Mark Driscoll: Sermon on Birth Control

These are notes from a sermon in the Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions series that Mars Hill Church in Seattle did to start 2008. It’s of relevance to Crystal and I as we pray about kids and our future after getting married. Please pray for us!

Birth Control (Mark Driscoll sermon)

  • There’s enough room in Texas for everyone in the world to have 1700 sq. ft. There’s enough food in the world; distribution is the problem: wars, poverty, evil dictators.
  • The Bible doesn’t use terms of birth control and family planning, but it does establish a worldview in which we can come to particular decision on biomedical ethical issues on birth control.
  • 16 truth statements on this issue:
    1. God is the creator and author of human life.
    2. God made humanity in his image and likeness with makes human life unique and sacred.
    3. God intends for human beings to fill the earth (Genesis 1:28)
    4. God authored that human life begins at conception and declares that an unborn baby is a sacred life (Exodus 21:22-23, etc.)
    5. God knows us from our mother’s womb (Jeremiah chosen from his mother’s womb; Job; Psalm 139).
    6. God declares that when human life has been taken without just cause, the sin of murder has been committed.
    7. God made humanity to exercise dominion by ruling over creation (Genesis 1:26).
    8. God made humanity to steward creation by exercising discernment based upon (a relationship with Him?) 
    9. God made humanity male and female, equal but different.
    10. God created marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman (Proverbs 2, Malachi 2, Matthew 19).
    11. God created sex as a gift only for married couples (if you are single, you don’t need birth control, you need self-control).
      1. But I can’t stop! You’re not doing it now, just keep that going.
    12. God is sovereign over the womb and can open and close it as He wills (Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary).
    13. Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127 says children are a blessing). Deadbeat dads aren’t Christian (Timothy). Christians are pro-adoption (we’ve been adopted; Joseph adopted Jesus).
    14. God desires that Christians raise up godly offspring.
    15. God demands that His people lovingly care for widows and orphans. Foster care kids and single moms and widows we should be concerned about.
    16. God expects single people who are not parents to also help raising children along with parents and grandparents. Jesus was single but he helped raise children. If you are single, consider children’s ministry.
  • The preceding list is a culmination of a biblical worldview on children, sex, marriage.
  • 5 levels of birth control.
    1. No birth control.
      • This is an acceptable Christian position. You’re not doing anything to prevent birth at all. If anything shows up, great, we’ll name it and raise it.
      • One couple Driscoll knows has this position and has 13 children. It’s expensive, but you know what? They’re wonderful. They are an amazing couple because physically she’s been able to birth 13 children. Emotionally, they’ve not had a breakdown, they still love each other (obviously, they keep making babies). They’re a beautiful family. We thoroughly love having them around. I sat them down and asked them one time, “So, you’ve probably never been asked this before, but what’re your convictions about birth control?
        • We don’t believe birth control is a sin, we don’t judge those who use it, we’re not legalistic about it. But our personal conscience conviction that we both agreed to after fasting and prayer is not to use birth control and allow God to do what He wills. Non-self-righteous, operating out of conscience.
          • This is absolutely acceptable: non-legalistic, non-judgmental, non-self-righteous.
        • Legalism is where you bind everyone with your conscience, as opposed to allowing them to operate according to their own conscience.
          • What’s wrong is when this position is the only position that’s not allegedly aligned with Satan.
          • “I am not a feminist and I don’t work for Satan, in fact Jesus signs my paycheck.”
          • Anything that says you either use no birth control or you’re working for Satan is wrong.
          • Homeschooling can get messed up when it becomes legalism and judgmentalism and “We’re right and everyone else is wrong.” Again, when you force your conscience on others, that’s religion at its worst.
          • “Family planning is the mother of abortion.” This is religion. Yes, some people are really selfish, and some people are greedy and that’s why they don’t want to have children, but to say that everyone who uses birth control is selfish is wrong.
            • Using contraception can be necessary for some. It’s a sick thing to make a rule and force it on everyone without knowing their story. What these people need is a little love and not a lot of legalism. People can be cruel and harsh and stupid, making commands that other people try to follow to honor God but can’t.
          • Not everything used for evil is bad. High speed internet and cheap video is being sped up by porn, but we use it to promulgate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
          • Genesis 1:28 isn’t a command, it’s a blessing. Legalists tend to take delights and make them rules. If 1:28 was a command, it would mean that everyone who doesn’t have kids is sinful. That would make miscarriages, singles, and Jesus sinful. God’s people should aspire to be parents and are blessed to be them, but they are not in sin without it.
