How “Natural” is NFP?

Yes, NFP (Natural Family Planning) has the word natural in it; but how natural is it really? It doesn’t include the use of anything foreign to the body, but does it involve practices that could be considered un-natural nonetheless? Is it biblical? Is it right?

We used to use NFP, for a combined total of about three years. This involved charting my temperature every morning, and keeping track of cervical mucus. The goal for us had been to space our children. After a while, we stopped using it to try to space our children, and simply continued the charting to know when we had conceived (the FAM–or Fertility Awareness Method). Finally, we ended up not using any “method” at all, but simply waited in joyful expectation for when our sixth child would be conceived.

In order to educate myself about NFP, I read a book from my library the title of which I don’t recall; but, it was easy to understand, and I needed that. Later on, I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which was more complicated to understand, but I was ready for more detail by then. I also have a couple of books here at home, that though they don’t explain the method, advocate it’s use, and explain (supposedly) it’s moral superiority; they are written by Roman Catholics. I understand that there are also various Evangelical Christian organizations that encourage NFP for child spacing.

Why did I want to use NFP instead of other forms of birth control? Well, I’ll tell you more about our personal journey later (I’ve got a draft almost ready to go after a little more editing); but for now, let’s just keep it short. I found out that the birth control pill can cause early, undetected abortions, and so can other forms of hormonal contraception, such as the IUD (intrauterine device), the patch, and the Depo Provera shot. If you are a believer in Christ, and you know what the Bible says about human life beginning at conception (NOT implantation–and Science supports the fact that human life begins at conception), this should be VERY unsettling to you. If you want to know more, I STRONGLY encourage you to look into it; start out by reading Randy Alcorn’s book, Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? (you can buy the paperback version for only $3).

FREE e-book PDF download here.

Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

I’ve already talked about how any form of birth control creates a barrier to a couple’s intimacy in my post Intimacy Without Barriers. Here, I want to talk about how a case can be made, both logically and from the Bible, that any kind of birth control, including Natural Family Planning, is un-natural and should not be used.

First of all, I must ask you: From what sort of worldview are you approaching this subject–from an evolutionistic one, or a biblical one? If you have an evolutionistic viewpoint, you tend to think of babies as products of material processes; sex as an animalistic survival instinct (or just for fun); and society and it’s values as ever-morphing into better and better, greater and greater, higher and higher.

If, on the other hand, you have a biblical viewpoint, you tend to think of babies as masterpieces of God’s endless creativity; sex as the beautiful seal of, and testament to a “one-flesh,” life-long commitment–with children being the fruit of that physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual bond; and society and it’s values as ever-degrading into worse and worse, more and more pitiful, lower and lower.

Society can’t be depended upon to teach us our values, since it is rotting away. Only God and His principles as found in the Bible can be depended upon to guide us; and these may be very different than what our society currently thinks of as “right.”

Whichever worldview you are coming from will definitely color how you see the topic of birth control; and in particular, Natural Family Planning. I challenge you to re-evaluate your preconceptions before we launch into this discussion. If you are a Christian, you should be utilizing the biblical worldview to understand this. If you find yourself still thinking evolutionistically, it’s time to change. The Word of God is timeless (established forever in heaven), and meant as a guide for our YOUNG, HUMAN RACE (there are no different races–only one: the human race). God doesn’t see us as divided up into “this millennia” then “that millennia,” or “this age” then “that age.” No, God’s timeline is much different. Our earth is actually very young, about six thousand years old, or so; and history is just one short story of how we’ve gotten along since our recent creation.

So,

God created Adam and Eve as the first human beings. His first command to them, which served dually as a blessing, can be seen in this verse:

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…’

Genesis 1:28

Now, let me probe into this a little. Are we not Adam and Eve’s descendants? Would not the same command apply to us, too? After all, we belong to the same human race.

Jesus used an argument from creation to re-establish the validity of marriage between one man and one woman, for life (Matthew 19:1-6). If Jesus could make an argument from creation, why not we? On what valid basis do we disregard the applicability of this verse (Genesis 1:28) to our lives? According to Jesus’ method of interpreting the Bible, this verse would have just as much force for us today as it did when God originally spoke the words to our ancestors.

At the time of Creation, God made the mold for what is “natural.” Natural sex, then, would not have involved birth control, since His stated intention was for humans to “be fruitful and multiply.” Here’s an example of how we’ve distorted that.

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

Romans 1:26-27

So, homosexuality is wrong. Most Christians would agree on that point. Why? Because it’s not natural, according to this passage. So, is birth control natural? “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature“: what is being spoken of here? They exchanged the natural use of what? Their private, reproductive part (starts with a “v”)? Are we talking about Lesbianism? Or did they exchange the natural use of their breasts? Did they stop nurturing their infants from their own breastmilk, and instead give them the bottle so they could rush off to work and leave their children at daycare? Is this passage referring to Feminism, then? Or, did they exchange the natural use of their wombs, imposing upon themselves an unnatural infertility, referring to birth control?

Whatever it means, clearly the women weren’t using their bodies in a natural way. When we use some forms of birth control, we force our bodies to behave in ways that are not natural. Or, we insert devices into our bodies which are foreign to them. Or, in the case of NFP, we reject the natural biological functions of our body as good, and avoid all sexual contact during the fertile period, as if the woman’s fertile body were somehow an enemy. So, the signs that normally would indicate, “This is the time to have relations and make a baby,” we instead interpret as, “Now is the time to stay away from relations and not make a baby.” The woman experiences strong sexual urges at this point of her cycle (hmm, I wonder Who created her that way?) which would naturally lead her to want to be intimate with her husband. But, instead, she has to suffocate those urges, and deny what her body is telling her it craves.

When we’re hungry, we eat a banana. When we’re thirsty, we drink water. When we have to go to the bathroom, we use the toilet. When we’re hot, we turn on the fan. When we’re cold, we put on a sweater. All such natural urges have a purpose. They were created to help us take care of ourselves. They were created for our survival. And when we listen to them, and comply with what they demand in healthy ways (such as, eat the banana and not the cookie), we do what is good for ourselves. And so it must be with our sexual urges, too. There is a healthy way to satisfy those urges. Within marriage between one man and one woman, sex is healthy and good. Those urges were meant by God to be signals to us of what our bodies need. To ignore them is foolish. We were made the way we are for a reason!

Think about it: doesn’t it seem reasonable that God would give the woman a strong sexual desire at the very peak of her cycle when she is most fertile, as an aid to help humans fulfull His–God’s!–desire for us to “be fruitful and multiply”? And if we ignore His design, what harm might we be doing to ourselves? What harm might we be doing to our marriage relationships? To our society, by introducing in the form of NFP what is really yet another form of birth control, another way to have sex without the “burden” of children?

NFP is a form of “defrauding” each other, according to the following Bible text:

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence [affection]: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of [authority over] her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud [deprive] ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

1 Corinthians 7:2-5

What does it mean to “defraud,” or “deprive” in this context? Apparently, it means to withhold sex from your spouse. Isn’t that what happens in NFP? Sex is withheld during the woman’s fertile phase. This may be hard for the husband, but it is even harder for the wife! She is deprived of satisfying her sexual cravings every month, and only allowed to have sex when really, she has no desire to, since her body is in it’s infertile phase. Can you see how this is depriving her?

The purpose behind the advice given in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 is that “Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” When our sexual drive is not being satisfied by our spouse, we are vulnerable to temptation, to get involved in emotional or sexual attachments that are forbidden to us by God. NFP deprives the woman of having her sexual drive satisfied; it actually increases her vulnerability to temptation. Having sex at a time of the month when she has no desire to, or very little desire to, can not be considered giving her “due benevolence”! In that case, NFP might even be considered a sin! It involves a “mistreatment” of the wife’s sexual needs, and is contrary to the teaching of this passage!

There is one exception, though, where not having relations is allowed: “with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” (v. 5). Several points need to be made:

  1. It’s “with consent”: both people need to be in agreement.
  2. It’s “for a time”: it isn’t supposed to last for long.
  3. It’s so that “ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer”: it doesn’t say “so that ye may use NFP”! The only biblically-condoned reason for not having relations in marriage (apart from menstruation, childbirth, and serious injury/illness), is so that both people can dedicate themselves more fully to prayer and fasting, for a limited time.
  4. They’re supposed to “come together again”: We like to think that we’re stronger than we really are; actually, our flesh is weak. We would do well to take precautions against the weakness of our human bodies, by not depriving each other–neither for too long, nor in ways that would create a frustrating, non-satisfying sexual experience for them, as in NFP.

My own experience with NFP was that I was constantly frustrated sexually. I was always upset with the situation, because we could only “get together” when I least wanted to (or when I didn’t want to at all), but we had to abstain right at the time when I most wanted to be intimate! And no, we weren’t open to using condoms and such, for good reasons. I did feel “deprived” and “defrauded”; I felt used and rejected, as if my fertility (something that was out of my control) were an enemy to our relationship. Please don’t think of me as a sex maniac! I can have self-control, certainly! However, God made my body to crave intimacy at just that time of month; I see this as a part of His design, and completely natural.

