Marriage Without Children

Recently, a reader asked, basically, this question: "would it be sinful for a woman to marry if she knows she does not want children?" I opened up the question for discussion, and you can read the answers given by other readers HERE.

But, honestly, I had to weigh in on this question. There is much to say, but let me start out by saying that two observations need to be made:
  1. Not until this century would this question even be asked... because not until this century was this kind of arrangement (an intentionally childless marriage) actually a possibility... every marriage, Christian or no, for thousands of years, by God's earliest design (see Genesis 1:27-28), has been intrinsically linked to the *possibility* of children.
  2. Even still, once the question is asked, it is still somewhat absurd to the extent that NO birth control (except for abstinence, which is OUT for all Christian married people--see 1 Corinthians 7:3-5) is foolproof.
So, regardless of whether or not the desire for a marriage without children is in and of itself sinful, the question itself is impractical and foolish at best. Children may feasibly come to ANYONE who is sexually intimate.

...BUT IS IT SINFUL TO DESIRE MARRIAGE BUT NOT CHILDREN?
Now, as to the sinfulness of such a desire... I could say a lot, but Al Mohler has written much more eloquently than I am able on this issue. Here's an excerpt of his article "Deliberate Childlessness":
Christians must recognize that this rebellion against parenthood represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design. The Scripture points to barrenness as a great curse and children as a divine gift. The Psalmist declared: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate." [Psalm 127: 3-5]

Morally speaking, the epidemic in this regard has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are for any reason unable to have them, but in those who are fully capable of having children but reject this intrusion in their lifestyle.


The motto of this new movement of chosen childlessness could be encapsulated by the bumper sticker put out by the Zero Population Growth group in the 1970s: "MAKE LOVE, NOT BABIES." This is the precise worldview the Scripture rejects. Marriage, sex, and children are part of one package. To deny any part of this wholeness is to reject God's intention in creation--and His mandate revealed in the Bible.


The sexual revolution has had many manifestations, but we can now see that modern Americans are determined not only to liberate sex for marriage [and even from gender], but also from procreation.


The Scripture does not even envision married couples who choose not to have children. The shocking reality is that some Christians have bought into this lifestyle and claim childlessness as a legitimate option. The rise of modern contraceptives has made this technologically possible. But the fact remains that though childlessness may be made possible by the contraceptive revolution, it remains a form of rebellion against God's design and order.


Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation. To the contrary, we are commanded to receive children with joy as God's gifts, and to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are to find many of our deepest joys and satisfactions in the raising of children within the context of the family. Those who reject children want to have the joys of sex and marital companionship without the responsibilities of parenthood. They rely on others to produce and sustain the generations to come.
He goes on:
... the family is a critical arena where the glory of God is either displayed or denied. It is just as simple as that.

The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children.

We, as Christians, ought not to follow the world's lead, using arguments that are derived more from a focus on human "happiness" or what is politically correct. We ought to be a people that sees God's design and uphold that design and all that it implies about how we are to live our lives. A people who looks to His WORD as our standard rather than human feelings. A people who is willing to stand up for the truth that the Word speaks about family, marriage, and children, rather than using world-based logic about these issues.

For example, God's first command to the first man and woman was to "be fruitful and multiply". Children were an intrinsic part of the original *design* of marriage. Children are repeatedly called "blessings" and conversely, childlessness was always taken by biblical characters to be a curse, never a good thing. Jesus Himself modeled a receptive attitude towards ALL children when He chastised his disciples and said "let all the little children come to me." And these are just some examples off of the top of my head.

There is nothing in Scripture that remotely comes close to "well, it seems wrong to deny a person something GOOD just because she's not keen on following God's design". Rather, what we see over and over again in Scripture is the idea of taking up one's cross and submitting yourself to the will of the Father. A focus on personal "happiness" or "fulfillment" isn't ours to focus on... abundant life comes from following the will of God.

Now, singleness is definitely the option for this woman, as this is a calling for certain people, and as this is an admirable choice, if you are going to do work for God's Kingdom with the time/energy/etc. that you are then not putting into a family. Biblically speaking, unless her heart is changed to be open to whatever God brings to her marriage (sickness/health, rich/poor, children/infertility), she ought not consider marriage. Period.

But to be deliberately childless simply for reasons of our own ease, desire, or plans, I believe, is simply NOT an option for a Christian marriage.

Further thoughts on this issue? Comments?

48 comments:

Anna S said...

Jess, I agree with every word you said here. You worded it better than I ever could.

Jaime said...

I agree - very well worded!!

food for thought, but this was the aticking point here:

We, as Christians, ought not to follow the world's lead, using arguments that are derived more from a focus on human "happiness" or what is politically correct. We ought to be a people that sees God's design and uphold that design and all that it implies about how we are to live our lives

These days it is so easy to get swept up by the majority that it's sometimes hard to distinguish what GOD's plan is... a good reminder for why we need to be experts in Scripture.

Katy-Anne said...

I totally agree! Why would a person want to get married but not have children? It's all part of the deal. And it is part of God's high calling to a woman. I also believe that birth control is wrong. God knows when to give us our children, and He knows how many to give us, so we ought not to try to thwart His blessings.

Mark said...

Jess,

What would be your view on couples that chose to 'stop at X' though the use of birth control?

So, not childlessness per se, but deciding to stop after a certain number of children?

EmmyJMommy said...

