Why not having kids is more than a lifestyle choice

Branson Parler

Adam Shields
August 20, 2013

What never makes sense to me in this discussion is why we assume that having children is the default position for Christians? I know the standard answers (be fruitful and multiply, etc).

But why does that not work for Paul's instructions about marriage? My reading of Paul is that the default position should be singleness unless you really want to get married. And then marriage is ok. I do not see anything fundamentally different about having children.

In many ways I think having children can distract you from the work of God even more than marriage. (Of course is can also focus you on the work of God, just as marriage can, but either marriage or children leave you with less time, energy and focus to serve God).

As to the focus on yourself, I know plenty of people that have had children for selfish reasons. But I have never heard anyone chastise parents for having children for selfish reasons. I have heard lots of people chastise people without children for selfishness (whether or not the people understood the reasons for not having children.)

Branson Parler
August 20, 2013

Adam, I think you're right that the default position is singleness, not marriage. Obviously, that would entail childlessness in a biological sense. That's exactly the point Paul is making.

But if you are married, having children is the default position because the marital union (i.e, sexual union) is inherently linked to the natural outcome of that union--children. And I think we should not create a dichotomy between marriage/children and "the work of God." As Deuteronomy repeatedly emphasizes, raising up children in the ways of the Lord is probably the most profound "work of God"/discipleship in which God's people can engage.

You're right as well to note that people can have children for selfish reasons. But the objective reality of children force parents to choose to a greater degree to embrace selfishness or travel the long journey of dying to self. I may have children for selfish reasons, but the reality of my child day in and day out is going to force me to choose like never before to be hospitable and self-sacrificial or selfish and inhospitable.

Gabe Hollis
August 21, 2013

I know this will make me sound like the worst Christian on the face of the earth, but I think giving birth to kids is extremely selfish. I don't want to offend people with children but I know it will. I hope if you read it you will read the whole thing, especially the last paragraph, and know that its coming from hurt.

Giving birth to children- The Problem.
1. If there is a .00000000000001% chance that one of your children could go to hell, why risk it? If there is a 99.9999999999999% chance they will go to heaven, there will never be a child to miss it, because they will never exist.

2. And what if the child born to you wishes they had never existed? What if they hate life?

3. Why do we want our own kids so bad? Isn't that kind of narcissistic? Its risking someone going to hell so that we can have someone who is like us and come from us. Its not for the sake of the child, because you can't benefit a person who doesn't exist.

4. People who don't exist yet can't choose whether or not to exist. Its infeasible that a child could choose whether or not to be born. That seems unjust to choose to thrust them into the world.

Adoption- The solution.
1. I'm not at all against us having children, just giving birth to our own? Why don't we show perfect religion like James talks about and adopt children???

2.If our birth rate is down, and other countries birth rates are up, why don't we adopt from them?

3.If there are children who are born to families or homes where they wouldn't have much of a chance of a good life, or where they are less likely to go to heaven and more likely to go to hell, wouldn't it be wonderful to adopt them into a home where this is more likely

4. In adoption we aren't responsible for any of any of the 4 points about the problem of giving birth to our own children.

Anyways, this whole line of logic comes from a very deep hurt in my relationship with God. My biggest (and extremely painful) doubt about my faith is in the question "Why would God create people when he knew so many would go to hell?" There is no acceptable answer that humans can offer. All I can do is trust God that one day it will make sense. But in the meantime, I can't possibly see how giving birth to children is just, especially when we can adopt. I'm pretty bummed because I think it will narrow the options of people who will marry to quite a few. Anyways, that's where I'm at

Ken Leonard
August 22, 2013

Call me crazy, but rather than read other people's arguments, I'd rather talk to actual people without kids if I want to know why they make that choice.

Even more, I'd rather mind my own business since I have more than enough issues in my own life that I don't need to involve myself in the reproductive habits of my friends, much less anyone else.

I have five kids. That's the choice that my family has made. Other people have more, some have fewer. Rather than try to figure out which of us is better than someone else ... Why not focus on something that could possibly matter? There is no way to win by telling people without kids that they should have them, and a great many ways to lose.

This is a great opportunity to practice Jesus' command to look inward instead of trying to correct others.

ThisWomanWrites -- Carolyn Henderson
August 29, 2013

I've got four kids. I went through their childhood with people stopping me in the grocery store, mouths agape: "Are they ALL yours?"

