11.29.2005

Moving Beyond 'The Pill'...

The inaugural post for this blog was on November 4th, and was entitled ‘Cruising for Pill info on the info Super-High-Way’. In it I recalled my disappointment over what little information one can find concerning ‘The Pill’ on the LC-MS website. The one piece of information that can be found there is a brief paper by Dr. Richard Eyer entitled BIRTH CONTROL PILLS: CONTRACEPTIVE OR ABORTIFACIENT?

In recent days I have given this paper more thought and have come to the realization that it serves as a great spring-board for our continuing conversation. At the moment (even as more people are sharing their stories of marital thought and practice concerning contraception in general and specifically ‘The Pill’) it appears that it would be advantageous for us to move beyond ‘The Pill’ toward a discussion of the more general class of contraceptives.

Dr. Eyer writes:
"The claim that hormonal contraceptives such as the birth control pill include an abortion causing effect is being widely spread by well-meaning, but misinformed pro-life people. The rumor claims to be based on scientific fact when there is no such evidence to
support it... The issue here is a concern for the credibility of the pro-life witness. At present it is being compromised by misinformation and is causing divisiveness within that same community."


Dr. Eyer's premises are, as I understand them:
1) That a lack of scientific evidence leaves us with no grounds upon which to believe/suggest/rumor there to be a link between the pill and abortion (an argument based on biology).
2) Furthermore, that misinformed pro-lifers who espouse such a connection are hurting the pro-life witness.

Dr. Eyer has thus (as far as his logic is concerned) denied the connection between the pill and "an abortion causing effect." Thus Christian couples are saved from this "rumor" set forth by "well-meaning, but misinformed pro-life people." The Pill is safe, he argues.

For the moment I will concede this point to Dr. Eyer (though I do not agree with his premises or his conclusions). Let's say ‘The Pill’ is safe. I would still like to ask the following important questions...

Is the only potential connection between ‘The Pill’ and abortion one of biology? Or, insofar as ‘The Pill’ falls into the larger class of contraceptives is there another connection to abortion? (Notice I have broadened the scope of concern from ‘The Pill’ to contraceptives in general.)

The answers are No and Yes, respectively.

Sam and Bethany Torode, in their book Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception (Eerdmans, 2002), point out that their is also a legal/cultural connection. They write (pg. 66):

In America's history, there has been a clear progression from endorsing contraception to accepting abortion. Legally, "reproductive rights" were first established by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which guaranteed the right to contraception for married persons. In Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), the court extended contraceptive rights to the unmarried. Both decisions overturned state laws, passed by largely Protestant legislatures in the nineteenth century, banning or restricting the sale of contraceptives. In so doing, they set the precedent for the right to abortion created by Roe v. Wade (1973).

On the surface, it seems ridiculous: How could the right to prevent pregnancy be construed as a right to terminate a pregnancy? Writing for the majority in Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun states that the realm of "sexual privacy" established by
Griswold and Eisenstadt "is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy." (Roe v. Wade, 410 US113 (1973), Opinion of the Court, section VII.)

This is a recording of the facts of history by the Torodes. This does not represent their thoughts or opinions on the matter. Rather, it demonstrates the connection in the logic and thinking of the majority of the Justices in Roe v. Wade. In their reasoning and judgment (whether right or wrong) they determined that a woman's right to "privacy" and her decision to engage in contracepting intercourse extends then to her right to decide "whether or not to terminate a pregnancy" (abortion).

There IS a legal/cultural/secular connection between contraceptives and abortion. Like it or not the connection is there. The reasoning and laws that allow abortions to take place rest on the backs of the reasoning and laws that made contraceptives legal.

When it comes to the biology of the workings of ‘The Pill’ we can dismiss the topic – saying that there is no scientific research which we can point to as the smoking gun. But we, and Dr. Eyer, have a more daunting task yet if we wish to eradicate all connections between contraceptives and abortion... We have to deal with the connection named above - a connection that the pro-choice, pro-abortion crowd are well aware of and even celebrate.

"The issue here is a concern for the credibility of the pro-life witness."

