Children: A Blessing From the LordJuly 14, 2008
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey opens the Scriptures to discover God’s thoughts about children.
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey opens the Scriptures to discover God’s thoughts about children.
Children: A Blessing From the Lord
Bob: When you take time to think about starting a family or about the number of children you might someday like to have, what's your perspective on children?
Is it a biblical perspective?
Here's Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: Children are our legacy. They save us from our selfishness, from our materialism. Children are the spiritual messengers that we send to future generations with the Gospel. Children should be viewed from God's perspective not from the world's perspective. The world views them as a burden. The Scripture speaks of them as being a blessing.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 14th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The Bible says children are a blessing from the Lord, but what role should we try to play in determining the number of blessings we can handle as a family. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. One of the questions that we get asked by our listeners from time to time is the question related to contraceptive use, or family planning. They want to know how does FamilyLife view the subject of contraception or birth control. And this week we are going to spend some time unpacking that subject. In fact, we have a couple of physicians who are going to be joining us this week to help us look at all of the issues that go into making a wise, informed choice as a couple as to what you're going to do when it comes to family planning.
But we want to take some time at the beginning of this week just talking about what the Bible has to say about the issue of family and children and what kinds of things ought to go into our decision-making process when we start considering this issue as husband and wife.
Dennis: That's right, and, Bob, when it comes to discussing the subject of contraceptives, birth control, all of a sudden, people begin to sit up a little bit, they go, "Okay, bring it on. Let's talk about this a little bit."
And to do that, I do want to lay a bit of a foundation today. I want you to know at the outset, though, that this series of broadcasts about the subject of birth control is not designed to judge or condemn those who have differing opinions, because it can be a tendency, Bob, at this point, to make this a subject where it's the Catholics against the Protestants.
Bob: Mm-hm, the Catholics, of course, traditionally, have taken a strong stand saying that artificial means of contraception are prohibited for Christians that hasn't been universally embraced by Protestant churches and, as a result, it can be tricky and confusing, particularly for young couples who want to be biblical, Dennis. They want to honor God in this area.
Bob: They just don't know what's right and what's not.
Dennis: And, I'll tell you, Bob, as science continues to take us to new levels of understanding, this is becoming an even hotter issue as we talk about the subject of contraception. We have got to address this. We must build families for the long haul. We've got to do this. If we understand who children are and what our assignment is to pass on the image of God to succeeding generations that's more than just reproducing children; than just having children.
After we have them, we're to cultivate the image of God in their lives, Bob, so that our children grow up knowing that they have a responsibility to reproduce godly children when they get married.
Bob: It's a fundamental question of getting on God's agenda here. It's being about what God has said is important and participating in what He's called us to.
Dennis: You know, if you start shining the light of Scripture on that, all of a sudden, just kind of go, "Now, wait a second here. Why are we doing what we are doing? God has given us authority, responsibility, and a guardianship, and He has given that to us not only today but generationally into the future."
And it's really adult couples, husbands and wives, who need to champion this cause now for themselves but also for their children, because, I mean, we haven't seen anything yet in what science throws at us in terms of options and alternatives. Christians must be clear-thinking. We must be biblical thinkers about our approach to this whole subject.
You know, the first principle sounds so basic, but I think if you don't lay this foundation, you get into trouble later on. First of all, God is the originator of life and, as such, because God originated it, all life is sacred. And if you don't establish that, we lose the big picture that it is God who is the beginning. It is He who is the center point of all of human history, and it is from Him we get life, and it is from Him that we get the meaning for what marriage and family and children are all about.
Bob: So you're saying as we think about the subject of contraception, we need to start with a framework that says God is the Author and Creator of life. It is valuable because He has created it, and we need to have a God-like view of the value and the honor of human life.
Dennis: The Book of Genesis starts with the statement, "In the beginning, God – God created." If we don't start with the beginning and establish the reality that God is and that He is the Creator of life, we're going to get into trouble downstream.
Bob: How should that fundamental truth that we bear the image of God as His creation, what impact should that have on our thinking about contraception?
Dennis: Well, I think the point is obvious, but your belief that human life begins at conception does have an impact on your view of contraception, because there are types of contraceptives available today that will take an unborn life and prevent it from being able to mature. I believe that's wrong.
Bob: And I want to make sure our listeners understand what you're saying. In the first week of conception, in the first moment of conception, there is a human being.
Bob: The viability of that human being, apart from its mother, does not define its humanness.
Bob: That fertilized egg is as fully human as you are, as I am, and the fact that it can't sustain itself independently does not make it somehow less human. It simply means it's not at a maturity level for that self-sustaining life.
Dennis: A human life begins at conception, and I believe any method of contraception that interferes with the healthy growth of the fertilized egg should be avoided.
Bob: And these are just a few of the points that you've put down in a more comprehensive list of issues that Christians need to consider as they are making choices about family planning.
Dennis: And if folks would like to see the entire list that I've come up with to discuss this, perhaps, with your teenage son or daughter or adult child who may be getting married, and maybe you need some outline to discuss with your children, you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com to get the entire list.
But I now want to move into a thornier area, Bob, because we are now going to start dealing with the subject of contraception in areas where the Scripture isn't clear or doesn't speak or seems to be silent about the subject. And as a result of this silence, we have pastors, those in the scientific community, theologians, medical personnel who are believers, who have reasoned their way through this issue of contraception and have primarily fallen out into five groups.
The first group being, the "children in abundance" group. I had a hard describing this group, but these are those who are listening to us talk about contraception, and they're thinking, "You know, you just need to shelve the issue because you need to try to get pregnant at every turn. You need to use every opportunity to get pregnant and to have children."
The second group, in response to the silence of Scriptures about contraception, are the "children in managed abundance" group.
Bob: Okay, "managed abundance."
Dennis: Yes, the only type of birth control measures that would be allowed in this group would be only those natural measures that God has given a woman in her cycle as she goes through a period of being fertile or infertile in any 28-day cycle.
Bob: We're going to talk more about the principles related to natural family planning as a part of our discussion, but this would be the dominant view of the Roman Catholic Church and I think is growing in popularity among many conservative evangelicals today.
Dennis: And this group, again, is very pro-children, very much for what most would call "large families."
Bob: They often have large families, don't they?
Dennis: They do. The third group is the "children in moderation" group. They, too, are very pro-child, but they would use artificial means of contraception and birth control methods in planning their families.
Bob: They might take more of a personal responsibility approach in saying "The size of our family is something that we will aggressively make some choices about – the number of children, the spacing of those children. We're going to use medical means to attempt to determine things about size and spacing of children."
Dennis: The fourth group would be the "no children" group, and we know from statistics today that there are a very large number of couples who want to have children but who can't, and they have no children as a result. This group could be broken into two parts, though. There are those who are infertile and those who have no children by choice. They have chosen a route of saying, "You know what? We want our lives defined without children." And there are a number of Christians in this camp, who believe that they are within their own biblical rights in choosing this route for planning their family.
The last group is the group that chooses abortion as an alternative, and some may be shocked that I would even refer to a group of Christians who would hold this, but the reality is there are Christians who do believe that abortion is an alternative and that children are – and I'm going to put it in pretty crass terms at this point – children are disposable units; they are a commodity that can be done away with if we wish to terminate a pregnancy that's unwanted.
I believe this choice is clearly wrong. Human life does begin at conception, and I believe an increasing number of Christians who speak out against abortion need to speak up on behalf of adoption.
Bob: Let me ask you about the group that you referred to as childless by choice – those who have determined that they don't want to have children. Would you say they're on solid biblical ground to make that choice?
Bob: So you're saying that if a couple is able to have children, if there is nothing keeping them from having children medically, then they need to be a part of God's program and have kids.
Dennis: I think so. But I think the issue is we need to evaluate where we are against the Scriptures, pray about it as a couple, and I think come to a conclusion that we agree to around Scripture.
Bob: Might there be medical reasons – a woman's health would be endangered by conceiving or by bearing a child or maybe a doctor who would say, "This woman is emotionally vulnerable, and for her to have children could lead to an emotional breakdown." In those situations, if you were counseling a young couple, and a husband said, "I want to serve the Lord, but I'm afraid that if my wife got pregnant, it could be physically harmful or emotionally scarring for her." Would you say there is grace for him not to have children?
Dennis: Bob, I don't sit in judgment over any man or woman. I don't have any pride over another person that we've got this whole thing wrapped up and captured. I can't begin to address the multitude of issues that are raised by a question such as that.
I'm not saying that I would endanger my wife's life for a child. I would have to prayerfully work that through with her. I would have to seek wise counsel from my church. I think we need to be cautious here and go slow.
God has given us a brain to reason but, in the end, He has called us to operate out of conviction and out of faith. But we just need to be careful about being judgmental in coming to those conclusions.
I do know this, I do know this – the Bible is very clear that children are a blessing, and Christians need to embrace and proclaim a biblical view of children, and that is this – children are a blessing, they are a gift from God. Psalm 127:3 declares that. It says, "The fruit of the womb is a reward," and I think Christians, if anybody, ought to be bullish about children.
The problem today within the Christian community, though, is we are a culture of cynics. We have become poisoned about children – about what they cost us, about how they get in our way, and what it's going to demand in terms of self-sacrifice. But I believe children should be viewed from God's perspective not from the world's perspective. The world views them as a burden. The Scripture speaks of them as being a blessing.
Children are the spiritual messengers that we send to future generations with the Gospel. Children are our legacy. They save us from our selfishness, from our materialism. Last night, Barbara and I were out on a date, and we were talking about this issue, and she said, "You know, people today need to be warned that having children will cost you." They are an inconvenience, they do get on your nerves, they do get in your way, they crimp and cramp your style, and they don't always feel like that blessing that the Scripture refers to them as.
Bob: Not always pleasant.
