Monday, October 6, 2008

Natural Family Planning - The Moral Answer to Contraception

My wife and I have been happily married for 8 years, and we have 3 wonderful children that God has blessed us with. Throughout our marriage, we have been practicing Natural Family Planning - and have experienced first hand the blessings that come from it.

We are now praying, and I hope that you will pray for us also, if we are being led to be trained as instructors for the Couple-to-Couple League in order to teach others how to practice Natural Family Planning. It seems that God has been tapping us on the shoulder telling us that now is the time for us to share this great ministry. One of the ways that we believe His will is being revealed is through an email that I received from the Bible Christian Society, that compared Natural Family Planning with Contraception. I am attaching this email below.

If anyone has any questions regarding Natural Family Planning or would like to learn more about it, please feel free to ask.

Thanks and God Bless...

The following is from John Martignoni of the Bible Christian Society from his Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #98 on the topic of Natural Family Planning and Contraception...

I want to finish my argument against contraception, by simply noting that all Christian faith traditions – Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox – used to believe that contraception is morally evil, and I would like to quote some Protestant theologians as evidence of this:

Martin Luther: “Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This 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…Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed…He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred…Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed.”

John Calvin: “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.”

Adam Clarke (Methodist – 18th century): “The sin of self pollution, which is generally considered to be that of Onan, is one of the most destructive evils ever practiced by fallen man. In many respects it is far worse than common whoredom, and has in its train more awful consequences.”

Johann Lange (Reformed – 19th century): Onan’s sin, a deadly wickedness, an example to be held in abhorrence, as condemnatory, not only of secret sins of self-pollution [masturbation], but also of all similar offenses in sexual relations, and even in marriage itself…It is a crime against the image of God, and a degradation below the animal. Onan’s offense, moreover, as committed in marriage, was a most unnatural wickedness, and a grievous wrong.”

Thomas Scott (Anglican – 18th century): Onan’s habitual conduct, was not only unnatural and detestable in itself, but full of envy and malice, and not without something of the nature of murder in it; for the same principle would have induced him to murder a child born to him but accounted his brother’s, if he could have done it with impunity.”

Mr. Scott clearly saw that the contraceptive mentality leads to the abortion mentality and the infanticide mentality.

It wasn’t until the Anglican’s Lambeth Conference in 1930 that any Christian faith tradition approved of contraception. The 1930 Lambeth Conference approved of contraception only in “rare” circumstances, but the hole had been punched in the dike. Even though most Protestant denominations condemned the decision of the Lambeth
Conference at the time, within 20 or 30 years, pretty much all of them had changed their teaching on contraception. The Catholic Church stood alone on this issue.

Aldous Huxley, a British writer who was actually an atheist, wrote his book, “Brave New World,” as a response to the Anglican decision. In this novel, the “utopian” world of the future features promiscuous sex, human embryos grown in hatcheries [think test-tube babies], the separation of sex from reproduction, and so on. It’s pretty prophetic. In other words, here is an atheist, using principles of natural law, who clearly recognizes, back in 1932, what the wide-spread acceptance of contraception will lead to. If you haven’t read the novel, please pick up a copy.

On to Natural Family Planning (NFP). The argument is often made that there is no difference between contraception and Natural Family Planning…at least, when NFP is used to avoid a pregnancy. The argument is that since the end is the same – no pregnancy – then the means to the end – whether NFP or contraception – are morally equivalent.

Well, let’s look at an example and see if the means to an end matter, even when the end is the same. Let’s say we have two men, both of whom are the main breadwinners in their family. They both work at jobs where the desired end of their work is to provide support to their wives and children. One of them works at a bank. However, the other works at robbing banks. So, the end is the same – they both support their wife and children – but the means are different. So, are the means to the end morally equivalent, since the end is the same? Obviously not. One means of supporting your family is moral, the other is immoral.

So, I believe I can safely say that the means to an end do indeed matter. That even though the end is the same, different means to that end can indeed differ in terms of their moral standing.

Now, let’s look at NFP and contraception, specifically. Are they different and, if so, how?

First, what is contraception? Contraception – which means contra, or against, conception – is the deliberate frustration of the natural processes that occur in physical relations between a man and a woman. Contraception basically works by either causing the “spilling” of the man’s seed, or by interrupting the natural cycles of the woman and preventing ovulation. (Note: the birth control pill has both contraceptive and abortifacient properties – it either prevents ovulation (contraceptive), or, if ovulation and then conception occur, it causes changes to the lining of the uterus making it impossible for the brand new human being to implant in its mother’s uterus, thereby causing it to die (abortifacient)). In other words, contraception is the deliberate attempt to use a good given by God (physical relations between a husband and a wife), yet frustrate one of the God-given purposes of that good – the bearing of children. I t intentionally separates the life-giving and love-giving aspects of relations between a man and a woman.