To the pro-choice, pro-abortion crowd we, the pro-life contracepting Christians, look less than credible as we cry out against abortions on the one hand, while with the other we whole heartedly embrace - and swallow - the contraceptive age.

24 comments:

Eric Phillips said...

David writes,
"There IS a legal/cultural/secular connection between contraceptives and abortion. Like it or not the connection is there."

Yeah, and there is also a Freudian connection between the first Bush's failure to unseat Saddam and the second Bush's determination to do so, according to some people. And a connection between Christianity and the oppression of women, according to other people. BS connections don't become somehow validated just because some of the people who maintain them happen to be Supreme Court Justices.

Why stop with Griswold? Why not go back to the constitutional basis for this alleged "right of privacy"? You know, the provision in the Bill of Rights that protects us from unwarranted search and seizure. If the right to contracept led to the right to abort, and the protection from unreasonable search and seizure led to the right to contracept, then the root of all this mischief is really article four of the Bill of Rights. But I'll bet that won't stop you from complaining to the proper authorities if a police officer comes and kicks down your door in the middle of the night without a search warrant.

David again:
"To the pro-choice, pro-abortion crowd we, the pro-life contracepting Christians, look less than credible as we cry out against abortions on the one hand, while with the other we whole heartedly embrace - and swallow - the contraceptive age."

Being able to distinguish between abortion and contraception is absolutely essential to pro-life credibility. If the reason we're so opposed to abortion is that we consider it to be _murder_, that makes it a very different thing from contraception, and something to which the same rules necessarily do not apply--regardless of what wiz-kid Harry Blackmun has to say about it.

Caspar said...

The way I see it, abortion and contraception are simply symptoms of the same postmodern separation of God (by man) from the biological and sociological processes He created.

I agree with Eric from a logical sense that the judicial use of argumets for birth control to justify legalizing abortion does not necessarily indict birth control in and of itself. However, we need to step back and look at the big picture. The rampant acceptance of both contraception and abortion in the last century is a symptom of the same postmodern individualism and moral relativity.

I made the mistake of thinking back when Clinton committed his lewd acts as President that we needed to remove him from office or even jail him in order to maintain morality in this country. The acceptance and even celebration of his actions showed me that Clinton was not a cause of immorality but rather a symptom. It changed my whole worldview.

I still think Clinton should have been removed from office and should have done time for purgery, but I realized it would not change the greater problem which Clinton was simply a product of.

Contraception and abortion are linked in that they both reflect the postmodern view that we have a "right" as individuals to decide when our self-gratifying sexual acts will result in the birth of a child - whether we use NFP, the Pill, or abortion. Gone is our sense of submission to the will of God which marked most previous history. We are the "me" generation.

In this sense, Pr. Rufner is correct. Taking submission to God off the table by granting the premise that contraception is an acceptable choice, the logical conclusion in the postmodern mind is that abortion is also an acceptable choice. What we are seeing currently in the culture is that if abortion is an acceptable choice, then so is euthenasia, and so on. The inevitable progression of thought once we think we have a right to control when life begins and ends is horrifying.

I personally believe the artificial designation of life beginning at "conception" is an unnecessary invention. Life is not something you can nail down that easily. It is a mystery. Human life begins with the creative processes that God ordained on the sixth day. The sperm that travels up the fallopian tube to fertilize an egg is alive. Every one of them is on a mission. Preventing the chosen one from reaching his God-ordained destination is wrong, whether you hold it in during the fertile period of your wife in NFP, or kill it with spermicide.

When these ongoing biological processes result in new human beings is God's business, not ours. Once one accepts that fact and submits to God's good and perfect will, the whole question of abortion and contraception are mute points.

God chose each human being before the foundations of the world. To say that what we do has no effect on the existence of this or that individual is faulty. If a person is conceived and born, it is entirely God's doing, even though He uses us to accomplish His purpose. He deserves ALL the glory. If a person is prevented from being conceived and/or born, it is entirely our doing. We deserve ALL the blame. Does this concept sound familiar? It should!

Caspar

Caspar said...

