Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A brief response

Thanks to all who posted comments to my previous entry -- even to those who had some harsh things to say. I have been ill the last few days, which is why I haven't updated until now.

I do want to emphasize a point that several commenters seemed to have missed. My previous attitude about having another child -- that it wouldn't be a disaster -- did change after our third child was born. I agree with my wife in her desire not to have another child, particularly (but not only) because of the physical risks she would face, having a fourth C-section in her mid-forties.

Several commenters asked if we'd considered tubal ligation. The moral issues are the same as for a vasectomy. Setting moral issues aside, it makes more sense for me to get a vasectomy than for my wife to get her tubes tied -- less invasive, less risk of complication, less costly. Getting her tubes tied during the last C-section wasn't an option, as the delivery was at a Catholic hospital. (It's the best hospital in town, and it's where her obstetrician -- the same one she'd had for the first two -- did all his deliveries.)

One commenter says we should discuss NFP. We have discussed NFP, but it has a significant drawback -- it's not 100% effective. That's also the drawback with barrier contraception (again aside from the moral issues). Hormonal contraception is not an option because of genetic risk factors for breast cancer. In any case, my wife has ruled out everything except sterilization.

While I'm grateful for the link from Feministe, it has brought a very different audience than I originally had hoped would respond to my request for advice. As I wrote in my initial entry:

If you don't believe that there is a God to whom we owe worship and obedience and that what we do with our bodies matters to him, this whole topic will seem silly and pointless to you.


If you take God out of the equation, there's no dilemma at all. I get a vasectomy, and my wife and I get to enjoy lots of non-procreative sex.

But I believe that when God forbids something, it isn't because he's a colossal killjoy, but because, as our Creator, he knows what is best for us, both in the physical and spiritual dimensions.

God forbids long-term abstinence in marriage. The negative consequences are apparent -- estrangement, temptation to stray.

As I've detailed in previous entries, many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, believe that God also forbids contraception. Contraception, they say, is a refusal of God's blessing of children, a withholding of one's self from one's spouse, a perversion of the marital bed. They say that contraception has spiritual and emotional consequences as well, such as estrangement and divorce.

The people who say these things are people I respect, people whose views I take seriously. I had hoped to hear from some of them in response to my request for advice. So far, I've had only one commenter from that perspective offer advice: Andy, who suggested NFP, which, as I explain above, is an option that has already been ruled out.

I'd like to reserve the comment box for this entry for those Christians who believe that contraception is a sin, to suggest solutions to my dilemma: How do I protect my wife from a dangerous pregnancy while avoiding the sin of abstinence and the sin of contraception?

If you don't fall into that category, you're welcome to post a comment on the earlier entry.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was answering you from the Christian perspective, although I got the link from Feministe (not all feminists aren't Christians). I was raised a Southern Baptist in the southern Midwest (one of the more conservative Baptist areas), have been a Bible study leader, a college Baptist Student Union missions coordinator, and am currently a Children's Church Director. My comments were not from the perspective of taking God out of the equation, or even from the viewpoint of one of the more "liberal" denominations. I'm speaking as a person well-steeped from birth in one of the most conservative denominations in the country, as well as a woman who has been in a similar position as your wife and almost lost my marriage over it (although in our case, birth control wasn't a problem in and of itself, but the failure thereof of almost all methods short of sterilization)

Here is my question to you: You say that "many Christians" oppose contraception. You also admit that other Christian groups do not oppose it, including some of the more otherwise evangelical and fundamentalist denominations. What is your basis for choosing one viewpoint over the other? Why do you think that one conservative is better than another? The fact that there are so many competing ideas is a testament itself to the fact that the Bible has very little to say on the subject. If it were a clear mandate one way or the other, everyone would be in agreement on it. But there isn't. The only mention of it is in the story of Onan, and as has been mentioned before, his sin was not simply that of contraception. If you delve deeply into the anti-contraception rationales, you will not find anything at the bottom other than one person's opinion that has somehow managed to be codified into a movement. For every well-established conservative pastor and theologian you can find who does not believe in birth control, you can find one who does. So, in this case, it seems to be a case of seeking the truth yourself to your best understanding.

Will you do a thought experiment for a moment? Are you against fertility treatments? It's the same thing from the other side: using medical technology to subvert natural reproductive processes. How about the c-sections themselves? If God wanted your children to be born and your wife to stay alive, shouldn't the births have worked as they were supposed to? It is philosophically disingenuous to accept medical intervention for every area of reproduction except one specific part. Either God is the sole arbiter of it all, or He has allowed medicine to be advanced to the point that we can help things be better in a fallen world.
That includes not having more children than a person can physically and mentally handle.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I apologize. I read the post too quickly and thought you were soliciting comments from Christians in general, not just those opposed to contraception. Please feel free to delete the previous comment. However, I don't think you will get many replies. You've set up an unsolvable dilemma if you refuse abstinence, contraception, and pregnancy.

Justin said...

I guess I don't understand. You don't believe that contraception is a sin, but you're adamant that this isn't just a rhetorical device to catch up contraception opponents in a contradiction.

