Mar 13, 2009

Response to John Piper’s argument for birth control

A sweet brother in the Lord responds to John Piper's argument for Birth Control.
Bill and Kim Kinderman are a precious family with 9 children. I got to meet them last year at the Above Rubies family camp. She writes " My husband was reading your post about the Pearl’s conference:
My problem with that is many folks will rather ask a Christian guru about what to do with huge life changing decisions and not seek the Lord once they get an answer they were hoping to hear.

"He asked me to send the attachment where he responds to John Piper’s argument for birth control. Hope you enjoy it."

I wanted to THANK Bill and Kim. I certainly did enjoy this article. I have read it once before in Bonded Together and was very pleased to read it again. I have included this article below. Be BLESSED as you surrender to The One Who Sees the whole scope from beginning to end and Has the best plan for your life and the life of your children. May those that profess Christ allow Him reign in EVERY area of your life, not just the easy parts. I believe every believing family would be blessed to read this at least once. It's a bit long, but worth it. Print it out and read it later. Feel free to comment. Alida w4
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It is no secret: most of the evangelical world does not share our Quiverfull convictions. A Quiverfull digest reader came across the John Piper/Desiring God website, browsed through it, and asked me to weigh in on some of the material they had posted there. Specifically, she asked me to respond to the arguments they make regarding the appropriateness and permissibility of using birth control for Christians.

John Piper is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist church in the Minneapolis MN area. He is a leading evangelical bible teacher with an earned doctorate. I have the utmost respect for him and his ministry, and nothing I say here should be construed as anything more than a sincere biblical/theological disagreement between brothers in Christ. Dr. Piper has stood publicly for controversial biblical doctrines that are unpopular today, including the male headship principle. I appreciate his ministry, but in this particular area I will offer a strong dissent from the position he/they have taken on birth control as posted on the Desiring God website.

"DG and Bethlehem Baptist have no formal position on birth control, but John Piper and most of the pastors on staff believe that non-abortive forms of birth control are permissible. The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:1, 9 on the sufficiency of Scripture)."

What I think they mean by "no formal position" is that they hold the opinion that non-abortive bc is ok, but do not take a stand on it in the sense that they ask everyone in their ministry to adhere to that view. I suspect this means they would tolerate someone with quiverfull views on their staff. Fine. Then it states in effect that since the Bible does not explicitly forbid bc then we should not add rules to the Scriptures (i.e. – don’t use bc). Therefore bc for them falls into a gray area – use it or don’t use it as you see fit. This is a pretty standard view of the matter that is prevalent in evangelical circles today.

At the outset, I will observe that appealing to biblical silence is not a strong argument in FAVOR of anything. There are many things that are not mentioned explicitly in the Bible that we nevertheless do make a strong implicit biblical case for. Someone could say with just as much validity – as far as it goes, which is not far at all – that the Bible nowhere mentions biblical inerrancy, the Trinity, etc. The fact that the Bible does not mention the Trinity explicitly does not at all mean that the Trinity is not implicitly a biblical teaching. The same thing goes for inerrancy. And, I will argue, the same thing can be said for birth control usage, at least most of the time.

"What is important is our attitude in using it. Any attitude which fails to see that children are a good gift from the Lord is wrong: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" (Psalm 127:3-4)."

I agree with the "what is important is our attitude in using it" statement. In context it refers to nonabortive birth control. Where I differ, however, is with the idea that using bc is ok as long as while using it you can somehow maintain that "children are a gift of the Lord." Boulderdash. Bc usage in my view usually will directly contradict the idea that children are a gift from God. Your attitude in using it, in other words, will often not honor Christ.

Think about this for a moment. Think of something else that we see as a temporal gift from God: say, money. I have never known folks to ask God that their business not do as well, or that they not get a raise from their boss, due to concerns about their ability to manage or handle the extra funds. It just does not happen. Why? Because as long as we are honest about getting our money and we use it in accord with biblical priorities, it is a gift from God that allows us to do things that we see as His will for us: pay for our house, our food, clothes, cars, fund churches and missionaries, minister to the needy, etc. Now, certainly it is wrong to love money, and it helps us not to do so when we give it away biblically. But we generally all see honest money as a blessing. Almost no one ever asks God for less of it, or worse yet deliberately makes business decisions designed to reduce an otherwise Christ-honoring honest profit. So we say money is a blessing, and welcome it without reservation when God blesses us with more. We say money is a blessing and we usually mean it, no doubt.

Yet children are a blessing also - we can all agree that the Bible teaches this. But then we turn right around and, while saying we believe they are blessings, we say it is ok to nevertheless intervene surgically, chemically, or otherwise so as to STOP the arrival of these "blessings." This is a direct contradiction.

