A Christian normally experiences some tension in trying to apply the Old Testament to his life. There is a theological tension over the question whether instructions in the Old Testament are still applicable to Christians. In what sense is the Old Testament authoritative for the Church today? In The Authority of the Old Testament, John Bright has suggested a valid working hypothesis: Old Testament passages must be referred to the New for its verdict, whether it be to confirm, modify, or deny.

In the matter of birth control, the Christian also faces a sociological tension. The Old Testament world, in contrast to modern society, valued a large family for economic and international security. Survival demanded growth and expansion. In addition, men in the ancient world sought “social immortality,” i.e., preservation of their memory upon earth through their offspring. Christians today, on the other hand, seek “individual immortality,” the hope of life after death. Old Testament saints living in a rural society were much more favorably disposed toward large families than many Christian couples today living in overcrowded cities. For us, children tend to be a financial hindrance rather than help.

The third tension in this area is focused on the question, Did the Old Testament writers know about techniques for birth control and abortion? If not, we may be asking them questions they had never faced and thus be in danger of inferring wrong answers from the Scriptures.

Early Family Planning

A married man and woman in Old Testament times seem to have had five means of limiting family size: abortion, sterilization, infanticide, continence, and contraception by withdrawal (often referred to as coitus interruptus in ...

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