Cultural Mandate - Help

I’m also very confused by the statement. It reminds me of the statement (please don’t take offense) “heterosexuality is not godliness.”

Insofar as no end is ultimate, except the glory of God, then sure, I’ll grant you the point. But when God says be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, having children as Christians is accomplishing one of the commands in and of itself. Is that enough? Of course not. No more than being heterosexual is “enough.” But the command is literally to have children. (And this is where the comparison differs, since being your own sex really is a precondition to fulfilling the commands, not an end in itself.) But if having children is one of the primary purposes of marriage, how can it not be a primary end?



My point was that bearing children is not an end that requires the subordination of all other factors.

The command is to be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Implicit is the need to raise children to subdue the earth, and to rule it as representatives of God. If having children were the end goal, then let’s not be concerned about how they are raised or the state of the family they are raised in. Let’s praise unwed single mothers with ten children to 10 different men, or husbands with 20 neglected children with sick and broken wives. (I’m aware that women have been able to bear 20 n
children without problem, but some cannot).

Encourage lots of children. Yes! I personally wanted many more, but circumstances didn’t allow it (late marriage, difficulties conceiving). But having children is not the end and decisions around child bearing need to take other things into account.

Granted, that is not the issue our culture struggles with today.


Not sure I can either, but even after the ongoing discussion and agreeing with most every clarification you have made, the original statement still seems slightly off to me. Out of love comes fruitfulness because out of the love of the Godhead came all creation. In that context, I can’t think of any more fundamental principle God has written into the DNA of His creation than the command to glorify Him by being fruitful ourselves. But very helpful discussion. Thanks for it. Love,

Dear brothers,
Do we insist that all God’s commands, when taught, be qualified with exceptions? Maybe so, but I’m inclined to think that a good part of the clamor for qualification of God’s blessing and command to be fruitful and multiply stems from uneasy consciences on the part of Christian men, who think that it is a hard thing that each “unprotected” act in bed puts his wife in danger of death through complications of childbearing. Add to this the physical pleasure the act brings for the man, and you get men of tender conscience thinking it’s selfish of them to “put her through that again” and wondering if God really expects him to “put her through that again.” How many more times must he “put her through that again” till God will be satisfied?

But who is it who calls a woman to lay down her life to bear and raise children? Is it her husband alone, or is it God? It’s God, and God is kind.

I’m not saying there can be no qualifications or exceptions ever. But I want us Christian men to have the faith to trust God’s goodness and to unashamedly, with clear conscience, and with joy call our wives to lay down their lives in bearing and raising many children for the Lord. It is their sanctification, and it’s a beautiful thing.


And right there in this special sanctification we see how women are saved through childbirth. Good word, brother.


So I’ve had an interesting 24 hours on this subject.

One of my best friends - I was the best man in his wedding a couple of years ago - and I have been talking about the creation mandate for a couple of months now. He and I don’t live in the same city any longer, so it was mostly over text, although we’d had sidelong conversations on the subject in person. The point being that I misunderstood his tone on the issue for some time now.

I hadn’t heard from my friend in a while but had periodically sent him stuff on the subject for the past several weeks, including the sermon text linked to above on the sin of Onanism. My point was that my wife and I had come to the conclusion that contraception was wrong before we got married and, just about 5 years into our marriage, are preparing for our third child, praise the Lord. I have spent the past long while encouraging him to broach this subject with his wife and for the both of them to recognize their sin in this issue and to repent of it.

