NFP and 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

We've discussed birth control many times before here on Making Home... but it's been a while. A recent post I read on another blog again raised a question I've had in my head for a couple of years. I posted about it roughly a year ago, but didn't get any "takers".

This time, I'd really like to hear from you, if you are currently, or in the past have, or would like to be, an NFP (natural family planning) user. Essentially, NFP is a method by which women monitor their bodies in order to determine times of fertility. During fertile times, which is generally defined as 7 days before ovulation and 3 days following ovulation (based on the lifespan of sperm and eggs), couples abstain from times of intimacy in order to avoid pregnancy for that month.

Personally, though, I can't see how, for the Christian couple, that method can "square up" with 1 Corinthians 7:3-5:
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
With 10 days of fertility that come with every monthly cycle for a woman, NFP seems to require abstaining from sexual relations for 10 days out of every 28-ish days. I can't imagine intentionally abstaining from intimacy for 1/3rd of my married life... and frankly, it seems like it would do precisely what 1 Cor. 7:5 warns about-- having temptation creep into the marriage relationship from the outside. To me, that kind of planned time apart on a regular basis doesn't sound like the small amount of time spent apart in devotion "to prayer" (not for birth control) that may occasionally be used ("perhaps") "for a limited time."

So, those of you who use NFP (or have used it in the past), really, I'm wanting to know-- how does this square up in your mind? It may sound like I have my mind made up, and truthfully, I don't really see how it could square up-- but it's possible that I just haven't heard from NFP users who have thought about this and have a good explanation. Please, bring your thoughts... and if you are a reader who hasn't used NFP but would like to join in the conversation, come on! I'd love to hear any and all thoughts on this issue.

86 comments:

Persuaded said...

Well, although I have used NFP in the past I am not sure how I feel about it at this point, mainly because I am rethinking my thoughts on birth control altogether. Besides which I have no need of birth control at this point in my life, so the subject doesn't absorb a great deal of my thoughts anyway!

*But* back to your specific question regarding 1Cor 7:5... I do not think it applies in the case of NFP. The verse refers to not refusing one another's requests for intimacy, whereas NFP is a mutual plan. Both members of the couple are (at least in theory) equally committed...one is not "depriving" the other. Just my opinion!

I do agree however, that abstaining for such a huge proportion of one's life is ...ermmm...difficult to say the least.

dcrmom said...

We used NFP for years. It's awful. You are totally right. Not only are you abstaining (for us about 8-9 days out of every 26, then again for the 4 days when I had my period) you are abstaining during the time that you are the most fertile, and therefore the most receptive to and interested in sexual relations. It's not the way God intended, to say the least.

Now that we are officially DONE and have taken surgical measures to prevent pregnancy (again, a questionable action by biblical standards, I admit, but my personal situation warrants it, in my mind, anyway) I can really appreciate how ridiculous it was to try to use that method as a long-term birth control measure.

There were times when we would use a barrier method during the fertile period, but more often that not we would just wait until it passed. NOT a very good way to keep intimacy alive in your marriage.

We are both so much happier now. I don't know what a "good" method of birth control is (besides permanent ones). We tried the pill (awful, hated it, made me crazy, and also has some questionable moral implications) as well as barrier methods (inconvenient, messy, unpleasant). We resorted to NFP because we didn't know what else to do.

Of course there is the theory that any prevention is limiting God's greatest gift as well as his mandate to procreate, but in my case (I'm very fertile and am psychologically and physically unable to handle having a lot of children and pregnancies close together) we just felt like we had to take some measures to control our reproductive rate.

So there you have it. I don't have a great alternative suggestion, so I can't condemn those who choose to use it, but I do admit it is not ideal by any means.

Sorry for the book.

Jess said...

Thanks, ladies, for the comments. I'll be interested to continue hearing from others.

dcrmom, you broke the addendum to commandment number 3... you don't have to apologize for writing a lot around these parts! :)

~Jess

Terry said...

I once considered NFP, but reached the same conclusion as you, Jess. That's an awful lot of abstaining for a married couple! So we decided against it.

Frieda said...

This issue is so loaded with convictions and prejudices that I am not brave enough to write out my thoughts for everyone to read! No, we never practiced NFP. But my husband and I believe that ALL of life is a blessing of God, and that we must be good stewards of every aspect of it. Perhaps I can illustrate a bit by saying that, while we believe that each night's darkness is a blessing of God, we have no problems at all with being good stewards by turning on the electric lights every single night.
And...being post-menopausal is the BEST! I love it!

Anonymous said...

we use condoms...husband doesn't want more kids - but we do accept that if we got pregnant again, we'd be happy about it...

NFP seems like a lot of work to end up pregnant anyway :) so i'd rather not put all that effort into it! plus, there's the whole thing about abstaining during the time when the woman is most into it. not so much fun :)

we've got 2 kids b/c God (it seemed random at the time) led us to a catholic ob who wouldn't refill my pill subscription. even tho' i grew up in the church, no one EVER talked about not using birth control as an option - only crazy hippies (or catholics) did that.

so while i'm all for trusting God, I also feel like it's important to honor my husband's wishes on this one...so that's the place i've come to on that.

Bekah said...

Hi Jess, we use NFP because other choices for BC are morally wrong for us. Are you aware of the FAM (fertility awareness method) of NFP? With FAM the couple does not abstain during fertile times, but uses a barrier method during this time only. We had a hard time with the barrier idea at first, but then I read a book with some FUN suggestions for making the use of barrier methods a part of the experience rather than a big "speedbump":)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,

I think I've mentioned before that I originally found your blog because I was searching for different Christian perspecitives on BC. And I am SO glad that google sent me here! I've learned a ton, and refined some convictions through prayer.

All that to say: My daughter is almost 9 months old. During the end of my pregnancy with her, I started to feel God tug at my heart about BC. I prayed, cried, prayed, researched, prayed, read His Word... and just KNEW I was convicted to not use the pill anymore.

So (with my husband's consent) ordered the NFP teaching materials. And I poured over them, learning all that I could about how to prevent us from getting pregnant.

Yes, prevent us from getting pregnant. And that just didn't seem right some how...

So then I had to go back and pray all over again as to whether God wanted us to prevent getting pregnant at all. And it has been quite the humbling journey, to say the least.

Technically, I wouldn't even say that we tried NFP at all. I took my temp about 3 weeks. I read every word the NFP materials had to offer. I certainly am not trying to spark a debate, however I must mention that in MY experience with reading the NFP materials...so much of the "proof" that NFP is acceptable is not from the Bible, but from Catholic writings of the Pope. I only consider my Bible to teach me about what God desires from my life - not the writings of man. So for me, it was an enormous hindrance in even learning about NFP.

The more I think about BC (which is quite often, since my milk supply has decreased and my baby is getting older!), the more I know that God is convicting us to trust Him in our family size. It also makes me less judgmental of others who do not feel this conviction. I don't know if God wants every couple to not use BC, but I know that He wants this for US at this point in our lives. Things might change in years to come...and I trust God to tell me if He wants us to do something differently.

So I am tickled that my husbnad and I are finally completely "free" in our marriage. It is a contentment like no other! I wouldn't be sincere if I didn't say that I wasn't really nervous about having a lot of babies. I am *really* fertile and get pregnant easily. And I haven't gotten over being upset when our families look down on us for our decision. We still have a lot of things to work out. But I really do trust God to give us the answers.

Trust. That is what it boils down to for me personally. Do I trust God to know what is BEST (not just "good") for me? Do I trust Him to provide me with strength? If I trust that His Son died on a cross for little ol' unworthy me, than I trust that He has only my best interest at heart with the number of children that He gives me.

Thanks for posting on something so dear to my heart. :)

-Lauren

Persuaded said...

OK...I thought about this some more, and ya know what? I do think you are right...(hope it's not violating one of your commandments to return and disagree with yourself, lol)

Like I said, NFP is by mutual agreement so it doesn't violate the first part of that verse. But while the second part of the verse does allow abstention by mutual consent, it sure does limit it. Apparently there is only one time when it is OK to abstain- to devote oneself for prayer for short periods. If abstaining to prevent pregnancy was OK, then surely it would have been mentioned. Sooo, all that to say that, yes, I think you have a very valid point. and I never thought of that verse in that way before. Thanks for making me think!

Cahleen 何凱琳 said...

Personally, I think that if one is going to all the trouble of using NFP (taking temperatures and what not) to prevent pregnancy, they might as well use a condom. I do see why the Pill could be considered to be morally wrong (it's an abortificent) but how is preventing pregnancy with a condom different than preventing it with NFP? I know some people just prefer NFP to condoms, so this question isn't for them. But for people who think that NFP is a more morally acceptable form of birth control than barrier methods, what's the reasoning behind this?

Mrs. Brigham said...

I do know that charting can be very beneficial when it comes to health concerns. From addressing irregular cycles or ovarian cysts to solving problems with a short luetal phase or trying to chart a close to exact date for conception (which can be very important for somebody with a history of premature birth or preterm labor), charting can be immensely beneficial. Many problems that a doctor might prescribe birth control pills for, such as ovarian cysts, can sometimes be treated with homeopathic or naturopathic remedies, but only if charting is used.

I have personally charted in order to address some health issues that were related to my cycle. I also charted when we were hoping to get pregnant after my first miscarriage, and wound up missing a required c-section by five days thanks to said charting. At the present time, Sean & I are facing what might be some very serious health problem on my part, so I am now charting once again (and keeping a food diary & symptoms list. what fun! :P), in hopes that a connection might be seen with some symptoms I am experience & my cycle.

With all that said, while we are technically NFP users, we are Torah observant, so we abstain during my period and for the seven days after. The two weeks (give or take) allow for us to not only focus on prayers and Bible study together, but also allow us to focus on the friendship side of our relationship. Plus many more benefits, of course. Sean and I both feel that this "rule" that has been laid out in Torah is an amazing gift and has truly blessed our marriage in ways we never thought possible.

Mrs. Brigham said...

The first sentence of my last paragraph should read;
"With all that said, while we are *not technically NFP users as we have never used it to prevent.."

And please excuse the other numerous typos! I might be losing my mind today :P

Nancy said...

Hi Jess,
I have been using NFP since my second baby quit nursing at 13 months (he's about to turn 2 now). I am kind of like dcrmom above, in that I don't like the pill for a lot of reasons, and barrier methods are just so inconvenient.

So we turned to NFP. It has generally involved about 10 days of abstinence around ovulation, and then during the days when I have my period. We could use a barrier method during those 10 days, but they (condoms, diaphragms) are so risky, and if they're going to fail, that's the very worst time! My husband doesn't want any more kids and is so risk averse, so even if I try to tempt him to do that he steadfastly resists! :)

I have lately been thinking that NFP does involve too much abstinence time. Plus, I definitely feel more like "doing it" when I'm ovulating, which is a pain and seems counterproductive as far as promoting marital intimacy.

I guess if you are trusting God and being open to more kids, NFP wouldn't be so bad, because you could take more liberties. But my husband is so against more kids, and truthfully I'm not sure if I want more either. At least not right now!

I don't know what else to do, though. At my midwife/gynecological appointment last week, I talked to her about IUDs. Those sounded great, but they can have some scary complications & side effects, and they might be abortifacient (?), which is one reason I don't like the pill either. Does anyone have any opinion/knowledge about that?

Anyway, thanks for introducing this topic. I am always very curious what other people choose, as there seems to me to be no real good answer when it comes to birth control.

Meg W. said...

NFP or birth control...both try to control the possibility of pregnancy albeit different means. One could argue that while using oral contraceptives you never have to worry about abstaining from intimacy except of course during menstruation. I still don't think there is a black & white solution to this issue. I'll be honest, if the possibility of becoming pregnant with every intimate act was there...I probably wouldn't be near as intimate with my husband than I already am. Trust me, I want nothing more than to be a mother, but having 60 children doesn't fancy me!

Sisterlisa said...

I replied on LittleArrows first, but wanted to come back to your blog as well. I have been seeking the Lord on this matter for a while now and I feel as though our world is making a shift from families with 1-3 children in public school to families with 4+ and decisions to homeschool.

I'm still mulling over some ideas and thoughts and will be blogging about it soon myself. Thnk you Jess.

Di said...

