Another theological question about NFP?

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Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ButterflyWings » Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:27 am

I apologise if this question has been answered some time in the past, but I had a theological question I was hoping someone could answer me in simple terms (so I could discuss it with people who aren't highly academic) about natural family planning - stuff I'm trying to understand.

For those who believe artificial birth control is wrong or not acceptable but who actively support natural family planning, I was wondering a few things.

My understanding is the reason most catholics and some protestants believe artificial birth control is wrong is because it prevents contraception which is seen as an important function of sex. Is my understanding correct?

If so, I really don't understand why natural family planning is seen as an acceptable alternative when effectively it does the the same thing by natural methods. ie it prevents conception. Is there a reason that artificial methods of contraception are seen as wrong or less acceptable than natural methods?

I used to work with a lot of catholics, and it seems that sex and marriage and related issues came up a lot when we worked together, but nobody I talked to knew for sure why artificial was seen as less acceptable than natural, mainly because they weren't into studying theology at all, and the extent of their "bible study" was sunday church. which is fair enough - we can't all be mega theologians. I'm not one myself. I have slightly more interest and knowledge than the average person, but far less than someone who has studied it in depth.

My own personal opinion is that birth control should only be used if a couple has a very good reason (eg health reasons or are so poor they can't afford the basics like food and rent or are doing something in particular for God at that point in time where a child would make that task impossible). I know there are some people that would say "oh if God doesn't want you to have a child, He will stop you from having one", but that is what too many silly teens think when they have premarital sex, that God doesn't want them to have a child outside of marriage, so he won't let it happen. So in regards to that argument, I believe God gives us the power to decide whether to make smart or silly decisions, and if we make silly decisions, then there is no guarantee he will protect, eg I've known people who know falling pregnant could kill them or shorten their life significantly and said to everyone "God knows I'm sick, he won't let me fall pregnant" and lo and behold, they fall pregnant. So yes I believe birth control is acceptable, but only under strict conditions eg simply having a low income shouldn't discourage people in western societies from taking the chance of having children. God finds way to help us survive, whether it be through the help of friends and family, help through churches or government assistance.

But I honestly can't see why artificial contraception is seen as worse than natural family planning? To me, I would consider NFP to be less theologically acceptable. My reason is simply is that it means denying your spouse's sexual desire for reasons clearly other than the only ones I can see listed in the bible - time out to pray etc, for menstruating (although I would classify that as an old testament cleanliness rule that we are no longer bound by) - and genuinely physical ones (which may or may not be mentioned in the bible somewhere in some form, but I'm unsure) such as when your spouse is too ill or injured to have sex. It seems especially unfair on women, as during ovulation is when a woman has the highest sexual desire usually, and NFP insists every month she must be denied sex during this time.

It's a topic that has come up a few times with a particular friend, and I'm seeking biblical evidence on either side of the view (in non complex terms) I can discuss with my friend. Plus I really want to understand why some people believe artificial is worse than natural contraception. My views aren't set in stone on this issue. I'm happy to change my view with the right evidence. So yeah.... can anyone help out? either side of the debate?

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby InGodsGrace » Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:40 am

I'm personally against ALL hormonal bc. Because the way they are suppose to work is to prevent ovulation, and the back up is to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. We believe life begins at conception, so this is not an option for us. I also have a blood disorder that can cause blood clots (more than the avg person) from any hormone treatment, bc, HRT etc.

ETA: I'm no longer Catholic, grew up Cathoic, now I go to a nondenominational church. BC wasn't taught when I grrew up Catholic, and has never been brought up in our church.

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby jokerman » Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:49 am

Why do you believe birth control "is acceptable only under strict conditions" like extreme poverty?

The middle-class family with a moderate income and no health problems wants to stop at one kid, or two kids -- is that a problem? If so, why?

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ButterflyWings » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:10 am

jokerman wrote:Why do you believe birth control "is acceptable only under strict conditions" like extreme poverty?

The middle-class family with a moderate income and no health problems wants to stop at one kid, or two kids -- is that a problem? If so, why?


Mainly because of the bible's commands to be fruitful. And I think unless we have a good reason not to have children, then we should trust God with how many we end up having. My definition of "strict" is probably somewhat looser than you think. When I talk about health, I include mental health for example. If one parent genuinely cannot cope with having a child without risking clinical depression (not just self pity), that would come under health.

Sometimes it does take a lot of faith. But I've known some wonderful families on a moderate (even low moderate) income who have had up to a dozen kids and they've made it work. It sometimes require stepping out in faith, such as the situation my husband and I are facing now living in a two bedroom townhouse with an 11 year old child and a baby on the way, and knowing we need a bigger place but not quite having the finances for it. But I'm sure God will provide a bigger place when the time is right.

