Rejecting God’s Gift of Children

The January 2017 life issue of The Lutheran Witness, with stories on the joys and challenges of adoption, the importance of human life at any age, and the clear moral dangers of transhumanism, to name a few, provide the Christian with real meat on which to chew.  In recent years LW has developed a reputation of providing articles on topics of Christian importance.  Conspicuously absent from the most recent life issue was an article addressing the connection between an increased rate of contraceptive usage, and a decrease in the birth rate in the U.S.

The Guttmacher Institute says in the U.S., the average desired family size is two children, and that to achieve this, a woman must use contraceptives for roughly three decades.  The report also shows that a much higher percentage of married women (72 percent) use contraceptives than unmarried women (44 percent).  The three highest forms of usage are the pill; tubal sterilization; and the male condom.  (https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/contraceptive-use-united-states).  The U.S. Public Health Service reports that in 1960, the birth rate (per 1000 population) was 23.7, and in 2012 it was 12.6 (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0922289.html).

Numbers only reveal the symptom of the real problem: our failure as husbands and wives to trust God’s word to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:22; 8:17; 9:1; 35:11), and to receive this as a blessing sent from God.  Yes, there are cases where the life of the wife could be in imminent danger with a pregnancy, but we know these cases are the small minority.  The reasons often given for contraceptive use (not ready for children; not yet financially established; not done having our fun yet) reveal the problem we have with God’s word and our need to repent for failing to deny ourselves and live under Jesus’ cross in trust.

Even the Dec. 2016 issue of Journal of Lutheran Mission clearly identifies the connection between a decreased birth rate and an increase in contraceptive usage (https://blogs.lcms.org/2016/journal-of-lutheran-mission-december-2016).  God’s word is our heritage.  The moral problems with contraception are sometimes forgotten, perhaps because if there is no child conceived in the first place, it is believed that there is no sin in using them.  When God’s word teaches us that He adds to the human population through fruitful multiplication, and even more importantly adds to His eternal kingdom (Gen. 35:11; Matt. 28:18-20), I am not sure how LW missed this opportunity.

 

Respectfully in Christ Jesus,

Rev. Mike Grieve
Pastor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Golden, IL

Additional signers:

Rev. Michael Scott Monterastelli
Lufkin, TX

Rev. Jacob R. Sutton
Pastor, Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church
Terre Haute, IN

Rev. David P. Ramirez
Pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
Union Grove, WI

Rev. Aaron Uphoff
Pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Randolph, NJ

Rev. Benjamin T. Ball
Pastor, St. Paul Lutheran Church
Hamel, IL

Rev. Andrew Packer
Pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, CO

Rev. Michael Kearney
Pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran, and St. Paul Ev. Lutheran
Alden, and Buckeye, IA.

Rev. Joshua Scheer
Senior Pastor
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Cheyenne, Wyoming

Rev. Joshua Conradt
Associate Pastor at St. Peter’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Waterford, WI.
LWML SWD Zone 21 Pastoral Counselor

Rev. Tyson Mastin
Pastor at St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Plato, MN

Rev. Jon C. Olson
Pastor, Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church
Casper, WY

Rev. Daniel A. Hinton
Associate Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Cheyenne, WY

Rev. Jordan McKinley
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Vallonia, IN

Rev. Andrew Preus
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran, and St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran
Guttenberg, and McGregor, IA

Rev. James J. Stefanic
Pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Marshall, MN

Rev. Robert W. Paul
Pastor and Headmaster, Immanuel Lutheran Church and School
Roswell, NM

Rev. Sean Willman
Pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Pleasant Prairie, WI

Rev. Travis J. Loeslie
Pastor, St. Peter Lutheran Church
Lester Prairie, MN

Rev. Travis Berg
Pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
Latimer, IA

Rev. Paul Preus
Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church
Ellendale, ND

Rev. Weslie Odom
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church
Burkburnett, TX

Rev. Andy Wright
Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church
Keystone, Iowa

Editor’s Note: This letter was originally sent, in its entirety, to the Lutheran Witness. It was too long to be published in the print edition.

