It's easy to know what the will of God is when your faced with temptations like lying on your resume, being unfaithful to your husband or wife, or cheating on your taxes. Some things aren't so easy, aren't so explicitly known. Birth control is one of those issues. Continuing the discussion of birth control use by Christians that we've discussed over this last week, I want to go a little deeper into how we might determine God's will in implicit situations, where His Word doesn't say, "Thou shalt not use condoms", or "Let prudence be used by all to determine their family size."
When you're talking about other gray areas, for example, whether to buy a new house or take a new job, there may be as many biblical reasons to buy the house or take the job as there are reasons to stay in the one you've got. The Word doesn't spell out a specific guideline that's the same for everyone about this issue. However, I see one very KEY and CRITICAL difference between the determination of God's will regarding a new house or job and the determination of God's will regarding birth control, and it is this: house and job decisions have much lower stakes. Those kinds of decisions will not determine whether or not a human being is ever conceived.
There are some questions to consider that have some critical implications for what we believe about the sovereignty of God:
IF (and this is a big if) there is some implied standard in the Word that because children are a blessing and everyone must therefore partake of as many blessings as possible, THEN is the at-large Christian community intentionally and willfully bucking the will of God for our own ease?
HUGE IMPLICATIONS ABOUT GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY
If we believe that God has a decisive, over-arching intent for His people regarding birth control, specifically, that we are to trust Him with the opening and closing of the womb, we must tackle certain questions that come up due to life in a fallen world:
* Is it then God's will for someone like Andrea Yates to have continued having children, regardless of her own personal health and mental stability? What about someone who has extrememly difficult pregnancies (say, with gestational diabetes), where symptoms must be monitored and medication is requred, must that woman then endure a possible 10-15 pregnancies over a lifetime of fertile years just to be in the will of God? (the implied question: is there ever a situation where health ought to out-weigh what one believes to be the authoritative will of God?)
* Do we then believe that there are people that God wills to be created that are not being created? (implied question: is man able to thrwart the will of God in not just a life-or-death issue--like abortion--but even a exist-or-not-exist issue?)
* What happens when one spouse wants this but another spouse doesn't? If it's the man that's "quiverfull", is he to force that will on the one who will actually carry, deliver, and nurse the child? OR, if it's the woman that's "quiverfull", is she supposed to willfully not submit to the will of her husband and sneakily conceive a child despite her husband's guidance?
If, on the other hand, one believes that each couple ought to have the freedom to make this determination, there are several things to consider:
* Why has God given us this option now, when for nearly 6,000 years, that determination was left in the hands of God? (Implied questions: What makes us different? and In what circumstances ought we do different than our forbears?)
* If one comes to the decision that it is permissible to limit one's family size, which options are acceptable? If the Pill or an IUD admittedly works as an abortifacient, is this an option for a Christian? If NFP works by abstaining from one's spouse on a regular basis, is this an option for a Christian, in light of 1 Cor. 7:4-5?
* How do we KNOW when it's acceptable? Even if we "feel peace about a decision", the Bible says that, "the human heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it?" So how do we really evaluate our own motives and opinions on the issue?
Please don't mistake me to be making a value judgment one way or another. But if one is going to take on this determination, it is indeed a heavy weight to bear. This is such a hard issue, one that must be treated with grace and sensitivity as we dialogue with others. At the same time, because of the high stakes involved with the possible conception or non-conception of image bearers of God, we must treat this issue with sobriety and the willingness to submit to God's will regardless of the perceived "prudence" or desires that would have one choose one option over another.
I'd love to have you join me in these theoretical and theological discussions of God's ultimate will; one cautionary word, though: let's do it graciously.