Monday, February 18, 2013

A theology of marriage and childbearing

Is there a theology of marriage and childbearing? What do the Scriptures say? Do the Scriptures present marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman in which children are intended and expected? Or do the Scriptures present marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman in which a choice to have or not have children is part of the covenant they make between themselves? Does it matter one way or the other? The following are some Bible verses that relate to the issue.

1. When we look at the original, we see a lifelong union between one man and one woman with the blessings and responsibilities of bringing forth children. Quote: Gen 2:18,21-24 - And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him...And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (cf. 1:27,28)

2. Fruitfulness is a blessing and a command to Adam and Eve. Quote: Gen 1:27-28 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

3. There is a similar blessing/command motif for Noah and Jacob. Quote: Gen 9:1 - And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Gen 35:11 - And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.

4. God's creative plan is that the woman should bear children. That she would bear them "in sorrow" is a result of the fall. Quote: Gen 3:16 - Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

5. The Lord has power over the womb, both opening and shutting. Quote: Gen 29:31 - And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. I Sam 1:5 - But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.

6. Children (and even grandchildren) are an heritage (inheritance) and a reward from God. Quote: Psalm 127:3-5 - Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psalm 128:1-3 - Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Prov 17:6 - Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.

7. Paul exhorts younger women to marry and bear children. Quote: I Tim 5:14 - I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

8. Marrying and bearing children seem to be the normal and expected course for the Christian (so much so that Paul assumes the elders will be married with children). Quote: I Tim 5:10 - Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. Titus 2:4,5 - That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. I Tim 3:2-4,12 - A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity...Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

9. There are exceptions to this "normal course". For persons to devote themselves to remain unmarried in order to give themselves over to the Lord's service seems above average, but certainly a good thing and that is acceptable to God. Quote: Matthew 19:12 - For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Compare I Corinthians 7:8, et al.

10. Examples of Jesus' feelings toward children: Quote: Matt 19:14 - But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:2-6 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 

I would like to keep any discussion impersonal and Scripture-oriented. Regardless of one's personal status in this matter, I hope that we agree that it is Scripture and not our practice that decides the truth. The general tenor of Scripture combined with specific teachings gives strong evidence that children are an intended and expected consequence of marriage. 



Chad Whiteley said...

I have very few thoughts on the matter, but as a childless husband, I have been happily sitting on a pew instead of behind the pulpit for the last year.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Chad, thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's good to be reminded that someone is reading. I think this is a topic that needs some discussion because we tend to stay away from it.

I still haven't forgotten about your mentioning the implications of the incarnation on the doctrine of the local church. I will look forward to hearing more from you on that someday.

Take care and God bless.