Christian Ethics - Lesson 22

Birth Control

By listening to this lesson, you will gain insight into how responsible Christians can make ethical decisions about birth control, recognizing that although there is no clear biblical endorsement for birth control, certain ethical principles can be applied in certain circumstances. You will learn about the importance of considering one's intention and motive in practicing birth control, distinguishing between ethically acceptable and unacceptable forms of birth control, and the importance of considering the reasons why families choose to limit the number of children they have. Additionally, you will learn about the speaker's emphasis on pregnancy being harder on the woman than on the man and the importance of couples adopting wise and careful means to achieve their family planning goals.

Ronald Nash
Christian Ethics
Lesson 22
Watching Now
Birth Control

Contemporary Moral Issues

Part 7

X. Birth Control

A. Lack of a clear biblical endorsement

B. Cultural situation of Scripture must be considered

C. Conclusions

1. Motives are important.

2. God's will is accomplished through human means.

D. Onan's sin

  • Gain insights into philosophical ethics and Christian responses, and the Christian role in society regarding the state, justice, economics, and education.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Nash introduces you to the concept of hedonism, which is an example of a consequentialist ethic. He reviews non-hedonistic consequentialist philosophies, psychological hedonism, and ethical hedonism.
  • This lesson introduces you to the theory of deontological ethics and Emmanuel Conte. You will learn that the deontological ethic judges morality by examining the nature of actions and the will of agents rather than goals achieved.
  • In this lesson you will learn about the system of ethics that focuses on virtue and introduces the Four Cardinal Virtues, which are temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage, and emphasizes the importance of being the right kind of person who possesses the traits of character, and C.S. Lewis's book "Christianity" provides an informative treatment of the Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Theological Virtues.
  • You will gain insight into C.S. Lewis's views on Christian ethics and the morality analogy he presents, where morality is like a fleet of ships that must fulfill three conditions to succeed: every ship must run properly, the relations between ships must be proper and orderly, and the fleet must head to the right destination.
  • You will learn about the importance of distinguishing between society and the state. Society is a voluntary organization of people, while the state is the group of people who claim a monopoly on the use of coercive force within a geographic boundary. By understanding this difference, you can prevent the government from interfering with your voluntary associations.
  • You will gain an understanding of how the professor's theory of the state in Social Justice in the Christian Church aligns with the New Testament. He explains that the state is a God-ordained institution to check against sin, and he is a moderate anti-statist who recognizes the need for government but also the inherent evil in any concentration of human power. The New Testament recognizes constraints upon governmental power, and Revelation 13 is an example of how the state can symbolize anti-Christian government. The lesson also discusses the concept of justice and how it is often invoked without a clear understanding, suggesting that Christians should study ancient Greece for a better comprehension of the term.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the evangelical civil war that happened 20 years ago, learn about its early stages recorded by Clark Penick, understand the harmful effects of left-wing evangelicalism, and see how many evangelicals on the left became enamored with their own self-virtue in what they thought was a crusade to help the poor.
  • By studying this lesson, you will gain insight into the major differences between capitalism, socialism, and interventionism. You will learn that interventionism is often responsible for economic crises that are attributed to capitalism. You will also learn about the overlapping and continuum nature of economic systems and the gray area where an economic system may be viewed as socialism or interventionism.
  • This lesson discusses the decline of old liberation theology and how some of its proponents are now advocating for capitalism and democracy as being what the poor of the third world need, and presents shocking quotations from individuals characterized as evangelical, such as Jose Marquez Bonino, who promotes Marxism and praises tyrants like Castro and Mao Tse tung, as well as material about the three major kinds of Marxism that have existed in the world.
  • This lesson will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of interventionism and its role in the Great Depression, including the fact that blaming capitalism for the depression is based on four myths, and that interventionism actually deepens recessions by disguising the information produced by a market economy.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the crisis facing American education, as highlighted by Alan Blum's book The Closing of the American Heart and the author's complementary book. The focus is on the importance of values, standards, and morality in education, and the need to reopen the American heart to reopen the American mind. The lesson introduces the three kinds of illiteracy currently affecting Americans at every level of the educational process, with a particular emphasis on functional illiteracy, which refers to the inability to read, write, or use numbers well enough to get along in society.
  • In this lesson, you will learn about the incompetency of public school teachers in America, caused by academically weak students being attracted to the profession, lack of content courses in their college curriculum, unimpressive and radical left-winged professional educationists, and the National Education Association being an enemy of America's young people, with four essential steps to improve education, including getting a clear focus on the educational role of the family, increasing local control of education, changing the curriculum to prepare students for life after school, and changing teacher education programs.
  • Gain knowledge of the difference between the biblical ethic and other philosophical systems. Though it may seem simple, it is an underlying system that can lead to complex issues. The divinely revealed scriptures are the starting point for moral reflection, but not a ready-made answer. Some New Testament commandments are archaic or obsolete, and many modern moral problems are not discussed in the Bible.
  • You will gain insight into the pro-life stance and be equipped to inform others. Christians need not be timid about talking about these issues.
  • This lesson explores the arguments and counterarguments surrounding abortion, arguing for caution and conservatism in ending any life, emphasizing the need to balance the right of the mother with the rights of the infant, and briefly touching on the issue of rape and how it complicates the matter.
  • As you go through the lesson, you will learn about infanticide and euthanasia, and how the disrespect for unborn human life has led to an increase in cases of infanticide, along with some suggestions for what Christians should do in the case of children born with life-threatening handicaps.
  • In this lesson, you will explore the five major passages of Scripture related to homosexuality, including different interpretations of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and concludes that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual activity.
  • This lesson explores the topic of capital punishment in the context of Christian beliefs, arguing for consistency and emphasizing the need to view Old Testament laws in the context of specific situations that are no longer applicable.
  • This lesson discusses the three approaches to war and peace and distinguishes between principled pacifists and hypocritical, unprincipled pacifists, who are members of the political left and denounce American military actions but support violent revolutionary organizations.
  • You will gain an understanding of the growing issue of divorce and remarriage within the church, the responsibilities of Christian leaders in addressing it, and the need for Christians to think through what the Scripture teaches on these matters and formulate principles that will guide their thinking and conduct.
  • This lesson provides insight into how responsible Christians can make ethical decisions about birth control, considering the importance of intention, distinguishing between ethically acceptable and unacceptable forms of birth control, and emphasizing the importance of wise and careful means in achieving family planning goals.

