It probably won’t be a surprise to anyone that an author of a book on parenting is a big fan of kids, and of families having lots of them, especially Christian families. As we drove up to our church on Sunday, a young family got out of a car in front of us, and they pulled four kids out of that car. Love it! It so happens they sat behind us, and we found out the daughter that stayed in the service was “almost five,” and she was the oldest! There are many families in our church with four kids or more, which to me is the sign of a very healthy church. So when I saw the title, “The Gift of Children” at First Things, I knew I would be writing about it. It bums me out that many Christian couples limit the gifts of God to the culturally acceptable two. There are few things more counter-cultural today than having a big family, and it’s one of many reasons that I always encourage young Christian couples to receive lots of these precious gifts.
“The Gift of Children” is a statement by an organization called Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical group founded in 1994 by Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson. It’s encouraging that after hundreds of years of Catholic and Protestants being at each other’s throats, literally and figuratively, that we’re all on the same side in a culture war we didn’t start. And nothing is more central to this existential conflict than children. The secular forces of cultural suicide see children as a burden and inconvenience, not to mention a blight on the “sustainability” of the planet. By contrast, for Christians children are not only a gift, but an obligation. If they are able, not having children is not an option for a Christian couple. As the signatories of the piece declare, “Be fruitful and multiply” is a commandment, not an option. I heartily agree with this sentiment:
Because the gift of children is integral to the good of marriage [they rightly point out it is not the only good], a couple cannot enter into marriage if they share a firm intention not to have children. Priests and pastors should not officiate at weddings of couples who express this intention. This does not mean that infertile individuals or women beyond the age of child-bearing cannot marry. The inability to have children is not the same as taking active measures to prevent their conception. The former is a physical condition; the latter is a moral choice.
In a secular culture in which “choice” is the ultimate moral good, we must affirm that children are not a choice.
I’ve learned that for some Christians such a conviction is not welcome. Several times in online comments sections dealing with this issue, I’ve had Christians argue with me that my position is not biblical. You know why? Because, as they rightly point out,the Bible nowhere commands us to have children. A dumber argument I cannot imagine, as if any ancient Jew or first century Christian would need such a command!
A great exercise on the importance and imperative of having children is to go to biblegateway.com and do a search for every verse in God’s word that includes child or children in it: 594 verses! This quote from the document gets at just how important children were in the ancient Jewish/Christian worldview:
The genealogies throughout the Bible testify to the transcendent significance of “begetting.” In the Old Testament, to be childless is to be threatened with a dead end. Life without children is the natural form of Sheol, the land of the dead that has no future. The barren Rachel says to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die” (Gen. 30:1). This is why couples who cannot have children often experience their infertility as a heavy burden. The Old Testament treats male impotence and female barrenness as causes of anguish and shame. By contrast, large families are a blessing from God.
Why in the world would any Christian couple want to limit God’s blessings? My answer is simple: the culture. Secular culture affects us in so many ways we’re not aware of, and our attitude toward large families is certainly one of them. I pray that God would raise up multitudes of young Christian parents who want to flood the world with his little blessings.