Differences between small and large families...

(Tim, w/thanks to Eric) Our Lord, the Apostle Paul, and economists are agreed that money matters quite a lot. For instance, check out the comments on this blog responding to the news that, in China, a law is being proposed that would make an adult child's failure to visit his parents actionable in court. If the law passes, parents could sue their child for failure to visit and the child could be fined and directed to submit to a visitation schedule. What wonderful visits that would produce! Beyond the question of banks, pensions, and Social Security, though, there's another set of numbers worth noting, here.

We have a fair number of international students who attend ClearNote Church, Bloomington (our new church name), and some are from China. Due to China's one-child policy, these students rarely have siblings or cousins. Picture it: one father and mother had one child--a son; another father and mother had one child--a daughter; that son and daughter married and had one son who married someone else's daughter--again, an only child. Now what do you have?

You have a married couple who themselves have one child who will grow up with two parents, four grandparents, and eight great-grandparents. It's entirely conceivable he'll have some of his great-grandparents live to the time of his marriage, at which time he'll take on through his wife another set of two parents, four grandparents, and eight great-grandparents. Let's assume only half of that couple's great grandparents survive to the time of their marriage; then that couple each has two parents, four grandparents, and four great-grandparents, which brings the total number of aging relatives on the shoulders of that young couple to twenty. And if all their great-grandparents are still alive, the total is twenty-eight.

Which is to say that, beyond the hundreds of millions of little babies slaughtered by the one-child policy and forced abortions of China in the past century, they now have a rapidly aging population. It's estimated one in four adults will be over the age of sixty-five by 2050.

Let's be practical about this. When my mother-in-law and mother want to move into someone's house...

so they can be loved in their dotage when life has become too hard to live alone, they have scores of households they could move into. Children, grandchildren, and soon great-grandchildren.

And if all my mother-in-law wants is someone to visit her, she can choose between just under twenty children or their spouses, around fifty grandchildren and their spouses, and so far around fifty great-grandchildren who won't be marrying for a couple more years. Somehow, I don't think Mom Taylor will be suing any of her descendants for failure to visit!

Which is to say that the use of birth control and abortion has real consequences that aren't very nice. Life in a large family (say more than five children) and a small one is so very different as to be almost a different universe.

When we have our Taylor family reunion each summer, logistics is most important--food, tent to eat it in, bathrooms, laundry, bedrooms, dates of arrival and departure, etc.; but amost equally important is the obedience of the children. It's unimaginable that we could gather and have fifty undisciplined and unruly and loud children of postmodern narcisists running around and want to get together for a week and a half each summer.

Which is to say, have lots of children if you want a joyful old age. Otherwise, life might get depressing and very lonely. The highest rate of suicide among the elderly is in South Korea, Taiwan, and China.

But if you're going to have lots of children, you'll have to look at your work as being more about logistics and discipline and teaching your older children to care for the younger ones, and less about meaningful exchanges of the deepest feelings of your child's heart with her mother. The only similarity between a family of one, two, or three children with a family of eight or ten (my own family and my wife's) is that there's a house, a car, and a father and mother. The work required to keep the home running and the family happy and healthy and growing in godliness, though, is about as similar as  the work required at a twenty cow dairy operation in small town WIsconsin and that required at the seventy-cows-milked-at-a-time on the turntables of the 35,000 cow Fair Oaks Farm just off I-65 in Northern Indiana.

But fruitfulness? Unbelievably beautiful fruitfulness! What joy!

Did you know "children are a blessing from the Lord; happy is the man whose quiver is full?" Says so in the Bible.

But a word of warning, here: the Bible also teaches that the man who doesn't provide for his own is worse than a pagan. And this has to do, not just with food and shelter, but tenderness, love, discipline, and instruction.

To sire a child is not to be a father.

 

Comments

"Life in a large family (say more than five children) and a small one is so very different as to be almost a different universe."

This truism kept running through my mind as I read the article you recently linked on Chinese parenting. The whole debate over the merits/deficits of Chinese-American parenting would be over if those parents were heeding God's call to be fruitful and multiply because none of their methods are realistic in a family with more than 2 kids.

I've had some difficulty with the concept that a large biological family is needed to be desired in the Way. Looked at with a cynical eye, the reverse of not having enough children to support many grandparents would be the "Ponzi scheme" of just having ever more children in successive generations to support the elderly. Have we misinterpreted the command of "go forth and multiple", given to Adam and Eve, too broadly to include everyone today?

The verses I see that people reference supporting large biological families are OT. Not wrong unto itself, but I hear Jesus say that His family is those around Him, doing the will of His Father (Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35). I read much of the NT moving from the good of biological family to the best of God's family.

I don't disagree that our family structures should be large and loving. I question if they have to be biological, or if we should be welcoming in the orphan and the widow into our families.

