Saturday, December 1, 2012

Protestant Reformers on Contraception

For the first 1900 years of Christianity, all Christians were united in agreeing that contraceptive practices were immoral. Even the Protestant Reformers did not dispute this belief. They vigorously opposed it as being contrary to the Gospel (and they did so using their unique "scripture alone" doctrine). The following are scripture commentaries regarding Genesis 38.

Martin Luther, former Catholic priest and founder of Lutheranism, wrote this:
"Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest or adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes into her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed." (Luther's Works 7, 20-21)
 John Wesley, former Anglican and founder of Methodism, wrote this:
"Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife he had married and the memory of his brother that was gone, refused to raise up seed unto the brother. Those sins that dishonour the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he did displeased the Lord - And it is to be feared, thousands, especially single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls."
John Calvin, former Catholic and founder of Calvinism (Baptists), wrote this:
"I will content myself with briefly mentioning this, as far as the sense of shame allows to discuss it. It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is doubly horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. The wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the see of his brother out the womb, and as cruel and shamefully was thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. Onan was guilty of a similar crime, by defiling the earth was his seed, so that Tamar would not receive a future inheritor." (Commentary on Genesis)
Protestant unanimity against contraception lasted about 400 years. What ended it? Anglican bishops held a conference in 1930; they voted that contraception was (all the sudden!) licit. Over the next thirty years, all other Protestant denominations followed suit... but not the Catholic Church.