So no, I DO NOT think that Natural Family Planning is natural, neither biblically nor logically; since it competes with God’s design for us, and it defies what is obviously the natural functioning of our bodies. What’s the alternative then? It’s to give God control. Let Him plan our families. Is He not smart enough to do it? Is He unwilling? Will He not continue to care for us? If the answer to those questions is “no,” then what are we doing? Let’s get back to what He wants us to be doing. Let’s uncover His original design for the family. Let’s live by faith and not fear.

****

Some Christian organizations will hail NFP as the most moral form of family planning/child spacing available, almost as if it were a miracle! But we should be critical of what even other Christians think; they’re not God. Not every Christian agrees with using NFP for child spacing. There are some who advocate leaving family planning in God’s hands. I believe they have the more correct view.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the following books for further reading:

The Bible and Birth Control, by Charles D. Provan

Be Fruitful and Multiply; What the Bible Says About Having Children, by Nancy Campbell

 

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17 thoughts on “How “Natural” is NFP?

  1. I’d like to add my experience.
    I have been often terribly afraid if i discovered another pregnancy.
    I admit that at least two of our children where coceived while using birth control.After our third child was born i was totally done with babys and we have a gap of four years until i got pregnant with #4.
    Not planned.
    After child four and fife i went to doctors to discuss to have my tubes tied.
    However my husband never felt ok with this for the same reasons you mention in your posts. There was no way to change his mind. So i left it for a while yet.And hoped that i would have enough strength to have another one.
    Thankfully i always became joyfull about having another Baby very soon. Now with our sixth child we had a emergency c-section where my tubes got tied. The doctors and the midwife really pushed for it. Six is plenty enough kids anyways,or?
    It all went very very fast and there was no time to talk it over. It made my dear husband very sad to know that this was the end to having children.
    At first i felt very relieved but as time goes on i start hoping that the doctor din’t do his Job that well :-).
    My advice to any lady who thinks my way: NEVER only seek the advice of a doctor!
    They all will push you in the worlds direction even if they are christians.
    If you ever get in a emergency situation like i did (except if ist is mortal danger for the mom) refuse any rushed decision.
    Tied tubes can not be undone very easy even tough it is possible sometimes.
    I now regret that i was not willing to give myself fully into Gods hands. Even more so because i’m blessed with a husband who is not afraid of a bunch of children if ist Gods will.
    I have been SUCH a baby in my spiritual life. Years have passed
    where i’ve tried to have it my way. Poor husband.Poor marriage.
    I just hope i would have decided differently if i had ever gotten accross your posts earlier. Thank you for steppin’ up. Hope many read this and take it to heart.
    Thanks to God sins are forgiven and i hope to become a women and wife after Gods heart more and more.
    I would not want to miss out on any of my children! They are such a blessing!!
    This has become too long sorry .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I have made so many mistakes in so many areas. But, the only thing to do after the fact, is to move forward, wiser and more experienced, so that hopefully, I can help other people avoid those same errors. I so agree with you!
      Jessica

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  2. Ah yes, and NFP did NOT work at all for us. It takes SO much Joy and fun out of the relationship if you have to life ‘Hands off’ for half of the cicle. How biblical can this be after considering the -bible?
    This time we where fully at the same Level as we agreed to drop this Experiment once and for all 🙂

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    • Thanks for your comments, Ruth! I appreciate your openness about your own experience. Yes, I agree, that the marriage relationship should be joyful. NFP does take the joy out of it, as you point out!

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  3. Pingback: How do I Lovingly Submit to my Husband…When We Disagree? (Family Planning) | TRUTH AT HOME

  4. I’ve been looking forward to reading this post!

    It’s amazing how similar your journey is to mine. We too used NFP for several years.

    Our journey was like this: (1) birth control pills, (2) barrier methods, (3) NFP, (4) open to children.

    I learned a lot through immersing myself in Catholic life ethics. And I have to say that, on the whole, Catholics have far surpassed Protestants on this issue. (Most Protestant churches are failing miserably in the area of pre-conception life ethics.)

    But I had to say, in the end, that I didn’t agree that NFP was ethically okay. The Catholic Church maintains that NFP is “not birth control” because it doesn’t separate the unitive and the procreative. But I say that it is still a way of intentionally preventing God from giving a couple another baby, even if each act *isn’t* sterilized. The relationship as a whole is sterilized, even if each act is open to children, at least in writing. It is still a way of saying that God isn’t smart enough to give us children in His perfect timing, and that we need to be the ones timing our children and taking control of the situation – rather than welcoming children as a blessed gift from His hand, in His perfect timing.

