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

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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?
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."
I was using you example of the 6th, not Georgia law. My main question is what medical condition would be considered so dangerous to say the death of the mother will ensue if she gets pregnant? I am not asking what may ensue but what will ensue. Also to have any law in Georgia that says a mother may not have a child because it may cause harm to her is a law I would disobey. Just saying...of course I am a man.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
It may have been that the 70 souls over whom Abraham had charge would have survived the famine in the land, but using his consecrated intellect, he determined that seeking aid in Egypt to be a wise course of action with the the information he had at hand. Was he 'not trusting God' in doing so?

There is nowhere to be found in the decalogue a command to have children, let alone as many as possible regardless of risk, inclination, or ability to provide. For those who are so inclined, able to provide, and for whom health is not a consideration, more power to them. For those of differing circumstances, other avenues in life are not prohibited in scripture. And yes, in the past if there were hindrances as mentioned above, abstinence of the act that causes fertilization by mutual consent would be the course to take. Today there are other means. It behooves a Christian to determine which of those means, if any, does not result in the death of a person, and use that means.

At least those are my views on the matter, for what that's worth.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
It may have been that the 70 souls over whom Abraham had charge would have survived the famine in the land, but using his consecrated intellect, he determined that seeking aid in Egypt to be a wise course of action with the the information he had at hand. Was he 'not trusting God' in doing so?

There is nowhere to be found in the decalogue a command to have children, let alone as many as possible regardless of risk, inclination, or ability to provide. For those who are so inclined, able to provide, and for whom health is not a consideration, more power to them. For those of differing circumstances, other avenues in life are not prohibited in scripture. And yes, in the past if there were hindrances as mentioned above, abstinence of the act that causes fertilization by mutual consent would be the course to take. Today there are other means. It behooves a Christian to determine which of those means, if any, does not result in the death of a person, and use that means.

At least those are my views on the matter, for what that's worth.
I phrased my question in the way that I did for a reason. What reasons/circumstances does the Bible give for married folks to not have sex?

CT
 
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Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I was using you example of the 6th, not Georgia law.
The Georgia law comports with my understanding of the Westminster standard on this.

death of the mother will ensue
You seem to be trying to read it to say '"Whatsoever else causes the destruction of the life of any' rather than the broader "Whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any".

I am not asking what may ensue but what will ensue.
And I would suggest that that is the wrong question.

Also to have any law in Georgia that says a mother may not have a child because it may cause harm to her
And finally, I would suggest that that is not a fair reading of the law. I would refer you to the phrase 'of another person'.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 9:7:
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
Psalm 127:3:
See, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

We seem generally commanded to be fruitful and multiple.

Likewise, a barren womb seems to be a bad thing, whereas children are a blessing.

Questions:
(1) Can we decide that the earth has already been filled and that we have already multiplied enough such that we have now (already) achieved God's command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth?

(2) If a barren womb is considered a curse in the Scriptures, can we take measures upon ourselves to make our wombs barren and not able to bear children without also bringing a curse upon us?

(3) Can families who already have many children say, "I've played my role in being fruitful...I've done my part." Or is there a positive command to have as many as possible, barring other factors. And what are those other factors (physical health, mental well-being, marital happiness).

(4) Singleness also seems a blessing to those called to it. How can both fruitful quiver-full families as well as single persons with no children both be blessings? Does it depend on one's calling? And if it depends on one's calling, can a family be "called" only to have 2 children? One can choose to be married or not....but once you are married are you then obligated to reproduce to be Scriptural?
(5) Wasn't the sin of Onan mainly about the refusal to preserve a geneological line and not just about "wasting" sperm?

Now several scenarios:
(1) - I have a friend (a missionary friend) whose wife is not very "domestic" and they have several children and seem to be very fertile. however, she has stressed about her kids and doesn't seem to find fulfillment always in raising them. They decided to get sterilized and reasoned that it was for "health" reasons (meaning health of the mind). If sterilization seems a little drastic how about birth control for a woman with 8 children who is highly stressed? Must she learn how not to be stressed? Or can she take actions to prevent more responsibilities to be placed upon shoulders incapable of handling more?
(2) I know folks who live in crowded Asian cities where the cost of living is expensive. When is monetary concerns a reason for limiting children? Being poor on an American farm is much different than being poor in a crowded apartment complex in Taiwan.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Pergs: 1 - no, 2 - I don't know that it is considered a 'curse' per se, merely that God opens and closes the womb 3 - no, but here is the fork in the road (to me): if you believe that it is a mechanical act, then it is much easier to have peace with point 3. Otherwise, if it is God providing the spark of life, I don't know how we can say no to more children, since it is God's hand allowing that life, and we can attempt to procreate as much as we want but will not be successful unless God wills it to happen. I don't think that it is a mechanical act. 4 - same answer for married couples. 5 - yes, it was his disobedience to God, not specifically wasting seed (In my humble opinion).

