Drinking Deeply

Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 10:11 AM

Marriage, Children, and Multiplication

I just read this post by Al Molher commenting on deliberate childlessness today. He makes an interesting observation that many marriages choose not to have children simply because it's inconvenient. How typical of people today. All about me, all about self, why should I sacrifice?

But it did leave me with a rather amused thought. According to Darwinian evolution, this is pretty much self-correcting isn't it? These people won't have children, and so these genes won't be passed on.

His final words in these commentaries is always a call for a biblical perspective:

The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children. This reminds us of our responsibility to raise boys to be husbands and fathers and girls to be wives and mothers. God's glory is seen in this, for the family is a critical arena where the glory of God is either displayed or denied. It is just as simple as that.

The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children. That is just the way it is. No kidding.

Indeed, amusing as it is, this is simply another opportunity to let our lights shine in a world of darkness. As more and more non-Christians sink into a lifestyle bent on self and refuse to have children (of course, this isn't common to all non-Christians, but I think it's a safe thing to assume that born-again Christians wouldn't hold this view), Christians can obey that first command, "be fruitful and multiply" even better, being willing to sacrifice self, and one's future, for the glory of God - the raising of God fearing children. Shining brightly in more ways than one. Having more children will make it clear that they have different values. Their children will be more prominent and able to spread these values even further.

Glory to God

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Blogger jefe said...

let me be blunt. mohler's conclusion is absurd, and he supports it with ridiculous arguments. let me walk through them.

the first and most prominent is an ad hominem attack: people who choose not to have children are selfish. it's true that many people choose not to have children for selfish reasons, as his examples show. many people also decide to get married for selfish reasons, or to read books for selfish reasons--or to have children for selfish reasons. that has nothing to do with whether or not having children or not having children is wrong.

second, the scriptural argument. this consists of one text, psalm 127:3-5: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord..." again, this is true, but irrelevant. dessert is a gift from the lord, but it doesn't mean that it is wrong to skip it.

third, he says, "The Scripture does not even envision married couples who choose not to have children." again, this is true (i think), but irrelevant. the scripture "does not even envision" dating, or going to college, or birthday parties, or internet cafes. you cannot stand by a positivist standard that says, "if the bible doesn't address it, it must be illegitimate."

the bible does make authoritative statements that "will never pass away", but that's not all there is to the bible. it's also a product of particular ancient cultures. and in the cultures of the ancient near east, marriage and children were not optional. i say, so what? it looks to me like mohler's "biblical view" is really just a cultural view (and probably not even primarily from biblical cultures--his exaltation of the nuclear family probably comes mostly from the culture he grew up in).

you're going to have to show me a much more compelling argument than mohler's if you're going to convince me that singleness or childlessness are "moral rebellion". family is important, yes. marriage and children are important acts to be undertaken by the grace of god with diligence and humility, yes. but christian values don't amount to "family values".

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." (Matthew 19)  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

jefe, I think context is the key word. Molher's point is not that you can't be single, nor is he saying that if you cannot have children then you are un-godly (it may be an effect of the fall, but not sin in itself). Mohler (and I believe the Bible) is coming down on a certain KIND of singleness and certain KIND of childlessness. That KIND is a selfish one.

And in the context of this selfish culture, where motherhood is abandoned over careers, and marriage can simply be a "union" without ability to have children...Mohler's point should be well-taken. So no...it's not an ad hominem argument. He's not saying if you are being selfish with X, then X is wrong; He's saying selfish-unbibilcial X is wrong.

Again, context. In a culture where babies are being aborted and children not seen as a gift but as a burden or obstacle to self-fulfillment...the biblical point which remind us that children are indeed gifts from God [and eveb mothers are sanctified by bearing children (1 Tim 2:15)] are VERY IMPORTANT points to be made.

What was the intent and purpose of God creating male and female and telling them to "be fruitful and multiply"? It's not simply for the survival mankind, it's for the glory of God. The family unit, sex, child-bearing, child-rearing in the Christian context is for God's glory not for oneself.

