Friday, April 27, 2007

no sex for you

As one who is in the midst of seeking to understand the implications of marital union and childrearing due to my own upcoming wedding ... I have been thinking a lot on the topic of the purpose of marriage and that intimate bond of sexual intercourse.

As all engaged couples do (or ought to do), my fiance and I are discussing plans for our future family. The hows and whens are overwhelming at times.

While still uncertain about my own position, I hold a great respect for those who hold the conviction that each time a couple engages in sexual intimacy they ought to be open to the possibility of God blessing them through the new life of a child as a result.

At the same time, I also respect those who view family planning as a solemn God-given responsibility, putting off having children till they are able to best care for and provide for a family.

I am bothered, however, by a flippancy I have observed in a disturbing trend whether in the world or evangelicalism concerning birth control. Time and again I have encountered couples or individuals who view the blessing of birth as a blight to be prevented with medicine or other means as if it were a disease to be cured.

These persons ARE NOT ready to be parents ... obviously.

And I believe, these persons are not responsible enough to engage in sexual intercourse.

*This is not a condemnation of those couples who as mentioned above have what they view as godly motives for not pursuing the addition of children to their family. Rather, it is a shout of concern toward those who have a false view of God's gifts and selfishly choose childlessness.

31 comments:

Bron said...

What do you think about the 'not yet' couples? And I guess I mean the whole spectrum of reasoning from 'we just want to have fun now' to 'it's not responsible of us to do this at this stage yet but we will soon'?

mark said...

Yeah, that. I would propose a similar argument that you hear within evolutionary circles: without the aid of medical technology, etc women & children died more, and within an agricultural setting, more children=more workers.
So on one hand, yes, we do have the 'option' to not have kids now due to med-tech, but perhaps even if that option were available in prior centuries it wouldn't have been accepted/acceptable. (at the same time, i don't doubt the depravity of prior generations, and perhaps they would accept it, and none of us would be here now!!)

Contraceptive methods cannot be understood outside the context of having other medical technologies (responsibilities) in place that allow for longevity and greater general health.

Stephen Newell said...

Christine,

Please, please do NOT apologize for this post. As someone who is married and has/is currently experiencing "the complexities of marriage, sex, family, etc.," your post was right on. I do not believe your tone "lacked grace" nor do I think it was inappropriate for you. These are things you quite obviously ought to be thinking about and coming to a position on.

You are correct to be disturbed by the trend you notice, and you are even more correct to say such people are not ready to be parents nor are they ready to have sex. There is nothing lacking in grace in saying so.

If someone has been offended by this post, it is not you, Christine, who has offended; it is the implications of living out the Gospel that has offended. You have allowed the Gospel to be the only offense here.

Jennifer said...

"While still uncertain about my own position, I hold a great respect for those who hold the conviction that each time a couple engages in sexual intimacy they ought to be open to the possibility of God blessing them through the new life of a child as a result. At the same time, I also respect those who view family planning as a solemn God-given responsibility, putting off having children till they are able to best care for and provide for a family."

I am on the exact same page as you regarding what you stated in this post... When I came back to your blog just now and saw what my comment on your other post sparked, I was quite surprised. I hope that there was no offense taken by my comment on your post "It's Practical...Not Theoretical." When you considered it a "loving rebuke" it made my heart glad that I somehow and unknowingly encouraged you. But based on the above comment, I want others to be clear that I fully agree with the things you said in this post (including the one I commented on!), and I probably would have written in the same manner had I typed this particular post myself.

One Salient Oversight said...

You need to present your argument Biblically. So far I haven't read anything that supports your position.

I did read Al Mohler's piece last year and I thought it was lacking in Biblical support.

The onus is not on us to prove that the Bible allows childlessness, it is up to you and others to prove that the Bible condemns childlessness. Sola Scriptura demands it.

One Salient Oversight said...

BTW I have two kids. My wife and I were married in 1993 and our first child was born in 2000. We chose not to have children for those 7 years.

ckhnat said...

"I hope that there was no offense taken by my comment..."

Jennifer: none taken ... it was your confession of your need to be more gracious in your speech that exhorted me to do the same. speaking the truth IN LOVE ... and all that.

OSO: The staff of Desiring God have put together an excellent statement regarding birth control.

This portion sums up my concern:

"The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:1, 9 on the sufficiency of Scripture). What is important is our attitude in using it. Any attitude which fails to see that children are a good gift from the Lord is wrong:
'Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them' (Psalm 127:3-4)."

In addition 1 Timothy 5:8 is a solemn rebuke to use wisdom and provide for one's family.

"If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8).

The entire article deals with the following questions:

Is birth control consistent with the truth that children are a gift from the Lord?

Shouldn't we let God determine the size of our family?

Should natural family planning be preferred to "artificial" contraception?

One Salient Oversight said...

I didn't see anything in the Desiring God link about the "deliberate childlessness" that is being mentioned as being sinful by some Christian leaders.

GloryandGrace said...

There MANY couples who really do hold off having children for mere convenience sake, and for some individuals, that would be sin for them. A good friend of mine thought she was pregnant at one point last year, and really did freak out and go into panic mode because it would disrupt their plans for school and career. Why did she go into such a tailspin of panic? What was going on in her mind and heart?

I just finished a paper on in vitro fertilization and gleaned much insight into the considerations for using such methods. Looking at that as well as using birth control should move us to weighing the principles that are laid out in Scripture (as Christine has done in her above comment). Why is the couple choosing to hold off on children? For some, birth control may be the wise method if a couple knows that they are not at a place to care for the children they would have. Others don't see children as a gift from the Lord, but rather as part of the gameplan, and if those children happen to come sooner than what's on the schedule, then how to they respond?

One Salient Oversight said...

I see having children in the same way as marriage. Marriage and sex are blessings from God but many choose (or are forced through circumstance) to not enjoy those blessings. Paul makes it clear that singleness and marriage are both acceptable and neither is "better" than the other.

What I want is an ironclad Bible verse that says that "deliberate childlessness" is sinful. If there isn't any then it's not Sola Scriptura.

mike said...

So everything that is sinful has to have an "ironclad" verse backing it up?

GloryandGrace said...

I want a verse that says abortion is sinful.
I want a verse that explains whether or not a husband is in sin if he lusts after his own wife.
I want a verse that tells me whether or not it's sinful for someone to merely take medication for a supposed chemical imbalance rather than getting to the root of the individual's depression. Those are not there, not "ironclad" passages that give us the exact answer. But we apply biblical principles, what IS there, to the issue.

No, "deliberate childlessness" is not written out in Scripture, but it's a very real issue that you must do something with. You must begin with the person's heart, what in their heart constitutes deliberate childlessness, and how Scripture does speak and apply.

Meredith said...

My two cents: God is really in control far more than we give Him credit. If God wants babies to be conceived, contraceptives are no obstacle. I mean, really.

The crux of the issue is not sinfulness in not wanting babies. It's more unbelief in God's sovereignty.

Don't think that helps much, but fwiw, 'tis my thinking here. (And I have done a lot of it.)

One Salient Oversight said...

So everything that is sinful has to have an "ironclad" verse backing it up?

I apologise for being unclear in this process. However, the bible does give us sufficient knowledge of what is sin and what is not.

Abortion is obviously wrong because there are verses in "That Psalm" that refer to the unborn fetus as being human. Once you understand that God attributes human worth to an unborn child, opposition to abortion follows.

So... what verses in scripture form the basis that "deliberate childlessness" is sinful?

Keep in mind that the "refusing God's blessing is sin" argument falls far short when you take marriage and alcohol into account (both of which are described as blessings that God's people don't have to partake in)

Jason said...

Christine,

In response to your post:

I hold a great respect for those who hold the conviction that each time a couple engages in sexual intimacy they ought to be open to the possibility of God blessing them through the new life of a child as a result.

At the same time, I also respect those who view family planning as a solemn God-given responsibility, putting off having children till they are able to best care for and provide for a family.


These two views need not be incompatible. Natural Family Planning (NFP) allows a couple to be responsible in when they want to have kids, by working along with how God created the fertility cycle, while remaining open to the blessing of new life should God choose to provide. However, the real value is spiritual. We all know that God could give any married couple a child, no matter how much they tried to fight it. NFP actively engages a couple in the reproductive process, ensuring that children never becomes an afterthought, and allowing for times of abstinence from sex to strengthen marriage through prayer and non-sexual expressions of romantic love.


