God and Sexuality Q&A: what about contraception?
On Sunday 30th January we started our three week mini-series, ‘God and sexuality’. We didn’t have time to cover questions raised in the Q&A after our first session on ‘sexuality and the Bible’, so here are some written responses. It’s hard to give the necessary nuance and sensitivity in written form, so please get in touch if you want to chat any of this through more.
Q1: What about contraception?
This is a good question. I think an expanded form of the question would read, ‘if procreation lies at the heart of God’s design for sex, how does the human invention of contraception fit in with that?’ In the talk we saw that western secular culture views procreation as incidental, rather than central, to sex; a view that has been enabled in large part by effective forms of contraception developed over the past century. What should Christians therefore think about contraception? The answer requires some nuance. The catholic church has always taught that any form of birth control is wrong. There is a good instinct at the heart of this teaching: Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-4), and Christians should embrace (rather than prevent) the birth of children and trust God with the timing and extent of their family (rather than take things into their own hands).
However, since there is no direct Biblical prohibition against birth control, most protestants are reluctant to add a command that the Bible itself doesn’t include. In addition, the Bible’s teaching about God’s purpose for sex is multi-faceted. This is well reflected in the Anglican wedding service that many of us will have heard on many occasions:
“The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together in the delight and tenderness of sexual union and joyful commitment to the end of their lives. It is given as the foundation of family life in which children are born and nurtured…”
Sex is intended primarily as a means of procreation. But it also serves a vital function in strengthening a marriage, as, through their sexual relationship, a couple grow in trust, transparency, intimacy and mutual dependence. Biblical books such as the Song of Songs, as well as some portions of the book of Proverbs make this aspect of God’s design for sex very clear. The sexual union of a couple also points ahead to the intimacy of the relationship between Christ and his people (Eph. 5: 31-32), which marriage is intended to picture. Thus, God’s design for sex continues to be faithfully expressed by a married couple who choose to use contraception.
Having said that, the instinct behind the catholic prohibition is an important one. Christians should view children as a blessing from the Lord, and remember that ultimately, even with contraception, we are not in control of their arrival. I’m sure that some of us will testify to that personally. Additionally, we should lament the use of contraception to facilitate sexual promiscuity and the use of God’s gift of sex outside of his intended purpose for it in marriage. The secular notion that the only requirement for ‘safe-sex’ is the use of contraception is deeply problematic, and the cause of real pain and damage in our society. It will never be wholly ‘safe’ to use God’s gift of sex outside of its intended purpose of marriage, even when God’s common grace and love often prevents its misuse from being as destructive as it might be.
Missed out on the sermon? Catch up here!