Mark (& Jess), I will answer from experience on your question of "stopping at X". I had my tubes "tied" after my second child...partly because of the desire to stop having children (which is a sin, I know and am struggling through that), but also because throughout my pregnancy with my first and second child, my health, and the health of both babies was not good. It was dangerous for me to get pregnant again and have more children....and even though we now struggle with that decision, we know that it was what God had in plan for us. I am much healthier now, and still have the hopes of adopting sometime in the future (I continually pray that God lays this burden on my dh's heart).

Sometimes, "stopping at X" is for health reasons...

Great comments and questions are arising from this subject! Thanks so much Jess!!!

Love ya!
~~emmyj

Nancy said...

I agree too. The modern culture that has been created by contraception and extended families living so far apart is very anti-kids. It's so hard to go against that.

I am at the point that Mark talked about (which is a very valid point), where I have the regulation "2 kids" and don't want any more right now. But I'm using only Natural Family Planning as a birth control method, so I feel like I'm leaving things open, to where God could change my mind in the future (although He'll have a hard time changing my husband's!). I guess that's the best we can do.

Jess said...

Hmmm... Mark.

I've deliberately avoided outright answering that question with some sweeping judgment or statement, because while my husband and I are currently living out what we believe God is asking of us right now, I do not see a biblical basis for an *absolute* view on this issue.

There are several things I have to consider:

(1) Godly people see this issue differently.

(2) There may be reasons for limiting family size that could be biblically permissible, even if there were a general standard laid out in the Word.

(3) There is no explicit command like, "you shalt not in any way limit your seed". :)

(4) And at the same time, this is a discussion that was not seen as one for Christians to consider until, roughly, the last century. Most of the "great" theologians explicitly warned against contraception and against childlessness in one form or another. So, then I in my mind am forced to consider: what, if anything, makes us different from previous generations of faithful Christ-followers?

(5) I am convinced that this generation of Christians is far too quick to employ birth control and take matters into their own hands... by and large, it is often not seen as a decision of prayer (except for perhaps the husband sending one up before he gets "snipped"-- Lord, please don't let this hurt). ;) Generally speaking, the number of children a Christian couple "chooses" to have is seen as entirely up to them, which, again, is a pretty modern phenomenon. So, then, again, what makes us different from our forebears?

(6) Most people would never seek to limit the blessings of God in any other area (money, health, peaceful relationships, effective ministry, etc.), and yet MOST Christians in the world today actively limit God's hand in this area. So then we must ask, Why is that?

(7) And then how does adoption play into this whole issue? If a couple wants to open their hearts and homes to adoption and must remain childless for a certain required period during that season, is it then wrong to limit biological kids though they are, in their hearts, lives, and actions, in all other ways opening their lives to children God has placed on their hearts? (Many hardcore quiverfullers would answer this question "yes", that it is wrong to use bc for any reason... I don't see it that way, particularly because of situations like this, with adoption-- which, incidentally, could be a possibility for us at some point in the future.)

(8) Is everyone's quiver the same size? Might not a "quiver full" look different for a mom with type 2 diabetes and all sorts of other medical issues, than a healthy woman who could joyfully bear and raise 15 children? Ought we not at least consider that possibility?

And I have many other angles and issues with which I've considered this issue (alongside my husband) over the past, oh, four-ish years.

But as you can see, I've come to more questions than answers. I could tell you all the ins and outs of what my husband and I believe God has revealed to us for this season of our lives, but that wouldn't necessarily bear true for you.


Here are some principles that I believe each Christian ought to consider:

(1) Am I generally operating out of faith or fear (James says whatever is not of faith is sin.)?

(2) Do I internally and externally live in such a way that displays a belief in the whole counsel of the Word of God regarding children?

(Boy this is a big one-- of course, the obvious scripture here is Ps 127... children are a blessing... but what about Genesis 2 that says children will leave their parents one day to leave and cleave-- do I make my children the center of my life or do I recognize that they are just in my hands for a season?, etc... it is not just a "they are a blessing" thing... but taking the entire counsel of the Word of God into account as to what God says to us about children)

(3) Do I have an attitude of "taking control of my life" or am I humbly open to what God has for me? (Which could still be the case during and after birth control has been used...)



All that to say, I will not be prescriptive towards others about what they ought to be doing. Nor will I make broad statements about what we will do for the entirety of our marriage. Today, we are where we are. But I can envision situations where birth control could be employed in a God-honoring and biblical way in our lives and in the lives of others.

I raise questions here to help others think through issues that have been helpful for my husband as I as we think through and live out these things. I hope the things I write here do precisely that.

Thanks for your question- I hope my answer is sufficient for you to see where I am and where I am not. :)

Blessings,
Jess

Bekah Miller said...

Jess,
Thank you for your research and candid answers. When the question was originally posted I wanted to answer, but didn't have the words to say what I thought. You, with Al Mohler's help, did what I couldn't. Kudos.

Terry said...

Al Mohler's piece was an excellent one and I also think your answers (and questions) in response to Mark were good ones as well. I think the motive of our hearts is the main issue. More often than not couples choose to limit their kids for financial and comfort reasons rather than health. That's the reason I usually hear. Of course, there are valid reasons to stop at 'X' number of kids. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Is my reason self-motivated and prayerfully considered, or a knee-jerk reaction based more on convenience and current societal trends? We are NOT to be like those who don't believe.

Mrs. Brigham said...

Well said!