And ultimately, it's not as easy to fall pregnant as most people think.

I don't think it's sin to use birth control, not one bit. But I do think it's sometimes not quite trusting God as much as we should. But we all do that every day in one way or another so I don't think any less of someone for it.

But I do think if a person is going to use birth control, artificial means are the better preference due to the fact that natural family planning involves denying your spouse sex, and is especially damaging to the woman to be denied at her most desiring time of month.

But I am curious to find out the reasoning of those who thing natural is better. (other than possibly for health reasons and the potential side effects of artificial means - but most people who prefer natural over artificial seem to do so for moral reasons not health ones anyway).

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ButterflyWings » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:20 am

InGodsGrace wrote:I'm personally against ALL hormonal bc. Because the way they are suppose to work is to prevent ovulation, and the back up is to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.


That I can totally understand. But there are other artificial means such as condoms that are non hormonal but some people seem very against those.

I'm not sure all hormonal birth control methods these days do actually prevent a fertilised egg from implanting as there are always new ones being developed and updated research on the issue. But I'm not a big fan of hormonal birth control anyway. I spent the 6 years I was single (ie not having sex) using one for medical reasons (the implanon implant) and within a week (ie less than 7 days) I'd gain up to 10kg. Eventually it stopped working anyway around 18 months ago and I stopped using them. I had been planning to any before I got married, but it ended up being 10 months before the wedding. It did nasty nasty things to my body. Of course, they weren't as bad as the condition I was having treated, but I don't see why anyone would want to use them if they didn't have to.

I did use them during my first marriage, but ones that claimed not to stop prevent fertilised eggs from implanting, although I'm not so sure the drug companies had it right (or maybe weren't entirely honest) but it was my husband's demand and I would have submitted to him unless I was totally sure it was wrong.

It can be difficult when you're a wife and you're not sure about something and your husband is very sure. I guess all you can do is submit and hope your husband is right and if it turns out what he wanted was wrong, then you repent when you realise it was wrong.

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby tentsofpurple » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:32 am

We use natural birth control (something called a lady comp that tracks my fertile times and dh pulls out on fertile times). We don't abstain based on fertility and we are aware that pulling out it not 100% and are ok with that.

We don't use hormonal birth control or the IUD because some have been shown to have the secondary mechanism of not allowing a fertilized egg to implant, I consider this abortion and am not ok with it. Also it makes me miserable (I did try several kinds when we were first married) it kills my libido, makes me nauseated and throwing up, grouchy etc. I've also read some studies on how it can mess with your level of attraction to your spouse (and vice versa) and have some other long term issues in regard to fertility. We don't use condoms or similar barrier methods simply because we hate they way they feel. For us it feels like have sex with a plastic bag between us (and yes we've tried a variety of kinds) once we got a taste of it without them we just couldn't go back.

I don't believe natural birth control methods are really any different or any more "moral" than "non natural" forms of birth control except in the case where it can cause a fertilized egg not to implant. That aside, natural methods of birth control are still that: controlling (or attempting to control) conception.

I believe its a better choice for me for health and potential side effect reasons and the fact that I am uncomfortable with it potentially being an abortificant. I'm what you'd call "crunchy" in general and tend toward natural products/choices for a variety of things (cleaning products, food, home remedies, toiletries etc.). I don't believe I am any better than anyone else just because we use a natural method. What people use or don't for birth control is between them and God (with the exception of the morning after pill and similar, I don't believe that should be available as an option).

I do wish that practitioners were more upfront with the potential side effects of the different birth control types (it would have saved dh and I quite a bit of heart ache). I feel like a lot of the time things like decreased libido are considered unimportant or swept under the rug, and many doctors flat out refute the potential of a fertilized egg being unable to implant. That's a whole other discussion though.

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby jokerman » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:38 am

It would be helpful if some of our resident scholars (seminary grads or those well-versed in Hebrew) could weigh in on the "be fruitful" command. Was it an injunction to the nation of Israel, or everyone? Is the "fruitfulness" limited to the biological (have as many babies as possible) or can it be seen as cultural and spiritual fruitfulness and not necessarily a commentary on the size of the nuclear family?