So what's the point of soliciting comments from people who believe something you don't? How is whatever solution they propose going to be better than what you know you should do?

And what do you think they're going to be able to tell you? It's not like they've invented some new way to have sex without causing pregnancy. Contraception opponents aren't going to be the ones who are going to provide you with some magic way to have non-procreative sex without contraception.

As another suggestion - how about pulling out?

Contraskeptic said...

As I've tried to explain, although I grew up with the attitude that contraception was morally acceptable, I've been hearing a lot of credible, reasonable Christian voices, including some of my fellow evangelicals, who say that that is not the case, and who have some persuasive things to say in support of their position. I've outlined some of their arguments in the earlier posts on this blog.

It would be convenient for me to blow off their arguments and go blithely on my way to the urologist's office, but before I do something that can't be undone, I'm using this blog to think through the issue, to come to a conclusion, and to act.

One of the stumbling blocks for me in accepting the anti-contraception position is this apparently unresolvable dilemma.

But is it unresolvable? Perhaps there's something I'm missing here. Perhaps my own presuppositions and upbringing are in the way of seeing a solution. That's what I'm hoping Christian contraception opponents can answer for me.

Justin said...

But is it unresolvable? Perhaps there's something I'm missing here.

What could you possibly be missing? There's only a few possible outcomes:

1) You and your wife are unable to come to a compromise. She refuses to take the risk of having sex with you. You refuse to undergo the procedure. Divorce ensues, with the commensurate trauma to your children. Divorce is a sin, right?

2) You decide that God wants you to have sex with your wife, no matter what she thinks; you roll back 200 years of emerging female equality and sunder your emotional bond to her by raping her, either by force or by coercion. Eventually she gets pregnant again and possibly dies in childbirth, or after.

This is obviously bad but I'm not sure it's technically a sin. There's no provision in the Bible against forcing your wife to have sex with you, and as you say, an abstinent marriage is contrary to God's plan.

3) You go to your urologist, you tell him that you and your wife have decided that you want to enjoy a sex life that's not going to result in any more children, and he performs the procedure. (No, you're not doing it because "your wife wants you to.") You and your wife resume enjoyment of your sex life, which is what you're supposed to be doing anyway. She's not put at risk of death by another pregnancy. Your marriage and family are saved.

Whether or not this constitutes sinful behavior is, I understand, a topic you feel is still under discussion. That's fair enough. But there aren't any other options, clearly. 1 is a sin, 3 might be a sin, I'm not sure if 2 is, to you. I suspect that the sort of person who thinks contraception is sinful thinks that a wife has a duty to obey, no matter what; and that it's within your rights as husband to demand your wife make sacrifices to her health - even her life - to fulfill your sexual needs.

I'm hoping you care enough about your wife to find that abhorrent. And I wonder what you would think about the wisdom of someone who worships a God who allows rape.

You don't sound like a bad person. You sound like someone who's letting other people's religion get in the way of doing what you already know is right. 30 people told you exactly that in another thread. I wonder why everybody seems to see it but you?

sealjoy said...

Contraskeptic,

Unless I am missing something, nowhere in your blog have you confessed catholicism as your religion. I have searched and can only find catholic dogma and their reasons behind the defense against contraception. Especially:
Gen 38:8-10. They use this verse and interpret God's actions as killing the man for spilling his seed. This is a great misrepresentation of the Jewish faith and interpretation.

The Jewish faith had a LAW that stated that the next of kin would father a heir in the name of the deceased so that no shame would come upon the woman and the name would not die. The man clearly broke that law and was punished for that alone, not the spilling of his seed... The New Testament, which is the basis of for Christianity now, teaches that which is done in our hearts its as if we had done it. It proves the reason why the mention of the man's thoughts in the scripture was important. It wasn't important what he did, but WHY.

If you are only open to posts on why contraception is bad, you leave yourself in a dilemma that you cannot get out of. scripturally speaking the bible states:
2 Timothy 1:7 (New King James Version)
New King James Version (NKJV)

7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

My original post would do better to help. You both need to seek God's Plan. His plan could be that you have more and if that is the case, then He will soften her heart and prepare her body. If His plan is for either of you to have a body altering surgery He will bring you both into a unified agreement.

You both are to blame for your rift, as it is clear that you do not have Christ as the center of your marriage. He should be and if you let Him direct your path, there is Nothing He can't do.

Why are you relying on man's opinion of the word? Read for yourself and Let God reveal Himself to you and involve your wife, so that she can share this intimacy. that is an intimacy that unbelievers cannot have in their marriages, and one you should treasure and nurture.

My Family will keep you and your family in our prayers.

sealjoy said...

Comment to Justin:

you said "2) You decide that God wants you to have sex with your wife, no matter what she thinks; you roll back 200 years of emerging female equality and sunder your emotional bond to her by raping her, either by force or by coercion. Eventually she gets pregnant again and possibly dies in childbirth, or after.

