Yes, I used to be one of those conservatives that are convinced about divine mandate of be fruitful and multiply. Or if you translate it to current jargon, be productive in your work and then use that to marry a wife and start a family. This divine mandate has been common across people from all societies, including non-Christians, because it gives humans a purpose of life.
Obviously, some people chose childless life by choice because of devotion (to priesthood, scholastic pursuit, charity worker) or because desire to live the luxurious lifestyle (YOLO). But by far, the majority of humanity still choose the default life path of be fruitful and multiply, as commanded by God (Genesis 1: 28).
However, I have experienced the change of mindset. Especially after my departure from previous church which you can say a kind of conservative fundamentalist church. This opinion may not be thoroughly accurate but I think it is still thoughtful.
As I have realized now that in human history, there is a predictable pattern of rise and decline of the society. The rise of society is indicated by strong economic growth and job creation of all kinds (artisans, trades) and plentiful foods for all members of society. As a result, humankind has no issue in working on divine mandate (be fruitful and multiply) and our numbers have increased quickly.
Of course, as we know, it is the tendency of the humans to think that the good times will stay forever. People in next generation will still continue the lifestyle of their parents, thinking that it is normal thing to do. After all, we have no problems in our work and our marriage. Everything are good. So, what could be wrong? And furthermore, most fundamentalist Christians thought that it is God’s command to start a family.
I realized that there are a lot of problems with this thought. Firstly, from observation in real time and even in the Bible, it is very hard to find the command that is applicable for all situations.
For example, originally humans are all vegetarians because of God’s command in Genesis 1: 29. After the fall and the flood, God changed His command by saying it is permissible now to let humans eat other animals (Genesis 9:3).
Of marriage, Moses said that it is permissible for divorce by issuing divorce certificate but Lord Jesus override Moses’ command by saying divorce is not permissible at any case except death or adultery.
So, why do we think that somehow be fruitful and multiply is a sacred command that should never change in all situations? I understand that people will think it is like a slippery slope. People will think because of this way of thinking, people can justify their lifestyle by quoting Scripture out of context.
However, here, we have some parts of the Scripture which said that in some cases it will be disadvantageous to have children. Specifically, Jesus’ sermon about the End of the Age at Luke 21:5-37, in verse 23:
How dreadful it will be in those days (End of the Age) for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be a distress in the land and wrath against this people.
Here, Lord Jesus seems like declaring that having children at the End of the Age is like a curse. So, we can conclude that be fruitful and multiply cannot be applied in all situations because Son of God himself said that.
Of course, there is a practical reason and explanation behind God’s command. As you can see, the signs of the End of Age looks very similar to current world, just before economic collapse. Rumor of wars everywhere, people will love immediate gratification (money) instead of investing in long term (family), everything is unstable. If everything is unstable (including your employment), having family like a curse and nightmare.
Having said so, I still think I would not be childless. It could be fine to have one children but not more. It is merely to preserve the family lineage. But if you are childless and YOLO, you are not violating God’s command for that.