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.
5 weeks ago