I have to apologize for my lack of scripture and confessional references. I do not have a profession which allows for extended free study time (all I have time to read is Where the Wild Things Are), and so you'll have to accept that my opinion is based on my basic understanding of Scripture and the Confessions. But that's all I have, a basic understanding.
Caspar believes that all contraception is sinful. I disagree, though. Rather, I believe that if it weren't for Sin (the state of mankind since the fall) contraception would never be necessary, but that is not the case.
It is easy to view the world through the lens of our own lives, and from where Americans sit, there are extremely few selfless reasons to contracept. We have cushy lives with cheap water and fuel, lots of food that's easy to come by, and most of us have jobs that support our families as well as buy us really awesome cars and TVs. But since Sin is a reality, this cushy life is not the norm for the rest of the world. And there are Christians in much more dire lives than we could ever imagine. As well, there are Christians in America dyeing of Cancer and Diabetes. There are any number of ways that Sin is eating away at the good things that God wants to bless us with, and it isn't any one specific person's fault, it's the whole world's fault.
So what's your point, Devona?
My point is that I do not believe that it is sinful for a married couple in China to avoid conception when they already have a child. While it is no longer "illegal" to have more than one child in China, there was recently a story on NPR about a pregnant woman in China. This was her second child and so she went into hiding. The local authorities discovered her and forced her to have an abortion just days before her due date and then forcefully sterilized her.
To avoid this fate, a Christian couple in China might choose to abstain during their fertile periods to avoid contraception. If I were to go visit them and say, "God forbids all contraception, even abstinence," what would that do to their faith? If I were to say, "I understand that you are just choosing the lesser of two evils," what would that do to their faith? Instead, I should mourn for them and the crush of Sin (not personal sin, but Sin) and offer them the Gospel of Christ which says that the evil of the world which we are all guilty of by Adam is crushed by Jesus' death on the cross, Amen!
Or what about the American couple whose wife suffers from bloodclots during pregnancy and is at risk of death. If they choose to abstain from conceiving would it be a comfort to them to say, "it is the lesser of two evils. It's better that you sin by contracepting than sin by killing your wife"? What comfort from Sin is there in that? Rather we should comfort them and say that the Lord of all life has conquered death, and that they are free from the curse of Sin which is the cause of the wife's illness.
How about the woman who has 7, or even 10 children, spaced years and years apart? Has she been fruitful? Has she multiplied?
An example I have used before is the couple who intends to adopt. Any adoption agency requires that a couple fit into very specific guidelines, one of which being that they promise not to become pregnant during the adoption process and for a year afterwards. I disagree with these requirements, but they are the requirements none the less. Even though the command to be "fruitful and multiply" is in Genesis it does not trump the command to take care of the "widows and orphans." So a couple who is longing to adopt must contracept in some way in order to bring home their child who is waiting for them.
I know (through a message board) a Catholic woman who was in the process of adopting a 4 year old blind girl from an Eastern country. She and her husband used NFP and ecological breastfeeding in order to postpone conception until the adoption process was over. In the end God over-rid her cycles and though she was practicing NFP perfectly she became pregnant almost exactly 3 weeks before she left to the East to bring her daughter home. She ended up hiding the pregnancy, and her daughter is home with them, but it would have been a tragedy if she had gotten pregnant sooner for she and her husband (they would have obviously loved their birth child, but they would have lost their daughter who they'd been waiting for for over 8 months and met twice) as well as for their daughter who likely would never have found another adoptive family with her age and disability.
I do not, and cannot, believe that this couple was sinfully avoiding conception.
There is a big difference between "personal sin" and "Sin" and when we condemn a person for "Sin" when they are already being crushed by it we are doing nothing more that damaging their faith. The suffering that "Sin" causes is enough to condemn us on its own, and it drives us to the foot of the cross.
All that said, there are definitely personally sinful reasons to avoid conception. In those cases we would be wise to bring our brother and sister to God's commands so that they can be called to repentance. But to say that all contraception, all the time, is a personal sin is to see the world through a very narrow lens. To call it "the lesser of two evils" is little consolation to those who feel the need to contracept for their safety or their survival. The crush of Sin is bad enough without us heaping condemnation on them to boot.