Question

What are your thoughts on the theological position "quiverfull"? Is marriage without procreation a sin (where there is the medical possibility of pregnancy). In other words, can Christians use contraception like condoms. etc.?

Answer

Quiverfull encourages procreation by abstaining from all forms of birth control and sterilization. It sees all forms of contraception as abortion and, according to the movement, the point of having a quiver full of babies is to out-populate the enemy. [1]

Children are the heritage of the Lord (Psa. 127:3-4). However, if one’s intent is to have children in order to out-populate the enemy, this presents a serious problem because this was not the original intent of procreation in Genesis. The Fall (Gen. 3) hadn’t even happened when the command to be fruitful and multiply was given (Gen. 1:28). There was no enemy yet; all the angels, including Satan, sang together at creation (Job 38:7). Everything was "very good" (Gen. 1:31).

God’s purpose of procreation was to have a chosen race that would glorify him. The Lord is due glory! And ultimately in the new heavens and new earth, we will observe this very thing as a "ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" is worshipping God (Rev 5:9; 7:9). So the question is, how many children should a couple have to properly and fully glorify God? People are different and God has us on different paths "in him" (cf. Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 1:2). Just as there were different sizes of quivers in ancient times with various numbers of arrows in each, the numbers will surely vary from couple to couple.

The command to be fruitful and multiply shouldn’t be isolated from the other commands in Scripture. The whole of Scripture must be applied to all of life. When it comes to having a family, we need to look at such things as finances, our spouse's health, age, and other considerations. It’s possible someone could have a family so large it violates 1 Timothy 5:8 which says, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." So, biblical responsibility is a consideration in determining the size of a family.

Said another way, children are a gift from the Lord (Psa. 127:3-4) but we should also be good stewards of God's blessing. Should a farmer who owns a million acres of land cultivate every single acre if he can only properly harvest only a thousand acres? How would the other nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand acres properly and fully glorify God? Being a good steward means taking the necessary biblical steps to control the timing and number of children one has.

The Quiverfull movement misunderstands the providence and sovereignty of God when it essentially says to let God be God and not personally interfere with his decision on how many children to have, or "let go and let God" per se, which is not biblical. Even with the use of contraceptives, in God’s providence, pregnancy happens as God’s determinative will is unstoppable. While God’s sovereignty works in and through human actions, if necessary, he works in spite of them as well (WCF 5.3).

Not all forms of contraception are abortion. God never stated a couple couldn’t use contraceptives that prevent fertilization. Contraception by withdrawal (coitus interruptus) and the rhythm method were surely a reality even in Old Testament times. If these were so evil and against the ordinance to be fruitful and multiply, why was there no law against them? (See "Opposition to Contraception" below.")

According to Bruce Waltke, there are four blessings that accompany marriage: company (Gen. 2:18; Psa. 68:6), unity (Gen. 2:24), pleasure (Gen. 3:16; Eccl. 9:9), and procreation (Gen. 1:28; Gen. 9:1, 7 Jer. 31:27; 8:17; Psa. 128:3). [2] Note that pleasure is one of these gifts: "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love . . . " (Eccl. 9:9). The Song of Solomon paints a passionate and even provocative picture of biblical sexuality. It unveils sex’s biblical canvas of romance, tenderness, joy, delight, passion and longing (Song 1:9-10, 12-16; 2:9, 14; 4:1-15; 5:10-16; 6:5-10; 7:1-9, 11-8:3). But nothing is ever mentioned about the purpose of procreation, suggesting the precious gift of sex is not solely for procreation.

IMO, Quiverfull comes up a few arrows short of the full reality of what the Bible teaches on biblical sexuality and children.

Footnotes and References

[1] "So this was about political domination. The whole point of having a quiver full of babies is to … out-populate the "enemy," … that would be all of you; and to shoot those many arrows "straight into the heart of the enemy." And by that, we meant that our children would grow up to be leaders in all the major institutions of our society. This was our plan for taking back America for God. So the children were like arrows (which is the ammunition) in God’s holy war." Escape from the Quiverfull Movement (https://findingdelight.com/2014/09/22/escape-from-the-quiverfull-movement/). Last Accessed 9 March 2021. It’s considered a missionary effort to raise up many children as Christians to advance the cause of the Christian religion. Hess, Rick and Jan (1990). A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ. Brentwood, TN: Hyatt Publishers.

[2] Waltke, Bruce. The Old Testament and Birth Control, (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1968/november-8/old-testament-and-birth-control.html). Last Accessed 9 March 2021.

Related Topics

Opposition to Contraception

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).