Let me illustrate the issue another way: fellowship. Lets say there is a family in your church that you meet and invite over. They come, you all have a good time as far as you can tell, and they leave. Then you ask them about getting together again, and they say "Yeah, we had a great time at your house, so let’s get together." They sound sincere, so you say: "How about Saturday at 8?" They respond: "Oh sorry, I need to do the dishes and laundry, so Saturday isn’t a good day." "Ok, no sweat," you say. "We’ll try another day in a few weeks." Then in a few weeks you approach them about it and they still have lots of laundry. Then this happens, say, 20 times. 30 times. At some point a reasonable person will get the idea that maybe that family didn’t have such a blessed time at your house after all. That is what using bc is like in most circumstances: "Yes God, children are a blessing from you. But please, don’t send any more right now. And, just to make sure you don’t, I am going to ‘help’ you by doing my best to make sure you can’t ‘bless’ us by using bc." You are saying children are a blessing with your lips but in your attitude and actions you contradict what you say. You live as if they are not, in other words.

God has designed our bodies, appropriate only in marriage, to procreate. This is generally so. True, there are some who have health issues and things do not work as they should and they cannot have children, or only a few, or even one. My heart goes out to them. But this is the exception. Usually, if we do not fill our bodies with chemicals for years (i.e. the pill), have surgery, abortions, etc – our bodies will produce children in marriage. God made it this way. Had He not wanted it this way He would not have made it so. The Bible makes it clear that children are a blessing and that "blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." But modern Christians often kind of reword the verse by their bad attitudes: they say "blessed is the man whose quiver has two of them." Wrong.

No, if we believe children are a blessing from God we will accept the ones that He sends in His timing, and avoid the modern tendency to believe that He has given us the authority to say NO to the arrival of what we call blessings from Him. That is kind of like saying "No, Lord" When He tells you to do something. A direct, obvious, blatant contradiction.

Before moving on I need to say: I am not one who says birth control is NEVER ever acceptable no matter what. I realize some out there take that view, and I respect it. But I do personally allow for non abortive bc in situations where there is a genuine health condition that will threaten the woman’s life if she conceives. I know of such a woman: she is quiverfull from the heart. But after having several children she developed a severe heart condition that could easily result in immediate death. No exaggeration, no speculation. Her weak heart was truly a threat to her life, and the stress of pregnancy was a threat to her weak heart. I would never tell her she is out of God’s will for using nonabortive bc. Situations like this do happen, but they are the exception. That is where the motive comes in: a person who really believes children are a blessing but does not want to die and therefore uses nonabortive bc is not in my view sinning.

On the other hand, most of the time most who use bc and say children are a blessing are probably doing it for motives like:
Having things go easier at home; wanting to have more money; more ability to indulge personal desires for comfort and convenience etc. I see these all as being basically selfish, and not valid motives for using bc. I think that someone with selfish motives who uses bc is in sin. It is not a "gray" area, with such a motive.

"There are, of course, some Christians who would disagree with this position on birth control."
Yes. I am one. Blessings are not things we seek to avoid, generally. Yet that is exactly what folks using bc selfishly are usually doing – they are saying yes and living no.

"Is birth control consistent with the truth that children are a gift from the Lord?
It is very important to delight in the reality that "children are a gift of the Lord." But some people go further and argue from this that since children are gifts from God, it is wrong to take steps to regulate the timing and number of children one has."

Yes, it is wrong to say you believe that children are blessings and then spend your fertile years as a couple doing your level best to have just a few of these "blessings" out of selfish motives. Where in the Bible does God tell us to avoid these blessings? Where in the Bible are fallen men given the authority from God to decide such things? An argument from silence, true. But the silence, in this case, is deafening. Especially since the command to procreate has already been given.

If God wanted us to act this way He would have: A. told us it is OK to use bc in His Word, or B. He would NOT have designed our bodies to function in a way that usually if left alone will lead to large families. Had God wanted us to normally use bc He would NOT have told the very first couple ever, at the very beginning of their existence the following: "And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Gen. 1:28, NASB, emphasis mine). This verse is God’s dominion mandate to mankind. That is to say, this passage is a blessing that includes God’s marching orders for humanity. So we observe that the first blessing given to the first human couple in the first chapter of the Bible at the beginning of their life together included a command that they were to procreate for Him. That is not all that is here, but it is part of what is here – a key part of human existence.

I should point out that in the entire rest of the Bible nothing is ever said anywhere that modifies or in any way abrogates this command to married couples to multiply (the Hebrew word, rabah, used in Gen 1:28, signifies to "multiply, become numerous, become great." (Vine OT/NT words, p. 156). And, we notice that God’s design for our bodies ably supports this command. He told us to do it, and made us to be able to do it. Why would He tell us to multiply, and then enable us to multiply, if He did not want us to multiply? Answer: He wouldn’t. Why would He make us like this and then consider it a matter of no great import that we surgically or chemically intervene to prevent ourselves from doing the very thing He told us to do?!!! Answer: He wouldn’t. What we do with this is important to God – He wants us to be fruitful and multiply, and anything that man contrives to stop this is usually not going to be His will for man.

"In response, it can be pointed out that the 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."

