Science in Christian Perspective
A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction*
CHRISTIAN MEDICAL SOCIETY
Responses by Claude Stipe, Richard H. Bube, Earl J. Reeves and Russell L. Mixter
From: JASA 22 (June 1970): 46-47.
The Document entitled "A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction" emerged as the written consensus of twenty-five evangelical scholars who participated in an interdenominational consultation known as "A Protestant Symposium on the Control of Human Reproduction." The Symposium convened from August 27 to 31, 1968. The consultation was interdisciplinary. Scholars in theology, medicine, law and sociology deliberated together during the greater part of the sessions. Unidisciplinary committees on theology and medicine also functioned independently and drafted sections of the Affirmation for submission to the final plenary sessions.
The theological committee wrote Part 1, Theological Basis. The medical committee prepared Part II, Principles of the Christian Physician and Part Ill. Guidelines to, Professional Practice. All these parts were adopted in plenary session with minor modifications resulting in part from sociological and legal considerations. A development worthy of mention was the remarkable agreement between the Theological Basis and the Principles of the Christian Physician when each part was drafted independently by two of the major disciplines represented at the Symposium. Rather than merge Part I and Part II, it was decided to leave each intact as a subsection of the Affirmation in order to emphasize the extent of agreement which had been achieved.
This document does not claim to be "The Protestant view..., but is "A Protestant Affirmation... The
scholars at the symposium represented the conservative or evangelical position within Protestantism. While there was considerable diversity in denominational background and professional discipline among the authors of the Affirmation, they shared a common acceptance of the Bible as the final authority on moral issues.
A PROTESTANT AFFIRMATION
I. THEOLOGICAL BASIS
We affirm that ultimate values come from God through biblical revelation rather than from the human situation alone. For some questions the Scriptures provide specific answers. For example, the Bible affirms that marriage is sacred, and prohibits sexual intercourse outside that relationship. On other issues the Bible speaks primarily through principles such as the sacredness and value of human life, and the need to act in love for God and man. Where specific answers are lacking Christians acting under the authority of Scripture may differ from one another in the conclusions they reach because different weight may be given to different principles.
The Christian is obligated to understand as fully as possible the problems that confront him and to enunciate clearly the biblical principles underlying his efforts to resolve them. He recognizes that the will of God may become known to him more fully through discussion and interaction with men of like faith. Therefore, while a symposium can provide information and direction it cannot speak with binding authority in any instance. Each man is ultimately responsible before God for his own actions and he cannot relinquish this responsibility to others no matter how qualified they may appear to be.
The Character of Sexual Intercourse as a Means of Procreation and as an Expression of Fellowship in Married Love.
Sexual intercourse is a gift of God and is to be expressed and experienced only within the marriage relationship. In this act husband and wife become one flesh. Marriage is ennobled by God and is likened in Scripture to the union between Christ and His Church. Coitus includes the purposes of companionship and fulfillment, as well as procreation. Any marriage which does not seek to fulfill all of these sexual functions constitutes an incomplete relationship. The Bible teaches that procreation is one purpose of marriage and considers children to be an evidence of God's blessing. The Biblical norm is productivity for all of nature, including man. It gives the sense not of a static balance but of a dynamic and abundant creation.
Procreation, however, is not the sole purpose of the sexual relationship even as coitus is not the sole component of the marriage relationship. God intended sexual intercourse to be continued and to be enjoyed even if procreation is impossible. Therefore procreation need not be the immediate intent of husband and wife in the sex act. Coitus may be simply the expression of love and a mutual fulfillment of normal desires.
The Prevention of Conception
Because of the Christian's high view of the sexual relationship, contraception often presents complicated ethical questions. This is true whether the individual employs so-called natural means (coitus interruptus and rhythm), or methods made possible by medical science.
The Bible does not expressly prohibit contraception but it does set forth certain abiding principles such as the sanctity of life, the command to multiply, and the mutual obligation of husband and wife to satisfy each other's sexual needs.
The prevention of conception is not in itself forbidden or sinful providing the reasons for it are in harmony with the total revelation of God for married life. Disease, psychological debility, the number of children already in the family, and financial capability are among the factors determining whether pregnancy should be prevented. The method of preventing pregnancy is not so much a religious as a scientific and medical question to be determined in consultation with one's physician. Of all the methods of contraception, sterilization presents the most difficult decision because it impairs the creative activity God has given to man and is usually irreversible. Yet there may be times when a Christian may allow himself (or herself) to be sterilized for compelling reasons which outweigh these.