    Additionally, as you say, NFP is a pain in the neck. Gotta say it like it is. With my cycle (long cycle and short luteal phase), we had to abstain over 50% of the time. And the times when you CAN have intimacy are when intimacy is, as you say, as interesting as cleaning the shower with a toothbrush (or less so!). So we inevitably cheated, which is how babies #2 and #3 came along!! LOL Our NFP teacher said that having to abstain gives a marriage added strength in forming self-control, but again, as you say, why on EARTH would God give us urges for marital intimacy in order to have us have to deny them for life?

    Okay, time to go! The hoardes call!

    Coming to a place of trusting that God really does know what He is doing when it comes to gifting us with children is a thing of such joy. I hope that the Protestant church eventually can become open to this truth, instead of following the world in ungodliness (as it is wont to do in so many areas).

    Have a lovely night!

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    • Diana, I really liked what you said here:
      “But I had to say, in the end, that I didn’t agree that NFP was ethically okay. The Catholic Church maintains that NFP is “not birth control” because it doesn’t separate the unitive and the procreative. But I say that it is still a way of intentionally preventing God from giving a couple another baby, even if each act *isn’t* sterilized. The relationship as a whole is sterilized, even if each act is open to children, at least in writing. It is still a way of saying that God isn’t smart enough to give us children in His perfect timing, and that we need to be the ones timing our children and taking control of the situation – rather than welcoming children as a blessed gift from His hand, in His perfect timing.”
      Absolutely on the dot! That is exactly what I had been thinking, ever since I read those Catholic books on NFP that I have! I almost can’t believe that people can be so self-deceived as to think that if they use NFP, they aren’t using “birth control.” Maybe I’m just too much of a logical thinker for my own good (I’m just kidding, though–I’m really glad that I have a logical mind); I can’t stand inconsistencies and half-truths. To me, either something is right, or it is wrong. End of story. I don’t see in shades of gray, and I don’t think the rest of us should either. Time to step out into the light, right?
      Thanks so much for sharing your own experience!
      Jessica
      P.S. I hope the “hoardes” are doing well!

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  5. I have just written a long response on this as a Catholic which my computer has eaten !
    Suffice to say that I personally believe NFP to be almost always wrong and I fundamentally believe that whilst there is no sin in taking pleasure in intimacy within marriage, to have sex with the deliberate intention NOT to conceive is in inherently sinful especially for a Christian woman.

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      • Like so many aspects of morality, Christian teaching (by all Churches) have been perverted over the last century and particularly the last 40 years to pander firstly to feminists and then to the ‘permissive’ society. It’s all about making it ‘easy’ to follow and to keep the pews full.

        However as women especially we would do well to remember that for centuries Christian teaching was very much that the purpose of sexual relations, and what made it Godly, was procreation. That God added the element of pleasure was a gift, but also a temptation to sin, because sexual gratification outside the context of procreation is rooted in lust and sinful.

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      • Yes! It’s so refreshing to hear from you that you don’t personally agree with the direction the churches are taking on this issue, since they have perverted what Christians taught for almost 2,000 years. That makes me feel better about myself: even if I’m going against the flow of the current culture, I’m actually going WITH the flow of historical Christian teaching.
        Thanks!
        Jessica

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  6. Well I don’t claim to be a Biblical scholar but I have read a lot about ‘traditional’ Catholic teaching and it is very clear that in the area of sexual and reproductive morality as well as many gender related issues (submission, head covering for example) there is a very clear drift towards condoning or ignoring sin in the name of popularity. Basically to appease the evil influence of feminists and excuse male weakness.

    NFP was never part of traditional teaching, which actually started from the principle that all sexual activity even in marriage was sinful unless it was specifically for the purpose of procreation. A view which was taught for well over 1500 years.

    When NFP was “allowed” it was as an alternative to abstinence in very special circumstances. Never as an alternative to contraception.