This is obviously bad but I'm not sure it's technically a sin. There's no provision in the Bible against forcing your wife to have sex with you, and as you say, an abstinent marriage is contrary to God's plan."

This is not true, God specifically forbids this in the Bible. Read 1 Cor 7 vs 2-6
2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.

Here Paul clearly shows that the marriage bed is equal, and both are equal in it and in the desires or non desires therein.

He is not loving his wife that forces himself upon her, same for the reverse. Love cannot prosper in such a place. Christ wanted the Marriage to mirror that of the relationship of Christ and the Church, but Christ does not force us to accept Him. We have the free will to refuse.

Anonymous said...

Is it a sin to have sex any time other than when it could not result in procreation? Then that rules out most of a woman's cycle, not to mention during pregnancy and after menopause. Clearly this isn't so, therefore, it's not a case of "God only wants us to have sex if we can conceive a child as a result."

You've been fruitful and multiplied (1.5x by my count). You've fulfilled God's command in that regard. Neither God nor Jesus has anything to say further about contraception that I am aware of. Anyone can make up anything they want to regarding this issue, but it's frankly not supported by the Bible, as you are well aware.

Part of what God intends sex for is to strengthen the bond between the man and the woman in the marriage. Why is this aspect less blessed and important to you than procreation?

Paul said...

Justin -

Thought exercises of that kind only work if you actually lay out all the available options, which you quite clearly have not. He COULD, for instance, use NFP, use any variety of contraceptive devices, take a concubine, engage in a variety of deviant sexual practices, etc. These may not be appealing options, but they are, technically, options.

I do agree, however, that Contraskeptic seems to have backed himself into a corner. There are only so many options, none of which are desirous. More compelling arguments can be mustered for the Church's ancient teachings on contraception and their modern presentations, but these are difficult to fit into a combox because to be fully compelling they require backtracking a long way down the road of thinking about humanity, human nature, and such ontological questions. But convincing someone of a proposition is doable, somewhere somehow. What's not doable is the logically impossible task of taking a nonexistent option in a situation.

anon2 said...

you know, a vasectomy can be reversed with a high success rate...

Anonymous said...

As I've tried to explain, although I grew up with the attitude that contraception was morally acceptable, I've been hearing a lot of credible, reasonable Christian voices, including some of my fellow evangelicals, who say that that is not the case, and who have some persuasive things to say in support of their position.

Didn't God give you and your wife the capacity to make up your own minds based on what YOU believe? Maybe God is speaking through your wife and telling you that enough is enough? There are always people who are going to be able to find Biblical passages to support whatever position they wish to hold. Do you use the Bible as a strict recipe for living or as an inspiration to live your life as you feel God would want you to live? Don't you feel that God would want you to put your wife and family first? You don't take the Bible literally, do you? Then why do you insist on allowing some specific passages your friends believe rule out contraception keep you from choosing what you know is the right thing to do?

They say that contraception has spiritual and emotional consequences as well, such as estrangement and divorce.

This should be a big warning sign that your friends don't understand your situation or the Bible. Contraception isn't causing your estrangement and leading you toward divorce, lack of contraception is causing those problems. Again, do you believe that God would want you to sacrifice your family in order to obey a few passages that your friends believe condemn contraception. Do you think that every line of the Bible applies the same today as it did a few thousand years ago? There are many things written in the Bible that you don't practice or follow today. You are looking at a few trees and missing the forest.

You're smart enough to make these decisions yourself. Your faith is strong enough for you and your wife to make these decisions based on what YOU feel God would want you to do. Not your friends, not your church, YOU. Because ultimately, only you are responsible for your actions. So don't let anybody else tell you how God wants you to live your life. I think you have enough wisdom and strong enough faith in yourself and God to make those decisions between the three of you.

Contraskeptic said...

I'm amazed I even have to write this, Justin, but forcing my wife to have sex is absolutely out of the question. Given her resolve not to get pregnant, I wouldn't even try to seduce her, which would either lead to her rejecting my advances or, if she succumbed, to fear of pregnancy.

sealjoy, if you read back in earlier entries -- mostly in January -- you will see entries on the views of two of the most prominent Protestant reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, who condemned contraception in the most vehement terms, and a couple of modern day evangelical pastors who speak out against it, representative of a growing tendency. One of them very ably picks apart the very explanation you give for God's slaying of Onan. (And there are also entries about evangelicals who accept contraception under certain circumstances.) Contraception opponents are fond of pointing out that all Christian denominations were united in opposition to contraception until 1930, when the Anglican Communion's quadrennial Lambeth Conference issued a statement permitting it in limited circumstances.

In answer to the anonymous poster who wrote, "Do you use the Bible as a strict recipe for living or as an inspiration to live your life as you feel God would want you to live?":

It's not about how I feel. God's will for mankind is revealed through his Word. It is something objective, not subjective. That's something that is not up for debate on this blog.

What that will is, on this particular issue, is a matter of debate. There is always a danger of misreading Scripture to justify one's own actions, which is why it is important not to rely on one's own interpretation, but to weigh what others have thought over the centuries.

