A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Childbirth Movement and Logic

In light of a recent discussion at Boundless, I got to thinking about the Childbirth Movement (which overlaps with the Marriage Mandate Movement) and the arguments some use to insist that married people must have children. As a Christian that tries to respect the scruples of other believers, I will not stand in the way of a couple who thinks that God is leading them to have children. I may disagree with their convictions, but I accord to them the charity that Christian unity demands (Romans 14).

Sadly, however, I don't think this charity is often reciprocated by the anti-contraceptive/childbirth advocates. Many of them equate their position with obedience to Christ. If they really believe their convictions are a reflection of a clear mandate in the Bible that is universally binding, then I suggest that they make their case in a reasonable manner. In particular, I ask those in the Childbirth Movement to stop using emotionalism, sloppy reasoning, bad argumentation, and fallacious logic. Here are some of the logical fallacies they need to steer clear of ...

1. Argumentum ad Homimem

Don't tell me what a bad Christian I am if I don't want to have children. Don't me I'm "worldly," "am selfish," etc. Don't point to some unfavorable trait about me as a person. You are not proving anything except maybe your dislike of people who happen to disagree with you.

2. Negative Inference Fallacy (a phrase coined by D. A. Carson)

You tell me that the Bible says children are blessing. So? It does not logically follow that not having children is not a blessing. Having children may be a blessing, but being childless may also be a blessing (How do we explain the commendation of singleness in the Bible if this were not the case, or do single people need to have children, too?).

3. Argumentum ad Consequentiam and Slippery Slope Fallacy

Don't tell me how acceptance of contraception and the refusal to have children will lead to abortions, some terrible economic crises, or the extinction of the human race.

4. Argumentum ad Naturam

Don't tell me that because having children is natural, we must therefore embrace childbearing.

5. Argumentum ad Populum, Argumentum ad Verecundiam, Argumentum ad Antiquitatem

I don't care how many "respected" "scholars" from your faith tradition believe something now or have believed something in the past. Present the arguments and let them stand or fall on their own merit. Also, don't tell me about how many times in the Bible we find people having children or exulting them. Polygamy and circumcision were pretty popular, too. Then there is foot-washing and greeting one another with a "holy kiss." Customs do not necessarily rise to the level of a Biblical mandate.

6. Argumentum ad Ignorantiam

Don't tell me, "There is no example of saints in the Bible refusing to have children." An argument from silence is inconclusive in and of itself.

7. Loaded Language

Don't talk to me about the "Christian worldview" until you prove that your views indeed reflect it. Don't talk about "selfish lusts" when discussing those who don't want to have children. What do you mean by the word "selfish" and "lust", anyway? That couples having sex for the sheer enjoyment of it or for expressing love are sinning? Please make your case from the Bible. Cut the emotion-laden buzzwords and give me just the facts, ma'am.

8. Argumentum ad Misericordiam (Appeal to Pity)

Don't ask me if I like children. Left-wing politicians "think of the children" when they proffer their interventionist, big-government programs. That, of course, does not make you a bleeding-heart liberal, but you do share the illogic of one if you employ the same sort of emotionalism in your line of reasoning.

9. Ignoratio Elenchi

Don't tell me that Lord "opens and closes wombs." It's true, but it's irrelevant to your case. The Bible says that the Lord "kills and makes alive" (1 Sam. 2:6), but I don't see a lot of Christians giving up their firearms as a gesture of trusting in the Lord.

10. Guilt By Association

Don't tell me how the big, bad, secular humanists take my position. Who cares? What if they have a bigger clue than you (Luke 16:8b)?

11. Suppressed Evidence

Don't keep repeating Gen. 1:28 like a Fisher-Price See-N-Say toy unless you are willing to deal with the counterarguments against your exegesis (e.g., the use of heterosis in the Hebrew language which changes the meaning of an imperative verb).

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. I am certain there are some other forms of bad argumentation that the Childbirth Movement adherents need to avoid. The point of my post is not, however, to say that these people are wrong. My point is that these people have their feelings invested in the debate; now is the time for them to invest their brains.

14 comments:

Ame said...

for a variety of reasons, the last being infertility, my ex and i were married 11 years before having a baby. we lived for about ten years in a small town that is mostly blue collar. i have nothing against that, i am simply stating a fact. in this town, most couples married young and had children young ... and were born and raised in that county. we stuck out like a sore thumb.

i had both my babies while living in that small town. but the thing is, i always only wanted one baby ... that was sorely looked upon in that small town. it wasn't a religious thing, but a that-town-personality-thing ... though some there did make it a spiritual thing.

God gave us two babies, both girls, and those stories are miracles in themselves. when they were 3 and 5 we moved to a neighboring town and into a multi-culteral neighborhood. there we were considered "normal" having children in our early thirties and only having two. we would have even been considered so normal if we'd only had one.

there are bible-believing christians in both communities. is one community more biblical than the other? nope. just different.

btw - one argument OFTEN given to me AGAINST only wanting one baby/child was this: "everytime i meet an only child, they always say they're an only child."

i got to thinking about that ... often in conversation family of origin comes up in many multi-faceted ways, and I always say, "i'm the oldest of four."

so ... what's the difference?

