Common Error of Logic Regarding Contraception

There is a very common error of logic in most people's acceptance of contraception. To illustrate this logical fallacy, I will use the LCA's birth control statement from 1968. It is first stated that there are three purposes (or more correctly a "threefold purpose") to the one-flesh union of husband and wife:
(a) mutual help and companionship (Eph 5:25; Gen 2:18);
(b) procreation (Gen 1:28);
(c) avoidance of sexual immorality (1 Cor 7:2).
"Procreation thus cannot be regarded as the only purpose of marriage."

This is most certainly true. However, the LCA follows this immediately with a non sequitur:

"For married couples sexual intercourse, therefore, apart from the purpose of procreation is right and proper."

This simply does not follow. The fact that the purpose is threefold does not lead directly to the conclusion that it is right and good to intentionally eliminate any of these three if we don't want one of them. How can people continually make this error of logic? If there is one subject every educated person should be required to study, it's logic. The fact that there are three distinct aspects to the purpose of marriage does not mean we have the right to frustrate any of them. If it did, we would also have to hold that it would be good and right for either of the other two listed purposes to be intentionally frustrated. When is it "right and proper" in marriage to intentionally avoid mutual help and companionship? And, at what point in marriage would it be right not to avoid sexual immorality?

One might point out that it is still good and right for a husband and wife who have found themselves barren to continue engaging in marital relations. However, even the barren should not intentionally frustrate the procreative purpose of their union. In fact, they probably value the procreative purpose more than those who are fertile. I think of the relationship of the threefold purpose of marriage as similar in nature to the threefold purpose of the law. When would it be "right and proper" to intentionally frustrate any of the three purposes of the law? When a pastor preaches the law, he cannot preach one purpose at the expense of the other two. God decides what purpose(s) His Word will accomplish in every hearer. It is not our prerogative to limit the purpose.

It is then stated:

"It could be a violation of the law of love to bring children into the world without any regard to

(a) the welfare of the mother;
(b) the welfare of the children (e.g. will such children be adequately fed, clothed, sheltered and otherwise cared for without suffering perhaps irreparable harm to their physical, mental, ethical, and spiritual life?); and
(c) the welfare of the community and nation."

This is one of the reasons that I cannot accept the position sometimes put forth by well-meaning Christians that says contraception per se is morally neutral, but is often used for sinful reasons. It leads to the conclusion that the person who uses contraception for a "good reason" does a good work, but people like me are left condemned for not using contraception to these good ends. In other words, I have ignored the welfare of my wife, children, community, and nation. According to this theory, I have violated the law of love, while the contraceptor has done a good work.  But it doesn't stop there...

"6. This means that parenthood will be responsible parenthood. It will be undertaken prayerfully, with full responsibility both toward God and humanity, and joyfully."

Hear that, all you irresponsible breeders? You are NOT being responsible by simply leaving the creation of children up to nature. God wants you to be more responsible toward Him and toward humanity. Simply letting nature take its course is irresponsible parenthood! Of course I inserted the concept of "nature", but it is certainly implied that God is not in control of the natural course of things with regard to procreation, so it's an area we must exercise our "responsible" dominion over.

Also note one important omission in this and in all similar documents which announced the acceptance of birth control. There is never any mention of the actual historic teaching of the church or her consistent application of Scripture to the matter. There is no refutation of the church's unanimous view over two millennia that Scripture prohibits contraception. It is treated as if the church never had a position on this. Or, as we find here in this LCA document, a straw-man is erected by asserting:

"Nowhere in Scripture, however, is there any indication that married couples should produce offspring to the extent of their biological maximum. Nor has the church ever taught this."

Ah, yes, the "biological maximum." What's that, you ask? You know. We hear the arguments all the time. You breeders think we should all be married by the time we reach puberty and have sex every day of our lives (and twice daily during the fertile period) and use every possible fertility increasing trick available and abstain from anything that might have a negative effect on fertility, such as hot-tubs and tight underwear. Breastfeeding? Forget it. Don't you know that cuts into your "biological maximum" fertility?

But then, according to this faulty logic, if you admit this ridiculous position is wrong, then it must therefore be "right and proper" to limit the number of children. Oh, and it is not only right and proper, but truly the only responsible type of parenthood.

What I find is that the majority of Christians think birth control is not only morally neutral, but actually one of God's good gifts, and therefore "right and proper" to use as long as your reasons for using it can be spelled out to read: "responsible parenthood." It really isn't that often that you meet a serious Christian who, when the subject of children being blessings comes up, doesn't give you some "valid reason" they have for limiting the number of children they allowed themselves and the world to be blessed with.

What this leads to is a very subjective legalism. You have to be constantly deciding if creating another child is the responsible thing to do. And those of us who do not exercise this "dominion" or "stewardship" are therefore, even if only by inference, guilty of being irresponsible and unloving toward spouse, children, community, nation, and yes, even the earth!

Even the broader Calvinist or Evangelical "quiverfull" brand gets this wrong. They often have the legalistic position that, "you MUST trust God." You just have to trust God more! Contrast all this to the free and simple Christian position of faith that says, "you CAN trust God." He is trustworthy! Thanks be to God!


Amos said...

good article

Amos said...

Good article though too wordy

amos said...

good aticle though too wordy

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Thanks, Amos. I don't claim to always be concise, but rather thorough.