Quiverfulls or Empty Nests?

Written by Drew on December 8th, 2006

The “quiverfull” movement is a fringe element of Protestants who argue that God is the only opener and closer of the womb. Family planning is God’s job, they say. And they argue their case using Psalm 127 as their proof-text:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows i nthe hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (vv. 3-5).

Quiverfull purists like David and Suzanne Bortel abhor all forms of birth control, even natural family-planning methods allowed by the Roman Catholic Church. They also reject artificial fertility treatments. When it comes to child-bearing, parents are not to get involved beyond the act of physical intimacy.

Critical of birth control, the quiverfull movement holds that regulating the family treats children as if they were an imposition. Furthermore, they say that, since the contraceptive revolution that began in the 1960s, we have separated the act of sex from procreation, something God never intended to happen. On top of these things, they argue that contraceptives such as IUDs and the pill have an abortion-like quality because they might prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

How does the quiverfull movement help an average Christian couple who are honestly trying to live right in a world full of conflicting messages? Not everyone can live like the Bortels, who dwell in a four-bedroom suburbian home outside San Antonio with their 10 children, ranging from 13 months to 15. The husband works from home, developing his website, while Mom homeschools the kids. Not everybody is blessed with 21 acres like Ken and Devon Carpenter, who live outside of Nashville with their eight children. The truth is, most young couples cannot afford such a lifestyle.

According to the University of Minnesota, my 16-month-old costs $728 a month to support. Multiply that times 10, and I’m bankrupt. Certainly, the Bible teaches that children are a gift from the Lord. But doesn’t it also say that a man must provide for the members of his own household? (1 Tim. 5:8). Quiverfull ideals lack this admonition regarding responsible parenting.

And what about couples struggling with infertility? Being one who is personally acquainted with this all-to-common problem, I know that the barren womb never says “enough” (Prov. 30:15-16). Rachel and Leah gathered mandrakes. What’s wrong with the prospect of their modern-day counterparts’ seeking medical advice? I’ve always believed that God’s providence may use any and every resource available–including medical advances.

I do not deny that today’s society downplays the value of our children. Indeed, we live in a selfish world. However, the quiverfull movement looks at life through myoptic lenses. Maybe they should step back and consider couples who may not be as blessed as they are.


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Josh Woods says:

    Drew, I’ve known several “quiverfull purists” over the years, and it seems that one mistake they make is in assuming that the word “full” implies a half-dozen or more. Aren’t there multiple sizes of quivers? Some can hold only a couple of arrows, while others can hold a dozen or so.

    In addition, I personally believe in a God powerful enough bring about conceivement whether or not a pill or other contraceptives are in use. Most of them have a effectiveness ratings of 90 to 98 percent – I think God can hit that 2 to 10 percent mark with accuracy if it’s in His will for a couple to have a baby at a particular time.

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