***

i think it's sad that people are taught both ways exclusively. there are people who've bought into the world is too big and you can do it all if you don't have too many kids theories and didn't have as many children as they would've liked. then there are those who really didn't want many children, and who, because of their nature and personality probably shouldn't have had many children, but were pressured into having 'as many as the Lord gives us.'

***

i just wanna know ... when did man become more wise than God?

i understand this is difficult theologically sometimes. after all, if God is the creator of all life, then He is the creator of ALL life ... so how does that apply to the children who are dying of starvation or who were/are being sexually abused by their dad's?

i certainly cannot begin to understand all of this. but i cannot agree with my ex mil, who is a retired career missionary, who said to me once, "it would be better if these children had been aborted."

i cannot choose who should live or who should be created ... or who should die or who should be killed (unless you're harming one of my kids or my life ... then, well, it's you that's making the choice for me to protect us against you)

***

i know ... i'm rambling ... but i, too, am bothered by those who impose their convictions on us which are not explicit (such as infidelity, murder-David-style, homosexuality).

i'm a really "good girl," yet their rules even hammer me into the ground and make me want to run and hide. i cannot measure up; their standards are beyond me. so i can either get a more biblical pov or i can wallow in guilt that's of man and not of God.

Amir Larijani said...

It's one thing to make a case against the "Christian Childbirth Movement"--I give it the same credibility as I give the "Marriage Mandate" movement.

On the other hand, it is a wholly different matter to contend that the advent of medical contraception and conventional "family planning" have been good for the world.

It is also a wholly different matter to suggest that depopulating the earth is a good thing, when in fact (a) it is an economic disaster for the generation that has to retire, relying on "extended care facilities" to provide what family members would have; (b) it is an economic disaster for the generation that finds itself having to divert scarce resources--that would not otherwise have been necessary--to care for these retirees, irrespective of whether social security is there; (c) it is a spiritual disaster for the society that resorts to expedient means to deal with that crisis; (d)it is an economic malaise to have to create economic value while dealing with a declining labor force, as a decline in the labor force represents a decline in human capital.

So, while you have a legitimate rant against the dogmatists in the "Christian childbirth movement", you'd best stay away from any inference that depopulation is somehow a God-honoring societal value, whereas God gave no such command in particular or general.

Christina said...

When it comes to "be fruitful and multiply", I attribute it as a group command...not an individual command.

Meaning it is not the responsibility of any one individual to multiply, but the entire collection of us to do so...which leaves room for those without the conviction to have children to...well...NOT.

When it comes to contraceptives, I think the underlying feelings concerning it are:
1) the potential abortifacient properties of BC can be inconsistent with their views that life begins at conception and they are trying to be consistent in their approach...and think everyone else should see that reasoning as well...and if they don't...well, you know the rest of that argument.

2) contraceptives put YOU in control of something YOU shouldn't be in control of...that should be left in God's hands only...and that's another struggle to maintain consistency in their convictions.

I believe in both of those statements. I really do think that the only contraceptive God provided us with was Abstinence...I'd probably be ok with NFP, though I've heard the #2 argument applied to that as well...

I don't want to have a 2nd baby less than a year after my first! For my own sanity, for my body, for my husband, for my child's sanity, and for some semblance of harmony in my home...which is dreadfully lacking when children are THAT close in age (I still don't get along that well with my sister).

I'd be ok with it, I guess...and I want more...but...

Yeah, I'm rambling.

You see, the problem I'm having here is that where I believe that life begins at conception, being ok with even the POTENTIAL of spontaneous abortion caused by something I had control over sounds inconsistent to me.

The problem I'm having is that any kind of control I try to put on myself now that I am married feels like I'm not putting my faith and trust in the knowledge that he knows best.

And the idea "we're using BC until we're financially stable" sounds an awful lot like not having faith and trusting.

I'm not one of the "child mandate" club members, but I'm incredibly wary of contraceptives and what I believe that says about my faith and trust in God.

I really wish God did put something in scripture about BC. It would make this sooo much easier. But everyone and anyone wanted lots and lots of kids...I do, too...but 2 years between, PLEASE.

Anyway, Anakin -
Even if their arguments are unsound, they have actually really valid reasons for holding onto them. They tend to be more consistent in their approach to the value of life and God's role in that than people who are ok with the use of contraceptives.

I respect them for that.

Question is - we know that not everyone need have children and that it is not biblically mandated [to the individual]...so where is the flaw in the connection they've made?

Ame said...

Christina said: "2) contraceptives put YOU in control of something YOU shouldn't be in control of...that should be left in God's hands only...and that's another struggle to maintain consistency in their convictions."


