Will you accept children lovingly from God?

This is the question asked of Catholic couples getting married assuming they use the official Rite of Marriage (1969). So those of you who are married, how would you have answered? Those who might be married some day, what will be your answer? You may be thinking, “Phil, I am not Catholic. I was not asked that. I will not be asked that.” Yes, unfortunately, the question of the control of the birth of children basically has been determined by the maxim satired in the following video (note this is Monty Python, language may not be proper in all environments or for all ears) :

The maxim:
Catholics, no birth control (although some estimate 95% of Catholics ignore this). Everyone else, choose your weapon.

And yes, having children 5,3,1, and a week or so away, I have heard all the jokes. “You do know what causes that, don’t you?” “Ever think about separate beds?” Even once, “Phil, you do have a choice. You are not Catholic.”

Not to mention all of the very real questions Jaimee and I struggle with. Where to put them? Will we have the money to raise them? Will we remain sane?

So is the maxim that solid? Am I and my wife just forgetting the options available to us? After all, we are not Catholics.

Did you know that the LCMS firmly rejected birth control of any sort until the 1950s? The articles in the Lutheran Witness would shock you if you read them. For example, “Birth control is immoral, degrading, and stupid.” (Lutheran Witness, June 26, 1917) There was no question. Birth Control was sinful and unthinkable. But society changed and the Synod became silent. And silence gave license to thinking along the maxim presented above. I asked James Lamb (Director of Lutherans or Life) not too long ago why they have no resource that deals with the question of the ethics of using birth control in general, only having those related to specific methods and their abortafacient possibilities. He just said, “We don’t want to get into that.”

How can Lutherans for LIFE not discuss the idea of delaying the bringing of life into the world? Especially when the reasons given for using birth control are disturbingly similar to those used in choosing an abortion. “It would change our lives.” “” We are not ready.” “It would not allow us to pursue our other goals for life.” (These statements are not necessarily meant to equate the two action, but to note the similar attitudinal paths that lead to both decisions.) How can we as the Church be silent about this?

So let me break the silence, and engage you in my inner monologue. Else they might take me away for talking to myself a little too much.

Here are the three truths I ask all my premarital couples to keep in mind when making these decisions, along with some accompaning scripture.

1. Children are a blessing, not an inconvenience.

[3] Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
[4] Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
[5] Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127:3-5 (ESV)

2. God is the author of life.

Narrative:
[7] Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:7 (ESV)

[29] When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
[30] When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground. Psalm 104:29-30 (ESV)

3. God provides for the needs of his people even when it seems impossible.

Narrative:
[13] In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. [14] And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. [15] When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. [16] This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’ ” Exodus 16:13-16 (ESV)

I then ask each of the couples to think about using birth control in light of those truths. If your reason for not having children is the inconvenience to your life and plans, perhaps another less selfish look is necessary. If you think yourself better at life-planning than the God in charge of it since day one, a pride check might be in order. If you doubt God’s ability to provide, faith check time.

Before you think me too abrasive. let me be clear. I have thought of children as inconveniencing. I have thought my plans better than God when it comes to family planning. I doubt whether God will provide for the children he has blessed us with. But I have also repented of each of these things as well ultimately reckoning them sinful.

I do not write this as the wise to the ignorant. I do write as one who has thought, read, and studied this idea in the scriptures at some length. I write as one who has struggled with God over it in prayer.

I write as one struggling again now as our fourth is born. What to do now? Oh the doctor will ask at the first post birth appointment, “Can I do something for you in regard to birth control?” I write as one struggling not to view this as something God demands of us, but a blessed life he invites us to enter. I write wondering if the need to be fruitful and multiply was a temporary thing. I write wondering what living in the expectation of Jesus’ imminent return means to all of this.

I write having read last night:

Malachi 2:15 “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.” (ESV)

And with this verse still ringing in my mind as the prime purpose for which God originally gave a woman to man:

Genesis 1:28 And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (ESV)

I write with the thoughts of all of the faithful women in the Bible who sought nothing more than to fill the earth with God’s children, who realized the could make no more significant impact on the earth and the kingdom of God than through bearing and raising godly children.

I write still pondering the mystery of “Yet she will be saved through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15) ” playing in my mind.

Jaimee and I did not make the choice to this point not use birth control just because we like children, although we do. We did not do it just to be different, although we are. We did it because we believe it to be part of the life that God has given us to live, a life that values children as the very means by which God keeps the Church alive throughout the generations.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2007 at 11:16 pm and is filed under Marriage and Family, Sexuality, Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

23 Responses to “Will you accept children lovingly from God?”

  1. Jaime Says:

    Haha… who’s gonna touch this one? 🙂
    (Maybe in email I will… not in a public reply though.)

  2. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Come on, I took a chance posting it. I feel like a man with a hand extended for a high five, and getting the feeling I will be left hanging. Come on, I trust you my readers…that is why I brought it up here…write please, or email if you must.