Taking the proverb about a wife being a gift and using that as a basis to draw conclusions about not being quiverfull is unrelated and just bogus. Apples and oranges. Children are not just a gift and a blessing from the Lord, though they are both. They result when we are doing what He wants us to. They happen because we are being obedient to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. In fact, He sends each and every one. We are not commanded to marry, though most of us do. I would say yes, the single person is not to be fruitful and multiply. So what? The vast majority of us are NOT single. Adam and Eve were NOT single, so again – apples and oranges.
This is just another version of the old "stewardship" argument. One problem with the argument is the alleged authority of the steward. The steward works for someone else who has established the parameters of his stewardship. The steward does not make their own rules – they do what the boss says. So, with this in mind, remember – God is boss and has told human stewards of His world to be fruitful and multiply. So how is it legitimate without some further word from God on the subject for the steward to just up and decide one day "He does not really want me to do this – He left it up to me to decide." The Bible, in other words, nowhere tells man He has the authority to decide that God’s command to be fruitful and multiply no longer applies. Man may claim authority to decide this, but the Bible does not indicate God intends for man to assume such authority. Who do we think we are, to tell Him what blessings we will and will not accept, guided by our selfish desires for comfort, prestige, the praise of men, or other carnal motives?!! No thanks. I want no part of such thinking.

But what about using bc with unselfish motives? For “ministry”? Well, you have to wonder about whether or not it is God’s will for you to be involved in any ministry that requires you to disobey His command to be fruitful and multiply in order to minister. Why would He want you to disobey His word in order to more effectively minister for Him?!! No, ministry is no good reason to use bc.

"It is wrong to reason that since A is good and a gift from the Lord, then we must pursue as much of A as possible. God has made this a world in which tradeoffs have to be made and we cannot do everything to the fullest extent."

I am not building my biblical case for quiverfull living on the fact that kids are blessings, though they are blessings (and if we really believed that we would struggle much less with all this!). I am building my fundamental case on obedience to the divine command given by God to humanity in Genesis 1:28. God always expects us to obey His commands to the best of our ability.

"For kingdom purposes, it might be wise not to get married."

Yes. Undeniably, Paul was such a man (1 Cor. 7:1-7). The command to multiply is NOT for the single – Adam and Eve were NOT single when God told them what He wanted them to do. God does intend some to be single (see Matt 19:11-12). But if you are single and living in obedience to God you do not have to worry about bc preventing conception because you are not fornicating.

"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."

This one bothers me. Let us use bc for God. God does not desire us to disobey Him for the sake of advancing His kingdom. It is not at all wise to regulate the size of one’s family since that is God’s job as the giver of life, not ours.

"When I was teaching a summer course at a seminary in Africa, a student of mine made a perceptive observation along these same lines. He noted first of all that in the creation account the command to multiply is given together with the command to subdue the earth: "And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28).'" He then asked how a farmer (he lived in a largely agrarian society) knows how much land he should cultivate. The answer, of course, is that a farmer seeks to cultivate what he believes he can reasonably handle. He doesn't take this command to mean that he needs to make his farm be as large as is naturally possible. Likewise, then, it is right for a couple to seek to have the number of children that they believe they can reasonably nurture in light of the other callings they may also have on their lives. In the same vein, Wayne Grudem points out: "We aren't required to maximize the amount of children we have any more than we are required to subdue the earth all the time—plant, grow, harvest, etc."

Well, at least Piper admits here that multiplying is a direct command from God to us. Then he takes one facet of subduing the earth – farming it – and draws an analogy with procreation. This is actually a very clever argument. The problem is, there is nothing in the verse itself – or anywhere else in the whole Bible – that indicates anything about the precise size a person’s farm or family, should be. In the student’s experience, he could only farm so much. Understandable. So – fine. Only have as many kids as God allows your body to make. The analogy to farming is clever, but in fact we are once again comparing apples and oranges. A farmer might indeed know how many acres he can cultivate. However, how could we objectively decide how many kids we can "reasonably nurture"?
Trying to say, however, that because a man can only handle a farm of XX number of acres then that means that in like manner he is to make similar decisions as to the number of kids he can handle raises some questions: 1. What criteria will he use to decide how many kids he can handle? Does he stop when it gets hard? I have met moms of one who are at the end of their rope (or at least they think they are!). They say it is hard. Then, I have met moms of many more who feel just as overwhelmed with 7 as they did when they had one. At the time they had one, they felt swamped, stressed, discouraged, etc. But God gave them amazing grace to handle their 7 that they never thought they would have or could have had back when they had only one. But if they had acted on their feelings back with one or two or three and had their tubes tied, well, then number two or three or four wouldn’t have come. And so it goes. Remember, we were – and are – depraved sinners, and I know how easy it is for my own carnal selfishness to pretend it wants to do something for God when it is really my own selfishness that is being served. I am “guessing” others are like me (see Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3: 10-12; 3:23, etc). 2. Will money enter into it? Will we need to make 150,000 per year before we allow ourselves to trust God with sending us more kids? Anybody see any potential problems here?!! 3. Exactly what does one define as "reasonable" nurture? My sin nature would probably define it - coincidentally - as exactly the number of kids we had right then when things were hard. Surprise. I just do not trust sinful man with the authority to make this kind of decision in a way that glorifies God. And I just do not think God has given us the right to make such decisions. Certainly the Bible does not teach us to do this.