I'm not going to get into the issues of inspiration, interpretation, and application of Scripture here, as they are settled matters for me, but if you're interested, the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith is a good summary of the evangelical view.

Anonymous said...

It's not about how I feel. God's will for mankind is revealed through his Word. It is something objective, not subjective.

You do realize that those words you are reading in the Bible have been copied imperfectly and mis-translated (both accidentally and purposefully) over and over again by thousands of scribes throughout history. All serious Biblical scholars agree on this. His words have been tainted. The specifics are suspect, but the overall message remains the same. If it were objective, then why do so many very important religious figures throughout history not interpret it the same way?

The Bible is similar to our Constitution in that it is a living document. It was written with the intent that as humankind progressed, it would be able to adapt to those changes. Don't you think God realizes that we would be able to one day control our reproduction and that that would be a good thing because it would keep people from needlessly suffering, such as you and your wife currently are?

If you truly feel that it is written in stone and you are not insightful enough to interpret its meaning and must listen to those who are trying to impose their own narrow interpretations upon you, then I'm afraid your marriage is probably already lost, unless you and your wife are willing to suffer quietly for the sake of your kids. Even in that case, I don't envy your kids. They will grow up learning that marriage is not about two people fully loving each other but rather two people suffering in their own personal Hells because they refuse to believe that God would allow them to be happy.

Not a good message to be sending your kids about marriage or God, if you ask me.

Contraskeptic said...

The idea that the Bible is not a reliable transmission of God's word and therefore I can ignore it is not an argument that will win me over. (And I don't agree with your position on the Constitution either. The Constitution is living in the sense that it can be amended, not that we can decide that the words mean something other than their obvious meaning when it suits the way the political winds are blowing. But that, again, is not a topic for this blog.)

Again, I'll say -- this comment thread is reserved for those who want to respond to my dilemma and who believe that contraception is a sin. If you don't believe that contraception is a sin, please place your comment on the other thread. Thank you.

And please, if you don't have a Blogger/Google account, click "other" under "choose an identity" then make up a pseudonym, so I know if I'm talking to the same anonymous person or a different one each time.

TimeToFaceTheMusic said...

Again, I'll say -- this comment thread is reserved for those who want to respond to my dilemma and who believe that contraception is a sin. If you don't believe that contraception is a sin, please place your comment on the other thread. Thank you.

I think the reason you aren't getting any comments from the people you are looking for is because they really don't have anything to say that can help you. If a vasectomy is a sin, then you can't do it, so where is the dilemma? Sounds like you are really looking for people to reassure you that it is OK to make your wife and yourself miserable because you're doing it for God.

If you aren't open to changing your mind about "God's word", then I think you need to be honest with yourself about what you are really trying to do here and stop putting off the final confrontation with your wife where you will have to tell her that it ain't gonna happen. That is what you are really afraid of, isn't it?

sealjoy said...

efContraskeptic,

This will be my last post on this matter.

From my own personal searches, Contraception that acts by destroying a fertilized egg is a sin. as this is something that the Holy Spirit has convicted ME on.

I have read the areas you perscribed, and both have arguments that cancel eachother out.

The basic things it comes down to is:
Do you belive that the "be fruitful and multiply" is a commandment of God necessary for salvation?

Do you believe that Christ came to fulfill the law, in that His commandments are the heart of what is necessary for salvation?

Do you belive that childbearing is the only reason for marriage?

Do you belive that Christ can be the center of your marriage?

In both my posts, what was never addressed is the one thing I hold most important. Not is contraception a sin, Not should I get a visectomy, Not should my wife deny me sex. But the most important is What is Gods plan for our Marriage and how can He show us how to be unified.

If you suceed in getting opinions that tell you ALL forms of contraception are wrong and a sin, you will then have the duty of getting your wife to see it your way. Most likely this will not happen. As you are not seeking together God's plan. His plan will be perfect and allow for both of you to be content with whatever the out come.

But if you continue to only want one point of view, you will only get one point of view and that is not healthy.

I totally believe a child is the blessing of God, and a gift. I have wanted to be a mother since I was 8 and then was planning on having 121 children.

I currently have 2 and they were back to back pregnancies. The first was easy and nice, but I went through a lot health wise with the second. I will wait until my body (which is a temple to God) is ready for another child. God opens and closes the womb, yes, he opened one without the act of sex and we had a messiah. He closed many for years and years and gave sons to those of advanced years. If He is a God that doesn't need sex to provide a child, why then do you limit Him to only be able to do it when we are not useing contraception.

I do not Limit God, but I also see Him as a friend and someone who loves me and my family very much. He is the only reason I am sane right now with dealing with two infants. But I put my trust in Him and prayed during my pregnancy that He would educate me on the best method to use for my own sanity.

That is why I made the choice that I did. I didn't blindly follow other word of mouth teachers and preachers, or that of my own mother. I read on God's gives, the quiverfull idea, and the Bible, but I kept coming back to the fact that God's love for us unfathomable and to keep us pure in heart. We must read more than just single verses and view points before making a decision of this magnatude, but also read in context and read about things we may not be willing to want to do.