There are subtle and unsubtle suggestions that today's small family enthusiasts are somehow selfish and don't trust God, when in fact perhaps they are counting the cost (also something the Bible tells us to do, rather than blindly trusting that "everything will work out"). You could make the argument that, in past centuries, having massive families (especially sons) was a form of self-preservation rather than trust in God, because all those kids meant that your old age was going to be taken care of, and having no kids made your old age lonely and less secure. In other words, having 16 kids just made economic sense, in the same way that having 0-2 kids today makes economic sense. Also, we should recognize that our contemporary arrangement, where households only consist of two parents and the kids, are an historical anamoly. Large families were easier to manage when there were plenty of grandmas and aunts and uncles and brothers in the same village to pick up the slack. I don't think it's a sin if our fertility reflects the reality of our culture.

I have three kids, which is just enough to please both camps.

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Another theological question about NFP?

Postby padsnd » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:48 pm

Jokernan,

Interesting thought on the historical front. If not having many kids today is "not trusting God to take care of your family", wasn't having many kids in the past "not trusting God to provide a way for you to be taken care of in your old age?"
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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ophelia » Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:41 pm

Butterflywings wrote:And ultimately, it's not as easy to fall pregnant as most people think.

:lol: Sorry but I got a good snort out of that one. Everyone is different but it's not as hard as some people think either.
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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ophelia » Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:49 pm

To answer your question, I don't know, I have the same question as you. Trying to avoid conception is trying to avoid conception. It would be better to use an artificial means then to deny your spouse the sex life they could have.

I don't use hormonal birth control for the same reasons mentioned in this thread. We utilize FAM along with condoms and film.
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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby sexwithinmarriage » Thu Jun 20, 2013 9:32 pm

In my humble opinion, I don't believe the Bible can be used to prove that possibility of conception is a requirement for sex.

I am against abortion, because I believe it is murder (ten commandments)
I think (but not have thought hard about it) that those methods of birth control that terminate life after blood enters the fetus are wrong. (based on the biblical concept that blood is life)
I think the birth control pill is a travesty and should be taken off the shelves (but that's because of how it screws up so many women's hormones for life without anyone giving a warning and the FDA's official policy being that sex drive decrease in a women isn't a concern). Could argue this under "Christians should be sober minded" as many of these women have/had severe mental imbalances due to the pill, or based on Paul advice regarding frequency, as I've been the pill be a large part of the reason for many marriages in a "refusal" pattern, or just because it's cruel to both the wife and her husband.

So, that's my thoughts.
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Another theological question about NFP?

Postby padsnd » Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:06 am

ophelia wrote:
Butterflywings wrote:And ultimately, it's not as easy to fall pregnant as most people think.

:lol: Sorry but I got a good snort out of that one. Everyone is different but it's not as hard as some people think either.

Yes. But if you've never dealt with infertility with the comments like "don't drink the water", you cannot possibly imagine how painful a comment about it being easy to get pregnant is for some

I've said it before: If drinking the water got a woman pregnant, drowning would be the leading cause of death among infertile women.
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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ButterflyWings » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:37 am

padsnd wrote:
ophelia wrote:
Butterflywings wrote:And ultimately, it's not as easy to fall pregnant as most people think.

:lol: Sorry but I got a good snort out of that one. Everyone is different but it's not as hard as some people think either.

Yes. But if you've never dealt with infertility with the comments like "don't drink the water", you cannot possibly imagine how painful a comment about it being easy to get pregnant is for some

I've said it before: If drinking the water got a woman pregnant, drowning would be the leading cause of death among infertile women.


It can definitely be a wide variation. Perhaps my comment would have been better said "It's not that easy for everyone to fall pregnant as most people think".

I've seen both ends of the spectrum. I fell pregnant the first time my first husband and I didn't use protection. We weren't supposed to be having sex - I had had major surgery the day before, I was still supposed to be in hospital but had discharged myself from hospital two days early because I wasn't coping with the noise (not getting any sleep at all) or with having people barging in every five minutes, and I couldn't keep hospital food down. I had been getting the injection at that stage because my doctor was convinced it just stops ovulation and doesn't stop implantation (and I don't know if this has been proven or disproven, but it sure didn't stop implantation for us), but my last one had been around three and a half months earlier. It's only guaranteed for 6 months, but every doctor I spoke to after said they have never known anyone to fall pregnant less than 6 months after it because it can take anywhere up to 2 years for ovulation to return. Because I was going to be off my feet for weeks, probably months, the surgeon wanted to make sure I wasn't at extra risks for blood clots (DVT).

The last thing I was expecting was for my husband to decide he wouldn't take no for an answer just 36 hours after I had major surgery, and when I realised he was going to force me to do it, no matter how much I protested, I begged him to at least go get condoms, but he wouldn't take any form of no or wait for an answer.

