As evidenced by some of my previous posts, I believe the institution of marriage to be fundamental to society. Also, keeping the institution of marriage sacred is vital to the Christian faith and church. Thus, having a proper theological understanding of marriage is extremely important for each and every Christian to develop. One of the most complex, difficult, and debated aspects of the marriage relationship involves the use of contraceptives within the marriage relationship. Many believe the decision to use contraceptives to be a personal one that is made when they are entering a marriage relationship, but I believe it to be a far more important theological question. I will attempt to convey my beliefs on the subject, but am extremely interested to hear what others have to say.
First, it is important to note that the existence and use of contraceptives have, from a practical standpoint, damaged the institution of marriage significantly. Contraceptives were clearly at the center of the sexual revolution of the 60s, and continue to give individuals confidence that they can have sexual relations without the unintended consequence of having children. Thus, contraceptives have divorced the sexual act from conception to a high enough degree to invert the intended, natural order. In terms of social history, I think there can be little argument against this (except that sexual freedom is a higher value, which is the primary tenet of feminism), but the higher question that must be answered is what I would like to deal with. If contraceptives were only used by Christians, within the confines of marriage, would they be considered a moral good or ill? That is, is the use of contraceptives consistent with biblical values or not?
I first would like to state, and then quickly move on, from the most basic argument that is made about contraceptives. Many Christians will argue that contraceptives frustrate the will of God. I have considered this argument, but ultimately find it by itself to be unpersuasive, because every personal decision we make would then have the possibility of preventing the Almighty in some capacity from achieving His will. The point is taken that even within marriage, contraceptives separate intercourse from procreation to some degree - the question is if that is ok.
Clearly, the Bible affirms that sexual activity is not merely for procreation. Paul speaks of women not denying their husband at any time. In the Old Testament, the Song of Solomon also shows the importance of the marriage act beyond procreation. I believe this is the main argument of those who favor the use of contraceptives - that sex isn't just about procreation, so contraceptives merely allow the Christian to be responsible in their decisions about having a family (when to have kids, how many to have based on finances, etc.). I do not believe, however, this issue to be as simple as determining whether sex is about procreation, pleasure, or both.
At this point, let me state that I believe life begins at conception, so I obviously do not condone the use of any types of contraception that would abort what has already been conceived. Anything from a morning after pill to an abortion would clearly be wrong. But, this doesn't answer the simple question of whether using standard contraceptive devices is right or wrong.
Biblically, I can't really give a much better answer than what I have already said. Because the biblical narratives didn't have to deal with this issue, there is nothing to directly reference. Thus, I believe tradition and Christian logic to be important to use here, but perhaps not definitive. I will state my thoughts, and then listen to yours.
As Christians, we should be responsible yet trusting at all times. When it comes to planning our family, this is a delicate balance. Perhaps having another child would be a financial burden or too time-consuming. While I understand this argument, I ultimately reject it completely. I believe that trusting God knows when we are ready to have a child is more important (and reliable) than our own plans. Even so, the statistics I have looked at show that Natural Family Planning is statistically equivalent to most types of contraceptives. So, even if one wishes to be responsible, there are other ways than using contraceptives. This brings up the important issue, if family planning is biblical, then why isn't family planning using modern technology biblical? I still can't get around this question, but will provide perhaps my only original thought on this subject.
I believe there to be a fundamental difference between contracepted sex and non-contracepted sex. I also believe there to be a difference between family planning and contraceptives. Non-contracepted sex (within marriage) is safer than the use of pills and such. Natural sex, is also just that, more natural, and thus has a profound psychological edge over contracepted sex. Moreover, it is scientific enough to be responsible, but natural enough to allow God to use the sexual act for its primary purpose: procreation. Furthermore, natural family planning affirms the biblical values of self-control and self-denial. Christians, even within marriage, can act as witnesses to their ability to responsibly abstain from sex, even if they are sleeping right next to that person. As an example to teens who feel it impossible to abstain from sex, this could be powerful, or to friends who find it difficult to be abstinent outside of marriage, this would be a great example. Morever, from a practical standpoint, this type of self-denial could add a lot of romance into a marriage relationship (though from a moral standpoint, this doesn't have a lot of weight).
Ok, so I probably haven't proven anything to you, but I think I've stated why I am not going to use contraceptives within marriage, and also why I think that you shouldn't. My points are not entirely definitive however, so I am certainly open to discussion and disagreement, so have at it.