In one generation, we've gone from 4-6 kids being the norm to being an anomaly that people can't wrap their minds around.

I don't care how many kids you have -- none, 1, 10 -- just love them. What I do care about is that as a society we are discounting the importance and significance of children -- Jesus Himself tells us that, unless we are like a little child, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. If there are no more children about, or if our society is uninterested in them, how will we understand this teaching?

Already, we have difficulty understanding what the Bible has to say about sheep -- because so few people have experience with sheep. People in mega-cities, where milk comes magically in cartons, don't understand about livestock, and how they are a part of our collective human experience and a means of teaching us about life.

Children are so much more than that -- they think differently, live differently, love differently. They exhibit a trust and acceptance that we adults need to be reminded of, because if all we have around us are grownups, we're in trouble. This world needs all ages of human beings.

December 29, 2013

Yet another author who can not grasp the idea that maybe the selfish option is to have kids....

There seems to be many Christians who "want kids" and then pay not attention to raising the kids in a good Christian manner. How come they are not called out for their acts. Of course, they have the 'appearance' of doing good works.

Grace, not works is how we are saved people...

By calling kidfree couples 'selfish' is rubbish, as there is nothing selfish about the action of not having kids, look at the definition:

Selfish: (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

A kidfree person is not lacking in consideration, as there is nothing to be lacking in consideration for...

If the argument "sex=children" is to be correct, then why do most Christans only have a small number of children? - Or does having one child eliminate you from the argument, and now you may have sex without gaining any more children?

"Doing things that make you happy" is a very good way to live - as long as those things also bring glory to God. Something else missed by the author.

Many churches and this author share the view that there is an obligation to have chldren, come what may to your state of mind of children (some people simply dislike being around children), of financial situations, of job security, of simple ability (mental health, physical health).

I for one dislike being around children, and have no desire at all to become a Father.

Somehow I am am "obliged" to live a life that I have no desire to live. I am 'obliged' to live in misery?
I am 'obliged' to raise unwanted children?

The above don't sound like good Christian living to me...

And because I don't want to have children, then somehow means that I must miss out on a loving relationship, and live in singledom forever?

Again, the above don't sound like good Christian living to me...

I am not denying God by not wanting children - God has not placed that desire in me. I desire plenty, and live a 'fulfilling life', I can use my life and loving relationship for other Godly obligations.

August 31, 2014

Branson, you wrote "but if you are married, having children is the default position because the marital union (i.e, sexual union) is inherently linked to the natural outcome of that union--children."

The natural outcome for any particular marriage is not children. Marriage is a covenant between two people, before God, vowing to love, honor, and cherish, through sickness and in health, for richer for poorer. Forsaking all others til death do you part. Not "until the kids are grown." Not "as long as we have kids." Nothing in there about kids.

Sanctimonious responses like yours are the very reason that so many childless Christians don't feel welcome at church. Christian couples without children are left out of church activities, sermons, and church groups because of attitudes like yours. Everyone thinks "if you're married, you SHOULD have kids." And we're often treated like modern day pariahs because we don't. And yet there are a million reasons that Christian couples can't or shouldn't have kids. From health, to financial, to simple (or not so simple) infertility. Just because someone is "capable" of having children, doesn't mean they should. And quite frankly, that's not for YOU to decide. That's between the couple and God.

Branson Parler
September 2, 2014

Robyn, thanks for your response. A few comments in response:
1) Most traditional Christian liturgies for marriage have included elements that reference children, including the need for openness on the part of husband and wife to be open to children and willing to raise them in the way of the Lord. Again, Gen. 1:28 has generally been taken to show that God's creation of man and woman is pretty clearly linked to procreation.

2) To say that "it's up to the couple to decide" takes a pretty narrow view of culture and history. Given modern contraceptives, we think it's obvious that we can decide to have kids or not. But for most people who've ever lived (and many people around the world today), to say that they should get married but not have kids is basically to say that they should get married but not engage in sexual intercourse with their spouse. In other words, our technology has de-linked what GENERALLY and NORMALLY (again--not in every instance, but in general) results from regular sexual union with one's spouse--children.

3) I heartily agree that the church needs to be sensitive to Christian couples without children. Oftentimes, the Christian emphasis on kids is NOT from a robust biblical theology of sexuality and children but simply from assumptions taken over from the surrounding non-Christian culture.

