Reply To: Where in the bible does it say that contraception is a sin?

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I was just going to comment about the question dated Tue Feb 17, 2004 11:33 pm asking about contraception. Jon explained that there are implicit and explicit instructions in Scripture. I completely agree with this. We are not instructed regarding all the methods in which we must not kill. Yet, we are instructed “do not kill”. Jon used Genesis 38:8-10 as justification for an implicit instruction to not use contraception. I’m not sure I concur with this analysis however.

We have to put the Genesis 38:8-10 verses in their proper context to understand what the sin was. A cursory glance might suggest that the sin was contraception. However, the deeper meaning is more satifying, and I’m not sure these verses can truly be used as a blanket prohibition of contraception. Such a pronouncement might more readily be supported in Genesis 9:7, but even that is a bit of a tenuous extension of a more explicit command (that we are to multiply… it doesn’t say multiply without any consideration to when you are to do so… In other words that we are to leave that entirely to God without any consideration of our own gift of free will. Does loving God = abandoning reason? Does reason = sin? We’re allowed to use reason with regard to other explicit instructions, it seems odd that with this one we’re told not to. For example, in Leviticus we’re instructed that women cannot be present in the temple during menstruation [due to the ancient Hebrew reverence/fear of blood]. Thankfully, due to human reason, we do not observe this instruction today. So, we _have_ chosen to adopt or ignore _some_ traditions of the Hebrews after the New Testament, despite Jesus’s pronouncement in Matthew 5:17-19.) This was the whole point of St. Paul’s argument that circumcision was unnecessary for salvation in Galatians (I don’t have a ready reference to a Bible, but I believe it is chapter 2 or 3). Paul confronted Peter saying that he was wittling away at Christ’s gift by forcing observance of circumcision, and he further embarrased Peter by calling him a hypocrit because he was “ok with ignoring circumcision” when James’ crew wasn’t around, but when they showed up he suddenly changed his mind, and all of a sudden this was a problem. Paul’s point was that we can miss the meaning of the Resurrection if we aren’t careful about how we choose which Hebrew traditions to retain and which to disregard. Based on the events recorded in Acts (maybe chapter 15 or 16?), we can presume that Peter acknowledged his error.

The deeper meaning of Genesis 38:8 is that Onan was instructed by his father to sleep with his dead brother’s wife so that his dead brother’s name, and property rights, might continue to the next generation. This was a custom of the ancients, presumably given by God because of his desire to spread the kingdom of the Hebrews, and was codified by Moses in Deuteronomy 25. Onan’s sin then was not as much contraception (this was the _means_ of the sin, not the sin itself), but rather greed and contempt for his brother and his brother’s memory. This is more spiritually satisfying than simply believing this passage to be a blanket prohibition of contraception.

I personally believe that the RC attitude toward contraception is more of a geo-political issue, than a spiritual one, and that sometime over the lives of the next few pontifs, we’ll see this source of contention reduced or relaxed. It seems perfectly within the implicit and explicit instructions of God to say “God wants you to expand the kingdom. Make every reasonable effort to do so. Don’t use contraception continuously, as doing so shows contempt for His plan, but if you choose to use it to plan your life, God also understands this.” Wisdom (not vain wisdom of course) is also a part of our faith. My personal view is that there is room for some kind of discussion about the wisdom of using our gift of free will in deciding when to have children, and that the only mechanism for doing so need not be abstinence.

Won’t it be wonderful when the Christ comes again and clears up all these messy details? I strongly suspect that none of us have it completely right. How many times did our Blessed Lord confound the disciples? They lived with him for years, and yet he still surprised them regularly. I suspect that it will be similar in the Second Coming.

Thank you all for providing this forum, and God Bless.


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