  3. Jaime Says:

    Ok. My reply in email would probably be a little different, but I will post anyway here.

    First, Phil, I agree with so much of what you were saying. My parents had four kids and my mom stayed at home while my dad supported us. It meant a lot of sacrifices on their part, but I sure am glad they didn’t stop at one… or two or three.

    And I agree that children are an amazing gift from God.

    With that said, I don’t have issue with pre-conception birth control. Hopefully (like with any choice in life) people make their decisions prayerfully…. and since it’s not perfect, of course God could still choose to give people children anyway. And there’s always natural family planning like the Creighton Method, which doesn’t put any added hormones or chemicals into your body.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the truths you present: Children are a blessing, not an inconvenience, God is the author of life, God will provide. But there’s also the idea that God has given us a certain amount of autonomy in our lives. That autonomy should be exercised carefully and prayerfully, but it does exist.

    This is, of course, not a judgement on your life (I think y’all are making excellent choices for excellent reasons)… nor a defense of ours (we’d love to have a kid too!). And I’m offended by your doctors’ response to your life choices. Grrr…

  4. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Jaime, I have several question, but let me start here, what of the truth that all Christian churches thought it immoral until the 1930s, most till several decades later? Was it just “fear of progress” Christianity?

  5. Jaime Says:

    I think it had to do with a number of things… but probably a large part of it was research. It was in the 30s that they actually started figuring out how hormones affected ovulation and pregancy. Before that, it was a lot of guesswork.

    Do you have life insurance? Because that was also considered wrong by the church in the past. 🙂

  6. Philip Hoppe Says:

    It is dangerous when scientific research changes church dogma. Especially since the prohibition had nothing to do with the physical effects of birth control on the mother, but the attitudes related to it, and the nature of the act itself.
    I do have life insurance. I think the church was right though to state that ultimate dependence on it was sin. I think it is sad that we now make “financial planning” often apart from the consideration of what it says about our faith. I do struggle even in my mind with my choices there also.
    What is it in our lives we actually still allow God to have direct control over? Oh I forgot, we got too smart for that.

  7. Jaime Says:

    I guess I don’t see it as dangerous if the church didn’t endorse things that had no proof of working, and started endorsing them when proof presented itself.

    What do you think of natural family planning?

    I guess it depends on how you define “allowing God to have control” over your life. For me, that means praying and searching the bible, gaining information, asking God to guide me, and making the best decision I can. I don’t think knowledge and God are binary opposites.

  8. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Autonomy built the tower of Babel. 🙂 I say that mostly as a joke. But it is very true that an over-exaggerated sense of autonomy quickly become idolatrous pride. And what are the scriptures that suggest God given autonomy over issues like this? I think most of the passage about birth of children suggest theonomy.

    It is dangerous because the church’s question was not efficacy. they were against it because of what it said about children, family, sex, faith, etc. None of those changed with better medicines.

  9. Jaime Says:

    Yes, definitely, an over-exaggerated sense of autonomy is dangerous… but that’s not at all what I was talking about.

    You have to acknowledge a certain amount of autonomy in baby-making… people do get to choose when and how often they have sex. Except for Mary, God gave that autonomy.

    What do you think about natural family planning?

    As far as scripture goes, I think God stresses the importance of life and the value of children. I don’t think birth control discounts that.

  10. Philip Hoppe Says:

    How does refusing to have children show that they are valued? How does it give evidence of the importance of life. And no, I don’t buy the we use 6 forms of birth control, but if God wants to give us a kid he still will argument. That is like saying that I will never eat but if God wants me to live, he will make me. You cannot reject the means of god and still claim to have affection for the end.

    As far as autonomy in baby making, I would say the prime autonomy that is given to baby making by God is the choice made about whether to marry or not. After that, the scriptures are quite clear that sexuality is a natural part of that relationship and baby making a natural part of sexuality.

    Natural family planning: Better physically. Better is seems to me interpersonally. Still not sure how it is any different spiritually. Still telling God no to what He calls blessings. In some senses, it almost seems worse, like God I am smart enough to trick how you made things. Watch this and be impressed.

  11. Jim Wagner Says:

    Here’s the high five, Phil! I am with you 100%.

    Diane and I have five children and she stayed at home for much of that time. We survived quite well on my pastor’s salary. My adult children look back on their childhood now and think they were blessed to have the childhood they had — although they didn’t have all the “things” some of their friends had. They all now have college degrees too.

    In our early marriage we used artificial birth control because we didn’t know any better. Later we used NFP and found that it lead to some of the most joyous years of our lives.

    I am not completely opposed to family planning (or family spacing, as they said in Tanzania), but it seems to me there is something intrinsically wrong with a sexual relationship that systematically excudes the possibility of procreation.

    When we were married in 1967 our LCMS pastor told us it was not the method, but the motive. I think he was probably right — but motives can be a very very tricky thing to evaluate.

