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Christian views on contraception

Prior to the 20th century, contraception was generally condemned by all the major branches of Christianity, including the major reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. This unified front no longer exists, however. Among Christian denominations today there are a large variety of positions towards contraception.

Roman Catholic Church

Background

The Roman Catholic Church has been morally opposed to contraception for as far back as one can historically trace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that all sex acts must be both unitive and open to the possibility of procreation. In addition to condemning use of birth control, non-procreative sex acts such as mutual masturbation, and anal or oral sex are ruled out as ways to avoid pregnancy.

For much of its existence, the Church heavily emphasized procreation as the primary purpose of sex—some Catholics even believed that intercourse at times where pregnancy was not a possible result (such as current pregnancy and menopause) was sinful. Pope Pius XI's 1930 encyclical entitled Casti Connubii was written in response to the Anglican Communion's Seventh Lambeth Conference, which approved contraceptive use in limited circumstances. Casti Connubii confirmed the Church's position opposing birth control:

Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, ... in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, ... proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.

However, this encyclical acknowledged for the first time a secondary, unitive, purpose of intercourse. Because of this secondary purpose, married couples have a right to engage in intercourse even when pregnancy is not a possible result:

Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.

Some interpreted this statement as not only permitting sex between married couples during pregnancy and menopause, but also during the infertile times of the menstrual cycle. The mathematical formula for the rhythm method had been formalized in 1930, and in 1932 a Catholic physician published a book titled The Rhythm of Sterility and Fertility in Women promoting the method to Catholics. The 1930s also saw the first U.S. Rhythm Clinic (founded by John Rock) to teach the method to Catholic couples. However, use of the Rhythm Method in certain circumstances was not formally accepted until 1951, in two speeches by Pope Pius XII.

Many early Church Fathers have made statements condemning the use of contraception including John Chrysostom, Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, Augustine of Hippo and various others. Among the condemnations is one by Jerome which refers to an apparent oral form of contraception: "Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception.

Current view

The Roman Catholic Church's modern position on contraception was first expressed in Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI. Artificial contraception is considered a grave sin, but methods of natural family planning, including modern forms that are highly effective, are morally permissible in some circumstances. These methods are known as periodic abstinence and are argued to be morally different from positively modifying the couple's fertility. This stance is explained further in a series of lectures given by Pope John Paul II, later entitled Theology of the Body. From Humanae Vitae:

"The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life."

In further justification of this position, Pope Paul VI claimed

"Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."

In the same year as the release of Humanae Vitae the Minority Papal Commission Report, who upheld the traditional Catholic prohibition of contraception stated:

"One can find no period of history, no document of the church, no theological school, scarcely one Catholic theologian, who ever denied that contraception was always seriously evil. The teaching of the Church in this matter is absolutely constant. Until the present century this teaching was peacefully possessed by all other Christians, whether Orthodox or Anglican or Protestant. The Orthodox retain this as common teaching today."
On July 17, 1994, John Paul II clarified the Church's position during a meditation said prior to an angelus recitation.

Unfortunately, Catholic thought is often misunderstood ... as if the Church supported an ideology of fertility at all costs, urging married couples to procreate indiscriminately and without thought for the future. But one need only study the pronouncements of the Magisterium to know that this is not so.Truly, in begetting life the spouses fulfill one of the highest dimensions of their calling: they are God's co-workers. Precisely for this reason they must have an extremely responsible attitude. In deciding whether or not to have a child, they must not be motivated by selfishness or carelessness, but by a prudent, conscious generosity that weighs the possibilities and circumstances, and especially gives priority to the welfare of the unborn child.Therefore, when there is a reason not to procreate, this choice is permissible and may even be necessary. However, there remains the duty of carrying it out with criteria and methods that respect the total truth of the marital act in its unitive and procreative dimension, as wisely regulated by nature itself in its biological rhythms. One can comply with them and use them to advantage, but they cannot be "violated" by artificial interference.

In 1997, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family stated:

"The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.

A summary of the Scriptural support used by Catholics against contraception can be found in Rome Sweet Home, an autobiography by the Catholic apologetics Scott and Kimberly Hahn. They illustrate the results of the research on contraception conducted by Kimberly Hahn as having a pivotal effect on their lives, notably the fact that the Catholic Church is one of the few Christian denominations to take a clear stance on the issue. Among the Scripture included in the book are the following lines from Psalm 127:

"Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies at the gate."
For an anthropological (non-religious) evaluation of the effect of contraception on marital love, see Cormac Burke: "Married Love and Contraception" Osservatore Romano, Oct. 10, 1988.