Induced Abortion, the Fetus and Human Responsibility'
Abortion confronts the Christian with the most perplexing questions of all: Is induced abortion permissible
and if so, under what conditions? If it is permissible in some instances is the act of intervention still sinful? Can abortion then be justified by the principle of tragic moral choice in which a lesser evil is chosen to avoid a greater one? As to whether or not the performance of an induced abortion is always sinful we are not agreed, but about the necessity and permissibility for it under certain circumstances we are in accord.
The Christian physician who is asked to perform an abortion will seek to discover the will of God in this as in every other area of his life. He needs divine guidance for himself in his practice and for counseling his patients. The physician, in making a decision regarding abortion, should take into account the following principles:
1) The human fetus is not merely a mass of cells or an organic growth. At the most, it is an actual human life or at the least, a potential and developing human life. For this reason the physician with a regard for the value and sacredness of human fife will exercise great caution in advising an abortion.
2) The Christian physician will advise induced abortion only to safeguard greater values sanctioned by Scripture. These values should include individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility.
From the moment of birth, the infant is a human being with all the rights which Scripture accords to all human beings; therefore infanticide under any circumstances must be condemned.
Christian Conscience, Natural Law and Legal Authority
The Scriptures inform us that all men are bound by God's moral law. To this fact, the universal phenomenon of conscience beers witness. Because of sin, men are severely limited in their ability to perceive the content of this law. Apart from the guidance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, men tend to equate it with the mores of their particular culture. Nor do we believe that ethical judgments can be used on the situation alone. While the individual must consider the circumstances present in each situation, his ethical decision should be controlled by Biblical principles.
The fallenness of human nature requires the guidance of laws. Such laws are for the benefit of society and should be administered in recognition of the authority of God as the Supreme law giver. Harmful pressures easily result from the codification of law in a way that is either too authoritarian or too permissive.
The Christian maintains that in avoiding legalism on the one hand and license on the other, the prescriptions of legal codes should not be permitted to usurp the authority of the Christian conscience informed by Scripture.
II. PRINCIPLES OF THE CHRISTIAN PHYSICIAN IN THE CONTROL OF HUMAN
The rendering of guidance is basic to a physician's concern and effective work. This may well result in the confession to the patient or colleagues of his view of life as a Christian. In the realm of the control of human reproduction, his view of Christian life is reflected in the following Biblical principles:
Sanctity of Family Life
1) The sanctity of marriage as a God-given institution. It is lifelong and secure in love. Husband and wife live for each other end in God's service.
2) Children are God's gift, born into the love and security
of family for nurture and training.
Responsibility, Fulfillment, Self-discipline and Divine Grace in Sexual Relationship.
1) The sexual relationship is a good gift from God to mankind, but this, as all of God's good gifts, has been marred by the effects of sin on human thought, will and action. The forgiveness and the grace of God are a constant human need.
2) Sexual intercourse is rightly confined to marriage. Therefore, fornication, adultery and prostitution with
3) Sexual intercourse is to be undertaken with understanding and consideration of one marriage partner for the other.
Preservation of God-Given Life
1) It is the duty of physicians to preserve human life and the integrity of the human body.
2) Physicians are called upon to maintain and restore the health of the whole man.
Mitigation of the Effects of Evil
1) We live in a world pervaded by evil. Human relationships become distorted; unwanted children are born into the world; genetic defects are not uncommon and harmful social conditions abound. Therefore, it is the duty of Christians to be compassionate to individuals and to seek responsibility to mitigate the effects of evil when possible, in accordance with the above principles.
2) When principles conflict, the preservation of fetal life or the integrity of the human body may have to be abandoned in order to maintain full and secure family life.
III. GUIDELINES FOR PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE2
The Prevention of Conception
The Symposium on the Control of Human Reproduction affirms the role of the physician in the support of the integrity of the family. The partners in marriage should have the privilege of determining the number of children they wish to have in their family. The physician should cooperate by providing counselling, taking into consideration both medical and moral factors. It is recognized that at times permanent sterilization, either male or female, may be indicated.