II (1) - offhand, without more details, I would say that the answer to peace was with the father's level of involvement (2) - We were in a crowded (11 million) city in China and our number of children was an incredible witness simply because of our situation. Oddly, we make multiples now of what we made in China, but I don't know that we have any more free cash flow than we did there. We were poor. We made $1250/month. We lived well. God provided.
 

jpfrench81

Puritan Board Sophomore
One thing that hasn't been brought up in this thread (to my memory) is that fact that the church was essentially universally opposed to birth control until the 1930s. While that doesn't guarantee that this is the Biblical view, it is certainly a consideration one should make when arguing for birth control. The same reasons for using birth control now were reasons back 200 years ago, yet the church almost universally opposed the practice. It wasn't until the pill became legal that the church largely became indifferent to whether people used birth control. As a historical note, it is not surprising that the "sexual revolution" and popularity of p0rnography (think Playboy) exploded--suddenly it was possible to engage in sexual acts without worrying about the natural result of children. Sexuality divorced from the possibility of children warps our view of sexuality. And no, I'm not saying infertile couples shouldn't engage in sexuality or anything silly like that. I'm simply saying that when people seek sexual pleasure while artificially seeking to restrain the conception of children, it dramatically alters their view of the sexual act.
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
There is a certain level of absurdity to this discussion. Can we say no to the spark of life God provides? Well, I suppose my answer is to that question is another question: Aren't we all Calvinists? Do you really think we can frustrate God's plan to the extent that He is incapable of creating more people? Can't God raise children for Abraham from rocks? I doubt He would be seriously deterred by birth control if He were bent on the purpose of giving someone another child. After all, He gave one to Mary, and she was a virgin.

But to take this argument down to a more practical level (please, let's have no more nonsense about refusing to allow God to create life) the circumstances in which we find ourselves are the providence of God. He expects us to be wise stewards of what He has given us.

I would be a little cautious with the assumption that having more kids and crowding them places or expecting them to rise to the challenge of caring for a sick or dying mother is a good idea. I have known that to be the case in several situations, and I have known some deeply embittered and/or psychologically damaged children to result from it. My mother had fifteen brothers and sisters. The oldest two are what I would characterize as "broken." The oldest (my aunt) especially suffered from bulimia, anorexia, panic attacks, etc. She had to care for all her brothers and sisters, often while her mother was ill. She has never really recovered from playing "mom" since the age of six. When she was ten, she pulled the body of her little brother out of a drainage ditch after he drowned while she was trying to babysit six children and lost track of him. She would go into hysterics in her early teens about how she needed to learn to drive so that she could get the younger children to the hospital. She nearly starved herself to death with her obsession to save food for the other children (the family was often short on food).

I was the oldest daughter in a family of nine, and I babysat kids since I was six also. I always say I never got to be a child, because I was always taking care of other children and my mother (who suffered serious bouts of postpartum depression, among other things). I can't tell you how often I wished she'd stop having kids, so I could get some sleep at night. Even as much as I loved my siblings, I was exhausted all the time. I always had at least one baby on my arm, while I was trying to do homework, and I was often up at night taking care of sick kids, and then teachers wondered why I was dozing off in class. I was troubled by my mother's increasing insanity as she spoke to angels and said we were all going to have our heads cut off.

So as someone who has seen the other side of this, let me spell it out plainly: The Bible forbids vexing your children. Children are vexed by their parents having a lack of common sense. Children are vexed by mothers who knowingly put themselves in serious danger psychologically or physically. Children are vexed by having too many expectations put on them at too young an age. Children are vexed by parents who put their own responsibilities onto the children and expect the children to pick up the slack or deal with an awful situation that does not need to happen. Adults should not use Scripture to avoid their own responsibilities. As a parent, your responsibility is to be a parent. When you are not a parent and your kid has to clean up after you, this is not so much "God working things out" as it is you dropping the ball.

'm not suggesting this applies to anyone in particular on this thread, but just a general common sense idea: If you are mentally ill, then work on that before you consider having more kids. Your kids need you to be sane. If your marriage is broken down and you are on the verge of divorce, work on that before you have more kids. If your finances are such that having another child would put you in serious debt, then work on your finances before having more children. Consider the needs of the children you already have. The command to be fruitful is a great commandment, but like all commandments (except the one to love your God), it is qualified and balanced with other commandments. Just as we would not tell someone to go out and sell all he has and give the money to the poor in every situation, we shouldn't tell someone to be fruitful and multiply always no matter what.

