“Let Us Make for Ourselves a Name”

The story of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) always stands out to me when I read it, but not for the reasons that perhaps most of us remember the story. We know that it is the occasion on which God confounded all the language of mankind so that they could not understand one another, resulting in their scattering to different places with their various new tongues and speech. This is certainly an interesting point of history, but the main lessons of this story have quite a different focus.

I think the statement that is at the heart of what this story is really all about is what one man says to his neighbor in verse 4 of the chapter:

“Let us make for ourselves a name.”

Here you have the sinful attitude of mankind revealed. What is wrong with building a grand city and tower? Perhaps we might first think and say that there is nothing wrong with this at all, and that might be correct in and of itself. But looking at the motive (which is always of essential significance in evaluating our hearts) of these men, we see immediately that they are seeking glory and honor and repute for themselves. This is inherently wrong.

And yet, doesn’t this spirit touch home a bit in your own heart and life? I know that it does too much in my own. Too often I think about building some sort of reputation for myself, and I bet that you do as well. Especially when you realize that this doesn’t have to come in some grandiose form of seeking national fame or anything like that (though it might). We can have the same self-centered motive in any of our more humble realms, such as in our workplace or field of industry, our family (immediate or broad), our circle of friends and acquaintances, the city or town in which we live, or within our church body. You can add any other realm that you are a part of. It is too easy to want to be respected and thought well of and known for something. This is a danger that I imagine we are all prone to, even if it be to various degrees.

We ought to examine our motives at all times to see if this spirit of pride is intermixed in our intentions. By God’s grace, we must ask His help to purify our hearts and do all that we do, not for ourselves, but for His name and kingdom. To God alone should all glory be, for He alone is worthy. I imagine you will agree with those words, but let us seek to practice that truth more wholly.

One related observation from the story of the tower of Babel is how the actions of these builders contradicted so plainly God’s intentions for them. God had instructed mankind to spread out and fill the whole earth. This was God’s plan for man, but these builders had intentionally decided to rebel against that directive. In similar vein to their statement we previously noted, they also continued to explain their intentions not to follow God’s plan:

“Let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

So there you have it, they are directly and intentionally setting themselves against God’s direct commands for their lives. These twin aspects of their attitude – seeking self-glory and rebelling against God’s will – are inseparable partners. How often do we exemplify that spirit?

Now, I didn’t have it in my mind when I began writing this blog, but I feel that I must take note of the comparison here between this passage and a common practice in today’s world. The command under examination here in this story is that to multiply and spread out to fill the earth. In place of wanting to fulfill this purpose, man chose to build his own kingdom.

Do we not so often do the same today when we prefer our careers and such over the building of our families? Why do mothers choose to work in jobs and careers outside of the home and, unavoidably, choose not to have very many children today? This is a radical departure from God’s plan. The same goes for fathers, as well, though to a lesser extent, perhaps. They too often focus more on their career than on raising a family, to be sure.

In the end, I cannot help but see the choice to have no or few children as a rebellion against God’s direction and command for all men to multiply and fill the earth. If this was a primary concern to us, rather than the building up of a name for ourselves through establishment, reputation, wealth, success, etc., mothers would forego the pursuing of careers in favor of having children according to God’s wise and loving granting of them. Fathers would focus more on raising a family than on their career trajectory, and together, couples would gladly choose to have as many children as God gives them. This is God’s natural plan, and I pray that you will consider whether it is not a matter of loving, joyful submission (or rebellion in the opposite case) to follow it with a willing heart.

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About amspencer1984

I am a Christian who desires to serve in God's kingdom in the best way possible. I have served as a foreign missionary in southern Mexico. I have worked as a youth minister at my local church of Grace Baptist in Dickson, TN. I have also recently begun to write books with a desire to help others grow in life. I hope that they are helpful and effective in doing that. I have been married to Alicia Spencer since 2003. We have six children and give thanks to God for all of them.
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7 Responses to “Let Us Make for Ourselves a Name”

  1. Brother says:

    I am curious to hear why you believe that the commandment given to Noah and Adam when the Earth was empty would still be in effect today? The Earth was empty both times that this commandment was given, which is certainly not the case today. In fact, the Earth is almost to the point of overflowing with people. People who desperately need the gospel.

