Aug

08

2013

Kathleen Nielson|12:01 AM CT

The Problem with the Childfree Life

Time magazine has stirred up the social pot again, with its recent cover picturing a couple clearly reveling in "The Childfree Life." In her cover article Lauren Sandler offers a vivid glimpse into the fast-growing world of women "having it all without having children." She not only lets us see the statistics; she also lets us hear the voices of the women they document. The statistics themselves are dramatic: for example, about one in five American women now bear no children, compared to one in ten in the 1970s. We're talking about remarkably quick demographic change.

But the voices are even more dramatic. They express little of the struggle or regret often associated with not having children. In fact, that's a big part of the point: women are making the decision to be childfree and feeling quite happy about it, thank you very much, in spite of a culture they perceive to be obsessed with babies and judgmental toward those who choose not to have one. Most of the comments celebrate the freedom such women enjoy. Laura Scott, for example, says bluntly, "My main motive not to have kids was that I loved my life the way it was."

Looking for the Problem

So what exactly is the problem with these voices and these choices? The basic problem is not that these women deny how wonderful children are and how satisfying it is to bear and raise them—as many others have already protested. "My children mean the world to me," people say. "You're missing out on so much joy without them." Children do bring joy. But childfree people are claiming to find joy elsewhere. In fact, we all probably know many joyful people who do not have children.

Nor is the basic problem that these childfree voices are fundamentally narcissistic—although they certainly appear to be. There is no trace of the view that marriage and childbearing together involve a worthwhile giving, even a sacrificing for the good of another or for anything beyond ourselves. In fact these voices actually regard such giving as foolish or even harmful. One woman who co-habits with a man and his teen daughter expresses appreciation for the way this man "protects her choices"; after all, she comments, "having a daughter in the house 'shouldn't be a reason for you to be held back from things that matter to you.'" Another "happily partnered" source comments, "My plans . . . are free from all the contingencies that come with children."

Such radical self-focus is not the basic problem, nor is the fact that it could result in the downfall of a civilization if widely applied. Sandler does not seem to like author Jonathan Last (mentioned in her section on those who scold childless women). But she does present his argument, from the book What to Expect When No One's Expecting, that Americans' growing childlessness threatens the stability of our whole economic system. Although Sandler points out that we have not yet reached the level of Italy, "where nearly one-quarter of women never give birth," we can't help but see in America's future the decline of Europe's population and economy.

Root of the Problem

The most basic problem is that the childfree life does not take God into account—God the Creator and giver of all gifts, including the gift of life. The Time article is all about children as a human choice; the Bible speaks about children as gifts of God (Ps. 127:3). Even we believers struggle to think straight about this distinction, amid a world full of talk about choosing to have children and when and what kind and how many. It's a complicated subject, but for a Christian it starts with God the Creator and giver of life. Only this God-grounded perspective lets us begin to see the worth of a child as a gift to be rightly and thankfully received. And, interestingly, only this perspective lets us see the worth of a woman to whom God grants or does not grant children. Trusting in our Creator God, we have no need to clamor for other than what he gives, or to seek to please any but him. 

Nor does the childfree life take into account God the Redeemer—the merciful God who sent his Son our Savior, born of a woman. Every one of us sinful, self-absorbed human beings needs the mercy of this God who saves his people generation after generation, as babies are born and the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is passed on and on. It has worked this way since God created the first husband and wife and told them to multiply and fill the earth. (Ah—the Bible reminds us that men, especially potential fathers, need to be heard! This is not just a woman's issue.) Children are God's merciful means of growing his redeemed people, generation after generation, in all the nations of the world. They are infinitely worthy of labor and care—not only of the women who bear them but of all God's people, not one of whom lives childfree. All men and women of God are called in various and distinct ways to pass on the good news to the next generation of believers.

Finally, the childfree life does not take into account the Lord God who is coming again, to judge all and to live with his people forever. In the new heaven and earth, there will be no marriage—and no having babies. This part of human life is temporary, until the whole family of God's people is perfect and complete and shining with the glory of Jesus our Redeemer. Until then, we're in labor! With every birth we're aiming for new birth. Every new child is a gift from our Creator God, another one who needs to hear the good news of Jesus who died and who lives and who is coming again—and another one who by God's grace will declare that same good news in the next generation, as Psalm 22:31 says, "to a people yet unborn."

Kathleen Nielson serves as director of women's initiatives for The Gospel Coalition. She holds MA and PhD degrees in literature from Vanderbilt University and a BA from Wheaton College. Author of the Living Word Bible studies, she speaks often at women's conferences and loves working with women in studying the Bible. She shares a heart for students with her husband, Niel, president of Covenant College from 2002 to 2012 and now leading an enterprise developing resources for Christian schools around the world.

Categories: Christian Living
  • Teresa K

    Hi Kathleen Nielson,

    Are you really sure about this problem of the childfree life (ie. neglecting God)? Have you actually spoken to any Christians who choose not to reproduce? Because if you meet me, you might change your mind...

    TK

    • Austin P

      why do you choose not to?

      • aleksandra

        my husband and i (married 8 years) simply have no desire to reproduce and have chosen to never have children. horses are amazing gifts and good things, but does it follow that all must try hard to acquire horses? should we maybe force ourselves to reproduce? I dont see the point. aren't we told to seek the kingdom first, anyway? having kids isn't the same as seeking christ. this article is not right.

        • Andrew

          What do you make of Genesis 1:28 and Malachi 2:15?

          • Serti

            Context. Genesis: God was talking to Adam and Eve, specifically, to populate the then-empty Earth that needed the redeeming Christ to be born. Malachi: He was talking specifically to the divided tribes of Judah and Israel to mend their differences. You could argue that since God never specifically told the Gentiles to procreate, anyone outside of Israel shouldn't. Beyond that, you are assuming it is an ORDER to all humans, vs. a BLESSING to those who choose to accept it. I choose, as a childfree married Christian, to believe that children as well as singleness are a gift to those who are able to WILLINGLY take on the demands of either choice. God's ultimate plans for eternity will not be foiled by any decisions humans make.

            • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

              Well Serti, I had a much snarkier comment delted, so I will try to behave this time. Perhaps with as few words as possible as in the multitude of words sin is not lacking. *clears throat*

              About the Creation Mandate: Your interpretation stops short. Adam and Eve were indeed to populate the Earth, but God determines when the Earth is filled. And that mandate involves redemption, but also as Imago Dei their marriage reflects the fruitfulness of the Trinity, and that is not negated by Christ's Advent.

              Your context for Malachi is indeed novel. Did you make up that interpretation up yourself? Because none of the study resources I have looked at explain the verse that very creative way. The context is actually a direct rebuke to the Israelites for the sin of divorcing the wives of their youth.

              I am probably going to get into real trouble if I continue here, but still, I can't resist:

              "...since God never specifically told the Gentiles to procreate, anyone outside of Israel shouldn't." You could argue this, really? You think God has to *tell* people to procreate?

              You are not to do anymore teaching.

            • Serti

              Karen,
              God may determine when the earth is filled, but He spoke this blessing (tsavah is the Hebrew word for command - this word is NOT used here) specifically to Adam and Eve. Do you believe that we should follow all of the rituals of the Passover that were given to Israel forever? If He mandated procreation, surely He'd have mentioned it in the Law or the Ten Commandments, or certainly when Christ or the apostles taught.

              The Redeemer has come. Even if you believe procreation was a command, we are now under grace, free from all law. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself are the only orders left as they encompass all of the law. God is our judge, no human.

              As far as "my" context for Malachi - my study resource is the Bible alone, not man's commentaries. Read the whole book of Malachi, particularly ch 2:10-12. If you still don't see it, go back further and read the Old Testament. There were 12 tribes of Israel that were unified (the bride and groom mentioned in Malachi) but due to repeated idolatry of the kings from Solomon down "committing evil in the sight of The Lord", Israel was sundered into two groups - Judah and Israel. His chosen people warred against each other (rejecting the "bride of their youth"). A similar type is used in the NT for Christ and the Body of believers as his bride. God is saying Israel and Judah's reunion and repentance is desired to continue so His covenant with them may be fulfilled and the "godly seed" - the Redeemer of the world - would come from them as was promised in the covenant with Abraham, and an eternal king from his lineage as was promised David.

              These verses do not support mandatory procreation, and there are no verses saying being childfree is a sin.

        • Lois

          Teresa, Aleksandra-

          I'm curious to hear your reasons for why you choose to not have children. Not saying that you should or shouldn't, just would like to hear more of your thoughts.

        • Mandy C

          are you seriously equating horses and children!!!! wow. not even close to the same thing. children are a sanctifying work in a couple's life. horses are not. husband, wife and children in a christian family reflect the Trinity. Husband, wife and horses do not. Seeking first the kingdom of God implies obedience. are you and your husband in obedience to Christ when flat out stating you just don't want them. perhaps your heart needs to be taken under the lordship of Christ. just something to think about.

          • Kristin

            1.) She did not equate horses with children. She was saying that not all blessings are things we necessarily have to aspire to have. 2.) The nuclear family represents the trinity, huh? What does a single person represent? Paul says it's better to be single...

            • Mandy C

              Hi Kristin, everything that God creates and establishes is a reflection of His very nature; this includes the Family (husband, wife, children). This fact does not mean that a person who is single by God's will and for His good purpose is not worthy.

              You rightly say that Paul says it is better to be single. What a high calling singleness is when it is exercised just as Paul's was. I think Paul's singleness was a wonderful gift, just as I think children are a wonderful gift.

              (if you would like to understand more how the family is reflective of God in Triunity, I recommend watching Focus on the Family's Truth Project DVD series)

              Mandy

          • Sid

            What about single people, infertile people, people who had abusive childhoods, people given away through adoption? People who may pass on genetic illnesses? People whose only child has died? People who actually fit into MORE than one of the above? Have we failed then? This subject is far more complex than the author of the article chooses to demonstrate. I am a Christian. I fit into more than two of the above, yet I have learned, with God's guidance and His gifts in other parts of my life, to embrace the life He has given me. The world is NOT simply 'childed' or 'childless' and to suggest so is to demean many of God's precious children.

        • Serti

          I completely agree. We, too, have chosen not to have children and we are no less part of God's kingdom.

      • Amelia

        Comparing children to horses is a non sequitar. Horses are not human beings with souls.

      • Teresa K

        I choose not to for a variety of reasons, one of those being that I don't believe God wants me to be a parent, and my mother has a serious mental problem which evidence suggests is partly biological. My husband and I believe we are not doing any disservice to God by remaining childless or child-free (whichever you prefer).

        And I do agree with Aleksandra, one can count absolutely everything as a gift, even the worst kinds of suffering! (heaven forbid), but that does not mean one necessarily wants them...

        Often times Christians have a much too narrow definition of what God's will is for men and women and it tends to fit into the nuclear family, American dream, woman-as-mother-only type image.

    • http://timmcneely.com Timothy McNeely

      The main problem with the Childfree Life is those with are not Childfree keep insisting that you have some :) Aside from that I love being Childfree!

  • http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/ Curt Day

    In short, the basic problem here, according to the article, is that many of these people who choose to remain childless don't take God into account, whether it be God the creator and giver, the redeemer, or the judge. But there are many people who have and love children who do not consider God at all either. So is not considering God the real problem here?

    I would go back to the narcissism involved with the decision of many, though not all, of the women this article is talking about. I would add to this what seems to be indicated by the opening paragraphs and the cover. Such a life conditionally values the personal where the condition here is that the personal is provides comfort and enjoyment. The personal of taking God into account is disregarded here because even the best relationship with God mixes the discomfort of confrontation with the warmth of God's love. And the personal of having children is avoided because it adds angst to the joy of parenting. And there is a conditional intrusion of others so long as they provide far more comfort than disturbance. Such people find joy in so controlling their immediate environment in order to limit those things that are disturbing and to grab for themselves those things that are pleasing.

    The problem here is that many of the people who choose to put their joy in the impersonal rather than the personal and to live for as many riches as one can have is that they are waiting to die instead of living for others and so they are trying to live in as much comfort as possible until that day comes. And they are joined by some Christian men and women who, though deliberately having had children, live for riches as well.

    • Sid

      Wow Curt where are all these people? I live in the countryside, work in the city, volunteer with homeless and go to church but I haven't met them yet.....where are they??

  • http://brandatthebrink.blogspot.ca/ Ron Van Brenk

    Good Job Kathleen,

    I would disagree with the premise that 'the most basic problem is that it does not take God into account', however.

    Along with most pre-sups up there at Westminster, I would argue that this autonomy does in fact take God into account- and is genetically hostile to God. Hostile to the God that they know is really there. Hostile to the God of their genesis.

    That these genophobes are hostile to true intimacy. Trading the deep for the shallow. Trading sacrifice for fleeting pleasure.

    I really like your comments 'Children are a means of growing us' and 'With every birth we're aiming for new birth', Kathleen.

    Unfortunately, the genophobes are only aiming for new pleasures.

    • taco

      ...and is genetically hostile to God.

      You are going to have explain what you mean by genetically and what exactly it is in reference to (the man or the act of autonomy). Who at Westminster uses that word in this context?

      • http://brandatthebrink.blogspot.ca/ Ron Van Brenk

        Good question taco,

        The "genetically hostile" concept relates to the doctrine of Original Sin that all prof's at Westminster subscribe to. The doctrine that we are all born hostile to God. Born that way because it is in our genes from Adam.

        As regards whether that is in reference to 'the man or the act of autonomy'?
        Allow me to use a simple Gumpism, "Stupid is as stupid does" and that's about that.

        • Martin

          I know this is a few days old, but I have to comment on this.

          I strongly disagree with this concept on being 'genetically hostile' to God, at least in the way you have presented it... And I would be concerned if actually all professors in the seminary subscribe to it.

          I certainly do not disagree with us being born hostile to God. However, if we are born this way because of our our genetic make-up, then it would be possible (at least theoretically) to eliminate sin from ourselves using genetic tools that we already possess or that we may develop in the future. We would just have to find where our 'sinfulness' genes are and try to fix them. We may even find that some people are more sinful than others because of having worse genes.

          But no. If we can not eliminate sin from us by doing good works, then we can not eliminate sin by doing good molecular biology work either.

          Sin affects our genes, in a similar fashion as how it affects the rest of creation. Saying that our hostility to God is in our genes is a materialistic approach. I do believe it is a spiritual issue and, as such, only God can fix it.

          • http://brandatthebrink.blogspot.ca/ Ron Van Brenk

            Thanks for clarifying Martin,

            The term "genetic" was used as a simile- just as Son of Man is used as a simile (the Son of Man was no son of man).

            It was also a play on words with "genesis" and "genophobe".

            I am not a materialist and am glad that you are not either. And I agree that genetic modification of sin can only be done by the Son of Genes.

            Sorry for the confusion.

    • Sid

      Ron Van Brenk .....so narrow in your estimation of why a person has no children.......you sound bitter.

  • JohnM

    What are we saying here? Let's be plain about it. Is it a sin to choose to have no children? Do women have an obligation to bear (or men to father) children? Obligation to God? Obligation to society?

    I agree with Curt Day's points above regarding taking God into account. I might agree regarding "controlling their immediate environment in order to limit those things that are disturbing and to grab for themselves those things that are pleasing" too, except I remind myself that I like my bathwater warm as much as the next person.

    • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

      So many "pushing back" in this discussion are wanting Biblical Proscription, and I will give this to you all -- there is no Law against "child-free." Probably because no biblical writer could conceive of such a connubial state, so perhaps this curious marital condition falls under the category of those to whom God has given up to depravity in Romans 1 -- those who worship and serve the Creature rather than the Creator. And perhaps it is exactly what 1 Timothy 2:15 means.

      Because some further on in this discussion will prettify the motivations of their heart with all kinds of fine-sounding rationale: 'I am tying my tubes for Ministry',and especially heart rending is this reason given: A Ministry to Special Needs Children.

      Well, I was a teacher at one time to special needs children -- primarily my classroom consisted of young autistic children who could not be mainstreamed into the public schools because they were runners, or were aggressive. Oh,I remember well the sheer relief of coming home and flopping on the couch for an hour until body and soul were revived. But parenting does not afford this sort of luxury, and there is no 'end of the day'. There is a vast difference between "serving children" and raising them. A parents day goes on into night.

      Yes, I like my bath water warm too, John but I like to follow God more. And if he deems my water cold for a season I will endure it, and seek to endure the chill for my good and his glory without too much undue teeth-chattering.

      Because there is a principle of sowing and reaping in the Christian life, and we cannot escape it. Try as we might. Scroll down to the comments of 'Christian Childfree'. Clearly this is one sowing to the flesh. Next,read 'Mandy C' for a breath of Spirit-filled air. Surely, this woman sows to the spirit. Now, fellow Christ followers, who do you want to be in ten years -- because this winnowing and attrition and corruption of soul is reaped in a span of time -- really, who would you rather be?

      Don't kid yourselves this way. Or rather let God kid you. Let him give you some children. You Christians who contemplate the connubial bliss of "child-free" -- unfetter your loins, open your hearts, and bear children for the saving of your souls.

      • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

        Karen,
        So, now those who are child free are depraved? I'm sorry, but that statement has no foundation anyplace in Biblical literature. If you believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that He inspired it's writing, then, you have no basis of stating that no Biblical writer could conceive of such a state. If God inspired it, and it's written under His influence, then He would have made sure to include a statement about married couples having children.

        You are very passionate about your position, however, please consider that God may be speaking to other people in a different way than you. That doesn't make either right or wrong, just following the path that God has laid out.

        • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

          "So,now those who are child free are depraved?"

          Depraved? Absolutely! Or in the process of their hearts hardening, as one can discern by the arguments offered by 'childfree' proponents:

          'Christian Childfree' says, "... millions of people breeding in this pronatalist world. Those of us who truly do not want to breed should not do so. Children are a choice"

          "Children are A Choice"? Scary. That's straight from the brisk talking points of the abortion lobby. How depraved is that?

          "Breeding in this pronatalist world" This undignified description of childbearing is straight from the ugly underbelly of the worst Radical Feminist Lesbian literature,a subculture that has been thrown under that bus currently touring in the name of Marriage Equality all the State Legislatures. How depraved is that kind of scornful talk?

          "Millions of people" Or billions and billions? Some have cited the overpopulation argument, a kind of worldly scientific fear-mongering which ignores the sovereignty of God over the numbers that people the Earth. He and he alone knows when the Earth is filled. How depraved is this, to rely on the worldly wisdom that God calls foolish?

          And finally you yourself say, "If God inspired it, and it's written under His influence, then He would have made sure to include a statement about married couples having children."

          "If God?" That sounds eeriely depraved. I hope you believe that the Bible is inerrant and inspired too, Steve. But in all your arguments in favor of 'child-free', you have never cited a single solitary Scripture. Does the Bible have any authority over you? Because now you have a challenge -- God *does* say that one of His purposes for marriage is to bearing children:

          "Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit..." (Malachi 2:15)

          God is not speaking any differently about children to me than he is to you or any other real Christ-follower. I just listen better, because I fear and tremble to disobey his clear and revealed will. And that a couple fervently pray and desire to bring children into their Christian marriage is clearly his divine will.

          So again, I will say there is no biblical case for a "child-free" marriage.

          • http://www.lambpower.com Steve Dawson

            Karen,
            Perhaps I didn't phrase my argument very well. God inspired the Bible, since He inspired it, the writers would have known through His inspiration that there would be a time when Christians would choose child free marriages. Therefore, if He was against child free marriage, He certainly would have made His opposition very clear. God has written out His negative and positive instructions very well. He certainly wouldn't need to use a verse that was a piece of prophecy about Israel to teach Christians that they should have children in their marriages.

            To be honest, I'm not even sure that this discussion on an individual level is a good thing. As I have stated before, God calls us as individuals and couples to be His hands and feet in the world. We all don't get the same set of instructions and within the Body we have different assignments and calls. We are not all called to have children. God is certainly powerful enough to work His will, if a child was in His plans for a couple.

            You ask :
            "I am asking, why are you all so afraid to bring a little child into the world? Even one little child?"

            You make assumptions that a child free couple is afraid of having a child. Suppose that child free couple prays for God's guidance and gets back a "no" for an answer? Would you want that couple to go against God? Not every couple is called to have children. Yes, in the past children represented economic and social necessity. The more children the more hands there were to work on the farm or at the family business. That's why God calls children a blessing. Family sizes have dropped, one reason is that children are no longer an economic necessity. Couples have adjusted based on economic and social factors, just as in the past economic and social factors drove the need for larger families. It's easy to say "just one small child", however, for some that might be a struggle. Again, God may not have called that couple to have children.

            I am glad that God has called you to have many children. He has no doubt blessed you richly. However, don't mistake the blessing that you've gotten as a curse on those who He has not blessed with children, They may have been blessed in other ways.

            • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

              "God is certainly powerful enough to work His will, if a child was in His plans for a couple."

              Well, at last we are in agreement about something! The ancients called this process "God closing the womb." And it had nothing to do with artificial constraints.

              "Suppose that child free couple prays for God's guidance and gets back a "no" for an answer?"

              The couple whose womb God has not providentially closed should run as fast as they can from such evil guidance. That is one thing my little trip in Charismania taught me -- disasters await those who follow after personal revelations or strange prophetic experiences that are in contradiction to clear revealed truths of Scripture. He does not have a truth for you and a truth for me.

              And God is clear on this subject. Remember Malachi 2:15? Don't think I haven't noticed that you have stubbornly refused to engage that Scripture. It is not about the nation of Israel. The context is *marriage.* God wants offspring. We are done with arguing about that, aren't we?

              And all your other arguments stem from pragmatism. But Christians are called to live a radically different life:
              "But the my righteous one shall live by faith,
              and if he shrinks back,
              my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

              And my own soul has no more pleasure going round and round with you in this debate, Steve. Stop hardening your heart.

            • Paul Petry

              Steve Dawson: "Family sizes have dropped, one reason is that children are no longer an economic necessity."

              One of the major points that the author mentioned in the article, Lauren Sandler, made, is that families and children ARE an economic necessity - and that is why western economies are in crises.

              As Katleen Nielson wrote: "Americans' growing childlessness threatens the stability of our whole economic system. Although Sandler points out that we have not yet reached the level of Italy, 'where nearly one-quarter of women never give birth,' we can't help but see in America's future the decline of Europe's population and economy."

              It is the same argument others have made before, very notably: http://youtu.be/lZeyYIsGdAA .

            • http://www.lambpower.com Steve D

              Paul Petry:
              You have to distinguish between macro and micro economics. As a society, the fertility rate should stay above the replacement rate. As individual couples there is no loner an economic need for larger families. In the past, large families basically provided more workers for the family farm/business. At this point in time, there is actually an economic disincentive for larger families. Most people are not farmers, do not need the extra hands. Plus, the costs that are now associated with having large families can be a real issue for many families.

      • Pam

        Your comment reads like the Pharisee who lords his outward superiority over the tax collector. Your are the perfect Christian, anyone who doesn't do exactly as you do is depraved and unbelieving. There is no compassion, no Christlikeness in your comment. And honestly, it's attitudes like yours that drive people out of the church or stop them looking into it. The loud judgemental voices that shout the imperfections of us 'inferiors' directly in our ears, always reminding us that we are not as godly as they, are the very echo of the Pharisees. Remember, who did Jesus talk to and eat with? The prostitutes, the tax collectors, the 'sinners'. Who did he direct his harshest rebukes to? The whitewashed tombs of the Pharisees. The church has become the realm of modern-day Pharisees, and has lost sight of the Christ who loved and valued ALL people, including those that society thought were sinful and inferior.

        • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

          "The loud judgemental voices that shout the imperfections of us 'inferiors' directly in our ears...that drive people out of the church or stop them looking into it. "

          This tirade is a little judgmental of me is it not? Oh I am so glad He has delivered me from the fear of man, and I really don't care how you think of me!

          Pam, you don't know me or the way I am involved in my local church, but my life is an open book, and you are welcome to call around my church and ask --I am not anonymous here -- and you will find my pastors at FBC San Francisco would certainly not agree with your description of me! And if these worthy men, who know me well, whom God has placed over me in authority, would say this of me, I would pray and fast and repent.

          Or you could read the totality of my comments, or even go to my blog, and you would soon understand that none of those things is true. I am merely a trophy of grace, and I brag only about my weakness,and point others to what my faithful God has done for me in rescuing me from my own sinful fear of bearing even one child into the world. And yes, it is sin, because fear is the opposite of faith -- "whatever is not of faith is sin."

          I am asking, why are you all so afraid to bring a little child into the world? Even one little child?

          Or if it is someone like Steve Dawson above, I am longing for repentance from this odd way you count the cost of having children--that you would value children the way God does. Because the church has "lost sight of the Christ who loved and valued ALL people, including those that society thought were..."

          Inconvenient to their careers? Expensive? Bringing lots of demanding and scary issues attached to them, like mental and physical illnesses? Because children are the real inferiors in this discussion.

          So let's stick to the issues. Stop attacking me.

          • Pam

            I'll stop 'attacking' you if you stop insulting and attacking everybody you disagree with. All your comments come from a place of superiority. You've openly questions whether Christians who choose not to have children are really 'proper' Christians, you've told people off for not really reading the bible - because obviously if they disagree with you they must be ignoring the bible. In your comment here you've explicitly stated that choosing not to have children is sin! I mean, really! And you are upset that I've called you out for being pharisaical and judgemental? Read back over your own words!
            As for me, I'm not 'afraid' to have children. I'd like to have a few kids, but right now I'm single and it doesn't seem like that's ever going to change. And that's another way people like yourself can be hurtful - you don't know my circumstances. You don't know how much of a struggle it can be to be the childless or single person when so much of the church worships at the altar of the nuclear family. You don't know how excluding the church can feel to the single and childless, you don't know how the single and childless can struggle with feeling like they don't belong. You don't realise that all your comments here, rather than building up and bringing together the body of Christ, only serve to increase the gulf between the 'proper' and 'godly' nuclear families and the 'inferior' and 'sinful' singles and childless. You don't understand how hurtful your attitudes are. You don't understand how, hearing the same messages over and over again about how those of us who are single and/or childless just aren't being proper Christians can be so discouraging it makes us want to leave the church, because instead of getting support from our Christian brothers and sisters we feel shunned and judged. You fail to see that the world is often more welcoming of those of us who are single or childless than churches are. And articles like this and comments like yours only serve to widen the gap between the 'obedient' and 'disobedient' Christians. So yes, I will call you a Pharisee, because your comments have all the hallmarks of judgement the Pharisees were condemned for. Please open your eyes and your heart and stop lording your 'godliness' over those of us who don't have exactly the same life as you.

            • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

              Pam I wish you could understand that I was in no way attacking those who are single or childless. I was addressing the wolves among us who preach that the "childfree Christian" is a biblical Christian. I am so sorry you got caught up as collateral damage in this debate.

              I took your comments seriously, and with the aid of a godly mentor, I was able to see your point about the arrogance and dismissive attitude rife in my comments. Please forgive me.

      • JohnM

        Karen,

        Do you then run your bath water warm when you can, i.e. control your environment to make it more pleasant? Or do you for some reason assume taking the chilly bath is necessary to following God, even if you could take a warm bath? Mortification of the flesh is of no avail. Neither are the fecund more righteous than the barren.

        My children are grown, that's the only reason I'm "child free" at this point in my life, by the way. Fathering children was a given for me once I was married. But neither I, nor you, nor anyone else, is saved by having children. If we're saved at all it is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

      • Serving Kids in Japan

        "Bear children for the saving of your souls"???

        Can we say, 'fertility cult'?

        • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

          No, we say over-the-top hyperbole for shock effect. But it was very, very much misunderstood -- and I deeply regret this failure to communicate. See the end of the thread for a fuller apology.

      • Kenny

        1 Corinthians 7:7-8 (NIV)

        7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

        8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.

  • Dean P

    I find interesting that nothing is mentioned in this article about the one evangelical Christian couple that was interviewed by TIME that experienced marginilzation by members of their church while the church just let it happen. Regardless of your views about having children that is inexcusable behavior in a church body.

    • Serving Kids in Japan

      I haven't read the whole article in TIME yet, but... Absolutely, more should be commenting on the couple you mentioned. Acts like marginalization and shunning are utterly un-Christlike, and should have no place at all amongst believers.

      Kids in grade school and high school made me feel worthless just because I was different. There's no way I'll countenance that happening to anyone in a church.

  • Mitzi D

    I am a childfree Christian, and I encounter these arguments a lot.
    Problem: My childlessness enables me to teach your kids better, by spending time sacrificing for them. I can tutor at the college on nights or week-ends, because I have the time.
    My childlessness enables me to consider God more, as I have more time for study and reflection than my child-taxi friends. A lot more time.
    My childlessness is a choice (I have a rather painful genetic problem I did not want to pass on) and by God's will (he sent me infertility at 24 so I could marry), and is not narcissistic. If you want lots of children, have one for my sake. But do not paint all of us with a broad brush. Some of us use our childlessness for God's glory, or do our imperfect best to do so. The women in the article do not, but that isn't all of us, particularly in the household of faith. See Isaiah 54 for my perspective on infertility.

    • Lois

      Mitzi-

      Just curious, are you married as well?

      • Mitzi D

        Yes, I'm married. At 30 to a man 12 years older. We were both long-term singles, so the infertility thing was fine with him.
        I see a lot of people in churches who thought I must have been miserable in my single state, or that I must "struggle" with infertility now. Not really. God gives you circumstances. You play the hand you are dealt and move on.
        There needs to be a PLACE in Christian society for the long-term single, the childless couple, the disabled person who isn't getting better or expecting a miracle, the person who doesn't fit the "3-kids-in-designer-duds-and-perfect-family with SUV" Suburbianity profile. We aren't in misery, or sinning, or ignoring God, by not adhering to a rather stifling idea of "normal".

        • Sid

          So well put Mitzi!

    • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

      I am puzzled. Why have you morphed yourself from "childless" to "child-free"?

      Perhaps it would be good for you to meditate upon this wonderfully freeing truth Kathleen has elucidated for us:

      .."interestingly, only this perspective lets us see the worth of a woman to whom God grants or does not grant children. Trusting in our Creator God, we have no need to clamor for other than what he gives, or to seek to please any but him."

      • Mitzi D

        Because I am not only childless, but also not in regular contact with children (I teach young adults, at least in theory). The group of non-dating, single young women I ran with in college called ourselves "sexually free", as we had never been sexually active, and we were happy about that, not suffering for being "sex-less".
        The pressure from "church people" to "suffer" for being childless is as intense as the pressure to "suffer" for our non-dating stance was in college. Maybe the term "childfree" reflects the fact that I'm not having any problems with not having kids- that it is not a matter of deprivation, but an opportunity to have the time to serve others. "Childless" sounds like deprivation, and implies suffering or dis-satisfaction with my lot. Not my reality.

        • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

          I was so mystified by this comment--since for me the way we follow Christ is to pick up a cross, which implies death to self and a certain measure of suffering on the way to glory.

          And yet I am so acutely aware of the charged feelings of this state, of the suffering of miscarriage and stillbirth that childlessness entails, and really didn't wish to offend anyone,and so I missed an opportunity to discuss the freedom a Christian has in childlessness. I feel I have been greatly misunderstood. But this is my last comment, and I am not going to defend my position anymore.

          But to those who are childless, and it hurts,to "some who grieve that they are unable to bear children, he sometimes grows their their families by adoption...but if you decide not to adopt, Romans 14 certainly applies to you. If God gives you liberty then in your childless state to devote yourselves completely to missions or even serving children in the worst of circumstances, be free! Matthew Henry says of these,"Hast thou faith? It is meant of knowledge and clearness as to our Christian liberty. Enjoy the comfort of it, but do not trouble others by a wrong use of it." Those so *disappointed* by their childless state should not morph themselves into the category of 'Childfree' --it is a wrong use of it -- I believe that term is an abomination to God...

          ...and some dispense with the whole business out of fear, and they put an end to their fertility. But fear is not faith, and whatever is not of faith is sin. (Again, if you have faith that your circumstances are excusing you from this kind of investment in childrearing, such as the risk of death to a mother, Romans 14:23 certainly applies to you! And we are not to judge another’s servant.)

          From "Seeing Through the Overton Window: Some Burying Their Talents" at my website, http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/burying-our-talents/

      • Sid

        Morphing from childless to childfree .....why not? It has a lot to do with coming to terms with the fact that your life is going follow a path that differs from what you and others may have originally expected/hoped for......it's called making the most of your situation.....

      • http://brandatthebrink.blogspot.ca/ Ron Van Brenk

        Good Job Karen,

        Well researched website. Keep up the great work.

        • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

          Thank you!

          • http://brandatthebrink.blogspot.ca/ Ron Van Brenk

            You are welcome Karen,

            Now give it a break, OK?

            One final thought for you-

            As regards 1 Tim 2:15, I like Moo's interpretation (whom Carson also has high praise for). Moo suggests that "women will be saved by faithfulness to their proper role" [motherhood].
            I would clarify that in this instance (as others) this saving is not a soteriological thing. That this saving is actually a sanctificational thing.

            As you well know,Karen- that having babies actually keeps girls OUT of trouble. That having babies gives them a better sense of their ordained role as HELPER. That having babies gives them a better sense of being complementarian. And a better sense of their own sin and inadequacy in that role.

            Now,I hope that your current lack of babies does not diminish that sense, Karen.
            And that now you will complement your husband so much more... as originally intended.

            • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

              Ron,

              Thank you very much for that helpful explanation of the text of 1 Timothy! I am glad you cleared up that possible misunderstanding of what I meant by "bearing children for the saving of your souls." The Cross is quite sufficient for that work! And as a homeschooling mother of eight children, the majority of whom are well into their teens, I have come to understand the sanctifying work of faithfully following Christ in the role of mother to children and helper to my husband. Quite painfully well!

              But this was not a role I eagerly embraced, for when I came to Christ, I was one of those feminists appalled by marriage and the prospect of 'breeding' and being someone's doormat -- that is what I meant when I said I did not desire even one child. What a good work Christ has done in me!

              And yes, my work is done here. I have a busy season ahead of me beginning.

              One final thought for the Gospel Coalition in general, not just Mrs. Nielson -- I don't think you understand very well how much the Lord hates the dishonest scales you use to measure out a Christians' use of birth control.

              Don't we have a little Overton window thingy going on here? Something like the use of artificial means of birth control was unthinkable in the Church a century ago and now it is unthinkable not to make use of it! Because we see in this thread the normalization of 'Child-free' -- because Jesus was 'Child-free' too, you know! Must be acceptable! What is next for the quote unquote evangelical church -- I shudder to think.

              I hope when y'all get together to study Nehemiah http://thegospelcoalition.org/2014/schedule/ you will look honestly at which walls in the church are broken down and burned with fire.

              I know for sure that I will not be invited to speak!

    • Clark

      Obviously many people choose not to marry and/or have children for good and noble reasons. Paul gave up the family life for a life of sacrificial ministry. I really think this is a modern problem as widespread birth control and relatively easy abortion access make it a convenient choice to marry or have a sexual relationship while denying the gift of children. I have four children but decided to stop there. I'm not sure that my choice to get sterilized wasn't made selfishly on some level. I wrestle with issue, many people, not just Catholics believe that interfering with the blessing of fertility is an insult to God and reveals a heart of selfishness, a lack of trust, a desire for control, or all of the above. I'm not sure those people are wrong. A hundred years ago we wouldn't be having this debate.

      • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

        "Paul gave up the family life for a life of sacrificial ministry."

        No, Paul chose to be *single* for the sake of sacrificial ministry. He did not choose to have a vasectomy or have his tubes tied so that he could "gladly spend and be spent" for those Jesus died to save. Which is a perfect description of the parenting life, and it perfectly prepares a couple for fruitfulness in missions.

        I am very skeptical of those who opt out of childbearing for the sake of "missional living" -- so little real anguish is communicated about that decision, so little sense of it being the death of dreams one had for one's life, so little scent there of a death to self.

        And for those who insist that that is the very quality of that choice you made to not have children, I would still say -- Oh, you of little faith.

        • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

          It amazes me that people have the audacity to judge the motives of others. Why does anyone presume that it is in and of itself selfish not to children? Why do you consider any couple that doesn't have children to lack faith? What is it any of your business anyway? Somewhere along the line you have put yourself in the place of God by deciding that every Christian married couple should have children. Did it ever occur to you that maybe God had other ideas and plans for the lives of childless couples?

          • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

            Please note the discussion is about "The Problems of the *Childfree* life."

            You are conflating that with *childlessness*

            Childlessness is a wholly scriptural state of being.

            A "Child-free" life is not.

            • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

              Actually, Karen, I used the descriptor os "childless" on purpose.Whatever the reason, not having a child is in a state, childless. It seems that Evangelicals are concerned with why a couple might be childless, although I'm not exactly sure why. There is no imperative in Scripture to have children. Yes, there is "Be fruitful and multiply", however, that can be seen as either a blessing or a one time command (for Adam and Eve). There is also no warning against having children. There is no specific sin mentioned either. Evangelicals seem to have strung a couple of verses together to create a sin out of whole cloth.

              Whatever a couple's motivation might be, it seems that choosing to not having a child is not in and of itself sinful. I have come to the realization that some Evangelicals look for sins where there are, in fact, no sins. You may not agree with the reasoning why a couple is childless, however, that does not make it a sin.

    • http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/ Curt Day

      Mitzi,
      I appreciate your note and like when you tell us not to paint those who are childfree with on broad brush.

      I do think that, considering the times and culture, some generalizations can be made but these same generalizations can apply to those who have children as well.

      What is important is for us to listen to each person before the generalizations become assumptions.

  • http://www.comeabide.com Andrea

    Such an encouraging piece! As a married woman who struggled with infertility I can't thank you enough for stressing that children are a gift that only the Lord gives. Children are not a guarantee for the unbeliever or believer and as much as we want to have "control" over our own reproduction it's totally out of our hands. And more importantly I would agree with another commenter that the problem doesn't seem to be not taking God into account but rather a comfort in the individualistic society in which we live. Parenthood almost demands community and selflessness, two things it seems we are growing away from instead depending on our own two hands to get us through.

    • Johnny Appleton

      A Christian family is NEVER "infertile". Read Russell Moore's "Adopted for Life" if you get the chance.

      • Mandy C

        Thank you, Johnny. I had never thought of it like that.

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  • Josiah

    I think you nailed it. There are a lot of sinfulness in couples who reject having children (as well as in parents), but the ROOT is not considering the Creating, Redeeming, Returning God.

  • Valerie

    I read this article, with a very heavy heart, at the doctors office the other day. Another thing this article does not take into consideration is the fact that these 20-30 something men and women with the great body, cars vacations, etc may seem "Happy" now but where will they be in 30 plus years? Who will be with them and care for them when they need someone? We are obsessed with the temporal pleasures of life with very little thought to the future and sadly the Church is following these trends. For a great documentary on how the Church's view on children has changed and why check out this documentary http://thebirthcontrolmovie.com/trailer/ and for a secular look at the demographic winter the world is experiencing and why overpopulation is a myth (done by unbelievers) go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZeyYIsGdAA

    • Lauren

      "Who will be with them and care for them when they need someone?"

      How is having children to ensure someone is there to care for you when you're older any less selfish than choosing not to have children at all?

      • Barb

        No, if that were a primary reason for having children, but Scripture is clear that it is a good and right thing for children to care for their aging parents. God's provision in this way is a part of the blessing of children.

  • Lou G.

    Overall, I thought this was a very good and encouraging article. Perhaps a bit of caveating would have helped, as some of the commenters have pointed out: The decision to not have children is not in and of itself sinful. We should be very careful to call that distinction out when doing applied theology. Afterall, there are legitimate medical and ministerial reasons why a Christian couple might choose not to parent, even if those cases are not normative. Cultural commentators need to be mindful of such caveats when making ethical pronouncments in the name of God's Word.

    Again, overall, the post was quite relevant and necessary given the general cultural preference toward childlessness.
    Thanks.

    • http://godofthecity.tumblr.com T. Ann

      Thank you Lou. I couldn't agree with you more.

    • Justin Phillips

      Just curious... would the decision not to parent, purely because you have no desire to have children, be sinful? My reading of this article leads me to believe the author would say yes but I am not sure. What are your thoughts?

  • Mandy C

    I see simple disobedience here. I am a young mother of 1 (so far); I waited too long to have my first child (29 1/2) because I listened to the voices of the world seeking my own glory instead of praying for God's guidance and seeking His glory.

    After 29 1/2 years of doing as I pleased, I found the selflessness required during those early days of motherhood to be a terrible struggle. But by the grace of God through Christ and the strength He supplies, the dross is finally falling away and a servant's heart is taking the place of the selfish one.

    I beseech all young Christian women who do not want children, PLEASE do not be so quick to dismiss the voices of Christian women across the ages who understand the deep purpose found in motherhood. If you want to walk with Christ every moment of every day and find out what dying to self and living for his glory and laying down your life for another is, seek after motherhood. It is a blessing comparable to no other.

    • Sid

      Mandy whether you intend it or not, you are achingly judgemental of those who don't or can't have children, for whatever reason. Can you not see this? Do you truly believe that motherhood is the greatest sacrifice? God calls me His child, whether childbed or not.

  • David

    I think this is a great article, and it's about time the Christian community posted a review on that awful Time article. Time continues to disappoint me over and over with their outrageous worldview and their manipulative way of getting people to agree with them. Though I must agree with many of the comments on the "root of the problem" portion....there are some good reasons for not having children, such as infertility, the desire to adopt those who are alive rather than making more lives, etc. I think it's tough to say it is "God's will" to not have a child no matter who you are. I'm not sure what 1 Timothy 2:15 means exactly, but apparently it puts childbearing as one of a woman's top priorities. I think the "root of the problem" should not necessarily mean neglecting God by not baring children, but rather neglecting God through narcissism and self-absorption, rather than through the act of not having children, because there are good reasons out there, so the act itself is not the issue. It's the motive behind the act, and the motives spelled out in the Time article are the ones that are anti-God and pro-self. They are the fruits of fleshliness that result in not having children for many women. Though, before posting a comment trying to justify yourself for not having children, you should probably do some more soul-searching because chances are narcissism does have some grip on you. While I admit there are good reasons, those reasons are few and those who have them that are 100% pure are even rarer. Chances are you're not in the camp of completely pure ambitions. After all, we all tend to drift towards self-absorption. Why do we so easily dismiss the possibility for ourselves?

  • Johnny Appleton

    I find stories like this tend to be major "eye-plank" articles as the people writing these rarely make mention of the vast numbers of Christians who have only have one or two children and have called it quits via surgery or drugs. 100 years ago, 4 kids was considered a small family. And yet go to the average church and you'll see 1-2 kids average. Are Christians with only a few children really that much different than the no-children crowd? Not really. Calling it quits at two kids so you can enjoy life's conveniences and great television is no different than the narcissists on TIME's cover.

    And calling it quits after one for "health reasons"? Two words: Show Hope.

    • Amelia

      Easy for a man, who does not have to bear the children, to say. Health reasons is a good reason to stop bearing children. Even in that circumstance, the family can be expanded by adopting one of the millions of orphans in the world.

    • Kristin

      I totally agree with the first paragraph :) Only I conclude that neither (childlessness or having 1 or 2 children) are sinful.

    • j james

      *Uterine rupture resulting in critical blood loss and possible hysterectomy
      *HELLP syndrome (life-threatening form of pre-eclampsia with high potential for stroke)
      *Repeat pre-term labors with long stays in the NICU for baby
      *Repeat c-sections that make each subsequent pregancy higher risk
      *Necessary medications that make pregnancy dangerous

      These are just a few "health reasons" I've seen more than once in my job. One I had myself. I am weary of the inability of many within the Christian community to understand that pregnancy and childbirth is a risky endeavor for some women. Please take into consideration that you may not know what you're talking about when you throw your two words at people.

    • Serving Kids in Japan

      I know a woman who wanted 6 kids. Physically, she couldn't have more than three. All her children were born by Caesarean section, and the last came prematurely. It almost killed her. So she realized (as a doctor, and as a woman who understood her own body) she couldn't have any more, and shouldn't try if she wanted to be there for the ones she already had.

      You want to call a woman in that situation "no different than a narcissist", or having no hope in God? If so, I'd have a few choice words for you.

  • Shane

    the problems focused on in the article seem to be cohabitation and spreading the gospel through procreation. To stand on the Genesis story and command to procreate and fill the earth seems a bit antiquated. The Apostle Paul doesn't seem to have had children (or a partner for that matter) in the traditional way. He had spiritual children though. It would be awful narrow minded to accuse everyone who chooses not to have children as not taking God into account. The other side of that is just as off-base. There are many who are terribly irresponsible in their choices to have children.
    To consider child bearing as the most efficient and effective way to spread and grow the community of Christ is really short sighted. Is there a New Testament principle to begin to back that up? The commissioned follower of Christ was created in Christ to do good works, to live our lives in interaction with others who don't know Christ, not to simply multiply ourselves in a world edging in on over-population

  • Mandy C

    I want to add a clarification to my comments above.

    When I said motherhood is a blessing comparable to no other, I meant to emphasize the fact that parenthood is a glorious purpose for both women and men and the decision by a Christian couple not to have children should be deeply wrestled with.

    None of these comments are meant to preclude women who cannot bear children from receiving blessings of equal value or to diminish the work of sanctification done in the lives of infertile women. I know how painful childlessness must be. God can and will sanctify women who struggle with infertility just as well as those who struggle through motherhood.

    I feel it is important to make that clarification.

  • Trevor Minyard

    So at the end of the day I'm reading:

    Choice to have no kids = sinful?

    Obviously this sin (if it is) only applies to married individuals, as it is "better for man to be single," so our single friends are exempt.

    So can someone bust out the Bible and breakdown a solid biblical argument for why it is sinful to not have kids? I just feel like this article is leaning on traditional western Christian culture more than a biblical framework.

    It's almost like a politically Christian conservative undertone is threaded under the rational for calling this a betrayal of the gift that children are from God.

    • Logan Oravetz

      There are many things at play in this article. I think the main debate is over married couples by their own choice not having children. There are many provisions for barren couples throughout scripture.

      This article does not include input from Malachi 2. In this chapter Divorce is used as disputation against Israel. Verse 15a "Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring."
      This verse points us at a truth concerning both spiritual offspring and flesh offspring.
      Marriage being a representation of the relationship between Christ and the church is meant to produce Godly offspring. This is done by both fruit of the spirit and more saints(evangelism).
      Secondly Married couples are considered one flesh. To debate weather this relationship should not produce by choice any offspring I believe leads us in a direction contrary to the representation of Christ and his church.

      The choice to not have Children for the sake of the gospel. I believe is best served in remaining single (1Cor7).

  • William Simpson

    My wife and I have chosen to not have a child because of the horrible abusive childhood we both had, and that in the time we live raising children in the fear and admonition of the LORD is very difficult. Societies the world-over are amoral and this is what you people choose to bring a child into!? Education is anti-christian liberal indoctrination. Youth culture is mean, vindictive, violent, sexually exploitative/exploited and rebellious. Your child/teenagers is not special. They are products of the society in which they live. Most children today are brats and the older siblings are heathens! We were awarded custody of two young girls (15 and 11) who were abandoned by their mother. For two years they were in our care. We gave everything to ensure they lacked nothing. Oh.....what an education we got. And after we gave custody back to the mother after she got her life straight, there was and still is no appreciation for what we had done. This is not every case nor child, but having a child and having to deal with ALL of the political and societal correctness that comes with being a parent is something that Shannon and me do not want to have to deal with! More power to you though...

  • Dean P

    Lou G.: So if what your saying about Christian parents that are not having children is not a sin, then that would make the basic conclusion of the writer of this article as well as the commenters who are disapproving the Christian couples who choose not to have children at bottom line a form of legalism. Otherwise whats the point of saying anything.

    • Lou G.

      Dean, good job at selective reading.
      Did you miss the part where I said that the reasons for not having children are not normative but the exception? Did you also miss the two other times that I called the original author's post helpful and encouraging overall? You seem to be looking for a fight where there isn't one.

      The point is accuracy to the Word of God and precision in what we approve or condemn. And as I stated clearly, if cultural commentators do not take special stewardship of their communication in the name of the Word of God, it may do great harm to the Gospel.
      Otherwise, are you implying that any Christian who doesn't give birth and parent regardless of ministerial or health concerns is sinning against God? If so, then please back it up with a scriptural argument and let me be proven wrong. But if not, I suggest you work a little more on your reading comprehension and analytical skills. Thanks.

  • Molly

    I do not understand the argument that to be childless is to be selfish. To choose childlessness is to choose self. To make such a harsh generalization is grace-less. Consider this: Child-bearing could be viewed in the same manner as marriage. God calls some to singleness. Some He calls to marriage. Having married later in life, I see how God can be glorified in both. Similar to Mitzi D above, as a single woman I had much more time to be involved in relationships at church-particularly with teen/college-age girls. My husband, as a single man, had much more time to invest in his students. We desire to bring glory to God in our marriage, but the time spent on these relationships has decreased, and to be honest, that was not something I expected. I actually experience a bit of guilt that I am unable (due to my marriage) to be as available to these girls. Is my marriage more glorifying to God than these relationships? Or is it simply a different kind of glory?

    I now face the decision whether or not to have a child. I would love to have a child, but the decision is not simple. I have some significant health issues that I could potentially pass on. Would it be "selfish" to choose not to pass those difficulties on to a child? I am in a job where I can provide significant help to those in need. Would it be "selfish" to choose to choose a child over these people? If I have a child, my multiple opportunities for ministry becomes a single ministry. Do not get me wrong, I'm not saying raising a child is a lesser ministry. But my point is, choosing the other ministries glorifies God no less.

    I (and so many others like me) continue to struggle with this decision. Please, do not add to the struggle with grace-less talk. Children are precious in the sight of the Lord. Oh how I believe that. But so is ministering to the sick and hurting and widows and orphans. I am acknowledging God as the giver of life by giving life and help to others. So is developing meaningful work relationships and showing the love of Christ to them. So is sharing the Gospel on a short-term mission trip. I am acknowledging God as Redeemer and Judge. A child will not change this. A child will simply shift the medium by which God is reflected through me.

    I would argue that we've judged by outward appearances here. And it's somewhat ridiculous. Because most of the individuals in the article have no alliance to God in the first place. Of course they would not take God as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge into account when choosing to be childless. They don't take God as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge into account in any of their choices. But by making the argument against them, we've negatively stereotyped those who may make the decision to remain childless out of a genuine desire to glorify God... in other ways. We've missed God's grace playing itself out in their lives. I would argue we've missed the Gospel altogether.

  • http://despondgeo.blogspot.com/ Edgar G

    It is interesting the reactions here. Even Christians end up splitting up on this issue. Time magazine focuses on the non-christian worldview which is understandable. Do we expect more from our culture? The piece here focuses on what we as Christians should consider. Every couple without children are responsible before God for their decision to have or not have children. The point that some do not consider God when not having children applies to those having children as well. Many who have children want them to satisfy their own desires and wishes. What's mentioned in this article applies to all. In any case, we must examine our hearts before God and see why we decide to have (adopt) or not have children. In our case, "we" wanted at least four. God gave us two of our own. And He didn't give us more. So we opted to adopt through the system. We waited 4 years then God answered by putting 2 more in our care. We prayed so that our focus would be to raise them in the Gospel not to make our lives content. In fact, we spent two years alone after our kids went off and we loved it. Now we are raising two more and it is the most difficult thing we've done. I have thought of returning them (process is not over yet) but it is not about me. I know God put them in our lives and that He will give us grace.

    Here is also a cultural perspective. Time magazine may be focusing on a particular cultural group. I am of the Hispanic culture, and in our culture children are the norm. Statistically, Hispanics are the fastest growing group (Asians follow) in the US and within 50 years they will outnumber all others and this is due to how they are having children whereas the Anglo Saxon culture continues to get older and many are not having children. This was not the case 50 years ago. Why is this happening? What is God trying to show us? (I connect this to the Mission of the Church)I am not sure but maybe it has something to do with our hearts being in the wrong place.

    • Alfredo zavala

      Edgar, one of the couples they focused on was a Christian couple from the south. I don't know if they ate Evangelical or not, but they seemed to be involved in their church.

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  • Shannon Simpson

    The Bible also warns..."Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." Luke 21:23,24

  • Alfredo zavala

    I just finished reading this article in Time, came home for lunch and read this. I wish that they would have spoken to more childless couples and women who were older than 65. I think that those choices made at a younger, "more free" life might be second guessed at that "less free" moment in life. It's like looking at that tattoo you got in college when your 65... Pretty temporal thinking in my estimation.

  • Dean P

    I'm with Shannon. For many generations statements like "the world is such a terrible and violent place why would I want to bring and raise a child up in it" has caused many a Christian to roll their eyes and respond with something like "this world has always been violent and corrupt how is this time period any different than previous ones." But with that said not since the days of the Roman Empire has a culture been so sexualized or even more so than today. My wife is currently discipling a incoming college freshman girl who has told us that as bad as we think the sexualization of the culture is from our perspective in actuality it's worse.

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  • carl peterson

    Interesting article and discussion. I have not read every post but I saw many good discussions. Interesting since my wife and I just had our 4th baby on Wednesday. My children have been used by the Lord to sanctify me and help me become less selfish. So many factors play a role in this discussion. Has anyone brought up the church's responsibility to orphans? Does the husband and wife with no children (or some with children) have some responsibility to think about adoption instead of remaining child-free? What a great gift one could give to a child. I did a short paper on infertility and adoption in seminary. I am NOT saying that I believe that infertile couples NEED to adopt but it is an interesting discussion. Wisdom is needed and I do not think an answer can be given that would apply in all situations. We like those answers but few problems have those kinds of answers. Many are child free because of selfish reasons but many are childless for much more pure motives. I think that one should be shaped by the Holy Spirit through Bible study, prayer, and their church community and thus they can gain wisdom on this issue (and others) in their own lives. just had a baby so can't elucidate more but I think God was ingenious in how he set up the means of grace to help us live to glorify and enjoy Him in this life.

    I definitely see in the culture today and in the Time magazine article an idolatry of selfishness. I want to do this . . . Why should I not get what I want . . . And so forth. Same old problem. It makes me very sad to see it and I am tempted to judge others until I see it in my own life. I see that I choose to have a pity party instead of thinking about my wife and her feelings or my desire for peace holds me back from giving my children 100% of the discipline they need to grow up into healthy adults that love and enjoy God.

    Interesting that I also just told a friend today that the best argument against abortion is seeing the birth of a child. It is so so magical and awesome. How could we ever think of aborting a child for our own pleasure? I know that is not the reason for all abortions but it is for many. It seems to me that the most radical child-free couples are those who choose to live own lives the way they want to over the child. I need to do this (fill in the blank, college, see the world, etc.) before I have a child. Seems very selfish to me. I am sort of the pot calling the kettle black because I see my own selfishness but it is interesting how so many issues play a role in this discussion.

    • Serti

      "Aborting for our own pleasure"? How terribly misinformed you are.
      Absolutely NOBODY aborts for pleasure. It is statements like that which reduce the Christian's credibility as a whole.

      • carl peterson

        Serti,

        With all due respect it is you that is misinformed. Very few abortions are due to health of the mother or child or because of rape. Most are because the mother has chosen that it is not the right time or circumstance (money, age,etc) to have a child. That is what I mean by pleasure. The baby (or fetus) is often seen as something that will make the women's life less than ideal or not as fulfilling as it could be so abortions are often the supposed answer. The answer is to end the pregnancy in order to have another (possibly) at a more convenient or better time for the mother (or parents). I did not mean to imply that abortion is ever a pleasurable experience.

  • LJH

    As a childfree Christian woman who is a teacher, I'm going to argue the quote, "The most basic problem is that the childfree life does not take God into account—God the Creator and giver of all gifts, including the gift of life. The Time article is all about children as a human choice; the Bible speaks about children as gifts of God (Ps. 127:3). " Due to health complications I have known since the age of 16 that I would not be a mother. My husband knew when we started discussing marriage that we would not have children and he was okay with this decision. We prayed about our options and talked to the church, family, and friends about our options. We explored every child-rearing option available. We prayed and decided that if it was God's plan for us to have a baby, it would happen naturally under God's terms. Even though we prayed extensively, after 2 or so years of not conceiving a child, we both felt God saying, quite clearly, "no" to us being parents. Going against what we had originally decided and felt in our hearts that God was telling us, we pursued fertility treatments. The result was losing two pregnancies in a week (yes, you read that correctly, I lost #1 on Monday and #2 the following Sunday - ironically, Mother's Day). #2 landed me in the emergency room from complications and my husband hearing that not only had he lost two children in less than a week, he could have lost his wife. We both agree that this was God saying "I TOLD YOU NO!" God's plan for us is to serve our church (we are both elders and I am the organist), our community, our family (yes, it IS possible to have a family of 2 - but we also have extended family close), and yes even the children we love (I spend more time at school creating experiences for students than my mother coworkers). We will be hosting a foreign exchange student and we dote on our nieces. I do not feel that God's plan for EVERYONE is to have more than a family of 2. We live in a very judgmental world and I have to say, I'm saddened to see judgment passed on childfree couples as being, basically, Godless or disobeying God's purpose. In our situation, God very clearly told us NO and when we went against His wishes, He made it very clear the answer to our MANY prayers on having a child was NO. I refuse to question what God has so firmly told us - that His plan for us takes a different path.
    P.S. After having to endure another woman tell me that I should have died trying to have a child - . I had a lady come up to me the other day, grab my hand and tell me "Don't worry sweetheart, Jesus was childfree, too." That made me smile. WWJD?  Keep that in mind the next time you choose to judge those whose lives do not include bearing children.
    For those of you wondering, we are 35. We were married knowing we would be childfree at age 25. We made the final childfree decision at age 32 years old. No, we will not regret it later because we have known and continue to KNOW in our hearts that this is God’s choice for us – not necessarily our own choice but clearly God’s choice. We also do not feel that people should have children for the reason of old-age insurance. For you curiosity seekers, we have things well planned out and even though we are not rich by any means, we will be fine. We are enjoying our Christian childfree lifestyle and are doing God’s work in our own way and just ask to not be judged, as God will be our final judge.
    P.S. I had a lady come up to me the other day after having to endure another woman tell me that I should have died trying to have a child - "Don't worry sweetheart, Jesus was childfree, too." Keep that in mind the next time you choose to judge those whose lives do not include bearing children.

    • LJH

      I didn't mean to post the P.S. twice - copy and paste error. However, I did think it was a unique spin on the subject. While I certainly don't even come close to living the lifestyle of Jesus my Savior, I thought that pointing out that God's only Son was childfree made me smile and brought me comfort. We don't hear many Christian arguments FOR our situation - which hurts being we are devoutly Christian.

      • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

        Yes, the idea of Jesus being *childfree* is certainly a unique spin on the subject. But I confess I am a little dizzy from all that spinning. Because Jesus was an unmarried man and virtuous -- therefore he was *childless*. Not *childfree*.

        Let's just not do this, let's not remake him in our image, okay? Even if it provides us comfort. He, after all is the One who sternly rebuked his disciples for their lack of prioritizing children in Kingdom business:

        ...he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:13-15)

        I am so sorry about the pain of your infertility -- and especially the pain of your miscarriages. I had a stillbirth myself. And so I would never pass judgement on the *childless* state of another.

        • Patrice

          A fair number of your comments on this thread are dismissive and unkind. I hope you do not carry such attitudes towards your dear children.

          • Serving Kids in Japan

            Hear, hear.

    • leanne

      LJH, Thank you so much for your comments. I too am childless. This was NOT my choice. I thought that numerous fertility treatments and several miscarriages were the worst bits of being childless. But dealing with other Christians has been the hardest. I don't understand why people judge me for my childlessness, or my motives. I prayed like crazy (yep, I even bargained with God), but he chose not to give my husband and i children. I love God and try hard to put him first in every area of my life, but too many Christians assume that I am selfish and hard hearted - sadly, more than one has said this to my face.
      I have no real female friends in the church. It seems that when they discover that I am childless, they are no longer interested in being my friend. One woman had the nerve to actually tell me that my childlessness mean that we had nothing in common. I was sorely tempted to tell her that I felt the same way about her lack of a university education, but I chose to be gracious and hold my tongue.
      I have lost count of the number of times that someone has quoted 1 Tim 2:15 and Gen 1:28 to me. I have also lost count of the number of times that I have seriously considered walking away from the faith.
      I don't post these comments to be critical of anyone's view, but to say that not everyone who is childless is selfish and disobedient to God. And, perhaps more importantly, to give one perspective on what it is like to be a childless woman in the church. ....it's lonely.

      • http://despondgeo.blogspot.com/ Edgar

        I grieve when I hear how we treat each other in the household of faith. I can relate well with being hurt by Christians, they have hurt me the most. Thus, I have learned a great deal how to show grace and compassion to others. My wife and I are thankful we were able to have at least one child of our own. After that GOD did not grant us to have anymore (my previous post tells about us adopting two). We lost seven babies after that! The first one was almost 5 months and we got to hold his lifeless body. In fact today my wife came home and told me she was thinking about Gibbie who would be 18 years old. We were comforted by the fact that we will see all seven in heaven. I can tell you that we were very lonely through this time. Not many know our story. But God knows our pain. May the Lord give you strength and grace. May He give us grace to love each other in the faith and encourage each other to be faithful to Him, with children and without children.

        • Leanne

          Thanks for your compassion Edgar. I can't imagine how terrible things must have been for you. I am so sorry that I really don't know how to express my sorrow adequately. So please just know that I am sorry for your pain.

  • http://www.faithfulandfruitful.com Luke

    The good news in this is that society may change for the better over time as secularists die out (literally), while believers continue to reproduce and fill the earth.

    • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

      That's a strange assumption. Why do you presume that secularists won't become Christians? Also, not all children born to Christians will actually become Christians.

      • http://www.faithfulandfruitful.com Luke

        Of course many secularists will become Christian. And, of course, not all children born to Christians will become Christians. But many will. The greatest predictor of high birth rate is high religious involvement, and many of those raised by Christians continue the faith (or, even if not converted), retain many of the values of their parents.

        • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

          That's not a very good reason to have children. There is no basis in scripture to have children simply so that they *might* become Christian. So far, although a few people have asked, no one has come up with a distinct passage that either a) commands child bearing or b) calls intentionally not having children a sin. If there is such a verse or verses, please post.

          • http://www.faithfulandfruitful.com Luke

            Steve, I'm not saying it's a reason to have children. I'm simply stating the fact that, eventually, it's likely that secularists, who reproduce below the replacement rate, will increasingly be replaced by faith-based people who--because of scriptural, traditional, and cultural reasons--reproduce above the replacement birth rate.

          • Jane

            Luke - this is sounding hauntingly like what the Nazis proposed for the proliferation of the Aryan race. Out-reproducing the secularists? Careful...

            • http://www.faithfulandfruitful.com Luke

              I'm not even proposing it. Just saying that it's a possible, even probable, outcome if current birth rates continue. Check out Al Mohler's latest "Thinking in Public" podcast about "America's Coming Demographic Disaster."

