Testimony from Our Forefathers on Contraception or “Child Prevention” Part IV: St. John Chrysostom

This is part 4 of 4 in the series Testimony from Our Forefathers on Contraception

nota bene: Why is this important? Lutherans have insisted from the very beginning of the Reformation that we are not inventing new teachings and only seek to carry forth the pure teaching of the Church which we received from the generations who came before us. In the conclusion to the Augsburg Confession, we boldly state,


We have mentioned only those things we thought it was necessary to talk about so that it would be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies we have received nothing contrary to Scripture or the Church universal. It is clear that we have been very careful to make sure no new ungodly doctrine creeps into our churches.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407 AD) was Bishop of Constantinople and one of the most important church fathers of his day. A gifted theologian, he was mainly known for his preaching (“Chrysostom” means “golden-mouthed”), which was both eloquent and moving. Many of his sermons have been translated from Greek into English, and when one reads a Chrysostom sermon it becomes clear why the Church passed on the writings of this great man down through the ages.

Although he is typically regarded as an Eastern father, mainly due to his residing in the Greek-speaking Eastern part of the Roman Empire, the Lutheran Confessions cite him about a dozen times, on topics as broad as the Mass (AC XXIV), Confession, (AC XXV), the Lord’s Supper (FC Ep. VII), and Free Will (FC SD II). For this reason, we Lutherans do well to read Chrysostom and learn from him.

Far from being a topic of discussion introduced in the Sixties, the Church has confessed against contraception for centuries, and St. John Chrysostom joined in that confession. Note well what he wrote about the topic:


But the money-lover is far more harsh even than this, looming over all like hell, swallowing everyone down, going about like a common enemy of the race of men. For he even wishes that no man existed, that he might possess all things. And not even then does he stop, but when he has destroyed all men with his desire, he desires to obliterate the very substance of the earth and see it become gold. And not only the earth, but also mountains and woodlands and springs, and, in short, everything visible.

And in order that you may learn that we have not yet presented his madness: let there be no one who accuses or frightens him, indeed, take away the fear from the laws mentally for a while, and you will see him snatching up a sword, and finishing off everybody, and sparing no one – not friend, not relative, not his father. Rather, there is not even need here of supposing!

But let us ask him if he is not forever forming such fantasies after himself; and they loom over everyone while in his thoughts he kills both friends and relatives, even his own parents. Rather, there is not even need of asking! For indeed, all know how those who are possessed by this disease are weighed down even by the old age of their father.

And what is both sweet and lovely to all people – to have children – they hold to be oppressive and burdensome. Many indeed on account of this opinion have even offered to purchase the state of being childless, and have mutilated their nature, not only killing the children who have been born, but not even consenting to produce them in the first place. – Homily 28 on Matthew, Mt. 8:23-24 (emphasis added)

Note carefully what he says here, that the money-lover wishes the death or non-existence of his fellow man, in order that he may have more wealth. Isn’t this so often the argument in favor of contraception and abortion — that babies are expensive? Further, at the end of the cited text note how he links abortion/infanticide with birth control. Among the grave sins committed by the mammon-addicted money-lover are his ways of preventing his having offspring.

He notes that to this end “many indeed on account of this opinion (i.e., that children are oppressive and burdensome) have even offered to purchase the state of being childless, and have mutilated their nature,” which is to say, that they have maimed their bodies so that children could not even be conceived in them. In lumping contraception (and at least St. Augustine, who lived at the same time, indicates that there were sterility poisons available in his day) in with abortion/infanticide as the common sin of the money-lover, he makes little distinction between the two.

Editor’s Note: Pastor Andrew Richard provided the updated translation of this Chrysostom quote as well as some additional editing for this piece. Thanks!

About Pastor Daniel Hinton

Pastor Hinton is pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Lubbock, Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, having majored in poultry science, and of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was ordained on Holy Trinity 2011. He has been married to Amanda for seventeen years, and has five daughters and one son. He grew up in the ELCA, and left in 2004 over issues of scriptural authority. It was because of a faithful Lutheran campus ministry that he was exposed to The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. He enjoys old books, teaching the faithful, and things that are beautiful.