          • Just because something is a blessing doesn’t mean you’re in sin if you don’t have it!
            • And just because something is a blessing doesn’t mean you should have as many as possible.
            • 1. Have children, 2. Subdue the earth.
              • Everyone needs to decide how big is their earth, and how big is their family. How big is our proverbial quiver?
          • Argument: “God is sovereign, so when we use birth control we subvert God’s sovereignty.”
            • What?!?! God’s not in heaven saying, “Oh no, I was going to have a child in her, but there’s latex, I can’t do it!
          • The sin of Onan is treating Tamar like a booty call and not a bride.
            • You guys having sex with your girlfriends are committing the sin of Onan.
          • The early church fathers said sex was for procreation only, pleasure was a sin.
            • We’d disagree, but they’d point out that we’re downloading porn and having booty calls and friends with benefits.
            • Chief proponent of home schooling says sex isn’t about climax. She says if you’re married and infertile or not in the season of the month of fertility, you’re not allowed to have sex.
              • That’s an evil thing to say (1 Corinthians 7:5). God’s people are to have free and frequent sexual pleasure together. All kinds of trouble happens when Christian couples aren’t having sex.
              • Why would God make a woman multi-orgasmic and put parts on a woman that have no purpose but pleasure?
              • Citing an incident in the Bible, joking: “She strips for him… not even making this up, it’s my favorite chapter in the whole Bible!”
              • Andrea Yates, Christian home-school Mom, murdered every one of her children.
                • My point is, though I am exceedingly pro-life and I make no apology for that, because God is, I also want to hammer idiotic, moralistic, imbecilic husbands. There are certain guys who need to be taken behind the woodshed by an elder. They’re neatniks, nitpicks, don’t belong to a church because they have such a legalistic view of what the theology should be. They tell their wives to shut up you’re supposed to submit. Honey, what can I do to help? they don’t ask. They don’t say, Honey, how can we provide for these kids better financially?
                • If you’re married to one of these men, give us a call. We specialize in male idiots. There are levels of authority above your husband, like church elders and God.
                • She doesn’t exist just to make babies, she exists to be loved as Christ loves the church. To love her, listen to her, agree with her, consider her, even if you have verses, because those verses are out of context.
                • If there’s any guy here that says, “Are you talking about me?” The answer is, “Yes, you’re the idiot of which I speak.” Stop it. Repent. Love her, consider her, and listen to her. Don’t destroy her, in the name of blessing, because you are a curse.
    2. Natural birth control: Avoid intercourse on fertile days. Catholics practiced this, it was called People Roullette.
      • Benefits: Safe, reversible, no other people involved
      • Downsides: Need a lot of discipline, and planning, and a few days a month you’re on the bench.
      • This is acceptable from a Christian worldview.
    3. Non-abortive birth control: Barrier methods, temporary and permanent.
      • Problems with temporary: Philosophically reduces intimacy, reduces pleasure, not as spontaneous.
      • Problems with permanent: Look at your motives. But if you have searched your heart and you do love children and your motives are pure, it’s not a sin. But don’t rush into it, because a lot of people do and regret it, and some leave it emotionally hurt. But it’s legalistic to say no one ever has a good reason.
        • True Example: Godly guy and his godly wife had 18 miscarriages. Physically and emotionally, they decided they couldn’t do it anymore. Should we judge him and say, “You’re godless and sinful!” No, he doesn’t need legalism, he needs love. They’ve decided on adoption. Should we judge them? No, we should help them pay for the adoptions.
    4. Potentially abortive birth control: Chemical birth control AKA “The Pill”
      • Complicated with “potentially.” When an egg is fertilized with the sperm, it’s conception, that’s life.
      • 50-60 million women are taking the pill.
        • Inhibiting ovulation = okay, it’s contraception.
        • Thins and shrivels the lining of the uterus. This is not guaranteed abortive, but potentially abortive.
        • James Dobson researched this and said it’s inconclusive.
          • Doctors who love Jesus and are pro-life are split on the issue.
      • It’s an issue of prayer, research, fasting, and mutual agreement in love for Jesus. We would not say it’s a sin, but it’s risky.
    5. Abortion: Clearly a sin in the majority sense. Morning-after pill included.
      • 1 in 6 abortions is performed by an evangelical Christian woman. Which means this year 250,000 Christian women will abort their child. 50% who have an abortion say it is their only form of birth control.
      • If you don’t agree, you don’t need to find a church that agrees with you. No, you don’t, you need to change your heart, because you’re in sin.
      • This is a theological issue with a political implications, not primarily a political issue.
      • We want to introduce people to Jesus, not argue with them, because you know what He’ll do, He’ll change your mind on everything.
      • There’s no sin Jesus can’t forgive, even murder–He did it on the cross.
        • Rather than arguing with me, you should go to Jesus, and you should spend time in your heart, and prayer, and scripture.