Martin Luther said it well:

"For this word which God speaks, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' is not a command. It is more than a command, namely, a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore. Rather, it is just as necessary as the fact that I am a man, and more necessary than sleeping and waking, eating and drinking, and emptying the bowels and bladder. It is a nature and disposition just as innate as the organs involved in it. Therefore, just as God does not command anyone to be a man or a woman but created them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates them so that they have to multiply. And wherever men try to resist this, it remains irresistible nonetheless and goes its way through fornication, adultery, and secret sins, for this is a matter of nature and not of choice.

"In the third place, from this ordinance of creation God has himself exempted three categories of men, saying in Matthew 19:12, 'There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.' Apart from these three groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse. And whoever does not fall within one of these three categories should not consider anything except the estate of marriage. Otherwise it simply impossible for you to remain righteous. For the Word of God which created you and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' abides and rules within you; you can by no means ignore it, or you will be bound to commit heinous sins without end."

[LW 45, p. 18]

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar writes,

"In this sense, Pr. Rufner is correct. Taking submission to God off the table by granting the premise that contraception is an acceptable choice, the logical conclusion in the postmodern mind is that abortion is also an acceptable choice."

By that logic, "taking submission to God off the table" by allowing people to choose their own spouses on the basis of subjective impressions such as romantic love and compatibility, instead of submitting to arranged marriages, leads to the "logical conclusion" that divorce is entirely a personal choice also.

Time to get off the fence and start pushing for arranged marriages, Caspar. That'll also take care of the problem of all those "chosen sperm" who die off during the period when people are looking for "the right one" to marry.

Caspar said...

Eric,

Time to get off the intellectual "logic" arguments and think about what Scripture says. Scripture does not forbid choosing your own spouse on the basis of subjective impressions such as romantic love and compatibility. Scripture does forbid birth control.

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Ah, well if it did, that would be entirely different. Since you can't prove that claim, though, I'll just have to settle for dealing logically with the intellectual arguments raised by _you._

Caspar said...

Ah, but I can prove that claim, Eric!

That is, if you accept strictly grammatical-historical exegesis of plenary verbal inspired Scripture, which can be supported by nearly 2000 years of orthodox theology. The Word of God both explicitly and implicitly condemns all forms of birth control, including NFP.

I would have begun laying out the biblical evidence long ago, but I'm trying to allow Pr. Rufner's outline of this discussion to run its course first. Nonetheless, if we were to first look at what Scripture says on the issue of contraception, all these arguments regarding the difference between various birth control methods would be mute.

If contraception is only wrong if it might murder a conceived child, then there are lots of ways we Christians can get around that. With NFP practiced faithfully, we can even out contracept Planned Parenthood with their free condoms!

By the way, being in the via media on this issue, what do you think about Bob Waters' intentional childlessness?

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

We've already discussed what you conceive to be the biblical evidence. Not here, yet, but at Beggar's All and a little bit on Bunnie Diehl. I was profoundly unimpressed, and expect to be so again, unless you've come up with something new in the mean time. We can wait on that.

Intentional childlessness is, in most cases, a missed opportunity and a case of bad stewardship of God's gifts. Objections based on means are not sufficient, I think, because the experience of millions suggests that when something absolutely _has_ to be done, it becomes possible--and certainly there could be no better cause to bring before God when praying for material blessings. Objections based on temperament also fall short, I think, for a similar reason: we never know how we can and cannot change in the future, either for good or for ill. All we can do at present is to put ourselves in situations that will exert a good influence on us in the future. One of the best such situations I can think of is marriage to a like-minded faithful Christian, and the other best such situation I can think of is rearing a child with that person.

I have not, however, considered the question from the standpoint of someone who marries in his 50's, and I don't know that I can.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Eric,

Caspar writes: "Taking submission to God off the table by granting the premise that contraception is an acceptable choice, the logical conclusion in the postmodern mind is that abortion is also an acceptable choice."

You write: "By that logic, 'taking submission to God off the table' by allowing people to choose their own spouses on the basis of subjective impressions such as romantic love and compatibility, instead of submitting to arranged marriages, leads to the 'logical conclusion' that divorce is entirely a personal choice also."