I should have known things were worse than I thought when, a week or so after I started talking to him about this, his wife posted a lengthy Instagram post about how they’d followed Dave Ramsey and bought their new car with cash. That’s all well and good and admirable, but she tagged the post with “DINK Life,” which, if you’re unfamiliar, DINK is an acronym meaning “Dual Income, No Kids.” I don’t have Instagram or any social media, so my wife brought it to my attention. We both agreed that she probably had posted this in response to my conversation with my friend, but because I hadn’t talked with his wife and his wife had tagged neither me nor my wife in the post, we let the issue be. My wife and my friend’s wife were “close acquaintances” before we moved, but they weren’t friends.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I kept sharing with him the bible passages in support of my argument as well as things I was reading and listening to that did the same. His counters were included:

  • “But where is a bible verse that explicitly says that birth control is a sin?”
  • “Where does it say I should have as many children as possible?”
  • “How many children do I have to have with my wife before we are no longer in sin on the subject?”
  • “I’m just not seeing how you can say that birth control is a sin. You are adding to the scriptures on this subject.”
  • “What about if my wife and I want to enjoy each other’s company before having children, or want to focus on ministry and missions, or want to have X amount of money saved up in order to make sure we can afford a child?”

There were more, but these were the core arguments. And then, over the past couple of weeks… nothing. I sent him a few things - most recently, as a joke, the quote from Kanye West in his interview with James Corden saying that he wanted 7 kids and that kids are a blessing; with the comment that “even new Christian Kanye West agrees with my argument.”

He responded a couple of hours later saying that he’d muted the conversation (it is a group text between me, him, and a mutual friend who after I started making the argument came to agree with me) because he got tired of hearing about it.

Over the years, one of the things we would do for fun is either deliberately pick opposite sides of an issue and and debate until one side conceded or find something we genuinely disagreed about and do the same. But it was always in good fun. While I thought he was wrong on contraception, I more or less thought we were engaging in our normal banter/discourse.

He appended that earlier text with an emoji to come off as playful, but after he didn’t respond to my follow-up texts calling him out on it, I texted him privately and asked if we were good. He unloaded on me about how he was extremely frustrated by the conversation and he didn’t know how we could be friends if I believed he was in sin with his wife by practicing contraception.

I followed up by apologizing because I didn’t know he was so upset and that I would have taken the conversation more seriously if I had known he had felt this way about it - and that I wasn’t trying to antagonize him. I won’t detail the conversation too thoroughly beyond this, but it has become clear that the issues are as follows:

  1. He knows that the argument I’ve made, that the use of contraception is sinful, is probably right.
  2. He does not want me to be right. This is because of a few reasons:
  • He is working his first full time job worth a darn ever and I estimate he makes about $45k per year.
  • His wife is a PhD psychologist working for a local school district.
  • He and his wife come from broken homes.
  • He was an only child and his dad is a sad sack who lives in a trailer in the middle of nowhere as an IT consultant. His dad’s a nice guy and handy with stuff like cars, but a total pushover who now lives with his girlfriend and her daughter. His mom is some kind of engineer, and while there’s a chance she’s a Christian, she’s also a deceptively mousy woman who uses her meekness as a form of manipulation to undermine the masculinity of her ex-husband and probably also my friend.
  • His wife comes from a “relatively healthy” broken home. She does not like her mother for reasons I don’t know. Her father is extremely wealthy and spoiled her and her sisters. He gave my friend and his wife something like $50k on top of paying for their wedding out of pocket. Point being that I expect that she’s used to being “taken care of” monetarily, which goes back to my first and second bullet point here: he has a bad job with a useless degree and she just finished her PhD
  1. My friend probably does not wear the pants in his marriage and may not want to. One thing that’s telling is that I’ve encouraged him to read on this subject for himself or talk to elders at his church (my old church). To the best of my knowledge he’s done neither.
  2. Although he tried to suggest that I’m the first person to ever raise this issue (i talked him down from that), he does bring up an interesting point about our friendship: is the issue of contraception as serious an issue as adultery, sodomy, divorce, effeminacy, and fornication? And if so, is it worth breaking fellowship with each other over? And further, if this is the case, why aren’t we who recognize the sinfulness of Onanism calling it out in our churches and disciplining/excommunicating/separating from folks who are okay with it?

I ask these last questions because I want to know if I can salvage my friendship with my friend, because the seriousness of the sin of Onanism is something that pulls at my heart as urgently as abortion, and because I don’t see anyone’s lead to follow as to how to approach this sin with the seriousness my friend (probably rightly) says I ought to take it if I believe it, so I wonder what I am missing.

I’m sorry for the long post, but this weighed heavily on my heart all day yesterday in the fallout of of my conversation with my friend

I apologize for any typos - let me know, also, if something needs clarification and I will edit accordingly. I wrote this haltingly over the course of about 4 hours, so I grant that some things may not flow as sensibly as it ought.

Thank you for your time and attention.


Maybe you’re picking at their sterile sex thinking repentance of it could cause him to become the head of his home? If the Order of Creation is denied, that’s the place to focus. How is the submissive one in a marriage capable of righting the ship on a subordinate issue without addressing the central one? Something about fiddling with the deck chairs on the Titanic, although making fruitful love and fulfilling the command to be fruitful is not on a level with the placement of deck chairs, I’ll grant you.

Some might say this discussion is a good way to get at the larger issue, and they may be right. But when the Western Church almost universally denies Adam’s federal headship and God’s order of creation, it seems oddly imbalanced to make abortion or Onanism or homeschooling or racism our one string to harp on. Do I make sense, dear brother?


I don’t think I am conveying anything new to you here, so this may or may not be helpful. But here are some thoughts I’d bring up in reply to your friend’s objections.

  • “But where is a bible verse that explicitly says that birth control is a sin?”

I’d discuss with him that this isn’t how the Bible works. It is not a tedious book of “thou shalt nots,” exhaustively addressing every conceivable situation of human life. Rather, the Bible conveys God’s standard for what is right and good and true. And the Bible teaches that children are a blessing to be embraced, not a curse to be avoided. The Bible teaches that fruitfulness of the womb is part of God’s good design for marriage. Your friend’s first sin has to do with a presupposition that regards as evil that which God calls good. If he wants a chapter and verse to discuss, take him to Isaiah 5:20.

  • “Where does it say I should have as many children as possible?”

There is a profound difference between acknowledging God as the sovereign of the womb versus “having as many children as possible.” To embrace God’s good design for the fruitfulness of the marriage bed is not to be confused with saying you should become some fertility nut. People can deny God’s sovereignty over the womb in their “trying” to have children just as much as they can in their willful determination to avoid children. Clarify to your friend (as I’m sure you have) that you aren’t telling him to go “try to have” children. You’re charging him with his sin of avoiding pregnancy as though children are a thing to be avoided, rather than welcomed.

  • “How many children do I have to have with my wife before we are no longer in sin on the subject?”

I would press him to see what this question exposes about the condition of his heart toward children. Take note of how our sinful thinking causes us to retreat to law. “Just give me a number. I’ll go on hating children in my heart, but I’ll grit my teeth and obey if I have to.” Press him with the fact that his sinfulness in this area is not tied to how many children he has. It’s the hatred and resentment that he bears toward God’s good design.

  • “I’m just not seeing how you can say that birth control is a sin. You are adding to the scriptures on this subject.”

If he and his wife use the pill (which I assume they do), then it becomes a very simple discussion. Hit him with simple life science. The pill is an abortifacient, and God says thou shalt not kill. If we’re talking about forms of “conception” control (which the pill is not), then I would appeal to the other points above.

  • “What about if my wife and I want to enjoy each other’s company before having children, or want to focus on ministry and missions, or want to have X amount of money saved up in order to make sure we can afford a child?”

Let’s take these separately.

*“What about if my wife and I want to enjoy each other’s company before having children?”

This is an amazing lie we’ve believed today – that somehow enjoying our spouse and having children are mutually exclusive. Having children is designed to be a natural overflow of a husband and wife enjoying one another’s company! It is a blessed thing to have a house full of children. Having children in the house should serve only to enhance our enjoyment of our marriage. And how much deeper does our love and enjoyment of our spouse grow as we endure the sleepless nights and heartache of parenting together. There is glorious joy to be found here.