If contraception is indicated, the physician should assist in selecting the best available method for this purpose. Although better and simpler contraceptive techniques are expected to be developed in the foreseeable future, in some countries, the intrauterine device (I.U.D.) is expected to be the contraceptive method of choice for some time.
The single person seeking contraceptive advice requires concerned counselling by the physician. If he provides contraceptive agents, he participates in the intent of their use.
Induced (Therapeutic) Abortion
The sanctity of life must be considered when the question of abortion is raised. At whatever stage of gestation one considers the developing embryo or fetus to be human, even at birth, the potential great value of the developing intra-uterine life cannot be denied. There may, however, be compelling reasons why abortion must be considered under certain circumstances. Each case should be considered individually, taking into account the various factors involved and using Christian principles of ethics. Suitable cases for abortion would fall within the scope of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Statement on Therapeutic Abortion. However, we believe that sociological pressures that justify abortion rarely occur in isolation. We do not construe the A.C.O.G. Statement as an endorsement of abortion for convenience only, or on demand.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Statement on Therapeutic Abortion
Termination of pregnancy by therapeutic abortion is, a medical procedure. It must be performed only in a hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals and by a licensed physician qualified to perform such operations.
Therapeutic abortion is permitted only with the informed consent of the patient and her husband, or herself if unmarried, or of her nearest relative it she is under the age of consent. No patient should be compelled to undergo, or s physician to perform, a therapeutic abortion it either has ethical, religious or any other objections to it.
A consultative opinion must be obtained from at least two licensed physicians other than the one who is to perform the procedure. This opinion should state that the procedure is medically indicated. The consultants may act separately or as a special committee. One consultant should be a qualified obstetrician-gynecologist and one should have special competence in the medical area in which the medical indications for the procedure reside.
Therapeutic abortion may be performed for the following established medical indications:
1. When continuation of the pregnancy may threaten the life of the woman or seriously impair her health. In determining whether or not there is such risk to health, account may be taken of the patient's total environment, actual or reasonably foreseeable.
2. When pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest: in this case the same medical criteria should be employed in evaluation of the patient. 3. When continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the birth of a child with grave physical deformities or mental retardation.
Approved by the Executive Board, May, 1968.
Changes in the state laws on therapeutic abortion that will permit honesty in the application of established criteria and the principles enunciated in this statement should be encouraged. Provisions should be included to protect the physician from legal action or medical liability should he refuse to perform the operation because he finds a particular abortion to be against his moral standards.
Fetal Indications for Prevention of Conception and for Therapeutic Abortion with Specific Reference to Genetic Considerations.
Much human suffering can be alleviated by preventing the birth of children where there is a predictable high risk of genetic disease or abnormality. This appears to be a proper Christian objective.
An accurate diagnosis of genetic detect and statement of risk for subsequent pregnancies can often be based on examination of a single affected child. (Multiple abnormalities in a family are not essential to establish indications for intervention.) In some conditions a significant risk can be determined prior to the production of any children, through evaluation of the family history and laboratory tests. The assistance of a consultant who is a specialist in human genetics is required.
When a genetic problem is encountered the physician should point out the implications for subsequent pregnancies. The parents should be helped to understand the medical, emotional, and financial problems involved in rearing a child with a congenital disease. The shortterm consequences of contraception and sterilization should be explored. The family may wish to consider other factors, and the decision concerning additional pregnancies should be left to the parents. If contraception is attempted but fails, the risk of severe defect in the child might constitute a fetal indication for abortion. The couple may prefer voluntary sterilization for husband or wife (the choice depending on the specitc case). We find that principles of care for the individual and society on which we have agreed to be in accord with generally accepted precepts of sound clinical genetics.
When an affected individual is not mentally competent to make decisions for himself, the genetic problems should be made clear to the guardian or guardians. In such circumstances, involuntary sterilization could be considered upon the request and express permission of the guardians.
The Christian in an Over-Populated World
The control of human reproduction demands the attention of Christians from the standpoint of the desperate needs not only of individuals and families but also of nations and people. This Affirmation acknowledges the need for the discriminating involvement of Christian people in programs of population control at home and abroad, so that the services or counsel rendered may conform both professionally and ethically with the principles embodied in this Affirmation. It is emphasized, however, that participation in programs of population control should be in response to requests for help from the states or communities involved.
