"Be Fruitful and Multiply..."

Let us now examine the first point in the LCR document:

1. The command of God to be "fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28; 9:1,17; 35:11; 1 Tim. 5:10,14; AC XXIII, #5 & 8, Triglot p. 61; AP XXIII, #7-8, Trigl. p. 365-7; LC 6th Comm., # 207, Trigl., p. 639).

Genesis 1:28

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 9:

1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.

17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 35:11

Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body.

1 Timothy 5:

10...well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.

14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

AC XXIII, #5 & 8, Triglot p. 61:

"God created man for procreation, Gen. 1:28 ... No man's law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God."

AP XXIII, #7-8, Trigl. p. 365-7:

"First. Gen. 1:28 teaches that men were created to fruitful and that one sex in a proper way should desire the other. For we are speaking not of concupiscence, which is sin, but of that appetite which was to have been in nature in its integrity, which they call physical love. And this love of one sex for the other is truly a divine ordinance. But since this ordinance of God cannot be removed without an extraordinary work of God, it follows that the right to contract marriage cannot be removed by statutes or vows.

"The adversaries cavil at these arguments; they say that in the beginning the commandment was given to replenish the earth, but that now since the earth has been replenished, marriage is not commanded. See how wisely they judge! The nature of men is so forced by the Word of God that it is fruitful not only in the beginning of the creation, but as long as this nature of our bodies will exist; just as the earth becomes fruitful by the word, Gen. 1:11: Let the earth bring forth grass, yielding seed. Because of this ordinance the earth not only commenced in the beginning to bring forth plants, but the fields are clothed every year as long as this natural order will exist. Therefore, just as by human laws the nature of the earth cannot be changed, so, without a special work of God, the nature of a human being can be changed neither by vows nor by human law (that a woman should not desire a man, nor a man a woman)."

LC 6th Comm., # 207, Trigl., p. 639:

"Therefore, He also wishes us to honor it (matrimony), and to maintain and conduct it as a divine and blessed estate; because, in the first place, He has instituted it before all others, and therefore created man and woman separately (as is evident), not for lewdness, but that they should (legiti­mately) live together, be fruitful, beget children, and nourish and train them to the honor of God."

I will also add here an excerpt from some of Luther's comments regarding the divine ordinance "Be Fruitful and Multiply."

The following translation, the first into English, is based on the text published by Johann Gr├╝nenberg in Wittenberg, Uom Eelichen Leben, as reprinted with annotations in WA 10, 275–304.


How I dread preaching on the estate of marriage! I am reluctant to do it because I am afraid if I once get really involved in the subject it will make a lot of work for me and for others. The shameful confusion wrought by the accursed papal law has occasioned so much distress, and the lax authority of both the spiritual and the temporal swords has given rise to so many dreadful abuses and false situations, that I would much prefer neither to look into the matter nor to hear of it. But timidity is no help in an emergency; I must proceed. I must try to instruct poor bewildered consciences, and take up the matter boldly. This sermon is divided into three parts.

Part One

In the first part we shall consider which persons may enter into marriage with one another. In order to proceed aright let us direct our attention to Genesis 1[:27], “So God created man … male and female he created them.” From this passage we may be assured that God divided mankind into two classes, namely, male and female, or a he and a she. This was so pleasing to him that he himself called it a good creation [Gen. 1:31]. Therefore, each one of us must have the kind of body God has created for us. I cannot make myself a woman, nor can you make yourself a man; we do not have that power. But we are exactly as he created us: I a man and you a woman. Moreover, he wills to have his excellent handiwork honored as his divine creation, and not despised. The man is not to despise or scoff at the woman or her body, nor the woman the man. But each should honor the other’s image and body as a divine and good creation that is weil-pleasing unto God himself.

In the second place, after God had made man and woman he blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” [Gen. 1:28]. From this passage we may be assured that man and woman should and must come together in order to multiply. Now this [ordinance] is just as inflexible as the first, and no more to be despised and made fun of than the other, since God gives it his blessing and does something over and above the act of creation. Hence, as it is not within my power not to be a man, so it is not my prerogative to be without a woman. Again, as it is not in your power not to be a woman, so it is not your prerogative to be without a man. For it is not a matter of free choice or decision but a natural and necessary thing, that whatever is a man must have a woman and whatever is a woman must have a man.

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. 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.

