Monday, February 27, 2006

Blessing and Dominion

These are the famous McCaughey septuplets Genesis 1:28-31 It is often alleged in our society that the population is getting too big. It is alleged that there is not enough food to feed all the people of the world, and that we should therefore have smaller families. This pernicious idea is contrary to the express commands of Scripture. It is also completely untrue that there are too many people in the world. For one thing, if you were to give everyone an area of 1 ½ square feet such that no one would touch anyone else, you could fit the entire world’s population within half of the area of Jacksonville, Florida. Furthermore, if you wanted to give everyone a decent amount of living space, like, say, one thousand square feet, which is far more than most people in the world have, you could still fit the entire world’s population within Kansas and Nebraska, with a small portion of South Dakota added to it. The land mass of the world is 99.7% uninhabited. As to food, Iowa alone could feed the entire world perpetually by itself. As to the idea that we should have smaller families, let us see who would not be alive if people had stopped having children after the third baby (that is, who had adopted our modern ideas of family): of musicians, we would not have Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Wagner, Grieg, Faure, Caruso, or Copland. Of famous Christians, we would not have Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Dwight L. Moody, Corrie ten Boom, Ulrich Zwingli, or Cornelius Van Til. Of American Presidents, we would not have Washington, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Pierce, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, or Taft. The only president to be an only child was Gerald Ford. All other presidents came from larger families. 18 presidents came from families who had 4 or more children, and who were fourth in line or later. Fully thirty U.S. Presidents all told came from families of four or more children. People today will tell you that if you have more children, then the intelligence of each child will get less and less as you go on down the line. Well, Bach was 8th in his family, Beethoven was 5th, Mozart was 7th. All three were absolute geniuses. So how do these facts relate to our passage today? God blessed humanity. Then He told them to multiply and fill the earth. Furthermore, God told them to exercise dominion over the creation. Put in a nutshell, this verse 28 gives us what is called the cultural mandate. We are supposed to rule the earth like God rules the earth. The first element of that cultural mandate is reproduction. Earlier in Genesis we saw how God’s blessing on the fish actually enabled the fish to reproduce at an amazing rate. So also here, when God blesses humanity, the blessing that God gives is not some kind of wish. Rather, it is command and fulfillment simultaneously. When God blesses, He actually gives the ability to perform what He commands. Humanity is told to fill the earth. It is a simple command. However, when the Fall occurred, we did not want to fill the earth. The tower of Babel incident indicates that people always want to converge on one spot, so as to challenge God in the heavens. Instead of scattering and filling the earth, mankind wanted to congregate in small areas. So God confused the languages of people. Have you ever thought about the fact that language problems today are entirely due to the fact that humanity did not want to fill the earth? But how does this apply to us today? Well, when Jesus came to earth, He started something new. He started a spiritual kingdom which was to multiply and fill the earth. This kingdom of God did not annul the cultural mandate here in Genesis one. Rather, it adds to it a new dimension of godliness. If you will, the “cultural mandate” of the this new kingdom is given to us in Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” But Jesus’ command does not annul God’s command to multiply and fill the earth. Now, we must multiply and fill the earth with Christians. What better way to evangelize than to raise up missionaries in our own homes? Dominion over the earth is the second aspect of God’s blessing and command. There are two parts to man’s dominion over creation: dominion over the earth, sea, and sky firstly, and secondly, dominion over the animal world. The first aspect includes science, agriculture, astronomy, and all forms of travel. We are to master these things. We are not merely to sit by so as to worship nature. We are to subdue it, making it a habitable place for human beings, and keeping it that way. Any profession that engages in this aspect of dominion is an honorable profession. Even garbage collection fulfills this aspect of the cultural mandate. The second aspect of dominion gave us trouble, however. We were supposed to rule over the animal world. Instead, when Satan came in the form of a serpent, we let the animal world rule over us. Instead of ejecting Satan from the garden, we let Satan in so that we were the ones who wound up getting expelled from the garden. As a result of failing in this aspect of dominion, God took away the ease with which we were able to carry out the first aspect of dominion over the earth, sea, and sky. No longer, would we be able easily to get crops to grow. It would always be difficult. Because we allowed the hierarchy of nature to be turned up-side down in one aspect, (namely, of animals) God turned it upside-down in the other aspect (of the earth itself). That is another problem that Jesus came to correct. Jesus re-established control over the entire world. All of Jesus’ nature miracles proved that He had regained that dominion over the creation that Adam had lost by his fall into sin. Now, if we believe in Christ, we are heirs to the entire world. When the world is re-created, we shall be rulers indeed over