    Blessings to you! Keep speaking out. It goes against the grain but you are mostly right.

    Jim Wagner (and I think Diane would agree with me too)

  12. Jaime Says:

    Phil,

    I think it’s possible for God to gift different people with kids at different times… and I think he can and does use a variety of things to bring about his timing — including birth control. It doesn’t discount the value of children.

    It seems like your assumption that God ONLY works through non-protected sex to bring about his perfect timing is akin to the assumption that God gives the gift of healing people ONLY through prayer, without any use of medicines.

    It seems like your perception of procreation is that it is something everybody must attempt as soon as they are married and continue during the length of their marriage. That thinking sets rules on childbearing that I don’t think God set anywhere.

    If waiting to have kids is sinful and implies that we don’t value kids or appreciate them, why not marry at 18 or 16 or as soon as you hit puberty and start being fruitful and multiplying? I’m obviously not recommending that…. because there’s a time and place for things in life, and because God works through our life experiences and maturity to grow us and mature. Likewise, I don’t think marriage has to immediately equal children.

    I do want you to know that I am still commenting very much from a theoretical point of view… I feel like you’re getting upset, and I’d possibly be more emotionally engaged if I did have kids of my own (or if I was actively seeking not to have them). I’m wondering if I should’ve just gone with my gut and kept my mouth shut…

    I love the way you guys live your lives. I just don’t think that is necessarily the way that every Christian family needs to do it. I will readily high-five your choices as being God-seeking and God-pleasing… if you’ll take it. 😉

  13. Tom Says:

    Phil,

    To me, it seems that scholars, pastors, congregations have struggled with this issue for years. And rightfully so, there are good, biblical arguments on both sides. So i feel the tension between the position you hold right now and other good, committed Christians who see things a little differently.

    Again, to me, it seems that inherent within your argument is a sense that sex is primarily regulated to the realm of procreation. And while i believe that sex is for procreation there are other reasons for it and i am not convinced that procreation is the primary reason for sex.

    In Gen. 1:28 the Hebrew of “be fruitful and multiply” can be taken to mean a blessing rather than a command. If it is a command what about all the people who for whatever reason cannot have children are they disobedient to the command? And i think context plays a huge role here: these are the first two people on earth there is an extreme urgency here to populate it. In a world of over 6 billion people our Earth simply cannot sustain 10, 11, 12+ billion people. On a side note – i’m not advocating then…just getting rid of people….huge difference between population control and population reduction.

    In your last reply you almost seemed to hint at a natural law argument as well: “baby making a natural part of sexuality”….which is odd because that seems to rest more on Aristotle’s notion of causes.

    And I agree with Jim that there is something wrong with a marriage that automatically says “no children, at any time.” This reveals more of an attitude and heart that isn’t right in regards to what sex, at least in some way, is to be about (procreation). But even if a couple just has one child haven’t they ‘been fruitful and multiplied’? And that is assuming one sees that as a command and not a blessing.

    I know for Toni and I that for a long while we used birth control b/c Toni was on some meds that she would have had to stop right away if she became pregnant and she needed to be on the medications for a medical issue she was/is facing.

    Right after Toni gave birth there was a period of time where we couldn’t have sex. So in a sense you are practicing already a form of birth control (abstinence) during that period (which scripturally is not a reason to abstain – is this the church caving to cultural or scientific pressure? – my answer would be no). Some choose to have sex during that time but risk another pregnancy (breast-feeding is not a 100% against getting pregnant again during the 1st six months after a delivery) which can have adverse affects on the woman’s body – is that showing care and concern for my wife? Potentially not.

    People who are in their 40’s still have kids….shoot, women in their 50’s (and even 60’s) are having kids….do you have a child, if God wants you to have one, at 60? If the argument is, “God will give you as many as he decides, when he decides” then ‘child-bearing years’ really has no limit until after one has passed through menopause.

    Any ‘natural birth control’ is still that: birth control. Abstinence – birth control. Whether it takes place in your 20’s or 30’s, if you chose no type of birth control and one is adamant about it – then they must be willing to live by that standard all the way up to and through menopause (which can occur in some women in their 60’s).

    Children are a blessing. We are blessed with two ourselves. Procreation is one aspect of sex – and if a couple even has one child and says, “we just don’t want anymore” – i think they have according to Gen. 1 – been blessed. Are they missing out by not having more? Maybe. But it seems that missing out on something good is not the same as being disobedient. And for me, I have to make that distinction. What I would do in a situation is not always what someone else would do (for whatever reason) – and i may think they are missing out, but i gotta be careful and not assume that they have chosen a wrong or disobedient path. Specifically, as it relates to birth control especially since there are good Christ-followers and good biblical arguments on both sides.

    I pray that God gives you wisdom and direction for how you guys are to proceed with this issue. And i trust that even though we may chose a different path than you in the end…that you believe us when we say this is what God has called us to in our life after much prayer and thought…as we know and believe God has led you and your family (even though it may be to a different conclusion).

