Playing With Snakes

Scripture teaches us that sin is not just bad, but that it is also deceitful. It masquerades. This is why we must exhort one another. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). There are many ways this can happen—let me give an example of one particular trick in three instances.

Once we learn we have liberty in a particular area, an area where previous generations of Christians didn’t think they had liberty, we sometimes forget that they had any reasons at all for their caution, and so we forget to be cautious at all. Thus we are muddled and hardened through sin’s deceitfulness. We abuse our liberty more than the legalist does.

For example, we believe that wine is a gift of God, meant to gladden the heart of man. But once we find ourselves in a position where the only sin we want to avoid is that of legalism, we have fallen into the trap. Freedom to drink does not include the freedom to walk along the edges of drunkenness. You can take up residence there and not be a legalist—but that is not the sin you are likely to commit. Wine does bite like an adder (Prov. 23:32), and some of you are playing with the snakes.

Here’s another. We do not believe that Scripture bans every form of birth control. But it does ban some of them. If once you learn that our understanding of Scripture does not ban birth control across the board, which it doesn’t, and you then feel free to use abortifacients, or to not care if something is an abortifacient or not, then you have been deceived in a terrible way. It would be better to have ten babies in a row than to use some forms of birth control, and that is something you need to care about.

Here is a third. We know that listening to secular music is perfectly acceptable, and that no broad genre of music is to be rejected out of hand. But the lyrics to a significant part of the world’s music are perfectly foul—and if you are dancing away at one of our wedding receptions, mouthing all the words to some abomination, then you have been suckered. It would better for you to limit yourself to what you think is cheesy Christian music than to listen to some of the crap you are listening to now. And incidentally, as someone who obviously doesn’t have a whole lot of discernment going, your assessment of whether we have quality options available in Christian music probably isn’t reliable either.

So when you come to confess your sins, you are not just acknowledging that which is bad. You are uncovering and confessing that which was a trick.

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40 thoughts on “Playing With Snakes

  1. Do you really believe it would be worse to have ten babies in a row than to use those birth control methods you believe to be okay? Would we look at the latter of those babies and say to them, “It would have been better if I had used an approved form of birth control than for you to have been born?” Don’t want to hijack your thread, which has an overall point with which I concur, but boy did that strike me as a comparison that actually exposes what’s wrong with your position. 

  2. Here is a gray area.  Once we learn that something is neither sinful nor good in itself, we have to look to motivations, context, etc. to decide whether it’s benefiical.

  3. RC, I am stepping into the mindset of the person who would just do something like that without thinking. “But I don’t want to have ten babies in a row . . .” But if taking their lives is the way to head it off, then you need to have ten babies in a row. The other issue is another issue, needing to be framed differently.

  4. As someone who hails from the Holiness, Wesleyan tradition (The Church of the Nazarene, to be specific), this holiness-twinged poke in the eye is right up my cul-de-sac. Now, I have come out of that theological tradition, to be clear, but it is nice to hear a reformed preacher sound more like the puritans, going after the sin within his own enclave, rather than constantly going after the legalism of my former entourage.Pastor Wilson, it is this kind of balanced pressure that you apply regularly that keeps me reading your books and blogs. Thank you.

  5. How many folks here realize that opposing birth control was not solely a Catholic position for many decades? I realize that it is not sinful to use, but it might be worthwhile to understand what forces were at work that caused such a seismic shift, especially considering how many types of birth control are in fact abortifacient.

  6. Doug, as with rcjr I also think this comment communicates something you don’t want it to:

    It would be better to have ten babies in a row than to use some forms of birth control, and that is something you need to care about.

    Surely most readers will conclude that you believe ‘having ten babies in a row’ is not a good thing and to be avoided. Hopefully they read the comments.

  7. Understanding that children are a heritage from the Lord –  and that some forms of birth control are very bad indeed – is there no place for wise, non-abortifacient  birth control? Say a family of man, wife, and three strapping boys ages 13, 15, and 17 has set out on a missionary journey into somewhat inhospitable country and terrain, etc. Their income is very limited and their budget very tight, etc. Would it not be best to try not to have babies under these circumstances? What if, as the man of the house and the sole bread winner, you are unemployed and of low prospects for gainful employment? If your family is literally going hungry at times, it would be wrong not to try some means of birth control, right? What if you were a freshly-auctioned slave in the antebellum South? 

