60 Second Summary: How Protestants Learned to Love the Pill
Articles you need to know about, summarized in 60 seconds (or less).
The Article: How Protestants Learned to Love the Pill
The Source: Crisis Magazine
The Author: Allan Carlson, founder and president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society
The Gist: From the time of Martin Luther, Protestants were opposed to contraception. But after the 1930s mainliners and evangelicals began to adopt secular views on natalism.
In short, Luther's fierce rejection of contraception and abortion lay at the very heart of his reforming zeal and his evangelical theology. His own marriage to Katherine von Bora and their brood of children set a model for the Protestant Christian home, one that would stand for nearly four hundred years.
And yet, by the 1960-s and 1970-s, virtually all Protestant churches---in America as in Europe---embraced contraception and (somewhat less frequently) abortion as compatible with Christian ethics. Pope Paul VI's courageous opposition to these acts in the 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, won broad condemnation from Protestant leaders as an attempt to impose "Catholic views" on the world. Even leaders of "conservative" denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention would welcome as "a blow for Christian liberty" the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized abortion as a free choice during the first six months (and in practice for all nine months) of a pregnancy. Not a single significant Protestant voice raised opposition in the 1960-s and early 1970-s to the massive entry of the U.S. government into the promotion and distribution of contraceptives, nationally and worldwide.
How had a central pillar of the evangelical Protestant ethic been reversed so completely?
The Bottom Line: As Carlson notes, the Protestant Reformation was in significant part a protest against the perceived anti-natalism of the late Medieval Christian Church. But today, opposition to artificial contraception is considered a "Catholic" issue. Was Luther (and Calvin and the other Reformers) wrong about the command to "be fruitful and multiply" being applicable to Christian husbands and wives? Why do we reject a view of contraception that Protestants held for four hundred years? Whether artificial contraception is something that evangelicals should embrace or reject, it's time Reformed Christians developed Biblical arguments for our position rather than relying on the reasoning of 20th century liberal Protestants.