    Sorry for such the long post.

  14. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Let me respond in reverse to the last two comments. And lest I go crazy, allow me to quote and then respond. So to Tom first

    TOM: Again, to me, it seems that inherent within your argument is a sense that sex is primarily regulated to the realm of procreation. And while i believe that sex is for procreation there are other reasons for it and i am not convinced that procreation is the primary reason for sex.

    I guess I would argue more than the primary purpose of marriage, not sex, is for the birth of children. All of the other reasons often cited as the purposes of marriage are thing which can be found in other relationships. Maybe not as intensely so, and I do not deny that the martial relationship has all sort of other blessings, but am not convinced they are purposes for it. When I ask the question, “Why did God create woman and give her to man?” the scriptural answer in Genesis I think is quite clearly for procreation. Why else would the curse affect primarily her childbearing? The curses are all aimed at the person’s primary purpose. I am not saying that sex is only good for producing children, but I am saying that entering into marriage in the bible was as much a statement of openness to children as it was to openness to each other. I am saying that getting married without being open to children seems inconsistent with the purposes which God intended it. As the Malachi makes clear, God’s desire in marriage is for godly offspring.

    TOM:In Gen. 1:28 the Hebrew of “be fruitful and multiply” can be taken to mean a blessing rather than a command. If it is a command what about all the people who for whatever reason cannot have children are they disobedient to the command?

    I prefer to think invitation to the blessed life as well. All of the so called “commandments” are this. But that does not mean that rejecting that invitation is any less sinful. And as for those who cannot, theirs is not to produce life, but be open to it. Ultimately it is God who would determines who will be fruitful and to what extent. Why do we assume that a family that could only handle two children for whatever real reason will be given more by God. Why? Because we trust our biological nature sometimes more than the goodness and wisdom of God. This is at the heart of the argument, why do we not trust God to do the right thing for each couple?
    Let us also not forget that God used childlessness as a test of faith often in the bible. Today we are often off to the doctors long before we struggle with God on the issue. Not that struggle always equal children, but it does always equal blessing.

    TOM: And i think context plays a huge role here: these are the first two people on earth there is an extreme urgency here to populate it. In a world of over 6 billion people our Earth simply cannot sustain 10, 11, 12+ billion people.

    I think this argument is simply wrong. The arguments about overpopulation of the earth were based on faulty food production models. The question was never not land enough for people, but rather food enough. And as Bono would tell you there is plenty of food for all, it is just distributing it to them. Also, do we as Christians stop producing godly offspring due to population scares and let the atheist and idolaters fill the world with their spawn. Is that good stewardship? And i know that you do not mean to go there, but you have to know that this argument is at the base of the reasoning behind elective and forced abortion throughout the world, not to mention genocide and other awful things.

    TOM: In your last reply you almost seemed to hint at a natural law argument as well: “baby making a natural part of sexuality”….which is odd because that seems to rest more on Aristotle’s notion of causes.

    I used to be frightened by natural law arguments also and to be associated with them, but now I am less concerned. What is the evil in them? If I eat and drink I live is natural law also, yet most agree. I do think sexuality and child bearing are intrinsically linked. And I think almost all people before our age would easily agree. It would be common sense.

    TOM: But it seems that missing out on something good is not the same as being disobedient.

    Aren’t all of God commands invitations to something good? Does he command just to have rules? I don’t believe so. Is not the ultimate disobedience to reject God’s offer of forgiveness, to not take that goodness?

    TOM: If the argument is, “God will give you as many as he decides, when he decides” then ‘child-bearing years’ really has no limit until after one has passed through menopause.

    Yup. Scary isn’t it? But once again, if God does not want us to have a baby as 60, doesn’t he have control of that? Or is it natural law the other way? That biologically fertile people will have kids regardless of what God desires? Is child bearing more than biological function? I believe it is, no matter how archaic that makes me.

  15. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Okay, back to your comments Jaime:

    First, I know text over the internet is in many ways an awful way to talk because you can’t often really judge emotions. I am not mad. I am emotionally engaged yes, but do not temper your responses for fear of enraging me. If my responses seems pointed, please understand that I do that to force thought and true discussion. I think especially on an issue like this, if we temper our words too much, we will not discuss what we ought to discuss.

    Jaime:I think it’s possible for God to gift different people with kids at different times… and I think he can and does use a variety of things to bring about his timing — including birth control. It doesn’t discount the value of children.

    I hope I do not offend you, but all you did was restate your opinion without any argumentation. I know what you think, but why do you think it? As I answered Tom, cannot God provide birth control from his end without our aid? If he wants to delay birth, can’t he?

    Jaime:It seems like your perception of procreation is that it is something everybody must attempt as soon as they are married and continue during the length of their marriage. That thinking sets rules on childbearing that I don’t think God set anywhere.

    While there is not verse that say “Have kids right away?” I think the whole of scripture assumes the openness to children from the beginning of marriage. The idea of leaving father and mother and cleaving ultimately is about family making. I know of no example in the faithful saints of the past where delaying childbirth was modeled? (And yes, they did have means of birth control, albeit not as fancy or kosher as ours). Marriage in the bible assumes sex (we could go as far as to say in the bible sex was more the binding action that marked marriage than vows were) and sex assumes openness to , not to mention joyful expectation of childbearing. Show me biblically where this is not true. And again it is not about rules, it is about invitation to blessings. God does not require of us the burden of children, but offers to us the blessings of such.

    Also, studies have shown that those who have children right away tends to have longer marriages than those who do not. No, this is not without exception, but that does not general the general rule.

    Jaime:If waiting to have kids is sinful and implies that we don’t value kids or appreciate them, why not marry at 18 or 16 or as soon as you hit puberty and start being fruitful and multiplying? I’m obviously not recommending that…. because there’s a time and place for things in life, and because God works through our life experiences and maturity to grow us and mature. Likewise, I don’t think marriage has to immediately equal children.

    While on the plank, I might as well jump. I think the idea of marrying at puberty is a great idea assuming those doing so have a biblically understanding of marriage by teaching and more importantly by example. Is there any evidence that waiting till our mid twenties has resulted in more stability in marriage? Hardly. Once again we assume this as a ridiculous idea simply because our culture loves its dating, sexual experimentation, and falling in love, we assume marrying early and basing marriage on commitment rather than that lustful desire and emotional feelings is crazy. But it doesn’t sounds so crazy does it when you silence our cultural upbringing does it?

    Jaime:I love the way you guys live your lives. I just don’t think that is necessarily the way that every Christian family needs to do it. I will readily high-five your choices as being God-seeking and God-pleasing… if you’ll take it. 😉

    Thanks for the high five, but I must admit that I do not believe my choice is just what God has led me to personally. I do believe it is rooted in a proper Christian understandings of sexuality, marriage, and children. I do believe I have a responsibility as a Pastor and merely as a Christian to speak about this to my fellow brothers and sisters. I cannot simply buy into the spirit of our age which says, “Do whatever you want, so long as you have an ‘I love Jesus’ bumper sticker.” I think we are called to much more dedicated searching and talking and living than that.

    I still struggle with this issue in certain ways. But I also an convinced of that many of the basic principles of sexuality, marriage, and children are being undermined by our culture. Therefore, I am compelled to speak, and yes even to seek to persuade. I pray I will keep my ears open to accept correction and surely to receive wisdom on all sorts of other issues on which I might be not be living the blessed life I have been called into so graciously by the Father.

    And BTW, Palo? Where are you man? Last I checked, Orthodoxy generally, though not systematically, is with me on this on.

  16. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Lest I forget Jim (I almost did since I saw you in real life, but I want to acknowledge your comments out here in virtual world also):

    First, let me have a little fun. Two quotes from your response:

    Jim:Here’s the high five, Phil! I am with you 100%.

    Jim:It goes against the grain but you are mostly right.

    I went from 100% to mostly right. Man I liked where you began better than where you ended. J/K

    Jim: In our early marriage we used artificial birth control because we didn’t know any better. Later we used NFP and found that it lead to some of the most joyous years of our lives. I am not completely opposed to family planning (or family spacing, as they said in Tanzania), but it seems to me there is something intrinsically wrong with a sexual relationship that systematically excludes the possibility of procreation.

    Jim, thanks for sharing the details of your choices. It think it is helpful to know someone’s practice where trying to learn from their words. I have tried to be completely forthcoming here as well, although I must admit that I hesitated to do so since while many assume Jaimee and I’s practice (her protruded belly giving reason to suppose), we have not shared the truth about it very often due I suppose to fear of ridicule (which I thank you all for not subjecting us too).

    I wanted a little clarification about NFP. Do you think it proper for A Christian? And if so, how in your understanding is it any different than the other forms from a spiritual perspective. Like I said above it seems much better chemically and interpersonally (I just cringe at the thought of introducing chemicals into my wife’s body to “correct” what is normal and healthy and the thought of imposing a barrier between myself and my wife I seek to be intimate with seems plain odd. In this way, the Big V sounds much better.) To me while it is touted as “natural” and endorsed by the Pope, it seems to me to be just as artificial as any other method, completely based on biological knowledge, sort of tricking God by figuring him out. And once again I asked sincerely, because Jaimee and I have talked about this option.

    And if I may probe (bad word choice, but we need a little humor right?) a little further, here is a question that Jaimee and I struggle with when pondering the course we have chosen. And it may sound funny, but how did you stop having children? Was it NFP, or something else, or just eventually that God just gave you no more?

  17. Tom Says:

    Phil,

    Thanks for your post…you had some thought provoking points.

