Should Calvinists have Children?

At first this sounds like a joke. But really, if one honestly accepts the ridgid tenants of Calvinism then this becomes a vitally important question.

First, let me report that many Calvinists, though they cannot, according to their philosophy, make a legitimate choice for themselves, nonetheless make a choice to not have children or put the having of children off until a better time. In otherwords, many practice birth control of one kind or another. As the thoughtful people they are, they know better than to leave this up to God and have children willy-nilly. Many participate in what is called in the real world, “family planning.” 

When asked about how this might work itself out in the realm of miniscule (absolute) sovereignty they will give, what appears to this writer, a convoluted,  unsatisfying answer about God somehow directing them to contraception but try as hard as I might, I can never figure out how this works itself out in real time. To me this is all double-talk and an outright denial of their theology. If God is totally and absolutely sovereign (nothing will or can happen outside of his predetermined will) then the brave Calvinist, completely convinced of this, should breed with reckless abandon. For the most part, Calvinists know better and realize that God is not likely to limit their families to 2.5 children as a sensible God should. Their God will perhaps drive them into the poor house. After all, Calvinists are generally well educated and reasonably affluent. God forbid that they will be unable to provide every last one of their children a university education and the same Brahman opportunities their parents have been afforded in this life.

THIS IS THE REAL QUESTION… Believing in election and predestination, why would the Calvinist chance having children at all?

This question has not gotten past Calvinists. They have considered it and some have come up with an answer. Now imagine, you bring three children into the world to only see them part ways at the end of life. Two are predestined (before they are born) for hell and only one is left with the hope of heaven. Two have been born to perish.

This, we might all agree, is a horrible prospect but Calvin said it best, when he said…” For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others…  We assert that, by an eternal and immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined whom He would admit to salvation and whom He would condemn to destructionbut that to those whom He devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible judgment.” (See: “The Horrible Decree” entry.)

Unquestionably, a good Calvinist man should cowboy up, shrug his shoulders and say, “Ummm, them’s, the breaks, Cindy. God is good! If , it just so happens that ,we brought children into the world that held for them only a hopeless eternity that’s just the roll of dice. Aw, shucks, apparently, we produced two bad seeds out of three.” With this as a prospect it would make sense for Calvinists to be celebate rather than potentially populate hell with more of their offspring.

With this in mind, some Calvinists have come up with the notion of covenantal or household salvation, I suppose a sort of DNA based election. Somehow God honors family lineage (unless there is the complication of divorce and the blended family – a problem for contemporous Calvinism) and elects families to salvation. This is just too much for my mind to entertain. I won’t even try to explain or challenge this concept because in so doing I would either display my ignorance or my brilliance.

I just don’t get the wiggling around on all of this. It’s, as we used to say, “A can of worms.”

The original issue remains, either it’s  a crap shoot and the Calvinist trusts God and has as many children as the Lord intends or he does all he and she can to prevent conception. Determining the will of God on this business is a rather tough one. In the end, who really cares about the will of God since finding it matters little. God’s will cannot be twarted or altered. It would be impossible to limit a family regardless of what precautions persons might employ. If God intends for little Johnny to be born, every pill and prophalactic obtainable will undobtedly fail.

Then there is the issue of adoption. I won’t even go there.


4 Responses to “Should Calvinists have Children?”

  1. September 9, 2009 at 9:14 pm


    I read this post, and thought through the issues you raised. I posted a polite, thoughtful comment asking valid questions, and it appears my comment has been deleted. Hopefully that was just a mistake. Otherwise I’d have to come to the conclusion that you’re only interested in preaching to the choir and you have little interest in actually making sure your beliefs stand up to scrutiny. Of course, this is your blog, and you can do what you want, but I’m not sure that’s how Christians should behave.

    Of course, I hold out hope that the loss of my comment was just a mistake.


    • September 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

      Hi, Bill,
      I did appreciate your kind questions and did pop a brief personal email back to you on both of them. I hope you got them.

      Anyhow, sometimes I just run out of energy ( I was with my wife in cancer clinics for the last two days. Now doesn’t that make you feel ashamed? 🙂 ) and time answering deep theological questions.

      Hell is huge question and requires a pretty careful rendering to provide a full-orbed theology on it. I am pretty mainstream evangelical, historically consensual and creedal on hell. I pretty much believe what Wesley, Spurgeon, Moody and A.B. Simpson believed about hell. I may be wrong but I think that all pretty much believed the same thing. Reserved for the Devil, the antichrist and the false prophet but a Lake of Fire (probably metaphorical having to do with conscience), book(s) of WORKS were opened and those not found in the Book of Life were cast into the Lake of Fire (eternal death). The worm does not die, outer darkness (separarted from God) … oh, well you may disagree but you have the basic idea of where I stand without me pontificating and impressing you with chapter(s) and verse(s).

      As for kids. I wrote you about that. I think you should have tons of kids and after four, yes they are a blessing but often a challenge. No one should approach marriage or having children without a realistic reflection on what it means to be a spouse or a parent. Christian’s should be better at both of these skills than they have more recently demonstrated.

    • September 11, 2009 at 10:05 am

      Thanks for your comment and I agree with everything you said. I have three children and have adopted one more , so I like kids and wish that I could have thought through kids and the having of them a little better, especially since all four have turned out to be terrific. We did, however have a time with the adopted child (drugs, alcohol and trouble with the law). He now is a missionary to native Americans, married with two kids… so he is also a great blessing even though there were times when we had to be strong Calvinists in order to make it. I am not an Arminian but I am a non-Calvinist. Generally, we are called by those who seem to know, “Wesleyan-Arminian.” We, from our perspective believe that no one is predestined to hell or heaven (I haven’t the time to provide a thorough dissertation on the subject of hell). My point is, we have hope for anyone and everyone (prayer changes things) as everything in the universe is not decided by God ahead of time, we can hold out with hope for change. An authentic high-Calvinist is stuck with what they get. Anyway, don’t fret too much about what I write, in this over-communicated society, it means very little and I really don’t care to change anyone’s mind about anything. I never expect to change the mind of a Jehovah’s Witness or a Calvinists as I never have in almost 40 years.

  2. September 9, 2009 at 11:47 pm


    Children are our reward, and the man with many sons is blessed (Psalm 127). While Christians may be free to use birth control, it seems to me that any Christian (Calvinist or not) who actually believes the Bible wouldn’t want to. Are children a blessing or not? Why would we want to stop being blessed after 2.5 children?

    Are the children of non-Calvinist Christians guaranteed entrance into heaven? Why would an Arminian want to have children when there’s a chance they could go to hell?

    What do you think the purpose of hell is?


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