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    • “…there is a very clear drift towards condoning or ignoring sin in the name of popularity. Basically to appease the evil influence of feminists and excuse male weakness.” Yes! I see that, too. You make some very good points–thank you!
      Jessica

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  7. I have a slightly different perspective on the topic of NFP, while agreeing with most of the points made here. My husband and I conceived two months ago and miscarried. While still amidst our grief, we conceived again several weeks later. An agonizing ovarian pregnancy. Our baby, having already lost its life, was surgically removed and given burial. We were told to wait at least 3-6 months before permitting conception, because the physically and emotionally prostrating situation of two losses and two surgeries in as many months would greatly increase the risk of permenent infertility or another loss. It is even possible that our second baby’s death was caused by conceiving too soon after the first loss. I put my personal experience here as a testimony that there may be situations in which NFP is not only medically necessary, but God-honoring as well. I could not in conscience seek conception at this time, when I believe the probability of my child’s death to be significant. I put this here humbly, realizing God may show differently, but believing whole heartedly for now that we personally, and perhaps others, have no other course to follow.

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    • Dear Hannah,
      Thank you for sharing your experience so openly! I am sorry that you have gone through so much.
      I appreciate your adding your perspective to the discussion; you have helped to deepen it so much more.

      Hannah, please allow me to share what I think just as openly.
      In the Bible, God does give guidelines for how soon a woman can have relations again after delivering a baby. For a male baby, she must not resume having relations until 40 days have passsed; and for a girl, 80 days must pass. Of course, this is from the Old Testament (Lev. 12), and I don’t believe we must necessarily follow this rule. However, it must be there for a reason.

      Now, I honestly don’t know what God would prescribe in the case of a miscarriage (not that it’s not in the Bible, but that I simply don’t remember reading about it). In Leviticus 15, God tells us what He prescribes for a woman having her period, or any other issue of blood (she must wait 7 days after the flow has stopped before resuming relations). I wonder: have you found any Bible text that would give us direction in the case of a miscarriage?

      In my opinion, if I had just experienced a miscarriage, I would abstain COMPLETELY until I no longer had any blood flow (plus 7 more days), and I might feel justified in also abstaining for at least the 80 days prescribed for a woman who gives birth to a girl (even if I didn’t know whether it was a girl or not). I believe that that would be within biblical parameters, and allowable.

      However, I have to say that I do not believe that NFP is acceptable for the Christian couple, no matter what the circumstances. In this life, we will experience trials, which is what Jesus promised. Sometimes that will come in the form of resistance from others toward our faith; at other times, it may come in the form of sickness or injury, plus a myriad of other possibilities. These things are a part of life, and we must give them to the Lord, trusting in His timing and in His goodness and care. We know that for whatever He allows in our lives, He has a plan and a purpose. It is sometimes painful, yes; but it is not meaningless or futile.

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Please know that. And I am GREATLY thankful for your bravery and sincerity! You have given me much to ponder, as well.
      Thank you, Hannah!
      Jessica

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    • Firstly to say how sorry I am for your loss.

      I don’t think anyone would argue for a second that mutually agreed abstinence especially for health reasons goes in any way against Gods teaching for us. Epecially for a couple who are so obviously open to his blessing of life.

      But NFP is very much the opposite. It is deliberately timing sexual relations so as to enjoy the act but reduce the chances of conception. Whilst abstaining at other times because conception is more likely.

      The intention and the hope is to avoid conception and have as active as possible sex life whilst not being fully open to God even if each individual act is entirely natural. I very firmly believe that it is this intention which makes it sinful and a step down the path of sin, which leads to contraception and ultimately abortion.

      When we unite as husband and wife it should be in complete openness to God it is that which makes the act holy.

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      • All very good points, Susanne. I agree with your assessment completely, and would add that yes, of course a woman should not resume having relations until her body has healed, but the question becomes: for how long? One month? Six months? A year? A year and a half? Doctors have their opinions, but they can’t know for sure how long is long enough. There comes a point at which a couple must decide to step out in faith, and believe God that He will take care of them, even if it isn’t the sort of “care” they were hoping for.

        You are absolutely right, also, that the couple’s abstinence should be agreed upon mutually, but that they shouldn’t use natural birth control. If the woman’s health is their main concern, then using NFP might be a bit risky anyway (a lot riskier than complete abstinence). In dealing with this issue, and others like it, we must always ask ourselves, “What does the Bible have to say about this?” And in the absence of specific instructions, we should look for some guiding principle. The Bible has a lot to say about having children! On the topic of abstinence, for example, we know that the Bible says that a husband and wife may abstain by mutual consent in order to focus on prayer and fasting; but, it must only be for a short time, otherwise, they will have a harder time overcoming sexual temptations. And I have the same concern for other situations, as well: we must not abstain for too long in those cases, either, or we will find ourselves worse off than having a health problem, but a fornication problem. In the end, it all comes down to obedience, and faith. Will we trust God, or won’t we?

        Thanks for your great input! I feel that you have really helped with the points you’ve made.
        Jessica

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