September 01, 2007

Does a Christian Have a Choice?

by Shelley
Regular Contributor to Purple WomenTM

It’s supposed to be every little girl’s greatest hope: to grow up, marry her Prince Charming, buy a nice house in the suburbs, and finally find ultimate fulfillment by becoming a mother. Ah, the American Dream.

And apparently, it’s supposed to be the Christian Dream too – just ask Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and prominent Right-Wing Evangelical commentator. In his popular article on what he calls “deliberate childlessness,” he asserts that,

“The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children.”
Okay…but when it comes to adopting a “biblical formula,” I think it’s wise to actually refer to the Bible and see what the Scriptures have to say.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul advises the Church on marriage. He discusses two options – getting married or remaining single. The Bible doesn’t directly address the issue of being married and childfree, because at the time the Scriptures were written, no one could have dreamed it would be possible. After all, reliable birth control didn’t exist. To be married was to have sex, and to have sex was to have children. So when Paul speaks of marriage in verses 25-28, we can assume he is also speaking of parenthood:

“Now I write about people who are not married [don’t have children]…The present time is a time of trouble, so I think it is good for you to stay the way you are…But if you decide to marry [and have children], you have not sinned…But those who marry [and have children] will have trouble in this life, and I want you to be free from trouble.” Hmmm….

Marriage is not the only option, and the ability to remain single is actually a gift from God. And children aren’t a requirement either, since when Paul advises not to marry, he is inherently advising not to have children.

So where would Paul stand on being married and childfree? I would never dare to put words in his mouth or assert my opinion as Biblical Truth. But personally, I know that God uses my husband to help me grow, and that I’m a better person because of him. And I also know that the ministry God has given us as a couple would not exist if we had children, because they would become our priority. We could not invest in others at the level we do today.
Based on Corinthians 7, I think Dr. Mohler’s statement is a bit of a stretch.
I’m certainly no theologian, but I think that when the Bible is vague on an issue, it’s probably best to let God decide how to work it out in individual lives and not assume the responsibility for yourself.

According to Dr. Mohler, the Apostle Paul, who was personally visited by God, was responsible for bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, and wrote the majority of the New Testament, was "morally rebellious and did not fulfill the responsibilities of adulthood". So who do I believe – Paul or Mohler…Paul or Mohler…?

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Anita_D said...

Excellent post and very thought provoking.

LauraS said...

Paul or Mohler? Ha, ha. No choice there.

Apparently Mohler doesn't get out much. If he did he would see how many people like yourselves are childfree and sincere in their efforts to serve God and their church.

I'm thinking of the childfree/childless and single youth ministers I grew up with. I wonder what think of Mohler's comments?

jyost said...

Gee, if only Mother Theresa had married, and had children instead of helping all of those homeless starving people.

Spider Girl said...

While not Christian myself, I can think of many good, caring, productive Christian people (who are nonetheless willfully childless)who would be saddened by the viewpoint of the author of the linked article.

Come to think of it, I'm rather saddened by it myself.

jess said...

As a Christian couple who choose to remain childfree, we have been the object of a lot of consternation from Christians our own age. Older Christians tend to go with the flow, but friends our own age tell us we aren't living properly and that we aren't living a "life of consequence" if we aren't procreating. I personally don't feel as though it's God's plan in my life to have children. When I met my husband and we became friends, we discussed this (prior to dating, etc.) and I was surprised to meet another Christian--and a MAN on top of it--who didn't want to have children. It was something of a surprise when we started dating, but I should have known that God could provide someone who had the same vision of "family" that I had.

Britgirl said...

Jesus did just fine without children.
Does a Christian have a choice? I believe yes, of course. Christians can choose not to exercise their choice, but we always have a choice.

Even if it was possible to conceive of marriage without getting pregnant, in that time most would not even consider it because from a historical viewpoint the more children you had the more status you were deemed to have. To not be able to have children was considered bad, very few decided not to have them out of choice in those times. So context is important as has been said.

Apart from ignoring the context the Bible was set in, Mohler has an agenda.. and to me it is anti-christian, since it seeks to guilt Christians into making a choice out of fear, and unfairly cast a group of people as "being rebellious" by trying to use scripture to prove his point. He's not alone there, however, as many Christians do exactly the same thing in an attempt to get people around to their way of thinking.

Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself; do to others what you would have them do to you. To me that means, among other things respect the choices of others as you would have them respect yours. That is far more important to me than anything Mohler or even St Paul has to say.

I would never pay attention to Mohler..but I do believe that Christians need to work out what's right for them for themselves and people like Mohler will have less and less relevance (or influence) on what they think and do. That's clearly what childfree Christians are doing.

Longing for Home said...

God bless you for writing this... I've been thinking about blogging this myself but all my pregnant friends read my blog and I don't know how to be myself about the issue yet not offend them. They knew how I felt before they decided to have kids... but now I'm not so sure how to deal with them. I respect their choice but can't get too excited about it since it's never been my own dream I can't relate to them as well. I'll just have to imagine what they must be feeling. I agree with Paul in that this world is filled with trouble and it's quite enough for my husband and myself to handle.

Berean said...

I came across your blog a few minutes ago, frustrated and asking God if a desire to have children could be manufactured, right after reading an email from my mother practically telling me that if I did not have children, my marriage would "crash." It's very frustrating as a Christian young woman to have people tell you that you're selfish for being married and not wanting to have children. Thank you for "rightly dividing the word of truth."