Birth control has and will probably continue to be a divisive issue. Christians have taken pretty hard stances in the past, but these views tend to change over time. Do Pentecostals believe that birth control is okay?
Do Pentecostals believe in birth control? Yes, most Pentecostal churches teach that birth control is permissible and okay for a believer in the context of a Godly marriage.
So, where did this discussion around birth control come from? What have Christians believed in the past and how did we get to where we are now? Pentecostalism is a pretty new theological body, but we can examine some Christian thought surrounding these issues.
Contraception has been a point of a bit of controversy for a long time. The church has always viewed marriage as the vehicle in which to reproduce. i.e. Good marriages should produce children, that is their purpose. It wasn’t until the reformation when Christians started to look at marriages in a more personal light, one where man and woman enjoyed each other.
But even still, Christians almost universally damned birth control as ungodly and wrong. As the technology surrounding birth control expanded, it wasn’t until 1930 where a denomination finally made an official declaration permitting birth control. The Seventh Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion stated that birth control is permissible as long as there is a moral obligation to prevent parenthood.
From there, the belief in permissible birth control boomed. Within forty years, almost all non-Catholic denominations had hoped aboard the idea of moral birth control in marriages. Some protestants have still defending the views that Luther and Calvin held, that birth control is inherently evil and wrong. But most Protestants today see it as a helpful advancement of science.
Some have argued that mainline Protestant rejection of things like birth control are not reliable interpretations of God’s will. The Reformers have been extensively criticized with their views on sex. The Protestant Reformers famously deny a allegorical interpretation of Songs of Solomon, the Biblical book that is universally accepted to be a portrait of healthy sexuality. Some have even accused Reformers of being anti-science and anti-technology just for the sake of it.
What do Churches Believe?
Churches have had some differences in beliefs about contraception. Even today, denominations can range from more conservative views to hyper progressive views. Though the vast majority of Christians today tend to accept birth control. Let’s look at a list of what a lot of churches say on the topic:
- “The Episcopal Church as early as the 1930s approved contraception for purposes of family planning. The church calls on its programs and projects to “provide information to all men and women on a full range of affordable, acceptable, safe, and non-coercive contraceptive and reproductive health care services.””
- “The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, says that “each couple has the right and the duty prayerfully and responsibly to control conception according to their circumstances.””
- “The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the largest Lutheran body in the United States, supports the use of safe, effective birth control methods and believes that they encourage “responsible procreation.””
- “The Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, believes contraception is a matter “of personal consciences as godly spouses prayerfully covenant with God about the growth of their families.””
- “The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, supports the use of contraception within marriage, although it opposes contraceptive methods that bar having children altogether. In contravention of this stance, some Southern Baptist leaders recently joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in its demand to allow any employer whether religious or secular to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage because of a religious objection.”
- “Presbyterian Church USA supports “full and equal access to contraceptive methods,” and in a recent resolution endorsed coverage for contraceptives as a “part of basic health care.” The church said that “unintended pregnancies lead to higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, and maternal morbidity, and threaten the economic viability of families.””
As we can see, the vast majority of churches today don’t see contraception as an issue. There will always be outliers or smaller Christian sects that take issue with it, and even some Christians who personally don’t feel it’s right. But denominations are pretty accepting to the notion of birth control in a marriage.
Conscience or Law?
The point of contestment surrounding this issue is, I believe, whether the law would prohibit birth control or if it is up to the individual’s conscience. Some would argue that the Lord outright forbids birth control because a marriage is supposed to produce children. People often cite Genesis 1:26-28:
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.””
The people who take the stance the birth control is sinful argue that when God says to be fruitful and multiply, that is a command in all marriages. That God decides when pregnancy occurs, and we have no right to try and delay or prevent it. This would mean that having kids is Biblical Law. We should have as many kids as we possible can in Biblical marriages. Famous advocates of this position are the Duggar family from TLC’s show 19 Kids and Counting.
Others would argue that this is completely not the case. That God’s command to fill the earth and multiply is a blessing. Godly marriages produce children but that does not necessarily mean we need to disregard birth control. There is no specific verse about birth control in the Bible, so many have argued it is unethical and blasphemous to make the Bible say something it doesn’t. Birth control is up to the conscience of the individual.
Even though the first view has been largely dominant for most of Christian history, the second view is what is widely accepted today by almost all Protestant churches and denominations.
Are There Differences Between Different Methods?
Yes, the Church universally despises abortion and all abortive contraceptives. Many Churches have openly condemned things like Morning After pills and other hormonal contraceptives and damaging, and in some cases, killing human life.
There are some Christians who argue for the exclusive use of natural family planning, i.e. remaining abstinent from each other when children are unwanted. But the majority of Christians accept artificial means of birth control. John Piper, a popular theologian, states: “Sometimes people also reason that if you really want to “trust God” to determine the size of your family, then you should not use birth control.
The assumption seems to be that if you “just let things happen naturally,” then God is more at work than if you seek to regulate things and be a steward of when they happen. But surely this is wrong! God is just as much in control of whether you have children when you use birth control as when you don’t. The hands of the almighty are not tied by birth control! A couple will have children precisely at the time God wants, whether they use birth control or not. Either way, then, God is ultimately in control of the size of one’s family.”
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.