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The issue of contraception has been highlighted by detractors of the Rick Santorum presidential campaign. In truth, Santorum is only being true to position traditionally taken by the Catholic Church, of which he is a member.  Without trying to mix religion and politics, I will say, briefly, that by listening to the statements of Santorum within their context, it is obvious that choice statements are being taken out of context to destroy his presidential aspirations.

But, what of birth control? Is contraception a sin? With today’s post I seek to address the issue by looking at one verse often cited as a proof-text against it.

But Onan was not willing to have a child who would not be his own heir. So whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he spilled the semen on the ground. This prevented her from having a child who would belong to his brother. (Genesis 38:9 NLT)

The problem of the treatment of this passage is that it is used to condemn things like contraception and masturbation, subjects, which this verse do not even address. This verse is entirely about the levirate law. (The Latin word, “levir,” means, “a husband’s brother.”)

The levirate law was practiced among tribes in which inheritance was patrilineal. In other words, twice the amount of inheritance would go to the eldest son. This eldest son would then pass down this inheritance to his eldest son and so on and so forth.

Sometimes the eldest son died without having a male heir. This disturbed the succession of inheritance. Thus, in these situations, the husband’s brother and next eldest son, would take the deceased brother’s wife as his own so that she could have a son, which would not be considered his heir, but that of his dead brother, for the sole purpose of maintaining the traditional succession of inheritance. Onan found himself in this situation.

God struck Onan dead because, though he certainly did not mind having intercourse with Tamar, he did not want her to have a child, since that child would inherit the greater inheritance from his father, Judah.  Thus, he practiced the birth control method of coitus interruptus. The sin was not his choice to practice birth control.  Onan’s sin was greed that manifested itself in the failure to be obedient to a command of God.

Steps taken to end life via post-coital “contraceptive” measures, such as “Plan B,” would certainly be sinful. (I know that defenders of the “Plan B” pill say that it is not an “abortion pill.” However, “Plan B” and its ilk, create chemical conditions that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting within the woman’s uterus. Since Psalm 139 demonstrates that life begins at conception, terminating that new life would be murder even if said life only resembled a clump of cells.)

Though God told humans after the Global Flood to “be fruitful and multiply,” this does not mean that contraception is sinful. In truth, the Bible does not even address the subject of contraception.

In my estimation, all of this talk about contraception, in regards to the current political season, is much ado about nothing.