Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Thursday, May 08, 2008

    Skeptical of Children Skeptics (Marriage, Children)

    But, despite the belief that children are the apples of our eyes, they actually can have a negative influence on marriages, according to the report. And more kids equals more sadness, Gilbert said.

    In Harvard Professor: Children Can Send Marriage Into Downward Spiral, the strain and stresses that children can add to a marriage are clearly reflected...even if by way of addressing the measure of present temporal happiness among parents. At first read, one may even wonder what the intent or outcome of the article suggest, and yet a closer read points to children having a "negative influence" on marriages. Is the professor simply pointing out that having children and especially teenagers is difficult (and thereby affects temporal happiness, something any parents could have told you without his research!!!), or is he suggesting something more, even the way we should look upon children and having them.

    This point comes into clearer focus when you consider the term "negative influence". Is the professor simply referring to the "lack of happiness" due to the difficulties? If so, then several questions come into play. Is the professor simply measuring the "temporal happiness" of the parents, or does he also take into account that good that comes to parents as they learn more about themselves through these difficulties, more about what it means to die to oneself and serve others, more about what it means to perservere and mature, etc.?

    If the professor is referring to more than just the "present temporal happiness" of the parents when he suggests that children are a negative influence on marriages (i.e., that we should not have children because they harm our marriages), then one must consider whether "temporal happiness" alone is the ultimate measuure of a good and fruitful and satisfying marriage, or whether a variety of other issues come into play, such as the blessing that children bring to their parents; the joy that children bring to parents; the carrying on of the family; the addition family, community, church, etc.; the greater productiveness achieved; the expansion of lives affected; even the help received when parents become aged; etc. Here again, we see the error of making one's "present temporal happiness" the be all and end all of meaning, purpose, determinations, etc.

    I speak as one who has children in the very ages the professor says they produce the greatest negative influence, and while at times my wife and I get stretched (even thin at times), and while sure we could be off indulging ourselves and our flesh without them if we wanted to, I would not give my children up for anything but consider them of greatest value or endearment. As the Scripture states, children are a "gift" (not a "negative influence") from God, and as the Psalmist writes "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him."

    Again, one must be careful of presenting half the truth (or even less than that) as the whole truth. Doing so can lead a person and others to draw wrong conclusions.

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