Perhaps this is slightly off topic, but we spend so much of our lives trying not to get pregnant that we assume that the moment that we remove all of our 'barriers' to pregnancy, we will fall pregnant. I for one know that isn't true - been trying for a baby since our miscarriage in June, and 6 months on, still no pregnancy. But perhaps that this comment just shows my frustration more than anything...

And another thought was that if a couple were to use NFP, it is usually (from my reading) because they are opposed to other forms of birth control. So does that mean that some people view all birth control as wrong?

Just my two cents, I am interested to hear the rest of this debate!

Love Di x

Wendy said...

Nancy, IUD's are abortifacient for sure.

Jess, to answer your question, we've used NFP our entire marriage (12 yrs) except for the present. I'm not yet having regular cycles so we're using barrier methods until then.

Our main reason for using NFP was to avoid abortifacients. Barriers cost money and can be irritating.

As I've learned more about quiver full families, I have much respect for that stance, my husband and I have come to a different conclusion. Let me first address your original question, though:

I don't see any problem with that verse but it may be because my husband and I aren't quite as active as other couples we know. He works nights and a second job 2 days a week. We have four children, one of which is still in our bed. Intimacy is highly prized in our house, but it is not unusual for a week or so to pass between intimate moments. We have a wonderful marriage and our love life has never been better-we just have to be flexible with our timing. Therefore, the week to ten days of abstinence isn't an issue for us. Besides, there are many different ways to be intimate without risking a pregnancy.

In John 1:12-13, John is talking about becoming children of God and he contrasts that with children born of natural decent, children born of human decision, or a husband's will. He doesn't say being born of a husband's will is wrong. Because he's listing it within a seemingly approved group, I believe we can infer that a husband's will or human decision is acceptable.

Therefore, if a husband is on board wtih NFP, and the couple doesn't feel tempted with a lack of self control (the end of the verse you brought out), then I see NFP as a very viable option.

Again, we very much respect QF folks. Children are a blessing. However, rain is a blessing too but too much rain is not a blessing. Obviously, children are more valuable than rain, but try to see my point in spite of the somewhat weak analogy.

When God calls families to go to the mission field, he doesn't say, "Get on a plane and wherever it lands, you'll serve there." No, he speaks to them. God is not limited to showing us how many children we should have based only on how many children we can produce, he can speak to us about it. We firmly believe God uses both the opening and closing of the womb and a relationship with us (through which he speaks to us) to show us how many children to have and in what timing.

We have a lot of adjusting we're doing in our family since baby #4 came and I'm not ready emotionally to have another baby. I feel it would be very unwise to get pregnant right now. My heart is open to more should God will it. We've not made any plans of our own and we aren't using abortifacients, we aren't tempted b/c of abstinence, so I see no sin here.

I hope this very long comment explains how this NFPer thinks :)

Anna S said...

"I can't imagine intentionally abstaining from intimacy for 1/3rd of my married life"

Jess, I know this will somewhat a bit off-topic, but have you ever had the chance to know any Orthodox Jews? They abstain from intimacy for roughly 1\2 of their married life. And not just intimacy - even kissing, touching, holding hands! Sounds insane, doesn't it? Yet the result is often that the husband and wife long for each other and are passionate about each other even after many years of marriage... from what I heard, intimacy never becomes a routine. :)

OK, back to NFP... well, I think it's definitely better than chemically manipulating your body with the Pill. But doesn't it still imply not wanting to have children?

Jess said...

Anna,
I have known this about Orthodox Jews, but have never known any that practice this.

One thing I *do* find interesting about that, is that in so doing, they would be intimate during the most fertile times... not intentionally avoiding those times.

Even still, I can't imagine going half my married life intentionally avoiding. Perhaps, without giving away too much, we're just quite a creative, ahem, active couple... but intimacy never becomes "routine" with us.

All that to say, yes, I know about Orthodox rules, etc., and find it interesting, but have to admit that I would find that difficult too. Not to mention the fact that all of those rules become quite moot and difficult to discern (whether with NFP or Orthodox Judaism, I would imagine) whenever you haven't hardly had a cycle in six years (due to pregnancy and nursing). ;)

Well, I think I've said quite enough, and given away enough rather personal information, eh?
~Jess

Anonymous said...

Jess,

My husband and I have been married just over 6 years. We had a miscarriage during our first year and I gave birth to a baby girl 8 months ago. We used NFP the entire time and the only two times I got pregnant were the two times we were intimate during my fertile period.
I am very regular and I never had to chart my temperature. I just know when I'm fertile and we abstained from intimacy that would lead to pregnancy. Not to get too technical, but there is a way to be intimate and yet not introduce the sperm to the egg.
I never felt fully right about the decision to use NFP because there was always a nagging in the back of my mind that any means to avoid pregnancy was unnatural. I think many of the women on here who have commented express the view that birth control that the world offers is more than just a way of preventing pregnancy. It can act as an abortificent, it can have hormonal side-effects, and it is a statement that you see children as, well, less than a blessing.
All that said, after much consideration and talking with my husband, we have decided to stop using NFP. Sure, I'm now four months pregnant (having gotten pregnant when my baby was only 4 months old), but I know that it's not always the case to have children so close together.
My husband's grandparents did not practice any form of birth control and they had 9 children over their 54 years of marriage. A lot by today's standards, but definitely not the one every year that a lot of people exaggerate as an excuse to use birth control.
It's hard to let go and trust God. But what kind of a God would he be if he wasn't trustworthy?
Jennifer

Anna S said...

"One thing I *do* find interesting about that, is that in so doing, they would be intimate during the most fertile times... not intentionally avoiding those times."

Oh, absolutely! That's like NFP, only targeted at encouraging pregnancy, not avoiding it :)

Shamgar said...

Jess, I have to agree with Persuaded (the only comment I read - sorry, very busy).

I think you have really distorted the meaning of this verse and made it into something it is not. I'm not trying to explain it away mind you, it is clearly a command not to deprive a spouse of intimacy.

However, mutual abstinence is hardly deprivation. I go to work every day. While I am here, my wife is deprived of that opportunity. Am I sinning by providing for my family?

Recently, your husband was gone for over 2 weeks to another country. Did he sin by being unavailable to you?

After giving birth, it is a very painful thing to participate in. Is it a sin to go without during that time? After all that would not be abstaining for prayer.

What about when you travel and are staying as a guest in a friend or family member's home and have no privacy. Neither of the couple particularly relish the possibility of discovery - but are they obligated to anyway lest they abstain for a reason other than prayer?

Do any of these things sound like what Paul was intending us to wrestle with in this verse? Or was his target perhaps, as I believe, something else. The specific denial and refusal of intimacy by one spouse. Something that is definitely a problem, and one thankfully addressed. It's definitely true that going without in that manner, in being continually rebuffed by your mate is likely to lead to temptation.

Remember - there are ditches on both sides of the road. The hard part is always staying on the road.

Jess said...

It's funny, Shamgar- you chose to agree with the only commenter I've yet had who came back to disagree with her own comment. ;)

I don't think I'm taking this verse out of context at all. All the examples you gave are not regular, intentional times of abstaining for more than a limited time.

Work? Doesn't limit you from being regular about it. Having a baby? At most, happens once a year. Husband going on a two week trip to another country? Has only happened once in 7 years of marriage. And yes, it was a hard time, and we both had to be active in fending off temptation.

All that to say, I don't think I'm taking the verse out of context at all. He's talking about not withholding. Yeah, it can apply one way, but it's also talking about a general selfishness regarding the act of intimacy (which SOME people, Catholics and Protestants -until this last century- not withstanding, would equate with birth control/NFP type interactions).

I see your point- I just don't think it's a good evaluation of where I'm coming from on this particular issue.

~Jess

Mist said...

We had four boys and then hubby had a vasectomy. God changed our hearts about having children and we had the vasectomy reversed. We have had two little girls (one three weeks ago) since. I am very interested in this discussion and not from a relativistic view but from a biblical point of view. Does God give us the "freedom" to limit/ space the number of children we have? It seems that all I have found in His Word is that many children were indeed a good thing and He is the one to be opening and shutting the womb.
I struggle as we have used NFP with barriers during fertile times as a means to space our children. I am fertile within months of having a baby, even with frequent nursing. It is very difficult to think of physically and emotionally handling another pregnancy so close.
There seems to be so much opinion on this from both sides. I would like to stick to a exclusive Biblical discussion sometime. Maybe the fact that it isn't so clear gives us freedom.
My hubby and I truly want to honor Christ with this. I know life isn't easy and God uses difficulty to grow us. Each pregnancy has driven me closer to Him and I am thankful.
You can tell I am unsure on this!

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog regularly a few weeks ago, and I really appreciate your thought provoking posts - Thank you!

I think that NFP goes against scripture. There is no way that during that 10 day period the husband isn't interested in his wife. If NFP wasn't being used, they would have been intimate probably several times! I feel that we are very blessed to have very specific directions from God about this topic. I also think that God addressed preventing conception in the OT with Onan spilling seed.
I've used the techniques in NFP in order to help understand my cycle which can fluctuate dramatically. I was constantly taking pregnancy tests! I had a couple of miscarriages and was able to figure out that I had luteal phase defect. You basically lose the baby very, very early due to screwed up hormones. My question has always been would it be within the bounds of scripture to take herbs that would regulate the hormones and thereby prevent a miscarriage if those herbs also make you super fertile?
Quinn

The McCains said...

I just wanted to comment that I think one of the most important things to keep in mind when discussing birth control is submission to your husband. My husband is getting a business up and going right now, so I am the sole income and we both prefer that I stay home if/when we have children. I am currently on the pill, which I would not choose on my own, but right now it is what my husband has decided and he will be the one responsible to God for that decision. We did FAM for awhile, using barrier methods during fertile times, but it made my husband so nervous that we hardly ever did it :( I pray about this regularly, but feel strongly that the Lord is asking me to trust my husband's decision, whether he is right or wrong.

*~Tamara~* said...

Well now I'm irritated, because I had a whole long response typed out and for some reason the computer ate it.

*sigh*

I'll try again.

First, there is a huge difference between deprivation and abstinence. To imply that abstinence is sinful puts all of us in a serious bind. This verse does not imply that a couple has to "get it on" any time one spouse has the urge. Instead, it says that we are not to "deprive " (meaning intentional, unwarranted withholding) each other except "perhaps" for prayer. IOW, in this circumstance the one thing that matters more than your intimate relationship with your spouse is your intimate relationship with your Creator.

This verse is not meant to imply that a couple never abstains by mutual agreement. We do that all the time! I can think of a dozen instances just off the top of my head where a Christian couple would mutually agree that, all things considered, they should be apart for a while. Mission trips, business trips, illness, vacations with the kids, whatever...they are all reasons why a couple might say that for a time they will not be intimate.

Back to NFP...I have no problem with birth control provided it respects life. I've seen the ugly side of this argument and had my salvation questioned by some self-righteous QF women because of it, but I've looked at this issue from every single angle and I still come to this conclusion. Therefore you can see why I would have no problem with NFP. It would not have worked for Mark and me, since abstinence would not be our strong suit. But I think it is probably the least troublesome method for the years when you hope to still have more children, although not the most effective. I don't see a problem at all with a couple saying that together they will abstain for a common goal, and that would include the goal of not becoming pregnant this month.

God created a woman's body to be able to conceive at certain times. If He had intended sex to mean the risk of pregnancy at all times,it seems to me that women would always be fertile. Instead He created a predictable cycle by which a woman knows exactly what her body is up to. We have this knowledge and it is up to us what we do with it. For some, it's not going to mean much of anything, as they take a back seat to family planning and let nature take its course. To others, it's going to mean using this knowledge in planning for their future, and in being good stewards of all their resources. God may very well have given a couple a vision for their future, and this knowledge will help them in planning that vision.

Topics like this are ripe for self-righteousness and consequent hurt. I think it is extremely important that we not take our interpretation of a gray area and try to broadly apply it. I've seen wonderful women demeaned and truly heartbroken by the quiver-full mentality and the approach of many who employ it. I think the same could easily happen in this instance, if we blur the lines of mutual abstinence and deprivation.

So, while I'm not a NFP user, that is how it "squares up" in my mind.

Jenny said...

