Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

A few years back, John Piper was asked this important question: Should married couples consider using birth control pills? Why or why not? Some claim it is still in essence abortive. Here’s what Pastor John had to say:

Yeah, yeah. Well, we did use contraceptives in the early part of our marriage and my wife’s father was a doctor and we consulted with him about this, because the answer is fairly simple to me at one level. If it is an {?}, if the egg is being fertilized and then being destroyed it is not right, because I think—there is just so much we could say here about the beginnings of life and how you understand the soul and... but try to keep it short and simple. I think a child should be given the benefit of the doubt as to whether he exists or not. And when a child, an egg has been fertilized and the ...all the components there are now physically for a human being, we have every reason to treat it as a human being. And so we shouldn’t destroy it. And if the pill destroys it, we shouldn’t use that pill.

Now here is where the differences come, I think, because I have had people say to me: You can’t be sure or the pills all work that way or no they don’t. And so I would just say to the families: Operate on this principle, namely, that I am not going to destroy a fertilized egg. And then do your best, by whatever research and consultation you can to decide what means of conception control... I am going to avoid birth control. That doesn’t quite say it right. Conception control you should use.

Now that is at one level. Ok, that is the abortion level. There is another whole level to this issue of people saying: Well, if children are a blessing from the Lord, why would you get in the way, right? I mean, have as many as you can, 15, 20. Be like, you own, Susannah Wesley and her parents. And there I ... it is another question, but I will try to give my short answer. I do think children are an amazing blessing from the Lord. I have five and I am glad I have five and if I had to do it over again I would have five plus and I would start adopting earlier, probably. So we had four of our ... the biological kind and then Talitha and we waited, perhaps, too long to have Talitha. Noelle would say we didn’t.

So they are a blessing, absolutely a blessing. To decide when and how many children to have however seems to me to be a legitimate kingdom decision, because Paul himself said that he wished everybody were single like himself so that they could be utterly devoted to the kingdom. And then he paused and said: But it is not sin to marry. And he said that, that he wished everybody were single, even though the Bible says it is not good for man to be alone. In other words marriage is a proper creation ordinance. Marriage normal. It is right. It is good. God ordains it. God plans it. And here comes Paul saying we should all be single because you can be really totally devoted to the Lord that way. And that is Paul, I think, enunciating a qualification of creation ordinance with redemption ordinance.

When the fall happened death spread and lostness spread and this world isn’t the idyllic world where everybody can be married, have lots of kids, die and go to heaven or have no death at all. It is not a fallen world. It is a world that desperately needs redemption and it needs suffering single people to lay their lives down with no distraction whatsoever to reach certain kinds of people. And so Paul waves that flag. And if he waves that flag and says: We can not marry for the sake of the kingdom, even though the Bible says it is not good for man to be alone, I think the same thing has to do with children. Do you see the logic I am using here, that God says: He who has his quiver full of them is blessed. Children are a blessing from the Lord. And yet, same logic, it may be wise to have two or three or four, not 10, if you are going to go to Guinea. In other words, I think kingdom issues, redemption issues, not just natural issues. We shouldn’t just thing in natural issues like children are naturally good to have. Yes, they are. But there are other issues going on that should be redemptive.

Now one last comment. That is a redemptive issue, not a lifestyle, what? DINK, double income no kids: “Thank you very much, they get in the way,” kind of attitude, “so I will have my 2.1 children to keep the population afloat so the Muslims don’t take over, but after that I am doing my own thing.”

Well, that is not where I am at all. I am saying the criterion are not me in my own little world so that I can have a comfortable life, but rather what are the kingdom issues at stake here in adoption and the kingdom...

One of the things that comes to my mind. I was in Germany when we started having a family. It was just 1972. In 1972 people my age were saying it is a sin to have more than two kids. Or some were saying it is a sin because population, blah, blah, blah. And I just thought to myself: Ok. If you have more than 2.1 kids, you are putting a strain on the planet. And I said to myself: I don’t think so, because the kids I am going to raise are going to lift a million burdens. You, Christian, you have got to believe that bringing kids into the world and being brought up in the Lord makes them burden lifters, not burden adders. They are in the world to lift the world, to save the world, to love the world. You are not just adding dead weight to the world when you bring a child up in the kingdom. You are bringing up lovers of people and servants of the world.

So I am going on and on here. I probably should stop. I can’t even remember what the question was now, but enough of that.

That was Pastor John Piper. Thank you for listening to the podcast. We will return soon with all new episodes, so please email your questions to us at askpastorjohn AT desiringgod DOT org. Visit us online at desiringgod DOT org to find thousands of books, articles, sermons, and other resources from John Piper all free of charge. … I’m your host, Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening.