Is having kids essential to marriage?

By September 1, 2015 No Comments

As I’m writing this, it’s ten till seven on a Sunday morning. The kids are playing in loudly in their bedroom. I’m on my first cup of coffee and trying to get at least three hundred words written before making breakfast, showering, getting the kids ready for church, and heading out the door.

I opened the tab on my browser where I store pages that I’d like to read later and landed on a post from Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics Blog, “The fruitful callings of the childless by choice.”

The post asks its readers to reconsider how the church treats those who choose not to have children. The deeper question is whether or not procreation legitimates marriage. Is marriage compromised by not having children? 

The Scriptural basis of the church’s teaching on procreation is found at the very beginning of the Scriptural canon:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” {1:28)

This passage is commonly referred to as the cultural mandate. It contains God’s command to Adam and Eve that they should begin their stewardship of the world God had created a part of which is filling the world with their offspring.

It was (is) believed that this verse creates in humanity a duty to have children as a response to God’s command. In arguing that not all marriages exist for the purpose of creating offspring, Emily Timbol cites the work of James Brownson of Western Seminary (Bible, Gender, Sexuality). He notes,

The command to “be fruitful and multiply” is not given merely to the man and the woman. It is also given to the animals (Gen 1:22) and is thus not a directive given uniquely to human marriage. This in itself calls into question whether the essence of marriage is in view here…

Does this vitiate the force of Yahweh’s imperative in 1:28? Possibly. At the same time, however, an equally plausible explanation is that Yahweh is commanded his creation to act according to its (their) nature(s). Both humanity and the animals are told to procreate because animals and human beings are creative and procreative beings. In fact, it is only the advent of “reproductive technology” in the form of the pill and condoms that allows for the separation of copulation from procreation. Certainly humans have a higher degree of volition than any other sentient being, but even humans could not stop from being procreative beings until fairly recently.

Read the rest of Jeff’s post HERE.

Jeff Gissing

Author Jeff Gissing

Jeff is director of discipleship at the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is married to Anna Moseley Gissing with whom he has two children, Nathan (6) and Eliza (4).

More posts by Jeff Gissing

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