Explaining Genesis to our children

I haven’t yet had the talk RJS asks about with my inquisitive, but trusting, science nerd second-grader, but I think she’s become aware of the science/creationism conflict, particularly as regards the age of the earth. She reads all secular books about science and we talk about science as though there were no such thing as creationism, […]

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The first commandment (chronologically)

I am aware that a few of my theological positions are considered by many of my evangelical readers to be “liberal” (e.g. my beliefs on origins and biblical inerrancy). But this post will (unfortunately and unintentionally) be likely to cause controversy due to its blatant conservatism. More conservative, it turns out, than most modern evangelicals.

Anyone know right offhand the first directive God is recorded to have issued mankind? Hint: it’s not about which tree to eat from. This one reveals one of God’s chief purposes for the race He created as the crowning constituent of His world:

“Have lots of babies. Raise them to take their place in the administration of My Kingdom.”

This is obviously my own colloquialization of Genesis 1.28, but I’m sure you have guessed the wording of the original command: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

It has been said that this was “a blessing, not a command,” and indeed, the words quoted above were introduced as a blessing: “Then God blessed them and said…” Now I want you to try to imagine how being blessed is not also an act of commission: how like God would it be to make provision for something He doesn’t care one way or another about? I can’t think of anything in Scripture that sounds anything remotely like, “You know, you may never wish to take advantage of this blessing, but I just want you to know that if you ever want to [blank], I’ve got you covered.” God’s blessings express His heart; far from offering an option subject to be disregarded at our whim, His blessings communicate His plan and His commitment to seeing that plan through to fulfillment.

Even in recent times, right up until and even after industrialization, the pattern God ordained was still maintained on a broad scale. Parents wanted to have children to help out in or around the home or contribute income from other employment as soon as they came of age; children were expected to help provide for their parents and siblings as time progressed. Family was a primary focus of everyone’s life; those for whom this was not the case were looked on as flighty, uncommitted, and frivolous.

But things changed: it was as though humanity decided that its commission to subdue the earth was complete, and so reproduction was optional at best and too downright inconvenient at worst. Too often these days in which self-centeredness is the rule, Americans who start having children early (and by early I mean before their late twenties) are assumed to be either 1) clumsy in their birth control efforts or 2) quaint and old-fashioned. Usually in that order.*

Actually, that first assumption is somewhat justifiable: since the advent of birth control, people have been able to enjoy sex with abandon simply for mutual or self-gratification. Christians with this mindset thank God for the gift of birth control. Birth control may in fact be a gift of God, but one arguably more beneficial to the Kingdom when unbelievers avail themselves of it. Consider the following points.

Sunday, December 21st, 2008