For a Lutheran birth control appears to be a confusing moral question to navigate. Depending on which Lutheran branch you belong to determines to what degree, if any, birth control must be opposed.
As if God’s opinion on contraception were as arbitrary as some of the nation’s largest Lutheran sects would lead you to believe.
First, I will review a few public statements on birth control use among different Lutheran denominations. I will then contrast that to Martin Luther’s statements on the topic, as related to the Sin of Onan in Genesis.
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH of AMERICA (ELCA)
According to the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, the ELCA does not really oppose contraception use. In fact, they deem it a couple’s “responsibility” to use it!
“Whenever sexual intercourse occurs apart from the intent to conceive, the use of contraceptives is the responsibility of the man and of the woman” (emphasis mine). This is the claim of the ELCA in their ‘Social Statement on Abortion, available on their website.’
In case that was not eye-opening enough for you, read what they say about abortion. In that same document, they tell their congregation these two statements:
“Abortion ought to be an option only of last resort. Therefore, as a church we seek to reduce the need to turn to abortion as the answer to unintended pregnancies” (emphasis mine).
”This church recognizes that there can be sound reasons for ending a pregnancy through induced abortion” (emphasis mine).
You read that right.
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the country, with over four million members. And it states in a document on its website that not only should contraception be used, but abortion is justifiable.
The ELCA goes on to assert that aborting preborn children with fetal abnormalities, or those conceived in rape or incest are especially admissible.
As if God would be okay with murdering children. God, have mercy.
LUTHERAN CHURCH MISSOURI SYNOD (LCMS)
The nation’s second-largest Lutheran denomination largely leaves birth control up to the discernment of the couples considering it. In their document, ‘Resolution 6-10: Guidance on Contraceptive Methods,’ (available for download here) the LCMS explores the topic.
The LCMS does a pretty thorough job in this document explaining the mechanisms of different birth control methods. Thankfully, they even advise against ones that can induce an abortion (such as RU-486, the “Morning After Pill,” the “Birth Control Pill,” etc.).
However, to use birth control methods that merely prevent conception, and do not risk serving as abortifacients, what does the LCMS say to its congregation?
Basically, they have “not [been] given the task to ask whether or not married, Christian couples should or should not use contraception.” For them, in these narrow circumstances, it is up to each couple to decide for themselves.
Again, as if God has no opinion.
WISCONSIN EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN SYNOD (WELS)
The WELS remains the third-largest Lutheran branch in the USA.
Thankfully, the WELS considers abortion to be sinful. They differ from the ELCA in that regard.
The WELS seems to have a nuanced, yet common view on birth control use, however.
To paraphrase, they basically take the stance that any birth control method is allowed, so long as it does not work as an abortifacient. This stance coincides with the LCMS, but differs from the ELCA.
CONTRAST THIS TO WHAT MARTIN LUTHER HIMSELF SAID ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL
I wonder how few Lutherans realize their denomination’s namesake did not share their present acceptance of birth control use.
Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, of which the ELCA, LCMS, and WELS are all sects, said the following regarding the use of birth control:
“But this blame [that poverty prevents the raising of children] is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper” (Luther’s Works, Vol 5, pg 332, emphasis mine).
What’s more, Martin Luther, who formed his own religion based on the doctrine of sola scriptura (and sola fide), found a condemnation of birth control use in the Bible.
Luther says this regarding the Sin of Onan, whereby he wasted his seed on the ground:
“Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery… Consequently, he (Onan) deserved to be killed by God” (Commentary on Genesis 38:8-10, emphasis mine).
For any Lutheran birth control appears to be an issue of little agreement from Synod to Synod. I realize not all Lutherans take one of these three stances on contraception use and abortion. Prominent exceptions do stick out.
But when they have cut themselves off from a central authority, is it any wonder they cannot agree, and that they get it wrong?
Want to learn more about what the Catholic Church teaches about the Biblical basis for opposing birth control use? And/or, are you interested in learning what other prominent Protestant Reformers taught about birth control use? Then download my eBook, “7 Biblical Passages AGAINST Birth Control… And How to Use Them to Defend Life,” available for download for free here.
I would especially like to hear from any Lutherans, or other Protestants, on this one. Catholics or other Christians, you’re welcome to weigh in too.
Please share any thoughts you have below.