    Reading the New Testament raises huge red flags to applying this commandment to the new testament church. First, if it were still a commandment to multiply and fill the Earth, why does Paul indicate that in these new times, “The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none..” (1 Cor. 7:29) And in verse 35: “I say this for your own benefit,…and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” In other places he boasts of the many children of the faith that he has produced. He has become the father of many, and he boasts in this.

    Christ has said that the fields are ripe with harvest; pray earnestly for the Father to send workers into the field. It seems so very clear in the New Testament that there has been a shift of viewpoint. This shift is tied into the fact that the people of God are now spiritually descended, not physically. .This is why, as Baptists, we do not baptize our children. Because the covenant promises of our Gospel are not handed down physically, but spiritually. Therefore, as believers in this new covenant, our version of the multiply and fill the earth commandment has a spiritual parallel found in Matthew 28: Go and make disciples. This is why Paul can say that it is better to stay as you are to the single people in Corinth, and, I think, to all Christians everywhere.

    Having many children is good and biblical. But let’s define children as Paul did, not as Noah did. We, as a spiritual people of God, produce spiritual children of the faith. The focus has been taken off of physical descendants and placed on spiritual descendants. To try and put the church’s focus back on physical descendants as a commandment from the Lord, not only doesn’t make sense in light of New Testament realities, but it attempts to move the church backward into an older, lesser reality.

    Don’t take this as a slam against children and families. They truly are a blessing from the Lord, and raising a physical family in faith is just as kingdom building as reaching many for Christ.

  2. amspencer1984 says:

    Ryan,
    Although you will find that I see some things differently than what you have expressed, I am very glad to see you taking the time to give a sincere comment on this theme, and I think it will be well worth our time to dialogue on it. Hopefully we can help each other see truth together. Here are my thoughts related to what you have said.

    1.) You asked why I thought the commandment to Noah was still in effect. My first thought is, why wouldn’t it be? I think the burden of proof would need to lie on the side of taking away a command from God. It is not as though this was part of the Mosaic law that has passed away, or anything of that sort. Have conditions changed, so that there is no need to fill the Earth now? Of course, there are more people now than there were then, but I don’t at all accept the perspective that is sometimes set forth that the world is full to overflowing. I think that is a false assertion without basis, from what I can tell. My judgment of that, though, primarily comes from my strong beliefs about God’s commands and provisions rather than any scientific analysis of the question. Regardless, I think the assumption certainly should be that the commands of God continue to apply until either they are explicitly removed or clearly no longer applicable.

    2.) You have mainly made your argument on the basis that the New Testament evidence indicates that this command is not applicable today. That seems the main question at hand. Here are my thoughts:

    a. First, I entirely agree on the importance of disciple making, as I am sure you would know. The spiritual kingdom has appeared and superseded the earthly kingdom of the Old Testament. The language of “brother” and “sister” and “household” in relation to the church certainly is richly important. I couldn’t agree more with emphasizing that. In fact, I am even more than willing to agree that the spiritual family takes precedence even over the physical family for Christians. This is a clear teaching of the New Testament and the correct implication of most of the verse you have referred to.

    b. However, almost without exception (I will treat of the exception below), I believe it would be very incorrect to take the emphasis on the spiritual family as a denial of the importance of the physical family. Basically, because we are commanded to make disciples in no way means we are not to have children. That would be a jump in reason that really needs to be examined, and I feel that it is present in a number of your references to Scripture.

    c. Further, I am a little bit wondering why a clear New Testament passage that actually speaks directly to the question of childbearing has been overlooked, such as 1 Timothy 5:14, “Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach.” Even if we were to follow the misguided assumption that OT commands by default no longer apply (not saying that you are asserting this so much as that some do and perhaps this thought finds its way slightly into your argument), here is a clear NT instruction to women (“younger widows,” but same difference to our discussion, I would imagine). Similarly, though it is not given in command/instruction form, the teaching seems very strong in 1 Timothy 2:15, “Women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” These passages strongly call into question the idea that “reading the New Testament raises huge flags” about the significance of child bearing. Quite the opposite. The NT continues, as we would expect, to instruct women that this is their God-given role (not to say that it is their only role, of course).

