Some People Say the Old Testament Words “Children” and “Seed” Mean the Same Thing. In Light of God’s Command to Be Fruitful, Should We Use Birth Control?

Question from a reader:

I have read your material on birth control, and have never used the pill. However, I have heard some people say that in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for seed (children), and seed (sperm) mean the same thing. Therefore, if we are using a barrier method of birth control, then we are stopping the "seed" from potentially becoming a child, and potentially killing unborn children.

I have also heard people say that "be fruitful and multiply" is a command God gave us, and He still means it today.

I believe children are precious to God, and I would never use a form of birth control that could potentially kill a baby. But all of these arguments are confusing. My husband and I are praying God would give us convictions for our own family when it comes to family size. We don’t want to just follow what the world says to do (i.e. use the pill, stop having children for convenience reasons, have a vasectomy when we are “done" having children). What advice would you give me?

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

I think you and your husband are doing the right thing by praying about it and seeking God’s guidance. I find myself torn on this issue and sort of in the middle. I can make a case for both sides in the argument. In fact, I’ll link you to a dialogue I wrote in which two Christians argue over this. I think you can see that both are making some good points. But Scripture says this in Romans 14:1-13:

The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written:

'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
 every tongue will confess to God.'

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

You can read the beginning and ending of that passage too, but you can see that different conclusions can be legitimate on different issues. Note the verse I boldfaced, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” And Paul goes on to say you can regard days as sacred or not with a desire to honor the Lord. I am against the Planned Parenthood family planning approach that regards children as inconveniences to be avoided. I also believe it cannot be proven that it is wrong to use conception control, though I think probably it is used too often. (Just an opinion—we only had two children so I’m not judging anybody else.)

Check out this dialogue about birth control. Now, I’ll warn you that you may read it and think, “Okay, I’m even more confused.” No, you will be more informed, and even if you don’t have a clear answer, you’ll be able to weigh and measure the arguments on both sides and ask God to enlighten you. What makes most sense to you and your husband? You can seek God’s face more effectively when you listen to the counsel from both sides. I hope this dialogue will allow you to do that.  

I want you to know that I really appreciate your heart in this. How good that you would seek God’s face in it instead of thinking, “So what? I’ll do whatever I feel like.” God will honor that kind of heart. That’s what He wants the followers of Jesus to do, seek His guidance and follow Him as He leads.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries