There is within my heart an affinity for those who "exalt Jesus Christ as Lord, and acknowledge His headship in all areas of our lives." This is the confession of the writers over at QuiverFull.com. For this reason, there is always a check in my spirit before anything critical is ever written about the practice or teaching of a fellow brother or sister in Christ who acknowledge our Savior as Lord. Yet, if correction is ever needed within the evangelical, conservative portion of the family of God, it should come from other evangelical, conservatives since most other types of correction will be considered as coming from "enemies." This post is written by no enemy of those who name Christ as Lord, but it is written to demonstrate the theological error of quiverfull theology.
Quiverfull theology advocates are almost universally conservative, evangelical Christians. They seek to convince people that "God alone" should determine the size of one's family, since having a "quiverfull" of children is a "blessing" from God (Psalm 127:3-5). For this reason, they will tell you that any kind of contraception or any desire to prevent the conception of a child during the coital act is a sin against God. In 1985, Mary Pride wrote a foundational text for quiverfull theology entitled The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality. Mrs. Pride argued that family planning leads to a slide toward the acceptability of abortion and feminism, two things incompatible with Christianity. Pride wrote that Christians should reject women's liberation in exchange for the principles of submissive wifehood and prolific stay-at-home motherhood - thus the modern birth of quiverfull living.
Since the mid-1980's, quiverfull theology has expanded exponentially within the Southern Baptist Convention and conservative evangelicalism at large. Many members of my extended family, really fine people who love Christ, live lives that are based upon this contra-contraception philosophy. Many leading Southern Baptists and conservative theologians advocate quiverfull theology including Paige and Dorothy Patterson, Al and Mary Mohler, and a host of Southern Baptists who follow home-school leader Mary Pride's philosophy. Dr. Mohler has stated publicly that intentional childlessness is "moral rebellion" against God. It's not my desire to chronicle the growing number of quiverfull advocates in conservative Christianity--that has already been professionally and impassionately done by New York City author Kathryn Joyce, whose 2009 book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement is a must read. One of the reviews, written by Vickie Garrison, sums up my opinion of the importance of Joyce's book:"Quiverfull puts the whole movement on display all at once. The reason this is important is that for most families, getting into this lifestyle is a step-by-step process — a progression from ‘peculiar’ to seriously bizarre which takes place incrementally over a period of many years. Once a family takes that first step — if they’re living it logically and consistently — they’ll eventually find themselves living out pretty much the whole program — the ‘Vision’ which, in its entirety ~ as clearly depicted in Quiverfull--turns out, in practicality, to be a very real, living nightmare."
Not all who advocate quiverfull theology have yet experienced the nightmare portion. Sleep has just set in. It will take a while for the logical consistencies of a theological fallacy to eventually corrupt the entire home. It is for the reason of future mental and spiritual health that anyone even remotely considering the possibility of adopting a quiverfull theology ought to read Joyce's book.
My recommendation doesn't mean I agree with everything she has written. Kathryn Joyce seems to have never met, or spoken with, a conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical Calvinist who does not adhere to quiverfull theology. She writes several pages of her book attempting to prove that Calvinism is the culprit for the rapid growth of quiverfull theology. Joyce even defines for her readers the acrostic TULIP to help them understand Calvinism. I find her conclusion, at least in this area, misplaced. The progress of "quiverfull" theology among the rank and file within conservative Christianity due to the expansion of Calvinism is not true for two very simple reasons:
(1). There are thousands of quiverfull advocates that are NOT Calvinistic in their theology (i.e. Paige and Dorothy Patterson, Mary Pride, etc.), and
(2). There are a number of evangelical Calvinists, like this author, who believe quiverfull theology to be foreign to the New Testament teaching of Christ.
A better understanding of the source of the rapidly expanding "quiverfull" theology within conservative evangelical Christianity is the growing effort to make the Christian male dominant over the female. Patriarchy is the mother (pardon the pun) of quiverfull theology, not Calvinism. Patriarchy transcends soteriology (one's view of Calvinism). But even this disagreement with Joyce's conclusion of the source of the quiverfull theology in no way minimizes my wholehearted endorsement of her Quiverfull book.
