A Southern Baptist preacher has brewed up a storm of debates since he told seminary students that taking birth control pills is a sin and equivalent to committing murder.
"[T]he third function in that birth control is to prevent implantation on the uterine wall. And if it reaches that third function, that third function does not take effect until the seventh day. The seventh day is seven days too long, and its murder of a life," said the Rev. Thomas White at a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel service earlier this month.
"I want you to know that the third form of birth control known as the pill, that third form that it has is wrong – it is not correct according to Scripture," said White, who serves as vice president for Student Services at SWBTS.
The Oct. 7 sermon has since drawn fire and concern from students, faculty and fellow Southern Baptists, some of whom agree with White to a certain extent and some of whom have charged him of being a legalist.
"We have SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) leaders, including seminary professors like Dr. White, Southern Baptist agency Presidents, SBC trustees and other leaders who are preaching personal opinions as if they were mandates from God," the Rev. Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., wrote in a blog post last week. "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 ..."
Dr. Richard Land, president of SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told the Dallas/Fort Worth news channel WFAA, "I don't believe prudent planning is rebellion against God's will as long as couples accept God may cause them to have unplanned pregnancies anyway."
But Land said he ultimately agrees with White.
In his 38-minute sermon, White expounded on Psalm 127 and expressed his views on birth control for six minutes. During that short segment, White said life begins the moment an egg and sperm meet and thus a pill that prevents that life from implanting on the uterine wall is wrong.
More generally, he also stated that planning family life your own way and according to your own time and not entrusting God with your destiny is a sin.
"We are sinning when we say I'm going to control every aspect of my family ... we don't trust Him," he said.
White issued a clarification in a blog post last Thursday, explaining that he does not believe all birth control is murder but that he opposes "abortifacients which prevent the progression or continuation of life" – including the third function of birth control pills.
"We live in a society which largely feels that children are a burden but the Bible tells us that children are a blessing," added White, who confessed to using contraception with his wife in the past out of "selfishness."
"There is perhaps nothing in America that we have misunderstood as much as the fact that children are a blessing from the Lord," he had said in the sermon.
White stressed that he does not speak for SWBTS but said he believes his view is consistent with the Southern Baptist Convention's views on the unborn.
Explaining the SBC position on the issue, Land said in a statement, "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 altogether unless there's a medical reason the couple should not have children."