Is it the responsibility of a married couple to have children?

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by dog8food, Apr 13, 2013.

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  1. dog8food

    dog8food Puritan Board Freshman

    If both partners decide not to have children, is it Biblical?
    What if only one of the partners doesn't want children? Who wins?
  2. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I guess it would depend on the reason. Though I can not recall ever hearing any any good reason not to have children.
  3. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I can see where it might be appropriate in rare cases of certain known genetic defects.

    Not enough information given.

    If it didn't come out until after the marriage, it would sound like poor pre-marital counseling or lack of due diligence before marriage. (Or willful fraud in inducing the marriage.) If the party that wants children knew before the marriage that the other didn't, and married anyway, then they need to live with the consequences of his or her choices. And if the issue comes up before the marriage, then perhaps the wedding should be called off.

    And, of course, there are other possible scenarios. Are we talking about an academic discussion, or something that a person should take to their elders?
  4. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    I believe it would be sinful for two people to marry with the intention of never having children. Procreation is an essential part of a biblical marriage. Are there those who cannot have children for no fault of there own? Of course, but this is not a desirable condition for the Christian couple to be in.

    How many kids one has is a question that I would be much less dogmatic about. But for two reproductively healthy adults to marry with the express intention of never having any children demonstrates an erroneous idea of marriage and the family and very possibly a sinful attitude toward children.

    One may object by saying, "Well, not everyone is cut out to be parents." I whole heartedly agree! But those are people I would encourage to remain single.

  5. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    If able, yes.
  6. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I agree I just have never heard of such.
  7. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    If unable the question is moot.;)
  8. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Such a decision is most decidedly contrary to the command of God in Scripture, and the law of nature, which requires that procreative beings attempt to procreate. If both partners decide not to have children, they are immitating unnatural lust rather than biblical marriage.

    God's command to be fruitful and multiply should reign over either party's wants and supposed needs. Duty is ours, and it is what we are responsible to do.
  9. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    My wife asked that of Dr. Schaeffer about 37 years ago. He said (short version), "that would be limiting the creativity of God, wouldn't it?"
  10. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

    It seems to me if you say that it is sinful to deliberately have NO children, then whatever reasons you give for that position could be used against limiting, to any degree, the number of children you have.


    1. Paul and Mary decide they don't want children because they have to move around a lot, and it would be too hard on themselves and any children to do that. "Sin." Paul and Mary decide to stop at 3 children because they have to move around a lot, and it is hard on themselves and the children. "Not sin."

    2. Paul and Mary decide they don't want children because Paul's income follows such a boom/bust cycle they have a very difficult time achieving economic stability. They both think Mary should be a stay at home wife. "Sin." Paul and Mary decide to stop at 2 children for the same reason: "Not sin."

    3. Paul and Mary decide they don't want children because they minister together in North Korea, and it is so dangerous. "Sin." Paul and Mary decide to stop after their first child, as they become aware that the child is very vulnerable to many dangers there, and also make them far more vulnerable and unable to make bold decisions for witnessing opportunities. "Not sin."

    I am not commenting for or against the thread's question, but opining that an argument for no children seems equivalent to me to an argument for limiting children.
  11. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I absolutely love this!
  12. PointyHaired Calvinist

    PointyHaired Calvinist Puritan Board Sophomore

    I've heard people argue that sterile people should remain single due to their sterility. I think this is crazy (are they going to test them all? Do they believe in abstinence after menopause?)
  13. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think there is space for a marriage that is more about companionship. I have known elderly people to marry, primarily for companionship and to care for one another. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. When God created woman, He commented that it was not good for man to be alone.

    I have known many marriages that were very blessed even without children, and I don't think they should have been counseled not to marry if they were not able to bear children. In regard to actually choosing not to have children, I think that is in the realm of Stuff That Is None of My Business. If there are circumstances that make it inadvisable, or if there are psychological barriers, or whatever, then I think those things should be discussed in counseling, but I don't think we should make hasty generalizations.

