2.07.2006

"Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them."

2. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Gen. 1:28; 15:2-5; 17:5f.; 24:60; 33:5; 48:9; 49:25; Lev. 26:9; Deut. 28:4; Josh. 24:3; Ruth 4:11f.; Psalm 107:38; 127:3-5; 128:3-6; 147:13; Prov. 5:18; 17:6; LC 4th Comm., # 105, Trigl. p. 611).


Genesis 1:28

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 15:2-5

2 But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”
4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”


Genesis 17:5

5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.


Genesis 24:60

60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her:

“Our sister, may you become
The mother of thousands of ten thousands;
And may your descendants possess
The gates of those who hate them.”


Genesis 33:5

5 And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, “Who are these with you?”
So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”


Genesis 48:9

9 Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.”
And he said, “Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.”


Genesis 49:25

25 By the God of your father who will help you,
And by the Almighty who will bless you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.


Leviticus 26:9

9 ‘For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you.

Deuteronomy 28:4

4 “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.


Joshua 24:3

3 Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.


Psalm 107:38


38 He also blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
And He does not let their cattle decrease.


Psalm 127:3-5

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.


Psalm 128:3-6

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.
5 The LORD bless you out of Zion,
And may you see the good of Jerusalem
All the days of your life.
6 Yes, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!


Psalm 147:13

13 For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
He has blessed your children within you.


Proverbs 5:18

18 Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.


Proverbs 17:6

6 Children’s children are the crown of old men,
And the glory of children is their father.


Large Catechism, 4th Comm., # 105, Trigl. p. 611

"To this estate of fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special distinction above all estates that are beneath it that He not simply commands us to love our parents, but to honor them. .. He separates and distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them at His side."


Children are a blessing, the more the better! Family planning seeks to prevent and decrease the frequency and number of these blessings. Thus one shows contempt for God's blessings. Let us consider again Luther's words on this very point:

For one must also consider that at that time fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and a special gift of God, as is clear from Deut. 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. “There will not be a barren woman among you,” he says (cf. Ex. 23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s nature, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good-for-nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all; for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgment flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: “Be fruitful and multiply.” From this they understood that children are a gift of God.

Luther's works, vol. 5, p. 329

"Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: “Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.” But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.

[Luther's works, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis, page 332]


Also consider these words from the Luther's (Large Catechism) explanation of the First Commandment:

13] Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that man's entire heart and all his confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. 14] But to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to Him. 15] But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself, namely, because He is the only eternal good.

26] For even though otherwise we experience much good from men, still whatever we receive by His command or arrangement is all received from God. For our parents, and all rulers, and every one besides with respect to his neighbor, have received from God the command that they should do us all manner of good, so that we receive these blessings not from them, but, through them, from God. For creatures are only the hands, channels, and means whereby God gives all things, as He gives to the mother breasts and milk to offer to her child, and corn and all manner of produce from the earth for nourishment, none of which blessings could be produced by any creature of itself.

27] Therefore no man should presume to take or give anything except as God has commanded, in order that it may be acknowledged as God's gift, and thanks may be rendered Him for it, as this commandment requires. On this account also these means of receiving good gifts through creatures are not to be rejected, neither should we in presumption seek other ways and means than God has commanded. For that would not be receiving from God, but seeking of ourselves.

9 comments:

Eric Phillips said...

Your argument here seems to be:

1) Children are a gift from God.
2) It is wrong to refuse God's gifts.
3) Therefore it is wrong to contracept.

However, that last Luther quotation suggests this parallel syllogism:

1) Food is a gift from God.
2) It is wrong to refuse God's gifts.
3) Therefore, it is wrong to refuse an offer of food.

Tina said...

This is a response to the discussion Lauren brought up a couple of threads down, but I think applies here too, since it deals with the "how many" question. (And I'm never sure when 'old' threads are considered too old).

It seems to me that comparing the frequency of communing with the number of children you have is the wrong comparison. Communion is the act, and children are the result (potentially anyway) of an act. The proper comparison would more likely be between the frequency of communion, and the frequency of marital relations.

And in that, I would agree that God never dictated how often one should commune, nor how often a married couple should "commune".

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and how Communion is the most intimate act that Jesus (the groom) has with His church (the bride), just as sexual intimacy is the most intimate act a husband and wife share. (I think it was Devonna who brought some of this up before).

And while God never said "how often", he did put boundries on both communion, and sexual intimacy.

I would hope that any pastor on this list would refuse to commune someone who came to the alter in his church, and yet refused to accept the real presence of Christ 'in, with and under' the bread and wine. Because we understand that such a person would receive that Real Presence, but would do so to his/her judgement because they are partaking in a way that God did not specify as being rightly. Similarly, if I come to the Table with a barrier in my heart and deny the gift of forgiveness that is a result of this meal (maybe I think it's 'just' for remembrance), I have separated something from that meal that God says must be there.

Relating this to sex, God says there are some boundries, and some results. The boundries include male/female, and only between a married couple. Those who break those boundries, participate in a blessed act--to their judgement. Results that have been mentioned before include becoming 'one flesh', and procreation of children (and one other-was it the picture of Christ and the Church?). Can these results be rightly separated from the marital union any more than forgiveness of sins or strengthening of faith can be separated from Communion?

This picture of Communion as a 'one flesh union' between Christ and His church, and how we cannot separate the elements that God put together from the gifts that He promised therein, causes me to ponder that perhaps the gifts are also not to be separated from the 'one flesh union' that a husband and wife participate in.

When I came to understand more deeply the wonderful gifts that were present in the Lord's supper, I found myself wanting to partake in that meal more frequently to receive those gifts. And my thinking changed from 'do we have to have communion so frequently?", to "why can't we have it MORE often?".