1. Unless otherwise specified, when the word "abortion" without qualification is used in the text, induced abortion and not spontaneous abortion is intended. In addition, unless otherwise specified, the word fetus is used in reference to the developing life from the time of conception until birth.
2. The physician must always be the captain of the health-care team. Therefore, specific reference is made to him in this section. Nevertheless, these guidelines apply in general to other members of the team. The underlying principles also apply to practitioners of other professions who assist families in making decisions.
SOME THEOLOGICAL ISSUES
Claude E. Stipe
Associate Professor of Anthropology Marquette University
From: JASA 22 (June 1970): 47-48.
My few comments and questions will be restricted to some statements included in the section of Theological Basis. Although a statement of this type must of necessity he very general, such generality often obscures important issues.
Is Sin Ever Permissible?
I am disturbed with the possible implications of the statement "As to whether or not the performance of an induced abortion is always sinful we are not agreed, but about the necessity and permissibility for it under certain circumstances we are in accord." Would those who believe that abortion is always sinful also maintain that sin may be both necessary and permissible? Is sin ever permissible from Cod's perspective? Are acts per se sinful, regardless of motivation?
How Is Will of God Determined?
It is also stated that the Christian physician who is asked to perform an abortion will seek to discover the will of Cod, not only for his own decision, but also in order to counsel his patients. How would the physician determine the will of Cod in any specific instance? If one physician decides that it is not the will of Cod for him to perform an abortion in a particular case and another physician feels free to perform it, what then is the will of Cod for the family in question?
Abortion vs. Infanticide
Although there is not complete agreement, a fetus is considered to be, "at the most ... an actual human life or at the least, a potential and developing human life." Why then do all agree that abortion is permissible in certain circumstances, but that "infanticide under any circumstances must be condemned?" Is a pre-natal "actual human life" that different from one after birth? Why is a human being accorded "all the rights which Scripture accords to all human beings" (unfortunately these rights are not identified) immediately after birth, but not before it? Why is it "Christian" to abort the fetus of a potentially normal person but sinful to kill a newly born infant who is too retarded mentally to ever he able to experience those "rights?"
Induced abortion is to be advised only to safeguard "greater values sanctioned by Scripture," among which are "individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility." How does one determine that these latter values are greater than the life of a fetus? If they are, then why do they all suddenly become subordinate to the life of an infant? On what basis is the hierarchy of values changed when the "human being" is born into the world, as opposed to his existence before that event?
The universal phenomenon of conscience is said to bear witness to the fact that all men are bound by God's moral law. It would he more correct to say that the existence of conscience hears witness to the importance of cultural training. It is a human characteristic to feel "guilty" for having acted in ways contrary to one's cultural perscriptions. To state that "apart from the guidance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, men tend to equate it [natural law] with the mores of their particular culture," fails to recognize that all Christians equate God's law (or will) with their own cultural mores. Not only does "Christian conscience" differ from one culture to another, but also from one American Christian sub-culture to another. As a result, different groups are convinced that it is "God's will for Christians to act (or to abstain from acting) in certain ways, while the issue is irrelevant to other Christian groups. "Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit" people arrive at opposite conclusions, for example, whether or not the possible impairment of the mother's health makes abortion permissible. Which of these conclusions is in accord with natural law? In a culture in which the "sanctity of human life" is not emphasized as strongly as in ours, infanticide might well he considered necessary for the health and welfare of those family members who already are struggling to stay alive on an insufficient amount of food.
I certainly appreciate the effort of theologians to attempt a Christian statement on this important issue. Possibly a major problem is that they have attempted to base it on Scripture without overtly recognizing that many of the values expressed in the statement are actually part of their cultural training, which are then often "validated" by "guidance" from the Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Richard H. Bube
Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering
Stanford University Stanford, California 94305
From: JASA 22 (June 1970): 49-51
All life is a marvel; only human life is considered sacred. We do not hesitate to kill cows for food, although in other parts of the world this is unthinkable. Animals who are friends to man, such as dogs and cats, are afforded a position of greater value at least in our culture, presumably because of their association with human life. Much of one's attitude is culturedetermined. The Christian community has consistently upheld the sanctity of human life in a unique way, in spite of those inconsistent records of the church's commendation of killing in support of itself. But the question is, "What is human life?"
