Thursday, August 21, 2008


I posted a version of this series of questions on the Boundless Line today (intentionally not linked; it's a very heated discussion and I wouldn't recommend wasting your time reading it unless you're a glutton for punishment). Anyone want to take a shot?

1. What does God say about children?

2. Is God in control of human fertility?

3. If God calls children a blessing to be welcomed and he is in control of fertility, than do I have the right as a believer (whose life is supposed to be conformed to God's ways) to say (if married), "I don't want kids," or "I want to put off children (or marriage and children) because ___"?

You don't really have to answer them... And I'm sure my answers are painfully obvious. Pondering these questions was what changed my attitude about this whole thing. I realized that I had absorbed the culture's attitudes toward marriage and children -- don't get married until you're settled in your career, put off having children as long as possible because they're a hassle, stuff like that. But throughout the centuries, Christians have always been counter-cultural in how they valued children -- the early Church fought against the pagan practices of child sacrifice and abandonment, for example, and Christians led the charge for the illegalization of child labor.

So why is it that now, even among Christians, having a child early in a marriage must have been an accident? And why having a large family (i.e., anything beyond three or four kids) means you must not have figured out how to work those birth control pills? And why Christian parents tell their sons and daughters that they must not get married before they've graduated college and settled down into a good career (never mind the tens of thousands in debt it took to get there)?

What do you think is at the heart of the problem?


StaffAction said...

John Piper has a good piece on "adultolescence" here:

You are exactly right.

Though on a more minor point, the illegalization of child labor was a terrible thing and the Christians who supported it were the socialist type. I would rather a child work outside the home, whatever the conditions, than see that child earn money for the family in some other way such as prostitution or the drug trade.

Laura said...

That's an, um... shall we say "interesting" perspective on child labor. I didn't realize those were the options -- a child working outside the home or one working as a prostitute or drug mule.

The issue of child labor overseas is much more delicate, in my opinion, than the current situation in the US. From what I saw while in Thailand and China, when a child is begging (often at the behest of a pimp-type), the issue is the inaccessibility of education for the poor -- NOT the necessity of their paltry "earnings" to support the family. Those situations are much more rare. Privately-funded boarding schools and even day schools that provide meals have dramatically improved the lives of the families they serve in places like India.

Should child labor be carefully regulated, say, rather than banned in certain developing areas? I'll grant that as a possibility. If a child over age ten or twelve were permitted to work for a few hours a day, a few days a week, in addition to attending school until age fifteen or sixteen, I think that would be a better balance than all work and no education.

My biggest issue with your opinion is that you seem to think that exploiting children in one way is worse than exploiting them in another way. When children are chained to a knitting machine for 16 hours a day, seven days a week, given a bowl of rice as their only meal, and sleep on the factory floor... well, how is that less demeaning to them as image-bearers of God than running drugs or being sexually abused? In any of those cases they are viewed as things to be used, not as humans. Christians should be appalled by any such denigration of humanity.

Jacob said...

This is a very big set of questions I tried wrestling with in the blog-o-sphere back in my Xanga days. It was a quite heated exchange. In sum, I am very wary of birth control, in principle, but that said, I am not settled in my conscience as to what is right, good and true. On my more (in)sane days, I lean towards a RC view on the issue. Others, I just don't know.

Christopher Lake said...

In pre-marital counseling, the couple who counseled my fiancee and I didn't share our wariness about almost all forms of birth control... Needless to say, it was very awkward. They had also seemingly imbibed American culture's general attitude of "Hey, wait until you've been married a few years, get 'comfortable' with each other, and *then* have children..." Grrr..... why do modern-day Protestants think that God's designs for sexuality and reproduction should be treated so blithely?? The original Reformers took a very dim view of birth control, and for the most part, I agree with them.

As for what is at the heart of the problem, I think, simply, that Christians have caved in to worldly assumptions about marriage and children rather than paying attention to and heeding what the Bible says.