I don't think its available in online text format, but I'll be happy to mail you a copy of the book "The Bible and Birth Control," by protestant writer Charles Provan. Just send me a PM where you'd like it sent.
Or if you prefer, there are audio files available:
1. The Bible and Birth Control (1 of 5) by Charles Provan
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2. The Bible and Birth Control (2 of 5) by Charles Provan
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3. The Bible and Birth Control (3 of 5) by Charles Provan
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4. The Bible and Birth Control (4 of 5) by Charles Provan
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5. The Bible and Birth Control (5 of 5) by Charles Provan
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Either that or stop making the accusation. After all if I said most dentists groped their female patients and by the way, here's a list of material I'll be happy to send to you, you'd likely say, “put up or shut up”.
So no, I don't want a book or files or any such, thank you.
If I didn’t want the books, etc. I most certainly didn’t want this multi-thousand word dump.
Artificial Birth Control What Does the Bible Teach?
by Martin Beckman
edited by L.A. “Tony” Kovach
In our age, the use of the pill and other methods of artificial birth control has become quite common. Birth control is encouraged in schools, and is routinely suggested by many doctors. Yet for a Christian who is using or thinking these methods, or is thinking about the issue of birth control, we should be asking ourselves this question: “What does God want?”
To answer that question, we will examine a number of Bible verses that will show us what Gods desires are when it comes to birth control and having children. We will also look at the impact and some of the logic behind birth control practices. You’ll find interesting insights ahead!
I. GODS COMMAND AND BLESSINGS
Be Fruitful and Multiply
In the first chapter of Genesis, God first speaks to us in His first command to mankind:
Genesis 1:27-28 (NASB) And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 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. (Emphasis added)
Jesus Christ was questioned by the Pharisees about divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:1-9. The Jewish leaders at that time allowed divorce for a multitude of reasons. By calling their attention to Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, Jesus reminds them of marital rules set up by God in the beginning. The command by God in the beginning was that the two shall become one flesh and be fruitful and multiply. Jesus simply reinforced the teaching of the Father.
Fruitfulness in the marriage act is a command from God that is repeated numerous times in the Bible (for instance Genesis 9:1 and Genesis 35:11). The use of contraceptives violates the heart of this command as this is an attempt to prevent couples from being fruitful and multiplying. Nowhere in the rest of the Bible is this command retracted, we’ve seen that it was re-emphasized by Jesus our Savior, and therefore remains a command for us all.
But what about overpopulation? Starvation? Being able to afford children and being stuck in poverty?
Many politicians and people in the media portray a ‘need’ for birth-control, based on arguments about over-population and ‘limited’ resources. Yet all too often, people fail to question their assertions, and they should!
Presently in the U.S. and in dozens of other nations, there are not enough live births to maintain the current population. It is also worth pointing out that the entire population of the world could be placed in the State of Texas, and every man, woman and child would have over 1300 square feet of space, and the rest of the planet would be empty! Does that sound like over-population? Starvation occurs not because of insufficient food in the world, but rather because of factors like war, greed, disasters along with other individual and social sins.
So if we are living the Gospel message, there is no need to fear or dread having children.
Listen to what Martin Luther has to say:
Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden alone and not load myself with misery and want. But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting Gods goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging Gods blessing. For if you had trust in Gods grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper. (Luthers Works, Vol. 5, p.332).
God is great, powerful, almighty, and loves us. He will not desert us! God is a Father who keeps His promises! He gives us a command to be fruitful and multiply and God will provide. We should put faith in the words of our Father and seek to obey his commands, in all things.
Children are a gift of the Lord
Psalm 127:3-5: 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 on ones youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
1 Chronicles 25:4-5: Of Herman, the sons of Herman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hananil Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Herman the kings seer to exalt him according to the words of God, for God gave fourteen sons and three daughters to Herman.
1 Chronicles 26:4-5: And Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the first-born, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sacar the fourth, Nethaniel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, and Peullethai the eighth; God had indeed blessed him.
The ancient Hebrews viewed children as blessings from God, and this is the consistent witness of Scripture. But Jesus knew these days were coming, as He prophesized:
“For indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” (Luke 23:29).
Lets consider some analogies, to help us better understand the implication of artifical contraception. For example ... Let’s say God wanted to give you the gift of tongues (one of His lesser gifts) ... but you decided that it might be embarrassing to talk like that and doesn’t fit your lifestyle, so you cut out your tongue so that you wouldn’t receive this gift. We should wonder, would this be acceptable to God, for us to reject His gift?
Or let’s say I have a close friend. This is friend whom I owe my life to (back in the Vietnam War days) and whom I’ve sworn that I would do anything he would ask me to do. I regularly invite him to live with me. After many repeated attempts and requests, he finally decides to come - but he’s just become disabled and can’t take care of himself right now. Doctors say in several years he’ll be in great physical shape. But when he shows up at your door, I don’t answer it because he would inconvenience my life.
We often pray for this or that blessing from God, too often, we shut the door when He might give us such a blessing. The gift of life is one of God’s greatest blessings! It can be one of life’s greatest challenges. In having children, we can better understand God, who tries to gently guide us into making the right choices in life, just as loving parents try to help their children make good decisions too.
Childlessness and barrenness are unfortunate
Hosea 9:10-17; Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 7:13-14
In the Old Testament, God punishes Israel for corruption by preventing childbirth and pregnancies. God views this of contraception as a punishment, not a positive action. Self-induced contraception is certainly not a great scientific accomplishment. Moses viewed being barren and avoiding children as sickness or a blemish.
II. DESTESTABLE ACTS
Penalties for sexual offenses:
Genesis 8-10: Then Judah said to Onan, Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother. Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also.
In these verses, Onan was told by Judah to go marry his deceased brothers widow. His brother, Er, had been killed by God before he had any children. Onan was to produce a child who would carry on Ers name. As spelled out in these verses, Onan was unwilling to raise up offspring that would not be considered his, and went in to his brothers wife and afterwards wasting his seed. As a result of this action by Onan, God killed him also.
