Contraception and Protestantism?

I was listening to a program the other day regarding the whole contraception/ Catholic Church/ Insurance etc debate and something was mentioned to the effect that Protestantism had a similar view on birth control that the CC has now but has changed over time. My understanding is that birth control is ok within Protestantism(please correct if I’m wrong). Anyways, if this is the case, when and why has this stance changed?

The Anglicans were the first to cave on this issue in 1930… see

It quickly snowballed out of control from that point on.

Contraception has been much less of an issue among Protestants over the years. Protestantism, like Catholicism, long preached abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. This still is the Protestant ideal, felt strongest among evangelicals.

  However, many mainline Protestants, as well as many Catholics, have taken a more liberal view since the sexual revolution of the '60s-70's. Many still encourage abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage but recognize that this standard has changed within America. There is an assumption that couples in serious relationships are likely to engage in sexual relations, right or wrong. Therefore, they are likely to feel that in such cases artificial birth control is wise until marriage. Sadly, millions of babies, Protestant and Catholic, are born to unmarried women. This is certainly bad for those babies, their mothers and society.

  The more pressing issue among Protestants is abortion. Some believe in abortion on demand - the decision of the woman, her control over her body. Some believe in abortion under certain conditions, such as the timing of the abortion (1st trimester, perhaps), the health of the mother, rape or incest. Some oppose abortion as the Catholic Church does - even though Catholics have abortions at about the same rate as Protestants. As in matters of doctrine, Protestantism generally has many viewpoints. Often the policy is to 'agree to disagree' agreeably.

   I believe the last two states to allow the sale of birth control may have been Massachusetts and Connecticut, two states with heavy Catholic populations. Interestingly, they both permit same-sex marriage now and both tend to be quite liberal states generally.  Let's face it, the Church's influence over lay Catholics has diminished sharply over the past half-century. Cafeteria Catholics may be the majority today.

I don’t think there’s any “may” about it.

The mainline Protestant churches still teach sex outside of marriage is a sin though as far as I know.

I would encourage Protestants to read ‘Evangelism Vitae’.

Christianity generally - Catholic and Protestant - has been rather puritanical re sexual matters over the centuries. Catholicism has focused more attention on its sinfulness, perhaps, than mainline Protestantism. The fact that priests must be celibate, that most female saints have been virgins, that virginity seems to be preferred over normal sexual activity, etc. - this is the image many have of Catholicism. This was one reason the sex scandal among priests hit so hard. Priests had been perceived as non-sexual representatives of Christ. The high incidence of homosexuality made the scandal all the worse in the eyes of most of the laity and the non-Catholic world beyond.

  On this issue, as on many, Protestantism is very diversified. Some pastors, for example, will marry cohabiting couples - arguing that "it's about time they got married." Some pastors may turn such couples away (the minority, I'm sure). 

  I'm not sure that mainline Protestants today would describe premarital sex as a sin. They would generally consider it ill-advised but deal with it more as a mistake and slippery slope that stems from our innate carnal nature as humans. Since the age of marriage has risen - plus the sexual revolution - the God-give sexual instinct is less likely to be kept in tow before marriage today. The media, of course, have played a major role in lowering sexual standards. Young adults watch programming that runs completely counter to Christian undestanding. Premarital sex becomes fun, exciting, glamorous, normal, healthy.

  What does one do? If you preach avidly against premarital sex you are likely to alienate the very young adults who most need the church. What's the expression -  a catch 20 quandary?

Thanks, what surprises me the most on this is the apparent approval by Evangelicals on this issue, in some ways I see this issue and the the drinking of alcohol as similar. At least one of the arguments used by Evangelicals is that alcohol opens up a Pandora’s Box/Slippery Slope to other things and therefore should be avoided. And they’re right to a degree I don’t know why this same argument isn’t used toward the Contraception issue.

I would differentiate between “contraception” and “birth control”. There are forms of birth control that most Evangelicals and other conservative protestants would not approve (Ella, Plan B, abortion, etc).

May what?
May be?
May not be?

Evangelical Protestants believe that all life begins at conception. All evangelical Protestants view abortion as a sin because it is the murder of life already in existence. It is infanticide. This would include things such as the morning after pill.

The majority of evangelicals today believe things like condoms and the birth control pill that prevent conception are viewed as morally permissible because they do not end a life already in existence.

