As Christians, the topic of birth control can be one that is a bit touchy and controversial. Can you still use birth control and believe that children are a gift from God? Are we required to let God determine the size of our family? Here is what the Lord really has to say.
What the Bible Says
What we now know as modern forms of birth control were completely unknown in Biblical times. Therefore, the Bible is silent on birth control practices. However the Bible does have a lot to say about children in general. The Bible presents children as a gift and blessing from God (Genesis 4:1; Genesis 33:5, Luke 1:42), and a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). God is the one who forms children in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16), and He knows the children before their birth (Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15).
It is very important to celebrate that "children are a gift of the Lord." Some people go further and argue that since children are gifts from God, it is wrong to take steps to regulate the timing and number of children one has. In response, it can be pointed out that scripture also says that a wife is a gift from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22), but that doesn't mean that it is wrong to stay single (1 Corinthians 7:8). Just because something is a gift from the Lord does not mean that it is wrong to be a steward of when or whether you will come into possession of it.
Sometimes people also reason that if you really want to "trust God" to determine the size of your family, then you should not use birth control. The assumption seems to be that if you "just let things happen naturally," then God is more at work than if you seek to regulate things and be involved in the process of when they happen. However, this logic is flawed. God is just as much in control of whether a couple will have children when they use birth control as when they don't. The hands of the Lord are not tied by birth control. A couple will have children precisely at the time God wants, whether they use birth control or not. Either way, then, God is ultimately in control of the size of one's family.
Many Christians point to the story in Genesis chapter 38 as a way to condemn birth control. In the story, Judah’s son Er marries a woman named Tamar, however Er was wicked and the Lord put him to death. Tamar was without a husband or child, and thus given to Er’s brother, Onan. Onan was selfish, and did not want to split his inheritance with any child that he might produce on his brother's behalf, so he practiced the oldest form of birth control, withdrawal. Genesis 38:10 says, “What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so He put him to death also.” Onan used Tamar for his own pleasure while refusing to perform his legal duty of creating an heir for his deceased brother. This passage is misunderstood, and tells us it was not the act of contraception that caused the Lord to put Onan to death; it was Onan’s selfish motives behind the action.
The Motivation of the Married Couple
Contraception, by definition, is merely the opposite of conception. It is not the use of contraception that is wrong or right. As we learned from Onan, it is the motivation behind the contraception that determines if it is right or wrong. Married couples use contraception for a variety of reasons, some that don't have to do with having children at all. Some feel called to put off childbearing until they are in a better position to care for children. Some, such as missionary couples, may feel their service to God overrides the desire for children at a particular point in time. Some may be convinced that God has a different plan for them. Some may use it for completely other health reasons. Ultimately, a couple’s motives for delaying childbearing, using contraception, or even having numerous children, are between them and God.
Types of Birth Control
Most Christians believe that the general use of birth control is accepted in certain circumstances – however it becomes controversial because some of them are believed to function as abortifacients on some occasions. An abortifacient is a substance that can lead to a miscarriage and cause abortion, which many Christians are completely against.
There are different forms of birth control, however, and not all of them can be classified under the abortifacient category. For example, those couples that want to avoid pills all together can rely on barrier methods such as condoms. In addition, oral contraceptives that contain both estrogen and progesterone are not believed to abortifacients, given that they function by prevention the union of sperm and egg from happening at all. It should again be completely between the couple's understanding of faith and what they have discussed with the Lord.
It all comes down to this: no one has the right to determine whether someone else should or should not use birth control, how many children is the “right” number for them, or whether they should have children at all. As in all things, we are not to judge others or cause brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble, spiritually speaking.