    • Lauren

      The earth is already full. We are actually at risk of over populating to the point that the earth can't support us.

      • Serti

        Isn't being a good steward considering our impacts on the already overpopulated, overfished, famine and disease-ridden earth - where thousands starve or are murdered daily - and not adding to that burden? Is considering this not a compassionate move?

  • Nathan

    Single? Childless? Child-free?

    You are not sinful or selfish because you fit these categories by choice or by circumstance. Period.

    I understand that choosing these things should be taken seriously just like choosing the opposite is serious. I'm sure there are plenty of examples of people that regret these decisions (in either direction, to be clear) at some point in their lives. That regret may come and go. Also, thankfulness for these choices may come and go, too.

    We're human. Life isn't easy. Your choices and circumstances may be the best or the worst for you. We should discuss and help each other through these, but we should never hold these things over other people. The implications of this article as shown by the the undertones of many of the comments here is just plain nasty.

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  • Brandon

    I think it's imperative to understand God's design for marriage BEFORE contemplating the rest of this argument. Right at the beginning in Genesis, we see God's commandment and expectation that marriage should produce children. We see throughout the biblical account that children were the natural, expected fruit of a marriage, unless God "closed the womb" (i.e., made the couple infertile).

    I think it's a very fair assessment to say that, unless God has stopped the natural processes, children are the expected result of the marriage union. Sex is, by design, meant to produce children. To be a normal, healthy couple that decides to not procreate SHOULD be problematic and a behavior not taken lightly by the church body.

    Ultimately, the debate is not about couples who are not able to have children, but those who are able and choose not to. That's what is being condemned as narcissistic, selfish, and disobedient. The only exception worth considering, to me anyway, would be the couple that chooses to adopt instead.

    • Helen

      Following your line of thinking then, married people shouldn't be having sex at all unless they are trying to have children. Yes, by design it produces children. Yes, God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. However, in context that meant to populate the earth. Turns out, the earth is pretty well populated at this current moment in time.

      • Conner

        I don't go quite as far as Brandon's later paragraphs, but I think his initial thought is spot on.

        As to Adam and Eve having children to populate the earth, keep in mind that this was the original way of building God's kingdom, not just putting human animals on the globe. In the same way, the covenant to those who are baptized into the faith is for "you and your whole family," (at least in Presbyterian theology) so having children is really a way of fulfilling not only the Cultural Mandate but also part of the Great Commission. I don't think this is the same as a commandment, but it's pretty darn important and central to the life of the Church.

    • Brandon

      Helen -

      That's not the logic at all. I am by no means saying that people should only have sex when they want a child. Sex serves additional purposes within marriage (intimacy, pleasure, comfort, etc). What I am saying (and the biblical account + history bear this out) is that marriage, barring infertility, results in children.

      There are a myriad of health issues that can be attributed to modern hormonal and surgical birth control. Our ability to choose not to have children runs contrary to God's design for marriage.

      The repeated comments from this thread (notably from women) touting their choice of child-free living does well to reinforce some of the blog's points. Once again, our generation buy's into cultural lies and think that we have the right to re-write expected norms for life and marriage. I don't buy it. We simply reflect the values of our culture: convenience, independence, selfishness.

      I have read through and seen many other comments justifying childless marriages through very painful experiences and tragedy. As I stated in my previous post, is that these choices should not be taken lightly by the local church body. The local body SHOULD know the pain and troubles of a married couple and support them. Again, there may be a valid or unusual circumstance causing them to choose to remain without children (health issues, etc). I would expect our church body to treat a couple differently who simply said "we don't want kids" versus "we want them, but we've had too many miscarriages" or ""we want them, but I have a history of mental illness".

      This isn't a salvation issue, but I think it should definitely be taken seriously in the local church body. I see many posts on here that simply reflect the self-serving culture in which we live. God has ordained marriage as the expected way through which life is reproduced. That expectation weighs on every marriage, with few exceptions.

  • ChristianChildfree

    I am permanently and happily childfree because I do not want (and never wanted)children. Simple as that. I do NOT have financial problems. I do NOT have life problems. I do NOT have health problems. I do NOT have spiritual problems.

    The problem with articles like this is they attempt to apply a certain interpretation of Biblical text and Christianity to every believer. Humans who spend their time worrying about how other humans judge their lives and judge their spirituality are on a quick road to hell. Articles like this also assume that some of us who are childfree have not already prayed about it and sought spiritual guidance for our decision. Jesus Christ determines my salvation. Not some humans who disagree with my life.

    Those of you who need to justify your decision to become parents by making it a "Christian doctrine" need to check yourself. You also need to ask yourself why you feel you cannot grasp that God has different outcomes for different people. No outcome is better than another outcome. Humans are not dying off, Christians are not dying off. Therefore, I shall overstate the obvious point which is that there are millions of people breeding in this pronatalist world. Those of us who truly do not want to breed should not do so. Children are a choice and it seems as though it would be wise for people who do not want children to not have children. There are already hundreds of thousands of unwanted children in the world. We do not need more.

    As for those who cannot fathom childfree Christians, just search the Internet. Childfree Christians are not vocal in most churches and some have been shunned away from churches. But, our presence at churches does not determine our salvation. Just as there are avid church members who are going straight to hell, there are avid non-church members who are going straight to heaven. Jesus Christ is not as simple-minded and slow as humans have made him out to be. HUMANS are the only simple-minded and slow ones. GOD is always a step ahead and already knows how to figure out the things that we waste our time quarreling over.

    In Christ,
    ChristianChildfree

    • carl peterson

      Christianchildfree,

      Respectfully, you come across as being very angry in your post. I do not know you but you might look into and pray about from where the anger is coming. Sure more than one outcome can be right for a group of people but not all outcomes are from the Lord. You bring up unwanted children in your post and that is actually an argument against being child free since a family without natural children could give a great home to an unwanted child. In the end it is not really about what you or I want. It is about what God wants in our lives. I do not suppose to know you or what God has planned but it seems to me that there are very strong arguments for marraiges with children (whether biological or adopted) instead of choosing to be child free.

      • ChristianChildfree

        Carl Peterson, do not attempt to dismiss me as angry and in need of prayer. I have nothing to be angry about. I am responding to an article just as everyone else in this comments section.

        You are in need of prayer if you cannot speak to a fellow Christian with an understanding that our salvation comes from Christ and not from judgmental humans such as yourself.

        • carl peterson

          Christianchidfree,

          I did not dismiss you because you are angry. I dismissed your points because I did not think they were very good. I just made a comment that you seemed very emotional and angry. My message was sent with humility and non-judgement. I never discussed your salvation. That is a topic you like to bring up when no one else has previously discussed it. I tried to engage your comment but it seems you are too angry and emotional about this topic to discuss it.

          • Pam

            You and every other 'child free people are heathens' commenter always say that choosing not to have children is a selfish choice when made for personal reasons. But you have personal reasons for choosing to have children, too! So how can your personal reasons be good and the personal reasons of the child-free bad? You're being hypocritical. I doubt any Christian is flippant in making decisions about whether or not to have children, so dismissing one group as being less godly simply because they disagree with you is unbecoming of the faith and smacks of being a Pharisee.

            • carl peterson

              Pam,

              When did I say that the choice to be child free was always a selfish choice or made for selfish reasons? When did I say that it was a flippant decision? I also said that parents of children including myself have at best mixed motives also.

              I believe you need to read MY POSTS before being critical. I will tell you what I did say. I said that some choose to be child free for selfish reasons and some do it for their own pleasure. The ones in the Time magazine article seem to be choosing to be child free mainly for selfish reasons. BTW I never said child free people are heathens. In fact I said I could not judge one's salvation in te very post you are commenting on but I believe that christianchildfree most likely is a christian. He/she is just very emotionally invested in this topic.

  • ChristianChildfree

    Those of you who think being childfree is selfish need to think about why adults have children whether planned or unplanned. There is no unselfish reason for having children. I shall create a short list:

    1. Having children because you think that is God's purpose for YOUR life or having children because YOU believe there is a spiritual life that YOU need to bring into this world. Most people have not spoken to this hypothetical child therefore it is all about YOU and YOUR interpretation of God's Word for YOUR life. This is also why people who want to have children are more likely to want biological children than adopted children (there are a lot of adopted children waiting).

    2. Having children to keep the human race (or a religion, culture, and race and ethnicity of people) alive is having children because YOU want to play YOUR part in the game of survival and reproduction. This is also why people who want to have children are more likely to want biological children than adopted children (there are a lot of adopted children waiting).

    3. Having children because you keep being told that you have an obligation to breed. You are either doing it because you think "that's just what humans do" or "I want to get it over with so people can leave me alone." Either way, you are fulfilling YOUR obligation. This obligation routine is also why people who want to have children are more likely to want biological children than adopted children (there are a lot of adopted children waiting).

    4. Let us not forget that children are cute (in cultures that focus on the cuteness of children). How adorable to be able to coo and aww over something. Buy it cute clothes and have everyone around you make such a fuss. Until the newness wears off and everyone around you stops being as supportive and attentive. Then parenting stops being as cute and as fun as it initially was. But people expect you to never feel sad, annoyed, or isolated. I consider this human antics that can be interpreted as selfish and silly in the grander scheme of things. The cuteness of children routine is also why people who want to have children are more likely to want biological children than adopted children (there are a lot of adopted children waiting).

    Humans are simple-minded and self-absorbed. That is regardless of faith-base and includes humans who think they live selfless, spiritual, and charity-driven lives. Lucky for us, Jesus Christ is much more swift and better at multitasking than humans are. Also lucky for us, God is more forgiving and has a sense of humor. It takes forgiveness, sense of humor, and patience to deal with we humans who love to toot our own horns so much.

    In Christ,
    ChristianChildfree

    • carl peterson

      Christianchildfree,

      These are some really poor arguments for your case. most of the arguments state something like "That is what YOU think . . . " Well of course it is. You could say that about anyone's beliefs or interpretation of God's will or the Bible. It does not mean much. Do some have children for selfish reasons? Yes. do most have children with some mixed motives? Definitely yes. We are human. But I do not see much in your post that really helps your case.

      • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

        And I see so much in it that makes my case.

      • ChristianChildfree

        "for your case"

        You have completely missed the point if you believe I was typing "for my case." Jesus received my case years ago. You humans are just reading a comments section of an article. Take from it what you will.

        • carl peterson

          you misunderstood my point. "The case" = your argument or point in your post. Again you bring up your salvation when I did not doubt it at all. Do you feel you need to justify yourself to others? It seems you are trying very hard to do so. Remember your are justified through Christ. Through Christ we are forgiven from our sins and have received His obedience. Thus we can go to the Father without fear of judgement for our sins.

    • Ali

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. It echoes what all child free couples by choice, believe. Keep pressing on

  • Tina

    I do not have children. Maybie I will in the future - did not make my mind to say fully no. The problem with this article is that it says that we MUST give birth then people like to feel free to make those choices.

    We with husband live in not very stable financial situation and then the situation got a bit better everybody around looks and forces into giving birth. I want to want the child that is coming - not to be afraid of financial things, not to get into fight how to rise my child because everybody around "knows" that better, not to look at myself while being pregnant, vomiting, swollen legs and etc. and want it.

    I believe that motivation of having a child matters because if I get birth not by my husband's and my choice but because I have to and it is a MUST I would not feel O.K. about it. Child could feel it too you know. All parents regrets, everything could make child feel unwanted.

    So, that is why I still wait while others are pushing. I want to want a child before having it.

    • Lisa

      Tina,
      My first was a surprise - a BIG surprise! I found out I was pregnant a week after my husband left Somaj for Iraq at the very beginning of the war. I told him the news over the phone several days later. He was so shocked that he was speechless. But then he wrote me an email in which he said that if we had waited until we were "ready" and it was the perfect time to have a baby, that we probably never would. God chose that time, and it was the right time.

      I'm not saying that you should try to get pregnant because of social pressure. But I will tell you as a mother of 3 (and 2 in heaven), that when you find out you are pregnant, you are filled with wonder and curiosity and eventually love for the person in you whom you have never met. You don't have to have the strength to endure the nausea, swollen legs, (not to mention childbirth!) figured out *before* you get pregnant. If you are open to God giving you a child (i.e., not on birth control pills, etc.), then the strength and love and "wanting" will come with the child! (I realize that there are exceptions to this and that some in difficult circumstances may never come to that place. I am speaking generally.) I know of many who have waited and waited and when they are finally "ready" they wished they had more time and had started sooner. Trust God with it.

  • Pingback: Are we ready for Christians considering childlessness? | FamilyMaking

  • DJ

    I am not 100% sure that "children are gifts from God" equates with "every married person should have them." It seems the context is "how you TREAT the least of these is what you do to Christ." To me, it's about loving your neighbor and how young children are also your "neighbor"---not necessarily speaking about reproduction. Couples without children can still honor them as gifts when they act lovingly and respectfully towards the kids that God brings across their paths---whether in teaching Sunday School, through the giving of monthly support, or even speaking kindly to them in a restaurant. I guess I seem to think it's more about an attitude towards kids than whether you actually bear them.

  • Megan

    Before having kids, I struggled with infertility and the nagging possibility that it might not be God's will for me to have children. For a long time the prospect made me so angry, I thought I might become bitter and turn away from God. Then, a miracle happened. I knew people who were childless by choice, and they were perfectly normal people. They even liked children! It occurred to me childlessness, whether by choice or design, might also be a blessing from God. Who knows? Maybe God could use my talents in a way he might not have been able to if I had children.

    Shortly after this realization, I became pregnant, somewhat stereotypically, during a vacation. Though it was a relief to overcome my infertility, I'm now grateful it took so long.

    Motherhood can become an idol, too. We, as women, long to become Mary, the Madonna, the fertility goddess, the recipients of praise, attention and admiration within our churches. Whether we have children or not, we do so for narcissistic reasons. I learned this the hard way: my mother was a sorority girl, who could never accept her shy tomboyish daughter as anything but a failure.

    Acknowledging to myself it wasn't "God" but "me" who wanted the blessing of children helped set me free from those childhood wounds. I knew I could never measure up to Mom's expectations, or to those of the other women in my church, so I didn't try. This allowed me to be a happier, more fulfilled and fun-loving mother, and allowed my children to become themselves, rather than just another bauble I could proudly wear on my necklace.

    • Lisa

      Apparently, it *was* God who also wanted to bless you with children!

  • Johnny Appleton

    There is not, and should not be, any such thing as a "child-free" life for a Christian, not when we are commanded to care for the fatherless, REPEATEDLY, throughout Scripture, OT and NT...

    We can hammer at topics like homosexuality over and over ad nausea, but suggest that Christian families should have children, and lots of them, and, oh, the vitriol. Suggest that a barren couple should adopt, even more...

    The fact remains, though, is that this is what separates us from the fallen world: a love of children, both biological and adoptive. The taboo needs to be broken, and pastors need to be encouraging families to break out of their secular malaise and raise up godly seed, their own and those without families of their own.

    • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

      If you are wondering why some singles and married couples are giving some push back, the reason is very simple. Having a child or adopting a child is a major life decision. Any couple who considers having/adopting a child should take the decision seriously. It's a life time devotion that includes a tremendous commitment of time,energy,money and emotion. It seems evident to me that reading through the comments and even the original article, there is no discussion or even thought to what it takes to raise a child, properly.

      Posting that no Christian married couple should be "Child Free" encourages couples to not "count the cost". It's at best, cheer leading, at worst downright deceptive.

      Not every couple that decides not to have or adopt is child free or even childless. One teacher that I know, who is divorced and incapable of having children has done more for children in Liberia than most missionaries. Another couple who is child free both work for a school district, the wife works one on one with special needs children. She's been requested by the parents of one special needs child to continue working with him as he moves up to a new school.

      I would hope that when blanket statements are made to the effect of "all true Christians" or "there are no reasons why a Christian can't (or can) do something that we would stop and think.

      • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

        "Count the Cost"
        Yes, let's do that! But how's about we add up the price with biblical, rather than worldly currency,okay?

        http://biblehub.com/psalms/127-3.htm

        Read those precious words, over and over, in every conceivable translation, until the truth seeps into your hardened hearts..."Children are an *inheritance*... they are a *reward*

        Why do you price children the way the world does? Don't you recognize that this manner of thinking about children, as well as the technology that affords you this luxury of their avoidance, is a strictly modern invention?

        Doesn't that give you any pause?

        "...no discussion or even thought to what it takes to raise a child, properly."

        Okay, let's discuss. I say, all it takes is a heart for God, and obedience, and continuous prayer for our own little faith in His provision to be grown up by Him. And that happens, as children -- these blessings -- are added into a family, and they are grown up and nurtured in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

        And I say this as one with a history of PTSD -- because of mental illness in my family of origin, and a medical history of pre-eclampsia and bedrest in pregnancies. And we all live pretty near the poverty line in a tiny house with one bathroom in a city notorious for evil, that has more dogs in it than little children.

        My eight children have survived all this trauma, and they are amazing! They love Jesus -- well, we are waiting for the faith to grow of a few of the slower learners. :)

        And it has nothing at all to do with me, or my shoddy parenting skills, it has everything to do with the grace and mercy of my faithful God.

        • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

          Karen,
          The assumption that you are running under is that God has the exact same purpose (job, if you will) for each of us. While I'm very happy that all of your children are doing fine, you believe that all married couples should procreate unless there is some kind of physical issue. Fact is that within the Kingdom we all have different functions that we are called to do. That means that not all of us will be called to raise children. Don't automatically assume that is selfish or that the believers are out of God's Will. They could very well be exactly where God wants them and you could be encouraging them to go against God's Will.

          It's not "pricing children the way that the world does". Simply put, you are encouraging couples to do something that they may not be ready to do. Worse yet, as I said above. something that God doesn't have as part of His plan. Please do not make the assumption that God has the same plans for everyone.He might not.

        • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

          How could I have forgotten to mention the biggest indicator that I do not have what it takes "to raise a child, properly", this huge thing: http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/out-of-darkness-light/
          Yes, how could I have neglected to mention that postpartum psychotic break of fifteen years ago -- from which I am fully recovered? That is a huge blot on the good-parenting record. But to list all the reasons why I am completely incapable of raising children *properly* well, "if every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

          • http://www.lambpower.net Steve Dawson

            I am not particularly interested in whether or not you are qualified to raise children by someoneelse's standard or not. You have felt the call of God to have and raise children. I am happy that you are able to do that and I am sure that God has blessed you. However, not every Christian couple has the same call. Can you understand that this is about God's calling for each of us as individual couples?

            Think of it like this: Each of us has a ministry that we are called to by God. Not everyone is going to be a missionary or worship leader or preacher. Some of us are called to do one thing others are called to do another. Some couples are called and blessed to have a couple of children, some many children and some no children.

            You seem to believe that ALL Christian couples are called to have children. There is no basis for that statement at all.As Christians we are all called to participate in ensuring that children are protected and brought to knowledge of Christ. However, there is no mandate that each couple absolutely needs to parent.

    • Go Figure

      I think your comment is the most practical here. I actually was on the other side of the fence until I read this. Good point.

    • Lisa

      Yes, Johnny, agreed!!!

  • Leanne

    I'm wondering why it seems to be "o.k" for others to judge my childlessness. Doesn't Jesus talk about not judging others, and about loving all members in the family of believers?

    Some people have graciously said that it's not a sin to be childless if you wanted and tried to have children, but it just didn't happen. Thanks for that, but my question is this: am I spoked to tell every Christian that I meet that I am childless because God would not allow me to have children, not because I am selfish?? Do I need to replay my countless miscarriages and associated pain to every Christian that I meet, so that they will accept me as part of the church? Why can't members of the church worry about their own spiritual life, rather than mine?

    Maybe I am wishing for a salvation that I just will never have. Perhaps God does not want me in his family and this is why I have no children. Maybe I should stop forcing myself to go each week to church where I don't "fit" because I am married, but childless (thinking that I am being obedient to God), and just find something more encouraging and fulfilling to do with my time and money. I feel like I am paying "club dues" (a tithe is a lot of money), to be part of a club where I am not wanted or needed.

    Just about every church that I have encountered has proudly stated that they welcome everyone. Seems the reality is that the church welcomes those that God chooses to be his own. The evidence of which is the ability to bear children.

    • Eunice

      Leanne, your salvation is based on what Jesus has already done - His death for all our sins and His resurrection, showing His power over sin and death. It is definitely not based on whether or not you have children.

      This whole discussion aside, I sense the pain you've gone through and even though I have no idea who you are, just want to reach out and reassure you of God's love and grace and healing. God bless you, dear sister.

    • EricP

      Leanne, I'm sorry that churches have treated you this way. Far too often, people have a mental image of what a "good" Christian looks like and anyone who doesn't fit that model gets attacked.

      It's not a sin to be childless. Period. People can have many reasons for not wanting a child, not being able to have a child, or no reason at all. We are to follow Jesus. What that means for each person should look different. We have been created as unique individuals and we have a unique life to live.

      We hide the light of the Good News behind our stereotypes and prejudices.