 

 

 

 

 


Comments

Rejecting God’s Gift of Children — 122 Comments

  1. @Richard Lewer #97

    Oh, I see my words were unclear.

    How ’bout this:
    Would it please the Lord for a Christian mother to give her life (to die) in child-bearing so her (already conceived) child could continue to have a chance to continue living?

    Is that more clear for you, Mr. Lewer?

  2. Now you are talking about abortion, not contraception. It might be pleasing it was sure that the child would live and the death of the mother was necessary for it to happen.I find it difficult to think of an example of this. Perhaps there might be a case of he doctor saying that the mother would die if the child was not aborted. With modern medicine this should be able to be avoided.

    The Bible does say that it is good for someone to give his life for a friend. Not anything specific in the Bible that I can think of on this case. I would not want to judge.

    Besides, this is not about contraception.

  3. I am a longtime follower of this controversy. I have never heard anyone say that human beings of any persuasion are morally obligated to have as many children as they possibly can. The group that comes closest to this–still not typically saying or thinking it–is neither Roman Catholic nor Lutheran, but Evangelicals for whom the Duggars are useful shorthand. Lobbed by opponents, this characterization of the pro-life position is laziness.

    The real hardline Christian position is not “get your wife pregnant until she dies”, but “If you don’t want to have babies, don’t do the thing that makes babies”.

    The highest birthrate in the world is in Niger, where the average number of children is around 7-8. This is also typical in Hasidic and Amish communities (both of which have access to modern medicine; many Amish groups will make use of English medical technology in life-threatening cases). The 8-20 estimate is inflated when measured against the best contemporary control groups available, none of which strictly represent the ideal actually upheld by the contemporary Roman church (our best formal representative of the catholic position).

    0-20 might be a better estimate. The trouble there is that the woman who gets 20 might have a PhD and the woman who gets zero might not.

    I recommend to all curious parties CPH’s recent book _The Ethics of Sex_, particularly Dr. Stuckwisch’s chapter as to why secular stewardship of childbearing should not be the default position of Christians. Also, contraception is not the only topic that has a long catholic history and makes for a poor Sunday morning sermon.

  4. @Cody Norton #78

    > Luther is saying that apart from marriage, or a special gift of continent celibacy, all men are bound to fall into gross sexual sin. Christ, being free of original sin, is obviously the exception.

    Let’s hope that Christ was tempted with sexual sin and that he didn’t have any special gift of continent celibacy.

  5. @Rev. Mike Grieve #83

    > I would be inclined to say that Genesis 6:1-8 would be the fulfillment of Genesis 1:28, if God would have destroyed everyone, and started over completely. But He did not. He preserves and delivers 8 souls in all, and continues the divine ordinance in Gen. 9:1. Natural law is bound up in the divine decree of being fruitful and multiplying. In other words, being fruitful and multiplying is natural for the husband and wife. It is unnatural not to do, because of sin, as well as being unnatural not to do if unable to do it, because of the effects of original sin.

    How would you read 9:4-6? Binding or are we free from it as well?

    Also, is there any way to be fruitful and multiply without children? Was Paul, a former Pharisee without a wife (which is not really possible), sinning because he was not being fruitful and multiplying? And surely Christ wasn’t, and as I said above, we can be certain he didn’t have any special grace from God to avoid sexual temptations or otherwise he would not be able to be a substitute for all who did.

  6. @Beck #102

    So you are saying that married couples should be abstinent for periods of time if they don’t want more children? I’m honestly trying to understand how this works in a real marriage, not theoretically.

    Also, childbearing often brings women painful conditions that are not life threatening. (i.e. Pelvic floor disfunction, chronic bladder pain, etc.) How does this factor in? Do you men even care about the quality of life of your wives?