4) Would you say about other matters relating to sexual ethics that it is purely a personal issue between a person and God? Can we really say that what we do with our bodies sexually is simply up to ME to decide and NOT you? Or, if we say that about contraception, will we stay there? Or will we start adding other elements of our sexual behavior to the list of things that are permissible for us to engage in because our bodies are ours to do with as we want? I recognize that you represent the majority of contemporary Christians on this topic, but I'm not sure that "my body is mine to do with what I want" based on personal revelation from God is a consistent or helpful way to approach sexual ethics.

For further discussion on the theological underpinnings of this issue, see http://www.bransonparler.com/blog/contraception-modernity-and-the-splitting-of-the-self.

September 17, 2014

If being married is linked to having children - an infertile couple must **by definition** have an inferior marriage... And especially a couple getting married knowing that they are unable to have children...

NO - marriage is the union of two people - no mention of "wanting children must be required" to be married. Wanting children is NOT a requirement of getting married.

Using your logic and reasoning:
Wine is a blessing (Deut 7:13; 11:14) and the absence of wine a curse (28:39, 51).
Therefore every time we feel thirsty, we should drink wine!!!

March 30, 2016

Having children is certainly not selfish, and anyone who does not have children can not possibly make that claim because they have no experience to make that claim. It's invalid. I think as a society and also a church we no longer "fear God" as we ought. God's word isn't taken and read with fear and trembling, like it should be. Who are we in comparison to God? Our minds are so severely limited and we need to just pause right there and give that a lot of thought. Then come back to the word of God (Bible)and read it with that lens. It isn't what we want or find to be the most intelligent or plausible thing in our own eyes. It is what does God want? What does the Bible teach us truly after deep study, prayer and contemplation. Children are a blessing, not because I think so, but because God says they are. We should be careful to heed to his commands and explanations. He has had a plan from the beginning. What makes this plan so hard is we have gotten so "off" the plan! We do what is right in our own eyes and wonder why there are billions of miserable people. God created the design of family for his glory but also for our own health and well being. We sacrifice for our children now and often our children are sacrificing for us in the end, all the while we are learning God's principles of love, forgiveness and reconciliation in our own homes. This is Godly training ground. We have a need for unconditional love and acceptance as well as being in intimate relationships. When done God's way, a family provides this for us. If God gives us the gift of being single, the wider body of Christ needs to come along that person and invite them in to their own families in times of need to provide a warm and loving place in between missions. Most of us thrive in families because we are created for this and for community. Healthy communities and churches are made up of healthy families. Families are the perfect antidote for lonliness especially among the elderly. We live in a society that has an epic epidemic of lonely people who don't value the family unit. Gangs, homosexuality and promiscuity result which are all inferior to healthy functioning family life. I am not politically correct and neither was Jesus. I am not here to fit your fancy only to speak truth. If I am to loose my saltiness, how could I ever possibly honor the Lord I claim to love?

May 21, 2016

I was pregnant twice and miscarried both times. It was hard on my body. I believe Abba knew i wasn't ready and we need to get our financial state in order. Daily life is stressful enough and adding a child to it would be too much. I wouldn't be able to give him or her the life I would want to give. Is that a sin? Maybe some day I will be blessed with children but I don't want to receive that blessing yet. Ultimately, God is in control and once we offer up ourselves as a sacrifice and give our lives to Him, and He will choose for you if He wants you to have kids. They belong to Him anyway

May 9, 2017

This is legalism, plain and simple. The God of the bible paints a picture of a multitude of different people, cultures, and lifestyles (to a certain degree), being unified by love and love alone. If you're married and you and your partner are working in love to help people, and decide that kids would hinder that, you're living out Gods word. The human/secular corruptive thinking is that everyone should be the same. Worship the same, act the same, look the same. That's where man screws it up (Galatians, Hebrews, Romans) and this article adds to that.

September 14, 2017

The New Testament has very few references to family life at all. While it was approved of, it didn't seem to be a priority for Jesus. Jesus' priority was to spread the Christian message. He did not overvalue his biological family members compared to his spiritual family. Paul spoke of family obligations taking time away for spiritual development and works. My personal opinion is that it was the Catholic Church that moved away from the scriptures to become excessively pronatalist. It was trying to grow its congregations by reproduction rather than conversion. Family life can be wonderful but it is not a requirement, or even necessarily the best way, to be a good Christian.

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