Friday, March 27, 2009

Quiverful paradox

The post on the Quiverfull movement reminded me of a theoretical theological and practical question I have had for some time that I have never been able to resolve.

This Quiverfull movement is generally strong in Evangelical homes (although certainly devout Catholics and Mormons will frequently end up bearing many children). I will try to lay the paradox as clearly as I can (please forgive the lack of theological precision in my language and laying out of the question):

  • Evangelicals are supposed to believe in original sin
  • In the doctrine of original sin, all people are born sinners
  • According to evangelical thought, sin necessarily separates humans from God
  • If a human is not saved from sin, he or she will be damned to an eternity of torment
  • In order to be saved from sin, a person must either a. accept Christ freely (Arminian evangelical) or b. be predestined for salvation (Calvinistic evangelical)
  • A parent has no ultimate control over the salvation or damnation of his or her children (influence - yes, control - no).
  • Therefore, why would evangelical Christians willingly bring many more souls into the world that are sinners in need of salvation? Is there not a reasonable chance some of them will be lost for eternity?
  • Corollary: Shouldn't Evangelicals be leading the way in adopting those children who would likely never hear of Jesus apart from their influence? Besides, adoption is a significant New Testament metaphor for how an Evangelical understands his or her relationship with God the Father - that is nobody except Christ is the natural child of God, but all the saved are God's children by adoption.

I am sure that I am not the first person who has wondered about this, but I have personally never sorted out a satisfactory answer.


Andy B. said...

I've wondered the same, and believe it to be a response to the "be fruitful and multiply" instruction.

Divers and Sundry said...

"why would evangelical Christians willingly bring many more souls into the world"

Because they think the Bible commands it. They quote that Psalm as adequate explanation.

Tom Jackson said...

There's probably a strong tendency to believe "Of course sinners go to hell, but my children will certainly be saved."

RevAnne said...

I'm sorry, did Evangelical theology have to make sense? That's the problem with any fundamentalist/literalist interpretation of the Bible; its practitioners have to have a very high tolerance for/blindness to paradox. Perhaps one gift of postmodernity to the church is the ability to embrace paradox, to accept that there are things we simply don't know or understand, and that that mystery is an essential part of our relationship with God.
Your point about adoption is well-made; in fact, I can hear Stanley Hauerwas' lecture again (many years later) on the subject. As a member of a couple who are childless ("by choice" I suppose you might say; certainly unwilling to pursue expensive, painful, and debilitating fertility treatments), even in the UMC I'm often subtly chastised for remaining childless. I have a church full of children (and adults) who have my time and love, a niece who is amazing and a nephew on the way. And because I believe adoption is the foundation of Christian life, I believe I'm doing the work of God just the way I am.

Anonymous said...

Another application of the flow of this logic could apply to the debate around abortion. As horrific as abortion is in the minds of evangelicals (and my gut tells me it can be a horrible thing), would they not generally believe that the souls of those whose bodies are aborted would be saved? If those lives came to term, there would be no ultimate guarantee of their salvation. Of course, I suppose some would believe that those who were aborted cannot be saved because they did not accept Christ, and the sin nature was in them; regardless of the lack of any opportunity to respond to Christ -not unlike those who live and die in lands unreached by the gospel . . . but (I hope) those who hold that belief would represent the extreme minority. Interesting discussion.

PamBG said...

Having grown up conservative evangelical (of the very serious, anti-charismatic, joy-is-a-plaything-of-the-devil school), unspoken 'Quiverfull' values have always been part of the deal.

Basically, it's about populating the world with little Christians.

The bit that you got right and that they would never admit to is the bit about not controlling whether our children come to faith.

Whether they actually professed such an idea or not, in practice, parents are supposed to be able to control their children (Bring up a child in the way that he should go and he will never depart from it.) Obviously Scripture shows that if your children depart from Christianity, then you've not done a good enough job of raising them in the True Faith.

Also men are supposed to be able to control their wives' spirituality.

John said...

Original Sin should never be overstated to destroy, rather than defase, the Image of God.

Sure, evangelicals are creating more creatures burdened with Original Sin. But they're also creating more expressions of the beauty of the Image of God. A human being, even the vilest sinnner, isn't just a reflection of the fallenness of humanity, but the majesty of God.