Dear Jess, I have never responded to one of your questions before. I guess there is a first time for everything. My husband I laugh that although he aced college, the only class we ever flunked was our NFP class. I was pregnant within 3 months after taking the class. What a sense of humor our Lord has. On a practical note I think that NFP "works" great if you are totally done nursing and your cycle has returned to normal. But what are you supposed to do in the inbetween times when nursing is slowing down, periods are irregular - get the idea? This is precisely when I got pregnant again. This whole thing has been quite the process for us. We have come a long ways. 5 years ago my husband was literally in the doctors office undressing for his vasectomy when the doctor refused to do the surgery because he had taken some ibuprofen. We were ticked! Once again, God has a sense of humor. Now I am pregnant with child number 7 and due anyday. We are surrendered to God's providential timing and trust that he is completely wise. So much wiser than I am. Do we have moments where we struggle? Absolutely. Sometimes I think that I am going to be pregnant until I'm 50 and that scares me. Other times I have complete peace. I think the thing I struggle the most with is just feeling so "weird". We are constantly getting comments about how large our family is, how can we afford all these children, and how can we meet all of their needs, on and on. I think I've turned sarcastic in my comments and I love to shock people by saying things like - "if my husband weren't so sexy..." On a serious note - I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I am growing every day as I walk out these convictions. It's not easy but one thing I am absolutely sure of. We will NEVER regret a single one of these children.

Terry said...

Jess, I agree with you whole heartedly on the NFP issue. You said something in one of your comments though that I found amusing and I'll tell you why. In response to one of the commenters you said: "Having a baby at most happens once a year." Well, while you're right in most cases allow me to let you know that it is possible to give birth more than once in a year. We had our oldest in June of 1995. 5 days before her 1st birthday, we had twins. So it is possible, but I wouldn't recommend it!:)

Jess said...

Hey Tamara,
Thanks for your comments. I should say, up front, that this whole discussion is, for me, an exercise in comprehension and theory. I don't think I could ever fully *do* NFP, just cause I'm not a consistent-do-the-same-thing-every-day-at-the-same-time sort of gal (like you have to do with the temps, the charting, etc.). It sounds completely horrible to me, speaking from a personality standpoint.

That said, I know plenty of very godly people who practice it. Which is why I asked the question. To me, it still doesn't "square up". Agreeing to do without intimacy for a three-day family vacation or for a business trip that happens once a year isn't exactly the same as intentionally choosing to do without intimacy for a large chunk of your marriage.

I'm actually thankful that some of the "FAM" people have spoken up... I never knew the difference between FAM and NFP (I've always heard them mentioned together but just assumed one was a secular and one a Catholic method of the same process). It's good to hear from people who take this theory or information and "tweak" it for their purposes.

As for me personally, just fyi to Tamara and Shamgar and anyone else who thinks I might be trying to run off into a ditch, this is *not* a "birth control is evil" post, nor is that an idea I promote or hold to, on my blog or anywhere else. I do see all kinds of shades of gray on this issue, and I can respect people who come to different conclusions on these questions.

At the same time, when looking at the pill, I've had to grapple with the abortifacient aspect. When looking at IUDs, same thing. When looking at barrier methods, it's the "uh-- too much trouble!" issue... (not exactly an ethical consideration, but still a consideration nonetheless) ;), and with NFP, it's this issue (for me). I still don't see how this is not a contradiction of this Scripture. I understand your examples; I just don't see how they apply here.

If we were taking lengthy family vacations every month that required our being abstinent, that would get old REALLY fast. If Doug was taking regular business trips, that could possibly be a violation of this verse, depending on frequency and duration. Again, I don't see the short times as an issue... and it seems that Paul didn't either. But consistent or regular or extended times of being apart allows Satan to have a stronghold in this area of our lives, which is a huge consequence. Particularly in this day and age when Christian couples are under attack in this area of sexuality anyway.

Those are my thoughts, random and scattered though they may be.

Just for the record, I'm absolutely not trying to condemn or pigeon hole anyone else into coming to the same conclusions. But I do have this platform called a blog, where people come to discuss many things... so today, I'm using this platform to gather information and get varying points of view on an issue I've never fully understood (and still don't). Apparently, I'm not alone in finding this subject interesting.

Thanks for all the comments so far- I'm enjoying the discussion.
~Jess

CappuccinoLife said...

Jess, looks like you got the discussion you wanted.

I am with you partly. I don't quite understand how NFP fits that verse. It's not abstaining for the purpose of prayer, which is what the verse talks about, but abstaining for the express purpose of not getting pregnant. ;)

I'm less opposed to NFP than to other methods, but I think that those who argue that it's "not really birth control" are stretching it. The end purpose is the same--no baby.

Elizabeth said...

From the Catholic perspective, a couple of things:
1. NFP isn't intended as a type of "birth control." The couple must always be open to life, and NFP should only be practiced in serious circumstances i.e. it would endanger the mother's life to conceive, the couple could not provide for another child, etc.
2. NFP does provide an opportunity for the couple's spiritual and emotional growth. Those ten days are a perfect time for increased prayer. Plus, refraining from intimacy means that the couple must come up with creative ways to express their love!!
3. Using the NFP way of monitoring the woman's rythms is also a very good way to figure out when she is most fertile so that the couple has a better chance of conceiving!

Again, NFP is NOT supposed to be a Christian "birth control."

Mrs. Brigham said...

If Doug was taking regular business trips, that could possibly be a violation of this verse, depending on frequency and duration.
Jess, I certainly do not mean any disrespect by these questions, but am just trying to explore this subject further. :o)

What are your thoughts on military members who are deployed frequently, often for long periods of time, and others who work jobs that might require them to be separated from their spouse for regular and/or lengthy periods of time? Are they sinning by fulfilling the obligations and commitments that come with their jobs?

What about those who might have health issues or injuries that either require abstinence for healing or make sex very painful & difficult? Would they be sinning by avoiding intercourse for these reasons?

I realize these questions do not pertain to NFP, so I do hope you do mind me bringing these questions up. :o)

hopefully this comment contains less typos than my earlier one ;o) LOL

Britt said...

There’s nothing “natural” about it. I agree that the time apart would be for prayer, not to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy. God intended for married couples to enjoy each other and, as a result of God’s Will, produce children.

Nancy said...

Hi Jess,

I think I agree with Wendy above, who talked about how they were not as active as other couples they know. I think NFP could be OK for couples who are fine with less-frequent intimacy.

My husband is (I think) happy with once a week, or maybe twice. Any more than that and he starts to complain! :) So in that way, NFP has been OK, if a little inconvenient at times. I don't think it would ever work for you and your husband!! :)

Also, I agree that NFP would be very difficult when you're nursing. I started charting again when my little boy was still nursing, but only once a day (and for a very short time), at night. Even that was enough to really throw my cycles off. Once he quit nursing, they very quickly went back to normal.

This is such a difficult topic. We once had a very interesting discussion in our church's moms group (we're Catholic). Everyone comes to such different conclusions about what's best. I still don't know what's right. I guess we'll just muddle through till menopause!! :)

Shamgar said...

Crud. I think I was too quick to close the window after posting. So here goes again. (Oh well, I think this one turned out better anyway)

First, I did not say you took it out of context. I said you were misinterpreting the verse. There is a difference.

Second, to reply to something you said to both of us in reply to my wife's post - this is not a shade of gray issue as you have defined it. The passage in question is a clear scriptural command. Anything less than obedience is sin. That is not a gray issue.

Lastly, you are reading this position you are taking into the text. Particularly in this last post to me. You said:
All the examples you gave are not regular, intentional times of abstaining for more than a limited time.

But Paul never said anything about 'regular intentional times of sustaining more than a limited time.

Lets look at what he DID say:
First, he tells us the husband and wife must fulfill their duty to each other.

Second, he explains this, saying that neither the husband nor the wife hold exclusive authority over their own bodies.

Lastly, he commands us not to deprive each other. He then offers an exception - that it could be permissible but ONLY with consent and ONLY for a short time and ONLY for prayer. Further, this MUST be followed by coming together again and he provides the reason for that.

Now, the key word here for our discussion is going to be 'deprive'. I say this because Paul allows for NO exceptions other than by consent for a short period for a specific reason. Whatever it is that deprive means, you're only allowed to do it under one specific condition.

If by deprive he means "not having sex" period, then there is no warrant for *any* kind of abstinence. Regular OR irregular. That would include after giving birth. No naps. No exceptions for being sick with something horribly contagious. No exceptions for just sleeping at night. Certainly no exception for work. No exceptions for people who have to travel for a living. Including evangelists. And no exceptions for brief trips in OR out of the country.

However, if what Paul is saying is speaking more to the problems faced by the Jews in some of their "rules"; Or by the ascetics in their beliefs about self-denial; Or the gnostics in their beliefs about the evil of the flesh...well, then suddenly it makes a lot more sense.

Now it is a specific command to fulfill your duty to your husband or wife. It is a positive command regarding God's blessing on this aspect of marriage and our responsibilities to our spouse that God has given to us.

I wonder - what do you say to the people who simply have low sex drives, and just don't have sexual relations more than bi-weekly. Are we going to set a mandatory minimum? As long as we're putting words in Paul's mouth, why not have him command us to have sex at least 2-3 times a week?

Jess said...

Cappucinomom,
Yup! :) You're right-- good discussion for sure. And like you, I certainly don't have a "problem" with NFP in the same way that I have a problem with IUDs and the pill. This is a stumbling block for me in understanding how NFP works... but not a biblically clear right or wrong, particularly given all the discussion and obvious variations in views just among this smattering of opinions.


Mrs. Brigham,
Good questions; not ones that I have easy answers for. Clearly, there are biblical examples of men who, for the sake of duty, set aside physical pleasure (I'm thinking specifically of the example of Bathsheba's husband, who wouldn't engage in intimacy, even when back for a short trip, much to David's disappointment and ultimate fury).

As for the pain/age/infirmity situation, in history, those husbands whose wives (typically it was this way, husband to wife) could no longer physically bear children were advised (by clergy/theologians) to live as brother and sister with their wife, which means no intercourse. Tough situation- and I have friends in that situation. Certainly, there are going to be exceptions to any such principle... but when we're talking about a normal, healthy couple regularly avoiding each other for large portions of their marriage, not for reasons (like the Jews did) of cleanness and obedience to God, but because they want to avoid a kid... well, I've just got questions about that... and they still exist in my head.

But I AM enjoying the discussion- you guys are definitely making me think. :) And I definitely like that.


As for you, Shamgar, you're treading dangerously close to rudeness, methinks. Let's keep the jabs to a minimum, please. No one here is wanting to put words into Paul's mouth. I read him as I see him- I have certainly not intended to nor do I desire to "put words in his mouth."

I do hear your notions about context, and I appreciate that. I also see that this passage is talking about holding authority over one's own body to the detriment of another's desires and needs. And I have personally been aware of instances where NFP was used as a way of withholding one's self and one's body ("there's no way I'm having another kid right now under any circumstances", that kind of attitude) from the partner. It seems to me, that this kind of institutionalized abstaining would lend itself quite easily to a feeling of "rights" and "personal authority" over one's own body.

I think you may be complicating this verse and the situation we're talking about. Part of the problem I've seen is that NFPers that I've read generally brush off this verse by saying, 'yeah, we're spending that time in prayer'. What I'm trying to get my head around is how one can consistently decide to abstain for a large portion of one's marriage (and thus deprive one another, even if by mutual consent), given the constraints of this verse.

This isn't a free-for-all sort of "if you consent, well then it's all OK" sort of deal. He limits it in several places. "Don't deprive"... "except PERHAPS"... "for a LIMITED time..." for prayer (not to avoid chillins) "but then" be sure to get back together again quickly! It seems like a very limited and rare situation to me. I don't think I'm reading that into it... it seems plain.


Thanks, all for the discussion thus far. I'm off to bed, but you all have a lot more daylight there in the US, so please, keep the comments coming. :)
~Jess

Anonymous said...