      • Leanne

        Thank you Eunice and Eric. I wish that more Christians saw things the way that you did. Thank you for caring about how the child free feel and thank you for clarifying the way that we are saved.

    • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

      Amen to Eunice's comments!

      I wish you could go to my church, and be a part of our women's group. So many different women, so many different challenges. Some of these dear friends of mine have stopped at one child. They are secure in my affection, and know that but for the grace of God, I too would have stopped at one.

      And if he had not changed my hard heart, I would never have had any.

  • Hannah Lewis

    This is amazing. This is like a glimpse into what life would've been like if there were blogs in the 12th century.

  • Evelyn

    I really disagree with this article. I am a strong believer and my husband of 3 years and I have chosen not to have children of our own. There are some very serious genetic problems on both sides of our family that we have been blessed enough not to suffer from directly, but we are carriers. If we were to have children they could have seriously debilitating conditions and would likely die very young in life. All that being said, many "well meaning Christians" have taken it upon themselves to make my husband and I feel bad about our decision. Like, as stated in this article, we are being selfish and not trusting God, when really we just know the risks and are responsibly choosing not to take them. Now we plan on adopting one day, but there are other things that we have to do first, such as finishing college and moving into a child-friendly house, but that's another story.

    This article also displays an incredibly cruel mindset towards people that cannot physically have children. One of my very best friends cannot have children and so, instead of bemoaning the fact and feeling worthless in the eyes of God, she and her husband choose to use all their love and free-time that not having children allows them to minister to youth in their communities. They are both two of the Godliest people that I know, and yet they have no intention of every having children (or even trying) and it WORKS for them. Good Christian people without kids can have just as much of an impact on a lost world as people with kids, and in many cases, even more.

    Every Christian marriage does NOT have to have children in order to be pleasing to God and building His Kingdom. Saying or even implying that is very cruel and discounts the possibility of people without children being able to have a truly Godly impact on the world. Not everyone can have children, not everyone can even adopt, but every Christian CAN have an impact on the world and bring God's love and hope to the lost. To say any different is to discount God and His ability to use people from all walks of life.

  • carl peterson

    I think many are confused as to what the Time magazine article and I believe the GC article is addressing. The couples in the Time article are choosing to be child free. It is not they tried but could not have children. So it is not addressing infertility. It is also not speaking about those couples with medical issues in which they decide not to have children. The couples in the article also have chosen NOT to adopt. So it is not only about having biological children. I do not believe it is even really speaking towards those who decide not to have kids in order to devote themselves to God.

    It is really a difference between childless and child free. I hope this helped clear up some of the misunderstnadings.

  • Kathleen Nielson

    Thanks so much to all of you who have weighed in. Though I won’t be able to continue interacting with all these comments, I hope the following will help to clarify a few vital points in this discussion.
    Both the Time article and the blog article focused on the specific cultural trend of choosing “the childfree life” in order to be free of inconvenience and interruption to my own desires and plans. Neither article focused on women who do not have children for other diverse and complex reasons. The blog article mentioned women who cannot have children—to affirm that a perspective starting with God “lets us see the worth of a woman to whom God grants or does not grant children.” No one can lay out a set of rules about where a biblical starting point will lead in all sorts of different family circumstances: “It’s a complicated subject, but for a Christian it starts with God the Creator and giver of life.” Indeed, none of us can judge each other from the outside, not knowing our unique stories. Many comments reveal that we in the church have sometimes done that. Oh how we need to keep working on our welcome specifically for women in all their various contexts and situations.
    The Time article offered an opportunity to evaluate biblically this particular growing trend that says no to childbearing in order to be “childfree,” that is, free of the interruption and inconvenience of children. From a biblical perspective, I suggested, no believer would hold this view of children, because children come from God’s hand and they become God’s people—generation after generation, as the Scriptures tell it over and over. The largest point was to affirm the participation of all God’s people (whether they have children or not) in raising up the next generation, these children who are “infinitely worthy of labor and care—not only of the women who bear them but of all God’s people, not one of whom lives childfree.”
    One thing we will surely want to carry away from this discussion is prayer – prayer for biblical discernment, for love for our family in Christ in our churches and in the Church, and for the shining of gospel witness into the world around us and the generation coming after us.
    Kathleen Nielson

    • DaisyFlower

      It's not about being selfish, or not always about avoiding an inconvenience, but that some people are simply not interested in children, in being around them, or in having ones of their own.

      Do you have any interest in owning a pet kangaroo?

      If you say 'No,' I can say you are 'selfish' or trying to avoid the inconvenience of having a kangaroo. But the truth is probably you like kangaroos just fine, but you're simply not interested in having one yourself or in being around one all the time. The same is true for a lot of Childfree people.

      The childfree run a gamut of views and motivations. I've spent time on their sites, reading their comments. Some hate and detest all children, and that's why they don't want one. Some like kids just fine but cannot afford them.

      Some are simply not interested in having children or in being around them, as in my kangaroo example.

      It's not fair to lump all Child-free people into one, broad group and claim that selfishness is what motivates all of them.

      Jesus Christ changed family dynamics and importance of biological family.

      If you look at Christ's teachings in the New Testament, Jesus said essentially that he was forming a spiritual family, one that is grown by believers spreading the Gospel to un-believers, He never advocated that people grow the kingdom of God by making babies or marrying each other.

      Jesus taught that His family was not to be increased through sexual procreation, as you are arguing on your blog page.

      The New Testament does not command that anyone should marry or have children. It is left up to each person's choice. The New Testament affirms and upholds lifelong celibacy and lifelong singleness, if someone chooses to be that way.

      Still others of us had hoped to marry and maybe have a kid, but we never found our "Mr Right" and find ourselves single into our 40s and older.

      I did not choose to be single for as long as I have, and I believe sex outside of marriage, and thus having a kid outside of marriage, are not right, as the Bible tells people to wait for marriage to have sex.

      Views like yours condemn and judge those of us who are actually adhering to biblical teachings, so I find them harsh, unloving, rude, obnoxious, and simply incorrect.

      Matthew 10:37
      “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
      -Jesus Christ

      • Lisa

        That would be really scary if I found out I was pregnant with a kangaroo!! Because that is not the God-designed by-product of marriage. Children are. God didn't ask me if I wanted kids (or was ready for them) when he created my children in my womb.

  • Alien & Stranger

    I haven't time to go through the entire comment thread right now.
    A point I want to raise, however, is that, if you think back to "the old days", remaining childless was essentially in God's hands. That is why large families tended to be the norm, because sex resulted in procreation. In the Bible, for a woman to be childless was considered to be a curse. It's amazing how this has been turned on its head by self-centred, hedonistic liberalism that now considers children a burden and an inconvenient nuisance, rather than a blessing.
    The fact is that the invention of the contraceptive Pill, around the time of the anti-family feminist movement of the 1960s-70s, resulted in people being enabled to limit the size of their families, or even to choose not to have children at all. The allowing of no-fault/ quickie divorce, the sexual revolution and the Pill all contributed to an increase in sexual licence, as sex was removed from the context of committed marriage and procreation, and became a recreational or hedonistic pastime outside of marriage. The result of course was more "unplanned" pregnancies, when contraception failed, so that abortion on demand, the most brutal last-resort form of birth control, was bull-dozed into law by liberals, resulting in unborn babies being slaughtered wholesale.
    I was in my teens during the 1960s and, not being a Christian then, by the early 70s was caught up in the prevailing worldly culture. In my 20s, when I got married, I said I didn't want to have children - at that stage, I regarded them as irritating brats. So I used that great modern convenience, the Pill, until some years later I began to want to start a family. It was only some years after I had my children, that I became a Christian and began to understand the Biblical pattern for marriage and the family. I look back through the decades now and am vividly aware of how sex in the context of marriage, marriage itself, and the family, were devalued and undermined from the 1960s on.
    How many Christian marriage courses focus on the Biblical context of sex as an act of procreation? Not many. While not denying the importance of sex for physical intimacy in marriage, the fact is that the church has bought into the world's hedonistic attitude to sex for pleasure, and this is essentially anti-marriage and anti-family.
    How many Christians, who have decided to remain childless, have actually sought God's will for their lives? Or is it a case of, "My will, not Thine, be done"?

    • Lisa

      Yes, thank you, Alien & Stranger, for saying this so well!

  • anonymous

    When was last time your pastor asked for a show of hands of the married couples on the Pill (etc) or who are sterilized? The church has given the broader culture the absolute green light to go child-free (a form of homosexuality and SSM). This is the ultimate dividing line.

  • s

    Isn't it lovely for some of you, that you have the choice.

  • James

    If a husband and wife don't want children, then let them have no sex.

    • leanne

      So.... I assume that there will be no sex after menopause? I also assume that infertile men are not to have sex with their wives. (I hope for your sake that you never go infertile and that your wife never reaches menopause!).

      Just wondering how your viewpoint fits in with 1 Cor 7:1-6.
      Perhaps if more of us read our Bibles and applied them to our lives, we wouldn't be having these hurtful "conversations".

      Please people, if you are going to tell me that I am disobeying God because I have no children, use some authority to argue your case.
      If you can't show me where the Bible backs up your position,I'd say it's your opinion, not God's. And if it's not God's opinion, I am under no obligation comply and you are in no position to judge.

      • leanne

        .....and you might note that 1 Cor 7:1-6 says nothing about sex for the sake of procreation! It seems that Paul is saying that sex, in and of itself, is a good thing for a husband and wife to ENJOY together.

        Then again, I guess that some may want to argue that either Paul got it wrong or that a latter reactor removed the verses talking about sex being all about childbearing and nothing else...

        Perhaps we need to think these things through a little more deeply.

  • Dave

    If the central premise is, as I understand it; WILL ( of Self versus God's ), then Biblical obedience = "quiver full" taken to it's logical conclusion, demands that the question "how MANY babies is God's will" be answered.

    Furthermore, to apply the "obedience" rule consistently,....it would be SELFISH and DISOBEDIENT for the Christian parents of 15 children to unilaterally DECREE that THEY have had enough fruit bearing, and that a permanent "fix" will be emplaced to PROHIBIT anything other than THEIR will being done.

    Soothing one's conscience by pointing to the packed minivan with "stick figure family" decals plastered on the back window, just won't cut it, if even ONE time....preventive measures were used to SUBVERT your Creator's will.

  • Dave

    I think the yet to be discussed "Third Rail" for the leadership of YOUR local church regarding this topic, is THIS:
    When the TYPICAL "godly family" consists of somewhere over 10 children, consider the financial factors affecting it. In today's depressed economy, where a college degree guarantees no job security, and college students often qualify for food stamps, WHO is going to pay for these MEGA families,....? I suppose that the local Megachurch that emphasizes the WIDOWS list, will cheerfully take a cut in PASTORAL salaries to bankroll the 2000 plus families whom cannot sign up for food stamps, ( as that would be a POOR witness to the pagan world ). Crickets? It just very quiet in here.

  • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

    There is a whole lot of work to do without adding to scripture the mandate that married couples must have children.

    Making our faith about something other than Jesus drives people away from the Gospel.

  • Trevor Minyard

    Everybody...please chill.

    Go outside at lunch or after work and tell a stranger about Jesus.

    That is all.

  • KristinR

    So...basically the proper "Christian" attitude towards childless couples is either to feel sorry for them because they haven't been bestowed the ultimate high honor of parenthood, or skeptically judgmental towards them for their sinful choices?

    As a married, childless person, the hardest part in this is trying to maintain some privacy. I shouldn't feel a need to spill the beans about our infertility just so people "don't get the wrong idea."

    • leanne

      Yes, it's interesting that many people on this post seem to think that those of us who have no children should share our most intimate sexual problems (and given that more than one person has stated that if Christians don't want children they ought not have sex, I take it that they claim that this IS a sexual problem).
      This being the case, perhaps those of us who are "cursed under God" (as i now feel that I am), ought to ask the rest of you how your sex lives are going and whether you are having any sexual problems. Surely this would be a way of ensuring that we help those with children to be accountable to US for their sex lives.

  • Nell

    One reader commented

    "You Christians who contemplate the connubial bliss of "child-free" -- unfetter your loins, open your hearts, and bear children for the saving of your souls."

    Said reader appears to believe she understand how to interpret Scripture. This is not what this verse means. Children do not save our souls. One Child saved our souls.

  • scottie

    Kathleen Nielson, you said,

    "From a biblical perspective, I suggested, no believer would hold this view of children, because children come from God’s hand and they become God’s people—generation after generation, as the Scriptures tell it over and over."

    What exactly do you mean by "children come from God's hand and they become God's people -- generation after generation"?

    If you mean that the children of Christian parents take the baton and continue with the faith of their parents, you know as well as I do that many times this does not happen.

  • DaisyFlower

    The Bible, under the New Testament, nowhere commands any one to marry and have children.

    This is sort of a common belief in churches, or denominations, aberrant groups, or among some individual Christians, who have made marriage and nuclear family into an idol.

    Articles such as this one, which are critical of the Child Free, are making children, parenting, and marriage into golden calves.

    Not only are some Christian groups saying that having children is mandatory (and to not have them is sinful), but some teach the same thing about marriage: that being single is a sin, and being married (and some add being married young) is a biblical command (when in fact the Bible teaches it is a personal choice).

    These types of Christians are actually trying to reestablish Old Testament lifestyles and norms, where the nation/ faith was often increased by having biological heirs. Women back then had to depend on a male family member (or spouse), or else go into prostitution to support themselves.

    Jesus sought to do away with all that. Your status as a Christian is not dependent on being married or having children or having male relatives.

    The kingdom is supposed to increase by Christians sharing the Good News with unbelievers they are probably not related to.

    Matthew 10:37
    "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
    -Jesus Christ

    Luke 12:51-53
    "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
    - Jesus Christ

    Matthew 10:50
    "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." -Jesus Christ

    See? you don't literally have to be married and literally biologically procreate to be a mother, son, father.

    The key point is knowing Jesus.

    You're in His family if you know Him. To teach otherwise is to make marriage/family into an idol and to exclude people who are unable to marry and have kids (such as infertile people, etc).

  • Pingback: Burying Our Talents | Now...Through A Glass Darkly

    • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/ Karen Butler

      I saw this pop up on a trackback to my blog. But the new title of the post is "Seeing Through the 'Overton Window' Some Burying Their Talents", and here's a quote much more fair to my actual thought in the piece:

      "And if you have faith that your circumstances are excusing you from this kind of investment in childrearing, such as the risk of death to a mother, Romans 14:23 certainly applies to you. And we are not to judge another’s servant."

      And this quote explains further the "Overton Window Thingy" for those mystified by that term: The 'Overton Window' of acceptability is clearly

      "...going on a trajectory, and moving in an inexorable direction, that speaks eloquently to me that the wrath of God abides on this Christianization of “Children are a Choice” thinking:

      Proposing the use of artificial means of birth control was unthinkable in the Church a century ago and now it is unthinkable not to make use of it! And we see in this thread the normalization of ‘Child-free’ — because Jesus was ‘Child-free’ too, you know! Must be acceptable! What is next for the quote unquote evangelical church is unthinkable --the normalization of abortion as a 'reasonable' choice.

      But what is unthinkable is now an outlier in the evangelical church — the Overton Window is indeed moving like a juggernaut. Observe a pastor like Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel, who believes Jesus will look the other way, citing the case of the woman caught in adultery, in giving counsel to a woman tempted to abort co-joined twins. Chuck Smith, counseled a distraught woman in a difficult pregnancy that, “in a case like this where the life expectancy is just, you know, is so bleak, and all, that I’m sure that the Lord would not condemn her if she went ahead and had an abortion at this early stage of the development of the fetus.” This same kind of pragmatic thinking that Smith later defended as “reasonable” is at the heart of the Christian use of birth control. It accuses the Master who brings or seeks to bring forth life in difficult circumstances of being hard, and unreasonable."

  • Jeff

    I have read this entire thread of comments, and reserved judgment on any who have posted until I have had time to consider multiple viewpoints on the matter(s) at hand.

    I have a few thoughts to add:

    1. No one has the mind of God to determine what the will of God is for any individual, and should not pass judgment on anyone for their decisions about the call of God on their life to have/not have children.

    2. If the Biblical mandate to have children was as consequential to living a holy life as some on this blog purport, it would have been included in the OT list of commandments; it was not.

    3. The church today has many other looming issues that are far more important to the centrality of the gospel being put forth globally, than the issue of childlessness. The larger issue of idolatry, for example, is a case worth making from our pulpits, but the subset of the argument about childlessness should not necessarily be the focus of any one sermon series.

    4. Because the issues of sexuality and intimacy is a part of this discussion, along with idolatry, the discussion of this topic will always have a likely emotional charge that prevents some from engaging this issue with the proper amount of self control that leads to productive debate. This is not a criticism of any one person, but a general observation that rings true on this site and others.

    5. Just because the church does not agree on this topic is not reason to stop the debate, however attempting to "convert" large groups to another group's "biblical" definition of holy union as God describes will always include the taint of sin due to the fact that all humans are fallible. As a result, a huge dose of humility must be on display when claiming to have distilled the "perfect will of God in Christ Jesus" for anyone other than yourself.

    Thanks for reading! Let the discussion continue.

  • brian vrbicek

    Thanks Jeff! I too, have read the ENTIRE thread to this post. The spectrum is quite large in views. Things i thought were great about your post:

    - THE NEW TESTAMENT: Arguments made for everyone having children only reference the old testament and the old covenent. Jesus was the new covenent. We do not have to follow the law but are set free. Jesus, makes no mention of how our families should be structured.

    -NOT JUDGING: Thanks for bringing us back to a point where we are not ever the ones to cast judgment on one another. We can express our views and opinions and our beliefs of what God has put on our hearts, but, those are YOUR beliefs, and interpretations. The bible was originally written a long time ago in a completely different language. Unless you were there when it was written AND are fluent in it, the bible is up for interpretations. Stop quoting one verse out of it and applying it to everyone everywhere. Yes, some of it is more clear and than other parts of it but these are all interpretations of the bible that have been translated and then sometimes translated again. It is God inspired and thats it. God didn't write the bible. God inspired it. We can interpret and ask God for discernment, but that is still OUR interpretation of what God puts on our hearts

  • Michael Hedrick

    My previous comment was deleted, I think. Disappointing. I'd at least like to know why - I wasn't aware that I did anything wrong.

  • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

    My heart weeps for the church when an article like this can be posted on a site that is dedicated to The Gospel.

    So many cruel things are said in this article about those who do not have children, and even more cruel things are said in the comments. Do you have ANY idea how this is regarded by the world and the picture it shows of Jesus? This is more fodder for people to lob at the Gospel, and yet it isn't the Gospel that they are reacting to, but extra rules added on by the church.

    Yes, it is cruel to tell someone that his or her personal choice to not have children is idolatry. Why must Christians make extra-Biblical standards out of the things that they do and insist that others must do? Do you know what this does? It HIDES the Gospel. It makes Jesus less known, and your own rules more known.

    The arguments from scripture are overstated. It is not a clear mandate AT ALL that all couples must bare children.

    It is TERRIBLE advice to encourage a couple that does not want children to have children. It's not just about them, but about their children if they indeed go through with it. There are enough problems with couples that WANT children raising children and dealing with the stress, now you want to tell people who don't want them to have them anyway? Or do you know they won't and it's just a matter of feeling superior over them by creating a rule that you meet and they will not?

    You know what would be way more productive than writing articles about others who aren't doing what you do well, which is apparently having children? Find the things you aren't doing well that God has called you to, and work on that. And write articles that are more focused on what God has clearly said in his scripture, rather than Christian sub-cultural "norms" that are more about fitting into an image than doing the will of our Heavenly Father.

    I've met so many women who find their identity in bearing children, not Jesus. They need to repent, and in doing so they will find real life. We all do it- I make idols out of my own passions. But articles like this will only encourage women to see themselves as baby makers and find their identity in motherhood rather than Christ.

    I am a single father with custody. And part of the reason I am is because my ex-wife found her identity in getting pregnant and having a child rather than in Jesus. And that identity let her down, so she isn't here any more. I'm so glad for my son and I'm glad he is with me. He is amazing. But it would be far better for him to have two parents at home who love him and find their identities in Christ. Instead, he has one parent at home and one who bought the lie that the Gospel, and her life, was about having Children. She's still trying to figure out how to be a parent to him several hundred miles away.

    Stop hiding the Gospel- our faith isn't about children. Be a light instead. If you do, the children will follow as God wills.

    • Colleen Cunningham

      Thank you for this. This article was painful to read but your comment is healing.

    • Jared

      Thank you for your words and bravery to speak truth even when it's unpopular, Jeff.

  • Leanne

    Yes Michael, one of mine was also. In my case, I assume that it was deleted because I said that Kathryn's article had caused me a lot of emotional pain.

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  • http://www.katav.co.uk/ John McKeown

    We have two children, but I disagree with article's emphasis on reproduction. It seems closer to Old Testament than the New. After all, Jesus, Paul and most writers in early centuries of Christianity chose to not even get married - they were more interested in (in a sense) "reproducing" spiritually. The Holy Spirt works wherever He likes, you don't need to be born to Christian parents. And look at 1 Corinthians 7, when Paul discusses reasons for marriage he doesn't mention childbearing.

