Be Fruitful and Multiply?
A church committee has asked the General Synod of Australia's Anglican Church to adopt a statement calling for citizens to have fewer children, recommending that the government cut childbirth incentives to new parents and instead offer incentives for parents to have fewer children. The country is on track for overpopulation, the church warned, which could break the eighth commandment by stealing resources from future generations. Do Christians have a special responsibility to have children?
"There is a scriptural mandate for it, and you have admonitions in the psalms that speak of the blessedness of God providing many children to a husband and wife. And there's a general tenor throughout scripture that children are a blessing and a heritage from the Lord. So, should Christians be fruitful and multiply? I say absolutely. In fact, I would say this: the only instance in which Christians should not seek the gift of children would be in extraordinary ministry circumstances where perhaps having children would be ill-advised or dangerous."
Daniel Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"We become more like God when we marry. Two become one; when I choose to love my wife and become one with her, we become more like God. When two of us become three and have one family, I become more like God. That's when I understand the father heart of God, the mother heart of God. So, for our own sanctification, godliness, and becoming like God, we need to have children."
Vishal Mangalwadi, Revelation Movement
"While it's trendy to talk about curbing baby emissions, most industrialized countries actually need more population: more babies to sustain and care for their aging population. It's a general misread of demographics across the world to see it as a baby problem. But most importantly, the world needs to see Christians leading lives of fruitfulness. That's fruitfulness across the board — biological fruitfulness in marriage, but also lives of fruitfulness where we're showing generosity in care for the elderly and our concern about social problems, but not trying to solve them by adopting trendy practices of birth control."
Steve Watters, author, Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies
"Children are a blessing from the Lord, and we should be promoting a culture of life in our nation. The Bible certainly encourages us to respect and honor human life, and speaks to the blessing children are and that human life is. There are a lot of decisions to be made within individual families that churches have to look at individually, but it's certainly pretty clear in the Bible—celebrate life."
Aaron Mercer, project director, nae Generation Forum
"God calls us to be fruitful and multiply but … it has to do with how God speaks to each family and person, for the children we're called to raise, the children God wants us to have. The more important question is, as parents, especially disciples of Christ who are called to care and tend his garden, do we raise our children to be good stewards of the earth, to use the resources that God gave us wisely? I think that's the biblical question. God calls us each to provide and multiply. The question is how do we raise them to live as disciples?"
Mitch Hescox, president, Evangelical Environmental Network
"Most of my adult life I've lived around all kinds of people screaming about population explosion. In the last 10 or 15 years it quieted down, largely because fertility dropped … . If there's something important going on in fertility now, it's the fact that European nations are far below replacement fertility. I don't know whether Christians have a duty to be fertile, but I certainly do not see that they have a Christian duty to not have children."
Rodney Stark, professor of social sciences, Baylor University
"As a human species, we are successfully filling the earth. I don't think every individual has the responsibility to reproduce, because God hasn't given every individual the capacity to reproduce, or the desire. Humans are all responsible for fruitfulness. The context of the scripture in the creation account is about being fruitful, multiplying, subduing, and caring for the earth. We can express fruitfulness through responsibility, care, and stewardship for all of creation, which includes our biological children as well as all other children and all other parts of creation."
Jenell Williams Paris, professor of anthropology, Messiah College
"There is a population and resource issue, and the best way to love our children and to love the future's children and to love, really, all people, or all children, will be to limit our family size … . I love bringing babies into families. But there may be a higher calling, now that we have been fruitful and multiplied as a species, to think about limiting our families. We've tended to think, as Christians, we need to have children because that brings more Christians into the world. But it may not be the best way to love our neighbor. I think it's difficult for us to think outside our little circle and say, 'Well, I've got enough to feed my children,' and not really think about the impact of the resource use on children in Africa, who are also Christian."
Lisa Graham McMinn, professor of sociology, George Fox University
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Previous Christianity Today articles about having children include:
How Many Kids Should We Have? | To answer the question, Christian couples need more than a few select Bible verses. (Her.meneutics, June 19, 2010)
Peter Singer's Swan Song | Bioethicist asks: 'Why don't we make ourselves the last generation on earth?' (June 14, 2010)
Deconstructing the Quiver | A review of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. (February 20, 2009)
'Be Fruitful and Multiply' | Is this a command, or a blessing? (November 12, 2001)
Previous topics for discussion included whether churches should increase their 2011 operating budgets, a Protestant-less Supreme Court, Mother's Day worship, incorporating churches, whether evangelicals are doing a good job at racial integration, whether Christians should leave the American Medical Association, the most significant change in Christianity over the past decade, whether the Supreme Court should rule that memorial crosses are secular, multisite campuses vs. church plants, and whether Christians should fast during Ramadan with Muslims.