I have to ask though: what is wrong with being done having kids? What is so wrong with knowing in your heart that your family is just the right size whether that be two kids or ten? I'm the mother of four, so trust me we get a LOT of attention when we are out and about together as a family of 6. People think of us as a "large" family. We don't particularly see ourselves that way, but I do recognize that we are larger than most famillies in this day and age. Even though we chose to have more kids than what's common today, what is so wrong with birth control or limiting the # of kids? Too many women decide to "let the Lord decide" how many kid they'll have only to wind up overwhelmed, and worn out mentally and physically. What if the Lord tells you to STOP? What if you are at the point where you need to focus on the little one(s) you already have instead of adding and adding? I "only" have four and I know that my body just can't take another pregnancy. It would be an abuse of my body. Also, the fact that my husband, who is already under pressure would have an added pressure of another child. We don't like to think of our children as just "another mouth to feed" however, we live in a society that makes it very difficult to live off of one income, with a couple of kids, let alone 4, 5, 6 etc. etc. We feel the pressures and while we love our kids and wouldn't have it any other way, we have found that we are at our limit. We are happy and content with the kids we have now, and feel soooo blessed that the Lord gave us the precious children.

So all that to say: What is so wrong with condoms, barrier methods, sterilization? I don't mean to sound cold, but is there an added righteousness that comes from not using b/c and having many children?

Hubby and I are currently using condoms, but we are considering making the step to either tubal ligation or a vasectomy. For us, in our situation this seems the most responsible choice. It is also, what is fair and considerate of the children we *already* have.

I realize that this is a touchy subject, but sometimes I get the sense that some folk feel that quiverfull mindedness is a path to greater righteousness or being more "in the Lord's will". What am I missing?

*~Tamara~* said...

Agreeing to do without intimacy for a three-day family vacation or for a business trip that happens once a year isn't exactly the same as intentionally choosing to do without intimacy for a large chunk of your marriage.

It isn't technically the same thing, but the basic premise is: they have each agreed that for this time they will be apart for (insert reason here).

And also, if it's wrong, it's wrong no matter what. It's wrong for a three day vacation, it's wrong for a business trip, and it's wrong for family planning. If we're going to act on the premise that abstinence is sinful, we must follow that through to its logical conclusions.

Also I think it's important to remember that not everyone has the same marital "inclinations" as you and I might have. Some people are quite content to have sexual relations once a week or even once a month. I know that the "male sex drive" is often tauted as some raging force and that all men have wild animalistic tendencies that must be met with a willing partner, but it's really not true. It varies from person to person, and if a couple finds themselves satisfied sexually with less intercourse than you or I (or the typical DINK couple or whoever) might have, that isn't a bad thing. If their needs are compatible, that's great. And even better if their needs are compatible with their goals, such that NFP would work for them as opposed to other methods. Remember that just because one person might have a high sex drive and want intimacy every day, does not mean another person who abstains for a week at a time is battling temptations and urges and teetering on the brink of sin. What might be a huge burden for one person can barely even register on the radar of another. So where you might see "deprivation" someone else might not feel anything remotely resembling it.

This is part of what I mean by applying our own understanding broadly. What is a normal, healthy sexual relationship in my marriage would not work for...oh, I'd guess 75% of marriages. Their needs and desires are completely different from my own.

IF the Bible prescribed...I dunno, 5 times a week...then it would make sense to say that those who are abstaining (for vacations, business trips, OR family planning) are sinning by depriving their spouses. But it doesn't. It just tell us not to deprive. Deprivation is going to mean different things to different people.

f we were taking lengthy family vacations every month that required our being abstinent, that would get old REALLY fast. If Doug was taking regular business trips, that could possibly be a violation of this verse, depending on frequency and duration. Again, I don't see the short times as an issue... and it seems that Paul didn't either. But consistent or regular or extended times of being apart allows Satan to have a stronghold in this area of our lives, which is a huge consequence. Particularly in this day and age when Christian couples are under attack in this area of sexuality anyway.

Ah, now see this paragraph REALLY interests me. I would love to pick your brain on this, if I may. :-) I might be jumping the gun a bit here...I'd have to go back and read through all the comments again. But it seems like you didn't agree with the idea that mutual abstinence is different from deprivation.

Consequently I'm wondering what you would say to traveling businessmen. Or evangelists. Or short-term missionaries. Or pilots and flight attendants. Or military personnel. Among others. Should married Christians not work in these fields?

Why would it be a violation of the verse "depending on frequency and duration"? Is it OK to "deprive" for reasons other than prayer, so long as it's not frequent and doesn't last too long? Because that's not what Paul said... is it? He just said DO NOT, EXCEPT. And the except does not involve business trips or family vacations.

Which takes me back to the difference between deprivation and abstinence, if you believe there is one.

Perhaps any of the above career choices or callings would not be suitable for your marriage. You and Doug have a great relationship and I'd imagine that's due largely in part to your compatibility in this area. For that reason, it might not be healthy at all for Doug to have a job where he had to travel once a month or once a year or hey, even once every 7 years. ;-) But many people do have these careers and callings and face these situations every day, and don't consider it "deprivation" of themselves or their spouses. It's a mutual understanding of what happens on particular days or for particular lengths of time.

Naturally if it becomes a stumbling block for either of them the right thing for them to do is to revisit their objectives and reevaluate their approach. But to say they're depriving (and therefore sinning) right off the bat? It just seems to lead to some rather faulty conclusions, I think.

And now that I'm done picking your brain, I'm off to feed my kids. :-)

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

I agree with NFP/FAM (try to promote/teach it too, when I have time), mainly because the chemical methods and IUDs have the moral issues.

What I point out about FAM is that it is really using barrier methods for b.c. (your "failure rate" will be approximately that of the barrier, for obvious reasons), just using the knowledge of your body to minimize the # of times a couple needs them.

We found FAM to be our "perfect" compromise.

The reality DH and I saw was a progression:
a) we don't feel called to FQ "trusing God."
b) This means we will need to do *something* to limit our "proclivity."
c) We will not use anything "potentially" abortive for the same reasons we object to abortion itself: if there's any question, err on the safe side.
d) What options are there that are not abortive?

Which worked us to NFP/FAM and barrier methods and sterilization.

The CCL argues very strongly against the latter two, but from our progression, any thing that prevents conception was morally acceptable.

{side note:}
I've heard someone ask, if NFP is just another type of birth control, why so much objection? Other than the obvious bit about sustained abstinence-- I know an author who just calls it "postponing"-- the reality is it is very different; it requires an awareness, cooperation and lifestyle change that no other "method" does. It is very like choosing to always buy Organic, or local, and feeling the expected extra work you're taking-on to be worth the trade-off.
{end side-note}

To come back to answering your question, Jess (refraining from length apologies... refraining...) I think the argument about the refraining to avoid babies rather than avoiding for prayer isn't quite the right question.

If a couple is in, say, my position/progression, and has decided together that this method is what God has for us, and we want to conscientiously follow that verse, we *plan* for that time to be a time of prayer, dedicated every cycle.

In the same way that most singles don't maximize their usefulness as singles (interesting Boundless article about that recently), and that not negating to call to singleness, I think that just because people don't always use their time apart for prayer.

Sorry that got long.

They could be using that time for prayer, to great benefit. Especially if they combine a conviction to use NFP and obey that verse (I think one of your previous commenters already said something to that effect-- that they do).

If they aren't using that time for prayer, perhaps their disobedience isn't in the bc method as much as it is prayerlessness?

Claire said...

Hi Jess!

Thank you so much for hosting such an interesting discussion. Emotions can often run high when talking about these very personal decisions, but I'm very glad that people are trying to show compassion to everyone else while making such interesting contributions.

This is my take on things: I do not believe that all instances of abstinence are deprivation. I believe that we humans are complex creatures and while we can at once seriously desire our husbands, we can also at the same time logically tell ourselves that sex is not a sensible decision (right after giving birth is a good illustration of this - my hormones were raging, I was happier than I'd ever been - but boy, having intercourse would NOT have been a sensible idea!). So although I was denying myself by not acting on my feelings for my husband then, I was making a responsible decision (not to cause my body great pain!). So I think that's what people are getting at when they say not having intercourse for 7-10 days at a time isn't deprivation - although you're denying one instinct, it doesn't necessarily 'hurt' because you've both agreed it's for the best, and you're satisfied with that decision.

A further point (not to be crude) is that not having intercourse doesn't necessarily mean a couple needs to deny themselves sexual pleasure... I am blushing furiously!

BUT the most important thing here is that there are no specific times and limits set in place for couples. 10 days is an awful long time - I don't think that my husband and I could do it, right now. It would be too difficult. BUT we are an individual couple with our own preferences and weaknesses! Maybe later in life, it might be more workable (at the moment, we are open to whatever God has planned for us - but that's because we're young, healthy, and ready for more babies - I would never say that everyone should be as open as I am, because I'm very lucky to be in the position I am).

And a final point - Jess when you say this: "I have personally been aware of instances where NFP was used as a way of withholding one's self and one's body ("there's no way I'm having another kid right now under any circumstances", that kind of attitude) from the partner" That is an excellent example of a personal situation in which NFP would definitely be sinful. But, I do think that everyone's different and some people can make that 10-day no-intercourse period workable and healthy, relationship-wise. I guess I'm saying that the sin there is in the intent, not the action. It's obvious that the abstinent period is being used to deprive one person in the relationship - and that is definitely against what Paul days. But it's not automatically the case I think.

Whew! Thanks again for the fascinating discussion!

- Claire

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to comment to add to the conversation above about Orthodox Jews abstaining for 1/2 of their life.

I'm Jewish, but not Orthodox. However, my husband and I follow some of the traditionally Orthodox customs. In our case, we abstain from any intimate relations (holding hands and a kiss on the cheek is okay - anything futher is not) during the "forbidden" times.

These "forbidden" times are during menstruation and then for 7 days after the last day of bleeding. For me, it's about 5 + 7 days each month. I think this is where the "half their lifetime" idea comes from - generally 14 days forbidden and then 14 days allowed.

You can read a lot more online about it by searching for "Jewish family purity". There's also a great essay called "The Monthly Marriage" here: http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/1762/jewish/The-Monthly-Marriage.htm. It describes the more spiritual side of it.

Hope that helps!

-- Rochelle

Kim said...

I come at this from a different angle, as I am not a married woman and therefore have to abstain ALL the time. (I probably shouldn't be reading this discussion, even.):)

As a hopefully future wife...I dunno. I think I would follow my husbands lead on this, because I don't have current strong feelings on this either way. I AM currently on the pill because I have PCOS - if I get married, I want to come off it. It's not the abortifacent issue for me - it's more likely that a little one would come out holding the pill than for it to abort anything - it's just that I don't WANT to prevent pregnancy for any length of time in my marriage, and so I would want to use more natural measures. (BTW, the IUD thing is the same thing - it is much more likely that if you got pregnant with an IUD, you'd stay pregnant, but anyway. I understand the argument against them, and it's neither here nor there.)

I can't say that I won't ever want to space pregnancies or prevent them, and unfortunately, I know that not everyone has good birth control as a result of breastfeeding, so I don't know that I would count on that myself, especially since breastfeeding could be an issue for me (because of previous surgery). I have a friend who was breastfeeding exclusively, got pregnant when her daughter was 3 months old, and is due three days before her daughter's first birthday. If it happened to me, great, but if not, probably better. (and for the record, she got pregnant with #1 within her first month of marriage. I tried to teach her NFP and failed miserably.)(Oh. And she's a good, "dutiful" wife in that area, she longs to please her husband, so she doesn't abstain unless it's absolutely necessary. And I TOTALLY respect that.)

I guess I say all that to say that I don't personally see the reflections against NFP in this verse, but I can see how they could be drawn. I think preventing pregnancy naturally is a little more "open to life" than preventing it chemically. However, I think that any married couple, from night one, must be "open to life." And I guess as far as "denying" one another, I think that if it's mututally agreed upon, perhaps like one of the above commenters mentioned that she and her hubby do, that time can intentionally be devoted to prayer. Just a thought...

Love ya!

(BTW - I am sure my thoughts will be totally changed when/if I get married. I'm already baby crazy...and I at least have the luxury of being slightly older than the 20 year old who gets married and has 25 years of babymaking potential!) :)

Anonymous said...

My comment is more of a question in that what do you do if you practice NFP during the time right after your baby is born until you stop nursing or have regular periods? We have been married 10 years, are expecting our 5th child we have also had 2 miscarraiges. So, through out the 10 years, if you count the year or so of nursing each child plus being pregnant 7 times, there has not been very much "regular" cycles or anyway for me to know my body and what to expect from it.

