“I would be willing to theologically contest that “be fruitful and multiply” is a prescriptive command for each individual.” This was the assertion made by a Christian man I recently was conversing with on Facebook. Here is was his fully comment:
“I would be willing to theologically contest that “be fruitful and multiply” is a prescriptive command for each individual. Rather it was a descriptive account of what God said at the beginning of his creation to Adam and Eve so mankind would grow, and was repeated to Noah since he had decimated Earth’s population with the flood. It’s not a command you see repeated in the Law of Moses as a command to the Israelites though, for example.”
I thought it would be good to let my readers know my response to this assertion as it is one that is commonly made today.
Below is my response.
I would agree with you that Christianity made singleness a legitimate way of life but only in service to God. Singleness was not encouraged so that one could live selfishly and escape the many responsibilities that come with marriage and family.
The command to be fruitful and multiply is actually renewed in the law of Levirate marriage in Moses Law:
“5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. 6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.”
Deuteronomy 25:5-6 (KJV)
God was not just concerned with a man marrying and having his own children, but he was so concerned about this that he commanded men to marry their brother’s wife if he died with no children to carry on his name.
God repeats his “be fruitful and multiply” command in different language in the book of Jeremiah:
“Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.”
Jeremiah 29:6 (KJV)
Incidentally – this is why American and western nations are seeing their native populations die out and only through immigration do they continue to grow. We are actually seeing the native population of the United States dwindle each year because women born and raised in American are not having enough children. We are having roughly 1.76 births per woman in the US which is well below the replacement level of 2.1. Check out the article entitled “The historically low birthrate, explained in 3 charts” from Vox.com actually praising these falling birth rates.
That number is actually inflated by immigrant women who tend to have more children than women born and raised here and if we did not count immigrant women having children it would be even less.
This is the direct result of our culture disobeying God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.
So sir I kindly and respectfully disagree with you that God’s command to have children (which would first require marriage) was “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive”. Celibacy is the exception to his rule but it does not negate his rule.
This is why I feel some Christian teachers have gone too far with celibacy and are attempting to normalize it. We can honor celibacy in the service of God while at the same upholding God’s very first command to mankind to be fruitful and multiply.