God's plan may be for more children.. I don't know, because I am not God. But His plan is what you must be seeking and doing it together. I would really like to hear from your wife, how your spiritual life has been affected by all of this. I think her point of view would be beneficial as this is a marriage and she is part of it.

~Yours in Christ

Seal

Rob said...

I do not believe contraception is necessarily a sin, but I feel compelled to respond to this.

I unreservedly admit to being a "cafeteria Catholic," as I believe there is much that is indispensable and spiritually enlightening about the bible and the ritual of mass, but I also see much that does not apply to modern life, at least in the way it was originally intended.

I understand your reading of the bible is that Onan's sin was to engage in sex, yet avoid conception. I would point out that the exact sin is the spilling of the seed. In every example you have cited, the burden is clearly on the man to contain his seed. No passage you have cited has anything whatsoever to say about the female orgasm.

I AM COMPLETELY SERIOUS ABOUT THIS:

Oral sex. Learn to pleasure your wife without spilling your seed. If you are adamant that intercourse without opportunity for pregnancy is sinful, then that is your burden, not your wife's. It is absolutely part of your obligation as a husband to provide her with comfort, intimacy, and affection.

This is not a joke.

The second thing I have to say is more a response to this comment: "His plan could be that you have more and if that is the case, then He will soften her heart and prepare her body." I highly caution anyone tempted to take this advice to not do so. Remember that the deathrate during childbirth was near or above 50% for many periods in human history, and remains a very dangerous experience, even in the US. Clearly, God does not intervene to save the mother, even when He intends for her to have one more child. If He does intend for you to have more children, a vasectomy will not stop Him.

Lastly, I just want to point out that these sentences: "God's will for mankind is revealed through his Word. It is something objective, not subjective." and this one: "... it is important not to rely on one's own interpretation, but to weigh what others have thought over the centuries." are mutually exclusive. You are effectively saying that we must rely on the opinions of others to tell us what is objectively true, and you are assuming that the interpretations of those others are not twisted by their own desires and biases. Such thinking allows you to disavow responsibility for your own actions, and even your own thoughts. So again I say, it is your interpretation of the bible that prevents you from getting a vasectomy, therefore it is your obligation to avoid ejaculation, not your wife's burden to go without sexual release provided by her loving partner.

mael said...

What that will is, on this particular issue, is a matter of debate. There is always a danger of misreading Scripture to justify one's own actions, which is why it is important not to rely on one's own interpretation, but to weigh what others have thought over the centuries.

Which is surprisingly similar to what you are doing, Contraskeptic, except you're combing the religious doctrine of various Christian denominations to justify your own inaction. Your opinion on contraception is apparently not enough, you need to solicit that of those who oppose the procedure you are unwilling to undertake, for whatever reason, be it religiously motivated or simply fear of surgery.

That's not intellectually honest, nor does it follow the teachings of Christ as have been imparted to me during my childhood. Religious dogma is not the key to the heart of God, but rather striving to be just and moral and, most importantly, to love without reserve.

Your request sounds self-serving, and therefore devoid of love for your wife. What other denominations believe, what other fellow believers have accepted as dogma, does not shackle you. God does not shackle you. Other's opinions are moot, your relationship with Christ should be a personal one. What does he tell you when you see your wife going through life unhappy and unfulfilled? What does he tell you when your marriage bed is cold and the both of you are miserable?

Christ does not desire misery for his people. Christ does not wish harm upon his people. What you're doing here, with this blog, is a product of doctrine, and the selfishness of man. Because that's what you are, Contraskeptic, selfish. And these posts just serve to confirm that getting a vesectomy is the last thing on your mind, constructing a moral excuse for not getting one, and therefore putting the burden of procreation once again on your wife, is.

You're using Christ and religion as a shield not as a crutch to help you through tough times, and that, my friend, is not only cowardice but dishonesty as well.

(As an aside, I find that I should mention that I am no longer a Catholic, or a Christian, though I was raised as one.)

Contraskeptic said...

But if you continue to only want one point of view, you will only get one point of view and that is not healthy.

No, I'm happy to have lots of different points of view, and that's what I've been getting on these two most recent posts, but I would like to hear from a particular point of view that hasn't spoken up yet. That's why I tried (unsuccessfully) to reserve this comment thread for that particular point of view.

Contraskeptic said...

(As an aside, I find that I should mention that I am no longer a Catholic, or a Christian, though I was raised as one.)

Sometimes I despair of reading comprehension. Allow me to repeat myself:

"I'd like to reserve the comment box for this entry for those Christians who believe that contraception is a sin...."

If you don't fall into that category, post your comment to the previous thread instead. Thank you.

And I'm really not interested in hearing the key to Christian living explained by someone who isn't a Christian.

Contraskeptic said...