Right now we are on the fence as far as birth control. We do not morally agree with hormonal ones at one extreme, but at the same time we are not convinced that for my next 20 plus years of being fertile that we should do nothing. We are eager to contiue to be blessed with children but cannot 100% say that our thoughts and choices will not change over the next 20 years. So, I am soaking up as much information as I can from any sources on birth control.
I appreciate the openess and dialogue on this blog to be challenging and encouraging at the same time. Thanks Jess for being open!
Thanks! Shannon

Shamgar said...

Well Jess, given that you know me i wouldn't think you'd expect me to treat an issue like this with "kid gloves". ;-)

There was no rudeness in my post. Blunt and direct, yes, but not rude. i also never said you wanted to put words in Paul's mouth, I said that was what you were doing. I do not doubt your intentions. However, as we both know, good intentions are not sufficient in and of themselves.

As for the rest, I already stated that I am in full agreement with the verse's stated purpose: that husbands and wives should meet the needs of their spouse and fulfill their duties as husband and wife to the other.

That said, you argument that some people use NFP as a means to refuse to fulfill their duties is not an argument against NFP. NFP is not the sin in that situation. This is much the same problem as people have in dealing with other issues of Christian liberty. Person A abused their Christian liberty in area X and sinned as a result, there is this backlash that results in looking for ways to restrict that liberty with the traditions of men.

The rest seems like you didn't read, or didn't understand, my post at all. I won't bore everyone by repeating it all again.

I should note though that I'm not saying this because I practice NFP. That's one thing we never tried. Too much work and relies way too much on self control. ;-) So this is entirely about defending the text, and not the practice itself, which I could care less about.

heather said...

This has been an interesting read....
I don't believe that NFP is unbiblical.... my hubby and I practiced NFP for 3 years (between child #2 and #3). For us it worked... neither of us felt deprived.... we were creative and used condoms at times... we didn't avoid intimacy. In fact I think it sparked some creativity and made us focus more on foreplay than the "act". I feel blessed to have had this experience in our marriage. It opened up doors of communication and creativity.

Jess said...

Anonymous,
You are correct in stating that many quiverfullers approach this issue with an air of superiority and righteousness... I don't think, however, that that attitude has been evident among the comments here.

Truly, some women have given their own convictions that they personally aren't using birth control of any kind and feel a freedom in that. But some who practice NFP, FAM, who are past menopause, or who have taken other measures for birth control, have expressed a sense of freedom with those things as well.

Certainly there are some in the Christian community who would criticize anyone who ever opts to use birth control of any kind, but I haven't seen those sentiments expressed here. What I have seen expressed is a desire, from many different people who have come to very different conclusions and personal convictions, to approach this situation prayerfully, carefully, and in a God-honoring, biblical way.


Tamara~
You bring up some interesting situations. As for me, personally, Paul's explanation of how married people are concerned about their marriages, their families, etc (and conversely, how single people are free to be about the things of the Lord single-mindedly)... makes it pretty difficult for me *personally* to see how regular times apart could become an institutionalized, God-ordained part of marriage. Now, there are always exceptions. But generally, should we choose it? I personally would answer no nearly every single time. In fact, Doug and I have already talked about how that would not ever, by our own choice, become a part of our marriage. If imposed upon us somehow (I'm thinking of Brother Yun in China, who was jailed for months and years at a time, or of other undesirable issues that happen- say, medical situations), then we'd have to live with that. But choosing it? Never, that we can foresee. Sure, others can make other choices- I'm not trying to discern this for other people... just trying to understand this for myself.

I do hear you on the differences in desire/frequency, and that makes sense to me. I can acknowledge that. But, from the personal research I've done, I think it is indeed a rare man who would *choose* to go 10 days regularly, without complaint or temptation. I could be wrong. But polls I've seen and books I've read suggest otherwise. And, before any women comment saying that they have less frequency in their marriages, and that their husbands are 100% satisfied with that, I'd just say this: have you asked your husband outright if he is satisfied with infrequent times of intimacy? We ought not assume that silence means satisfaction.

As for my feeling that deprivation and mutual agreement are different or the same, it's all situational, but I think the previous paragraph speaks to my feelings on that. If it doesn't to you, then we're probably just going to keep talking in circles.


Amy Jane,
Thanks for explaining your thoughts on NFP/FAM... it is helpful. My concern with and interest with NFP (or any birth control) is just related to a general interest in the subject. It is fascinating to me to see how different couples negotiate these issues in their lives and marriages. Thanks for sharing about your experiences and convictions.

(AND THE SAME GOES TO OTHERS WHO HAVE SHARED THEIR PERSONAL THOUGHTS IN THESE COMMENTS-- A GENUINE THANK YOU FOR YOUR TRANSPARENCY AND WILLINGNESS TO SHARE!!!)


Claire,
Thanks for sharing-- I definitely see what you're getting at, blushes and all. ;)

And I agree that this has, for the most part, been a good discussion of issues and views without the typical emotions that can rise so high in issues like this, that are so sensitive and personal. You're right that the situation I described certainly doesn't have to be the case with any and every couple who uses NFP. Thanks for your comments.


Rochelle,
Thanks for your contributions. I was hoping that someone with more knowledge about that would come and offer some more specific information about Orthodox Judaism and its practices in this area, and along you came!


Kim,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think most people who avoid the abortifacient methods (IUDs/BCPs) do so, not because there is hard evidence, but because the possibility exists, and is even cited in literature that comes with each method, that an abortion could take place. There is no hard evidence saying that it cannot happen, and indeed, there is at least small reason to think that it could and does happen. I know I don't want to live with making that a possibility for our family, even if it is a rare and miniscule chance.


Shannon,
I have the same issues that you do- nursing and pregnancy has made it so that I have had an average of one cycle per year for many years. There's no "regularity" with which to chart, temp, or anything else. So I don't think NFP would be particularly reliable or helpful for women in our situations.


Thanks EVERYONE for your comments! It's been a fun conversation so far.

Megan Preedy said...

Hi Jess,

First, this is a really long response, so feel free to edit it. I just wanted you to hear the whole thing. I would really love to hear your personal reaction to it. Second, I’m so thankful for this post and your honestly seeking to understand us NFP users.  Contraception is a hot topic, and I think it’s good to understand the other side.

We have been using NFP for a few months and are loving it. I think the first question you have to ask though, is “is contraception ever permissible?” Then the method should follow. Our history is like this:

1st year of marriage: On the pill
2nd and 3rd years of marriage: Using nothing
4th year: Diapragm/Condoms, then switched to NFP

Our first year we asked no questions about birth control. Then we began to feel really convicted about the level of control we were exerted over this part of our life, and decided to relinquish that and let God have complete control of when to start our family. After our first son was born 10 months later,  we could not peacefully say we felt comfortable with any method of contraception, so we continued using nothing. My second child, a girl was 16 months after my first. At that point, we were in the middle of moving overseas, learning a new language, a new culture, etc. That is why our fourth year we have been doing something to postpone our third child. But we did a lot of serious thinking and praying about whether we should do this. Our question was “Does the Lord calling something a blessing mandate us to avoid all things that obstruct the blessing from coming?”

Matt. 5.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and are persecuted…” yet did not Christ, Paul and others deliberately avoid further persecution in some instances? Not because they saw it as a burden, but because they knew God’s plan for their ministry meant they needed to avoid it. Would they have been blessed or gained greater knowledge if they had stayed? Probably, but it wasn’t the best thing for them at the time.

Acts 20.35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

This does not mean that we never receive, nor does it mean that we always give or give away everything. By not giving some of our possessions, are we denying this blessing, or are we considering giving a burden? No, we are acknowledging that God has provided us with the money to meet our needs.

In both of these instances, we do not see Jesus and Paul letting happen what may happen and trusting that God will work it out. Paul and Jesus made the decision to leave, and we plan how much we can give depending on what we have and what we need. Other mandates, biblical truths, and promises of blessing impact the amount of one type of blessing we may receive. These mandates are not contradictory, they are complementary. One sacrifices the blessing of giving everything to reap the blessing of managing his own household (1 Tim). One sacrifices the blessing of marriage to give his whole life to the ministry of Christ (1 Cor. 7). One sacrifices the blessing that comes from mourning to rejoice (Beatitudes), etc.

Since the Bible does not speak directly and clearly about whether to use contraception or not, we feel it is appropriate to look at other examples of “blessings” in the Scripture and see how they are treated by biblical figures, specifically in the NT. These two examples clearly show things that are said to be a blessing being pursued not wholeheartedly all the time, but in the wisdom of the Spirit, and even being avoided in certain seasons altogether, by the leading of the Spirit. Because they felt lead to do something to avoid the persecution or postpone or limit giving/receiving, did not mean they did not at that time see those things as blessings, just that it was not best for the big picture of God’s plan for them to partake of it at that given moment. We feel children can be looked at in the same way. God is no less the author or allower of those persecutions than he is the author and creator of life. It was under his control that they were happening, and under his influence to lead them away from it, for His own glory in the long run.

We sincerely feel that by giving up the blessing of being near family and in a body of Christ that so aids in the raising of a large family and therefore possibly the blessing of a really large family, we are gaining the blessing of choosing to follow the Lord to live in a difficult and dark place, and accept that this lifestyle may reduce the number of children we are able to steward and shepherd well as we seek to fulfill the call to missions at the same time. My heart longs for many children, but I see that we have NO help here, and are on our own, which necessarily reduces what we am able to do. (We live in a city with no other foreigners). I also am daily confronted with the lostness of women around me who will not be reached by my husband, and feel that I may be asked to lay down the blessing of 8 or 10 kids and accept only 4 or 5, but be given the extra blessing of seeing many Indian women come to faith in the Lord.

Because of this and other factors related to this first term and our job requirements, we decided for us for this season, we will take an active role in postponing our third child. We continue to evaluate this almost monthly to be sure we are still walking in the Spirit.

Just felt I needed to explain why we were seeking to postpone our next pregnancy, before I defended how. :) We used a diaphragm for a few months until I got tired of the lack of spontaneity and the mess all the next day.  Condoms are no fun, which is why we turned to NFP. I really love paying such close attention to my body and knowing what it is doing. Once you really learn your cycle and can begin to predict it, you don’t have to abstain for 10 days. It can be more like five to seven. (10 is their ultra-conservative no-way you can get pregnant length of abstention). And we are not strict, if we want to make love during my more fertile time, we use barrier method. Also, just because you’re technically abstaining from intercourse does not mean you are completely ignoring each other and have a hands off policy! There is lots of fun to be had without actually having true intercourse. 

I have spent many hours praying and searching the Scripture over this issue, and this is the first Biblically sound argument I had heard for the use of contraception that I felt comfortable with. And it came from my own husband! What a man! 

Blessings,
megan

Buffy said...

I was intrigued to read about the Orthodox Jews abstaining for up to 2 weeks. Is this from an interpretation of the Bible or Jewish tradition? A word of warning, some women ovulate as early as day 9 or 10 so if a couple are abstaining during that time and not getting pregnant they might need to rethink the abstention period.

Is there anything in the Bible about abstaining after giving birth? I know this is the case in some cultures but am not sure where this comes from.

Mrs. Brigham said...

Is there anything in the Bible about abstaining after giving birth? I know this is the case in some cultures but am not sure where this comes from.

Buffy, Leviticus 12:1-8 addresses abstaining after childbirth. As for abstaining during and following menstruation, Leviticus 15:25-30 covers this.

Mrs. Brigham said...

Jess, Have you ever done any research on the frequency of sex in marriage in certain Asian cultures? Married couples in several Asian counties, including Japan, do not have anywhere near the amount of relations as do the "typical" American couple. Such differences between cultures always fascinate me. :o)

Jess said...

Megan,
Goodness gracious, there's no way in the world I would edit such a well-considered and well-written explanation of how you and your husband have come to your own convictions about all of this!

That is exactly what I would hope would come from posts such as this-- that others would search out the Scriptures and seek what God has for them, for their family, and for their marriage at any given stage.

It is helpful and insightful for me to consider that no intercourse doesn't mean no intimacy. Of course that's true... but one doesn't often come to that conclusion from reading the NFP literature. So it's been helpful to have several women throughout this comments section highlight that particular point about NFP. I do see how that could make the 7-10 day wait MUCH easier. ;)

Thanks for sharing such a lengthy and thoughtful explanation of your own convictions. I hope it will help others to consider another view that has been very well-researched and thought through, in their own search for God's plans for them.