Dissent

Many Catholics have voiced significant disagreement with the Church's stance on contraception. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued probably the most heavily dissenting document, the Winnipeg Statement. In it, the bishops argued that many Catholics found it very difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to obey Humanae Vitae. Additionally, they reasserted—too strongly, conservatives say—the Catholic principle of primacy of conscience. Theologians such as Charles Curran have also criticized the stance of Vitae on artificial birth control.

Catholics for a Free Choice claimed in 1998 that 96% of Catholic women had used contraceptives at some point in their lives and that 72% of Catholics believed that one could be a good Catholic without obeying the Church's teaching on birth control. According to a nationwide poll of 2,242 U.S. adults surveyed online in September of 2005 by Harris Interactive, 90% of Catholics supported the use of birth control/contraceptives.

Use of natural family planning methods among Catholics is low. In 2002, 24% of the U.S. population identified as Catholic. But of sexually active Americans avoiding pregnancy, only 1.5% were using NFP.

Condoms and STIs

Use of condoms for the primary purpose of preventing pregnancy is condemned, along with all other forms of artificial birth control. However, the use of condoms to combat sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is not specifically addressed by Catholic doctrine, and is currently a topic of debate among high-ranking Catholic authorities. A few, such as Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, believe the Catholic Church should actively support condoms used to prevent disease, especially serious diseases such as AIDS.

To date, statements from the Vatican have argued not that use of condoms to prevent disease is immoral, but rather that condom-promotion programs are simply bad policy. The Vatican's current position is that such programs encourage promiscuity, thereby actually increasing STI transmission. Papal study of the issue is ongoing, and in 2006 a study on the use of condoms to combat AIDS was prepared for review by Pope Benedict XVI.

Protestant Christianity

Unlike Catholics who have a central ecclesiastical authority, the Magisterium, Protestants do not have (and indeed reject having) such an authority. Protestant views of contraception are thus much more diverse than Catholic views.

History

Before the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church viewed the purpose of sexual intercourse as almost exclusively for purposes of procreation. As part of the Reformation, Reformers began to more strongly emphasize the unitive pleasures of marriage. Still, all major early Protestant Reformers, and indeed Protestants in general until the twentieth century, condemned birth control as a contravention of God's procreative purpose for marriage.

As scientists advanced birth control methods during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the tradition of Protestant rejection of birth control continued alongside growing dissent from Protestant Nonconformists. As an example of the dissent, the editor of a Nonconformist weekly journal in the United States wrote in 1893,

There was a time when any idea of voluntary limitation was regarded by pious people as interfering with Providence. We are beyond that now and have become capable of recognizing that Providence works through the commonsense of individual brains. We limit population just as much by deferring marriage for prudential reasons as by any action that may be taken after it.

Protestant denominations were slow to officially go along with such a view, although followers were not as reluctant.

Then in 1930, at the Seventh Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion, after years of considerable internal debate, issued the first Protestant statement permitting birth control "when there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence. During the 30 years afterward, Protestant acceptance of birth control steadily increased. By 2005 acceptance had increased such that a Harris Interactive poll conducted online among 2,242 U.S. adults found that 88% of non-Catholic Christians who identified as either "very religious" or Evangelical supported the use of birth control/contraceptives.

Official positions of Churches

Some Protestant denominations and movements have made official statements about modern contraceptives. For example, the Church of England has stated it "does not regard contraception as a sin or a contravention of God's purpose".

Lutheranism

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has stated,

When a woman and man join their bodies sexually, both should be prepared to provide for a child, should conception occur. When that is not their intention, the responsible use of safe, effective contraceptives is expected of the male and the female. Respect and sensitivity should also be shown toward couples who do not feel called to conceive and/or rear children, or who are unable to do so.

Other major Lutheran and Presbyterian associations, as well as other Protestant groups in general, may take other positions. For example, in 1989 the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation adopted a statement consistent with Quiverfull teachings.

Methodism

The United Methodist Church, holds that "each couple has the right and the duty prayerfully and responsibly to control conception according to their circumstances." Its Resolution on Responsible Parenthood states that in order to "support the sacred dimensions of personhood, all possible efforts should be made by parents and the community to ensure that each child enters the world with a healthy body, and is born into an environment conducive to realization of his or her potential." To this end, the United Methodist Church supports "adequate public funding and increased participation in family planning services by public and private agencies.