Webster's dictionary says that "human" means "characteristic of man." Of "man" the dictionary says, "art individual of the highest type of animal existing or known to have existed, differing from other high types of animals, esp. in his extraordinary mental development." To be human then is to exercise the faculties made possible by this extraordinary mental development. It is this development that makes possihle insight, rational thinking, conscience, hope, Codconsciousness, awe, reverence, appreciation for beauty, self-consciousness and the desire for understanding, to name just a few.
A chimpanzee is not human. Yet a one-year old chimpanzee displays more "human-like" characteristics than a one-year old infant. It is recognized that the one-year old infant has the potentiality to become human, whereas the chimpanzee does not. We give to the child the value placed upon an individual who will in the normal course of events exhibit the qualities of humanity; he is a potential human. We withhold from the chimpanzee the value placed upon a potential human, because in the normal course of events it is impossible for him to exhibit the qualities of humanity at any time. The value we attribute to the life of the infant, or to the unborn fetus, is an imputed value, held in expectation of what the fetus or the infant can become.
A very old person who is the victim of advanced senility may live in the condition of an unthinking creature. He exhibits none of the human qualities associated with extraordinary mental development. The same could he said of a person who has suffered grave and permanent brain damage. His mental faculties have ceased to function; in a real sense they are dead. The value we attribute to such an elderly victim of senility or to the victim of brain damage is an imputed value, held in memory of what the elderly or injured person once was. He once was' human; his humanity can be remembered.
What shall we say of the creature born into the world with grave brain damage? It has no potential for humanity; it has no past of humanity. If we define it as human, we are saying in effect that any creature born of a human being is a human being. What is the meaning of such an affirmation?
In an exact sense of the word, neither the fetus nor the senile is human. (We shall not press the other variations mentioned above further at this time.) If we are to contemplate ending the existence of the fetus, we must consistently consider ending the existence of the senile. In fact, the life of the fetus may he regarded as having the far greater value; it represents the potentiality for human development. The life of the senile is virtually at an end; only the memory of his humanity remains.
These considerations are closely connected to the question, "When does the unique spiritual quality of man (soul) come into being?" This question can be coupled with a second similar to it, "When does the unique spiritual quality of man pass out of existence (either end, or undergo transformation)?"
The question, "When does a man's soul come into being?" cannot be answered. It is in the class of meaningless questions. It incorrectly assumes that a time can be set for the event under inquiry, and that a man's soul has a certain timeless identity independent of his body. These two assumptions are discussed in what follows.
To make it possible to set a time for the coming into existence of soul, it would be necessary that there be two well-defined states: the soul-less and the soul-full. This use of the word "soul" cannot be related to the world as it is. Every living creature possesses aspects of those attributes we associate with the concept of "soul." A cat has "sour': a cat's "soul.' A dog has "sour': a dog's "soul." By this we mean simply that the characteristics associated with soul in terms of a description of life on the "spiritual" level are at least partially present also in cats and dogs. They are not identical with "human souls", however, for the entire being (physical, biological, psychological etc.) of a cat or dog falls short of the capabilities and potentialities of the entire being of a man. The soul of any creature is commensurate with the total development of that creature. Thus the fetus has a "fetus' sour' and a senile man has a "senile soul." But language becomes meaningless if these "souls" are identified with the "human soul." The quality we call "soul" is not an either-or situation. We can maintain properly that there is "soul" present from conception to death, but if so we then have to ask ourselves what it is we have really affirmed. We can watch as the "fetus' soul" develops into the "human soul," but we cannot ask when the human soul came. We can watch as the "human soul" degrades into the "senile soul;" can we ask when the human soul went?
Continuity of "I"
What is meant when we speak of "I," as though the 'I" of today is the same as the "I" of a decade ago or of a decade hence? What is there in common between the child of five and the man of fifty? Is the man, who in his wisdom would avoid the sins of the child, still guilty for the youthful misdemeanors? Is the child, who in his naivete is not capable of the crimes of the man, still guilty for the sins he may one day commit? Take away the tie of memory, and what identity is left between the man and the boy? Does a victim of amnesia respond to a movie of himself in childhood in any other way except that of indifferent non-recognition? There is only one common link between the man and the boy: they are both the embodiment of a specific biological life system at two different times during its life. Whether they are necessarily both the embodiment of the same psychological or spiritual life system is not so easily decided. If the man develops from the boy in the normal course of events, memory affirms the common root.