    I’m not sure child-bearing was the primary purpose of the creation of Eve given to Adam. I guess I find that, but not to the degree you do in Genesis. To me, the main purpose was to be a helper to Adam and to complete him. When we talk of child-bearing being the main reason…it almost, i know you don’t mean this, turns the woman into somewhat of a sex-object. And I think you would agree that Christian men can have a wrong attitude towards their wife as it relates to marriage and sex if we are not careful. What i mean is the old statements (that still do exist in some parts of our world) that women should be barefoot and pregnant…cooking our dinner in the kitchen. That is why i believe Gen. highlights more that women complete men and help them and together they reflect the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit as their main purpose rather than Gen. highlighting women as men’s own personal baby factories. Plus, context, again, plays an important part….they needed to produce…a lot, for the continuation of the human race.

    And there may be enough food for all right now….but what happens when we double the population and space becomes an issue (personally, i do believe that space and food are issues even now…if only ((and there are more reasons)) because we are not doing much to address the issues)? Your fear of the ‘ungodly’ filling the earth….let me ask you a question…..first, what if they do? are you, now, not trusting God to be in control of what happens in and with the population? You seem to indicate that godly parents=godly children…i question that. And i question that ungodly parents=ungodly children.

    I’m glad that you knew i wasn’t promoting population reduction. But just because people take a legitimate argument and use it for their wrong and evil ideas…doesn’t automatically make the ‘base’ idea, or argument, in and of itself wrong or bad.

    Your comment, “aren’t all of God’s commands an invitation to something good” refutes your idea of what you also felt Gen. 1:28 to be about – blessing rather than command. To disobey a command is surely wrong. And your argument of “isn’t the rejection of forgiveness the ultimate disobedience” is somewhat misleading…the rejection of that forgiveness lies in the fact that one refuses to believe how scripture defines us…alienated and out of the relationship we were designed for..pursuing our own selfishness and sinfulness..it is a rejection of a very plain truth – we are sinful and we need God. But i don’t think one can unequivocably claim that a couple’s choice not to have multiple children and to use birth control goes against a self-revealed truth from God found in his word to us.

    And i still go to the idea that yeah, one can have children in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s…but that doesn’t negate the medical facts that indicate it is very, very dangerous to the woman and the child….but i am putting my wife and potential child in the way of a great many risks…how is that being protective of her? And i know that God can supercede and everything can turn out fine….yet just because God can do something in response to what I do (safe delivery for a high risk birth) doesn’t mean that I should just go ahead and do that.

    Just me two cents…again…i guess i’m up to four cents now…

  18. Jim Wagner Says:

    Phil, I am with you in your advocacy 100%, and I mostly agree with you. Make sense?

    We stopped having children when Diane needed an hysterectomy at age 37. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I suppose one could say, “God didn’t give us anymore.”

    Our last two children were born while we were using NFP. The fourth was planned, the fifth was a surprise. Looking at our charts, Diane’s OB-GYN said Hannah should not have happened. But she did. I guess that is why I think NFP is more acceptable than other forms. I never saw it as “tricking” God, but working with the natural processes. Neverteless, it always leaves a couple open to conception, as we discovered to our surprise. BTW, Hannah has been a bundle of joy that we have counted as a real gift from God. I suspect we would have continued with NFP, and would have trusted it as a method that would have enabled us to live out our sexual lives within God’s will.

    On the younger marriage issue, Frederica Matthews-Green has an essay somewhere on teen pregnancy. She says there is nothing wrong with teen pregnancy. In fact that is probably the way it was for most of human history. The difference is, in former times people were married as teens and assumed a much earlier adulthood that we expect these days. We now have an “adolescence” that extends into the mid to upper twenties.

    This is a wonderful discussion. It seems that it is nearly impossible the speak this way – both personally and intellectually – in most forums! It would be interesting if some of our wives were to enter the conversation.

    Jim Wagner

  19. Jaime Says:

    It’s funny that you said “Lest I forget Jim:”… and then forgot to continue. 🙂

    Glad to hear you’re not offended. My goal isn’t to temper the *content* of what I say, but in a text conversation, I do want to make sure it’s being spoken (and taken) in love.

    One thing I really want to stress is that I disagree that procreation was the primary purpose of Adam and Eve’s union. The primary purpose, according to God, was companionship and help. The “leaving and cleaving” verse doesn’t seem to have any sort of procreative meaning to me; it speaks to leaning on each other and helping each other. The verse about being naked and having no shame speaks powerfully to the union between the two of them. In the whole Eve creation account, all of the verses point to transparency and unity and companionship. Another thing: Christ describes the church as his bride, not for the purpose of offspring but for the purpose of love and unity and relationship. So while I agree that procreation is a purpose of marriage, I disagree that it is the primary purpose.

    Regarding my opinion-restating… the point I was trying to make was an opinion, of course. I was trying to specifically counter your notion that EITHER we follow God’s plan for our lives OR we use birth control… and I was trying to point out the third possibility that God acts out his plan by leading people THROUGH birth control. Now that I’ve yet again restated it, I’ll answer your question… “Why do I think it?” Well, in all other areas of my life that God works through the knowledge and circumstances that are available to me. When I go to Haiti, God keeps me safe… in part, through immunizations. When I am in need of food, God provides — through money and the grocery store. When I seek companionship, God provides — often by my use of my phone and my email and my car to reach my friends. Any and all of those circumstances could be abused if I’m not seeking God along the way. But almost every blessing I have in my life is given by God with the use of the technology and resources available. So, it makes sense that family choices would be no different. God can, indeed, delay a birth… and he can, indeed, use birth control to do it. He doesn’t need to use our circumstances, but a lot of times he does.

    As far as plank-jumping goes… you think puberty marriage is a great idea. Maybe it is, for the sake of argument. Does that mean that you sinned by not marrying earlier, since God could’ve worked through you to have kids at a much earlier age, but you waited?

    It doesn’t surprise me that you feel your choices are God’s desire for all of us; nor does it surprise me that you feel compelled to persuade. (One of the things I like about you, Phil…) I’m not surprised, and I’m not bothered. I don’t feel conflicted at all regarding sexuality and families (mine and in general). I think God’s not as narrow as you paint HIm. But I am also open to considering your points and praying about it.

  20. Philip Hoppe Says:
  21. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Again to the specific comments:

    Tom: I’m not sure child-bearing was the primary purpose of the creation of Eve given to Adam. I guess I find that, but not to the degree you do in Genesis. To me, the main purpose was to be a helper to Adam and to complete him. When we talk of child-bearing being the main reason…it almost, i know you don’t mean this, turns the woman into somewhat of a sex-object. And I think you would agree that Christian men can have a wrong attitude towards their wife as it relates to marriage and sex if we are not careful. What i mean is the old statements (that still do exist in some parts of our world) that women should be barefoot and pregnant…cooking our dinner in the kitchen. That is why i believe Gen. highlights more that women complete men and help them and together they reflect the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit as their main purpose rather than Gen. highlighting women as men’s own personal baby factories. Plus, context, again, plays an important part….they needed to produce…a lot, for the continuation of the human race.

    Will you give me top two reasons, is not the primary reason? I still think that scripture is pretty clear that procreation in a central purpose given to marriage originally, and never see a change noted after that. When the bible talks marriage is talks procreation. Also, I think your comments that we must guard against telling women to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen are demeaning to women who do these things. Why are those thing such awful things? Why is such work considered less than things that be accomplished elsewhere? Titus says:
    Titus 2:4-5 So train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
    Yes women are more than baby machines. Their are co-heirs of salvation to start. But the only reason woman being told to have babies and work in the home sounds bad is because we have so devalued those functions in our culture.

    Tom:And there may be enough food for all right now….but what happens when we double the population and space becomes an issue (personally, i do believe that space and food are issues even now…if only ((and there are more reasons)) because we are not doing much to address the issues)? Your fear of the ‘ungodly’ filling the earth….let me ask you a question…..first, what if they do? are you, now, not trusting God to be in control of what happens in and with the population? You seem to indicate that godly parents=godly children…i question that. And i question that ungodly parents=ungodly children.

    I am trusting God to war the way he has said in the bible by producing Godly offspring that the enemy will fear. Can not God worry about providing for those he allows to be born? I think the idea that will will have too many children for this world God created is a little questionable. Also, I am not suggesting a one for one on godly offspring coming from godly parents, but the bible several times mentions godly offspring as the natural (if not one for one) result of godly marriages and upbringing:

    Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
    Malachi 2:15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.
    1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

    And it is only by contact with the church that ungodly parents have godly children.

    Tom:Your comment, “aren’t all of God’s commands an invitation to something good” refutes your idea of what you also felt Gen. 1:28 to be about – blessing rather than command. To disobey a command is surely wrong. And your argument of “isn’t the rejection of forgiveness the ultimate disobedience” is somewhat misleading…the rejection of that forgiveness lies in the fact that one refuses to believe how scripture defines us…alienated and out of the relationship we were designed for..pursuing our own selfishness and sinfulness..it is a rejection of a very plain truth – we are sinful and we need God. But i don’t think one can unequivocably claim that a couple’s choice not to have multiple children and to use birth control goes against a self-revealed truth from God found in his word to us.

    Here I am confused, or I did not present myself clearly. I am saying there is no distinction between commands and invitations to blessings. All invitations to blessing are binding on us if we desire the life God gives, and all commands are given to welcome us into blessing.

    If by unequivocally, you mean a text that says it word for word, no. But my whole argumentation is that saying no to a blessing that God wants to give is sinful.