Presbyterianism

The Presbyterian Church (USA) supports “full and equal access to contraceptive methods.” In a recent resolution endorsing insurance coverage for contraceptives, the church affirmed that “contraceptive services are part of basic health care” and cautioned that “unintended pregnancies lead to higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, and maternal morbidity, and threaten the economic viability of families.”

Other

Along with these general acceptances, many Protestant movements view contraception use outside of marriage as encouragement to promiscuity. For example, Focus on the Family states,

Sex is a powerful drive, and for most of human history it was firmly linked to marriage and childbearing. Only relatively recently has the act of sex commonly been divorced from marriage and procreation. Modern contraceptive inventions have given many an exaggerated sense of safety and prompted more people than ever before to move sexual expression outside the marriage boundary.

Current views

Author and FamilyLife Today radio host Dennis Rainey suggests four categories as useful in understanding current Protestant views concerning birth control. Christopher G. Ellison and Patricia Goodson use very similar categories in their 1997 study of Protestant seminarians' attitudes on the matter.

"Children in abundance" group

The first is the "children in abundance" group. Protestants within this group believe that birth control is a contravention of God’s purpose for marriage and that all children conceived during routine sexual intercourse (without regard to time of the month during the ovulation cycle or other matters) should be welcomed as blessings. The Quiverfull movement and its authors such as Mary Pride, Rick and Jan Hess, Charles D. Provan, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Rachel Giove Scott, and others, predominate this group. Based upon Bible verses that describe God acting to "open and close the womb" (see Genesis 20:18, 29:31, 30:22; 1 Samuel 1:5-6; Isaiah 66:9), Quiverfull adherents believe that Divine Providence alone should control how many and how often children are conceived and born.

Protestants in this group often connect birth control use with modern feminism, an "anti-child mentality", "worldliness", and abortion because birth control is used for "the same reasons why a woman aborts her child".

"Children in managed abundance" group

The second is the "children in managed abundance" group. According to Rainey, Protestants within this group are open to however many children they may conceive during their fertile years yet believe that only Natural Family Planning is acceptable and may use it. Sam and Bethany Torode advocated for this view in their 2002 book, although they later accepted barrier contraception such as diaphragms and condoms. Denny Kenaston of Charity Christian Fellowship also advocates for this position, as does Presbyterian seminary professor Daniel Doriani.

"Children in moderation" group

The third is the "children in moderation" group. In Rainey’s view, these Protestants are very pro-child but feel free to use artificial birth control to prudently plan their families. Those within this group see Divine Providence and Biblically required responsibility as working complementarily. They thus may feel freedom to use non-"natural" birth control in making personal choices in consultation with God about the number and spacing of children.

"No children" group

The fourth group is the "no children" group. Rainey sees couples in this group as believing they are within their Biblical rights to define their lives around non-natal concerns. While not their main emphasis on the subject, Protestant authors such as Samuel Owen and James B. Jordan support this as an acceptable option, but only when a higher ethical principle intervenes to make child bearing imprudent, such as health concerns or a calling to serve orphans or as missionaries in a dangerous location, etc. The Cyber-Church of Jesus Christ Childfree argues their position, "Jesus loved children but chose to never have any, so that he could devote his life to telling the Good News." Jordan also maintains that modern birth control methods, as well as Natural Family Planning, are acceptable tools of prudent family planning. Jordan also strongly supports the option for couples to have very large families, while Owen believes that non-use of birth control in any form should be normative. Rainey sees infertile couples as falling into this group apart from their choice in the matter. Sterilized couples may as well. According to Southern Baptist R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation".

Sterilization reversals

Stemming from ideas from the Quiverfull movement, some Protestants such as Bill Gothard advocate for couples to undergo sterilization reversal surgery. Brad and Dawn Irons run Blessed Arrows Sterilization Reversal Ministry. The couple advocates for Quiverfull ideas while providing funding, physician referrals, and support to Protestants wishing to undergo reversal surgery.

Ongoing debates

There are numerous ongoing debates at core of Protestant differences concerning contraceptives. These include whether contraceptive use or non-use is a matter of individual conscience or binding Biblical commands, what types of birth control are permissible if any, and the amount of weight modern Protestants should give early Protestant Reformers' views on contraception.

Individual conscience or commandment?