But suppose that something happened to that boy in the course of his life: a severe accident that affected the working of his brain and altered his personality. In what sense is the link of continuous personality now present? Is the "I" before the accident the same as the "I" after the accident? Or shall we say that the "I" before the accident died, and that the "I" after the accident was born at that time? But then we would have two personalities, two "I's", evidenced by embodiment in a single life system, and even our definition given above to link a person at two stages of life would prove deficient.
In some sense the experience of Christian conversion can be related to these considerations. The event of regeneration is pictured as a creative act of God, a second birth, whereby a new element to the "I" is brought into being (e.g., Romans 71:15-32). The "I" after conversion is not the same as the "I" before conversion; the latter has been and is being in some sense put to death, while the former is newly born. Conversion not only saves a man's soul, it also changes it.
What is the point of this discussion? Two conclusions may be made. (1) Issues in the area of Christian ethics, whether in abortion, euthanasia or mental illness, cannot be resolved on the assumption of a changeless identity that exists partially or completely independently of the physical, biological and psychological "body" of this life and then passes away from the body upon death. Nor can they be resolved by assuming that distinctions can be made between soulless and soul-full states of living existence. (2) Any concept of a soul-identity that transcends the specific physical embodiment at a given time and condition must be attributed to a creative act of God beyond the experiences of life in this world. If a "soul" is to exist after the death of the body-in particular in the "interval" between an individual's death and the resurrection (if it is meaningful to speak of such an "interval") -it must be a "soul" newly created by God, since the soul that we see, experience and deal with in this life is intimately and indissolubly related to the health and life of the body.
AN EVANGELICAL POSITION ON BIRTH CONTROL
Earl J. Reeves
Department of Political Science
University of Missouri St. Louis, Missouri
Reprinted Irons Birth Control and the Christian, W. 0. Spitser and C. L. Saylor, Editors, Tyndale House, Wheaton. Illinois (1969) Pp. 192-194.
From: JASA 22 (June 1970): 50-51.
In seeking to formulate an evangelical position on birth control it may he helpful to group the various methods into three basic categories-abstention, prevention, and abortion. Abstention, which includes late marriage, periodic abstention (or rhythm), and celibacy, has traditionally been regarded as an acceptable method for Roman Catholics. But in general, abstention is a highly unreliable method for restraining the population explosion. Late marriage may limit the number of child-bearing opportunities if it is accompanied by pre-marital abstinence. But given the strength of the sex drive, it may simply increase the temptation for pre-marital intercourse and result in an increase in illegitimate children. Likewise, celibacy if accompanied by sexual abstinence removes some units from the population production line. But the number of such persons is far too small to make any significant change in the rate of population increase.
Within the marriage relationship complete abstention from intercourse is not only unnatural but contrary to Paul's warning in I Corinthians 7:5 that husbands and wives should be careful not to deny one another the sexual rights of marriage lest they he tempted into unfaithfulness. And even the practice of periodic abstention, while perhaps better than no family planning at all, is both unreliable and for many people unpleasant. The precise counting of days and keeping of charts that is required to give any hope of success would seem to most observers, including many Roman Catholics, to he so cumbersome and mechanical as to destroy much of the normal enjoyment of the sexual act.
Therefore, the evangelical Christian would probably not regard abstinence as a very realistic or even particularly desirable method of birth control. This is especially true in view of the improvements which have been made in mechanical and chemical contraception. If one accepts the general Protestant viewpoint that the creation of one flesh through the sexual relationship is both natural and desirable even when procreation is not the basic purpose, then there would appear to be no particular moral or religious basis to prevent the evangelical Christian from using any of the generally accepted means of preventing conception. Even coitus interruptus, though it may be rejected on aesthetic grounds or regarded as an unpleasant interruption of a natural process, would not seem to be morally objectionable. In contrast to Roman Catholic teaching, for example, the sin of Onan is best understood as resulting not from the use of coitus interruptus but from his disobedience to Cod's direct commandment to raise up seed in his brother's name. And the sin would have been just as great if he had abstained from the sex relationship completely.