Contraception is akin to bulimia. With bulimia, someone will eat a big meal, but then frustrate the God-given purpose of eating – to provide nourishment to the body – by intentionally causing that meal to be regurgitated. They want the pleasure of eating, but not the results. With contraception, they want the pleasure of sexual relations, but not the results.

NFP, on the other hand, in no way interferes with the natural God-given processes that occur between a man and a woman. The man’s seed is not “spilled.” The woman’s natural cycles are not interrupted. Everything is just as God decreed it to be.

Now, someone might say, “But, if you deliberately have sexual relations only during the part of the woman’s cycle where she is infertile, then it is equivalent to ‘spilling your seed.’”

Well, my answer to that is to ask a series of questions: Is it immoral for a husband and wife to have sexual relations at any time during a woman’s cycle? The answer to that, is of course, “No.” Next question: Does God require of us that we have as many children as we are physically capable of having, or does He recognize that there are times when it is necessary for us to temporarily abstain from having children? I don’t know of any theologian, Catholic or Protestant, who says God requires of us to have as many children as we are physically capable of having. Next question: Since God does not require of us that we have as many children as it is absolutely possible for us to have from a physical standpoint, does He then provide us with a moral means whereby we can temporarily abstain from having children when we have sufficient reason to do so? I believe the answer to that question is, “Yes.” I believe the answer to that question i s, “Yes,” because God has plainly given us a natural means by which to avoid pregnancies – carefully considering the woman’s natural cycles of fertility. Last question: Does the Bible give us any indication as to whether or not contraceptive methods are acceptable in God’s eyes? The answer is, “Yes.” Again, the story of Onan in Genesis 38 that I discussed in Issue #95 and to which the Protestant theologians I mention above refer to. And we see, quite clearly, from the Bible that God is not pleased with contraceptive practices. The Bible shows us they result in death.

So, to sum up these questions and answers: It is not immoral for a husband and wife to have sexual relations during the infertile period of a woman’s cycle; God does not require us to have as many babies as it is theoretically possible for us to have – He recognizes that there are times when foregoing a pregnancy may be necessary; as such, He must have given us some morally-acceptable way to at least temporarily abstain from having children; and He has shown us, in the Bible, that there are immoral ways to abstain from having children. So, is there a difference between NFP and contraception? You bet there is. Furthermore, contraceptive methods, as we see in Genesis 38, lead to death.

And we can see in our own times that death does indeed come from contraception. Physical death in the form of AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases that flourish because of promiscuous sex made possible by contraception and the widespread acceptance and practice of homosexual sex that is the natural consequence of separating the unitive (love-giving) aspect of sexual relations from the procreative (life-giving) aspects of sexual relations. Spiritual death that results from unrestrained lusts and sexual desires that are unleashed when the natural consequences of sex are separated from the sexual act itself. Men treating women as mere objects – within marriage and without – for their sexual gratification. Widespread pornography. Pre-marital sex. Extra-marital sex. The death of marriages. The death of nations and of peoples as their populations implode because of declining birth rates. The death of millions of unborn babi es as the contraceptive mentality – the anti-life mentality – leads directly to the abortion mentality, and the deaths of millions of already born children as the abortion mentality leads directly to the infanticide mentality. The acceptance of contraception also leads to the basest of perversions – child pornography, pedophilia, bestiality, and so on. All of this results from the widespread acceptance of contraception. Death, death, perversion, and more death.

What else does contraception do? Well, since the most common contraceptive used is the birth control pill (and, lest anyone should write, the pill is also abortifacient, but most women who use it do not realize this), then we have millions upon millions of women chemically polluting their bodies. The birth control pill has led to all sorts of ill health effects for women, not the least being rising rates of infertility. Think about it. A woman who uses birth control pills is chemically telling her ovaries to basically shut down their egg-producing function – sometimes for 10 or 15 years or so. Then, all of a sudden she wants to have a baby and she expects that her ovaries will just kick right in after years and years of chemical abuse and inactivity? Sure they will…

Now, let’s look at what happens with NFP. With NFP, the love-giving and life-giving aspects of sexual relations are not separated. There is no natural outgrowth from NFP of all the horrendous consequences mentioned above that result from contraception. The NFP mentality, one of working within God’s design to temporarily avoid a pregnancy, does not lead to any of the consequences that the use of contraception does. And, even if NFP was widely misused, does anyone think it – with its built in safeguards against unrestrained sexual relations – would lead to the sexual excesses that contraception has led to? Ain’t no way!

And when I mention the possibility of NFP being misused, what I mean is this: As with anything, it can be misused for ill purposes. If a couple uses NFP to avoid having children on a more or less permanent basis, for reasons that are not “serious” – in other words, if they have a contraceptive mentality, even if they do not use contraception…if they have an anti-life mentality…then their use of NFP would be immoral. NFP is to be used when there are grave or serious reasons for avoiding a pregnancy…it is not to be used as a “natural” alternative to contraception. But, again, even if it is misused, the requirements of NFP - the periodic abstinence, the communication required between man and woman, and so on – keep some check on the passions, so that there would not be the same consequences as what happens when contraception releases the passions from all restraint.

I will close by saying this: Contraception seeks the pleasure of a God-given good, while deliberately frustrating the God-given consequences of that good. NFP, abstains from a God-given good, for a time, to avoid the consequences of that good. Again, it’s akin to bulimia vs. fasting. When one fasts – let’s say you skip lunch for a while – to lose weight, you abstain from the pleasure of eating so as to temporarily avoid the natural consequences (taking on additional calories) of eating. You also train your will to control your passions, as you do with NFP and periodic periods of abstinence. With bulimia, you enjoy the pleasure of eating, and then participate in the unnatural act of intentionally throwing up what you have just eaten in order to avoid the consequences of eating. Essentially the same thing with contraception.

NFP vs. Contraception – are they the same? I don’t think so.


Michael B said...

Good Article Carlus. I am impressed by your knowledge. Being someone who has used contraception I feel convicted. It's difficult to abstain from using contraception when most Christians approve the use around us. But when you get down to the nuts and bolts of the issue it is difficult to argue with the idea that God prefers for us to trust him more and NOT take conception into our own hands.

Carlus Henry said...

Once again...I cannot take the credit for this at all. This is something that I received from the mailing list that I am a part of.

As you know, sex is a pretty sensitive topic, and I was a little apprehensive about posting this. However if it wasn't for the feeling that I have that God is leading Stephanie and I to become certified teachers in this area, I may not have even posted it.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

Always Your brother in Christ

pb said...

Carlus, where did you get the connection to Brave New World and contraception acceptance? It makes sense to me, but I had never heard that before.

Carlus Henry said...


The portion of the post that refers to the Brave New World, is not mine. I only wrote the first couple of paragraphs. This is actually a repost of something that John Martignoni of the Bible Christian Society wrote as a part of his email distribution.

I cannot take credit for any of it...

Belteshazzar Mouse said...

Without taking away from the gift of natural family planning, I feel it is important to point out a misinterpretation of Genesis 38:6-10:

"Judah got a wife named Tamar for his first-born, Er. But Er, Judah's first-born, greatly offended the LORD; so the LORD took his life. Then Judah said to Onan, "Unite with your brother's widow, in fulfillment of your duty as brother-in-law, and thus preserve your brother's line." Onan, however, knew that the descendants would not be counted as his; so whenever he had relations with his brother's widow, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid contributing offspring for his brother. What he did greatly offended the LORD, and the LORD took his life too."

Onan broke levirate law, law that said he must continue the bloodline of his brother, so his brother's possessions, and good name, would remain in the clan. His intent, and punishment, was not for spilling his seed, but his intent "to avoid contributing offspring for his brother." This is the law from Deuteronomy 25:5-10:

"When brothers live together and one of them dies without a son, the widow of the deceased shall not marry anyone outside the family; but her husband's brother shall go to her and perform the duty of a brother-in-law by marrying her. The first-born son she bears shall continue the line of the deceased brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel. If, however, a man does not care to marry his brother's wife, she shall go up to the elders at the gate and declare, 'My brother-in-law does not intend to perform his duty toward me and refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel.' Thereupon the elders of his city shall summon him and admonish him. If he persists in saying, 'I am not willing to marry her,' his sister-in-law, in the presence of the elders, shall go up to him and strip his sandal from his foot and spit in his face, saying publicly, 'This is how one should be treated who will not build up his brother's family!' And his lineage shall be spoken of in Israel as 'the family of the man stripped of his sandal.'"

Stripping a man of his sandal was condemning him to poverty and stripping him of his good name, since sandals were a man's cheapest possession. Onan denied his brother his bloodline, his name, and denied his clan of the right of retaining his possessions.

From Catholic commentary on this story (both bear Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur):

New American Bible:
"In the present story, it is primarily Onan's violation of this law, rather than the means he used to circumvent it, that brought on him God's displeasure."

From the New Jerome Commentary:
"Onan is commissioned to raise seed to his brother's wife., according to levirate law. Onan's offense is obvious; he selfishly refuses the responsibility of fulfilling his duty to his brother, as the law provided. That is the point of his offense, (not what is popularly called onanism today)."

Onanism is defined as both coitus interruptus and masturbation. Levirate law on coitus interruptus, masturbation, nocturnal emissions and, yes, even normal sexual relations, require only ritual washing and ritual impurity until the following evening. This applied to a woman that took part in sexual relations as well. Leviticus 15:16-18.

Even Paul IV recognized that the story of Onan was about levirate law. Onan is not mentioned once in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Paul IV recognized that his argument in this encyclical rested on natural law, not scripture, as sited in the email above. Paul IV also said Humanae Vitae was not the last word on contraception and that a better understanding of the issue was required.

There are several other logical and historic fallacies that spoil this email for me. Contraception was not unheard of in Hebrew and early Christian society, yet it was conspicuously absent from scripture and text until Augustine. To say it was uncontroversial until 1930 is another misrepresentation.

Please accept this as an explanation of this passage for deeper understanding and not a criticism of natural family planning. Truth does not require misrepresentations, unintentional or otherwise, and shocking, absolutists statements as proof. I hope that this post will help refine arguments and understanding of this topic for all of us participating.

Peace to you and blessings.

Belteshazzar Mouse said...

Oops. Paul IV looks just like Paul VI. I was thinking six, not four. it was 3 in the morning. :">

Carlus Henry said...

I am currently reading a book called "More Christianity". It is a great book that talks about the search for more truth and more fulfillment to love and serve God.

While reading Dan's response, I am reminded about this book. Did Onan break levrite law? Yes. He definitely did. We cannot argue that point, especially because the Church declares it is true. Did he only break the levrite law and therefore was put to death? No. He committed two sins, not just one.

I found this great article that goes into a lot of detail about this passage. The author is building the case that it is not merely what he did not do (giving his deceased brother an heir), which displeased God, but it is the act that he did do in order to avoid it.

We are asked to believe...his sin was to refrain from acting appropriately toward his deceased brother because of some sort of selfish interior disposition. But why, in that case, does the text describe Onan's sin as a positive action ("he did a detestable thing")?

The author goes on to make more good points regarding this text, and I do encourage it's reading in entirety. However, they ultimately conclude the article by saying:

The witness of Christian as well as Jewish tradition on this point should be emphasized in conclusion. That Onan's unnatural act as such is condemned as sinful in Gen. 38:9-10 was an interpretation held by the Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Church, by the Protestant Reformers, and by nearly all celibate and married theologians of all Christian denominations until the early years of this century, when some exegetes began to approach the text with preconceptions deriving from the sexual decadence of modern Western culture and its exaggerated concern for 'over-population.' Sad to say, these preconceptions have since become entrenched as a new exegetical 'orthodoxy' which can no longer see even a trace of indignation in this passage of Scripture against intrinsically sterile forms of genital activity as such. We shall give the last word here to Pope Pius XI, who, in quoting the greatest of the Church Fathers, summed up and reaffirmed this unbroken tradition in his Encyclical on Christian Marriage, Casti Connubii (31 December 1930). After roundly condemning as intrinsically contrary to the natural moral law all practices which intend to deprive the conjugal act of its procreative power, the Pontiff gave an authoritative interpretation of this biblical text which not only confirms the tradition, but is itself confirmed by impartial and historically well-informed exegesis:

Wherefore it is not surprising that the Sacred Scriptures themselves also bear witness to the fact that the divine Majesty attends this unspeakable depravity with the utmost detestation, sometimes having punished it with death, as St. Augustine recalls:

"For it is illicit and shameful for a man to lie with even his lawful wife in such a way as to prevent the conception of offspring. This is what Onan, son of Judah, used to do; and for that God slew him" (cf. Gen. 38:8-10).

To say it was uncontroversial until 1930 is another misrepresentation

I think that the author of this article is trying to make the point that all Christian Theologians and Denominations agreed on the point of contraception being immoral until 1930. Sure, contraception may have been around, but everyone was taught at their church that it was not acceptable for use. After the Lambeth Conference approved of it's use, it was not long after that other denominations followed suit.

Also, here is a much more condensed article that discusses the sin of Onan as well.

Always your Brother in Christ.