The majority of Protestants, irrespective of denomination, maintain that use or non-use of birth control in its various methods is a matter of conscience for individual Christians before God, and that individual couples should be convinced in their own minds of what is and is not permissible for them particularly (see Romans 14). In this view, God has a personal relationship with individual Christians and, because he has given no explicit Biblical commandment against birth control and uses and has even caused and overseen modern technological advancements (see Daniel 12:4), he guides particular couples' birth control practices in accordance with his particular will for their lives. Conservative evangelical leader John F. MacArthur states the view,

Nothing in Scripture prohibits married couples from practicing birth control, either for a limited time to delay childbearing, or permanently when they have borne children and determine that their family is complete ... In our viewpoint, birth control is biblically permissible. At the same time, couples should not practice birth control if it violates their consciences (Romans 14:23)—not because birth control is inherently sinful, but because it is always wrong to violate the conscience. The answer to a wrongly informed conscience is not to violate it, but rather to correct and rightly inform one's conscience with biblical truth.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the ninth president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky states,

Evangelical couples may, at times, choose to use contraceptives in order to plan their families and enjoy the pleasures of the marital bed. The couple must consider all these issues with care, and must be truly open to the gift of children. The moral justification for using contraceptives must be clear in the couple's mind, and fully consistent with the couple's Christian commitments.

Additional adherents of this view include Rainey, James Dobson, Jordan, Mohler, and evangelical ethicists Franklin E. Payne and John and Paul Feinberg. Although most Protestants adhere to this view, some such as Rainey may nonetheless advocate for one of the categories he describes, depending upon which Christian values they deem most important.

Some Protestants, however, reject the position that contraceptive use is a matter of conscience. Although some Quiverfull adherents accept that birth control use is a matter of individual conscience, other such adherents may argue that the Bible commands their position for all Christians. For example, David Crank, publisher of Unless The Lord Magazine, states, "The 'Quiverfull' approach is universal in the sense that it is not something unusual that only a few are called to. Rather it is God's basic design and plan for mankind, and it was the way most of mankind lived most of the time, until the 20th century." Charles D. Provan additionally argues:

"Be fruitful and multiply" ... is a command of God, indeed the first command to a married couple. Birth control obviously involves disobedience to this command, for birth control attempts to prevent being fruitful and multiplying. Therefore birth control is wrong, because it involves disobedience to the Word of God. Nowhere is this command done away with in the entire Bible; therefore it still remains valid for us today.

Quiverfull authors such as Hess and Hess disagree and say the matter is simply one of clear obedience or disobedience to God's words in the Bible.

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord" (Psa. 127:3). Do we really believe that? If children are a gift from God, let’s for the sake of argument ask ourselves what other gift or blessing from God we would reject. Money? Would we reject great wealth if God gave it? Not likely! How about good health? Many would say that a man’s health is his most treasured possession. But children? Even children given by God? "That’s different!" some will plead! All right, is it different? God states right here in no-nonsense language that children are gifts. Do we believe His Word to be true?

To such statements, Protestants such as Jordan point out that Christians will, in fact, choose against the blessing of money and great wealth. Jordan also maintains that, while children are indeed blessings, they are only one among a wide range of blessings God offers, and prayerfully choosing foci among them is part of prudent Christian stewardship. John Piper's Desiring God ministry further explains,

Scriptures also say 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. It is wrong to reason that since A is good and a gift from the Lord, then we must pursue as much of An as possible. God has made this a world in which tradeoffs have to be made and we cannot do everything to the fullest extent. For kingdom purposes, it might be wise not to get married. And for kingdom purposes, it might be wise to regulate the size of one's family and to regulate when the new additions to the family will likely arrive. As Wayne Grudem has said, "it is okay to place less emphasis on some good activities in order to focus on other good activities."
“Be fruitful and multiply”—command or blessing?

Protestants, including Quiverfull adherents, also disagree over whether the Biblical statement "be fruitful and multiply" in Genesis 1:28 and 9:7 is a command or simply a blessing God spoke over its recipients. Mary Pride and Charles D. Provan see it as a binding command upon married Christians, while Dobson, MacArthur, Jordan, and Raymond C. Van Leeuwen do not see the statement as prohibiting family planning by contraceptive use.

The Sin of Onan—condemnation of contraceptive use?

As part of this debate, Protestants (as well as some Catholics) disagree over the Sin of Onan as found in the Bible verses of Genesis 38:1-10. Protestants within the "children in abundance" group often see Onan's act of coitus interruptus as condemning contraceptive use, while most see Onan's real sin as failure to fulfill the terms of his Levirate marriage (Yibbum), even though the Bible says failure to fulfill this term is humiliation not death, according to Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Which methods are permissible?