In the third place, from this ordinance of creation God has himself exempted three categories of men, saying in Matthew 19:12, '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.' Apart from these three groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse. And whoever does not fall within one of these three categories should not consider anything except the estate of marriage. Otherwise it simply impossible for you to remain righteous. For the Word of God which created you and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' abides and rules within you; you can by no means ignore it, or you will be bound to commit heinous sins without end.

[Luther's works, vol. 45, The Christian in Society II, The Estate of Marriage, pp. 15-18]

So, is there any doubt that only those with the gift of celibacy are exempt from thie divine ordinance to "be fruitful and multiply?"


Lauren said...

I don't think anyone is arguing with you that the Lord's command to be fruitful and multiply should be obeyed. However, the Lord doesn't add additional rules to his command such as how many children to have or how frequently to have them. There is a freedom in the "be fruitful and multiply" command that some people seem to miss.

Eric Phillips said...

Funny how so many quotations can prove so little.

Did you notice how ALL THREE of your "be fruitful and multiply" verses occur at the beginning of a race, when there are only a few forebearers, but God wants to make many? The first is said to Adam and Eve: two people who need to make a whole human race. The second is said to Noah and his family: eight people who need to replenish the whole human race. The third is said to Jacob: one man who needs to beget the whole Israelite race. Now, that MIGHT be just a coincidence, but I find it hard to believe in coincidences that big.

And notice, the I Timothy reference doesn't say a word about _how many_ children.

Then all the Lutheran commentary quoted boils down to the idea that "Be fruitful and multiply" was not just an external command, but one that God programmed into the human race by giving them a sex drive. Good observation. Very plausible. I agree. It just doesn't have anything to do with proving your case, Caspar.

Caspar said...


There are more people reading this blog than just those who comment. They might not yet be convinced that this divine ordinance applies to them. In fact, a Lutheran ex-ELCA-pastor commented on this blog that, though he is married, he believes he should not have any children because he doesn't think he'd make a good father. He contracepts with the intent of NEVER having any children.

We have only just begun to find out what God has to say about this. I am trying to lay out the entire biblical doctrine on procreation, which will then give us several premises on which to examine the issue of family planning.

That said, I would agree with your statement that "the Lord doesn't add additional rules to his command such as how many children to have or how frequently to have them." But it does not follow from this statement that we have a right to decrease the number of children that God would bless our marriages with by planning the frequency of conception.

How many children He creates or how frequently he creates them is God's business. Our interferance seeks to prevent His hand from doing what He wills. Regardless of when a marriage would naturally produce a child, God doesn't make any mistakes! We think we know better when God should create a life and how many He ought to create.

Thanks for your continued patience


Pr. David Rufner said...

Lauren, would you, or anyone else, comment more on the 'freedom in the "be fruitful and multiply" command that some people seem to miss'? I am curious to know more fully what is meant particularly by the use of the word 'freedom'.

Caspar said...


You are setting up a straw man, which is one of your favorite tricks. My argument is not, and has never been, that there is a prescribed number of children per couple.

But it does not follow that a lack of prescribed numbers means we have a right to decrease the number of children that God would bless our marriages with by planning the frequency of conception.

Why do you have such difficulty with the concept of my presenting an argument point by point? You keep insisting that each post I make doesn't grant the conclusion I hold. The problem with this attitude is that I have not even begun to conclude my argument yet! It may be that not one of the points proves my argument in and of itself. We need to look at the entire counsel of God. We are far from that point right now, so relax and be patient. I am only setting the stage at present by assembling several premises.

I don't plan on convincing you, anyway, Eric. Persuasion by logical argument requires that the listener be reasonable, a quality you do not appear to possess in adequate supply.



Eric Phillips said...


Ad hominem'll getcha nowhere.

My comment was solely on the argument you posted here. How about you answer it instead of pretending that I was criticizing some over-arching argument you haven't made yet?

Also, you are just twisting my words when you suggest that I am arguing that you need to produce a certain number of children God wants each couple to have. Honestly, how can you use the words "straw man" while engaging in such chicanery? You should be blushing. I was simply pointing out that Paul wants believers to have children, but that is neither here nor there in the context of an argument about contraception, unless you are making it narrowly against people who try to remain childless, which you aren't.

Devona said...

I actually think that Eric has a good point.

I was thinking this earlier today before I read his comments. God commanded some men and women to "be fruitful and multiply" and it was for specific reasons.

Not that I think that all men and women apart from Moses, Adam, and Jacob and their wives are exempt, obviously. But the fact that it is not explicitly one of the Big 10 makes it hard for me to call it an over arching "commandment."

