Why We Are not Quiverfull

by Mary Stephens
August 2016

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

Reasons We Do Not Follow Quiverfull - Part 4
Points 4-6


4. Quiverfull is contrary to nature as God created it.

Psalms 104:24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

Various animals have a basic, God-given instinct to survive.  Some will abandon their young when there isn't enough food available for them to survive - during a drought perhaps. (I'm not suggesting infanticide, so don't even go there!)  Some animals will have fewer offspring when there is a shortage of food.  I have heard that wolves will not even mate if there is not enough food.  So we see that limiting or reducing population is a basic instinct in wild animals to ensure survival and promote healthy offspring.  They cannot reason as we can and do not even have a free will as we do.  How much more responsible should humans be in such decisions?

I am not talking about the typical humanist idea of reducing the world population.  Generally speaking, that is promoted for self-serving and greedy reasons.  However, since God built this mechanism into at least some of His creatures, it would be folly for us to deny that it has a useful place in creation!  I realize this will probably rub some people the wrong way, but I have come to realize that there are things we take for granted as "good, godly" beliefs which we did not get from the Bible or the reality of how God made this world.

There are many reasons why couples might decide to limit the size of their family.  It could be the mental, physical or emotional health of one or both parents.  For various reasons it could be due to the health problems of other children in the family.  It could be because of a known genetic disorder that one parent is sure to pass on. 

Financial abilities may be very limited making it wiser to have fewer children.  I know, some of "the wise ones" will say that those people need more faith.  It is always easy to cast blame and accusations.  Romans 14:23 shows us the principle that when we do things without faith we are sinning - And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.  Therefore, if someone doesn't have the faith to live that way, they would be sinning to try, and it might prove to be a horrible failure. (That would be partly your fault, Mrs. Wise-and-Wonderful Quiverfull Teacher. Thank you very much.  Job 12:2 No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.)

Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.  There are folks who would not like to see this verse used this way, but I frankly think it fits.  I have known more than one family that would not stop having kids and ended up with a real problem or tragedy.  There are parents who continue having children despite a genetic problem that recurs and end up spreading themselves too thin trying to care for all their troubled children.  Often enough the mother's body wears out and either she has kids with physical problems or, more commonly, the mother herself becomes ill and maybe even dies.  It can even lead to the mother having mental illness due to a variety of causes, not the least of which is a depleted body.  For obvious reasons, I am not going to offer specific details here, but it does happen and I'm not the only one who has observed this.  I know of at least two cases where the mother apparently died early because she had worn her body out so thoroughly having many children, and one or two where the couple ended up with a child with physical disabilities or deformities after have a long string of healthy children.  In more than one of these cases the mother's body was giving strong signals that it was time to stop, and yet the couple went right on having children regardless of the consequences.

5. It can ruin the beauty of the sexual relationship as God made it to be enjoyed within marriage.

In their reactionary thinking against feminism and "modern culture", some may be carried to an opposite position and deny the enjoyment of the sexual relationship as God intended it.  In fact, though I don't know how prevalent this might be in Quiverfull groups, there are people who teach that sex is for procreation only, and once a woman can no longer have children it must stop.  A friend of mine who lives in another area once told me that I would be surprised how many people believe that.

Others teach that wives are to please their husbands in this always and whenever it is demanded with no qualifications and no regard for the wife's wishes, health or abilities - she should be "always available."  They couch it in "nice" and noble terms, but ultimately this is what it amounts to.  In other words, they have totally denied the God-mandated equal rights that are to exist in this aspect of the marriage relationship.  1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. It is no wonder that there can be bitterness, misery, and lack of enjoyment for the wife, and tendencies toward sexual domination and even abuse in the husband.  Some people in the Christian patriarchy movement actually glorify and mandate men taking sexual dominion over their wives.

It has been an issue of considerable comment on the internet in recent times that Doug Wilson wrote the following statement in his book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:

"In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts."

Please notice how little this has in common with 1 Cor. 7:4 where equal power is given to both parties.  When a vile attitude like this of dominion taking over the wife is combined with the Quiverfull philosophy (which, of course, it is for some) the result can become a situation where the wife actually feels like she is being raped or forced ("conquered") and so has a constant struggle with what she is taught is a "bad attitude" or "lack of submission".  The love and beauty that God intended in this relationship becomes lost in the "need" for "duty" (making "arrows") and "submission" (always giving the man his way).  Being stripped of the dignity of being an equal partner in a mutually delightful relationship, the wife can easily fall into many difficulties mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  No wonder they sometimes become preoccupied with their identity as mothers (as previously discussed) when their role as a lover has been violated or demeaned.