Also see: Natural Family Planning, Barrier contraception and Hormonal contraception

Protestants who accept that birth control is permissible may disagree over which methods are impermissible.

Natural Family Planning only or "artificial" methods too?

In Sam and Bethany Torode's 2002 book, Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception, the young couple argued that only Natural Family Planning was permissible, citing their views borrowed from Catholicism including the Theology of the Body. The couple later accepted barrier methods and stated,

Strict NFP reaches a point where it is more harmful for a marriage than good. We think that Jesus' words in Luke 11:46 apply: "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry." How is it that spouses are saying "yes" to the gift of each other when they end up abstaining for much of their married lives? ... We also see honest congruity with the language of the body by saying "no" to conception with our bodies (via barrier methods or sensual massage) when our minds and hearts are also saying "no" to conception. We don’t believe this angers God, nor that it leads to the slippery slope of relativism or divorce. We strongly disagree with the idea that this is a mortal sin.

John Piper's Desiring God ministry states of NFP,

Some conclude that "natural family planning" is acceptable but "artificial" means are not. But this seems to overlook something significant: in both cases, you are still seeking to regulate when you have children. And so if one concludes that it is wrong to seek to regulate the timing and size of a family, then it would have to be concluded that natural family planning is just as wrong as "artificial" means. But if one concludes that it is appropriate to steward the timing and size of one's family, then what makes "artificial" means wrong but natural family planning right? Surely it is not because God is "more free" to overrule our plans with natural family planning! Perhaps some have concluded that artificial forms are wrong because they allow one more fully to separate intercourse from the possibility of procreation. But if it is wrong to have intercourse without a significant possibility of procreation, then it would also be wrong to have intercourse during pregnancy or after a woman is past her childbearing years. There is no reason to conclude that natural family planning is appropriate but that "artificial" means are not.

In her book, Birth Control for Christians: Making Wise Choices, Jenell Williams Paris, who is associate professor of anthropology at Bethel College in St. Paul, reviews the benefits and uncertainties of various birth control methods, and decidedly favors the the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), which is similar to NFP but is different. (Paris is a FAM instructor.) The main difference is that FAM is not tied to Roman Catholic teaching. Regarding hormonal methods and abortion, Paris explains that both assertions that the hormonal methods are necessarily acting as abortifacients and the counter claim that they never do are impossible to substantiate from data, and that the probability of the hypothesized scenarios are so small such that the collection of data seems infeasible.

Hormonal contraceptives
Based upon a view that life begins at conception, Protestant author Randy Alcorn rejects all forms of hormonal contraceptives, while James Dobson and obstetrician and minister William R. Cutrer reject only certain forms of them. Dobson and Cutrer view progesterone-only birth control pills as potentially problematic, since they may be potentially abortive contraceptives because of the theoretical possibility that they may have a slight secondary action of preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting within the uterine wall, while Alcorn implicates all hormonal contraceptives as problematic in these regards. Dobson's Focus on the Family states,
Dr. Dobson would emphasize as foundational his strict concurrence with the biblical teaching that every child is a blessing from God ... While affirming that human life begins with fertilization (the union of sperm and egg), his interpretation of Scripture leads him to believe that the prevention of fertilization is not morally wrong. However, he would oppose any method of birth control that acts after fertilization and terminates a conceived human life by preventing its implantation in the womb ... After two years of extended deliberation and prayer, the PRC has not been able to reach a consensus as to the likelihood, or even the possibility, that these medications might contribute to the loss of human life after fertilization. The majority of the experts to which Dr. Dobson has spoken feel that the pill does not have an abortifacient effect. A minority of the experts feel that when conception occurs on the pill, there is enough of a possibility for an abortifacient effect [with the progesterine-only pill], however remote, to warrant informing women about it.

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, however, argues that it is inappropriate to implicate certain hormonal contraceptives as abortifacient based upon theory only, and points out that no empirical evidence exists to prove any abortifacient action. The organization states,

Is it appropriate to implicate a medication as an abortive agent without the data to support such a claim? To do so creates needless hostility and division among physicians and patients who genuinely respect life from the moment of conception. Where do we draw the line in informed consent for responsible disclosure of known medical risks vs. a theoretical risk which is not substantiated by current scientific knowledge? Is it accurate to implicate all hormonal contraceptive methods as one regarding their method of action, rather than evaluating each one individually?

Protestants Reformers’ views vs. modern Protestant views

Protestants such as Pride, Provan, Hess and Hess, and Scott, argue that Protestants should not have moved away from traditional Protestant views of contraception such as given by Martin Luther and John Calvin. Such modern authors contrast the views of early Reformers who rejected contraception with modern Christians who accept it, and point to primarily feminist, secular, or Satanic influences as causative to the change.