the face of the earth, because we shall participate in that rule over creation that Jesus Christ now exercises. So, we must believe in Jesus Christ, if we are ever to regain that dominion that God intended for us to have. That is true power over the creation: to believe in the one who actually has the true power over creation. The lion will lie down with the lamb, and the child will play with the cobra. There will be no more harm done in that new era that awaits us. One thing it might be worth our while to examine briefly is the food that God gave to the entire world to eat. Now, in the Ancient Near East, it was thought that mankind was created in order to serve food to the gods. Moses here says instead that God provided food for mankind. So what is this food? From verses 29-30, it is quite plain that every animal on the face of the earth ate vegetables and fruit as their diet. Man and animal were not allowed to eat meat until after the Flood, when God said to man, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. As I gave the green plants, I give you everything.” But in the beginning, it was not so. Animals and man were only vegetarians, much as I hate to admit it. However, after the Flood, God gave us explicit permission to eat meat. Therefore, it is false that vegetarianism is the only Biblical way to eat. We may eat meat. However, I have a suspicion that meat will not be eaten when God renews the world, since there will no longer be death in the world. So what does this mean for us in our world as Christians? First of all, what do we think of the family? All too often, we think of children as invasions of our comfort zone. Women especially think of children as obstacles to get around, rather than that which they should most desire. But as the cultural commentator Christopher Lasch said, “When money becomes the universal measure of value, then motherhood, which after all is unpaid labor, will come to bear the stigma of social inferiority.” What Lasch is saying is that when we value money more than anything else, then our decisions will be dictated solely in terms of how much money we can shovel into our bank account. Motherhood does not shovel money into the bank-account. Therefore, women should not be mothers, is how the argument goes. But Genesis here completely contradicts this way of thinking. If we are to multiply and fill the earth, then motherhood is the very highest calling that a woman can take on herself. There is nothing more important than raising children. Not only are you obeying God’s command in Genesis, but you are also obeying the Great Commission in Matthew to fill the earth with Christians. But also think about the fact that a career is a temporary thing: raising children has eternal consequences; a career might make you rich (except for the fact that the government taxes double-income families far more even in proportion than single-income families), whereas raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will make you rich with God. Titus 2:3-5 is very unpopular in Christian and non-Christian circles. It says this, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled.” Women, does this text not say that if you are working outside the home and have small children, you are outside the will of God? Of course, this text addresses married women. Unmarried women who are forced to work while having children are to be much pitied and are to be cared for by the church. But married women, especially with small children, are to stay home with the children. That is not a trap. It is the highest calling to which it is possible for a woman to aspire. The wife of Jonathan Edwards was Sarah Edwards. They had quite a few children. Because Sarah stayed home with them, and did not work outside the home, their children and descendants have been extremely important in the life of America. Out of 1400 descendants located, 13 were college presidents, 65 professors of colleges, 100 lawyers plus a dean of a law school, 30 judges, 66 physicians plus a dean of a medical school, 80 holders of public office, 3 US senators, 3 mayors of large cities, governors of three states, one US vice-president, and one controller of the US treasury. And this study was done in 1900. Women, if you want power, think of Sarah Edwards. A career will only last so long. Money will only last so long. Raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will have amazing consequences both in this life, and in the life to come. Our understanding of this passage then throws into sharp relief the horrors of abortion, genocide, euthanasia, murder, and even hate. All these terrible things go in exactly the opposite direction from God’s command to multiply and fill the earth. Furthermore, we should deplore our culture’s separation of sexual intercourse from procreation. Now, as long as it is in the context of marriage, there is nothing wrong with marital intercourse for the purpose of pleasure. However, that should not distract us from the fact that the primary reason for marital intercourse is procreation. Our culture uses birth-control, the pill, condoms, any thing that it can in order to be able to have the pleasure of sex without the consequences. They have taught us that getting pregnant is one of the very worst things that can happen to a married woman. Of course, the availability of the pill, condoms, and other forms of birth control also means that teenagers who are unmarried feel that they can engage in intercourse without the fear of getting pregnant. They are taught in the public schools (with our tax dollars!) that sex is safe as long as you use these forms of birth control. Well, all these forms of birth control are flawed. They do not work all the time. They are not a protection. The only safe way is abstinence before marriage, and faithfulness to your spouse after marriage. We should not separate sexual intercourse from procreation.