    Tom:And i still go to the idea that yeah, one can have children in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s…but that doesn’t negate the medical facts that indicate it is very, very dangerous to the woman and the child….but i am putting my wife and potential child in the way of a great many risks…how is that being protective of her? And i know that God can supercede and everything can turn out fine….yet just because God can do something in response to what I do (safe delivery for a high risk birth) doesn’t mean that I should just go ahead and do that.

    God also designed the body we know to make these late pregnancies less likely and can still bless those who have them. Most of the over 40ers having baby are not using natural means to achieve those goals.

    Tom:Just me two cents…again…i guess i’m up to four cents now…

    I must be up to a buck and a quarter at least.

  22. Philip Hoppe Says:

    Christer (worth a try)-

    One thing I really want to stress is that I disagree that procreation was the primary purpose of Adam and Eve’s union. The primary purpose, according to God, was companionship and help. The “leaving and cleaving” verse doesn’t seem to have any sort of procreative meaning to me; it speaks to leaning on each other and helping each other. The verse about being naked and having no shame speaks powerfully to the union between the two of them. In the whole Eve creation account, all of the verses point to transparency and unity and companionship. Another thing: Christ describes the church as his bride, not for the purpose of offspring but for the purpose of love and unity and relationship. So while I agree that procreation is a purpose of marriage, I disagree that it is the primary purpose.

    Maybe I should drop that phrase all together since it is source of contention and by no means essential to the point to I am trying to make. Whether or not procreation is the primary purpose of marriage, all have agreed that it is one purpose. Other listed have been companionship, help, etc. And yet, would anyone suggest that marriage would be okay without companionship for the first several years? Or that until finances or more secure, being of help to one another can be delayed? Or course not. So why do the same with one of the other purposes for which God created marriage? Why say no to children when no one would purposely say no to the other blessings God offers through the estate? What say no to a blessing from God, unless you question whether it truly would be a blessing.

    Regarding my opinion-restating… the point I was trying to make was an opinion, of course. I was trying to specifically counter your notion that EITHER we follow God’s plan for our lives OR we use birth control… and I was trying to point out the third possibility that God acts out his plan by leading people THROUGH birth control. Now that I’ve yet again restated it, I’ll answer your question… “Why do I think it?” Well, in all other areas of my life that God works through the knowledge and circumstances that are available to me. When I go to Haiti, God keeps me safe… in part, through immunizations. When I am in need of food, God provides — through money and the grocery store. When I seek companionship, God provides — often by my use of my phone and my email and my car to reach my friends. Any and all of those circumstances could be abused if I’m not seeking God along the way. But almost every blessing I have in my life is given by God with the use of the t echnology and resources available. So, it makes sense that family choices would be no different. God can, indeed, delay a birth… and he can, indeed, use birth control to do it. He doesn’t need to use our circumstances, but a lot of times he does.

    We have to be careful to distinguish between using technology when something is not whole to bring wholeness and using it to stop what is the bible calls whole. God has promised to bring his goodness through means. I am not sure he has ever inferred that he will hold back his goodness through means.

    As far as plank-jumping goes… you think puberty marriage is a great idea. Maybe it is, for the sake of argument. Does that mean that you sinned by not marrying earlier, since God could’ve worked through you to have kids at a much earlier age, but you waited?

    No. I believe when one marries, they enter into the realm of possible procreation. And the choice to marry is left up to autonomy unless determined by parental authority as it was in the past, which I am okay with.

  23. Tom Says:

    Phil,

    Thanks for your response. Since the idea of “primary reason” has been dropped from this discussion…there is no need to “beat a dead horse” (which may indicate that somewhere in Southeast Asia someone has been sinful 🙂 ).

    I am truly sorry that you have taken my comments to be demeaning to women. First, that is not what I meant. In fact, I believe just the opposite. That a life and ministry to home and family is the highest and greatest calling of a woman – it is a noble, wonderful, and hard profession. I have told my congregation that in the past. And you are right, we have devalued those things in our culture.

    But, I think, you may have read my comment and “used it against me” apart from its surrounding context. I was talking of attitudes and behaviors that can exist even in the christian community by men toward women – that are only made more so, at times, when we view women’s “primary” role as having kids – rather than completing us and helping us as men and fellow humans. And typically when people just “joke” about such things it is never a joke taken in the “positive” of the importance of family and home. In other words, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” is, obviously, not a biblical phrase, and culturally is not a good phrase – maybe there is a better way of saying what you and i fundamentally (can i use that word 🙂 )agree upon.

    And i agree – the blessings God wants to give us, for us not to take them is stupid at best and perhaps sinful at worst – and God does want to bless us with children – but I am not convinced that we are disobeying God bychoosing not to have 5, 6, 7+ children (or whatever)…to shut one’s self off to any child, yeah..that isn’t right….but to say one is sinful or wrong, by choosing to only have 1 or 2 children is, in my opinion, a dangerous statement that is not based on clear scriptural teaching (and pretty shakey ground based on general biblical principals concerning marriage and family).

    Sweet…up to 6 cents….

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