Why We Are not "Quiverfull"

by Mary Stephens
July 2016

If you did not start at the first page and introduction, please go here.

Reasons We Do Not Follow Quiverfull - Part 2


2. Quiverfull denies the free will and common sense.

Proverbs 4:26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

In the view of Quiverfull, men are expected to make wise choices in many areas of life, but not the size of their family.  They are to choose their employment, their location, with whom they fellowship, their goals and objectives.  They are told to determine God's will for themselves and their families.  They are encouraged by some to make 200 year plans for their family's future.  They are supposed to tell their wives and daughters how to run the household, and in some cases even dictate all their use of time.  They are, in practice, to choose their daughters' husbands for them.  They are even supposed to figure out what work their sons are supposed to be doing, according to some.  But, they are not allowed to choose when to stop having kids or how many to have according the the doctrinaire  Quiverfull ideology.  This makes no sense.

Someone may want to bring up the issue of what people did in the past, assuming that they had no way to limit births.  Partly, this is true, but not entirely.  The people in O.T. times were not as ignorant as our evolutionary influenced history has made us believe. Also, men could have more than one wife and concubines which, if you stop and think about it, could be a form of birth control and a means to space children for an individual wife.  There were also other means of birth control available in the distant past which you can research if it interests you.

In more recent history there are several aspects that are seldom, if ever, mentioned when arguing for large families for the present time.  Back then people did not live as long as we do now. Health was much poorer and disease more deadly.  More women died in childbirth.  These differences could and/or did affect people's childbearing abilities.  Added to that, infant mortality was high in many situations.  People did try to have lots of babies back then because many of them died before they could grow up.  King James I of England and his wife had eight children.  Two of them arrived at adulthood, despite their obvious advantages living in a king's palaces.  It was not uncommon in Africa in the not-so-distant-past for a woman to lose every child she birthed.  Yes, they had lots of babies - because many of them didn't grow up to become adults.  And, this isn't even mentioning the need for farm hands in the agrarian families and those in serfdom. 

This mindset, however, did not relax quickly when children began to survive, and some people seem to think it is still essential primarily on the principle of "that's what they did in the good old days."  We are not obligated to live our lives stuck in the past.  We have the choice to use, but not abuse (1 Cor. 7:31), the resources of this world, including methods to space or limit the number of children we have. 
Wives are expected to make choices too - nutritional food, good training of kids, good house keeping plans, wise use of finances for the household, homeschooling materials, which handmade goods to make for their families, and much more.  But a wife is not allowed to decide that she has had enough babies or that she needs a break.

Without regarding the needs of their family, their own personal needs or the situation in which they are living, the idea is presented by some (though not all) Quiverfull minded people that there is no choice in family size.  Some even go so far as to say, or imply, that if the wife dies due to the strains of childbearing "it must have been God's will."  This sort of cavalier attitude is disheartening at best.  In the worst cases it results in real tragedies.  (Yes, women do die or become permanently ill from overworking their bodies in childbearing.)

This attitude appears to me to be an abuse of the sovereignty of God.  They are using it as an excuse to avoid making a decision, and also they can blame God for any bad results that occur.  But the sovereignty of God does not automatically exclude the free will of man.  Some people imagine that you can't have both.  This simply isn't true, and for those of us who believe it, there is no problem.  After all, everything we believe and know to be true about God is by faith.  What is so complicated about believing this by faith?  Just because something is difficult to understand doesn't mean it's impossible.  In fact, God specializes in the impossible, does He not?

Romans 11:33-34 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

As one preacher said, "I'm glad that God is big enough to give us a free will and still get His will done."  Or as a friend of ours once said, "We have a free will, but God's will is freer."  God can and does give us choices in many areas of life.  He may overrule our decisions sometimes for our own good.  Other times He will allow us to have things that are not really good for us because He sees that we are determined to have them, even to our own hurt.  There are repeated examples of these things in the Bible, and in real life.

And so it is with having children.  There are methods of birth limiting that do not endanger the life of a child in any way.  If we choose to use these, God can overrule our free will choice at any time.  But, it does not follow that we should just abdicate sound judgment and wise choices. 