I am aware of God's command, even his ordinance as Luther puts it, to be fruitful and multiply.

Is there a divine command, or ordinance, for arranged marriages that I am not aware of?

Tina said...

Erich, I made the same connection you did regarding the ability to reject children but not to create them (sounds like faith to me), some time ago, but you are the first I've seen to verbalize it in these discussions. (and I am too unsure of my theological ability to do so first).

In many of these discussions, it seems to me there are 2 sets of assumptions. One being that the begetting of children is primarily a biological phenomenon. You put the elements together and a child results. The other being that you can put the elements together all you want, and if God does not intend for a child to result, it won't--life is God's to create, not ours.


This raised a question I wanted to pose to Eric. Do you believe that it would be possible to have a child that God did not intend for you to have? Or to put it another way, is every child conceived done so BECAUSE of God, or can we create children outside of His will?

I think this has important implications to the stance a person will take on the issue of contraception. If children are a matter of pure biology, then we may have some role in controlling that. If children are only created by God (using the means of man and woman), then perhaps, it is outside of our authority to hinder the process.

Tina

Caspar said...

Caspar wrote: "Scripture does forbid birth control."

Eric replies: "Ah, well if it did, that would be entirely different. Since you can't prove that claim..."

Caspar replied: "Ah, but I can prove that claim..."

Eric replies: "We've already discussed what you conceive to be the biblical evidence. Not here, yet, but at Beggar's All and a little bit on Bunnie Diehl. I was profoundly unimpressed, and expect to be so again, unless you've come up with something new in the mean time. We can wait on that."

Eric,

Being "profoundly unimpressed" is not the same as refuting the evidence. I did not claim the evidence would impress you. I claimed that Scripture forbids birth control. Those who are not satisfied with evidence based on the principles of "plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture" and "grammatical-historical exegesis" (and who hold the consistent interpretation of Scripture by orthodox [small "o"] theologians for 2000 years as meaningless) will, of course, be unimpressed.

In the relatively short discussions you and I have had on other blogs, you have failed (based upon these principles) to refute what brief biblical evidence I have presented there. Your arguments are virtually always gross exaggerations and supposed logical inferences based upon views of Scripture seen through the colored lense of modern biological science and historical-critical exegeses that naturally satisfy the postmodern mind.

You have not even begun to see the complete biblical grammatical-historical exegetical evidence in the short discussions you and I have had before. You simply ignore such evidence as invalid because it doesn't match up with your postmodern concepts based upon science and logic.

I EAGERLY look forward to presenting the complete evidence on this blog and seeing you once again fail to refute it, while at the same time exposing your postmodern critical views.

Caspar

Tina said...

Here is a quote from a book by Mary Pride called "The Way Home", that addresses the link between birth control and abortion. (In some respects, this book may be a bit 'out there', but it sure provides a lot of food for thought, and really changed my perspective on motherhood and the biblical role God has designed for women).

"Family planning is the mother of abortion. A generation had to be indoctrinated in the ideal of planning children around personal convenience before abortion could become popular. We Christians raise an outcry against abortion today, and rightly so. But the reason we have to fight these battles today is because we lost them 30 years ago. (note: the copywrite on the book is 1985) Once couples began to look upon children as creatures of their own making, who they could plan into their lives as they chose or not, all reverence for human life was lost. Children as God's gifts whom we humbly receive are one thing; children as aritcles of our own manufatcturing are another. You can do anything you like with what you yourself have made."

Also, in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the court stated, "in some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception...for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail."

So, I think there IS a connection in our society, even if we don't like to admit it.

Contraception is the hinge-pin on which feminism hangs. In order for women to compete with men, they had to be freed from the 'burden' of child-bearing and child-rearing. Abortion became necessary for those cases when contracetpives failed so her plans were not disrupted. I would contend that feminism is a rejection of the biblical role that God has ordained for women.

I don't think we have any idea how much the doctrines of feminism have invaded and permeated our culture, our churches, and our thoughts.

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

You say, "Being 'profoundly unimpressed' is not the same as refuting the evidence."

Of course it isn't. Boy, you got me there.

