A theology of marriage and childbearing

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by rlvaughn, Dec 21, 2005.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    On other threads birth control and childlessness have been discussed. They have mostly played out and I'm not trying to revive those debates here, though this will cover some similar ground. I would like to narrow the focus to specifics from the Scriptures. Is there a theology of marriage and childbearing? What do the Scriptures say?

    Do the Scriptures present marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman in which children are intended and expected? Or do the Scriptures present marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman in which their choice to have or not have children is part of the covenant they make between themselves? Does it even matter one way or the other?

    The following are some of my thoughts and Bible verses that I think relate to the issue. I brought most of these up in another thread, but they were passed over for the most part. So I'd like to make them the focus here.

    1. When we look at the original, we see a lifelong union between one man and one woman with the blessings and responsibilities of bringing forth children.
    2. Fruitfulness is a blessing and a command to Adam and Eve.
    3. Similar blessing/command motif for Noah and Jacob.
    4. That the woman should bear children is God's creative plan. That she would bear them "in sorrow" is a result of the fall.

    5. The Lord has power over the womb, both opening and shutting.
    6. Children (and even grandchildren) are an heritage (inheritance) and a reward from God.
    8. Paul exhorts younger women to marry and bear children.
    9. Marrying and bearing children seems to be the normal and expected course for the Christian (so much so that Paul assumes the elders will be married with children).
    10. There are exceptions to this "normal course". For persons to devote themselves to remain unmarried in order to give themselves over to the Lord's service seems to above average, but certainly a good thing and that is acceptable to God.
    11. Examples of Jesus' feelings toward children:
    I would like to keep the thread as impersonal and Scripture-oriented as possible. Among us are folks who have chosen to have no children, those who may have chosen to stop at 1 or 3 or 6 (etc.), those who have chosen to not stop until God or His natural causes stop them, those who cannot have children, and even those who have lost children. Regardless of our personal status in this matter, I hope that (at least to some degree) we can agree that it is Scripture and not our practice that decides the issue.

    If someone is looking for a "Thou shalt have children" or a "Thou dost not have to bear children", he certainly won't find it. But we all know that already, don't we? To me the general tenor of Scripture combined with specific teachings gives strong evidence that children are an intended and expected consequence of marriage. In the way I approach understanding the Word of God, I need more than the absence of "a command not to" in order to find an opposing argument convincing.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Acumenical

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    Marriage and child-bearing are obviously the norm for humanity, but that doesn't mean that singleness or childlessness is wrong. God has different plans for different people. It seems that Paul (and of course Jesus) had neither wife nor children, so how can it be a sin for other believers to follow the same path, if they feel so led by God?
     
  3. preacher

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    rl..You are right, scripture should decide...actually on how we live our whole lives.
    I have never been nor never will be a Father. I just married 6 years ago next month,(at age 44) & my loving sweet adorable wife is unable to have children.
    But ever since Christ brought me into the fold, I said that no matter how much I fail HE knows I have one thing in common with HIM. My love for children.
    Children & animals I get along with...it's the Adults I have trouble with.
    After salvation, the Family structure is the most vital gift God gave to mankind. It modeled Him, as in the Trinity. If He had just wanted to populate the earth, He could have spoke an entire civilization into exsistince, as with the angels.
    Plus thats something too. Our Father gave us at least two gifts that the angels could never have.
    Salvation, & Family.
    Just a thought or two.
     
  4. rlvaughn

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    Thanks for the comments thus far. At this point I'd like to interject some questions to perhaps lead toward the kind of discussion I'm hoping for.

    Anyone is free to post as they wish (within BB rules, of course), but I hope some of you will consider addressing some of the Scriptures I posted and even post and discuss other Scriptures.

    For example, to what extent should the idea of "firsts" inform us on this subject - that is, the pattern of our first parents. What about Gen. 1:27,28? Is it a generic command for humankind in general? Is it a specific command for Adam and Eve only? Does God really exercise power over the womb? Are the mentions of His shutting and opening wombs merely some primitive way of understanding barrenness and fruitfulness in childbearing? What about Paul's command to the younger women to marry and bear children? Is it still in effect? Does the existence of some cases of chosen singleness being approved of God extend privilege or set an example for married couples to choose childlessness?

    I personally think there are lots of details here to think about that we often avoid in the average church instructional setting and even the pulpit, and that these Scriptures are relevant to the discussion.
     
  5. preacher

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    Ok, You have me looking now. I've never really given it a lot of thought, the children part.
    I did a search on the phrase "be fruitful & multiply". 5 times it is used & all in the book of Gen. The 3 you use & two others for the other creatures. One at creation, & one on the ark.
    Thus He told all His creation to multiply. But with the people, it always involved a type of beginning.
    Adam & Eve in the beginning of a new world, Noah & family in the beginning of a re-newed world, & Jacob..the beginning of a new nation.
    The first two were told to "replinish" the earth, which means (Strongs) to fill. In other words the whole of Earth. Same with the animal life.
    Jacob was only told to be fruitful & multiply. Here it is to build a nation, but in the end it will produce enough to populate two worlds!
    so mabey the first two you could call "generic", but not the third.
    actually i have a question that just came to mind, I haven't looked at the threads you mentioned in your first post so if it was asked just refer me back to it.
    To put it discreetly, animals only perform the actual sexual act when its time for conception. Mankind doesn't. But is that the way God designed it for us? wouldn't that have a bearing. Enjoying the pleasures, without having the (supposedly) intended results.
    Sorry but it late & I've got to rest. I'll return tomorrow, actually later today...now!
     