I have shared this on my blog before, but will share it again. I was scared that I would be a terrible mother and seriously entertained the thought of remaining childless by choice once we married. My husband very much wanted to be a father, and thought birth control was wrong for a Christian couple. After much prayer I submitted to will of both God and my husband and did not use contraception. I did not become pregnant until nine months into our marriage, and although I was still scared, I felt such joy to be becoming a mother. Just as I had this taste of happiness, I wound up miscarrying. I never knew just how much I wanted to be a mother, how much of blessings children are, or what God's deep love for all of His children must be like until I went through this painful experience. Shortly after my miscarriage, Peapod was conceived and I was ready to prepare for motherhood and truly take care of our little blessing as I would not have been before.

Our experiences have been fascinating to me, and really do prove that to me that God knows what He is doing when He chooses to send a child to a particular couple. Only He has the wisdom to know what we can really handle and how our gifts can be used to the most benefit for the Kingdom.

CB said...

You wrote: "Biblically speaking, unless her heart is changed to be open to whatever God brings to her marriage (sickness/health, rich/poor, children/infertility), she ought not consider marriage. Period."

Across the board, I certainly was not open to all of that when I got married. I probably am not open to all of the possibilities now. I am not perfectly surrendered to the Lord every day of my life! I wish I was. There are days that I believe I am. But then there are days that I know I am not. Should I ought not to have considered marriage? I do believe spiritual growth and life is a long, day-to-day process. I can't point to yesterday and say I have grown that much. But I can point to 10 years ago, when I got married, and say yes, the Lord is growing me up!

So is it wrong for two people set on childlessness to get married? I still believe God can change them.

*~Tamara~* said...

Hmmm...I have diverse thoughts on this topic. It's something Mark and I have discussed at length, along with all the rabbit trails that it implies. (You can imagine. :-P )

I do believe, without question, that children are a blessing. This seems to be the argument of anyone who advocates not only for children, but for lots of children. I agree with them. However, I stop short of the "and therefore everyone must have them" and even shorter still of the "and therefore everyone must have 'as many as God sends'"

My natural leaning is to say that most marriages should include children. It is what makes the most sense to me, personally. However, is it a "sin" to not have any? Hmmm...I'm not certain on that one. Does scripture tell us that prerequisite to life-long companionship and sexual activity/fulfillment is bearing children? Originally Eve was given to Adam because he was alone, and in Genesis 2 when Adam notes that she is a part of him (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh), it goes on to say, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." Doesn't that imply that they will marry and become intimate because they were designed to be together?

From a personal standpoint, I do believe that it's in the best interest of marriage to have children. I think the experience of raising children in a godly environment can only strengthen a Christian marriage. However, I want to be careful to not give offense to others who might be serving God in ways other than what I do, or in ways that I don't have experience with. I have known missionary couples who have felt they should not have children while on the mission field because of the dangers of doing so, and because of their life-long service, never had children. I don't know that I would tell them they weren't in God's will when clearly they had answered His call to spread the gospel and were willing to sacrifice many of the joys and luxuries other Christians are afforded to do so. (This is one example, there are others.)

I also am not certain why, as emmyjmommy mentioned above, wanting to stop having children is a sin. Are we truly expected to always want more and more children until we physically can not have any more? Or is there a point at which it is permissible to say we are content with what the Lord has given us, and move on to the next stage of our lives and service to Him? If it is wrong to not want children, is it wrong to not want more children?

I think we have to be very careful here. I have a friend who was quite content with two children. Never even thought of having more than that. It is what she always wanted, what she prayed for, and what she is content with. God gave her the desires of her heart, and fulfilled them as well. I have always wanted four children. I thought I wouldn't have more than two, but I ended up getting them anyway. Again, God gave me the desires of my heart. I am content with the number of children our family has received. Though I positively adore children, I don't pray for more of my own. I am always open to the idea of adoption, but after years and years of having that door pretty much slammed shut repeatedly, I've determined and accepted that it is not meant to be. I am moving into the next stage of God's blessing for my life, and I have no regrets for the paths that brought me to that point.

I do have a problem with "stopping at X" being excusable "for health reasons." If it is God's will for us to have "as many children as He gives us", then it is His will. He doesn't exempt us from walking in holiness because our circumstances are different. So we can go a couple of different ways with this: We can say the woman, despite her health, should not use birth control and trust God to not only keep her alive through pregnancy and childbirth, but keep her healthy enough to raise and rear all those children effectively. Or we can say that God gives us a discerning spirit, a sense of our own responsibility for the circumstances He gives us to live in, and the instruction to be good stewards of all He provides, and that includes our bodies, our health, and our resources.

I, personally, believe the latter. And if I believe that, then I have to apply it to all Christian families, not just ones with special circumstances like a sick wife. (Btw, in our family, I am the sick wife. ;-) )

Most people would never seek to limit the blessings of God in any other area (money, health, peaceful relationships, effective ministry, etc.), and yet MOST Christians in the world today actively limit God's hand in this area. So then we must ask, Why is that?

This is, I think, some faulty logic. I see it quite often in things I read from people with a quiver-full approach to family. The idea that you are "limiting God's blessing" by using some form of birth control confuses me. God is sovereign. If He intends for me to have another child, I will have it, no matter what I might do to prevent it. Personally, I believe what has happened in our family in this regard was what He planned to happen, it is how He planned for us to address this issue. He was not surprised or thwarted by our decisions, in fact, He guided them. He provided us with the knowledge and tools we needed to come to this place, and we used them. As a result, our youngest child is now 7 years old. If He wants us to have another child, biologically or adopted, He will make sure we have it. We cannot stop His hand.