I know that it is implied with, thou shalt not commit adultery, but the "quiverful" mentality is not explicit.

Just thinking out loud here.

Lauren said...

Pr. Rufner,
When I speak of freedom within the exhortation to be fruitful and multiply, I am simply meaning that God doesn't tell us how many children to have or how often. It is similiar to his bidding regarding his supper. He simply says, "Do this often." How often? Just often. Are we then sinning when we don't take communion at every service where it's offered at our church? Likewise, he tells us to be fruitful and multiply. Period. End of story. He doesn't give us specifics on what that looks like.

Caspar said...

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.


If it's "Period. End of story." then what are you doing here? Why are you reading and commenting? We have just begun to present what Scripture says on this issue, but if you are so sure that God says nothing more what is your purpose in continuing to participate here? I haven't thought of you as just a heckler. I thought you were truly interested in considering the arguments presented here.

I hope you keep an open mind and let the presented Scriptural arguments speak to you.


Eric Phillips said...

Caspar apparently sees two categories of people who disagree with him: those who have an open mind (i.e. who must inevitably agree with him once he's made all his arguments), and "hecklers." I guess that's why he refuses to engage his critics rationally once he's determined that he can't convince them.

Pr. David Rufner said...


As a Pastor I would be greatly concerned if through catechesis I had parishoners who in the study of the Lord's Word would rejoice in what the Lord gives in the Lord's Supper and then would refrain from receiving it week after week, month after month, and longer.

On this matter Dr. Luther writes the following in the L.C. (Kolb/Wengert pg. 471): 'However, you may say, "But the words are added, 'as often as you do it'; so he compels no one, but leaves it to our free choice." Answer: That is true, but it does not say that we should never partake of it. Indeed, precisely his words, "as often as you do it," imply that we should do it frequently.'

Lauren said...

I'm here because I find the views and thoughts on this blog interesting. I have read the presented Scriptural arguments and do not draw the same conclusions that you do. Should I stop reading them if I don't agree?

Lauren said...

Pr. Rufner,
I agree that we partake of the Lord's Supper often. And yes, I agree that we have children within marriage. I'm simply saying it's parlous to add specifics to God's command.

Lauren said...

In an earier post to Eric, you noted that simply because God doesn't give us a prescribed number of children to have (which he clearly doesn't) doesn't mean we should "decrease" the number of children God wants to give us. Am I understanding you to say if a husband and wife don't conceive each and every time the wife is fertile they are decreasing the number of children God wants for them? Is that correct? Thanks!

Caspar said...


Good active listening!

God decides if and when to bless us with children. He makes no mistakes. If He holds his creative hand back from a specific act of marital intercourse, that is His business, not ours.

When we intentionally modify the natural relations between husband and wife with the intent of holding God's creative hand at bay, we are sinning.

This is what I mean when I say that just because God doesn't prescribe a specific number of children as required per marriage doesn't mean we have a right to decrease the number of children God wants to give us.

Here's an analogy, which like all analogies has its limitations:

There aren't a specific number of good works we are obliged to perform in faith. We don't "have to" do any. Yet faith without works is dead. The works do not create the faith, they are evidence that faith is alive. When works stop, it is obvious that faith has died. When we simply fail to do this or that good work prepared by God for us, we have stumbled into sin. We all do this every day. But if we make a premeditated decision that we are just not going to do any good works for a while, we are living in sin.

So can we intentionally limit the good works that naturally flow from faith and still have faith? Should we impose our own self-defined "cap" on good works? Are there times when we have produced enough good works that we can rightly say: OK, that's enough, its time I stopped doing good works, at least for a while, because it's getting in the way of MY career, MY health, MY income, MY lifestyle, MY happiness, MY sanity, etc., etc.?

Likewise, can we intentionally limit the children that would naturally flow from our marriage and still have faith? Should we impose our own self-defined "cap" on children? Are there times when we have produced enough children that we can rightly say: OK, that's enough, its time I stopped having kids, at least for a while, because it's getting in the way of MY career, MY health, MY income, MY lifestyle, MY happiness, MY sanity, etc., etc.?

I hope that better explains what I mean. Let me know if it's still not clear.

By the way, Lauren, I'm glad you're still listening. We have only begun to present the biblical arguments. There may just be a point you haven't considered before that hasn't been argued yet. That's what I meant by saying that it's not time to say "Period. End of story."


