Restraint of Sin and War Babies

In more than one way our present times of war and destruction in the whole world shed an interesting light upon those phenomena in human life which the Christian Reformed Churches in 1924 endeavored to interpret by their theory of common grace as officially adopted in the “Three Points”. This is especially true of the phenomenon of the apparent good which the natural man performs in this present world. It is the Reformed view that man by nature is totally depraved, which, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3, means nothing less than that he is wholly incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil. And this conception is certainly based on and completely in accord with Holy Writ. But there seem to be many phenomena in actual life that contradict this doctrine of man’s total depravity outside of the grace of Christ. Every man does not always appear to sin. It appears that he does many good things, not only in a physical and natural, but even in a moral sense. He does not reveal himself as a devil, as the doctrine of total depravity might lead one to expect. There is a good deal of decency and good will among individuals and nations. The world does not appear to run to destruction as fast as possible. All this would seem to contradict the teaching of Scripture and of the Reformed Confessions with regard to the complete corruption of the human nature. This apparent contradiction the Christian Reformed Churches have endeavored to explain and to eliminate by the theory of the restraint of sin in the heart and life of the individual, as well as in the life of the community. According to this conception there is a working of the Holy Spirit in the life of every man, an operation which is not regenerative and, therefore, not unto salvation, but by which all men are so improved that they can perform natural and civil good. This really means that in this world the sinner can do good works.

Now, in times like the present, when sin abounds and men and nations are bent upon destruction, there are many phenomena, many actual facts which give the lie to the entire theory of common grace, and, particularly, to the doctrine of the restraint of sin by a gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, and which suggest an entirely different explanation of the apparent good works of the natural, unregenerated man. One of these phenomena is the recent increase in the birth rate in our country. Time was, when it was simply not in style for young married couples to get babies during the first years of their marriage; and it certainly was old fashioned to raise large families. Of course, exceptions to the rule that when people married they could expect children, there had always been. Also children are a gift of God, and in olden times H err not up to man to determine whether or not children would be born to him in wedlock. And God did not always bless the marriage relation with children. But in recent years the phenomenon of childless marriages became so general, that we all knew there was something wrong. People took it into their own hand to live in the relation of matrimony without giving birth to children. They practiced the evil of birth control almost without restraint. Recently, however, the tables are turned. An amazing number of new babies are born. One cannot but be struck by the long lists of birth announcements in our daily papers. And no one can fail to notice the numerous expectant young mothers, often, indeed, very young. It is very evident that the sin of birth control is restrained to a great extent.

Now, how can this change be explained? Does the theory of the Christian Reformed Churches apply here? That would mean that before the war there was little or no operation of the Holy Spirit in the world (I am not wrong of the people of God, of course; and God forbid that it should ever be necessary to write about this evil in connection with the Church of Christ!) to restrain this evil of birth control, that undermines the life of families and nations; but that today this restraining influence of the Holy Spirit is again operative in an increasing measure. On the very face of it such an explanation would already seem absurd. Why should there be such a restraining operation in one period and not in another, without any apparent reason? Besides, such an explanation would be contrary to the theory itself, for according to it the checking and improving power of common grace is not increased, but rather withheld as time goes on. But even apart from this, we all know what is really the restraining power in this case. We certainly do not have to look for such a pious cause as the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, in order to understand the present remarkable increase in the birth of children. The cause is to be found in the war, and, more particularly, in the draft. The sin of birth control was abandoned, and children were wanted, partly, because many hoped that in this way they would escape the draft; and, partly, because the parents expect support from the government in case the husband has to join the army, and a pension in case he should not return from the war. In other words, it is not grace, it is not an operation of the Holy Spirit that restrains the evil of birth control, but fear and greed and selfishness. As is very frequently the case, one sin restrains another. And it is evident that the wicked always sins, whether he practices birth control and refuses to have children, or whether he refrains from practicing this sin, and raises a family. He knows not how to do good. For he departed from the living God. And apart from Him is only death.