Second, we most certainly "limit His blessing" (though I totally disagree with the choice of words, I'll use them here) in other areas. Food is a blessing, but we don't gorge ourselves. We space it out. We enjoy it in small portions at certain intervals. Money is a blessing, but we don't neglect everything else to pursue it, or let it become our chief aim. Sex is a blessing, but we don't ignore our other responsibilities so we can indulge in it all the time. Church is a blessing, but we don't spend all our time there. Prayer and quiet time is a blessing, but we get off our knees and go to work anyway. All of these things are good things, all of them are blessings from God. But we are told to be good stewards of what He has provided us with, and so we must be careful to ensure we are using our resources wisely.

And I think this is the best approach to bearing children, whether it be two or twenty. It is quite true that many people live in open rebellion to God on this issue. Negative attitudes toward children in general are ungodly no matter who their parents are. People who don't want to have children because they would interfere with their fun or their career or their self-fulfillment or whatever need to take a closer look at their purpose for thinking that way. I would say quite often at the root of those feelings is selfishness, pride, and idolatry, all of which are sins that not wanting children could be a symptom of. But there are genuine purposes for delaying child-bearing, or ceasing child-bearing, in a Christian's life. It should not be assumed that the person who does so seeks to walk outside God's will or thinks they know better than God.

Family planning is not the open act of rebellion that some wish to paint it as. There is much more to raising children than birthing them, and we must work to ensure our obedience through the whole of our children's lives, so that we can be effective parents for a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Tamara-
Amazing comment! Thank you!
~Em

Dad said...

WOW, amazing thouhgts from so many
which are well based and tho't through. And I heartily agree that "children (and grandchildren) are a heritage from the Lord"...
But a wrinkle to the matter in question of not having children by choice is, I think, worthy of consideration. It entails staying single, which Paul states in 1 Cor
7:32-34. If one is called to that manner of life and can stay wholly
devoted to the Lord,"without dis-
traction" as Paul states v.35 "for
ones own good".
Point...If OK to stay single to be wholly devoted to the Lord, then obviously that life is to be childless.
Jessica, your blog blows me away, and is stimulating thots. I
(we) love you so much...I'll stop there.

Kim said...

Considering that Dr. Mohler (who, around these here parts - among many of my friends who attend his school, which current "demands" in not so many words an adherence to the quiverfull movement...-is considered second in command to the Trinity (And OH how I wish I was kidding)) has two children, deliberately two, stopped at two on purpose...I don't know. I just see contradictions, or else misrepresentations of his words (by many people, on many occasions...). (And his kids are lovely, well-adjusted kids. His daughter is in college, his son is in high school.)

I think that while marriage NEEDS to be open to children, it is more godly for a woman (or man) to marry (rather than burn) than to remain single and burn. God can change her heart in marriage, but in promiscuity she is falling farther from God.

Just my two cents!

Kim said...

An addition:

Most people would never seek to limit the blessings of God in any other area (money, health, peaceful relationships, effective ministry, etc.), and yet MOST Christians in the world today actively limit God's hand in this area. So then we must ask, Why is that?

THIS is the argument that I have so much trouble swallowing from Dr. Mohler. He and his wife purposely (from my understanding) had two children. A daughter and a son. When they had their two, they stopped, because they wanted each child to "have a one-on-one" parent, so to speak. So if you take the above argument by Dr. Mohler - he's saying that he himself is limiting God in this area. And yet he certainly doesn't limit his appearances on Larry King, his massive library...etc.

I don't say this to attack him personally. I DO say this because we are ALL HUMAN. We are all trying to figure this out. Not a one of us was born without sin. So we should be careful to say what other people should or shouldn't do within their Christian faith, when the Bible doesn't clearly lay it out one way or the other. YES - I believe that couples should willingly accept that marriage=sex=kids. But it doesn't mean that we should limit people's experiences in life because they don't believe and trust the Lord perfectly ahead of time.

Just my second two cents...I'll send you a check. ;) Love ya!

Jess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Buffy said...

I think you should behave responsibly about having children as in all other important matters. All children should be wanted. It is a terrible thing to deliberatly bring a child you don't want into the world and then neglect it or ill treat it. I'm sorry but I know of more than one instance of this and the children have been terribly damaged. This is what scares me about laying down the law and saying you must have children when you get married, even if you don't want them.

Jess said...

Buffy,
I saw your advice on the other post, and I "see" your point here, but I think it is an "exception makes the rule" sort of point...

Basically, a few bad examples are cornering you into saying something that really isn't biblically based, but rather is culturally based at best. All because of a few people who don't like their kids or who have been negligent.

When we look at the biblical norms, like it or not, there are principles and general "norms" for life. Here they are, as I see them:

(1) If you can remain single and work fruitfully for the Kingdom, do it!

(2) If you are burning with lust and cannot remain single, marry!

(3) Marriage then, naturally and generally, implies children. (Again, look at the passages of the first marriage-- Gen 1 as well as NT passages that naturally move from husband to father, wife to mother... these things are expected, normally and generally, to be one and the same. One who is a husband becomes a father. One who is a wife becomes a mother.) Of course there are exceptions... those who are infertile, those who are physically unable to be intimate, etc.

But for the vast majority of believers, these things are normative and right.

Listen, I can't "lay down the law" for anyone but me. And I'm not a "lay down the law" sort of gal anyway. I usually raise more questions than I do answers, but I do, unapologetically, also write about what I think and believe. My blog, my prerogative.

If a Christian comes to me and asks me something (just as this question WAS initially directed at me, before I brought it before the group as a whole), then I feel obligated to present normative guidelines as they appear in the Bible.