And, far more importantly, nowhere does God say it is ok for man to decide what reasonable nurture is and just stop multiplying the kids then and there. The farmer may indeed farm less if he wants, but the Christian father and mother are procreating, not farming. God knows far better than any human parents how many kids any couple can handle. Let’s leave the authority for making this momentous kind of decision where it belongs, where the Bible leaves it – with Him, as the Author and Giver of life. He provides grace, money, etc. for us to handle all the kids He sends. That does not mean it does not get hard. It does. And when it does, turn to Him for strength to continue, cling to Him. Grow in your faith, in His strength. Do not turn to human wisdom which operates directly against His purposes for your life.

"In reality, then, although it is true that "blessed is the man whose quiver is full of [children]," we need to realize that God has not given everyone the same size quiver. And so birth control is a gift from God that may be used for the wise regulation of the size of one's family, as well as a means of seeking to have children at the time which seems to be wisest."

Yes, our quivers differ in size. That is not the issue. The issue is, who decides what size they should be? I say God, Piper says man. I must biblically disagree with this usurpation of divine prerogative for all of the reasons mentioned earlier.

Birth control is NOT a gift from God "that may be used for the wise regulation of the size of one's family, as well as a means of seeking to have children at the time which seems to be wisest." This is just not so. Where does the Bible say this? Answer: nowhere. The pill is at least some times an abortifacient. They have tried to hide this for years but now we KNOW it. They lied to us. Surprise. But, to be fair, Piper only will allow for nonaborting bc. However, if this nonaborting bc is a gift from God then He chose strange messengers to deliver it and spread this gift around. People like Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. I mean – c’mon. Birth control is simply a modern way of allowing modern man with Satan’s help to tamper with and thwart the procreative aspect of God’s dominion purposes for humanity.

It is noteworthy to mention that prior to the 1930s NOT A SINGLE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH accepted birth control as being in God’s will for a Christian couple. Anything seem strange about this? I realize this is a historical argument and that this type of argument has way less authority than a biblical argument. But at least think about it for a moment: God’s Spirit left ALL of us in the dark on this for over nineteen centuries, and then 70-80 years ago we suddenly get new light into the Scriptures and what was unacceptable before (and embraced by people like Margaret Sanger) is now a “gift” from God? And, millions now selfishly use this “gift” to thwart God’s procreative purposes in marriage?!!! Something about this just stinks. I do not buy it. And Scripture does not teach it, by the way.

“Shouldn't we let God determine the size of our family?
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 a steward of when they happen. But surely this is wrong! God is just as much in control of whether you have children when you use birth control as when you don't. The hands of the almighty 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.”


Using the sovereignty of God argument in order to justify birth control misunderstands the role of human obedience in the outworking of God’s will in our lives. Yes, God is absolutely sovereign. But that never means that because He is sovereign it is ok to walk in disobedience to a divine command. Yes He is sovereign, but we are still responsible to obey Him.

There is a bigger issue here, which is the mystery that is involved whenever you mix the divine and the human in anything. For example, take biblical inspiration. It is clear from the Scriptures that the Bible is a divinely inspired and yet also fully human book (2 Peter 1: 20: “men spoke from God”). Now, this teaching strikes some as problematic. Some Christians react negatively to the human part, and want to ignore the human and emphasize the divine. With me this lasts about two seconds. Can anyone doubt that it was David the divinely inspired man who said “Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11 KJV) Why would God request that He not take His own Holy Spirit from Himself?!! Answer: He wouldn’t, but David the sinful man who had murdered the husband of the woman he had committed adultery with WOULD ask just such a thing. That is the context of Psalm 51. See also 2 Samuel 11: 1 – 12:23.

Or who could doubt that it was the human side of the God-man, Jesus who said on the Cross: “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). Or the human side of the Apostle Paul who said to Timothy from prison “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus…” God does NOT get thirsty or cold, but men do, and in God’s word men spoke such things and yet mysteriously were divinely inspired when they spoke these words. In fact, as a man, Jesus got thirsty, yet He was also fully God. And so it goes. Exactly where the divine involvement stops and the human takes over, or the extent to which the divine overshadows and even works through the human is just not clear. It is a mystery, in other words.

Well, Dr. Piper or whoever at Desiring God wrote what I just quoted above seems to think that God’s purposes for our lives (in this case procreating) will not be thwarted by human disobedience (using bc “wisely”). If this is so, then why should any of us bother obeying God at all in anything? It will all work out anyway since God is sovereign, so don’t bother obeying God by: giving money to missionaries, sending or even being a missionary, a pastor, sharing your faith with others, etc. Single Christians: don’t worry about marrying a Christian, don’t worry about unequal yoking. If God wants you to marry a Christian He will overrule your disobedience and just make His will happen anyway .Or, don’t worry about taking the Gospel overseas: God will find a way to save the lost even if the missionaries don’t get to them in time, not one person will miss being saved who God wants to be saved, etc. I mean, all this is ludicrous, obviously. Yes God is sovereign, but our obedience is part of how He works out His sovereign will in this fallen world. Mysterious, but undeniably true.

