Tough subject to talk about today so buckle up.
We want to jump into the topics of the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization.
As pastors, one responsibility we have is to give counsel to couples both prior and after marriage. The issue of children is one of those major points that often need discussion.
Also as people seem to be delaying marriage longer and longer these issues become more prevalent. Some couples, due to being older, can find getting pregnant to be a bit difficult.
Also, many people are reluctant to have children right away and so birth control measures become something very important.
Let’s start out with some quick points that are foundational for a biblical worldview and then deal with these two issues.
-- Children should be expected and welcomed by couples.
Part of the command given to mankind by God was simply to be fruitful and multiply.
A natural by-product of a normal marriage will be children.
-- The bible speaks of children as being a gift of the Lord in Psalm 127:3.
The bible does not speak directly to the number of children that is considered right or good.
It does speak of God opening and closing a womb.
It does speak of the responsibility of the parents to raise, provide and instruct their children in the way of life and the Lord.
But beyond that there is simply nothing that would indicate that a person is somehow more blessed of God because he has nine children as opposed to one, or none.
-- One subtle thing that should be thought through by people is the “why” regarding having or not having children.
Too often children are put off because they think a child is so expensive, or they are concerned that it will affect some of their dreams such as travel or career.
Sometimes one or both of the people don’t want the woman’s body to go through the natural changes that happen.
Or they had a bad upbringing and are afraid of their own children suffering through something. Sort of like being told that if you were raised in an alcoholic household there is a good chance of passing that along.
On the other hand you have those who think that they should keep on having babies until menopause as it is evidence of God’s blessing. This is a form of pride that can be rather nasty in the long run.
Or there is a love for small babies but the couple is not considering the reality that this is a life commitment of at least 18-20 years of upbringing.
Summary: having children is normal, proper and God-honoring. The number of children or even the lack of children is not evidence of God’s opinion of a person.
So, with that in mind, what do we think of the birth control method known as “the pill?”
-- The pill:
We do not recommend the use of the pill at all. And there are some very good reasons for this.
When looking at birth control medication it is important to understand that it does not merely prevent pregnancies. In many cases it causes an abortion if an egg is fertilized.
This is often not explained by the doctor, nor in the material most people would read.
Randy Alcorn, who opened our eyes to the reality of the Pill encourages people to actually look up the medication in the PDR.
You can access it in any library or online at PDR.net. I am unsure if the online one gives the full description though. What you want to look for is the term “implantation,” as that’s the term that’s normally used.
Here is an example of what is explained in the PDR about one drug, Apri.
-- It is designed to “inhibit” the maturation or release of the ovum/egg. The key word is inhibit, not prevent.
-- Even more importantly it explains that the drug affects the “endometrial tissues” and as a result “reduces the likelihood of implantation of the fertilized ovum.”
That last sentence means that a baby was conceived, and the drug prevented it from being attached to the womb and it dies.
Birth control pills do not merely to prevent the egg from being released, though this is usually what people think and are told.
It is designed to affect the woman’s body so that the endometrium does not function like it was made by God.
In the woman’s normal cycle the endometrium thickens and becomes rich in blood vessels and a type of sugar. The whole purpose is to serve as the home for the new human.
By preventing the increase of the vessels and the sugar the Pill causes the womb to not be a place that can serve as host to the new child and so in its earliest days of life it dies due to insufficient food and oxygen.
Some will argue that they know people who were on the Pill, and still got pregnant.
The logic behind this is that therefore the Pill is not an abortifacient as well as a contraceptive. But this is not correct. Exceptions in most everything occur.
The human body is extremely complex and therefore no medication or drug can deal with every person the same way. This is why there are always side-effects to medication.
I know people who have tried to commit suicide by shooting themselves in the head. For whatever reason they survived. But it does not logically follow that therefore shooting yourself in the head will not likely cause death.
We think that if a Christian wants to do a solid research on this whole very serious and yet emotional subject that they would do well to go to www.epm.org and read the various articles on birth control.
The site does a great job in dealing with the various arguments and they document things extremely well.
If you ask your doctor, there is no reason to think you will get a full answer, as there are many factors in what is discussed when talking about pregnancy and abortion. In our day, to suggest that something is abortive could even cost the physician his job.
Also there is a very helpful documentary on vimeo. You can search for it by looking for The Birth Control Documentary and then the name T Herbert. We will provide the actual link in our show notes (https://vimeo.com/user3833899).
We do not encourage use of a birth control medication at all. We would beg those considering it to do extensive research before choosing it.
We want to emphasize the word “extensive.” There are many other options if the couple is not wishing to become pregnant, and those would all be permissible.
What concerns us most on this subject as pastors is how too many see children as a problem or a limitation for them.
It prevents them from their career, or their pursuit of some sort of pleasure and recreation, (though it is seldom admitted as such in such blunt terms). It often reflects a desire for convenience, which seldom is a good way to decide something.
The quicker you have children, honestly, the easier it is. You are younger and more vigorous.
-- In-vitro Fertilization:
This is a much easier one to discuss though it is still very emotional for some.
Many people have known a person who underwent IVF to get pregnant. Usually this is done because every other method failed and they desperately wanted children. But again, in the emotion of the moment there is often not careful thought about what actually is happening.
(MH) knew one couple who were desperately trying to have children. They were young believers and were spending money they did not have in every form of treatment available. After a few years of trying to no avail their faith grew to the point that they realized it was really an idol. They simply gave it to the Lord and the next thing you know they had five children.
We also know others who yearn for children and for whatever reason the Lord did not give them any. We can ache with them over this but as pastors we also have to encourage them to consider other options such as foster care and adoption.
What we don’t encourage is this process of in vitro fertilization. Let us explain:
Through a process of the use of fertility drugs the woman produces eggs. Then through a medical procedure these eggs are collected and then artificially inseminated in the lab.
We are using the Mayo Clinic’s description here if you are wondering. It is a very invasive process and also very expensive.
Once the egg is inseminated it is surgically implanted into the woman, usually several embryos at a time. This results in the real possibility of multiple children.
In its article the Mayo Clinic points out that if multiple children become a real possibility then “fetal reduction” is an option to consider. Also what happens to the other embryos which are not used is a key question.
They point out that if you choose to, they can freeze them but they point out that not all will survive.
Another option is to donate them.
And the final option is to discard them.
Our observations are several:
-- First, they are not eggs, they are embryos. That means they are babies.
The use of terms like “fertilized egg” or “embryo” is a way to deflect from the truth that it is a human child.
-- Second, if the embryos do not take/implant in the womb it means they die and are ejected from the body.
This is not one due to simply living and experiencing the pain of living in a fallen world like a normal miscarriage. Rather, it is the actual death of a child by human means.
-- Third, to choose to do “fetal reduction” because you don’t want four babies is abortion, plain and simple. And if you didn’t know it, abortion is nothing less than killing a human being.
-- Fourth, to freeze them just pushes back the whole decision-making process to a later date, all the while allowing for those children to die while frozen. This is abortion as well.
Our conclusion is simple therefore. For a Christian this is not an option.
And to willfully choose to do it regardless is a serious issue before both man and God.
It could be argued that for a couple to pursue this with full knowledge of what is going on is evidence that children and child-bearing has become an idol in their heart.
Our recommendation would be to instead put that money to good use and become an adoptive parent. This means you become a champion for life as well as using your life and money as a means to evangelize some of the most marginalized people in the world, the orphan. As James says, “this is pure and undefiled religion.”
A final word:
We want to end this podcast like we started it. Behind this whole discussion are two issues that should be acknowledged and considered.
-- The first is that children are always seen in the bible as a blessing from God and being fruitful in child-bearing is always seen as good and right. It is commanded from the very beginning and children should be the norm for a Christian marriage.
-- The second is that we live in a broken and sinful world where bodies don’t always rightly work.
This means that some men or women will be unable to produce a child. If there are non-abortive methods to overcome this we would encourage them within reason.
But if that is not possible then we would counsel them to bow before their sovereign Lord and obey His command to love life and not commit murder.
Well, these are our thoughts, and we hope they’ve been helpful, or at least given you a place to begin thinking about the issue more critically.
We know it’s emotional, and so if you have questions, please reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to answer-- or find an answer.