Provan in his The Bible and Birth Control extensively quotes early Protestant views of birth control, which Provan uses to conclude,

If Martin Luther were alive today, would he not disapprove of many Christians who view children as a bad thing, and so practice birth control to prevent God from sending more blessings to them? ... Truly Scriptural principles do not change at all: therefore Christians should willingly receive the blessings which God has for us, and not try to prevent them.

Protestant scholars such as Jordan, however, maintain that Provan's view has the effect of adding a law to the Bible it does not contain. Jordan states,

Jesus repeatedly denounced the Pharisees for their additions to the Law of God. Thus, we must be extremely careful about what laws we lay down for people. Does the Bible clearly state that contraception is sinful, or that people are obligated to have as many children as possible? If the Bible does not say these things, we need to fear God and be frightened of adding to His Word.

Jordan argues also that the views of early Protestant Reformers on contraception are unreliable because they were heavily influenced by not just the Bible but Neo-Platonic mysticism (otherworldliness) and Aristolean teleologism (measuring all things only by their result), philosophies they inherited from their Catholic predecessors such as Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo. Bart Garrett describes it, "They operated in a time and context that unhealthily looked at sex as a base, physical pleasure that carried with it spiritual detriments."

Jordan further points to the Reformers' unreliability based upon their rejection of Song of Solomon as a description of passionate sexual expression within marriage. He also cites technophobia among Protestants, as evident by their rejection of things ranging from buttons to airplanes ("if God meant for man to fly he would have given him wings"). As well, Jordan points to what he describes as the Reformers' own mantra, "reformed and always reforming" (ecclesia reformata est semper reformanda), as evidence that Protestants should not cystalize their position on the matter at some point in the past, and says that rejecting contraceptives based upon their correlative rise alongside feminism exhibits the genetic fallacy.

Eastern Orthodoxy

Until about 1970, the Eastern Orthodox Church generally opposed the use of contraception. Since that time a "new consensus" has emerged.

Present view

This new view holds that contraception is acceptable within a Christian marriage if 1), the means of contraception is not abortifacient, 2) it is used with the blessing of one's spiritual father and 3), children are not completely excluded from the marriage.

Alternative Orthodox views

Many people, on all sides, believe that the Orthodox change in thinking on contraception has not received adequate examination, and that any examination has too often become tied up in identity politics, with various groups accusing the other of western influence. Still, the "new consensus" has not gone unchallenged.

Many Orthodox hierarchs and theologians from around the world lauded Humanae Vitae when it was issued. Among these Orthodox leaders, some teach that marital intercourse should be for procreation only, while others do not go as far and hold a view similar to the Roman Catholic position, which allows Natural Family Planning on principle while at the same time opposing artificial contraception.

More lenient Orthodox leaders maintain that the new consensus position is too conservative, and thusly allow more freedom for contraceptive use.

Roman Catholic views of the Orthodox position

Roman Catholics are sometimes bewildered by how the Orthodox Church could allow such a change in teaching. The dynamics of the Orthodox tradition function much differently than Rome's. Orthodoxy maintains that magisterial decree is not an appropriate way to work through their position on contraception.

Anabaptists

Mennonites

The Mennonite Church USA, the General Conference Mennonite Church, and the Conservative Mennonite Conference have adopted statements indicating approval of modern methods of contraception. For example, while also teaching and encouraging love and acceptance of children, the Conservative Mennonite Conference maintains, "The prevention of pregnancy when feasible by birth control with pre-fertilization methods is acceptable." A study published in 1975 found that only 11% of Mennonites believed use of birth control was "always wrong". Old Colony Mennonites, like the Amish, do not officially allow birth control practices.

Amish

All types of birth control, including forms of natural family planning such as calendar-based methods, are forbidden in Old Order Amish communities. However, especially in recent years, more Amish women have begun using contraception. This trend is more pronounced in communities where few of the men earn their living through farming.

Hutterites

The Hutterite Brethren use contraception only if it is recommended by a physician.

Mormonism

LDS Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not expressly prohibit or permit most forms of contraception. Its most recent official statement on birth control states in its entirety:

"It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

"Married couples also should understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a means of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.

The LDS Church opposes elective abortion "for personal or social convenience and "strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control".

References

External links

Roman Catholic

Protestant

Eastern Orthodox

Critique of Christian views on contraception

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