Your friend hasn’t begun to understand what it is to enjoy his wife, so long as he goes on hating children. What he really wants is a playmate to pursue the pleasures of the world with. He doesn’t want a wife.

  • “or want to focus on ministry and missions,”

Brother, puh-lease. It’s amazing how often this hypothetical comes up, and the only people who ever bring it up are people who couldn’t care less about “ministry and missions.” Your friend and his wife don’t care about ministry and missions. They care about their “DINKlife.”

  • "or want to have X amount of money saved up in order to make sure we can afford a child?”

A statement like, “we can’t afford children” carries with them some very telling presuppositions. What we mean when we say this is that we aren’t able to afford children while also maintaining a particular lifestyle. If affording a child means still having room to buy new cars, new toys, and go on lavish vacations, then no, you can’t afford a child. “We can’t afford children,” is nothing more than a front for the love of vanity and finery.


One thing we’ve been thinking about recently is “how old is too old”? I.e. assuming you have 6 or 7 kids and then you hit, say, age 45 – I’d think that most people would say “I’m getting too old for this” even though the wife may not hit menopause until 55. We’re much younger than that but Lord willing we’ll face it one day. I also assume most people just switch to other forms of “interaction”. I’ve heard of women having kids in their 60s :thinking:

It’s all new to me, starting to think it through. Assuming your wife and you wanted to keep going and were good at raising them, you might go on ahead until menopause, but I imagine for most people, they’d stop ~40, 45 the latest.

I’m also very interested in answers to this question. This is one of the practical questions downstream from thinking biblically about children and contraception. But I don’t know of many sources that provide biblically ethical ways to think about it.

Revisiting this thread, and looking back to the Russell Moore quote I included, I would now say: if we are going to emphasise women getting married and having children, then we also have to show the other side of the coin and get the message through to young Christian men, to tell them that God’s principal call on their lives, if they marry, is to commit to having children with their wives.

I grew up in a Pentecostal setting where the message I got was that the highest thing I could aim for was to be a Family Man. Things didn’t play out like that in my case, for whatever reason, but I’m pretty sure that younger men, even from that background, are not often being given that message now.


Indeed the resources for this are slim. I even tried looking at some catholic resources and didn’t get much. As a side note the Catholics are apparently not as fertile as they used to be. 10 kid families are a thing of the past for them, it seems.

Anecdotally, I know of very devout Catholics that do their best to follow the rules and not have more than a couple of kids. This means no sex for a long time after a baby is born, since “natural” family planning doesn’t work during that time frame.


Man just have the 12 kids already :rofl: what a price to pay!


Is it just as simple as leaving all of the procreative decisions up to providence and having the mutuality of sexual urge determine frequency of intercourse? Even through the end of menopause for the wife? Is that the truly faithful position? Is that the only faithful position? Does wisdom come into this at all, or is true faith what’s ultimately wise?

I’m asking genuinely here. And quite honestly, I’d love to see the older family heads chime in. Y’all helped push us on this path: help us understand what we’ve signed up for!

I joined the bandwagon in faith after gaining a better understanding of the ethics of chemical contraception. But that was a far cry from a full understanding of the marital and family dimensions of sexual ethics. RC stuff is very helpful, but it comes, at least in part, from a faulty understanding of the goodness of sexuality itself in marriage. So it seems to overemphasise the procreative aspect of marital sexuality as a reaction to the physical side of sexuality. Dissecting these questions from a reformed theological understanding seems to be a bit of uncharted territory.

Or maybe I’m just naively unaware of the good work others have done.


As far as I know, until recently people would be far more likely to just keep having kids, hence large families. Obviously not everyone but it was much more common. There was probably a mix of timing avoidance and using other forms of interaction, but that’s just spitballing. Would also like to hear a fully reformed thought on it. Perhaps there is room for a never before written book??

