It has exasperated me for many years that the "Quiverfull"-minded folks claim that Christians are either expected to actively breed and produce as many children as they can before the woman hits menopause or that they should more passively allow themselves to produce as many children with which the women find themselves pregnant, with absolutely no prevention or contraception at all, ever
Not only is this irresponsible ideal not
in the books of the Christian testament, the truth is very much the opposite. The writers of the books and letters that came to be known as the Christian testament highly discouraged marrying, if you weren't already married, much less encouraging a large or super large family. In addition, a Christian who didn't provide for his family was considered more worthless than an unbeliever (as if someone who refuses to believe in something he's told without evidence is worthless).
Unlike the command in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply and repopulate the earth, Jesus, who is recorded as saying all authority in heaven was given to him, commanded Christians to teach all nations and baptize them in order to conceive the god spirit/seed/sperm into them.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV)
A Christian was supposed to reproduce spiritual children. It wasn't supposed to matter whether each Christian baptized others, just so long as they did their part so that people who were taught by them were eventually baptized and were conceived as a new creature with the god sperm that came out of the baptizer's fingertips and infused into the skin of the baptizee. (See I Cor. 3:6-9)
The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it (Matt. 19:10-12 ESV).
The Mosaic law has an un-Christian ordinance of prohibiting a eunuch or any male who had a genital injury to enter into God's assembly (though eunuchs were accepted later by Isaiah with the evolution of morality--Isa. 56:3).
“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD" (Deut. 23:1 ESV).
Jesus didn't really dig the command in Deuteronomy. Jesus explained the different ways a man could be a eunuch, whether by being born a hermaphrodite or otherwise deformed or effeminate from birth or having one's testicles cut off or by simply making oneself not desire sex. Those who chose castration (or otherwise masturbation) so that they could focus on building God's kingdom rather than a marital relationship were seen as a doing a worthy thing by Jesus.
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (I Cor. 7:1-5 ESV)
Paul referred to our natural biological urges to engage in sex as "temptation to sexual immorality," and so he preferred for a man or woman to marry if they desired sex. Periodic abstinence was encouraged so that time could be used for working toward God's kingdom (which, if timed well, could also prevent conceiving children who would take more time away from work on building God's kingdom), but it was warned that the couple should not abstain too long, or the biological urges (or Satan's temptations, in Paul's eyes) would be so much that they might find themselves giving into casual sex with others. In verse 6, Paul stated that he wished all would be like he was in not marrying, but:
...if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion (vs. 9).
It should be clear by now that the preferred
state of a Christian that is serious about building God's kingdom, by spending their time they would otherwise be investing in marital and child-rearing duties, is not
to marry and to not
reproduce more human beings who will also have to be given the kingdom message in hopes that they will accept it and join as adults. It takes many years, though, and a lot of time, to bring children up to adults, and there's a very good chance those grown children won't jump on the bandwagon.
All these verses speak of marriage for reasons of engaging in sex to sate the natural sexual desire in a Christian-approved manner. None of the verses have absolutely anything to do with reproduction. Many early Christians did adopt orphaned children, but there is nothing in the Christian testament to encourage reproducing new persons. The only reproduction of new persons that was promoted was to recruit persons who were already in existence to believe Paul's message and to receive conception from the sperm of God, transferred via the fingers of an already-begotten son of god into the bodies of the recruited persons.
There are absolutely no instructions to compete in a Breed-a-Thon in the Christian testament! Sex for pleasure to sate sexual desire is the only reason Christian marriage was promoted. Period.
Now, if there were already children born to the couples when they converted to Paul's religion, or if the couple decided they wanted children (because the desire to produce children is another natural desire), there were instructions to follow in order to best bring up their children. Parents were instructed to gently teach their children and not provoke them to anger and were expected to teach their children how to conduct themselves as decent citizens. Just as there was no prohibition to marry, there was no prohibition to produce children.
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (I Tim. 5:8 ESV).
Though the context was that of taking care of widows, one's children are a Christian's relatives and usually members of his or her household. With the exception of famous or otherwise somewhat well-known Quiverfull families, most children in Quiverfull/Patriarchal households suffer from poverty. They often do not eat well, are often undereducated, and often fail to receive needed medical care. They also are usually not provided with adequate personal attention and affection.
