10 February 2009


A while back Dr Heidenreich left some comments here that I enjoyed:

I'm afraid some of my common replies that talk about how we believe "children are blessings" fall far short . . . . The one I use the most is: "We believe in letting God plan our family." But that just comes across as naïve to people, if not wrongheaded fundamentalism - just "let go and let God." Blaahhgg!

Well said, sir. Well said. I feel exactly the same way. Don't get me wrong, I've got no end of respect for Michelle D., but when she smiles guilelessly at the interviewer and says, "We just believe children are blessings!" with those guileless eyes and that long guileless hair*, my guileful nose involuntarily wrinkles.

Seriously, this operation needs some non-platitudinous talking points FAST. Even my attempts to define the terms of CSPP make me roll my eyes: God-sized family? What is this, Heirs of the Anabaptist Sisters of Perpetual Parturition? Sorry, I tried to fix it. Blaahhgg!

Get on it, people. We're looking for something snappy. Epitome, not Solid Declaration. Use of the words "blessing" or "fruitful," references to arrows or quivers, or any suggestion of granting permission for an act of God Omnipotent constitutes an automatic disqualification.

*no cattiness intended. I have long hair.


Rev. Robert Franck said...

I don't know if this helps, but I enjoyed the recent article in Touchstone Magazine by Allan Carlson entitle, "Meaningful Intercourse." The gist of that title implies that sexual intercourse has a meaning, including the procreation of children, and when you try to separate one of the meanings from the others, bad things happen.

I think it was Janet Smith's lecture on Contraception that basically asks the question, what makes us think that intentionally removing one of the clear purposes of the sexual union will make the other purposes work better.

Unfortunately, I think this kind of language is far removed from where most people in society are today.

Gauntlets said...

This is a real problem. Flummoxing. People keep eying the belly and asking me "So, how many you shootin' for?" To which I answer, "We don't . . . we . . . um . . . Egad! That woman is eating a squirrel!"

I've been working for something more descriptive. I'll let you know if anything materializes.

Marie M said...

I have a certain friend who has literally asked me 4 times over the past year how many children we plan to have! I most recently answered that it seems a little soon to make such an important decision like that (I'm 25, and we have 2)! Everyone seems to ask that question, but isn't it pretty personal? I don't ask people how often they come together!

Although I'm often tempted to, I don't like to go into the "we let God plan our family" because they don't really "get" that... and I always botch the explanation... and then I get stuck in the corner with the question from him or her, "So you think I'm sinning???" I also avoid the answer "don't you think we'd feel pretty bad if we got sterilized and then lost all of our children in an accident?"

What DO you say?

Melanie said...

The most troubling thing to me about all of this nomelclature is the "let God" part. Um, since when do we sinners "let" God do anything?! God, amazingly enough, allows us incapable morons the freedom to climb in bed or abstain, to use birth control or not, but thanks be to God, he is the decider and designer of these little squirmers within.

Melanie said...

pardon, nomenclature*

Marie M said...

Isn't there some plain and simple Bible verse to quote..."In a man's heart he makes his plans, but the Lord determines his steps" and leave it at that?

Melanie- good point about "letting God" In the past, if I've given that explanation people always seem to make the point about it being bad stewardship to un-plan a family. Any thoughts on comments about poor stewardship?

Pr. H. R. said...

Scene: Extended Family Dinner Party

Cousin [noticing that you're pregnant, again]: So, how many kids are you guys aiming for?

Concordian Sister: We're taking as many as we can get...and we're training them all to use small arms efficiently and effectively in close quarters, urban combat. Oooo....look: grandma has green and black olives! Please pass the relish tray. . .

PS: The security word blogger is asking for in order to post this is "wifest." Nice.

johnqmercy said...

Squirrels are actually quite tasty, given the right sauce. And just a dash of oregano.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I still don't have a good reply to these questions of "how many kids" we "plan" to have. It is sad that such questions even have to be entertained.

The error I think this type of question originates from is thinking that, while God started the ball rolling, we in the world are now in charge (the now "hands off" God having retreated back into His heavenly realm to watch at a distance what his creatures might do with what he has created). This is unfortunately a common worldview among Christians. As with our spiritual (second) birth, the only thing we can do in procreation is reject God's gift of life. God alone creates life, spiritual and physical.

As for our "cooperation", consider this Confessional statement:

65] From this, then, it follows that as soon as the Holy Ghost, as has been said, through the Word and holy Sacraments, has begun in us this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion, 66] as St. Paul expressly and earnestly exhorts that as workers together with Him we receive not the grace of God in vain, 2 Cor. 6, 1. But this is to be understood in no other way than that the converted man does good to such an extent and so long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him, and that as soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from him, he could not for a moment persevere in obedience to God. But if this were understood thus [if any one would take the expression of St. Paul in this sense], that the converted man cooperates with the Holy Ghost in the manner as when two horses together draw a wagon, this could in no way be conceded without prejudice to the divine truth. (2 Cor. 6, 1: We who are servants or coworkers with God beseech you who are God's husbandry and God's building, 1 Cor. 3, 9, to imitate our example, that the grace of God may not be among you in vain, 1 Cor. 15, 10, but that ye may be the temple of God, living and dwelling in you, 2 Cor. 6, 16.)