    PS One thing to consider in this: not everyone is gifted to be single. In some cases, if someone doesn't marry, then it is a real question who will care for that person. For example, a girl raised in foster care who suffers from schizophrenia (a case I actually know). She should probably never have children because of the meds she has to be on and her psychological problems. If, however, someone is willing to marry her and care for her, her prognosis is much better than if she is simply set out on her own in life. I would never counsel someone like her that she is required to remain single. I would rather that she had some family than no family. It is probably the difference between being reasonably stable and loved vs being homeless and insane.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013
  14. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior


    No one in this thread has argued that people who are unable to bear children (i.e. the elderly, infirm or infertile) should not marry. Companionship is a big part of marriage that no one is disputing. The question more surrounds those who have no impediment to conceiving or raising kids but for whatever reason, just don't wont them.
  15. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    My argument would be that we cannot have it both ways. If procreation is an absolutely essential part of marriage so that people should not marry if they do not plan to have children, then the same would apply to elderly and infertile couples. The presence of elderly and infertile couples demonstrates that people can be just as married without children as with them. The presence or absence of children does not make or break a marriage.

    But I would also add that I think it would be exceedingly rare for people to "just not want" children. People may believe that they would be poor parents for one reason or another, may have financial concerns, etc. These things are counseling matters. I think patience is warranted. If a woman says, "I don't want children," I just don't think the immediate answer is, "Then you shouldn't get married." The response should be, "Well, discuss that with your counselor in premarital counseling." And the counselor can ask WHY she doesn't want children and discuss the matter thoroughly, consider her maturity and readiness for marriage, etc. She may have her reasons, but it really isn't anyone's business to have to explain it to everyone around her. It is possible that she is not yet ready for marriage, and that can be discussed.

    But it simply is a fact that marriage tends to stabilize unstable people. Not everyone is gifted to be alone. Some people just can't pull themselves together to think about much of anything (including children) until after they have been married for a while. We may like that or not like it, but it is still true. I know a LOT of women that had moderate psychological problems while they were trying to live alone or with their parents (not all parents are nice people). Sometimes a good husband is the best thing that can happen to someone. in regard to people's plans when they get married, though, people are usually young and don't really know what they want in life when they get married. For the most part, everyone should mind their own business and leave newlyweds to make their own decisions under the guidance of their pastor and elders.... and the pastor and elders should consider all angles of it, not just the immediate desire for children or lack thereof.
  16. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior


    I believe you may be creating a false dichotomy with an overly simplistic notion of marriage. Either (1) kids are essential in every marriage or you can't get married or (2) their not, and whether you have any is irrelevant.

    Procreation is an essential aspect of the biblical understanding of marriage. This is clear from Scripture and upheld by our confessions of faith. Having children within the bonds of marriage is the normative pattern. But this doesn't mean that there aren't obvious exceptions to this rule (as already mentioned). However, for one to view marriage as having no necessary connection to procreation is to essentially redefine it in a way foreign to Scripture.

    And by the way, it is all too common these days for couples (even professing Christian couples) to opt-out of having kids because they are more concerned with their careers or because kids would 'cramp their style.'
  17. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    Motivations vary, and are the primary concern of the individuals and those set over them to whom they are accountable. Holy Spirit through Paul said it is better to remain unmarried, but for those who could not contain themselves it is better to marry than to burn. There is no mention of a requirement of procreation. To assert otherwise is to go beyond scripture and bind men's consciences with commandments and doctrines of men.
  18. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    I believe you are misunderstanding me if you think my view is simplistic. I actually believe YOUR view is simplistic. It assumes that everyone has their ducks in a row when they get married, whereas, in fact, a lot of people don't. Sure, all things being ideal, a young man and young woman should plan for children. BUT I think life is not ideal, and people have all kinds of difficulties. It's not that children are unimportant at all. (I have children, and I can't imagine life without them.) But children are not everything either. I think the expectation that they ARE everything puts an undue burden on people who cannot have children or (for medical or other reasons) should not have children--as if they are missing the whole point of marriage. There is no doubt that children are a blessing, and people should be taught to view children as a blessing. But there are other blessings.

