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Wednesday, August 17, 2005
On Being Purposefully Childless
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:03 pm

Michelle at ASV points to this column by Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville in which he argues against deliberate childlessness (in the context of marriage).

Obviously, I am pro-procreation; after all I have an average-busting three children, but I find myself rather unimpressed with Mohler’s piece and his argument. For one thing, he seems to inflate the movement towards childlessness and calls it an “epidemic.” This strikes me as clear hyperbole. Further, I think he makes some dubious theological and logical claims.

Let’s consider all of this.

Would life be easier without children? Yes.

Would life be cheaper without children? Heck yes.

Would my life be as rich? No.

Would I be the person I am now? No.

Might I be an idiot who thinks that having pets is the same as having kids. I suppose.

Still, having said all of that, I don’t accept the argument that one is required by the Christian faith to procreate

Yes, in Genesis 1:28 there is a commandment to “be fruitful and multiply�? but that is “in the beginning” (i.e., there are just the two people at that point in the story). The command is again given to Noah and his family post flood in Genesis 8:17. I don’t think you can take either as a generalized command. Context matters, you know. Even if it is a generalization command, in the current context, the human race is being fruitful and multiplying, but I do not see that the command could be construed as being specific to each human being.

Even the verse that Mohler cites doesn’t contain a command:

“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]

Just because something is a blessing, doesn’t mean that God has commanded something to be. Although I am aware that some (incorrectly in my view) interpret this verse as to mean that we should all have a large number of children.

Heck, Paul writes that it is better not to marry in 1 Corinthians 7—so does that mean that we should aspire to that state? And was Paul ignoring the injunction to “be fruitful and multiply�? in Genesis?

Mohler states:

Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation.

I don’t accept that conclusion, as there are childless married couples in the Bible, and there is nothing that I am aware of that directly commands all couples to procreate. It is often noted that being barren and wanting children was a sorrow, but I don’t see any condemnation on these people for their lack of children. Further, while he says the following “[t]hey rely on others to produce and sustain the generations to come�? he is ignoring the fact that the same charge could be leveled at people who remain unmarried and have no children. Given that Christ Himself never married this is a difficult argument to maintain logically, given that Mohler seems to want to argue that every human being has the responsibility to reproduce to help support the race. And even if you put Christ in a special category, you still have to explain the Apostle Paul and his statements in 1 Corinthians 7 (not to mention his life in general, which was childless).

Indeed, despite being a Baptist, Mohler’s arguments sound almost Catholic, insofar as taken to their logical extremes, contraception should be banned, and my wife and I are wrong to have stopped at only three children.

No, it seems to me that Mohler is allowing other views other than purely biblical ones to color his thinking. Indeed, Mohler seems a bit hung up on the idea that sex might be considered an end of itself, rather than a route to procreation. First, his assumption that such thinking is only a modern, post-sexual revolution phenomenon is simply false (read some history or literature pre-1960 and oddly, one will find that people have been having sex for the pleasure of sex for some time). Second, is he suggesting that once a married coupled has passed beyond child-bearing that sex ought to be shelved? I expect not.

His position doesn’t seem all that well thought out—indeed, it is more a response to what he sees as some shallow reasons not to have children than a very well constructed logical or theological argument against purposeful childlessness.

And yes, I do think that many people choose not to have children for selfish reasons, but I also think that if one doesn’t want children, better not to have them. As Mohler himself says “Parenthood is not a hobby�? so if one really doesn’t want to be a parent, perhaps it is best for all involved that one not become one.

Filed under: Parenting, Religion | |Send TrackBack

Arguing with signposts… » Childless linked with [...] gion ] What do you get when you mix Michele Catalano, Albert Mohler and Dr. Steven Taylor? Two against one. The results don’t look good for Dr. Mohler. I mostly agree with D [...]

6 Comments »

  1. I like and respect Dr. Mohler, but am not sure I agree with him on this issue. (I give more thought to the “if you aren’t called to celebacy, get married” argument he makes, but Scripture supports that position more.)

    I think he’s looking at Christians more than non-believers here (at least, so he saith upon his blog - the man is one of the most prolific writers I’ve seen - check out albertmohler.com if so inclined). I’m just not sure that deliberate childlessness is always a sin. However, when I do get married, I very much plan to have at least one child as soon as I can.

    Comment by B. Minich, PI — Wednesday, August 17, 2005 @ 4:54 pm

  2. The West is dying. We need more children. The 3rd World will take over the West in population in a few decades.

    Comment by patd95 — Wednesday, August 17, 2005 @ 5:31 pm

  3. Actually, the U.S. is NOT dying, as our birth rate is at least at the level of replacement. Western Europe is dying by the standards of native birth rates.

    And Mohler is known for making absolutist statements. That’s how he got to be president of Southern Baptist Seminary as a 32-year-old state baptist paper editor.

    Anyway, excellent response, Steve.

    Comment by Bryan S. — Wednesday, August 17, 2005 @ 9:28 pm

  4. patd95,
    I’m not sure where you are getting your numbers, but the 3rd World is already larger, in population, than the West. According to my source (Calvert & Calvert, Politics and Society in the Third World, 1996), “Three out of four [people] live in the Third World.” I think they passed us a long time ago.

    The argument I often hear is that the “wrong people” are having children. I don’t really think we want to go down that road. In my opinion, Pro-creation = good, eugenics = bad.

    Comment by Jan — Wednesday, August 17, 2005 @ 9:35 pm

  5. […] gion ]

    What do you get when you mix Michele Catalano, Albert Mohler and Dr. Steven Taylor? Two against one. The results don’t look good for Dr. Mohler. I mostly agree with D […]

    Pingback by Arguing with signposts… » Childless — Wednesday, August 17, 2005 @ 9:48 pm

  6. Good topic. I tend to agree with you on this one. I have five children-not because it was my duty-but because we like children, I would like to think we are good parents-Hollie and I both came from small families (our kids have ZERO cousins to play with-something I remember fondly growing up), etc.

    Is it hard? Yes. Expensive? Yes. Tense at times? Yes. Worth it? Yes, yes, yes, to us a hundred times yes.

    I do think a commentor above is correct is fearing our reducing procreation (in the West) is a negative-if you believe in Western Civilization and the fact that to preserve it you have to inculcate its values to future generations.

    One final and sensitive point about sex beng about pleasure or procreation. I think the Bible says both! Can I quote a racy verse out of the Bible here “A loving doe[your wife], a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.”
    Proverbs 5:19.

    Also, if you have ever read the book of Song of Solomon-there’s a lot about the pleasure of marriage-nothing I recall about child-bearing (although that can be a pleasure too).

    Comment by Bart Harmon — Friday, August 19, 2005 @ 9:37 am

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