As a counter-cultural movement, the Quiverfull philosophy and lifestyle are frequently subject to substantial criticism from outsiders (friends, neighbors, random strangers in grocery store check-out lines) – and, given the life-altering ramifications of embracing the Quiverfull ideal, even the firmly-convinced often ask tough questions with respect to the practicality and wisdom of “trusting the Lord with our family planning.” “Answering the Quiverfull Party Line” examines the Quiverfull apologia.
by Barbie Getzreal
The Quiverfull Party Line: If We’re Not Trusting God, We Are Playing God
Are We Pro-Choice or Pro-Life? Most Christians would answer Pro-Life. By this they mean that they are against terminating a life that has already been conceived through abortion. But are they really Pro-Life? What if God should so desire to bless them with another family member? Usually not. The majority of the church has openly embraced birth control, even though it’s very name clearly implies that someone else is in control other than God. Their bodies, destiny, family size, timing and structure have never been turned over. God’s creed has always been conception, birth and life. The world’s creed has always been birth control, sterilization and abortion. It all accomplishes the same purpose. Life has been stopped. Whose side are we on? (excerpted from Who Is In Control?)
Not surprisingly, the central issue regarding birth control is CONTROL. Namely, who (Who?) is really in control when it comes to the making of a new living being? “Jess” at Making Home, engages her readers in a thought-provoking dialogue regarding the significance of determining God’s will:
I see one very KEY and CRITICAL difference between the determination of God’s will regarding a new house or job and the determination of God’s will regarding birth control, and it is this: house and job decisions have much lower stakes. Those kinds of decisions will not determine whether or not a human being is ever conceived.
There are some questions to consider that have some critical implications for what we believe about the sovereignty of God:
IF (and this is a big if) there is some implied standard in the Word that because children are a blessing and everyone must therefore partake of as many blessings as possible, THEN is the at-large Christian community intentionally and willfully bucking the will of God for our own ease?
At Boundless.org, Candice Watters, co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies, weighs in with her observation that generally, it appears that God lets couples have their own way when it comes to family planning:
Yes, God can work around and through birth control, should He so desire. And birth control can and does fail on occasion. But as a rule, God follows the principles He set in place to govern our natural world; stories of miraculous conceptions despite a couple’s efforts to prevent more children are an exception, not the norm. I believe God is not inclined to make the pill or patch fail in order to impose His will for our families on us. When we erect barriers to God’s blessings, He often lets us. We limit God by decisions of our free will.
Is God really sovereign over the womb? Can God be limited by mankind’s exercise of free will which He himself, has conferred upon us? God gave us brains, doesn’t He expect us to use them?
But maybe that’s our problem – perhaps we’re thinking too hard. In The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality, Mary Pride suggests a simple alternative to “scheming and plotting how many babies to have and when to have them”:
It can be summed up in three little words: trust and obey. If God is willing to plan my family for me (and we Christians all do believe that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives), then why should I muddle up his plan with my ideas?
Consider this: If we use birth control, we are “playing God” by making a conscious determination regarding the prevention of life – and if we forego birth control, we are also “playing God” by making a conscious determination regarding the conception of life. Either way, we make a choice. Knowing good and evil – having the capacity to choose – this is what makes conscious human beings “like god.”
If we refuse to make an active choice regarding family planning, we are nevertheless making a choice.
Do our choices to use or not use birth control actually result in the prevention or conception of a baby? Who can know for sure? There are entirely too many variables and unknowns to reach any verifiably objective conclusions. Does God exist? If yes, does He supernaturally interfere with the natural course of a Christian couple’s reproductive life? Is His specific will regarding believers’ fertility revealed in the Bible? Whose interpretation of the relevant passages of scripture are most accurate? How do the “laws of nature” or “random chance” figure into the equation? The list of relevant considerations goes on and on …
Seeing that, for all practical purposes, these deep philosophical deliberations about “Who’s in control?” and “trusting God” vs “playing God” are essentially irrelevant to the question of whether Christian couples will have two babies, or a dozen babies, or no babies at all – believers should feel free to consider practical matters such as family dynamics, financial concerns, health risks to moms and babies, parental energy levels and temperament, and even individual personal preference, when “playing God” in their choice to welcome, or prevent, future pregnancies.
The real hinderance to mature discernment and clear thinking with regard to Christians and birth control comes from the absolute, black and white, either/or mindset implied in the phrase “trusting the Lord with our family planning.” This terminology should be recognized as a thought-stopping tactic contrived to arrogate the moral high-ground from anyone who might dare to question the validity of the claim that eschewing birth control is the only means of “trusting the Lord” with one’s reproductive life.
Reducing the issue to a simple matter of “Who’s In Control?” essentially derails the conversation and leaves no room for consideration of extenuating circumstances or personal conviction.
What do you think? Yes, you are allowed to think – and to express your personal views without fear of judgment regarding your spiritual maturity, personal devotion, or level of commitment to the Quiverfull party line. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
This is the first in a series intended to address real life issues that we former QFers faced – and the pat answers and comforting platitudes we repeated to console ourselves when the ideal did not exactly match up to reality.
Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce