Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, recently posted an article on her website that revealed her thoughts on contraception.
Here are a few excerpts:
To be God-centered is to be family-sensitive and other-conscious. The desperation and tragedy that characterize modern families is not limited to a certain ethnic background, particular geographical region, select economic bracket, or common religious commitment. The problems that exist are not stereotyped to exclude or pinpoint a particular set of circumstances. The breakdown continues unabated and seemingly worldwide, and all must work together to seek solutions.
Totalitarian governments have entered the bedroom with policies demanding birth control, which without compliance would be followed by abortion and even infanticide. Schools have become managers of childrearing and education, and teachers and educational administrators have assumed a position of dictating to parents how a child’s life is to be molded, including the kind of home environment he is to have. Health requirements, mealtime nutrition, moral standards are all set by educators who demand more money from parents to pay for their demands. Some employers (even some religious agencies) have been bold enough to dictate to employees how many children they can have and when those children are “convenient” to company plans!
Contraception in many ways is uniquely a woman’s issue. There are profound and persistent biological differences between the sexes, and these differences mandate different and unique responsibilities. How can a woman be free from her own nature of maternity and still be herself? The central position of the woman in her own family and in all of civilized society is derived from her necessary and exclusive role in procreation and from her most primary and inviolable human tie, i.e., with her offspring. To refuse to accept life in the womb is to violate God’s very purpose for the womb, i.e., receiving, nourishing, and protecting fetal life.
The basic moral question is not whether or not a baby is wanted but whether or not the baby was willed. The choice or consent to have intercourse is the implicit consent to bear children by divine fiat (i.e., God’s way of continuing the generations). The woman is not a baby-making machine, but she has by nature a baby-making body. Only one woman can bear a particular child, and her tie to that child is personal and her bonding virtually unbreakable. In the rearing of that child, she has the opportunity to impart within the privacy of her family circle her own values to the child.(5) To refuse that procreative role and to throw upon society that nurturing responsibility is to abdicate her highest calling and greatest usefulness to the Creator and to His created order. Women are called upon to make sacrifices; they are challenged to live selflessly. These sacrifices and a selfless life are essential for the continuation of the generations. Women cannot shun this greatest responsibility of maternity without endangering all of civilization.
Limiting families was not a theme of the Old Testament. A married man and woman in the Old Testament world could limit their reproductive capacity. Abortion, sterilization, and infanticide were strictly forbidden (Lev. 18:21; 20:2). Continence (self-restraint from yielding to impulse or desire, i.e., sexual intercourse) and contraception by withdrawal (coitus interruptus) are mentioned.(6) The Old Testament forbade infanticide (Lev. 18:21; 20:2). Continence was appropriate during ritual uncleanness that came with menstruation (Lev. 15:19-28; 18:19; 20:18) and childbirth (Lev. 12:1-8). Whether or not this ceremonial law contributed in some way to spacing children is a subject that needs more research.
Women are infertile most of the time during the reproductive years of their lives. Conception can occur only during a few days of the menstrual cycle.(7) Natural Family Planning is a general term referring to a thoughtful and scientific approach based on the fact that during each menstrual cycle a woman becomes fertile and then naturally infertile and that there are physical signs to indicate these fertile and infertile times. It is not a reference to the old calendar “rhythm” method based on biological averages.
Various methods have been developed to help women and men determine in a highly accurate and reliable way the fertile and infertile times of a woman’s menstrual cycle. This information can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy. A woman learns to work with her body, its natural ebbs and flows of fertility and infertility. Then a man and woman learn to appreciate their fertility as a gift from God to them as a couple. NFP is safe and healthy. No foreign substances are introduced into the body. A couple must increase their communication and learn to better understand their own bodies. In the process they develop greater intimacy, sharing, and spiritual bonding in their relationship. Although 40% of the couples practicing NFP achieve pregnancy within one year through teaching and charting the body’s flow, at the same time evidence also shows that NFP, when correctly understood and applied, is 97-98% effective in avoiding pregnancy when that is a couple’s choice.
Perhaps the “worst case” scenario for a couple not taking the Pill would be conceiving and giving birth to an unplanned child. Can a couple be blessed through an unplanned child? Is an unplanned child an “accident” or a “precious gift from God”? If a child is unplanned by parents, does that mean the child is not part of God’s plan? Although husbands and wives may think they “have accidents” or “make mistakes,” God does not make a mistake. Not only does God create a new human being by design, but He offers to parents the opportunity to love selflessly and to live in genuine obedience to Him by accepting their procreative responsibilities.
A Marquette University brochure quotes some couples who have used NFP effectively and experienced satisfaction in their marriages as a result:
- “Because NFP requires mutual respect, responsibility, and communication, it has definitely helped in our marriage relationship.”
- “It has increased our spiritual connection and made us see a place for God in our relationship.”
- “NFP has eliminated fears I had about the effects of birth control pills and interactions with other drugs. It made us proud of each other’s strength and help during times of abstinence.”
- “Days of abstinence (during fertile times) requires us to express our love in ways other than intercourse and has helped us to expand our ‘vocabulary of love.’”
I will post my thoughts on this article later. Feel free to read and leave your comments, I would like to know what you think about it.