The early Protestant leaders opposed contraception, as two examples in this article indicate, on moral and Biblical grounds. Yet many modern Protestant commentaries say the reason God killed Onan was his refusal to raise up a child for his brother or that he had disobeyed his father. But were these really the reasons God to killed Onan?
In Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Scripture says that for whatever a mans reasons for refusing to raise up a dead brothers children, the penalty was humiliation (shoe being pulled off, face spit on, scorning), not death. It would be unusual for God to lash out such a severe punishment to Onan but elsewhere, others receive a much lighter penalty for a similar offense.
So was Onan’s death for the other possibility, disobedience to his father?
Genesis 2:24: For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
When a man and woman marries it ends any required obedience to his father and mother. When Onan married his brothers widow, any parental authority Judah had over Onan ended. So God didnt kill Onan for disobeying Judah, because according to the word of God, Onan had no requirement to obey his father.
What did Onan do differently than the man in Deuteronomy 25:5-10?
This leaves the obvious conclusion, God killed Onan for wasting seed, a contraceptive act.
Various Other Sexual Offenses
In the first five books of the Bible, the death penalty is an action to be meted out for about twenty offenses. Several of these relate to sexual matters. The sexual matters which are condemned can be broken down into two parts:
(1) Those that are forbidden due to who the sexual partner is (i.e. adultery, incest, close relatives, etc.);
(2) Those that are forbidden because of the act in itself.
In this second part, let us examine these offensive sexual acts.
Withdrawal/Wasting seed (Genesis 38:8-10)
Male homosexual intercourse (Leviticus 20:13)
Male bestiality (Leviticus 20:15)
Female bestiality (Leviticus 20:16)
Intercourse with a menstrous woman (Leviticus 20:18)
What is the common element in these sexual acts? The answer, of course, is that they are each non-reproductive sexual acts. As we can see, the reason these are forbidden by God is that they each oppose Gods command of be fruitful and multiply and as such are perversions. Of course, items #1 and #5 could happen accidentally and no offense is involved when that occurs. (Lev. 15:24, Deut. 23:10-11).
In 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 says these are examples to help Christians determine what is pleasing and displeasing to God.
Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they are craved.
In several other verses, animals with injuries are viewed as defects to God. In Leviticus 22:20-22, 24-25 a list of defects is given blindness, sores, fractures, and bruised, torn or cut testicles. Even people with similar injuries are viewed to have defects in Leviticus 21:17-20. Certainly vasectomies and tubal ligations would fall under this category also. God certainly doesnt view these as beneficial things, especially when self-inflicted!
III. SEED & LIFE IN THE WOMB
Hebrews 7:9-10 “And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.”
Job 10:8-11: “The hands that fashioned and made me altogether, and wouldst Thou now destroy me. Remember now, that Thou hast made me as clay; and wouldst Thou turn me to dust again? Didst Thou not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese; clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinew?”
Isaiah 44:2: “This is what the Lord says- He who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you”
Psalm 139:13-14: “For You created my innermost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Isaiah 49:1,5: “Before I was born the Lord called me...” “And now the Lord says-He who formed me in the womb to be His servant...”
Job 31:15: “Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One form us both within our mothers?”
It would seem that God views children as part of a continuing process, from the time they are in the loins of their parents until the time they are born. Those that practice birth control are eliminating the possibility of future children of God. He is with us from the beginning. He loves us from our conception! He knows us from the beginning of time. Do we really want to oppose God’s will?
Some argue that if God really wants the children to be born, He would go past any contraception measures and give His gift of the children He really wants being Almighty God, He is in control . right? After all, He can make children out of rocks.
Let’s look at some analogies, to help us understand this argument. Would this same argument work if I put a gun to my temple and pulled the trigger? If our Creator really wanted me to be here, He would cause the gun to malfunction, right? Or if I decided to commit adultery, God would stop me if He really had a problem with it right? The examples could go on and on. The point is that Lord gives us the ability to have children in Godly ways and tells us to be fruitful and multiply.
A quote from John Calvin, one of the early leaders in the Protestant movement: “The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is a doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring. This impiety is especially condemned, now by the Spirit through Moses’ youth, that Onan, as it where, by a violent abortion, no less cruelly than filthily cast upon the ground the offspring of his brother, torn from the maternal womb. Besides, in this way he tried, as far as he was able, to wipe out part of the human race. If any woman ejects a fetus from the womb with drugs, it is reckoned a crime incapable of expiation and deservedly Onan incurred upon himself the same kind of punishment, infecting the earth by his semen, in order that Tamar might not conceive a future human being as an inhabitant of the earth.” (Calvin’s Latin Commentary on Genesis - 38:10)
IV. CHILDBIRTH AND SALVATION FOR WOMEN
Faith and Good Works
1 Tim 2:15: “Yet women will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”
By keeping God’s commandments and continuing in faith and love and holiness, Paul says we will be saved. Paul isn’t saying that women having children will in itself provide salvation, but those who reject childbearing, when married, reject the good works Paul says accompany salvation. This statement echoes Jesus in Matthew 19:17: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Jesus is not preaching salvation by law and works, He teaches the law of love. Love God with all your heart and soul and love your neighbor. If a person is truly a Christian, good works will accompany him to eternal life.
V. CONTRACEPTIVES, HEALTH, AND FAMILY
One of the little known facts about birth control pills and contraceptive devices is that, even in their normal use, they can be abortifacient. “The word ‘abortifacient’ means ‘having a secondary effect of not allowing a fertilized egg (a baby) from implanting, and therefore killing the baby.
The Pill does not reliably prevent ovulation 100% of the time. When ovulation occurs (perhaps 3-10% of cycles; more often probably with the 3-month shots or the implants) conception can occur. Then, the probability exists that the Pill, will act to prevent implantation, causing the unborn child to abort.
If you check the PDR (Physician Desk Reference) listing for whatever Birth Control Pill (various brands; check Ortho-Novum’s listings, they’re pretty representative). They either will clearly state that one of the mechanisms of action of the Pill when taken the usual way as a “contraceptive” is interference with implantation, or they will not mention mechanisms at all. This is through just normal use of the Birth Control pill and is not taking into things such ‘emergency contraception’ — a tragic misnomer, since a significant percentage of the time, if the Pill is used this way, it will not prevent conception, it will cause an abortion).
