FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) — A Southern Baptist seminary professor has sparked controversy with a recent sermon labeling use of birth-control pills a sin.
Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications and associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in an Oct. 7 seminary chapel sermon that using birth-control pills is “wrong,” “not correct according to Scripture” and, in some cases, “murder of a life.”
White said one of the three ways the pill functions is to prevent a fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus seven days after conception.
“The seventh day is seven days too long, and it's murder of a life,” he said. “When the egg and the sperm meet, you have life.
“If you ask theologians, they're going to tell you that the egg and the sperm meet when the soul is implanted,” White said. “There's no other time to say that God creates the soul and puts it in than that point in time. And so at that point you have life. You have at the moment of conception life, and yet the third aspect of birth control is to say that life cannot implant onto the wall as it normally would, and so that life is going to be flushed down, and that, my friends, is wrong.”
After comments critical of his sermon appeared in a report on a local television station, White said in an e-mail to the Dallas Morning News that he doesn't oppose all birth control, but just anything that ends life after conception.
In his Oct. 7 sermon, however, White seemed to suggest that all birth control was contrary to God's plan. He said the root problem is that American society views children as a hindrance rather than a blessing from God.
White confessed that, after getting married nine years ago, he and his wife made the mistake of using contraceptives “because of my own selfishness.”
“I wanted kids, but I wanted kids in not God's timing, but in my timing,” he said. “I didn't want kids when I was in my M.Div. program, when I was going to have another mouth to feed, and it was going to inconvenience my ability to finish my course work and maybe move on and do a Ph.D. and all these type things. I wanted kids, but I wanted kids my way, my time, the way I wanted to do it, so I could plan my family out.”
“Folks, you are not in control of your destinies — God is,” he said. “And the sooner we recognize that we are sinning when we say, ‘I am going to control every aspect of my family' and we're not giving control to God, we don't trust him, we don't believe that he knows better than we do — we think we know more than God does, and just like I did, some of you are involved in that exact same sin.”
White said Christians joke about the fertile families that Psalm 127 — ”Behold, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward …. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full” — seems to uphold as an ideal.
“It's my attitude, too,” he said. “I think about ten kids running around the house, and I think to myself, ‘Lord, is that really a blessing?' That's what [God's] Word says.”
White also faulted couples who have children, but then pawn them off on others to raise.
“We want to take our kids and push them off to the day care,” he said. “Then we want to take our kids and push them off to the public schools, and then we want to take our kids and push them off to the church. And then when our kids mess up, we want to blame somebody else for our kid's problems.”
“It's not a day care's responsibility, a church's responsibility or a school's responsibility to rear your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord,” he said. “It is your responsibility to do so.”
Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor who blogs on Southern Baptist Convention issues at “Grace and Truth to You” accused White of “preaching personal opinions as if they were mandates from God.”
“This type of legalism will destroy not only the fabric of cooperation upon which our convention was built; it will ultimately destroy the powerful message of the gospel, because tertiary matters are elevated to a primary status of debate within the SBC and people who disagree are excluded,” Burleson said.
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and a former Southwestern Seminary trustee, criticized White's message as “extremely problematic, overly simplistic and unscriptural.”
McKissic resigned from the Southwestern Seminary board of trustees last year amid controversy over his own remarks at a 2006 chapel service. In them, he acknowledged that he had spoken in tongues in his private prayer life.
In a statement released to a local TV station, McKissic said he sees a pattern developing at the seminary of “adopting views not supported by Scripture, but preached as if they are in line with Scripture.” He cited examples of the recent firing of a Hebrew professor because she is a woman and attempts to disqualify missionaries not baptized in Southern Baptist churches.
“This is fundamentalism run amok,” McKissic said. “I am concerned that this great Baptist seminary is slowly degenerating into a fundamentalist indoctrination camp.”
“These views represent a radical shift in Baptist life in the past few years,” McKissic said. “You would expect this kind of thinking to have come from Bob Jones University or some independent fundamentalist Baptist seminary, but not SWBTS. All of these aberrant views explain why the SBC is a denomination in decline.”
Richard Land, head of the SBC's ethics and public policy agency, reacted to the controversy over White's remarks by saying he would not oppose all birth control. However, he did seem to oppose surgical sterilization as a form of contraception.
“The Southern Baptist Convention is not opposed to the use of birth control within marriage as long as the methods used do not cause the fertilized egg to abort and as long as the methods used do not bar having children all together unless there's a medical reason the couple should not have children,” he said, according to WFAA-TV.