  8. Jay, suppose instead of your scenario the couple were enslaved under a brutal dictator, had no control whatever over their income, spent their days making bricks without straw. Wouldn’t you think God would have been more prudent and wise to not bless such a family with many children? Yet 70 people in the days of Joseph became 2 million in the days of Moses.

  9. Surely no one really misunderstood the context of the “ten babies in a row” statement.  And surely, it would be really difficult to find any Biblical basis to support birth control. I say that as having been someone who used it at one time with a free conscience.
    Consider Genesis 38:7-10 “And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.”
    Kinda makes you wonder if maybe the last couple of generations have been destroying some of God’s anointed before they were born, leaving the church with limited leadership today. Just sayin’.

  10. I have learned from the comments to your blog that people will reveal what concerns them from what they read and hear instead of what is truly said. Interesting.

  11. I agree with most all of your posts, Pastor Wilson.  But why is it that if my family were to host you for a meal, I would feel ashamed to introduce you to my 9 children (15 and under)?  And per your recent posts on food, I think I would be inclined to hide the bag of tortilla chips labeled “organic”(non-GMO) that I would serve you with our chili.  So much for unity…

  12. That’s a good point, RC. However, the Israelites – as valuable property – were well taken care of. And as far as I know, families were not divided up and separated from each other. Of course it’s likely that most slaves in the American South were well fed and sufficiently clothed. However there were certainly cases when the slave family was “in limbo” and being transported between the sorts of masters that often would rend families; selling their chattel to the highest bidder from who-knows-where – and that would tear the wife from husband, mother from children, vice verse, etc. 
    But my point is not necessarily that even they should not have children, per se. 

    My question is simply this: Are there never times when birth control is wise


  13. Melody, I look at that verse as an intent thing. He didn’t mind using his sister in law for a good time, but he didn’t want to provide for his extended family. He was selfish and he hated his brother.

  14. Robert, the text seems to be referring to  the spreading of the seed, not the doing of the deed; the deed was required by God, as was the seed.  Your statement that Onan only wanted the sex and not the child produced by the sex would seem to me to make the case against all forms of birth control. This was simply Onan’s version of birth control.  Every man and woman who uses birth control wants the pleasure of sex without the risk of the inconvenient child who might tag along with it. How are we different from Onan?

  15. Jennifer,
    I’ve read many of Pastor Wilson’s comments regarding food.  While I think he probably engages in a somewhat unhealthy foodie lifestyle, the point I find in his writing is that it is really annoying when folks take their food choices and attach a spiritual component (and in some cases, a presumptuous demand) to them. I’ll just bet he’d fall into sin at your house by failing to share the chips with the 9 children.

  16. I agree with this post about discernment. If I may…What are the Biblically allowable forms of conception control? My husband and I believe the Scriptures when they say “Be fruitful and multiply” and that the Lord calls children a blessing and a heritage. We also believe that He is sovereign over every womb. He purposes and plans every child created. From Cain and Abel to the baby born in OKC five minutes ago. Where in His Word does it say that we are permitted to say no to His blessings and purposes, as if that is a good thing? 

  17. Kimberley, Scripture also says, thou Shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. If your body is not healthy enough to bear a child and you deliberately get pregnant anyway, then you are tempting him.

    I usually just do a ‘drive-by’ here and give kudos to someone else, but this thread got me thinking about my own situation regarding children. My wife Heidi and I have three children: Aaron (married for almost a year), Hannah, and Rachel. The first and third births were C-sections, and Hannah was a “VBAC”. Now, back in the late 80’s, when God convicted us to finally start a family, and after reading in Cornerstone magazine about the ‘pill’ and its built-in abortifacient, we ended up using something else. After Rachel came in 1996, and the second C-section, we made the decision that such an operation was really hard on Heidi, and so we stopped at three. Obviously the Christian view of children should be only that which is informed from Scripture–indeed, we must not be taken “…captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” We love our friends with bigger families–but that just wasn’t happening for us, that’s all. If God ordains the means as well as the ends (and He does), then wisdom dictates that we can think about (and even plan for) the number of children that we have, and in what frequency. As long as we’re not ‘legalistically’ approaching it (adding to God’s Law), or wrenching passages out of their context to get to where are convictions lie (as in the “Onan” case), then this should indeed be a case-by-case, individual family liberty issue.

  19. Simple application. Here is another one. If you are currently on welfare and you are trying to get off if it, there are Christians in his situation, is it wise to have another until your house is in order? A married couple in this situation are still biblically required to have sex.

  20. Robert, since we don’t have the power to actually create new life and every intimate act between a husband and wife does not result in a child, how is it tempting God, who is the Author of Life, by leaving the blessing of children in His omniscient hands? How can I tempt God by accepting His blessings? 
    But again, what Scriptures are there that tell us that it is *okay and good* to turn away His benevolent blessings? Which Scriptures enumerate conception control?

  21. I am curious for those who advocate a position where birth control is never wise (not talking about abortifacients) what is the distinction between birth control and other medications you might take? Given the topic I am sure there are really well thought out arguments for what the distinction is. 

  22. Kimberley, is wine a blessing? Can it be abused? Are you to say no to the blessing some times to keep it from becoming other than a blessing? Would Samuel have been more blessed to have four corrupt sons instead of two?.

  23. Are you really arguing that God opening and closing the womb is the same as drunkenness? That having the children the Lord purposes is sinful?
    We cannot know the ends from the beginning. That is God’s knowledge alone. He chose to give Samuel two sons and no more. We cannot say that if He had given Samuel two more sons that they would have been wicked as well. 
    Thought experiment. If the Lord somehow have me insight to know for certain that my next child would be born “less than perfect” as some believe (I do not), and with Down’ s Syndrome, would it be wrong of me to purposefully refrain from having that child? Or would it be selfish and a thwarting of God’s old and perfect plan for my life and my sanctification? Again, where in Scripture does it say that rejecting God’s blessings is good and right? 

  24. I am saying that wine and pregnancy come from the same source. If you can abuse one material blessing, then you can abuse another one.

  25. Robert, since children, in your view, can become a sinful abuse…the same as drunkenness, what is the Biblically proscribed acceptable number of children? Because I sure don’t want to sin by having too many babies and getting drunk on them. 
    And here I was all along thinking that the Lord God knows better for my life than I do. Maybe Jacob Arminius is right…

  26. I know a family with 17 children. the parents support the kids and god Bless them. I know quite a few families with seven kids. the same way. I also know families whose parents aren’t supporting their children very well. Scripture says that a person who doesn’t provide for their own are worse than unbelievers. If you can’t support more than a certain number and you have more than that, then you are living beyond your means. There is a difference between unexpected pegnancies and deliberatly trying. Earlier in this thread,you asked me a thought experiment about having prescience of a Down Syndrome baby, let me ask you one. What if you had knowledge that if you conceive a certain  child, he would grow up to be the son described in Proverbs 5-7 and it would end badly for him? People can do that thought experiment all day. God obviously doesn’t allow us that kind of prescience before we conceive a child, because the answer is that unless we had a command from God, neither child would be conceived.

  27. Ah, Robert, but we know that wine can be abused because the bible tells us that it can. At no point does it ever tell us that having children is a point of concern because we can take it “too far”.
    My current reality is close to the “hypotheticals” discussed above. I have high risk pregnancies. My son has a special need. Much to my surprise, after being told by doctors that I’d be unable to have children without their help, I find myself, again, in a high risk pregnancy.  The foolish notion that I am somehow “tempting God” by “gambling” my life is at odds with the fact that God is the author/creator/sustainer of said life. To carry your notion further, am I also “tempting God” and taking the gamble that he will somehow “get at me” for “tempting” Him and thus “give me” another child with a special need?  And to be clear we are poor by American standards. So. This is my real life reality and it is hardly a “thought experiment”.
    That line of thinking just doesn’t add up with the God of the Bible.

  28. Leah, I differentiated between unplanned pregnancies and people deliberately pushing the envelope.  I have  a mild form of cerebral palsey. It was misdiagnosed when i was a kid, but that is another story for another day. I would love to have a family, but it just isn’t going to happen.

  29. The principle that I argued is there. I know that you and Kinberley and Melody disagree with the application that I have mentioned. I respect that. These discussions plant seeds that go far from our initial posts. We have both given food for thought to all of the readers. Doug has picked up on the activity of the post and has his blog accordingly. We have both said what we needed to say and good will come from what we have said. People we don’t know will think of what we have said.

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