The American Life League has additional medical information on this topic.
Chances are, you’ve heard the expression that it takes three to have a successful marriage: the husband, wife and God. We know that God is ominipresent, so He is also present during any marital act. God created sex for two purposes, unitive and procreative. Our Creator made sex pleasurable, as a blessing of marriage and also to insure the fruitfulness of the human race. There are times of the month and times in our lives when the procreative aspect is not possible, but this is part of our Maker’s plan. Since periods of natural infertility are God ordained, the use of natural family planning (NFP) is morally acceptable.
The Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council dealt with this topic in this way:
“By that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one . . . A man and a woman, who by the marriage convenant of conjugal love ‘are no longer two, but one flesh’ (Mt 19:6), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions ... Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love” (Gaudium et Spes, 48, 50)
The promoters of artificial birth control often proclaim their allegation that contraception ‘helps’ married couples to be ‘happy.’ But the evidence is clear that this is not the case. Even as early as four years after contraceptives were first tested, researchers found that marriages in which contraceptives were used were twice as likely to end in divorce than marriages in which there was no contraceptive use. (Grant MD, Ellen Sexual Chemistry: Understanding Our Hormones, The Pill, and HRT. Mandarin Paperbacks, London, 1994.) By contrast, those couples who use NFP and are open to having children, have some of the lowest divorce rates of any group in the U.S.!
We might wonder, why is contraception harmful to marriages? The reasons are many. When sex becomes solely an act for pleasure, with no chance of having children, often a user mentality of one’s marriage partner evolves. One or both partners can become selfish, and that selfish behavior can lead to other problems in the relationship. Artificial birth control also opened the door for an increase in pre-marital sex and adulterous relations. The statistical evidence demonstrates that couples that live together are twice as likely to divorce once married as couples who don’t live together before marriage. Adultery is a common reason cited for divorce. Our Lord, who forbids such behavior, knew the emotional and physical pain such actions cause!
Contraceptives treat children like a disease. Modern society often views them as things to be avoided so that must take medicine or have surgeries to avoid them. More often than it should be, it is more an occasion of condolences than congratulations. We should once again, individually and as a society, look at children in the Scriptural way, as a blessing from above!
Christian Unity and the Birth Control Issue
Jesus said in John 16:13: “But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth.” Jesus also prayed for unity among believers (Jn. 17:21-22).
Until the Lambeth conference in 1930, all Christian churches condemned birth control as sinful. Today, the Catholic Church is virtually alone in holding to this ancient belief, as one denomination after another has accepted artificial contraception. This should be a troubling fact for many who believe in Scripture.
Was the Holy Spirit wrong in guiding all Christians to believe that birth control was immoral for some 1900 years? In the light of John 16:13, the clear implication is that the Catholic Church has been guided by the Spirit to safeguard the truth; namely, that birth control is wrong.
Instead of birth control being an issue that divides believers, the beauty and benefits of following the Lord’s will should lead believers into union with the Church that Jesus founded.
Judie Brown - President - American Life League (one of the largest pro-life organizations) stated:
“If a hatred or fear of children causes a human being to practice contraception, love is lost; If self-centered desires for commodities stifle a desire to form a community within a family where children are welcome as gifts from God, love is lost; If the murder of innocent children continues to be the norm for those whose “choice” of contraception may cause abortion or lead to abortion, love is lost. American Life League denies the moral acceptability of artificial contraception and we endorse the moral use of natural methods for spacing children and for trying to have children. American Life League will work to outlaw any form of “contraception which kills a human being once that baby’s life has begun at conception/ fertilization. American Life League calls upon those in doubt to review the material available, the studies that have been done and the reality of God’s most precious gift to man and woman-the ability to procreate, to participate with Him in bringing into this world children created in His image and likeness.”
To learn more about the wisdom and inspiring insights of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Birth Control, Abortion, and Families read the papal encyclicals “Humanae Vitae” (”Of Human Life”), “Casti Connubii” (”On Christian Marriage”) , and “Familiaris Consortio” (”The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World”).
Special thanks to the book “The Bible and Birth Control” by Charles Provan for much of the information and scriptural references.
Return to Catholicsource Main Page
The Protest of a Protestant Minister Against Birth Control
by Rev. Matthew Trewhella
Sunlight was just beginning to break over the darkness of the morning as my wife and I headed toward the entrance of the cold brick-faced building. Fear and apprehension gripped me each step of the way. A thousand questions and thoughts raced through my mind. “How much pain will there be? Why the heck did I ever do this in the first place? Maybe I should just leave.”
As I entered the door, I figured these were my last moments to bolt and run. I thought back to when I had done something similar six and a half years earlier and remembered the words that blazed across my mind when the procedure began—I will never do this again! Yet there I was, about to have a vasectomy reversal. What could possibly bring a man to the point where he would be willing to go under the knife once again?
Two UnBiblical Beliefs
Only two things could convince a man to get a vasectomy reversal.
A) a radical restructuring of his beliefs, or
B.) a nagging wife.
For me it was the former.
In 1985, I held two beliefs which convinced me that getting a vasectomy was fine. The first belief was that God nowhere in Scripture condemns the use of birth control, therefore it must be okay. The second belief was that God wants us to use”wisdom,” therefore in today’s economy and because of my emotional makeup it would not be wise for me to have more than two children, and I already had two. Both beliefs are unBiblical.
The first belief, that God no where in Scripture condemns the use of birth control therefore it must be okay, fails to recognize the very first command of God in Scripture. It is found in Genesis 1:28. God says, after creating man and woman, “be fruitful and multiply.” This is not a suggestion - it is a command! By virtue of the fact that God commands us to be “fruitful and multiply,” He speaks against birth control.
When we use birth control, we are saying, “No, I won’t be ‘fruitful and multiply!”’ We are disobeying God and we are abrogating one of His intents for marriage (Gen. 2:24).
