Cultural Mandate - Help

I was teaching our youth this past week about man. During our discussion I touched on the cultural mandate and discussed how much of our culture (even evangelical culture) says you can get married and decide whether or not you want to have kids, but God has created us to be fruitful and multiply. It was a portion of our talk, but I wanted the youth to keep hearing that we’re commanded to be fruitful and multiply.

Afterwards, one of the adult leaders pulled me aside and asked if we could get together to talk about the idea of being fruitful and multiplying. He’s heard this teaching in our church before, but expressed (calmly) his disagreement that the mandate still applies. I asked if he was saying that there is no command for married couples to have children (i.e. if they want to have kids that’s great, if they don’t want to, that’s also great). He said he agreed with that statement. He thought it was something for people at the beginning of time or after the flood, but it was a reach to apply to us today.

I asked him when he felt the command was fulfilled/stopped? Was it only for Adam & Noah? Was it for his sons? Did it stop after Jesus somehow? He didn’t have an answer, but said he would think about it.

I’m realizing that I’ve taken the command for granted because it seems clear throughout Scripture that this how God has created man (be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over it…). But I’m also realizing my weakness in being able to teach on it clearly to those who have been taught it does not apply.

Does anyone have any resources that have been helpful regarding this issue? Helpful ways they’ve instructed others on this topic? Not sure how to go back and talk to someone who just claims it doesn’t apply anymore besides asking him to show how/when the command stopped being a command. Maybe that’s enough? Thanks


My knee-jerk reaction is to suggest Nancy Pearcey. Its been years since I’ve read any of her work. It may not be as good as I recall and I think she focuses more ‘culture building’ and ‘dominion’ than fruitfulness, but I could be wrong.

It would probably be helpful just to walk through the first few books of Genesis together, or maybe with a small group of guys, and pick at all the different stuff there. Its really foundational. I guess thats why it starts with “In the beginning…”

This is probably a guy who has just never thought about it. Its never been a point of focus. Its easy to say, ‘that was then, this is now.’ But then you run into all kinds of problems at the basic core of who we are - male and female, fallen sinners, sons of Adam, original sin, monogamy…


Dear Joel,

Pardon me for a moment…

Apparently we’ve come to the point where we now have to explain to the farmer why he should care if the seeds he plants result in a crop or not.

These people see children as a cost, a liability, a burden. They don’t believe that they’re like arrows in the hands of a warrior; they have no vision for their children contending with their enemies in the gate.

They think that the children of Israel were fools for having so many children back in Moses’ day and getting on Pharaoh’s radar for persecution.

They’re willing to take away from their wives something God calls out as maybe the single most sanctifying thing for a woman – bearing and raising children.

They’re worried about overpopulation, the devil’s lie.

I could go on, but…

I think the main thing is these people have no vision for what children are for. I have six living children, all still at home–what a joy they are to my dear wife and me!–and I’ve told them at the supper table that there is so much hardheartedness in the country today with parents having abandoned their children to day care and babysitting all through their childhood (for one example), that now when those parents are old those children will abandon them to the nursing homes, and there will need to be a bunch of Christians whose love extends beyond their own family to others who are unloved and have been abandoned. The needs and the burdens will be so heavy on those who love others that we will need bunches of them to share the load. The six of them are a small number, but they’re God’s blessing to us and it’s a start anyway.

The more you study God’s purposes for children, the more it becomes clear that those purposes are more important than ever today, and that barrenness is not God’s new blessing.

I wrote up a thing on this several years back dealing with some objections I encountered when I was working through this same question, maybe something in there would be helpful to you.




And most women want this gift DESPERATELY.


Here the text of a helpful sermon on the topic:


Well put. Amen.


Regarding friction in our marriage on this topic, my Mother in Law has recommended the book Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I must admit at a glance I am ambiguous about it. Does anybody know anything about it, and what view of marriage they espouse,?

This is a great point, and one that most modern Christians are deeply ashamed of.


Joel, this is one of those questions that depends on a big picture answer. No matter what you say, if you don’t deal with the underlying assumptions, your answer will sound like gobbledygook.

The man at church is thinking in a typical dispensationalist way: Old Testament = physical; New Testament = spiritual. If you don’t deal with that basic misunderstanding, nothing you say will compute.

One way to start that whole conversation is with the idea of creation ordinances. At creation, before the Fall, God built certain realities into creation: work, worship, male headship, female submission, fruitfulness, and the cultural mandate. The facts is, God’s first command to Adam was to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. None of these things are nullified by Christ’s work. They are restored by Christ’s work.

Why are some of those continuing (according to your friend), but some are not?

Dispensationalism has destroyed our ability to think of the physical world as good. As a matter of fact, it has destroyed our ability to think straight about the Bible as a whole. It has certainly destroyed our ability to see physical (not just spiritual) fruitfulness as the blessing it is, and has blinded us to the ongoing and obvious continuation of God command.


Something on this from Russell Moore (bear with me), which is worth quoting here:

… I wonder how many Southern Baptist churches these days devote time in their youth groups to teaching young boys to prepare for the glory of fatherhood? I wonder how many churches recruit older women to teach our girls that the greatest success they can find is not to be the first Southern Baptist female President of the United States or to tithe more money as a monied Southern Baptist bank executive but to be a wife and mother? Is it indicative of how far we’ve fallen for the American dream that it would be controversial in some conservative Southern Baptist churches even to say this?

