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    A Facing of Difficult Questions

    February 28, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Yesterday, there was a comment made that asked so many questions I didn’t know what to do. Here it is in its entirety:

     

    Interesting thoughts. I appreciate your willingness to put your ideas out there. How does this thought process relate to those God has allowed to be unable to produce? If birth can be controlled by fertility monitors, ovulation predictors, and typical birth control, where does this leave those who God has allowed to be infertile and who have no method of controlling birth? Are they not fulfilling God’s design for marriage? Are there cases where God keeps a couple childless to serve his purpose as those he has kept single? Is the only fruit of a marriage measured in children {which could possibly mean we should never stop having them}, or are there other biblical fruits from a God designed marriage? Thanks for tackling this subject.

     

    I’ve never devoted an entire post to answering a comment before, so here’s to a new format! My plan is to break down each question {or related question set} and try to give an adequate answer…

     

    How does this thought process relate to those God has allowed to be unable to produce? If birth can be controlled by fertility monitors, ovulation predictors, and typical birth control, where does this leave those who God has allowed to be infertile and who have no method of controlling birth? Are they not fulfilling God’s design for marriage?

     

    Yesterday’s posting was regarding people who wish to remain childless. It was never ever intended to make statements about couples experiencing infertility. I am very wary of discussing infertility, simply because I know that it is a very deep sadness and grief with which I am unfamiliar in my own marriage, and I would hate to be misconstrued as trying to speak for those couples.

    With that said, one of the areas where God has been stretching me lately is submission to my design — as a woman, as a wife, as a mother. And one thing that I have learned thus far is that I am only responsible for my submission, not for the outcome. In the context of this conversation, it is easy to observe that the marital act does not always produce children. It does not demand children.

    What science has discovered concerning fertility is that healthy women, whose bodies are functioning normally, are still only fertile a little less than one month out of an entire year, or about two days per month {unless the wife is nursing a baby, which tends to delay fertility}. Procreation must not be the sole purpose of the marital act, or women would be fertile every day.

    To consummate the marriage but fail to conceive could never be considered rebellion to the design unless conception is purposely avoided. {As an aside, true Natural Family Planning is the only form of “birth control” that works with God’s design, by helping couples identify their fertile days, and then having them abstain on those days. The only reason I have never endorsed the method is that I cannot reconcile it with I Corinthians 7:3-5.}

     

    Are there cases where God keeps a couple childless to serve his purpose as those he has kept single?

     

    I cannot think of a single verse that specifically answers this question, and so my answer must be that I do not know the mind of God.

     

    Is the only fruit of a marriage measured in children {which could possibly mean we should never stop having them}, or are there other biblical fruits from a God designed marriage?

     

    There are three {four if you include the giving of money in Romans 1} basic references to fruit in the Scriptures {other than actual fruit on a tree}. The first is, of course, in the beginning of Genesis, where the first marriage is blessed and told to “be fruitful and multiply,” a blessing that is repeated to Noah and his sons in Genesis 9. The use of “fruit” here means children. I think that this tends to correspond to the use of the word “seed” throughout the Old Testament. Typically, “seed” deals with the lineage of Jesus, and yet there is an implied “fruitfulness” about it since fruit is seed-bearing, and seeds tend to grow up and become trees which bear fruit. {To state it simply, it is all part of the same word picture, “fruit” being children in general and “seed” being the lineage of Jesus.}

    Another Scriptural concept of fruit is the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 {connected to the Fruit of Light in Ephesians 5:9, neither being an exhaustive list}. These fruits are basically the good intangible qualities made possible by the inner workings of the Spirit of Christ.

    The last example of fruit is disciples that have been made. {I actually think that this is why some ask the question of how the Great Commission fits with the Dominion Mandate.} This is the most indirect of the three examples here in that all believers are not exactly referred to as being “fruit,” but rather the first believers in a geographic location tend to be called the “first fruits” {i.e., I Corinthians 16:15, James 1:18, Revelation 14:4}. It seems to me that all who follow after are necessarily “fruit” if those who precede can be called “first fruits.”

