Last week a friend wrote me with this question: “God says be fruitful and multiply. Where does family planning fit into that?” This was my response (I welcome feedback):
I think it is important to note that even though something is a commandment of God in Scripture that doesn’t mean it is always for all places and all times. God commanded that Israel obey the Sabbath, and that they circumcise their male children on the eighth day, yet the Apostle Paul could say that after Christ these things are no longer necessary because their purpose is fulfilled in Christ (along with much of the Law of Moses). We could even examine Gen 3.17-19 where God commands men to work the ground after the curse yet we know that this doesn’t mean that men cannot have office jobs and the like now.
So what is important to ask is whether or not a commandment demands obedience in all ages and all places. We should also ask “why?” about a commandment. Most of the “be fruitful and multiply” reference occur in the Book of Genesis when humanity is young and/or the family of Abraham was young. God doesn’t limit this commandment to humans, but all species. Why? Well, because it was necessary for the survival of our species and every other species at that time.
We (1) don’t live in the same world with the same mandate now and (2) we don’t see anywhere in the New Testament where the church is told that this is necessary. Jesus himself had no children nor married and neither did the great Apostle Paul. It is apparent that the lack of emphasis on this command shows that the early church didn’t see it as binding for all places and all times. In fact, the Apostle has favorable things to say about people who remain celibate for the Kingdom as does Jesus.
So family planning, in my opinion, is realizing what stage in history it is that we reside and caring for God’s creation in light of that. If we can’t manage more children it is OK to cease having them. If we can’t manage children at this stage of life, or we don’t want children, we are under no obligation from Jesus or any of the New Testament writers to continue the mandate we find in the Book of Genesis.