    A couple years back I wrote a PhD on this topic, and its chapters are freely available online:
    http://katav.co.uk/chapters-christian-reproduction/

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  • Colleen Cunningham

    "My heart weeps for the church when an article like this can be posted on a site that is dedicated to The Gospel." Thank you, Jeff.

    Jesus told us to love each other. I don't have children and therefore you (the author and her supporters) don't think I'm a Christian? You don't love others and therefore I don't think you're a Christian.

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  • Jeff

    Topic aside, it grieves my heart and I believe God's as well how we as believers converse together about any particular subject. Does anyone else see the irony in that this is after all a "gospel coalition"? Yet the grace of God appears to be absent in many of the posts here. Brothers and sisters can I make an appeal to us all as the Holy Spirit calls to us in Ephesians 4:2-3, "Be completely humble and gentle, be patient bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." This of course does not mean throw away your convictions, but speak them humbly and gently and have a teachable spirit to learn from one another.

    • Jeff

      Let me just add, that as important as you view your convictions on the issue of the child-free life, do you not view living graciously and treating one another as Christ has treated you as more important? Isn't that after all what draws us to the Gospel Coalition? And if so then let us confess the sin of condemning one another in the process of our discussion. John 13:34-35

    • Jared

      Jeff, I wholeheartedly agree. For some reason articles like this bring out complete "snarkiness" and even vitriol. It absolutely astounds me that people could say such mean-spirited things and claim that they are just trying to speak truth.

      • Jeff Lindell

        Jarod, from my perspective I don't think the article itself is what brings out the "snarkiness" in us. Jesus said that it is out of the outflow of our heart that the mouth speaks or in this case writes. I don't think the article is anti-gospel necessarily. It's a believer writing what she believes the Bible says about children and the purpose of marriage. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Kathleen is beside the point. What I would hope for us who embrace the gospel (myself included because I do not claim to be without fault in this area) is an attitude of humility. I believe the reason we can be "snarky" whatever the issue is because we can't conceive that we could actually be wrong about the issue. Rather than humbly raise good questions and seek to understand further a person's perspective first, we assume we know and we assume we are right. Why is it that we assume we are right? Isn't it pride within our hearts? Perhaps deeper still, if the other person is indeed correct about what Scripture says (in this case let me assume for sake of argument that Kathleen is correct), perhaps it is a resistance to living in a God honoring way because we have made an idol out of what we believe, (which in this case would be child-free living).

        As a "Gospel Coalition" it seems to me what these comments should be saturated with is people who both agree and disagree humbly conversing and pursuing truth together while taking a deep look into their own hearts. For the person who agrees, should we not seek to see if we are raising up a bar of legalism which God does not raise, thus leaving the gospel behind? And for the person who disagrees, should we not be exploring if we are resistant because we are holding tightly onto something other than Christ for life, thus again leaving the gospel behind?

        What I read here sound a just like what I see in the world. Consider what sort of gospel witness this site would further have if unbelievers who read through the comments regardless of the position taken saw people on both sides humbly and lovingly conversing about the issue to discern if their is either legalism or idolatry in their hearts, confessing their sins to one another and thanking one another in the process for the speaking truth in a loving way. And if in the end disagreement remains, there is nevertheless a sense of mutual love and respect that prevails. Would that not be the real aroma of a gospel coalition?

        • Jared

          Jeff Lindell (not sure if you're the original Jeff or not),

          I'm with you 100%. I would just clarify that by my "articles like this" statement I meant that articles like this very, very often serve as mechanisms or platforms via the comment section for people to beat each other over the head with their opinions.

          But again, with you 100%. At the end of the day it's not the article itself that is the problem, but rather our own (myself often included) lack of humility, tact, and love when responding to people who disagree with us.

  • Karsten

    Months ago, I came across this article: http://soulation.org/breakfastreading/2012/08/does-god-call-some-to-childlessness.html

    I took notice of one reader's comment, which stated, "The decision to be childless, or not; married, or not speaks to God's beautiful and deliberate diversity."

    How would you personally respond?

    • Jeff Lindell

      Karsten,

      Thanks for the article. I think the subject it definitely one worth dialoguing humbly together about provided we continue to go back to God's Word rather than be blown and tossed by our opinions of what makes sense. As for how I would respond I would take a look at the quote in light of what God has said and see how they match up, which is what I will attempt to do.

      As I read Scripture, I think God is pretty clear on what He desires and the perspective he calls His people to have in the OT. The question perhaps is if anything has changed from a NT perspective.

      Let me start with the OT. Certainly there is the command to be fruitful and multiply. Though one person saw this as a command to just Adam and Eve, that would have been a pretty hefty command for just two people to do alone. It is clearly one given to humanity, and it reveals God's vision to have His earth filled with those who reflect His image.

      As others have mentioned, Malachi 2:15 reveals part of God's purpose in marriage which is there in Genesis 1 as well. Why does God bring two of His people together and unite them in marriage? God tells us why in that passage. He is seeking Godly offspring. God still has a vision of an earth filled with those who bear his image, and He calls His people to His vision. This reveals as well that marriage is not just a relationship that serves the purpose of meeting our needs and desires (though that is part), it also serves the purpose of giving to God what He wants, which according to this passage is children who love and serve Him. The call would thus be to both having children and discipling them.

      Without doing an exhaustive study of the OT, what we see from the beginning of the OT to end is a God who calls His people to bear children for His vision and glory!

      Not only that we see that this call is also a blessing. We see in Exodus 1 where the people of God were fulfilling this calling and God was behind it. The blessing of children was so great that Egypt saw Israel's numbers as a threat. Further the midwives who were instructed to kill the babies and refused to do so, God also blessed with children.

      Psalm 127 I believe brings these 2 principles together. Verses 1-2 seem to be about recognizing that we must work with God to gain the blessing of God. For example, God is the one who gives protection to the city, not the watchman, but this does not mean the watchman do not need to watch. The watching is only in vain if the watchman to not watch with trust in God. The people of God are encouraged to pursue the blessing that comes from working with Him. Verses 3-5 I believe continue that idea regarding children. First we are told that children are a blessing from God. God is the one who gives them, just as it is God who protects the city. Then we are told, "Blessed is the man who fills his quiver full of them." In other words the blessed person is the one who joins God in pursuing the blessing of children. While this certainly isn't a command it is nevertheless a strong encouragement to seek this blessing and play an active role with God in pursuing it.

      So the OT as I read it reveals God's calling upon His people to have children and He tells them that doing so is also a blessing. In the words of Psalm 127, children are like arrows in the hands of warrior. This seems to suggest that the children of God's people have a redemptive role on this earth. Raising up Godly offspring is a means of waging war against Satan and sin, seeking to reclaim what was lost at the fall, and seeking to bless God by filling the earth with those who fear Him.

      Now regarding the quote, I don't believe the OT says much if anything about singleness. So if we evaluate the quote based on the OT, I don't think there would be any validity in it. Marriage and children or singleness are not talked about in terms of God creating diversity. They are talked about in terms of fulfilling God's vision of an earth filled with those who fear Him and reflect His image and are considered a blessing to be pursued.

      So does anything change in the NT. To start with, this same vision of an earth filled with those who fear God appears in the NT as well, as Jesus calls his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. And of course we see the grand picture of a New Heavens and a New Earth filled those who no longer sin all for the glory of God. God's vision has not changed and will be achieved, though we now have a now have a new means of achieving it: bringing the gospel to the world.

      However, we also see that the OT means of providing for God a godly offspring is not necessarily eliminated. In Ephesians 6:4, father's are called to bring up their children in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord, and in Titus 2 mothers are called to love their children. In both cases of course children are already a present reality. Nevertheless, we see God still has a vested interest in their child training. He is still seeking godly offspring from among His people through child bearing and rearing. However, what we can't conclude from these 2 texts is that child bearing is or is not still a calling of God.

      Where I think it gets interesting is in 1 Cor. 7 where Paul mentions that God gives certain gifts to people. One gift that Paul has is celibacy (7:7), but he recognizes that not all have this gift. In context it appears that the another gift is that of marriage. Each person has their own gift. Singleness (I believe for the first time in Scripture) is clearly raised up as a blessing to the Kingdom and a gift from God because that person is able to devote themselves completely to God and His kingdom purposes. As with the quote mentioned above, there is a "deliberate diversity" which is beautiful to God and part of His sovereign plan.

      Now the idea of a decision to be childless, apart from singleness we do not find at all in Scripture (to my knowledge). Certainly there were couples who were childless, but they were that way by God's design. But the decision for a married couple to be childless is quite foreign to the Bible because the idea of birth control is foreign to it. Tubal ligation was not around, neither was the pill, or condoms or the like. These are relatively new technological developments and with any technology, just because we can doesn't mean we should. We have to evaluate it in light of what God has said and what God values.

      The author of the article stated this about their choice to be childless, "I have come to look at it as like a call to celibacy." The author is placing it in the category of being a gift from God. Now if a couple who could not have children spoke of it as a gift from God or a calling, there would be no debate on the matter. However, I believe the decision of to be childless is different, because it involves a deliberate choice to prevent children. In the case of celibacy God gives a person the restraint to be able to live that way. In the gift of marriage God does not. God is in control of both those things and the giver of each. Not only that what the person is making a choice to prevent is something God calls a blessing and in the context of marriage God encourages the pursuit of. I don't see anywhere in NT where God points us in a different direction away from what God encourages in the OT (though I am open to being pointed to one).

      I also believe we need to be careful when we see our wants as being from God, since God Himself says, "The heart is deceptive above all things." We don't naturally want what God wants are are prone to rationalizations that help us get what we want. Perhaps a couple does not want to have children. Perhaps their desires even seem sincere. Perhaps they want to be childless so that they can completely devote themselves to reaching inner city children whom they have a heart for. I would believe that their desire to reach inner city children is a good one, but if they believe their desire to be childless is from God, then why not test it and trust Him regarding whether they have children or not. Why not let God know your desire and what you think, and then let Him decide since He after all knows best? Why seek to maintain that control over whether or not we have children? After all if we call ourselves followers of Christ, then it seems to me we ought to be a people who like Christ lift our desire to God and then say, "Not what I want, but what you want" and let God be in control of the process. Perhaps He may even give you children and you would come discover experientially that children really are a blessing beyond what you could have imagined and worthy joining with God as a means of seeking to expand His kingdom?

      • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

        Jeff,
        I do not think you have established a clear teaching from the OT. Yes, God commanded to populate the earth, but we know that command was not directed at every believer because of the call to singleness for some. And Paul was not the first to talk about a call to singleness. Jesus said it in Matthew 19:12. When Jesus talks about it he is in the middle of a conversation of divorce; he no doubt has in mind the belief that divorce for barrenness was an allowed (or even compelled) in order to fulfill the Genesis mandate. He was refuting this idea that the call to populate the earth was mandated to all believers. If it was, then no one could be called to singleness. Also, by extension it means that barrenness cannot be a justified reason for divorce.

        Obviously as a people we are to populate the earth, but it is clear this is not a mandate to all individual believers. You can infer that it is commanded of all married folks, but we just don't have enough information to say that with certainty. In fact, that some married believers are barren tells us that this is not a mandate to all married believers. You have to at the least fall back to a subset of "all married believers who are able to have children", but I think we are reading into the text pretty heavily at that point. And the fact that some married folks remain barren means that having children is not an essential component to marriage.

        Regarding Malachi 2:15, it's a stretch to read it as a command to have children. Having children is not what is in view- the text assumes these men will have children. It is what KIND of children will be had. The men divorcing the wives of their youth weren't doing so to avoid having children, but to marry pagan wives.

        Of course we need to be careful when we see our wants as being from God, but we ought not to think that just because we want something that it is bad. There is no reason to believe the birth control is bad or harmful. And in fact, in our current culture, failure to use birth control can put a tremendous strain on a family and even physically harm women. I would say it often goes beyond "want" and to "prudent" and a "wise choices".

        When you encourage couples that do not want children to have them anyway, you better pray that you are right. Because the damage done to an unwanted child that is seen as a burden can be tremendous.

        Why seek to maintain control over whether we have children? Because the control is available to us, it is wise and safe to use, and God doesn't say we shouldn't. I'll bet 90% of the folks commenting here who are married have used birth control. If you really believe we should let God control pregnancy and not us, then that means no birth control at all. The question isn't whether to have children or not, but whether to have as many as possible before the body wears out or the strain becomes too much on the family and somebody cracks.

        There are plenty of women out there who had 8 or 9 children in faith, and now are broken and miserable. Not all of these stories have happy endings.

        We are in a far different culture with a far different infant mortality rate than when the scripture was written. Our needs as families are very different, as are the needs of our culture. Children ARE a blessing from the Lord. I know, I have a son and he is amazing. But that doesn't mean they are the right choice for everyone.

        • Karsten

          Thanks for your perspectives. I recently came another Christian article concerning the childfree. This time, it's from Christianity today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/september/fruitful-callings-of-childless-by-choice.html?start=1

          What would you say you liked and what you disagreed on?

          • Jeff Lindell

            Karsten, thanks for the article. Rather than write one long response, I'll break it up into different entries relating to the different arguments in the article. This will also make provide me with the opportunity to be make the best use of my time.

            One question the article raised that was a good one regarding this issue is, "Does a married couple need to have children to bring glory to God?" I agreed with the author that the essence of marriage is not children. Certainly the essence of marriage is more about a reflection of the unity of Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32) and the Church and the unity within the Trinity (John 17:21). In all of our discussion we do not want to lose sight of what is central about marriage: being a reflection of God as a couple. Also, we need to recognized that some couples cannot have a children, and they are not less able to bring God glory than a couple that does. Whatever circumstances God places us in life whether giving children or withholding them, we are called to do them to the glory of God.

            At the same time, just because children are not at the center of what marriage is about does not eliminate them from the purpose altogether. There is no other God glorifying context for children other than marriage. Marriage is God's only design for bringing children into being and the fact that the command to reproduce is also given for animals does not therefore mean that being fruitful and multiplying is not an important command by God for marriage. It simply reveals that animals share God's calling given for marriage. The uniqueness of it comes in the fact that humanity alone can reproduce image bearers who rule over God's creation! Note the context of the call in Genesis 1:27-28. We are first told that we are created in His image. In context what that means is that we are to rule as an extension of His authority on this earth, and He wants us to spread this authority over the earth by having more children. And what are we to rule over? They are called to rule over animal life. Thus, part of the purpose for marriage given in Genesis 1 is that as animal life spreads throughout the earth, so does God's rule spread by the growing number of those who bear His image. Thus, I believe the quote below makes too much of the fact that being fruitful and multiplying is not unique to humanity by not taking the context of the passage into account.

            The command to "be fruitful and multiply" is not given merely to the man and the woman. It is also given to the animals (Gen 1:22) and is thus not a directive given uniquely to human marriage. This in itself calls into question whether the essence of marriage is in view here...

            So here is the big picture that I believe helps for getting a grasp of why we seek to have children from a biblical standpoint. God's vision right from Genesis 1 is an earth filled with those who bear His image exercising His authority and rule over the entire planet. Keep in mind, this does not change in the New Testament (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 2:25-29, Revelation 20:6). As a result, when a Christian family has children and seeks to raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, they do so with the intent of expanding God's dominion and authority just as we do in evangelism. Imagine how much more effective we might be if Christian parents committed to having more than just 2 children (since only having 2 keeps numbers essentially the same) and to evangelism (just some food for thought).

            My intent in this first entry was to dispel the idea in the article that because "be fruitful and multiply" is not unique to humanity, and not the center of what marriage is about (imagining God) does not mean that it is not one of God's important purposes for marriage.
            In my next entry I will address the issue in the article raised regarding our purpose or calling in regard to spiritual giftedness.

            • Jeff Lindell

              The main thrust of the argument in the article, I believe could simply be boiled down to this, "I don't have a desire to have children, therefore God is not calling me to do so." Here are a few of her statements: "Neither of us FEELS any desire to reproduce, certainly not right now…", "My purpose is not determined by my...DESIRE to reproduce", "others might not have kids because God blessed them with passions and gifts that give them the same sense of FULFILLMENT and JOY that their friends get from their children."

              Now certainly we all have passions, talents, and skills that we seek to use for the glory of God. However, the danger I believe in her statement is that she roots our purpose or our calling as human beings in our own feelings. Doing so opens up the door for each person to determine their own purpose based on what they want to do. However, I think we need to be cautious here for 2 reasons. First as Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things." That means we are all prone to try to rationalize our desires even seeking to find biblical grounds for them. For all of us including myself it can be a temptation to try to read a certain position into Scripture rather than allow God to speak to us from His word. The second reason is that Christ's call to any who seek to follow Him is to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). This means that our purpose is primarily driven not by what we want or even our passions, but by God's call upon our lives again from His Word. I think for this reason that the heart of this discussion really comes down to whether or not there is scripture that reveals that one of God's purposes for marriage which should not be neglected is too seek to bless God with children. I have already argued previously that Genesis 1:26-27 is one such text, and the fact that it is right there in the garden suggests that this command is not simply limited to Israel. It has been God's intention from the beginning. Nevertheless, I will reserve discussion of other passages for later.

              That said let me just raise some issues with some of her arguments. Consider what she has to says in this quote:

              "While we do see children as a blessing, we see them as a blessing that God gives to some people, not all. Some people don't have kids because they never marry. Some have to face heartbreaking infertility and can't have children. And others might not have kids because God blessed them with passions and gifts that give them the same sense of fulfillment and joy that their friends get from their children."

              First, how can a person compare one's joy's and fulfillments from one area of life with another's? We have no means to do so such that I could say my joy from doing this is the same as yours in doing that. Simply put, we have no way to measure joy and fulfillment.

              Second, the person who has not had children simply does not know the joy and fulfillment that comes from having children, so he or she has no foundation to know whether the joy and fulfillment that she receives from writing is comparable to that of having children. She simply has no basis to make the claim.

              Third, she states that children are a blessing, but God does not give them to everyone. That is a true statement as she mentions with single people as well as with infertile couples. However, to associate actively preventing pregnancy because of a lack of a desire to have children as God choosing not to give them children is a bit of a stretch. Certainly one could argue, that the lack of children falls under the sovereignty of God which would be true. At the same time if someone were to say, God has not blessed me with friends, and yet they never leaves the house, then we would see that the lack of friends has much more to do with the person's choice to isolate themselves than in God's lack of seeking to bless them with friends.

              Since really I believe this discussion ought to be grounded in Scripture I will add another post or two offering what I believe is sound exegesis of some crucial texts that tell us that every Christian marriage should pursue the blessing of children for the glory of God.

  • Jeff Lindell

    Jeff S.

    Thanks for the dialogue! Let me start with where we are in agreement. You stated, "the fact that some married folks remain barren means that having children is not an essential component to marriage." I would agree with this to a certain degree in saying that any definition of marriage should not be tied to the ability to have children, but to the ability to reflect God in their union. I would not say that a couple that is unable to have children is somehow less valuable to the kingdom or that their marriage is less glorifying to God. However, I would say infertility is a by-product of the fall (which I believe is clear through verses I will mention below) just as disease is, though we nevertheless believe that God works all things for good and in His sovereignty uses such things for His glory. Yet we recognize that this was not the way God intended things from the beginning.

    I appreciate the point with Matthew 19:12 and do stand corrected. Certainly that passage is the first passage mentioned on singleness and I appreciate the addition of it into the discussion. I believe you are taking the text too far though by stating that Jesus was refuting the mandate to populate the earth. As you stated, the context is divorce not the mandate. However, I would agree that what Jesus said certainly included the idea that divorce was not an option in the case of barrenness, since in order to achieve the mandate, to do so would be to sin in one way in order to in a sense obey in another.

    Perhaps our difference lies in regard to how we understand what is meant by a mandate. It seems that you are viewing it similar to a command of God that applies to all people everywhere in all situations. Certainly it doesn't apply to those who remain single since one would have to sin in order to achieve it or marry which would be to neglect their gift of celibacy, and we both recognize and affirm the validity of singleness in Scripture as a gift from the Lord. It seems clear to me that the mandate applies to those who lack the gift of celibacy. Now whether or not God blesses a couple with children is beside the point. The couple can still seek to fulfill the mandate by seeking to have children. The results are up to God.

    Regarding Malachi 2:15, I would agree that there is definitely a focus on the kind of children they have, but that is not the only focus. God is making clear one reason (not the only reason) why He unites a couple in marriage. Like Jesus did in Matthew 19 regarding divorce, God is pointing His people back to the basics of marriage stating one of His intentions for uniting a couple together. Also, I don't believe the text necessarily assumes they will have children. Part of the problem may well be that the divorce is what actually prevented the marriage from bringing about the offspring God desired. Either way whether we are looking at situation where the divorce prevents the couple from being fruitful for God or the divorce is preventing the couple from raising children who are godly, is not God still making a statement about his intentions in marriage generally? Verse 15 tells us it is God who unites a couple in marriage, and we are told part of the reason (not all of course) for uniting a couple together. The question, "What was God seeking?" asks what one of God's intentions for uniting a couple together was for--what he wants out of His investment. The answer we are given is godly offspring, and you can't offer that to God unless you first have children and then raise them up in his ways. And as I said before this fits with his greater vision of an earth filled with people who reflect Him, which is undoubtedly a theme from Genesis-Revelation.

