INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTER THREE
Many times we have heard discussions of Birth Control reduced to “Catholics” versus “Protestants”. The “Defenders of Protestant Theology”, as they style themselves, will state something along the lines that “Oh, well, Roman Catholic tradition is in opposition to contraception, but we Protestants follow the Bible, not tradition. That is why Protestants allow Birth Control.” We have even seen books which state that Luther and Calvin laid the groundwork for Birth Control by de-emphasizing the connection between sexual intercourse and children. This assertion, which would not see the light of day were if not for the fact of gross ignorance of the Bible and Church history, is absolutely false. As we have seen in Chapter One, Calvin thought that Birth Control was murder, and Luther viewed it as sodomy.
Since we have heard the above view of “Bible Believers” vs. “Traditionalist Catholics” quite often, we thought that it would be profitable to research the Reformed view of contraception. The results which we encountered were, in our view, greatly heartening, for the views of the Reformers and their heirs were strongly opposed to Birth Control: we found that the historic Protestant opinion of Birth Control was to view it as unnatural, murderous and sodomitical, as well as a gross sin against God, the Church and Mankind.
We agree with the opponents of Dispensationalism, who often point to the fact that no one at all taught the pre-tribulation rapture view before about 1830, thus demonstrating its great weakness. We will go one better, and state that we have found not one orthodox theologian to defend Birth Control before the 1900’s. NOT ONE! On the other hand, we have found that many highly regarded Protestant theologians were enthusiastically opposed to it, all the way back to the very beginning of the Reformation. We are pleased to associate ourselves with so respected a group of theologians. We are also pleased that those in favor of Birth Control will find no one in the orthodox Protestant camp for the first four centuries to ally themselves with.
We hope that present day Christians who advocate “family planning” will investigate the origins of the Birth Control movement, find it to be grossly immoral and anti-Christian, and return to the faith of their fathers. This is our earnest desire.
In our search for the Protestant view of Birth Control, we concentrated mainly upon Genesis 38, which is the story of Onan. We did this because of the fact that it is the only Bible passage to explicitly mention a specific form of contraception. Though we often moved into related sexual passages such as Gen. 1:28, 2:18, Psa. 127 and Romans 1, thereby discovering even more opponents of Birth Control, we have felt it best, due to space limitations, to list only those commentators who dealt with contraception via the Onan story. In this way, we may thus discover what was “the Protestant view of Onan”.
For the purposes of completeness, however, we have also included an appendix at the end, which lists the names of other Protestant theologians known to have opposed Birth Control. To paraphrase the Book of Hebrews, “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”, may our opponents hearken unto our spiritual ancestors, and re-examine their own views. May our homes be blessed by true blessings which last. May our Holy Church be build up and strengthened. May God be honored by our conduct. Amen.
A POSTSCRIPT ON SELF-ABUSE
Though many today will affirm the non-sinfulness of masturbation, please notice the great frequency with which our spiritual forebears vehemently condemned it. Self-abuse, as many called it, is described as unnatural, perverse and vile, etc. Our readers may question why Onan’s deed is used as a springboard for attacks on masturbation, sodomy, and other unclean practices. The reason is this: to our Christian ancestors, the sexual organs were designed by God to perform the sacred function of procreation; any voluntary use of the sexual organs which thwarted this goal was viewed as grossly wicked. Sodomy deposits semen outside the fruitful womb; does not masturbation do the same thing? In sodomy (as well as other forms of unnatural sexual relations) the principle of pleasure reigns supreme, with the negation of procreation; does not masturbation have the same characteristic? Thus, Onan was seen as a despicable character who was killed for wasting seed, a sin which applies to masturbators, sodomites, and those who practice Birth Control. Doubtless, this conclusion will certainly shock those who have imbibed heavily of modern-day “Christian” sex manuals. Nevertheless, this is where the Reformers and their followers stood on the subject.
As an aside, though a thousand surveys say that 99% of men masturbate, this does not prove the naturalness of masturbation. It is obvious that God has not created the sexual organs for masturbation, or else Paul would have said, “it is better to masturbate than to burn” instead of “it is better to marry than to burn”. (1 Cor. 7:9)
Charles D. Provan