At 2/27/2006 11:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you argue from scripture that sex and procreation cannot be separated? What do you do, for instance, with an entire book -- the Song of Songs -- which speaks of sexual pleasure (within the bonds of marriage) and the physical union established by God, with no reference to procreation? Yes, God gave us the reproductive ability to fulfill the cultural mandate, but is that really the only reason that he created and gave sex to a husband and wife?

At 2/28/2006 01:38:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

Song of Songs is not just about a marriage in which the man and woman enjoy each other, though it is certainly that. It also points us to Christ and His church (via Ephesians 5). Therefore, since part of the very definition of the church is the Great Commission in Matthew 28, which is to make disciples, a connection that was (I hope) clear in the sermon. The connection is that just as the church makes disciples, so ought families to make disciples. By the way, I would not say that sex was created *only* for procreation. What I am arguing against is those views that say that sex has nothing to do with procreation or marriage or any of the things that the Bible says it is about. God created sex good, and He meant for *married* people to enjoy it to the full. However, that does not mean that it is therefore to be *separated* from procreation.
I would appreciate it if no one published anonymously on my blog.

At 3/01/2006 09:28:00 AM, Anonymous Bear said...

I'd like some clarification on your comments about women, work, and motherhood. First, do you think that married women who do not have children should not work outside the home? If so, where do you find support for this view? Second, don't you think there might be circumstances under which it is necessary for a married woman with children whose husband works to contribute to the household income? For example, her husband might be in school (law school, medical school, seminary), or he might hold a low-paying job (artist, teacher at a small Christian school, minimum wage job). Third, are you assuming that money is the only reason that women work outside the home? If so, I disagree. I think many women work because they enjoy it and find using their skills and talents in the workplace to be fulfilling, just as many men do. In addition, I think that working for money can be a very good thing, not always a negative. Higher education is very expensive, as are other good things that parents want to provide for their children - music lessons, elementary and secondary education at private schools, travel, etc. Often one income is not enough to provide for these things.

I fear that you value and praise certain qualities in men, such as the desire to provide for and educate his children and the desire to exercise his God-given skills and talents in the workplace, but censor these same qualities in women. For example, a married male professor with children who spends a workday studying, teaching, and writing articles on ancient Greek and Roman literature and civilization (to use my own career as an example) is praised for using his God-given intellectual talents, while a married female professor with children is judged for the same desire. How is this right?

I am a single and childless woman who absolutely loves my career as an academic and teacher, and feels that I am doing something that I was made by God to do. I think that someday I would like to be married and have children. But I will never do it if I must give up my academic and paedagogical pursuits as a tradeoff. Would you argue that I must stay single and childless in order to pursue my interests?

At 3/01/2006 05:26:00 PM, Anonymous Bear said...

Another point on which I would like clarification: Are you arguing that married couples should never use any sort of birth control?

At 3/03/2006 10:21:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

Good questions, Bear. I will do my best to answer them. Your first question: I do not see a particular problem with married women who have no children working outside the home, if that is what they wish to do. My particular problem is with the idea that a woman could have a full-time job outside the home *and* do a *good* job at being a mother. For support for my position, you should read Suzanne Venker's book _7 Myths of Working Mothers_. For Biblical support, I would go to Titus 2, especially verse 5, which is ignored and twisted by a good bit of the Christian community. I think it is especially revealing that verse 4 (talking about young women) says that they are to love their husbands *and children*...working at home.

With regard to your second question, I think this: it is often underestimated how much money a young mother saves by not working (when you consider the $10,000 tax deduction for filing for a single-income family, plus baby-sitting costs, plus extra gas costs, plus the extra amount of work the father could do if the mother is taking care of the home), I really wonder if it is actually financially feasible for the mother to work outside the home with young children. I don't know that I would say that there would be *no* circumstances where it would be feasible, but I do know that a lot of families strap themselves into this kind of situation, when in fact, the mother becomes absolutely miserable and burned out.

With regard to your third concern, I wouldn't say that money would be the only reason that a woman would work outside the home. But I don't see the world discouraging women from joining the work force. Instead, I see a *massive* move against women spending any time *at all* with their children. I see the world practically commanding women to work outside the home, saying that they couldn't possibly make it without that extra income (conveniently forgetting to mention all the monetary benefits of a single-income family), and I see a *massive* undervaluing of motherhood as a whole in our society. The fact is that the family is the basic building block of society. Since I don't see the world encouraging family values whatsoever, I will work to try to correct that imbalance.

One income would be surprisingly sufficient for most essential things in life, if the couple agreed not to spend umpteen thousand dollars a year on non-essential things like entertainment, and the best car they could possibly afford, and expensive vacations. This is what I am finding with my own income. It is not large, and yet entirely sufficient with a modest degree of frugality, and a budget.

The only time I would censor a woman's desire to work and provide is if the family suffers as a result. There is nothing more important than the family for a married woman. Work is not more important than family, contrary to what the world says. The Bible clearly says that the family is more important. One family, by the way, in my church, has found a way to bring in more income by having milk cows. The mother doesn't even have to leave home to help with this, and is loving it. I know that there are internet options for work which allow a woman to work from home. These should be pursued more often than they are.

With regard to your own career, I don't judge it whatsoever, and I don't think that anything in my sermon could have been taken that way legitimately. My position would be that a mother of young children should not work full-time outside the home. I think that Venker has conclusively proven that it doesn't work. But it might not need to be all or nothing. Part-time might work out very well, though I would hope that if and when you have young children, you would want to raise them yourself, and not have day-care do it.

With regard to birth-control, my position has changed a bit. My question would be this: what is the motive for it? If the motive is that they don't want children, and view children as a burden, then I utterly disagree with it. There are other motives, however, which are not so reprehensible. There are medical reasons, for instance. But Scripture so clearly calls children a blessing. Why would a Christian couple not want that blessing? Why wouldn't they want more blessing? The Bible says that the man is blessed whose quiver is full of arrows (children). I fear that many times the motive for using birth-control is utterly selfish and self-serving, and I will not countenance that sort of selfishness. Love is inherently other-centered, and how is it loving to say that they don't want children, because that will cramp their style?

At 3/03/2006 08:05:00 PM, Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Wow, bro! Good stuff, and well said.

In Christ.

At 3/07/2006 09:53:00 AM, Blogger zan said...

I loved my career when I was single and I still hope to keep my license up as a nurse. I never thought I would ever be able to stay home full time with children. Then I had a child and my opinion did a complete 180. Children are so precious and impressionable and they need their moms. They really do. I could never leave them for my career. If I do continue my nursing career I will only do it at night or on weekends when daddy can babysit. I don't even know if I will do that anytime soon since I am ready to pop with number two.

I just finished reading "Women Who Make the World Worse," and the writer spoke about the book, "Seven Myths of the Working Mom." I will definately have to check that out.

I always roll my eyes when I hear somebody say "safe sex." In nursing school my instructor said (I went to a very liberal college too) that there was no such thing as "safe sex." That this was very misleading but we should, instead, call it "safer sex." Abstinence NEEDS to be reinforced, not only for physical health but emotional health as well. It is no wonder that so many teens are depressed.

I really enjoyed the post and think you did a great job explaining yourself.

At 3/08/2006 08:55:00 PM, Blogger Susan said...

Wow, that was great. I wholeheartedly agree with you!


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