Great Stuff — Is procreation an intrinsic quality of marriage?

Found over on by Katie Schuermann:


Portrait of a young boy crossing guard standing on the road holding a stop signQuestion Submitted: At a recent theological symposium, I posited that we in the Church need “to return to teaching properly about the positive locus of marriage – teaching about its procreative purpose and nature.” Another attendee replied in part that “procreation is NOT an intrinsic quality of marriage, as we do not say the infertile are not married.” If I had had a chance for rebuttal, I would have pointed out the error of his logic. Bipedalism is an intrinsic quality of humans, despite the sad reality of paraplegia. It would be very helpful to hear how you would counter the idea that infertility invalidates the argument that procreation is an intrinsic quality of marriage. I have my own answers to this false argument, but I would like to make sure I have an answer that is sensitive to the minds of those who suffer from infertility.

My pastors taught me that God institutes and defines marriage in Genesis Chapters 1 and 2. We learn in verses 1:27-28 that God created man in His own image; male and female He created them, and He blessed them. He told them to be fruitful and multiply, and God saw that “it was very good” (Gen 1:31).

The gift of procreation is not only a blessing God speaks over marriage, but God sees the blessing of children as good.

Barrenness is not good. Barrenness is a brokenness of God’s good creation. Endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, low sperm motility, ovarian and cervical cancers, miscarriages, childlessness, and the groaning of all creation came about as a result of man’s fall into Sin; and we don’t use the effects of Sin to redefine that which God institutes and calls “good” in His Word, nor do we use the effects of Sin to defend the notion that procreation is somehow not a part of God’s intrinsic design of marriage. That is my biggest qualm with the other attendee’s rhetoric. His thesis does not fully confess barrenness as a post-Fall reality. Barrenness proves nothing about God’s procreative intent for marriage other than that God, post-Fall, allows the cross of barrenness to burden the shoulders of some married couples.

In regards to being sensitive to the barren, we should be careful not to turn God’s good, fruitful blessing for marriage into man’s good work. Scripture tells us that having children is not a law of God for us to keep but a heritage from Him for us to receive (Psalm 127:3). None of us would have children apart from God’s merciful blessing and giving. Only God in His wisdom knows why He does not open the wombs of the barren, and we should not burden the consciences of those who are unable to have children by suggesting they should be able to outwit the very Author of Life.

And as for using the existence of barrenness as an excuse to avoid the gift of children in marriage, I can think of no place in Scripture where God calls that good.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — Is procreation an intrinsic quality of marriage? — 16 Comments

  1. It’s interesting through the Old Testament that you have children regarded as a gift of God. There are a couple of other references in Genesis. Genesis 30:2: Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, Am I in the place of God who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb? Notice how this is directly ascribed to God here. Then Genesis 33:5: Then Esau raised his eyes and saw the women with children and said, Who are these with you? Jacob said, The children whom God has graciously given your servant.

    People who have many children grow to be seminary presidents, synodical presidents. There are all sorts of blessings that come. If you look at Psalm 127:3, it’s kind of a classic statement. Lo, sons are an heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb a reward. So you have a very forthright statement. Notice the masculine there. I always like that. Sons are an heritage from the Lord.

    I think in terms of the question of birth control, I certainly am not against all birth control. I think that it is left up to us just as how much we eat, how much we drink, and other things God leaves to our will. If one has many children, that’s fine; if one has few children, that’s fine, too. It’s part of, I think, our Christian liberty.

    Let’s say a poor person has children. Even there I think God would provide ways to take care of that child. And one shouldn’t look upon it in any sense as a bad thing.

    Abortion and the farming out of children to day care centers–that’s all paganism.

    Dean O. Wenthe
    “Lecture on Genesis 15-16:14”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
    Spring Quarter, 1977

  2. When the husband and wife become one flesh, isn’t “one flesh” referring to a child, who is made of the joined flesh of both father and mother?

  3. “I think that it is left up to us just as how much we eat, how much we drink, and other things God leaves to our will.”

    But it’s not left up to us how much, or how little we should eat, or how much, or how little we should drink. Excess and deficiency not only have negative consequences (morbidity, starvation, drowning, dehydration, etc.), they also militate against the purpose for which God designed the human body.

    Could the same thing be said about the reproductive organs? Of course. Paul speaks in several places about using our “members” in the proper way.

    However, Paul never speaks about “leaving things up to our will” when it comes to our bodies, which belong to the Lord.

  4. If the question, “Is procreation an intrinsic quality of marriage?”, is to be discussed, the terms need to be clearly defined. The term, “intrinsic,” needs to be distinguished from “extrinsic” in a consistent way. For example, is the intrinsic quality time-independent or time-dependent?

    In the example of claiming bipedalism as an intrinsic quality of humans, one is faced with distinguishing between humans with two functioning legs and humans with less than two functioning legs. (Here bipedalism is the actual form of movement of a person, not the theoretical concept or potential of bipedalism.) And since the number (or lack) of functioning legs does not determine if a person is human or non-human, bipedalism is not an intrinsic quality of humans. Even humans with two functioning legs may not have an intrinsic quality of bipedalism if they are typically less than a year old, or if they are asleep (except perhaps for sleepwalkers). The use of artificial mechanical or robotic legs also would have to be considered in the definition of bipedalism, but not in the intrinsic quality of being human.

