Is Procreation an Imperative for Christian Marriage?
In the Book of Genesis, the natural flow of the covenantal relationship between Adam and Eve led to procreation. However, procreation was not defined as a condition of their one-flesh covenant.
In the creation story, “God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’” (Genesis 1:22, NIV). It was a blessing pronounced upon humankind, not a commandment. In Genesis 2 creation story, Eve was created because “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). There is no mention of procreation as the purpose of Eve’s creation; rather, her purpose was to provide a suitable companion and helper, because it is not good for one to be alone.
Likewise, in Ephesians 5 definition of marriage, there is no mention of procreation. Although sexual intercourse may create children, procreation is not the sole reason for the gift of sex. The Bible never names procreation as a condition of marriage.(1) Sex is more than baby-making; it’s “marriage glue.” Marriage bonds are deepened and strengthened through intimate and exclusive sexual relationships.
Though not a requisite for marriage, procreation was, of course, highly valuable in the Old Testament world. Logically, for the human race to flourish, the first two people had to be fertile and mutually attracted. Furthermore, the small tribe of Israelites and their bloodline needed to be preserved to ensure the birth of Jesus as prophesied. The question becomes, though, does the man-and-woman relationship of Genesis 2 become the norm, or standard, for all people, all the time?
In the New Testament, God’s family is grown not through procreation but by faith and by people becoming new followers of Jesus. In Mark 3:31-35, a crowd gathered around Jesus, squeezing out His mother and brothers. Someone went to Jesus to tell Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers? . . . Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (NIV).
Consider, too, that no society has ever denied marriage to infertile people. Nor have marriages been nullified for not producing children. The Bible never requires the procreation of a married couple. There are numerous biblical examples of infertile women and couples, yet the fact of infertility never invalidates their marriage or their value in God’s eyes.
What’s more, sex between a man and a woman is not the only way to create a family. Adoption, surrogacy, artificial insemination, step-parenting, grandparenting, and legal guardianship are just some of the ways our society provides for children to be nurtured by people who love them and will take responsibility for them.
As of 2013, as many as six million children and adults in America had a gay or transgender parent. An estimated 39% of individuals who are part of same-sex couples have children at home with them. About one-third of lesbians and one-fifth of gay men have children.28
For those who care about the protection of families and children, consider this: A substantial number of gay parents in the United States have children living with them; they would like to provide their children with a family built on the foundation of a loving marriage recognized in both civil and Christian spheres. For no other reason than that these parents make up half of a same-sex couple—no matter that it’s a loving, committed relationship—access to this foundation of the family is denied them.
Other posts in the series on Marriage Equality:
The Shifting Definition of Marriage
Marriage is an American Civil Right
The Long Road to Marriage Equality in America Began in 1968
A Christian Case for Support of Biblical Same-Sex Marriage
Does Christian Marriage Require Complementarity?
26 See Acts 5:29-39, in particular vv. 38b-39.
27 Brownson, Dr. James, Bible, Gender, Sexuality, 89.
28 “LGBT Parenting in the United States,” The Williams Institute, February 2013, http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/censuslgbtdemographicsstudies/ lgbtparentingintheunitedstates/.
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