Just before I sat down to write this article, I double-checked my Bible to make sure Genesis 1:28 hadn’t been taken out of the latest editions. It hadn’t. So I flipped to Psalm 127, and verses 3, 4, and 5 were still intact. So were Psalm 128:3 and Genesis 9:1, 7.*
I wondered if these scriptures had been excised because as I’ve listened to and read much of the (valuable) information on biblical worldview, something obvious is missing. And when you consider the brilliant and exhaustive resources dedicated to this crucial task, it’s quite strange that anything whatsoever has been overlooked.
Many finer minds than mine have taken up the debate, yet few seem to have noticed what is routinely left out. Or perhaps I should say who is left out?
Missing from discussion are the children—those blessings that start out little but grow to delightfully effective proportions through whom we are to multiply and fill the earth.
Too Hard to Admit
Overall, the biblical worldview track record is very good—and getting better every day. We’ve recognized the naturalistic evolutionists’ lies and are beating them at their own game in science and education. We hold the high ground in the abortion debate. We’re gaining ground in the public square where the Founders’ biblical intentions are winning new respect.
We may even be routing godlessness out of some schools. In all these arenas, we’ve seen the humanist lies for what they are and have gone mighty into battle. But where our fertility is concerned, we’ve gulped down the secular bait.
Even the most conservative of Christians have come to think God’s mandate to raise children for Him is not part of His core plan. It has been relegated to a sideline consideration of what makes for the most manageable life for ourselves.
That God made the world fits neatly into the Christian worldview package. That naturalistic evolution is impossible is a welcome component to biblical thinking. That relativism is a self-refuting philosophy is comforting to the security we feel in basing our lives on solid truths. But the strange suggestion of God’s that we be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth (the earth isn’t filled yet) somehow doesn’t prompt us to manage family life beyond sub-replacement levels of reproduction.
Whether we think we’re doing the allegedly over-populated world a favor, streamlining our lives to pursue more effective ministry, or even because the end is near and we don’t want kids to go through the Tribulation, the choice to avoid having more than two or three children is a means to those other ends that flies in the face of God’s direction to fill the world with His people.
The problem is most Christians today have made this mistake, and it’s too painful to admit. For many, the mistake is not fixable. Age has rendered them past the point of no return. For others, the monumental change in lifestyle required to admit the error and have more children is daunting. (“After all, we just got the ‘two of them’ grown up enough so we can go out without a baby-sitter.” “Another baby would ‘get in the way’.”)
A Strange New Teaching to Tickle the Ears
As with many aberrations of Christian thought, the pattern of limiting family size has not always been the case. In fact, it’s a relatively recent phenomenon.
Every church on the face of the earth opposed artificial contraception until the early twentieth century. Suddenly, with the advent of ready means of birth control, it became okay with virtually everybody—the Roman Catholic Church being the only official hold-out.
The result of the Christian acceptance of birth control is now measurable. The acceptance having overtaken the whole of Western society, Europe, and to a lesser extent America, are running out of indigenous people. And in the “nature abhors a vacuum” way of things, others are flooding in to fill the void. Most notably, Muslims who have not generally been swept up in the birth control tsunami, are handily populating every land they enter.
Where did we get the idea that God needs our help to make sure the world can support the number of people on board? We are His sheep, and He has promised to provide. These days, it is largely political forces that cause starvation among masses of Third World people, not the earth’s inability to serve up enough food.
Anyone who’s ever grown a garden has likely been astonished at the profuse abundance offered by even one cultivated plant—let alone acres of them. God has provided an earth which can meet the needs of many more people than presently inhabit it. We’re the ones who create the distribution problems.
Attitude, Attitude, Attitude
It is not part of God’s equation that we be the ones to limit the number of mouths to feed. For the most part, it’s simply our preference for ease that has made countless Christians succumb to the temptation to inordinately limit their families. (See my post "Letting Go of Easy" for more on the problem of preferring ease and convenience to meaning and purpose.)
The attitude that fosters the desire to have only a few kids is obvious in the viewpoint behind comments that my wife and I receive about our family of eight children (and, yes, the same ones are offered at church as at the grocery store):
“Well, you’ve sure got your hands full!” (It’s not a compliment of our parenting ability.)
“I sure couldn’t handle that many!”
“Two was enough for me!”
“You’ve got a special calling.”
On that last comment, incidentally: It’s not true. The main point I’m making here is that the calling is not special to a select few who have allowed themselves the blessing of many children. God offers that blessing to most people.
The Bible clearly lists children among blessings from God. It also acknowledges financial wealth as a blessing. Yet I’ve never met anyone who is interested in limiting God’s financial blessing in their lives although most want to limit His blessing of children. What kind of a commitment to eternal things is that? Children are eternal; wealth is not.
By the way, if you doubt humankind’s collective ability to “get it wrong,” I also checked on Psalm 12:8. It’s tucked right in there where it’s always been: “…What is worthless is exalted by the human race.” We have a propensity to promote and pursue the wrong things. It’s a by-product of our fallen-ness.
Fortunately, God has more than one generation of people through whom to fix the problem. He can bring abundant fruit through future generations. But the seed, so to speak, must be planted now.
On the score of welcoming new members into the human race and potentially God’s eternal kingdom, we Christians have generally messed up big-time. And this mess-up is across the board—laity, clergy, and other Christian leaders and non-leaders alike. For the sake of our future, we’d better start getting it right.
Even if you’re among the ones who’s already missed it in your life, encourage your children to right the wrong.
*Genesis 1:28—God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it….”
Psalm 127:3-5—Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, children, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them….”
Psalm 128:3—Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your sons, like young olive trees around your table.
Genesis 9:1,7—God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it.”
(All Scripture quotations taken from the HCSB.)