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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, May 28, 2009
How Many Babies Should Christian Couples Have?
What a question! Anyone who expresses their opinion with conviction necessarily judges those who do not share their opinion. Topics like that are usually avoided because we don't want to deal with someone attacking our opinion, or worse, feeling judged by our opinion. We want people to like us, we want our opinions respected, not scrutinized and ridiculed, or challenged by those who find themselves on the receiving end of an unspoken judgment.

Let's throw caution to the wind today, and go where people don't want to, not because we are chomping at the bit for confrontation, nor because we are callous and could care less of we stomp on some toes - but rather because it is a valid question, and we shouldn't avoid such things just because in answering them we may upset some people.

First, we want to give a biblically informed answer, but in order to do that we should agree about what biblically informed means. It means that we want to give an answer that scripture supports, by applying the truths in scripture without bending them through careless proof-texting.

Let's start where the bible starts - at two different beginnings. Immediately following creation, and immediately following the flood the earth was unpopulated by mankind. God gave the same command to Adam as He gave to Noah, given their similar positions as being the only Patriarchs alive on the whole planet: be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.

There are two ways we can understand the emphasis: God was either saying [1] "I command you to have babies", or He was saying, [2] "Don't remain in one place on the earth, but populate the whole thing".

Before we consider which emphasis makes the most sense in the text, we should examine our own cultural biases.

In our culture we work to buy the biggest house and the best-est car(or cars) we can, given our financial ability, so that we may live in as much comfort as possible. A great portion of our wealth goes into financing our leisure activities, so that our lives need not be dull. It stands to reason then that more money means better houses, better cars and more leisure options. Double incomes have become the norm, because we want to have it all paid for as soon as possible - thus increasing our disposable income.

The number of children we have is obviously going to impact this program.

We dare not give up our double income, so we pay strangers to parent our children until they are old enough to pass that responsibility off to their peers in the public school system. Each child is not only a (minimum) 18 year financial commitment but a living daily expense that takes away from the bigger "financial freedom" picture.

In a nutshell our culture equates having children with lowering your quality of living - the more children you have, the worse your quality of living is going to be.

That is radically different that say in Adam or Noah's time - before there was such a thing as a plough, surplus if it came, came because there were more people working. Having children was the main means to increasing your quality of life.

So when we ask whether God is instructing Adam/Noah to have babies, or just telling them to fan out in the world - we want to understand that some are going to be coming to this verse who are righteously angry at the way our culture has sold out to the world system, and are zealous to direct Christians away from this soul sucking pursuit. Some in this camp are going to cling to this verse and say, "Aha! See! God wants you to have babies you wicked, selfish, generation! Stop pursuing your own pleasures, and do the will of the Lord!"

As well placed as such a zeal is, for surely our generation is more selfish and greedy than any culture before it, but even better at deceiving themselves about it, and when one sees his brothers and sisters sacrificing their children on the altar of their own pleasure, it will produce anger, and zeal - but let's keep it on an even keel. This isn't the verse we ought to go to to make that argument.

If we don't have a verse that commands us to make babies, then does that mean that we can pretty much have as many or as few as we want, and God doesn't care? I don't think so either.

If someone comes to me and wonders how many children God expects them to have I don't get all, "well, um, I don't know.. um, I don't want to offend you, um... Lots of people think this, and um, others think that, and um, you know, there are godly people on both sides of the issue, so ah, I am not sure, you know, there, um, isn't a verse on this one, so ah, um..." I think that is a fool or a coward might do.

Here is a good verse to start with: whatsoever you do, do unto the Lord. That includes both having babies and choosing not to have babies. Ask yourself a few pointed questions, and be willing to answer them as honestly as you are able and especially examine your answers to see if they serve some personal agenda or not.

Here are some examples of pointed questions:
[1] Can any couple (whether naturally or even in a petree dish) conceive a child without God's personal intervention? That is does God personally author each life, or does He merely (and impersonally) rubber-stamp whatever we by science or nature, conceive?

We ask this question because if God is the Author of life, then every conception is a providential work of God, and whatever role we play in bringing this conception to fruition was planned long ago by our sovereign God.

[1b] If God is the Author of life, would it be possible for a couple to produce more children than God intends for them to have?

We ask this because we live in a world where women born barren can still, through fertility drugs, and in vitro fertilization produce children. Can it be that mankind is able to actually sidestep or outright thwart God's will by artificially coercing these conception? If God is sovereign and reigns providentially, then even those who are conceived by and through these means were intended to be conceived thus by God.

[2] If God is the Author of life, is it possible for a couple to have less children than God intends for them to have?

This isn't just the opposite of the previous question. Conception happens when it happens, whether naturally or artificially - sometimes it works, some times it don't. We cannot make life happen just because we have all the building blocks - the best we can do is put them together and wait and see if life happens. But we have way more control over taking a life. In the US a couple can have three dozen children and legally kill them all, one right after the other, as long as those children haven't been fully born yet. Likewise, a couple who abstains indefinitely, can certain keep themselves from having children - and this would be a clear violation of scripture since we are commanded to make our bodies available to our spouses except for times of fastings etc.

Here then we may well disobey God, which while never his will, is nevertheless endured for our sakes. We may either kill the unborn children God gives us, or we can interfere with the "design of life" by deny it the opportunity to begin, that is, we can engage in procreative activities, but artificially inhibit the creation of life.

[3] Do you believe that God doesn't care whether you have children or not?

[4] Have you ever expected God to work in one way and been surprised when He worked in another?

[5] Has it been your experience that you have always known what's best for you, or has God wanted things for you that you rebelled against and only later realized God's way really was best?

[6] Why did God close the womb of some women in scripture?