In general there would appear to be no Scriptural reason to deny a married couple the right to use any of the standard mechanical or chemical methods of preventing pregnancy. Even the question of the possibility of destroying life by destroying a fertilized egg through an IUD or a pill seems likely to he dismissed by most evangelicals as a highly theoretical and legalistic controversy.
Even the development of a "morning after" pill would seem to be a real boon for mankind and therefore, should he welcomed rather than condemned. The fact that it could be taken after intercourse would permit a tailoring of the use of the pill to the requirements of specific individual patterns, especially for those who have intercourse rarely or irregularly. It would eliminate the necessity for taking a regular cycle of pills and might provide a method that could be exported most easily to the underdeveloped areas where population control is most desperately needed. It would also be a far more acceptable solution to the problem of pregnancies resulting from rape than that provided by abortion.
It is in fact this last category of population control through abortion (defined as destruction of the embryo or fetus after conception has occurred) that represents the most difficult moral challenge. There is a strong movement both internationally and in the United States toward legalized abortion for certain cases, particularly where the mother's life is endangered by the pregnancy or for victims of rape. The American Medical Women's Association, for example, in their convention in November 1966 joined with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Law Institute in urging limited legalized abortion. They note that there are an estimated one million abortions performed in the United States each year and few of them are performed under sanitary medical conditions. Therefore, they recommend that licensed hospitals be permitted to provide abortions in cases where there is substantial danger to the mother's mental or physical health, where there is strong probability that the child will be born with severe mental or physical abnormality, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The State of Colorado has adopted a law which permits abortion, and serious consideration is currently being given to similar moves in several other state legislatures. Where they are designed to provide careful medical and legal controls, such laws may be desirable if they are used only in extreme emergencies. In general, however, abortion should not be considered as a significant device for limiting population and its widespread use for that purpose represents a very callous disregard for human life.
R. L. Mixter
Professor of Zoology Wheaton College
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
From: JASA 22 (June 1970): 52-53.
The Journal has commented on the problems mentioned in A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of
Human Reproduction in several issues.
The March 1962 Journal discussed the population problem as it was presented at the 1961 convention at Houghton College and agreed in most respects with the present Affirmation. But a note of disagreement with the use of the "command to multiply" occurred in the Dec. 1966 issue where Ivan Howard of Asbury Seminary declared, "It is significant that the command to populate the earth was given only twice, and each time when it was without inhabitants." I conclude one is not now ordered by Scripture to have children, although I consider it a privilege to have them.
A pessimistic note is sounded on the future of the population-food problem. In the review of William and Paul Paddock's book Famine-1975! America's Decision: Who Will Survive? this paragraph by Wilbur Bullock is significant, "In a carefully documented presentation, they demonstrate that the population-food collision is inevitable. None of the methods now in use or under consideration, individually or collectively, are capable of controlling world population in the near future. Due to the impossibility of an immediate increase in agricultural production, in proportion to the population increase, the hungry nations of today will inevitably be the starving nations of the next decade. There is no hope to avert this disaster. Synthetic foods, hydroponics, desalinization, the ocean, fertilizers, plant breeding, irrigation, land reform, government support, private enterprise, or any "unknown" panacea cannot possibly contribute enough in time. Neither can the developed nations avert the disaster. Only the United States will be able to provide any help, and our resources are totally inadequate to feed the world of 1975."
The former book review editor, Marlin Kreider, in reviewing J. C. Monsma's hook, Religion and Birth
Control, summed up this symposium of Protestant physicians in these words, "The general points of at least partial agreement among the Protestant physicians could be stated as follows: "Contraception control is not contrary to the 'Natural law'; abortion (therapeutic) is justified only if the mother's life is threatened;
sterilization (generally of the woman) may be justified for a number of reasons if it will contribute to the health and happiness of the family; artificial insemination of semen from the husband may be acceptable but there is a serious question about semen from other, even unidentified, males. A section on natural childbirth presented divergent viewpoints."
Many of you have seen the excellent issue of Christianity Today, Nov. 8, 1968, on Contraception and Abortion. I note the differing views as to when life begins and consider its analysis necessary in deciding on when abortion is permissible.
This affirmation and its expansion in the volume on The Control of Human Reproduction from Tyndale House are commended to each thoughtful Christian who counsels on this important matter.