So, we see that the weakness of the God-will-overrule-bc argument is exposed when you apply the logic of it to other areas of Christian life and arrive at absurd and clearly unbiblical results. Yes, God is sovereign, but where He has given us instructions to follow we must do what He says. Rationalizing away our disobedience by arguing that God will sovereignly overrule us if He wants to ignores the fact that in the Bible God chooses usually NOT to work that way. His sovereignty, in other words, is never an excuse for us to disobey something He has told us He wants us to do. He works out His will through us, usually. Yes He can overrule – but that is the exception, not the rule. In Genesis 1: 28 God has already told all of us to be fruitful and greatly increase (multiply). That should pretty much settle it, in terms of knowing what His will for us is in that area of our lives.

The "trust God, therefore don't use birth control" thinking is based upon the incorrect assumption that what happens "naturally" reflects "God's best" for our lives, but that what happens through human means does not. Why should we conclude that the way to let God decide the size of our family is to get out of the way and just let nature take its course? We certainly don't think that way in other areas of life. We don't reason, for example, that we should never get haircuts so that "God can decide" the length of our hair. Farmers don't just let the wind plant their crops in the fear that actively regulating what is grown on their land somehow interferes with the provision God wants to give them. And a family doesn't just trust God to provide food for by waiting for it to drop from the sky, but instead goes to the store to buys it. God ultimately determines everything that will happen, both in nature and in human decisions, and He brings His will to pass through means. Human activity does not therefore interfere with his plans, but is instead itself governed by Him as the means to bring to pass His will. Hence, we should not conclude that what happens apart from our planning is "better" and more reflective of God's desires for us than what happens through our planning. God very often causes us to plan as the means towards improving our lives and advancing His kingdom purposes.

Well, much of what I have said earlier addresses the issues raised in the quote immediately above. I recognize that God is sovereign over the decisions humans make. I just cannot construe that doctrine to allow me to have a clear conscience while I am disobeying God’s command to procreate by simply appealing to His sovereignty over my error.

Yes, God works out His will through our actions, which is why it is important that we obey Him, in this case with respect to procreating. The specific issues of hair growth, farming, and buying food in the context of human decisions and planning were raised as analogies. In response, I say this: had God given us some clear instructions about how long or short our hair should be, or had He told us how to plant our crops, or where or how to purchase our food - and then in any of these areas we chose to go against what He told us to do - then we would be wrong. There is no freedom to choose or to plan against the revealed will of God as contained in the written Word of God. The writer of the above article is assuming that God has not told us to procreate, but in fact He has told us to. So, the analogies fail because they all pertain to “gray” areas where there is true legitimate human freedom to make differing choices. Because of Genesis 1:28, there is nothing “gray” about married Christians procreating. Therefore the analogies are false ones, wrongly illustrating a freedom to “plan” and use bc to decide how many kids we can have that biblically is just not there.

Further, God has revealed that it is His will for us to regulate and direct creation for His glory (Genesis 1:28). God has given us the privilege of being able to make significant life decisions because this exercises wisdom and thus shows the fruit that His word is bearing in our lives. When we rightly use the godly wisdom God has given us, God is glorified. He doesn't want us to simply think we have to take what comes naturally, apart from our efforts, because then our sanctified wisdom is not expressed. In fact, very often it is God's will that we not simply let things move along naturally. Going back to the analogy mentioned above, farmers don't simply collect whatever grain happens to grow in their fields, concluding "this is what God wants to provide." Rather, they go out and plant grain, realizing that God wants to provide not only through nature, but also through the means they employ to steward nature.

Well, need I say more about why the analogies are false ones? They do not apply because unlike farming, or harvesting, or getting haircuts – God HAS told us what He wants us to do in the specific area of procreation: Be fruitful and multiply. It is never wise to disobey God in anything, ever. We all do disobey, so I don’t mean to sound harsh or self-righteous. I fail. But still, I will not make an argument that says that a failure of mine is really no failure at all and that it is wise to follow what I say when I am arguing against God’s Word. Notice how the writer has no problem with seeing other commands in Gen 1:28. But why disregard the one to multiply? Where did any of us ever get the idea that the other commands in Gen 1:28 apply today, but the command to multiply does not?!! Such thinking does not come from God, I’ll tell you that.

“It does not work, therefore, to conclude that the use of birth control interferes with God's role in granting children. “

Yes it does.