Really, if we're not going to have the biblical debate just yet, then let's just wait till we can, ok? This posturing about what you're going to do to my position once you get the chance is reminding me of professional wrestling, or Dragonball Z.

Eric Phillips said...

Tina asks:

"This raised a question I wanted to pose to Eric. Do you believe that it would be possible to have a child that God did not intend for you to have? Or to put it another way, is every child conceived done so BECAUSE of God, or can we create children outside of His will?"

I don't think there is any difference in this regard between having a child and doing anything else. None of our intentions can come to fruition if God prevents them, and many of our intentions will fail unless God actively promotes them. That's true of conceiving a child, and it's true of walking down the street.

So can we conceive children outside the will of God? Yes, we can. For instance, if I cheat on my wife and get another woman pregnant, it really can't be disputed that we conceived that child outside of the will of God. Not outside of His _sovereignty_, of course, because He could have made us barren, or struck me dead first, or something like that--but definitely outside of what He _wants_.

Tina said...

Hmm, see, I guess I see a difference between having a child and walking down the street. But I also see a difference in walking down the street and dying too. What I don't see much of a difference in is the beginning of life, and the end of it. God says in Deut 32:39, "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life." To me, this says that both the beginning of life and the end of it are in God's hands.

The psalm says, "before *I* formed you in the womb I knew you." Jacob says to Rachel, "who am I, God, that I should be able to give you children?" (when she wailed at him because she was barren).

I'm really not trying to split hairs, just trying to clearly define (for myself mostly) what is being said.

While I agree that the *circumstances* surrounding the conception of the child in your example would be outside of God's will, I don't know that I can say the child itself was.

I simply cannot bring myself to the conclusion that any child is an 'accident'. Even in that circumstance, I believe that God would have a purpose for that life that HE created. That that child would be HIS child, a child Jesus died for, and a child that God knew even before He formed it in the womb or before the foundation of the earth.

But, if it's possible for a child to be born at the wrong time, or in the wrong situation, then isn't also possible that we should be able to take whatever measures necessary to correct that 'mistake'?

Caspar said...

Eric wrote: So can we conceive children outside the will of God? Yes, we can.

Eric,

I hope you just didn't understand Tina, and that you don't really mean what you just said.

There is a world of difference between sinful copulation and the event of life being conceived subsequent to it. Let me make an illustration what I would think is a simple concept. God uses suffering to conform us to the image of His Son. Man's sinful nature causes the suffering, but the result of molding us into Christ's image is entirely by the will of God.

Sinful copulation is not God's will, but if, subsequent to the sinful act, God uses the chance meeting of a sperm and an egg to produce a child, THAT is purely God's will. Most children are produced in this world subsequent to sinful copulation, but none of them came into this world except by the pure will of God which bespeaks all things into existence.

When a child is conceived, it is entirely God's will. When conception is prevented via contraception or abortion, even in cases involving sinful copulation, it is entirely man's sin if a child is not conceived. Or is it your position that a child of a rapist is a child that God did not will to be conceived?

THERE IS NO HUMAN WHO HAS EVER BEEN CONCEIVED OUTSIDE THE WILL OF GOD.

If there are ever cloned humans, then I will accept that they are conceived by the will of God, even though the act which leads to their sinful, broken, biological, genetic composition is sinful.

There is no other tenable Christian position. Our God is the Author of all life, though we are all conceived in sin. The sin of Adam corrupted the material from which we are all made, though none of us exists except by the will of God.

Respectfully,

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

Tina,

God is in control of life and death, but that doesn't make for any difference. He's also in control of me walking down the street. There are of course hundreds of differences between having a child and taking a walk, but this isn't one of them.

God brings good out of evil constantly. I might attempt a crime, and thus start a chain of events that leads to something good; but the fact still remains that I was outside of God's expressed will when I set out to commit that sin.

Eric Phillips said...

Caspar,

God isn't just the author of life. He is the author also of walking down the street. His sovereignty in the area of granting life is no "more sovereign" than it is anywhere else.