Theoretical and theological basis for Christians  living an ethical life.

Dr. Ronald Nash

Christian Ethics


Birth Control

Lesson Transcript


[00:00:01] Let me say a thing or two about birth control. We we began to recognize that sometimes there are some things that are clearly wrong or perhaps even clearly right, which cannot be traced back in any straight line to any any specific passages of scripture. Now, I would suggest to you that the lack of any clear biblical endorsement for birth control shouldn't be construed too quickly to take the forms of exercising responsibility and choice with regard to the sons of one's family. Is biblically unethical or biblically unjustified? We must recognize. I would suggest the cultural situation that prevailed at the time Scripture was written such that this would not have been this would not have been on the front burner of Christian thinking at the time Scripture was written because the technology was not there. This is my point. But it seems to me that responsible Christians can clearly make their way from certain ethical principles to conclusions regarding the justification of the conclusions regarding the justification of birth control and in certain circumstances. And I think those principles would lead us to, I would suggest, some of the following conclusions. One is one's mohair. One's intention in practicing birth control is certainly an important part of the whole ethical picture. Contrast to families to situation, family number one, a family decides to practice birth control and want to be ethically responsible ways. Maybe we should come back and talk about that. IUDs, for example. Intrauterine devices. Highly ethically questionable. Problematic because this, technically speaking, is not a form of birth control. This is a this is a device that retards the implantation, the zygote, TV wall of the uterus.


[00:03:07] It's really a form of abortion. So if we if we distinguish between ethically acceptable and ethically unacceptable forms of birth control, here we have a family that says that decides that it will delay a family for reasons that are relevant to the health and the well-being of the wife. But contrast may be the White House is questionable. But contrast that with a different situation in which a lucky couple decides for purely selfish reasons, that they don't want their lives complicated by a brother to running around the house. Now, clearly I pre I formulated this in two radically different ways, but I do want to focus on the role that intention and motive plays in this. Yes, birth control is not a biblically condemned action, and I would suggest that it is not. When we when we have to pay more attention to the reasons why families choose to space their children or limit the number of children. I would also say this, and I want you to write this down because I don't care how many things I've said this semester that you disagree with. What I am about to say in the next sentence is absolutely irrefutable. All right. Thirdly, pregnancy is always harder on the woman than it is on the man that buried it. I come right out and I've said it. I get an amen for that. Pregnancy is always harder on the woman than it is on the man. And I think it is. It is easier for a man to take a more casual attitude towards this. Now we. We trust the Lord. We are Calvinists. We believe in the sovereign will of God. But keep this in mind. No informed Calvinist is a fatalist. We believe that God works out His will, but God's will is never achieved, apart from the means and continuum.


[00:05:59] In other words, over the course of a life any couple can produce. He can get 20 kids. I hope it's possible. Do you want to do that to your wife? If you're a husband, for example, certainly one can leave this matter to the Lord. But it seems to me that one of the ways in which the Lord works out his will is through our own wise, careful adoption of the best means to certain. And I guess what I'm I guess what I'm suggesting here is that the scriptural case needs to be birth control does not make this in itself an absolutely acceptable act. Certainly the motives that some people use to justify certain forms of birth control can get them into questionable behavior. The means of birth control can lead to questionably ethical behavior. I've mentioned the IUD device. I think responsible parents or couples will study the literature and see what effect other forms of birth control may have. These are the birth defects. Just as John Davis mentioned, some troubling statistics regarding spermicide that strongly counsels couples not to use spermicide. So within two months of planning a pregnancy, there does seem to be some implication of that technique to birth defects. Well, when all is said and done, it's also a very private matter. But I would urge you and let me say one other thing. The whole case of opponents. In the Old Testament, there is a disagreement among responsible Christians as to the reason why God slew Onan, and some choose to focus their attention on his particular act. Others think the reason why God punished on it is because He disobeyed the Lord with regard to the matter of carrying on the progeny of his deceased brother. That was the sin of Onan, not the particular mechanism or the act in which he engaged, which again lead to all kinds of conclusions about other matters.


[00:08:51] The sin of owning the sin for which he was punished was his refusal to carry out his lover obligation in bearing that progeny through his dead brother's wife. So again, we have a highly controversial, highly debatable issue, from which I'm not sure specific conclusions can be drawn.