Birth control can be a way of wisely stewarding the timing and size of one's family. [No!!!!!] One might be able to minister more effectively for the kingdom, for example, by waiting 3 years after marriage to have children in order to enable the husband to go to graduate school. And one might be able to minister more effectively for the kingdom by deciding to have 4 children instead of 15, so that more resources can be given to the cause of missions and more time can be devoted to other areas. If such planning is done for God's glory and in wisdom, and if such planning continues to acknowledge that our plans are not perfect and that birth control does not absolutely ensure anything, it is pleasing to God.”

Goodness. This is just wrong, terribly wrong. “Might” it not be better to let God have His way in this area and watch in joy as He works things out and provides for our needs, educational or otherwise, over and over again? Of course it is always better to do what God says. Disobeying Him for grad school, or some other lofty sounding ministry objective is still just plain old disobedience.

“Without regulating the size of their family, many couples would end up having more children than they can reasonably support financially. “

OK, so obeying God in this area will create such a strain on God’s ability to help you financially that it is unwise stewardship to just let the kids keep coming. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but he needs your help in limiting the kids so that there will be enough funds left for Him to spread enough around so that each couple will be able to “reasonably support [them] financially”.

In response, some argue that we should simply have faith that God will provide the funds. However, we don't use the "God would provide" reasoning to justify going beyond our means in other areas of life. We wouldn't consider it wise, for example, to pledge twice our annual income to missions organizations in faith that God will supply the extra funds. God expects us to make wise decisions according to what he has given us, and not presume upon him providing from out of the blue. Reasonable financial considerations are a relevant factor: "If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8).”

Groan. I tire of this. So it is “wise”, it expresses “faith”, for us to disobey God’s command to procreate. God NEVER expects us to make “wise” decisions that go directly against His revealed will. Such decisions are foolish, not wise. Only in the world, which is against God, are such decisions (vasectomies, tubal litigations, the pill, condoms, etc) considered “wise.” May God deliver us from such worldly “wisdom.”

“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.”

Finally here is something I agree with: natural family planning is just as wrong as other types of bc if your motives are selfish and sinful in using it. Morally, in other words, nfp is no different than getting a vasectomy. Nfp is just another way to control and head off the blessing that God wants to give you, probably because deep in your heart you are not truly seeing that baby as a blessing.

“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?”

Nothing. Both are usually wrong.

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.

Physical intimacy during pregnancy is not wrong. Pleasure and marital oneness are legitimate, God-given parts of marriage. I have never argued that procreation is the ONLY legitimate reason for physical intimacy. Perhaps some argue for this, but I do not, and I do not think such an idea is supported in Scripture, either. And finally, yes, I agree: “There is no [moral or biblical] reason to conclude that natural family planning is appropriate but that "artificial" means are not.” They are just different ways of doing (usually) the same wrong thing. Nfp is safer. But being safer while doing wrong does not change the fact that it is wrong.


Well, we have come a long way on this. Obviously much more could be said on both sides. I reiterate here what I said way back at the beginning: I do not consider John Piper or Desiring God to be heretical. But I do think they have imbibed worldly thinking in this particular area, with predictable results: a lessening of Christian obedience in the area of procreation. Brethren, please do not be deceived by those with advanced academic credentials who use clever analogies or alleged “wisdom” that if followed will result in you making choices that go directly against the explicit teaching of the Word of God.

Being Quiverfull is NOT an easy path to walk. Many of us who travel this road do indeed have hardships that those with fewer children do not face to the same degree, or sometimes even at all. There can be money problems, health problems, and even sin problems (i.e. yelling at the kids, tempers, selfishness, frustration with child training or lack thereof, etc). Not to mention problems with friends and relatives. Also, many of us homeschool too, which brings with it an array of extra challenges. In pointing out that God is faithful and is our provider, it is NOT my intent to act like none of us will ever suffer financial want, or will never have health problems, or will never become widows/widowers before our kids are grown, etc. This area of our lives, like every other area we seek to turn over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, involves ongoing self-denial and sacrifice. We grow, we progress, but none of us ever fully arrives in this life. That is the way of things for Christians in this fallen world. We need to – by faith – put our wiggling selves back up on that sacrificial altar day after day, and it is not easy. We can only do it by faith, continuously relying on the power of His Holy Spirit.

I close with the blessed instruction that Paul gave to the church in Ephesus: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph. 6:10-11, NASB). Most of the rest of Ephesians 6 gives more detail on weapons to use in this spiritual struggle we call the Christian life, and is a good passage to study and meditate on as we contemplate pressing on for God amidst life’s very real hardships. Remember, being Quiverfull is part of that spiritual struggle. Stand firm in the grace of God, and guard yourselves from idols (2 Tim 2:1; Philemon 25; 1 John 5:21).

In Him,

Bill Kinderman

13 comments:

Georgina, Gina, Mrs. Niemeyer, Mommy said...

Alida,

So do Quiverfull families agree with artificial methods of creating life? I mean, doesn't it seem that our motives are wrong if we choose to pursue such paths against God's sovereignty? Just wondering...

Lisa Metzger - A 2nd Generation of Homeschooling said...