Thanks!
Jess

Jess said...

Buffy,
The laws of Moses implemented the time of cleansing and purification as a time of abstinence between husbands and wives, and that's what Orthodox Jews (as I understand it) follow. It's for the length of the woman's cycle, plus the 7 days following.

Biblically, too, I don't have the specifics in front of me, but the OT law does talk about the length of time after a woman gives birth that she is considered "unclean" and when a husband and wife could not come together.

Hope this helps at least confirm that... there are more specifics to be had, I'm just not at a place, timewise, where I can look that up for you.
~Jess

Persuaded said...

Jess, you noted that I am:"...the only commenter I've yet had who came back to disagree with her own comment. ;)"

Yep, that's me!..sadly I do this a LOT!:-P
Diane

Anonymous said...

Jess,
My husband and I use FAM and we love it. I initially started using it when I was trying to get pregnant with my second son...within two months we were expecting again. Now we use the same charting techniques but with an emphasis on preventing/delaying pregnancy, so the "rules" are sort of reversed.

I love FAM for many reasons. First of all I now truly understand that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. The Lord saw fit to give me very clear signals that are easily read so that I don't have to rely on external objects to prevent pregnancy. I've learned so many things about my body and how it works, like an intricate clock, and it gives me and my husband a deeper appreciation for our creator.

Secondly, it's a great indicator that other things might be amiss. Subtle things might happen during a cycle, that would be totally missed if I wasn't charting. I now have a record of all my cycles since I first started charting so I can go back and look at my history to see if something is abnormal.

Thirdly, we have taken the opportunity to really get to know each other intimately in other ways besides intercourse during my fertile time and we are now a happier more devoted couple...we definitely do not deprive each other, we simply have to be more creative. My husband actually really enjoys this, and it's always wonderful when at last we can come together again. He thinks FAM is "so cool!"

Recently, I have been dealing with some pretty major health issues that directly affect my reproductive organs. Having a record of my cycles has been invaluable, as far as when to schedule procedures, and such. I've also been advised not to conceive within the next four months, because it could be dangerous to me (if the problem gets worse and they can't treat it because of the pregnancy), the baby (preterm delivery) or both of us (complications and needing to be on strict bedrest which would be awful since I have four children and a household to run!). Because of the nature of the problem, hormonal birth controls such as the pill, depo provera and IUD(which I wouldn't have used anyway due to moral conflicts) are now toatlly contraindicated. Spermicides could also be a real danger, so my options are either surgical sterilization (out since it may be possible to have another child in the future, Lord willing), abstinence, or FAM.

FAM seems an obvious choice.

*~Tamara~* said...

Megan,

Thank you, thank you for your response on this thread. I completely agree with what you said and am so glad you took the time to write that all out.

Although we aren't missionaries in a foreign country, my husband and I have come to many of the same conclusions. We LOVE our children...Love children in general. My heart turns to complete and total mush when I see my husband playing with a baby at church, or making a child giggle as they play peek-a-boo around a corner of our house when friends come over. The guy is just a great person and a great father and I would love to watch him be Daddy to more children.

However, being parents is not all he has called us to. We have other visions that God has placed in our hearts as well, and four children already who need a father who won't be consumed with providing for everyone, and a mother whose body could not easily (and perhaps could not at all) sustain the abuse of another difficult pregnancy and certainly another traumatic delivery. Consequently, unless God re-opens the womb (in which case, we would no doubt rejoice, but definitely spend a lot of time in prayer!), we know there will be no more children born into our family.

Instead, we are able now to focus on our other goals. My teaching the children and attempting a so-far fledgling effort at running a very hospitable home, his current career and his study in preparation for ministry in later years, as well as his often time-consuming efforts that he puts into other ministries.

In many areas of life there are times of feasting, of fasting, and of famine. I think too often we consider the "feasting" (ie, receiving) to be the only season of blessing. But each season comes with its rewards and its trials. God is sovereign over each season and gives us the knowledge and grace to proceed through each one. And honestly, in my case, understanding God's plan for us to be a four child family, I am all the more conscious of what a blessing they truly are. I am thankful every single day for the children God blessed our home with, and I am also thankful for the other visions He has cast for our lives as well.

Anonymous said...

Buffy,

As Mrs. Brigham said, it's all in the Bible. In addition to Lev. 15:25-30, it's mentioned in Lev. 15:19-24 and 18:19.

Rochelle

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the purpose of this discussion be to find truth? The fact is that with all Bible issues there is only one truth. With God things are black and white - there is no grey area. He is either pleased with what we are doing or he isn't and if we are one of His children, then he will continue to draw us to the truth until we get it right. So with this issue, God either approves of NFP or He doesn't. If a person believes that the Bible says that children are a blessing from God and to be fruitful and multiply "ABUNDANTLY" - which it does, then there isn't any room for preventing conception.

This issue is very close to me. The first birthday of my 4th child is this week. My husband and I felt that we were very strong in our conviction not to prevent the Lord from blessing us with more children, but after the birth of this baby we were forced to step back and re-evaluate. My placenta abrupted and I had an emergency c-section where they had a very difficult time stopping my bleeding. I was advised to not get pregnant for at least a year to allow for full recovery. Since "they" say that breastfeeding is only 90% effective to six months that left six months to be concerned about. We ultimately ended up recognizing that God knew best. Well He blessed our trust in Him because while my cycle normally returns aroung 7 months, it didn't until 11 months this time! If I had trusted my own wisdom more than the Lord's, I wouldn't be sitting here now giving Him the glory for protecting me!

Jess said...

Anonymous,
Thank you for your comments. Please sign your name next time- it doesn't have to be first and last or anything- but just a name will do. We all like to know who we're talking to, at least to some degree.

To say that every life issue has a clear black and white Biblical absolute that translates to every person in every situation is a gross oversimplification.

For example, if you are in a situation where your life is threatened and you are in danger of going to jail wrongly or being beaten, biblically, what should you do? Well, we have examples in Acts of Paul staying, and taking it... getting beaten, going to jail, and nearly dying in many instances. We also have instances (in Berea and others), where he escaped, whether by being hidden or lowered down in a basket. There aren't ALWAYS clear-cut black and white "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" in the Bible.

Many issues are left up to discretion and to what might be called "gray" area. One Christian feels free to eat pork, another doesn't... one feels free to drink alcohol in moderation, another doesn't. Ultimately, each person in any of these situations would have to pray and rely on the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit to obey Him at that time... and different godly people might come to different conclusions... and the CRAZY part is... they could be obeying God and living in His will by walking in those different conclusions. Mind boggling, and yet true!

Boy, it would be so easy if everything were easily reduced to a black and white right and wrong 100% without any question sort of answer. Each person's life situations may be different, and it's not up to you or I to determine what God is saying to everyone else.

All I'm responsible for is to obey what He's telling me to do. SOMETIMES that will include encouraging and exhorting the people around me to certain behaviors or obedience (which I try to do here on this blog), but sometimes it will mean raising questions and helping people to think through some of the issues that I've thought through, without insisting or expecting that everyone will come to the same conclusion that my husband and I have come to for this season of our lives.

It is much more difficult to acknowledge gray areas and live graciously in the acknowledgment of those areas, but I think it's what we as believers are called to-- (see Romans 14 for some of my reasoning here).

Thanks for your comments- I do think that it is wonderful what God is doing in your heart and life. But we must be careful not to superimpose what God is teaching us and doing in our own lives onto others who are at different places and facing different issues than we are.

Blessings,
Jess

Jess said...

I intended to say, too, that when we disagree, sometimes it will mean being silent and not sowing strife with a brother/sister in Christ. Somehow that got lost as I was crafting that last comment.
~Jess

Shamgar said...

I'd just say this: have you asked your husband outright if he is satisfied with infrequent times of intimacy? We ought not assume that silence means satisfaction.

Well, since I *am* a husband I'll say yes, we have had more than a few times where our mutual workload and efforts have left little time for such things. While both of us looked forward to coming together again, I was satisfied with this.

And I learned long ago not to leave things like that silent. It's no surprise to you, but I don't say or not say things because they're whats expected or politically correct. If I wasn't happy with that I would tell my wife. We both have the same view of the importance of this issue.

Remember that guys are not always accurate about these kinds of things. Like most things in life, it comes in tides. There are times where desire is high and times where it is low. For both sides it would seem to me. It's our job to make sure we meet each others needs as these tides come in. Whether they come in daily, weekly, or monthly. I think a lot of guys just quote the high-tide values and ignore the rest.

Hannah said...

So here's a bit of our story. We have used NFP with condoms and found it to work fine. I do believe that it is wise to space pregnancies and to use wisdom on when you conceive. Out third child was conceived while I was on a medication for a stomach ulcer and he was born with severe kidney problems. We'll never know if the two are related, but I do think I could have allowed my body to heal and gain strength back before asking it o put forth the energy to grow a child.

maria said...

I think what I previously wrote somehow got lost, so here I go again!
First, I would like to tell you that I really enjoy your blog, and how it addresses important issues in a clever, open manner.
So, on to the NFP question.
I'm a catholic and, although I'm no authority in catholic doctrine, I thought I might try to explain the catholic church's position on this matter (at least from what I've learnt and read). First, I believe the going without sex for a third of your life is misplacing the question. There are those times when you don't need NFP, e.g. when you're pregnant, trying to conceive, breastfeeding (if you follow certain rules), pregnancy, menopause. Second, as someone as rightly said, there is fun to be had without intercourse! :) Now, on to the catholic position: a couple should be open to children. however, there are cases where, after much thought and prayer, and if there are valid reasons for such (not out of selfishness or for frivolous reasons), the couple may decide to avoid/ postpone a pregnancy. That's where NFP comes in! So, if NFP is used to avoid children without any valid reason for doing so, then it is wrong - it does mean not being open to children, which the church condemns. And now, you ask me, why then does the church make a distinction between NFP and other so-called artificial contraception methods? Well, the catholic church teaches that the former fosters a deeper communication and trust and respect between the couple whereas artificial methods may have the opposite effect (among other things). I too have been giving this issue some thought lately and I'm still pondering all of the different arguments though...
And, as for someone saying they follow the bible and not some pope, I say that I've come to the conclusion that there is much to gain from such a rich spiritual tradition such as the catholic church! You know St Paul was the church...

Kristin said...

Jess,
So interesting to read these comments - love seeing everyone's perspectives on the issue. This is actually something my husband and I have been discussing quite a bit lately. I was on the pill for about five years, four prior to our marriage (to help regulate me, mostly). I've always been fairly irregular, and since going off the pill five months ago to try to concieve (our first) have yet to get into any type of regular cycle, and that has made it VERY hard to know when to time things. I've since talked to a lot of other women who had similar problems coming off the pill, and because of this, plus the abortifacent issue, we have decided we won't go back to that as a birth control method. We've talked about NFP and agreed to give it a try, but haven't actually gotten to that point yet. I do think, like some others have mentioned, that it would be particularly helpful for me, personally, to be able to monitor my body and learn my own rhythm and cycle (whatever it might be!).

As for the abstaining part, we are still doing a lot of discussing about the quiverfull idea. I was one of four, and love the idea of 4-5 kids, but my husband was one of two and really has only within the last couple of years decided he like the idea of 4 kids... it would take some serious prodding from God to get him to be willing to have 6 (or 9, or 12!). BUT, we also both feel strongly that children should be seen as a blessing (clearly the Biblical perspective) and welcomed whenever God honors us with one. Lots to think about... thanks again for hosting such a great discussion!

Anonymous said...

Jess,
I apologize that my comments were percieved as sowing strife. It wasn't my intentin to do so. I understand that you were trying to silence me, but please allow me to apologize and explain my comments.
I thought that directing believers to search the scriptures (Jn 5:39) for God's will for their lives instead of their feelings was a biblical concept. (Particulary when in the 1 Cor. verse it says that while abstaining, Satan may tempt a couple. How does someone determine if their feelings are God's leading or Satan's tempting?)