[7] If God hasn't [a] "closed the woman's womb" in your marriage, and if God has
[b] commanded you to not withhold your bodies from one another, and if [c] no life can begin unless God ordains it to - doesn't it seem like the size of your family is supposed to be ... up to God?

End of questions

It comes down to a matter of trust and control. Many will say that they trust that God is in control, but when it comes to family planning, they feel God wants them to have as many as feels good the them. The decision is made, usually after a fair bit of superficial soul searching, but inevitably it seems God always wants people to have only as many children as will allow them to maintain some quality of life they believe themselves (and any potential new life) to be entitled to.

The fact that God the husband is presently virile by God's providential command, and the fact that the wife is fertile by the same, and that God has clearly commanded them to engage in procreational activity, and that God will not create a new life if it is not his will to do so - these never seem to factor into the decision, but more often than not I hear that after so many kids they prayed about it, and "felt" that God was okay with that number "too".

So my answer to the question is barbaric to some. I say have as many children as God gives you. You can't possibly have more than you're supposed to. If that seems wrong to you ask yourself why it seems wrong. If you dig deep enough you may learn that it only seems wrong to you because deep down you will think, say, and do anything to deny God that kind of control over your life.

I know that everyone thinks of themselves as the exception. Yeah, we agree Dan, there are some people like that, but our situation is different, in our family we had this thing happen, and then this other thing? We didn't really have much say in the matter, our hands were really tied, and so we prayed about it and read the bible a lot, and slowly convinced ourselves, er, became convinced by what we saw in scripture and felt in our prayerful little hearts - and came to understand that the only reason we would ever have more children would be to make everyone else think we were holy - and boy, that's not a good reason to have kids - so we know that God wanted us to stop when we did.


Remember Joash and Elisha (2 Kings 13:18-19): Then [Elisha] said, "Take the arrows," and [Joash] took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground," and he struck it three times and stopped. So the man of God was angry with him and said, "You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it But now you shall strike Aram only three times."

Whenever some Christian tells me that they had so many children and felt good about it, I am reminded of Joash. He probably felt "good" about it too. Surely three was sufficient... right? I mean he *did* do the smashing - kooky as it may have seemed - didn't he? He smashed the arrows, not once, not twice, but a good solid three times. Okay, sure, his arm still had enough strength for a few more smashes, but surely God didn't expect him to do EVERYTHING with his whole heart? God probably just wanted him to, you know, smash the arrows until he felt good about it... right?

Here is how most Christians decide how many children they are going to have - they will try and have one of each, boy and girl, and are willing to go as far as having three kids to make that happen. After that they will find some way to say that God doesn't want them to have any more kids, and the guy will go get an operation. If they can pull off a boy/girl in the first two, then God wants them to stop there. If there is a very strong desire to have one of each gender and they still have three of a kind - they may go to four, and again if they went to three in order to get the pair - they may want to go for bookends - two boys and two girls - so they may go for the four just because it is clearly God's will that there be gender symmetry in the house.

Once they have what they came for, they find some way to say God is okay with that, and get offended if anyone says otherwise.

I kid you not.

Yet having said all that I did not write this to judge anyone. It may be that I am simply to immature spiritually too lacking in grace, too sure of my own opinion, and in my pride I come off as condemning, or worse, unloving. Listen - these are some of the deepest decisions that people make, and I while I write frankly, don't think that these things are as cut and dry as I have laid them out in print. We should ask ourselves these questions, but we cannot make these decisions for others. We can do our best to point people in the direction in which we thing the answer lies - but we cannot stand in the place of their judge - to their own Master they stand or fall, and He is able to make them stand. So be gentle, dear reader, even if I have been a little heavy handed here, in print.
posted by Daniel @ 11:50 AM  
  • At 6:36 PM, May 28, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I have three children. All girls. The oldest is 15 years, then I have a 2 year old and a one year old (13 months apart).
    I often get the question of whether we are done, or if we will go for a boy. While I'd like to say something sarcastic back, I usually answer that it is up to God. We'd like more, but that's not up to us.
    It seems ridiculous when people worry that if they don't practice family planning, they will have a child every 9 months.
    I'm living proof that, without any unnatural contraception, I have had a pregnancy every 4 years (we lost 3). At that rate, I've got maybe 3 more kids at most that I could have.
    True, some couples are more fertile than others, but I really do think that it is the exception for a couple to have 20+ kids in their lifetime.
    Thanks for the post. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately as we anticipate the possibility of another blessing in the next year or two and how family/friends/strangers will react to our "large" family and the fact that our financial situation is single-income.

  • At 5:27 AM, May 29, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jen, that's the thing I hear too. If you don't plan out exactly how many kids you are going to have, you will end up with a dozen or more. That can happen, I suppose, but it hasn't been our experience either. We have four children now and they are pretty evenly spaced at about three years apart. We may have more if the Lord blesses us, but it isn't something I worry about, nor is it something we plan around. It was confidence in the Lord of all the earth to do what's right that took all the stress and worry out of it. Not a blind, unfocused confidence, like, "God is good ... therefore" - but rather a very focused, "God is the Author of life, and children are His blessing" focus that said it is arrogant and foolish to deny what God would give, and just as arrogant to think that life begins without God.

    When I say that a couple should have as many children as God gives, I mean only that they shouldn't try to *not* have children. I am not saying that couples are obligated by God to make as many babies as they can as fast as they can, yet I suspect that is what some will imagine I mean.

    There will be exceptions - people who have what seems a ridiculous number of kids to the modern mind - but most of us came from families that were much larger didn't we? My mom was the youngest of twelve kids on a single income. They all did fine too, and they were the norm back then.

  • At 9:23 AM, May 29, 2009, Blogger David said…

    The correct answer is eight.

  • At 1:55 PM, May 29, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    David, as always, I regard your answer with reverence and respect.

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