I posted this, as you suggested, on my blog...wow, have I received some e-mails and comments. I was able to respond biblically to all of them, but there has been quite a reaction to the post. :)

Lisa Metzger

Anonymous said...

The Bible says in Luke 6:37 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Your words are judgmental and harsh.

Do you think it could be possible that the Lord leads each of us regarding our family size in different ways?

I believe that as a Christian our lives should most be characterized by love (not our family size). Are you aware that there are over 147 million orphans currently in this world. That is 147 million little babies, toddlers and children that have no mommy and daddy to tuck them in at night, no family to call their own. That is inconceivable. As a Christian we ARE mandated to care for these orphans (it's not optional). God's heart breaks for these little ones and so should ours. What if God was leading someone to only have a few children so that they might be able to build their family through adoption (someone who could otherwise have lots of biological babies). To me, that is the most loving, sacrificial, Christian thing to do- and is truly obeying God's command to care for the least of these. James 1:27 says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Notice it doesn't say that religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is to never use birth control and have a humongous family.

What if some people truly can only handle a few kiddos (we are all different). Not everyone has the energy to care for a big family. I think that being a good Mom to a few kids is better than being a lousy mom to a lot of kids.

God has also given us a brain and not just reproductive organs. He has given us the ability to make good decisions based on circumstances in our lives, our abilities and limitations, etc. This is not a black and white issue.

I needed to express what is truly in my heart on this matter. These are my convictions.
I am truly sorry to hear about what you are dealing with regarding your son. I will pray for him and your family during this time. I pray for His Best.
Kathy

Ransomed~Redeemed said...

Kathy, Hello, Sister in the Lord. You didn't leave a blog or email address so I hope this gets to you. I am not sure how you found my blog, but you must not have really viewed it for any length of time. I am very pro adoption (spending time in foster care and in shelters. I know about those kids without a mom and dad to tuck them in, because, well, I was one. ;-) We are in the process of trying to adopt MANY children of all colors shapes and sizes (along with having many biological children from both foster care, domestic and international. Why limit biological children to adopt when God can bless you with both? (After all, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills) If you read ANY of my adoption posts or follow and of the links on this site (and there are many, then you'll see I am very much aware) more so than most Christians of the plight of the orphan. I have photo listings on here where children have found homes through my blog! ;-) Are you in the process of adopting? or have you adopted yourself? If so praise the Lord.

I think the characterization of our lives is love AND obedience. Obedience and Love are both marks of Christians. I think of Jesus himself saying "not MY will, but THINE." (even when the world thinks it's silly, foolish, weird, or bizarre.) I think people probably thought "didn't God give you a BRAIN Jesus? " but He was more about a kingdom agenda than in pleasing his own flesh. God often asks us to do "hard things." With regards of what a person can HANDLE God's grace is sufficient and it is a fallacy to think that God will give you more than you are able. We are not here for a life of ease but to glorify God in all we do, and trials, and hardship are all part of refining. After all, Jesus himself said that "In this world we WILL have troubles, but take courage for I have OVERCOME The World." We are MORE Than Conquerors through Christ Jesus! The whole he gives a brain thing doesn't resonate with me because God all through scripture tells everyone from prophets to the children of Israel to do things that go against logic.. Besides that think of the following verses.
Proverbs 16:25 "There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Isaiah 5:21 "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!"
Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
1 Corinthians 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise.
Isaiah 55:6 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Ransomed~Redeemed said...

We must be careful not to replace LOVE with tolerance for things and attitudes that are unbiblical. Same goes with the Judging comment. We must be careful not to consider all edification and correction with Judgment. I think its better to take each subject and look at it in the lens of Gods word, (not feelings or opionions) and if it doesn't match up, and the person is being hypocritical than yes, you can decry "judgment" and use the verse for removing the plank out of the eye first, but now a days people cry "Judgment" no matter HOW you say something, and no matter what scripture you use. ( not saying you do this, it's just something I have observed) Let's validate it with scripture FIRST!

I speak this in love but you clearly did not read the whole article, or even the very beginning of it... If you did you would know that I did not write the article. That is stated within the first sentence or so. Many of your remarks have actually been answered in the article including God gave us a brain, Sometimes our first reaction to something that convicts us is to become defensive without really hearing the heart of the person speaking or writing and without being open minded. The author gently speaks of biblical arguments for letting God decide how many children to have instead of letting man. I do whole heartedly agree. After all, that is all that Quiverfull is. Letting God decide as opposed to man. The verses that pop into MY mind off the bat are this..
Romans 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
Psalms 127:3-5 “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
God clearly sees children as blessings, this is indicated all throughout scripture. It is through his own son (Jesus) that salvation came to the world! (here are just a few verses: Genesis 24: 60; Genesis 22:49; Psalms 37: 25-26; Psalms 112:2; Psalms 128:2-3; Matthew 18:3-6; Matthew 19:14-15; Mark 10:13-16; 1Timothy 2:15)
Not only does God see children as blessings, He also commands us to be fruitful and multiply, it is one of the main purposes for marriage. (see verses: Genesis 1:22, 9:1 and 35:11; Exodus 1:7; Psalms 128:3). Having children is a God’s desire for married couples, and the reason they ‘become one’:
Malachi 2: 15 “Has not the Lord, made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.”