One thing that I am convinced has contributed to the mistaken attitudes toward the marriage relationship was the reinterpreting of Song of Solomon to only or mainly be a parable or picture of Christ and the church.  The problem is that we are never told it is a type of "Christ and the church" anywhere in the Bible.  This is assumed because marriage is used as a picture of Christ and the church in some New Testament teaching and there are certainly images there that fit, but Song of Solomon is never directly referenced in the N.T. as a type or parable in this context.  It is always a bit perilous to force types where God has not clearly marked them, and in the case of an erotic book on married sexuality it frankly gets rather messy and difficult to make the typology work throughout!

Furthermore, the old Jewish scholars considered the book to be a sex manual and treated it as such, requiring young men and women to reach a certain age before they were even allowed to read it.  I know there are plenty of people who see the point on that, but there are still some who are much more eager to emphasize its alleged spiritual meaning and ignore the plainly erotic meaning for the married couple.  The reason is sadly obvious - they don't want to consider the possibility that God wants us to enjoy the marriage privileges all that much, if at all.  And, in some cases probably, it is difficult for them that both parties in Solomon's Song find the relationship delightful - not just the man.

By the way, it is commonly said that Esther is the only book in the Bible where God's name does not appear.  It does not appear in Song of Solomon either.  The reason that we don't notice this is because so many of the lover names in that book have been applied to Christ that we have just assumed He is mentioned.  However, those names are never applied to the Lord Jesus anywhere else in scripture!

Another serious stumblingblock for some is the ideology put forth that using birth control is what causes abortion - that having birth control available somehow led to abortion being legalized.  While certain tendencies may perhaps exist in the world, those tendencies most certainly should not among the those ...who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1.  "Contraceptives" have been around for thousands of years.  (I don't wish to discuss this at length here, but you can do your own research.)  To say that anyone who permits or uses pregnancy prevention is apt to develop abortionist tendencies or to embrace abortion is hyperbole intended to terrify the weak minded. (Remember the cultic tendencies?)  We have had various methods of modern pregnancy prevention available and being used by Christians for several generations now.  Yet, some of us who have come from these lines still do not embrace abortion as "ok".  Hm.  That kind of puts a monkey wrench in the alleged "logic" of those who claim the one leads to the other.

It has been reported that some go so far as to say that when a couple uses any form of birth control, the husband views his wife as nothing but a prostitute.  This is idiotic.  Anyone who has used some method of pregnancy prevention in the marriage relationship knows that this is ridiculous.  I suspect it has developed from the idea that sex is only for making babies and not enjoyment, so if it is done for the express purpose of enjoyment alone it is the same as prostitution.  Ugh!  Who reads the Bible and actually thinks that?  Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled...  It doesn't say it is undefiled only as long as they are trying to make babies.  What the Bible doesn't say is often as important as what it does say.

Furthermore, under the perpetual burden to not turn down any "blessings" from God and to keep the "arrows" (babies) coming for the "war on culture", the joy of sex within the marital union may be lost.  It can easily become "just another Christian duty" rather than an act of mutual enjoyment and satisfaction.  Add the growing responsibility of numerous children to care for and you have a potentially toxic, or even deadly, mix.  Also, when the babies don't come, or don't come quickly enough it can and does become stressful and depressing to some couples.

6. The abundance of children can result in poor parenting and burn out.

No matter how hard you try to idealize it, the fact is that large families are a lot of work!  Frankly, there are people who are not up to the challenge.  They neglect their duties in various ways and things don't turn out well.  Some parents simply fail. The kids are not trained, loved or supervised by either parent as they should be.  Some men pass the buck to the wife and she's expected to rear, train, feed, teach, clothe, etc. pretty much alone - sometimes on a very small income.

Some men do make an effort, but they are so busy trying to support their family - working 2-3 various jobs and scrounging to survive - that they simply are not available most of the time.  The kids get very little fathering.  Some are better off than this, but there are plenty struggling under this burden.  We have known some.  In some cases the older sons and even daughters may be compelled to help financially however the father deems fit.

Some parents pass their responsibilities on to the older children.  The "buddy system" has become notable through the Duggars' use of it.  The older children, particularly daughters, end up doing most of the hands-on day-to-day parenting that goes on under this system.  The younger children in a family may have very limited relationships with their parents.  For the older kids, this system may lead to loss of joy, abnormal stress and even panic attacks, emotional problems, resentments, and possessiveness of the younger children whom they eventually see as belonging to themselves.  Parents of very large families may also have difficulty in letting go of their free nanny service when the older daughters are old enough to marry.  This is not what the Bible tells parents to do! 