    As far as your comments on birth control, I believe they are tied to some assumptions which are more cultural than biblical. You seem to assume that large families are not a blessing and place tremendous strain on those families. Job had 7 children, then lost 7 children and was blessed with 7 more. 7 is a lot of children isn't it? It is in my book, but we told this was a blessing from God. Also should we assume this really wasn't a blessing from God and placed too much strain on his wife to have 14 children despite the fact that the text makes it clear that this was a blessing? Or in Exodus 1, when it is clear that that the Israelites because of the blessing of God were having extraordinarily large families so much so that they went from around 70 people joining one of the largest nations on earth and then their numbers becoming roughly equal or greater quite quickly. The fertility rate is so high that Pharoah feels a need to intervene with his own means of birth control! Would you say that God was not being wise or prudent in what He was doing, that He wasn't really making wise choices in regard to his people and placing a tremendous burden on them? Also, to suggest that infant mortality rates were different back then compared to now and thus we have reason to limit our families size is simply not biblical. One of the promises God gives to his people if they keep the covenant as they head into the promise land is that none will miscarry and there will be no barren in the land (Exodus 23:26). No doubt this is exactly what was happening in Exodus 1. Further, one of God's covenant promises in Deuteronomy 28:11 is that God will make their families abound in numbers, which doesn't suggest they will have 1 or 2 kids, but rather a very large family. Even Psalm 127 says, "Blessed is the man who fills his quiver full" of children. The quiver in context is a warrior term. The picture is of a man preparing for battle cramming as many arrows as he possibly can inside his quiver. God is saying a man is blessed if he seeks to have a large family. What those who do not have large families don't realize is that large families are a wonderful way to disciple your children to be focused on others rather than themselves. With large numbers of children, a family simply can't cater to what a child wants and there is a need for older children to help out with younger ones. Parent's simply can't do it all, as a result, the older ones get training for raising their own families, develop a great work ethic, gain a strong sense of importance in the family and the younger ones are called up more quickly. I have 5 children age 7 and under, and am good friends with 2 families who have 9 children, and have seen this to be true from experience.

    I think your other arguments against birth control are also all pragmatic. "God doesn't say we shouldn't!" God doesn't we shouldn't do drugs either does he? Another argument seemed to be essentially, "Almost everyone is doing it?" We both know that one isn't a biblical argument. "There are plenty of women out there who had 8 or 9 children in faith, and now are broken and miserable. Not all of these stories have happy endings." Simply to highlight the failures and use that as an argument against having large families isn't wise either. Should we not look to see what brought about the failure rather than make assumptions about it. We don't discourage parenting because some children walk away from God, we don't discourage pastoring because some or even many pastor's get burnt out, we don't discourage evangelism because we don't see much success. The list could go on and on. I for one have seen wonderful things going on in large families. Sure there are exceptions, but what I have seen encouraged me to look at Scripture and rethink what I believed, and it has set me on a new course.

    Large families aside, let me get back to the subject of childlessness. From an OT perspective, within the context of marriage childlessness was never viewed as good. Abraham, Isaac, Rachel, Hannah in the OT, and Zechariah and Elizabeth in the NT to name a few. Also aside from previous texts mentioned such as Exodus 23:26 and Deuteronomy 28:11, consider also Deuteronomy 7:14, Psalm 113:9, Psalm 128 as well. God is quite clear in the OT. Childlessness is not a blessing, but having children and many children at that is.

    I think part of what makes this subject so hard even in my own journey with it is, is that we all have been saturated in our own culture. As a result, we think like the culture, and we will have a tendency to read those thoughts into Scripture, and we have prideful idolatrous hearts that so often want to hang onto what we believe. I once though just as you do, but my ideas were gradually challenged by others and by God's word. Sometimes as C.S. Lewis once said, we are content with mud pies when God offers us a vacation as the beach. And in this case, some times we can't fathom that children and large families could actually be blessing and are content to stay right were we are.

    • Michael Hedrick

      Jeff,

      From your comments, it seems like you are a part of (or at least share a similar ideology with) the so-called "Quiverfull Movement."

      There are a number of problems with your argument here, so I'll focus in on the most concerning from a hermeneutical standpoint. First, you rely almost entirely on the OT. This is probably a very inconsistent hermeneutical approach, as I'm assuming that in other matters of Christian living, you defer to the NT rather than the OT. (For example, I'm assuming you don't advocate for an earthly monarchy, stoning disobedient children, forbidding the wearing of clothing made from mixed textiles, etc.). Why do you pick and choose the OT cultural components regarding large families, while you reject almost everything else? (And this is not even considering issues like soteriology - must we still offer sacrifices, which the OT deems as good and pleasing to the Lord?)

      Second, (and this is closely correlated with the first), you don't do justice to the fullness of God's revelation in the NT. Not only do you give too much emphasis to OT, but you give too little attention to the NT commands regarding marriage and families. You argue that the "ideal" in the OT was being married, with lots of kids. But what about Paul's suggestion to the Corinthian Christians that they not get married due to their particular circumstances? While I agree with you that marriage is a good, God-given gift, I also have to acknowledge that the NT teaches that sometimes Christians are not called to enjoy every such gift. If Paul deemed it acceptable for some Christians not to get married, how much more would he deem that in some circumstances it is appropriate (and even wise) for some Christians to not have children, or to at least postpone childbearing for a period of time?

      Lastly, and this is more a comment about historical-critical methods, your reliance on OT depictions of families and childbearing fails to account for the vast historical and cultural divide between the ancient Near East and our modern world. Large families were a blessing in the ANE for a number of different reasons, most of which are no longer applicable for most Christians reading and commenting on TGC's blog. To be sure, modern families who enjoy many children may consider themselves blessed, but in a much different way than an ancient Israelite would have considered themselves blessed. (For example, most of the Christians who access TGC's website do not rely on their children as a crucial component of their family's livelihood in the same way that an ancient Israelite family would have. Likewise, most modern Christians do not rely on a large extended family for security and defense - we have police for that sort of thing).

    • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

      Since you've mentioned your own personal situation, let me follow with mine.

      I am a single father, divorced, with full custody. My son is amazing and truly a blessing from the Lord. My ex-wife lives 13 hours away and she rarely sees our son.

      I absolutely believe that the choice we made to have a child was wrong. Due to my wife's destructive behavior in the marriage, I felt like it was wrong for us to try to have a child, but the pastor I went to at the time told me that children were a blessing and I think viewed my concerns as the problem, not my wife's destructive behavior. Choosing to bring a child into that situation was irresponsible, and I should not have bowed to the pressure. I own that.

      If the focus had instead been on addressing my wife's behavior before trying to bring a child into the world, would that have fixed things? I don't know what would have happened. At the time, my reasoning was that I would trust God, and if he allowed us to get pregnant than it would be the best thing. I trusted him to open and close the womb.

      I know now that that was a mistake. God made every tool available for me to make a wise choice that would have prevented bringing a child into the world in a very unhealthy situation, and I did not utilize those tools. What I thought of as trusting in the Lord was really me not taking responsibility for a very important choice I had to make.

      Fortunately for me, God DOES work all things to good and I would not trade my son for anything. I would not go back and do it differently, in fact. But I DO lament that he is growing up in a single parent home and not getting all the blessings of a loving, two-parent household. I lament that he had to deal with a very tense and destructive environment for the first two years of his life. I'm glad I made the choice that I did, but I don't think the decision was Biblical or healthy.

  • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

    Jeff,
    I definitely think you are not taking into account the context of Malachi. The men were divorce their wives in order to marry pagan women. The whole point of this passage is dealing with that situation. I said the text assumes children because it would be unthinkable in that culture and with no form of birth control for a man to not have children short of being sterile. I think it is reading into the text heavily to assume that the point trying to be made was offspring vs. no-offspring in any respect. The issue was the kind of children; I cannot believe the author had anything in mind beyond that.

    Regarding Jesus on divorce- at the time the Jews believed (and may still believe) that divorce was allowable for sterility because they understood the command to populate the earth to apply to all, and if a marriage could not allow individuals to do that, then it had to be dissolved. By saying that staying single was an option, Jesus refutes this implicitly. I do not believe that all divorce is a sin. I do believe that Jesus was clarifying that divorce for sterility was not one of the Biblical reasons for divorce.

    "It seems clear to me that the mandate applies to those who lack the gift of celibacy. "

    I don't know how you've come to this conclusion since it is never stated. All we know is that there is a mandate and it doesn't apply to those who have the gift of celibacy. Scripture does not tell us that this is the only category of people who are not to personally fulfill the mandate through childbearing (though we can at least assume sterility and those married to those who suffer from sterility also are not required to fulfill the mandate through childbearing).

    As for your arguments about large families vs small families, we could wage war over the anecdotes, but I don't have any interest into doing that, and that wasn't my intention.

    My assumptions aren't "cultural"- they are logical. We are not in a culture which readily supports large families. That a few families have made it successfully or found great joy in it does not make it workable for everyone. A single income family making 30K a year with 9 children is going to really struggle to survive. I knew a wonderful family with 14 children, but they were very well off and made sacrifices other people could not afford to make in order to meet the needs of all of their children.

    My view is that indeed large families can be a blessing, as can having a few children or no children. Yes, there are lots of promises to people in scripture of giving them children in a culture where having children was a great boon to the families. This culture is not that culture.

    As for who has "prideful idolatrous hearts that have a tendency to read those thoughts into Scripture", personally, I think my position of not elevating family planning to scriptural mandates is both humble and in line with the attention scripture gives this matter.

  • Paul Petry

    Jeff S: "A single income family making 30K a year with 9 children is going to really struggle to survive."

    A single income family with 9 children, at any time in human history, had to really struggle to survive.

    "Yes, there are lots of promises to people in scripture of giving them children in a culture where having children was a great boon to the families. This culture is not that culture."

    Having children is always a boon to families - in any culture - ancient or 21st Century.

  • http://steadyonband.com Jeff S

    Paul, if you are implying that a family of 9 making 30K in New York City is the equivalent of a family of 9 in OT Israel, you over overstating the similarities. Both the struggle and the "boon" to the family are different.

    What really concerns me is you seem to not mind if people have to "struggle to survive" in order to meet your standards of what a Biblical family looks like. The quality of life for the children in such a family is going to be far worse than if the couple had less children. Are you really OK with putting children in near poverty conditions?

    I'm really not even sure what the goal of having these large families is. Are we really still trying to populate the earth? When there are countless children out there who don't even have homes? I did neglect to mention that the family of 14 I mentioned earlier only gave birth to two- the other 12 were adopted. But I suppose if they used birth control there are people who would say what they did was a sin, even though they provided 12 children with a healthy, Christian home who might have never had the option otherwise.

    • Michael Hedrick

      Hi Jeff S,

      Do a quick Google search for "Quiverfull movement." You'll find everything you need to know about why they advocate for having as many kids as possible.

      Since this is The Gospel Coalition website, I think it would be helpful to post a comment from Desiring God Ministries regarding this issue:

      "...just because something is a gift from the Lord does not mean that it is wrong to be a steward of when or whether you will come into possession of it. It is wrong to reason that since A is good and a gift from the Lord, then we must pursue as much of A as possible. God has made this a world in which tradeoffs have to be made and we cannot do everything to the fullest extent. For kingdom purposes, it might be wise not to get married. And for kingdom purposes, it might be wise to regulate the size of one's family and to regulate when the new additions to the family will likely arrive. As Wayne Grudem has said, 'it is okay to place less emphasis on some good activities in order to focus on other good activities." [Desiring God Staff, 2006. "Does the Bible permit birth control?" http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/does-the-bible-permit-birth-control

      • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

        That stewardship argument is specious. Cultivating soil and cutting hair are like eternal human souls, -- how? Pragmatism of this sort among Christians is roundly rejected except in the sphere of childbearing.

        This kind of 'stewardship' argument for planning one's children is akin to a pastor saying, "Well, I do not think I am administratively gifted or emotionally capable of leading a flock over 100 persons, and nor can our building seat more than that number. I really can't see any change in our circumstances in the near future, so I will barricade the doors and allow only current members in and put sign outside "Membership Rolls Filled -- Please Attend Elsewhere." What a ridiculous idea.

        This man is showing his lack of trust in God's provision, is he not? Because God commands us to lengthen our cords and strengthen our tent posts in response to a promised blessing of multiplication of human beings, not to bar the doors and refuse entry.

        Dr. Allen Carlson, visiting professor of history at Hillsdale College and author of the book "Godly Seed" described how Martin Luther might observe this acceptance of a "childfree Christian"-- he would see

        "that his old enemy, “that clever harlot, Natural Reason,” had come back in new guise at the Second Millennium’s end. By natural reason, he meant the wisdom of the world, unformed and unregulated by Divine witness in Holy Scripture. As he “quoted” this beast back in 1522:

        "Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labor at my trade, take care of this, and take care of that,…endure this and endure that…? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself?

        In our time, these same sentiments might be found on the lips of “the Playboy philosopher,” the “female eunuch,” or the “sexologist” at an NCC Christian conference." (from http://bound4life.com/history-of-contraception-in-the-protestant-church/)

        And maybe these sentiments are echoed also here, in this comment thread of the Gospel Coalition?

        • http://steadyonband.com Jeff S

          My church does indeed have a top number over which the leadership does no believe we should expand. We will aggressively spin off new churches in order to not go above that number (but we will not bar the doors).

          I grow tired of labeling things people personally disagree with as the "wisdom of the world". I still have seen no compelling argument from scripture to bind the conscience of believers into having children against their desires and conviction. Until such has been clearly demonstrated, please leave all arguments about the "wisdom of the world" at the door.

          We are to be people of scripture, not people of culture- even the Christian sub-culture that idolizes family and children.

          • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

            Jeff,

            I doubt your church spins off before a congregation can comfortably support its own pastoral staff financially! And in the same way most Christian families limit children to the number most comfortable to them,which is barely above the replacement rate, just like in the general population.

            "I still have seen no compelling argument from scripture to bind the conscience of believers into having children against their desires and conviction."

            It is an abuse of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6) to argue that we cannot deduce from Scripture God's viewpoint of pro-creation and even the Christian's use of birth control that, as most say here, “because the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid something, it must not be wrong”

            But God is very clear about his purposes for marriage -- in Genesis 2 Malachi 2:15, and Psalm 127 for example. And when birth control is mentioned in the Bible, God's displeasure at it is clearly seen. The sin of Onan (which has been distorted by moderns to be his not raising up children for his dead brother, when the actual punishment for the refusal of Leverite marriage was public shaming by spitting and removal of the shoe of the offender. Not a sudden death by the hand of God, in the manner of Uzzah.

            The ancients always interpreted this passage as a condemnation of birth control, as it is the act *itself* which provokes the wrath of God, as this summation of the work of a Hebrew Scholar explains:

            "Manuel Miguens has pointed out that a close examination of the text shows that God condemned Onan for the specific action he performed, not for his anti-Levirate intentions. He notes that the translation 'he spilled his seed on the ground' fails to do full justice to the Hebrew expression. The Hebrew verb shichet never means to spill or waste. Rather, it means to act perversely. The text also makes it clear that his perverse action was related towards the ground, not against his brother. "His perversion or corruption consists in his action itself, not precisely in the result and goal of his act...In a strict interpretation the text says that what was evil in the sight of the Lord was what Onan actually did (asher asah); the emphasis in this sentence of verse 10 does not fall on what he intended to achieve, but on what he did. Manuel Miguens, "Biblical Thoughts on Human Sexuality," Human Sexuality in our Time, ed.(Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1979) 112-115. Martin Luther himself noted this fact, and argued from this that birth control is even worse than adultery! (from http://www.matt1618.freeyellow.com/birthcontrol.html)

            I am not trying to bind the conscience of anybody! Just trying do away with the notion that says the Bible is ambiguous about "child free".
            Tony Warren might seek to convict you, however! herehttp://www.mountainretreatorg.net/articles/birth_control.shtml

            Go there if you dare. But I cannot discuss this any further for now -- too much on my plate.

            • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

              You assume that the pastor must be a full time, vocational pastor. Well, in my cast you assume right, but not always. But we already sustain our pastoral staff, so it's a moot point. A part time pastor could certainly lead a congregation of less than a hundred effectively and maintain a small size spinning off other churches.

              I didn't say "Because the Bible doesn't forbid something, it must not be wrong", so please don't accuse me of stating so. I've said you haven't proven your case scripturally, and you haven't. You stating it emphatically does not make it so.

              Since I don't believe the scripture addresses this topic directly, I believe we are left with other principles- that we are to make wise choices concerning our gifts and resources. I do not believe your wisdom comes from scripture, but rather additions and traditions of men that presume to speak for God.

              Following your teaching leaves many people bad off, both children and parents. If following an interpretation of scripture leads to suffering that does not illuminate the Gospel (which this does not), then it's time to dive deeper and look harder, because you are off the mark.

            • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

              Well perhaps we can get Dr. Denny Burke to enter this particular fray. I am going to e-mail him and ask him if his new book "What Is The Meaning of Sex" addresses the topic of the "Childfree Christian" marriage. I am certainly wasting my breath.

              I suspect that he would agree with me that this defense of deliberate childlessness is a completely aberrant position, given this quote: “Marriage is a sexual union for the purposes of consummation, procreation, the expression of love, and pleasure.”

            • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

              Well, I'd agree that one purpose of marriage is procreation. Almost everyone agrees that having children outside of marriage is a bad thing, even unbelievers. There's a difference between saying marriage is the right place for children to be born and raised and saying that marriage should not exist without children.

              That said, I wouldn't be surprised if Burke would agree with your stance. There are many, many in the evangelical church who have made an idol out of family, and in particular the kind of nuclear family we imagine from half a century ago here in the U.S.

              Just ask the number of singles in their thirties and forties who find very little place for themselves in the modern church. Or single parents like myself. Once you get off-track, it's very easy to find yourself excluded from the normal church life if you aren't married with children by a certain age.

              My issue with this, and it will continue to be my issue, is that this 200+ comment discussion about a peripheral topic to the Gospel (on a site dedicated to the Gospel) is evidence of how far off the mark we've gotten. That several people have made a certain ideal of family central to the Gospel is evident by reading the comments here, both in number and in tone.

              The Gospel is that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, died, and was resurrected, all as the solution to our sin problem, that we might have eternal life if we repent and trust in him. The makeup of families is so far outside of the scope of this central message of scripture, it dilutes our ability to make disciples of all nations when we focus so much of our attention on it.

              Every page of scripture drips with the truth of the Gospel, pointing toward or pointing back to the life of Jesus and what he did for us. By comparison, the scripture says very little about families and how they ought to be conducted, and even less about children's place in them. The central person of our faith and the greatest evangelist/theologian in Christianity both remained unmarried and without children, further suggesting that marriage and child bearing are not central to what it means to be a Christian; yet those who are unmarried and/or without children find a difficult place in the church today.

              The church needs to repent of this idolatry and re-focus back on the core mission: making disciples of all nations.

            • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

              "The makeup of families is so far outside of the scope of this central message of scripture, it dilutes our ability to make disciples of all nations when we focus so much of our attention on it."

              Well, I think Paul argues in Titus 2 differently than you about this. He says that women who "love their husbands and children, (who are) self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands" do this so "that the word of God may not be reviled."

              Deliberate childlessness simply doesn't adorn the gospel. The grace of God teaches us "to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts." Mostly, the motives of childfree Christians are selfish and worldly, as the Time article illustrates.

              And to suggest that those who urge married couples to keep to the procreative pattern that God created at the beginning of marriage are being idolatrous is kind of ludicrous, really.

              Lastly, those unmarried folks you mention, who might be hurt by these healthy families,like the ones Paul commends to Titus, should seek out their company. Because one other way these happy families set off the beauty of the gospel is by extending generous hospitality. God intends for families to be a sanctuary for the lonely (Psalm 68:6)-- because the kind of married love that imitates Christ is never selfish, it always multiplies.

            • Royce

              "Deliberate childlessness simply doesn't adorn the gospel."

              Adorn? The Gospel?
              Since when are we called to "adorn" the gospel?

              "And to suggest that those who urge married couples to keep to the procreative pattern that God created at the beginning of marriage are being idolatrous is kind of ludicrous, really."

              And just plain dumb. And stupid.
              Have to agree with you on that point, Ms. Butler.

              But really, hasn't this thread become at risk of becoming a dead horse?
              Enough already.

            • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

              "Well, I think Paul argues in Titus 2 differently than you about this. He says that women who "love their husbands and children, (who are) self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands" do this so "that the word of God may not be reviled.""

              I don't see how this passage is relevant to what you are rebutting. I said the "makeup of families". This passage isn't about how families are constructed, but how family members behave and relate to one another.

              Of course he says women should love their husbands and children. What kind of a Christian would NOT love their spouse and children?

              But you assume because he's telling married women with children how to treat their families, that it's a foregone conclusions that they have them. You are reading into the text something that is not there. We know for absolute certainty that a person can please God and live our his or her calling without being married (Jesus said so!), so we clearly cannot interpret this passage to say that the only way a woman can be Godly is to have a husband. Likewise, there's no reason to assume she must have children.