By saying that this issue is black and white, I simply meant that God tells us in His word exactly how to handle family planning - we aren't to plan our families. We are to leave it up to His infinite wisdom (Is.55:9) and sovereign will remembering that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose.(Rom. 8:28) I certainly wasn't saying that ALL issues are black and white. If something isn't mentioned in the Bible such as medical treatment, where to live, job issues, whether to eat organic food etc., then we can debate what God might want us to do. I also think that God might make allowances in matters of interpretation. (For example one person might believe that rod means to use the Bible for discipline whereas another believes God means a literal rod for spanking. That might be an example of a grey area.)

Where NFP is concerned the Bible says: 1. Gen. 1:28; 9:7
2. Gen 38:9:10
3. 1 Cor. 7:3-5
Luther says it well when he says that Gen. 1:28 was a "divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore." And, "We were all created to do as our parents have done, to beget and rear children. This is a duty which God has laid upon us, commanded, and implanted in us, as is proved by our bodily members, our daily emotions, and the example of all mankind."

When moral issues are specifically addressed in the Bible, and God has drawn a true believer to understand them, that believer should have a desire to obey and constantly strive with the flesh to do so. (Jn 14:15, Jer 7:23 etc.)

When we tiptoe around biblical precepts in order not to offend someone and call it not sowing strife, we are forgetting that our Lord Jesus is the rock of offence. (Rom 9:33) I was not the one who planted (or sowed) the seeds for this discussion. The Lord has certainly admonished me not to participate in one again because you are right, it is strife.

Again, please forgive me for ruining your discussion. It certainly wasn't my intention.

May the Lords perfect will be done,
Anne

Jess said...

Anne,
Thank you for coming back and sharing more of your thoughts.

I, too, want people to search out the scriptures and come to biblical conclusions. I certainly would not want to silence different points of view. Many people, from many different perspectives, have come to join this discussion, and for that, I'm grateful.

I, too, find (from my own personal reading and study) that the "burden of proof", so to speak, is on one who chooses to employ birth control-- not the one who goes without. That said, I do think that there are biblical principles that can in some circumstances allow for such use. I DO think b.c. is far too widely used and quickly employed in Christian marriages. But then it is not my place to come along and force people into seeing things my way... what I try to do here is raise questions and help people to think through issues they may not yet have thought through.

I'm not ultimately responsible for what decisions others come to, but am responsible for how I present my own convictions and thoughts. I believe that my thoughts and questions and the points that I raise will be more carefully considered and more respectfully viewed if I engage in conversation rather than coming in with an agenda. If I can share with others the "hang-ups" that I have about certain things, or the questions I have about other things, or the flat-out problems I have with other things, then I'll be doing my part to sharpen other women who are thinking through the same things.

Having said all of that... I am not of the opinion that anyone who ever uses birth control is sinning. I believe that many people carelessly use it (as we did in our first year or so of marriage)... without considering any moral or biblical problems with our doing so (we were on the Pill).

But I know far too many godly, thoughtful women, who have used birth control and do use birth control. Like Megan did in this very series of comments, I have heard the "evidence", so to speak, of their scriptural studies, and their own prayer, deliberations with their husbands, and how they, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, have come to their own convictions and conclusions. I would be foolish (and I believe sinning by putting myself in the place of God) to judge a sister who has so conscientiously handled the Scriptures to come to convictions.

In no circumstance (yet) have I seen a couple prayerfully decide to use the pill. I don't believe God would lead a couple to use an abortifacient method. But again, if they did, it is not my responsibility to convert them. I can pray, I can share... but I don't ever want to come across as though I am the sole arbiter of what is biblical and right...

There are many things I've not had to consider, and may never have to consider in my own dealings with this issue. I've not had diabetes. I've not endured post-partum issues as many of these women have. I've not consistently had premature babies. I've not dealt with developmental problems in my children. I've not had an unbelieving husband. There are many circumstances which I personally have not had to face, and may yet have to face. I refuse to act as though I know how I would act in each and every situation which I may or may not ever have to deal with.

But I HAVE lived long enough to know that I don't know it all. I HAVE lived long enough to know that I should consider and heed the wise counsel of women that have gone ahead of me. And I HAVE determined that I'm not going to act like I have all the answers when I haven't walked in all the various "shoes" that are out there.

Like you, I want to honor God, and like you, I've not personally used birth control for many years. But I do want discussions that I'm a part of to be gracious and gentle, as this is such a personal issue and is so emotional for so many people.

You are welcome to continue coming back and engaging in this or any other conversation at MH. I just wanted to keep this from becoming a "quiverfull vs. not qf" discussion... that's really not the point of this post... and there are plenty of places online for such a discussion to be had. I don't mind for those opinions to be shared and aired, at ALL. But I have been thankful that, for the most part, this discussion has been kept to personal conviction and experience rather than condemnation or judgment of people who see things differently.

I hope this clarifies things a bit. In recent experiences, discussions like this can quickly deteriorate into quiverfull vs. not-qf debating. I don't want this particular post (about trying to understand certain aspects of NFP) to fall in that direction, if I can help it.
~Jess

Wendy said...

Tamara said: "...just because one person might have a high sex drive and want intimacy every day, does not mean another person who abstains for a week at a time is battling temptations and urges and teetering on the brink of sin."

Reading through the comments, I think Tamara and I are on the same page.

Jess, I don't think you have a stong handle on how NFP/FAM works in real life. I can't speak for others, but I can add how it works for us:

First, we have an attitude of total surrender to God-if he tells us we're to have more or we have an "unplanned" pregnancy, we'll rejoice (although I admit, I'll cry first!).

We do not ever deprive each other. As has been said before, creative intimacy is wonderful and has really grown me in ways my husband loves. 'Nuf said.

NFP isn't really all that hard or time consuming. There are several methods of determining fertility, and you don't have to use them all. I took temps as I was learning, as a newlywed, but then I learned about mucus and dropped the temp taking forever. I don't usually chart anymore, except for occasional details I need to remember (cycle starting and first site of fertile mucus). All it takes each day is a little observation in the rest room and a good understanding of how it all works.

It's been mentioned once, but I want to stress that I think this verse can only be applied in a heart attitude way, meaning that since no specifics are lined out-like how often, then we have to check our hearts. I know that some women use sex (or lack of) as a tool to get what they want. I think that's more of what this verse is meaning. This perverts something God has made for pleasure/procreation. It makes sex nothing more than a means to an end (getting her way about something else or punishment to him for something he's done).

My husand and I have talked at length and I know for sure that I have more desire than he does and he's completely fine with about a week's time between our intimate times (remember he works nights anyway, it's a good thing he's fine with it, lol).

The bottom line to me is that couples who aren't using abortifacients, who have sought God's leading on the number of children they should have, who are sold out to giving each other intimacy (in one form or another)that satifies both husband and wife, and who's hearts are pure as to their motives for having/not having actual intercourse are far from sin.

I believe strongly in the message this verse sends, but I can't see how it applies to NFP/FAM, especially when intimacy is not lost during that week-10 days, it's just more creative.

I think that if you can see that most of us are in no way depriving our spouses (or vice versa) you'll understand how NFP/FAM doesn't get nixed by this verse. It's not about NFP, it's about the heart and the attitudes and all the other factors we've mentioned.

Thanks for a good discussion ;)

Jess said...

Well this post has by FAR garnered the most comments of any post I've ever had here on Making Home! Thanks for an interesting discussion everyone!


Wendy,
I think you're right that I have misunderstood how people, particularly evangelicals, use NFP. My understanding has been colored by the fact that it is primarily taught through the Catholic church, and the Catholic church technically doesn't allow for any other birth control (which would exclude those people who use barrier methods during the fertile times), or any kind of sexual intimacy that comes to a climax other than through intercourse (which would exclude those people who "get creative" during those fertile times).

Through this discussion, however, I do feel like I've gained a better understanding of NFP and how evangelicals use it. Thank you to all who have shared your personal stories and convictions. It has been enlightening to hear about how others do this, and what has led you to exercise this method of birth control. I hope this post has helped others (who may have been confused as I was, or who didn't fully understand NFP/FAM) as well!

Blessings~
Jess

Buffy said...

Thank you to those well informed individuals who knew where to find the guidelines about abstaining during and after menstruation and after childbirth.

Do you feel that as Christians we should be trying to do this or is it a matter of choice?

Anonymous said...

Jess,
This has been VERY interesting. My husband and I are prayerfully using hormonal b.c. right now. Due to circumstances, we have seen each other only 1 or 2 days a week for the past two years. That time is ending fairly soon. We both want children, but we have felt called to wait until we have a stable home. This was not a financial decision-- we'd be passing our children back and forth on the interstate if we had any.

It has been enlightening to hear about NFP from people who use it. I always thought it was a cop-out, like "We're open to children, but not really."

Well, thanks for a great discussion.
:)
Emily

Laura said...

Jess,

Thanks so much for commenting on (and linking to) my blog! I'm woefully behind on blog reading/commenting...domestic duties are keeping me busier than normal this week. :-) I'm going to come back and read all of the comments on this post when I get a chance, but I wanted to poke my head in and say "hi". I've bookmarked your blog and will be back often!

Laura

Christie said...

Wow! 71 comments already - the most I have ever seen!!!

My husband and I use the fertility awareness method. It works out very nicely for us. I have about a 35 day cycle (which I know only because I have been charting), and we use condoms during my fertile phase (5-10 days in length, depending on the month). We do not abstain when I am menstruating (I actually find that at that time my sexual drive is as high or higher as when I am ovulating.)

We currently have no children and do not plan to try to conceive for a few more years. I am coming to believe that although children are a blessing from God and are to be treasured as such, God has not necessarily called every woman to have as many as she possibly can during her married/fertile years.

I work for a crisis pregnancy center, and for the time being, I feel that God has called me to that ministry instead of to motherhood. Both occupations are blessed callings, neither being superior to the other, in my opinion.

Thanks,
Christie

Sheila Kippley said...

Many of the answers can be found in God's plan for spacing babies. It's pure physiology or some call it "theology of the body." For nursing mothers to experience menstruation within a few months after childbirth should be the exception, and to go one, two or more years without menstruation should be the norm. Sadly, parents have to be taught what interferes with God's plan and how to do it.
For free, short, and easy-to-understand instruction on the Seven Standards of eco-breastfeeding and systematic NFP, go to www.nfpandmore.org. Also here Catholics and Protestants (sidebar: "Not Just for Catholics") will find support for the practice of NFP. Breastfeeding is certainly the most natural of the NFP methods, and it requires no abstinence. In many societies of traditional breastfeeding, families consisted of three to four children. Let's give breastfeeding more attention in these discussions. In my work mothers of many faiths have enjoyed this benefit from the Lord above. Sheila Kippley, volunteer, NFP International

Kara said...

First let me say that I have refrained from commenting(until now) b/c I am frankly scared of other Christian women about this subject. :) My husband and I have had some wonderful couples mentor us, some of them feeling very strongly about their "methods". The couple we were closest to used NFP and wanted us to get on board but they weren't the best example(to use it both ways) as they apparently weren't too creative and were pregnant as soon as each baby got their first bite of cereal. :) Most of the couples who felt so strongly were so harsh about other methods it was hard for us to repect their "teachings". Personally, I did learn great things from this group...one being how I interact with other people and I think Jess has spoken to that in one of her comments. Discussions and bringing up questions do far more to get people to think and go to God than preaching YOUR plan for their lives.

This is a topic very close to my heart and one of the reasons is b/c of the disention that has been allowed to come among believers. I have been doing a Bible study of the life of Jesus and one of the hugest thing for me is how he continually speaks against, harshly at times, to those who have made rules, commands, etc that are not from Him but of man. I think, b/c it is of our, human, nature to want to be always right. But that is so far from what this post is suppose to be about....sorry Jess.

I do want to put out there that there ARE people who prayerfully consider and research and discuss...and use pills or other forms of hormonal based birth control.

B. said...

If the discussion has not come to an end, I have a question that is related to the subject, I think. Let's suppose that: you believe all contraception is wrong and you should trust the Lord to give you the number of children you should have (which is pretty much what I believe) - what happens when you have to undergo a lengthy medical treatment, which involves taking medication that would hurt the baby, if you were pregnant? To abstain does not seem biblical exactly because of the verses that were discussed. It would subject you or your spouse to temptation. Do you use some contraceptive methods then (just until the treatment is over) or what? It seems less wrong than to abstain. I hope you don't consider this a silly question.

