Redefining “Fruitful”: Is Procreation a Divine Mandate?

I have an article in the latest issue of Sojourners magazine, looking at fresh theology questioning the oh-so-American notion that traditional nuclear families consisting of a heterosexual couple and biological or adopted children is God’s ideal. What if, in fact, the New Testament undermines the primacy of biological family, rather than holding it up as ideal? What if procreation isn’t a divine mandate, and while central to many human cultures, isn’t central to the kingdom of God?

As I argue in this article, these ideas lead us to reconsider what it means to live a “fruitful” life, and our damaging stereotypes of those who choose not to procreate as selfish hedonists. While I don’t explore other implications of this new take on the theology of family and childbearing, there are many: If procreation isn’t a central divine mandate, then a core argument against same-sex marriage—that it is not inherently procreative—loses its power. If there are many ways to live fruitful lives, and some people are called to have no children or to limit their childbearing, then contraception isn’t a stumbling block to God’s plan or an exercise of stubbornly selfish will, but a gift that allows many people to follow God’s lead.

The article, titled Redefining “Fruitful” is available to everyone here for only another couple of days; after that, it will be behind a pay wall for Sojourners subscribers only. I’d love to hear what you think.

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