Monday, September 09, 2019

Dr. A.B. Mohler: Can Christians Use Birth Control?

The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most important defining marks of our age–and one of the most ominous. This awareness is spreading among American evangelicals, and it threatens to set loose a firestorm.

Most evangelical Protestants greeted the advent of modern birth control technologies with applause and relief. Lacking any substantial theology of marriage, sex, or the family, evangelicals welcomed the development of “The Pill” much as the world celebrated the discovery of penicillin — as one more milestone in the inevitable march of human progress, and the conquest of nature.

At the same time, evangelicals overcame their traditional reticence in matters of sexuality, and produced a growth industry in books, seminars, and even sermon series celebrating sexual ecstasy as one of God’s blessings to married Christians. Once reluctant to admit the very existence of sexuality, evangelicals emerged from the 1960s ready to dish out the latest sexual advice without blushing. As one of the best-selling evangelical sex manuals proclaims, marital sex is Intended for Pleasure. Many evangelicals seem to have forgotten that it was intended for something else as well.

For many evangelical Christians, birth control has been an issue of concern only for Catholics. When Pope Paul VI released his famous encyclical outlawing artificial birth control, Humanae Vitae, most evangelicals responded with disregard — perhaps thankful that evangelicals had no pope who could hand down a similar edict. Evangelical couples became devoted users of birth control technologies ranging from the Pill to barrier methods and Intrauterine Devices [IUDs]. That is all changing, and a new generation of evangelical couples is asking new questions.

A growing number of evangelicals are rethinking the issue of birth control–and facing the hard questions posed by reproductive technologies. Several developments contributed to this reconsideration, but the most important of these is the abortion revolution. The early evangelical response to legalized abortion was woefully inadequate. Some of the largest evangelical denominations at first accepted at least some version of abortion on demand.

Read the rest here.

[Dr. Mohler is an ordained minister and President of the Southern Baptist Convention.]

The traditional teaching of the Orthodox  Church on ABC is... no. In fact the Church generally will not marry those who do not want, or who are not ready for a family. In recent years there has been some movement towards a very limited tolerance based on economy (oikonomia) for specific situations such as when a family already has as many children as they can support and/or take care of or where serious health risks may attend pregnancy. Though even then the Church teaches that the ideal response is sexual abstinence. But acknowledging the reality that not all couples can live a life of complete continence this concession is sometimes made. Usually it must be discussed with your spiritual father in confession. When ABC is used it must never be abortificiant or involve self mutilation. This generally places the burden on the husband.

Unfortunately, and especially in the West, some of the Orthodox jurisdictions have in practice become quite lax on this point. And it must be admitted that among the laity, respect for the traditional moral teaching of the Church is generally no better than among other Christian denominations including Roman Catholicism which is even stricter and admits no exception at all. Which is to say that it is widely ignored.


Ricardo said...

For most evangelicals, the major break with Catholic teaching comes at the insistence that “it is necessary that each conjugal act remain ordained in itself to the procreating of human life.” That is, that every act of marital intercourse must be fully and equally open to the gift of children. This claims too much, and places inordinate importance on individual acts of sexual intercourse, rather than the larger integrity of the conjugal bond.

The focus on “each and every act” of sexual intercourse within a faithful marriage that is open to the gift of children goes beyond the biblical demand. Since the encyclical does not reject all family planning, this focus requires the distinction between “natural” and “artificial” methods of birth control. To the evangelical mind, this is a rather strange and fabricated distinction.

- Albert Mohler

bob said...

In 1987 Bp.Kallistos Ware was interviewed in Seattle when he spoke here. This question arose. He said the first edition of his book said Orthodoxy forbids birth control. He said that almost at once he heard from bishops, clergy, laymen that it was NOT that simple. He had no pastoral experience at this point, and he was informed about what the pastoral scene was. Subsequent editions were different. This was not some great liberalization, it reflected what had always been the case.