Onan

Here’s Tim Challies on birth control. As usual, it’s a pretty clear and concise summary of the standard Evangelical view on birth control. I’m with him about 98% of the way. But I had to smirk at his footnote on the sin of Onan:

A word about Onan: The story of Onan is recorded in Genesis 38 and it goes like this: “Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother.” God did not kill Onan because he used coitus interruptus as a method of birth control, but because he refused to fulfill his duty toward his brother and his brother’s family. He made a mockery of the commands of God, being willing to take pleasure in his brother’s wife but being unwilling to accept the responsibility of raising a child in his brother’s name. While this story may not be entirely irrelevant to our discussion, it is not the place to begin.

In other words, God killed Onan, because he short-changed his brother, and not his brother’s wife. She would be the character in the story who was entering into sexual relations with the expectation of getting children, which was the longing of every decent woman in her era. Onan, on the other hand was “willing to take pleasure” in the activities, but “unwilling to accept the responsibility of raising a child…” It was less about the actual actions, and more about the heart attitudes involved, which heart attitudes mirror exactly those of people who use birth control today.

The more I hear people explain how the sin of Onan wasn’t about birth control, the more I get the impression that birth control is a really bad idea, and the the more I’m impressed with the human ability to argue themselves in circles.

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