Eric Phillips said...

Of course, when people decide to have a year-long engagement period, or to date for two years before getting engaged, or not to marry Sally at all, but rather wait five more years to meet someone else, they are "limiting the number of children they can have" in all those ways too.

Also, I don't understand how it could be sin to "intentionally modify the natural relations between husband and wife with the intent of holding God's creative hand at bay," but just fine to intentionally modify the natural relations between bodies and the ground with the intent of holding God's gravitic intent at bay.

Caspar said...


One problem with your mode of understanding is that you are looking for things to make sense based upon your intellect rather than letting God's Word say what it does.

First, there are sinful and unsinful reasons to remain unmarried (for some examples see Matthew 19 and 1 Cor. 7). The sinful reasons used today far outweigh the unsinful reasons, and include the despising of God's blessing of children.

My position is that God desires to create children via marriage, and that virtually all people are called to be married. Those who are not called to be married are not sinning in not being married, including those who are still seeking or courting a potential spouse and are not putting it off for sinful reasons.

My position certainly does not lead to the reductio ad absurdum you continue to try and pin on it. You are arguing from faulty premises when you try to do this.

Secondly, how can you possibly make the argument that there is no moral distinction between our preventing God from creating a human being and our preventing a skinned knee?

God desires to create children. He does not desire to skin knees.

Logic is NOT wisdom, Eric. There have been plenty of infamous maniacs in the world who have been completely logical. The problem you are having is making sure you start with true premises, and Truth is only found in Scripture. And remember that Scripture is a whole, not individual statements to be taken on their own.

So, let's continue to examine Scripture for what it says, and then make all the logical deductions which can be made from the entire body of evidence. Only then can we finally identify what Scripture doesn't say.

Can you be that patient?


Eric Phillips said...

"One problem with your mode of understanding is that you are looking for things to make sense based upon your intellect rather than letting God's Word say what it does."

False dichotomy, Caspar. You and I and everyone else who believes the Bible is the Word of God wants to _understand_ it as much as we can, and _understanding_ involves intellect. Some just do it better than others.

Granted that there are sinful reasons for remaining unmarried, that doesn't rescue your argument. If you are arguing that every isolated act of contraception is wrong _because it may reduce the number of children you are able to have_, then you will be forced to label _lots_ of _innocent_ reasons for delaying marriage as sinful. You can't just talk about the people who avoid marriage so as to avoid responsibility, or so they can keep sleeping around, or whatnot; you will have to include everyone who is driven by the romantic ideal to find someone he can really fall in love with first, instead of being sensible and responsible and marrying the first good healthy Christian who is amenable to his interest. Either that, or you will have to show us from Scripture how the romantic ideal constitutes a legitimate divinely-instituted exception to the principle that it is sin to do anything that might lessen the number of children you might have.

Or, one other option, you could DROP the argument that what makes contraception wrong is the fact that you might be reducing your overall fruitfulness, and focus on whatever it is that _really_ makes you oppose contraception. Because if you aren't willing to extend the procreative maximalist principle to apply to the twenty-something who's taking his time finding someone to fall in love with, then that's not really your reason at all.

Eric Phillips said...

Your other comment:

"how can you possibly make the argument that there is no moral distinction between our preventing God from creating a human being and our preventing a skinned knee?"

If God _wants_ you to have a skinned knee, then yes, defying His will in that regard is exactly the same sin as refusing to have X children, if He has commanded you to have X children. Thing is, He hasn't revealed to me either that I am to skin my knee, OR that I am to have as-many-children-as-I-can. Instead, you are trying to make a sweeping argument from general Providence, portraying contraception as sin by describing it as action with "the intent of holding God's creative hand at bay." All of science, and most human actions of any kind whatsoever fall victim to THAT argument. When I wear kneepads, I am attempting to hold God's knee-skinning hand at bay. When I board an airplane, I am participating in opposition to God's gravity-enforcing hand. When I buy seedless oranges, I am conspiring to hold God's orange-tree-planting hand at bay. When I stay home on Friday night instead of going out to a pub to look for somebody to witness to, I am acting to hold God's spreading-the-Gospel hand at bay.

So far you are arguing:

1) To mess with nature is to mess with Providence.

2) But really, you're allowed to mess with Providence 99% of the time. It's just that procreation is _different_. Can't you tell that it's _different_? I mean, it makes _life_!

That's not a coherent argument.