Some would say that this command no longer applies because the earth is full. This teaching that the earth is overpopulated or may soon be is a humanistic, pagan myth. Christians who teach this display their ignorance and sadly show once again that too often the presuppositions of popular 20th century Christianity are the same as the world’s.The truth is, all the people of the world standing side by side in a four foot square area each could fit in the city of Jacksonville, Florida, leaving the rest of the world wide open. (Read The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective by Thomas Sowell.)
By Virtue of the fact that God commands us to be “fruitful and multiply,” He speaks against birth control.
The second belief, that we must use “wisdom,” is nowhere supported by Scripture and reveals our lack of trust in God to meet our needs. If God wants us to “use wisdom” i.e. use birth control, then why is it that whenever people in the Scriptures have many children God declares it is because He has blessed them? In I Chronicles 25:4-5, we read that Hamen had 14 sons. For what purpose? To financially burden him? No. God did it to bless him the Scriptures say!
God views children as rewards, gifts and arrows from Him (Psalm 127:3-5). He views them as a blessing (Deuteronomy 7:13,14), and as a sign of His approval (Exodus 23:25,26). Most Christians would view houses from the Lord as a gift, reward, blessing, or sign of His approval, yet, if they received four or five houses, I highly doubt any of them would say, “Well, we better use wisdom” and begin to practice house-control, not accepting more than two. Obviously, God’s view of children is very different from ours.
For too long birth control has been looked upon as a “Catholic issue”. It is fast becoming a “Protestant issue” however, as Protestant ministers like myself protest the heretical teaching of birth control that is being propagated in Protestant churches. We must understand that the Church had spoken consistently for 1900 years against birth control. Only in the last 80 years have Protestant churches begun to peddle this belief that God thinks it’s okay or wise for us to use birth control.
Listen to this quote, “The purpose of marriage is not to have pleasure and to be idle but to procreate and bring up children, to support a household. Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks, and logs unworthy of being called men or women; for they despise the blessings of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.” some Protestants would say, “This quote is obviously the mad drivelings of some medieval Pope.” It is not. Rather, it is the founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther who said this. Protestant Christians need to realize that their leaders consistently spoke against birth control up until about 80 years ago.
Who are some of the leaders besides Luther? John Calvin, John Wesley, Robert Dabney, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Pink, Zacharius Ursinus, Heinrich Bullinger, Cotton Mather, Herbert Leupold, Johann Keil, Franz Delitszch, Matthew Henry, Adam Clark and John Machen, just to name a few, spoke against the use of birth control.
The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, once stated, “The most merciful thing a large family can do to one of its infant members is to kill it.” This does not shock most Christians today because they agree with her and quote her daily. “ I can’t handle more than two.” “I can’t wait until you grow up and move out.” “Will this be your last?” (Asked in church after a couple announces they are having a third child; no congratulations of course) All of these statements and those like them parade the party line of Planned Parenthood, and are in opposition to our Protestant forefathers.
“Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks, and logs unworthy of being called men or women.”
- Martin Luther
Time has come for those of us in Protestant Christianity to come to grips with the teaching of scripture and our historical heritage and begin to follow the teaching of God and our forefathers, rather than the teaching of Margaret Sanger.
Blood in our Bricks
If you were to list all the reasons why Christians use birth control, you would see that they are the same reasons why a woman aborts her child. The number one reason (according to all studies ever done) a woman aborts her child is because the child is an inconvenience. The child interferes with the mother’s (or the father’s) pursuit of happiness or possessions. When we use birth control, we are embracing the same anti-child mentality. We are saying that our pursuit of so called happiness, our pursuit of possessions, is more important than obeying God. The question is,”How can we abrogate God’s design for marriage and expect to really be happy?”
In the Church today, we “warehouse” children. We don’t want them around us during the church service. Many pastors are advising newly married couples to use birth control the first two years of their marriage so they can have time to get used to each other without having undue stress added to the marriage. The cause for abrogating God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply,” is the same as the cause for abrogating His command “you shall not murder” - self-centeredness! One of the main reasons why the Church has failed to act against abortion is because it embraces the same anti-child mentality as those who advocate the murdering of the helpless preborn.
We have no God-given right to manipulate God’s design for marriage by using birth control. As long as we continue to make “possessions” and”self” our god and as long as we look at children as a diaper bill rather than a blessing, we will never see the Church act in mass against baby-murder. God help us to have His view of children and to obey His commands!
Gen 1:28, 9:1,7; 35:11 - from the beginning, the Lord commands us to be fruitful (”fertile”) and multiply. A husband and wife fulfill God’s plan for marriage in the bringing forth of new life, for God is life itself.
Gen. 28:3 - Isaac’s prayer over Jacob shows that fertility and procreation are considered blessings from God.
Gen. 38:8-10 - Onan is killed by God for practicing contraception (in this case, withdrawal) and spilling his semen on the ground.
Gen. 38:11-26 - Judah, like Onan, also rejected God’s command to keep up the family lineage, but he was not killed.
Deut. 25:7-10 - the penalty for refusing to keep up a family lineage is not death, like Onan received. Onan was killed for wasting seed.
Gen. 38:9 - also, the author’s usage of the graphic word “seed,” which is very uncharacteristic for Hebrew writing, further highlights the reason for Onan’s death.
Exodus 23:25-26; Deut. 7:13-14 - God promises blessings which include no miscarriages or barrenness. Children are blessings from God, and married couples must always be open to God’s plan for new life with every act of marital intimacy.
Lev.18:22-23;20:13 - wasting seed with non-generative sexual acts warrants death. Many Protestant churches, which have all strayed from the Catholic Church, reject this fundamental truth (few Protestants and Catholics realize that contraception was condemned by all of Christianity - and other religions - until the Anglican church permitted it in certain cases at the Lambeth conference in 1930. This opened the floodgates of error).
Lev. 21:17,20 - crushed testicles are called a defect and a blemish before God. God reveals that deliberate sterilization and any other methods which prevent conception are intrinsically evil.
Deut. 23:1 - whoever has crushed testicles or is castrated cannot enter the assembly. Contraception is objectively sinful and contrary, not only to God’s Revelation, but the moral and natural law.
Deut. 25:11-12 - there is punishment for potential damage to the testicles, for such damage puts new life at risk. It, of course, follows that vasectomies, which are done with willful consent, are gravely contrary to the natural law.
1 Chron. 25:5 - God exalts His people by blessing them with many children. When married couples contracept, they are declaring “not your will God, but my will be done.”
Psalm 127:3-5 - children are a gift of favor from God and blessed is a full quiver. Married couples must always be open to God’s precious gift of life. Contraception, which shows a disregard for human life, has lead to the great evils of abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide.
Hosea 9:11; Jer. 18:21 - God punishes Israel by preventing pregnancy. Contraception is a curse, and married couples who use contraception are putting themselves under the same curse.
Mal. 2:14 - marriage is not a contract (which is a mere exchange of property or services). It is a covenant, which means a supernatural exchange of persons. Just as God is three in one, so are a husband and wife, who become one flesh and bring forth new life, three in one. Marital love is a reflection of the Blessed Trinity.
Mal. 2:15 - What does God desire? Godly offspring. What is contraception? A deliberate act against God’s will. With contraception, a couple declares, “God may want an eternal being created with our union, but we say no.” Contraception is a grave act of selfishness.
Matt. 19:5-6 - Jesus said a husband and wife shall become one. They are no longer two, but one, just as God is three persons, yet one. The expression of authentic marital love reintegrates our bodies and souls to God, and restores us to our original virginal state (perfect integration of body and soul) before God.
Matt. 19:6; Eph. 5:31 - contraception prevents God’s ability to “join” together. Just as Christ’s love for the Church is selfless and sacrificial, and a husband and wife reflect this union, so a husband and wife’s love for each other must also be selfless and sacrificial. This means being open to new life.
Acts 5:1-11 - Ananias and Sapphira were slain because they withheld part of a gift. Fertility is a gift from God and cannot be withheld.
Rom.1:26-27 - sexual acts without the possibility of procreation is sinful. Self-giving love is life-giving love, or the love is a lie. The unitive and procreative elements of marital love can never be divided, or the marital love is also divided, and God is left out of the marriage.
1 Cor. 6:19-20 - the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; thus, we must glorify God in our bodies by being open to His will.
1 Cor. 7:5 - this verse supports the practice of natural family planning (”NFP”). Married couples should not refuse each other except perhaps by agreement for a season, naturally.
Gal. 6:7-8 - God is not mocked for what a man sows. If to the flesh, corruption. If to the Spirit, eternal life.
Eph. 5:25 - Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, by giving his entire body to her and holding nothing back. With contraception, husbands tell their wives, I love you except your fertility, and you can have me except for my fertility. This love is a lie because it is self-centered, and not self-giving and life-giving.
Eph. 5:29-31; Phil. 3:2 - mutilating the flesh (e.g., surgery to prevent conception) is gravely sinful. Many Protestant churches reject this most basic moral truth.
1 Tim. 2:15 - childbearing is considered a “work” through which women may be saved by God’s grace.
Deut. 22:13-21 these verses also show that God condemns pre-marital intercourse. The living expression of Gods creative love is reserved for a sacramental marriage between one man and one woman.
Rev. 9:21; 21:8; 22:15; Gal. 5:20 - these verses mention the word “sorcery.” The Greek word is “pharmakeia” which includes abortifacient potions such as birth control pills. These pharmakeia are mortally sinful. Moreover, chemical contraception does not necessarily prevent conception, but may actually kill the child in the womb after conception has occurred (by preventing the baby from attaching to the uterine wall). Contraception is a lie that has deceived millions, but the Church is holding her arms open wide to welcome back her children who have strayed from the truth.
Is contraception a modern invention? Hardly! Birth control has been around for millennia. Scrolls found in Egypt, dating to 1900 B.C., describe ancient methods of birth control that were later practiced in the Roman empire during the apostolic age. Wool that absorbed sperm, poisons that fumigated the uterus, potions, and other methods were used to prevent conception. In some centuries, even condoms were used (though made out of animal skin rather than latex).
The Bible mentions at least one form of contraception specifically and condemns it. Coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for ones dead brother. “Judah said to Onan, Go in to your brothers wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother. But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brothers wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also” (Gen. 38:810).
The biblical penalty for not giving your brothers widow children was public humiliation, not death (Deut. 25:710). But Onan received death as punishment for his crime. This means his crime was more than simply not fulfilling the duty of a brother-in-law. He lost his life because he violated natural law, as Jewish and Christian commentators have always understood. For this reason, certain forms of contraception have historically been known as “Onanism,” after the man who practiced it, just as homosexuality has historically been known as “Sodomy,” after the men of Sodom, who practiced that vice (cf. Gen. 19).
Contraception was so far outside the biblical mindset and so obviously wrong that it did not need the frequent condemnations other sins did. Scripture condemns the practice when it mentions it. Once a moral principle has been established in the Bible, every possible application of it need not be mentioned. For example, the general principle that theft is wrong was clearly established in Scripture; but theres no need to provide an exhaustive list of every kind of theft. Similarly, since the principle that contraception is wrong has been established by being condemned when its mentioned in the Bible, every particular form of contraception does not need to be dealt with in Scripture in order for us to see that it is condemned.
The biblical teaching that birth control is wrong is found even more explicitly among the Church Fathers, who recognized the biblical and natural law principles underlying the condemnation.
In A.D. 195, Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2).
Hippolytus of Rome wrote in 255 that “on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful [certain Christian women who had affairs with male servants] want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered” (Refutation of All Heresies 9:12).
Around 307 Lactantius explained that some “complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife” (Divine Institutes 6:20).
The First Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council and the one that defined Christs divinity, declared in 325, “If anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men this canon admits to the clergy” (Canon 1).
Augustine wrote in 419, “I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility [oral contraceptives]” (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17).
The apostolic traditions condemnation of contraception is so great that it was followed by Protestants until 1930 and was upheld by all key Protestant Reformers. Martin Luther said, “[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime. . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore, God punished him.”
John Calvin said, “The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring.”
John Wesley warned, “Those sins that dishonor the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he [Onan] did displeased the Lordand it is to be feared; thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls.” (These passages are quoted in Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control, which contains many quotes by historic Protestant figures who recognize contraceptions evils.)