If the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves, then our nearest neighbors are our children, and love requires that we treat them as we would want others to treat us--not expecting them to be tiny adults or to manage our problems for us. I hope this is not too harsh, but I think it needs to be said. Lots of kids does not necessarily equal a happy well-adjusted family. To this day, both my mother and my grandmother think they were heroes for raising huge numbers of children. Many of their children have a totally different perspective. We remember how dirty we always were because no one bathed us, and we remember how we had to beg food from the neighbors. I remember my brother cracking his skull from his forehead to his ear when he fell off a construction scaffold, and my mother leaving him on the couch because she was too out of it herself to take him to the hospital until he finally started vomiting enough that she worried he would ruin the couch.

I'm not suggesting that anyone on this thread is that crazy. But there are times to encourage people to have kids, and there are times to say, "Look, until you can take better care of the kids you have, maybe you should take some measures to avoid having more." The world is an odd place, and to think that everyone is able to have and raise huge numbers of children is patently absurd. So minimally, think hard about how it will affect your other children if you are too sick to take care of them for nine months. Think how it would affect them if you died. And don't provoke your children to wrath.
 
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Boosterseat_91

Puritan Board Freshman
A friend of mine made me look at this discussion in this manner: Obviously, being reformed, our epistemology is based upon God's Holy Word. Bearing this in mind, a number of postulates come into play in this discussion, some of which include:

1) Children are a blessing (This is revealed in God's Holy Word)
2) God opens the womb (Revealed)
3) God closes the womb (Revealed)
4) We are to have children (Revealed)
5) A quiver full is a good amount (Revealed)
6) Children are a heritage from the Lord (Revealed)
7) A closed womb is often a reproach (Revealed)
8) It is lawful at certain times and for certain reasons to limit or otherwise prevent the number of children we have (Not revealed)

So we need to ask the very simple question, which of these does not belong? It is fairly obvious. Anyone in favor of preventing or limiting the number of children would have to provide Scriptural evidence for it, but that would contradict nearly every other propositional truth about children and childbearing in Scripture. This is a very general way of looking at it, but I think it's helpful to look at the big picture first and then establish the details.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm sorry, but the idea that any of this is 'absurd' is patently so. As raised previously, the church was in universal opposition to birth control prior to the Lambeth Conference (not just the Romans, but Protestants too!) The downward spiral since has been nearly apocalyptic. I think Joshua hit the nail on the head solidly. We are now conforming our faith to the spirit of the age in this facet, and not the other way around.

So as someone who has seen the other side of this, let me spell it out plainly: The Bible forbids vexing your children. Children are vexed by their parents having a lack of common sense. Children are vexed by mothers who knowingly put themselves in serious danger psychologically or physically. Children are vexed by having too many expectations put on them at too young an age. Children are vexed by parents who put their own responsibilities onto the children and expect the children to pick up the slack or deal with an awful situation that does not need to happen. Adults should not use Scripture to avoid their own responsibilities. As a parent, your responsibility is to be a parent. When you are not a parent and your kid has to clean up after you, this is not so much "God working things out" as it is you dropping the ball.
I can't disagree with this more strenuously, your personal experience notwithstanding, and my sincere empathy goes out to you.

There is a certain level of absurdity to this discussion. Can we say no to the spark of life God provides? Well, I suppose my answer is to that question is another question: Aren't we all Calvinists? Do you really think we can frustrate God's plan to the extent that He is incapable of creating more people? Can't God raise children for Abraham from rocks? I doubt He would be seriously deterred by birth control if He were bent on the purpose of giving someone another child. After all, He gave one to Mary, and she was a virgin.
We can't frustrate God's plans, but we can certainly seek after our own desires in spite of what He has laid out as good and noble and profitable (and not just in the respect of this particular issue, but in almost any!) It is amazing how adept we are at justifying our own desires because of our own perspectives, in any situation. I am as guilty of this as anyone else, but I can't put this one aside as I can so many others because it is so clear. I do not vex my children, but I do expect more of them than most parents would. I expect more than video-game playing wads of flab in the basement for my boys and more than vanity-obsessed harridans at the mall for my girls. I am training young men with a strong work ethic and young women who will know how to mother a child, and both of them with a godly demeanor and a love for Christ. This is a gift, not a burden, but I assure you that in the eyes of the world, we are far too hard on them. And that's just fine with me.

PS - Leah, I think it is indeed just that simple.
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
I should qualify my own statements by noting that I am not accusing anyone in particular of vexing their children. If you are able to have many and care for them all, then good. My best friends have nine children, and I love them very much. They take very good care of their children, and all of their children are well cared for. I think what is absurd is a suggestion that EVERYONE ought to be encouraged to do so no matter what. It simply is a fact that some people have bigger problems (like mental illness or dangerous physical problems). If they really cannot look after more kids, then I think it should be okay for them to stop without people suggesting that they are disobedient to God.