This is where Quiverfull enthusiasts and fanatics will point to verses in the Jewish bible ("old testament") to back up their case. Let's have a look, starting with the verses they base their whole movement name upon.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (Psalm 127:3-5 ESV).
is the man, according to this psalm, who stocks up on kids like a warrior does arrows (or ammunition in this day and age). What else do the psalms say about what makes a man happy or blessed?
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock (Psalm 137:9 ESV)!
The context is that of the Jews in Babylonian captivity, and the infants or little children who shall make a man blessed (or "happy," if you use the KJV) if he bashes them against rocks until they die are the little Babylonian children. Does anyone imagine that the Jews wanted to take German babies and bust their heads open on stones after the second world war? Are we to think that Christians today want to take Muslim babies and hurl them with great force upon rocks, causing their deaths due to blunt trauma?
If we are to be consistent with the biblical psalms and agree that all the words are God-inspired, holy, just, and good, then how come I don't hear any of the Christians today making every effort to kill infants and young children of their enemies (real or imagined) by dashing them upon stones? Do they feel that maybe the 137th psalm is a lie, that they wouldn't truly feel happy or blessed to carry that out? What makes them so intent on believing the 127th psalm? Based on many months of carefully researching and reading stories from numerous Quiverfull escapees (both women and grown children), reading psychological literature, hearing firsthand from an escapee whose mother I knew and clearly suffered from several problems, the Quiverfull families' "blessings" and "happiness" isn't what it's all cracked up to be.
With that being said, I'm sure it's closer to a blessing than beating children upon rocks until they die. The point
is that one should never, ever base a whole belief system upon one verse or set of verses.
Another verse is Genesis 1:28, the command for Adam and Eve (who are fictional characters, in truth) to "be fruitful and multiply and repopulate the earth." I'd say we're more than re-populated now. We meet all the conditions of overpopulation of a species. To apply a command meant for two people on an empty earth to today's overpopulated conditions is folly to the hundredth power.
Then there's the supposed opposition of God against contraception, since he struck down Onan (Gen. 38:8-10) for pulling out and spilling his seed on the ground. Even though the account in the book of Jasher records God killing Er before his brother Onan for the same deed, it clearly states in Genesis that Onan's motivation for not impregnating Tamar was that he knew the child would not be considered his, but Er's, because they believed in that day that a man should take his dead brother's wife to raise children up for him. It had nothing to do with the choice not to have children at all. There is no statute in the Torah that states one must agree to produce children. It was seen as a blessing that a man have at least one son to carry on his name. Clearly, though, there were infertile couples. What is the difference in infertile couples who wish they could have children and fertile couples who wish not to have children? If God is in charge, what kind of game is that? Why not make infertile the ones who don't want any children?
It is a choice
for people to reproduce children, but that choice carries with it responsibility
. There is no command
for Christians to breed without limit. Christians, if they are to be good representatives of what they supposedly represent, ought to practice responsibility, love, compassion, and fairness. These things are sadly absent from most who identify with "quiverfull."
There are very few women in the bible who had numerous children. Mary, the mother of Jesus, either had seven or so or just one (if the other children were the elderly Joseph's from a previous marriage). Job's wife had either ten or twenty, supposing Job gained his second set of ten children with the same wife. There were maybe a couple more mentioned that had more than seven. Leah had seven. The bible doesn't state how many Eve birthed. Most of the women mentioned in the bible did not have more than five to seven children, many having fewer or none. Men typically had more children than women did, because they took more than one wife, if they could afford it. We now live in a society where birthing numerous children doesn't make good sense. One to five seems to be plenty.
I was looked down upon by certain fellow Christians because I didn't subscribe to the Quiverfull mindset. But who is the one following principles more in-line with the Christian testament, allowing parents to spend quality time with each child, financially support each child well, and be able to work toward the Christian goal of God's Kingdom? (Note: The last point is something I no longer do.)
The whole basis of their movement is with the mindset of out-breeding their enemies. Maybe it won't be long before they take the next step in killing the children of their enemies by breaking their bodies on boulders. Will that make them doubly happy and blessed?