Dennis: No there. But they still remain as one of the highest and holiest of privileges that Barbara and I have ever had. And at the end of the broadcast, I'm probably going to surprise our listeners a bit, as I share with you the rest of that conversation with Barbara, because we talked about the size of our family, and I'm going to just share that in a few moments.
Dennis: But I shared the first six principles about contraception, the seventh is one we've already been talking about, but I just want to re-emphasize it here – number 7, the biblical command is to be fruitful and to multiply. We need to recognize that our great privilege is to join with God into multiplying a godly legacy. Children are not optional. They are not optional equipment in the Christian family.
There is an eighth principle that I want us to look at as we start to wrap this up here – your convictions about children, about contraception and the size of your family need to be prayerfully determined by you, as a couple.
Bob, I don't believe that there is another group of people that can set down the law of what's right and wrong for you in this area. I think each individual Christian couple and family are held accountable before God for what they believe the Scripture teaches in these critical areas of life.
So I think a couple must dialog about this and, to the best of your ability, determine and discover from the Scriptures what you believe it teaches about children, what you believe it teaches about contraception. We need to be careful that we are not supra-spiritual about this, saying, "You've got to trust God for the size of your family," and look down on other who don't agree with you or who have one child or two children. You don't know what's taken place in their lives, I mean, really.
And I'd have to say, Bob, Barbara and I went through a period, as we had six children in 10 years, where we had to come into some sense of balance but you know what? Not everyone was being called to have a big family, and that's okay.
The issue here is to give other people grace, and we need to be careful about being judgmental in telling other believers what to believe.
Bob: Yes, and, of course, we have the responsibility to try to do what we think is right for us, before God, and that involves learning about this subject, it involves talking about this subject, it involves praying together about this subject, as you've just indicated.
One of the resources we think will be helpful for couples as they contemplate what they believe God would have them do is the book that Dr. Bill Cutrer has written along with Sandra Glahn. It's a book called "The Contraception Guidebook" that looks at options, risks, and answers for Christian couples.
We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website at FamilyLife.com for more information on this book. There is also a link there to an article by our friend, Randy Alcorn, where he discusses the issue of oral contraception, the birth control pill, and tried to examine the pros and cons there – whether it's an appropriate form of birth control for Christian couples to use. And you may disagree with the conclusions he comes to, but you ought to read what he's written on the subject as you think this whole issue through.
Again, you'll find more information about the contraception guidebook at FamilyLife.com. You'll also find the link to Randy Alcorn's article. When you get to our home page, on the right side of the screen you'll see a box that says, "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says, "Learn More," that will take you to an area of the site where you can get more information about "The Contraception Guidebook." You'll find the link to Randy Alcorn's article about the birth control pill, and there is a link to the list that Dennis has been going through with us of things Christians need to consider as they pray through this subject. Again, all of that is available on our website at FamilyLife.com.
Or, if it's easier, you can order a copy of "The Contraception Guidebook" by calling us at 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you contact us, someone on our team can make arrangements to have a copy of that book sent to you.
You know, we need to say a special thank you here today to those listeners who, right here in the middle of summer, get in touch with us and remember our financial needs at FamilyLife. We are listener-supported, and so it's listeners like you who make donations that help keep FamilyLife Today on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.
And during the summer months, that financial support typically falls of a little bit. So we are especially grateful for those of you who, in the summer months, contact us to make a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. This month, when you make a donation of any amount, we would love to send you a CD of a conversation we had not long ago with author and speaker, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, on the subject of forgiveness. She has written a book called "Choosing Forgiveness," and we talked with her about that very important subject not long ago.
The CD of that conversation is available when you make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You can make that donation online at FamilyLife.com, and if you do that, and you'd like the CD, when you get to the keycode box on the donation form, type in the word "forgive," and we'll know to send a copy of the CD to you, or call and make a donation at 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329. You can make a donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like a copy of the CD with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Again, we're happy to send it to you, and we appreciate your financial support of this program.
Dennis, I know you wanted to sneak back in here and talk about a conversation you had recently with your wife.
Dennis: Barbara and I had been on a date, and we were talking about this subject, and I just turned to her, and I said to her, "You know, honey, as a result of looking through this, if I had it to do all over again, I think we should have had more children." Six children is a lot, that's a bunch. It's costly, I know a little bit about that, but we started talking about, and she said, "You know what? I agree."
And it was interesting for us just to interact and talk about look at our lives, looking back. What has provided the wealth, the richness, the vitality, the lessons, the real lessons of life. I'm not talking about the applause of men. I'm talking about the mountaintops and valleys that give life it's Technicolor look – it's children. And it's not that children are the end, and it's not that children are the core of our being. But it is one of the highest privileges Barbara and I have ever been given.
And my charge and my challenge to our listeners, as they listen to the rest of this series, is to just prayerfully go before the Lord and say, "You know, Lord, what do You want for us? Can we be found guilty for believing You for too much rather than for too little?"
And, yes, it may demand sacrifice and probably will, but as I look at the Scriptures, the great payback, the great privileges, are found in those things, which do cost us. And I'll just be honest with you – as we have interacted, if we had it to do over again, we'd had a few more.
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