    One has to find the middle road here. For one thing, don't leap to the conclusions about the reasons. I knew one couple that everyone was always asking when the baby was coming, and I learned later that the wife had reacted to marriage by discovering a severe phobia to marital relations. She was in counseling, the marriage was in trouble... and people were asking her husband why he didn't have kids yet. He didn't want to throw his wife under the bus by explaining to every curious soul in the church, and so most people just assumed they were too career oriented. Also, I think we have to take into consideration the fact that a lot of people get married when they still are mixed up a lot. Not everyone grew up in an ideal household. Not everyone is ready to dive into adult responsibility. I've heard a lot of Christians say that people should not get married until they are fully ready, etc, but then a lot of people would just get more and more mixed up. Loneliness usually does not improve people.

    I know that a lot is said about the divorce rate, but I guess my experience has never validated it much. I've known many people that were a few French fries short of a Happy Meal when they got married, and they really pulled themselves together after a few years of married life and grew into responsible people. I have known three people who proclaimed they never wanted to have children but changed their minds within a year of getting married and now have families. I only know one case of divorce that resulted from total selfishness, and in that case, the selfish one actually DID want children because babies are cute. I don't think she would have been a responsible mother at all, and it was a mercy she did not have any kids.

    People are odd. That's all there is to it. But people who have a spouse are usually less odd than they otherwise would be. The reason God gave for making a wife for Adam was that it wasn't good for him to be alone. And I think that still stands as the primary purpose of marriage.
  19. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."
    - God
  20. BarryR

    BarryR Puritan Board Freshman

    If God offers us blessing, would we be foolish to say no to it?

    I came across this and loved it (paraphrasing from memory); I have heard many men that wanted more, and of no man that wanted less. Let God be true - children are a blessing from the Lord.
  21. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think everyone here agrees with this. Children are to be viewed as precious and we thank God for them. But God gives many rewards, and children are not the only rewards He gives.

    I myself would like to have been blessed with ten children. My health broke down severely in my third pregnancy, and I think it would be irresponsible to have more, since I must care for the ones I already have, and they do better when their mother is alive. So there are reasons when reluctantly, people may decide they cannot accept more blessing. Or perhaps because they are silly creatures, they may think they don't want it, but they realize better later. Like I said, there are all kinds of people and all kinds of reasons. Patience is a good thing, and it is better to be charitable to those around us.
  22. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    The Holy Spirit through Moses said in Genesis "Be fruitful and multiply".
  23. joejohnston3

    joejohnston3 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, my wife and I when we first got married were of the mind set that we determine when we would have children. After much scripture study and prayer along with many great books to back it up we have moved to the "God chooses our fertility and blesses us with what He know we can handle.". It is a liberating and wonderful feeling now for us and we are thankful for God's blessing in our lives.
  24. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    You write a lot of sense Caroline and certainly your counselling
    in the matter has wisdom. Where there are problems your thoughts
    should be taken into consideration, but all things being equal I don't
    think any Christian couple should determine at the outset whether they
    should have children. You get married and children come. When I got
    married I earned 6 pounds, and my dear wife 8 pounds, and within 14 months our first boy was born. ( and he weighed 6 pounds!). We did not think of planning for any of our children, they just arrived.
    Procreation is a biblical necessity, and of course companionship is vital, and
    your point of the elderly needing that is valid, but for a healthy young couple
    to negotiate whether or not to have children is to me,unhealthy. Finance,
    careers, opportune time are very secondary considerations. If God blesses
    with fertility who are we to refuse the blessing.
    One other point to consider is the proliferation of same sex marriages, who
    biologically cannot have children. Who then keeps the human species going?
    And as a paedobaptist I believe that God perpetuates the Church in all generations
    through covenant children. That is His normal and ordinary means of building His
    "Thy wife shall as a fruitful vine
    by thy house' sides be found;
    Thy children like to olive-plants
    about thy table round.
    Thou shalt Jerus'lem's good behold
    whilst thou on earth dost dwell.
    Thou shalt thy children's children see,
    and peace upon Israel.
  25. DeniseM

    DeniseM Puritan Board Freshman

    Dear Caroline, I am truly sorry that you experience such struggles with your health. I have health problems of my own that can make motherhood an extraordinary challenge, so I know somewhat of what you're dealing with. Many times when I have had an infant in my arms I have been tempted to question God's command to be fruitful and multiply because I just didn't know that I could make it through another pregnancy or handle the late nights with another baby.

