| Ellen G. White Estate

Can we use artificial birth control?

Basically, the issue here is that Mrs. White says what but not how—isn’t that right? She is clearly in favor of planning for children and controlling the number of children one has. She doesn’t discuss how to accomplish this. She seems to assume that people know how it is done. I don’t get the impression from her writings that she recommended that married couples have no sex until they desired to have a child. Rather, it seems to me that she urged that they exercise self-control in the frequency and timing of their relations in order to carry out the plans that they had made for a family. If this is correct, it corresponds to what is called the rhythm method today. I don’t have specific information about when this was developed, but I would be surprised if its outlines were not widely known in the nineteenth century.

Seventh-day Adventists do not share the Catholic idea that sexual relations must always have the potential for conception nor that God has souls He intends to put into bodies and that artificial birth control frustrates His intentions. We believe that the sexual relationship is for relationship as well as procreation and that one may legitimately cultivate that relationship while exercising options to postpone parenthood. This is, of course, a personal matter, and I don’t claim to speak for every Seventh-day Adventist. But our theology does not direct us to the same view the Catholics hold, and I think that most Seventh-day Adventists do not limit themselves to the rhythm method if other methods are within their reach.

I think that what is important to you is not so much what knowledge nineteenth-century people had, but what is a legitimate stance on these matters before God. I find no prohibition of birth control in Mrs. White’s writings, whether by rhythm or by other means. I find there instead a level-headed, sensible approach to the matter of family planning that has the potential to maximize one’s care for the children one does bring into the world and to enable maximum service for the Lord as well.

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