Children a Requirement?

There’s a very interesting discussion going on over at this post at Becky’s blog. I entered tentatively into the discussion, since I felt I had something to add, offering a scriptural reason (permission?) for “choosing” the size of my family rather than “letting God.” Not sure of the readers’ response I think I went in a little defensively.

I interpret the managing my household bit of 1 Tim 5:14 to include choosing the number of children for my family. Some definitions of “manage”: to take charge or care of: to manage my investments, to dominate or influence.

“Taking charge” of the number of children, I think, is appropriate. I do this asking God’s wisdom and blessing in making that decision, and this is exactly the way I chose to marry my husband. You ladies that “knew from the first date,” or felt God tell you, This is the man! are very blessed. So am I. God actually left the decision to me. He leaves it to all of us. This is why it’s called *free will*. Free will does not automatically equal sinful will.

I believe as long as I am seeking God and remaining open to his leading, I am in obedience.

Right now I have three children. My body has markedly deteriorated (become weaker) with each pregnancy, and I’m only 27. I was unable to properly care for my family several times during pg #3, and if my desire is to best serve my family, “another baby for the Kingdom” is not the right way at this time. And it may never be again. I don’t know yet.

Becky then pointed out the point of her discussion wasn’t “full-quiver” (which I don’t subscribe to, and was vaguely arguing against) but rather the idea that every Christian couple is called to have child(ren), for X,Y,Z reasons, outlined pretty thoroughly in the comments section.

I feel less-defensive about this, not in a small way because I think children cause most parents to mature in ways they never knew they needed to. But I’m still a little uncomfortable with the idea that everyone who can has to.
The scripture that seems used most frequently is Genesis 1:28, that starts out,

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth…”

As far as I can tell, the people who use this verse seem to apply it individually, that the call to be fruitful applies to each of us, especially as Christians. But I don’t hear anybody calling up Christians to individually complete the responsibility of the rest of the verse:

Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls [a] on the earth.

Where is the shock– the calls to accountability!– that we’ve allowed Evolution-promoting biologists and mere entertainers to take over our God-mandated role of studying and training lions, whales, puppies and snails?

The only response I can think of is that the command– the whole command– was given to mankind. The group. And from my limited perspective (minus the evolution-pushing) those biologists are doing reasonably well. And the earth is getting “fuller” every day, from what I hear, so that command is also being carried out.

So if we’re going to argue the for-everyone bit (that each couple needs to have kids if they physically can), I think it’d be more intellectually honest/consistent to leave Genesis 1:28 out of this.

If we need a mascot verse, especially for believers (it still wouldn’t apply to the general population), I’d suggest sticking with Malachi 2:15.

But did He not make them {husband and wife} one,
Having a remnant of the Spirit?
And why one?
He seeks godly offspring…

This is one has been presented as “Exhibit A” for the “children are a/the purpose of marriage” arguement.

But even using this verse raises questions in my mind. The line is fairly clear when it stands alone, but I wonder (a little) if it’s such unambiguous direction when taken in-context.

Okay, a small attempt (from a non-Bible-scholar): Earlier in the chapter, God is referred to as Father. Some of the translations (type in your passage, than just change the translation) leave me wondering if the “godly offspring” doesn’t refer to the husband and wife themselves, and the marriage relationship is what’s to grow them into godly offspring, of their heavenly Father. This relationship-as-refining method is supported elsewhere in Scripture, too.

Basically, I’m looking at this (individual verses of support) differently ever since I read this article that warns of the dangers of that approach. Very thought provoking. And potentially convicting.

It disappoints me to see whole ideas (campaigns?) built on verses set alone, and the pressure that puts upon individuals to meet a specific standard not mandated in scripture.

8 thoughts on “Children a Requirement?

  1. I’m so very glad you included a link to that Boundless article. It was well put, and some people respond to articles for their “authority” better than any reasoning or educational training.

  2. I agree…the Boundless article was excellent.

    Interestingly, the position of the staff and all the writers at Boundless seems to be that children ARE a requirement for married Christians who can have them…your thoughts on that?

  3. The same as I’ve said here–
    Like marriage (another thing they push strongly) I think it is for nearly everyone, but that there may (probably will) be exceptions. I have a hard time seeing there are no exceptions.

