A Story by Bishop R. Joseph Owles


What does the Bible say about birth control? Can believers use birth control?

Birth control and its use can be found in principles given in the Bible. The Bible also gives us guidelines concerning the sex life, in general, within a marriage. The Bible does say states a husband and wife can decide to refrain from sex for Christian purposes such as spiritual needs. They can also decide, out of love, to have sex but not have it lead to the birth of children. It should be noted that the Bible doesn't teach sex should only occur for the purpose of bearing children.

The answer provided from a religious webpage is a long way of saying "NOTHING." The Bible says NOTHING about birth control. The Biblical citation offered by the Roman Catholic Church is the story of Onan in Genesis 38:

Judah got a wife named Tamar for his firstborn, Er. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, greatly offended the LORD; so the LORD took his life.  Then Judah said to Onan, “Have intercourse with your brother’s wife, in fulfillment of your duty as brother-in-law, and thus preserve your brother’s line.” Onan, however, knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid giving offspring to his brother. What he did greatly offended the LORD, and the LORD took his life too. (Genesis 38:6-10)


The logic is that since God killed Onan for wasting his seed, that God is opposed to birth control. They will sometimes add that the punishment described in Deuteronomy 25:9 is public humiliation and not death; therefore, it is not the fact that Onan failed to live up to his duties of providing a son for his dead brother, but it was that he wasted his seed that offended God. So God kills Onan for having an orgasm that was not designed to produce a child.

Two points I would make is 1) Deuteronomy 25 does not apply to this story because this story is taking place long before "The Law" was given. So you cannot say that the punishment is more than the crime because there is no crime or punishment laid out yet. So to argue that since God killed Onan and didn't just subject him to public humiliation is anachronistic. 2) The crime is clearly wasting his seed, but not in having an orgasm that does not produce a child, but because he was supposed to produce a child for his brother, and he refused. It is not the wasting of the seed that offends God, but the reason why he wastes his seed offends God -- Onan is murdering his brother's line by refusing to produce a son for his brother. Onan is also potentially giving away his family's property to a stranger because if someone else marries his sister-in-law and has sons with her, he sons will get Er's property; therefore, Onan was also effectively robbing from his own family by refusing to father a son for the deceased Er. The use of Genesis 38 as a biblical attack on birth control is weak.

Another argument the Roman Catholic Church will sometimes use when the weakness of their biblical argument is exposed is the argument from silence. They will say that birth control is so outside the biblical worldview that they do not mention it. In this line of reasoning the Roman Catholic Church acknowledges that the Bible does not condemn birth control and because it does not condemn it, it is condemned because the biblical writers could never conceive (no pun intended) of the use of birth control that they never mention it. But the argument from silence goes both ways. What is common and taken for granted is never mentioned. We generally do not write about the common things. We do not get on Facebook for instance and write every morning and evening and during the day that we have brushed our teeth. It is a part of our lives and we just do it and rarely think about it. Arguing from silence could be that birth control was such a part of the biblical worldview that the writers of the Bible never mention it because they take it for granted. So this too becomes a weak argument.

Even if I am willing to allow that the story of Onan was somehow a referendum on using birth control, I would still have to conclude by the way the story is told and by the fact that the topic of birth control is never mentioned again that Onan is a unique experience in the Bible and not the rule. There is something going on, we may not have the full picture, and the result is that Onan died. This is supported by the fact that the story of Onan is not about Onan and the wasting of his seed, but it is the backstory to why and how Tamar tricked Judah into getting her pregnant so her decease husband would have a son.

So all this is say: The Biblical view on birth control is NOTHING -- it does not have one. The ecumenical councils of the Church do not prohibit birth control. Therefore, The Old Catholic Church rightly declares that the use of birth control is a personal decision. If you think it is wrong to use birth control, then do not use it; if you think it is okay to use it, then use it. It is your choice.


*By "birth control" I mean any of the natural or normal methods of avoiding pregnancy by inhibiting conception. This is not "the abortion pill" or any method of terminating a pregnancy after conception has occurred.

© 2013 Bishop R. Joseph Owles

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Added on November 12, 2013
Last Updated on November 12, 2013
Tags: Bible, Birth Control, Catholic, Catholic Church, Church, contraception, Facebook, Genesis, God, Judah, Law, Onan, Reproductive health, Roman Catholic


Bishop R. Joseph Owles
Bishop R. Joseph Owles

Alloway, NJ

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