And so we have my precious little daughter. I have no regrets having her, even though she was conceived through spousal rape. I adore her and have wanted to be a mother since I was a little. But by that stage in my marriage, I knew my then-husband was dangerously mentally unwell and extremely violent and didn't want to deliberately bring a child into that environment.

So in some ways, it can be really easy to fall pregnant - it either happened then or two days after when he did the same thing again when I was in even more pain (at least the day I came out of hospital, I still had a lot of pethidine or morphine in my system).

Or it can be really difficult. I feel blessed that it only took my second husband and I 7 months as it could have taken years, and even then it may not have been possible.

the reverse was true for my mother. She spent years trying to have me, and had to take clomid and closely monitor her cycle to fall pregnant with me and even then, she probably miscarried a twin of mine. But 9 years later, my brother was a total accident while she was waiting a few months after having my sister to have a hysterectomy for medical reasons (sadly messed up abdomens seem to run in our family).

So yes it can be easy for some, for others it can be easy some of the time, for others not at all. But I think most people who are worried about having a dozen kids might find that the chances are actually quite small of having a huge amount.

Especially when those who are blessed with being able to breastfeed, it's supposed to work as a reasonable decent method of delaying return to ovulating.

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ophelia » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:42 pm

Butterflywings wrote:So yes it can be easy for some, for others it can be easy some of the time, for others not at all. But I think most people who are worried about having a dozen kids might find that the chances are actually quite small of having a huge amount.

Especially when those who are blessed with being able to breastfeed, it's supposed to work as a reasonable decent method of delaying return to ovulating.


Please understand that I'm not arguing that it isn't hard for some women to get pregnant. I'm simply speaking from my own experience. Breastfeeding didn't stop ovulation for me for more then three months with any of my 4 pregnancies. I concieved #4 when #3 was only four months old. My grandma used to joke that she had a baby with each type of birth control she tried. She had eight kids and 10 pregnancies.

I guess it I just don't believe that the chances od concieving a lot of kids are that small. If you have sex you need to be prepared to get pregnant.
Sometimes I think God sends us lot's of children or no children in order to help us grow and rely on him.

BTW, your story of spousal rape is horrifying. I'm so glad God has blessed you with a daughter and a new husband.
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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby The Twit » Sat Jun 22, 2013 2:41 am

This is now my third time trying this. I am currently in a country in the Middle East and my internet connections has been spotty.

Before we got married my DW and I studied this intensively with the elder of our church who married us. In our marriage prep we did a cursory study of the Bible from cover to cover reviewing everything our church had studied over the years about birth control. Second we discussed this with several couples we had a lot of respect and saw the fruit of the spirit in each of their lives as Christians and as couples. What we concluded was that birth control is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. The biggest thing that we found that was a violation to use a method that basically ended a life by preventing the implantaion or causing a miscarriage.

This left the Twits with barrier methods which included condoms and/or spermacide. We did try the film and we could not keep it in DW until it disolved. Also they stopped making the KY Plus which we found easy to use and enjoyable to use. This left us with foam.

but the biggest thing we learned through all of our studies was that the choice of BC is between the couple and God. No one should be coerced by a charamasitc leader or any specific teaching for any specific form of BC or not having BC. If both partners of the marriage are in agreement and both have been convicted by God together then they will be blessed as a couple and family. As one tape series we listened to about child rearing, before we started having children, stated that the basis of a family and the cornerstone of a family is the husband and wife. Children are blessings, expansions, and fruit of the love between a man and a woman.

Yes we all know the medical/biological how pregnancies happen. But no matter what it is still a miricle how God made this all happen. How he made us attracted to our spouse and by the joining of the two of us in the marriage bed can lead to a new little one in our lives by the joining of two little cells.

With that said my heart is broken when I hear about couples not able to have children but I pray that they still have love for each other and remember that they are a family (a small family) but they are a family formed in the love of God.

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby missunique » Sat Jun 22, 2013 2:53 pm

In a rush at the moment due to family obligations so not an extensive explanation but a quick analogy: if two women wanted to avoid becoming overweight, one might go on a diet, and the other might binge and purge (bulimia). Both may stay slim, but one exercises the virtue of temperance, while the other succumbs to gluttony and unnatural, unhealthy behaviour.