    d. This leads me to a further point. If we take away childbearing from women, we take away much of what God gave them. They have been designed physically, emotionally, and spiritually to raise children. Nothing in the changed circumstance of the world under the New Covenant take away that nature which God gave them.

    e. Of course, we can look to the legitimate exceptions where women (or men) become eunuchs for the kingdom, and I don’t at all dispute that there is a proper time and place for that (I would indeed question whether marrying and then choosing not to have children is a legitimate expression of that, however). Allowing for these exceptions, however, should not be confused with thinking that the general rule of practice has been changed.

    f. The one passage that is the exception I referred to earlier is that in 1 Corinthians 7, to which you referred. Let me start by confessing the fact that this passage does test me a bit. The reason for that, of course, though, is that it seems so at odds with much of what we would expect. That very fact reveals our assumption that marriage is advisable, not to be discouraged. And let me point out the fact that it is marriage that is in view in the passage, not bearing children. The two would obviously go together, but that means that we cannot support marriage on the one hand while saying that childbearing is no longer significant. This passage could be taken to mean that Christians shouldn’t marry, but I don’t believe that is the correct understanding of it. It cannot mean, though, that Christians should marry and refrain from having children. Nothing in it suggest that at all.

    g. There are various possible understandings of this passage. My own thinking is that it probably is a temporary recommendation as described by the “present distress” he refers to. On the other hand, I do think it also possible that the present distress named is actually the entire rest of the age and that it is referring to the truth that some Christians are called to be eunuchs for the kingdom, as mentioned above. This is an important truth, and one that is not often emphasized. I need to think about it more than I do myself, to be honest. It is not a big part of my way of thinking, but it is a truth that deserves its place in our overall understanding. I am becoming more aware of that fact, and you have brought it up again.

    h. In the end, though, recognizing that we ought to seek a solid understanding of this passage, I also think the overall teaching of the Bible is again and again clear enough that whatever this passage does mean, it must be consistent with the teaching that most Christians should marry and bear children.

    Well, hopefully this will give some opportunity for thought. I would be more than happy to continue the discussion with you over any points of thought or other questions/comments you have about the matter. I hope and trust that you will continue to give it thought as well. I am glad that you have been already.

  3. dkspencer3 says:

    I’m looking forward to reading Ryan’s reply. I think this is an important discussion – not only because of the issue itself, but also because it relates to the bigger issue of how we interpret the Old Testament.

  4. Brother says:

    Aaron,

    Let’s consider a few other things about this commandment:

    1) It was given only to two men: Adam and Noah, and doesn’t seem to be repeated anywhere else. Both of these men represent all humanity given their roles as the only patriarch alive at the times of the commandments.
    2) You’ve already made way for exceptions to this, such as men/women who desire to serve God more devotedly (See: the life of Jesus).

    From these two things we can already say with certainty that having physical children is not a binding commandment placed on all men, for if it did, then Jesus sinned and nothing else matters. IMPORTANT: But from your logic, what was said to Adam and to Noah must apply to all men. You might argue that it applies to married men and women only. Then what you are saying is that it depends on the circumstances of the men and women under consideration. I then would say, why is it fair that you use the circumstance of marriage over the circumstance of being the only people on the face of the Earth? We are using the same tools of argument to say what we are saying, and I believe mine has much stronger support in the New Testament.