If I was asked a general question about something pertaining to women, it would be foolish for me to advise ALL women based on the experiences of 1 or 2 exceptions to all the norms that I know. In the same way, when I see a biblical norm, I'm not going to look for cultural exceptions that throw out that biblical norm. I'm going to present the biblical norm as I see it. And I believe that's a right way to go about *best* advising people.

Best Wishes,
Jess

Kim said...

I seriously think I've read almost the same words from Dr. Mohler somewhere, Jess. That's why I thought they were his words! My apologies...

I have NO problem with people raising this as an issue. Not at all! In fact, I firmly believe you and Doug are very literally accepting God's challenge to accept His blessings (children), and I do think that people who DO decide to limit their children are the ones who have the justifying to do - not that they owe anyone (other than God, perhaps, and that is between them and Him) an explanation. But as a friend of mine's sister, who is probably soon going to be pregnant with her fifth child, said: She doesn't HAVE to explain her position (no birth control, as many kids as God allows), because there is no question as to it being biblical. The people who do use birth control (particularly in contraceptive form, but she is even against NFP) are the ones who have to explain.

That being said - my issue with Dr. Mohler is my own, and I'll shut up about it. :) I was tired and sick last night, and sometimes, he just gets me riled up. (I respect him and I enjoy hearing him speak and teach. I just take issue with some of his stances on stuff, but that is neither here nor there.)

Marriage without children/with limiting children for convenience, etc.: I still say it's better to marry than it is to be single when you desire (and have the opportunity) for marriage. Just because someone doesn't desire children doesn't mean they have the ability to completely prevent children, and so in some way, anyone who is getting married has to accept that children are a possibility. As one of my nursing professors said, people forget to remember that if they are sexually active, it's ALWAYS a possibility they can get pregnant.

(An aside - Perhaps this is just my station in life, but I think it is a bigger issue when someone doesn't even desire to get married, and yet isn't remaining single for the purposes of the freedom it gives in serving the Lord. They just don't want the burden, or are fearful, or whatever, of marriage. THAT is so ridiculous to me.)

Rebecca said...

This contributes absolutely nothing to the discussion here, but I just want you to know, Jess, that I agree with you 100%.

Kid Feed Mommy said...

"The idea that you are "limiting God's blessing" by using some form of birth control confuses me. God is sovereign. If He intends for me to have another child, I will have it, no matter what I might do to prevent it."

This comment was interesting. If this is truly what a person believes, that God is sovereign, then shouldn't they also believe the same would be true when NOT using any birth control at all? If God wants you to have a baby while you're not using birth control, you will. If he doesn't want you to have a baby while not using birth control, you won't. Isn't that true?

I don't think God makes mistakes when it comes to the souls he creates. Would a baby ever be God's mistake? I don't believe so. And then wouldn't that mean that we are truly giving ourselves over to his sovereign will by accepting how ever many children he wants to give by not using birth control?

Using birth control and saying "If God wants me to get pregnant, I will" sits wrong with me. Why can't we just trust him from the beginning?

Just like Jess, I have more questions than answers myself. At this point my husband and I are letting the babies come as God wills them. But I honestly don't know what the future holds for us in regards to birth control. Thanks to everyone for their great comments. I love thinking about all the angles!

Kara said...

My thoughts after reading all the comments... I am mostly wondering why it has to be black and white?? There are a lot of things that are clearly black and white issues in the Bible, I completely believe that but I'm wondering if we "enjoy" adding our own "rules". And that once we add those rules, do we feel superior or more godly than the folks that don't see things our way?? I'm been thinking about this a lot lately, about a lot of different issues so I guess that's why my thought have gone here after reading this. For instance the "having babies by God's will". One question I have is if people believe that a couple can seek God's will on this issue on a personal basis, kid by kid basis, prayful, joint effort type thing. Our God is a relational God and I have to believe he will speak to us as He has promised to do.

Kid Feed Mommy said...

Imagine a couple going to God and asking "Should we not use birth control and have another baby?" and then God saying "No, don't have another one. A new life brought forth from you wouldn't be pleasing to me." God loves life and loves children. When would a new life not be pleasing to him? It's just hard to see him ever telling a couple not to bring forth more of his creation to bring him further glory.

Buffy said...

I concur that ideally a Christian marriage would have children and that they would be loved and viewed as entirely blessings.

I also see that you are not laying down the law but just stating what you believe to the be case from your studies. I wasn't really refering to you 'laying down the law' although I can see why you might have thought I was.

I suppose I am just saying that although this is acceptable as a general rule there will always be exceptions, however few. The exceptions are only because humans can be so damaged and frail and fail to live up to the high standards we should all be aiming for.

As I read your blog, and others like it, I am impressed with the high standards you set yourself in your spiritual life and your relationship with God.

I think the key is to have these standards yourself but not to attempt to enforce them on anyone else, or even to judge anyone else for not having them (please understand,I'm not at all suggesting you yourself do this).

Obviously I enjoy reading your blog or I wouldn't keep coming back, and I do appreciate that you are open to people stating a different point of view to your own.

Dave Carrol said...

Hmmm... interesting argument...

not sure how I feel about it being a responsibility...

but I think you've got some merit there! Any Christian delving into real sexual issues I applaud!

Take care and nice blog
Dave

CB said...

Not meaning to make too light of this, but I was re-reading the comments and thinking back to the original question about childlessness in marriage, and thought of this age-old question ..."do two wrongs make a right?"

God always takes two wrong-thinking (about any "issue") people and makes a right when he creates a new life (who in turn thinks wrongly!). Can't he bless two "wrong" people who got married set on childlessness, and give them a "right?" He can use the poor choices for his better glory. Not that we should intentionally sin, but we do know that he redeems us from our wrongs. And He often works so personally as to reshape thinking and desires, so that we know that He alone changed what our nature was so set on.