    While studying these passages, I noticed two things about fruit. The first is that fruit is always a good thing, and not being able to enjoy fruit is a bad thing {i.e., Lamentations 4:9, Ezekiel 25:4, etc.}. The second is that fruit is a result of submission. Children are a result of submission to our design {i.e., if we consummate the marriage as we should — see I Corinthians 7:3-5 — and do not interrupt the process by artificial means, children are sometimes the result}. Fruit of the Spirit is a result of a submission to Christ and His Spirit. Fruit in the form of disciples made is a result of submission to Christ’s command to go and make disciples.

    Children are a fruit that is unique to marriage. This does not mean that living within marriage cannot produce the latter two fruits. When we are submitting to the Spirit, we should naturally manifest the internal fruits of the Spirit and the external fruits of disciple-making, no matter our marital status. But it is marriage that was intended for the rearing of children. {Yes, I know that single people can and do have children. But this is not as the Lord intended. Please read near the end of this post where I explained my stance on attempting to discover what is normative by reasoning from the exceptions.}

     

    Is the only fruit of a marriage measured in children (which could possibly mean we should never stop having them), or are there other biblical fruits from a God designed marriage?

     

    God has designed a beginning and end to fertility, though it lasts much longer than the average modern mind prefers. A girl does not become fertile until she begins her monthly cycle, which tends to commence sometime between the ages of eleven and sixteen. There is only a span of about thirty or thirty-five years where she remains fertile. During part of this fertile time, she is typically unmarried. {I, for instance, spent 12 of my fertile years unmarried.} Later, even without birth control, a woman will become infertile due to breastfeeding or health issues. The cycle of fertility ends naturally around the time that grandchildren are beginning to be born.

    I know this is obvious, and yet I think, in this post-Industrial culture, it is easy to forget that God has designated a time for bearing the fruit of the womb, and a time not to. To say that one should never stop having children tends to overlook that all women must stop having them eventually, even those with the highest levels of fertility. With the advent of birth control, it has become very easy to think that one must put a stop to childbearing, because man has set himself up as gatekeeper of life and birth. But in the beginning, it was not this way. And God designed a beginning, and an end, to the time for bearing children.

     

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    3 Comments

  • Reply Brandy March 1, 2006 at 4:26 am

    Anonymous…No book in the works, but thanks for asking. =) I will pray for you as you (and your spouse, of course) are making your decisions. Si and I were filled with angst for months while we grappled with these subjects. It certainly isn’t easy to try and see our own culture through the eyes of pure, biblical Christianity.

  • Reply Josiah March 1, 2006 at 12:48 am

    I agree that design has much to teach us. Your posts have played that out well — thank you. When answering difficult questions like those from Anonymous, I also think nature’s ordinances (i.e., God’s design in the world) should raise in our minds some soul-searching questions. For example:

    What does my design reveal about my purpose and responsibilities? If design is a sort of “built-in roadmap,” then wouldn’t God intend for me to follow that map in obedience to it/Him? Certain responsibilities result from knowing something’s design.

    What are the consequences of breaching or circumventing design? Something works best when used according to its design, and the opposite seem to be true: Violating design harms me in some way, whether physically or spiritually. I think a heart in defiance of design is actually in defiance of God, too.

    When we question our design, who are we doubting and why? As theists, we know God designed us purposefully. To question our design is to also question our Designer. What do we question about Him? Probably His goodness: believing that our design is for our good. (This has been my lesson lately.)

    What in me fights against my design? My flesh, obviously. But what feeds my flesh? By and large, it’s my culture: wanting certain things (materialism), wanting others’ things (covetedness) and wanting to be the one in control of my destiny (pride). Here again, submission to Christ enables us to block out bad cultural voices and live by our Good Design.

  • Reply Anonymous March 1, 2006 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for addressing my questions. I have been thinking a lot about your posts and the questions I asked were the result of wrestling with the topics and coming to decisions in my own life. So…is there a book in the works?

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