  7. @Ted Tschopp #103

    Continent Celibacy doesn’t refer to being completely without sexual desire, it refers to abstaining from all forms of sexual gratification. For most men this is impossible, because our sin so sorely oppresses us that an attempt to quench the desire for sexual gratification bursts forth in other ways (See the celibacy of priests). This is why St. Paul says that although celibacy is to be preferred, if you burn with lust you ought to marry. If Christ is not continent in His celibacy, He is no fit sacrifice, because He is a sinner.

  8. @Lifelong Lutheran #105

    Psalm 127 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
    Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
    2 It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
    eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.
    3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
    4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children[a] of one’s youth.
    5 Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
    He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

    Psalm 128 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways!
    2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
    3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
    your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
    4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
    who fears the Lord.
    5 The Lord bless you from Zion!
    May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life!
    6 May you see your children’s children!
    Peace be upon Israel!

    God loves babies. The blessed life described by the psalms is one full of babies. To care about my wife’s quality of life is to delight in the life that God knits together in her womb. It comes with suffering too, there can be no doubt. This is part of life under the cross. Just as my work to feed my family comes with pain and strife, so the fruit of my wife’s womb, which gives her such joy, also comes with pain. If I “cared for my wife’s quality of life” as others suggest I ought to, we would have no children, and our life would be immeasurably poorer for it.

  9. I wonder about the implications for church discipline regarding the unrepentant sin of using contraceptives. How does this play out.

  10. @Cody Norton #106

    So we have the following:

    1. To disobey a command of God is to sin and to deserve eternal death.
    2. God commands all humans to be fruitful and multiply.
    3. Therefore, it is a sin to disobey this command.
    4. Christ is a perfect sacrificial substitute for all humans.
    5. Therefore, Christ is under this compulsion.
    6. Therefore, Christ does not receive any special grace to obey the law.
    7. However, Christ does not marry.
    8. However, Christ does not procreate.
    9. Christ dies and is raised from the dead and is not eternally dead.
    10. Therefore, Christ did not sin.
    11. Therefore, there is a way to obey this command (1) without sin.
    12. Therefore, there is a way to obey this command (1) without marriage.
    13. Therefore, there is a way to obey this command (1) without procreation.
    14. Therefore, there is a way to obey this command (1) without any special grace.

    Thus my question: How can one obey the command to be fruitful and multiply without sin, marriage, procreation, and any special grace?

  11. For a man to not be fruitful and multiply is no sin. For a woman to not be fruitful and multiply is no sin. For husband and wife to willfully reject God’s gift of children while making use of the mechanism through which God gives this gift is sin.

    The command is not given to individuals but to man and woman. There is no need to invent some fanciful new definition of a command which clearly means,”Have Babies.”

  12. Most women who live open to life, or do until they are unable to, are very aware–more so than others, sometimes–of their sisters who carry the cross of infertility or have suffered many miscarriages. Allowing what God wills to be, generally, has two sides when it comes to childbearing: He gives “too much,” or not enough, or none all. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” The site and book He Remembers the Barren is a comfort to the woman who can’t control her fertility to create a child, the woman whose adoptions seem to be always falling through, the woman who wonders why God has given her so many children

    Gentle and honest education on the different methods of birth control and contraception–including the physical damage that they can cause a woman, and the stress they can put on marriages–can go a long way to convincing couples that the moral neutrality of contraception is not so cut and dried. The ignorance most people have of the science of contraception and birth control is shameful

    Certainly churches and extended families should support large families (or poor smaller families, or the unemployed single–anyone in need) any way they can. It is not becoming for Christians to say, “They’ve made their bed, now let them lie in it.”

    As for a woman sacrificing her body–there are women I personally know who hold this philosophy when it comes to childbearing. Their husbands do not force it upon them, and do love them as Christ loved the church. I think it is uncharitable to criticize these women *as sinning* for choosing to live this way even if we ourselves may not go that far.

