A birth control puzzle

When the question is asked, What should we do to reduce unwed pregnancies? most non-Christians would answer, increase sex-ed and access to birth control; whereas most Christians would answer, teach sexual abstinence before marriage, that is, reinstitute pre-marital sexual abstinence as a societal value. And when the liberals say no that doesn’t work, people will have sex no matter what you tell them, the Christians reply that that’s not true, they just have to learn to exercise discipline over their bodies.

Yet when the question is asked, what should be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies within marriage, most Christians would answer, use birth control!

Why the different answer when the context is within marriage? Are people no longer capable of exercising discipline over their bodies once they get married?

(See also “Discipline, concupiscence and birth control.”)

6 thoughts on “A birth control puzzle

  1. Wouldn’t the argument against birth control within marriage need to be different? Married couples are expected to have sex, biblically. While non married are not.


  2. Yes and why are married couples expected to have sex? For fun and pleasure any time they want, with the intention of avoiding procreation? Is there biblical support for that idea?


    • I never said “to avoid procreation”. Sex is multi purposeful. Union, pleasure, love, procreation.

      My only point is that to argue that sex before and after marriage in the same way is to miss the biblical ethic.

      I think that the argument against birth control is that we are not the arbiter of life: God is. To “control” birth is to have a prerogative that is not ours to have!


  3. You write, “My only point is that to argue that sex before and after marriage in the same way is to miss the biblical ethic.”

    We were discussing birth control in and out of marriage, not sex per se. Outside marriage the only argument needed for a Christian is that birth control is forbidden because sex is forbidden. But birth control is argued for nevertheless, on the ground that people are *incapable* of not having sex, regardless of whether it’s allowed. If people are incapable of not having sex — incapable by nature, as it were — then that would apply within marriage as well as without. Therefore, the argument in favor of the need for birth control would be the same in both cases, since in both cases the need for it arises from our inability to not have sex.

    But if we reply by arguing that outside marriage, birth control is not needed, because people are capable of controlling their sexual impulses and abstaining from sex and thereby avoiding pregnancy, why can’t the same argument be made within marriage?


  4. I understand. I would only ask: Should married couples control their sexual desires? Doesn’t Paul say that couples should not abstain from sex? That the husband and wife belong to one another?


  5. St. Paul says that they should not deny one another, which is different from saying you should not deny yourself. He continues, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer”, and after that time they should “come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (v. 5)

    But he says this as a concession, not a command. (v. 6) Indeed, ideally he would have everyone be as he is, that is, single and celibate (believing that Jesus’ coming was near). But if they can’t control themselves then marriage is better than burning with lust. (v. 7-9)

    As I read this, Paul is not commanding people to not control their desires. In fact he would rather that they controlled their desires, but admits that the ability to do this is a gift from God (v. 7). For those who lack the gift, that is, those who can’t control their lusts, it’s better to marry. Therefore he’s not saying it’s a good thing to not control your lusts; on the contrary, if controlling your lusts is a gift, then clearly it’s a good thing.

    But none of this says anything about the point of our discussion, which is birth control. The question is not, should one refrain from sex as a general principle. The question is what is the best way to avoid procreation? Should one avoid procreation by abstaining from sex? or by indulging in sex while using artificial means to thwart its end result?

    If we argue that young people should not be taught to use birth control because they can avoid pregnancy by avoiding sex, then the same argument can apply within marriage, as stated. But if we argue based on St. Paul that people who can’t control themselves should marry, and those who are married should not deny themselves to each other lest they sin (and therefore birth control should be allowed), then to be consistent, it seems to me that we need to make it a high priority to get young people married as early as possible, lest they too burn with lust.

    All I’m saying is that it’s inconsistent to argue that young men and women can control themselves sufficiently to avoid pregnancy, while at the same time arguing that people within marriage should not be expected to control themselves. If the unmarried can control themselves, then so can the married; and if the married cannot, then neither should we expect it of the unmarried.


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