James A. Zozzaro
Is the use of birth control a legitimate option for Christian couples, or should it be rejected? In this brief essay, I will give three reasons why the use of birth control should be rejected by Christians.
Who is ultimately in charge of conception and making babiesGod or man? This is a question that should be a no-brainer to Reformed Christians, but sadly it is not. Just think about it for a moment. The only one who can "control birth" is the One who alone has the power to cause conception and make a baby. If you can cause conception or make babies, then any attempt to control birth is an attempt to control God (which in itself is sinful) and a denial of God's sovereignty in this area.
The Bible answers this question for us in no uncertain terms. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God alone is sovereign over conception. As early as Genesis 4:1 we see this. Here Adam is said to have "known" Eve, and Eve is said to have conceived, but it is God who is given the credit for giving a child to the couple.
Later on in Genesis, God is recognized as being sovereign in this matter by causing both barrenness and fertility in both those who were previously barren and those who were previously fertile (see Gen. 16:2; 20:17-18; 21:1-2; 25:21; 29:31-30:24). If God is not sovereign over conception, how can he promise that people will either never experience barrenness (Ex. 23:25-27; Deut. 7:14) or never experience childbirth (Num. 5:11-31)?
Ruth 4:13 further supports this by stating explicitly that the Lord gave Ruth conception. This passage is important because nowhere are we told that Ruth was infertile before this. Thus, instead of being a "miracle," it appears to be the normal state of affairs.
Numerous other examples like this could be presented (such as 1 Sam. 1:5-6, 19-20; Hos. 9:11), but hopefully you get the point. John Calvin himself makes the point in commenting on Gen. 1:28: "For we are fruitful or barren in respect of offspring, as God imparts his power to some and withholds it from others."
The Bible also makes it abundantly clear that God and not man is the one who forms babies in the womb (see Job 10:8-12; 31:15; Ps. 139:13-16; Jer. 1:5). Calvin has perhaps said it best when he writes in his commentary on Psalm 127:3:
Nothing seems more natural than for men to be produced of men. The majority of mankind dream, that after God had once ordained this at the beginning, children were thenceforth begotten solely by a secret instinct of nature, God ceasing to interfere in the matter; and even those who are endued with some sense of piety, although they may not deny that He is the Father and Creator of the human race, yet do not acknowledge that his providential care descends to this particular case, but rather think that men are created by a certain universal motion. With the view of correcting this preposterous error, Solomon [in this verse] calls children the heritage of God, and the fruit of the womb his gift.... The meaning then is, that children are not the fruit of chance, but that God, as it seems good to him, distributes to every man his share of them.
As has been clearly shown, God alone is sovereign over childbirth. Therefore, only God has a legitimate right and ability to control birth. The use of birth control is a denial of this truth and thus is illegitimate for use by Christians.
Is man responsible before God to seek to have children, or is having a family merely an option? The Scriptures state clearly that married couples are responsible for seeking to have children. Christian couples are commanded to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28; 9:1, 7), since God declares that his desire is for a holy seed (Mal. 2:15). While God is sovereign over conception, the Bible teaches that man's responsibility before God is to be fruitful and multiply because God desires a holy seed to be raised up among his people.
The use of birth control is a denial of this responsibility. It is an attempt to shirk a God-given responsibility and thus is illegitimate for use by the Christian couple.
Are children a blessing or a burden/curse? Psalm 127:3-5 and Psalm 128:1-6 both make it clear that a multitude of children is to be regarded as a gift from God. Why then do Christian couples want to limit how many children they have? Because they have failed to truly grasp this fact that children are a blessing from God.
No Christian in his right mind would purposely try to keep God from blessing him, and yet that is exactly what using birth control amounts to. To disparage God's good gifts by considering them a curse or burden is sinful, and the use of birth control in ordinary cases does just that. The use of birth control, when seen in this light, is then a denial that children are a blessing from God. Thus, birth control is illegitimate for use by the Christian couple.
Birth control denies God's sovereignty, man's responsibility, and the fact that children are a blessing from God. Why would any Christian wish to deny these biblical truths? Let God plan your family. Fulfill your responsibility. And pray that God would bless you with a multitude of children. Embrace the teaching of the Scriptures and reject birth control.
Mr. Zozzaro is the pastor of Calvary OPC in Wildwood, N.J. Reprinted from New Horizons, December 1996.