I'm not one who believes that everytime a couple has sex they should leave it in the hands of God whether or not they conceive ... though I know some who do believe this way, and certainly they are free to do so.

i agree with your first concern, but after that, i think there's a reason God did not explicitely define this in scripture.

i agree with what Amir wrote.

i've just seen this go both ways in families ... where couples really should have had more kids but thought it was wrong to do so ... and where couples really should have stopped having so many kids but thought it was wrong to do so. i've seen and experienced the pressure/guilt from both sides.

Elusive Wapiti said...

First, to address the notion peddled by Pelosi that birth control reduces cost, so does abortion, in that it kills fetuses that would otherwise grow up to be a burdenon the State. To say nothing of the abortion - less crime link. There is very little difference in my miniscule brain between the BC that Pelosi advocates and giving away free abortions at PP; both hail from an irredeemably eugenic POV.

Regarding argumentum ad consequentam, I don't think this is a 'fallacy'--and therefore an invalid form of argumentation--at all. The effect of a moral system is quite germane to a discussion that one moral system is superior than the other. If a moral system prompts its adherents to not reproduce themselves, and another does, then clearly the latter is superior in economic terms as well as societal survival terms.

Regarding a spirit of fear and being too in control, it is easy to go too far with this one IMHO. What is the difference, from a control POV, between BC and say, buying a firearm to protect yourself? Or getting heart surgery because you have a debilitating arrhythmia? At what point does a person go from virtue in taking care of and providing for himself and sin by not trusting God in matters of conception, personal safety, or health?

Christina said...

Ame,

My two points were simply outlining the 2 major arguments pertaining to the people who do this children mandate thingy.

Yeah, I kinda agree with both of them, but because I have my own issues with them...

Anyway, I was just trying to point out they have some reasons for believing what they do. They aren't simply out to get you.

author@ptgbook.org said...

I like your list of logical fallacies because they can be used to see the fallacies of many arguments on other issues. It would be good if people debating any issue could learn to avoid these false arguments.

While there are Bible principles that can be used to explore the issue of contraception, there is nothing in the Bible that clearly says that it is wrong. In Bible times, it would be rare for a married couple to not to want as many children as possible, so contraception was never an issue that God addressed specifically. The only thing I know of that comes close is the passage in Genesis 38:6-10, yet this cannot be used to say that contraception is wrong because there are other reasons for God's judgement in this case.

I think this is an area where Christians should not judge other Christians. It is up to the person making the decision to exercise wisdom and seek God's will in the matter, not for others who are not affected by that person's decision to second guess it (Romans 14:4). If a person has to make a decision about this, and the person is sincerely seeking God's will in the matter and looking to the Bible for answers, God is well able to give that person the wisdom to know God's will for them.

There is certainly nothing wrong with giving advice to those who ask, and we can share our views and reasons in that case. But we should not judge others for what they decide to do in this matter, because the Bible simply is not clear and specific about this.

Ken said...

I don't have strong convictions on the use of true contraception - only something that is primarily abortive in function.

But here are some thoughts...

There are many things that are considered blessings but are not for everyone, or people limit themselves to a small number of them.

I consider the argument some make like this one... "contraceptives put YOU in control of something YOU shouldn't be in control of" - How has that been determined? Why is using a condom different than using a glove? Why is using contraception different than using blood pressure medication?

What comes to mind is an "elevation" of sex, or putting it on a pedestal. If intercourse always has the potential to create life, then it is something extra special and more than just fun, bonding, and an expression of love. But then does that make post-menopausal sex a lesser experession? Or what if a woman has a hysterectomy to save her life from cancer?

Finally, a friend of mine who recently underwent a vesectomy said to his wife... "If God wants us to have another child, He can still make it happen." He was joking, but need that be a joke? Why would that be an invalid way of thinking?

Like I said... I'm not convinced on this either way. I can understand the view of not tampering with sex and the procreative properties thereof. However, my wife and I have used different means at different times to avoid conception, largely due to health issues. (We ARE parents... by intention... so obviously we are not opposed to having children.)

Wonder Woman said...

Go out, get jiggy with it ;-)

Anonymous said...

Since when was 'worldy' an insult?

God didn't give you babies, you had sex without protection and one lucky sperm got through/ or you chose to seek outside help in becoming pregnant. It is biological and scientific, not a holy gift.
You did it, take credit!

And some advise, quit wasting your time interpreting the bible. You read it and mold what you think it says into what fits your life choices.

You all make me so sad, there are so many important things your missing... so sad.

Ame said...

if sex were simply for procreation, this would not be true:
http://www.themarriagebed.com/pages/biology/female/frequency.shtml

Ame said...

okay ... that link didn't work by copying it over ... let me try typing it in (since i don't know how to put a link in a comment)

www.themarriagebed.com/pages/biology/frequency.shtml

Ame said...

the end of that is

frequency.shtml

Ame said...

okay ... that didn't work either.

at www.themarriagebed.com

click on "biology"
"female"
"how frequency affects women"

if that doesn't work, i quit