Keep in mind Aaron that I am just another schmuck here, but what I have learned over the course of my repentance on the matter of fruitfulness is watch what others less fortunate than you do and be encouraged. The teaching of fruitfulness is both taught and caught by watching others be fruitful.

There are families in our church with less job security and money than I have who nonetheless continue to be fruitful, even when they don’t really know what “the plan” is for the new little one. And the question I must ask myself is if I will despise the faith of these families or rejoice with them? The answer is easy. I love these families. They encourage me to do likewise.

And if I rejoice with them, why not rejoice myself when a new little one is presented to me? Well, if I’m honest I’m not entirely joyful. I doubt. I am faithless.

Since we are so given to be stingy on the matter of children, every bit as much as the local abortionist or Planned Parenthood pink-hat activist, I think we just have to err on the side of being fruitful, on the side of more. Our own natural inclinations and desires will balance us out.


To go way back to the original question, I wonder if thinking of “Be fruitful and multiply” too rigidly as a “command” is part of the problem. Here’s what I mean:

Genesis 1:28 says,

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The command to be fruitful and multiply is itself a “blessing.” (This is reiterated with Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:1.) Man and Woman get to multiply and fill the earth, which is to say, God grants them the privilege of doing so. Sure, it comes in the form of a command, but it is a blessing at the same time. Would it have even crossed Adam’s, Eve’s, or Noah’s mind to think, “But do we have to?”

Think about what comes next in Genesis 1:

Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.” (v. 29, cf. Gn 9:3)

When God gives food to Man, He does so authoritatively: “it shall be food for you.” You could even call it a “mandate.” But we don’t think of it as a “command,” simply because to do so would be ridiculous. God’s provision of food is a blessing, and to consider not eating would be silly.

Think of it this way:

Mankind needs food to survive. God gives food and makes eating pleasurable. Why wouldn’t we eat?

Being fruitful and multiplying should follow the same paradigm:

Mankind cannot survive without having children. God gives a way to have children and makes it pleasurable. Why wouldn’t we be fruitful and multiply?

To separate sex from the procreation of children is like separating the consumption of food from physical nourishment. It’s like sexual bulimia. (Note here that not all acts of eating directly relate to nourishment; and yet the point stands that to separate one’s practice of eating from nourishment altogether would be ridiculous.)

Now, part of what gets uncovered here is a lack of understanding of generational faithfulness to the Lord. First, on a physical level, just as it’s necessary for a man to eat in order to not die, it’s necessary for Mankind to procreate in order to…not die. We easily lose sight of this because the timescales of food and procreation are very different. It’s easy to remember that I need food and I need it now! But when it comes to procreation, we must go beyond ourselves and think generationally.

And it’s more than just physical. We are charged by God to raise up a spiritual generation who will carry on the faith after we’re dead. And, actually, doing so is impossible without having physical children.

But someone objects, “Yeah, but I can have spiritual children without having physical children.”

Well sure, but where do those spiritual children come from? Even spiritually reborn children have to be born of the flesh first before they can be born of the spirit. It’s certainly possible for you as an individual to have spiritual children without having physical children, but disciple making would stop altogether unless somebody is fulfilling the cultural mandate and having physical children. Perhaps bearing physical children is the work that ignorant, poor people do so that we enlightened people can come along and do the real, spiritual work of bearing spiritual children…

In the end, the underlying problem for many may be seeing God’s commands as burdensome, rather than as the life-giving blessings that they are. “Be fruitful and multiply” is a command, but it’s more than that. It’s God’s privilege to Man, and essential to his survival.

This is why, until very recently, God’s people have universally understood the procreation of children to be one of the essential, God-ordained purposes of marriage, one which it would be absurd to even suggest opting out of.


Now that’s funny-funny-funny! But really, more true than funny. Serious, actually. Bravo!


And then I read this, and say out loud to myself, “oh my.” Put this up on Warhorn, Alex. Love,