John Piper’s second argument for the allowance of birth control is a stronger one, in my opinion. He asks couples to look at their hearts and examine their motives for not wanting more children. Selfish, worldly reasons such as children being an expense or too much work are anti-Christian and not acceptable according to Piper. He argues in favor of using birth control only if it is for “Kingdom reasons”. He doesn’t really develop this point, but leaves it to our own consciences. The problem is it’s hard for me to imagine a circumstance in which having another child would interfere with our Kingdom purposes. I’m sure there is one out there, so I’ll concede this point in theory to him, but in reality I’m having trouble putting my finger on what type of circumstance this would be. For instance, one might argue that Christians serving in China should follow the one-child policy there in order to be effective missionaries. But, I know of a wonderful Christian family of 10 that God has used mightily in China over the last 30 years. Some of their kids are now second generation missionaries.
Piper makes this argument from 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul says it would be better to be single like him in order to be free to devote oneself totally to the service of God. Since marriage is declared good by God in Genesis and a wife a gift from God (Proverbs 18:22), Piper uses this 1 Corinthians verse as a kind of “ministry caveat” to the previous declarations. Now just because I can’t think of an instance in which having another child would force one to give up or compromise their Christian ministry, I’m not willing to say that could never be the case. I agree that if there were such a circumstance where a couple knew for certain that having a child or another child at the present time would prevent their being able to serve the Lord, then they should abstain with prayer (again 1 Corinthians 7) during that time. Piper doesn’t suggest abstinence in this case as I did just now, but allows for the practice of birth control under these conditions. I still only see one instance in the Bible where the act of intimacy is enjoyed apart from the possibility of procreation and it turned out badly for both of them (Gen 38).
To get to the heart of the matter, we have to address whether having children can prevent or impede one from serving God? I have certainly heard women say that they can’t serve in the church or elsewhere right now because their children are their ministry. I disagree with this type of thinking, but would argue that it’s a separate issue than that of family planning. Don’t we all know women with just 1 or 2 kids who are too “busy” to serve? I love the example John Piper gives on one of his Battling Unbelief DVDs about one of his members being too busy that day to read his Bible. John asked him if he ate breakfast. The man replied that he had and John said, “Well then you weren’t too busy.” Is it possible for a Christian to be too busy to serve God? I think Piper would say emphatically, “No!” Continuing with this line of thinking, don’t we also know women with many children that still manage to serve God at every opportunity? We had a family in our church last year with 7 kids and their mother was always on the lookout for ways they could serve. She would take her kids to help out the elderly in our church with yard work or whatever needed to be done. She also took a special interest in a couple of the younger women and was faithful to call them and pray for them. I think that developing a heart for service, which all Christians must do if theirs is a genuine faith, is a separate issue from that of having children. Why can’t we just trust God to give us children if it will not interfere with our Christian ministry and to withhold children from us if it will interfere? Why must we presume to know better than God what is best for His servants and His church?
And lastly, Piper takes a stand against abortaficient methods of birth-control, but leaves it to his followers to determine which those are. If you believe life begins at conception then it’s a pretty long list that includes all hormonal methods of contraception and IUDs.
I hope I’ve done justice to John Piper’s stance on birth control. This is not an area that he’s written very much about. I love John Piper and Desiring God Ministries. I love reading his email sermons and I found his study Battling Unbelief to be life changing. If I may end on a note from that study: Success in the Christian walk is all about having faith in future grace. I believe being quiverfull is also about having faith in future grace, faith that God will supply the means to love, nurture, and train up for Him any child that He chooses to bless us with.
Thank you for bearing with me through this series. I'll draw for the winner of the Barnes and Noble $25 gift card tomorrow morning, so stay tuned.
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.