    Furthermore, consider circumcision. Why was Paul so upset that the Jews were saying Christians should be circumcised? It seems as if the Jews were using the same logic you were. Christ no where explicitly stated that people no longer had to be circumcised. Circumcision was a commandment given before the law and it was a sign of the faith of Abraham. But what does Paul have to say about those who say that circumcision is still a binding commandment? Galatians 5:1-6

    [1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. [2] Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. [3] I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. [4] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. [5] For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. [6] For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

    Paul’s statements here are strong and frightening. He says because they were teaching circumcision as necessary for salvation, they were teaching law over grace, and had fallen from grace themselves. We must ask ourselves: “Is our heart free from the law, or are we trying to be perfected by it, instead of by faith in Christ?” Do we realize that obedience to laws means nothing in regards to our standing before God, but only faith in Christ (Understanding that true faith produces good works)? I doubt the Jews teaching circumcision quite realized that they were doing this, which is why Paul came out so strong in this letter. (I don’t believe that you are saying that married couples must have children in order to saved; however, so I would not apply what Paul says to you in this situation. Just wanted that to be clear.)

    In Response to 1 Timothy:

    In 1 Timothy 2:15, I believe the she to be possibly be referring to Eve and to Christ, but I will admit that it has been a while since I studied that passage. In either case, it is a difficult passage and I don’t believe you would argue that women are actually saved by having children. That would be very sad for all those single ladies out there.

    Also, 1 Tim 5: 14 is referring to widows. And reading the context it seems that Paul is concerned that there are many busybodies among young widows and that they are burning with passion (v11), and so he desires them to marry and have children, probably because they need to be busy with good deeds, and these are some of the most common good works that women normally should do.

    In Response to 1 Cor. 7:
    I would like to continue my theme of a shift from physical to spiritual realities between the Old and New Testament in my further interpretation of 1 Cor. 7. I would start with these words:

    [8] To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9 ESV)

    Paul’s foundational understanding of marriage in light of New Testament realities is this: marriage is necessary for most people in order to maintain purity, but it is better for the kingdom if they remain single. Again this strongly supports my understanding that our primary way of looking at this life is how to be most productive for the kingdom of God. Paul says, that is by remaining single. He also clarifies here that married people should not refrain from sex, as the Corinthians seem to have been teaching. (v1)

    Aaron, I do feel quite strongly about my position. To declare to married couples that they are bound by God’s commandment to Noah to have children if possible flies in the face of the whole spirit of the Gospel to me. The Bible clearly assumes that the most common way of life for man will include marrying and having children, but it does not command either one of Christians. Nor does it declare that it is sin to be married and to not have children. I do think that it would be a rare thing that a married couple would put away their desire to have children for the sake of reaching many more “children” of the faith. But I believe that is because we are so Earthly minded instead of Spiritually minded. If someone didn’t want children because they didn’t want to put in the work, and instead wanted to use the extra time and money that gave them for selfish, worldly delights, then yes, we have a problem. But to lay this commandment on every married couple across the board seems to make a law where there is no law.

    Again, I think that it would be an exception to the rule, that a married couple would refrain from having kids with a proper motive. Even if you were to say that this situation is completely hypothetical, and you don’t think that there is ever proper motive for a married couple not wanting to have kids,that would be better in my mind than laying down an external law. Not much better, I think, but better. You would be implying guilt rather than stating explicit guilt.

    On a similar note, I would open the door to asking if you would say having one or two children was “being fruitful and multiplying,” or only if having as many children as possible is rightly obeying this command. I love you brother, and would love to hear what you have to say.

  5. Brother says:

    http://cdn.desiringgod.org/website_uploads/audio_files/interviews/286_Childless_Missionaries_by_Design_.mp3?1392757640

    Here is an interesting 6 minutes on the topic from Piper, saying more succinctly what I’ve been trying to say.

  6. amspencer1984 says:

    Ryan,

    Sorry for the delayed response here. There are two reasons for that: 1.) Being busy, and 2.) Wanting to reflect and think a bit before answering. Hopefully at least the latter reason has been good and helpful. Here are the thoughts I have that I feel are important at this point:

    • Overall, my main concern has not been about whether there are unusual exceptions to the general rule about raising a family. If we can agree that the normal will of God for most people is to marry and raise a family, for women to stay home and be wives and mothers, “workers at home,” then my main interest here has been met. You are entirely right to point out that I see allowance for exceptions in the case of singleness, and the Bible clearly indicates that. Whether there is a parallel to be found in exceptions for married couples who choose not to have children in order to devote themselves to ministry fully is a separate matter, but one of lesser significance to me at this point. Regardless of how we answer that, I agree very much with what Piper said in the link you provided above, that it is extremely common in our day to not have children, raise a family, etc., because we want to pursue our own self-gratification and we see children as an obstacle to that. Putting career and gain and wealth before raising a family is the epitome of what the builders of the tower of Babel did. I most certainly believe this to be very clearly sinful and also think it is very common. This practice is what I was addressing in the portion of my original post that led to this discussion.