Would be interested in hearing more.

Kevin,

Not really helpful to bring out the, "that's the OT." You make it sound as if those using the OT have the burden to prove its ongoing validity. The opposite is the case. God's clear command, be fruitful and multiply. You abrogate this with a less clear emphasis on those around Jesus, as if it is clearly tied to the original command. Then you buttress your statement with a charge against the OT, but cut off objections by stating you aren't actually against using the OT, “Not wrong unto itself, but...”.

Why do you think God kept His best for later, only giving His good initially? Was it because there were no others but biological family? Even if Jesus was teaching us some new concept of seeing the importance of our non-biological family, how would this abrogate the command to be fruitful? Why not be fruitful and multiply and welcome the orphan? Why not see God's family comprised of lots of large families who welcome the orphan and widow?

Pastor Cassidy said: "Have we misinterpreted the command of "go forth and multiple", given to Adam and Eve, too broadly to include everyone today?"

With such an assertion comes a slippery-slope as we also root headship in creation (you know, "OT stuff").

Perhaps you mean some have interpreted the command "too narrowly"...but that seems fairly empty. Lots of churches are big on evangelism, not big on discipleship, and practice contraception. I think our biggest problem is spiritualizing faithlessness and making the command so narrow that it requires little more than a "gospel" sermon.

In my experience, the larger families (who understand the command to go forth and multiply) are the ones also engaging in discipleship and understand the command more broadly. Those who "spiritualize" it tend to avoid having children and never take the opportunity to evangelize or disciple because...well...they understand the command "spiritually".

These folks lose out on the opportunity to broaden their faith. Having children broadens a man, it doesn't narrow him.

Of course, there are those who the Lord does not allow to multiply biologically...they can also fulfill the command with spiritual heirs. This is not foreign to the OT or NT (think of Ruth, Naomi's spiritual daughter of faith, or Samuel the spiritual son of Eli who's biological sons were evil, or Esther the spiritual daughter of Mordecai, and the obvious spiritual son to Paul: Timothy).

I find it difficult to believe anyone who has had children will become "too narrow"...especially for mothers (see Chesterton's What's Wrong With the World?).

Pastor Cassidy: "I question if they have to be biological, or if we should be welcoming in the orphan and the widow into our families."

I saw nobody proposing that we reject the widow and orphan...seems like an emotive straw man. Frankly, I don't understand where this assertion of yours came from. You comment here pretty frequently, so it should be obvious the faith proclaimed here is for the orphan and widow.

Dear Kevin,

Don't be dismayed. About 99.999% of Reformed officers in America today--in fact, 99.99% of any Reformed officers since Margaret Sanger engaged in civil disobedience and got the SCOTUS to reverse our nation's Comstock laws--have believed what you articulate, or something like this more crass way of puting it: "We've been fruitful, so let go of this Old Testament patriarchal take-woman-into-the cave-and-have-your-way-with-her neanderthal mindset. It's so demeaning to women. Haven't they suffered enough already? Do they have to spend their lives at home making babies, cooking, and changing diapers? Would any servant leader do that to his wife?"

Please don't be offended. I know this is not how you put it. But having known and loved many Reformed officers over the years, this is a pretty accurate summary of the state of our obedience. We've evolved. We've learned scientific truths the Reformers didn't know. We need to focus on the quality--not the quantity--of our childrearing. We need to educate our daughters as well as our sons, and give them a chance to live life to the fullest (which of course, means have them in possession of as many formal degrees as their husband will have).

But putting aside the particular nuances of this or that man's thoughts on birth control, we must face the fact that the Reformers didn't agree. In fact, that as the Church speaks with one voice condemning rebellion against other Order of Creation laws instituted by God such as life-long, monogamous, heterosexual, patriarchal marriage, she also speaks with one voice concerning this other Order of Creation law that obstructing fruitfulness in the marriage bed is sin.

That's what wounds my conscience when I simply tell my congregation that fruitfulness is a blessing that should be welcomed and every decision to use birth control is a spiritual decision--never simply a pragmatic one. To most, even that sounds monstrous. But to me, even that sounds cowardly. This voice keeps awakening my conscience to the fact that, prior to 1950, Christians were as opposed to birth control as Roman Catholics.

And as I said to a dear elder brother of mine who thinks even what I teach creates unreasonable difficulties for our young couples, what do we do with the universal understanding of the Church? Just kiss it off?

Someone help me, brothers. How can we say, let alone believe, that just at the time when the Western world threw out every other Order of Creation truth concerning God's gift of sexuality, true reform hit us in birth control and we learned we were always wrong?

Love,

Regarding the New Testament and "be fruitful and multiply"; are we to assume that Paul's command to married couples would have any other result, 1900 years before effective contraception was invented? Let's be serious here; the New Testament tells couples to be fruitful and multiply, just implicitly.

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