Don't miss the fact that I said nothing happens outside of God's _sovereignty._ I am distinguishing between things God allows and brings good out of despite ourselves, and things that God _wants_, i.e. that He has told us are good. If we distinguish between the pregnancy and the cause of that pregnancy, as if they were two different acts, then it makes sense to say that the first thing happened within God's sovereignty, but the second thing (the good brought from evil) as a direct result of God's desire.

They are not two different acts, though. The resulting child cannot be separated from act of copulation that formed him. If he is the product of an adulterous union, he will for the rest of his life be composed of two sets of genes that should never have combined.

Sarah said...

I think we are forgetting that we are dealing with a cause and effect relationship- sex causes babies; no sex= no babies. What contraception does is interupt the natural cause and effect that God created. NFP is different than a condom or the pill because no sex is taking place.

Spermies still exist prior to marriage.

Eric Phillips said...

Sarah,

If I contracept, I am not violating cause and effect; I am just introducing other factors that make for a different cause and effect. Yes, the first one was the natural default, and the second one was invented by man--but that's no more a violation of nature than we engage in every time we ride an airplane, a car, or even a bicycle.

Eric Phillips said...

David,

No, there is no divine command for arranged marriages, just as there is no divine command banning contraception. If there were, the rest of this discussion would be moot. Since there isn't, the virtue of "submission" in both cases is parallel.

The bit from Luther that Caspar posted re: "be fruitful and multiply" was written against requirements of celibacy, not against contraception.
Luther was saying that this divine ordinance is IN us, not outside of us--in our sex drive, that is, which is
why he says we can't ignore it (unless we have received the grace to be "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven") except by doing injury to ourselves.

Now, obviously someone who contracepts all the time is probably ultimately going to fail to "be fruitful and multiply," and that's a shame, especially if that person is a good Christian, and therefore likely to produce more Christians. But if someone uses contraception only to delay having children, or to help space them out, that does not at all prevent him from being fruitful and multiplying.

Tina said...

Eric, couple of more questions (and I really appreciate the answers, because it's helping me work through this).

I'm still processing (with my husband's help) the exeption you posted (still not willing to say there are children here that God did not intend to be here, though). But, I'm wondering if the answer would change if we're talking about a married couple. Sex is licit, so there should be no way to conceive a child outside of God's will, right?

I always cringe when a discussion of what should be *normative* for Christians turns to the hard exceptions. Yes, there are exceptions, but we should not be making judgements about what is normal based on the exceptions. If my house were broken into, it would be permissable for me to shoot that intruder. But we could not then say that it is permissable for us to shoot people whenever we want, simply because it was the lesser of 2 evils in this case.

Also, you approve of contraception for 'delaying' or 'spacing' children. What about that couple who's decided 2's the max, is in their 20's and uses contraception for the next 20-25 years until menopause to eliminate the possibility of more?

Thanks for responding.

Eric Phillips said...

Tina,

"(still not willing to say there are children here that God did not intend to be here, though)"

Well, God intentionally brings good out of evil, so in that sense he intends new life even when the means are evil. If you ask the question before the evil is committed, however, God does not want it to happen.

Even within marriage, there are conceptions that I think we have to say God permits and turns to a good end rather than actively desiring. For instance, if a woman has a uterine defect that makes it impossible for her to carry a child to term, and she gets pregnant, it will just result in a miscarriage. Or a woman with a perfectly intact reproductive system could have a tubal pregnancy--which must result in the death of the baby, and will result in the death of the mother also unless an abortion is performed. God controls reproduction in the same way he controls the weather. Sometimes hurricanes flood cities and hundreds of people drown.

I'm not exactly saying we should make our decisions based on the exceptions. I'm saying we should make our decisions based on as complete an understanding of the picture as we can get; and any attempt to get a complete picture needs to account for the exceptions.

About people stopping at two children, well--if they are good Christian parents, and still young and healthy, I wish they would keep going. Few people get the chance to do more lasting good in any other way than they can do by rearing children.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Eric writes:

"About people stopping at two children, well--if they are good Christian parents, and still young and healthy, I wish they would keep going. Few people get the chance to do more lasting good in any other way than they can do by rearing children."

Well put Eric. We would all do well the extol the Godly work of rearing children.

David