    In the logic class I took when I was 19, the point came up that, as a rule, you can prove (through logical proofs) that something *is* but you cannot prove that something *isn’t.* That would assume a broader perspective and understanding than any can lay claim to. (I apply this to the question of whether there are no exceptions.)

    And, like one commenter mentioned on your blog, Becky, God may be keeping things from becoming more complicated by leaving children out of the picture (Early death of a spouse comes to mind). Yes, I’ve heard the stories of women who were incredibly thankful to have “a part of” their husband after he died, but it’s statistically undeniable that this complicates every future (even godly) relationship.

  4. A story in an attempt to illustrate:

    This summer a discussion came up about what movies were acceptable to watch. I mentioned that I don’t watch *R* rated movies, since (in summary) I haven’t yet found one that was worth surrendering my “innocence” to (There is another very good Boundless article about the Preservation of Innocence, even as an adult).

    The woman I was speaking with disagreed, and expressed it something like this:

    “God is a big God! He can use anything to teach us. We shouldn’t *limit* him; assume he can’t use it.”

    I was shocked that she seemed to be defending “any” kind of movie, basically saying everything is okay for the simple reason that God can use it.

    “Well God can use *leprosy* too,” I sputtered. “That doesn’t mean we should seek it out!”

    That God can bring good out of anything, we have his promise, but knowing he can turn it all to good does not mean that all situations are equally difficult or complex. Some are markedly simpler than others.

  5. Ooops, my question was really unclear…sorry about that.

    I meant to ask what you thought about the Boundless position, not the whole issue at hand. What are your thoughts about the Boundless position in light of the form of Biblical interpretation they’re encouraging?

    In other words, the organization/publication/whatever seems to be endorsing a whole-picture view of Biblical interpretation, which is great, and at the same time, a theme that comes up over and over again in their articles is that married Christians should have children. So, given the way they’re reading the Bible PLUS the fact that they continue to endorse the importance of children to marriage…what do you think about the way they’ve combined the big-picture view of the Bible WITH the belief that married Chrisians should have kids if at all possible?

  6. I’m afraid I still don’t understand quite what you’re asking… I agree with the “Preach to the rule, not the exception,” approach, which they seem to be using.

    I’ve only seen one article (in my haphazard visits) emphasizing children. What bothered me most about it (and it wasn’t huge) was the author emphasized the need to respect your fertile years, and use them.

    My response is (again) a “Yes, but…”

    To do anything out of fear is to be in disobedience (“God has not given us a spirit of fear…”). Whether that is a fear of having children or a fear of “missing” children, that shouldn’t be the primary motivator. All issues of timing and family (remember you aren’t “starting” a family, you already *are* a family) should be bathed in prayer and approached with wisdom (we’ve been given a Spirit “of love, power, and sound judgment”).

    Using an inappropriate motivator (fear), even to a proper activity is excusing means for the end, and that is generally seen as bad, even if I can’t produce a scripture just now to say why.

  7. There is a LOTR line that says something like, “Despair is for those who see the end beyond all doubt.” And of course by classifying it as such Gandalf is saying how plainly he thinks despair is basically… inapplicable. And presumptuous.

    The line I would coin feels similar to me: “To say there are no exceptions is to say you know the thoughts of God as deeply as he does.”

    There are many topics on which God has made his mind clear to us. Sin is a good example. But there are other things less clear. We should not speak too quickly in these areas.

    *Principles* are very important to convey. *Mandates* should be presented more carefully.

  8. I found the article (I think) you were referring to, “Not Having Babies, Not an Option,” and yeah, I would have to say I disagree with it– mainly for the reason I already mentioned above: The scripture used (Gen 1:28) does not contain an individual mandate, but a command for the human race.

    And if some people with infertility have things to make them grow appropriately w/o children, it’s not unreasonable to guess “fertile” couples may also.

    All the scriptures that represent children as a blessing (”And how presumptuous is that– to refuse a blessing?!” is a common refrain) I think are primarily to encourage parents, not to guilt– or even direct– non-parents.

    With every blessing comes increased responsibility. Some (famously) have refused wealth, despite it being an obvious blessing. This, in part at least, to avoid the additional burden of responsibility that comes with wealth.

    While I believe it can be sin to ”refuse” children, I don’t think that’s automatically the case.

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