Ransomed~Redeemed said...

Regarding how God leads, I don't believe God would lead a couple to fix their body in a way that goes against His design. I also don't agree that God would want Christians or anyone else using Birth control that causes abortions.

I find it sad that in Christian circles, we have gone the way of the world in regards to valuing children and seeing them as blessings. I honestly believe the same arguments for birth control are the ones given for abortion. Many forms of birth control are abortifacients . All of this information is reality available online and even on the packages of birth control. Modern Birth Control is the fruit of Margaret Sanger. I'd encourage you to Google her for information on her goals. BTW, you'll find them totally contrary to God's word. (though much of this is included in the article on my blog) I ask in love, to read the article with a open seeking heart At the very least it'll give you food for thought to pray and ponder over.
What parts specifically do you disagree with? I felt it was a breathe of fresh air as the church has become saltless tasteless politically correct. I DO think God gives us different family sizes. I know Quiverfull people that do not have any biological children. This is not because they have rigged their body to go against God's design, but because the Lord did not open their wombs. Many are open to as many adoptive children as God would give them but they are QuiverFull in heart because they are are letting God decide. Call me old fashioned but what did women have to do before the works of Margaret Sanger? They trusted in God to decide how many children they had and lived lives of faith. :-) anyhow, I hope this explains my perspective. Let me know your thoughts. Alida w4

Ransomed~Redeemed said...

Our bodies our not ours, but the Lord's!
1 Corinthians 619 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[c] and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Amber said...

I really agree with pretty much everything you've written. My only struggle is the seemed confusion of the sovereignty of God. You said it is obvious we can thwart Gods plans, but Job 42:2 says otherwise. We cannot work outside of Gods will. Now I agree that that doesn't mean we cannot disobey or should not be held responsible for our trespasses, but it still is not us thwarting His will. He gives us up to our own desires. Sometimes just to make His glory known. That's all I really wanted to address! But I enjoyed this otherwise!
Amber

Ransomed~Redeemed said...

Amber,
Hi There. Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed hearing your perspective! Didn't this letter give lots to ponder? He succinctly articulates so perfectly my thoughts on birth control and abortion. Was it I that said this or the author of the letter to John Piper? Thanks again for your comment. Blessings in Christ! Alida w5

Thoughts by Clare said...

Regarding the issue of the woman who uses contraceptives because of health risks if she were to have a baby; i feel like it's a bit hypocritical for one to give an excuse to that woman but not to other families who truly to believe that children are a blessing from God, but believe that they can be better parents to a few children verses many. If a healthy woman were to become pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy, most evangelical Christians would agree that it would be wrong to abort the baby even thought it is a 95% chance the mother would die. Whats to say that this is any different from the scenario with the woman with a heart condition. If you say that she has the right to prevent her pregnancy, but others do not even if they are based off of kingdom related issues, isn't that quite contradictive?

Thoughts by Clare said...

Regarding the issue of the woman who prevents a pregnancy based on health issues; isn't it quite hypocritical to give that woman an excuse but other families who may find that they can bring a few children up in the Lord better than many? If a woman becomes pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy, most evangelical Christians would agree it's wrong to end the pregnancy even though it is a 95% chance the mother would die. What is the difference between the scenario of a mother preventing a baby because of health risks and mother ending a pregnancy based on health risks. According to you, God is big enough to protect a child and family from financial struggles and anything else sin might through in our paths and our actions should be according to that. It's quite hypocritical for one to say that the woman with a health risk has an excuse, but the woman who is already pregnant does not, AND say that all other families do not have a reason to prevent a pregnancy. I am in no way condoning abortion or saying that the murder of a human life is okay in any situation but i think that your reasoning, paired with ALL three situations does not make sense and is hypocritical.

Thoughts by Clare said...

Regarding the issue of the woman who uses contraceptives because of health risks if she were to have a baby; i feel like it's a bit hypocritical for one to give an excuse to that woman but not to other families who truly to believe that children are a blessing from God, but believe that they can be better parents to a few children verses many. If a healthy woman were to become pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy, most evangelical Christians would agree that it would be wrong to abort the baby even thought it is a 95% chance the mother would die. Whats to say that this is any different from the scenario with the woman with a heart condition. If you say that she has the right to prevent her pregnancy, but others do not even if they are based off of kingdom related issues, isn't that quite contradictive?

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with this article. However, my husband thinks differently. So far, he has graciously gone along with my desire to keep on having babies (and we are blessed with seven). As we have more children, my husband gets more serious about preventing conception in the future. So my question is, how do I glorify God as a wife who wants to submit to her husband's leadership but doesn't believe that we have any good reasons for ceasing to use birth control?

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