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).
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.
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…’
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.
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:
- It’s “with consent”: both people need to be in agreement.
- It’s “for a time”: it isn’t supposed to last for long.
- 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.
- 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