Eight Holes in the Quiver of Quiverfulls
To help authors like Kathryn Joyce, and others know that there are evangelical, conservative Christians who reject quiverfull theology, I offer the following eight holes in the theological position of quiverfulls from a conservative, evangelical (Calvinistic) Christian point of view. A fuller fleshing out of these arguments will come on a later post.
(1). Quiverfull theology is based on an Old Covenant that also had other precepts, commandments and laws from God that we Christians no longer abide by. The Old Covenant laws were "shadows" or "types" to teach us of Christ, and when Jesus came, He fulfilled and abolished the Old Covenant with her types. The Old Covenant command was to "go, be fruitful and multiply." The New Covenant command, under which we live, is "go and make disciples."
(2). The notion that anyone "prevents" God from naming the number of kids a family has is anti-biblical, anti-logical, and anti-God at its core. Contraception no more "prevents" God from creating a baby who "could have cured AIDS" or "been the President of the United States," etc. than a man shouting at the sun can keep it from shining. God ordains the creation of each human soul, and nobody prevents Him from accomplishing His plans. The sheath of a condom, or the dissolution of a pill, is no more an obstacle to God in the creation of a human being than the lack of matter was an obstacle to God in creating the universe.
(3). Holiness or righteousness is obtained by faith in Christ alone. We are declared perfectly righteous (justified) by a holy God. The woman with faith in Christ who tries her entire life to have ONE child, and cannot for physical reasons, compared to the woman with faith in Christ who could have MULTIPLE children, but does not for contraception reasons, compared to the woman with faith in Christ who DOES HAVE TWENTY CHILDREN because of her quiverfull theology and refusal to use contraception-- are ALL equally holy, equally blessed, equally loved by God, and equally honored. To say anything less is a denial of the gospel itself.
(4). There are cities full of children who are abused, abandoned, in need. The November 20, 2009 major motion picture release The Blind Side will demonstrate for the country what happens when an evangelical Christian family adopts a needy inner city child. It is as Christ-honoring to be naturally childless and help the needy children in the city as it is to have a dozen of your own naturally born children.
(5). The idea that Christians should have more children because we are losing the "culture" wars, and by having more and more kids one day we will "out-populate" the Muslims, the cults and other pagans is to lose absolute sight of the New Testament truth that entrance into the kingdom of God is not based on flesh and blood (or culture, color or creed), but faith in the good news that is proclaimed about the unique Son of God. We do not need an army of Christian children separate from the world; we need an army of Christian witnesses as salt and light in the middle of a decaying and dark world, leading lost children to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
(6). It is true that a woman who marries, stays at home, bears children, and nurtures them in the ways of the Lord is to be honored. But it is also true that the woman who marries, but doesn't stay at home (she works outside the home), and doesn't have children, is to be HONORED just as much. Christian honor should be given for who a PERSON IS, not what a person does or doesn't do. We are always cautioned in the New Covenant Scriptures against honoring people based upon the amount of their "blessings" or the "size" of their wealth. We are to honor people because they are people. Period.
(7). We Christians are "pro-life"--that is we believe in the sacredness and sanctity of every human life. Our "pro-life" arguments, however, ring hollow when we remove our churches from inner city neighborhoods where our presence could help those with poor qualities of life; when we leave our states backlogged with tens of thousands of foster children on the rolls, forcing states to often give multiple foster children to unfit foster parents; and when we do little or nothing for those lives that are trapped in hospitals, prisons and community centers. The blessings of a culture and a community might soar more when God's people put more money, more focus, and more energy in caring for the lives already born than talking about those lives yet to be born.
(8). Quiverfull theology, if followed logically and consistently, leads a husband and a wife to confusion of one's true and eternal identity in Christ. Confusion about who we are on earth is not good preparation for eternity. There will be no marriage in heaven. There will be no procreation in heaven. It is the individual's relationship with God that is preeminent, and the notion that a male is to be "the covering" for the female, and the female's role is to simply procreate the progeny of the male as a helpful subordinate to the male, is to abdicate the New Testament teaching that EVERY believer in Jesus Christ (male or female) is a "priest" unto God. Only when full equality of males and females is comprehrended and experienced on earth will we ever have a taste of what human relationships will be like in heaven.
In His Grace,