I would never tell two people not to get married if they said they did not want children. I would give them this counsel, and of course, point out that children are indeed a blessing. And I would share how God changed my heart about having a third child.

*~Tamara~* said...

Jess, this doesn’t really continue the marriage without children topic, but I feel I should respond to KidFeed.

This comment was interesting. If this is truly what a person believes, that God is sovereign, then shouldn't they also believe the same would be true when NOT using any birth control at all? If God wants you to have a baby while you're not using birth control, you will. If he doesn't want you to have a baby while not using birth control, you won't. Isn't that true?

I do believe that God is sovereign, and in fact could not face my days believing otherwise. And yes, a person could also believe that God is sovereign and decide not to use birth control, believing God would give them as many children as He wanted them to have. There are plenty of people who believe that way. One person I know had four children, another had two, and another had ten. It all comes down to what you, personally, determine for your family, and I don’t think either situation calls into question the sovereignty of God.

I do not believe that we are ultimately in control here. I believe that you and I and our children and our grandchildren and everyone else on earth were ordained to be here. I believe that God ordained four children at this point for our family. As far as I know right now as I’m sitting here, that is all He ordained for our family. I do not believe I have prevented any of His pre-ordained children from being born, because I don’t believe that is possible.

I do not think it is inconsistent to use some sort of birth control and then say that if God wants your family to grow, it will grow. Birth control is a tool to achieve what we perceive to be our goals and God’s plan for our lives. We could be wrong, and God will prove it. I thought, due to medical complications and my husband’s certainty that we should not have more children, that I was only going to have two children. In spite of our efforts to not have more (we truly did worry because of medical complications though I had always dreamed of four children), I got pregnant anyway. Clearly God was in control and His plan, not mine, is what took place. I believe that, just like my other children, my third child was ordained “before he was in my womb” and there is nothing I could have done to have prevented him.

I don't think God makes mistakes when it comes to the souls he creates. Would a baby ever be God's mistake? I don't believe so. And then wouldn't that mean that we are truly giving ourselves over to his sovereign will by accepting how ever many children he wants to give by not using birth control?

I also do not believe that God makes mistakes. None of my children are a mistake, planned or not, neither are any of the quiver-full families children a mistake. I believe each of them are here to the glory of God, that the fact that they are here means they were meant to be here.

However, I’m not sure how you even can “give” yourself over to His sovereign will. The very definition implies that we are not in control. How does one “give” themselves to a force that is in complete control already? We do not “allow” God to be sovereign, He simply is.

In His sovereignty, He has given us responsibility and instruction. He expects us to wisely use the resources He has given us, and not only that, He has ordained whether or not we will, and the lessons we will learn from our experiences. He has numbered our days, but we still put on a seatbelt. He has ordained the state of our health, but we take our vitamins. He has ordained our future, but we plan for it anyway. He has said He will provide, but we work and save. Why? Because we will give an account for what we did with what He has given us.

God has given many promises to His people. That does not change our responsibility or excuse our lack of discernment. I wouldn’t sit here in my chair and grow hungry, believing that if God wanted me to eat, He would send a plate of food floating to me. I wouldn’t sit here and starve and say that it must be God’s will that I die of starvation. There is a well-stocked kitchen 30 feet away. He has provided what I need to meet that need and I will give an account for how I responded to the circumstance He put me in. Obviously He put my hungry self in this chair for a reason, perhaps to teach me, perhaps to teach others, but ultimately for His glory.

The same holds true for all circumstances, including for my family. Just as I *could* sit here and starve, I *could* be pregnant right now. But just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I have a husband and family that I need to serve, a home that needs tending, lessons that need to be taught (and learned), friends who need my counsel and companionship, sisters who call me in time of need, parents and in-laws who are growing older, a body that often suffers the effects of chronic disease... all of these are reasons why I shouldn’t let myself starve, or become pregnant. Again, God is ultimately in control, and if those circumstances change despite my efforts, then He will give me the grace to endure. In the meantime, my obedience to Him in being a good steward of all that He has entrusted me with is non-negotiable.

Using birth control and saying "If God wants me to get pregnant, I will" sits wrong with me. Why can't we just trust him from the beginning?

Are you suggesting that using birth control implies a lack of trust?

I’m reminded of the old saying, “Pray for sunshine, but carry an umbrella.”

LisaM said...

Truly, this is a matter for each heart, isn't it? "To him who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin." If the heart knows (and how few Christians have not heard "something" about children being a blessing, about responsibility to the kingdom of God?) - then it really is up to that heart to obey. If that heart says to itself and its dearest beloved "let's just stay childless so we can have more fun/ do more stuff" without regard to living for Christ, then that heart... well, will be responsible for its choice before God. Too often it is not health or a couple who are going to be missionaries in a dangerous country - it is a young woman who wants her freedom, who wants to work for a while first, who wants the extra stuff that a double income without childhood brings into the house. Usually this includes animals instead of children, but I won't go there. Plain and simple - the choice is one of serving God or serving self. And there is no "thou shalt" in scripture, and no "law to lay down" because if your heart is not softened and submissive to God's will, then you will not see 100% service in God's kingdom as do-able. My 2 cents

Justin said...

There is a historical aspect to this. Keep in mind that ALL Christian denominations said artificial birth control was always wrong until the Anglicans allowed it in certain circumstances in marriage in the 1930s. That means that for the first 1900 years of Christianity, artificial birth control was universally considered a sin. To say that it is ok now seems to me to be saying that the Spirit mislead people for the first 1900 years of Christianity. Just a thought...

Mrs. Sewell (Professional Wife and SAHM) said...

I AGREE!!! Thank you so much for posting this! What a great encouragement to my husband and I! We want a house full of babies! There are many post-modern feminists that surround me and I get the stupid looks when I say that my husband and I want lots of children. I have even been told that having children is selfish!!!!
How absurd!
Thank you so much for posting this!

God Bless
Crystal <>< (SAHM)

Kid Feed Mommy said...

He has numbered our days, but we still put on a seatbelt. He has ordained the state of our health, but we take our vitamins. He has ordained our future, but we plan for it anyway. He has said He will provide, but we work and save.

All of these things are wise, common sense actions. These are good things. God has instilled in us the desire to take care of our lives and protect ourselves. I don't see how this can be related to the topic of birth control. Birth control is an attempt at stopping something that God has said is good, something he has said is a blessing. Putting on a seatbelt isn't stopping something good, it's merely taking care of our life as God wants us to. The same for eating food, or taking vitamins.

Are you suggesting that using birth control implies a lack of trust?

Like Lisam said, it really is a matter of each person's heart. But yes, I do think that for many (including myself in the past), using birth control implied a lack of trust. It also implied that I wanted to be in control, I wanted things to go a certain way in my life, and I wanted to be the one to choose the timing.

CappuccinoLife said...

This is so interesting. I wish my brain wasnt' a pile of spaghetti right now. :p

One thing I would like to point out it--contraception, abortion, and infanticide have been around since ancient times, and there have been deliberately sterile marriages because of the wide practice of those three "sisters". So, I actually do think it was a question historically. But I know the Church was universally opposed to such deliberate childlessness since it's inception.

Kate said...

I agree with what your article says. However, I know a Christian couple who've chosen to be childless because the wife has a chronic illness. She can get pregnant, but a pregnancy can at best be extrememly difficult and her medication give birth defects, or at worse, kill her and/or the baby. However, this is an extremely extenuating circumstance. For general purposes, I agree with your article 100%.

Mrs. P. said...

Marriage can, in my opinion, be completely legitimate without children. Two people may find themselves excellent support and companionship to one another in a situation in which introducing children would be truly unwise. My own marriage is, I believe, an example of this. It has been an enormous challenge--and one that I feel God meant us to face on our own, as adults. Children are the right thing for many marriages, but not for all.

Crystal said...

But what of couples who can't have kids and WANT them. My husband and I can't have kids because I have infertility. We hope to adopt someday, but finances have been in our way so far. I just don't know what to think, I know it's God's will for us to raise children, but how it'll happen still remains such a mystery to us. If it never happens and our parenting skills are only every used for our nieces and nephews doesn't God still bless and use that? I think as Christians we need to be careful not to judge a family as to if they have kids or not as there can be many legitimate reasons why it's still just the two of them.

Jess said...

Crystal,
Thanks for your comments... I definitely hear what you're saying.

What this article is about is deliberate, chosen childlessness... where someone ENTERS marriage intentionally intending to have no children and chooses not to have children of their own volition.

Of course I am not talking about infertility or the rare issues (medical conditions, etc.)... I am talking about a self-focused decision to not have children. And that's what Mohler was talking about in his quotes as well.

Again, I do not sit in judgment of anyone, with or without kids... but if someone came to me and asked me, "should I get married if I don't ever intend or desire to have kids?", this post is in response to THAT question. I hope that makes things more clear.

Blessings,
Jess

Alison said...

I had a hysterectomy while still single. Does this mean, then, that I should not have married later on?

Anonymous said...

I have just read that anonymous comments will not be published on the blog. I understand that, but I have a thought. At least if I tell you, perhaps you can ponder it and enter it as a part of the conversation. I believe it could be wrong for a particular couple to have as many children as they can. This is because God has only blessed each family with so much financial income. I think we tend to have a far too middle-class-American Christianity. In other words, we are used to living in wealth on a worldwide scale, and think of things only that way. Imagine a poor family in China (where, by the way, there are forced abortions on people who have more than one child). They can perhaps barely afford to feed even themselves, much less the third or fourth child. This situation is far more common than I think we tend to think it is, given our relatively small amount of contact with such poverty. It may be an extreme case, but the principle carries over to less poor families than the Chinese example. Good stewardship means wise choices. In my mind, limiting children (at some point) is often a duty. I definitely agree that to some degree this is a per-family thing.

Jess said...

Hi anonymous.

I think my verbage in the "rules" can be confusing. All I'm looking for is this: even if you use the anonymous button below, just sign your comment.

For example,

- Leslie

- Joan in PA

- Chris @ _______ website

- BDM in Texas

- Mrs. Balderdash

So maybe I should adjust my wording in the comment paragraph. Anyway, I went ahead and published your comment- hopefully you will continue to comment and just sign your name at the bottom of your comments in the future.

Hope this helps!
Jess

Anonymous said...

Hey Jess. Thanks so much for posting my article. My name is Abby. I'll sign from now on! :)

May I just say, and I know this is WAY off topic for this particular conversation about birth control, but this website is SUCH AN ENCOURAGEMENT. I just stumbled upon it last night, and since I have spent some time exploring it a little--fantastic! Thanks so much, everyone contributing to this site! Praise the Lord!

--Abby

Elizabeth said...

I can't have kids. At least, the possibility of having biological children is very very slim, so much so that the person I am led to marry was told that within the first few conversations we had regarding a potential relationship with me, just in case he felt like marrying a woman who couldn't have biological children was wrong.