Is it biblical to "Choose to not have children" in a marriage context? This is the question. This is not just a cultural question...it's a biblical question. In this context, if the Bible does not envision it in then it is unbiblical. And I would disagree with you that Bible doesn't address dating, birthday parties, and internet cafes. It does. But let's debate that some other day. =)  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

Another question we should examine: Would it be sinful for Adam and Eve to not have children? If so, why?
Something tells me that there's something really wrong with them autonomously choosing to be childless beyond the reason, "because God said so" or "survival of mankind."  

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Blogger jefe said...

thanks for curbing my rhetoric a bit, theocentric. you're right that the issue isn't singleness and childlessness per se, and i shouldn't have implied that it was (though, i'd also point out, mohler's rhetoric strays the same way--"the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children"). the real question is, is it legitimate for a married couple to choose not to have children?

thanks also for bringing more text to bear on the question. i think the genesis 1 instructions, though, are pretty clearly an expression of the plan for humanity in general, which is not the same thing as a plan for individual humans. read the whole verse:

"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

surely adam and eve were not expected as individuals to "fill the earth". in the same way, if a particular couple is being disobedient by not having children, am i being disobedient by not ruling over the fish of the sea? if procreation stopped altogether, something would be wrong, just as if agriculture or animal husbandry stopped, something would be wrong. but i don't see as that means there are no good reasons for a particular individual or couple to choose not to do any of those.

perhaps also you could clarify what you mean by the formula, "if the Bible does not envision it then it is unbiblical." i see two things you could mean, one of which is a tautology, and the other of which sounds ridiculous to me. the tautology is, "if it isn't in the bible, then it's extra-biblical". the claim that sounds ridiculous is, "if it isn't in the bible, then it's contrary to scripture". i just don't see how that's tenable--but resolving that point may require us to settle whether there are internet cafes in the bible.

let me not be entirely negative, though. here's a positive view about childlessness that seems very intuitive to me (and which i meant to allude to with the Matthew quote): there are lots of god-glorifying reasons not to have children. you may not agree with all of these reasons, but consider these as candidates. being stuck in a situation that is unsafe for child-rearing. lacking the means (and i mean really lacking them) to responsibly raise a child. a family history of serious congenital illness. concern about overpopulation in your community. in order to have "undivided devotion to the Lord" (extending the principle of 1 Corinthians 7:32-35)--perhaps because of involvement in a particular ministry that makes having children impractical.

i could go on. now, if you agree with some of those reasons, but still say, "but selfishly choosing not to have children is wrong", then we don't actually disagree. there is a list of bad reasons that is much longer than the list of good reasons. but that's a very different position from the one i took mohler to be advocating.  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

hey, jefe. Thank you for your response. I can't respond to all of it now (maybe mickey can chime in)...but I grant your point that we need to be wise when we plan to have children. But if there are all those negative circumstances, why get married at all? Meaning, if such wisdom should be involved in bearing children, shouldn't we also apply this wisdom before we get married? I liked that you refered to 1 Cor. 7 passage. It refers to before you get married (when single). You extend forward, but I would extend this backwards and say, if we should not have children based on the principles you mentioned, we shouldn't get married in the first place.  

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Blogger jefe said...

there's something to that--if we pay any attention to paul and jesus, the part of mohler's "formula" that says "adulthood means marriage" is even more problematic than the part that says "marriage means children".

but let's not get too down on marriage. surely you don't think that procreation is the only reason for marriage? and if you don't think that, then i'm not sure i see why we would say no children means no marriage--unless we assume that an intentionally childless marriage is wrong. but that's exactly what i'm questioning. and so far i haven't seen any good reason to think that it's true.

(on the side, it's worth remembering that most people don't get married with complete knowledge of the future. the child-unfriendly situations i described could easily come up unexpectedly, or become unexpectedly permanent. if you admit that there can be times and circumstances in a marriage when it is good and god-glorifying to choose not to have children, then suppose that those circumstances happen to obtain all the way until the biological clock runs down. you have a hard sell to make me see that as "moral rebellion" on anyone's part.)  

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