Lastly, I just want to point out that these sentences: "God's will for mankind is revealed through his Word. It is something objective, not subjective." and this one: "... it is important not to rely on one's own interpretation, but to weigh what others have thought over the centuries." are mutually exclusive. You are effectively saying that we must rely on the opinions of others to tell us what is objectively true, and you are assuming that the interpretations of those others are not twisted by their own desires and biases.

Wrong on all counts. I don't have to believe someone is infallible to find value in his or her interpretation.

If I and a hundred other people study a passage of the Bible and everyone else comes to a different interpretation than I did, it may be that I'm right and the 100 people are wrong, but I have to seriously consider the possibility that the 100 people are right and I'm off-base.

If Christendom -- Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc. -- was united for 1900 years in the belief that contraception is an abomination, that doesn't mean they were right in that view, but it does mean you can't dismiss that perspective lightly.

Anonymous said...

I'm the first anonymous poster, so I'll apologize again for the possibility that I was the one who derailed the thread based on not reading carefully enough.

It may be that the reason you haven't heard from any of the anti-contraception crowd you'd like is that they're ashamed to look the results of their ideals in the face. It's all well and good to proclaim from on high what you think people should do with their lives, but once confronted with a messy story about what those rules can actually do to people, it's a different story. I say it's cowardice.

GreyLadyBast said...

Contraskeptic, is it possible, just possible, that the fact that you are pointedly not hearing from the people you specifically requested (twice!) to justify the decision you have, to all external appearances, already made, is its own lesson?

Sometimes, silence speaks volumes on its own...

Bast

Arianna said...

I know you wanted to leave this comment thread for anti-contraception only, but since the others have jumped in anyway, I might as well too. Slacktivist, a blog written by an Evangelical Christian, has two excellent posts up about reconciling real-world problems with biblical teaching. Read this one first, and then this one.

Layla said...

You previously quoted a comment of mine (in your post from Dawn Eden's blog) that more or less sums up my feelings on the subject, but I'll reiterate, since my position isn't being terribly strongly represented in this combox.

My objection to contraception, beyond the fact that I am faithful to the teachings of the Church, is that it takes away from the fullness of what the marital embrace is supposed to be. Sex, at its most perfect, is a total giving of oneself to one's spouse. When a couple contracepts, one or both of them withholds part of him- or herself. At the core, contraception makes the marital act dishonest. Instead of expressing "I love you," contraceptive sex says, "I love you, but..."

Furthermore, God created woman's body in such a way that, if she pays attention to the signs it gives her and her husband respects and supports her, she can avoid pregnancy with the same success rate as that of artificial methods, when done properly. NFP carries with it none of the complications of any chemical or surgical contraceptive, and it involves none of the holding back of which I spoke above.

People can object, saying that NFP is just "mental contraception," that moral proscriptions against contraception are just the results of bad science, or that NFP just doesn't work to begin with. But none of these are really true. NFP is radically different from artificial contraceptives in the fact that it involves neither placing barriers in the midst of the conjugal act nor altering the natural processes that are related to the act. The difference is easy to see with barrier methods: that's not being "one flesh," that's being two people separated by latex -- the entire end of the conjugal act is thwarted in condomistic sex. But chemical methods are little better, for they treat the God-given gift of fertility as a disease to be treated. Do you take antibiotics when you have no infection, or antidepressants when you're happy? Why seek to alter your biochemistry when it's normal? As I've already explained, NFP stands apart because it relies upon the way God created women. If God had wanted every sexual act to be necessarily fertile, for Pete's sake He could have created women that way. But He did not work creation that way. And His creation, as Scripture tells us, is good -- and so we should not be afraid to take advantage of it in our act of complete spousal giving.

Contraskeptic, my prayers are with you and your wife. This must be a terribly trying experience for you. I can only imagine how painful it must be to have one's spouse demand that one undergo surgery to "correct" something that doesn't need correction. May God grant you both the grace you need to deal with this situation according to His will.

Anonymous said...

Re Layla's comment above: Is that what you wanted to hear, Contraskeptic?

Anonymous said...

And notice that Layla didn't give you one single bit of advice that would help in this situation, but instead just spouted butterflies and tweeting birdies about the beauty of nature and menstrual cycles. I'm sure her words will really help your wife when she's cringing from your touch.

Justin said...

I'm amazed I even have to write this, Justin, but forcing my wife to have sex is absolutely out of the question.

I'm glad to hear it, of course; but for many Christians it wouldn't be out of the question. The proof of this, of course, is that raping your wife only became a crime in the last 20 years. And the Bible does make it clear that the wife is expected to give of herself to her husband, who is the head of her.

Layla:

Do you take antibiotics when you have no infection, or antidepressants when you're happy?

Do you brush your teeth when you don't have cavities?

Our bodies are not perfect (not anymore, anyway.) They often need help to do what we want them to do - or to not do what we don't want them to do.

Layla said...

Anonymous-
Contraskeptic asked for opinions from Christians opposed to contraception. I gave him that. His situation seems largely beyond help, as he seems not to be interested in any of the solutions that have been presented to him (NFP, at best, surgery to fix what isn't broken, at worst, with various gradations in between). What should I have said?