About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

7 Responses to Mark Driscoll: Sermon on Birth Control

  1. abstinencethecondom says:

    What of protection of diseases?

  2. Michelle says:

    This is a great blog and wonderful post. You have made me think. But I do have a question. Why is homeschooling mentioned so many times related to this issue? I do not see the correlation. I know that there are homeschoolers that can be judgemental. But there are parents who public school that do the same.

  3. caitlin says:

    “abstinencethecondom,” protection of diseases isn’t the issue he’s addressing, so i’m assuming that’s why it wasn’t brought up. but if you’re having sex only in marriage, perhaps you’re willing to bear your partners disease (provided it’s not life-threatening).

    these are some great notes, but i have two major issues with it.

    1), the most pro-choice OBGYN will tell you that the chances of you keeping a fertilized egg if you are on the pill are extremely slim. the pill makes your body into a hostile environment that can’t support a baby. knowing that it’s even a possibility and still using it is sinful!! how can he say it’s not? christians should have convictions about this. 130 years ago, there was no denomination whatsoever that even used birth control. one has to look at the reasons why it is so widely used and accepted. when something in the church suddenly changes after 2000 years, you have to look at it. in the case of the pill, you wouldn’t fill your house with carbon monoxide knowing that most likely it would kill your kids, would you?? “well, i don’t know for sure that they’ll die though; they might make it!” that’s a stupid reason to do something, betting on the chance they will live. i’m disappointed mark driscoll said that, because i like a lot of things about him.

    2) the way he was throwing around the word “legalism” is dangerous. i think, Michelle, he was using the home school example a lot in correlation with that word because he’s had the experience of a lot of home schooling parents saying that it’s the only right way to do school. he is saying basically that legalism is when you declare something your conscience has weighed on you the truth for other people. here’s the problem with that. first of all, the “conscience” is the holy spirit in believers on matters of faith and morals. not some psychological process. as believers, we SHOULD be sharing about matters we feel the holy spirit has convicted us of, especially as a result of the Word! this is GOD’s Word! now i don’t think you can tell someone straight across the board that they can’t use any form of birth control, because it isn’t totally substantiated by the bible. but, it IS super important to check your reasons. God’s words in Genesis were a command that would bless us.
    “Command – instruction, directive, direction, commandment, injunction, decree, edict, demand, stipulation, requirement, exhortation, bidding, request.” if someone just plain doesn’t want kids for selfish reasons, well why are we not wanting to call it sin? sin almost always seems to come from not believing God about what he says is good and what he says is bad. trying to do it our own way. i’m not saying everyone SHOULD have 13 kids, i’m saying that people especially in the church ought to THINK more.

    legalism isn’t being strident about a commandment. it’s an abuse or distortion of the law. for a believer to tell another believer that it is not right ot take the pill is not legalistic! i’m surprised he would say that….and disappointed. people love to talk about the great commission. here is what they quote:
    “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” but they leave off the end! he wasn’t done!
    “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    we’re not meant to not think, or not be taught! we ought to LOVE God’s law! it was never an evil thing; it just wasn’t meant to justify us or accomplish salvation!
    Psalms 40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
    it’s not just an old testament thing…

    “Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
    23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. ”

    there are lots of super liberal churches that are ALSO legalistic. you don’t have to be fundamental or conservative to be legalistic, as mark made it seem. super liberal churches are distorting God’s law and misusing it just as much!

