The Gift of Procreation image

The Gift of Procreation

Last Saturday I took a two-hour Q&A session on ethics at a local training event: ask whatever you like and I’ll try and take a swing at it. Predictably, questions around IVF, surrogacy and contraception all came up.

Regular readers will be unsurprised that my answers were more in line with Matthew Lee Anderson than Wayne Grudem. But the thing about Q&A sessions is how they test a position – both reinforcing what is valid and exposing weaknesses.

I have been consistent in arguing that the primary purpose of sex is procreation, while also arguing its relational significance – sex is meant to result in babies, but is also vital in strengthening the marital bond between a couple. What I perhaps hadn’t seen quite so clearly was brought into focus by the questions I was being asked last week: that is, the way in which marital sex which is not procreative is still an affirmation of procreation.

This is because every time a husband and wife make love they are affirming and reaffirming their one-flesh union and the goodness of what that union is intended for. When children are born they are a gift to be received from God by the husband and wife. And then when the couple have sex it is an affirmation of the gift they have received. Understood properly, this connection between sex and procreation remains the case even for infertile couples. As Anderson writes,

Let’s say a couple knows they are infertile: the wife is missing ovaries. Even for such a couple, every act of intercourse has something to do with conception—even if by way of their knowledge of its absence.

Parenting can be hard, demanding work. When children are young it can be physically exhausting to parent them. When they are older it can be emotionally exhausting. This exhaustion is at least part of the reason why so many couples struggle to maintain a healthy love life, and why so many marriages are less joy-filled than they might be. When things are tough with the kids, sex is often the first thing that leaves a marriage. Choosing to repeat the act that led to the birth of these children then becomes a statement of gratitude and faith: even though parenting feels so hard at the moment, we are grateful for the gift we have been given, and affirm that again.

Sex need not always result in procreation but it should always affirm procreation. Sex isn’t just one more biological function – procreation is the point.

← Prev article
Next article →