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    On the Dominion Mandate as Normative

    February 22, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    When questions of birth control arise, they must always be considered in light of this fundamental and undeniable truth: children are blessings from God. Do we believe this or do we not? And don’t be so quick to say that you do if you don’t. If your concern is about the health and wellbeing of the mother, that is one thing. If it is about how much money you will have to spend on all the stuff that will be destroyed with this world, that is another thing. {Pastor Rolf Preus, posted by Caspar as a comment at Lutherans and Contraception}


    It has taken many years for Si and I to arrive at the place we are now, where I can honestly say that we believe children to be blessings. I have alluded to our journey a few times, mainly here and here. It is somewhat sobering to know that in the past, someone could have asked me if I believed children were blessings, and I would have replied with an emphatic and resounding, “Yes!!” And had they followed up by asking if I was open to more at that very moment, I would have replied with an emphatic and resounding, “No!!” And I would not have noticed a bit of inconsistency in my logic.

    But there was an inconsistency. If God offered to bless me with more money or a nice house or a free meal at a nice restaurant, I would have accepted it happily and without question. The fact that if, during those times, had He offered me another child I would have accepted the child grudgingly reveals that I did not at all consider children to be blessings. Or at least I did not consider all children to be blessings. And especially not that child that I would have considered to be “too much” for me.

    My attitude at that time was sinful. I now call this the Sin of Disagreement. God said that something is a blessing, but I disagreed with Him, and could offer up a very long-winded explanation of why I was right and He was wrong. As in the Garden, that ancient serpent whispers in my ears that I know better, or that God didn’t mean what He said. And there was a time when I believed and thought myself to be wise because of it.

    In reading and rereading Genesis 1:28, I could not get away from the idea that what we call the Dominion Mandate is not really a mandate at all, but rather a description of how things are, or at least how they are created to be. God takes His children in His arms and blesses them and tells them what life holds for them. I soon learned that this is not a new thought.


    For this word which God speaks, ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ is not a command. It is more than a command, namely, a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore. Rather, it is just as necessary as the fact that I am a man, and more necessary than sleeping and waking, eating and drinking, and emptying the bowels and bladder. It is a nature and disposition just as innate as the organs involved in it. Therefore, just as God does not command anyone to be a man or a woman but created them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates them so that they have to multiply. {Martin Luther, works, vol. 45, The Christian in Society II, The Estate of Marriage, pp. 15-18, emphasis mine}


    It is the nature of marriage to produce children. In most circumstances, we must interrupt the natural order if we are to avoid creating children.

    Are there exceptions? Of course. In the past, I have used nonhormonal birth control due to the fact that I was taking a medication known to cause birth defects. We did not consider this avoiding a child, but rather protecting a potential child from harm. We have known couples who decided not to have more children because of a disease in the mother that is aggravated by pregnancy. Some decisions are quite difficult to make.

    But the fact remains that one must not attempt to decide what is normative by reasoning from the exceptions. {Carmon recently pointed this out to her readers, and I cannot for the life of me find the link.} In fact, exceptions can only truly be called exceptions if there is a norm from which to deviate. That accepted norm was once that one married and produced children. In the absence of birth control, there is a created order that prevails most of the time.


    And the man said,
    “This is now bone of my bones,
    And flesh of my flesh;
    She shall be called Woman,
    Because she was taken out of Man.”
    For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. {Genesis 2:23 & 24}


    The man saw his wife, observed her design and its significance, and for this reason they cleaved together and became one flesh. Not much has changed in the last six thousand years or so. Women and men are still born with great resemblance to these original parents. And this still encourages the awe and the desire to cleave and become one flesh. I will reiterate Luther’s words, as I find them far superior to mine. God didn’t command me to be a woman, but rather created me so that I must be a woman, that I cannot be anything but a woman. Likewise, God didn’t command marriage to produce children, but simply created it in such a way that children tend to be brought about, from time to time, when one lives according to His design.


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