A defaced work of art is still a work of art. Better to have a damaged Mona Lisa than none at all.

That said, I did once destroy an enormous pen & ink drawing that I was creating in high school because another student accidentally damaged it. It seemed to tragic to keep it around.

John Wilks said...

Though I'm not in the quiverfull camp, I have found that parenthood (something I entered into reluctantly when my wife turned up pregnant even though we had both been proclaimed infertile) has deepened my faith.

I have learned how God can be both perfectly loving and yet feel wrathful and use discipline.

I've also learned why God would go to any length (including incarnation and death) to get the attention of God's offspring.

I've learned that parent two kids is tough enough. 6 billion plus is unfathomable.

I've learned that even if you do everything right and give your kids every incentive to make good choices, sometimes they still mess up. Often on purpose.

I've also learned that their freedom to screw up is linked to their freedom to do right and to show love back to me. The pain comes with the pleasure.

So would I recomend having a ton of kids?


But do I understand why God encourages parenthood?

You bet.

Now I have to run and pray for my oldest before bedtime.

I am so blessed.

the reverend mommy said...

Logic?? You want evangelicals to use logic?? Really? You are serious?

Anonymous said...

These ppl just want a reason to have lots of sex without the guilt of doing it just for pleasure. A person can interpret the Bible or any other religious text however s/he wants so that it supports her/his lifestyle, no matter how ridiculous...It's so irresponsible and reprehensible...Especially considering all the ppl across the globe dying of hunger that could desperately use the money and resources these ppl spend on new babies again and again...

Anonymous said...

God does not make "cookie cutter Christians", meaning each christian has to follow the individual path God has laid out for them....It is a personal relationship and we do not always follow closely, sometimes not at all. For some missionaries, they chose to leave behind their one or two children as they felt led by God into deepest darkest jungles to spread the Gospel.
In my case, with my husband suffering illness after illness in our 30 plus yrs of marriage, we felt no kids was best for our situation. I never wanted any anyway, so God had already made someone to be my husband's life partner.
Joni Eareckson, a vibrant Christian, lives her life in a wheel chair after being crippled in a diving accident as a young woman. God gave her a husband who loves her deeply but they have no children.
Jesus never married nor had children.
The problem is that sometimes we think that what God wants in our life is what He wants for every other christian, then we mistakenly try to put those ways of living on others as being the only way. Remember, there was only one Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, only one David who slew Goliath, one Noah and one Mary who was visited by the Holy Spirit to become pregnant with Jesus.
I once helped a QF family with homeschool as they were on their way to having 12 kids. The wife said to me all she could ever think of as she was growing up was having babies. I told her all I could ever think of as I was growing up was having horses, which God has blessed me with 3.

Jenn said...

So one of the keys you are missing is that God chooses who will come to Christ or not. He knows before they are born and writes their name in the book of life. God is soverign and quiverful people place their trust in God to do things according to His purposes not the worlds. They are not going to tell God ok I am done having kids because I am not sure if they will be saved. They believe that God put every person one the planet for a reason and their salvation is up to him. Also if you do not understand having faith in the all knowing, all seeing, loving, ever present God, this will never make sense to you.
Faith takes this out of the realm of paradox and into the realm of trust. I do not use birth control and God has choosen to only give me 2 children and we have been married for ten years.(Not becasue I really want a bunch but if you mess with my hormones I am not a very nice person). If we have more great. If not great. It is up to God.

Also the Bible does speak about an age of accountabilty. Chilren under that age go to heaven if they die regardless of if they made a concious decision for Christ. The victims of abortion are certainly under that age.

And the quote about raising a child in the way he should go... It actually says "and when he is old he shall not depart from it." That does not mean that children raised in Christian homes do not go astray but the are more likely to come back later than one that was never taught.

Divers and Sundry said...

"If we have more great. If not great. It is up to God."

You could adopt. That's one thing I've always wondered about. There are lots of Christian agencies trying to find faithful Christian homes for children, and plenty of children go wanting. Could God be preparing people to adopt by giving them a quiverful heart while choosing not to bless them with biological children? People wait patiently and openly for more _biological_ children while refusing to welcome into their hearts and homes the children that God sends by another way.