Can Christian couples be ‘childfree’ to God’s glory? Can we choose not to have children for the sake of the Kingdom?
The issue has been rebounding around the internet in the last few weeks after Time magazine published a piece on the ‘Childfree’ life. It generated a lot of discussion; the decision not to have children (especially when made by women), is still considered a little subversive. The ‘childfree’ feel judged but, increasingly, people are opting not to have children anyway.
I’ve been thinking about this issue for a long time. Five years, actually, ever since a popular American preacher came to Katoomba and told us that Christian couples who choose not to have children are selfish.
Moreover, the failure of evangelical leaders to speak out clearly correcting fundamentalist Christian fertility movements such as Quiverfull (Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement is worth a read), I find very concerning. And it’s not just an American thing.
But I haven’t blogged about the issue until now because a lot of people, much wiser and more experienced than me, think otherwise. They seem to believe Christian marriage involves always having children if possible:
- Kathleen Nielsen from the Gospel Coalition posted on The Problem with the Childfree Life last week, teaching that ‘children are God’s merciful means of growing his redeemed people, generation after generation.’
- Andrew Cameron & Megan Best write, in The Briefing that ‘God generally calls married people to openly welcome children, and the welcome of children remains inherent to the purpose of a marriage, even if not to every sexual act within it. We suggest, then, that for most married couples, it is an abuse of contraception always to remain closed to having children.’ See also Cameron’s The Joined-up life for a more detailed argument.
When people older and wiser think otherwise, I’m a bit hesitant to put forward another view. But I just can’t agree with arguments that Christian couples are obligated to at least try to have children. If I am wrong, hopefully by putting myself out there like this, someone will tell me where I’ve gone wrong (if this post is mysteriously deleted, you’ll know that’s happened!).
These are the main points I’ll make over the next few days.
- Marriage is not about kids.
- The New Covenant people are different to the old. Jesus is the one who fills and subdues the earth through his Church and God’s people are those born of the Spirit. In the Church, ‘family’ has a radical new meaning.
- Christians are free to make wise and loving decisions in the Spirit. This may mean forgoing earthly blessings (even family) for the sake of the Kingdom.
I do want to affirm, however, that children are a blessing from God and that the Christian choice to have children in a broken and suffering world is an act of faith: God is redeeming the world! But the decision not to have children for the sake of the gospel can also be an act of faith, so I’m simply going to argue that we are free in regards to this decision.
And finally, if my in-laws are reading this, don’t panic, this is not an announcement that grandkids are off the cards! Though parenthood terrifies me and I think it’s wisest my husband and I remain ‘childfree’ for now, I do hope to have children one day, God willing.