    There are doctors who really do flippantly assume (or *highly* recommend) a woman not have more than 3-5 kids, not conceive past 35, etc. Finding a doctor who will be honest and clear about true risks is important. I have seven children and I’m am treated very differently if a doctor (not my own) knows I already have 7, even though I have had 0 history of complications. If he assumes I have 1-2, there is no concern from him. (This is not my own ob and general doctor, who both are very understanding of our moral stance and try to give us a clear picture of risks if there are any, and what they in good conscience as a doctor can do while honoring our consciences)

    If I were to be in a life threatening situation, related to pregnancy or incidental, I’m not sure what I would do, and I don’t think about it much. My husband and I would probably meet with our pastor, I would talk to faithful women who have experience wrestling with these issues, my husband would talk to faithful men, and ultimately I would probably let my husband decide and be at peace with his decision.

    Being parents of many children is very hard. It exposes a lot of my sin. But it also is an inexpressible joy to live this way. I can’t imagine my marriage any other way, and I’m so grateful God gave me a husband who loves me thus. I wish the same joy in all Christian marriages!

  13. @Ted Tschopp #104

    Dear Ted,

    You said: “How would you read 9:4-6? Binding or are we free from it as well?”

    What do you mean, “free from it as well?” As well as what? I did not say we were free from Gen. 1:28, Gen. 6:1-8, or Gen. 9:1. Please read what I wrote again. I said these were continuations of God’s divine ordinance. God preserved and continued, not ended, humanity, through the Flood.

    Why would Gen. 9:4-6 be any different than these other places in Genesis? God puts a protective hedge around life, both in regards to murder (as well as a punishment for murder), and He puts a hedge around the blessedness of fruitful multiplication. We can’t play God’s Word against God’s Word. We should also take Gen. 9:7, with verses 4-6, because God reaffirms the blessedness of fruitful multiplication.

  14. @helen #111

    Yes Helen, sometimes people want babies and cannot have them. This is sad. I can’t fathom why this would change the reality that those who willfully attempt to remain childless while still enjoying the carnal pleasure of the marriage bed, have set their wisdom regarding what is good over God’s revealed word regarding what is good.

  15. @Ted Tschopp #109
    Some at Steadfast Lutherans need some schooling on Law and Gospel. God stated a blessing here not the law or commandment as is being asserted by some.

    Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” NIV

  16. @Michael Baun #115

    Since you obviously are unaware of the irony your statement contains, let me explain it to you:

    By insinuating that because of our stance on contraception we do not properly understand Law and Gospel, you are actually accusing Doctor Luther and C. F. W. Walther, father of the Missouri Synod and author of the much beloved “Law and Gospel” (not to mention every Christian theologian before 1930) of the same…since we hold the same position.

    Also, I’m guessing you don’t know what the imperative mood is, I suggest you look it up and then re-read the passage you cited.

  17. @Pastor David Ramirez #116
    Which particular stance? Much has transpired in this thread. There had been the implication by some that not having ones quiver as full as possible is a sin. It is to that idea I am responding in the context of the argument to whom I am replying. Please see what I replied to for clarification. Thanks.

  18. I’ll preface this to say that I am not a member of a Lutheran church, but I am “Lutheran leaning” in doctrine, so I like to read and lurk on your blogs/ groups etc. I hope I’m not out of line in posting here. ( I have read the articles posted on Steadfast Lutherans on this topic, and also ALL of the comments.) There is so much I want to say, but I will try to keep this short.

    We have nine children ranging in ages 23-6 and we home educate. This road is a lot easier to talk about than to actually travel. And while I am very thankful for the pastors who are espousing a more Biblical view of children, I hope you will remember that there are many women who will hear, “It’s a sin…” and put themselves in dire circumstances out of guilt and fear. Those of us that are traveling down this path need an abundance of grace, compassion, understanding, encouragement, and support. I have found this to be sorely missing in the Body of Christ. Maybe we should start there.

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