As far as Scriptural proof, I don't know how to make it more plain than I did in my previous post: Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath. Love your neighbor as yourself. And seek after wisdom. Those are all things spoken by the Holy Spirit. If someone is risking the health and well-being of their children to continue having one child after another when they cannot care for them, then that provokes children to wrath. This is not mere personal experience. The Bible says to consider how you treat your children and to do for others as you would have them do for you.

PS I will add, however, that I think all parents do well to seriously consider whether they are obeying the commandment not to vex their children. My grandmother and my mother never thought they vexed their children either. In fact, to this day, neither of them can abide the suggestion that they did anything wrong in their whole parenting careers. My mother teaches parenting classes (or did last I heard, but I haven't heard from her in years). It is easy to be defensive about these things. But I think personal experience DOES prove that just because parents think everything is fine because no one has died yet (or brush off a death as an accident), doesn't mean that everything really is okay. It is good to ask ourselves often where it concerns our children whether we are gentle toward them and considerate of their youth and weakness and whether we are treating them as we would want someone to treat us. Sometimes this means recognizing our own frailties (mentally, physically, financially, etc) and denying ourselves, even perhaps the opportunity of having more children.
 
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Boosterseat_91

Puritan Board Freshman
As far as Scriptural proof, I don't know how to make it more plain than I did in my previous post: Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath. Love your neighbor as yourself. And seek after wisdom. Those are all things spoken by the Holy Spirit. If someone is risking the health and well-being of their children to continue having one child after another when they cannot care for them, then that provokes children to wrath. This is not mere personal experience. The Bible says to consider how you treat your children and to do for others as you would have them do for you.
Caroline,

I have skimmed through your posts but wanted to just respond to this. It seems that what you are implying, though you may not like to say it like this, is that for parents to conceive another child when they are struggling in either their eyes or someone's eyes to already care for the children they do have, is sinful in that it provokes the children already born to wrath. The problem is see with this is mainly that it is God who creates that life in the womb and not the husband and wife. To say that the conception is in itself sinful in this situation is to put the sin on God, not the couple.

Also, Ephesians 6:4 doesn't really have to do with conception or what children think about their parents' life decisions. A child may be "provoked" to wrath by the father choosing to move to a different state or just a different city - The children will lose their friends and familiarity, etc. So does that violate God's law for the husband to move if his children are opposed to it? I would say no, not at all. The children have a duty to submit to their parents' decisions in so far as they do not violate the Law of God. So in order for Ephesians 6:4 to be actual Scriptural proof, you would first have to prove that conception of a child in marriage someway violates God's law therefore the children are justified in being provoked or upset by it. As already noted, this idea contradicts a number of propositional truths in Scripture about childbearing and children. Rather, I think that verse is teaching that fathers ought to raise their children in a Christian worldview with compassionate instruction in accordance with God's law, which all sides in this discussion undoubtedly agree with.
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
I generally agree with you, Caroline.

I do believe that if prevention of conception were in and of itself a sin, it would be so listed in scripture. So many sins are lined out. I dare say I never even would have thought of some of the sins if they were not in there. If it were, in and of itself, a sin, I think it would be lined out.

That said, prevention of conception is often a symptom of something that is a sin, like lack of faith, selfishness, idolatry of this or that, etc.

So if a pet sin is influencing you to do your best to avoid conception, then of course that pet sin must be confronted.

But if your motivation to prevent conception is NOT a sinful motivation, then, I think it is stretching it to say contraception is a sin.

In Caroline's mother's (and particularly father's) case, just responding to what is lined out here, it seems to me a father would say: "My wife suffers from (revealed and actual) postpartum depression. She's not AFRAID that she MIGHT - she actually does. She is incapable of taking proper care of the children we have. This is revealed! Not a fear that she might not be able to take care of them. She actually is not. My six year old should not, except in the most extreme emergency, be utilized as a babysitter. Thus, I have decided to prevent conception for now, until the REVEALED situation actually improves."

I do believe that would have been the right and responsible thing for this father to do.

Also, as to the argument that God opens and closes the womb, of course He does, and birth control is only so effective. If God wants you to conceive, you will, even if you are using birth control.
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have skimmed through your posts but wanted to just respond to this. It seems that what you are implying, though you may not like to say it like this, is that for parents to conceive another child when they are struggling in either their eyes or someone's eyes to already care for the children they do have, is sinful in that it provokes the children already born to wrath. The problem is see with this is mainly that it is God who creates that life in the womb and not the husband and wife. To say that the conception is in itself sinful in this situation is to put the sin on God, not the couple.

Also, Ephesians 6:4 doesn't really have to do with conception or what children think about their parents' life decisions. A child may be "provoked" to wrath by the father choosing to move to a different state or just a different city - The children will lose their friends and familiarity, etc. So does that violate God's law for the husband to move if his children are opposed to it? I would say no, not at all. The children have a duty to submit to their parents' decisions in so far as they do not violate the Law of God. So in order for Ephesians 6:4 to be actual Scriptural proof, you would first have to prove that conception of a child in marriage someway violates God's law therefore the children are justified in being provoked or upset by it. As already noted, this idea contradicts a number of propositional truths in Scripture about childbearing and children. Rather, I think that verse is teaching that fathers ought to raise their children in a Christian worldview with compassionate instruction in accordance with God's law, which all sides in this discussion undoubtedly agree with.
This discussion is rather amusing to me in that it is clearly carried on by people who are rather insulated from much of life. Children submitting about a parent's choice to move is not at all equal to asking a child to submit to a mother's decision to go into postpartum depression that renders her completely insane and dangerous, or a mother's decision to have another child when she knows it will make her so ill as to be bedridden and force her 10-year-old into a role of caring for five younger children. Children CAN be genuinely vexed in a way that goes far beyond mere childish disappointment. Ephesians 6:4 applies to life in general. It is not restricted to those things convenient to us. Simply because a parent WANTS to have 10 kids does not make it okay to set aside the Biblical commandment to avoid provoking children to wrath and to love others as ourselves, and to be good stewards and seek wisdom.

There are many things people can do that are not in themselves sinful, and yet can be sinful in the sense of being foolish and unloving. It is not in itself sinful to take a vacation, but if you take a vacation and spend all the rent money and end up homeless on the street, that is foolish and unloving. And if you did so and your children were vexed by your decision, then they are right, even if it is a parental decision. God provides the lovely beaches in the Caribbean, but He expects wisdom in our use of them. It is so for many aspects of life and parenting.

PS I add (because I worry about some feeling that I am judging too harshly)... if there are circumstances beyond your control or something unexpected, I think that is entirely different. If someone becomes ill while pregnant or develops postpartum psychosis unexpectedly, then we just deal with the trials of life as they come. But that is like other aspects of life also. If I get robbed and lose all my money, that is sad. If I lose all my money gambling, that is foolish. Children should be taught to deal with tragedies, but even children know the difference between tragedy and stupidity better than parents think they do.
 
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Boosterseat_91

Puritan Board Freshman
This discussion is rather amusing to me in that it is clearly carried on by people who are rather insulated from much of life. Children submitting about a parent's choice to move is not at all equal to asking a child to submit to a mother's decision to go into postpartum depression that renders her completely insane and dangerous, or a mother's decision to have another child when she knows it will make her so ill as to be bedridden and force her 10-year-old into a role of caring for five younger children. Children CAN be genuinely vexed in a way that goes far beyond mere childish disappointment. Ephesians 6:4 applies to life in general. It is not restricted to those things convenient to us. Simply because a parent WANTS to have 10 kids does not make it okay to set aside the Biblical commandment to avoid provoking children to wrath and to love others as ourselves, and to be good stewards and seek wisdom.

There are many things people can do that are not in themselves sinful, and yet can be sinful in the sense of being foolish and unloving. It is not in itself sinful to take a vacation, but if you take a vacation and spend all the rent money and end up homeless on the street, that is foolish and unloving. And if you did so and your children were vexed by your decision, then they are right, even if it is a parental decision. God provides the lovely beaches in the Caribbean, but He expects wisdom in our use of them. It is so for many aspects of life and parenting.
Caroline,

I will not deny that I honestly haven't had a lot of trying life experiences. I may not have all the wisdom and counsel for every individual struggle in this situation. However, this does not mean I cannot know the principles laid out in God's Word. There are a lot of situations which may make it very difficult to have children, I understand that. But difficulty at obeying God's commands does not make disobedience justified. So in order to establish whether these difficulties - whether they be health or financial - are legitimate reasons not to have children, we must first establish the biblical principles about childbearing and children. After the principle is established, then individual situations can be looked at but not before. We must exegete the meaning of Scripture first before trying to put our own interpretations in Scripture that meet our individual circumstances (eisegesis).