    Regarding the titled question, the words “procreation” and “marriage” need to be defined, not in the theoretical, potential, or conceptual sense, but in the actual or practical sense of a marriage of an actual husband and wife.

  5. @Benji1517 #2

    Benji, I believe the “one flesh” refers simply to the sexual union (which may or may not result in a child). Only in male-female sex do two bodies work together in one biological function. It’s a mystery and it’s natural and it’s awesome and has many benefits, one of which is children.

  6. Procreation listed last…

    The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.

    Lutheran Service Book Agenda
    Holy Matrimony
    CPH, 2006

    Procreation listed first…

    Marriage is the divinely instituted estate in which one man and one woman are joined together in a lifelong union for the purpose of procreation, companionship, and the enrichment of their lives.

    Gerhard Aho
    The Scriptural Doctrine of Marriage — A Doctrinal Essay
    September 1955

  7. @“LC-MS Quotes” #1:

    “… the farming out of children to day care centers–that’s all paganism.”

    Dean O. Wenthe
    “Lecture on Genesis 15-16:14″
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
    Spring Quarter, 1977

    This seems to suggest that Dean Wenthe, and perhaps Concordia Theological Seminary, are (or were in 1977) opposed to Missouri Synod churches having day care centers as part of their parochial school systems.

  8. The sex relationship is one of many interacting relationships in which the couple constantly finds itself. This is all intended in Genesis, where the principle is given that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

    Whenever Scripture uses the term “one flesh,” it always has in mind the total oneness of married partners and includes the physical, sexual relationship between husband and wife. The unity of companionship is climaxed by the union of bodies, thus making the unity complete.

    W. J. Fields
    Unity in Marriage
    CPH, 1962

  9. @ #7

    The Open Arms Institute is sponsoring a Directors Retreat for Open Arms child care center directors and assistant directors July 31-Aug. 2 at The Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta. Open Arms is an LCMS Recognized Service Organization based in Williamsburg, Va., that provides “encouragement and guidance for quality Christian child care with new church planting and with existing congregations,” according to the organization’s website.

    LCMS Reporter
    June 2013

    Concordia Theological Seminary
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    Academic Dean, Ext 205
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    Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne Face Book 1979-80

  10. LCMS Quotes 1 wrote:

    “Let’s say a poor person has children. Even there I think God would provide ways to take care of that child. And one shouldn’t look upon it in any sense as a bad thing.”

    Except many thousands of Christian children of Christian parents do indeed die from starvation, lack of access to medical care, lack of shelter, and lack of clean water every year. Did God simply forget to provide a way way for the parents to care for that child, or were they just not good enough Christians?

  11. I am surprised how many Lutheran pastors do not preach about Malachi, ch. 2. A chief purpose is children. With orphanages overflowing in so many parts of the world, it would be a great opportunity for the church at large to defray the obstacles of adoption in the face of sterility.
    The U.S. population is in decline. As immigrants rise above the poverty level, they resort to the 1.8 children that is the norm. The current policy for the next 30 years is to legalize only 1 million immigrants a year. Population decline will be inevitable unless that changes. We really need to focus on the high and holy office of raising children in the Word and faith.

  12. I want to emphasize once again that the more children you have the easier it is to communicate the Gospel — at least with children. I had to get that in somewhere.

    Robert D. Preus
    “The Mission Emphasis at C. T. S.”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
    September 10, 1986

  13. @“LC-MS Quotes” #6
    Comparing Aho with the LSB shows that we’ve resorted to a different reading of Genesis than Luther. For him, the one main thing Eve is to “help” Adam in is not his career or mutual sexual satisfaction but the procreation of children.

  14. Contraception as denial…

    The first two things that St. Paul gets straight with converts to Christianity is: 1) no more idolatry, but singular devotion to the one true God revealed in Jesus Christ; 2) sexual immorality and sexual purity issues. Of all the things that Paul would need to address to Gentile converts, that’s number 2. How often is that number 2 emphasized in our cultural context? Never. Never. I’ve never seen it yet given the kind of weight and emphasis that Paul does in the New Testament. That’s why we are in the situation we are currently in, because people in the Church are basically uneducated about the significance of sexual purity for a life of holiness before our Lord Jesus Christ. Idolatry and same-sex intercourse together constitute a frontal assault on the work of the Creator in nature. Contraception is basically a denial of the natural body processes that God has given women. Similarly, the issue of same-sex intercourse is a denial, in a holistic sense, of the way in which God has made male and female.

    Robert A. J. Gagnon
    Ruth Institute Podcast
    “Paul and Homosexual Practice” (Romans 1:18-32)
    June 1, 2013

  15. @ #14 “Comparing Aho with the LSB shows that we’ve resorted to a different reading of Genesis than Luther.”

    Luther put it well: “He has instituted it (marriage) before all others, and therefore created man and woman separately (as is evident), not for lewdness, but that they should (legitimately) live together, be fruitful, beget children, and nourish and train them to the honour of God.” (Luther. “Large Catechism,” Trig., p. 639) Marriage is the basic divine institution in society, the indispensable condition for the continuance of the human race.

    Gerhard Aho
    The Scriptural Doctrine of Marriage — A Doctrinal Essay
    September 1955

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