A Common Fallacious Argument

We've perhaps all heard this argument:

Non-abortifacient contraception is fine because if it's God's will for you to have a baby he'll just see to it that the contraception doesn't work.

This argument is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to begin assessing them all: Calvinist assertion of inviolability of God's will, begging the question, putting the Lord your God to the test, basic stupidity, etc.

So, I'd like to ask for further exposition of everything that is wrong with this statement. And, more importantly, what would be the best pastoral response to such an erroneous assertion?


Rebekah said...

I'm hungry, so I'm going to eat a gallon of ice cream while I think about this post, and if God doesn't want me to get fat he won't let me.

Or maybe I should swallow a Ziplock bag full of ice cream, and if God does want me to get fat he'll make the bag break?

Gosh, this is confusing. Anyway, the Bible doesn't say anything about ice cream.

Reb. Mary said...

Ha! I get all twitchy whenever I hear assertions of this sort, too twitchy to type coherently. So I think I'll just go have some ice cream too :)

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I've also heard this same principle applied like this:

"God has already chosen the day and time of my death. Wearing a seat belt is not going to change anything."


To be consistent, those who make this fallacious "unqualified sovereignty of God" argument regarding procreation must also be guilty of this more serious error condemned in the Visitation Articles (and elsewhere):

"That the elect and regenerate cannot lose faith and the Holy Ghost and be condemned, even though they commit great sins and crimes of every kind."

They must, therefore, also hold to the false doctrine of double predestination, believing that God creates some people for damnation, and therefore that Christ did not die for the sins of the whole world.

TruthQuestioner said...

It should be quite simple. You can even use their own underlying assumptions:

God's will cannot be violated.
Therefore my action will not violate God's will, no matter my intentions.

So far that is logical considering the premise. However, what is not logical is the conclusion that "acting against God's will is fine," ever.

You can then flip the syllogism and ask,"Well, if God's will determines whether you have a baby or not, and you can't do anything to stop His will, then why in the world would you pay for pills which don't change anything? Why not save your money?" You see, by the underlying premise of God's inviolable will, it works the other way too. If God doesn't want you to have a baby, you can try and try and it won't work. So why bother with contraception if God determines whether you concieve anyway?

The very fact that people use contraception means that they believe that God's will CAN be violated.

There are two alternatives implicit in this belief: Either (1)God's good will for us can be thwarted by outside evil influences or (2) We can thwart God's will (and should because we know better than He does what is good for us).

1. If God wills for our "good,"
and children are not "good" for us,
then God's willing must be thwartable by other influences since we have children.
Therefore, we are justified in pursuing a "good" of preventing children.

2. Implicit in the use of contraception is an uncomfortable, unspoken realization that God ordains conception, pregnancy, children. If this is so, and we wish to avoid children, then we must somehow thwart God.
If it were not God's will for us to have children, then we would not be attempting to prevent receiving the gift.

Both of these are dangerous viewpoints to have.

GL said...

Excellent post and comments. There is a corollary to the fallacious argument cited: that while Scripture undeniable teaches in a multitude of places that children are a blessing from God and that the man who has many is very blessed, we are under no obligation to accept all His blessings. What a crock! When that comes up, my question is invariably, "What other blessings of God do you refuse to accept?" They can, of course, name none. The truth is that in using contraception we are either calling God a liar or denying His omniscience (i.e., saying He is mistaken) when, by our use of contraception, we deny that children are a blessing.

And here is the relationship: God's Word clearly declares that children are His blessing. Therefore, when He chooses to give us children, He is blessing us. That is, it is His will to so bless us. The unavoidable conclusion is that we are seeking to thwart His will to bless us when we us contraception. Whether we succeed are not is irrelevant to the question of what we are attempting to do. In that regard, TruthQuestioner's comments are spot on.

GL said...