This discussion can come from a Law point of view--how many children do we have to have to be considered 'fruitful'? Or we can look at if from a Gospel point of view--how many children does my loving, Heavenly Father desire to bless me with?

As we understand the blessing, we desire the gift all the more.

Devona said...

Tina, That was well said. And I really like it.

Similarly, when I discovered how fully the Lord wanted to bless Rob and I through children our intimacy grewas well as our openess and desire for children. This is a very gospel-oriented view of marriage. Instead of, "we NEED to have frequent relations, and we NEED to have many children," which is much more Law oriented.

What I'd like to take another look at, and perhaps Pr. Rufner can lead a discussion on this, is Christian Freedom in the "how often" question. It's only fair since he asked the question, and no one gave a really good answer.

I have my opinion about the matter, and while I'd love to explain it, I know that it isn't going to be as educated or as confessional as an ordained pastor's definition will be.

Tina said...

Thanks Devonna. I'd like to hear your opinion on the 'how often' question. I always post with a bit of fear and trembling for the very reasons you mentioned--I am not as polished on these issues as many here. But I can understand if you'd rather wait to share to see if someone can say what you wanted to say more clearly.

Caspar said...

Before we start labeling arguments as "law oriented" or "gospel oriented," consider the following. On Lutherquest, March 11, 2004, in a discussion of this very question I was involved in, Pastor Rolf Preus (Rev. Daniel Preus's brother) cogently pointed out:

The issue is not one of law or gospel. The question is rather whether or not God Himself chooses when and if children are to come into this world. Is He the Author of life or is He not?

Much of the pious talk about children being gifts from God that we hear these days is just that: talk. Who can deny it? But the very foundation of planned parenthood (i.e., planned barrenhood) is predicated on a denial of this fundamental truth.

The issue is not primarily what God tells us to do or not do. It is a more fundamental question of doctrine, that is, it is a question about what God Himself does. The Bible teaches us that children are a blessing from God. This means that when He gives us children it is to bless us. He blesses us because He loves us. We live at a time when children are not seen as a blessing from God. This godless attitude is what drives the feminist, planned parenthood, anti-family, anti-woman, gnostic, hedonistic, anti-incarnational, anti-Christian attitudes swirling around our heads and from which we cannot escape because we are so heavily influenced by the devil, the world, and our flesh.

The proper distinction between law and gospel is a theological principle, it is not a biblical rule of hermeneutics. Clearly, the intent of Genesis 1:28 is to teach us that the physical union of husband and wife is a good thing because through it God blesses His children with children. To deny either is to reject the plain sense of God's word.

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. There can be no question that the prevailing attitude about planned parenthood and the tolerance of abortion on demand go together. The legal opinions of the Supreme Court followed a social trend that found support as well in the liberal Protestant churches of America. Those of us who call ourselves confessional Lutherans should take the time to study this issue not just by means of an exegetical debate, but by looking at how attitudes and habits in our culture have changed over the past couple of generations. How has a sanctity of life ethic been replaced by a "quality" of life ethic? What does God in Genesis 1:28 say to us about this?

Larry Haga said...

Consider Augsburg XXVI,
...everyone is obliged to do according to his calling- for example, that a husband should labor to support his wife and children and bring them up in the fear of God, that a wife should bear children and care for them...

Devona said...

My understanding of the "Law/Gospel" is not that we disregard Law, which is what it seems you think I meant, Caspar. It is, rather, that when we do a good thing (i.e. keep the Law in any way) it is from a motivation by the Holy Spirit, which we recieve through the Gospel (word, water, supper).

I am saying, instead, that by further understanding the Gospel of Christ, and the good things that He intends for us in marriage and parenthood, we will be sanctified. The result will be a greater conformity to the Law by the strength of the Spirit, including greater conformity to His will for us regarding children (which we all agree is for us to have them, and to be open to many).

I am always trying to understand our conformity to the Law through the Theology of the Cross, which is strikingly different than a Theology of Glory which espouses that there is any way we can conform to God's Law by our own work, or even our own understanding of it. Being a Evangelical refugee like your blog-mate Tim the Enchanter, I am very familiar with the TOG and the way it can sneek into a good Christian's motivations accidentally.

Since I am a new Lutheran, I do not always fully understand the TOC, which is why I feel blessed to be in the intellectual circles of the Ordained, since it has been taught to them so well, and hope to gain insight by them.

guile said...

nice, cozy place you got here :)..

Caspar said...

I didn't misunderstand you, Devona. I just wanted to head off any tendancy to make this discussion a Law vs. Gospel issue. I have seen discussions of this issue turn that direction over and over again, with accusations of "legalism" immediately following.

I would also like to point out that it is usually thought of by Lutheran theologians as more correct to say that good works "flow from faith" rather than saying they are "motivated" by faith or the Holy Spirit.

I think your intended point is very good. Always being open to God's blessing of children flows from faith/trust. As Luther speaks to those who wish not to have many children: "Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing." [Luther's works, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis, page 332]

As for the theology of glory, I had a great example of it yesterday at my wife's grandmother's funeral. She was a 97 year old, 57 year member of the Assembly of God church. All her six children are members of that church in the same town also. The entire service was the theology of glory. Thankfully no one spoke in tongues. We did get a tongue lashing from the preacher, however. My two oldest daughers were babysitting in the nursery, and they got scared when they heard the preacher "yelling" at us.

They just built a new church building last year. the carpet has basketball court markings on it. Her casket was just inside the three second zone. I found it very telling that they have an extremely expensive (probably $5000) retractable basketball hoop right above an altar cross made of two 2x4s. The cross hangs on the sports padding which surrounds one of the steel support posts of the new "church."

Caspar