Conception Control
Conception Control
Phillip Kayser
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Table of Contents

What Is at Stake?

From the time that God formed Eve out of Adam’s rib and joined the two in marriage, God has been lovingly involved in the reproductive process. David stood in awe of God’s handiwork, reverently saying, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13 NIV). We therefore see children as a reward and a blessing, knowing full well that “children are a heritage from the LORD, [and] the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps. 127:3). When one understands the multiple miracles involved in the conception, growth, and delivery of a baby, it is hard to imagine a better proof for the existence and providence of a loving God.1 Certainly we agree that it is God who opens the womb (Gen. 29:31; 30:22) and it is God who closes the womb (Gen. 20:18; 1 Sam. 1:5-6).

What part (if any) does man play in the formation of babies? Is conception a monergistic creation of God alone2 or is it a synergistic interplay between God and man?3 Confusion on this question not only impacts the debates on “birth control,” but also impacts the debates related to medical help for infertile couples. Those who argue that seeking to close a womb to conception is rebellion against (or at least lack of trust in) the God who opens wombs, will often feel compelled to argue that seeking to open a womb through surgery is also rebellion against (or at least lack of trust in) the God who closes wombs.4 There is a certain logic to this kind of reasoning, but is it consistent with what Scripture says about man’s responsibilities?

Over the years of my pastoral ministry, many people have sought my counsel because they were distressed over many other questions related to conception. Some have been pressured by friends and relatives to severely limit the size of their families as if overpopulation was a real ethical issue and having “too many” children was irresponsible. Others had the opposite pressure and wondered if they were in sin for not having as many children as was physically possible despite overwhelming health issues. On several occasions couples have wondered if it would be ethically wrong to seek medical help to be able to conceive. One couple sought advice on whether it was OK to have sexual relations while undergoing chemotherapy. Some have wondered if it was wrong to have sexual relations after menopause, when conception was no longer possible, having heard that “wasting seed” was a sin. Others have had the same pangs of conscience with regard to sexual relations during pregnancy. Still others were oblivious to the ethical problems with abortifacient drugs and devices, such as the IUD. I have spent so much time counseling people on these and other ethical questions related to conception that I thought it was time to write a clear discussion guide on conception and the dominion mandate.

Though some have outlined at least seven positions on this subject within Evangelicalism5, we do not need to deal with each viewpoint separately since every issue raised by the different viewpoints will be addressed as we interact with three: the position that says that No Conception Control (hereafter NCC) 6 is allowed, the Antinomian Birth Control position (hereafter ABC) that refuses to consider the ethical implications of the Bible for their “birth control” methods, and the position that argues for a Biblically Limited Conception Control (hereafter BLCC).7

By the time a person has studied this book, he or she should have a clear understanding of the Biblical ethics of conception. The following questions should all be clearly answered: Is conception part of the dominion mandate? If so, are there limits to man’s dominion? Is the exercise of man’s will in the fruitfulness of land and cattle different from the exercise of man’s will in the fruitfulness of the womb? In what ways did the Fall impact the conception portion of the dominion mandate? In what ways does Redemption impact conception? May a couple seek medical help in order to conceive? Are there limits to what medicine can ethically achieve in conception? Are there sexual practices within marriage that the Bible prohibits? Where in the Bible does it mention spilling seed in a negative context and where does it speak of it in a positive context? Does the Bible have sufficient information to settle the debates that have arisen on this subject? What are the different positions held by Christians relative to conception and avoiding conception? Are there ambiguities in typical arguments that need to be clarified? What areas of antinomianism and legalism need to be addressed when discussing this issue? How does one’s view of birth control impact other areas of life? What inconsistencies exist between the average Christian’s approach to contraception and his approach to the rest of life?

Keep in mind that these debates are “in-house” debates between Christian brothers and sisters who love the Lord. It is not my intention to alienate those with whom I disagree. Hopefully by the end of this book it will be clear that I respect my brothers in the NCC camp and it is my hope that they will see the Biblical basis for the BLCC position, or at least if they are not convinced by my exegesis, they will be convinced that we are truly seeking to have our ethics governed by the Bible alone. May the Lord use this book to uncover potential wrong assumptions that keep brothers talking past each other, and may our exegesis of the Scripture on this subject of ethics continue to grow and improve.

…be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion…

– Genesis 1:28

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

– Genesis 9:1

And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.

– Genesis 9:7

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants all around your table.

– Psalm 128:3

I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

– 1 Timothy 5:14

1. Full Quiver, Yes — Legalism, No; What We Have in Common With the NCC Movement

I am genuinely thankful for the NCC movement

Because a good deal of this book takes on the NCC movement, I think it is important for them to understand that I have far more in common with them than I do with the ABC movement. Indeed, I have great respect for the Full Quiver movement. They rightly criticize the average Protestant who thoughtlessly engages in “birth control” without considering the Biblical issues involved. I share the NCC love for children, their long-term vision, their commitment to preparing their children for dominion through homeschooling, and their hope of “outnumbering the Egyptians” in covenant succession – may it be so, Lord Jesus!

So this chapter will in part give a hearty “Amen!” to the central passions of the Full Quiver movement, but do so in a way that will help us to move away from the legalism that has infected the movement since its beginning. If it were not for the legalism present, I would consider myself a full-fledged member of the Full Quiver movement. I have been committed to having a large family, have regularly promoted the formation of large families, and have children who desire large families. We love the “full quiver” concept. It is Biblical. I have repeatedly said that if we must err in one direction or the other, let us err on the side of NCC rather than on the side of severely limiting the size of families as most Americans have done.

The writings and sermons from the NCC camp have been a blessing to the church as they have helped Christians to think about the kingdom rather than having selfish goals. They have written very cogently against the myth of overpopulation. They have taught about the importance of covenant succession. They have shown the logic behind population shifts and demonstrated how strategically important large families can be for the growth of the kingdom. Some of their writings have been soul-stirring. I am grateful to God for my NCC friends, and it is my hope that this book will give even greater grounding to the Full Quiver concept rather than to diminish it. It is my intention to have this book be an “in-house discussion” rather than a disapproval of the Full-Quiver concept.

Let’s recognize that legalism can easily invade even the best of movements

However, there have been enough recurring issues of legalism,8 insensitivity,9 charges that BLCC advocates are guilty of murder (even though none of them uses abortifacients and most of them have very large families),10 judgmentalism,11 etc. that I felt it was necessary to both “give a defense” for the BLCC advocates and to give a discussion guide where both sides can get their assumptions out on the table so that they are not talking past each other because of misunderstandings.

People might assume that when I defend conception control, that I am defending the combined oral contraceptive pill (“the pill”), IUDs, and a host of other unethical methods (see below), but I am not in favor of those things. Treat this discussion guide as a basis for trying to understand where assumptions can go wrong and to ground all we do in the Bible. It is my contention that BLCC is very grounded in the Scripture on everything that it practices.

Interacting With The Legitimate Arguments For NCC

The command to be fruitful and multiply

Let’s first look at some commonalities between NCC and BLCC. Both camps agree that God has never rescinded His moral imperative to “be fruitful and multiply” and to “fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). The ABC camp frequently does not take seriously enough the command to be fruitful and multiply. This ethical imperative to be fruitful was repeated after the Fall (Gen. 9:1,7; 35:11; Ps. 128:3) and during the New Covenant age (1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14). To ignore this command without Biblical rationale is antinomianism. The church should boldly preach the importance of the dominion mandate as it relates to conception.

There is a caveat that some NCC advocates fail to consider. Fruitfulness is a blessing only when certain conditions are met.12 As chapter 7 will demonstrate, there are times when Scripture speaks of “Blessings of the breasts and of the womb” (Gen. 49:25) and other times when He says, “Cursed shall be the fruit of your body” (Deut. 28:18). Raising up numerous children to populate hell is hardly a blessing. It is important that the incredible blessing of children not be divorced from the context of the whole dominion mandate and God’s redemptive purposes. Paul’s promise that “childbearing” is part of God’s redemptive purpose has four conditions – that we must “continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:15).13 I would also refer the reader to chapter 2 where we demonstrate (under the heading “control”) that no part of creation is exempted from the controlling issues of subduing and taking dominion. All of creation (including conception) is part of a dominion mandate, and to allow creation to order itself is the opposite of dominion. The dominion mandate mandates conception, but it also mandates conception control. Of course, it does not mandate that every parent decide to space children as we have or that every parent must limit the number of their children to ten. The purpose of this book is not to limit the liberty of NCC advocates to have as many children as they can. Instead, it is to lay out the liberties and limits that BLCC advocates believe we Biblically have.

The call to have large families

Another area in which I agree with the NCC camp is their call to have large families. Though chapter 6 will show some of the ways in which the curse impacted conception (Genesis 3:16), and though the same chapter will demonstrate that fruitfulness can be a curse in certain situations,14 and that large families for unbelievers is almost always a curse,15 the same is not true for the Christian who is dedicated to raising his children in the fear and nurture of the Lord. God commands not just fruitfulness, but also multiplication and an attempt to “fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28; 9:1). It should be the desire of Christians to outnumber the Egyptians (cf. Gen. 47:27; Ex. 1:7,12,20). Genesis 17:20 considers it to be a blessing when a man is multiplied “exceedingly.” I have always appreciated this call from the NCC camp to have large families. It is a Biblical viewpoint and one which I continue to preach as being the norm, even though there are exceptions.

As we will see later in this book, obedience to other Scriptures (nurturing the wife, giving rest, protecting life, providing for the family, etc.) sometimes requires a couple to space babies, delay babies, and stop having babies.

The view of godly church fathers and Protestant Reformers

I also agree with NCC advocates that godly church fathers and Protestant Reformers were opposed to conception control.16 Later I will quote the strong opinions of some to that effect, but three things need to be said that temper this argument.

The first is that these same church fathers thought that marital sex was sinful if there was the least passion involved,17 and some thought that all sex was sinful.18 Their ideas were highly influenced by pagan Greek asceticism.19 Very little attempt was made at proving their points using sound hermeneutics. Though we should always take seriously the views of the church fathers, the church fathers themselves insisted that the Bible alone is inerrant.20

Second, many of the church fathers who are quoted by NCC advocates were hardly supporters of the Full Quiver movement. David G. Hunter points out that Ambrose, Jerome, and many other Christian ascetics “believed that the time for procreation lay in the past when the earth still needed to be filled with people,” but was no longer a relevant command.21 Some of the ascetics argued for celibacy within marriage, which in turn severely limited the number of children.22 Tertullian even sounded like a Malthusian in his fears of overpopulation. He said,

What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.23

Though this legalism was vigorously opposed by church fathers such as Jovinian, Epiphanius, Filastrius, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, and others, it continued to flourish in the church for many centuries. It led some married couples to avoid sex within marriage, and it led many to oppose remarriage, contrary to Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 5:14.24 We have already seen that Clement of Alexandria praised the Levites for having the fewest children, saying that this was evidence of Levitical holiness. So these church fathers were hardly supporters of the Quiver-full movement.

Third, their statements make it clear that they were opposed to birth control because of a faulty view of biology and Biblical conception. Unlike the ancient Jews who knew that the man and woman “both emitted seed” before a conception could take place,25 and thus were not opposed to BLCC that simply prevented conception,26 the church fathers who opposed birth control saw the sperm as containing the whole human being, and saw it analogously to planting seed (man’s sperm) in the land (woman’s womb).

If indeed a sperm was a “little person,” I too would be opposed to birth control in any form. However, the sperm is not a little person. In contrast, the Scripture speaks of both the “seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15) and the “seed of men” (Dan. 2:43) as being essential to the formation of a human. Conception is clearly presented in the Scripture as being a product of both the man and the woman (Gen. 3:15; 25:21; 38:18; Lev. 12:2; Numb. 5:28; 1 Sam. 1:20; Luke 1:24, 31-35; 1 Cor. 11:12). Thus Jesus was “the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3) and yet that relationship to David was not through a man, but through Mary. She contributed DNA to his flesh. I am convinced that if the notable fathers had understood these Scriptures and this biology like the ancient Jews did, that they would not have been so opposed to BLCC. Since our theology should not be shaped by the opinions of man, but by the Scripture alone, we will move on to the next point of commonality.

The sufficiency of Scripture for ethics

I heartily agree with the NCC camp that the Scriptures are a sufficient guide for every ethical issue that we may face, including conception. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is quite clear that the Bible gives sufficient information to guide us “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” More to the point, every sin is clearly laid out in the Law of God (Deut. 4:2; 5:22; 12:32), to which no sin may be added without making void the law of God as the Pharisees did (Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). It is because of our commitment to a Scriptural ethics that this debate is important. If we condemn what the Scripture does not condemn, we violate half of Deuteronomy 4:2, and if we add burdens and commandments that Scripture does not add, we violate the other portion of Deuteronomy 4:2.

The myth of overpopulation

I also heartily agree with the NCC camp that the fears many ABC advocates have of overpopulation are misplaced. As mentioned earlier, God has never rescinded his command to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill the earth. The earth is not even remotely filled yet, and many good books have been written to debunk this myth.27

There are ethical problems with many forms of “birth control.”

I agree with the NCC camp that most forms of “birth control” are unethical. We will examine the ethics that govern conception control in upcoming chapters. In the process of establishing that life begins at conception, we will show how this argues against Provan’s version of NCC as well as the ABC defenses of IUDs and other forms of abortifacient. In upcoming chapters we will also look at additional Biblical principles that limit conception even further.

…let them have dominion over … over all the earth …

– Genesis 1:26

…children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision nor of a husband’s will, but born of God.

– John 1:13 (NIV)

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet…

– Psalm 8:6

Seed of the woman

– Genesis 3:15

Seed of men

– Daniel 2:43

2. Defining Terms

Many needless disagreements have resulted from an imprecise use of language. This is certainly true in the area of sexuality, conception, and birth.

Most Evangelical and Romanist discussions of the subject have allowed the enemy to muddy the waters by adopting their term, “birth control,” a term coined by Margaret Sanger,28 the founder of Planned Parenthood. Her magazine, The Woman Rebel, used the term “birth control” to describe both contraceptives and chemical abortifacients. 29 When the meaning of the term “birth control” can encompass both prevention of conception and the destruction of a new life formed in the womb, it is a term that should be avoided. The debate should really center on whether it is legitimate to exercise some control over conception, so many Christians prefer the term “conception control.”

Even this is not clear enough, since there are both ethical and unethical ways of preventing conception. Therefore in place of the terms “birth control” and “conception control,” I will be advocating the expression, Biblically Limited Conception Control (BLCC). I will be arguing against both the No Conception Control (NCC) position and the Antinomian Birth Control (ABC) position.30 Each of the words in the expression “Biblically Limited Conception Control” need to be understood to appreciate what this book stands for and what it does not stand for.


The word “control” captures the Biblical concepts of dominion and intentionality. In Genesis 1:26-28 God gave Adam and Eve dominion over all creation. Psalm 8 not only reaffirmed the dominion mandate but also said that God “put all things under his feet” (Ps. 8:6). Nothing was exempted from man’s dominion – not even fertility.

What does it mean to have dominion? It means to rule or to exercise stewardship under God and consistent with His law. The dominion mandate has been defined as follows:

The dominion mandate is God’s call to Adam and his descendants to “bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society.”31 It “is an all-inclusive concept that extends to every sphere of life where man’s mind and hands are employed to control and utilize the processes of nature for the good of all”32 and the glory of God. “The Church must see in this command its role in shaping every area of life according to God’s will - including politics, the fine arts, science, law, medical ethics, and more.”33

We will get to the ethical dimension of this definition later as we examine the word “Biblically.” In terms of justifying the word “control,” I want to explain the importance of avoiding passivity. Dominion involves stewardship, study, exploration, managing, planning, rationing, apportioning, starting work, resting from work, categorizing, improving, and using this creation to God’s glory. Man was not to be passive in relationship to his environment, his family, his time, future, or any other aspect of creation. Indeed, to passively allow creation to order itself is the opposite of the dominion mandate. If man is to take dominion over conception, he does not have the option to passively allow this aspect of creation to order itself.

In contrast to this very active and intentional perspective on life, NCC writings explicitly remove much of man’s control, dominion, planning, and decision making from the process of conception. The following quotes could be multiplied many times over to demonstrate that the NCC community rejects the concept of “control” from their theology of conception – thus the name, “No Conception Control” (NCC).

Faulty Assumptions of NCC

  • No responsibility for making a decision to have more or less children: “Should we have more children?… Was the decision even our responsibility?… I believe wholeheartedly in birth control. But the Scriptures prove that God Himself is our birth Controller. He controls the conception, spacing, and birth of the children He gives so completely and so perfectly that I have absolutely no reason to take over the responsibility.”34
  • Dominion over earth, but no dominion over conception: “God has given man dominion over the earth, but never have we been authorized to usurp His plans in our own bodies, His temple. The Christian must give Him dominion to control his or her own body.”35
  • Trust in divine sovereignty is falsely pitted against human responsibility: “The real truth about NFP [Natural Family Planning], though, is that it still may be an accurate gauge of the heart. We are not too thrilled about trusting God to accomplish what is best for us. When a couple realizes God’s true part in conception… they realize that NFP is simple needless tinkering with a system He already controls lock, stock, and baby.”36
  • Relinquishing any planning in the area of conception: “… trusting God with the size of their families. Most women fear they’ll end up with twenty children… I have taken the same approach in trusting God with this area of our lives… My husband and I made the decision several years ago to release our plans to God and trust Him.”37
  • Relinquishing control: “Then we began to feel really convicted about the level of control we were [sic] exerting over this part of our life, and decided to relinquish that and let God have complete control of when to start our family.”38
  • Passivity toward size of family: “Can’t we also trust Him to manage the size of our family?”39 “My husband and I have finally decided to let God decide the size of our family.”40
  • Seeking to remove “intentionality” from the fact that millions of sperm die even when attempting pregnancy. Provan contends that when seed is “intentionally” killed it is akin to “murder,” and when millions of sperm die as a result of intercourse (even when one sperm fertilizes the egg), there is still a “killing” of human life, but in this case, it is God sovereignly doing so, not man.41 This issue of intentionality is what makes so many people conscience stricken about having sex after menopause or during pregnancy. Couples try not to think about the massive numbers of sperm that die. “Onan was killed because of his intentional destruction of semen.”42 “Birth control involves intentional destruction of semen.”43 “The sexual organs were designed by God to perform the sacred function of procreation; any voluntary use of the sexual organs which thwarted this goal was viewed as grossly wicked.”44

Much NCC literature exhibits a faulty view of trust and a faulty dichotomy between trust and responsibility. Hebrews 11 makes clear that where Biblical faith in God is present, the believing Christian plans, acts, takes dominion, controls, and decides.45 There is never a pitting of sovereignty against responsibility.

The same is true of conception. In John 1:13 God puts a stark contrast between regeneration (which is purely monergistic) and physical conception (which is synergistic). Unlike physical begetting, which is the result of three things:

  • “of blood” (physical descent)
  • “of the desire of the flesh” (sexual desires which drive men and women to procreation)
  • “of the will of man” (or human choice/decision)46

Jesus said that regeneration lacks those three elements. While his point was to teach about regeneration, He makes His point by assuming the truth we are articulating here – that man’s decision is very much involved in conception. Man’s planning (“of the will of man”) was never removed from the dominion mandate to be fruitful and multiply. If having babies has been entrusted to man’s “dominion and will” in exactly the same way as the command to make the earth fruitful has been entrusted to man’s dominion and will, then it should be permissible for man to plan the spacing of babies (or to plan not to space babies).

It is also important to understand what is not meant by “control.” Obviously man cannot control anything in the ultimate sense of the word. He is simply a vicegerent of God’s rule. There would be no earth to take dominion over if God did not uphold all things by the word of His power. So the words “control,” “dominion,” “planning,” “decision,” etc. must all be thought of as in submission to God’s kingship. As Gary North has noted with regard to the dominion mandate:

Since God is sovereign over the creation which exists only because of God’s decree, and since man is made in the image of God, man therefore has a legitimate, though subordinate, right of dominion over creation.47

Only God has “control” of anything in life in an absolute sense. God is sovereign over even our plans (James 4:15), but that does not stop us from being responsible to plan. When Paul “planned” numerous times and failed in those plans (see Rom. 1:13), it did not stop his planning. In Acts 16 Paul planned to go to Asia in verse 6, but the Spirit changed his plans. He then planned to go to Mysia in verse 7 and the Spirit again changed His plans. He planned to go to Troas in verse 8, and the Spirit gave him the Macedonian call of verse 9. All the way through he was planning, and the Spirit didn’t stop him from planning. In verse 10 Luke says, “Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Note the word, “concluding.” Paul was using his head. He was making a deduction to the best of his ability.

Likewise in Romans 1:13 Paul tells the church of Rome, “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now).” The fact that his plans were hindered many times did not keep Paul from planning. Purpose, planning, and decision-making are a part of the Christian life, and there is no Biblical reason to exclude conception from this planning simply because God is sovereign. God is sovereign over all of life. Kent Crockett said,

Imagine going on an ocean cruise to an island. After you have been out on the ocean for a week, you say to the captain, “It sure seems like we should have arrived by now. When do we plan to arrive?” The captain answers, “Plans? I don’t make any plans. I just trust God to guide the boat through the wind and waves to the right destination.”

That sounds ridiculous, but many people drift through life in the same way. They make no plans, yet believe they will reach their destination on time. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Making plans will cause us to act rather than react.48

The same is true of conception. It is a strange passivity that says a woman should not get surgery to repair her scarred fallopian tubes (on the mistaken notion that such actions are overruling God’s closing of the womb). The Biblical Christian should trust God through prayer for healing, and should God sovereignly close that door, to trust God through natural fertility methods, and should God close that door, to trust God through medical fertility methods (if they are ethically permissible). If all forms of closing and opening the womb are sin, then God’s word will clearly declare those things to be sin, but we should not be fooled into a false dichotomy between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.


Let us focus on the word conception. The reason “conception control” is being substituted for “birth control” is twofold. First, it is to make it crystal clear that any form of “birth control” that terminates life after conception is ruled out. This book will be arguing against the Morning After Pill, the IUD, and several other forms of abortifacients that Christians have wittingly or unwittingly used to cast off a fertilized egg.

Second, it is to narrow the scope of this book. Certainly there is a place for taking dominion over the birth process (true birth control). I praise God for expert midwives, doulas, doctors, pain killers, technology to stop hemorrhaging, birthing chairs, pools, Pitocin, herbs, backrubs, and myriad other forms of controlling the process of birth and making it safer and more comfortable. This book is focused on the controversy of whether the “control” that even NCC advocates use at the time of birth can be extended to the beginning stages of this wonderful miracle of life – the conception itself.


If it is sometimes permissible for man’s will (“begotten… of the will of man”) to cooperate with God’s will (“the LORD opened her womb”), then we should try to figure out in which circumstances this is permissible and what are the Biblical limits to man’s responsibility. This book will seek to show that “conception control” is further limited by other considerations, such as 1) the permanency of the decision, 2) the health of the mother, 3) the health of the baby, 4) our motives, 5) our goals, and other factors. The average book on “birth control” rightly argues that some control is allowed by Scripture over the conception process, and then illegitimately moves to allowing many forms of “birth control” that are ruled out by other Biblical criteria. This book will be arguing for a much more limited view on conception control than the average Protestant holds to. Hopefully by digging much more deeply into the Scriptural principles than Protestants have done to date, this study book will contribute to the ongoing discussions on this subject.


One principle that the BLCC camp shares with many authors in the NCC camp is that our only source for ethics is the Bible. While it is true that some NCC advocates have drifted away from the doctrine of sola Scriptura in ethics with their overreliance upon the opinions of church fathers and Protestant reformers,49 this book assumes that most NCC advocates want to remain faithful to the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible. Hopefully this shared foundation will help the various Evangelical camps to have fruitful discussions. I am a Berean (Acts 17:11), and if anything that I have written can be demonstrated to be unbiblical, I will change it. I have sought to read deeply in the NCC literature over the years in order to test and retest my assumptions and my Biblical exegesis. Though this book may not convince everyone who reads it that the BLCC position is correct, hopefully it will at least correct misconceptions and allow a greater degree of respect between the camps. It should be our conviction that the Bible is more than sufficient to thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

“By the law is the knowledge of sin”

– Rom. 3:20

“you … are convicted by the law as transgressors”

– James 2:9

“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”

– 1 John 3:4

“… the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.”

– Rom. 4:15

Q: What is Sin?

A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

– Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 14

3. How Should We Define Sin?

The first question that needs to be clearly defined is, “What is Sin?” That is not an inconsequential question. Many books on conception control have an unbiblical view of sin and as a result they exhibit both legalism and antinomianism.

Scripture says, “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). We must be “convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9), and since all “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 2:4), and since the Biblical maxim is that “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15), that means that this whole debate must be settled from the law of God alone. Narrative passages may illustrate the law, but it is the law alone that can define any given thought, goal, motive, or action as sinful.

This means that the burden of proof for sin is on those who call conception control sin. NCC advocates often try to reverse the burden of proof and ask, “Where does the Bible justify the use of conception control?” Though I will later show that the Bible does explicitly justify conception control, the question may expose a kind of legalism. As we will see, the Bible gives individuals and families maximum liberty (whatever is not forbidden is allowed) while church and state are limited by the Regulative Principle of Government (whatever is not commanded is forbidden). This is such a critical principle that it is worth expanding upon.

The Regulative Principle of Government

The Puritans wrote entire books on the Regulative Principle of Government as the necessary foundation for defending the liberties of the individual and the family. Against Lutherans, who argued that the church and state could do anything that the Bible did not explicitly forbid, the Puritans showed how the Bible severely limits the powers of the church and state. I will not write a book on the Regulative Principle of Government, but the following paragraph is a very brief statement of how it would apply to the church.50

Christ as the King and only Lawgiver,51 has given to His Church a system of government and discipline that is complete.52 This historic jus divinum53 principle of church government requires that all laws,54 methods,55 and goals56 of church government and discipline must be either expressly set down in Scripture57 or be deduced from the Scripture by good and necessary consequence,58 with nothing being added59 or taken away60 by mere human authority61. Even the circumstances of discipline (all things being done decently, in order, and for edification)62 must not go to the right hand or to the left hand of the authorizations given in Scripture.63

The Principle of Liberty

In stark contrast to the Regulative Principle of Government was the equally important Puritan doctrine – the Principle of Liberty. This principle insists that unless the Bible explicitly limited their liberties in some area of life, the individual and family have maximum liberty to do anything they want, and no one else’s conscience or rules should bind their conscience. Again, entire books have been written on this subject, but the following incredibly abbreviated summary captures the essence of this Reformed position:64

God alone is Lord of the conscience,65 and has left it free from any doctrines or commandments of men66 (a) which are in any respect contrary to the Word of God,67 or (b) which, in regard to matters of faith and worship, are not governed by the Word of God. 68 Therefore the rights69 of private judgment70 in all matters not limited by the Bible are universal and inalienable.71

Applying these two principles

To apply the Regulative Principle of Government to the individual (as several NCC advocates have inconsistently done) turns Biblical ethics upside down and removes the “liberty” from the Biblical phrase, “the Perfect Law of Liberty” (James 1:25). I don’t have to find a verse in the Bible that allows me to use a tractor, wear a colorful tie, ride an airplane, or heat food with a microwave.72 Instead, anything that is not forbidden by the Word of God is allowed.

If I later find that microwaving food produces a product that will give me cancer (something that I currently doubt) then I should quit using the microwave, because the Bible tells me to take care of my body. Since science is not infallible, we should use care in how far we impose such logic, and we should recognize that legitimate disagreements can occur in interpreting the scientific data.

In any case, when this principle is applied to conception control, I believe the Reformed position should be that unless Biblical principles make it very clear that conception control is indeed a sin, conception control is a liberty.

I will later try to show that Biblical principles do indeed make certain forms of conception control a sin. Likewise I will show that many of the methods called “birth control” are also a sin (IUD, RU-486; “the morning after pill,” etc.). Unless a specific law can be appealed to in order to discredit a given conception control method, we should not treat it as sin. To remove such liberty and call it sin is akin to the legalism of the Pharisees, who bound people’s conscience with the traditions of man (Mark 7; etc.).

Applying this to the Onan passage of Genesis 38

The Onan passage (Gen. 38) is often marshaled as evidence that God does indeed forbid conception control (the spilling of seed without the purpose of conception). Certainly this passage opposes selfishness in the use of conception control and it also illustrates six concrete laws that were broken by Onan. However, neither the Onan example nor the law of God show our BLCC practices to be in sin.

It is a critical point of Biblical ethics to distinguish between a historical exemplification of sin (Onan) and the specific laws that outline that sin. On my interpretation of the example of Onan, I can show six laws that were broken:

  1. Onan violated the Levirate Law of Deuteronomy 25:5-10.
  2. He violated the laws of vows (Numb. 30).
  3. He violated the law of inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17).
  4. By refusing to have any children by Tamar, he violated several passages (Gen. 1:22; 9:1; Deut. 25:5-10; etc.).
  5. He violated the jointness of the dominion mandate given to both male and female (Gen. 1:28; cf. 1 Tim. 5:14; etc.).
  6. He likely violated laws related to her sexual desires (Ex. 21:10; 1 Cor. 7:33-34; Song of Songs; etc.).

Those six things made the way he engaged in coitus interruptus to be a clear violation of the law of God. Nowhere in the law is coitus interruptus condemned in and of itself, and it is certainly not condemned when used for the purpose of spacing babies or limiting the size of the family (for example, planning to limit it to seven or ten or twelve).73 (See chapter 4 below for more details on why Onan’s motives, goals, and standards were humanistic.)

As we will see in the rest of this book, other supposedly broken laws (such as the command to be fruitful and multiply) are commands that we vigorously promote as well and have no intention of breaking.

Apply this to the “argument from silence”

Applying the principles above, we consider the “argument from silence” that is frequently used by NCC to be faulty. Many people have challenged me to prove that the Bible authorizes birth control. Though I will later show clear evidence that the Bible does indeed show that “wasting seed” was not considered to be a moral sin in all circumstances,74 and is indeed commanded in some passages,75 we have already seen that this is the wrong question to ask. Even if those passages were not present in the Bible, you cannot prove sin by an argument of silence, or all of us would need to quit using computers, cell phones, etc.

A rejoinder that has sometimes been made has been that the Bible would have condemned birth control if it had existed in those days, but that the Bible doesn’t address the question simply because birth control was not yet happening on the scale that it is today. Their claim is that most birth control methods are a modern phenomenon that was unheard of in the ancient world and unthinkable.

This too is false. The following conception control methods were widely used in the ancient world during the very centuries in which the Bible was being written: lactation,76 rhythm/mucus/natural planning,77 coitus interruptus,78 barrier,79 ovulation suppression,80 and spermicide.81 Less well known was female sterilization, but Hippocrates knew of it.82 Unfortunately, herbal abortifacients were common throughout the known world, 83 and believers did all they could to make such unethical birth control methods illegal.84 We will demonstrate that God’s law clearly spoke against all abortifacients. The ancient Jews also had extensive discussions of when conception control was allowed and when it was not allowed. So even though it is clear that Jews opposed masturbation, permanent sterilization, or any medications that damaged the body or the fetus, those same Jews used both barrier and spermicidal methods of birth control and did not consider it to have violated the Scripture.85

So there is no basis for the common argument that birth control was not available or known in the ancient world. Virtually every form of birth control that is being used today had equivalents in the ancient world. This means that even if there had been silence in the Bible toward the very limited forms of birth control that we advocate, it would prove the opposite of what the NCC advocates claim. If the so-called “silence” argues for anything, it argues that prevention of fertilization and wasting of seed was not the issue that NCC have made it to be.

However, I would encourage both sides of the debate to use nothing but Scripture to define the issue. I have brought external evidence up not because it is in any way normative, but simply to answer the NCC misuse of external evidence. The Bible alone is our authority. In the following chapters we will look at some of the Biblical arguments used by the NCC camp to see which ones have merit and which ones do not.

And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.

– Genesis 38:8-10

4. What Was the Sin of Onan?

The six Biblical laws violated by Onan

Perhaps the most significant Biblical argument used by the NCC camp against any form of conception control is God’s judgment of Onan. What were the sins of Onan in Genesis 38:8-10? It is clear that Onan committed some sin, since “the thing which he did displeased the LORD, therefore He killed him also” (v. 10). Apart from some sin, it is difficult to imagine the Lord’s displeasure or killing of Onan. The word “also” implies that his brother, Er, had committed the same sin, and his brother “was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him” (v. 7). Since we have already seen (chapter 3) that nothing can be called a sin that is not clearly laid out as a sin in the law of God (Rom. 3:20; 4:15; James 2:9; 1 John 3:4), we should be able to isolate specific laws that this narrative passage illustrates.

The NCC camp usually points to one act as being the sin – that “he emitted on the ground.” The ABC camp replies that the only sin was Onan’s violation of the law of Levirate marriage, pointing to his responsibility to “raise up an heir to your brother” and pointing to the fact that the emission was simply a means to the sin – “he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother.”

This chapter will seek to demonstrate that both sides are wrong. The NCC camp adds to the law of God a prohibition nowhere given (thou shalt not have sterile sex) and the ABC camp takes away from the law by ignoring other ethical issues violated by Onan. In the process, the NCC camp often binds the conscience of men and women over issues that the Bible sees as joyful liberties, and the ABC camp often grossly violates God’s laws related to health and life issues.

In contrast to the NCC and ABC camps, the BLCC camp sees at least five laws that were violated by Onan, and probably six. First, we would point out that the ABC camp is correct in stating that Er’s refusal to raise an heir to his brother was a violation of a fundamental provision in the Levirate marriage law in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.86 He should have refused to get married (something that was a shame [Deut 25:7-10], but still lawful) rather than to pretend to fulfill his Levirate responsibilities and immediately violate them. Having taken her as a wife, Onan was required by the law to “perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her” (Deut. 25:5). The text of Genesis 28 is quite explicit that “he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother” (v. 9). It was a deliberate violation of the duty that his father had given to him in verse 8. It is clear that the patriarchs had God’s commandments, statutes, and laws long before the time of Moses (Gen. 26:5).87

Second, Onan lied. Worse, he broke the solemn vows of a Levirate marriage. This was a clear violation of Numbers 30 and of the ninth commandment.88

Third, Onan had no intention of giving his brother’s inheritance to any son of Tamar’s. He hoped by marrying Tamar that he could gain Er’s inheritance, but he hoped that by having no children, the inheritance would not fall out of his hands. This violated a fundamental provision in the law of inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17)89 and was therefore a form of theft (eighth commandment).

Fourth, verse 9 makes it clear that he entered into marriage with no intention of ever having children by this woman. He was not using conception control to delay having children or to space children or to limit the number of children. The stated goal was to eliminate the possibility of having any children. This violated numerous commands to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:22; 9:1; etc. – see chapter 1) and also violated the Levirate duty to raise up a son for her (Deut. 25:5-10). Contrary to the ABC claim that the passage is irrelevant to the conception control debate, this point makes it clear that the Onan passage is very relevant to the debate. It illustrates God’s great displeasure when men violate God’s first commandment to mankind: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Contrary to the ABC arguments, it was not simply shirking the Levirate law that was wicked in God’s sight – it was emitting on the ground so as to have no children.

Fifth, this was clearly violating Tamar’s desire to have children. Her desire to have children was so great that she was willing to take a great risk to her own life in order to have a child (Gen. 38:12-26). Her willingness to sin in order to have children is also a warning to the ABC camp that some methods of getting pregnant may indeed be sinful. We will look at some of the sinful methods used in fertility clinics later in this book. This robbing Tamar of children shows that the conception control was not mutually agreed upon, but was a selfish desire on Onan’s part. The command to be fruitful and multiply was not just given to Adam, but to “them” (Gen 1:28), that is to Adam and Eve. Thus Paul rightly applies the command to widows, saying that they should “bear children” (1 Tim. 5:14). Thus Onan’s unilateral decision to have no children selfishly ignored such ethical mandates.

Sixth, this coitus interruptus may very well have deprived Tamar of the pleasure of sexual relations. Though Martin Luther didn’t understand the law on conception, he definitely understood the lawful requirement to bring sexual pleasure to the wife. He stated,

Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment… That worthless fellow refused to exercise [love].90

Though the text does not explicitly say that Onan failed to gratify his wife’s sexual desires, given his selfishness in the other areas already covered, Luther’s conclusion is very likely. If so, it was a clear violation of the law of God. Exodus 21:10 says that even a slave who has been elevated to the status of wife cannot be denied “her sexual rights.” To arouse sexual desires in your wife only to dash them is a form of defrauding. It is not just the woman who is responsible to learn “how she may please her husband” (1 Cor. 7:34); the husband is responsible to know “how he may please his wife” (1 Cor. 7:33). The Song of Solomon is an instruction manual on learning how to please each other, and it is not simply the man who has sexual desires that need to be met. The woman too can be “lovesick” (2:5) and sexually hungry (3:1-5). Thus Paul insists that neither husband nor wife should “deprive one another except with consent for a time” and then should “come together again” (1 Cor. 7:5). The interplay of invitation given and accepted in the Song of Solomon shows both were involved, and the arousal of either husband or wife without fulfillment is not seen as a good thing (5:1-6:1). The man’s “desire” (7:10) and delight (7:6) should not be pursued in ways that rob the wife of her own “great delight” (2:3). The repeated calls to not stir up or awaken love inappropriately all apply to this situation. The ideal is a mutual self-giving where the wife can say, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is towards me” (Song 7:10).

Is “wasting” seed sin when it avoids the previous six sins?

The NCC contention

What about the NCC contention that “wasting seed” is itself a separate sin, even if the other six violations of the law have been avoided? Provan claims that any sexual relationship with a wife that has no possibility of making the woman pregnant is “wasting seed.”91 This would of course logically exclude any sexual relations with a pregnant wife or any sexual relations after menopause. The reason is clear – such relations are “sterile” (to use Provan’s language). Though many NCC people don’t like the logic of that position, it is an inescapable conclusion if “wasting seed” is a sin. It is this very reason that made Philo conclude that it is a sin to marry a sterile woman:

But those people deserve to be reproached who are ploughing a hard and stony soil. And who can these be but they who have connected themselves with barren women? For such men are only hunters after intemperate pleasure, and in the excess of their licentious passions they waste their seed of their own deliberate purpose. Since for what other reason can they espouse such women? It cannot be for a hope of children, which they are aware must, of necessity, be disappointed, but rather to gratify their excess in lust and incurable incontinence.92

This was exactly the viewpoint of many early church fathers who had been unduly influenced by Greek philosophy. Pseudo-Clementine reflects the views of many when he says, “sexual intercourse must not take place heedlessly and for the sake of mere pleasure, but for the sake of begetting children.”93 Clement of Alexandria likewise stated that “ the law intended husbands to cohabit with their wives with self-control and only for the purpose of begetting children”94 Though Thomas Aquinas had a much healthier view in that he allowed for the pleasure of sex,95 he still maintained that it should not “glide on or advance unto sexual intercourse beyond the necessity of begetting children.”96 See footnotes 9 and 10 in chapter 1 for similar references.