Justin-
I resent the idea that a woman's fertility is a malady that needs to be prevented or treated. Cavities are not a quality of optimally-functioning teeth, so we take preventative measures against them (in order to maintain teeth as they are supposed to be). Pregnancy is a quality of an optimally-functioning woman of childbearing years when she enters the marital embrace while fertile.

Anonymous said...

When you used the line "My wife wants me to do it" on your urologist, I found it quite telling. It seems you're willing to degrade her health and well-being to merely "wants." Certainly not the sign of a healthy relationship.

"I'd like to reserve the comment box for this entry for those Christians who believe that contraception is a sin...."

Obviously, you're not looking for advice, merely enablers. Get over yourself, and find some real counseling.

Justin said...

I resent the idea that a woman's fertility is a malady that needs to be prevented or treated.

That's fine. If you get pregnant, it has absolutely no effect on my life. (If you really find a complete stranger's attitude towards parenthood so personally offensive, I recommend you develop a slightly thicker skin.)

Pregnancy is a quality of an optimally-functioning woman of childbearing years when she enters the marital embrace while fertile.

Unfortunately parenthood would not be a quality of my optimally-functioning marriage at this point in the life of my wife and I. Our bodies are not perfect; they do things that we don't want them to do. In a modern medical society we take steps to deal with that.

And I wonder if you recognize the contradiction in advancing a mode of "family planning" that you say is effective, simultaneously as you make your attitude abundantly clear that you don't really care whether it works or not. If NFP is so effective is it necessary to advance it under a deceptive guise?

Jess said...

Concerning a "Christian" raping his wife, Justin wrote:

"for many Christians it wouldn't be out of the question. The proof of this, of course, is that raping your wife only became a crime in the last 20 years."

I don't know what kind of proof that is, Justin- except that perhaps it proves that most Americans would approve of raping your wife? But of course, that's nonsensical.

I'm amazed at the things that can be pinned on Christians because people want to make them out to be the bad guy. To be a Christian is to be a Christ-follower. Any man who would rape his wife could not be called a Christ-follower. He may have been culturally raised an athiest, Muslim, Jew, or Christian- but by all accounts, he is a jerk and certainly no follower of Jesus Christ.

Jess said...

Just wanted to mention that you may want to read Randy Alcorn's stuff too, regarding the pill... but Alcorn never says yea or nay about contraception in general.

I know Piper has a commentary about contraception on desiringgod.org, but it's pretty lame. John Piper is an incredible author, and his ministry has been a real blessing to me, but the arguments used to allow contraception strike me as poorly construed.

Frankly, as I've been thinking about your situation, it reminds me of couples in the 1700's and 1800's, when contraceptives weren't generally available, and Christian and Catholic couples who truly believed that another pregnancy would kill the wife would say "adios" to marital relations and presumably stay pure and remain brothers and sisters in Christ, living, working, and sleeping alongside each other. Perhaps that is your only option if you truly believe that there are no other "options"?

But if you believe you've been sinning for the last 15 months anyway, then aren't you just choosing which way to sin? There's some food for thought... I truly don't know the answer- just wanted to ask the question.

Justin said...

I'm amazed at the things that can be pinned on Christians because people want to make them out to be the bad guy.

And I'm amazed how quickly people like you pop up to assert that no Christian could possibly be guilty of doing something bad.

I mean that's not even Biblical. You don't become a perfect person just because you follow Christ. The Bible is pretty clear on that. It's about faith, not works, remember?

I think CS's own issues, here, make it obvious how hard it can be for anybody, much less Christians, to completely avoid sin.

Jess said...

No one said anything about being sinless, Justin. My point was that you made a sweeping statement that said that "most Christians" would see nothing wrong with a man RAPING his wife. And that's just not true. It's not about sinlessness, but John and James make a lot of points about your works being tied to your faith- they DO go together... it's not just your faith, because faith without works is dead.

Anyway, nice rabbit trail. The point is, most Christians would not be OK with a man raping his wife. That's an inaccurate and inflammatory statement.

Dejah said...

Contra,

I am coming at this late in the game, but I will offer you this one piece of theology, which I know is sound. Sometimes, you have to choose the lesser of two evils. Weigh the pro's and cons and then do the thing which less less evil, because the alternative is MORE evil.

1) stay abstinent and eventually experience complete marital breakdown. Divorce. Or worse, the scarring of your children from living in a loveless marriage of two people who hate each other.

2) get a vasectomy or a tubal (or use barrier methods) and sin because you have sex--which God intended you to do and requires THAT you do.

3) don't use birthcontrol. Live with the misery of having a wife who believes that you don't care for or about her or her distress or her pain. Maybe divorce anyway. When you stand at judgment, maybe God will be saying, "how could you treat her that way, didn't you hear me say to love your wife?" Or worse, have her get pregnant again and die, leaving you and your kids without her--and knowing YOU could have prevented it if you had been more concerned about HER and less concerned about RULES. Or get pregnant again and get PPD and drown your kids.

