Some time back I was talking to a young man who had married about a year earlier. The conversation turned to children and he remarked that they weren’t sure they were going to have kids. I gently reminded him that the Bible considered such a position abnormal, that God told the first human couple “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” My young friend grew silent. Later, he admitted that my words had rocked him. “I had never thought about it like that before,” he admitted.
Both he and his bride have good church backgrounds. But they grew up in late twentieth-century America. They were immersed in cultural signals that made childless marriage a perfectly acceptable alternative. The Creator’s mandate was drowned out by the cultural message.
I thought about that conversation when I read The Rise of Childless America. Jonathan V. Last, writing in the Weekly Standard, points out that “the percentage of first-child births has hit an all-time low. … we’re slowly bifurcating into a society where we have two classes of adults: parents and non-parents.”
Until we talked, my young friend was happily contemplating the “non-parent” option. Now, apparently for the first time, he has additional data to consider. How can this be true of a 20-something Christian who has attended an evangelical church all his life?
Joel Belz, founder of WORLD magazine, recently wrote a similar reflection, in a piece titled, Suicidal tendency: Are the dismal demographics of America reflected in its evangelical churches?
To what extent should I worry that my church—and by extension, the evangelical church at large—has bought into the thinking of the secular culture? … it’s painfully appropriate to ask whether evangelicals have adopted pretty much the same superficial—and convenience-based—philosophy of parenting that characterizes the world at large.
Sadly, an artificial separation–at the DNA we call it the Sacred-Secular Divide–has long been at work in the minds of too many Christ followers in the West. We give allegiance to the Bible for all things “spiritual” (that is, mostly what happens on Sunday) while “secular” decisions (like whether or not to have children) are informed by the conversations around us. Chats with our peers, and messages from media outlets all agree that two or three children is plenty, and zero is fine, too.
Nobody should be surprised if Facebook and Hollywood don’t affirm Genesis. But where are the preachers who expound the truth of the cultural commission?
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:27-28 ESV)
Near the end of the Old Testament we read another testimony of God’s perspective in this matter:
Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:15 NIV)
Joel Belz refers to the “convenience” basis for childless marriage. But there’s another rationale: There are too many people on the planet; we need to reduce the population. Of course this deception comprises another direct hit at God’s stated values: fill the earth. (For more on this subject, see Is it immoral to have children? and Exploding the Myth of Overpopulation.)
In fact, once again we see that truth comports with reality in an article by Jeff Wise at Slate magazine titled, “About That Overpopulation Problem: Research suggests we may actually face a declining world population in the coming years.”
… according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.
And then it will fall.
This is a counterintuitive notion in the United States, where we’ve heard often and loudly that world population growth is a perilous and perhaps unavoidable threat to our future as a species.
Maybe the cultural message is starting to turn.
– Gary Brumbelow