BLCC claim – No sin for wasted seed, based on Leviticus 15:16-18, Prov. 5:19; 1 Cor. 7:5; etc.

God’s design on “wasted” seed

Does the law of God condemn “wasting seed”? No. As we will see, it does the exact opposite. The reason is fairly obvious: God created the average male to produce about 180 million sperm in every ejaculation, with estimated ranges being from 40 million to as high as 1.2 billion sperm cells dying in a single ejaculation.97 This means that every time there is sexual intercourse, there are millions of sperm that are “wasted” by God’s design.98

It is hard to imagine how Onan’s ejaculation in Genesis 38:9 “wasted” any more sperm than his father’s incestuous ejaculation did in Genesis 38:18. It was not an issue of wastefulness, but an issue of violating the law of God. The burden of proof is upon the NCC advocate to show where the law of God itself condemns “wasting seed.” If wasting sperm means that sperm needlessly die, then all sexual relations waste sperm.

Indeed, God commands us to waste sperm since He commands husbands concerning their wives to “let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love” (Prov. 5:19). The husband is not just to be sexually aroused (the meaning of the Hebrew) during fertile times, but always and at all times. Even if there was no ejaculation, the sexual arousal itself would cause sperm to begin to be secreted into the urethra. Thus, it would be impossible to fulfill the command of Proverbs 5:19 without “wasting” seed most of the time.

Paul implies that sexual fasting should be no longer than the periods of prayer and fasting from food (1 Corinthians 7:5). This would mean sexual relations would need to be maintained after pregnancy is achieved and after menopause, both of which times would be “wasting seed.” The reason Paul gives for this regularity in sexual relations is not so as to achieve pregnancy, but lest Satan “tempt you.” Unless we are willing to call all sex sinful (see objections in the next section), wasting sperm is irrelevant. Sperm is always wasted in Biblically governed sexual relations.

It is not just the man’s seed that is wasted. Think also of the woman’s “seed” or eggs. The average woman is born with 2 million egg follicles. By puberty, a majority of those follicles close up and only about 450 get released as mature eggs, ready for fertilization. Even those 450 mature eggs are far more than could possibly be raised. Has God wasted eggs? Apparently He doesn’t think so. There are other reasons for the production of sperm and eggs than reproduction. Indeed, they play a very important part of a man and a woman’s overall health.

The law itself allows “wasted” seed

It is not as if the law of God is silent on this question. The law supports the BLCC position. That spilling seed (in and of itself) was not what was considered to be the sin of Onan is confirmed by showing that the Law of God did not treat emission of semen via intercourse with the wife (Lev. 15:18) to be morally different from emission of semen where no vaginal intercourse had occurred (Lev. 15:16-17). Even “stopped up” semen was in exactly the same category, though it touched no one (Lev. 15:3).99 Though there was a ceremonial uncleanness (now removed in the New Covenant – Heb. 13:4), there was no moral condemnation in either case. Instead, both were treated equivalently. For the emission of semen without intercourse, verse 16 says, “he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening.” For the emission of semen with intercourse, verse 18 says, “they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.” Both situations are described with identical language. If one is sin then the other must be sin. This confirms that something else than spilling of seed was at the root of Onan’s great wickedness. We have already demonstrated that the “something else” involved six laws of God that had been violated. The spilling of the seed was only the means to the sin.

Three possible counter-claims that have been made in the history of the church

There are three potential objections to this understanding of Leviticus 15. The first objection is that all spilling of seed in Leviticus 15 is said to make the man “unclean,” and this uncleanness should be interpreted as a moral uncleanness rather than as a ceremonial uncleanness. The second objection is the claim that Leviticus 15:16-17 is describing an involuntary nocturnal emission, and is therefore quite different from Onan’s voluntary and very deliberate emission. The third objection is that if there is no distinction between “spilling seed” outside a woman’s body and “spilling seed” inside a woman’s body in terms of moral uncleanness, then this verse could be used to justify masturbation (solo sex). We will see how each of these potential counterclaims are wrong.

Possible counterclaim one – all sex is sinful

The first possible counterclaim is that Leviticus 15:16-18 makes all sex and all emission of semen morally sinful. This position would say that because children are a greater good, sex is permitted as a necessary evil, and that the act of sex always contaminates one morally. Though I don’t know any modern NCC advocates who hold to this, there seems to be such an underlying guilt over things that God praises that it warrants dealing with this issue at length.

In any case, there have been many in history (both heretical100 and orthodox101) who have taken the word “unclean” in each verse as a moral judgment of sin rather than simply a statement of ceremonial uncleanness. They would agree with Huguccio when he said that intercourse

can never be without sin, for it always occurs and is exercised with a certain itching and a certain pleasure; for, in the emission of the seed, there is always a certain excitement, a certain itching, a certain pleasure.102

Ambrose represented many when he taught that the first sin was sexual pleasure, and all sexual sin since that time has been tainted with sin.103 Jerome (and many with him) could not conceive of Adam and Eve engaging in sexual relations before the Fall. Some allowed that it was possible to produce children without sin (theoretically), but insisted that it would have been done without pleasure and by a mere act of the will. Thomas Aquinas did not have a very healthy view of sex himself,104 but he did at least try to oppose the common viewpoint that sex could never be engaged in without sin. He said,

Some say that whenever pleasure is the chief motive for the marriage act it is a mortal sin; that when it is an indirect motive it is a venial sin; and that when it spurns the pleasure altogether and is displeasing, it is wholly void of venial sin; so that it would be a mortal sin to seek pleasure in this act, a venial sin to take the pleasure when offered, but that perfection requires one to detest it. But this is impossible, since according to the Philosopher (Ethic. x, 3, 4) the same judgment applies to pleasure as to action, because pleasure in a good action is good … as the marriage act is not evil in itself, neither will it be always a mortal sin to seek pleasure therein… If, however, he seek pleasure within the bounds of marriage, …it is a venial sin.105

As Chrysostom pointed out in his day,106 this is falling into the error of failing to distinguish between ceremonial law and moral law; ceremonial defilement and moral defilement. It also ignores a large body of Biblical materials that call a husband and wife to find great sexual delight in each other.107 So what was the “unclean” nature of the sexual relations? How does it differ from moral uncleanness?

First, we must make an important distinction between sexual sin that is vile, and unclean in itself108 and the emissions of semen described in Leviticus 15 that resulted in a state of being temporarily unclean. The first is inward, the second is outward. The first flows from the heart,109 while the ceremonial uncleanness flows from contact.110 Moral uncleanness is only possible with a person whereas ceremonial uncleanness can make non-personal things unclean, such as a “bed” (Lev. 15:5), “clothes” (v. 6), a “saddle” (v. 9), a “vessel of earth” (v. 12), a “vessel of wood” (v. 13), “any garment and any leather” (v. 17), etc. Moral uncleanness cannot be cleansed without the blood of Christ111 whereas ceremonial uncleanness can be cleansed with ceremonial water (Heb. 9:13-14; Lev. 15).112 Ceremonial uncleanness was simply a God-given type or picture of moral uncleanness, but the Scripture never confused the two. F. D. Lindsey’s commentary on Leviticus 15 says,

It is noteworthy that while the normal sexual process between husband and wife (15:18) made both partners ceremonially unclean, it did not make them sinful—no guilt was involved and no sacrifice was required. So the chronic discharges which required a sin offering were not necessarily related to personal sin.113

Second, this uncleanness ceremonially separated from the temple, but not from God Himself.114 It was a picture of sin, but not sin itself. God had surrounded Israel with word pictures of sin, cleansing grace, and the need for the perfect righteousness of Jesus in order to approach God’s presence. Anything and anyone that was unclean was prohibited from entering the temple, whether that was an “unclean” God-fearing Gentile, a eunuch, a man who had a discharge of semen, a menstruating woman, a person with a runny nose, or someone who had been spit upon (Lev. 15:2,4,6-9,11,19,25-26,32-33; 22:4; Numb. 12:14). People could become unclean by contact with an insect, a mouse, a lizard, etc. (Lev. 11:29-31). If a dead insect fell on you or on a piece of wood or into a pot you could become unclean (Lev 11:32-35). It was impossible to keep oneself from ceremonial uncleanness for very long. It is no wonder that Peter told the Ecumenical Council in Acts 15, “why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” God did not intend for those laws to be “keepable” – He intended the ceremonial law to drive people to Christ (Gal. 3:24).

Many antinomian arguments against the Law of God fail to distinguish between the moral law of God and the ceremonial laws of the Mosaic economy, but it is obvious that believers in the Old Testament understood this distinction (cf. Ps. 40:6-8; Is. 56; 66:21; Jer. 7:22-23; etc.). Many Scriptures make no sense without understanding that moral laws are quite different from ceremonial laws (eg. 1 Cor. 7:19). The BLCC position is not advocating the reinstitution of the ceremonial laws of the Mosaic economy (though such laws continue to teach us of the Gospel and Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ). However, it does teach that all of God’s moral laws (including the case law applications in the Pentateuch) continue to be the “Perfect Law of Liberty” (James 1:26). Every jot and tittle of the moral law (even the “least of these commandments” that is found in Deut. 22:6) continues to be binding till the end of history (Matt. 5:17-19; Luke 16:17). The following chart helps to clarify the major differences between the moral law and the ceremonial law of Moses.

Contrasts Between Moral Law & Ceremonial Law

Matthew 5:16-19 says of the moral law,

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

What is most significant for our study is that after Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law, God has removed all of the ceremonial uncleanness restrictions from the church, except for one.115 In the Old Covenant, every sexual encounter defiled the bed, and until the bed was ceremonially cleansed, that bed would defile anyone who sat upon it (Lev. 15:4-5,21,23-25). Consider the stark contrast between the Old Covenant statement, “his discharge is unclean [and] every bed is unclean on which he who has the discharge lies” (Lev. 15:2-3) and the New Covenant statement, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Moral transgressions continue to be judged by God, but only four non-moral laws continue into the New Testament (Acts 15:18-31). We will address the significance of one of these laws when we deal with the prohibition of vaginal intercourse during the woman’s menstrual period (see chapter 12), but the evidence against counterclaim one is very strong.

Possible counterclaim two – Leviticus 15:16-17 is involuntary, Gen 38 was voluntary and deliberate

The second possible counterclaim against our thesis is that Leviticus 15:16-17 is describing something involuntary, such as a nocturnal emission, whereas Genesis 38 is describing something voluntary and very deliberate. The argument would be that if it was a nocturnal emission of semen we would not be guilty of the death of children (though if there was an evil dream connected with it, there would be some guilt), but if it were a deliberate spilling of seed, we would be guilty. For example, Matthew Poole says,

Go out from him; not through weakness of the parts, as that ver. 3; but in his sleep, which is called nightly pollution, which, though involuntary, might arise from some lustful dream or imagination. But if it was voluntary, and by a man’s own procurement when awake, it was esteemed abominable, and a degree of murder. See Gen. 38:9.116

Likewise, B. A. Levin says,

As Ibn Ezra explains, this statement pertains to an involuntary emission of semen. In Deuteronomy 23:11 this is called mikreh lailah, “a nocturnal emission.”117

Exegetical Problems with this theory

However, there are three exegetical problems with this theory. The most important exegetical problem is that this theory still falls short of showing any prohibition in the law of God. Matthew Poole has not shown a contrast within the law. The most he has shown is that there is an emission in Leviticus 15 that does not have moral culpability and there is an emission in Genesis 38 that does have moral culpability. Both sides of the debate agree with this observation. That is not the issue. The issue is, “Where in the law of God does it prohibit sexual relations that do not produce a pregnancy?” That has not been exegetically demonstrated. It has only been asserted.

Second, the Hebrew grammar contradicts the notion that the emission in Leviticus 15 is involuntary (passive) and the emission in Genesis 38 is voluntary (active). First, the phrase “emission of sperm” (שִׁכְבַת־זָ֑רַע) is identical in Leviticus 15:16 and in verse 18. Everyone agrees that the ejaculation in verse 18 is consciously engaged in. Since the phrase for “emission of sperm” is the same in verse 16, what makes it an involuntary ejaculation? That is reading something into the text that is not there. Second, the verb indicating a spilling outside (תֵצֵא) in verse 16 is in the Qal stem, indicating an active tense rather than a passive tense.118 This parallels the active tense for intercourse (יִשְׁכַּב) that is used in verse 18. When we deal with the next objection we will see that the main difference is that the spilling out (תֵצֵא) of the emission (שִׁכְבַת) of sperm (זָרַע) in verse 16 is outside the woman and doesn’t touch her body and the emission (שִׁכְבַת) of sperm (זָרַע) in verse 18 does touch the woman’s body (implication of the word for intercourse - יִשְׁכַּב) and therefore defiles both the man and the woman.

This is in decided contrast with the nocturnal emission in Deuteronomy 23:10 where no woman is present (the man is on the battlefield) and where something “happens” to the man or an “occurrence” takes place. The phrase, “becomes unclean by some occurrence in the night” clearly indicates that the man is passive and that this is a normal nocturnal emission in which he is not the conscious or deliberative agent.

Thus Deuteronomy 23 and Leviticus 15 solidly support the BLCC position and contradict the NCC position. Those passages demonstrate that there are three different cases of “spilling seed” that the law of God speaks to without any moral condemnation: 1) First, there is the case of nocturnal emissions (Deut. 23:9-11), which is God’s biological provision to release the pressure of sperm buildup. 2) Second, there is the case of non-fertilizing marital relations (Lev. 15:16-17), which are undefined (but which could be premature ejaculation or manual arousal by the wife without intercourse).119 3) Third is the case of marital relations with the potential for fertilization (Lev. 15:18), but which do not specify that they need to occur within the fertile time of a woman’s cycle. None of those three things had any moral blame, though all three equally made the man ceremonially unclean and therefore unable to enter the temple until after the simple cleansing and wait until evening.120

Possible counterclaim three – “This would justify masturbation, which we know is wrong.”

This brings up the last objection potentially made by NCC advocates. The claim could be made that if our thesis is true, and if Leviticus 15:16-17 is an active spilling of seed (as the Qal stem seems to imply), then the passage could just as easily justify masturbation. Since masturbation is clearly wrong, the claim could be made that the BLCC exegesis of Leviticus 15:16-17 must also be wrong. This argument is the logical extension of the repeated claim that Onan’s action was equivalent to masturbation and thus the label of “Onanism” for masturbation.

While I agree that masturbation (solo sex) is wrong, chapter 3 has already demonstrated that we must derive our belief in its wrongness from the law of God alone, and not engage in eisegesis. The bottom line is that if this text taught that masturbation was lawful, then we must submit to its liberty. However, I believe it teaches the opposite. Beyond the counterclaim’s novel definition of masturbation (which is technically solo sex),121 this objection also fails to take into consideration three terms in the Hebrew.

The first term is שִׁכְבַת.122 Though it is translated as “emission” in the NKJV, the root word from which it comes is “marriage bed” or “to lie down,” and when connected with sexual arousal means “to sexually lie with a person.”123 Indeed, many dictionary definitions give only a meaning that is compatible with twosome-sexuality rather than mono-sexuality.124 This word is used in verses 16 and 18, which implies that verses 16-17 speak of sexual arousal with one’s wife in the marital relationship (or if the root word is emphasized, “on the marital bed”) where the seed is spilled outside of the woman and without contacting the woman and verse 18 speaks of intercourse in the same marital relationship (or marital bed) where there is a spilling of seed inside the woman (or at least in a way that the sperm contacted the woman).

It is an awkward Hebrew structure to translate. The reason it is awkward is that there are two words that could be taken as emission, and unless there is a deliberate reason for adding the term שִׁכְבַת to the term for תֵצֵא, we should investigate the reason why the term for a mutual sexual relationship (שִׁכְבַת) is used in both verses. Interestingly, the ancient Jews who translated the Septuagint (LXX) saw the same thing that I am pointing out. The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew literally translates verse 16 as “And a man, who, if it goes out of him, the sperm of the marriage relationship [or marriage bed - koite] goes out of him, he shall bathe his whole body in water.”125 This is more literal, with שִׁכְבַת being translated with κοίτη, a word that has as its primary meaning “the marriage-bed” or “conjugal bed” and points to a sexual relationship with another person.126 So the vocabulary of these verses is clearly not talking about masturbation, a term that should only be used to describe solo-sex.

This means that the two words are not a redundancy, but a clarification of what kind of emission verse 16 is talking about. There is an emission (תֵצֵא) of a lawful-marital-bed-type of emission (שִׁכְבַת) of sperm (זָרַע). In other words, this law is clarifying that this is not solo-sex or auto-eroticism. Both verses 16-17 and verse 18 are dealing with ejaculation that comes as a result of a man being highly aroused by his wife’s-marriage-relationship (שִׁכְבַת), but the spilling out (תֵצֵא) of the lawful-marriage-emission (שִׁכְבַת) of sperm (זָרַע) in verse 16 is outside the woman and doesn’t touch her body and the lawful-marriage-emission (שִׁכְבַת) of sperm (זָרַע) in verse 18 does touch the woman’s body (implication of the related word “lie with” or “intercourse” - יִשְׁכַּב) and therefore defiles both the man and the woman. Therefore, far from supporting any kind of masturbation (solo-sex), verses 16-17 are highlighting either premature ejaculation that does not touch the woman or the kind of mutual stimulation described in the Song of Solomon.127 This conclusion is strengthened with the following observations:

Elsewhere שִׁכְבַת־זָ֑רַע seems to imply a conscious emission of semen (Gen. 19:34; Lev. 15:17-18; 18:20; 19:20; Numb. 5:13), though two other passages are undefined (Lev. 15:32; 22:4).

The “also” at the beginning of verse 18 makes clear that there are two different scenarios involved. The difference is not the act of lying down with the woman (שִׁכְבַת) so that semen results (זָ֑רַע). The only difference is that in verses 16-17 the semen is emitted “outside” (תֵצֵ֥א) making only the man unclean and in verse 18 the semen touches the woman’s body making both unclean. The contrast between “outside” and touching the woman implies that premature ejaculation or any other form of emission that does not touch the woman was in mind.

In conclusion, however the seed was spilled (whether a nocturnal emission, or a mutual satisfaction of husband and wife without intercourse, such as Song of Solomon seems to speak of), the law does not treat such spilling of seed on the same level as it treats the spilling of Onan’s seed. This is positive evidence that spilling of seed was not the primary thing in mind in Genesis 38:9. Onan was judged for six unlawful reasons for spilling his seed.

If those in the NCC camp believe we have missed an additional sin (the sin of sterile emission) then they should be able to show an explicit prohibition for sterile emissions in the law of God. We have already demonstrated (chapter 3) that apart from explicit prohibition in the law of God, sterile emission of semen within a lawful marriage relationship is not sin. The burden of proof is upon the NCC exegetes, for “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). Though it is not required of us, we have gone one step further – we have demonstrated that the law actually mentions sterile emission of semen within a marriage relationship (Lev. 15:16-17) as being no different than normal sexual intercourse (v. 18). Thus we have positive evidence that BLCC is lawful.

For more on Provan’s exegesis of the Onan passage and the logical implications, see chapter 2. That chapter deals with charges that wasting seed is equivalent to murder and with the contention that all conception control is worthy of death.

Discussion questions

  1. Where in the law of God can you find a passage that condemns spilling of seed for godly reasons (to give a wife rest, to space babies, to protect the life of the mother, etc.)? Keep in mind that chapter 3 had demonstrated that “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). Narrative passages illustrate the law but should not be confused with the law.
  2. Can you describe the six sins of Onan from the law of God?
  3. How does Onan’s fourth sin directly relate to the conception control debate? How does God’s anger contradict Antinomian Birth Control (ABC) attitudes towards having no children or few children?
  4. If BLCC people studiously avoid Onan’s six sins, is it really fair to say they are guilty of “Onanism?”
  5. Give some reasons why “wasting seed” is not a valid argument.
  6. Why does the law of God treat the ceremonial uncleanness resulting from all sexual union (Lev. 15:18) in exactly the same way that it treats the ceremonial uncleanness resulting from spilling seed without sexual intercourse (Lev. 15:16-17)?
  7. What are some distinctions between moral uncleanness and ceremonial uncleanness?
  8. What changes are implied when Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” What things defiled the marriage bed in the Old Covenant?
  9. Distinguish the differences between the three passages, Deuteronomy 23:9-11, Leviticus 15:16-17, and Leviticus 15:18.
  10. What verses show that desire in sexual relationships is not sin?
  11. Why do you think some church fathers thought that all sex is sinful?
  12. Why is Leviticus 15:16 not describing masturbation?

Joseph is a fruitful bough.

– Genesis 49:22

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.

– Psalm 8:6

…in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land.

– Leviticus 25:4

He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain…

– Deuternomy 7:13

… I will call for the grain and multiply it…

– Ezekiel 36:29

5. Does BLCC Violate the Creation Mandate for Fruitfulness?

Have we broken the commandment to be fruitful and multiply if we stop at five children? At ten children? At twenty children? Why is it a sin to stop at any number when we can legitimately claim that we are multiplying? Keep in mind that the burden of proof is on those who believe it is sin to space children or limit the number of children (chapter 3). The commandment is to “be fruitful and multiply” - it is not a command to have as many children as is conceivably possible. Those two concepts are quite distinct (see chapter 7). Keep in mind that the official Guinness Book of World Records has documented a peasant woman in Russia as giving birth to 69 children, so why stop at thirty? This is not a trivial question, since our side of the debate claims to be fulfilling the dominion mandate, and both sides of this debate desire to have many children.

Interestingly God claimed in Genesis 49:22, “Joseph is a fruitful bough,” though Joseph only had two children at this point and no doubt desired more.128 A farmer would desire far more olives than would be produced in the year spoken of in Isaiah 17:6, yet God speaks of the “four or five” olives on a branch as still being a “fruitful branch.” The point is that there is some flexibility in the concept of fruitfulness, and while I have already argued for large families, there are extenuating circumstances where the degree of fruitfulness might be legitimately limited, and it would still technically be fruitful to have “four or five.” Therefore, if the command to be fruitful has been fulfilled, unless some other passage proves us in sin, it is legalism to say we must have as many children as is physically possible. We may want more, but that is a different issue.

A second important question based on Genesis 1 is this: “Does the authority to take dominion extend to conception?” If not, why not? Psalm 8:6 interprets the re-articulation of the dominion mandate as God having “put all things under his feet.” Yet some who are opposed to conception control are passive in their theology of conception. Several NCC have told me that it would be sinful to have a surgeon repair damaged fallopian tubes in order to achieve pregnancy, because that is not trusting God to open the womb. Yet the heart of the dominion mandate is to be organizers and controllers of life to God’s glory. To passively allow creation to order itself is the opposite of the dominion mandate. Chapter 2 discusses this issue in much more depth.

Thankfully, most NCC are not consistent in applying their passive concepts of conception to other areas of life. They tend to be active in taking dominion of every other area of fruitfulness. So the question arises, “Why is one single activity in Genesis 1 removed from man’s dominion?” Every other part of man’s dominion involves planning, rationing, apportioning, starting, resting, stopping, etc. Though God is ultimately the one who blesses our efforts at animal husbandry and farming, man must still exercise his dominion over the “fruitfulness” he can handle as a wise stewardship.

Jesus implies the same in John 1:13 when He not only acknowledges that children come from God, but also speaks of procreation being the result of “the will of man.” Man’s planning was never removed from this mandate to be fruitful and multiply. If having babies has been entrusted to man’s “dominion and will” in exactly the same way as making the earth fruitful has been entrusted to man’s dominion and will, then it should be OK for man to plan the spacing of babies (see chapter 7) unless God’s word explicitly forbids it.

The Law of God itself places limits on fruitfulness

Of course, the general principles I have already outlined are made explicit in God’s law. God mandates that the fruitfulness of the field be planned and limited. For example, God’s law itself limits fruitfulness through His command for “rest.” Man’s dominion can never be a selfish dominion. It is a stewardship of land, animals, family, wife, and self for God. Consider the land. God mandated, “in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land” (Lev. 25:4). Failure to give the land a rest from fruitfulness resulted in God’s judgment (Lev. 26:34,43; 2 Chron. 36:20-21). Why is this rest not a violation of the command to be fruitful and multiply?

The same command of fruitfulness that was given to man was also given to the land (Gen. 1:11-12; Psalm 107:37; Ezek. 36:29) and was called a blessing (Deut. 7:13; Ezek. 36:19). Is failing to make the land be fruitful every year a “despising of God’s blessings” or a violation of His Dominion Command? Obviously not. The land has been fruitful for six years, and taking a year off (spacing) in no way violates the command. If spacing crops does not violate the identical command to be fruitful and multiply, I fail to see how spacing children (whether by six months, 12 months, or more) violates that command. This is using the analogy of Scripture to understand the command to be fruitful and multiply.

Of course, some will respond that God’s law alone can authorize how long anyone can rest from fruitfulness, and the law allowed the land to rest one year in seven, but only allows a woman to rest for 41 days after a male child is born (Lev. 12:3-4) and for 80 days after a female child is born (Lev. 12:5). This is looking at the letter of the law (which sets minimums on rest) and fails to see the spirit of the law, which is designed to ensure that we care for land, animals, and people under our stewardship. If the woman “who has many children has become feeble” (1 Sam. 2:5), it might be time to let her strengthen.

This objection also misses the point that nowhere in the law is it said to be a sin to give more rest to land or mothers. If some rest is mandated, then why would more rest be sin if it is needed? As chapter 3 shows, the burden of proof is upon those who say spacing babies is a sin. If (as we have demonstrated) the command to multiply is not absolute in its scope (God allowed rest from fruitfulness), then so long as couples are being fruitful and multiplying, they should not be judged.

To press the analogy of land fruitfulness in an ad hominem way, why not work the land as efficiently as possible (even if it gives more grain than we can possibly sell)? Is it appropriate to grow more grain than we can possibly harvest or sell, or is that bad stewardship? Or is it appropriate to do the reverse, and turn some good land into a recreational area? To apply this to the analogy of the Sabbath – is it sinful to take days off beyond the Sabbath day in our yearly schedules? Nowhere in the Bible does it speak about a Thanksgiving Day, Presidents day, etc. Is it sin to be idle on those days? What makes giving a very productive wife some rest from child-bearing a sin? Could this not justify spacing babies by one year or more to provide for the wife’s strength and health, and/or to save up money to be able to pay for the delivery costs of the next baby? Could it not be used to postpone having a child while the wife’s health was in jeopardy?

Consider other scenarios: If a woman was having chemotherapy for cancer, the chemo would endanger the baby’s life. This would certainly be a good time to exercise conception control. It might be objected that then we should not engage in sexual relations (since no child is being hoped for during the chemotherapy), a topic I will address below. The point is, it would have to be shown from God’s law for it to be sin to satisfy the sexual desires of a wife going through chemo, or to comfort her sexually in her affliction. If one of these exceptions is allowed for, it needs to be evaluated why it would not be allowed in other circumstances that are seeking to obey God’s Word (caring for a wife’s weariness, caring for her health, saving up so that they can have money to pay the midwife,129 etc.).

People will say that God opens the womb and He closes the womb, and we should trust Him to close it when it needs to be closed and open it when it needs to be opened, but this too is to limit man’s dominion over medical attempts to open the womb.

The above points illustrate at least two ways in which the NCC advocates are not consistent in their understanding of the dominion mandate. Many more examples could be given, but these should be enough to discuss the issue of Dominion adequately. For more details, see chapter 1.

God’s Curse on the Woman

I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

– Genesis 3:16

God’s Curse on the Man

Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

– Genesis 3:17-19

6. The Impact of the Fall on Procreation

God cursed conception by multiplying it “greatly”

God’s curse to the woman was in part, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception” (Gen. 3:16). Just as every other aspect of creation entered into a curse, so too did conception.130 To ignore the impact of the fall upon procreation is to miss critical changes that have come about that can make conception a sorrow rather than a blessing (things like cancer, high blood pressure, being worn out from running after five children under the age of six,131 changes to the function of lactation, etc.). Of course, Genesis 3:15 hints at how the cross would reverse and ameliorate the curse, but the curse itself is still at work.

Note the word “and”

Note the word “and” in Genesis 3:16. It says, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception.” That conception itself is cursed cannot be avoided (as the NIV seeks to do) by substituting an “in” for the “and.” There are two things that are being multiplied in this curse: sorrow and conception.

Note the word “greatly”

Also note the “greatly” in Genesis 3:16. It says, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception.” Multiplication is a blessing, but this verse adds two things that turn it into a curse: the huge increase of conception (“greatly”) and/or the sorrows accompanying the conception. The Hebrew can be literally rendered, “I will multiply multiply… your conception.” The curse was not the multiplication, but was 1) the degree of multiplication and 2) the results of that multiplication. We will consider each:

First, the degree of multiplication. The Hebrew text indicates that the multiplication would itself be multiplied or intensified. This means that there can be too much of a good thing. An obvious example should suffice: without modern science, having quintuplets would have been an incredible burden for an Old Testament mother. Even if they survived for very long without modern neonatal care (which is unlikely), such a birth would likely have resulted in the curse of death since most moms would not have enough milk to adequately feed five mouths.

Just as quintuplets could potentially be a mixed blessing (we love children) and curse (it may be impossible to keep them alive), so too can having more children than a wife’s health can bear, or than the parents can possibly shepherd, or than the parents can financially support. I know one couple who could not pay for any of their deliveries, yet continued to have babies without saving up money. They presumed upon their midwives, and the midwives were a little tired of it. This amounts to justifying theft by means of a theology of no dominion over conception.

The second area of curse was the results of the multiplication. The text speaks of sorrow accompanying the multiplication and adds that “In pain you shall bring forth children.” Apparently there would have been no pain prior to the fall, so pain was an added feature of the curse. We will see shortly that part of both redemption and dominion is the legitimate alleviation of this sorrow and pain.

Evidence that this is not a hendiadys

Some people will reject this evidence by claiming that this is a hendiadys. A hendiadys is a figure of speech where a point is emphasized by linking two nouns by an “and” for emphasis rather than turning one of the nouns into an adjective. For example, to say, “sound and fury” in the play, Macbeth (act 5, scene 5) seems more striking than to say, “furious sound.” Thus, the NIV translates it as, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing,” treating the Hebrew as a hendiadys. However, the following points make it clear that the Hebrew cannot be taken as a hendiadys. First, conception itself is not painful. To change “sorrow” to “pain” and “conception” to “childbirth” (as is done in the NIV) is going way beyond anything that Hebrew vocabulary or grammar will allow.

The counter-argument of some is that conception is considered a “blessing,” and therefore it cannot possibly be seen as a curse. This is eisegesis. The text is quite clear that it is the conception itself that is cursed in some way.

First, we will demonstrate in chapter 12 that the word הֵרָיוֹן (conceive) always refers to the inception of a pregnancy and is always connected in meaning with the intercourse that results in conception. In contrast, the words לדי (“bear, give birth”) and חוּל (“to labor in giving birth”) always refer to the end point of the pregnancy.132 You cannot use a preconceived idea of blessing to change the literal meaning of the word.

Second, every other blessing in life has been affected in some way by the curse. God can turn every blessing to dust, and even believers continue to suffer the internal and external effects of the Fall. Why not conception?

Third, there is no grammatical basis for the translation of the NASB and NIV. It is theologically driven, not grammatically driven.133

Thus it is clear from this passage that God cursed conception 1) by increasing it, 2) by accompanying it with sorrow, 3) and by bringing pain to the resulting birth of a child. If conception itself is cursed, it is important to understand how the cross of Jesus Christ reverses the curse. It is also important that we not assume that all fruitfulness is a blessing. Dominion thinking and God’s gracious reversal of the curse must be considered.

Supporting evidence from physiology

There is also a great deal of supporting evidence from physiology that conception has indeed been cursed by a massive increase over what God’s original design had been. Physiology shows that perfect bodies were designed by God to suppress ovulation as long as there was breastfeeding (up to three years). The Fall has impacted many bodies to override this normal God-given function.

Dr. Sears answers the question: “I’ve heard that breastfeeding can keep me from getting pregnant. Is this true?” He says,

Yes, as long as you nurse according to the rules of natural child spacing. The same hormones that make milk suppress the release of reproductive hormones… It’s as if your body is telling you, ‘Nourishing one baby is all you can handle at the moment. It’s too soon for a sibling.’… research has shown that women who practice natural mothering according to the above rules will average 14.5 months without a period following childbirth. Remember, this is only an average. A few mothers will experience a return of menstrual periods by six months, others not until two or three years.134

The fact that this doesn’t always work appears to be an imperfection in some women’s bodies, not a perfection or a blessing.

It is therefore significant that Scripture speaks of weaning a child at “three years old” (2 Chron. 31:16; cf. Gen. 21:8; 1 Sam. 1:22,24; Is. 28:9-10; Hos. 1:8). So if God’s Word made allowance for three years of breastfeeding (hardly essential), and which is definitely a form of birth control, it certainly seems to have allowed for spacing babies up to three years or more apart.

Finally, the words, “Sorrow … pain,” indicate that fruitfulness is no longer unmitigated blessing, but it is blessing mixed with non-blessing. This should not surprise us, since every other area of creation came under the curse.

Other Scriptural support for the curse extending to conception

If all of the above is true, then we would expect the Bible to speak elsewhere about both blessing and cursing related to conception, and indeed it does. There are times when Scripture speaks of “Blessings of the breasts and of the womb” (Gen. 49:25) and other times when He says, “Cursed shall be the fruit of your body” (Deut. 28:18). Raising up numerous children to populate hell is hardly a blessing. So this means that most children of unbelievers are not a blessing. Deuteronomy 28-29 indicates that even the children of covenant believers may not be a blessing if those believers are not walking with the Lord. In other words, conception is a blessing in some circumstances and a cursing in other circumstances.

Interestingly, Jesus pronounced a blessing on barren wombs during times of great distress: “‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’” (Luke 23:29). This may have been what Paul had in mind when he strongly urged holding off on marriage during the “present distress” of persecution in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul didn’t call it a sin to marry and have children, especially if the woman was getting “past the flower of her youth” (v. 36 – a clear reference to child bearing years that were being postponed). His advice was given because (as he put it) “I want to spare you” (v. 28). Postponing having children during trying times can be a good motivation.

Indeed, there are almost as many Scriptures that speak of the curse of many children (Gen. 3:16; Eccl. 6:3; Is. 49:19-21; Deut. 28:18-19; Ezek. 5:7-8 [KJV]; Jer. 15:9; Job 27:13-15; Luke 23:29) as there are that speak of the blessings of having many children (Gen. 17:2,20; 22:17; 26:24; 28:3; 35:11; 48:4; Ex. 32:13; Deut. 7:14; Ps. 17:14; 113:9; 127:1-5; 128:1-6; Prov. 17:6; 1 Tim. 5:14). The fall has brought about circumstances that certainly lead to great difficulties – so great that the Scripture no longer speaks of those many children as always being a blessing. This means that occasional pausing and spacing by BLCC people is not a rejection of God’s blessing, but an attempt to be wise stewards before God so as to avoid the curse implications of Genesis 3:16.

Supporting evidence from the immediate context

There is also supporting evidence for our interpretation of Genesis 3:16 from the immediate context via the analogy of fruitfulness of thorns and thistles. Such fruitfulness is not a blessing; it was the result of the curse (vv. 17-18). Letting Scripture interpret Scripture (especially within the context) would make us refuse to idolize fruitfulness, and instead to interpret fruitfulness in a Christocentric way.

Please do not misinterpret me on the preceding points. I am not saying having many children is a curse for believers. As I mentioned, I looked forward to having a dozen, and most BLCC people plan to have large families, but the outflow of the Fall (war, disease, ravages of age, and other factors) can negatively affect the blessing, and even warrant postponing more children for a time.

If turning down the blessings of heaven is always a sin, what do we make of Christ’s statement that “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matt. 19:12)? The way that is worded, these men have deliberately chosen to turn down the right to have children (or the right to have more children??) even though they could have gotten married/ remarried. By using the term “eunuch” instead of “unmarried,” He is highlighting the fact that they are turning down the blessing of procreation, not simply the blessing of marriage.

To say that it is a sin to turn down an opportunity to receive the blessing of children is cherry picking Scriptures. Would a pregnancy that is achieved in the middle of chemotherapy that ends up killing or deforming the baby be a blessing? It would likely be better to wait for the pregnancy till after the chemotherapy is finished. If trying to get every blessing of children that we possibly can is a mandate, then shouldn’t we be marrying our girls as soon as puberty hits? Why hold off? Some NCC advocates will say, “Don’t have sex during this time of chemotherapy. You shouldn’t have the pleasure of the sex without the children that result.” We will address that separation of functions for sexual relations under chapter 8.

Discussion questions

  1. Can you see any situations that would warrant temporary “childless” sexual relations because of the result of the Fall?
  2. Can you see any situations where having more children might not be a blessing?
  3. If you are one of the women who cannot get pregnant while nursing a child, should you feel guilty nursing until the child is two or three?
  4. If you are one of the women that the Fall has impacted and nursing does not repress ovulation, should you feel guilty spacing the next baby using the Rhythm Method or condom for a few months?
  5. On each of these questions, why or why not?

…blessed is the fruit of your womb…

– Luke 1:42

…blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed.

– Luke 23:29

…if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

– 1 Tim. 5:8

Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your household.

– Proverbs 24:27

…there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.

– Matt. 19:12

7. The Fallacy of the False Dilemma

There is a tendency to frame the conception control argument as either/or – to imply that the only options are

  • have as many children/blessings as you possibly can.
  • selfishly refuse God’s blessing by not having enough children, and be in sin.

Might the situation be more complex? Perhaps with one family, six children would be all that God expects, and with another family, twelve might be expected. How many children can you effectively disciple?

Jesus didn’t seem to think that he could disciple more than twelve in depth, and this might have a bearing on how many a given parent can adequately raise in the fear and nurture of the Lord. Perhaps there are times when BLCC people are pleasing God when they have temporarily “made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Matt. 19:12). I doubt very much that Jesus was talking about literal self-castration or vasectomy in that passage (though some believe this to be the case). Instead, I believe that Jesus is talking about a voluntary refusal to make more children. If he had simply meant that these people chose not to be married, he had words to indicate that, but by using the word “eunuch,” Jesus clearly had in mind the frustration of the procreative function. He considered this to be legitimate in some circumstances as a service to God. Such a person is obviously not insulting God by “refusing the blessing of children.”