For those who are interested in Church history and the Early Church Fathers: http://www.staycatholic.com/ecf_contraception.htm

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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby tentsofpurple » Sat Jun 22, 2013 3:17 pm

Maybe I'm being dense but I don't see how the binging and purging vs. a diet relates to natural vs. hormonal birth control. Are you saying that those who don't use natural birth control methods are guilty of gluttony and unnatural unhealthy behavior? I'm extrapolating but is it because with *some* natural methods you abstain on fertile days and thus exercise more self control? If so I don't believe we are called to exercise self control in the marriage bed in that way. 1 Cor. 7:5 says not to deny one another except for a time by mutual consent and only for the purpose of devoting yourselves to prayer. I don't see it as unnatural or unhealthy to not abstain, in fact the Bible is full of verses commanding us to enjoy each other.

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Another theological question about NFP?

Postby padsnd » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:47 pm

True. Self-control is not a synonym for self-denial. If one is command to do something--regardless of whether it is pleasurable or not--failing to do it represents a lack of self-control not avoiding doing it because one feels pious about denying oneself.
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Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby missunique » Mon Jun 24, 2013 3:50 am

tentsofpurple wrote:Maybe I'm being dense but I don't see how the binging and purging vs. a diet relates to natural vs. hormonal birth control. Are you saying that those who don't use natural birth control methods are guilty of gluttony and unnatural unhealthy behavior? I'm extrapolating but is it because with *some* natural methods you abstain on fertile days and thus exercise more self control? If so I don't believe we are called to exercise self control in the marriage bed in that way. 1 Cor. 7:5 says not to deny one another except for a time by mutual consent and only for the purpose of devoting yourselves to prayer. I don't see it as unnatural or unhealthy to not abstain, in fact the Bible is full of verses commanding us to enjoy each other.


Ok, I should have explained that better, of course I'm not accusing those who contracept with gluttony or lack of self control. Lets try this again... The original question I was trying to answer was:
ButterflyWings wrote: I really don't understand why natural family planning is seen as an acceptable alternative when effectively it does the the same thing by natural methods. ie it prevents conception. Is there a reason that artificial methods of contraception are seen as wrong or less acceptable than natural methods?

To explain the analogy, it was supposed to show that even though both methods (bulimia and dieting) achieve the same end (weight loss), it does not mean that they are equally valid methods. Similarly, there is a difference between murder and a natural death, I'm challenging the assumption that because they achieve the same ends it doesn't matter what method you use. Hopefully that is a bit clearer!
Catholics believe that children are blessings and should always be welcomed, similar to the Quiverful movement, however we allow for spacing of births when necessary whereas they do not (as far as I understand). NFP can be used to space births if you have a serious reason but it is not necessarily the default. There is no list of serious reasons because they vary from family to family and a serious reason for one may not be for another, it is something the couple must discern. The time of abstaining is used as a time of prayer and discernment to decide if it would be right to have another child or if a serious reason still exists.
We believe there are 2 functions of sex, uniting the couple and procreation, and these should not be interfered with. Preventing conception is an active process, you are stopping a natural function of the body or placing a barrier between you. With NFP you are cooperating with your natural fertility, not interfering with it. I know most here probably won't agree with the theology and there is no point in me trying to convince you but hopefully you can at least understand and respect our belief.

Some more history for those who are interested, this is an article about how Protestants went from being uniformly against contraception (up until the 1930s) to widespread acceptance now: http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=20-04-020-f

Here are quotes from some of the Reformers against contraception:
Martin Luther said, "[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime. . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore, God punished him."

John Calvin said, "The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."

John Wesley warned, "Those sins that dishonor the body are very displeasing to God, and the evidence of vile affections. Observe, the thing which he [Onan] did displeased the Lord—and it is to be feared; thousands, especially of single persons, by this very thing, still displease the Lord, and destroy their own souls."

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Gender: Female

Re: Another theological question about NFP?

Postby ButterflyWings » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:37 am

missunique wrote: The time of abstaining is used as a time of prayer and discernment to decide if it would be right to have another child or if a serious reason still exists.
We believe there are 2 functions of sex, uniting the couple and procreation, and these should not be interfered with. Preventing conception is an active process, you are stopping a natural function of the body or placing a barrier between you. With NFP you are cooperating with your natural fertility, not interfering with it. I know most here probably won't agree with the theology and there is no point in me trying to convince you but hopefully you can at least understand and respect our belief."


Not sure about understand (not fully),but can totally respect. I just can't agree that NPF isn't an active process of preventing conception. But at the end of the day, I don't think it's a burning issue whether someone thinks it is or isn't.

I guess I just feel sorry for women with strong sex drive who are involved with NFP as it must be torture to forego sex at your most desiring time of the month. It can't be easy doing it over and over. For the diet analogy, I would compare it to being overweight and choosing anorexia to fix it.


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