BIRTH CONTROL AND GENESIS 38
In this article, I will examine Genesis 38 and contraception. I borrow in this article, quite heavily from Charles Provan, a Lutheran, who wrote a book, The Bible and Birth Control. Anyone who wants a thorough look at the issue of the Bible and birth control, I recommend this book, which can be purchased by clicking here. He gives many more Scriptures than I do in this paper, to show how birth control is indeed Biblically untenable.
Here is the text I will concentrate on in this article:
Gen. 38:8 Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.’ 9 But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to see his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. 10 What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.
The above text has been used by a united Christianity down through the centuries to show that acts of contraception are immoral. That is because Onan had sex with his wife, Tamar, and did not want to raise the children for his brother, who had died. He had sex but contracepted the act. There are no doubt varying things that Onan did that was wrong, but a united Christianity has always taught that the principle act that caused Onan’s death was this contraceptive act: Have sex and avoid the consequences. Once Protestantism discarded the 1900 years of Christian teaching against contraception, starting with the Lambeth Conference by the Anglicans in 1930, then alternative explanations had to begin to be manufactured to say, ‘well this has nothing to do with birth control.’ There are tons of not only Church Fathers and Catholic theologians, but even Protestants who for 400 years, saw in this act a condemnation by Scripture of birth control. Charles Provan documents this in the book, The Bible and Birth Control
The most popular modern day, rationale that Protestants use, is that Onan is killed because he did not fulfill the obligation to marry and bear children for Tamar. There are several reasons why this is not a reasonable explanation. First, we need to compare Gen. 38 to Deuteronomy 25:1-10, which eliminates this possible explanation. It says in Deuteronomy, that regardless of a man’s motives for refusing to raise up seed for a dead brother, the man is not to be put to death. Thus, the person not only does not marry, but also provides no offspring for his brother who died: The Levirate responsibility. Here in Deuteronomy, he is to be humiliated only (shoe pulled off, face spit on, etc.). On the other hand, Onan was put to death for what he did, while the man in Deu. 25 is not.
As we compare the two Bible texts (Gen. 38:8-10 and Deu. 25:5-10) we need to ask ourselves, “What did Onan do that the man of Deu. 25 didn’t do?” The difference in conduct explains the difference in the penalty meted out by God. And the difference is that Onan wasted (killed, destroyed) his seed, the other man did not. Suppose the man in Deu. 25 thinks exactly as Onan, saying to himself, “I don’t want to raise up seed for my brother,” yet doesn’t waste his seed? What happens to him according to the law of God? — humiliation only, regardless of his unloving thoughts. (Provan, The Bible and Birth Control p. 13)
Notice the text. It says that what he did was displeasing to God. He did spill the semen, thus enjoy sex, and made sure that there were no consequences. What did Onan do that displeased God? Notice that in the verse, he spilled the semen on the ground. However, the word that is used for spilling semen on the ground is not merely spill. I find out from Provan, that ‘The verb used is not for merely emitting semen. Out of all the verses which mention the emission of semen in the Old Testament, the Onan verse ‘he wasted his seed on the ground’ is the only verse to employ the word ‘shachath’ (which means ‘to waste, corrupt, destroy, devastate’, . This word is used in many passages as a synonym for ‘killed.’, destroy. (For example see Gen. 6:17, 9:15 and Judges 20:21) Does one not see that there might be a reason for Onan’s emission of seed to described as a ‘killing’ of seed, while all other passages use words which merely mean ‘emit’? The reason is that in all other passages, no one does anything to intentionally harm the semen—but in Onan’s case, he deliberately killed his. If ‘there is nothing in the whole Bible that specifically condemns the spilling of the seed’, then why does Scripture use the very negative word ‘shacath’ in Onan’s case but not in any of the others? (Provan, The Bible and Birth Control, p. 40)
In further elaboration of this point about the Hebrew meaning from the word ‘shichet’ (or ‘spilling’ the seed), I quote from a Hebrew scholar as cited in John Kippley’s Sex and the Marriage Covenant, (The Couple to Couple League International, Inc. p. 310.) “Biblical schoar Manuel Miguens has pointed out that a close examination of the text shows that God condemned Onan for the specific action he performed, not for his anti-Levirate intentions. He notes that the translation ‘he spilled his seed on the ground’ fails to do full justice to the Hebrew expression. The Hebrew verb shichet never means to spill or waste. Rather, it means to act perversely. The text also makes it clear that his perverse action was related towards the ground, not against his brother. “His perversion or corruption consists in his action itself, not precisely in the result and goal of his act...In a strict interpretation the text says that what was evil in the sight of the Lord was what Onan actually did (asher asah); the emphasis in this sentence of verse 10 does not fall on what he intended to achieve, but on what he did. Manuel Miguens, “Biblical Thoughts on Human Sexuality,” Human Sexuality in our Time, ed.(Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1979) 112-115. Martin Luther himself noted this fact, and argued from this that birth control is even worse than adultery!!!
A sidelight on Dt. 25 is very relevant. Further on, we see God’s care for the fertility of man, and how he does not want fertility to be directly curtailed by man or woman:
10And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, The house of him that had his sandal pulled off. 11”When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, 12then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall have no pity.
Look at the repercussions of this Biblical text. A wife goes to rescue her husband from a man fighting with him. She goes to help him by seizing his private parts, and thus gives the possibility of emasculating him, making him infertile. What does God say to do? Reward the wife for defending her husband? (Provan, The Bible and Birth Control), p. 22. On the contrary, she gets her own hands cut off!! God will actually have no pity for her!! This shows how God disdains mankind’s tinkering with man’s fertility.
As a matter of fact, we do not have to go to Deuteronomy 25 to show that this argument is insufficient. We can look at Genesis 38 itself to see that the argument that Onan was killed because of his refusing to fulfill the obligation to raise up children is insufficient. This theory that God is punishing Onan merely because he failed to fulfill the Levirate rule makes God capricious. For example, in this very chapter of Genesis, not only does Judah not get punished for doing the very same thing as Onan did, (withholding his son Selah from her), but Selah himself withholds himself from her. Given that Judah himself compounds the problem by making her a harlot, Onan’s specific act of destroying seed takes a larger picture. Judah had promised to give Tamar his son to her (v.11), when he was older. Judah himself is deceitful, and he himself, when caught, admits that he is a worse sinner than herself (v. 26). Shelah himself, who was now grown up, (v. 14), also was deceitful, should have taken her as her husband, and raised up children. He did not. Tamar notices this, but no deaths of either Judah or Shelah. Thus, they were all in a sense rebellious, and did not do what they should have. So, what is the difference between Judah, Onan, and Shelah? The only substantive fact is that Onan went into her lawfully as he married her (unlike Judah who went into her unlawfully), but only Onan destroyed the seed. Ultimately any attempt to exclude this as the principle grounds of Onan’s death, is a pure attempt at expediency.
It is true that God does not punish directly today and in the New Covenant, in the exact same way that he punished Onan in Genesis 38. We know that adultery in the OT is treated differently than adultery in the NT (at least in reference to temporal consequences, although eternal consequences would be the same). Jesus did not stone the woman for adultery. Likewise, we are not called to stone women for adultery. However, the principles of morality established are carried over as well into the New Testament, even if the consequences are different. God would also be just as opposed to contraception now, as he was then, even if he doesn’t directly kill people now, just as he doesn’t directly kill adulterers now. However, God is opposed to adultery back then, just as he is opposed to adultery now. In the same way, God opposed birth control back then (as evidenced by Genesis 38) as he opposes birth control now.
What about other reasons for explaining the Onan incident which avoids any birth control implications as the reason he got killed?
Alternative #2 - Onan was killed by God for disobeying his father, not for wasting his seed. It ain’t about ‘birth control’ it’s about REBELLION.
Response - According to Scripture, God has decreed that the marriage of son ends any mandatory obedience to his father. Gen. 2:24 says, “For this cause a man shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” So, if Judah had authority over Onan, his authority ended when Onan got married to his brother’s widow. Therefore God did not kill Onan because he disobeyed Judah, because according to the word of God, Onan did not have to obey him. ( Provan, The Bible and Birth Control), p. 13)
One might object:
the case of Onan and his spilled seed is probably more related to what was going on in Onan’s head when he did what he did when he did it.
What does Scripture itself tell us? This objection is nice speculation, but Scripture only gives us that God kills him after he had sex with his new wife, and withdrew from her to avoid her having children: i.e. birth control. He is specifically said to destroy the semen, not merely spill semen, as we have seen. It doesn’t tell us he ‘thought this, or thought that’, but what he DID was wicked in the Lord’s sight, so he put him to death. This willful destruction of semen is an awful deed.
In any case, the one who thinks that this passage speaks against birth control, does not have to say that Onan was great otherwise. I don’t have to say, he was the greatest guy on earth, ‘except he did this birth control thing.’ I am not put in an either/or position Provan, The Bible and Birth Control), p. 54). We could agree that Onan had greed, theft, and even rebellion. Likewise, Judah himself, and his own Son Selah refused to take her. They in a sense rebelled against what they should have done. Judah even went into her himself unlawfully, as opposed to Onan doing it lawfully. The only difference is that Onan destroyed something, the semen, which can produce children. Now I can admit Onan was deceitful in one sense, and even in a sense rebellious. We can say he did all this, but in fact the verse itself shows that Scripture still condemns Onan specifically for destroying his seed. However, those who say this has nothing to do with birth control, must come up with a reason to exclude the destruction of semen as any part of the equation. However, the Scripture specifically mentions that the destruction of the semen is the core of the problem, even if there were other factors. The argument that is posed on the ‘this has nothing to do with birth control’ side is merely an argument for expediency.
Alternative #3 “Well Onan must have been killed because he lied to Judah
Rebuttal: There is no proof that he lied to anyone. The Scripture is silent as to what Onan said to anyone. The Holy Spirit says what Onan did, then it says God killed him for what he did. And what he did was to ‘waste his seed on the ground.’ Onan was killed because he wasted seed (destroy, kill). Therefore birth control is automatically condemned , because all forms of birth control have as their goal the wasting of seed (Provan, The Bible and Birth Control), pp. 13-14).
Besides that, not only Catholics like Augustine saw this as a condemnation of birth control, but Protestants like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley, Melancthon Jacobus, Matthew Henry, Christian Gottlob Barth, the Synod of Dort, Jerhard Gerhard, William Dodd, Alfred Edersheim, and a bunch of other Protestant theologians all saw this as a condemnation of birth control. Again, for documentation, purchase Provan’s book here.
Calvin, for example said,
‘The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped for offspring. This impiety is especially condemned, now by the Spirit though Moses’ mouth, that Onan, as it were, by a violent abortion, no less cruelly than filthily cast upon the ground the offspring of his brother, torn from the maternal womb. Besides, in this way he tried, as far as he was able, to wipe out a part of the human race (Calvin’s Commentary on Gen. 38:8-10, translated from the Latin, as quoted in Provan, The Bible and Birth Control), p. 68).
One has argued that there is another difference between Onan and the person in Deut. 25 that makes it worse. That he married her, but refused to raise up children.
Actually, that would make Onan actually better, because he actually married the sister. Thus, he is better off even than those who wouldn’t marry the sister. Thus, he shouldn’t have even been criticized and humiliated by Tamar, as prescribed for those in Deuteronomy 25. The fact that Onan married her actually means he obeyed what he should have done in this specific area. Although God in his own wisdom sometimes treat people differently, and punishes them differently, for the most part, he is equitable in his treatment of people. There is nothing shown in Judah’s or his son Shelah’s life, that show that they had a great relationship with God and that is how they did this with no repercussions while Onan was killed. This reasoning thus falls short of explaining the difference.
One might say, Onan, in rebellion to his father, was smitten by God, who is well able to make such choices.
However, as Gen. 2:24 tells us, Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. on matters of family, Onan was no longer necessary under the obligation to obey his father, per se. He now has his own responsibility.