I have encountered a few evangelicals who do believe that any form of artificial birth control is wrong. But those are few and far between.

We are always forgetting that God calls us to be better and perfect. That what we aim for is much more than what we do. That we must set our goals higher and higher. It is not because people do bad things that we must not preach good. It is not because I do bad things that I must say that the bad things I do are good and the good is out of reach.

So, call young for higher grounds is absolutely essential. And pre-marital sex is the minimum. We are in a situation where we must tell teens that multiple partners is not good, that virginity at 13 is good, that to keep love for the future husband is good.

First, look at the text I quoted. Then, look at my response. You don’t exactly have to decipher it… :rolleyes:

It’s not a maybe - Cafeteria Catholics ARE the majority today.

Catholic marriage goes farther. It is a sacrament, permanent bond. You can’t break it, only on grounds of adultery.

Contraception was prohibited and is now, and is a great evil.

If Catholic couples draw on the sacramental nature of their marriage, Christ is our strength. Many say their love for each other grows into a vocation in itself.

My entire family and I are all Protestants, and I have never been taught that it is wrong to use contraceptions. I know my sister uses birth control. But I believe that contraceptions are unnatural, and I don’t really agree with them. I think the only time they should be used is if the family cannot afford more children, then I can understand but there are still other options instead of using contraceptions. When/if I get married, I don’t know if my stance will change, and if I would use contraceptions, but I think we all just need to have faith in God and know that he will not give us more than we can handle.

Sending love and blessings,


Marriage between baptized non-Catholics is also a sacrament.

I’m not sure what you mean by breaking a marriage “only on grounds of adultery”. The Church doesn’t teach that. Can you clarify?

Hi Katie,
You sound like a sincere seeker of God’s will in your life. Do some research on what the Bible teaches about children, contraception, and birth control. When I was a protestant, I didn’t realize that this issue is even addressed in Scripture. Also, consider that “contraception” and “birth control” are not synonymous terms. Even if a protestant doesn’t understand the teaching on contraception, most agree that life begins at conception and should not be aborted through any means. Many forms of birth control actually involve killing a child already conceived (Ella, Plan B, IUD, some BCPs). I’m so happy for you that you are thinking about this issue now, before marriage is on your radar. I’ll be praying for you!

I would agree that this is a typical evangelical Protestant perspective. Protestants on the liberal end of the spectrum tend to accept abortion (which really horrifies me as to how they can justify their position). Although I have never heard any pastor or Protestant denominational leadership preach against contraception, I do know a fair number of evangelical Protestants who will not use it (my spouse and I among them) as a matter of personal conviction, but they are definitely in the minority.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Catholicism and Protestantism on artificial birth control is that Catholicism makes it a serious sin - always - even though you will rarely hear a priest mention that. Why? They know that most married couples use it. Many also don’t agree with the position of the Church.

 Protestants, especially mainline Protestants, certainly permit individual judgment and decision to play a major role (as they do in decisions re doctrine, too).  There is no church law banning artificial birth control anymore than there are church laws against an artificial heart, say, or artificial legs which have been so important in permitting US military to live better after losing their legs in Afghanistan or Iraq. There is no way that artificial birth control that prevents conception 'kills' a baby.

  I don't really see any difference in principle between artificial birth control and the Catholic system of birth control based on a woman 's cycle. Both seek to prevent conception. Both would seem to be flouting 'God's will' if, in fact, God wants the women to bear another child. Personally, I don't believe that God has planned our families in advance. Free will is involved. Otherwise, we are robots, puppets and should not be held responsible for our actions.

  There is no place in scripture that condemns birth control. The story of Onan, often cited, is totally irrelevant. Does Christianity insist that a brother-in-law commit adultery with his brother's widow so that the deceased brother can have offspring? Of course not. That apparently was a tradition among the ancient Hebrews, just like polygamy. As I recall that 'wisest man in the world' Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. What would we call that today? Outrageous! Even that greatest of kings, David, stole the wife of a faithful commander and arranged to have her husband killed in battle so that he could take her as another wife. We can't depend on such precedents to set our morality today.

Yes, thank you! (:

I don’t know the Catholic Church’s stance on that, but this is the Lord’s stance:
“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32) Hope that helped! (:

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