But, he chooses me regardless, and love me, and be faithful to me. He is, then, entering a marriage of potential childlessness. Would it be wrong for him to marry me? He is choosing a relationship of childlessness. He could marry someone else, and have children, but Divine Providence points us to be together.

Every person has been given different circumstances - I'm on birth control to attempt to preserve what little chances there are to have children for the day when someday I am in a position to have them, I am doing what I can, but

We do not feel that a marriage without children is no less of a marriage than one with them - that would devalue our relationship and the sanctity of marriage that is a relationship between a man and a woman, and whatever blessings God brings to them.

- Elizabeth

rileyrsbp said...

I'm just afraid that the reason we are having this discussion is because the resources for preventing children are available and have become acceptable. It was not always this way. When man first invented contraception, it was available only on the black market, and if anyone was caught with it they were thrown in jail. It was just as illegal as cocaine is today. It was considered "obsene" even among the unbelievers. It was just as absurd as giving 11 yr old girls in public schools contraceptives, which people will probably not bat and eye at in 30 yrs. I think God knew that one day preventing His gifts would be an issue among His children so He gave us examples like psalm 127 so we could plainly see how "many" He considers "blessed". So I scratch my head when people say "it's not adressed". If we know children are gifts and rewards from Him and HE is the GIVER of the gifts, then how are we NOT controling Him by dictating how many gifts He will give us? He is not going give us a gift He does not WANT us to have. It may not be our will to have what we consider to be "too many" children, but just because it is our will does it mean that it is God's also? Are we customizing God's will for us according to our own will for our own lives? I appreciate all the different views and comments. These are MY views and opinions and would appreciate any prayers because my husband and I are struggling with this very issue. We have 4 and I am very thankful for them, but struggle with the thought of taking it out of God's hands from this point because my husband wants to "be free to do things".

Stephanie

Anonymous said...

I had no intention to post on this blog. I am here only casually but I started thinking about my aunt and some of the comments about making the decision to marry and not have children.

My aunt and uncle married soon after WWII. She had been living in Cuba when she met her future husband, an escapee from Nazi-occupied Austria. They married in NYC a few years after. My uncle had been married once before and had a son that was living with his mother. Because he was Jewish my uncle thought it unwise to remain in Austria.

My aunt was an extremely nervous person as was her husband. She knew that having a child would bring tremendous angst in her marriage. She had nothing against children. She enjoyed being around my brother and I and later was happy and generous with my children.

But she was uncomfortable when we got to close to the window in her apartment. She chided my mother for me being out at night with my friends. i was 23 at the time - and married. The list of her fears was endless. They were not debilitating, just annoying for people that were close to them.

My aunt and uncle were successful in their marriage and their lives. They were generous with their money and their time. Both of them made the decision that childrearing would not be good not only for them but for a child that they would have. And this I think was the most important point - they were not being selfish - they were being realistic.

How is it that we are supposed to plan for every aspect of our lives - from finances to menus but we are supposed to leave this most important responsibility to chance.

Thank you for your time -
Amy

russelllindsey said...

All of you are missing something here. What about women who've long known that they will be unable to have children? I've known since I was 9 years old and certainly plan to marry. Does that make my future marriage any less valid?

Jess said...

Russelllindsey,

I write this to you and others who have expressed similar sentiments. Certainly no one is condemning people who struggle with infertility or medical issues that prevent them from having and raising children. I am not, and I don't believe anyone else has done that either.

What you may have missed (in this article) is this:to be deliberately childless simply for reasons of our own ease, desire, or plans, I believe, is simply NOT an option for a Christian marriage.

And if you go back to the original question that prompted all this, which in fact frames this entire discussion, it is clearly spelled out:

Mind you, this situation is not asking about someone who *can't* have children, or who has medical difficulties and may not be able to have children. This question is about a woman who doesn't *want* children.

I have tried to make it quiet clear that yours (and situations like yours) is *not at ALL* the situation we are talking about in this discussion. I apologize if it has not been clear. Online communication can sometimes lack in this way.

Again, this article is about deliberate, chosen, intentional childlessness... not childlessness which is beyond one's own choice.

Blessings,
Jess

man_id_unknown said...

Gen. 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.

Marital procreation is a commandment. If JESUS does not want a couple to have children, HE'll prevent so without the help of contraceptives. You can't intervene with GODS will though man's methods, and then claim the intervention to be "divine".

Eileen said...

I have enjoyed reading your views, Jess, and many of the comments. A few years ago, I read through all of the Bible with the question of God's intent for marriage as it pertains to children, and could not help but come to the conviction that He LOVES children,fruitfulness and fertility, as well as commands us to pursue them. To those who are wrestling with this issue, I challenge you to take a year, or whatever length of time appropriate for you, and prayerfully read through all of God's word for yourself with your questions in mind. My personal opinion, a stranger on a blog, really shouldn't count compared to God's word, after all. There is no substitute for His word. Please, please, be like the Bereans, and search the scriptures for yourselves after any teaching you receive.

One other comment: much of the reasoning in the comments seems to be a mixture of Biblical truth tempered with pragmatism. I highly recommend listening to Kevin Swanson's recent talk on pragmatism I was blessed to hear at a conference recently. As Scott Brown called it on his blog, it was "seismic." I have never heard anything like it in my life. Here is a link to it on Sermon Audio:

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1017071149166

Please, take the time to listen to this. It will force you to examine how you think about applying scripture to all areas of life.

Eileen