The Bible, in the New Testament, makes no explicit judgment against birth control, which it surely would if such action was sinful. But this is arguing from silence which is a dangerous way of arguing from the Scripture. We must be careful to present arguments that are based on positive commands. Nonetheless, the are many Scriptural principles to establish Christian ethics in matters of contraceptives. Christian prudence and wisdom can be founded on such principles that are espoused in the ensuing argument.
The reason for this presentation is to fill up the existing gap in obstetrics and gynaecology. My own experience with gynaecologists and obstetricians when it comes to giving counsel about contraception is basically to take the patient to a road junction and ‘counsel’ the person to take any of the birth control routes! They may tell you the dangers in each road and even tell you what benefits each may have over the other but they don’t really help by saying that you have to ‘see what works for you’, in other words – be a guinea pig! Some of the methods can even kill!
What do Christians have to say on contraception? Birth control for reasons of social responsibility, the health of the mother, or for spiritual duties (1 Cor. 7:5) either by abstinence or intervention, does not appear to contradict the teaching of the Bible. There are those who are troubled by Genesis 1:28; 9:1; 38:9. But we have no reason to believe that these commands were intended as an order to every couple for all time, since there are those who can’t bear children anyway, by God’s own design.
Equally, those who prefer to use no form of birth control have a perfect right to their conviction. In most Protestant Christian circles, there is commonly little reservation about the use of contraceptives. There are ethical implications concerning the use of certain types of contraceptives that you will need to weigh and prayerfully consider in your own intimate life.
In the methods outlined below the average statistical failure rate for each method, used perfectly and with spermicide creams, if relevant, are put in brackets.
1. Fertility awareness or natural family planning
These prevent egg and sperm from meeting and fertilizing. These include the withdrawal method and the rhythm method. Aids to the latter include monitoring the woman’s fertility using calendar, Billings, thermal, symptom-thermal, or commercial systems. Used perfectly, the failure rates of these methods range from 1-4% in studies and do not involve the loss of an embryo. Besides, they encourage male-leadership and self-control. These methods do not have troublesome side effects, but require organization, and discipline. They can be problematic if menstruation is irregular.
2. Barrier methods
These prevent egg and sperm from meeting and fertilizing. They include the male (2%) and female (5%) condoms, the diaphragm (6%), cap (9-26%), sponge (9-20%) usually in conjunction with spermicide creams. These methods can be a bit messy and fiddly but again never involve the loss of embryo. The male condom is the most preferable considering the biblical aspect of male leadership. Male condom is one of the very few contraceptives that have been manufactured for men.
These have a threefold mode of action. (a) Stop the release of the egg by hormonal influence (b) render the mucus in the cervix thick and hostile to the sperm, and (c) make the lining of the womb thin, so that the embryo cannot implant. Modes (a) and (b) are considered tenable by the pro-life group, but not mode (c).
Hormones include the mini Pill – progesterone only (0.5%), and the combined Pill – oestrogen and progesterone – (0-1%). Though statistically safer in preventing pregnancy, studies have shown that the mini Pill may fail in modes of action (a) and (b) above. Therefore the mini Pill would be operating in mode (c), stopping the embryo implanting – which means effectively it works through deliberately causing the loss of a fertilized egg. If the fertilized egg is considered to be ‘life’, the mini Pill is therefore causing an abortion if it only works in mode (c).
The Pill comes in varying doses of oestrogen/progesterone – to help reduce unpleasant side effects on the woman’s health (e.g. weight gain, acne, depression, headache, nausea, dizziness, thrombosis etc.) but the degree to which the oestrogen is reduced may mean that the mode of action leans towards mode (c) and therefore being abortifacient (causing abortion). However, doctors are still unclear and divided about this, depending on whether one is pro-life or not. However, Pills can be taken by ‘tricycling’ which is not usually the prescribed method which many doctors would not advice. This method completely prevents ovulation and is recommended by prolife doctors.
Depot Provera™ injection (3%), and the Implanon™ rod implantation (0%) – though very few studies to date have been done). There is no conclusive evidence currently that these cause the loss of an embryo, though as the levels of hormones run down when replacement is due, it is theoretically possible, but biologically unclear, whether contraception is achieved by mode (a) or the abortifacient mode (c). these methods may both have side effects (pain/acne/irregular bleeding).
4. Intrauterine methods
Coils, which may or not contain additional hormones are fitted inside the womb by trained staff. These work in different ways from hormones, but also threefold: (a) killer cells produce an inflammatory reaction and destroy the sperm and egg preventing fusion (b) by having a direct chemical effect killing or immobilizing the sperm or egg (c) by blocking implantation of the embryo. These include the Copper Coil ™(0.8%), and the Mirena™ intrauterine system (0.1%) which also has a progesterone life effect akin to the mini Pill™. Coils, because of mode (c) are considered abortifacient by pro life doctors. They also have a variety of unpleasant side effects.
5. Morning after pill
This is taken after unprotected intercourse. However, it acts in several ways, including preventing implantation in the womb so that the embryo is aborted, unless it is taken too late – in which case the embryo has already been implanted.
The problem with 3, 4 & 5 is that they put undue responsibility on the wife. This is Biblically unadvisable, and unloving since the man abdicates his male-headship responsibility on such an important matter. Besides, why should the woman, who is the ‘weaker vessel’ both bear the burden of child-carrying/bearing be loaded once again with the responsibility of contraception? It is advisable that the Christian men take this important family planning responsibility seriously and show godly leadership.
When a couple are sure that they should have no more children, for whatever reason, the ultimate form of limiting family size is sterilization. This is achieved by simple operations which tie off the tubes leading, in the woman, from the ovary to the womb, on in the man, from testes to the urethra. Your family doctor can arrange this operation. The simplest operation is that on the man (vasectomy), and is not very expensive. Both partners should realize that for all practical purposes this is irreversible step. Reversal operations are not often successful. Only in exceptional circumstances, therefore, sterilization appropriate for a newly married couple. Even if you have both agreed that you do not want children, we would strongly recommend against sterilization, a few years of marriage often changes your attitude towards having children.
 Brian and Barbara Edwards, No longer Two, Christian Guide for engagement and marriage, Day One, HR, UK 1994, p.112-115