    • Now, the above point is really the only main point that I have at this juncture in our discussion, but I do think there are some other things that are at least worth my suggesting for your thought.

    o I would suggest that we should be careful before excluding commands to Adam and Noah as applying to ourselves. They represent humankind, as you pointed out, and if we exclude the instructions given to them individually, especially in the case of Adam, we also would have to exclude other things that were given to them individually. For example, only Adam would have the right to exercise dominion over the face of the earth. Only Adam would have the right to eat the produce of the earth. Only Adam is explicitly said to bear the image of God. You get the point. What reason is there for cutting out only one of these pieces and treating it differently. They all go together, so far as I can tell.

    o I would suggest that you consider the potential errors that can creep in when we include too many steps of “logic” and “argument” in our dealings with the Scriptures. I have found that too often I have had the tendency to be over-elaborate in my system of interpretation, reasoning process, etc. I know that the word of God is infallible, but my reasoning process is not. The few steps of logical reasoning that I have to employ, the less room there is for error. Now, with that said, I also know that there is the need for a proper balancing of one Scripture alongside of another, and the proper work of systematic interpretation is rather difficult at times. Still, though, without negating that fact, it remains a very important principle to bear in mind that we ought to deal with the statements of the Bible as simply and straightforwardly as possible. That will keep us from error many times.

    o Similar to the above, it has often been (wisely and rightly) pointed out that clear statements of the Bible ought to take precedence over such things as inference and implication. I think that bears on our discussion here as the commands, both OT and NT, are direct and clear concerning the bearing of children. I think we should accept those clear commands as the main material in answering the questions at hand in our discussion.

    o Concerning circumcision and its treatment in Galatians: I have seen too often a misuse of the teachings of Galatians in this manner. What Paul says about circumcision and the law in Galatians has little to no bearing, it seems to me, on questions about whether righteous deeds/lifestyle/acts are binding on Christians according to the will of God. Paul’s point is that ritualism has no value. The error of the Jews teaching circumcision was not that they emphasized the necessity of holiness in order to be saved. The Bible teaches that. Rather, they were teaching that a ritual such as circumcision had significance in making us acceptable to God. It certainly doesn’t. “Faith working through love” does, though. This is extremely important to recognize, but it is a great twisting of the teaching here to apply it to matters of actual righteousness. For example, could you imagine Paul substituting a clear matter of right and wrong in place of circumcision in his statements: “I, Paul, say to you that if you accept [telling the truth/not stealing/being faithful to your spouse/not murdering/etc.], Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts [repeat above] that he is obligated to keep the whole law…” Of course Paul would never say this. Why? Because these are things of inherent right and wrong, and Christians must accept God’s will in them. So, for our discussion here, the question is not whether Christians are obligated to do what is right, but rather whether having children is a part of what is right according to God’s will for men and women. I have long had a definite concern over how people appeal to Galatians as a way to remove holiness, morality, and righteousness from the picture for Christians. Asserting the necessity of following God’s will in life is in no way what Paul talks about in Galatians as relying on the law for justification.

    • Let me again emphasize at this point (sort of just following the order of your thoughts in your last post) that we might be very much on the same page that the general will of God for men and women is that they marry and have children. You recognized that to set this aside for reasons of selfish gain would be very problematic (I wonder if you would or would not be willing actually to use the word “sinful” here). This is at least 99% of the situation in the world, I think, so that gets us on the same (and important) page for most of this discussion, and I would like to keep that clearly in view and mind when we talk about these things. I didn’t realize at first that you were agreed about that, which it seems you are ready to say. It seems that you are mainly focused on the possibility of an exception to the rule, which never really was directly in my thoughts too much. I do believe we should teach and emphasize the fact that God’s will for people is to marry and raise families even if there are exceptions to this (there certainly are in regards to marrying at least, even if not in regard to having children once married).

    • You raise another interesting point at the end about whether one or two children counts as bring fruitful and multiplying. I am glad to share my thoughts, and I hope they will be valuable to you. My guess is that you will not agree with them all at first, but maybe I will be wrong or, if not, I trust you will give them some thought.

    o Basically, one point in my thinking here is that the emphasis in Psalm 127:5 is upon a “full” quiver; it seems that many children is the point, and this is consistent with the feelings of people throughout the Bible that many children was a sign of God’s blessing.

    o A separate point, though, and one worth thinking about, I believe, is that the Bible would clearly teach us that God is the one who opens and closes the womb. I do believe that we should leave it in the hands of God to determine how many children we have. He knows what we can handle. He knows what is best. He will provide the strength to sustain us under whatever amount of work is required to raise a large family (and it certainly is work). I believe that this is a matter in God’s hands, it is His domain, and we should be content with that.

     Now, again, it will be a matter of discussion here as to whether there are exceptions to this (such as in life and death situations that require procedures that prevent further childbearing, for example). That is a separate question, and worth considering, but I would again ask that we start by seeking the general rule, which is of primary importance, before proceeding to the secondary question of exceptions.

    o So, basically, I do disagree very much with the common practice of deciding to have one or two or three children (fill in the number that you like) and then stopping. I don’t believe this is full obedience to the will of God in the end.

    Well, I have shared enough thoughts for now, I suppose. I hope this is a beneficial discussion and not (as I am too often prone to partaking of) a test to see who can best defend his position. That is always a great temptation for me, and I imagine that you are human about like I am in that sense. Hopefully, and I know that by God’s grace it can be reality, we will both seek God’s will and He will lead us into all truth through His word. Hopefully we can help each other in that pursuit.
    Feel free to continue the discussion in any way that you think would be of help.

  7. dkspencer3 says:

    Allow me to weigh in, brothers. I’m sure I still have a lot to learn about these matters, but here are some thoughts I have after reading your posts and pondering the Scriptures. If you disagree with me, all I ask is that you give some consideration to what I’m saying. Perhaps at least some if it will be of benefit to you even if you can’t agree with everything in the end.

    For me this seems like an issue in which the clear Scriptures should interpret the less clear. Like Aaron said, there are plenty of OT (Psalm 127 for one) and NT scriptures that show that it is God’s will for women to “get married, bear children, and keep house” (1 Tim. 5:14). We also read that “she will be saved through childbearing” (1 Tim. 2:15). This seems to refer to womankind. In context, Paul is dealing with what is and is not a woman’s role (hardly any subject is more needed in our day). It’s not a woman’s role to dress seductively or teach or have authority (all three are extremely common in American churches today). It is a woman’s role to bear and raise children and do so with faith, love, sanctity, and self-control.

    As for exceptions, it seems that singleness is the clear exception in the Bible. According to 1 Cor. 7 and other passages, some women (and men) are called to glorify God in a lifetime of singleness and full devotion to spiritual work. I think this is a rare and special gift, and I’ve met very few individuals who posses it (although, perhaps if we extolled its virtue more we’d see more people pursuing and obtaining it). Perhaps sterility could be considered an exception as well. God, in His wisdom, allows some to suffer the trial of not being able to be fruitful and have physical children. This is a tragedy, but one that God can use for His glory.

    But it’s hard for me to see why any Christian would WANT to marry and NOT WANT to have children. To me this seems like a desire to have the pleasures of marriage without the responsibilities that come with it. It seems both unbiblical and unnatural (the created order reveals God’s will and enforces what we see in the Bible).

