This piece is the first in a series of essays on how Christians now more than ever, avoid Biblical truth. These topics are examples of how Christians degrade their own spirituality while simultaneously harming the reputation of Christianity as a whole. Interest in religion is in steep decline amongst Millennials and Generation Z. It should be no surprise the decline is accompanied by a trend of a la carte Christianity where Christians/Churches pick and choose what they like about the Bible and what they will ignore. These appear to be attempts by the Church to mirror popular culture in lieu of attempting to drive the culture.
Ask a Christian if they want to glorify God and they’ll say yes. Ask a Christian if they trust in God’s plan and they’ll say yes. Ask a Christian if they want to or have given their life to Christ and they’ll say yes…but over and over again I run into a subject where modern day Christians are not willing to “give their lives to Christ” and that is with family planning.
The Bible is very clear when it comes to children. Other than Jesus himself, children may be the greatest gift the Lord bestowed upon us. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 127:3 – 5. God expects us to have and want children. His first command about having children is found in Genesis. John, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs all explain that children will bring you joy. Philippians teaches that having children will make you a better person. Children are referred to as gifts and blessings in the Bible. “Be fruitful and multiply” means at a minimum having three children.
I don’t see how any honest person can read the Bible and not conclude children in abundance is something pleasing to the Lord.
This appears to be an uncomfortable truth with the majority of young Christians. It is rare to hear a Christian say they will have “as many children as the Lord blesses me with.” Instead Christians want to have as many children as they are comfortable with. Christians want children based on their timing not God’s. Many Christians are not interested in God’s plan when it comes to family planning. “I want to hit xyz career milestone first,” “We’re waiting until we have xyz amount of money,” “We’re going to stop at 2” are potential rejections of God’s plan for you.
Christians will use their careers or current financial situation as a reason to hold off on children. This concern doesn’t hold a lot of merit as research shows being married and any kind of employment is all it takes to make sure your family’s needs are met. Even “needs” have been drastically redefined by society at large. Families don’t want more children if it means no more trips to Hawaii, buying secondhand and/or much less personal freedom. Raising children requires sacrifice no doubt, but God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. If His plan for us is five children, as Christians we should praise his generosity, not actively avoid it. Christians conveniently seem to lose faith in God’s ability to provide if it involves children.
Contraception is a means by which Christians reject God’s will. I have heard some argue that as long as one is “open” to the idea of children at any time, birth control is ok. The argument here is that God can do all things and if he wants you to have children he’ll make it happen whether you’re using protection or not. While it’s true God can make anything happen, this premise is intellectually dishonest. God also gives us free will. He let’s us decide the course of our lives instead of forcing us to love and obey Him.
Let’s say you have a friend who wants to be married. For years this person hasn’t found their match. At the same time this friend doesn’t try to meet people and is a homebody. You probably wouldn’t blame this person’s loneliness on God’s unwillingness to provide, you’d rightfully tell this friend they need to get out of the house more if they want to find someone! While yes, God could make the pizza delivery guy their soulmate (helluva meet-cute) human effort is frequently part of putting God’s plan into action. The same goes with contraception, you cannot make the claim that you are open to the idea of children while literally and figuratively taking efforts to prevent said children.
Now there is one form of birth control I do believe gets the theological ok and that is natural family planning or NFP. I have to give Catholics credit here because I believe they get this one right. No, natural family planning is not “the rhythm method,” it is much more scientific and exact. Women measure their temperature, pay attention to their vaginal discharge and track their period in order to pinpoint when they’re ovulating and avoid intercourse during that time. This method is up to 99% effective when done correctly, the same as other popular forms of birth control.
The difference is, NFP leaves the invitation open for God’s intervention, both symbolically and literally. Not only that, but NFP requires effort and constant communication with your partner. Popping pills, condoms or an insertion method are easy, mindless and habitual. A couple will only go through with NFP if they have legitimate, serious concerns about having children.
NFP forces the couple to ask themselves every month if avoiding children is really worth the effort. Couples must constantly check-in on their marriage. A simple question like “Why shouldn’t we have a child right now?” opens the floodgates to all kinds of follow-ups that could reveal problems one half of the couple didn’t realize. “I don’t feel financially secure,” “I’m still struggling from the last pregnancy,” “I don’t feel close to you right now,” “I want to move” etc are all important discussions that a couple engaging in NFP must address head-on every month. Commitment, communication, consideration, and self-control are all key to NFP. This is why NFP has a bonus side effect. The reported divorce rate of couples that use NFP range as low as 0% but even the most conservative estimates place divorce amongst NFP couples as 9.6% compared to 14.4% amongst those who never used NFP.
Now someone always brings this up in the comments, none of this is to say that married couples who are unable to conceive somehow have a less Holy union. Children are not the only way the Lord blesses us and the number of children a couple has is not indicative of their faithfulness to God. Likewise, if a woman has a condition that makes pregnancy life threatening then contraception may become an appropriate choice. In both of these cases, adoption is still an option I would encourage Christians in these positions to explore – this may be God’s calling to you. I also admit it is likely that children simply aren’t part of God’s plan for every married couple.
Worth noting is even secular women are becoming more and more interested in NFP for the health and relationship benefits. It’s funny how often scripture based lifestyle advice often turns out to be good for humans, religious or not. Dr Jolene Brighten has been a champion for NFP or the fertility awareness method as she calls it. Her book “Beyond the Pill” is a best seller.
Regardless of any earthly benefit, the question for Christians should always be – are my actions glorifying God? This means an openness to following God’s plan and celebrating the gifts He gives you whether it was the plan you were hoping for or not. Christians are unBiblical when they try to restrict or perfectly time the number of blessings (children) God gives them. Planning children according to their will instead of God’s. Wishing for a life according to God’s will while using birth control is like saying “God let me live according to your plan…unless your plan is for me to have children right now, then I am not interested.”