From the Bible the Christian derives moral principles that he deductively applies to specific situations. Ethical decisions are motivated by love for God and our fellow men, guided by the Holy Spirit and reason. Although there is no specific text in Scripture to settle the contraception issue, the overall scriptural view of the nature of God, man, marriage, and sexual intercourse leads to the conclusion that we have a right to control conception.

God, the Creator and Sustainer of mankind, created us male and female. He designed us physically so that sex relations were possible. And he designed us emotionally with desire that makes sex relations probable. God saw that each thing he created was good; sex is of God, and therefore sex is good.

God created man with reason, judgment, a sense of responsibility, and a will. Therefore man is not governed just by instinct. He can direct many affairs in his own life; he has freedom to use God’s gifts according to his own condition and circumstances. God gave man dominion over the earth, and when man the creature fell, God even gave his Son to be man and to redeem man. The reconciled man therefore seeks God’s will, so that he may exercise his dominion responsibly, for God made man responsible to him. To subdue and have dominion over nature in a manner demonstrating love both to God and to our fellow men is a Christian principle apparent throughout Scripture, from the first chapter of Genesis.

“And God blessed them, and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply.…” Here we note that “be fruitful and multiply” was given by God more as a blessing than a commandment, and certainly not, as a curse. If the human race ceased to be fruitful and multiply, it would disappear in one generation. But God did not say whether we were to multiply by one, two, or ten.

Marriage is an institution ordained by God, and Scripture shows that it has several functions:

1. We do not read in Scripture that woman was created primarily for the propagation of the species; rather, she was created because it was “not good that the man should be alone.” God’s plan provided for a companion who would satisfy the unfulfilled yearning of man’s heart. Woman was created for mutual fellowship and companionship with man, as one with whom he would share love, trust, devotion, and responsibility. This loving companionship, if not the prime scriptural purpose of marriage, is at least as important as the procreative function.

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2. Obviously marriage has a procreative function, related, by God’s design, to intercourse. But nowhere does Scripture restrict sex relations to the sole purpose of procreation.

3. In fact, one function of the sexual relationship in marriage that Paul mentions might be called that of a “moral prophylaxis” (1 Cor. 7:9); that is, marriage prevents sexual irregularities in society.

Sexual intercourse is intimately involved with the two major purposes of marriage, companionship and procreation. Its relation to procreation is obvious. However, it also has an important unitive function. While biologically it decreases tension, it involves much more than biology. It involves all the personality, and at its highest level it is a medium of deep communication—physically, psychologically, and spiritually—of concepts and feelings that defy verbal expression: of love, commitment of the whole life, security, interdependence. Oscar E. Feucht has said:

God made marriage for sex and sex for marriage. God made sex one of the means for continuously uniting a man and his wife in the deepest and most realistic way, a unique way in which they are “known” to each other as they could not otherwise know each other, in the fullest expression of mutual love unlike any other demonstration. The “one flesh” concept is basic and dominant in the Bible’s teaching on marriage (Gen. 2:24; Exod. 21:10; Lev. 18; Deut. 24:5; Matt. 19:5, 6; Mark 10:6–8; 1 Cor. 7:2–6; Eph. 5:31) [Sex and the Church, p. 218].

Three additional points call for mention:

1. The scriptural sequence is that marriage precedes intercourse. Therefore fornication, adultery, and prostitution, with or without contraceptives, are not a Christian option.

2. Sharing and meeting each other’s sexual needs is so important that Paul advises against prolonged abstinence (1 Cor. 7:3–5) and implies frequent sexual relations as the norm in marriage, without any mention of procreation.

3. Nowhere does Scripture say that intercourse may not be engaged in primarily for mutual pleasure and satisfaction. God established a physical attraction between the sexes. In the marriage relationship, as the Song of Solomon stresses, sex is a sensuous delight that is to have its normal, healthy role in providing fulfillment and joy for both partners. It is not to be shunned but to be praised.

If, then, Scripture teaches that sexual union has functions other than procreation, under certain conditions conception may be hindered while the other functions are filled. I believe the case is clear that the Christian has a right to control conception.

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Most families have some need for contraception, both for their own well-being and for the well-being of society. Whenever a child would be a significant emotional, physical, or economic burden to either a wife or a husband, the couple should consider before God the advisability of having such a child, whether it would be the tenth or the first.

Contraception is the means of preventing the birth of unwanted children. Nothing is more detrimental to a child than to feel that his parents wish he had not been born. Scripture emphasizes the concept of responsible parenthood (1 Tim. 5:8). It is irresponsible for a couple to bring more children into the world than they can nurture spiritually, financially, emotionally, and educationally.

Society as a whole is confronted by the population explosion. In treating disease, we physicians have taken seriously God’s command to subdue nature and have drastically decreased the death rate. The result is a population that is outstripping food supply and economic development. World population was under two billion in 1920 but by 1960 was almost three billion. If the present rate of growth continues, it will be seven and one-half billion by the end of the century. Faced with this acute problem, should we not make as great an effort to prevent new life as to prolong existing life? I believe the Christian’s concern for his neighbor requires him not only to think seriously about the size of his own family but also to become involved in worldwide educational plans that seek to help people see the wisdom of limiting family size.

No person or no law can tell a couple how many children they should have or how they should be spaced. This decision is in the area of Christian liberty. Christians know their entire lives—including their sex lives—belong to God; therefore, they must act with love rather than selfishness. They must observe the times and circumstances in which they are living and, through reason and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, seek to make responsible decisions.

Some factors to be weighed are:

1. Can all the needs of the children—physical, emotional, spiritual, economic, and educational—be met if another child is added?

2. Will another child affect the emotional or physical well-being of the mother or father?

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3. Over-production of children may be as sinful as selfish avoidance of parenthood.

4. Economic reasons for contraception are not necessarily selfish. “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8).

5. What is the likelihood of genetically transmitted illness?

6. Some couples do not like children and would make poor parents. I believe they have a right to marital companionship without children.

If the motive for contraception is proper, is the method used of ethical significance? I heartily concur with the statement made by the Augustana Synod of the Lutheran Church:

The means which a married pair uses to determine the number and the spacing of the births of their children are a matter for them to decide with their own consciences, on the basis of competent medical advice and in a sense of accountability to God. So long as it causes no harm to those involved either immediately or over an extended period, none of the methods for controlling the number and spacing of the births of children has any special moral merit or demerit. It is the spirit in which the means is used, rather than whether it is “natural or artificial,” which defines its “rightness” or “wrongness.” “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31) is a principle pertinent to the use of the God-given reproductive power.

To deal with specific methods, then, lies outside the purpose of this paper. But I would like to comment briefly on three methods. Abstinence is undoubtedly the most effective means of contraception. However, it defeats the whole purpose of sexual intercourse in marriage. Unless it is completely satisfactory to both husband and wife, it would be considered immoral according to the seventh chapter of First Corinthians.

Coitus interruptus (withdrawal prior to ejaculation) is generally unsatisfactory. It often is psychologically frustrating for husband and wife, and it is unreliable.

There are two major objections to the rhythm method. It too is frequently ineffective. And it interferes with the naturalness and spontaneity of the sexual act by ruling out sex relations around the time of ovulation, when sexual desire in the female is often increased.

Sterilization is a method of contraception, and so the moral principles that apply to other methods of contraception apply to sterilization as well. The significant difference is that it is permanent. When a couple feel convinced that they must not have any more children, they might reasonably decide that one of them should be sterilized.

Contraception in Christian marriage not only is permissible but has a very significant value. This point should be made firmly, clearly, and loudly, for the benefit of all Christians who may have lingering doubts.

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