Here is an email which I sent to a group of Christians with whom I discuss current events. I think it relates in that it calls for doing something foolish on the premise that what God wills is what will occur. Hmm. What about the warning not to put God to the test?

Beginning of the email:

[So much for, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" In any event, now we learn that not only are the Republicans and Democrats, bankers and borrowers to blame, but so too is Joel Osteen and company. GL]

Friday, Oct. 03, 2008

Did God Want You to Get That Mortgage?

By David Van Biema

Has the so-called Prosperity Gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That's what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California Riverside, he realized that Prosperity's central promise — that God would "make a way" for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, toxic expression during sub-prime boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe "God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house." The results, he says, "were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers."

Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York state, "The pastor's not gonna say 'go down to Wachovia and get a loan' but I have heard, 'even if you have a poor credit rating God can still bless you — if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you'll get that house, or that car or that apartment.'" Adds J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma, "It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, 'if you give this offering, God will give you a house. And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy." If so, the situation offers a look at how an native-born faith built partially on American econoic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market.

Although a type of Pentecostalism, Prosperity theology adds a distinctive layer of supernatural positive thinking. Adherents will reap rewards if they prove their faith to God by contributing heavily to their churches, remaining mentally and verbally upbeat, and concentrating on divine promises of worldly bounty supposedly strewn throughout the bible. Critics call it a thinly disguised pastor-enrichment scam. Other experts, like Walton, note that for all its faults, it can empower people who have been taught to see themselves as financially or even culturally useless to feel they are "worthy of having more and doing more and being more." In some cases the philosophy has matured with its practitioners, encouraging good financial habits and entrepreneurship.

But Walton suggests that a decade's worth of ever-easier credit acted like drug in Prosperity's bloodstream. "The economic boom 90's and financial over-extensions of the new millennium contributed to the success of the prosperity message," he wrote recently. And not positively. "Narratives of how 'God blessed me with my first house despite my credit' were common. Sermons declaring 'it's your season to overflow' supplanted messages of economic sobriety," and "little attention was paid to.. the dangers of using one's home equity as an ATM to subsidize cars, clothes and vacations."

With the bubble burst, Walton and Butler assume that prosperity congregants have taken a disproportionate hit, and are curious as to how their churches will respond. Butler thinks that some of the flashier ministries will shrink along with their congregants' fortunes. Says Walton, "You would think that the current economic conditions would undercut their theology." But he predicts they will perservere, since God's earthly largesse is just as attractive when one is behind the economic eight ball.

A recently posted testimony by a congregant at the Brownsville Assembly of God near Pensacola, Fla., seems to confirm his intuition. Brownsville is not even a classic Prosperity congregation — it relies more on the anointing of its pastors than on scriptural promises of God. But the believer's note to his minister illustrates how magical thinking can prevail even after the mortgage blade has dropped. "Last Sunday," it read, "You said if anyone needed a miracle to come up. So I did. I was receiving foreclosure papers, so I asked you to anoint a picture of my home and you did and your wife joined with you in prayer as I cried. I went home feeling something good was going to happen. On Friday the 5th of September I got a phone call from my mortgage company and they came up with a new payment for the next 3 months of only $200. My mortgage is usually $1020. Praise God for his Mercy & Grace."

And pray that the credit market doesn't tighten any further.

Find this article at:

-- End of the email

The Prosperity Gospel and the indiscriminate use of contraceptives share this in common, they mock God and His Word.

Christopher Amen said...

In a sick way, the following statement is an extreme of what could be with this logic:

"I am going to go ahead and shoot you in the head, but if God wants you to live, you will."

Along several others along this same thought line mentioned above.

Sadly, at some point, pointing out such an extreme is necessary, especially for the pastor. The pastor ought to show how ludicrous this thought process is.

If this is how we view our life of faith in Christ, then why even attend the Divine Service? If God wants to give me forgiveness, stengthening and keeping me in the true faith, he will! I wish more pastors would show the error of such logic on this and other matters.