Monday, April 03, 2006

Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.

Previously, I posted my suspicion of the modernistic notion of quantification (These Go to Eleven), partially so that when I posted this diatribe it would be taken in a light-hearted manner. So, before the "sub-par" golfers try to throw me under the bus, you may want to read the aforementioned post.

Okay, with that caveat made ... let me have some fun with it.


QUESTIONS:
  • If you want to be a godly follower of the Lord Jesus, how many children should you have? As many as possible? None? As many as you can financially support?
  • Is family size necessarily an indication of spirituality, a way to keep score, so to speak?

This is a topic of great discussion among Christians, but one typically done in the circles in which one already knows the environment. That is, those with large families get together and bash/belittle and carry on with regard to smaller ones and vice versa.

What do the Scriptures have to say about parenting and the number of children?

(Let me give what would have been obvious in the past, my assumptions. I'm assuming in this discussion biological children from a husband (male) & wife (female) legally married and all that good stuff.)


Biblically, God gave people a responsibility to populate the planet. In fact, you will note almost the exact same langua
ge, pre & post fall of Genesis 3. In other words, this wasn't merely an obligation prior to sin's entrance.

  • In the beginning, after God “blessed them,” humanity was told to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28)
  • Following the flood, after God “blessed” Noah & his sons, humanity was told to be “fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Gen 9:1)

After each of the above, God commands dominion of the animal kingdom.

Increase … With two parents, two children would merely replace the parents and, of course not produce a net increase. Thus, it would seem to me that three would be the minimum for the above such commands to be carried out.

Let me put it like this for all of you golfers out there, though I’ll confess my ignorance of such a silly sport and its appeal. (Incidentally, I’ve been told that if I actually went I would enjoy it and probably be hooked, but I can assure you that one of the last things I need in my life is another hobby about which to obsess.)

Think of fulfillment of biblical obligation as par (i.e., what you should get or are supposed to get). So, God’s is a par three course (i.e., three kids). Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.

If one has 4 kids, that is one better than par, that is, a birdie. 5 kids, consequently, would be an eagle (the extent of my golf knowledge in that direction). Conversely, to have only 2 kids would be one worse than par, that is, a bogey. One kid would be a double bogey and, I assume, zero kids would be a ... triple bogey?

Now, although my par theory of childbirth is somewhat lighthearted, on a serious note ...

I do want to issue the caveat that my game scenario assumes people are enabled to have children. A miscarriage is the death of your child, and should be mourned as such. God understands and knows who can and who cannot biologically produce offspring.

Those decisions lie with God, for He is the Lord of the womb and children are a blessing and heritage from Him (Ps 127:3-5). He opens and closes wombs as He sovereignly pleases for His purposes and good pleasure (cf. Deut 7:13-14; Ps 113:9; Gen 20:17-18; 25:21; 29:31; 30:22; Ex 1:21; Judges 13:2-3; Ruth 4:13; 1 Sam 1:5, 20; 2:21; 2 Sam 6:23; 2 Kings 4:14-17; Lk 1:7, 13).

I do find it interesting, however, that you don't typically see the patriarchs (particularly these two given the command, Adam & Noah) going crazy in the kids department. We're not really sure how many Adam had, but only three are listed by name. Noah apparently had three sons only - not all that impressive considering the length of his life. There's the obvious exception of Jacob, but that was with multiple moms.

At times I wonder if some interpret God's command to be such that Christians should have as many children as humanly possible. However, if so, you don't see anyone in Scripture who clearly set out to do that.

Interesting, eh? It's also interesting that Scripture does not look favorably on those who condescendingly condemn the barren woman. Now, we're not talking about those able, but unwilling to have children, for that's a different species. But, keep that in mind before you boast about your birdie or eagle and condemn the sub-par, for it may be more a situation of not being able versus not being willing.

Also, it would seem to me that in light of what transpires in the gestation, nursing, and raising of children that the men folk don't have near the latitude for boasting that they might think. In other words, I might suggest that the wives/moms are the true golfers and the husbands/daddys are more the caddies.

Anyway, thanks for enduring the back nine of speculation.

Gunny, eagle

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4 Comments:

At 04 April, 2006 12:58, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

I wonder if the term "increase in number" (also translated "multiply") means that, in order for increase to occur, a couple has to bear more than two children. The logic behind that interpretation only works if God is interested in a net increase rather than a gross increase.

This is especially probable in the pre-fall state.

For instance, before Adam and Eve had their first son there were two humans. After their first son there were three. Therefore, technically the gross human population increased after the two bore one.

A question arises with what "fill the earth" means. Does fill mean fill with people? I think it does. In that case Adam and Eve would have to have at least two children (1boy, 1 girl), who would have to have at least two and on down the line (assuming incest was not an option). Given that the original parents would live forever, no more than two children would be required from each couple.

We could also figure that in their pre-fall condition Adam and Eve would never have degenerated past childbearing age. Therefore they could have had children perpetually and fulfilled the command on their own. But given the pleasure of procreation, it is doubtful that their posterity would never join them in procreation at some point in history, had the fall not occurred.

Now, what about post-fall? The gross increase theory still works somewhat, but at some point a net increase has to be established because death has entered the picture.

The gross increase theory would work for the time of Noah and his sons, since they lived much longer than we do today. Imagine how many great great great great great great grandchildren Noah must have enjoyed while alive. And since he and his sons lived hundreds of years, children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren etc. combined with the original parents would equal progressively greater numbers of humans regardless of whether all the married couples had more than two children.

Of course gross increase only works for the time of Noah and his sons. Noah and his sons would have had to have at least two children per couple in order to reach a critical mass before passing out of childbearing age. I would define a critical mass as enough children that some could have many children and others not have any at all and there would still be a net increase. This is where a net increase must enter the picture, if the command to “fill the earth” is to be kept. Which raises another interpretive question. Was the command just binding on Adam and Noah and his sons to have enough children to reach a critical mass where a net increase is practically guaranteed? Or is the command binding on all married couples throughout history? Is the command directed to humanity corporately or to every individual couple? I don’t know. But I do know that the total human population after Noah has always enjoyed a net increase from generation to generation. And I doubt that that will ever change.

Ultimately though, the command is fulfilled in Christ, who fills the earth with the children of God, his redeemed image bearers (the elect from all ages).

 
At 04 April, 2006 16:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now for the non-spiritual response- In regards to your spiritual score card notion-
"Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. "
I find it somewhat amusing how people can keep score.
--And caddies? Only the good ones! Way too many are like the guy who goes around selling bottles of water and just keep going about their business. ;) (mines a keeper though!)

Par for course, (probably only my third par ever)
a e

 
At 10 September, 2008 11:19, Anonymous Rick said...

I really hope that this entire blog was meant humorously and not to offer spiritual advice of any kind. The idea of "net increase" is especially bizarre. You gave no consideration to the fact that successive generations will also likely bear children, so increasing in number would be cumulative in nature. Even if parents had a only one child, there is an increase. Simple math proves that. 2+1=3

The whole golf analogy is just silly. A birdie is one less than par, not one more! You make it seem as though there are penalties and rewards based on the number of children a couple has.

 
At 16 September, 2008 16:03, Blogger GUNNY said...

Rick,

Thanks for the comment. Since my response was quite lengthy, I made it into its own post: Obviously, you're not a golfer.

Thanks for motivating me to reformulate my thinking.

 

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