This blog is an archive of Gordon-Conwell's (GCTS) faculty blog, Every Thought Captive (2008-2012). It contains posts of Dr. Jeffrey Arthurs, Dr. Maria Boccia, Dr. Roy Ciampa, Dr. John Jefferson Davis, Dr. David Horn, and Dr. Sean McDonough. Other posts with information of interest to alumni of GCTS may be listed occasionally by the Alumni Services office.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Should we have children?
By Maria Boccia, PhD
Professor of Pastoral Counseling and Psychology
Director of Graduate Programs in Counseling Charlotte campus
I have a friend who wants to have children. She is in the midst of deep conversation over this. Her husband says he does not want children - he says it will be like a death sentence to have a child. How do they decide? What factors go into the decision to have a child?
Peter Singer, chair of the Department of Philosophy at Princeton University, recently stirred up quite a bit of emotion with his blog “Should This Be the Last Generation?” (See http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/should-this-be-the-last-generation/). He presents the arguments of another philosopher who basically says, we should stop reproducing because it is better to have never existed than to have lived this life which has so much pain and suffering.
Let me repeat that: It is better to have never existed than to have lived because there is so much pain and suffering. The fleeting happiness we do experience is not worth the living of a life.
Singer is a utilitarian philosopher. He claims not to be a classic utilitarian philosopher because it’s not just about how much happiness he accrues. Rather his utilitarianism is one that asks what action creates the greatest good for all sentient beings, with the least harm. However, at bottom, “because it makes me happy” is basically why he says ‘yes’ - his children and grandchildren make him happy. They lead relatively happy lives.
Chuck Colson, member of the board of trustees of GCTS, wrote a column in the August edition of Christianity Today, “The Lost Art of Commitment.” Colson is commenting on the radical individualism of our culture that defines meaning in terms of personal happiness. Since the 1960s and 70s, a new generation has arisen that does not make commitments. That generation includes many who have no sense of community or social obligation, who live in a world perceived as lacking meaning. Colson cites Robert Bella as calling this “‘ontological individualism,’ the belief that the individual is the only source of meaning.” But Colson notes, instead, that life’s meaning is really found in relationship - with God and with each other, and this requires commitment. He writes, in exact opposition to what Peter Singer asserts, that “by abandoning commitment, our narcissistic culture has lost the one thing it desperately seeks: happiness. Without commitment, our individual lives will be barren and sterile. Without commitment, our lives with lack meaning and purpose. After all, if nothing is worth dying for . . . then nothing is worth living for” (emphasis added).
“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor 10:31). If God is our source of meaning, then this is the reason for our choices. To have children is an act of faith that God is still on his throne and sovereign over all creation. To have children is an act of hope that God is still watching and caring, and redeeming the world. To have children is an act of love that God has made the two one flesh and blessed that union.
This does not make our lives easier or simpler, or give us any guarantees. I don’t know what my friends will decide about children. I pray for them as they wrestle through their decision. It is painful to watch them struggle with this decision. I myself do not have children, not by choice. But since my life is about glorifying God, not my personal happiness, then I believe my childlessness is a part of his plan for me. Sometimes, this means I hold on to “God is sovereign and God is good” and look for his meaning in this. I cling to the Scripture that says all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, even if I can’t understand how right now. Jesus showed us that we are worth dying for, and that makes our lives worth living. Period. So, should we have children? That decision, as all decisions for us as children of God, should flow out of this truth, rather than some individualistic computation of personal happiness. “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” (Rev 4:11, NLT).