Even if you do not accept that interpretation, might it be the case that having six children could be honored by God as having fulfilled the mandate of fruitfulness (even though more were possible) whereas having forty-two children (as one poverty stricken family had) might be considered by God to be poor stewardship since they simply were not able to feed and clothe those children? When Scripture insists that “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8), I would have to say that in this case having that many children was not a lawful blessing but actually fit the curse of God in Genesis 3:16. It might be wise for such a person to heed the admonition in Proverbs 24:27, which commands us to make financial provision for our family before we build or expand our family.135

In any case, we have already seen that “greatly multiplying … conception” can on occasion be a curse (Gen. 3:16), and having forty-two unclothed children certainly fits “greatly multiplying … conception” as being a bad thing or a “sorrow.” On the other hand, if “four or five” olives on a branch can still be a “fruitful branch” (Is. 17:16), and if Joseph was considered to have been “a fruitful branch” when he had his two (Gen. 49:22),136 is it possible that fruitfulness can have a wide range of acceptability in the eyes of God? It is my belief that the NCC and the BLCC should stop arguing with each other and should focus on convincing the “I-Don’t-Want-Children” people to have more children. I believe that the BLCC people and the NCC are in the same boat and should be focusing our attention on the people using unprincipled birth control, who are not seeking to implement God’s Word on the subject at all.

…she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

– 1 Timothy 2:15

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

– Malachi 2:15 (ESV)

For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.

– Genesis 18:19

8. The Impact of Redemption on Procreation

Exegesis and application of 1 Timothy 2:15

In this chapter we will examine the impact of redemption upon child bearing. 1 Timothy 2:15 says, “Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” The word “saved” deals with the application of redemption, with special focus upon the woman’s sanctification.137

We have already seen that childbearing (though a blessing) is also impacted by the curse (Gen. 3:16), and therefore it is appropriate that redemption reverse that curse and save her from something inherent “in childbearing”. Though the word “childbearing” is likely a metonymy for every part of the woman’s role and calling in life, the Holy Spirit had a special reason for focusing upon the “childbearing.” He was relating redemption to this particular facet of the impact of the curse.

Paul emphasizes the fact that this blessing brought to childbearing is not automatic, but has a conditional “if.” The meaning of this seems to be that a woman can enter into God’s gracious redemptive reversal of the Genesis 3:16 curse with regard to conception if (and only if) those children who are conceived continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. It is no blessing to have so many children that the children cannot be discipled and they end up abandoning the faith. Christ’s grace enables conception to truly be a blessing by providing all the resources needed to ensure covenant succession. This implies sufficient shepherding of the children that they are drawn into the faith. The portion of salvation that is being focused upon (sanctification) involves both divine sovereignty and human effort.

Other interpretations have certainly been offered of this passage, but this one fits the grammar best. Notice that the “she” is singular and the “they” is plural. Childbearing implies multiple children, and “they” makes perfect sense if it refers to the children who are thus conceived. If it refers to the “she” and the “woman” of verses 11-15 (all in the singular), then it makes for garbled and awkward grammar.

Thus, just like Genesis 3:15 (compare seed of Satan versus seed of woman – both being references to the offspring of Adam) hints that the coming Messiah will reverse the curse, 1 Timothy 2:15 speaks of grace overcoming the curse’s impact upon conception and enabling good to come out of cursing. Notice that either cursing or blessing can result in either passage. Conception continues to be cursed if God’s grace is not applied to our children. Note the critical “if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” If children are raised for hell, they are hardly a blessing. We should not have more children than we can raise in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Exegesis and application of Genesis 18:19

This is not just a New Testament concept. It is articulated in Malachi 2:15, Genesis 18:19, and many other Old Testament passages. God said about Abraham (to whom he had given promises of covenant succession), “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Gen. 18:19). If people have more children than they can command after them to keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, the Lord does not hold Himself obligated to fulfill His promises to us. Genesis 18:19 can be broken down into four parts:

  1. God’s grace to parents: “For I have known him.”
  2. Parental responsibility that flows from that grace: “in order that he may command his children and his household after him.”
  3. Redemption’s ability to reverse the curse on conception: “that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice.”
  4. The resulting blessing of children: “that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

Too many books from the NCC camp speak in an unqualified way of the blessing of children in any and all circumstances. Chapters 6-8 are designed to temper such assertions.

So the passages in this chapter give faith and hope, but they also give a realistic caution. Likewise, they also show that redemption continues the imperative of being fruitful and multiplying (compare 1 Timothy 2:15 with 1 Timothy 5:14) and redemption enables that command to be joyfully fulfilled (Ps. 113:9). Grace enables multi-generational covenant succession, but these passages warn that it is not automatic. Covenant succession is a blessing of God’s grace, but it must also be worked at by God’s grace.

Discussion questions

  1. Does your view of the blessing of children take into account the conditions of Genesis 18:19 and 1 Timothy 2:15? Or do you see the blessing of conception as automatic?
  2. If the woman of 1 Timothy 2:15 will be “saved” if her children continue in the things listed, what does it imply about her sanctification or application of redemption if they do not?
  3. We do not view God’s grace and our responsibilities as an either/or situation, but both/and, and we believe God’s grace is sufficient to enable Christians to have far more children than they are having on average in America, but if parents became disabled and were struggling to nurture, clothe, and feed the ten children they already had, what would be your suggestion based on 1 Timothy 2:15?

By faith… offered… obtained… diligently seek… prepared… obeyed… went out… dwelt… received strength to conceive… offered… subdued… worked… obtained… stopped… became valiant in battle…

– Hebrews 11

9. Is BLCC Failure to Trust God?

General discussion

Is the exercise of all conception control a lack of faith? Many NCC advocates say exactly that. They claim that we must trust God to open and close the womb. However, this is a passive view of faith that contradicts almost every example of faith given in Hebrews 11:

By faith Noah… prepared an ark for the saving of his household… By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed… By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac… who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions… became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Does the fact that God opens and closes wombs mean that man has no part in opening and closing the womb or that he has no part in planning how and when babies come? Is this not pitting divine sovereignty against human responsibility? I’ve already mentioned that in John 1:13 Jesus does not pit divine sovereignty against human responsibility when it comes to the area of conception. It might be helpful for the reader to review the theology of man’s dominion in conception that was discussed in chapter 2 before we seek to apply that theology in this chapter.

Illustration of protecting a baby

Let’s say that a wife is getting chemotherapy for cancer, and the doctor has indicated that they should not try to get pregnant during chemo since the chemo is guaranteed to either kill a child in the womb or at least do irreparable damage to that child. If the wife was sexually hungry during this time of chemo, would it be appropriate to engage in unprotected sex? I have had NCC advocates tell me that in such a situation we should “trust God to close the womb.” Would such “trust” not be tempting God in exactly the same way that Satan tried to get Jesus to “tempt” the Father in Luke 4:1-12? Satan in effect told Jesus, “You know that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot of God’s promises to become invalid. Let me give you one of God’s promises. Psalm 91 says, ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ So why don’t you take God at His word? Why don’t you put your trust to the test by jumping off this temple and watch the angels carry you? Wouldn’t that be really glorifying to God?” And of course Jesus said, “No, it would not be.” It would violate the rest of the Psalm, which commanded Jesus to take responsibility in His actions.

In chapter 2 we have already seen that faith is never pitted against planning and responsible decisions. Planning for and spacing children is no more lack of faith than a farmer’s planning of his crops is lack of faith in God to prosper his crops. Many mothers have had to resort to progesterone therapy in order to maintain a pregnancy and prevent a miscarriage because their bodies are not producing enough progesterone. I suspect that most NCC proponents would allow for such therapy to save the baby’s life (though I have had one who argued that it must be progesterone intervention via natural diet and lifestyle – why, I cannot fathom). If being involved in opening or closing a womb is “lack of trust,” would not any progesterone intervention fit into the same category? I believe it illustrates the fallacy of the “lack of faith” argument.

Illustration of trying to conceive

What is true of preventing babies can just as easily be applied to conceiving babies. When medical technology can repair scarred fallopian tubes that have prevented a woman from getting pregnant for ten years, would it be a lack of “trust” to prayerfully get such a surgical procedure, and to begin conceiving children? I have heard several NCC advocates insist that this is just as sinful as conception control because it is failing to trust God to “open the womb.” They are at least consistent in their application of this faulty view of faith, but they fail to have such consistency when it comes to how they handle their crops.

We need to ask, “What makes medical intervention to enable a pregnancy to occur any different from any other kind of medical interventionism?” Why should a cancer patient have a passive trust of God to heal rather than trusting God through the means of medicine? There should be nothing wrong with applying other aspects of the dominion mandate (medicine) to this aspect of the dominion mandate (procreation) if our trust is in the Lord through those means.

Discussion questions

  1. If attempting to open the womb with technology can be consistent with prayerful trust in God, why cannot attempts to close the womb temporarily with technology also be consistent with prayerful trust in God? Keep in mind that our position is BLCC (condom, rhythm) and not every form of conception control. These methods are methods that God can easily overrule and are consistent with ancient Jewish practices of conception control.
  2. Though it is possible to use physicians, technology, and conception control in a way that does not trust God (see 2 Chron. 16:12), Scripture indicates that it is possible to prayerfully use physicians (Jer. 8:22; Matt. 9:12; Col. 4:14) and medicines (Prov. 17:22; Is. 38:21; Ezek. 47:12; Luke 10:34; Rev. 3:18; 22:2) in a way that trusts God. Can you see any application of this principle to conception control? It is not the technology itself that is the issue, but the heart. We believe it is very important to trust God and pray over every aspirin we take, every car ride we take, every intimate experience we have with our wives, and every attempt to either open or close the womb. It is not either/or but both/and when it comes to trusting divine sovereignty and being responsible stewards of procreation. The reason we are prayerful is that we know God can overrule and make our plans to no effect, but though God overruled many of Paul’s plans (Rom. 1:13), that did not stop Paul from continuing to “find a way by the will of God” that he could still fulfill his plans (Rom. 1:10,13; 15:22-24,29,32; 1 Cor. 4:19; 2 Cor. 1:17; etc.). Planning and faith are totally compatible.

let her breasts satisfy you at all times.

– Prov. 5:19

always be enraptured with her love.

– Prov. 5:19

Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

– 1 Corinthians 7:5

10. Can the Pleasure of Sex Be Separated From Procreation?

Some NCC people insist that the sexual act should never be separated from the purpose of procreation. They claim that it is a sin to enjoy sex without taking the responsibility for the baby that God intends to be the product of such sex. Taking a verse out of context, they quote Jesus saying, “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” They say that God has joined sex and procreation, and it is a serious sin to separate those two things. Usually, appeal is made to the Onan passage in Genesis 38 and to the prohibition of sex during a woman’s period. Chapters 3, 4, and 12 deal with these two issues, and we have demonstrated that the sins involved were for other reasons than for “wasting seed.” The law does not prohibit sterile sex. On the contrary, we have seen that the law of God assumes that the vast majority of sexual relations will be sterile (i.e., before and after fertile days, after pregnancy has been achieved, and after menopause. Is it even possible to obey the following three commands and still maintain this philosophy?

  1. “let her breasts satisfy you at all times” (Prov. 5:19).
  2. always be enraptured with her love” (Prov. 5:19).
  3. “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:5).

Notice that the sexual delight that is commanded is not reserved simply for the times when a wife is fertile. It is for “always” and “all times.” Interestingly, when Paul compared fasting from sexual relations with fasting from food and insisted that it should only be “for a time… and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you” (1 Cor. 7:5), he didn’t say, “Come together again to produce more babies.” He ties the conjugal rights to sexual desires and compared it to hunger for food. How long do people fast from food? On rare occasions perhaps as long as three weeks, but certainly not for nine months. If couples were not expected to fast from sexual pleasure for the entire nine months of pregnancy (logically implied from 1 Corinthians 7:1-5), then it is obvious that Paul was commanding them to have sexual pleasure even when it was guaranteed that no child would result. These three Scriptures explicitly unlink sexual pleasure from procreation. This book discusses numerous other Scriptures that command sexual pleasure with no nuance of procreation being connected.

This idea that sexual pleasure must be linked with procreation does not come from the Bible; it comes from church fathers, who in turn got their ideas from Greek ascetics.138 God’s commands that we regularly experience sexual delight should settle the question, but perhaps a few more words can be said.

I suspect that most NCC advocates are not consistent on this question. I have asked some if they stop having sex when their wives are pregnant, and they admit that they do not. Good for them – they are obeying Scripture. I asked one NCC advocate if he continued to have sex after menopause. He said that he did, but he pointed to Sarah as an example that God could still do a miracle with his wife. If it is OK to “waste seed” during the nine months of pregnancy, why not at other times? Since the average amount of ejaculate contains 180 million sperm (with some estimated at 400 million), it appears that God designed sperm to be “wasted” on purpose, and the whole concept of “wasted seed” is a fallacious argument. The question really boils down to whether it is ever OK to have sex when you know that the sexual union will not result in a pregnancy.

Scripture clearly says that it is. For example, 1 Corinthians 7 calls husband and wife to only abstain from sexual relations for short times of prayer and fasting. Paul was addressing those who were post-menopause as well as pre-menopause. Paul clearly separates sex from procreation and makes one of the central purposes of sex to keep men and women from burning with sexual desire (v. 9) and to keep them from sexual immorality (v. 2). This means that Paul clearly allows for sterile sexual relations the vast majority of the time - during pregnancy, post-menopause, etc.

If God allows for sterile sexual relations during pregnancy, after menopause, etc., there is no logical basis for insisting that we may never separate sex from procreation in other scenarios. For example, a woman getting chemotherapy would destroy a baby in the womb through that treatment. Leukemia can often be cured through chemotherapy if it is caught early enough, and would it not be a good thing to have this mother live another 25 years? It might be responded that God’s sovereign constraint of leukemia also restrains the ability of that couple to have sexual relations for a year or so.

If God’s word says so, that is fine for me. But it doesn’t say so, and I have just shown that God clearly separates sex from procreation in the vast majority of a husband’s and wife’s sexual relations (during pregnancy and during menopause).

Thus, I fail to see where the Bible says that a woman undergoing chemotherapy (who is otherwise healthy and able to enjoy sex) must restrain from sex because birth control is not allowed. What about other situations? What about lesser health issues such as a nervous breakdown? Is financial catastrophe not also God’s constraint? What about inability to disciple more children?

Song of Solomon is another passage that separates the pleasures of sex from procreation (at least in its descriptions). It is not simply a manual on how to have babies. It is a manual on how to bring romance and sexual pleasure to your spouse.

The rest of Scripture seems to give multiple purposes for sexual relations (not just one). Procreation is obviously a purpose (Gen. 1:28; 9:7; Ps. 127:3-5; 128:3), especially the procreation of a godly seed (Mal. 2:15). We have always argued that it is selfish and sinful to desire marriage but to plan to have no children, but there are other purposes for sexual relations.

God ordained that sexual intercourse would serve to develop a deepening of the companionship (“it is not good that man should be alone” – Gen. 2:18,20; cf. Deut. 24:5; Ps. 68:6; Song of Solomon 5:1). These Scriptures indicate that sexual union is one of the purposes of satisfying this deep loneliness within men and women, but that it must be satisfied within marriage. Thus the repeated references to the friend theme in Song of Solomon – “His mouth is most sweet, yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (5:16).

A third purpose is enjoyment and recreation. Genesis 26:8 says that Isaac played (מְצַחֵק) with his wife, and Song of Songs uses language of playful deer in their sexual encounters (2:9,17; 8:14). Proverbs 5:18 says, “Let your fountain [an obvious sexual connotation] be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.” Contrary to the views of church fathers who taught guilt over pleasure in sex,139 God commands pleasure in sex – “rejoice” (Prov. 5:18), “let her breasts satisfy you at all times” (Prov. 5:19), “be enraptured” (Prov. 5:19). Of course there are other references to the enjoyment of the marriage relationship (Gen. 29:20; 1 Sam. 1:8; 2 Sam. 11:11; Prov. 5:19; 12:4; 18:22; 19:14; 31:28,31; Eccl. 9:9; Song of Solomon). It is impossible to read those passages and not come away believing that the purpose of fun and enjoyment can be continued even after a woman gets pregnant and after menopause. It is an artificial restriction to say that when no children can result no pleasure can be had. Any of the purposes can be a reason for sexual union so long as all of the purposes are met at some time over a lifetime of marriage.

A fourth purpose is to complement and complete the man and woman (Gen. 2:18,20). A single man or woman will always be a fragment until they are made complete by marriage. Ephesians 5:31 even uses the mystery of this one flesh concept as an analogy of the great mystery of the union between Christ and believers as head is intimately joined to body. The oneness is so strong that Leviticus 18 says that uncovering the nakedness of someone is uncovering the nakedness of that person’s spouse (see also Deut. 24:5; Matt. 19:5-6; Mark 10:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:2-6).

A fifth purpose is to illustrate God’s love for Israel and the resultant union between Christ and believers. It is an analogy with teaching significance (Hos. 2:19,20; Is. 54:5; 1 Cor. 6:15; Eph. 5:22-23; Rev. 19:7; 21:2,3,9)

Sex was intended to facilitate a deep communication physically, psychologically, and spiritually. This is seen in the Scriptural use of the word “know” in connection with sexual acts (Gen. 4:1; Matt. 1:25; Luke 1:34).

If procreation were the sole purpose for intercourse then it would be clearly wrong to have intercourse apart from that purpose. However, even when we are dealing with a Hannah (1 Sam. 1:6) or a Sarah (Gen. 16:2), who have a closed up womb (infertility) or with sterility in a man or a woman who knows that she does not have ovaries, Scripture makes clear that the couple is not to abstain from sexual intercourse for long periods of time (1 Cor. 7:5) because they have “conjugal rights” or needs that must be met by the other partner (Ex. 21:10). God doesn’t give those commands only to the fertile or to those who are this side of menopause. He commands, honors, and blesses sexual intercourse even where it may not be possible to have children as a result.

Thus it must be admitted that procreation is not necessary for every sexual act, and does not have to be in view for God to bless every sexual union. To the original declaration, “What God hath joined together, let no man separate,” I would rejoinder that God Himself has authorized a separate function for sex besides procreation most of the time (as we have demonstrated, during most of the pregnancy, and for many years after menopause). The NCC position of at least some advocates has unwittingly engaged in legalism and has put a burden upon married partners that has robbed them of some of the greatest pleasures of marriage. It is the purpose of this book to help restore that joy in the Lord by encouraging people to not allow anyone to bind their conscience by the “traditions of men” (Mark 7:1-23; Matt. 15:1-2), but instead to find the liberty that can only come as we allow all of our ethics to be grounded in “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) – which is the moral law code given in the Pentateuch and exemplified in the rest of Scripture.

Wisdom is justified by her children.

– Matt. 11:19

11. More Logical Problems With NCC

What are the logical consequences of the NCC position? It is appropriate to examine a theory based on the logical consequences of it. Jesus said, “Wisdom is justified by her children” (Luke 7:38; Matt. 11:19). Here are some of the logical fruits of at least certain versions of the NCC position.

If Provan’s defense of NCC is true, then sex is logically unethical during pregnancy, menopause, or during the first two years of consistent breastfeeding.

Some reject Provan’s extreme “no sterile sex” position and simply say that breastfeeding is God’s method of conception control. However, that concedes the whole point since the length of breastfeeding is a human choice (one of the arguments against BLCC), and man’s will would be involved in making conceptions more frequent than every 2-3 years if a mother chose to breastfeed for only a few weeks or chose to breastfeed inconsistently or chose to supplement her breastfeeding (all of which would make the estrogen inconsistent enough that pregnancy could result while breastfeeding).

If conception control shows lack of faith, then so does any natural or allopathic attempt to “open the womb.” You cannot consistently hold to one and not the other. The two positions are logically held together. If the NCC position is a mandate that flows from the doctrine that God opens and closes the womb, then of necessity it means that women who have previously gotten tubal ligations may not reverse them and men who have gotten vasectomies may not reverse them, yet many NCC have done exactly that. They have repented of their sinful attempts at sterilization and have tried to get those procedures reversed. I applaud the reversal, but I fail to see their logical consistency. If it is lack of trust in God to ever use a condom (man’s technology injected into the marital act) then it is also a lack of trust in God to try to get scarred fallopian tubes opened up in surgery in order to enable pregnancy. Passivity on the one must be translated over into passivity on the other. One should then simply trust that God will open the womb rather than using a doctor to take dominion of that part of the reproductive process. Indeed, this fallacious view of faith/dominion should be applied to every other part of the dominion mandate (which NCC people inconsistently fail to do as well).140

If conception control shows lack of faith, owning an insurance policy shows exactly the same lack of faith. In fact, many NCC advocates logically refuse to have insurance on their house, or to have life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, etc. They think that is a lack of trust in God. By extension, trust in God would rule out being in Samaritan Ministries. As I have explained already, it is a faulty view of trust. If we are to judge a position’s wisdom by its fruits (Matt. 11:19), then each of these points should make us reject the NCC position.

If the NCC position is Biblical, then a person should try to get the wife pregnant even if it guarantees her death. I have actually heard NCC advocates say this. (Of course they insist that they are trusting that God can do a miracle and save the life of the mother if He wants to, but they do not consider it to be their responsibility when God fails to do so.) This brings them into conflict with other commands about endangerment and commands related to nurturing and preserving life. When people make the purpose of “having the maximum number of children possible” more important than preserving the life of their wife, then their version of fruitfulness seems to almost rise to a level of idolatry.

I recognize that death can happen to a wife through child bearing on any theory of conception control or no conception control, but the point is intent – if the intent of a sexual relationship is to get pregnant when you know that it will most likely produce death, then it is wrong. So a good point to discuss would be this: “Would you be willing to endanger your wife’s life with a pregnancy if you were told that it would almost certainly do so?” If your answer is “Yes,” consider the Larger Catechism’s exposition of the sixth commandment (see chapter 12).

The “have as many children as you can” argument flies in the face of God’s mandate of a Sabbath year of rest for the land. If we are to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, then God’s concept of “good” fruitfulness for the land should at least be transferred over to the wife once every seven years (as a minimum). The NCC position of many does not allow for this.

The “have as many children as you can” argument should cause women to stop breast feeding as soon as possible so that the estrogen produced by breastfeeding stops suppressing ovulation.141 (Thus, the women in the Bible who breast fed till the child was three were not being as serious about being fruitful and multiplying as they could be.)

Even the barren has borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble.

– 1 Samuel 2:5

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

– 1 Peter 3:7

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

– Galatians 5:1

The perfect law of liberty

– James 1:25

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

– Psalm 51:5

You shall not murder.

– Exodus 20:13

12. Ethical Principles That Restrict Conception Control

This chapter will seek to demonstrate that there are Biblical principles that restrict the use of conception control methods. The methods used by Antinomian Birth Control (ABC) advocates often violate one or more of these principles. You will notice that I am not as dogmatic on certain principles as I am on others. This is because I have varying degrees of confidence in my understanding of certain passages of Scripture and varying degrees of confidence in what science has demonstrated. This book is not seeking to have the final say on the issues of conception control, but rather is seeking to further the discussion by digging deeply into the Scriptures. I am open to any criticism that people may wish to bring.

Casting off a fertilized egg is abortion, a form of murder

The general principle explained

The most fundamental principle related to conception control is that it must not cast off a fertilized egg. If the “birth control” method functions after fertilization, it is no longer legitimate to call it conception control. Instead, it is the killing of a conceived person within the womb. Though there is debate in prolife circles on the most recent evidence surrounding the IUD (see below on discussion of the various types of IUD), most pro-lifers have considered the IUD to have a primary abortifacient function. Christians need to evaluate the arguments pro and con. Likewise, many Christians naively use “natural birth control” herbs, little realizing that some are abortifacient.142 Likewise, there is a growing movement of feminists who use essential oils as abortifacients.143 It is imperative that Christians educate themselves on the potential dangers of drugs, herbs, and essential oils.144

Since the Bible also calls us to avoid anything that would tend toward the destruction of life,145 any contraceptive that prevents implantation as a backup mechanism would also be ruled out. If the standard assumptions made by the FDA, the Physician’s Desk Reference, and the manufacturers of these hormonal “contraceptives” is correct, then the third mechanism of hormone methods (preventing implantation) would rule them out. In recent years the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists and other prolife organizations have debated whether abortions ever happen with these hormone contraceptives.146 However, before we get into those debates, let us consider the Biblical principles of when life begins. Does it begin at implantation (as several ABC advocates claim) or does it begin at fertilization?

The Biblical vocabulary of conception & life

In ancient Hebrew literature, the vocabulary used for conception ties the beginning of life with

  1. the timing of seminal discharge (shicavah - שְׁכָבָה),147
  2. with another term for seminal discharge (tzera’ - זרע) that in the Niphal means “for a woman to conceive,”148
  3. with being in heat (yacham – יָחַם – but usually used of animals conceiving upon mating in heat),149
  4. with generation (dor - דּוֹר) from the man,150
  5. with conceiving a child (harah - הָרָה),151 and
  6. with the time at which the sperm is poured out like “milk” (Job 10:10).

Each of those terms seems to point to a time long before implantation, which usually happens around the 9th day after fertilization (though it can range from 6-12 days after fertilization). In contrast, most sperm die within 1-2 days of ejaculation, though some may live as long as 7 days. However, science tells us that sperm are only capable of penetrating an ovum during the first 48 hours. So the vocabulary alone points to life beginning at conception, not implantation. The word הָרָה is especially clear in its distinction to the product in the womb and the baby that is born. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says,

Three words are used in relation to the birth process: הָרָה “conceive,” יָלַד “bear, give birth” and חוּל “to labor in giving birth.” Another word for conceive is יָחַם, used more, however, of animals in heat (but cf. Ps 51:7). The first describes the inception and the latter two the termination of the process.152

The Greek is similar. Hebrews 11:11 uses two words to distinguish the “conception by casting [sperm]” (καταβολὴν) and the seed or fertilized egg that resulted (σπέρματος). William Lane explains in his commentary:

The phrase εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος is a fixed hellenistic idiom for the specifically male function of producing sperm … The sexual expression must be understood in its normal active sense of Abraham’s part in the generation of Isaac.153

Likewise the terms for conception: γεννάω, συλλαμβάνω, and κοίτη, are all compatible with what happens at the time of sexual union. κοίτη literally refers to the marriage bed, and is not only translated “conceived” in Romans 9:10, but also is tightly connected to the various Hebrew words for emission of semen in Numb 5:20; Lev. 15:16ff; 18:20; 22:4. So the life produced cannot refer to implantation, but rather refers to the time of conception – when sperm is present. συλλαμβάνω, the word used for “conceived” in Luke 1:24,31,36 etc., translates the Hebrews terms in Gen. 4:1,25; 16:4; 2 Sam. 12:24; Psalm 51:7 and many other passages that use the Hebrew terms above. This usage makes it very difficult to make a case for implantation.

The Biblical theology of conception & life


The broader theology based on this vocabulary also shows that life begins at conception. For example, Job spoke of an “I” and a “me” (that is personhood) while the sperm was still present in the womb (Job 10:10-11 – see “milk”), which doesn’t give much time frame since sperm die fairly quickly. This “me” was gradually being covered with material substance: “Did you not…curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews?” It is clear that the soul was created while the sperm was still present.


Also, David speaks of the “me” being “covered” with something in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) which implies the presence of the soul/spirit as soon as there is physical matter (“substance being yet unformed,” “frame,” “parts”). Many Scriptures speak of personhood existing from conception. John Jefferson Davis says,

In a number of texts the biblical writers freely apply personal language to the unborn child. Genesis 4:1 says that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The writer’s interest in Cain extends back beyond his birth, to his conception. That is when his personal history begins. The individual conceived and the individual born are one and the same, namely Cain. His conception, birth, and postnatal life form a natural continuum, with the God of covenant involved at every stage. Genesis 5:3 states that when Adam had lived 130 years he “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth” (KJV). In the opening verse of this chapter, which constitutes the “book of the generations of Adam,” is a reference to man’s creation in the likeness of God. From Genesis 5:3 it seems clear that human reproduction was the means by which the image and likeness of Adam were transmitted to Seth. A personal continuity between father and son is here linked to bodily existence, sexuality, and prenatal life.154

Old Testament

Obviously Jews knew that sex made babies, because over and over the Bible says, someone “knew his wife and she conceived” or “went into his wife and she conceived” implying an immediate sequence. However, the Scripture is even more specific on its definition of “conception.” With animal husbandry, conception was linked immediately to mating. For example, Genesis 30:38 shows Jacob’s foolish attempts to get striped and spotted animals by placing rods in front of the animals when they mated. Jacob put these rods “in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink.” Notice the phrase, “when they came to drink,” not hours or days later. While it might be thought that Jacob’s opinion about immediate conception was as mistaken as his opinion about the influence of the rods, the inspired narrator makes it clear that this was not the case. God Himself makes this statement in verse 39: “So the flocks conceived before the rods.” It is impossible for this to mean anything else than that the fast sperm were fertilizing within minutes of being mated (while they were still drinking from the trough), and that fertilization is being defined as “conceived.”

This Biblical understanding of conception being at the time of mating is also found throughout the Scripture. Francis J. Beckwith says,

Job said, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night which said, ‘A boy [גָבֶר] is conceived’” (Job 3:3). This passage connects the individual born with the individual conceived. “Job traces his personal history back beyond his birth to the night of conception. The process of conception is described by the biblical writer in personal terms. There is no abstract language of the ‘product of conception,’ but the concrete language of humanity.” It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word גֶּבֶר is translated as “boy” and specifically applied to the unborn, although it is usually used to describe postnatal humans and is usually translated “male,” “man,” or “husband” (see Ps. 34:8; 52:7; 94:12; Prov 6:34).

Another passage, Psalm 51:5, states, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” This verse too indicates that one’s existence begins with conception.155

Incarnation of Jesus

The incarnation of Jesus also provides relevant information when sorting these things out. Jesus is seen as a living Person in the first week of being in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:42-43). Here is the chronology: Luke 1:24-38 shows six months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The angel then announces the imminent incarnation to Mary (Luke 1:28-37), which Mary embraces (v. 38). Within “days” (v. 39), Mary appears before Elizabeth, and Elizabeth by God’s inspiration announces “the fruit of her womb” and “the mother of my Lord.” (vv. 42-43). Mary then stays with Elizabeth for the next three months (Luke 1:56). Since there are only three more months before the birth of John, and since John is six months older than Jesus, and since the term of a baby is nine months, there is not much wiggle room for stretching the time when the announcement of Christ’s Lordship and personhood (recorded in Luke 1:42-43) happened – it had to have happened before implantation, which typically occurs between the 6th and 12th day after conception.156 Of course, John’s leaping for joy in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41) is another argument against abortion. Joy is a rational as well as emotional concept, and this leaping shows some kind of spiritual discernment that God gave to the fetus, John. Certainly Christ was fully incarnate at this point.

This concept is strengthened by the fact that Hebrews 2:16 describes the incarnation as God the Son “taking hold of the seed of Abraham.” This was not male seed, but female seed – the seed of the woman, a descendent of Abraham. So if the Person of God the Son took hold of (the Greek is epilambano) an egg of Mary, there was an immediate union of Spiritual Person and physical body at fertilization. Though the process was different, it corresponds exactly to the Biblical concept that conception happens at fertilization. If conception is the time that life begins, then any “birth control” method that prevents implantation is implicated as abortion.

Is Exodus 21:22-25 an exception

One passage that evangelicals have used to try to escape this conclusion is Exodus 21:22-25. Though Geisler later changed his opinion,157 in his 1971 edition of the book, Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, he argued that abortion is justifiable for four circumstantial reasons: 1) therapeutic reasons, 2) eugenic reasons, 3) rape, and 4) incest. He used this passage to show that a fetus is potentially a person, but not yet, and many evangelicals have followed suit. The argument hinges on whether 1) the Hebrew for “her children come out” is a reference to a miscarriage or a live birth and 2) “no harm follows” has reference to the baby, the mother, or both. The text (in the NKJV) says,

“If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:22-25)

The claim of some evangelicals is that the term translated in the NKJV (as well as in the NIV, HCSB, WEB, and NET translations) as “gives birth prematurely” should be rendered as “has a miscarriage” (as in the NRSV, NAB, and JPS). The argument of these ABC evangelicals who defend abortifacient “contraceptives” is that the death penalty only applies if the mother dies, but not if the child dies. The Hebrew clearly speaks against that. First, the word for “born prematurely” (יָצָא) is not used of miscarriages, but is used of births. Second, there was a word for miscarriages that could have been used if Moses wanted to mean that.158 Third, it speaks of children (יְלָדֶיהָ) being born. Fourth, even if their interpretation were right, it still makes the miscarriage a crime, punishable at law.159 That this passage shows that abortion is murder deserving of the death penalty can be seen by Cassuto’s commentary, which says, “But if any mischief happen, that is, if the woman dies or the children die, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye.”160

Arguments for abortifacient drugs are not grounded in Scripture. Life begins at conception, and any drug or device that prevents implantation or induces abortion is murder of a person. We will discuss specific forms of birth control that are abortifacient (or at least appear to be abortifacient given the scientific knowledge that we have) in chapter 13.

However, this theology of life at conception argues against Provan’s NCC view

However, this theology of life at conception also argues against the position of at least those NCC advocates who claim that conception control is murder or akin to murder. This position is so prevalent in NCC circles that it can no longer be ignored. Consider the following representative statements by NCC advocates.

Onan’s sin [of wasting seed was] a murder.161

The problem is not that I don’t understand Calvin, because he is quite easy to understand. The “problem” is really for D.A. to convince us that Calvin is in error when he viewed birth control as murder and abortion! For, if Calvin is correct, then the churches of today are filled to the brim with unrepentant murderers and abortionists.162

This sin [of wasting seed] is really an advance murder of that which could have been born of it. Indeed, such filthy persons thereby offer a Molech-sacrifice to the god of the whorish spirit, as the heathen in previous times sacrificed their seed to the idol Molech.163

Acts of self pollution were always held particularly criminal, even by heathen moralists. The Hebrew doctors looked upon them as a degree of murder.164

There is a seminal vital virtue, which perishes if the seed be spilled; and by doing this to hinder the begetting of a living child, is the first degree of murder that can be committed, and the next unto it is the marring of conception, when it is made, and causing of an abortion165

Birth control by means of anticonceptuals, coitus interruptus, etc. is ruthlessly interfering with God’s method of creating a living being. Hufeland, one of the most noted physicians of Germany, 1762-1836, says: “The first question undoubtedly is, When does life begin? There can be no doubt that the act of copulation is to be regarded at the beginning of the existence of the future being and that the very first, even though invisible, germ of this being has the same claim upon the care and protection of the physician as the later, fully developed man… A human being is being murdered in its incipiency… The product presupposes producing, and if it is wrong to kill the product, then it goes without saying that it is wrong to render futile the act whereby it is being produced, for thereby one actually kills that which is in process of being produced (das Werdende) in its beginning.”166

Onan’s sin, a deadly wickedness… is a homicidal waste of the generative powers167

For what is it to waste seed other than kill the foetus and the human being that is to be born from it?168

Onan’s behavior was punished by God with death because it happened contrary to the purpose of marriage and out of devilish jealousy and was also murder.169

So, just because God causes the vast majority of semen to die without causing the birth of a child, this does not prove that it is morally acceptable for us to cause semen to die by means of birth control.170 …Our friendly opponent makes the overstatement, “The seed is not human life.” Though we of course do not think that millions of little people die when someone has a nocturnal emission, nevertheless this statement needs to be qualified. The fact of the matter is that each seed is alive in a different sense than that of an ordinary cell in the human body: each seed is self-propelled and can live even when separate from the body. No other types of cells in the human body have the ability to create new and separate human life, given the proper circumstances, except for the female egg, the female counterpart to the male seed. And if the seed is not “human life”, then, pray tell, what type of life is it? Both myself and my opponent once existed as a seed, and I would call both him and myself human. If one eliminated all the human semen from the earth, one would thereby eliminate all future humans also. So, there is a close connection between the two, so close that we do affirm that destroying semen is in effect destroying the children who would otherwise be born. And let it be plain to all, that those who practice birth control do so to eliminate children that they themselves do not wish to raise. They do not dislike the semen: they dislike the children the semen will turn into! In wartime, soldiers do not blow up trains because they don’t like trains; they blow them up because they don’t like what the trains deliver!171

We have already demonstrated that this is not the meaning of Genesis 38, cannot be established from the law of God, and is contrary to the clear Scriptural testimony that life begins at conception and personhood begins at conception. Without personhood, the death of sperm is not murder. When God declares on the night of coitus that “A boy [גָבֶר] is conceived” (Job 3:3), He is opposing both antinomianism and NCC legalism. To the antinomian I would say that on the very night of the conception God called what was conceived a boy, not a potential boy. To the NCC advocate I would say that until the boy was conceived, it was not a human with a soul. Biblical theology is quite clear that it takes both the woman’s egg and the man’s sperm to make a human being. Until there is a human being made in the image of God, it is inappropriate to speak of “killing” (when unintentional) or “murder” (when intentional) when seed “is wasted.” Indeed, it is Pharisaism since it adds to the law of God. Other arguments are needed to demonstrate that conception control is sin.

Menstrual sex not allowed, but not for reasons stated by NCC advocates

NCC advocates will frequently point out that sexual relations during a woman’s menstrual cycle is forbidden by the law of God. With this we agree. Leviticus 20:18 says,

If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people.

This prohibition is repeated three times in the law (Lev. 15:19-24; 18:19; 20; 20:18), reiterated in the prophets (Ezek. 18:6) and reiterated twice in the New Testament (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25). Our argument with NCC is not that menstrual sex is allowable, but rather we disagree with the reasons given by the NCC advocates.

The BLCC reasons for why menstrual sex is prohibited versus the NCC reason

Nowhere in the Scripture is the reason for this prohibition that the act is “wasting seed.” Instead, six other reasons are given:

  1. Because it makes the person ceremonially “unclean” and therefore unfit to enter the temple (Lev. 15:19-24), a reason that we have already shown has no more relevance to New Testament Christians.172
  2. Because “he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood” (Lev. 20:19), a provision that some relate to reason #1 and others relate to reason #6.
  3. Because it is an “abomination” (תּוֹעֵבָה) or something “horrifying” (Lev. 18:19 with vv. 26-27,29).
  4. Because God judged even pagans for it (Lev. 18:19 with v. 26-28).
  5. Because it makes the land defiled (Lev. 18:19 with v. 26).
  6. Because this is a blood law that the New Testament continues to uphold (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25).

There is no mention anywhere that wasting seed factored into the prohibition, and given the laws that explicitly allow us to waste seed (discussed in chapter 3), it is not even a credible theory.

Nevertheless, Provan insists that the reason for the prohibition is that menstrual sex is one of the “sterile forms of sexual intercourse … even though seed is emitted.”173 Provan devotes an entire chapter to his claim that “all sterile sexual acts are forbidden, unless… they happen accidentally.”174 However, he recognizes that he cannot ground his “sterile sex” argument in exegesis of the passages dealing with menstruation, and he cannot ground it in science.175 Therefore he tries to make a logical connection between intercourse with a menstrous woman and four other crimes:

  1. Male homosexual intercourse (Lev. 20:13)
  2. Male/Animal bestiality (Lev. 20:15)
  3. Female/Animal bestiality (Lev. 20:16)
  4. Withdrawal (Wasting Seed) (Gen. 38:8-10)176

He then draws an erroneous conclusion:

What is common to all these five sins? The answer is: they are all sterile forms of sexual intercourse. Children cannot be produced from male homosexual activity or bestiality, even though seed is emitted. Menstrous intercourse is the most easily identified sterile time of the woman’s cycle… Withdrawal is meant to be sterile, and is, most of the time. In all these cases the seed is wasted.

So we can see that the reason that these sins are condemned by God is because they are almost 100% sterile, and oppose the command of God to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’

What is particularly offensive about Provan’s chain of reasoning is that makes him trivialize the seriousness of lesbianism, female bestiality, male homosexuality, and male bestiality. So as not to be accused of misrepresenting him, I will quote him at length.

…there is no penalty prescribed for lesbian activities in the Old Testament. This of course does not mean that lesbianism is OK with God – it just means that there is no civil penalty… So we see that male homosexuals are to be executed, but female homosexuals are spared.

Some attempt the explanation that, “Well, God is just nicer to girls.” We would reply that God in the Old Testament has nothing against executing female evildoers, as is evident from the fact that God has decreed the death penalty for: female murderers (Gen. 9:6), female sorcerers (Lev. 20:27), female idolators (Deut. 13:6-9), females guilty of bestiality (Lev. 20:16), female adulterers (Lev. 20:10), etc. In fact, we are not aware of any sin for which God kills guilty males but spares guilty females, except in the case of homosexual activity…

The Bible prescribes death of the male homosexual and life for the female because only the male homosexual wastes seed. Which once again shows that wasting seed is an awful thing in the eyes of God…

Women who mate with animals are to be killed, while women homosexuals are to be allowed to live. And what can account for the difference? Again we see that the only explanation of the above law is that the difference is in wasting seed. In female bestiality, the animals seed is wasted. In female homosexuality, while sin is indeed committed, no seed is wasted.

So ends our examination of Old Testament perversions and their penalties. We may observe that all sterile sexual acts are forbidden, unless (as we have said) they happen accidentally. Therefore, since the very purpose of all methods of birth control is to make the sexual act sterile, they are forbidden too.177

However, it is simply not true that lesbianism did not receive the death penalty. Paul lumps lesbians (Rom. 1:26) and male homosexuals (v. 27) together as a group and says of both groups, “that those who practice such things are deserving of death” (v. 27). Was Paul adding to the law or misinterpreting the law? No. He was rightly interpreting the Hebrew word for “perversion” (תֶּבֶל), which the dictionary defines as sexual “confusion.” That term is used to discuss male bestiality (Lev. 18:23a), female bestiality (Lev. 18:23b), and incest (Lev. 20:12), all three of which were said to be deserving of death in Leviticus 18:27-30. It was the sexual confusions listed in Leviticus 18 that violated or perverted the creation order. The commonality of all the crimes has nothing to do with wasting seed and everything to do with perverting or confusing the created order for sexuality. See our discussion below on the phrases, “any of these abominations” (Lev. 18:26,29,30) and “all these abominations” (v. 27).

Provan’s exegesis not only trivializes the seriousness of homosexuality, lesbianism, and bestiality, but it also ignores the true reasons for the prohibitions. Why were these crimes condemned? First, because they were “perversion” (תֶּבֶל). As we have already pointed out, that term is also used to describe a man having intercourse with his daughter-in-law – something that was not exactly sterile sex. Yet both were perversion. Obviously wasting seed had nothing to do with the label of “perversion.”

Second, Leviticus 18 lists all these crimes (including menstrual sex) as being an “abomination” (תּוֹעֵבָה) or something “horrifying.” The chapter ends by saying,

You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. (Lev. 18:26-29)

Note the phrases, “any of these abominations” and “all these abominations.” That includes many abominations that did not involve “sterile sex,” including incest with father or mother (v. 7), incest with step mother (v. 8), incest with sister (v. 9), incest with grandchildren (v. 10), step-sister (v. 11), aunt or uncle (vv. 12-14), daughter-in-law (v. 15), sister-in-law (v. 16). It included marrying a mother and her daughter (v. 17), or marrying two sisters at the same time (v. 18). Obviously the reason for treating everything in chapter 18 as an “abomination” or something horrifying had nothing whatsoever to do with sterile sex.

Third, the land is defiled (Lev. 18:27,28,29) because of all of these sexual practices (including sexuality during menstruation – v. 19). This implies that it is more serious than simply ceremonial uncleanness. It also implies (as Leviticus 18:26b explicitly says) that this was for both Jew and Gentile. Interestingly, God vomited the previous nations that existed before Israel out of the land for all of these sexual practices (vv. 27-28), but the land being defiled is a quite different reason than sterile sex.

Proof that Acts 15 continues to uphold the prohibition against menstrual sex

It is important to realize that five of the six reasons given in Scripture for avoiding menstrual sex continue to apply today.178 While NCC advocates add a reason that is not found in the Bible, the ABC advocates typically dismiss the subject as being ceremonial law (reason #1) and ignore the Biblical evidence for its abiding relevance to both Jew and Gentile. Yet the prohibition is repeated three times in the law (Lev. 15:19-24; 18:19; 20; 20:18), reiterated in the prophets (Ezek. 18:6) and reiterated twice more in the New Testament (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25). It is the New Testament passages that we will now examine. Acts 15:3-16:5 says,

15:3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. 5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

15:6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

15:12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16 “After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up;

17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.”

15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

15:22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

15:23 They wrote this, letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

15:30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. 32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words. 33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles.

15:34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there. 35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

15:36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”… 39 … And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

16:1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

What it does not mean.
It is not a repudiation of the moral law of Moses (Rom. 13:9 and rest of NT).

This passage has been subjected to so many interpretations that it might be helpful to examine what the passage cannot mean before we examine its meaning and continuing application.

First, this is not a repudiation of the moral law. It might be thought that the phrase “sexual immorality” is a moral law. But the Greek word “porneia” can refer to non-moral marriage laws, such as “you can’t marry your sister or your cousin.” Consider the implications if it is taken as a moral law: If the law “sexual immorality” is the only moral law that we have to keep, does it mean that we can murder, lie and steal? Obviously not. Romans 13:9 says that the commandments “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” are all still binding. That passage is quoting the Old Testament. Paul continues by saying, “and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Since Paul agreed with the Assembly, it is evidence that the Assembly did not do away with the moral law.

It is not simply a sampling of both ceremonial and moral laws (with other laws being implied) (v. 28).

Some people try to get around that by saying that the rest of the moral law is assumed and that the Assembly simply gave one example of the moral laws that needed to be kept. This interpretation is frequently adopted because “sexual immorality” does indeed give the appearance of being a moral law, yet saying that it is the only moral law would lead to the absurdity mentioned in the previous point. Taking it as a representative law helps to avoid that problem.

However, there are two problems with that interpretation. First, verse 28 is quite clear that whatever these four laws are, there aren’t more of them. Verse 28 says, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” That statement indicates that there is no requirement beyond those four laws. A second problem is that if there are more moral laws implied here, then by logical necessity there must be more ceremonial laws that are also implied. You could argue that they too are sample ceremonial laws that are binding, but that would be no solution against the Judaizers who were being opposed at the Assembly.

It is not simply a cultural adaptation to the Jews (vv. 28,29).

Other people say that (based on verse 21) this is a cultural adaptation to the Jews. They will cite James’ reason, “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (v. 21). They say that the only reason for these laws is to accommodate Jews. Where Jews are not present, we can eat blood pudding to our heart’s content.

The main problem with that interpretation is that verse 28 calls these four laws “necessary things.” They are not just cultural adaptations. They are necessary. Furthermore, verse 29 gives no clue that they are simply talking about being around Jews. Instead, it makes it more general. It says, “If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

It is not simply three things that occur in temples (notice the contrast between verses 20 and 29).

A fourth creative interpretation looks at verse 20 and says, “the first thing in the list is “things polluted by idols” and it then gives three things that are so polluted: temple prostitution, strangled animals, and drinking blood in pagan temples. There are three problems with that interpretation. First, it doesn’t say or imply “temple prostitution” anywhere in the text. Second, the grammar doesn’t allow the last three to be modifying the first one. The words “and the” in the Greek precedes each of the last three laws, indicating that they are in addition to, not a subset of things polluted by idols. Thirdly, we will be seeing that verse 29 changes the order, and that is the strongest evidence that these are four separate things.

It is not a cowardly caving in to Judaizing pressure on the part of James (v.v. 22,23,25,30-35).

Finally, there are some who think that this was a cowardly caving in to the Judaizing pressure of James and that Paul either caved in or was outvoted. Given Paul’s letters both before (Galatians – written in 49 AD) and after this Assembly (all the rest), it is not conceivable that Paul caved in to the Judaizers. The text itself gives no hint that Paul was in a minority. Verse 22 shows a solidarity of Paul and Barnabas with the other delegates who are bringing this letter. Verse 23 makes it clear that this letter came from all the apostles. That includes Paul. Verse 25 again affirms Barnabas and Paul. Verses 30-35 show that this was a unanimously sent and received message.

Furthermore, the whole letter is attributed to the guidance of the Holy Spirit: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (v. 28). Finally, chapter 16:4 shows the apostle Paul “delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.” This means that Paul himself mandated that this decree be kept long after the council had deliberated. Whatever the decision was, it is not saying anything different than Galatians has already said or than 1 Corinthians will later say. Paul was obviously in agreement with the decree.

What it does mean
It means that Gentile believers are not being required to keep anything more than the four requirements of Gentiles in Leviticus 17-18.

What does it mean? The solution to the apparent dilemma is that all four laws are the only Jewish non-moral laws that were required of Gentiles in the Old Testament. The Old Testament did not require circumcision of believing Gentiles like Uriah the Hittite or other Gentile “God-fearers” who were dwelling in the midst of Israel. Such men did not need to keep any of the ceremonial laws except for four, and those four were listed in Leviticus 17-18:

  1. abstain from eating blood
  2. abstain from eating meat of animals that had been strangled
  3. abstain from meat that had been offered to idols
  4. the non-moral sexual laws (such as laws of consanguinity,179 laws of affinity,180 and the law against menstrual sex).

That these were not moral laws can be immediately recognized by the answer to the question, “Where did Cain get his wife?” The obvious answer is, “He married his sister.” Where did Abraham get his wife? Abraham married his half-sister. There are other examples before the time of Moses. It wasn’t until the time of Moses that God added those laws for health and other purposes. Likewise, inadvertent touching of menstrual blood (such as can happen just before a menses begins – cf. Lev. 15:24) seemed to have none of the moral overtones that a deliberate humbling of a wife by uncovering her period would have (Lev. 18:19 with verses 26-28; 20:28; Ezek. 18:6). This hints that it is not a moral law, even though it was a requirement imposed on both Jew and Gentile (cf. Lev. 18:19 with 26-30). So the viewpoint I will be defending is that Acts 15 is stating which non-moral laws will continue to be binding for all time, even as they were binding on Gentiles long before Israel existed as a nation. This interpretation perfectly fits the context of James’ argument.

It is a logical necessity of the Scriptures cited in Acts 15:16-17

Though the main text that James cites is Amos 9:11-12, it should be noted that James is quoting “prophets” (plural) and therefore Acts 15:16-17 should be seen as a conflation of Jeremiah 12:15 (“After this I will return”), Amos 9:11 (“and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up”), Zechariah 8:20-23/Amos 9:12 (“So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does all these things”) with Zechariah 2:14-17 being a strong parallel passage.

In verse 15, James says, “And with this” [that is, with Peter’s statement that God has included Gentiles within the same body as the Jews] “the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:” Notice that James is not quoting just one prophet. There were three prophets who spoke about exactly the same thing. You could get exactly the same applications from any one of those three passages. The slight variations in words between Amos and Acts 15 are completely reconciled when you compare the parallel passages. Amos 9:11-12, Jeremiah 12:15 and Zechariah 8:20-23 all speak of the time of Messiah as being a time when Gentiles will be saved and will dwell in the midst of Israel. They distinguish between observant Jews and non-observant Gentiles, yet the Gentiles are clearly saved and considered part of God’s people. It would likely have been a puzzle for Old Testament saints who read those passages. How can Jews and Gentiles be part of Israel? Even though it was not clear to Old Testament saints, you can clearly see that those passages were talking about the same thing that Peter was.

This is why in verse 19 he can make a logical deduction: “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” The “therefore” shows that the observance of those four laws logically flows from Amos 9, Jeremiah 12 and Zechariah 8. One commentator said,

The proviso in Acts 15:20 is not an arbitrary qualification of this decision, but itself follows, with exegetical logic from Acts 15:16-18. If Gentile Christians are the Gentiles to whom the prophecies conflated in Acts 15:16-18 refer, then they are also the Gentiles of Jeremiah 12:16; [and] Zechariah … and therefore the part of the Law of Moses which applies to them is Leviticus 17-18.181

The reason this author says that Leviticus 17-18 is relevant is that it contains the same four laws James brings up, and applies them to Gentiles. So if the Gentiles being saved in Acts are the same as the Gentiles being saved in Amos 9, Jeremiah 12 and Zechariah 8, it follows of necessity that they must observe the ceremonial laws that the Old Testament imposed on all Gentiles who dwelt in the midst of Israel. That’s the logic of James’ argument. I think everyone would have immediately understood that because Israel already imposed those laws on Gentiles living in their midst.

These were ceremonial laws that were imposed upon Gentiles in the Old Testament. A brief history of these laws:

Next, let’s examine a brief history of these laws. First, in Genesis 9, as soon as Noah got off the ark, God gave those Gentiles a prohibition of blood. Genesis 9:3 said that they could eat pork. They weren’t bound by any of the kosher laws. Why? Because they were not Jews. God said to Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” So even though they didn’t have to follow other ceremonial laws, the next verse absolutely prohibits the eating of blood. It says in Genesis 9:4, “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” So the blood laws were applied to every human being. These are not laws that are restricted to Israel. Nor was it trying to be sensitive to the presence of Jews. Long before there were Jews, God forbad the eating of blood as food. It’s not an Old Testament ceremony designed to separate Jew from Gentile. There were a lot of laws that did that, including circumcision. That’s why Paul refused to let them impose circumcision, but he had no problem imposing laws that always applied to Gentiles.

Second, numerous passages make this prohibition of blood a “perpetual ordinance” (Lev. 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:12-16; 19:26; Deut. 12:16,23; 15:23). It was not just a time-bounded law for Israel. This is what makes me decline blood pudding. God prohibits it for all time.

Third, all four laws given in Acts 15 were imposed upon the “aliens who dwell among you” (Lev. 17:8,10,12,13; 18:26). This is the one place in the Levitical Law that made special requirements for Gentiles in the land. Consider the following Scriptures:

“Also you shall say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to offer it to the LORD, that man shall be cut off from among his people” (Lev. 17:18-19).

Notice that this prohibition of eating meat that had been offered to other gods was strictly prohibited to “the strangers who dwell among you.”

“And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people” (Lev. 17:18-19).

This prohibition of blood to Gentiles is repeated again in verse 12:

“Therefore I said to the children of Israel, “No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood’” (Lev. 17:10-12). So that is clearly not just a Jewish law.

Next comes eating things strangled in verse 13:

“Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust” In other words, even strangers were forbidden from eating things strangled. They were required to bleed the animal.

Then comes a bunch of moral and ceremonial laws related to sexual relations and marriage. And the reader should notice that in chapter 18:26-27 it applies every one of those laws (including the menstrual law of verse 19) to Gentiles as well as Jews.

Related to the laws of consanguinity, laws of affinity, law against menstrual sex, as well as the moral sexual laws mixed in, Leviticus 18:26 says, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you.” These laws were required of all believing Gentiles who didn’t want to become Jews. They were called “strangers within the land” or “Gentiles in the midst of My people.”

The language used in Leviticus is exactly the same language used by the three prophets that James quotes. For example, Jeremiah 12:16 prophecies of Gentiles, “then they shall be established in the midst of My people.” The Zechariah 8 passage indicates not only that the Gentiles would seek the Lord, but they would somehow be considered to be in Jerusalem (v. 22) and would be in a synagogue learning from a Jewish man (v. 23). It wasn’t a clear revelation of the mystery of the one body that Paul talks about, but it was consistent with that new revelation. Isn’t that what James says? “And with this the words of the prophets agree.” Peter gave the new revelation and James says that this new revelation is consistent with what was prophesied, even though it wasn’t clearly prophesied. The parallel passage in Zechariah 2 says that “many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people.” That’s as clear a testimony to the one body as you can get in the Old Testament, yet still not clear enough to understand the doctrine totally without the New Testament revelation of the mystery given to Peter, Paul, and all the apostles.

There is more evidence: notice that Acts 15:20 shows a different order of laws than verse 29. In Acts 15:20 James is talking off the top of his head, and he gives a different order than Leviticus does. The order in Acts 15:20 that is given from memory is:

  1. Eating idol sacrifices (Lev. 17:7-9)
  2. Sexual laws (Lev. 18:1-19)
  3. Eating things strangled (Lev. 17:13-16)
  4. Blood laws (Lev. 17:10-12

When it comes to actually writing the letter, James orders his thoughts, and he puts them in exactly the same order as given in Leviticus.

Order in Acts 15:29:

  1. Eating idol sacrifices
  2. Blood laws
  3. Eating things strangled
  4. Sexual laws

Order in Leviticus:

  1. Eating idol sacrifices (Lev. 17:7-9)
  2. Blood laws (Lev. 17:10-12)
  3. Eating things strangled (Lev. 17:13-16)
  4. Sexual laws (Lev. 18:1-19)182
    • Cannot marry within the degrees of consanguinity listed.
    • Cannot marry within the degrees of affinity listed.
    • May not engage in marital relations during the monthly period.
    • (The previous Mosaic laws are then followed by a discussion of the sexual sins of adultery, homosexuality and bestiality in verses 20-23.)

This again confirms that Acts 15 is dealing with the four laws of Leviticus 17-18 that were always binding on both Jew and Gentile.

They were practiced under the monarchy (1 Sam. 14:34-35)

A history of those four laws also confirms our interpretation. These laws were practiced by Gentiles under the monarchy (1 Samuel 14:34-35). They continued to be considered abominations under Ezekiel after the exile (Ezek. 33:25; 18:6; 22:10). They continued to be enforced during New Testament times. For example, Mark 6:18 has John the Baptist telling King Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Likewise, 1 Corinthians 5:1 says, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality [the same Greek word porneia] among you and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles – that a man has his father’s wife!” Paul was saying that this was applicable even to Gentiles. In other words, Paul not only enforced the decrees of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 16:4-5, but he also vigorously upheld the Jerusalem council’s edict in his epistles.

In terms of the use of the Greek term “porneia” for non-moral issues, one scholar cited “the Zadokite Documents [early Jewish writings], which define ‘fornication’ as polygamy, infringement of the Levitical prohibitions and about the menstrual period, and consanguineous marriage.” From earliest times the church has upheld these Levitical laws. The Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy says,

Diriment Impediment. A term used in canon law to denote a circumstance or fact that makes a person incapable of contracting a valid marriage, e.g., impotency, consanguinity, insufficient age. A marriage by anyone in such circumstances is not merely unlawful but invalid.183

So the term “sexual immorality” (which is the Greek word porneia) can refer to any kind of moral sexual sin, or it can be used as a technical term for the Levitical prohibitions to Gentiles and Jews in Leviticus 18, such as the laws of affinity and consanguinity.

Things offered to idols (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25; 1 Cor. 10:19-22)

Paul also upheld the law against eating meat offered to idols or having anything whatsoever to do with idols. In 1 Corinthians 10 he said this:

What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?

Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.

Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

– 1 Corinthians 10:19-22

Some people point to chapter 8 and say that it is OK to eat meat offered to idols knowingly. In chapter 8 he had given an argument that even if the Corinthians were right about eating meat in a temple being OK (a hypothetical argument), it would still violate the conscience of a brother who did not believe that way and should be avoided for that reason alone. In chapter 10 he forbids it completely. He forbids it just as clearly as the Jerusalem council did.

In Acts 21:25 Paul agreed with the whole decree, including blood and things strangled. He submitted himself to some Jewish rituals, because he was a Jew, but the only four rituals he believed could be imposed on the Gentiles were the ones listed in Acts 15.

The problems God is sparing us from in prohibiting sex during menstruation

Some might wonder why God treats vaginal intercourse with a menstrual woman as such a serious problem. We may not know all of the reasons, but certainly the health of the woman needs to be considered. While there is still a lot of debate on the health risks of sex during menstruation, the next chapter will document five major health issues that have been statistically associated with intercourse during the menses. It is not at all surprising to me that the New Testament continues the prohibition – God cares about our health. He also cares about a woman’s sense of propriety and dignity, and some men are thoughtless enough that God showed his care for women by making it a mandate, not a suggestion.

God is interested in our liberty, and we must allow God’s law to define our liberty.

When we strictly govern our behavior by the law of God, we are not subject to the attempts of men to rob us of our liberties. Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Unless God defines our liberty, we will lose it. It is like railroad tracks. As long as the tracks are intact, the train has liberty. God’s commandments are the railroad tracks. James says that they are designed for our liberty. He speaks of it as being the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). In Acts 15 James says that he doesn’t want us troubled by anything beyond what God has commanded. Verse 24 says, “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ — to whom we gave no such commandment.” When men add commandments beyond what the Old Testament or the apostles have given, we are immediately troubled. Such laws are not for our good. God wants us to have liberty, and He has only given as many laws as will produce maximum liberty. So verse 28 says, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” These four Mosaic laws together with all the moral laws of the Old Testament are the perfect law of liberty and they reflect the Holy Spirit’s goodness. Let’s stand in that liberty and never give it up. Let’s not allow our consciences to be bound by anything other than what God has commanded, But let us also embrace all that He has commanded.

The ethics of “conception control” should also consider the health of the mother. In opposition to some NCC advocates, we would say that preventing conception may be necessary to achieve the goal of preserving the health and life of the mother. To ABC advocates, we would say that avoiding certain “birth control” methods may be necessary to achieve the goal of preserving the health of the mother, but it is not a simple matter of avoiding all risks. People with health problems sometimes need to balance one risk against another risk. So the principles laid out in this chapter do not necessarily translate into one solution. Though BLCC advocates avoid all hormonal “birth control” methods for the reasons outlined, they do not necessarily oppose the use of some of these same medications to treat diseases, PMS, or serious hormonal issues. For example, some single women have used certain hormonal pills to reduce heavy bleeding and cramping by up to 90%. Again, we do not want science to bind people’s consciences, but when deciding on what method of conception control to use, seeking to preserve the health of the mother is an important consideration.

General principles

The general principles are so well laid out in the Larger Catechism, that I will quote two of the questions and answers at length. Larger Catechism 135 asks, “What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?” The answer is,

The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves (Eph. 5:28–29) and others (1 Kings 18:4) by resisting all thoughts and purposes (Jer. 26:15–16, Acts 23:12,16–17,21,27), subduing all passions (Eph. 4:26–27), and avoiding all occasions (2 Sam. 2:22, Deut. 22:8), temptations (Matt. 4:6–7, Prov. 1:10,11,15–16), and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any (1 Sam. 24:12, 1 Sam. 26:9–11, Gen. 37:21–22); by just defense thereof against violence (Ps. 82:4, Prov. 24:11–12, 1 Sam. 14:45), patient bearing of the hand of God (James 5:7–11, Heb. 12:9), quietness of mind (1 Thess. 4:11, 1 Pet. 3:3–4, Ps. 37:8–11), cheerfulness of spirit (Prov. 17:22); a sober use of meat (Prov. 25:16,27), drink (1 Tim. 5:23), physick (Isa. 38:21), sleep (Ps. 127:2), labor (Eccl. 5:12, 2 Thess. 3:10,12, Prov. 16:26), and recreations (Eccl. 3:4,11); by charitable thoughts (1 Sam. 19:4–5, 1 Sam. 22:13–14), love (Rom. 13:10), compassion (Luke 10:33–34), meekness, gentleness, kindness (Col. 3:12–13); peaceable (James 3:17), mild and courteous speeches and behavior (1 Pet. 3:8–11, Prov. 15:1, Judges 8:1–3); forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil (Matt. 5:24, Eph. 4:2,32, Rom. 12:17,20); comforting and succouring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent (1 Thess. 5:14, Job 31:19–20, Matt. 25:35–36, Prov. 31:8–9).

Likewise, Larger Catechism 136 asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?” The answer is,

The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves (Acts 16:28), or of others (Gen. 9:6), except in case of public justice (Numb. 35:31,33,) lawful war (Jer. 48:10, Deut. 20:1), or necessary defense (Exod. 22:2–3); the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life (Matt. 25:42–43, James 2:15–16, Eccl. 6:1–2); sinful anger (Matt. 5:22), hatred (1 John 3:15, Lev. 19:17), envy (Prov. 14:30), desire of revenge (Rom. 12:19); all excessive passions (Eph. 4:31), distracting cares (Matt. 6:31,34); immoderate use of meat, drink (Luke 21:34, Rom. 13:13), labor (Eccl. 12:12, Eccl. 2:22–23), and recreations (Isa. 5:12); provoking words (Prov. 15:1, Prov. 12:18), oppression (Ezek. 18:18, Exod. 1:14), quarreling (Gal. 5:15, Prov. 23:29), striking, wounding (Numb. 35:16–18,21), and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any (Exod. 21:18–36).184

I have emphasized the phrases that directly relate to conception control. God cares not just for the life of the baby, but also for the life of the mother. Exodus 21:22-25 indicates that God has an equal care for both. Once a baby is in the womb, we must not pit the mother’s life against the baby or the baby’s life against the mother. Both are precious in God’s sight and the life and health of both should be preserved. This means that when a woman must undergo radiation, chemotherapy, or other procedures that might be life-threatening to a baby, it is better that the couple practice conception control to try to avoid getting pregnant during this time.

Likewise, just as God did not want man to wear out the land, but to nurture it and give it rest (Lev. 25:4), God wants us to nurture and cherish (Eph. 5:29), protect and preserve (Eph. 5:23,28) our wives. If the woman “who has many children has become feeble” (1 Sam. 2:5), it might be time to let her strengthen. When a zeal to have maximum fertility trumps both the health of the mother and the discipleship of the children, that zeal has become a zeal without knowledge; a focus on one commandment at the exclusion of another. Just as failure to give the land rest (because of a zeal for fruitfulness) resulted in God’s discipline (Lev. 26:34,43; 2 Chron. 36:21), so too a failure to sexually “dwell with them [our wives] with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel” will make our prayers hindered (1 Pet. 3:7) and will hinder the blessing of an ideal marriage – loving life and seeing good days (v. 10). The rest of this book assumes the need to engage in conception control in a way that best stewards and balances the desires for fruitfulness, health, dominion, etc. While conception control should be used as a way of stewardship, we should be very careful that our methods of conception control do not in any way endanger the health of the mother. Consider the potential issues in the next chapter that supplement what we have already said about each type of “birth control” method and BLCC method.

Principles ruling out permanent solutions

Tubal ligation (“tying the tubes”), other forms of severing or cauterizing the female fallopian tubes, and vasectomy make the decision permanent and rule out children even should the current children die in a car accident or should a spouse die. The book of Job illustrates the wisdom of avoiding a permanent solution. He had several children. Imagine if he had undergone a permanent solution – he and his wife would have died alone in the end of the book. Most BLCC advocates have not been comfortable with such an absolute closing of the door to the future.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 has sometimes been used to speak against permanent sterilization, but while it certainly speaks against forced sterilization, it may be stretching the text too much to apply it to voluntary sterilization. It is a passage that at least should be considered.

On the other hand, some have used Matthew 19:12 to support male sterilization. Jesus said, “There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” As I have already mentioned, I am not convinced that Jesus is talking about permanent sterilization. The ancient Jewish prejudice against all sterilization makes that interpretation extremely unlikely. There is legitimate debate on the meaning of the passage.

However, while I am reluctant to judge those who have contemplated sterilization, I have strongly recommended against it based on Biblical principles of

  1. risk management
  2. having a backup plan should your children be killed like Job’s were
  3. health considerations (see chapter 13 – there are major problems with men developing sperm allergies when they get vasectomies)
  4. trusting God to overrule our plans, etc.

While I am not dogmatic on this question, the Biblical evidence has made me lean against it.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

– 2 Peter 1:3-4

13. Which Methods of Conception Control Are Lawful?

Cautions on applying Biblical principles to scientific discoveries

Before I apply the ethical principles of the previous chapter to the actual methods of “conception control” and the unbiblical methods of so-called “birth control,” I want to give some cautions. My first caution is: do not credit science with the same authority that you credit Scripture. Science is not infallible; the Bible is. Indeed, the conclusions of science are constantly changing. While we can be dogmatic about the ethical principles articulated in the previous chapters, we should be less dogmatic about applying those principles via science. Science is an inductive endeavor, and inductivism can (at best) only give us varying degrees of probability. The probabilities may be quite high, even high enough to make us quite certain, but they do not rise to the level infallibility. The Bible is the only infallible thing in life. So even though I give conclusions on why you should avoid certain methods of conception in this chapter, I do so recognizing that time may prove these conclusions to be wrong or partially wrong. I would not want the theology of the previous chapters questioned if the scientific data behind certain applications is proved to be wrong.

Thus my second caution is to see this chapter as the application of theology, not the theology itself. God expects us to make conclusions about the world around us (see for example Matthew 24:32). We will seek to do that in this chapter by reference to many medical studies, but the reader will need to be convinced that the studies are true before the application will make sense.

This leads to a general rule of thumb – if the scientific studies are fairly strong, apply the theological principles to them with confidence, but if in doubt, err on the side of caution. If you are convinced that something is dangerous for the health of you, your spouse, or your baby, then avoid it. If you are in doubt about whether a method is dangerous to our health or dangerous to a baby’s life, then you should avoid that method, because whatever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).

My final caveat is to not equate my comfort zone as being authoritative. There are legitimate differences of opinion among BLCC advocates, with some only using the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) of breast feeding, others using one of the Natural Family Planning methods, others using computer technology that monitors saliva and other factors, others being comfortable with NFP plus a condom, still others being comfortable with a diaphragm, and still others using spermicides in conjunction with the aforementioned methods. The fact that I have not been comfortable with diaphragms or spermicides should not bind the consciences of others. Consider the health risks that I believe exist with those and make your own judgment. The following pages are simply an attempt to educate you on the varying levels of risks to health and life.

Methods typically used by Biblically Limited Conception Control

After examining all of the evidence for and against, I have come to the conclusion that the following methods are allowable. I see no evidence to indicate health risks.

The Billings Ovulation Method (BOM) (sometimes called mucus test method)

Though this newer method of conception control is not as well known in BLCC circles, it is a very effective method. It is quite different from either the Rhythm or the Temperature Methods, and much more accurate. For example, one study in a low socio-economic region of Guatamala had an astounding 90.74% success rate with 54 infertile couples in helping them achieve pregnancy185 and a 99.3% success rate with 506 couples in helping them to postpone pregnancy.186 A study done in China showed an effectiveness rate of 98.82%.187 Merecedes A. Wilson says, “Pregnancy can only result from an act of intercourse during the woman’s approximately 100 hours of fertility when the pre-ovulatory mucus is most receptive to sperm penetration.”188 The Billings Ovulation Method helps to pinpoint that period with precision, irrespective of length or regularity of menstrual period.

Simplistically, the test puts the vaginal mucus between two fingers and then separates the mucus to test the texture. It is very convenient, very easy to learn, needs absolutely no thermometers or other technology, is non-invasive, and can be used even in the lowest socio-economic regions of earth. What is especially helpful about this method is that it is not dependent upon regularity in menstrual cycles. The signs of fertility will automatically inform the woman of approaching fertility. Mercedes A. Wilson points out that,

The key to nearly all the present research was the discovery, first published in 1977, that there are four types of cervical mucus, S, L, G and P mucus…

The function of the G Mucus is to seal the cervical canal during the infertile days of the cycle. It is present in one variety immediately after menstruation, in another during the post-ovulatory phase of the cycle, and probably in a third during pregnancy.

Type G mucus is thick and sticky and it forms a mechanical and immunological barrier, or plug in the cervix during the infertile period.

However, recently discovered P type mucus seems to degrade and dissolve the G mucus giving space for L and S mucus during the fertile phase.

The L mucus, the first fertile mucus symptom of the cycle is a soft, mucinous secretion that turns into a slippery, watery secretion a few days before ovulation when S type mucus is produced.

Type L (Loaf) mucus is a soft translucent gel, that becomes a little more elastic. It helps sperm climb up to the uterus and it also acts as a filter in which immature, aged or otherwise abnormal sperm cells are prevented from entering the uterine cavity.

The S mucus, the sperm receptive mucus, provides low viscosity channels for the sperm by which they gain access into the cervix and uterine cavity. A certain balance between the S and L secretion seems to be necessary for optimum fertility.

Type S (String) mucus is a clear, stretchy, slipper and watery cervical mucus discharge. Women feel the sensation of wetness and lubrication, as the mucus becomes up to 98 percent water.189

Noticing the texture of the mucus pinpoints the time of ovulation so accurately that it is an excellent way of getting pregnant. Of course, this accuracy translates into outstanding results in preventing conception as well. For more in depth discussion of this method, go to An illustrated book that is very easy to understand was written by Mercedes Arzú Wilson: Love and Fertility (Dunkirk, MD: Family of the Americas Foundation, 1998). The same material can be seen at the end of the following paper: Mercedes A. Wilson, “Natural, Scientific and Highly Effective Treatment for Infertility,” presented in the Conference of the International Institute of Restorative Reproductive Medicine in New Orleans, August 7, 2013.190

Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) (sometimes called Natural Family Planning)

Perhaps the most popular BLCC method of birth control is the sympto-thermal method (STM). Though opponents mockingly call it “Vatican Roulette,” the Scientific American says that it is actually just as effective as the pill:

The sympto-thermal method (STM) leads to an unintended pregnancy rate of only 0.6 percent annually. This rate is comparable with that of unintended pregnancies in women who use birth control pills, the most popular method of contraception in the U.S.191

This method involves determining the most fertile time of a woman’s monthly cycle by means of charting. There are two main processes that are charted: the body’s basal temperature, which rises after ovulation (anywhere from 0.36 to 0.9 degrees F), and becoming aware of recurring monthly symptoms such as mood and cervical secretions. It is difficult to predict ovulation for those with irregular monthly cycles, but charting will usually show a predictable pattern in most women.

Because of its difficulty in mastering, pregnancies do occur during the first year of the learning curve. Mayo Clinic claims an 87% success rate,192 though practitioners say that it is higher if people are very careful. There are many sites that describe this method.193

This is by far the most common BLCC method, but many have supplemented it with various computer systems such as the Rabbit Ovulation Computer or similar brands. Using the two together can be particularly helpful for achieving pregnancies. For other more advanced technologies that can assist, see next point.

Fertility monitoring technologies

There are a number of fertility monitoring technologies that can be used in conjunction with the above methods.

ClearBlue Fertility Monitor (2020 prices - $215-$260)

Many doctors have recommended this diagnostic kit for monitoring fertility and achieving pregnancy. Using daily urine samples, this monitor tracks two hormones: luteinizing hormone and estrogen. It then shows your fertility level for any given day as low, high, or peak. To achieve pregnancy, time intercourse for the last day of High Fertility and the first day of Peak Fertility. Peak Fertility takes place right before ovulation occurs.

This method is not recommended for breastfeeding, recently pregnant, or recently on the pill women, since these factors affect the hormones in ways that skew the readings on the computer.

OvaCue Fertility Monitor (2020 prices - $299-$349)

This device uses saliva and cervical mucus samples to measure changes in electrolyte concentration (salinity). Unlike monitors that measure hormones (like ClearBlue Fertility Monitor), this one can be used by mothers who have irregular monthly cycles. It claims 98% accuracy in predicting the day of ovulation up to seven days in advance.

Fertile-Focus Saliva Ovulation Test (2020 prices - $28-$35)

This device allows you to see physical changes that occur in a woman’s saliva throughout her cycle. Estrogen produces crystal patterns known as “ferning” in the saliva. A dab of saliva is placed on the lens window and allowed to dry. An LED light illuminates the sample, and it is viewed using a 50x magnifying lens. The company claims that you can predict ovulation up to 72 hours in advance.

Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

This is not just breast feeding, but a specific kind of scheduled breastfeeding194 that has proven to be very effective in the first six months (numerous studies show a 98% plus effectiveness rate, with many claiming 99.7% effectiveness in the first six months195) with varying degrees of effectiveness after that.196 Jewish commentators reference Hosea 1:8 in reference to their use of breastfeeding for suppression of ovulation (Niddah, 31b). See pages 93 and following for a brief discussion of this method. Various scholarly papers rate this method’s effectiveness.197 We were never able to practice strict LAM protocol and were somewhat skeptical of the results that we saw in other people’s attempts. Nevertheless, there is a large group of couples that believe that this works for them. See chapter 6 for the impact of the Fall on this natural method of spacing babies. It does appear that the body was designed for this to be effective upwards of three years, but many factors make it not fully reliable.

Male Condom

Condoms are fairly inexpensive and readily available. Though some people have allergies to latex (the most common kind), there are two alternatives – polyurethane and polyisoprene. The CDC reports an effectiveness rate for condoms of about 98%.198

A combination of the above

Obviously a combination of the above methods would increase effectiveness. The nice thing about all of these methods is that God could overrule if He so chose.

Methods used by some BLCC advocates, but avoided by us because of potential health issues.


As has already been discussed, the ancients (including Hebrews) commonly used spermicides.199 Lemon juice in particular was popular and has been shown in modern clinical trials to be a very effective antispermicidal.200 However, many BLCC advocates have avoided all use of spermicides because of the fear (whether well-founded or not) that it might result in infections or other problems for the wife.

A combination of the above with condom and spermicide

Obviously a combination of spermicide with the regularly used BLCC methods would increase effectiveness, but the dangers of spermicides should be considered.

A combination of the above with spermicide and either a cervical cap or a cervical diaphragm.

Because this is so rarely used by BLCC advocates, I will defer discussion of it to the next section. However, because both the cervical cap and the cervical diaphragm are barrier methods designed to prevent conception, this could be consistent with BLCC principles if the health concerns addressed in the next section prove to be non-concerns. Though I am not dogmatic on my view that there are health concerns, I would urge readers to at least consider the evidence presented in the next section.

Methods avoided by most BLCC because of controversies over health issues and potential of abortifacient mechanisms

Methods that have been shown to have major health issues

Health problems with menstrual sex

We have already seen that God prohibited menstrual intercourse (though not necessarily manual pleasuring of each other during the menses). God’s laws were never arbitrary. Even the ceremonial laws were given for health. While food laws are no longer binding, they certainly have health benefits. While circumcision is no longer binding, there is medical evidence of its benefits. Though not marrying a sister or cousin is not a moral law, it certainly has health benefits. God governed Israel in ways that benefited them spiritually and physically, and I believe the same is true of menstrual sex. Modern medical science suggests the following health risks to women who engage in menstrual sex:

  1. There is risk of women developing Anti-Sperm Antibody (ASA), one of the causes of infertility and other female health problems.201
  2. While there is evidence that orgasm during menses can help women who experience pelvic torment and cramping,202 recent studies have shown that there are significant health problems with intercourse, including increased volume of blood flow and risks of Endometriosis (not to be confused with PID/endometriosis – below).203
  3. R. A. Hatcher has documented minor risks for pelvic congestion if the intercourse does not head to orgasm for the woman, thereby increasing the dysmenorrhea a woman may experience.204 He also notes risk for contracting Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID – see below).
  4. Some studies have shown an increase in vulvar skin irritation. Evidence is conflicting on whether this is due to the way menstrual blood can be an irritant to some people, the menstrual blood diluting natural and artificial lubrication and thereby setting up more friction, or some other mechanism.
  5. Because a woman’s cervix is more open during menses, there is both theoretical and statistical risk of ascending infections and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). The potential of the penis introducing bacteria (from the penis itself or simply from the entrance to the vagina) up against the cervix at a time when it is more open and at a time when the wall of the uterus is more prone to infection should be considered. While there is still debate on this subject, studies do seem to show a significant increase in both STDs and bacterial infections.205 Dr. DeSouza summarizes the evidence, stating:

Naturally during menstruation, the veins of the uterus are congested and are prone to rupture easily. Vaginal walls swell as well during menstruation. This explains the dull pain in the vagina during menses and is 100% normal. Having intercourse during your period can increase the chances of irritation to the swelled up walls. The advantages of endorphins at this point mask the danger of period sex where irritation of the vaginal walls and introduction to infection are major risks. Any wound or bleeding is a fine gateway to infection.

The cervix is slightly opened during menstruation to let out blood. This heightens the risk of infection, not being limited only to the vagina, but additionally to the uterus. The penetration of the penis into the vagina during menstruation is no more than the introduction to germs at a time when the body is unable to fight them (studies have shown that immunity is decreased during menstruation).206

Health issues with anal sex

ABC advocates will frequently defend anal sex as a form of birth control and/or creativity in sexual relationships, and claim that the Bible gives it as an area of liberty. However, I believe the Bible is clearly against all anal sex. Most of the NCC and BLCC opposition to this ABC position has tended to focus exclusively on controversial arguments such as 1) the meaning of the phrase, “against nature” in Romans 1:26, 2) the meaning of the phrase, “abandoning the natural use of the female” in Romans 1:27, 3) the Hebrew word for “perversion” (תֶּבֶל), which the dictionary defines as sexual “confusion,” 4) and on Biblical references to “uncleanness,” “filthiness,” and “unclean spirit.” While I believe there is much merit in these interpretations, I see no need to interact with all the exegetical controversies when the Biblical principles related to health completely rule out any anal sex. Consider the following serious medical problems:

Anal Cancer

The first significant health concern with anal sex is a huge increase in cancer. I have found numerous studies that link anal intercourse (of either men or women) with a huge increase of anal cancer. Various studies showed an increase in cancer from 200% to 1700%, depending on frequency. Donald DeMarco summarizes a few of these numerous studies in his to-the-point comments:

Now that sodomy is talked about as a human right to be exercised by male same-sex couples without discrimination, we may ask the pertinent question: what happens when sperm is deposited in the rectal area rather than in the vaginal area?

Male sperm, being blissfully unresponsive to political ideologies or cultural trends, go right ahead and behave strictly according to their nature. They penetrate the nucleus of whatever body cell (somatic cell) they might encounter. This fusing, however, does not result in fertilization, the first stage in the life of a new human being, but, as scientists have shown, can and does result in the development of cancerous malignancies. In an article entitled, “Sexual Behaviour and Increased Anal Cancer,” published in Immunology and Cell Biology, authors Richard J. Ablin and Rachel Stein-Werblowsky, report that “anal intercourse is one of the primary factors in the development of cancer.” According to the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, “Our study lends strong support to the hypothesis that homosexual behaviour in men increases the risk of anal cancer.” In addition, the International Journal of Cancer finds that, “Being single and having practiced anal intercourse appears to be associated with anal cancer and case reports have suggested a recent increase in the number of cases of anal cancer.” The medical references are legion.

Also, we may ask: what happens when the male immunosuppressant is deposited in the rectal area? Scientists tell us that when this occurs, an “immunopermissive environment” is created.

This environment, in which the immune system is not working as it should, is favourable for the perpetration of spermatozoa-induced tumors and other pathologies. It is as if, in this instance, the immune system becomes confused and welcomes its enemies. C. Rabkin et al., in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found a decreasing immunocompetence in a substantial proportion of HIV-positive homosexual men, particularly those with a history of intraepithelial abnormalities.

Depositing sperm in the “wrong place” (like pouring motor oil into the gas line), by nature’s standards, is courting disaster. Nature, we might add, demands respect. It does not make accommodations to politically based ideologies or individual preferences. From nature’s standpoint, there is no equality between heterosexual and male homosexual intercourse.

Furthermore, the vagina is totally impermeable to viruses. By contrast, the rectum is designed to absorb up to the last possible useful nutrient that we have eaten. There is an enormous lymphatic network (involving blood vessels) in the lining or mucosa of the rectum. Therefore, the rectal area is designed to absorb, and will absorb, the ingredients of male semen if they are in the vicinity. Little wonder why Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States.207

Whatever interpretation one gives of the phrases “against nature” or “leaving the natural use of the woman,” it is clear from what we have just seen that anal sex is not intended by God to be natural.

Severe damage to anus and rectum

The second major health problem with anal sex is the severe damage that can result to both anus and rectum. Unlike the vagina, the anus lacks natural lubrication and lacks layers of protective cells and other protective mechanisms. This almost guarantees damage to the intestinal wall, which in turn guarantees that bacteria can enter the bloodstream. Various studies have shown that even slow and gentle penetration can lead to damage. The American College of Pediatricians states,

Yet human physiology makes it clear that the body was not designed to accommodate this activity. The rectum is significantly different from the vagina with regard to suitability for penetration by a penis. The vagina has natural lubricants and is supported by a network of muscles. It is composed of a mucus membrane with a multi-layer stratified squamous epithelium that allows it to endure friction without damage and to resist the immunological actions caused by semen and sperm. In comparison, the anus is a delicate mechanism of small muscles that comprise an “exit-only” passage. With repeated trauma, friction and stretching, the sphincter loses its tone and its ability to maintain a tight seal. Consequently, anal intercourse leads to leakage of fecal material that can easily become chronic.>

The potential for injury is exacerbated by the fact that the intestine has only a single layer of cells separating it from highly vascular tissue, that is, blood. Therefore, any organisms that are introduced into the rectum have a much easier time establishing a foothold for infection than they would in a vagina. The single layer tissue cannot withstand the friction associated with penile penetration, resulting in traumas that expose both participants to blood, organisms in feces, and a mixing of bodily fluids.208

Suppression of the woman’s immune system

The third major health factor is that anal sex impairs the woman’s immune system. While there is some contrary evidence on this subject,209 the overwhelming evidence of both animal and human studies is that any introduction of sperm into the rectum increasingly impairs the whole body’s immune system.210 This is necessarily so because of God’s design for reproduction. “If sperm didn’t have the ability to ‘turn off’ the immune system and bypass the protective bacteria residing in the female vagina, they would be destroyed before they could reach their objective.”211 The story of how God designed this is worth summarizing, if for no other reason than to praise and glorify God. Donald DeMarco states,

From a purely immunological point of view (from the standpoint of an all-out defensive strategy), a woman’s body would reject the oncoming sperm, recognizing it as a foreign substance. But this is precisely the point at which nature, we might say, becomes wise. If our immune system regards sperm as a potential enemy, then fertilization would never take place, and the human race would have come to an early demise with the passing of Adam and Eve.

But something extraordinary occurs, which makes fertilization and the continuation of the human race possible. Traveling alongside the sperm in the male’s seminal fluid is a mild immunosuppressant. Immunologists refer to it as consisting of “immunoregulatory macromolecules.” This immunosuppressant is a chemical signal to the woman’s body that allows it to recognize the sperm not as a non-self, but as part of its self. It makes possible, despite the immune system’s usual preoccupation with building an airtight defence system, a “two-in-one-flesh” intimacy.212

A paper published in Frontiers In Immunology journal states,

There are specific locations in human tissues and organs where alloantigens and autoantigens are tolerated by the immune system. This tolerance can exist indefinitely or for defined periods of time like pregnancy. This uncoupling of the adaptive immune response confers a physiological state known as immune privilege (Streilein, 1995)213.

The vagina possesses this immune privilege, but the rectum does not. Experts in immunology are still uncovering the myriad ways that God’s design of the vagina protects the female body from the sperm’s immune suppression.214 Also, the sperm itself must be protected from the vagina’s immune system. The American College of Pediatricians says,

Furthermore, ejaculate has components that are immunosuppressive. In the course of ordinary reproductive physiology, this allows the sperm to evade the immune defenses of the female.”215

It is the complex anti-immune-system properties of sperm that make it so dangerous to engage in anal sex. The American College of Pediatrics cites two studies showing that injection of semen into the rectum impairs the immune system of both rabbits216 and humans.217 Numerous other studies have shown that sperm injected (whether artificially or with sex) into the rectum impairs the body’s immune system.218 The quote given earlier by Donald DeMarco gives a nice summary statement of why this is so dangerous.

The development of AntiSperm Antibodies (ASA)

The fourth major problem with anal sex is that the wife over time becomes allergic to the husband’s sperm. AntiSperm Antibodies are produced whenever sperm is introduced into the rectum. A 2013 Textbook on clinical reproductive techniques points out that, in contrast to vaginal coitus where

…the atraumatic introduction of sperm into the reproductive tract as a result of intercourse or artificial insemination does not seem to be a factor in the production of sperm antibodies, … introduction of sperm to the mucous membranes outside of the reproductive tract, can induce antibody formation. Proposed examples of such events include trauma to the vaginal mucosa during intercourse or the deposition of sperm into the gastrointestinal tract by way of oral or anal intercourse.219

Note the same connection of ASA to oral sex.

Kaposi’s Sarcoma

Kaposi’s sarcoma still puzzles researchers, but some studies propose that “massive semen exposure and inhalant nitrites [used to relax the anus sphincter] may promote transformation of endothelial cells of both lymphatic and vascular origin.”220

Miscellaneous other problems

It doesn’t take much reading of the literature to see numerous issues resulting from anal intercourse, including anal tears, fissures, ulcers, abscesses, fungal and bacterial infections of rectum, penis, and vagina, and urethral infections leading to bladder and ascending infections, including PID.

The bottom line is that anal sex is not healthy. This parallels the Old Testament arguments (already cited) against “confusion.” It also shows the wisdom of the Old Testament prohibitions of that which is unclean or filthy. Excrement was to be buried outside the camp, not played with (Deut. 23:12-14). Paul points out that “leaving the natural use of the woman” (vaginal sex) for that which is not natural (anal sex) eventually predisposes both men and women to homosexuality (Rom. 1:24-28).

Health problems with Vascectomy

Many have thought that vasectomies hurt no one and are a convenient way to stop having children, but there are serious health concerns with this procedure.

AntiSperm Antibodies (ASA)

One of the key concerns is the development of AntiSperm Antibodies (ASA) within the male. Various studies show that between 60-80% of men develop a form of allergy to their own sperm. A 2013 textbook on clinical reproductive techniques states,

As long as the sperm are contained within the lumen of the male reproductive tract, they are sequestered from the immune system, and no antibodies form to their surface antigens.

If there is a breach in this so called blood:testis barrier, an immune response may be initiated. The most common causes of a breach in the reproductive tract, which could initiate antibody formation, include vascectomy, varicocele repair, testicular biopsy, torsion, trauma, and infection. Antibodies are secreted into the fluids of the accessory glands, specifically the prostate and seminal vesicles. At the time of ejaculation, the fluids from these glands contributed to the seminal plasma. They then come into contact with the sperm and may cause them to clump…

The clinical value of antisperm antibody testing is predicated on the observation that the presence of a significant concentration of antibodies may impair fertilization. It has been reported that antibody-positive sperm may have difficulty penetrating cervical mucus. Although, in these cases, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or IVF may improve the prognosis for fertilization, antibody levels exceeding 80% coupled with sub-par concentration, motility or morphology may necessitate the addition of ICSI in order to truly make a difference.221


Men who have gotten vascectomies have confided in me that it has caused them a great deal of pain. Studies indicate that at least 7% of men have chronic pain after a vascectomy,222 and some studies show up to 52% experience pain.223

Risk of heart attack

Though there may be very low risk of heart attack connected with vascectomies, a 1979 study on monkeys indicated an increase in atherosclerosis or coronoary artery disease. Studies since then have contradicted that, so the verdict is not yet conclusive.

Risk of prostate cancer

The risk of prostate cancer is also in question. The Journal of the American Medical Association published two studies suggesting that men with a vasectomy may be at risk for developing prostate cancer. For a period of time the American Urological Association recommended annual prostate checks for those who have had a vasectomy. They have since revoked that recommendation. Other studies have shown no significant increase of risk. The conclusions are still being debated.

Risk of a rare form of Alzheimers

Yet another hotly debated risk is a rare form of Alzheimer’s. Only one paper has suggested a link between vasectomies and primary progressive aphasia (PPA). The proposed mechanism for this association was that antisperm antibodies were somehow cross-reacting with the brain. The jury is still out, but it is interesting that other studies have found genetic material from multiple male partners in the brains of promiscuous women.

Health problems with the IUD

Why even talk about the health risks of the IUD if it is already ethically ruled out by being abortifacient? Because women sometimes use the Mirena IUD to treat heavy menstrual bleeding in conjunction with the condom or other BLCC methods. In these situations it would not be acting as an abortifacient and would be treating menstrual complications. Nevertheless, there are several problems with Mirena (as well as the 17 varieties of IUD available in other countries).224 I will discuss the general problems first, then I will deal with each of the IUDs currently available in the United States.

Perforation of the uterus, bladder, intestines, etc.

The first major health risk of IUDs is that they sometimes get dislodged and can end up perforating the uterus, bladder, intestines, and other organs.225


The second major health risk associated with IUDs is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). One medical dictionary states, “IUD usage has been strongly associated with the development of PID. Bacteria may be introduced to the uterine cavity while the IUD is being inserted or may travel up the tail of the IUD from the cervix into the uterus. Uterine tissue in association with the IUD shows areas of inflammation that may increase its susceptibility to pathogens.”226

Other side effects

Mayo Clinic has listed a number of other side effects, including ovarian cysts.227

Since it may be questioned whether every IUD has problems, I will seek to discuss each one in turn. The problems of the Dalkon Shield are quite well known, but it is no longer available in the United States, so I will restrict my comments to the three other IUDs currently available in America.

Specific details on Paragard, Mirena, and Skyla

Numerous health issues have been documented in connection with Paragard. These include the following:

  • Migration of the IUD: The Journal of Medical Case Reports states, “Migration of IUCDs into the urinary bladder, rectum, colon, peritoneum, omentum, appendix, wall of the iliac vein and ovary has been reported.”228 Lawsuits have been filed for severe complications from this migration and a mass tort lawsuit is in process. Complications of the lawsuits include perforation of the colon (requiring removal of a section).
  • Impact on hormones: Though Paragard is a non-hormonal IUD, many studies show a major impact upon hormones due to the increased levels of copper in the blood. For example there are huge increases of estrogen. Since the copper IUD prompts the release of leukocytes and prostaglandins by the endometrium, and since prostaglandins control hormone regulation, there is an indirect impact they have on hormones, potentially creating imbalances. Numerous advocacy groups have been created by women who have been hurt by this IUD to educate women on its dangers.229
  • Copper toxicity: Paragard’s main actions come from the release of copper into the uterus. If this copper build up gets to toxic levels, it can lead to changes in nutrients (destruction of vitamin C, depletion of zinc levels, lower iron, unusual rise of Vitamin A), elevated levels of estrogen, migraines, PMS, chronic fatigue, yeast infections, bone loss, etc.
  • Migrains, PMS, chronic fatigue.
  • The barium sulfate in the IUD (to make it detectable via x-ray) can lead to cramping, nausea, ringing in ears, fast heart rate, etc.
  • A slim possibility of pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) has been suspected in connection with Paragard, though studies are inconclusive. At least 50 of the lawsuits against Mirena (below) are seeking to show that Mirena is responsible for pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). This is a neurological disorder characterized by increased levels of cerebrospinal fluid in the skull. This puts pressure on the optic nerve, which leads to progressive vision loss and permanent blindness. Though not proved, some are suspecting that the changes in hormones created by Paragard may link it to this disease, though this is hotly contested. I personally doubt the connection, but it is important to know that lawsuits are progressing for this disease, and some researchers are convinced of a connection.

Between November 1 of 1997 and June 30 of 2012, the FDA’s adverse event database received 45,697 reports of Mirena side effects. Of these side effects, 5,079 involved dislocation of the IUD and 1,421 involved migration to other sites of the abdomen requiring surgery to fix. Even more common were reports of vaginal hemorrhaging. The FDA noted a 44.3% increase in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) during that same period. I have discovered almost 500 federal lawsuits filed against Bayer related to severe complications of the IUD. The complications experienced by these women include perforation of the cervix or uterus, migration of the IUD to other organs, perforation of the intestines, intestinal obstruction, miscarriage, abscesses, infertility, infection, severe abdominal pain, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), ectopic pregnancies, and more. Many of these lawsuits have recently been grouped into a class action lawsuit. The FDA issued a warning in 2009, stating,

The program overstates the efficacy of Mirena, presents unsubstantiated claims, minimizes the risks of using Mirena, and includes false or misleading presentations regarding Mirena. Thus, the program misbrands the drug in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.230

Even organizations that are friendly to Mirena (and the Mirena website itself) report the following complications:

  • Migration of the IUD: This of course is not unique to Mirena - see under Paragard (above) for documentation by the Journal of Medical Case Reports. Mirena’s own website states, “Mirena may attach to or go through the wall of the uterus and cause other problems.”231
  • PID: The Mirena site boasts that less than 1% of users get Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), but the FDA warning letter shows that “5% or more of clinical trial patients” had chronic abdominal pain, pelvic pain, and back pain.232 Mirena’s own website notes that more than 10% of Mirena users experience chronic pelvic and/or abdominal pain.233
  • Complications in case of pregnancy: The Mirena site states that if pregnancy occurs while the Mirena IUD is inserted, it “can be life threatening and may result in loss of pregnancy or fertility.”
  • Ovarian cysts: The Mirena site states that “Ovarian cysts may occur but usually disappear,” but the FDA points out that Mirena’s own clinical trials showed that more than 10% of the women in the clinical trials showed ovarian cysts.234
  • Ectopic Pregnancies: Mirena now advises that there is a danger of ectopic pregnancy.235 Since there is a 0.8% risk of pregnancy, and since about half of those pregnancies are ectopic, a rough risk factor of 0.4% can be estimated as ectopic. Without removal of the IUD all pregnancies pose a danger to the life of the mother.
  • Impact on bleeding: “Bleeding and spotting may increase in the first 3 to 6 months and remain irregular. Periods over time usually become shorter, lighter or may stop.”236 The FDA warning letter states that more than 10% of the women in the clinical trials showed “Very common adverse reactions” including “uterine/vaginal bleeding … and ovarian cysts.”
  • Miscellaneous: The FDA warning report stated that “5% or more of clinical trial patients include, among others, abnormal/pelvic pain, nausea, headache, nervousness, back pain, weight increase, breast pain/tenderness, acne, decreased libido, and depressed mood.”237
  • Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH) was linked to Mirena in 1995 and continues to be a concern stated by the National Institutes of Health.238
  • There is a possible connection between pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), which is also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). This is a neurological disorder characterized by increased levels of cerebrospinal fluid in the skull. This puts pressure on the optic nerve, which leads to progressive vision loss and permanent blindness. Though lawsuits prove nothing (there are 50 lawsuits against Bayer for this condition), there is at least an odd connection between patients with this condition and IUDs. It may prove to be nothing, but there is enough evidence of a smoking gun that scientific investigations are currently being conducted. At the May 2015 annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology (ARVO), researchers reported that Mirena users were 9 times more likely to develop this brain injury than those on other birth control methods.

Bayer (also the maker of Mirena) received FDA approval for their new IUD called SKYLA on January 9, 2013. It will be marketed as Jaydess in Europe. Skyla claims to be effective up to three years after placement. It is slightly smaller than Mirena and contains less hormone. The initial claims were that it is safe, with incidences of uterine perforation during clinical trials being less than 0.1%. However, evidence is coming out that not all is well with this product either. Entirely aside from abortifacient properties, consider the following health risks:

  • A study published in the journal of Acta Oncologica in June of 2015 found that Skyla is most definitely connected with cancer. Of the 98,843 women studied, 2,015 were diagnosed with breast cancer. Use of LNG-IUS was associated with a greater risk of lobular cancer and ductal breast cancer compared to the general population. The study concluded that there was a 73% likelier chance of being diagnosed with lobular breast cancer as compared to the general female population.
  • A 12% increase in ovarian cysts.239
  • The Center For Disease Control240 has listed the following problems with Skyla: unexplained vaginal bleeding, uterine cancer, breast cancer.
  • Ectopic and intrauterine pregnancies continued to be an issue as with other IUDs.
  • Expulsion, embedment, life threatening infections, PID, and perforation of the uterus appears to be more common than in the clinical trials.
  • RXList gives the following non-fatal side effects: “Common side effects of Skyla include pain, bleeding, dizziness, inflammation or itching of the vulva or vagina, abdominal or pelvic pain, irregular menstrual periods, changes in menstrual periods, acne, dry skin, ovarian cysts, nausea, vomiting, bloating, weight gain, depression, mood changes, headache, changes in hair growth, loss of interest in sex, breast tenderness or pain, or back pain.”241
Health problems with the pill

There are various forms of “the pill,”242 but all the health problems listed below (with the exception of miscellaneous side effects) are true of all of them. Those who are not convinced by the evidence that it is abortifacient, may still be convinced not to use the pill because of the health issues associated with it. Likewise, since the pill is sometimes prescribed for medical purposes other than conception, it is still important to understand the side effects that can happen. The following, though not exhaustive, should raise concerns.


Several studies have reported an increase in cancer with those who are on the pill. In 2000, the National Toxicology Advisory Panel put the estrogen found in birth control pills on its list of carcinogens. Apparently there are metabolites of estrogen that directly damage DNA, causing mutations and cancer. Another factor may be the fact that the estrogen and progesterone in oral contraceptives depress lymphocyte responses in women.243 One study concluded that “inhibition of the immune response by progesterone may be mediated through the glucocorticoid receptors on leucocytes.”244 The National Cancer Institute’s findings in 2003, which noted “a significant increase” in breast, cervical, and liver cancers among oral contraceptive users, were corroborated in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization. WHO subsequently classified birth control pills as a “Group 1 Carcinogen,” which is the highest-risk category of carcinogens. Likewise, WebMed said, “A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women with a strong family history of breast cancer may have up to an 11 times higher risk of breast cancer if they have ever taken the pill.” Since then several studies have confirmed these findings,245 even though some contend that the risk is small and that the pill protects against other forms of cancer.246 The National Cancer Institute has tried to outline which cancer risks are increased and which are reduced while on the pill.247 Some new studies even seem to contradict these findings. For example, in a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers showed that the combination estrogen progestin pill increases the risk of brain cancer (glioma) by 50%. Long term use doubled that risk. Women on progestin-only pills are at an even higher risk of brain cancer.248 The overall evidence seems to point to a reduction in endometrial and ovarian cancers and an increase in breast, cervical, and liver cancers in women on the pill.


Studies show an increased risk of stroke by 190%.249

Significant thinning of the endometrial lining of uterus

A 1991 study using Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans showed “a 57% reduction in the thickness of the endometrial lining in women who used BCPs” over those who do not.250

Psychological effects

The new findings on psychological impacts of the birth control pill251 should not be surprising, since we have known about these side effects in athletes who use steroids.


In addition to these new findings is the long list of side effects of the pill that are routinely published by the Pharmaceuticals. Some are minor; some are serious.

Side effects of combination pills

Combination pills have some additional risks. With the additional synthetic progesterone called drospirenonone, these pills create a higher risk of heart attack, pulmonary embolism, stroke, and blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.252

Health problems with the spermicides

There is a thirty year track record with spermicides, and most of them are safe for the majority of the population. Though I have steered away from chemicals in our conception control, there are people in the BLCC camp who use them without negative side effects. However, there are health risks that a couple should be aware of. The array of spermicides is bewildering, with Advantage-S, Conceptrol, Crinone, Delfen Foam, Emko, Encare, Endometrin, First-Progesterone VGS, Gynol II, Prochieve, Today Sponge, Vagi-Gard Douche Non-Staining being available in the USA, and with Menfegol and Octoxynol-9 now removed from the market in the USA but available elsewhere. There are also contraceptive sponges or suppositories that use benzalkonium chloride and/or sodium cholate, nonoxynol, or octoxynol. I will not document the health risks of every form of spermicide, but will give enough information that the reader can do their own research.


To my knowledge, there are no known side effects of lemon, lime, vinegar, lactic acid, or neem oil, all of which have been shown to be effective as spermicides.253 See my comments on this above.

The spermicides using Benzalkonium chloride lists brief stinging on-site as a common side effect. Much less commonly there can be “severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue).”254

The spermicides using nonoxynol-9

Johnson and Johnson/Merck report some cases of genitourinary irritation and damage to the vaginal wall and the cervical epithelium; urinary tract infections, yeast infection, and bacterial vaginosis.255

The spermicides using oxtoxynol-9

Same side effects listed as nonoxynol-9.

The spermicides using menfegol

This drug has both spermicidal and bactericidal effects. I have not found any systemic side-effects, though there are rare occurrences of rashes, feeling hot, and vaginal discharge. The FDA has not approved menfegol for the USA.

The spermicides using progesterone (in addition to other ingredients)

Crinone and spermicides that include progesterone have reported a number of side effects. The FDA reports that those who use Crinone once a day have experienced abdominal pain (12%), perineal pain (17%), headache (17%), constipation (27%), diarrhea (8%), nausea (22%), vomiting (5%), depression (11%), libido decrease (10%), nervousness (16%), somnolence (27%), breast enlargement (40%), dyspareunia (6%), nocturia (13%). These risks seem fairly significant to me and would seem to rule out its use.

Health problems with cervical diaphragm

Though I treat this as an area of liberty, the cervical diaphragm was a concern to me because it must remain over the cervix for 6-8 hours after intercourse (but no more than 24 hours without danger), and for those engaged in regular intercourse, it becomes almost continuous other than quick washing. This constant covering of the cervix is worrisome. It could result in several other potential problems, including toxic shock syndrome (though rare), UTIs, vaginal infection, allergic reactions, and the issues associated with the spermicidal drug, nonoxynol-9 (see previous discussion), which usually must be used along with the cervical diaphragm to be effective.256 Others in the BLCC camp have no problem with the diaphragm, stating that the risks are extremely minimal. Interestingly, the ancient Jewish moch, or pessary, was a safer form of diaphragm, though the evidence of problems for either is not conclusive. Unless conclusive evidence from Scripture comes to light, I consider this to be an area of liberty. The potential dangers are:

  1. Urinary tract infection.257
  2. Toxic shock syndrome is rare (2.4 cases out of 100,000) and usually occurs when it is left in for more than 24 hours.258
Cervical Cap

The cervical cap (Prentif, Dumas, Vimule, Oves, Lea’s Shield, FemCap) has a number of improvements over the diaphragm. For example, the Femcap website shows seven benefits over the diaphragm:

  1. “To minimize the irritation caused by spermicide, the FemCap is designed with a unique groove facing the vagina. This groove stores the bulk of the spermicide and minimizes irritation or leakage. The storage of the bulk of spermicide in this groove ensures immediate and prolonged exposure of sperm to the spermicide as soon as it is deposited into the vagina.”
  2. “In clinical trials, the effective rate of the second generation FemCap (the only FemCap approved by the FDA) has been proven to be over 92% successful in preventing pregnancy. It is estimated that the FemCap’s success rate may be up to 98% with proper use.”
  3. It can stay in place up to 48 hours as opposed to 24 hours max for diaphragm.
  4. Unlike the diaphragm, whose metal ring puts pressure on the vaginal wall and urethra, the Femcap does not.
  5. Removal is easier than diaphragm and less likely to cause vaginal abrasions.
  6. No need for measurement in the doctor’s office.
  7. much lower risk of UTIs than diaphragm.259

However, other sites say that it’s effectiveness in preventing pregnancy is far lower than natural methods. I have seen studies that show anywhere from 84% to 91% effectiveness for women who have never given birth, and 68% to 74% effectiveness for women who have given birth to a baby. The two most commonly cited problems with the cervical cap are:

  1. Allergic reactions to material (same as diaphragm)
  2. Reactions to spermicide.
Female Condom

The first generation of female condom was made of polyurethane, while the second generation is made of synthetic nitrile. The United States government’s Medline Plus lists female condoms as being 95% effective when perfectly used and 75% to 82% effective in preventing pregnancy in typical use.260 The only side effects that have been documented are irritation and occasional allergic reactions.

“Birth control” methods that appear to be abortifacient

Though the ethical acceptability of the pill is still hotly debated by prolife people,261 I am convinced that the evidence shows a significant risk of abortion.262 If the Scripture calls us to avoid all “birth control” methods “which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any,”263 we should avoid Yaz, Yasmin, The Minipill, the Patch (Ortho Evra), Depo-Provera injections, Norplant, and any other chemical formulations that prevent implantation should ovulation and fertilization take place.

Of course, not all agree that “hormonal contraceptives” are abortifacient. The American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists have two position papers, one arguing that oral contraceptives are not abortifacient and the other arguing that they are.264 The association has not taken a position. Instead they say, “There are times when our knowledge of the truth is incomplete, and we must peer through the fog to make, and act upon, judgments about the information available to us.” However, in the years since those two papers were written, a great deal more research has been done, and it is my conviction that the evidence appears to point to the conclusion that every form of the pill is indeed abortifacient. I say “appears to” because science is always changing and we need to be careful about making scientific conclusions definitive in our ethics.

Many Christian Pharmacists have been convinced by the evidence that the pill does indeed produce abortions as a backup mechanism. Patrick McCrystal (BSc (Pharmacy), QUB, M.P.S.I.), is of the opinion that “millions of pill-induced abortions [occur] worldwide.”265 If you are similarly convinced that these scientific conclusions are correct, then you need to avoid using them. If any of these prescriptions simply prevent fertilization, then they are contraceptives. If they prevent implantation (or even in a percentage of cases they prevent implantation), then they would be abortifacient (or have abortion as a partial function). However just because a hormone method may be proven to not be abortifacient does not mean it is ethical to use them – health issues must also be considered, which has already been done in the previous section.

The hormone “contraceptives” can be divided up into five basic groups: combination oral contraceptives (COCs), injectables (Depoprovera), progestin only pills (minipills, or POPs), implants (Norplant, Implanon), and hormonal IUDs. Most hormone contraceptives have three mechanisms of action: First, they inhibit ovulation. Second, they inhibit transportation of sperm through the cervix by thickening the cervical mucus. Third, they cause changes in the uterine lining (endometrium), making it a thinner, less glandular, and less vascular lining. A 1991 study using Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans showed “a 57% reduction in the thickness of the endometrial lining in women who used BCPs” over those who do not.266

No one questions these three functions. What is being hotly debated today is whether the third function makes these drugs act as “backup abortifacients.” Let’s consider the arguments for and against.

Does the thinning of the endometrium keep a fertilized egg from being able to attach?

The first argument against the pill is that it thins the walls of the womb, and that this thinning of the endometrium makes it hostile to implantation by a fertilized egg.267 Thus, the assumption is that most fertilized eggs will be cast off (aborted) as a result of the third mechanism of the pill. Many Ob/Gyns signed onto a statement written by Dr. William F. Colliton, in which he estimates the number of abortions that can be directly attributable to the Birth Control Pill as 1,894,620 per year.268 If this estimate is true, then it is astonishing that evangelicals would defend its use.

There are evangelical doctors who do question that conclusion. Four members of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists have produced a paper that seeks to question this thesis.269 In that paper they try to debunk this first issue by citing a lone study by Zanatu270 who reports on two women with prolonged infertility (8 to 14 months) after Depo-Provera injections: “We successfully induced ovulation with the sequential administration of clomiphene citrate and human chorionic gonadotropin, and pregnancy immediately followed.” Note that this was just one study, but if it were proved to be true, it would suggest that once ovulation has occurred, the burst of natural estrogen and progesterone from the corpus luteum simply override even the most potent hormone contraceptive, producing a receptive endometrium, and resulting in a normal implantation and ongoing pregnancy.

Evidence like this has led many prolife doctors and midwives to believe that there is no abortion potential with the five forms of hormonal “contraceptive.” Some go so far as to say that the minipill and the IUD will increase the chances of implantation if there is a fertilization, but the scientific evidence for their contention appears to be slim. Randy Alcorn responds to this theory by saying,

Some physicians have theorized that when ovulation occurs in Pill-takers, the subsequent hormone production “turns on” the endometrium, causing it to become receptive to implantation. [23] However, there is no direct evidence to support this theory, and there is at least some evidence against it. First, after a woman stops taking the Pill, it usually takes several cycles for her menstrual flow to increase to the volume of women who are not on the Pill. This suggests to most objective researchers that the endometrium is slow to recover from its Pill-induced thinning. [24] Second, the one study that has looked at women who have ovulated on the Pill showed that after ovulation the endometrium is not receptive to implantation. [25]271

My own research has made me conclude that the overwhelming majority of studies still appear to point to the traditional view that hormonal contraceptives do indeed have abortion as a backup mechanism, linking the thinning of the endometrium as a leading reason for this failure to implant.272 The FDA labels on the drugs themselves list it as a backup mechanism.273 An interesting 2012 study274 of women who had infertility came to the conclusion that the infertility came from years of being on oral contraceptives. Those who had been on the pill for five years had a 500% greater chance of having an endometrium that could not sustain an artificially implanted egg. The effect was similar for those who had been on the pill for ten or more years. Even when hormones were used to try to reverse the thinning of the endometrium, women had half the success rate of carrying the fertilized egg. Long before this study came out, the evidence was still quite strong. The Polycarp Research Institute stated,

A number of different research papers have studied this issue and it has been widely described in the medical literature concerning in vitro fertilization where it has been noted that the newly conceived child is much less likely to implant on a thinner uterine lining than a thicker one. Originally an older smaller study (Fleisher et al 9, 1985) did not find that the thickness of the endometrium played an important role in in vitro implantation rates, however, other studies have found a positive trend (Rabinowitz et al 10(1986); Ueno et al 11 {1991}) or a statistically significant effect (Glissant et al 12, 1985) of the decreasing thickness of the endometrium in relationship to a decreased likelihood of implantation. Larger and more recent studies (Abdalla et al 13(1994); Dickey et al 14(1993); Gonen et al 15(1989); Schwartz et al 16 (1997); Shoham et al 17{1991}) have reaffirmed this important connection. Most studies have found that a decrease of even one millimeter in thickness yields a substantial decrease in the rate of implantation. In two studies, when the endometrial lining became too thin, no implantations occurred (Abdalla13; Dickey14).275

Consider the following question and the carefully nuanced answer by Dr. Bill Toffler. He shows a three-way split that exists at Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council (PRC), but he is absolutely convinced that these hormone contraceptives are abortifacient (in the third backup mechanism).

Question: What is your opinion of the progestin only pill (mini-pill) as a form of birth control while nursing? My ob-gyn suggested the progestin only pill to me and I raised with him my ethical concerns regarding the way it changed the lining of the uterus, and the possible abortive effect it might have on any conceived child. He told me he would recommend it as it was progestin (the hormone that sustains a pregnancy), and there was actually a higher chance of me getting pregnant while taking it as opposed to the combination pill because it didn’t have an abortive effect on any conceived child. He went so far as to say that it had in fact been prescribed to women who had certain infertility issues because it helped them to have enough progestin in their bodies to sustain a pregnancy. He said that while solely breastfeeding, the progestin only pill simply sustained the conditions already in place in a woman’s body due to the nursing. Instead of an effectiveness of 85%, the regulated levels of progestin could be up to 93% effective. He did warn me that it was only suitable to take while I was nursing, and he was only happy to give me a prescription for as long as I intended to breastfeed. He also told me that as soon as I stopped nursing, I was to stop taking the mini-pill. The prescription he gave me was for Micronor and the generic for it is Nora-Be.

Answer: I am one of the physicians on the Physicians Resource Council (PRC) at Focus on the Family. I also do not prescribe oral “contraceptive” pills (OCPs) or “birth control” pills (BCPs) for the purpose of preventing pregnancy for the very reasons you mention.

At the PRC we discussed the potential abortifacient properties of OCPs/BCPs for more than three years. We examined all of the literature available to answer the concerns you raise. The bottom line is that we could not develop a clear consensus. One or two physicians felt that these pills never cause an abortion in any woman at any time, some felt that they did rarely (if ever), some felt that they clearly could and would in at least some women in some cycles. For those of us in this latter group, the frequency with which this occurs is clearly going to vary depending on the amount, potency and mix of hormones.

At the same time, of all the pills available, the so-called mini-pill probably causes this to happen more than most (if not all) others. The reason is that it is the least reliable in suppressing ovulation. Therefore, its mechanism of action is more likely to be post-ovulatory—that is, abortifacient. In addition, some of the logic expressed by your physician seems to be mixing issues.

Specifically, taking progesterone (in a progesterone deficient state) to support an early gestation is clearly different than taking a pill on a cyclic basis with withdrawal from the active hormone for 7 days each month. Withdrawing exogenous hormone for 7 days (as happens with the mini-pill) may well cause withdrawal bleeding which really represents sloughing of the lining of the womb. Thus, the mini-pill does not suppress ovulation reliably and often “works” by a post-ovulation effect—either thinning and/or causing a sloughing of the lining of the womb.

In fact, at least two OB-Gyns on the PRC (who are not particularly concerned about birth control pills in general) absolutely agree that the mini-pill is more likely to allow breakthrough ovulation; thus, they will NOT prescribe the mini-pill to postpartum mothers (or to anyone else) for “contraceptive” purposes.

For more information on the birth control pill, see Randy Alcorn’s book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?276

If Dr. Toffler is correct, this clearly rules out the minipill and the hormone IUD (which also uses progestin). It also shows the problems with all hormonal contraceptives.

While prolife organizations remain split,277 there may be new technology that will soon be able to completely resolve this debate.278 Australian researcher, Alice Cavanagh has worked extensively with a maternal protein called “early pregnancy factor” (EPF), something first described in 1974 by Morton and colleagues. Cavanagh says,

Prevailing orthodoxy held that maternal recognition of pregnancy did not occur until implantation; prior to this, the embryo was thought to be merely a silent passenger in the maternal reproductive tract. It is now known that there is extensive cross-talk between mother and embryo throughout the pre-implantation period. However, EPF is still one of the earliest manifestations of this changed physiological status of the mother, opening a unique diagnostic window on this stage of pregnancy.279

EPF could be valuable in discriminating between failure to fertilize and failure to implant.280

In a fascinating 2013 paper,281 Cavanagh and colleagues show that

OF [Ovum Factor] is first released upon penetration of the ovum by the fertilizing spermatozoon. OF continues to be produced at least until blastulation.

I have not discovered any large-scale studies that have used this new technology to settle the debate. When such studies appear, the prolife lines may be much more tightly aligned in a BLCC direction. Preliminary results seem to vindicate our position that the birth control pill is indeed abortifacient,282 but much more extensive studies may need to be done. Rather than constantly updating this book, I would refer the reader to websites that are tracking this newest research. Pharmacists for Life has called for a large-scale clinical trial to evaluate EPF in women taking birth control pills to see if fertilized eggs are indeed being cast off.283

Doesn’t the fact that people occasionally get pregnant on the birth control pill prove that it does not stop implantation? No. Randy Alcorn shows the fallacy in this argument:

I have received a number of letters from readers, one of them a physician, who say something like this: “My sister got pregnant while taking the Pill. This is proof that you are wrong in saying that the Pill causes abortions-obviously it couldn’t have, since she had her baby!”

Without a doubt, the Pill’s effects on the endometrium do not always make implantation impossible. I have never heard anyone claim that they do. To be an abortifacient does not require that something always cause an abortion, only that it sometimes does.

Whether it’s RU-486, Norplant, Depo-Provera, the morning after pill, the Mini-pill, or the Pill, there is no chemical that always causes an abortion. There are only those that do so never, sometimes, often, and usually.

Children who play on the freeway, climb on the roof, or are left alone by swimming pools don’t always die, but this does not prove these practices are safe and never result in fatalities. We would immediately see this inconsistency of anyone who argued in favor of leaving children alone by swimming pools because they know of cases where this has been done without harm to the children. The point that the Pill doesn’t always prevent implantation is certainly true, but has no bearing on the question of whether it sometimes prevents implantation, which the data clearly suggests.284

Some have suggested that levonorgestrel (LNG) only suppresses ovulation and therefore is a true contraceptive. However, a 2006 study by Doctors Mikolajczyk and Stanford of the Department of Medicine in Public Health at the University of Bielefeld (Germany) used data from multiple clinical studies with advanced mathematical models and showed that the “real effect” of this pill was to prevent implantation.285 The ovulation breakthrough rate of COC pills is under 2% while the ovulation breakthrough rate of POP pills is 33-56%, but both have breakthrough rates.

For further research, I recommend the following readings:

Those who contest the abortifacient qualities of OCPs

  1. Goodnough, Joel. “Redux: Is the Oral Contraceptive Pill an Abortifacient?” Ethics & Medicine (Spring 2001) 17(1):37-51. He tries to disprove Randy Alcorn’s contention that 10-30% of the time OCP’s allow ovulation.
  2. Crockett, Susan; DeCook, Joseph; Harrison, Donna; Hersh, Camilla. “Hormone Contraceptives: Controversies and Clarifications.” Fennville, MI: ProLife Obstetricians, April 1999. This is one of the first attempts to counter the idea that the pill is abortifacient.

Those who say that OCP’s are abortifacient as a backup mechanism

  1. Wilks, John; Colliton, William F., Jr.; and (a response by) Joel Goodnough. “Response to Joel Goodnough, MD, ‘Redux: Is the Oral Contraceptive Pill an Abortifacient?’” Ethics & Medicine (Summer 2001) 17(2):103-115. This is Wilks’ response to Goodnough’s article above.
  2. Larimore, Walter L.; Stanford, Joseph B. “To the Editor.” Ethics & Medicine (Fall 2001) 17(3):133-36. This is another response to Goodnough, showing inaccuracies in medical facts and moral reasoning.
  3. Alcorn, Randy. “To the Editor.” Ethics & Medicine (Spring 2002) 18(1):5-9. This is Randy’s Alcorn’s response to Goodnough.
  4. Mirkes, Sister Renee. “The Oral Contraceptive Pill and the Principle of Double Effect.” Ethics & Medicine (Summer 2002) 18(2):11-22. Yet another response to Goodnough.
  5. John Wilks, “The Impact of the Pill on Implantation Factors – New Researching Findings,” in Ethics & Medicine (2000), volume 16(1), pp. 15-22.
  6. Alcorn, Randy. Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? A Condensation. Gresham, OR: Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2000.
  7. Larimore, Walter L. “The Abortifacient Effect of the Birth Control Pill and the Principle of ‘Double Effect’.” Ethics & Medicine (2000) 16(1):23-30.

A debate between two sides

  1. Bevington, Linda K.; Larimore, Walter L.; Alcorn, Randy; Crockett, Susan A.; DeCook, Joseph L.; Harrison, Donna; Hersh, Camilla. “Bioethical Decisions When Essential Scientific Information Is in Dispute: A Debate on Whether or Not the Birth Control Pill Causes Abortions.” In The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the Family, ed. John F. Kilner, et al. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; and United Kingdom: Paternoster, 2000: pp. 177-191. This is an extended debate between two evangelical teams on whether the pill is abortifacient.

While science (especially contested science) is not the foundation for ethics, the worrisome statistics we have looked at certainly need to be considered. I avoid all hormonal “contraceptives” because I am convinced by the evidence that they either endanger the life of babies and mothers or “tend to the unjust taking away the life.”286

Hormonal contraceptives increase the incidence of ectopic pregnancies

A second reason to consider the pill to be a risk to the life of babies is that they increase the incidence of ectopic pregnancies. Various studies have shown that all hormone contraceptives increase the occurrence of ectopic pregnancies (pregnancies where the fertilized egg stays outside the womb – usually in the fallopian tubes). If this is indeed true, then these forms of contraceptives have major ethical issues, since they increase the death of the young and increase danger to the mother.

To be fair, four pro-life OBGYNS who defend the pill have tried to rebut this argument, saying,

Our own review of the literature has shown this increased ectopic rate to be true of progestin only pills (POPs) and Norplant. However, we have found absolutely no data in the literature that supports an increased ectopic to intrauterine pregnancy ratio for women using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or Depoprovera…

Although there are many references alluding to increased rates of ectopic pregnancies for tubal ligation, IUDs, POPs, and post-coital contraception, a search through over a dozen well-recognized medical texts, and multiple journal articles written by experts in obstetrics, gynecology, and contraception has yielded no authoritative opinions that implicate COCs in the etiology of ectopic pregnancy.287

In the process of defending Combination Pills, these authors have conceded that every other form of hormonal “birth control” and every form of IUD does indeed increase ectopic pregnancies, and thus they unwittingly endanger both child and mother (see above for health of mother issues on all hormone contraceptives). Is it true that Combination Pills are exempted? Randy Alcorn says,

Two medical studies allow review of this association. [26] Conducted at seven maternity hospitals in Paris, France, [27] and three in Sweden, [28] the studies evaluated 484 women with ectopic pregnancies and control groups of 389 women with normal pregnancies who were admitted to the hospital for delivery during the same time period. These studies were designed, in typical fashion for “case control” studies, to determine the risk factors for a particular condition (here, ectopic pregnancy) by comparing one group of individuals known to have the condition with another group of individuals not having the condition. Both of these studies showed an increase in the extrauterine/intrauterine pregnancy ratio for women taking the Pill. Researchers who have reviewed these studies have therefore suggested that “some protection against intrauterine pregnancy is provided via the Pill’s post-fertilization abortifacient effect.” [29]

What accounts for the Pill inhibiting intrauterine pregnancies at a disproportionately greater ratio than it inhibits extrauterine pregnancies? The most likely explanation is that while the Pill does nothing to prevent a newly conceived child from implanting in the wrong place (i.e., anywhere besides the endometrium), it may sometimes do something to prevent him from implanting in the right place (i.e., the endometrium)…

“In fact, ‘a huge increase in ectopics’ is exactly what we do see - an increase that five major studies put between 70% and 1390%.”288

In my opinion there is sufficient evidence to rule out the pill on this point alone.

Does the IUD inhibit ovulation or is it also implicated in abortion?

Does the IUD inhibit ovulation or does it also utilize the third mechanism of casting off a fertilized egg? There are three IUDs currently used in the USA (though a wider variety are in use in England and Europe). We will consider each one.


Paragard is a copper IUD that is free of hormones. It is often the IUD of choice for women who do not want the complications of hormones and who want the ability to immediately get pregnant the next month after it is removed. But it too is abortifacient. Dr. Sara Pentilicky, a gynecologist and family planning specialist at the University of Pennsylvania stated,

With Paragard, you don’t actually stop ovulating like you do with the pill, so when I take it out, you should be able to get pregnant the next month without any trouble.289

Notice her statement that you do not stop ovulating. agrees with this conclusion, saying that Paragard is actually an abortifacient:

However, it is also known that the ParaGard IUD does not prevent ovulation. Some sperm may in fact reach the egg, resulting in fertilization. When fertilization does occur, ParaGard is thought to act as birth control by preventing the embryo from implanting in the uterus.290


Mirena is an IUD that consists of a T-shaped plastic frame that releases small amounts of synthetic progestin hormone for up to five years. It has all the same functions of progestin noted above. The official Mirena website states that it has three actions:

  • Thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering your uterus.
  • Inhibiting sperm from reaching or fertilizing your egg.
  • Thinning the lining of your uterus to prevent implantation.

The Mayo Clinic says that Mirena only “partially suppresses ovulation.”291 One year after insertion of this IUD, 45% of women were ovulating. Four years later, 75% of women were still ovulating. The statistics stand against those who claim that it is successful in suppressing ovulation.


The best that WebMD can promise is that this device “may also stop the release of an egg from your ovary (ovulation), but this is not the way it works in most women.”292 If this is the case, it has abortion as a backup mechanism. The company’s own clinical trials reveal that ovulation was seen in 34 out of 35 women in the first year, and in 26 out of 27 women in the second year, and in all 27 women in the third year. It clearly does not suppress ovulation.

In closing

While my survey of the literature has not been exhaustive, hopefully it has given enough leads that you can make your own conclusions. Though science is not infallible, the infallible principles of the Word of God that we have already looked at can help us to make wise conclusions with the scientific knowledge that we currently have. My own assessment of the facts have led me to a very, very conservative perspective on conception control, as outlined in the first few chapters of the book. May God guide you in your own studies. Amen.

Appendix: Some Thoughts on the Legitimacy of Conception Control

By Peter Allison, elder at Crown & Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church

Also published at

When God created man he commanded him to fill the earth and subdue it. In other words, man was to labor and to procreate. He was to be fruitful and multiply and he was to exercise dominion over the Creation. God gave Adam a helpmeet (i.e. suitable helper293) to help him fulfill this task. Man must take dominion in the way God ordained — through the help of a wife. Since there was no sin, there was no toil or weariness in this labor. Neither was there any pain or sorrow in conception.

The fall brought a curse that changed this happy state of affairs. God cursed the ground for man’s sake and told Adam that he would have to toil with ground that was cursed. The labor of tending the garden to get food would not be the pure, toil-free joy that it had been. It would now involve back-breaking labor wrestling with weeds and thorns. He would eat through the sweat of his brow. The woman did not escape this judgment. God told Eve that he would multiply her sorrow and conception.

How does Christ’s work of redemption affect this judgment on men?

Christ came to reverse the curse — as far as it is found. He promised to undo and remove the curse.294 That promise is found even as he pronounced the curse when he told the serpent that the woman’s Seed would bruise the head of the serpent. While the removal of the spiritual aspects of the curse is preeminent in scripture, the physical ways in which the curse is mitigated are also taught in scripture and should not be ignored. Physical death is conquered in Christ’s resurrection. There are a number of lesser benefits in this life as well. By his grace, as His Kingdom has progressed throughout the earth (Dan. 2:44-45; Rev. 21-22:5) a number of labor saving devices that help to remove the toil from labor have been developed. I used tractors to plow fields as a young boy. It was much less wearisome than using a horse drawn plow and infinitely less wearisome than doing it by hand. Such tools are a blessing from God that serve to reverse the effect of the curse. As Christians, we welcome and use labor saving devices. We don’t say “God commanded us to labor; therefore any attempt to remove the toil of labor is wrong.” We separate labor, which God has commanded, from the toil of labor, which is the result of the fall. We use labor saving devices so that the same labor produces much more fruit and is much less toilsome. It would be sin to use labor saving devices to avoid taking dominion or to enable us to spend more of the day in idleness. But it is most proper to use them to increase our ability to take dominion for the glory of God.

What about the judgment God pronounced on the woman?

After the fall, God multiplied conception. Genesis 3:16a reads: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” This is a significant point that few are discussing in dealing with conception control. God’s multiplication of conception wasn’t a blessing, it was a judgment. Increased conception is the result of God’s curse in the Garden of Eden. That’s what the Bible says, not some planned barrenness zealot. But as the hymn Joy to the World says, Christ came to reverse the curse, “Far as the curse is found.” That includes removing the curse of multiplied conception for women. Thus conception control is actually a blessing from God in that it reduces conception. But in using conception control, we also have to remember that the command to be fruitful and multiply still stands. We must have a desire to obey God’s command to be fruitful and to have a quiver full, because children really are a blessing; but at the same time it is not wrong to limit conception when our quiver is full or to slow the pace of filling the quiver to lessen the sorrow associated with increased conception.

Even before the fall, Adam did not labor continuously. He labored and rested. That pattern continues after the fall. Now that our labor has become wearisome, it isn’t wrong to use labor saving devices that begin to roll back the curse in some small way. At the same time, we are commanded to labor. To use labor saving devices to enable us to spend more time lying in bed would be wrong. They are proper as long as they are not used to help us be lazy. The same caution applies to conception control. It is proper as long as it is not used to eliminate having children or escape the duty of married couples to render full obedience to being fruitful and multiplying, but only slow the pace or stop when our quiver is full.

Why Has Withdrawal Been Nearly Universally Considered Murder in Church History?

Now, what about all the spiritual giants of the past that have condemned conception control as tantamount to murder? Why was there such a universal prohibition of conception control among the reformers? For example, in his commentary on Genesis 38:10, Calvin says “Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is … to kill before he is born the hoped for offspring.” Theodore Laetsch says that in coitus interruptus, a human being is being murdered in its incipiency295. It is nearly impossible to find any support for contrary views on restricting conception.

A possible explanation is found in the medieval understanding of the physiology of conception. The prevalent theory of that time is sometimes called the “Garden Theory of Conception.” They thought that “life” or the power to produce life resided in the male semen and was carried into the woman during intercourse296. In other words, they thought a living soul or at least the power from which life arose, was transplanted from the man into the woman where it produced, through nourishment and growth, a bodily existence.

With this understanding it is easy to see why they thought conception control was murder. If a life was being transplanted during intercourse, of course coitus interruptus would be murder. But this understanding is factually flawed. It is simply not true. What comes out of a man during intercourse is not a human life. It is only half of what is required. Conception happens inside the woman. If killing sperm was murder, then everyone that has intercourse of any kind would be committing murder because millions of sperm are killed with every union.

With this factual correction, it changes the decision one would arrive at. If I thought the Garden Theory of Conception was true, then I too would consider withdrawal murder. I think this answers the numerous godly men of that age who said what they did.

Objections To Understanding Genesis 3:16 As Referring To An Increase In Conception

The phrase in Genesis 3:16 translated as “sorrow and conception” in the KJV is often understood as a hendiadys and translated “sorrow in conception” or “pain in childbearing.” One of the arguments commonly used against understanding “and conception” as referring to actual conception is that children were the fulfillment of the command to be fruitful and multiply, so therefore increased conception could not be part of the judgment. A variation of that argues that children were a blessing and therefore could not be part of the judgment for sin. This consideration seems to be the sole force moving people away from understanding this verse as referring to literal conception. I have included two samples of this line of thinking below, one from Keil & Delitzsch and the other from John Gill. Keil & Delitzsch, it should be noted, also do not buy into the hendiadys line of thinking.

The woman, who had broken the divine command for the sake of earthly enjoyment, was punished in consequence with the sorrows and pains of pregnancy and childbirth. “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy pregnancy: in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” As the increase of conceptions, regarded as the fulfillment of the blessing to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), could be no punishment, hêrôn [conception] must be understood as in apposition to [itstsâbôn] thy sorrow (i.e., the sorrows peculiar to a woman’s life), and indeed (or more especially) thy pregnancy (i.e., the sorrows attendant upon that condition). The sentence is not rendered more lucid by the assumption of a hendiadys. “That the woman should bear children was the original will of God; but it was a punishment that henceforth she was to bear them in sorrow, i.e., with pains which threatened her own life as well as that of the child” (Delitzsch). The punishment consisted in an enfeebling of nature, in consequence of sin, which disturbed the normal relation between body and soul. (Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament)

John Gill writes:

I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, or “thy sorrow of thy conception” (a), or rather “of thy pregnancy” (b); since not pain but pleasure is perceived in conception, and besides is a blessing; (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

I don’t find either of these lines of thinking to be logically or Biblically consistent. In fact, it seems just the opposite. Why wouldn’t God use as judgment what was given as a blessing? This sort of thing is seen many times in Scripture where God gives people what they want and then turns that very blessing into judgment (e.g. the quail). Labor existed before the fall and must therefore be considered as something good and wholesome, yet it becomes a part of God’s judgment on Adam.

Rain, for example, is spoken of as both a blessing granted for obedience and withheld in times of disobedience and as a judgment in and of itself.

Rain in the proper season is presented as the fruit of obedience in the following passages:

Then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. (Lev. 26:4)

Then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. (Deut. 11:14)

The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. (Deut. 28:12)

The withholding of rain is promised as chastisement for disobedience.

Lest the LORD’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you. (Deut. 11:17)

O mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, nor fields of offerings. For the shield of the mighty is cast away there! The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. (2 Sam. 1:21)

When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. (1 Kings 8:35-36)

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1)

When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. (2 Chron. 6:26-27)

When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people… (2 Chron. 7:13)

Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot’s forehead; You refuse to be ashamed. (Jer. 3:3)

But rain is also sent as a chastisement for disobedience by sending it out of season, such as during the harvest.

Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the LORD, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking a king for yourselves.” So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. (1 Sam. 12:17-18)

Rain was both used as a judgment in the Noahic flood and it is held forth as a covenantal blessing of obedience. So to argue that hêrôn can’t be literal conception because this is also a blessing, just doesn’t pass Biblical muster.

Another argument for the hendiadys position is based on the fact that “‘Conception’ … must be figurative here since there is no pain in conception”297 But I find that line of argumentation somewhat circular. It’s only a valid conclusion if one first accepts (or assumes) the hendiadys position where the two terms are referring to the same thing. If the phrase is understood as two distinct entities (i.e. sorrow and conception) that will both be increased, then the fact that there is no pain in conception presents no logical bind of any sort. The judgment is not in the pain of conception but in the increase of conception. Rain is a blessing when it comes in season and in the right quantity. Rain becomes a judgment when it comes out of season or in overwhelming quantities.

This is also seen as a synecdoche representing the entire process of childrearing from conception onward298, something with which I do not disagree. But that is a logically distinct question from the translation question of whether sorrow and conception are the compound objects of multiply or not.

Dr. Henry Krabbendam (Professor at Covenant College) is an example of someone who rejects the NASB and ESV translation on this verse.

After it has become evident that in the husband there is an irrepressible tendency to be irresponsible and in the wife there is an irrepressible tendency to dominate, the question may well arise why these tendencies are not contained but so often break out into the open.

Generally speaking, reference may be made to Paul’s teaching on indwelling sin in Rom. 7:14-25. Paul states in this chapter that indwelling sin of the flesh is so strong that it always and by definition will prevent the regenerate heart, with its delight in the law of God, from acting obediently as long as the latter takes on indwelling sin in its own strength. More specifically, however, reference may be made to Gen. 3:16-19. God teaches in this passage that the lives of both wives and husbands are characterized by sorrow. To the woman God said, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception.” This should not be changed, as the New American Standard Version does, in “multiply your sorrow in your conception.” God wishes to say that sorrow will pervade all of the life of the woman. The force of this may not be broken. Symbolic of this all-pervasive sorrow will be the sorrow of childbirth. But this latter sorrow is not the central issue.

It serves to underscore the pervasiveness of the sorrow. This is indeed apparent in the life of the woman, in the rearing of children, in doing the menial tasks, etc. To the man God said, “In sorrow you shall eat of it (the ground) all the days of your life.” Symbolic of this sorrow is the sorrow of the daily labor. But again, this latter sorrow is not the central issue. It serves to accentuate the all-pervasive sorrow in the life of the man that finds its culmination point in death.

Sorrow upon sorrow in the life of both wife and husband. Who shall deny this? It is in this context that the irrepressible tendencies of both husband and wife come out into the open.

The man wishes to escape his sorrow by his irresponsibility. He has had enough for the day. So he is going to read his paper. Never mind his wife, who seeks relief after having spent a long day with the children. The woman wishes to escape her sorrow by her domination. If she only had the final say, then her circumstances would change drastically. The man escapes his sorrow in his irresponsibility. At least he thinks he can. The woman escapes sorrow in her domination. At least she thinks she can.299

In a later, greatly expanded edition, he writes along a similar line:

Scripture indicates that the judicial effects of sin profoundly impact the man and the woman as well, and therefore, also the marriage relationship. These judicial effects consist of a pervasive sorrow that enters the fabric of the total existence of both the man and the woman

God begins by addressing the woman, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your childbirth” (Gen. 3:16). The meaning of this statement appears puzzling to many, including translators of the Bible. This is evident from the NASV and the NIV. Both change the coordinating conjunction “and” into the preposition “in,” “I will …multiply your sorrow in your conception.” This supposedly removes the seeming awkwardness of having “sorrow” and “childbirth” as a compound object of “multiply,” and gives the sentence an unambiguous, straightforward and understandable meaning. However, neither the original Hebrew, admitted by the NASV in the margin, nor any rule of grammar, syntax or semantics, when properly applied, supports such a change.

On the contrary, it totally obscures a much needed, vitally important, and incisive truth from view. God informs the woman bluntly and in no uncertain terms that sorrow will be part of the warp and woof of her life. It will be her ever-present companion that cannot be dismissed or ignored. The pain of childbirth, subsequently, functions as a persuasive symbol, and a constant reminder, that the sorrow will be pervasive, inescapable and at times seemingly unbearable. This interpretation appears preferable on three counts.

First, it cannot lead to the unacceptable conclusion that a woman without children thereby would escape the judicial effect of sin. Second, it does not allow for the implication that the judicial effect is merely a slap on the wrist in view of the relative infrequency of childbirth in the individual woman. Third, it paves the way for the much more natural explanation of the next sentence, “In sorrow you shall bring forth children,” as not merely a repetition of what has just been said, but as a further elaboration of the reality of the sorrow symbolized in childbirth. While after all each woman experiences the symbol of sorrow as a relatively infrequent occurrence, the substance of sorrow has a prevailing presence!

The judicial effect of sorrow, in short, is not a peripheral, intermittent, problem. It has a place in the very center of a woman’s life. It colors the totality of her existence. And it persists throughout her life span.300

Other people who do not accept the hendiadys position include Leupold301 and John MacArthur.302


In saying that increased conception is part of the curse, I am not saying that having a large number of children is a curse. Rather it is the process of conceiving and raising children which constitutes the judgment. It is a process that is attended with travail as any nursing mother who has been up all night knows. The mother who has had 5 children in 5 years, or 5 children at once (quintuplets) knows how trying the first few years are. But it passes. God works even these trials out for our good. He blesses those women who are faithful in that toil (1 Tim. 2:15). Those same mothers reap a great reward for their labor.

The blessing of a godly man according to Psalm 128 is that not only would his children be as olive plants around his table, but he would see his children’s children. But an increase in conception does not necessarily translate into seeing more of your children’s children; it could simply produce a greater number of untimely deaths. Such deaths are a sorrow (as many mothers who have lost a child between conception and birth can attest), although God works through such tragedies to bring good for those who love him.

Clearly, children are a blessing; a large number of children is a great blessing. But just as clearly, children, be they many or few, can also be a great sorrow if they are not raised in the fear of the Lord. For example, children who kill their parents are ultimately not a blessing to those parents.303

There is nothing in this world that the Lord is not able to turn to dust in the hands of those who disobey. Likewise for those who repent, he can also redeem the years the locust have eaten and bring joy from the ashes.

Lastly, I have no desire to convert those who believe the Bible forbids all forms of conception control. Not only do I highly respect the opposite view and believe the Lord is graciously bringing a period of increased fertility to replenish several generations of planned barrenness, but we also usually need to be encouraged to have more children, not fewer. Our tendency in this area is to laziness and avoidance of procreation. Just like people usually don’t need to be encouraged not to work too hard, neither do they need to be encouraged not to have so many children. Those families who are temporarily overwhelmed with young children need to be encouraged, supported, and loved. I reserve the discussion presented here for those who specifically ask or to defend those who are being rebuked for sinning in not having as many children as they could possibly have.



Answers in Genesis sells a wonderful video that documents the stunning processes involved from conception to birth. It is the multimedia presentation by Dr. David Menton, Fearfully And Wonderfully Made.


Monergism is a term ordinarily used for regeneration – that only one (mono) work (ergos) in creating a new nature in the believer. I am using the term here to mean “God alone is at work in the creation of a new life.”


Synergism, from the Greek for together (sun) and work (ergos), refers to two agents working together in an interplay of activity.


Here is a sample statement that could be multiplied hundreds of times over: “What I wrote was [that]… asking God about it [infertility], or even asking God to change it, [is]… proper to do, as stated also in the Word. What is improper is not waiting on the Lord in it and going to the doctor about it and trying treatments for it, for in so doing we have ignored God in it, no matter what we say to the contrary: what we have then done in no way fits the Word of God” (


Though this paper is only interacting with three views (Biblically Limited Conception Control [BLCC], No Conception Control [NCC] and Antinomian Birth Control [ABC]), there are several quite distinct views on birth control within evangelical circles. 1) No Conception Control, 2) “Natural Birth Control,” which includes Rhythm, mucus method, natural breast feeding, etc. 3) “Natural Birth Control” plus condom, but no spermicides. 4) Any barrier method plus spermicides, 5) No pill or similar hormonal technology that could have a remote chance of being abortifacient if ovulation is not prevented, but anything else, including tubal ligation and vasectomy. 6) allowing the Pill but not the IUD, 7) allowing the IUD but not allowing for anything that casts off the fertilized egg post-implantation. While my ethical principles make me feel most comfortable with either 2 or 3, they firmly rule out 5-7, and make me speak with caution about 4 (though 4 was practiced by the ancient Jews – see below). Those who advocate Biblically Limited Conception Control (BLCC) could be anywhere in the 2-4 range.


Some of the books from the NCC camp are:

Provan, Charles D. The Bible and Birth Control. Zimmer Printing, Monongahaela, PA: 1989.

Hess, Rick and Jan. A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ. Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers, Brentwood, TN: 1990.

Houghton, Craig. Family UNplanning. Xulon Press, Longwood, FL: 2006.

Owen, Jr., Samuel A. Letting God Plan Your Family. Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL: 1990.

Campbell, Nancy. Be Fruitful and Multiply. Vision Forum, San Antonio, TX: 2003.

Adams, Shelly and Morgan. Arrows in His Hand (children’s book). Monument Pub., Monument, CO: 2007.

Pride, Mary. The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality. Good News Pub, Wheaton, IL: 1985.


See chapter 1 for a clear definition of what is meant by BLCC.


Here are some examples that this book will later demonstrate to be forms of legalism: 1) some NCC people have convinced post-menopausal women that sexual relations for them would be sin since they are “wasting seed,” 2) and have convinced pregnant moms that it is sinful to have sexual relations any time during the pregnancy. This has left both the husbands and wives sexually starved (in violation of 1 Corinthians 7:1-5,9). 3) I know one case where a mom who came to a fertility clinic in Omaha to try to get pregnant was told that she was in sin since she wasn’t “trusting God to open her womb.” 4) When the issue was further discussed, it became clear that it wasn’t simply a judgment of this individual’s assumed lack of faith, but was a general approach to life - this NCC advocate believed that surgery to repair fallopian tubes was always sin because it was a lack of trust just as much as using birth control to space babies was a lack of trust. While consistent with the NCC paradigm, I find this misinformed opinion to be in violation of other Biblical principles. 5) I know of another situation where a mom going through chemotherapy was told to abstain from sexual relations completely during chemotherapy. What was even more confusing was that another NCC said that the couple should have unprotected sexual relations in obedience to 1 Corinthians 7:4-5 and “trust God” to protect any resulting baby from the chemotherapy. Though these breaches of Christian Liberty are sincere, they are very misinformed. It is my hope to at least bring some moderation into the NCC camp through these discussions.


I have found that BLCC people tend to keep their views to themselves for the most part (unless asked), but NCC tend to have a missionary zeal in promoting their views. Some have been extremely insensitive to the situations of others. Examples I have witnessed: 1) Assuming that people are using birth control when they only have three or four children. Certainly such parents can say, “We are trying. Pray for us.” It is insensitive to judge people in this way. 2) Telling a mother of seven who has enormous health problems and is alive (as Job would have worded it) “by the skin of her teeth” that she was in sin for using birth control (in this case Rhythm and condom). 3) I have had more than one NCC advocate tell me that even if he knew for sure that both the baby and the mother would die if he tried for a sixth child, that he would do so anyway out of obedience to God. He described this as her act of love – laying down her life for the possibility of another child. This is insensitivity to the mother’s life.


For NCC claims that even Natural Family Planning methods of conception control are “murder,” see the quotes documented in footnotes 20-30 in chapter 12. Not all NCC writers follow Charles Provan or other writers cited in saying this, but there have been enough who have accused BLCC advocates of murder (and being worthy of death) even when they have used Natural Family Planning methods, that I have no choice but to defend them. The books that I have read have cited both Onan and the Talmud as describing birth control as “worthy of the death penalty” – but see my comments on Onan (below) and see my comments on the Talmud being taken out of context in footnote 36 in chapter 3 and footnote 1 in chapter 4. If a father of ten is guilty of murder for beginning to use a condom to avoid having an eleventh child, then we should be consistent and bring him up for charges of murder in a church court. But as we will see later in this book, the Scriptures used to bring the charges are completely misinterpreted, and simply would not stand the test of cross examination in a church court. Such charges are rash, and constitute using their tongue like a sword to damage (Ps. 57:4; 64:3) and not to build up (Eph. 4:29). If such extreme rhetoric could be curtailed, NCC and BLCC people could be allies in promoting large families.


Many of the previous examples would fall into this category, but so would repeated statements made by friends who have had a habit of judging heart motives (as if they could know those motives). Despite our desire for twelve children, and attempts at adopting large sibling groups, our motives for birth control have been judged as being 1) rejection of God’s blessings, 2) lack of love for children, 3) lack of trust in God, 4) selfishness, etc. Despite assuring them that those are not our motives, they continue to assume that they are. I have sought hard to lovingly assume the best intentions in these people, but hopefully this book will help to avoid such misconceptions. Biblically Limited Conception Control (BLCC) should be motivated by unselfish love for wife and children and should be founded on God-glorifying Biblical principles.


Paul hints at those conditions in 1 Timothy 2:15. See discussion in footnote 6 of chapter 1.


As will be noted below, when Paul says, “Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:15), Paul is not referring to the portion of salvation known as “justification,” but the portion of salvation known as “sanctification.” Salvation begins in eternity past (election), is historically applied by the Spirit throughout our life time (calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, and sanctification), and will be culminated in eternity (resurrection, glorification, confirmation). Paul is giving one illustration of what is typical of a woman’s sanctification – her calling to raise children. But he conditions the blessing on the fact that such bearing of children must be accompanied by a persevering “faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” However, this establishes the command to bear children within the purposes of redemption.


There are almost as many Scriptures that speak of the curse of many children (Gen. 3:16; Eccl. 6:3; Is. 49:19-21; Deut. 28:18-19; Ezek. 5:7-8 [KJV]; Jer. 15:9; Job 27:13-15; Luke 23:29) as there are that speak of the blessings of having many children (Gen. 17:2,20; 22:17; 26:24; 28:3; 35:11; 48:4; Ex. 32:13; Deut. 7:14; Ps. 17:14; 113:9; 127:1-5; 128:1-6; Prov. 17:6; 1 Tim. 5:14). The blessing of children is within a context of covenantal faithfulness, and to absolutise the blessing is to miss the fact that raising children for hell is hardly a blessing (see next point).


The “fruitfulness Psalm,” Psalm 127 is quite clear that “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” To raise children for hell is hardly a blessing. God says of the wicked, “Cursed shall be the fruit of your body” (Deut. 28:18). See previous footnote.


Provan gives many quotes that show the extreme distaste that the church fathers and reformers had for any kind of attempt to prevent conception. Even Natural Family Planning (now approved by the Roman Catholic Church) was disapproved of by the early church fathers. For example, Augustine opposed the Natural Family Planning of the Manichaeans, when he said,

Is it not you [the Manichaeans] who used to counsel us to observe as much as possible the time when a woman, after her purification, is most likely to conceive, and to abstain from cohabitation at that time…? This proves that you approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. (NPNF 1.4.86)


For example, Clement of Alexandria (c. 195) said, “If a man marries in order to have children, he ought not to have a sexual desire for his wife. He ought to produce children by a reverent, disciplined act of will.” He also said, “Intercourse performed licitly is an occasion of sin, unless done purely to beget children.” Keep in mind that the dictionary defines “licitly” as in full conformity with the law. He is adding a qualification to being lawful – it cannot have any function beyond producing a baby. This is legalism. In another place Clement said, “To… a spiritual man, after conception, his wife is as a sister and is treated as if of the same father” (ANF 2.503). Justin Martyr (c. 160) writes, “If we marry, it is only so that we may bring up children” (ANF 1.172). Lactantius (c. 304-313) writes, “Whatever is sought beyond the desire of procreation is condemned by God” (ANF 7.143). Athenagoras the Athenian (c. 175) forbad any sexual relations between a couple once the couple had achieved conception (ANF 2.146). Augustine said,

In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wife’s breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wife’s virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings”. (Saint Augustine, 354 – 430 (City of God, Book 14, Chapter 26))

The Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c. 390) say, “Nor, indeed, let them have relations when their wives are with child. For [in that case] they are not doing it for the begetting of children, but only for the sake of pleasure. Now a lover of God should not be a lover of pleasure.” (ANF 7.463). Thomas Aquinas wrote,

Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt. Otherwise it is always at least a venial sin… If a man intends by the marriage act to prevent fornication in his wife, it is no sin, because this is a kind of payment of the debt that comes under the good of “faith.” But if he intends to avoid fornication in himself, then there is a certain superfluity, and accordingly there is a venial sin, nor was the sacrament instituted for that purpose, except by indulgence, which regards venial sins. (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Benziger Bros./Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2004), n.p.)


As has already been noted, Chrysostom, Augustine, and other fathers had to oppose this viewpoint. But it persisted despite scholars such as Thomas Aquinas refuting it. Huguccio said,

…can never be without sin, for it always occurs and is exercised with a certain itching and a certain pleasure; for, in the emission of the seed, there is always a certain excitement, a certain itching, a certain pleasure. (See footnote 17 in chapter 4 for reference.)


So many authors have documented this influence of the Greeks that it is not much contested. John T. Noonan writes, “Stoicism was in the air the intellectual converts to Christianity breathed. Half consciously, half unconsciously, they accommodated some Christian beliefs to a Stoic sense” (John T. Noonan, Jr., Contraception (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), p. 46). The Stoic philosopher Ocellus Lucanus, “We have intercourse not for pleasure but for the purpose of procreation….The sexual organs are given man not for pleasure, but for the maintenance of the species.” Ocellus Lucanus, text and commentary by Richard Harder (Berlin, 1926), quoted in Noonan, p. 47. This of course could have been said verbatim by any number of church fathers.


For example, when Augustine wrote to Jerome, he said, “I have learned to hold the Scriptures alone inerrant.” (Cited by Boice & Packer in, Does Inerrancy Matter? [Oakland, CA: ICBI, 1979]). In his Preface to the Treatise on the Trinity Augustine said, “Do not follow my writings as Holy Scripture. When you find in Holy Scripture anything you did not believe before, believe it without doubt; but in my writings, you should hold nothing for certain.”


David G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity: The Jovinianist Controversy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 34.


Augustine and Ambrose both present Susanna as a model of chastity within marriage. Jerome was particularly troubling in his insistence that married clergy be celibate. See Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds. Jerome: Select Works and Letters. vol. VI of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series. Accordance electronic ed. (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1890), n.p.


Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian. vol. III of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Accordance electronic ed. (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1885), n.p. David G. Hunter points out about Tertullian,

Nevertheless, Tertullian’s starkly eschatological outlook led him to denigrate sex, marriage, and procreation in a manner that resembled traditional encratite theology.

Another parallel between Tertullian and the encratite tradition is that Tertullian, like Tatian, argued that a radical divide lay between the morality of the Old Testament and that of the New. Although he acknowledged that God had originally established marriage for the propagation of the human race, Tertullian held that with the coming of Christ the command to ‘increase and multiply’ had been abrogated by Paul’s warning that ‘the time is short; from now on let even those who have wives be as though they had none.’ In these last days the only reasons for marrying even once are disreputable ones: sexual desire, a wish for comfort and security, or the desire to live on in one’s children. While some Christians might argue that procreation is a civic duty, Tertullian complained, children are in reality troublesome burdens that distract their parents from preparing for martyrdom and the approach of the kingdom of God. Although Tertullian did not completely reject first marriages, thereby remaining technically ‘orthodox’ on this question, his emphasis on the profound gulf between the old dispensation and the new reiterated the traditional encratite contrast between the Old Law and the New. (David G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity: The Jovinianist Controversy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 118,


Two examples are Justin, 1 Apol. 15, 29; Athenagoras, Leg. 33.4–6.


Babylonian Talmud, Soncino edition, Barakoth, Folio 60a is one of dozens of places I have found where both the man and the woman are said to emit seed, and the child is the combination of the man’s and the woman’s seed.


While masturbation is universally condemned by the rabbis as “wasting seed,” and sterilization was universally condemned, most ancient rabbis allowed for moderate birth control within marriage, even though this too would waste seed. The general principle is stated in the Mishna thus: “A man may not desist from the duty of procreation unless he already has children… G’mara: If he has children he may desist from procreation, but not from further marriage” (Talmud, Yebamoth 61b). The method of birth control most discussed was a barrier method of a cotton pessary that blocked the cervix. Jewish authorities say that this was sometimes mixed with vinegar or lemon, both of which were spermicides. However, the Rhythm method was also practiced (Babylonian Talmud, Soncino edition, Niddah, 31b). Coitus Interruptus seems to be condemned. Many people speak of the condemnations of “wasting seed,” such as that by Rabbi Johanan, who is quoted as saying: “Whoever emits semen nonprocreatively deserves capital punishment” – which is a very poor paraphrase and summary of the section. They also quote Rabbi Eliezer in Yebamoth 63b-64a, to the effect that failure to procreate is equivalent to murder. They fail to read those quotes in context, which clearly are against solo masturbation and refusal to get married and which allow for our BLCC position. See footnote 36 in chapter 3 for details and places in the Talmud where birth control was discussed.


My favorite introduction to this subject is Rushdoony, R. J. (1969). The Myth of Over-Population. Fairfax, VA, Thoburn Press. For a penetrating analysis see Jacqueiline Kasun, The War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999). Even secularists have recognized that the real danger is a massive “birth-dirth” or population decline. The prolific Julian Simon was one of the early authors to successfully debunk the arguments of the Malthusians. He also co-authored a worthwhile essay - Julian Simon and Karl Zinsmeister, Population Growth and Progress,” in Michael Cromartie, ed., The 9 Lives of Population Control (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans, 1995), p. 68.P. T. Bauer has also provided a wealth of case studies and statistical analysis from all continents in P. T. Bauer, Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1981). See especially his chapter 3, “The Population Explosion: Myths and Realities.” See also Ian Angus and Simon Butler, Too Many People? (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011). John Ibbitson & Darrell Bricker, Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Popularion Decline (New York: Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Randon House, 2020). Two other small treatments of the subject that are worth reading from a Christian perspective are Osterfeld, D. (1994). Overpopulation: The Perennial Myth. The Christian Educator. Arlington Heights, IL, Simon, J. L. (1990). “Earth Worship and Population Growth.” Chalcedon Report(300): 4-5.


Margaret Sanger claims that she coined the term “birth control” for her first issue (June, 1914) of The Woman Rebel. ( Many scholars concur that she did.


See Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (London: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 150.


As will be seen later in this book, I am not labeling all “birth control” advocates antinomian, but only those who refuse to consider the Bible for their birth control practices. Many use the Pill with not a thought about the possibilities of its health risks and/or its secondary function as an abortifacient. While there is still debate on the subject, it is an issue that needs to be thought through. I have known Evangelical doctors who prescribe IUDs, not having realized that IUDs produce abortions.


D. James Kennedy, Led By the Carpenter: Finding God’s Purpose for Your Life (Thomas Nelson, 1999), p. 7.


Dr. John Barber,




Rick & Jan Hess, A Full Quiver (Omaha: Hess Family, 1989), pp. 1, 141.


Hess & Hess, p. 92.


Hess & Hess, p. 94.


Kimberly Wagner, at





Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control (Monongahela, PA: Zimmer Printing, 1989). See especially pages 16-43.


Provan, p. 39.


Provan, pp. 38-39.


Provan, p. 64.


Consider the following very active characteristics of faith in this great faith chapter:

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain… But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, …moved with godly fear, prepared an ark… By faith Abraham obeyed … And he went out, … By faith he dwelt in the land … By faith Abraham, … offered up Isaac, By faith Isaac blessed …By faith Jacob, … blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, …By faith Moses… was hidden three months by his parents… By faith Moses… refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,… By faith he forsook Egypt, … By faith he kept the Passover … By faith they passed through the Red Sea … By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab … received the spies with peace…. who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection… Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 11:4-12:1)


This last phrase is variously translated, “or a husband’s decision,” (New English Translation), “nor by a man’s decision” (NAB), “or a husband’s will” (NIV). All translations draw out the analogy that human birth involves a human decision or intentionality.


Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (Tyler, TX: ICE, 1982), p. 436.


Kent Crockett, The 911 Handbook, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003, 139


One book that relies too heavily upon the opinions of men is Charles Provan’s book, The Bible and Birth Control. His treatment of homosexuality, lesbianism, and bestiality is a case in point. His treatment of spilling seed as murder is another example of the opinions of man trumping rational exegesis. We will have more to say about him below. No matter how esteemed the church fathers and Reformers may be, if they add commandments to the Bible or subtract liberties from the Bible, they come under the condemnation of Jesus who spoke vehemently against the Pharisees, who were “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:1-13). Though “the commandments and doctrines of men… have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, [they] are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:22-23). It is my hope that this study book will help Christians to avoid the rocks of legalism on the one hand and the shoals of antinomianism on the other. This book will later show how a cross-centered perspective avoids both extremes.


I got the substance of this next paragraph from the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, who in turn got it from their Presbyterian forbearers. Most of the text is theirs, and the proof-texting is mine.


“…He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15); “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:12); “one Lord” (Eph. 4:5); “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve“ (Matt. 4:10); “the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4); “The statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods.” (2 Kings 17:37); “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded… be careful to observe it… Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!.” (Deut. 6:1-9)


“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17); “that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6); [In the context of the church discipline of verses 3-11, Paul says,] “For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things” (2 Cor. 2:9); “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:6); “…has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3); 1 Cor. 6:1-6; 1 Cor. 3:18-23; “That you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12); “rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ…rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith… Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For … you are complete in Him” (Col. 2:5-10).


Jus Divinum was the Latin expression for “divine law” used by the Scottish Reformers to speak of Presbyterianism as being regulated in all it did by the Scripture alone. Christ received “all authority” (Matt. 28:18) and a deposit (paradosis) of truth from the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 15:15), which He in turn gave to the apostles (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; 1 Cor. 11:23; John 14:26; 15:15; 16:12-13; 20:21), which they in turn gave to the church in the Scriptures and its doctrine (1 Cor. 11:2, 23; 15:3; 2 Thes. 3:6; 2 Pet 2:21; Jude 3). The church is built on this revelational foundation (Eph. 2:19-22). The Puritan theology can be summed up in the phrase that “The only voice that should be heard in the church is the voice of Jesus speaking through the Scriptures.” As Morton Smith worded it, Presbyterianism “affirms that the ‘regulative principle’ applies to doctrine, government, discipline and worship. Christ as King has given His Word concerning each of these areas to the Church, and nothing is to be added or taken from His Word. The Church should always be most careful as to how it frames its rules and guidelines for each of these areas, that they are in accord with the inspired Word of God at every point” (Commentary on the PCA Book of Church Order, Preface).


In connection with judgments to settle conflicts, Moses was instructed, “And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do… And let them judge the people at all times” (Ex. 18:16-22;) “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12); “All Scripture… for reproof, for correction” (2 Tim. 3:15-17).


“I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth “ (1 Tim. 3:15); “for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5); “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose” (2 Tim. 3:10); “we did not consult Him about the proper order. “ (1 Chron. 15:13); “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you” (2 Cor. 1:12); “All Scripture … is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17); “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you“ (Acts 20:18); “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1); “Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13); “do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise’” (Deut. 12:30); “to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us” (2 Thes. 3:9); “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20); 2 Cor. 7:11; etc.


“for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17); “For Christ is the end (telos) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4); “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5); “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose” (2 Tim. 3:10); “you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7); “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing” (2 Cor. 7:9); “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10); “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Cor. 7:11); “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).


Patterned after the Bible’s use of “it is written” or other direction quotations.


Patterned after the Bible’s use of deductive reasoning. On the use of deductive logic in the theology and practice of the church, see WCF 1:5; 1:6; 1:9; LC 4,105,113; WCF 1:6 says that such principles “by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” WCF 1:5 and LC 4 both speak of the “consent of all the parts” of Scripture. All laws of logic are affirmed in Scripture, as for example, the Law of Identity (Ex 3:14, John 6:35, 41; 10:7, 11; 14:6; 15:1), the Law of Non-Contradiction (James 5:12, Matt. 12:33, 1 Cor. 14:33, Heb. 6:18), the Law of Excluded Middle (Matt. 12:30, Mark 9:40), etc. Romans is a masterpiece of logical reasoning, and the thousands of logical arguments (“if… then”; “therefore,” conflations of Scripture, etc.) that are found in Scripture clearly support the Confession’s stance on deductive reasoning in theology and polity. Indeed, the following statements are meaningless if logic is not valid: “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17); “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Cor. 1:20); “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13); “God, who cannot lie, promised…” (Tit. 1:2); etc.


“that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6); “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet 1:3); “Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” (Prov. 30:6); “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”” (1 Cor. 3:19); “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2).


You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2); “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deut. 12:32).


Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have courts concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!” (1 Cor. 6:1-6); 1 Cor. 3:18-23; “we conducted ourselves… in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom” (2 Cor. 1:12); “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Is. 8:20); “… that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6); “bound by the law… at liberty” (1 Cor. 7:39).


“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:40); “rejoicing to see your good order” (Col. 2:5); “that you should set in order the things that are lacking“ (Tit. 1:5); “our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction” (2 Cor. 10:8); “let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel” (1 Cor. 14:12); “we do all things, beloved, for your edification“ (2 Cor. 12:19); “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction “ (2 Cor. 13:10); “For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.” (1 Cor. 14:17); “Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Cor. 14:26); “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).


“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2); “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (Deut. 5:32); “So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.” (Deut. 28:14); “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7); “Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left” (Josh. 23:6).


Once again, the substance of this summary is taken from the PCA’s Book of Church Order, though the Scriptural proof texts were supplied by me.


“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (Rom. 14:4); “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Rom. 14:10); “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.” (1 Cor. 4:3-6); “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:11-12); “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:19); “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Matt. 23:8).


And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men“ (Matt. 15:9); “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do” (Mark 7:8); “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23); “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19); “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11); “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked by human precept” (Hos. 5:11).


For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition… making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down” (Mark 7:8,9,13); “Why do you transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” (Matt. 15:3,6); “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29); “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19).


WCF 20.2; “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way… Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it or take away from it” (Deut. 12:31-32); “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand” (2 Cor. 1:24); “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men“ (Matt. 15:9); “All Scripture is given … that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17); “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col. 2:20-23); “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).


Throughout this book we use the terms “rights” and “right,” not in an absolute sense, but in the sense that humans have certain God-given (and therefore lawful) expectations that constitute a just claim or title to something, as for example: “her marriage rights” (Ex. 21:10); “He shall have no right (לא־יִמשל) to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her” (Ex. 21:8); “For a full year he shall have the right of redemption (גְּאֻלָּה).” (Lev. 25:29 ESV; cf. 25:33; Ruth 4:6; also מִשְׁפָּט in Jer. 32:7,8); “one kind of legal right (דִּין) or another” (Deut. 17:8 ESV); “the right (מִשְׁפָּט) of the firstborn is his” (Deut. 21:17 ESV); “you have no portion or right (צְדָקָה) or claim in Jerusalem” (Neh. 2:20 ESV); “who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right (צְדָקָה)!” (Is. 5:23 ESV); “to rob the poor of my people of their right (מִשְׁפָּט)” (Is. 10:2 ESV); “Do we have no right (ἐξουσία) to eat and drink?“ (1 Cor. 9:4); “Do we have no right (ἐξουσία) to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor. 9:5); “Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right (ἐξουσία) to refrain from working?” (1 Cor. 9:6); etc.


“But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another“ (Gal. 6:4); “I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Cor. 10:15); “Judge for yourselves” (1 Cor. 11:13 ESV); “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat… For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:28,31); “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5); “However, there is not in everyone that knowledge” (1 Cor. 8:7); “And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 Jn. 3:19-21); “For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?” (1 Cor. 10:29); “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11); “‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45); “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, And great shall be the peace of your children” (Is. 54:13); “For You render to each one according to his work” (Ps. 62:12); “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths” (Col. 2:16)


For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?” (1 Cor. 10:29); “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14); “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10); “And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:4-5); “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1); “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is. 8:20); “that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6); “bound by the law… at liberty” (1 Cor. 7:39); “having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:2-3); “That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged” (Rom. 3:4); “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23); “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4); “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10); “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other” (1 Cor. 4:3-6).


The reason this is important to understand is that almost all NCC advocates have assumed a Regulative Principle of Living for the individual – that we must justify everything, including birth control, before we can do it. Even the Amish could not consistently live by a Regulative Principle of Life for individuals. The reason the law is called “the Perfect Law of Liberty” (James 1:25) is precisely because the individual has maximum liberty and it is church and state alone that must justify their every move from Scripture.


There is no significance to my arbitrary number of seven. Interestingly, the ancient Jews defined an absolute minimum of being fruitful and multiplying. The Talmudic interpretation of Genesis 1:28 is that every Jewish man should father at least one boy and one girl (See Yebamoth 61b). Just in case the boy and girl die before they can reproduce, Rabbi Yohanan said that it is best to try for more. They were certainly opposed to using birth control before two were born, except in very carefully defined circumstances that required a rabbi’s permission. Those circumstances are discussed elsewhere in this outline. The general consensus was that parents should desire to have large families. To see the context of their discussion on this question, see Babylonian Talmud, Niddah 13b; Yebamoth 62a,b; the Codes L’vush; Tosafoth Baba Batra 60b; Megillah 27a.


In chapter 4 I will give detailed exegetical analysis of Leviticus 15, where the law actually mentions sterile emission of semen within a marriage relationship (Lev. 15:16-17) as being no different than normal sexual intercourse (v. 18). Thus we have positive evidence of BLCC practice.


See chapter 4.


For thousands of years, lactation has been known to prevent ovulation and has been widely practiced as a form of conception control in Africa and the Middle East to space out children. It produces estrogen which suppresses ovulation. Though it is not a “safe” method for many people, science shows that our bodies were designed to normally suppress ovulation when regular breastfeeding occurs. We will deal with this in a later chapter.


Contrary to popular opinion, the ancients were very aware of the time when conception was most likely to occur. Even Augustine wrote to the Manicheans, saying, “Is it not you who used to counsel us to observe as much as possible the time when a woman, after her purification, is most likely to conceive, and to abstain from cohabitation at that time…?” Augustine; Philip Schaff (Editor) (1887). A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume IV. Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, On the Morals of the Manichaeans, chapter 18. Likewise, the Babylonian Talmud mentions birth control by the Rhythm method – see for example, Niddah, 31b.


Obviously Onan was aware of this method (Gen. 38). Vern L. Bullough shows that this was widely used in the ancient near east. See documentation in Encyclopedia of Birth Control. Santa Barbara, CA, pp. 74-75.


Cervical caps have been used for thousands of years. The preferred method of birth control mentioned in the Jewish Talmud was inserting a sponge or cotton wad into the vagina so that it covered the cervix (and some say that the sponge was optionally soaked in lemon juice). The lemon juice annihilated the sperm and the sponge acted as a pessary. Ancient Southeastern Asian cultures used the squeezed out peel of a lemon as a cervical cap, where the lemon acted as a barrier and the juice acted as a spermicide. The Ebers Papyrus (1550 BC) gives a recipe of ground dates, acacia tree bark, and honey applied with a fabric pessary. The acacia acted as a spermicide, but the fabric acted as a pessary to block the sperm. The earliest reference to a male condom is the 13th century BC when Egyptian tribesmen used oiled animal gut. Though dubious in my mind, others cite a painting in the French cave, Grotte des Combarrelles, as evidence of condom use much earlier. See Aine Collier. The Humble Little Condom: A History. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, p. 371. The same book also gives evidence for the use of condoms in ancient Greece and Rome.


Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) seeds were ground and eaten to prevent ovulation. These seeds contain an oestrone identical to the genuine hormone estrogen, which suppresses ovulation in the same way that breastfeeding does. Some of the herbs that I list under abortifacients (below) acted almost identically to the Pill. The same controversy exists on whether all of these herbs are abortifacients, or if their primary (and possibly only) function is to suppress ovulation and to thicken the mucus of the vagina to make sperm mobility difficult.


Lemon juice is a very effective spermicide used both by pagans in the ancient near east, as well as by Jews – see below. In South Asia and Southeast Asia, Papaya seeds were eaten by males as birth control for males. Science has discovered that these seeds do indeed reduce sperm count in the male to zero, is safe to use, and the sterility is reversible. Once the male stops eating the seeds, the sperm count returns to normal. The Ebers Papyrus (1550 BC) recommended a pessary with a mixture of ground dates, acacia tree bark, and honey, where the acacia acted as a spermicide.


Hippocrates made mention of female sterilization, though he did not detail the procedure.


Pliny the Elder recorded the abortifacient properties of Silphium. Copper IUDs were used in the Middle East to prevent pregnancies in camels, and so the function of copper was already understood to some degree, though its abortifacient properties may not have been understood. Hippocrates also made mention of a kind of “morning after” potion made from Queen Anne’s Lace: “The seeds, harvested in the fall, are a strong contraceptive if taken orally immediately after coitus.” The seed of that plant blocks progesterone synthesis and disrupts implantation. As quoted in John M. Riddle, 1997. A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West., Cambridge, Ma., Harvard University Press. The ancient Greeks and Romans used Pennyroyal as an abortifacient. Blue Cohosh is another plant that is abortifacient through two substances: one that mimics oxytocin and the other that contracts the uterus. Common Rue, Dong Quai (Chinese Angelica) is yet another abortifacient known to the ancient world. One ancient recipe (also used by American slaves) was to chew the root of the cotton plant. This has substances that interfere with the Corpus Luteum (the hole left in the ovrary when ovulation occurs), thus preventing progesterone. However, this also has risks of being abortifacient. I have not listed the numerous forms of abortifacient used in the ancient world that were highly toxic to the woman.


See George Grant’s wonderful book on the successes of opposing abortion in all of its forms: Third Time Around.


Many people speak of the condemnations of “wasting seed,” such as that by Rabbi Johanan, who is quoted as saying: “Whoever emits semen nonprocreatively deserves capital punishment” – a very poor paraphrase summary of the whole section. They also quote Rabbi Eliezer in Yebamoth 63b-64a, to the effect that failure to procreate is equivalent to murder. They fail to read those quotes in context, which are condemnations of solo masturbation and not condemnations of sterile sexual intercourse. Furthermore, to fail to read those statements in light of the many statements where the Talmud allows for birth control similar to our BLCC position is not honest scholarship. The Talmudic interpretation of Genesis 1:28 is that every Jewish man should father at least one boy and one girl (See Yebamoth 61b), though preferably trying for many more. Beyond that, the general principle is stated in the Mishna thus: “A man may not desist from the duty of procreation unless he already has children… G’mara: If he has children he may desist from procreation, but not from further marriage” (Talmud, Yebamoth 61b). The Babylonian Talmud records traditions preceding the time of Jesus, and it records the teachings of rabbis who clearly allowed for birth control without any censure. See discussion in John T. Noonan, Jr., Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), pp. 10-12. My own reading of the Talmud has found numerous references that allowed for birth control. The most common method was a sponge or a cotton wad inserted into the vagina and covering the cervix. Authorities say that this cotton or sponge was optionally soaked in lemon juice. The lemon has been proven to be a very effective spermicide, and the cotton acted as a pessary, soaking up the sperm and preventing it from entering the womb. The Rhythm method was used: Niddah, 31b. Also, Hosea 1:8 is referenced with the understanding that breastfeeding prevents pregnancy. (We know that when breastfeeding alone is used that it does indeed suppress ovulation through the production of estrogen.) Major discussions were given on whether birth control was allowable in the first months of a marriage, and it was generally thought that it would only be permitted in rare situations such as the life or health of the mother, endangerment of the baby, or where it was unknown if the woman had had intercourse with someone else before the marriage. See Babylonian Talmud, Soncino edition, Kethuboth, Folio 37a for the convoluted reasoning. In Folio 39a it is stated “Three categories of women may use an absorbent [pessary]…to prevent conception,” those being “a minor, and an expectant and nursing mother… is permitted the use of an absorbent.” The reasoning seems to be the safety of mother and baby. See also Babylonian Talmud, Soncino edition, Nedarim 35b; Niddah Folio 45a; Yebamoth 100b. In Yabamoth 12b another general permission is given, “because she might become pregnant and as a result might die” in contrast to unprotected intercourse “when pregnancy involves no fatal consequences.” So any condition that endangered the life of the mother was considered valid. Likewise several of the previously noted locations allow the use of birth control if a baby’s life is in danger (either a nursing baby or a new resulting baby), in which case the parent “takes every possible precaution to avert danger.” Yebamoth Folio 42a. Yebamoth Folio 35a gives a statement by rabbi Jose that might be taken that he did not believe in birth control, but the discussion went on to give several exceptions where a mother would “exercise care” to temporarily prevent conception. An ancient Midrash on Genesis speaks of an herb that prevented ovulation: “In the early time of creation, in the time of Lemech, a medicine was known, the taking of which prevented a woman’s conception.” Genesis, Rabbah 23, p. 56. For an online version, go here: For a discussion of clinical trials on the effectiveness of lemon juice as a spermicide, see Roger Short, Scott G. McCoombe, Clare Maslin, Eman Naim and Suzanne Crowe (2002), “Lemon and Lime Juice As Potent Natural Microbicides.” Retrieved with iLivid 2006-08-13.


“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, “I do not want to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, “So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who had his sandal removed’ (Deut. 25:5-10).


Some people claim that Onan wouldn’t have known the laws we cite as being violated because those laws were not given until the time of Moses. However, it is a faulty hermeneutic to limit the revelation that the saints of Genesis 1-11 had to only the revelation recorded for us in Genesis 1-11. Jude records a prophecy made by Enoch that is nowhere recorded in the Old Testament. Likewise, it is faulty thinking to say that the patriarchs only had the limited information about God and ethics that are recorded in the next few chapters. God says of Abraham, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” That phrase is a technical phrase used several times to speak of Mosaic Law. Where would Abraham have found those commandments, statutes, and laws? They are not recorded in Genesis. The answer is simple: Hebrews 1:1 makes clear that God spoke to Old Testament saints in many different ways, and that they were not limited to our canon. Indeed, God gave many inspired books to Old Testament saints that were not intended for our canon. Because they were inspired guidance for their generation, they were sufficient for their ethics. These inspired books that are not in our canon include the Book of The Wars of Jehovah (Numb. 21:14), the Book of Jashar (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18), another Book of Samuel on the Kingdom (1 Sam. 10:25), the Book of the Chronicles of David (1 Chron. 27:24), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), Solomon’s three thousand proverbs and 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32), the book of Solomon’s Natural History (1 Kings 4:32-33), the Book of Samuel the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29), the Book of Nathan the Prophet (1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 9:29), the Book of Shemaiah the Prophet (2 Chron. 12:15), the Book of Gad the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29), the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chron. 9:29), the Visions of Iddo the seer (2 Chron. 9:29; 12:15), “the annals of the prophet Iddo” (2 Chron. 13:22), a full history of king Uzziah written by Isaiah (2 Chron. 26:22), the Book of Jehu the Son of Hanani (2 Chron. 20:34), and an extrabiblical (but reliable) history of the Kings (1 Kings 14:19,25; 2 Chron. 20:34; 33:18).


Note that in this extended passage, a husband is bound by the vows made by his wife (vv. 10-11) unless he annuls them on the day that the vows were made (vv. 3-16). Verse 15 states, “But if he does make them void after he has heard them, then he shall bear her guilt.” Likewise the husband is always bound by his own lawful vows and may never annul them. “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth” (v. 2). Again, note the facts stated in the previous footnote.


“If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his” (Deut. 21:15-17).


Martin Luther, Commentary on Genesis, in Genesis 38:8-10.


Charles Provan, The Bible And Birth Control, pp. 13ff.


Philo, The Works of Philo, Laws 3:34.


Pseudo-Clementine Literature, Book VI, chapter XII – Importance of Chastity. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementia, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages. vol. VIII of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Accordance electronic ed. (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1885), n.p.


Clement, “On Marriage,” Book III, chapter 11, Legis Et Christi Mandatum de Non Concupiscendo Exponit. The editors did not translate this chapter, but the translation of the Latin can be found at

The reasoning of Clement is rather strange. He argues his case from the month of waiting before a man could marry a captive, from the mistaken idea that the law prohibited sexual intercourse with a pregnant wife, and from the fact that the tribe of Levi was smaller than other tribes (presumably because they followed the law more strictly). His exegesis of the captive wife is as follows:

You have heard that the law commanded, ‘Though shalt not commit adultery.’ But I say, ‘Thou shalt not lust.’ That the law intended husbands to cohabit with their wives with self-control and only for the purpose of begetting children is evident from the prohibition which forbids the unmarried man from having immediate sexual relations with a captive woman. If the man has conceived a desire for her, he is directed to mourn for thirty days while she is to have her hair cut; if after this the desire has not passed off, then they may proceed to beget children, because the appointed period enables the overwhelming impulse to be tested and to become a rational act of the will.


He believed that it needed to be engaged in without desire as an act of the will – a very common view among church fathers. In this quote he cautions people not to be skeptical that it is possible to emit without such strong passions:

But those of ours who have wives we advise, with all our power, that they dare not to judge of those holy fathers after their own weakness, comparing, as the Apostle says, themselves with themselves; and therefore, not understanding how great strength the soul hath, doing service unto righteousness against lusts, that it acquiesce not in carnal motions of this sort, or suffer them to glide on or advance unto sexual intercourse beyond the necessity of begetting children, so far as the order of nature, so far as the use of custom, so far as the decrees of laws prescribe. (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Benziger Bros./Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2004), n.p., section 34.)




For the science on this, see World Health Organization, WHO Laboratory Manual for the Examination of Human Semen and Sperm-Cervical Mucous Interaction, 3rd ed. Cambridge, UK: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1992. U. Berg, C. Brucker, and F. Dieter Berg. “Effect of Mobile Sperm Count after Swim-up on Outcome of Intrauterine Insemination.” Fertility/Sterility 67 (1997). J. Macleod and R. A Gold, “The Male Factor in Fertility and Infertility: VI, Semen Quality and Certain Other Factors in the Relation to the Ease of Conception.” Fertility/Sterility 4 (1953).


Keep mind mind that I am using the term “wasted” in quotation marks. Since God has other purposes for sperm and eggs than fertilization, they obviously are not wasted.


John Calvin comments on verse 3:

But Moses further declares, that uncleanness is contracted, not only when the seed is emitted, but when it is retained… Therefore he who was conscious of no sin in the seminal-flux, still must be reminded by this sign of the corruption of his nature; and at the same time be an example to others, that all should diligently take heed to themselves, because corruption cleaves to the whole human race. In the ablution the remedy of the evil was proposed, since the mark of ignominy induced them to repentance. It is expedient that whosoever is infected with any stain should be brought to shame, so as to be displeased with himself; but the acknowledgment of the evil would produce despair, unless the hope of pardon were associated with it. Therefore, those to whom purification was necessary, are always sent to water; and, whenever water is mentioned, the passage in St. John should be brought to mind, that Christ came “by water and blood,” to purge and expiate all uncleanness (1 John 5:6). Besides the water, a sacrifice of turtle doves, or two young pigeons is added; and this has reference to the same thing; viz., that purification for the unclean must be sought for elsewhere, which we have at length obtained by the sacrifice of Christ. (Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 2, pp. 31–33). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)


The Gnostics described sex as abominable. In the Acts of Thomas, Christ, in the likeness of the apostle Thomas, makes this promise to a newlywed couple on their wedding night:

If ye abstain from this foul intercourse, ye become holy temples, pure, being quit of impulses and pains, seen and unseen, and ye will acquire no cares of life or of children, whose end is destruction… Ye shall be without care, leading a tranquil life without grief or anxiety, looking to receive the incorruptible and true marriage, and ye shall be therein groomsmen entering into that bride-chamber which is full of immortality and light.

Accepting “Christ’s” counsel, the bride gratefully says,

[the] mirror of shame is removed from me… I have set at nought this husband and this marriage that passeth away from before mine eyes, … because I am yoked unto a true husband.

Likewise the groom gives thanks to God,

who has rid me of this disease that is hard to be healed and cured and abideth for ever.

All from M. R. James, trans., The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1924, reprint 1966), pp. 369-370.


Thomas Aquinas spoke forcefully against church fathers who held to this view that sin was unavoidable in marital love. He said,

Some say that whenever pleasure is the chief motive for the marriage act it is a mortal sin; that when it is an indirect motive it is a venial sin; and that when it spurns the pleasure altogether and is displeasing, it is wholly void of venial sin; so that it would be a mortal sin to seek pleasure in this act, a venial sin to take the pleasure when offered, but that perfection requires one to detest it.


Summa Only excerpts of Huguccio’s Summa on Gratian’s Decretum have been edited. See J. Roman (ed.) Smma d’Huguccio sur le Décret de Gratueb d’apres le Manuscrit 3891 de law Bibliotheque Nationale. For an introduction, see Kenneth Pennington, DMA, 6:327-328.


David Hunter says,

Jerome replied to Helvidius’ appeal to Genesis 1:28 by maintaining that the moral standards which applied to people in the Hebrew dispensation were no longer acceptable to Christians. The command to ‘increase and multiply’ was now abrogated by 1 Corinthians 7:9 (‘The time is short; from now on let those who have wives live as though they had none’). The world is already full, Jerome argued; now is the time to reap (not to sow) the population.

Holy Scripture teaches us that pleasure was suggested to Adam and Eve by the crafty enticements of the serpent. If the serpent itself is pleasure, then the passions of pleasure are changeable and slippery, and are infected, as it were, with the poison of corruption (veneno quodam corruptelarum). It is certain, then, that Adam, deceived by the desire of pleasure, fell away from the command of God and from the enjoyment of grace. How, then, can pleasure call us back to paradise, when by itself it deprived us of paradise?

In contrast to the lives of married people, marked as they are by sex and sin, the virginal life provided a return to paradise. The virgin could become like Adam and Eve before their fall and before their shame. (David G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity: The Jovinianist Controversy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 167)

As Peter Brown (Body and Society, 361) has observed, in this letter ‘voluptas was made to overlap almost entirely with sexual pleasure.’


He believed that it needed to be engaged in without desire as an act of the will – a very common view among church fathers. In this quote he cautions people not to be skeptical that it is possible to emit without such strong passions:

But those of ours who have wives we advise, with all our power, that they dare not to judge of those holy fathers after their own weakness, comparing, as the Apostle says, themselves with themselves; and therefore, not understanding how great strength the soul hath, doing service unto righteousness against lusts, that it acquiesce not in carnal motions of this sort, or suffer them to glide on or advance unto sexual intercourse beyond the necessity of begetting children, so far as the order of nature, so far as the use of custom, so far as the decrees of laws prescribe. (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Benziger Bros./Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2004), n.p., section 34.)


Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Benziger Bros./Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2004), n.p. Granted, Aquinas goes on to take away some of the encouragement that he has given by


He said,

But let us see in what sense “Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled.” Because (he means) it preserves the believer in chastity. Here he also alludes to the Jews, because they accounted the woman after childbirth polluted: and “whosoever comes from the bed,” it is said, “is not clean.” Those things are not polluted which arise from nature O ungrateful and senseless Jew, but those which arise from choice. For if “marriage is honorable” and pure, why forsooth dost thou think that one is even polluted by it? (Philip Schaff, eds. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint John and the Epistle to the Hebrews. vol. XIV of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Accordance electronic ed. (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1886), n.p.)


It is impossible to read Proverbs 5:18-20 without realizing that it is God’s will for husband and wife to have intense pleasure in sexual relations. The focus is not just on making babies – it is on being satisfied, enraptured, and enamored with the woman’s body.

Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?

The Song of Songs is filled with references to a man and a woman who are lost in the wonder of sexual bliss. Some sample references:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— For your love is better than wine. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, That lies all night between my breasts. Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste… I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me… My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door, and my heart yearned for him. I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the lock. I opened for my beloved… his head… his locks…his eyes, cheeks… lips… his body… his legs… his mouth is most sweet, yes altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend… The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved, moving gently the lips of sleepers. I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me… His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me. Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised. (1:2,13; 2:3,5; 5:4-6; 7:9-10; 8:3,6-7

Or consider these words:

Behold, you are fair, my love! Behold, you are fair! You have dove’s eyes … teeth… lips… mouth… breasts… You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; you have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes, with one link of your necklace. How fair is your love, my sister, my spouse! How much better than wine is your love, and the scent of your perfumes than all spices! Your lips, O my spouse, drip as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under your tongue; and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon… Turn your eyes away from me, for they have overcome me. your hair… your teeth… your temples… How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a skillful workman… your navel… your waist… your two breasts… How fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights! This stature of yours is like a palm tree, and your breasts like its clusters. I said, “I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of its branches.” Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and the roof of your mouth like the best wine. The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved, moving gently the lips of sleepers. I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (4:1-5, 9-11; 6:5-7; 7:1-9


For example, “a wicked thought” (Deut. 15:9), a “wicked deed” (Josh. 20:3). “committed a great sin” (Ex. 32:31), etc. In terms of moral uncleanness it is the same: “a man of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5); “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6).


Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Proverbs 6:15 says, “Perversity is in the heart.”


The touch cause …unclean result is repeated throughout Leviticus. Consider the following examples in chapter 15: “And whoever touches his bed shall … be unclean until evening… he who touches the body of him who has the discharge shall … be unclean until evening… Whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until evening. He who carries any of those things shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening… whomever the one who has the discharge touches, and has not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening… If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening… And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening” (vv. 5,7,10-11,19,21-23,27).


“the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7); “how much more shall the blood of Christ… cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14); cf. 2 Cor. 6:17. Thus “unclean spirits” (Matt. 10:1; 12:43; etc.) cannot be saved because Jesus didn’t die for demons.


“wash his clothes and bathe in water… shall wash his clothes and bathe in water… wash his clothes and bathe in water… wash his clothes and bathe in water… wash his clothes and bathe in water… rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water… wash all his body in water” (Lev. 15:5-8,10,11,16). In terms of semen, notice the language is the same: “If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening. And any garment and any leather on which there is semen, it shall be washed with water, and be unclean until evening. Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening” (15:16-18).


Lindsey, F. D. (1985). Leviticus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 195). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


Even the way the book of Leviticus is structured shows this to be the case. In the Journal of Evangelical Theology, Joe M. Sprinkle notes,

Indeed, the largest body of laws of clean and unclean, Leviticus 11–15, is bracketed (forming an inclusio) first by the account of the death of the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, for improperly approaching the sanctuary (Leviticus 10), and second by the Day of Atonement ritual (Leviticus 16) where reference to the death of Aaron’s two sons (v. 1) is part of a warning against arbitrary entrance into the sanctuary (v. 2). That in turn leads to a prescription to conduct an elaborate sacrificial ritual to cleanse the priest first, and then to remove sin and uncleanness from both sanctuary and people (vv. 3–19). (JOE M. SPRINKLE, “THE RATIONALE OF THE LAWS OF CLEAN AND UNCLEAN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT ” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43, no. 4 (Dec 00): 641.)


We will deal with the exception of sexual relations during menstruation below when we look at Acts 15.


Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 1, p. 230). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.


Levine, B. A. (1989). Leviticus (p. 96). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.


Bruce Waltke explains the difference between the Qal and the Niphal stems in these words:

1a. בָּקַע יָם He (God) split (Qal) the sea. Ps 78:13

1b. יְבַקּע צֻרִים בַּמִּדְבָּר He (God) split up (Piel) rocks in the desert. Ps 78:15

The first of these two utterances represents a situation with God as the agent and the sea as the object of the splitting action. The second utterance represents God as the agent and the rocks as having been caused to be put into the state of being split up

2. וַתִּבָּקַע הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר תַּחְתֵּיהֶם׃ The ground under them split open (Niphal). Num 16:31

The Qal example represents the subject as the agent, implicitly answering the question ‘What is God doing?’ The Niphal by contrast answers the question ‘What happened to the ground?’ It does not represent the subject as the actor or agent. It rather represents the subject as having been acted upon by an unstated agent; the subject is merely participating in the action.


See next objection for the exegesis that shows verses 16-17 occurring within the confines of a husband’s and wife’s mutual sexual relationship.


Commentators point out that there was no sacrifice of doves required, as was the case with some ceremonial uncleanness. All three sexual situations were so common as to require a cleansing that could take place at home without any provision of a priest.


Masturbation will be defined strictly as any kind of self-satisfaction of the sexual impulse that does not depend upon a partner. Manual satisfaction of a husband by a wife or of a wife by a husband is not condemned in the law of God. Indeed, the Song of Solomon implies the mutual stimulation of each manually: “My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door [stimulation of the clitoris?], and my heart yearned for him. I arose to open for my beloved [she was now ready for intercourse], and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh [literal myrrh, or figurative of body fluids?], on the handles of the lock. I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had turned away… [Premature ejaculation? Inability to service the woman? Clearly she was ready but ends up sexually frustrated. See remainder of verses.]” (5:4-6a). This passage and other similar passages in Song of Solomon seem to be what is in the background of Leviticus 15:16-17. Such mutual stimulation of each married partner draws couples together in mutual dependence whereas self-satisfaction (true masturbation) shows no dependence upon the spouse and drives partners apart in terms of psychological need. Paul’s instructions about sexuality in 1 Corinthians 7 indicate that one must depend upon one’s spouse for sexual enjoyment or release. But Song of Solomon shows that there are more ways than penetration in which this can be done.


To help follow the argument, the difficult Hebrew is placed below:


For example, Genesis 30:15-16 speaks of Rachel having sexual relations with Jacob, and this word שִׁכְבַת is translated “he lay with” her. Likewise in 2 Samuel 11:11, it is translated “to lie with,” with obvious sexual connotations.


Thus BDB defines it as “copulation” and TWOT gives as is only definition, “copulation.” Kohlenberger/Mounce Hebrew defines it as “sexual relations, sexual intercourse.” There is no idea of solo-sex in this word. The Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew defines it as “lying down of seed, in ref. to sexual intercourse Lv 15:18.” CDCH, s.v. “[שִׁכְבָּה] [שְׁכָבָה],” 459. NIDOTTE defines it as, “discharge of seed, copulation, lying with a woman, sexual intercourse (with a woman or animal).”


Καὶ ἄνθρωπος, ᾧ ἐὰν ἐξέλθῃ ἐξ αὐτοῦ κοίτη σπέρματος, καὶ λούσεται ὕδατι πᾶν τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκάθαρτος ἔσται ἕως ἑσπέρας·


Liddell and Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. “κοίτη,” n.p. Mounce defines it as “a bed, Luke 11:7; the conjugal bed, Heb 13:4; meton. sexual intercourse, concubitus.” NIDNTT defines it as “bed, marriage bed, intercourse.” Thayer’s defines it as “specifically, the marriage-bed, … cohabitation, whether lawful or unlawful … plural sexual intercourse.” UBS Lexicon defines it as “bed; marital relationship (He 13:4); sperm (κοίτην ἔχω conceive Ro 9:10); sexual impurity (Ro 13:13).” Newman Greek defines it as “bed; marital relationship.”


See footnote 36 in chapter 4.


See footnotes 24 and 36 in chapter 3 for the ancient Jewish interpretation Genesis 1:28. The Jewish rabbis wanted people to try for more than two, but they considered Joseph’s two to be a sad but technical fulfillment of the dominion mandate in Genesis 1:28. While there is much on which I disagree with the Talmud, it is simply not true for the NCC people to say that the Jewish concept of being fruitful and multiplying means to never stop. The NCC position is the modern concept.


Granted, people can abuse any legitimate reason for spacing babies. I have known people who think they have no money for children, yet who seem to have plenty of money for Starbucks, restaurants twice a week, expensive clothes, new cars every three years, etc. On the other hand, I have known people who expect the midwife to deliver their baby for free because they have not been able to save up enough money to pay her. This is a form of theft from the midwife.


For much more on this point, see the appendix by Peter Allison, “Some Thoughts on the Legitimacy of Conception Control.” It was Peter who got me to use the term “conception control.”


Note: though this is indeed a part of the curse, it does not necessitate conception control. Even those of us who have spaced babies have found it tiring (yet satisfying) to have large families. Tiredness is not an adequate reason for conception control in and of itself, but it is certainly a part of the curse that needs to be considered.


See Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.


The following quote was brought to my attention by Peter Allison. Dr. Henry Krabbendam correctly notes,

“God begins by addressing the woman, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your childbirth” (Gen. 3:16). The meaning of this statement appears puzzling to many, including translators of the Bible. This is evident from the NASV and the NIV. Both change the coordinating conjunction “and” into the preposition “in,” “I will . . . multiply your sorrow in your conception.” This supposedly removes the seeming awkwardness of having “sorrow” and “childbirth” as a compound object of “multiply,” and gives the sentence an unambiguous, straightforward and understandable meaning. However, neither the original Hebrew, admitted by the NASV in the margin, nor any rule of grammar, syntax or semantics, when properly applied, supports such a change.”

“On the contrary, it totally obscures a much needed, vitally important, and incisive truth from view. God informs the woman bluntly and in no uncertain terms that sorrow will be part of the warp and woof of her life. It will be her ever-present companion that cannot be dismissed or ignored. The pain of childbirth, subsequently, functions as a persuasive symbol, and a constant reminder, that the sorrow will be pervasive, inescapable and at times seemingly unbearable. This interpretation appears preferable on three counts.

First, it cannot lead to the unacceptable conclusion that a woman without children thereby would escape the judicial effect of sin. Second, it does not allow for the implication that the judicial effect is merely a slap on the wrist in view of the relative infrequency of childbirth in the individual woman. Third, it paves the way for the much more natural explanation of the next sentence, “In sorrow you shall bring forth children,” as not merely a repetition of what has just been said, but as a further elaboration of the reality of the sorrow symbolized in childbirth. While after all each woman experiences the symbol of sorrow as a relatively infrequent occurrence, the substance of sorrow has a prevailing presence!”

“The judicial effect of sorrow, in short, is not a peripheral, intermittent, problem. It has a place in the very center of a woman’s life. It colors the totality of her existence. And it persists throughout her life span.” (Dr. Henry Krabbendam, A Biblical Preparation for Marriage [unpublished, 2003, expanded from an earlier edition])



The full text says, “Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your household.”


As already mentioned in footnote 17, the ancient Jewish understanding of Genesis 1:28 was to have a minimum of one boy and one girl, but preferably to achieve more.


Paul is not referring to the portion of salvation known as “justification,” but the portion of salvation known as “sanctification.” Salvation begins in eternity past (election), is historically applied by the Spirit throughout our life time (calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, and sanctification), and will be culminated in eternity (resurrection, glorification, confirmation). Paul is giving one illustration of what is typical of a woman’s sanctification – her calling to raise children.


For more details, see chapter 3 and chapter 4.


Aquinas opposed many church fathers who (he claimed) said it was “a venial sin to take the pleasure [of sexual relations] when offered, but that perfection requires one to detest it.” See pages 37 and following for quotes from fathers who believed pleasure must be removed.


For more detail on this point, see chapter 2.


See discussion of breastfeeding in chapter 13.


As noted in footnote 34 of chapter 3, there are many herbs that are abortifacient.


The impact of some essential oils has been hotly contested by some researchers, but I list the following items as worth evaluating. For some contradictory evidence, see Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young’s book, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide For Health Care Professionals (Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014). Since there is at least some pharmacological evidence that they could contribute to an abortion, the reader should do their own study and come to their own conclusions.

Angelica/Dong Quai, which is a uterine stimulant that can induce contractions and help the uterus to expel its contents.

Black Cohosh – helps the cervix to relax and open.

Blue Cohosh – also a uterine stimulant that can start contractions

Cotton Root Bark – interferes with progesterone and the corpus luteum; stimulates contractions. Chinese and US research connection to abortion. A study in New Mexico shows that it can be effective in starting menstruation.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera hookeri) – claims that it “ripens the cervix” and can assist in the birthing process.

Juniper Oil – This is contested by Tisserand & Young (Essential Oil Safety) in one place, yet in another place they admit that ethanolic extract of juniper berries is clearly abortifacient.

Parsley – often used to bring on a late period; there is controversy on whether it can bring on an abortion. However, some have used it as a cervical pessary (or vaginal suppository) to prepare the cervix for release. Research is lacking.

Pennyroyal – very toxic as an oil, less toxic as a tea; causes the uterine muscles to contract. Often combined with Blue Cohosh or Mugwort as an abortifacient.

Tansy – very toxic, but also a very lengthy history of being used as an abortifacient.

No claims are made by me on the truthfulness of this list – only that there is a long history of connecting these herbs to potential abortion.


Our family uses herbs and essential oils, and I do not want to be construed in any way as attacking these useful tools. I am simply encouraging pregnant women to use with caution and to engage in due diligence via research before using things that have claims to danger.


Notice the Scriptures included in the Larger Catechism’s exposition of the sixth commandment below (#135 & 136). They prohibit not just explicit murder, but also anything that tends toward the destruction of life. Especially note the phrases, “avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any… all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others… or… the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life.”



See Genesis 19:32


See Numb. 5:28 where some translate it “to conceive with sperm.” See Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.


See its use also of humans – “my mother conceived [יָחַם] me” (Ps. 51:7).


Interestingly, in the Septuagint, the Hebrew word דּוֹר is most frequently rendered γενεά (what is begotten), rarely γένεσις (coming into existence at a specific moment – see BDAG); never γέννημα (that which is born) or γένημα (Hatch and Redpath, Concordance to the Septuagint).


See Gen. 4:1,17; 16:4,5; 21:2; Job 3:3; etc.


Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, s.v. “הָרָה,” n.p.


William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13, vol. 47B of Word Biblical Commentary. Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. (Dallas: Word Books, 1991), 354.



“A Critical Appraisal of Theological Arguments for Abortion Rights.” Bibliotheca Sacra 148, no. 591 (Jul 91): 338.


A. J. Wilcox, D.D. Baird, C. R. Weinberg (1999). “Time of implantation of the Conceptus and loss of pregnancy”. New England Journal of Medicine 340 (23): 1796–1799.


See his 1989 revised edition. Norman Geisler, Ethics: Alternatives and Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), pp. 218ff.


For example, Moses said in Exodus 23:26, “There shall be no one miscarrying (שָׁכַל - shakal) or barren in the land” See the same word used in Hos. 9:14.


Thus Meredith Kline (who like Geisler changed his views on this passage), explains that even on the softer view of punishment, the full personhood of the baby is upheld and thus abortion would be murder. He states,

This law found in Exodus 21:22–25 turns out to be perhaps the most decisive positive evidence in scripture that the fetus is to be regarded as a living person…. No matter whether one interprets the first or second penalty to have reference to a miscarriage, there is no difference in the treatments according to the fetus and the woman. Either way the fetus is regarded as a living person, so that to be criminally responsible for the destruction of the fetus is to forfeit one’s life…. The fetus, at any stage of development, is, in the eyes of this law, a living being, for life (nephesh) is attributed to it…. Consistently in the relevant data of Scripture a continuum of identity is evident between the fetus and the person subsequently born and Exodus 21:22–25 makes it clear that this prenatal human being is to be regarded as a separate and distinct human life.

Meredith G. Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” The Simon Greenleaf Law Review, 5 (1985–1986), 75, 83, 88–89. This article originally appeared in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (September 1977).

Also see H. Wayne House, “Miscarriage or Premature Birth: Additional Thoughts on Exodus 21:22-25,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Fall 1978), 108–123.


The full quote is as follows:

The statute commences, And when men strive together, etc., in order to give an example of accidental injury to a pregnant woman, and…the law presents the case realistically. Details follow: and they hurt unintentionally a woman with child—the sense is, that one of the combatants, whichever of them it be (for this reason the verb translated “and they hurt” is in the plural) is responsible—and her children come forth (i.e., there is a miscarriage) on account of the hurt she suffers (irrespective of the nature of the fetus, be it male or female, one or two; hence here, too, there is a generic plural as in the case of the verb “they hurt”), but no mischief happens—that is, the woman and the children do not die—the one who hurt her shall surely be punished by a fine, [BSac 148:591 (Jul 91) p. 346] according as the woman’s husband shall lay—impose—upon him, having regard to the extent of the injuries and the special circumstances of the accident; and he who caused the hurt shall pay the amount of the fine to the woman’s husband with judges, in accordance with the decision of the court that will confirm the husband’s claim and compel the offender to pay compensation, for it is impossible to leave the determination of the amount of the fine to the husband, and, on the other hand, it is not with the husband’s power to compel the assailant to pay if he refuses. But if any mischief happen, that is, if the woman dies or the children die, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, etc.: you, O judge (or you, O Israel, through the judge who represents you) shall adopt the principle of “life for life,” etc.

U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1983), p. 275.


Friedrich W. J. Schroder (1817-1876), Reformed commentator.


Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control, p. 55


Conrad Dannhauer (1603-1666), a Lutheran minister.


William Dodd (1729-1777), an Anglican minister.


John Ley, Westminster Annotations (1657), in commentary on Genesis 38:9.


Theodore F. K. Laetsch (1877-1962), Lutheran minister.


Johann Peter Lange (1802-1884), a Reformed minister.


David Paraeus (1548-1586), a Calvinist minister.


J. Heinrich Richter (1799-1847), Lutheran minister.


Provan, p. 41.


Provan, pp. 42-43


See discussion of temple and ceremonial law in chapter 3.


Provan, pp. 16-19.


Provan, p. 18.


For example, he admits on page 56 that it is possible to get pregnant through sexual relations during the menstrual cycle.


Provan, The Bible and Birth Control, p. 17.


Provan, pp. 17-18.


See page 134-135 for a listing of the six reasons.


The laws of consanguinity are laws against marrying near-relatives who are blood relations.


The laws of affinity are laws against marrying near-relatives of a spouse.


Richard Bauckham, “James and the Gentiles (Acts 15.13-21),” in History, Literature and Society in the Book of Acts (ed. Ben Witherington; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 177.


Note that verses 20-25 continues with moral sexual perverions such as adultery, but it was the non-moral laws that were in question.


Geddes MacGregor, Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy 1st ed., (New York: Paragon House, 1989), 189,


The Westminster larger catechism: with scripture proofs. (1996). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.



“Postponing Pregnancy study Guatemala 2007 – 2010” Presented at International Institute of Restorative Reproductive Medicine in July 2010, showing 99.3% effectiveness. 506 Couples, 3341 cycles.




Mercedes A. Wilson, Natural, Scientific and Highly Effective Treatment For Infertility, paper presented at the conference of the International Institute of Restorative Reproductive Medicine in New Orleans on August 7, 2013.


Downloadable at




Here are some:


The requirements for effective LAM are:

  • Breastfeeding must be the baby’s only (or almost only) source of nutrition. Pumping does not qualify, and reduces the effectiveness of LAM.
  • The infant must breastfeed at four hour (or less) intervals during the day and at least every six hours at night.
  • This is only recommended for the first six months (though some say that there are many who can go much beyond six months).
  • Though the mother can bleed postpartum for the first 56 days, if there is a period after 56 days, LAM will not work.

See the booklet offered here for eight variations.


For example,


The six month figure seems to be the safest part. Labbock et al say,

LAM is recommended for up to six months postpartum for women who are fully or nearly fully breastfeeding and amenorrheic, and relies on the maintenance of appropriate brastfeeding practices to prolong lactational infertility, with the concomitant delay in menses return. A recent clinical trial confirmed the theoretical 98% or higher effectiveness of the method and field trials are demonstrating its aceptability. Nonetheless, some demographers and family planning organizations continue to debate its value. The development, efficacy, and sequelae of the method are presented using data from several studies by the authors. (“The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): A postpartum introductory family planning method with policy and program implications,” in Advances in Contraception, June, 1994, volume 10, issue 2, pp. 93-109)


Labbock, Cooney, and Coly give a study showing 99.5% effectiveness in the first six months ( Labbock, Hight-Lockaran, Peterson, Fletcher, Hertzen, and Look produced a study that showed 98%+ success rate. They state, “The 98+ % efficacy of LAM is confirmed in a wide variety of settings. In addition, the results yield insight on the possibility of continued use beyond 6 months. LAM is found to be highly effective as an introductory postpartum method when offered in a variety of cultures, health care settings, socioeconomic strata, and industrial and developing country locales” (“Multicenter study of the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): I. Efficacy, duration, and implications for clinical application,” in Contraception, volume 55, issue 6, June 1997, pp. 327-336). Kennedy and Visness also produced a 98% protection rate (“Contraceptive efficacy of lactational amenorrhoea,” The Lancet, volume 339, issue 8787, 25 January 1992, Pages 227–230). Veckemans also states a 98% effectiveness rate in “Postpartum contraception: The lactational amenorrhea method,” in The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, 1997, Vol. 2, No. 2 , Pages 105-111. Numerous other academic papers and journal entries can be found that show the effectiveness of LAM.


Trussel J., “Contraceptive Efficacy,” in Contraceptive Technology, 19th edition. (New York: Ardent Media, 2007); Kost K., et al. “Estimates of contraceptive failure from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth,” Contraception (2008, volume 77, pp. 10-21.


See footnotes 30, 32, 36 in chapter 3 and footnote 19 in chapter 1 for examples.


For a discussion of clinical trials on the effectiveness of lemon juice as a spermicide, see Roger Short, Scott G. McCoombe, Clare Maslin, Eman Naim and Suzanne Crowe (2002), “Lemon and Lime Juice As Potent Natural Microbicides.” Retrieved with iLivid 2006-08-13. Also see Nwoha P (1992). “The immobilization of all spermatozoa in vitro by bitter lemon drink and the effect of alkaline pH”. Contraception 46 (6): 537–42.


A study by Wang, Zhu, and Jiang came to the conclusion, “Sperm exposure during menses is a risk factor for ASA production in female. Although a precisely causal linkage between ASA and infertility in these women cannot be drawn from the present data, the potential disadvantages of sexual activity during menses should still be given importance.” Y. S. Wang, W. J. Zhu, H. Jiang, “Sperm Exposure During Menses is a Risk Factor for Developing Antisperm Antibody (ASA) in Female.” In Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2013 Nov;288(5):1145-8. doi: 10.1007/s00404-013-2883-z. Epub 2013 May 10. The full article can also be read here:


See for example, Gynecology and Obstetrics Investigation 2002; 54(2):64-65 (ISSN 0378-7346). Some scholars believe that Biblical law did not prohibit a man from manually bringing a woman to orgasm during her menses, believing that it was uncovering the “fountain” (מָקוֹר) of her blood flow that was prohibited. In other words, nothing should be inserted to where the fountain is. I have not been able to verify the meaning of this.


In addition to the Stanford study, the following article gives some rather convincing evidence of these risks: W. B. Cutler, E. Friedman, N. L. McCoy, “Coitus and Menstruation in Perimenopausal Women,” in Journal of Pscyhosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology (New York: Parthenon Publishing Group, 1996). Here are two sample summary statements:

“A review of our data as well as the literature led us to explore whether perimenopausal women who engaged in coitus during menstruation were more likely to experience heavier or longer duration of menstrual flow. Considering the uterine physiology, altered uterine contractions during menstruation could lead to a more forceful expulsion of menses from the uterine cavity as well as retro-grade menstruation. The increase in the duration of flow may be a reflection of the slow regeneration of the endometrium caused by these contractile forces. Since increased menstrual flow is a recurrent problem in the menopausal transition years, the Stanford Menopausal Study population offered a logical population in which to explore this question.”

“Increases in heavy flow and the increases in uterine contractility could provide an adverse combination leading to retrograde menstruation. This may be an important consideration regarding the etiology of endometriosis and would support the findings of Filer and Wu… The precise mechanisms involved need elucidation. However, the relative hypermenorrhea associated with coitus during menses, as well as the increased incidence of endometriosis12 point to potential mechanical processes that exacerbate menstrual flow. This could support the philosophy expressed by the Moslem-Judaic Codes that proscribed coitus during menstruation. Data on the flow habits of these groups have not been published.”

Article can also be accessed at


R. A. Hatcher, “Counseling Couples About Coitus During Menstrual Flow,” in Contraceptive Technology Update, 1981 Dec; 2(12):167.


See “Causes of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease” (2003), [On-line], URL: “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease” (2001), Joseph F. Smith Medical Library, [On-line], URL: “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease” (1998), National Institutes of Health, [On-line], “PID” (2004), Health Communities, [On-line], URL:




American College of Pediatricians: Facts About Youth -



The studies I have accessed are: Edith M. Lord, George F. Sensabaugh, and Daniel P. Stites, “Immunosuppressive Activity of Human Seminal Plasma,” The Journal of Immunology, May 1, 1997, vol. 118, no 5, 1704-1711. Keith James and Timothy B. Hargreave, “Immunosuppression by seminal plasma and its possible clinical significance,” Immunology Today, volume 5, issue 12, December 1984, pages 357-363. Jon M. Richards, J. Michael Bedford, and Steven S. Witkin, “Rectal Insemination Modifies Immune Responses in Rabbits,” Science, 27(224): 390-392 (1984). A. J. Quayle, R. W. Kelly, T. B. Hargreave, and K. James, “Immunosuppression by seminal prostaglandins, Clin.exp. Immunol. (1989) 75, 387-391. R. W. Kelly, P. Holland, G. Skibinski, C. Harrison, L. McMillan, T. Hargreave, and K. James, “Extracellular organelles (prostasomes) are immunosuppressive components of human semen,” Clinical and Experimental Immunology: the Journal of Translational Immunology volume 83(3); S. S. Witkin and J. Sonnabend, “Immune Responses to Spermatozoa in Homosexual Men,” Fertility and Sterility, 39(3): 337-342, pp. 340-341 (1983).1991 Dec. R. W. Kelly, “Contraception: Immunosuppressive mechanisms in semen: implications for contraceptions,” Oxford Journal of Human Reproduction, volume 10, issue 7, pp. 1686-1793.

For example, the Journal of the American Medical Association said, “Based on these findings, we suggest that chronic, repeated exposure to sperm during anal intercourse results in a high frequency of allogeneic immunization and may play an important role in the development of acquired immune dysregulation” (G. M. Mavligit, M. Talpaz, F. T. Hsia, W. Wong, B. Lictiger, P. W. Mansell, and D. M. Mumford, “Chronic immune stimulation by sperm alloantigens. Support for the hypothesis that spermatozoa induce immune dysregulation in homosexual males,” in Journal of the American Medical Association, 1984 Jan 13;251(2):237-41 found at, Gary F. Clark and Danny J. Schust, “Manifestations of immune tolerance in the human female reproductive tract,” Frontiers of Immunology 2013; 4: 26.


Natasha Trenev, Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers, Your Body’s First Line of Defense Against Most Common Diseases (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc, 1998), p. 69



Gary F. Clark and Danny J. Schust, “Manifestations of immune tolerance in the human female reproductive tract,” Frontiers of Immunology 2013; 4: 26. For the full article, go to


The whole article by Clark and Schust makes one stand in amazement at God’s incredible design of the human body. Here is an excerpt:

Like other mucosal surfaces (e.g., the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract), the human female reproductive tract acts as an initial barrier to foreign antigens. In this role, the epithelial surface and subepithelial immune cells must balance protection against pathogenic insults against harmful inflammatory reactions and acceptance of particular foreign antigens. Two common examples of these acceptable foreign antigens are the fetal allograft and human semen/sperm. Both are purposely deposited into the female genital tract and appropriate immunologic response to these non-self antigens is essential to the survival of the species. In light of the weight of this task, it is not surprising that multiple, redundant and overlapping mechanisms are involved. For instance, cells at the immunologic interface between self (female reproductive tract epithelium) and non-self (placental trophoblast cells or human sperm) express glycosylation patterns that mimic those on many metastatic cancer cells and successful pathogens. The cytokine/chemokine milieu at this interface is altered through endocrine and immunologic mechanisms to favor tolerance of non-self. The “foreign” cells themselves also play an integral role in their own immunologic acceptance, since sperm and placental trophoblast cells are unusual and unique in their antigen presenting molecule expression patterns. Here, we will discuss these and other mechanisms that allow the human female reproductive tract to perform this delicate and indispensible balancing act. (Gary F. Clark and Danny J. Schust, “Manifestations of immune tolerance in the human female reproductive tract,” Frontiers of Immunology 2013; 4: 26. For the full article, go to


American College of Pediatricians: Facts About Youth -


Jon M. Richards, J. Michael Bedford, and Steven S. Witkin, “Rectal Insemination Modifies Immune Responses in Rabbits,” Science, 27(224): 390-392 (1984)


S. S. Witkin and J. Sonnabend, “Immune Responses to Spermatozoa in Homosexual Men,” Fertility and Sterility, 39(3): 337-342, pp. 340-341 (1983).


See footnote 26 in chapter 13.


David K Gardner, Ariel Weissman, Colin M. Howles, Zeev Shoham, Textbook of Assisted Reproductive Techniques: Laboratory and Clinical, (Boca Raton, FL: CTC Press, 2012), p. 69


Tobiasz Szajerka and Jerzy Jablecki, Kaposi’s Sarcoma Revisted, a pdf published by Wroclaw Medical University, Wroclaw, Poland. Full pdf available here:


David K Gardner, Ariel Weissman, Colin M. Howles, Zeev Shoham, Textbook of Assisted Reproductive Techniques: Laboratory and Clinical, (Boca Raton, FL: CTC Press, 2012), pp. 69-70. See Manikandan R, Srirangam SJ, Pearson E, Collins GN, BJU Int. 2004 Mar; 93(4):571-4: “Early and late morbidity after vasectomy: a comparison of chronic scrotal pain at 1 and 10 years.”


Anthony R. Ellis, M.D., and Joseph E. Scherger, MD., M.P.H., “Post-Vasectomy Pain Syndrome: Common But Hidden,” at See also


See Christiansen C.G., Sandlow J.I. (2003) “Testicular pain following vasectomy: a review of postvasectomy pain syndrome.” in J Androl 24: 293–297. McMahon A.J., Buckley J., Taylor A., Lloyd S.N., Deane R.F., Kirk D. (1993) “Chronic testicular pain following vasectomy,” in BR J Urol 69: 188–191 See


  • Ancora 375 Ag. Silver core. Lasts five years
  • Ancora 375 Cu. Similar, but no silver. Lasts three to five years
  • Novaplus T 380 Ag. Silver core. Lasts five years
  • Novaplus T.380 Cu. Identical except no silver. Lasts five years
  • Flexi-T 300. T shaped. Lasts five years
  • Flexi-T 380. Similar to the one above, but for slightly larger wombs. Lasts five years
  • GyneFix. Different from the rest, because it isn’t T-shaped and just consists of six copper tubes on a polypropylene thread. Lasts five years
  • Load 375. U-shaped. Lasts five years
  • Multiload Cu 375. Lasts five years
  • Nova-T 380. Copper and silver. Lasts five years
  • T-Safe 380A QL. Yet another T shape. Manufacturers say it lasts 10 years
  • TT380 Slimline. Currently intended to last 10 years
  • Mini TT380 Slimline. For smaller wombs. Lasts five years
  • UT 380 Short. For the shorter womb. Lasts five years
  • UT 380 Standard. For the larger womb. Lasts five years
  • Multi-Safe 375. Lasts five years
  • Neo-Safe T380. Lasts five years


A study published by the Department of Radiology at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical center found that this is a “frequently encountered complication.” DrugWatch says, “When the IUD migrates, it can perforate the uterus and enter the abdominal cavity, pelvis, bladder, or blood vessels. It can cause pain, infection, and damage to intestines and other nearby organs. This is a serious condition and requires surgery to correct. In some cases, emergency surgery is necessary to prevent further damage” (


227 See also


Ansari, et. Al, Journal of Medical Case Reports, 2009, 3:7007


For example:


The full warning letter can be read here:



See footnote 47 in chapter 13.



See footnote 47 in chapter 13.




See footnote 47 in chapter 13.


There have been many studies on this issue, but one could start here:


Bahamondes L, Hidalgo M, Petta CA, Diaz J, Espejo-Arce X, Monteiro-Dantas C. (2003), “Enlarged ovarian follicles in users of a levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system and contraceptive implant”, Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 48 (8), pp. 637–640. For electronic version, see




For a discussion of various types of “birth control” pills, see


Hagan C, Froland A. Depressed lymphocyte response to PHA in women taking oral contraceptives. Lancet 1972; 1: 1185; Barnes EW, Maccuish AC, Landon NB, Jordan J, Irvine WJ. Phytohaemagglutinin-induced lymphocyte transformation and circulating autoantibodies in women taking oral contraceptives. Lancet 1974; 1: 898–900.



See Science Daily (October 30, 2006), “Oral Contraceptives Increase Risk of Breast Cancer in Some Women, Meta Analysis Finds.” Even those arguing that the risks are worth it, admit that the evidence indicates an increase in cancer. See for example, Nelson HD, Zakher B, Cantor A, et al. Risk factors for breast cancer for women aged 40 to 49 years: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 156(9):635-48, 2012; Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and hormonal contraceptives: collaborative reanalysis of individual data on 53,297 women with breast cancer and 100,239 women without breast cancer from 54 epidemiological studies. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Lancet. 347:1713-27, 1996; Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, Manson JE, et al. A prospective study of oral contraceptive use and risk of breast cancer. Cancer Causes Control. 8:65-72, 1997; Gierisch JM, Coeytaux RR, Urrutia RP, et al. Oral contraceptive use and risk of breast, cervical, colorectal, and endometrial cancers: a systematic review. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 22(11):1931-43, 2013.


See for example the discussion at



STOPP International, “New Study: The Pill Doubles Risk of Brain Cancer” (American Life League, 2015),


Science Daily article (October 26, 2009) titled, “Increased Stroke Risk from Birth Control Pills, Review Finds,” points out that “birth control pills increase the risk (of stroke) 1.9 times.”



Craig H. Kinsley and Elizabeth A. Meyer, “Women’s Brains on Steroids,” in Scientific American, September 28, 2010. These two professors drew on findings by Brain Research.


WebMD “Comparing Birth Control,” accessed April 17, 2015 at WebMD, “Birth Control Pills,” accessed April 17, 2015 at


For a discussion of clinical trials on the effectiveness of lemon juice as a spermicide, see Roger Short, Scott G. McCoombe, Clare Maslin, Eman Naim and Suzanne Crowe (2002), “Lemon and Lime Juice As Potent Natural Microbicides.” Retrieved with iLivid 2006-08-13. Also see Nwoha P (1992). “The immobilization of all spermatozoa in vitro by bitter lemon drink and the effect of alkaline pH”. Contraception 46 (6): 537–42.



See “Drug Information: Noxoxynol-9 cream, film, foam, gel, jelly, suppository,” Medical University of South Carolina. March 2006.


Some studies have suggested that there is a 24% failure rate with diaphragms, but the study handed out “one size fits all” (60mm) rather than being fitted by a physician. “Nonspermicide fit-free diaphragm trial reported”. Network 5 (3): 7. 1984 - The following two studies have conflicting results (thus, my unwillingness to allow science to dictate ethics). Ferreira A, Araújo M, Regina C, Diniz S, Faúndes A; Araújo; Regina; Diniz; Faúndes (1993). “Effectiveness of the diaphragm, used continuously, without spermicide”. Contraception 48 (1): 29–35 at; Bounds W, Guillebaud J, Dominik R, Dalberth B; Guillebaud; Dominik; Dalberth (1995). “The diaphragm with and without spermicide. A randomized, comparative efficacy trial”. J Reprod Med 40 (11): 764–74 at Thus the current wisdom is that they are not effective without spermicide - Cook L, Nanda K, Grimes D; Nanda; Grimes (2001). Lopez, Laureen M, ed. “Diaphragm versus diaphragm with spermicides for contraception”. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2): CD002031 at


S. Fihn, R. Latham, P. Roberts, K. Running, W. Stamm (1985). “Association between diaphragm use and urinary tract infection”. JAMA 254 (2): 240–5. C. Heaton, M. Smith; (1989). “The diaphragm”. American Family Physician 39 (5): 231–6.


Richard Allen (January 2004). “Diaphragm Fitting”. American Family Physician (American Academy of Family Physicians) 69 (1): 97–100.




Though science alone cannot prove something to be sin, I consider the evidence to be strong enough that I am convinced that the Pill is abortifacient. To be fair, let me share evidence presented by prolife people who claim that it is not:

Association of Prolife Physicians, “Do Oral Contraceptives Cause Abortions,” (accessed 11/6/09); Susan A. Crockett, Joseph L. DeCook, Donna Harrison, and Camilla Hersh

“Using Hormone Contraceptives Is a Decision Involving Science, Scripture, and Conscience,” in The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the Family, 192–201; Susan A. Crockett, Joseph L DeCook, Donna Harrison, and Camilla Hersh

“Hormone Contraceptives: Controversies and Clarifications,” (accessed 11/10/09)

Cutrer and Glahn, The Contraception Guidebook, 101–11

Michael Frields, “Birth Control: A Biblical Perspective,” (accessed 11/06/09)

Grace Community Church pastors and elders, “Planned Parenthood? Birth Control, In Vitro Fertilization, and Surrogacy,” in Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2009), 87–96

Dennis M. Sullivan, “The Oral Contraceptive as Abortifacient: An Analysis of the Evidence,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith vol. 58, no. 3 (September 2006): 189–95. Based on their research, The Association of Pro-Life Physicians has concluded that the “‘hormonal contraception is abortifacient’ theory is not established scientific fact. It is speculation, and the discussion presented here suggests it is error.”

“Do Oral Contraceptives Cause Abortions?,” (accessed 11/2/09); Crockett, Susan; DeCook, Joseph; Harrison, Donna; Hersh, Camilla.

“Hormone Contraceptives: Controversies and Clarifications.” Fennville, MI: ProLife Obstetricians, April 1999.


For an excellent treatment of “the pill” and its abortifacient function, see Randy Alcorn, Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? (Sandy, OR: Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2011). For a summary of the findings in the book, see For numerous other articles on this subject see Also see, Larimore and Alcorn, “Using the Birth Control Pill Is Ethically Unacceptable,” in The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the Family, 180–82.


Westminster Larger Catechism 135.





There are hundreds of scholarly articles (both Christian and non-Christian) that take this position, but here is a non-technical paper that argues this point from the medical literature:


He says, “Thus the possible abortion rate induced by BCP’s is 18,946,200 x .06 = 1,136,772 or 18,946,200 x .1 = 1,894,620 per year. We are convinced that the reasoning with regard to the math on this issue is sound.” For the doctors who signed this letter, see



Their footnote references Zanartu, J.: “Long term contraceptive effect of injectable progestogens: Inhibition and reestablishment of fertility,” International Journal of Fertility Oct-Dec 1968 Vol 13 No 4 pp. 415-426.


For footnote references he cites, see


Many causes of a thin endometrium have been cited in studies including, 1) Low oestrogen.
2) Inadequate blood flow from a tilted uterus, fibroids, polyps, and even a sedentary lifestyle.
3) A D&C often removes the functional basal layer of endemetirum called basalis, in which case the new endometrial lining cannot grow and the endometerium stays thin. This is called Asherman Syndrome and is very difficult to treat. 4) Excessive use of Clomid (an ovulation stimulant) that can cut off oestrogen supply, which in turn leads to thinning of the lining.
5) Birth control pills. Numerous studies have shown that the pill thins the lining of the uterus, thus making implantation difficult. Here is a sample study on rats: Randy Alcorn gives a very brief introduction to this subject here:


I looked at the labels for the following drugs. Ortho Evra states that “alterations include changes in… the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation).” Paragard lists “prevention of implantation” as a backup mechanism. OrthoTriCyclen Lo (combination oral contraceptive) states, “alterations include changes in… the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation).” Depo-Prevera states under “mechanism of action” that it “results in endometrial thinning. These actions produce its contraceptive effect.” Implanon states under its mechanism of action that it results in “alterations in the endometrium.” Ortho Micronor, the progestin only pill (the minipill) states the same “mode of action” as including “altering the endometrium.”



For the footnotes in this quote, see the full paper at



For example, the Christian Medical and Dental Association says,

Because this issue cannot be resolved with our current understanding, CMDA calls upon researchers to further investigate the mechanisms of action of hormonal birth control. Additionally, because the possibility of abortive effects cannot be ruled out, prescribers of hormonal birth control should consider informing patients of this potential factor. (

Likewise, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists has studied the issue and stated,

Thus we find ourselves in a situation where speculation, deduction, and educated guessing must be employed. There are times when our knowledge of the truth is incomplete, and we must peer through the fog to make, and act upon, judgments about the information available to us. In these settings, individuals wholeheartedly committed to the truth can come to different conclusions (


For an interesting discussion, see Also Original research papers on this subject: Cavanagh AC. Identification of early pregnancy factor as chaperonin 10: implications for understanding its role. Rev Reprod 1996;1:28-32; Cavanagh AC. An update on the identity of early pregnancy factor and its role in early pregnancy. J Assist Reprod Genet 1997;14:492-495; Bose R. An update on the identity of early pregnancy factor and its role in early pregnancy. J Assist Reprod Genet 1997;14:497-499.


{#chapter-13-footnote-95} A. C. Cavanagh, “Identification of Early Pregnancy Factor as Chaperonin 10: Implications for Understanding Its Role,” in Reviews of Reproduction 1, no. 1(1996):28-32


Cavanagh, “Identification of Early Pregnancy…”


The full paper can be purchased here: See also the paper by Halle Morton, “Early Pregnancy Factor (EPF): a Link between Fertilization and Immunomodulation, Aust. J. Biol. Sci.,, 1984, 37, pp. 393-407, available here:


See The same paper is available for free here: The authors state that the newest research studies “support the hypothesis that preovulatory administration of LNG-EC has significant potential to work via abortion.”


See the Journal of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility - Each issue of the journal can be searched here: Also see Cavanagh’s research at the Journal of Reproductive Immunology - Also, check for updates at the various Wikipedia sites. You can start with this one: See also


See This is a condensation of Rand Alcorn, “Does The Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?” (Sandy, OR: Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2011) available for $3 at or at Amazon.



See discussion of Larger Catechism 135 & 136 in chapter 12.







293Some change this to helpmate, but that is not quite what this word means. It means a helper that is meet in the sense of suitable for him. John the Baptist told the Pharisees to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, meaning fruits that were fit or suited for repentance.

294The new heavens and the new earth are described in Revelation 22:3 as having no more curse: “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.”

295Theodore Laetsch, Arguments Against Birth Control, quoted in Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control (Monongahela, PA: Zimmer Books, 1989).

296See for example The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, Second and Revised Edition, 1920. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province.

This active force which is in the semen, and which is derived from the soul of the generator, is, as it were, a certain movement of this soul itself: nor is it the soul or a part of the soul, save virtually; thus the form of a bed is not in the saw or the axe, but a certain movement towards that form. Consequently there is no need for this active force to have an actual organ; but it is based on the (vital) spirit in the semen which is frothy, as is attested by its whiteness. In which spirit, moreover, there is a certain heat derived from the power of the heavenly bodies, by virtue of which the inferior bodies also act towards the production of the species as stated above (115, 3, ad 2). And since in this (vital) spirit the power of the soul is concurrent with the power of a heavenly body, it has been said that “man and the sun generate man.” Moreover, elemental heat is employed instrumentally by the soul’s power, as also by the nutritive power, as stated (De Anima ii, 4).
Question 118, Art. 1, Reply to Objection 3.

In perfect animals, generated by coition, the active force is in the semen of the male, as the Philosopher says (De Gener. Animal. ii, 3); but the foetal matter is provided by the female. In this matter, the vegetative soul exists from the very beginning, not as to the second act, but as to the first act, as the sensitive soul is in one who sleeps. But as soon as it begins to attract nourishment, then it already operates in act. This matter therefore is transmuted by the power which is in the semen of the male, until it is actually informed by the sensitive soul; not as though the force itself which was in the semen becomes the sensitive soul; for thus, indeed, the generator and generated would be identical; moreover, this would be more like nourishment and growth than generation, as the Philosopher says. And after the sensitive soul, by the power of the active principle in the semen, has been produced in one of the principal parts of the thing generated, then it is that the sensitive soul of the offspring begins to work towards the perfection of its own body, by nourishment and growth. As to the active power which was in the semen, it ceases to exist, when the semen is dissolved and the (vital) spirit thereof vanishes. Nor is there anything unreasonable in this, because this force is not the principal but the instrumental agent; and the movement of an instrument ceases when once the effect has been produced.
Question 118, Art. 1, Reply to Objection 4.

297New English Translation, Note 47 on Genesis 3:16, Accessed May 8, 2017.


299Dr. Henry Krabbendam, A Biblical Pattern of Preparation for Marriage, 1974.

300Krabbendam, 2003. Unpublished text.

301Leupold, Herbert Carl, Exposition of Genesis, Vol 1, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1950,) 171. (“conception will be multiplied”)

302John MacArthur, The Curse on the Woman, Part 1, June 11, 2000, Accessed May 8, 2017.

303Children murdering their parents is a great tragedy that happens with some regularity. Kathleen M. Heide claims 2% of murders in the US are patricide or matricide (Kathleen M. Heide, Understanding Parricide: When Sons and Daughters Kill Parents (Oxford University Press: New York, 2013), 5).