              "And to suggest that those who urge married couples to keep to the procreative pattern that God created at the beginning of marriage are being idolatrous is kind of ludicrous, really."

              Really? Ludicrous? Try talking to 30+ singles who feel left out of the church. They are in real pain here. Real pain because they love Jesus, but they feel like second class citizens in the Kingdom. This is absolutely the result of the evangelical church taking a blessing that is good (marriage and children) and elevating it before the will of God, because it is not God's will that ANY Christian would feel like a second class citizen in his Kingdom. Idolatry isn't always about putting bad things before God; it's putting ANYTHING before God.

              Also, you can keep stating your belief that God created the pattern, but you haven't proven it to be true (that God mandates all married believers have children).

              "Lastly, those unmarried folks you mention, who might be hurt by these healthy families, like the ones Paul commends to Titus, should seek out their company. "

              I didn't say they might be hurt by healthy families. They are hurt by an unhealthy attitude toward them in the church. Don't try and solve their problems by telling them what to do until you've tried to understand their pain.

              What is really disturbing is that you put the burden on the single person for his or her pain. That somehow it is his or her fault. "If only he or she would do xyz, then he or she would be happy and fulfilled". Do your realize how incredibly condescending it is? As in, it can't possibly be the fault of the church or married believers that these people are in pain.

          • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

            "who urge married couples..."

            and you keep returning to 30+ singles who feel left out! Royce is right, we are beating a dead horse here. I am speaking to *married* people of God's plan for their family, clearly stated in Malachi 2:15 "Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard..." He is the same God, yesterday today, and tomorrow! Since Titus 2 commands the older women to teach the young married women to love their children, we can assume the *makeup* of that family would consist of at least *one* child to love! It was normative, for the early church, as someone notes, Carson teaches about that problematic salvation for women scripture in Timothy. So to call this natural state of families *idolatry* is really, really silly! As Royce properly notes. If there is emphasis on families in the church today, it is because they are in a shambles, and need to be rebuilt from the ground up, as so many are growing up in single parent families and fatherless.

            And yes, it is partly the fault of insular families who have forgotten their duty to keep an open door to the lonely, that there is so much pain among the single. Our family has 'adopted in' some bachelors, and one in particular is practically an uncle to my children. He is always at our birthday and holiday tables. The proper role of families in Scripture is to practice hospitality like this, to have an open door, especially to singles. It is sort of a mentoring thingy, too, so that singles learn the painful realities of marriage, which is why I recommended that singles seek out married couples who are doing it right.

            And as a recovering depressed person, Jeff, I recognize it is a tendency of that condition for the sufferer to isolate oneself, and that habit must be resisted, so, yes, there is some responsibility for those singles' mental state that must be acknowledged.

            • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

              @ Royce:

              Perhaps you missed this translation of Titus 2:10, in the ESV? ..."but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may *adorn the doctrine* of God our Savior."

              I assume that Paul would put the Gospel in the doctrine category, so yes, it is our duty as faithful believers to "adorn the Gospel."

              And how I long to do that well! And perhaps beating this dead horse is not very adorning, so I will be done finally, with this fascinating thread. It has certainly been quite an eyeful!

              And a matter for some serious prayer.

            • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

              "So to call this natural state of families *idolatry* is really, really silly!"

              I didn't call the "natural state of families" idolatry. I agree that would be silly. I am talking about the emphasis the church places on nuclear families as the normative Christian experience. So many people fall outside of that ideal that and many not by by their own choice. That this "ideal" exists is when it becomes idolatry.

              "And as a recovering depressed person, Jeff, I recognize it is a tendency of that condition for the sufferer to isolate oneself, and that habit must be resisted, so, yes, there is some responsibility for those singles' mental state that must be acknowledged."

              I think it's not fair to assume that every single person person who struggles to find a place in the church is suffering from depression, or if they are that it is due to their own isolation.

              Just because people are single doesn't mean they are "lonely". I know many, many single people who have very full lives with many connections to other people, but unfortunately most of those connections are made outside of the church. Not because they aren't interested in connecting at church, but because families see their own small units as being the central focus of their lives. So does a single person hang out with a married couple and their children on a weekend? No, that time is "reserved for the family". People without a nuclear family get the scraps left over after energy is spent on family. This is not OK. I realize this example may not exist everywhere, but I've witnessed and experienced it. But if it's not this example, it's others. If you don't realize it's happening, I urge you to talk to the singles in your church.

              Regarding Malachi 2:15, it is hardly a "period" in this conversation. I'm not a big fan of proof-texting arguments because they simply descend into arguments of interpretation and context. I would say it's clear to me the context of Malachi is that men were treacherously divorcing their wives and marrying foreign women. That they were going to have offspring is not the issue. The issue is what KIND of offspring they were going to have.

              This same filter carries into the other scripture you reference. Offspring is assumed, which tells us more about the culture than God's design. Assuming children are involved does not equal a prescriptive command of scripture. You see the teaching in light of the makeup of our families, whereas I see them in governing our behavior and Godliness. For those who have children, they are to teach them and raise them up to be Godly.

              I realize you look at those verses and see them completely different from me. Which is fine- we are both trying to see the truth here, I think. However, this is why I try not to quote verses to make my point. I've rarely seen a disagreement over scripture "won" by quoting single verses out of context. Rather, there is a whole system of interpretation that governs how we are reading each of these verses and where we put the emphasis. In both doing our dead level best, we come to different conclusions. My conviction is that the general tone of scripture favors a God who is more concerned with behavior toward one another than he is plugging us into rigid organizational structures. That is, God is more concerned with the quality of our relationships than what relationships we actually have (though I think we'd both agree that God does disallow certain kinds of relationships).

              I understand your perspective, and I'm completely willing to agree to disagree. Where we run into problems is that it seems perfectly acceptable to many here to shame those with a different understanding of scripture who are earnestly seeking after God's own heart.

  • Jeff Lindell

    Jeff S & Michael Hedrick,

    You both have some good thoughts worth processing and I wish I had more time to interact with. Some of your comments have been challenging.

    Jeff S, regarding the Malachi 2 passage. "I definitely think you are not taking into account the context of Malachi. The men were divorce their wives in order to marry pagan women." It is possible that what you say is happening, but it is not the only option. It is possible as most commentators also point out (see also ESV Study Bible) that Malachi is addressing 2 separate issues, one of intermarriage and one of divorce for just about any reason similar to Jesus in Matthew 19. The two issues need not be related. In fact if they were, we would expect them to be reversed in order. Even if they are related such that God's people were divorcing their wives to marry pagan ones, I don't believe the point is any different. Let me even follow your logic and take the stance that children are assumed. It makes no difference. What does God want as a result of uniting 2 of his people together? He desires that couple to bless him with offspring that are godly! That's the outcome. Certainly he isn't interested in ungodly offspring from their union.

    One more thing, in answer to your question, "I'm really not even sure what the goal of having these large families is. Are we really still trying to populate the earth? When there are countless children out there who don't even have homes?" The goal is actually to raise up more disciples for the kingdom. Certainly we seek to evangelize and disciple others as well, but we also seek to have large families in order to expand the kingdom (Ephesians 6:4). I do think you have made some good points that I need to look further and MICHAEL HENDRIK, I appreciate the Desiring God link. I will say though that most families I have talked with have not limited family size for the sake of being able to give themselves more to Christ's kingdom. They have chosen not to have children because they just don't want them (i.e. they don't view them as a blessing) or because they see them as an inconvenience to their own pursuit of pleasure.

    Since I have been challenged regarding what the NT has to say, I will add one more passage, which is highly debateable, but in light of the complentarian perspective of the gospel coalition I will add it. I once had heard Carson speak on 1 Timothy 2. In verse 15, "Yet she will be saved through childbearing" Carson interpreted I believe well suggesting the the word "save" here is to be understood in the same sense as later in 4:16, "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." Carson went on to argue that childbearing for married women is part of the normative path that God has for them. Now this doesn't speak to the number of the children one should have, but perhaps to God's encouragement for the married to have children, provide there is not some "present distress" (1 Corinthians 7:26).

    • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

      Jeff,
      I understand what you are saying about raising up more disciples for the kingdom; however, I don't see a lot of Biblical basis for it. There is nothing in scripture that I've seen to promote out-breeding unbelievers as being a primary evangelistic strategy. I would not have taken the Great Commission as a charge to go have lots of babies, and I doubt anyone would honestly come away from Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations with an earnest response that the best way to do that was to get busy building a large family. It's certainly not the way Acts reads.

      By contrast, the more children a family has, the more inwardly focused it becomes. The large families I've known have largely been mostly consumed with managing themselves and doing very little outside of family. It seems Paul and Jesus both acknowledge this limitation of families: that they can hinder outward ministry.

      This inward focus may indeed be the calling on individual families lives, but the direct calling on evangelism is outward: "Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

      The one way in which families can do both outward focus and having many children is through adoption; however, this is something very few believers do, despite the high emphasis scripture places on widows and orphans. But I guess I can't say much, as I haven't adopted either. :)

      I agree with your assessment that most people who limit their children are probably not doing so for ministry minded reasons. That is true to most of our decisions as believers. When we buy houses, cars, take jobs, have children- all of those decisions should be made with the Lord in mind. We don't always make our decisions the right way. However, I'd suggest that among the large families I've know, they haven't made the decision with any more of a God focus than those with small families. I would say many of them do so out of cultural or external expectations placed on them by the church, not out of an earnest seeking of God's heart in the matter.

      • Jeff Lindell

        Jeff S.

        I would agree that the Great Commission is not a charge to have children. I would also say that having children is also not something that has to hinder an outward focus. Stereotyping just isn't a solid argument. Your statement that the more children a family has the more inward focus it becomes just isn't true even if it has been your experience. Those I know who have large families are some of the most evangelistic people I know. They are the ones who are taking their families into nursing homes and taking gatorade out to the constructions workers near them on a hot summer day. They are the ones showing up with their large tribe to help the people who have just moved into the neighbor move their stuff in and leaving a plate of brownies behind all with the intent of sharing the gospel and being a light. As for my own family of 5 age 7 and under, we just moved into our neighbor last November and we went around the neighborhood introducing ourselves and dropping off Christmas cookies. We let our neighbors know that we were looking forward to being great neighbors for them, and we also specifically let them know we were Christians and we would love the opportunity to talk sometime with them about Jesus who has dramatically changed our lives. We quickly learned who the other believers in our neck of the woods were and we are reaching to those who weren't. Now I do not mean imply that large families are more outward focused. I don't believe that is true for a moment. It all depends on the heart of the person, or couple, and I think is easy for all believers to get caught up in such busyness that sharing the gospel gets push away.

        As for my wife and I, we are seeking to be intentional in our efforts to reach out, and for us that has included adoption. We have adopted one child from Africa and are planning to adopt another in the near future. All this may also sound like we are upper middle class as well, but we are not. I make under 50k and my wife stays at home with our children. We are frugal, and God continues to provide. We also do no rely on any government help.

        Also, consider the fact that just because you don't see any biblical basis for enlarging the kingdom through procreation in scripture doesn't mean it isn't there. Why would God call Adam and Even to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth? What does God desire? What are His interests in it? What are his intentions for His people filling this earth through procreation? Why did He choose to include that passage for His people and place it right there in first chapter of the book? You have to answer those questions. God promotes large families in Psalm 127. Why? What does He get out of it? Certainly there is an invest for His interests as well. And He calls for godly offspring in Malachi 2 (you of course take a different perspective on the interpretation of that passage, but I will offer some sound exegesis for this in one final post on the subject). I could go on, but for sake of brevity I will stop there. If Scripture cannot support the idea that we have children for His Kingdom and glory, then certainly having children is not purely for ourselves. Otherwise, God would not take an interest in calling His people to fruitful and multiply and calling them to raise their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

        As for your other your other post, I would agree we do not want to idolize family. Jesus was pretty clear on that in Luke 14. I think there can be a worship of family that leaves those who are single and couples who are childless as subpar Christians. My wife and I went through a time of infertility and concluded we simply weren't able to have children until God suddenly changed course on us, so I know what it is like to be outside the club in a sense. It doesn't feel good. I agree the church needs to do a better job of affirming the value of single people and childless couples and how God can use them for the kingdom. We certainly benefit from walking life with people who are in the same walk of life, but we also lose out on the diversity the comes from sharing it with people whose experiences are different.

        I also agree with the need for a gospel focus. However, I think you will have certain posts that generate more interest than others and I believe how we communicate is where the gospel comes in. I for one do not agree that a couple who chooses to be childless because they do not have a desire for children is biblical. At the same time, if they have took and honest look at the passages not seeking to justify their position and arrived at a different conclusion, I respect that, and if they were part of our church I would seek to love them and include them. I think we can disagree with one another and not judge. Isn't that at least in part of the point of Romans 14? Perhaps I am the weaker brother among us who does not see the freedom of the childless life that Scripture offers. Then I must not judge and I have worked hard to make sure my words could not be construed as judgmental! Perhaps you are the one strong in faith then certainly you do not want to despise people like me, just as God calls you too. At the same time perhaps I am on the mark biblically, and perhaps you are not. Both are possible scenarios. Yet, what I believe the gospel focus calls us too, is not to dismiss this subject as one we shouldn't be talking about, but rather discuss it with humility, teachability, and respect for one another while seeking to see where children or the lack their of come into play from a gospel perspective. I believe that is where the gospel drives us.

        • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

          Jeff,
          I appreciate your dialog with me. I definitely do not despise "people like you" and I think we are probably not very far apart, to be honest. To deal with one another with love and humility, I think that is very key.

          I do hope I've not come off as judgmental of those with whom I disagree. I DO feel strongly that those who would judge a "childfree" couple harshly to the point of shaming them are out of line, and that I will speak out against (and strongly). But for someone who takes the "I disagree, but we can be respectful about it" stance, I'm in full agreement with that.

          Personally, I'm NOT child free, and as for having more children it isn't an option for me right now, so I have no dog in this hunt.

          I really do appreciate the contrasting anecdotal evidence about larger families pulling inward rather than outward. I can be as guilty as anyone from drawing inferences from a small sample set.

          And to be clear, I wasn't necessarily calling the subject to be dismissed; it's more that the vitriol and passion thrown at this particular topic seems to eclipse the core doctrines of faith, and that does bother me.

          I'll admit to not being very open minded on my position here, but I'm very open minded in my company and believing that everyone who is willing to discuss in a respectful manner ought to have a voice.

          • Jeff Lindell

            Jeff S.

            Thanks so much for the response! I have appreciated the dialogue with you! My heart is to follow Christ and His Word, and for that reason I appreciate those who push back against what I believe to be Biblical, challenging me with what they understand God saying in His Word. Sometimes, I have found from such discussions is that what I believe is not actually grounded in what God has said, and other times I find myself encouraged more strongly that what I believe is in accordance with His Word. I have not found what you have written me to be judgmental by any means and I appreciate that! Like you said, "To deal with one another with love and humility, I think that is very key." Amen and Amen!

            I personally don't mind the passion thrown at a subject like this. I think we should be passionate around anything we understand to be from God. I do agree though that we should have a greater passion for what is central to what we all believe! I also couldn't agree with you more that the vitriol is out of place (though perhaps you were using passion synonymously with vitriol).

            We are certainly on the same page in what is important and I think we share a lot of the same concerns surrounding the issue as well. When I get a chance I plan on posting my exegesis of certain passages on the subject along with what I understand your interpretation to be. Feel free to explain yourself if I have understood you wrong as well as counter my understanding of Scripture. I think we both want to follow Christ, and so I believe any discussion in this regard has to lead us to seek to understand God and His Word and go from there!

            Thanks again for the dialogue! I really do appreciate it. You have forced me to go back to several texts to make sure that it says what I think it says! Blessings to you brother!

  • Chris

    This is why I've dropped out of church. It's just nothing but a frustrating chaotic mess. Calling someone a sinner or depraved simply because they've chosen to not have children. That is just ridiculous! But that's not the only issue, everywhere I go Christians are disagreeing and attacking each other and calling each other sinners and heretics, it's just too much I'm done with it. I've left church and it will no longer stand between me and God. I'm worshipping Him on my own now and my relationship with Him is now one on one. I hope you all will one day see the chaos that the Christian church has become.
    In Christ,
    Chris

    • http://thenface2face.wordpress.com Karen Butler

      "Calling someone a sinner or depraved simply because they've chosen to not have children."

      Well, in my defense, Martin Luther was even harder than I was on those who choose not to have children. He called them, "swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because they despise the blessing of God, the Creator and Author of marriage." Whew!

      But Luther's hyperbole probably did not advance his argument, and so I must acknowledge that neither did mine. It was overall a complete failure to communicate. Like in the over the top 'unfetter your loins' bit -- and when I advised Serti not to do any more teaching. Smileys should have liberally dotted my comments because tone is so hard to read.

      God is in the process of taming my tongue. A wonderful mentor has helped me realize that I did come across as dismissive and arrogant in this thread, and I deeply regret this. I am sorry this became a stumbling block to you, and I urge you to not forsake assembling with fellow believers because of my foolish way of communicating. Like the godly woman who is helping me with my communication skills, the iron sharpening iron that happens in fellowship is necessary for our growth.

    • Jeff Lindell

      Chris,

      I had commented on this above, "Topic aside, it grieves my heart and I believe God's as well how we as believers converse together about any particular subject. Does anyone else see the irony in that this is after all a "gospel coalition"? Yet the grace of God appears to be absent in many of the posts here. Brothers and sisters can I make an appeal to us all as the Holy Spirit calls to us in Ephesians 4:2-3, "Be completely humble and gentle, be patient bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." This of course does not mean throw away your convictions, but speak them humbly and gently and have a teachable spirit to learn from one another."

      You mentioned, "I hope you all will one day see the chaos that the Christian church has become." The church has been a bit of a mess since New Testament times so nothing has changed. Just read 1 Corinthians and you will see the arguments flowing against one another pretty heavily right from chapter 1. The church is a mess because we all struggle with sin, and we are in process of becoming like our savior.

      That aside, I don't think you realize that stepping away from the church actually puts something between you and God and diminishes your ability to grow. God is one flesh with the Church, we His body, He our head (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 5:31-32), and God's design for the fullness of spiritual growth requires gathering and relating with believers (Ephesians 4:11-16). Not only that we are all called to love one another as Christ has loved us (John 13:34-35) which recognizes that Christ loved us even when we were His enemies (Romans 5:8). Consider also how Jesus became somewhat frustrated by the lack of understanding and growth in His own disciples (one of whom even betrayed Him), yet He never left them. Instead He went to the cross for them. Colossians 3:13 also calls us to bear with one another and forgive, just as Christ has forgiven us.

      If we are truly interested in following Christ and obeying Him, we cannot neglect His people. Instead, we must love, forgive, and bear with one another in spite of our sin and struggles. We simply cannot follow Christ and truly pursue Him apart from being connected with His people.

      Let me say as bad as perhaps you experience has been there are a lot of wonderful churches and mature humble believers out there (none of them perfect) but all of them shining the glory and love of Christ. Rather than give up, pray that the Lord would connect you with such a church.

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  • http://www.biblestudiesonline.org.uk Mathew Bartlett

    I've found parenting very demanding but I wouldn't change it for the world. We need to offer childless couples (those childless not by choice) and singles the opportunity to find a welcome within our church families. Sometimes we're just so busy with the kids we leave them out - but their help can be just what we need and maybe we can help meet a need they have too.

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  • Dani

    Yes, because the only blessing a person can ever have is children. What about the single person? The infertile? The barren? I know, those last two are "cursed", but who is to say that God does not bless these couples in some other way. That it was not part of His plan so that they can serve others and do the good works that He set apart for them to do... As a Christian woman called to singleness, I ache for those who might be looked down upon because they are called as a couple to serve God without having children. Perhaps because women who are called to singleness are also an ostracized group, one which is pressured to get married (and bare children) despite that we're not called to it.

    Perhaps, and let me make this "outrageous" suggestion, choosing childlessness should be seen as similar to choosing singleness. That is, if one chooses it, they need to do so prayfully and with the intent on serving God in a way that would not be able to do if they had chosen to have children. You have to remember, this choice did not exist in Biblical times, just as the choice for a woman to remain single usually did not in much of history (though, yes, there are single women in the Bible, most were still married). Yet, is the woman who says, "I will not get married because I'm called to serve God in-such-and-such a way" doing wrong? Is her service less important than a man's simply because she is choosing not to be a mother? Isn't that outrageous? What of the couple who chose not to have children of their own because they were called to adopt? Are they really being so selfish, or even more selfless? Let me suggest that it is the latter.

    Finally, consider a couple that devotes their time, energy, and service to some ministry or specific calling, but is able to do so more fully because they chose not to have children. I know a couple like this, I would never dare to call their decision a selfish choice. Childfree isn't selfishness in and of itself, instead, it's the couple's motivation behind it that can make this decision selfless or selfish.

    If we are called to singleness or to be married with children or without. Each of these choices ought to be something Christians considered prayfully--preferably long before they decide to get married. Each of them is ALSO a way to serve God differently and two of them, being single and childfree, should be seen as a situation where they can better concentrate on their devotion, service to others, and serving God.

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