Anonymous said...

This from someone who is long past childbearing...but don't we always hear that hindsight is ALWAYS 20-20? So here goes. We had 5 children, then my husband had a vasectomy (against my will, but it was his choice). Now years later he says we should have just trusted the Lord. Who knows what blessings God had for us had we only been open to them. Now my middle son and his wife have 3 children and would love to have more but they have not. Their youngest will be 6 in a couple of months and they have been open to another child all that time. And, Jess, like you they are finding out they are too poor to adopt overseas even though they have the funds to do so. As someone posted trusting God does not always mean that you will end up with "60" kids. As a retired home health nurse ( most recently, after spending 20 yrs. in L&D)I have , what some may consider a morbid habit of reading the obits in our local paper so that I can send a card or attend a funeral if it happens to be someone I took care of. It is about 50-50 concerning no children and then those who had 13-15 children. These are people dying in their late 80's and 90's and I count how many surving and deceased siblings they had.
I also am an only child and my parents wanted a large family. I was born during WWII, my only peers who were from large families were by and large immigrant families. They weren't caught up in "Stuff" as American families were starting to be and now have become obsessed with. That's another topic. But I do see a direct correlation with wanting big families or wanting "stuff" and that includes me-time.
So I guess you could put me in the box that says No to BC. If you say you trust God then do so. And to the people who said they couldn't "handle" any more children...I say You're absolutely right! You can't! But God can and will if you rely on Him. That applies in everything you do. And, you know what? He WANTS to!
God bless you all.
Artieann

Elizabeth said...

I would echo Sheila in encouraging those of any denomination to honestly and prayerfully consider the possibility of NFP. Don't shy away from it just because it is a "Catholic thing"...take advantage of what Catholics have learned (through a lot of prayer, study of the Scripture, and years of deliberation). A great resource for Protestants and Catholics is the Couple to Couple League (ccli.org).

Amy said...

For me the issue of birth control comes down to the issue of trusting in God. Birth "control" is just that- trying to be in control of how many children you have. I don't believe that we have that authority, it rightly belongs to God as He is the Sovereign and Blessed Controller of all things- shouldn't we desire for Him to have His way in our life...all of our life? I understand that there are many different opinions about this topic, but honestly, some opinions are just plain wrong (I know that I have held wrong opinions about things in my life and I thank the Lord for using His Word and other Christians to show me these things), just because you feel a certain way or something "works for you" doesn't mean that it is right. It doesn’t make sense for God to call one family to trust Him completely in this area and then call another to trust in themselves or contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy- either God is in control of the womb or He is not. Believing that He is the One who creates all life and is in complete control over the womb, please allow me to explain where I am coming from. First of all I think that most of us would agree that God is in control of the womb- am I wrong? Because this is the starting place and if we are not all coming from the same foundation then it is really hard to discuss a certain topic, a lot of misunderstanding can take place. So God is in control of the womb- what exactly does this mean? First of all, it means that God is the One who decides when and to whom children will be born. It is very easy to think that we ourselves can “decide” when to have a child because of course we are involved in the process of conception, but if it were just that simple then every woman not using any form of contraception would get pregnant every time she had sex during her fertile period, but this does not always happen. Not all women conceive a child immediately after going off birth control (when they “decide” that the time is right to have a child). I also think of women who have tried for years to conceive a child/who desire more children (and of course engage in the act that produces children!) and yet do not conceive. Conceiving a child is not simply a natural process that is up to us to decide when to allow it to happen and when to prevent it. No, it is a complex, intimate process that God has complete control over. I read on another blog this statement: “We cannot choose to have children, we can only choose not to”. Isn’t it very thought provoking?
Another point of which we all seem to agree on is this- that children are a blessing, anyone who opposes this is clearly against Scripture (Psalm 127). It is so refreshing to be around (even in the blog world!) others who view children in this way, as most of the world does not receive children as such.
So now that we have this information about God- that He is the one who opens and closes the womb, when He deems the time right (not according to our time frame), and that children are a blessing from Him, what shall we do with it? How shall we, as followers of Christ, respond?
First of all, if God really is in control (and isn’t it good to know that He is!) then we can immediately dismiss several ideas that come to mind when thinking about not using birth control:
-Yikes! We will have 20 kids!
Yes, it is possible that you will have many children, but not because you’re throwing caution to the wind, but because that is how many children God has chosen to give to you. But in reality, most women who forego any form of birth control do not have that many children. Some have none, I know a few families who only have 1 or 2, another with 6. Is that because those women have something wrong with their reproductive systems? No, it is because God in His sovereignty has opened their womb to bless them with those children and then at other times has kept it closed.
-We can’t afford to have so many children!
As said before, you may not have “that many children”, you may only have a few- but let’s probe to the deeper question here, that of having the money to afford many children, or any at all. This is a hard concept to fully grasp, I know it has taken me awhile and sometimes I still fall back to worry and anxiety in this area, but God is our Provider- He provides for ALL of our needs. If He chooses to bless us with a child then we can trust in Him to provide for what that child needs (for he/she isn’t really our child anyway, but God’s) just as He has always provided for our every need. And, this same God who chooses to bless us with children has the power to keep us from having children as well. So while you may have fallen on hard times financially, if you don’t use birth control it doesn’t mean that you will automatically have a child you cannot provide for- either God will provide the means of provision should you have a child, or you may not have a child at all. But you can always place you trust in a God who is faithful to you, knowing that He alone knows what is best for you and your family during each season of your life. See how this all comes down to trust? This same line of thought can also be applied to those times that we think, for other reasons beside financial, that it is “not a good time” to have children.
-God calls us to be wise and use common sense in this area.
I feel like I only need to point out that God is oh so much wiser than us. And it is true that we are to ask for His wisdom when we are lacking, and using wisdom in God-honoring ways is good. But asking God for His wisdom in this area led me right to the realization that trusting in God to bless us with children in His perfect timing is the wisest thing that I could do. When have you ever been let down when trusting in our Almighty God?
-We are to be good stewards and not using birth control is not being a good steward.
So very true and biblical, the idea of being a good steward- but as I look at Scripture I find that God is always the one who chooses what to give us that we are to be a good steward of. So we are to be good stewards of the children that God gives us (not that we can choose to not have children in the name of being a “good steward”).
-It is irresponsible to not use birth control.
Once again- when is it ever irresponsible to trust in our Lord? Also, if we think that having children is irresponsible, then we need to rethink our view of children. They are always a blessing 
-I can’t handle so many children, my hands are full already!
Someone has already touched on this, but isn’t it good to know that God always equips us to do what He calls us to do? No matter how many children He chooses to give us, or whatever he brings into our life, He is there and completely able to give us all we need to “handle” it.

We have to remember that one of the purposes of sex within a married relationship is to create children and we do not have the authority to prevent that in any way. God graciously controls the womb, and isn’t it great to rest in that? To realize and understand that we can trust God in this area, as well as every other. I believe this is what it all comes down to- Do you trust in God? Do you believe that He is in ultimate control of your womb and that He opens and closes it as He pleases, and that all of His decisions are good and perfect?
I do, and although it is hard at times, God is carrying me through as He always does. I in no way think I am more righteous in not using birth control (but I do see how some people come across that way, I hope that I have not and sincerely apologize if I did)- all I know is that I am following God, trusting completely in Him, and that is the best place to be.

If God is truly in control of the womb then there is no good reason to use birth control or any other means of purposely preventing children. If it is not good for you to have children at this point in your life (according to God, not limited human wisdom) then God will not give you a child. You can trust in His wisdom and timing because He is in complete control.

You will never be disappointed when you fully trust in Him.

Amy

Amy said...

Oh, and another thing that I just thought of (as I was discussing this with my husband) about whether NFP is Scriptural or not was concerning the meaning of the word "depriving". Some were saying that it is depriving in the sense of not having sexual intercourse when the other spouse wants it, therefore NFP is not "depriving" because both are agreeing to forego sex for a specified amount of time- so, neither one is depriving the other. But as I looked closer at the Scripture I noticed that Paul says not to deprive each other "except by agreement...". In other words even by agreeing to abstain you are still depriving one another. To go on, Paul states that the only time that it is alright to agree to deprive each other is in order to pray (I kind of liken this to fasting for a time in order to pray about something very specific). So to say that both spouses agreeing to abstain from sex in order to prevent children is not the depriving that Paul is talking about is not Scriptural. Paul shows that even by agreeing to abstain (as couples do using NFP), you are depriving each other- that is very clear here, and since the purpose of this deprivation is not for prayer, then I do not see how NFP can line up with Scripture.

Amy

freshfloralart said...

My husband I practice NFP because I have strong convictions about using any form of unnatural birth control. I would be willing to have as many children as God provides, but my husband would like to us to try to postpone pregnancy for a year or two.
We have a pretty easy method for us although it is somewhat less effective than abstaining. We use CM to determine fertile periods and use the withdrawl method during this time. This allows us to be intimate whenever we want! It has worked for 18 months and we figure that if we do get pregnant that it is a blessing that God allows.

Sheila Kippley said...

Practicing withdrawal is the Sin of Onan and is very definitely not a form of natural family planning. For a good article on this, go to www.nfpandmore.org. At the top of the site is a "google" search where you can type in "Sin of Onan" for more information. Sheila Kippley

madgebaby said...

All I know is this: I had a tubal ligation a little over three years ago and it has been a great thing for my family and my marriage. We have a great family, we have a great marriage, AND we have energy to give to all that because we knew our limits.

I would never suggest to anyone there is a "right" answer here, but in my opinion effective contraception is no more or less biblical than vitamins or chemotherapy or antibiotics (and I know there are Christians of good faith who would reject these too, but I'm not going there. . . .)

Family life is stressful enough without all the charting and temp taking. Enjoy your husband while you can, and have the number of children you can handle.

Lynn said...

Some women use bc pills due to health reasons and the unfortunate side effect is no children. My body produces to much estrogen (yes there is such a thing) in fact it produces dangerous amounts of estrogen. I take progesterone only bc pills as a way to balance out this over production. Before I started taking these I had some very harsh female problems that these pills are helping (not curing just helping. I have an extremely low libido caused by over production of estrogen, I don't purposely deny my husband but I have no sexual desire because of this. He is very understanding of this knowing it is a medical problem and not me just being a wretch. We do not make love very often. I do not think we are sinning because of this. We are older and have young and grown children so we really don't need to be open to more babies anyway. We are both fine with not getting it on every night and my husband doesn't feel tempted to cheat on me with other women just because I don't want to have sex with him very often, his love for me is strong enough that if we were to never be able to have sexual relations again he would still be faithful to me. He says (and I have to reason to believe otherwise) that in all the years we've been married, he's never been tempted outside of our marriage so I'm not sure what kind of temptation you need to be fighting. As for abstinence after childbirth, it wasn't just for cleanliness that it was mandated in the Bible, it is for medical reasons as well, the 6 weeks is necessary for healing. Not waiting can cause tearing of the vaginal wall as well as cause infections. Dr's and Midwives don't tell you to wait 6 weeks just to torment you and your husband. If your man just cant go that long (he has a serious problem with self control in my opinion ans is seriously selfish) then take care of him in other ways but a woman really needs to abstain for the full 6 weeks after birth in order for full proper healing to take place.

twood said...

I found this post just recently (over 5 years after it was posted!) What a great topic and excellent discussion in the comments too - a long but good read! I will be bookmarking for future reference.

Monica said...

Hi Jess,

Interesting discussion generated here. I came across it because I heard this argument for contraception for the first time just the other day, and I've been trying to understand it.

To me, it is just mystifying how often these verses are quoted and no one seems to pay any attention to the very next verse:

1 Cor. 7:6 "I say this as a concession, not as a command."

In spite of Paul explicitly stating that all the stuff he is talking about are definitely not commands, they are consistently treated as commands.

If you have any light to shed on this, that'd be great!!

God bless,

Mon

Jess said...

Hi Monica,
As I understand it, that applies to the issue of marriage. Essentially, Paul is saying you don't HAVE to get married. It's clarified by v 7 where he indicates that for him, singleness is preferable. But then he (thankfully-ha!) makes the concession that marriage can be good and God-given.

Jess