    Regarding Piper’s piece, I can understand the struggle of someone who genuinely wants to marry AND have children and yet also feels called to a dangerous mission field. Even just going to Mexico was hard in some ways b/c there is a good bit of drug violence and corruption there. But in the end, I think the answer is still the same. I think singleness is a great gift, especially for missionaries. But to marry and use birth control to not have children still seems to me like an unbiblical solution to this dilemma. I think that either one should stay single, or one should risk his family for the kingdom (as it seems the apostles did – 1 Cor. 9:5), or perhaps one isn’t called to the dangerous mission field after all.

    Regarding your first post, Ryan, I think you make some good points about the importance of focusing on spiritual children rather than just physical descendants. And I’m glad you also pointed out that our physical children can also build the kingdom if we disciple them into spiritual children as well. But your approach to this issue actually reminds me a lot of the way I used to think about the Sabbath. I used to think that since the spiritual Sabbath rest we now have in Christ as well as heaven itself were the ultimate fulfillment of the Sabbath, the literal Sabbath rest commands were no longer in effect. It seems that this is basically your reasoning with regards to the command to be fruitful and multiply. But if the reason for the command still exists today, then the command must still apply. We agree that the spiritual aspect of these commands is more important and lasting than the physical (which will pass away when Christ returns both regarding the Sabbath and the childbearing). But just because the spiritual is more important doesn’t mean that the physical isn’t also important – nor should we separate them too much. They go together in both cases. With the Sabbath, the physical rest aids us spiritually by enabling our body and mind to recuperate so that we can serve the Lord more effectively. By resting from earthly labors on Sunday, we are able to have more time to congregate with God’s people and study God’s word and pray. Regarding childbearing (and raising), as you pointed out, God wants us to fill the earth with physical children who bring glory to God and spread his glory all over the earth. That was certainly implied in the OT command and still applies today. The earth is still almost empty if we look at how many people are glorifying God with their lives. If we look at Psalm 127 from a spiritual warfare viewpoint, what is more needed today than spiritual firepower to overcome the dark fortresses of the enemy. How many arrows do you want if you go to battle? The obvious answer is – as many as you can carry with you!

    I can see your point that the physical element of filling the earth has already been accomplished. But if that command was primarily physical in nature, then it seems to me that God would have made childbearing an option for couples rather than an automatic natural result only avoidable through modern, scientific methods (which aren’t 100% effective). That way, once mankind finished filling the earth (arguably has already happened), then we could just turn off our childbearing switches or something. But in reality, childbearing is something that God designed to continue until He stops it. He hasn’t stopped it yet so I don’t think we should try to do so with medical intervention. But if we see the original command as primarily spiritual in nature – then it’s obvious that it still applies to the world today b/c there is still so much need to multiply and fill the earth with children who glorify God. One might argue that we can now do that through evangelism instead of childbearing. Yes, but as we read what the NT says about a woman’s role, I think we’ll see that God’s design extends to more than just filling the earth – it actually gets at the heart of what God made women to do with their lives. If we take that away from them, it’s like taking work away from man – disaster will result b/c God made man to work. God designed women for the wonderful task of bearing and raising children for God’s army – how can we take that privilege away from them? If we do so, the outcome will not be good for women or for God’s kingdom.

    This response is getting long, but you also mentioned 1 Cor. 7:29, saying, “Reading the New Testament raises huge red flags to applying this commandment to the new testament church”. But in context, Paul is talking about staying single. He’s not talking about marrying and not having children (I assume that is mainly what you have in view). Never does that come up in 1 Cor. 7, and I think it’s a leap to get from the one to the other. Furthermore, Paul also said that “those who deal with the world [should live] as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” Does that mean we shouldn’t be involved in the world? No, he’s just saying that our focus on the unseen kingdom and the second coming should overshadow everything else in our lives – even our wives and our daily work and activities. To me, it seems like quite a leap to say that this verse means we shouldn’t view children the same way as our forefathers. He’s just saying that this one all important thing should overshadow all these other good things we’re doing. Our eyes should be fixed on the eternal rather than the temporal.

    Well, I know that sincere Christians disagree about some of these things, but I hope we can all grow in unity as we move forward. I’ve certainly enjoyed studying and pondering these issues again.

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