“Conception Control” by Phillip Kayser, PhD

What is the Biblical basis for forming a family? Does the Bible provide principles for a Christian couple’s sex life and the conceiving of children? Conception Control: Avoiding Antinomianism and Legalism seeks to answer these and other questions from a Biblical perspective.

While its medical detail isn’t suitable for everyone, and while I didn’t agree with all of the Scriptural applications, it was an interesting, thought-provoking read.

I’m not quite sure what I expected before I opened this book. Previously, I had been rather “low-key” about my view of anti-conception devices, confident that it’s God who gives children, and assuming that when I got married things would sort themselves out without input from me.

Conception Control introduced me to the idea that some people feel compelled to birth as many children as physically and genetically possible, regardless of the strength and health of the mother, or the discipleship of the children. Rev. Kayser devotes much of his book to refuting this idea, using both Scripture proof-texts and reasoning from Christian principles to show that a balanced approach is best.

I did scratch my head at some of his Scripture applications. While I basically agreed with his conclusions, I was unconvinced by some of the texts he used to prove his point.

Example: he takes John 1 verse 13 “…who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” to say that we should exercise our will in conceiving children. That is, that a decision to conceive or not conceive a child should be made from our intellects and discretion.

Except I happen to have memorized this passage as a child, and the context is:

He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (verses 11-13)

Thus John is discussing the spiritual “children of God” who are born in very different ways to how natural, physical children are born (something discussed again in chapter 3 under “rebirth”). This is not to say we shouldn’t exercise our “wills” in the begetting of physical children, but I find it a stretch to make this argument from this passage.

While encouraging his readers that a couple having relations when no pregnancy can take place (say, during pregnancy or after menopause) is not sin (yes, apparently some groups consider it a sin), Rev. Kayser is very firm that destroying a child already conceived is unacceptable.

He writes with great frankness about the exact mechanisms involved, so I’m not sure his book is helpful for sensitive readers, or unmarried readers with no prospects. For married couples, or even engaged couples who want to have the discussion ahead of time, it could be very helpful to consider the various viewpoints that exist so as to better decide their own balance.

As the subtitle refers to, the ideal is to avoid both “Antinomianism” and “Legalism” – the first being a total rejection of all “rules” regarding conception or sex and embracing any and all forms of control as the couple desires (including methods that kill the embryonic child)…the second being those who take the command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” after the Flood as superseding all other instructions or principles (such as care and gentleness for the mother, properly discipling the children you do have, etc.).

I will probably revisit this once I have a husband AKA the possibility of having children; but regardless of its applicability to my own life, it was interesting and informative to learn about viewpoints I had never come across “in the wild”. As Rev. Kayser points out in his closing remarks, the normal tendency is toward fewer children, not more, and so to encounter a person or couple who takes the “fruitfulness” viewpoint to the extreme is less usual.

Rev. Kayser does a good job reminding us that scientific advice is prone to being changed, but the values and principles of the Word of God are unchanging. Thus, his work seeks to give couples information for forming their own educated opinions. He includes plenty of references to medical research in his discussions of all manner of methods for preventing conception (who knew people had so many ways to try avoiding pregnancy? Not me, for sure!). He’s also very honest about what he feels is his comfort zone, what is a black-and-white line from Scripture, and what is just not understood well enough to be dogmatic about.

For the rest, we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us in the balance between scientific precautions and unafraid freedom.

(Of course, for us singles the principle is pretty clear-cut, and we might not need so much medical specificity.)

Conception Control is available from Leanpub, on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble, and to read FREE online here.

I read this book (well, most of it) for free. I was not required to write a review of any kind.

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