As a rule, Christians don’t discuss contraception, despite the fact that it’s an extremely important issue, possibly impacting the way we reflect God’s image in our marriages. Often, we just assume contraception is okay because our pastor or friends say it is without ever considering its implications. For this reason, I was excited to host a discussion on contraception Saturday on Up For Debate.
I was thrilled to have Christopher West on the program, a popular lay Catholic theologian who’s popularized John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” a compilation of teachings suggesting that God created the human body to express spiritual truths. I was first exposed to this teaching about seven or eight years ago and like many evangelicals (Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family, for one), have found the arguments to be extremely compelling.
I also was excited to have Jenell Paris on the program. She, like many leading female evangelical voices (Dr. Jenny Dyer and Rachel Marie Stone among them), not only embraces contraception, but advocates promoting it to women in developing countries. How would this view hold up against West’s view? Well, decide for yourself. You can listen to the entire program at the Up For Debate website. However, I’ve pulled some highlights for your consideration below:
In the above clip, Paris and West debate whether it’s okay for Christian couples to use forms of birth control that can destroy fertilized eggs (i.e. are abortifacient). When Paris suggests that abortifacient methods are moral options and expresses dismay that Christians would shame women by suggesting otherwise, West accuses Paris of abandoning moral absolutes.
One listener sent me the following response to this part of the show:
“I am 50+ years old and I used the pill as a form of contraception for many years, never thinking or realizing that there was potential for terminating a fetus/zygote… Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that I was, as your guest analogized, drinking poison unknowingly. I wish that my healthcare professionals had been more upfront and honest about that form of birth control!! I have experienced guilt about the decisions my husband and I made, but I think that guilt can be a good thing if it leads to repentance and God has forgiven us! . . .” —Loretta
In this clip, West explains the spiritual and medical reasons why he thinks all birth control is wrong (denies God’s design and treats fertility as a disease). Paris explains why she thinks using medical technologies to manage fertility, as opposed to denying it, can be a viable option for Christians. One note, when West talks about “self-control,” he’s referring to couples refraining from sex during the days of the month when a woman is fertile (i.e. Natural Family Planning).
In this final clip, Paris and West debate whether contraception is necessary for women and children to thrive in developing countries. Does contraception extend the life of women in these countries? Or, does it degrade them by “making them readily available for meaningless sex”? Fascinating discussion.
I would love to hear your thoughts regarding this program—here are a few I received through email. There are also many interesting comments on the Up For Debate Facebook page.
“I am a Christian who holds a sacred and biblical view of marital sex and while listening to your program I find myself examining the possibility that an IUD is possibly abortive. Lots to think about. However, mostly while I am listening to your guests I keep hearing “I think.” Are we held responsible to God for what we think or what His word says? We can think this or that all we want but God will never ask us our opinion about what His Word says, but whether we obeyed his word or not.” —Lucy
“We’ve got to stay strong on the Scriptures no matter what the culture politically or socially says. It is a tough call. Without a doubt, I would prefer to error to the right of the Scriptures. Marriage isn’t about sex, even though many a misguided teacher is teaching that.” — Rob
“I am scheduled for my tubal sterilization next Friday, April 3. My husband and I already have two children, which we love dearly, but just could not afford to have any more. I am already on two forms of blood pressure pills and I take a birth control pill. So to eliminate less pills I thought about getting my tubes tied. We are Christian believers and I’m not sure what God would want me to do! He did say to multiply… My husband just want us to do what’s best… Can you provide us with scripture on this please…” —”We’re nervous”