An Excellent Consideration on the Issue of the Pill by Tim Challies
Awhile back, I posted a critique of Tim Challies’ reasons for choosing public school over home-schooling. That post received more comments, I believe, than any other article I’ve ever published to this blog. Ever since then, I’ve been looking to post something positive concerning an article Challies has written in order to prove that my disagreement with him on the home-school issue is the exception to the rule and that my intention in the previous post was to attack his arguments on that one issue without attacking him as an individual. This may seem like favoritism toward Tim Challies, because usually when I post a negative article about certain teaching, I do not follow up with an article showing support for other statements by the individual whose teaching is under examination. So, for example, I am not looking to find a point of agreement with Rick Warren to be the subject of an article here. This is for the simple reason that I usually will not post against something unless I believe a core Gospel issue is at stake. So, even though I’m sure both Warren and I agree that lying is wrong; I’m not going to pour through his writings to try to find a statement that ‘lying is a bad thing’ so that I can support it here. My disagreements with Warren’s teachings concern how the Good News of Jesus is presented, so that any agreement I have with him is essentially unimportant.
In the case of Tim Challies, the disagreement I previously mentioned did not concern a proper understanding or presentation of the Good News. Though I feel strongly about the issue of education, and believe it was important enough to write about here, Challies and I are in complete agreement when it comes to core Gospel issues. And so, as I’ve been looking at his blog, trying to find something he’s written to feature on Call To Die, my real difficulty has been that I could pretty much point to anything he has written as being helpful, thought-provoking, and Gospel-centered. I was looking in particular, however, to post on something from Challies that is analogous to the consideration of home-school. That is, I wanted to find something by Challies on an important social topic in which he applies sound biblical reasoning to come to a decision in order to demonstrate his usual way of thinking in contrast to the issue of education, in which I believed his reasoning to be uncharacteristically unsound. So I was very glad to read some recent arguments by Challies considering a biblical view on birth control [part one and part two]. Particularly helpful was his clear articulation on why he and his wife have chosen not to use birth control pills:
The pill is an attractive method of birth control for several reasons:
· Ease of use - No muss, no fuss. A woman need only take a pill once a day to have near perfect protection against pregnancy.
· Effectiveness - The pill is highly effective. When used perfectly, the changes of becoming pregnant are miniscule.
· Convenience - Any couple who has fumbled with condoms or other similar methods of contraception can testify to their inconvenience. The pill also increases spontaneity (which those same couples will admit is a good thing!).
Compared to other forms of birth control, the pill is highly desirable. It offers greater ease, effectiveness and convenience than other methods. It is easy to understand why it has come into such widespread use, even among Christians.
The pill prevents pregnancy by essentially fooling a woman's body into thinking it is pregnant. There are two main types of birth control pills. The first is a combined oral contraceptive that contains two hormones: estrogen and progestin. Estrogen helps prevent ovulation by suppressing the hormones that would cause the ovary to release an egg. Progestin thickens the cervical mucus which hinders the ability of the sperm to travel through the fallopian tubes. It may also prevent the lining of the uterus from developing normally which means that if an egg were fertilized, it would be unable to implant. The second type of pill is known as the minipill and contains no estrogen, so while it does not prevent ovulation, it does inhibit the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg (both my thickening mucus and by suppressing its ability to unite with the egg) and should fertilization take place, the likelihood of implantation.
It is interesting to note that the "morning-after pill," a pill which can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to reduce the risk of pregnancy is actually simply a combined oral contraceptive pill that contains both estrogen and progestin. The morning after pill, designed to prevent or terminate a pregnancy is simply a larger does of the birth control pill designed to prevent pregnancy.
A search of resources geared mainly towards women's health, shows that most doctors affirm that birth control does not cause abortions. However, many of these people would not affirm the biblical understanding of when life begins. If life begins at conception, and we believe it does, then preventing implantation is already causing an abortion. The pill will not, apparently, cause an implanted fetus to be aborted. However, having read the warnings that come with the pill, the companies will not guarantee that the pill will not adversely affect a fetus. It is possible that birth defects and other health problems may be linked to the pill.
Recently some qualified Christians have tackled this issue. These are people who have medical knowledge and who affirm that life is inherently precious from the moment of conception. Such people have a credibility in my eyes that exceeds that of doctors who write prescriptions for birth control on Monday and abort children at a clinic on Tuesday. Interestingly, many of these experts seem to be backing the claims of their colleagues, saying that there is no hard evidence that the birth control pill can cause abortions. A friend forwarded me a couple of interesting statements, one from Focus on the Family (link) and one from Dr. Michael Frields (link), a medical expert at John MacArthur's Grace Community Church. Dr. Frields feels that the birth control pill is in no way an abortive method of birth control. The majority of the experts James Dobson spoke to "feel that the pill does not have an abortifacient effect. A minority of the doctors feel that when conception occurs on the pill, there is enough of a possibility for an abortifacient effect, however remote, to warrant informing women about it." So while it seems that the evidence increasingly indicates there is little likelihood of causing an abortion by taking the pill, the jury is still out. I suppose this leaves Christians having to weigh the evidence on their own and attempting to sort out the facts. On a personal note, my wife and I have decided we will not use the pill. Until we can be convinced that there is absolutely no chance of the pill causing abortions, we just cannot, in good conscience, use the pill. And to be honest (and completely open), I have trouble understanding how Christians can arrive at a position that the pill is absolutely, 100% safe.
Though there is no “thou shalt not use the pill” in Scripture, there is a scriptural injunction against murder and a scriptural view of the origin of life that would point to the life of a child beginning at conception. Based on these truths and on the uncertainty of whether the pill causes early abortions, Challies comes to a specific conclusion on the issue. In my opinion, this is the very model of biblical discernment.