The full URL is here (and worth the read, too):


That was thirteen years ago. It was the old Russ, before he moved to DC and “grew.” Seriously. Sadly.


(Emphasis mine)

Hi Daniel,

It is probably helpful to know precisely where a person’s heart is on this issue before assigning motivations. And nailing that down with precision is a slow, pastoral slog.

“These people” in this context are Christians, laypeople, our brothers and sisters, who have erred in this particular area – or more likely, they have never been exposed to teaching that demonstrates the Biblical charge of fruitfulness outside of the RCC. I would say that over the past 15 years, six out of six churches I attended, that were otherwise conservative and faithful, never taught on this topic. It was not until much later in my Christian walk that I was brought along by the Holy Spirit to understand my own sinfulness in this area. Had someone passionate about the topic lumped me in with a cadre of “These people” who ‘just don’t get it’, rather than carefully and gently orienting me, I get the sense that it might have just rolled off.

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But the things you quoted from Daniel aren’t the motives. They are simply statements of fact. The piece Daniel wrote years ago and linked to specifically brings up the issue of Roman Catholics, so it’s not a surprise to him.

You can’t really be “lumped in” with people who are simply people who believe the same thing you do. Daniel says they don’t have a vision for children, and you say they are simply untaught. I think you simply strengthen his point by saying that.

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Hi Joseph,

Uhm… yes they are. “They’re worried about overpopulation, the devil’s lie.” That is a motivation. That is not a statement of fact unless someone can get inside each individual’s mind with the omniscience of God Almighty and read the heart.

Lookit, I’m not disagreeing with Daniel’s direction. I’m just issuing the most mild, gentle of warnings over the delivery, which matters, whether we think so or not. I thought it came across somewhat brittle. Eh. We can be winsome or we can be brittle. We can be Schaeffer or we can be… well, not Schaeffer. That’s all I’m saying.

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As one of the kindest and gentlest souls around, as Joel can attest, I particularly understand the concern about not being ‘brittle.’ On issues where the Bible’s teaching seems especially strange to our ears, there is a need for caution and wisdom in one’s approach. But gentleness can’t negate faithfulness.

This issue isn’t merely a matter of people being untaught, especially when one considers the number of pastors and elders who are absolutely unwilling to reconsider their views in light of scripture. Having done plenty of pre-marital counselling and having taught on this issue in more than one congregation, I can assure you that many Christians simply aren’t interested in what the Bible says on this subject, and that’s putting it gently.

When I was newly engaged and thinking this issue through for the first time, along with its related ethical concerns, I approached an elder at the church I was a part of. He was both medically trained and a leading figure in the Biblical Counselling world. He told me flat out that my concerns stemmed from an unbiblical and Roman Catholic view of sex and children, and that the best thing for my upcoming marriage would be to deliberately not have children for the first two years of our marriage. He was unwilling to even discuss my concerns in light of scripture. I didn’t have the courage to do what I knew was right, and God had to humble me through a great deal of pain before I was willing to repent. That’s just one example; I could go on…

And while I agree with Stephen that dispensationalism has done tremendous damage to connecting the overall scriptural teaching on this issue, unfortunately there are plenty of reformed teachers who have dropped the ball as well. I can think of Tim Keller’s book on work (not to use too easy an example) as representative of a ‘reformed’ understanding of the creation mandate relating primarily to the creative arts. But he’s far from the only one. How many reformed leaders are willing to face the cultural ire from within the church on this issue?

John Piper and Randy Alcorn have been willing to put their views into print on this issue, but I don’t remember how firmly they are willing to make the creation mandate a command. From memory, they both focus more on a ‘children are a blessing’ perspective.


lumped me in with a cadre of “These people” who ‘just don’t get it’

Dear Eric,

I wouldn’t say I was lumping; I was what my wife and daughter would call ranting about a larger problem.

When it’s simply an issue of being untaught, it’s a joy to teach and reason with someone from the Scriptures. But in my experience the dogged, multilayered objections by Christians to God’s command and blessing to be fruitful and multiply (for the current example) have had little to do with Scripture. There’s a prior commitment to something else. I would be glad to find that @joelbark’s adult leader is not like “these people.”



Hey, Aaron! Long time, no see.

Fair response, as I said, I don’t disagree, I have just been on the other side of the table walking with Christians through a range of different issues - and what I have come to realize is that each has their own set of tangles. Untangling things is a process of befriending and listening, and then diagnosis and prescription – not diagnosis and prescription and then befriending and listening later. I have found that many people do genuinely want to honor God and have simply not been exposed to teaching on this. As I said before, 100% of the conservative churches I’ve attended have not addressed the topic at all, leaving it to the conscience of those involved. I am not saying that’s correct. I am just saying it’s probably representative of the majority. Given that, it takes some careful walking-back to “first things” to figure out why couples refuse to be fruitful.

I have been reading and re-aquaiting myself with Schaeffer lately and have just been struck at the razor’s edge he walked between Truth and Love. It seemed pertinent in this thread. That’s all.

Thanks for the pushback, @Auslander.


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Can one be fruitful and multiplying in a biblical sense without holding the view that use of contraceptives is sinful in all circumstances?

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