsible Christian in a Non-Christian Society). Yet, rather than stop the exploitation of their land, we distribute contraceptive devices. We try to decrease the number of mouths the deteriorating land must support. This does not solve the problem; it only soothes our consciences.

    The true problem, then, is sinful humanity. As a result, there are wrong worldviews, destructive pagan values, etc., which lead to actions and attitudes which cause the surface problems of poverty and hunger, dilemmas many want to blame on overpopulation.

    Samuel A. Owen, Jr.
    Letting God Plan Your Family

  40. For years, we have been warned about the looming danger of overpopulation: people jostling for space on a planet that’s busting at the seams and running out of oil and food and land and everything else. It’s all bunk. The “population bomb” never exploded. What to Expect When No One’s Expecting explains why the population implosion happened and how it is remaking culture, the economy, and politics both at home and around the world.

    Jonathan V. West
    What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster

  41. There are always people who are going to be breeding. There are always SUB-GROUPS which have high fertility rates. And, in the long run, they will inherit the future.

    The people who actually have babies are the people who show up at church.

    Jonathan V. West
    What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster

  42. @“LC-MS Quotes” #41
    Talk don’t feed the bulldog. Blaming “political ideologies and systems, moral values and choices, greed and selfish ambition, the attitudes and actions of sinful man” doesn’t requite my concern about overpopulation.
    Until the rampant greed gets fixed, perhaps instead of encouraging procreating, we ought to make sure the least among us, the less fortunate people in our own country and in developing countries, are provided for. There are so many human beings condemned to lives of poverty, sickness, and suffering and I’m fairly certain that they do not consider their desperate circumstances “surface problems.”
    Providing contraception does a lot more than soothe consciences, it enables women to control their fertility. Say what you will, but fewer women who have to see their children born only to watch them starve is not a bad thing.

  43. @“LC-MS Quotes” #43
    I agree there are some populations that have high birth rates. They usually have some kind of religious opposition to birth control. Is that what you meant by “The people who actually have babies are the people who show up at church”?

  44. Did any of you listen to Issues Etc yesterday? Talked about our diminishing (soon to be catastrophic) fertility rates. Real eye opener for me. Finance Minister of Japan told elderly to “Hurry up and die”. This is what happens when we don’t have more babies combined with welfare state.
    My impression has always been that Japanese culture has high regard for elderly. I guess the bill came due.

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