[FC, SD, Free Will]

The faulty sentiment also gives rise to the thought that "God helps those who help themselves." NO! God does it all. He helps us because we CAN'T help ourselves. Everything we do that is of any good is entirely by the power of God, the God who HASN'T retreated to watch from afar, but rather has stayed in intimate relation with us and does not withdraw his gracious hand from all good works that we do - works which were prepared for us to do from the foundations of the world.

Like angry two-year-olds, we are constantly slapping his loving hands away with our flailing arms due to our misguided attempts to be in charge ourselves. Nowhere is this more true than in procreation, because no other human activity is so clearly God's business than the creation of souls. As Luther said of the divine ordinance to be fruitful and multiply:

"For this word which God speaks, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' is not a command. It is more than a command, namely, a divine ordinance [werck] 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 creates them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates them so that they have to multiply. And wherever men try to resist this, it remains irresistible nonetheless and goes its way through fornication, adultery, and secret sins, for this is a matter of nature and not of choice."

[Luther's works, vol. 45, The Christian in Society II, The Estate of Marriage, pp. 15-21]

Marie M said...

Maybe I should just memorize that Luther paragraph and spout it off=)

Rebekah said...

Pastor Franck, now I want to know what Kamehameha II has to say too! I wish both of those articles were available online. :P

Johnq, you've got to pan fry them.

Erich, it is amazing how this has become a dead question for Christians--particularly among those who wouldn't DREAM of saying that marriage and sex don't have to go together.

Sarah D said...

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I have nothing noteworthy to add to the discussion, sorry.

Sir Cuthbert said...

Not being married, I haven't been asked this yet, but I have considered what my answer will be when the time comes. For what it's worth, here it is.

To the question, "How many children do you plan to have?": As many or as few as God is pleased to grant us.

Explanation and defense: He has not given us authority to make that decision. I defy you to show me where that authority is given to men. Ability does not imply authority. I have the ability to kill you, but I do not have the authority.

God tells us that children are His good gifts to us. What He says is true, even if it doesn't look that way to us. Nowhere does He qualify this statement with any word about moderation, responsibility, or bad timing. If you say that having more children or having children at this time would not be a good thing, you are contradicting the clear and distinct Word of God.

"Family planning" is not explicitly forbidden in Scripture, but it is willfully choosing and pursuing that which God says is a curse, and willfully rejecting God's good gift and ordinance. It amounts to calling evil (the curse of barrenness) good, and good (the gift of children) evil.

To the question, "So are you saying I'm sinning by using contraception?": Most likely.

Explanation and defense: If you are doing this because of any fantasies about responsibility, being too poor, not being sure your marriage will work, or not wanting the burden of children, then you are sinning. Your motive is either crass selfishness or lack of trust in the sufficiency of God's grace. Even if your motives are unselfish, we are told that "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) The immediate context is about eating clean or unclean food, but the statement itself is universal.

Saying "I can't handle more children" does not help you. You can't even handle one child. Neither can I. But God can, and He has promised to help and provide for us in every way. Do you believe what He tells you or not?

This is not to say that there are no exceptions. Normally, it would be wrong to kill a person. But to kill, if necessary, in lawful defense of self or others is not only permitted, but required. Just as failing to rescue a drowning person, if it can be done, is that same as drowning him yourself. Even so, if a husband is conscientiously convinced that pregnancy would pose an unacceptable threat to his wife's life or sanity (I know people for whom the latter is the case), it is his duty to protect his wife, just as if she were being attacked. Failing to do so would be the same as inflicting the harm on her himself.

Pam said...

You know, it's funny, I am asked this question less all the time. Maybe it's because we go to the same stores enough, they've already heard my explanation, which is like Sir C's answer.

Q: "Is this the last one?"

A: "Only God knows the answer to that."

Q: "How many are you going to have?"

A: "As many as the Lord sees fit to give us, we'll receive with open arms."

Q: "How do you handle them?"

A: "I/we don't, we get through by the grace of God."

In our congregation, I think those who have dared to ask have given up; after the seventh, I think they figure we're nutty, so why bother asking? ;)

Seriously, I finally quit feeling awkward when we are asked 'the question,' and I just launch into a brief, matter of fact explanation. Either the person can't wait to get away from me, or it gives him/her pause. When the latter happens, I just give a big grin, and if the conversation continues I tell the person how good it is for me, as it keeps me humble and it is impossible to forget that God is in control, not me. :D

We have had at least one young couple write in a thank you note to us how inspired they have been by the example of our family. Wow, that spoke volumes.

TruthQuestioner said...

*Applauds Sir Cuthbert's comment and quickly vanishes.*

Joy said...

How many more do I have to have to get a thank-you note like Pam?

Gauntlets said...

I've got it!

I recently remembered a conversation had with an old schoolmate back when I was bulbous with #3. It was Christmas Eve, we were standing a couple of pews apart, and we had to practically shout, what with all the surrounding jubilations:

Her: "Wow! Pregnant again?"

Me: "That's right."

Her: "I don't know how you do it. How many do you want to have?"

Me: "Oh, you know. This (gesturing to belly) is just what you do."

Her: ". . . Huh. I guess you're right."

So. The answer you've all been waiting for. :D

johnq: I've always wanted to know what you were noshing in your profile pic! :D

Rebekah: Nosh.

Rebekah said...

Gauntlets, nice. Except for that last thing. REALLY ANGRY EMOTICON HERE.