No, I haven’t turned into a Catholic, but Catholic teaching regarding having children is something Evangelicals should embrace. I thought of this when I read a piece recently by John Stonestreet at Breakpoint: “Fur Babies:Pets, Children, and the Triumph of Autonomy.” I know for most Evangelicals, asserting that having children is not an option is “controversial.” But I would argue that it’s only controversial because we’ve too easily been influence by the culture of autonomy Stonestreet is talking about. The word means “freedom from external control or influence; independence.” In other words, our choice is the ultimate value. In the West, and especially for Americans, choice is as sacred a right as one can possess. Why would Christians, on the other hand, think having children is a choice? It certainly doesn’t come from Scripture.
I once had an internet “debate” with some kind of fundamentalist about this topic. His argument was that since there is no “command” in the Bible that we should have children, ergo, it’s our choice! That is known as the logical fallacy of the argument from silence. Christians who are baptists (i.e. those who don’t baptize infants) make the same argument. Both are not convincing. I won’t get into infant baptism here, but in the history of the Church, baptizing infants was the default position of almost all Christians. It was only with the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century and the rise of revivalism that adult baptism became the default conviction of Evangelical/fundamentalist Christians. As I read in a book by R.C. Sproul, since baptists are the new guys on the block, this puts the burden of proof on them. You wouldn’t know that from visiting most Evangelical churches today.
But what about having children. Is it really a choice? Does God tell us that hey, if you want kids great, if not that’s great too? Does the fact that there is no command in the Bible to have children really mean they are simply a choice? As I responded to my Internet interlocutor that when Scripture was written, not having children was a sign of God’s curse! Nobody in the ancient world, not one single couple, would have ever even contemplated children as a choice. For them, such a notion would have been absurd. This would have been true generally in the ancient world because children were more than mouths to feed; they were labor. Children were an economic benefit at the time, not an economic burden as they are today. But for Hebrews and Christians, children were much more. They were a gift from God. Why would we accept every other gift from the Lord’s hand, but reject the gift of children?
One does not need to proof text to make this case, but one verse jumps to mind, Psalm 127:3:
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Does any serious Christian really want to make the argument that we, as Christians, should be about the business of rejecting rewards from the Lord? I did a search for children at BibleGateway.com, and there are 37 reference to children in Deuteronomy. Not every one is a reference to children of parents as God’s people, but a lot are. It’s a powerful Scriptural testimony that in God’s economy children are indeed not a choice at all! One of my favorites is 29:29:
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.