Thoughts to consider concerning this issue many Christian couples struggle with…….I like Piper’s view of children as burden lifters, while he does look at the big picture and doesn’t make blanket statements about all couples being called to have 10+ children. I believe it to be balanced, but he definitely makes the point to seek God’s kingdom in the matter…..not just convenience and lifestyle choice. Good stuff.~Andrea
What is your stance on married couples using birth control pills?
By John Piper December 12, 2009
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
What is your stance on married couples using birth control pills? Some claim it is still, in essence, abortion.
We did use contraceptives in the early part of our marriage. My wife’s father was a doctor, and we consulted with him about this.
The answer is fairly simple to me at one level: if it’s an abortifacient—if the egg is being fertilized and then being destroyed—it’s not right.
There’s just so much we could say here about the beginnings of life and how you understand the soul, but I’ll try to keep it short and simple.
I think a child should be given the benefit of the doubt as to whether he exists or not. And when an egg has been fertilized and all the components are physically there for a human being, we have every reason to treat it as a human being.
We shouldn’t destroy it. And if “the pill” destroys it, we shouldn’t use that pill. But here’s where the differences come, because I have had people say to me, “You can’t be sure,” or “The pills all work that way,” or “No, they don’t!”
So I would just say to the families: operate on this principle, namely, that you’re not going to destroy a fertilized egg. And then do your best, by whatever research and consultation you can, to decide what means of “conception control”—I’m avoiding “birth control” because it doesn’t quite say it right—you should use.
Now, that’s at one level. That’s the abortion level. There’s another whole level to this issue of people saying, “Well, if children are a blessing from the Lord, why would you get in the way? Have as many as you can: 15, 20! Be like Susanna Wesley and her parents.”
And that’s another question, but I’ll try to give you my short answer.
I do think children are an amazing blessing from the Lord. I have 5, and I’m glad I have 5 kids. And if I had to do it over again, I would have 5 plus. I would start adopting earlier probably. We had 4 of the biological kind and then Talitha, and we waited perhaps too long to have Talitha (Noël would say we did).
So they’re a blessing, absolutely a blessing. To decide when and how many children to have, however, seems to me to be a legitimate kingdom decision.
Because Paul himself said he wished everybody were single like himself, so that they could be utterly devoted to the kingdom. And then he paused and said, “But it is not sin to marry.” And he said that, that he wished everybody was single, even though the Bible says, “It is not good for man to be alone”!
In other words, marriage is a proper creation ordinance. Marry!—it’s normal and right and good. God ordains it and God plans it. But here comes Paul saying, “I wish we could all be single, because we’d really be totally devoted to the Lord that way!” And that’s Paul, I think, annunciating a qualification of creation ordinance with redemption ordinance.
When the Fall happened, death spread and lostness spread. And this world isn’t the idyllic world where everybody can be married, have lots of kids, and die and go to heaven (or have no death at all). It’s now a fallen world, a world that desperately needs redemption. And it needs suffering, single people to lay their lives down with no distraction whatsoever to reach certain kinds of people.
And so Paul waves that flag. And if he waves that flag and says we can forsake marriage for the sake of the kingdom—even though the Bible says that it’s not good for man to be alone—I think the same thing has to do with children.
Can you see the logic I’m using here? God says, “He who has his quiver full of [children] is blessed. Children are a blessing from the Lord.” And yet, same logic, it may be wise to have 2 or 3 or 4—not 10—if you’re going to go to Guinea.
In other words, I think kingdom issues, redemption issues—not just natural issues—should guide us. We shouldn’t just think in natural issues, like “Children are naturally good to have.” Yes they are, but there are other issues going on that should be redemptive.
Now, one last comment. That’s a redemptive issue, not a DINK (Double Income No Kids) kind of attitude. Like, “No kids, thank you very much: they get in the way. I’ll have my 2.1 children to keep the population afloat so that Muslims don’t take over, but after that I’m doing my own thing.”
Well, that’s not where I am at all. I’m saying that the criterion are not me and my own little world, so that I can have a comfortable life. But rather, what are the kingdom issues at stake here?
One other thing comes to my mind. I was in Germany when we started having a family. This was 1972. In 1972 people my age were saying it’s a sin to have more than 2 kids. And some were saying it was a sin to have kids because population blah, blah, blah.
And I just thought to myself, “OK. If you have more than 2.1 kids you’re putting a strain on the planet? I don’t think so. Because the kids I’m going to raise are going to lift a million burdens.”
You Christian, you’ve got to believe that bringing kids into the world and being brought up in the Lord makes them burden lifters, not burden adders. They are in the world to lift the world, to save the world, to love the world.
You’re not just adding dead weight to the world when you bring a child up in the kingdom. You’re bringing up lovers of people and servants of the world.
So, I’m going on and on here. I should probably just stop. I can’t even remember what the question was now. So enough on that one.