Doodle: Childlessness and the Sovereignty of God

I have now written a couple of posts arguing against the position of many Christians that says married couples must at least attempt to have children. Most recently I challenged what I believe are weak arguments against deliberate childlessness, developing another post I wrote on the topic last year. This shorter post is a personal note, appended to those linked above. And I am writing it because though I stand by my position, my wife and I recently had a child; in fact, we knew my wife was pregnant when my first post went up. So here, very briefly, I want to answer some of the pointed criticisms and more emotional reactions to my posts.

God is sovereign

Institutes volume 1One comment on my original post read, “You aren’t the one who decides if you have kids or not. You may do your best to prevent it, but if the Lord wants you to procreate you are going to have kids.” AJ, who posted the comment, could not have been more correct. We had decided that we did not want children, but God willed something else. I am reading through Calvin’s Institutes this year and it was certainly no coincidence that I read this the day before my son was born, “Augustine rightly complains that wrong is done to God when a higher cause of things than his will is demanded” (1.14.1). Calvin also writes that we must accept God’s secret purposes. Though that section addresses speculation, it applies well to sovereignty. Later, Calvin writes, “If we had quiet and composed minds ready to learn, the final outcome would show that God always has the best reason for his plan (1.17.1).

Children are a gift

Since God is sovereign it follows that children are the result of him giving them to us. They are not something everyone is entitled to, nor are they something every married couple should expect (or demand) from God. This is surely part of the reason children are called a blessing throughout the Old Testament. My wife and I are very grateful for our son. Our experience of him has been serendipitous, an unlooked for delight. But because children are a gift, a blessing from the Lord, all of us must remember what the Puritan Samuel Rutherford wrote in one of his letters, “I write my blessing to that sweet child, whom you have borrowed from God; he is not heritage to you, but a loan, love him as folks do borrowed things.” We are not entitled to children, as Rutherford says they are not our heritage but borrowed from God. We are entrusted with children, to treasure and take care of them.

How to we respond to God’s sovereignty and gifts?

Theodore LewisThis is the question all of us must answer, and not only when God gives or withholds children. At another point in his Institutes (1.16.6), Calvin shows that the scope of God’s sovereignty is ubiquitous, “Nothing at all in the world is undertaken without his determination.” This, Calvin says, means that discontentment with our lot is nothing other than the attempt to rid ourselves of God’s purposes. AJ’s comment on my post touched on this, “Hopefully if your wife does get pregnant the child is not aborted. Surely a pastor would not do that.” I would want to add that no Christian would do that. But the point as I conclude is the question: how do we respond to God’s sovereignty, and the gifts he does or does not give us? One of the names we were considering for our son was Felix, which is Latin for lucky or fortuitous. The name we settled on was Theodore, ‘gift of God.’

Graham Heslop
I have an insatiable appetite for books, occasionaly dip into theology and am presently serving full time at Christ Church Umhlanga in Durban. Most often found on the beach, a soccer field, or my couch
  • Chantel

    Thanks G! Good read! There’s lots of things that we don’t want for our lives that God wills for us be in children, barrenness, marriage, singleness.. the list goes on! Being a Christian would mean acknowledging that everything that happens to us is a result of Gods sovereignty and that he would use it for our sanctification and His glory even if we don’t see it in the moment! Teddy is indeed a wonderful gift from our Lord! And I’m grateful that I was a witness to you not wanting children, to you been very thankful for Him!

  • Electro Kitty

    Trying so hard to sort out the sovereignty of God. I am thrilled that you have your son. Kids are definitely a blessing. I feel like I am at my wits end. I have been saved for 30+ years. My spouse just died. I have a teenaged son with special needs to raise, with no support. I have fallen apart so much in the past 6 months that I ended up in therapy once again. Turns out I have multiple personalities from sexual abuse when I was a child. I have had it with God’s plan for me. I don’t get what is happening. I am to be content in what is happening and I am so not content. I have always felt like an alien in this world, like I don’t belong here. May be we as Christians, really don’t. I hope He sheds some light on what is happening soon. I suppose He is under no obligation to do so. I am tired.

    • It’s just during orientation and I’m helping with it a bit…

    • Hi Electro Kitty,
      There is no way to adequately convey concern or hope in a random comment on a random blog on the internet. Even so, it’s painful to hear what you’re going through. I wish that I could say all these things had tidy explanations we can easily access but you are right, sometimes we just don’t know – and often one of the most important explanations is that we are living in a world that is simply fallen. I hope (and pray!) that you are able to cling to and trust God during this time and that he would be your comforter and that he would use his people – the church – to lead you through.

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