    …anyway, that’s my 2 cents. okay, 20 cents.

  4. Michelle says:

    Thanks Caitlyn-Do you have a blog?
    I guess I am just disappointed because I really like Marc and his teachings. But I have seen the homeschooling issue come up again and again with him in negative ways.
    I see homeschooling as being very similar to-stay at home parent or large families. And I know he has a large family and I would assume his wife stays home with the kids. I just don’t see homeschooling as being entirely legalistic. Meaning that most of the families that I know homeschool do it because they were called to and want to be with their kids. Not because they see it as the only way to educate your children. I have met families like that but I wouldn’t say that “most” are like that.
    I know a lot of younger couples who really like Mark and his teachings. I really appreciate what he has to say about sex in marriage. But I am saddened by his continual use of homeschooling as an example of legalism.

  5. Ann says:

    Caitlin –

    You said…”legalism isn’t being strident about a commandment.”

    But the dictionary says… (that’s the dictionary online)

    Legalism – Noun –
    Main Entry: le·gal·ism
    Pronunciation: \ˈlē-gə-ˌli-zəm\
    Function: noun
    Date: 1928

    1 : strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code
    2 : a legal term or rule

    Just a suggestions to double check before jumping to conclusions…

  6. Lisa says:

    Michelle & Caitlin, I think you should listen to the actual sermon Mark did if you haven’t. Michelle you will have a better understanding why he mentions homeschooling. I am a homeschool mom with 5 kids and in no way was I offended by Mark’s message because he was connecting it to the issue of birth control. He doesn’t say homeschooling is legalistic, but mentions that lots of people with large families (who homeschool too), go around telling others that it’s a sin to use any kind of birth control, and tell others that anything they do to prevent having children is sinful. I think in this matter, he was saying this attitude is legalistic because you are imposing rules on another that the bible does not specifically say anything about. I just listened to this particular sermon last week, and thought it was very true (although I personally agree with Caitlyn that if there is even a question that the birth control pill could cause a fetilized egg to be miscarried, then we should not be using it as christians). I just thought I’d offer a little more clarity on what Mark says. Blessings to you both.

  7. Emily says:

    Thanks for sharing. I agree. The chapter in the book Religion Saves that discusses birth control (and stems from this sermon) provided a lot of basis for me in my decision to quit using birth control 2 months into my marriage. I had read this book prior to using birth control but I felt like his argument wasn’t strong enough, so unfortunately I decided to use birth control for the first 2 months. I became pregnant 2 months afterward.

    I agree that if there is the slightest chance that the pill could become abortificiant for your baby, you shouldn’t take it. I don’t see why he is hesitant to place a black and white stamp on this issue. I don’t see how it would be legalistic to do so. I believe he may be hesitant to say “no” entirely to the birth control pill because he knows how many people in his congregation use it. John Piper takes a similar stand. I don’t see how they both can be so vehemently against abortion yet not against this issue? I know it still stands to be researched, but in the meantime should we wait to find out if it really is abortive and continue in taking the pill? I don’t think so. By then, possibly millions of babies could have already been aborted…never being able to implant into their mother’s womb.

    Once I quit birth control I felt a total peace. I relt rebellious while taking it, knowing everything that I did. I think if I had received more straightforward instruction–such as someone saying “This IS wrong”, I would have never started it in the first place. I mourned for any baby that I might have contributed to in ending life to.

    I have spoken to several other women who have felt the same way. Many of them keep their silence because they do not want to be labeled a fanatic or ultra-conservative. I sometimes hesitate to speak out against it myself for these same reasons.

    I pray that there will come a pastor who speaks out about this issue more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: