Friday, October 24, 2008

Thomas White in His Own Words

I've only got a couple of seconds to cobble together a quick post here. Not to post for myself, but to direct you all to Dr. Thomas White's own words on the matter of birth control and Christian ethics.

I'm curious as to everyone's thoughts.


Big Daddy Weave said...

A question or two:

What qualifies as an abortifascent birth control method?

If those methods are off the table for White, what popular forms of birth control would he find acceptable?

Finally, are there any significant differences between White's position on birth control methods and the Pope's position?

R. L. Vaughn said...

I wrote very briefly abou this and scheduled it to post tomorrow. Thomas White is correct about "the third function of most birth control pills" which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall. This can be verified, although some in the medical community may be reticent to talk about it. It can occur when the pill does not function to prevent conception. How often this actually happens is probably not known.

One thing that has been widely reported (or perhaps caricatured?) is that Thomas White said birth control is murder. That isn't what he said, whether or not one agrees with his position on children, birth control, etc.

Big Daddy Weave said...


Via the link that Bart provided, White writes this:

"The third function of most birth control pills prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall and this function is what I referred to as murder."

Pretty clear that White believes that the "third function of most birth control pills" is murder.

Bart Barber said...

Big Daddy,

1. Anything failing to prevent fertilization but inducing the termination of pregnancy after fertilization would be an abortifacient birth control method.

2. Condoms. Sponges. IUDs. Rhythm. Vasectomy. Tubal ligation. Acne. :-)

3. The Pope, if I understand Catholic dogma correctly, believes that it is a sin to prevent fertilization. Dr. White has no problem with the prevention of fertilization per se, but does regard it as sin to destroy a human life.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for this succinct summary and the links provided.

If I hear about someone speaking in an SBC seminary chapel that said something either controversial or stupid, I reflexively support the speaker until I hear or see the proof after my own investigation. The same was true here.

Now, from what I can see, it appears that Dr. White is opposed to the destruction of fertilized eggs. This is not a controversial position and is consistent with the BFM.

Also, I saw nothing where Dr. White adopted the Catholic position of no artificial birth control. People wanting to see this will see it anyway.

We do not have a bright constituency, unfortunately, in many quarters. Many do not have the ability to make fine distinctions. Arguments get too complicated for them, and they are constantly jumping to conclusions, reading motives into what other people say etc. Having a complex discussion with a person who is intellectually unable to do so is a frustrating thing. They are either so worried about protecting some turf or making a point that combined with their intellectual limitations, it makes discussion difficult.

There are others, unfortunately, who have the ability to distinguish, but do not have the temperament or desire to. That's another group entirely that is prominent in Baptist life. Nothing can be done about that.

It seems that the controversial issue here is the medical issue - to what extent are popular birth control methods, which are understood by the general public, including many Baptists, not to be abortifacients, actually abortifacients?

That is a medical issue. I have done very little reading on the subject. I have always thought that the pill prevented ovulation or conception, but have never understood that the pill is or can act as an abortifacient.

I appreciate the links showing information regarding that question. I would like to read more about this in the future and am concerned. I cannot tell from the links that there is unanimous agreement on this in the medical community or whether there is some disagreement about this.

I think that the church can contribute to this debate by continuing to request that the medical and the pharmaceutical communities provide completely accurate information on this issue.

There are FTC laws and such that require people who produce products to clearly label the effects, dangers etc. I believe that a good step would be to see that the medical community really does agree on this (and not that it is a fringe theory), and if so, to require that any birth control device that is an abortifacient state clearly to the consumer that is or may act as an abortifacient. There are other birth control methods that do not act in this way (btw, I think you are not correct about the IUD, I believe that is an abortifacient, but I'll let the medical people reading this blog comment on that since I do not have or claim training in medicine, though dealing with medical issues is regular part of my work as a trial lawyer - but that's as far as it goes).

That brings me to my final point.

If I had a suggestion for any theologian or preacher addressing a field in which he is not an authority, especially in an area where there may be much misunderstanding on a popular level, it would be to use extra care and appropriate qualification in addressing that topic.

I am not saying Dr. White did that here. Again, I haven't researched the issue fully to my satisfaction to say for certain things about the pill etc.

But, if I were to give the same talk that Dr. White gave, I would say things such as, "there is growing concern in the medical community about common birth control devices that have been traditionally believed to prevent ovulation or conception, but now may be acknowledged to have abortifacient effects as well. I would encourage all of us to get the best medical information and advice regarding that from our doctors etc."

That type of language, or something like it, gives an appropriate qualifier that keeps the preacher from playing doctor or some other role that he is really not qualified to play, and it puts the issue in a context that helps those listening truly understand what is being said vs. what is not being said.

The best example that I can thing of (and it is very different in degree) was around the Y2K issues about 8 years ago. I heard preachers recycling things they had read without qualification or attribution. And it was pretty obvious that many of the guys I heard did not have the education or training that would qualify them to turn on my lap top computer. But here they were going on and on about very complex computer related theories which did not turn out to be true at all.

Again, Dr. White was nowhere near this area, but there were similarities.

At any rate. Those are my thoughts. I am sorry that he had to explain, refine etc. his statements. But I am glad that he has done so.

And I hope that the medical issue that this raises is one that can be addressed with accuracy so that people with pro-life convictions can make medical choices that are consistent with their convictions.


Anonymous said...

Interesting timing on this sermon and your posting:

My ethics class just started discussing birth control and which are ethical for the Christian yesterday!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Yes, Aaron -- what I said and what you said. That the third function of most birth control pills is murder is what he said. What has been widely implied is that he said "birth control is murder"; IOW, all birth control.

R. L. Vaughn said...

BTW, I did understand Thomas White to believe and mean that any birth control pills that have the third function should not be used.

Joe Blackmon said...

Saying that the third function of some birth control pills is murder is just a wee bit different than saying ALL birth control is murder. It's called reading---why don't you try it some time.