Ephesians 5:25-29 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

I personally believe the simile of Christ and His bride has been recently overused in dictating the relationships of husbands and wives, but I'm going to use it myself here.  Explain to me how Christ overworks His bride and runs her into the ground by forcing her to bear children and work harder than she is able.  Oh, you say He empowers us with the Holy Ghost?  Hm.  Now explain to me how a husband can do that for his wife?  How can he empower her and heal her from her physical damage so that she is able to bear more children without risk to her health - mental or physical?  A mere man doesn't have that choice nor that power.  Maybe he is supposed to exercise the ability to give his wife a break or even stop having kids in order to care for her as he would his own body. (By the way, I have a sneaking suspicion that this teaching wouldn't be nearly a popular as it is if the men had to be pregnant for nine months and birth and breastfeed the unlimited numbers of children.  Just sayin'...)

 The Duggars are one family who has continued to try to have children even after Michelle went through a dangerous delivery with Josie (their last living child).  Josie was a micro-preemie (with accompanying health issues) and Michelle's life was in jeopardy, yet Jim Bob and Michelle refused to stop and there was another pregnancy after Josie which Michelle miscarried.  Had they exercised wisdom and prudence in regards to the life of Michelle and the baby, the whole family would have been spared this grief and the baby would not have died.  Saying, "We are trusting God with our family", is a cop out, plain and simple.  It feels like mockery of the sovereignty of God because they refused to make a wise choice for themselves and their unborn child.  There is no difference between that and a kid who says "I couldn't help it" when caught doing something stupid.  They could help it, and it would be to their credit and good if they did.
We have heard various stories of people who continued to have children when the life of the mother and/or the baby was in serious danger.  Some claimed to believe that a couple could choose to stop having children in such cases, and yet they were compelled by something to ignore wisdom and their free will, and to keep on having babies.  This, even when the danger was real that the mother's health would either be greatly damaged or that she might actually die.  There is something deeply disturbing about that.  It is almost as if they were afraid to exercise their will in the matter (some of them being hyper-Calvinists, this is quite possible).  I am convinced that in at least some cases they are afraid of God, or of what He might do to them if they made that choice.  (We will discuss the fear tactics used to intimidate people later in this series.)  I know of at least one case where a mother of numerous children was praying that God would stop "giving them babies" because she was beyond done.  Yet, she and/or her husband refused to consider that it was time to stop, or at least do something to space the children. 

I cannot see how this behavior reflects the love of Christ for His church.  God tells us how the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep.  Psalms 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  And again, Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.  A good and gentle shepherd will make sure that his sheep get the rest that they need.  If he has a ewe that has had physical problems or illness or trouble breeding, he will keep her apart and give her a break to help her health improve before he allows her to lamb again.  It is impossible that the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:20), would be any less gentle and kind to His sheep! 

What right, then, does a Christian man (who is supposed to be treating his wife as Christ treats the church) have to treat his wife as if she were nothing but an expendable breeding machine?  If she dies, "Oh well, it's God's fault because that was her main job and calling in life.  She is a hero because she died performing it."  No, they don't say that in so many words, but it is the bald truth when the layers of self-righteous zeal are pealed away.  Their grief may be real, but would to God that they felt the just guilt and repentance for treating their wives this way!

Psalms 18:35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

God gave us a will to choose, and while it is true that He is sovereign and can overrule our wills at any time, He still gives us a lot of leeway to exercise ours.  And, since He didn't give us a command in the New Testament regarding how many children we should have, it seems self-evident that we must make a choice.  If someone chooses to have a large family, fine and well, and may they do so with wisdom and care for the health of all involved.  But, to shame people for making the choice to stop having kids, or for not having kids at all, is presumptuous.  It is speaking for God where He is silent, which is dangerous at the very least.

By the way, in case you didn't know it, it actually pleases God when we exercise our will in a way that glorifies Him.  If a man looks at his wife and sees that having children, or having more children, would be a bad thing for her, and if in his compassion and love for her, he decides to not continue - that glorifies God because he is obediently loving his wife as his own flesh!

Psalms 90:12 So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

to title page.  Continue to Part 3.

Most graphics by Mary Stephens
Vintage graphic - source unknown