As for salient's question, there is no reason to say that childlessness of itself is sinful. Luke 23:29 even says "the days are surely coming when they will say 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore...'"

On the other hand, Proverbs 30:16 lists "the barren womb" next to Sheol as two things that "are never satisfied." Of course, it's one thing to be barren out of selfishness and quite another to be barren due to infertility or a decision to live a celibate life.

One Salient Oversight said...

I'm happy to believe that "barren wombs" were something to be sad about in the OT days, but I don't think that those verses can then be used to back up the idea that deliberate childlessness is somehow sinful.

Unless someone can explain it to me further that is.

Jason said...

Well, I ran a search for the word "barren" over at StudyLight.org and came up with those two that seemed most relevant to this discussion.

Fruitfulness is a common theme in the Bible, from the original commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" to God's promise to Abraham that his descendents would number like the stars in the sky; od leading Israel out of the desert into the fruitful land of Canaan; the gift of motherhood to the Virgin Mary and her barren cousin, Elizabeth; the "fruits of the Spirit;" and every Christian's mission to bear fruit in faith and works (or faith through works or however you prefer to think about it).

Answering your question depends on why a couple is choosing to refrain from having kids. There are selfish and unselfish reasons for making that choice. Selfish = good. Unselfish = bad.

Jason said...

ooops, I meant works through faith :) Although, I guess some people gain faith through the works of others.

mike said...

I don't think anyone is arguing that a couple who don't have kids for selfish reasons are doing the right thing.

Jason said...

Well, obviously I meant to say, selfish = bad and unselfish = good.

And I agree, Mike, but it seems like Salient was missing that point. Deliberate childlessness isn't sinful and nobody's saying that it is. It's the reasons and methods used for avoiding children that can be sinful.

Jason said...

I know this thread is dead, but hopefully you'll at least get this by e-mail. I just wanted to post a short article about research the Billings Foundation did on 4 million Chinese women who practice natural family planning.

Here are a couple of snippets:

"...of 40,000 women who considered themselves unable to bear children, 39,000 achieved conception"

"...'intrinsic goodness' of these methods leads to greater self-esteem in women."

"A woman who knows her cycle loves herself more and is more committed. Self-control helps one appreciate the other person and love him or her, and be at the other’s service, thus inspiring gestures of affection."

A-Hawk said...

I'm new to blogging so I'm not sure I understand the "this thread is dead comment", but I'll see if this posts.

@ Christine, thank you so much for once again addressing an issue that we need to be thinking through very Biblically, deeply, and clearly. We each ought to wrestle with these issues. I have spent the last two semesters intensively studying this topic (though I have studied it before), so I find it sort of funny that in my first week of blogging... here it is:) I will not irritate everyone by trying to impart wisdom that is not mine, but that I believe was given through the study of others. I simply want to thank you for bringing this up.


@OSO, I realize several people have commented on your comments. I do not want you to think for one second that I am “ganging up” on you with anyone and don’t think that is the intention of anyone else either. I say this, simply to “put up the white flag” and let you know that the following comments are intended to be genuine and loving. I appreciate your dedication to Sola Scriptura, but have several things I would like to point out. First, the burden of proof is on those that would argue not to have children, since having children is the natural outcome of being married, in most cases. It is a natural gift of God, therefore, it is normative in most cases. Thus, I lovingly point out that the burden of proof is on those that would say no. Also, you will not find an “ironclad” verse that says not having children is sinful. Two things, one, I think the point here is not to make some grand statement, as some do, that all people, at all time, that ever choose to not to have children are sinning, but to point to false motives and selfish, childish attitudes whereby some don’t want to “stop having fun.” This statement even in and of itself is nonsensical and totally misunderstands the gift of God. Second, though I believe you really do desire Sola Scriptura, you, I can almost gurantee, do not follow the way you are trying to apply that here. Do you believe that sex before marriage is wrong? If so, show me an ironclad verse… Though there are many verses that warn about harlotry and the foolishness of promiscuity, there isn’t one that explicitly forbids sex before marriage. It is only through studying to show ourselves approved that we can apply the principles God teaches us in His Word, consistently checking our conclusions with scripture.

