Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

The transcendent value of children

Unsplash/Charlein Gracia
Unsplash/Charlein Gracia

Fewer people today are raising children. The verb “raise” is apt, despite the longstanding insistence from style guides that the correct verb is to “rear.” Farmers “raise” crops and animals, activities vital for any society that hopes to have food. Of course, not everyone needs to farm, especially since industrialization has made food production more efficient. However, some percentage of the population must, or we will starve.  

This is an example of a shared responsibility of citizens, an activity that no specific individual is obligated to do but that many individuals must choose to do if their society is to survive. Raising corn and cows isn’t only about making a living. It’s also about feeding people.  

In the same way, not everyone can or will choose to raise children, but many people must if a society is to continue. The majority, in fact, must. If the number of children born each year does not equal or exceed the number of people who die, the population will age and shrink. This is the current situation across the developed world.  

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

A major factor behind this predicament is that we’ve largely forgotten how to speak of shared responsibility today. Our choices, especially when it comes to sexuality and relationships, are seen in hyper-individualistic terms. We hardly ask how my choices will affect my neighbors, born and unborn, or society in the decades to come. Instead, we ask will this choice fulfill me? Will it make me happy? Will it serve my goals and dreams as an individual? 

Increasingly, marriage and childbearing are evaluated through this individualist lens. The conclusion is that a family will not fulfill them, nor make them happy, nor serve their goals and dreams as individuals.  

This blinkered cost-benefit analysis, as writers like Louise Perry have pointed out, when repeated in tens of millions of households, is leaving much of the developed world “sterile.” The long-term consequences of this sterility are no secret. As The New York Times admitted, the world’s population is likely to peak this century and, after that, rapidly decline.  

Yet, in the same breath, The Times’ editorial board, who has repeatedly placed the responsibility for all kinds of other global trends on our consciences, assured readers that no one has the responsibility to reverse this trend, especially if it cramps feminist ideals for women being equally career-focused:  

“No people are making mistakes when they choose not to have children or to have small families … It’s in no one’s hands to change global population trajectories alone. Not yours, whatever you choose for your life, not one country’s, not one generation’s … And yet our personal choices add up to big implications for humanity as a whole.”

In a recent article for Law and Liberty, Elizabeth Grace Matthew argued that secular writers have missed something in their cost-benefit analysis. Children, she argued, have value that transcends individual goals and dreams. They aren’t mere accessories of our self-expression. They are gifts to society that represent “a disposition of generosity toward God and His world.”  

All things being equal, recognizing that not all who desire children are able to have them, raising the next generation isn’t just a choice among many for which no one needs to strive. As Matthew concluded:  

“There is societal value for all in the rearing of the next generation, even though its work is disproportionately undertaken by some. There is only individual value for some (and dubious value at that) in the freedom of the 'child free' to pursue unimpeded hedonism.”

Children challenge the secular, hyper-individualist worldview to its core. They present an immediate, shared responsibility that directs us beyond material gain and personal fulfillment to higher ideals. Simply put, more people must and should marry and have children if society is to survive. The reluctance of secular writers to say this, even in the face of devastating population decline, exposes a critical flaw in their beliefs. Some values are bigger than individuals. Some even require individual sacrifice. The future will belong to those who admit this fact and allow it to shape their choices.   

Originally published at BreakPoint. 

John Stonestreet serves as president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He’s a sought-after author and speaker on areas of faith and culture, theology, worldview, education and apologetics.  
Shane Morris is a senior writer at the Colson Center, where he has been the resident Calvinist and millennial, home-school grad since 2010, and an intern under Chuck Colson. He writes BreakPoint commentaries and columns. Shane has also written for The Federalist, The Christian Post, and Summit Ministries, and he blogs regularly for Patheos Evangelical as Troubler of Israel.

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More In Opinion