Testimony from Our Forefathers on Contraception or “Child Prevention” Part IV: St. John Chrysostom — 10 Comments

  1. So, anyone eho practices both control is equivalent to the “one who looms over everyone while in his thoughts he kills both friends and relatives, even his own parents.”

    Rather basic circular readoning, here. And if that isn’t the point, here, to make them analogous, in the leadt, then what is the point?

    Chrysostom refers to those who, at worst, have mutilated themselves so as to be childless yet, those who have chosen to be Eunuchs (without self-mutilation but via non-marriage we will suppose) are also choosing against both foundational marriage and children yet, without Scriptural condemnation.

    It is one thing to be so utterly selfish as to hate even the bearing of children seen as a burden but it is wholly another thing II categorize in the least with this suggestion that contraception is equal in measure to this.

    And if you’ve been misunderstood forgive me.

  2. The nature of man is to desire the production of children. So it was in the beginning, so it will be until the last day. This new “more enlightened” contempt for God’s creation despises what God calls a gift, and sacrifices children on the altar of self-satisfaction. It would be one thing to do this as Paul suggests, and take no wife, but to pursue the carnal pleasure of the marriage bed while deliberately avoiding that blessing which it has been established to produce?

    There is a reason this practice was forbidden for the entirety of church history. There is a reason that in the 80 years (a moment!) since abandoning the historic position of our fathers, we have had widespread acceptance in the church of no-fault divorce, cohabitation, gay marriage, and transgenderism. God is not mocked. We reap as we have sown. We sowed in lust, and we have been given over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not be done.

  3. “sacrifices children?” There is no life before conception.
    “Contraception leads to no-fault divorce, cohabitation, gay marriage, and transgenderism?” Really? Why would gay marriage and transgenderism need contraception. What does no-fault divorce have to do with it? People with children also get divorced.

    The church fell into a false doctrine early in its history due to Greek philosophy and the Eastern religion coming through Egypt. Material things and especially sex were considered bad and something to be avoided. Even Mary was considered to be more holy if she had not really been married to Joseph and reminded a virgin. Hermit monks were praised as being more holy than others. This kind of attitude has continued even unto today. This is in direct contrast with God creating man and woman and proclaiming His creation good.
    Gnosticism is still among us.

  4. @Ben #5

    Sorry, that should be Homily 28 on Matthew, and the text is Mt. 8:23-24. An older translation of the entire sermon is readily available online. I would recommend reading the whole thing for context. Let me know if you have any questions concerning translation.

  5. Advice on marriage and birth control from a monk (Chrysostom)–now that’s rich. Guys like him spread nonsense like “Even married couples shouldn’t enjoy sex too much,” or “Only procreation justifies sex.” Medieval nonsense I thought the Reformation freed us from!

    You also have to discount someone who calls contraception worse than abortion. Like Luther calling the sin of Onan worse than adultery–that kind of hyperbole is just over-the-top silly.

    Also, I don’t hear anyone quoting Chrysostom with approval when he called the Jews of his day “assassins of Christ”!

    Also rich is the idea that if something was taught in the church “forever,” it is automatically right. Wasn’t that the argument used by the Pope on Luther?

    Sure, children are a blessing. So is our daily food. But moderation in both areas is usually wise.

    Psalm 127 says children are a blessing. Psalm 137 says it’s a blessing to kill Babylonian infants! I think a little context is necessary to bring out the true meaning in both cases.

    Maybe the reason we stopped teaching “Birth control is wrong” is because we realized the arguments against it were not very strong! Lutherans used to say women’s suffrage (the 19th Amendment) would destroy the family unit–that didn’t happen. We used to say buying insurance was “Not trusting in God”–we realized that was silly.

    Each family’s circumstances are different. We do not need to go around making people feel guilty over the (imaginary) sin of using birth control–not unless we really want to drive even more people out of our churches!

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