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Responsibility for children is given to the parents, and specifically the fathers.  Mothers are to love their children according to Titus 2.  It is not loving them to let them raise each other.

Once when we were in a group of Quiverfull people a little child in one family came to his mother and asked if he could have a cookie, or some such sweet.  His mother answered him, "Go ask your buddy."  Because of the "buddy system" that they were using she did not even know if her small child could have another cookie or not.  She had abdicated her responsibility to her older daughters and was obligated to send her small son to his sibling for his authority and instruction.  This is incredibly sad - sad for the mother, sad for child, sad for the sibling who should not have that responsibility.

Some people depend on their parents to help them raise their kids.  To some degree grandparents may enjoy this and it has some benefits, but there are limits.  They may be a source of wisdom, but they should not be "household servants" (like Mrs. Duggar, Jim Bob's mother, has been at times).  If the grandparents know that if they don't help the children will not be properly cared for, something is seriously wrong.  There are a surprising number of people handing their kids off to their parents to raise these days.  This could be a significant temptation for parents with very large families who are struggling with the level of work and responsibility they have taken upon themselves.

Various needs may be neglected in favor of others.  This can happen in any home, but when there is an overabundance of children to attend to and perhaps a lack of strength, funds or health, the issues can become more serious.  In keeping up with physical and educational needs the spiritual and emotional may be neglected, or vice versa.  There may be little or no time for real Bible teaching or study.  There may be no time for heart-to-heart talks with a parent when a child actually needs it.  The only person available may be their "buddy", and their "buddy" - who is also a child - may not be able to deal with it, or may be part of the problem.  Meals and food may be shorted due to lack of resources or because the excess of household needs makes it hard to keep up with food preparation.  Education may suffer where there are not enough funds to keep up with the materials necessary for homeschooling.

My parents once knew a large family who were all very thin and the children were mostly, if not all, undersized for their age.  This was due to lack of resources - which was partly because the father was not making a legitimate effort to support his family. Yet the husband joked that "he didn't know where the kids were coming from" and they made no apparent effort to stop.  "Of course," it is the "spiritual people" who "trust God with their families".  Hm?

One Quiverfull wife who had been having babies back to back for several years told a friend of mine that she didn't even know what they believed any more about some things.  She had been too busy with babies to grow with her husband spiritually.  This is tragic.  Certainly it is not how Jesus would lead His bride!  He told Martha that the needful thing was to sit at His feet and hear His word!

Luke 10:38-42 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Do you actually suppose that Jesus would want a woman to have so many children so quickly that she does not have time to do the one needful thing of sitting at His feet and hearing His word?  It isn't possible, and I'm sure that He expects us to use our minds and wills to know what to do about it.

Another family that I knew about years ago had taken up the belief that they had to "trust God with their family" in order to be "spiritual" because it had been preached so in their church.  The mother of one of the parents was a personal friend of mine.  When their 6th or 7th baby was born she was there.  She later was lamenting about it as she reported how at the birth they had an attitude that plainly said, "Ho-hum, another baby."  She felt that if there was no joy in having children it was time to stop.  She had a good point.  People who are bored or wearied of having kids are going to be apt to neglect or even abuse them.

Here is a passage that, though it is speaking on another subject, is interesting to think about:

2 Corinthians 10:12-15 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,

Notice how Paul speaks of "measure" and "measuring" so many times here.

Now consider this:

Romans 12:3-6 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us...

I am going to stop there because the point I want us to see is that we have different measures and different gifts.  God gives the measure of faith that we need for the work for which He has prepared us within the body of Christ.  When we try to reach beyond that measure to someone else's calling or in thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, we are looking for trouble.  We only complicate our lives and make them more difficult than the Lord intended them to be.  Indiscriminately coveting large numbers of children is one way that Christians can stretch themselves beyond the measure of faith and provision that God has ordained for them.  The results cannot be good over the long haul, and if they appear to be good, there will still be trials and difficulties that God did not intend for those people to bear.  The Lord is merciful and He is gracious, but He expects us to make an effort to be wise and to live within the measure and place that He has given us.

Hebrews 13:4-5 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

to title page.
Continue to Part 5.



Graphics by Mary Stephens
Vintage graphics - source unknown.
Edited by Mary Stephens.