That said, I'd like to give another hypothetical situation. Let's say a woman became so depressed because she had a few children and was a widow and she decided to stop committing fornication. The lack of physical satisfaction left her depressed. Let's say her depression provoked her children to wrath. Would she be violating God's law because her children were provoked? No, because the children were provoked out of her obeying God's law (though the depression in and of itself could be sinful). The question again always comes back to is that thing which is hypothetically provoking the children to wrath a violation of God's law or in accordance with it? This is the principle I am trying to get back to. If the children are vexed over something that is not sinful, then they are being sinful in themselves (and even if vexed over something that is sinful, they have to respect their parents in the way they react).

(Actually, I don't think this verse justifies children being provoked by their parents, necessarily. It is really teaching parents to bring their children up in wisdom and understanding in God's law and not needlessly provoking them. If children are provoked, they still need to honor their parents.)

Furthermore, I would ask, Who is the steward of conception? I know of husbands and wives who want to have more kids and can even afford them, but are unable to have more children. I know of husbands and wives who have been on birth control and not wanted more children but still got them. I agree that parents are stewards over the children that God blesses and gives to them, but how can a husband and wife bless themselves with conceiving a child? They can't. Only God can create life. Clearly, parents are not meant to, nor can they, steward the conception of children. So to compare conceiving a child (which they Bible portrays as a blessing and gift of God) in certain situations as carelessly spending a ton of money on a vacation is not an accurate comparison. Money is a gift God has given us to steward. Children are a gift God has given us to steward. But the creation of life is for God alone, we are not, nor can we, possibly steward that.
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
I understand Caroline's "insulated" point - she is saying that it seems like an insulated point of view, to assume that when she mentions vexing of children she means some stress like an unwanted move.

Caroline outlined some vexing that is spiritually, physically, and psychologically harmful. It can be truly deadly. It is not comparable to having to move.
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
This discussion is rather amusing to me in that it is clearly carried on by people who are rather insulated from much of life.
?
I think being in Reformed circles sometimes has an insulating effect. I find it interesting when people seem unable to imagine a scenario in which parental decisions are not wise and appropriate, etc--comparing decisions about moving to postpartum psychosis. In a way, it's a good thing. I call it "Reformed allergies." There is a theory that allergies develop when people are in such a sterilized environment that their system starts to overreact to small things, like dust. Reformed people also have a sort of sterilized environment. I grew up in a cult with a mother who I was pretty sure was going to kill me, and I still wouldn't be entirely surprised if that's the way I found my way to glory. I know that the assumption that parents are always good is common in Reformed circles, and for the most part, it is even true, and that is why it is so commonly accepted. I just have a whole other perspective. It's like how Reformed people always assume also that church leadership is wise and well-intentioned, and they always suggest taking problems to the elders. That is actually good advice in most cases in Reformed churches. But that certainly is not the case in every church, especially in Oneness Pentecostalism, etc.

Reformed allergies. I like them. It means I'm in a good place that has relatively few problems compared to the outside world.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Thanks Caroline. Yes, I see your point about "Reformed Allergies" and agree with your example:

It's like how Reformed people always assume also that church leadership is wise and well-intentioned, and they always suggest taking problems to the elders. That is actually good advice in most cases in Reformed churches. But that certainly is not the case in every church, especially in Oneness Pentecostalism, etc.
So it sounds like you would affirm that children and child-rearing are blessings, but that other factors also weigh in and may over-ride the general command to be fruitful and multiply (sickness, illness, stresses, dangers). Thus, we are not always commanded to be as fruitful as possible. Is that correct?
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I think being in Reformed circles sometimes has an insulating effect. I find it interesting when people seem unable to imagine a scenario in which parental decisions are not wise and appropriate, etc--comparing decisions about moving to postpartum psychosis. In a way, it's a good thing. I call it "Reformed allergies." There is a theory that allergies develop when people are in such a sterilized environment that their system starts to overreact to small things, like dust. Reformed people also have a sort of sterilized environment. I grew up in a cult with a mother who I was pretty sure was going to kill me, and I still wouldn't be entirely surprised if that's the way I found my way to glory. I know that the assumption that parents are always good is common in Reformed circles, and for the most part, it is even true, and that is why it is so commonly accepted. I just have a whole other perspective. It's like how Reformed people always assume also that church leadership is wise and well-intentioned, and they always suggest taking problems to the elders. That is actually good advice in most cases in Reformed churches. But that certainly is not the case in every church, especially in Oneness Pentecostalism, etc.

Reformed allergies. I like them. It means I'm in a good place that has relatively few problems compared to the outside world.
Fair enough, but then we are talking about being completely outside the church if we are talking about a 'cult'. Take most biblical precepts within those confines and they will be twisted beyond recognition and made into something horrendous. For those of us who have had trying times, I can still say that they don't change the truth of scripture, no matter how many exceptions I may catalogue. Personal experience does not alter scriptural truths, it merely reinforces the reason they're there as an objective third party. Thus experiences you cite have little to do with the biblical application of the texts referenced by Leah. The Christian Church IS well-intentioned, the elders are there for that reason. And if that is not the case, then I am not sure we are talking about a 'church', other than technically, since it may likewise have a building and a pastor.
 

Boosterseat_91

Puritan Board Freshman
I understand Caroline's "insulated" point - she is saying that it seems like an insulated point of view, to assume that when she mentions vexing of children she means some stress like an unwanted move.

Caroline outlined some vexing that is spiritually, physically, and psychologically harmful. It can be truly deadly. It is not comparable to having to move.
To be fair, the example I brought up with moving was not meant to parallel the "harm" brought to the child, but rather meant to show that we must first develop whether or not the parents choice (whatever it is that causes the vexing) was sinful. If a non-sinful act vexes the child, then it is not the parent's fault - they are doing their duty. Ephesians 6:4 exegetically is not even speaking of whether or not parents should have children - that's assumed. It's speaking of raising the children you do have with graceful, biblical instruction. Both sides of this discussion agree with this. So, my point was, in order for this verse to be helpful, you would have to prove that Scripturally it is possible for the act of conception between a husband and wife can in certain situations be someway sinful. This verse cannot prove that; you have to presuppose it to be true in order to even interpret the verse in that way.
 

DeniseM

Puritan Board Freshman
Caroline,
For the record, nothing even comparable to what you've described about your family is remotely happening in our house. My children are thrilled that we are having a new baby! My point was that we don't decide how convenient it would be for us to obey God's commands and take him up on his promises. We see the clear teachings of scripture and trust the Lord with the outcome. You were the one to point out that we are all Calvinists. What could be more Calvinistic than relying on God in humble submission to his revealed will.

As regards the mother's physical life, I have a particular interest in that question since I will be having my seventh c-section when this baby is delivered, Lord willing. Up to this point, the doctor has given us the o.k. to have more children as I seem to be physically holding up well in that respect. However, if the doctor were to tell me at some point that my womb had become so fragile that becoming pregnant again would greatly endanger my life and likely lead to the death of the conceived child, I would need to consider God's command to preserve life and not endanger myself or my child in that way. I think that Kevin and his wife made a wise decision. They obeyed God's command to create life and they obeyed his command to preserve life. Humble submission to God's clearly revealed will is what is the point here.

We can come up with a million off the wall scenario, and they really aren't all that helpful in the end. Our personal experience don't dictate the truth for other people. The original question was, "Is it the responsibility of a married couple to have children?" and according to scripture, the answer is a clear Yes.
 

irresistible_grace

Puritan Board Junior
With everything that has been posted in this thread... I still struggle with the ORIGINAL POST

Is it "biblical" for a married Confessional Christian couple to "choose" to have NO children?

That sounds like Onanism to me. That is, wanting the joy of sexual intercourse while PREVENTING the conception of any covenant children. Last time I checked, Onan dropped dead! That doesn't sound like it has God's seal of approval to me.

But, it sounds like it is being argued that if God wanted Tamar to get pregnant, God could have given Tamar a child without Onan. So, why did God see fit to kill Onan? Onan was PREVENTING conception while enjoying sexual gratification.

Is there another example of contraception in Scripture that has a positive outcome? I know of none.

I know that the fruit of the womb is a blessing that should not be willfully PREVENTED, at least from the outset. I struggle to see how a Confessional Christan can argue from Scripture that it is "biblical" for Christians to CHOOSE to NEVER have ANY covenant children (because of personal preference).
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Jess,

I think the sin of Onan was more than that. It had to do with the continuance of a family line. The sin of Onan was more than spilling seed on the ground, but included disrespect for the Levirate marriage arrangement and disrespect for his dead brother (or maybe a desire not to bear another heir and thus not split any inheritance). I think invoking Onan only works so far.

In some cases, I can understand how a principle of safeguarding life can be used to willingly prevent contraception (female reproductive conditions which could prove dangerous, etc). In those cases, a couple could enjoy sex even while trying to prevent reproduction, all without sin. While I think it would normally be sin for a married couple to choose NOT to have children, perhaps we could add the word "healthy" to strengthen your position. I don't think the rule is absolute.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Denise, first of all, congratulations! The growth of your family is a great cause for joy, and it is impossible not to be glad for a child who will have the advantage of being included in conventicle reenactments from birth.

Second, I think you may be misinterpreting Caroline a bit, since you are coming at it from different angles. Her scenarios are not off the wall - they're exactly what she lived through; and she is not alone in that. Indeed, I think if anything she's too optimistic that such situations are rare in Reformed circles.

Look at it like this. You are ready to consider that there are situations where the command to preserve life could be incompatible with the responsibility to be fruitful and multiply. So when answering the original question "Is it the responsibility of a married couple to have children" you do say yes, but admit that there could be exceptions. If we don't mention those exceptions, we run the risk of saying too much. I believe Caroline's point (with which I agree) is twofold:
1. That it isn't our business to decide whether someone else is sinning if they believe they are in one of those exceptional situations.
2. That it is the part of wisdom to acknowledge those exceptional situations, instead of providing blanket encouragement to everyone married to become pregnant as often as they can. Especially when posting online, we have to be careful and measured in what we say. Given that it is the internet, the probability that someone unstable is reading our words is so high as to be practically a certainty. Relying on God in humble submission is Calvinistic; so is realizing that "every particular duty is not to be done at all times" (WLC 99); so is speaking a word in season.

It warms my heart to see people so sincerely committed to having and loving children; in the midst of a culture that truly loves death in many ways, the affirmation of life in procreation is precious. In contrast to the constant complaining about children one often finds in the world, the consideration of them as blessings from the Lord is as refreshing as cold water on a hot day. But we must also remember that men of this world can be full of children (Psalm 17:4). What we, as Christians are here for, whether single, married, childless, or replete with children, is to be satisfied when we awake with the likeness of the Lord. A child is a blessing from God, but is not a proof of God's favor; nor is their absence a sign of his displeasure.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
But, it sounds like it is being argued that if God wanted Tamar to get pregnant, God could have given Tamar a child without Onan. So, why did God see fit to kill Onan? Onan was PREVENTING conception while enjoying sexual gratification.
Was it simply that, or was it because he was being duplicitous, not refusing his father's command openly, but defying it surreptitiously? Can we derive law from such an unclear passage?

Rain is a great blessing upon a parched land, but not so much where the ground is already saturated. God gave us no control over the rain, but He did give us control over whether we procreate or not, and the ability to use wisdom in that control. Motivations are what determine the sinfulness of actions not expressly forbidden, not the action itself.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
Given that it is the internet, the probability that someone unstable is reading our words is so high as to be practically a certainty.
My presence on the thread removes the 'practically' from the assertion, thank you. It behooves a man to recognize his own frailties...
 

irresistible_grace

Puritan Board Junior
Rain is a great blessing upon a parched land, but not so much where the ground is already saturated. God gave us no control over the rain, but He did give us control over whether we procreate or not, and the ability to use wisdom in that control. Motivations are what determine the sinfulness of actions not expressly forbidden, not the action itself.
The ORIGINAL POST seems more like parched land than saturated. If they are CHOOSING to NEVER have children. Which is why I said, "at least from the outset" ... Contraception after you have children (saturated land) is different than because you choice to never have them at all (parched land).
 

DeniseM

Puritan Board Freshman
Her scenarios are not off the wall
Ruben, I'm sorry, but I can't agree with you on this point. I don't honestly believe that within biblical families(those that would be worried about their biblical duties in the first place) that this isn't totally off the wall. I'm also not even remotely convinced that the number of children that were involved in this scenario had anything to due with the situation. Because someone will be an irresponsible parent isn't justification to open the floodgates for all manner of possibilities that might, in man's esteem, be cause to disobey God's creation mandate. I'm sorry to have obviously offended you. I do believe however that you have put several words in my mouth with your reply.

1. That it isn't our business to decide whether someone else is sinning if they believe they are in one of those exceptional situations.
Where did I assert this?


A child is a blessing from God, but is not a proof of God's favor; nor is their absence a sign of his displeasure.
Again, where did say this?

As has been said already, Let God be true, but every man a liar. I can't make decisions for my family based on what has happened in Caroline's family. I can feel sympathy for her. But, my decisions have to be based upon what God says in his word. If I can't trust God, who gave the command, it would be the height of folly to believe that I could trust the opinion of a mere created being.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Denise,

I think the misconception is that only Biblical families are worried about such things. The reality is far otherwise: many people have consciences that are very sensitive, and at the same time, ill-informed. For instance, a devout Catholic might be unregenerate, and still feel deeply constrained on this matter.

You haven't offended me in the slightest, and I certainly didn't mean to put words in your mouth - I was simply stating my understanding of Caroline's point, not claiming that those were positions you held. If you took anything I said as trying to prevent you from trusting God, I'm afraid I can't have been very clear. I suppose it might be impertinent, since it doesn't have anything to do with me, but I actually feel proud of your faith and of the children you have. All I'm saying is that in presenting this duty, like any duty, if we are speaking to a general audience it is important to acknowledge the appropriate qualifications. Even though it's on the Puritan Board, the audience is not exclusively made up of healthy Puritans.
 
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