  6. Psalm 100

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    I have a comment on the child bearing issue. My wife and I have adopted two children and have no biological ones. We were unable to concieve, but still felt God pulling us towards parenthood. He opened some doors in some pretty amazing ways, and we are now the proud parents of two angels.

    I don't think child bearing is as important now (6000 years ago maybe) as child rearing.

    My two cents.
     
  7. Dr. Bob

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    1 Tim 2:13-15 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

    THAT is the theology taught out here in Mormon country. MArriage/Children = salvation for the women if they continue in the LDS faith
     
  8. Johnv

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    As a requisite of the marital covenant? No. As a desire, I would think so.
    It cannot be demonstrated in scripture that having children is a scriptural mandate for married couples. Neither can it be shown that refraining from having children is a mandate.
    I think the only thing that matters is the state of a person's heart (in this case the state of the hearts of the spouses) as to why they are having or refraining from having children. If their motives are selfish, then the motive is a sin. If they are reasonable, and both spouses are in agreement, then it is not a sin. BTW, the determinsation of whether it's selfish is completely between the spouses and their Lord. It is not for outsiders to determine unless the couple has given adequate reason.
     
  9. rlvaughn

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    Psalm 100, thanks for your comments and God bless you. I would add that I don't think childbearing/child rearing has to be either/or in regards to importance. Both are important in their own way. Now I do understand what you mean in regard to your own situation. But in the grand scheme of things there must be childbearing in order for there to be child rearing (though the bearing and rearing may not in all cases be done by the same person).

    preacher, you mention the other times the phrase "be fruitful and multiply" are used. I did not quote them because of there application to the animal kingdom, but they really are worth a look. I think these are the two to which you refer:

    This does bring up a question, especially with the close proximity of verse 22 in chapter 1 to verses 27 & 28. Is this "be fruitful and multiply" a pronouncement of blessing rather than a command? If so for the animals, could this be possible in relation to the humans as well? I understand God's "be fruitful" to Adam, Noah, and Jacob as Him speaking to them and more than just pronouncing a blessing over them.

    Dr. Bob, since this is a Baptist Only forum, perhaps we can forego someone holding the Mormon doctrine of salvation through childbearing. I haven't seen any Baptists present that argument up to this point. But you never know! :(

    Johnv, from your posts on the other threads I understand that you are already fully persuaded in your own mind. I'm not looking for a recreation of those threads. Seems most of the opinions were "discussed out" there. I mentioned in the OP that one won't find any "Thou shalt have children" or a "Thou dost not have to bear children" Scriptures in the Bible. I'm not looking for any. But there a number of Scriptures on the table from the opening post, and I hope some of you folks will be willing to interact in the discussion of them. Some of these will provide principles to guide us and on which to build our theology.
     
  10. Andy T.

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    rlvaughn,

    Your OP matches what I think on the subject. You phrased it much better than I did in that other thread.

    I had forgotten about I Tim. 5:14 - another verse that shows having children is the expected norm.
     
  11. rlvaughn

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    Andy, another passage that "assumes children as the norm" is Proverbs 31:10-31, where it is expected that the virtuous woman will have children who will rise up, and call her blessed. Such passages, coupled with the Biblical attitude of children as a blessing, and Jesus' expressed love for children do not prove that every married couple should have children or that they must have as many as they possibly can. But they do show that such websites that praise being childFREE and speak of couples with children as "childburdened" are not coming from a Biblical viewpoint.

    I Tim. 5:14 appears to be a little verse than just a verse that shows having children is the expected norm. Any thoughts?
     
  12. StraightAndNarrow

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    I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs---how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world-how he can please his wife---and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world---how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
     
  13. rlvaughn

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    The above verses (see also I Cor. 7:6-9 & Matthew 19:12) bring back to mind the question I asked in a previous post - Does the existence of some cases of chosen singleness being approved of God extend privilege to or set an example for married couples to choose childlessness?

    Or are these two different issues altogether? If verses on creation order & command, blessings, etc. which don't speak specifically as a mandate do not address the issue, is it consistent to allow something about single folks to apply?
     
  14. preacher

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    In most of the old testament, was it custom or commandment for a man who had a deceased brother with no children to take the brothers wife, marry her, & raise children in his brothers name? The reason I ask is this:
    Gen 38:7 And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
    Gen 38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
    Gen 38:9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
    Gen 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
    Crude form of birth control, & he paid with his life. was it because he disobeyed a commandment of the Lord, or of his own father, or because he "wasted" seed?
     
  15. Aaron

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    I would just reiterate that God did not put Adam and Eve together to be childless. Therefore, it's obviously part of His plan for marriage.
     
  16. Aaron

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    All of the above, possibly.
     
  17. rlvaughn

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    This, often called "levirate marriage" was commanded under the law.

    Deuteronomy 25:5-6 - If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.

    It appears to have been forbidden except in the above case (see (Lev 18:16, 20:21)

    But an interesting thing is that the case of Onan/Tamar occurred before the law was given. So it was already a custom/tradition passed down among the descendants of Jacob.

    The reason given, as I read it, is that "the thing which he did displeased the LORD." So God slew him. What thing displeased the LORD? "(W)hen he went in unto his brother's wife...he spilled it (his seed) on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother." He enjoyed the pleasure of his brother's wife, but would not fulfill his obligation to help conceive an heir in his brother's name.
     

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