    The Lord hasn't seen fit yet to remove the health issues, but he has shown me remarkable grace to overcome. I'm happy to say that I'm now pregnant with our seventh child! I feel awful. The morning sickness is one more trial to overcome. But, the Lord has blessed our family beyond measure! He has shown me what a blessing children really are. When I'm feeling particularly run down, my covenant children step right up to the plate and in large measure take care of me. The Lord is so gracious to those that cling to his promises in child like faith, even when we can't see how a blessing can possibly come out of our circumstances. Those who neglect to take hold of his promises because of infirmities in themselves, have no idea what abundant blessings they are really missing out on! I'm glad that we have trusted the Lord with the planning of our family and wish that more couples would do the same. Not because it's what's best in my opinion, but because I know that what the Lord says is right is truly what is best for all of us.
  26. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Well, must chime in on this one. We began the route of most in N America these days: no money, so no children. We were 20 and 23 at the time, students, and off to China for a 4 month (ha!- it turned into 12 years) term, so it would be, among other things, inconvenient and 'dangerous'. My wife experienced the horrible ups and downs of hormone issues on the Pill and then someone gave us a copy of Above Rubies (an outfit run by a NZ transplant to the US named Nancy Campbell). There was an article there (don't recall which one now) which I seem to remember started us down the path to "not my will, but Thy will". We stayed on this path (bumpily) through 6 c-sections and 6 adoptions. Finally, our OB (very supportive of large families) told us that Elizabeth was his record, he had never performed a 6th C-section on anyone, and her uterus looked rather fragile, and to please tie the tubes, since he would not do any more on her. We took his advice, and when our youngest, John Patrick, weans off, we will be finished with infants in the house until grandchildren arrive (D.V.). I don't think we regret it, but I feel like I've lost a lot of credibility in the 'quiverfull' (for lack of a better term) department since we took a doctor's advice when our convictions lay elsewhere. Was it a lack of faith? Selfishness on my part? Not sure. Elizabeth had two or three pregnancies which were very scary and in which I was hunting for her life insurance documents before we went to the hospital. Not fun. Was I tested and failed? Possibly. But watching my wife nearly lose her life a few times was simply too much for me. If she had been able to bear children naturally, we would likely still be going. As it is, we are done. But it is not the number of children that make one 'quiverfull', it is simply the belief that 1 - God opens and closes the womb, providing that spark of life; it is not merely a mechanical process and 2 - that it is not up to me, He will give as He sees fit. I know childless couples who are 'quiverfull' in belief. It has been a blessing, and though we've rarely had 'enough' money to justify it financially, we are blessed beyond measure with those we do have, and are thankful for the opportunity to follow Him in this conviction. I don't think it is our choice; when we look at OT instances regarding this topic and 1 Cor 7 (among others), I don't think we can get away from it. There have been plenty of times when 'we don't have the money' and 'it is not advisable at this time' but we did not listen to those voices and were instead given what we were supposed to get. It has been difficult, trying, and an incredible blessing. Providence.
  27. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    When there is a significant likelihood that a pregnancy may end in death, we shouldn't ignore the teaching of the Larger Catechism on the Sixth Commandment: "Whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any"
  28. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Putting aside what one means by the term significant, let us imagine an earlier period of time when various forms of birth control were not available. Would the proper solution to be to tell the husband and wife to stop having sex because a pregnancy could result?

  29. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Good point. This could be looked at from 2 directions. If we look at it from Edwards POV, with medical technology and medical knowledge in mind, that death will occur every time to the mother if she becomes pregnant and with that certain condition one could argue the 6th. Though I will add I am still waiting for any example of such condition that would indeed kill the mother every time she gets pregnant and thus I think the 6th does not apply here. The same could be said from your POV in that can you tell me where in "earlier times" where pregnancy resulted in death of the mother every time?
  30. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I'm not sure that you've fairly characterized either Mr. Godwin's nor my position.

    I'd use a 'reckless disregard' standard. It would probably be a misdemeanor under Georgia law: "(b) A person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm or endanger the safety of the other person and the disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeanor."
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