The only remaining explanation that we have is the first one offered, that Onan destroyed the seed in Gen. 38:9, and that God killed him, as whenever he had sex, he withdrew.. He has sex, but no consequences. That is birth control to a tee, even if it is in a crude manner. Remember, what he did, was to enjoy having sex but refuse the outcome. The very means to not have any children was this crude form of contraception, and the fact that the context of God killing Onan, is specifically when mentioning this sex act. The context of the crime for what Onan gets killed for, is when he destroys the semen intentionally (as evidenced in the text itself).
Scripture tells us that sex in the marriage covenant is the renewal of a covenant. For a more detailed look at marriage and covenant, a great book to look at is John Kippley’s Sex and the Marriage Covenant. Likewise, in Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira went through the motions of a covenantal act but defrauded it, and both were stricken dead when they each engaged in this deception. Onan’s responsibility in Genesis 38 to Tamar was a covenenantal obligation; so was the obligation of Ananias and Sapphira to be honest with the apostles. The act of marital intercourse is also a covenantal act intended by the Creator to be a renewal of the faith and caring love pledged at marriage. The Onan account directly supports the Christian Tradition that we are obliged not to defraud this covenantal act by contraception, and the Ananias-Sapphira account shows how seriously God takes the defrauding of covenantal acts.
How about the Jewish look at this issue? In a study of Genesis 38, Brian Harrison looked into this. His article on Genesis 38 is here: The Sin of Onan. One relevant excerpt found in this article is:
The classical Jewish commentators - who can scarcely be accused of ignorance regarding Hebrew language, customs, law, and biblical literary genres - certainly saw in this passage of Scripture a condemnation of both unnatural intercourse and masturbation such.8 A typical traditional Jewish commentary puts it thus: “[Onan misused the organs God gave him for propagating the race to unnaturally satisfy his own lust, and he was therefore deserving death.”9 And this is undoubtedly in accord with the natural impression which most unprejudiced readers will draw from the text of Genesis 38.
Harrison’s sources for these particular quotations are:
8 The Encyclopedia Judaica (Vol.4,p.1054, article “Birth Control”) states: “Jewish tradition ascribed the practice of birth control to the depraved humanity before Noah (Gen. R. 23:2,4; Rashi to Gen. 4:19,23).” (For further confirmation of Jewish views on this point, cf. H. Hirsch Cohen, The Drunkenness of Noah [University of Alabama Press.].) The Encyclopedia article adds that on the basis of Gen. 38:9-10, “the Talmud sternly inveighs against ‘bringing forth the seed in vain’, considering it a cardinal sin (Nid. 13a). . . .Strictly Orthodox [Jews, . . . . for religious reasons, refuse to resort to birth control.” In the same Encyclopedia, under “Onanism” (Vol. 12, p.1495), it is stated that the act of Onan “is taken . . . by the Talmud (Yev. 34b) to refer either to unnatural intercourse or (cf. Nid. 13a) to masturbation. The Zohar [a13th century work] expatiates on the evil of onanism in the second sense.” Other works by Jewish authors corroborating this tradition include D. Feldman, Marital Relations, Birth Control and Abortion in Jewish Law (NewYork: Schocken Books, 1974) and J. Cohen, Be Fertile, Increase, Fill the Earth and Mater It (Cornell University Press, 1989).
9Bereshis: Genesis - A New Translation with a Commentary Authorized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1980, Vol.5, p.1677).
Thus, not only do we have a united Christianity seeing as the principle condemnation of Onan as his bringing forth seed in vein (which is the very purpose of birth control), but the historical Jewish outlook concurs with this view.
There are many biblical reasons that undergird the issue of teaching against Contraception from the Bible. I briefly borrow this from Provan’s book, with the Biblical documentation to be found in his book already mentioned. (To see the succinct Biblical reasons against birth control, one needs to purchase this book These principles are here: (Provan, The Bible and Birth Control), pp. 5-31)
1) The command to be fruitful and multiply
2) Children are always seen as a blessing, and never seen as a nuisance, as all the birth control advocates proclaim
3) Childlessness is portrayed as an unfortunate thing
4) Death penalties given for sexual offenses that are barren
5) Castration is seen as a blemish
6) Seed as semen or children
7) Shows the natural function of women.
These principles are all Biblical and militate against birth control. The Onan incident fleshes it out.
For an online analysis of more of the Biblical reasoning against birth control, see: Artificial Birth Control: What does the Bible teach by Martin Beckman.
For an examination of the moral reasoning that condemns contraception, and a look at both sides of the argument, and its relation to Natural Family Planning, see this: Refuting the Pro-Contraception Arguments.
On the issue of the serious health risks to those women for who take contraception, here is : Facts about the Birth Control Pill..by M.H. Hernandez For a look at the direct link between abortion and birth control Click here for an article done by the American Life league.
Most Christian opponents of the Catholic teaching on birth control say that the Bible nowhere condemns birth control. It is true, birth control is not explicitly mentioned as being condemned in the Bible, in the sense of ‘Thou shalt not practice birth control’ (though we have seen its clear implications in Genesis 38) . A full reading of Scripture itself likewise does not have an explicit condemnation of abortion itself. In fact, I have seen some use Numbers 5:12-22 as God actually authorizing abortion. There is nothing in the Bible that condemns abortion anywhere approaching the condemnation of birth control that we see in Genesis 38:9. In fact, it is the same Catholic tradition that gives us the correct canon of Scripture and condemnation of abortion, that at the same time also gives us the condemnation of contraception.
I will close by going on to a side, but very related issue. I have noticed that all the arguments for the use of birth control are unbiblical, shortsighted, and have horrific ramifications if we also believe that abortion is wrong. What are the reasons often given to say that birth control is Ok? For example, ‘Well, it is too much of a burden for the family to have more children. I am too poor to have other children. I don’t want to have the repercussions for the experiences that I want to enjoy.’ These principles are absolutely unbiblical as there is nothing in the Bible that says that these are sufficient reasons for actively divorcing the procreative ends from the sexual act. These are the exact same reasons that rationalize abortion. In other words, birth control is the epitomy of the feel good, lack of responsibility generation that gives us the very reasons for the legitimization of abortion. Genesis 38 is a reminder to us, of the evil of contraception itself. We should take heed of this reminder.”