Jason said...

I meant that this conversation (or thread) appears to have died, although maybe not... I don't think anyone would notice new posts on an older thread.

Also, doesn't Paul include fornicators among those people who cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

A-Hawk said...

Ah, thanks for the clarification. That makes perfect sense.

As to fornicators, yes, Paul does mention that. However, the word used there is “pornos.” It is basically translated immorality. I’m no Greek scholar, but from what I understand this is a very general and undefined term (wide Semantic range) that has tons of meanings, the main thrust of which, is immorality. From there, how do you define immorality?… which brings us back to the point I made in the previous post. Not that they are “the” authority on Biblical interpretation, but I’ve heard at least two Greek profs admit this issue. It is a weak argument, textually, to definitively say that premarital sex is demanded in these contexts, rather than immorality in general. As such, I think it is perfectly fitting to say that there is nothing “ironclad” about it, though I think it is, at the least, a direct implication and a possible translation (though I believe the translation here is based on implication). Again, I am no Greek scholar, but this is my understanding. Thanks for your feedback and especially for the grace you showed if indeed you believed me to be in err, that is certainly a Christ honoring way to address it.

Jason said...

Liberal Christians make the same point about the word "homosexuality," that the Greek word refers more to homosexual pedophilia and orgy activity because monogamous homosexual relationships were unheard of in biblical times.

For both terms, I would ask how the early Christians understood Paul's words. What was their standard of sexual morality?

A few years ago, I also struggled with how to interpret what Paul says because it is a bit vague. Then I found this passage in Proverbs 5 that leaves no room for error:

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.


So first of all, you must own -- not rent -- a cistern (i.e. take her as your wife), and secondly, your cistern is for "yourself alone," so there's none of this fooling around with the girlfriend and saying it's not fornication because you're in a commited, monogamous relationship. Commitments are based on covenants and oaths, and covenants are not established by paying for dinner.

A-Hawk said...

I am not here to fight with people. You are totally missing the point; the point was that we must study the scriptures carefully to figure out the Lord’s will on some things. Since there is not an ironclad, explicit scripture about not having children, we have to study to see what the scriptures say. I am not saying that premarital sex is at all permissible. My point was to use a very commonly understood principle, such as premarital sex, to illustrate the need for study. Thus, your comments simply illustrate my point. So, I say this in love, I would encourage you to read a person’s post before assuming you need to correct them on something. Perhaps I am completely misunderstanding the reason you posted what you did and if so, I apologize for my strong words above.

May we always pray for discernment before we speak and always view others above ourselves! –Aaron Hawk

ckhnat said...

Hi, Aaron. I'm back safe ... loving the time i get to spend with my fabulous family!

As for Jason's comment above ... I don't believe it was a personal comment directed at you. This form of commenting is no uncommon in the blogosphere. If anything he is sharing how he, himself, is applying the principles of searching the Scriptures as you mentioned above. In which case, some comments take on a "preaching to the choir" motif.

A-Hawk said...

ok, good to know. I realize I'm knew to this type of thing, but as I've said, I have horrified at the way some people speak to each other on these things and refuse to enter into fruitless debate or bashing, which it seems some thoroughly enjoy (ie: from what I’ve seen on blogging in general so far, not necessarily here). I hate arrogance with a passion (b/c we don’t like mirrors), so I’m very sensitive to it.

Anonymous said...

That wouldn't be the 'choir' of Catholic apostolic succession that Jason is preaching to?

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

Yeah, I wasn't intending to correct you about anything, but just wanted to share how I found clarification on that verse (seems like a lot of Christians ask themselves what Paul meant).

Plus, like I said before, we could always read the Church Fathers and learn how they interpreted it. They aren't always right, but they did live in that culture so their insight and perspective is invaluable.

I think OSAS was the one asking for Scripture about married couples who choose not to have children. I attempted to answer the question by clarifying that it's not the choice itself, but the reasons for the choice, that could be selfish/sinful.