What's the lesser of evils here, Contra?

I suppose that depends on whether you are more concerned with what Jesus said, than with what Paul said. Jesus said, "and the greatest of these is love." What would Jesus do. Would he say, "follow foolish and life threatening rules to the detriment of the woman and children you love"?

Jesus wasn't about rules. He had a word for those who followed the rules to the detriment of their souls (and the people around them) he called them Pharisees. And it was the Pharisees who killed Him. So if you ask yourself not "what is sin?" But rather, "what would the most loving thing be?"

The answer is easy.

Anonymous said...

I struggle myself, often. I don't know whether contraception is a sin or not. I used NFP at one time, and it was stressful for me because my body did not always give me clear signals. Nursing a baby and various types of stress can alter a woman's hormones and signals can become difficult to read. In the end I gave it up. I was raised that contraception was good, responsible and the right thing until a married couple was ready to be responsible for their children. Many people have children they cannot care for, or don't care for, properly. They can't or don't support them. So in my family contraception was considered socially responsible. Now, as I look for my own, personal path, I have questioned why in the Judeo/Christian systems there is so much disagreement on the subject of contracteption/abortion. Following God is not always cut and dried. I understand how you can become very confused about what to do.

I agree that Jesus was less about the rules and more about what is in your heart. I believe that God knew mankind would advance in science and ability and that Jesus was sent at a time when great change was going to come about. When I read the New Testament I find there is a lot of margin for assessing various situations. Even keeping the Sabbath, which was clearly indicated in Scripture, was subject to circumstance.

I really think that if you pray and open your heart, the Holy Spirit will guide you. Truly open your heart and listen. Weigh the pros and cons of each decision and pray on each option, all types of contraception and the possible consequenses of all actions/inactions. If you open your heart and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, you will get the answer that is right for you and your wife, in your situation, at this stage of your marriage.

God bless you in your quest to follow Him.

Jordan said...

I really don't think you need the opinions of others.

I think you should just ask Christ.

I think that he's the kind of guy that would tell you if it was a really big concern to you.

Anonymous said...

from Shawna
Dear Contraskeptic,
I spent time I really didn’t have tonight reading your blog. I am a Christian opposed to contraception, weighing in as you requested. I see that nothing has been written here however for recent months. I wonder where things are at or if you are still reading this. I also wonder if the people who you targeted have even seen this. How did I find this? I found this through a link from a link from a link from a link from the QuiverFull digest. I think that is what you are looking for, and you should ask people there. You aren’t the only one who’s been there or is there.
One thing that seemed to be absent from your posts was much about your relationship with God. While I certainly commend your desire to follow His word and not to engage in sin, I have to ask what your relationship with Him is based on. Does desire to obey and follow Christ spring from your love for Him, or do you hope that it will bring you to Him?
Your blog is one of the saddest I have ever read. My profession is assisting in the birth of babies, and I have heard from and counseled many women from different cultures, but I don’t think I have ever met a woman as terrified of getting pregnant as your wife sounds. If I was addressing your wife my comments would be different. I will therefore skip the comments I would like to address to her.
I think what I see as the most striking lack in your blog and the issue that puts QuiverFull Christians apart from others, is our confidence that God is good and personal. He is not just the giver of life, He is not just loving, He doesn’t just have a plan, but He has a very personal plan for each of his children. He delights in our delighting in Him. Because He loves, He desires to use our bodies to His glory.
I can say that it is very unlikely that your wife would die during the birth of another child. It is also true that few women are able to conceive and bear children from their mid forties on. (It is also worth noting that several women of my acquaintance have, including my mother who birthed my youngest two siblings at 45 and 47 years of age.)
Surgery is never desirable but is not the end of the world or a death sentence. Hysterectomy is a surgery that many women in their forties have performed (especially those who had a tubal ligation 10 or 15 years earlier) and I would say that it is harder for a woman’s body to recover from that surgery than a Cesarean Section.
I don’t think that heart of the matter is really about the potential dangers of childbirth (which exist, even in a woman of 25). Is your God the kind who would arbitrarily give conception even though it wasn’t best for your family? Would He give you a stone when you asked for bread? Please understand, I don’t mean that since you know pregnancy isn’t best for your family that He sees it the same way. He may or may not. We who are QuiverFull believe that He does have a decided opinion on this (tailored to each family, in keeping for the plan for them which only He knows) and He is glorified when we seek Him and leave the decision making in His hand.
Since you asked for advice, please accept this exhortation from a sister to turn your eyes upon Christ. Ask Him to give you a true love for Himself. Ask Him to work in both yours and your wife’s hearts. Let Him love her through you, as He loves His church. May He overwhelm you with love for Himself and awe for His glory.
As Jordon said in a recent response, ask Christ, and he will give you the answer you need. I believe he often doesn’t allow us to see the answer right away because He desires our fellowship, our coming to Him to know Him. Let’s this be a time that you can look back on ten years from now as a time of struggle, but a sweet time with your Creator.

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